In this entry I am going to share with you comments and quotes from some of the most important books that I have used in my entries. This is a long entry but it addresses many issues so you can choose the titles or issues of your preference to focus on what really is of your interest.
At the end, another picture from Aspca and the poll. I have left the issue ‘health care and the budgetary restrictions’ for my next entry.
This entry is about quotes and comments of books I have used in my previous entries. I cannot discuss every book I have ever used (I.e., I am not discussing here the excellent book ‘What's the matter with Kansas? how conservatives won the heart of America’ by Frank, Thomas). I am not discussing ‘Hate Crimes Revisited. America’s war on those who are different’ by Jack Levin and Jack McDevitt as I have alredy quoted and discussed it in my entry ‘Destroy them humanely’ (http://www.dailykos.com/...). I am not discussing either internet publications like this e two milestone papers I have consistently used on economic analysis of immigration: ‘Rethinking the gains from immigration: Theory and evidence from U.S.’ by Gianmarco I.P. Ottaviano and Giovanni Peri (2005) and ‘Rise, peak, and decline: Trends in U.S. immigration’ by Jeffrey S. Passel and Robert Suro (2005).
Maybe the quotes of commentaries could be the point from which any of you can find new and better ways to spread light on many issues and help create the base Obama needs to be the transformative president we all want but who will not be able to be if we turn lazy and get used to shallow messages of 140-characters. Conservatives feel comfortable with a debate reduced to an exchange of slogans. Liberals cannot expect to reframe the parameters of the debate following such path.
American Theocracy. The peril and politics of radical religion, oil, and borrowed money in the 21st Century. Kevin P. Phillips. Thorndike Press, NY, 2006.
This is the most important book I have ever read about America. Kevin Phillips goes through several historical precedents and make relevant parallels with our energy policy, our overindebted economy and the role played by radical religion to restrict the educative options that could let us find a way out of the current crisis. From his milestone book I am extracting the following quotes:
"However, even in these government circles, optimists put the peak of global oil production only a bit closer to the middle of the century –say, 2025 to 2035- than to its beginning. That still left the United States of 2025 in the difficult position of needing to import roughly three-quarters of an expected thirty million barrels per day of consumption. At the same time, environmental experts emphasized yet another aging process; the global climate change caused by twentieth-century manufacturing and energy consumption, which overloaded the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. An abrupt climate-change scenario, released by the Pentagon in 2003 but quickly disavowed by the White House, discussed the potential peril to U.S. national security from rising world energy consumption and the likelihood of resource wars."
"As the dust of the first Gulf War settled, oil companies from Texas to China began wondering which among them would gain access when the United Nations sanctions were lifted. By 1995 The Wall Street Journal and other publications were reporting the American fear: that if Saddam Hussein could escape UN sanctions and give Iraq’s lush concessions to non-Anglo-American companies, he could realign the global oil business.
In the meantime, UN sanctions were essential in preventing Iraq from exporting oil beyond the middling amount allowed and also in preventing competitive foreign investments. So long as the United States and Britain could keep these sanctions in place, using allegations concerning weapons of mass destruction, Saddam could not implement his own plan to extend large-scale oil concessions (estimated to be worth $1.1 trillion) to French, Russian, Chinese, and other oil companies. Most analysis concluded that he hoped to enlist those three nations, which had seats on the UN Security Council, to get the sanctions lifted.
As the buzzards circled, Iraq became the prize piece to complete three interrelated Washington jigsaw puzzles: the rebuilding of Anglo-American oil-company reserves, transformation of Iraq into an oil protectorate-cum-military base, and reinforcement of the global hegemony of the U.S. dollar. This brings us to the next critical set of maps, the ones used in 2001 by Vice President Dick Cheney’s National Energy Policy Development Group to mesh America’s energy needs with a twenty-first-century national-security blueprint. This group pursued a mandate, in collaboration with the National Security Council, to deal with rogue states and "actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields."
Never intended for public scrutiny, the three Middle East maps and their supporting documents came to light in the summer of 2003 under a federal court order. The most pertinent displayed Iraq’s oil fields, pipelines, and refineries, with a supporting list of "foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfields Contracts." As of 2001, more than sixty firms from thirty countries –most prominently France, Russia, and China, but also India, Japan, Indonesia, Canada, and Germany- had projects either agreed upon or under discussion with Baghdad. Nothing could have been less popular in Washington or London."
"By 2003 experts had described Exxon Mobil’s production as flat since 1999. The 1997-1998 reports of foreign rivals angling for Iraq’s concessions would have magnified the fears of US and British oil executives who read or even half believed Campbell, Laherrére, and their colleagues. All of this would have backstopped a 2000-2002 sense of Iraq-as-solution.
Come the new administration, few energy insiders would have been surprised when Cheney took the point. By early 2001, the situation he had addressed in 1999 had substantially worsened. It was now known that in 1998 the United States for the first time had imported more than half of the petroleum it consumed. Data for 2001 showed the United States having surpassed Europe as an importer of Middle Eastern oil. The winter of 2000-2001 had seen natural-gas prices spike in the United States, while oil prices jumped to thirty dollars per barrel.
Charged with interweaving energy policy and national security, Cheney’s team ranged far afield [sic]. No transcripts exist, and few public explanations have come from those involved, but Paul Roberts, in The End of Oil, contended that in the spring of 2001 Cheney and other strategists
'pored over maps of Iraqi oil fields to estimate how much Iraqi oil might be dumped quickly on the market. Before the war, Iraq had been producing 3.5 million barrels a day, and many in the industry and the administration believed that the volume could easily be increased to seven million by 2010. If so- and if Iraq could be convinced to ignore its OPEC quota and start producing at maximum capacity- the flood of new oil would effectively and OPEC’s ability to control prices. As supply expanded, prices would fall dramatically, and not even the Saudis with their crying revenue needs would be able to cut production deeply enough to stop the slide. Caught between falling revenues and escalating debts, the Saudis, too, would be forced to open their oil fields to Western oil companies, as would other OPEC countries.'
Naïve as this seems in retrospect, it may have been Cheney’s hope. He certainly understood the US oil industry’s anxiety. Prime Minister Blair’s government, ever intimate with British Petroleum and Royal Dutch/Shell, would have had a similar set of concerns. BP, mindful of oil resource depletion, was already preoccupied with alternative fuels to take on yet another nickname: "Beyond Petroleum." After the Iraq war, Blair’s environment minister, Michael Meacher, who had resigned in protest, described the clouds gathering in British energy skies: "Four months ago [autumn 2003], Britain’s oil imports overtook its exports, underlining a decline in North Sea oil production that was already well under way. North Sea oil output peaked at about 2.9 billion barrels per day in 1999, and has been predicted to fall to only 1.6 million bpd by 2007"
Like many others, Meacher also cited the estimates made by the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas and was glum about the chance of meeting the expanded global need Cheney had cited in 1999.The former British minister summed up: "These [late 2003] calculations place the coming oil crunch some time between 2010 and 2015, perhaps earlier. The reserves in the world’s super-giant and giant oilfields are dwindling at an average rate of 4-6 per cent a year. No more big frontier regions remain to be explored except the north and south poles. The production of non-conventional crude oil has already been initiated at enormous costs in Venezuela’s Orinoco belt and Canada’s Athabasca tar sands and ultra-deep waters. Yet no major primary energy alternative can replace oil and gas in the short-to-medium term.
While the constituency pressures pushing Bush, Blair, Cheney, and Rumsfeld toward war were evident, the endgame urgings of the major US oil corporations were less clear. Although the giant firms left many partial firgerprints on task forces and meetings later officially denied by the White House, even critics differed over what the corporations sought. The money, prestige, and reserves at stake were beyond dispute. WereWxxon Mobil, Chevron Texaco, BP, and Royal Dutch/Shell to divide up Iraq, their receipts over several decades would be in the trillions of dollars.
Although no oil-company or governments estimates were made public, James Paul of the Global Policy Forum offered these estimates: "Iraq’s oil is the cheapest to produce, at a cost of only about $1 per barrel. The gigantic ‘rent’ on Iraq’s oil, during decades of production, could yield company profits in the range of $4-5 trillion... Assuming fifty years of production and 40% royalties, Iraq would yield annual profits of $80-90 billion per year, more than the total annual profits of the top five companies, even in the banner year of 2003.
Such a windfall would have sent oil companies’ stock prices soaring. In January 2004, when Royal Dutch/Shell had to reduce its worldwide reserves estimates by 20 percent –from 19.3 billion barrels to 15.4 billion- its stock and market capitalization immediately dropped by 7 percent. Were any of the giants get long-term control of one of the 15- to 30- billion-barrel Iraqi megafields, even that large a company could roughly double its reserves. That, in turn, could increase their market capitalization by 40 to 60 percent, obviously a boom to shareholders. No company management could do other that join in planning for such a possibility."
"As with Charles Kimball’s five criteria for the mutation of religion, I believe that a yardstick can be set up for Rome, Hapsburg Spain, the Dutch Republic, Britain, and the United States that isolates and profiles five critical symptoms of decline in the past leasing world economic powers. Just as Kimball’s five criteria are broadly framed and need not all be present simultaneously –one or two, he says, can be enough to suggest trouble- likewise for these five symptoms of a power already at its peak and starting to decline. These broad categories are mine, in no firm order and based on research for several of my books over two decades. However, the relevant history has many sources and confirmations.
One symptom is widespread public concern over cultural and economic decay, with its many corollaries. The second is a growing religious fervor, church-state relationship, or crusading insistence. Next comes a rising commitment to faith as opposed to reason and a corollary downplaying of science. Fourth, we often find a considerable popular anticipation of a millennial time frame: an epochal battle, emergence of the antichrist, or belief in an imminent second coming or Armageddon. Last, empires are often prone to a hubris-driven national strategic and military overreach, often pursuing abstract international missions that the nation can no longer afford, economically or politically.
I have not included high debt in this set of symptoms, partly because it seems a familiar facet of a great-power economic aging, but principally because it is the subject of part 3 of this book. In its most deadly form, debt accompanies corrupt politics, hubris, and international overreach and then –as we shall see- becomes crippling in its own right."
"Meanwhile, the bigger message –depressingly reminiscent of our imperial predecessors- is that science in the United States is already in trouble. Money is draining out, with dire consequences. Intel chairman Andrew Grove says critical scientific-infrastructure spending is being neglected, and the premier research universities are losing their edge. Susan Hockfield, the president of MIT, says: "We’re falling behind. We’re not keeping up with other countries. The science and math scores for our high school graduates are disastrous. We’re underfunding research in the physical sciences and lagging seriously on publications in these sciences" Stanford professor Irving Weisman, a stem-cell research, told The Boston Globe, "You are going to start picking up Nature and Science and all the great journals, and you are going to read about how South Koreans and Chinese and Singaporeans are making advances the rest of us can’t even study."
In 2005 the Business-Higher Education Forum released new data showing that fifteen-year-old Americans are worse at problem solving then their peers in twenty-five countries. Something else young Americans don’t seem to understand –perhaps not surprisingly- is evolution. In 1993 an international social survey ranked Americans last –behind Bulgaria and Slovenia- in knowledge of the basic facts of evolution.
Part of the explanation involves the religious right’s larger view of economic matters and the dismantling of government. In the radical Texas Republican platform adopted in 2004, the Lone Star GOP was not content to call for abolishing the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy; it also demanded the abolition of the Internal Revenue Service and the elimination of the income tax, the payroll tax, and state and local property taxes. Apparently the White House was not embarrassed.
We have seen in precious chapters that evangelicals, Southern Baptist Convention adherents, and others oppose government social and economic programs because they interfere with a person’s individual responsibility for his or her salvation."
"In 1971 Washington stopped letting foreign central banks exchange their dollars for gold, thereby creating a buildup of excess U.S. currency in Europe –the advent of Eurodollars. This supercharged the foreign-exchange markets. In 1974 the U.S. government convinced Saudi Arabia and OPEC to price oil in dollars, which to some extent put the U.S. dollar on an oil standard. Many so-called petrodollars received in oil payments were invested through U.S. banks, recycling some of the benefits of higher oil prices.
In 1978 the U.S. Supreme Court decided in the Marquette case to deregulate credit-card interest-rates –practically speaking, a carte blanche that enabled credit-card companies to set up in states (South Dakota, Delaware, et al.) willing to allow full freedom. Two years later, President Carter signed the Deposit Institutions Deregulation Act, voiding the long standing 5 percent limitation on the interest rate the banks and savings institutions could pay, likewise a precondition for future innovations. In 1984 the Bank Holding Company Act was relaxed to allow banks to hold entire companies as if they were a portfolio of investments, even if they didn’t perform banking-related functions.
Permissiveness only broadened in the 1990s. In 1996 the U.S. Supreme Court held in the Barnett Bank case that banks could sell insurance. A second ruling that year, in Smiley v. Citibank, allowed credit-card issuers to charge any fees –penalties, for the most part- permitted by the states in which they were based. Within a few years, fees would begin to multiply like rabbits. In 1997 banks were allowed to buy securities firms. In 1999, after the Federal Reserve Board had already approved a merger between Citigroup and Travelers, a major insurance company, the policy of allowing such mergers belatedly became official with the enactment of the Financial Services Modernization Act. That same far-reaching statute also repealed the Bank Holding Company Act of 1957, establishing a new category of financial holding companies (FHCs). These could not only hold banks, securities firms, and insurance companies under one umbrella but were also permitted to include nonfinancial enterprises. The 1995-2000 period had already seen a stunning crescendo of bank mergers
11,100. Within a year after passage of the financialservices mega-deregulation, five hundred new FHCs were created.
This sequence, a powerful facilitator of the 1997-2000 stock-market bubble, simultaneously gave the financial-services industry essential wherewithal to consolidate its gains in the share of GDP and soon to displace the toppled technology sector as the leader in U.S. stock-market capitalization. For all that financiers lost huge sums of paper wealth in 2001 and 2002, the underlying realignment of the U.S. economy remained in place.
Portions of the 1990s deregulation, it should be noted, rested on sound enough logic. Chairman Greenspan and other believed that the United States, handicapped by an old state-by-state banking structure rooted in Jeffersonian suspicions, required instead a phalanx of U.S. superbanks able to leapfrog state lines and abandon the 1930s-ordered separation of banking, investment, and insurance in order to compete with giant financial conglomerates in the Japanese, British, French, Swiss, and German mold. By 2003 three of the world’s top ten banks were indeed American, up from none in 1988. The downside, unfortunately, was institutional hubris.
Three U.S. banks became superbanks: Citigroup, the world’s biggest; and the Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase, ranked further down. Compared to their predecessors of the 1980s, these institutions were powerhouses, goliaths with units that run the gamut from insurance and merchant banking to consumer credit. However, as these giants flexed their new muscles, the public interest was often squeezed –witness the record of Citigroup. In late 1990 Citigroup was close to insolvency because of bad real-estate and foreign loans. However, Citigroup’s size made it essential to any global strategy foe U.S. banking, and Federal Reserve officials helped to arrange a cash infusion and rescue by Saudi Prince Awaleed bin Talal."
"One disenchanted investment banker summarized the jurisdictional anarchy that followed the 1999 passage of the Financial Services Modernization Act:
'Financial holding companies got a regulatory green light to own any kind of financial service company as well as investments in companies that had little or nothing to do with finance. They became catchall structures to mask risky investments in nonblank corporations. Another festering problem created by the Financial Services Modernization Act was so-called functional regulation. The act claimed that each component of these new conglomerate institutions would be regulated by a different government regulatory body. This meant that different federal and state entities had oversight for different components of the same business, yet nobody had full oversight for the entire institution’s activities as a whole... So, functional regulation could more appropriately be called "dysfunctional regulation.' "
Some of what we think of as the bubble of 1997-2000 was a side effect of massive, permissive deregulation –not just of finance but of energy and telecommunications, both in 1996. These were two other industries where egregious misbehavers, Enron and WorldCom, became poster children of speculative havoc. During the boom, the energy and telecom sectors each issued roughly one trillion dollars’ worth of new debt, manna for the financial-services industry."
"As summarized by New York Times columnist Anna Bernasek, "instead of investing, corporate America has been accumulating cash –big piles of it. According to the most recent figures from the Federal Reserve Board, nonfinancial corporations increased their liquid assets by 20 percent to a record #1.3 trillion, from the start of 2004 to June, 2004. Think about all that money for a minute. It’s about 10 percent of the total economy, and much of it is virtually stuffed into a mattress".
Part of the comforting corporate mattress was overseas, in convenient tax havens such as the Bahamas, Ireland, and Singapore. Profits earned abroad and left there sidestepped the 35 percent tax usually payable on funds repatriated to the United States. At the end of 2004, estimates put the stash as high as $750 billion. To tempt the prodigal sums to return, federal tax legislation enacted that autumn gave multinational corporations a chance to be taxed at only 5.25 percent on profits earned before 2003 and held in foreign subsidiaries, provided the money was brought back to the U.S. before the end of 2005 and used for purposes that stimulated job creation and the economy.
The eventual definition of the allowable purposes ensured that much of the repatriation –the U.S. Treasury hoped for $300 billion- would produce enlarged dividends, debt retirement, pension-fund shoring up, and acquisitions that involved relatively little job creation. However, the stock market also benefited, and watchers identified a further boon: short-term support for the embattled dollar in currency markets as U.S. foreign assets came home. What received little attention, even in the financial press, was the watershed occasion of another erstwhile world economic power turned global debtor beginning to repatriate overseas assets in the manner of Britain between, say, 1915 and 1948."
The nature and origins of mass opinion. John R. Zaller. California, 1992
This is one of the most important books I have ever read. His approach to interpreting public opinion using political awareness as a fundamental dependent variable has helped me understand the tragedy of the anti-war and pro-immigration movement more than any other book. Zaller actually uses in his book, among other examples, the role played by cultural elites in framing the political movements inside the civil rights movement of the post-War. John Demos’s book on witchcraft reaches similar conclusions with respect to witch-hunting. I don’t have it with me right now and most of my notes on that book were damaged when my computer was attacked. Thus, let me share with you a quote from a previous entry in which I mention Zaller’s work:
"Pseudoscientific works gave racism an ideology and let segregation survive under many disguises for much longer than it would have had otherwise. In 1896 Frederick Hoffman’s Race Trait and Tendencies of the American Negro was published. The same year the Supreme Court legalized segregation. Hoffman compared statistical data on mortality and disease without considering poverty as a factor and concluded that education and housing were useless to prevent the disappearance of the American Negro as a race. This pseudo intellectual movement began in 1846, when Louis Agassiz measured skulls to justify the intellectual and moral superiority of the white race.
Zaller estimates that with the intellectual defeat of early theories of racial inferiority, psychologists shifted their research to the stigmatizing effects on blacks of what was now taken to be white prejudice, and to the origins of racial prejudice in various kinds of mental disorders and educational deficiencies (Allport, 1954)."
Imperial Hubris. Why the west is loosing the war on terror. Anonymous (Later identified as Michael Scheuer). Washington, DC, 2004
Despite some frankly stupid declarations like those made in the Glenn Beck’s show (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/...; http://www.youtube.com/...), ‘Imperial Hubris’ brings a lot of indispensable information to set counterinsurgency policy. Nevertheless, sometimes Scheuer’s conclusions do not come logically from the information presented in the book. When he embraces a militaristic approach instead of the law-enforcement one only because the latter is resource- and time-consuming, he doesn’t see that the militaristic approach would only make deeper the negative symptoms he himself has presented. From ‘Imperial Hubris’ I bring you the following quotes:
"The conclusions a fair-minded individual would draw from this endeavor would, I believe, include the following:
• U.S. leaders refuse to accept the obvious: We are fighting a worldwide Islamic insurgence –not criminality or terrorism- and our policy and procedures have failed to make more than a modest dent in enemy forces.
• The military is now America’s only tool and will remain so while current policies are in place. No public diplomacy, presidential praise for Islam, or politically correct debate masking the reality that many of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims hate us for actions not values, will get America out of this war.
• Bin Laden has been precise in telling America the reasons he is waging war on us. None of the reasons have anything to do with our freedom, liberty, and democracy, but have everything to do with U.S. policies and actions in the Muslim world.
• The war bin Laden is waging has everything to do with the tenets of the Islamic religion. He could not have his current –and increasing- level of success if Muslims did not believe their faith, brethren, resources, and lands to be under attack by the United States and, more generally, the West. Indeed, the United States, and its policies and actions, are bin Laden’s only indispensable allies.
• Persian Gulf oil and the lack of serious U.S. alternative-energy development are at the core of the bin Laden issue. For cheap, easily accessible oil, Washington and the West have supported the Muslim tyrannies bin Laden and other Islamists seek to destroy. There can be no other reason for backing Saudi Arabia, a regime that, since its founding, has deliberately fostered an Islamic ideology, whose goals –unlike bin Laden’s- can be met only by annihilating all non-Muslims.
• This war has the potential to last beyond our children’s lifetimes and to be fought mostly on U.S. soil."
"On Iraq, I must candidly say that I abhor aggressive wars like the one we waged there; it is out of character for America in terms of our history, sense of morality, and basic decency. This is not to argue that preemption is unneeded against immediate threats. Never in our history was preemptive action more needed that in the past decade against the lethal, imminent threat of bin Laden, al Qaeda, and their allies. But the U.S. invasion of Iraq was not preemption; it was –like our war on Mexico in 1846- an avaricious, premeditated, unprovoked war against a foe who posed no immediate threat but whose defeat did offer economic advantages. ‘Disclaimers issued by the White House notwithstanding, this war has not been thrust upon us. We have chosen it,’ Boston University’s Andrew J. Bacevich wrote in the Los Angeles Times. ‘The United States no longer views force as something to be used as a last resource. There is a word for this. It’s called militarism.’ "
"Just under the noise, death, and rhetoric yielded by the foregoing episodes of war lies a largely ignored factor that may constitute al Qaeda’s main war effort –the steady bleeding of the U.S. economy. In late 2002, Abu-Ubayd al-Qurashi wrote an essay in Al-Ansar called ‘A lesson in War’ wherein he described al Qaeda’s intention to follow Clausewitz’s principle of attacking its foe’s ‘center of gravity’. He said al Qaeda would unrelentingly focus on identifying that point and make ‘sure to direct all available force against the center of gravity during the great offensive.’ Al-Qurashi wrote that al Qaeda has studied North Vietnam’s victory over the United States, and found that Hanoi had ‘fully understood that America’s center of gravity lay in the American people,’ and by killing American’s ‘dearest ones... the war ended with victory on the Vietnamese side.’ Al Qaeda took this lesson to heart, Qurashi wrote, but believes that America’s current center of gravity is its economy."
"[Bin Laden] has spurned the Ayatollah’s wholesale condemnation of Western society and focused on six specific, bread-and-butter issues on which there is widespread agreement among Muslims, wherever they lie on the liberal-to-militant spectrum. Most Muslims would like to see the Prophet’s land vacated by non-Muslims, the infidels whom, as Mohammed said on his deathbed, had no place on the Arab Peninsula. Likewise, many would relish the elimination of Israel and the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state. Large majorities also can be found in support of making a greater profit on the sale of Muslim-produced oil and natural gas to the rest of the world, and using the money to improve the quality of life for Muslims. Few Muslims, moreover, would oppose the destruction of a set of apostate governments that are among the planet’s most brutal, repressive, corrupt, and hypocritical, family ruled regimes that have the profits from oil sales to fund their own debauchery and rent the loyalty of their bankers, businessmen, and academics. Finally, the oppression of Muslims outside the Arab heartland –in Kashmir, Chechnya, India, and Xinjiang- has become a gut issue for Muslims thanks to bin Laden’s rhetoric and, even more, the pervasive presence of real-time, Muslim-owned satellite television. These six foreign policy goals are Mom-and-apple-pie for most Muslims, and bin Laden has tied them to the positive message that God promises Muslims victory if they take the path of jihad that He required and His Messenger explained and preached."
"In return for acquiescing in the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, our more unsavory coalition ‘partners’ expected and, unfortunately, received Washington’s formal backing for their own wars against ‘terrorism.’ The most senior U.S. government leaders, for example, have endorsed Russian president Putin’s war against Chechnya’s Islamist separatist, notwithstanding the prolonged barbarity of Russian security and military forces against Chechen civilians.
Overall, Washington’s Pavlovian eagerness to form a coalition to fight bin Laden was not a military necessity, and it clearly was not wise or in U.S. interests to further stoke Muslim hatred. A coalition that includes Russia, China, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Yemen; the dictators of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the UAE, Kuwait, and Egypt; the titans of the nineteenth-century colonialism in the Middle East, Britain, and France; and the state of Israel makes bin Laden look like a prophet of old, as his supporters or sympathizers believe they see the truth of his argument that wants allies only among those willing to oppress Muslims and eliminate Islam."
"The need to reform U.S. immigration rules and enforce regulations already in place made good sense both before and after the 11 September attacks. Within American society, the Congress’ post-attack tightening of immigration policy was mostly taken in stride, although some civil-liberties concerns remain. Most Americans agreed that after 11 September it was time to find out how many foreigners were in the country illegally; indeed, it is dangerous and dismaying that Washington did not finish the job by finding all illegals and either legalize their status or send them home. For many Muslims and their governments, however, the new regulations were blatant discrimination, meant to humiliate Muslims and make them appear evil. Pakistani foreign minister K. M. Kasuri, for example, urged Washington to ease the rules because they were strengthening anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan, while in the Cairo daily Al-Sah’b, commentator Mohammed A. A. Salih recommended that ‘Egypt request the Americans [in Egypt] be fingerprinted, register their names with competent authorities and [be] questioned about their connections with Israel and the CIA.’
While bin Laden’s rhetoric did not cause this reaction, his consistent theme calling attention to the West’s deliberate post-World War I policy of humiliating Islam ensured that U.S. actions were perceived in the worst possible way. That the World Trade Center and Pentagon attackers were Muslims who died waging a war on America declared by the Muslim Osama bin Laden matters not to bin Laden’s audience, be they supporters or just listeners. When Muslims are delayed by airport police for secondary security examinations, and when only citizens from twenty-four Muslim countries must regularly report to U.S. immigration during U.S. visits –a rule imposed otherwise only on North Koreans- they do not see tighter domestic security measures but rules meant to harass, discriminate against, and humiliate Muslims. ‘The U.S. which considers itself a ‘republic of immigrants,’ Abd al-Bari Atwan wrote in The Observer, ‘has turned against all its values and principles, detaining thousands of its Arab and Muslim citizens.’ "
"An honest debate will, however, allow Americans to know what they are signing up for: a policy status quo that will guarantee broadening conflict with escalating human and economic expense, or new policies that have potential, over time, for a less confrontational and bloody relationship with Islam. Whatever the choice, it must be made by all Americans after all options are presented and debated, and not solely by their elites with the guidance, lobbying, money, and machinations of oil companies, weapons makers, evangelical preachers, and Israel and its acolytes."
Worse than Watergate: the secret presidency of George W. Bush. John W. Dean. NY. Little, Brown and Co., 2004
From his excellent book written by John Dean about the secrecy of the Bush-Cheney presidency and its consequences, I have extracted the following quotes:
"Stonewalling is one of secrecy’s more truculent servants. Bush and Cheney started stonewalling during their 2000 run for the White House; they haven’t stopped yet, either running or stonewalling. At first, they stonewalled only matters they claimed to be personal and private and, therefore, off-limits. When they succeeded with this ploy, even though the public by all prior standards had a right to the information that both Bush and Cheney insisted on withholding, it emboldened them and they carried their stonewalling into the White House, where it has grown even more encompassing."
"David Rubenstein, the cofounder and managing director of the Carlyle Group, a group of top-level former Washington officials who until recently touted Bush’s father as one of their high-profile advisers, has shared an account of Bush as a director. In 2001, Rubenstein gave a public speech to the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association, not aware the event was being recorded.
Rubenstein explained that in 1991 on of Bush’s friends said, ‘Look, there is a guy who would like to be on the board [of Caterair],’ and airline-catering company the Carlyle Group had just acquired from Marriott. Rubenstein continued, ‘[So] we put [Bush] on the board and [he] spent three years. Came to all the meetings. Told a lot of jokes –not that many clean ones. And after a while I kind of said to him, after about three years, you know, I’m not sure this is really for you. Maybe you should do something else. Because I don’t think you’re adding that much value to the board. You don’t know that much about the company.’ "
"Stonewalling is a stall, the hope that with time or an intervening event, the matter will be forgotten as new issues become current. Few reporters (and their editors) want to harp, even when the matter is important. Politicians know this, and it encourages their stonewalling. The issue of Cheney’s heart might have faded in the light of other problems, except Cheney was headed back to the hospital, now as the vice president of the United States, not as a candidate –and a uniquely powerful vice president. By March 2001, three months into the new presidency, Beltway insiders appreciated that Cheney was doing what he did best, operating our of sight but running the White House. ‘Bush [is] the nation’s chairman of the board, Cheney [is] America’s chief executive,’ the Washington Post explained. USA Today columnist Susan Page described the inner workings at Bush’s White House even more bluntly: ‘You name it, [Cheney] runs it.’ He ‘quietly has become prime minister, the go-to guy on everything from appointments to budget to congressional relations.’ Cheney resolves disputes between cabinet officers without having to take the issues to Bush; he is the dominant man on the National Security Council, the only persona capable of mediating between the high-horsepower players like Colin Powell and Don Rumsfeld; and Cheney heads key policy task forces (on everything from terrorism to energy) and even resolves departmental budget disputes. In addition, Cheney has become the White House’s key lobbyist on Capitol Hill (with offices in both the Senate and the House), where legislators and party leaders prefer to meet with him than the president to get matters resolved. Cynics say that if anything happened to Cheney, Bush would become president."
"Under Cheney, Halliburton did business with Iraq, Iran, Libya, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and Azerbaijan –to name a few of the countries that use its oil to exploit its people, countries notorious for violating human rights. Several of them are avowed enemies of the United States. This issue arose only fleeting during the 2000 campaign. In late July the New York Times reported that ‘Mr. Cheney’s company has already done business in countries still facing American sanctions, including Libya, and Iraq, the enemy Mr. Cheney helped vanquish in the gulf war."
"Obviously, there is the matter of the accounting change [in Halliburton]. David Lesar, Cheney’s successor, who had run the day-to-day operations for Cheney, told Newsweek that Cheney was well aware of the accounting practice changes that prompted the SEC investigation. In addition, Cheney was very close to the Arthur Andersen partner in charge of the Halliburton account, with Cheney even providing the accounting firm with a personal videotaped endorsement of its practices (before it was criminally indicted because of those practices at Enron). Cheney would not be the first CEO to play accounting games and get caught. But he would be the first CEO to use the vice presidency to escape an approaching boardroom disaster. This is an accurate description of what the deal with Dresser became –a disaster."
"So what is Cheney hiding, and why? And what kind of game was he playing with his hard-line refusal to provide basic, inoffensive information to the GAO and with his hardball tactics in a run-of-the-mill civil lawsuit? As with many Americans, my first reaction was that he wanted to conceal his meetings with Enron officials and other high-powered lobbyists who were getting their paybacks. But the more I thought about it, the less I believed that was his sole reason. After all, once his energy task force report was issued in May 2001, it was obvious that the national policy had been designed to assist big contributions to the Bush-Cheney campaign. Similarly, in seeking to convert Cheney’s policies into law, congressional Republicans, operating largely behind closed doors, wrote a bill to please the energy folks. These are not hard-to-locate loopholes and tax breaks, as often is the case; the beneficiaries are clear, and –reading backward from who benefited –it is evident who Cheney and Bush, as well as lawmakers, had listened to. But Cheney’s motives, while clearly designed to reward the energy industry of exploiting Iraqi oil, suggest a still larger play. He was looking at a bigger picture, which –by connecting a few dots- begins to emerge, and Cheney’s actions are part of the effort to weaken Congress, which is one of many building blocks in returning to a Nixonian imperial presidency."
"Newsweek noted after 9/11 that ‘Americans seem more willing to sacrifice civil liberties on the altar of security than we have been at any time since President Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus during the Civil War or President Roosevelt rounded up 110,000 Japanese-Americans for preventive detention after Pearl Harbor. The United States, vowed Attorney General John Ashcroft, will ‘use every legal means at our disposal to prevent further terrorist activity. "
"As Arthur Schlesinger Jr. showed three decades ago, the imperial presidency is built on aggressive presidential actions in the name of national security. The line between matters foreign and domestic has long been undistinguishable, and the exercise of presidential power has likewise conflated. Understanding this reality, Nixon employed it to bestow his presidency with extra constitutional powers. Bush and Cheney have adopted a similar stratagem."
Cronies. Oil, the Bushes, and the rise of Texas, America’s superstate. Robert Bryce. MA, 2004
This excellent book begins with the Navy SEALs taking over the Iraqi oil port of Mina al-Bakr on March 20, 2003. This oil port and the Ministry of Oil were the only ones who were not left at the sake of rioters and Saddam’s army. From there the book takes us in a trip that goes through the Savings and Loan scandals, the rise of Halliburton and Enron, the war adventure in Iraq and the interests centered in this state as well as the perspectives for the power of those interests. Particularly interesting is the third quote, especially when you compare it with the current subprime loan crisis. From this excellent piece of research I am extracting the following quotes:
"By early June of 2003, Halliburton’s technicians were clambering all over Iraq’s oil facilities, assessing the damage and making repairs. One of their first stops was Mina al-Bakr. Halliburton did its job well. In late June 2003, about eight weeks after George W. Bush’s May 1 ‘mission accomplished’ declaration aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln that ‘major combat operations in Iraq have ended,’ the country’s black gold began to flow.
On June 28, 2003, the first super tank load Iraqi crude in the post-Saddam era began filling up at Mina al-Bakr. The buyer of the oil was Condoleezza Rice’s old employer, ChevronTexaco. A few dozen hours later, the tanker, loaded with two million barrels of crude known as Basra Light, left Mina al-Bakr and headed straight for refineries -in the United States. Over the next few months, dozens of other supertankers begin filling their holds with Iraqi oil, and the majority of those tankers headed for the United States.
With U.S. troops guarding the Iraqi Oil Ministry in downtown Baghdad and Halliburton employees manning the controls at Mina al-Bakr and other oil facilities, the Bush administration had achieved its goal: the second-largest oil reserves on earth were under the control of the United States. Nearly 30 years after OPEC shut off the flow of oil to America in retaliation for its support of the Israelis, the U.S. had gained a measure of control over Persian Gulf oil supplies. And it had done it behind the barrel of a gun."
"In addition to jets owned by Halliburton and Enron, the [George W. Bush] campaign used planes owned by energy companies such as Texas Utilities Co., Occidental Chemical, and Tom Brown Inc., the Midland-based oil company headed by Don Evans. At least three of the companies who provided planes to Bush’s campaign were also Baker Botts clients: Halliburton, Occidental, and Reliant Resources."
"Prior to the passage of Garn-St. Germain, savings and loans were different from banks. They didn’t do commercial lending. Instead, they focused on the safest sector of the lending business: home mortgages. The S&Ls attracted deposits by paying interest on those deposits. They then loaned that money to home buyers who took out long-term mortgages. But in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, interest rates surged. The S&Ls had to match the interest rates paid by other financial institutions. Soon, the S&Ls were paying out more in interest to their depositors than they were earning on loans held by their borrowers. The solution, according to the free-marketeers in the Reagan administration and Congress, was deregulation. By the end of 1982, the administration and Congress had passed a set of laws that:
• Increased the amount of federally backed insurance on deposits from $40,000 to $100,000.
• Removed ceilings on the amount of interest that could be paid to depositors.
• Allowed S&Ls to go beyond home mortgages lending and into lending on oil and gas projects and real estate development.
• Relaxed accounting rules so that even insolvent S&Ls could appear healthy.
• Allowed S&Ls to finance 100 percent of a project, which meant that prospective borrowers didn’t have to put any of their own money at risk.
• Drastically reduced the number of S&Ls regulators.
In short, they built a superhighway to deregulation, cut down the speed limit signs, and fired all but a handful of traffic cops.
Increasing the insurance on deposits and removing the limits on interest rates meant that money brokers in New York and elsewhere could bundle big deposits and shop them around to S&Ls all over the country. The S&Ls began competing for the deposits by offering ever-higher interest rates, a move that allowed them to grow very rapidly. But that growth was unsustainable because the S&Ls simply couldn’t afford to pay the interest rates they’d offered. That led them to invest in ever-riskier ventures, like junk bonds, real estate, and other deals in order to make back the money they were losing on the deposits. Although the changes were intended to prove the Republicans’ assertion that a deregulated marketplace is the best marketplace, the result was far different. The deregulation of the S&Ls proved that a marketplace without enough rules gets corrupted, quickly.
For instance, and S&L owner could launch a development project, like, say, and office building, give it artificially high valuations, lend all of the money needed to build the project –including interest reserves that could be used to make the payments on the loan for the first several years- and include a 2 to 4 percent developer’s fee that could be taken out at the beginning of the project by the deal makers. The scam was perfect for crooks because it assured the project developers got a fat profit up-front, regardless of whether their project was ever built. Within a short time the scam became so common it was known as the ‘Texan strategy.’ "
The Halliburton agenda. The politics of oil and money, by Dan Briody. NJ, 2004
This book shows the way Halliburton jumped from an engineering company giving services to the oil industry to a military big-contract non-bid perpetual winner with the help of Lyndon Johnson in the past and of Dick Cheney after the end of the First Gulf War. Other interesting relations pictured by the book are those between Halliburton and the Army Corp of Engineers. Brown & Root (now KBR) is the political arm of Halliburton directed to win military contracts.
From that book I am extracting two quotes, both about the LOGCAP military contracts, which was designed by Halliburton to always win it:
"Brown & Root report convinced Cheney that it was indeed possible to create one umbrella LOGCAP contract and award it to a single firm. The contract that was developed out of Brown & Root’s report is now known simply as LOGCAP and has been called the ‘mother of all service contracts.’ It has been used in every American deployment since its awarding in 1992, at a value of several billion dollars and counting. And the lucky recipient of the first, five-year LOGCAP contract was the very same company hired to draw up the plan in the first place: Brown & Root.
The LOGCAP contract pulled Brown & Root out of its late 1980s doldrums and boosted the bottom line of Halliburton throughout the 1990s. The contract is structured as a cost-plus contract, or in contract legalese, a cost-reimbursement, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract. Even a layman can tell that means good things for the contractor. In cases estimating the resources needed in fulfillment of a particular contract, cost-plus provides the flexibility to continually add on ‘task orders,’ or additional services to the contract government. The contractor makes its money from a built-in profit percentage, anywhere from 1 percent to 9 percent, depending on various incentive clauses. It seems reasonable enough, until we remember Brown & Root’s history of ratcheting up costs on government projects. In the case of LOGCAP, as was the case with Brown & Root’s involvement in Vietnam, the structure of the contract encourages the contractor to spend excessive amounts of money. When your profit is a percentage of the cost, the more you spend, the more you make."
"Brown & Root was back to doing what they did best, providing contractor services to the armed forces under extraordinary circumstances. The army was constantly amazed at their ability to get things done quickly. Often it cost them more than if they had done it themselves, but in the overall war effort, it was worth it. By the time the conflict in Bosnia started in 1995, Brown & Root was ensconced in the military machine, and earning lucrative contracts. It was as if World War II and Brown Shipbuilding were back in business. The army’s growing dependency on the company hit home when in 1997 Brown & Root lost the LOGCAP contract in a competitive re-bid to rival Dynacorp. The army found it impossible to remove Brown & Root from their work in the Balkans, by far the most lucrative part of the contract, and as such carved out the work in the area to keep it with Brown & Root. In 2001, Brown & Root won the LOGCAP contract again, this time for twice the normal term length: 10 years."
NOTES TO THE POLL
On Palin’s pastor persecuting witches in Kenya:
On Palin’s policy on rape kits:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/... and http://video.google.com/...
On Palin’s would-be conversation with Sarkozy, which happened to be with a Canadian comedian posing as Sarkozy:
On Palin’s position on the Bush doctrine:
On Palin’s position on Supreme Court decisions:
On Limbaugh’s position on coups in American and in Honduras:
On the Tea Douche-bag Parody a.k.a. Tea Party’s obsession for identifying Obama with Hitler: