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Corporate Contractors’ Heavy Burdens on Taxpayers

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Military Contracting: Our New Era of Corporate Mercenaries

Private military contracting has ballooned into an industry worth more than $100bn a year. (Photograph: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)In early 1995, Sierra Leone was on the brink of collapse. A violent civil war had ravaged the country, leaving thousands dead and countless others wounded. The insurgent rebels, infamous for recruiting child soldiers, were just weeks from the beleaguered capital, Freetown, and appeared unassailable.

Several months later, however, the tide had turned: the government's authority was strengthened, rebel forces were repelled, and control over the country's major economic assets was restored. Executive Outcomes, a private military contractor armed with helicopters and state of the art artillery, helped change the course of the war.

Nearly every tool necessary to wage war can now be purchased: combat support, including the ability to conduct large-scale operations and surgical strikes; operational support, like training and intelligence gathering; and general support, like transportation services and paramedical assistance. The demand for these services, in turn, has ballooned: the gross revenue for the private military contractor industry is now in excess of $100bn a year.

The privatization of conflict is no longer a trend. It's the norm.

The United States relied so heavily on contractors during the recent Iraq war that no one knows with certainty how many were on the ground. In late 2010, the United Arab Emirates, fearful that the Arab uprisings might spread to the Gulf, paid Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater Worldwide, $529m to create an elite force to safeguard the emirate. And today, Russia is openly considering forming a cadre of private military contractors to further its interests abroad.

Yet, the laws that govern this industry tell a different story. Instead of a transnational system with meaningful collaboration, we have a patchwork of state laws that allow companies to forum-shop and circumvent regulations. Contractors can likewise relocate, as they typically rent the equipment necessary to complete their contracts; their primary source of capital is human, not physical.

In addition to closing loopholes, states must monitor contractors, and prosecute them when they commit crimes. To this day, not a single contractor has been successfully prosecuted for its role in the Abu Ghraib prison atrocities or the Nisour Square massacre, in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed.

Contractors claim that their services are market- and self-regulated. They contend that wanton violence would stop governments from seeking their assistance. Yet, the theatre of war often obscures their activities.

In its final report to the US Congress, the Commission on Wartime Contracting found that the US government lost more than $30bn to contractor waste and fraud in Afghanistan and Iraq. Also, corporations can rename and rebrand, thereby mitigating reputational harm. Consider Blackwater USA, which changed its name to Xe Services LLC, and then to Academi – all in the last four years.

The UN working group on the use of mercenaries has suggested that certain military functions, like combat services and interrogation, not be outsourced to private contractors. Its guidelines should be followed. Outsourcing foreign policy goals undermines democratic oversight because contractor activities, including casualties, typically escape public scrutiny. It can also allow states to evade legislative oversight.

The greatest check against war is the horror of war itself. Yet, as the physical distance between warring states grows, so does the temptation to loosen our moral compass. Violence that lacks immediacy is easier to ignore. Permitting third parties to wage war for profit risks a world in which war is not the last resort but an economic transaction in which the victims are faceless and nameless.

And so, we return to Sierra Leone. Although the intervention by Executive Outcomes is sometimes touted as illustrating the viability of military contractors, history suggests otherwise. The contractor was later accused of interfering in domestic politics to pursue financial gain, and an associated firm received payment through diamond mine concessions, which compromised the country's economic future.

Moreover, violence resumed after Executive Outcomes left Sierra Leone. It became clear that the government had over-relied on the contractor and undercut its own institutions.

The fog of war is hazy enough. We don't need additional, unregulated cloud cover.

© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited

Arjun Sethi

Arjun Sethi is a lawyer in Washington, DC, and a frequent commentator on civil rights and social justice-related issues. He has written for the Washington Post, USA Today, and CNN, among other publications

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Corporate taxes in America

Raising them should be a national imperative. Corporations should pay their fair share. Not according to Laurence Kotlikoff. He's a right-wing economist. He's a corporatist...

Corporate Taxes in America

Corporate Taxes in America

by Stephen Lendman

Raising them should be a national imperative. Corporations should pay their fair share. Not according to Laurence Kotlikoff.

He's a right-wing economist. He's a corporatist writ large. He claims  abolishing corporate taxes will create jobs.

Doing so requires dropping money on Main Street. Get it in people's pockets directly. Do it by cutting their taxes. 

Guarantee a living wage. Support worker-friendly legislation. Restore their bargaining power with management.

Return money creation power to public hands where it belongs. Initiate government jobs creation programs. 

New Deal ones put millions back to work. Doing so reinvigorated the national spirit.

Unemployment was measurably cut. It dropped from 25% in 1933 to 11% in 1937. Doing the right things work.

In 1961, corporate tax cuts were linked to job creation. Business had to prove they added jobs to qualify.

No longer. Corporate tax cuts and credits are handed out freely. They're not linked to job creation. They're standard practice. More are planned this year.

Under Bush and Obama, corporations get tax cuts for overseas investments. Domestic job reductions accompany them. Offshoring is rewarded.

Multiple Bush tax cuts handed corporations around $3.4 trillion. Doing so was hailed as a way to create jobs.

Post-recession jobs creation during the early 2000s was the weakest on record. It took 46 months to recover those lost.

It'll take over a decade now. The so-called 2007 - 2009 Great Recession continues to take an enormous toll on ordinary Americans. Main Street Great Depression conditions persist unabated.

Low pay/poor or no benefit part-time jobs replaced higher paying, good benefit full-time ones. It's been ongoing for decades. America is in economic decline.

Offshoring millions of jobs exacerbates hard times. According to Paul Craig Roberts, only fools believe doing so is good for America.

Likeminded so-called experts can't see the forest through the trees. US corporations are hoarding cash. Bush and Obama tax cuts added $10 trillion or more to their balance sheets.

Much was shifted to offshore subsidiaries. Doing so avoids US taxes altogether. It's unknown how much corporate wealth sits in tax havens. Perhaps trillions from generous business handouts.

During the height of 2008 crisis conditions, $168 billion stimulus legislation was enacted. About $90 billion went to business and rich elites.

Jobs were lost, not created. From July through December 2008, nearly a million a month disappeared. Doing so matched the 1929-1930 rate.

Obama's February 2009 $787 billion stimulus bill handed corporations nearly $400 billion in tax cuts. Over $225 billion went for business/investor cuts.

Through December 2010, zero jobs were created. Part-time ones replaced higher paying full-time jobs. 

Hundreds of thousands of federal, state and local public workers were laid off. Current unemployment tops 23%. 

Official numbers are fake. They mask the greatest jobs crisis since the Great Depression. Before this one ends, it may be greater.

Bush and Obama benefitted corporations and rich elites hugely. They never had it better. Unprecedented wealth amounts shifted from ordinary people to them.

The great wealth transfer heist continues. America is being thirdworldized in the process. Employment opportunities are dreadful.

It bears repeating. Tax cuts don't create jobs. They could if linked to jobs creation. They haven't been since Kennedy's mandate.

Democrats and Republicans today are polar opposite. Reverse Robin Hoodism is policy. It created the greatest wealth disparity in US history.

Half or more of US households are impoverished or bordering it. Good jobs are disappearing in plain sight. Nearly 50 million Americans need food stamps to eat. 

Hard times are getting harder. Needy households are increasing exponentially. At the same time, corporate profits are higher than ever.

Business taxes are way too low. The top nominal rate is 35%. Obama, Republicans and many Democrats plan cutting it to 28 or 25%.

Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D. MT) is retiring this year. He favors lower corporate rates. He helped spearhead Obamacare's enactment.

Doing so wrecked America's healthcare system. It did so to benefit business. The full fallout remains to unfold.

One of many propagated myths is that US corporations pay too much in taxes. "Abolish the Corporate Income Tax," says Kotlikoff. He wants people to believe what's untrue.

"Just ask" Seattle-based Boeing machinist workers, he said. They accepted major contract concessions. They did so for greater "long-term success," Kotlikoff claimed.

False! Contract terms substitute largely worker funded 401ks for company-paid pensions, higher healthcare costs, reduced wage increases, and no strikes.

Heavy pressure was applied. Union bosses claimed 51% of International Association of Machinists approved what no workers want. Others claimed vote rigging.

Kotlikoff said Boeing workers acted in their own best interest. How does cutting their standard of living do so?

"In recent decades, American workers have suffered one body blow after another," he admitted.

"What can (they) do to mitigate their plight," he asked? Eliminate corporate taxes, what else.

"It's not…a giveaway to the rich," he maintains. Corporate taxes are "economically self-defeating." They hurt "workers, not capitalists..."

He claims America "may well have the highest effective marginal corporate income tax rate of any developed country."

As explained above, nominally it's 35%. Bipartisan complicity agreed to cut it to 28 or 25%. Most large corporations pay less than half that amount.

Many pay much less. Some pay nothing. Others get rebates in profitable years. Corporate taxes have been in free fall for decades.

As a percent of GDP and national income, they're half what they were two decades ago. They're going lower. Obama demands it. He's doing so while waging war on ordinary Americans.

He's one-sidedly pro-business. He's anti-labor, anti-populist, anti-fairness. He wants greater austerity than already. He wants America's social contract eliminated. 

He wants corporate giants handed trillions more than already. So does Kotlikoff. He supports the great tax giveaway.

He wants corporate ones entirely eliminated. He claims maintaining them gets business to shift operations abroad.

They do so largely for lower labor costs. They're in countries with no worker protections. They're free to exploit their workforce for greater profits.

Kotlikoff claims eliminating corporate taxes assures a "stunningly large" economic windfall. He's for raising personal income tax rates at the same time.

He wants ordinary people to bear the burden. They do so more than ever now. He claims hitting them when they can least afford it "leads to a short-run inflow of capital."

It'll "rais(e) (America's) capital stock (machines and buildings) by 23 percent, output by 8 percent, and the real wages of unskilled and skilled workers by 12 percent," he maintains.

It bears repeating. Corporate tax cuts don't create jobs. Clear evidence proves it. Throughout the new millennium, profits shifted abroad tax free. 

They remain on business balance sheets. They went for stock buybacks, dividends, high executive salaries and bonuses, as well as other unrelated non-job creation purposes.

Why else would unemployment exceed 23%? Inflation-adjusted wages have been declining for decades. Benefits workers took for granted are disappearing.

So are good full-time jobs. Class war rages. Middle America is disappearing in plain sight. Detroit reflects nationwide decline.

Other troubled cities include major ones. Growing millions are on their own sink or swim. Predatory capitalism is malignant. It's eating its seed corn. It's killing its host.

It's been a stunning failure for decades. It hollowed out America. It harms its most vulnerable. 

It caused the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history. Detroit once symbolized America's industrial might. It's zombie-like today.

Nothing is done to change things. Kotlikoff wants ordinary people hit harder. He claims raising their tax burden lifts all boats. 

He says it does so when coupled with eliminating corporate taxes. He shows a shocking disregard for human welfare.

His formula assures greater crisis conditions. Millions already can't cope. More add to their ranks daily. Raising their taxes will accelerate the process.

How can destroying the well-being of most Americans be beneficial? Kotlikoff apparently believes doing so will save them. He admits that inflation-adjusted wages are "10 percent lower today than (in) 1966."

"This is America's nightmare, not its dream," he explains. "Turning things around requires getting a lot of things right, starting, (he argues) with corporate tax reform."

In 2007, his book titled "The Healthcare Fix" proposed ending Medicare, Medicaid, and employer-provider insurance. 

He wants government-provided vouchers replacing them. He wants their cost maintained at a fixed 10% of GDP. 

Well-off recipients could supplement coverage by buying more on their own. Others would be stuck with bare bones care.

Corporations are Kotlikoff's concern. Ordinary people don't matter. Deepening social inequality is OK. 

Human misery is out of sight and mind. Kotlikoff's formula assures hard times getting harder for growing millions.

America already is unfit to live in. Kotlikoff wants impossible conditions for most people. Imagine if it turns out this way. Imagine the worst of all possible worlds.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour


http://www.dailycensored.com/corporate-taxes-america/

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The Ballooning Number of Corporate Kangaroo Courts Is Destroying Our Right to a Fair...

If you've been gouged by your bank, discriminated against, sexually harassed, unfairly fired, you'll most likely find that you're barred from the courthouse door.

March 27, 2013  |  

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Being wronged by a corporation is painful enough, but just try getting your day in court. Most Americans don't realize it, but our Seventh Amendment right to a fair jury trial against corporate wrongdoers has quietly been stripped from us. Instead, we are now shunted into a stacked-deck game called "Binding Mandatory Arbitration." Proponents of the process hail it as superior to the courts — "faster, cheaper and more efficient!" they exclaim.

But does it deliver justice? It could, for the original concept of voluntary, face-to-face resolution of conflict by a neutral third party makes sense in many cases. But remember what Mae West said of her own virtue: "I used to be Snow White, then I drifted." Today's practice of arbitration has drifted far away from the purity of the concept.

All you really need to know about today's process is that it's the product of years of conceptual monkey-wrenching by corporate lobbyists, Congress, the Supreme Court and hired-gun lobbying firms looking to milk the system for steady profits. First and foremost, these fixers have turned a voluntary process into the exact opposite: mandatory. Let's look at this mess.

— Unlike courts, arbitration is not a public system, but a private business.

— Far from being neutral, "the third-party" arbitration firms are — get this! — usually hand-picked by the corporation involved in the case, chosen specifically because they have proven records of favoring the corporation.

— The corporation also gets to choose the city or town where the case is heard, allowing it to make the case inconvenient, expensive and unfair to individuals bringing a complaint.

— Arbitrators are not required to know the law relevant to the cases they judge or follow legal precedents.

— Normal procedural rules for gathering and sharing evidence and safeguarding fairness to both parties do not apply in arbitration cases.

— Arbitration proceedings are closed to the media and the public.

— Arbitrators need not reveal the reasons for their decisions, so they are not legally accountable for errors, and the decisions set no legal precedents for guiding future corporate conduct.

— Even if an arbitrator's decision is legally incorrect, it still is enforceable, carrying the full weight of the law.

— There is virtually no right to appeal an arbitrator's ruling.

That adds up to a kangaroo court! Who would choose such a rigged system? No one. Which is why corporate America has resorted to brute force and skullduggery to drag you into their arbitration wringer.

By "force," I mean practically every business relationship you have with a corporation (customer, employee, supplier, etc.) begins with you blindly signing away your right to go to court. Written in indecipherable legalese, these sneaky provisos are usually secluded in the tiny-type of pre-printed, take-it-or-leave-it, non-negotiable contracts.

By "you," I mean everyone one of us who: takes a job, gets a credit card, subscribes to cable TV, buys an insurance policy, rents an apartment, purchases nearly any new product (from cellphone to house), has a home remodeled or car repaired, enters a nursing home, becomes a franchisee or corporate supplier or signs up with a landscaping service.

If you seek justice because you've been gouged by your bank, discriminated against, sexually harassed, unfairly fired, cheated on wages, sold a shoddy product, denied health care coverage or otherwise harmed by a corporation, you'll most likely find that you're barred from the courthouse door. That document you unwittingly signed has shackled you to the corporation's own privatized court.

Since binding mandatory arbitration "agreements" are written by corporate lawyers, it's no surprise that they stack the deck in favor of corporations. But — wow! — the percentage of rigged wins is disgusting.

Corporate Kangaroo Courts Supplant Our Seventh Amendment Rights

Being wronged by a corporation is painful enough, but just try getting your day in court. Most Americans don't realize it, but our Seventh Amendment right to a fair jury trial against corporate wrongdoers has quietly been stripped from us. Instead, we are now shunted into a stacked-deck game called "Binding Mandatory Arbitration." Proponents of the process hail it as superior to the courts — "faster, cheaper and more efficient!" they exclaim.

But does it deliver justice? It could, for the original concept of voluntary, face-to-face resolution of conflict by a neutral third party makes sense in many cases. But remember what Mae West said of her own virtue: "I used to be Snow White, then I drifted." Today's practice of arbitration has drifted far away from the purity of the concept.

All you really need to know about today's process is that it's the product of years of conceptual monkey-wrenching by corporate lobbyists, Congress, the Supreme Court and hired-gun lobbying firms looking to milk the system for steady profits. First and foremost, these fixers have turned a voluntary process into the exact opposite: mandatory. Let's look at this mess.

— Unlike courts, arbitration is not a public system, but a private business.

— Far from being neutral, "the third-party" arbitration firms are — get this! — usually hand-picked by the corporation involved in the case, chosen specifically because they have proven records of favoring the corporation.

— The corporation also gets to choose the city or town where the case is heard, allowing it to make the case inconvenient, expensive and unfair to individuals bringing a complaint.

— Arbitrators are not required to know the law relevant to the cases they judge or follow legal precedents.

— Normal procedural rules for gathering and sharing evidence and safeguarding fairness to both parties do not apply in arbitration cases.

— Arbitration proceedings are closed to the media and the public.

— Arbitrators need not reveal the reasons for their decisions, so they are not legally accountable for errors, and the decisions set no legal precedents for guiding future corporate conduct.

— Even if an arbitrator's decision is legally incorrect, it still is enforceable, carrying the full weight of the law.

— There is virtually no right to appeal an arbitrator's ruling.

That adds up to a kangaroo court! Who would choose such a rigged system? No one. Which is why corporate America has resorted to brute force and skullduggery to drag you into their arbitration wringer.

By "force," I mean practically every business relationship you have with a corporation (customer, employee, supplier, etc.) begins with you blindly signing away your right to go to court. Written in indecipherable legalese, these sneaky provisos are usually secluded in the tiny-type of pre-printed, take-it-or-leave-it, non-negotiable contracts.

By "you," I mean everyone one of us who: takes a job, gets a credit card, subscribes to cable TV, buys an insurance policy, rents an apartment, purchases nearly any new product (from cellphone to house), has a home remodeled or car repaired, enters a nursing home, becomes a franchisee or corporate supplier or signs up with a landscaping service.

If you seek justice because you've been gouged by your bank, discriminated against, sexually harassed, unfairly fired, cheated on wages, sold a shoddy product, denied health care coverage or otherwise harmed by a corporation, you'll most likely find that you're barred from the courthouse door. That document you unwittingly signed has shackled you to the corporation's own privatized court.

Since binding mandatory arbitration "agreements" are written by corporate lawyers, it's no surprise that they stack the deck in favor of corporations. But — wow! — the percentage of rigged wins is disgusting.

For example, Public Citizen found that one giant firm, the National Arbitration Forum, heard over 34,000 consumer-versus-bank cases in California. It sided with financial giants 95 percent of the time. Even more astonishing, the city of San Francisco found that of the 18,045 cases brought by banks and other powers against overmatched California consumers, NAF's private judges sided with the corporations 100 percent of the time.

To learn more about this rigged system, and to get involved with fighting against forced arbitration, check out Citizen Works at citizenworks.com

© 2013 Creators

Jim Hightower

National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow, Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.

Corporate-Approved State Bills Kick Low-Wage Workers While They’re Down

President Obama called for a modest raise in the federal minimum wage to $9 in his State of the Union Address, and several Democratic legislators have upped his bid with a proposed increase to $10.10.Prevailing wage laws, which protect local construction sector workers from private sector undercutting, are the kind of legislation that ALEC-affiliated state legislation would dismantle. (Photo: Rubber Dragon / Flickr / Creative Commons)

But an insidious effort to lower the wage floor is already underway much closer to the ground—in the state legislatures where right-wing lobbyists have been greasing the skids for years for an onslaught of anti-worker policies.

An extensive analysis recently published by labor advocacy organization the National Employment Law Project tracks more than 100 bills introduced in 31 states since January 2011 that “aim to repeal or weaken core wage standards at the state or local level." Each bears the fingerprint of notorious super-lobbying organization the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which acts as a forum for “private sector leaders” to advise public officials. Most of the anti-worker bills were proposed by lawmakers directly linked to ALEC and include language that echoes that of "model legislation" developed by ALEC. Among the proposals are measures to undercut minimum wages for teenage workers, restrict overtime pay and repeal or ban local laws to improve working conditions.

ALEC has been called out by activists for pushing legislation that advances a classic right-wing agenda, from school privatization to rolling back healthcare reform. But the “wage suppression” tactics are a particularly callous attempt by ALEC-affiliated legislators to feed corporate profits by starving workers.

The wage-suppression laws are the latest strike in a war of attrition waged by ALEC and “private sector leaders” (as the organization calls them) against labor and workplace rights, aimed at forcing low-wage workers into even deeper economic insecurity.

While efforts to pass pro-worker policies in Washington have met with resistance, ALEC-sponsored bills seek to outlaw protections for workers at the state and local level, such as living wage ordinances and paid leave mandates. In several states, including Arizona, Connecticut, Maryland and Michigan, lawmakers have introduced ALEC-associated legislation to preempt prevailing wage laws, which ensure workers receive relatively fair wages in government-contracted work, including the public infrastructure projects that fuel local construction sectors.

NELP points out that only a minority of these bills have actually been enacted, but the sheer volume of anti-worker legislative proposals is nonetheless alarming at a time when the labor movement, which has traditionally struggled to beat back pro-corporate legislation, is weaker than ever. 

The ALEC-inspired bills to weaken state minimum wage laws strike directly at state’s efforts to lift workers above the absurdly low federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. Some states have set base wages significantly higher than the federal minimum—like Vermont's minimum hourly wage of $8.60, adjusted automatically to keep pace with the cost of living.

Losing the state minimum wage could leave some workers completely unprotected, because they are excluded from the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Home health aides, for example, have long been exempted from federal minimum-wage rules, despite strong grassroots campaigns to include them, but are covered by minimum wage law in some states, including New York and Massachussetts. Their incredibly low wages—typically less than $10 an hour across the industry—could be bumped down further if state wage floors are ripped from under them.
Overtime pay is another labor issue on which states have filled gaps in federal law. While the FLSA guarantees time-and-a-half overtime pay for many sectors, some low-wage workers, including certain federally-exempted domestic service jobs, are entitled to that wage boost only under state law. Legislators in some states—including the “right to work” battlegrounds of Ohio and Michigan, where unions are under siege—have tried to allow certain employers to get around overtime by instead paying workers “comp time,” or time off equal to one regular hour of work, even if they work more than 40 hours a week. One ALEC-affiliated bill proposed in 2011 in Nevada explicitly sought to exclude home care workers from overtime laws.

Noting that conservatives will hold majority control of most state houses this year, NELP analyst Jack Temple says, “Since legislation to raise the federal minimum wage usually depends on momentum from the states, bills like these that weaken or repeal wage standards at the state level serve to undercut the momentum needed to pass national legislation in Congress.”

The measures to prevent local officials from raising the bar for workers betrays ALEC’s underlying agenda. Though the organization purports to champion the “rights” of local authorities to act independently of “big government,” NELP reports, it’s really more about emancipating big business from regulation:

Despite ALEC’s putative support for limited government and local sovereignty, living wage preemption proposals would establish state-wide mandates that severely restrict the freedom that city governments have to set standards for businesses that receive public support.

According to Temple, with so many wage-suppression bills clogging state legislatures, even if many do not pass:

The significance of these bills for advocates at the state level concerns the sheer amount of energy and time that must be spent fighting back bills like these, which drains the time and resources that could otherwise be dedicated to improving wage standards rather than just protecting the laws already on the books.

A bill creeping through the Florida legislature seems poised to undercut emerging efforts to improve workers’ lives. HB 655 would ban towns and cities from taking local initiatives to raise wages and give workers paid leave time, thus blocking key policies that could improve the lives of workers surviving on the state’s threadbare minimum wage of $7.79 (about a third of what a single parent of two would need to earn a decent living). On the heels of a recent campaign, led by local labor groups, to establish paid sick days in Miami-Dade County, the bill would effectively block local officials from granting workers the basic protection of not having to lose wages for calling in sick.

Florida is just one battleground in a nationwide movement to improve protections and wage standards for the working poor, as labor advocates push for raises in state and federal minimum wages in tandem with the White House's proposal. But NELP's report reveals how groups like ALEC have already gotten a head start in our state legislatures. 

Without strong unions or even an adequate social safety net, minimum wage laws are the last line of defense between low-wage workers and abject poverty. So it makes sense that ALEC is now driving to pull the floor from under them; they might as well kick them when they’re down.

Protesters Confront CEO and “Fix the Debt” Leader over Corporate Tax Breaks

Flip the Debt unveils corporate debt clock outside IRS building in New York City. (Sign by People's Puppets of Occupy Wall Street; Photo by Amber King) "Fix the Debt," the CEO-led campaign promoting fear and what some have called near-hysteria over th...

Why Can Corporate Interests Trump Sovereign Rights?

Bio

An international trade and investment expert, Chakravarthi Raghavan, served as Chief Editor of South-North Development Monitor, SUNS , 1980-2005 and now as Editor Emeritus. He formerly served as Editor of Third World Economics & Geneva Representative of Third World Network. Raghavan has authored numerous books including 'A Rollback for the Third World' , Recolonization: GATT, Uruguay Round and Third World and a book on Developing countries and services trade: Chasing a black cat in a dark room, blindfolded

Transcript

JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore.

In Canada, the Quebec government passed a law restricting, prohibiting the use of fracking <7> for to getnatural gas. Well, now a company that is based in Calgary, owned in the United States, is now suing theQuebec government under the NAFTA treaty <4> for millions of dollars because they say their right to exploitthis gas has been taken away. And this type of lawsuit, this threat of lawsuit against sovereign countries andgovernments who try to enact certain public policy is taking place all over the world. Now joining us to talk aboutthis from Geneva is Raghavan. He's an international trade and investment expert. He served as chief editor ofSouth North Development Monitor (SUNS) from 1980 to 2005. He now serves as editor emeritus. Heserved as the editor of the Third World Economics and as Geneva representative of Third World Network.And, as I said, he joins us from Geneva. Thanks very much for joining us.RAGHAVAN: Okay. Thank you very much.JAY: So talk a little bit about the background of how it is we get to a place where corporations can have theability to sue sovereign governments.RAGHAVAN: Actually, you have to look at it in a historical perspective. The historical perspective is [incompr.]during the colonial era, the industries on the colonizing countries, imperial countries, have superior rights in thecolonies. Then came the period of decolonization<10>, when all those privileges got lost. And there was a kindof a tension between the world colonial rulers who wanted to continue to keep their economic interestsin these countries and these countries wanting to help themselves, industrialize [incompr.] There was akind of a conflict of interest in these matters. And the World Bank at that time was time to encourage foreigninvestment in these countries, essentially for mining, etc., but also for those who want to set upindustries in order to meet the demands of the local market. That was—at that time, that was when it wasgoing on. The problem arose regarding foreign industries [incompr.] that when they go and invest in acountry [inaud.] newly independent country will go and nationalize their property and expropriate theirproperty. So the World Bank stepped in and suggested this convention, international convention forsettlement of industrial disputes<1> . That is to say, if there is a dispute arises by an industry in a particulardeveloping country about the expropriation of whatever it is that has taken place, it will go to the tribunal forjudgment. In the initial stages, because we're essentially dealing with real—what is called in [incompr.]old-time philosophy expropriation. Then came the whole philosophy, the expropriation, the wholephilosophy of the bilateral investment treaties, which enabled corporations who invest to sue—to takethe governments to court before the tribunal. But the governments could not take the corporation tocourt. And then the—even the expropriation was defined in a manner that was much wider than theoriginal idea was. So it was in this context that these problems arose.Initially, the tribunals began, when thetribunals were being held, [incompr.] very small group of lawyers based in New York, as well as inEurope, about not more than 12 or 20, they act as advocates for the corporations. They also sit on thepanels as arbitrators. And they're also people who move in and out of revolving door within governmentand their profession, so that there is an enormous amount of conflicts of interest involved. But nobodybothered about all these conflicts of interest, so long as the panel judgment [incompr.] developing countriesThen came all this NAFTA <4>and other bilateral investment treaties which enabled the corporations tosue the governments. At this stage it began to create problems, because environment regulations werechallenged on the ground that the environment regulation was taking away their profit. Labor regulations werechallenged on the ground that they were taking away their profits. .When this began to happen like this, thegovernments got worried. And even more than the government [incompr.] society got worried, and they beganthis agitation, which is where we have now come to.JAY: Now, Raghavan, the companies would argue, and people that support these type of free-trade agreementsthat allow for this kind of process, they would argue, that, for example,if an American company or some other company goes to Quebec and wants to exploit its natural gas,it has to be treated in a way that it knows the rules, it knows the laws, and it has to be treated the sameway any Canadian company would be treated. What's wrong with that argument?RAGHAVAN: If you go and invest in a country, the country has got a sovereign right to decidewhether—on what conditions you can invest. So you are—you have got—if you disobey that condition, youlose. National treatment is provided for. It is not a concern. National treatment doesn't mean—equitablenational treatment doesn't mean that you have got superior rights over the local company. Nationaltreatment only means that you should not be at a more disadvantageous position than the localcompany. Because it is a case of corporations suing governments. It is not a case of government versusgovernment. automatically on everybody concerned. So it is not a case of it raises trade wars. It merely raises theability of corporations to fool around and play with the public money, getting tax payers to rewardthem for any failures that they do. That is what has happened in Ecuador case.In the case of Ecuador, the company, which had an environment dispute and had signed a contract with Ecuador,which contract said that the company, the oil company, could do exploration and benefit from theoil that is extracted, but it could not sell its rights <8>in the company to anybody else without thepermission of the Ecuadorian government. And yet the company went and sold part of its rightsin the company to another company. So this was taken up in Ecuador. And when this was taken up,Ecuador's Supreme Court ordered that this contract has to be canceled, because [incompr.] obeythe terms of the contract, the company concerned sold its interest, which is forbidden in the contract, tosomebody else. And then the Ecuador government is taken to courtunder the arbitration panel and is asked to pay compensation. How? Because it is—there is oneclause in all these agreements that is to say, you must be given fair and equitable treatment. Now,fair and equitable treatment normally would mean to you and to me as a lay person something verysensible, but it's not. We don't know what, exactly. In the United States, for example, anybody going to acivil court has to follow the procedure—the civil procedure court there is a common court. In India, similarly,there is a civil procedure court. Here we don't know. The panels, we don't know what is a procedure.The hearings are all in private. And so—and there is a conflict of interest which is never disclosed,because the firm today acts for company A, tomorrow it sits on the panel.Take Peru case similarly. Peru was [incompr.] being [incompr.] or some other companies threateningPeru. Its exploitation of what's there created a lot of toxic waste. So it was asked to clear up the toxicwaste and clean this site. It got three extensions, and yet it had not done it. And so the case is now—because the government then stepped in to act on the matter. So what is the case against Peru? That Ishould get more extensions, so that I can get extensions until perpetuity. You got three extensions,and you didn't even start the cleanup campaign. But because it is adeveloping country, you think you can do what you like. JAY: But where did the Venezuela case go, where Chavez refused to accept these decisions?RAGHAVAN: That is before the convention [incompr.] in the industrialsettlement disputes, ICSID. It is a panel of panels [incompr.] named from court—case to case. It is run from New York orLondon or Europe, which is under ICSID convention. So Venezuela has withdrawn from the convention itself. <5>It remains to be seen what is going to happen. Somebodymay try to still say how the ruling is binding and trying go and attack the property of Venezuela insome other country, as it has happened recently in the Argentina bondholders case in Ghana. Butthat will really bring about a certain amount of chaos in international relations. So it is for the states to stepin and say, look, this is now getting totally out of hand.JAY: So what would you like to see? What type of treaties, what type of international law to govern trade,what model would make sense to you, in these treaties, if people were to demand changes, what should they bedemanding? What would you like to see as the legal framework for this?RAGHAVAN: First and foremost should be these private lawyers <6>settling this matter amongthemselves [incompr.] is a conflict of interest. General theories of judicial conflicts of interest, judicialopen courts, judicial issues being claimed that are clearly, before they come to answer to the court, ruleof law and natural justice require [incompr.] what exactly? You can't have—it should be fair and equitabletreatment. And for me, fair and equitable treatment should mean that I should continue to make profitsagainst your environment problems, against your health, against [incompr.] You cannot have that kind of aright, overriding health and other equitable interests of the local country concerned. That is a real problem. Ithas to be a different kind of a convention, open court, like the International Court of Justice. Their hearingsare open. So other people do it. People cannot—there are only people. If two governments go before theInternational Court of Justice, if one of the governments is not represented on the court, it is enabled tohave an associate judge. And I think more beyond that, the judges were [incompr.] elected are public, areknown. The judges who are elected and serving don't go and also act as lawyers for companies or othercountries. They don't go and solicit cases. Well, these people, this is what they're doingJAY: Alright. Very good. Thanks very much for joining us.RAGHAVAN: Thank you.JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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Smoke and Mirrors: Obama DOE Fracked Gas Export Study Contractor’s Tobacco Industry Roots

At first, it was kept secret for months, cryptically referred to only as an "unidentified third-party contractor."

Finally, in November 2012, Reuters revealed the name of the corporate consulting firm the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) hired to produce a study on the prospective economic impacts of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports.

LNG is the super-chilled final product of gas obtained - predominatly in today's context - via the controversial hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") process taking place within shale deposits located throughout the U.S. This "prize" is shipped from the multitude of domestic shale basins in pipelines to various coastal LNG terminals, and then sent on LNG tankers to the global market

The firm: National Economic Research Associates (NERA) Economic Consulting, has a long history of pushing for deregulation. Its claim to fame: the deregulation "studies" it publishes on behalf of the nuclear, coal, and oil/gas industry - and as it turns out, Big Tobacco, too.

Alfred E. Kahn, the late "Father of Deregulation," founded NERA in 1961 along with Irwin Stelzer, now a senior fellow and director of the right-wing Hudson Institute’s Center for Economic Policy. 

The NERA/Obama DOE LNG export economic impact study, released in early-December 2012, concluded that exporting the U.S. shale gas bounty is in the best economic interest of the country. The commenting period for that study closes today at 4:30 PM EST

This conclusion drew metaphorical hisses from many analysts, including prominent shale gas market economist and former Wall Street investoDeborah Rogers, who now maintains the blog Energy Policy Forum. Her critique cut straight to the very foundation of the study itself, stating that "economic model[s] are only as good as their inputs."

She proceeded to explain,

In fact, it is neither difficult nor unusual for models to be designed to favor one outcome over another. In other words, models can be essentially reverse engineered. This is especially true when the models have been commissioned by industries that stand to gain significantly in monetary terms. Or government agencies which are perhaps pushing a political agenda.

Beyond its history working as a hired gun for the fossil fuel industry, NERA also has deeper historical roots producing "smoke and mirrors" studies on behalf of the tobacco industry. The long view of the firm's past is something NERA would likely rather see "go up in smoke," forever buried in the historical annals. But that would be a disservice to U.S. taxpayers since NERA continues to receive government contracts to produce tobacco-era disinformation to this day. 

NERA and the "Tobacco Playbook"

Many fossil fuel industry public relations flacks learned the tactics of mass manipulation by reading the "tobacco playbook," meticulously documented in Naomi Oreskes' and Erik Conway's classic book, "Merchants of Doubt." 

"Doubt is our product," a tobacco industry CEO once said of the playbook, "since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy."  

NERA Health "Benefits" of Smoking

The University of California-San Francisco's Tobacco Archives reveal NERA worked on behalf of the tobacco industry dating back at least to 1986.

A May memo from that year written by then NERA Vice President William B. Shew (who now works at the previously mentioned Hudson Institute as an Adjunct Fellow alongside NERA Founder, Irwin Stelzer) addressed to Arnold & Porter attorney Thomas Silfen says the tobacco industry should aim to explain the so-called health "benefits" of smoking.

Most studies don't explain "the satisfactions that induce smokers to put up with health hazards," Shew explains in the memo. "This imbalance would be rectified by looking at the satisfaction derived from smoking."

At the time of the internal memo's publication, Arnold & Porter served as national counsel for Philip Morris.

A memo published in 1988 by Silfen posits that Big Tobacco has an obligation going forward to overcome its "long agony over health issues--to get the industry out of the 'it hasn't been proven' trap once and for all."

Attempt to Defeat L.A.'s Restaurant Smoking Ban 

Working alongside public relations industry giant Ogilvy-Mather and the Tobacco Institute, NERA also attempted to defeat the then-proposed smoking ban in Los Angeles County in 1990, the Tobacco Archives reveal. 

SourceWatch details that the Tobacco Institute hired Ogilvy "to provide public affairs consulting services aimed at helping the Instutitute fight cigarette excise taxes, public smoking restrictions and to help with coalition building issues," proceeding to explain that it helped to "devise ad campaigns to take the public's focus off the health hazards of secondhand tobacco smoke."

Among other accolades, Ogilvy helped BP rebrand itself "Beyond Petroluem," a propaganda campaign which won the corporation now infamous for its Gulf Coast oil disaster the PR Week "Brand of the Year" in 2001. Critics at the time called it a case of "greenwashing." 

Yet in the end, it was a case of "too little, too late" for NERA, Ogilvy and the Tobacco Institute. 

In 1990, San Luis Obispo, CA "became the first city in the world to ban indoor smoking at all public places, including bars and restaurants," according to the San Francisco Gate. By 1998, California adopted these regulations as the law of the land statewide.

NERA Offers Philip Morris Advertising Analytics

In 1992, tobacco giant Philip Morris hired NERA to analyze whether cigarette advertisements made an impact on consumption habits. This came during a time when the industry faced sharp scrunity for whitewashing the dangerous health impacts of smoking in its ads.  

Given this premise, it's no shock NERA concluded that the concerns about the effectiveness of Big Tobacco's advertising charm offensive were overblown. 

"The issue of whether cigarette advertising has had any effect on cigarette consumption per adult in Western countries over the last several decades remains uncertain," NERA explained in the lenghty report now posted on the Tobacco Archives. "However, it seems clear that advertising has had at most a minor effect, if any, on consumption per adult."

NERA/Philip Morris' War on OSHA and Maryland Workplace Smoking Regs 

Later, in 1994 and 1995, the Tobacco Archives also reveal that NERA served as a contractor for Philip Morris (now owned by Altria Group), taking the fight to an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposal to implement regulations for smoking on the job. 

OSHA proposed banning smoking everywhere within the workplace except for in small, desiginated and isolated lounges.

Dr. Albert L . Nichols authored a Dec. 1995 NERA economic study contracted out by Philip Morris which critiqued OSHA regulations. That study predictably concluded that OSHA's regulations were "draconian" in nature, suggesting OSHA relied on "patently ludicrous" economic assumptions.

While NERA/Philip Morris waged its battle against OSHA, NERA also devoted itself to fighting back against Maryland's state-level workplace smoking regulations.

A Feb. 1995 Associated Press article quotes Nichols saying that cigarette sales in Maryland "could fall by $27 million" on an annual basis if the regulations are implemented.

Much to NERA's chagrin, a month later, the proposed regulations became Maryland state law.

Should Firm with Big Tobacco Roots Be Trusted?

The Sierra Club is skeptical of the Obama DOE's choice of NERA as the contractor to perform the fracked gas LNG export study. The Club just filed a Freedom of Information Act request to ascertain exactly how the Department went about choosing NERA for its "study" that will play a large part in shaping the future of global energy markets.

"Deciding to export the U.S. gas supply is a major public decision,” Deb Nardone, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Natural Gas Campaign, said in a press release. “We deserve a full and fair conversation about it. That’s why we deserve to know how and why DOE picked this anti-environmental, pro-corporate consultant for this crucial report."

With easily apparent deep-seated roots dating back to the halcyon days of Big Tobacco, the DOE's NERA selection begs the question: Can one view the NERA/Obama DOE economic findings on LNG exports as anything but a deeply cynical PR ploy?

Update (5:33 PM CST): Over 200,000 public comments were delivered to the DOE, according to a Sierra Club press release. “The public should be outraged to hear that domestic supplies of gas would be shipped overseas and that households which rely on a paycheck will see no benefit, which is clearly stated in the report,” said Nardone. “Most Americans rely on a paycheck. Meanwhile communities all across the country are left footing the bill to clean up contaminated water supplies and with increased medical bills due to air pollution. Exporting fracked gas is clearly not in the best interest of the United States. DOE and President Obama must not accept this flawed study.” 

© 2012 De

Steve Horn

Steve Horn is a Madison, WI-based freelance investigative journalist, and a Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog. Follow him on Twitter at @Steve_Horn1022.

Corporate Party Favors at the Inaugural Shindig

President Obama's 2013 Inauguration store website. (Image: Whitehouse.gov)President Obama's 2013 Inauguration store website. (Image: Whitehouse.gov)If you’re one of those who equate the worlds of Washington and Hollywood — the standard joke: “Politics is show business for ugly people” — then a presidential inauguration is the Oscars, Golden Globes and Emmy Awards combined, right down to the parties, balls, extravagant wardrobes and goody bags stuffed with swag.

Just check out the online “57th Presidential Inauguration Store“, peddling more tchotchkes than the vendors outside a Justin Bieber concert — from shot glasses, T-shirts and tube socks to an Obama portrait by the artist Chuck Close and a $7500 set of official medallions.

The company behind this marketing behemoth — as it was during the 2012 campaign, when at times it appeared the Obama team was running a big box store rather than a presidential race — is Financial Innovations, Inc., which also happens to be one of a handful of corporations donating money to underwrite this year’s inaugural celebration. Its owner, Democratic fundraiser Mark Weiner, was an Obama bundler, raising as much as half a million dollars for the president’s re-election. According to Matea Gold at the Los Angeles Times, analyzing data from the Federal Election Commission, Financial Innovations “was paid more than $15.7 million by two Obama campaign committees to produce and mail campaign merchandise.”

Four years ago, the committee for President Obama’s first swearing-in proudly announced that no corporate cash would be accepted for the festivities, presenting the decision as “a commitment to change business as usual in Washington.” Nor was money taken from registered lobbyists and foreign agents, non-U.S. citizens or political action committees. What’s more, individual contributions were capped at $50,000.

This year, there’s a new attitude and a new push for dollars — the goal is set at $50 million. The rules against lobbyists, PACs and non-citizens are still in effect, but now, contributions of as much as a million are being solicited from individuals as well as businesses (although you’re banned from giving if you received taxpayer bailout money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program – TARP — and haven’t paid it back!).

“Sources close to the planning said the decision was born out of pragmatism,” Politico reported in December. There were just a few weeks post-election “to raise tens of millions of dollars to celebrate a victory that Democratic supporters already spent hundreds of millions of dollars to win thanks to the rise of unlimited outside money in campaigns this year.” Nonetheless, as the Associated Press noted, “The changes are part of a continuing erosion of Obama’s pledge to keep donors and special interests at arm’s length of his presidency.”

According to records released by the official Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC), so far, fewer than a thousand individuals and only eight corporations have contributed money for the long weekend of parties, balls and ceremonies (On January 17, ExxonMobil announced that it, too, was chipping in, to the tune of $250,000.)

Most of these companies have ties to the federal government. Restrictions on government contractors giving money to politicians don’t apply to the inaugural. They should.

Fredreka Schouten at USA Today writes that among them are:

Telecom giant AT&T, which spent more than $14 million lobbying Congress and federal agencies during the first nine months of 2012, [and] has been awarded more than $101 million in federal contracts in the current fiscal year, federal contracting data show. Microsoft, which spent nearly $5.7 million on lobbying, has been awarded nearly $4.6 million in technology contracts with Homeland Security, the White House and several other agencies so far during this fiscal year…

“Another corporate donor, Centene Corporation, manages health insurance programs for more than a dozen states. Those programs include Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance system for the poor, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The Congressional Budget Office estimates insurance coverage will be expanded to 7 million more Americans in both programs next year as the new federal health care law takes effect.”

The other five businesses on PIC’s official list are the aforementioned Financial Innovations, the electric utility Southern Company Services, biotech companies Genentech and United Therapeutics, and Stream Line Circle, which the Los Angeles Times said was “an entity tied to philanthropist and gay rights activist Jon Stryker.”

Southern Company Services, described by the watchdog Sunlight Foundation as “a major lobbying powerhouse,” received stimulus money under the Obama administration’s Recovery Act –a $165 million Smart Grid Investment Grant to modernize electrical infrastructure.

Genentech is an active health care lobbyist in Washington and regularly seeks Food and Drug Administration approval of drugs (just last month the FDA okayed the use of Genentech’s Tamiflu influenza medication for the treatment of infants.)

United Therapeutics seeks FDA approval for an oral version of an injectable drug used to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension, a lung disorder. Sunlight’s Keenan Steiner reported, “The company faced a setback in October when the FDA did not approve the new drug. Its CEO vowed at the time to continue seeking approval ‘within the next four years.’”

The next four years? What a coincidence. All the more reason to seize every opportunity to glad hand at inaugural events where there might be a moment or two to slip in a good word as the price for your generosity. United Therapeutics covers its bases. Steiner continued: “The company does not have a political action committee but emerged as a surprising major donor to the Democratic National Convention in September, when it gave $600,000 to the effort, the fifth-biggest donor behind the likes of Bank of America and AT&T.”

But for all this, we only know the names of donors and nothing else — not their location or, most important, how much they’ve given (although Southern Company did tell the Sunlight Foundation that its donation was $100,000). In another departure from four years ago, the committee won’t reveal that information until reports are filed with the Federal Election Commission in late April.

This secrecy had led to speculation as to what the Presidential Inaugural Committee plans to do with any money left over after all the confetti is thrown and the last dance danced. The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reports , “Theories range from the claim that Obama is getting a jump-start on funding his presidential library to conjecture that leftover campaign cash will prop up his grass-roots organizing operation, reportedly to be renamed Organizing for Action. Some say that it may even line the pockets of loyal campaign consultants.”

In a recent op-ed, Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, wrote of inaugural fundraising, “Obama’s policy in 2009 bested those of all recent occupants of the Oval Office and went way beyond the law’s requirements. It appeared he’d set a new precedent for higher standards in transparency. That makes the backsliding this year especially disheartening. In fact, by comparison, this year’s process feels like a snub.”

But those with money to buy nice things — or exclusive government access — won’t feel snubbed at the inauguration. Despite reports of corporate and other high rollers offended at alleged aloofness and a lack of perks from the White House during the first term, this time, they’ll be welcomed with open arms. The president said it himself — he likes a good party.

An Antipoverty Contract for 2013?

This past year I’ve had the opportunity to cover the antipoverty movement—and I do believe it’s a movement—it’s just a little too much of a well-kept secret right now. (Photo via equityblog.org)

But I think in 2013, the people and groups at the forefront of antipoverty thinking and action are poised to reach a much wider audience, and gain far greater popular support.

That’s in part because the movement is led by organizations and individuals who have been fighting poverty for decades, and they offer solutions that are grounded in empirical data and the every day experiences of millions of working Americans and families.

In contrast, the opposition to antipoverty reform relies largely on tired stereotypes, myths, and prejudices—that low-income people are lazy and don’t want to work; that they only want handouts, or to live off of welfare; that antipoverty policies have failed; and, most recently, that we can’t afford these investments. 

But an economy that is short on opportunity and concentrates wealth in the hands of a few is coming into focus. The interests of low-income people and a shrinking middle-class are converging—everyone wants fair pay, a shot at a good education, and an economy defined by opportunity and upward mobility.

People are beginning to recognize that we have a proliferation of low wage work— over 25 percent of the jobs in the nation pay less than the poverty line for a family of four, and 50 percent pay less than $34,000 a year.  It’s no wonder that 28 percent of all workers last year earned wages below the poverty line, and that more than 70 percent of low-income families and half of all families in poverty were working in 2011.  (Low-income defined as living on less than 200 percent of the poverty line, or less than approximately $36,000 annually for a family of three—which now constitutes 106 million people, more than 1 in 3 Americans; poverty defined as living on less than $18,000 annually for a family of three, which now describes more than 46 million Americans.)  People are looking for answers.

Currently, the antipoverty movement is largely in sync as it tries to protect programs that are vital to basic human needs during the fiscal debate.  But I think there are things it can do in 2013—after the budget debate—to reach a wider audience and bring more people into its fold.

One possible change—or more like a tweak: many seem to focus on the lack of will in our political leadership to fight poverty; instead the primary focus might be on what the movement itself is doing to create political will. 

What is it doing to make itself more visible?  How is it creating new relationships between low-income and higher-income people? At any given conference on poverty-related issues, are the people who know poverty first hand presenting, leading, educating, and organizing?  At a Congressional or local hearing on food stamps, TANF, SSI, or childcare—is the movement doing whatever it can to ensure that the people who have actually experienced the system are testifying?  Are the more “white collar” organizations in the movement going into low-income communities to join people and groups who are organizing on the ground?  Are these organizations showing up and also providing resources to protect homes, strengthen schools and neighborhoods, and stand with low-wage workers for better jobs?  How are we coming together—rich, poor, and in between—and how are we working in silos?  How are we speaking—or failing to speak—with a unified voice? 

I also believe if the movement can coalesce around a simple, clear and concise antipoverty agenda—an Antipoverty Contract for 2013—it can engage new audiences and grow significantly.  Choose four or five key policies that are easily grasped and in sync with most people’s values, and forge new alliances around them.  Whether or not the contract includes a group’s particular issue, hopefully groups will take a leap of faith and help push it forward, knowing that it might lead to a stronger movement and broader and deeper reforms down the road.

Below is one possible Antipoverty Contract for 2013.  I have no idea if these are the right choices—and there are some notable absences—on full employment, housing and education, to name a few.

But I hope this draft serves as a conversation starter among organizations, community groups, and people at the forefront of these fights—and that a core might emerge to coalesce and organize around a clear, focused antipoverty contract this year that might serve as a compelling organizing tool.

Raise the Minimum Wage

Americans generally believe that people who work hard should be able to pay for the basics, including food, housing, healthcare, and education.

As Peter Edelman notes in his book, So Rich, So Poor, for most of the 1960s and 70s the minimum wage paid enough to lift a family of three above the poverty line, about $18,000 today.  Not so anymore.   It has been raised only three times in the past thirty years and now stands at $7.25 per hour, which results in sub-poverty earnings of approximately $15,000 for a year-round, full-time employee.

The minimum wage for tipped workers is even worse—a stunning $2.13 per hour, and it’s been locked there since 1991.  As a result, food industry servers in the US are three times more likely than the general workforce to be paid sub-poverty wages and twice as likely to need food stamps.

If Congress had indexed the minimum wage to inflation—as they did for, say, individual campaign contribution limits or the new estate tax threshold—it would be $10.58 per hour today. 

Of course, any attempt to raise the wage floor is met with claims from opponents that it will result in massive job losses.  This has been shown repeatedly to be complete bunk.  Further, a recent report by the National Employment Law Project found that 66 percent of low-wage employees work for large companies, not small businesses, and that more than 70 percent of the biggest low-wage employers have fully recovered from the recession and are enjoying strong profits.

The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012, introduced by Senator Tom Harkin and Representative George Miller, would raise the federal minimum wage to $9.80 by 2014, index it to inflation, and boost annual earnings to $19,600—above the poverty line for a family of three. It would also raise the tipped minimum wage to $6.85 over five years, and it would be fixed to 70 percent of the full minimum wage.

The Economic Policy Institute estimates the Harkin-Miller proposal would generate more than $25 billion in new consumer spending, which would lead to the creation of more than 100,000 new full-time jobs. It would also increase wages for nearly 30 million Americans—roughly one-fifth of the workforce—because raising the wage floor improves pay for workers who earn at or just above the minimum wage.

Paid sick and family leave for all workers

Americans know that someone should not have to choose between their own health—or caring for a sick child or relative—and a job.  They believe that paid sick days are “a basic worker’s right.”

More than 40 percent of people in the private sector workforce—including 81 percent of low-wage workers—don’t receive a single paid sick day.  Millions more lack paid leave to care for a sick child or family member. Nearly 25 percent of workers polled said that they have lost a job or were told they would lose a job for taking time off to deal with a personal or family illness.

The US is virtually alone among other high-income countries in not setting a minimal standard for paid sick days, and is in the minority in not providing paid leave to care for a family member. For families in or near poverty, this is especially critical, since a few days’ lost pay makes the struggle to provide the basics—like food—that much harder.

Across demographic and political backgrounds, 75 percent of Americans favor a law providing a “minimum number” of paid sick days for all workers, including 69 percent who strongly favor providing workers with 7 paid sick days per year.

The Healthy Families Act would allow workers in businesses with 15 or more employees to earn up to seven job-protected paid sick days each year—to recover from their own illnesses, access preventative care, or provide care for a sick family member. 

This would be a significant leap forward in protecting all workers and their families.

Affordable Child Care for Working Families

Americans believe that parents should be able to work without spending exorbitant amounts on childcare. 

Half in Ten recently reported that the average cost of full-time child care ranges from $3,600 to $18,200 annually per child.  Since there are 7.8 million families with children under age 6 that live below 200 percent of the poverty line—on less than about $36,000 annually for a family of three—that’s just unacceptable (and it’s unacceptable for the middle-class too). 

Edelman reports that federal child care assistance currently reaches about one in seven children who qualify for it, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) puts the number at one in six—either way it’s bleak.  Last year, only 1.7 million children received a federal child care subsidy, and Helen Blank, director of Childcare and Early Learning at NWLC, predicted that the number would fall to 1.5 million—the fewest children served since 1998.

The economy can’t afford this lack of investment in working people and children.

“Child care plays two critical roles that support our economy,” said Blank.  “It helps children access the high-quality early learning environments they need to succeed, and it helps parents work.”

In fact, in 2010 poverty rates for families headed by a single mother dropped from 40.7 percent to 14 percent when the mother had full-time, year-round employment—and child care is key to that equation.   Research shows that low-income mothers who receive childcare subsidies are more likely to be employed, work more hours, and work standard schedules compared to mothers without subsidies.

But instead of bolstering childcare assistance we are moving in the opposite direction.  It’s funded primarily through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBC)—a fixed federal block grant so funding hasn’t risen with increased demand—and it now faces serious cuts.  Blank points to growing waiting lists—75,000 children in Florida, over 20,000 in Maryland, and 36,000 in Massachusetts.  She said that in North Carolina, about one out of four families on the state’s waiting list had lost or needed to quit their jobs while waiting for child care assistance.

Blank said child care needs a reauthorization with “significant new funds” so that children are in the kind of early-learning settings they need and deserve, and parents are able to work.  Peer countries are able to provide affordable childcare, why can’t we?  

End Childhood Hunger

Americans intuitively recognize that there is no excuse for any child to go hungry in the wealthiest nation in the history of forever.

In a 2011 poll commissioned by Tyson Foods and the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), 80 percent of respondents said they “strongly agree” with the statement that “in the United States of America, no one should go hungry.”

And yet it is our most vulnerable population—children— that are particularly suffering from hunger.  More than 16 million live in food insecure households, including nearly 25 percent of all children under age 6, despite the fact that the parents of hungry children typically have full-time jobs. Hunger has a tremendous impact on young children’s health, future potential, and cognitive, social and emotional development.

“There are lifelong implications,” says Dr. Mariana Chilton, associate professor at Drexel University School of Public Health and co-principal investigator for Children’s HealthWatch.  “Children in food insecure households have more health problems, are more likely to be hospitalized, and have developmental delays.  Young kids who are food insecure may arrive at kindergarten unprepared and never catch up with their peers.”

In 2009, FRAC laid out seven steps to ending childhood hunger by 2015 that are still relevant today.  They include a range of measures such as: raising the minimum wage; creating jobs with better wages for lower-income workers; improving the SNAP benefit (which averaged $4.30 per person per day in 2010); increasing participation in the school lunch, breakfast, after school and summer meal programs; improving WIC; engaging all federal agencies that interact with low-income children—whether it’s the DOJ which funds afterschool programs, Treasury which does outreach to families regarding the Earned Income Tax Credit, or others; and creating a national stream of grants and loans to make sure there are decent grocery stores in low-income communities. 

TANF: a path to good jobs for those who can work, assistance for those who can’t

Americans are told TANF is a program that leads to self-sufficiency.  It isn’t.

The Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program created in 1996 was touted as assistance that would help families on a path towards self-sufficiency.  It’s tough to overstate what a bill of goods the American people are being sold when both parties claim it has been a success.

If success means reducing the number of families with children in poverty that receive cash assistance—from 68 for every 100 families in poverty, to 27 for every 100 over the past 16 years—then, yeah it was successful.  But then why not just throw everyone off?

If it means not indexing TANF assistance to inflation, so that the benefit is now less than 30 percent of the poverty level in most states (less than $6000 annually for a family of three)… then it was successful. 

If it means keeping TANF recipients in any kind of job in order to receive this meager TANF benefit and no actual wage—whether it’s cleaning toilets, working in a cemetery, sweeping a county garage, or filing folders at an office—rather than helping people acquire the education and skills needed to secure family-supporting wages… then it was successful.

If it means cutting people with significant barriers to employment off of assistance because they reached an arbitrary, state-determined time limit or failed to meet a work requirement (no matter their individual circumstances)—then indeed the program has been successful.  It has directly contributed to the fact that 20.4 million people are now living in deep poverty—at less than half of the poverty line, or less than $9,000 for a family of three—up from 12.6 million people in 2000.  This number includes over 15 million women and children (nearly 10 percent of all children). 

If success means virtually 50 different welfare systems—for the purpose of “state flexibility”—so that Wyoming provides assistance to just 4 families for every 100 with children in poverty, Mississippi reaches 10, and California 66… then it was successful.

The antipoverty community should fight for a TANF that meets some basic standards regarding who should receive it; supports people in work or education programs that lead to family-supporting rather than dead-end jobs (including through a vehicle like the TANF Emergency Fund that placed 260,000 unemployed low-income parents and young adults in subsidized jobs during the recession and enjoyed bipartisan support from governors); and that addresses the needs of families living in deep poverty—which are usually headed by people with the most significant barriers to employment, including mental and physical health challenges, lack of a high school diploma, caring for a child with special needs, or living with domestic violence—rather than simply throwing families off of assistance.

One possible piece of legislation to rally around is Wisconsin Congresswoman Gwen Moore’s RISE Act.  Among the changes it calls for are adjusting each state’s block grant for inflation so it’s no longer frozen at 1996 funding levels; allowing education to count towards work requirements; providing childcare for all work-eligible parents; and prohibiting time limits of less than 60 months. 

Even if the antipoverty community were to win on subsidized jobs alone that would be a significant victory.

Conclusion

An Antipoverty Contract for 2013 wouldn’t guarantee a win on one or any of these five issues this year.  But it could engage people who currently aren’t being reached by the antipoverty movement; demonstrate why the movement’s policies are good for the entire nation; and offer an opportunity for people to work together for these and deeper reforms moving forward.  I would be interested in constructive comments below, as well as in emails to [email protected].

© 2012 The Nation

Greg Kaufmann
Greg Kaufmann is a Nation contributor covering poverty in America.  He has been a guest on NPR, including Here & Now and Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane, and various local radio programs including the Matthew Filipowicz Show.  His work has also appeared on Common Dreams, Alternet, Tikkun.org, NPR.org, CBSNews.com, and MichaelMoore.com.  He previously worked as a staffer for the Kerry campaign, a copywriter and speechwriter for various Democrats in national and local politics, and as a screenwriter.  He serves as an advisor for the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

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Democrats can’t defend US from GOP

President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner

The Congress, that polls show the American people would like to replace in its entirety, has “kicked the can down the road” again, putting off the government shutdown until January 15th and another debt ceiling showdown until February 7th.

The polls also show, convincingly, that people blame the stubborn Republicans more than the Democrats for the adverse effects of the impasse on workers, public health, safety, consumer spending, recreational parks and government corporate contracts.

There is another story about how all this gridlock came to be, fronted by the question: “Why didn’t the Democrats landslide the cruelest, most ignorant, big-business-indentured Republican Party in its history during the 2010 and 2012 Congressional elections?

There are a number of answers to this fundamental political question. First and most obvious is that the Democrats are dialing for the same commercial campaign dollars, which beyond the baggage of quid pro quo money, detours the Party away from concentrating on their constituents’ needs, in a contrasting manner with the GOP.

Democrats like Rep. Marcy Kaptur (Dem. Ohio) tell me that when the House Democrats get together in an election year, they go into the meetings talking about money and walk out talking about money, burdened with the quotas assigned by their so-called leadership.

Last year, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (Dem. Calif.) was reported to have attended 400 fundraisers in DC and around the country for her campaigning Democrats. Helping Democratic candidates with fundraising is a major way she asserts her control over them. Over ninety percent of the Democrats in the House defer to her and do not press her on such matters as upping the federal minimum wage, controlling corporate crime, reducing corporate welfare giveaways, reasserting full Medicare for all, diminishing a militaristic foreign policy and other policies reputed to be favored by the Party’s Progressive Caucus, numbering 75 Representatives. Instead, the Progressive Caucus remains moribund, declining to press their policy demands on leader Pelosi, as the hardcore Tea Partiers do with their leaders.

So when election time comes around, voters do not know what the Democrats stand for other than to save Social Security and Medicare from the Republicans. Former Senator and Presidential candidate Gary Hart, now living in Denver, said last year that the local Democrats in Denver didn’t know what the national Democrats stood for.

The 2010 election was crucial for the winners in the state government races who gained the upper hand in redistricting decisions for a decade. That meant more gerrymandered one-party dominated districts. The Republicans won a majority of those gubernatorial and state legislative races and took over the US House of Representatives with Speaker John Boehner (Rep. Ohio) and his curled-lip deputy, Eric Cantor (Rep. Va.).

And there is also President Obama’s political selfishness. Obama knew that he could not govern with a knee-jerk blocking Republican House of Representatives. Yet he did not provide serious campaign support and progressive policy leadership for Democratic candidates. Consequently he was overcome in 2011 by the Republican demands for sharp cuts in federal budgets serving people, while exempting corporate entitlements from similar cuts, and the specter of government shutdowns and Republicans in Congress refusing to raise the government’s debt ceiling to pay current debts, during his first term Presidency.

So you’d think that in 2012 President Obama would run arm-in-arm with Congressional Democrats. No way. He not only signaled his “going it alone” approach by turning down a Democrat’s request for $30 million from his billion dollar campaign hoard, but he had little interest in campaigning with the local Congressional candidates as he travelled around the country. The House Democrats were dismayed, but kept quiet.

So he got the Boehner/Cantor duo for another two years after the 2012 election. That meant another shut-the-government-down don’t-lift-the-debt-ceiling imbroglio - a clash that crowded out all the necessities and the matters of justice that our government is supposed to champion. The greed and power of the Walmarts, the Exxons, the Aetnas, the Lockheed Martins and the rest of the global corporate power structure that has turned its back on taxpaying, American workers and their families remains unchecked by our government.

Fast forward to the elections of 2014. No House Democrat believed, until the recent Congressional impasse, that the Democrats would win back the House in 2014. Given that many House-passed Republican votes since 2011 sided with big business, on the wrong side of fair treatment of children, student borrowers, workers, women, consumers, small taxpayers and providing necessary public services, one would think the Democrats should win next year in a slam dunk. Not likely, unless the Republican echo chamber, with its “mad dog” extremists, hand control of the House to the Democrats.

From the Nineteen Forties to the Nineteen Nineties, the Republican Party did not behave as badly as today’s snarling version of the GOP. Yet the Democrats beat Republicans in most Congressional races. Imagine what Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson would have done with today’s crop of Republican corporatists and rabid ideologues.

Today’s Democrats with very few exceptions are dull, tired and defeatist. They regularly judge themselves by how bad the Republican Party is, instead of how affirmatively good they could be for our country and its politically alienated people. They cannot even muster themselves to battle for a higher minimum wage on behalf of 30 million American workers, just to the level of 1968, inflation adjusted, which is supported by over 70 percent of the people.

Neither Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, nor House Democratic Leader, Nancy Pelosi are really taking this minimum wage fairness issue to the people and directly confronting the Republican Party. Yet they both profess to believe in “catching up with 1968.” They just don’t believe in themselves enough to generate the focused energy to make it happen.

AGB/AGB

The Democrats Can’t Defend the Country from the Retrograde GOP

The Congress, that polls show the American people would like to replace in its entirety, has “kicked the can down the road” again, putting off the government shutdown until January 15th and another debt ceiling showdown until February 7th.

The polls also show, convincingly, that people blame the stubborn Republicans more than the Democrats for the adverse effects of the impasse on workers, public health, safety, consumer spending, recreational parks and government corporate contracts.

There is another story about how all this gridlock came to be, fronted by the question: “Why didn’t the Democrats landslide the cruelest, most ignorant, big-business-indentured Republican Party in its history during the 2010 and 2012 Congressional elections? (See “The Do Nothing Congress: A Record of Extremism and Partisanship”)

There are a number of answers to this fundamental political question. First and most obvious is that the Democrats are dialing for the same commercial campaign dollars, which beyond the baggage of quid pro quo money, detours the Party away from concentrating on their constituents’ needs, in a contrasting manner with the GOP.
Democrats like Rep. Marcy Kaptur (Dem. Ohio) tell me that when the House Democrats get together in an election year, they go into the meetings talking about money and walk out talking about money, burdened with the quotas assigned by their so-called leadership.

Last year, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (Dem. Calif.) was reported to have attended 400 fundraisers in DC and around the country for her campaigning Democrats. Helping Democratic candidates with fundraising is a major way she asserts her control over them. Over ninety percent of the Democrats in the House defer to her and do not press her on such matters as upping the federal minimum wage, controlling corporate crime, reducing corporate welfare giveaways, reasserting full Medicare for all, diminishing a militaristic foreign policy and other policies reputed to be favored by the Party’s Progressive Caucus, numbering 75 Representatives. Instead, the Progressive Caucus remains moribund, declining to press their policy demands on leader Pelosi, as the hardcore Tea Partiers do with their leaders.

So when election time comes around, voters do not know what the Democrats stand for other than to save Social Security and Medicare from the Republicans. Former Senator and Presidential candidate Gary Hart, now living in Denver, said last year that the local Democrats in Denver didn’t know what the national Democrats stood for.

The 2010 election was crucial for the winners in the state government races who gained the upper hand in redistricting decisions for a decade. That meant more gerrymandered one-party dominated districts. The Republicans won a majority of those gubernatorial and state legislative races and took over the U.S. House of Representatives with Speaker John Boehner (Rep. Ohio) and his curled-lip deputy, Eric Cantor (Rep. Va.).

And there is also President Obama’s political selfishness. Obama knew that he could not govern with a knee-jerk blocking Republican House of Representatives. Yet he did not provide serious campaign support and progressive policy leadership for Democratic candidates. Consequently he was overcome in 2011 by the Republican demands for sharp cuts in federal budgets serving people, while exempting corporate entitlements from similar cuts, and the spectre of government shutdowns and Republicans in Congress refusing to raise the government’s debt ceiling to pay current debts, during his first term Presidency.

So you’d think that in 2012 President Obama would run arm-in-arm with Congressional Democrats. No way. He not only signaled his “going it alone” approach by turning down a Democrat’s request for $30 million from his billion dollar campaign hoard, but he had little interest in campaigning with the local Congressional candidates as he travelled around the country. The House Democrats were dismayed, but kept quiet.

So he got the Boehner/Cantor duo for another two years after the 2012 election. That meant another shut-the-government-down don’t-lift-the-debt-ceiling imbroglio – a clash that crowded out all the necessities and the matters of justice that our government is supposed to champion. The greed and power of the Walmarts, the Exxons, the Aetnas, the Lockheed Martins and the rest of the global corporate power structure that has turned its back on taxpaying, American workers and their families remains unchecked by our government.

Fast forward to the elections of 2014. No House Democrat believed, until the recent Congressional impasse, that the Democrats would win back the House in 2014. Given that many House-passed Republican votes since 2011 sided with big business, on the wrong side of fair treatment of children, student borrowers, workers, women, consumers, small taxpayers and providing necessary public services, one would think the Democrats should win next year in a slam dunk. Not likely, unless the Republican echo chamber, with its “mad dog” extremists, hand control of the House to the Democrats.

From the Nineteen Forties to the Nineteen Nineties, the Republican Party did not behave as badly as today’s snarling version of the GOP. Yet the Democrats beat Republicans in most Congressional races. Imagine what Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson would have done with today’s crop of Republican corporatists and rabid ideologues.

Today’s Democrats with very few exceptions are dull, tired and defeatist. They regularly judge themselves by how bad the Republican Party is, instead of how affirmatively good they could be for our country and its politically alienated people. They cannot even muster themselves to battle for a higher minimum wage on behalf of 30 million American workers, just to the level of 1968, inflation adjusted, which is supported by over 70 percent of the people.

Neither Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, nor House Democratic Leader, Nancy Pelosi are really taking this minimum wage fairness issue to the people and directly confronting the Republican Party. Yet they both profess to believe in “catching up with 1968.” They just don’t believe in themselves enough to generate the focused energy to make it happen.

(For those readers interested in letting their members of Congress have an earful, the switchboard is 202-224-3121.)

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.

Generalissima Clinton Expanding the Empire

hilary

Hillary Clinton has completed her four-year tenure as Secretary of State to the accolades of both Democratic and Republican Congressional champions of the budget-busting “military-industrial complex,” that President Eisenhower warned about in his farewell address. Behind the public relations sheen, the photo-opportunities with groups of poor people in the developing world, an ever more militarized State Department operated under Clinton’s leadership.

A militarized State Department is more than a repudiation of the Department’s basic charter of 1789, for the then-named Department of Foreign Affairs, which envisioned diplomacy as its mission. Secretary Clinton reveled in tough, belligerent talk and action on her many trips to more than a hundred countries. She would warn or threaten “consequences” on a regular basis. She supported soldiers in Afghanistan, the use of secret Special Forces in other places and “force projection” in East Asia to contain China. She aggressively supported or attacked resistance movements in dictatorships, depending on whether a regime played to Washington’s tune.

Because Defense Secretary Robert Gates was openly cool to the drum beats for war on Libya, Clinton took over and choreographed the NATO ouster of the dictator, Muammar al-Gaddafi, long after he had given up his mass destruction weaponry and was working to re-kindle relations with the U.S. government and global energy corporations. Libya is now in a disastrous warlord state-of-chaos. Many fleeing fighters have moved into Mali, making that vast country into another battlefield drawing U.S. involvement. Blowback!

Time and again, Hillary Clinton’s belligerence exceeded that of Obama’s Secretaries of Defense. From her seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee to her tenure at the State Department, Hillary Clinton sought to prove that she could be just as tough as the militaristic civilian men whose circle she entered. Throughout her four years it was Generalissima Clinton, expanding the American Empire at large.

Here is some of what the candid camera of history will show about her record:

1. A Yale Law School graduate, she shared with President Obama, a former Harvard Law Review President, a shocking disregard for the law and separation of powers be it the Constitution, federal statues or international treaties. Her legal advisor, former Yale Law Dean Harold Koh, provided cover for her and Obama’s “drone ranger” (to use Bill Moyer’s words), John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism advisor. Brennan gave the president weekly opportunities (White House aides called decision day “Terror Tuesdays”) to become secret prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner. Imagine thousands of push-button deaths and injuries of internal resisters and civilian bystanders in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere who presented no threat to the U.S.

The war on Libya, which Clinton spearheaded for Obama, was conducted without a Congressional Declaration of War, without even a War Resolution or a Congressional authorization or appropriation. She and her boss outdid Cheney and Bush on that score.

2. Although touting “diplomacy” as a priority, Clinton made little attempt to bring the United States into the community of nations by signing or ratifying international treaties already having as signatories over a hundred nations. As a former senator with bi-partisan support, Clinton didn’t use much of her capital on climate change agreements.

Human Rights Watch reports that chief among the unratified treaties are “international conventions relating to children, women, persons with disabilities, torture, enforced disappearance, and the use of anti-personal landmines and cluster munitions.” The last two treaties are designed to save thousands of lives and limbs of the children and their parents who are major victims of these concealed, atrocious weapons. Clinton has not gone to bat against the advocates for those “blowback” explosives that the Pentagon still uses.

When the Senate recently failed to ratify the treaty on disabilities, Clinton, with former senator and injured veteran, Robert Dole on her side, still didn’t make the maximum effort of which she is capable.

3. Secretary Clinton had problems heralding accurate whistleblowers. A 24-year-Foreign Service Officer, Peter Van Buren spent a year in Iraq running two State Department Reconstruction Teams. He exposed State Department waste and mismanagement along with the Pentagon’s “reconstruction” efforts using corporate contractors. Unlistened to, Van Buren, true to his civil service oath of office, went public. Clinton fired him. (wemeantwell.com.)

4. Possibly the most revealing of Clinton’s character was ordering U.S. officials to spy on top UN diplomats, including those from our ally, the United Kingdom. Shockingly, she even ordered her emissaries to obtain DNA data, iris scans (known as biometric data) and fingerprints along with credit card and frequent flier numbers.

The disclosure of secret State Department cables proved this to be a clear violation of the 1946 UN convention. Clinton included in this crude boomeranging personal espionage, the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon and his top officials all around the world. As befits these lawless times, there were no Congressional hearings, no accountabilities, and no resignation by the self-styled civil libertarian Secretary of State, not even a public apology.

5. Clinton led a dangerous expansion of the Department’s mission in Iraq. As reported in the Wall Street Journal on December 10, 2011, “In place of the military, the State Department will assume a new role of unprecedented scale, overseeing a massive diplomatic mission through a network of fortified, self-sufficient installations.”

To call this a diplomatic mission is a stretch. The State Department has hired thousands of private security contractors for armed details and transportation of personnel. Simply guarding the huge U.S. embassy in Iraq and its personnel costs more than $650 million a year – larger than the entire budget of the Occupational Health and Safety Agency (OSHA), which is responsible for reducing the yearly loss of about 58,000 lives in workplace-related traumas and sickness.

Another State Department undertaking is to improve the training and capability of Iraq’s police and armed forces. Countless active and retired Foreign Service officers believe expanded militarization of the State Department both sidelines them, their experience and knowledge, in favor of contractors and military people, and endangers them overseas.

Blurring the distinction between the Pentagon and the State Department in words and deeds seriously compromises Americans engaged in development and diplomatic endeavors. When people in the developing countries see Americans working to advance public health or clean drinking water systems within their countries, they now wonder if these are front activities for spying or undercover penetrations. Violent actions, fueled by this suspicion, are already jeopardizing public health efforts on the border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Clinton’s successor, former Senator and war veteran, John Kerry, says he wants to emphasize peace, human rights, and anti-poverty endeavors. He doesn’t have to prove his machismo should he strive to de-militarize the State Department and promote peaceful, deliberative missions in the world, from which true security flows.

Pentagon’s New Massive Expansion of ‘Cyber-Security’ Unit is About Everything Except Defense

As the US government depicts the Defense Department as shrinking due to budgetary constraints, the Washington Post this morning announces "a major expansion of [the Pentagon's] cybersecurity force over the next several years, increasing its size more than fivefold."

The National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. Among other forms of intelligence-gathering, the NSA secretly collects the phone records of millions of Americans, using data provided by telecom firms AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth. (Photo: NSA/Getty Images)

Specifically, says the New York Times this morning, "the expansion would increase the Defense Department's Cyber Command by more than 4,000 people, up from the current 900." The Post describes this expansion as "part of an effort to turn an organization that has focused largely on defensive measures into the equivalent of an Internet-era fighting force." This Cyber Command Unit operates under the command of Gen. Keith Alexander, who also happens to be the head of the National Security Agency, the highly secretive government network that spies on the communications of foreign nationals - and American citizens.

The Pentagon's rhetorical justification for this expansion is deeply misleading. Beyond that, these activities pose a wide array of serious threats to internet freedom, privacy, and international law that, as usual, will be conducted with full-scale secrecy and with little to no oversight and accountability. And, as usual, there is a small army of private-sector corporations who will benefit most from this expansion.

Disguising aggression as "defense"

Let's begin with the way this so-called "cyber-security" expansion has been marketed. It is part of a sustained campaign which, as usual, relies on blatant fear-mongering.

In March, 2010, the Washington Post published an amazing Op-Ed by Adm. Michael McConnell, Bush's former Director of National Intelligence and a past and current executive with Booz Allen, a firm representing numerous corporate contractors which profit enormously each time the government expands its "cyber-security" activities. McConnell's career over the last two decades - both at Booz, Allen and inside the government - has been devoted to accelerating the merger between the government and private sector in all intelligence, surveillance and national security matters (it was he who led the successful campaign to retroactively immunize the telecom giants for their participation in the illegal NSA domestic spying program). Privatizing government cyber-spying and cyber-warfare is his primary focus now.

McConnell's Op-Ed was as alarmist and hysterical as possible. Claiming that "the United States is fighting a cyber-war today, and we are losing", it warned that "chaos would result" from an enemy cyber-attack on US financial systems and that "our power grids, air and ground transportation, telecommunications, and water-filtration systems are in jeopardy as well." Based on these threats, McConnell advocated that "we" - meaning "the government and the private sector" - "need to develop an early-warning system to monitor cyberspace" and that "we need to reengineer the Internet to make attribution, geolocation, intelligence analysis and impact assessment - who did it, from where, why and what was the result - more manageable." As Wired's Ryan Singel wrote: "He's talking about changing the internet to make everything anyone does on the net traceable and geo-located so the National Security Agency can pinpoint users and their computers for retaliation."

The same week the Post published McConnell's extraordinary Op-Ed, the Obama White House issued its own fear-mongering decree on cyber-threats, depicting the US as a vulnerable victim to cyber-aggression. It began with this sentence: "President Obama has identified cybersecurity as one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation, but one that we as a government or as a country are not adequately prepared to counter." It announced that "the Executive Branch was directed to work closely with all key players in US cybersecurity, including state and local governments and the private sector" and to "strengthen public/private partnerships", and specifically announced Obama's intent to "to implement the recommendations of the Cyberspace Policy Review built on the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI) launched by President George W. Bush."

Since then, the fear-mongering rhetoric from government officials has relentlessly intensified, all devoted to scaring citizens into believing that the US is at serious risk of cataclysmic cyber-attacks from "aggressors". This all culminated when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, last October, warned of what he called a "cyber-Pearl Harbor. This "would cause physical destruction and the loss of life, an attack that would paralyze and shock the nation and create a profound new sense of vulnerability." Identifying China, Iran, and terrorist groups, he outlined a parade of horribles scarier than anything since Condoleezza Rice's 2002 Iraqi "mushroom cloud":

"An aggressor nation or extremist group could use these kinds of cyber tools to gain control of critical switches. They could derail passenger trains, or even more dangerous, derail passenger trains loaded with lethal chemicals. They could contaminate the water supply in major cities, or shut down the power grid across large parts of the country."

As usual, though, reality is exactly the opposite. This new massive new expenditure of money is not primarily devoted to defending against cyber-aggressors. The US itself is the world's leading cyber-aggressor. A major purpose of this expansion is to strengthen the US's ability to destroy other nations with cyber-attacks. Indeed, even the Post report notes that a major component of this new expansion is to "conduct offensive computer operations against foreign adversaries".

It is the US - not Iran, Russia or "terror" groups - which already is the first nation (in partnership with Israel) to aggressively deploy a highly sophisticated and extremely dangerous cyber-attack. Last June, the New York Times' David Sanger reported what most of the world had already suspected: "From his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran's main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America's first sustained use of cyberweapons." In fact, Obama "decided to accelerate the attacks . . . even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran's Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet." According to the Sanger's report, Obama himself understood the significance of the US decision to be the first to use serious and aggressive cyber-warfare:

"Mr. Obama, according to participants in the many Situation Room meetings on Olympic Games, was acutely aware that with every attack he was pushing the United States into new territory, much as his predecessors had with the first use of atomic weapons in the 1940s, of intercontinental missiles in the 1950s and of drones in the past decade. He repeatedly expressed concerns that any American acknowledgment that it was using cyberweapons - even under the most careful and limited circumstances - could enable other countries, terrorists or hackers to justify their own attacks."

The US isn't the vulnerable victim of cyber-attacks. It's the leading perpetrator of those attacks. As Columbia Professor and cyber expert Misha Glenny wrote in the NYT last June: Obama's cyber-attack on Iran "marked a significant and dangerous turning point in the gradual militarization of the Internet."

Indeed, exactly as Obama knew would happen, revelations that it was the US which became the first country to use cyber-warfare against a sovereign country - just as it was the first to use the atomic bomb and then drones - would make it impossible for it to claim with any credibility (except among its own media and foreign policy community) that it was in a defensive posture when it came to cyber-warfare. As Professor Glenny wrote: "by introducing such pernicious viruses as Stuxnet and Flame, America has severely undermined its moral and political credibility." That's why, as the Post reported yesterday, the DOJ is engaged in such a frantic and invasive effort to root out Sanger's source: because it reveals the obvious truth that the US is the leading aggressor in the world when it comes to cyber-weapons.

This significant expansion under the Orwellian rubric of "cyber-security" is thus a perfect microcosm of US military spending generally. It's all justified under by the claim that the US must defend itself from threats from Bad, Aggressive Actors, when the reality is the exact opposite: the new program is devoted to ensuring that the US remains the primary offensive threat to the rest of the world. It's the same way the US develops offensive biological weapons under the guise of developing defenses against such weapons (such as the 2001 anthrax that the US government itself says came from a US Army lab). It's how the US government generally convinces its citizens that it is a peaceful victim of aggression by others when the reality is that the US builds more weapons, sells more arms and bombs more countries than virtually the rest of the world combined.

Threats to privacy and internet freedom

Beyond the aggressive threat to other nations posed by the Pentagon's cyber-threat programs, there is the profound threat to privacy, internet freedom, and the ability to communicate freely for US citizens and foreign nationals alike. The US government has long viewed these "cyber-security" programs as a means of monitoring and controlling the internet and disseminating propaganda. The fact that this is all being done under the auspices of the NSA and the Pentagon means, by definition, that there will be no transparency and no meaningful oversight.

Back in 2003, the Rumsfeld Pentagon prepared a secret report entitled "Information Operations (IO) Roadmap", which laid the foundation for this new cyber-warfare expansion. The Pentagon's self-described objective was "transforming IO into a core military competency on par with air, ground, maritime and special operations". In other words, its key objective was to ensure military control over internet-based communications:

dod cyber

It further identified superiority in cyber-attack capabilities as a vital military goal in PSYOPs (Psychological Operations) and "information-centric fights":

dod cyber

And it set forth the urgency of dominating the "IO battlespace" not only during wartime but also in peacetime:

dod cyber

As a 2006 BBC report on this Pentagon document noted: "Perhaps the most startling aspect of the roadmap is its acknowledgement that information put out as part of the military's psychological operations, or Psyops, is finding its way onto the computer and television screens of ordinary Americans." And while the report paid lip service to the need to create "boundaries" for these new IO military activities, "they don't seem to explain how." Regarding the report's plan to "provide maximum control of the entire electromagnetic spectrum", the BBC noted: "Consider that for a moment. The US military seeks the capability to knock out every telephone, every networked computer, every radar system on the planet."

Since then, there have been countless reports of the exploitation by the US national security state to destroy privacy and undermine internet freedom. In November, the LA Times described programs that "teach students how to spy in cyberspace, the latest frontier in espionage." They "also are taught to write computer viruses, hack digital networks, crack passwords, plant listening devices and mine data from broken cellphones and flash drives." The program, needless to say, "has funneled most of its graduates to the CIA and the Pentagon's National Security Agency, which conducts America's digital spying. Other graduates have taken positions with the FBI, NASA and the Department of Homeland Security."

In 2010, Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, gave a speech explicitly announcing that the US intends to abandon its policy of "leaving the Internet alone". Noting that this "has been the nation's Internet policy since the Internet was first commercialized in the mid-1990s", he decreed: "This was the right policy for the United States in the early stages of the Internet, and the right message to send to the rest of the world. But that was then and this is now."

The documented power of the US government to monitor and surveil internet communications is already unfathomably massive. Recall that the Washington Post's 2010 "Top Secret America" series noted that: "Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications." And the Obama administration has formally demanded that it have access to any and all forms of internet communication.

It is hard to overstate the danger to privacy and internet freedom from a massive expansion of the National Security State's efforts to exploit and control the internet. As Wired's Singel wrote back in 2010:

"Make no mistake, the military industrial complex now has its eye on the internet. Generals want to train crack squads of hackers and have wet dreams of cyberwarfare. Never shy of extending its power, the military industrial complex wants to turn the internet into yet another venue for an arms race.

Wildly exaggerated cyber-threats are the pretext for this control, the "mushroom cloud" and the Tonkin Gulf fiction of cyber-warfare. As Singel aptly put it: "the only war going on is one for the soul of the internet." That's the vital context for understanding this massive expansion of Pentagon and NSA consolidated control over cyber programs.

Bonanza for private contractors

As always, it is not just political power but also private-sector profit driving this expansion. As military contracts for conventional war-fighting are modestly reduced, something needs to replace it, and these large-scale "cyber-security" contracts are more than adequate. Virtually every cyber-security program from the government is carried out in conjunction with its "private-sector partners", who receive large transfers of public funds for this work.

Two weeks ago, Business Week reported that "Lockheed Martin Corp., AT&T Inc., and CenturyLink Inc. are the first companies to sign up for a US program giving them classified information on cyber threats that they can package as security services for sale to other companies." This is part of a government effort "to create a market based on classified US information about cyber threats." In May, it was announced that "the Pentagon is expanding and making permanent a trial program that teams the government with Internet service providers to protect defense firms' computer networks against data theft by foreign adversaries" - all as "part of a larger effort to broaden the sharing of classified and unclassified cyberthreat data between the government and industry."

Indeed, there is a large organization of defense and intelligence contractors devoted to one goal: expanding the private-public merger for national security and intelligence functions. This organization - the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) - was formerly headed by Adm. McConnell, and describes itself as a "collaboration by leaders from throughout the US Intelligence Community" and " combines the experience of senior leaders from government, the private sector, and academia."

As I detailed back in 2010, one of its primary goals is to scare the nation about supposed cyber-threats in order to justify massive new expenditures for the private-sector intelligence industry on cyber-security measures and vastly expanded control over the internet. Indeed, in his 2010 Op-Ed, Adm. McConnell expressly acknowledged that the growing privatization of internet cyber-security programs "will muddy the waters between the traditional roles of the government and the private sector." Indeed, at the very same time McConnell published this Op-Ed, the INSA website featured a report entitled "Addressing Cyber Security Through Public-Private Partnership." It featured a genuinely creepy graphic showing the inter-connectedness between government institutions (such as Congress and regulatory agencies), the Surveillance State, private intelligence corporations, and the Internet:

Private-sector profit is now inextricably linked with the fear-mongering campaign over cyber-threats. At one INSA conference in 2009 - entitled "Cyber Deterrence Conference" - government officials and intelligence industry executives gathered together to stress that "government and private sector actors should emphasize collaboration and partnership through the creation of a model that assigns specific roles and responsibilities."

As intelligence contractor expert Tim Shorrock told Democracy Now when McConnell - then at Booz Allen - was first nominated to be DNI:

Well, the NSA, the National Security Agency, is really sort of the lead agency in terms of outsourcing . . . . Booz Allen is one of about, you know, ten large corporations that play a very major role in American intelligence. Every time you hear about intelligence watching North Korea or tapping al-Qaeda phones, something like that, you can bet that corporations like these are very heavily involved. And Booz Allen is one of the largest of these contractors. I estimate that about 50% of our $45 billion intelligence budget goes to private sector contractors like Booz Allen.

This public-private merger for intelligence and surveillance functions not only vests these industries with large-scale profits at public expense, but also the accompanying power that was traditionally reserved for government. And unlike government agencies, which are at least subjected in theory to some minimal regulatory oversight, these private-sector actors have virtually none, even as their surveillance and intelligence functions rapidly increase.

What Dwight Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex has been feeding itself on fear campaigns since it was born. A never-ending carousel of Menacing Enemies - Communists, Terrorists, Saddam's chemical weapons, Iranian mullahs - has sustained it, and Cyber-Threats are but the latest.

Like all of these wildly exaggerated cartoon menaces, there is some degree of threat posed by cyber-attacks. But, as Single described, all of this can be managed with greater security systems for public and private computer networks - just as some modest security measures are sufficient to deal with the terrorist threat.

This new massive expansion has little to do with any actual cyber-threat - just as the invasion of Iraq and global assassination program have little to do with actual terrorist threats. It is instead all about strengthening the US's offensive cyber-war capabilities, consolidating control over the internet, and ensuring further transfers of massive public wealth to private industry continue unabated. In other words, it perfectly follows the template used by the public-private US National Security State over the last six decades to entrench and enrich itself based on pure pretext.

© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited

Glenn Greenwald

Pentagon’s New Massive Expansion of ‘Cyber-Security’ Unit is About Everything Except Defense

As the US government depicts the Defense Department as shrinking due to budgetary constraints, the Washington Post this morning announces "a major expansion of [the Pentagon's] cybersecurity force over the next several years, increasing its size more than fivefold."

The National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. Among other forms of intelligence-gathering, the NSA secretly collects the phone records of millions of Americans, using data provided by telecom firms AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth. (Photo: NSA/Getty Images)

Specifically, says the New York Times this morning, "the expansion would increase the Defense Department's Cyber Command by more than 4,000 people, up from the current 900." The Post describes this expansion as "part of an effort to turn an organization that has focused largely on defensive measures into the equivalent of an Internet-era fighting force." This Cyber Command Unit operates under the command of Gen. Keith Alexander, who also happens to be the head of the National Security Agency, the highly secretive government network that spies on the communications of foreign nationals - and American citizens.

The Pentagon's rhetorical justification for this expansion is deeply misleading. Beyond that, these activities pose a wide array of serious threats to internet freedom, privacy, and international law that, as usual, will be conducted with full-scale secrecy and with little to no oversight and accountability. And, as usual, there is a small army of private-sector corporations who will benefit most from this expansion.

Disguising aggression as "defense"

Let's begin with the way this so-called "cyber-security" expansion has been marketed. It is part of a sustained campaign which, as usual, relies on blatant fear-mongering.

In March, 2010, the Washington Post published an amazing Op-Ed by Adm. Michael McConnell, Bush's former Director of National Intelligence and a past and current executive with Booz Allen, a firm representing numerous corporate contractors which profit enormously each time the government expands its "cyber-security" activities. McConnell's career over the last two decades - both at Booz, Allen and inside the government - has been devoted to accelerating the merger between the government and private sector in all intelligence, surveillance and national security matters (it was he who led the successful campaign to retroactively immunize the telecom giants for their participation in the illegal NSA domestic spying program). Privatizing government cyber-spying and cyber-warfare is his primary focus now.

McConnell's Op-Ed was as alarmist and hysterical as possible. Claiming that "the United States is fighting a cyber-war today, and we are losing", it warned that "chaos would result" from an enemy cyber-attack on US financial systems and that "our power grids, air and ground transportation, telecommunications, and water-filtration systems are in jeopardy as well." Based on these threats, McConnell advocated that "we" - meaning "the government and the private sector" - "need to develop an early-warning system to monitor cyberspace" and that "we need to reengineer the Internet to make attribution, geolocation, intelligence analysis and impact assessment - who did it, from where, why and what was the result - more manageable." As Wired's Ryan Singel wrote: "He's talking about changing the internet to make everything anyone does on the net traceable and geo-located so the National Security Agency can pinpoint users and their computers for retaliation."

The same week the Post published McConnell's extraordinary Op-Ed, the Obama White House issued its own fear-mongering decree on cyber-threats, depicting the US as a vulnerable victim to cyber-aggression. It began with this sentence: "President Obama has identified cybersecurity as one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation, but one that we as a government or as a country are not adequately prepared to counter." It announced that "the Executive Branch was directed to work closely with all key players in US cybersecurity, including state and local governments and the private sector" and to "strengthen public/private partnerships", and specifically announced Obama's intent to "to implement the recommendations of the Cyberspace Policy Review built on the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI) launched by President George W. Bush."

Since then, the fear-mongering rhetoric from government officials has relentlessly intensified, all devoted to scaring citizens into believing that the US is at serious risk of cataclysmic cyber-attacks from "aggressors". This all culminated when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, last October, warned of what he called a "cyber-Pearl Harbor. This "would cause physical destruction and the loss of life, an attack that would paralyze and shock the nation and create a profound new sense of vulnerability." Identifying China, Iran, and terrorist groups, he outlined a parade of horribles scarier than anything since Condoleezza Rice's 2002 Iraqi "mushroom cloud":

"An aggressor nation or extremist group could use these kinds of cyber tools to gain control of critical switches. They could derail passenger trains, or even more dangerous, derail passenger trains loaded with lethal chemicals. They could contaminate the water supply in major cities, or shut down the power grid across large parts of the country."

As usual, though, reality is exactly the opposite. This new massive new expenditure of money is not primarily devoted to defending against cyber-aggressors. The US itself is the world's leading cyber-aggressor. A major purpose of this expansion is to strengthen the US's ability to destroy other nations with cyber-attacks. Indeed, even the Post report notes that a major component of this new expansion is to "conduct offensive computer operations against foreign adversaries".

It is the US - not Iran, Russia or "terror" groups - which already is the first nation (in partnership with Israel) to aggressively deploy a highly sophisticated and extremely dangerous cyber-attack. Last June, the New York Times' David Sanger reported what most of the world had already suspected: "From his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran's main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America's first sustained use of cyberweapons." In fact, Obama "decided to accelerate the attacks . . . even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran's Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet." According to the Sanger's report, Obama himself understood the significance of the US decision to be the first to use serious and aggressive cyber-warfare:

"Mr. Obama, according to participants in the many Situation Room meetings on Olympic Games, was acutely aware that with every attack he was pushing the United States into new territory, much as his predecessors had with the first use of atomic weapons in the 1940s, of intercontinental missiles in the 1950s and of drones in the past decade. He repeatedly expressed concerns that any American acknowledgment that it was using cyberweapons - even under the most careful and limited circumstances - could enable other countries, terrorists or hackers to justify their own attacks."

The US isn't the vulnerable victim of cyber-attacks. It's the leading perpetrator of those attacks. As Columbia Professor and cyber expert Misha Glenny wrote in the NYT last June: Obama's cyber-attack on Iran "marked a significant and dangerous turning point in the gradual militarization of the Internet."

Indeed, exactly as Obama knew would happen, revelations that it was the US which became the first country to use cyber-warfare against a sovereign country - just as it was the first to use the atomic bomb and then drones - would make it impossible for it to claim with any credibility (except among its own media and foreign policy community) that it was in a defensive posture when it came to cyber-warfare. As Professor Glenny wrote: "by introducing such pernicious viruses as Stuxnet and Flame, America has severely undermined its moral and political credibility." That's why, as the Post reported yesterday, the DOJ is engaged in such a frantic and invasive effort to root out Sanger's source: because it reveals the obvious truth that the US is the leading aggressor in the world when it comes to cyber-weapons.

This significant expansion under the Orwellian rubric of "cyber-security" is thus a perfect microcosm of US military spending generally. It's all justified under by the claim that the US must defend itself from threats from Bad, Aggressive Actors, when the reality is the exact opposite: the new program is devoted to ensuring that the US remains the primary offensive threat to the rest of the world. It's the same way the US develops offensive biological weapons under the guise of developing defenses against such weapons (such as the 2001 anthrax that the US government itself says came from a US Army lab). It's how the US government generally convinces its citizens that it is a peaceful victim of aggression by others when the reality is that the US builds more weapons, sells more arms and bombs more countries than virtually the rest of the world combined.

Threats to privacy and internet freedom

Beyond the aggressive threat to other nations posed by the Pentagon's cyber-threat programs, there is the profound threat to privacy, internet freedom, and the ability to communicate freely for US citizens and foreign nationals alike. The US government has long viewed these "cyber-security" programs as a means of monitoring and controlling the internet and disseminating propaganda. The fact that this is all being done under the auspices of the NSA and the Pentagon means, by definition, that there will be no transparency and no meaningful oversight.

Back in 2003, the Rumsfeld Pentagon prepared a secret report entitled "Information Operations (IO) Roadmap", which laid the foundation for this new cyber-warfare expansion. The Pentagon's self-described objective was "transforming IO into a core military competency on par with air, ground, maritime and special operations". In other words, its key objective was to ensure military control over internet-based communications:

dod cyber

It further identified superiority in cyber-attack capabilities as a vital military goal in PSYOPs (Psychological Operations) and "information-centric fights":

dod cyber

And it set forth the urgency of dominating the "IO battlespace" not only during wartime but also in peacetime:

dod cyber

As a 2006 BBC report on this Pentagon document noted: "Perhaps the most startling aspect of the roadmap is its acknowledgement that information put out as part of the military's psychological operations, or Psyops, is finding its way onto the computer and television screens of ordinary Americans." And while the report paid lip service to the need to create "boundaries" for these new IO military activities, "they don't seem to explain how." Regarding the report's plan to "provide maximum control of the entire electromagnetic spectrum", the BBC noted: "Consider that for a moment. The US military seeks the capability to knock out every telephone, every networked computer, every radar system on the planet."

Since then, there have been countless reports of the exploitation by the US national security state to destroy privacy and undermine internet freedom. In November, the LA Times described programs that "teach students how to spy in cyberspace, the latest frontier in espionage." They "also are taught to write computer viruses, hack digital networks, crack passwords, plant listening devices and mine data from broken cellphones and flash drives." The program, needless to say, "has funneled most of its graduates to the CIA and the Pentagon's National Security Agency, which conducts America's digital spying. Other graduates have taken positions with the FBI, NASA and the Department of Homeland Security."

In 2010, Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, gave a speech explicitly announcing that the US intends to abandon its policy of "leaving the Internet alone". Noting that this "has been the nation's Internet policy since the Internet was first commercialized in the mid-1990s", he decreed: "This was the right policy for the United States in the early stages of the Internet, and the right message to send to the rest of the world. But that was then and this is now."

The documented power of the US government to monitor and surveil internet communications is already unfathomably massive. Recall that the Washington Post's 2010 "Top Secret America" series noted that: "Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications." And the Obama administration has formally demanded that it have access to any and all forms of internet communication.

It is hard to overstate the danger to privacy and internet freedom from a massive expansion of the National Security State's efforts to exploit and control the internet. As Wired's Singel wrote back in 2010:

"Make no mistake, the military industrial complex now has its eye on the internet. Generals want to train crack squads of hackers and have wet dreams of cyberwarfare. Never shy of extending its power, the military industrial complex wants to turn the internet into yet another venue for an arms race.

Wildly exaggerated cyber-threats are the pretext for this control, the "mushroom cloud" and the Tonkin Gulf fiction of cyber-warfare. As Singel aptly put it: "the only war going on is one for the soul of the internet." That's the vital context for understanding this massive expansion of Pentagon and NSA consolidated control over cyber programs.

Bonanza for private contractors

As always, it is not just political power but also private-sector profit driving this expansion. As military contracts for conventional war-fighting are modestly reduced, something needs to replace it, and these large-scale "cyber-security" contracts are more than adequate. Virtually every cyber-security program from the government is carried out in conjunction with its "private-sector partners", who receive large transfers of public funds for this work.

Two weeks ago, Business Week reported that "Lockheed Martin Corp., AT&T Inc., and CenturyLink Inc. are the first companies to sign up for a US program giving them classified information on cyber threats that they can package as security services for sale to other companies." This is part of a government effort "to create a market based on classified US information about cyber threats." In May, it was announced that "the Pentagon is expanding and making permanent a trial program that teams the government with Internet service providers to protect defense firms' computer networks against data theft by foreign adversaries" - all as "part of a larger effort to broaden the sharing of classified and unclassified cyberthreat data between the government and industry."

Indeed, there is a large organization of defense and intelligence contractors devoted to one goal: expanding the private-public merger for national security and intelligence functions. This organization - the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) - was formerly headed by Adm. McConnell, and describes itself as a "collaboration by leaders from throughout the US Intelligence Community" and " combines the experience of senior leaders from government, the private sector, and academia."

As I detailed back in 2010, one of its primary goals is to scare the nation about supposed cyber-threats in order to justify massive new expenditures for the private-sector intelligence industry on cyber-security measures and vastly expanded control over the internet. Indeed, in his 2010 Op-Ed, Adm. McConnell expressly acknowledged that the growing privatization of internet cyber-security programs "will muddy the waters between the traditional roles of the government and the private sector." Indeed, at the very same time McConnell published this Op-Ed, the INSA website featured a report entitled "Addressing Cyber Security Through Public-Private Partnership." It featured a genuinely creepy graphic showing the inter-connectedness between government institutions (such as Congress and regulatory agencies), the Surveillance State, private intelligence corporations, and the Internet:

Private-sector profit is now inextricably linked with the fear-mongering campaign over cyber-threats. At one INSA conference in 2009 - entitled "Cyber Deterrence Conference" - government officials and intelligence industry executives gathered together to stress that "government and private sector actors should emphasize collaboration and partnership through the creation of a model that assigns specific roles and responsibilities."

As intelligence contractor expert Tim Shorrock told Democracy Now when McConnell - then at Booz Allen - was first nominated to be DNI:

Well, the NSA, the National Security Agency, is really sort of the lead agency in terms of outsourcing . . . . Booz Allen is one of about, you know, ten large corporations that play a very major role in American intelligence. Every time you hear about intelligence watching North Korea or tapping al-Qaeda phones, something like that, you can bet that corporations like these are very heavily involved. And Booz Allen is one of the largest of these contractors. I estimate that about 50% of our $45 billion intelligence budget goes to private sector contractors like Booz Allen.

This public-private merger for intelligence and surveillance functions not only vests these industries with large-scale profits at public expense, but also the accompanying power that was traditionally reserved for government. And unlike government agencies, which are at least subjected in theory to some minimal regulatory oversight, these private-sector actors have virtually none, even as their surveillance and intelligence functions rapidly increase.

What Dwight Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex has been feeding itself on fear campaigns since it was born. A never-ending carousel of Menacing Enemies - Communists, Terrorists, Saddam's chemical weapons, Iranian mullahs - has sustained it, and Cyber-Threats are but the latest.

Like all of these wildly exaggerated cartoon menaces, there is some degree of threat posed by cyber-attacks. But, as Single described, all of this can be managed with greater security systems for public and private computer networks - just as some modest security measures are sufficient to deal with the terrorist threat.

This new massive expansion has little to do with any actual cyber-threat - just as the invasion of Iraq and global assassination program have little to do with actual terrorist threats. It is instead all about strengthening the US's offensive cyber-war capabilities, consolidating control over the internet, and ensuring further transfers of massive public wealth to private industry continue unabated. In other words, it perfectly follows the template used by the public-private US National Security State over the last six decades to entrench and enrich itself based on pure pretext.

© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited

Glenn Greenwald

Eight Things I Miss About the Cold War

At a book festival in Los Angeles recently, some writers (myself included) were making the usual arguments about the problems with American politics in the 1950s -- until one panelist shocked the audience by declaring, “God, I miss the Cold War.”  His grandmother, he said, had come to California from Oklahoma with a grade-school education, but found a job in an aerospace factory in L.A. during World War II, joined the union, got healthcare and retirement benefits, and prospered in the Cold War years.  She ended up owning a house in the suburbs and sending her kids to UCLA.

Several older people in the audience leaped to their feet shouting, “What about McCarthyism?”  “The bomb?”  “Vietnam?”  “Nixon?”

All good points, of course.  After all, during the Cold War the U.S. did threaten to destroy the world with nuclear weapons, supported brutal dictators globally because they were anti-communist, and was responsible for the deaths of several million people in Korea and Vietnam, all in the name of defending freedom. And yet it’s not hard to join that writer in feeling a certain nostalgia for the Cold War era.  It couldn’t be a sadder thing to admit, given what happened in those years, but -- given what’s happened in these years -- who can doubt that the America of the 1950s and 1960s was, in some ways, simply a better place than the one we live in now? Here are eight things (from a prospectively longer list) we had then and don’t have now.

1. The president didn’t claim the right to kill American citizens without “the due process of law.”

Last year we learned that President Obama personally approved the killing-by-drone of an American citizen living abroad without any prior judicial proceedings. That was in Yemen, but as Amy Davidson wrote at the New Yorker website, “Why couldn’t it have been in Paris?”  Obama assures us that the people he orders assassinated are “terrorists.”  It would, however, be more accurate to call them “alleged terrorists,” or “alleged terrorist associates,” or “people said by some other government to be terrorists, or at least terroristic.”

Obama’s target in Yemen was Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who was said to be a senior figure in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  According to the book Kill or Capture by Daniel Klaidman, the president told his advisors, “I want Awlaki. Don’t let up on him.”  Steve Coll of the New Yorker commented that this appears to be “the first instance in American history of a sitting president speaking of his intent to kill a particular U.S. citizen without that citizen having been charged formally with a crime or convicted at trial.”  (Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, whom no one claims was connected to terrorist activities or terror plots, was also killed in a separate drone attack.)

The problem, of course, is the due-process clause of the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits “any person” from being deprived of “life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”   It doesn’t say: "any person except for those the president believes to be terrorists."

It gets worse: the Justice Department can keep secret a memorandum providing the supposed “legal” justification for the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen, according to a January 2013 decision by a federal judge.  Ruling on a Freedom of Information lawsuit brought by the ACLU and the New York Times, Judge Colleen McMahon, wrote in her decision, “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”

It's true that the CIA has admitted it had an assassination program during the Cold War -- described in the so-called “family jewels” or “horrors book,” compiled in 1973 under CIA Director James Schlesinger in response to Watergate-era inquiries and declassifiedin 2007.  But the targets were foreign leaders, especially Fidel Castro as well as the Congo’s Patrice Lumumba and the Dominican Republic’s Rafael Trujillo.  Still, presidents preferred “plausible deniability” in such situations, and certainly no president before Obama publicly claimed the legal right to order the killing of American citizens.  Indeed, before Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. regularly condemned “targeted killings” of suspected terrorists by Israel that were quite similar to those the president is now regularly ordering in the Pakistani tribal borderlands, Yemen, and possibly elsewhere.

2. We didn’t have a secret “terrorism-industrial complex.”

That’s the term coined by Dana Priest and William Arkin in their book Top Secret America to describe the ever-growing post-9/11 world of government agencies linked to private contractors charged with fighting terrorism.  During the Cold War, we had a handful of government agencies doing “top secret” work; today, they found, we have more than 1,200.

For example, Priest and Arkin found 51 federal organizations and military commands that attempt to track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.  And don’t forget the nearly 2,000 for-profit corporate contractors that engage in top-secret work, supposedly hunting terrorists.  The official budget for “intelligence” has increased from around $27 billion in the last years of the Cold War to $75 billion in 2012. Along with this massive expansion of government and private security activities has come a similarly humongous expansion of official secrecy: the number of classified documents has increased from perhaps 5 million a year before 1980 to 92 million in 2011, while Obama administration prosecutions of government whistleblowers have soared.

It’s true that the CIA and the FBI engaged in significant secret and illegal surveillance that included American citizens during the Cold War, but the scale was small compared to the post-9/11 world.

3. Organized labor was accepted as part of the social landscape. 

“Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of their right to join the union of their choice.” That’s what President Dwight D. Eisenhower said in 1952.  “Workers,” he added, “have a right to organize into unions and to bargain collectively with their employers,” and he affirmed that “a strong, free labor movement is an invigorating and necessary part of our industrial society.”  He caught the mood of the moment this way: “Should any political party attempt to… eliminate labor laws, you would not hear of that party again in our political history.”  “There is,” he acknowledged, “a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things, but their number is negligible... And they are stupid.” 

You certainly wouldn’t catch Barack Obama saying anything like that today.  

Back then, American unions were, in part, defended even by Republicans because they were considered a crucial aspect of the struggle against Communism.  Unlike Soviet workers, American ones, so the argument went, were free to join independent unions.  And amid a wave of productive wealth, union membership in Eisenhower’s America reached an all-time high: 34% of wage and salary workers in 1955.  In 2011, union membership in the private sector had fallen under 7%, a level not seen since 1932.

Of course, back in the Cold War era the government required unions to kick communists out of any leadership positions they held and unions that refused were driven out of existence.  Unions also repressed wildcat strikes and enforced labor peace in exchange for multi-year contracts with wage and benefit increases. But as we’ve learned in the last decades, if you’re a wageworker, almost any union is better than no union at all.

4. The government had to get a warrant before it could tap your phone. 

Today, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act (yes, thatrepetitive tongue twister is its real name) gives the government vast powers to spy on American citizens -- and it’s just been extended to 2017 in a bill that Obama enthusiastically signed on December 29th.  The current law allows the monitoring of electronic communications without an individualized court order, as long as the government claims its intent is to gather “foreign intelligence.”  In recent years, much that was once illegal has been made the law of the land.  Vast quantities of the emails and phone calls of Americans are being “data-mined.”  Amendments approved by Congress in 2008, for instance, provided "retroactive immunity to the telecom companies that assisted the Bush administration in its warrantless wiretapping program," which was then (or should have been) illegal, as the website Open Congress notes

There were several modest congressional attempts to amend the 2012 FISA extension act, including one that would have required the director of national intelligence to reveal how many Americans are being secretly monitored.  That amendment would in no way have limited the government’s actual spying program.  The Senate nevertheless rejected it, 52-43, in a nation that has locked itself down in a way that would have been inconceivable in the Cold War years.

It’s true that in the 1950s and 1960s judges typically gave the police and FBI the wiretap warrants they sought.  But it’s probably also true that having to submit requests to judges had a chilling effect on the urge of government authorities to engage in unlimited wiretapping.

5. The infrastructure was being expanded and strengthened.

Today, our infrastructure is crumbling: bridges are collapsing, sewer systems are falling apart, power grids are failing.  Many of those systems date from the immediate post-World War II years.  And the supposedly titanic struggle against communism at home and abroad helped build them.  The best-known example of those Cold War infrastructure construction programs was the congressionally mandated National Defense Highways Act of 1956, which led to the construction of 41,000 miles of the Interstate Highway System. It was the largest public works project in American history and it was necessary, according to the legislation, to “meet the requirements of the national defense in time of war.”  People called the new highways “freeways” or “interstates,” but the official name was "the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways."

Along with the construction of roads and bridges came a similar commitment to expanding water delivery systems and the electrical and telephone grids.  Spending on infrastructure as a share of gross domestic product peaked in the 1960s at 3.1%.  In 2007, it was down to 2.4% and is assumedly still falling.

Today the U.S. has dropped far behind potential global rivals in infrastructure development.  An official panel of 80 experts noted that China is spending $1 trillion on high-speed rail, highways, and other infrastructure over the next five years.  The U.S., according to the report, needs to invest $2 trillion simply to rebuild the roads, bridges, water lines, sewage systems, and dams constructed 40 to 50 years ago, systems that are now reaching the end of their planned life cycles.  But federal spending cuts mean that the burden of infrastructure repair and replacement will fall on state and local governments, whose resources, as everyone knows, are completely inadequate for the task.

Of course, it’s true that the freeways built in the 1950s made the automobile the essential form of transportation in America and led to the withering away of public mass transit, and that the environment suffered as a result.  Still, today’s collapsing bridges and sewers dramatize the loss of any serious national commitment to the public good.

6. College was cheap.

Tuition and fees at the University of California system in 1965 totaled $220.  That’s the equivalent of about $1,600 today, and in 1965 you were talking about the best public university in the world.  In 2012, the Regents of the University of California, presiding over an education system in crisis, raised tuition and fees for state residents to $13,200.  And American students are now at least $1 trillion in debt, thanks to college loans that could consign many to lifetimes as debtors in return for subprime educations.

In 1958, in the panic that followed the Soviet Union’s successful launch of Sputnik, the first satellite, public universities got a massive infusion of federal money when the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) was passed.  The Department of Education website today explains that the purpose of the NDEA was “to help ensure that highly trained individuals would be available to help America compete with the Soviet Union in scientific and technical fields.”  For the first time, government grants became the major source of university funding for scientific research.  The Act included a generous student-loan program.

With the end of the Cold War, federal funding was cut and public universities had little choice but to begin to make up the difference by increasing tuitions and fees, making students pay more -- a lot more.

True, the NDEA grants in the 1960s required recipients to sign a demeaning oath swearing that they did not seek the violent overthrow of the U.S. government, and that lots of government funding then supported Cold War military and strategic objectives.  After all, the University of California operated the nuclear weapons labs at Livermore and Los Alamos. Still, compare that to today’s crumbling public education system nationwide and who wouldn’t feel nostalgia for the Cold War era?

7. We had a president who called for a “war on poverty.”

In his 1966 State of the Union address, President Lyndon Baines Johnson argued that “the richest Nation on earth… people who live in abundance unmatched on this globe” ought to “bring the most urgent decencies of life to all of your fellow Americans.”  LBJ insisted that it was possible both to fight communism globally (especially in Vietnam) and to fight poverty at home.  As the phrase then went, he called for guns and butter.  In addition, he was determined not simply to give money to poor people, but to help build “community action” groups that would organize them to define and fight for programs they wanted because, the president said, poor people know what’s best for themselves.

Of course, it’s true that Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” unlike the Vietnam War, was woefully underfunded, and that those community action groups were soon overpowered by local mayors and Democratic political machines.  But it’s also true that President Obama did not even consider poverty worth mentioning as an issue in his 2012 reelection campaign, despite the fact that it has spread in ways that would have shocked LBJ, and that income and wealth inequalities between rich and poor have reached levels not seen since the late 1920s.  Today, it’s still plenty of guns -- but butter, not so much.

8. We had a president who warned against “the excessive power of the military-industrial complex.”

In Eisenhower’s “farewell address,” delivered three days before John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, the departing president warned against the “unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” He declared that “the potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”  The speech introduced the phrase “military-industrial complex” into the vernacular.  It was a crucial moment in the Cold War: a president who had also been the nation’s top military commander in World War II was warning Americans about the dangers posed by the military he had commanded and its corporate and political supporters.

Ike was prompted to give the speech because of his disputes with Congress over the military budget.  He feared nuclear war and firmly opposed all talk about such a war being fought in a “limited” way.  He also knew that, when it came to the Soviet Union, American power was staggeringly preponderant.  And yet his opponents in the Democratic Party, the arms industry, and even the military were claiming that he hadn’t done enough for “defense” -- not enough weapons bought, not enough money spent.  President-elect Kennedy had just won the 1960 election by frightening Americans about a purely fictitious “missile gap” between the U.S. and the Soviets.

It’s true that Ike’s warning would have been far more meaningful had it been in his first or even second inaugural address, or any of his State of the Union speeches.  It’s also true that he had approved CIA coups in Iran and Guatemala, and had green-lighted planning for an invasion of Cuba (that would become Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs disaster).  He had also established Mutual Assured Destruction as the basis for Cold War military strategy, backed up with B-52s carrying atomic bombs in the air 24/7.

By the end of his second term, however, Ike had changed his mind.  His warning was not just against unnecessary spending, but also against institutions that were threatening a crisis he feared would bring the end of individual liberty.  “As one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization,” the president urged his fellow citizens to resist the military-industrial complex.  None of his successors has even tried, and in 2013 we’re living with the results.

...But there is one thing I do NOT miss about the Cold War: nuclear arsenals on hair-trigger alert.

Our Cold War enemy had nuclear weapons capable of destroying us, and the rest of the planet, many times over.  In 1991, when the Cold War ended, the Soviet Union had more than 27,000 nuclear weapons.  According to the Federation of American Scientists, these included more than 11,000 strategic nuclear weapons -- warheads on land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched missiles, and weapons on bombers capable of attacking the US -- along with more than 15,000 warheads for “tactical” use as artillery shells and short-range “battlefield” missiles, as well as missile defense interceptors, nuclear torpedoes, and nuclear weapons for shorter-range aircraft.  We learned in 1993 that the USSR at one time possessed almost 45,000 nuclear warheads, and still had nearly 1,200 tons of bomb-grade uranium.  (Of course, sizeable Russian -- and American -- nuclear arsenals still exist.)  In comparison to all that, the arsenalsof al-Qaeda and our other terrorist enemies are remarkably insignificant.

Ike’s Dream, Obama’s Reality: 8 Things I Miss About the Cold War

At a book festival in Los Angeles recently, some writers (myself included) were making the usual arguments about the problems with American politics in the 1950s -- until one panelist shocked the audience by declaring, “God, I miss the Cold War.”  His grandmother, he said, had come to California from Oklahoma with a grade-school education, but found a job in an aerospace factory in L.A. during World War II, joined the union, got healthcare and retirement benefits, and prospered in the Cold War years.  She ended up owning a house in the suburbs and sending her kids to UCLA.

Several older people in the audience leaped to their feet shouting, “What about McCarthyism?”  “The bomb?”  “Vietnam?”  “Nixon?”

All good points, of course.  After all, during the Cold War the U.S. did threaten to destroy the world with nuclear weapons, supported brutal dictators globally because they were anti-communist, and was responsible for the deaths of several million people in Korea and Vietnam, all in the name of defending freedom. And yet it’s not hard to join that writer in feeling a certain nostalgia for the Cold War era.  It couldn’t be a sadder thing to admit, given what happened in those years, but -- given what’s happened in these years -- who can doubt that the America of the 1950s and 1960s was, in some ways, simply a better place than the one we live in now? Here are eight things (from a prospectively longer list) we had then and don’t have now.

1. The president didn’t claim the right to kill American citizens without “the due process of law.

Last year we learned that President Obama personally approved the killing-by-drone of an American citizen living abroad without any prior judicial proceedings. That was in Yemen, but as Amy Davidson wrote at the New Yorker website, “Why couldn’t it have been in Paris?”  Obama assures us that the people he orders assassinated are “terrorists.”  It would, however, be more accurate to call them “alleged terrorists,” or “alleged terrorist associates,” or “people said by some other government to be terrorists, or at least terroristic.”

Obama’s target in Yemen was Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who was said to be a senior figure in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  According to the book Kill or Capture by Daniel Klaidman, the president told his advisors, “I want Awlaki. Don’t let up on him.”  Steve Coll of the New Yorker commented that this appears to be “the first instance in American history of a sitting president speaking of his intent to kill a particular U.S. citizen without that citizen having been charged formally with a crime or convicted at trial.”  (Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, whom no one claims was connected to terrorist activities or terror plots, was also killed in a separate drone attack.)

The problem, of course, is the due-process clause of the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits “any person” from being deprived of “life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”  It doesn’t say: "any person except for those the president believes to be terrorists."

It gets worse: the Justice Department can keep secret a memorandum providing the supposed “legal” justification for the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen, according to a January 2013 decision by a federal judge.  Ruling on a Freedom of Information lawsuit brought by the ACLU and the New York Times, Judge Colleen McMahon, wrote in her decision, “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”

It's true that the CIA has admitted it had an assassination program during the Cold War -- described in the so-called “family jewels” or “horrors book,” compiled in 1973 under CIA Director James Schlesinger in response to Watergate-era inquiries and declassified in 2007.  But the targets were foreign leaders, especially Fidel Castro as well as the Congo’s Patrice Lumumba and the Dominican Republic’s Rafael Trujillo.  Still, presidents preferred “plausible deniability” in such situations, and certainly no president before Obama publicly claimed the legal right to order the killing of American citizens.  Indeed, before Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. regularly condemned “targeted killings” of suspected terrorists by Israel that were quite similar to those the president is now regularly ordering in the Pakistani tribal borderlands, Yemen, and possibly elsewhere.

2. We didn’t have a secret “terrorism-industrial complex.”

That’s the term coined by Dana Priest and William Arkin in their book Top Secret America to describe the ever-growing post-9/11 world of government agencies linked to private contractors charged with fighting terrorism.  During the Cold War, we had a handful of government agencies doing “top secret” work; today, they found, we have more than 1,200.

For example, Priest and Arkin found 51 federal organizations and military commands that attempt to track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.  And don’t forget the nearly 2,000 for-profit corporate contractors that engage in top-secret work, supposedly hunting terrorists.  The official budget for “intelligence” has increased from around $27 billion in the last years of the Cold War to $75 billion in 2012. Along with this massive expansion of government and private security activities has come a similarly humongous expansion of official secrecy: the number of classified documents has increased from perhaps 5 million a year before 1980 to 92 million in 2011, while Obama administration prosecutions of government whistleblowers have soared.

It’s true that the CIA and the FBI engaged in significant secret and illegal surveillance that included American citizens during the Cold War, but the scale was small compared to the post-9/11 world.

3. Organized labor was accepted as part of the social landscape. 

“Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of their right to join the union of their choice.” That’s what President Dwight D. Eisenhower said in 1952.  “Workers,” he added, “have a right to organize into unions and to bargain collectively with their employers,” and he affirmed that “a strong, free labor movement is an invigorating and necessary part of our industrial society.”  He caught the mood of the moment this way: “Should any political party attempt to… eliminate labor laws, you would not hear of that party again in our political history.”  “There is,” he acknowledged, “a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things, but their number is negligible... And they are stupid.” 

You certainly wouldn’t catch Barack Obama saying anything like that today.  

Back then, American unions were, in part, defended even by Republicans because they were considered a crucial aspect of the struggle against Communism.  Unlike Soviet workers, American ones, so the argument went, were free to join independent unions.  And amid a wave of productive wealth, union membership in Eisenhower’s America reached an all-time high: 34% of wage and salary workers in 1955.  In 2011, union membership in the private sector had fallen under 7%, a level not seen since 1932.

Of course, back in the Cold War era the government required unions to kick communists out of any leadership positions they held and unions that refused were driven out of existence.  Unions also repressed wildcat strikes and enforced labor peace in exchange for multi-year contracts with wage and benefit increases. But as we’ve learned in the last decades, if you’re a wageworker, almost any union is better than no union at all.

4. The government had to get a warrant before it could tap your phone. 

Today, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act (yes, that repetitive tongue twister is its real name) gives the government vast powers to spy on American citizens -- and it’s just been extended to 2017 in a bill that Obama enthusiastically signed on December 29th.  The current law allows the monitoring of electronic communications without an individualized court order, as long as the government claims its intent is to gather “foreign intelligence.”  In recent years, much that was once illegal has been made the law of the land.  Vast quantities of the emails and phone calls of Americans are being “data-mined.”  Amendments approved by Congress in 2008, for instance, provided "retroactive immunity to the telecom companies that assisted the Bush administration in its warrantless wiretapping program," which was then (or should have been) illegal, as the website Open Congress notes

There were several modest congressional attempts to amend the 2012 FISA extension act, including one that would have required the director of national intelligence to reveal how many Americans are being secretly monitored.  That amendment would in no way have limited the government’s actual spying program.  The Senate nevertheless rejected it, 52-43, in a nation that has locked itself down in a way that would have been inconceivable in the Cold War years.

It’s true that in the 1950s and 1960s judges typically gave the police and FBI the wiretap warrants they sought.  But it’s probably also true that having to submit requests to judges had a chilling effect on the urge of government authorities to engage in unlimited wiretapping.

5. The infrastructure was being expanded and strengthened.

Today, our infrastructure is crumbling: bridges are collapsing, sewer systems are falling apart, power grids are failing.  Many of those systems date from the immediate post-World War II years.  And the supposedly titanic struggle against communism at home and abroad helped build them.  The best-known example of those Cold War infrastructure construction programs was the congressionally mandated National Defense Highways Act of 1956, which led to the construction of 41,000 miles of the Interstate Highway System. It was the largest public works project in American history and it was necessary, according to the legislation, to “meet the requirements of the national defense in time of war.”  People called the new highways “freeways” or “interstates,” but the official name was "the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways."

Along with the construction of roads and bridges came a similar commitment to expanding water delivery systems and the electrical and telephone grids.  Spending on infrastructure as a share of gross domestic product peaked in the 1960s at 3.1%.  In 2007, it was down to 2.4% and is assumedly still falling.

Today the U.S. has dropped far behind potential global rivals in infrastructure development.  An official panel of 80 experts noted that China is spending $1 trillion on high-speed rail, highways, and other infrastructure over the next five years.  The U.S., according to the report, needs to invest $2 trillion simply to rebuild the roads, bridges, water lines, sewage systems, and dams constructed 40 to 50 years ago, systems that are now reaching the end of their planned life cycles.  But federal spending cuts mean that the burden of infrastructure repair and replacement will fall on state and local governments, whose resources, as everyone knows, are completely inadequate for the task.

Of course, it’s true that the freeways built in the 1950s made the automobile the essential form of transportation in America and led to the withering away of public mass transit, and that the environment suffered as a result.  Still, today’s collapsing bridges and sewers dramatize the loss of any serious national commitment to the public good.

6. College was cheap.

Tuition and fees at the University of California system in 1965 totaled $220.  That’s the equivalent of about $1,600 today, and in 1965 you were talking about the best public university in the world.  In 2012, the Regents of the University of California, presiding over an education system in crisis, raised tuition and fees for state residents to $13,200.  And American students are now at least $1 trillion in debt, thanks to college loans that could consign many to lifetimes as debtors in return for subprime educations.

In 1958, in the panic that followed the Soviet Union’s successful launch of Sputnik, the first satellite, public universities got a massive infusion of federal money when the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) was passed.  The Department of Education website today explains that the purpose of the NDEA was “to help ensure that highly trained individuals would be available to help America compete with the Soviet Union in scientific and technical fields.”  For the first time, government grants became the major source of university funding for scientific research.  The Act included a generous student-loan program.

With the end of the Cold War, federal funding was cut and public universities had little choice but to begin to make up the difference by increasing tuitions and fees, making students pay more -- a lot more.

True, the NDEA grants in the 1960s required recipients to sign a demeaning oath swearing that they did not seek the violent overthrow of the U.S. government, and that lots of government funding then supported Cold War military and strategic objectives.  After all, the University of California operated the nuclear weapons labs at Livermore and Los Alamos. Still, compare that to today’s crumbling public education system nationwide and who wouldn’t feel nostalgia for the Cold War era?

7. We had a president who called for a “war on poverty.”

In his 1966 State of the Union address, President Lyndon Baines Johnson argued that “the richest Nation on earth… people who live in abundance unmatched on this globe” ought to “bring the most urgent decencies of life to all of your fellow Americans.”  LBJ insisted that it was possible both to fight communism globally (especially in Vietnam) and to fight poverty at home.  As the phrase then went, he called for guns and butter.  In addition, he was determined not simply to give money to poor people, but to help build “community action” groups that would organize them to define and fight for programs they wanted because, the president said, poor people know what’s best for themselves.

Of course, it’s true that Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” unlike the Vietnam War, was woefully underfunded, and that those community action groups were soon overpowered by local mayors and Democratic political machines.  But it’s also true that President Obama did not even consider poverty worth mentioning as an issue in his 2012 reelection campaign, despite the fact that it has spread in ways that would have shocked LBJ, and that income and wealth inequalities between rich and poor have reached levels not seen since the late 1920s.  Today, it’s still plenty of guns -- but butter, not so much.

8. We had a president who warned against “the excessive power of the military-industrial complex.”

In Eisenhower’s “farewell address,” delivered three days before John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, the departing president warned against the “unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” He declared that “the potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”  The speech introduced the phrase “military-industrial complex” into the vernacular.  It was a crucial moment in the Cold War: a president who had also been the nation’s top military commander in World War II was warning Americans about the dangers posed by the military he had commanded and its corporate and political supporters.

Ike was prompted to give the speech because of his disputes with Congress over the military budget.  He feared nuclear war and firmly opposed all talk about such a war being fought in a “limited” way.  He also knew that, when it came to the Soviet Union, American power was staggeringly preponderant.  And yet his opponents in the Democratic Party, the arms industry, and even the military were claiming that he hadn’t done enough for “defense” -- not enough weapons bought, not enough money spent.  President-elect Kennedy had just won the 1960 election by frightening Americans about a purely fictitious “missile gap” between the U.S. and the Soviets.

It’s true that Ike’s warning would have been far more meaningful had it been in his first or even second inaugural address, or any of his State of the Union speeches.  It’s also true that he had approved CIA coups in Iran and Guatemala, and had green-lighted planning for an invasion of Cuba (that would become Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs disaster).  He had also established Mutual Assured Destruction as the basis for Cold War military strategy, backed up with B-52s carrying atomic bombs in the air 24/7.

By the end of his second term, however, Ike had changed his mind.  His warning was not just against unnecessary spending, but also against institutions that were threatening a crisis he feared would bring the end of individual liberty.  “As one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization,” the president urged his fellow citizens to resist the military-industrial complex.  None of his successors has even tried, and in 2013 we’re living with the results.

...But there is one thing I do NOT miss about the Cold War: nuclear arsenals on hair-trigger alert.

Our Cold War enemy had nuclear weapons capable of destroying us, and the rest of the planet, many times over.  In 1991, when the Cold War ended, the Soviet Union had more than 27,000 nuclear weapons.  According to the Federation of American Scientists, these included more than 11,000 strategic nuclear weapons -- warheads on land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched missiles, and weapons on bombers capable of attacking the US -- along with more than 15,000 warheads for “tactical” use as artillery shells and short-range “battlefield” missiles, as well as missile defense interceptors, nuclear torpedoes, and nuclear weapons for shorter-range aircraft.  We learned in 1993 that the USSR at one time possessed almost 45,000 nuclear warheads, and still had nearly 1,200 tons of bomb-grade uranium.  (Of course, sizeable Russian -- and American -- nuclear arsenals still exist.)  In comparison to all that, the arsenals of al-Qaeda and our other terrorist enemies are remarkably insignificant.

© 2013 Jon Wiener

Jon Wiener

Jon Wiener teaches US history at UC Irvine. His latest book, How We Forgot the Cold War: A Historical Journey Across America (University of California Press), has just been published. He sued the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act for its files on John Lennon. With the help of the ACLU of Southern California, Wiener v. FBI went all the way to the Supreme Court before the FBI settled in 1997. That story is told in Wiener's book, Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files.

Ike’s Dream, Obama’s Reality: 8 Things I Miss About the Cold War

At a book festival in Los Angeles recently, some writers (myself included) were making the usual arguments about the problems with American politics in the 1950s -- until one panelist shocked the audience by declaring, “God, I miss the Cold War.”  His grandmother, he said, had come to California from Oklahoma with a grade-school education, but found a job in an aerospace factory in L.A. during World War II, joined the union, got healthcare and retirement benefits, and prospered in the Cold War years.  She ended up owning a house in the suburbs and sending her kids to UCLA.

Several older people in the audience leaped to their feet shouting, “What about McCarthyism?”  “The bomb?”  “Vietnam?”  “Nixon?”

All good points, of course.  After all, during the Cold War the U.S. did threaten to destroy the world with nuclear weapons, supported brutal dictators globally because they were anti-communist, and was responsible for the deaths of several million people in Korea and Vietnam, all in the name of defending freedom. And yet it’s not hard to join that writer in feeling a certain nostalgia for the Cold War era.  It couldn’t be a sadder thing to admit, given what happened in those years, but -- given what’s happened in these years -- who can doubt that the America of the 1950s and 1960s was, in some ways, simply a better place than the one we live in now? Here are eight things (from a prospectively longer list) we had then and don’t have now.

1. The president didn’t claim the right to kill American citizens without “the due process of law.

Last year we learned that President Obama personally approved the killing-by-drone of an American citizen living abroad without any prior judicial proceedings. That was in Yemen, but as Amy Davidson wrote at the New Yorker website, “Why couldn’t it have been in Paris?”  Obama assures us that the people he orders assassinated are “terrorists.”  It would, however, be more accurate to call them “alleged terrorists,” or “alleged terrorist associates,” or “people said by some other government to be terrorists, or at least terroristic.”

Obama’s target in Yemen was Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who was said to be a senior figure in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  According to the book Kill or Capture by Daniel Klaidman, the president told his advisors, “I want Awlaki. Don’t let up on him.”  Steve Coll of the New Yorker commented that this appears to be “the first instance in American history of a sitting president speaking of his intent to kill a particular U.S. citizen without that citizen having been charged formally with a crime or convicted at trial.”  (Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, whom no one claims was connected to terrorist activities or terror plots, was also killed in a separate drone attack.)

The problem, of course, is the due-process clause of the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits “any person” from being deprived of “life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”  It doesn’t say: "any person except for those the president believes to be terrorists."

It gets worse: the Justice Department can keep secret a memorandum providing the supposed “legal” justification for the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen, according to a January 2013 decision by a federal judge.  Ruling on a Freedom of Information lawsuit brought by the ACLU and the New York Times, Judge Colleen McMahon, wrote in her decision, “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”

It's true that the CIA has admitted it had an assassination program during the Cold War -- described in the so-called “family jewels” or “horrors book,” compiled in 1973 under CIA Director James Schlesinger in response to Watergate-era inquiries and declassified in 2007.  But the targets were foreign leaders, especially Fidel Castro as well as the Congo’s Patrice Lumumba and the Dominican Republic’s Rafael Trujillo.  Still, presidents preferred “plausible deniability” in such situations, and certainly no president before Obama publicly claimed the legal right to order the killing of American citizens.  Indeed, before Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. regularly condemned “targeted killings” of suspected terrorists by Israel that were quite similar to those the president is now regularly ordering in the Pakistani tribal borderlands, Yemen, and possibly elsewhere.

2. We didn’t have a secret “terrorism-industrial complex.”

That’s the term coined by Dana Priest and William Arkin in their book Top Secret America to describe the ever-growing post-9/11 world of government agencies linked to private contractors charged with fighting terrorism.  During the Cold War, we had a handful of government agencies doing “top secret” work; today, they found, we have more than 1,200.

For example, Priest and Arkin found 51 federal organizations and military commands that attempt to track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.  And don’t forget the nearly 2,000 for-profit corporate contractors that engage in top-secret work, supposedly hunting terrorists.  The official budget for “intelligence” has increased from around $27 billion in the last years of the Cold War to $75 billion in 2012. Along with this massive expansion of government and private security activities has come a similarly humongous expansion of official secrecy: the number of classified documents has increased from perhaps 5 million a year before 1980 to 92 million in 2011, while Obama administration prosecutions of government whistleblowers have soared.

It’s true that the CIA and the FBI engaged in significant secret and illegal surveillance that included American citizens during the Cold War, but the scale was small compared to the post-9/11 world.

3. Organized labor was accepted as part of the social landscape. 

“Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of their right to join the union of their choice.” That’s what President Dwight D. Eisenhower said in 1952.  “Workers,” he added, “have a right to organize into unions and to bargain collectively with their employers,” and he affirmed that “a strong, free labor movement is an invigorating and necessary part of our industrial society.”  He caught the mood of the moment this way: “Should any political party attempt to… eliminate labor laws, you would not hear of that party again in our political history.”  “There is,” he acknowledged, “a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things, but their number is negligible... And they are stupid.” 

You certainly wouldn’t catch Barack Obama saying anything like that today.  

Back then, American unions were, in part, defended even by Republicans because they were considered a crucial aspect of the struggle against Communism.  Unlike Soviet workers, American ones, so the argument went, were free to join independent unions.  And amid a wave of productive wealth, union membership in Eisenhower’s America reached an all-time high: 34% of wage and salary workers in 1955.  In 2011, union membership in the private sector had fallen under 7%, a level not seen since 1932.

Of course, back in the Cold War era the government required unions to kick communists out of any leadership positions they held and unions that refused were driven out of existence.  Unions also repressed wildcat strikes and enforced labor peace in exchange for multi-year contracts with wage and benefit increases. But as we’ve learned in the last decades, if you’re a wageworker, almost any union is better than no union at all.

4. The government had to get a warrant before it could tap your phone. 

Today, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act (yes, that repetitive tongue twister is its real name) gives the government vast powers to spy on American citizens -- and it’s just been extended to 2017 in a bill that Obama enthusiastically signed on December 29th.  The current law allows the monitoring of electronic communications without an individualized court order, as long as the government claims its intent is to gather “foreign intelligence.”  In recent years, much that was once illegal has been made the law of the land.  Vast quantities of the emails and phone calls of Americans are being “data-mined.”  Amendments approved by Congress in 2008, for instance, provided "retroactive immunity to the telecom companies that assisted the Bush administration in its warrantless wiretapping program," which was then (or should have been) illegal, as the website Open Congress notes

There were several modest congressional attempts to amend the 2012 FISA extension act, including one that would have required the director of national intelligence to reveal how many Americans are being secretly monitored.  That amendment would in no way have limited the government’s actual spying program.  The Senate nevertheless rejected it, 52-43, in a nation that has locked itself down in a way that would have been inconceivable in the Cold War years.

It’s true that in the 1950s and 1960s judges typically gave the police and FBI the wiretap warrants they sought.  But it’s probably also true that having to submit requests to judges had a chilling effect on the urge of government authorities to engage in unlimited wiretapping.

5. The infrastructure was being expanded and strengthened.

Today, our infrastructure is crumbling: bridges are collapsing, sewer systems are falling apart, power grids are failing.  Many of those systems date from the immediate post-World War II years.  And the supposedly titanic struggle against communism at home and abroad helped build them.  The best-known example of those Cold War infrastructure construction programs was the congressionally mandated National Defense Highways Act of 1956, which led to the construction of 41,000 miles of the Interstate Highway System. It was the largest public works project in American history and it was necessary, according to the legislation, to “meet the requirements of the national defense in time of war.”  People called the new highways “freeways” or “interstates,” but the official name was "the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways."

Along with the construction of roads and bridges came a similar commitment to expanding water delivery systems and the electrical and telephone grids.  Spending on infrastructure as a share of gross domestic product peaked in the 1960s at 3.1%.  In 2007, it was down to 2.4% and is assumedly still falling.

Today the U.S. has dropped far behind potential global rivals in infrastructure development.  An official panel of 80 experts noted that China is spending $1 trillion on high-speed rail, highways, and other infrastructure over the next five years.  The U.S., according to the report, needs to invest $2 trillion simply to rebuild the roads, bridges, water lines, sewage systems, and dams constructed 40 to 50 years ago, systems that are now reaching the end of their planned life cycles.  But federal spending cuts mean that the burden of infrastructure repair and replacement will fall on state and local governments, whose resources, as everyone knows, are completely inadequate for the task.

Of course, it’s true that the freeways built in the 1950s made the automobile the essential form of transportation in America and led to the withering away of public mass transit, and that the environment suffered as a result.  Still, today’s collapsing bridges and sewers dramatize the loss of any serious national commitment to the public good.

6. College was cheap.

Tuition and fees at the University of California system in 1965 totaled $220.  That’s the equivalent of about $1,600 today, and in 1965 you were talking about the best public university in the world.  In 2012, the Regents of the University of California, presiding over an education system in crisis, raised tuition and fees for state residents to $13,200.  And American students are now at least $1 trillion in debt, thanks to college loans that could consign many to lifetimes as debtors in return for subprime educations.

In 1958, in the panic that followed the Soviet Union’s successful launch of Sputnik, the first satellite, public universities got a massive infusion of federal money when the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) was passed.  The Department of Education website today explains that the purpose of the NDEA was “to help ensure that highly trained individuals would be available to help America compete with the Soviet Union in scientific and technical fields.”  For the first time, government grants became the major source of university funding for scientific research.  The Act included a generous student-loan program.

With the end of the Cold War, federal funding was cut and public universities had little choice but to begin to make up the difference by increasing tuitions and fees, making students pay more -- a lot more.

True, the NDEA grants in the 1960s required recipients to sign a demeaning oath swearing that they did not seek the violent overthrow of the U.S. government, and that lots of government funding then supported Cold War military and strategic objectives.  After all, the University of California operated the nuclear weapons labs at Livermore and Los Alamos. Still, compare that to today’s crumbling public education system nationwide and who wouldn’t feel nostalgia for the Cold War era?

7. We had a president who called for a “war on poverty.”

In his 1966 State of the Union address, President Lyndon Baines Johnson argued that “the richest Nation on earth… people who live in abundance unmatched on this globe” ought to “bring the most urgent decencies of life to all of your fellow Americans.”  LBJ insisted that it was possible both to fight communism globally (especially in Vietnam) and to fight poverty at home.  As the phrase then went, he called for guns and butter.  In addition, he was determined not simply to give money to poor people, but to help build “community action” groups that would organize them to define and fight for programs they wanted because, the president said, poor people know what’s best for themselves.

Of course, it’s true that Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” unlike the Vietnam War, was woefully underfunded, and that those community action groups were soon overpowered by local mayors and Democratic political machines.  But it’s also true that President Obama did not even consider poverty worth mentioning as an issue in his 2012 reelection campaign, despite the fact that it has spread in ways that would have shocked LBJ, and that income and wealth inequalities between rich and poor have reached levels not seen since the late 1920s.  Today, it’s still plenty of guns -- but butter, not so much.

8. We had a president who warned against “the excessive power of the military-industrial complex.”

In Eisenhower’s “farewell address,” delivered three days before John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, the departing president warned against the “unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” He declared that “the potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”  The speech introduced the phrase “military-industrial complex” into the vernacular.  It was a crucial moment in the Cold War: a president who had also been the nation’s top military commander in World War II was warning Americans about the dangers posed by the military he had commanded and its corporate and political supporters.

Ike was prompted to give the speech because of his disputes with Congress over the military budget.  He feared nuclear war and firmly opposed all talk about such a war being fought in a “limited” way.  He also knew that, when it came to the Soviet Union, American power was staggeringly preponderant.  And yet his opponents in the Democratic Party, the arms industry, and even the military were claiming that he hadn’t done enough for “defense” -- not enough weapons bought, not enough money spent.  President-elect Kennedy had just won the 1960 election by frightening Americans about a purely fictitious “missile gap” between the U.S. and the Soviets.

It’s true that Ike’s warning would have been far more meaningful had it been in his first or even second inaugural address, or any of his State of the Union speeches.  It’s also true that he had approved CIA coups in Iran and Guatemala, and had green-lighted planning for an invasion of Cuba (that would become Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs disaster).  He had also established Mutual Assured Destruction as the basis for Cold War military strategy, backed up with B-52s carrying atomic bombs in the air 24/7.

By the end of his second term, however, Ike had changed his mind.  His warning was not just against unnecessary spending, but also against institutions that were threatening a crisis he feared would bring the end of individual liberty.  “As one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization,” the president urged his fellow citizens to resist the military-industrial complex.  None of his successors has even tried, and in 2013 we’re living with the results.

...But there is one thing I do NOT miss about the Cold War: nuclear arsenals on hair-trigger alert.

Our Cold War enemy had nuclear weapons capable of destroying us, and the rest of the planet, many times over.  In 1991, when the Cold War ended, the Soviet Union had more than 27,000 nuclear weapons.  According to the Federation of American Scientists, these included more than 11,000 strategic nuclear weapons -- warheads on land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched missiles, and weapons on bombers capable of attacking the US -- along with more than 15,000 warheads for “tactical” use as artillery shells and short-range “battlefield” missiles, as well as missile defense interceptors, nuclear torpedoes, and nuclear weapons for shorter-range aircraft.  We learned in 1993 that the USSR at one time possessed almost 45,000 nuclear warheads, and still had nearly 1,200 tons of bomb-grade uranium.  (Of course, sizeable Russian -- and American -- nuclear arsenals still exist.)  In comparison to all that, the arsenals of al-Qaeda and our other terrorist enemies are remarkably insignificant.

© 2013 Jon Wiener

Jon Wiener

Jon Wiener teaches US history at UC Irvine. His latest book, How We Forgot the Cold War: A Historical Journey Across America (University of California Press), has just been published. He sued the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act for its files on John Lennon. With the help of the ACLU of Southern California, Wiener v. FBI went all the way to the Supreme Court before the FBI settled in 1997. That story is told in Wiener's book, Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files.

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WASHINGTON - One of the major battles in Congress this fall will be a fight over a regulatory repeal measure that will have lasting...

Wisconsin agency tallying Foxconn jobs has a long record of errors – audit

The newly announced Foxconn LCD screen plant in Wisconsin that has been promised will create 13,000...

We Still Have A Lot of Work To Do On Healthcare

With liberals across the land breathing a huge sigh of relief after the abrupt collapse of the Senate scheme to repeal and somewhat replace...

Right & left united in First Amendment lawsuit against DC Metro

Milo Yiannopoulos and PETA are among the political forces with wildly opposing views that are now...

‘Russiagate’ — The Most Trustworthy Current Information

Eric Zuesse This summary is up-to-date as of August 6th, but it will start with a leak from a phone-conversation on August 1st, in which...

No Country on Earth Fully Safeguards Labor Rights

Photo by Rob Oo | CC BY 2.0 There is no country on Earth in which violations of labor rights do not occur. The best...

Democrats Push for More Wells Fargo Hearings After Latest News of Fake Accounts

Democrats in the Senate Banking Committee jointly called for a hearing with Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan days after he admitted to his company...

Seymour Hersh Cracks ‘RussiaGate’ as CIA-Planted Lie — Revenge Against Trump

Eric Zuesse This report has now been updated to August 6th: During the later portion of a phone-call, by the world’s greatest investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh,...

‘Win-win-win situation’: Los Angeles to host 2028 Olympics, giving Paris the 2024 games

Los Angeles, California has been awarded the 2028 Olympic Summer games. In order to finance the...

Indian Independence: Forged in Washington?

India commemorates the end of British rule 70 years ago on 15 August. Now might be an apt moment to consider where India might...

Media Mourn End of CIA Killing Syrians and Strengthening Al Qaeda

The US government has finally announced an end to its years-long program to arm and train Syrian rebels. The initiative, one of the CIA’s...

Media Mourn End of CIA Killing Syrians and Strengthening Al Qaeda

The US government has finally announced an end to its years-long program to arm and train Syrian rebels. The initiative, one of the CIA’s...

After Six Months, A Detailed Look at 'Giant Bait and Switch' Trump Presidency

It has been six long months since Donald Trump's inauguration, and unsurprisingly, the president has not parlayed his populist campaign promises into policy. In...

William Astore on Silencing War Criticism

Grisly photos that show war as it is, in this case a dead Iraqi from Desert Storm, are not shown by the U.S. mediaJesse...

Missile Defense Will Protect You From North Korea, Say USA Today’s Missile Defense-Funded Sources

USA Today (7/17/17) presents a few words from the missile defense industry. “US Missile Defense Plans to Zap North Korean Threats” was the headline of...

The Destructiveness of America’s Alliances

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org Alliances between nations are military. Without being military, they would be nothing. Trade agreements don’t require any alliances at...

Trump’s Worst Collusion Isn’t With Russia — It’s With Corporations

I’ve always been a little skeptical that there’d be a smoking gun about the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia. The latest news about...

Our Best Shot at Meeting Paris Goals? Make Energy Public

Mayors across the country have vowed to deliver on the goals of the Paris climate accord in defiance of President Trump’s decision to back...

Future Shock: Imagining India

What might a future India look like? If current policies continue, it could mean dozens of mega-cities with up to 40 million inhabitants and just two...

Gone with the rings: McDonald’s ends 41-year sponsorship of Olympics

US fast food giant McDonald’s has ended its four decade-long relationship as sponsor of the Olympic...

Amid Trump Chaos, Republicans Keep Their Eyes on the Big Prize: The Courts

While the Trump administration remains embroiled in scandals of its own making and continues to blunder forward seemingly without direction, Republicans have their collective...

Forbes’ ‘Go Bust’ Prescription For Indian Farmers Is A Death Warrant

By Binu Mathew and Colin Todhunter Background Washington’s long-term plan has been to restructure indigenous agriculture across the world and tie it to an international system...

Promoting the Commons in the Time of Monsters

Can the Commons and peer-to-peer (P2P) practices really offer viable solutions for our present and future social, political and ecological crises? Spain’s municipal successes...

Britain’s Trident nukes vulnerable to hack attack – report

Published time: 1 Jun, 2017 10:50 Britain’s Trident nukes could be rendered useless by hackers...

End the Greedy Silence

It is time Americans rise up against the corruption, inefficiency, and cruelty of our healthcare system and tell its corporate captors and Congress –...

Which government dominates U.S.-Saud alliance?

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org With America’s sale of $350 billion of its weapons to Saudi Arabia during the next ten years, which side...

Buying the election? Tory billionaires outspend Labour’s trade unions in donor war

Donations from the billionaire business lobby to the Conservative Party are already almost double the...

Lockheed Martin-Funded Experts Agree: South Korea Needs More Lockheed Martin Missiles

The THAAD anti-missile system sure is great, say analysts whose salaries are partly paid for by THAAD’s manufacturer. (photo: DoD/Lockheed Martin) As tensions between the...

France’s Answer To Trumpism: Non, Merci

Before you go to sleep Sunday you will have learned a new name, the name at least six or seven of your fellow-Americans already...

How Trump Could Actually Stop Offshoring

The New York Times recently ran a front-page story about 700 United Technologies Corp. workers who are seeing their jobs shipped off to Mexico. Along...

‘I, for One, Welcome Our New Insect Overlords!’ How the Chattering Class Bully-Worships Trump

In his review of Bertrand Russell’s Power: A New Social Analysis, George Orwell wrote the following: “Bully-worship, under various disguises, has become a universal religion… ” Orwell...

Britain Must Break Free from the Agrochemical Cartel: Rosemary Mason Calls on ECP to...

Agrochemical manufacturers are knowingly poisoning people and the environment in the name of profit and greed. Communities, countries, ecosystems and species have become disposable...

Harrowing note about Chinese prison labor found in Walmart purchase

A purse bought at an Arizona Walmart came with a letter, purportedly from an inmate at...

How the Russia Spin Got So Much Torque

A new book about Hillary Clinton’s last campaign for president—“Shattered,” by journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes—has gotten a lot of publicity since it...

POLL: Americans Support Military-Industrial Complex Above All Else

Eric Zuesse A new Morning Consult/POLITICO survey, published on 26 April, indicates that most American voters support the military-industrial complex more than they support any...

NAFTA Needs To Be Replaced, Not Renegotiated

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) must be replaced with a transparent trade agreement that ensures farmers in all three nations—Canada, Mexico, and...

Twice the price of Clinton: Obama to net $400K for Wall street speech

Former President Obama is set to net $400,000 for speaking at a Wall Street health care...

US steps up campaign against Julian Assange

  ...

Harvesting Union Rights in the Field

Eli Porras Carmona had been coming to work planting and harvesting sweet potatoes in North Carolina for eight years when he got a call...

NC Lawmakers Want to Shield Factory Farms from Big Damage Payments to Victims

Legislation moving through the North Carolina General Assembly would prevent people living near the state's numerous factory farms from recovering more than token damages...

Just Wait Until I Get Tenure

Photo by poeloq | CC BY 2.0 A Facebook friend, Steven Salaita, recently wrote a post about academe arguing that tenure-track professors are kidding themselves...

Lawsuit Challenges Trump Administration’s Order to Open Public Lands to Coal Leasing

WASHINGTON - A coalition today is suing the Trump administration over an order opening tens of thousands of acres of public lands to the...

Trump Restarts Keystone XL Fight, Not the Tar Sands Pipeline

The Trump Administration’s approval of the cross-border permit for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline marks the beginning of what is likely to be...

Fight for $15, Movement for Black Lives to Join Forces in Nationwide Protest to...

MEMPHIS, TENN. - The Fight for $15 and the Movement for Black Lives will take to the streets nationwide April 4 – the anniversary...

Monsanto’s Violence in India: The Sacred and the Profane

From Hinduism and Paganism to Thor, Woden and Monsanto, humans have lost their ancient beliefs, practices and connection with nature. The old practices, so...

17,000 AT&T workers go on strike in California & Nevada

After working for nearly a year without a contract, 17,000 AT&T call center workers and technicians...

‘Media Are Unwilling to Look at Government and Say There’s Conscious Malfeasance’ – CounterSpin...

Steve Rendall interviewed Robert Dreyfuss about pre–Iraq War intelligence for the February 27, 2004, episode of CounterSpin; the interview was reaired for the March...

Black Man Stabbed to Death by White Supremacist–Then Smeared by Media

New York Post images of an alleged white supremacist murderer and his victim. Guess which one the tabloid described as a “career criminal”? According to...

Regulation Repeals Show ‘The Swamp’ Is Rising

Time and again, Candidate Donald Trump promised to “drain the swamp in Washington.” He swore to curb lobbying of government by special interest groups to procure favors for...

The Deep State vs. President Trump

Corporate media like CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and elements within the intelligence community are singing from the same hymnal...

Trump in Historical Perspective: From Nixon to Breitbart

Photo by Brianna Privett | CC BY 2.0 Trump is not a new phenomenon.  He is the latest, and most aggressive to date, repacking of...

Trump's Trade Reforms Will Not Increase US Wages

President Donald Trump claims he will use international trade policy to bolster the middle class and reduce income inequality. "The great American middle class is...

Brexit could end London’s dominance of European finance, says hawkish German bank regulator

London is unlikely to retain its role as the financial ‘gateway to Europe’ after Brexit,...

Make America Ungovernable

Donald Trump’s regime is rapidly reconfiguring the United States into an authoritarian state. All forms of dissent will soon be criminalized. Civil liberties will...

How Trump Can Unite the Left

As millions of Democrats, Greens, liberals, progressives, and lefties across America prepare to resist Trump, it’s time to build greater unity and alliances among...

The British Government Has Colluded with Monsanto and Should Be Held Accountable in the...

“The British Government has colluded with Monsanto and should be held accountable in the International Criminal Court in The Hague for crimes against humanity...

Down the Rabbit-Hole to Trump’s Victory

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org There are several key reasons why Donald Trump won, such as that he achieved a 1,405,004 nationwide popular-vote victory in...

Trump Issues Media Blackout at Multiple Federal Agencies

Though the majority of President Donald Trump's controversial cabinet nominations have not yet been confirmed, his so-called "beachhead" teams have arrived at their respective...

Dawn of the Resistance

As someone once said, a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth puts its boots on. In the 2016 presidential election,...

Cervical cancer killing women at much higher rate than previously thought – study

Women’s risk of dying from cervical cancer is much higher than scientists previously thought, according to...

Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters

The push to commercialise the growing of genetically modified (GM) mustard in India is currently held up in court due to a lawsuit by...

Britain’s ‘failure to tackle tax havens’ draws ire of anti-corruption campaigners

Anti-corruption campaigners have accused the British government of falling short on its longstanding commitment to...

Aid worker killed by Navy SEALs in Afghanistan ‘secretly worked with Britain’s MI6’ –...

A British aid worker who was killed by a grenade in Afghanistan during a botched rescue attempt by US special forces was actually working...

Welcome to the Vortex

I spent most of 2016 doing my duty as citizen, writer and educator aghast at the favors done for the unprincipled, incoherent, vicious, dangerous...

This Wondrous National Park… Brought to You By McDonald's?

A controversial set of new rules quietly given final approval over the recent holiday—allowing national parks in the United States to expand corporate sponsorships...

The class struggle in the US in 2017

  ...

From Agriculture to Demonetisation: Not ‘Make in India’ but Made in Washington

Colin Todhunter A version of the following piece was originally published in June 2016. However, since then, India’s PM Narendra Modi has embarked on a...

Washington Post Wants Endless Wars of Aggression

(RINF) - In a New Year’s day editorial, WaPo discussed the “unsupportable” and “dangerous” Trump presidency - seditious sounding language. He “pose(s) (a) threat to...

Something Wicked This Way Comes

I stopped trying to predict markets back in 2008 when the Federal Reserve, Treasury Department, Wall Street bankers, and their propaganda peddling media mouthpieces...

The Decline and Fall of Collectivism

“There is no there there.” - Gertrude Stein The study of history has long been an enjoyable activity for me. A conclusion I have drawn from...

Trump Is Taking on Wall Street, Literally

Actor Jack Nicholson says he finally understood the meaning of the word irony when his mother called him an SOB. So let us consider Donald...

Draining the Swamp: A How-To Guide

When President-elect Donald Trump talked about “draining the swamp,” it evoked the way Bernie Sanders talks about how the system is rigged. Many Americans...

The New York Times Is Nothing More Than Subservient Government Lapdog

On Wednesday, December 14th, the front page of The New York Times featured four news-reports, each of which displays how the employees (editors and...

‘We Can Stop Committing Interstate Job Fraud’ – CounterSpin interview with Greg LeRoy on...

Janine Jackson interviewed Greg LeRoy about Trump’s Carrier deal for the December 9, 2016, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript. Greg LeRoy:...

Officials: Obama Prioritized Defeating Assad Above Defeating Jihadists

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org SUMMARY The evidence is clear and convincing: U.S. President Barack Obama, against advice and warnings from his top military officers,...

Entrenching Capitalist Agriculture in India Under the Guise of Development

Colin Todhunter Washington's long-term plan has been to restructure indigenous agriculture across the world and tie it to an international system of trade based on...

German Economist & Politician: “Stop Copying America’s Decline! Leave NATO!”

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org Sahra Wagenknecht, Vice President of the German parliament’s Leftist Party, said in Parliament on Wednesday November 23rd, that Germany’s...

The Noose that Obama Had Wanted to Hand to President Hillary to Hang...

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org INTRODUCTION This will be a summary, update, and extension from, a 25,000-word masterpiece of historical writing: the obscure, little-noticed, but...

Judge orders CIA, FBI & NSA to disclose whether they spied on Occupy Philadelphia...

The FBI, CIA and NSA must release any potential evidence that they spied on Occupy Philadelphia protesters back in 2011, a federal judge has...

‘What Open Borders Mean for Corporations Is Really About Restricting Workers’ Rights’ – CounterSpin...

Janine Jackson interviewed Michelle Chen about Samsung’s labor and environmental abuses for the November 4, 2016, CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript. Michelle Chen:...

Have We Just Avoided a Devastating Nuclear War?

by Stephen Lendman (RINF) - Thankfully humanity is freed from the scourge of a third Hillary and Bill Clinton crime family co-presidency - she in...

Congratulations America: Have You Just You’ve Been Trumped?

I watched Donald Trump’s presidential victory speech. He spoke a lot about unity, the potential of ordinary, marginalised people and about making the US...

The Almost Legal Coup Election 2016 -Hillary Clinton Information Operations

"The purpose of " Inform and Influence Operations" is not to provide a perspective, opinion, or lay out a policy. It is defined as the ability...

How the 2004 Presidential Election Was Stolen by George W. Bush

Eric Zuesse (RINF) - In 2006, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. headlined at Rolling Stone “Was the 2004 Election Stolen?” and he presented an argument that...

Hillary Is Such a Nasty Marxist

Nothing outrages Progressives more than the truth. Predictably, then, when Donald Trump voiced the undeniable fact that Hitlary Clinton is “such a nasty woman,”...

America Pays $300k to Force Liberalism and 'LGBT Rights' on Macedonia

A reader passes along a government document putting out bids for a contract. Here’s the top of the document: Apparently the...

America Pays $300k to Force Liberalism and 'LGBT Rights' on Macedonia

A reader passes along a government document putting out bids for a contract. Here’s the top of the document: Apparently the...

America Pays $300k to Force Liberalism and 'LGBT Rights' on Macedonia

A reader passes along a government document putting out bids for a contract. Here’s the top of the document: Apparently the...

America Pays $300k to Force Liberalism and 'LGBT Rights' on Macedonia

A reader passes along a government document putting out bids for a contract. Here’s the top of the document: Apparently the...

America Pays $300k to Force Liberalism and 'LGBT Rights' on Macedonia

A reader passes along a government document putting out bids for a contract. Here’s the top of the document: Apparently the...

America Pays $300k to Force Liberalism and 'LGBT Rights' on Macedonia

A reader passes along a government document putting out bids for a contract. Here’s the top of the document: Apparently the...

America Pays $300k to Force Liberalism and 'LGBT Rights' on Macedonia

A reader passes along a government document putting out bids for a contract. Here’s the top of the document: Apparently the...

America Pays $300k to Force Liberalism and 'LGBT Rights' on Macedonia

A reader passes along a government document putting out bids for a contract. Here’s the top of the document: Apparently the...

America Pays $300k to Force Liberalism and 'LGBT Rights' on Macedonia

A reader passes along a government document putting out bids for a contract. Here’s the top of the document: Apparently the...

America Pays $300k to Force Liberalism and 'LGBT Rights' on Macedonia

A reader passes along a government document putting out bids for a contract. Here’s the top of the document: Apparently the...

America Pays $300k to Force Liberalism and 'LGBT Rights' on Macedonia

A reader passes along a government document putting out bids for a contract. Here’s the top of the document: Apparently the...

America Pays $300k to Force Liberalism and 'LGBT Rights' on Macedonia

A reader passes along a government document putting out bids for a contract. Here’s the top of the document: Apparently the...

America Pays $300k to Force Liberalism and 'LGBT Rights' on Macedonia

A reader passes along a government document putting out bids for a contract. Here’s the top of the document: Apparently the...

America Pays $300k to Force Liberalism and 'LGBT Rights' on Macedonia

A reader passes along a government document putting out bids for a contract. Here’s the top of the document: Apparently the...

America Pays $300k to Force Liberalism and 'LGBT Rights' on Macedonia

A reader passes along a government document putting out bids for a contract. Here’s the top of the document: Apparently the...

America Pays $300k to Force Liberalism and 'LGBT Rights' on Macedonia

A reader passes along a government document putting out bids for a contract. Here’s the top of the document: Apparently the...

America Pays $300k to Force Liberalism and 'LGBT Rights' on Macedonia

A reader passes along a government document putting out bids for a contract. Here’s the top of the document: Apparently the...

Two Parties, One Machine

Realize that the system can’t exist without beliefAppreciate your true potential, un-twist your mouth and speakWe’re working on building a world our children can...

America Pays $300k to Force Liberalism and 'LGBT Rights' on Macedonia

A reader passes along a government document putting out bids for a contract. Here’s the top of the document: Apparently the...

America Pays $300k to Force Liberalism and 'LGBT Rights' on Macedonia

A reader passes along a government document putting out bids for a contract. Here’s the top of the document: Apparently the...

America Pays $300k to Force Liberalism and 'LGBT Rights' on Macedonia

A reader passes along a government document putting out bids for a contract. Here’s the top of the document: Apparently the...

America Pays $300k to Force Liberalism and 'LGBT Rights' on Macedonia

A reader passes along a government document putting out bids for a contract. Here’s the top of the document: Apparently the...

America Pays $300k to Force Liberalism and 'LGBT Rights' on Macedonia

A reader passes along a government document putting out bids for a contract. Here’s the top of the document: Apparently the...

America Pays $300k to Force Liberalism and 'LGBT Rights' on Macedonia

A reader passes along a government document putting out bids for a contract. Here’s the top of the document: Apparently the...

More Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

Twelve years ago, John Perkins published his book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, and it rapidly rose up The New York Times’ best-seller...

I’m a Bernie Sanders Voter: Here’s Why I’ll Vote Trump

By Eric Zuesse Sometimes, things in politics are the opposite of the way they seem. The Presidential contest between the ‘liberal’ Hillary Clinton’ and the...

The US Is a Country, Not a Business

The US has been sold off to the highest bidder, and until we repudiate the "free market" fundamentalism that has infected our...

Homophonophobes v. Trump

Donald J. Trump is both a racist and not a racist, depending upon the source that one consults.   His comments regarding the rapaciousness of...

Sports Media for Social Change

People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what what they do...

Presidential Politics and CEO Pay

Politicians love to beat up on overpaid CEOs. In the wake of the 2008 financial crash, Republican presidential candidate John McCain lashed out at executives...

WARgrams released: How NSA used Iraq War as springboard for global intel gathering

Newly published documents from the beginning of the Iraq invasion reveal how the NSA used the...

Ignoring the Pentagon’s Multi-Trillion-Dollar Accounting Error

Reuters (8/19/16) had one of the few media reports on the Pentagon’s mammoth accounting errors. In 2014, the New York Times (10/12/14) ran a major...

Behind the Bolivia Miner Cooperatives’ Protests and the killing of the Bolivian Vice-Minister

The Bolivian cooperatives’ protests and their August 25 killing of the Bolivian Vice Minister of the Interior Rodolfo Illanes requires us to question our...

From the Battle of Seattle to the Financial Crisis

(Shutterstock) I had many lessons from the Battle of Seattle, and one of them was that policewomen can deal it out as good as any...

Justice Department Announces Initiative to End Use of For-Profit Prisons

The yard at the Albert M. "Bo" Robinson Assessment and Treatment Center in Trenton, New Jersey, March 13, 2012. The Bo Robinson...

How ‘Think Tanks’ Generate Endless War

U.S. “think tanks” rile up the American public against an ever-shifting roster of foreign “enemies” to justify wars which line the pockets of...

Central Bankers Are Choking the Economy

If the Economy were a car, productivity would be the engine. Heated seats, on-demand 4-wheel drive and light-sensitive tinted windshields, are all very nice....

America’s Aristocracy Facing Resistance from American Public Regarding Russia

Eric Zuesse, updated from strategic-culture.org The subterranean reality of U.S. foreign policy is that it serves the U.S. aristocracy, the owners of controlling blocs of...

NYT Reveals Think Tank It’s Cited for Years to Be Corrupt Arms Booster

The New York Times (8/7/16) reveals the corporate influence behind some of its most-used sources. A recent New York Times article (8/7/16) detailed, in often...

Bombs made in UK dropped on Yemeni civilians, human rights group claims

New links have been found between bombs dropped on Yemeni civilians and arms factories in...

Not content tricking migrant workers, Byron burgers now found hiding taxable profits abroad

First they rounded up their staff and let immigration authorities seize those with out-of-date papers....

Monsanto in India: Meet the New Boss – Same as the Old Boss?

In capitalism, the state’s primary role is to secure the interests of private capital. The institutions of globalised capitalism - from the World Bank,...

Former pro wrestlers sue WWE over claims of neurological damage

World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. is being sued by dozens of former professional wrestlers who claim that...

Why Hillary Clinton’s Email Case Is Still Not Closed

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org Normally, when the head of the FBI under one President says something like “no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a...

TPP: Top Lobbyist Says TPP Will Probably Become Law Soon After Nov. 8th

Eric Zuesse Rufus Yerxa, the top lobbyist for the National Foreign Trade Council, told World Trade Online, on July 12th, that he believes "there is enough...

Lament for Humanity: A 50 Year Reflection

Robert J. Burrowes Deeply affected by the death of my two uncles in World War II, on 1 July 1966, the 24th anniversary of the...

More Chobani Capitalism, Please

This spring, Hamdi Ulukaya — the CEO of the Chobani yogurt company — did something remarkable. He gave his workers a 10 percent ownership...

When Shuttling Between the Public and Private Sectors Actually Helped Cut Defense Spending

Usually it just stovepipes influence from Wall Street to the government. ...

Got Milked? US ‘Defense’ Spending 2017

“The White House said Tuesday that President Barack Obama will veto the Senate’s version of the annual defense policy bill,” Richard Lardner of...

Gagging on the Gig Economy

No doubt you’ll be thrilled to learn that we now live and work in a “gig economy.” That’s the latest corporate buzz-phrase from Silicon Valley. CEOs...

Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!

More is never enough. By now we really don’t need yet another statement of inequality, but here goes anyway: The average ratio of chief...

Just How Crooked Is Kentucky?

Frankfort, the state capitol of Kentucky is in turmoil. Kentucky Republican Governor Matt Bevin’s explosive charges against the administration of his predecessor Democrat Steve...

Does Venezuela’s Crisis Prove Socialism Doesn’t Work?

“This can’t go on much longer,” I thought to myself as I waited in line in the tropical heat. Perhaps 30 people were still...

The Privatization of the Public Sphere

a katz | Shutterstock.com   The Republican Party is consolidating behind Donald Trump and, on May 12th, House Speaker Paul Ryan kissed the ring of the party’s presumptive...

How We Got the Tanks and M-16s Out of LA Schools

Today, after 18 months of ferocious uphill organizing the Labor/Community Strategy Center reached an agreement with the Los Angeles Unified School District and the...

NHS managers are being forced to lie to the public

Carol Ackroyd Local managers are being forced to slash NHS budgets and replace existing hospital and community services with unproven ‘new models of care’ (inspired...

Leaked: Cameron ‘knee-deep in conspiracy’ with big business to keep Britain in EU

Prime Minister David Cameron is accused of being “knee-deep in a conspiracy” to keep Britain in the EU after leaked letters reveal he discussed...

GMO crops not harming human health, but not boosting yields – report

Consumption of genetically modified food has not harmed human health, according to a new report by...

Strike Supporters "Adopt" Verizon Wireless Stores to Picket in New York City

Members of Socialist Alternative join striking Verizon workers on a picket line outside a Verizon Wireless store in Brooklyn, New York, May...

Twitter Claims To Block Intel Agencies From Tweet-Mining Service

Twitter Claims To Block Intel Agencies From Tweet-Mining Service Peter Van Buren, May 11, 2016 Twitter claims it does not want...

Honeywell locks out workers in New York and Indiana

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. Philip Guelpa Workers at Honeywell Aerospace plants at Green Island in Albany,...

UK prisoners “potential assets to be harnessed” for profit

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. John Newham The Conservative government’s Prisons Bill to be introduced in the...

Saudi Crisis Deepens (Part 1)

Saudi oil resources are not inexhaustible. Pictured: King Salman. (Photo: AWD News) Perceptions can be very deceiving when it comes to Saudi Arabia, especially since...

Why Don’t Entitlement ‘Reformers’ Ever Talk About Military Spending and Tax Shelters?

The Washington Post‘s Charles Lane (4/27/16) objects to politicians following voters’ desires on entitlements because of ” the preemption of actual political choice it...

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Proposes Class-Action Boost for Bank Victims

(Photo: Joe Gratz) A long-anticipated regulation proposed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) aims to restore the ability of customers to...

TPP & TTIP Harmful, Economic Studies Find

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org Presently, three supposed ‘trade’ deals are being proposed by U.S. President Barack Obama, to be signed by major trading...

On the Line With Verizon Strikers

Thirty-nine thousand Verizon workers walked off the job and took to the streets April 13, beginning the largest U.S. strike in half...

When ‘Both Sides’ Are Covered in Verizon Strike, Bosses’ Side Is Heard More

An image of a worker with a bullhorn accompanied a Vox story (4/13/16) in which no workers were quoted. (photo: Spencer Platt/Getty) Last Wednesday, approximately...

Labour bans McDonald’s from conference for its anti-union history

The UK Labour Party has banned fast food chain McDonald’s from the party’s annual conference...

World’s biggest arms fair in London likely infiltrated by criminals, judge rules

It’s highly likely the world’s largest arms fair, held in London last year, was infiltrated...

CIA is investing in firms that specialize in sifting through social media posts

The Central Intelligence Agency’s venture capital arm is investing in companies that develop artificial intelligence to...

British Conservative Breaks Ranks, Opposes TTIP

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org It’s as if, say, during the Republican Administration of U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush, the person who had...

Life expectancy gap between US rich and poor widens

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. Jerry White A study published Monday in the Journal of the American...

Clinton campaign taps ex-Goldman Sachs partner for Asian fundraisers

The presidential campaign for Democrat Hillary Clinton is hosting a number of fundraisers overseas in the...

Fiat Chrysler workers react to Sterling Heights Assembly job cuts

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. “When the UAW folks play golf with the Fiat folks, what...

How Private Prison Companies Use Big Tax Breaks and Low Wages to Maximize Profit

Prisoners at Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona, October 16, 2009. (Monica Almeida / The New York Times) The two largest private prison...

UK Junior doctors dispute at a crossroads

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. Statement by NHS Fightback The UK junior doctors’ dispute has entered a...

Australian nickel refinery workers sacked without entitlements

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. Terry Cook Hundreds of workers retrenched at Queensland Nickel’s (QN) Yaulu refinery...

New study says entire regions of US will remain in slump until the 2020s

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. Jerry White A new study by a University of California-Berkeley economist says...

Fascist Spain’s Biggest Supporters Were Hitler, Mussolini, and This American Oilman

(Photo: Gerard Stolk / Flickr) This piece has been adapted from Adam Hochschild’s new book, Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939. “Merchants...

Kaiser Permanente nurses in Los Angeles on one-week strike

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. Marc Wells Twelve hundred registered nurses (RNs) at Kaiser Permanente’s Los Angeles...

UAW discussing lower pay rate at Lear in Detroit

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. Shannon Jones Officials of the United Auto Workers have confirmed that the...

Economic nationalism, war and the fight for international socialism

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. Fundamental questions of perspective and orientation for the international working class...

‘Everyone Is Not Watched Equally’

Janine Jackson interviewed Alvaro Bedoya on privacy, technology and the targets of surveillance for the March 11, 2016, CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited...

Slippery business: Oil giant BP terminates sponsorship of Tate art gallery

(RT) - BP will end its 26-year sponsorship of the Tate next year, citing an...

The arrest of former President Lula and the crisis of rule in Brazil

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. Last week’s detention and questioning of former president and Workers Party...

Flint resident files lawsuit against corporations, officials

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. James Brewer LeeAnne Walters, the Flint mother who defied the lies and...
Mass privatisation paying for failed economic policies

Mass privatisation masks Britain’s failed economic policies

There is no doubt that throughout the last forty years or so neoliberalism has dominated government, housing, transport, energy and the financial sector in...

DuPont Rakes in Federal Dollars Despite History of Hazards

Four workers were tragically killed when an insecticide leaked into a building at DuPont's LaPorte, Texas plant in November 2014. After two workers were...

A Coherent Explanation of Obama’s Foreign Policy

Eric Zuesse Foreign policy is both economic and military. An interpretation of U.S. President Barack Obama’s foreign policy will be presented here that explains both...

How a Candidate’s Mega-Donors Get Served After the Election

Eric Zuesse, updated from strategic-culture.org An example will be described here of a way in which corrupt Presidential candidates load up their campaigns’ advertising budgets...

Many UK children go to school hungry

Tom Pearce A survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of breakfast manufacturer Kellogg’s has exposed the extent of food poverty among children in the UK. The...

As Much as Media Would Like Them to, Trump’s Supporters Are Unlikely to Evaporate

Trump’s supporters–and their problems–are unlikely to be going anywhere soon. (cc photo: Gage Skidmore) There’s a trope in post-Iowa election commentary that suggests that since...

Britain top dog in unregulated shadow world of mercenaries – report

Britain has become the world’s post-9/11 “mercenary kingpin” with hundreds of firms employing thousands of ex-military freebooters in a shadowy industry worth billions, a...

Wall Street celebrates mounting signs of US slump

Andre Damon On Friday, the Commerce Department released the latest in a series of economic reports pointing to a dramatic slowdown in the US economy,...

Lobbying’s Mile-High Plateau

Special-interest money in Washington may have peaked but it looks more like it has plateaued at mile-high altitudes, with hundreds of millions of dollars...

Manna from Hell

War is hell. Unless, of course, you happen to be a global corporate peddler of rockets, drones, bombs, and all the other hellish weaponry of...

How Candidates’ Mega-Donors Get Served After the Election

Eric Zuesse, updated from strategic-culture.org The prison industry provides a good example: One recent article at Vice News criticized the legislation proposed by Presidential candidate...

What is driving the stock market panic?

Barry Grey Banks, hedge funds and governments all over the world are entering a new week of trading with fear and trepidation. The US markets...

A Balanced View of the Obama Presidency

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org Barack Obama’s Presidency turns out to have been what neither his supporters nor his opponents expected. A balanced historical...

Hundreds of teachers’ fight to save public education

Jerry White The World Socialist Web Site salutes the fight by Detroit teachers against the deplorable conditions in their schools and urges workers throughout the...

State officials, Wall Street target Detroit schools for bankruptcy restructuring

By Nancy Hanover The Detroit News revealed this week that Detroit Public Schools (DPS) debt payments will balloon from $6.6 million to $26.8 million a month...

UAW local publishes blacklist of workers who opt out of dues payment

By Eric London In its latest tactic aimed at bullying workers, the United Auto Workers has published a blacklist of workers who decided to end their...

UK: Employment practises of Sports Direct retail giant exposed

By Harvey Thompson and Robert Stevens Two undercover reporters for the Guardian were recently hired at a distribution warehouse in Shirebrook, England run by Sports Direct....

Inhumane conditions in privately run New Zealand prison

  By Tom Peters The National Party government announced on December 9 that it will not renew the contract for UK-based company Serco to manage Auckland’s Mount...

Furniture designers expose ‘out of touch’ copyright system in UK fight

The UK government is under pressure from foreign companies to expand the time window on a copyright law that covers content like photographs of...

America’s Awesome Corruption – Especially in the Military

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org On November 16th, the great journalist on international strategic and military issues, F. William Engdahl, headlined at journal-neo, “Do We...

‘You No Longer Have Your Constitutional Right to Civil Jury Trial’ – CounterSpin interview...

CounterSpin interview with Joanne Doroshow on forced arbitrationJanine Jackson interviewed Joanne Doroshow about the forced arbitration for the November 6 CounterSpin. This is a...

Kraft Heinz and Alcoa among companies cutting hundreds of jobs in upstate New York

By Steve Filips Last week Kraft Heinz announced plans to close seven plants nationwide and the layoff of an additional 2,600 workers over the next 12...

UAW scabs do bidding of US auto companies

The United Auto Workers is seeking to rush through a new contract on Ford workers and wrap up its months-long campaign to break the...

Exposed by Wikileaks: The US Empire According to Itself

Robert J. Burrowes For many people, it is easier, safer and more comfortable to live in a world of delusion, particularly when this delusion requires...

Poisoned Agriculture: Depopulation and Human Extinction’

There is a global depopulation agenda. The plan is to remove the ‘undesirables’, ‘the poor’ and others deemed to be ‘unworthy’ and a drain...

UAW using economic blackmail in effort to ram through sellout deal

By Jerry White With thousands of General Motors workers voting on a tentative agreement signed by the United Auto Workers for a new four-year labor deal,...

TTIP: The Aristocracy Aren’t Satisfied; They Demand More

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org A new analysis of the Obama-proposed TTIP ‘trade’ treaty, which the U.S. would have with Europe, finds that it...

Private NSA Army is Attacking YOU!

  Privatized NSA Army is Attacking YOU!   In the first part of this article series, the post 9/11 rise of a private NSA was detailed. Some started...

The Most Criminal Treaty in History Is Now Presented for Signing

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org As of 5 October 2015, a super-secret 12-nation treaty called TPP is set to be signed by the 12...

Disaster Capitalism: Outsourcing Violence and Exploitation

Robert J. Burrowes In his just-released book, Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing out of Catastrophe, Antony Loewenstein offers us a superb description of the diminishing...

‘They’re Robbing Kids of Critical Thinking’

Janine Jackson interviewed Jesse Hagopian on educational struggles in Seattle for the September 18 CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.  MP3 Link Janine Jackson: Seattle...

Time for the Nuclear Option: Raining Money on Main Street

Ellen Brown (RINF) - Predictions are that we will soon be seeing the “nuclear option” – central bank-created money injected directly into the real economy....

The Volkswagen emissions scandal

Peter Schwarz The scandal at Volkswagen (VW) over the manipulation of emissions readings from its autos in the US has plunged the firm into a...

Modi and Monsanto: A Wake Up Call For India

Immediately prior to Narendra Modi being elected India’s PM last year, there were calls from some quarters for him to usher in a Thatcherite-style...

Can Jeremy Corbyn Stem the Tide of Neoliberalism and Militarism?

Jeremy Corbyn has won the British Labour Party’s leadership election by a landslide. Corbyn comes from the left of the party, a party that...

Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Says Refugee Crisis Is Putin’s Scheme. The Backstory

Eric Zuesse The show aired on September 5th, and interviewed their contracted expert: http://video.foxnews.com/v/4466018186001/european-union-leaders-struggle-to-deal-with-migrant-crisis/?#sp=show-clips https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=2&v=8-RyOaFwcEw TRANSCRIPT, starting at 4:45: 4:45, Interviewer: The other place that nobody seems to want to...

Obama Marks Labor Day With New Order Expanding Paid Sick Leave

Benefits to spread to 300,000 workers, but rhetoric contradicts White House push for pro-corporate trade deals by Nadia Prupis President Barack Obama on Monday will issue an...

More signs of global downturn send stocks plunging again

By Andre Damon Global stock markets staged yet another selloff Tuesday following the release of negative economic data in the US and China and downbeat assessments...

Exposed: Big Brother’s ‘Unique and Productive’ Relationship with AT&T

Newly disclosed National Security Agency documents show that the U.S. government's relationship with telecom giant AT&T has been considered "unique and especially productive," according...

Chicago Public Schools announces hundreds of teacher layoffs, spending and pension cuts

By Kristina Betinis Chicago Public Schools (CPS) released its 2015-2016 budget Monday, including $200 million in spending cuts and 479 additional teacher layoffs. In June, the...

NHS trusts ordered to make emergency cuts amid £2bn spending black hole

National Health Service (NHS) trusts have been ordered to slash spending and cut staff numbers as a £2bn black hole in Tory health spending...

Ukraine Is Ripe for the Shock Doctrine

Like many states in crisis before it, Ukraine serves as a perfect opportunity for neoliberal transformation. by Sean Guillory While a crisis of faith, of sorts, has...

‘You Can Legally Bribe a Government Official’ – CounterSpin interview with Lee Fang on...

Janine Jackson interviewed investigative reporter Lee Fang about Washington’s revolving door for the July 24 CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript. Lee Fang (image: David...

Federal Reserve documents stagnant state of US economy

By Barry Grey The US Federal Reserve Board last week released its semiannual Monetary Policy Report to Congress, providing an assessment of the state of the...

Bank of Canada announces second interest rate cut in six months

Roger Jordan Canada’s central bank, the Bank of Canada, announced a 0.25 cut in its prime lending rate last Tuesday, reducing it to 0.5 percent. The...

7/7 led to wars abroad and loss of freedoms at home… but do we...

For the London media 7/7 is 'done and dusted', but for Tony Gosling, who helped cover the IRA London bombing campaign for the BBC,...

The historical background of California’s water crisis

By Marc Wells and Evan Blake California’s ongoing drought has set new records for the lowest annual precipitation levels, while 2014 brought the highest calendar-year temperature...

Chicago teachers’ union blocks fight against layoffs, offers to impose pay freeze

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. By Kristina Betinis The contract covering about 28,000 teachers and paraprofessionals in the...

The Economic Collapse Blog Has Issued A RED ALERT For The Last Six Months...

Michael Snyder (RINF) - I have never done anything like this before. Ever since I started The Economic Collapse Blog in late 2009, I have...

New York Times Big Lies

by Stephen Lendman (RINF) - The Times is an establishment publication - a lying machine, a mouthpiece for powerful monied interests at the expense of...

Obama Wants Regime Change in Ecuador

by Stephen Lendman (RINF) - Obama is no man of the people. He never was throughout his political career. He serves powerful monied interests exclusively. As...

Truth Is Washington’s Enemy

Paul Craig Roberts (RINF) - US Representative Ed Royce (R, CA) is busy at work...

The Public Sector Is A Milk Cow For Private Enterprise

Paul Craig Roberts (RINF) - Social Security and Medicare are under attack from Wall Street, conservatives, and free market economists. The claims are that these...

The Two Contending Visions of World Government

The Origin & Broader Context of Obama’s ‘Trade’ Deals Eric Zuesse U.S. President Barack Obama’s proposed ‘Trade’ deals are actually about whether the world is heading...

Corporations should no longer control our food supply

Why you should ditch the official EXPO and go to the People's EXPO instead Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Stanka Becheva (Common Dreams) - For those among us interested in...

Chicago Democrats prepare new attacks on public education

By Kristina Betinis (WSWS) - As the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the Democratic administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel continue negotiations for a new contract covering 30,000...

2 Things That Are Happening Right Now That Have Never Happened Outside Of A...

By Michael Snyder (RINF) - If we are not heading into a recession, why does our economy continue to act as if that is precisely...

Confidential Document: Soros’s Plan for Ukraine

Eric Zuesse A hacked document from the Ukrainian Government, in which George Soros, on 12 March 2015 (a month after the Hollande-Merkel Minsk II ceasefire agreement had been signed),...

Parasitism and the economic crisis

(WSWS) - The US Commerce Department released figures Friday showing that the US economy contracted sharply, shrinking at an annualized rate of 0.7 percent in...

Scoundrel Media FIFA Bashing

by Stephen Lendman (RINF) - Amateur and professional sports are big business. It's no surprise they're rife with corruption. With billions of dollars at stake,...

The Secret Group That Wants to Take Over Your School

Don’t look now, but there’s something creepy coming toward you, and it wants to take over your public school system. Sure, it’s connected–through all-important...

Free Financial Markets Are A Hoax – Paul Craig Roberts

Paul Craig Roberts (RINF) - There are no free financial markets in America, or for...