Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Simpson-Bowles 2.0

Simpson-Bowles 2.0 

by Stephen Lendman

Both men represent the nation's ruling class. They want more wealth transferred from ordinary people to corporate America and privileged elites like themselves. They're back with plan B. More on that below.

On February 18, 2010, Obama issued Executive Order 13531. It established the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (NCFRR).

Two neoliberal ideologues head it: former Senator Alan Simpson (R. WY) and former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles.

They head a 19-member team. It's stacked with like-minded members. Their mandate then and now includes fiscal austerity for most people, unlimited wealth opportunities for corporate America and super-rich elites.

Plan A includes:

  • ending or capping middle class tax breaks; home mortgage interest deductions and tax-free employer provided healthcare insurance are targeted;

  • taxing capital gains and dividends the same as ordinary income; 

  • lowering income tax rates to 9, 15 and 24%; currently they range from 10 - 39.6%;

  • slashing corporate tax rates from the top 35% rate to 26%; eliminating some deductions was proposed; 

  • making the research and development tax credit permanent;

  • making deep Medicare cuts; increasing Medicaid co-pays; eliminating $54 billion from graduate medical education; and enacting "comprehensive tort reform;" doing so makes it harder for aggrieved patients to file malpractice suits;

  • raising the Social Security retirement age to 69 by 2075; reducing cost-of-living increases; they're now based on annual inflation rates; raising the payroll tax ceiling to $200,000; high-income earners benefit most;

  • eliminating 10% of federal workers by 2015; doing so increases unemployment when reducing it should be prioritized; 

  • raising the federal gasoline tax by 15 cents a gallon; imposing "user fees" on motorists; at issue is having ordinary people fund the federal transportation and highway spending program; and

  • cutting $100 billion in military spending; targeted are administration inefficiencies, weapons Pentagon officials don't want, overseas force contingent drawdowns, and medical benefits for military retirees through less care and/or higher premiums and co-pays; 

By 2020, NCFRR proposed cutting about $3.8 trillion. Doing so harms ordinary Americans at a time helping them should be prioritized. 

Austerity is official policy. Republicans and Democrats agree. Major cuts are planned. They're coming. Obama demands them.

Simpson and Bowles (SB) are back. On April 18, the Washington Post headlined "New Bowles-Simpson plan takes aim at deficit," saying:

They're "back in Washington with a new message for the nation's policymakers: You've done the easy stuff. You've done the stupid stuff. Now it's time to get serious."

They briefed lawmakers on their latest plan. It proposes "far less in new taxes" and much greater Medicare cuts. It urges replacing across-the-board sequester reductions by hitting ordinary people hardest. 

It eliminates the legal cap on government borrowing. It recommends letting the Treasury "keep borrowing as long as the debt does not grow as a percentage of the nation's economy."

It argues for $2.5 trillion more in taxes. It also wants cuts over and above what's already agreed on. According to Bowles:

"I think this is our last chance. I don't think there's any chance after the end of the fiscal year because we'll be back into politics again."

"We've done the easy stuff. We put a cap on discretionary spending, and we raised taxes on rich people. What else are we going to do."

Fact check

Medicare and Social Security are fiscally sound. Minor adjustments only are needed to keep them that way.

Since 1979, America's top 1% tripled its share of national income. It went from 8% to about 24%. It keeps rising annually.

From 1993 - 2000, top earners got 45% of income growth. From 2000 - 2008, they got 65%. In 2010, it was 93%. Corporations also benefitted hugely.

From 1998 - 2007, corporate profits rose 10% a year on average. In 2009 and 2010, they increased 243%. Excluded are sheltered amounts offshore. 

In 2012, corporate profits were 12.4% of GDP. It was the highest level since WW II. At the same time, worker compensation hit a 57-year low. 

Increased sales didn't produce profits. Cost-cutting did on the backs of workforces. Jobs, wages, benefits, and hours worked suffered. Productivity rose. Companies are producing more goods and services at less cost.

In 2011, profit margins reached their highest level in over 80 years. Federal, state, and local government tax cuts benefitted bottom line performance. In 2012, profit margins increased further. They grew by 7.6% compared to 4.6% the previous year.

High income households benefitted proportionately. They did so through equity appreciation, dividends, interest, rents, and other wealth increasing methods.

In contrast, ordinary people lost out hugely. Increasingly they're hard-pressed to get by. Force-fed austerity promises worse. 

Cutting Medicare harms seniors when they most need help. Claiming it's going broke don't wash. Healthcare overall is unaffordable. 

Further cuts make it more so when most needed. Illnesses will go untreated. Pain, suffering and early deaths will follow. Bipartisan contempt for ordinary people assures it. Simpson-Bowles 2.0 ups the stakes further.

It proposes another $2.4 trillion in savings over 10 years. Around $2.7 trillion was enacted. It includes about $600 billion in new revenue. 

It recommends a Social Security COLA based on chain-weighted CPI. It's a scam. It's the latest gimmick to destroy benefits. 

It assumes when prices on some products rise, consumers choose lower-cost substitutes. Perhaps so for steak v. hamburger. 

It doesn't hold for rents, other housing costs, transportation, gasoline, electricity and other energy costs, as well as medical expenses. They're highest late in life.

Simpson-Bowles (SB) proposes a new $550 Medicare Parts A and B annual deductible. They also want 80% coverage for Part A instead of the current 100%.

Doing so requires another $150 - $300 private insurance cost. Part B works that way now. If seniors want current benefits, they'll have to pay more. Otherwise they lose out.

At issue is rationing healthcare. It's already unaffordable. Ahead it'll be more so. Cutting Social Security benefits compounds the problem. 

SB also wants Medicare eligibility raised to age 67. At issue is leaving low-income 65 and 66-year-old seniors uninsured. It also proposed other non-defense discretionary (NDD) cuts. Doing so hits disadvantaged households hardest. 

It targets Title I education for low-income students, Head Start, Pell Grants, low-income housing assistance, help for the homeless, and WIC nutrition programs.

On April 28, Simpson and Bowles wrote a Washington Post op-ed titled "A grand bargain is still possible. Here's how," saying:

"To be sure, some progress has been made the past two years. Policymakers have enacted about $2.7 trillion in deficit reduction…."

"Yet what we have achieved so far is insufficient. Nothing has been done to make our entitlement programs sustainable for future generations, make our tax code more globally competitive and pro-growth, or put our debt on a downward path."

It bears repeating. Medicare and Social Security are fiscally sound. They're not entitlements. They're contractual federal obligations. They're for eligible recipients who qualify. They're insurance programs. Payroll taxes fund them.

Obama's new budget reflects the worst of neoliberal harshness. It's economically destructive. It's another wealth transfer scheme. It hits ordinary households hardest. 

Simpson and Bowles said it doesn't go far enough. "That's why we released a new plan" to go further, they said. It's not "ideal," they admitted. It's not the only plan. 

"It is an effort to show that a deal is possible in which neither side compromises its principles but instead relies on principled compromise." 

"Such a deal would invigorate our economy, demonstrate to the public that Washington can solve problems and leave a better future for our grandchildren."

Simpson and Bowles reflect the worst of political Washington. They do so when around 23% of Americans are unemployed. Poverty, homelessness and hunger approach record levels. 

They propose increasing the greatest wealth disparity in US. The gap between rich and poor is unprecedented.

They want America's social contract destroyed. Force-fed austerity assures it. The criminal class in Washington is bipartisan. Simpson and Bowles are members in good standing. They're point men for the worst of what's coming. Better times are distant memories.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."


Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.



Syria: Upping the Stakes

Syria: Upping the Stakes

by Stephen Lendman

Things appear heading closer toward full-scale US intervention. The fullness of time will have final say.

On April 28, The New York Times headlined "Lawmakers Call for Stronger US Action in Syria," saying:

Republicans "took President Obama to task Sunday for what they characterized as dangerous inaction in Syria…."

Senators John McCain (R. AZ) and Lindsey Graham are Armed Services Committee members. They "warn(ed) that failure to intervene in Syria would embolden nations like Iran and North Korea."

"If we keep this hands-off approach to Syria, this indecisive action toward Syria, kind of not knowing what we’re going to do next, we’re going to start a war with Iran because Iran’s going to take our inaction in Syria as meaning we’re not serious about their nuclear weapons program," said Graham.

Michigan Republican Representative Mike Rogers claims Assad's been using chemical weapons for the past two years. Obama's "red line" can't be a "dotted line," he said.

On April 28, the Wall Street Journal headlined "US Weighs Syria Response," saying:

"Lawmakers pressed the Obama administration to intervene in Syria's civil war, citing the regime's alleged chemical-weapons use…."

They urge intervention short of troops on the ground. The White House and Pentagon have concerns about Syrian air defenses. 

Joint Chiefs chairman General Martin Dempsey calls them the single biggest obstacle to US intervention. Since 2007, Russia's been involved in upgrading them.

US officials believe its technicians provide assistance on the ground. According to US intelligence, Russia began shipping SA-22 Pantsir-S1 units to Syria.

It's a combination surface-to-air missile and 30 mm antiaircraft gun. It has a digital targeting system. It's mounted on a combat vehicle. It's mobile, easy to move and conceal. 

In 2009, Moscow began upgrading Syria's outdated analog SA-3 surface-to-air missile systems. SA-26 Pechora-2M systems replaced them. They have a 17-mile operational range.

Syria's SA-5 also concerns Washington. Their operational range is 175 miles. They can take out US planes from Cyprus. It's a NATO base used during Libyan bombings.

Despite no credible evidence, Washington, Britain and Israel claim Assad used chemical weapons at least twice.  

Pressure mounts toward intervention. At issue is whether, Russia, Iran and/or Hezbollah will respond. Doing so would embroil the region. Possibly it could escalate to a global conflict.

According to Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel, Washington's in "no hurry to go after Assad's chemical weapons." A major operation means boots on the ground. Obama wants it avoided.

Last year, IDF chief Benny Gantz addressed two possible options. One involved a large-scale ground operation. The other was a targeted air assault. If Israel attacks Syria, he prefers the latter.

Obama administration officials believe controlling Syrian chemical weapons requires at least 75,000 US troops. Other countries would likely send more.

Washington claims knowledge of at least 18 sites. A military operation against them "would require precise intelligence at an extraordinary level," said Harel.

Intelligence experts aren't sure if Iran and/or Hezbollah "would help defend the Syrian chemical weapon sites in the event of a US-led military operation targeting them."

Doing so "would just be the beginning of America's headache." Weapons would have to be discovered, collected, and perhaps taken outside Syria.

It's a "task of rare proportions," said Harel. Completing it would take many months. Faulty intelligence might miss other sites. Uncertainties provide "good reasons….to avoid action as much as possible."

According to Arab media, US forces in Jordan have been training for intervention. Al-Monitor calls itself "the pulse of the Middle East." On April 26, it said demonstrators gathered in downtown Amman.

They did so after Friday prayers. A pickup truck loudspeaker blared "No Americans in our country." Demonstrators chanted "We reject the American army's presence in Jordan!"

Two marches followed. One headed toward the Royal Court. Mostly young and older men participated. Some women joined them. One protester spoke for others, saying:

"We came out to affirm our rejection of foreign forces on Jordanian lands. We did not come down to defend any regime. King Abdullah cannot decide for the Jordanian people."

Demonstrators burned US flags. The Muslim Brotherhood affiliated Islamic Action Front also denounced the presence of US forces in Jordan. Days earlier, they issued a statement calling on Jordan's government to rethink its authorization.

On April 28, Al-Monitor headlined "Why Russia Does Not Believe Syria Used Chemical Weapons," saying:

Moscow believes that "news about the alleged chemical weapons in Syria, relying on intelligence from Israel and the United States, is naturally perceived as a step to an inevitable escalation."

Independently obtained credible evidence of potential chemical weapons use would clarify things. UN chemical inspectors lack legitimacy. Global Research explained. They take orders from Washington. It shouldn't surprise. America dominates UN policy.

"Moscow does not believe that Assad" used chemical weapons, said Al-Monitor. He's "not a madman….For now, this entire story rather resembles an informational attack."

Accusations persist. On April 29, an unnamed Israeli official said intelligence sources have "concrete and unequivocal evidence" of Syrian chemical weapons use.

"There is substantial material about the use of chemical weapons by Assad's army. It is known to all intelligence agencies. All intelligence elements have been updated. No one has any doubts on the matter."

No one presented credible evidence for proof. Accusations don't wash. They persist. Expect more. They'll make headlines. Repeated enough gets most people to believe them.

According to the official,"one of the central dangers in Israel's view is the transfer of Syrian weapons to Hezbollah and Lebanon, as well as to terrorist organizations trying to reach the border." 

"The possibility of them acquiring chemical or conventional weapons they never had before has implications for the State of Israel."

Last weekend, Netanyahu told his ministers to remain silent on this issue. His diplomatic-security cabinet discussed it for hours. They focused on Israel's likely response.

Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz spoke publicly before the meeting, saying:

"With or without chemical weapons, the world can't remain silent in the face of what's happening in Syria." 

"The international community should have actively intervened long ago, with military force if necessary."

"Naturally, if there is evidence of the use of chemical weapons, we would expect those who have set red lines to also do what's necessary - first and foremost the United States - and of course the entire international community."

On April 27, London's Guardian headlined "Syria nerve gas claims undermined by eyewitness accounts," saying:

Contradictions and uncertainties abound. Eyewitness contradict official sources. The Guardian attributes it to "the confusion of battle." It stopped short of affirming Western claims that don't wash.

On April 29, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) headline "Lavrov: Pretext of Chemical Weapon Use Dangerous," saying:

He warned about using this pretext to "fulfill geopolitical interests for foreign powers and states against Syria," said SANA.

They're considering all ways to topple Assad. Claiming "weapons of mass destruction (use) is very dangerous and unacceptable."

With regards to Western investigation demands, Lavrov stressed "the supporting evidence of such allegations were not given to any side or by any side in whatever time before, but rather intelligence circles including ours talked about the non- existence of any facts that support these allegations."

"No change has taken place in the Russian stance regarding the crisis in Syria."

Separately, Syrian officials informed Moscow that "unidentified forces launched two ground-to-air missiles which exploded in the air very close to a civilian aircraft belonging to" Norwind Airlines. 

It's a Russian charter air carrier. The pilot maneuvered out of harm's way. It was en route to Kazan, Tatarstan. It departed from Sharm el-sheikh, Egypt.

Expect similar incidents to follow. Washington seems heading toward full-scale intervention. The fullness of time will explain more.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."


Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.



Monday, April 29, 2013

US False Flag Pretext for War on Syria

US False Flag Pretext for War on Syria

by Stephen Lendman

Obama abhors peace. He prioritizes war. His appetite exceeds his predecessors and then some. It's insatiable.

He's currently waging multiple direct and proxy wars. He plans more in Africa. He destroyed Libya. He's ravaging Syria. 

Full-scale intervention looms. He's creating a pretext to do it. Old news bears repeating. 

A no longer accessible January 29, 2013 UK Daily Mail headlined "US 'backed plan to launch chemical weapon attack on Syria and blame it on Assad's regime,' " saying:

"Leaked emails have allegedly proved that the White House gave the green light to a chemical weapons attack in Syria that could be blamed on Assad's regime and in turn, spur international military action in the devastated country."

"A report released on Monday contains an email exchange between two senior officials at British-based contractor Britam Defence where a scheme 'approved by Washington' is outlined explaining that Qatar would fund rebel forces in Syria to use chemical weapons."

"Barack Obama made it clear to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad last month that the U.S would not tolerate Syria using chemical weapons against its own people."

"It reads: 'Phil….We've got a new offer. It's about Syria again. Qataris propose an attractive deal and swear that the idea is approved by Washington."

" 'We'll have to deliver a CW to Homs, a Soviet origin g-shell from Libya similar to those that Assad should have.' "

" 'They want us to deploy our Ukrainian personnel that should speak Russian and make a video record.' "

" 'Frankly, I don't think it's a good idea but the sums proposed are enormous. Your opinion?' "

" 'Kind regards, David.' "

"The emails were released by a Malaysian hacker who also obtained senior executives resumes and copies of passports via an unprotected company server, according to Cyber War News."
"Dave Goulding's Linkedin profile lists him as Business Development Director at Britam Defence Ltd in Security and Investigations." 

"A business networking profile for Phil Doughty lists him as Chief Operationg Officer for Britam, United Arab Emirates, Security and Investigations."

"The US State Department had not returned a request for comment on the alleged emails to MailOnline today at time of publication."

On January 30, Voice of Russia headlined "Britam tells VoR it was hacked," saying:

It denied involvement "in a plot to destabilise Syria." Red Hot Russia quoted a "software systems administrator" using the nickname "KungFu Spider," saying:

"After looking at the email headers….I have to admit that the email does indeed look genuine."
"The email was sent from '' which is a BT Wholesale ADSL IP address."

"From there it was then relayed via 'smtp.clients.netdns.net ("

"Finally it was delivered to a local mailbox on that server.
I hate to admit it, but all these facts check out. So with Mythbusters objectivity I have to call this one plausible."

"I just hope I don't get a visit from the plods for this ill advised sleuthing."

Last summer, Obama warned:

"We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized." 

That would change my calculus. That would change my equation."

"We're monitoring that situation very carefully. We have put together a range of contingency plans."

They include full-scale US intervention. Last March, a Brookings Institution report headlined "Saving Syria: Assessing Options for Regime Change."

To "protect US interests," it said, Assad can't be allowed to triumph. Six options were proposed:

(1) diplomacy;

(2) coercion and diplomatic isolation;

(3) providing full support for opposition forces to oust him;

(4) a Libya-style air campaign;

(5) invasion "with US-led forces;" and

(6) a "multilateral, NATO-led (regime change) effort."

On the one hand, it recommended giving diplomacy "one last chance." On the other, it said it's unlikely "diplomacy alone can resolve the crisis."

It said Washington must intervene "to protect (its) many interests affected by the bloodshed of Syria."

Russian politician Alexei Mitrofanov is a Duma Information Policy Committee member. Voice of Russia quoted him saying:

"Syria is facing a global info war. The masterminds of this war are doing everything they can to prevent information from Syrian official sources from leaking out."

"(T)he truth about the Syrian conflict is different from the one presented by the western press."

On April 28, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported Assad's Permanent UN Representative, Bashar al-Jaafari saying "western countries are raising the issue of chemical weapons use in Syria is part of the campaign of pressure exerted on Syria in order to get concessions from it in various issues."

"….Syria's enemies fabricated various issues to pressure Syria's but to no avail, and now they're attempting to exploit the Security Council to recreate the Iraqi scenario, asserting that they will not succeed in these machinations because Syria has real friends in the Security Council, and because experts are presenting credible reports like the recent one which stated that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the UAE are all involved in smuggling weapons into Syria."

"….the media war of exaggeration against Syria seeks to poison the international and Arab public opinion by promoting an erroneous image of what is actually happening in Syria, affirming that the Syrian government isn't killing its own people as some claim; rather it's facing armed terrorist who commit suicide bombings in residential areas, murder students in schools and universities, and undermine the national economy's infrastructure."

Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said its military successes prompted false accusations about chemical weapons use.

Russian Federation Council Deputy Chairman Ilyas Umakhanov suggested Moscow won't leave Syria alone in its time of crisis, saying:

"Russia's stance is that the Syrian people alone have the right to solve their problems without foreign interference."

The battle for Syria rages. Western propaganda continues. Joseph Holliday is an Institute for the Study of War (ISW) fellow and former senior research analyst. 

ISW calls itself "committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve US. strategic objectives."

On April 26, Holliday's Foreign Policy article headlined "Assad's Chemical Romance," saying:

"….the Syrian dictator’s cynical and clever chemical weapons strategy outfoxed Obama."

"The Syrian regime's subtle approach deliberately offers the Obama administration the option to remain quiet about chemical attacks and thereby avoid the obligation to make good on its threats."

"But even more worrying, Assad's limited use of chemical weapons is intended to desensitize the United States and the international community in order to facilitate a more comprehensive deployment in the future - without triggering intervention."

Holliday appears to be goading Obama to intervene. He claimed previous Assad chemical weapons use. Repeating lies often enough get people to believe them.

He said Assad "established a clear modus operandi for ramping up the battle without triggering international intervention: toe the line, confirm Western inaction, and then ratchet up the violence further."

He made numerous false accusations. Assad's "introduction of weapons of mass destruction intends to pave the way for more lethal and wide-ranging chemical attacks against the Syrian people in the future," he claimed.

Obama said "he'll need a big, smoking gun to push him into taking on the responsibility of a decisive US response." 

"Unfortunately, the wily Assad doesn't seem likely to give (him) such an easy decision."

False flags and misinformation make it easier. On April 28, Haaretz headlined "Defected Syrian general claims he was ordered to use chemical weapons," saying:

On March 15, Zakir al-Sakit defected. He claims superiors told him to use chemical weapons against "rebels" and civilians in Busra al-Harir. It's about 90 km south of Damascus.

Expect defectors to say anything. Perhaps al-Harir was well-rewarded. His accusation lacks credibility.

He said he instructed his forces to use a harmless liquid. Haaretz cited opposition Syria National Coalition officials claiming Syrian forces fired "missiles with chemical arms" near Damascus.

Expect these type reports to continue. Obama appears heading for more war. Expect Syria to become another US charnel house. American-style humanitarian interventions turn out that way.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."


Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.



Israel's War on Fishing Rights

Israel's War on Fishing Rights

Israel wages war on humanity. It persecutes Palestinians many ways. It does so with impunity.

Collective punishment is prohibited. Fourth Geneva's Article 33 states: 

"No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited." 

"Pillage is prohibited." 

"Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited."

Restricted fishing impedes Palestinians' ability to earn a livelihood. It deprives 1.7 million Gazans of enough fish. It reflects years of slow-motion genocide.

Israel reduced fishing rights from six to three miles offshore. It did so punitively. 

Egypt's brokered November ceasefire extended them to 11km. The Convention on the Law of the Sea affirms them up to 12 nautical miles (14 statute ones). 

Oslo guaranteed 20 nautical miles. Israel broke earlier promises made. Doing so compromises an important national resource. More on this below.

It's the occupation, stupid. It's Gaza's siege. It's lawlessness with impunity. Six years ago this June it began. Harsh restrictions remain. Blockade created the world's largest open-air prison.

Human rights are compromised. They include free movement, proper nutrition, healthcare, education, fuel and electricity, normal family life, and the ability to survive and live in peace. 

Around 80% of Gazans need humanitarian aid. What's gotten isn't enough. Blockade lawlessness persists. Impunity permits it.

Israel maintains total control. Much of Gaza's arable land is off limits. Farmers are shot in their fields. So are children. Israeli border guards use them for target practice. Investigations and prosecutions don't follow. 

Palestine includes Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They're almost entirely separated. Travel restrictions prevent free movement.

Gazans can't enter Israel. Family members can't visit each other. Imports and exports are limited. Whatever Israel calls duel use is prohibited. Included are common items people take for granted.

Poverty and unemployment are extremely high. So is human misery. Nearly two-thirds of Gazans are refugees. Going abroad for medical treatment entails bureaucratic hurdles. 

Long waits are commonplace. Many requests are denied. Needless deaths occur. Human rights are spurned. Israel considers Palestinian lives cheap.

Occupying powers are responsible for people they control. Article 43 of the Hague Regulations obligates them for health, education, quality of life, public works, other essential infrastructure, and overall material conditions. 

Fourth Geneva Articles 55 and 56 require them to provide food and health care. Under Article 69 of Additional Protocol I, provision for clothing, bedding and shelter must be provided. 

So must education, health systems, infrastructure, power,  telecommunications capability, and other vital services.

Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms the right to work. It does so under just and favorable conditions.

Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) recognizes "the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions."

Israel spurns its obligations. It does so with impunity. It wages economic warfare. It says doing so is legitimate. 

"(D)amaging the enemy's economy is in and of itself a legitimate means in warfare and a relevant consideration even while deciding to allow the entry of relief consignments," it claims.

It's done for political, not security reasons. Israel admits it. Palestinians pose no threat. They're punished for not being Jews.

Israel's 2005 disengagement left Gaza occupied. Borders, air and offshore waters are controlled. Hamas won January 2006 elections. It defeated Fatah decisively. It's Palestine's legitimate government. 

Washington calls it a terrorist organization. It did so at Israel's request. It designated Hamas illegitimately. It recognizes Palestine's coup d'etat government. 

Abbas heads it. Israel rigged his 2005 election. His term expired in January 2009. He's still there. He's Israel's enforcer. He's no friend of Palestine.

Israel considers Gaza a "hostile entity." It does so illegitimately. Collective punishment is imposed. Vital necessities are inadequate. Most factories and most businesses closed.

Siege remains policy. Israel promised easing. No meaningful change followed. Blockade's ruthlessly enforced.

Air, ground and sea attacks occur often. So do targeted assassinations. State terror is policy. International laws are spurned. 

Control is suffocating. Humanitarian needs go begging. World leaders turn a blind eye. They've done so for decades. They shame themselves in the process.

Newly imposed fishing restrictions reinstated pre-Operation Pillar of Cloud policy. Kerem Shalom crossing was closed. It operates at Israel's discretion. It's in southern Gaza. It's for commercial use. It's greatly restricted.

Doing so is illegal. So is Gaza's siege. Fishing restrictions have no legitimacy. Palestinians have a right to eat. Coastal waters are sovereign territory. Israel pays them no heed.

Mahmoud Mohammed Jarboa risks his life to fish. He's got no other choice. He has seven sons and three daughters. Fishing income supports 21 dependents.

Israeli restrictions gravely impact him. Collective punishment harms all Palestinian fishermen. Since 1999, their numbers dropped from 10,000 to less than 3,200 today. 

Inability to fish well offshore greatly diminishes yields. Israel attacks fishermen within imposed limits. Exceeding them risks imprisonment or death.

From November 22, 2012 - February 28, 2013 alone, 41 shooting incidents occurred. Injuries followed. Dozens of fishermen were detained. At least eight vessels were damaged. Another eight were confiscated.

On February 21, 2013, Israel attacked Mahmoud's son, Abdel Raziq. Four others were with him. They were within Israel's three nautical mile limit.

Gunboats surrounded them. Shooting began. It happened without warning. Bullets struck the boat. Shrapnel hit Abdel. His right shin was wounded. His cousin Abdullah was hurt. "We were both in a lot of pain," he said.

Abdel began fishing five months ago. He did so with family members. Up to now, he's been lucky. He avoided Israeli  attacks. He knew it was too good to last. He wasn't surprised to be accosted.

His father and brothers were attacked many times. They "were forced to jump naked into the sea in the middle of winter, when it was cold and raining. They have suffered a lot."

Other fishermen did the same way. It's commonplace Israeli practice. Fishermen are ordered to undress at gunpoint. They're told to swim to a navy craft. Weather conditions don't matter.

Boats are seized. Fishermen are blindfolded and handcuffed. They're taken to Ashdod. They're brutally interrogation. Some are tortured. They committed no crime.

In January 2009, Israeli forces killed Abdel's older brother, Mohammed, at sea. He was aged 22. He was struck in his head and both legs.

He was hospitalized for eight days. He was too severely wounded to survive. Israel never admits responsibility. Apologies aren't forthcoming.

Whether Israel's limit is three or six miles doesn't matter. Shallow waters have lots of sand. They're overfished. Future reserves are endangered.

Big yields depend on deep water fishing. It requires operating 15 or 16 miles offshore.

Mahmoud remembers pre-blockade days. Fishermen could make a good living, he said. They even fished for fun. They ate some of their catch. Now it's barely enough to sell. 

It provides too little income. He can barely feed his family. "I can stand going without food, but the children cannot," he says. He feels helpless to do better. Israel bears full responsibility.

Abdel hasn't fished since attacked. His boat is badly damaged. It's too costly to repair. He's got no other work. He loves fishing.

Mahmoud's afraid when his sons fish. He fears they won't return. He asks little. He hopes only for a secure good life. All Palestinians deserve it, he says.

Israel denies it. Thousands of livelihoods are affected. So are fundamental human rights. Waging war on Palestine is longstanding Israeli policy. It persists with no end.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."


Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.



Sunday, April 28, 2013

Progressive Radio News Hour Guests for May 3, 4, and 5, 2013

Progressive Radio News Hour Guests for May 3, 4, and 5, 2013

Friday, May 3 at 10AM US Central time: Paul Craig Roberts

Roberts was former Assistant Treasury Secretary under Ronald Reagan, a Wall Street Journal Associate Editor, and holder of numerous academic appointments, including at Georgetown University's Center for Strategic and International Studies.

He now prominently criticizes destructive, repressive state policies, harming people everywhere.

Major world and national issues will be discussed.

Saturday, May 4 at noon US Central time: Rodney Shakespeare

Shakespeare is a Professor of Binary Economics at Trisakti University, Britain where he teaches postgraduate Islamic Economics and Finance.

He's also a qualified UK Barrister, co-founder of the Global Justice Movement, and distinguished writer, scholar and lecturer, particularly at Islamic conferences on money, the real economy, and social and economic justice.

Major world and national issues will be discussed.

Sunday, May 5 at noon US Central time: Cynthia McKinney

McKinney is the exception that proves the rule. She served six House of Representative terms. She represented Georgia's 4th district. She was the first African American to do so. 

In 2008, she was Green Party presidential candidate.

She champions progressive politics. She's principled and forthright. She supports right over wrong. She deplores neoliberal harshness and imperial wars. She pulls no punches saying so.

Major world and national issues will be discussed.

America's Addiction: Waging War on Humanity

America's Addiction: Waging War on Humanity

by Stephen Lendman

America's business is war. Permanent wars reflect official US policy. They're glorified in the name of peace. 

One nation after another is ravaged. Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel called it being "cold-blooded about the self-interests of your nation."

Obama's the latest US warrior president. Imperial lawlessness defines his agenda. Out-of-control militarism rages. Humanity's survival is threatened.

Syria is Obama's war. Direct intervention looms. Claims about Syria using chemical weapons don't wash. Syrian officials categorically deny them.

On April 27, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) headlined "Information Minister: Western Sides Are Directly Responsible for Chemical Weapons Use in Khan al-Assal," saying:

Omran al-Zoubi said chemical weapons likely came from Turkey. "The US-British and Western allegations in general on this issue do not have any credibility."

A missile targeting Khan al-Assal came from a terrorist-controlled location. Syria requested an investigation. According to SANA:

"Al-Zoubi held the Western sides directly responsible for what happened in Khan al-Assal, saying they want now to hide behind this 'fabricated and false' talk to justify their silence on failing the investigation mission requested by Syria and to exonerate the terrorists."

"The Minister added that the US is already involved in large-scale terrorist operations in the world, and is involved in Syria now because of its support for and silence on the terrorism committed by the terrorist groups."

The road to Tehran runs through Damascus. Waging full-scale war on Syria looms. It appears prelude to targeting Iran. Spurious Iranian threats continue. 

Connect the dots. Post-Boston bombings, expect Obama to take full advantage. Media scoundrels regurgitate official lies. Doing so facilitates America's war agenda. 

Independent nations aren't tolerated. Washington demands pro-Western ones. Outliers are targeted for regime change. War is America's option of choice if other methods fail. Syria may be prelude to Iran.

On April 25, the Jerusalem Post headlined " 'Red lines' at the 'Post' conference," saying:

"Red lines" dominate today's headlines. Israel and Washington repeat them. In late February, former Israeli intelligence head Amos  Yadlin's New York Times op-ed headlined "Israel's Last Chance to Strike Iran," saying:

"Today, Israel sees the prospect of a nuclear Iran that calls for our annihilation as an existential threat."

Iran, of course, threatens no one. It hasn't attacked another nation in over two centuries.

"An Israeli strike against Iran would be a last resort, if all else failed to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program," Yadlin added.

Now he's warning that Israel's on "a collision course (with Iran) by the end of the year."

He'll speak at the Jerusalem Post's second annual conference. It's theme is "Fighting for the Zionist Dream." It's scheduled for April 28 in New York.

Two panels will discuss Syrian and Iranian red lines. Yadlin will participate along with former and current key Israeli officials.

Yadlin heads Israel's Institute for National Security Studies. He spoke at its recent Tel Aviv conference. He claims Iran may cross Netanyahu's red line by summer. 

If uranium enrichment continues "at its current rate, toward the end of the year (Tehran) will cross the red line in a clear manner," he claimed.

Earlier he said, "Despite all of the attempts made to stop the nuclear program, no one is able to stop the Islamic Republic's nuclear program."

"By summer, Iran will be a month or two away from a decision about the bomb," he added. He claims Tehran has enough low-enriched uranium for six bombs.

"They have no problem converting back what they allegedly turned to nuclear fuel. Within a week, it could be turned into nuclear material for a bomb," he said.

He urged military action. America's credibility is on the line, he stressed. "This credibility will be achieved if the US aims a precise strike to stop the Iranian nuclear program and shows that it can deal with the escalation that would follow this strike."

He's not alone. Jerusalem Post deputy managing editor Caroline Glick headlined "Time to confront Obama," saying:

Iran "crossed the threshold. Iran will be a nuclear power unless its uranium enrichment installations and other nuclear sites are destroyed or crippled. Now."

"Iran has threatened to use it nuclear arsenal to destroy Israel."

"(E)ither Israel must launch an attack without delay, or if we can’t, then Netanyahu has to publicly state that the time for diplomacy is over. Either Iran is attacked or it gets the bomb."

It bears repeating. Iran threatens no one. No evidence suggests an Iranian nuclear weapons program. Annually, US intelligence says so. Israeli, American, and other Western officials know what they won't admit publicly. 

Claiming an Iranian nuclear threat is red herring cover for regime change. It's longstanding US/Israeli policy. Don't expect media scoundrels to explain.

On April 26, Mossad-connected DEBKAfile (DF) headlined "Obama's non-response to Assad's chemical weapons would encourage a nuclear Iran," saying:

"The US intelligence community and the White House have now produced evidence that Assad has used chemical weapons against his own people and so crossed the red line Obama has repeatedly and publicly laid down for a US response."

"….those red lines would be discounted as meaningless by the world, the Middle East and Israel most of all, if he holds back now."

"Assad will not stop using lethal chemicals against his people."

"Tehran and Pyongyang will take US inaction on the Syrian chemical issue as a license to go forward and develop their nuclear and other sophisticated weapons without fear of forceful interference."

Claiming Syria used chemical weapons doesn't wash. Accusations persist anyway.

DF claims Assad plans to send Hezbollah chemical weapons and "other advanced war material." On Thursday, Israeli warplanes "shot down opposite Haifa a drone Hizballah had sent winging toward Israel…."

Without elaboration, Lebanon's al-Manar television said:

"Hezbollah denies sending any unmanned drone towards occupied Palestine."

Israel's Deputy Defense Minister, Danny Danon said:

"We're talking about another attempt by Hezbollah to send an unmanned drone into Israeli territory." He called it "another attempt to destabilize the Middle East."

Netanyahu said:

"I see this attempt to breach our borders as extremely grave. We will continue to do whatever we must to protect the security of Israel's citizens."

On April 26, Haaretz's military correspondent Amos Harel headlined "Iran likely behind drone that Israel intercepted opposite Haifa coast," saying:

Netanyahu stopped short of blaming Hezbollah. According to Harel, "it seems those responsible for the launching of the drone were the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon."

"(I)t seems that Iran wished to openly demonstrate its potential ability to damage essential facilities in Israel, in a time when they are feeling the pressure of international sanctions surrounding their nuclear program, and when international cooperation is being considered in a move against its ally in Syria, Bashar Assad."

Harel left perhaps what's most important unaddressed. Washington appears headed for full-scale war on Syria. Iran's repeatedly threatened. 

Why would it stage a provocative act? It's avoided doing so before. Why would it give America and Israel cause to retaliate? What could it hope to gain? Sound policy dictates lowering tensions, not escalating them. Harel didn't explain.

On March 15, Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) contributors Olli Heinonen and Simon Henderson headlined "Iran's Nuclear Clock and World Diplomacy."

Heinonen's a former IAEA deputy director-general. Henderson directs the Washington Institute's Gulf and Energy Policy Program. WINEP is a pro-Israeli front group.

"Israel sees itself as a likely target of an Iranian nuclear weapon," they said.

"The latest report on Iran by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) raised a series of red flags." 

"These included the news of a substantial increase in the number of centrifuges Iran uses to enrich uranium, as well as the introduction of a new type of centrifuge that is likely to enrich uranium more quickly and in larger quantities."

"Additionally, work is progressing on a heavy-water reactor capable of producing plutonium, an alternative nuclear explosive material."

Pyongyang has close ties to Iran, they said. Perhaps they share data, they added. 

Years earlier, Iran's nuclear program was less advanced. Enrichment was small-scale. Only one partially constructed enrichment facility operated.

Natanz and Fordow are now fully operational. Arak's heavy-water reactor will begin operating in 2014.

"Iran could have enough nuclear explosive material for its first atomic bomb before Washington ever received the international backing it would want before taking action to - in the words of current US policy - "prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon."

The Middle East's curse is oil. Syria's very much on the boil. Attacking Iran is madness. Doing so risks global war. Top priority is preventing what's too catastrophic to risk.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."


Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.



Obamacare: Unaffordable Coverage

Obamacare: Unaffordable Coverage

by Stephen Lendman

Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) co-founders Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein examined evidence on "skimpy health insurance among low-income, insured Americans."

A PNHP press release said:

"(E)xtensive data (show) that tens of millions of insured Americans have grossly inadequate coverage."

The underinsurance problem grows. The Journal of General Internal Medicine (JGIM) approved publication of their analysis.

It's titled "Life or Debt: Underinsurance in America." It'll appear next week. Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA) increased the problem.

According to Himmelstein, it's "lowering the bar for health insurance."

"The new coverage sold through the insurance exchanges will leave many families paying 40 percent of their health costs out-of-pocket even after they’ve laid out thousands for premiums." 

"And the administration is allowing states to institute co-payments under Medicaid, even for the poorest of the poor."

Under ACA, "a 56-year-old making $46,100 will pay a premium of $10,585 for coverage through the exchange and still face up to $6,250 in co-payments and deductibles."

Woolhandler added:

"Over the past 25 years the financial protection offered by health insurance has steadily eroded. The consequences are grave, not only financially but also medically." 

"For instance, we know that heart attack patients who face high co-payments delay coming to the ER, threatening their lives."

Underinsurance is the new normal. ACA "will reduce the number of uninsured from 50 million to 30 million, but the new coverage is full of holes." 

"Americans deserve the kind of first-dollar, comprehensive coverage that Canadians already have." 

"But that’s only affordable under a single-payer system that cuts out the private insurance middlemen."

Growing millions of Americans face life or debt. A 56-year-old earning $45,900 (399% of poverty) qualifies for Bronze coverage. It costs an estimated $4,361.

Covered services require $4,167 more for deductibles and co-payments.

At 401% of poverty ($46,100), subsidies disappear. Himmelstein explained. Premium costs are $10,585. Deductibles and co-payments add another $6,250.

Growing millions can't afford it. Ralph Nader called ACA "a pay-or-die" system. It underinsures. It leaves millions out. It's unaffordable. It's more deform than reform. It's a scam. 

It's a healthcare rationing scheme. It's a boon to predatory providers. It's a plan to enrich insurers, drug companies, and large hospital chains.

It does nothing to control costs. They're spiraling out of control.

Himmelstein and Woolhandler called cost-sharing "neither necessary nor particularly effective for cost control." Clear evidence proves it.

America has high cost-sharing. Its costs are highest by far. In 1981, Canada outlawed co-payments and deductibles. It's had "faster health improvement and slowed cost growth."

Canadian provinces control costs. They do so by "tax-based funding, global hospital budgeting, binding, negotiated physician fee schedules, and a simple unified single-payer structure…."

Administrative burdens and costs are minimized. Scotland considers patients owners of their health care system, not customers. Its costs are half what Americans pay.

A stealth scheme plans to weaken Medicare. Doing so will force millions of low-income recipients into predatory private plans.

A JGIM companion article headlined "Prevalence and Predictors of Underinsurance Among Low-Income Adults." Hema Magge was lead writer.

Under ACA, she said, millions of Americans "will gain Medicaid or private insurance in 2014." Research shows that many middle-income adults are underinsured.

Less is known about underinsurance among low-income adults. More than one-third aren't properly covered. Over one quarter of Medicaid recipients are underinsured.

Cost-related barriers among public and private care providers reflect a major growing problem.

On April 25, Charleston, W. VA Gazette editors headlined "Health: 'Medicare for all.' " 

PNHP's Andrew Coates was quoted, saying:

Healthcare costs keep rising. ACA is an experiment doomed to fail. "At the root of this problem is the private health industry…." Large private insurers, drug giants, and hospital chains are beholden to Wall Street and shareholders.

Insurers profit by denying claims, raising premiums, and requiring higher co-payments and deductibles.

"They also drag down our health system with the costly paperwork and bureaucracy they inflict on doctors, hospitals and patients."

"By replacing the private insurers with a streamlined single-payer system, we can save over $400 billion squandered annually on wasteful paperwork. That's enough money to cover all of the uninsured and to eliminate all co-pays and deductibles."

Gazette editors called his solution "exactly on target. It's shameful that America is the only modern democracy without a national health system covering everyone."

"(M)edical care should be a human right for all."

Obamacare denies it. It requires virtually everyone to have health insurance. Millions unable to afford employer coverage will be ineligible for federal financial aid. On January 1, 2014, fully-certfied health insurance exchanges become operational. 

Uninsured middle-income households eligible for subsidized private coverage may use them. Safety-net programs are for low-income households.

According to First Focus president Bruce Lesley, up to 500,000 children may remain uninsured. "The children's community is disappointed by the administration's decision to deny access to coverage for children based on a bogus definition of affordability," he said.

ACA stipulates that coverage can't cost more than 9.5% of family income. Recipients it considers able to buy insurance are ineligible for subsidies.

Affordability is based on individuals. Family coverage is nearly threefold higher. If employers don't provide it, recipients are out of luck.

It bears repeating. ACA is a scam. Obama and Congress are beholden to Big Money interests. Washington is corporate occupied territory.

The business of America is business. Every agency is infested with industry officials and lobbyists. They control policy. What they want, they get. Ordinary people are betrayed. 

ACA is one of many examples. It made America's dysfunctional healthcare system worse. It enriches providers. It sacrifices health for greater profits. 

It's unaffordable. It doesn't protect. It underinsures. It forces millions to choose between life or debt. It reflects irresponsible governance. Obama bears full responsibility.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."


Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.