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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Say No to NATO Expansion

Ivan Eland urges President Elect Obama to reverse his dangerous course of supporting NATO expansion into territory of the former Soviet Union:

Threats against allies accepting missile defense hardware and naval exercises in the US sphere of influence are Russia's way of signaling that further NATO expansion to include Russia's key neighbors will meet stiff resistance. The up-to-now oblivious US government needs to finally heed these warnings. More important, the incoming Obama administration and the US public should ponder whether they want to ultimately hold their cities hostage to nuclear holocaust to preserve the territorial integrity of these two faraway and non-strategic states. The answer should be an emphatic "no."

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Neocon Advocate of "Empire" Praises Obama

Over at the neocon house organ, Commentary, Max Boot, best known for penning the infamous article, "The Case for American Empire," praises the Obama foreign policy team. Where can I get my "change" back?

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Obama's "Chump Change" and the Retention of Robert Gates

In this interview, Ray McGovern covers a wide range of subjects including Robert Gates, who worked for him at the CIA. Gates, the chief architect of the surge, will now apparently be Obama's Secretary of Defense. McGovern does not have a high opinion of Gates' governing philosophy.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Appointing Hillary: Obama's Bizarro World Logic

Justin Raimondo offers the case for pessimism in Obama's foreign policy:

The outlook for the foreign policy of the new administration is not good. I foresee a protracted period of confusion and internal struggle, punctuated by periodic foreign crises in which Team Obama will be all too eager to prove their "toughness." Diverted by trouble on the home front, President Obama is likely to let the tremendous opportunities opened up by his international popularity and stature go to waste. Putting Hillary Clinton to work on forging a Middle East peace agreement is another example of Bizarro World logic in action: Obama might as well assign the task to Norman Podhoretz.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Obama's Clinton (and Bush) Hawkish Retreads

Obama's campaign for "change" included a promise not to hire "retreads." As Philip Giraldi points out in this interview with Scott Horton, he is already betraying this promise with a vengeance. His announced, and likely, appointments are not only retreads but pro-war ones at that. As of now, the peace wing of the Democratic Party, which was crucial to electing Obama, is being left out in the cold.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Did Henry Paulson Threaten Congress with Martial Law on the Bailout Bill?

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nat "King" Cole and Rahm Emanuel on the Draft

Watch out. If Rahm Emanuel is able to persuade Obama to impose compulsory national service, this song could suddenly enjoy a revival. Although written prior to Pearl Harbor, the lyrics are surprisingly subversive. Here is an audio of Nat "King" Cole's rendition:

When skinny me went out with my honey, the boys all started to laugh;
But now it's not so funny - they're all gone with the draft.

As a shiek, I can't be beat - the boys all hand me a laugh.
But since I have got flat feet, I'm not gone in the draft.

(Bridge 1:)
I used to envy the fellows who had such fine physiques;
But all they can say is "Hello" on seven-fifty a week.

When the boys get back and see how I'm doin',
they'll be sorry they laughed;
'Cause one can't keep on wooing and still be gone with the draft.

(Instrumental Interlude: 1 Verse, 1 Bridge and 1 Verse)

When Franklyn D did sign the draft, the cats all had a chill;
The boys turned pale and ceased to laugh, 'cause this is a serious bill.

They now realize that skinny me was the luckiest one of all,
Who can stay at home with Minnie, while they face the cannon balls.

(Bridge 2:)
So boys, take it on the chin, and always wear a smile;
You'll find it hard to win carryin' fifty pounds for miles.

When your year of drill is up, you get your calves discharged,
You can come back home and freshen up, and run around at large.

Gone, gone, gone, gone with the
Draft, draft, draft, draft.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

[haw-info] chapters

The following message is sent on behalf of  the Steering Committee of Historians Against the War.  Beth McKillen, who wrote it,  is a Steering Committee member who teaches history at the University of Maine in Orono, where a HAW chapter is in formation with support from the Graduate Student History Association. 


November 17, 2008

Fellow HAW members:

The election is over but the need for antiwar activism is not.  Given the current economic crisis, it is more essential than ever that the new presidential administration move quickly to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The United States simply cannot afford to continue to float a $600-700 billion dollar defense budget if it hopes to deal in a creative fashion with the long chain of economic problems currently confronting the country, ranging from bank failures and plants closings, to job losses and home foreclosures.  Yet, as you know, President-elect Obama has pledged to withdraw troops from Iraq only to send them to Afghanistan instead.  The time is ripe for a systematic reevaluation of the costs of U.S. empire. 

With that goal in mind, Historians Against the War wishes to announce a new initiative.  We would like to encourage HAW members to create inclusive local HAW chapters at their universities or in their communities designed to bring together undergraduate history majors, graduate history students, history professors, K-12 history teachers,  and other historically-minded scholars and activists.  The goals of such chapters would be several.  First, such chapters would be designed to foster intellectual and political discussion across the traditional boundaries that often divide students and teachers and  that sometimes isolate historians from their communities.  Secondly, they  they would be charged with planning local HAW events that would bring historical analysis to bear on current foreign policy crises and on the linkages between U.S. empire and the current economic distress.  Finally, we hope that these groups will prove a source of ideas and energy for HAW itself.

If you are interested in building such a chapter, please contact Beth McKillen at Elizabeth.McKillen@umit.maine.edu.   


The HAW Steering Committee

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Crimes of Franklin D. Roosevelt: The Japanese Internment

I've never understood why so many historians regard FDR as a great president. For example, he failed to get us out of the Great Depression through the New Deal, refused to lift a finger to push through an anti-lynching bill, tried to pack the Supreme Court, turned away the Jewish refugees on the S.S. St. Louis, and pushed a Bush-like doctrine of unconditional surrender which encouraged the enemy to fight on to the bitter end. Under Harry Truman, that rigid doctrine provided the rationale for dropping the atomic bomb.

Most of all, FDR approved one of the most outrageous violations of constitutional rights in American history: the internment of Japanese Americans. Shouldn't that action alone guarantee him a place at the bottom (or near the bottom) in the presidential ranking lists of historians? Am I missing something? Perhaps someone can explain.

Here is a government propaganda film which tries to put FDR's internment policies in a sunny light:

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Danny Kaye's Wartime Musical Tribute to the Income Tax

One of the best illustrations of Randolph Bourne’s dictum that “War is the Health of the State” was the rise of the modern income tax during World War II. Before 1942, the tax covered only a small well-off minority. As the federal government lowered the brackets and raised the rates during the war, however, the old “class tax” became a “mass tax.”

The introduction of withholding was the primary means to accomplish this goal. The Office of War Information promoted payment of the tax as not only a patriotic duty but as a positive joy.

It also commissioned Irving Berlin to write “I Paid My Income Tax Today.” Here is an audio of the song as joyfully belted out by comedian and actor Danny Kaye. The lyrics are here if you want to sing along:

I said to my Uncle Sam
Old Man Taxes, here I am
And he
Was glad to see me
Mister Small Fry, yes, indeed
Lower brackets, that's my speed
But he
Was glad to see me

[1st refrain:]
I paid my income tax today
I never felt so proud before
To be right there with the millions more
Who paid their income tax today
I'm squared up with the U.S.A.
See those bombers in the sky?
Rockefeller helped to build 'em, so did I
I paid my income tax today

[2nd refrain:]
I paid my income tax today
A thousand planes to bomb Berlin
They'll all be paid for and I chipped in
That certainly makes me feel okay
Ten thousand more and that ain't hay
We must pay for this war somehow
Uncle Sam was worried but he isn't now
I paid my income tax today

[3rd REFRAIN with coda:]
I paid my income tax today
I never cared what Congress spent
But now I'll watch over ev'ry cent
Examine ev'ry bill they pay
They'll have to let me have my say
I wrote the Treasury to go slow
Careful, Mister Henry Junior, that's my dough
I paid my income tax
Now you've got all the facts
I know you'll pay your taxes too

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cold War Hawks Hovering Around Obama

Robert Scheer offers this lament and warning:

I know, Obama is not yet in office. I voted for him with enthusiasm in part because he does seem to have transcended the preoccupations of the Cold War. But as a buyer, I have to beware of those unrepentant Democratic hawks now hovering.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

An Answer to Critics: "Krugman's Prescription for Disaster"

"Economics of Contempt" and to some extent Per Paterson have raised some questions and challenges to my blog, "Krugman's Prescription for Disaster." I will try to answer them as best I can. "Economics of Contempt" writes:

the logical implication of Krugman's argument is that the New Deal would have made the Great Depression at least somewhat shorter than it would have been had we followed the old approach for curing recessions. How do you know that the old anti-recession policy would have made the Great Depression shorter than it actually was? How do you know that in the absence of the New Deal, the Great Depression wouldn't have been longer than the Long Depression? You don't.

I don’t know for sure that that the old anti-depression policy would have made for a shorter downturn but, then, Krugman doesn't know that the reverse is true. I point to the historical evidence from previous depressions that were fought by using the old anti-depression policy. These were mostly over in two or three years.

If Krugman believes that the decade-long Great Depression was exceptional in nature compared to previous depressions and could only be fought with a new Keynesian approach, he needs to give some evidence for that claim. As far as I can tell, however, he doesn't try. Pending such an attempt, the main burden of proof is on him.

Also, comparing the Great Depression with the recession in 1921-1922 is ridiculous. Output in 1929 alone contracted more than twice as much as output contracted in the entire 1921-1922 recession. And 1929 was before Hoover started his expansionary fiscal policy (which I agree Hoover never gets credit for, although you'd probably call it "blame" rather than "credit"!).

It is not ridiculous at all, that is if the goal is to understand why we had an unprecedented decade long depression. The comparison becomes especially instructive if we limit the analysis to the first year of both downturns. Between 1921 and 1922, there was a significantly faster drop in prices and GDP and a greater rise in unemployment than between 1929 and 1930. From 1921 to 1922, Unemployment advanced from 4 percent to twelve percent, the gross national product fell by a staggering 17 percent. All this was in one year. By contrast, unemployment was still well under 10 percent at the end of 1930.

Hoover may not have started his expansionary fiscal policy until later when, for example, he ramped up agricultural loans in 1930 and 1931 but his began his ultimately more destructive high wage policy only a month or so after the Crash.

During that period, he called the first of several White House conferences. He successfully used these to pressure employers to maintain nominal wage rates. Henry Ford actually raised wages for his workers after attending. Later, Hoover reinforced this high wage policy through Smoot-Hawley (which kept out low wage competition) and Davis-Bacon (which required prevailing (e.g. union) wages for federal contractors. The upshot, as I said, that nominal wages did not begin to fall into 1931 and real wages were actually 12 percent higher in 1932 than they had been in 1929. Even Keynes, Krugman's hero, often commented that "downward stickiness" of wages had not occured during previous depressions.

By contrast, Harding allowed wages, prices, profits, and the GDP to fall relatively unobstructed from 1921 and 1922. As a result, by the beginning of 1923, unemployment was down to 1921 levels. By allowing the malinvestments to readjust, Harding, unlike Hoover, had prevented a very steep initial downturn from turning into a decade long depression.

Much of this is dealt with at length in Lowell Vedder and Richard Gallaway, Out of Work: Unemployment and Government in Twentieth Century America and the works by Higgs cited in the previous blog.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Krugman's Prescription for Disaster

Paul Krugman calls for Obama and his advisors to push an expanded version of the New Deal (see the link below by Mark R. Hatlie). According to Krugman, they should boldly throw caution to the winds and “figure out how much help they think the economy needs, than add 50 percent. It’s much better in a depressed economy, to err on the side of too much stimulus.”

Obama should reject this advice. If he listens to Krugman, the likely result will be a wave of stagflation that makes the experience of the 1970s look mild by comparison. Such a prescription would both continue and accelerate Bush’s fiscally reckless policy of propping up malinvestments through massive increases in spending, deficits, and easy credit by the Federal Reserve. As the continuing fall of the stock market and the rise of unemployment indicate, more bailouts and more “shock socialism” do not work. Obama made a fatal mistake in failing to oppose the aptly described billionaire bailout.

This call for a hyper New Deal rests on a flawed view of history. According Krugman, the only reason Roosevelt failed to bring recovery was because he spent too little, not too much. At the same time, he tries to have it both ways by stating that the crisis of the 1930s would have been “much worse” without the New Deal.

A key problem with Krugman’s analysis is that it does not adequately explain why the decade-long New Deal era depression lasted so much longer than previous depressions. Prior to the 1930s, depressions (as in the sharp and short downturn of 1921 and 1922) had typically lasted for two to three years. The predominant anti-depression policy before Hoover and Roosevelt was to cut spending, balance budgets, and let prices, profits, and wages readjust to more sustainable levels. Yet Krugman regards this older approach for curing depressions as “much worse” than the New Deal. The logical implication of his argument is that the New Deal, modest as it was, would have made the Great Depression at least somewhat shorter than previous downturns. The fact that it did not stands as a stunning indictment of FDR’s policies.

The unprecedented duration of the depression also represents an indictment of Herbert Hoover’s approach. This was because Hoover intervened too much not, as Krugman would have it, too little. Krugman’s article neglects the relevant point that Hoover had pursued a mini-New Deal from 1929 to 1933 via programs such as the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and the Federal Farm Board. It was Hoover, not Roosevelt, who was the first president to reject the advice of the “leave it alone liquidationists.” Instead of letting malinvestments (or toxic assets in today’s parlance) readjust at a lower level, he desperately propped them up. In great part because of Hoover’s high wage policies, real wages were actually 12 percent higher in 1932 than in 1929! Meanwhile, of course, unemployment advanced to record levels as businesses saved on payroll costs by laying off workers. Perhaps if Hoover had listened to the advice of the so-called “liquidationists,” the depression would have been over by 1931.

More troubling, at least for opponents of war, is Krugman’s dubious contention that “What saved the economy, and the New Deal, was the enormous public works project known as World War II, which finally provided a fiscal stimulus adequate to the economy’s needs.” The evidence does not support the view that that war was beneficial for the economy. In a seminal article for the Journal of Economic History, Robert Higgs convincingly challenged the Keynesian theory of World War II as put forward by Krugman and others.

While unemployment disappeared during the war, it was hardly a step forward. Moving men and women from the unemployment lines to the killing fields of Anzio did not represent economic progress in any meaningful sense. During the war, Americans at home suffered from rationing, shortages, more accidents on the job, longer hours, and many other measures of economic deprivation. Moreover, as Higgs points out, “real personal consumption declined. So did real private investment. From 1941 to 1943 real gross private domestic investment plunged by 64 percent; during the four years of the war it never rose above 55 percent of its 1941 level; only in 1946 did it reach a new high.”

According to Higgs, genuine prosperity did not begin to return until the last months of 1945 and 1946. This prosperity occurred under a policy of reverse Keynesianism which included massive reductions in spending because of demoblization, rapid steps toward price decontrol, and scaled back deficit spending.

Higgs sums it up:

World War II, the so-called Good War, has been a fount of historical fallacies. One of the greatest—and one of the most pernicious for subsequent policymakers—is the notion that prosperity prevailed during the war. Although Americans might have been dying in the Pacific and European theaters of war, people on the home front actually benefited from the war, because it propelled the economy at long last out of the Great Depression. This view of the war would be sufficiently egregious if it were true, but despite the claims of historians for the past half century, it is not true.

Obama's best hope to bring lasting recovery is to let the economy go through a short, but sharp, readjustment. He needs to remove the malivestments not, contra Krugman, perpetuate them. Obama can faciliate this readjustment to a more sustainable level by cancelling the bailout, cutting spending, and pruning deficits. Another worthy goal would be to dismantle the Federal Reserve which helped to create this mess through its easy credit policies.

Most of all, however, Obama should end our costly empire by closing down our overseas bases and bringing home the troops. Only then, can we start to get our financial house in order and move towards genuine economic well being.

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Howard Zinn on the election of Barack Obama...

Historian Howard Zinn weighs in on the historical significance of the Obama election:


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Monday, November 10, 2008

A New New Deal? Krugman in the NYT about Franklin Delano Obama...

Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman compares the present to the beginning of the Great Depression and encourages Obama to pursue a New Deal. He warns against the errors FDR made by actually doing too little.


The arguments are similar to those in his book The Conscious of a Liberal.


Saturday, November 08, 2008

Susan Rice and the "Muscular Liberals"

The neocons have finally been driven from power. Thank God! But, amidst the celebrations, the antiwar movement still needs to be vigilant. There is a new threat on the horizon: the "muscular liberals." Ivan Eland has the story :

Obama's top foreign policy advisors include Susan Rice, a member of the "muscular liberal" crowd – you know, the same crew that includes the bombing progressives Madeleine Albright and Richard Holbrooke. In a National Public Radio interview during the campaign, Rice decried President George W. Bush's invasion and nation-building adventure in Iraq, while at the same time advocating U.S. intervention and nation-building in Darfur, Sudan.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Another of Obama's Hawks: Rahm Emanuel

We should all continue to hope that Obama will be a peace president, but that does not mean that we should ignore the considerable evidence that indicates otherwise.

For example, his new chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is very much from the hawkish wing of the Democratic party. It was Emanuel who was instrumental in getting a clause dropped from the defense appropriations bill requiring Congressional approval for an attack on Iran. Scott Horton has compiled several revealing quotations about Emanuel from the last few years. For the links, see here.

Raimondo: “[E]xamine the CNN photo of Nancy’s coronation and notice its composition: Rahm Emanuel to the left of her, Hoyer to her right – a veritable Praetorian Guard that is little short of menacing. The former torpedoed antiwar candidates in the primary and snubbed them in the general election, while the latter defeated antiwar leader Jack Murtha – frowning in the background – for majority leader on the strength of a smear campaign of extraordinary proportions. Are the men surrounding Madam Speaker an honor guard, or a police escort? Who’s in charge here?”

Raimondo: “The Rahm Emanuel wing of the party – Democratic congressional campaign committee head Emanuel routinely opposed antiwar candidates in the party primaries – is determined to keep the party on a “centrist,” i.e., objectively pro-war course, raising all the old canards about the alleged “weakness” of Democratic candidates on issues related to national security.”

Raimondo: “I would point out that, in a year when the Iraq war is the major issue in races all across the country – and when opposition to the war is at an all-time high, representing nearly 60 percent of voters – the Democrats’ congressional campaign, led by Rahm Emanuel, opposed antiwar candidates with a slate of their own pro-war candidates in the Democratic primaries. In many instances, the Democratic candidate is more pro-war than the Republican.”

Lobe: “Turkey has been aided as well by an expensive lobbying campaign organized and led by a former Republican speaker, Robert Livingstone, and Richard Gephardt, who, as the former Democratic House Leader, had co-sponsored a similar resolution. They have also been joined by several key lawmakers considered close to the so-called Israel Lobby, including the influential Democratic Caucus chairman, Rep. Rahm Emmanuel.”

Safire: “What about Rahm Emanuel, the most powerful voice in the House of Representatives that agrees with Hillary Clinton on foreign affairs. He’s a hawk. And although he’s a rootin’ tootin’ liberal on domestic affairs, he is a hawk on foreign affairs. I was at the—a roast for him for Epilepsy Association, and Hillary Clinton was there, and I said, quite frankly, here you have the hawkish side of the Democratic Party. If they get together, the bumper sticker will read ‘Invade and bomb with Hillary and Rahm.’”

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Dennis Ross: Obama's Top Neocon Advisor

Philip Giraldi has an excellent analysis of Obama's foreign policy team. If Dennis Ross represents Obama's version of "change" on issues of war and peace, we are in big trouble.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Naomi Wolf: "America's Slow-Motion Fascist Coup"

In a wide-ranging hour-long interview, Wolf discusses "red-state fascism," "blue-state fascism," the use of the Federal Reserve to subsidize empire, and the need to build bridges between anti-war progressives, libertarians, and conservatives. This is great stuff. Listen here.


Saturday, November 01, 2008

Cleansing Iraqi Christians....Silence from American Religious Conservatives

The destruction of some of the world's oldest Christian communities continues despite a pro-U.S. regime and 150,000 American troops. Meanwhile, in the U.S., thousands of religious conservatives continue to invest their emotional capital in debates over Obama's birth certificate.

Perhaps they will start to caring about their religious compatriots in Iraq when Obama becomes president, that is if any Christians are still left in iraq.

According to this story in Der Spiegel,

murders and a mass exodus contradict Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's promise of security for everyone. Churches are trying to help the refugees, and some may come to Germany -- if the government settles on a plan.....

Since the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Christians in Mosul have had to fear for their lives. Churches have been set on fire, and priests, doctors, engineers and businesspeople have been murdered. In March, aides found the body of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho on the outskirts of the city. A new series of killings that began in late September has already claimed 18 lives.

About half of Mosul's 20,000 Christians have left the city since September, according to official figures released by the Ministry of Displacement and Migration in Baghdad. Since the US invasion in 2003, more than one third of a Christian population that once numbered about 800,000 has fled the country.

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