Sunday, September 30, 2007

Shift in war-waging rationale

Sounds like the ol' "Regime Change/WMD's/Global Threat " propaganda dance all over again.--Pete

Via Crooks and Liars

UPDATED: Sy Hersh joined CNN’s Late Edition and discussed his new article out in the New Yorker: “Shifting Targets,” which says that the WH has a new talking point which it will sell and as usual—our media will lap it it! ” The CIA has created an Iran Study group with dozens of new members that have the goal of launching a strike against Iran, but will now include ground forces. Bush feels that using the nuclear threat as the reason to bomb Iran has failed miserably so they switched talking points and are going to say they are defending themselves against Iranian meddling in Iraq. We told you so….

Hersh: You can also sell counter-terror, it’s much more logical. You can say to the American people, we’re only hitting these people that are trying to kill our boys and the coalition forces and so that seems to be more sensible, The White House think s they can actually pitch this, this would actually work…

Now you understand why the Lieberman/Kyl amendment was just put through. If BushCo. wants to heighten the sense of nationalism in Iran, just attack them and keep on this course of immorality. It’s another disaster coming from Bush/Cheney and the Neocons in a long line of them and I know Bush and Cheney thank our media for doing what they always do…Nothing, except Sy…Thanks Sy….Here’s my Iran Action Alert post:

Call the Capitol switchboard at 202-225-3121. We need to let our representatives know that Bush cannot attack Iran.

Happy Anniversary!

In an unrelated aside, Vic and I spent our 11th anniversary in Reno(?), where we saw Queensryche, Alice Cooper, and Black Sabbath on our actual anniversary night. Alice kicked butt. We just got back last night after being stranded downtown with car troubles all day Saturday.

Bill Maher and guests on O'Reilly's newest demonstration of racial ignorance

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Iran labels CIA 'terrorist organization'

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writer

Iran's parliament voted Saturday to designate the CIA and the U.S. Army as "terrorist organizations," a largely symbolic response to a U.S. Senate resolution seeking a similar designation for Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

The parliament said the Army and the CIA were terrorists because of the atomic bombing of Japan; the use of depleted uranium munitions in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq; support of the killings of Palestinians by Israel; the bombing and killing Iraqi civilians and the torture of imprisoned terror suspects.

"The aggressor U.S. Army and the Central Intelligence Agency are terrorists and also nurture terror," said a statement by the 215 lawmakers who signed the resolution at an open session of the 290-member Iranian parliament. The session was broadcast live on state-run radio.

The resolution, which urges Ahmadinejad's government to treat the two as terrorist organizations, would become law if ratified by the country's hardline constitutional watchdog but probably would have little effect as the two nations have no diplomatic relations.

Ahmadinejad's government was expected to wait for U.S. reaction before making its decision. The White House declined to comment Saturday.

The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday in favor of a resolution urging the State Department to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. Charged with defending the system put in place after Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Guards answer to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and are revered by many for their defense of the country during the 1980s war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

The terrorist designation, the first such move against a foreign government entity, would cut the Revolutionary Guards off from the U.S. financial system and freeze the assets of its members or subsidiaries have in U.S. jurisdictions. It would also allow the Treasury to move against firms subject to U.S. law that do business with the Guards, which have vast business interests at home and abroad.

While the proposal attracted overwhelming bipartisan support, a small group of Democrats said they feared that labeling the state-sponsored organization a terrorist group could be interpreted as a congressional authorization of military action in Iran.

Back home after a tour of the U.S. and Latin America, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the hostile reception he received at Columbia University failed to damage Iran's image and instead hurt America's prestige abroad.

University President Lee Bollinger said before an Ahmadinejad speech at his university that the hard-line leader exhibited "all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator" who was "brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated" for his denials of the Holocaust.

Ahmadinejad, who appeared shaken and irate but did not reciprocate the insult, said that the world had witnessed "the greatness of the Iranian nation" in the face of "insults" by its American host.

"With the grace of God, the Columbia University issue revealed their aggressive and mean-spirited image. ... It backfired. What happened was exactly opposite of what their shallow minds had presumed," Ahmadinejad said late Friday in comments broadcast Saturday on state television. "I believe they made a big mistake. ... They sacrificed the prestige of their whole system."

The harsh reception boosted Ahmadinejad's image at home during a time of high tensions with Washington over U.S. allegations that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons and supplying Iraq's Shiite militias with deadly weapons that have killed U.S. troops. Iran denies both claims.

After Ahmadinejad told world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly in New York that his country would defy attempts to impose new sanctions by "arrogant powers" seeking to curb its nuclear program, accusing them of lying and imposing illegal penalties on his country.

Iran and the U.S. have not had diplomatic ties since Iranian students took American diplomats hostage in Tehran following the 1979 overthrow of U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Iranians have a long list of grievances against the United States, including a CIA-backed coup in 1953 that overthrew democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and put Pahlavi back on the throne.

More recently, there are fears in Iran that either the U.S. or Israel will carry out a military strike against it — something Iranian officials have said would provoke retaliation against Israeli or U.S. bases in the region.

Washington has said it is addressing the situation through diplomacy but refuses to rule out the use of military action.

Taliban rebuffs Karzai's offer

By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer

President Hamid Karzai offered to meet with the Taliban leader and give militants a government position, but a spokesman for the militant group on Sunday said it will "never" negotiate with Afghan authorities until U.S. and NATO forces leave the country.

Karzai made the offer only hours after a suicide bomber in army disguise attacked a military bus Saturday, killing 30 people — nearly all of them Afghan soldiers.

Strengthening a call for negotiations he has made with increasing frequency in recent weeks, Karzai said he was willing to meet with the reclusive leader Mullah Omar and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former prime minister and factional warlord leader.

"If I find their address, there is no need for them to come to me, I'll personally go there and get in touch with them," Karzai said. "Esteemed Mullah, sir, and esteemed Hekmatyar, sir, why are you destroying the country?"

But the Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, repeated an earlier position by saying that it would never negotiate with the Afghan government in the "presence of foreign forces."

"Even if Karzai gives up his presidency, it's not possible that Mullah Omar would agree to negotiations," Ahmadi told The Associated Press. "The foreign forces don't have the authority to talk about Afghanistan."

Karzai said he has contacts with Taliban militants through tribal elders but that there are no direct and open government communication channels with the fighters. Omar's whereabouts are not known, although Karzai has claimed he is in Quetta, Pakistan, a militant hotbed across the border from Afghanistan's Kandahar province.

"If a group of Taliban or a number of Taliban come to me and say, 'President, we want a department in this or in that ministry or we want a position as deputy minister ... and we don't want to fight anymore,' ... If there will be a demand and a request like that to me, I will accept it because I want conflicts and fighting to end in Afghanistan," Karzai said.

"I wish there would be a demand as easy as this. I wish that they would want a position in the government. I will give them a position," he said.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul has said it does not support negotiations with Taliban fighters, labeling them as terrorists, although the U.N. and NATO have said an increasing number of Taliban are interested in laying down their arms. NATO's ambassador to Afghanistan, Daan Everts, said this month that the alliance would look into the possibility of talks.

President Bush met with Karzai on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Wednesday where the two discussed the battle against al-Qaida and the Taliban, but it has not been made public whether the two talked about negotiations with militants.

A State Department duty officer said he could not immediately comment on Karzai's offer to meet with Omar, noting that most policymakers were still in New York.

Saturday's explosion — the second deadliest since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 — ripped off the roof of the bus and tore out its sides in Kabul, leaving a charred hull of burnt metal. It was reminiscent of the deadliest attack since the U.S.-led invasion, when a bomber boarded a police academy bus at Kabul's busiest transportation hub in June, killing 35 people.

Police and soldiers climbed trees to retrieve body parts. Nearby businesses also were damaged.

"For 10 or 15 seconds, it was like an atom bomb — fire, smoke and dust everywhere," said Mohammad Azim, a police officer who witnessed the explosion.

Karzai said 30 people were killed — 28 soldiers and two civilians. The Health Ministry said another 30 were wounded. Two women were among the dead, and 11 people whose bodies were ripped apart so badly had yet to be identified.

"It was a terrible tragedy, no doubt an act of extreme cowardice," Karzai said. "Whoever did this was against people, against humanity, definitely against Islam. A man who calls himself Muslim will not blow up innocent people in the middle of Ramadan," the Muslim holy month.

A purported Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, claimed the militant group was responsible for the blast in a text message to The Associated Press. Mujahid said the bomber was a Kabul resident named Azizullah.

The bus had stopped in front of a movie theater to pick up soldiers when a bomber wearing a military uniform tried to board early Saturday, army spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said.

"Typically there are people checking the IDs of soldiers who want to board the bus," Azimi said. "While they were checking the IDs the bomber tried to get on the bus and blew himself up there."

Karzai earlier this month renewed a call for talks with the Taliban. But he said Saturday he would not meet demands that foreign troops must first leave the country.

"It should be very clear that until all our roads are paved, until we have good electricity and good water, and also until we have a better Afghan national army and national police, I don't want any foreigners to leave Afghanistan," he said.

He said he still wanted negotiations with Taliban militants of Afghan origin "for peace and security." He ruled out talks with al-Qaida and other foreign fighters.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force, meanwhile, said one of its soldiers was killed in eastern Afghanistan during combat operations on Saturday. ISAF did not release the soldier's nationality, but most in the east are American.

Four employees with the International Committee of the Red Cross, kidnapped earlier this week while negotiating the release of a German hostage, were also freed Saturday, the ICRC said.

The four men — two Afghans, a Macedonian and a man from Myanmar — said they were treated well. A Taliban commander said he ordered the four held hostage because he thought they were spies but let them go once it was proven they were Red Cross workers, according to a video obtained by AP Television News.

The four had traveled to Wardak province in hopes of helping free a German man held since July. The workers said that the German was still alive and that they had seen him.

The number of kidnappings in Afghanistan has spiked in recent months after the Taliban secured the release of five insurgent prisoners in exchange for a captive Italian journalist in March — a heavily criticized swap that many feared would encourage abductions.

The Taliban kidnapped 23 South Koreans in July, a hostage crisis that scored the militants face-to-face talks with South Korean government delegates. Two of the Koreans were killed; 21 were eventually released.


Associated Press reporters Rahim Faiez, Amir Shah and Alisa Tang contributed to this report.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

On Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine"


Leftists used to think that at least as a general axiom, if not by a precise deadline, capitalism was doomed. When I first arrived in the United States in the early 1970s, there was enough exuberance in the air even for mild-mannered reformers to be pushing plans for the abolition of the Federal Reserve, World Bank and kindred institutions.

But today most of these same leftists deem capitalism invincible and fearfully lob copious documentation at each other detailing the efficient devilry of the executives of the system. The internet serves to amplify this pervasive funk into a catastrophist mindset. It imbues most of the English-speaking left west of the Atlantic after seven years of Bush and Cheney, and frames Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine, The Rise of Disaster Capitalism."

At the outset Klein permits herself a robust trumpet blast as intrepid pioneer:

"This book is a challenge to the central and most cherished claim in the official story--that the triumph of deregulated capitalism has been born of freedom, that unfettered free markets. I will show that this fundamentalist form of capitalism has consistently been midwifed by the most brutal forms of coercion, inflicted on the collective body politic as well as on countless individual bodies."

The arc of triumph she is alluding to spans the half century from the Eisenhower administration's onslaughts on political and economic nationalism in Iran and Guatemala in the early 1950s, to the US attack on Iraq in 2003 and its subsequent occupation. These are not decades where official apologetics have been entirely without challenge until Ms. Klein embarked on her researches. There are shelves worth of books on the ghastly consequences of the covert interventions and massacres organized or connived at by the United States in the name of freedom and the capitalist way. Klein's own bibliography attests that there has plenty of detailed work on the neoliberal onslaught that gathered strength from the mid-70s on, marching under the intellectual colors of one of her arch villains, the late Milton Friedman, the Chicago School economist.

Where Klein would presumably claim originality is in identifying the taxonomy of this "shock doctrine", the latest in capitalism's phases of "creative destruction", as Schumpeter described the soul of the system. So she describes the shock of a sudden attack, whether the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973 or the bombing of Baghdad in 2003; the shock of torturers using sensory deprivation techniques and crude electrodes to instill fear and acquiescence; Friedman's economic "shock treatment." Methodically combined and elaborated, these onslaughts now amount, on Klein's account, to a new and frightful chapter in the history of capitalist predation.

Klein begins with a chapter on the CIA-sponsored psychic "de-patterning" experiments of that monster, Dr Ewen Cameron of McGill University's Allan Memorial Institute, and states explicitly that torture, aside from being a tool, is "a metaphor of the shock doctrine's underlying logic". To use shock literary tactics to focus attention on the deliberate and sadistic engineering of collective social trauma is certainly no crime. But, as often happens after a shock, one eventually retrieves a sense of proportion, one that is not entirely flattering to the larger pretensions.

Capitalism, after all, has always been a shock doctrine of selfish predation, as one can discover from Hobbes and Locke, Marx and Weber, none of them saluted by Klein. Read the vivid accounts of the Hammonds about the English enclosures of the eighteenth century, when villagers would find nailed to the door of the parish church an announcement their common lands had been privatized. Protesters may not have "depatterned", but were briskly hanged or relocated to Botany Bay. Klein could have used Karl Polanyi to better effect than as an epigraph. The wrenching conversion of peasant societies to cash economics, private property, the job regime, has always been brutal.

The Chicago Boys laid waste the southern cone of Latin America in the name of unfettered private enterprise, but 125 years earlier a million Irish peasants starved to death while Irish grain was exported onto ships flying the flag of economic liberalism. Klein writes about "the bloody birth of counter-revolution" in the 1960s and 1970s, but any page from the histories of Presidents Jackson, Polk or Roosevelt discloses a bleak and blood-stained continuity with the past. Depatterning? Indian children were taken from their families and punished for every word spoken in their own language, even as African slaves were given Christian names and forbidden to use their own, or to drum. Amid the shock of the Civil War the Republicans deferred by several years the freeing of slaves, while hastening to use crisis to arrange a banking and monetary system to their liking.

Just as there is continuity in capitalist predation, there is continuity in resistance. Here's where Klein's catastrophism distorts the picture. Her controlling metaphor for the attack on Iraq is the initial "shock and awe" bombardment, designed to numb Saddam's forces and the overall civilian population into instant surrender and long-term submission. But "shock and awe" was a bust. It didn't work. Its value even as a metaphor is useless, except as illustration of what parlor wargamers in Washington DC can hype. Having sensibly decided not to fight or die on an American timetable, many of Iraq's soldiers regrouped to commence an effective resistance. Iraqi civilians struggle along as best they can under awful conditions and, un-numbed, tell pollsters that they wish the Americans would leave at once.

"Shock therapy" neoliberalism really isn't most closely associated with Milton Friedman, but rather with Jeffrey Sachs, to whom Klein does certainly give many useful pages, even though Friedman remains the dark star of her story. Sachs first introduced shock therapy in Bolivia in the early 1990s. Then he went into Poland, Russia, etc, with the same shock therapy model. Sachs' catchy phrase then was that "you can't leap over an abyss step-by-step," or words to that effect. This is really where contemporary neoliberalism took shape. And, it wasn't just Sachs.

It was also other slightly left of center mainstream economists, most notably Summers and Paul Krugman as well. To his credit, Krugman has now recanted; Sachs also, but only partially. It's true that you can make a case that this all goes back to Friedman. David Harvey's book, A History of Neoliberalism, actually traces the origins of neoliberalism to Friedman in Chile. It's an interesting perspective. But, as the left economist Robert Pollin remarks, to blame Friedman for the whole thing, and not how the entire economics mainstream went along--including the "liberals" like Sachs, Krugman, and Summers--is to let these people off the hook and to misrepresent history.

As Pollin, a brilliant and creative economist who spends much of his time advancing progressive counter-models--both for African nations and for advanced capitalist countries--emphasizes, "it's important to pummel the Sachs's of the world on this point, because they are changing, slowly. To get the world to change, their 1980s-1990s views need to be totally discredited. It's not enough to just say Milton Friedman was an ultra right winger and leave it at that."

There are huge third world economies that have been ravaged by neoliberalism that haven't endured "the shock doctrine", in the torments that phrase, as defined by Klein. India in the early Nineties was not on the receiving end of physical 'shock and awe' bombardment. Tortures were not inflicted by electric shock devices or techniques of sensory deprivation. Death squads have not rampaged through the countryside. If Friedman counseled the Congress Party or the BJP this is not recorded by Klein, who only gives India one brief mention. Yet the neoliberal policies advanced by the World Bank and other multilateral agencies and also enthusiastically seized upon by home grown politicians and government officials--many springing from a Keynesian (or further left) tradition--have certainly been sweeping and savage in consequence. Month after month on our CounterPunch site P. Sainath has described the immiseration of half a billion peasants from circumstances that were bad in the first place, along with the suicides of ruined farmers--a total now running well above 100,000. India has no place in Naomi Klein's model of the "shock doctrine" and "the rise of disaster capitalism", which suggests that model's limitations.

Capitalists try to use social and economic dislocation or natural disaster--New Orleans is only the latest instance - to advantage, but so do those they oppress. War has been the mother of many a positive social revolution, as have natural disasters. The incompetence of the Mexican police and emergency forces after the huge earthquake of 1985 prompted a huge popular upheaval. In Latin America there has been shock attacks and shock doctrines for 500 years. Right now, in Latin America, the pendulum is swinging away from the years of darkness, of the death squad and Friedman's doctrines. Klein's outrage is admirable. Her specific exposes across six decades of infamy are often excellent, but in her larger ambitions her metaphors betray her. From the anti-capitalist point of view she's too gloomy by half. A capitalism that thrives best on the abnormal, on disasters, is by definition in decline. As Cassius put it, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings".

Another story you won't read in the press

From Daily Kos

The story as it appears in the traditional media:

Federal prosecutors are investigating whether employees of the private security firm Blackwater USA illegally smuggled into Iraq weapons that may have been sold on the black market and ended up in the hands of a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, officials said Friday.

The story as it would be happening if the perpetrators didn't have federal contracts, fancy suits, and a PR firm:

Military intelligence officials are investigating whether members of the private security firm Blackwater USA illegally smuggled into Iraq weapons that may have been sold on the black market and ended up in the hands of a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, officials said Friday.

Actual story:

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Raleigh, N.C., is handling the investigation with help from Pentagon and State Department auditors, who have concluded there is enough evidence to file charges, the officials told The Associated Press. Blackwater is based in Moyock, N.C.

What it should be:

Intelligence operatives in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba are handling the investigation with help from the Pentagon and National Security Agency, who have concluded there is enough evidence to hold the suspects indefinitely, the officials told The Associated press. Blackwater is based in Moyock, N.C.

Once again, the actual story:

In Saturday's editions, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported that two former Blackwater employees — Kenneth Wayne Cashwell of Virginia Beach, Va., and William Ellsworth "Max" Grumiaux of Clemmons, N.C. — are cooperating with federal investigators.

Cashwell and Grumiaux pleaded guilty in early 2007 to possession of stolen firearms that had been shipped in interstate or foreign commerce, and aided and abetted another in doing so, according to court papers viewed by The Associated Press. In their plea agreements, which call for a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, the men agreed to testify in any future proceedings.

No midnight arrests. No disappearances. No extraordinary rendition. No torture. No military commissions.

Just a straight up arrest, questioning, guilty plea, and agreement to cooperate with normal, everyday, routine federal investigative authorities.

But these guys were using your tax dollars to finance an arms-smuggling ring for terrorists, who were using the guns to kill American soldiers.

Seen it on the news? Heard about it from your Congressman? Watched FOX News jackass mouthpieces tear their hair out about it?

Of course not. Because in Republican Bizarro World, privatizing the armed forces "saves money" and "makes sense," even though Economics 101 (which Bush claimed to have gotten a B in, but really got a C-) tells you that a private army makes more money when demand for its services increases, and selling arms to the "enemy" makes sense both as a straight-up commercial transaction and as a way to increase demand.

Modern Republicanism is not a governing philosophy. It is legalized banditry. And you are supposed to wave a flag and give them medals while they rob you and kill your children.

Network news did not report CBO assessment that Bush's SCHIP proposal sharply underfunds program

Video Link-QT

In reports on President Bush's latest threat to veto legislation increasing funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by $35 billion over five years, neither NBC's Nightly News, ABC's World News, nor the CBS Evening News noted that Bush's alternative proposal -- a $5 billion expansion over five years -- would, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), underfund the program by $14 billion during that period. Further, on the Nightly News, NBC News chief White House correspondent David Gregory reported that "Democrats want to expand this program, which provides health insurance to low-income children around the country, and they want to spend more money on it, much more than the administration wants to spend." But contrary to Gregory's suggestion that only "Democrats want to expand this program," Senate Republicans have also criticized the smaller increase the Bush administration has proposed.

Per the funding levels set in the original SCHIP legislation, the program cost the federal government $5 billion in 2007. If this baseline level were preserved over the next five years, to 2012, SCHIP would receive $25 million in funding. In his FY 2008 budget request released in February, Bush sought a $5 billion increase over this period, for a total of $30 billion in funding. In May, the CBO estimated that "maintaining the states' current programs under SCHIP would require funding of $39 billion for the 2007-2012 period and $98 billion over the 2007-2017 period -- increases of $14 billion and $48 billion, respectively, over the baseline spending levels." When the Senate announced a bipartisan proposal in July to increase SCHIP funding by $35 billion over this five-year period, Bush threatened to veto such a plan. The House subsequently passed a similar proposal and, on September 18, The Washington Post reported that "[k]ey lawmakers in the House and Senate negotiated into the night yesterday on a deal that would expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program by $35 billion over the next five years." In a September 20 press conference, Bush threatened to veto the proposal. However, reports on the standoff by ABC, CBS, and NBC's nightly news programs failed to note the CBO's assessment that SCHIP would not be able to maintain projected enrollment levels under Bush's alternative proposal.

In addition, on NBC, Gregory suggested that it is only Democrats who want to increase funding for the SCHIP program. In fact, numerous congressional Republicans also want to spend more on SCHIP "than the administration wants to spend." From a September 21 Post article:

Republicans reacted angrily yesterday to President Bush's promise to veto a bill that would renew and expand the popular State Children's Health Insurance Program, raising the likelihood of significant GOP defections when the package comes to a vote next week.

"I'm disappointed by the president's comments," said Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who urged Bush, in an early-morning telephone conversation yesterday, to support the emerging bipartisan compromise. "Drawing lines in the sand at this stage isn't constructive. ... I wish he would engage Congress in a bill that he could sign instead of threatening a veto."

"I'm very, very disappointed," said Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.). "I'm going to be voting for it."

Further, on August 2, the Senate bill to expand SCHIP by $35 billion over five years passed by a vote of 68-31, with 17 Republicans voting in favor. In contrast with NBC, both ABC's and CBS' reports noted Republican criticism of Bush's proposal during their September 20 broadcasts.

From the September 20 edition of NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams:

BRIAN WILLIAMS (anchor): And, David, a big story came out of the White House today, part of it unintended, on insuring American children.

GREGORY: Yeah. This has become a pretty heated political battle. Democrats want to expand this program, which provides health insurance to low-income children around the country, and they want to spend more money on it, much more than the administration wants to spend. That allowed the president today to go on the attack against Democrats, saying that they want to federalize health care and they want to simply endanger this program by not renewing it. This is sensitive because it's an arrangement between the federal government and the states to provide this insurance -- all sides now scrambling for a solution before the program runs out, Brian.

WILLIAMS: All right. We'll stay on it. David Gregory on the north lawn of the White House for us tonight.

From the September 20 edition of CBS' Evening News with Katie Couric:

KATIE COURIC (anchor): President Bush opened a news conference today by attacking a proposed expansion of a health-care program for low-income children. He promised to veto Democratic legislation that would sharply increase the number of children who would qualify. Jim Axelrod has more.

[begin video clip]

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 5:30 this morning, she woke up with a fever --

AXELROD: Christina Brassi (ph) is taking her baby daughter to a doctor at Harlem's Milbank Health Center in New York. The 10-month-old is one of more than six million poor kids nationwide covered by the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP.

With the program set to expire in 10 days, President Bush wants a $5 billion increase in SCHIP funding over five years -- 20 percent more than now. But Congress wants to boost it $35 billion to cover several million more kids.

BUSH: I believe this is a step toward federalization of health care. I know that their proposal is beyond the scope of the program, and that's why I'm going to veto the bill.

AXELROD: At its root, this is a philosophical dispute. The president says Democrats want to make millions more eligible who aren't poor.

BUSH: Members of Congress are putting health coverage for poor children at risk so they can score political points in Washington.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The president is alone in this opposition to this legislation.

AXELROD: Democrats counter the president is freezing out struggling Americans ineligible for Medicaid but who can't afford to buy insurance.

So far, the Senate has passed a version by a veto-proof majority, but the House has not. And Speaker Nancy Pelosi knows the president's veto threat could easily become reality.

PELOSI: The president is saying, "I forbid 10 million children in America to have health care."

[end video clip]

AXELROD: Even Republicans like Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley are calling on President Bush to compromise, but the president has another reason to play tough -- letting anyone who thinks he's a lame duck know he's still here slugging.

Jim Axelrod, CBS News, the White House.

COURIC: Coming up next: friends in need. Proof again that a dog can, indeed, be man's best friend.

From the September 20 edition of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:

CHARLES GIBSON (anchor): In Washington, a major battle has erupted between President Bush and Democrats over health care for children. At issue is a bill providing health insurance to millions of kids whose parents cannot afford private coverage. Democrats and some Republicans propose a program far more extensive than the president says he'll accept. Here's ABC's Martha Raddatz.

[begin video clip]

RADDATZ: Susan Dick depends on the so-called SCHIP program for her two sons -- both of whom have asthma. The family income is too low for private insurance, too high for Medicaid.

DICK: We're an everyday, middle American family that needs this coverage.

RADDATZ: Since the program was enacted in 1997, the number of children with health insurance has increased by 25 percent. The Senate and House bill calls for an additional $35 billion over the next five years. That would allow 4 million additional children to be covered. The White House says that's too expensive. The president said today, that expanding the program would encourage more people to get on government health care, instead of private insurance.

BUSH: Instead of expanding SCHIP beyond its original purpose, we should return it to its original focus -- and that is helping poor children, those who are most in need.

RADDATZ: The expansion has bipartisan support across the country, including from many Republicans, who criticized the president's threat to veto the legislation.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R-CA): We all sit there and they say, "Where did that come from?" I mean, you can't go and wipe out the deficit on the backs of the children. I mean, you can't.

RADDATZ: Governor Schwarzenegger and others say more money is needed for the SCHIP program because the rising cost of health care has caused more and more families to need exactly the kind of help this program provides.

DICK: If my boys don't have health insurance, it makes it very hard when you're a parent to know that they're sick and you have to get them to the doctor.

[end video clip]

RADDATZ: But the president made it very clear, today, Charlie. He will veto this bill in its present form.

GIBSON: Martha Raddatz reporting tonight from the White House.

Feds Target Blackwater in Weapons Probe

By MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writer

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Federal prosecutors are investigating whether employees of the private security firm Blackwater USA illegally smuggled into Iraq weapons that may have been sold on the black market and ended up in the hands of a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, officials said Friday.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Raleigh, N.C., is handling the investigation with help from Pentagon and State Department auditors, who have concluded there is enough evidence to file charges, the officials told The Associated Press. Blackwater is based in Moyock, N.C.

A spokeswoman for Blackwater did not return calls seeking comment Friday. The U.S. attorney for the eastern district of North Carolina, George Holding, declined to comment, as did Pentagon and State Department spokesmen.

Officials with knowledge of the case said it is active, although at an early stage. They spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, which has heightened since 11 Iraqis were killed Sunday in a shooting involving Blackwater contractors protecting a U.S. diplomatic convoy in Baghdad.

The officials could not say whether the investigation would result in indictments, how many Blackwater employees are involved or if the company itself, which has won hundreds of millions of dollars in government security contracts since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, is under scrutiny.

In Saturday's editions, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported that two former Blackwater employees — Kenneth Wayne Cashwell of Virginia Beach, Va., and William Ellsworth "Max" Grumiaux of Clemmons, N.C. — are cooperating with federal investigators.

Cashwell and Grumiaux pleaded guilty in early 2007 to possession of stolen firearms that had been shipped in interstate or foreign commerce, and aided and abetted another in doing so, according to court papers viewed by The Associated Press. In their plea agreements, which call for a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, the men agreed to testify in any future proceedings.

Calls to defense attorneys were not immediately returned Friday evening, and calls to the telephone listings for both men also were not returned.

The News & Observer, citing unidentified sources, reported that the probe was looking at whether Blackwater had shipped unlicensed automatic weapons and military goods to Iraq without a license.

The paper's report that the company itself was under investigation could not be confirmed by the AP.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ordered a review of security practices for U.S. diplomats in Iraq following a deadly incident involving Blackwater USA guards protecting an embassy convoy.

Rice's announcement came as the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad resumed limited diplomatic convoys under the protection of Blackwater outside the heavily fortified Green Zone after a suspension because of the weekend incident in that city.

In the United States, officials in Washington said the smuggling investigation grew from internal Pentagon and State Department inquiries into U.S. weapons that had gone missing in Iraq. It gained steam after Turkish authorities protested to the U.S. in July that they had seized American arms from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, rebels.

The Turks provided serial numbers of the weapons to U.S. investigators, said a Turkish official.

The Pentagon said in late July it was looking into the Turkish complaints and a U.S. official said FBI agents had traveled to Turkey in recent months to look into cases of missing U.S. weapons in Iraq.

Investigators are determining whether the alleged Blackwater weapons match those taken from the PKK.

It was not clear if Blackwater employees suspected of selling to the black market knew the weapons they allegedly sold to middlemen might wind up with the PKK. If they did, possible charges against them could be more serious than theft or illegal weapons sales, officials said.

The PKK, which is fighting for an independent Kurdistan, is banned in Turkey, which has a restive Kurdish population and is considered a "foreign terrorist organization" by the State Department. That designation bars U.S. citizens or those in U.S. jurisdictions from supporting the group in any way.

The North Carolina investigation was first brought to light by State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard, who mentioned it, perhaps inadvertently, this week while denying he had improperly blocked fraud and corruption probes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Krongard was accused in a letter by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, of politically motivated malfeasance, including refusing to cooperate with an investigation into alleged weapons smuggling by a large, unidentified State Department contractor.

In response, Krongard said in a written statement that he "made one of my best investigators available to help Assistant U.S. Attorneys in North Carolina in their investigation into alleged smuggling of weapons into Iraq by a contractor."

His statement went further than Waxman's letter because it identified the state in which the investigation was taking place. Blackwater is the biggest of the State Department's three private security contractors.

The other two, Dyncorp and Triple Canopy, are based in Washington's northern Virginias suburbs, outside the jurisdiction of the North Carolina's attorneys.


Associated Press writers Mike Baker in Raleigh and Desmond Butler and Lara Jakes Jordan in Washington contributed to this report.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Christian Theater Troupe Spends $90,000 On Ad Denouncing Kathy Griffin

By Adam Howard
Posted on September 21, 2007
The Jesus wackos are out en masse again, which only means that the corporate media are conferring upon them undue credibility in the Kathy Griffin/Jesus Emmy dust-up. I say: Kathy 1 - Christians 0 (and a big ol' "suck it!" for good measure). I just love that Kathy Griffin!--Pete

As you may already know, Sally Field wasn't the only actress attacked for an Emmy speech. Kathy Griffin, caustic comedian and star of "My Life on the D-List" has caused a stir of her own with her acceptance speech at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards. Here's what she said:

"A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus." She topped it off with "Hell has frozen over. Suck it Jesus, this award is my god now!"

Now some Christian theater troupe called The Miracle Theater, which is based in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, has spent $90,440 to take a full page ad out in USA Today, that ran on Monday nationally condemning Griffin. It read:

"We at The Miracle Theater consider it an honor to stand for Jesus today," the ad said. "We may never win a national award. We may never be household names. We may never be seen in Hollywood. Although others may choose to use their national platform to slander our God, we are honored as professional entertainers to stand for Christ."

Griffin has also been attacked by the Catholic League, who called her remarks "obscene and blasphemous." In response to the uproar, Griffin has thankfully remained defiant. Instead of giving the standard-issue celebrity post-controversy faux apology, She has said, ""Am I the only Catholic left with a sense of humor?"

Adam Howard is the editor of PEEK.

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Thursday, September 20, 2007

It's Time to Build a New Economic Model

By David Korten, YES! Magazine
Posted on September 19, 2007

If we are to slow and ultimately reverse the social and environmental disintegration we see around us, we must change the rules to curb the pervasive abuse of corporate power that contributes so much to those harms.

Taming corporate power will slow the damage. It will not be sufficient, however, to heal our relationships with one another and the Earth and bring our troubled world into social and environmental balance. Corporations are but instruments of a deeper social pathology revealed in a familiar story our society tells about the nature of prosperity.

Empire Prosperity Story

The prevailing prosperity narrative has many variations, but these are among its essential elements:

* Economic growth fills our lives with material abundance, lifts the poor from their misery, and creates the wealth needed to protect the environment.

* Money is the measure of wealth and the proper arbiter of every choice and relationship.

* Prosperity depends on freeing wealthy investors from taxes and regulations that limit their incentive and capacity to invest in creating the new jobs that enrich us all.

* Unregulated markets allocate resources to their most productive and highest value use.

* The wealthy deserve their riches because we all get richer as the benefits of the investments of those on top trickle down to those on the bottom.

* Poverty is caused by welfare programs that strip the poor of motivation to become productive members of society willing to work hard at the jobs the market offers.

This money-serving prosperity story is repeated endlessly by corporate media and taught in economics, business, and public policy courses in our colleges and universities almost as sacred writ. I call it the Empire prosperity story.

Few notice the implications of its legitimation of the power and privilege of for-profit corporations and an economic system designed to maximize returns to money, that is, to make rich people richer. Furthermore, it praises extreme individualism that, in other circumstances would be condemned as sociopathic; values life only as a commodity; and diverts our attention from the basic reality that destroying life to make money is an act of collective insanity. In addition to destroying real wealth, it threatens our very survival as a species.

Earth Community Prosperity Story

Consider these elements of a contrasting life-serving prosperity story that looks to life, rather than money, as the true measure of wealth.

* Healthy children, families, communities, and ecological systems are the true measure of real wealth.

* Mutual caring and support are the primary currency of healthy families and communities, and community is the key to economic security.

* Real wealth is created by investing in the human capital of productive people, the social capital of caring relationships, and the natural capital of healthy ecosystems.

* The end of poverty and the healing of the environment will come from reallocating material resources from rich to poor and from life-destructive to life-nurturing uses.

* Markets have a vital role, but democratically accountable governments must secure community interests by assuring that everyone plays by basic rules that internalize costs, maintain equity, and favor human-scale local businesses that honor community values and serve community needs.

* Economies must serve and be accountable to people, not the reverse.

I call this the Earth Community prosperity story because it evokes a vision of the possibility of creating life-serving economies grounded in communities that respect the irreducible interdependence of people and nature. Although rarely heard, this story is based on familiar notions of generosity and fairness, and negates each of the claims of the imperial prosperity story that currently shapes economic policy and practice.

The High Cost of Making Money

It took me many years in my work abroad as a member of the foreign aid establishment to wake up to the fallacy of the Empire story--the idea that advancing economic growth by maximizing returns to money is the key to ending poverty and healing the environment. The epiphany came during a conference in Asia at which nongovernmental organizations were presenting case studies of the social and environmental consequences of large aid-funded development projects undertaken to promote economic growth. In case after case, the projects displaced poor people and disrupted essential environmental processes to produce benefits for those already better off.

Eventually I came to realize that conventional economic growth indicators rarely measure growth in human prosperity. Rather, they measure the rate at which the rich are expropriating the living resources of the planet and converting them to products destined for a garbage dump after a brief useful life. The process generates profits for people who already have far more money than they need while displacing people from the resources they need for their modest livelihoods. In summary, the primary business of the global financial system and the corporations that serve it is to increase the wealth gap. It works well in the short-term for the privileged few, but it is disastrous for the society.

We see the effects in the current state of the world. The market value of global economic output has tripled since 1970. By conventional reckoning, this means we humans have tripled our wealth and well-being.

Yet indicators of living capital, the aggregate of human, social and natural capital, tell a very different story. The Living Planet Index, an indicator of the health of the world's freshwater, ocean, and land-based ecosystems, declined 30 percent since 1970. According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 15 of 24 ecosystem services examined "are being degraded or used unsustainably, including fresh water, capture fisheries, air and water purification, and the regulation of regional and local climate, natural hazards, and pests."

Indicators of human capital--the skills, knowledge, psychological health, capacity for critical thought, and moral responsibility characteristic of the fully functioning person, and of social capital--the enduring relationships of mutual trust and caring that are the foundation of healthy families, communities and societies--point to equally unfavorable trends.

Even as living capital shrinks, the population that depends on it continues to grow. Meanwhile, the growing concentration of money means a few people are able to claim an ever-larger share of a shrinking pie of living capital to the exclusion of everyone else. According to a recent United Nations study, the richest 2 percent of the world's adults own 51 percent of all global assets. The poorest 50 percent own only 1 percent. This distribution of ownership is a measure of the global distribution of power--and the gap is growing at an accelerating rate. The power imbalance allows the privileged minority to change the rules to accelerate their expropriation of the declining pool of real wealth, which increases the hardship and desperation of those excluded. We are on a path to an increasingly violent last-one-standing competition for the Earth's final tree, drop of drinkable water, and breath of air.

By our measures of financial capital, we humans are on a path to limitless prosperity. By the measures of living capital, we are on a suicidal path to increasing deprivation and ultimate self-extinction.

Putting Life First

If there is to be a human future, we must bring ourselves into balanced relationship with one another and the Earth. This requires turning existing economic priorities and models on their head and making the values of the Earth Community story the foundation of our economy. We must:

1. Turn from money to life as the defining value, from growing financial capital to growing living capital, and from short-term to long-term investing;

2. Shift the priority from advancing the private interests of the few to advancing the individual and community interests of all; and

3. Reallocate resources from supporting institutions of domination to meeting the needs of people, community, and nature.

We have enormous potential to improve the lives of all by reallocating resources from military to health care and environmental regeneration, from automobiles to public transportation, from investing in suburban sprawl to investing in compact communities, from advertising to education, from financial speculation to productive investment in local entrepreneurship, and from providing extravagant luxuries for the very wealthy to providing basic essentials for everyone.

The champions of Empire dismiss any such reordering of priorities on the ground that it will bring economic disaster and unbearable hardship. They ignore the simple fact that those results are already the lot of roughly half our fellow humans. The proposed reordering can avoid the spread of hardship and begin to alleviate the existing suffering.

Economic reallocation and democratization are no longer simply moral issues. They are imperatives of human survival and must replace economic growth and the pursuit of financial gain as the defining purpose of economic life.

The human species has reached a defining moment of choice between moving ahead on a path to collective self-destruction or joining together in a cooperative effort to navigate a dramatic turn to a new human era.

The work of bringing forth a new economy devoted to serving the needs of our children, families, communities, and natural environments begins with building public awareness that there is an Earth Community prosperity story that offers a vision of hope and possibility for a positive future. Although a story so contrary to the prevailing Empire story is likely to be greeted with initial skepticism, the Earth Community prosperity story enjoys the ultimate advantage because it expresses the truth most of us recognize in our hearts: if our children, families, communities, and natural systems are healthy, we are prosperous. Whether conventional financial indicators like GDP or the Dow Jones stock index rise or fall is irrelevant.

Rules for Conserving and Sharing

To get from where we are to where we need to go we must recognize that the market is an essential and beneficial institution for allocating resources in response to individual choices. But it is beneficial only so long as it operates by rules that maintain equity and competition and require players to internalize the social and environmental costs of their choices. And it is not sacred. Without responsible governmental oversight, the market can lead to highly destructive social pathology.

By its nature, the market creates winners and losers. Furthermore, the winners are often those most skilled in finding ways to pass social and environmental costs onto others. The winners increase their share of the resource pie, which increases their economic and political power to shape markets and rules to improve their future prospects. The result is a self-reinforcing spiral of increasing concentration of wealth and power. This supports the unjust hoarding and profligate consumption of resources by a privileged class. In an increasingly environmentally constrained world, learning to conserve and share resources is an essential requirement of social order and well-being.

Even with adequate regulation to minimize social and environmental abuse, the health of a market system also requires public intervention to recycle financial capital continuously from winners to losers. In the absence of such recycling, financial wealth and power accumulate in perpetuity, increasing the fortunes of a few family dynasties at the expense of democracy, justice, and social stability.

Recycling financial wealth to maintain a democratic allocation of access to real resources is, of course, totally contrary to the self-serving logic of corporate capitalism. Yet it is essential to democracy and social health, both of which depend on an equitable distribution of power, and an essential function of democratic government.

Community-based Economics

From a system-design perspective, a healthy society must either eliminate profit, interest, and for-profit corporations altogether, or use the taxing and regulatory powers of publicly accountable democratic governments to strictly limit concentrations of economic power and prevent the winners from passing the costs of their success onto the losers. This creates yet another system design issue. As government becomes larger and more powerful, it almost inevitably becomes less accountable and more prone to corruption.

Paul Hawken has correctly observed that big business creates the need for big government to constrain excesses and clean up the messes. To maintain equity and secure the internalization of costs, democratically accountable government power must exceed the power of exclusive private economic interests. The smaller the concentrations of economic power, the smaller government can be and still maintain essential balance and integrity in the society.

There will be less need for a strong governmental hand to the extent that we are successful in eliminating sociopathic institutional forms, making community-based economies the norm, and creating a public consensus that predatory economic behavior now taken for granted as "just human nature" is actually aberrant and immoral. Responsible citizenship may then become the expected business norm. There will always be a need, however, for rules and governmental oversight to deal with what hopefully will be a declining number of sociopathic individuals and institutions who seek to profit at public expense.

Equalizing economic power and rooting it locally shifts power to people and community from distant financial markets, global corporations, and national governments. It serves to shift rewards from economic predators to economic producers, strengthens community, encourages individual responsibility, and allows for greater expression of individual choice and creativity.

The Essential Choice

The human species has reached a defining moment of choice between moving ahead on a path to collective self-destruction or joining together in a cooperative effort to navigate a dramatic turn to a new human era. The profound cultural and institutional transformation that is needed goes up against the short-term interests of the world's most powerful people and institutions. The barriers to what we humans must now achieve are daunting. By any rational calculation, the needed transformation is not politically feasible. Yet it is essential to human survival and prosperity, which means we must set ourselves to the task of figuring out how to make the impossible into the inevitable.

David Korten is co-founder and board chair of YES! His latest book is The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community.

David Korten is a former economist with USAID, author of "When Corporations Rule the World," and an associate of the International Forum on Globalization.
© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Why Did Senator John Kerry Stand Idly By?


Naïve Americans who think they live in a free society should watch the video filmed by students at a John Kerry speech September 17, Constitution Day, at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

At the conclusion of Kerry’s speech, Andrew Meyer, a 21-year old journalism student was selected by Senator Kerry to ask a question. Meyer held up a copy of BBC investigative reporter Greg Palast’s book, Armed Madhouse, and asked if Kerry was aware that Palast’s investigations determined that Kerry had actually won the election. Why, Meyer asked, had Kerry conceded the election so quickly when there were so many obvious examples of vote fraud? Why, Meyer, went on to ask, was Kerry refusing to consider Bush’s impeachment when Bush was about to initiate another act of military aggression, this time against Iran?

At this point the public’s protectors—the police—decided that Meyer had said too much. They grabbed Meyer and began dragging him off. Meyer said repeatedly, “I have done nothing wrong,” which under our laws he had not. He threatened no one and assaulted no one.

But the police decided that Meyer, an American citizen, had no right to free speech and no constitutional protection. They threw him to the floor and tasered him right in front of Senator Kerry and the large student audience, who captured on video the unquestionable act of police brutality. Meyer was carted off and jailed on a phony charge of “disrupting a public event.”

The question we should all ask is why did a United States Senator just stand there while Gestapo goons violated the constitutional rights of a student participating in a public event, brutalized him in full view of everyone, and then took him off to jail on phony charges?

Kerry’s meekness not only in the face of electoral fraud, not only in the face of Bush’s wars that are crimes under the Nuremberg standard, but also in the face of police goons trampling the constitutional rights of American citizens makes it completely clear that he was not fit to be president, and he is not fit to be a US senator.

Usually when police violate constitutional rights and commit acts of police brutality they do it when they believe no one is watching, not in front of a large audience. Clearly, the police have become more audacious in their abuse of rights and citizens. What explains the new fearlessness of police to violate rights and brutalize citizens without cause?

The answer is that police, most of whom have authoritarian personalities, have seen that constitutional rights are no longer protected. President Bush does not protect our constitutional rights. Neither does Vice President Cheney, nor the Attorney General, nor the US Congress. Just as Kerry allowed Meyer’s rights to be tasered out of him, Congress has enabled Bush to strip people, including American citizens, of constitutional protection and incarcerate them without presenting evidence.

How long before Kerry himself or some other senator will be dragged from his podium and tasered?

The Bush Republicans with complicit Democrats have essentially brought government accountability to an end in the US. The US government has 80,000 people, including ordinary American citizens, on its “no-fly list.” No one knows why they are on the list, and no one on the list can find out how to get off it. An unaccountable act by the Bush administration put them there.

Airport Security harasses and abuses people who do not fit any known definition of terrorist. Nalini Ghuman, a British-born citizen and music professor at Mills College in California was met on her return from a trip to England by armed guards at the airplane door and escorted away. A Gestapo goon squad tore up her US visa, defaced her British passport, body searched her, and told her she could leave immediately for England or be sent to a detention center.

Professor Ghuman, an Oxford University graduate with a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, says she feels like the character in Kafka’s book, The Trial. “I don’t know why it’s happened, what I’m accused of. There’s no opportunity to defend myself. One is just completely powerless.” Over one year later there is still no answer.

The Bush Republicans and their Democratic toadies have, in the name of “security,” made all of us powerless. While Senator John Kerry and his Democratic colleagues stand silently, the Bush administration has stolen our country from us and turned us into subjects.

*The video of Andrew’s Mayer’s arrest may be found at

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at:

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Federal Prosecutor Caught Seeking Sex with 5-Year-Old Girl

By Melissa McEwan
Posted on September 18, 2007

This post, written by Melissa McEwan, originally appeared on Shaesville

Pedophile prosecutor:

A federal prosecutor from Florida was ordered held in custody Monday after he appeared in U.S. District Court in Detroit on a charge that he flew to Detroit intending to have sex with a 5-year-old girl.
John David R. Atchison, 53, of Gulf Breeze, Fla., an assistant U.S. Attorney in Florida's northern district, is expected to appear again in court for a detention hearing on Tuesday.

This charming fella was arrested over the weekend when he arrived at Detroit Metropolitan Airport after conversing with a sheriff's deputy posing online as "a mother who was interested in finding someone to have sex with her children."

According to the complaint, Atchison reassured the sheriff's deputy who was posing as the child's mother that he would not hurt the 5-year-old because he goes "slow and easy," and "I've done it plenty."


Given the enormous scandal that erupted over the administration's insistence that every federal prosecutor's office be staffed with administration lackeys, it's probably safe to assume that Atchison is a Republican. Just saying.

[Via Atrios.]

Melissa McEwan writes and edits the blog Shakespeare's Sister.

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Unionized Nurses Flex Their Political Muscle

Hooray for the organized nurses! You go, girls (and guys)! Lead the way toward universal healthcare and away from the Med Insurance/Big Pharma/Med Tech lobbies--Pete

By Lisa Girion, Los Angeles Times
Posted on September 11, 2007

Nurses aren't just taking orders anymore.

From intensive care wards to the halls of Congress, they're exerting growing influence over hospital practices and patient treatment. With the clout they've gained through unionization, they've raised their incomes and their profession's profile.

Now they're lobbying for a radical change to the country's healthcare system, starting in California.

On Monday, hundreds of members of the California Nurses Assn. marched on the Capitol in Sacramento and pledged to continue to campaign for universal healthcare coverage.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would call a special session of the Legislature to write a law to significantly expand coverage in the state -- though not by nearly enough to satisfy the nurses union.

For Rose Ann DeMoro, the union's executive director, the goal is to end what she called the "pay-or-die system" once and for all.

"We are a very, very strong and, some say, militant organization," said DeMoro, an AFL-CIO vice president. "And, honestly, in this environment it takes a militant organization. It's very hard for a registered nurse to go home at the end of a shift and feel good about the care she's able to give."

Emboldened by the nation's huge need for their skills, bulked up through unionization, and energized by their last dust-up with Schwarzenegger, organized nurses have become a bona fide political force.

"They have a very strong hand," said Darry Sragow, a Los Angeles lawyer and political strategist.

That's due in part to organized labor's big gains among nurses in recent years. In strongholds like California, Florence Nightingale is almost as likely to carry a union card, and a picket sign, as she is to wear clogs.

For Irene Gamboa, an operating-room nurse at USC/University Hospital in Los Angeles, the decision to join the California Nurses Assn. last year was about having a say in how the hospital operates.

Last month, the union won raises of about 25% over four years for Gamboa and 6,500 other nurses who worked for Tenet Healthcare hospitals. The new contract also sets minimum staffing levels and seeks to ensure that a nurse's judgment is not usurped by new medical technology.

"It's not only about the money," Gamboa said. "It's about quality patient care, which is very important to nurses."

Organized nurses' agenda includes changes that can't be won at bargaining tables, such as universal healthcare coverage. So nurses also are taking their demands to statehouses and to Congress.

"By coming together, they can really influence public policy," said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.

Nurses have come a long way since the late 1980s, when hospitals were laying them off in droves to cut costs amid the managed-care revolution. Factions of frustrated, change-seeking nurses broke away from professional associations in California and elsewhere to form collective bargaining units.

Their unions continue to grow even as organized labor is in critical care. In labor's heyday, more than one-third of all U.S. workers, almost all of them blue collar and male, belonged to unions. Today, about one in eight workers carries a union card.

Among the largely female ranks of nurses, however, the figure is closer to one in five.

About 325,000 nurses belong to 11 AFL-CIO affiliates, including the United American Nurses, the nation's largest nursing union. The California Nurses Assn., which claims 75,000 members, joined the giant labor federation this year, and the various unions recently formed a coalition called RNs Working Together.

Another 85,000 nurses belong to the Service Employees International Union, which touts itself as the nation's fastest growing union and is focused on organizing the nation's 10 million non-union healthcare workers, from home health aides to hospital nurses.

United American Nurses, which represents 115,000 nurses in 25 states, recently formed an alliance with the SEIU, and is boosting its organizing efforts with $8 million for membership expansion this year alone.

In the mid-1990s, when the California Nurses Assn. made organizing hospitals a priority, it had about 17,000 members. Both it and the SEIU gained ground as staffing shortages emerged, and skirmishes over hours, wages and staffing levels were fought hospital to hospital.

Then, in 1999, Gov. Gray Davis signed the nation's first nurse-patient ratio mandate into law, requiring that nurses on typical wards be assigned to care for no more than five patients each.

Hospitals complained that they couldn't hire enough nurses to comply with the ratio.

Schwarzenegger attempted to delay the law's full implementation -- touching off a firestorm of protest that is now widely viewed as a watershed in the politicization of the profession.

The association bought attack ads and rallied nurses who heckled him at public appearances around the state. The nurses' version of the Boston Tea Party came when the union hired a banner-toting blimp to fly over a Super Bowl party Schwarzenegger was hosting. The mandates eventually took effect.

Publicity over the flap catapulted the California union onto the national stage. The union launched an effort to organize nurses across the country. It now bargains for nurses in Maine and Illinois and has its sights set on several Texas hospitals.

Nurses' newfound power owes a lot to an aging population and a workforce miscalculation of gargantuan proportions.

As baby boomers grow older, their medical needs increase the demand for nurses. But the supply isn't keeping up.

Like the boomers she cares for, the average working nurse is also nearing retirement age. Half are older than 50. And the nation's nursing schools -- many of which closed down when hospitals were laying off nurses two decades ago -- don't have the capacity to replace them at the rate they are leaving.

Unlike many jobs, however, nursing can't be shipped offshore. "Workers in other nations cannot do it like they can produce flat-screen televisions," said Robert Reich, a public policy professor at UC Berkeley who was secretary of Labor under President Clinton.

Looming physician shortages and efforts to cut costs are likely to push even more of the patient-care workload onto nurses, further stoking demand, as is ever-changing medical technology, which requires skilled workers, often nurses, to operate.

As a result, Reich said, "we're going to see more and more pressure put on hospital systems that are not yet unionized."

Not everyone believes the growing bargaining power and political influence of nurses is the best medicine.

When nurses win pay raises and lower staffing ratios, costs rise, said Steve Malanga, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank based in New York.

"So it's a little bit naive to expect that their victories are going to also be complete victories for the patient," he said.

And not every nurse believes joining a union is the best way to improve patient care or their own lot.

"I think unions are taking advantage of the crisis in healthcare today," said Suzanne Geimer, an emergency room nurse at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Geimer launched a website for nurses who opposed the unionization efforts at that hospital a few years ago. The California Nurses Assn. won the right to represent the Cedars nurses in an election in 2002, but the National Labor Relations Board overturned the election in a setback the union characterizes as an example of the Bush administration's efforts to undermine labor.

Geimer's website remains a forum for anti-union sentiment among nurses. She said many believed organized labor was merely interested in pumping up its numbers -- and collecting union dues.

"They see healthcare as a fertile field," Geimer said.

Union activists don't disagree.

"Everybody's looking at nurses," said United American Nurses President Cheryl Johnson, a nurse in Michigan.

"Everybody wants to have a say in how to fix" the problems with healthcare, she said. "There are big stakes in this game."

AlterNet is making this material available in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107: This article is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Monday, September 17, 2007

Maybe We Should Try Coddling The Terrorists

Bill O'Reilly Special

I want to make myself clear, right from the get-go: I hate terrorism. Those of you who follow the Factor know that I have never been a fan. Never will be either. I think what they do, particularly to children, violence-wise, is unforgivable.

That said, I'm beginning to suspect that we've been going about this War on Terror all wrong. Before, I said we should treat the terrorists like the vile dogs that they are. But even vile dogs respond well to getting patted once in a while. So perhaps the best way to stop these jihadists from destroying our way of life is to do what the liberals have been proposing all along: start coddling them.

The "blame America first" crowd wants to invite these crazed Islamic extremists to visit Main Street USA, and I say let's give it a shot. Let's invite them into our homes, put them up in the guest bedroom with the good linens, and fluff up their pillows real nice. But let's not stop there. Let's take those heartless murderers out to our finest restaurants, order them appetizers and wine and dessert and then pick up the tab.

Look, folks, we don't really have a lot of options left. We've spent six long years fighting this war, and I don't feel any more safe than I did when we began. So why not call up this Muqtada al-Sadr fellow and tell him that the whole Iraqi shooting match is his for the taking?

Now, I haven't gone soft. I've never taken the easy road and I'm not about to start. Make no mistake, terrorists are no better than cockroaches. But as with cockroaches, if you see one, that means there are dozens more, and the more you kill them, the more there seem to be. We've tried isolating these bloodthirsty killers, bombing them, waterboarding them, locking them away in secret prisons, and still they hang on. But you know what we haven't tried? Rolling out the red carpet and treating them like royalty.

Take Osama bin Laden, for example. He's still a sworn foe of mine, but trying to smoke him out of his hole hasn't been working too well. We can't seem to find this guy through violence and intimidation, so let's send him a fruit basket instead. Let's pamper him and the rest of his evil band of freedom haters.

I know I've been saying for years that we're fighting them in Baghdad so we don't have to fight them in Boston. That hasn't been working out so well, and maybe it was the wrong strategy all along. Perhaps we can book them a few flights into town, make them the guests of honor at a fancy-schmancy tea party, and ask them what we did wrong to make them hate us so much in the first place. We'll eagerly listen to their demands, and immediately cave in to them. I don't care how outlandish those demands are, just give these folks what they want. We're a rich nation; we can afford it.

Folks, here's the bottom line: I don't want to die.

That night, we get them a room at the finest hotel in New York, preferably the bridal suite. Then we tuck them into bed, read them a bedtime story, and tiptoe quietly out of the room so as not to disturb their sweet slumber. Bright and early the next morning, we give the terrorists a good old-fashioned ticker-tape parade right there in lower Manhattan.

You don't have ticker tape? Not a problem. Just go to my website,, and you can get some great Factor gear, including some brand-new "Let's pamper the terrorists" ticker tape. Makes a great back-to-school gift, and remember, all proceeds go to a terrorist-coddling charity.

`Match Game' Panelist Brett Somers Dies

Wow, I guess I never realized how much this pop culture trash from my youth could move me to emotional response. I watched Match Game pert near religiously, and Brett Somers was a favorite of mine, even though I'd never seen here in anything outside the game show. When I read this obit, I had to wipe away tears! Hooda thunkit?--Pete

Monday, September 17, 2007

(09-17) 18:02 PDT Westport, Conn. (AP) --

Actress and comedian Brett Somers, who amused game show fans with her quips on the "Match Game" in the 1970s, has died, her son said. She was 83. Somers died Saturday at her home in Westport of stomach and colon cancer, Adam Klugman said Monday.

Hosted by Gene Rayburn, "Match Game" was the top game show during much of the 1970s. Contestants would try to match answers to nonsense questions with a panel of celebrities; much of the humor came from the racy quips and putdowns.

Shows from the 1973-79 run, featuring regulars like Somers, Richard Dawson and Charles Nelson Reilly, are still seen on cable TV's GSN (formerly Game Show Network.)

Somers married actor Jack Klugman, the future star of the television shows "Quincy" and "The Odd Couple," in 1953. The two separated in 1974, but never divorced.

They made many television appearances as a couple. Somers appeared on several episodes of "The Odd Couple," playing the ex-wife of Klugman's character.

In the summer of 2003, she appeared in a one-woman cabaret show, "An Evening with Brett Somers," which she wrote and co-produced. She continued to perform after being diagnosed with cancer.

She was born Audrey Johnston in New Brunswick, Canada, and grew up in Portland, Maine. She ran away from home at age 17 and headed for New York City, where she settled in Greenwich Village. She changed her first name to Brett after the lead female character in the Ernest Hemingway novel "The Sun Also Rises." Somers was her mother's maiden name.

Her son said she was caustic, irreverent and a self-declared bohemian.

"She maintained her independence till the end, and her irreverence," Adam Klugman said. "She died very much at peace."

In addition to Adam Klugman, Somers is survived by another son, David, and a daughter, Leslie.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Whoops! How Did Those Nukes Get There?

by Tom Chartier
by Tom Chartier

Private Pyle! What is your major malfunction?! Did your mama not let you watch Sesame Street? Can’t you read?

Are your nuts so numb you did not realize you were affixing six cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads to the wings of that B-52?

Now just lookee here, right next to where some red blooded American painted "Crispy Critters" it clearly says: "DANGER: THERMONUCLEAR DEVICE." Did you think that meant it was for crop dusting? Same goes for these other five: "Dead Eye Dick," "Ann Coulter Sends Her Love," "Peace On Earth," "Purity of Essence," and "Podhoretz’ Prophesy." They’re ALL nukes you Moe Ron!

Let me tell you, it just ain’t sportin’ to roll these babies out of the bunker and then strap ‘em onto the wings of a B-52 as a joke. You gotta get the go ahead from somebody higher up… like General Jack D. Ripper.

Amusing as all this is it’s one "whopper" of a mistake. You betcha. And that mistake was simple… somebody found out! No! No! No! This was all supposed to be on the down low. If you can’t keep your pie hole shut Private Pyle, we won’t let you in on anymore Top Secret Skullduggery.

What if one of these Nukes accidentally fell off over say… some Nebraska cornfield? Them puppies were slated for that loud-mouthed Ahmad… Amahad… uh… Ahmadinejad character in Tehran. The jig would be up. Poof. He’d have time to duck and cover.

Not only that now we can’t casually fly over Tehran and let ‘em rip. Awe pishaw… of course we still can. But I seriously doubt the Revolutionary Guard would expect a squadron of B-52s to be loaded with pallets of cash. You’ve gone and spoiled our big surprise party!

And to insert a corncob into the… uh… "brains" of the Military Intelligence Whiz Bangs and the sensationalist "press" opportunists, rumor is running rampant all over the Internet six Nukes were loaded onto the B-52 and only five were taken off! Some folks think one got stolen by oh I don’t know… The Noble Senator Tiberius Lieberman? The Man on the Wing? Dr. Evil so he can hold the world ransom for… one million dollars? Well anyway, the fear and conspiracy profiteers are all over the idea Nuke Number Six has fallen into the wrong hands. Balderdash.

Some wacko preeverts might actually say those nukes were never in the right hands to begin with. What a load of turd blossoms! Where the heckers do they think Nuke Numero Six is Private Pyle, inside your footlocker right next to that non-regulation jelly donut?

Don’t these conspiracy kooks know you are a product of a spiraling math program that goes far beyond the old fashioned and "quaint" New Math? You can’t count! What the hell did you do, count your thumb twice?

Dang Private Pyle how stupid can you be? That’s it no more loading nuclear armed cruise missiles on B-52s for you! You’re on KP! Oh wait… KP has now been outsourced to Halliburton contractors and private security mercenaries. Well that makes sense; the US can spend ten times the going rate on specialists to peel potatoes. And that frees you up Private Pyle for more important FUBARs.

However, your ass is still in the sling. Let’s see what would be a suitable punishment? I got it! Another holiday in Baghdad! You know seven is your lucky number. Maybe this time you’ll get killed and that will fix the obvious case of IED shock wave induced brain damage! Then we won’t have to pay for your rehab! But uh… him… where to plant the body of our noble war hero? The Prime Plot Bubble has burst you know.

Well… you’re a southern boy Private Pyle so… how about some choice Florida swamp land as a final restin’ place? Oh, don’t fret none about them gators. You won’t feel a thing as they divvy up the choice cuts of Pyle. Besides, you’ll be helping the environment. Back to nature I say!

But before we ship you off… again… we have a teenatchee little task for you. It’ll help set things straight.

Here’s what we want you to do. Take this here bucket of olive drab paint and these stencils. Go out to all those cruise missiles and paint over the words: "Danger: Thermonuclear Device." When that’s done, take this white paint and stencil: "PROZAC" on all of them. That’ll fool those pesky busy bodies!

September 15, 2007

Tom Chartier [send him mail] played lead guitar in legendary Los Angeles punk band The Rotters for 26 years until their final appearance in January of 2004. He has lived in Tokyo and Los Angeles. Currently he resides somewhere in the Caribbean.

Copyright © 2007