Saturday, November 10, 2007

Our Leaders to New York: No More Freedom For You; Rigged Elections Only!

In USA v. New York State Board of Elections, et al. (US District Court, Northern District of NY, Civil Action No. 06-CV-0263), the politicized Department of Justice, which has done everything in its power to undermine its mission to defend the right to vote, argued in motion papers filed on Election Day, that even though no electronic voting systems exist that meet NY's voting technology standards (and, indeed, none meet federal standards either), NY must use this flawed and repeatedly proven failed technology. In essence the federal government's position is this: it doesn't matter that the voting machines being sold by irresponsible private vendors have been proven to be hackable in less than a minute, they still comply with the Help America Vote Act so NY should buy them in time for the 2008 elections.

California Secretary of State, Debra Bowen, recently conducted the largest independent top-to-bottom-review of these voting machines and the results were devastating, exposing both Paper Ballot Optical Scan and touch-screen DRE systems’ “inadequacy to ensure accuracy and integrity of election results.” Both systems were shown to be easily hacked without detection.

The California report confirms what at least two dozen Prior studies from prestigious universities, the Government Accountability Office, the Brennan Center and the federal government’s own technical advisors, the National Institute of Standards and Technology have concluded: the machines Americans are voting on are shockingly insecure and seriously vulnerable to attacks that could change the outcome of elections. While tampering has always been a risk to every type of voting system, the threat created by computerized systems is exponentially increased:

“Potentially, a single programmer could ‘rig’ a major election” The National Institute of Standards and Technology, December 2006

The absurdity of the federal government's position goes even further. The DOJ's memo of law worries that someone might get away with something: "To view this scenario otherwise would allow a state to ignore with impunity HAVA's minimal federal voting systems requirements for however long it pleases." Hmm. Is this anything comparable to the telephone companies violating the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights and various state and local laws by spying on US citizens for the federal government, with impunity?

If the federal government is magnanimous enough to grant immunity to such gross violations of liberty in the Land of the Free, certainly it can allow a State to demand securable voting, despite HAVA's arbitrary deployment deadline.

"Why are we being forced to buy machines that have been found incapable of accurately providing a reliable vote tally, but have been found to be readily capable of rigging the elections in a way that is not detectable by the people?" asked Andrea Novick, a New York based attorney, Co-Coordinator of Education with Election Defense Alliance and Co-Founder of Northeast Citizens for Responsible Media. She continued, "The California Secretary of State decertified these very machines because they were unable to provide the means of conducting a secure, reliable election. And yet the state of New York is only considering the purchase of these rejected machines."

Now the DOJ is trying to force NY to purchase these defective machines without even permitting NY to perform testing certification of systems which are known to fail. Novick said, "It's like forcing Americans to buy Ford Pintos even after they were revealed to blow up upon impact in accidents. Why would we knowingly purchase dangerous products. The computerized voting systems on the market are so dangerous they enable theft on a massive scale never before possible. These machines should have been recalled, but instead the DOJ and NYS want us to use tax payers' dollars to buy these flawed systems".

A recent Zogby poll documented a record breaking polling statistic: 92% of Americans insist on the right to watch their votes being counted. 80% strongly object to the use of secret computer software to tabulate votes without citizen access to that software. And yet, all computerized voting systems on the market count the votes in secret! Under NY's laws, the partisan voting vendor and a few select members of the government would see the source coding which provides some inkling into how the computers were programmed to process and count the votes, but the citizens are never permitted to know how their votes are counted. The DOJ objects to even a few members of state government knowing how the machines are programmed to count the votes, while defending Microsoft's right to keep vote counting secreted from the people over the people's right to see and know that their votes are being accurately counted.

The voting vendors who sell these flawed systems which fail to produce fair, honest elections, conceal the myriad of problems their systems experience. In addition to covering up or failing to tell other states about known software problems that caused the mis-tabulation of votes or other computer problems in another state, the vendors have engaged in a wide range of deceptive practices including documented cases of lying to election officials, secret installation of unapproved software and a long list of ethical violations. Many of these violations are documented at, Why Recall the Machines?,Voting System Companies Fail to Meet New York State’s Requirements for “Responsible Contractors”, More Evidence of Vendor Unfitness, by Andi Novick, Esq., And More by Andi Novick, Esq.

New York's Procurement Laws prohibit NYS from entering into contracts with "non-responsible" vendors. New York's courts have upheld findings of vendor non-responsibility for the very ethical violations these vendors have committed as well as barring the state from doing business with vendors with criminal indictments, criminal convictions, and of course records of failed past performance. The voting vendors are guilty of multiple infractions of all these criteria.

The three largest vendors among this very small group of voting vendors are ES&S, Diebold and Sequoia and among the founders, employees, programmers and managers of these companies to which we are supposed to entrust our vote are felons who have been convicted of bid-rigging, anti-trust violations, computer-aided embezzlement, money laundering, tax evasion, bribery and kick-back scandals – to name a few. The voting vendors have a long record of failed past performance which includes repeated instances of failure to timely deliver machines or ballots- jeopardizing elections and creating a nightmare for officials; forcing election officials to compromise their ethics and integrity in running elections ("What I was expected to do in order to 'pull off' an election," an election programmer in Texas complained, "was far beyond the kind of practices that I believe should be standard and accepted in the election industry"); holding election officials hostage to contract re-negotiation (Oregon’s SOS sued when ES&S refused to deliver machines pursuant to the contract unless the terms of the contract were changed, saying: “We will not leave our elections in the hands of companies that do not follow through on their obligations, and we will not be coerced into altering our contract”); thousands of reports of documented equipment failures including malfunctioning machines, election day breakdowns, vote-switching on DREs, tabulation errors, paper jams, data transfer failures, excessively high undervotes, phantom votes (in the 2004 election, Gahanna Ohio recorded 4,258 votes for Bush when only 638 people cast votes at the polling site).

The documented evidence of the above criteria of non-responsibility was submitted to the SBOE and other agencies within the Governor's office, but has been ignored to date.

Elections belong to the people. They are our means of choosing those we want to represent us. The Legislature, Executive and the Attorney General in NY as well as the federal government all claim to be protecting our interests, but what part of our interests are protected when the government permits secret vote counting? What part of our interests are protected when we are forced to vote on machines that have been repeatedly demonstrated to be easily rigged? What part of our interests are being served by machines which deprive citizens of the right to observe the casting and counting of our votes and see that the count is accurate?

Now the DOJ has insisted NY better put a HAVA-compliant system in place by 2008 or else. NY insists it can't possibly certify machines in time. The Feds have now shot back- that's OK, don't certify them- just buy the machines which have been found to be defective and unreliable. There is now only a single solution to the deadlock our respective governments find themselves in. We can cast our votes by our own hand and count them ourselves, without the interference of theft-enabling computers. Those who need assistance voting independently can use a ballot marker to produce a paper ballot to be manually counted with all other paper ballots. We don’t need to waste our millions performing expensive testing certification. We don’t need to waste money buying these lemons. We have a year to prepare our citizens to count each others votes honestly, transparently and reliably. How ironic that the only solution which is HAVA-compliant, can be implemented in time for the 2008 election, and best protects our interests is the one rejected out of hand by all those in government claiming to be looking out for our interests.

Another Of Our Leaders' Continuing Successes

Yet again, other than destroying American democracy and replacing it with a protofascist kleptocracy -- and, as the record supports me, I do not use those terms lightly, parodistics as they are -- Our Leaders have accomplished absolutely nothing significant.

So here's just the latest; another ally we fucked over and who has let us down as well:
The state of emergency in Pakistan signals yet another low point in President George W. Bush's foreign policy—a stark demonstration of his paltry influence and his bankrupt principles. More than that, the crackdown locks us in a crisis—a potentially dangerous dynamic—from which there appears to be no escape route.
For much of last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other top U.S. officials had been urging Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, not to declare martial law. He not only ignored these pleas; he defied them.

Last month, Rice persuaded Musharraf to let exiled former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto back in the country—and persuaded Bhutto to go back—as part of a power-sharing deal. The idea was that Musharraf, who doubles as army chief of staff, would retain control of the military in the fight against terrorism, while Bhutto would attract the loyalty of Pakistan's increasingly discontented democrats. That ploy, too, turned out to be illusory: Bhutto was attacked the moment she got back; Musharraf showed no interest in sharing power.
Musharraf is portraying his suspension of the constitution as a necessary step to stabilize Pakistan and fend off Islamist terrorists. Yet the timing suggests it was, for the most part, a power grab. Pakistan's Supreme Court was about to rule that Musharraf's reign as both president and army chief of staff was unconstitutional. That meant the coming elections (which may or may not now be called off) would have ended his reign. And so he dissolved the court. He also arrested many democratic activists and shut down the nation's independent media.
It should now be clear, if it wasn't already, that Musharraf has been diddling Bush & Co. the past three years or longer.
In exchange for his promises to root out Taliban terrorists on the Afghan border and within Pakistan's own intelligence service, Bush has supplied Musharraf with at least $10 billion in aid. Yet while Musharraf has rendered considerable assistance in the war on terrorism, the Taliban—and possibly Osama Bin Laden himself—retain their sanctuary in Pakistan's northwest territories.
In exchange for Musharraf's promises to be a good democrat someday, Bush has declared Pakistan to be a "major non-NATO ally." Yet, with his strategically timed state of emergency, Musharraf has revealed he's not at all interested in democratic transitions.
But what can Bush—or his successor—do about it? The problem is that there's some truth to Musharraf's official reason for his crackdown. He has been going after al-Qaida jihadists, especially those inside his own country, though not so much Taliban fighters on the border of Afghanistan. And he is in a genuinely tight spot. On the one hand, he fears what some Western officials call the "Talibanization of Pakistan." On the other hand, he can't go after them too avidly, for fear of sparking a backlash from some of his own officers who have Islamist sympathies and who don't want to be seen as fighting America's war.
As Daniel Markey, a former State Department specialist on south Asia, wrote last summer in Foreign Affairs magazine, the army is "Pakistan's strongest government institution and the only one that can possibly deal with immediate threats of violent militancy and terrorism."
If the United States were to respond to this power grab by cutting off aid to the Pakistani army, the army would turn elsewhere—and the Islamist factions would be strengthened. If the United States were to cut its links to Musharraf … well, Musharraf is the face of the Pakistani army. If he goes, probably some other strongman would take his place, but the tenuous coalition he has assembled could fall apart in the process, with unpredictable—but almost certainly unpleasant—results.
And let's not forget the ultimate unpleasant fact: Pakistan has a test-proven nuclear arsenal.
Someone was speculating this morning on the BBC that the Bush administration might have a secret ally, an agent of sorts, within the Pakistani military command, poised to step in and serve U.S. interests if Musharraf fell. This is very doubtful. First, there are the obvious reasons (Bush's intense commitment to Musharraf and the military's relative impenetrability). Second, if Bush did have some fallback leader, it's unlikely Rice would have put so much effort—however fruitless the gesture now seems—to getting Bhutto back in the country for a power-sharing gambit. Nor, by the way, are there any civilian politicians in whom the United States could put its hopes; as Daniel Markey indicates in his article (and he is far from alone in this view), there are no civilian politicians, parties, or other entities that could exercise power without the military's nod.
This is why the Bush administration's response to the clampdown has been, as they say, "muted." The fact is, the United States needs Musharraf more than Musharraf needs the United States. And the fact that he's rubbing our noses in it doesn't make it any less true.
We can't do much about this now, but we might have been able to do something about it two years ago or six months ago. The fact that we didn't is a grave indictment of Bush's foreign policy, both its practices and its principles.
For instance, nearly all of the $10 billion in U.S. military aid to Pakistan has gone to its military. Bush could have at least tried to funnel a larger portion of the aid to democratic institutions.
This crisis was triggered last March when Musharraf fired the chief justice of the Supreme Court for criticizing his rule. That set off the unprecedented street rallies by the nation's lawyers. That emboldened the Supreme Court, which started to take its duties seriously. That gave rise to the near-certainty that the court would rule Musharraf's reign illegal. That tipped Musharraf to suspend the constitution—and, with it, the courts.
Since Bush officials stay in touch with Musharraf quite frequently, and since they are known to pay at least lip service to democracy, someone could have at least advised Musharraf to get off this track. No one could have expected him to turn democrat, but he could have taken palliative measures—or cynical ones: for instance, paying off the justices—to ward off a crisis.
The Bush foreign policy was neither shrewd enough to play self-interested power politics nor truly principled enough to enforce its ideals.
One consequence of this crisis is that Bush's "freedom agenda" is finally bankrupt. He will never again be able to invoke it, even as a rhetorical ploy, without evoking winces or laughter.
In his second inaugural address, where Bush first declared that the main aim of his foreign policy would be to spread democracy and topple tyranny all around the world, he warned dictators that good relations with America "would require the decent treatment of their own people."
Musharraf's proclamation is the definitive proof that no dictator takes—or ever will again take—that warning seriously.
In the same address, Bush spun an appealing but specious syllogism: Tyranny breeds discontent; discontent breeds hatred and terrorism; terrorism threatens U.S. security; therefore, promoting democracy enhances U.S. security. Or, as he put it, "America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one."
Musharraf's proclamation, and Bush's muted response to it, proves that interests and ideals, alas, still sometimes clash.
But the most dismaying contradiction appears in the 2006 edition of the official document titled "The National Security Strategy of the United States of America." In his introduction, Bush wrote, "We seek to shape the world, not merely be shaped by it; to influence events for the better instead of being at their mercy."
Musharraf's proclamation reveals that we are not the "sole superpower" that Bush and his associates thought we were; that sometimes the combination of vital interests and mediocre diplomacy put us all too desperately at the mercy of events.

Disease Of The Day; Far May It Spread

[P]roduction has shut down on the NBC hit sitcom, The Office. It seems its star, Steve Carell, has been calling in sick with what he claims is a case of "enlarged balls."

The World's Greatest Healthcare System For Dummies

Prof. Krugman:
The United States spends far more on health care per person than any other nation. Yet we have lower life expectancy than most other rich countries. Furthermore, every other advanced country provides all its citizens with health insurance; only in America is a large fraction of the population uninsured or underinsured.

You might think that these facts would make the case for major reform of America’s health care system — reform that would involve, among other things, learning from other countries’ experience — irrefutable. Instead, however, apologists for the status quo offer a barrage of excuses for our system’s miserable performance.

So I thought it would be useful to offer a catalog of the most commonly heard apologies for American health care, and the reasons they won’t wash.

Excuse No. 1: No insurance, no problem.

“I mean, people have access to health care in America,” said President Bush a few months ago. “After all, you just go to an emergency room.” He was widely mocked for his cluelessness, yet many apologists for the health care system in the United States seem almost equally clueless.

We’re told, for example, that there really aren’t that many uninsured American citizens, because some of the uninsured are illegal immigrants, while some of the rest are actually entitled to Medicaid. This misses the point that the 47 million people in this country without insurance are an ever-changing group, so that the experience of being without insurance extends to a much broader group — in fact, more than one in every three people in America under the age of 65 was uninsured at some point in 2006 or 2007.

Oh, and finding out that you’re covered by Medicaid when you show up at an emergency room isn’t at all the same thing as receiving regular medical care.

Beyond that, a large fraction of the population — about one in four nonelderly Americans, according to a Consumer Reports survey — is underinsured, with “coverage so meager they often postponed medical care because of costs.”

So, yes, lack of insurance is a very big problem, a problem that reaches deep into the middle class.

Excuse No. 2: It’s the cheeseburgers.

Americans don’t have a bad health system, say the apologists, they just have bad habits. Overeating and teenage sex, not the huge overhead of America’s private health insurance companies — the United States spends almost six times as much on health care administration as other advanced countries — are the source of our problems.

There’s a grain of truth to this claim: Bad habits may partially explain America’s low life expectancy. But the big question isn’t why we have lower life expectancy than Britain, Canada or France, it’s why we spend far more on health care without getting better results. And lifestyle isn’t the explanation: the most definitive estimates, such as those of the McKinsey Global Institute, say that diseases that are associated with obesity and other lifestyle-related problems play, at most, a minor role in high U.S. health care costs.

Excuse No. 3: 2007 is better than 1950.

This is an argument that baffles me, but you hear it all the time. When you point out that America spends far more on health care than other countries, but gets worse results, the apologists reply: “Sure, we spend a lot of money on health care, but medical care is a lot better than it was in 1950, so it’s money well spent.” Huh?

It’s as if you went to a store to buy a DVD player, and the salesman told you not to worry about the fact that his prices are twice those of his competitors — after all, the machines on offer at his store are a lot better than they were five years ago. It is, in other words, an argument that makes no sense at all, yet respectable economists make it with a straight face.

Excuse No. 4: Socialized medicine! Socialized medicine!

Rudy Giuliani’s fake numbers on prostate cancer — which, by the way, he still refuses to admit were wrong — were the latest entry in a long, dishonorable tradition of peddling scare stories about the evils of “government run” health care.

The reality is that the best foreign health care systems, especially those of France and Germany, do as well or better than the U.S. system on every dimension, while costing far less money.

But the best way to counter scare talk about socialized medicine, aside from swatting down falsehoods — would journalists please stop saying that Rudy’s claims, which are just wrong, are “in dispute”? — may be to point out that every American 65 and older is covered by a government health insurance program called Medicare. And Americans like that program very much, thank you.

So, now you know how to answer the false claims you’ll hear about health care. And believe me, you’re going to hear them again, and again, and again.
Ezra Klein at The American Prospect:
Earlier this week, Rudy Giuliani released a radio ad directly engaging the health care debate. "I had prostate cancer five, six years ago," begins the ad. "My chance of surviving prostate cancer, and thank God I was cured of it, in the United States? Eighty-two percent. My chance of surviving prostate cancer in England? Only 44 percent under socialized medicine."

Unsurprisingly, Giuliani's statistics are a straight lie resulting from a basic mathematical error. The Annenberg Fact Check Project wrote, "We tracked down the source of that number, which turns out to be the result of bad math by a Giuliani campaign adviser, who admits to us that his figure isn't 'technically' a survival rate at all. Furthermore, the co-author of the study on which Giuliani's man based his calculations tells us his work is being misused, and that the 44 percent figure is both wrong and 'misleading.'" The Giuliani campaign, demonstrating their traditional fidelity to truth and accuracy, have said they will continue using the statistic.

But the basic question Giuliani poses should be central to the presidential campaign: How good is American health care? The developed world is full of alternative models, fully functioning structures that can be viewed as little experiments, the outcomes of which should inform our policies. If our system outperforms its competitors, than we should amplify what sets us apart and pushes us ahead. If we under-perform, we should take a hard look at whether our model really is superior. And luckily, we have the data.

Indeed, we have brand new data. The Commonwealth Fund just released a broad survey collecting health care attitudes and experiences from patients in Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Here are summaries of some of the findings:
1. We spend the most. We spend more than any other country in the world. In 2005, our per capita -- so, per person -- spending was $6,697. The next highest in the study was Canada, at $3,326. And remember -- that's "mean" spending, so it's the amount we spend divided by our population. But unlike in Canada, about 16 percent of our population doesn't have insurance, and so often can't use the system. These facts should set the stage for all numbers that come after: Every time you see a data point in which were dead last, or not leading the pack, remember that we spend twice as much as any of our competitors.

2. We don't pay doctors according to the quality of their care. One of the first questions is "percent of primary care practices with financial incentives for quality" -- in other words, how many doctors are paid, in part, according to the quality of the care they deliver. In the United Kingdom, the number is 95 percent. In Australia, it's 72 percent. The U.S. scores lower than anyone else, at 30 percent. Similarly, electronic medical records -- which both increase the quality of care and lower its cost -- have 89 percent penetration in the U.K., 79 percent in Australia, 98 percent in the Netherlands, and 28 percent in America. On both these metrics, we perform miserably.

3. Our wait times are low because many of us aren't getting care at all. It's true, Americans do have short waits for non-elective surgeries. Only 4 percent of us wait more than six months. That's more than in Germany and the Netherlands, but considerably less than the Canadians (14 percent) or the Britons (15 percent). But our high performance on the waiting times only account for individuals who get the care they need. Our advantage dissipates when you see the next question, which asks how many patients skip care due to cost. And here, America is far worse than anywhere else.

In just the past year, a full 25 percent of us didn't visit the doctor when sick because we couldn't afford it. Twenty-three percent skipped a test, treatment, or follow-up recommended by a doctor. Another 23 percent didn't fill a prescription. No other country is even close to this sort of income-based rationing. In Canada, only 4 percent skipped a doctor's visit, and only 5 percent skipped care. In the U.K., those numbers are 2 percent and 3 percent. Few of our countrymen are waiting for the care they need, that much is true. But that doesn't mean they're getting it quickly. Rather, about a quarter of us aren't getting it at all.

Indeed, 19 percent of Americans were unable, or had serious problems, paying medical bills in the last year. Comparatively, no other country was even in the double digits. This is part of why we perform well on the waiting-times metric. In other countries, the disadvantaged wait longer for their care, and so show up in the data tracking wait times. In our country, they disappear from that measure, because they never get the care at all. You don't wait for what you're not receiving. So their wait times show up as "zero," when they should really be something akin to infinite. And would you prefer to wait four months for your surgery, or never get it at all?

4. Most of us don't have a regular physician. One might expect, given what we pay, that our care would at least be more central and convenient. But it's not so. Of everyone surveyed, Americans were the least likely to report a doctor or general practitioner they routinely saw. As a result. Americans are the most likely to say their doctor doesn't know important information about their medical history, which has obvious implications for care quality, medical errors, etc.

5. Our care isn't particularly convenient. Nor is medical service more convenient for Americans to access. On such questions as whether your doctor has early morning hours, evening availability, or weekend slots, we're not trailing the pack, but we're not in the lead, either. On evening hours, for instance, we lag behind Australia, Canada, Germany, and New Zealand. On same day appointments, Only 30 percent of Americans report that they can access a doctor on the very day they need one, as opposed to 41 percent of Britons and 55 percent of Germans. And a full 67 percent of Americans -- more than in any other country -- say it's difficult to get care on nights, weekends, or holidays with resorting to the emergency room, where care is costlier and, if your injury is not grievous, less efficient.

6. Our doctors don't listen to us. But maybe the amount we're paying comes in customer service -- maybe our doctors spend more time with us, are more reassuring, are more attentive to our cases. After all, we basically like the care we get. Our overall self-evaluation of the treatment we receive is solidly in the middle of the pack, with 70 percent expressing satisfaction -- which means we're less satisfied than the Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders, but 5 percent above the Britons, and well above the Germans or Dutch. But when you ask for specifics, we do a bit worse.

Americans are the least likely to report that their doctors explain things in ways they understand (though the spread on this question is rather small) or say doctors spend enough time with them (56 percent of us say they do, as compared to 70 percent of Germans). We're the most likely to report that test results or medical records were unavailable during our scheduled appointments and, along with the Germans, the most likely to say that our doctors ordered tests that we'd already had done. On the bright side, 78 percent of us say our regular doctor was "informed and up-to-date" about follow-up care after a hospital visit.

7. We have high rates of chronic conditions. Aside from the surprisingly unhealthy Australians, Americans have the highest rate of chronic disease. And this isn't only a comparative problem; our high rates of chronic disease are a massive cost-driver, attributable, according to the research of Ken Thorpe, for about 2/3rds the rise in health spending over the past few decades.

8. … But we're not treating them properly. So given the high prevalence of such diseases, and the pressures they exert on our system, you'd hope our system had evolved so as to treat these diseases more effectively.

Not so. One of the big issues with chronic disease is coordination of care. Illnesses like diabetes and kidney failure have so many manifestations, and require so much maintenance, that it's critical for care providers to have a full picture of what treatments are being received, what the patient's medical history is, what therapies they will and will not follow, etc. And for that reason, it's critical for the patients to have a single medical home – a regular care center where their case is understood, tracked, and treated. Sadly, we're tied with the Canadians for the lowest percentage reporting a single "medical home."

Worse,we're far and away the likeliest to report spending more than $500 out-of-pocket on prescription drugs annually. That's a problem, as higher out-of-pocket costs mean more of us going without prescriptions, which means less maintenance of conditions and, thus, more cost when our chronic illnesses balloon into catastrophic health events. Indeed, 42 percent of Americans with chronic conditions -- the exact same percentage who report paying more than $500 for drugs -- report skipping care, drug doses, or doctor's appointments due to cost. That's cheaper for them in the short-term, as they can spend some of the money on food or rent. It's more expensive for us, however, as we pick up the huge bill when they end up in the hospital in full cardiac arrest.

9. We're frequent victims of medical, medication, and lab errors. Along with Australians, Americans are the most likely to report a medical, medication, or lab error, with 20 percent saying they've experienced one of the above over the past year. For those of us with chronic diseases, the rates are even higher. There are many reasons for this, ranging from our low adoption rate of electronic medical records to our splintered care system. But the effects are bad for our health and, needless to say, bad for our insurance rates. Conservatives make a huge deal out of medical malpractice claims, but studies show that our high rate of lawsuits is due to our high rate of medical error. The crisis isn't just in the courtrooms, it's on the operating tables.

10. Most of us are dissatisfied with our current system. In health polling, happiness with the system is generally measured through a three-answer question: Does your system merely need minor changes, as it works pretty well? Does it need fundamental changes? Or does it need to be rebuilt? Of all the countries surveyed -- including the supposedly dystopic U.K. and Canada -- Americans are the least likely to report relative satisfaction, and the most likely to call for a fundamental rebuilding. Only 16 percent of us are happy. In Canada and the U.K., that number is 26 percent. In the Netherlands, it's 42 percent. Meanwhile, 34 percent of Americas want to completely rebuild. Only 12 percent of Canadians say the same, and only 15 percent of U.K. residents want a new system. So paying more than twice as much as anyone else, we have the lowest satisfaction with our health care system. Lower than the countries with waiting lines. Lower than Germany, and Australia, and New Zealand.

And perhaps this shouldn't be a surprise. Is it any wonder that Americans who have to forgo care are less satisfied than Canadians who simply have to wait for elective surgeries? That our shorter doctor visits, more impersonal caregivers, higher rates of medical errors, and inability to find primary care after 6 P.M. have left us frustrated? And that our sky-high costs have, finally, left us aching for change?
There is no other area of American life where we collectively accept such a bad deal. We spend the more than any other nation on our military, but our military is unquestionably the mightiest in the world. We spend the most on our universities, but our universities are the best on the planet. But we spend the most on our health care -- twice as much as anyone else -- and our health system is mediocre-to-poor, with 47 million of us lacking the insurance necessary to easily access it. It's not surprising that Americans want change. But it should be shocking that opportunistic politicians like Rudy Giuliani feel safe to stand in its way. Maybe in this election that will change.

Another Success For Big Media Journalism

A waitress at an Iowa diner noted that Hillary Clinton and her campaign aides had recently stopped by, but didn’t leave a tip. NPR picked up on the “story,” the New York Times called it a “potentially embarrassing mini-scandal,” and Drudge blared it above the fold. Soon after, NBC News and ABC News were trumpeting the story.

Clinton didn’t leave a tip? Does she hate working people? Is she out of touch? What does this say about her economic plan? What do her rivals think about this? Why won’t Barack Obama attack her over the issue? Is it too soon to put a poll in the field gauging the public’s reaction?

All of this breathless fascination was for naught. It turned out Clinton’s campaign did leave a tip with the manager for the entire serving staff. Clinton’s individual waitress didn’t know that, so there was a simple misunderstanding.

Reporters ended up contacting the waitress, Anita Esterday, at her home in Iowa yesterday.
Ms. Esterday said she did not understand what all the commotion was about.

“You people are really nuts,” she told a reporter during a phone interview. “There’s kids dying in the war, the price of oil right now — there’s better things in this world to be thinking about than who served Hillary Clinton at Maid-Rite and who got a tip and who didn’t get a tip.”
Thank you, Anita Esterday. “You people are really nuts” may actually be the most helpful and poignant media criticism I’ve seen this year. It has the added benefit of being true.

It’s also a reminder of just what it takes to get some political reporters excited. Last week, Rudy Giuliani unveiled a campaign ad in Iowa with an obvious, demonstrable lie. Many of us begged reporters to take it seriously, and give it the full-court press.

Some columnists noted the problem, but most outlets followed the AP’s lead: “No one argues that Rudy Giuliani was diagnosed with prostate cancer, underwent treatment and survived. Yet there is a dispute about the statistics he quotes about his chances of survival.”

A “dispute,” as if there was some question about whether Giuliani had intentionally lied to voters in an ad.

Was there a media freak-out? Not even a little. A leading candidate deceiving the public about cancer just isn’t sexy enough.

And what is? In recent months, the most prominent media frenzies have dealt with John Edwards’ hair, Hillary Clinton’s laugh, Rudy Giuliani’s cell phone, and now Clinton’s approach to gratuities.

“You people are really nuts” sums the situation up nicely, doesn’t it?

The World's Greatest Healthcare System In Action

A health insurance company serving customers in a half-dozen states set out to drop hundreds of customers and paid lucrative bonuses to an executive in charge of eliminating coverage.
Way more here.

Now For Something Completely Different....


Today's Gartuitous Rudy Post

You may by now have heard the story. In a radio ad that his campaign prepared for New Hampshire voters, Giuliani tells listeners that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000 and goes on to say: "My chance of surviving cancer - and thank God I was cured of it - in the United States: 82%. My chances of surviving prostate cancer in England: only 44% under socialised medicine."

The numbers are false. The actual five-year survival rate in Britain is 74%, which is still lower than America's, but obviously high enough for the figure not to have constituted fodder for a campaign commercial. (Even the remaining, much smaller difference, is largely explained by more widespread screening in the US, which catches many more incidents of prostate cancer that are non-lethal).

It turned out that Giuliani's numbers were from a seven-year-old article in a conservative policy journal. The article was written by his own healthcare policy adviser, who admitted that his comparison was a "crude" interpretation of a study by a respected health policy group. The group, in turn, said the article's author had grossly misused its numbers.

That's about as red-handed as anyone in politics gets caught these days. But when asked if the campaign would continue to use the figure, a Giuliani spokeswoman said, "Yes, we will."

I know the form all too well. I covered Giuliani for a dozen years in New York (note to angry American rightwingers preparing to email me a warning to keep my foreign nose out of their business: I'm as American as a Ford F-150).

The man lies with staggering impunity. But here's the thing: he does it with such conviction and such seeming authority that people who are not inclined to study the matter will believe him - will in fact be utterly convinced that Giuliani is speaking the gospel truth, and they will prove almost impossible to shake from this conviction.

Giuliani's hypocrisy with regard to this ad doesn't end with the fake statistics. As Joe Conason noted on, Giuliani was at the time of his treatment the mayor of New York and enrolled in a nonprofit health maintenance organisation for government employees - that is, mini-socialised medicine. And as Ezra Klein noted on Comment is free, the treatment that saved Giuliani was developed in Denmark - which, as Klein drolly notes, "is both in Europe and has a universal healthcare system".

But none of this will stop Giuliani. He will say and do anything he feels he needs to say and do to get power.

Newspapers write that he was "liberal" on social issues in his mayoral days, as if his positions on abortion and immigration were matters of conviction. Nonsense. He took the positions he needed to take to be elected in an overwhelmingly Democratic city. (Although to grant him a speck of humanity, I'd guess that his pro-gay rights views were more or less genuine: anyone living in the city gets to know many gay people.)

And now he is saying and doing whatever he needs to say and do to get millions of rightwing Americans to support him. He recently told a meeting of social conservatives that his reliance on God "is at the core of who I am". As mayor he was known to attend mass almost never, he obviously cheated serially on the wife (wife No 2) he married in the Catholic church, and the only occasions on which I can remember him invoking God when he was mayor were the two times he was forced to say "so help me God" in taking the oath of office.

But forward he will charge, telling more lies with even more impunity. And immunity, because in a culture where a sense of history is largely limited to remembering certain stirring television images, he will for the most part get away with it, confident in the knowledge that the main thing most Americans will ever recall about him is the film clip of him running from the rubble of the World Trade Centre on September 11. A far smaller percentage will know that the reason he had run was because he had catastrophically decided to place his emergency command centre in the tower complex - the only building in New York that had previously been the target of a major terrorist attack.

And by the way: shame on Gordon Brown for inviting him to No 10 in September. Yes, there's a long tradition of presidents and prime ministers welcoming party standard-bearers from across the pond. But Giuliani isn't yet that. Brown had no business giving him the kind of special benefit that an audience with a prime minister bestows.

Brown and all of Britain will be better off the sooner they figure this out: Giuliani is a dangerous man. George Bush with brains. Dick Cheney with better aim. Consider yourself warned.
Link. (Emphasis added.)

Friday, November 09, 2007

Today's Tocsin

The insanity just keeps spreading....

As if homeland security wasn't enough of a joke, our military is being taken over by whackos and nutjobs.
“I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. ...”
—Oath of Office

“Our mission is to educate, train, and inspire men and women to become officers of character motivated to lead the United States Air Force in service to our nation.”
—Air Force Academy mission statement

“We will not lie, steal, or cheat. ...”
—Air Force Academy honor code

“Military professionals must remember that religious choice is a matter of individual conscience. Professionals, and especially commanders, must not take it upon themselves to change or coercively influence the religious views of subordinates.”
—Religious Toleration (Air Force Code of Ethics, 1997)

Forty-two years ago, at the age of 18, I took the oath of office on my first day as an Air Force Academy cadet. The mission of the academy was not only to train future leaders for the Air Force but for America as well, because, in the end, most academy graduates do not serve full military careers. The honor code became an integral part of everyday life. These are the values that I, and most graduates of the 1960s and early ’70s, took with us from our four years at the academy.

I, as did many graduates, underwent pilot training followed by tours of duty in Vietnam. Like military men and women of today, we did our best to become technically competent and professional leaders. Never, during my four years at the academy and subsequent pilot and combat training, was the word warrior used; nor, whether as a cadet or officer, did I ever encounter “Christian supremacist” rhetoric.

In April of 2004, my son, after receiving a coveted appointment to the United States Air Force Academy, asked me to accompany him to the orientation for new appointees. This 24-hour visceral event changed my life forever, and crushed my son’s lifelong dream of following in my footsteps.

The orientation began with a one-hour “warrior” rant to appointees and parents by the commandant of cadets, Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida. The fact that the word warrior had replaced leadership was a signal of what was to follow. I later learned that cadets, to determine when a new record was established, had created a game in which warrior was counted in each speech Weida gave.

My son and I then made our way to the modernist aluminum chapel, where I expected to hear a welcome from one or two Air Force chaplains offering counsel, support and an open-door policy for any spiritual or pastoral needs of these future cadets. In 1966, the academy had six gray-haired chaplains: three mainline Protestants, two priests and one rabbi. Any cadet, regardless of religious affiliation, was welcome to see any one of these chaplains, who were reminiscent of Father Francis Mulcahy of “MASH” fame.

Instead, my son’s orientation became an opportunity for the academy to aggressively proselytize this next crop of cadets. Maj. Warren Watties led a group of 10 young, exclusively evangelical chaplains who stood shoulder to shoulder. He proudly stated that half of the cadets attended Bible studies on Monday nights in the dormitories and he hoped to increase this number from those in his audience who were about to join their ranks. This “invitation” was followed with hallelujahs and amens by the evangelical clergy. I later learned from Air Force Academy chaplain MeLinda Morton, a Lutheran who was forced to observe from the choir loft, that no priest, rabbi or mainline Protestant had been permitted to participate.

I no longer recognize the Air Force Academy as the institution I attended almost four decades earlier. At that point, I had no idea how invasive this extreme evangelical “cancer” had become throughout the entire military, that what I had witnessed was far from an isolated case of a few religious zealots.

In order to better understand this shift to a religious ideology at this once secular institution, I called the Academy Association of Graduates (AOG). Its response: “We don’t get involved in policy.” What I didn’t know was that the AOG, like the academy, had affiliations with James Dobson’s and Ted Haggard’s powerful mega-churches. When Dobson’s Focus on the Family “campus” was completed, the academy skydiving team, with great ceremony, delivered the “keys from heaven” to Dobson. During some alumni reunions, the AOG arranged bus tours of Focus on the Family facilities in nearby Colorado Springs, Colo. I also learned that the same Monday night Bible studies discussed at orientation were taught by bused-in members of these evangelical mega-churches and that some spouses of senior academy staff members were employed by these same religious institutions. It seemed that my beloved United States Air Force Academy had morphed into the Rocky Mountain Bible College.

The academy chaplain staff had grown 300 percent while the cadet population had decreased by 25 percent: from six mainline chaplains to 18 chaplains, the additional 12 all evangelical. The academy even gained 25 reserve chaplains, also nonexistent in earlier times, for a total of 43 chaplains for about 4,000 cadets, or one chaplain for every 100 cadets.

In the following weeks, a uniformed Army Maj. Gen. William Boykin began sharing his Christian supremacist views from church pulpits around the country, declaring that he was “God’s Warrior” and that “America is a Christian nation.” He demeaned the entire Muslim world by stating that his God was bigger than a Muslim warlord’s god and that the Muslim’s god “was an idol.” He received little more than a token slap on the wrist. At the time, Joseph Schmitz, then the Department of Defense inspector general (Schmitz is currently the chief operating officer of Blackwater International), found that Boykin had committed no ethics violations.

Days later, the May 10 edition of The New Yorker featured the Abu Ghraib torture article by Seymour Hersh, who more than three decades earlier had brought us the story of My Lai.

As a late critic of the Vietnam War, in which I lost many high school and academy classmates, I was skeptical and critical of the drum beat for war orchestrated by the Bush administration. When then-Secretary of State Colin Powell again sold his soul in front of the United Nations and the world, the die was cast. I say again because as a major on his second tour in Vietnam, Powell whitewashed reports of the My Lai massacre and attempted to discredit and silence those few, most notably Ron Ridenhour, who had the courage to get the story into Hersh’s hands.

These were some of my thoughts on the day my son had to decide whether or not to accept his appointment to the Air Force Academy. It was a time in my life when fatherhood and truth were confronted with faux nationalism. With tremendous courage and sadness my son declined his appointment and ended his dream—and my dream for him—to attend the Air Force Academy. Though deeply saddened, we were not sorry.

In what would have been my son’s academy summer encampment, chaplain Watties “suggested” that cadets return to their tents and tell their tent mates they would “burn in hell” if they did not receive Jesus as their savior. At the same time, the academy commandant, Weida, made a habit of including biblical passages in official e-mails and correspondence to subordinates and cadets. He had developed a secret “chant and response” with the cadets: When he yelled “Airpower,” the evangelical cadets in the know would respond “Rock, sir” in reference to the Bible story that Jesus built his house upon a rock.

Coincidentally, at this time and at the invitation of the academy, the Yale Divinity School was observing the pastoral care program for sexual assault victims at the academy. Under the leadership of professor Kristen Leslie, the Yale team issued a stunning report on the divisive and strident evangelical pressures by leadership and staff at the academy.

The response from academy leaders was telling. They at first denied the reports of Watties’ “hell-fire” threats. Under media pressure, they later claimed the violations were committed by a visiting reserve chaplain, when in fact they were by the recent Air Force Chaplain of the Year himself: Watties. In an interview after receiving his Chaplain of the Year award, Watties boasted of baptizing young soldiers in Saddam Hussein’s swimming pool. It is difficult to think of more inflammatory and Crusader-like behavior in an Arab nation.

In response to the Yale report, the academy demanded that chaplain Morton denounce the report she had co-signed. When she refused, she was transferred to East Asia, ultimately resigning from the Air Force in protest. Morton was the only officer who put her oath of office “to support and defend the Constitution” above careerism.

Then-DoD Inspector General Schmitz, noted for his Christian supremacist rhetoric in the book “Blackwater,” sent a team led by evangelical “born again” Lt. Gen. Roger Brady to investigate the academy. Schmitz had recently found no ethics violations in the actions of Gen. Boykin and allowed Boykin’s promotion to senior military officer in charge of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and “extraordinary rendition.” The “Brady Report” found the academy only to have an “insensitivity” problem. Air Force Academy graduate Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida, “silenced” and removed from the major general promotion list, was secretly promoted with back pay the following year at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.

Following the release of the “Brady Report,” West Point graduate and Secretary of the Air Force Mike Wynne, ignoring the existing code of ethics, issued another “code of ethics” that allowed evangelical proselytizing. A month later, in an effort to appease the religious right, Wynne issued an even softer “code of ethics.” Amazingly, Wynne’s document is in complete violation of the code of ethics issued in 1997 by Secretary of the Air Force Sheila Widnall prohibiting proselytizing by commanders and other officers.

The pre-existing Air Force code of ethics in The Little Blue Book states:
“Military professionals must remember that religious choice is a matter of individual conscience. Professionals, and especially commanders, must not take it upon themselves to change or coercively influence the religious views of subordinates.”

Here are just a few violations of that principle over the last three years: Academy football coach Fisher DeBerry hung a banner in the team locker room reading: “Competitor’s Creed: I am a Christian first and last. ... I am a member of Team Jesus Christ.” Baseball coach Mike Hutcheon, recruited from evangelical Christian Bethel College, forced players to lead team prayer during practice. When asked about locker room prayer in March 2007, Lt. Gen. John Regni, the academy superintendent, responded “we have chaplains that are attached to each of the teams and they are very important in that area.” In a July 12, 2005 interview with the New York Times, Brig. Gen. Cecil Richardson, Air Force deputy chief of chaplains, stated, “...we reserve the right to evangelize the unchurched.” For over a decade, the official academy newspaper ran ads stating: “We believe that Jesus Christ is the only real hope for the World. If you would like to discuss Jesus, feel free to contact one of us! There is salvation in no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” The ads were signed by 16 department heads, nine permanent professors, both the incoming and outgoing deans of faculty, the athletic director and more than 200 academy senior officers and their spouses.

Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, in just a few short years has received complaints from more than 6,000 service members and discovered church-state violations at the academies, at military installations in Iraq and around the world, and even within the inner corridors of the Pentagon.

In 2005, when Weinstein filed suit against the Air Force for constitutional violations of church-state separation, the House of Representatives, with little public notice, passed a chilling bill that undermines enforcement of the First Amendment’s separation of church and state. The Public Expression of Religion Act, H.R. 2679, provides that attorneys who successfully challenge government actions that violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment shall not be entitled to recover attorney’s fees. According to The Washington Post, the purpose of this bill is to prevent suits challenging unconstitutional government actions advancing religion.

In December 2006, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation brought media focus to the Christian Embassy Evangelical Organization and its now famous video, which clearly showed the egregious ethics and constitutional violations of several flag officers and the breadth of the problem. Air Force Academy graduate Maj. Gen. Jack Catton, who suggested in the film that his religious beliefs trump country and his oath to the Constitution, was cited last year for sending e-mails to military subordinates and contractors advocating they vote for a particular candidate for Congress, arguing that there are “not enough Christians in Congress.” West Point graduate and Army Brig. Gen. Robert Caslen, who was filmed stating “We are the aroma of Jesus Christ here in the Pentagon,” is now commandant of cadets at West Point. West Point graduate Army Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, another Christian Embassy star, was the “voice” and “face” of the press conferences at Qatar. His office is famous for the creation of the “Rambo” Jessica Lynch fabrications and the manipulation of the killing of Pat Tillman into a recruiting and media event. West Point graduate and evangelical Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, involved in the investigation of Tillman’s death, stated publicly that Pat Tillman’s family was not at peace with his death because they are atheists who believe their son is now “worm dirt.” Air Force Academy graduate Maj. Gen. Peter Sutton, assigned as the senior U.S. military officer in Turkey at the time the Military Religious Freedom Foundation brought the Christian Embassy into media focus, was questioned by Turkish officials about his membership in a radical evangelical cult.

Many are aware of the mercenary army, Blackwater USA, led by Eric Prince, former Ambassador Cofer Black and Joseph Schmitz, the same Joseph Schmitz mentioned above. It is here where the ties become complex and suggestive of an even grander “crusade.”

As described by Jeremy Scahill in his book “Blackwater,” Prince, who attended the U.S. Naval Academy, comes from a wealthy theo-con family, is a “neo-crusader,” and a Christian supremacist. He has been given billions of dollars in federal contracts to create a private army. COO Schmitz, another Naval Academy graduate, is a member of the Order of Malta, a Christian supremacist organization dating back to the Crusades, and happens to be married to the sister of Jeb Bush’s wife, Columba. And Cofer Black, former coordinator for counterterrorism at the U.S. State Department and former director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, who was quoted by the BBC as saying “Capture Bin Laden, kill him and bring his head back in a box on dry ice,” brings his own skill set to the Blackwater team as vice chairman.

The Christian supremacist fascism first reported at the Air Force Academy is endemic throughout the military. From the top down, there has been a complete repudiation of constitutional values and time-honored codes of ethics and honor codes in favor of religious ideology. And we now have a revolving door between Blackwater USA, which is Bush’s Praetorian Guard, and the U.S. military at every level. The citizen-soldier military dictated by our founding fathers has been replaced with professional and mercenary right-wing Christian crusaders in control of the world’s most powerful military. The risks to our democratic form of government cannot be overstated.

This evangelical Christian supremacist fascism within our military and government is a cancer. Officers, especially commanders, who violate the original code of ethics, must be rooted out of the military. The undermining of the Constitution, especially by senior military officers, must end.

As I look back at my 30 years as an active-duty officer, two combat tours in Vietnam, decorations including air medals and the Distinguished Flying Cross, I realize that not once was my service in support or defense of the Constitution. For the very first time, I am upholding my oath of office.

Related Articles:

Robert Dorr, a Military Times columnist, accurately describes the “religious” cancer infecting the U.S. military in his Aug. 7 article, ”Keep the Faith (to Oneself).”

An opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, “Not So Fast, Christian Soldiers: The Pentagon Has a Disturbing Relationship With Private Evangelical Groups,” describes similar egregious behavior.

Thomas D. Williams and J.P. Briggs II, Ph.D., describe how “Fringe Evangelicals Distort US Policy.”

Scoop! Why Pat Robertson Endorsed Rudy

...besides the fact they are both bullshit artists of a type.
One day after endorsing former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for president, televangelist Pat Robertson explained his decision, saying that a Giuliani presidency features prominently in the Book of Revelation.

In his endorsement announcement the day before, Rev. Robertson had made reference to Mr. Giuliani’s tenure as “America’s Mayor,” but did not indicate that the Republican frontrunner was a key player in the Bible’s most apocalyptic book.

In his statement today, however, the televangelist made it clear that “in order for the Second Coming to occur, the world needs to end, and Rudy Giuliani is just the man for that job.”

Rev. Robertson said that he was “confident” that within weeks of his inauguration, Mr. Giuliani would usher in the “end days” that are a staple of Bible prophecy.

In praising Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Robertson had critical words for the current resident of the White House, President George W. Bush: “President Bush got us on the road to Armageddon, but it’s taking too darn long -- Rudy Giuliani will put us in the express lane.”

While the Giuliani camp initially welcomed the endorsement of the influential evangelist, the former New York mayor seemed less enthusiastic today about being identified as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

When asked by a reporter in Iowa about Mr. Robertson’s comments today, Mr. Giuliani replied, “9/11.”

Our Shameful Treatment Of Veterans

Once again, a rightist shibboleth can't compare to what the rightists themselves do. In the 70s, the wingnuts went crazy with the lies about peacenicks abusing returning Vietnam vets.

But this is worse and, oh yeah, it's real:
Veterans make up one in four homeless people in the United States, though they are only 11 percent of the general adult population, according to a report to be released Thursday.

And homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderly veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trickling into shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help with finding a job.

The Veterans Affairs Department has identified 1,500 homeless veterans from the current wars and says 400 of them have participated in its programs specifically targeting homelessness.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness, a public education nonprofit, based the findings of its report on numbers from Veterans Affairs and the Census Bureau. 2005 data estimated that 194,254 homeless people out of 744,313 on any given night were veterans.

In comparison, the VA says that 20 years ago, the estimated number of veterans who were homeless on any given night was 250,000.

Some advocates say the early presence of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan at shelters does not bode well for the future. It took roughly a decade for the lives of Vietnam veterans to unravel to the point that they started showing up among the homeless. Advocates worry that intense and repeated deployments leave newer veterans particularly vulnerable.

"We're going to be having a tsunami of them eventually because the mental health toll from this war is enormous," said Daniel Tooth, director of veterans affairs for Lancaster County, Pa.

While services to homeless veterans have improved in the past 20 years, advocates say more financial resources still are needed. With the spotlight on the plight of Iraq veterans, they hope more will be done to prevent homelessness and provide affordable housing to the younger veterans while there's a window of opportunity.

"When the Vietnam War ended, that was part of the problem. The war was over, it was off TV, nobody wanted to hear about it," said John Keaveney, a Vietnam veteran and a founder of New Directions in Los Angeles, which provides substance abuse help, job training and shelter to veterans.

"I think they'll be forgotten," Keaveney said of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. "People get tired of it. It's not glitzy that these are young, honorable, patriotic Americans. They'll just be veterans, and that happens after every war."

Keaveney said it's difficult for his group to persuade some homeless Iraq veterans to stay for treatment and help because they don't relate to the older veterans. Those who stayed have had success — one is now a stock broker and another is applying to be a police officer, he said.

"They see guys that are their father's age and they don't understand, they don't know, that in a couple of years they'll be looking like them," he said.

After being discharged from the military, Jason Kelley, 23, of Tomahawk, Wis., who served in Iraq with the Wisconsin National Guard, took a bus to Los Angeles looking for better job prospects and a new life.

Kelley said he couldn't find a job because he didn't have an apartment, and he couldn't get an apartment because he didn't have a job. He stayed in a $300-a-week motel until his money ran out, then moved into a shelter run by the group U.S. VETS in Inglewood, Calif. He's since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, he said.

"The only training I have is infantry training and there's not really a need for that in the civilian world," Kelley said in a phone interview. He has enrolled in college and hopes to move out of the shelter soon.

The Iraq vets seeking help with homelessness are more likely to be women, less likely to have substance abuse problems, but more likely to have mental illness — mostly related to post-traumatic stress, said Pete Dougherty, director of homeless veterans programs at the VA.

Overall, 45 percent of participants in the VA's homeless programs have a diagnosable mental illness and more than three out of four have a substance abuse problem, while 35 percent have both, Dougherty said.

Historically, a number of fighters in U.S. wars have become homeless. In the post-Civil War era, homeless veterans sang old Army songs to dramatize their need for work and became known as "tramps," which had meant to march into war, said Todd DePastino, a historian at Penn State University's Beaver campus who wrote a book on the history of homelessness.

After World War I, thousands of veterans — many of them homeless — camped in the nation's capital seeking bonus money. Their camps were destroyed by the government, creating a public relations disaster for President Herbert Hoover.

The end of the Vietnam War coincided with a time of economic restructuring, and many of the same people who fought in Vietnam were also those most affected by the loss of manufacturing jobs, DePastino said.

Their entrance to the streets was traumatic and, as they aged, their problems became more chronic, recalled Sister Mary Scullion, who has worked with the homeless for 30 years and co-founded of the group Project H.O.M.E. in Philadelphia.

"It takes more to address the needs because they are multiple needs that have been unattended," Scullion said. "Life on the street is brutal and I know many, many homeless veterans who have died from Vietnam."

The VA started targeting homelessness in 1987, 12 years after the fall of Saigon. Today, the VA has, either on its own or through partnerships, more than 15,000 residential rehabilitative, transitional and permanent beds for homeless veterans nationwide. It spends about $265 million annually on homeless-specific programs and about $1.5 billion for all health care costs for homeless veterans.

Because of these types of programs and because two years of free medical care is being offered to all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, Dougherty said they hope many veterans from recent wars who are in need can be identified early.

"Clearly, I don't think that's going to totally solve the problem, but I also don't think we're simply going to wait for 10 years until they show up," Dougherty said. "We're out there now trying to get everybody we can to get those kinds of services today, so we avoid this kind of problem in the future."

In all of 2006, the National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that 495,400 veterans were homeless at some point during the year.

The group recommends that 5,000 housing units be created per year for the next five years dedicated to the chronically homeless that would provide permanent housing linked to veterans' support systems. It also recommends funding an additional 20,000 housing vouchers exclusively for homeless veterans, and creating a program that helps bridge the gap between income and rent.

Following those recommendations would cost billions of dollars, but there is some movement in Congress to increase the amount of money dedicated to homeless veterans programs.

On a recent day in Philadelphia, case managers from Project H.O.M.E. and the VA picked up William Joyce, 60, a homeless Vietnam veteran in a wheelchair who said he'd been sleeping at a bus terminal.

"You're an honorable veteran. You're going to get some services," outreach worker Mark Salvatore told Joyce. "You need to be connected. You don't need to be out here on the streets."
Link. And more here.

ATT: Fascism In Action; See It Now


And there's more here.

Today's Schadenfreude Moment

Five authors have sued the parent company of Regnery Publishing, a Washington imprint of conservative books, charging that the company deprives its writers of royalties by selling their books at a steep discount to book clubs and other organizations owned by the same parent company.

So traitorous haters of America and her democracy think they got ripped off by their publisher.

Or maybe the publisher made sales that wouldn't have been made anyway and maybe, like, you know, enriched these geniuses? Just saying....

The Not-Funny Joke That Is Homeland Security

Who do you want to sic the FBI on...?

Well, there's this guy who's been an awesome enabler of Osama and Al-Qaida and global Islamofascist terrorism, generally... lives down at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Actually, he's the front of a huge cell. Maybe the FBI camn investigate them all...?
A man in Sweden who was angry with his daughter's husband has been charged with libel for telling the FBI that the son-in-law had links to al-Qaeda, Swedish media reported on Friday.

The man, who admitted sending the email, said he did not think the US authorities would stupid enough to believe him.


When the husband refused to stay home, his father-in-law wrote an email to the FBI saying the son-in-law had links to al-Qaeda in Sweden and that he was travelling to the US to meet his contacts.

He provided information on the flight number and date of arrival in the US.

The son-in-law was arrested upon landing in Florida. He was placed in handcuffs, interrogated and placed in a cell for 11 hours before being put on a flight back to Europe, the paper said.

But wait, there's more!
Like Hansel and Gretel hoping to follow their bread crumbs out of the forest, the FBI sifted through customer data collected by San Francisco-area grocery stores in 2005 and 2006, hoping that sales records of Middle Eastern food would lead to Iranian terrorists.

The idea was that a spike in, say, falafel sales, combined with other data, would lead to Iranian secret agents in the south San Francisco-San Jose area.

The brainchild of top FBI counterterrorism officials Phil Mudd and Willie T. Hulon, according to well-informed sources, the project didn’t last long. It was torpedoed by the head of the FBI’s criminal investigations division, Michael A. Mason, who argued that putting somebody on a terrorist list for what they ate was ridiculous — and possibly illegal.

A check of federal court records in California did not reveal any prosecutions developed from falafel trails.

FBI spokesman Paul Bresson would neither confirm nor deny that the bureau ran such data mining, or forward-leaning “domain management,” experiments, but said he would continue to investigate. “It sounds pretty sensational to me,” he said, upon his initial review of the allegation. The techniques were briefly mentioned last year in a PBS Frontline special, “The Enemy Within”.

Mason, who is leaving the FBI to become security chief for Verizon, could not be reached for comment.

The FBI denies that sifting through consumer spending habits amounted to the kind of data mining that caused an uproar when the Pentagon was exposed doing it in 2002.

“Domain management has been portrayed by the bureau as a broad analytic approach, not specific data mining activities,” says Amy Zegart, author of the much-praised recent book, “Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI and the Origins of 9/11.” “It is a methodology to determine what is known about a problem, develop indices to measure it, and take steps to close knowledge gaps.”

Zegart said her recent interviews with FBI officials “suggest that domain management has been implemented in a spotty fashion; L.A. and New York appear to be ahead of the curve, but some other field offices are not using it and at least one had never heard of it.”

As ridiculous as it sounds, the groceries counting scheme is a measure of how desperate the FBI is to disrupt domestic terrorism plots.

The possibility of Iranian-sponsored terrorism in the United States has drawn major attention from the FBI because of rising tensions between Washington and Tehran over Iran’s nuclear program.

“Because of the heightened difficulties surrounding U.S.-Iranian relations, the FBI has increased its focus on Hezbollah,” Bresson said 16 months ago. “Those investigations relate particularly to the potential presence of Hezbollah members on U.S. soil.”

Just this week, analyst Matthew Levitt wrote that “according to FBI officials here, some 50-100 Hamas and Hezbollah members with military training are present in the United States.” An FBI spokesman would not confirm that figure.

But others are far more circumspect, including U.S. intelligence.

Last July’s National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on terrorism trends addressed the potential for Iranian subversion here in such cautionary terms that it was rendered useless.

“We assess [Iran-backed] Lebanese Hezbollah, which has conducted anti-U.S. attacks outside the United States in the past, may be more likely to consider attacking the Homeland over the next three years if it perceives the United States as posing a direct threat to the group or Iran,” the [NIE] said. (Italics added.)

In other words, who knows?


Shots From Iraq


Gratuitous Rudy Post

Giuliani, a former prosecutor, took office and immediately began treating New Yorkers, particularly black New Yorkers, like criminals. He specialized in pleasing white people by beating up black people. Under his leadership the police were unleashed and given the right to arrest for petty offenses and even to kill when they felt the urge to do so.

When Haitian immigrant Patrick Dorismond was killed by a police officer, Giuliani illegally released his juvenile justice records to police. Adding insult to injury, he smeared the dead man by stating that he was "no altar boy." The Dorismond case was one of the tipping points that made even some white New Yorkers long for the day that Giuliani would be their former mayor.

His public actions involving his private life also took the bloom off of the Rudy rose. In 2000 Giuliani informed his wife he was leaving her for another woman. He brought her that news via press conference. New York sophistication should not be confused with moral laissez faire. The tacky behavior was never forgotten.

On September 11, 2001 New Yorkers were giving collective thanks because term limits legislation insured that Rudy would soon be gone for good. Only a small number of dead enders were still in his thrall. But the terror attacks on the twin towers put him back in the spotlight. He was dubbed "America's mayor," and made a Knight of British Empire. He then made a bundle by forming Giuliani Partners and making up to $200,000 for a single speaking engagement, marketing himself as a terrorism expert because he managed to look calm for a few days.

Now Giuliani is running for the Republican presidential nomination and he is the very worst of a bad lot. He unabashedly supports the occupation of Iraq and a military attack on Iran. He doesn't think simulating drowning via water boarding is torture and agrees wholeheartedly with the Bush destruction of civil liberties.

If a potential Giuliani presidency in any way resembles a Giuliani mayoralty then the country would be in for a truly awful time. As mayor Giuliani promoted the worst, least competent people to high positions in New York City government. Bernard Kerik, an undercover cop, had the shrewdness to put himself in the right place at the right time when he volunteered to drive Rudy around during his mayoral campaign. Despite the lack of any other credential, his rise to power was swift. First he was made a Deputy Commissioner at the Department of Corrections, then Commissioner.

Kerik was nothing but a crook. Fully aware that Kerik was under investigation for taking money from a construction company with organized crime connections, Giuliani nonetheless appointed him Police Commissioner. While others insist that they informed Giuliani of Kerik's mob ties, Rudy claims not to remember. He certainly didn't remember when he recommended his pal for a cabinet level position as Secretary of Homeland Security. When Kerik imploded under an avalanche of bad publicity Rudy just shrugged his shoulders, confident that he would continue to get away with doing whatever he wants.

Giuliani has credibility with most Republican voters because of his warmongering and inclination to inflict physical pain on dark people. He is still in trouble with conservative Christians for his pro-choice position as mayor of New York City and for publicly treating his wife and children like dirt. He plans to make up for that by being more overtly racist.

He will remind white Republicans of the good old days when he cut the welfare roles. He did so by breaking the law and denying benefits to eligible people, but no matter. He knows his audience. When they hear the word welfare they will salivate like Pavlovian dogs and decide that Rudy is their man.

There is every reason to believe that Giuliani will act out his every sick fantasy if he were to occupy the oval office. There is no reason to believe that Democrats would finally behave like an opposition. A Giuliani presidency is a nightmarish scenario. We will all be Patrick Dorismond, assumed to be guilty of something and therefore worthy of punishment. It is hard to imagine a worse president than George W. Bush, but Rudolph Giuliani fits that description perfectly.

Another Tough-Talking Fascist Wusses Out

Fox Bidness Journal:
Merck & Co. is expected to announce that it agreed to pay about $4.85 billion to settle a significant portion of the claims over injuries allegedly linked to its Vioxx painkiller, according to a person familiar with the situation, after insisting for years that it would fight all 27,000 cases filed rather than compromise.
Always thought it was a joke: Do the math: Fighting all the claims was economically impossible.

One More Time, So It's Clear: Waterboarding Is Torture

Chairman Conyers and members of the committee.

My name is Malcolm Wrightson Nance. I am a former member of the U.S. military intelligence community, a retired U.S. Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer. I have served honorably for 20 years.

While serving my nation, I had the honor to be accepted for duty as an instructor at the U.S. Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) school in North Island Naval Air Station, California. I served in that capacity as an instructor and Master Training Specialist in the Wartime Prisoner-of-War, Peacetime Hostile Government Detainee and Terrorist Hostage survival programs.

At SERE, one of my most serious responsibilities was to employ, supervise or witness dramatic and highly kinetic coercive interrogation methods, through hands-on, live demonstrations in a simulated captive environment which inoculated our student to the experience of high intensity stress and duress.

Some of these coercive physical techniques have been identified in the media as Enhanced Interrogation Techniques. The most severe of those employed by SERE was waterboarding.

Within the four SERE schools and Joint Personnel Recovery community, the waterboard was rightly used as a demonstration tool that revealed to our students the techniques of brutal authoritarian enemies.

SERE trained tens of thousands of service members of its historical use by the Nazis, the Japanese, North Korea, Iraq, the Soviet Union, the Khmer Rouge and the North Vietnamese.

SERE emphasized that enemies of democracy and rule of law often ignore human rights, defy the Geneva Convention and have subjected our men and women to grievous physical and psychological harm. We stress that enduring these calumnies will allow our soldiers to return home with honor.

The SERE community was designed over 50 years ago to show that, as a torture instrument, waterboarding is a terrifying, painful and humiliating tool that leaves no physical scars and which can be repeatedly used as an intimidation tool.

Waterboarding has the ability to make the subject answer any question with the truth, a half-truth or outright lie in order to stop the procedure. Subjects usually resort to all three, often in rapid sequence. Most media representations or recreations of the waterboarding are inaccurate, amateurish and dangerous improvisations, which do not capture the true intensity of the act. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not a simulation of drowning -- it is drowning.

In my case, the technique was so fast and professional that I didn’t know what was happening until the water entered my nose and throat. It then pushes down into the trachea and starts the process of respiratory degradation.

It is an overwhelming experience that induces horror and triggers frantic survival instincts. As the event unfolded, I was fully conscious of what was happening -- I was being tortured.

Proponents claim that American waterboarding is acceptable because it is done rarely, professionally and only on truly deserving terrorists like 9/11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Media reporting revealed that tough interrogations were designed to show we had "taken the gloves off."

It also may have led directly to prisoner abuse and murder in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The debate surrounding waterboarding has been lessened to a question of he-said, she-said politics. But I believe that, as some view it as now acceptable, it is symptomatic of a greater problem.

We must ask ourselves, has America unwittingly relinquished its place as the guardian of human rights and the beacon of justice? Do we now agree that our unique form of justice, based on the concepts of fairness, honor and the unwavering conviction that America is better than its enemies, should no longer govern our intelligence agencies?

This has now been clearly called into question.

On the morning of September 11, at the green field next to a burning Pentagon, I was a witness to one of the greatest displays of heroism in our history. American men and women, both military and civilian, repeatedly and selflessly risked their lives to save those around them. At the same time, hundreds of American citizens gave their lives to save thousands in both Washington DC and New York City. It was a painful day for all of us.

But, does the ultimate goal of protecting America require us to adopt policies that shift our mindset from righteousness and self-defense to covert cruelty?

Does protecting America "at all costs" mean sacrificing the Constitution, our laws and the Bill of Rights in order to save it? I do not believe that.

The attacks of September 11 were horrific, but they did not give us the right to destroy our moral fabric as a nation or to reverse a course that for two hundred years led the world towards democracy, prosperity and guaranteed the rights of billions to live in peace.

We must return to using our moral compass in the fight against al-Qaida. Had we done so initially we would have had greater success to stanch out terrorist activity and perhaps would have captured Osama bin Laden long ago. Shocking the world by bragging about how professional our brutality was was counter-productive to the fight. There are ways to get the information we need. Perhaps less-kinetic interrogation and indoctrination techniques could have brought more al-Qaida members and active supporters to our side. That edge may be lost forever.

More importantly, our citizens once believed in the justness of our cause. Now, we are divided. Many have abandoned their belief in the fight because they question the commitment to our own core values. Allied countries, critical to the war against al-Qaida, may not supply us with the assistance we need to bring terrorists to justice. I believe that we must reject the use of the waterboard for prisoners and captives and cleanse this stain from our national honor.

Leadership In Action!

Is Beloved Leader an embarrassment yet?

War Room:
At the White House Monday, press secretary Dana Perino said that the Bush administration was pushing Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to "declare that elections that were scheduled for January are actually going to take place in January, on time." "I think that the most important thing is for them to get back to their stated goal of having a path to democracy, establishing that free and fair elections would take place in January," she explained.

At the State Department Tuesday, spokesman Sean McCormack said that the Bush administration had "conveyed to [Musharraf] that we expect him to abide by" his commitment "to hold elections as scheduled in January." McCormack said that the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan had emphasized to Pakistani officials "that the elections need to take place, need to take place as scheduled in January." He added that he hadn't yet seen "a commitment to holding elections in January, on January 15th," and "that's what we're looking for."

At Mount Vernon Wednesday, the president said that he had just spoken to Musharraf and delivered a message that was "very, very plain, very easy to understand": "The United States wants you to have the elections as scheduled."

Musharraf reportedly told his national security council today that he plans to get his recent reelection validated by the Supreme Court justices he has just appointed and then hold parliamentary elections on some as-yet unspecified date before the middle of February.

The reaction from the White House? "We think it is a good thing that President Musharraf has clarified the election date for the Pakistani people,'' Perino said this morning.

Oh, and that "very, very plain, very easy to understand" message the president delivered to Musharraf Wednesday? Here's how Musharraf's Foreign Ministry is describing it: "President Bush praised President Pervez Musharraf's leadership and Pakistan's critical role in fighting terrorism and extremism, which posed a grave challenge not only to Pakistan but the world."

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Bill O'Reilly Leads Fox News Channel's Attack on Decency

More here.

Flip, Flop; Flip, Flop; Flip, Flop... Our Fickle Allies

The scum our security relies on... then there's the foreigners too.... Playing us; undependable....
The U.S. is struggling to find tribal allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan as it tries to beat back the resurgence of al Qaeda and the Taliban. In alienating a powerful warlord named Jalaluddin Haqqani a few years ago, however, some U.S. and Afghan officials argue the Americans may have shot themselves in the foot.

Mr. Haqqani is now one of the major rebel leaders roiling Afghanistan. But back in autumn 2002, he secretly sent word that he could ally with the new U.S.-friendly Afghan government. The warlord had once been a partner of the Central Intelligence Agency, and later closely collaborated with Osama bin Laden and the ruling Taliban. CIA officers held talks with his brother, Ibrahim, and made plans to meet with Mr. Haqqani, who was leading some of the Taliban's troops.

But U.S. military forces operating separately from the CIA arrested Ibrahim -- cutting off the talks and entrenching his brother as a nemesis. Mr. Haqqani is still fighting U.S. troops along the Pakistan border. "We blew our chance," contends one of the CIA officers involved who had worked with Mr. Haqqani in the 1980s. "I truly believe he could have been on our side."

Other senior officials in the CIA and Pentagon are less certain. But Washington's aborted courtship of Mr. Haqqani epitomizes the conflicts and calculations that are complicating U.S. involvement in the region.

The war in Afghanistan is a major factor in the chaos unfolding in neighboring Pakistan. A spreading Islamic insurgency inside Pakistan is one reason Gen. Pervez Musharraf cited Saturday when he declared emergency rule, though the opposition contends the move was more about extending his stay in power. Militants in Pakistan's tribal belt are suspected of fighting in both countries, dramatically widening the conflict from the days that it was largely confined to Afghanistan.

Pakistani and American officials allege that Mr. Haqqani's group, based in the remote mountains of Pakistan's North Waziristan region bordering Afghanistan, was critical in helping al Qaeda leaders flee to Pakistan from Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002. Today, the warlord and his network continue to provide "security and support for the staging of terrorist acts" against both Afghan and Western interests, says Lt. Col. David Accetta of the U.S. Army's Regional Command East in Afghanistan.

Debate continues in the U.S. and Afghan governments over whether major Afghan warlords can be turned. Commanders inside the Pentagon, which has largely taken over the job of hunting down the militants from the CIA, say they've received promising overtures from members of Mr. Haqqani's network in recent months and are interested in exploring them. "I still believe there's a nonlethal way to get him to reconcile," says Lt. Col. Dave Bushey, who served as a battalion commander for the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division, which until June led operations against Mr. Haqqani's fighters along the border. "I think these guys want to come home."

But there's also concern that Mr. Haqqani has grown too close to Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders. In recent months, European security services have arrested South Asian and Arab men who allegedly trained in Pakistan's remote tribal regions -- partially controlled by Mr. Haqqani's men -- to launch attacks in the West. U.S. intelligence agencies say plots for bombing the U.S.'s Ramstein Air Base in Germany and U.S.-bound airliners from London were hatched there. Suicide bombers sent by Mr. Haqqani's group have killed or injured a string of senior Afghan officials, U.S. and Afghan officials allege.

The whereabouts of Mr. Haqqani and his three sons, who have increasingly taken command of the group's military operations, aren't known. Rumors spread this summer that Mr. Haqqani, thought to be in his mid-70s, had died, but Afghan and U.S. officials say they don't have any supporting evidence. Mr. Haqqani's network is seen as one of the three most-powerful militias fighting Kabul from Pakistani bases, along with Taliban leader Mullah Omar's army in southern Afghanistan and militants controlled by warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the north.

Last month the Pentagon put Mr. Haqqani's eldest son, Sirajuddin, on its 12 most-wanted list in Afghanistan. Many intelligence analysts inside the Pentagon and CIA believe Mr. Haqqani's militia will continue to fight in the insurgency if he dies, but not if he and his sons change sides.

Members of the Pashtun tribe based along the Pakistan-Afghan border, which includes the Haqqanis, make up 40% of Afghanistan's population but are underrepresented in the central government. The Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001, is made up almost solely of Pashtun tribesmen. Swathes of eastern and southern Afghanistan are in the hands of Pashtun and Taliban leaders who challenge Mr. Karzai's army, heavily staffed by Uzbek and Tajik commanders.

Many inside the CIA, the Pentagon and Mr. Karzai's government argue that Mr. Haqqani is more interested in regaining influence in his traditional strongholds than in restoring the Taliban government in Kabul. Like many Afghan warlords, he is seen by those officials as an opportunist more than an ideologue.

Born to an influential clan in eastern Afghanistan, Mr. Haqqani fled into Pakistan's tribal region with millions of other Afghans after the Soviet army invaded their country in 1979. Many tribal leaders allied with the CIA to fight the invaders and the Soviet-backed local government during the 10-year Afghan-Soviet war. Mr. Haqqani and his men won a reputation for being among the fiercest and most effective. In one battle during the holy month of Ramadan in the late 1980s, Mr. Haqqani was shot in the leg. The CIA dispatched a medical team with a miniature X-ray machine to locate the bullet. Mr. Haqqani refused to ingest painkillers, citing Islam's tenet to fast during the holiday.

He "bit down on a belt, and we pulled the bullet out with forceps," says Milt Bearden, then the CIA's station chief in Pakistan. "Haqqani then went back to killing Soviets."

Mr. Haqqani was seen by CIA and Pakistani intelligence officials then as a relative moderate among the fundamentalist Afghan rebels, and his network received generous funding from Washington. For U.S. lawmakers and columnists who made the trek to see how U.S. taxpayers' money was being used in the anti-communist struggle, Mr. Haqqani displayed an elaborate staging area complete with hotel, ammunition depot, mosque and radio center in tunnels dug into a mountainside.

With the Soviet troop pullout in 1989, Mr. Haqqani warned his U.S. allies that they would quickly be forgotten if they stopped supporting reconstruction. "He wanted money for hospitals and education," says a former senior CIA operative who worked with Mr. Haqqani at the time. But the U.S. cut funding for the mujahadeen operations in 1991.

Mr. Haqqani gravitated to Arab mercenaries who stepped into the void. He struck up a close relationship with Mr. bin Laden, who personally fought in battles against communist forces along the Afghan-Pakistan border where Mr. Haqqani operated. Mr. bin Laden is credited with using tractors and other equipment to help Mr. Haqqani's men build forward bases inside Afghanistan.

With the 1996 Taliban takeover, Mr. Haqqani aligned with the regime. After the U.S. invaded in October 2001 over the Taliban's harboring of Mr. bin Laden, Mr. Haqqani took charge of some Taliban and Pashtun troops fighting the U.S.-led coalition. He also helped al Qaeda members flee into Pakistan's tribal belt, say U.S. and Pakistani officials.

The idea of splitting off Pashtun leaders from al Qaeda and the Taliban became a major CIA objective as the fighting wore on. Mr. Haqqani's previous cooperation with the CIA made him an intriguing target, and Afghan warlords have a history of switching sides with the proper financial or political inducements.

U.S. officials believe members of Mr. Haqqani's family may have been killed during a U.S. bombing campaign in March 2002. But that didn't stop him from reaching out in the ensuing weeks, as fighting in eastern Afghanistan intensified. Intermediaries sent word to CIA officers who had worked with the warlord in the 1980s that he was open to a deal. Pakistani intelligence also messaged the CIA station in Islamabad that reconciliation with Mr. Haqqani was attainable, say former CIA members.

But when Mr. Haqqani's brother Ibrahim was identified in eastern Afghanistan in fall 2002, the U.S. military arrested him as a terrorist risk. He was released after nine months, but his detention effectively killed the CIA's plans of striking a strategic agreement, say former agency staff and Afghan officials.

Afghan officials say the U.S. military was pressed to arrest Ibrahim by a Pashtun leader long engaged in a bitter rivalry with the Haqqani clan, Pacha Khan Zadran. They say Ibrahim was cooperating with local military commanders loyal to Mr. Karzai's government when he was arrested. "Zadran was in fear of Haqqani," says Faiz Zaland, an Afghan provincial government official who worked with the U.S. military at the time.

Some Afghan officials say Washington and Kabul failed to provide convincing guarantees that Pashtun leaders would be welcomed into a national unity government. "At the beginning...every Taliban was seen as a terrorist," says Afghanistan's former interior minister, Ali Jalali. "It created mistrust."

Now, Pentagon officials say, the Haqqani network has adopted tactics tested by al Qaeda in Iraq, using suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices against U.S. and Afghan government forces in Afghanistan. In September 2006, a teenage member of Mr. Haqqani's movement blew up himself and the governor of Paktia province, Abdel Hakim Taniwal, say U.S. and Afghan officials. At Mr. Taniwal's funeral two days later, a second suicide attacker, believed to have been sent by Mr. Haqqani, set off an explosive belt, killing 39 and injuring four of Mr. Karzai's ministers.

On Jan. 10 of this year, units from the 10th Mountain Division engaged Mr. Haqqani's men near the Pakistan border, say U.S. Army commanders. The U.S. forces had built a border checkpoint along a key passage into Afghanistan from Waziristan to stem insurgents. Informers tipped them off that Mr. Haqqani's men were preparing to hit the installation.

Near midnight, hundreds of armed Pashtuns crossed into Afghanistan. Some were barefoot; others wore garbage bags on their feet to protect themselves from the frost, say U.S. soldiers present. The 10th Mountain Division hit them with artillery and machine-gun fire from Apache helicopters, killing about 150 of Mr. Haqqani's men, say U.S. Army officials. "That was a very good day," says Col. Bushey, a battalion commander who was present. "We showed we were increasingly challenging their space."

The division next built a base on the important route between the eastern Afghan cities of Gardez and Khost, near the Haqqanis' home district. The Afghan government is constructing administrative offices there to challenge Mr. Haqqani's influence, and has recruited local leaders in building schools and roads to win over the local population.

Members of the 10th Mountain Division say they have received feelers over the past year about possibly striking a compromise with the Karzai government. They came from Sirajuddin Haqqani, Mr. Haqqani's eldest son, who is on the Pentagon's most-wanted list.