Saturday, June 27, 2009


Democratic Underground member and all around smart guy "and_justice_for_all" offers an opening post entitled "A Global Perspective of Universal Health Care Systems."

As prologue, he writes:

I think we all know what drives this country into a wall, the same thing over and over again... Profits. American greed is prevalent in many, if not most, sectors of our industries and this includes health care. Which, to me, is one of several sectors that should in fact not be for profit.

I would like to say "why do we learn the hard way?", but the fact of the matter is, that WE did not decide how our health care system was to be run. Instead of learning from those countries that made universal health care a priority and a not for profit system, our fearless leaders chose to do the complete opposite. If some one is doing something that clearly works and works well, it is a good idea to follow suit and lose the macho bullshit.
After listing 10 countries with highly efficient, functional and successful single-payer systems in place now, he ends with this spot-on comment:
For any Senator, especially for the Cons, to tell us that Universal Health Care is a "no" is complete and utter bullshit. It is sad and appalling that this country is run by corporations and not its citizenry. For Reps to deny us all Health Care for the sake of profits, when it is very much obtainable, is equivalent to murder.
Yup... the only one among the World Health Organization's list of 19 "wealthy, industrialized countries " where lack of medical insurance is a capital crime.


We're Number 37!! We're Number 37!! We're Number 37!!

Just keep repeating it and maybe eventually it'll lose its sting. But not its effects on the great American death machine.

Meanwhile, here's a few stats that describe the intrinsic wonderfulness of the US medical insurance scam:

Overall quality, fairness of access to and effectiveness of medical system -- 37th -- just ahead of that medical nirvana, Slovenia and behind Costa Rica, where there may not be an ATM in every little wide spot in the road, but there's nearly always a medical clinic, open to all, regardless of ability to pay -- UN/World Health Organization summary of a 2000 study comparing the medical systems of 190 countries.

Annual per capita cost of funding medical system -- 1st (around $6,400 then; approaching $8,200 today; inevitably more next year). Nobody's even close. All this great news comes from a 2005 study comparing health expenditures per capita among 31 countries tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Preventable deaths per year due solely to lack of medical insurance -- 22,000 -- last -- Urban Institute (2007).

As this guy says, "Not surprisingly, the United States ranks last in preventable deaths compared to 14 Western European nations." Larry Weiss, public health researcher (retired).

Christopher Murray, M.D., Ph.D., Director of WHO's Global Programme on Evidence for Health Policy, offers a more global analysis. "The position of the United States is one of the major surprises of the new rating system," Murray says. "Basically, you die earlier and spend more time disabled if you're an American rather than a member of most other advanced countries."

It's only a surprise if you don't live here, Dr. Murray. If you do, it's just another facet of routine, systemic corporate abuse the US peasantry has apparently been willing to live with for well over a century, even as the noose tightens and the predatory practices become so obvious even our tens of millions of dysfunctional TEE VEE-trained bliss ninnies occasionally catch on.

Happily, some are making out like the successful criminals they are. Warms the heart, doesn't it?

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What the hell's so great about being a "leader?"

AllentownJake has been a Democratic Underground member for about 15 months now and has already managed to crank out 12,503 posts. (By comparison, I've been with DU since 2001 and I'm barely closing in on 3,750 posts.)

Must be that Bush Economic Miracle(tm) keeping everybody fully and gainfully employed. Anyhow, Jake says America v2.0 -- particularly now during the first few months of the post-Bushean era -- needs a little respect and love from the rest of the world again. And our new president, charismatic adoration magnet Barack Obama, is just the guy to bring some home with him.

As Jake puts it:

"If all we get out of this Presidency is our restored standing as a leader and good in the eyes of the rest of the world. That will be a miracle in (and) of itself.

I'll be happy. Everything after that is gravy."

Ummmmmm..... Graaaaaaaaaavyyyyyyy... Quick! Somebody draw a Homer Simpson icon with plenty of saliva drooling from the corners of his mouth. But on the real side...

How about trying to follow the civilized countries of the world for a change -- the western European social democracies come to mind, along with the former Brit colonies Canada and Australia.

New Zealand's doing well, at least until some snooping petro-geologist discovers OUR OIL in a sub-oceanic puddle 20 miles off the North Island's western coast. Then they're fucked, along with the "rag heads" and "sand Ni**ers" of the middle east.

Africa's next, with Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya about to join Nigeria in wearing that giant Standard-Mobil-Shell-BP-Conoco-Exxon-Unocal bullseye the rest of the world has come to know and loathe. Leadership...

Who the hell needs this country's leadership? Who ever has besides those land speculating bastards and mass-scale property thieves who invented the "white man's burden" and "Manifest Destiny?"

Why not discuss the white man's idea of leadership with the ghosts of the 15 million original Americans who were wiped out by "guns, germs and steel," in the words of the great, great cultural geographer and anthropologist Jared Diamond.

Read Howard Zinn's "Peoples' History..." and learn what attempted leadership gets you. It ought to be a capital crime; here, it's woven into the fabric of our wretchedly phony creation myth. We have to be the world's leader because everybody else is just too... a) lazy; b) incompetent; c) anti-capitalist; or d) all of the above.

A little well-earned humility would go a long way these days, it seems to me.

But, as always, your mileage may differ. In fact, it may require wiping out all New Zealand fisheries just to keep that ol' tank topped off.

The GOP: Victimized by Human Partial Brain Syndrome

Shireen of Democratic Underground asks on 6/26/09: WTF is wrong with Republicans? Where is their humanity? How could they be so devoid of empathy and compassion, and their duty to do what's right for the health of this country.

I'm sick to my stomach. Each of those rats needs to be kicked out during the next election. The most important qualification for holding public office is that they should be HUMAN BEINGS.

A very fair criterion, you'd think. But it's tough to be human when they're only given a sigmoid colon and a few other adjacent parts at birth, told to assemble them like pieces from some viscous erector set, then go out into the world and make the best of things.

Thing is, though, they started to self-identify as assholes around the Robber Baron days of the 1880s and the world's been a much lousier place because of it ever since.

For more than a century, the GOP has been proud to be the planet's largest hatchery for world-class assholes. And they've got plenty of company. They're very appealing to the tens of millions of natural born assholes who infest this country like nowhere else I've ever been.

You know that jerkoff down the road with the mullet and the truck and the Confederate battle flags? He's an asshole and he loves it when the GOPiggies screw the dems again and again. But only before he's had his daily 12-pack of Bud lite; he's a little too out of it to appreciate political infighting after a gallon or two of that undrinkable swill.

That prissy little fundie twerp who likes to fire up the leaf blower around 7:30 every Saturday morning? He's an asshole, too, and it makes him feel all chesty and tough and maaaaaaaanly when the GOP fucks the idiot dems over for the three millionth time this month. Same with the leaf blower; if he had the courage of the Cowardly Lion, he'd flip those hippies off now and then. But he's another in a long line of chicken hawks, so his best shot is pulling that starter rope and letting that two-stroke speak for him.

The bake sale queen who's half church lady and half mid-afternoon gin-swilling souse? She's an asshole of the first magnitude and she gets goosebumps whenever her GOP heroes nail those goddamn liberals and commie rat bastards and their free sex and abortions and they don't support our troops and damn that lefty bitch Pelosi and her liberal gay San Fran agenda that's going to ruin everything George W has done for this country.

So there's a few of them out there. Most aren't so obvious, but that's the genius of the true asshole. A smile, a welcoming hand, a couple of rounds at the lizard lounge, a generous and fun-loving all around great guy or gal. Right up til somebody mentions how the US medical system screwed them over and how single-payer is the way to go, and...

Oooops! That's all it took so send him screaming back to the AEI playbook.

How to minimize the influence these assholes have on our lives? We can't, unless we also eliminate the bribocracy that's been created to smooth and accelerate the process of turning this country from a democratic republic into a gigantic feudal manor. Just have a look at for the awful, depressing truth.

And how to get things turned around? Public financing of campaigns. It all begins there.

Until we forcibly jerk their fat, bloated piggy snouts from the corporate trough and put them on a severe fiscal diet, they'll continue to represent their real employers in the corporate-run bribocracy and only pretend to represent you and me for a few months every election cycle. So there's a little work to be done. Fortunately, there are also identifiable milestones that turned this country into the shithole travesty it's become. Attacking them through those specific milestones is the way to go, imo.

First, get the 1886 Scotus ruling overturned -- the one that gave corporations "personhood," meaning all the rights and none of the responsibilities that accrue to actual human American citizens. Here's a nice synopsis:

An 1886 Supreme Court clerk's headnotes misreading (Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad) applied the 14th Amendment to corporations, extending to them all the rights, but none of the responsibilities, of human persons. The result has been the steady erosion of our democracy since then, and the consequent rise of the corporate state, which is primarily responsible for the military-corporate-media-academic complex, the expansion of the often brutal U.S. global empire (including the IMF, WTO, and World Bank) with its protecting militarism, and the destruction of our only planet's environment, all in the service of corporate capital's endless lust for power and profits. Corporate personhood is at the core of all of our problems. Ending it is the start of the way back to humane civilization.


90 years later, the Burger court couldn't resist stepping up the pace at which the rich are destroying this country. So in 1976, ruling on a case called Buckley v. Valeo, they declared (in a split decision that included a famous dissent by Burger himself) that money equals free speech.

The court essentially said that, because these corporate persons don't have mouths or vocal chords and, therefore, lack the ability to talk in the standard sense, they needed a way to express their political opinions. Gawd only knows why, but that's what the court said.

And since corporations only speak the language of money, contributing to political candidates is their version of a soapbox and megaphone in the public square.

Here's a fairly good look at the case, the times that produced it, the court composition and, most importantly, the results over time. That ruling has to go, too.

Then, there's the so-called corporate death penalty, which involves revoking their corporate charters and essentially forcing them out of business. That's a huge subject and far too long for this already essay-like post, but there's lots of data on it and links to more info in this old post.

Meanwhile, you've got corporate mass media yammering at you 24/7 about the intrinsic wonderfulness of the greatest country ever in the history of the universe. This would be the same country in which well over 100 million people have to self-medicate each day just to handle all that rich American wonderfulness.

But they're members of the more perceptive group. The Pox Nous/CNN crowd -- the dummies and imbeciles who are spoon-fed an hour of utter corporate garbage each day and then dutifully swear they know everything of significance that occurred over the past 24 hours -- should be self-medicating rather than buying into this inane American creation myth belief system that tells them:

Taxes on the rich are killing our competitiveness. They hate us for our freedoms. This is the land of equal opportunity for all. Free trade is an economic godsend. Guns don't kill people. The US is a Christian country, founded on biblical principles.

The criminal justice system protects the powerless from the powerful. Elections aren't stolen in America. TV news tells the truth. America always acts internationally out of benign motives. The surge is working. Gay marriage is destroying the family. The war on terror is making us safer. The bible is the literal word of god. 9/11 was an OBL/Al Qaeda production and happened exactly as the official conspiracy theory says it did. Saddam helped finance OBL and 9/11.

The policeman is our friend. The liberal media is poisoning this country with secular humanist lies. Brown people are disposable. Global climate change is a leftist fantasy. Evolution is just another creation myth. Socialized medicine is evil. Capitalism lifts all boats. The rich are rich because they're morally and intellectually superior.

Just so...

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

No nukes ain't necessarily good nukes

Remember those stray nukes that flew from Minot to Barksdale in firing position last August? The story broke in the Military Times when three whistle-blowing Air Force officers became aware of a back-channel scheme to acquire a few nuclear weapons by person or persons unknown and, recognizing an unprecedented breach of security protocols when they saw one, smelled a rat the size of a Great Dane and went public with their suspicions.

Here's the long version of the story, complete with comment from military people who should know what they're talking about, and a long list of procedures that were allegedly either forgotten or intentionally violated -- simultaneously -- by more than a dozen people whose jobs depend on following these very protocols to the letter every single day of their working lives.

Now sit back, grab a beer and I'll tell you a story...

If your memory's in good shape and you follow the machinations of what's laughingly known as our government, you might recall a very weird and disturbing incident from late last summer when six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, mounted in combat-ready position on the wings of a B-52 were flown from Minot AFB in North Dakota to Barksdale AFB in Louisiana.

Aside from the inconvenient fact that the wing-mounted method of transport is a gross violation of regulations governing shipment of nuclear warheads that have been in place since 1968, the story didn't seem all that newsworthy. Both bases are major B-52 facilities and handle nukes routinely. Barksdale is the primary staging base for B-52s heading for the Middle East. And Caporegime Cheney has made no secret of his growing lust for nuking Iran's uranium enrichment facilities.

The main problem (outside of Cheney's obviously worsening apocalyptic madness and his willingness to take us all with him in a nuclear fireball): according to the latest National Intelligence Estimate – a document that combines data from 16 US intelligence agencies and uses it to assess the severity of threats to the US from nation-states and non-governmental entities around the world – Iran has no ongoing uranium enrichment program and hasn't been in the nuclear weapons business since 2003. Just a minor problem, though, for the world's most reviled man.

Cheney's dementia notwithstanding, what IS interesting, not to mention worrisome, about this particular transfer is that it took place in secret, the product of a complex, off-the-books clandestine operation that ignored or violated virtually every single procedure in place to prevent exactly this kind of major security breach.

The story broke in a September 5, 2007 Military Times piece, based on tips from three unidentified Air Force officers who apparently couldn't stand by and watch as six nuclear warheads were essentially stolen right out from under their noses.

Realizing that this operation was so obviously illegal that it must involve senior officers at Minot, and probably went much higher, they chose to leak the story to the press rather than take it up with base command.

The story got a lot of initial attention on blogs, discussion forums, Internet-based news outlets and was picked up by a few international news outlets. But the usual daily crop of ever-more-outrageous actions and threats by the Bush administration competed for attention and eventually shoved the missing nukes story into digital oblivion.

Meanwhile, US mass media did its best to bury the whole thing and, when Internet exposure made containment impossible, circled the wagons, spiked all but the "mistakes were made" angle, ran a couple of perfunctory, content-free stories and waited patiently for the official Air Force investigation to issue its report. The Washington Post was the lone exception to the self-imposed mass media blackout.

On September 28, the Post ran a major story on the incident -- three weeks before the Air Force issued its official report on October 18. In the time-honored tradition of holding the peasants and mid-level functionaries accountable for the misdeeds of those at the top of the food chain, the Post blamed everything on an improbable convergence of career-ending mistakes by airmen and B-52 crew members who somehow ignored the same standard procedures that had governed their working lives since their first assignments to bases that handle nuclear weapons. And in a classic case of life imitating art, the official report said pretty much the same thing.

The report blamed the incident on "multiple, simultaneous mistakes" made by at least a dozen otherwise 100 percent reliable airmen who just happened to lose their minds one August afternoon in North Dakota.

In announcing the results, U.S. Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Plans and Requirements, Major-General Richard Y. Newton III, said the incident involved an “unprecedented” series of procedural errors, which revealed “an erosion of adherence to weapons-handling standards.”

The report implied that nuclear security had become a little lax over the years and that the Air Force was taking steps to tighten things up. Henceforth, rigid adherence to nuclear weapons handling protocols would be absolutely mandatory at all times and violators would be severely punished.

Punishment had already been exacted on Minot and Barksdale officers and airmen alike; some 70 heads rolled in retribution. The Air Force fired four colonels who oversaw aircraft and weapons operations at Minot and Barksdale, and other more junior personnel were also disciplined, Newton said.

And it's not over yet. The case was forwarded to a three-star general, who will review the findings and determine whether any Air Force personnel should face court-martial proceedings.

So, is this all true? Is this an accurate account of what took place last August 30? Is it all just a series of unlikely mistakes? Are these airmen given to ignoring or forgetting nuclear weapons handling procedures?

Or is the official report just another federal government whitewash, thrown out there with the expectation that the majority of Americans are gullible enough to believe just about anything and the dissenting minority doesn't count anyway.

Surely we've been lied to hundreds of time before about incidents the military swears "pose no danger to the public" – except for that inexplicable cancer cluster that develops 20 years after the allegedly harmless incident took place.

And there's a few of the more notorious tales of medical and psychological experimentation on unwitting test subjects. The infamous story of the Tuskegee Airmen comes to mind. Or the one about the hundreds of GIs intentionally exposed to radiation from open-air nuclear weapons tests because military researchers wanted to determine how much of the stuff humans could absorb without suffering serious health consequences or sustaining chromosomal damage that could cause cancers or birth defects in their children.

In fact, there's such a lengthy pattern of official lying specifically intended to deceive the American public -- from the Battleship Maine to the Gulf of Tonkin to the recent "harassment" of US Navy ships by Iranian speedboats -- that judging the validity of any official report's
conclusions is quite difficult.

If the official story is true, Minot AFB must have experienced an outbreak of mass amnesia that caused veteran nuclear weapons handling personnel to completely forget their years of training and on-the-job experience. It's either that or a quiet rebellion against the tyranny of rules and regulations they're forced to live by.

In all seriousness, the official multiple simultaneous mistakes explanation means that at least a dozen – and perhaps double that number – of the most intelligent, rigorously trained and highly motivated enlisted personnel in the entire Air Force, airmen who are constantly evaluated for the mental toughness and physical strength required to perform their duties flawlessly -- committed an inexplicable series of major violations of nuclear custody, security and handling protocols... at the same facility, at the same time, during the same operation and not one of them saw anything amiss.

As a civilian with no military background, I think this stinks, but I have only my instincts to rely on. The following comments, however, come from people who've been there, done that and know these procedures inside and out. And when even they think the official story is hogwash, I've got to respect their experience and judgment.

Here's what a few of them had to say immediately after the Military Times story broke:

Re: B-52 mistakenly flies with nukes aboard
UNBELIEVABLE. I’m not sure where to begin. I’m outraged and embarrassed! Back in 1979 we had to sign for nuclear weapons verifying serial numbers, the security folks posted two man guards at the aircraft, the cops enforced two man maintenance crews access to aircraft, the 781s are annotated, maintenance job control was informed, the wing command post was informed, weapons were moved in armed convoy, etc. How were the weapons removed from storage? Who was guarding the weapons military troopers or contractors? How were they transported to the aircraft? How were the aircraft forms updated? How was the chain of custody broken? Did the flight crew and munitions maintenance OICs verify weapons status? What the hell happened here? This is dereliction of duty, Wing CC, DCM, OMS/CC Munitions Sq/CC, Security Sq Commander and a lot of other folks should be going to jail, today !!!!!!!!!!!! Maybe we have too many fighter pilots as generals. Maybe we need to split Air Combat Command back to the cold war days of SAC and TAC.

Retired B-52 Crew Chief

Re: B-52 mistakenly flies with nukes aboard
Being a former cruise missile troop, I do not see how this could have happened. If the "missile shop" failed to download the heads before taking them to the flightline, the crew loading them on the plane has a checklist asking them to "verify no warheads installed", as do the pilots.... hmmmmm, maybe they thought they were dummy heads. That's the only way I can see that possibly happening. Wonder what happened to the guy signing off that inventory?

Re: B-52 mistakenly flies with nukes aboard
I was a PACAF IG inspector in the 1970-1975 time frame. When we performed CIs, it was a very tough inspection covering all aspects of nuclear munitions. It didn't take much to take the keys, lock up the facility, and bring in the training guys to recertify the MMS handling of nukes. Is that still the procedure during this day and age? - I realize that AF manning has dropped significantly over the years and our people need to do more with less. As an example of how tough it was, I remember one time when a maintenance man changed a time phased part (rubber grommet) with a non T.O. part - as we discussed the incident around the table, the boss let them off the hook. He noticed my dissatisfaction and I told him I did not approve of his decision - that weapon had a specific mission and follow up missions would be compromised if that weapon did not explode. Luckily, the next day, they violated the two-man concept and we failure the unit. The Boss told me that he did not sleep the night because of our conversation - we had stringent rules, this is a serious incident and almost impossible to believe that it could have happened. This is bad news for the best Air Force in the world and a blot on many people's records. The only good that comes out of this situation is that it reminds Mr. Ahmadinejad to the fact that we are a very powerful country and will not take his actions lightly. He is now aware that one B-52, B-2, or whatever carries a lot of throwweight and "Mister, don't mess with us".

Re: B-52 mistakenly flies with nukes aboard
I was a navigator/radar nav of B-52s at Minot for 5 years, and there is only one person responsible for this incident, the radar navigator on the crew that flew the missiles down there. If he did his preflight correctly he would have known what he had on board, and that there was a problem. I suspect he blew it off because they were told they didn't have warheads in the missiles, and even before I left the jet in 2000 the units had become so focused on conventional warfare that the nuke mission was being neglected. Just goes to show that you NEVER take what the paperwork says or what anybody else tells you as being the truth. You ALWAYS preflight your weapons, even when you have weapons troops or some Colonel standing there tell you that you don't need to do it, because it is your job and your responsibility alone. The radar nav should have known that, and did his job. He didn't, and now they have a big mess on their hands. I suspect the radar nav will find himself up in front of an FEB explaining his mistake, and he should lose his wings. Had I been in his position I would have raised hell when I saw what I had, if for no other reason than to be a pain in the ass to the leadership for letting the weapons get to the plane in that state in the first place. That is the best part of being a radar nav on the B-52, you have a license to bitch!

Re: B-52 mistakenly flies with nukes aboard
I agree, the radar nav was the last line of defense when it came to making sure that the nukes stayed on the ground and the one in the best position to question what was going on. Shameful

But lets take a look at the other parties at fault

1) The munition Sq control room for not ensuring that the warheads were removed per schedule. Shameful
2) The missile/bomb shop for not removing the warheads per the schedule. Shameful
3) The munitions transport/handling shop for not questioning why they were driving a SAFED Nuke out the front gate of the storage area without security. Shameful
4) The security police for not being able to identify a Nuke as it goes out their front gate and not questioning it. Shameful
5) The load crew for not questioning why they were loading SAFED Weapons onboard an aircraft without security. Shameful.
6) and last the radar nav for not questioning his payload.

I also agree with another writer. This would not have happened on a SAC base.

Sometimes the same things that make a military unit effective have the opposite effect. The ability to follow orders without question and to rely on your follow team members also makes us weak.

Re: B-52 mistakenly flies with nukes aboard
This little fairy tale doesn't hold up to the slightest scrutiny. In order to believe it you have to be willing to slander a whole parade of people who, by definition, are the very best at what they do. I'm not willing to do that. I've never flown with a crew of morons. Ordnance people, ground crews, and the maintenance chief with the aircraft log book are not a bunch of shambling zombies. The entire chain of custody for those special weapons did not include people prone to making the biggest screw up in the history of the Air Force. Many posters here have pointed out that the people in this story are all top-flight professionals. What if that is true? What if every single one of them did exactly what they are trained, and required, to do? What if everything went exactly according to plan, until somebody smelled a rat and called the press?

As Sherlock Holmes would say, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” The undeniable fact is that 6 special weapons were moved from Minot to Barksdale, or, 6 special weapons were moved from secure storage to a staging area for the ME. Let us not ignore the obvious- the administration is openly ramping up a conflict with Iran. They have been reported as having floated the idea of using nukes on deeply buried targets. They have already performed acts that caused an enormous, global, public outcry. I suspect that the officers who leaked this story feared that they were witness to the start of the greatest war crime in history, feared that their own chain of command was complicit in it, and did the only thing they could think of to do to stop it. That would make this story exactly what it sounds like -- a cover-up based on the first panicked lie the administration could think of.

The following is a current list of the procedures and protocols that govern handling, transporting and securing nuclear weapons. Nearly all these rules -- the "bible" for servicemen and women whose jobs involve dealing with the US nuclear arsenal – would have to have been forgotten, willfully ignored or countermanded for this "mistake" to occur. Please skim; if you actually read every word, you'll be as crazy as Cheney in less than an hour.

"Nuclear Surety Tamper Control and Detection Programs Supplement"

This Interim Change (IC) 2006-2 provides new/additional guidance regarding the definition and intent of the Air Force Tamper Detection Program, further clarifies the intent for MAJCOMs to develop and distribute sealing procedures and updates general information. A bar ( | ) indicates a revision from the previous edition.

1. Requirements and Procedures.

1.1. Tamper Control Program. The Two-Person Concept is central to nuclear surety tamper control measures in the Air Force. It is designed to make sure that a lone individual cannot perform an incorrect act or unauthorized procedure on a nuclear weapon, nuclear weapon system, or certified critical component.

1.2. Concept Enforcement. Each organization with a mission or function involving nuclear weapons, nuclear weapon systems, or certified critical components:

1.2.1. Identifies no-lone zones (where at least two authorized persons must be present during any operation or task).

1.2.1. (AFSPC) Apply Two-Person Concept procedures during training with non-war reserve assets to the extent necessary to maintain proficiency.

1.2.2. Enforces the Two-Person Concept

1.2.2. (AFSPC) Before entering a no-lone zone, brief personnel that the Two-Person Concept applies. Supervisors must ensure that individuals are aware of the location of all no-lone zone boundaries, location of certified critical components within the no-lone zone, emergency procedures, and methods for reporting violations and hazards. Do not use signs or devices externally that identify a building as a no-lone zone.

1.2.3. Develops procedures to limit entry to authorized persons who meet the requirements of paragraph 1.3.

1.2.3. (AFSPC) After entry into a no-lone zone, the supervisor/team chief of each authorized team controls individual team members within the no-lone zone.

1.2.4. (Added-AFSPC) After initial entry of an authorized Two-Person Concept team into a no-lone zone, a single, authorized individual may enter providing: (Added-AFSPC) The Sole Vouching Authority (SVA) identifies individuals wishing to gain entry to a no-lone zone, verifies authorization, and validates need for entry into the no-lone zone. Note: SVA is the representative identified as having responsibility for deciding who will enter the no-lone zone. Normally, this is the senior member of the first team entering the area. SVA may transfer between individuals provided the two individuals jointly identify

1.2.5. (Added-AFSPC) An area designated as a no-lone zone may be defined as the interior of a cabinet, a work bay or equipment bay; an entire structure or building, a junction box, a drawer, an area encompassed by an actual boundary established by painted markings, rope, or a fence; and in some instances, the interior of vehicles. Local commanders are authorized to enlarge a no-lone zone. This authority should be used sparingly and only when absolutely required. When used for unattended storage of nuclear weapons or certified critical components the no-lone zone must meet the requirements of AFI 31-101, The Air Force Installation Security Program, and AFI (Added-AFSPC) Any room, computer facility, vault, or similar area where certified critical components are repaired (operationally certified or decertified), manufactured, stored, or processed, is a no-lone zone. For an area in which maintenance is infrequently performed on certified critical components, establish a temporary no-lone zone with signs placed around the work area while components are present.

1.3. Team Requirements. (Refer to paragraph for criteria on foreign nationals.) A Two-Person Concept team consists of at least two individuals who:

1.3.1. Are certified under the Personnel Reliability Program (PRP), as specified in AFI 36-2104, Nuclear Weapons Personnel Reliability Program(formerly AFR 35-99 and AFR 40-925).

1.3.1. (AFSPC) Inspectors or evaluators who meet the requirements of paragraph 1.3. may form a Two-Person Concept team in the performance of their duties.

1.3.2. Know the nuclear surety requirements of the task they perform.

1.3.3. Can promptly detect an incorrect act or unauthorized procedure.

1.3.4. Have successfully completed nuclear surety training according to AFI 91-101.

1.3.5. Are designated to perform the required task.

1.4. (AFSPC) Violations to Report. Report violations of the Two-Person Concept, including emergency response, through the command post to the commander. The commander will ensure violations are investigated promptly. A Two-Person Concept team must ascertain if unauthorized acts were performed, inspect involved certified critical components, verify their status, and reestablish the integrity of the system. Accomplish applicable visual and functional checks for components that have such procedures established.

1.6.4. PRP Interim-Certified Personnel Restrictions. Two interim-certified individuals may not form a Two-Person Concept team. Also, do not allow an interim-certified member to pilot a single-seat aircraft loaded with nuclear weapons.


2. Tamper Detection Program. Seals help to verify that no one has tampered with or accidentally activated a certified critical component.

2.1. Sealing Requirements. Certain items must be sealed because either:

2.1.1. Air Force nuclear weapon system safety rules require it, or,

2.1.2. In the case of some certified critical components, seals protect their certification status while in storage or during transportation, as specified in AFI 91-105, Critical Components (formerly AFR 122-17).

2.2. Sealing Methods. Authorized sealing methods include:

2.2.1. Safety Wiring and Lead Seals. In this method, you place a lead seal on a safety wire connected to certain switches, covers, handles, or levers and impress the lead seal with a distinctive mark using a crimping device and controlled die. An unauthorized act breaks or alters the wire connection so that you can detect activation. Use this method only in no-lone zones.

2.2.2. Tamper Detection Indicators (TDI). In this method you place an approved TDI so that it will indicate when someone has activated or had access to the interior of a certified critical component. Once the TDI is installed, evidence of tampering is visible to the naked eye or can be detected through the use of special equipment.

3.3.1. (AFSPC) Where AFSPC directives do not cover a particular local situation, wings will develop local standard publications or checklists to ensure adequate control of certified critical components or nuclear weapons and application of the Tamper Control and Detection Programs.

3.3.2. Develop and distribute procedures for sealing, where appropriate. As a minimum, these procedural directives: State when and by whom seals can be applied and removed. (AFSPC) Units will designate personnel authorized to apply and remove tamper

detection indicators (TDI). TDIs will be applied and removed by a Two-Person Concept team when required by technical orders or directives. Establish controls for the handling, receipt, storage, issue, inventory, and disposal of TDIs (including all residue), controlled dies and self-locking, non-reversible seals. (example: roto-seals) (AFSPC) Develop local controls for handling, receipt, storage, issue, inventory, and disposal of TDIs not covered in technical orders, directives or this supplement. (Added-AFSPC) The Aquila Cobra Seal TDI-1 (ACSTDI-1) is used to maintain certification of the Missile Guidance Set (MGS) during shipment. Task-qualified personnel must install, remove, and verify the ACSTDI-1. (Added-AFSPC) The ACSTD-1 system kit requires special handling. The kit

which includes special tools, camera, printer, video disks, ACSTDI-1 bodies, and fiber

optic cables does not require special handling. Maintain the video disk used during the

ACSTDI-1 installation process under proper Two-Person Concept control until all information recorded on the disk has been properly verified by the unit receiving the MGS. Maintain the master pictures taken during the installation process under Two-Person Concept

control until TDIs on MGS shipping containers are verified by the receiving unit. (Added-AFSPC) Prior to shipping a certified MGS to another unit, ensure the

receiving unit has a copy of the master pictures taken during the seal installation process.

Transmit the master pictures by facsimile machine or overnight mail. Immediately upon

receipt of the master pictures the receiving unit will contact the sending unit via telephone to confirm that the pictures have been received and are under Two-Person Concept control. The sending unit will verify the caller,s identity by immediate call back. Accomplish this verification procedure prior to shipping the MGS. (Added-AFSPC) The sending unit must inspect installed ACSTDI-1s immediately prior to loading the MGS shipping container for shipment. The same inspection is performed upon receipt of the MGS. (Added-AFSPC) Dispose of the ACSTDI-1 by destroying the body and discarding it along with the cables.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cognitive dissonance: It's not just for breakfast anymore.

This is a reply to a post on Democratic Underground that asked: "Do you realize that you are living in a Fascist Country?"

I responded:

New, improved: It's fascism with a smirk

BushCo and various compliant congresses, with both R and D majorities, have signed off on an ever-expanding list of repressive legislation, executive orders and presidential directives; massive federal invasions of privacy regarding medical and financial records; monitoring US citizens' electronic communications; re-targeting spy satellites for domestic surveillance; the TSA cavity search specialists (for attractive young women only; the rest are presumed to pose no threat to the state); no-fly and terrorist watch lists; Halliburton/KBR's detention camps; RFIDs in all new passports and the new national ID cards scheduled to be issued later this year; new TSA "behavior detection officers" to spot those who don't "look quite right;" all this wonderful new stuff from the DHS; private armies featuring mercenaries from companies like Blackwater and SAIC springing up like mushrooms after a light rain... All that and the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, extraordinary rendition (whatever the hell that means) and torture, too. (Note: the torture link is graphic and disgusting, as it should be.)

But most people would call you insane if you tried to connect these dots in a way that pointed toward governmental malevolence. Can't happen here, they say.

And because another poster in the same thread vehemently denied any hint of fascism in the current version of America, I couldn't keep my mouth (or keyboard) shut:

Cognitive dissonance: It's not just for breakfast anymore

Odd that you'd cite media obsession with the upcoming elections as evidence that we're just rolling in personal freedom. I'd argue that watching the media's evolving role in campaign and election coverage, and transcending neutrality by actually influencing the outcome, provides ample evidence of just the opposite. In maybe 50 years, they've completed the transition from reporters of objective fact to gatekeepers and promoters of official orthodoxy.

But even that wasn't enough to justify the huge sums of money corporate America has spent since 1996 to buy its own alternative universe. So in 2000 and 2004, they assumed a new activist role in determining the eventual "winner" by proclaiming a Bush victory out front; containing, suppressing or ridiculing all contrary information; then forcing the Gore camp to make its case with its credibility already undermined by the "infallibility" the public ascribes to the mighty media Wurlitzer. Goebbels and Bernays couldn't have done it any better.

The role of the "free press" as a check on the excesses of the rich and powerful -- which is what the founders had in mind when they ratified the First Amendment -- no longer exists except in small, local, independent papers, radio stations and community access TV.

Now, in its new role as champion of the status quo, PR firm for the aristocracy and official ministry of propaganda for the unholy marriage of right wing politicians and their corporate love-children, the "free press" is there at the outset of all major election campaigns to weed out any hint of progressive ideology, keep progressives muzzled and off camera and actively promote only the most vanilla, corporate-approved, useless degenerates of the bunch.

As you note, "In fascism, there is no debate about who the next leader will be." In sharp contrast, I suppose, to our free and open system in which all candidates enjoy public funding and equal media access and where mass media respects and accurately reports on every candidate's views on the issues.

One way to pick leaders in a fascist society is to physically, psychologically and spiritually intimidate people into accepting anyone who's shoved down their throats. Another is to limit their options to the finalists who represent the two factions of the Business Party. Just as in the other method, this keeps the status quo safe for another four years, this time by making sure there's only a superficial difference between the choices mass media has shoved down their throats. The outcome is the same; the second method is just slicker, less obviously totalitarian and doesn't tend to make people crazy, unproductive and useless as drones and debt slaves.

And if you actually believe that there's a lick of difference between Ms. Clinton and Mr. McCain or Mr. Romney when it comes to their unwavering commitment to corporate values and steadfast opposition to anything that might benefit actual humans at the expense of corporate profits, then I've got to assume that history and cognition aren't your strong suits. You might care to have a look at and follow the dollars for a while. Better yet, have a look at Hillary's idea of health care reform.

Like it or not, we no longer live in a democratic republic based on Constitutional law, the will of the people and 220 years of legal precedent. There is no due process; there is no habeas; there is no right to counsel; there is no right to privacy; there is no right to speak your mind; there is no prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment; there is no right to a speedy trial by jury.

This is the reality of America v2.0. Just because the enforcers aren't wearing black uniforms decorated with swastikas and lightening bolts and goose-stepping down the Unter den Linden; just because Leni Reifenstahl's granddaughter isn't filming the sequel to "Triumph of the Will" and the boxcars are still carrying freight; just because oppression is still partly concealed under a peeling veneer of liberty while most people flatly refuse to pay any fucking attention at all... Just because the jackboot has yet to kick in my door, I'm not naive enough to believe that it can't happen here.

I look at the massive power the executive branch has accumulated since 2001 -- with the complete complicity of congress and an uncritical mass media -- and I can only draw one conclusion: all the pieces are in place to lock down this country like a time vault. They're just not fully operational yet.

Maybe they never will be, although the overlords have gone through a hell of a lot of trouble to build a legal and physical infrastructure that can really serve only one purpose. The Cheneys of the world don't strike me as the type to do stuff like this just for fun.

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Time to reinstate the corporate death penalty

This is a reply to a post on Democratic Underground about how do deal with renegade corporations, particularly those conglomerates like GE, Disney, Time-Warner and Murdoch's News Corp. who own media empires that control more than 90 percent of everything you see, hear and read in the US. My post follows:

I'm really starting to like the idea of corporate charter revocation. Basically, if they consistently act like felons and their business practices routinely include befouling local ecosystems, clear-cutting, releasing toxic chemicals into the water, air or ground, screwing the community out of legitimate taxes, laying off half the workforce and replacing them with H-1b visa holders, moving some or all of their operations overseas and so on... If they're going to claim the privileges of "personhood," then they should damn well be subject to the same legal sanctions and criminal penalties any other person would incur for such behavior.

Or, more to the point here, corporate death for giant holding companies buying up all the country's information outlets, replacing news with infotainment and propaganda and claiming First Amendment protections apply to broadcasting this nonstop drivel.

Just think for a second about which media outlets have pissed you off in the past week. I'll start with NBC for the Kucinich lockout, then CNN, Fux, CBS, ABC, the History Channel, the NYT, the WaPo, my local rag, AM radio motor mouths (for the three seconds it took to hit the mute button) and even ESPN. All of them peddled lies, distortions, disinformation, government-approved spin, told breathless tales of D-class celebrity idiots and engaged in actions harmful to the continued survival of the republic -- i.e., promoting and perpetuating the brain-dead culture of Dumbfuckistan. And that's just a normal week. The big six media conglomerates are also in probable violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, but that's another subject.

Media companies are particularly sensitive to charges of malfeasance, since they have a special obligation to be of service to the public in return for being allowed to use our priceless airwaves on the cheap or for free. To the extent that they ignore that mandate, they're vulnerable to charter review at the very least, and revocation if warranted. The FCC actually used to care about such things until St. Raygun deregulated everything he could find, a practice continued by all his successors, no exceptions, and reaching epic proportions with the Codpiece in Chief.

Obviously, it would take a new and fairly progressive administration to take on the GEs and Viacoms of the world -- one whose figurehead hasn't accepted massive bribes from those very same companies in return for favorable legislation and minimal regulatory oversight, and which the corrupt liars characterize as merely "buying access." Of the possible finalists, only Edwards seems to have any desire to take on these cancerous monsters. The GOP will remain worse than useless, Clinton and Obama are too heavily invested in corporate values and stuffed with corporate money to fight for the peasants against the oligarchs and Kucinich has been judged "unelectable" by people so much smarter than us that we really should just accept their word for it. :sarcasm:

So as usual, it's up to us, and we can decide pool our talents and combine skill sets and work to revoke their corporate charters. The rewards are huge. If successful, the corporation ceases to exist as a legal entity. You can then seize their liquid assets and divide them among the corporation's creditors -- which, in the case of a relatively solvent company, means the workers and contractors -- and auction off anything not nailed down, with proceeds again going to the workers and small creditors. The shareholders just lose their investments, the execs may or may not be subject to civil or criminal liability and when a new business moves in to occupy the old facilities, they're compelled to hire the former occupant's workers first.

I think it's long past time for people to begin harassing these unaccountable fiefdoms and either dissolve them entirely or cripple their ability to operate in secret and outside the laws and ethical constraints the rest of us are subject to.

Here's some background material. Unfortunately, successful revocation hasn't happened for decades, so there are no contemporary "how-to" case studies. But several of these links outline circumstances that could result charter revocation, along with citing precedents and legal arguments. Others contain the processes and templates needed to create the proper paperwork and get it into the hands of the right (i.e., more sympathetic) government officials. Fortunately, it's not as boring as it sounds.

That's probably enough for starters. For more, search Google for any combination of "corporate charter revoke procedure case study"... and so on.

Happy hunting.

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The Internet must die

"I hear there's rumors on the Internets that we're going to have a draft." — Dry-no-more-drunk George W. Bush, contemplating his next tall, cold Lone Star, October 8, 2004, St. Louis, Mo

You know that you've reached desperate times when you find yourself fondly remembering Tass and Pravda as beacons of journalistic integrity.

But when considering US corporate media's seven-year love affair with the Bush administration and its willingness to deliver blatant propaganda and outright lies to manufacture Bush-approved political orthodoxy, those former USSR institutions compare favorably with the shameless house organs now masquerading as an American free press.

The Internet's corporate competition: co-opted beyond redemption

Thanks to a 30-year frenzy of mergers and acquisitions, wink-and-nod FCC "oversight" and congressional unwillingness to invoke existing anti-trust laws, the American marketplace of ideas is now ruled by six massive conglomerates that control the content of more than 80 percent of what most of us see, hear and read.

So what? Well, for one thing, a significant majority of news, entertainment and information US audiences see is vetted for its support of status quo corporate values and purged of "dangerous" unconventional narratives -- perhaps regarding the threat to independent thought posed by media consolidation.

And when discussing media consolidation, someone might tumble to the fact that NBC is owned by General Electric, one of the world's largest armaments manufacturers in 2006 and among the six largest media conglomerates. GE makes and maintains engines for the F-16 Fighter jet, Abrams tank, Apache helicopter, U2 bomber, Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV), A-10 aircraft and numerous other military equipment, including planes, helicopters, tanks and more.

Is it reasonable to expect NBC to report critically on the status and duration of the Iraq occupation? Or is it predictable that NBC's occupation coverage will tell us that the "surge" is working, that US troop deaths are down, that the Iraqi puppet regime is gaining traction and, if we can hang on for another decade, things should turn out hunky-dory.

Well, it's certain that extending the US presence in Iraq by a decade will have a very positive impact on GE's profit and loss statements. It's probably going to be somewhat less beneficial for the people who actually have to fight this insane proxy war on behalf of GE's bottom line.

But that's okay, since war is the optimum business condition for many industries -- banks, weapons makers, raw materials suppliers, machine tool makers and so on -- GE looks to sell many billions of dollars more of its killing machinery, all the while telling Americans via NBC how peace is just 10 or so years down the road.

And GE is just one of the main offenders. We'll leave for another day a discussion on how thoroughly Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. has polluted the national discourse. Or how the acquisitive tentacles of Viacom, CBS, TimeWarner and Disney have managed to take a relatively engaged population and, in 30 short years, turn it into a nation of compliant, ill-informed, politically illiterate chowder heads content to consume their quota of goods, services and ideologies with an equally uncritical eye.

American mass media lost the thread of the story decades ago and are now only qualified to dish pop culture infotainment masquerading as news; report breathlessly on the latest D-class celebrity screw-up; and act as stenographers and cheerleaders for the latest batch of official Bush administration lies.

Among other insults, this explains why John Stossel is a network star while Bill Moyers is on PBS.

The parallel universe

The only serious competition threatening corporate media's monopoly on official "truths" -- those pieties designed to narrow acceptable choices and increase social control -- comes from the Internet.

"The news," as it's laughingly known, can tap into a seemingly endless supply of drunken or felonious fools like Jessica and Paris and OJ and Twitany to sedate its viewers. Then there's the occasional gruesome murder to balance the chirpy happy talk on miraculous medical procedures (which most of us will never live to experience because our for-profit insurers won't cover them), an always erroneous look at local weather, followed by 15 uplifting minutes on sports and a recap of the top celebrity screw-ups. The viewer yawns, feels a bit awed by all this technical wizardry and slick showmanship, and heads for bed thinking he's up to date on the stuff that really matters.

Corporate media has a bottomless pool of "on-air talent" -- perfectly coiffed, well-modulated, tastefully made up, arrayed in $5K worth of suits, ties and little flag lapel pins, strident and irritating as a hundred Ross Perots.

We have broadband, YouTube, blogs, forums, actual reporters, search engines, discussion groups, political organizing, access to newspapers published in actual free countries -- all taking place in plain sight.

Over the past decade Internet and Web technology have matured and surpassed nearly anything mass media can offer. It's instant news, usually with audio or video, often reported by eyewitnesses rather than filtered by some blow-dried idiot. It's preserving what's left of our national heritage by archiving "purged" documents. It's subjecting every significant political, social and economic development to the scrutiny and analysis of the world's collective brainpower. It's the unifying element linking diverse cultures into an evolving planetary society not subordinated to states or lines on a map. And it's the universe's greatest source of jokes, one-liners and satire.

Governments' worst nightmare: an informed and activist citizenry

I don't see how the power elites can afford to allow this nonsense to continue for much longer. People with unconventional (read: humanitarian or peaceful) ideas are the implacable enemy of those sustaining their wealth and power by aligning themselves with the status quo, and these dissenting Internet pipsqueaks cannot be tolerated forever.

To our corporate masters, libraries, independent publishers and bookstores are bad enough. But fortunately for "them," libraries are underfunded and ill-attended, it's getting harder to publish unorthodox material in the US and many independent book stores are getting killed by the Barnes & Nobles and Amazons of the world.

Not so the Internet. It's become the alternate universe for hundreds of millions of people worldwide who know and understand that the official story is always and inevitably suspect. That altruism has never been a function of governments. That governments are always at war with "the people" they pretend to watch out for. That, as The Commander Guy pointed out in a rare moment of clarity, dictatorships ARE easier to run than representative democracies. That power exists solely to perpetuate itself and, when threatened, will defend its position with anything and everything in the arsenal.

Now that's a hell of an alternate narrative. And the Internet is the "plumbing" that carries these contrarian messages -- and the seditious thoughts and attitudes and movements they inspire -- around the world in less time than it takes Murdoch to count his latest billion.

Death by harassment

In July of last year, Bush signed an executive order, entitled "Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq. This expanded the administration's flexible definition of a terrorist to include anyone disagreeing with its " . . . efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people." This apparently isn't intended as a joke, although I'm not sure what's going on over there qualifies as "economic reconstruction" or "humanitarian assistance."

Which brings us to "Endgame," as the Department of Homeland Security calls HR 1955/S 1959, known officially as The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007, and which contains -- among dozens of disgusting provisions -- these gems [italics mine]:

(2) The promotion of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism and ideologically based violence exists in the United States and poses a threat to homeland security.

(3) The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens.

Striking at the heart of the international terrorist conspiracy, this bill targets the dangerous arch-fiends/grandmothers who participate on the hundreds of thousands of political forums, blogs or news and information sites that aren't exclusively devoted to singing the praises of Bush/Cheney and their merry band of imperialist oil pirates.

Note that this piece of repressive legislation -- rumored to be the brainchild of the Rand Corporation and introduced by Democrat Jane Harman -- passed the House last October by a 404-6 margin. Note that, introduced last August in the upper house as S 1959 and co-sponsored by GOP armchair warrior and domestic repression enthusiast Norm Coleman, it's coming up for a vote in the Senate early this year. If it passes, which seems likely, a Bush signature is a given -- probably with a signing statement that says he'll ignore the act's few feeble provisions to combat totalitarianism, like this one:

(a) In General - The Department of Homeland Security's efforts to prevent ideologically based violence and homegrown terrorism as described herein shall not violate the constitutional rights, civil rights, or civil liberties of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents.

Readers may want to take appropriate preemptive action before, say, downloading this article becomes a felony.

Another motive for digital murder

There's an interesting new site called "Wikileaks" that has garnered some recent attention from corporate mass media, notably Time Magazine, which notes that Wikileaks " . . . could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act." The site is intended as a secure repository where whistleblowers can, at minimal personal risk, post confidential, potentially embarrassing government and corporate documents for the entire online world to see, study and analyze.

Here's part of Wikileaks' mission statement:

We propose that authoritarian governments, oppressive institutions and corrupt corporations should be subject to the pressure, not merely of international diplomacy, freedom of information laws or even periodic elections, but of something far stronger — the consciences of the people within them.

We believe that transparency in government activities leads to reduced corruption, better government and stronger democracies . . . We believe this scrutiny requires information. Historically that information has been costly - in terms of human life and human rights. But with technological advances to the Internet and cryptography, the risks of conveying important information can be lowered.

Wikileaks opens leaked documents up to stronger scrutiny than any media organization or intelligence agency can provide. Wikileaks provides a forum for the entire global community to relentlessly examine any document for its credibility, plausibility, veracity and validity. Communities can interpret leaked documents and explain their relevance to the public. If a document comes from the Chinese government, the entire Chinese dissident community and diaspora can freely scrutinize and discuss it; if a document arrives from Iran, the entire Farsi community can analyze it and put it in context.

In an important sense, Wikileaks is the first intelligence agency of the people . . . its only interest is the revelation of the truth. Unlike the covert activities of state intelligence agencies, Wikileaks relies upon the power of overt fact to enable and empower citizens to bring feared and corrupt governments and corporations to justice.

Wikileaks is still months from going fully operational, but they've already put up quite a few leaked documents from all over the world. Here's one entitled "Fallujah, the information war and U.S. propaganda."

I suppose the whole thing could be a slick disinfo psy-op designed to leak phony documents to "non-embedded" reporters, then embarrass them publicly for printing anti-US propaganda attributed to some obscure left-radical loon or "terrorist."

But only a pure pessimist would think the Bush administration capable of such chicanery. On the contrary, they've amassed an impressive record of unstinting support for the organizing principles of this country . . . at least for those with the right pedigree who kick in a million bucks or so to the Republican National Committee each election cycle.

# # #

This article first appeared in Online Journal on January 14, 2008

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9/11 and the incompetence excuse: Could a bunch of sociopathic screw-ups really pull off the crime of the century?

Many who deny government complicity in 9/11/01 maintain that some of the best evidence against official involvement in the crime of the century lies in the Bush administration's unbroken record of sheer incompetence, an argument bolstered by the perception that key members of the administration, notably The Commander Guy, spent that entire day running around like headless chickens.

On the contrary, they did no such thing. Rather, the administration was highly competent and enormously successful that day -- they just had different criteria for success than would sane people. And they've been highly competent ever since. You just have to adjust your standards for evaluating success, then view the past six years through the PNAC/neocon lens. Let's review some of their primary accomplishments -- on 9/11 and in the six eternal years since:

  • They got the entire world to believe that a ragtag organization called Al Qaeda, fronted by a seriously ill guy in a cave armed with only a laptop and a phone, managed to orchestrate an unbelievably complex plan that had involved years of planning and training, much money, split-second timing and ridiculously good luck.

  • They got the entire world to believe that four hijackers who couldn't fly single-engine Cessnas well enough to graduate from flight school suddenly became the Blue Angels when at the controls of large, twin-engine Boeing jetliners, and this during the most stressful moments of their short lives.

  • They got the entire world to believe that the crime of the century was pulled off by 19 guys with box-cutters whose names (or any other Arabic names) don't appear on any passenger manifests and at least four of whom have been seen alive and well in the Middle East since 9/11/01, (this one even interviewed by the BBC).

  • Better yet, they got the entire world to believe their evidence linking these 19 guys to the hijackings, using for proof a few cell phone calls that couldn't have happened with 2001 technology. Then there's the famous carry-on bag supposedly left behind by alleged ringleader Mohammed Atta containing, among other things, a copy of the Koran, a Boeing flight manual and his will (and that's surely something you'd take with you on a flight you knew was going to be vaporized). And then the kicker, a passport allegedly belonging to Atta that miraculously survived a massive explosion and temperatures we're told were high enough to soften steel and fluttered unsullied to the ground, where it was eventually found among the debris a couple of blocks away from what used to be the World Trade Center.

  • They got the entire world to believe that the seriously ill guy in the cave had such vast control over US armed forces that he ordered four exercise scenarios -- Vigilant Warrior, Vigilant Guardian, Northern Guardian and Northern Vigilance -- which diverted to northern Canada or Alaska many of the NORAD fighter jets that would have been scrambled per standard operating procedure in the event of a suspected hijacking in the northeast corridor.

  • They got the entire world to believe that this same guy in the cave was able to insert at least 11 and as many as 21 false radar blips (according to FAA administrator Jane Garvey) onto air traffic controller screens throughout the northeast corridor. As a result, controllers had no idea which blips represented planes that had been hijacked, which ones represented non-hijacked flights still in the air and which blips were phantoms. They were thus incapable of following the actual moves of the four hijacked jets and/or coordinating with the FAA to relay warnings to NORAD interceptors (most of which, again, were screwing around over the arctic wastes).

  • They got the entire world to believe that the remaining NORAD forces -- which had been a perfect 67 for 67 in 2001 prior to 9/11 -- managed to fail completely in their missions four separate times that morning.

  • They got the entire world to believe that it was only a coincidence that a fifth exercise was taking place at the same time, this one designed to test emergency response capabilities at the National Reconnaissance Office in the event that an off-course plane from nearby Dulles airport crashed into one of the NRO's four office towers.

  • They got the entire world to believe that two planes took down three skyscrapers, WTC buildings 1, 2 and 7, and that for the first and only time in history, fire brought down reinforced steel and concrete structures and caused them to collapse vertically rather than keel over sideways and take out a few blocks of the New York City financial district.

  • They got the entire world to absolve them of any complicity in "the events of 9/11," even though the above list of "coincidences" is inexplicable without the knowledge, involvement, approval and direction of people high up in the federal food chain.

And that was only the beginning . . .

  • Literally overnight, they and their mass media cheerleaders turned a quasi-literate simpleton who was already tanking in the polls into an heroic "war president" who enjoyed the approval of more than 90 percent of the American public and the support of just about the entire world community.

  • Suggesting the presence of a script, the administration immediately used this new-found popularity to get the public to buy insane increases in Pentagon spending; invented a war on terror to further justify enriching cronies at banks, arms merchants and fossil fuels companies; and attacked Afghanistan, murdering tens of thousands of civilians but failing to find that omnipotent guy in the cave.

  • They got the entire world to believe Condi Rice when she perjured herself at the 9/11 Commission hearings by saying, "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon; that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile."

  • They got the entire world to forget that at least 11 countries had issued warnings of an imminent attack against the US: Afghanistan, Argentina, Egypt, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Morocco, Russia and the UK.

  • They got the entire world to forget that Bush slept on a US Navy ship in Genoa Harbor during the July 2001 G8 meeting because Italian intelligence services had intercepted communications indicating terrorists might try to use a hijacked plane to assassinate him by ramming it into his hotel.

  • They got the whole world to forget about Operation Bojinka, a plot to hijack and blow up 11 flights from Asia to North America, which the CIA had rolled up back in the mid-'90s and which should have provided some hints of future activities.

And ever since, it's been the express train to hell for the US and the rest of the world. Anything's fair in the phony war on terror that 9/11 launched and sanctified.

It justifies preemptive civilian slaughter branded as "shock and awe;" blatantly looting the national historical treasures of a sovereign nation; commandeering its oil reserves for the exclusive profit of US and UK petrochemical companies; building forward bases from which to rule the Middle East militarily; privatizing everything that isn't nailed down; threatening or ridiculing any national leader who dares to differ with US hegemony; threatening Iran with nuclear weapons; the use of illegal torture to compel confessions (which are, of course, useless since they're obtained under duress) . . . all this and more cementing the US's richly deserved place as the world's most feared and despised rogue state. And that's just the foreign policy side.

Meanwhile, back at home . . .

Domestically, the official 9/11 story has justified an ever-expanding list of repressive legislation, executive orders and presidential directives; massive federal invasions of privacy regarding medical and financial records; obsessive monitoring of US citizens' electronic communications; re-targeting spy satellites for domestic surveillance; the TSA cavity search specialists (for attractive young women only; the rest are presumed to pose no threat to the state); no-fly and terrorist watch lists; Halliburton/KBR's detention camps; RFIDs in all new passports and the new national ID cards scheduled to be issued later this year; new TSA "behavior detection officers" to spot those who don't "look quite right;" all this wonderful new stuff from the DHS; private armies featuring mercenaries from companies like Blackwater and SAIC springing up like mushrooms after a light rain... All that and the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, extraordinary rendition (whatever that actually means) and torture, too. (Note: the torture link is graphic and disgusting.)

Thanks to "the events of 9/11," we no longer live in a democratic republic based on constitutional law and 220 years of legal precedent. There is no due process; there is no habeas corpus; there is no right to counsel; there is no right to privacy; there is no right to speak one's mind; there is no prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment; there is no right to a speedy trial by jury.

This is the reality of America v2.0 post-9/11. Just because they're not wearing black uniforms decorated with swastikas and lightening bolts and goose-stepping down the Unter den Linden; just because Leni Reifenstahl isn't filming the sequel to "Triumph of the Will" and the boxcars are still carrying freight; just because oppression is still partly concealed under an eroding veneer of liberty while most people flatly refuse to pay any attention . . . Just because the jackboot has yet to kick in the door, we're not naive enough to believe that it can't happen here.

We look at stuff like this and can only draw one conclusion: All the pieces are in place to lock down this country like a time vault. They simply haven't gone fully operational yet.

There are dozens -- probably hundreds -- of additional outrages that have been justified by "the events of 9/11." The official 9/11 story is the lynchpin, the keystone, the catalyst for every single act of international aggression and domestic repression this administration has been able to get away with. Absent 9/11, or at least the official Bush administration version, they don't have a leg to stand on. Demolish the official coincidence theory and their entire rationale crumbles.

A united front

That's why attacking, discrediting and ultimately disproving the 9/11 myth is so critical to the continued survival of the republic. Even Ms. Nancy might find grounds to allow impeachment back on that infamous table once the 9/11 armor rusts away.

Ironically, instead of presenting a unified front to expose this preposterous lie and condemn the complicit US mass media echo chamber that has hard-wired it into the American psyche, the left/liberal end of the political spectrum is predictably fragmented on this issue and includes some of the more steadfast and adamant defenders of the official coincidence theory.

So when we see otherwise intelligent and perceptive people doing the administration's PR work for them, defending the official story with the tenacity of the religious zealot, we have to wonder at the level of internal conflict these people must experience in accepting this ridiculous official story at face value.

But fear is a powerful thing and shilling for the official 9/11 cover story -- while staunchly ignoring the most basic unanswered questions and obvious inconsistencies -- provides insulation against the cognitive dissonance and bottomless cynicism that would result from admitting that this administration is so utterly malevolent that it would plan and execute mass murder against its own citizens for purely political reasons.

There's always Operation Northwoods to provide a bit of historical perspective on governmental malevolence. Even US mass media managed to pick up on that one. Read it before it gets scrubbed.

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This article first appeared in Online Journal on January 9, 2008

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So . . . what's this here single-payer health care thing all about anyway?

"I�m going to tell you something -- we have fabulous health care in America, just so you know. I think it�s very important -- before people start griping about the health care system here -- and of course there�s always grounds for complaint -- just to compare it with other systems around the world." --George W. Bush, December 17, 2007, eruditely discussing his own single-payer coverage, courtesy of the US taxpayer.

Note: please pardon all the weird characters -- like question marks where there should be quotation marks. I'm a writer; not a coder. However, if you know how to fix this crap, please shoot me an email and tell me how. ALso looking to truncate posts to show the first 500 words, then show a link to the rest at the bottom of the opening section. Again, if you know how to make that work, please tell me how. And now, on with the show...

But first, a moment of silence

A teenaged girl died some time ago because Cigna HealthCare, a for-profit medical insurance provider, did exactly what it's compelled to do by law: it chose to maximize its profits by refusing to pay for a liver transplant for 17-year-old Nataline Sarkisyan, whose doctors warned that she would certainly die without the organ replacement.

And they were correct. She did in fact die, just hours after Cigna relented and agreed to cover the costs of the procedure after all. This, too, was a move intended to maximize profits, since the terrible PR that news of its denial of coverage generated could have affected Cigna's bottom line as well, as could damages awarded as the result of a wrongful death suit. So it wasn't a rekindling of the human spirit on Cigna's part that caused the company to reverse its position; that was the result of a serious internal disaster management campaign, run by corporate lawyers and high-level spinmeisters, designed to reduce the impact on Cigna's image and minimize the company's financial exposure.

By law, the only obligation of a publicly owned, for-profit US corporation is maximizing return for its shareholders. That's it. Nothing about good corporate citizenship, the public good, saving lives or anything else that isn't related to jacking up the price per share and maintaining a reasonable price-earnings (P/E) ratio.

If Cigna had been operating outside the rules, perhaps we could simply discipline that one company, levy stiff fines, jail a couple of high-ranking execs and serve notice to the rest of the industry that such behavior won't be tolerated. But that's not the case. Cigna was following the rules. The problem is that the rules are insane. That's why this profit-driven disaster of a medical system must be replaced.

We need to dump this murderous system entirely. It's too far gone to tinker around the edges. We simply have to get rid of the profit motive as the driving factor in determining who lives and who dies. We need to decouple the idea of health care from the idea of health insurance, since the two have absolutely nothing in common. For example, listen to Cigna president David Cordani defending the decision in an internal memo that was also made available to mass media.

Nataline Sarkisyan's request was evaluated on an expedited basis using "evidence-based guidelines published by independent physician and medical organizations, as well as expert scientific journals," Cordani said. Translation: We made a life or death decision based on a quick scan of "Liver Transplantation for Dummies" and we backed that up with a little reading on WebMD. Oh, and JAMA, too, and Lancet maybe . . . And don't forget Dr. Rudinski's best-seller, "The Home Guide to Major Abdominal Surgery."

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming . . .

The pinko commie plot to ruin the American way of debt and dying

Now that "Sicko" is available on DVD, millions of people will see it for the first time. If the film's run in theaters is any indicator, most of them will be infuriated as Michael Moore exposes a greedy US medical insurance system run amok, drunk on profits, willing to abandon any last traces of human decency to fatten the bottom line and adept at filtering out patients with acute illnesses that might cost the insurers real money.

The solution Moore advocates is a national health care program, funded by a modest and progressive tax, and generically called "single-payer," meaning that the insurance industry's multiple payers are replaced by a single entity, usually a state or the federal government.

This system would provide universal access to health care for all Americans without the need for private, for-profit medical insurance and the huge financial burden that currently imposes in insurance premiums, deductibles, co-pays, pharmaceuticals, non-covered procedures and "negotiated rates" which somehow never seem to cover the entire bill.

And those people are the lucky ones; they have medical insurance of some sort and, therefore, aren't usually sentenced to die (Nataline Sarkisyan excepted) or be forced to use the local ER as their primary care facility. That happy fate falls to an estimated 47 million of their fellow Americans, who have no medical insurance at all and must therefore game the system to survive.

And we're not talking solely about the chronically unemployed (although why employment is a condition for receiving medical care remains unexplained and undiscussed). We're talking about Wal-Mart greeters and checkers, burger flippers, cab drivers, the self-employed, retail clerks, waiters, bartenders, most non-union workers in most trades and an endless list of service economy employees.

These people all have jobs; many have two or three. But they work for employers who can't afford today's obscene medical insurance premiums. Or they work for world-class cheapskates like Wal-Mart, which rakes in many billions each year, whose billionaire Walton family owners occupy a special pedestal among Forbes magazine's list of richest Americans, but who just can't seem to spare a few bucks to help keep their workers healthy and free from medical debt.

The very words "single-payer" give many of our more delicate citizens the vapors and drive many more into an apoplectic rage. These magic words also cause the last of the cold warriors to dissolve into a frothy lather of anti-pinko invective about subverting the invisible hand of the free market.

Considering the massive propaganda campaign waged non-stop by for-profit medicine and seconded by stern warnings of the "evils of socialized medicine" intoned by well-insured right-wing politicians and TV pundit hucksters, those kinds of adverse reactions aren't all that surprising. The buzzwords and visual cues and code phrases are hard-wired by the time kids hit the sixth grade. Go here for a scholarly treatment of the single-payer/for-profit debate.

In the case of the US medical system, we've been taught by our leading opinion-shaping institutions -- public relations, marketing and advertising -- that health care is a privilege to be auctioned off to the highest bidder and not a universal right to be shared by and for the general welfare of society.

Single-payer butts heads with the American archetype

We're so steeped in the rugged individualist, go-it-alone archetype that the idea of making common cause with "those other people" -- working toward a shared objective of improving quality of life for all members of society, not just those who can afford it -- is anathema and, increasingly, un-American. I fully expect some gasbag GOP presidential candidate, before primary season mercifully ends, to come up with something like, "If we go to a non-profit health care model, the terrorists win." Any bets?

class="MsoNormal">In fact, our apathy or antipathy toward those who don't share our looks, background, ideals, language, income, education or culture is driving the US toward an endgame that bears an uncanny resemblance to the Friedman/GOP-style unregulated free market model, with peace for none and antagonism toward all.

We're becoming a society of 300 million disconnected, semi-autonomous city-states, constantly at war with one another for the same dwindling supply of goods and jobs, and services and money, and square feet of pavement. A society too distracted and exhausted by the process of battling each other to notice the class war being waged -- and won -- against us all by the very people who designed and sanctified this system in the first place.

They've divided and conquered very well. No surprise, given the massive resources of the entire insurance industry, along with an approving pat-on-the-back from our "representatives" in Washington; it would be odd if they hadn't done a good job of keeping us at each others' throats and away from theirs.

The insurer as friend and savior

Distraction also helps produce the suspension of critical thinking required to believe in the most illogical premise of all: that America has the best medical care system in the world and has achieved that lofty position because the most voracious, profit-hungry, inhuman corporate institutions routinely ignore their very reason for existence, as well as a file cabinet full of SEC regulations and case law precedents that demand a publicly held corporation pursue profitability with single-minded, sociopathic disregard for basic human values. This is nothing less than a case study in the impossible, but it's the core tenet of the great American health care fairy tale nonetheless.

So are these corporations portrayed in media and pop culture as the enemy, as one would expect? Of course not; they're the solution. The US, unique in the world in its child-like belief good citizenship from corporations, expects these rapacious profit machines to completely abandon their chartered mandates requiring them to churn out ever more money for their stake-holders and, instead, act in the best interests of their customers.

Never mind that those two objectives are locked in inexorable conflict. Never mind that medical insurance is a zero-sum game and, when the insurer pays a claim, that's money grudgingly subtracted from the bottom line. Never mind that the insurance industry employs an army of obstructionists -- known ridiculously as claims adjusters -- whose main job it is to find some quasi-legal way to avoid paying out any money at all. Never mind the inevitable outcome of those conflicts: that the US isn't even in the top 30 according to the landmark 2000 World Health Organization study. Nope, never mind all that. The industry is our friend and savior, and where would we be without it? Other than healthier and happier, with more disposable income, that is.

As one California psychologist who serves on several managed care rate negotiating teams in the Santa Cruz area told me a while ago, �They have become adept at providing the illusion of health care, while avoiding the messy and expensive reality of having to actually deliver it -- to the extent legally possible. And you�d be amazed at what�s legally possible. Most of the time you can�t even sue them so, at some point, the consumer literally has no recourse but to beg for his or her life. Increasingly, those pleas fall on deaf ears as the race to maximize profits obliterates what�s left of basic human kindness.�

So much for the bad news. We now need to examine the nature of single-payer, universal-access health care: what it is, what it isn't, how it compares and contrasts with the US for-profit model.

So what exactly is single-payer and why is it better than what we have now?

Well, surprise, surprise, it's not socialized medicine. The federal government won't set up shop in every doctor's office and medical facility. Unlike the current system, in which privatized pests occupy a permanent position overlooking every doc's shoulder, governmental bureaucrats won't be making harassing calls to doctors offices every five minutes to second-guess whether a patient actually needs that procedure, or that test, or that prescription.

Let's say your doc has his own small family practice, which he runs as an LLC. He probably accepts payment from a couple dozen different insurance carriers. Does that mean he works for, say, Blue Cross or Cigna or Aetna? Of course not.

Under single-payer, he would no more work for the government than he now works for an insurance company. He gets paid by the feds, but runs his own business exactly as he has for many years.

So docs and hospitals continue to operate as they always have, although for-profit facilities must convert to non-profits. The truly revolutionary change is that now the feds foot the bill via a progressive tax that hits the rich hardest and the poor not at all.

In fact, if a patient just looks at the outward signs, things are very much as they've always been. You see the same doctors and support staff. You have blood drawn at the same labs. If you're seriously injured or suddenly become ill, you end up at the same ER. You see the same specialists. If surgery is required, the same group of medical professionals handles the entire process -- from pre-op to rehab. You find that service is about as fast, or as slow, as ever. And if you want a tummy tuck or nose job, you're still going to have to pay for it out of your own pocket.

The payer changes -- from any of hundreds of private insurance companies to a single entity -- but the process of providing and receiving medical care remains the same. Actually, it improves because single-payer eliminates the armies of bureaucrats the insurance industry employs in an effort to squeeze the last mil out of every penny by denying coverage or illegally reducing benefits.

Single-payer: the basics

The following is the nature of any single-payer health care system. Simple, direct, universal, free. And having tried the alternative and found it wanting in that it's currently killing around 18,000 people a year because making gobs of money is incompatible with covering subscribers' medical costs, it seems about time to admit our errors, dismantle the current tragicomedy and move all the way into the 21st Century.

Single-payer means:

  • One nation, one payer

  • Everybody in, nobody out

  • No exclusions for pre-existing conditions

  • No doctor bills

  • No hospital bills

  • No deductibles

  • No co-pays

  • No in network

  • No out of network

  • No corporate profits

  • No more medical bankruptcies

How to get there from here

The relationship of health care to health insurance is manufactured out of thin air by the US obsession with applying market-based, privatized solutions to nationalized, systemic problems. Therefore, it seems that to get to single-payer, we first need to abandon the propaganda and separate the idea of health care from the idea of health insurance.

Health care is what happens when patients and health care professionals interact to successfully diagnose and treat a medical condition or injury.

Health insurance is the protection money you have to pay the middleman to enable this transaction and keep you out of bankruptcy court.

Why would anyone want to give a single penny to some parasite intermediary that skims billions while doing absolutely nothing to provide health care?

Unfortunately, it takes a lot more than pennies to keep the beast fed. While Medicare, our unofficial single-payer system, runs at an annual overhead of about 3 percent, for-profit insurers typically squander between 25 and 40 percent of an estimated $2.2 TRILLION annual market. And that 25 to 40 percent -- which translates into between $550 billion and $880 billion each year -- does absolutely nothing to enable these companies to perform their alleged jobs, which is supposed to be covering medical expenses for their ratepayers.

The unbearable lightness of Democratic politicians

Equally unfortunate is the unwillingness of our elected representatives to even consider single-payer among the options for US health care reform. Among the Democratic presidential candidates, only Dennis Kucinich has advocated single-payer from the start. The rest are all talking about something called "expanded coverage," which is just code for "let's invite the single most destructive element in the old system to play a key role in the new one."

That's a bit like expecting a shark to develop qualms of conscience, renounce killing and turn vegan, despite millions of years of evolution that dictate its natural role as a rapacious, heartless, omnivorous predator. Kind of like an average American for-profit corporation.

Any new system that subordinates health care to the for-profit model carries the seeds of its own destruction. If insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different outcomes, then allowing these soulless gatekeepers to continue preying on the people of this country is truly insane. Such a system is virtually guaranteed to evolve into a new version of the same old deadly scam once the insurers stop glad-handing and get down to the serious business of making money. They may play nice at first, promising to mend their rapacious ways and act like humanitarians, but once they're inside the tent, they'll revert to form as certainly as that shark will continue to eat seals.

But that hasn't kept our alleged representatives in Congress and on the campaign trail -- Kucinich the lone exception -- from avoiding any mention whatsoever of the single-payer option. In 2003, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan introduced H. R. 676, dubbed the United States National Health Insurance Act, in an effort to remove private insurers from the US health care maze and install a national single-payer system in their place. The new system is essentially a well-funded version of Medicare, minus the age restriction.

It languished in committee for two years; Conyers then re-introduced H. R. 676 in 2005 and, according to information gleaned from, it has resumed its slow fall to the bottom of the House agenda. Like impeachment, single-payer remains "off the table," despite the poll numbers that say more than 70 percent of Americans want an end to for-profit medicine and want to replace it with single-payer.

And why is it off the table? For one outstanding example, let's take a look at Hillary Clinton's campaign contributors. The probable Democratic nominee and odds-on favorite to become the next president is an insurance industry money magnet. According to campaign finance figures submitted to the Federal Elections Commission and reported by, through the first nine months of 2007 she leads all presidential candidates, Democrats and Republicans, in money accepted from the insurance industry ($2.675M). She also leads the pack in money accepted from hospitals and nursing homes ($375K); from HMOs ($247K); from pharmaceutical companies ($274K); and from medical industry lobbyists ($570K).

As Bob Dole said way back in 1983, before he became the Senate's leading recipient of special interest money, "When these political action committees give money, they expect something in return other than good government." So that just about takes care of any possibility of true health care reform in a Clinton presidency, and virtually guarantees that any Clinton-sponsored health care "reform" plan will bend over backwards to accommodate the needs of the for-profit medical insurance industry.

What about quality of care?

Corporate mass media is ever busy safeguarding the interests of their masters and advertisers, so it's hardly surprising that there's serious opposition to single-payer spewing forth from the television sets and radios of America. People who watch network and cable TV, and actually believe they're well informed, internalize and then repeat industry claims that a single-payer system would lower quality of care, create shortages of medical staff and facilities and result in long waiting lists for even the most mundane procedures. Worst of all, it would be run by demon spawn employed by the federal government.

But, as usual, corporate mass media is lying through its bleached teeth. If that vision of health care hell were true, all other Western democracies would exhibit shorter average life spans, higher rates of cancer and heart disease, higher infant mortality rates, lower birth weights, fewer average healthy years, failing mental health programs and far more serious epidemiological incidents than does the US. Since the opposite is true in all cases, it seems fair to conclude that single-payer, universal-access works, this cobbled together disaster we call a health care system is not getting the job done and that we're being ill served by US media yet again. (Go here for 2004 data on how US per capita medical spending and health care outcomes rank against three of the major single-payer countries.)

The big con: we've already got national health care but the peasants don't get to use it

Perhaps the most galling stat of all: A Harvard Medical School study showed that, back in 1999, the US taxpayer shouldered the burden for just under 60 percent of all medical costs nationwide by being forced to fund health care for federal, state and local government employees. That included programs such as the federal employees health plan and those for state and local employees as well (through state, local and property taxes); the Cadillac coverage our fine representatives and Senators enjoy (which they say we can't have); the costs of covering ER expenses for those without insurance; the costs of running the Medicare program; and the state and local costs of various Medicaid programs.

That 60 percent represented $2,604 per capita at the time, which means government spending per-person on health care in the US was higher than total per capita health care expenditures in any other country in the world -- including those with single-payer, universal-access national health care systems. So we're paying for national health care; we're just not getting it.

This must end; single-payer is the answer, a well-funded Medicare system is the model, greed is the obstacle. Eliminate profits as a factor in life and death decisions, run the entire system based on serving human needs rather than those of shareholders and CEOs, and the profiteers will go elsewhere for their money.

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This article first appeared in Online Journal on January 4, 2008

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