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White House Rejects Dem Plan Linking Arms Deals with OPEC Output

Henry J. Pulizzi, Dow Jones Newswires
The White House said Thursday that Senate Democrats are “barking up the wrong tree” by threatening to hold up arms deals with Saudi Arabia and other Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries unless the oil-producing countries agree to increase oil production.

“The last thing that we want to do is increase our dependence on foreign sources of energy,” White House spokeswoman
Dana Perino said, accusing Democrats of blocking efforts to boost domestic oil and gas production. “Arms deals are not favors that we do for friends, they are in our national strategic interest and something that we work closely with Congress on.”

With crude oil prices at record highs and Americans feeling the pinch at the pump, Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., are urging President George W. Bush to use leverage with OPEC or put multi-million dollar arms deals in jeopardy with Congress.
(24 April 2008)

Obama, Clinton clash over gas tax as Indiana looms

Jeff Mason and Andy Sullivan, Reuters
… Obama spoke out against halting a tax on gasoline during the summer months, a move supported by Clinton and presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, saying it may not bring down prices and would deplete a fund used for building highways.

“The only way we’re going to lower gas prices over the long term is if we start using less oil,” Obama said in Anderson.
(26 April 2008)

A Terrible and Silent Crisis: The Destruction of the American Working Class

Dave Pollard, How to Save the World
North American society prides itself on being classless. Almost no one in North America calls him/herself lower-class or upper-class, and people who describe themselves as ‘middle-class’ (a class which really no longer exists in North America) do so hesitantly. Few even describe themselves as ‘working-class’, since that seems to imply it’s a place one resides for life (which is the case, but to acknowledge this fact would put the lie to the myth of social mobility)….

My friend Joe Bageant’s book Deer Hunting With Jesus explains through personal stories his brutal assessment of just how strong the class system in the US really is, why the classes are and always have been at war, and why that plays perfectly into the hands of the right-wing political and economic interests there. These are stories about the people Joe grew up with and calls friends, and to write about their lives so bluntly and candidly is an act of incredible courage and honesty.

… Some of the key lessons for me:

  • “Universal access to a decent education would lift the lives of millions over time…Never experiencing the life of the mind scars entire families for generations”. After reading Joe’s stories I have new respect for those who have taught themselves what they needed to learn to be informed, independent citizens, and an appreciation for how those without education are oppressed to an almost unimaginable degree.

  • At least 60% of Americans are “working class”, i.e. they do not have power over their work — when they work, how much they get paid or whether they’ll be “cut loose from their job [or self-employed labour dependent on big corporations] at the first shiver of Wall Street”.
  • The critical aspects of the “terrible and silent crisis” destroying working-class Americans are: (a) the working class’ own passivity, antipathy to intellect, and belligerence towards the outside world, (b) an economic, corporatist system that benefits from keeping them uneducated, fearful and debt-ridden (and hence holders of low-wage, nonunion, disposable, part-time, noninsured jobs), (c) a health-care system that is especially dysfunctional in working-class areas and whose few quality services are unaffordable to the working class, (d) their dreadful, fat-laden diet (which is all that they can afford) and the toll it takes on their health, and (e) religious and political leaders who prey on their ignorance and exploit their fears.
  • ….

(26 April 2008)

Joint Chiefs Chairman Says U.S. Preparing Military Options Against Iran

Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post
The nation’s top military officer said today that the Pentagon is planning for “potential military courses of action” against Iran, criticizing what he called the Tehran government’s “increasingly lethal and malign influence” in Iraq.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said a conflict with Iran would be “extremely stressing” but not impossible for U.S. forces, pointing specifically to reserve capabilities in the Navy and Air Force.

“It would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability,” he said at a Pentagon news conference.

Still, Mullen made clear that he prefers a diplomatic solution to the tensions with Iran and does not foresee any imminent military action. “I have no expectations that we’re going to get into a conflict with Iran in the immediate future,” he said.
(25 April 2008)

The Pentagon Strangles Our Economy: Why the U.S. Has Gone Broke

Chalmers Johnson, Le Monde diplomatique via AlterNet
60 years of enormous military spending is taking a dramatic toll on the rest of the economy.

… going into 2008, the United States finds itself in the anomalous position of being unable to pay for its own elevated living standards or its wasteful, overly large military establishment. Its government no longer even attempts to reduce the ruinous expenses of maintaining huge standing armies, replacing the equipment that seven years of wars have destroyed or worn out, or preparing for a war in outer space against unknown adversaries. Instead, the Bush administration puts off these costs for future generations to pay or repudiate. This fiscal irresponsibility has been disguised through many manipulative financial schemes (causing poorer countries to lend us unprecedented sums of money), but the time of reckoning is fast approaching.

There are three broad aspects to the U.S. debt crisis. First, in the current fiscal year (2008) we are spending insane amounts of money on “defense” projects that bear no relation to the national security of the U.S. We are also keeping the income tax burdens on the richest segment of the population at strikingly low levels.

Second, we continue to believe that we can compensate for the accelerating erosion of our base and our loss of jobs to foreign countries through massive military expenditures — “military Keynesianism” (which I discuss in detail in my book Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic). By that, I mean the mistaken belief that public policies focused on frequent wars, huge expenditures on weapons and munitions, and large standing armies can indefinitely sustain a wealthy capitalist economy. The opposite is actually true.

Third, in our devotion to militarism (despite our limited resources), we are failing to invest in our social infrastructure and other requirements for the long-term health of the U.S.
(26 April 2008)