Understanding Health Care

January 14, 2012

Foreign Policy:

Buried deep in the archives of America’s intelligence services are a series of memos, written during the last years of President George W. Bush’s administration, that describe how Israeli Mossad officers recruited operatives belonging to the terrorist group Jundallah by passing themselves off as American agents. According to two U.S. intelligence officials, the Israelis, flush with American dollars and toting U.S. passports, posed as CIA officers in recruiting Jundallah operatives — what is commonly referred to as a “false flag” operation.

The memos, as described by the sources, one of whom has read them and another who is intimately familiar with the case, investigated and debunked reports from 2007 and 2008 accusing the CIA, at the direction of the White House, of covertly supporting Jundallah — a Pakistan-based Sunni extremist organization. Jundallah, according tothe U.S. government and published reports, is responsible for assassinating Iranian government officials and killing Iranian women and children.

But while the memos show that the United States had barred even the most incidental contact with Jundallah, according to both intelligence officers, the same was not true for Israel’s Mossad. The memos also detail CIA field reports saying that Israel’s recruiting activities occurred under the nose of U.S. intelligence officers, most notably in London, the capital of one of Israel’s ostensible allies, where Mossad officers posing as CIA operatives met with Jundallah officials.

The officials did not know whether the Israeli program to recruit and use Jundallah is ongoing. Nevertheless, they were stunned by the brazenness of the Mossad’s efforts.

“It’s amazing what the Israelis thought they could get away with,” the intelligence officer said. “Their recruitment activities were nearly in the open. They apparently didn’t give a damn what we thought.”

Interviews with six currently serving or recently retired intelligence officers over the last 18 months have helped to fill in the blanks of the Israeli false-flag operation. In addition to the two currently serving U.S. intelligence officers, the existence of the Israeli false-flag operation was confirmed to me by four retired intelligence officers who have served in the CIA or have monitored Israeli intelligence operations from senior positions inside the U.S. government.

The CIA and the White House were both asked for comment on this story. By the time this story went to press, they had not responded. The Israeli intelligence services — the Mossad — were also contacted, in writing and by telephone, but failed to respond. As a policy, Israel does not confirm or deny its involvement in intelligence operations.

There is no denying that there is a covert, bloody, and ongoing campaign aimed at stopping Iran’s nuclear program, though no evidence has emerged connecting recent acts of sabotage and killings inside Iran to Jundallah. Many reports have cited Israel as the architect of this covert campaign, which claimed its latest victim on Jan. 11 when a motorcyclist in Tehran slipped a magnetic explosive device under the car of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a young Iranian nuclear scientist. The explosion killed Roshan, making him the fourth scientist assassinated in the past two years. The United States adamantly denies it is behind these killings.

According to one retired CIA officer, information about the false-flag operation was reported up the U.S. intelligence chain of command. It reached CIA Director of Operations Stephen Kappes, his deputy Michael Sulick, and the head of the Counterintelligence Center. All three of these officials are now retired. The Counterintelligence Center, according to its website, is tasked with investigating “threats posed by foreign intelligence services.”

The report then made its way to the White House, according to the currently serving U.S. intelligence officer. The officer said that Bush “went absolutely ballistic” when briefed on its contents.

“The report sparked White House concerns that Israel’s program was putting Americans at risk,” the intelligence officer told me. “There’s no question that the U.S. has cooperated with Israel in intelligence-gathering operations against the Iranians, but this was different. No matter what anyone thinks, we’re not in the business of assassinating Iranian officials or killing Iranian civilians.”

Israel’s relationship with Jundallah continued to roil the Bush administration until the day it left office, this same intelligence officer noted. Israel’s activities jeopardized the administration’s fragile relationship with Pakistan, which was coming under intense pressure from Iran to crack down on Jundallah. It also undermined U.S. claims that it would never fight terror with terror, and invited attacks in kind on U.S. personnel.

“It’s easy to understand why Bush was so angry,” a former intelligence officer said. “After all, it’s hard to engage with a foreign government if they’re convinced you’re killing their people. Once you start doing that, they feel they can do the same.”

A senior administration official vowed to “take the gloves off” with Israel, according to a U.S. intelligence officer. But the United States did nothing — a result that the officer attributed to “political and bureaucratic inertia.”

“In the end,” the officer noted, “it was just easier to do nothing than to, you know, rock the boat.” Even so, at least for a short time, this same officer noted, the Mossad operation sparked a divisive debate among Bush’s national security team, pitting those who wondered “just whose side these guys [in Israel] are on” against those who argued that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

The debate over Jundallah was resolved only after Bush left office when, within his first weeks as president, Barack Obama drastically scaled back joint U.S.-Israel intelligence programs targeting Iran, according to multiple serving and retired officers….

Read it all.

The Chronicle of Higher Education:

It’s been a rotten few months for the nation’s wealthiest 1 percent. From the senatorial candidacy of Elizabeth Warren to Occupy Wall Street, economic elites have faced a concerted attack on their riches and power, their arrogant and unaccountable ways. And you can hear it in their voices, or at least the voices of their spokesmen. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor declared, “I, for one, am increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and the other cities across the country.” Mitt Romney told an audience in Florida that “I think it’s dangerous—this class warfare.” So rattled is George Will that he’s been forced to pull out a playbook from an older time. All but calling Warren a Communist, he accused the Oklahoma-born scholarship kid of believing that the government “is entitled to socialize—i.e., conscript—whatever portion” of an individual’s property “it considers its share.”

After decades of “compassionate conservatism,” “a thousand points of light,” and “Morning in America,” dark talk of class warfare on the right can seem like a strange throwback. So accustomed are we to the sunny Reagan and the populist Tea Party that we’ve forgotten a basic truth about conservatism: It is a reaction to democratic movements from below, movements like Occupy Wall Street that threaten to reorder society from the bottom up, redistributing power and resources from those who have much to those who have not so much. With the roar against the ruling classes growing ever louder, the right seems to be reverting to type. It thus behooves us to take a second look at the conservative tradition, not just its current incarnation but also across time, for that tradition provides us with an understanding of why the conservative responds to Occupy Wall Street as he does.

Since the modern era began, men and women in subordinate positions have marched against their superiors. They have gathered under different banners—the labor movement, feminism, abolition, socialism—and shouted different slogans: freedom, equality, democracy, revolution. In virtually every instance, their superiors have resisted them. That march and démarche of democracy is one of the main stories of modern politics. And it is the second half of that story, the démarche, that drives the development of ideas we call conservative. For that is what conservatism is: a meditation on, and theoretical rendition of, the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back.

Despite the very real differences among them, workers in a factory are like secretaries in an office, peasants on a manor, slaves on a plantation—even wives in a marriage—in that they live and labor in conditions of unequal power. They submit and obey, heeding the demands of their managers and masters, husbands and lords. Sometimes their lot is freely chosen—workers contract with their employers, wives with their husbands—but its entailments seldom are. What contract, after all, could ever itemize the ins and outs, the daily pains and continuing sufferance, of a job or a marriage? Throughout American history, in fact, the contract has served as a conduit to unforeseen coercion and constraint. Employment and marriage contracts have been interpreted by judges to contain all sorts of unwritten and unwanted provisions of servitude to which wives and workers tacitly consent, even when they have no knowledge of such provisions or wish to stipulate otherwise.

Until 1980, for example, it was legal in every state for a husband to rape his wife. The justification for this dates back to a 1736 treatise by the British jurist Matthew Hale. When a woman marries, he argued, she implicitly agrees to give “up herself in this kind [sexually] unto her husband.” Hers is a tacit, if unknowing, consent, “which she cannot retract” for the duration of their union. Having once said yes, she can never say no. As recently as 1957, a standard legal treatise could state, “A man does not commit rape by having sexual intercourse with his lawful wife, even if he does so by force and against her will.” If someone tried to write into the marriage contract a requirement that express consent had to be given in order for sex to proceed, judges were bound by common law to ignore or override it. Implicit consent was a structural feature of the contract that neither party could alter. Through that contract, women were doomed to be the sexual servants of their husbands.

Every once in a while, however, the subordinates of this world contest their fates. They protest their conditions, join movements, make demands. Their goals may be minimal and discrete, but in voicing them, they raise the specter of a more fundamental change in power. They cease to be servants or supplicants and become agents, speaking and acting on their own behalf. More than the reforms themselves, it is this assertion of agency that vexes their superiors.

American labor history is filled with complaints from employers and government officials that unionized workers are independent and self-organizing. Indeed, so potent is their self-organization that it threatens to render superfluous the employer and the state. During the Great Upheaval of 1877, striking railroad workers in St. Louis took to running the trains themselves. Fearful that the public might conclude the workers were capable of managing the railroad, the owners tried to stop them, starting a strike of their own in order to prove it was the owners, and only the owners, who could make the trains run on time. During the Seattle general strike of 1919, workers went to great lengths to provide basic government services, including law and order. So successful were they that the mayor concluded it was the workers’ ability to limit violence and anarchy that posed the greatest threat to the established order:

The so-called sympathetic Seattle strike was an attempted revolution. … True, there were no flashing guns, no bombs, no killings. Revolution, I repeat, doesn’t need violence. The general strike, as practiced in Seattle, is of itself the weapon of revolution, all the more dangerous because quiet. … That is to say, it puts the government out of operation.

Conservatism is the theoretical voice of this animus against the agency of the subordinate classes. It provides the most consistent and profound argument for why the lower orders should not be allowed to exercise their independent will, to govern themselves or the polity. Submission is their first duty; agency, the prerogative of elites. Such was the threat Edmund Burke saw in the French Revolution: not merely an expropriation of property or explosion of violence but an inversion of the obligations of deference and command. “The levelers,” he claimed, “only change and pervert the natural order of things.”…

Read it all.

Los Angeles Magazine:

That prized garage space or curbside spot you’ve been yearning for may be costing you—and the city—in ways you never realized. A journey into the world of parking, where meter maids are under siege, everybody’s on the take, and the tickets keep on coming.

Anyone scanning Disney Hall’s debut calendar in the fall of 2003 would have noticed the size of that first season’s schedule, 128 shows in all. That’s a weighty number for a new hall—one might have assumed it was chosen by venue management wanting the gravitas of a world-class chamber’s arrival or perhaps seeking a broad spectrum of music that could reflect the diverse city. Those guesses would have been wrong. Disney Hall had been built atop Parcel K, a county-owned square of land on Bunker Hill that long had sat empty, awaiting development. For decades Parcel K served a prosaic function: It was a parking lot. Commercial landowners like parking lots; they generate cash until better economic conditions arrive, and blank space can be converted into a more profitable moneymaking device—typically a building. The practice is called “land banking.”

Yet before an auditorium could be raised on K, a six-floor subterranean garage capable of holding 2,188 cars needed to be sunk below it at a cost of $110 million—money raised from county bonds. Parking spaces can be amazingly expensive to fabricate. In aboveground structures they cost as much as $40,000 apiece. Belowground, all that excavating and shoring may run a developer $140,000 per space. The debt on Disney Hall’s garage would have to be paid off for decades to come, and as it turned out, a minimum schedule of 128 annual shows would be enough to cover the bill. The figure “128” was even written into the L.A. Philharmonic’s lease. In 2003, Esa-Pekka Salonen opened Frank Gehry’s masterpiece to a packed house with Mahler’sResurrection, and in the years since, concertgoers—who lay out $9 to enter the garage—have steadily funded performances that exist to cover the true price of their parking.

Donald Shoup, a Yale-trained economist and former chair of UCLA’s Department of Urban Planning, loves telling this story. Gehry’s auditorium may be wonderful, says Shoup, but it is also a fine example of poor planning. The garage—designed to serve the public good—instantly made the Metro immaterial to concertgoers, placed several thousand cars on the road every week, and pumped a few hundred tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. Like any parking lot entrance, the one on Bunker Hill sucked air from street life. “L.A.,” says Shoup, “required 50 times more parking under Disney Hall than San Francisco would allow at their own hall.” Downtown already had an oversupply of garages and lots where music fans could leave their cars. “After a concert in San Francisco,” says Shoup, “the streets are full of people walking to their cars, eating in restaurants, stopping into bars and bookstores. In L.A.? The bar next door at Patina is a ghost town.” Receipts that should have gone to the philharmonic’s endowment instead are funding enough parking for nearly every ticket holder to park a car every night downtown.

L.A. has been a wellspring for a parking guru like Shoup to become self-realized. Our downtown contains more parking spaces per acre than any other city in the world and has been adding them at a rate of about 1,000 a year for a century. If you grew up here, the earliest and most essential phrase drilled into you by adults—“Remember, we’re in blue Mickey”—was uttered in a parking lot bigger than Disneyland itself. Angelenos can immediately recognize outsiders, lost souls seen wandering through parking garages with no memory of where the Corolla sits. We valet at Macy’s and at the dentist, at Christmas parties and Oscar shindigs: When Bob Shaye, head of New Line Cinema, threw a party to celebrate The Lord of the Rings in 2004, 900 cars showed up on his cul-de-sac. Shaye had the chaparral lot across the street paved to park them all. L.A. can claim the nation’s first LEED-certified parking garage (Santa Monica Civic Center), and we depend on other prized garages to plan our day’s pilgrimage—Santa Monica (2nd and Colorado, of course), Beverly Hills (Canon and Beverly), Pasadena (Fair Oaks and Green). We dream up complicated strategies to clinch the choicest spot at the curb, and we rely on parking reservations to get on the studio lot, parking passes when returning to our jobs, parking permits to grab a street spot on our streets, and an app to find a space when we go to court to pay a parking ticket.

In the United States hundreds of engineers make careers out of studying traffic. Entire freeway systems like L.A.’s have been hardwired with sensors connecting to computer banks that aggregate vehicle flow, monitor bottlenecks, explain congestion in complicated algorithms. Yet cars spend just 5 percent of their lives in motion, and until recently there was only one individual in the country devoting his academic career to studying parking lots and street meters: Donald Shoup.

Shoup is 73 years old. He drives a 1994 Infiniti but for the last three decades has steered a 1975 Raleigh bike two miles uphill daily in fair weather, from his home near the Mormon temple to the wooded highlands of UCLA’s north campus. He was born near one shore (Long Beach), grew up on a far shore (Hawaii), and resembles a 19th-century figure sketched by Melville. He has a mildly hectic complexion, a halo of silver hair that breaks over his small ears into a white froth of a beard, and brimstone eyes. This year Shoup’s 765-page book, The High Cost of Free Parking, was rereleased to zero acclaim outside of the transportation monthlies, parking blogs, and corridor beyond his office door in UCLA’s School of Public Affairs building. He wasn’t surprised—“There’s not even a name for what I do,” he says. Shoup, however, does not lack for acolytes. His followers call themselves Shoupistas, like Sandinistas, and on a Facebook page they leave posts suggesting parking meters for prostitutes and equations that quantify the contradiction between time spent cruising for free parking versus the “assumed time-value” cited to justify expanding roadways. (The hooker stuff is more interesting.)

After 36 years, Shoup’s writings—usually found in obscure journals—can be reduced to a single question: What if the free and abundant parking drivers crave is about the worst thing for the life of cities? That sounds like a prescription for having the door slammed in your face; Shoup knows this too well. Parking makes people nuts. “I truly believe that when men and women think about parking, their mental capacity reverts to the reptilian cortex of the brain,” he says. “How to get food, ritual display, territorial dominance—all these things are part of parking, and we’ve assigned it to the most primitive part of the brain that makes snap fight-or-flight decisions. Our mental capacities just bottom out when we talk about parking.”…

Read it all.

This image has been posted with express written permission. This cartoon was originally published at Town Hall.

This image has been posted with express written permission. This cartoon was originally published at Town Hall.

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