REALIGNING THE ANTI-WAR DISCOURSE
Maxspeak's point about not needing a "permission slip" a la Bush's SOT(dis)U 2004 is well taken. This was the frailness of the anti-war and fence-sitting Democratic position back in October 2002-March 2003, essentially the Republicans had trapped them in a discursive "lock box" that's difficult to escape from. The Rs are arguing two points at the same time: (1) that Iraq was a threat to national security, and (2) that the ends justify the means, which is the point alluded to here with Bush's revisionist justification for war--that Iraqi's are better off today not under a maniacal dictator. Argument one is a loser for D's, not because they were wrong that Iraq posed no threat (or was contained, as Collin Powell asserted), but because for better or worse to most Americans the question is no longer relevant. What is relevant is that we have not reached the liberal democracy "ends" implicitly promised by the revisionist justification and these ends are not attainable by any means the Bush administration has or is likely to pursue.
Unconventional wisdom on global political economy.
Saturday, January 31, 2004
REALIGNING THE ANTI-WAR DISCOURSE
Friday, January 30, 2004
SHOUT OUT TO MAXSPEAK.ORG
Thanks to my colleague Maxspeak, who shall remain marginally anonymous, for publicizing my blog. No one I know has a better knack for standing conventional lefty wisdom on its head [I should add: while also reasserting the validity of progressive principles]--and doing so with eye-opening, compelling logic. Thanks to Maxspeak, GLOBALIZE THIS! enjoyed record-breaking traffic today (probably more than in our entire previous existence).
I considered giving Maxspeak a plug, but everyone is coming here from his page. So you already know the value he adds to the public debate, no matter what your political ilk.
THE BUSH HEALTH CARE PLAN: DEREGULATORY AGENDA UNDER A NEW, SOFTER BANNER
President pro tem Bush yesterday outlined his vision for fixing the American health care system. The proposals, though, had little to do with the real problems in health care (runaway prescription drug prices, tens of millions without access to health care, and millions more on the cusp of losing health care due to rising costs and and insecure job market), and more to do with advancing the ongoing Republican agenda to create tax shelters for the rich and to prevent regular people from seeking retribution from big corporations through the civil justice system.
"Yesterday I gave a talk about how to continue economic vitality. One of them is to help controlling costs of health care. There's way to do that without nationalizing health care. I'm absolutely convinced if the federal government tries to run the health care system, it will foul it up -- people will get lousy care, the doctor-patient relationship will be destroyed, and the cost of medicine will go up. I believe in -- I believe in allowing small businesses to pool risk across association health plans in order to control costs. I believe in expanding health savings accounts for Americans, which will create cost savings in the system. I believe we need medical liability reform all across America to get rid of the junk lawsuits that raise the cost of medicine. "
I'm not sure about the rationale for not having a single-payer system: people already get lousy care (or none at all), and the cost of medicine is skyrocketing (just since Bush took office, medical care costs are up 13.5%, versus 5% overall increase in the CPI).
It's not a bad idea to allow small businesses to buy into larger insurance pools, but there is really no justification for believing that personal savings accounts will create cost savings in the health care system. All that would do is allow people with high enough incomes to be able to shelter their earnings from income taxes. So the rich pay less taxes, the poor still pay taxes (because their marginal propensity to save is near zero or even negative), shoulder more of the tax burden, but still cannot afford health care.
On the "junk lawsuits" issue, the Fortune 500 companies and indutry associations behind the American Tort Reform Association would like to limit you to a maximum $250,000 in awards should, for example, someone you love die while in the care of a hospital that maintains unsafe nurse to patient ratios in order to improve their bottom line...or, say, a doctor performs unneccessary heart surgery on you and scores of other patients, and his employer knows but takes no action to keep him from practicing. (Sadly, these things really happen).
I'm not defending trial lawyers. Without being a legal expert, it's plain to see there are real problems in the system that should be fixed. But simply exonerating big corporations (who patronize the president) from an culpability is clearly not the way to go to help people.
MORE STRAIGHT TALK ON IRAQ FROM OUR COMMANDER IN CHIEF
President pro tem Bush, along with President Kwasniewski of Poland, fielded reporters' questions on Tuesday:
Q Mr. President, a year ago you said the dictator of Iraq has got weapons of mass destruction. Are you still confident that weapons of mass destruction will be found in Iraq, given what Dr. Kay has said?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me first compliment Dr. Kay for his work. I appreciate his willingness to go to Iraq and I appreciate his willingness to gather facts. And the Iraq Survey Group will continue to gather facts.
There is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was a gathering threat to America and others. That's what we know. We know from years of intelligence -- not only our own intelligence services, but other intelligence gathering organizations -- that he had weapons -- after all, he used them. He had deep hatred in his heart for people who love freedom. We know he was a dangerous man in a dangerous part of the world. We know that he defied the United Nations year after year after year. And given the events of September the 11th, we know we could not trust the good intentions of Saddam Hussein, because he didn't have any.
There is no doubt in my mind the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein. America is more secure, the world is safer, and the people of Iraq are free.
Hmmm...That's not really an answer to the question. But, reading between the lines here, I'd have to say that's an astounding "not confident."
Thursday, January 29, 2004
WERE WE ALMOST ALL WRONG?
If you haven't heard by now, Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction and posed no imminent threat when Bush led the US to war, according to David Kay, formerly President Bush's chief weapons inspector in Iraq.
That can't be good, and now the Bush administration (including Kay) is circling the wagons:
Kay defended President Bush and laid blame on the intelligence community.
Let's call this the memory hole strategy: hope that no one remembers exactly what Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, and others told us about the status of Iraq and their use of intelligence in justifying the rush for war. After all, that debate happened over a year ago, and g-d knows there's been an abundance of Survivor and American Idol viewing with which to displace America's collective memory in the meantime.
Fortunately, the good people at the Center for American Progress have compiled this handy little timeline, complete with links to original White House press releases and transcripts and other primary sources.
It's not so clear cut that American (and foreign) intelligence agencies handed Bush faulty information which prompted him to war and the ensuing fiasco in Iraq. After all, Colin Powell paraded scores of photographs of purported WMDs before the UN Security Council.
Rather, intelligence was an ex post facto justification for a forgone policy decision to attack Iraq made on September 12, 2001 (see Bob Woodward's shameless told-directly-from-the-mouth-of-the-administration Bush at War for evidence of this--though I implore you to read it at the book store, borrow it from the library, or steal it--don't waste your hard earned money on this tripe).
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
I'm really moving into the 21st Century. Last week I got a TV and cable. Today, I figured out how to allow Globalize This! readers to post comments. What a world.
WHO SAYS NEW ENGLAND LIBERALS ARE STODGY?
That looks like an empty bottle of Jim Beam left over from yesterday's victory celebration in New Hampshire.
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
HOW POPULAR IS BUSH?
This popular, according to the BBC: 0
"As one voter put it, she would vote for her cat if she thought it could defeat the president. "
They always seem the strongest right before the fall.
Sometimes you forget this man is supposed to look out for the interests of 293 million people:
Strong-armed by President Bush, members of the U.S. Senate last
week backed off a filibuster against this year's government
spending bill they were holding up because it failed to block
the Bush overtime pay take-away. Bush had threatened to veto the
bill if it included an overtime pay protection guarantee for
America's workers, even though both houses of Congress voted to
block the overtime pay cuts in earlier votes. The Bush Labor
Department is expected to announce an implementation date for
the overtime pay take-away before March 1.
SCORE ONE FOR INTERNET dEMOCRACY
The World Economic Forum, a.k.a. Davos, is what is affectionately known in some circles as the Capitalist Cabal--a clandestine tryst where the world's most powerful barons of industry, financiers, and political scions convene behind closed doors to plot the course of the global political economy.
For a few years now, civil society organizers from across the globe have convened a World Social Forum in an attempt to push back on the social pendelum in the direction of dEMOCRACY, while a few political actors "invited to amuse, surprise and, within moderation, attack, the gathered throng" at Davos are allowed in to plead with the rich for mercy upon the destitute and impoverished in the world.
"Okay, so let me say this one more time. All we are asking for is to be able to eat and to send our kids to school and not to be plagued by AIDS and malaria anymore. Deal?"
In the past, some business leaders questioned why a World Social Forum was necessary at all? Why couldn't everyone just like, ya know, meet together? How can one be so powerful and yet so naiive?
Here's what happens when we try to get together: human rights violations
But according to the latest from the Int'l Herald Tribune, internet dEMOCRACY pierced the veil of Davos:
"Davos has now been breached by the blog," said Joichi Ito, chief executive of Neoteny Co., a venture capital firm based in Japan. "Anyone interacting with my blog gets past the guards."
...For some, however, such obsessive use of communications technology totally misses the point of meeting in Davos. Its isolation is exactly what is needed to have room to think, they say.
One perk of being invited to Davos is a goody bag of gifts, including regularly the latest and most poewrful in handheld PDA computing technology. That these global leaders (and their minions who marshall such international summits) did not forsee that insiders would blog-broadcast Davos into the outside world kind of makes you wonder how they got to be in charge in the first place.
The best cure for the pathologies of avarice and power-lust is sunshine, by blog or any other means. A special thanks to my gracious supporters at blogger and kudos to bloggers of all political persuasions.
Friday, January 23, 2004
FLASH POINT CHINA?
Forget Iraq, China may be the biggest threat to U.S. national (and economic) security.
In 1949, ousted president of the Republic of China, Chiang Kai-Shek (affectionately known as 'Mr. Peanut'), led his Nationalist Party (KMT) dominated Republic of China government (ROC) and droves of capitalists and freedom loving Chinese to the island of Taiwan, some 70 miles southeast of the Chinese mainland. With the ascent of Communist China, the exiled KMT--previously viewed as corrupt and incompetent--took on great importance in the Cold War (remember the domino theory?) as 'Free China.' Mao Tsetung's People's Liberation Army was closing in fast on Taiwan, so U.S. President Harry Truman ordered the Seventh Fleet to the Straits of Taiwan, which made Mao think twice about trying to take the island by force.
Brief digression on Taiwan: After years of often brutal Japanese colonization (1895-1945), Taiwan's economy was about the size of that of the entire mainland at the time of the KMT's retreat. The Taiwanese were doing okay in the post-WWII years and were not too keen on playing host to the mainlanders exiled on their island (which is only about 250 miles long). Opposition to their arrival was easy for the KMT to handle. They slaughtered Taiwan's indigenous elites, paving the way for 25+ years of one-party rule with the tacit military and economic support of the U.S. government.
This standoff persists over the status of Taiwan persists to this day, and negotiating the diplomatic path between China and Taiwan is growing increasingly tenuous. Ever since, China has maintained, in the words of Chou En-Lai "the fact that Taiwan is part of China will remain unchanged forever." This is the 'One China Policy.' Despite Taiwan being a de facto independent nation, any disruption to the 'One China' as such smacks the mainland as akin to an attack on Fort Sumter.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger added another layer of complexity to this conundrum when, in 1972, as a ploy against the Soviet Union, they decided to stop recognizing Taiwan and to recognize the People's Republic of China instead, allowing the PRC to assume a whole host of powers at the United Nations Security Council, and other institutions throughout the international system.
Tensions between Taiwan and China rank probably just behind global tinder boxes like the 38th Parallel dividing Korea, the disputed Kashmir region of India and Pakistan, the West Bank, and anything coming between Rush Limbaugh and a fresh batch of Krispy Kremes. There have been a number of skirmishes over the years, but all out war has always been averted thanks to U.S. intervention and an unrelenting drive to sell Taiwan more arms than an NRA wet dream, thus elevating the cost of war for China.
But eventually, something has to give. And when it does, the United States will be caught smack in the middle of the increasingly important economic powerhouse of the PRC and our democratic ally (and another critical economy) in the ROC, not entirely unlike the bind in which Great Britain found itself when Germany decided to invade Poland back in 1939. And you know how that turned out.
I SCOOP PAUL KRUGMAN
Yeah, I nabbed him on the threat of e-voting. Not to gloat. I'm a fan of Krugman's. At least Krugman in the NYT circa 2001 to present.
Just wanted y'all to know Globalize This! keeps you on the cutting edge.
Thursday, January 22, 2004
OUR DEMOCRACY IS DOOMED WHEN THE PENTAGON STARTS RUNNING ELECTIONS
The new internet voting system developed by the DOD, euphamistically acronymed SERVE is fatally flawed. Among the findings of IT experts charged to review the system:
_There is no way to verify that the vote recorded inside the system is the same as the one cast by the voter.
_It might be possible for hackers to determine how a particular individual voted, "an obvious privacy risk."
_The system may be vulnerable to attacks from many quarters, some undetectable.
One of the fundamental tenets of our society is the separation of military and civilian authority. That's what separates the United States government from, say, those in Libya, Pakistan, Colombia, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, and so forth. Our democracy is deeply flawed, though seriously better than almost every other system of national government witnessed in the world (to badly paraphrase Winston Churchill). This is a disturbing step IN THE WRONG DIRECTION.
Especially when the corporation developing these electronic systems is a major donor to the Republican Party, electronic voting has the potential to make the 2000 Florida debacle look like quite orderly and fair democracy.
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Thursday, January 15, 2004
BUSH IN SPACE
Let me say this right off the bat. I'm all for NASA. NASA is not an ideological issue (for me, at least, but don't tell Grover Norquist I said that). I'm all for the government funding serious research and development in aerospace. Absent an explicit industrial policy, the US economy benefits greatly from scientific advances acheived by NASA researchers, take for example the US aerospace, telecommunications and microcomputing industries. Real people benefit, too, as these technological advances are adapted by private industry and disseminated throughout society--from satellite TV and Gore-tex to advances in medicine and astronaut ice cream (and, for my old high school friend KH, a shout out to the ball point space pen). Consider that some people now have more technology embedded in their coffee maker than was used to land a space ship on the moon.
However, it is with much reservation that I receive Bush's ambitious announcement of an expanded space program with the goals of establishing a colony on the moon and landing humans on Mars. At face value, it sounds pretty cool. But once we apply the cynic's lens what at first seems visionary, is tainted as more Quixotic and duplicitous.
Right Idea, Wrong Goals
So the space program is a great venture in which for our government to engage. Call me crazy, but I think that NASA scientists and others active in the community of scholars are better suited to determine an agenda for scientific research and space exploration than some politician who, throughout his life, has demonstrated a flacid intellectual curiousity for the world around him.
Think back to the unfortunate accident that ended the space shuttle Challenger and its crew's service in March 2002. All the talking heads, science pundits and pocket-protector-wearing experts were telling us that--in this day and age of computers, robotics and telecommunications technology--manned space flight was a thing of the past. Far more could be learned at far less cost and risk through unmanned space exploration. So why campaign for renewed manned space exploration and why now? (And oddly, why shun international cooperation in space by abandonning our partners in the international space station?)
Wag the Dog
No question the proposition of man's conquest of Mars carries a lot of razzle-dazzle that will enamor Joe Voter and shift the media focus away from Bush's ever-deteriorating operation in Iraq and his failure to do anything about the woeful jobs situation and economic insecurity faced by most Americans.
Bush also would like to fill all the news holes with distractions from the democratic process by which Americans will choose the man (I can say this now that Carol Mosely-Braun, the screed, has dropped out) to lead the challenge to the Bush regime in 2004. This is pretty simple: the less media attention they get, the less opportunity Democratic candidates get to highlight Bush's failures as President, the more Bush is in the spotlight.
Unspoken Long-term Agenda
There is a tinge of the military-industrial complex enshrouding the whole space program and its lucrative contracts. But this remains the same whether the space agenda is manned or unmanned. The proposed mission to Mars is merely a trojan horse; the real prize here is an openning for Bush to pursue an agenda of militarizing space "to control the destiny of the entire Earth" and the gobs of military contracts for Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, Haliburton, and Raytheon that go along with a space defense system--you know, the one that is designed to protect us from the threat that no longer exists. WAKE UP CHENEY AND RUMSFELD, WE ARE NO LONGER FIGHTING THE RUSKIES. On the other had, a space defense system will some day protect us from the inter-continental ballistic missiles that Bush's defense hawks will some day sell to Al Qaeda when they are run out of office and return to private industry.
The second unspoken agenda is that of bankrupting the American government so that it becomes so emaciated Grover Norquist can realize his wet dream of drowning it in the bath tub, no doubt while rubbing hand lotion all over his body (I know it sounds gross, but check out the link earlier in this posting). This has been dubbed the "Starving the Beast" strategy, which underlies the crux of the Bush administration's domestic agenda.
Essentially, STB is driven by ideological anarchists like Norquist who think governments should do nothing but defend the property of rich people and consists of creating crises (or sometimes the appearance of crises) in every facet of society (public education, health care, social security, and so on) so that the Right has an excuse to kill or privatize government programs. President Bush, with his budget-busting upper class tax giveaways, is delivering these Right-wing anarchists the covetted prize of bankrupting the federal government. A mission to Mars will add billions to NASA's already $86 billion five year budget, which is a tad under 0.1% of GDP. Not a huge cost, but not insignificant--and every additional buck pushes the government ever closer to starving the beast until the government becomes insolvent.