Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Post-Constitutional America: New Law

The dismantling of the republic is nearly complete. In the last few weeks the Bush administration has passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 which allows the president to arrest and torture whomever he chooses without charging him with a crime. Also, unbeknownst to most Americans, Bush signed into law a provision which, according to Senator Patrick Leahy, will allow the president to unilaterally declare martial law. By changing The Insurrection Act, Bush has essentially overturned the Posse Comitatus Act which bars the president from deploying troops with the United States. The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 (as it is called) also allows Bush to take control of the National Guard which has always been under the purview of the state governors. Bush now has absolute power over all armed troops within the country, a state of affairs which the constitution purposely tried to prevent. The administration’s dream of militarizing the country under the sole authority of the executive has now been achieved although the public still has no idea that a coup has taken place. --Pete (with an assist from Information Clearinghouse)


(a) Use of the Armed Forces Authorized-

(1) IN GENERAL- Section 333 of title 10, United States Code, is amended to read as follows:

`Sec. 333. Major public emergencies; interference with State and Federal law

`(a) Use of Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies- (1) The President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service, to--

`(A) restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that--

`(i) domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order; and

`(ii) such violence results in a condition described in paragraph (2); or

`(B) suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy if such insurrection, violation, combination, or conspiracy results in a condition described in paragraph (2).

`(2) A condition described in this paragraph is a condition that--

`(A) so hinders the execution of the laws of a State or possession, as applicable, and of the United States within that State or possession, that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law, and the constituted authorities of that State or possession are unable, fail, or refuse to protect that right, privilege, or immunity, or to give that protection; or

`(B) opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws.

`(3) In any situation covered by paragraph (1)(B), the State shall be considered to have denied the equal protection of the laws secured by the Constitution.

`(b) Notice to Congress- The President shall notify Congress of the determination to exercise the authority in subsection (a)(1)(A) as soon as practicable after the determination and every 14 days thereafter during the duration of the exercise of that authority.'.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Wal-Mart workers win $78.5 million lawsuit

By Betsey Piette
Published Oct 25, 2006

A Philadelphia jury found Oct. 13 that Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer and Pennsylvania’s largest private employer, knowingly benefited from not paying employees for all the time they worked. The jury awarded $78.5 million to current and former employees of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Pennsylvania stores. The ruling involves nearly 187,000 workers.

After a five-week trial, the Common Pleas Court jury found that Wal-Mart failed to pay workers for their rest breaks, forcing employees to work off the clock. The jury found that the mega-chain knowingly received an unfair benefit from not paying the employees.

Wal-Mart could be forced to pay more damages in the case.

“I would say Wal-Mart was stealing our time, because we weren’t getting our breaks,” former employee Delores Killingsworth Barber of North Philadelphia testified to the jury. Another Philadelphia area employee, Michelle Braun, told of being locked inside the store and forced to work without pay after she had clocked out when her shift ended.

Wal-Mart attorney Neal Manne argued that the lead plaintiffs were just a small group of disgruntled employees. However, the fact that at least seven other class-action lawsuits and more than 50 smaller lawsuits are pending against Wal-Mart on wage and hour issues proves otherwise.

In December, California jurors awarded $172.3 million to a class of 115,919 current and former Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club workers who were made to miss meal breaks.

In the Pennsylvania case, jurors found that workers at Wal-Mart were forced to work more than 33 million rest breaks between 1998 and 2001 because company management were under pressure to cut costs. Store managers received bonuses that sometimes doubled their pay if they reached the profit goal.

While clearly a victory for the workers involved, the class-action finding fails to address the ongoing problem that the world’s largest retailer continues to make mega-profits off the back of its seriously underpaid work force.

In 2004, Wal-Mart Chief Executive Officer Lee Scott received a salary of $1.2 million and $22 million in bonuses, stock awards and stock options. In 2005, Wal-Mart’s average sales “associate” earned $17,114 a year–that’s more than $10,000 under the poverty level of a two-person family to meet basic needs. In addition, Wal-Mart’s health insurance policy only covers 43 percent of its 1.39 million employees. And those covered end up paying a high proportion of their incomes to cover premiums and deductibles.

A 2005 study, “The Effect of Wal-Mart on Local Labor Markets” by David Neumark, also found that the average Wal-Mart store reduces wages per person by 5 percent for all workers in the county in which it operates.

While Wal-Mart clearly profits from underpaying workers at stores in the United States, its biggest profit margin comes from exploiting workers in Wal-Mart factories abroad. Workers from Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Nicaragua and Swaziland brought a class- action lawsuit against Wal-Mart in September 2005, asserting that they were often paid less than the legal minimum wage. Some said they were beaten by managers and were locked in their factories.

Wal-Mart workers need more than lawsuits. They need a company-wide union that can fight for workers’ rights at home and abroad.

This article is copyright under a Creative Commons License.
Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Email: ww@workers.org
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Protesters dog Bush in North Carolina

By David Dixon
Greensboro, N.C.
Published Oct 25, 2006

When President George Bush came to North Carolina on Oct. 18, he was met by protesters all through the day.

He came to the predominantly African-American Waldo C. Falkener Elementary School to tout the supposed success of his No Child Left Behind Act. Some 45 people showed up to demonstrate against his policies of endless war, torture, neglect of Rita/Katrina victims, and dishonesty. One protester held a sign that said, “No child left a dime!” to highlight the Bush administration’s tax cuts for the wealthy and gutting of social programs for working and poor people.

Afterwards, Bush was greeted by a group of protesters in Randleman, N.C., when he went to the Victory Junction Gang Camp, a camp for children with health care needs.

Then came the real-life nightmare on Elm Street, when Bush returned to Greensboro to attend a private Republican fundraiser in a wealthy enclave near Elm Street and Sunset Drive, where he raised over $900,000. People are so disgusted with Bush and his policies that even some people in the neighborhood joined the protest.

Some 130 people rallied, demanding Bush be jailed for his war crimes and subversion of constitutional rights. It was a lively protest with drummers keeping everyone’s spirits and energy up. People chanted to the beat of the drums saying, “There’s a killer in the White House, time to drive his ass out,” “End the occupation,” and “Bush is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s. This war is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s.”

When protesters attempted to march into the neighborhood to demonstrate in front of the fundraiser, a line of cops formed. Progressive attorney Louis Pitts, after speaking with police, informed the crowd that their rights were being violated. Police claimed the area was a “secure area” but were allowing cars to drive in, and Bush supporters were visibly on the sidewalk ahead. Demonstrators held an impromptu street meeting to decide what to do next.

Before the discussion ended, police had closed off the entire street, but the rally continued as people marched around the busy intersection. There was a makeshift jail with Bush inside, a towering orange arrest warrant, a hula-hooper for peace, a coffin with “Roe v Wade” painted on the side, and a large pink banner saying “Impeach to support our troops.” Several people were able to sneak around the block and protest at the fundraiser.

Almost all the protesters wore an orange ribbon and some dressed in orange to show their opposition to the recently passed Military Commissions Act of 2006, which legalizes torture. The act also strips away the right of habeas corpus to anyone Bush declares an enemy combatant, among many other unconstitutional aspects.

The protest was organized by Greensboro World Can’t Wait with the support of Action Center For Justice and Char-Meck Code Pink. People from around North Carolina participated, including the cities of Charlotte, Reidsville, Kernersville, Burlington, Wilmington, Winston-Salem, and Chapel Hill.

The protest was covered by a couple of local news stations and Greensboro’s News and Record. As usual, they underreported the number of people and ignored many of the most significant statements and details of this incredible display of opposition to the Bush administration.

This article is copyright under a Creative Commons License.
Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Email: ww@workers.org
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Friday, October 20, 2006


Why might the president and his family need a 98,840-acre ranch in Paraguay protected by a semi-secret U.S. military base manned by American troops who have been exempted from war-crimes prosecution by the Paraguayan government? - Wonkette

PRENSA LATINA - The land grab project of US President George W. Bush in Chaco, Paraguay, has generated considerable discomfort both politically and environmentally. The news circulating the continent about plans to buy 98,840 acres of land in Chaco, Paraguay, near the Triple Frontier (Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay) is the talk of the town in these countries.

Although official sources have not confirmed the information that is already public, the land is reportedly located in Paso de Patria, near Bolivian gas reserves and the Guarani indigenous water region, within the Triple Border. . .

Concern increased last week with the arrival of Bush" daughter, Jenna, and a source from the Physical Planning Department saying that most of the Chaco region belongs to private companies.

Luis D'Elia, Argentina´s undersecretary for Land for Social Habitat, says the matter raises regional concern because it threatens local natural resources.


STEVE O - It has been reported that George W. Bush has recently purchased a 98,842 acre farm in Northern Paraguay. What on earth does the President of the United States need a 98,000+ acre farm in Northern Paraguay for?

On the surface it looks all very innocent, but let's add the very quiet trip that Jenna Bush made to the country earlier this month in which she met Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte and his family at their official residence. She also met with U.S. Ambassador James Cason. Could it be that our little drunken Jenna is all grown up and playing diplomacy?

This all still seems very innocent on the surface, but now let's add the five hundred U.S. troops that arrived in Paraguay with planes, weapons and ammunition in July 2005, shortly after the Paraguayan Senate granted U.S. troops immunity from national and International Criminal Court jurisdiction. Neighboring countries and human rights organizations are concerned the massive air base at Mariscal Estigarribia, Paraguay is potential real estate for the U.S. military.

Does Bush plan on being charged with something in the future? Does Bush foresee a collapse of the United States and feels a strong need to have a place to cut and run to, or does Bush just need a nice secret little place other than Gitmo where he can send people he doesn't like?


BRING IT ON - Jenna Bush paid a secret diplomatic visit to Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte and U.S. Ambassador James Cason. There were no press conferences, no public sightings and no official confirmation of her 10-day trip which apparently ended this week. . .

And Jenna's down there having secret meetings with the president and America's ambassador to Paraguay, James Cason. Bush posted Cason in Havana in 2002, but last year moved him to Paraguay. Cason apparently gets around. A former "political adviser" to the U.S. Atlantic Command and ATO's Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic, Cason has been stationed in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama … basically everywhere the U.S. has run secret and not-so-secret wars over the past 30 years.

Here's a fun question for Tony Snow: Why might the president and his family need a 98,840-acre ranch in Paraguay protected by a semi-secret U.S. military base manned by American troops who have been exempted from war-crimes prosecution by the Paraguayan government?

WONKETTE - Here's a little background on the base itself, which Rumsfeld secretly visited in late 2005: U.S. Special Forces began arriving this past summer at Paraguay's Mariscal Estigarribia air base, a sprawling complex built in 1982 during the reign of dictator Alfredo Stroessner.

Argentinean journalists who got a peek at the place say the airfield can handle B-52 bombers and Galaxy C-5 cargo planes. It also has a huge radar system, vast hangers, and can house up to 16,000 troops. The air base is larger than the international airport at the capital city, Asuncion.


Related brief commentary...
From my undergraduate history of the Cold War, I seem to recall that after the Allied victory in World War Two, the northern reaches of Paraguay provided a refuge for Nazi war criminals – including Dr. Josef Mengele. A rogue Nazi, a rogue president – a refuge for rogues in the mists of Paraguay - is that a coincidence – or not?
Michael Carmichael , GlobalResearch.ca, 2006

Fnord! Bob is forever grateful!

A quick word on Robert Anton Wilson and the general state of generosity and human kindness. The word went out on the web early this month that Bob was in a financial pickel due to his need for 24 hour care. In about 5 days, more than $50,000 was donated to Bob Wilson by has fans and readers! He was flabbergasted and humbled beyond measure. This kindly swarm of donations has fully enabled Bob to receive the care he (and everyone!) deserves. More details at his site. Praise Bob! Hail Eris!


Thursday, October 19, 2006

California Letter Investigated for Warning to Immigrants

October 18, 2006
NYT Article Here...

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 17 — Federal and state authorities are trying to determine who sent a letter to some Latinos in Southern California that falsely suggested that it would be a crime for immigrants to vote in the coming election.

The letter, written in formal, sometimes clumsy Spanish and signed “Sergio Ramirez,” was mailed last week to an undetermined number of people with Spanish surnames in Orange County, the authorities said. It advised recipients that “if you’re an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that can result in incarceration,” or deportation.

While illegal immigrants are barred from voting, legal immigrants who have become citizens are permitted to do so.

The letter also stated that the federal government had installed a computer system to verify the names of new registered voters who vote in October and November and that anti-immigration groups would be able to access that information. Election Day is Nov. 7, but early voting is allowed Oct. 20-29 in Orange County.

Cynthia Magnuson, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, which along with the California attorney general’s office is investigating the letter’s source, said there was no such database.

“The letter contains false information,” Ms. Magnuson said.

The letter was printed on stationery labeled with the name of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, a strident anti-illegal-immigration group whose Web site features a video on how illegal immigrants bring disease to the United States.

But Barbara Coe, the group’s leader, told The Los Angeles Times, which first reported the letter on Tuesday, that her group had not sent or authorized it, and that she did not know a Sergio Ramirez. On Tuesday, Ms. Coe did not return repeated phone calls and e-mail seeking comment.

Some Latino leaders expressed doubts on Tuesday about Ms. Coe’s denial and said they suspected the letter was part of a concerted, long-term effort on the part of groups like hers to intimidate voters.

“They’re taking as much action as they can to make the lives of Latinos as miserable as possible,” said Brent Wilkes, the national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, a civil rights group.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called the letter racist and urged Bill Lockyer, the California attorney general, to prosecute those responsible with a hate crime. A collection of other civil rights groups also called on Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to investigate the letter as a violation of federal voting laws.

Nathan Barankin, a spokesman for Mr. Lockyer, said his office had been alerted to the letter on Monday morning, after a weekend in which Latino leaders fielded calls from outraged constituents.

“They could be naturalized citizens or they could be fourth-generation Californians,” Mr. Barankin said of the recipients. “What we do know is that some of the recipients of this letter are legal and longtime registered voters in California.”

Mr. Barankin said the letter could have violated two California laws. One bans the use of coercion or intimidation in an effort to prevent someone from voting; the other makes it illegal to knowingly challenge a person’s right to vote on fraudulent and spurious grounds.

It was unclear, Mr. Barankin said, how many of the letters were distributed, but his office expected more complaints.

“We’re going to determine who sent it, and why they sent it and then from that, if there’s enough evidence to prosecute,” Mr. Barankin said.

Orange County, between Los Angeles and San Diego, has seen a substantial increase in its Latino population over the last two decades. A 2005 estimate by the Census Bureau reported that nearly one in three Orange County residents was of Latino or Hispanic origin.

Representative Loretta Sanchez, a Democrat from Garden Grove, in northern Orange County, said that she had heard from a handful of constituents in her district who received a letter, and that she feared it could scare off first-time voters.

“Santa Ana and Anaheim are the new Ellis Island of the United States,” Ms. Sanchez said, mentioning two Orange County cities with large Latino populations. “New people are becoming citizens every day, and who knows the sophistication level when they get a letter like this?”

But others thought the letter would have little effect.

“I think Latino voters are astute enough not to be intimidated,” said John Trasviña, the interim president and general counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in Los Angeles. “And they’ve seen the same tactics used against them in the recent past as well as the farther ago past. And they won’t take it.”

Pentagon Monitoring Peace Activists' E-Mails

By Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive
Posted on October 19, 2006

More information keeps coming out, thanks to the ACLU, about the Bush Administration's equation of protest with terrorism -- and the snooping it then engages in.

Homeland Security is monitoring peace groups and even peering at their e-mails. "This information is being provided only to alert commanders and staff to potential terrorist activity or apprise them of other force protection issues."

It then shares that information with Joint Terrorism Task Forces, which include the FBI and state and local law enforcement, as well as with the Pentagon's notorious Talon (Threat and Local Observation Notice) program.

For instance, an April 12, 2005, Talon document, just released by the ACLU, shows that the Pentagon was concerned about "suspicious activity" at an upcoming event sponsored by the Broward Anti-War Coalition in Florida.

This peace group, according to the document, was planning -- hold your breath here -- "guerrilla theater and other forms of subversive propaganda" at the Fort Lauderdale Air and Sea Show.

The source of the information was the Miami-Dade Police Department, and members of Army Recruiting and the Miami Joint Terrorism Task Force were briefed on it, the document states.

Another Talon document, dated March 1, 2005, released by the ACLU, reveals that Homeland Security agents are monitoring e-mails of such scary groups as the Quakers.

"The source received an e-mail on 25 Feb 05, subject: upcoming peace/anti-war events. The e-mail was from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Northeast Ohio," the document states. And that source is identified as "a special agent of the Federal Protective Service, US Department of Homeland Security." The document adds, "Source is reliable."

The Joint Terrorism Task Force of Dayton, Ohio, was briefed on this one.

The planned activity of the Quakers that so concerned the Pentagon, Homeland Security, and the Joint Terrorism Task Force was this: "On 19 Mar 05, there will be a 'Stop the War NOW!' rally in commemoration of the second anniversary of the U.S. Invasion/Occupation of Iraq. The Akron rally will have a march and reading of names of war dead. ... The Akron march begins at noon and goes past a local military recruiting station and the FBI office. The march will end at the Federal Building in Akron, for a rally, followed by reading of names of U.S. and Iraqi war dead."

A third Talon document, dated March 7, 2005, also relies on an e-mail from the Quakers. "Source received an e-mail from the American Friends Service Committee" about "actions at military recruitment offices with the goals to include: raising awareness, education, visibility." The source is again identified as "a special agent of the Federal Protective Service, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Source is reliable."

All three Talon documents state at the top: "This information is being provided only to alert commanders and staff to potential terrorist activity or apprise them of other force protection issues."

"Potential terrorist activity." Isn't that delightful?

Word to the wise: If you're a peace activist, the government may be watching you and reading your e-mails.

Something just to keep in mind.

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive.
© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/43085/

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Memory Hole Fixit...

Just to be clear - please remember that habeas corpus is (was?) the legal right of anyone who is thrown into prison to ask,

"Hey, why am I in prison"?

BushCo. has just done away with such bothersome niceties, the signing into law being portrayed as necessary to the War On Terra.

Can I Get A "Heil"?

When fascism comes to the United States it will be draped in the American flag.
~~Huey Long

Police state round-up

Fascism on the march in the ol' US of A!

By Joshua Holland
Posted on October 18, 2006

Let's see...

In CounterPunch, Stephen Pearcy details a frightening visit paid by the Secret Service to a 14 year-old honors' student who had some art on her MySpace page that scared the preznit's minders.

The agents told [Julia's Mom] that since the art included the words, "Kill Bush," and since it was accessible to anyone on the Internet, there was a very strong likelihood that someone-possibly a terrorist from a foreign country-might see the image and be inspired to act upon it. Thus, they reasoned, even if Julia only meant to be funny, the art put the President in grave danger.

The S.S. agents left and made a beeline directly to Julia's school, C.K. McClatchy High School, the alma mater of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy ('54) (and my mother ('52)).

Notwithstanding that Julia posted the artwork on MySpace when she was 13 and removed it last summer, and that the President had come to Sacramento twice while Julia's art remained inconsequential, the agents had suddenly determined that time was of the essence. They ordered school officials to have Julia promptly removed from class and brought to the school office, where they proceeded to grill her about her art.

Many critics of the S.S.' creation of a "sense of urgency" to contact Julia believe that it was tactically intended to send a chilling message to other students. Many lawyers, activists and free speech advocates believe that the goal of the S.S. was to generally deter young people from being too critical of the President. And what better way to send a chilling message to students than for the S.S. to pull a student out of class at a large public school?

In the school's office, the S.S. agents interrogated Julia, reducing her to tears at many points. They demanded to know whether she or her parents belonged to any subversive organizations, and they often raised their voices, especially when they detected that Julia was either scared or didn't understand their ambiguous questions.

On the bright side, Julia was not declared an enemy combatant nor was she stripped of citizenship. Whew!


Bush signed the Torture Bill today. In a sure sign that Orwell was born in the wrong era, we learn that this was going on at the same time:

While Bush was signing the terror detainee bill, some opponents were being arrested outside.

Authorities say 16 people are charged with impeding access to a White House entrance. They were hauled away from a sidewalk.

The demonstrators come from a coalition of religious groups and had been shouting slogans like "Bush is the terrorist" and "Torture is a crime."

Tell your grandkids that there was a time in this country when people were guaranteed the right to assemble peaceably and seek redress from the government for whatever grievances they may have had. Good times.

Here's Bruce Ackerman's take on the bill. I've long been a fan.

And Froomkin:

The new law vaguely bans torture -- but makes the administration the arbiter of what is torture and what isn't. It allows the president to imprison indefinitely anyone he decides falls under a wide-ranging new definition of unlawful combatant. It suspends the Great Writ of habeas corpus for detainees. It allows coerced testimony at trial. It immunizes retroactively interrogators who may have engaged in torture.

Here's what Bush had to say at his signing ceremony in the East Room: "The bill I sign today helps secure this country, and it sends a clear message: This nation is patient and decent and fair, and we will never back down from the threats to our freedom."

But that may not be the "clear message" the new law sends most people.

Here's the clear message the law sends to the world: America makes its own rules. The law would apparently subject terror suspects to some of the same sorts of brutal interrogation tactics that have historically been prosecuted as war crimes when committed against Americans.

Here's the clear message to the voters: This Congress is willing to rubberstamp pretty much any White House initiative it sees as being in its short-term political interests. (And I don't just mean the Republicans; 12 Senate Democrats and 32 House Democrats voted for the bill as well.)

On that note, let me say that I understand entirely why Sherrod Brown, a favorite legislator and a very, very good guy, felt compelled to vote for it. He's in a tight race with Mike DeWine for an Ohio Senate seat, DeWine's played the national security angle to the hilt and the bill had enough support to pass with or without his vote. Brown will do so much good in the Senate on issues like trade, on economic justice and on limiting corporate abuse and will be a reliable vote to withdrawal from Iraq.

And yet, I don't care about all that. It's simply unacceptable. I don't mind pragmatism, but the line has to be drawn somewhere, and, in my mind, torture is the place. I still support Brown's candidacy, but I weep for a political culture in which opposing torture makes a person look "soft."


There's a debate about Arlen Spectre's role in the passage of the bill. Read about it here. I don't know which side has it right, but it has long been clear that when it comes to executive power and the rules guiding the War on Terrr, the "moderate" and "independent" Republicans can be expected to fold -- every time -- when the chips are down. Shame on those Dems that fool themselves into believing otherwise.

Sign the "People's Signing Statement" rejecting torture in America, sponsored by the Washington Region Religious Campaign Against Torture, here.


Lynne Stewart, referred to in virtually every account as a "radical attorney," was sentenced to prison for transmitting communications from her client, The Blind Sheikh, to the outside world. But she got off light, and viewed the day as a "victory."

(Bias alert: a good friend did some legal work on Stewart's behalf and got me drunk and talked my ear off about everything that was wrong with the case, in her view.)

Stewart's admitted to passing messages from Sheikh Omar-Abdel Rahman, convicted of planning a series of attacks in the New York area in 1995, to supporters outside. She claims she didn't know what one crucial message contained: a note withdrawing the Sheikh's support for a cease-fire between his followers and the Egyptian government. My friend said she thought it was inhuman to deprive the Sheikh of all communication with the outside world, saying "we don't throw people down a well in this country." Actually, if they're terrorists, the evidence is that we do. Frankly, I'm not sure there aren't cases when it's appropriate.

Anyway, she admits to screwing up, but the issue at hand is that DOJ, under John Ashcroft, over-charged the case for purely political reasons. Stewart, who faces breast cancer, was looking at 30 years (as was her translator) on a raft of terrorism charges.

She got 28 months. The translator got 20 months. A postal worker who relayed the messages to Egyptian militants was given 20 years.

[Judge] Koeltl noted … that neither Stewart's actions nor those of her co-defendants, translator Mohammed Yousry and legal assistant Ahmed Sattar, resulted in violence here or overseas. Having lashed Stewart for her criminal conduct, the judge pivoted, commending her for leading an otherwise exemplary life as a legal advocate for the poor, despised and dispossessed.

"Ms. Stewart performed a public service, not only to her clients but to the nation," Koeltl said. "She's made an extraordinary contribution."

Taken as a whole, the judge argued, her accomplishments amounted to a strong argument for departing from nonbinding federal guidelines that could have led him to impose a 30-year sentence.

Koeltl's decision to mete out a comparatively mild sentence amounted to a slap at federal prosecutors in a case that former Attorney General John Ashcroft repeatedly had hailed as a nationwide model.

But more than a few legal observers divined a message in the judge's sentences.

"There's no doubt the government has tried to use this case to chill effective advocacy in terror cases," said Neal Sonnett, a former federal prosecutor and past chair of the American Bar Association's Criminal Justice Section and current chair of the task force on treatment of enemy combatants. "I'm delighted the judge was not swayed by the frenzy over terrorism."

At TomPaine, Jennifer Van Bergen writes:

The sentence reduction is important not just to Stewart but to all of us because it illustrates distinctions that the Justice Department seems incapable of making these days: the distinction between someone who violates a regulation (not a criminal offense) and someone who engages in terrorist acts or intentionally promotes such ends. The distinction, in the end, between bad judgment and criminal intent, or even between innocence and guilt.

The righties are flipping out (when aren't they in a huff over something?), and the prosecution may appeal the sentence.




The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado on Tuesday accused law enforcement officers of wrongly arresting a Thornton woman with no criminal record while she was nursing her baby and then strip-searching her at the jail because she was named in a botched warrant.

Oh, that's just charming.

And our friends up North get into the act:

B.C. Solicitor General John Les says he backs the federal government's controversial "three strikes" legislation that will make it easier to impose indefinite prison sentences on violent criminals.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has called the bill "sophomoric" and "offensive to the principle of innocent until proven guilty."

Joshua Holland is a staff writer at Alternet and a regular contributor to The Gadflyer.
© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/bloggers/joshua/43159/

Why Washington Wanted Warner

WHY is the Washington establishment so upset over Mark Warner's decision not to run for president? Not because he had showed up well in any polls - he hardly showed up at all.

No, it's just that the establishment really thinks it should pick our presidents and not risk leaving the matter to mere voters. After all that's what happened with Bill Clinton.

And Mark Warner was meant to be the Bill Clinton of 2008, someone who looks like a Democrat but frequently enough acts like a Republican in order, as the following sycophantic report says, "to provide solutions."

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTON POST - Warner's anticipated campaign was to be built around the notion that in an age of polarized politics, many voters are eager for a leader focused on reaching across partisan barriers for solutions to big problems. . . On paper, Bayh most closely resembles Warner in both ideological profile and governing style. Both are former governors of Republican-leaning states who have spent much of their time in office working with members of the rival party to provide


Quarter of Americans say they or family put off medical treatment due to cost

KAISER FOUNDATION - One in four Americans say that they or a family member in their household had problems paying medical bills during the past 12 months, according to a new poll conducted jointly by ABC News, the Kaiser Family Foundation and USA Today. That's the highest share of Americans reporting a problem paying medical bills in a series of Kaiser surveys taken since 1997. Among those reporting a problem this year, nearly seven in 10 have health insurance.

- About one in four (28%) Americans say that in the past year they or a family member have put off medical treatment because of its cost. Of those who delayed treatment, seven in 10 (70%) say that the care was for a serious medical condition.

- Among those with health insurance, most (60%) are worried about not being able to afford coverage over the next few years, with 27% saying they are very worried.

- More than half (54%) of those without health coverage say the main reason is because they can't afford it, while another 15% say they can't get it due to poor health, illness or age. In comparison, just 4% say the main reason they lack health insurance is because they think they don't need it.

- Eight in 10 Americans (80%) say they are dissatisfied with the overall cost of health care to the nation. When asked about their own concerns about the health care system, cost comes out far ahead of quality. Four in 10 say that they are dissatisfied with their personal health care costs, compared with one in 10 who say they are dissatisfied with the quality of their health care.

JULIE APPLEBY, USA TODAY - Fifty-six percent say they would prefer universal coverage to the current system. . . In the survey, 68% said providing coverage for everyone is more important than keeping taxes down. . .

When survey respondents were asked about possible trade-offs that might come with a universal program, positive responses plummeted. The poll found:

76% would oppose universal coverage if it meant some medical treatments currently covered by insurance would no longer be covered.

68% would be against it if it led to limits on the choice of doctors.

Article Here...

DEAN BAKER, PROSPECT - USA Today had an article this morning on rising U.S. health care costs. It never mentions the fact that the United States pays more than twice as much per person as the average among other wealthy countries, yet has shorter life expectancies.


Monday, October 16, 2006

I won't allow Bush's crimes to disappear down the memory-hole ...

By Joshua Holland
Posted on October 15, 2006

As I reviewed some of the reports that the UN weapons inspectors submitted to the Security Council in early 2003, my thoughts turned to the Johns Hopkins-MIT study estimating that as many as 950,000 Iraqis have died since the invasion for nothing at all.

Yes, I am "re-hashing" old events and "re-litigating" the debate over the war. I have to because there are, today, liberal hawks (and hawks-hawks, of course) running around defending their support for this insanity because of their deluded notion that everything would have gone swimmingly if not for the bunglers in the White House.

That facile evasion -- the "incompetence dodge" -- must not stand. So humor me for a moment while I recall the most crucial junction, in my view, in the lead-up to the war.

It was March 7, 2003, when Hans Blix, the UN's chief weapons inspector, briefed the Security Council on the progress of the inspections regime:

In matters relating to process, notably prompt access to sites, we have faced relatively few difficulties and certainly much less than those that were faced by UNSCOM in the period 1991 to 1998. This may well be due to the strong outside pressure.

Some practical matters … have been resolved at meetings, which we have had in Baghdad. Initial difficulties raised by the Iraqi side about helicopters and aerial surveillance planes operating in the no-fly zones were overcome. This is not to say that the operation of inspections is free from frictions, but at this juncture we are able to perform professional no-notice inspections all over Iraq and to increase aerial surveillance. […]

It was a disappointment that Iraq's Declaration of 7 December did not bring new documentary evidence... When proscribed items are deemed unaccounted for it is above all credible accounts that is needed - or the proscribed items, if they exist.

Where authentic documents do not become available, interviews with persons, who may have relevant knowledge and experience, may be another way of obtaining evidence. UNMOVIC has names of such persons in its records and they are among the people whom we seek to interview. In the last month, Iraq has provided us with the names of many persons, who may be relevant sources of information, in particular, persons who took part in various phases of the unilateral destruction of biological and chemical weapons, and proscribed missiles in 1991. […]

… with relevant witnesses available it becomes even more important to be able to conduct interviews in modes and locations, which allow us to be confident that the testimony is given without outside influence. While the Iraqi side seems to have encouraged interviewees not to request the presence of Iraqi officials (so-called minders) or the taping of the interviews, conditions ensuring the absence of undue influences are difficult to attain inside Iraq. Interviews outside the country might provide such assurance. It is our intention to request such interviews shortly. Nevertheless, despite remaining shortcomings, interviews are useful.

… intelligence authorities have claimed that weapons of mass destruction are moved around Iraq by trucks and, in particular, that there are mobile production units for biological weapons. The Iraqi side states that such activities do not exist. Several inspections have taken place at declared and undeclared sites in relation to mobile production facilities. Food testing mobile laboratories and mobile workshops have been seen, as well as large containers with seed processing equipment. No evidence of proscribed activities have so far been found…

On 14 February, I reported to the Council that the Iraqi side had become more active in taking and proposing steps, which potentially might shed new light on unresolved disarmament issues. Even a week ago, when the current quarterly report was finalized, there was still relatively little tangible progress to note. Hence, the cautious formulations in the report before you.

As of today, there is more…

He then listed a bunch of specifics about Al Samoud missiles having been destroyed and the Iraqis proposing methods of verifying whether Anthrax stocks had been neutralized as they claimed.

What are we to make of these activities? One can hardly avoid the impression that, after a period of somewhat reluctant cooperation, there has been an acceleration of initiatives from the Iraqi side since the end of January.

This is welcome, but the value of these measures must be soberly judged by how many question marks they actually succeed in straightening out. This is not yet clear. [...]

The Iraqi side has tried on occasion to attach conditions, as it did regarding helicopters and U-2 planes. Iraq has not, however, so far persisted in these or other conditions for the exercise of any of our inspection rights. If it did, we would report it.

It is obvious that, while the numerous initiatives, which are now taken by the Iraqi side with a view to resolving some long-standing open disarmament issues, can be seen as "active", or even "proactive", these initiatives 3-4 months into the new resolution cannot be said to constitute "immediate" cooperation. Nor do they necessarily cover all areas of relevance. They are nevertheless welcome and UNMOVIC is responding to them in the hope of solving presently unresolved disarmament issues. […]

How much time would it take to resolve the key remaining disarmament tasks? While cooperation can and is to be immediate, disarmament and at any rate the verification of it cannot be instant. Even with a proactive Iraqi attitude, induced by continued outside pressure, it would still take some time to verify sites and items, analyse documents, interview relevant persons, and draw conclusions. It would not take years, nor weeks, but months.

It would not take years, nor weeks, but months.

Blix' counterpart at the IAEA, Mohammed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, also briefed that same day. He was more blunt than Blix. After thoroughly discounting Colin Powell's assertion that some aluminum tubes detected by surveillance were part of a nuclear centrifuge, he went on to destroy the charge that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program:

After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons programme in Iraq… I should note that, in the past three weeks, possibly as a result of ever-increasing pressure by the international community, Iraq has been forthcoming in its co-operation, particularly with regard to the conduct of private interviews and in making available evidence that could contribute to the resolution of matters of IAEA concern.

The process of confirming the rest was well underway. The Iraqis, having dragged their feet at first, were staring at a couple of hundred thousand U.S. troops just over the border in Kuwait and were coming into full compliance -- the regime could, on March 7, "be seen as 'active', or even 'proactive,'" Blix said. Cooperation was, at that point, "immediate."

Those who lusted for blood and war and dead Arabs following 9/11 said at the time that we couldn't keep our troops in the desert -- in air-conditioned tents in Kuwait without IEDs going off around them every day -- for months longer waiting for the inspections to finish.

Ask the troops if they were right. Ask the mothers and fathers of the dead ones who can't answer for themselves.

Colin Powell offered the administration's response:

SECRETARY POWELL: We know what full compliance should look like and we know what it does not look like, and it does not look like full compliance now …

QUESTION: When you say you know --


QUESTION: We've just heard a different interpretation this morning about --

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, there are different interpretations. There are some people who simply, in my judgment, don't want to see the facts clearly.

Let that last sentence sink in. "There are some people who simply, in my judgment, don't want to see the facts clearly." Swirl it around in your head. Because he was right; Powell himself was taking the word of some brain-dead ideologues in Cheney's office over these professional inspectors returning from Iraq with first-hand knowledge of the progress being made.

I never accepted the premise that some old chemical or biological weapons left over from the 1980s and secreted away in some spider-hole were a legitimate cause for war (and certainly the idea that violating UN resolutions was itself a casus beli was silly on its face), but those who accepted those terms are guilty, too, for not opposing the invasion when it was clear that the threat of war alone was sufficient to confirm that Iraq had no proscribed weapons. Yes, it was strong-arm diplomacy at the barrel of a gun that made Iraq comply, but there was no reason to pull that trigger when they did.

Nine days later, the U.S. ordered all American personnel from the region. The day after that, the administration ordered the inspectors to stop working and leave Iraq. Two days after that, Shock and Awe began.

In these documents resides the world's greatest crime against humanity: waging a war of aggression. We can't forget that and, I'm sorry, I for one can't forgive those who went along for the ride. Far, far too many have died and too many more have had their lives ruined for that.

**Note: this post was inspired in part by watching video, here, of Jonathan Chait, L.A. Times columnist and an editor at an obscure political mag, defend his support of the war to Matt Yglesias.

© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/bloggers/joshua/43065/


REUTERS - Hundreds of leading economists urged Congress on Wednesday to boost the U.S. minimum wage, which has been stuck at $5.15 an hour for a decade. The group recommended a $1 to $2.50 hourly increase and argued that future boosts should be indexed to inflation to protect workers purchasing power from rising prices. Dismissing the argument that better pay would burden employers and stifle job creation, these experts said a higher minimum wage was necessary to ensure a decent standard of living for low-income Americans. . . Some states have made some headway in ensuring better pay for low-income workers, by circumventing national legislation and passing increases of their own. California lifted the minimum wage to $8 an hour this summer, the highest level in the nation.

Article Here...

Israel Made Big Bucks Out Of Lebanon Invasion

GLOBES, ISRAEL - The recent Lebanon war has sharply boosted sales of Development Corporation for Israel - State of Israel Bonds in the US and Canada. Ministry of Finance representative in New York Zvi Halamish told Globes. "A comparison with bonds sales before the war with the corresponding period in 2005 shows that there has been a 20% rise in sales in the US and a 15% increase in Canada." . . . The increase in sales is especially noticeable given that the bonds' margins are lower today than in previous years. . .

Article Here...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What the Amish Are Teaching America

By Sally Kohn, AlterNet
Posted on October 10, 2006

On Oct. 2, Charles Carl Roberts entered a one-room schoolhouse in the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Penn. He lined up 11 young girls from the class and shot them each at point blank range. The gruesome depths of this crime are hard for any community to grasp, but certainly for the Amish -- who live such a secluded and peaceful life, removed even from the everyday depictions of violence on TV. When the Amish were suddenly pierced by violence, how did they respond?

The evening of the shooting, Amish neighbors from the Nickel Mines community gathered to process their grief with each other and mental health counselors. As of that evening, three little girls were dead. Eight were hospitalized in critical condition. (One more girl has died since.) According to reports by counselors who attended the grief session, the Amish family members grappled with a number of questions: Do we send our kids to school tomorrow? What if they want to sleep in our beds tonight, is that OK? But one question they asked might surprise us outsiders. What, they wondered, can we do to help the family of the shooter? Plans were already underway for a horse-and-buggy caravan to visit Charles Carl Roberts' family with offers of food and condolences. The Amish, it seems, don't automatically translate their grieving into revenge. Rather, they believe in redemption.

Meanwhile, the United States culture from which the Amish are isolated is moving in the other direction -- increasingly exacting revenge for crimes and punishing violence with more violence. In 26 states and at the federal level, there are "three strikes" laws in place. Conviction for three felonies in a row now warrants a life sentence, even for the most minor crimes. For instance, Leandro Andrade is serving a life sentence, his final crime involving the theft of nine children's videos -- including "Cinderella" and "Free Willy" -- from a Kmart. Similarly, in many states and at the federal level, possession of even small amounts of drugs trigger mandatory minimum sentences of extreme duration. In New York, Elaine Bartlett was just released from prison, serving a 20-year sentence for possessing only four ounces of cocaine. This is in addition to the 60 people who were executed in the United States in 2005, among the more than a thousand killed since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. And the president of the United States is still actively seeking authority to torture and abuse alleged terrorists, whom he consistently dehumanizes as rats to be "smoked from their holes," even without evidence of their guilt.

Our patterns of punishment and revenge are fundamentally at odds with the deeper values of common humanity that the tragic experience of the Amish are helping to reveal. Each of us is more than the worst thing we've ever done in life. Someone who cheats is not only a cheater. Someone who steals something is not only a thief. And someone who commits a murder is not only a murderer. The same is true of Charles Carl Roberts. We don't yet know the details of the episode in his past for which, in his suicide note, he said he was seeking revenge. It may be a sad and sympathetic tale. It may not. Either way, there's no excusing his actions. Whatever happened to Roberts in the past, taking the lives of others is never justified. But nothing Roberts has done changes the fact that he was a human being, like all of us. We all make mistakes. Roberts' were considerably and egregiously larger than most. But the Amish in Nickel Mines seem to have been able to see past Roberts' actions and recognize his humanity, sympathize with his family for their loss, and move forward with compassion, not vengeful hate.

We've come to think that "an eye for an eye" is a natural, human reaction to violence. The Amish, who live a truly natural life apart from the influences of our violence-infused culture, are proving otherwise. If, as Gandhi said, "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind," then the Amish are providing the rest of us with an eye-opening lesson.

Sally Kohn is the director of the Movement Vision Project of the Center for Community Change, which is interviewing hundreds of activists across the country to determine the progressive vision for the future of the United States.
© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/42773/


ARROYO SECO, NEW MEXICO - Keith McHenry, co-founder of the Food Not Bombs movement and life long nonviolent advocate sent letters to his Congressman and Senators expressing concern that he could be held for an for an indefinite period as “unlawful enemy combatant” the next time he returns to the United States. The new Military Commission Act of 2006 may give Homeland Security the right to hold human rights activists listed on the “Terrorist Watch List" indefinitely.

Last May Mr. McHenry was taken off a flight from London to Chicago and questioned about his political activities. His bags and wallet were searched and the contents were entered into a computer. Two groups he helped start, Food Not Bombs and Indymedia are on the “Terrorist Watch List."

The American Civil Liberties Union has discovered a number of FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force memos describing investigations into Food Not Bombs. MSNBC reported that a protest Mr. McHenry helped organize was listed on the Pentagon’s 2004 TALON report as a “serious, ongoing threat.” Mr. McHenry has never advocated or participated in any acts of violence and the movement he started, Food Not Bombs has published a statement of nonviolence as one of its principles.

After the act was passed Mr. McHenry called a number of Senators and Congress people to find out if he was in any danger and they could not say for certainty that he would be safe returning from his next trip to Africa this November. He has written 12 lawmakers who either represent his district in New Mexico or who sat on committees that wrote the Military Commission Act of 2006 to get clarification about his safety. He also called and wrote to the ACLU, Amnesty International, the United Nations and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The fact that a man who has dedicated his life to peace and Gandhian nonviolence must worry that his own government could jail him for an indefinite period of time without charges indicates to extent to which Americans have lost their civil liberties and freedom during the faux War on Terrorism.

October 9, 2006

Senator Pete V. Domenici
328 Hart Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Pete V. Domenici,

I need your assistance on two related matters regarding the new Military Commissions Act and domestic surveillance. I give your office permission to make any inquiries of all Federal agencies you believe necessary.
I am the co-founder of the Food Not Bombs movement, which feeds the hungry in communities all over the world. I am the Great, Great Grandson of James McHenry who signed the U.S. Constitution and a citizen of the United States. I have been dedicated to Gandhian nonviolent social change for over 30 years. Last year I was the keynote speaker at the Celebration of Gandhi’s Birthday in Lagos, Nigeria. The American Civil Liberties Union, the media and employees of Federal agencies have made me aware that Food Not Bombs and myself are listed on U.S. government “Terrorist Watch Lists.” This May when I returned to the United States from Turkey I was taken off a plane in Chicago and questioned by Homeland Security for over an hour. All my bags and my wallet were searched and I was asked about my relationship with as Homeland Security called it “the violent group Food Not Bombs”. They typed in the information they collected into a computer. They also asked me about my connection to C.T. Lawrence Butler. He and I co-wrote a book on nonviolent social change and we plan to play an important role in the 2006 African Conference on Formal Consensus and Nonviolent Social Change in Lagos, Nigeria at the end of November.
Do you believe it would be safe for me to return to the United States under the new Military Commissions Act of 2006? Would it be possible for your office give me a letter that I could show to Homeland Security when I reenter the United States? My friends and family are worried that I may be held without charges for an indefinite period as “unlawful enemy combatant” the next time I return to the United States. This is making it difficult for me to meet my commitments abroad. I have been planning to participate at the conference and continue my work to end hunger in Africa but with the passage of this new law my loved ones are worried and asking me to cancel my trip causing our organization to loose substantial money and slow our progress towards helping the people of Africa.
The second item is a request that I be considered to testify at any future Congressional hearings on domestic spying. I believe I could be of great help in any hearing as I have been dedicated to nonviolent social change for the past 35 years and during that time I have been under investigation by the FBI, military and other U.S. government agencies and have a wealth of knowledge to share. The ACLU has filed a number of FOIA request and I should be obtaining more information about the extent of U.S. government surveillance on Food Not Bombs, Indymedia and myself. I already have a large file of documents I could email your office. Please consider referring me to any and all hearings on domestic surveillance.
Thank you so much for your help.

Keith McHenry

AK Steel workers reject ‘final offer’

By Martha Grevatt
Published Oct 9, 2006

Since March 1, some 2,100 members of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) Local 1943 have been locked out at AK Steel in Middletown, Ohio. Last July, AK CEO James Wainscott said he would keep the workers out “for as short or as long as it takes.” Steel industry analyst David McGregor praised him. “It’s nice to see you’re still in fighting form,” he told Wainscott.

McGregor’s words could be applied to the locked-out steelworkers. After walking the picket lines for nearly seven months, on Sept. 25 they were asked to vote on the company’s “final offer.” Many were losing homes and cars and some were going through divorces. Yet a majority voted to stay out.

For almost 60 years the workers at AK steel, formerly Armco, were represented by the Armco Employees Independent Federation (AEIF). In July a majority voted to merge with the IAM. A sizable minority voiced a preference for the United Steelworkers (USWA), but only 10 voted to remain independent.

There was almost unanimous feeling that the workers needed the backing of an AFL-CIO union to win a decent contract. The AEIF leadership backed the IAM, hoping that access to the IAM pension fund would ease negotiations around the critical issue of retaining defined-benefit pensions.

When Wainscott took over AK from Richard Wardrop, he was portrayed as more conciliatory to the workers. It was Wardrop who had locked out USWA members for over three years at the Mansfield, Ohio, plant. Wardrop’s intransigence toward the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Middletown-area residents over the spewing of soot and metallic flakes netted AK a $1.7 million fine. A lawsuit by the U.S. EPA over illegal water pollution and waste dumping, launched when Wardrop was at the helm, is still unresolved.

Soon, however, Wainscott proved to be no less anti-union. The company presented the union with a 2-inch-thick “final offer,” giving the union only three days to review it. While it allowed for participation in the IAM pension fund, it gave AK the right to terminate that plan in five years and replace it with a 401(k). It reduced the number of job classifications and had questionable language that could allow outsourcing of jobs. It had a six-month phased return to work for the union members, forcing them to work alongside scabs during that period.

The IAM leaders, including former AEIF President Brian Daley, recommended the company’s offer be rejected. “It’s a matter of members weighing their personal financial condition or taking the risk of a proposal fraught with uncertainty,” stated Daley after the rejection vote.

The bosses immediately retaliated, getting a judge to slap on an injunction limiting the number of pickets and their proximity to the plant. But after seven months, the bosses are not the only ones “in fighting form.”

This article is copyright under a Creative Commons License.
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Monday, October 09, 2006

At Reuters, a New Book and a Lost Job


On Tuesday, Joe Maguire, one of two editors in charge of markets coverage at Reuters, handed his bosses the galleys of his new book, “Brainless: The Lies and Lunacy of Ann Coulter.” On Wednesday, Mr. Maguire discovered he would have plenty of free time to promote his book, which comes out this week. Neither side in this dispute would say that he was fired.

“There was a difference of opinion about the approval I received to write this book,” Mr. Maguire said. “I thought I had met the conditions, and proceeded accordingly. As a result, I no longer work there.”

Mr. Maguire, who joined Reuters in April, said the book “looks at Ann Coulter’s arguments, and deconstructs them to show how misguided they can be.”

He added: “When the political discourse has dropped to the unfathomable levels it has, someone has to say this is wrong.”

He said he was unable to interview Ms. Coulter for the book, or even get her to return e-mail or phone messages left through her publicist.

Reuters confirmed that Mr. Maguire was granted conditional approval to write his book on Ms. Coulter — a conservative lightning rod, author and TV talking head. When asked what changed once the book was ready, a company statement pointed to Reuters’ principles of “integrity, independence and freedom from bias.” The statement reads: “Our editorial policy and The Reuters Trust Principles are prominently displayed for all to see on www.about.reuters.com. Mr. Maguire’s book will soon be available. Both speak for themselves.”

Mr. Maguire’s publisher, the William Morrow imprint of HarperCollins, said, “It would be very disappointing if Joe Maguire’s dismissal from Reuters had anything to do with him authoring, ‘Brainless,’ ” which it described as a “compelling and witty book.”

A Reuters employee who insisted on anonymity out of concern at angering management said that the 20 or so employees at the markets desk where Mr. Maguire had been one of two editors in charge “took a group coffee break” in solidarity on Thursday.

On Friday, the employee said, there was a meeting with Reuters management informing the workers there that Mr. Maguire would no longer be working there and that they “weren’t allowed to ask why.” Printed copies of the principles of trust were handed out, however. NOAM COHEN

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Let's Face It, Penises Dominate American Politics

By Larry Beinhart, BuzzFlash
Posted on October 7, 2006

Thank God for Mark Foley.

It proves that the American people still care about something.

It happens to be penises. But still.

They care about who talks about them, who plays with them, who covers them up, who uncovers them, who covers up the uncovering of them.

Even Jon Stewart put the big penis cover-up ahead of the fact that this government just passed a law that says that George Bush can say, "Hey you, you're an enemy combatant, "and once he says that they can whisk you away.

This is literally true. It's like that joke in the first grade.

Make me a milkshake

Poof: You're a milkshake

If George Bush says: you're an enemy combatant. Poof! You are one. And then they can take you to Guantanamo, do not pass go, do not call your attorney, do not see a judge, do not hear the charges against you, go straight to the cage they want to put you in. The cage comes with lights that stay on 24 hours a day and wake-up calls every fifteen minutes so you never get to sleep and special exercise programs where you stand for hours in 'stress' positions, upward screaming cat, squatting tortured turtle, and other lite abuses that used to quaintly prohibited by the Geneva Conventions.

Today's joke:

Q: What do Americans do after they commit war crimes?

A: They pass a law that says they can't be prosecuted for committing war crimes.

If you don't find that funny, if you actually think that's serious, then I ask you come nobody else does. How come CNN doesn't care, NBC, the NY Times? How come the Democratic leadership doesn't care?

How did that that bill -- that contains all those provisions and more -- got passed without a filibuster? Without a fuss?

Thank God for Mark Foley. An old congressman hitting on teenage boys, that's real news.

I was watching CNN yesterday afternoon. It was All Penis, All the Time.

Here's a quote, from one of their reporters, "One question always rises to the top: 'who knew what, and when did they know it.'"

That's true, but only when it has to do with a penis.

Last week Bob Woodward's new book came out. One of the things he revealed was an additional meeting between the head of the CIA and Condoleeza Rice, back in July 2001, in which they tried to shock her, shake her up in doing something about terrorism.

That meeting is important for several reasons.

The fact that she didn't do anything about it led to the deaths of at least 3,000 people. Call me me crazy, call me irresponsible, but that seems more important than an old queen hitting on young teens.

That meeting was kept secret from the 9/11 Commission, congress and the American people. There's no security reason for it to be secret. Only a political one. Proof, once again, that 9/11 happened because the Bush Administration was asleep at the wheel.

When the book came out, Rice denied the meeting had happened. She flat out lied about it.

Documents proved it took place.

I don't see CNN, or anybody else, hounding the White House about Condoleeza Rice's cover up and her lies.

"One question always rises to the top: who knew what and when did they know it?"

Yeah, when the warnings are about the use of a penis. But not when the warnings are about a terrorist attack on New York.

The Rice lie and cover-up is not insignificant. It's not ancient history. Because the whole point of Woodward's book is that it's still going on. The real experts are still warning the Bush administration that their policies -- and lack of policies -- are deadly disasters. Costing lives, costing money, creating enemies, with no chance of success. The president is still putting his fingers in his ears and not hearing them. His spokespeople are continuing to pretend the information doesn't exist and lying, by omission and commission, to congress and the American people.

Even if we concede that obscene instant messages are a greater danger to the Republic than a military quagmire that we entered into based on deliberate lies, the danger from Mark Foley is done. The danger from additional congressman trolling for young stuff, if there are any, is easily met (A War on Congress, does have a certain appeal and would be vastly cheaper than the War on Terror). But the war in Iraq, and the war in Afghanistan, go on and on and on, like toxic Energizer Bunnies killing and maiming, laying waste to the landscape and breeding virulent new strains of violent jihadists.

A few years ago,there was a play -- still around -- called the Vagina Monologues.

American politics, at the same time, turned into the Penis Monologues.

Anything else, in between penises, is just marking time. Fail to get bin Laden, who cares? Discover proof that the administration made up stories so they could have their war in Iraq, no big deal, not even news, according to the New York Times. Best estimate is that US bombs and artillery killed 100,000 Iraqi civilians, it would be rude to mention it. Then there's all that money that disappeared. Paul Bremer blew through twenty billion (yes, Billion) dollars that was supposed to be held in trust for the Iraqi people and there's no records and nothing to show for it. After that was gone, the occupation authorities blew through another twenty billion that was supposed to go for the reconstruction of Iraq. Let's not ask where the money went -- no major media outlet has.

If you're in the cable news business, you're happy. This is the first really good penis since Bill's.

If you're anti-Republican, there's another bit of good news. The Republican's are slipping. It took Dennis Hastert a full week before he remembered to blame Bill Clinton.

Let me close with this. Advise to the youth of our country.

Dear youth; if you have dreams of going into politics, you should be fearless. Do not fear committing war crimes. Do not fear lying about terrorist warnings. Do not fear losing billions of dollars or reconstructions that never happen. But if you have a penis -- whether you're a man or a woman -- leave your penis at home, before you venture forth to do battle in field of America's political wars.

© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/42670/

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Impeachment Anyone?

The Case for Taking the Tape Off Our Mouths
By David Swanson

[This piece is based on seven new books on impeachment, all briefly discussed in a final note.]

Never before has the system of government established by the U.S. Constitution been as seriously threatened; never before has the built-in remedy for the sort of threat we face been as badly needed; never before have we had as good an opportunity to use that remedy exactly as it was intended.

Congress has never impeached a President and removed him from office. Once, with Richard M. Nixon, impeachment proceedings forced a resignation. Twice, with Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, impeachment proceedings led to acquittals. On a few other occasions, Congressional efforts to advance articles of impeachment have had legal and political results. These have always benefited the political party that advanced impeachment. This was even true in the case of the Republicans' unpopular impeachment of Clinton, during which the Republicans lost far fewer seats than the norm for a majority party at that point in its tenure. Two years later, they lost seats in the Senate, which had acquitted, but maintained their strength in the House, with representatives who had led the impeachment charge winning big. (This point -- little noted but important indeed -- was made to me recently by John Nichols, author of the forthcoming book, The Genius of Impeachment.)

In every past case, impeachment efforts were driven by members of Congress or other Washington political players, sometimes with support from the media. The public got behind Nixon's impeachment, but only after the proceedings had revealed massive presidential crimes. The public never got behind Clinton's impeachment, despite saturation news coverage and widespread support among political power players. In the case of George W. Bush's impeachment, with the media and both parties in Congress opposed to it, public support is just about all there is -- so far.

In past cases, impeachment has either focused on trivial offenses or on crimes that were serious but not tied to the administration's major foreign policy decisions or to policies in which Congress was complicit. Clinton was impeached for lying under oath about his sex life -- clearly a crime but not bribery, treason, or a "high crime or misdemeanor" (an old British phrase meaning an abuse of the political system by a high office holder), and so not actually an impeachable offense. Nixon was nearly impeached for obstruction of justice, warrantless spying, refusing to produce information subpoenaed by Congress, lying to the public, and other abuses of power, but not for his secret and illegal bombing of Cambodia.

For all the reasons Nixon was nearly impeached, George W. Bush could be impeached too. He has openly engaged in illegal, unconstitutional, warrantless spying, and -- while Congress has not yet used subpoenas -- Bush has obstructed its investigations, refused to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests, and broken a variety of laws in the course of exacting retribution against whistleblowers, producing false reports, and establishing a regime of secrecy of a sort that Nixon could only dream about.

Bush has lied to the public about the warrantless spying program at the National Security Agency (NSA), the war in Iraq, the kinds of warnings he was given before hurricane Katrina arrived, and numerous other issues. While Nixon made secret audio tapes in the White House which, when discovered, doubled as evidence, this time there is video -- of Bush being warned prior to Katrina and claiming he was not warned, of Bush assuring us he was not engaged in warrantless spying and brazenly asserting that he will continue to spy without warrants, of Bush warning us about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as well as Saddam's supposed ties to the 9/11 attacks and of Bush claiming he did no such thing, of Bush claiming the U.S. does not condone torture and of the torture victims.

Bush's administration has even bribed journalists and manufactured phony news stories at home as well as in Iraq in order to deceive the public. Congressman John Conyers has introduced bills to censure both the President and Vice President Cheney for their refusal to turn over information, while Senator Russ Feingold has introduced a bill to censure Bush for his illegal spying programs.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Chávez wins friends, angers enemies on New York visit

By A. Puigdollers Al-Kettani
New York
Published Oct 2, 2006

Starting Sept. 20 the corporate media-industrial-military complex here released a tsunami of lies and attacks against President Hugo Chávez Frías for publicly stating the sentiment of the poor and oppressed and the developing countries worldwide about President George W. Bush by calling him “the devil.” While he has drawn the anger of Washington, Chávez has won the admiration and support of people and liberation movements, especially throughout the Middle East and Latin America.

President Chávez’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly opening this year exposed the role of U.S. imperialism, which is only able to dominate the world through military might. This domination keeps the majority of the world’s population poor and underdeveloped. Some 40 percent of the world’s population live in abject poverty and another 40 percent in poverty (U.N. Human Development Report 2005), with the 80-percent total an increase from 66 percent of world population in the 1960s.

Chávez called U.S.-style of democracy, “the false democracy of elites ... a very original democracy that’s imposed by weapons and bombs and firing weapons” at poor and working people. “I have the feeling, dear world dictator [Bush], that you are going to live the rest of your days as a nightmare because the rest of us are standing up, all those who are rising up against American imperialism, who are shouting for equality, for respect, for the sovereignty of nations.

“Yes, you can call us extremists, but we are rising up against the empire, against the model of domination.”

But the racist profiling, harassment and detention of Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro and some members of his staff at the JFK airport on Sept. 25 are a direct attack on the sovereignty and Bolivarian Revolution. At a news conference, Maduro called this provocation a “direct violation of international human and diplomatic rights. ...” “This is a Nazi government, a racist government that does not care for people that have darker skin, very curly hair like myself and live in the south like the Africans, the Arabs, the Asians and Latin Americans.”

This attack on Maduro came two days after President Chávez signed discounted oil agreements with 201 community organizations and Indigenous nations at Mount Olivet Baptist Church in Harlem, N.Y.

As President Chávez was speaking in Harlem, a New York City police officer pulled the power plug from the live satellite feed broadcasting to Venezuela and either the same cop or another one accosted a Venezuelan security officer. At that time, Secret Service officers intervened and dragged the police officer away.

All these recent attacks began with the denial of entry on U.S. soil of Chávez’s medical team and chief of security, even before Chávez’s U.N. speech.
Energy aid for the poor

Chief Ian Erith of the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, which represents 231 nations and “promotes self-determination,” thanked the Bolivarian Revolution for the aid it promised this coming winter. Erith said, “Alaska is rich in natural resources and 10 percent of the U.S. oil supply comes from Alaska, but we pay the highest price for gasoline—over $8 per gallon and heating fuel over $7 per gallon and we were worried about how to survive this winter, which is forecast to be long and cold.”

Though Citgo, a U.S.-based subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA, has no outlets in Alaska, it will still bring heat to over 12,000 homes in 151 villages in Alaska with a gift of 100 gallons of heating oil per family, at an estimated cost of $5 million.

Hosting the Harlem meeting was the Honorable Dr. Charles Curtis, reverend at the Mount Olivet Baptist Church, actor and chairman of TransAfrica Danny Glover, and Félix Rodríguez, who is president of Citgo.

Speaking in Harlem, Chávez said, “We are not enemies of the U.S. That is a lie. We are friends of the people of the U.S., whom all of you here represent with dignity, and we would like you to work; cooperate and look for cooperative, friendship, exchange, interchange, cultural, educational routes with us.

Chávez said that people in 11 states, including more than 220 Native tribes, are taking part in the discounted-oil program this year.

Last year “40 percent [of our oil shipped to the U.S.] went to poor communities. At a discount of 40 percent. And in the case of shelters we do not charge anything. In sum, 180,000 benefited from the 2005-2006 program.”

In his Sept. 20 talk, Chávez discussed the situation at the United Nations itself: “The U.N. system, born after the Second World War, collapsed. It’s worthless.

“But we, the [General] Assembly, have been turned into a merely deliberative organ. We have no power, no power to make any impact on the terrible situation in the world. And that is why Venezuela once again proposes, here, today, September 20, that we re-establish the United Nations.”

He proposed that all members of the U.N. meet for a week face-to-face in a round table to discuss matters and come up with solutions.

Chávez raised four other major points: (1) That leaders of developing countries be included in the Security Council on a permanent basis. (2) Transparent decisions on solving world matters. (3) “Immediate suppression—and that is something everyone’s calling for—of the anti-democratic mechanism known as the veto, the veto on decisions of the Security Council.” (4) “Strengthen the role and the powers of the secretary general of the United Nations.”

“Venezuela is fully committed to combating terrorism and violence,” said Chávez. He discussed how U.S. CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles virtually confessed to his crime of blowing up a Cubana Airline over Barbados in 1976, killing all 73 people on board, but the U.S. government has double standards. It protects terrorism when it wants to and is protecting Posada Carriles now.

Along with the public talk in Harlem, Chávez also spoke on Sept. 20 at Cooper Union college to a packed auditorium, where he discussed the Bolivarian Revolution’s success in educating ordinary Venezuelans.

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Senate Wins Fight To Lower Allowable Amperage Levels On Detainees' Testicles

September 29, 2006

WASHINGTON, DC—Led by a bipartisan group of senators critical of White House policy on suspected terrorists, the Senate passed a bill Thursday that prohibits interrogators from exceeding 100 amps per testicle when questioning detainees.

"Even in times of war, it is counterproductive and wrong to employ certain inhumane interrogation techniques, and using three-digit amperage levels on the testicles of captives constitutes torture," said Sen. John Warner (R-VA), who has also supported reducing the size of attack dogs and the height of nude pyramids. "Using amperages of 99 and lower, with approved surge protectors on the jumper-cable clamps, are the hallmarks of a civilized society."

The legislation did not address amperage restrictions on suspected terrorists' labia.

© Copyright 2006, Onion, Inc. All rights reserved.

Willie Nelson Speaks

Willie Nelson's public statement regarding being arrested with a bag of marijuana last week:

"It's a good thing I had a bag of marijuana instead of a bag of spinach. I'd be dead by now."