Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Bush’s response to South Asia disaster: indifference compounded by political incompetence

By Patrick Martin
30 December 2004

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President Bush briefly interrupted his vacation on Wednesday to issue a public statement, after three days of silence as the greatest natural disaster of the last half-century unfolded on the television screens of the world. He made a perfunctory and semi-coherent statement to the press corps assembled at his Crawford, Texas ranch, shortly after the administration had announced a doubling of the US government’s contribution to disaster relief efforts in South Asia.

The initial US pledge of $15 million was widely derided in the international media—one commentary noted that this was less than the cost of a single F-16 fighter jet. It brought a pointed response by the emergency relief director for the United Nations, Jan Egeland, who criticized the “stingy” response of unnamed Western countries. The Scandinavian diplomat later denied he was referring to the United States, after the US Agency for International Development added another $20 million to the aid package.

Outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell was trundled out to rebut the charge that the US was ignoring the disaster. “The US is not stingy,” Powell declared. “We are the greatest contributor to international relief efforts in the world.” (He was silent on the fact that the two largest US-financed “relief” efforts, in Iraq and Afghanistan, are in support of stooge regimes established through the US conquest of sovereign countries).

Even the increased $35 million contribution represents a minimal gesture, given the monumental scale of the tragedy and the enormous resources of the United States. The donation amounts to half a day’s spending on the war in Iraq. It is less money than will be expended on the parties and official festivities surrounding Bush’s January 20 inauguration.

The US government relief effort can be measured by another yardstick—its response to the hurricanes that hit Florida this year. The Federal Emergency Management Agency alone has pumped $3.17 billion into the state, nearly 100 times more than the proposed US contribution for the South Asian tsunami. The four Florida hurricanes combined killed 116 people, compared to over 100,000 dead in the South Asian disaster. According to the brutal calculus of American imperialism, a human life in the United States—especially in a battleground state in the months before a presidential election—is worth infinitely more than a human life in Sri Lanka or Indonesia.

Media criticism of the White House reached its peak in a front-page article published by the Washington Post December 29, only a few hours before Bush made his appearance in Crawford. The Post commented: “Skeptics said the initial aid sums—as well as Bush’s decision at first to remain cloistered on his Texas ranch for the Christmas holiday rather than speak in person about the tragedy—showed scant appreciation for the magnitude of suffering and for the rescue and rebuilding work facing such nations as Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and Indonesia.”

Noting the “international outpouring of support after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon,” the Post reported that “even some administration officials familiar with relief efforts said they were surprised that Bush had not appeared personally to comment on the tsunami tragedy. ‘It’s kind of freaky,’ a senior career official said.”

Here the Post gave expression to concerns within the state apparatus itself, not so much with Bush’s indifference to the loss of life, but with his inability to conceal this attitude behind the humanitarian posturing typical of more skilled spokesmen for imperialism, like British Prime Minister Blair or former President Bill Clinton.

Bush hardly dispelled this concern with his comments to the press corps. His remarks were delivered in a fashion that suggested the president could hardly wait to get back to more pressing tasks—such as bicycling and “clearing brush,” two of his major activities at the Crawford ranch.

Bush declared his support for the construction of a worldwide warning system against natural disasters like the earthquake and tsunami, modeled on the one already built by the United States, Japan and other wealthy countries to cover the Pacific basin. He was not asked why no such network yet exists, although the total cost of a worldwide alert system is estimated at only $150 million—a comparative pittance, less than the cost of four days of war in Iraq.

There is already evidence that the US government had ample warning of the earthquake-driven tsunami, but did not communicate the information to the countries involved. US press reports indicate that the Pacific Warning Center in Hawaii, a facility of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, detected the earthquake when it occurred and immediately warned of the likelihood of tidal waves generated by one of largest temblors ever recorded.

Charles McCreery, director of the center, confirmed that his team had transmitted warnings to the US Navy, the US State Department and the government of Australia. The State Department claimed to have notified India, but the Indian government said it received no such warning in the two hours that elapsed between the quake off Sumatra and the tidal wave that hit the Indian coastline in the southern province of Tamil Nadu. Nor did the Sri Lankan government receive a warning.

But one Indian Ocean island was promptly warned—the US military base on the British-controlled island of Diego Garcia, the site from which US bombing raids have been staged on both Afghanistan and Iraq. The US base, about 1,000 miles south of India, directly in the path of the tsunami, reportedly suffered no damage.

Bush’s press statement in Crawford did contain one indisputable truth. “This has been a terrible disaster,” Bush said. “It is beyond our comprehension.”

The speechwriter who crafted those words revealed more about Bush than he perhaps intended. This failure to grasp the dimensions of the south Asian disaster—and anticipate the public reaction to a display of indifference—is a measure of the moral and intellectual cretinism of Bush and his cohorts.

The administration’s callous and barely concealed indifference to the suffering of millions of people says a great deal about the corrupt oligarchy whose interests it serves. The Bush administration, and the occupant of the White House himself, are body and soul the creatures of a ruling elite that has descended into criminality and unbridled greed.

The New York Times, for example, found nothing untoward in publishing on the front page of its December 28 edition articles and photographs on the death and devastation in South Asia alongside a lighthearted report on the multi-million-dollar Christmas bonuses awarded by Wall Street firms to their top executives (“That Line at the Ferrari Dealer? It’s Bonus Season on Wall Street”).

If great events take the true measure of men, the enormous tragedy on the shores of the Indian Ocean has provided another yardstick of the vicious and small-minded man who occupies the White House. Bush personifies the ignorant and reactionary character of American imperialism.

See Also:
Tsunami death toll rises to 60,000 amid warnings of epidemics


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Picture From Fallujah

A combo shows pictures released by the US Marines 18 December 2004 of a
US soldier being hit by enemy fire while trying to pull a fatally
wounded Marine to safety during battles in the restive city of Fallujah,
west of Baghdad.
(With Thanks to Information Clearing House)

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Fate and ignorance

Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, December 29, 2004
It is my supposition that the Universe is not
only queerer than we
imagine, it is queerer
than we can imagine.
—J. B. S. Haldane

In the popular imagination, influenced by a thousand
Hollywood "sword and sandal" epics inspired by Edward Gibbon’s "Decline
and Fall of the Roman Empire," great nations perish through moral
decay. (The more half-naked slave girls, muscular gladiators and lisping
upper-class twits, the better the box office.) But there’s such a thing
as intellectual decadence, too. The role of sheer ignorance in
determining the fate of civilizations cannot be overstated. Believe it
or not, this insight struck me recently while watching a two minute
"debate" on CNN about the merits of teaching Darwinian evolution vs.
something called "intelligent design" in high school biology classes.

The utter vacuousness of the anchor creature refereeing this exhibition
needn’t be dwelt upon. Suffice it wasn’t her reasoning skills that got
her the job. Rather, it was the farcical nature of the whole enterprise
that struck me: the central organizing principle of biological science
as the shuttlecock in a "Crossfire"-style colloquy between an earnest
young lawyer and a smug preacher who appeared to have borrowed Sen.
Trent Lott’s lacquered hair helmet and dyed it orange.

Not long afterward, The Washington Post chronicled a dispute among
parents and school board members in Dover, Pa., a suburb of Harrisburg.
There, 11 parents, under the aegis of the ACLU, have sued to prevent"
intelligent design" from being foisted upon their children in biology
classes. They claim it’s a smokescreen for teaching fundamentalist
religious doctrine in place of science.

Judging by the newspaper’s account, they’re surely correct. The school
board member who introduced the measure explained that he was taking a
stand for Jesus. Another member, an Assemblies of God pastor, said, "If
the Bible is right, God created us. If God did it, it’s history and
it’s also science."

A local gift shop owner rather evocatively named Lark Myers summed it
all up for the Post reporter: "I definitely would prefer to believe
that God created me than that I’m 50th cousin to a silverback ape. What’s
wrong with wanting our children to hear about all the holes in the
theory of evolution?"

Sigh. The single best answer I’ve seen to all this nonsense was given
by Rev. C. O. Magee, a Presbyterian minister and member of the Little Rock
School Board during a federal court test of an Arkansas
"creation-science" law more than 20 years ago. "Any time religion gets
involved in science," he said, "religion comes off looking like a bunch
of nerds.... The Book of Genesis told who created the world and why it
was created and science tells how it was done."

Can I get an amen? Frankly, I doubt the fair Lark would try to adjust
her own satellite TV receiver without expert help or summon an
Assemblies of God preacher to repair her dishwasher according to
biblical principles. Yet she feels herself competent to pronounce upon
the alleged holes in one of the most massively documented theoretical
constructs in the history of science.

To anybody even faintly aware of what’s going on in the visible world,
biological science has made astonishing advances in recent decades.
Biologists have discovered the structure of the DNA molecule, broken
the genetic code, sequenced the entire genome of several species and
documented with extraordinary specificity how a tiny, single-celled egg
develops into an adult organism.

Paleontologists have unearthed so many so-called missing links in
mammalian evolution that clever creationists now avoid the topic.

Suffice it to say that none of these discoveries would be conceivable
absent the intellectual scaffolding provided by Charles Darwin’s
"Origin of Species" in 1859.

But while Darwin’s insights have been elaborated upon, adjusted,
amplified and corrected over the past century, the panicky response of
his authoritarian-minded opponents has not. Properly understood,
evolution no more mandates atheism than does the tax code, which also
excludes supernatural explanations. Indeed, most "mainstream" religious
denominations have long ago quit seeing science as an enemy, embracing
its discoveries about the grandeur and complexity of the physical
universe as an inducement to reverence and awe. Unfortunately, TV news
networks seeking conflict and melodrama to boost ratings are ill suited
to explore such ideas and emotions. Instead, they peddle simplistic
"controversies" well suited to suburbanites who have lost their way
amid the moral and intellectual confusions of contemporary life and cling to
biblical literalism like a life raft. Sure, a proper curriculum should
include lessons about how science both limits and lays claim to
knowledge about the physical world. And yes, it’s bad for democracy to
have these arguments settled by court mandate instead of reasoned
debate. But it’s also not hard to see why scientists are reluctant to
spend all their time rehashing 19th century misunderstandings on
satellite TV.

• Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient
of the National Magazine Award.

Spain: Madrid Commission confirms conspiracy of lies used to justify Iraq War

By Paul Mitchell
29 December 2004

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Evidence presented to the commission investigating the train bombings on March 11 in Madrid in which 191 people died and 1,700 others were injured confirms that a conspiracy of lies was used to justify the Iraq war and deceive the Spanish people.

The evidence emerged when current Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero testified at the Spanish Congressional Commission of Inquiry into the Madrid bombings. Zapatero confirmed allegations first published in the Spanish daily El Pais on December 13 that the former Popular Party (PP) government led by José María Aznar ordered the destruction of computer records dealing with the key period between the Madrid train bombings and the general election held three days later that it lost to Zapatero’s Socialist Workers Party (PSOE). El Pais reported that a specialist computer company was paid $12,000 to erase the computer records, including back-up security copies.

Zapatero confirmed the allegations during questioning at the inquiry, “In the prime minister’s office we did not have a single document or any data on computer because the whole cabinet of the previous government carried out a massive erasure.”

“That means we have nothing about what happened, information that might have been received, meetings or decisions that were taken from March 11 until March 14,”he added.

Since then, it has emerged that Aznar and his cabinet office in fact erased all records covering their eight years of government. According to the New York Times, a Spanish official said every file had been wiped out on the hundreds of computers at the presidential complex, known as the Moncloa Palace. “Not a single trace of any files was left behind,” the official said. “Zero, nothing.”

Knowledge that the files were destroyed only came to light because the commission had requested the minutes of Aznar’s Cabinet Office crisis meetings on the day of the bombings. Officials from Zapatero’s government could not produce them, nor any other document of the time, including conversations held by Aznar with the heads of the Spanish media, foreign envoys, what reports he received or what instructions he gave.

It means none of Aznar’s declarations earlier this month to the commission can be proved or disproved. None of his statements regarding crisis meetings he held or measures taken by his government following the bombings can be verified.

The only conclusion that can be drawn is that Aznar and his government not only lied about what they knew about the authorship of the Madrid bombings, but that they also systematically lied about the illegal war in Iraq and rushed to destroy their records after their surprise election defeat by the PSOE on March 14 to hide the truth.

The election vote revealed a broad and intense popular hostility to both the war and the government lies that accompanied it, particularly Aznar’s unsubstantiated claims that the Basque separatist group ETA was responsible for the Madrid atrocity. The PP wanted ETA blamed because Aznar rightly feared that revelations of an Al Qaeda connection would become a focus for the overwhelming opposition to the government’s support for the war in Iraq. According to opinion polls, 90 percent of the Spanish people were opposed to the war and millions had demonstrated against it in 2003.

At the commission, Zapatero confirmed previous testimony from the intelligence services and police that within hours of the attack officials had concluded the “sole responsibility” for the Madrid bombings rested with Islamic terrorists and not ETA. First, a tape of verses from the Koran was found in a van near the station where the trains started their journey. Then it was discovered that the explosive used to make the bombs was Goma-2 and not titadyne, the material favoured by ETA.

He explained, “This was the decisive information, evidence; that from that moment there was never an ETA line of investigation.”

The bombers also issued a video on the night before the election, Zapatero added, saying the attack was Al Qaeda’s revenge for Spain sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. He accused the Aznar government of carrying out a “massive campaign of deception” by blaming ETA for the bombings and of still “sowing confusion” by repeating the claims ever since.

In the hours after the bombings, as evidence mounted that implicated Al Qaeda, the conviction grew among broad masses of Spaniards that Aznar’s support for the US invasion had made Spain a terrorist target and politically implicated the government in the tragic loss of life in Madrid.

On the eve of the election angry protests against the PP escalated with some 5,000 people gathering outside its headquarters in Madrid, shouting, “Our dead, your war!” In the Basque city of Bilbao, 8,000 protested. Rumours grew that the PP was considering canceling the election and planning a coup d’etat. To this day the PP claims it was itself the victim of a left-wing putsch and refuses to accept the result of the election.

The March events threatened Spanish capitalism with one of the gravest crises to its rule since the death of General Franco and the “transition to democracy”. It was imperative to neuter the mass movement and restabilise political relations. That task fell to the PSOE. It had been brought to power on the back of a mass anti-war movement, but its principal aim was to cripple that movement, bring it under control and—if possible—to re-legitimise the PP.

After his election Zapatero met the immediate demand of the Spanish people to withdraw troops from Iraq. He told the commission, “I withdrew the troops from Iraq because I always said the war was illegal and because the majority of the citizens clearly and resoundingly rejected it”. Zapatero said descriptions of the troop pullout as an appeasement of terrorists and of the Spanish people as cowards, were “brutal and unacceptable.”

However, a central demand of the antiwar movement was for Aznar and the PP leadership to be prosecuted for war crimes. Instead, Zapatero held out a hand of friendship to his defeated opponents by offering them “collaboration in the affairs of the state.” He set up the commission to investigate an alleged “breakdown in communications” between branches of the police and security services that allowed the bombers to “slip through the net”, rather than exposing Aznar’s crimes.

Zapatero’s performance at the commission was conducted in a similar vein. In his opening statement he had made no mention of the destruction of the cabinet office records even though the PSOE must have known about it from day one of their move into the Moncloa Palace. Only under questioning did he speak about it.

Zapatero has said that his government has “no intention to ask for responsibilities” for the destruction of government records. The PP should forget its own political partisanship, he added, and unite in a cross-party pact against international terrorism to which everything else has to be sacrificed and which should become a model for Europe and the world.

Zapatero continued, “My government wants to create, put forward and support a major agreement against international terrorism with the political forces represented in parliament”—one similar to the 2000 Anti-terrorism Pact against ETA that the PSOE proposed and Aznar’s government accepted and implemented. Whilst the pact was ostensibly aimed at clamping down on ETA, it sanctioned the suppression of civil liberties and an extension of police powers.

El Pais reports that Zapatero believes the PP has been suffering from “political frustration” over the last few weeks which he puts down to Aznar’s appearance at the commission, Foreign Minister Moratino’s accusation that Aznar had supported an attempted coup in Venezuela and the PSOE decision to reform the Judiciary Law. It is “a feverish outburst that will pass,” he added.

Zapatero justified minimising the importance of the sharpening political climate with the following words: “The transit from government to the opposition is very difficult for a party that has ruled for a long time”.

Meanwhile, Aznar and his henchmen who have been involved in a criminal conspiracy to destroy official records relating to the aftermath of the biggest outrage in Spain in recent history—the “war on terror” and invasion of Iraq—in a way that resembles the methods of the fascist Franco years and have been allowed to get away with it.

See Also:
The Madrid bomb inquiry: Aznar continues his lies

US Congress uses Alice in Wonderland logic to sell cuts in college grants

By Charles Bogle
29 December 2004

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Prodded by the Bush administration, the US Congress has changed the formula for determining the disbursement of Pell Grants, the main source of financial aid for low- and mid-income college students. As a result, 1.4 million students will receive less financial aid for the 2005-2006 academic year, and at least 80,000 deserving students will receive no Pell Grant funds at all (“Students to Bear More of the Cost of College,” by Greg Winter, New York Times, 12/23/04).

As one might expect, community colleges, with a student population made up chiefly of working class students, will be hardest hit. This severe cutback in funding comes at a time when economic conditions are forcing federal and state authorities to demand that community colleges carry more of the higher-education burden. The consequences of this conflict of interests will be multiple: in their scramble for funding, even more community colleges will be forced to curry the favor of corporations and other members of the private sector; and those community colleges that cannot “compete” in this sector will either severely curtail their services or shut their doors.

The purpose of the federal financial aid formula is to determine exactly how much family income is discretionary and therefore available to help pay for college expenses. Historically, the formula has allowed families to deduct a portion of what they pay in state and local taxes. With the rule change, the allowable amount to be deducted will be cut significantly. Using Alice in Wonderland logic, the Bush administration and Congress are selling the rule change by arguing that the change leaves families with more money to pay for college, “even though,” as the Times article explains, “state and local taxes have gone up in the last few years, not down.”

Such logic is also evident in the rationale for the rule change. As a result of deteriorating economic conditions, more college students, both recent high school graduates and returning adults, are in need of Pell Grants, which has increased the cost of funding the program. But instead of recognizing that during an economic crisis we should be helping students more, the Bush administration and the present Congress believe that the answer is to help them less.

Educators and lawmakers across the board have argued that the present maximum Pell Grant, $4,050 per year, is woefully inadequate. But the White House Office of Management and Budget concludes that without the changes the cost of maintaining Pell Grants at their present level would increase by some $300 million because tens of thousands of students would become eligible for aid and hundreds of thousands more would be granted larger awards. This reasoning is truly astounding: because more students are suffering financially, more of them are eligible for Pell Grants. Therefore, we will lower the level of assistance to ensure fewer students are eligible. One could only hope that the Bush administration and its supporters would apply the same logic when determining who among the suffering rich are eligible for further tax cuts.

The loss of funding will be most severely felt by community colleges and their large proportion of working class students. Moreover, this cutback occurs at a time when the Bush administration and state authorities are demanding more of the community college system.

During the 2004 election campaign, President Bush repeatedly called for community colleges to carry more of the higher-education burden and thereby better prepare Americans for a competitive labor market. He also assured the community colleges that they would be receiving substantial financial assistance, including an increase in Pell Grant funding. Coming just a little over a month after the 2004 election, the announced decrease in Pell Grant funding demonstrates, at the least, an administration and compliant Congress that were equally ignorant concerning budget shortfalls. Much more likely is the view that the administration is using funding cuts to further privatize and “corporatize” higher education, especially at the community college level.

During considerations of the appropriations bill that cleared the way for the change in the Pell Grant formula, Democratic Senator Jon S. Corzine of New Jersey admitted that “this [appropriations bill] was a backdoor attempt to cut funding from the Pell grant program,” Unfortunately, Senator Corzine did not explore the rationale for funding cuts.

When President Bush called on community colleges to do more, he issued a caveat. “As you well know,” he said during a speech last January at Owens Community College, near Toledo, Ohio, “particularly if you’re a trustee of the community college, most of the money is local money, but the federal government can help, particularly when it comes to job training.” More specifically, Bush promoted “job training partnerships between community colleges and local high-growth industries.” [See “Bush plan for community colleges: training ground for low-wage jobs”.] Federal funding will therefore be offered to those community colleges that create more job-training programs and certificates and closer ties to local industries. Coupled with ongoing state funding cuts and decreasing Pell grant monies, these measures will further diminish community college revenues, forcing administrators and trustees to grovel even more cravenly at the doorsteps of the private sector.

State governments’ responses to cuts in federal funding and the loss of revenues in general exemplify the increasing conflict between federal and state needs. On the one hand, many of the states are losing large numbers of good-paying jobs and view financing greater educational opportunities as a viable solution to their problems. On the other hand, implementing this solution will prove impossible within the present economic and political system.

For example, in Michigan, a state hit hard by the loss of good-paying, stable manufacturing jobs, Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm created the Commission on Higher Education and Economic Growth and charged it to study “the link between post secondary education and economic growth in Michigan” (“Granholm Calls Higher Education Report a Road Map for Fundamental Change,”, Office of the Governor). But while the commission’s recommendations call for “higher standards in Michigan’s high schools to prepare all students for post secondary education and a new compact between the state and its citizens to guarantee all students the opportunity to earn a college degree,” the commission’s suggestions for realizing these recommendations reveal the contradiction between big business’s drive for greater profits and the state’s (as well as its citizens’) need for greater educational opportunities.

To make Michigan more competitive in the job-creation market, the commission writes that the state “must now adapt and innovate to contend with global—not just national—competitors.” To accomplish this goal, it recommends creating “a culture of entrepreneurship” in which “Michigan’s two- and four-year higher education institutions must develop and offer entrepreneurial degree or certificate programs”.

But this recommendation ignores the real source of Michigan’s job-creation problem: the globalization of productive forces has outstripped the legal and geographical boundaries of the nation state. An “entrepreneur” in Michigan, no matter his or her skills or capital outlays, cannot compete with a counterpart in China that pays its workers 60 cents an hour and doesn’t provide benefits. Indeed, capitalism’s insatiable appetite for profits pits the American worker against the Chinese worker, or, for that matter, the Michigan worker against the Ohio worker. A “culture of entrepreneurship” will not coexist with a culture of human dignity.

The commission’s recommendations are made with all levels of higher education in mind, but its negative consequences will be felt most severely and sadly by community colleges. Without the research grants enjoyed by four-year schools, in addition to lesser tuition rates and the recent rule change in Pell Grant funding, two-year institutions, as presently configured, will be unable to operate at existing levels of efficiency, let alone meet the commission’s new demands. As a result, community colleges in rural, less-developed areas will offer fewer services or simply close their doors. Other community colleges will survive by further privatizing their operations.

More “partnerships” will be created in which both community college and business will enter joint profit-making ventures while students are left wondering how to juggle increasing tuition and book costs while receiving less financial assistance and working multiple jobs at minimum or near-minimum wages.

See Also:
US: Bush education proposals target community college students

Chimp_junta: Clearing Brush While the Dollar Goes To Hell

Dollar hits new low versus euro
The US dollar has continued its record-breaking slide and has tumbled to a new low against the euro.

Investors are betting that the European Central Bank (ECB) will not do anything to weaken the euro, while the US is thought to favour a declining dollar. (<---Oh, REALLLLLLLLLY?!?!?)

The US is struggling with a ballooning trade deficit and analysts said one of the easiest ways to fund it was by allowing a depreciation of the dollar.

They have predicted that the dollar is likely to fall even further.

Sharp weakening

The US currency was trading at $1.364 per euro at 1800 GMT on Monday. This compares with $1.354 to the euro in late trading in New York on Friday, which was then a record low.

The dollar has weakened sharply since September when it traded about $1.20 against the euro.

It has lost 7% this year, while against the Japanese yen it is down 3.2%.

Traders said that thin trading levels had amplified Monday's move. "It's not going to take much to push [the dollar] one way or the other," said Grant Wilson of Mellon Bank.

Dr. Dean: Democracy For America Donates 200,000 Minutes of Calling Cards to Vets in Hospitals

Democracy For America: "Due to the generosity of Democracy for America (DFA) supporters this holiday season, patients at veterans' hospitals across the country will be able to connect with their family and friends for free. Over 200,000 minutes of free long distance minutes will be given to patients in California, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont and Washington (complete list below).

This project is part of Democracy for America's community service program, DFACorps. DFACorps participants were informed of this project through DFA's official Web page ( and Blog ( and at many Meetups throughout the country. Since November 23, over 100,000 minutes in phone cards were donated and sent to DFA headquarters in Burlington, Vt. DFA matched each minute, therefore doubling the amount to 200,000."

Another Agency Professional Bites The Porter Goss Dust: Director of Analysis Branch at the C.I.A. Is Being Removed

Director of Analysis Branch at the C.I.A. Is Being Removed:
"(W)ASHINGTON, Dec. 28 - The head of the Central Intelligence Agency's analytical branch is being forced to step down, former intelligence officials say, opening a major new chapter in a shakeup under Porter J. Goss, the agency's chief.

The official, Jami Miscik, the agency's deputy director for intelligence, told her subordinates on Tuesday afternoon of her plan to step down on Feb. 4. A former intelligence official said that Ms. Miscik was told before Christmas that Mr. Goss wanted to make a change and that 'the decision to depart was not hers.'

Ms. Miscik has headed analysis at the agency since 2002, a period in which prewar assessments of Iraq and its illicit weapons, which drew heavily on C.I.A. analysis, proved to be mistaken."

(Another long time professional refuses to drink Chimp_junta's cool aid, and out the window they go. What a bunch of fucking liars has taken over the country that is no longer America.)


Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Horror. The Horror...

published December 16, 2004
The Ester Republic
© 2004 by Dahr Jamail

Dec. 4, 2004, Baghdad

Horror stories—including the use of napalm and chemical weapons by the
US military during the siege of Fallujah—continue to trickle out from
the rubble of the demolished city, carried by weary refugees lucky
enough to have escaped their city.

A cameraman with the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) who
witnessed the first eight days of the fighting told of what he
considered atrocities. Burhan Fasa’a has worked for LBC throughout the
occupation of Iraq.

“I entered Fallujah near the Julan Quarter, which is near the General
Hospital,” he said during an interview in Baghdad, “There were American
snipers on top of the hospital shooting everyone.”

He nervously smoked cigarettes throughout the interview, still visibly
shaken by what he saw.

On November 8, the military was allowing women and children to leave the
city, but none of the men. He was not allowed to enter the city through
one of the main checkpoints, so he circumnavigated Fallujah and managed
to enter, precariously, by walking through a rural area near the main
hospital, then taking a small boat across the river in order to film
from inside the city.

“Before I found the boat, I was 50 meters from the hospital where the
American snipers were shooting everyone in sight,” he said, “But I
managed to get in.”

He told of bombing so heavy and constant by US warplanes that rarely a
minute passed without the ground’s shaking from the bombing campaign.

“The Americans used very heavy bombs to break the spirit of the fighters
in Fallujah,” he explained, then holding out his arms added, “They
bombed everything! I mean everything!”

This went on for the first two days, he said, then on the third day,
columns of tanks and other armored vehicles made their move. “Huge
numbers of tanks and armored vehicles and troops attempted to enter the
north side of Fallujah,” he said, “But I filmed at least twelve US
vehicles that were destroyed.”

The military wasn’t yet able to push into Fallujah, and the bombing resumed.

“I saw at least 200 families who had their homes collapsed on their
heads by American bombs,” Burhan said while looking at the ground, a
long ash dangling from his cigarette, “Fallujans already needed
everythingÉI mean they already had no food or medicine. I saw a huge
number of people killed in the northern part of the city, and most of
them were civilians.”

At this point he started to tell story after story of what he saw during
the first week of the siege.

“The dead were buried in gardens because people couldn’t leave their
homes. There were so many people wounded, and with no medical supplies,
people died from their wounds. Everyone in the street was a target for
the Americans; even I saw so many civilians shot by them.”

He looked out the window, taking several deep breaths. By then, he said,
most families had already run out of food. Families were sneaking
through nearby houses to scavenge for food. Water and electricity had
long since been cut.

The military called over loudspeakers for families to surrender and come
out of their houses, but Burhan said everyone was too afraid to leave
their homes, so soldiers began blasting open the gates to houses and
conducting searches.

“Americans did not have interpreters with them, so they entered houses
and killed people because they didn’t speak English! They entered the
house where I was with 26 people, and shot people because they didn’t
obey their orders, even just because the people couldn’t understand a
word of English. Ninety-five percent of the people killed in the houses
that I saw were killed because they couldn’t speak English.”

His eyes were tearing up, so he lit another cigarette and continued talking.

“Soldiers thought the people were rejecting their orders, so they shot
them. But the people just couldn’t understand them!”

He managed to keep filming battles and scenes from inside the city, some
of which he later managed to sell to Reuters, who showed a few clips of
his footage. LBC, he explained, would not show any of the tapes he
submitted to them. He had managed to smuggle most of his tapes out of
the city before his gear was taken from him.

“The Americans took all of my camera equipment when they found it. At
that time I watched one soldier take money from a small child in front
of everyone in our house.”

Burhan said that when the troops learned he was a journalist, he was
treated worse than the other people in the home where they were seeking
refuge. He was detained, along with several other men, women, and children.

“They beat me and cursed me because I work for LBC, then they
interrogated me. They were so angry at al-Jazeera and al-Arabia networks.”

He was held for three days, sleeping on the ground with no blankets, as
did all of the prisoners in a detention camp inside a military camp
outside Fallujah.

“They arrested over 100 from my area, including women and kids. We had
one toilet, which was in front of where we all were kept, and everyone
was shamed by having to use this in public. There was no privacy, and
the Americans made us use it with handcuffs on.”

He said he wanted to talk more about what he saw inside Fallujah during
the nine days he was there.

“I saw cluster bombs everywhere, and so many bodies that were burned,
dead with no bullets in them. So they definitely used fire weapons,
especially in Julan district. I watched American snipers shoot civilians
so many times. I saw an American sniper in a minaret of a mosque
shooting everyone that moved.”

He also witnessed something which many refugees from Fallujah have reported.

“I saw civilians trying to swim the Euphrates to escape, and they were
all shot by American snipers on the other side of the river.”

The home he was staying in before he was detained was located near the
mosque where the NBC cameraman filmed the execution of an older, wounded
Iraqi man.

“The mosque where the wounded man was shot that the NBC cameraman
filmed—that is in the Jubail Quarter—I was in that quarter. Wounded,
unarmed people used that mosque for safetyÉI can tell you there were no
weapons in there of any kind because I was in that mosque. People only
hid there for safety. That is all.”

He personally witnessed another horrible event reported by many of the
refugees who reached Baghdad.

“On Tuesday, November 16th, I saw tanks roll over the wounded in the
streets of the Jumariyah Quarter. There is a public clinic there, so we
call that the clinic street. There had been a heavy battle in this
street, so there were twenty bodies of dead fighters and some wounded
civilians in front of this clinic. I was there at the clinic, and at 11
a.m. on the 16th I watched tanks roll over the wounded and dead there.”

After another long pause, he looked out the window for awhile. Still
looking out the window, he said, “During the nine days I was in
Fallujah, all of the wounded men, women, kids and old people, none of
them were evacuated. They either suffered to death, or somehow survived.”

According to the Iraqi Red Crescent, which managed to get three
ambulances into the city on November 14, at least 150 families remain
trapped inside the city. One family was surviving by placing rice in
dirty water, letting it sit for two hours, then eating it. There has
been no power or running water for a month in Fallujah.

People there are burying body parts from people blown apart by bombs, as
well as skeletons of the dead because their flesh had been eaten by dogs.

The military estimates that 2,000 people in Fallujah were killed, but
claims that most of them were fighters. Relief personnel and locals,
however, believe the vast majority of the dead were civilians.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches--Dahr Returns to Iraq

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** **

Living in Garbage

The dump is a dusty wasteland. Heaps of Baghdad’s rotting wastes are
strewn about several square miles of the battered capital city. Engaged
in their futile battle to remove the endless amounts of garbage from
streets, blue garbage trucks
rumble through the stinky dump, adding their loads of filth.

32 year-old Hattim lives in this wasteland with his family

“We are living in a dump. We are living a bad life. We have children,
and no school. We have nothing. We are asking the new government to take
small care of us. Not big things, just small things. We are transporting
water with animals, with donkeys, and it’s not clean water. It’s not
clean water at all and we have a lot of diseases.”

Hattim’s family, along with 35 other people, live in houses they’ve
built out of old cans of cooking oil
Dried mud is packed between them to keep out the wind and dust

Inside their makeshift home flies cover everything. A 10 day old baby
nestled in dirty blankets as flies buzz over her tiny head.

Hattim continues, “We lived in the marshes and when Saddam dried the
marshes he took our farms and everything and made military camps there.
And now, we are living in a dump. The human, which is this holy
creature, you can’t imagine living in a dump. Even God doesn’t accept that.”

Flies cover the walls, the ceiling
and buzz incessantly around the family of 6. Hattim’s 40 year-old
sister-in-law, Rana, lives in another home made of cans and mud. She
enters Hattim’s to ask for some bread.

She holds her hands up towards the flies and says, “The flies are always
with us. We have some animals and they live on things in the dump. We
have no electricity and no water. Nobody is helping us and we don’t have
salaries. Our parents had a farm and they lived in the south. But when
they cut the water from the marshes, we started our problems.”

Outside Hattim collects small wood scraps
and pieces of plastic from the refuse in order to make a small fire to
warm his home. Two little girls, his nieces with dirt caked on their
play with an old piece of tire, throwing it back and forth.

He looks up at them playing before lamenting over his situation.

“My brother has many kids. Some are five and six years old. I don’t have
any documents for anything and don’t even have a food ration card. I
have an Iraqi identification, which is of course worth nothing.”

One of his relatives, despite the horrible living situation, is happy to
have his photo taken
while Hattim pauses his discussion.

Hattim says the interim government promised great assistance for his
family three months ago.

“They said wait three months and we’ll send you to Mars,” he says to
underscore the big promises made by the interim government to help the
poor in Baghdad, “No, we don’t want to go to Mars, we just want a place
on this earth.”

Chimp_junta Steals From the Needy--But Wait, Is that Compassion?

Bush backers made a sucker’s bet

Gene Lyons

In making President Bush its "Person of the Year," Time gushed that he
had successfully "reframed reality to match his design." Ponder that
phrase. A cynic might think it a backhanded way of calling him a
particularly accomplished liar. Indeed, Bush prevailed in November
largely because many Americans simply cannot believe that their
president would deliberately mislead them about matters of life and
death. Consider, however, Bush’s doomsday pronouncements about the
impending bankruptcy of Social Security. They’re sheer fiction,
contrived to conceal this administration’s own fiscal recklessness—the
combination of tax cuts for the wealthy and runaway spending that has
increased federal outlays some 29 percent since his 2001 inauguration.
After pledging during the 2000 campaign to set aside $2.6 trillion of
the projected surplus in a Social Security "lockbox," Bush has,
instead, produced swelling deficits. Now he promises strict "fiscal
discipline." Do not hold your breath. Here’s the real problem: Over
the past two decades, ever since a commission led by Alan Greenspan
convinced the Reagan administration to raise payroll taxes to fund
the retirement of the so called Baby Boom generation, Republican and
Democratic administrations alike have "borrowed" the proceeds to
finance the year-to-year operations of the U.S. government. Instead
of cash reserves, the Social Security Trust Fund, roughly $1.5
trillion to date, consists of "special issue" Treasury bonds pledging
repayment with interest whenever the money is needed to pay Social
Security benefits.

Under current projections, that’s supposed to start happening in 2018,
when the excess payroll taxes paid by Baby Boomers over 35 years to
fund their own retirement will be needed. By then, the trust fund should be
worth approximately $3 trillion—enough to keep the system solvent for
at least another 30 years with no benefit adjustments whatsoever.

But here’s the problem, according to Allen W. Smith, author of "The
Looting of Social Security":" Instead of investing the Social Security
surpluses in regular marketable Treasury bonds that could be cashed in
whenever additional money was needed for benefits, the government
simply spent the money, leaving nothing to invest. The government IOUs
held by the trust fund are not at all like regular marketable Treasury
bonds....They are nothing more than accounting entries that tell us how
much the government owes to the Social Security fund. They couldn’t be
sold to private investors even at a penny on the dollar because they have
absolutely no cash value. "

Explaining the need for Bush’s proposed" reforms, "White House
spokesman Dan Bartlett recently put it this way:" After 2018,
the system goes from the black to the red. We have payments
going out that we can’t afford to make."

Americans have grown used to hearing such pronouncements from
authoritative-sounding" experts" from tycoon-funded, right-wing
Washington "think tanks" such as the American Enterprise Institute, the
Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute. Indeed, so many have come
to believe them, the Los Angeles Times reports, that a "1994 survey found
that more people between the ages of 18 and 34 believed in UFOs than
believed Social Security would exist by the time they retired."

But here’s what Bartlett, Bush and the think-tank spokesmen actually
mean when they say Social Security’s going broke: They mean that the
trust fund has been looted fair and square, that everybody who’s been
paying those increased payroll taxes since 1983 has been successfully
swindled and that the U.S. government need not honor those special
issue Treasury bonds. As Smith writes, it’s a financial "crime against the
American public that makes Enron pale in comparison."

You may be interested to learn, courtesy of David Sarasohn of The
Oregonian, that each and every special-issue bond in the Social
Security Trust Fund bears the following inscription: "The bond is
supported by the full faith and credit of the United States, and
the United States is pledged to the payment of the bond with respect
to both principal and interest." Under our brave, new Republican
dispensation, the "full faith and credit of the United States" could
prove a meaningless phrase. Treasury bonds held by Richard Mellon Scaife,
Japanese banks and the Chinese government must, of course, be honored,
lest the international monetary system be plunged into chaos. But it’s
OK to drain Social Security to pay for Bush’s multimillionaire tax cuts
instead of honoring solemn obligations made to generations of defrauded
American workers and their families. Privatization, then, is partly an
elaborate shell game to distract public attention, partly a utopian
scheme dreamed up by the same geniuses who gave us the Laffer Curve, S&L
reform and the "Dow 36,000" among other economically destructive
"free-market" fantasies.

As for the deluded peasants whose future has been stolen, they simply
made a sucker’s bet and have only themselves to blame.

• Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient
of the National Magazine Award.§ion=Editorial&storyid=102652

Chimp_junta: "There's No Such Thing As Global Warming--World Go Fuck Yuz All"

AlterNet: EnviroHealth: Enough Is Enough:The Bush Administration's outrageous behavior at the Buenos Aires climate talks makes it official: the U.S. has become the world's latest rogue nation.

"The spectacle of the United States single-handedly destroying the mid-December meeting in Buenos Aires on global warming offered further proof, if such were needed, that the world needs to confront this rogue state. Representatives of 200 nations had gathered to develop a plan for further reducing greenhouse gases (GHG) after 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol expires.

According to press reports, the Bush Administration's recalcitrance shocked and dismayed even longtime friends and allies like Australia. U.S. obstructionism ranged from the sublime (insisting that the Conference change the phrase 'climate change' to the more ambiguous 'climate variability') to the ridiculous (strongly backing Saudi Arabia's request for compensation for lost revenue resulting from reduced global oil consumption)."


AlterNet: Jim Hightower

AlterNet: The Political Jesus
Let's reflect a moment on the moral teaching of this man from Nazareth

In the cacophony of Christmas commercialism, it can be difficult even to recall that it's about Jesus. But this hardly is the only time that Jesus gets lost in our modern swirl.

Take politics. In the recent presidential run, much was made by George W and his handlers of his supposedly superior moral values based on his commitment to Jesus. But before we let Bush steal away with the robe of Jesus and don it as a Republican garment, let's reflect a moment on the moral teaching of this man from Nazareth.

Like George, I grew up in a Methodist church in Texas. Unlike George, I didn't find any burning anti-liberal theology there. My little church might have considered itself "conservative," but only in terms of its commitment to the deeply egalitarian, truly progressive values we found in the Biblical teachings of Jesus.

I recall many a sermon that began with Jesus's words in Matthew 19:24: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God." I recall that the greatest sin of all, "the root of all evil," Jesus said, is "the love of money." I recall the passionate retelling of how Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple – threw them out for charging interest rates for less than usurious bankers now charge us on our Visas and Mastercards, by the way.

I recall also that Jesus fed all of the masses that day on the hillside at the Sea of Galilee, not turning away anyone who lacked a platinum card to buy fishes and loaves. And I recall that Jesus flatly said: "You cannot serve with both God and Mammon."

In the good book, Jesus talks more about economic justice than nearly any other subject, and the apostles make clear that the most important ethical/religious test of Judeo-Christian faith is in how we treat the least wealthy, least imporant among us.

Let's call on Bush – and the Democrats, too—to live up to these moral values before they claim that Jesus is on their side.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of "Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush," from Viking Press. For more information, visit

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Our Beauty: Tara's MieuMieu of Milnertown Posted by Hello

Thursday, December 23, 2004

**Real American Hero: NLTCP's Lady of the Year 2004**

Karen Kwiatkowski

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Colonel Kwiatkowski during an interview in Honour Betrayed
Colonel Kwiatkowski during an interview in Honour Betrayed

Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, is a retired U.S. Air Force officer whose assignments included work as a Pentagon desk officer and in a variety of roles for the National Security Agency. Since retiring, she has become a noted critic of the U.S. government's involvement in Iraq.

Colonel Kwiatkowski has an MA in Government from Harvard and a MS in Science Management from the University of Alaska. She is currently candidate for a PhD in World Politics at Catholic University; her thesis is on overt and covert war in Angola, titled A Case Study of the Implementation of the Reagan Doctrine.

She began her military career in 1978. As a second lieutenant, she served at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, providing logistical support to missions along the Chinese and Russian coasts. She served in Spain and Italy, and was then assigned to the National Security Agency, eventually becoming a speechwriter for the agency's director. After leaving the NSA in 1998, she became an an analyst on sub-Saharan Africa policy for the Pentagon. From May, 2002 to February, 2003, she served in the Pentagon's Near East and South Asia directorate (NESA).[1] ( While at NESA, she wrote a series of anonymous articles, "Insider Notes from the Pentagon", that appeared on the website of David Hackworth.[2] (

Kwiatkowski left NESA in February, 2003 and retired from the Air Force the following month. In April, 2003, she began writing a series of articles for the libertarian website In June of that year, she published an article in the Ohio Beacon Journal, "Career Officer Does Eye-Opening Stint Inside Pentagon" [3] (, which attracted additional notice. Since February, 2004, she has written a biweekly column, "Without Reservations", for the website Military Week.

Colonel Kwiatkowski is primarily noted for openly and publicly denouncing what she sees as a corrupting political influence on the course of military intelligence leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Her most comprehensive writings on this subject appeared in a series of articles in The American Conservative magazine in December, 2003 and in a March, 2004 article on In the latter piece, titled "The New Pentagon Papers", she wrote:

I witnessed neoconservative agenda bearers within OSP usurp measured and carefully considered assessments, and through suppression and distortion of intelligence analysis promulgate what were in fact falsehoods to both Congress and the executive office of the president.

Kwiatkowski exposed how a clique of officers led by retired Navy Captain Bill Luti, assistant secretary of defense for NESA, and former aide to Dick Cheney when the latter was Secretary of Defense, took control of the military intelligence, and how the "Office of Special Plans" (OSP) grew and eventually turned into a censorship and disinformation organism controlling the NESA.[4] (

Following the American Conservative and Salon articles, Kwiatkowski began to receive criticism from several conservative sources that supported President Bush's policies. Michael Rubin of the National Review argued that she had exaggerated her knowledge of the OSP's workings and that she had ties to Lyndon LaRouche[5] ( U.S. Senator John Kyl criticized her in a speech on the Senate floor [6] ( On a Fox News program, host John Gibson and former Republican National Committee communications director Clifford May described her as an anarchist[7] ( Kwiatkowski responded, saying, among other points, that she had never supported or dealt with LaRouche [8] (

In addition to her writings, Colonel Kwiatkowski has appeared as a commentator in the documentaries Hijacking Catastrophe and Honor Betrayed. She has been a registered member of the U.S. Libertarian Party since 1994 and spoke at the party's national convention in 2004.[9] ( She currently lives with her family in the Shenandoah Valley and works part-time as a farmer.


  • "I came to share with many NESA colleagues a kind of unease, a sense that something was awry. What seemed out of place was the strong and open pro-Israel and anti-Arab orientation in an ostensibly apolitical policy-generation staff within the Pentagon" [10] (
  • "At the end of the summer of 2002, new space had been found upstairs on the fifth floor for an "expanded Iraq desk." It would be called the Office of Special Plans. We were instructed at a staff meeting that this office was not to be discussed or explained, and if people in the Joint Staff, among others, asked, we were to offer no comment. We were also told that one of the products of this office would be talking points that all desk officers would use verbatim in the preparation of their background documents."
  • "By August, only the Pollyannas at the Pentagon felt that the decision to invade Iraq, storm Baghdad, and take over the place (or give it to Ahmad Chalabi) was reversible."

On the Office of Special Plans:

  • "It's a propaganda office."