Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pentagon: Taliban growing into a ‘resilient insurgency.’

Pentagon: Taliban growing into a ‘resilient insurgency.’

According to a new Pentagon report released today, “the Taliban has regrouped after its initial fall from power in Afghanistan. The new report offers a rather dim view of progress in the nearly 7-year-old war, declaring that the Taliban has ‘coalesced into a resilient insurgency’”:

Noting that insurgent violence continues to climb, the report said that despite efforts to capture and kill key leaders, the Taliban is likely to “maintain or even increase the scope and pace of its terrorist attacks and bombings in 2008.” At the same time, the Afghan Army and national police are progressing slowly, and still lack the trainers they need.

The report comes as the “number of foreign forces in Afghanistan killed in June has reached 39, the highest monthly toll of the war,” as CNN reported yesterday. More on Afghanistan in today’s Progress Report.

Bush's Third Term

Bush's Third Term

This year, we're facing the most important election in a generation. As Americans, we must ask ourselves which candidate will bring about the change our country so desperately needs. In my opinion, Barack Obama is the only candidate with the judgment to move our country forward.

The disastrous consequences of George W. Bush's poor judgment over these last 7 1/2 years are all too apparent. Now, John McCain is offering 4 more years of Bush -- while Barack Obama offers the change in direction our country so desperately needs.

Barack had the judgment to oppose the war in Iraq before it began, and he is ready to bring our troops home and end the occupation of Iraq in a responsible way. John McCain has said that American troops should be willing to stay in Iraq for 100 years.
Barack will engage in the diplomacy that is necessary to bring stability to the Middle East. Just like George Bush, John McCain repeatedly resorts to saber-rattling and threats about invading Iran while revealing a startling ignorance of the basic issues that define the politics of the region.

Barack knows we have to invest in renewable energy to end America's dependence on foreign oil and fight global warming. And like George Bush, John McCain is in the pocket of big oil.

It's about judgment -- and I think the answer is clear.

While I respect John McCain's service, I know exactly what he stands for -- Bush's third term. And in national security terms, John McCain is largely untested and untried. He's never been responsible for policy formulation. John McCain is calculating that he will use the national security debate to his advantage. He's wrong.

Like Bush, McCain has always been for the use of force, force, and more force. In my experience, the only time to use force is as a last resort. When John McCain talks about throwing Russia out of the G8 and makes irresponsible comments about bombing Iran, he reveals his own disrespect for the office of the presidency.

And while he's all too willing to continue putting our troops in harm's way, John McCain initially refused to support providing benefits like the new GI Bill to our veterans because he believes that providing good education opportunities to our troops will hurt retention. That's ridiculous.

We need new leadership in the White House -- not George Bush's third term.

Last week I sat down with Barack Obama. I know he's the right person to lead our country forward. Now we need to come together and support his campaign for change.

As I see the sacrifices our troops and their families make every day; as I see Americans buckling under the weight of record high gas prices; and as I see families struggling with sky rocketing health care costs, I know this:

We simply can't afford another 4 years of the McCain-Bush-Cheney agenda.

We must change the course of our country's future. We must elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States.

Isikoff: Bush wants satellites for domestic spying

Isikoff: Bush wants satellites for domestic spying

By David Edwards

MSNBC’s Alex Witt talked to Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff about a new proposal by the Bush administration to use satellites for domestic surveillance.

Isikoff told MSNBC, “The Homeland Security Department is talking about expanding the program to use military satellites really, for domestic purposes. They say the primary driver is natural disasters — like the recent flooding in the midwest — to pinpoint areas that are most hard hit and to help with responses, first responses. But they also leave open the possibility that this could be used for other purposes, law enforce many purposes. Tracking potential terrorists but also tracking potential drug operations.”

“And that is where the concerns about civil liberty abuses come in. First of all, there are strict laws about the act that limits the use of the U.S. military for law enforcement purposes. But the precision of these satellites, they can literally capture crystal clear images of your car as you leave the studio this afternoon. And capture them in computer databases — in the governmentcomputer databases. And it raises all sorts of concerns. To some degree, the administration is paying the price of what is for — what many in congress see as way over stepping — in the electronic surveillance era.”

Read Michael Isikoff’s Newsweek article here.

This video is from MSNBC’s News Live, broadcast June 28, 2008.

Friday, June 27, 2008

As You Like It: The Big Flush

As You Like It: The Big Flush (classic/experimental)
by Amelia Bassano Lanier a.k.a. William Shakespeare
directed by Stephen Wisker
featuring: The Dark Lady Players
with Kate Murray as Rosalind, and Kirsta Peterson as Touchstone, the
Running time; 1 Hour 30 minutes

The Dark Lady Players, one of the world's most experimental Shakespeare companies, are remaking Jewish history. They perform the allegorical level of the Shakespearean plays to show that they were written by England's only Jewish poet the so-called 'Dark Lady', Amelia Bassano Lanier (1569-1645), who is now listed by the Shakespearean Authorship Trust as one of the top ten authorship candidates. Mistress to the man in charge of the English theater, and the first woman to publish a book of original poetry in England, she has never before been considered as a likely author, simply because of her sex and the color of her skin.

Articles on our work have appeared over the last year in Jewish Week, New Jersey Jewish News, the Jewish Daily Forward, on as well as full page articles in The Villager and Village Voice. (All available in the press cuttings section at Articles are about to appear in the UK journal Jewish Renaissance and Lilith Magazine.

Our work shows that, like the other plays,
As You Like It was written as Jewish revenge literature using a a structure of double allegories found in Elizabethan writings. The play is a Jewish toilet joke about Christianity and the Roman-Jewish war. That is why this adaptation highlights the two characters called Jaques/Jakes (Elizabethan for toilet), and the character whose pocket watch identifies him as Sir John Harrington, the inventor of the flush toilet!

What are these characters, a dunghill, and many references to excrement doing in this play? Why does
As You Like It end with Jaques warning that Noah's flood is coming? Why are there other flood references, like Hercules cleansing the Augean stables of manure? Why does Touchstone go off to the ark with Audrey, who is named after St Ethelreda, the woman who was saved from a flood? Could this be the Last Day?

What exactly is this strange 'forest' with its many peculiar features? The author has left us clues! Guess what actually was surrounded by a 'circle', was a 'temple', turned into a 'desert', where everyone was starving, where there was a massacre of 'greasy citizens', people were hung on trees, where a 'lodge' was indeed burnt, and where there was a real 'Roman Conqueror'? Yes indeed, this detailed description fits only
one historical circumstance-the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans 66-70C.E.! The play was written as a satirical allegory against Vespasian Caesar, the Roman conqueror of the Jews, who appears as the satanic Duke Senior. At the end, both he and his children (Titus and Domitian Caesar, who also make an allegorical appearance in the play), will be flushed away in an act of fantastic comic revenge by the English Jewish poet Amelia Bassano- who is the basanos or Touchstone, a misunderstood poet like Ovid--- wearing her allegorical disguise of the inventor of the toilet!

Further details, and information about the forthcoming biography The Dark Lady: the Woman who Wrote Shakespeare are available from

Show times are as follows;

Sunday 20 July at 4.30pm
Saturday 26 July at 3.45pm
Sunday 3 August at 7.30pm
347 WEST 36TH STREET (8/9) NYC
TICKETS; 212-279-4200

STEPHEN WISKER is an English Theatre director who received a MFA in Directing Shakespeare from the University of Essex and trained at the Royal National Theatre's Studio Directors Course. He has been the Shakespeare teacher for Atlantic Acting School/ NYU Tisch School of the Arts. New York Shakespeare directing credits include Something Is Rotten on W37th: A Modern Adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet at The Zipper Theater and The Tempest at The Belt Theatre. Recent productions in Europe include: Love's Mistress at Shakespeare's Globe, Shakespeare e Il Gentil Sesso at the Edinburgh Festival, Antony and Cleopatra at the Birmingham School of Acting, an all-female Julius Caesar at The Man in The Moon, and Pyramus and Thisbe, a devised piece with an international cast, at the Actors Centre which was performed at the Edinburgh Festival. He first came to New York in 2002 to direct two World Premieres: Charles Evered's Adopt A Sailor and J. Dakota Powell's Exodus at the Brave New World Festival: New York Theatre Responds to 9-11 on Broadway, and directed the Spring 2005 production of Can't Pay! Won't Pay! at the Loft. Before moving to New York Stephen taught Shakespeare at the Actor's Centre in London. A devotee of clowning, self-conscious theatricality, and non-traditional casting, his work explores storytelling with physical as well as verbal language.

JOHN HUDSON is Artistic Director and Dramaturg to the Dark Lady Players. He has an MA in Shakespeare and Theatre from the University of Birmingham, The Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-Upon-Avon. In Spring 2007 his production of Midsummer Night's Dream; A Comic Jewish Satire led the Shakespearean Authorship Trust in the UK to support Amelia Bassano Lanier as one of the top ten candidates for the Shakespearean Authorship.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Shakespeare as Jewish Revenge Literature


The New York experimental Shakespeare company, the Dark Lady Players, are about to put on their latest production, showing that As You Like It was not written by William Shakespeare but is rather a Jewish allegorical comedy written by Amelia Bassano Lanier (1569-1645), the first woman in England to publish a book of poetry. She was England's only Jewish poet of the period as well as mistress to the man in charge of the English theater, so she was certainly well positioned!

John Hudson, Artistic Director of the Dark Lady Players claims that As You Like It is a gigantic allegorical toilet joke in which Christianity and its creators goes down the toilet. This production brings out the fact that Touchstone carries two allegorical identities, one of which is to Sir John Harington the inventor of the flush toilet. The play also oddly includes two characters called Jaques-or Jakes-the Elizabethan for toilet, and many references to dunghills. Why? In the play, Duke Senior (an allegory for Vespasian Caesar, the inventor of the pay-toilet, but better known with his son Titus as the 'Roman conqueror' of Jerusalem), is flushed away by Noah's flood in an act of satirical revenge.

The result is a very funny play, or as Hudson says “the play within the play within the play”. Directed by Stephen Wisker, a 35 year old English Shakespeare director, who trained at the National Theatre in London, this As You Like It is unlike any previous production. “Nobody has ever detected the whole allegory before” declares Hudson, “and this will be the first production in the world to put it on stage”. As Ashley Currie, (who plays Orlando) puts it, “this ain't your grandma's Shakespeare”. The challenging role of Rosalind-the biggest female role in the Shakespearean canon-- is played with unusual insight by Kate Murray. As for Amelia Bassano herself, she appears in the play as a second additional allegory for Touchstone-whose name in Greek is basanos, and who is put to his purgation, which again in Greek is basanos. “It is exciting to take the text and turn it on its head” says Kirsta Peterson, who takes the role of Touchstone, “after two years working with the Dark Lady Players, I absolutely believe that Amelia wrote these plays.”

Meanwhile, in the July issue of the Canadian journal The Queen's Quarterly, a major review by Michael Posner describes the evidence for this new Shakespeare theory as being at least as convincing as that for William Shakespeare. Academics are slowly coming on board. Professor Catherine Alexander at the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham was one of the first to recognize the theory as “a legitimate new area of scholarship” as she puts it. In recent weeks articles on the approach being taken by the Dark Lady Players have appeared all over the world, from Italy to Israel to India. Now it remains to be seen whether New York theater audiences are equally open-minded about overturning everything they thought they knew about England's most famous playwright.

As You Like It: The Big Flush opens at the Midtown International Theater Festival on 20 July. For further information see and

Shakespeare as Jewish Literature

Joseph Atwill and John Hudson on Shakespeare as Jewish Literature.
Joseph Atwill is author of the book Caesar's Messiah. John Hudson
is a Shakespearean scholar and founder of the Dark Lady Players.
Taped 06-20-08

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bruno Not Seeking Re-Election

News at Eleven Bruno Not Seeking Re-Election
News at ElevenJune 23, 2008

State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno released a statement Monday evening saying he will not seek re-election in November.

The news came on the last official day of the 2008 legislative session.

Bruno, 79, has served as leader of the Senate since 1995. He has represented the state's 43rd District, which includes Saratoga and Rensselaer, since 1976.

"I have decided that it is time to move on with my life and to give my constituents an opportunity for new representation and my colleagues in the Senate who have supported me, an opportunity for new leadership," he said in a statement.

The state's top Republican lost his wife earlier this year after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease, although Bruno cited "timing" as the reason for his departure.

"After 32 years of many successes and a few failures, I know now more than ever, and I can say that with comfort and confidence, there is no calling greater than that of public service," Bruno said. "There have been few more rewarding experiences in my life. But, timing in life is everything. While there may never be a good time to make these kinds of life decisions, I have decided that it is time for me to move on with my life."

In response to Bruno's announcement, Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised his good friend.

"Joe Bruno has been a good friend to me and the people of New York City for all the years I have known him," said the mayor in a statement. "Time and again, when we have asked him for leadership, he has delivered -- for our schools, our environment, our economy, and our people. He has more than earned the right to retire, and we wish him all the best."

Last year, Bruno's public feuds with then-Governor Eliot Spitzer gained even more attention when State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo accused Spitzer of hiring State Police to track the majority leader's travel records with the intent to smear Bruno's reputation.

There is no indication that an FBI probe into Bruno's private consulting business has anything to do with his stepping down.

If the Republicans maintain the majority following the November elections, a new leader will then be selected. Bruno's term ends December 31st. The CallNYC Info Page

Monday, June 23, 2008

Feingold: ‘Farce’ wiretap deal could be hiding ‘impeachable offense’

Feingold: ‘Farce’ wiretap deal could be hiding ‘impeachable offense’

The battle to protect Americans from warrantless wiretaps and hold telecommunications companies accountable is all but lost, Sen. Russ Feingold, a leading critic of President Bush’s likely illegal surveillance programs, said Monday.

The “farce” of a surveillance law deal heralded by House Democratic leaders last week could permanently hide evidence of an “impeachable offense” on the part of President Bush, the Wisconsin Democrat said.

Feingold spoke at the New America Foundation in Washington about the nation’s intelligence needs. He panned an update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that quickly passed in the House last week. The Senate is expected to follow suit this year, officially putting the Democratic-controlled Congress’s seal of approval on an administration backed gambit to essentially legalize Bush’s warrantless surveillance program while at the same time letting off the hook phone companies that critics say facilitated the contravention of current law.

“I do think this is a total farce with regard to the immunity [for telecommunications companies]. It basically guarantees the immunity,” Feingold said. “It doesn’t simply have the impact of potentially allowing telephone companies to break the law. It may prevent us from ever getting to the core issue … which is the president ran an illegal program that could’ve been an impeachable offense.”

House Democratic leaders heralded the bill as a “bipartisan compromise” because instead of giving blanket retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that facilitated the president’s warrantless wiretapping program, it would route the grants of immunity through a district court. As long as the companies could demonstrate to a judge that they were instructed to spy on Americans by the Bush administration they would be spared the trouble of litigating more than 40 pending lawsuits , even though they initiated the surveillance without legally required warrants.

“This is an astonishing giveaway,” Feingold said.

The FISA update passed the House Friday, less than 24 hours after it was released. The bill was crafted after negotiations among moderate Democrats, Republicans, the White House and telecommunications lobbyists. The Senate is expected to pass the bill this week, and Feingold sounded pessimistic about the chances to improve it, although he said he would work with other skeptical senators to try.

Feingold and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Friday to urge him not to simply rush the new surveillance bill through the Senate. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also has been critical of the proposed FISA update.

“I’m very worried we’re not going to be able to prevail,” Feingold said in response to a question from RAW STORY. “Sen Dodd and I and Sen. Leahy are going to do everything that we can to stop this mistake, but I’m very concerned … that far too many Democrats will vote the wrong way.”

One of those Democrats could be Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), the party’s presidential candidate. In a statement released Friday, Obama indicated support for the FISA deal, although he said he would work to remove the immunity provision.

“I don’t know what Sen. Obama’s going to do,” Feingold said. “But Democrats should be voting against this.”

Later during a question and answer section, Feingold was asked specifically whether he or Dodd would filibuster the FISA update this week. He said the two met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Friday to request that the bill not just be “rammed through” the Senate.

“We’ll be requiring key procedural votes, and also taking some time on the floor this week, to indicate the problems of this legislation,” he said. “We’re not just going to let it quickly pass.”

This video is from UStream TV, broadcast June 23, 2008.

Download video
Feingold’s prepared speech focused on confronting foreign intelligence and information gaps. His remarks are reprinted below:

Remarks of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold
Confronting Foreign Intelligence and Information Gaps
The New America Foundation
June 23, 2008
As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Steve Clemons, and thanks to all of you here at the New America Foundation for the opportunity to speak at an organization that has a reputation for innovative thinking, and for challenging the status quo when it comes to public policy. The New America Foundation reminds me a little of my home state of Wisconsin - a purple state that, like NAF, transcends the conventional political spectrum.

As some of you may know, I hold open meetings with my constituents every year in every one of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, and I have been doing this since I arrived in the U.S. Senate in 1993. From these meetings – now over 1,100 of them – I have gained a pretty good sense of the interests and concerns of the very diverse group of Americans that I represent.

In the last six years of these listening sessions, foreign affairs generally, and the war in Iraq specifically, have been the number one issue raised. Like so many Americans, the anger and resolve Wisconsinites felt after 9-11 have given way to confusion and frustration at this administration’s disastrous mistake in Iraq.

I hear in my listening sessions how this administration’s focus on Iraq has drained our country’s energy and financial resources, undermined our military readiness, and stymied action on our country’s security and domestic needs. And yet I also sense people’s readiness – their impatience, even — to take on the challenges of our post-9/11 world.

The American people are ready to face these new challenges, but the federal government is not. Nearly seven years after 9/11 we still have not translated the significance of that horrific event – and the responsibility and opportunity it thrust upon us – into a coherent plan of action. Instead, we remain mired in and distracted, politically and financially, by Iraq. As a consequence, many of the same serious problems that made us vulnerable to al Qaeda’s attack — in strategic planning, institutional readiness and allocation of resources — still remain.

My comments today are directed at two fundamental and continuing post 9-11 gaps: a gap in our strategic thinking and a major deficit in our foreign information and intelligence efforts. Until we address these gaps, our country will remain vulnerable here at home.

A Mistaken and Myopic Focus on Iraq

Clearly, the biggest strategic mistake after 9-11 has been the failure to address the threat of al Qaeda head on. Instead, we have conflated al Qaeda with Iraq, and launched a war in Iraq that perpetuates our military, intelligence, diplomatic and fiscal deficits and leaves us exposed - in fact increases our exposure – to very real threats to our domestic safety.

Most Americans now agree that the decision to go to war in Iraq was the wrong response to the attacks of 9-11. Unfortunately, even some political leaders who acknowledge this profound mistake seem to think we have no alternative but to perpetuate it by maintaining a massive open-ended presence in Iraq. I totally reject this position. We cannot construct an effective national security strategy that leaves tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely.

The greatest threat to our national security remains al Qaeda, a stateless network of terrorists, whose leaders have found safe haven in Pakistan along the Afghanistan border, and which has a growing number of increasingly dangerous global affiliates.

If there is a geographic base to al Qaeda, it is not in Iraq. As Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, testified before Congress earlier this year “the most likely near term attack on the United States will come from al Qaeda via [its] safe havens in the under-governed regions of Pakistan.” Likewise, the Director of National Intelligence stated in a 2008 intelligence assessment that al Qaeda is now using the Pakistan safe haven to put into place the last elements necessary to launch another attack against the U.S.

The Atlantic Council, chaired by General James Jones, recently concluded:

Afghanistan remains a dangerously neglected conflict. . . . Yet, what is happening in Afghanistan and beyond its borders can have even greater strategic long-term consequences than the struggle in Iraq. Failure would be disastrous for Europe, North America, and the region. Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan are already breeding grounds for insurgency and terrorism, potentially worse than before September 11th. . . . And what happens in Iraq, Iran and Pakistan will most likely be influenced by conditions in Afghanistan.

The war in Iraq not only diverts the vast bulk of our military resources from the more immediate threats to our safety in places like Afghanistan, it also saps our nation’s financial strength and our ability to invest in our security. Osama bin Laden gave a speech in 2004 in which he stated that his goal was to bankrupt America. That’s al Qaeda’s strategic goal – to bankrupt America — and they have been successful beyond their dreams as we spend ourselves – our money, our people and our global goodwill — into bankruptcy with our misguided focus on Iraq.

If we are to win our struggle against those who seek to do us harm, we must regain global and strategic perspective; reverse this misdirected deployment of our military resources in Iraq; and realign our military, intelligence, diplomatic and other resources to address the threats to our nation’s safety and security that are posed by al Qaeda and its affiliates and sympathizers.

Deficit in Strategic Non-Military Resources

We also need to acknowledge that military resources alone aren’t enough to win this fight. The 2006 Annual Report of the U.S. Intelligence Community states that the predominant, immediate threats to our physical safety are terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These are asymmetrical threats. Terrorism, and to an important degree proliferation, arise from stateless groups that are not deterred by massive weaponry or large standing armies. So, to effectively confront these threats, we have to move beyond a Cold War security strategy that emphasizes traditional military force.

This is not a partisan issue. What I say here today echoes what’s been said by leaders in this and prior administrations and members of both parties. The 9-11 Commission called for an increase in diplomatic, development and humanitarian tools. My Nebraska colleague, Senator Chuck Hagel, who serves with me on both the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees, recently said “You will never win anything in the long run with just military power. When you’re dealing with terrorism, extremism, poverty, despair, those are problems far bigger than the military.” Senators Biden and Lugar, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have both emphasized the need for more effective civilian-led foreign policy efforts, as have Defense Secretary Gates, Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and former deputy Secretary of Defense Joseph Nye.

The major strategic gap in our 21st century preparedness, then, is not a missile gap or a gap in military personnel and hardware measured against the armies and arsenals of another state. The major strategic gap is a deficit in the strength and variety of resources we must bring to bear on the asymmetric threats of today. An effective 21st century national security strategy must include improved resources to collect covert and public information, enhance multilateral diplomacy and prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons. Our strategy must also encourage participatory, transparent and fair government around the world, and promote accountability and the rule of law. That’s because these are key American principles, and because ineffective, repressive, corrupt and unresponsive governments can provide breeding grounds for extremism.

Our military increasingly has taken on the roles of our civilian-led institutions because we have massive deficits in those civilian agencies — in financial and human resources; in cultural and language capabilities; and in coherent, interagency strategies to anticipate and respond to threats to our national security.

We have to change our budgetary priorities to address these deficits. Even the greatest military arsenal in the world can’t ensure the safety of populations or resolve conflicts around the globe. And yet we continue to spend hundreds of billions of dollars – borrowed from China, Japan and oil-exporting countries — on weapons systems designed for Cold War conflicts between states with comparable weapon systems.

It is well past time to shift our strategic thinking – and our corresponding expenditures and actions – beyond outdated military tools and solutions. Let me quote Secretary Gates’ budgetary views from his Kansas State University speech: “We need,” he said, “a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security – diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action and economic reconstruction and development.” One way to increase this much-needed investment in the civilian instruments of national security is to cut wasteful spending on weapons programs that will not help us address our most pressing national security concerns. These include, for example, the F-22 Raptor, which Secretary Gates has specifically identified as a weapons system with limited relevance in counterterrorism operations. It has never flown in Iraq or Afghanistan yet the Air Force continues to ask for more.

I am pleased that the President’s fiscal year 2009 budget attempts to increase the number of Foreign Service officers. As Secretaries Gates and Rice have said, there are more personnel on a single aircraft carrier task force, and more lawyers doing work for the Pentagon, than there are Foreign Service Officers. But, assuming the President’s proposal goes forward, the net gains are unclear, after accounting for the increased demands of Iraq and Afghanistan. The Government Accountability Office reported at the end of last year that, though the Department of State hired over 1,000 Foreign Service officers above attrition levels between 2002 and 2004, that increase was essentially consumed by the staffing demands of Iraq and Afghanistan programs. Even our modest efforts to enhance our civilian capacity, then, are being undermined by Iraq. This is also true with respect to our foreign information and intelligence capacity, to which I will now turn.

Intelligence Gaps

9/11 exposed major gaps in how intelligence critical to our national security was gathered, analyzed and used. The 9/11 Commission reviewed those gaps and began a process of intelligence reform that prompted the creation of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The work is far from complete, but at least a framework for change has been put in place.

Another great challenge remains, however — one that is just as critical to fighting al Qaeda, as well as other threats to our national security. And, unlike the reform efforts pursued thus far, it is broader than just the Intelligence Community. The problem is our deficits in information collection, as well as reporting and analysis. By “information,” I mean not just intelligence gathered clandestinely, but also information obtained through diplomatic reporting and all the overt channels through which our government learns about the world. Inside and outside the Intelligence Community, our government has failed to coordinate information collection across different departments and agencies.

Our foreign information and intelligence will only be as good as the people we employ to gather it – and their ability to operate in the places to which we send them. Yet our intelligence deficit in human resources and collectors abroad is huge. The Office of the DNI estimates that between 1989 and 2001 – during the administrations of both political parties — there was a 40% loss in intelligence human resources. Making up for that loss will take time – after all, it takes five to seven years to develop an experienced employee. And we are short of experienced employees. Just consider what the DNI has acknowledged, that two-thirds of our intelligence-related human resources with responsibilities for sub-Saharan Africa – an area with ongoing al Qaeda activities — have less than five years of knowledge and experience.

The answer to these deficits in numbers and experience cannot be what the DNI has called its authority to “lift and shift” people to address the latest crisis. We need to develop the expertise that only years of study and experience can produce, and we need to pre-position expert collectors around the world – before crises arise.

The 2006 Intelligence Community Annual Report said that the intelligence agencies are “losing the ‘war for talent,’ finding it difficult to recruit, motivate, and retain the best candidates for its positions.” More specifically, the report noted: “[r]ecruiting and retaining high-level skills in critical languages and scientific and technical fields remains difficult.” Simply put, our national security depends on overcoming this particular challenge.

Human resources is part of a larger set of problems in how we collect and analyze information. As I will explain, these problems are entrenched and defy the ability of current institutions to correct them. For that reason, I recently introduced legislation with Senator Chuck Hagel to establish a Foreign Intelligence and Information Commission. Our bill will establish an independent commission to address long-standing, systematic problems in the collection, reporting, and analysis of foreign intelligence as well as diplomatic reporting and open source information.

First, as the Director of National Intelligence has testified, we continue to direct “disproportionate” resources toward current crises, rather than toward long-term strategic issues and emerging threats. Second, we don’t have the geographic distribution of resources we need to anticipate threats around the world. The lack of “global reach” has also been acknowledged by the Intelligence Community leadership. And third, we lack a comprehensive approach to information collection conducted by the U.S. government as a whole, including not only the Intelligence Community, but also State Department and other government officers who are based in our embassies.

This final point – that the problem, and the solution, are broader than the Intelligence Community — has also been acknowledged. Appearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Michael Leiter, Director of the United States National Counterterrorism Center, specifically noted that “much of the information about the instability that can lead to safe havens or ideological radicalization comes not from covert collection but from open collection, best done by Foreign Service officers.” The problem is that it is not in the power of Mr. Leiter, or anyone in the Intelligence Community, to make sure that there are enough Foreign Service officers, in the right places, with the right resources.

To put it simply – the government does not have a process for asking the following questions: What do we need to know, not only today but in the future? Who is best suited to get that information and where do they need to be? Is our analysis up to the task? And how do we allocate resources, across agencies, so that these requirements are met with adequate funding and are focused on prevention, not just reaction? These big strategic questions are critical to our national security, yet they don’t get asked, much less answered. These issues extend well beyond the authorities of the DNI and the jurisdiction of any one congressional committee. That is why we need an independent commission to finally address them comprehensively and to make recommendations for the executive branch and for Congress. I am pleased that the Senate Intelligence Committee has endorsed this approach by including the Feingold-Hagel bill in legislation the Committee approved authorizing intelligence activities for the upcoming fiscal year.

Talking about “information collection” can sound a little abstract, but the implications are very real. Take, for example, our ability to address terrorist safe havens. As recently as the end of January, the State Department’s counterterrorism chief, Lt. Gen. Dell L. Dailey, publicly expressed concerns about what our intelligence services know – and don’t know — about the threat in the Afghan-Pakistani tribal areas. He said: “We don’t have enough information about what’s going on there. Not on al Qaeda. Not on foreign fighters. Not on the Taliban.” The same could be said about other safe havens identified by the State Department, including Somalia, the Sahel, and areas of Southeast Asia.

Around the world, potential instability looms, and political, economic and social conditions that can contribute to terrorist safe havens persist. The question for our government is how do we address these challenges, before the crises arise? Do we need more clandestine collectors in these parts of the world? Or do we need more political officers in far-flung places so we can do more robust diplomatic reporting? What does a U.S. embassy in one of these countries look like, from an interagency collection and reporting perspective? Are more consulates and out-of-embassy posts part of the solution? And how do we connect the requirements of our embassies overseas to Washington, where budget requests and spending allocations should reflect a broad strategy for collecting information across different agencies?

An independent commission will be able to ask, and help to answer, these questions. It will be able to look at the Intelligence Community, the State Department, and other departments and agencies to ensure that strategic and budgetary planning is part of a larger, interagency process. The commission will consider the role of the National Security Council and the OMB in this process. And it will look at the problem from top to bottom, interviewing NSC officials in Washington and visiting country missions overseas. This would not be a confrontational or accusatory investigation. It’s an inquiry intended to produce concrete recommendations to fix long-standing problems. Those recommendations will be of enormous benefit to whoever the next president is. And it will help Congress as it conducts oversight and considers the role of the Intelligence Community, the DNI, the State Department, and other agencies in the context of a broader strategy.

Other Gaps

There are other significant gaps in our security post-9/11, from this administration’s inconsistent “freedom agenda,” to our convoluted foreign assistance strategies, to our domestic infrastructure needs, but I think I may need a separate invitation for another day to speak about these.

Ultimately, the gaps that left us exposed here at home to the catastrophic attack we experienced on 9-11 remain with us. They present us with very real risks that are being left unaddressed, in part, because of our military presence in Iraq. The longer we remain in Iraq, the longer we will be unable to devote the human and financial resources these challenges urgently need.

I appreciate the roles that this institution and this audience play in helping to bring these issues into focus. I am hopeful that our voices, in all their diversity, will help inform decisions in a new administration that are in our best and collective interests. Nothing less than America’s security and future is at stake.

Thank you.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

McGovern: Iran attack coming soon

McGovern: Iran attack coming soon

In a new editorial published by, former CIA officer Ray McGovern states that he believes "a perfect storm seems to be gathering in late summer or early fall," when the Bush administration and allies in Israel will launch attacks against Iran.

"This time it will be largely the Air Force's show, punctuated by missile and air strikes by the Navy," writes McGovern. "Israeli-American agreement has now been reached at the highest level; the armed forces planners, plotters and pilots are working out the details."

McGovern further references what former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan calls Bush's "bubble."

"By all indications, Vice President Dick Cheney and his huge staff continue to control the flow of information to the president," McGovern elaborates. "... Think back on the White House press conference of Feb. 28, when Bush was asked what advice he would give to Americans facing the prospect of $4-a-gallon gasoline.

"'Wait, what did you just say?' the president interrupted.' 'You're predicting $4-a-gallon gasoline?...That's interesting. I hadn't heard that,'" states McGovern.

He ultimately concludes that a handful of senior military officers have been key in preventing an attack on Iran thus far, though their numbers are thinning thanks to administration efforts.

Finally, McGovern calls on Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, to "do what must be done."

"Does Conyers not owe at least that much encouragement to those courageous officers who have stood up to Cheney in trying to prevent wider war and catastrophe in the Middle East? Scott McClellan has been quite clear in reminding us that once the president decided to invade Iraq, he was not going to let anything stop him. There is ample evidence that Bush has taken a similar decision with respect to Iran – with Olmert as his chief counsel, no less.

"It is getting late, but this is due largely to Conyers' own dithering," he resigns.

Dem Rep. calls for impeachment at McClellan testimony: video

Dem Rep. calls for impeachment at McClellan testimony: video

MORE: McClellan testifies to House Judiciary Committee.

After questioning former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan during a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee Friday, a Democratic congressman called for impeachment proceedings to be initiated.

Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) said that he believed McClellan's testimony implicated both Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush as the only two administration sources who could have leaked the identity of former CIA covert operative Valerie Plame-Wilson.

"The president and vice president have denied ordering this illegal leak, but logic and the chain of command dictates that it must have been one of them,” said Wexler. "Mr. McClellan, in your book, you state that you cannot believe President Bush authorized the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson's status as a covert agent. ... Who does that leave us? The vice president."

"He is someone that keeps things pretty close to the vest, to say the least," replied McClellan.

"There's a lot of suspicion there, because there's questions that have never been answered, despite the fact that we said we would address these issues." McClellan added. Asked Wexler, "So this suspicion leads you to believe that Vice President Cheney could have authorized Mr. Libby's leak?" McClellan replied, "I can't rule it out."

"We know that the vice president wrote a note where he starts to write and then crosses out the fact that the president himself asked Mr. Libby to stick his neck into a meat grinder to protect the administration," said Wexler. "It's clear to me that Mr. Cheney is the only one left -- the only likely suspect -- to have ordered the leak. If Mr. Cheney really thought Libby was innocent, then Mr. Cheney's note would have said, 'We need to protect this man, who has done nothing wrong.'"

Wexler closed by thundering: "The vice president's own hand betrays him, and Libby, and implicates the President of the United States. These facts in your testimony, Mr. McClellan, are more than enough, in my view, to open up impeachment hearings."

This video is from, broadcast June 20, 2008.

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How Gingrich/Giuliani Sabotaged Civic Debate

How Gingrich/Giuliani Sabotaged Civic Debate

This past week, America saw two familiar figures impose violent rhetoric into the Presidential debate on behalf of John McCain: Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani. It was a textbook example of the right-wing effort to use violent language not just to distract the public, but to undermine the attempt by citizens to have a pragmatic discussion with an eye towards solving problems.

Trying To Have a Real Debate: A Nation of Laws?
On June 12, 2008, the Supreme Court restored Habeas Corpus to detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and in so doing, the courts initiated an important conversation about what it means for the United States to be a Democracy based on a system of laws. Within that ruling itself, Justice Scalia invited those who opposed the ruling to use violent rhetoric by stating that the court's decision "will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed" (link).

Within days of that ruling, Gingrich and Giuliani followed Scalia's lead, pushed their way into the right-wing broadcast, and began to argue that liberal views on Habeas Corpus would kill Americans.

The basic context pf the Habeas Ruling was this:

  1. America is a nation of laws, the fundamental basis of which is the right to know why and protest one's incarceration by the state.
  2. Habeas has been revoked during past wars when it was feared that enemies to the United States were living among the general population and needed to be removed without delay (Civil War, WWII).
  3. In past cases, the court restored Habeas when the war ended. In this case, Habeas has been restored on the idea the initial perceived 'war' requiring Habeas suspension has since become a metaphorical 'war' used to maintain certain policies.

Now, what Americans heard in this historic court ruling is a key civic question:

How long can a nation of laws endure if the fundamental right on which all democracies are based has been abrogated?

The answer is something to this effect:

So long as that nation of laws is at war.

There was a deliberative purpose to the Supreme Court ruling, in other words, which relates to that crucial question for our democracy about the length, nature, legality, and necessity of f what has been presented to the public by the Bush Administration and the McCain campaign as a 'war' on many fronts without end. And in the wake of the court's ruling, Americans were invited to debate that issue: to what extent we are at war, when it began, how it will end, has it already ended, and so forth.

This is the point at which Gingrich and Giuliani entered onto the scene and used violent rhetoric to undermine the very process of debating this crucial issue.

On Sunday June 15, Gingrich went on Face The Nation and argued that Barack Obama's lauding of the restoration of Habeas could bring about the nuclear annihilation of American city:

He applauded this court decision. This court decision is a disaster, which could cost us a city. And the debate ought to be over whether or not you're prepared to risk losing an American city on behalf of five lawyers - it was a 5-4 decision. Five lawyers had decided that the Supreme Court counts more than the Congress and the president combined in national security. That ought to be a principled argument between McCain and Obama, about whether or not you're prepared to allow any random nut-case district judge, who has no knowledge of national security, to set the rules for terrorists (N. Gingrich, Face The Nation, Jun 15, 2008)

So there it is: Days after the Supreme court restores Habeas, as Americans debate the civic meaning of this ruling, Newt Gingrich stands up and tells us that the ruling could bring about thousands if not millions of American deaths by terrorists, and that the Democratic candidate for President welcomes this. If ever there was a clear case of a right-wing pundit imposing violent rhetoric on an issue to undermine meaningful debate, that was it.

Next up, Rudy Giuliani, Mr. 9/11-9/11-and-did-I-mention-9/11 himself.

Giuliani joined Gingrich in the effort to derail the civic debate about Habeas by criticizing Obama a few days after Gingrich's CBS spot that. Speaking publicly for the first time in months, Giuliani claimed that Obama's position on fighting terrorism--which advocates police work to track down, arrest, and try terrorists--would exposed America to terrorists seeking to destroy our way of life and, effectively, result in more deaths.

Of course, in criticizing him, Giuliani lied about Obama's position on national security, but that is not the key point. The real issue here is that Giuliani joined Gingrich in undermining the Habeas Corpus debate by yanking the media into a distracting accusation that the Democratic candidate's policies will lead to the horrific death of Americans at the hands of our most violent enemies.

That, America, was right-wing violent rhetoric in action.

Old Distractions Rehashed
The first key point to note here is that in this new episode, both Gingrich and Giuliani recycled violent arguments published in their best-selling books (Giuliani's Leadership, Gingrich's Winning the Future) in which they lay out the basic tenets of their 'Democratic-anti-terrorism-policy-will-bring-the-destruction-of-America' argument. Second, broadcast outlets have a long record of amplifying these arguments through Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, FOX News affiliates news, and more recently, Joe Scarborough. Third, these candidates ran high-profile Presidential bids that were rejected by the American public (Gingrich's was exploratory, Giuliani was the once-and-future front-runner). And fourth, in response to this argument, Democratic politicians typically become nervous that they will be branded 'weak on defense,' putting out more and more bellicose arguments, rather than sticking to the topic at hand.

So, there was the violent rhetoric trajectory right in front of us, put in motion this week by the same high-profile players that have been using it effectively since 2001. A key civic issue enters the public arena. High-profile right-wing pundits reframe the issue in violent terms. The media and Democratic leaders accept the frame rather than dismissing it. Meaningful civic debate on the topic dissipates.

The steps of this episode can be summed up like this:

1) Habeas corpus restored - American debates a 'nation of laws'
2) Gingrich/Giuliani proclaim that Democrats hasten destruction of America
3) Major news outlets echo this argument
4) Democrats respond by saying they are "strong on defense"

But let's step back for a minute and see if Step 3 and 4 really went down like this--let's see if the media and the Democrats have learned something since 2006.

On June 18th's Morning Joe, Joe Scarbarough had as a guest Jonathan Capehart, editorial writer for The Washington Post, to discuss the Habeas decision among other things. Showing that the media would not be distracted by Gingrich and Giuliani--and despite Scarborough's effort to amplify the violent rhetoric--Capehart focused the interview on the actual topic Americans should be discussing. Asked by Scarborough if the court ruling made America less safe in the face of terrorism, Capehart emphasized the key civic question the restoration of habeas is about Americans' belief that we are and should be a nation of laws. Bravo, Jonathan Capehart. Yes indeed, it seems the some key figures in the media have seen what the likes of Gingrich and Giuliani are doing, and now refuse to be a part of it.

But what about the Democratic Party? Had they figured out what Gingrich and Giuliani were doing?

Right after Capehart's spot on Morning Joe, Susan Rice, an Obama campaign Foreign Policy advisor, came into the studio for an interview. Susan Rice explained that the McCain/Bush approach to terrorism was not actually strong because it failed to catch Osama Bin Laden, and that a return to a combination of police and foreign intelligence building to fight terrorism would be a more effective way to protect the nation.

Well argued, Susan Rice. But! The one point she needed to hit out of the park was not about Democrats being stronger than Republicans on defense. She needed to focus the debate on the key issue that Jonathan Capehart raised: that Americans' want to discuss that we are 'a nation of laws' and the Habeaus ruling focused the civic debate on this issue. Why did Obama's adviser not make this point as clearly as she needed to?

At a fundamental level it does not seem that the Obama campaign--or the Democrats in general, for that matter, truly believe (yet) that right-wing pundits use violent arguments to tie up the debate. It is more likely that Democrats still think the right is using 'fear'--a much more vague and hard to define concept which leads communications strategists to try to push back with 'strength' instead of keeping the discussion in a more productive, more meaningful frame (e.g., 'a nation of laws'). As a result, Susan Rice--as deft as she was--nonetheless left the debate straddling two issues, not quite wrestling control back from Giuliani and Gingrich who played the perfect Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

What the debate needed, and still needs, is a high-profile Democrat assert the very point that Jonathan Capehart made (a point, incidentally, that can also be found in Chapters 2 and 8 of Outright Barbarous): (1) We are a nation of laws and (2) we protect the nation from terrorism (and other violent threats) by tracking down chains of responsibility.

When the debate is approached that way, the debate stays grounded in the very topic the nation wants to discuss, and stays focused on the problems Americans seek to solve.

In this case, one has to conclude that the media is more aware than the Democratic Party as to how the right is using violent rhetoric to undermine the debate--an effort which undermines the work of journalists and candidates alike.

The Poverty of Reaganism-Bushism

The Poverty of Reaganism-Bushism

by David Michael Green

Back in the day when communism was a politically viable economic program, its capitalist enemies used to love to rail against the evils of “Marxism-Leninism.”

Interestingly, they almost always attacked it for all the wrong reasons, citing, for example, the lack of political freedom in societies where it was being practiced, the aggressive tendencies of national leaders in those countries seeking to conquer their neighbors, or the ideology’s hostility to religion. That last one in particular was always a good one for getting Americans to rise out of their pews in disgust and anger. Those commies don’t even have Jesus!

The fact that none of these critiques had anything at all to do with the economic system that communism actually is was always telling. It’s not so easy to attack the idea of sharing and community, is it? Better to wrap it up instead inside the godless thugs — sometimes real, sometimes not — who embraced it abroad. What could be more un-American?

This was chiefly a marketing ploy, and probably an unnecessary one at that, as communist experiments — again, in the form of economic systems — had limited successes and some spectacular failures. The Soviet Union did rapidly grow from an agrarian economy into a superpower (albeit not an economic one) in very short time, in part through a planned economy. However, that same system later became so ossified that the country ultimately collapsed around it. Toward the end, workers used to joke about the sham command economy in which they were stuck, saying, “We pretend to work, and the government pretends to pay us.” Often that wasn’t so far from the truth. Likewise, it would be hard to make a real compelling argument for Mao’s Great Leap Forward — a collectivization program that wiped out twenty or thirty million Chinese peasants — over Deng Xiaoping’s turn to the market, which has made the Chinese economy a gale force storm for three decades now, with political and military power following closely in its wake.

We in the US are now being treated to a similar experiment in economic ideology, though it is neither new nor, at the end of the day, actually ideological. More on that later. For now, though, in the spirit of my good friends on the right, I propose that we give this program the name it properly deserves: Reaganism-Bushism.

While China has been growing into an economic powerhouse these last thirty years, America, under the sway of Reaganism-Bushism, has become the economic equivalent of a Midwestern town decimated by a crystal meth epidemic. Nor are the two likely unrelated, particularly when dealing devastating drugs is the sole economic opportunity on the landscape, and doing those drugs is the sole escape from that personal blight.

In any case, that’s our national story. We’re the country that is losing its teeth, blasting its brain cells, rotting its body, and stealing everything not bolted down in order to feed its greed habit. Now, as credit crises explode around us and our housing bubble pops and we’ve run out of foreigners and domestics to exploit and the future and the past from which we’ve borrowed so heavily are both calling in their chits — now we are the crystal meth country. Survey the economic, social, political and moral landscape and cringe. Look what Reaganism-Bushism has wrought.

Reaganism-Bushism markets itself as a real economic ideology with real principles, but the truth is all that’s just for the consumption of the hoi polloi. As a Madison Avenue — or P.T. Barnum — scheme, it’s rather more complex than that. As a set of economic principles, it’s far less so.

Because your education in self-destructive political foolishness is not yet complete, it remains necessary to pretend that this is a real ideology with real economic principles that are actually adhered to. You know, stuff like ‘market discipline’ and the ‘invisible hand,’ which only ever seem to apply to the already vulnerable, not to the friendly rich people forever espousing these ideas. In truth, there actually are a set of operating principles here. Just not the ones that are advertised.

Principle Number One is that only a fool believes that the government is an instrument whose purpose is to insure the safety and welfare of the people living within the country’s borders. In actuality, the government is a giant cash cow — in fact, the biggest of them all. Yes, its purpose is in fact redistribution of wealth, just not in the southerly direction favored during the more quaint times of our youth. Now it’s all about aggregating what’s left of meager middle-class earnings through tax collections and then redistributing it to the already fabulously wealthy folks of the richest one percent of the population. (Actually, even many of those are pikers compared to the real money in this country, the top one-tenth of a percent who have their fingers really deep into the pie.) But, of course, since this is fundamentally an exercise in wanton societal destruction, the cash cow is probably the wrong mammalian metaphor for the crisis in question. What we’re actually talking about here is geese, as in the kind that lay golden eggs. Or, at least, do so until you slit open their bellies.

But even steering fat, no-bid, no supervision, secret contracts to favored corporations in order to pay for military hardware we don’t need, or services in Iraq that aren’t actually provided, is not enough. (Did you see the New York Times cover story about American soldiers being electrocuted because of shoddy contractor work? Or the one about the Army employee who got reassigned when he questioned Kellogg, Brown and Root’s non-performance there?) So Principle Number Two is to never let economic realities that would deter mere mortals prevent you from maximum possible aggrandizement. In short, steal from your own kids.

The only thing more amazing about regressive-created deficits to finance bloated and unnecessary government spending is the fact that conservatives have until very recently somehow still prevailed in the political marketing wars sufficiently that Americans saw them as the folks who are most fiscally responsible. Considering the record of our most conservative presidents (and the ideological namesakes in question), this is truly an astonishing feat. Ronald Reagan, who castigated Jimmy Carter in 1980 for economic mismanagement, including excessive deficits, proceeded to quadruple the national debt when he came to office. Anyone could see it coming, too. In fact, George Herbert Walker Bush, when he was fighting Reagan for the nomination that year, called the latter’s patently unbalanced economic agenda of military build-up, massive tax cuts and a balanced budget, “voodoo economics.” In one of the greatest sell-outs of all history, however, Poppy Bush put his personal interest over our national interest, and become strangely silent on the matter after Reagan put him on the ticket as vice-presidential nominee, opening the way for him to ultimately win the presidency.

Meanwhile, not to be outdone by his daddy or Saint Ron, Lil’ Bush has turned the greatest budget surplus in American history into the greatest deficit ever. His pals in Congress, always railing about Democratic fiscal irresponsibility, broke every imaginable record for doling out the self-serving pork once they got control of the national piggy bank. The national debt is now well over nine trillion bucks, and fast rising. If Bush’s tax cuts (actually tax burden transfers, from the wealthy to the middle class, and from this generation to the next) are renewed, it will be far worse still. If the alternate minimum tax is properly adjusted, even worse yet. And we know about the time-bomb of entitlement benefits for retiring Baby Boomers that will soon hit us. What most Americans don’t know is that regressives have spent the last decades using their voodoo economics to raid those funds, in order to help keep the general budget deficits from being even worse, thus turning a time-bomb into a nuclear stockpile, about to explode.

So Reaganism-Bushism Principle Number One is use the people’s government to steal everything you can from them. Principle Number Two is to use deficit spending to steal from their children as well. (Can’t you just see the commercial: “Why wait, when you can bilk it now?!”) Principle Number Three is to destroy as much of the social safety net as you possibly can. After all, some Honest John knuckleheads out there are still going to be fiscally responsible enough to want to pay for what we spend, and if they go looking around for potential tax revenue, guess where they might see a whole lot of it lurking about, untouched? So, welfare programs gotta go. Social Security? Gotta go, though of course you can’t just kill middle class programs like you can for the poor, so you have to pretend your privatization plan is a reform to make the program solvent. National healthcare? Yeah, right. And, if you do have to add a prescription drug benefit because of the need to pander to seniors, make sure it’s written to line the pockets of Big Pharma and Big Insurance so heavily that their pants fall down around their ankles. Don’t worry, they have plenty of servants they can get to pull them back up.

The fourth precept of Reaganism-Bushism is an extension of the first three. Once you’ve exhausted your exploitation of the folks at home and their children, why stop? Americans are only five percent of the world’s population. That leaves a whole world of nice vulnerable people to exploit economically!! And politically. And physically. Can you say “Pinochet”? “The Shah”? “Apartheid”? “Contras”? “Marcos”? And lots more where those good old boys came from. Regressives didn’t prop up those bloody dictators because they were great lovers of democracy, or even because of some concern about communist incursions into the ‘free’ world. They did it because all you had to do was enrich these tinhorns and stroke their egos in order guarantee their assistance in the pillaging of their own people. In Grant’s era, or even Hoover’s, all plunder was local - or at least mostly. Reagan and Bush have taken the hunt for spoils truly global.

But why stop with people, even 6.5 billion of them? There’s an entire landscape to be raped! Doing so with wanton disregard for the consequences is Principle Number Five. When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, one of the surprises for people in the West, not to mention many in the East, was the degree of environmental annihilation that had taken place. In the race to seek industrial parity with the West, the cheapest way for the Soviets and their allies to get the job done was to ignore environmental impacts of any sort. So that’s just what they did, to devastating consequences. The rest of the world is likely to be having a similar experience pretty soon. Whether it’s mountain leveling, or rainforest obliteration, or gargantuan industrialized outdoor cattle toilets, or sticking the planet in the pot and leaving it there on a low boil, the world is beginning to find out what happens when the captains of industry exploit the planet’s resources while leaving the ‘externalities’ for the rest of us to clean up. And what happens when right-wing politicians who are supposed to be regulating them in the public interest instead serve the special interests. Hint: It ain’t pretty. When it comes to regressive politics in America today, nothing is sacred, not even the ground you walk upon, the water you drink or the air you breathe.

Finally, Reaganism-Bushism Principle Number Six is that war is not healthy for children and other living things, except rich people getting even richer from it. So be sure to have lots of war. Or, at the very least, lots of spending on war goodies. Right now, the US not only spends more on ‘defense’ than any other country, it spends more — and it’s not even close — than every other country in the world, combined! And there are 195 of them or so, if you’re keeping score. And our great national threat is…? Nazi Germany? Nah. Stalin’s Soviet Union? Nope. It’s a guy with a beard holed up in the mountains of Pakistan, and a few other folks like him. (Or, at least it used to be a few, until we had the bright idea of launching the Al Qaeda Hyperdrive Recruitment Program, aka the Iraq War.) Meanwhile, gee, I don’t know. Is it just me, or does this seem like a grossly disproportionate amount of money to spend on privately produced military hardware, especially when our medical, education and infrastructural systems are crumbling at home? I guess it’s just all a big coincidence that we spend so much on military hardware while the fat-cats bankrolling regressive politicians are getting rich from the war toys the latter then turn around and purchase from the former.

All that said, the above itemization of Reaganism-Bushism’s key ideological principles absolutely gives the creed far too much credit. That’s because this is no ideology at all, even a bad one. In actuality, it is a prescription for pillaging and kleptocracy, wrapped in an ideological cloak to give it legitimacy. They need to market it that way because it’s a little early yet in the Dumbification of America campaign for them to come right out and tell you that war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength. Only Republican voters are quite so intoxicated to believe that already, and lots of them have been falling off the wagon lately. So, instead, they have to give you this looting of your own wallet and the tattering of your moral map all gussied up as a real, bona fide economic ideology.

You know: Free trade raises prosperity for everyone! Tax cuts benefit the country and even raise governmental revenues! Government regulation is evil! A skyrocketing wealth gap is just the natural product of entrpreneurial dynamism! And social programs to assist the poor, elderly and the middle class sap the moral strength of the country! Then they go find some loopy economist like Arthur Laffer to legitimate completely counter-intuitive ideas by publishing some fancy graphs in some backward academic journal. Never mind that your wallet gets lighter every year — you’ve got to stick with this economic program because it’s the American Way, and anything else is some commie plot.

Marxism-Leninism may be a dead ideology (or it may not), relegated to the ash heap of history, but at least it sprang from an altruistic motivation. Marx wasn’t sitting in the British Museum all day long figuring out how he could get rich by exploiting the masses. Reaganism-Bushism was always just the opposite — it’s just as non-altruistic a program as thievery always was, whatever fancy label you want to paste on it, however much lipstick you slather on the pig. Just as evil as slavery, colonialism, worker exploitation and environmental depredation ever were.

And just as much a real ideology as any emperor’s fine set of new clothes.

David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers’ reactions to his articles (, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,