How Globalism Has Destroyed Our Jobs, Businesses And National Wealth In 10 Easy Steps

As most Americans stand around waiting for the U.S. economy to return to “normal”, there is a never ending parade of jobs, businesses and wealth heading out of the United States.  The jobs and businesses that are leaving are gone for good and will not be coming back.  This is causing unemployment to soar and government debt to skyrocket but our politicians are doing nothing about it.  Instead, politicians from both parties keep insisting that they will solve all of our problems if we will just give them our votes.  Meanwhile, American families continue to fill up their shopping carts with cheap plastic crap made on the other side of the world.  Globalism is slowly destroying the greatest economic machine that the world has ever seen and most Americans don’t even realize it.  Today, the U.S. government has surrendered massive amounts of economic sovereignty to global organizations such as the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank.  The United States has also entered into a whole host of very damaging “free trade agreements” such as NAFTA that are costing our economy huge numbers of jobs.  Our politicians always promised us that globalism would bring us to a new level of prosperity, but instead that “giant sucking sound” that you hear is the sound of the U.S. economy being hollowed out.

Our politicians and the talking heads in the mainstream media always seem to be puzzled as to why there seems to be such a lack of jobs in this country.

But it really is no great mystery.

Jeffrey Pfeffer recently wrote an article for Fortune in which he stated the following….

The U.S. seems to be shocked that its economy isn’t creating many jobs, and each monthly report on the unemployment rate and the number of new jobs somehow stimulates more handwringing. I’m not an economist, labor or otherwise, but simple observation suggests one significant contributor to the nation’s job crisis — for a long time, maybe even decades, we have been waging war on jobs and those who hold them.

That is exactly what the policies of the U.S. government have been doing for decades – they have been waging war on jobs.

Both political parties have been eagerly pushing us into a globalized economy.  Both political parties have told us not to worry as thousands of businesses, millions of jobs and trillions of dollars have left the country.

Well, so much damage has been done by this point that more Americans than ever are starting to wake up and realize that maybe globalism is not such a great thing after all.

Here is how globalism has destroyed our jobs, our businesses and our national wealth in 10 easy steps….

#1 Globalism has merged the U.S. economy with economies that allow slave labor wages.

The “minimum wage” became a whole lot less meaningful once we merged our economy with the economies of nations where it is legal to pay workers 50 cents an hour.

American workers have enjoyed all of the cheap products that have come flooding into our shores, but our politicians never told them that globalism would also mean that they would soon be directly competing for jobs with workers on the other side of the globe that are willing to work for 5 or 10 percent as much.

One big, global labor pool means that the standard of living of the hundreds of millions of workers on the other side of the world will come up slightly while the standard of living of American workers will come crashing down at a blinding pace.

Advocates of globalism never can seem to explain how U.S. workers are supposed to compete with teenage workers in Vietnam that often work seven days a week for as little as 6 cents an hour making promotional toys for big corporations.

#2 U.S. companies make bigger profits by sending jobs overseas.

If U.S. corporations can find a place where they can legally pay workers slave labor wages, what do you think they are going to do?

Corporations have a “duty to maximize shareholder wealth” and U.S. government policies actually have the effect of encouraging the offshoring of jobs.

This is even happening in industries that are on the cutting edge of new technology.

Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel, says that our advanced technology companies are creating far more jobs overseas than they are in the United States….

Some 250,000 Foxconn employees in southern China produce Apple’s products. Apple, meanwhile, has about 25,000 employees in the U.S. That means for every Apple worker in the U.S. there are 10 people in China working on iMacs, iPods, and iPhones. The same roughly 10-to-1 relationship holds for Dell, disk-drive maker Seagate Technology (STX), and other U.S. tech companies.

#3 Globalism has allowed foreign countries to dominate a whole host of industries that used to be dominated by the United States.

U.S. companies are having an incredibly difficult time competing against the low labor costs and the much less stringent business regulations found on the other side of the globe.

In May, the United States spent 50 billion dollars more on goods and services from the rest of the globe than they spent on goods and services from us.

This happens month after month after month.

Every month we get tens of billions of dollars poorer and the rest of the world gets tens of billions of dollars richer.

We are getting clobbered even in industries that we invented.

Do you remember when the United States was the dominant manufacturer of automobiles and trucks on the globe?  Well, in 2010 the U.S. ran a trade deficit in automobiles, trucks and parts of $110 billion.

In 2010, South Korea exported 12 times as many automobiles, trucks and parts to us as we exported to them.

How did this happen?

Well, there are a lot of reasons, but one big reason is that the business environment in the United States has become incredibly toxic.  Businesses in this country face a nightmarish web of rules and regulations and that is a big reason why so many businesses are choosing to leave this country.

In a recent article for Forbes, John Mariotti made a list of just a few of the bureaucracies that U.S. businesses must contend with on a daily basis….

  • Medicare & Medicaid
  • Social Security
  • The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)
  • Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
  • The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002
  • SEC–Securities & Exchange Commission
  • FASB–Federal Accounting Standards Board
  • GAAP–Generally Accepted Accounting Principles
  • IRS–Internal Revenue Service
  • FTC–Federal Trade Commission
  • FDA–Food & Drug Administration
  • FAA–Federal Aviation Administration
  • FCC–Federal Communications Commission
  • EPA–Environmental Protection Agency
  • EEOC–Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  • FLSA–Fair Labor Standards Act
  • NLRB–National Labor Relations Board
  • Labor Management Relations Act (The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947)
  • OSHA–Occupational Safety & Health Administration
  • CFTC–Commodity Futures Trading Commission
  • NFA–National Futures Association
  • PBGC–Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation
  • ERISA–Employee Retirement Income Security Act
  • NHTSA–National Highway Transportation Safety Agency
  • CPSC–Consumer Product Safety Committee
  • NIOSH—National Institutes of Safety and Health
  • Employee Retirement Plans 401(k), 403(a) etc.
  • IRA–Individual Retirement Account
  • USPTO–U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
  • ITC–International Trade Commission
  • USTR—US Special Trade Representative
  • ICE–Immigration & Customers Enforcement
  • BLM—Bureau of Land Management
  • MSDS: Material Safety Data Sheets

#4 Jobs and manufacturing infrastructure are being lost at an astounding pace and they are not going to come back.

Jobs and manufacturing facilities are leaving this country at a blinding pace.  Nothing is being done to stop this from happening.  These jobs are not coming back and they are not being replaced.

Just consider the following statistics….

*The United States has lost a staggering 32 percent of its manufacturing jobs since the year 2000.

*Between December 2000 and December 2010, 38 percent of the manufacturing jobs in Ohio were lost, 42 percent of the manufacturing jobs in North Carolina were lost and 48 percent of the manufacturing jobs in Michigan were lost.

*The United States has lost an average of 50,000 manufacturing jobs per month since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

*Since 2001, over 42,000 manufacturing facilities in the United States have been closed down.

So what are all of those workers doing today?

There are sitting at home trying to figure out what has happened to the once happy lives that they enjoyed.

Today, there are 6.3 million Americans that have been unemployed for more than 6 months.  That number has risen by more than 3.5 million in just the past two years.

Right now, it takes the average unemployed worker almost 40 weeks to find a new job.  There are not nearly enough jobs for everyone and the competition for the few job openings that are available is brutal.

Only 66.8% of American men had a job last year.  That was the lowest level that has ever been recorded in all of U.S. history.

We have millions upon millions of very hard working Americans that are sitting around hoping that someone will give them a job.

But labor costs about 10 percent as much on the other side of the world so that is where all the jobs are going.

#5 Workers without good jobs can’t buy houses or cars.

A huge factor in the housing crash has been the lack of good jobs.  There are now approximately 10 percent fewer middle class jobs than there were a decade ago.

As competition for jobs increases, wages are being depressed because employers know that they have all the power.

So working class American families are being squeezed like never before.

Only the top 5 percent of U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.  A nice home is becoming out of reach for a lot of Americans.

Meanwhile, the cost of food and the cost of gas continue to rise.

One recent survey found that 9 out of 10 U.S. workers do not expect their wages to keep up with soaring food prices and soaring gas prices over the next 12 months.

#6 If American workers don’t have jobs they aren’t paying taxes.

Most Americans have no idea how much our trade deficit contributes to our government debt problems.  When Americans are not working, they are not paying taxes to support our federal, state and local governments.

In the years since 1975, the United States had run a total trade deficit of 7.5 trillion dollars with the rest of the world.

That is money that could have gone to U.S. workers and U.S. businesses.  That is money that taxes could have been paid on.

Instead, our workers are sitting at home and our federal, state and local governments are starving for cash.

#7 Instead of receiving taxes, the government must pay out money to our unemployed workers instead.

We are going to support our unemployed workers one way or another.  Either we are going to give them good jobs or we are going to give them welfare payments.

During the recent economic downturn, millions of American workers have been receiving unemployment benefits for up to 99 weeks.  It has become soul-crushingly difficult to find a job in America today, and we have developed a whole new class of people that have become totally dependent on the government because they simply cannot find work.

Everywhere you look, government anti-poverty programs are exploding in size.

As 2007 began, there were 26 million Americans on food stamps.  Today, there are more than 44 million Americans on food stamps, which is a new all-time record.

#8 As jobs and businesses leave our shores, many of our once great manufacturing cities have been transformed into hellholes.

In a recent article entitled “American Hellholes“, I talked about the economic decay that we are seeing all over the United States….

All over the nation many of our greatest cities are being slowly but surely transformed into post-apocalyptic wastelands.  All over the mid-Atlantic, all along the Gulf coast, all throughout the “rust belt” and all over the entire state of California cities that once had incredibly vibrant economies are being turned into rotting, post-industrial hellholes. In many U.S. cities, the “real” rate of unemployment is over 30 percent. There are some communities that will start depressing you almost the moment that you drive into them. It is almost as if all of the hope has been sucked right out of those communities.  If you live in one of those American hellholes you know what I am talking about.  Sadly, it is not just a few cities that are becoming hellholes.  This is happening in the east, in the west, in the north and in the south.  America is literally being transformed right in front of our eyes.

#9 The United States ends up borrowing back most of the money that it sends overseas every single month.

Every month tens of billions of dollars of our national wealth gets transferred to foreign countries.  In order to make ends meet, our federal, state and local governments end up borrowing gigantic amounts of money from the countries that we have sent our wealth to.

So now we have a national debt that is well over 14 trillion dollars and we owe massive amounts of money to countries like China and Saudi Arabia.

But when we borrow money from other countries that makes us even poorer in the long run.  Debt is never the answer to anything.

#10 Foreign countries are using up some of the wealth that we send them every month to buy up our infrastructure.

Most Americans don’t realize that our state and local governments are selling off our infrastructure piece by piece.  Foreign governments are literally buying pieces of America with the money that we keep sending to them.  In a recent article entitled “Our Politicians Are Selling Off Pieces Of America To Foreign Investors – And Goldman Sachs Is Helping Them Do It“, I talked about this phenomenon….

State and local governments across the country that are drowning in debt and that are desperate for cash are increasingly turning to the “privatization” of public assets as the solution to their problems.  Pieces of infrastructure that taxpayers have already paid for such as highways, water treatment plants, libraries, parking meters, airports and power plants are being auctioned off to the highest bidder.  Most of the time what happens is that the state or local government receives a huge lump sum of cash up front for a long-term lease (usually 75 years or longer) and the foreign investors come in and soak as much revenue out of the piece of infrastructure that they possibly can.  The losers in these deals are almost always the taxpayers.  Pieces of America are literally being auctioned off just to help state and local governments minimize their debt problems for a year or two, but the consequences of these deals will be felt for decades.

Sadly, neither political party seems concerned about the effects of globalism at all.

In fact, both parties continue to push for even more globalism.

But large numbers of ordinary Americans are waking up.

According to a recent Washington Post poll, only 36 percent of Americans consider “the increasing interconnection of the global economy” to be a positive thing.  Back in 2001, 60 percent of Americans believed that the globalization of the economy was a positive thing.

So maybe there is a glimmer of hope.

But until fundamental changes are actually made, globalism will continue to destroy our jobs, our businesses and our national wealth.

The Ultimate Cost of Forcing Moral Young Men To Fight Multiple Immoral Wars

“Psychotropic drug: Any drug capable of affecting the mind, emotions, and behavior. Some legal drugs such as lithium for depression are psychotropic. Many illicit drugs such as cocaine are also psychotropic. Also called a psychodynamic drug.

From the Greek psycho-, the mind + trop, a turning = (capable of) turning the mind.”

Military Deaths Linked to Prescribed Psych Drugs

If mentally incapacitated troops are being drugged with dangerous, mind-altering drugs and deployed to battle against their will, how can we say that we have a volunteer army?

The increasingly high number of DEATHS in the US military–from suicides, accidental overdose, and, increasingly, lethal drug interactions–has been linked to the exponential increase in the prescribing of powerful, psychotropic drugs.

Since The Hartford Courant first published several investigative reports (2006) about the deadly consequences of prescribing powerful psychotropic drugs to US troops who were deployed to battle with a supply of these mind-altering drugs–where those ingesting them pose a danger both to themselves and to the other troops–a series of reports have documented the continued rise in the death toll..

The latest report in The New York Times (February, 2011, below), confirms that the norm and practice in the military is reliance on potentially lethal psychotropic drug combinations continues–even as the body count climbs.

 “After a decade of treating thousands of wounded troops, the military’s medical system is awash in prescription drugs — and the results have sometimes been deadly.

By some estimates, well over 300,000 troops have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan with P.T.S.D., depression, traumatic brain injury or some combination of those. The Pentagon has looked to pharmacology to treat those complex problems, following the lead of civilian medicine. As a result, psychiatric drugs have been used more widely across the military than in any previous war.

But those medications, along with narcotic painkillers, are being increasingly linked to a rising tide of other problems, among them drug dependency, suicide and fatal accidents — sometimes from the interaction of the drugs themselves. 

An Army report on suicide released last year documented the problem, saying one-third of the force was on at least one prescription medication.

“Prescription drug use is on the rise,” the report said, noting that medications were involved in one-third of the record 162 suicides by active-duty soldiers in 2009. An additional 101 soldiers died accidentally from the toxic mixing of prescription drugs from 2006 to 2009.”

 THE HARTFORD COURANT / ASSOCIATED PRESS   MAY 14, 2006   Military Ignores Mental Illness

“The U.S. military is sending troops with serious psychological problems into Iraq and is keeping soldiers in combat even after superiors have been alerted to suicide warnings and other signs of mental illness, a Courant investigation has found.  Once at war, some unstable troops are kept on the front lines while on potent antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, with little or no counseling or medical monitoring. And some troops who developed post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq are being sent back to the war zone, increasing the risk to their mental health.

“Some service members who committed suicide in 2004 and 2005 were kept on duty despite clear signs of mental distress, sometimes after being prescribed antidepressants with little or no mental health counseling or monitoring, the Courant reported. Those findings conflict with regulations adopted last year by the Army that caution against the use of antidepressants for “extended deployments.”

“I can’t imagine something more irresponsible than putting a Soldier suffering from stress on (antidepressants), when you know these drugs can cause people to become suicidal and homicidal,” said Vera Sharav, president of the Alliance for Human Research Protection, a New York-based advocacy group. “You’re creating chemically activated time bombs.”

“““““““`

TIME MAGAZINE   FEBRUARY 9, 2009  America’s Medicated Army

For the first time in history, a sizable and growing number of U.S. combat troops are taking daily doses of antidepressants to calm nerves strained by repeated and lengthy tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. The medicines are intended not only to help troops keep their cool but also to enable the already strapped Army to preserve its most precious resource:soldiers on the front lines.

Data contained in the Army’s fifth Mental Health Advisory Team report indicate that, according to an anonymous survey of U.S. troops taken last fall, about 12% of combat troops in Iraq and 17% of those in Afghanistan are taking prescription antidepressants or sleeping pills to help them cope. Escalating violence in Afghanistan and the more isolated mission have driven troops to rely more on medication there than in Iraq, military officials say.”

TRUTHOUT  Hearing Debates Link Between Psychiatric Drugs and Veterans’ SuicidesThursday 25 February 2010

Beginning in 2002, the suicide rate among soldiers rose significantly, reaching record levels in 2007 and again in 2008 despite the Army’s major prevention and intervention efforts,

 THE NAVY TIMES   Mar 17, 2010   Medicating the military

 EXCERPT:  The DLA records detail the range of drugs being prescribed to the military community and the spending on them:

• Antipsychotic medications, including Seroquel and Risperdal, spiked most dramatically — orders jumped by more than 200 percent, and annual spending more than quadrupled, from $4 million to $16 million.

• Use of anti-anxiety drugs and sedatives such as Valium and Ambien also rose substantially; orders increased 170 percent, while spending nearly tripled, from $6 million to about $17 million.

• Antiepileptic drugs, also known as anticonvulsants, were among the most commonly used psychiatric medications. Annual orders for these drugs increased about 70 percent, while spending more than doubled, from $16 million to $35 million.

• Antidepressants had a comparatively modest 40 percent gain in orders, but it was the only drug group to show an overall decrease in spending, from $49 million in 2001 to $41 million in 2009, a drop of 16 percent. The debut in recent years of cheaper generic versions of these drugs is likely responsible for driving down costs.

Antidepressants and anticonvulsants are the most common mental health medications prescribed to service members. Seventeen percent of the active-duty force, and as much as 6 percent of deployed troops, are on antidepressants, Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton, the Army’s highest-ranking psychiatrist, told Congress on Feb. 24.

In contrast, about 10 percent of all Americans take antidepressants, according to a 2009 Columbia University study.

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Doctors — and, more recently, lawmakers — are questioning whether the drugs could be responsible for the spike in military suicides during the past several years, an upward trend that roughly parallels the rise in psychiatric drug use.

From 2001 to 2009, the Army’s suicide rate increased more than 150 percent, from 9 per 100,000 soldiers to 23 per 100,000. The Marine Corps suicide rate is up about 50 percent, from 16.7 per 100,000 Marines in 2001 to 24 per 100,000 last year. Orders for psychiatric drugs in the analysis rose 76 percent over the same period.

“There is overwhelming evidence that the newer antidepressants commonly prescribed by the military can cause or worsen suicidality, aggression and other dangerous mental states,” said Dr. Peter Breggin, a psychiatrist who testified at the same Feb. 24 congressional hearing at which Sutton appeared.

Other side effects — increased irritability, aggressiveness and hostility — also could pose a risk.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

USA TODAY  January 20, 2011  More Army Guard, Reserve soldiers committing suicide

The Army released final year-end statistics Wednesday. There were 301 confirmed or suspected soldier suicides in 2010, including those on active duty and reservists or National Guard troops on an inactive status, the Army reported Wednesday. This compares with 242 in 2009.

See also chart documenting US Military Suicides, 2003-2010 at Peace Patriotic.org

The prescribing practices border on reckless endangerment–which is a felony. Two questions arise:

1. If mentally incapacitated troops are being drugged and deployed against their will, how can we say that we have a volunteer army?

2. How is this prescribing practice any less deplorable than prison chain gangs?

 

Vera Hassner Sharav

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 THE NEW YORK TIMES  February 12, 2011

For Some Troops, Powerful Drug Cocktails Have Deadly Results  

By JAMES DAO, BENEDICT CAREY and DAN FROSCH
This article was reported by James Dao, Benedict Carey and Dan Frosch and written by Mr. Dao.

In his last months alive, Senior Airman Anthony Mena rarely left home without a backpack filled with medications. He returned from his second deployment to Iraq complaining of back pain, insomnia, anxiety and nightmares. Doctors diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder and prescribed powerful cocktails of psychiatric drugs and narcotics.

Yet his pain only deepened, as did his depression. “I have almost given up hope,” he told a doctor in 2008, medical records show. “I should have died in Iraq.”

Airman Mena died instead in his Albuquerque apartment, on July 21, 2009, five months after leaving the Air Force on a medical discharge. A toxicologist found eight prescription medications in his blood, including threeantidepressants, a sedative, a sleeping pill and two potent painkillers.

Yet his death was no suicide, the medical examiner concluded. What killed Airman Mena was not an overdose of any one drug, but the interaction of many. He was 23.

After a decade of treating thousands of wounded troops, the military’s medical system is awash in prescription drugs — and the results have sometimes been deadly.

By some estimates, well over 300,000 troops have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan with P.T.S.D., depression,traumatic brain injury or some combination of those. The Pentagon has looked to pharmacology to treat those complex problems, following the lead of civilian medicine. As a result, psychiatric drugs have been used more widely across the military than in any previous war.

But those medications, along with narcotic painkillers, are being increasingly linked to a rising tide of other problems, among them drug dependency, suicide and fatal accidents — sometimes from the interaction of the drugs themselves. An Army report on suicide released last year documented the problem, saying one-third of the force was on at least one prescription medication.

“Prescription drug use is on the rise,” the report said, noting that medications were involved in one-third of the record 162 suicides by active-duty soldiers in 2009. An additional 101 soldiers died accidentally from the toxic mixing of prescription drugs from 2006 to 2009.

“I’m not a doctor, but there is something inside that tells me the fewer of these things we prescribe, the better off we’ll be,” Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the vice chief of staff of the Army who has led efforts on suicide, said in an interview.

Growing awareness of the dangers of overmedicated troops has prompted the Defense Department to improve the monitoring of prescription medications and restrict their use.

In November, the Army issued a new policy on the use of multiple medications that calls for increased training for clinicians, 30-day limits on new prescriptions and comprehensive reviews of cases where patients are receiving four or more drugs.

The Pentagon is also promoting measures to prevent troops from stockpiling medications, a common source of overdoses. For instance, the Navy, which provides medical care for Marines, has begun pill “give back” days on certain bases. At Camp Lejeune, N.C., 22,000 expired pills were returned in December.

The Army and the Navy are also offering more treatments without drugs, including acupuncture and yoga. And they have tried to expand talk therapy programs — one of which, exposure therapy, is considered by some experts to be the only proven treatment for P.T.S.D. But shortages of mental health professionals have hampered those efforts.

Still, given the depth of the medical problems facing combat veterans, as well as the medical system’s heavy reliance on drugs, few experts expect the widespread use of multiple medications to decline significantly anytime soon.

The New York Times reviewed in detail the cases of three service members who died from what coroners said were toxic interactions of prescription drugs. All were classified accidents, not suicides.

Airman Mena was part of a military police unit that conducted combat patrols alongside Army units in downtown Baghdad. He cleaned up the remains of suicide bombing victims and was nearly killed by a bomb himself, his records show.

Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Bachus had spent virtually his entire adult life in the Marine Corps, deploying to the Middle East in 1991, Iraq during the invasion of 2003 and, for a short tour, Afghanistan in 2005. He suffered from what doctors called survivor’s guilt and came back “like a ghost,” said his brother, Jerry, of Westerville, Ohio.

Cpl. Nicholas Endicott joined the Marines in 2003 after working as a coal miner in West Virginia. He deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan, where he saw heavy combat. On one mission, Corporal Endicott was blown more than eight feet in the air by a roadside bomb, medical records show. He came home plagued by nightmares and flashbacks and rarely left the house.

Given the complexity of drug interactions, it is difficult to know precisely what killed the three men, and the Pentagon declined to discuss their cases, citing confidentiality. But there were important similarities to their stories.

All the men had been deployed multiple times and eventually received diagnoses of P.T.S.D. All had five or more medications in their systems when they died, including opiate painkillers and mood-altering psychiatric drugs, but not alcohol. All had switched drugs repeatedly, hoping for better results that never arrived.

All died in their sleep.

Psychiatry and Warfare

The military medical system has struggled to meet the demand caused by two wars, and to this day it still reports shortages of therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists. But medications have always been readily available.

Across all branches, spending on psychiatric drugs has more than doubled since 2001, to $280 million in 2010, according to numbers obtained from the Defense Logistics Agency by a Cornell University psychiatrist, Dr. Richard A. Friedman.

Clinicians in the health systems of the Defense and Veterans Affairs Departments say that for most patients, those medications have proved safe. “It is important not to understate the benefit of these medications,” said Dr. Robert Kerns, the national director of pain management for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Paradoxically, the military came under criticism a decade ago for not prescribing enough medications, particularly for pain. In its willingness to prescribe more readily, the Pentagon was trying to meet standards similar to civilian medicine, General Chiarelli said.

But the response of modern psychiatry to modern warfare has not always been perfect. Psychiatrists still do not have good medications for the social withdrawal, nightmares and irritability that often accompany post-traumatic stress, so they mix and match drugs, trying to relieve symptoms.

“These decisions about medication are difficult enough in civilian psychiatry, but unfortunately in this very-high-stress population, there is almost no data to guide you,” said Dr. Ranga R. Krishnan, a psychiatrist at Duke University. “The psychiatrist is trying everything and to some extent is flying blind.”

Thousands of troops struggle with insomnia, anxiety and chronic pain — a combination that is particularly treacherous to treat with medications. Pairing a pain medication like oxycodone, a narcotic, with an anti-anxiety drug like Xanax, a so-called benzodiazepine, amplifies the tranquilizing effects of both, doctors say.

Similarly, antidepressants like Prozac or Celexa block liver enzymes that help break down narcotics and anxiety drugs, extending their effects.

“The sedation is not necessarily two plus two is four,” said Cmdr. Rosemary Malone, a Navy forensicpsychiatrist. “It could be synergistic. So two plus two could be five.”

Commander Malone and other military doctors said the key to the safe use of multiple prescriptions was careful monitoring: each time clinicians prescribe drugs, they must review a patient’s records and adjust dosages to reduce the risk of harmful interactions. “The goal is to use the least amount of medication at the lowest doses possible to help that patient,” she said.

But there are limits to the monitoring. Troops who see private clinicians — commonly done to avoid the stigma of seeking mental health care on a base — may receive medications that are not recorded in their official military health records.

In the case of Sergeant Bachus of the Marines, it is far from clear that he received the least amount of medication possible.

He saw combat in Iraq, his brother said, and struggled with alcoholism, anxiety, flashbacks, irritability and what doctors called survivor’s guilt after returning home. “He could make himself the life of the party,” Jerry Bachus recalled. “But he came back a shell, like a ghost.”

Sergeant Bachus received a diagnosis of P.T.S.D., and starting in 2005, doctors put him on a regimen that included Celexa for depression, Klonopin for anxiety and Risperdal, an antipsychotic. In 2006, after a period of stability, a military doctor discontinued his medications. But six months later, Sergeant Bachus asked to be put on them again.

According to a detailed autopsy report, his depression and anxiety worsened in late 2006. Yet for unexplained reasons, he was allowed to deploy to Iraq for a second time in early 2007. But when his commanders discovered that he was on psychiatric medications, he was sent home after just a few months, records show.

Frustrated and ashamed that he could not be in a front-line unit and unwilling to work behind a desk, he applied in late 2007 for a medical retirement, a lengthy and often stressful process that seemed to darken his mood.

In early March 2008, a military doctor began giving him an opiate painkiller for his back. A few days later, Sergeant Bachus, 38, called his wife, who was living in Ohio. He sounded delusional, she told investigators later, but not suicidal.

“You know, babe, I am really tired, and I don’t think I’ll have any problems falling asleep tonight,” he told her. He was found dead in his on-base quarters in North Carolina nearly three days later.

According to the autopsy report, Sergeant Bachus had in his system two antidepressants, the opiates oxymorphone and oxycodone, and Ativan for anxiety. The delirium he experienced in his final days was “most likely due to the interaction of his medications,” the report said.

Nearly 30 prescription pill bottles were found at the scene, most of them recently prescribed, according to the report.

Jerry Bachus pressed the Marine Corps and the Navy for more information about his brother’s death, but received no further explanations. “There was nothing accidental about it,” he said. “It was inevitable.”

Self-Medicating

The widespread availability of prescription medications is increasingly being linked by military officials to growingsubstance abuse, particularly with opiates. A Defense Department survey last year found that the illegal use of prescription drugs in the military had tripled from 2005 to 2008, with five times as many troops claiming to abuse prescription drugs than illegal ones like cocaine or marijuana.

The problem has become particularly acute in specialized units for wounded troops, where commanders say the trading of prescription medications is rampant. A report released last month by the Army inspector general estimated that up to a third of all soldiers in these Warrior Transition Units are overmedicated, dependent on medications or have easy access to illegal drugs.

Some of that abuse is for recreational purposes, military officials say. In response, the Army has taken several steps to tighten the monitoring of troops on multiple prescriptions in the transition units.

But in many cases, wounded troops are acquiring drugs improperly because their own prescriptions seem ineffective, experts say. They are self-medicating, sometimes to death.

“This is a huge issue, and partly it’s due to the availability of prescription drugs among returning troops,” said Dr. Martin P. Paulus, a psychiatrist at the University of California, San Diego, and the V.A. San Diego Medical Center. “Everyone knows someone who’ll say, ‘Hey, this worked for me, give it a try.’ ”

Corporal Endicott, for instance, died after adding the opiate painkiller methadone to his already long list of prescribed medications. His doctors said that they did not know where he got the narcotic and that they had not authorized it.

Corporal Endicott, who survived a roadside bomb explosion, was in heavy fighting in Afghanistan, where he saw other Marines killed. After returning from his third deployment, in 2007, Corporal Endicott told doctors that he was having nightmares and flashbacks and rarely left his house. After a car accident, he assaulted the other driver, according to medical records. Doctors diagnosed P.T.S.D. and came to suspect that Corporal Endicott had a traumatic brain injury.

Over the coming year, he was prescribed at least five medications, including the antidepressants Prozac andTrazodone, and an anti-anxiety medication. Yet he continued to have headaches, anxiety and vivid nightmares.

“He would be hitting the headboard,” said his father, Charles. “He would be saying: ‘Get down! Here they come!’ ”

On Jan. 29, 2008, Corporal Endicott was found dead in his room at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where he had checked himself in for anger management after another car accident. He was 26.

A toxicologist detected at least nine prescription drugs in his system, including five different benzodiazepines, drugs used to reduce anxiety or improve sleep. Small amounts of marijuana and methadone — a narcotic that is particularly dangerous when mixed with benzodiazepines — were also found in his body.

His death prompted Marine Corps officials at Bethesda and Walter Reed Army Medical Center to initiate new procedures to keep Marines from inappropriately mixing medications, including assigning case managers to oversee patients, records show.

Whether Corporal Endicott used methadone to get high or to relieve pain remains unclear. The Marine Corps concluded that his death was not due to misconduct.

“He survived over there,” his father said. “Coming home and dying in a hospital? It’s a disgrace.”

Trying to Numb the Pain

Airman Mena also returned from war a drastically changed man. He had deployed to Iraq in 2005 but saw little action and wanted to go back. He got the chance in late 2006, when sectarian violence was hitting a peak.

After coming home, he spoke repeatedly of feeling guilty about missing patrols where a sergeant was killed and where several platoon mates were seriously wounded. Had he been driving on those missions, he told therapists, he would have avoided the attacks.

“On my first day, I saw a total of 12 bodies,” he said in one psychological assessment. “Over there, I lost faith in God, because how can God allow all these dead bodies?”

By the summer of 2008, he was on half a dozen medications for depression, anxiety, insomnia and pain. His back and neck pain worsened, but Air Force doctors could not pinpoint a cause. Once gregarious and carefree, Airman Mena had become perpetually irritable. At times he seemed to have hallucinations, his mother and friends said, and was often full of rage while driving.

In February 2009, he received an honorable discharge and was given a 100 percent disability rating by the Department of Veterans Affairs, meaning he was considered unable to work. He abandoned plans to become a police officer.

Now a veteran, his steady medication regimen continued — but did not seem to make him better. His mother, Pat Mena, recalls him being unable to sleep yet also listless, his face a constant shade of pale. Shocked by the piles of pills in his Albuquerque apartment, she once flushed dozens of old prescriptions down the toilet.

Yet for all his troubles, he seemed hopeful when she visited him in early July 2009. He was making plans to open a cigar store, which he planned to call Fumar. His mother would be in charge of decorating it.

The night after his mother left, he put on a new Fentanyl patch, a powerful narcotic often used by cancerpatients that he had started using just five weeks before. The Food and Drug Administration issued warnings about the patches in 2007 after deaths were linked to it, but a private clinic in Albuquerque prescribed the medication because his other painkillers had failed, records show.

With his increasingly bad memory, he often forgot what pills he was taking, his mother said. That night when he put on his new patch, he forgot to remove the old one. He died early the next day.

Was the Fentanyl the cause? Or was it the hydromorphone, another narcotic found in his system? Or the antidepressants? Or the sedative Xanax? Or all of the above?

The medical examiner could not say for sure, noting simply that the drugs together had caused “respiratory depression.”“The manner of death,” the autopsy concluded, “is accident.”

Toby Lyles contributed research.

 

18 veterans commit suicide each day

18 veterans commit suicide each day

By Rick Maze
Posted : Thursday Apr 22, 2010

Troubling new data show there are an average of 950 suicide attempts each month by veterans who are receiving some type of treatment from the Veterans Affairs Department.

Seven percent of the attempts are successful, and 11 percent of those who don’t succeed on the first attempt try again within nine months.

The numbers, which come at a time when VA is strengthening its suicide prevention programs, show about 18 veteran suicides a day, about five by veterans who are receiving VA care.

Access to care appears to be a key factor, officials said, noting that once a veteran is inside the VA care program, screening programs are in place to identify those with problems, and special efforts are made to track those considered at high risk, such as monitoring whether they are keeping appointments.

A key part of the new data shows the suicide rate is lower for veterans aged 18 to 29 who are using VA health care services than those who are not. That leads VA officials to believe that about 250 lives have been saved each year as a result of VA treatment.

VA’s suicide hotline has been receiving about 10,000 calls a month from current and former service members. The number is 1-800-273-8255. Service members and veterans should push 1 for veterans’ services.

Dr. Janet Kemp, VA’s national suicide prevention coordinator, credits the hotline with rescuing 7,000 veterans who were in the act of suicide — in addition to referrals, counseling and other help.

Suicide attempts by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans remains a key area of concern. In fiscal 2009, which ended Sept. 30, there were 1,621 suicide attempts by men and 247 by women who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, with 94 men and four women dying.

In general, VA officials said, women attempt suicide more often, but men are more likely to succeed in the attempt, mainly because women use less lethal and less violent means while men are more likely to use firearms.

Suicide attempts among veterans appear to follow those trends, officials said.

Pak Army Plays “Musical Chairs” On Manato Mountain

[How can the Pak Army seriously make claims of waging war against militants in Kurram Agency, when Operation Koh-i-Sufaid has only killed twenty terrorists in the last nine days?  In the first three days of the alleged offensive they reported 40 terrorists killed, yet nine days of "fighting" has produced only twenty more kills.  This cannot be called an offensive, when it is obviously more of a manhunt, or a scare campaign.  Today's great "victory" at  Monato mountain is actually just a big game of "musical chairs," with the Pak Army merely occupying the seats vacated by the long gone militants.  Wake-up, Pakistan!]

Manato in Kurram Agency falls to Pakistan Army

Zahir Shah
Friday, 15-July-2011

 

MANATO, Kurram Agency: A stronghold and symbolic headquarters for militants in central Kurram Agency, Manato fell to advancing security forces July 14. The victory comes in the second week of Operation Koh-i-Sufaid, which began July 3. Troops are expelling militants from central Kurram, which borders three Afghan provinces and Pakistan’s tribal Orakzai and Khyber agencies. Militants are fleeing a five-sided offensive and are heading for the Afghan border and tribal areas in Upper Orakzai Agency and the Tirah Valley (Khyber Agency), the military claims. More than 60 insurgents have been killed and five troops have been injured in the operation. Victory would deprive insurgents of a suspected rest and reinforcement centre and the safest transit route to Afghanistan and to other tribal areas. “We … moved our troops swiftly, capturing important features and heights in the first three days around Manato,” Brig. Muhammad Basharat, sector commander for the South West and officer in charge of the Kurram offensive, told Central Asia Online. The army has deployed almost an entire division, tanks, artillery and Cobra gunship helicopters, he said, adding it has used the air force when necessary. “Militants … have disguised themselves in Frontier Corps and army uniforms,” he said. “They don’t follow any rule of law, but we have dislodged them … and they are fleeing.” The insurgents have about 600 hardcore fighters in the area, including about 250 locals, he estimated. They might have reinforcements from adjoining Orakzai, Khyber and North Waziristan agencies, he said, adding some foreign fighters could be involved. Complexity, cost won’t daunt government The offensive will free an oppressed local population, Lt. Gen. Asif Yasin Malik, commander of the 11th Corps, said. “Restoration of peace in Kurram Agency is a multi-pronged strategy,” Malik said. “Starting from the Murree Peace Accord (of October 2008), about Rs. 1.7 billion (US $19.8m) has been released for compensation of tribal conflict victims in Sadda and Para Chinar, besides the military offensive.”   “This operation is not against any Sunni or Shia sect; it’s against the miscreants who were fanning violence in the Kurram region,” he added. The government plans decisive action throughout Kurram Agency. “Our aim is establishment of the government’s writ in the agency, and besides the military offensive … a peace process among the rival tribes is also continuing under the Murree Peace Accord,” Kurram Agency Political Agent Shahab Ali Shah told Central Asia Online. A top priority is to open the Thall-Teri Mangal road, he said, adding that the government is also assessing how to rehabilitate affected Sadda and Para Chinar families. The Central Kurram offensive could displace 70% of the 112,000 civilians living in the Ali Sherzai, Chinarak, Ali Dad Khel and Manato areas, Shah added, saying officials have opened camps in Durrani, Lower Kurram Agency, and in Togh Sarai, Hangu District, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Durrani Camp has about 600 families, he said. Another 6,000 families are living with host families and in government buildings elsewhere, according to the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) Disaster Management Authority (FDMA). “A primary school has been established in the camp to facilitate the displaced kids,” Shah said. Medical care and clean drinking water are being provided, he said. Militant sites reclaimed for business Despite the hardships, Lower and Central Kurram residents are praising the offensive. The main Sadda Bazaar, formerly a hub of militant activity, is back in business. The Ajab Khan Square (Chowk) in that bazaar, which, according to locals, formerly had corpses hanging in the morning, has become a thriving business centre again. “Earlier there was bloodshed and tyranny and people were tortured publicly, but … we don’t have many problems now,” said Sadda Bazaar grocer Ashiq Khan. Authorities have renamed Ajab Khan Square, the site of executions by insurgents, to Amir Mavia Square, Army Lt. Col. Sajjad Haider told Central Asia Online. “Before our arrival people were hanged (here)… and no one dared to remove (the bodies),” Haider said, pointing to Amir Mavia Square. “The militants controlled the surrounding buildings, where they used to issue fatwas, but now you can see normality all around.” The locals still feel threatened when they remember the reign of torture and bloodshed in Ajab Khan Square,” said pharmacist Alam Khan. “But the government has to ensure that peace prevails and the tribesmen don’t get coerced by militants again.”

The Ideological Crisis of Western Capitalism

 

NEW YORK – Just a few years ago, a powerful ideology – the belief in free and unfettered markets – brought the world to the brink of ruin. Even in its hey-day, from the early 1980’s until 2007, American-style deregulated capitalism brought greater material well-being only to the very richest in the richest country of the world. Indeed, over the course of this ideology’s 30-year ascendance, most Americans saw their incomes decline or stagnate year after year.

Moreover, output growth in the United States was not economically sustainable. With so much of US national income going to so few, growth could continue only through consumption financed by a mounting pile of debt.

I was among those who hoped that, somehow, the financial crisis would teach Americans (and others) a lesson about the need for greater equality, stronger regulation, and a better balance between the market and government. Alas, that has not been the case. On the contrary, a resurgence of right-wing economics, driven, as always, by ideology and special interests, once again threatens the global economy – or at least the economies of Europe and America, where these ideas continue to flourish.

In the US, this right-wing resurgence, whose adherents evidently seek to repeal the basic laws of math and economics, is threatening to force a default on the national debt. If Congress mandates expenditures that exceed revenues, there will be a deficit, and that deficit has to be financed. Rather than carefully balancing the benefits of each government expenditure program with the costs of raising taxes to finance those benefits, the right seeks to use a sledgehammer – not allowing the national debt to increaseforces expenditures to be limited to taxes.

This leaves open the question of which expenditures get priority – and if expenditures to pay interest on the national debt do not, a default is inevitable. Moreover, to cut back expenditures now, in the midst of an ongoing crisis brought on by free-market ideology, would inevitably simply prolong the downturn.

A decade ago, in the midst of an economic boom, the US faced a surplus so large that it threatened to eliminate the national debt. Unaffordable tax cuts and wars, a major recession, and soaring health-care costs – fueled in part by the commitment of George W. Bush’s administration to giving drug companies free rein in setting prices, even with government money at stake – quickly transformed a huge surplus into record peacetime deficits.

The remedies to the US deficit follow immediately from this diagnosis: put America back to work by stimulating the economy; end the mindless wars; rein in military and drug costs; and raise taxes, at least on the very rich. But the right will have none of this, and instead is pushing for even more tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, together with expenditure cuts in investments and social protection that put the future of the US economy in peril and that shred what remains of the social contract. Meanwhile, the US financial sector has been lobbying hard to free itself of regulations, so that it can return to its previous, disastrously carefree, ways.

But matters are little better in Europe. As Greece and others face crises, the medicine du jour is simply timeworn austerity packages and privatization, which will merely leave the countries that embrace them poorer and more vulnerable. This medicine failed in East Asia, Latin America, and elsewhere, and it will fail in Europe this time around, too. Indeed, it has already failed in Ireland, Latvia, and Greece.

There is an alternative: an economic-growth strategy supported by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Growth would restore confidence that Greece could repay its debts, causing interest rates to fall and leaving more fiscal room for further growth-enhancing investments. Growth itself increases tax revenues and reduces the need for social expenditures, such as unemployment benefits. And the confidence that this engenders leads to still further growth.

Regrettably, the financial markets and right-wing economists have gotten the problem exactly backwards: they believe that austerity produces confidence, and that confidence will produce growth. But austerity undermines growth, worsening the government’s fiscal position, or at least yielding less improvement than austerity’s advocates promise. On both counts, confidence is undermined, and a downward spiral is set in motion.

Do we really need another costly experiment with ideas that have failed repeatedly? We shouldn’t, but increasingly it appears that we will have to endure another one nonetheless. A failure of either Europe or the US to return to robust growth would be bad for the global economy. A failure in both would be disastrous – even if the major emerging-market countries have attained self-sustaining growth. Unfortunately, unless wiser heads prevail, that is the way the world is heading.

Joseph E. Stiglitz is University Professor at Columbia University, a Nobel laureate in economics, and the author of Freefall: Free Markets and the Sinking of the Global Economy.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011.
http://www.project-syndicate.org

Stop the Machine! Create a New World!

Stop the Machine! Create a New World!

A Call to Action – Oct. 6, 2011 and onward

October 2011 is the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan and the beginning of the 2012 federal austerity budget. It is time to light the spark that sets off a true democratic, nonviolent transition to a world in which people are freed to create just and sustainable solutions.

We call on people of conscience and courage—all who seek peace, economic justice, human rights and a healthy environment—to join together in Washington, D.C., beginning on Oct. 6, 2011, in nonviolent resistance similar to the Arab Spring and the Midwest awakening.

A concert, rally and protest will kick off a powerful and sustained nonviolent resistance to the corporate criminals that dominate our government.

Forty-seven years ago, Mario Savio, an activist student at Berkeley, said, “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”

Those words have an even greater urgency today. We face ongoing wars and massive socio-economic and environmental destruction perpetrated by a corporate empire which is oppressing, occupying and exploiting the world. We are on a fast track to making the planet unlivable while the middle class and poor people of our country are undergoing the most wrenching and profound economic crisis in 80 years.

“Stop the Machine! • Create a New World!” is a clarion call for all who are deeply concerned with injustice, militarism and environmental destruction to join in ending concentrated corporate power and taking direct control of a real participatory democracy. We will encourage a culture of resistance—using music, art, theater and direct nonviolent action—to take control of our country and our lives. It is about courageously resisting and stopping the corporate state from destroying not only our inherent rights and freedoms, but also our children’s chance to live, breathe clean air, drink pure water, grow edible natural food and live in peace.

As Mother Jones said, “Someday the workers will take possession of your city hall, and when we do, no child will be sacrificed on the altar of profit!”

We are the ones who can create a new and just world. Our issues are connected. We are connected. Join us in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 6, 2011, to Stop the Machine.

***************************************************************************************

Take the pledge and sign up to attend here. Let America know you are coming to make history and a new world!

“I pledge that if any U.S. troops, contractors, or mercenaries remain in Afghanistan on Thursday, October 6, 2011, as that criminal occupation goes into its 11th year, I will commit to being in Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., with others on that day with the intention of making it our Tahrir Square, Cairo, our Madison, Wisconsin, where we will nonviolently resist the corporate machine until our resources are invested in human needs and environmental protection instead of war and exploitation. We can do this together. We will be the beginning …”

Reagan Worship Taking America Down–Or. Who Killed the Golden Goose?

Reagan mythology is leading US off a cliff

During Reagan’s presidency, the US went from a creditor to debtor nation and marked a take-off for financial inequality.
President Obama may choose between giving in to Republican budget-slashing demands or defaulting on US debt for the first time [GALLO/GETTY] 

As things stand today, the US is hurtling toward a budget showdown in less than a month. Either President Obama will once again capitulate to extreme Republican budget-slashing demands, making Democrats seem as much of a threat to Medicare as Republicans, and virtually ensuring a GOP electoral sweep in 2012, or the US will default on its debt for the first time in its history, most likely plunging the world economy back into another five-continent recession, also costing Democrats the 2012 elections. These are the options left for a president and a political class completely divorced both from reality, and its own history of how one of the three greatest US presidents of all time steered the country from the brink of collapse eight decades ago

Entirely forgetting the real history of how Franklin D Roosevelt used activist government to save American capitalism from itself, the entire US political establishment is instead hypnotised by the false history woven around its most over-hyped president of all time: Ronald Reagan. Idolatry of Reagan’s supposed tax-cutting wonders propels the now widespread economic belief that up is down, that cutting government spending is the way out of – rather than into – a severe recession. At the same time, idolatry of Reagan’s supposed political wonders propels GOP extremists to ignore all other considerations.

Because of this hypnotism, America’s political establishment has barely even begun to notice two unconventional possible ways out that remain, neither of which require anything from Congress, but both of which need bold presidential leadership ala FDR.

The first is to ignore the debt ceiling, relying directly on the 14th Amendment’s statement that: “the validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned”. The second is a proposal from maverick Republican Ron Paul to have the Federal Reserve Board destroy the $1.6 trillion in government bonds that it currently holds, which progressive economist Dean Baker recently wrote, “actually makes a great deal of sense”. It might take some arm-twisting on Obama’s part, but Congress has no say over the Fed, and central bankers have no great love of spreading financial panic.

In anything close to a sane world, either one of these two bold strokes would be widely hailed for avoiding a reckless threat to the still-fragile world economy. But we do not live in a sane world, and the idolatry of Ronald Reagan is one of the principal reasons why. This is why it behoves us to review some of the biggest lies involved with Ronald Reagan’s record, focusing specifically on the economy. What follows is but a brief rundown.

The idea that Reagan produced a uniquely booming economy is false

First, Reagan’s record on the economy was not just exaggerated by his boosters, it’s almost exactly the opposite of what they claim. It was a fairly ordinary time by the most common measurements of economic growth, looking good only in comparison with a selective time-slice of the 1970s. But once you start looking beneath the surface even the tiniest bit, the picture turns very dark indeed.

In terms of the most basic measure of economic growth – increase in gross domestic product (GDP) – the vaunted “Reagan boom” was an unremarkable period of time. If we look at Reagan’s eight years, and compare them with Clinton’s and JFK/LBJ’s, Reagan comes in dead last, with 31.7 per cent compared with Clinton’s 33.1 per cent and JFK/LBJ’s 47.1 per cent. Only Nixon/Ford’s eight years make Reagan look good, with a mere 26.2 per cent growth.

The idea that Reagan brought prosperity is true only for those at the top, not for average American workers

If we examine incomes, we discover that Reagan’s eight years marked a real take-off for inequality, while average incomes stagnated. The income growth of the top once per cent was ten times that of everyone else during his term: 61.5 per cent versus 6.15 per cent. Under JFK/LBJ, the bottom 99 per cent actually did better: gaining 30.9 per cent compared with 26.9 per cent for the top once per cent. And while inequality continued to rise under Clinton, the bottom 99 per cent did more than twice as well as they did under Reagan, gaining 16.7 per cent compared with 56.6 per cent for the wealthiest one per cent.

The idea that Reagan was good for the American economy in general is false 

Reagan was a disaster for the American economy in at least four fundamental ways:

   Debtor Nation Status: Under Ronald Reagan, the US went from being the world’s largest creditor nation to the largest debtor nation in just a few years – and we have remained the largest debtor nation ever since. In 1981, Reagan’s first year in office, the US was a net creditor to the tune of $140.9bn. By 1984, that had shrunk to just $3.3bn - and the next year, the US shifted from being a creditor nation to a debtor nation for the first time in almost 70 years. By 1987, the US was a net debtor by $378.3bn – the largest debtor nation in the world. The figure rose to $532.5bn by the end of 1988, when Reagan left office.

De-Industrialisation: While the percentage of industrial jobs in the economy had been declining since the 1950s, with the growth of the service sector, the raw number of industrial jobs continued to increase right up through 1979, just before the 1980/1982 double-dip recession. From that year onward, the number of industrial jobs began declining, with a smattering of years when the number would increase. In addition to the raw number of jobs declining, the number of unionised jobs and the number of jobs with American companies declined even further.

Personal indebtedness: The income stagnation that began under Reagan has had a devastating impact on personal savings. While it fluctuated considerably, the personal savings rate had more than doubled between 1949 and 1982, from 5.0 per cent up to 11.2 per cent. Ironically, one of the main stated purposes of the Kemp-Roth tax cuts, the basis for Reagan’s 1981 tax cut bill, was to boost personal savings. Instead, they plunged precipitously, falling all the way down into negative territory by 2006.

Government Indebtedness: The idea that Reagan was “fiscally conservative” is false. The story of government indebtedness was even more bleak. Before Reagan, debt really wasn’t a problem for America. From World War II to 1981, every president had reduced the debt as a percentage of GDP, except for the divided term of Nixon-Ford, which saw a tiny 0.2 per cent increase.

The debt-to-GDP ratio is much more significant than the debt alone, since the GDP represents the nation’s total capacity to pay off the debt. And from WWII to 1981, the debt-to-GDP ratio fell from almost 120 per cent down to just 32.5 per cent. The sharpest drop came early on, but even during the supposed “big government” heyday of the Kennedy/Johnson years, the ratio fell by over 16 per cent in eight years. Conservatives then might have complained about the debt – and they certainly did - but no one knowledgeable about economics took them seriously, because the debt grew significantly slower than our ability to repay it.

During Reagan’s term, this changed dramatically. The ratio rose by over 20 per cent, and it rose another 13 per cent under his successor, George Bush Sr. It took a Democrat, Bill Clinton, to get the ratio headed down again – by almost 10 per cent during his two terms, before Bush Jr sent it skyrocketing again - by almost 28 per cent. It’s rising fast under Obama as well – but that’s to be expected as a result of the worst recession since the 1930s.

The idea that Ronald Reagan consistently opposed tax increases is false

The idea that Ronald Reagan always opposed tax increases is completely untrue.  He raised taxes dramatically as Governor of California in 1967 – by a whopping 30 per cent. But he also raised them as president – 11 times. Sure, his 1981 tax increase, along with three smaller increases, was much larger than his total tax cuts. But his willingness to raise as well as lower taxes would have made him at least somewhat compatible with President Obama, and totally unacceptable to movement conservatives today, especially Tea Partiers.

Bruce Bartlett was a leading supply-side economist in the 1970s, who helped draft the Kemp-Roth tax bill as a staff economist for Congressman Jack Kemp. He went on to serve in both the Reagan and Bush I administrations. In an April 2010 blog post, listing Reagan’s 11 presidential tax hikes and four tax cuts, Bartlett wrote: “It may come as a surprise to some people that, once upon a time in the not-too-distant past, Republicans actually cared enough about budget deficits that they thought raising taxes was necessary to bring them down. Today, Republicans believe that deficits are nothing more than something to ignore when they are in power and to bludgeon Democrats with when they are out of power.”

Bartlett was obviously overstating his case, given how the debt skyrocketed under Reagan. But things would have clearly been much, much worse if Reagan had never raised taxes. And if Reagan were around today, he would no doubt be denounced as a “socialist” for all the tax increases he signed onto.

The idea that Reagan’s tax cuts spurred job creation is false

As noted in Bartlett’s table of tax cuts and increases, Reagan followed up his 1981 tax cuts with increases in 1982 and 1983. And for good reason: The unemployment rate – already high when Reagan took office – continued to skyrocket after his tax cuts were passed – peaking at 11.2 percent in 1983, when the jobless rate finally started to come down. The exact mixture of cause and effect over such an extended period may be subject to debate. But one thing is certain: Reagan’s 1981 tax cuts did not magically result in job creation in anything like the way that conservatives nowadays mindlessly claim.

The idea that Reagan changed America’s mind about taxes and the role of government is false

Political scientist James Stimson, author of Public Opinion in America: Moods, Cycles, and Swings, has constructed an index of economic liberalism based on hundreds of public opinion questions asked repeatedly over the years. This index reached a low-point in 1980 and rose dramatically for the next seven years, reaching a plateau at levels not seen since Nixon’s first term, as if Reagan’s rhetoric were convincing more and more people of the exactly the opposite of what he was saying.

This rise was reflected, for example, in four questions asked in the General Social Survey, the most-cited data source for social scientists after the US Census. Between 1980 and 1990, the number of people saying the government was spending “too little” nationally increased 27.4 per cent on health care, 32.9 per cent on education, 67.8 per cent on welfare and 46.7 per cent on the environment. The questions all reminded people that increased taxes might be required if more was spent.

What’s more, 20 years after Reagan’s election, in 2000, federal tax receipts as a percent of GDP were up 8.4 per cent over what they had been the year Reagan was elected, indisputable proof that government’s role had ultimately not decreased across that time-span.

The idea that Reagan was a singularly popular president is false

Reagan was quite fortunate in getting re-elected in 1984 when his popularity was particularly high, but that was not true of his record in general. According to Gallup, Reagan’s overall average approval rating was only 52.8 per cent, lower than John F Kennedy (70.1 per cent), Dwight Eisenhower (65 per cent), GHW Bush (60.1 per cent), Bill Clinton (55.1 per cent), and Lyndon Johnson (55.1 percent). It’s only modestly higher than George W Bush (49.4 per cent) and Richard Nixon (49.1 per cent).

Summing Up

Surveying all these lies in a single panorama, it should be clear that neither Reagan’s economic record nor his political one should provide any case at all for embracing conservative economics. Quite the opposite: They clearly point to failure on both counts. What’s more, the only reason his mythology is possible at all is because he significantly backtracked by raising taxes, when doing otherwise would have completely exposed the failure of his principal economic intentions.

President Obama is as drunk on Reagan’s kool-aid as anyone else in Washington today. It will be difficult indeed for him to break the spell in time to save the country – and himself – from repeating the economic disaster that conservative policies led to just before he was elected.

One thing about Reagan is true, however: His wife did play a significant role in saving him from following ideologues into dangerous folly on a number of occasions. Perhaps Michelle Obama is America’s last best hope.  Perhaps she can see what her husband thus far cannot.

Paul Rosenberg is the Senior Editor of Random Lengths news, a bi-weekly alternative community newspaper.

The views expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeeras editorial policy.

Did Washington Visit Put ISI Back Into CIA’s Pocket?

ISI chief’s US visit went ‘very well’

A senior US government official has said that the meeting between DG ISI and his CIA counterpart went very well. PHOTO: EXPRESS

WASHINGTON: Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha departed Washington on Thursday  after meeting Acting Director Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Michael Morell, Special Representative AfPak Mark Grossman and officials from the White House and the US state department.

A senior US government official has said that the meeting between DG ISI and his CIA counterpart went very well and both sides agreed on a number of steps that will improve Pakistan and the United States’ national security.

Another source familiar with the meetings said that they were held in a cordial environment. The source said that the subjects of the meetings included co-operation in intelligence matters, Pakistan’s concerns and respect for its limitations.

A senior official at the Pakistani embassy in Washington said the meetings helped stabilise the intelligence partnership between the two countries.

“Both sides were able to agree on the way forward in intelligence,” the Pakistani official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

“This visit has put the intelligence component back on track completely.”

Pasha made a brief visit to Washington, arriving on Wednesday and leaving on Thursday, to meet with Acting CIA Director Michael Morell and other intelligence officials. Both sides sought to renew ties of cooperation and move forward in an often challenging relationship.

WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM REUTERS

Relief in Pakistan over absence of “finger-pointing”

Relief in Pakistan over absence of “finger-pointing”

ANITA JOSHUA

Amid relief in Pakistan over the absence of “finger-pointing” from India following the blasts in Mumbai, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Thursday said “such incidents only confirm our resolve to work together for the elimination of the menace of terrorism in the region.”

In fact, the premier opened his address to the National Command Authority – which controls Pakistan’s nuclear assets – with a reference to the blasts. This was the second condemnation of the blasts – which got headline coverage, not just on television but also in the print media, from the Pakistani leadership in the past two days.

The events in Mumbai are being closely watched here. Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, Director General of the Foreign Office-funded Institute of Strategic Studies, at a public talk, said there may be an attempt to link the Mumbai blasts to Pakistan and this could put a strain on the ongoing dialogue process.

Meanwhile, in a terror-related development, Malik Ishaq, chief of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and accused of plotting the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, was released on bail, after being lodged in Lahore’s Kot Lakpat jail.

As he stepped out of the jail premises, Ishaq was greeted by his followers and television footage showed his vehicles being showered with rose petals. According to reports, activists of LeJ – a sectarian outfit – were joined by members of the Sipah-e-Sahaba and Ahl-e-Sunnat wal Jamaat in welcoming him.

PTI reports from Srinagar:

http://kashmirhorizon.com/data/images1/a2735093958OmarAbdullah.jpg

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Thursday lashed out at the BJP for blaming Pakistan for the serial attacks in Mumbai saying it should wait for the investigations to be completed. “I will request everyone, from L.K. Advani to others, that until it is clear who is behind these attacks, we should not blame others. It is our bad habit that we first put the blame and then try to find proof to prove it right,” Mr. Omar told reporters.

“When the Samjhauta train attack took place we first blamed the neighbouring country, but then we came to know it was our own people who did it to disturb the communal harmony in the country. Until we have solid proof we should not blame anyone,” he said.

Timer devices used, says ATS

Timer devices used, says ATS

Commandos stand guard at Zaveri bazar, the site of a bomb blast, in Mumbai on Thursday. The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad on Thursday registered three cases in connection with the serial bombings.

Commandos stand guard at Zaveri bazar, the site of a bomb blast, in Mumbai on Thursday. The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad on Thursday registered three cases in connection with the serial bombings.

The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of Maharashtra on Thursday confirmed that timer devices were used in Wednesday’s three blasts here. “The explosive used was ammonium nitrate. We have got CCTV footage from all the three locations. We are going through it,” ATS chief Rakesh Maria said.

The ATS and the Crime Branch police were jointly investigating the case and more than a dozen teams have been formed to crack it. “We are probing all the possible angles. We are being closely assisted by the Central agencies. Today, in less than 24 hours after the attack, we cannot rule out any possibility,” Mr. Maria said.

According to a police source, a body had an embedded electronic circuit. Mr. Maria, however, refused to confirm reports that human bombs might have been used. “It is too early to say whether human bombs were used or not. I don’t want to disclose anything which hampers the investigation.”

The police have not been able to figure out where exactly bombs were placed. “We have taken samples from all spots. There is a huge amount of debris. The sifting is going on. It is too early to say whether it was placed in a container, a box or a vehicle,” Mr. Maria said.

‘No intel input about terror strike’

Rain is hampering forensic investigation of the three serial blasts.

“Because of the rain, we will have to wait longer to get the forensic details of the blast,” Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Rakesh Maria told a press conference he jointly addressed with Mumbai Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Himanshu Roy here on Thursday.

The death toll so far in the blasts is 17, with 133 injured. The injured have been admitted to nine hospitals across the city. The majority of the victims are lodged in the J J, Harkisandas and Saifee hospitals.

“The maximum casualties and injuries have been reported from Opera House where 10 were killed and 73 injured,” Mr. Maria said. Seven died and 50 were injured in the Zaveri Bazaar blast. “In Dadar 10 were injured,” he said.

Asked if there was any specific intelligence input about the blast, Mr. Maria said there was no such alert.

Officials of the ATS, Crime Branch, various central agencies and forensic experts held a meeting here. “Various central agencies are camping here to assist us in the investigation,” Mr. Maria said.

He said the police were not targeting any particular group or module for investigation. “We are not confining ourselves to one group. At the moment, it is not proper to target a particular group or module,” he said.

‘Don’t spread rumours’

Mr. Maria appealed to people to remain calm and not spread rumours. “Don’t give in to rumour-mongering. There were rumours doing the rounds that unexploded IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) were found at six places in the city. Please don’t believe such rumours. Please don’t spread them,” he said.

He also appealed to the people to have faith in the police. “I would like to assure the people that no effort will be spared. Have faith and trust in the police. So far, no case has gone undetected. We will ensure that no matter where the accused are, we will identify them and bring them to book.”

Saudis Blaming Shia Iran for Radical Sunni Militancy

[The Saudi fathers of "Al-Qaeda" are trying to pin their terrorist progeny on Iran, as a means of focusing the world's anger upon the Shia state.  Considering that AQ has always treated Shia as "Kafir," in their struggle to ignite the flames of sectarian civil war, it is highly unlikely that the bin Laden group would embrace Iran as their primary sponsor.  This is just another Saudi smokescreen, as they duck responsibility for what they have done in spreading Sunni militancy all over the Islamic world.  If this new phase of the Saudi psywar is successful, it will give the royal family the advantage in the war for the minds of the sheeple of the world.] 

Al Qaeda moving? A strange Saudi story

headshotAmir Taheri

Defeated in Iraq and shut out of Af ghanistan, al Qaeda may be trying to transfer its principal bases to its birthplace, Saudi Arabia. At least, that’s what the Riyadh government claimed in a series of leaks to the local media this week — leaks that may well tell us more about the Saudi rulers’ plans than al Qaeda’s.

The leaks claim that al Qaeda activists entered Saudi Arabia during the last hajj pilgrimage and succeeded in “activating” a number of “sleeper cells,” mostly in the port city of Jeddah, the kingdom’s second-most-populous city. The “secret organization” they created supposedly draws people from “many walks of life,” including academics and clerics.

The alleged conspirators worked out a plan known as “The Mountain Manifesto,” under which they would seize power and replace the Saudi monarchy with an al Qaeda-run Islamist regime.

The group allegedly started work in May 2003, shortly after the US-led coalition liberated Iraq. Originally, it dedicated itself to collecting funds and recruiting volunteers for al Qaeda units in Iraq, with the aim of seizing power in Baghdad.

According to the leaks, the authorities have “smashed the conspiracy” by arresting 16 of its top leaders and seizing weapons and documents.

The leaks also claim that the “secret organization” was “coordinating its activities with a foreign security service” — with quite a few hints suggesting that the alleged culprit is Iran.

The Saudis have attacked Iran for refusing to hand over Saad bin Laden — a son of the late Osama bin Laden and the terror leader’s anointed heir — who fled to Iran along with scores of other al Qaeda militants in 2001 after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

In 2003 and 2004, Tehran handed 75 al Qaeda refugees to the Saudis as a sign of goodwill. But with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election as Islamic Republic president, relations with Riyadh took a dip and the extradition of al Qaeda militants stopped.

If the leaks are to be believed, the alleged conspirators used tactics developed by a string of jihadist groups since the late 1970s, often with Saudi moral and financial support. These include the creation of bogus “Islamic charities,” the collection of funds in or around places of pilgrimage in Mecca and Medina, the peppering of mosque sermons with standard anti-Western and anti-Jewish rhetoric and the stealing of weapons from army barracks and police stations.

Yet the cryptic Saudi leaks raise more questions than they answer. While it’s possible that al Qaeda may be trying to regroup in its original home turf, any attempt to seize power in Riyadh would need support from within either the extended royal family or at least some elements of the regular army or National Guard.

But it’s unlikely that any power-hungry emir would ally himself with al Qaeda — an organization dedicated to the destruction of the monarchy. Nor do the leaks mention any link between the alleged conspirators and the military.

So what are we to make of the leaks?

To start with, they may signal an impending crackdown against dissidents of all stripes in the kingdom, in accordance with the standard Arab practice of linking opponents to terrorism and foreign intelligence services.

Some Saudi leaders are clearly rattled by the pan-Arab wave of revolts, echoed in the kingdom with an unprecedented (and until recently unimaginable) series of protests in Jeddah and Riyadh. The subtext of the leaks is that even peaceful protests might contribute to “creating a state of crisis” that al Qaeda could use to seize power.

Then there’s the leaks’ timing, just before the start of the fasting month of Ramadan. The goal may be to stop the traditional collecting of “donations” for real or bogus “Islamic charities” — which for decades have been a source of funding for extremist and terrorist groups across the globe.

Finally, the leaks may also contain a cryptic message to Tehran to stop flirting with al Qaeda while trying to fan the flames of revolts in Bahrain and eastern Saudi Arabia, where Shiites account for a majority of the population.

First, Supporting Libyan “Al-Qaeda,” Now Letting Them Acquire SA-7 Anti-Aircraft Missiles

Antiaircraft Missiles On the Loose in Libya

Bryan Denton for The New York Times

At a captured arms depot in Libya, scavengers have raided ammunition, including crates of portable missiles called SA-7s.

By 

GA’A, Libya — Five months after the armed uprising erupted in Libya, a new round of portable antiaircraft missiles — weapons that governments fear could be obtained by terrorists and then fired at civilian jetliners — have been slipping from storage bunkers captured by rebels.

In February, in the early stages of the uprising, large numbers of the missilesslipped from the hands of Col.Muammar el-Qaddafi’s government as the rebels established control over eastern Libya and the ammunition depots there. The leakage resumed recently with rebel gains here in the western mountains, which opened up new ammunition stores.

The new leakage of the missiles, which are of the same type that officials in other African nations have said have already been trafficked over Libya’s borders, underscores the organizational weakness of the forces opposed to Colonel Qaddafi; it also raises concerns that if more Qaddafi depots fall to the rebels, then further stocks of the weapons could become accessible to black markets.

Signs of the diversion are readily visible here, at an ammunition depot captured late last month from the Qaddafi forces after repeated NATO bombings.

On a recent day, 43 emptied wooden crates — long, thin and painted in dark green — had been left behind on the sand inside the entrance. The boxes had not been there during a visit to the same spot a few days before, and the weapons were gone.

The stenciled markings showed each crate had contained a pair of lightweight missiles called SA-7s — early Soviet versions of the same class of weapon as the better known American-made Stingers, which were used by Afghan fighters against the Soviets in Afghanistan. It was not clear who had taken them. The rebel guards variously blamed Qaddafi forces and misinformed opposition fighters.

During more than four decades in power, Colonel Qaddafi’s often bellicose government is thought to have acquired as many as 20,000 of these missiles, known as Manpads, for Man-Portable Air-Defense Systems, in arms deals with the former Eastern bloc.

Many are assumed to remain in the Qaddafi military’s custody, American officials say, and others have been fired in the conflict, meaning that the number loose is most likely much smaller than the original stock.

There has been no publicly available evidence that Libya’s rebels are directly involved in missile trafficking. Rebel leaders say that if their fighters have taken any missiles, they meant to use them in battle, and that they say they suspect soldiers in the Qaddafi military of selling and smuggling these kinds of arms.

But American officials and Western security analysts say there are grave worries that once the weapons inherited by rebels have been made accessible and reach unsupervised hands, opportunistic smugglers can match them to potential buyers.

In a telephone interview, Andrew J. Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, described the unsecured missiles in Libya as “one of the things that keep me up at night.”

Two other American officials, speaking anonymously so as not to upset diplomatic relations with the rebels, said that after the initial leakage of the SA-7s the American government repeatedly asked the National Transitional Council, the de facto rebel authority, to collect and secure the missiles and to prevent more missiles from getting loose.

When the depot here at Ga’a fell, however, those requests appeared to have had little effect. “The rebels came from all over the western mountains, and they just took what they wanted,” said Riyad, a supervisor of the ruined arsenal’s small contingent of rebel guards.

The United States is giving $1.5 million to two international organizations — the Mines Advisory Group from Britain and the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action — that it hopes can help secure the stockpiles and prevent more missiles from slipping out.

Last month, Washington also sent an interagency team to four nations near or bordering Libya — Algeria, Chad, Mali and Niger — to talk with those countries about border security and identifying the missiles should they cross, Mr. Shapiro said. Visits to other countries are planned.

ATF Florida Gun Probe Earns Congressional Scrutiny in Wake of ‘Fast and Furious’

[Walking on the dark side, while pretending to be an agent of the Light (SEE:  US Special Forces Trained “Zeta” Cartel That Terrorises Mexico ).]

ATF Florida Gun Probe Earns Congressional Scrutiny in Wake of ‘Fast and Furious’

By 

FoxNews.com

Guns Colombia

Reuters

March 10, 2006: Paramilitary soldiers hold up weapons during a ceremony to surrender their guns in La Mesa, Colombia.

Several lawmakers are questioning the Obama administration about whether the controversial “Fast and Furious” gunrunning probe may have had a cousin in Florida that resulted in guns being trafficked to Central America.

Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., penned a letter Tuesday to Attorney General Eric Holder and ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson inquiring about a program known as “Operation Castaway.” Other top lawmakers are also starting to look into it, though ATF claims the program was above board and not similar to Operation Fast and Furious at all.

The Justice Department says Castaway was an anti-gun trafficking operation handled by an ATF division in Florida. It resulted last year in a slew of convictions for defendants the department claimed provided firearms linked to violent crimes around the world. But in light of questions surrounding the Fast and Furious probe out of ATF’s Phoenix division, Bilirakis questioned whether Castaway bore the same suspicious hallmarks.

Fast and Furious came under fire for allegedly allowing guns to “walk” across the Mexico border in an attempt to track their migration into cartel hands. Weapons tied to the program were found at the scene of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s murder last year.

Bilirakis expressed concern about reports that the strategy “may not have been limited to weapons trafficking to Mexico.”

He asked Holder and Melson whether “similar programs included the possible trafficking of arms to dangerous criminal gangs in Honduras with the knowledge of the ATF’s Tampa Field Division” and a Justice Department office, via Castaway.

Bilirakis’ letter specifically asked whether the Tampa division participated in a “gun walking” scheme allowing guns to go to Honduras. He also asked whether ATF or DOJ know if any of the firearms ended up in the hands of the “notorious” MS-13 gang — a violent gang spread across Central America, Mexico and the United States.

Court documents from the Operation Castaway takedown claim that at least five firearms from the illegal sales of the main suspect ended up later being connected to crimes, several in Puerto Rico. One pistol was recovered in Colombia after being used in a homicide.

But an ATF official told FoxNews.com that the investigation, which targeted Florida gun dealer Hugh Crumpler III, did not appear to be designed like Fast and Furious. Though Justice and ATF have not yet formally responded to Bilirakis, the official explained that ATF got involved in the Crumpler case after the fact, and was not using the investigation to track firearms sales across international lines.

“We became involved with Crumpler at the first opportunity of realizing that criminal activity was afoot,” the official said. “Once we were able to put our case together, establish probable cause … then at that point, we did so at the soonest opportunity to stop the illegal activity.”

The official noted that the case is “complete,” though two fugitives are still at large.

The 2010 plea agreement suggests ATF agents monitored him for just a few months before taking him in — it does not describe any long-term effort to track firearms outside U.S. borders.

The lengthy court document states that the ATF noticed Crumpler’s numerous purchases in a national firearms database — it turned out he was later selling them at gun shows. According to the plea agreement, the ATF had an undercover agent buy from Crumpler and later observed the suspect at several gun shows in late 2009, selling to numerous buyers without a license. At one point, he told an undercover agent that he knew the firearms were making their way to Honduras.

By early 2010, ATF agents were seizing guns sold by Crumpler and within weeks confronted him, putting a stop to the operation.

Despite ATF’s claims, the issue is starting to pop up on the radar screen of other lawmakers, including those leading the charge to find out more about Fast and Furious — Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

“Senator Grassley is looking into the allegations and trying to get some firsthand information from people involved,” Grassley spokeswoman Beth Levine told FoxNews.com.

Bilirakis apparently was alerted to Castaway by news reports, as well as calls received by his office.

An article on Examiner.com initially claimed the Tampa division was “walking guns” to Honduras in a way similar to Fast and Furious.

Bilirakis spokesman Creighton Welch said his boss saw the report, but also received “several calls from folks who I guess you could say were familiar with the situation in Tampa.”

He declined to go into further detail about where the tips were coming from.

“We’re placing a lot of firearms in potentially the wrong hands,” Welch said. “There are a lot of unanswered questions for a potentially very dangerous situation.”

Bilirakis was joined by Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., in writing a separate letter seeking similar answers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton.

“We find it extremely troubling that the United States government would willfully allow weapons to be acquired by dangerous criminal and drug trafficking organizations, in direct contravention of our strategic and national interests,” they wrote.

However, Crumpler’s attorney told The Tampa Tribune that ATF agents “closely monitored” his client’s activity, and he didn’t think the guns made their way to Latin American criminals during the course of the probe.

Was Karzai’s Killer a “Sleeper Agent,” and For Whom Did He Work?

[The man was a dedicated anti-Taliban leader, just like the man he killed.  "All of a sudden he changed."  He had worked with both US and British intelligence over the years, and now they are wondering if he had been some kind of "sleeper agent"?  Of course he was a sleeper agent, but not for the Taliban.  Word is, the US/NATO forces want to split Afghanistan to accommodate their grandiose plans.  It is said that his killing will benefit the Taliban.  We shall soon see.]

Ahmed Wali Karzai’s killer had been a Taliban foe

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The man who murdered President Hamid Karzai’s half brother spent years as an ally of the United States in the war against the Taliban.

The killer, Sardar Mohammad, a police commander, met on several occasions with U.S. and British military officials, shared intelligence with Americans and played a part in Afghan arrests of scores of Taliban fighters, according to three relatives interviewed on Thursday in his home near Kandahar.

The reasons behind the dramatic switch that turned the 35-year-old officer against Ahmed Wali Karzai, perhaps the most powerful figure in southern Afghanistan, are still not understood. But one of Karzai’s brothers and a senior Afghan official said they were now convinced that the Taliban somehow won Mohammad’s allegiance in recent months and convinced him to carry out an assassination on the group’s behalf.

The official said that investigators are trying to determine whether Mohammad was a long-term Taliban sleeper agent or just recently joined the insurgents. A NATO spokesman in Afghanistan referred questions about Karzai’s killing to Afghan authorities. 

Mahmood Karzai, one of the president’s brothers, said the family has learned since the assassination that Mohammad traveled to the Pakistani city of Quetta within the past three months to meet with Taliban insurgents. He had also acted erratically in recent weeks, sleeping poorly, changing houses at night, acting suspiciously toward his men and demanding to know who they were talking to on their phones.

“All of a sudden, he changed,”

Mahmood Karzai said in an interview Thursday. “This is the work of the Taliban.”

The senior Afghan official, interviewed separately, said he had heard about the Quetta visit but could not confirm its accuracy. He said Mohammad had attended a Pakistani madrassa in his youth before returning to Afghanistan. The senior official said that “the Taliban and the forces behind Taliban’’ were responsible for the killing.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the killing, and if it was indeed the group’s work, it would be one more example of the insurgents’ ability to attack even the most closely guarded targets. On Thursday, a man hid a bomb in his turban and killed four people at Ahmed Wali Karzai’s memorial service.

At Mohammad’s home, a relatively spacious concrete dwelling protected by military-style barriers — in a poor village of ancient-looking mud hovels — the police commander’s relatives adamantly denied that he would have worked on behalf of the Taliban. One of his brothers-in-law, Abdul Malik, said that Mohammad had not been in Pakistan for 20 years. On the walls of the sitting room are large photographs of Ahmed Wali Karzai and President Hamid Karzai, men he was devoted to, said his relatives.

“We were just like one family,” said one relative who declined to be named. “Until today, there wasn’t any dispute between us.”

A long history

Mohammad had known the Karzai family for many years and began working with Ahmed Wali Karzai, the leader of Kandahar’s provincial council, after the fall of the Taliban. Mohammad had been opposed to the Taliban’s regime because his village’s close proximity to the Karzai family’s ancestral home village down the road led the Taliban to harass them, according to relatives.