Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Damn, This Is Good!!!

Brent Budowsky: Semper Fidelis. An Open Letter To Military Families and Military Communities of America

By BuzzFlash
Created 09/25/2006 - 9:26pm

by Brent Budowsky

I am a Sam Nunn Democrat who begins with this: I salute you and everything you have done for our country. Some of you are heroes in uniform. All of you are heroes in spirit. All Americans owe you a deep debt of gratitude for all you have done, and all you are doing and will always do every time our country calls you.

In your hands, in a few short weeks, rests one of the most important decisions the voters of America will ever make in a Congressional election.

My own background begins with many years of experience in intelligence. Within days of 9-11 I contacted both the CIA and Marine Corps intelligence and offered to use my background and experience to help in any way. When the fires were burning from lower Manhattan to Northern Virginia on that day in September, my fires were burning, as were yours, to kill the people who made that happen.

Within days, I learned that the plan was not to go after those who killed our neighbors on that September, but to use that event, to begin a war in Iraq. Those of you with high level military contacts knew, as I knew, that this was not what our commanders wanted. And those of you with high level contacts in the intelligence community knew, as I knew, that that is not what our intelligence professionals recommended.

As I know, and many of you know, so much has been said, since those days, that is simply untrue. And as many retired commanders from the United States Marine Corps and United States Army have now said, and many now on active duty believe, but cannot say because of the chain of command, many things were done wrong then, and are being done wrong today.

Lord knows, you will not hear from me, that Democrats or their leaders are perfect. Since 9-11 I have personally communicated with many of them, at the highest levels, as recently as 48 hours ago. More often than not, they have not taken my advice, and they bear some signficiant responsiblity for the dangers we face today.

Having said that, there is an enormous and potentially catastrophic difference between continuing an all Republican government, as we have today, which will mean more of the status quo and possibly worse, versus electing Democrats to Congress, in which case our government will step back and begin to come together as a nation, again.

The problem with the President and his policy is simple, and twofold. First it is run by hard core ideologues who every day appear trigger happy for new wars, having failed to properly run the existing wars. And second, it is run by ideologues who have no military service records and, therefore, no understanding of military policies, military needs, military life, and military traditions.

I do not question the lack of service of the President, the Vice President, and virtually every other senior member of his Adminstration and virtually every leading neoconservative who has dangerously dominated our policy from the beginning, until now, except for this:

The disrespect shown to our former Army Chief of Staff, General Shinseki, who tried to warn them, is only an ugly public show of a dangerously wrong attitude that harms our country, our troops and our security every day, since this conflict in Iraq began.

They do not understand military expertise, and they disrespect those who have it. They do not understand military requirements, so they ignore commander advice and go to war with too few troops. They do not understand military life, so they turn troop rotations into practices that become involuntary servitude and border on a backdoor draft.

The problem is not a moral judgment on their lack of military service, it is a dangerous lack of experience combined with a dangerous lack of respect, for those who have it.

They do not understand the proper role of our Guard and Reserves, so they abuse those vital services, and disrupt the lives of those who serve and their families, which are far outside their life experience. They do not understand the moral and military duties of civilian leaders to those who wear the uniform, because they have never been there, or done that, so they send troops to war without adequate armor, bandages and helmets among many other things.

They are so far removed from military culture, military life, and the responsibilities and duties of civilians who control our forces, that even when they read stories about Moms and Dads asked by sons and daughters in combat, to buy from home supplies that were not provided from Washington, they are not moved to action, they are moved to write talking points of excuse or call our troops complainers.

Because of their lack of military experience, and their lack of respect for those who have it, they do things that we know are unthinkable. When commanders and special forces plead for reinforcements to kill Bin Laden at Tora Bora, they so no, because their obsession to war in Iraq exceeded their commitment to kill Bin Laden. When commanders plead again and again for troop support, or armor, or better protected vehicles, they say no, or delay, because they have never been there, and do not understand.

Because of their lack of military experience, and their lack of respect for those who have it, they ignore and mock the unanimous view of every commander in every service to honor the Geneva Convention. Never having been there, or done that, they do not understand, as every commander and every enlisted man and woman understands, that the Geneva Convention was not created to protect our enemies, but to protect our own troops.

Because of their lack of military experience, and their lack of respect for those who have it, they listen to those who want meager and inadequate pay for those who serve, claiming lack of money, while they excuse stealing and corruption that may total $10 billion of the money for Iraq, because it helps their friends, and campaign contributors.

They listen to voices calling for cuts in help for brain injury treatment for wounded troops.

They tolerate for years our active duty troops being ripped off on loans with rates higher than the Mafia charges its loan sharking victims.

They stand idly by, when debt collectors make harrassing calls to wives and husbands of heroes who serve, threatening to reposses their homes and cars, because this is not part of their lives, this is not part their world, when they send troops to harm, from the safety of their citadels of power.

They listen to voices calling for closure of military hospitals, citing budget pressures, while they cut taxes, which cost hundreds of billions of dollars, to buy political support at home, while they impose sacrifice on those who serve abroad.

Lacking military experience themselves, and lacking respect for those who have it, they do not believe intelligence is meant to make informed decisions about whether to go to war, or how to manage a war, as every military commander knows and believes. Rather, they believe intelligence is just another political weapon in their obsessions of ideology, to be twisted and distorted when the truth may contradict their obsessions, to be ignored when the facts call for changes in policy, at great cost to those who serve.

Lacking military experience themselves, and lacking respect for those who have it, they never understood that one of the great rules for success in war, is unity at home. Rather than unite the nation behind the policy, they divide the nation, deliberately, to support their partisanship, at great cost to those who serve.

Five months ago, the combined resources of the American intelligence community issued a National Intelligence Estimate which held that the war in Iraq was creating more danger, creating more terrorists, creating more threats to America.

This was not some idle statement, this was the authoritative viewpoint of our combined intelligence services. What did the President and his advisors do? Did they make any change to the policy? No. Did they tell the truth to the people? No. Did they honorably represent the views of commanders? No. With even our combined intelligence agencies warning of danger, did they do anything al all differently? No.

To military families, military communities, I would respectfully say this: the problem with these people, the problem with the President, the Vice President, the neoconservatives and the Republican Congress is that they are political ideologues, who treat war as theory, because they lack experience in practice. They are hard core political partisans, who show contempt for commanders when the voice of experience contradicts the ambitions of their politics.

They play to win elections, not knowing how to win a war, which the combined intelligence agencies of the American government, now warn they are in danger of losing.

To military families, military communities, I would respectfully propose this: if Demcrats are elected to Congress, what will happen on the morning after the election, is that reasonable people in both parties will sit down, with each other, with our commanders, with respect and goodwill, and begin to plan a way out of this mess. Together.

The choice this November is not between a Republican policy versus a Democratic policy. The choice this November is whether we have two more years of one party government and continuation of the status quo, or whether we have two party government, three branches of government, and a renewed spirit of national unity, and national purpose.

As someone proud to be associated with the Fighting Dems, who stand for heroes who sit in the House and Senate, and heroes who wear their banner of service as a badge of honor in their quest to serve in government, I will make one promise, with my hand on my bible, and my heart with our troops:

I and every one of the fighting dems will spend every hour of every day, working and fighting for our troops, their families, and their friends, neighbors, colleagues and clergy who stand with them, behind them, and for them.

I and every one of the fighting dems have the ear and attention of the leaders in our party, because they care. Many of them have served; all of them have enormous respect for those with experience in running wars, and those who risk their lives in wars, and those who sacrifice on their behalf, at home.

This is in our blood, our soul, our heart and our spirit. For us, this is not a commercial for election, this is the commitment for a lifetime, a passion and patriotism we believe very powerfully, and very deeply,

Some of us have had men and women die in our arms, from enemy fire.

Others of us will carry for life the wounds of combat, carrying with us pain, felt with honor.

Still others of us, know what it's like to have bullets fired towards us, where we never asked the race or religion or political party of the man or woman by our side.

All of us, each and every one of us, knows this: we are in this together, and we will not let any person, from any place, for any reason, tell us differently.

With even one American under fire, in any part of the world, we are all military families, we are all security moms, we are all security dads, we are all in the great band of brothers and sisters and for us, this is hallowed ground that we will never yield to anyone, and will always defend together.

If you stand with us, we will stand with you.

Because, we are you.

Semper Fidelis.

Brent Budowsky


Brent Budowsky served as Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen, responsible for commerce and intelligence matters, including one of the core drafters of the CIA Identities Law. Served as Legislative Director to Congressman Bill Alexander, then Chief Deputy Whip, House of Representatives. Currently a member of the International Advisory Council of the Intelligence Summit. Left goverment in 1990 for marketing and public affairs business including major corporate entertainment and talent management. He can be reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Why Does Bush HATE Science???

Bush Closes EPA Libraries Without Approval from Congress; Will Gut Research and Cost Millions. Why Does He Hate Science?

Submitted by BuzzFlash on Wed, 09/20/2006 - 12:12pm.


The Bush Administration's decision to reduce EPA funding and eliminate several scientific research libraries has been challenged by Democratic House Ranking Members Bart Gordon, John Dingell, and Henry Waxman in a letter to the GAO. "We have grace concerns of this plan on the EPA's ability to protect the environment, and we question whether the plan will actually save the government money," they wrote.

President Bush's proposed 2007 budget slashed 80% of the funding for the library network, which contains 50,000 unique documents not found elsewhere along with vast resources relied upon by agency staff, scientists in academia and industry, and the general public. The EPA has already begun preemptively closing facilities despite the fact that Congress has yet to actually approve the president's budget. By September 30, 15 states will have lost their libraries, and other states will begin losing hours and services.

The closures have already sparked outrage by scientists and environmentalists. Last June, BuzzFlash reported on a complaint filed on behalf of 10,000 EPA scientists over the cuts. In August the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance issued a position paper suggesting the plan is seriously flawed and will undermine the ability of scientists to do their jobs of protecting the public and the environment.

Bizarrely, Bush is trying to close the libraries despite the fact that the network actually saves far more money in improved efficiency than it costs to maintain. While Bush wants to gut nearly all of the $2.5 million budget, estimates indicate that the libraries save staff about 214,000 hours each year, worth about $7.5 million.

Though EPA officials claim the plan will allow for "modernization" by digitizing documents, the Democratic letter expressed reservations over whether information will actually be maintained. "It appears that EPA plans to shut libraries first and digitize documents later," they wrote. "It is unclear from the budget proposal or the plan what funds will be allocated to ensuring that paper and microfiche documents will be digitized and made available electronically.

"EPA's activities are funded by the public and are designed to serve the public," the letter says. "A shuttered library does not further open and transparent government."

Click here to read the letter (PDF)


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Happy Blogging Anniversary!!!

As of today I've been blogging for a year ... I'd like to thank my two readers (The Wife & DemonDoll) ... that I know of ... for hanging in there!!!

I really need to get more of my rants out there ... but then Bush and/or Cheney would track me down for my constant badmouthing of them ... they (all Neocons actually) both really suck ... totally!!!

Or I could post some raves ... like I had a really good burrito last night for dinner ... stuff like that ... bore the hell out of both of you.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Atheism Is Smarter!!!

From this week's Newsweek ... good stuff!!!:

The New Naysayers

In the midst of religious revival, three scholars argue that atheism is smarter.
By Jerry Adler

Sept. 11, 2006 issue - Americans answered the atrocities of September 11, overwhelmingly, with faith. Attacked in the name of God, they turned to God for comfort; in the week after the attacks, nearly 70 percent said they were praying more than usual. Confronted by a hatred that seemed inexplicable, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson proclaimed that God was mad at America because it harbored feminists, gays and civil libertarians. Sam Harris, then a 34-year-old graduate student in neuroscience, had a different reaction. On Sept. 12, he began a book. If, he reasoned, young men were slaughtering people in the name of religion—something that had been going on since long before 2001, of course—then perhaps the problem was religion itself. The book would be called "The End of Faith," which to most Americans probably sounds like a lament. To Harris it is something to be encouraged.

This was not a message most Americans wanted to hear, before or after 9/11. Atheists "are seen as a threat to the American way of life by a large portion of the American public," according to a study by Penny Edgell, a sociologist at the University of Minnesota. In a recent NEWSWEEK Poll, Americans said they believed in God by a margin of 92 to 6—only 2 percent answered "don't know"—and only 37 percent said they'd be willing to vote for an atheist for president. (That's down from 49 percent in a 1999 Gallup poll—which also found that more Americans would vote for a homosexual than an atheist.) "The End of Faith" struggled to find a publisher, and even after Norton agreed to bring it out in 2004, Harris says there were editors who refused to come to meetings with him. But after winning the PEN/Martha Albrand award for nonfiction, the book sold 270,000 copies. Harris's scathing "Letter to a Christian Nation" will be published this month with a press run of 150,000. Someone is listening, even if he is mostly preaching, one might say, to the unconverted.

This year also saw the publication in February of "Breaking the Spell," by the philosopher Daniel C. Dennett, which asks how and why religions became ubiquitous in human society. The obvious answer—"Because they're true"—is foreclosed, Dennett says, by the fact that they are by and large mutually incompatible. Even to study "religion as a natural phenomenon," the subtitle of Dennett's book, is to deprive it of much of its mystery and power. And next month the British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins ("The Selfish Gene") weighs in with "The God Delusion," a book that extends an argument he advanced in the days after 9/11. After hearing once too often that "[t]o blame the attacks on Islam is like blaming Christianity for the fighting in Northern Ireland," Dawkins responded: Precisely. "It's time to get angry," he wrote, "and not only with Islam."

Dawkins and Harris are not writing polite demurrals to the time-honored beliefs of billions; they are not issuing pleas for tolerance or moderation, but bone-rattling attacks on what they regard as a pernicious and outdated superstition. (In the spirit of scientific evenhandedness, both would call themselves agnostic, although as Dawkins says, he's agnostic about God the same way he's agnostic about the existence of fairies.) They ask: where do people get their idea of God? From the Bible or the Qur'an. "Tell a devout Christian ... that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible," Harris writes, "and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever." He asks: How can anyone believe in a benevolent and omnipotent God who permits a tsunami to swallow 180,000 innocent people in a few hours? How does it advance our understanding of the universe to suppose that it was created by a supernatural being who communicates only through the one-way process of revelation?

These are not brand-new arguments, of course, and believers have well-practiced replies to them, although in some cases, such as the persistence of evil and suffering (the "theodicy" problem), the responses are still mostly works in progress. Neither author claims much success in arguing anyone out of a belief in God, but they consider it sufficient reward when they hear from people who were encouraged by their books to give voice to their private doubts. All the same, this is highly inflammatory material. Dawkins acknowledges that many readers will expect, or hope, to see him burning in hell (citing Aquinas as authority for the belief that souls in heaven will get a view of hell for their enjoyment). Harris says he has turned down requests for the rights to translate "The End of Faith" into Arabic or Urdu. "I think it would be a death sentence for any translator," he says. Harris himself—who traveled the world for a dozen years studying Eastern religions and mysticism before returning to finish his undergraduate degree at Stanford—asks that the name of his current university not be publicized.

These authors have no geopolitical strategy to advance; they're interested in the metaphysics of belief, not the politics of the First Amendment. It's the idea of putting trust in God they object to, not the motto on the nickel. This sets them apart from America's best-known atheist activist, the late Madalyn Murray O'Hair, a controversial eccentric who won a landmark lawsuit against mandatory classroom prayers in 1963 and went on to found the group now called American Atheists. When a chaplain came to her hospital room once and asked what he could do for her, she notoriously replied, "Drop dead." Dawkins, an urbane Oxfordian, would regard that as appalling manners. "I have no problem with people wishing me a Happy Christmas," he says, expressing puzzlement over the passions provoked in America by the question of how store clerks greet customers.

But if the arguments of Dawkins and Harris are familiar, they also bring to bear new scientific evidence on the issue. Evolution isn't necessarily incompatible with faith, even with evangelical Christianity. Several new books—"Evolution and Christian Faith" by the Stanford biologist Joan Roughgarden and "The Language of God" by geneticist Francis Collins—uphold both. But to skeptics like Dawkins—and to Biblical literalists on the other side—Darwin appears to rob God of credit for his crowning achievement, which is us. In particular, evolutionary psychologists believe they are closing in on one of the remaining mysteries of life, the universal "moral law" that underlies our intuitive notions of good and evil. Why do we recognize that acts such as murder are wrong? To Collins, it's evidence of God's handiwork—the very perception that led him to become a Christian.

But Dawkins attempts to show how the highest of human impulses, such as empathy, charity and pity, could have evolved by the same mechanism of natural selection that created the thumb. Biologists understand that the driving force in evolution is the survival and propagation of our genes. They may impel us to instinctive acts of goodness, Dawkins writes, even when it seems counterproductive to our own interests—say, by risking our life to save someone else. Evolutionary psychology can explain how selfless behavior might have evolved. The recipient may be a blood relation who carries some of our own genes. Or our acts may earn us future gratitude, or a reputation for bravery that makes us more desirable as mates. Of course, the essence of the moral law is that it applies even to strangers. Missionaries who devote themselves to saving the lives of Third World peasants have no reasonable expectation of being repaid in this world. But, Dawkins goes on, the impulse for generosity must have evolved while humans lived in small bands in which almost everyone was related, so that goodness became the default human aspiration. This is a rebuke not merely to believers who insist that God must be the source of all goodness—but equally to the 19th-century atheism of Nietzsche, who assumed that the death of God meant the end of conventional morality.

But Dawkins, brilliant as he is, overlooks something any storefront Baptist preacher might have told him. "If there is no God, why be good?" he asks rhetorically, and responds: "Do you really mean the only reason you try to be good is to gain God's approval and reward? That's not morality, that's just sucking up." That's clever. But millions of Christians and Muslims believe that it was precisely God who turned them away from a life of immorality. Dawkins, of course, thinks they are deluding themselves. He is correct that the social utility of religion doesn't prove anything about the existence of God. But for all his erudition, he seems not to have spent much time among ordinary Christians, who could have told him what God has meant to them.

It is not just extremists who earn the wrath of Dawkins and Harris. Their books are attacks on religious "moderates" as well—indeed, the very idea of moderation. The West is not at war with "terrorism," Harris asserts in "The End of Faith"; it is at war with Islam, a religion whose holy book, "on almost every page ... prepares the ground for religious conflict." Christian fundamentalists, he says, have a better handle on the problem than moderates: "They know what it's like to really believe that their holy book is the word of God, and there's a paradise you can get to if you die in the right circumstances. They're not left wondering what is the 'real' cause of terrorism." As for the Bible, Harris, like the fundamentalists, prefers a literal reading. He quotes at length the passages in the Old and New Testaments dealing with how to treat slaves. Why, he asks, would anyone take moral instruction from a book that calls for stoning your children to death for disrespect, or for heresy, or for violating the Sabbath? Obviously our culture no longer believes in that, he adds, so why not agree that science has made it equally unnecessary to invoke God to explain the Sun, or the weather, or your own existence?

Even agnostic moderates get raked over—like the late Stephen Jay Gould, the evolutionary biologist who attempted to broker a truce between science and religion in his controversial 1999 book "Rocks of Ages." Gould proposed that science and religion retreat to separate realms, the former concerned with empirical questions about the way the universe works, while the latter pursues ultimate meaning and ethical precepts. But, Dawkins asks, unless the Bible is right in its historical and metaphysical claims, why should we grant it authority in the moral realm? And can science really abjure any interest in the claims of religion? Did Jesus come back from the dead, or didn't he? If so, how did God make it happen? Collins says he is satisfied with the answer that the Resurrection is a miracle, permanently beyond our understanding. That Collins can hold that belief, while simultaneously working at the very frontiers of science as the head of the Human Genome Project, is what amazes Harris.

Believers can take comfort in the fact that atheism barely amounts to a "movement." American Atheists, which fights in the courts and legislatures for the rights of nonbelievers, has about 2,500 members and a budget of less than $1 million. On the science Web site Edge.org, the astronomer Carolyn Porco offers the subversive suggestion that science itself should attempt to supplant God in Western culture, by providing the benefits and comforts people find in religion: community, ceremony and a sense of awe. "Imagine congregations raising their voices in tribute to gravity, the force that binds us all to the Earth, and the Earth to the Sun, and the Sun to the Milky Way," she writes. Porco, who is deeply involved in the Cassini mission to Saturn, finds spiritual fulfillment in exploring the cosmos. But will that work for the rest of the world—for "the people who want to know that they're going to live forever and meet Mom and Dad in heaven? We can't offer that." If Dawkins, Dennett and Harris are right, the five-century-long competition between science and religion is sharpening. People are choosing sides. And when that happens, people get hurt.

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14638243/site/newsweek/

Monday, September 04, 2006

Happy Labor Day II!!!


By Greg Palast
September, 3 2006

Some years from now, in an economic refugee relocation "Enterprise Zone," your kids will ask you, "What did you do in the Class War, Daddy?"

The trick of class war is not to let the victims know they're under attack. That's how, little by little, the owners of the planet take away what little we have.

This week, Dupont, the chemical giant, slashed employee pension benefits by two-thirds. Furthermore, new Dupont workers won't get a guaranteed pension at all -- and no health care after retirement. It's part of Dupont's new "Die Young" program, I hear. Dupont is not in financial straits. Rather, the slash attack on its workers' pensions was aimed at adding a crucial three cents a share to company earnings, from $3.11 per share to $3.14.

So Happy Labor Day.

And this week, the government made it official: For the first time since the Labor Department began measuring how the American pie is sliced, those in the top fifth of the wealth scale are now gobbling up over half (50.4%) of our nation's annual income.

So Happy Labor Day.

We don't even get to lick the plates. While 15.9% of us don't have health insurance (a record, Mr. President!), even those of us who have it, don't have it: we're spending 36% more per family out of pocket on medical costs since the new regime took power in Washington. If you've actually tried to collect from your insurance company, you know what I mean.

So Happy Labor Day.

But if you think I have nothing nice to say about George W. Bush, let me report that the USA now has more millionaires than ever -- 7.4 million! And over the past decade, the number of billionaires has more than tripled, 341 of them!

If that doesn't make you feel like you're missing out, this should: You, Mr. Median, are earning, after inflation, a little less than you earned when Richard Nixon reigned. Median household income -- and most of us are "median" -- is down. Way down.

Since the Bush Putsch in 2000, median income has fallen 5.9%.Mr. Bush and friends are offering us an "ownership" society. But he didn't mention who already owns it. The richest fifth of America owns 83% of all shares in the stock market. But that's a bit misleading because most of that, 53% of all the stock, is owned by just one percent of American households.

And what does the Wealthy One Percent want? Answer: more wealth. Where will they get it? As with a tube of toothpaste, they're squeezing it from the bottom. Median paychecks have gone down by 5.9% during the current regime, but Americans in the bottom fifth have seen their incomes sliced by 20%.

At the other end, CEO pay at the Fortune 500 has bloated by 51% during the first four years of the Bush regime to an average of $8.1 million per annum.

So who's winning? It's a crude indicator, but let's take a peek at the Class War body count.

When Reagan took power in 1980, the One Percent possessed 33% of America's wealth as measured by capital income. By 2006, the One Percent has swallowed over half of all America's assets, from sea to shining sea. One hundred fifty million Americans altogether own less than 3% of all private assets.

Yes, American middle-class house values are up, but we're blowing that gain to stay alive. Edward Wolff, the New York University expert on income, explained to me that, "The middle class is mortgaging itself to death." As a result of mortgaging our new equity, 60% of all households have seen a decline in net worth.

Is America getting poorer? No, just its people, We the Median. In fact, we are producing an astonishing amount of new wealth in the USA. We are a lean, mean production machine. Output per worker in BushAmerica zoomed by 15% over four years through 2004. Problem is, although worker productivity keeps rising, the producers are getting less and less of it.

The gap between what we produce and what we get is widening like an alligator's jaw. The more you work, the less you get. It used to be that as the economic pie got bigger, everyone's slice got bigger too. No more.

The One Percent have swallowed your share before you can get your fork in.

The loot Dupont sucked from its employees' retirement funds will be put to good use. It will more than cover the cost of the company directors' decision to hike the pension set aside for CEO Charles Holliday to $2.1 million a year. And that's fair, I suppose: Holliday's a winning general in the class war. And shouldn't the winners of war get the spoils?

Of course, there are killjoys who cling to that Calvinist-Marxist belief that a system forever fattening the richest cannot continue without end. Professor Michael Zweig, Director of the State University of New York's Center for Study of Working Class Life, put it in culinary terms: "Today's pig is tomorrow's bacon."


Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, "ARMED MADHOUSE: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War," just released from Penguin/Dutton, from which this is adapted.

Happy Labor Day!!!

David Sirota's OP-ED in the San Francisco Chronicle ... I wish I was in a Union ... I appreciate everything they've done for the American Worker:

The War on Workers

By David Sirota

U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige labeled one "a terrorist organization." Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, called them "a clear and present danger to the security of the United States." And U.S. Rep. Charles Norwood, R-Ga., claimed they employ "tyranny that Americans are fighting and dying to defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan" and are thus "enemies of freedom and democracy," who show "why we still need the Second Amendment" to defend ourselves with firearms.

Who are these supposed threats to America? No, not Osama bin Laden followers, but labor unions made up of millions of workers -- janitors, teachers, firefighters, police officers, you name it.

Bashing organized labor is a Republican pathology, to the point where unions are referenced with terms reserved for military targets. In his 1996 article, headlined "GOP Readies for War With Big Labor," conservative columnist Robert Novak cheered the creation of a "GOP committee task force on the labor movement" that would pursue a "major assault" on unions. As one Republican lawmaker told Novak, GOP leaders champion an "anti-union attitude that appeals to the mentality of hillbillies at revival meetings.

"The hostility, while disgusting, is unsurprising. Unions wield power for workers, meaning they present an obstacle to Republican corporate donors, who want to put profit-making over other societal priorities.

Think the minimum wage just happened? Think employer-paid health care and pensions have been around for as long as they have by some force of magic? Think again -- unions used collective bargaining to preserve these benefits. As the saying goes, union members are the folks that brought you the weekend.

The government's numbers explain how unions have helped their members. According to an analysis of federal data by the Labor Research Association, average union members receive a quarter more in compensation than nonunion workers. Eighty-nine percent of union members have access to employer-sponsored health care, compared to just 67 percent of nonunion workers. Unionized workers receive 26 percent more vacation than nonunion workers.

Unions also benefit nonunion workers. That's thanks to the "union threat effect" whereby anti-union companies meet higher standards in order to prevent workers from becoming angry and organizing. For instance, Princeton researchers found in industries that are 25 percent unionized, average nonunion workers get 7.5 percent more compensation specifically because of unionization's presence.

The flip side is obvious: The more corporations and politicians crush unions, the more all workers suffer. It is no coincidence that as union membership and power has declined under withering anti-union attacks, workers have seen their wages stagnate, pensions slashed, and share of national income hit a 60-year low. As Council on Foreign Relations scholars put it, the decline in unions "is correlated with the early and sharp widening of the U.S. wage gap."

Big Business claims union membership has declined because workers do not want to join unions -- a claim debunked by public-opinion data. In 2002, Harvard University and University of Wisconsin researchers found at least 42 million workers want to be organized into a bargaining unit -- more than double the 16 million unionized workers in America. A 2005 nationwide survey by respected pollster Peter Hart found 53 percent of nonunion workers -- that's more than 50 million people -- want to join a union, if given the choice.

Increasingly, however, workers have no real choice. According to Cornell University experts, 1 in 4 employers illegally fires at least one worker during a union drive, 3 in 4 hire anti-union consultants, and 8 in 10 force workers to attend anti-union meetings. When workers petition the government to enforce laws protecting organizing rights, they are forced to go before the National Labor Relations Board, which is both run by anti-union presidential appointees, and chronically understaffed so as to slow down proceedings. When Democrats have tried to expand workers' union rights by introducing the Employee Free Choice Act, the GOP has prevented a vote on the legislation.

So when GOP lawmakers pledge their commitment to workers at Labor Day celebrations today, remember -- Republicans are waging a war on the very workers they purport to care about.

David Sirota is the author of "Hostile Takeover" (Crown, 2006). He is the co-chair of the Progressive States Network (www.progressivestates.org).