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Saturday, March 18, 2006

The financial exposure of each US worker? $375,000 just from the government! 

[Thanks to my Catalon catalyst for this URL]...

You think your neighbors can't save money? You noted that last year was the first year since the Great Depression that net savings was zero? Well, people are just following the "lead" of the US government, whose financial exposure has more than doubled since, you guessed it, 2000.

The federal government’s gross debt in the consolidated financial statements was about $8 trillion as of September 30, 2005. This number excludes such items as the gap between the present value of future promised and funded Social Security and Medicare benefits, veterans’ health care, and a range of other liabilities (e.g., federal employee and veteran benefits payable), commitments, and contingencies that the federal government has pledged to support. Including these items, the federal government’s fiscal exposures now total more than $46 trillion, up from about $20 trillion in 2000. This translates into a burden of about $156,000 per American or approximately $375,000 per full-time worker, up from $72,000 and $165,000 respectively, in 2000. These amounts do not include future costs resulting from Hurricane Katrina or the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Continuing on this unsustainable path will gradually erode, if not suddenly damage, our economy, our standard of living, and ultimately our national security.

I don't know about you, but I don't have $624,000 sitting around doing nothing in my family of four, do you?

What does the Comptroller General of the US think of this?

The federal government did not maintain effective internal control over financial reporting (including safeguarding assets) and compliance with significant laws and regulations as of September 30, 2005.

In other words, the government is completely insolvent. And is lying about it. Tax breaks have been given to force obese, self-righteous, dumbing-down and numbing-down, smug and complacent Americans to buy more cheap crap from China. Guess whose economy is booming? If you think the makers of cheap crap, you're at least paying attention. It's a race for the bottom right now, but it didn't have to be. Offshoring of jobs (in spite of the horrendous conditions in China, where 4 million people a year die of the effects of pollution....and coal use figures show this will only get worse) need not have been a bane to Americans, but replacing them with the illogical, unproductive jobs of weapons making and warring means the Al Qaeda is plausibly within five years of defeating both sides of the Cold War. Russia in 1989, and the US in 2009.

But keep voting Republican, after all, Bush can ride a mountain bike.

Anything--*anything*--can happen in the next five years. It's going to get really ugly, really soon. Think it's calm now? Storm's a comin', brothers and sisters. Wake up.

-Vulf

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Are the last 2 US Presidents war criminals? 

We all know the answer on the current president, but this article makes a poignant--though perhaps too accusative--commentary on Bill Clinton and colleagues being guilty of war crimes in the Balkans, particularly during the controversial (and NATO- but not UN-backed) bombing of Serbia in 1999 [a bold move that many Republicans seem to have forgotten about the most recent Dem President, who was actually more like Republicans of old than the pair of Bush leaguers surrounding him]. Some tidbits:

Milosevic's death means that those who bombed Yugoslavia for 78 days beginning 7 years ago this month, killing thousands, will be, once and for all protected from any public scrutiny for their crimes. However opportunistic Milosevic may have been, he would have been one of the few people to appear at the Hague that could have--and would have--laid out these crimes in great detail. Now, there is almost certain to be no condemnation of the US bombing of Radio Television Serbia, killing 16 media workers, the cluster bombing of the Nis marketplace, shredding human beings into meat, the use of depleted uranium munitions and the targeting of petrochemical plants causing toxic and chemical waste to pour into the Danube River. There will be no condemnation of the bombing of Albanian refugees by the US or the deliberate targeting of a civilian passenger train or the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Milosevic also would have discussed how the US supports a regime in Kosovo that has systematically expelled Serbs, Romas and other ethnic minorities from their homes and burnt down scores of churches. He would have discussed the role of the US in funding and arming the Kosovo Liberation Army, which operates like a death squad and how the new prime minister of Kosovo, Agim Ceku, is a US-trained war criminal who gained infamy in both the Bosnian war and the 1999 Kosovo conflict. And Milosevic would have talked of the US interference in the Yugoslav elections in 2000 and the ultimate neoliberal takeover that was the aim of Clinton's sanctions and 78 days of bombing. In reality, it would have fallen on deaf ears, but it would have been stated for the record.

It is ironic that Milosevic's last legal battle was an attempt to compel his old friend turned nemesis Bill Clinton to testify at his trial. If successful, Milosevic would have grilled the man who was US president through the entire Yugoslav war in what would have been a fiery direct examination. Clinton and Milosevic were once pals who talked collective strategy in the 1990s. Milosevic had many damning stories to tell and, without a doubt, uncomfortable questions to ask Clinton. The judges in Milosevic's case clearly worked to keep those moments from ever happening and the US government made clear its forceful opposition to such subpoenas of US officials, even considering invading a country that would put a US official on trial. With or without Clinton, Milosevic's defense would have brought to light some serious documentation of US war crimes and he died, muzzled, before he really got started.


Little attention, therefore, has been paid to Milosevic's long-term efforts--which predated 9/11, the 1999 NATO bombing and his own trial--to expose the presence of al Qaeda in the Balkans--from Bosnia to Kosovo. With 9/11, Milosevic's talk of al Qaeda was easily dismissed as laughable, pathetic opportunism. But those who followed Milosevic's career and more importantly the events of the 1990s in Yugoslavia know it was none of those. Those allegations were based on true events the US does not want discussed in an international court. Following the defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, many Mujahadeen eventually turned their sights on Yugoslavia where they went to fight alongside the Bosnian Muslims against the Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats. Once again, the US and bin Laden were on the same team. To this day there are reports of training camps in Bosnia, which remains under occupation. It is also a likely training ground for future blowback.

Most know that Condaleezza Rice was briefed on the danger of the Al Qaeda after team Bush secured the election in Florida and the Supreme Court...

Senior Clinton administration officials ... repeatedly warned their Bush administration counterparts in late 2000 that Al Qaeda posed the worst security threat facing the nation — and how the new administration was slow to act.

However, more is coming to light about just how much Clinton and friends knew about the Al Qaeda. Milosevic was a nasty, racist killer, and his early exit from this planet doesn't draw a lot of pity. Sadly, his early exit is also "convenient" for the US and for NATO, which means we're about to see rumors of how Milosevic was "silenced" before the trial. This man deserves no martyrdom. In spite of his death, an accounting for the shocking events in Bosnia during the 1990's is still needed. Chris Hedges gives us a glimpse, but hearing it from its chief architect was a potentially cathartic opportunity now lost. After all, Bosnia is still Balkanized, in more ways than one.

-Vulf

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