Saturday, March 01, 2008

The country and the world's falling apart and in today's Presidential address the idiot only talks about stopping drug abuse, AAARRRGGGHHH!

Fuel, food prices rise, Bush to veto big oil tax, Democrat's mortgage relief Bill blocked as Bush declares no Recession and talks about drug abuse WTF?

With just another day of stories proving the world is rapidly heading towards a total breakdown after yesterday's conversation depicting Bush's and Israel's threat to get the middle east breakdown going full swing I wanted to concentrate on today's news that At least 35 Palestinians and two Israeli soldiers have been killed in one of the deadliest days of fighting in Gaza since troops withdrew in 2005. With threats of a full scale Israeli attack

* It is mindboggling the issues facing us around the world and it is overwhelmingly caused by Bush. However with the increasing awareness that the backbone of America, the middle class and our economy is in deep trouble I have to focus on that because of bush's idiocy. He can't be this stupid and he has to purposely be letting the country and the world hit the precipice of disaster while he screws around and acts like everything is Hunky Dory until the shit hits the fan and he takes control of us and his wars!

Not just the world because of Bush but our economy is in deep trouble and it is finally coming to light but bush engineered this too and it is just beginning and like everything he has finagled it will get a hall of a lot worse. As anyone who's been to the gas station or supermarket lately knows, the prices of fuel and food are on the rise. And you haven't seen anything yet, some experts say. I will guaranndamtee you, you haven't seen anything yet! Gasoline now costs an average of $3.15 a gallon, seven cents shy of the record set last May, according to AAA. Remember another one of Bush's Duhh moments? Gas could hit $4.00 soon I didn't know that. $5 is more like it!

But with crude oil prices setting a new trading high of $102.08 a barrel on Wednesday, it's only a matter of time before drivers see it hit another record at the pump. Friday I know it was at $103 per Barrel and this too will get a lot worse. Within a few weeks, gas could cost $3.50 a gallon and, by spring, the price could hit $4 in some locations, said Peter Beutel, an oil analyst at the consultancy Cameron Hanover. The high cost of gas is helping fuel a surge in food prices. Higher transportation expenses, along with growing demand for agricultural exports from the United States and increasing need for corn-based ethanol for gas supplies, has sent commodity costs soaring.

Last week, the federal government reported that the Consumer Price Index rose a greater-than-expected 0.4% in January and 4.3% over the past 12 months, mainly because of higher food and energy costs. Food and beverages jumped 4.8% for the year and transportation soared 9.4%. A bushel of yellow corn, for instance, cost an average of $5.12 in January, up 41% from a year earlier, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics. Not only does this contribute to the higher prices of food made from corn, but it increases farmers' cost of feeding cattle and pigs. Though prices have been climbing for the last few years, consumers didn't feel it as much in the past because their home values were soaring. "But now, with housing prices having gone down, credit becoming tighter and prices of necessities like food and energy going up sharply, it's created quite a squeeze on consumers' disposable income," said Maria Fiorini Ramirez, head of economic consulting firm MFR Inc. It is a pain in the pocketbook

* Not only that but as you know The House approved $18 billion in new taxes on the largest oil companies Wednesday as Democrats cited record oil prices and rising gasoline costs in a time of economic troubles.They are right but Republicans and oil company's will screw us for it! Senate Democratic leaders said they would put the bill on a fast track and try to avoid a Republican filibuster. The White House said the bill unfairly takes aim at the oil industry. President Bush is expected to veto the legislation if it passes Congress. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, noted it was two years ago, when oil cost $55 a barrel, when Bush said oil companies needed no government subsidies to pursue more oil or gas. "With the price of oil hovering around $100, do we really believe this incentive is justified?" asked Hoyer. "Do these companies need taxpayer subsidies to look for new product? They don't need any incentive."

Remember, when Bush got in office it was $28 per barrel. Since the price per barrel has increased $75 per barrel and the oil company's are enjoying world record profits! can you believe Republicans said the measure unfairly targeted a single industry. "It punishes the oil and gas industry. This is wrongheaded. It will result in higher prices at the gasoline pump. It's spiteful and wrong," said Rep. Jim McCrery, R-Louisiana. It will bring higher prices at the pump and they will make sure it does as they screw us for impinging on their illicit gains!

The bill would roll back two lucrative tax breaks for the five largest U.S. oil companies. One helps manufacturers compete against foreign companies; the other gives American companies a tax credit related to oil and gas extraction outside the country. Democrats estimated those current breaks would save the oil companies $17.65 billion in taxes over the next 10 years. During debate, Rep Jim McDermott, D-Washington, urged lawmakers to "stop the madness of subsidizing oil companies" when the industry earned $123 billion last year. Are we supposed to believe only $121 billion per year will be felt by these people? You will see a filibuster or a Presidential veto
* Meanwhile in this rapidly degenerating economy that bush says is fine, On a vote of 48-46, Senate Republicans blocked an attempt by Democrats to bring up a housing bill that GOP members said would mean higher interest rates for all mortgage holders. At the last minute, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid changed his vote to no, making the real vote, 49-45. This allows the Democratic senator from Nevada to bring the bill back up in the coming weeks for reconsideration.

Democrats say their bill would save millions from foreclosure. It includes a controversial provision that allows bankruptcy judges to restructure mortgages on primary residences for those homeowners with endangered sub-prime loans and nontraditional loans. President Bush and other Administration officials, as well as the Mortgage Bankers Association, called the effort nothing but a bailout for speculators. The president said homeowners should work with their banks to negotiate better terms for loans. Democratic mortgage relief bill Blocked by Republicans
* I am sick of these unscrupulous idiots! We try to reign in their corruption and they threaten to make things worse. I refuse to believe people desperate to own a home jilted by unscrupulous lending agencies giving them loans they knew couldn't be paid back are merely dismissed as "speculators" That is BS, aren't the lending agencies the speculators? Anyway sadly with the stock market finally crashing as the reality of our dire financial situation begins to hit home on our America in Bush's America he says things are great. President Bush dismissed concerns Thursday that the economy is headed into a recession and remained confident that an economic stimulus package will help the nation amid a lingering mortgage and credit crunch. stimulus package my eye!

* "I don't think we're headed to recession, but no question, we're in a slowdown," Bush told reporters at a White House press conference. Some economists say the country is nearing a recession, but Bush expressed his support for the economic stimulus package that Congress recently passed and he signed into law last month. "We've acted robustly," he said. The package will deliver rebates ranging from $300 to $1,200 to millions of Americans and provide tax incentives to businesses.

"I'm concerned about the economy because I'm concerned about working Americans, concerned about people who want to put money on the table and save for their kids' education," Bush said. Congress needs to make the tax cuts permanent to help Americans deal with uncertainty and rising gasoline prices, Bush said. The president also urged Congress to renew a terrorist surveillance law to "protect our country from terrorist attacks" by giving telecommunications companies immunity from lawsuits. Bush's America not headed to recession

* The idiot proved he is not concerned about what he has done to the world and us as the chief idiot on his radio address talked about nothing but stopping Drag abuse. AAARRRGGGHHH!

The following is President Bush's radio address to the nation on March 1, 2008: THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Today, my administration is releasing our 2008 National Drug Control Strategy. This report lays out the methods we are using to combat drug abuse in America. And it highlights the hopeful progress we're making in the fight against addiction. When I took office in 2001, our country was facing a troubling rate of drug abuse, particularly among young people. Throughout America, young men and women saw their dreams disrupted by the destructive cycle of addiction. So I committed our nation to an ambitious goal: In 2002, we began efforts to cut drug use among young people by 25 percent over five years. Bush's radio address on drugs

** Hell they're probably in jail, committed suicide or on drugs for depression! I refuse to believe that he thinks everything is so great he can just waste his time talking about drug abuse, He can't be this stupid! He has to purposely be ignoring all the hell he has created here and around the world including disasters around the country natural and man made unless his goal is to ignore it until it blows this fall so he can cancell electione and stay in power.

James Joiner
Gardner Ma


TomCat said...

Jim, Keith Olbermann did a wonderful job of gutting the our Faux Fuhrer's Reich rant. I have the video up if you want it.

jmsjoin said...

Sure Olbermann is great. I'd love to hear it!

Anok said...

I will say, that I laughed very very loudly when I read the article talking about Bush's surprise at the prospect of $4 a gallon for gas.

Where does this man live? We're already paying on average where I live, between $3.50 and $3.70 per gallon!

HA! He's one sharp tack, this president of ours....hoo many more days till he's out?

Larry said...

Look at these facts Jim:

The True Cost Of War

In 2005, a Nobel prize-winning economist began the painstaking process of calculating the true cost of the Iraq war. In his new book, he reveals how short-sighted budget decisions, cover-ups and a war fought in bad faith will affect us all for decades to come. Aida Edemariam meets Joseph Stiglitz

By Aida Edemariam

"The Guardian" --- - Fitful spring sunshine is warming the neo-gothic limestone of the Houses of Parliament, and the knots of tourists wandering round them, but in a basement cafe on Millbank it is dark, and quiet, and Joseph Stiglitz is looking as though he hasn't had quite enough sleep. For two days non-stop he has been talking - at the LSE, at Chatham House, to television crews - and then he is flying to Washington to testify before Congress on the subject of his new book. Whatever their reservations - and there will be a few - representatives will have to listen, because not many authors with the authority of Stiglitz, a Nobel prize-winner in economics, an academic tempered by four years on Bill Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers and another three as chief economist at the World Bank (during which time he developed an influential critique of globalisation), will have written a book that so urgently redefines the terms in which to view an ongoing conflict. The Three Trillion Dollar War reveals the extent to which its effects have been, and will be, felt by everyone, from Wall Street to the British high street, from Iraqi civilians to African small traders, for years to come.

Some time in 2005, Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, who also served as an economic adviser under Clinton, noted that the official Congressional Budget Office estimate for the cost of the war so far was of the order of $500bn. The figure was so low, they didn't believe it, and decided to investigate. The paper they wrote together, and published in January 2006, revised the figure sharply upwards, to between $1 and $2 trillion. Even that, Stiglitz says now, was deliberately conservative: "We didn't want to sound outlandish."

So what did the Republicans say? "They had two reactions," Stiglitz says wearily. "One was Bush saying, 'We don't go to war on the calculations of green eye-shaded accountants or economists.' And our response was, 'No, you don't decide to fight a response to Pearl Harbour on the basis of that, but when there's a war of choice, you at least use it to make sure your timing is right, that you've done the preparation. And you really ought to do the calculations to see if there are alternative ways that are more effective at getting your objectives. The second criticism - which we admit - was that we only look at the costs, not the benefits. Now, we couldn't see any benefits. From our point of view we weren't sure what those were."

Appetites whetted, Stiglitz and Bilmes dug deeper, and what they have discovered, after months of chasing often deliberately obscured accounts, is that in fact Bush's Iraqi adventure will cost America - just America - a conservatively estimated $3 trillion. The rest of the world, including Britain, will probably account for about the same amount again. And in doing so they have achieved something much greater than arriving at an unimaginable figure: by describing the process, by detailing individual costs, by soberly listing the consequences of short-sighted budget decisions, they have produced a picture of comprehensive obfuscation and bad faith whose power comes from its roots in bald fact. Some of their discoveries we have heard before, others we may have had a hunch about, but others are completely new - and together, placed in context, their impact is staggering. There will be few who do not think that whatever the reasons for going to war, its progression has been morally disquieting; following the money turns out to be a brilliant way of getting at exactly why that is.

Next month America will have been in Iraq for five years - longer than it spent in either world war. Daily military operations (not counting, for example, future care of wounded) have already cost more than 12 years in Vietnam, and twice as much as the Korean war. America is spending $16bn a month on running costs alone (ie on top of the regular expenses of the Department of Defence) in Iraq and Afghanistan; that is the entire annual budget of the UN. Large amounts of cash go missing - the well-publicised $8.8bn Development Fund for Iraq under the Coalition Provisional Authority, for example; and the less-publicised millions that fall between the cracks at the Department of Defence, which has failed every official audit of the past 10 years. The defence department's finances, based on an accounting system inaccurate for anything larger than a grocery store, are so inadequate, in fact, that often it is impossible to know exactly how much is being spent, or on what.

This is on top of misleading information: in January 2007 the administration estimated that the much-vaunted surge would cost $5.6bn. But this was only for combat troops, for four months - they didn't mention the 15,000-28,000 support troops who would also have to be paid for. Neither do official numbers count the cost of death payments, or caring for the wounded - even though the current ratio of wounded to dead, seven to one, is the highest in US history. Again, the Department of Defence is being secretive and misleading: official casualty records list only those wounded in combat. There is, note Stiglitz and Bilmes in their book, "a separate, hard-to-find tally of troops wounded during 'non-combat' operations" - helicopter crashes, training accidents, anyone who succumbs to disease (two-thirds of medical evacuees are victims of disease); those who aren't airlifted, ie are treated on the battlefield, simply aren't included. Stiglitz and Bilmes found this partial list accidentally; veterans' organisations had to use the Freedom of Information Act in order to get full figures (at which point the ratio of injuries to fatalities rises to 15 to one). The Department of Veterans Affairs, responsible for caring for these wounded, was operating, for the first few years of the war, on prewar budgets, and is ruinously overstretched; it is still clearing a backlog of claims from the Vietnam war. Many veterans have been forced to look for private care; even when the government pays for treatment and benefits, the burden of proof for eligibility is on the soldier, not on the government. The figure of $3 trillion includes what it will cost to pay death benefits, and to care for some of the worst-injured soldiers that army surgeons have ever seen, for the next 50 years.

By way of context, Stiglitz and Bilmes list what even one of these trillions could have paid for: 8 million housing units, or 15 million public school teachers, or healthcare for 530 million children for a year, or scholarships to university for 43 million students. Three trillion could have fixed America's social security problem for half a century. America, says Stiglitz, is currently spending $5bn a year in Africa, and worrying about being outflanked by China there: "Five billion is roughly 10 days' fighting, so you get a new metric of thinking about everything."

I ask what discoveries Stiglitz found the most disturbing. He laughs, somewhat mirthlessly. "There were actually so many things - some of it we suspected, but there were a few things I couldn't believe." The fact that a contractor working as a security guard gets about $400,000 a year, for example, as opposed to a soldier, who might get about $40,000. That there is a discrepancy we might have guessed - but not its sheer scale, or the fact that, because it is so hard to get insurance for working in Iraq, the government pays the premiums; or the fact that, if these contractors are injured or killed, the government pays both death and injury benefits on top. Understandably, this has forced a rise in sign-up bonuses (as has the fact that the army is so desperate for recruits that it is signing up convicted felons). "So we create a competition for ourselves. Nobody in their right mind would have done that. The Bush administration did that ... that I couldn't believe. And that's not included in the cost the government talks about."

Then there was the discovery that sign-up bonuses come with conditions: a soldier injured in the first month, for example, has to pay it back. Or the fact that "the troops, for understandable reasons, are made responsible for their equipment. You lose your helmet, you have to pay. If you get blown up and you lose your helmet, they still bill you." One soldier was sued for $12,000 even though he had suffered massive brain damage. Some families have had to buy their children body armour, saving the government costs in the short term; those too poor to afford it sustain injuries that the government then has to pay for. Then there's the fact that it was not until 2006, when Robert Gates replaced Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defence, that the DOD agreed to replace Humvees with mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) armoured vehicles, which are much more able to repel roadside bombs; until that time, IEDs killed 1,500 Americans. "This kind of penny-wise, pound-poor behaviour was just unbelievable."

Yet on another level, Stiglitz is unsurprised, because such decisions are of a piece with the thoroughgoing intellectual inconsistency of the Bush administration. The general approach, he says, has been a "pastiche of corporate bail-outs, corporate welfare, and free-market economics that is not based on any consistent set of ideas. And this particular kind of pastiche actually contributed to the failures in Iraq." There are the well-rehearsed reasons: ignoring international democratic processes while advocating democracy; pushing forward liberalisation before Iraq was ready. Stiglitz's twist on this was the emails he was receiving from the United States Agency for International Development, complaining about the Treasury being obstructive. "They were saying, 'Can you help us? Because we're trying to get businesses to work, but the US Treasury is trying to tighten credit, so there's no money in this country.' "

Then, of course, there is the administration's insistence on "sole-source bidding" - awarding vast, multi-year contracts to Halliburton, for example, instead of putting them out to tender. "An academic might say, 'How can you be a free market, yet demand single-source contracting?'" asks Stiglitz now, mildly - but this is not the way the current administration operates. We know quite a lot now about contractors' excesses, but it is their economic effect that Stiglitz and Bilmes are interested in, and this seems often to have been malign. Free market ideals had, of course, to apply to Iraq, if not to Halliburton (which received at least $19.3bn in single-source contracts), so Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, abolished many tariffs on imports, and capped corporate and income tax. Predictably, this led to general asset-stripping, and exposed Iraqi firms to free competition - meaning that many closed down, putting yet more people out of work. ("The benefits of privatisation and free markets in transition economies are debatable, of course," write Stiglitz and Bilmes in their book; a model of understatement, given that Stiglitz is famous for spelling out the harm sustained by poor countries in his book Globalisation and its Discontents (2002), and lost his job at the World Bank for outspokenly making the argument in the first place.) Many reconstruction jobs, in alignment with US procurement law, went to expensive American firms rather than cheaper Iraqi ones - a further waste of resources (one painting job, for example, cost $25m instead of $5m); these American firms, looking to keep their own costs down and profit margins high, imported cheap labour from such countries as Nepal - even though, at this point, one in two Iraqi men was out of work.

This is not, then, pure neocon ideology at work, says Stiglitz: "Ideology of convenience is a better description." It is an ideology illustrated even more clearly in another fact that Stiglitz can't believe - that Bush put through tax cuts while going to war. In Stiglitz and Bilmes's reading, this was downright underhand. Raising taxes, and resorting to the rhetoric of shared sacrifice used in the world wars, for example, would have made Americans more aware of exactly what the war was costing them, and would have provoked opposition sooner. The solution was to borrow the money, at interest of couple of hundred billion dollars a year, which, by 2017, will add up to another trillion dollars or so. This government will be gone in nine months; subsequent administrations, and generations, will have to pay it off.

At the same time, Stiglitz and Bilmes argue, the Federal Reserve colluded in this obfuscation, because it "kept interest rates lower than they otherwise might have been, and looked the other way as lending standards were lowered, thereby encouraging households to borrow more - and spend more." Alan Greenspan, by this account, encouraged people to take on variable-rate mortgages, even as household savings rates went negative for the first time since the Depression. Individuals were taking on unprecedented debt at the same time as a long housing bubble made them feel wealthy (and less concerned with derring-do abroad) - a scenario echoed on this side of the Atlantic.

As we now know, this couldn't continue - in part because of yet another effect of the war. Whatever the much argued reasons for bombing Baghdad, cheap oil has not been the result. In fact, the price of oil has climbed from $25 a barrel to $100 in the past five years - great for oil companies, and oil-producing countries, who, along with the contractors, are the only beneficiaries of this war, but not for anyone else. After calculations based on futures markets, Stiglitz and Bilmes conclude that a significant proportion of this rise is directly due to the disruptions and instabilities caused by Iraq. This price rise alone has cost the US, which imports about 5bn barrels a year, an extra $25bn per year; projecting to 2015 brings that number to an extra $1.6 trillion on oil alone (against which the recent $125bn stimulus package is simply, as Stiglitz puts it, "a drop in the bucket").

Higher oil prices have a direct effect on family, city and state budgets; they also led to a drop in GDP for the US. When interest rates finally rose in response, hundreds of thousands of home owners found that they were unable to keep up payments, triggering the toxic tsunami of defaulted mortgages that has put the US on the brink of recession and brought down Northern Rock - with all the ramifications for British home owners and banks that that has in turn entailed.

Thus, any idea that war is good for the economy, Stiglitz and Bilmes argue, is a myth. A persuasive myth, of course, and in specific cases, such as world war two, one that has seemed to be true - but in 1939, America and Europe were in a depression; there was all sorts of possible supply in the market, but people didn't have the cash to buy anything. Making armaments meant jobs, more people with more disposable income, and so on - but peacetime western economies these days operate near full employment. As Stiglitz and Bilmes put it, "Money spent on armaments is money poured down the drain"; far better to invest in education, infrastructure, research, health, and reap the rewards in the long term. But any idea that war can be divorced from the economy is also naive. "A lot of people didn't expect the economy to take over the war as the major issue [in the American election]," says Stiglitz, "because people did not expect the economy to be as weak as it is. I sort of did. So one of the points of this book is that we don't have two issues in this campaign - we have one issue. Or at least, the two are very, very closely linked together."

And it is the world economy that is at stake, not just America's. The trillions the rest of the world has shouldered include, of course, the smashed Iraqi economy, the tens of thousands of Iraqi dead, the price, to neighbouring countries, of absorbing thousands of refugees, the coalition dead and wounded (before the war Gordon Brown set aside £1bn; as of late 2007, direct operating costs in Iraq and Afghanistan were £7bn and rising). But the rising price of oil has also meant, accoring to Stiglitz and Bilmes, that the cost to oil-importing industrial countries in Europe and the Far East is now about $1.1 trillion. And to developing countries it has been devastating: they note a study by the International Energy Agency that looked at a sample of 13 African countries and found that rising oil prices have "had the effect of lowering the average income by 3% - more than offsetting all of the increase in foreign aid that they had received in recent years, and setting the stage for another crisis in these countries". Stiglitz made his name by, among other things, criticising America's use of globalisation as a bully pulpit; now he says flatly, "Yes, that's part of being in a global economy. You make a mistake of this order, and it affects people all over the world."

And the borrowed trillions have to come from somewhere. Because "the saving rate [in America] is zero," says Stiglitz, "that means that you have to finance [the war] by borrowing abroad. So China is financing America's war." The US is now operating at such a deficit, in fact, that it doesn't have the money to bail out its own banks. "When Merrill Lynch and Citibank had a problem, it was sovereign funds from abroad that bailed them out. And we had to give up a lot of shares of our ownership. So the largest shareowners in Citibank now are in the Middle East. It should be called the MidEast bank, not the Citibank." This creates a precedent of dependence, "and whether we become dependent on Middle East oil money, or Chinese reserves - it's that dependency that people ought to worry about. That is a big change. The amount of borrowing in the last eight years, on top of the borrowing that began with Reagan - that has all changed the US's economic position in the world."

So quite apart from the war, does he think a particular kind of unfettered market has had its day? "Yes. I think that anybody who believes that the banks know what they're doing has to have their head examined. Clearly, unfettered markets have led us to this economic downturn, and to enormous social problems." Combined with the war, whoever inherits the White House faces a crisis of epic proportions. Where do they go from here? "The way that shapes the debate," says Stiglitz, "is that Americans have to say, 'Even if we stay for another two years, just two years, and we're spending $12bn a month up front in Iraq, and it's costing us another 50% in healthcare, disability, bringing it up to $18bn a month in Iraq, and you look at that in another 24 months, we're talking about half a trillion dollars more for two years - forgetting about the economic cost, the ancillary costs, the social costs - just looking at the budgetary cost - not including the interest - you have to say, is this the way we want to spend a half a trillion dollars? Will it make America stronger? Will it make the Middle East safer? Is this the way we want to spend it?"

Far better, he suggests, to leave rapidly and in a dignified manner, and to spend some of it on helping Iraqis reconstruct their own country - and the rest on investing in and strengthening the American economy, so that it can retain its independence, and have the wherewithal, at least, to play a responsible role in the world. The book ends with a list of 18 specific reforms arising from Stiglitz and Bilmes's discoveries, focusing on exactly how to fund and run a war from now on (depend not on emergency funds and borrowing but on surtaxes, for example, so that voters know exactly what it is they are paying for, and can vote accordingly). He has been approached by Barack Obama as a possible adviser should he reach the White House, although he says, "I've gone beyond the age where I would want to be in Washington full time. I would be interested in trying to help shape the bigger picture issues, and in particular the issues associated with America positioning itself in the new global world, and re-establishing the bonds with other countries that have been so damaged by the Bush administration."

I suggest, as devil's advocate, that to count costs in the way he has, and to advise retrenchment, might be seen as encouraging America to return to isolationism. "No. I think that's fundamentally wrong. The problem with Iraq was that it was the wrong war, and the wrong set of issues. Obama was very good about this. He said, 'I'm not against war - I'm just against stupid wars.' And I feel very much the same way. While we were worried about WMD that did not exist in Iraq, WMD did occur in North Korea. To use an American expression, we took our eye off the ball. And while we were fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan got worse, Pakistan got worse. So because we were fighting battles that we couldn't win, we lost battles that we could have." To discover that those lost battles included better healthcare for millions of Americans, a robust world economy, a healthier and more independent Africa, and a more stable Middle East, seems worth a bit of green-eye-shaded number crunching.

In figures

The amount the US spends on the monthly running costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - on top of regular defence spending

The amount paid by every US household every month towards the current operating costs of the war

The amount Halliburton has received in single-source contracts for work in Iraq

The annual cost to the US of the rising price of oil, itself a consequence of the war

$3 trillion
A conservative estimate of the true cost - to America alone - of Bush's Iraq adventure. The rest of the world, including Britain, will shoulder about the same amount again

Cost of 10 days' fighting in Iraq

$1 trillion
The interest America will have paid by 2017 on the money borrowed to finance the war

The average drop in income of 13 African countries - a direct result of the rise in oil prices. This drop has more than offset the recent increase in foreign aid to Africa

Larry said...

What do you think of this Jim:

The Power Elite Playbook, Government by Gunpoint

Deanna Spingola

Queen Liliuokalani

America’s long-term foreign policy, including passive and/or aggressive regime change, is driven by corporate greed. Trade agreements or “reciprocity treaties” (tariff-free trade akin to economic annexation or the creation of American protectorates) always favor business. These obligatory contracts generally include the exclusive right to extract resources, sell products, and maintain commercial properties and military bases despite the justifiable objections of the native populations. [i] Though foreign interventions became even more frequent after the creation of the CIA, they began over a century ago.

Greedy American sugar growers, eager to expand their Hawaiian production found a compliant duly-elected Hawaiian monarch, Kalākaua who signed the “Bayonet Constitution,” (at the point of a gun) dated July 6, 1887, and written by Hawaii’s Interior Minister Lorrin A. Thurston, an elite resident who considered his white supremacist mentality a form of patriotism. This document reduced the King’s executive power and deprived native Hawaiians of their voting rights. The composition of the Islands in 1890 was: 40,612 native Hawaiians, 27,391 Chinese and Japanese laborers and 6,220 Americans, Britons, Germans, French, Norwegians and Hawaii-born whites who were not the least bit interested in equality. Thurston had set up a secret organization called the Hawaiian League to overthrow the native monarchy. League members, fellow conspirators, were duly installed and controlled Kalākaua’s administration. [ii]

Kalākaua, much to his non compliant sister’s horror, relinquished Pearl Harbor, the best natural port in the Pacific, to the United States. She regarded it as “a day of infamy in Hawaiian history.” She succeeded to the throne after Kalākaua’s death on January 20, 1891. To continue pro-business policies, Thurston was authorized by the Harrison administration to bribe Queen Liliuokalani and each of her like-minded associates with the sum of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. She refused and instead introduced a new constitution restoring native political power and equal voting rights to every resident. [iii] According to her detractors, “democracy” and decision-making were only suitable for the white elite.

Thurston and a group of sugar-stock-owning wealthy, immigrant collaborators, including Samuel Castle, the country’s largest landowner gathered to discuss the situation. In the dark of night, the conspirators visited John L. Stevens, American minister to Hawaii, who “joined an audacious plot to overthrow Hawaii’s queen.” Within a couple of days white land owners rallied; the queen’s supporters also rallied. A 3,000-ton cruiser, the U.S.S. Boston, was at anchor near Pearl Harbor. On January 16, 1893, Ambassador Stevens called on the approximately two hundred armed sailors and marines to disembark in Honolulu. The unwary citizens assumed the American military had been dispatched to protect the monarchy. Quite the contrary, they were “hostile to the monarchy.” The queen resisted but Ambassador Stevens had the support of the obedience-trained U.S. troops. Judge Sanford Dole, grandson of early missionaries, at the request of the conspirators, agreed to take control of a new provisional government which was recognized by the U.S. government within 48 hours. [iv] “Dole took over the duties of ushering in annexation legislation to the U.S. congress. Two attempts by the general population of Hawaii to restore their government resulted in death and fines for the insurgents.” [v]

The will of the people had been overturned in the interests of profit and strategic military operations despite anti-annexation petitions signed by 29,000 native Hawaiians. Those petitions were never seen by the Senate and the issue was never put to a popular vote. Queen Liliuokalani then went to Washington and gave a written statement to John Watson Foster (grandfather of John Foster Dulles) stating that the rebellion in her country occurred because of the actions of the American military. She further stated that the new government did not have the moral or physical support of the Hawaiian people. [vi] “The United States Justice Department has confirmed that Hawaii's 1898 annexation wasn't under the authority of Congress and is therefore illegal.” In addition, the U.S. government signed Public Law #103-150 acknowledging the illegality of the overthrow of the Hawaiian government. Hawaiians didn’t want annexation and never surrendered their sovereignty. [vii]

No matter, a precedent was established. The coup worked without dissent or even knowledge by U.S. citizens. One isolated event is appalling, successive interventions indicate imperialism. History is prologue! Revised historical accounts stifle indignation. Big business profits take priority over people, sheltered by compromised politicians.

General Smedley Darlington Butler, author of War is a Racket, known for his bravery in battle is also distinguished for his courage against those who needlessly drag citizens into war for big business profit. From a long line of Quakers, Butler (born Chester, Pennsylvania, July 30, 1881), enamored with the dashing uniform persuaded his mother to help him join the Marine Corps at the tender age of sixteen following the explosion of the Maine on February 15, 1898 in Havana Harbor. That event led to the Spanish America War, what Theodore Roosevelt’s Secretary of State, John Hay, described as a “splendid little war” which opened up the Caribbean to U.S. influence. The right-wing populist Hearst media empire fanned the flames of hysteria and fear against Spain. Rupert Murdoch owns the contemporary pro-war, ministry of truth media empire. On May 20, 1898, Butler was appointed a second lieutenant then had a “brief period of instruction” at Washington, D.C. before being assigned to the Marine Battalion, North Atlantic Squadron. [viii]

Butler arrived at Santiago, Cuba on July 1, 1898 and then boarded a ship for Guantánamo Bay (southern end of Cuba). He was commissioned a first lieutenant on April 8, 1899 and left four days later with three hundred other Marines for the Philippines. Next, Butler went to another hot spot – northern China. [ix]

The 1842 Treaty of Nanking restricted China’s tariff autonomy. The treaties of Tientsin instituted additional regulations, all designed to benefit foreign companies. Some American products in foreign hands were free from local and national taxes. China was completely dependent on foreign sources of petroleum. By the early 1900s, the Standard Oil Company had recruited Chinese merchants and had developed a complex distribution system throughout China. Standard Oil owned the transport and storage facilities and promoted their petroleum products, especially kerosene for lamps and stoves. Their Asian assets totaled $18 million, most of which were in China. With four hundred million Chinese consumers, limited competition and no taxes or tariffs, Standard Oil profits soared. [x]

By June 1900, resentful Chinese citizens were opposing the foreign powers that had “carved” up the country and whose ships “dominated Chinese ports.” Most egregious were the “entrance signs” posted at the foreigner’s lavish clubs: “Forbidden to dogs and Chinese.” Ultimately, 100,000 troops were required to protect foreign business owners in what became known as the Boxer Rebellion. By August 14, 1900, the rebellion was crushed. [xi] In 1925, because of the nationalist movement, Standard Oil would again seek military intervention from the U.S. government.

American imperialism entails “international military commitments,” and permanent military bases. At the beginning of the twentieth century it also required an increase in manpower – a 300% increase in the Marine Corps was authorized by the business-friendly Congress. [xii] Therefore, Butler reenlisted and on October 31, 1902 was in charge of a company of 101 men who were shipped to Culebra, an island twenty miles east of Puerto Rico allegedly because of trouble in Panama. In 1899, after the Spanish American War, Spain ceded the Philippine Islands, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Guam to the U.S. for $20 million dollars. To facilitate future interventions, the United States, in 1902, established a permanent military base on the Puerto Rican island of Culebra from which Butler, leading his Marines, supported the pro-American president of Honduras, where the United Fruit and Standard Fruit companies had major interests. [xiii]

Sam Zemurray was a U.S. businessman who owned Cuyamel Fruit Company, Standard Fruit and United Fruit. He claimed that a mule in Honduras “cost more than a congressman.” He supported the 1911 coup in Honduras – at about the same time that Philander Knox brokered a sweet loan deal between J. P. Morgan and the struggling Honduras government. [xiv] Zemurray’s companies owned most of the fertile land, the ports, electric power plants, sugar mills and the largest bank. In exchange for these generous concessions, he promised to construct a 1000 mile railway network. He didn’t! The only rail lines he built were the ones used exclusively for his business. His business monopoly and the resulting succession of corrupt, complicit politicians, both in Honduras and the U.S. have kept native citizens suppressed, miserably poor and dependent for decades. U.S. interventions in Honduras, over almost a century, have inflicted poverty, violence, and instability – a “heartrending situation.” [xv] Apparently “liberty and justice for all” is just meaningless rhetoric or is simply reserved for more “special people.”

Theodore Roosevelt became president after McKinley's assassination. Other presidents had long dreamed of a canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific. Roosevelt, a pragmatist, felt that a canal was practical, vital and indispensable to the globalist destiny of supremacy over U.S. coastal waters. The globalist goal, even then, was U.S. control of key islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific. [xvi] Roosevelt was a proponent of a doctrine proposed by U.S. naval officer and scholar Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840-1914), in his 1890 book Influence of Sea Power upon History. The theory was that supremacy at sea was an integral part of commercial and military prowess. Mahan’s supremacy mentality also included the Indian Ocean and islands like Diego Garcia which the U.S. currently controls. Mahan said: “whoever attains maritime supremacy in the Indian Ocean (third largest in the world) would be a prominent player on the international scene.” [xvii]

An ideal canal site was Nicaragua, a pro-American country, led by President José Santos Zelaya, a progressive nationalist, highly praised by U.S. officials. However, he fell into disfavor immediately after the U.S. changed canal sites. Earlier, a Paris-based syndicate attempted to build a canal on a large tract of Panamanian land that they owned which they now wanted to sell. The best potential buyer was the U.S. government. In 1898, to facilitate this sale, the syndicate hired New York lawyer, William Nelson Cromwell of the law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell, to lobby Congress to build their canal across Panama instead of Nicaragua. Planted news items, scare tactics and a $60 thousand dollar contribution to the Republican Party were enough to defeat the Nicaragua Bill in favor of the Panama route. Cromwell collected a sizable $800,000 fee for his efforts. There was, however, one problem – Panama was a province of Columbia. [xviii] Interestingly, John Foster Dulles, future Secretary of State, began his legal career as a law clerk at Sullivan and Cromwell.

To gain unfettered access to Panama, Roosevelt and the State Department orchestrated a rebellion against Columbia by some Panamanian “revolutionaries” and then used “American troops to prevent the Columbian army from reestablishing control.” Two American warships were close at hand: the Nashville and the Dixie. Four hundred marines from the Dixie went ashore. Maj. John Lejeune landed his marine battalion on November 5, 1903. Within three days from the inception of the “brazen gunboat diplomacy” Washington officials recognized their hand-picked rebels as leaders of a new Republic of Panama. [xix] Butler participated in that rebellion against Colombia which resulted in Panama’s declaration of “independence.” Less than two weeks later Panama ceded the ten-mile-wide strip that would become the Panama Canal Zone to the United States. [xx] The U.S. paid the French syndicate $40 million (reduced from $109 million) and paid $10 million to Panama. Work on the canal began on May 4, 1904. The canal was formally opened on August 15, 1914.

Roosevelt, in his corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, claimed that America had a right to wield a “big stick” against any country in the western hemisphere that merited such intervention. William Howard Taft, his successor, closer to big business, chose as his Secretary of State, a corporate attorney, Philander Knox (he falsely declared the 16th amendment ratified in 1913). Knox had spent years representing big business – he was counsel for Carnegie and Vanderbilt and their corporate enterprises. [xxi]

The Fletcher brothers were also favored Knox clients. They owned La Luz and the Los Angeles Mining Company, which had gold mining concessions in Nicaragua. One brother, Gilmore, managed the business and the other brother, Henry conveniently worked at the State Department. Both disliked President Zelaya who had threatened to terminate the La Luz concession. Based on the Fletcher’s recommendations, Knox viewed his options on getting rid of Zelaya. It didn’t help that Zelaya “signed an agreement to borrow £1.25 million from European banks” to finance a project. Knox’s attempts to quash those loans failed. Knox orchestrated “a campaign designed to turn American public opinion against Zelaya” who was vilified as the “menace of Central America” who had “imposed a reign of terror in Nicaragua.” [xxii] Does this scenario sound familiar? In addition, American troops could and would be used against the duly-elected president of Nicaragua.

President Taft also used “dollar diplomacy.” Foreign governments would have nothing to fear if they allowed “free rein” to American businesses and only sought loans from American banks. In 1909, President Zelaya (born November 1, 1853, in Managua, Nicaragua) rejected those conditions – “a political death sentence.” [xxiii] The U.S. gave financial support to his opponent, General Juan José Estrada, and otherwise made threats to him as noted in the New York Times, dated March 21, 1909. [xxiv] General Estrada declared himself president of Nicaragua on October 10, 1909, a revolt that was apparently financed through the La Luz mining company. Zelaya officially resigned on 17 December 1909 and left his homeland, never to return. He later lived in New York City where he was hunted down, accused and arrested for the murder of two American citizens who were duly executed as reported in the New York Times on November 25, 1913. [xxv] He died on May 17, 1919, in his apartment in New York City. His people loved and respected him and never accepted Estrada.

Major Smedley D. Butler was in command of the Marines' Panama battalion; sufficiently close to make frequent incursions into Nicaragua to meddle in their national politics. On August 14, 1912, Butler led the Marines ashore in Nicaragua, to force General Estrada out of office. [xxvi] Estrada, who apparently failed to satisfy his sponsors, was replaced by his vice president, Adolfo Díaz, the former chief accountant of Fletcher’s La Luz Mining Company. “Secretary of State Knox immediately arranged for two New York banks, Brown Brothers and J. and W. Seligman, to lend Nicaragua $15 million and take over the country’s customs agency to guarantee repayment.” [xxvii] “In later life, Butler would recall most shamefully the American manipulation of blatantly corrupt presidential elections in 1912. Butler's intrinsic personal honor was deeply offended by the growing interference of the American military in the economic and political life of Central America; he was beginning to recognize exploitative connections that would become increasingly inescapable as he matured. “It is terrible that we should be losing so many men,” he wrote to his wife, “all because Brown Brothers have some money down here.” [xxviii]

jmsjoin said...

It's funny! I had this conversation yesterday with Jerome and Danny. We have discussed this too before and I usually use $6 trillion but I hate to tell them that too is grossly underestimated. You have to remember this middle east and world mess is just starting.
Those numbers do not include the cost of long term growing commitment in the middle east, Bush's definite attack on Iran, More help for Israel, and the resultant Forever war.

jmsjoin said...

You know the guy is brain dead but he can not be this stupid. He plays the role well though! He knows where this is headed but he has to ignore it until he can take control!

TomCat said...

Jim, stop back by my place, please. There's something for you in the top article today. You left as I was posting it.

jmsjoin said...

To me it started just prior to that and we lost out so began playing catch up! Remember?
The Berlin Conference (German: Kongokonferenz or "Congo Conference") of 1884–85 regulated European colonization and trade in Africa during the New Imperialism period, and coincided with Germany's sudden emergence as an imperial power. Called for by Portugal and organized by Otto von Bismarck, the first Chancellor of Germany, its outcome, the General Act of the Berlin Conference, is often seen as the formalization of the Scramble for Africa.
Anyway, what we started in Panama was just the beginning as you know. It continues worse than ever today under Bush like everything else and will get worse.
You know, speaking of Panama and thinking how beat Malaria to build the canal makes me ask what I was thinking last week when the chief idiot was there bragging about supplying mosquito nets. If he really wanted to do something for them he'd get rid of the damn problem. Mosquito nets, what the hell do they do the rest of the time?

jmsjoin said...

Alright tc I'm on my way!

TomCat said...

Jim, re your comment at my place, there's an email link in my profile. If you send me your phone number, I can call you and talk you through the process. I have Vonage, so doing so will cost me nothing.

jmsjoin said...

Give me a minute and I'll be right there! Thank you, Thank You, Thank You!