Friday, December 30, 2005

Letter To A Spook


Sam Smith

I don't know for sure that you're out there at all, but from what I read and hear there's a pretty good chance, so I thought I would pass this along.

You may be tapping my phone, scanning my e-mails and collating my other electronic ephemera, but you don't know me.

Any writer can tell you this: you don't reveal character or describe an individual by just dumpster diving for data. Your efforts are not only intrusive, they're ineffective as well.

An individual is a product of experiences, some of which - though influential - may have been lost to memory, some of which - though searing - may never be mentioned again, and some of which - though exhilarating - may lack the words to describe them.

You are eavesdropping only on my front to the world. If I am down, I try not to bring my friends down with me. If I am mad about some public act, I try not to bore my friends too much about it. If I am mad about some private act, I try for the calm and restraint I do not feel. If I am really happy, I often lack the words to express it well. And if I have been given something, I try for gratitude even though I have no idea what to do with the damn thing.

You do not know my dreams, my fears, my stupid excesses of doubt, or how I alternately rebel against, resent or am resigned to the entropy of aging. You do not know how sad I am about the world that the people you work for will leave my children and their children. You do not know that I do not like vinegar, have never read Joyce's "Ulysses," sometimes fall asleep while waiting my turn in a board game, never watch football, or that two of my uncles were killed in wartime service to our country. You do not know that my utopia would have, above all, no need for dentists as well having "This Land is My Land" as our national anthem.

If you were to really know me, you would need to hear hundreds of stories, visit hundreds of places, and meet hundreds of people. Only a few of them are listed on my credit cards.

But you are not only misinformed. You are also a thief. You are stealing my privacy, my civil liberties, my peace of mind, and the incalculable pleasure of not having to worry about what someone else is doing to you.

You are also a vandal. You are throwing rocks at the Constitution, scrawling graffiti on our national conscience, wrecking our reputation, and scratching the face of America.

And still you do not know me.

I don't know you either but I suspect you are earnest and were attracted to your dubious trade by its romantic and macho aura, recruited by the excitement of being a spy. Deceived by your employers, however, you have ended up just another technician in the dismantling of the First American Republic.

I believe you sincerely believe the contrary but I wonder about some things. For example, how many courses in American history did you take before embarking on this task? Did you ever read Benjamin Franklin's autobiography? Do you know who Thomas Paine was? What do you think Patrick Henry meant when he said, "Give me liberty or give me death?" Would you have tapped his phone, too?

And what about those who rebelled against the law to win rights for slaves, for women, for workers? Many of them broke the law. Were they bad Americans because they sought to become full Americans?

Do you know what the Palmer raids were? Do know why good Americans stood up to Joseph McCarthy? What did Woodrow Wilson mean when he told a group of new citizens "You have just taken an oath of allegiance to the United States. Of allegiance to whom? Of allegiance to no one, unless it be God. Certainly not of allegiance to those who temporarily represent this great government. You have taken an oath of allegiance to a great ideal, to a great body of principles, to a great hope of the human race." What are some of those principles? Did Wilson know what he was talking about or should he have been under surveillance, too?

If you have a hard time with these questions, maybe you're in the wrong business. You're judging people without knowing the rules of the game. You're determining who is a good American without knowing what that means. You're mistaking loyalty to the ambitions of a particular set of politicians at a particular moment as loyalty to a country, its land and its people.

But even though you are a thief and a vandal, and even though I suspect you don't know enough about America to judge me fairly, I'll make a deal with you.

You come out of your hole long enough to meet me someplace over a drink or over dinner. I'll tell you my stories and you tell me yours. No interrogation, no tape recorder, no probing into each other's private business. Just two Americans sitting and talking about what it means to them to be an American.

If you don't take this deal, I'll think of you not only as thief and vandal but as a coward as well.

If you do take this deal, you'll probably discover that we're both pretty good Americans, that you've been wasting your time, and that you may even want to find a new job.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The I-Word is Gaining Ground

In 1998, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, currently under indictment on corruption charges, proclaimed: "This nation sits at a crossroads. One direction points to the higher road of the rule of law...The other road is the path of least resistance" in which "we pitch the law completely overboard when the mood fits us...[and] close our eyes to the potential lawbreaking...and tear an unfixable hole in our legal system." That arbiter of moral politics was incensed about the possibility of Bill Clinton escaping unpunished for his "crimes."

Fast forward to December 2005. Not one official in the entire Bush Administration has been fired or indicted, not to mention impeached, for the shedding of American blood in Iraq or for the shredding of our Constitution at home. As Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter put it--hours after the New York Times reported that Bush had authorized NSA wiretapping of US citizens without judicial warrants--this President has committed a real transgression that "goes beyond sex, corruption and political intrigue to big issues like security versus liberty and the reasonable bounds of presidential power."

In the last months, several organizations, including AfterDowningStreet, Impeach Central and, have formed to urge Bush's impeachment. But until very recently, their views were virtually absent in the so-called "liberal" MSM, and could only be found on the Internet and in street protests.

But the times they are a' changin'. The I-word has moved from the marginal to the mainstream--although columnists like Charles "torture-is-fine-by-me" Krauthammer would like us to believe that "only the most brazen and reckless and partisan" could support the idea. In fact, as Michelle Goldberg reports in Salon, "in the past few days, impeachment "has become a topic of considered discussion among constitutional scholars and experts (including a few Republicans), former intelligence officers, and even a few politicians." Even a moderately liberal columnist like Newsweek's Alter sounds like The Nation, observing: "We're seeing clearly now that Bush thought 9/11 gave him license to act like a dictator."

As Editor & Publisher recently reported, the idea of impeaching Bush has entered the mainstream media's circulatory system--with each day producing more op-eds and articles on the subject. Joining the chorus on Christmas Eve, conservative business magazine Barron's published a lengthy editorial excoriating the president for committing a potentially impeachable offense. "If we don't discuss the program and lack of authority of it," wrote Barron's editorial page editor Thomas Donlan, "we are meeting the enemy--in the mirror."

Public opinion is also growing more comfortable with the idea of impeaching this president. A Zogby International poll conducted this summer found that 42 percent of Americans felt that impeaching Bush would be justified if it was shown that he had manipulated intelligence in going to war in Iraq. (John Zogby admitted that "it was much higher than I expected.") By November, the number of those who favored impeaching Bush stood at 53 percent--if it was in fact proven that Bush had lied about the basis for invading Iraq. (And these polls were taken before the revelations of Bush's domestic spying.)

For those interested in some of the most compelling charges against the president, I offer a brief summary:

* Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean argued in his aptly-named book Worse than Watergate that Bush's false statements about WMDs in Iraq--used to drum up support for an invasion--deceived the American people and Congress. This constituted "an impeachable offense," Dean told PBS' Bill Moyers in 2004. "I think the case is overwhelming that these people presented false information to the Congress and to the American people." Bush's actions were actually far worse than Watergate, Dean contends, because "no one died for Nixon's so-called Watergate abuses."

Lending credence to Dean's arguments, the Downing Street Memo revealed that Britain's MI-6 Director Richard Dearlove had told Tony Blair that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" by the Bush Administration. John Bonifaz, a Boston-based attorney and constitutional law expert, said that Bush seemingly "concealed important intelligence which he ought to have communicated," and "must certainly be punished for giving false information to the Senate." Bush deceived "the American people as to the basis for taking the nation into war against Iraq," Bonifaz argued--an impeachable offense.

* Rep. John Conyers argued as well that the president committed impeachable offenses" because he and senior administration officials "countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in Iraq" at Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere, including Guantanamo Bay and the now-notorious "black sites" around the world.

* The most compelling evidence of Bush's high crimes and misdemeanors is the revelation that he repeatedly authorized NSA spying on US citizens without obtaining the required warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court. Constitutional experts, politicians and ex-intelligence experts agree that Bush "committed a federal crime by wiretapping Americans." Rep. John Lewis--"the first major House figure to suggest impeaching Bush," said the AP--argued that the president "deliberately, systematically violated the law" in authorizing the wiretapping. Lewis added: "He is not King, he is president."

Meanwhile, Professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University School of Law--a specialist in surveillance law--told Knight Ridder that Bush's actions "violated federal law" and raised "serious constitutional questions of high crimes and misdemeanors." It is worth remembering that an abuse of power similar to Bush's NSA wiretapping decision was part of the impeachment charge brought against Richard Nixon in 1974. [This comparison was brought home in the ACLU's powerful full page ad in the NYT of December 22nd.]

There are many reasons why it is crucial that the Democrats regain control of Congress in '06, but consider this one: If they do, there may be articles of impeachment introduced and the estimable John Conyers, who has led the fight to defend our constitution, would become Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Wouldn't that be a truly just response to the real high crimes and misdemeanors that this lawbreaking president has so clearly committed?

A Time to Impeach

By Doug Ireland, Direland
Posted on December 20, 2005

When the U.S. Senate last Friday refused to renew the liberticidal Patriot Act -- with its provisions for spying on Americans' use of libraries and the Internet, among other Constitution-shredding provisions of that iniquitous law -- it was in part because that morning's New York Times had revealed how Bush and his White House had committed a major crime.

By ordering the National Security Agency -- the N.S.A, so secretive that in Washington its initials are said to stand for "No Such Agency" -- to wiretap and eavesdrop on thousands of American citizens without a court order, Bush committed actions specifically forbidden by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Passed in 1978 after the Senate's Church Committee documented in detail the Nixon administration's widespread use of U.S. intelligence agencies to spy on the anti-Vietnam war movement and other political dissidents, FISA "expressly made it a crime for government officials 'acting under color of law' to engage in electronic eavesdropping 'other than pursuant to statute.'", as the director of the Center for National Security Studies, Kate Martin, told the Washington Post this past weekend.

And the FISA statute required authorization of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to make such domestic spying legal. Bush and his NSA sought no such authorization before invading American citizens' right to privacy -- a blatant flouting of the law that made both wavering Democrats and libertarian Republicans mad enough to vote against extending the hideous Patriot Act, which thankfully will now expire at the end of the year.

Bush not only acknowledged, and defended, this illegal eavesdropping in a Saturday radio address, he went further in a Monday morning press conference, saying he'd "suggested" it. But as Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold -- who, together with conservative Idaho Republican Larry Craig, led the filibuster that defeated the Patriot Act's renewal -- said this weekend, "This is not how our democratic system of government works--the president does not get to pick and choose which laws he wants to follow."

But Bush had plenty of bipartisan help from Democratic co-conspirators in keeping knowledge of this illegal spying from reaching the American public. It began in November 2001, in the wake of 9/11, and -- from the very first briefing for Congressional leaders by Dick Cheney until today -- Democrats on the Senate and House Intelligence Committees were told about it. Those witting and complicit in hiding the crime included Democratic Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, former chairman and later ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, former ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee. They knew it was a crime -- Rockefeller, for example, warned the administration against it -- and yet did not make it public. They were frightened by polls showing security hysteria at its height.

Worse, the New York Times itself was part of the coverup. When it broke its scoop last Friday, the Times in its article admitted that, "After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted."

In other words, the Times sat on its story until after the 2004 presidential elections, when American voters might have been able to stop this criminal conduct by voting out the criminal. Not content with employing Judith Miller as the megaphone for relaying the Bush administration's lies about Saddam's having weapons of mass destruction, the Times again proved its servility to power by not telling its readers it knew of criminal spying on them for an entire year, until the election cycle was long past. Yet this aspect of the Times' story has gone unremarked in the mass media.

Bush's excuses for the illegal eavesdropping are indeed risible. The Times didn't mention it, but of 19,000 requests for eavesdropping the Federal Intelligence Security Court has received from the Executive Branch since 1979, only five have ever been refused. Bush claimed again on Monday that this flagrant flouting of the FISA law was necessary because fighting "terrorists" needed to be done "quickly." Yet, as the Times reported, the secret court can grant approval for wiretaps "within hours."

And the excuse Bush offered Monday morning that this illegal subversion of FISA was necessary to prevent 9/11-style terrorism is equally laughable. As the ACLU pointed out in a study of FISA two years ago, "Although the Patriot Act was rushed into law just weeks after 9/11, Congress's later investigation into the attacks did not find that the former limits on FISA powers had contributed to the government's failure to prevent the attacks."

A Zogby poll released Nov. 4 showed that, when asked if they agreed that, "If President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should consider holding him accountable through impeachment," Americans answered yes by 53 percent to 42 percent. It is therefore not simply extremist raving to suggest that impeachment of George Bush should be put on the table.

Remember that, in the impeachment of Richard Nixon, Article 2 of the three Articles of Impeachment dealt with illegal wiretapping of Americans. It said that Nixon committed a crime "by directing or authorizing [intelligence] agencies or personnel to conduct or continue electronic surveillance or other investigations for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office."

There was no national security justification for Bush's illegal NSA wiretaps -- which could easily have been instituted by following the FISA law's provisions -- and, instead of being related to "enforcement of laws," Bush's eavesdropping was indisputably in contravention of the law of the land.

And when a president commits a crime in violation of his oath of office swearing to uphold the law, it is time to impeach.

Doug Ireland writes the blog, Direland.


LISA ALCALAY KLUG, NY TIMES - A California jury on Thursday ordered Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, to pay $172 million in damages for failing to provide meal breaks to nearly 116,000 hourly workers as required under state law. . . The suit, filed on behalf of employees of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores in California, argued that the chain violated state law more than eight million times from Jan. 1, 2001, to May 6, 2005, said the plaintiffs' lawyer, Jessica Grant of the Furth Firm of San Francisco. California law requires that employers provide a meal break of 30 minutes for every five hours on the clock, Ms. Grant said. If the break is shorter than that, provided late or not at all, the employer must pay an hour's pay, she said. "What happened here is that Wal-Mart didn't make a single payment for 2001 and 2002 and only started paying in 2003 after we asked for permission to go forward as a class action," Ms. Grant said. Responding to the verdict, Wal-Mart issued a statement saying that it planned to appeal, that the decision was unique to California and that it had no bearing on any other state. Wal-Mart is facing similar cases in about 40 other states, Ms. Grant said.

Article from NYT...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Conyers Calls For Censure - I Second The Motion!

From Truthout

Editor's Note: Congressman John Conyers has introduced three resolutions that would censure President Bush and Vice President Cheney, and create a select committee to investigate the administration's possible crimes and make recommendations regarding grounds for impeachment. -- smg/TO

Resolution to Investigate

Resolution to Censure Bush

Resolution to Censure Cheney

Go to Original

Raising the Issue of Impeachment
By John Nichols
The Nation

Tuesday 20 December 2005

As President Bush and his aides scramble to explain new revelations regarding Bush's authorization of spying on the international telephone calls and emails of Americans, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, has begun a process that could lead to the censure, and perhaps the impeachment, of the president and vice president.

US Representative John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat who was a critical player in the Watergate and Iran-Contra investigations into presidential wrongdoing, has introduced a package of resolutions that would censure President Bush and Vice President Cheney and create a select committee to investigate the Administration's possible crimes and make recommendations regarding grounds for impeachment.

The Conyers resolutions add a significant new twist to the debate about how to hold the administration to account. Members of Congress have become increasingly aggressive in the criticism of the White House, with US Senator Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, saying Monday, "Americans have been stunned at the recent news of the abuses of power by an overzealous President. It has become apparent that this Administration has engaged in a consistent and unrelenting pattern of abuse against our Country's law-abiding citizens, and against our Constitution." Even Republicans, including Senate Judiciary Committee chair Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, are talking for the first time about mounting potentially serious investigations into abuses of power by the president.

But Conyers is seeking to do much more than schedule a committee hearing, or even launch a formal inquiry. He is proposing that the Congress use all of the powers that are available to it to hold the president and vice president to account - up to and including the power to impeach the holders of the nation's most powerful positions and to remove them from office.

The first of the three resolutions introduced by Conyers, H.Res.635, asks that the Congress establish a select committee to investigate whether members of the administration made moves to invade Iraq before receiving congressional authorization, manipulated pre-war intelligence, encouraged the use of torture in Iraq and elsewhere, and used their positions to retaliate against critics of the war.

The select committee would be asked to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment of Bush and Cheney.

The second resolution, H.Res.636, asks that the Congress to censure the president "for failing to respond to requests for information concerning allegations that he and others in his Administration misled Congress and the American people regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq, misstated and manipulated intelligence information regarding the justification for the war, countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of persons in Iraq, and permitted inappropriate retaliation against critics of his Administration, for failing to adequately account for specific misstatements he made regarding the war, and for failing to comply with Executive Order 12958." (Executive Order 12958, issued in 1995 by former President Bill Clinton, seeks to promote openness in government by prescribing a uniform system for classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information.)

A third resolution, H.Res.637, would censure Cheney for a similar set of complaints.

"The people of this country are waking up to the severity of the lies, crimes, and abuses of power committed by this president and his administration," says Jon Bonifaz, a co-founder of the coalition, an alliance of more than100 grassroots groups that has detailed Bush administration wrongdoing and encouraged a Congressional response. Bonifaz, an attorney and the author of the book, Warrior King: The Case for Impeaching George Bush (Nation Books), argues that, "Now is the time to return to the rule of law and to hold those who have defied the Constitution accountable for their actions."

Bonifaz is right. But it is unlikely that the effort to censure Bush and Cheney, let alone impeach them, will get far without significant organizing around the country. After all, the House is controlled by allies of the president who have displayed no inclination to hold him to account. Indeed, only a few Democrats, such as Conyers, have taken seriously the Constitutional issues raised by the administration's misdeeds.

Members of Congress in both parties will need to feel a lot of heat if these important measures are going to get much traction in this Congress.

The grassroots group Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), which has had a good deal of success organizing activists who want the Democrats to take a more aggressive stance in challenging the administration, will play a critical role in the effort to mobilize support for the Conyers resolutions, as part of a new Censure Bush Coalition campaign. (The campaign's website can be found at

PDA director Tim Carpenter says his group plans to "mobilize and organize a broad base coalition that will demand action from Congress to investigate the lies of the Bush administration and their conduct related to the war in Iraq."

Getting this Congress to get serious about maintaining checks and balances on the Bush administration will be a daunting task. But the recent revelations regarding domestic spying will make it easier. There are a lot of Americans who share the view of US Senator Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, that Bush and Cheney have exceeded their authority. As Feingold says of Bush, "He is the president, not a king."

It was the bitter experience of dealing with King George III led the founders of this country to write a Constitution that empowers Congress to hold presidents and vice accountable for their actions.

It is this power that John Conyers, the senior member of the House committee charged with maintaining the system of checks and balances established by those founders, is now asking the Congress to employ in the service of the nation that Constitution still governs.


Why the Times published the spy story now

By Evan Derkacz
Posted on December 21, 2005

The disappointment continues, one after another after another at the New York Times. You have this incredible institution filled with bottomless talent, connections, history, and dedication, yet due to what looks suspiciously similar to institutional cowardice the paper insists on letting its reputation just hang in the breeze.

Not only did the paper of record cave in and neglect to record Bush's illegal spying (before the election no less) but its explanations are looking increasingly unconvincing.

Here's Times editor Bill Keller's explanation:

"the administration argued strongly that writing about this eavesdropping program would give terrorists clues about the vulnerability of their communications... Officials also assured senior editors of the Times that a variety of legal checks had been imposed..."

Gabriel Sherman disagrees, noting that the Times' own James Risen was due to release his book on the subject next month:

"Mr. Risen returned from his book leave in June of 2005. He soon began agitating to revive the wiretapping piece and get it into the paper, according to bureau sources."

"According to multiple Times sources, the decision to move forward with the story was accelerated by the forthcoming publication of Mr. Risen’s book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration."

Worried about getting scooped (again; see Judith Miller's incarceration and subsequent song singing), the paper decided to let Risen write the story for the paper. How generous.

Risen, Sherman reports, has been badgering the eds to abandon their ninny status on a number of issues over the years including, coincidentally enough, Judith Miller's wish-fulfillment reporting on WMD. If there's an award for fixing the system from the inside out, I nominate James Risen.

Evan Derkacz is a New York-based writer and contributor to AlterNet

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Only Corporate Media Story That I Could Find Siding With The Screwed Transit Workers...

MICHAEL POWELL AND MICHELLE GARCIA, WASHINGTON POST - As the 34,000-member Transport Workers Union edged closer to a strike that would close the nation's largest bus-and-subway system, many conductors and track workers, token booth clerks and bus drivers have spoken with a voice seldom heard these days in New York. This city tends to be viewed through the gold-leafed windows of Manhattan and brownstone Brooklyn, where the median income is twice that of the rest of the city and jobs come with white collars, where three-bedroom apartments sell for more than $1 million and several dozen restaurants open each month.

As Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, himself a billionaire, put it a few years back, New York is a luxury item -- and residents, he suggested, happily pay for the pleasure of living here. But the transit workers' voice is that of median-income New Yorkers, the millions who make $40,000 to $60,000 a year and who are ever more hard-pressed. Middle-class incomes in New York, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute, a labor-funded group, have declined by 11.9 percent relative to inflation in the past 13 years.

By contrast, incomes for the top-fifth of New York earners have increased by 26 percent. Inflation runs close to 5 percent in the city, and housing prices have shot up 85 percent. Few middle- and working-class families can afford to buy a home or apartment, even in the most far-flung neighborhoods. . .

In New York, once a bastion of unionized labor, only 55 percent of private-sector workers receive health benefits, a figure that is lower than the national average. . .

The Transport Workers Union, whose militant roots reach back into the Irish and Italian migrations of the early 20th century, is a tough adversary. To speak of labor-management dialogue has often been an oxymoron; labor negotiations and strikes are approached as set battles. When a judge jailed transit union leader Mike Quill during a 1966 strike (it is illegal for public employees to strike in New York state), Quill responded: "The judge can drop dead in his black robes. I don't care if I rot in jail."

Quote of the Day

"One of the basic troubles with radio and television news is that both instruments have grown up as an incompatible combination of show business, advertising and news. Each of the three is a rather bizarre and demanding profession. And when you get all three under one roof, the dust never settles. The top management of the networks with a few notable exceptions, has been trained in advertising, research, sales or show business. But by the nature of the corporate structure, they also make the final and crucial decisions having to do with news and public affairs. Frequently they have neither the time nor the competence to do this. It is not easy for the same small group of men to decide whether to buy a new station for millions of dollars, build a new building, alter the rate card, buy a new Western, sell a soap opera, decide what defensive line to take in connection with the latest Congressional inquiry, how much money to spend on promoting a new program, what additions or deletions should be made in the existing covey or clutch of vice-presidents, and at the same time-- frequently on the same long day--to give mature, thoughtful consideration to the manifold problems that confront those who are charged with the responsibility for news and public affairs."
-- Edward R. Murrow, 1958


GOOD MORNING IMAD, I was looking at your resume and I have a job that I think you might be interested in. I'm looking for translator for the Arabic language, the job is in Iraq you will be translating for the US army. We are offering a great salary ($150,000.00 - $ 158,000.00 subject to change) plus benefits. If you are interested in this position please let me know. Also please feel free to forward my information to any friends or family that may be interested in this position. Thank you.

[A job description followed]

DEAR MR. IRFAN: Thank you for contacting me regarding the Arabic Linguist With Secret Clearance For Iraq job. Your offer of $150,000.00 - $158,000.00 is obviously tempting, but unfortunately I must decline. For one thing, I do not enjoy participating in the torture of other human beings. . . Judging from the kind of salary you are offering, I must conclude that it is desperation time now for the war mongers at the Pentagon. Did the Pentagon suddenly realize that it needs some basic mode of communication with the Iraqis other than the bullets and the bombs? For most tax payers in the US, taxes are not meant to be squandered on useless wars.

I would like to offer you now a job that is enormously rewarding on the personal level, but does not pay any money. The title is "Peace Advocate." If you are interested in this position, please let me know. Also, please feel free to forward my information to any friends and colleagues at Calnet Inc. Here are the job requirements. . .

I am eager for your reply.

CALNET: Calnet is dedicated to providing specialized experienced professionals to the intelligence community to meet specific agency goals, or all source fusion analysts that can fill a variety of roles.

CALNET's intelligence professionals are involved in all steps of the intelligence cycle, from planning and direction, to collection, processing, production, and dissemination. Calnet is proud to provide support to our National agencies to achieve our nation's goals in the global war on terror, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, or what ever role our great nation calls on us to support.

Monday, December 19, 2005

You're Not a Traitor Are You?

From Factesque

Only a Traitor Wouldn't Trust Dear Leader to Keep Us Safe. You're Not a Traitor Are You?

How lovely. The networks give BushCo prime time on a Sunday night to sing another chorus of Stay the Course. Whenever BushCo makes a major speech, I like to remind myself of Dr. Reanna Brooks' analysis of Dear Leader's speaking style, which she, in "A Nation of Victims," describes as "abusive." From the article:

President Bush, like many dominant personality types, uses dependency-creating language. He employs language of contempt and intimidation to shame others into submission and desperate admiration. While we tend to think of the dominator as using physical force, in fact most dominators use verbal abuse to control others.

A key trick is "personalization":

... By personalization I mean localizing the attention of the listener on the speaker's personality. Bush projects himself as the only person capable of producing results. In his post-9/11 speech to Congress he said, "I will not forget this wound to our country or those who inflicted it. I will not yield; I will not rest; I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people." He substitutes his determination for that of the nation's. In the 2003 State of the Union speech he vowed, "I will defend the freedom and security of the American people." Contrast Bush's "I will not yield" etc. with John F. Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

Here's BushCo from tonight during a particularly long stretch, which comes at the end like a crescendoing coda and even opens with some good old fashioned dolchsto├člegende for good measure:

I also want to speak to those of you who did not support my decision to send troops to Iraq: I have heard your disagreement, and I know how deeply it is felt. Yet now there are only two options before our country – victory or defeat. And the need for victory is larger than any president or political party, because the security of our people is in the balance. I do not expect you to support everything I do, but tonight I have a request: Do not give in to despair, and do not give up on this fight for freedom.

Shorter version: "The only thing we have to fear is dissent because verily without it all things are possible. I'm telling you nicely, you people are well-meaning traitors who seek to undermine freedom around the world and you'd better just shut the fuck up before we make you shut the fuck up." He probably should have been positioned on a balcony surrounded by armed soldiers and clergy members instead of behind a desk for that part to have its full effect but he works with what he has. Now here's the big finish. Count the personal pronouns.

Americans can expect some things of me as well. My most solemn responsibility is to protect our Nation, and that requires me to make some tough decisions. I see the consequences of those decisions when I meet wounded servicemen and women who cannot leave their hospital beds, but summon the strength to look me in the eye and say they would do it all over again. I see the consequences when I talk to parents who miss a child so much – but tell me he loved being a soldier … he believed in his mission … and Mr. President, finish the job.

I know that some of my decisions have led to terrible loss – and not one of those decisions has been taken lightly. I know this war is controversial – yet being your President requires doing what I believe is right and accepting the consequences. And I have never been more certain that America’s actions in Iraq are essential to the security of our citizens, and will lay the foundation of peace for our children and grandchildren.

It's good to be king.

Another aspect of BushCo's style, which Brooks notes, is the constant use of empty language - statements so broad or abstract that they are impossible to refute. There was plenty of that tonight ("to give Iraqis confidence that a free life will be a better life"; "Mr. President, finish the job."; "For every scene of destruction in Iraq, there are more scenes of rebuilding and hope. For every life lost, there are countless more lives reclaimed.") You can't drop a pencil without hitting another empty phrase. If you object to any one of them, you run the risk of being labelled a partisan defeatist, as Dear Leader warned us. So in the interest of not being chased by my torch-wielding neighbors, I'll move on to Brooks' third aspect of BushCoSpeak: pounding home a negative framework which leads to learned helplessness. Here's Brooks:

Psychologist Martin Seligman, in his extensive studies of "learned helplessness," showed that people's motivation to respond to outside threats and problems is undermined by a belief that they have no control over their environment. Learned helplessness is exacerbated by beliefs that problems caused by negative events are permanent; and when the underlying causes are perceived to apply to many other events, the condition becomes pervasive and paralyzing.

Bush is a master at inducing learned helplessness in the electorate. He uses pessimistic language that creates fear and disables people from feeling they can solve their problems. In his September 20, 2001, speech to Congress on the 9/11 attacks, he chose to increase people's sense of vulnerability: "Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen.... I ask you to live your lives, and hug your children. I know many citizens have fears tonight.... Be calm and resolute, even in the face of a continuing threat." (Subsequent terror alerts by the FBI, CIA and Department of Homeland Security have maintained and expanded this fear of unknown, sinister enemies.)

Here's some of BushCo from tonight:

If you think the terrorists would become peaceful if only America would stop provoking them, then it might make sense to leave them alone.

This is not the threat I see. I see a global terrorist movement that exploits Islam in the service of radical political aims – a vision in which books are burned, and women are oppressed, and all dissent is crushed. Terrorist operatives conduct their campaign of murder with a set of declared and specific goals – to de-moralize free nations … to drive us out of the Middle East … to spread an empire of fear across that region … and to wage a perpetual war against America and our friends. These terrorists view the world as a giant battlefield – and they seek to attack us wherever they can. This has attracted al Qaida to Iraq, where they are attempting to frighten and intimidate America into a policy of retreat.

The terrorists do not merely object to American actions in Iraq and elsewhere – they object to our deepest values and our way of life. And if we were not fighting them in Iraq … in Afghanistan … in Southeast Asia … and in other places, the terrorists would not be peaceful citizens – they would be on the offense, and headed our way.

September 11th, 2001 required us to take every emerging threat to our country seriously, and it shattered the illusion that terrorists attack us only after we provoke them. On that day, we were not in Iraq … we were not in Afghanistan … but the terrorists attacked us anyway – and killed nearly 3,000 men, women, and children in our own country.

Then he outlines his three-part plan for total victory. It's filled with dishonest numbers and empty language like, "'Another voter was asked, 'Are you Sunni or Shia?' He responded, 'I am Iraqi.'" and "our Coalition will remain on the offense – finding and clearing out the enemy." It isn't long before he's back reminding us of why we must believe in that miracle plan or failing that, at least shut up: it's because our lives depend on it him. By the way, this next paragraph hits the abusive language trifecta. See if you can find an example of each technique.

It is also important for every American to understand the consequences of pulling out of Iraq before our work is done. We would abandon our Iraqi friends – and signal to the world that America cannot be trusted to keep its word. We would undermine the morale of our troops – by betraying the cause for which they have sacrificed. We would cause tyrants in the Middle East to laugh at our failed resolve, and tighten their repressive grip. We would hand Iraq over to enemies who have pledged to attack us – and the global terrorist movement would be emboldened and more dangerous than ever before. To retreat before victory would be an act of recklessness and dishonor … and I will not allow it.

We are, indeed, helpless to resist. So relax kids, if you do exactly as Drunk Daddy says and if you shut up so he can concentrate on keeping us safe from all the secret, dangerous things that only he can see and keep us safe from, he won't let the terrorists attack us in broad daylight in two cities leading to the deaths of 3,000 innocent people. Again.

Related: Before the speech Timmah helpfully announced the WH line that BushCo would not be addressing the "eavesdropping" that violated federal law and the Constitution. Then we heard this:

Americans can expect some things of me as well. My most solemn responsibility is to protect our Nation, and that requires me to make some tough decisions.

If anyone thought that that line didn't address the "eavesdropping" unpleasantness, they're probably working for the corporate media.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

HK Police Tear Gas WTO Protesters, Detain 900

By John Ruwitch and Tan Ee LynSat Dec 17, 2:43 PM ET

Hong Kong police fought running street battles and fired volleys of tear gas on Saturday to repel hundreds of protesters trying to force their way into a building where world trade ministers were meeting.

Seventy-four people were injured in the fighting, including 12 police officers, the government said. Most of the injuries were minor and most of the injured were South Korean farmers and workers who say free trade is ruining them.

"The protesters got very close to the building, they were standing just across the street," a Reuters reporter said.

"They made several advances on police but pulled back a block or so after tear gas was used."

The clashes were the heaviest since the six-day World Trade Organization meeting began on Tuesday and the worst violence in Hong Kong since protests following China's bloody crackdown on democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989.

But the fighting was less intense than that which marred the 1999 WTO conference in Seattle, which was the scene of huge and violent demonstrations against trade globalisation.

Nine hundred protesters were rounded up on one road in the area, Police Commissioner Dick Lee told a late-night news conference. Asked if they would be arrested, he said: "they will be handled according to the law."

"At the moment, the majority of areas in Wanchai are under control," Lee said. "Police will be taking all necessary action to restore order. We are fully confident the venue (trade meeting) can proceed as normal."

Some 1,000 protesters were involved in various street battles, facing off against twice as many police, Lee said.

Inside the convention center, trade ministers were locked in talks into the night, trying to find an elusive world trade deal which critics say will hurt the world's poor. Journalists, delegates and policemen crowded round TV monitors watching the brawls outside.

Police said they had not yet decided whether another large demonstration scheduled for Sunday would be allowed to proceed.

At one point on Saturday, protesters seized metal barricades and used them as battering rams against the police, but police lines held and reinforcements pushed the protesters back.


Police fired numerous volleys of tear gas in the area near the building, Reuters correspondents said, and television showed officers bringing up what appeared to be armoured vehicles.

European and Japanese delegates were taken to the harbourfront center by boat for late-night meetings as fighting raged.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, was returned to China in 1997. Lee said police had not asked the local Chinese army garrison for help and China's official Xinhua news agency ran only a short story saying order would be restored.

Protesters wielding bamboo sticks and iron poles began storming heavily fortified police lines in late afternoon, breaking through ranks of police who used pepper spray, batons and blasts of water from fire hoses to try to beat them back.

Some demonstrators put plastic wrap around their eyes while others donned goggles and surgical masks to protect themselves from the irritating spray.

Police sealed off large parts of the crowded Wanchai entertainment and office district and closed a nearby subway station to prevent protesters from moving around the area.

Early on Sunday morning, some seven hours after the fighting began, police moved in and started rounding up the last several hundred protesters who had been staging a sit-in in the area.

"We love Hong Kong," some of the demonstrators chanted as wary police encircled the group. "Down, down WTO."

Policewomen were the first to wade into the crowd, dragging some female protesters away one by one and packing them into police buses as remaining demonstrators started singing protest songs. Others walked quietly to the buses escorted by police.

It was not clear where the protesters were being taken. Earlier, police had told them they were under arrest.

Thousands of protesters from numerous anti-globalisation groups had taken to the streets in the early afternoon, handing pink and yellow roses to police officers manning barricades and releasing yellow balloons printed with "No, no WTO."

As numbers swelled, they began to push against police and probe their defences.

An estimated 10,000 anti-globalisation protesters converged on Hong Kong for the trade meeting, including about 2,000 South Korean farmers, workers and unionists, who have a reputation as the most militant anti-globalisation group in Asia.

(Additional reporting by Dominic Lau, Wendy Lim, John Chalmers, Nao Nakanishi, Susan Fenton, Alison Leung, Dominic Whiting and Chris Buckley)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

At FBI, Frustration Over Limits on an Antiterror Law

At FBI, Frustration Over Limits on an Antiterror Law
By Eric Lichtblau
The New York Times

Sunday 11 December 2005

"While radical militant librarians kick us around, true terrorists benefit from Office of Intelligence Policy and Review's failure to let us use the tools given to us"

Washington - Some agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been frustrated by what they see as the Justice Department's reluctance to let them demand records and to use other far-ranging investigative measures in terrorism cases, newly disclosed e-mail messages and internal documents show.

Publicly, the debate over the law known as the USA Patriot Act has focused on concerns from civil rights advocates that the F.B.I. has gained too much power to use expanded investigative tools to go on what could amount to fishing expeditions.

But the newly disclosed e-mail messages offer a competing view, showing that, privately, some F.B.I. agents have felt hamstrung by their inability to get approval for using new powers under the Patriot Act, which was passed weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

One internal F.B.I. message, sent in October 2003, criticized the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review at the Justice Department, which reviews and approves terrorist warrants, as regularly blocking requests from the F.B.I. to use a section of the antiterrorism law that gave the bureau broader authority to demand records from institutions like banks, Internet providers and libraries.

"While radical militant librarians kick us around, true terrorists benefit from OIPR's failure to let us use the tools given to us," read the e-mail message, which was sent by an unidentified F.B.I. official. "This should be an OIPR priority!!!"

The bureau turned the e-mail messages over to the Electronic Privacy Information Center as part of a lawsuit brought by the group under the Freedom of Information Act, seeking material on the F.B.I.'s use of anti-terrorism powers. The group provided the material to The New York Times.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

BushCo Calls 'Em Like He Sees 'Em!


DOUG THOMPSON, CAPITOL HILL BLUE - Last month, Republican Congressional leaders filed into the Oval Office to meet with President George W. Bush and talk about renewing the controversial USA Patriot Act. Several provisions of the act, passed in the shell shocked period immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, caused enough anger that liberal groups like the American Civil Liberties Union had joined forces with prominent conservatives like Phyllis Schlafly and Bob Barr to oppose renewal.

GOP leaders told Bush that his hardcore push to renew the more onerous provisions of the act could further alienate conservatives still mad at the President from his botched attempt to nominate White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

"I don't give a goddamn," Bush retorted. "I'm the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way."

"Mr. President," one aide in the meeting said. "There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution."

"Stop throwing the Constitution in my face," Bush screamed back. "It's just a goddamned piece of paper."

I've talked to three people present for the meeting that day and they all confirm that the President of the United States called the Constitution "a goddamned piece of paper.". . .


Monday, December 12, 2005


...has adopted instant runoff voting for its own

"Power to the People"

The Lost John Lennon Interview


Editors' Note: It was twenty-five years ago today that John Lennon was murdered outside the Dakota building on Central Park West in New York City. We doubt many CounterPunchers have read the following 1971 interview with Lennon done by CounterPunchers Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn. It's a lot more interesting that the interminable Q and A with Lennon done by Rolling Stone's Jann Wenner. Tariq and Robin allowed Lennon to talk and spurred him on when he showed signs of flagging. Lennon recounts about how he and George Harrison bucked their handlers and went on record against the Vietnam War, discusses class politics in an engaging manner, defends country and western music and the blues, suggests Dylan's best songs stem from revolutionary Irish and Scottish ballads and dissects his three versions of "Revolution". The interview ran in The Red Mole, a Trotskyist sheet put out by the British arm of the Fourth International. As you'll see, those were different days. The interview is included in Tariq Ali's Streetfighting Years, recently published by Verso. AC / JSC

Tariq Ali: Your latest record and your recent public statements, especially the interviews in Rolling Stone magazine, suggest that your views are becoming increasingly radical and political. When did this start to happen?

John Lennon: I've always been politically minded, you know, and against the status quo. It's pretty basic when you're brought up, like I was, to hate and fear the police as a natural enemy and to despise the army as something that takes everybody away and leaves them dead somewhere.

I mean, it's just a basic working class thing, though it begins to wear off when you get older, get a family and get swallowed up in the system.

In my case I've never not been political, though religion tended to overshadow it in my acid days; that would be around '65 or '66. And that religion was directly the result of all that superstar shit--religion was an outlet for my repression. I thought, 'Well, there's something else to life, isn't there? This isn't it, surely?'

But I was always political in a way, you know. In the two books I wrote, even though they were written in a sort of Joycean gobbledegook, there's many knocks at religion and there is a play about a worker and a capitalist. I've been satirising the system since my childhood. I used to write magazines in school and hand them around.

I was very conscious of class, they would say with a chip on my shoulder, because I knew what happened to me and I knew about the class repression coming down on us--it was a fucking fact but in the hurricane Beatle world it got left out, I got farther away from reality for a time.

TA: What did you think was the reason for the success of your sort of music?

JL: Well, at the time it was thought that the workers had broken through, but I realise in retrospect that it's the same phoney deal they gave the blacks, it was just like they allowed blacks to be runners or boxers or entertainers. That's the choice they allow you--now the outlet is being a pop star, which is really what I'm saying on the album in 'Working class hero'. As I told Rolling Stone, it's the same people who have the power, the class system didn't change one little bit.

Read On...


AUDREY HUDSON, WASHINGTON TIMES - Nearly 30,000 airline passengers in the past year asked the Homeland Security Department to remove their names from terrorist watch lists, and all but about 60 were successful, Transportation Security Administration officials said. None of the passengers listed was ever prevented from flying, but some were selected for additional screening ranging from questioning to strip searches, Transportation Security Administration officials said. "That number reflects the number of passengers that TSA has been able to provide relief to, whose names were the same or similar to those who actually appear on the no-flight or selectee list," said Yolanda Clark, chief spokeswoman for the TSA, an agency within the Homeland Security Department. Marcia Hofmann, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center's open-government project, said the number of passengers asking to be delisted is "greater than anybody anticipated," and shows "the watch-list process doesn't work the way it is supposed to."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Britain's top court bans "torture evidence"

Thu Dec 8, 2005 12:43 PM ET
By Michael Holden
Article here...

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's highest court ruled on Thursday that information obtained using torture anywhere in the world was unacceptable as evidence in the British judicial system.

Human rights groups said the ruling sent a clear signal to governments around the globe, who are wrestling with accusations they have benefited from information obtained by torture.

The decision by the House of Lords comes a day after the United States explicitly banned its interrogators from treating detainees inhumanely.

The issue has plagued U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on a European trip during which she has tried to convince skeptics Washington does not torture detainees despite reports of secret CIA prisons in East European countries and the covert transportation of prisoners.

The eight defendants at the heart of the case say they were held by British authorities on the basis of evidence extracted using torture in U.S. prison camps such as Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

"Torture is an unqualified evil. It can never be justified. Rather it must always be punished," said Lord Brown, one of seven Law Lords asked to rule on the issue.

The government said it did not condone torture, but that the burden to demonstrate that evidence used against them had been obtained by torture would be placed upon defendants.

The director of human rights group Liberty, Shami Chakbrabati, said Thursday's ruling sent a clear signal around the world and Amnesty International called it "momentous".

"This ruling shreds any vestige of legality with which the UK government had attempted to defend a completely unlawful and reprehensible policy," rights group Amnesty International said.


The British government had argued that its secretive Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) needed to consider all information, no matter how it was obtained, to be able to decide whether terrorism suspects were a threat to national security.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke said the government did not condone torture and said the ruling would not affect its attempts to fight terrorism.

"The majority of their lordships have ruled that evidence should be admitted to SIAC hearings unless those acting for terrorism suspects can establish ... that the evidence was obtained by torture," Clarke said.

The Law Lords overthrew an earlier ruling by Britain's Appeal Court in 2004 that secret tribunals hearing cases relating to the terrorism suspects could consider evidence that would not be acceptable in a British criminal court trial.

That meant British authorities could consider information that might have been extracted using torture in another country, provided British agents were not directly involved.

Clarke said the verdict would have no effect on appeals to SIAC by some of the suspects detained in the wake of the July 7 attacks on London which killed 52 people.

The men are being held prior to being deported on the grounds they pose a threat to national security although they argue they face being tortured in their homelands.

The cases include that of Jordanian cleric Abu Qatada who is accused of being the inspiration for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

The Appeal Court's original decision related to the case of 10 foreigners held without charge by Britain under a now defunct security law which allowed police to detain terrorism suspects if there were "reasonable grounds" to think they were a threat.

The court ruled torture evidence could be considered by SIAC, arguing the September 11 attacks justified such a stance.

Two of the 10 have since left Britain, but the eight suspects remaining challenged the verdict.

Politics or Not, Bronx Warmly Receives Venezuelan Heating Oil

By Michelle Garcia
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 8, 2005

NEW YORK -- A green Citgo tanker truck chugged up a hill with a grim view of tenement buildings, elevated subways and treeless sidewalks to deliver Venezuelan heating oil, a "humanitarian" gift from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Moments before the orange-gloved worker snaked the hose to a Bronx tenement, Eartha Ferguson, a manager and resident of a low-income building, said: "I call it a gift of survival. It comes at a good time, a very needed time."

Chavez's gift, which arrived on Tuesday and is being distributed this week, may be nothing more than a chance to tweak the nose of the Bush administration, which has long opposed the South American leader. But few residents in the South Bronx, where 41 percent live on incomes below the federal poverty line, are inclined to worry about international politics.

Citgo Petroleum Corp., which is controlled by the Venezuelan government, signed a deal with three Bronx housing nonprofits to sell 5 million gallons of heating oil at 45 percent below the market rate, an estimated savings of $4 million. The discounted oil will heat 75 Bronx apartment buildings, housing 8,000 low-income working poor and elderly tenants.

Officials with Mount Hope Housing Co., Fordham Bedford Housing Corp. and VIP Community Services -- which have organized tenants and rehabilitated low-income apartments for several decades -- say savings from the cheap oil will allow them to reduce rents temporarily and invest in neighborhood social programs.

"A lot of families are struggling," said Lenice Footman, who hopes her $600 monthly rent will be reduced. Neighbor Dionne Morales agreed, saying she is overlooking the criticism directed at Chavez. "If he can give oil to my country and help the lives of my community, I'm impressed," she said.

Chavez has sold the discounted oil in two U.S. markets, New York and Massachusetts. Citizens Energy Corp., a Boston-based nonprofit cooperative, bought 12 million gallons at a steep discount after U.S. oil companies ignored its written plea for help. Similar oil deals are in the works for other parts of New York and some New England states.

Americans face record prices for heating oil this winter, with a gallon selling for $2.41 -- a 38 percent increase from this time last year. Congress declined to provide additional funding for the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and Citizens Energy and other housing advocates expect that families, especially in the Northeast, will exhaust their benefits by Christmas.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said in a recent briefing that the Bush administration expects the recently passed energy bill and efforts to expand capacity to help address the shortfall. "All of us have a role to do to help address high energy prices," he said. "And we are taking action to do so."

But on the second snow day in the Bronx, where scrawled graffiti warns pedestrians of rats, fleas and maggots, it did not escape the notice of tenants that a foreign government stepped in after Congress did not.


Tire Giant Firestone Hit with Lawsuit over Slave-Like Conditions at Rubber Plantation

by Haider Rizvi
Published on Thursday, December 8, 2005 by

UNITED NATIONS - Firestone, a multinational rubber manufacturing giant known for its automobile tires, has come under fire from human rights and environmental groups for its alleged use of child labor and slave-like working conditions at a plantation in Liberia.

Recently, the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF), a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, filed a lawsuit charging that thousands of workers, including minors, toil in virtual slavery at Bridgestone's Firestone rubber plantation in Liberia.

According to the complaint filed in the United States District Court in Venice, California, Firestone, which has operated in the West African country since the 1920s, largely depends on poor and often illiterate workers to tap tons of raw latex from rubber trees using primitive tools exposing them to hazardous pesticides and fertilizers.

At Firestone, "all of the workers are poverty-stricken Africans, enduring extremely inhuman conditions under the constant guard of American and now Japanese overseers who live in the finest houses in Liberia, looking down on the field hands from their verandahs and the company's private golf course," the group says.

By contrast, "most of the workers have never been off of the plantation and do not even know that the world has moved on and slavery has been abolished."

The company denies the use of child labor and claims that its jobs are among the highest paying in Liberia. But right activists who have visited the plantation attest to the desperation and fear conveyed by Firestone's workers.

"I have seen six people living in one room, without any toilet, electricity, or running water," Jerome Verdier, an environmental lawyer from Liberia, told OneWorld. "The company has no justification whatsoever to keep on exploiting those people."

Verdier and others say thousands of workers at the plantation cannot meet daily harvesting quota without unpaid aid, requiring them to put their own children to work or face starvation.

In many cases, activists say, Firestone overseers not only know about the massive use of child labor, but also compel it. "Workers are told that if they can't make their daily quota, they should put their children to work," the lawsuit charges.

According to the ILRF, each official worker at the Firestone plantation is required to deliver 450 pounds of latex per day to meet quota, an amount many adult workers fail to produce.

"They work for $3.19 a day and work close to 20 hours every day," Verdier told a news conference at the U.N. headquarters in New York Wednesday.

Most plantation workers, according to the lawsuit, remain "at the mercy of Firestone for everything from food to health care to education. They risk expulsion and starvation if they raise even minor complaints, and the company makes willful use of this situation to exploit these workers as they have since 1926."

The 240 square-mile plantation has an official workforce of 6,000, out of which at least 4,000 are reportedly facing extremely inhumane conditions.

The group decided to bring the case before a U.S. court because the judicial system in Liberia had been crippled by years of civil war, activists said.

After a peace agreement recently bought to a close 14 years of political turmoil, Liberians went to the polls last month, choosing Africa's first democratically elected female president, Harvard-educated economist Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Sirleaf, who defeated international soccer star George Weah in the final round of balloting, has promised to create jobs and fight corruption.

Activists say they hope the new government will take positive steps to ensure that multinational corporations, such as Firestone, are prevented from using exploitative labor and start abiding by human rights and environmental laws.

"The country is emerging from war," Verdier said, adding that Firestone's story is just one of many similar cases. "Multinational corporations continue to undermine human rights and democracy. That has to be stopped."

Sharing this view, Emira Woods of the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank based in Washington, noted that the changed political reality in Liberia is already demanding a substantial change in corporate behavior.

"Liberia needs to have the resources to get back on its feet," she said. "It's time for multinational corporations to realize the needs of Liberia's citizens."

Post-Constitutional America

FCC Says Internet Must Meet Needs Of FBI, Not First Amendment

Via Undernews

DECLAN MCCULLAGH, CNET - The Federal Communications Commission thinks you have the right to use software on your computer only if the FBI approves. In an obscure "policy" document released around 9 p.m. ET last Friday, the FCC announced this remarkable decision. According to the three-page document, to preserve the openness that characterizes today's Internet, "consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement."

Read the last seven words again.

The FCC didn't offer much in the way of clarification. But the clearest reading of the pronouncement is that some unelected bureaucrats at the commission have decreed that Americans don't have the right to use software such as Skype or PGPfone if it doesn't support mandatory backdoors for wiretapping. (That interpretation was confirmed by an FCC spokesman on Monday, who asked not to be identified by name. Also, the announcement came at the same time as the FCC posted its wiretapping rules for Internet telephony.)

Nowhere does the commission say how it jibes this official pronouncement with, say, the First Amendment's right to speak freely, not to mention the limited powers granted the federal government by the U.S. Constitution.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


PROGRESS REPORT - The White House says [the economy] is "cooking along" with "strong and sustained economic growth." Ordinary Americans do not share the president's enthusiasm: 63 percent of Americans characterize the economy as "bad," "very bad," or "terrible," and "by 58 to 36 percent people say economic conditions are getting worse, not better." The divide is understandable. For the beneficiaries of President Bush's economic policies -- major corporations and wealthy Americans -- times are booming. Inflation-adjusted corporate profits have risen more than 50 percent since the last quarter of 2001. But . . . most families are losing economic ground -- losing purchasing power, stretching stagnant wages, and piling up debt.

With spending growth outstripping disposable income, personal savings rates have plummeted. In August, the personal savings rate dropped to negative 2.2 percent, a level not seen since the Great Depression, and remained negative for the fourth straight month in October. As a result, households are now spending a record 13.6 percent of their disposable income to service their outstanding debt.

"If you ask the classic Ronald Reagan question, 'Are you better off now than you were four years ago?' a large number of Americans are in fact not better off," says Michael Mussa, a member of Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers from 1986 to 1988. Bloomberg News notes that Mussa's assessment "is reflected in the 'misery index,' a combination of the rates of unemployment and inflation, which reached a 12-year high of 9.8 in September as energy prices escalated." That is higher than the 7.8 level when President Bush took office and "higher than the average of 8.7 during the past two decades."

Report here...

HRC To Be Challenged By A Progressive!

DOUG IRELAND, DIRELAND - At last! Someone has the gumption to pose a principled challenge to Hillary Clinton's renomination next year as United States Senator from New York. Jonathan Tasini is a sterling progressive, a writer and activist, and my union brother for 13 years as the president of the National Writers Union. I know Jonathan, and couldn't be more pleased that he has taken on the burden of giving voters an alternative to the odious Hillary -- a militant supporter of the invasion and occupation of Iraq who represents everything that is wrong with the Democratic Party today. Tasini, on the other hand, is an intelligent supporter of immediate withdrawal from Iraq. . .

Jonathan is smart enough and articulate enough to make a convincing critique of opportunist Hillary-style. From 1990 to April 2003, he served as president of the National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981. He was the lead plaintiff in Tasini vs. The New York Times, the landmark electronic rights case won by the plaintiffs in a historic decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2001. He is also the president and executive director of the Creators Federation. . .

Although I have no illusions that Jonathan can win, I'll be supporting him in his valiant effort because it is terribly important that someone pose a serious and intelligent critique of Hillary and the capitulationist, anti-people, pro-war politics she stands for -- and I have no doubt that Jonathan will run a campaign we can all be proud of.

I urge you to join his campaign.

Heath Care Gap Larger than Thought, Study Finds

by Brendan Coyne, NewStandard

Dec 6 - Official government estimates of the number of United States residents without health insurance may be severely understated, according to a report released yesterday by the Iowa Policy Project, a nonprofit research group. The new information shows that those in the now-substantial employment margins are less likely to be insured than society as a whole, adding to a mountain of evidence that current economic policies have worsened the lot for those already suffering from economic inequality.

The report, "Nonstandard Jobs, Substandard Benefits," funded in part by the Department of Labor and The Commonwealth Fund, found that the number of marginally employed people with health insurance is much lower than previously reported. Additionally, other work-related benefits were found to be missing or negligible for temporary, contract and part-time workers.

At least 25 percent of the nation's workforce toiled in a "nonstandard" job in 2001, continuing a trend in national employment, according to the study. Of those, around a quarter have no health insurance. Just over a fifth of these unconventional arrangements include even partial payment of insurance premiums by the employer.

By comparison, about 12 percent of full-time workers lack health insurance, with 74 percent receiving it through their employer, the report noted. In addition, the report found that nonstandard workers are much more likely to choose government-provided health insurance, by a 5-1 margin over people with full employment.

According to the most recent data from the Department of Health and Human Services, about 16 percent of the population is uninsured. Hispanics are disproportionately represented among the subset, making up a full 30 percent of those lacking health coverage, despite making up around 14 percent of the overall US population.

There are an estimated 34.3 million people who fall into the nonstandard worker category, and the number is growing. According to Rand Corporation projections, employers will continue the trend of using unconventional work arrangements into the foreseeable future, even in higher-paying jobs.

The effect, according to the IPP analysis, will be fewer people with employer-paid health insurance and other job benefits and more people seeking government assistance. Researchers warn that the new employment trends foretell an ominous state of affairs for workers.

"There are broader implications as well to these trends," study co-author and IPP research director Peter Fisher said in a statement. "Increasing use of nonstandard workers shifts bargaining power to the employer because all workers see their ability to negotiate higher wages and better benefits eroded."

Though the report did not estimate how many uncounted uninsured people there are in the nation, it maintained that throughout the year as many as 80 million or more (emphasis added) go without insurance for a period of time.

As The Worm Turns...

December 7, 2005
Not Guilty Verdicts in Florida Terror Trial Are Setback for U.S.

New York Times

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 - In a major defeat for law enforcement officials, a jury in Florida failed to return guilty verdicts Tuesday on any of 51 criminal counts against a former Florida professor and three co-defendants accused of operating a North American front for Palestinian terrorists.

The former professor, Sami al-Arian, a fiery advocate for Palestinian causes who became a lightning rod for criticism nationwide over his vocal anti-Israeli stances, was found not guilty on eight criminal counts related to terrorist support, perjury and immigration violations.

The jury deadlocked on the remaining nine counts against him after deliberating for 13 days, and it did not return any guilty verdicts against the three other defendants in the case.

"This was a political prosecution from the start, and I think the jury realized that," Linda Moreno, one of Mr. Arian's defense lawyers, said in a telephone interview. "They looked over at Sami al-Arian; they saw a man who had taken unpopular positions on issues thousands of miles away, but they realized he wasn't a terrorist. The truth is a powerful thing."

Federal officials in Washington expressed surprise at the verdict in a case they had pursued for years.

The trial, lasting more than five months, hinged on the question of whether Mr. Arian's years of work in the Tampa area in support of Palestinian independence crossed the threshold from protected free speech and political advocacy to illegal support for terrorists.

Prosecutors, who had been building a case against Mr. Arian for 10 years, relied on some 20,000 hours of taped conversations culled from wiretaps on Mr. Arian and his associates. Officials said he had helped finance and direct terrorist attacks in Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, while using his faculty position teaching computer engineering at the University of South Florida as a cover for his terrorist activities.

But ultimately, the jury in Tampa that heard the case found him not guilty of the charge of conspiring to kill people overseas, and it deadlocked on three of the other most serious terrorism charges.

Justice Department officials said they were considering whether to re-try Mr. Arian on the counts on which the jury did not reach verdicts.

While expressing disappointment in the verdicts, the officials said the department had a strong track record of success in prosecuting terrorists, including the separate convictions last week of a Northern Virginia student and a Pakistani immigrant in New York on charges of supporting Al Qaeda.

"We remain focused on the important task at hand, which is to protect our country through our ongoing vigorous prosecution of terrorism cases," said Tasia Scolinos, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department. "While we respect the jury's verdict, we stand by the evidence we presented in court against Sami al-Arian and his co-defendants."

In bringing the case against Mr. Arian in 2003, the department relied on the easing of legal restrictions under the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act to present years of wiretaps on the defendants in a criminal context.


What Everyone Except The Religious Wackos Suspected (Satire)

From The Onion

Voice Of God Revealed To Be Cheney On Intercom

December 7, 2005

WASHINGTON, DC—Telephone logs recorded by the National Security Agency and obtained by Congress as part of an ongoing investigation suggest that the vice president may have used the Oval Office intercom system to address President Bush at crucial moments, giving categorical directives in a voice the president believed to be that of God.

President Bush sits at his desk in the Oval Office, where he received messages from an intercom voice identifying itself as "God" and thought to have been Vice President Cheney.

While journalists and presidential historians had long noted Bush's deep faith and Cheney's powerful influence in the White House, few had drawn a direct correlation between the two until Tuesday, when transcripts of meetings that took place in March and April of 2002 became available.

In a transcript of an intercom exchange recorded in March 2002, a voice positively identified as the vice president's identifies himself as "the Lord thy God" and promotes the invasion of Iraq, as well as the use of torture in prisoner interrogations.

A close examination of Bush's public statements and Secret Service time logs tracking the vice president reveals a consistent pattern, one which links Bush's belief that he had received word from God with Cheney's use of the White House's telephone-based intercom system.

Officials privately acknowledged that there is reason to believe that the vice president, as God, urged Bush to sign legislation benefiting oil companies in 2005.

"There's a lot of religious zeal in the West Wing," said a former White House staffer who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "It's possible that the vice president has taken advantage of that to fast-track certain administration objectives."

An ex-Treasury Department official and longtime friend of Cheney was asked to comment on the vice president's possible subterfuge. "I don't know. I certainly don't think it's something [Cheney] planned," he said. "I do know that Mr. Bush was unfamiliar with a phone-based intercom, and I suppose it is possible that Dick took advantage of that."

A highly placed NSA official who has reviewed the information released Tuesday said Cheney masked his clipped monotone, employing a deeper, booming voice.

Said the NSA source: "It sounded as though the speaker, who identified himself as God, stood away from the intercom to create an echo effect."

On Capitol Hill, sources are expressing surprise that Cheney, a vice president with more influence than any other in U.S. history, would have resorted to such deception.

"The vice president has a lot of sway in this administration," said a former White House aide. "But perhaps when President Bush was particularly resolute and resistant to mortal persuasion, the vice president chose to quickly resolve disputes in his favor with a half-decent God impression."

For many, the revelation explains Bush's confusion in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

"I was very surprised by the president's slow response in New Orleans," political commentator Bill Kristol said. "The president told me that he was praying every day in his office, but had received no reply. I had no idea what he meant, but of course, it all makes sense now."

At the time of Katrina, Cheney was on a fly-fishing trip, from which he returned on Sept. 1.

According to highly placed White House sources, Bush's senior advisers are trying to shield the president from the news. Aides are concerned that too harsh an awakening might shake Bush's faith, which has been a central part of his life for nearly 20 years.

"It's hard to tell the leader of the free world that he has been the butt of an elaborate and long-term ruse," a former staffer said. "Maybe it would be easier to take if it came from Cheney's God voice."

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Sam Pizzigati

America's richest 1 percent now holds more wealth - over $2 trillion more - than America's entire bottom 90 percent. Might America need a 'maximum wage'? FDR once thought so, and so does Sam Pizzigati, the veteran labor journalist whose new Greed and Good desceribed why inequality remains our nation's most crushing burden.

A century ago, Americans feared -and fought - the towering concentrations of wealth they saw rising all around them. Today, by contrast, our nation's top elected leaders see absolutely no reason to challenge, or hardly even discomfort, America's grand and growing concentrations of wealth.

Sam Pizzigati, says Jeff Faux, the co-founder of the Economic Policy Institute, "has put together the definitive case against the excessive inequality of income, wealth and power in our society." Author Bill Greider calls Greed and Good "a sweeping tour of life in these United States" that "ends in hope and vision."

Order Here

Quote of the Day

Via Undernews

So here we sit, watching a great, stinking skein of corruption being fished to the surface of Washington, while the town is simultaneously filled with a great babble about God, prayer and morality. Corruption trails head off in all directions -- lobbyists, wives, jobs, perverting intelligence, outing agents for petty revenge -- all this and a Prayer Breakfast every day.
-- Molly Ivins

Move ON Rewrites History

Via Undernews

IF YOU CAN'T GET it right the first time, you can always rewrite it would appear to be Move On's view. Reader Jeff Blankfort notes that Move On's "latest message to its email list perpetuates the dangerous illusion that there was an element larger than three or four people among the hundreds of Democratic Party legislators who opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning. Nancy Pelosi was not one of them. Meeting with a group of her constituents in San Francisco on the eve of the war, Pelosi said that while she had questions about it, should Bush make the decision to go to war she would support him and the war and so she did." Here is Tom Matzzie of Move On, writing about Pelosi:

"Pelosi has been a leader against the war in Iraq since it started--running the 'whip' operation in Congress that rounded up Democratic votes against the war in 2002. When she led congressional war opposition she was bucking her own leaders who were supporting Bush. It impressed enough of her Democratic colleagues that they elected her Leader."

Reality Check!

SAM SMITH, Progressive Review - The Harris Survey finds that by 64 to 32 percent Americans believe that the Bush administration "generally misleads the public on current issues to achieve their own ends." Combined with the falling support for the war and Bush's own falling approval ratings, evidence is growing that it may be nearing time to let reality back in the room.

This will, of course, require a massive retraining of the media which has become accustomed to treating the various Bush scams as real issues to be discussed with best op ed sobriety.

Imagine if you will, the media taking the same approach to a more obvious mob:

JIM LEHRER: How would you say the significant Gotti family's contributions to the economy of New York have been harmed by the ethical questions that some activist critics have raised?

GUEST: The research is not entirely clear but there is some evidence that vigorish - as the experts call it - has a distributive effect far greater than much popular opinion would suggest.

In fact, the cons long precede George Bush, who has actually done us a favor by invoking them so clumsily that they have become easier to spot. In fact, since the Reagan Administration, the conservative approach to economics has accomplished that for which backers of creationism can only yearn: the mindless acceptance of a theory by the media that has no basis in history, science, or simple observation. The "free market" con has been the intelligent design of economic theory even as pensions and health plans evaporate and General Motors seeks a bailout. And sitting in the pews saying "Amen" to each deception has been a faith-based evangelical media.

The beginning of wisdom and real change is the understanding that we are no longer talking politics. We are dealing with con men, bullies, and crooks just as in the days of the 19th century robber barons. We have moved from a time when a piece of national legislation helped millions to a day when its beneficiaries can be found on a single Blackberry. . . or in the Bush campaign contribution filings at the FEC.

That's not policy; that's a payoff.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Post-Constituional America


BOSTON GLOBE - A federal judge ruled Friday it was constitutional for police to randomly search riders' bags on the New York City subway to deter a terrorist attack. "The need for implementing counter-terrorism measures is indisputable, pressing, on-going and evolving," Berman wrote. . . The New York Civil Liberties Union sued the city and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly shortly afterward, calling the policy of searching thousands of riders a day without any suspicion of wrongdoing unconstitutional. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits searches without probable cause.


Eleven Ways the War on Drugs is Hurting Your Business

By Eric E. Sterling, J.D.
November 2005

If you are an American capitalist, our drug policy hurts you. The return on your investments is reduced. Your expenses are higher than they need to be. The taxes you pay are higher than they ought to be. You face competitors who are financed by criminals enriched by our drug policy.

If you are an American, the crime created by drug prohibition takes money out of your pocket every day.

PDF Here...

Sesame Street Teaches The Righteousness Of Socio-Economic Inequality

DOUG IRELAND, DIRELAND - A recent Sesame Street broadcast taught kids that any societal attempt to have a more equitable distribution of wealth is a bad thing. A research vice president for the Chicago Urban League and a regular Z-Net contributor, Paul Street describes the broadcast:

"The morning's lesson was on the just and inviolable nature of socioeconomic inequity and the sanctity of private property and possessive individualism. At the point I clicked on the program, two very concerned and mature adults --- a black man and a black woman, both in their 40s it appeared --- were listening with raised eyebrows to a blue puppet animal ('Cookie Monster' perhaps) who had just designated himself 'Cookie-Hood.' 'Cookie-Hood' was a play on Robin Hood.

"'Cookie Hood' had just come to the alarming (for him) realization that 'some people have lots more cookies than they need' while 'other people have no cookies at all.' "The solution, 'Cookie-Hood' announced, is to take the surplus cookies away from the wealthy few and give them away to the poor, cookieless many.

"The two adults were not pleased. 'That,' the father figure sternly intoned, 'is stealing.' And 'stealing is wrong,' he elaborated, 'because it means taking something that doesn't belong to you.' No room, of course, in the SS script for why the cookieless exist in the first place -- no sense of justice in the demand of equal cookies for all.

"'Cookie-Hood' felt sad and ashamed. He thought he'd been doing something good and just, but really he'd been doing something wrong. He'd been stealing cookies that didn't belong to him. Bad cookie puppet.


British Civil Engineering Journal Finds Fault With Official WTC Study

GEORGE WASHINGTON BLOG SPOT - BYU Physics professor Steven Jones has stated that the government agency tasked with examining the collapse of the World Trade Centers did not investigate any anomalies in the collapse of the buildings, failing to even examine any evidence regarding the buildings' impossible near free-fall speeds and symmetrical collapses, apparent demolition squibs, the fact that the buildings turned to dust in mid-air, the presence of molten metal in the basement areas in large pools in all of the buildings, or the unexplained straightening out of the upper 34 floors of the South Tower after they had precipitously leaned over and started toppling like a tree.

I just ran across an article from a respected civil engineering trade journal which backs up Professor Jones' claim that the government did not really examine the conditions immediately prior to collapse or the collapses themselves. Specifically, the article from the journal of the 180-year old UK Institution of Civil Engineers states:

"World Trade Center disaster investigators are refusing to show computer visualizations of the collapse of the Twin Towers despite calls from leading structural and fire engineers."

The article goes on to state "a leading U.S. structural engineer said, 'By comparison [to the modeling of fires] the global structural model is not as sophisticated' . . . The software used has been pushed to new limits, and there have been a lot of simplifications, extrapolations and judgment calls . . . it would be hard to produce a definitive visualization from the analysis so far.'"

In other words, the U.S. structural engineer is saying that even the non-visual computer models which NIST used to examine why the trade centers collapsed are faulty.


George Bush Don't Like Black People

Hot new controversial remix video

This new clip by our friends at subMedia is an effort to keep the mantra - “George Bush Don’t Like Black People”- going
-- by The Legendary K.O.

Make sure you stick through the credits for a surprise ending.

Video Here (WMV-be patient)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Post-Constitutional America


CATHERINE KOMP, ALTERNATIVE PRESS REVIEW - As debate over government surveillance rages in adult society, the US Department of Justice is quietly enticing school districts to implement controversial technologies that monitor and track students. Critics fear these efforts will normalize electronic surveillance at an early age, conditioning young people to accept privacy violations while creating a market for companies that develop and sell surveillance systems.

A few of the nation’s schools are already running pilot programs to monitor students’ movements using radio frequency identification. The highly controversial programs, implemented in the name of student protection, see pupils wearing tags around their necks and submitting themselves to electronic scanning as they enter and leave school property. Now, a new federal grant could lure more districts into using these or similar technologies.

Even though school violence is at its lowest rate in a decade, according to the federal government’s own statistics, the Justice Department’s "School Safety Technologies" grants will be distributed to schools that develop proposals in four broadly defined areas: integrated physical security systems, bus-fleet monitoring systems, low-level force devices and school safety training.

In its call for the grant proposals, the National Institute of Justice ­ an arm of the Justice Department ­ says the money will be distributed to schools proposing "effective technology solutions to protect the students, teachers, school personnel, and the educational infrastructure from criminal activities, particularly crimes of violence.". . .

Such technologies have already been implemented in some school districts. North of Houston, Texas, 16,000 elementary students in the Spring Independent School District wear RFID tags, embedded with chips that indicate their locations on a computerized map. The school also has 750 surveillance cameras mounted throughout its facilities, with plans to install 300 more.

In New York, RFID systems are also being used in schools. The Brockport Central School District in northern New York is testing school bus fleet monitoring with GPS technology and scanning students IDs as they enter and exit the bus. Students at the Enterprise Charter School in Buffalo wave their RFID tags in front of two kiosks at the school entrance which automatically transmit attendance to teachers and administrators. . .

Lee Tien, senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a public-interest organization, believes the increasing use of RFID technology in schools could affect how the public views surveillance. "It creates an atmosphere where you normalize the use of surveillance technology… [and] the idea that you should accept that you are being tracked," said Tien.