(4 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
Seven CIA employees were killed and six others injured in a terrorist attack on a base in eastern Afghanistan as the agency steps up its presence in the country alongside thousands more U.S. military forces.
President Barack Obama told Central Intelligence Agency employees yesterday that their colleagues who died Dec. 30 were “patriots who have made great sacrifices for their fellow citizens and for our way of life.”
“In recent years, the CIA has been tested as never before,” Obama, who is on vacation in Hawaii, said in the letter to agency employees.
Reports surface periodically of CIA air strikes on militant hideouts in Pakistan by drone aircraft, a practice that Pakistani leaders publicly condemn.
“Our operations in Pakistan, directed at al-Qaeda, have been very successful in disrupting al-Qaeda as far as their operations and their planning,” Panetta said in the September interview at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
Business Week, CIA Workers Killed in Afghanistan as US Steps Up Spying Role, January 1, 2010 (emphasis supplied).
The issues that arise are rooted in the nature of Western indus-
trial societies and have been debated since their origins. In capitalist
democracies there is a certain tension with regard to the locus of
power. In a democracy the people rule, in principle. But decision-
making power over central areas of life resides in private hands, with
large-scale effects throughout the social order. One way to resolve the
tension would be to extend the democratic system to investment, the
organization of work, and so on. That would constitute a major social
revolution, which, in my view at least, would consummate the polit-
ical revolutions of an earlier era and realize some of the libertarian
principles on which they were partly based. Or the tension could be
resolved, and sometimes is, by forcefully eliminating public interfer-
ence with state and private power. In the advanced industrial socie-
ties the problem is typically approached by a variety of measures to
deprive democratic political structures of substantive content, while
leaving them formally intact. A large part of this task is assumed by
ideological institutions that channel thought and attitudes within
acceptable bounds, deflecting any potential challenge to established
privilege and authority before it can take form and gather strength.
The enterprise has many facets and agents. I will be primarily con-
cerned with one aspect: thought control, as conducted through the
agency of the national media and related elements of the elite intel-
There is, in my opinion, much too little inquiry into these
matters. My personal feeling is that citizens of the democratic socie-
ties should undertake a course of intellectual self-defense to protect
themselves from manipulation and control, and to lay the basis for
more meaningful democracy. It is this concern that motivates the
material that follows, and much of the work cited in the course of the
Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies, Preface, 1988.
At the same time, a CIA drone attack killed 6 persons in North Waziristan, the HQ of the Haqqani network of militants who are allied with al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Unreported in most Western press accounts was that Friday also saw a coordinated series of peace marches in 53 cities of Pakistan by civil society organization protesting both Taliban bombings, especially the attack on Shiites in Karachi on Monday, and the American drone strikes.
A general strike was called by largely Sunni parties in interior Sindh province to protest Monday’s bombing of Shiites. In Karachi itself, Shiites staged marches and rallies.
The violence at the volleyball game and the drone strikes are big stories. But they should not overshadow the peace rallies and the gesture of Sunnis protesting Taliban bombings of Shiites. The Pakistani public is clearly fed up with the Taliban, and is cheering on the army in its struggle against them. If it weren’t for the American drone attacks, in fact, there would not be the slightest ambiguity in the politics of peace and anti-terrorism.
Juan Cole, Informed Comment, January 2, 2010 http://www.juancole.com/2010/0…
Fatah al-Islam and the others are part of a new generation of al-Qaida. Like other reporters, I have struggled to find a good name for them. It feels like the start of something new. I had the same dilemma in Iraq four years ago when the car bombings started. We didn’t know what to call the militants there either, and eventually settled on the awkward and somewhat misleading terms “insurgent” to describe the Sunni fighters and “militias” for the Shiites.
For the fighters here, and spreading across the region, reporters have come up with the even clumsier “al-Qaida inspired groups.’ I prefer “al-Qaida franchises” because it implies the loose affiliation among the groups and the business of the modern jihad industry, with active media, finance and money laundering wings.
Like a franchise of McDonald’s, or my childhood favorite Carvel, these al-Qaida cells are locally owned and operated. They are fully responsible for picking targets, training, smuggling and all of the day-to-day business of jihad. The franchise home office, Carvel, McDonald’s, or in this case Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida, only provides the overall flavor, guidance and a few secret ingredients.
Richard Engel, Chief Foreign Correspondent, NBC News, ‘Al Qaida Franchises’-ticking time bombs, June 7, 2007, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19…
The U.S. government runs two drone programs. The military’s version, which is publicly acknowledged, operates in the recognized war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, and targets enemies of U.S. troops stationed there. As such, it is an extension of conventional warfare. The C.I.A.’s program is aimed at terror suspects around the world, including in countries where U.S. troops are not based. It was initiated by the Bush Administration and, according to Juan Zarate, a counterterrorism adviser in the Bush White House, Obama has left in place virtually all the key personnel. The program is classified as covert, and the intelligence agency declines to provide any information to the public about where it operates, how it selects targets, who is in charge, or how many people have been killed.
Nevertheless, reports of fatal air strikes in Pakistan emerge every few days. Such stories are often secondhand and difficult to confirm, as the Pakistani government and the military have tried to wall off the tribal areas from journalists. But, even if a precise account is elusive, the outlines are clear: the C.I.A. has joined the Pakistani intelligence service in an aggressive campaign to eradicate local and foreign militants, who have taken refuge in some of the most inaccessible parts of the country.
The first two C.I.A. air strikes of the Obama Administration took place on the morning of January 23rd-the President’s third day in office. Within hours, it was clear that the morning’s bombings, in Pakistan, had killed an estimated twenty people. In one strike, four Arabs, all likely affiliated with Al Qaeda, died. But in the second strike a drone targeted the wrong house, hitting the residence of a pro-government tribal leader six miles outside the town of Wana, in South Waziristan. The blast killed the tribal leader’s entire family, including three children, one of them five years old. In keeping with U.S. policy, there was no official acknowledgment of either strike.
Since then, the C.I.A. bombardments have continued at a rapid pace. According to a just completed study by the New America Foundation, the number of drone strikes has risen dramatically since Obama became President. During his first nine and a half months in office, he has authorized as many C.I.A. aerial attacks in Pakistan as George W. Bush did in his final three years in office. The study’s authors, Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann, report that the Obama Administration has sanctioned at least forty-one C.I.A. missile strikes in Pakistan since taking office-a rate of approximately one bombing a week. So far this year, various estimates suggest, the C.I.A. attacks have killed between three hundred and twenty-six and five hundred and thirty-eight people. Critics say that many of the victims have been innocent bystanders, including children.
Jane Mayer, The Risks of the CIA’s Predator Drones, New Yorker, October 26, 2009 http://www.newyorker.com/repor…
Yemeni officials say U.S. General David Petraeus met with Yemen’s president Saturday, as the country steps up efforts to stop al-Qaida militants.
Sources say Petraeus, who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, discussed the security situation in Yemen with President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The American general recently said Washington would nearly double the $70 million it sends to Yemen in security assistance.
Yemeni officials said Saturday that extra security forces have been deployed to eastern provinces where al-Qaida militants operate.
Voice of America, “US General Talkes Security in Yemen,” January 2, 2010, http://www1.voanews.com/englis…
Unlike an Afghanistan run by the Taliban, missile strikes into a country run by allies could prove politically disastrous for a nation whose citizenry seethes with anti-American sentiment. That’s a big reason why there have been so few details about the two strikes earlier this month – although the operation was undertaken by the Yemeni military, some missiles may have come from U.S. ships or planes in the neighborhood. Just as in Pakistan, another weak government that leans Washington’s way and whose territory is infested by al-Qaeda, it is important for these governments not to be seen to be acting on Washington’s orders.
In fact, Yemen itself offered one successful approach to the problem Obama now faces. Ever since a pair of al-Qaeda suicide bombers in a skiff attacked the USS Cole in Yemen’s Aden harbor in 2000 and killed 17 U.S. sailors, Washington had been looking to punish the ringleader of the attack, Qaed Sinan Harithi. More than two years later, after learning he would be traveling across the country in an SUV, the U.S. launched a Predator drone. Once in the open countryside, safely away from any civilians, the drone fired a Hellfire missile into the vehicle, instantly dispatching Harithi and five al-Qaeda colleagues to the ultimate highway rest stop. That marked the first time the U.S. had killed a foe using an unmanned drone. It’s a safe bet such aircraft are now orbiting in and around Yemeni airspace, looking to duplicate that feat.
Mark Thompson, Time Magazine, Yemen: The US Weighs Military Options, December 31, 2009, http://www.time.com/time/natio…
A third casualty of the war in Vietnam is the Great Society. This confused war has played havoc with our domestic destinies. Despite feeble protestations to the contrary, the promises of the Great Society have been shot down on the battlefield of Vietnam. The pursuit of this widened war has narrowed domestic welfare programs, making the poor, white and Negro, bear the heaviest burdens both at the front and at home.
While the anti-poverty program is cautiously initiated and zealously supervised, billions are liberally expended for this ill-considered war. The recently revealed misestimate of the war budget amounts to ten billions of dollars for a single year. This error alone is more than five times the amount committed to anti-poverty programs. The security we profess to seek in foreign adventures we will lose in our decaying cities. The bombs in Vietnam explode at home. They destroy the hopes and possibilities for a decent America.
If we reversed investments and gave the armed forces the anti-poverty budget, the generals could be forgiven if they walked off the battlefield in disgust. Poverty, urban problems and social progress generally are ignored when the guns of war become a national obsession.
Martin Luther King Jr, The Casualties of the War in Vietnam, February 27, 1967, The Nation Institute, Los Angeles, California http://aavw.org/special_featur…
The bill that passed the Senate with such fanfare on Christmas Eve would impose a confiscatory 40 percent excise tax on so-called Cadillac health plans, which are popularly viewed as over-the-top plans held only by the very wealthy. In fact, it’s a tax that in a few years will hammer millions of middle-class policyholders, forcing them to scale back their access to medical care.
Which is exactly what the tax is designed to do.
The tax would kick in on plans exceeding $23,000 annually for family coverage and $8,500 for individuals, starting in 2013. In the first year it would affect relatively few people in the middle class. But because of the steadily rising costs of health care in the US, more and more plans would reach the taxation threshold every year.
Bob Herbert, A Less Than Honest Policy, New York Times Op-Ed, December 28, 2009 http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12…
Although the national average premium is currently $13,375 for a family policy, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, many are much higher than that – particularly in high-cost parts of the country.
Nationwide, about one in 10 family insurance plans would be subject to the new excise tax, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning policy and research group.
The tax would be levied on insurers – or on employers that act as their own insurers. Either way, the tax would very likely be passed along to workers in even higher premiums than they pay now. But if insurance premiums continue to rise faster than inflation, as they have for years, many more people’s policies could end up setting off the luxury tax in coming years.
Proposed Tax on Costly Insurance Plans May Hit Many More, New York Times, September 21, 2009 http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09…
If there is such a thing as a popular tax, it would be those on alcohol and tobacco, the so-called “sin” taxes. More than a dozen states raised taxes on alcohol, and 15 states raised tobacco taxes over the last year.
Danny McGoldrick with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says some states have raised the cigarette tax by a dollar a pack. Even so, he says, there’s room for more.
“They go from a low of 7 cents a pack in South Carolina to a high of over $3,” McGoldrick says. “So there’s a lot of room for tobacco tax increases across the country, and we’re hoping that’s what’s going to happen in the coming year.”
State and local governments have been inventive – some might even say devious – in finding ways to increase revenue. One idea that is catching on across the country is automatic surveillance cameras to monitor red lights and speed zones. Typically, the devices are installed and maintained by private companies, which take a cut of revenues from tickets and leave the rest for the municipality.
To Avoid Raising Taxes, States Try to Rack Up Fees, NPR, January 1, 2010, http://www.npr.org/templates/s…
Adults with 16 or more years of education had the lowest smoking prevalence (11.3 percent). Adults with 9 to 11 years of education had higher smoking prevalence (36.8 percent) compared to adults with fewer or more years of education.
Smoking prevalence was higher among adults living below the poverty level (32.3 percent) than those living at or above the poverty level (23.5 percent). If you’re a smoker and you’re wanting to quit, while also being concerned about your oral health you’ll want to arrange an appointment with a dentist at a clinic such as Dentist Coconut Grove, to get your oral hygiene checked up.
Oral Cancer Foundation, Demographics of Tobacco Use, Accessed January 2, 2010 http://oralcancerfoundation.or…
According to the United States Conference of Mayors (2008), additional substance abuse services were reported by 28% of cities surveyed as one of the top three items needed to combat homelessness. Many Americans with substance abuse dependencies, both housed and homeless, do not receive the treatment they need. In fact, the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD) estimated that in 2005, over 19.3 million people needed, but did not receive, addiction treatment services. This is incredibly worrying, but this somewhat may be down to people either not being educated enough on the help available, or not feeling comfortable with the idea of rehab. It’s important to know that there are therapy-based treatment options out there, not just rehab centers. For example, addiction treatment in houston offers a range of different therapy methods to help. The largest factors that prevented people from being treated were the high costs and lack of insurance (NASADAD). Since many homeless people do not have health insurance, substance abuse treatment may be unattainable. Other barriers to services include long waiting lists, lack of transportation, and lack of documentation. Furthermore, few federal substance abuse treatment and prevention programs target funds specifically to the homeless population. Substance abusers who are homeless have different needs than those who are housed, and programs need to be created that address these needs. Those programs that already exist need to be strengthened. Finally, much of public policy has favored a punitive approach to substance abuse, even though medical and public health experts agree that treatment and prevention are more effective.
National Coalition for the Homeless, “Substance Abuse and Homelessness, July 2009, link (warning PDF), http://www.nationalhomeless.or…
The individual mandate was a way of getting support from the insurance industry. The backroom deal with Big Pharma was a way of getting support from the drug industry. The change in Medicare reimbursement rates was a way of getting support from doctors. The gutting of the Medicare commission was a way of getting support from hospitals. Provisions related to biologics, home healthcare, and the prescription drug doughnut hole were a way of getting the support of AARP.
Kevin Drum, insurance “reform” supporter and blogger for Mother Jones Magazine, “Sleazy Sewers and Health Care Reform,” December 16, 2009, http://motherjones.com/kevin-d…
The bottom line is this: there will be many more losers than winners under estate-tax repeal, and the losers will be among Americans who are further down the wealth ladder.
Earlier this month, the House voted to continue the estate tax permanently as it is this year, with its more-than-generous exemptions and no tax on the sale of inherited assets.
The Senate has failed to act. Republicans refused to consider the House bill or even a two-month delay to allow time for debate. Democrats correctly refused to consider a proposal to increase the exemption to $10 million for couples and $5 million for individuals, an unconscionable giveaway to the wealthy at a time when ordinary Americans are suffering. Compared with keeping the 2009 law, it would cost $250 billion more over 10 years.
Democratic Senate leaders have said that in 2010, they will seek to restore retroactively the 2009 estate tax rules. Fairness, progressivity and the need for revenue demand just that. But failure to act in a timely way is a disturbing display of intransigence and failed leadership. That bodes ill for the more daunting tax debates next year, when the rest of the Bush tax cuts are set to expire.
New York Times Editorial, December 28, 2009, An Estate Tax Mess, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12…
The 2001 and 2003 tax reductions are the big gorilla in the room that everyone’s ignoring. But by the end of 2010, a year of midterm congressional elections, Congress must address this key economic issue.
“I think the easier course for both sides of the aisle to take is to extend at least most of the Bush tax cuts before you get to the end of 2010,” said Diane Lim Rogers, the chief economist for the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan budget watchdog group.
By passing a temporary extension of temporary tax reductions, the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress can buy time, she said, and the likely outcome is the formation of a study group to examine the kinds of extensive tax revisions that many experts argue are needed.
“There’s not enough time to do serious tax reform before the Bush tax cuts expire,” Lim Rogers said, adding that lawmakers are likely to be too bruised from the health care battle to pursue significant tax restructuring next year.
Kevin G. Hall, McClatchy Newspapers, “Taxes are on the agenda but nobody’s talking about them,” December 25, 2009, Kansas City Star, http://www.kansascity.com/444/…
As we enter 2010 and approach the first anniversary of the Obama Presidency and legislative supermajorities in Congress, I believe it is time for progressives, within the Democratic Party apparatus and outside of it, to reflect on the challenges that await us in this New Year. The above stories are only a sample of the obstacles to fundamental reform that we have faced and are facing as I write.
Critique and analysis is an integral part of any progressive, liberal or radical strategy. As we near the close of President Obama’s first year, and the first year of Democratic control of the executive and legislative branches of the federal government since 1994, criticism remains vital. I believe, however, that it is also time to begin looking beyond both the Democratic Party apparatus and consider what we are missing.
Whether the Democrats can weather the storm of this coming decade (if indeed they are trusted by voters to do so), whether this country can face the challenges ahead, remain unanswered questions. I am convinced that the answer no longer rests along the path of least resistance. In 2010, it will not be enough to secure electoral victory, nor to maintain control of Congress. President Obama and the Democratic legislators are not declared enemies of progressive reforms, but they are structural stumbling blocks on the yellow brick road.
This is not to belittle the change Obama’s ascendancy has brought; it would be intellectually dishonest to suggest Justice Sotomayor or an equally moderate, reasonable justice would have been selected by a hypothetical President McCain. Similarly, the administration’s positions on needle exchange, medical marijuana, hate crimes, the scuttling of missile defense, to name but a few items, are worthy of praise.
Nevertheless, in order to successfully negotiate the challenges ahead, the Left must be ready to confront a confluence of both independent and interrelated variables that have contributed to our policy paralysis and the consensus in Washington that diminishes the chances of progressive reforms. It is this consensus and paralysis that placed single payer off the table, stalls the Middle East peace process and has resulted in escalation in Afghanistan as well as the predator drone program, among other problems.
Whether it is lifting the veil of excessive secrecy or exposing the damage caused by Washington’s war on Main Street, it is not the place of the Left to coddle those who maintain the levers of political power. In the words of our president, we must be the change we seek.