News Release Archive - 2011

U.S. Pakistan Policy “Threatening Another 9/11”

A New York Times front page article reports today: “The NATO air attack that killed at least two dozen Pakistani soldiers over the weekend reflected a fundamental truth about American-Pakistani relations when it comes to securing the unruly border with Afghanistan: the tactics of war can easily undercut the broader strategy that leaders of both countries say they share.”

FRED BRANFMAN, fredbranfman at aol.com
Branfman has written a dozen articles warning that U.S. policy towards Pakistan is a national security disaster, including two recent Salon pieces entitled “The Petraeus Projection, The CIA Director’s Record Since The Surge“. Branfman is best known for having exposed the CIA’s secret war in Laos.

He said today: “Short-sighted U.S. policy is creating a national security disaster in Pakistan. The U.S. policy of trying to win in tiny Afghanistan by extending its war-making into giant, nuclear-armed Pakistan — including drone strikes, cross-border raids, illegal U.S. ground assassination and forcing the Pakistani Army to wage scorched-earth offensives … threatens the greatest U.S. foreign policy disaster since its support for Iran’s Shah, including another domestic 9/11. …

“U.S. policy has led to an increase in the strength of militant groups in Pakistan, vastly increased the ranks of potential anti-U.S. suicide bombers in both Pakistan and the West, and increased the possibility of an anti-U.S. military coup. And, most significantly, as former U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson has secretly warned, it has vastly increased the possibility of materials from Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile — the world’s fastest-growing and least stable — falling into terrorist hands. U.S.-Pakistan policy, largely designed by David Petraeus, had led over 69 percent of Pakistanis — over 125 million people — to regard the U.S. as their ‘enemy,’ and is thus sowing a whirlwind which threatens disaster in coming years.

“The U.S. badly needs to pull out of Afghanistan as soon as possible, end the drone strikes in Pakistan, and vastly increase its economic aid to Pakistan — particularly helping to extend its electricity grid, its top domestic priority — to reduce the threat of terrorism. Present U.S. policy is vastly increasing the threat of another 9/11 on American soil.”

Branfman’s previous articles include “Unintended Consequences in Nuclear-Armed Pakistan“.

Egypt’s Struggle Against Counter-Revolution: Role of Junta, U.S. and Saudi Arabia

EMAD MEKAY, emekay at stanford.edu
Mekay is a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University and has covered much of the Egyptian uprising. He said today: “The Egyptian military junta managed to fool many Egyptians when they took over after the fall of Mubarak by convincing them that they will be true to their word and hand over power to civilian rule in six months. That hasn’t happened. Instead, over the past ten months the military refused to hand over power, refused to hold Mubarak regime members to task, allowed many of them to go back to control positions they held in the past, mismanaged the economy and eventually made their true intentions clear. The military want to act as a caretaker of the entire Egyptian state by promoting a supra-constitutional document that gives them a special and untouchable position in drafting the future of the country. The military are very close to the Pentagon and it is hard to imagine that they were taking these steps without consulting their buddies in Washington, D.C. The military junta may be trying to protect its economic empire in the country which they built under Mubarak’s 30-year rule.”

SEIF DA’NA, dana at uwp.edu
Seif Da’Na is an associate professor of sociology and international studies at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside specializing in the Mideast and North Africa. He said today: “The constitutional reform and the so-called ‘Ultra Constitutional Principles’ proposed by Egypt’s ‘Higher Military Council’ are only a heading for a rather more acute conflict. Not only Egypt, but the whole region has been experiencing a political re-grouping and a fierce counter revolution. Due to the potential regional and global political and economic consequences of the ongoing Arab revolts, various local, regional, and global forces are leading the fierce counter-revolution. So, the people of the region are not currently facing their despotic regimes only, or what’s left of it, but regional and global powers as well. One regional power is the Saudi regime: Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Bahrain, hosting Ben Ali, the ousted dictator of Tunisia, and conspiring against the Yemeni revolution, as the chants in the streets indicate.

“Egypt’s Higher Military Council’s policies (holding military tribunals for activists, undemocratically dictating the formation and the composition of the ‘Constituent Assembly’ etc.) has been increasingly seen by Egyptians and the people of the region as a tool of counter-revolution.

“While the counter-revolutionary forces might not give up easily and might continue to fight fiercely in the days and months to come, and while the regimes, whose heads were overthrown, were not entirely dismantled, thus providing vital tools for counter-revolution, the new political culture in the region and the collapse of the image of the despotic oppressor, makes it extremely difficult and very unlikely to maintain the status quo. This might just be another round of a long historical process that seems irreversible.”

On Jan. 25 of this year, the day the Egyptian uprising began, Da’Na was featured on an Institute for Public Accuracy news release stating that the protests represented the “beginning of a new era.

Analysts: Supercommittee Failure a Victory for 99%

NANCY ALTMAN, njalt at aol.com
Altman is co-chair of the Strengthen Social Security Campaign, a coalition of over 300 national and state organizations representing more than 50 million Americans and author of the book “The Battle for Social Security: From FDR’s Vision to Bush’s Gamble.” Altman said today: “The announcement that the so-called supercommittee could not reach agreement is a victory for democracy and for the American people — the 99% over the 1%. Time after time, the American people have stood up for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and they have again. The supercommittee contemplated cuts to these vital programs, but a massive push back by everyday Americans was apparently heard. An end-run around the will of the people has been prevented.”

NICOLE WOO, woo at cepr.net
Director of domestic policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Woo said today: “Let’s not forget that the ‘supercommittee’ was created over the summer by the Budget Control Act, which already cut discretionary spending by over $900 billion over ten years, with not one dollar of additional revenue. Since such spending cuts disproportionately affect the 99%, it seems that true ‘shared sacrifice’ would have to include some revenue coming from the 1%.”

Hey Supercommittee: Potential $824 Billion * Tax Wall St. * Cut the Military * Tax Pollution

JOHN CAVANAGH, SARAH ANDERSON, via Lacy MacAuley, lacy at ips-dc.org,
Cavanagh and Anderson are lead authors of a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies titled “America Isn’t Broke: How to Pay for the Crisis While Making the Country More Equitable, Green, and Secure.” The report “lays out a plan for reform that amounts to $824 billion in potential revenue per year. The reforms listed in the report would generate seven times the total savings the supercommittee was tasked with identifying in their deficit reduction plan.” The report recommends:

* “Revenues that advance a more equitable society: New taxes on Wall Street, corporations, and individuals could, if rigorously enforced, raise more than $375 billion a year, while reducing reckless speculative activity and creating a healthier society. Between 1935 and the late 1970s, progressive tax rates and investments in infrastructure, education, and housing expanded the middle class and served as a foundation for decades of broadly shared prosperity. Today, opinion polls indicate widespread renewed support for proposals to increase taxes on millionaires, make Wall Street pay its fair share, and close corporate tax loopholes.

* “Expenditure cuts that would make the United States and the world more secure: The Pentagon consumes more than half of U.S. federal discretionary spending, much of it on things that do not make us safer. While some jobs rely on this spending, a study by economists at the University of Massachusetts has shown that the military budget is a poor job creator compared to other forms of federal spending. Whereas $1 billion devoted to military production creates approximately 11,000 jobs, the same amount invested in clean energy creates about 17,000 jobs; in health care, 19,000 jobs; and in education, 29,000 jobs. We identify three areas where a total of $252 billion in cuts can be made to free up funds for job creation without risk to our national security. They are:

“End the war in Afghanistan as we end the war in Iraq;
“Reduce the sprawling network of overseas U.S. military bases; and
“Eliminate programs that are obsolete and/or wasteful. All three of these goals are supported by the
majority of Americans.”

* Revenue increases and subsidy cuts that will create a cleaner environment: “The Obama administration has promised to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and yet U.S. taxpayers are still spending tens of billions of dollars per year on handouts to giant oil and other energy firms. We recommend eliminating this corporate welfare and introducing new taxes on pollution that could generate an estimated $197 billion per year in revenue.”

Anderson also just wrote a piece titled “Occupy the Budget” based on the report.

The Super Committee and the Budget: What Would Failure Really Mean?

The Congressional budgetary Super Committee Report is due on Wednesday. Expectations for success are low. Talk about the possibility of another U.S. bond downgrade is widespread. But what exactly would “failure” really consist of?

THOMAS FERGUSON, thomas.ferguson@umb.edu
Ferguson is professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and a senior fellow of the Roosevelt Institute. He said today: “As a case study of a broken political system, you’ll never see a clearer case than the Congressional budgetary Super Committee. Essentially every poll shows that about two thirds of all Americans want taxes raised on the wealthy — even a majority of Republicans. By four-to-one or better, voters reject cuts in Social Security or Medicare. But Democrats keep offering to cut, while Republicans draw lines in the sand on taxes.

“The economic arguments put forward to justify all this are laughable. Read the fine print on the ‘crisis’ in Social Security and you discover that even critics, such as Peter Orszag (President Obama’s former OMB chief), admit that under their pessimistic assumptions Social Security payments might rise by all of one percent of GDP by 2050! Social Security is obviously a non-problem, especially in the middle of the Great Recession.

“Health care and military are different. Both are industries in which true competition is rare. In both, the policy challenge is to face down oligopolies protected by powerful lobbies. Congress could, for example, save trillions of dollars in the long run by allowing the government to bargain down pharmaceutical prices, junking ‘fee for service’ pricing, requiring a single, integrated system for billing and reporting, banning obvious conflicts of interests such physicians owning shares in testing companies, and requiring serious cost comparisons of what treatments really work.

But these steps, like seriously rethinking American military strategy, don’t seem to be on the agenda of a Congress that openly sells leadership and committee posts to the highest bidders and luxuriates in insider stock trades.”

Ferguson’s study, coauthored with Robert Johnson, of U.S. deficit and budgetary problems, is available here in PDF.

His recent studies of Congress and money have appeared in the Financial Times and the Washington Spectator.

Public Citizen on Occupy: “Can’t Be Stopped”

USA Today reports: “A crowd of several hundred protesters marched from Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan to the New York Stock Exchange a few blocks away on Thursday as Occupy Wall Street demonstrators across the country promised mass gatherings to mark the movement’s two-month anniversary. Lines of helmeted police, some on horseback, blocked every approach to the financial district in New York. Several streets in the area were closed.”

ROBERT WEISSMAN, via Barbara Holzer, bholzer at citizen.org, Dorry Samuels, dsamuels at citizen.org
President of Public Citizen, Weissman said today: “Occupy Wall Street has helped focus national attention on the crucial problems of our day: unchecked corporate power that chokes our economy and democracy, rising inequality that betrays the basic promise of America, joblessness when there’s work to be done, foreclosures that displace families and leave houses empty, and much more.

“The hardy bands of Occupy protesters in New York and around the country have fundamentally altered the national conversation — and not just in the media. Political and campaign discourse has changed

“The Occupy movement already has done more to help this country than anyone could reasonably have imagined. But it’s just getting started. The movement won’t be deterred by eviction efforts in New York or Portland or Oakland or St. Louis or Nashville or anywhere else. ‘We are the 99 percent’ is not a call that can be so easily silenced, nor a movement that can be stopped. Public Citizen salutes, celebrates and supports Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movement.”

* Military Bases * Military Rape

The New York Times reports today: “Fresh from announcing an expanded American military presence in Australia, a plan that has angered China, President Obama came to this remote northern town that will be the base of operations and told American and Australian troops it is the ‘perfect place.'”

CATHERINE LUTZ, Catherine_Lutz at brown.edu
Editor of the book The Bases of Empire: The Struggle Against U.S. Military Posts, Lutz said today: “The United States has a vast and expensive network of roughly 1000 military bases around the world. To add another in Australia flies in the face both of organized calls from many quarters to reduce that number as well as the certainty that this will stimulate further military competition and spending by China in response. U.S. military base expansion in Guam has faced much local resistance including lawsuits and protests largely because of land taking, disruption of sacred sites and concerns about environmental damage. In Okinawa, Japan, one of the main issues has been abuse of local women by U.S. Marines posted there.” Lutz is a department chair at Brown University and co-director of the “Costs of War” study done there.

The Hill reports today: “Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) is introducing a bill Thursday that would create a new office for investigating and prosecuting sexual assaults in the military.”

Also, AllGov.com reports today: “A federal judge in Virginia is expected this week to rule whether 28 current and former military personnel can sue the Department of Defense for not taking action to curb rape in the armed services. Filed against former defense secretaries Robert Gates and Donald Rumsfeld, the lawsuit contends that Pentagon leaders allowed the violation of soldiers’ constitutional rights by failing to curb sexual assaults. The 28 plaintiffs consist of 25 women and three men, all of whom allege they were raped or sexually assaulted by fellow soldiers, and that the Defense Department failed to do anything after the attacks.”

HELEN BENEDICT, benedict.helen at gmail.com
Author of The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq, Benedict said today: “One of the most pernicious aspects of rape in the military is the prevailing culture of blaming the victim. Victims are treated as whiners, liars, seducers, and traitors — as everything a soldier should never be. They are mocked, ostracized and even punished for trying to seek justice. Until this culture changes, rapists will continue to be protected in the military, and victims will continue to be denied justice. Proof of this lies in the numbers: According to the Department of Defense, 19,000 incidents of sexual assault occurred in the military in 2010, yet only 13.5 percent of those were reported. Various VA studies show that close to one in three women are sexually assaulted while serving, while fewer than one in five sexual predators in the military are every tried in court.” Benedict wrote the piece “The Scandal of Military Rape” for Ms. Magazine.

Analysts: Bankers Take over Italy and Greece

COSTAS PANAYOTAKIS, [in NYC] cpanayotakis at gmail.com
Panayotakis is associate professor of sociology at the New York City College of Technology at CUNY and author of the forthcoming book “Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy.” He said today: “The rise of bankers and unelected technocrats to power in Greece and Italy shows how the unfolding crisis of the eurozone is undercutting democracy. In fact, for the first time since military dictatorship came to an end in Greece in 1974, the new government formed there at the behest of European leaders includes the extreme right, with its racist, anti-immigrant descendants of the Greek colonels. This government will continue the same austerity policies that have already failed, as manifested by Greece’s need for a second bailout and the fact that these policies have neither contained the crisis to Greece nor prevented it from spreading across Europe. The downward spiral of the Greek economy and the escalation of popular protest in that country prefigures what is to come in the rest of the continent.” Panayotakis’ latest piece is “The Greek Crisis Intensifies.

ANTONIO TRICARICO, [in Rome] atricarico at crbm.org
Tricarico is coordinator of the Italian NGO CRBM (Campaign for World Bank Reform) based in Rome and has been the economic correspondent of Il Manifesto at several international summits. Tricarico said today: “The proposed new coalition government headed by Mario Monti can be a fatal trap for Italy’s future. If most of political forces from the right and the left would support it, the European Commission and the European Central Bank — whose agenda Monti represents — will rule Italy without any opposition for the years to come, beyond any minimum standard of democratic accountability. The planned additional austerity measures — including privatization of public assets and drastic cuts to public expenses for social welfare — will drive Italy into a recession, more public debt and even a default if the domestic banking system collapses.

“Now that the buffoon Berlusconi is out, the lack of credibility lies not with Italy but with the European institutions and the German government. A radical U-turn is needed in European politics, against the blackmail of financial markets, before it is too late. The only way out for Italy, as well as Greece and other Southern European governments, is to openly question the failure of the European Central Bank and the European Commission to address the crisis so far. These institutions have to be brought back under democratic and public control and redirected to financially support European governments in difficulty.”

SALVATORE ENGEL-DI MAURO, engeldis at newpaltz.edu
Engel-Di Mauro is editor of the book The European’s Burden: Global Imperialism in EU Expansion. He is also associate professor of geography at SUNY New Paltz and editor of the journal Capitalism Nature Socialism. He said today: “The last time interim governments were ushered in because of a coalition breakdown, it meant cuts in social spending and new laws permanently affecting government budgets. One example — raising the age of and cuts in pensions and giving more weight to private contributions — has resulted in huge pension disparities. All this was done under the unelected governments of Dini and then Amato and D’Alema in the 1990s and early 2000s. The 1990s “centre-left” Prodi government (which included communist parties) exacerbated previous budget cuts imposed by the early Berlusconi and prior technocratic administrations, introduced more privatization of state assets and services, expanded the range of activities considered “criminal” (contributing to horrific prison overcrowding), further criminalized immigrants (introducing detention and expulsion centers), and participated directly in the bombing of Yugoslavia. These policies show us what the actual priorities have been for the opposition and so we have a virtual guarantee that the Italian state, in the current political climate, will likely become more repressive than it already is and serve more as the armed wing of the European Central Bank and European Commission, which are, it must be emphasized, two unelected bodies.”

Attacks on Occupy: “Revenge of the 1%”

The New York Daily News is reporting: “Hours after baton-wielding cops cleared Occupy Wall Street protesters and their tents out of Zuccotti Park, a judge signed a order Tuesday saying the demonstrators can return with their stuff.

“Mayor Bloomberg said the city was trying to clarify the restraining order signed by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lucy Billings, a former civil liberties lawyer.

“In the meantime, Zuccotti — which briefly reopened after a scrub-down — would be closed to the public, Bloomberg said.”

For more, including video streams from New York City and other occupations, see.

MARGARET RATNER KUNSTLER, margaret at kunstlerlaw.net
Margaret Ratner Kunstler, who is with the National Lawyers Guild, is co-author of the just released book “Hell No: Your Right to Dissent in 21st Century America.” She is involved in the case and said today that “Bloomberg is in contempt of the court order.” She said that in effect, Bloomberg had said that the park would be open, but not allow tents, the judge said tents should be allowed. Bloomberg responded by closing the park altogether. A hearing is scheduled for 11:30. A copy of the court order.

NATHAN SCHNEIDER, [in NYC] nathan at wagingnonviolence.org
Schneider is an editor of the website Waging Non-Violence and has been extensively covering Occupy Wall Street from its beginning. He said today from a protest near Wall Street: “It’s pretty likely that this was timed to try to take the wind out of the sails of the planned march to shut down Wall Street on Thursday. That’s the kind of thing Bloomberg has done in the past. But from the feeling on the streets today, it will have the opposite effect and strengthen the numbers on Thursday.”

ARUN GUPTA, ebrowniess at yahoo.com
A founding editor of the New York City based Indypendent, Gupta also helped found the Occupied Wall Street Journal. He is currently in New Orleans. He said today: “This is the revenge of the 1%. It’s no coincidence that the largest occupations — Oakland, Portland and New York — are all under attack at the same time. For two months a deeply popular movement has confronted this country with the social costs of the extreme concentration of wealth and power. The 1% could not deny the evidence that their policies and politicians had rigged a system that kept money flowing upward while tens of millions are without full-time employment, mired in poverty, lack health insurance and are homeless or have lost houses to foreclosure.

“When you can’t win with words, you resort to the fist. This is why so many cities have tried to break up occupations in recent weeks, from Honolulu and Denver to Chicago and Albany to Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Mobile, Alabama. The 1% want to sweep the poor, homeless, unemployed and the rest of the 99% back into the abyss. But this has failed so far, and we should remember what has been said about those who would make peaceful change impossible.”

Supreme Court and Health Care — Toward Reform Without Mandate

The New York Times reports: “The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a challenge to the 2010 health care overhaul law, President Obama’s signature legislative achievement. The development set the stage for oral arguments by March and a decision in late June, in the midst of the 2012 presidential campaign.”

MARGARET FLOWERS, M.D., [in D.C.] mdpnhp at gmail.com
Flowers is congressional fellow for the 18,000-member Physicians for a National Health Program. She said today: “The current health law requires that people purchase private insurance. An improved Medicare for all health system would finance health care for everyone using a progressive tax. It would be a huge step towards solving the U.S. health care crisis and has the added advantage of avoiding a constitutional challenge. I hope that if the current federal health law is struck down, we will move quickly to a national improved Medicare for all in order to improve health, save lives and ease the stress of health care costs on the economy.