28 December 2011

War Cry on Iran Thundering from the Right

The idea of attacking Iran's nuclear facilities, thundering in all its fury, comes from the neocons of the administration of former US President George W. Bush, a historian says.

"The Iran war is the brainchild of the neocons of the Bush-Cheney administration," Michael Carmichael wrote in an article, A Call for Peace: Say NO to America's Military Adventure, published in Global Research.

"Over the past eight years, our military intelligence establishment working hand-in-glove with other shadow agencies of other nations has been building up the notion of a casus belli against Iran predicated upon their allegedly clandestine nuclear arms program," he added.

Carmichael also pointed out that former US Vice President Dick Cheney argued for war against Iran as early as 2002 and 2003 in top secret meetings of the national Security Council.

He also warned that the Military-Industrial-Complex (MIC), which is advancing rapidly towards the robotification of war via drones for surveillance and targeted assassinations, is moving inexorably toward war with Iran.

The author also lashed out at the US and its ally Israel for beating the drums of war against Iran and creating "Iranophobia, a fear of the nation and people of Iran."

"If America and Israel were psychiatric patients, their condition would be described as delusional. Instead, our government and our obeisant media are doing everything in their power to brainwash the American people to inculcate into their psyches the fear of every molecule of Iranian origin," he said.

As the war rhetoric against Iran has intensified in the past week, the analyst concluded that "with the pace of war against Iran now thundering in all its fury, it is time to mobilize once again to demand peace."

Washington and Tel Aviv have repeatedly threatened Tehran with the "option" of a military strike, based on the allegation that Iran's nuclear work may consist of a covert military aspect.

Iran argues that it has the right to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

14 December 2011

In an Interview, President of Kaist Insists His Reforms Will Continue

This is an article about university studies in Korea and suicide rates.  It deals specifically with KAIST and its president's push for greatness.  Interesting and heartfelt.  Find it in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The year 2011 is one the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, better known as Kaist, will want to forget. It began when an undergraduate at the elite 40-year-old public university jumped to his death in January, the first of four student suicides during the winter and spring. In April, a middle-aged professor facing accusations of misappropriating research funds hanged himself.

The deaths sparked a bitter, long-simmering confrontation between Kaist's president, Suh Nam-pyo, and his faculty critics, many of whom blamed his policies for contributing to the student suicides. In a poll subsequently carried out by the university's Professors' Association, over a third of the faculty members—234 professors—said Mr. Suh should quit.

"I thought the sky was falling down," says Mr. Suh now, recalling the fourth student suicide and the outburst of criticism that followed. "But this type of difficult period had to come sometime. In some ways I'm glad it came up now, while I'm still here."

The 75-year-old Korean-American and MIT veteran has been a lightning rod for controversy since he arrived in 2006, importing U.S.-inspired reforms into a higher-education system widely seen as stagnant and closeted. The reforms made him an iconic figure in the clash between what was portrayed in the news media as a fight between old and new Korea, earning him direct support from the country's biggest newspapers and even South Korea's presidential office.

One of Mr. Suh's first decrees ordered the language of undergraduate instruction switched to English, a move that initially provoked gasps of disapproval but which has since been copied at other Korean universities. Mr. Suh also introduced a punitive tuition system, forcing the worst performing of the university's 10,000 students to pay part of their roughly $6,000 in yearly fees. Usually the government pays the entirety of the costs.

Kyung Chong-min, head of Kaist's Professor's Association, said those policies piled competitive pressure on undergraduates, making it inevitable that some would crack. "It's a terrible idea teaching all classes in English," he says. "It is just blocking the eyes and ears of the students. President Suh's problem is that he does not listen to others."

Such criticism didn't stop Mr. Suh from being elected last year—at age 74—to a second term, after four years that saw Kaist double its budget, more than double research income, and increase its faculty by a third. But the suicides forced the policy debate into the open, and led to the appointment of a 13-member council of students and professors that debated Kaist's direction over the summer.

Mr. Suh was compelled to blunt some of his reforms, including scrapping the tuition penalty system. "Since the suicides," says a spokeswoman for Kaist, "we have created a course called 'Happy College Life' to assist freshmen in their better adapting into a new environment of college life." And although the vast bulk of Kaist's science and technical classes are still taught in English, literature and some other courses have reverted to Korean.

The president insists, however, that he is still backed by the more reform-minded faculty. "Two-thirds are not in the camp" of the opposition, he says, a calculation he makes by adding those "in the middle" with his staunch allies. He says his own tough tenure-review system and aggressive recruitment drive—roughly 170 new professors since 2006—have created an "unstable" situation.

"Forty-nine percent do not have tenure. Some people got caught between the new and the old tenure policy," which automatically awarded tenure after seven years. He says it will take five to seven years for the university to stabilize, by which time most of his critics will have retired. "Many people who are in the forefront of this opposition are in their upper 50s," Mr. Suh says.

Perhaps the most damaging allegation thrown at Mr. Suh this year, however, is that he is personally profiting from his position. Mr. Kyung is one of several professors who say that the president registered in his own name dozens of patents associated with two prestigious research projects started under his tenure: a mobile hydraulic system that allows cargo to be offloaded from ships at sea and a pilot project for an electric public-transportation network, dubbed OLEV.

"In four out of 50 patents he is registered as the sole inventor," says Mr. Kyung, who led the search committee that recruited Mr. Suh from Boston in 2006. "He is paid a lot of money to be president, not a researcher."
Mr. Suh calls those claims "nonsense." "I didn't come here to make money. If that was my goal, I would have stayed in the U.S." He rejects accusations that he put his name on somebody else's invention. "It's all done under law and Kaist rules. I'm the first one to come up with the idea for OLEV and the mobile harbor," he says, adding that "every penny" he has earned outside of his presidency he has "given to Kaist."

The suicides rattled him, he admits, as did criticism from the parents of one student that the university should have been paying closer attention. But he adds that South Korea has one of the world's highest suicide rates, and students at elite American institutions are under far greater pressure: "At MIT, students pay $50,000 a year and have to get a loan or scholarship. Only 1.5 percent of our students pay fees at all."

It remains to be seen if those arguments will stamp out the fires of 2011, and allow him to see out his four-year term, a prospect Mr. Kyung called "very undesirable." Even he admits, however, that Mr. Suh has brought improvements, especially the competitive evaluation system for professors. "Nobody else would have been able to do that," Mr. Kyung says. "But we simply don't believe him anymore."

Mr. Suh refuses to rule out stepping down early and heading back to Boston, and says his goal remains the same: "I've been trying to make this one of best universities in the world. By any measure, we're doing well. But there are a lot of intense stresses, like an earthquake or volcano building up pressure. We have to clean up the mess created by the volcano."

09 December 2011

Is war with Iran inevitable?

The western world seems to be gearing up for an overt conflict with Iran. First, the UN bought the US argument to impose further sanctions. This was followed by several European countries withdrawing diplomats - obvious precursors for something in the works.

If and when the US gets involved, it should not surprise anyone. The US has been pushing for military action on Iran since the Islamic religious takeover of 1979.

Since 1979, the US government has made little to no effort to initiate diplomatic ties with Iran. Instead covert operations have been continuously enacted culminating in the downing of a US spy drone a few days ago.

The government's position on Iran has been set in stone since 1979 and there has been little done to effect change.

The true cost of sanctions and political posturing by both governments is felt the hardest by the Iranian people.

Economic sanctions do little to shake the resolve of the Islamic regime and at the same time deepen the resentment toward America. Sanctions and covert operations add more fuel to President Ahmadinejad's often intemperate behavior. But US policy also lends the Iranian regime more credibility.

Rather than seek to further divide the countries by removing diplomatic ties, now is the time to re-establish an ambassadorial presence.

But the current is swiftly moving against that. Many wogs in Washington are actually pushing for military operations initiated by Israel against nuclear facilities in Iran. Any attack will most certainly lead to a war in which the US is a key figure.

This is precisely what we should be working to avoid. But the war mongers and fear mongers are directing the show now.

Even though Pres. Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize he shows very little interest in acheiving world peace. The US continues to terrorist attacks.  Why was a spy drone flying in the air space of a sovereign nation?  Can you imagine the hell that would break loose if a Chinese spy plane crashed in the Bible Belt?

The 2012 election won't change anything.  No Republican even has an inkling of peace. A vote for a Republican is a vote for a definite war.

Will any rational voices calling for diplomacy be heard over the pounding war drum?

It's doubtful.

07 December 2011

City in All Directions

Everywhere I look I see city in all directions
that sprawls and curves
in space and time like a
giant worm that winds around the
ephemeral lives and
devours everything in sight.

It’s the noise though that really incubates
in the recesses of the mind
in its corners and crevices
impossible to clean,
where the dirt builds up and buoys the slightest hope
that loneliness is temporary surrounded
by so many nameless faces
plastered, punctured, beaten, and trodden
in the belligerent city.

In all directions I see city,
a living mass of laborers and criminals,
of squealing children, and defenseless babies with flies on their eyes,
of indefatigable ants, squirming rats, and bacteria-dropping seagulls
grappling for food
sulkily sleeping and
in a daze from day to day
in the city, the noisy, gritty city.

Life is an unexpected find among the concrete
bricks that seemingly shut out the
air necessary for sustainable life
bitterly reserved
for the writhing primates
whimpering as cold
wind rips through the alleys
piled with weathered cardboard, metal boxes, aluminum cylinders,
feces and soot,
as the cement cracks
in the soiled, truculent city.

06 December 2011

Fish Dogs, the Tasty Korean Snack

Along with 번대기, Fish Dogs are among the more popular treats for squirmish Korean kids longing for something delicious.


Yummy, let's go get some right now, oma!

03 December 2011

Save BadgerCare

Contact: Bob Jacobson
December 1, 2011                                                                                                    
(608) 284-0580, x303              

50 Wisconsin Groups Unite to Call Upon Federal Government to Reject DHS Waiver

Madison- In an effort to prevent more than 64,000 Wisconsinites from losing their BadgerCare coverage, 50 groups from throughout Wisconsin, call on U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sebelius to deny the recent request from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) for a waiver of federal maintenance of effort (MOE) requirements. 

As outlined in the attached letter to HHS, a diverse and broad group of organizations urge rejection of the waiver for reasons including:

  • The waiver would jeopardize the care of 168,000 Wisconsinites, including more than 64,000 who are expected to drop out of BadgerCare.
  • Approving the waiver would cost 29,000 children their BadgerCare coverage.
  • The waiver would have disproportionate impact on people with disabling conditions
  • The waiver would harm many extremely low-income families.
  • The waiver would result in cost-shifting, not cost savings.
  • The waiver would increase red tape and reduce enrollment efficiency.

The Save BadgerCare Coalition also faulted the DHS process, which precluded an opportunity for meaningful public input, because the essential details of the proposal were not made available in advance of any public hearings.

Wisconsin has long been a national leader in ensuring that its residents have access to quality health care, and BadgerCare—an immensely popular and effective program--has been a major part of that success story. 

Approval of DHS’ waiver proposal would reverse that progress and would conflict with the goal of the health care reform law to make health care better and more affordable. 

To be connected with representatives from the signing organizations, or BadgerCare enrollees who can speak to the impact these changes will make in their lives, please contact Bob Jacobson.

18 November 2011

The Message of the Occupy Movement

The rumblings from detractors have been clarifying.  The questionable occupation of bridges around the United States have allowed a chorus of interlocutors to ask: What is the message of the Occupy movement?

On one hand the message is very clear: people should be allowed to pitch tents wherever they damn well please.  It sounds comical or whimsical at first glance but when delved into a bit deeper it seems entirely plausible that these Occupiers have actually struck gold.

The predatory capitalism that has been practiced in the US has erected feudal lords who own massive tracts of land loaded with massive mansions, massive cars, massive airplanes, and massive consumption, while the peasant farmers sow the crops and raise the animals, and impoverished unemployed cower in urban sprawl and disappear in rural anonymity.

While the few prosper, the rest of the population struggles to put food on the table let alone worry over health costs.

In feudal times land owners controlled legislation, manipulated government with cash, and controlled the masses through concentrated and focused propaganda.  Shays' Rebellion was a direct result of the wealthy manipulating the poor.  Shays' Rebellion was a the catalyst for the forming of our Constitution and the reason for Article III, Section 3:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
And also, Article IV, Section 2:
A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.
Today the same dichotomy holds sway.  The rich make policy, the poor make pudding, if they can afford the ingredients.

While the dissent of Ed Flynn was treated as confrontational, the Occupy movement should thank the Milwaukee police chief for clarifying an important point and making it even stronger when he said, "this neighborhood has 35% unemployment."   That, Chief, is precisely the root of the problem.

Many of these detractors have also directed protesters to get jobs.  Many of those protesting do have jobs - low wage positions - and yet many others represent the burgeoning group of unemployed.  It's very easy to claim that getting jobs would solve their problems but this just isn't true.  A job only solves one problem and creates many more.

Working for minimum wage in this country means earning $7.25 per hour.  That's $290 per 40 hour week and $15,080 per year if every week is a forty o hour week.  The knuckleheads who think that getting jobs will solve the protesters' problems are deranged and out of touch with the reality of the working poor.  They have become weapons and tools of the feudal lords, robber barons, and millionaire despots.  Getting a job would only solve one problem: where to go and what to do for 8 hours (or however long a shift happens to last).

While the landowners (not individual farmers), and robber barons manipulate investments and legislation, jobs get shipped off to poorer markets with lower wages, unemployment in the US rises, and ownership dwindles.  The infrastructure collapses and the country implodes.

That's precisely the point of the Occupy movement.

10 November 2011

And yet, "Lawmakers OK changes that could drop 65,000 from Medicaid"

By Jason Stein of the Journal Sentinel

Madison - The Legislature's nonpartisan budget office projects 65,000 people - nearly half of them children - would leave or be turned away from the state's health programs for the poor, under a proposal passed by lawmakers Thursday.

The Joint Finance Committee approved 11-4 a proposal by GOP Gov. Scott Walker's administration to help bridge a more than half-billion dollar budget gap in the rapidly growing health plans. All Republicans voted in favor and all Democrats against.The proposal doesn't need any further approval from state lawmakers but must still win federal approval from President Barack Obama's administration by the end of the year - a significant hurdle.

The Medicaid health plans cover about one in five state residents - almost 1.2 million people - and provide everything from doctor visits for poor families to nursing home care for the elderly. To help control rapidly increasing costs in the programs, Walker's administration wants to decrease benefits for a quarter of a million recipients, increase premiums for tens of thousands of others by up to tenfold, and drop coverage for adults and children for at least a year if a family misses a payment.

Advocates said they were concerned about the impact of the changes, particularly on the participants who will end up leaving the program because they lose their eligibility or because they can't or won't make the higher premium payments.
"Most of them will probably end up uninsured and will no longer have access to preventive health care when they need it," Jon Peacock, research director for the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, said before the hearing.

Medicaid programs like BadgerCare Plus and Family Care are jointly paid for by state and federal taxpayers, with the state budgeting to pay $6.73 billion in state and federal money for them this year. State spending is up significantly, but the overall spending in the program will still decline this year by an estimated 7% because a surge of federal aid money has run out.

The Walker administration and Republican lawmakers said the state has no other options to deal with the health programs besides raising taxes. They noted that Medicaid programs are gobbling up more and more of the state budget and squeezing out other key priorities like schools.

They said some other states are simply booting recipients from the program even if they have no other options. State Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith, who formerly oversaw Medicaid programs for the federal government under then-President George W. Bush, said the Wisconsin proposal would have "national significance."
"Under our approach, individuals would lose coverage only if they make the choice not to pay a fair share of their coverage," Smith said, adding later, "We're at least giving people a choice."

Smith and Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester), the co-chairman of the Joint Finance Committee, said that they believed many of the people who leave the program will go to private insurance instead. But the Department of Health Services offered no estimate on how many would be able to get private coverage.

"All of us wish we could do more but the money just isn't there," Vos said before the hearing.

Democrats said Republicans had approved tax breaks for businesses and the wealthy this year that worsened the cuts. The Democrats said some uninsured will get sick and receive expensive emergency room care, pushing costs off on Wisconsin hospitals and the insured patients who go to those hospitals.

According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the proposals would save $298 million over two years and would also :
  • Move 263,000 people in BadgerCare Plus - more than half of them children - into a plan with lower costs for taxpayers but fewer benefits for recipients. Smith said the benefits were still attractive when compared with private plans.
  • Increase BadgerCare Plus premiums sharply for families with incomes of one and a half times the federal poverty limit. The new premiums would be 5% of household income, a change that would have a varying impact for families according to income.
For instance, a single parent with two children who makes more than $27,795 a year would typically see his or her annual premiums rise to $1,390 from $120 - a more than tenfold increase. In all, the higher premiums would apply to 91,500 BadgerCare Plus participants - almost two-thirds of them children.
Democrats said the premium hikes were unacceptably high. Republicans said those premiums were still less than the private sector would charge.

Drop both adults and children from the program for one year if participants failed to pay their monthly premium without a valid excuse. Currently, adults are dropped for six months for failure to pay but children are not.
Put in new eligibility standards such as checks to make sure participants live in the state.

Make little or no cuts for low-income disabled and elderly participants, who account for much of the costs in Medicaid.

The committee chose not to make up for a hole of at least $45 million in the program's budget, which could prove a future financial trap. That shortfall opened after the state learned that it wouldn't receive a windfall in federal money to make up for certain past Medicaid costs improperly charged to states like Wisconsin.

Rep. Tamara Grigsby (D-Milwaukee) said that she believed many poor families would drop out of the program because they don't have the money to afford the new premiums.

"That doesn't sound like a choice to me," Grigsby said. "We're giving them a heck of a Christmas gift, a heck of a holiday surprise."

The state will need approval by Dec. 31 from the federal government to make the proposed changes. Otherwise, Wisconsin could be forced to generate immediate savings by dropping 53,000 adults from its health plans under that year-end deadline included in the budget law passed this summer by Republican lawmakers and Walker.

Democrats question whether the federal government will have enough time to consider the proposal, given that it can take several months to decide on such requests from states.

Over the past 20 years, the Medicaid rolls in Wisconsin have increased at nearly 10 times the rate of population growth, according to state figures. That increase has been driven both by state and federal expansions of the program and by the difficult economy.

Increased federal support from the 2009 economic stimulus law and later extensions helped pay those rising costs in the last state budget, but that extra funding has ended.

In the 2011-'13 state budget, Republicans put an additional $1.2 billion into Medicaid programs to help cover the added costs. But to close a $3 billion deficit for the state's overall two-year budget, the Walker administration said it needed to find $554 million in additional savings in state and federal money.

In other action Thursday, the committee voted 13-2 to approve a plan for distributing cuts in funding that goes to counties to ensure parents make their child support payments. The 22% cut in the aid for enforcement efforts statewide works out to a preliminary figure of $2.5 million less for Milwaukee County in both 2012 and 2013.

According to a memo from Milwaukee County, that could lead to 27 lost county positions and $12 million in lost child support collections.

The committee also voted 14-1 to provide $10 million in funding over the next two years for a statewide computer system to track student learning across Wisconsin's hundreds of school districts. That's $5 million less than the state budget had set aside over those two years.

08 November 2011

State’s Health Care Plan a Lose-Lose for Wisconsin Families

Contributed by Jessica Jaglowski.

Every time I read something about Wisconsin’s plan to remove thousands of people from the state’s highly successful and nationally recognized BadgerCare program, I’m baffled. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has held multiple listening sessions, and I’ve spoken in front of Secretary Smith twice. He even held my baby. I think they are trying to find solutions. But at the same time, the solutions they are looking at still exclude working families with low incomes and no affordable health care options. It’s as if monetary concerns now far outweigh the concerns of people’s basic welfare. Health care is a primary need - you cannot function without your health. Yet so many people cannot afford to get the care they need. People should matter more than money, especially in these trying times.

Unfortunately, the cuts being proposed will seriously affect people - regular hard-working people trying to raise their families. My family comprises one of the tens of thousands of Wisconsin families at risk of losing our BadgerCare coverage.

My husband is employed full time at a nonprofit organization, and our annual household income hovers around 133% of the federal poverty level for our family of five, which includes our three children, ages 9 months to 6 years. His employer offers a health plan, but the premium costs $15,000 a year, almost half of our total income. There's no way we could afford it.

While health insurance costs have skyrocketed, reaping billions of dollars in profits for the CEOs of the major health insurance companies, salaries for working people have remained stagnant. For us, like so many other working families, health care means BadgerCare.

So what do these proposed changes mean to us? DHS has laid out two scenarios:

The first is to implement a plan - one that requires federal approval - that would ratchet up monthly premiums and co-pays based on family income, while shrinking the range of services covered. This plan means monthly premiums increasing from $10 a month to more than $100 for families like us already just barely getting by. It means paying hundreds of dollars more in out-of-pocket costs. It means worse coverage. If this plan passes, health care will no longer be affordable for families like mine. Thousands of us will be forced to choose between buying groceries and buying insurance. With three little mouths to feed, which do you think we’ll be forced to choose?

The other option - again, self-imposed by this administration - is equally bad: If the federal government doesn’t approve the DHS plan, they’ll lower the income eligibility level to 133% of the federal poverty level, the lowest allowed by federal law. 133% of the federal poverty level also happens to be just about what my household brings in. About 53,000 Wisconsinites will be shut out of coverage, most likely including members of my family. For us, it’s a lose-lose situation.

Gov. Walker claims that budget problems have left “no choice” but to kick thousands of people off of BadgerCare and Medicaid. This is not true. These dramatic changes could be avoided by rolling back about a quarter of the tax cuts the legislature has handed out to corporations and the wealthy this year. Sec. Smith keeps saying what a good value BadgerCare would still be after the proposed changes. Again, this is not true. How can anything be considered a “good deal” if you simply can’t afford to pay for it?

The listening sessions held by DHS have not gone unappreciated. However, with the announcement of either drastic cuts or extremely increased fees, it seems clear that Gov. Walker and Sec. Smith are out of touch with the financial realities of working people in Wisconsin. They ostensibly don’t understand what it means to have to decide each month which bills get paid and which can be temporarily put off, or between buying your child a decent pair of shoes and paying a third of your income for health insurance. As many Americans are startlingly beginning to realize, you can’t buy something if you don’t have the money to pay for it. The people of Wisconsin need Sec. Smith to rework this plan that potentially leaves so many people without BadgerCare and instead figure out a way to reduce health care costs without increasing the number of uninsured Wisconsinites; more uninsured people only ends up increasing health care costs for all of us. Wisconsin needs BadgerCare to remain viable and strong to protect and uphold the general welfare of the people.

Jessica Jaglowski, a mother of three, lives in Milwaukee.

Save BadgerCare

Statement from the Save BadgerCare Coalition on DHS Waiver Plan

Madison - One week ago today, late on Halloween, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) released its plan to cut over $500 million from Medicaid.  Despite minor changes to the original plan released on September 30, the DHS plan still leaves Wisconsin in a no-win situation.

This Thursday, the Joint Finance Committee is expected to review the parts of the plan that require a federal waiver. If the federal government approves the waiver request, DHS’s plan will be implemented and tens of thousands of people will lose their coverage. If the waiver is denied, the state budget requires that about 53,000 adults be kicked off of Medicaid and BadgerCare.  In either scenario, working families in Wisconsin lose.

The Wisconsin Act 10 passed earlier this year shifted authority for health care policy decisions from the Legislature to DHS, giving them near-total control over how to implement the more than half-billion dollars in spending cuts to Medicaid and BadgerCare. The DHS plan includes drastic premium increases of up to 2,000%, benefit reductions, and other restrictions that will reduce available services and shift costs to struggling families, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

The Save BadgerCare Coalition rejects the notion that reducing eligibility and benefits for these critical programs is the best or only option. This unbalanced approach essentially shifts the financial burden onto already struggling individuals and families.  This cost shift will ultimately weigh on employers and workers who have health insurance, since they will end up paying more to cover health care for the greater number of uninsured resulting from their plan.

Since the private health insurance market has priced so many families out, BadgerCare and other Medicaid-funded programs in Wisconsin have been extremely successful in making health care coverage available to the vast majority of Wisconsinites. It would be a tragedy to weaken BadgerCare so dramatically before there are other affordable option available for Wisconsin families.

The Coalition calls on DHS to address the many concerns our members and the people they represent have raised about the waiver proposal and other aspects of the plan before moving forward. Wisconsin has long been a national leader in ensuring that its residents have access to quality health care, and BadgerCare—an immensely popular and effective program--has been a major part of that success story.

There are other alternatives that deserve serious, deliberate consideration. We strongly oppose undermining the health of hundreds of thousands of people in our state by fast-tracking an ill-conceived proposal in order to meet an unnecessary, self-imposed deadline.

The Save BadgerCare Coalition includes a broad and diverse alliance of advocates for public health, disability rights, women’s health, the aging community, children’s health along with working individuals and families that depend on Medicaid including BadgerCare for their health, well-being and economic security. For more information visit www.savebadgercare.org .

13 October 2011

Shooting Down Iran Air Flight 655

Source: Iran Chamber Society
Shooting Down Iran Air Flight 655 [IR655]
By: Shapour Ghasemi, 2004

On July 3, 1988, Iran Air Flight 655 (IR655) was shot down by USS Vincennes on the Bandar Abbas-Dubai rout, which resulted in the loss of life of 290 innocent civilian from six nations including 66 children. There were 38 non-Iranians aboard.

On the morning of that disastrous day, 3rd of July, the captain and crew of Flight 655 were at Bandar Abbas airfield in southern Iran, preparing for the second leg of their routine 150-mile flight over the Persian Gulf to Dubai. Flight 655 was a commercial flight operated by Iran Air that flew on a Tehran-Bandar Abbas-Dubai route.

Flight 655, an Iran Air passenger aircraft similar to this Iran Air Airbus A300B2 was
shot down by USS Vincennes, a US Navy cruiser,
in July 3, 1988, killing all 290 passengers and crew from six nations
including 66 children.

The plane, an Airbus A300B2, registered EP-IBU, left Bandar Abbas at 10:17am that day, 27 minutes after its scheduled departure time of 09:50am. It would have been a 28-minute flight. At that same time, the U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser, USS Vincennes, fitted with the AEGIS combat system, was nearby in the Strait of Hormuz, which the commercial airliner, flown by Captain Mohsen Rezaian, would pass over. USS Vincennes was stationed in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war, U.S. presence was intended to escort and defend Kuwaiti oil tankers registered under the U.S. flag; and limit Iranian marine activities as well as the tightening of US imposed embargo against Iran. In command of Vincennes was Commander William C. Rogers III. At the time of the incident, Vincennes, in support of Operation Earnest Will, was within Iranian territorial waters, following combat with and pursuit of Iranian gunboats. The USS Sides and the USS Elmer Montgomery were nearby.

Like most modern aircraft, the Iranian airliner was equipped with an aircraft identification transponder, a modern form of the old "identification, friend or foe" (IFF) system of World War II. When interrogated by a radar signal from a potential adversary, the transponder "squawks" (gives off a specific response signal) in a prespecified, fixed mode.

After taking off from runway 21, Flight 655 was directed by the Bandar Abbas tower to turn on its transponder and proceed over the Persian Gulf. The flight was assigned routinely to commercial air corridor Amber 59, a twenty-mile-wide lane on a direct line to Dubai airport. Owing to the short distance, the flight pattern would be a simple trajectory--climbing out to an altitude of 14,000 feet, cruising for a short time, and then descending gradually into Dubai.

USS Vincennes (CG-49) is a U.S. Navy Ticonderoga class AEGIS guided
missile cruiser well known for shooting down
Iran Air Flight 655 in July 3, 1988 killing 290 innocent civilian from
six nations including 66 children.

Because of the delay in takeoff, it appeared on the Vincennes's radar at 10:17, and at 10:19, the Vincennes began to issue warnings on the Military Air Distress frequency. According to U.S. government accounts, Vincennes mistakenly identified the Iranian airplane as an attacking military fighter. The officers identified the flight profile being flown by the A300B2 as being similar to that of an Iranian Air Force F-14A Tomcat during an attack run. According to the same reports Vincennes tried more than once to contact Flight 655, but there was no acknowledgement. The official ICAO report stated that these attempts to contact Iran Air 655 were sent on the wrong frequency and addressed to a non-existent "Iranian F-14".

The Iranian F-14s at Bandar Abbas have been set to squawk in "Mode II," a mode that would identify to the U.S. ships that the aircraft in question were military, and Iranian. Being a commercial flight, Iran Air 655 was instructed to squawk in Mode III, a signal that identifies civilian traffic. A unique transmission code number, 6760 in this case, was assigned to distinguish this particular flight from others.

During the next three minutes, the Vincennes issued a number of warnings on both military and civil distress frequencies, it (mistakenly) identified the Airbus 320 as a possible Iranian F-14, it (mistakenly) reported hearing IFF squawks in Mode II, and it (mistakenly) reported the aircraft as descending toward the ship when it was in fact still climbing according to its usual flight plan.

At 10:24 am, Captain Rogers, the Commanding Officer of Vincennes ordered to fire two SM-2ER antiaircraft missiles at the assumed F-14 fighter jet. A few seconds later, with the Airbus still on its assigned climb out, and slightly to one side of, but well within air corridor Amber 59, it was intercepted by one or both of the missiles at a range of eight nautical miles and an altitude of 13,500 feet. Flight 655, with some 290 people, tumbled in flames into the Persian Gulf. The whole flight had taken less than seven minutes. There were no survivors. By noon that day, Iranian helicopters and boats began to search the area and recover the bodies. It was not until later in the day that the officers and men of the Vincennes would learn that what they had shot down was not an Iranian F-14, but a commercial, civil flight.

Since the "black box" flight recorder on board the Iranian Airbus has been irrecoverably lost in the waters of the Persian Gulf, we shall never know exactly what her flight profile was, whether the crew ignored the American challenges or simply did not hear them.

However, the Vincennes had a black box of its own. The SPY-1A, Command and Decision, and Weapons Control System computers were all equipped with magnetic tape equipment that tracked and recorded all of the signals received and processed by these key pieces of electronic equipment. Because of this, investigators have been able to verify the timing and nature of all actions.

The situation aboard the Vincennes that day was one of confusion and disorder. The story told by the data tapes is straightforward. Iran Air Flight 655 took off from Bandar Abbas at 10:17 a.m. on the morning of July 3, on a heading of 210 (runway 21). Squawking Mode III, Code 6760 continuously, it kept on a more or less constant heading of 210, climbing steadily to its cruising altitude while gradually gaining speed. Data and testimony from the USS Sides corroborate the flight path and the Mode III IFF squawk. Indeed, the Sides was to identify the unknown aircraft as non-hostile and turn its attention elsewhere only seconds before the Vincennes launched its missiles.

The story told by those inside the CIC aboard the Vincennes is quite different. From the first alerted contact, various personnel began to report a "Mode II" squawk on a code associated with Iranian F-14s. Although none of the data recorders reported any IFF response other than Mode III, Code 6760, those aboard the Vincennes continued to consistently misreport the signal.

As the range closed, the Vincennes began to broadcast increasingly urgent warning messages to the unknown aircraft; at first, these were general challenges on both military and international civil distress nets. But as the notion that the aircraft was indeed an F-14 became fixed in the minds of the key operators, the challenges were made more specific and were addressed only to an unidentified "Iranian F-14." A quick thumb-through of a listing of commercial flights missed the clear listing for Flight 655, although it was on course and nearly on time.

A warning of possible "COMAIR" (commercial aircraft) issued a minute or two later was acknowledged by the CO, but essentially ignored. Commander Lustig, the Anti-Air Warfare Commander (AAWC) new to his post (and generally regarded as inexperienced and a weak leader), de facto leadership fell upon the more junior Tactical Information Coordinator (TIC), who by that time was almost literally shouting about the immediacy and seriousness of the threat.

Captain Rogers did allow the unknown aircraft to close to well within its possible missile firing range before asking for and receiving permission to intercept, and he did so only after repeating the challenge several more times. Only then, convinced that the threat to his ship was too serious to ignore, and under pressure to act quickly to avoid the earlier fate of the USS Stark, did he authorize the firing.

Was Captain Rogers justified in his perception of a real threat to his ship (which was the US Navy's claim)?

Was the whole incident a regrettable, but unavoidable, accident of war (which is precisely what the resulting U.S. attitude was, in the Pentagon, in Congress, and in the press)?

The question to be asked is: Was an error made on the U.S. side at all? The U.S. Navy finally claimed that Captain Rogers of the Vincennes acted correctly in appraising the threat. Others in the United States asserted that such blame as there was attached solely to Iran.

The large-scale technical military system operating in the Persian Gulf on that day, of which the Vincennes was the central feature, was not waging total war, but rather a highly selective engagement in an arena known to be filled with civil traffic on air and sea. This very sophisticated piece of equipment had been placed in a situation for which it had never been designed precisely because it was thought to be most capable of making the kinds of quick and accurate judgments that would be necessary. But it failed.

Throughout its final flight IR655 was in radio contact with various air traffic control services using standard civil aviation frequencies, and had spoken in English to Bandar Abbas Approach Control seconds before Vincennes launched its missiles. Vincennes at that time had no equipment suitable for monitoring civil aviation frequencies, other than the International Air Distress frequency, despite being a sophisticated anti-aircraft warship. Subsequently U.S. Navy warships in the area were equipped with dialable VHF radios, and access to flight plan information was sought, to better track commercial airliners.

The Investigation
The Navy investigation board was convened by Rear Admiral William M. Fogarty at Bahrain beginning on July 6, while the events were still fresh in the minds of the participants. Formal hearings began a week later, and the entire procedure was completed and the report delivered to the Navy on July 28. Even in the cleansed form provided to the public, the report is rich in personal and technical detail. Perhaps the most striking feature is the degree to which the recollections of the participants as to the nature and assessment of the presumptive threat differ, and the variance between what was reported by the SPY-1A computers and what its human interpreters were reporting.

The record shows that the decision to fire was taken more or less calmly and deliberately on the basis of personal advice passed from junior officers to the senior AAWC, and from the AAWC to the CO--in the face of a stream of contrary evidence from the electronics aboard.

Medals awarded
While issuing notes of regret over the loss of human life, the U.S. government has, to date, neither admitted any wrongdoing or responsibility in this tragedy, nor apologized, but continues to blame Iranian hostile actions for the incident. The men of the Vincennes were all awarded combat-action ribbons. Commander Lustig, the air-warfare coordinator, even won the navy's Commendation Medal for "heroic achievement", his "ability to maintain his poise and confidence under fire" having enabled him to "quickly and precisely complete the firing procedure." According to a 23 April 1990 article printed in The Washington Post, the Legion of Merit was presented to Captain Rogers and Lieutenant Commander Lustig for their performance in the Persian Gulf on 3 July 1988. The citations did not mention the downing of the Iran Air flight at all.

The incident continued to overshadow U.S.-Iran relations for many years. Following the explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 six months later, the British and American governments initially blamed the PFLP-GC, a Palestinian militant group backed by Syria, with assumptions of assistance from Iran in retaliation for Iran Air Flight 655. The blame was later shifted to Libya.
Vice President George H. W. Bush (later President of United States of America) declared a month later,
"I will never apologize for the United States of America, ever. I don't care what the facts are."
Newsweek, August 15, 1988
Public Statements on the Destruction of an Iranian Jetliner by the United States Navy Over the Persian Gulf July 3, 1988

US President, Ronald W. Reagan, Statement on the Destruction of an Iranian Jetliner by the
United States Navy Over the Persian Gulf July 3, 1988

I am saddened to report that it appears that in a proper defensive action by the USS 
Vincennes this morning in the Persian Gulf an Iranian airliner was shot down over
the Strait of Hormuz. This is a terrible human tragedy. Our sympathy and condolences
go out to the passengers, crew, and their families. The Defense Department will conduct
a full investigation.

We deeply regret any loss of life. The course of the Iranian civilian airliner was such that
it was headed directly for the USS Vincennes, which was at the time engaged with five
Iranian Boghammar boats that had attacked our forces. When the aircraft failed to heed
repeated warnings, the Vincennes followed standing orders and widely publicized 
procedures, firing to protect itself against possible attack.

The only U.S. interest in the Persian Gulf is peace, and this tragedy reinforces the need
to achieve that goal with all possible speed.

Source: 1988-89 PPPUS 920 (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States:
Ronald Reagan, 1988-89 (book 2), SuDoc: AE 2.114:988-89/BK.2, ISSN: 0079-7626,
LCCN: 58061050, DL, WorldCat}.

Letter US President, Ronald W. Reagan, to the Speaker of the House of Representatives
and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate on the Destruction of an Iranian Jetliner by
the United States Navy Over the Persian Gulf July 4, 1988

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

On July 3, 1988, the USS Vincennes and USS Elmer Montgomery were operating in
international waters of the Persian Gulf near the Strait of Hormuz. (On July 2, the  
Montgomery had responded to a distress signal from a Danish tanker that was under
attack by Iranian small boats and had fired a warning shot, which caused the breaking
off of the attack.) Having indications that approximately a dozen Iranian small boats
were congregating to attack merchant shipping, the Vincennes sent a Mark III
LAMPS Helicopter on investigative patrol in  international airspace to assess the
situation. At about 1010 local Gulf time (2:10 a.m. EDT), when the helicopter had
approached to within only four nautical miles, it was fired on by Iranian
small boats (the Vincennes was ten nautical miles from the scene at this time). The
LAMPS helicopter was not damaged and returned immediately to the Vincennes.

As the Vincennes and Montgomery were approaching the group of Iranian small
boats at approximately 1042 local time, at least four of the small boats turned
toward and began closing in on the American warships. At this time, both
American ships opened fire on the small craft, sinking two and 
damaging a third. Regrettably, in the course of the U.S. response to the Iranian
attack, an Iranian civilian airliner was shot down by the Vincennes, which was
firing in self defense at what it believed to be a hostile Iranian military aircraft.
We deeply regret the tragic loss of life that occurred. The Defense
Department will conduct a full investigation.

The actions of U.S. forces in response to being attacked by Iranian small
boats were taken in accordance with our inherent right of self-defense, as
recognized in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, and pursuant to
my constitutional authority with respect to the conduct of foreign
relations and as Commander in Chief. There has been no further hostile
action by Iranian forces, and, although U.S. forces will remain prepared
to take additional defensive action to protect our units and military
personnel, we regard this incident as closed. U.S. forces suffered no
casualties or damage.

Since March 1987, I and members of my Administration have provided
to Congress letters, reports, briefings, and testimony in connection with
developments in the Persian Gulf and the activities of U.S. Armed
Forces in the region. In accordance with my desire that Congress
continue to be fully informed in this matter, I am providing this report
consistent with the War Powers Resolution. I look forward to
cooperating with Congress in pursuit of our mutual, overriding aim of
peace and stability in the Persian Gulf region.


Ronald Reagan.

Note: Identical letters were sent to Jim Wright, Speaker of the
House of Representatives, and John C. Stennis, President pro
tempore of the Senate. The letter was released by the Office of
the Press Secretary on July 5.

Source: 1988-89 PPPUS 920-921
(Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States:
Ronald Reagan, 1988-89 (book 2), SuDoc: AE 2.114:988-89/BK.2,
ISSN: 0079-7626, LCCN: 58061050, DL, WorldCat}.

Statement by Assistant to the President for Press Relations Marlin 
Fitzwater on United States Policy Regarding the Accidental Attack
on an Iranian Jetliner Over the Persian Gulf July 11, 1988

The President has reviewed U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf, where
our military forces are protecting vital interests of the free world. He
has expressed his complete satisfaction with the policy and reiterated
his belief that the actions of the USS Vincennes on July 3 in the case of
the Iranian airliner were justifiable defensive actions. At the same time,
he remains personally saddened at the tragic death of the innocent
victims of this accident and has already expressed his deep regret
to their families.

Prompted by the humanitarian traditions of our nation, the President has
decided that the United States will offer compensation on an ex gratia
basis to the families of the victims who died in the Iranian airliner
incident. Details concerning amounts, timing, and other matters remain
to be worked out. It should be clearly understood that payment will
go to the families, not governments, and will be subject to the normal
U.S. legal requirements, including, if necessary, appropriate action by
Congress. In the case of Iran, arrangements will be made through
appropriate third parties. This offer of ex gratia compensation is
consistent with international practice and is a humanitarian effort to
ease the hardship of the families. It is offered on a voluntary basis,
not on the basis of any legal liability or obligation.

The responsibility for this tragic incident, and for the deaths of
hundreds of thousands of other innocent victims as a result of the
Iran-Iraq war, lies with those who refuse to end the conflict. A
particularly heavy burden of responsibility rests with the
Government of Iran, which has refused for almost a year to accept
and implement Security Council Resolution 598 while it continues
unprovoked attacks on innocent neutral shipping and crews in the
international waters of the Gulf.

In fact, at the time of the Iran Air incident, U.S. forces were militarily
engaged with Iranian forces as a result of the latter’s unprovoked
attacks upon neutral ships and a U.S. Navy helicopter. The urgent
necessity to end this conflict is reinforced by the dangers it poses to
neighboring countries and the deplorable precedent of the increasingly
frequent use of chemical weapons by both sides, causing still more

Only an end to the war, an objective we desire, can halt the immense
suffering in the region and put an end to innocent loss of life. Our goal
is peace in the Gulf and on land. We urge Iran and Iraq to work with
the Security Council for an urgent comprehensive settlement of the
war pursuant to Resolution 598. Meanwhile, United States forces
will continue their mission in the area, keenly aware of the risks
involved and ready to face them.

Source: 1988-89 PPPUS 934-935
(Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States:
Ronald Reagan, 1988-89 (book 2), SuDoc: AE 2.114:988-89/BK.2,
ISSN: 0079-7626, LCCN: 58061050, DL, WorldCat}.

Independent sources
Independent investigations into the events have presented a different picture. John Barry and Roger Charles, of Newsweek, wrote that Commander Rogers acted recklessly and without due care. Their report further accused the U.S. government of a cover-up. An analysis of the events by the International Strategic Studies Association described the deployment of an AEGIS cruiser in the zone as irresponsible and felt that the expense of the ship had played a major part in the setting of a low threshold for opening fire. On November 6, 2003 the International Court of Justice concluded that the U.S. Navy's actions in the Persian Gulf at the time had been unlawful.

It is worthy to mention that United Arab Emirates, records showed that the Vincennes was actually inside of Iran's territorial waters, not forty miles south (where the ship had been officially ordered by fleet headquarters to stay) as Captain Rogers and government reports had claimed. Furthermore, Flight 655 was directly inside of its commercial flight path, not four miles outside of it--as Rogers and the Vincennes crew also claimed.

Three years after the incident, Admiral William Crowe admitted on ABC Nightline that the Vincennes was inside Iranian territorial waters at the time of the shoot-down. This directly contradicted the official Navy claims of the previous years.

On February 22, 1996 the United States of America under presidency of Bill Clinton agreed to pay Iran and victims of Flight 655 US$61.8 million in compensation ($300,000 per wage-earning victim, $150,000 per non-wage-earner) for the 248 Iranians killed in the shoot-down. This was an agreed settlement to discontinue a case brought by Iran in 1989 against the U.S. in the International Court of Justice. The payment of compensation was explicitly characterized as being on an "ex gratia" basis, and the U.S. denied having any responsibility or liability for the incident.

  1. Admiral William Fogarty; "Formal Investigation into the Circumstances Surrounding the Downing of Iran Air Flight 655 on 3 July 1988". This is an official Navy report on disaster of Flight 655 and so far only partially released (part I in 1988, part II in 1993), a fact criticized by many observers.
  2. Gene I. Rochlin; "Trapped in the Net: The Unanticipated Consequences of Computerization". Chapter 9: Unfriendly Fire; Tragedy over the Persian Gulf; 1998.
  3. Lieutenant Colonel David Evans, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired); "Navigation and Naval Operations II: Crisis Decision Making: USS Vincennes Case Study"; Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps Unit, University of Pennsylvania.
  4. The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Digital Library of University of Michigan
  5. The Public Papers of the US Presidents on website of The American Presidency Project [ http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu ]

07 October 2011

Slowly rowing down the river of life

It's a modern day mystery how some people conservatively cling to notions of antiquity known as mythology.  Religious myths will eventually lead to the third world war.

As our minds erode into paranoid ideological pictures of good and evil, our religions alienate and divide us with purely fictional dogma.

04 October 2011

Throw Out the Money Changers


By Chris Hedges
These are remarks Chris Hedges made in Union Square in New York City last Friday during a protest outside a branch office of the Bank of America.

We stand today before the gates of one of our temples of finance. It is a temple where greed and profit are the highest good, where self-worth is determined by the ability to amass wealth and power at the expense of others, where laws are manipulated, rewritten and broken, where the endless treadmill of consumption defines human progress, where fraud and crimes are the tools of business.

The two most destructive forces of human nature—greed and envy—drive the financiers, the bankers, the corporate mandarins and the leaders of our two major political parties, all of whom profit from this system. They place themselves at the center of creation. They disdain or ignore the cries of those below them. They take from us our rights, our dignity and thwart our capacity for resistance. They seek to make us prisoners in our own land. They view human beings and the natural world as mere commodities to exploit until exhaustion or collapse. Human suffering, wars, climate change, poverty, it is all the price of business.

Nothing is sacred. The Lord of Profit is the Lord of Death.

The pharisees of high finance who can see us this morning from their cubicles and corner officers mock virtue. Life for them is solely about self-gain. The suffering of the poor is not their concern. The 6 million families thrown out of their homes are not their concern. The tens of millions of pensioners whose retirement savings were wiped out because of the fraud and dishonesty of Wall Street are not their concern. The failure to halt carbon emissions is not their concern. Justice is not their concern. Truth is not their concern. A hungry child is not their concern.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky in "Crime and Punishment" understood the radical evil behind the human yearning not to be ordinary but to be extraordinary, the desire that allows men and women to serve systems of self-glorification and naked greed. Raskolnikov in the novel believes—like those in this temple—that humankind can be divided into two groups. The first is composed of ordinary people. These ordinary people are meek and submissive. They do little more than reproduce other human beings in their own likeness, grow old and die. And Raskolnikov is dismissive of these lesser forms of human life.

The second group, he believes, is extraordinary. These are, according to Raskolnikov, the Napoleons of the world, those who flout law and custom, those who shred conventions and traditions to create a finer, more glorious future. Raskolnikov argues that, although we live in the world, we can free ourselves from the consequences of living with others, consequences that will not always be in our favor. The Raskolnikovs of the world place unbridled and total faith in the human intellect. They disdain the attributes of compassion, empathy, beauty, justice and truth. And this demented vision of human existence leads Raskolnikov to murder a pawnbroker and steal her money.

The priests in these corporate temples, in the name of profit, kill with even more ruthlessness, finesse and cunning than Raskolnikov. Corporations let 50,000 people die last year because they could not pay them for proper medical care. They have killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis, Palestinians and Pakistanis, and gleefully watched as the stock price of weapons contractors quadrupled. They have turned cancer into an epidemic in the coal fields of West Virginia where families breathe polluted air, drink poisoned water and watch the Appalachian Mountains blasted into a desolate wasteland while coal companies can make billions. And after looting the U.S. treasury these corporations demand, in the name of austerity, that we abolish food programs for children, heating assistance and medical care for our elderly, and good public education. They demand that we tolerate a permanent underclass that will leave one in six workers without jobs, that condemns tens of millions of Americans to poverty and tosses our mentally ill onto heating grates. Those without power, those whom these corporations deem to be ordinary, are cast aside like human refuse. It is what the god of the market demands.

When Dante enters the “city of woes” in the Inferno he hears the cries of “those whose lives earned neither honor nor bad fame,” those rejected by Heaven and Hell, those who dedicated their lives solely to the pursuit of happiness. These are all the “good” people, the ones who never made a fuss, who filled their lives with vain and empty pursuits, harmless perhaps, to amuse themselves, who never took a stand for anything, never risked anything, who went along. They never looked hard at their lives, never felt the need, never wanted to look.

Those who chase the glittering rainbows of the consumer society, who buy into the perverted ideology of consumer culture, become, as Dante knew, moral cowards. They are indoctrinated by our corporate systems of information and remain passive as our legislative, executive and judicial branches of government—tools of the corporate state—strip us of the capacity to resist. Democrat or Republican. Liberal or conservative. It makes no difference. Barack Obama serves corporate interests as assiduously as did George W. Bush. And to place our faith in any party or established institution as a mechanism for reform is to be entranced by the celluloid shadows on the wall of Plato’s cave.

We must defy the cant of consumer culture and recover the primacy in our lives of mercy and justice. And this requires courage, not just physical courage but the harder moral courage of listening to our conscience. If we are to save our country, and our planet, we must turn from exalting the self, to subsuming of the self for our neighbor. Self-sacrifice defies the sickness of corporate ideology. Self-sacrifice mocks opportunities for advancement, money and power. Self-sacrifice smashes the idols of greed and envy. Self-sacrifice demands that we rise up against the abuse, injury and injustice forced upon us by the mandarins of corporate power. There is a profound truth in the biblical admonition "He who loves his life will lose it."

Life is not only about us. We can never have justice until our neighbor has justice. And we can never recover our freedom until we are willing to sacrifice our comfort for open rebellion. The president has failed us. The Congress has failed us. The courts have failed us. The press has failed us. The universities have failed us. Our process of electoral democracy has failed us. There are no structures or institutions left that have not been contaminated or destroyed by corporations. And this means it is up to us. Civil disobedience, which will entail hardship and suffering, which will be long and difficult, which at its core means self-sacrifice, is the only mechanism left.

The bankers and hedge fund managers, the corporate and governmental elites, are the modern version of the misguided Israelites who prostrated themselves before the golden calf. The sparkle of wealth glitters before them, spurring them faster and faster on the treadmill towards destruction. And they seek to make us worship at their altar. As long as greed inspires us, greed keeps us complicit and silent. But once we defy the religion of unfettered capitalism, once we demand that a society serve the needs of citizens and the ecosystem that sustains life, rather than the needs of the marketplace, once we learn to speak with a new humility and live with a new simplicity, once we love our neighbor as ourself, we break our chains and make hope visible.

Chris Hedges is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute and a weekly columnist for Truthdig. His latest books are "Death of the Liberal Class" and "The World as It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress."