Tuesday, May 30, 2006

MY SPLENDIFEROUS AND SERENDIPITOUS SOUP

My Splendiferous and Serendipitous Soup - by Stephen Lendman

Despite the jaded palate of a persistent critic who dislikes my "Lendman soup" and whose name rhymes with phooey and hooey, I savor the splendor of my special soup I brew with sincerity and sanity. That's quite different from my gadfly whose comments are little more than shameless servings of senseless and sanctimonious slobbering. I understand his situation as so many others suffer from the same insufferable, sorrowful and stuporous state of insensibility. The sap has been seduced by the self-serving sickness of shallowness, subservience and surliness from having sold out to the simpletons he sucks up to and sanctifies. I've tried before to save the silly sucker, but he prefers to sink in his insipid stew and stay a schlump. Such a shame.

Why An Aging Retired Small Businessman Decided to Write

Living in the US for nearly 72 years, I've seen what ails our system, know how I want to heal it, and understand we'd better get about working for it or face a future no one will relish - or maybe no future at all. I rail about this all the time because our way is flawed, corrupted and based on plunder and exploitation for profit to benefit the privileged few and no one else. It treats people like commodities to be used and discarded like trash when no longer needed. It allows giant predatory corporations carte blanche to operate with no restraints on their divine right of capitalism, with no rules except the ones benefitting them. It needs endless war on the world for new markets, essential resources and cheap labor. It tolerates no "outliers" like Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales who have the temerity to think they can serve the interests of their own people above those of their dominant Northern neighbor that always had it the other way.

It's a flat borderless world where people everywhere lose out to the interests of power, profit and privilege. It's a world falsely extolled as the best of all possible ones, but, in fact, is just the opposite. It's a corrupted and failed world that can't be repaired. It's a cancer consuming us we must expunge before it's too late. It's a world unfit to live in unless you happen to be rich and powerful. It's a world unable to endure the abuse inflicted on it and will one day expire from it unless stopped and reversed. It's not the world I want, and I work every day for the one I do. I know how daunting a task that is because too few of us understand the problem, how it affects our own welfare, or have joined the fight to overcome it while there's still time.

It's not easy marshalling opposition to an empire when so many living under it are as easily seduced by its message as my gadfly. I too was once an adherent, was weaned to be a believer in the system and remained faithful to it much too long. It's hard feeling otherwise when the power of the message is so great, begins early on, and never ends.

It starts in the schools where everyone is fed only acceptable doctrine up to the highest levels. It was ingrained in me there, especially in college and through grad school where I was taught by experts who knew why they were there and did their job well. The idea was and is to make us all "proper" citizens and accept without question the notion of American "exceptionalism" and that we're blessed to live in the best of all possible countries. It's all a myth but one easy to sell to young minds ready to believe almost anything repeated often enough and from sources we think we can trust: our teachers in school, our favorites in the corporate media, the clergy, and all other institutions of power. The reality, however, belies their false message, and the only thing holding up their house of cards is its constant repetition backed up with invented fears of threats that don't exist and brute force at home and abroad to show we're fighting them. It's something Gandhi understood when he was once asked what he thought of Western civilization and answered "I think it would be a good idea." And he said that long before the age of George W. Bush.

It took me a while in the real world to awaken to the way things really are. Like everyone else, I was focused on work and family and early on didn't make the effort I should have. But once I started years ago I continued and then couldn't stop. For me, it was a gradual awakening, and it came by reading the works of many dozens of great social thinkers, scholars, and activists. They taught me what I now know and never learned at two of the most prestigious of all institutions of higher learning including the one where I got my MBA in 1960 before that credential got popular. That noted university ranks at the top among the "finishing schools" that train future corporate CEOs, some of them came from my class, and I knew a couple when they were just classmates. I chose not to follow in its tradition nor do I believe in its dogma that profit is "the be all and end all" and plunder is an acceptable way to achieve it. I doubt they'd welcome me back now, think of me as one of their own or cite me as one of their many success stories. I preach and practice a much different philosophy than theirs.

My view of things and the kind of world I want to live in and leave for others is one where people and their needs come first - not the message I got from Econ or Marketing 101. Despite my modest means, I think of myself as one of the privileged. But I identify myself with what Martinique born thinker, writer and activist Frantz Fanon called "The Wretched of the Earth" (the title of his best known book which I've read and own). Fanon deplored the horrors of colonial subjugation and championed the liberation of all people under its oppressive yoke. I'm no Fanon, but so do I, and I recognize and look at all people everywhere as my brothers and sisters and support them all and their right to social equity and justice.

That's why I take on the leaders of my country, their one-sided support for giant corporate interests and the rich, and the policies they adopt at home and abroad to work on their behalf and against ours. It's a tradition that goes back to our roots, born in the original sin of slavery and white supremacy, best expressed by one of the nation's Founders and First Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay when he said "Those who own the country ought to govern it." That notion is more alive now than ever and barely disguised anymore. But today is just an extension of the past in a nation weaned on war, imperial expansion, extreme racism and classism and the belief that all the (white only) rich and powerful were created equal but no one else. I guess that leaves me out and most everybody else.

How Hugo Chavez Treats His People Compared to George Bush - Pick the Leader You'd Want

Compare how things are in the US now to the way they are today under Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. The stark difference between them almost seems like they're happening on two different planets. My country is the hostile planet earth of George Bush that's indifferent to essential human needs and believes imperial oppression is good for us. Venezuela is quite different because of Hugo Chavez's alternate vision. It's a people-friendly one dedicated to helping all Venezuelans (especially the most needy) by providing an array of essential social programs and services unimaginable in the US: free universal health and dental care for all, free education to the highest levels, food security and clean water, micro credit and support for small business, land and home ownership for the people, worker cooperatives and independent community radio free from the poison spread by the corporate-owned media and much more. And along with all that, Chavez instituted a participatory democracy under which ordinary people have a real say in how the country is governed. Can anyone imagine those things happening in the US? Impossible.

There's more, lots of it but here's just a sample. Hugo Chavez aids his neighbors and doesn't threaten to invade them or any others; the country has no secret prisons; no illegal political prisoners or illegal detentions; doesn't practice torture; doesn't ethnically cleanse its population from neighborhoods wanted for redevelopment or entire cities like the US did to its black population of New Orleans to turn that city into a giant theme park for the rich and tourist trade; has never suspended constitutional law even in the face of a coup d'etat, mass street riots and a crippling US-instigated oil lockout and shutdown; and is working to clean up and change a legacy and systemic climate of corruption and inefficient state bureaucracy.

Now compare that record to how the US operates. It devotes its immense resources to plunder, slaughter and destruction and treats ordinary people like production inputs or commodities - to be used as needed and dumped when they no longer are. The Bush administration, in its infinite arrogance, claims the right to forcibly oust any government it views as a threat to its security. It doesn't matter if it is, just that we say it is. It sees Chavez as such a threat and has tried and failed three times to remove him with a fourth attempt likely well underway. I've said before Hugo Chavez is the greatest of all threats to US hegemony everywhere - the threat of a good example that left in place may grow and spread to other countries in the region and beyond.

The Bush administration won't tolerate that and is either fomenting another coup to oust Chavez, likely with intent to kill him so he won't rise again from the deposed, or will go to war if that's what it takes to get the job done. Should it happen, as I'm convinced it will, it will be no different from how the US has treated its Latin American neighbors for over 150 years. Over that time, the US invaded Mexico and stole the half of the country it wanted. That began what became a tradition as from then until now it continued to remove the governments of a dozen Latin American countries it disapproved of (none of which posed a threat except to our hegemony) by coup or armed incursion and did it four dozen different times for whatever convenient reasons it concocted to justify its action. We even gave names to our hostile actions using benign language Orwell would have approved of. My favorite was Herbert Hoover's (and later Franklin Roosevelt's) Good Neighbor Policy. It was about as good as his economic policy at home that with lots of help from the Federal Reserve caused The Great Depression that ravaged the country for a decade and took the German and Japanese aggression and world war they started (with our nudging) to pull us out of it. War is good for business, and a big one is terrific.

Look at more examples of how different things are in Venezuela. Hugo Chavez wants no part of the destructive neoliberal policies imposed by the WTO, IMF and World Bank but preferred by Washington because they only favor us. Instead he's used the nation's resources for the public good and promoted the Bolivarian notion of Latin American integration through economic aid and joint ventures that benefit those countries participating in them equally. Some difference from the Washington Consensus that's a one-way street with a dead-end for developing countries sucked into it.

Now look at the differences between the two countries in some of their current economic data. In Venezuela, an economic boom lifting all boats is the result of Chavez's policies (helped by high oil prices, of course). The economy is soaring, inflation and unemployment are down, and Chavez has continued his policy since 2000 of raising the minimum wage each year by 20 - 30%. He just raised it again in the first quarter of 2006 by another 10%. Data from Venezuela's National Statistics Institute show the result. The poverty rate stood at 80% for many years before Chavez was elected. A year before he came into office in 1997 it was an official 61%. The latest figures available as of the end of 2005 show the rate now down to under 44%, a dramatic change in a short time.

It was all different before Chavez's Bolivarian Revolution that began in 1998. The country was a sham 40 year elite-controlled "democracy" (for the rich and powerful only) with 80% of the people in desperate poverty and 75% of the arable land owned by 5% of the population; its schools and hospitals were crumbling and two-thirds of the people had no access to basic medical care and most everything else; it was mostly an oil-based economy and political system controlled by and benefitting the rich and well-off middle class only and all under the giant shadow and dominance of the US that just cared about it's access to and control of the nation's oil and as much other wealth as it could suck out of the country. It took plenty. In all of Latin American from 1990 - 2002, US banks and transnational corporations earned about $1,000,000,000,000 ($1 trillion) in profits and were the main beneficiary of nearly $180 billion of state-owned enterprises privatized and thus expropriated from the people.

Now compare the Chavez achievements to the US under George Bush. We're by far the richest country in the world with nearly enough resources to be able to pave the streets with gold if they were used responsibly. The US's 2005 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was over 90 times greater than Venezuela's with a population about 12 times greater. Here's another comparison I cited in an earlier article on VHeadline.com. The largest US corporation in 2005, Exxon-Mobil, alone had gross sales about 2.8 times greater than Venezuela's total GDP.

So with all that wealth, what do the numbers show. Over 46 million Americans have no health insurance and millions more have too little; inner city schools are so deliberately degraded that millions of kids in them finish up unable to read, write or do math; the official US Department of Education illiteracy rate is about 20% compared to Venezuela where it's virtually zero; adjusted for inflation, the average working person in the US earns less than 30 years ago and the federal minimum wage (a paltry $5.15 an hour) hasn't been raised since 1997; the growing wealth gap between rich and poor has never been greater in modern times; the average CEO in 2004 earned 431 times the income of the average working person, a ten-fold increase in the spread since 1980; the official poverty rate is 12.7% or about 37 million people in 2005 and rising, but it's widely acknowledged the number is rigged and true figure is much higher; the prison population is the largest in the world and growing by 1000 new inmates a week; higher paid manufacturing and many high-tech jobs are being exported to low wage countries and replaced by low-paying service ones with few or no benefits; the ranks of organized labor have dropped from about one third of all workers in 1958 to under 13% today; and the level of racism is as great as before the landmark civil rights legislation in the 1960s that was passed to end it.

Had enough, or can I throw in one more for good measure for those who follow the monthly reports from the US Labor Department. The official unemployment rate it reports is dead wrong according to some economists willing and honest enough to speak out about it. They claim (and I agree with them) the true current figure would be about 12% instead of the reported 4.7% if the rate today was calculated the same way it was during The Great Depression when it rose to a peak of 25% and the Roosevelt administration was alarmed enough to think its consequences might cause a Russian-style revolution. That's why we got all the great New Deal social programs from a government that cared enough or was scared enough to give them to us. Now George Bush wants to end them all including our landmark Social Security along with Medicare, Medicaid and about everything else to transfer more wealth to the rich and fund his war machine. Bush's policies are the opposite of Franklin Roosevelt's. He's the greatest wrecker of social programs since the late 19th century and age of the "robber barons" when the country had few social gains to reverse and didn't think about adding any.

And in case any VHeadline readers need reminding: under the Bush Big Oil administration, the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the US is just under $3 as a result of blatant market manipulation mostly at the refinery level to deliberately keep it high. That's perfectly acceptable to the Bush administration run by former oil men and one woman who had an oil tanker named after her. Compare that to Venezuela where gasoline costs 12 cents a gallon. Anyone detect a strange odor? It's coming from the smell of corruption from the Capitol and White House. Anyone thinking it's about time we stopped putting up with this outrage and began acting to take our government back. It's up to us to do it because no one there will give it to us.

Back to My Splendid Soup I Want to Share with All

I know why I write and hope my readers do as well. The world today is not the one I want, and I intend to work not just to change it but to help save it before it's too late. I agree with Noam Chomsky who fears that unless we change course we face the possibility of one or more three unpleasant outcomes: the real threat of passing from a republic to tyranny, a nuclear holocaust and/or environmental destruction. None of us would relish those alternatives, but we'd better realize they're real and one or more of them may happen in our lifetime or even quite soon. I intend to keep brewing my special soup and season it well with sincerity, sanity as well as lots of hope and hard work for social equity and justice for all. It's even there for the naysayers and disbelievers to sample. They ought to try some. They might discover a whole new flavor far better than the witch's brew they now prefer.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Threat of Depleted Uranium Exposure - It's Real, Deadly and Covered Up by the Pentagon and VA

The Threat of Depleted Uranium Exposure - It's Real, Deadly and Covered up by the Pentagon and VA - by Stephen Lendman

The Pentagon must surely believe the old but very foolish saying that what you don't know won't hurt you. To prove it they nearly always go to great lengths to conceal what they do know so we won't find out. That's especially true when what they know is bad news or hazardous to our health or that of our troops. That's certainly the case regarding the real and deadly threat from exposure to the toxic effects of depleted uranium (DU) poisoning. The public has precious little information about this crucial issue because it's been willfully and deliberately suppressed to conceal just how potentially great and irreversible a threat it is.

Is it any wonder then that most of those people who've heard about DU have been seduced by the Pentagon cover-up and stream of lies and are taken in enough by them to believe what little information they hear and read in the mainstream. I know those individuals never heard of one of the two greatest and most highly esteemed US print journalists of the last century. His name was I.F. Stone, and I've read nearly all his important books. Stone once told a class of aspiring journalists always to remember "All governments are run by liars and nothing they say should be believed." Another time he simply said "All governments lie." If I were asked to address a group of students, I'd be even more emphatic than Stone and say governments only lie and never tell the public the truth, especially about the most important issues affecting us all. I'd also quote Stone and recommend the students paste his maxim to their bathroom mirrors so they never forget it.

Government propaganda, lies and deception are more extreme and sophisticated now than in Stone's day. Those unaware of it remind me of a poker player looking around the table to assess the competition. He doesn't realize when he can't find who the mark is it's him. But in a real life game of high stakes poker when it's you against the "power structure" and their corporate media allies, unless you know how the game is played, you surely are their mark and they'll eat you alive.

I know of nothing more dangerous to a free society than a deficit of real information on the most vital issues affecting everyone. It's impossible getting it from government sources or the dominant corporate media in league with them because supplying us with it would subvert their interests. It's true on all important issues without exception. So, if the public knew the full truth about the potentially nightmarish effects of exposure to DU munitions that will only likely get worse unless exposed and stopped, it would be impossible for the Pentagon to continue using them. Only their cover-up has allowed them to be able to recklessly and criminally use them in four wars since 1991 including the two of them ongoing now. And they couldn't possibly ever consider raising the stakes further, as they now have claimed the exclusive right to do, to fight future wars with industrial strength nuclear weapons that could lead to a nuclear holocaust.

What we already know about the deadly effects of DU munitions use alone is clear and growing, unreported in the dominant media, and thus largely concealed from the public. Those unaware of it, taken in by Pentagon propaganda, or choosing to ignore the few facts about it they do know should welcome and praise the impressive work done on this issue by Irving Wesley Hall. He's a man I personally know and have had contact with. I've also collaborated with him as he was preparing his extremely important series of articles on this growing menace that may eventually affect everyone. Irving has made an important contribution, and I respect and admire him greatly for it. His articles should be widely read and those doing it should encourage others to read them as well for their own safety and welfare. Having written on this subject myself, I know from my own research how valuable Irving's work is to expanding the knowledge base about DU and its harmful effects.

What Depleted Uranium Is and How It's Being Used

Depleted uranium is a derivative of the uranium enrichment process required to produce fuel for commercial reactors. This process is then followed by gaseous diffusion in two streams - one is enriched and the other depleted. Before a use was found for it, DU was just stored in vast amounts as a byproduct. All that changed when it was discovered that solid "dense metal" DU projectiles (in all forms) greatly increased their ability to penetrate and destroy a target. That was irresistible to the Pentagon that wanted to use them in bullets, bombs, shells and missiles and now has done so freely in four wars since they were first used in the Gulf war in 1991 (except for one test in the 1973 Yom Kippur war).

There's a problem with these weapons, however - a serious downside never discussed and which great pains are taken to conceal. These weapons in all their forms leave in their wake an irremediable irradiated and chemically toxic landscape far more deadly than the death and destruction to the targets struck. How deadly and toxic the fallout is varies only with the amount of these weapons used. Hundreds of tons of them were used beginning for the first time in the Gulf war in 1991. A likely similar amount was used again in Yugoslavia in 1999 and up to 1,000 or more tons so far in Afghanistan since 2001. Any use of these weapons is reckless and was effectively banned by common consent (and common sense) and never used until 1991 in Iraq (except for that one test). However, their usage ballooned in successive wars to over 3,000 tons so far since the US introduced them on a large and sustained scale again in Iraq in March, 2003.

Put in perspective, since first used in 1991, the US military has willfully and criminally spread deadly toxic radiation across a vast area of three countries as well as everywhere else affected by the fallout. It's caused permanent irremediable contamination with a half-life of 4.5 billion years or forever by my reckoning.

One more important fact is these numbers increase daily as since last December US forces have been conducting four to six daily bombings of target sites in Iraq alone that we know about using DU munitions and an unknown likely less frequent number in Afghanistan. We also have a new terror weapon we claim the right to use routinely called "bunker-buster mini nukes" that aren't mini but sure are nukes. These are industrial strength nuclear bombs that can be produced to any desired potency but are likely to be used in strengths of between one-third to two-thirds the destructive force of a Hiroshima bomb. Pentagon propaganda falsely says these are little more than king-sized hand grenades that are perfectly safe when used as designed. They're supposed to penetrate a target site deeply before exploding on the false theory that their radiation will be contained underground and thus are environmentally safe. Testing of these bombs are planned in the Nevada desert and may be now underway, but at least one already carried out and observed proves otherwise. What was seen on explosion is hardly reassuring that the toxic fallout will be contained when used in combat. Clearly visible was a huge black mushroom-shaped cloud (sound familiar) that rose thousands of feet in the air and was shown to be deadly and toxic when ground radiation measurements were taken following at least this one test. There may have been others as well we haven't heard about.

The Pentagon always deliberately spreads false and misleading information on its controversial activities, but especially something as outrageous as the lingering, spreading and deadly effects from DU contamination which never end. Those exposed to it and their loved ones with whom they have intimate contact and their offspring are henceforth vulnerable to a vast menu of virtually any illness, disease or disability imaginable often leading to early death or at the least a lifetime of pain, suffering and great expense. It's no exaggeration to say that DU is the deadly and unwelcome gift that keeps on giving, disabling and killing.

DU weapons aren't just toxic and deadly, they're illegal according to the standards and binding international law under the Hague Convention of 1907 and 1925 Geneva Protocol and other succeeding Geneva Weapons Conventions that specifically outlaw the use of any chemical and biological agents in any form for any reason in war as well as any poison or poisoned weapons. DU weapons in all their forms are radioactive and chemically toxic and clearly fit the definition of poisonous weapons banned under these binding international laws to which we are signatories. As such, the US, having used them in four wars, has violated our sacred treaty obligations which are the supreme law of the land and is guilty of repeated war crimes. That minor detail doesn't bother the Bush administration that considers the Geneva Conventions and all other international laws inconvenient to its plans just "quaint" and "obsolete."

The Public Is Largely Unaware of the DU Threat Or Prefers to Believe Pentagon Propaganda Instead of Known Scientific Fact

Most people get their so-called news and information from the dominant corporate media mostly on TV which, as everyone by now should know, never gives them what they tune in for. Instead they get state approved propaganda, lies and deception cleverly disguised as the real thing. It's almost always true that what they don't report is lots more important than what they do. Of course, the reason this goes on is that if the public knew and understood what our government was up to, they'd never stand for it. So it's all kept under wraps, and most people are never the wiser. It's very easy to be influenced by the slick state and corporate-friendly messages because they're transmitted effectively ad nauseam round the clock on air and in print. The repetition has a powerful effect. It clouds the mind, blocks out the truth and distracts enough to prevent those mesmerized by it from seeking it. Why would you not want to believe the friendly news anchors you've grown to know and love over the years. Would they ever lie to you? Darned right they would if they want to keep their high-paying jobs.

I comment on this often for one reason. It's the most important of all issues I know. Unless people know and understand the truth about what's happening around them on the vital issues affecting their lives, they're defenseless against the onslaught of fraud and deceit delivered through the dominant media. It allows government to get away with the most egregious acts as agents for giant corporations and the "money changers" who buy and pay for their services. This alliance is hostile to the public interest as it allows these corporations and financial institutions (including the US Federal Reserve which is a private for-profit entity and not a government run one as commonly believed) free reign to pursue their predatory quest for greater profits and world dominance and do it at our expense.

The Disturbing Truths about DU the Pentagon and VA Are Taking Great Pains to Conceal

Those truths are emerging slowly and convincingly, but emerging they are. It's quite true we don't have all the answers yet, and there's still much more to be learned before we know for certain just how harmful DU is in all respects and how widespread its contamination has spread. However, all the new evidence coming out points in one direction and leads to an increasingly clear conclusion. It's the same one I first heard told me by an eminent man in a required college natural science course I took in 1953. The man was George Wald, distinguished professor of biology and later a nobel laureate in 1967. Dr. Wald had many admirable qualities I admired greatly, but I still remember verbatim the dramatic statement he made one day in class. He told his young students that "there is no such thing as a safe amount of radiation." He understood what Albert Einstein did even earlier, and both these men spoke out forcefully against the genie out of the bottle that emerged once the atom was first split in 1938 in a Berlin laboratory. From that time to now, it's been known beyond dispute how dangerous and deadly radiation is in all its forms and in any amount to all those coming in contact with it even for short periods of time. However, for those exposed to it daily like our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan where it's contaminated a vast area, it's a possible death sentence or at the least a lifetime of likely misery from the poisoning that increases each day.

Some Documented Facts On the Effects of DU Poisoning

The greatest damage from DU comes from the radiation residue after its use. When a DU weapon strikes a target, it penetrates deeply and aerosolizes into a fine spray which then contaminates the air, soil and water around the target area. The residue is permanent, and its microscopic and submicroscopic particles are then swept into the air from the tainted soil and are carried by winds to distant areas as a radioactive component of atmospheric dust. That dust falls indiscriminately everywhere over the area it reaches. It causes radiation contamination that affects every living thing and cannot be remediated. As mentioned above, the poisoning from the contamination causes every imaginable illness and disease from severe headaches, muscle pain and general fatigue, to major birth defects, infection, depression, cardiovascular disease, many types of cancer and brain tumors. It also causes permanent disability and death. Months ago I personally alerted my own medical providers to be on the lookout for any unexplainable symptoms in their patients, especially if they had served in the military in the Middle East, Afghanistan or Yugoslavia.

I reported all this in a major, detailed article I wrote on this subject a few months ago and available on my blog site - sjlendman.blogspot.com. In it I went on to explain that all military and civilian personnel at or near target areas were and are most adversely affected by DU contamination, especially if they remained in those areas for an extended time. During the six week Gulf war about 150 of our forces were killed and 467 were reported injured. However, the real effects of that war weren't apparent until years later. We're beginning to get lots of information on it now but not without great difficulty to make it as complete and accurate as possible.

Because of that problem, there's great variance in the numbers I've seen. But somewhere between about 30 - 75% of the 696,841 military personnel who served in the Gulf from August 2, 1990 to end of July, 1991 have filed claims for or have been reported by the Veteran's Administration (VA) to be on some form of disability in 2004. It's likely the true number is closer to the lower percentage, but I've chosen to report the range in case later on we learn things were far worse than we now can imagine. We do know an additional 11,910 vets have died as of early this year. There's a problem compiling accurate data because the VA has been complicit with the Pentagon in the cover-up about DU and has said very little about the true number disabled or how many of the disability total were the result of DU poisoning. They could easily find out by administering blood tests and doing other proper examinations. Instead they've done as little as possible just as for years in the 1990s they denied the existence of "Gulf war" syndrome (most likely from DU poisoning) and told suffering vets it was all in their heads. They certainly were there if any of those heads were afflicted with brain tumors or their early stages.

We can only speculate about how many of our military personnel post 2001 are now the victims of DU poisoning, but it's likely the number is large and growing with more coming down with disturbing symptoms daily. We know many returning vets are already seeking treatment for health problems, and that medical professionals in hospitals and other facilities providing it have been threatened with $10,000 fines and even jail if they speak out about what those problems are. Think how outrageous this is - that a nation that sent hundreds of thousands of its young men and women to fight in two illegal wars of aggression, then turns its back on them when they return home with serious illnesses they may never recover from or that may kill them. And making matters even worse, the Pentagon and VA are complicit in a cover-up and denial a problem even exists. They might as well be saying "let 'em suffer and die." So think of it. This is the "model democracy" we hold up to the world to emulate. In fact, it's a deadly and sinister model all nations should reject and condemn.

Documented Evidence On Recent DU Fallout

In February, 2006, after I wrote my article on DU, Irving Wesley Hall wrote his carefully researched and extremely important series on DU and its harmful effects. His findings were widely posted, and all of it is available on his web site - notinkansas.us. Irving's work is so important, readers should visit his site, review his series carefully and likely learn for the first time how serious and deadly a threat DU contamination is to everyone coming in contact with it.

Here's a sample of the information included in the series which needs as much resonance as possible. I've added some of my own comments to it. Irving has made an important contribution, and I'm proud to be associated with him and his work. He wrote that Dr. Chris Busby, scientific secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, reported on official UK radiation levels in the wake of the "shock and awe" assault against Iraq in 2003. Dr. Busby documented that uranium particles traveled 2,400 miles in nine days from Iraq to Aldermaston, England. The invisible cloud quadrupled Europe's atmospheric radiation clearly showing that despite Pentagon denials, DU contamination spreads far beyond the target sites struck. Once again the Pentagon's mendacity and indifference to its forces and the rest of us is revealed in plain sight for all to see if they'll bother to look.

The widespread contamination is even more dangerous and deadly than formerly believed. But apparently one emailer in particular, with little knowledge to support what he wrote, attacked Irving's findings and shamed and embarrassed himself in the process. I read his response and know the facts. They clearly contradict virtually everything he said and his conclusions overwhelmingly. The emailer not only put his ignorance on public display, but he also arrogantly and insolently attacked the honesty, honor and integrity of a man of the highest stature.

His shameless act reminded me of a "show-stopping" moment I saw on US TV in June, 1954. It was during the so-called Army - McCarthy hearings when chief Army counsel Joseph Welch gave his famous retort to the soon to be disgraced US senator, who became infamous from his witch-hunting, self-serving search for communists in government without ever finding any. Welch and his reply are still remembered to this day, and I clearly recall him making it. In defense of his client under McCarthy's malicious attack he asked the senator on national TV: "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you no sense of decency." Not long after that memorable moment the McCarthy hearings ended inconclusively, the senator's reputation was shattered, he was censured by the Senate, and he died a disgraced man a few years later. We can only hope for a similar denouement for the band of rogues in charge of US policy today who are making so many people around the world the worst for it.

I won't try to match Joe Welch, but I'll just ask the emailer: aren't you ashamed enough to flaunt your ignorance to a world audience without compounding it by shamelessly attacking a distinguished man of the highest integrity and honor. Like "Tail-Gunner" Joe (a moniker referring to one more dark side of the tainted senator), have you no sense of dignity, or just plain no sense at all?

Additional Expert Scientific Commentary Reported by Irving Wesley Hall

Here's more from Irving's articles on the DU threat. He learned about the work of Leonard Dietz who's a retired physicist from the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in New York state. Dietz pioneered the technology to measure uranium isotopes, and Irving quoted what he said: "Anyone, civilian or soldier, who breathes these particles has a permanent dose, and it's not going to decrease very much over time....In the long run....veterans exposed to ceramic uranium oxide have a major problem."

Irving reported an even more dire assessment that came from another study of the materials currently in the DU munitions used in Iraq and Afghanistan. The study found that in addition to U-238, today's DU weapons contain plutonium (the most toxic of all known substances), neptunium, and the highly radioactive uranium isotope U-236. According to a 1991 study by the UK Atomic Energy Authority, these elements are 100,000 times more dangerous than the U-238 in DU. It only takes the most minute, nearly unmeasurable amount of this substance in one's body to be fatal.

One other expert must be mentioned as well. His name is Dr. Doug Rokke who was the director of the Pentagon's Depleted Uranium Project. He was assigned by the US Army to be their chief biological, chemical and nuclear weapons safety officer and expert in the Gulf war. Irving interviewed Doug, and I, too, spoke to and corresponded with him. Doug's extensive work as director of the project led him to conclude that "Uranium munitions must be banned from the planet, for eternity, and medical care must be provided for everyone - those on the firing end and those on the receiving end." Rokke understands the problem well from his extensive study of it and his own personal and tragic experience. He and his staff of 100 were all devastated by exposure to DU contaminated dust. Thirty of them have since died, and Rokke now suffers from serious health problems including brain lesions, lung and kidney damage, reactive airway disease, permanent skin rashes, neurological damage and cataracts. It's quite clear Dr. Rokke didn't contract this nightmarish stew of mostly very serious health problems from an unhealthy life style, bad diet or lack of exercise.

A Grim Assessment the Evidence Points To

So what can we make from all this. From the Gulf war in 1991, at a minimum many tens of thousands of the US military forces sent there for a short period of time have had health problems or are now on some form of disability. But the worst is yet to come. In the Afghanistan war beginning in late 2001 and the Iraq war from March, 2003, about 1.3 million US military forces have served in combat and occupation in these countries. They were all assigned long tours of duty and most of them have served two or three deployments to what are beyond question the most dangerous and toxic environments on earth. Somewhere between 30 - 75% of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm are now on some kind of disability or have died. If those percentages are applied to the 1.3 million of our military now serving or having served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, between 390,000 - to 975,000 vets may end up on disability or die from exposure to the far more toxic DU munitions used in these wars, the many other poisonous pollutants they've been exposed to, and the much longer and multiple tours of duty they've had to undergo.

In simple terms, it's likely we can expect an eventual catastrophic human disaster of epic proportions and one being covered up because of its enormity. And it's in addition to the far greater one we've inflicted on 26 million innocent Iraqis discussed below. Should the truth about all this come out fully, what sane young men and women would ever volunteer for military service knowing they were either signing their death warrants or at the least likely assuring themselves a lifetime of devastating and/or debilitating health problems. And add to that the mass outrage by the US public and the people of other nations that joined with the US in sending contingents of their military to be part of an illegal occupying force.

The effect of all this has finally reached the US Congress, but it's unlikely anything meaningful will emerge there to reveal how dangerous and deadly exposure to DU contamination really is. Still on May 11, the House passed legislation that includes an amendment by Rep. Jim McDermott (himself an MD and once a practicing psychiatrist) ordering a comprehensive study of possible health effects from DU exposure on US military forces and their children. It's almost certain this amendment will never get through the Senate or certainly won't ever be signed into law by George Bush. Still kudos and an A for effort to Rep. McDermott even though it's almost certain it will all be for naught.

The Devastating Toll on Iraqis Since 1991

As bad as it's been and still is for our troops and their families, try to imagine the nightmare 26 million innocent Iraqis have been living through since January, 1991. The Gulf war began the malicious destruction of a once modern state. It caused 100,000 or more Iraqi deaths in just weeks and destroyed essential infrastructure like electricity and clean water facilities vital to the health, welfare and the safety of the people. It also began the spread of deadly toxic radiation across the country from the first use of DU munitions in combat as well as a harmful stew of other pollutants responsible for rampant illness and disease. This living hell is what US illegal aggression based on lies and deceit brought to this most highly developed and well-functioning of all states in the Middle East now unable to cope against a brutal occupier determined to destroy and control it for its own imperial purpose and gain.

The sacking and plunder of Iraq began in January, 1991. But although the war formally ended after six weeks of one-sided fighting, the bombing and brutality against the people never did. Air attacks continued sporadically throughout the 1990s (ordered by Bill "I feel your pain" Clinton) destroying more infrastructure, causing more deaths and adding to the spread of deadly pollutants including the toxic radiation from the DU weapons used. What also followed the formal end to hostilities was a dozen years of brutal economic sanctions that ravaged a population helpless to cope with their horrific effects. The result was a humanitarian disaster of epic proportions that never ended. Besides the physical and human toll, the economy was destroyed as is evident from the following data. The per capita annual income of Iraqis declined from a 1979 level of $2,313 to $255 in 2003 and $144 in 2004. Further, the college of economics at Baghdad University estimated that unemployment rose to a level of 70%. Even the so-called "oil for food" program did little to relieve the crisis prior to the 2003 invasion. In fact, it was never intended to as the US planned all along to inflict the greatest possible hardship on the people hoping their misery would encourage them to rise up and topple Saddam. It turned out it had the opposite effect despite the severity of the toll. Instead of blaming Saddam, Iraqis relied on him for whatever relief they could get. It wasn't much or nearly enough because the US allowed him little to give.

The combination of war and economic sanctions caused widespread illness and disease that was devastating and still is. Even by conservative estimates, it likely caused the death of at least one million Iraqis including 500,000 children. Some estimates put the number as high as 1.5 million and some others far higher still. When Denis Halliday resigned in 1998 as UN head of Iraqi humanitarian relief he said he did so because he believed he'd been instructed to implement a policy of genocide and refused to do it. He added that 5,000 Iraqi children were dying needlessly every month. Hans Von Sponek, who took on the UN relief job after Halliday, also resigned in frustration and disgust in 2000 voicing similar sentiments when he left.

But bad as conditions were then, they got far worse following the US illegal aggression beginning in March, 2003. The daily toll of death and destruction since then is unknown precisely, but even conservative estimates are appalling and shocking. The British Lancet earlier reported by their "conservative assumptions" an Iraqi toll of about 100,000 "excess deaths" post March, 2003. They recently updated their initial estimate (three years later) to a now likely 300,000 and rising daily as we all should know. Other estimates place the number far higher, up to 500,000 in one estimate I saw a few months ago. Whatever the true number is, the US inflicted disaster on Iraq and its people for over the past 15 years is truly of epic proportions. It clearly warrants the label genocide and makes all those in the US at the highest levels of three administrations responsible for it guilty of egregious war crimes and crimes against humanity.

What May Lie Ahead

Iraq and Afghanistan are in ruins, and the US is hopelessly embroiled in two wars it has no possibility of winning. Both of them will go on without end as long as we remain occupiers in countries where we're not wanted and will never be tolerated. Further, both countries have a long history of expelling invaders regardless of how long it took them to do it. It will be no different this time, but it's shocking to imagine the human toll that will result on all sides before they finally do end, the final tally is estimated years later, and the many years it will then take to rebuild these shattered countries.

So with two out-of-control wars ongoing, it would seem unthinkable the US would now be planning one or two more. How can that be possible, and what sane planners would ever contemplate such an irrational course? We don't have the troop strength, and our military budget (on and off the books) is off the charts and running up huge deficits even the new Fed chairman is alarmed about. Logic and fiscal sanity should indicate it would be folly to compound the current mess with a still greater mess. But that's exactly what appears to be in the works, and the preliminary and softening up stage of a planned attack against Iran is already underway just as it was leading up to the March, 2003 "shock and awe" assault against Iraq.

For many months, Iran has known the US has been flying unmanned aerial surveillance drones to help select target sites. There have been some scattered but unconfirmed reports that one or more of these intruders have been shot down. It's also a not so hidden secret we've sent special forces or combat personnel into Iran under cover along with reconnaissance teams to collect similar information on the ground as well as link up with anti-government elements we hope will help our efforts. The Iranians know all this, and you can bet they're trying to snare a few of them, but if they have neither side is letting on. I wouldn't want to be one of the illegal infiltrators and get caught in the act. I don't think the Iranians will be very hospitable or understanding nor should they be. So what's likely to happen next and when.

I have no timetable, but it's been responsibly reported, and I believe the reports, that George Bush has signed off on a "shock and awe" attack against Iran and is intending to do it using industrial strength nuclear weapons. They're deceptively called "bunker-buster mini-nukes" which I explained above are nukes but not mini ones - they're likely to be from one-third to two-thirds as powerful as a Hiroshima bomb. But they can be produced to any potency and some likely will be and used. I also explained that the Pentagon has lied (do they ever do anything else) that the radiation emitted from these earth-penetrating munitions will be contained below ground and thus are safe to use. Not so, and the Pentagon knows it.

Our apparent intentions toward Iran are also based on more lies and deception as we accuse that country of violating international law by having a secret nuclear weapons program. There's no evidence whatever Iran has one, but they'd be irresponsible not to be taking every measure possible to defend itself against a hostile US intending to bring down its government by any means including nuclear war. Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and so far as known is in full compliance with it. As such it has every legal right to enrich uranium for its commercial nuclear industry as does every other country following NPT rules.

US hostility to Iran has nothing to do with its enrichment policy or even its form of government. It's the result of Iran's intent to remain independent of US dominance and go its own way. It's been that way since the uprising that overthrew the repressive and US installed and supported Shah in 1979 after which Iran no longer was willing to continue relinquishing its sovereignty and remain subservient to US interests. The result has been continued hostility between the two countries that may now be culminating with a US planned attempt to oust the country's leadership forcibly since we've given up trying to achieve that goal by other means short of war. The strategy won't be any more successful in Iran than it's been in Iraq. What US planners may succeed in doing is engulfing the whole Middle East in flames without a realistic notion of what the outcome of that may be. It certainly won't be a good one, but that never before deterred an administration that's often wrong but never in doubt.

The US way of doing things is to engage other nations like a schoolyard bully. It's especially true in our dealings with the developing world where we generally treat the countries in it on the basis of an "our way or the highway" policy. We can't unleash our full force bullying against most developed ones in the Global North, but we do that freely and often, directly or through proxies, against all others that forget "who's boss." When that happens, that "highway" is usually strewn with unwarranted economic sanctions, coup attempts, political assassinations, or death and destruction from war. The US follows this hostile course to bring "outlier" nations in line with our policies, but also to deter others from deviating from them as well. It's a bloodstained legacy that puts to rest the myth that the US is a peace loving, benevolent democracy only wanting to spread those principles to other nations that don't practice them. But let me state clearly something I haven't said elsewhere before but should have. By the US I don't mean the people. I mean the leadership of both major political parties and their corporate and elitist allies all of whom work against the public interest everywhere and only for their own.

The US and Iranian public interest won't be served by what our present leadership apparently has in mind for that country - regime change the hard way. It looks like the plan is to make it extra hard by upping the ante to send a clear and decisive message to the Iranians and all other nations going their own way that we will nuke you into submission unless you come around willingly. So far we've only used nuclear weapons below the radar with DU munitions that alone have caused unspeakable harm. But should the US go further and attack Iran with industrial strength nuclear bombs, we will have crossed an inviolable threshold, moved the nation one step closer to tyranny and brought the world a lot closer to a possible eventual nuclear holocaust. In my judgment, that's what's now at stake unless a way is found to stop this aggressive juggernaut before it goes further and it's too late to act.

Iran is First in the US Target Queue Followed by Venezuela

Unimaginable as it may seem, high-level leadership and planners in Washington may have in mind not just a third conflict but a fourth one as well. I've written about this several times, and recently wrote a feature article titled "The US Now Planning A Fourth Attempt to Oust Hugo Chavez." Based on my knowledge and ear to the ground observing and listening to the steady and intensifying drumbeat of anti-Chavez rhetoric coming from top US officials through the corporate media (all of it the usual litany of lies and deception only), I have no doubt whatever a fourth attempt to oust President Chavez and his government is planned and likely now being implemented under the radar. Precisely how and what will be unleashed won't be known until the fireworks begin. But make no mistake about it, they will begin, and this time they may include attempted assassinations and open conflict with DU munitions or even full-scale nuclear bombs if that's part of the plan. If that happens, the nuclear nightmare will have arrived in the Americas and come ever closer to the US Southern border.

By whatever means the US has in mind in its latest attempt to unseat Hugo Chavez, its intentions toward him and his government are clear, unmistakable and written in stone. The US will settle for nothing less than full control of his country's vast hydrocarbon reserves and a government willing to hand them over to us. Those reserves are far more vast than once thought as the best estimates of the country's oil reserves (including the extra-heavy kind more expensive to refine) are thought to be about 350 billion barrels or even higher. That compares to Saudi Arabia's estimated reserves of about 262 billion barrels of (at least mostly) the preferred and more easily refined "light sweet" crude. It takes no mental exertion to see the two countries at the head of the US target queue have vast amounts of the essential commodity the US wants most and is willing to go to war if necessary to secure control over everywhere it feels it's worth the cost and effort. There's no doubt the US feels that way about Iran and Venezuela just as it did about Iraq.

The US decided Saddam had to go not because of his oppressive rule or his "now you see 'em, now you don't" WMDs. It was because of his unwillingness to surrender his nation's sovereignty to the US. Same old story, and it's the same again in Iran and most of all in Venezuela that has to be the greatest prize of the three. It's especially tricky for the US there as that nation happens to have a democratic leader loved by the great majority of his people. It's because Hugo Chavez is fiercely and proudly independent, as he has every right to be, and puts the needs of his people ahead of the US and its Big Oil interests. Chavez was twice democratically elected and then prevailed in an August, 2004 recall referendum (the third coup attempt by ballot box means) that was a contrived act of desperation cooked up by his right wing opposition in league with US corporate interests. It was a flop as Chavez's supporters flocked to the polls giving him a decisive victory. He deserved and earned it and his other electoral victories as he proved he's the rarest of political leaders who actually delivers on his promises to the people. Try finding a US politician who's done that, especially one with any power to follow through. You'll need a high-powered version of that lamp Diogenes once used used looking for an honest man.

It's Hugo Chavez's intention to serve the interests and needs of his own people and not those of his dominant Northern neighbor that has him once again high on its target list for elimination. Hugo Chavez will remain there until the US finds a way to remove him which it certainly will keep trying to do. Chavez is well aware of it and so are the Venezuelan people who love and support him and are likely to fight to keep him in office. They know what their lives were like before he became their president and what a vast difference he made once he came into office. He promised to serve the people and proved it by instituting a vast array of social programs the majority of the US public might only dream about if they knew what's available now to the Venezuelan people.

They include free, comprehensive and high-quality health and dental care for all as well as free education through the university level to all those who wish it and can qualify. Compare that to what's available in the US - a health care system available only to those who can afford its high and fast-rising cost and a deliberately degraded inner-city public education system as well as a costly one at the university level unavailable to lower income families that can't afford it for their children. Now try to imagine what the US has in mind for Venezuelans. It won't tolerate a developing nation's leader who'll institute such essential social services for the people and will try to end them even if it takes nuclear war to do it. Try to think of appropriate language to describe the leader of a nation who would unleash such an attack and do it for power and profit. Do the words tyrant and war criminal come to mind?

Get Ready for the Long Knives, the Marines Again in Action to Go Along with A Little Or Maybe A Lot of "Shock and Awe."

The plans for two "outlier" countries are set, the wheels are in motion, and we now must wait and see what will unfold in the next chapter of the ongoing drama of an aggressor and imperial US against the world with Iran and Venezuela numbers one and two in the US target queue.

Several times before I spelled out in some detail what I feels lies ahead unless a way is found to stop it. I fear two more conflicts are ahead for starters to add to the ones now ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Still others will follow against other countries to be named later and by whatever timetable and means we have in mind. The result may be that the US is near to crossing an inviolable Rubicon in two deadly and dangerous ways - first by unleashing the nuclear genie in an industrial strength way, and second by suspending the Constitution and declaring martial law at home in the wake of a likely inevitable second major terror attack that may be as much an inside job as was the first one on September 11.

Unless the US public awakens to these very real threats, we face the same fate as did the Germans who lost their model democratic state after the ascension of Adolph Hitler. Good German people let him steal it from them while they weren't paying attention or bought into his false rhetoric that he was serving their interests and protecting them from an outside threat - that never existed. We also have no outside threat from any other nation, but we've been effectively scared to death and conned by the false rhetoric that's made us feel we do. The result is we're getting too close for comfort to the point of no return. There's still time to act if we're bold enough to do it. Think of the choice I think we face. Act together in our collective self-interest or do nothing and see us pass from a once proud but now tattered republic
to tyranny. It can happen here as it has elsewhere unless we act to prevent it.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

NEW ESTIMATE OF VENEZUELA'S TOTAL OIL RESERVES MAKES IT THE GRANDEST OF GRAND PRIZES FOR US

New Estimate of Venezuela's Total Oil Reserves Makes
It the Grandest of Grand Prizes for US - by Stephen
Lendman

I just finished reading an important new book the
author's publisher sent me, which I'll shortly be
reviewing for publication. The book is investigative
journalist (and in his words "forensic economist")
Greg Palast's latest foray into exposing the hidden
from view crimes and wrongdoings of the Bush
administration. I'm very familiar with Palast's
important work and can only wish many others of his
profession did the same sort of it he does - his job.
Sadly most don't, but luckily we have some who do, and
we should pay close heed to what they tell us.
They're our window to the dangerous world around us,
and the information they provide is our protection
from it.

Palast's book is almost encyclopedic in detail, but I
only want to focus here on one part of it that relates
to Venezuela. In it Palast provides information
showing the country may be of far greater strategic
importance to the US than we likely realized. It all
relates to a somewhat arcane theory called Hubbert's
peak that many readers may not know about or
understand well if they do. Before reading Greg's
book, I knew about it but didn't understand it as well
as I do now.

M. King Hubbert was a well-respected geologist of his
time who on March 7, 1956 published a research paper
explaining his notion of "peak oil," the amount of
total reserves likely to be available, when production
would peak, and when we would likely exhaust a finite
supply. Ever since his report came out, it's been
held up as gospel by many who follow the oil market.
The essence of the Hubbert theory, whether we accept
it or not, was that "peak oil" would be reached around
this year. However, in fact, production rose every
year since Hubbert's prediction and new discoveries of
oil have so far kept pace.

A New Interpretation of "Hubbert's Peak"

M. King Hubbert may have been a fine geologist
deserving of the his reputation. But today we know
much more than Hubbert did in his time, and it's
currently believed by some savvy analysts that we're
nowhere near peaking or running out of oil. Palast
sides with that view and concludes that we have enough
oil left untapped to last many decades into the
future. Why? Because there's oil and then there's oil
- there's the easy to find and refine kind called
"light sweet" like what's abundant in the Middle East,
and there's also the harder to find, more expensive to
refine so-called "heavy crude" and oil available from
tar sands. When the latter two categories are added
in, the amount of total oil available skyrockets to
off-the-chart numbers.

Palast makes a key point related to the price of
crude. At $10 a barrel the supply is low because only
the easy to extract and refine kind are economically
feasible. But at $70 a barrel it's a whole new oil
market. The heavy stuff and tar sands then become
economical to extract and refine, and a new far higher
finite supply is realized almost magically. In short,
it's just a question of supply and demand and how the
price of a commodity depends on how much of it
consumers want. Too little demand and the price is
low, but when it's high like now and rising, then so
does the price.

How This Relates to Venezuela

From what we know for sure plus what we think we may
know about Venezuelan "total" oil reserves, I suggest
the reader first take a seat and buckle up. In
previous articles, I reported Venezuela may have
reserves of about 350 billion barrels if all their
known heavy and light crude are counted. That total
is far more than is now officially recognized by OPEC
which means unofficially the country has greater
reserves than Saudi Arabia by that number alone.

But wait, there's more, a lot more. Palast reports a
US Energy Department expert believes Venezuela holds
90% of the world's super-heavy tar oil reserves - an
estimated total of 1,360,000,000,000 (1.36 trillion)
barrels. Let me repeat that - 1.36 trillion barrels.
That alone is more oil than Hubbert believed 50 years
ago lay under the entire planet.

Again, back to the key issue. Whatever the true
highest estimate of reserves is from all varieties of
oil, those reserves are only available at a price. If
it ever gets too low again, which looks unlikely,
those heavy reserves and tar sands oil will again go
off the charts and be uncounted. However, with
today's heavy demand and the likelihood of it
continuing to grow in the future, the price of oil may
continue to rise and all reserves from all sources may
be needed and used to supply the market.

So with a report like this coming from an apparent
credible source (according to Palast) in the US Energy
Department, it takes little imagination for VHeadline
readers to understand more than ever that Venezuela is
likely viewed by any US administration as the world's
most important source of future oil supply. And to
readers who understand US imperial intentions, it
takes even less insight to realize the Bush
administration intends to go all out to get its hands
on it even if it takes a war to do it. The US goal
isn't access to the oil. It's control of the supply
and its price, what countries get it and how much and
which ones don't, what companies profit from it, and
overall how this ocean of oil can be used as a
strategic resource and weapon. Beyond question, the
stakes are enormous, and the battle lines are now
drawn more clearly than ever.

I've reported before on VHeadline that the US is now
planning a fourth attempt to oust Hugo Chavez by
whatever means it has in mind. I think the wheels of
its plan are now in motion, but we won't know what
will unfold until the fireworks begin. With the
information now available and published here, I feel
more certain than ever that US instigated serious
trouble is heading toward Venezuela and maybe harsher
than we might expect. Venezuela's likely total oil
reserves are potentially so great that the country has
to be the grandest of grand prizes for the US. It's a
virtual certainty the US will do anything it takes to
try to seize and control it. For those of us who
respect the sovereign rights of all nations and the
obligation their leaders have above all else to serve
the needs of their people, we can only hope Hugo
Chavez is prepared for what he knows is coming and
will again succeed in deterring it.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog
site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Friday, May 26, 2006

MAY 22 UPDATE ON THE US GULAG PRISON SYSTEM

May 22 Update on the US Gulag Prison System - by Stephen Lendman

Earlier this year I wrote and had posted on VHeadline.com (and many other sites) an article titled The US Gulag Prison System - The Shame of the Nation and Crime Against Humanity. Let me briefly update two statistics in it just reported today in the Wall Street Journal.

I reported earlier the brutal US prison system mostly encages nonviolent offenders many or even most of whom should never be there in the first place. They are there because laws were invented to be sure they were put there. Two-thirds of those affected are poor people of color, mostly black, in a nation priding itself on being a democracy. In fact, it's quite the opposite as I've written about in many articles. It's a nation weaned on violence and racism and always directed against those least able to defend themselves or be able to stand up for the rights they're denied. I've called my country a democracy for the privileged few alone and no one else - and I'm one of the privileged, but one committed to speak out against the intolerable injustices I see happening without end.

In my earlier article, I reported the US prison system was the largest in the world - greater than China's with four times our population and a government not known for its commitment to tolerance. The most up to date total of our prison population when my article was posted was 2.1 million with about 900 new inmates added each week. As disturbing as those numbers are, I can report we now have passed 2.2 million with about 1,000 new human beings being put in cages every week. The Journal also reported one in every 136 US residents are now behind bars. From my research and knowledge about our prison system, I find all this appalling and shocking. I hope VHeadline readers do as well.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

LATEST CONFRONTATION BETWEEN US EMPIRE AND EVO MORALES AND HUGO CHAVEZ

The Latest Confrontation Between the US Empire and Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez - by Stephen Lendman

I've said before it's easy to know what the empire is thinking (especially its powerful movers and shakers sitting in corporate boardrooms) by reading the Wall Street Journal daily as I do. Despite its heavy pro-empire bias, readers can also get some real news and information - something nearly impossible elsewhere in the corporate media especially from the venerable New York Times I've before labeled the closest thing we have in the US to an official ministry of information and propaganda.

I'll return to that subject another time, but for now I want to highlight the May 25 front page feature article in the Journal titled "New President Has Bolivia Marching to Chavez's Beat." The sub-title is even worse - "Venezuelan Populist Pushes Anti-US Latin Alliance; Has He Gone Too Far?" And below that and still headlined - "Cuban Doctors in the House."

I hope readers understand from that language what's quite clear to me: a virtual call to arms against Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales, two leaders who likely more than any others believe that since their people elected them, they have an obligation to serve them and not the interests of a belligerent and dominant Northern neighbor.

What Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez Are Doing Jointly That's Roused the US Ire

The WSJ attack begins by its implied condemnation that right after being elected Morales told foreign steel companies they would have to renegotiate a proposed deal to develop a huge iron ore deposit known as El Mutun. The Journal also complained that the Bolivian government invited Venezuelan experts to help them in the bargaining, which, of course, was logical and sensible if such help was available. The outcome of the negotiation was that Bolivia demanded a new agreement that was much fairer to the Bolivian people than the one-sided one the previous government accepted. The foreign steel producers weren't too pleased, and neither was the Journal.

The WSJ was just getting warmed up as it then complained both nations joined with Cuba in a Free Trade Agreement of the People (much like Venezuela's ALBA) which is much different from the one-sided ones the US demands with it getting all and developing nations giving everything, "take it or leave it." Under the agreement, Venezuela pledged to supply Bolivia with 200,000 barrels of crude and refined products a month at below-market prices and in return buy 200,000 tons of Bolivian soybeans a year as well as quantities of chestnuts and almonds. Chavez also will provide 5,000 scholarships and 100 advanced internships for Bolivians to study in Venezuela. And while other foreign energy companies are freezing their Bolivian investments, the Venezuelan state-owned energy company PdVSA is investing in a number of Bolivian projects including a new gas separation plant and jointly owned filling stations with the Argentinian oil company YSFB. Venezuela is also taking a leading role in the development of Bolivia's El Mutun iron ore deposits further strengthening the ties between the two nations.

My point in listing the above arrangements is that all nations should be working cooperatively with each other doing these same sorts of things to maintain their independence and benefit their people. The Journal, however, is indignant about them - meaning, of course, that Bolivia is taking its lead from Venezuela and daring to go around the dominant US "our way or the highway" kind of agreements that steal from poor nations to make powerful US corporations richer and more powerful. But the Journal just kept pouring it on expressing its ire (by implication) that Venezuelan technocrats dare to help Bolivia set policies on a range of issues from health care to land reform to nationalizing the oil, natural gas and other industries. These plans are intended to help the Bolivian people benefit fairly from their own natural resources and for Cuban doctors and teachers to be used in poor areas to set up clinics and schools and give the people essential social services they never had before.

Hugo Chavez will also loan Bolivia $100 million "to implement (its) potentially explosive promise to redistribute some 12.4 million acres of state-owned property to indigenous groups" - a first step in a broader program to put unproductive state and private lands that don't have clear title in the hands of the people who need it and will use it to benefit them and the nation. The Journal calls this land reform plan a "time bomb" that could lead to a "civil war," - incredibly hostile language. They're also upset that Morales is purging his military of some of its high-ranking officers, requiring every public official to take an almost 50% pay cut, and stipulating that no bureaucrat can earn more than his own salary of $22,000 a year (compared to George Bush's $400,000 while he spends half his time at his Texas "ranch" raking in the bucks and not the hay).

Evo Morales has accomplished all this in just four months since he was inaugurated as Bolivia's President on January 24th of this year. And while the US empire and WSJ are upset and angry, the Bolivian people love him and show it in the approval rating he's earned that now exceeds 80% or nearly threefold higher than how George Bush currently scores. No matter, the Journal pours it on further. It berates Chavez for using his oil wealth to lead a "bloc of anti-American countries in the region and beyond," has lent hundreds of millions of dollars to Argentina and Equador (imagine the arrogance of going around the IMF and World Bank that specialize in impoverishing developing nations to enrich giant corporations) and supports Iran's right to enrich uranium and develop its commercial nuclear industry as that country has every legal right to do without outside interference.

And now the clincher - I can barely contain myself. Because of this alliance and what's emerging from it, the Journal claims Chavez and Morales "threaten to undo years of political and economic 'liberation' (does it get more Orwellian than that) in South America and is the latest in a series of energy-security threats." I can only think of an expressive Yiddish term that best explains my reaction to that statement - what unmitigated "chutzpah." For those who don't know the term, it means an extreme level of arrogance and insolence.

It's quite unacceptable to the US empire that these two leaders would dare act as all leaders should. And the Wall Street Journal feels the same way and says it clearly or by none too subtle implication throughout its lengthy feature article today. The message from it indicates there's trouble ahead for Hugo Morales and Evo Morales, and it's coming from the USA.

What It All Means

I've written a lot in recent months about how the US is stepping up its hostile rhetoric against Hugo Chavez in preparation to launching its fourth attempt to oust the Venezuelan leader after failing to do it three previous times. This morning's Journal article clearly indicates Evo Morales has been elevated to likely co-equal status with President Chavez after just four short months in office. Of course, Fidel Castro has been on the US's hit list for over 45 years and is probably more in jeopardy now than he's been for some time. The US simply won't allow any nation to function outside its orbit of influence, especially those rich in natural resources like Venezuela, Bolivia and Iran. Iran in particular has been the target of the most extreme US venom for no other reason than it's oil rich like Iraq and Venezuela and its leadership won't sell out its sovereignty to a hostile US demanding it.

The Wall Street Journal provides empire watchers a useful service - a window through which to view likely US intentions and to be able to do it on a daily basis. Today's article is one such view and an important one. It steps up the hostile rhetoric one more notch and provides one more clear sign that these two nations must brace for what seems certain US action against them to remove their leaders and replace them with ones again subservient to US wishes. Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales do anything but that and as such represent the greatest threat above all others to US continued dominance in the region - a good example that left unchecked may grow and spread and help erode the US's unchallengeable position it's held up to now.

Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales want no part of it, and the US won't tolerate that attitude. Clearly a confrontation is ahead on what timetable and by what means we won't know until it unfolds. But it surely will, and commentators on this web site and other progressive ones will be monitoring all the signs and events and reporting them as they unfold. Stay tuned.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

SOLIDARITY STREET DEMONSTRATIONS DEMANDING US HANDS OFF VENEZUELA AND CUBA

Solidarity Street Demonstrations To Demand US Keep Hands Off Venezuela and Cuba - by Stephen Lendman

Maybe it's just a coincidence that just days before an international expression of solidarity demanding the US keep its hands off Venezuela and Cuba, Rep. Dan Burton (a right wing Republican in good standing) introduced an anti-Venezuelan resolution in the US House of Representatives. His resolution on May 11 was just another step along the way in the Bush administration's fourth attempt to oust President Hugo Chavez as the democratically elected leader of the Venezuelan people. The resolution shows at least two things: that the US government's stated commitment to democracy is farcical and empty on its face and that any resemblance in it between the truth about the Chavez government's achievements in combatting drug trafficking and money laundering (and all else for that matter) and the malicious inaccuracies and misstatements of facts in the Burton resolution is in writing for all to see.

Of course, the whole notion of the US making a determined effort to eliminate so-called ellicit drugs is even more absurd as I've explained several times before in other writing. Dan Burton and his Republican cohorts know quite well that doing that would be counter to the real US policy of protecting the ellicit trade to guarantee the huge profits from it flow unobstructed into the US economy. The so-called "war on drugs" is really a war to keep the stuff flowing freely.

On May 20 the People Will Have Their Say

So in glorious and committed counterpoint to the shameless Burton resolution, large demonstrations will take place on the streets of Washington, DC and Los Angeles on May 20 demanding "US Hands Off Venezuela and Cuba." A broad coalition of progressive organizations and noted individuals have organized them including: Venezuela, Cuba and Latin America - oriented solidarity groups and other groups supporting and fighting for the rights of blacks, Latinos, women, immigrants and the civil rights of all people. In addition, prominent activist figures will also participate including Noam Chomsky, Cindy Sheehan and Danny Glover.

And on the same day, there will be similar international solidarity actions in Venezuela, Cuba, Columbia, Australia, Canada and other countries. These demonstrations around the world are historic as they reflect a growing movement to combat US imperial aims in Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean. It was in those regions that offshore US imperialism first took flight once it left the incubator of the lands it stole from its original native inhabitants whose only offense was having lived on them for the past 20 - 30,000 years. Poor Mexico paid the price first for its geographical sin (in the words of its former dictator Porfirio Diaz) of being "so far from God (and) so close to the US." That poor choice of its country's borders resulted in their ending up enclosing half their former territory. I guess the Mexicans never really wanted California and the rest it lost anyway.

On May 20, the voices of people yearning to be free from the yoke of a global criminal enterprise otherwise known as the United States of America will take to the streets in an expression of their commitment. These voices will resonate in solidarity against clear US aggressive and hostile intentions against Venezuela and Cuba aiming to crush their revolutions and the burgeoning one in Bolivia to keep them from spreading throughout the region. The stakes are very high on both sides. Call it a war between the rights of free people determined to remain so against a powerful and predatory neighbor that has other ideas and will ruthlessly pursue all means to achieve them. On May 20, the voices in the streets will have their say,
. and the sound heard will be: no mas - no more, and they're willing to fight for it. It also happens to be the day the Bush administration intends to release its so-called "Commission for Assistance for a Free Cuba" report.

A little translation is in order. By assistance, Washington means new policy sanctions against the Castro government (the longest standing thorn in its side) and its commitment to be the sole authority to decide what economic, social and political priorities are best for that country. It doesn't matter what the Cuban people want. After all, they only live there, which in Washington - think means nothing.

It doesn't matter what the Venezuelan people want either, unless they're willing to forego all the benefits they now have and allow them to be replaced by the poverty and human misery they had before Hugo Chavez came into office and changed everything. Don't bank any time soon on that happening as the overwhelming majority of the Venezuelan people twice democratically elected Hugo Chavez as their president and want to keep him as their leader. And why wouldn't they. Before him, they were repressed and desperate, and now they're the beneficiary of his wonderful economic, political and social policies that have transformed their lives for the better. They're not about to give that up without a fight. But Washington policy makers may not understand that, and even if they do, are likely to take that fight to the people and try to prevail by any means possible, regardless of the consequences.

The One Threat Above All Others Washington Fears

Washington also fears another threat: the one it fears most above all others - a good example that may spread and become unstoppable, so it must be crushed and not allowed to advance further. It follows that it now views any collaboration between Venezuela and Cuba (and now a likely tripartite alliance with Bolivia) as unacceptable as the benefits from it to their people will only encourage a further spread of them to other nations that may want the same things. Any why not? When governments improve the lives of their people, why would they ever want or be willing to give up what they gained.

So the battle lines are now drawn, and the importance of what's at stake will play out in the streets around the world on May 20. Those demonstrations mark a significant first step beginning and hopefully a turning point that will lead to a mass movement of millions of working people inside the US and around the world unwilling any longer to accept being subjugated by US imperial rule. Hopefully they will follow on and build from the historic US nationwide street demonstrations fighting for the rights of immigrant workers demanding equity and justice and being willing to accept nothing less. It may be one new civil rights movement growing from another and mushrooming into a giant national and worldwide expression of the people here, throughout the region, and spreading everywhere fighting for the rights they deserve. An epochal struggle may have begun, and the path ahead for it is fraught with danger. It's the people against a powerful giant predator willing to accept nothing less than total global domination with no "outliers" going their own way allowed. Stay tuned. The people may have other ideas.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

COMMENTS ON DAVID SIROTA'S NEW BOOK - HOSTILE TAKEOVER

Comments On David Sirota's New Book - Hostile Takeover - by Stephen Lendman

I'd like to begin my commentary on David Sirota's important new book Hostile Takeover with my strong endorsement of his fine work. Everyone should read it to learn what's really going on around us that affects us all in the most important ways I know and which most people at best only vaguely understand on many if not most of the major issues. Those who read it will learn in stunning and graphic detail how large corporations in league with government at all levels serving their interests and not ours are destroying the democratic pillars of our society. The result now evident when we know the facts David presents is a great irreversible harm to the great majority unless we can collectively act in time to reverse the destructive path and economically downward trajectory we're now on - all planned and implemented by our elected officials in service to their generous corporate benefactors. In his important book, David lucidly explains the problem in detail and gives us an action plan to fight back.

Introduction

When I first heard about David's new book, I was very eager to read it. I had to be as earlier I wrote and got published a long article by the same title. David's approach and mine covered some of the same ground but differed as well including the subtitles we chose. My approach was to concentrate on the economic consequences of corporate size and dominance to ordinary people. David did the same, but as was clear from his subtitle, he did it by documenting in powerful detail "how big money and corruption" control the political process for their own gain. He also goes further to show how we can fight back to regain the essential rights we've lost. I covered some of that myself in an earlier article I wrote called Democracy in America - It's Spelled C-O-R-R-U-P-T-I-O-N. It's posted on my blog site - sjlendman.blogspot.com. In his book, David gives more than just an account of how our government was bought. He presents the evidence in "handbook" form, exposing the lies and myths politicians and corporations tell us, and gives us an action plan to fight back and win.

David and I both know that corporations exist for one purpose only - to make a profit. I explained in my writing that corporate law mandates that publicly owned corporations serve only the interests of their shareholders and do it by working to maximize the value of their equity holdings by increasing sales and profits. They have to do this and don't have a choice. Should they do otherwise, the companies would likely face legal consequences and their top executives dismissal. But David explains that in a democratic society, government is supposed to serve the people and act as a counterweight to unrestrained corporate power which left on its own could destroy society. At times in the past, our elected government actually passed laws and did that, if imperfectly. But that was then, and this is now - a brave new world order. It's one with giant corporations literally running amuck in charge of everything: writing the laws, making the rules, deciding who governs and how and who serves on our courts. They even have to sign off on it before the nation goes to war. Those wars have nothing to do with national security threats (we've had none since WW II), making the world safe for democracy or deposing tyrants. I've explained this in other writing also on my blog site including exposing the sham of the so-called "war on terror" which is nothing more than a bogus scare tactic to get the public to go along with bad policy. That policy includes waging war, although they're only fought as a last resort when less extreme methods don't work.

Why resort to war? They're fought to control markets, vital resources like oil and cheap labor to help those same corporations make more profits. In that kind of world, there's nothing to stop them from operating as legalized private tyrannies (with their own armies we pay for through taxes) exploiting us (and the planet) for their gain and doing it as another author explained in his book called The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. Those who can pay can play, and those who can't have no say and don't get their way. Money not only talks, it rules the world.

It all means that the political game is rigged by and for corporate America to enrich them and do it at our expense. And they're aided and abetted by the big government they bought and paid for to do their bidding - a kind of incestuous relationship for mutual gain. It's a democracy all right, but only for the privileged few and no one else. Voters at one time may have thought they had a say when they went to the polls, and to some degree they did. But today, about half of them understand they're powerless and don't even bother showing up. Why do it when they know that on election day the real game is big business and big government playing "let's make a deal" - "you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours." But to play, you better have lots of "scratch." It's an arena where only powerful interests have a say and well paid lobbyists (aka influence-peddling "bagmen") "grease the wheels" of big government to make it work for big business in a "snatch and grab" all you can enterprise that leaves the public largely out in the cold. It's the same story at the federal, state and local levels although the higher up in the bureaucracy it takes place, the bigger the stakes are.

The pubic to some degree knows what's going on and how it's interests have been ignored. At times it's stood by, watched, likely felt overwhelmed and helpless and done little to fight back. But maybe because the pain of bad policy has begun to bite deeply in recent years, David feels that's changing and people are beginning "to demand answers about why our government is selling us out." That's why he wrote the book - to give everyone left out of the political process a way to fight an unfair system and win back the rights and benefits they've lost. He explains the book's intent is to do more than just tell the story of how our government was bought like a commodity available to the highest bidder. It does that and then goes on in "guidebook" fashion to give us the tools we need to fix the system so it works for us.

Hostile Takeover Counts and Documents the Ways the Political Process Has Become Corrupted

David then divides the rest of his book into explaining the enterprise of government as a wholly-owned business subsidiary in 10 separate chapters. In each one, he explains how our so-called elected officials have corrupted their high office to allow their corporate benefactors to exploit us for their benefit. The evidence in each chapter shows no matter how you slice and dice the political system, it always comes out the same way - they win and we lose: more and more until it's down to the nub, and we've lost it all unless we can fight back to recoup and save ourselves before it's too late. David thinks we can do it. First he explains what we've lost, and then he lays out an action plan to win it back. And throughout the book, David gives copious and powerful anecdotal corroboration to make his case for the abuses being committed against us that need redress.

As I explained above, I've also written about these abuses and understand how our corrupted system works. I'm a bit less sanguine than David on the public's insight into the problem or its readiness to act - yet. But David and I are on the same page, and for me he's preaching to the choir. I believe most others, however, don't know or understand enough about how they're being abused, let alone what to do about it. This book is for them and is essential reading. I endorse and recommend it strongly. And I'll go a step further and call it a survival manual and a call to arms. I believe things are even more dire than David explains. I think it essential that the public en masse must begin to act in its own interest and defense and do it soon and effectively. Unless it does, what little remains of our tattered republic and democracy in name only will be lost entirely, and it will be too late to regain it.

Chapter One: Our Tax System - Call It Robin Hood in Reverse

Also call it the great tax scam. David quotes the now indicted and disgraced former Republican House Majority Leader Tom Delay saying on the eve of the Iraq war in 2003 that "Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes." I wonder what he was inhaling just before he said that or how stuffed his pockets were with corporate cash. It's hard deciding whether absurd or outrageous better characterizes such an outrageous statement. When Lyndon Johnson was president and needed revenues for his illegal war in Vietnam, he had to raise taxes and still couldn't get enough to pay for it without running up debt and adding to inflation which sent the economy into decline in the 1970s.

David then explains that in today's world as seen through the eyes of Republican ideologues and most Democrats willing to go along with them, cutting taxes has become a religion with no regard for the common sense notion that the revenues only gotten through taxes pay for all the essential services we rely on like schools, infrastructure and everything else. So it only makes sense that when government takes in less revenue, it has less available to provide us with the things we need, expect and rely on in a modern society.

But that's hardly the end of the story. Under the Bush administration, not only have there been large tax cuts, but the ones enacted have caused the "tax structure (to be) flipped on its head." Call it the great transformation of a once-progressive system inverted to take from the poor and middle class and give to the rich. It's a process that began during the Reagan years. But under George Bush it's exploded to become greed writ large and has now even been replicated at the state level. The most well-off who don't need it have benefitted hugely according to the nonpartisan Citizens for Tax Justice. They report that by 2010 after the Bush tax cuts have been fully implemented as they now stand, the top 15% of income earners will have gotten two-thirds of the benefits with the top 1% getting a $600 billion dollar bonanza. On the other end, the bottom 60% will have gotten an illusory less than 18% of the benefits.

That's so because to help offset this handout to the rich, the Bush administration imposed user fees on various services amounting to billions of dollars that affect low and middle income people the most. Also, federal grants to states have been cut and new obligations imposed on them without the proper funding to cover their cost creating what's called "unfunded (or underfunded) mandates." To comply, states have had to raise taxes and fees which again fall disproportionately on lower income people. For these same people, the result has been "now you see 'em, now you don't" tax cuts that amount to a net tax increase and effective loss and lower standard of living for the great majority of the public.

And to make things even worse, Corporate America has made out like thieves from big tax cuts in various forms and their ability, especially under this administration, to exploit legal loopholes and take advantage of lax tax law enforcement. So although the official corporate tax rate is supposed to be 35%, most corporations never pay close to that amount. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), 94% of major corporations pay less than 5% of their income in taxes, and corporate tax payments are the lowest they've been in 60 years. In addition, many of the wealthiest companies often pay no tax at all and some of them actually get large rebates. They're added to the already large subsidies most large companies get, otherwise known as corporate welfare or socialism for big corporations and the rich and "free market capitalism" for the rest of us. That's also apparently called "the American way."

The bottom line of Bush administration fiscal policy has been huge budget deficits caused by these unfair tax cuts plus big spending increases (off the books) to fund two ongoing illegal wars plus the new Office of Homeland Security that alone costs $40 billion a year that we know about. So far these policies have fueled overall economic growth and big corporate profits as it did in the 60s and early 70s. But at some point the bills come due and must be paid, although apparently there's no plan to do it. This is a recipe for economic trouble or worse down the road. The lesson is always the same that the price for good times (however gotten or for whose benefit) that were too good or for reckless (or fiscally irresponsible) behavior that was too reckless has always been the same: the day comes when you "gotta pay the piper." Herb Stein, Richard Nixon's chief economic advisor, said the same thing in his memorable dictum that "Things that can't go on forever won't." It's called a day of reckoning but those least able to cope when it comes (which it will) will be the same ones cheated by this administration's tax policies.

Because of the length of my review and eagerness to cover as much of the book as possible, I won't list David's solutions that he enumerates at the end of each chapter. I'll just say, he's on the mark and that a government working for the people and not the privileged few and corporate giants would carefully consider them all and implement most or all of them. Sadly, today and under this administration there's little chance of that happening unless we force them to.

Chapter Two: Wages - Rising for the Well-Off but Stagnation or Worse for the Rest of Us

The minimum wage in this country is $5.15 an hour, hasn't been raised since 1997, and is now at the lowest point it's been since 1949. The people earning it and no more might get along fine if they have no dependents,
don't mind not eating much, enjoy camping out year round, love old tattered clothes, never get sick and are able to educate themselves. For the rest of us, that income level is well below the officially stated poverty line that no one can live on but which is artificially kept low for political reasons. That situation is a metaphor for the average working person in the US who, adjusted for inflation, now earns less than 30 years ago even with modest annual increases.

David points out the widening gap between low wage earners and the affluent. In my article I had slightly different data than David and will share it with readers. In 2004, I wrote the average CEO earned 431 times the income of the average working person. That was up from 85 times in 1990 and 42 times in 1980 at the beginning of the Reagan years and the Republicans rise to dominance. David and I also used a different figure on what the average CEO now earns annually. He noted $9 million a year and my number was $14.4 million (mine likely included bonuses and/or stock option benefits not in David's figure) in 2001 and rising - plus huge supplemental benefits from SERPS (Supplemental Executive Retirement Plans) that effectively increased their income by half again and all the other special perks corporate executives get but the average working stiff never does. Some companies even pay the income tax for their top executives. I described all this in one section as the US being the unthinkable and unmentionable - a rigid class society and one becoming more extreme all the time.

But along with stagnating wages, essential social services are being cut, especially since Bush took office in 2001. That too is part of the plan to transfer wealth to the rich from the rest of us. It's created a crisis in some areas like vital health insurance needed at all times but crucial to have in the face of the rising cost of health care services and less of them being provided for the needy (and to those of us like myself on Medicare) by a government intent on fighting wars, helping the rich get even richer and destroying the social safety net including the pillars of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

So-called "free trade agreements" like NAFTA and CAFTA have just made it worse. These and the alphabet soup of other trade agreements were sold to the public in the countries adopting them as a way to grow their economies and increase jobs. The result years after implementation has been hundreds of thousands of jobs lost and the realization that these plans were never intended for that purpose in the first place. They were and still are plans for the US and dominant Global North nations to be able to craft a set of binding trade rules overriding the sovereignty of all member states to benefit giant corporations at the expense of working people in those countries. It's worked like a charm, and the terrible carnage it's caused is proof positive. Instead of creating jobs in the US and other Global North countries as promised, jobs have been outsourced or exported to low wage countries including many thousands of higher-paying manufacturing and high tech ones. Even a low-wage country like Mexico has suffered as jobs once sent there have since been lost to even lower-wage paying countries like China, Bangladesh and Haiti. And Mexico's small farmers have been devastated by US heavily subsidized agribusiness that's driven many thousands of them out of business and has done the same thing in India and elsewhere.

The result in the US is services, like jobs at Walmart and McDonalds, now account for nearly 80% of all business while manufacturing has declined to about 14% and total manufacturing employment is half the percentage of total employment it was 40 years ago and falling. Our low unemployment rate the Labor Department reports monthly only disguises the damage done. In the view of some economists, if the rate today was calculated the same way it was during The Great Depression when it rose to a peak of 25% of the working population, the true current figure would be about 12% instead of the most recently reported 4.7%. The current calculation method includes part-time workers who work as little as one hour during the monthly reporting period. It also excludes discouraged workers who wish to work but who've stopped looking because they can't find jobs.

As he does in all his chapters, David goes on to note and explain the myths and lies the public is told to hide a bad and deteriorating situation concluding again with a set of sensible solutions unlikely to be adopted unless the public fights for them.

Chapter Three: Jobs - The Good Ones Are Vanishing and the Poor Ones Don't Pay Enough or Provide Needed Benefits

In this chapter David goes into more detail on what he discussed in the previous one under wages. He provides lots of ammunition to show how much trouble we're really in. One example was from University of California researchers who estimated in 2004 that "up to 14 million American jobs are at risk to outsourcing." An even more stark assessment came from Gartner Research that predicted as many as "30% of high-tech jobs could be shipped overseas by 2015." If they're right, does that mean that formerly high-paid software engineers will now be ringing up the few purchases most people will be able to afford at the Walmarts of the world. Not a pretty picture nor one most readers of David's book or this review would wish to look forward to - unless they love the idea of living in a nation heading for third-world status and run by a government aiding and abetting the downward trajectory.

David also goes on to explain that our government ignores the plight of good jobs being lost and, in fact, effectively endorses the loss through the large subsidies it makes available to the companies doing the exporting. In addition, the safety net of unemployment insurance has been gutted through budget cuts so fewer of the unemployed now receive benefits they need which are available for a shorter period of time. Besides that, the budget for job training to help the unemployed has been severely cut over the past 25 years. Currently 84% of what was available back then no longer is. David documents it all with powerful and graphic anecdotal examples of the terrible damage done and a government that allows it to happen showing it no longer cares about ordinary working people.

Chapter Four: Debt - It's High, Rising, and Becoming a Great Burden for Ordinary Working People

Many of us may know something about how the Bush administration turned a budget surplus into huge deficits with little if any relief in sight for years to come. They also should know a good bit more about mounting private debt, especially if they're one of the many millions burdened with their own debt obligations and have a hard time figuring out how to repay them while simultaneously adding more.

The problem stems from a society weaned on the notion that we should buy now and pay later regardless of whether our debts from borrowing must be serviced which means paying high interest carrying charges. That's especially true in the case of the main way consumers run up debt - on their credit cards where David explained that the predatory credit card industry makes out like mega-thieves pocketing $24 billion in 2004 from late usury-level penalty fees alone which made up the bulk of their $30 billion in profits. Like all other major industries, this one has friends in high places, and it freely "scratches their back" with lots of "scratch" to get legislation favorable to its interests - namely, letting them get away with grand theft. The result, as David reports, is the tragedy of US consumers being $2 trillion in debt with the average household carrying and servicing through monthly interest payments an unpaid credit card balance of about $7,500. That's debt hell for these afflicted consumers, but profit heaven for the credit card bandits. I personally know how these companies work and always have. As a result, I pay my monthly bills in full and have never paid the few credit card companies whose cards I carry one cent in interest since getting my first credit card about 40 years ago. I'm also sensible and restrained in my spending so my monthly balance is never onerous. My advice to others on how to beat these thieves who thrive on your excesses is do as I do, and they'll never know what hit them until it does.

Making matters far worse for the public, already plagued by stagnating wages and good jobs exported to cheap labor countries, is the new bankruptcy legislation. It gutted consumer protection making it much harder to get that protection when it's most needed. The new law gives the predatory credit card companies license to steal even more than they're now doing by making it much harder for ordinary people to seek the bankruptcy protection they used to have. The law was passed through lies and deceit about consumer abuse of the system that needed correcting. In fact, Harvard University researchers found that 90% of personal bankruptcies result from illness, unaffordable medical bills for people without insurance to cover them, job loss, death in the family or divorce - hardly conniving people trying to rip off the credit card companies or lending agencies.

David then once again goes on to explain in detail the lies and myths about who benefits and who loses under the new law, the economic conditions for most people making them more vulnerable when trouble strikes, and much more including his sensible solutions to the problems now created.

Chapter Five: Pensions - Workers Actually Could Count on Them Once - But That Was Then, and This Is Now

A major part of the American dream is that after a lifetime of work we can look forward to a comfortable retirement and secure future. Long ago, things turned out that way for most ordinary working people who had good, high-paying jobs with essential benefits, like those in manufacturing now lost. They also had strong union protection which won them the rights they were able to enjoy while still working and after they retired. No longer in today's hostile world where our government officials in league with big corporations are rewriting sacred rules allowing these companies the ability to evade their obligations to workers once thought to be inviolable.

So even though these companies once agreed in union negotiations to legally binding contract obligations regarding worker benefits to be paid to retirees, they're now seeking legal protection through the courts to back out of them. The courts today are stacked with corporate-friendly judges, but even when companies have no justification for redress, they're able to drag out legal cases for years through appeals so that even if they end up losing, many retirees will have died off waiting and the companies will save millions even after legal expenses which aren't cheap.

Besides fraudulent corporate lawsuits to welsh on their obligations, companies are ingenious in coming up with new ways to cheat their employees. The AP reported one such way in 2002 which was the quiet conversion of the retirement plans of eight million workers to so-called "cash balance" schemes by hundreds of companies. As David explained, these new plans were and are nothing more than a con to let these companies back out of their guarantee to give their workers a lifetime monthly pension and instead offer them one lump-sum payment. The companies getting away with this scam are able to save many millions of dollars because that payment amounts to far less than the original promised benefits which is why they devised this scheme in the first place.

Even the Bush administration tried getting into this act by rolling out what David rightly calls "the granddaddy of all pension rip-off schemes : privatizing Social Security." I've called it the grandest of grand thefts if they're ever able to pull it off. It hardly matters to this administration that this magnificent plan has been "the most successful government initiative" ever in our history and which has lifted many millions of working people out of poverty and made it possible for them to have a decent retirement that otherwise wouldn't have been possible. What the Bush administration proposed doing was to turn this program over to the sharks on Wall Street and let them run it and be able to skim off a bonanza in big fees from retirees who would be their victims and end up with less than they now receive. A University of Chicago economist did the math and estimated that Wall Street would earn between $400 billion and $1 trillion in broker and administrative fees under the Bush mega-ripoff scheme. Thankfully the public balked strongly enough, and for now at least, the administration has backed off. But you can bet they're likely plotting their next move to resurrect what will be their dream scheme if they ever do pull it off. And when they launch their next attempt, it's almost certain they'll again try using the canard that the system is in danger of going bankrupt and only privitizing it can fix it. So far the public hasn't bought this deceit and hopefully won't the next time they try selling it. But David makes it very clear that the future security of millions of working people is in jeopardy through pension and Social Security "reform" (meaning scamming the public to steal our future for corporate gain) unless we the people are vigilant and take steps to fight back. David shows us how.

Chapter Six: Health Care - Present Plans or Lack of Them Are Hazardous to Our Health

Although the government may ignore and deny it, it's beyond dispute this country has a major and unforgivable health care crisis that continues to get worse. Presently 46 million or more people here have no insurance coverage at all, millions more have far too little, and David dramatically points out that 82 million Americans had no health insurance for some period of time between 2003 and 2004. This is happening in a country that spends almost 2.5 times the median average for the industrialized world, and yet the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked the US 37th in the world in "overall health performance" and 54th in the fairness of health care. Moreover, every developed country in the world except the US and South Africa provide free health care for all its citizens paid for though taxes.

David dramatically points out that we may have the best doctors and most advanced medical facilities in the world, but what good is it if they're unavailable to a vast number of the people living here because they can't afford to use them. David goes on to detail much more, explaining that despite the inadequacy of our health care system, the providers of it are some of the most profitable companies in the country - such as the HMOs, the other big insurers and the big drug companies. He also explains that a key reason why we spend so much and get back so little overall is that 15 cents of every dollar we spend on health insurance is skimmed off for "administrative expense." That's just code language for private industry very high profits. Compare that to our government run programs like Medicare which only spends 4 cents of every dollar on these expenses. I'm on Medicare and am very pleased with it except that recipients are being forced to pay an increasingly greater amount for it. The idea is to enable the government to welsh on its obligation to us to divert even more funds to its corporate allies - our loss for their continuing gain.

At the end of WW II, Harry Truman unsuccessfully tried to get Congress to pass a universal health care government run program. He never had a chance to get it through the Congress as the dominant health care industry companies and the legislators shot down his proposal and every new one that came along later to extend universal coverage to everyone. It's not because of the cost, although we were told that's the reason. It's because government owes its allegiance to its big corporate benefactors that won't do anything to deny themselves the right to control the health care delivery process and be able to charge whatever prices they wish for their products and services. They certainly have taken full advantage of that, and the result is the dismal state of our health care system and the high industry profits resulting from it.

As in his other chapters, David does a fine job exposing the lies and myths the public is told to justify a bad system. And he ends the chapter again by offering the kind of common sense solutions a responsible government serving the people would have jumped on and enacted long ago. It's now up to the public to rise up and demand they do it.

Chapter Seven: Prescription Drugs - The Best Advice Is to Stay Well and Not Need Them - Their Cost May Make You Sicker

Here are some of the facts David reports on what I like to call Big Pharma. This industry is one of the most profitable in the country making about 18 cents profit on every dollar of sales; it's aided by government using our tax dollars to fund about one third of all research on new drugs the industry gets at no charge; the industry spends about twice as much on advertising, promotion and administrative costs as they do on R & D to develop new drugs; the prices charged for prescription drugs in the US are inordinately high compared to the rest of the world and are rising at about four times the rate of inflation; these rising costs plus those for most all health services are rising so fast, companies are forcing their employees to pay a greater share of them or are reducing overall health care benefits; and the industry has one of the most powerful and effective trade associations representing their interests (PhRMA - that I spelled a different way above to refer to the companies and not the association) seeing to it that elected officials are well lubricated with campaign contributions and more personal benefits to assure that any legislation hostile to their interests never sees the light of day.

The bottom line is a Congress acting like a "wholly owned subsidiary" of the drug industry and consumers paying dearly for it. And just like other industries covered in the book, the drug giants try to justify their consumer-unfriendly policies with deceit and lies like claiming charging lower prices would mean less innovation and fewer new drugs. They also never mention that easier regulations have allowed them to come to market more quickly with new drugs that later turned out to be unsafe and in some cases resulted in deaths. One drug giant's Vioxx is a stark case in point and one in which the company is now involved in large class-action litigation on behalf of 10,000 consumer plaintiffs plus a second class-action suit on behalf of insurers and HMOs.

The drug industry will also profit handsomely from the new Medicare legislation that is so bad it could only be passed in the middle of the night and then only after enough lawmakers who first voted against it were coerced or bribed to change their mind - a testimony to this industry's influence. Under the plan, Medicare's bulk purchasing power was neutered so the drug companies could charge full, undiscounted prices for their products. The hidden details of this prescription plan for seniors are bad enough to make it worthless for many on Medicare like myself. But the plan is a likely bonanza for the industry and may net them hundreds of billions of dollars including about an extra $139 billion because the government can't negotiate lower prices.

David goes on to list other abuses the drug industry is allowed to get away with by our government that should be working for us but isn't. I'll mention just one more which is an attempt by the industry to prevent consumers from buying their drugs from other countries like Canada on the false pretext they're unsafe - even though they're the same drugs. So much for honesty and fairness. Once again David shows us how we can fight back and win.

Chapter 8: Energy - Try to Think of Another Industry with Closer Ties to Those Now in the Administration

The Bush administration is run by a cadre of high level officials formerly involved with energy companies before they came to government including the president and vice-president. Now try to think of another industry that will be better treated by those in government than this one. There is none, although there are lots of others who get their full share and aren't complaining.

There are good reasons why energy prices are high today, and we either don't hear about them or enough about them. The main reason is we're a profligate nation with 5% of the world's population that consumes 26% of the world's daily oil production and about 23% of total natural gas production. The reason we're so wasteful is the industry wants it that way and the government, in full support of the energy giants, encourages consumption and discourages conservation. The reason is obvious. Our bad habits are good for business.

David's book didn't have some industry figures I now have to show how good business really is in a time of sky-high oil prices. I'll do it by citing the operating results of the oil giant I most like to pick on because they make it so easy for me to do it - Exxon-Mobil. In 2005, this company showed it's currently the largest corporation in the world. In its annual report to shareholders and Wall Street investors, it reported the highest annual profit ever earned by a publicly traded company. It was a breathtaking $36 billion on sales revenue of $371 billion. But that's not the end of the story. The good times just keep rolling for this oil giant as it recently reported its operating results for its 2006 first quarter, and they're better than ever: profits were up 7% from last year to 8.4 billion (their highest ever for a first quarter) and sales were up as well by 8.4% to $89 billion. Now to put all that in perspective, based on its 2005 sales volume, Exxon-Mobil is so large that if this company were a country it would rank in size ahead of nearly 75% of all countries in the world. They can thank the Bush administration for a lot of their success. Guess who their top executives will be voting for in November and the top officials of the other energy giants as well.

High energy prices (and specifically oil prices) are also the result of at least two other factors which David discusses. One is the effect on competition by massive consolidation in the industry, especially among refiners. He noted the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved 413 mergers during the Clinton years and another 520 in the first three years of the Bush administration. Fewer companies mean less competition, and that's led to higher prices. David also reported that Consumers Union in 2004 found that higher prices were mostly from higher charges at refineries. And those increases were the result of lax federal regulation which allowed refiners to create artificial bottlenecks in supply driving up the cost of gasoline at the pump. There's a nasty word for this never used. It's called price fixing, and our government watchdogs are allowing it with their winks and nods to their oil giant friends. The consuming public is forced to pay the price and is lied to by the government and industry trying to justify it.

To top it all off, it's well known, especially by those who try to deceive us, that energy supplies are finite. With that in mind, you'd think the government would be encouraging or even mandating the industry to make a determined effort to find alternative sources to replace our dwindling resources that won't last forever. And you'd also think laws would be passed requiring conversation especially by raising fuel efficiency standards for vehicles and enacting other measures to lower energy consumption. But if you thought that, you'd be wrong. Although the need is urgent, doing these sensible things are bad for business. And as we see repeated industry after industry, our government will even pursue reckless policies to support their corporate friends and funders, and in the process ignore the needs of the public. Nothing will ever change until we demand it, and that's what David is trying to convince us to do.

Chapter 9: Unions - They Once Were Strong and Won Great Benefits for Their Members - No Longer

David observes, and I strongly concur, that there's no clearer expression of corporate America's hostile takeover of government than how elected officials treat ordinary working people. Above all, that means their right to organize and be represented by strong unions that will fight for their rights. Large corporations especially hate unions and always have. But a golden age of worker rights emerged during The Great Depression in the 1930s when economic conditions became so dire the Roosevelt administration and enlightened business leaders knew they had to make big enough concessions, like it or not, to avert a possible worker's revolution similar to what happened in Russia in 1917. The key legislation enacted for workers was the passage of the Wagner Act that established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that guaranteed labor the right to bargain collectively on equal terms with management.

Things began to change in the post WW II era beginning with the 1947 passage of the Taft-Hartley Act that was the first major shot across the bow by corporate America to curb the power of organized labor. But things really picked up steam adversely during the Reagan years when that administration showed its contempt for working people. It began in 1981 with the firing of 11,000 striking air traffic controllers, jailing its PATCO leaders, fining the union leaders millions of dollars and finally "busting" the union. The Reagan administration also used federal tax dollars to finance strike-breaking, worked to reduce worker health and safety protections and campaigned to change federal statutes guaranteeing worker rights to organize and bargain collectively.

From Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush, things have gotten progressively worse as the social contract the government once had with the people has been systematically dismantled. It's been done program by program, year after year with the ultimate goal of the Bush administration and all politicians beholden to business to make all ordinary working people "self-sufficient" with little or no safety net for protection and the power of union representation effectively neutered. We see the result in how union membership has declined through the years. Whereas in 1958 about one third of the work force belonged to unions, today it's under 13%. That shameful figure is the lowest in the industrialized world to the detriment of all ordinary working people here.

Corporate America in league with government has shamelessly campaigned against unions in an effort to demonize them to discourage workers from understanding how membership benefits them. The rhetoric used is hostile, deceitful and contrary to the facts which David lists: average union workers earn about one-third more in total compensation than nonunion members; 89% of union members have employer-paid health care benefits compared to 67% of nonunion members; employers pay a greater share of union member health care premiums than they do for nonunion members; over two-thirds of union members have short-term disability insurance compared to about one-third of nonunion workers; and, union members receive about 26% more vacation time and 14% more total paid leave (vacations and holidays) than nonunion members. Also, strong unions benefit nonunion workers according to the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute. They reported union influence resulted in an 8.8% wage increase for the average nonunion high school graduate. And another key fact came out of the influential Council on Foreign Relations. They reported that the decline in union membership "is correlated with the early and sharp widening of the US wage gap" between the well-off and ordinary working people.

Again David goes on to list and debunk the many myths and lies government and business try to use to attack and destroy organized labor. Without it or in weakened form, big corporations especially can exploit their work force, hold down wages and benefits and increase their profits. So far their plan is working like a charm as noted earlier in the section under wages. Ordinary working people today earn less than 30 years ago when adjusted for inflation, and the gap between rich and poor has widened to obscene levels and it's getting worse. It's unlikely this trend will be reversed unless a way is found to revive the union movement so that working people again have a strong voice fighting for their rights. Again, David offers solid solutions.

Chapter Ten: Legal Rights - This Means the Right of Ordinary People to Have Their Day in Court and Be Treated Fairly Because the Law Assures It - It's Called the Right of "Due Process" Guaranteed Under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution

Fair treatment under the law in a democratic society serving us all is the way things should be, but they're not, Fourteenth Amendment notwithstanding. That's because corporate America in collusion with their government benefactors have stacked the legal deck to prevent it. So instead of equity and justice we have "tort reform." That's code language meaning limiting the legal rights of ordinary individuals including their ability to file lawsuits against corrupt companies and be able to get fair redress for the harm caused them.

David shows how government has pandered to corporate wishes. In 1995, Congress passed a bill limiting shareholders' rights to sue company officials and get proper restitution when they cooked the books or violated the law in other ways. Then in 2005, Congress enacted legislation limiting our right to file class-action lawsuits. And the same thing is happening at the state level, so that power and influence is stripping ordinary people of their legal right of protection against corporate abuse that seems to become greater as corporations grow larger and get cozier with elected officials. The 2005 federal legislation requires most class-action suits to be filed only in federal courts which are more heavily stacked with business-friendly justices than the state ones. Also, many state laws are tougher and federal courts are so overburdened many cases never get heard and those that do must wait far longer to be placed on the court docket. When justice is delayed under this kind of an unfair system, it's denied.

Once again David shows how big corporations and their government lackeys have gamed the system and rigged the legal rules so they win and ordinary people suffer for it and are denied justice. One more time David shows us how to fight back and win.

The Sum of It All for Ordinary People

David sums up his thoughts in a final chapter asking when "will this downward spiral ever end?" He then goes on to tell us the good news and the bad. As if we didn't know it, he stresses the bad news is both major political parties are complicit with their corporate allies and willingly aid them in their hostile takeover. So any time we're able to throw the bums out, we're just likely to get new bums. David adds more bad news explaining "the media" largely ignore what's going on. I'd go much further than David and say the "media" are the dominant corporate media, and they're in on the scam as they too benefit from it. The reporters and pundits they have on air or in print have little latitude beyond what their employers expect them to do. If they want to keep their jobs, they'll support corporate-friendly policies because they're good for business including the companies they work for.

But David also gives us some good news. Americans are smart he says. They know corporations and the rich have too much power, and government is there to serve them. We also have new avenues to connect with each other and become better informed. The growth of alternative media, the internet, weblogs (I have my own) and more are attracting growing numbers and over time may weaken the corporate media's stranglehold on us as our main source of information - which is no information at all. It's the party line designed and intended to "keep the rabble in line" so they can continue their wicked ways at our expense.

I must briefly add an update to David's reported good news on alternative media sources. It seems when things are getting too good for consumers, corporate America mounts an offensive to regain the offensive and grow their profits handsomely in the process. That's what the telephone and cable companies are now doing in Congress with their attempt to make the Web a gated community. They want to destroy net neutrality by gaining the right to charge their Web site customers based on the amount of their traffic. Their plan is to be able to offer a new tier of broadband service to companies using their networks to make them pay more for speedier access. There's lots more they want as well, if they can get it, that will benefit them but hurt consumers. There's now momentum building on Capitol Hill to head off this intrusion to rewrite the rules and hurt our internet freedoms. We won't know the outcome for a while, but the stakes for the public are very high and the adversary we face is very powerful and committed to beat us.

Overall on all the issues he discussed in his book, David admits we face a tough struggle and that "for every victory.....there are many more defeats." But he ends the book with his final prescription on how we can fight back, and I'll list the ones he's chosen:

1. Reject the idea that we can't bring about change. History shows we can if we're fully committed.

2. Get informed on what's going on and how it's harming us. It's not that hard if we try, but you won't get it on TV or in your morning paper.

3. Fight back at the grass roots. That's how Republicans began their rise to power back when Democrats controlled the White House for 20 years and the Congress for much longer. It starts at the local level and goes up from there. In my city of Chicago, it's called the city council and various boards that run the functions of government.

4. Don't get co-opted by the system. Instead, organize ordinary people for political action where you live. Remember how former Democrat and House Speaker Tip O'Neill characterized the system when he said "all politics is local." His grammar may have been bad, but his wisdom was sound.

5. Campaign and fight for public funding of elections. As long as private money rules, they win and we lose.

David ends on a very upbeat note, and I'll add my own after his from my article on the same subject. He cites our history of an active population that in the past fought back and won major victories - ending slavery, women's rights including to vote, the right to organize, civil rights and lots more. We've always fought injustice when it got bad enough and those affected wouldn't take it anymore. David concludes he's confident our outrage will grow enough to make us fight back again and lead us to a better future. And I'll end this section with a quote by famed Chicago community organizer Sol Linowitz who understood and preached that "the way to beat organized money is with organized people." He proved it.

My Own Summation of David's Important Book

I loved the book, especially because I wrote about the same subject using the same title as I stated at the outset. I also said up front and will repeat again that everyone should read David's book as a starting point to learning what's wrong that's harming us and getting worse and then learn how we can fight back and win.

That said, I have some suggestions for David in future editions of this book. I covered a few issues David didn't in my Hostile Takeover article, the earlier companion one to it I called Democracy in America - It's Spelled C-O-R-R-U-P-T-O-N and other writing. I'll list three important ones briefly and end.

l. Obscene levels of military spending that benefit the defense contractors and all other companies serving the military - industrial complex have hurt the public enormously. I wrote that the Center for Defense Information reported that since 1945 over $21 trillion dollars has been sucked out of the economy for military spending largely to benefit US corporations even though the country had no real enemies all through those years - and we were lied to all that time to make us believe we did. The public paid for this largesse through our taxes that should have been spent on essential social services we never got.

2. The state of public education in the country has been degraded by a combination of neglect and a deliberate effort to produce new generations of young people only fit for low-paying service jobs - because many of the good ones (especially in manufacturing and high-tech) are being exported to low-wage countries. George Bush's "no child left behind" education program is just another fraud to enrich corporations at the expense of school children.

3. The prison population in the country has grown to over 2.1 million with about 900 new inmates being added each week. It's now the largest in the world, even greater than China's with four times our population and a government that has no compunction about locking people up. I wrote a major article on this I called The US Gulag Prison System, and I was referring to the one at home. This is an outrage and should be a national scandal as is the state of what I call our criminal-injustice system. All of it is an outgrowth of a society benefitting wealth and power and doing it at the expense of ordinary people who naturally become more restive as their lives become more intolerable. So we've chosen to solve the problem by locking up as many of them as we can on any pretext instead of providing essential services and correcting corporate abuses which is how a government serving us would do it. This one (Republican or Democrat) doesn't and won't unless we make it do it.

I urge David to consider adding these topics to a future edition of his wonderful book. But I applaud him for his important contribution. It's his first book, and I certainly hope not his last.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.