Saturday, April 30, 2005

Who Is Sponsoring Uninsured Week?

April 29, 2005
Who is sponsoring Uninsured Week?
Consider this.

One of the sponsors of Uninsured Week, which begins Sunday, is the Health Leadership Council. One of their members is not-for-profit New York and Presbyterian Health Care System.
Their top salaried employee received $3,434,510 in total compensation.

Does a salary like that make health care more affordable?

Not-for-profit Cleveland Clinic Foundation is another member of the Health Leadership Council. As we have reported earlier, this not-for-profit hospital has made a profit of over $159 MILLION in just the last two years. How? In part, by charging an uninsured person $10,000, for procedures that cost Cleveland Clinic less than $3000.

If they really want to help the uninsured, why don't they simply stop price gouging those without insurance? They don't have to go to Washington DC to do that.

Bring The Troops Home!

A forum was held in the House office building on April 28 by leaders of the movement to bring home the troops from Iraq.

From Let's Try Democracy


New York Times

PETER KEEPNEWS, NY TIMES - Percy Heath, whose forceful and buoyant bass playing anchored the Modern Jazz Quartet for its entire four-decade existence, died yesterday in Southampton, N.Y. He was 81 and lived in Montauk, on Long Island. . . Mr. Heath recorded with most of the leading musicians in modern jazz, including Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman. But from the early 1950's through the middle 1970's, most of his recording activity and all of his live erformances were devoted to the group known to its fans around the world as the M. J .Q.

He had been playing bass for only about four years when he became a charter member of the quartet, whose musical director was the pianist and composer John Lewis. "John told me, 'Percy, you don't know enough about what we're going to do, so you better get yourself lessons,' " Mr. Heath told the jazz critic Gary Giddins.

More than half a century after he first entered a recording studio, Mr. Heath - who by his own count had played on more than 300 records - did something he had never done before. In 2004, shortly before his 81st birthday, the small Daddy Jazz label released an album by Mr. Heath, "A Love Song." It was his first recording as a leader.

No Pepper Spray!


NO PEPPER SPRAY - An eight-person federal jury has returned a unanimous verdict for the Q-Tip Pepper Spray Eight activists - plaintiffs, finding the County of Humboldt and City of Eureka liable for excessive force in violation of the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The excessive force was used by Humboldt County Sheriff's Deputies and Eureka Police Officers when they applied pepper spray with Q-tips directly to the eyes of the eight onviolent forest defense protesters in three incidents in 1997. Three of the activists were also sprayed directly in the eyes from inches away. Two of the young women were juveniles.

Former Sheriff Dennis Lewis and current Sheriff Gary Philp also were
found liable for causing the use of excessive force by setting policies allowing the unprecedented use of pepper spray on the passive demonstrators, who had locked their arms together inside metal
pipes. . .

Juror Athene Aquino, a 35-year-old Citibank employee, said she was
convinced the force was excessive by watching a video showing the
deputies swapping pepper spray in the protesters' eyes. When she viewed the tape, Aquino said she "started crying. It was just very emotional."

The jury awarded nominal damages of only $1 to each of the plaintiffs, who made it clear all along that they weren't suing for the money, but to bring about a change of policy, to prevent the future use of pepper spray in Humboldt in the way it was used on them. They hope and expect that the verdict will reverberate far beyond rural Humboldt County to make it clear that police can not use the extremely painful pepper spray on non-violent people to coerce them to follow orders.

Did We Forget Something?


PROGRESS REPORT - The president proposed deep Social Security benefit cuts for middle-class Americans. He formally "backed a specific plan to reduce future benefits for tens of millions of Americans." Yet in presenting the idea of progressive indexation – a change in law that will give workers less money by tying their benefits to inflation instead of wage growth – President Bush described it as a system "where benefits for low-income workers will grow faster than benefits for people who are better off." Here is the part he skipped: the plan "would reduce annual benefits for an average wage-earner who is 25 today and retires in 2045 by 16 percent.… For an average-earner who retires in 2075, the benefit reduction would be 28 percent."

Not only did the president not acknowledge the sweeping cuts that would be made under his plan, but his definition of a "high wage earner" was equally as misleading. A worker making $58,000 a year – who will see his or her benefits cut by 42 percent under the president's plan – certainly could not be considered "affluent."

Friday, April 29, 2005


SUSAN B. GLASSER, WASHINGTON POST - The number of serious international
terrorist incidents more than tripled last year, according to U.S.
government figures, a sharp upswing in deadly attacks that the State
Department has decided not to make public in its annual report on
terrorism due to Congress this week.
Overall, the number of what the U.S. government considers "significant"
attacks grew to about 655 last year, up from the record of around 175 in
2003, according to congressional aides who were briefed on statistics
covering incidents including the bloody school seizure in Russia and
violence related to the disputed Indian territory of Kashmir.

Terrorist incidents in Iraq also dramatically increased, from 22 attacks
to 198, or nine times the previous year's total -- a sensitive subset of
the tally, given the Bush administration's assertion that the situation
there had stabilized significantly after the U.S. handover of political
authority to an interim Iraqi government last summer.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Economic Freedom

Economic Freedom
Democratizing Work In The 21st Century
by Robert Arnow; April 27, 2005

In the early 1500s, Nicolo Machiavelli penned the famous quotation:

“Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Unfortunately, Machiavelli’s wisdom holds as true today as it did in 16th Century Italy. His statement, while probably a bit more black and white than reality, has the power to explain one of the cornerstone dynamics of politics throughout history. Based upon his principle, one could predict that the transition from monarchy to democracy would blunt the cruelty of those in power. By reducing the “absolute power” of the powerful, so then would their “absolute corruption” be reduced, by the power of the people to hold their leaders accountable. Our nation’s founders understood this crucial principle, and therefore realized that in addition to the right to vote, we also needed 3 branches of government to put checks upon each other. The less the centralization of power, the less chance despotism would have of tearing away consent from the governed.

Why then, do we still have so many problems with our political and economic system? One of the major causes is to be found in the workplace, the place where most people spend the majority of their waking hours. And the answer lies in the fact that most workplaces exist as dictatorships, not democracies.

The economy is a parallel system of power to that of the government. While technically subservient to the government and to the people, money is so powerful as to overwhelm the checks and balances of the political system. But, its not really money itself that is the culprit, it’s the concentration of the power that comes with it in so few hands. Ten percent of American families control two–thirds of the nation’s wealth. The top 1% of asset owners hold more assets than the bottom 90%. It’s no wonder that politics is controlled by and for the rich. If wealth weren’t so concentrated, neither would campaign contributions be, and the political influence that comes with them.

Fortunately, there is a solution that starts to move us closer to the ideals upon which our nation was founded: worker-owned democratically-run business. Worker-owned cooperatives, by spreading out profit among all the workers, rather than a small clique of owners, take a huge step towards a more equitable and fair distribution of wealth in society, and hence, remove much of the corrupting influence that money has on the political system.

Leland Stanford, founder of Stanford University, and the richest man in the Senate in the 1890s, had become an unlikely ally of the populist movement, and a major promoter of worker-owned cooperatives. In fact, one of the 3 purposes upon which he founded Stanford University, was to promote the principles of worker-owned cooperatives. He wrote:

“In a condition of society and under an industrial organization which places labor completely at the mercy of capital, the accumulations of capital will necessarily be rapid, and an unequal distribution of wealth is at once to be observed. This tendency would be carried to the utmost extreme, until eventually the largest accumulations of capital would not only subordinate labor but would override smaller aggregations.”

Stanford then describes his solution:

“What I believe is, the time has come when the laboring men can perform for themselves the office of becoming their own employers; that the employer class is less indispensable in the modern organization of industries because the laboring men themselves possess sufficient intelligence to organize into co-operative relation and enjoy the entire benefits of their own labor.

With a greater intelligence, and with a better understanding of the principles of cooperation, the adoption of them in practice will, in time I imagine, cause most of the industries of the country to be carried on by these cooperative associations.”

Fortunately, today we have models of workplace democracy which can help lead us towards the fulfillment of the democratic potential which Stanford dreamed of. In Spain, the 12th largest business in the country, the famous Mondragon Cooperative, is an over-68,000 member, worker-owned cooperative, than operates on the principle of 1 person, 1 vote. Unfortunately, only about half of the members are worker-owners, but many will become so after having been employeed there for a brief time. At Mondragon, while there is a difference in how much money people make, that decision is determined by a worker-elected council. The greatest difference in income, from the lowest paid worker to the highest, is 1-to-6, much lower than the 1-to-250 now enjoyed by many corporate CEOs. The low and mid-level workers make more in wages than the local going rate and are awarded a large share of the profits in addition to their wages. Mondragon started with 5 people in 1954 and has grown to one of the largest companies in the world. It continues to grow at a fast pace due to the fact that it has its own bank, insurance company, and university so that it has the resources and capital necessary to fuel its own growth. Cooperatives can compete with top down multinationals by using the same power of size and numbers.

But the benefits of worker-owned cooperatives are not limited to distribution of wealth. The are many other advantages to cooperative business:

* Cooperatives, like Mondragon, at 10%, give a much higher percentage of their profits towards community service. And they tend to be much more environmentally conscious. Why? Because the people who work at the cooperative live in the community that will benefit or suffer the consequences. Unlike the CEOs who rise to the top in traditional businesses, the businesses tend to reflect the values and interests of all the workers, rather than the few who rise to the top.
* Worker-owned cooperatives eliminate the traditional union-management conflict and replace it with a cooperative ethic. This means that workers-owners get healthcare, pensions, and other things without having to struggle against management. Workplace safety standards can be created by the workers themselves. If workers want to give themselves six weeks of vacation, or on-site childcare, that’s their prerogative. Management are chosen by the workers so strikes are a thing of the past.
* Worker-owned cooperatives don’t close plants and move them to India or China. Not unless everyone who owns the company decides to move and work there too. This is good both for workers and for localities that no longer have to compete with other localities to retain business, a trend that results in lax environmental regulations, corporate welfare, and a general subservience to the owners of capital.
* Worker-owned cooperatives can co-exist with the current market system. While the top-down control of communist economies results in the danger of despotism, much as the concentration of wealth in capitalist economies does, cooperative business distributes both wealth and power fairly. It acknowledges the danger of both oppressive corporations and oppressive government.
* Worker-owned cooperatives are training grounds for democracy. They teach their workers how to participate as an empowered citizen, rather than just a cog in a machine. Worker-owned cooperatives also offer their workers the ability to take time off in exchange for pay, longer paid vacations, and other things which give the workers more personal time to participate in community, travel, or spend time with their families.
* Worker-owned cooperatives are competitive with traditional-models. The attention paid to worker-related issues, and the decreased profits associated with those expenses are offset by high morale, low-turnover rates, and more participatory and informed decision-making. Also, by building consciousness about the importance of buying “worker-owned” it can gain a market amongst the same people who would buy “fair-trade.”
* Worker-owned cooperatives can be an appealing concept for both liberals and conservatives: for liberals, because of the care and equality it provides, and for conservatives because of the self-determination and responsibility that it entails. Workers take responsibility both for profits and losses.
* Worker-owned cooperatives will tend do everything in their power to avoid lay-offs. In small cooperatives, this means that during recessions everyone gets a pay reduction and/or shorter working hours, while everyone keeps their job. An equally powerful dynamic is seen in large cooperatives like Mondragon, which have many businesses under the umbrella of a single cooperative corporation. What happened at Mondragon during the recession of the early 1980s was that the workers of businesses that were failing were retrained by the cooperative for other jobs in different parts of the company. In this way, there were no lay-offs during the recession. In fact, coming out of the recession, Mondragon did particularly well, as it was fully-staffed, unlike the private businesses that had to rehire new staff and had low morale in comparison.
* Worker-owned cooperatives help stabilize the economy and reduce recessions. Recessions are caused by a cycle of slumping employment figures and lack of investment which cause a vicious downward spiral. By seeing lay-offs as a last resort, and only making them under when absolutely forced to, worker-owned cooperatives put a check upon this spiral.
* Worker-owned cooperatives don’t get sold off as easily to large corporations, in the manner that many successful traditional businesses do. This helps maintain the ethic of innovation and social consciousness that made businesses, like the pioneers in organic foods, or locally-owned newspapers, successful. When these businesses get turned over to large corporations, they often end up using the name and resources of these companies to subvert the ideals that they were originally founded on.

Worker-owned cooperatives show the potential for exponential growth as a movement. Cooperatives who see it as their mission to advance the movement can band together for mutual financial support and infrastructure. They can create supply chains with worker-owned cooperatives both supplying, distributing, and retailing goods. They can fund the political work necessary to fend off attacks by traditional top-down businesses. They can create institutional support for traditionally under funded progressive causes. In short, they can achieve incredible political and economic ends without relying on the government’s benevolence.

But at the same time, the cooperative movement should also look to local governments for support: for preferential investment opportunities, for start-up loans or grants, and to support in creating cooperative business structures. A balanced approach that would quickly and easily lead to cooperative creation would be to give assistance, and possibly matching funds or loans, to employees who want to buy a business from an employer who is selling it, under the condition that it be run on a cooperative model. Any profits from these loans could be used to fund assistance to other cooperatives.

Stanford writes further:

“…laws should be formed to protect and develop co-operative associations. Laws with this object in view will furnish to the poor man complete protection against the monopoly of the rich, and such laws properly administered and availed of, will insure to the workers of the country the full fruits of their industry and enterprise.”

Cooperatives operate under very diverse structures. They share power and profits in very different ways from each other. Some of these methods work, and some have been shown to fail, or to sell-out, over the long term. For those who are interested in learning about cooperatives Google is a great place to start. Just type in “Mondragon” to get started.

“Capital appears to have an ascendancy over labor, and so long as our industries are organized upon the divisions of employer and employee, so long will capital retain that relation, but associated labor would at once become its own master.”
-Leland Stanford

Delay Enjoys Cuban Cigar

But Did He Inhale?

Anti-Castro Majority Leader Tom DeLay enjoys a fine Cuban cigar

via Eschaton @ Crooks and Liars

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes, according to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a cigar is an economic prop to a brutal totalitarian regime. Arguing against loosening sanctions against Cuba last year, DeLay warned that Fidel Castro "will take the money. Every dime that finds its way into Cuba first finds its way into Fidel Castro's blood-thirsty hands.... American consumers will get their fine cigars and their cheap sugar, but at the cost of our national honor."

I like this part of the story: Asked about the Majority Leader's consumption of a Cuban cigar, his spokesman Dan Allen replied there has been "no change in our Cuban policy."

The right wingers will probably start saying stuff like:

Powerline : " We still haven't been able to verify that the cigar in question is actually a Cuban cigar at all. Assrocket says that they counterfeit Cuban's all the time. I have been calling TIME magazine, and right now they aren't returning my calls which smells fishy to me.

Powerline Update: We have just been emailed from an anonymous source that reveals the the cigar in question actually came from Harry Reid's office.

Powerline Update II: The cigar came from one of Mel Martinez's aids. Tom didn't realize that it was a Cuban cigar so he smoked it. That aid has since been fired."

Labor Leader Leads Fight For Oil Sovereignty

This promises to be exciting, doesn't it?

Iraqi Labor Leader: We Will Defend Our Oil
By David Bacon, Pacific News Service
Posted on April 28, 2005, Printed on April 28, 2005

LONDON -- As U.S. and British forces entered Baghdad on April 9, 2003, and the Saddam Hussein regime crumbled, those who had been driven underground by Hussein's rule began to breathe again. From Syria, Britain, Scandinavia and elsewhere, exiled trade union radicals began to make the long journey home.

The first post-Saddam days saw a ferment of labor organizing. A general strike broke out in Basra, after the British troops tried to install a notorious ex-Baath Party leader as mayor. Within a month, the city already had a labor council bringing together many new unions.

Among those who had resisted Hussein's brutal dictatorship within Iraq was an oilfield technician, Hassan Juma'a Awad. A veteran of the Shiite uprising in southern Iraq of 1991, Juma'a had begun to speak openly about the bad conditions in the fields and refinery of the Southern Oil Company, where he'd worked for three decades. Following Hussein's downfall he quickly became the most important labor leader in southern Iraq, and today is the biggest single obstacle to the Bush administration's main goal for the occupation -- the privatization of the country's oil.

Oil is Iraq's lifeblood, and the southern fields produce 80 percent of it. That puts the hands of this workforce on the spigot controlling the country's wealth. Like the oil workers in Iran who brought down the Shah in 1978, Iraq's oil workers know their power, and have already used it to deal important defeats to the occupation regime.

"Without organizing ourselves, we would have been unable to protect our industry, which we had been looking after for generations," Juma'a Awad says. "It was our duty as Iraqi workers to protect the oil installations since they are the property of the Iraqi people, and we are sure that the U.S. and the international companies have come here to put their hands on the country's oil reserves."

In fact, within just a few short months of Hussein's fall, Southern Oil Company workers found themselves up against the best-connected U.S. corporation in Iraq -- Halliburton -- whose former CEO, Dick Cheney, is now U.S. vice president. As the occupation began its grinding course, KBR, the Halliburton construction subsidiary, showed up at the SOC facilities. Its no-bid contract with the U.S. Defense Department gave it a mandate to begin reconstruction and get the oil flowing again to tankers off the coast in the Persian Gulf. KBR hired a Kuwaiti subcontractor, Al Khoorafy, which stood ready to bring in hundreds of foreign employees to do the work.

Faced with replacement of their jobs, in a city where unemployment soared to 70 percent, Juma'a Awad and his coworkers stood firm. They told KBR that if they brought in a single person, they would stop the oil installations completely. "Iraq will be reconstructed by Iraqis, we don't need any foreign interference," Jum'a said. At first KBR tried to cut a deal to split the jobs with Iraqis. But the oil workers refused to accept any outside help. Eventually, KBR brought in the reconstruction supplies on trucks, unloaded them, and left.

The next challenge came in September 2003. The occupation administration issued Order 30, lowering the base wages for Iraq's public sector workforce, including oil workers, from $60 to $35 per month. It also cut subsidies for food and housing.

"We asked ourselves, how can it be that the workers in our industry would get $35 a month?" Juma'a Awad recalls. "The American administration wasn't willing to cooperate with us, so we had a short strike. We managed to get the minimum salary up to 150,000 Iraqi dinars, or about $100. This was the beginning of our struggle to improve the income of oil workers."

The union effectively doubled the wages of many. Today, a laborer with 20 years experience earns about 420,000 Iraqi dinars, or about $300, a month. A chicken in the market costs about 1,500 dinars, or $1.

The strike had other repercussions. In Basra's power generation plants, workers threatened similar action and won increases as well. Not surprisingly, they asked Juma'a Awad to negotiate for them.

"Now we have workers' councils in 23 areas of southern Iraq, and represent over 23,000 workers," Juma'a Awad says. "The occupying forces tried their best to stop us, because they saw this as a danger. They were aware that organized workers would have power."

Juma'a Awad says the occupying forces told the unions they had no legal right to represent oil workers. "We were elected by the workers. That's the only kind of legitimacy we need," he says.

Like all Iraqi unions, the General Union of Oil Workers opposes the occupation. "We want the occupation to end immediately, and the immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces," he explains.

While there might be security problems if the troops depart suddenly, Juma'a Awad says he's not worried. "We are able to look after ourselves and our own security."

But privatization, he believes, is the largest threat. "This coming fight is more important even than the struggle against the occupation, since the U.S. is seeking to privatize all sectors of the Iraqi economy," he says. In that fight, Juma'a Awad sees the current government, created as a result of the January elections, as an uncertain ally.

"The next government should not only ensure the security of the Iraqi people, but also stop the privatization of industry. We oppose that very strongly, especially in oil. It is our industry. We don't want a new colonization under the guise of privatization, with international companies taking control."

PNS Associate Editor David Bacon is a freelance writer and photographer who writes regularly on labor and immigration issues. His latest book is The Children of NAFTA (University of California Press, 2004).

Fallujah Hell

Falluja: A Symbol of Wanton Murder, Destruction And Brutality
Wed, 27 Apr 2005 14:07:42 -0500

By Jonathan Steele and Dahr Jamail
Republished from The Guardian/
This is our Guernica - Ruined, cordoned Falluja is emerging as the decade's monument to brutality.

Robert Zoellick is the archetypal US government insider, a man with a
brilliant technical mind but zero experience of any coalface or war
front. Sliding effortlessly between ivy league academia, the US treasury
and corporate boardrooms (including an advisory post with the scandalous
Enron), his latest position is the number-two slot at the state department.

Yet this ultimate “man of the suites” did something earlier this month
that put the prime minister and the foreign secretary to shame. On their
numerous visits to Iraq, neither has ever dared to go outside the
heavily fortified green zones of Baghdad and Basra to see life as Iraqis
have to live it. They come home after photo opportunities, briefings and
pep talks with British troops and claim to know what is going on in the
country they invaded, when in fact they have seen almost nothing.

Zoellick, by contrast, on his first trip to Iraq, asked to see Falluja.
Remember Falluja? A city of some 300,000, which was alleged to be the
stronghold of armed resistance to the occupation.

Two US attempts were made to destroy this symbol of defiance last year.
The first, in April, fizzled out after Iraqi politicians, including many
who supported the invasion of their country, condemned the use of air
strikes to terrorise an entire city. The Americans called off the
attack, but not before hundreds of families had fled and more than 600
people had been killed.

Six months later the Americans tried again. This time Washington’s
allies had been talked to in advance. Consistent US propaganda about the
presence in Falluja of a top al-Qaida figure, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was
used to create a climate of acquiescence in the US-appointed Iraqi
government. Shia leaders were told that bringing Falluja under control
was the only way to prevent a Sunni-inspired civil war.

Blair was invited to share responsibility by sending British troops to
block escape routes from Falluja and prevent supplies entering once the
siege began.

Warnings of the onslaught prompted the vast majority of Falluja’s
300,000 people to flee. The city was then declared a free-fire zone on
the grounds that the only people left behind must be “terrorists”.

Three weeks after the attack was launched last November, the Americans
claimed victory. They say they killed about 1,300 people; one week into
the siege, a BBC reporter put the unofficial death toll at 2,000. But
details of what happened and who the dead were remain obscure. Were many
unarmed civilians, as Baghdad-based human rights groups report? Even if
they were trying to defend their homes by fighting the Americans, does
that make them “terrorists”?

Journalists “embedded” with US forces filmed atrocities, including the
killing of a wounded prisoner, but no reporter could get anything like a
full picture. Since the siege ended, tight US restric tions – as well as
the danger of hostage-taking that prevents reporters from travelling in
most parts of Iraq – have put the devastated city virtually off limits.

In this context Zoellick’s trip, which was covered by a small group of
US journalists, was illuminating. The deputy secretary of state had to
travel to this “liberated” city in a Black Hawk helicopter flying low
over palm trees to avoid being shot down. He wore a flak jacket under
his suit even though Falluja’s streets were largely deserted. His convoy
of eight armoured vehicles went “so quickly past an open-air bakery
reopened with a US-provided micro-loan that workers tossing dough could
be glanced only in the blink of an eye,” as the Washington Post
reported. “Blasted husks of buildings still line block after block,” the
journalist added.

Meeting hand-picked Iraqis in a US base, Zoellick was bombarded with
complaints about the pace of US reconstruction aid and frequent
intimidation of citizens by American soldiers. Although a state
department factsheet claimed 95% of residents had water in their homes,
Falluja’s mayor said it was contaminated by sewage and unsafe.

Other glimpses of life in Falluja come from Dr Hafid al-Dulaimi, head of
the city’s compensation commission, who reports that 36,000 homes were
destroyed in the US onslaught, along with 8,400 shops. Sixty nurseries
and schools were ruined, along with 65 mosques and religious sanctuaries.

Daud Salman, an Iraqi journalist with the Institute for War and Peace
Reporting, on a visit to Falluja two weeks ago, found that only a
quarter of the city’s residents had gone back. Thousands remain in tents
on the outskirts. The Iraqi Red Crescent finds it hard to go in to help
the sick because of the US cordon around the city.

Burhan Fasa’a, a cameraman for the Lebanese Broadcasting Company,
reported during the siege that dead family members were buried in their
gardens because people could not leave their homes. Refugees told one of
us that civilians carrying white flags were gunned down by American
soldiers. Corpses were tied to US tanks and paraded around like trophies.

Justin Alexander, a volunteer for Christian Peacemaker Teams, recently
found hundreds living in tents in the grounds of their homes, or in a
single patched-up room. A strict system of identity cards blocks access
to anyone whose papers give a birthplace outside Falluja, so long-term
residents born elsewhere cannot go home. “Fallujans feel the remnants of
their city have been turned into a giant prison,” he reports.

Many complain that soldiers of the Iraqi national guard, the fledgling
new army, loot shops during the night-time curfew and detain people in
order to take a bribe for their release. They are suspected of being
members of the Badr Brigade, a Shia militia that wants revenge against

One thing is certain: the attack on Falluja has done nothing to still
the insurgency against the US-British occupation nor produced the death
of al-Zarqawi – any more than the invasion of Afghanistan achieved the
capture or death of Osama bin Laden. Thousands of bereaved and homeless
Falluja families have a new reason to hate the US and its allies.

At least Zoellick went to see. He gave no hint of the impression that
the trip left him with, but is too smart not to have understood
something of the reality. The lesson ought not to be lost on Blair and
Straw. Every time the prime minister claims it is time to “move on” from
the issue of the war’s legality and rejoice at Iraq’s transformation
since Saddam Hussein was toppled, the answer must be: “Remember
Falluja.” When the foreign secretary next visits Iraq, he should put on
a flak jacket and tour the city that Britain had a share in destroying.

The government keeps hoping Iraq will go away as an election issue. It
stubbornly refuses to do so. Voters are not only angry that the war was
illegal, illegitimate and unnecessary. The treatment inflicted on Iraqis
since the invasion by the US and Britain is equally important.

In the 1930s the Spanish city of Guernica became a symbol of wanton
murder and destruction. In the 1990s Grozny was cruelly flattened by the
Russians; it still lies in ruins. This decade’s unforgettable monument
to brutality and overkill is Falluja, a text-book case of how not to
handle an insurgency, and a reminder that unpopular occupations will
always degenerate into desperation and atrocity.

Jonathan Steele is the Guardian’s senior foreign correspondent; Dahr
Jamail is a freelance American journalist.

Swiftboating Hillary (Alternet)

Now I'm no Hillary fan, but this is ridiculous for the disingenuity of it all!

Swiftboating Hillary

By Jamison Foser, Media Matters original to AlterNet
Posted on April 21, 2005, Printed on April 27, 2005

Why is Ann Coulter on the cover of Time magazine this week, the subject of an oft-favorable 5,800 word profile? Coulter is the author of a series of shrill, error-laden partisan screeds that likely line the shelves of your local bookstore. But how does Coulter, and the legion of hyper-partisan, venom-spewing right-wing authors she leads, sell so many books when her books are so full of errors, omissions, and outright lies? How did Unfit for Command come to dominate last year's presidential campaign for a month?

Conservative publishing houses and authors have come to play a huge role in our political discourse, with the rest of the media bestowing great attention -- and the influence that attention brings -- upon them; attention and influence that few progressive authors can match. It certainly isn't because Coulter, Dick Morris, David Bossie, Laura Ingraham and the rest are more factual than David Corn, Eric Alterman, and Molly Ivins -- quite the opposite. And it can't be because they are better writers, as anyone who has opened a Dick Morris book can attest.

The recent flurry of publicity surrounding the forthcoming attack book The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She'll Go to Become President provides a valuable lesson in how conservative publishers gain attention (and influence) for their books and authors -- and how those books are little more than partisan political tools.

A full five months before Edward Klein's book about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is scheduled to appear in bookstores, media outlets from Fox News to the Kansas City Star brought readers and viewers speculation that the "damaging" book could "torpedo" Clinton's potential 2008 presidential campaign.

The stories began with a Drudge Report posting that touted the book as "the ultimate Hillary-attack" and quoted a "source close to" Klein saying "The revelations in it should sink her candidacy."

That was enough to set the conservative media machine in motion; the Washington Times, New York Post, MSNBC's "Scarborough Country," and Fox News' "Hannity & Colmes" amplified Drudge's posting.

The Washington Times claimed a "new book could prove a roadblock to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's possible run for the White House in 2008."

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough told viewers the book's "contents are top-secret, but the sources say the revelations inside could torpedo Hillary Clinton's chances at a run at the White House," later adding, "A lot of people believe a new book, which promises to be a tell-all about Hillary Clinton, will stop her in 2008."

The Fox News shoutfest "Hannity & Colmes" hosted professional Clinton-basher Dick Morris, who announced that he was a source for The Truth About Hillary, and proudly answered "Yes" when host Alan Colmes asked if his goal is to "do anything you can to derail a possible Hillary candidacy?" Morris' own 2004 book attacking Sen. Clinton, Rewriting History, threatened to set a new world record for lies-per-page, as Media Matters showed at the time; immediately calling into question the credibility of any book that relies on him as a source.

Discussion of The Truth About Hillary and speculation about its possible impact on Clinton's possible presidential campaign wasn't limited to the explicitly conservative media; the Associated Press, New York Daily News, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Seattle Post-Intelligencer, among others, got in on the act. The Inquirer explained:

"There's a good bit of 'pre-buzz' buzz about an unauthorized biography of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton due for a September release by Sentinel Books. That would be the 'preliminary' media hysteria leading up to the marketing blitzkrieg-driven 'genuine' pre-publication buzz, which should start around June."

Daily News gossip columnist Lloyd Grove suggested that the "buzz" surrounding The Truth About Hillary was the result of intentional "leaks" from the publisher: "Klein yesterday wouldn't shed any light on Drudge's account and uttered a noncommittal 'uh-huh' when I noted that some might consider the report a ploy by Sentinel to generate prepublication buzz."

But while several news organizations touted the book, none had anything to say about the book's substance -- not entirely surprising, given that it won't be published for several months, but it does highlight the absurdity of suggesting that the book could affect a presidential campaign when not one media figure discussing it has read a word of it. Nor did the media outlets that "reported" on the book ask the obvious question: what new allegations could the book possibly contain?

The Clintons' business, personal, and public lives have been the subject of countless Congressional investigations; a $70 million Republican-led independent counsel investigation; and a cottage industry of right-wing attack books with titles like "Hell to Pay," "The Case Against Hillary Clinton," "American Evita: Hillary Clinton's Path to Power," "Ron Brown's Body: How One Man's Death Saved the Clinton Presidency and Hillary's Future," and "Hillary's Scheme: Inside the Next Clinton's Ruthless Agenda to Take the White House" -- and that's just the first page of search results for "Hillary Clinton." She has been accused of illegal firings, illegal hirings, affairs, murders, cover-ups, shake-downs, high crimes, low crimes, and changing favorite baseball teams. Yet none of the media outlets that have breathlessly covered this "damaging" new book have thought to ask the obvious question: what new allegations could they possibly throw at her? Kidnapping the Lindbergh Baby? Killing JFK? Killing JFK, Jr.?

The extraordinary attention paid to this not-yet-published book provides some insight into how right-wing attack books like those by Coulter and Klein get so much attention and gain so much influence: a carefully-orchestrated pre-publication publicity campaign by the publisher, aided by conservative media outlets like Fox News and the Washington Times, which are all too happy to serve as publicists.

But the few details available about The Truth About Hillary also serve as a useful reminder that these books are not, as the media often portrays them, honest investigative works; they are, rather, purely partisan tools designed specifically to damage reputations and influence elections.

The Washington Times reported that sales materials produced by Sentinel boast: "Just as the Swift Boat Veterans convinced millions of voters that John Kerry lacked the character to be president, Klein's book will influence everyone who is sizing up the character of Hillary Clinton." Likewise, the New York Post reported on April 12 that Sentinel spokesperson Will Weisser "said he hoped that The Truth About Hillary would do to Clinton what the Swift Boat Veterans bestseller did to Kerry. 'That would be our fondest wish,' he said, before adding, 'We're just trying to sell books. It will be up to the voters to read the book and decide for themselves about Senator Clinton. We're not out to get anyone, per se.'"

The publisher's comparison of The Truth About Hillary to the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth demonstrates both that the forthcoming book is an attempt to influence an election, and that it will likely be filled with misstatements, unsubstantiated allegations, distortions, contradictions and outright lies.

Damaging Senator Clinton apparently isn't just a goal held by the publisher; author Edward Klein "doesn't care for the Clintons," according to a December 2004 New York Post article based on comments from an "insider." Along with Klein's apparent animosity towards the Clintons, his credentials as an author deserve more scrutiny than they have gotten. Klein's previous books have been widely denounced in reviews for relying on "anonymous sources" and "psychobabble"; he left his post as editor-in-chief of the New York Times Magazine in the wake of the magazine's publication of what the Washington Post described as "two stories of questionable accuracy."

So: the book's publisher has suggested the purpose of the book is to defeat Clinton; the author is known to dislike the Clintons; and the one known source -- Dick Morris -- has leveled increasingly bizarre allegations against the Clintons for years and says he'll do anything he can to defeat her.

And yet, the book (so far) is being taken seriously, and presented as a serious threat to Sen. Clinton. Its potential to "damage" her is taken as a given by the media, months before it is published; nobody wonders what credible damaging information about Clinton could possibly have remained unearthed all these years; nobody speaks of the book as what it is: an obvious partisan attack, the goal of which is not finding the truth, but derailing a political career.

With a finely-tuned right-wing publishing and promotion apparatus pushing their books months in advance, conservative media outlets eagerly acting as publicists, and so-called "mainstream" media outlets that don't bother to take a critical look at the content -- or intent -- of the books, it's no wonder authors like Coulter sell so many copies. This week's deeply flawed Time magazine cover story about Coulter -- in which the author laughably explains that he did a Google search but couldn't find many examples of her getting facts wrong -- and the hype around the forthcoming Klein book illustrate the problem perfectly: the media takes these books and authors seriously enough to give them extensive attention, but not serious enough to give them the scrutiny and critical reviews they deserve.
© 2005 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Friday, April 22, 2005

PDA Voter Recommendations

Last week, Progressive Democrats of America and a coalition of other
organizations submitted a list of recommendations for the commission to

Constitutional right to vote for all citizens, without exception
Paper ballots as the official record of all votes cast
Open source code for all machines used to count and/or tabulate the votes
Independent analysis of all voting machine software and hardware before and after elections
Unified national standards for national elections
No vote machine company executive or employee involvement in campaign work for any candidate
Random audit of 10% of elections
10-day period for voting
Election day registration
Voter identification by any official form of identification
Independent non-partisan administration and multi-partisan observation of elections
Voting rights restoration to convicted felons
No computer networking of vote machines
Publicly financed elections for federal offices and free access to public airwaves to all candidates
Fair ballot access laws and access to debates for all candidates and parties
Federal holiday for national elections
Instant Run-off Voting and Proportional Representation
Equal protection for voting rights nationwide
Augmentation and reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act