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thomhartmann's Journal - Archives
Posted by thomhartmann in General Discussion
Sat Aug 06th 2011, 09:32 AM
Mainstream Media Ignores S&P Attack On Republicans
By Thom Hartmann

Have you seen, anywhere, in any media, or even heard reported or repeated on NPR, the following sentence?

“We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act.”

It’s right there on Page 4 of the official Standard & Poors “Research Update” – the actual report on what they did and why – published on August 5th as the explanation for why they believe Congress – and even the Gang of Twelve – will be unable to actually deal with the US debt crisis.

Perhaps it’s just lazy – the bullet points at the beginning of the report don’t mention the Republicans or taxes, but instead just say, for example (part of one of six quick bullet-points): “he downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges…”

In order to figure out that one of the reasons why is that “Republicans in the Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues,” a hard-working reporter would have to read to page four of the eight-page report. It’s just too much effort for most reporters?

Although they do also mention this in the very first sentence of the report: “We lowered our long-term rating on the U.S. because we believe that the prolonged controversy over raising the statutory debt ceiling and the related fiscal policy debate indicate that further near-term progress containing the growth in public spending, especially on entitlements, or on reaching an agreement on raising revenues is less likely than we previously assumed and will remain a contentious and fitful process.” (Italics mine)

Or could it be that many reporters – and virtually all of the television talking heads – are themselves relatively high income-earners who don’t relish the idea of higher taxes?

Or could it be that reporters are afraid that if they report the actual language of the S&P Research Report, then Republicans will punish them by denying them “access” – i.e. refusing to show up on their programs – which is the career and show kiss-of-death for radio and TV programs that rely on big-name politicians to work?

I don’t know the reason, but it’s fascinating to see all the huffing and puffing about the S&P downgrade of America’s debt that all seems to be working so hard to avoid mentioning that critical sentence.

Inquiring minds want to know…

(The entire report as a PDF is at: http://www.standardandpoors.com/servlet/Bl... > http://www.standardandpoors.com/servlet/Bl...
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Posted by thomhartmann in Editorials & Other Articles
Tue May 18th 2010, 11:14 AM
California state Sen. Leland Yee (D) has introduced a bill to stop Texas textbooks from getting into California classrooms. Earlier this year, Texas cut Thomas Jefferson out of textbooks and replaced him with the religious right icon John Calvin - who argued that riches are the sign of god's blessing and poverty is a sign of god's curse - and also tossed out the word “democratic” from the description of the U.S. government, replacing it with "republic" which sounds more like "Republican" - an old rhetorical trick that goes back to Joe McCarthy's time. A new report in the Guardian reveals that the Texas dropped the phrase "slave trade" in favor of ‘Atlantic triangular trade." And newly proposed changes in Texas schoolbooks include teaching kids the importance of gutting social security & medicare and how the UN "is a danger to US sovereignty." The Texas school board will be meeting again this week and conservatives have promised to keep chipping away correct years of liberal bias in history classes. Texas serves 4.7 million students and accounts for a large percentage of the textbook market, and they influence what is taught in the the entire US. Why are out textbooks for children becoming a Tea Party Manifesto?
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Posted by thomhartmann in Editorials & Other Articles
Sun May 16th 2010, 08:39 PM
The Financial Times is reporting that leading nations are still piling up debt even though there's technically been an economic recovery. In particular, the IMF is looking at US debt over the next decade and predicting that it'll be unsustainable if we don't do something quick. Of course, what conservatives want to do is slash social security and medicare while letting the government keep all those funds we've paid into the system. The IMF, on the other hand, is suggesting that a 10% value added tax (VAT - basically a national sales tax) along with increasing income taxes on rich people and adding a carbon tax like Denmark has done would raise revenues - income to the US treasury - by about 4.5 of GDP, which would largely solve the problem of the deficits Reagan and Bush left us. These are actually very doable solutions, but Republicans - representing the interests of the top 1 percent of big corporations and the top half of one percent of very rich individuals - will fight them tooth and nail. The question now is whether the Obama administration will have the political will to do it, and whether - while Karl Rove is raising hundreds of millions of dollars in private corporate money to destroy Democrats in the 2010 and 2012 elections - there will be any progressive politicians left to help things along.
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Posted by thomhartmann in Editorials & Other Articles
Wed May 12th 2010, 06:11 PM
The Times-Picayune reported last week that an oil worker who survived the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, that killed 11 people and started a disastrous oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, said a key safety measure was not being implented on the rig. Lawyer Scott Bickford said his client claims a column of mud was being removed from an exploratory well before it was sealed with a top cement cap -- a move he described as "human error" that may have in turn failed to prevent the deadly explosion. A statement from cement contractor Halliburton, reported by the New Orleans newspaper, confirmed the top cap was not installed. The column of heavy mud is one of the core defenses relied upon by drillers to prevent explosions. So they cut corners to get the job done quickly.

Here's a question. Have you ever worked in a place where the bigwhigs were coming to town and you had to quickly get everything ready for them? Remember that there were six senior British Petroleum executives on the oil rig at the time of the explosion, celebrating a recent safety award the company had gotten. Getting senior executives out to an oil rig all at the same time is something that requires some coordinating and planning. What if the drillers and Halliburton were told that the executives were going to be there on April 20th for the party, and therefore they had to hurry to get the job done? And therefore they skipped the time-consuming step of putting the mud plug in and went straight to the cementing process, apparently the fatal mistake that let the giant methane bubble rush up and explode the rig?

Was this entire disaster the result of a hurry-hurry-up because the big shots were flying out by helicopter and the riggers had to get things done "stat"? Who were these six executives? How far out was their visit planned? Did Halliburton and Transocean cut corners because they were either explicitly told to by BP or implicitly pressured to by BP because the executives were on their way out for the party? And why is nobody talking about who these executives were, and nobody is telling the life and family stories of the eleven workers who died in the rig explosion?

Inquiring minds want to know.
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Posted by thomhartmann in Editorials & Other Articles
Mon Feb 08th 2010, 08:46 PM
Globalization Is Killing the Globe: Return to Local Economies

by Thom Hartmann

Globalization is killing Europe, just as it's already wiped out much of the American middle class.

Spain and Greece are facing immediate crises that many other European nations see on the near horizon: aging boomer workers are retiring with healthy benefit packages, but the younger workers who are paying for those benefits aren't making anything close to the income (or, therefore, paying the taxes) that their parents did.

Globalists/corporatists/conservative "free market" and "flat earth" advocates say this is a great opportunity to cut benefits for the old folks (and for the young folks in the future), thus bringing the countries budgets back into balance, and this story is the main corporate media storyline.

But it overlooks the real issue (and the real solution): how globalization is killing these nations' economies and what can be done about it.

From the days of Adam Smith, classical economics pointed out that manufacturing and extraction are the only two ways to "create wealth."

"Wealth" is different from "income." Wealth is value, which endures at least for some time. Income is simply compensation for work. If you wash my car for $10 and I mow your lawn for $10, we have a GDP of $20 and it looks like we both have income and economic activity. But no wealth has been created, just income.

On the other hand, if I build your car, I'm creating something of value. And if you turn my lawn into a small farm that produces food we can all eat, you're creating something of value. Not only do we have an "economy" with a "GDP," we also have created wealth.

A stick on the ground has no commercial value, but if you add labor to it by carving it into an axe handle -- a thing of commercial value -- you have "created wealth." Similarly, metals in the ground have no commercial value, but when you add labor to them by extracting, refining, and forming them into products, you "create wealth." Even turning seeds and dirt and cows into hamburgers is a form of manufacturing and creates wealth.

This is the "Wealth of Nations" that titled Adam Smith's famous 1776 book.

On the other hand, when a trader at Goldman Sachs makes a "profit" trading stocks, bonds, or currencies, no wealth whatsoever is created. In fact, to the extent that that trader takes millions in commissions, pay, and bonuses, he's actually depleting the wealth of the nation (particularly to the extent that he moves his money offshore to save or invest, as many do).

To use the United States as an example, in the late 1940s and early 1950s manufacturing accounted for a high of 28 percent of our total gross domestic product (and much of the rest of the economy like agriculture that, in a classical sense is "manufacturing" wasn't even included in those numbers), and when Reagan came into office it was at a strong 20 percent. Today it's about ten percent of our GDP.

What this means is that we're creating less wealth here, because we're not making much anymore. (And the biggest growth in American manufacturing has been in the military sector, where goods are made that are then destroyed when they explode over foreign cities, causing even more of our wealth to vanish.)

The main effect of the globalism fad of the past 30 yearrs -- lowering the protective barriers to trade that countries for centuries have used to make sure their own local economies are self-sufficient -- has been to ship manufacturing (the creation of wealth) from developed nations to developing nations. Transnational corporations love this, because in countries with lower labor costs and few environmental and safety regulations, it's more profitable to manufacture products. They then sell those products in the "mature" countries -- the places that used to manufacture -- and people burn through the wealth they'd accumulated in the earlier manufacturing days (home equity, principally, along with savings and lines of credit) to buy these foreign-manufactured goods.

At first, it looks like a good deal to consumers in developed nations. Goods are cheaper! But over a decade or two or three, as the creation of real wealth is reduced and the residue of the old wealth is spent, the developed nations become progressively poorer and poorer. At the same time, the "developing" nations become wealthier -- because those are the places that are producing real wealth.

Which brings us to Spain and Greece -- and the problem of all developed nations including the USA. So long as globalism continues apace, the transnational corporations and their CEOs will continue to become fabulously wealthy. But, more importantly, they also acquire the political power that comes with that control of economies.

So they tell us that instead of putting back into place tariffs, domestic content laws, and other "protectionist" policies that built America from the time the were first proposed by Alexander Hamilton in 1791 (and largely adopted by Congress in 1793) until they were dismantled by Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush, we should instead simple "accept the reality" that we're "living beyond our means" and we have to "cut back our wages and social programs."

In other words, they get richer, our nations become poorer, and national sovereignty is reduced.

Nations -- and in large countries like the USA, even states -- must again rebuild their manufacturing base and become locally self-sufficient, so their own consumers are buying products manufactured by their own workers.

"But won't that make Wal-Mart's stuff more expensive?" whine the flat-earthers.

Yes, it will. But most Americans (and Greeks and Spaniards) would gladly pay 10 percent more for the goods in their stores if their paychecks were 20 percent higher. And manufacturing paychecks have always been higher, because manufacturing is where "true wealth" is generated (thus the basis for most union movements, which further guarantee healthy worker income and benefits).

The transnational corporations benefiting from globalization are also, in most cases, the transnational corporations that own our media, so even the word globalization is rarely heard in reports on economic crises around the world.

But globalization is the villain here, and one that needs to be taken in hand and brought under control quickly if we don't want to see virtually the nations of the world end up subservient to corporate control, a new form of an ancient economic system known as feudalism.
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Posted by thomhartmann in Political Videos
Sat Dec 26th 2009, 10:55 PM
The Thom Hartmann Program can be heard daily M-F 12-3pm ET. Visit www.thomhartmann.com to listen live, join the community or purchase a podcast.
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Posted by thomhartmann in Editorials & Other Articles
Wed Dec 16th 2009, 09:20 AM
by Thom Hartmann



With apologies to Pastor Niemöller:





First they came for the banksters, and showered them with money and put them in the Administration in a way that was not change we could believe in.



Then they came for the military industrial complex, and sent more and more of our children to die in faraway lands that had never attacked us in a way that was not change we could believe in.



And now they’ve sold out our hope for a national health care system not run by millionaire gangsters in suits. And who is left to speak for us?








President Obama is playing the Bill Clinton game of throwing people a bone and telling them it’s steak. Perhaps he’s doing it because he thinks it’s his only choice; perhaps it’s because he’s surrounded himself with Bill Clinton advisors (and Hillary as Secretary of State); whatever the reason, while it worked for Clinton, it won’t work for Obama.



It worked for Reagan, and for the first Bush, and even worked somewhat for George W. Bush. 



But it won’t work anymore. Here’s why.



From 1929 until the 1980s, most Americans were “high information voters.” They were paying attention to politics. The Republican Great Depression of 1929-1938, World War II, the Korean War, Kennedy’s election, and the War in Vietnam were all Big Events that caused Americans to pay attention. Americans of that era needed to know what was up in Washington, DC, because they felt the consequences directly. 



This is why in November of 1954, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote a letter to his John Bircher brother Edgar, “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”



The voters knew. Even as late as 1977, when George W. Bush ran for Congress from Texas on a nearly singular platform of privatizing Social Security, he lost badly. The voters knew. 



Then came Reagan. He seemed so nice. He talked friendly. At the very minute – to the second – that he put his hand on the bible to be sworn in, those nasty Iranians let go the hostages they’d been holding (a kidnapping that had so humiliated the Carter administration that Carter lost the election).



America was once again a “shining city on the hill” and even though there were a few small invasions, Panama and Grenada and all, and a small recession, and a few S&L bank failures, mostly people lost interest in politics. TV was going big, home entertainment was huge, blockbuster movies were coming onto the big screen, and America was prosperous. Americans partied on cheap debt. We went to sleep. It was the beginning of the era of the “low information voter.”



During the 1980s, the right wing was working hard. Reagan stopped enforcing the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, and most of the media Americans consumed was consolidated in the hands of about a dozen very conservative-leaning corporations. Top tax rates were cut from over 70 percent to around 30 percent, so salaries at the top exploded, including those of the stars on TV…including the “news” stars. 



The newly-rich TV news people began to hang out with the becoming-fabulously-rich business people, never again criticizing them because they now worked and played together and were members of the same clubs and their kids went to the same best schools. Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous became our new religion, “greed is good” our new mantra.



Conservatives began a war on textbooks, stripping from them references to the labor movement, so that anybody who went to middle school or high school during or after the mid-1980s can’t today tell you why phrases like “Pullman Porter” or “Haymarket Square” or “Great Flint Sit Down” have any meaning. 



Reagan, and then Clinton, serially deregulated the media so it came into fewer hands still, while right-wing voices exploded across the landscape. By the mid 1990s there was virtually no corner of America, not even the smallest town, where a person couldn’t hear Rush Limbaugh. After Rupert Murdoch lost $100 million a year for a half-decade, finally around Y2K Sean Hannity and Fox News began to turn a profit and became equally ubiquitous. They all made sure that voters were “low information” or “wrong information.” The labor sections of the newspapers had vanished; NPR and 60 Minutes no longer did corporate-expose investigative reporting. 



Reagan used our collective somnambulance to cut taxes for his rich buddies and throw trillions their way in defense contracts. George HW did more of the same, albeit without the elegance of Reagan. Bill Clinton smiled nice and raised taxes a few tiny points – from 33 to 36 percent on the most wealthy – and just that was enough to balance the budget, and during all those years it seemed like peace and prosperity were here. Politically, people stayed asleep.



The attacks of 9/11 woke a lot of Americans up, but they didn’t know what to believe. Retired generals taking million-dollar payoffs from defense contractors were wall-to-wall on the corporate news, telling us we needed more wars and more contractors and more military toys. The two dissenting voices – Bill Maher and Phil Donahue – were immediately silenced. Keep the people asleep. Other than a few old lefties from the 60s who showed up for anti-Iraq-war protests, it mostly worked.



Then came Barack Obama. People were sick of Bush, and Obama’s campaign for the presidency reminded the oldsters of what it meant to be politically active, while it taught the same lesson to the first generation to really involve itself in politics since the Vietnam War. Weeks before the election, the Bush crew had to admit that the phony-baloney Reaganonics games played by Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush while we were all asleep were collapsing. The economy was about to disintegrate. A wave of foreclosures, followed almost immediately by layoffs, swept the land.



People woke up, just like they had in 1929. They began to pay attention. And they had more than just Limbaugh and Fox to learn from; this new thing called the internet proliferated information without corporate control; Air America was birthed and liberal talk radio is now heard coast-to-coast; MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann caught fire (followed by Rachel Maddow); and even the normally cynical and innocuous Jack Cafferty at CNN began to go off on screeds worthy of the movie “Network.”



The Great Depression of 2008 – or what was billed as such – and the election of an African American president who used a ground-up instead of a top-down campaign caused high information voters to emerge again for the first time in 30 years.



Many, of course, were high with the wrong information. They showed up at tea parties and Palin rallies. But their passion is real, and their grievances are mostly legitimate. Thirty years of Reaganomics/Clintonomics has destroyed the labor movement, hollowed out our industrial sector, put us on a permanent war footing, wiped out the equity of the middle class, and created an entire generation of college-loan-indentured-servants. Who are now fully awake and seriously pissed.



We slept while Clinton’s boys Robert Rubin and Larry Summers and the whole gang, Republicans and Democrats together, signed us up for NAFTA and GATT; created the WTO; moved our jobs to China; sold off our airwaves; and “financialized” our economy (fully a quarter of all corporate profits in 2007 were from the “financial services industry” – an “industry” that creates nothing whatever that can be used or eaten or has any other real-wealth value). We slept through the explosion of the private prison industry and the wars in the Balkans (who knows where Kosovo is, anyway?). Seinfeld was far more interesting.



But now both the Vietnam oldsters and the Hip Hop youngsters are awake. Even the Reagan generation is awakening, but confused, as they’ve grown up on Limbaugh and Fox, and didn’t learn much in school about politics after Reagan’s guys stripped most classes of in-depth civics requirements. (It’s interesting – when Michael Medved and I debated in Chicago last year in front of 1000 people, 500 tickets sold by each of our radio stations, my side of the room was mostly people over 50 or under 30. His side of the room was almost entirely 30- and 40-somethings.) 



And that’s why Obama is heading for a disaster.



He’s betting that he can do like Bill Clinton did to us with NAFTA and the World Trade Organization – hand us a turd and tell us it’s gonna blossom beautifully if we’ll just wait a year or three or five. Rahm’s betting that if he can “deliver health care reform” – even if the fundamental system of gangster corporations standing between us and our doctors while skimming 40 percent off the top for their mansions and private jets is intact – we’ll be all excited at his “victory” and elect more Democrats in 2010 and reelect Obama in 2012.



Ditto for cosmetic repairs of the banks, which is really just trickle-down Reaganomics on steroids. Rahm and his DLC buddies truly believe that this “change” brought to us by Bush’s man Tim Geithner or Clinton’s man Larry Summers is something we’ll “believe in.” 



We don’t.



We oldsters of the Vietnam era, and the youngsters coming up who see how college loan banksters are screwing them as badly as their Clinton-era parents were screwed by the mortgage scammers, are all now fully awake. 



President Obama, sir: Meet what is in large part your own creation – the High Information Voters of 2009/2010. 



We’re awake, we’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it any more. Natalie Portman to Matt Taibbi to Arianna Huffington to Bill Moyers represent the span of our four awakened generations; generations who have figured out how the game is played. And don’t like it.



First Obama continued Bush’s policy of giving the banksters money, and we protested feebly.



Then he expanded Bush’s wars, and we protested more loudly.



Now he’s going to force us to give trillions to the gangsters who run the “health insurance” companies (while they promise to behave nicely in return) and thinks we’re going to go along with it and it’ll get him re-elected.



He’s wrong.



Please, President Obama, step up and lead. We’d like some that “change we can believe in” that’s actually the real thing. 



Kill the bill.

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Posted by thomhartmann in Editorials & Other Articles
Wed Nov 11th 2009, 09:12 AM
Bush At Fault For Ft. Hood Shootings

By Thom Hartmann


If Bill Clinton – or, presumably, Al Gore (or even Ralph Nader) – had been President in 2001, the Ft. Hood massacre almost certainly wouldn’t have happened. Because George W. Bush was president, it did. Here’s why it’s Bush’s fault:

One of the first lessons aspiring novelists and screenwriters learn is that the goodness of a hero is defined by a single quality - the evil of his opponent. From Superman's Lex Luthor to Batman's Joker to Indiana Jones' Nazis to Luke Skywalker's Darth Vader, for a hero to be perceived as larger than life, he must have a larger than life enemy.

If Frodo in “Lord of the Rings,” for example, hadn't been forced to do battle with the supernatural powers of the Ring and its minions, his story would have merely been a boring travelogue. But with an army of supernaturally brilliant, evil, and powerful opponents, Frodo had the opportunity to display his extraordinary inner courage and resourcefulness, qualities he didn't even realize he had until they were called forth by the peril of an awesome evil.

This is a lesson that was not lost on Karl Rove and George W. Bush. If they could recast George as the opponent of a power as great as the Ring, then the rather ordinary Dubya could become the extraordinary SuperGeorge, rising from his facileness to prevail over supernatural powers of evil.

Bill Clinton had a similar chance, but passed on it for the good of America and the world.

When bin Laden attacked us in the 1990s - several times - in an attempt to raise his own stature in the Islamic world, Bill Clinton dealt with Osama like the criminal he was. He enlisted Interpol and the police and investigative agencies of various nations, brought in our best intelligence agents, and missed bin Laden in a missile-launched assassination attempt by a scant twenty minutes (bringing derisive howls from Republicans that he was trying to "wag the dog" and deflect attention from the Monica investigations).

As Clinton left office, he and the CIA were tightening the noose on bin Laden, and his National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, told me that when he briefed his successor, Condoleezza Rice, he told her to put bin Laden and al-Qaeda at the top of her priority list and thus finish the job the Clinton administration had nearly completed.

As we know, when Rice, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush, et al finally came up with the priorities for their new administration in January of 2001, al-Qaeda had been replaced by tax cuts for Bush's rich donors on the "A" list, and didn't even appear on the "B" list.

Thus came 9/11, despite over fifty explicit warnings given to the President, including the infamous August 6, 2001 CIA briefing in Crawford, Texas that in the immediate future al-Qaeda intended to hijack commercial planes and use them to attack east coast targets. (Bush apparently took the warnings seriously - Ashcroft immediately stopped flying on commercial aircraft, and Bush moved to Texas for the longest vacation in the history of the American presidency...and even when that was over, he preferred Florida to target-listed Washington, D.C.)

In the days after the 9/11 attacks – much as in the days after Tim McVeigh blew up the Murrah Building – America had the sympathy of the world, and the police and intelligence agencies of even normally hostile nations offered to help us track down and bring to justice its perpetrators.

Muslims all over the world were horrified at the actions of one of their own, a fundamentalist turned criminal and murderer.

Mullah Omar of Afghanistan’s Taliban first offered to arrest bin Laden and turn him over to us (Washington Post, Page 1, October 29, 2001, “Diplomats Met With Taliban On Bin Laden” by Ottaway and Stephens) and then made an explicit offer to arrest Bin Laden and try him for the crime of 9/11 (CNN, October 7, 2001, “US Rejects Taliban Offer To Try Bin Laden”; The Guardian, October 14, 2001, “Bush Rejects Taliban Offer To Hand Bin Laden Over”).

It would have been so easy for Bush to accept Omar's offer, which had resulted, according to the Post, in over 20 diplomatic meetings and negotiations. The Justice Department could have arrested Bin Laden like they did McVeigh, helped the Taliban dismantle Bin Laden’s training camps and track down their attendees and sponsors, and launch an international effort to disassemble and render impotent al-Qaeda.

It probably could have been done in a year or less, given the intensity of the worldwide empathy for citizens of America and the many other nations whose people died in the World Trade Center. Over 5000 American soldiers would still be alive, and tens of thousands would not have lost arms, legs, and eyes. Hundreds of thousands – possibly over a million – innocent Afghans and Iraqis would still be alive.

But Karl Rove knew that George W. Bush had a problem, and saw in bin Laden the solution. And didn’t much give a damn what it would mean to American Muslims.

Bush had not defeated Al Gore fair and square, and was seen by most Americans as a spoiler, an illegitimate leader. As soon as the details of his proposed "supply side" voodoo economics hit the press in the first months of his presidency, the markets went into a nosedive.

And already there were stories circulating in the media of his cozy relationship with corrupt oil barons like Ken Lay and the secret energy meetings in the Spring of 2001 - before 9/11 - in which Cheney, Lay, and others in the oil industry were apparently carving up the oil fields of Iraq.

Bush, in short, was seen as a buffoonish pretender, an ineffectual manager, and a sellout to big oil and other scandal-ridden industries. He was the butt of late-night jokes, a former college cheerleader, a "dry drunk" (except when tempted by beer and pretzels), an inside trader, a small man on the national and international stage.

George W. desperately needed his own Lex Luthor if he was to reinvent himself as Superman.

Rove and Bush realized that if they simply branded Bin Laden as the criminal thug that he was - the leader of an obscure Islamic mafia with fewer than 20,000 serious members - they wouldn't have the super-villain they needed for George W. Bush to be seen as a super-hero. If Bush only authorized a police action, or cut a deal with Omar, he'd miss a golden opportunity to position himself as the Battle Commander of The War Against Evil Incarnate.

And so began the building of the mythos. Osama as evil genius. Osama as worldwide mastermind. Even Osama as the antichrist (as General Boykin reminded us so candidly).

If the remnants of al-Qaeda tried to pull our strings by increasing "chatter" about particular flights, for example, the Bush White House hyper-reacted with many press conferences and televised appearances by Tom Ridge. Every action was trumpeted. Bush put "Terror Alerts" on the screens of TVs nationwide as often as possible. The constant drumbeat was that George The Good was battling the One True Dragon. And that Dragon was Islamic.

For George to remain SuperGeorge, Bin Laden had to be as big as Hitler in the minds of Americans. Thus, Richard Perle wrote in his breathless and hyperbolic book An End To Evil: "There is no middle way for Americans: It is victory or holocaust."

But Afghanistan and Iraq weren’t Germany, and Bin Laden wasn’t even a pale imitation of Hitler. It wasn’t a nation that attacked us – it was a tiny, local, but well-funded Islamic mafia. And that band of thugs run by Bin Laden no more represented the interests or opinions of the majority of the world’s Muslims than Tim McVeigh represented the majority of America’s Christians.

This archetypal transformation of George W. Bush from spoiled, rich-boy pretender-to-the-presidency into the caped (well, flight-suited) SuperGeorge, Defender Of All Things Good And Right had a powerful impact on the American people – and particularly on their perception of Muslims.

The shadow of the “good” SuperGeorge was, necessarily, the “evil” of Muslims. They were vilified – talk show hosts called for their outright murder (“Kill them all” said Michael Savage) – and a steady drumbeat of suspicion was cast toward American Muslims.

Fox News and right-wing talk jumped in with both feet, feeding anti-Muslim hysteria that continues to this day with teary-eyed TV shows, a “secret Muslim” president, and Nazi-image Tea Parties.

“Be afraid,” they tell Americans every day. “Be very afraid.”

In retrospect, it’s surprising that Major Hasan was the first to snap in all these years.

Bill Clinton knew what to do with a terrorist, be he Bin Laden or Tim McVeigh: brand them as criminals.

The countries of Europe who endured years of terrorism – from the crimes of the IRA against the citizens of Britain, to the crimes of the November 17th terrorist group against Greece, to the crimes of the Red Brigades against Italy – they were fought by investigators, intelligence operatives, and the highly effective web of police agencies that stretch across the world. Although less filled with shock and awe, these able people could have brought Bin Laden and his associates to justice without turning him into a super-villain or demonizing Muslims.

But that would have deflated the heroic SuperGeorge action figure in the minds of average Americans, and possibly Cheny’s company Halliburton – which was on shaky ground financially before 9/11 – would have even gone under because of Cheney’s ill-thought-out purchase by that company of a bankrupt asbestos supplier. (On December 10, 2001, before the bombing of Afghanistan began, Halliburton stock lost 43% of its value in a single day because Cheney’s business decision was pushing them toward bankruptcy.)

So George and Dick made out just fine. But Major Hasan went nuts. And probably never would have, had somebody other than Bush/Rove/Cheney been in the White House back in 2001.
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Posted by thomhartmann in Editorials & Other Articles
Wed Oct 21st 2009, 10:47 PM
Medicare Part E: Everybody
Posted by thomhartmann in Editorials & Other Articles
Wed Sep 09th 2009, 10:05 AM
Just wanted to remind everybody of this article I wrote back around 9/11...

The President this morning admitted on national television that he lost control of the message with health care. It's time to reboot - and use a very, very, very simple message so all Americans can understand it.
Let's use Medicare, which nearly every American understands. Just create "Medicare Part E" where the "E" represents "everybody." Just let any citizen in the US buy into Medicare.

It would be so easy. No need to reinvent the wheel with this so-called "public option" that's a whole new program from the ground up. Medicare already exists. It works. Some people will like it, others won't - just like the Post Office versus FedEx analogy the President is so comfortable with.

Just pass a simple bill - it could probably be just a few lines, like when Medicare was expanded to include disabled people - that says that any American citizen can buy into the program at a rate to be set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which reflects the actual cost for us to buy into it.

Thus, Medicare Part E would be revenue neutral!

To make it available to people of low income, Congress could raise the rates slightly for all currently non-eligible people (like me - under 65) to cover the cost of below-200%-of-poverty people. Revenue neutral again.

This blows up all the rumors about death panels and grandma and everything else: everybody knows what Medicare is. Those who scorn it can go with United Healthcare and it's $100 million/year CEO. Those who like Medicare can buy into Part E. Simplicity itself.

Of course, we'd like a few fixes, like letting negotiate drug prices, and fill some of the other holes Republicans and AARP and the big insurance lobbyists have drilled into Medicare so people have to buy "supplemental" insurance, but that can wait for the second round. Let's get this done first.

Simple stuff. Medicare for anybody who wants it. Private health insurance for those who don't. Easy message. Even Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley can understand it. Sarah Palin can buy into it, or ignore it. No death panels, no granny plugs, nothing. Just a few sentences.

Replace the "you must be disabled or 65" with "here's what it'll cost if you want to buy in, and here's the sliding scale of subsidies we'll give you if you're poor, paid for by everybody else who's buying in." This creates Part E.

And if this fails - if the Congress can't get out from under their corporate overlords - at the very least pass the Kucinich amendment that will allow individual states to create their own single-payer systems, as was done in Canada a generation ago.
Read entry | Discuss (11 comments)
Posted by thomhartmann in Editorials & Other Articles
Wed Sep 09th 2009, 12:05 PM
Just wanted to remind everybody of this article I wrote back around 9/11...
The President this morning admitted on national television that he lost control of the message with health care. It's time to reboot - and use a very, very, very simple message so all Americans can understand it.
Let's use Medicare, which nearly every American understands. Just create "Medicare Part E" where the "E" represents "everybody." Just let any citizen in the US buy into Medicare.

It would be so easy. No need to reinvent the wheel with this so-called "public option" that's a whole new program from the ground up. Medicare already exists. It works. Some people will like it, others won't - just like the Post Office versus FedEx analogy the President is so comfortable with.

Just pass a simple bill - it could probably be just a few lines, like when Medicare was expanded to include disabled people - that says that any American citizen can buy into the program at a rate to be set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which reflects the actual cost for us to buy into it.

Thus, Medicare Part E would be revenue neutral!

To make it available to people of low income, Congress could raise the rates slightly for all currently non-eligible people (like me - under 65) to cover the cost of below-200%-of-poverty people. Revenue neutral again.

This blows up all the rumors about death panels and grandma and everything else: everybody knows what Medicare is. Those who scorn it can go with United Healthcare and it's $100 million/year CEO. Those who like Medicare can buy into Part E. Simplicity itself.

Of course, we'd like a few fixes, like letting negotiate drug prices, and fill some of the other holes Republicans and AARP and the big insurance lobbyists have drilled into Medicare so people have to buy "supplemental" insurance, but that can wait for the second round. Let's get this done first.

Simple stuff. Medicare for anybody who wants it. Private health insurance for those who don't. Easy message. Even Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley can understand it. Sarah Palin can buy into it, or ignore it. No death panels, no granny plugs, nothing. Just a few sentences.

Replace the "you must be disabled or 65" with "here's what it'll cost if you want to buy in, and here's the sliding scale of subsidies we'll give you if you're poor, paid for by everybody else who's buying in." This creates Part E.

And if this fails - if the Congress can't get out from under their corporate overlords - at the very least pass the Kucinich amendment that will allow individual states to create their own single-payer systems, as was done in Canada a generation ago.
Read entry | Discuss (31 comments)
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