Friday, January 31, 2014

Reid Derails Fast Track

Reid Derails Fast Track

by Stephen Lendman

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D. NV) opposes fast track legislation. He broke with Obama on trade policy.

"I'm against fast track," he said. "I think everyone would be well-advised not to push this right now."

Senator John Cornyn (R. TX) said:

"You can kiss any new trade deals goodbye. I think the majority leader's focus is on the November elections, and he doesn't want to expose his vulnerable members to controversial votes."

AFL-CIO trade policy specialist Celeste Drake called Reid's comments "a great opportunity to get off the fast track to bad trade deals and open the policy window to a better deal for workers."

Communications Workers of America head Larry Cohen added: 

"For those of us who want to have a progressive trade agenda, it means that we're encouraged."

Obama wants Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) legislation fast-tracked through Congress. He wants it passed with no debate. 

He wants a trade deal from hell rubber-stamped. He wants sole TPP authority. More on this below.

TPP is NAFTA on steroids. It's stealth corporate coup d'etat legislation. It's secretive. It's supranational. It overrides domestic laws. It rewrites global trade rules.

It eliminates fundamental freedoms. It prioritizes investor rights. Popular ones don't matter. 

Nor domestic laws. Nor national sovereignty. Nor health and safety. Nor environmental sanity. Nor nations fit to live in.

At issue is agreeing on unrestricted trade in goods, services, rules of origin, trade remedies, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers, government procurement and competition policies, and intellectual property (IP).

Enacting TPP assures millions more lost US jobs. It more than ever frees banksters from oversight. 

It prioritizes profits over human welfare. It assures flooding America with unsafe food and other products. It makes "buy American" an illegal "restraint on trade."

Hyped benefits are fake. Reality is polar opposite what corporate crooks claim. What Obama claims. He's beholden to monied interests. He's mindless of what matters most to ordinary people.

On January 28, Public Citizen, Global Exchange, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and six other public interest organizations wrote Congress

So did hundreds of labor, environmental and community groups. Over 170 Republicans and Democrats expressed fast track opposition.

They want TPP,  the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) (aka the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement - TAFTA), and other trade legislation publicly debated.

They denounced "trade objectives" encouraging a copyright maximalist agenda. They exclude fair use rights.

They want rule of law principles upheld. They want fundamental freedoms protected.

Public fast track opposition is strong. Congress was flooded with phone calls and emails.

January 31 was Intercontinental Day of Action against TPP and corporate globalization. "No more NAFTAs," opponents say. "20 years is enough."

Oppose "free" trade. Support fair trade. Organize. Protest. On January 31, dozens of anti-TPP rallies took place in America, Canada and Mexico.

Polls show Americans overwhelmingly oppose fast-tracking TPP and other trade deals.

Enacting the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act (BCTPA) gives Obama exclusive trade policy authority. Congressional oversight is excluded.

Bill sponsors lied claiming BCTPA "provides greater transparency and gives Congress greater oversight of the Administration's trade negotiations."

It's polar opposite. It's secretive. It shuts out Congress. It overrides US laws. It's draconian.  

Stop Fast Track.com is a public initiative. It urges everyone get involved. It says fast track legislation "threatens everything you care about: democracy, jobs, the environment, and the Internet."

Public Citizen's Lori Wallach heads its Global Trade Watch division. It monitors destructive trade deals like TPP. 

On January 28, she said virtually "no House Democratic support for Fast Track" exists. "Public opposition (has) congressional phones ring(ing) off the hook."

"Opposition has been growing to the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. Implementing this NAFTA-on-steroids deal" assures greater than ever income inequality.

"It would be like drilling a hole in a boat just as you are trying to seal the cracks that are letting the water in."

On March 15, 2012, the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement took effect. Obama promised more jobs. Increased US exports would follow, he said.

In its first year, they dropped 10%. Imports soared. America's trade deficit increased. About 40,000 US jobs were lost.

Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich opposes fast track. He's against TPP.

He posted 'STOP THE TPP" on his Facebook page. "Raise a ruckus. TPP is NAFTA on steroids."

Unfair trade deals exacerbate income inequality. It's notable since NAFTA's enactment.

Nearly five million US manufacturing jobs disappeared. Bilateral deals lost many more. America is increasingly de-industrialized. It's fast-tracking toward third world status.

Paul Craig Roberts explained, saying:

"..US manufacturing centers became shells of their former selves.." Detroit symbolizes America's decline. It lost a fourth of its population.

Once mighty Motown resembles a ghost town. It's dying. It's bankrupt. Over half its working age residents have no jobs. Most others have rotten ones. They don't pay enough to live on.

"Gary Indiana lost 22% of its population." St. Louis lost 20%. Flint Michigan lost 18%. Cleveland lost 17%. 

Industrialized countries alone enjoy developed economy status. Offshoring manufacturing reverses the development process, says Roberts.

Doing so shows a nation in decline. High-paying/good benefits/full-time jobs are disappearing in plain sight. Rotten ones replaced them.

America is increasingly a nation of low-paid/unskilled clerks, food preparers, waitresses, bartenders, dishwashers, maids, cashiers, cab drivers, hosts and hostesses, amusement park attendants, movie theater ushers and ticket takers, farm workers, home care providers, and non-professional medical ones.

"The US now has the work force of a third world country," says Roberts. It resembles India "three decades ago."

Economic development depends on "capital, technology, business knowledge, and trained" skilled workers.

"US capital and technology are being located abroad..." Skilled US workers are disappearing. De-industrialization is the new normal. 

America is a shell of its former self. It bears repeating. It's heading toward third world status. It's fast-tracking toward getting there.

A Final Comment

Fast-tracking should be outlawed. It should be prohibited. It's extreme. It has no place in free societies.

It gives presidents diktat authority over trade policy. Doing so adversely affects the lives of millions.

Past fast-tracked trade deals compromised, health, public safety, and environmental sanity. They destroyed millions of jobs.

They let banksters circumvent financial regulation. They let Big Pharma charge outrageous prices.

Constitutional law lets Congress alone set trade policy. Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 gives Congress sole power "to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes." 

For 200 years, it worked this way. No longer. Presidents increasingly have diktat authority. They take full advantage.

George Bush usurped "unitary executive" powers. Chalmers Johnson called doing so "a ball-faced assertion of presidential supremacy dressed up in legal mumbo jumbo."

It doesn't matter. Obama operates the same way. He rules by executive orders, other unilateral directives, and unchecked presidential authority.

He does what he pleases. He exceeds the worst of all his predecessors. He takes full constitutional advantage of Article II, Section 1, stating:

"The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America."

Article II, Section 3 adds:

"The President shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed."

Omitted is saying presidents operate extrajudicially. They make policy. They implement it unilaterally.

Executive power is what presidents want it to be. They usurp as much as they wish. They wage wars on their own authority. They bypass Congress doing so.

They ignore Article I, Section 8 affording Congress sole power to declare war.

Presidents make treaties without Senate ratification. Advise and consent only are involved. They terminate treaties unilaterally. Bush ended ABM by executive decree.

In recent decades, presidents usurped congressional authority. They fast-tracked trade deals. They've done so 16 times in US history.

NAFTA and WTO were the two most recent examples. Fast track lets presidents unilaterally choose trade partners. 

It lets him set terms. It prevents congressional amendments. Up or down votes without debate alone follow. A 90 day limit is imposed.

Fast track authority requires congressional approval. Clinton got it twice. Bush got it once. In the dead of night. In 2002 at 3:30AM before a congressional recess.

Proponents tried overcoming fast track's abhorrent reputation. They renamed it "Trade Promotion Authority."

Candidate Obama opposed fast track. He pledged replacing it if elected. President Obama prioritizes it. He wants public opposition ignored.

So far he's fallen short. Enough public opposition may deny him altogether. It's high time he got slapped down hard. 

Maybe more times will follow. Maybe his war on humanity can be stopped. Maybe global war can be avoided. When enough people forthrightly demand responsible change, anything is possible.

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."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

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.


http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

New York Ending Stop and Frisk?

New York Ending Stop and Frisk?

by Stephen Lendman

Stop-and-frisk is longstanding New York City policy. It's blatantly racist. It targets Blacks and Latinos. It's unconstitutional.

It violates privacy rights. In 2012 alone, nearly 700,000 people were affected. Ray Kelly was New York's longest serving police commissioner. 

He served from January 1, 2002 to December 31, 2013. He lied calling stop and frisk effective. Clear evidence proves otherwise. 

The vast majority of those stopped are innocent victims. They're targeted based on race and ethnicity. They committed no crimes.

On January 30, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said:

"We're here today to turn the page on one of the most divisive problems in our city."

"We believe in ending the overuse of stop-and-frisk that has unfairly targeted young African-American and Latino men."

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) initiated a federal class action lawsuit against New York City. Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al. challenged "NYPD's practices of racial profiling and unconstitutional stop-and frisks."

CCR called its class action New York's "trial of the century." It cut to the very heart of discriminatory police practices. It was "part of a larger citywide movement" to end them.

It said "(n)o court case is more important to the future of New York City." Police accountability is long overdue. It remains to be seen what's forthcoming.

Last August, US District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Shira Scheindlin issued a landmark decision. 

Her 195-page ruling was scathing. She said NYPD "adopted a policy of indirect racial profiling."

"The New York City Police Department ("NPPD") made 4.4 million stops between January 2004 and June 2012." Personal lives were wrongfully "interrupted."

Doing so "violated their constitutional rights in two ways:

(1) they were stopped without a legal basis in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and

(2) they were targeted for stops because of their race in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment."

Scheindlin held top city and NYPD officials liable for constitutional violations. She accused them of willful indifference.

They turn a blind eye to flagrant racial discrimination, she said.

In November, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals stayed Judge Scheindlin's ruling. They didn't reverse it. 

They ordered Floyd reassigned to a new district court judge. CCR responded, saying:

"We are dismayed that the Court of Appeals saw fit to delay the long-overdue process to remedy the NYPD’s unconstitutional stop-and-frisk practices, and we are shocked that they cast aspersions on the professional conduct of one of the most respected members of the federal judiciary and reassigned the case."  

"The City carried out a whisper campaign against Judge Scheindlin but never once raised any legal claims of bias, even in its papers to the Court of Appeals." 

"That, unprompted, they should reassign the case from a judge deeply steeped in the issues for the last 14 years, who gave the City every opportunity to defend itself in the course of this litigation, is troubling and unprecedented."

That was then. This is now. On January 30, CCR headlined "City of New York and Center for Constitutional Rights Announce Agreement in Landmark Stop and Frisk Case."

"With Questions of Law Settled, Next Phase of Charting NYPD Reforms to Begin," saying:

"After 14 years of litigation and decades of community action, plaintiffs' counsel and Mayor" de Blasio reached agreement.

Appealing Judge Scheindlin's ruling was withdrawn. Floyd v. NYC seeks long denied injunctive relief. At stake is ending unconstitutional racial profiling. It's doing it once and for all.

It remains to be seen what follows. If past is prologue, hold the cheers. At Thursday's press conference, "the focus was squarely back on reforming the police department," said CCR.

According to its Executive Director Vincent Warren:

"Today is the beginning of a long-overdue process: the reform of the NYPD to end illegal and racially discriminatory policing." 

"For too long, communities of color have felt under siege by the police, and young Black and Latino men have disproportionately been the target." 

"We are glad to have reached an agreement with the City and commend Mayor de Blasio for promising to drop the appeal and embracing reform. We are eager to finally begin creating real change."

CCR want a court-appointed independent monitor. Someone with impeccable civil and human rights credential. Someone to hold NYC police and administrative officials accountable.

Judge Scheindlin so-ordered. Under terms reached with city authorities, a monitor will be appointed. A three-year term will be served.

At stake is New York "substantially complying with the remedies," said CCR. "(T)he parties will begin the process for stakeholder input as soon as the paperwork is completed."

Lead CCR attorney Darius Charney said:

"We look forward to working with the communities directly affected on the streets every day to come up with solutions that protect the rights of all New Yorkers."

Plaintiffs' co-council Johathan Moore added:

"This agreement to drop the appeal in this case vindicates the findings by judge Scheindlin and provides the opportunity for the NYPD to reform policies and practices that the district court found unconstitutional." 

"However, the agreement is only the beginning. All the parties have much work ahead to implement remedies that will bring meaningful change to the NYPD."

It won't happen easily. It won't be quickly. Racism in America is embedded. It's longstanding. It's institutionalized.                                                             
Hundreds of thousands of victimized Blacks and Latinos languish unjustly in America's gulag. They comprise two-thirds of America's 2.4 million prison population.

Most are nonviolent. Many committed no crimes. Many others committed offenses too small to matter. Just societies call misdemeanors. Minor at most penalties follow. Imprisonment is verboten. 

Not in America. Criminal injustice reflects longstanding policy. 
America's most vulnerable are victimized by judicial unfairness, get tough on crime measures , three strikes and you're out, mandatory minimums, racist drug laws, and guilt by accusation.

Long-term imprisonment is commonplace. Harsh conditions persist. In her book titled "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness," Michelle Alexander discussed it, saying:

"Any movement to end mass incarceration must deal with (it) as a racial caste system, not (a method) of crime control." 

"We need an effective system of crime prevention and control in our communities, but that is not what the current system is." 

"(It's) better designed to create crime, and a perpetual class of people labeled criminals, rather than to eliminate crime or reduce the number of criminals."

New York's 1973 Rockefeller drug laws are ruthlessly pernicious. Anyone convicted of selling two ounces or more of heroin, morphine, "raw or prepared opium," cocaine, or cannabis faces mandatory 15-year sentences.

Longer-term ones range up to life in prison. Possessing four ounces of these substances mandates the same sentences. 

America's war on drugs has nothing to do with crime control. It targets people of color. It's filling prison beds.

It's Jim Crow writ large. It's fundamentally about control. "Racial caste is alive and well in America," says Alexander.

Justice is color-coded, not blind. More Blacks are imprisoned, on probation, or parole than were enslaved in pre-Civil War days.

More are disenfranchised than before 15th Amendment rights prohibited voting based on race.

Black children are less likely to be raised by both parents than during slavery days. Mass imprisoning Black fathers bears much responsibility.

One in three Black males spends some portion of their lives in prison. Many are considered felons for life. In Chicago, it's nearly 80%.

A permanent underclass exists. Fundamental rights are denied. They include disenfranchisement, exclusion from juries, loss of public benefits, and compromised access to education and proper healthcare.

In 1971, Nixon declared war on drugs. He did so to shift focus. He wanted attention off his disastrous Southeast Asian war. He wanted the subject changed.

He made so-called drug abuse a federal crime. He instituted mandatory sentencing. He got no-knock warrants authorized. 

He filled prison beds. He began destroying a generation of Black and Latino male youths. Reagan continued where he left off. "Just Say No" instituted zero tolerance.

Incarceration numbers skyrocketed. They jumped from 50,000 in 1980 to over 400,000 in 1997. Blacks and Latinos were disproportionately targeted. They still are.

Democrats compete with Republicans. They're out to prove who's tougher. Clinton boasted about no one able to call him "soft on crime."

His policies increased America's prison population hugely. He exceeded all presidents in US history. 

He waged war on Black America. He targeted Latinos the same way. He banned convicted drug felons from public housing. He denied them food stamps for life.

Jim Crow never died. It thrives. All decades earlier civil rights gains were lost. They were shaky to begin with. They were more myth than reality.

Conditions today are worse than when MLK was assassinated. His dream was a convenient illusion. 

Caste system inequality is institutionalized. It's a longstanding racial nightmare. Will New York cops turn a new leaf?

Will hardcore commanders order it? Will they enforce it? Will Mayor de Blasio? Will other city authorities? Will their counterparts across America?

Will Blacks and Latinos be treated fairly? They never were before. It takes a giant leap of faith to expect change. 

It's hard believing a new dawn in New York. It's hard believing it anywhere across America. 

It's hard believing MLK's dream coming true. Maybe some day little boys and girls of all colors will grow up to be brothers and sisters. Maybe some day those of color will be "free at last." 

Maybe everyone will enjoy rights being systematically destroyed. Maybe America will be fit to live in. Another world is possible. It's worth going all out to achieve.

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."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

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.


http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Obama's MyRA Proposal: Hold the Cheers

Obama's MyRA Proposal: Hold the Cheers

by Stephen Lendman

Americans don't need another phony retirement scheme. They need employer-provider defined benefits they once enjoyed. 

They need guaranteed pensions. They need safe and secure ones. They need Social Security protected. They need it strengthened.

It's not an entitlement. It's not welfare. It's a contractual federal obligation. It's for eligible recipients who qualify. 

It's funded by worker-employer payroll tax deductions. Insurance premiums work the same way.

It's America's most important retirement program. It's not going bankrupt. When properly administered, it's sound and secure.

Bipartisan complicity weakened it over time. It needs strengthening. Its original incarnation needs to be restored and improved.

Today it's not what it was created to be. Franklin Roosevelt's vision needs to be reestablished.

On August 14, 1935, he said in part:

"This social security measure gives at least some protection to thirty millions of our citizens who will reap direct benefits through unemployment compensation, through old-age pensions and through increased services for the protection of children and the prevention of ill health."

The law "give(s) some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty - ridden old age."

It "represents a cornerstone in a structure which is being built but is by no means complete."

Its purpose is to "take care of human needs and at the same time provide for the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness."

On January 11, 1944, Roosevelt's last State of the Union address proposed an economic bill of rights.

He didn't live long enough to implement it. He wanted the following guaranteed for all Americans:

  • employment with a living (not a minimum) wage;

  • freedom from unfair competition and monopolies;

  • decent housing;

  • proper healthcare;

  • education; and

  • strengthened social security.

He wanted all Americans freed from the ravages of poverty. Obama is no Roosevelt. He's ideologically opposite.

Obamanomics did more to wreck the American dream than any of his predecessors.

He presided over the greatest wealth transfer in history. He's beholden to powerful monied interests. They own him.

His rhetoric belies his policies. He's pro-business, pro-privilege, pro-war, anti-populist, and against all fundamental values real democracies cherish.

He's waged war on ordinary Americans. He wrecked the lives of millions. His entire agenda is opposite of what's needed. His new MyRA (retirement account) proposal is more scam than solution.

"Today, most workers don't have a pension," said Obama. He stopped short of explaining efforts to eliminate public and private pensions altogether.

"Social Security...often isn't enough on its own," he added. It could be much more than today. It should be. Proper strengthening would improve it greatly.

It's been weakened over time. Bipartisan complicity wants it privatized. Doing so assures wrecking it altogether. Obama's MyRA proposal ignores a problem needing fixing.

On January 28, he said he'll "direct the Treasury to create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings: MyRA. It's a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest  egg."

On January 29, a White House press release headlined "FACT SHEET: Opportunity for All: Securing a Dignified Retirement for All Americans."

It calls MyRAs "simple, safe and affordable 'starter' retirement savings accounts." Workers earning up to $191,000 are eligible.

Employers willing to participate will make automatic payroll deductions. No employer contribution is required.

Worker contributions are voluntary. An initial $25 is required. Subsequent ones can be as little as $5. 

They'll be used to purchase US Treasuries. Yields fluctuate over time. They're rock bottom now. 

Treasury bills earn practically nothing. Five year Treasury notes yield about 1.50%. Ten year notes around 2.70%. Inflation is multiples higher. Money invested today ends up worth less.

Savers can keep the same account if they change jobs. They can roll over the balance into a private IRA any time.

Once accounts accumulate $15,000 (or are held 30 years), they automatically roll over into a privately run Roth IRA with no tax loss.

According to Economic Policy Institute economist Monique Morrissey, doing so is bad news.

"The president's plan may serve to channel more savings into a high-risk, high-fee system without first addressing its failings," she said.

His plan is "nothing to get exited about." Savers "already have convenient access to low or no-risk investment options."

They can do it through retirement accounts. They can buy Treasuries or other financial instruments on their own.

Morrissey urges "holding out for a better retirement option." Obama's plan may seem "harmless," she said.

It "distracts from real reform efforts." They're more than ever needed. Obama and Congress ignore them. Obama's MyRA scheme is more smoke and mirrors than needed change.

According to the White House press release, accounts are "offered through an initial pilot program to employees of employers (that) choose to participate by the end of 2014."

Obama claims he's "committed to working with Congress to help secure a dignified retirement for all Americans."

Throughout five years in office, his policies have been polar opposite. Don't expect his MyRA scheme to change things.

According to Social Security Works co-director Eric Kingson:

"Instead of putting forward the MyRA proposal and making some noises about auto-IRAs, I wish (Obama) simply focused on the facts about the impending retirement income crisis, or acknowledged, along with his MyRA and the auto-IRA rhetoric, that these proposals can, at best, only make a small dent in a larger problem."

Crisis looms for millions approaching retirement. Most people haven't saved enough. Many accumulated nothing. They're more indebted than secure.

Obama's so-called "good start" is more sham than solution. It does practically nothing to resolve a festering crisis.

Longtime Chicago financial adviser, Terry Savage, reports the "Savage Truth." She discussed Obama's MyRA proposal.

"What a creative idea," she said. "It sounds so familiar. Wait. We already have that account. It's called SOCIAL SECURITY."

It's how it "was promoted when...enacted in 1935." In the 1980s, "growing surpluses (became) a tempting target…"

They were looted to fund government. Wall Street crooks benefitted. So did war profiteers and other corporate favorites. Super-rich elites got wealthier. The trust fund became their piggy bank. 

Then Reagan National Commission on Social Security Reform head Alan Greenspan recommended it.

He lied claiming a Social Security "financing crisis." He wrongfully claimed the trust fund could run out of money "as early as 1983."

Congress acted irresponsibly. In April 1983, Reagan signed the Social Security Amendments of 1983 into law.

Doing so claimed to "resolve short-term financing problem(s) and (make) many other significant changes in Social Security law."

The public was scammed. Payroll taxes were raised. Rich Americans were exempted beyond a woefully low maximum limit.

Low-income earners today pay more in payroll than income taxes. Greenspan's commission was supposed to make Social Security fiscally sound for the next 75 years.

People were lied to. They weren't told no problem existed. Changes made transferred wealth to rich elites. Multiple income tax cuts benefitted them more. At the same time, the bottom 11% rate rose to 15%.

It was America's first ever tax cut making low-wage earners pay more. Their income and payroll taxes rose. Transferring wealth to corporations and super-rich elites continues. Inequality today is unprecedented.

"...Social Security was (meant) to be a tax-free return on your contributions," said Savage. It was so until "1983 reforms."

"(W)e've seen this movie before...In offering his new 'MyRa' proposal, the President said: 'MyRA guarantees a decent return, with no risk of losing what you put in.' "

...(A)nd you can keep your doctor, too," remember?

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on the voters! That's the Savage Truth!"

Social Security Works co-director Nancy Altman says "(s)trengthen Social Security." It didn't cause the federal deficit. It shouldn't be used to reduce it.

It didn't become law to fund government. It shouldn't be privatized. it shouldn't be means tested. High-income earners should pay the same percentage payroll tax as others.

Benefits should be increased, not reduced. Annual inflation adjustments should be real, not based on phony numbers. Low income Americans should be helped most.

In 2010, Professor James W. Russell discussed America's retirement crisis," saying:

"The great 30-year experiment in 401(k)s and similar retirement financing schemes that depend on stock market investments has failed." 

"Even before" 2008 crisis conditions erupted, it was clear. "(V)ery few workers...accumulate enough wealth through these accounts to insure" secure retirement futures.

Until the 1980s, each generation since the 19th century was better off financially than earlier ones.

No longer. Inflation adjusted wages are worth less than decades earlier. Benefits steadily eroded. Inequality is the new normal. 

Secure retirements are more myth than reality. Untampered with Social Security works as intended. 

Strengthening it makes it work better. Russell calls it "the federal government's most successful and popular domestic program."

The 1978 Revenue Act changed things. Its sections 401(k), 403(b), and 457 let retirement plan contributions be made with pretax dollars.

Employer defined benefit plans became defined contribution ones. They offer no assurance of retirement income. Marketplace uncertainty becomes costly in crisis times.

Financial services industry predators profit hugely through large commissions and fees. They benefit. IRA holders lose out. They're scammed.

Privatized plans often don't deliver on promises. Secure retirements require strengthened Social Security, employer-provided benefits and personal savings.

Russell commented on Obama's MyRA proposal. He called it a "token response" at best to today's festering retirement crisis.

It "perpetuates the very myths and fallacies that caused the crisis." Its roots go back to when defined contribution plans replaced defined benefit ones.

IRAs guarantee nothing. They return "dramatically less retirement incomes than the pensions they replaced," said Russell.

Obama said "most workers don't have a pension." He failed to say they deserve one. Instead of recognizing a failed IRA experiment, he "implied that" crisis conditions only affect non-IRA holders.

He lied claiming they're much better off. MyRA's are another gift to financial predators. "The program will do little to benefit retirees," said Russell.

"No one ever obtained retirement security with savings bonds. Once more," Wall Street crooks stand to benefit most.

"The need remains urgent for a comprehensive public program to address the retirement crisis." Throughout five years in office, Obama proposed nothing to do it.

His MyRA scheme falls woefully short. It bears repeating. It's more scam than solution.

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."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

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.


http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

America's Criminal Afghanistan Legacy

America's Criminal Afghanistan Legacy

by Stephen Lendman

Over 12 years of war left millions dead. Violence, displacement, deprivation, starvation and diseases killed them. 

Many others suffer horrifically. Media scoundrels ignore high crimes of war, against humanity and genocide. America turned Afghanistan into a wasteland.

No end of conflict looms. It can continue for another decade or longer. It'll do so as long as America is involved.

World Food Program's Health and Nutrition director Carrie Morrison reported more on America's disturbing legacy. Around 55% of Afghan children suffer severe malnutrition, she said.

An entire generation is affected. Their bodies and minds are stunted. America bears full responsibility. 

Wherever US forces show up, mass slaughter, destruction, environmental contamination, disease epidemics, birth defects, and horrific human suffering follow. More on the World Food Program's assessment below.

In its 2013 Annual Report on Afghanistan, Amnesty International (AI) highlighted indiscriminate violence, thousands of civilian deaths, numerous injuries, torture, other ill-treatment, and hundreds of thousands displaced and forgotten Afghans.

Many live in "informal settlements with inadequate shelter, access to water, health care, and education," said AI. Millions of refugees remain internally and externally displaced.

Thousands of women and girls continue to be beaten, raped and murdered. Humanitarian assistance enough to matter is sorely lacking.

Children die from exposure to bitter cold. America's war still claims thousands of lives. Air and ground attacks are responsible. 

Civilians suffer most. They're killed indiscriminately. Horrific incidents go largely unreported. Afghan lives and welfare don't matter.

A previous article discussed US war crimes. Drones murder civilian men, women and children. So do ground forces.

Deaths, injuries, torture and other atrocities reflect daily life. Ordinary Afghans suffer most. US aggression is one of history's greatest crimes.

America's rap sheet includes numerous ones too grave to ignore. Trillions of dollars go for one war after another. Targeted countries are ravaged and destroyed. Homeland needs go begging.

Rule of law principles are ignored. Imperial priorities alone matter.

Imagine murdering children while they sleep. Imagine US soldiers raping women before killing them. Imagine media scoundrels reporting nothing. Imagine daily war crimes going unnoticed.

Imagine no accountability. Imagine human suffering words can't explain. Imagine war without mercy. Imagine it without end.

Imagine starving a generation of Afghan children. According to WFP's Morrison:

"After the age of two years, stunting is largely irreversible, and has an impact on growth and development and cognitive function."

"Over the long term, it can have a very damaging effect on the national recovery."

"Young people are not able to attain what they" could under normal conditions. "Women who marry young and are stunted themselves give birth to a small infant, and the cycle goes on."

Imagine impacting an entire country this way. An entire generation of Afghan children suffering chronic malnutrition. 

They're denied proper food. They don't get enough. Some starve to death. Their ill-nourished bodies are vulnerable to illnesses and diseases.

America doesn't give a damn about Afghan children. Resources go for warmaking. They're for commercial development benefitting US corporations. They're for exploiting Afghan resources.

They for maintaining permanent US super-bases. They're for torture prisons. They're for permanent occupation. 

Mass impoverishment and unemployment go unnoticed. Nutritious food, healthcare, housing, education, proper sanitation, and other vital needs are lacking.

Hegemons have other priorities in mind. Afghan Dr. Alam Mohammad said:

"We have whole families where food insecurity means they are all malnourished." Even more well off families have sick, ill-nourished children.

Mohammad treats dozens of Afghans like Mojabeen. She's a 19-year old mother. She has three children. Her life reflects constant hardship.

She and her family live in one room. When he's able to find work, her husband earn $2 to $3 a day at most. He can't properly feed his family.

"My second child is living with my mother, as we can't provide for him," says Mojabeen. Her children were disadvantaged before birth.

She was severely malnourished. Her fetuses lacked nutrients. In 2013, Afghanistan's population numbered around 31 million. 

Nearly half are aged 15 or younger. One in five children die before their 5th birthday. Most perish from preventable diseases, malnutrition or both.

UNICEF's Daniel Toole calls Afghanistan today "without a doubt the most dangerous place to be born."

It's the world's longest major conflict. Humanitarian aid enough to matter is sorely lacking. Millions of Afghans are on their own.

They're imperial US victims. They suffer horrifically. Only 6% of Afghans have reliable electricity sources. Only 30% have semi-safe drinking water. Nearly 80% of Afghan children lack access.

Only 6% of them are registered at birth. The vast majority are nonpersons. They have no legal identity. They're vulnerable. They're unprotected.

Few Afghans have telephones. Most of them are in Kabul. Millions of internally and externally displaced refugees are largely on their own.

According to WFP, life expectancy is 44.5 years for men. It's 44 for women. After Sierra Leone, Afghanistan has the world's highest maternal mortality rate.

Around 24,000 women die annually. They do so from no access to obstetrical and other health services. Infant mortality is high. Around 165 deaths per thousand births occur before age one.

If hell on earth exists, it's in Afghanistan. In his book titled "Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire," John Pilger called the nation more moonscape than functioning country.

It's hard imagining a more long-suffering people. "Throughout all the humanitarian crises in living memory," said Pilger, "no country has been abused and suffered more, and none helped less than Afghanistan."

No one is sure from day to day who'll live or die. Millions are vulnerable to preventable diseases. Epidemic levels of malnutrition persist. 

Vital infrastructure is lacking. Severe poverty is overwhelming. So is environmental contamination. Hunger is a national disease. Unemployment affects millions. 

Thousands starve to death for lack of food. Millions suffer chronic malnutrition. Tens of thousands of children have protruding bones.

They resemble famine victims. They have distended stomachs. According to Morrison:

"You might see a child who appears underweight or short for their age, but it doesn't really tell you much unless you line them up against a well-nourished child."

Chronic malnutrition denies millions of Afghan children from "growing up to lead a" normal life.

Iron deficiency alone disrupts brain development. Around 75% of Afghan children are affected. 

It shows up in "stunting, sickliness, poor school attendance, and lower levels of concentration and memory."

Iodine deficiency is the world's leading cause of mental impairment. Insufficient vitamin A harms immune system functioning.

Micronutrients deprivation causes enormous harm. Millions of Afghans can't afford minimally healthy diets. In some provinces, only one in five have anything close to balanced diets.

Conditions were woefully inadequate before America's war. They're far worse now. 

In October 2001, George Bush said "the United States of America is a friend to the Afghan people, and we are friends of almost a billion worldwide who practice the Islamic faith."

"We are a peaceful nation." He promised to improve the lives of ordinary Afghans. Is Afghanistan today what success looks like?

Is America's war on Islam friendship for Muslims worldwide? Is dystopian hell on earth? Is America's presence? Is its dark side?

Its legacy in Afghanistan includes permanent occupation, extreme violence, daily killing and destruction, mass impoverishment and unemployment, rampant preventable diseases, starvation and malnutrition, and overall horrific human suffering.

Obama shares full responsibility with Bush. Hegemons operate this way. America is by far the worst in world history. 

Obama has lots more death and destruction in mind. Lots more conquests are planned. Millions more deaths will follow. So will horrific human suffering. 

Hegemons are unapologetic. They never say they're sorry. They call ravaging and destroying one country after another success. Too  much of it risks humanity's survival.

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."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

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.


http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

Israel's Secret Nuclear Program

Israel's Secret Nuclear Program

by Stephen Lendman

It's an open secret. It's been known for years. Media scoundrels suppress it. They pretend none exists. 

It's real. It's menacing. Imagine ignoring what threatens humanity. Imagine pretending Iran's peaceful nuclear program does so. Imagine risking regional or global war by doing it.

London's Guardian is an establishment broadsheet. It's usually conformist. Once in a while it's not. 

It wrote many times about Edward's Snowden's revelations. It told readers what they need to know. On January 15, it headlined "The Truth about Israel's secret nuclear arsenal."

Rarely ever would US establishment publications suggest one. Or Israel's chemical and biological weapons. 

They're used freely against Palestinians and other adversaries. Doctors discover injuries never saw before seen. Media scoundrels ignore them.

Israel's nuclear program is one of the world's best known open secrets. It's still not publicly acknowledged. It's hard refuting indisputable evidence. 

Israel began developing nuclear technology decades ago. It did so "deep beneath desert sands," said the Guardian. 

It "us(ed) technology and materials provided by friendly powers…" It did it the old-fashioned way. A "clandestine network of agents" stole it.

It's the "stuff of pulp thrillers and the sort of narrative often used to characterise the worst fears about" Iran's nuclear program. One's military, the other entirely peaceful.

"In reality…neither US or British intelligence believes Tehran has decided to build a bomb..." Its program is the world's most closely monitored. 

Israel's is entirely clandestine. It's illegal. Iran's fully complies with NPT provisions. Israel won't sign the landmark treaty. It wants nothing about its program revealed. It wants freedom to enhance it.

Its open secret reflects "an extraordinary feat of subterfuge," said the Guardian. It produced a powerful arsenal. It's enhanced by long-range delivery systems.

Israel threatens to use all its weapons if threatened. It's used chemical, biological and radiological ones against Gaza and Lebanon. It'll do it again in future conflicts.

Despite open knowledge of its nuclear program, Israel's position is never confirm or deny. In December, former Knesset speaker, Avraham Burg, broke the taboo.

He said Israel has nuclear and chemical weapons. He called official non-disclosure "outdated and childish." He called for "open and brave public discussion."

He said only "regional dialogue, including with Iran" could create a nuclear-free Middle East. Burg is a former Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee member.

He has direct knowledge of Israel's nuclear program. The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel is a right-wing group. It wants Burg investigated. It accused him of "treason."

He revealed a key national security secret, it said. He disclosed what's increasingly common knowledge. Israel's nondisclosure policy is nonsensical.

Western governments play along with Israeli "opacity." Obama won't discuss it. Nor other US officials. Nor media scoundrels. They pretend none exists.

Britain is largely silent. In November, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi was asked about it in the House of Lords. She tried being circumspect.

She said what's rarely heard. "Israel has not declared a nuclear weapons programme. We have regular discussions with the government of Israel on a range of nuclear-related issues," she said. 

"The government of Israel is in no doubt as to our views. We encourage Israel to become a state party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty."

According to the Guardian, countries conspiring with Israel's nuclear program include America, France, Germany, Britain and Norway. It omitted South Africa.

Israeli agents were involved. So was a Hollywood billionaire. Arnon Milchan admitted his role. He did so last month.

He was born in Israel. He supported Israel's nuclear program decades ago, saying:

"Do you know what it's like to be a 20-something-year-old kid (and your) country lets (you) be James Bond? Wow! The action! That was exiting."

He operated in 17 countries. He worked with 30 companies. He brokered deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

It was a challenge overcoming his arms dealing reputation, he said. He had to convince people he didn't "live off selling machine guns and killing."

He risked his life aiding Israel. Israeli President Shimon Peres was its unacknowledged nuclear weapons architect.

He recruited Milchan. Actor Ben Affleck calls him "a very mysterious, exotic figure in Hollywood." Actor Robert De Niro asked about his clandestine activities for Israel. 

"He (said) he was an Israeli and that of course he would do these things for his country," De Niro said.

He had no qualms about being a secret agent. He wasn't concerned about its illegal nuclear program.

He didn't consider its potential harm. He ignored its destructiveness. Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, secretly ordered developmental activities.

It began after Israel's creation. Ehud Avriel was a European operative. He was a later MK. He recruited East European Jewish scientists.

Avraham Marcus Klingberg was enlisted. He later became an Israeli chemical and biological weapons (CBW) expert. He was Israel Institute of Biological Research deputy director.

Ernst David Bergmann was the father of Israel's bomb. He later headed the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC).

In his farewell address to the Israeli Armaments Development Authority (RAFAEL), Ben-Gurion defended his agenda, saying:

"I am confident, based not only on what I heard today, that our science can provide us with the weapons that are needed to deter our enemies from waging war against us."

He and Peres were the leading forces behind Israel's nuclear and CBW programs.

By the early 1970s, Israel had advanced nuclear technology. It had world class scientists. It had several dozen ready to launch bombs. It had delivery systems able to hit distant targets.

France and South Africa were Israel's main collaborators. Washington supplied a five-megawatt research reactor.

It was part of Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" program. Washington became complicit in Israel's illicit development.

Israeli scientists were trained at US universities. They had access to domestic weapons labs.

They got advanced technology transfers. They included supercomputers able to design sophisticated nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

Mordechai Vanunu became a heroic whistleblower. He did so long before term gained prominence. He exposed Israeli nuclear secrets. He revealed what everyone has a right to know.

He was unjustly punished. Israel dispenses it ruthlessly. He spent 18 years imprisoned. He was isolated brutally in solitary confinement.

He's been harassed ever since. His fundamental civil and human rights are denied. He's prevented from leaving Israel. He wants to do so to live free.

Daniel Ellsberg once called him "the preeminent hero of the nuclear era." Vanunu says he's neither traitor nor spy. "I only wanted the world to know what was happening," he said.

From 1988 - 2004, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize each year. His heroism is recognized worldwide.

Israel has destructive chemical and biological weapons arsenals. In 1993, it signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). 

It refused to ratify it. It did so for spurious reasons. It wrongfully claims it's surrounded by hostile neighbors. Israel's only enemies are ones it invents.

It never signed the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). Its policy is CBW ambiguity. It uses banned weapons in all its conflicts.

They include chemical, biological, and radiological ones. Monstrous new weapons are tested. Victims attest to their potency.

Corpses bear witness to hideous wounds, malformations and toxicity. Official policy prohibits discussing anything related to Israel's nuclear, chemical or biological programs. Doing so is considered treason.

Israel's destructive weapons threaten world peace. So do America's. Both countries partner in crime.

Daily events should scare everyone. Warmakers win peace prizes. Peacemakers are vilified. Criminality is rewarded. 

Permanent war is official US policy. Israel is a warrior state. Both countries threaten humanity. It may not survive Obama's second term.

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

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

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.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour