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.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Bush Bastards Want to End Press Freedom

In Leak Cases, New Pressure on Journalists - New York Times: "In Leak Cases, New Pressure on Journalists

Earlier administrations have fired and prosecuted government officials who provided classified information to the press. They have also tried to force reporters to identify their sources.

But the Bush administration is exploring a more radical measure to protect information it says is vital to national security: the criminal prosecution of reporters under the espionage laws.

Such an approach would signal a thorough revision of the informal rules of engagement that have governed the relationship between the press and the government for many decades. Leaking in Washington is commonplace and typically entails tolerable risks for government officials and, at worst, the possibility of subpoenas to journalists seeking the identities of sources.

But the Bush administration is putting pressure on the press as never before, and it is operating in a judicial climate that seems increasingly receptive to constraints on journalists."

From God to Bush's Ear--$3 a gallon for gas!

April 29, 2006

Arianna Huffington

George Bush: Foreign Policy from God, Energy Policy from Big Oil

READ MORE: Dick Cheney, 2006, Earnings, Good Morning America, Andy Card, Scott McClellan, Saddam Hussein, Investigations, George W. Bush
Apr. 25 -- The president may turn to God when it comes to shaping his foreign policy, but his energy policy is strictly courtesy of the Men Upstairs at Big Oil.

Which is why it is beyond comical to watch Moe, Curly, and Larry -- sorry, I mean Bush, Hastert, and Frist -- getting all blue in the face about skyrocketing gas prices, and calling on the Energy and Justice Departments to look into possible market manipulation by oil companies.

It's the least believable call for an investigation since O.J. set out to find the real killers.

For those of you experiencing a sudden wave of déjà vu, yes, the GOP demand for a federal probe of potential oil industry price-gouging was a carbon copy of the demands Chuck Schumer made last week. Hey, maybe they just unconsciously "internalized" Schumer's words.

If it wasn't so despicable it would be laughable.

There was Frist on Good Morning America today, putting aside his video diagnostic skills to become one of the "Car Talk" guys. Among Frist's helpful money saving tips for drivers forced to consider taking out a second mortgage in order to fill up their tanks: get a tuneup, drive slower, and carpool. Thanks, Dr. Goodwrench!

But Frist was just the gassy second banana. The clear headliner was Bush, who had them rolling in the aisles at a meeting of the Renewable Fuels Association, with zingers like his claim that "large cash flows" mean that "these energy companies don't need unnecessary tax breaks". A sentiment that didn't stop the president from signing a GOP energy bill stuffed with some $14.5 billion in tax breaks, tax subsidies, and tax deductions for his cash-rich energy industry chums. I guess those tax breaks were "necessary."

Bush also scored big with his impression of a guy who cares about conservation, highlighting the need to "promote greater fuel efficiency": "And the easiest way to promote fuel efficiency," said the president, "is to encourage drivers to purchase highly efficient hybrid or clean diesel vehicles." As the proud owner of a pair of hybrids, I say "hear, hear." As a sentient human being I say, "Isn't this the same guy whose administration hasn't increased fuel efficiency standards for passengers cars even a single m.p.g. in six years?" Maybe now that former GM-lobbyist (and fuel efficiency opponent) Andy Card has left the White House, Bush has finally allowed his inner-Prius owner to run free. Or maybe the lure of touting vehicles that can run on alternative energy sources to an alternative energy trade association was just too hard to resist.

How gullible do they think we are? Memo to the White House: it's not working. Bush's approval rating just dropped to 32% -- a number at which both water and political clout freeze.

All this huffing and puffing about manipulated markets and record gas prices scream of a blatant attempt to inoculate Republicans from consumer rage over the massive earnings oil companies are scheduled to announce this week. Industry analysts predict that ExxonMobil will report first-quarter earnings of only $9.1 billion on Thursday -- down from the record $10.7 billion posted in the fourth quarter of 2005. With profits like that, Lee Raymond's $400 retirement package is starting to look a little stingy. Except to those paying through the nose at the pump.

The most honest comment on the gas price crisis came from Scott McClellan (freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose, eh, Scottie?) who said: "This is not something we got into overnight." Exactly. These levels of oil company profits took years of careful lobbying and planning to orchestrate.

Our oil-man president may want us to think that he's shocked, shocked by the "large cash flows" of the oil companies, and the sticker shock drivers are experiencing at the pump, but even before Team Bush was dreaming of toppling Saddam, it was laying the groundwork for the gargantuan windfall the oil industry is seeing -- starting with Dick Cheney's secret Energy Task Force.

It's not a coincidence that the oil and gas industries donated over $25 million to Congressional campaigns in 2004 (with 80% of that money going into Republican coffers), and another $7.2 million so far in the 2006 cycle (with 84% going to the GOP). They also doled out over $4.5 million to Bush's 2000 and 2004 presidential runs.

And what did they get for their largess? According to Public Citizen, the top five oil companies have pocketed over a quarter of trillion (that's with a "T") in profits since Bush took office. Talk about a return on investment. That's a gusher!

So for American consumers, payback is a bitch. And three bucks a gallon at the gas pump. The Bush administration has turned the White House into a full service filling station for Big Oil. And we're the ones being forced to pick up the tab.

So don't let the empty rhetoric and the phony outrage pouring out of the White House and the Republican Congress fool you: America isn't facing a shortage of fuel; it's facing a shortage of leadership.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The "Commander in Thief," capitol criminal

Subject to the Penalty of Death

By Dahr Jamail
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Tuesday 25 April 2006

This weekend I received an email from a friend in Iraq. It read, "Salam
Dahr, I was in Ramadi today to ask about the situation. I was stunned
for the news of a father and his three sons executed in cold blood by US
soldiers, then they blasted the house. The poor mother couldn't stand
the shock, so she died of a heart attack."

Sounds unbelievable, until you consider this short clip
<> from CNN,
which shows a war crime being committed by US troops in Iraq. In this
clip, shot on October 26, 2003, Marines are seen killing a wounded Iraqi
who was writhing on the ground, and cheering. One of the murderers then
told CNN, "These guys are dead now you know, but it was a good feeling
... and afterwards you're like, hell yeah, that was awesome, let's do it

This clip alone is evidence of violations of several domestic and
international laws. In effect, all US soldiers, up to and including
their Commander in Chief, who commit these violations, like the man in
the aforementioned clip and the ones responsible for what my Iraqi
friend reports from Ramadi, are war criminals.

*The US Uniform Code of Military Justice*

It is important to note that US policy with regard to the treatment
accorded to prisoners of war and all other enemy personnel captured,
interned, or otherwise held in US Army custody during the course of a
conflict requires and directs that all such personnel be accorded
humanitarian care and treatment from the moment of custody until final
release or repatriation. The US Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)
states clearly that the observance of this Code is fully and equally
binding upon US personnel, in whatever capacity they may be serving,
whether capturing troops, custodial personnel or any other. The UCMJ
applies equally to all detained or interned personnel, whether their
status is that of prisoner of war, civilian internee, or any other.

/It may be added here that it applies regardless of whether they are
known to have, or are suspected of having, committed serious offenses
that could be characterized as war crimes. The administration of
inhumane treatment, even if committed under stress of combat and with
deep provocation, is a serious and punishable violation under national
law, international law, and the UCMJ./

Soldiers who murder Iraqis are not the only ones violating the UCMJ. All
those who are witness to the atrocities but fail to report them to
concerned authorities are to be held equally guilty of violation.

The UCMJ clearly states that violations of this Code may result in an
individual being prosecuted as a war criminal, and that anyone observing
a violation of law, or suspecting one has happened, has a positive legal
obligation to report it to appropriate authorities. Failure to do so is
a violation in itself.

*The Geneva Conventions*

The US happens to be a signatory of the Geneva Conventions and is
therefore subject to all injunctions thereof. The video clip incident is
in violation of Geneva Convention I of August 12, 1949, for the
Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and the Sick in Armed
Forces in the Field

Interestingly, the video clip on the said web site was accompanied by a
comment by one Capt. James Kimber: "The current policy in Iraq is to
SHOOT ON SIGHT ANYBODY emplacing [sic] IEDs [Improvised Explosive
Devices] ... <>"

If Kimber is to be believed and this has been the policy in Iraq, then
the higher-ups giving the orders may be held as directly implicated in
all such atrocities: read murders.

As for what happens if at some point Kimber is brought to trial for his
crimes, Marjorie Cohn, a professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law
in San Diego, has this to say, "Self defense is a defense to a homicide
prosecution only if the shooter had an honest and reasonable belief that
he had to defend himself or others from imminent death or great bodily
injury. The question is how imminent the danger would be from a planted
IED. There is also a factual question about whether the Marines were
telling the truth."

These comments of Professor Cohn are equally relevant in the Haditha


Roughly three years after the date of the video clip incident, this same
Capt. James Kimber appeared in a news story on April 10, 2006. The AP
that "three Marines have been relieved of their commands in connection
with problems during their deployment to Iraq." The three men relieved
were involved in the infamous Haditha incident on November 19, 2005, in
which 15 Iraqis from two families were slaughtered by Marines from their
battalion who went on the rampage after a roadside bomb killed one of
their colleagues.

A video taken by an Iraqi student of journalism that was obtained and
brought to wider public attention by Time Magazine showed a bedroom
floor smeared with blood and chunks of human flesh and bullet holes in
the walls of a room in one of the homes. The dead included seven women
and three children, including a three-year-old girl.

The three Marine officers are Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani, commanding
officer of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment; Capt. James S. Kimber,
commanding officer of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment; and
Capt. Lucas M. McConnell, commanding officer of Company I, 3rd
Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.

While the recent AP story noted that no charges had been filed against
these men, "about a dozen 3rd Battalion Marines are being investigated
for war crimes in connection with the November 2005 incident in Haditha,
to determine if they violated the rules of military engagement."

Meanwhile, according to Lt. Lawton King, spokesman for the 1st Marine
Division at Camp Pendleton in California, Kimber and the others were
reassigned to new duties within their division because of a "lack of
confidence in their leadership abilities." He also said of the decision
to relieve the men of their command that, "It stems from their
performance during the entire deployment."

While the Naval Criminal Investigative Service has launched a criminal
investigation to determine whether the Iraqis were intentionally
massacred by the Marines, there has been little mention of this in the
media, or of the fact that there is a second investigation on to examine
the misleading explanations given by the military about the Haditha


What is remarkable is that Kimber's blanket statement suggests that all
Iraqis killed during the occupation, including those at Haditha, are
killed because they are found "emplacing" IEDs. It must be recognized
that officers like Kimber and those above him play an important role in
training Marines to behave the way they do in Iraq. Consequently,
officers who give these orders are as guilty of war crimes as those who
execute the orders in the field.

The responsibility of creating a situation in Iraq in which war crimes
are the norm and not the exception lies squarely with the officers and
commanders of the US Army, starting with the Commander in Chief, George
W. Bush.


The prevailing mindset of American soldiers in Iraq is the one we see in
Kimber, that of a war criminal. Jody Casey, a 29 year-old veteran of the
occupation of Iraq, said, "I have seen innocent people being killed.
IEDs go off and [you] just zap any farmer that is close to you. You
know, those people were out there trying to make a living, but on the
other hand, you get hit by four or five of those IEDs and you get pretty
tired of that, too."

While he didn't participate in such killings himself, Casey said that
the overall atmosphere in Iraq was such that "you could basically kill
whoever you wanted - it was that easy. You did not even have to get off
and dig a hole or anything. All you had to do was have some kind of
picture. You're driving down the road at three in the morning. There's a
guy on the side of the road, you shoot him ... you throw a shovel off."

According to Casey, his unit had been advised by troops who had
previously served in the area [al-Anbar province] to keep shovels on
their vehicles. Each time an innocent Iraqi is killed, a shovel thrown
next to the body is evidence that the dead civilian, when killed, was in
the act of digging holes to plant roadside bombs.

Michael Blake, another veteran who was in Iraq the first year of the
occupation, revealed that the message US troops are given prior to their
deployment is: "Islam is Evil," and "They hate us." The 22-year-old
veteran, now a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War
<>, said, "Most of the guys I was with believed it,"
confessing that he had witnessed innocent civilians killed
indiscriminately. He said that he did not partake of the atrocities, but
that it was true that "When IEDs would go off by the side of the road,
the instructions were - or the practice was - to basically shoot up the
landscape, anything that moved. And that kind of thing would happen a
lot ... so innocent people were killed."

*Law of the Land and Other Laws*

To keep the perspective right, let me repeat: it is the high ranking
officials in the Bush administration who are primarily responsible for
creating a situation in Iraq in which war crimes have been normalized.
According to the US Constitution, Article VI, paragraph 2: "This
Constitution, and the Law of the United States which shall be made in
Pursuance thereof; and /all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under
the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the
Land/; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing
in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary
notwithstanding." (Emphasis added.)

To name just a few of the international laws broken by the
aforementioned atrocities, "All Treaties made" includes the Nuremberg
Tribunal Charter <>, Principle VI (b),
which states "War crimes: ... murder, ill-treatment ... of civilian
population of or in occupied territory; murder or ill-treatment of
prisoners of war," and (c), "Crimes against humanity: Murder,
extermination ... and other inhuman acts done against any civilian
population ... when such acts are done ... in execution of or in
connection with any crime against peace or any war crime."

"All Treaties made" also includes the Geneva Conventions, Protocol 1,
Article 75: "(1) ... persons who are in the power of a Party to the
conflict ... shall be treated humanely in all circumstances ... (2) The
following acts are and shall remain prohibited ... whether committed by
civilian or by military agents: (a) violence to the life, health, or
physical or mental well-being of persons ... " and Protocol I, Art. 51:
"The civilian population ... shall not be the object of attack. Acts or
threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror
among the civilian population are prohibited." Article 57: ... parties
shall, "Do everything feasible to verify that the objectives to be
attacked are neither civilians nor civilian objects ... an attack shall
be cancelled or suspended if it becomes apparent that the objective is
not a military one ... "

Since the entire catastrophe in Iraq is primarily the handiwork of the
Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces, let it be noted
that under US Federal Law, the War Crimes Act of 1996
makes committing a war crime, defined as " ... a grave breach in any of
the international conventions signed at Geneva 12 August 1949, or any
protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party ... "
punishable by being " ... fined under this title or imprisoned for life
or any term of years, or both, /and if death results to the victim,
shall also be subject to the penalty of death/." (Emphasis added.)

I rest my case.

/Mike Ferner, a Vietnam-era vet and member of Veterans For Peace,
contributed to this article./

(c)2004, 2005 Dahr Jamail.
All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr's Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the website.

Democrats by Ted Rall

Democrats 042606
Originally uploaded by AJ Franklin.
click on image to see full size

A socialist response to the massive rise in fuel prices

A statement by the Socialist Equality Party
26 April 2006

Use this version to print | Send this link by email | Email the author

The staggering increase in gasoline prices is taking an enormous toll on working families in the US, whose paychecks are already being eaten up by a host of other rising costs, from health care, to education, to housing and food. In the last two weeks alone, prices at the gas pump have risen nearly 25 cents—to an average of $2.91 per gallon—with prices exceeding $3.10 in California, New York and other states.

Some 70 percent of US adults recently polled said gas prices—which are up 31 percent since last year—were causing them financial hardship. Tens of millions of people in America forced to drive long distances to work, as well as elderly people on fixed incomes, rural residents and small business owners are being devastated, and the crisis could lead to mass layoffs in the airline and trucking industries and throughout the economy.

Underlying this crisis is the fundamental contradiction between the development of the productive forces and the social relations of the capitalist profit system, which finds its starkest expression in the maintenance of a petroleum-based economy that every day becomes more incompatible with human needs and life itself.

After warning that Americans must brace for a “tough summer,” blaming supposed “tight supply” for prices that could reach beyond $4.00 a gallon in the next several months, President Bush responded to mounting outrage by announcing a series of largely meaningless measures Tuesday. These proposals—suspending environmental rules governing gasoline refiners, halting purchases for the government’s emergency stockpile and giving oil companies more time to pay back previous loans of crude oil from these reserves—will do little or nothing to ease prices, while further feeding the profit drive of the energy conglomerates.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, meanwhile, declared that there is “no silver bullet” to bring down prices and advised Americans to tune up their cars and drive more slowly to get better mileage. For workers who are seeing their real wages slashed by the cost of long daily commutes, Frist’s remarks amount to “Let them eat cake.”

While the oil companies and their apologists in Washington have blamed world crude oil prices and environmental regulations for the price hikes, the chief cause is profiteering by oil companies, which are posting record windfalls. Over the last decade, there has been a wave of mergers and consolidations in the oil industry, allowing a handful of monopolies to tighten their grip on supplies, manipulate production levels and drive up prices. The present crisis is the result not of some natural working out of the laws of the market, but rather of definite decisions made by corporate executives who have immense personal interest in the matter.

In the 1990s, oil producers complained of too much refining capacity, not too little, and an “oversupply” of oil that was driving down profit margins. The industry responded by shutting down 25 refineries in the US since 1995 and cutting capacity by 830,000 barrels a day. In addition, competitors conspired to control the amount of oil and gas on the market, eliminate independent producers and consolidate control of supply and pricing in the hands of the oil monopolies.

In 2005, the top five oil companies—Exxon Mobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron and ConocoPhillips—saw their profits surge to more than $111 billion. The world’s largest oil giant, ExxonMobil, made $36.1 billion, the highest amount in US corporate history and more profits than the next four companies on the Fortune 500 list combined. At $339 billion, its revenues exceeded the gross national products of Taiwan, Norway and Argentina.

While millions of ordinary people have been squeezed by rising gas prices, ExxonMobil’s top executives and investors have reaped hundreds of millions in compensation and rising share values. Lee R. Raymond, who retired in December, received more than $400 million in his final year at the company. Between 1993 and 2005, Raymond was paid more than $686 million, or $144,573 for each day he spent leading the Texas-based company. During this time, Raymond engineered the $81 billion acquisition of Mobil—giving ExxonMobil the capacity to produce twice as much oil as the country of Kuwait—and wiped out 10,000 jobs.

Raymond’s successor, Rex Tillerson, saw his pay raised by 33 percent last year to $13 million. All told, the top five executives at Exxon took home more than $130 million in compensation in 2005, own more than $280 million in restricted stock, and have stock options valued at $113 million. The oil bosses throughout the industry have been similarly rewarded as oil prices doubled over the last two years.

These corporations and individuals have reaped massive wealth by exploiting and exacerbating the current crisis. None of them have the slightest interest in mounting the kind of vast social effort that is needed not merely to meet current demand, but, more essentially, to develop alternative safe and sustainable sources of energy.

That the present reliance on petroleum is both unsustainable and a deadly threat is indisputable. The world’s crude oil reserves are finite and will only disappear all the more rapidly to the extent that steps are taken to expand production. At the same time, the burning of these fossil fuels is the central cause of global warming, which—the Bush administration’s suppression of science notwithstanding—threatens to make Earth uninhabitable.

Moreover, the pursuit of this finite resource has given rise to the catastrophic growth of militarism. It is the principal cause of the criminal US war in Iraq, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and those of more than 2,500 US troops. It likewise drives the open preparations for a new war against Iran as well as plans for a military confrontation with China, whose expanding economy makes it a competitor for control of global energy supplies.

The best government oil money can buy

The rising gas prices have prompted politicians—Democrats and Republicans alike—to call for investigations into price gouging and, in some cases, even to seek legislation to impose a “windfall profit tax” on the oil companies. Not a thing will come out of this posturing, which is strictly for public consumption.

Big Oil has long exerted enormous influence over both political parties in Washington, but the level of political control it commands today dwarfs what it possessed in the era of John D. Rockefeller and his Standard Oil at the turn of the twentieth century. With two former Texas oilmen in the White House and the votes of senators and congressmen lubricated with hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions and lobbying efforts directed toward both parties, Big Oil has nothing to fear. Both Democratic and Republican administrations have provided the oil companies with massive subsidies and tax breaks, lifted environmental and safety regulations, and provided the US military as a virtual private army to guard the companies’ oilfields and pipelines throughout the globe.

ExxonMobil’s ex-CEO Raymond, a close ally of the Bush administration, helped formulate policy regarding drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge and opposing any measures to reduce global warming. In 2001, the company was a key participant in Vice President Cheney’s Energy Task Force, which discussed, among other things, the oil fields of Iraq and the danger that, after the end of UN sanctions, the country’s largely untapped reserves might fall into the hands of Russian, Chinese or French competitors, instead of the US or British oil companies.

Last March, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a public hearing to supposedly “investigate” price gouging by the oil companies. Again, Democratic politicians pontificated about “corporate greed” and wagged their fingers at the oil chiefs who testified. In his remarks, Rex Tillerson, the new CEO of ExxonMobil, scoffed at the impotent gestures, reminding the Senators, “I suspect people on this committee benefited from our success last year.” The lifelong oilman knew of what he spoke: among the wealthy Senators assembled on the committee was Arizona Republican Jon Kyl, a large Exxon shareholder who has long championed the industry’s interests.

The program of the Socialist Equality Party

Under conditions in which the living standards of hundreds of millions of working people in the United States are being driven down by the soaring price of fuel, immediate action must be taken to bring the cost of fuel under control.

At the same time, the larger task of developing alternative energy sources and confronting the mounting threat posed by global warming cannot be postponed.

Neither a short-term answer to the present crisis over gas prices, nor the longer-term solution to replacing an unsustainable petroleum-based economy is possible outside of a direct assault on the capitalist profit system and the powerful social, financial and political interests that are behind the policies of Big Oil.

The Socialist Equality Party advances a policy that places social needs before profit interests. We call for an immediate capping of gas prices for individual consumers and small to medium-sized businesses at $1.50 per gallon.

The exploitation of this crisis in the interests of corporate profits and the private accumulation of wealth must be halted. The actions of Big Oil must be approached objectively for what they are: criminal, anti-social behavior. Criminal investigations must be initiated into the practices of the giant oil companies, including the auditing of the personal accounts of all leading executives. The massive profits recorded by the oil companies during the past year as well as the obscene multimillion-dollar compensation packages paid out to executives must be expropriated and placed in a publicly controlled fund.

These short-term measures must be combined with a fundamental change in the financial structure and organization of the energy industry. The American people and, in fact, the people of the world are being held hostage to the profit interests of vast energy conglomerates that threaten the globe with declining living standards, environmental destruction and war. It is necessary to break this stranglehold by nationalizing the energy conglomerates—that is, converting ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, etc., into publicly owned and democratically controlled utilities.

This would begin to make available the financial resources that are needed for launching an internationally coordinated, multitrillion-dollar effort to develop alternative energy sources and confront the danger posed to the environment and mankind’s future.

In opposition to the deliberate “fixing” of the market to enrich the wealthy elite, the exploration, development and use of energy supplies must be guided by a rational international plan that is publicly debated and democratically approved by the working class. This plan must meet the needs of the world’s people for low-cost, environmentally safe and renewable energy.

In their efforts to secure vast profits, the energy monopolies and the auto industry have long conspired to prevent the development of reliable public transportation, and, in the past have dismantled existing transit systems. A rational plan for energy use must include the pouring of billions of dollars into urban mass transit and light-rail systems, as well as developing fuel-efficient vehicles.

These ideas are not utopian but absolutely necessary for the future of humanity. They require, however, that working people assert that their rights—to a decent standard of living, secure jobs, a clean environment and a future free from war—take precedence over the profits and property rights of the America’s ruling elite. To achieve this, the working class must build its own political instrument—a mass socialist party—to end the monopoly of the two big business parties and the outmoded and bankrupt capitalist system they defend. This is the perspective of the Socialist Equality Party and our candidates who are running in the 2006 elections.

See Also:
An American oligarch: Former Exxon CEO leaves company with massive payout
[15 April 2006]

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

no. wait. please.. c'mon. don't go. waaaaiiit.

Click on image to see full size

Bush: Insane in the worst way

Is our democracy sleepwalking into a nightmare?
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, April 26, 2006

We hear a lot about “madmen” taking power in far-off lands, most often lands with large oil reserves. A few pertinent questions: Has the White House lost its collective mind? Do the president and his minions believe that Americans can be stampeded into another needless war to save his party from the consequences of the catastrophe in Iraq? Is the Bush administration seriously thinking of bombing Iran for political purposes? Of a nuclear strike? Is it actually possible, as has been said, that George W. Bush believes himself to be on a divine, messianic mission? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then our democracy may be sleepwalking into its worst crisis since the Civil
War. A pre-emptive strike on Iran, because it might hypothetically develop nuclear weapons five or 10 years hence, would be a naked act of aggression. Not to mention an offense against the U.S. Constitution. On what authority would Bush make war on a nation that played no role in 9/11, bears enmity toward al-Qa’ida and has never seriously threatened to attack the United States? His own God’s?

So far, Iran hasn’t even violated the non-proliferation treaty giving signatories the right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful use. It boasts of purifying a small amount of uranium ore to the standard needed to generate electricity. Experts say Iran would need roughly 100 times its present refining capacity over several years to accumulate enough weapons-grade uranium to make a bomb. Despite the absurd and offensive posturing of its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a demagogic politician playing to his own base, no immediate danger exists.

Yet many of the same keyboard commandoes who orchestrated the propaganda campaign that drove the U.S. into Iraq are beating war drums. Scary intelligence” claims again proliferate. The same geniuses who claimed to know the precise location of Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction now warn us of Iran’s double-secret arms programs. Full-page ads have appeared in newspapers in the U.S. and Europe conjuring the prospect of Iranian nuclear attacks against Israel and the West, an entirely imaginary scenario.

The other day Bush, sounding like a Valley Girl, told a California audience he’d tried to avoid war with Iraq “diplomatically to the max,” a falsehood so brazen that it’s almost tempting to fear he believes it. Given that British government documents portray Bush discussing with Prime Minister Tony Blair how to justify an attack against Saddam Hussein in early 2003, it’s reasonable to wonder what schemes he’s conjuring now. He also credited “the Almighty” as the inspiration for his foreign policy.

At times like these, it’s worthwhile recalling George Orwell’s distinction between patriotism and nationalism. Orwell wrote the essay “Notes on Nationalism” in 1945, just as the most cataclysmic war in human history was ending in Europe.

“By patriotism,” he wrote, “I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world, but has no wish to force upon other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally.”

Nationalism, as Orwell defined it, “is inseparable from the desire for power.... A nationalist is one who thinks solely, or mainly, in terms of competitive prestige.... His thoughts always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations.” To Orwell, it was “power hunger tempered by self-deception,” a kind of moral insanity.

Presaging his masterpiece “1984,” Orwell was most alarmed by the fervid nationalist’s indifference to reality: “Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage—torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians—which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side.”

An interesting list under present circumstances, don’t you think ?

More recently, the eminent Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld has cautioned that hysterical warnings about this or that country—Russia, China, Pakistan, India—developing nuclear weapons have occurred regularly since Hiroshima. Yet the taboo against their actual use has held, partly because rational actors know that even the “tactical” weapons which Bush administration toughs fantasize about are upward of 10 times more powerful than the A-bombs dropped on Japan. Also because, van Creveld makes clear, deterrence works. Israel, he writes, “can quickly turn Tehran into a radioactive desert—a fact of which Iranians are fully aware.” To violate that taboo would justifiably turn the U. S. into a pariah state. It would all but guarantee eventual retaliation in kind. Even a conventional bombing campaign against Iran would, at minimum, send world oil prices skyrocketing, with disastrous economic consequences. Real patriots must prevent this madness from happening. The generals are speaking out. Where are the Democrats and the sane Republicans ?

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

Lily Tomlin said it best. "No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The cockroach has his way with YOUR money

Watchdogs say House ethics reform is a "scam" - Yahoo! News: "Watchdogs say House ethics reform is a 'scam'

By Andy Sullivan 35 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congressional watchdogs blasted an ethics reform bill pending in the House of Representatives on Tuesday as a 'scam' that would do little to curb the influence of money in politics."

It's always something with this oil-funded son of a BITCH

Bush Eases Environmental Rules on Gasoline - Yahoo! News: "Bush Eases Environmental Rules on Gasoline

By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 8 minutes ago

President Bush on Tuesday ordered a temporary suspension of environmental rules for gasoline, making it easier for refiners to meet demand and possibly dampen prices at the pump. He also halted for the summer the purchase of crude oil for the government's emergency reserve."

Pension cuts and inequality wiping out retirement for American workers

Pension cuts and inequality wiping out retirement for American workers: "By Jonathan Keane
24 April 2006

By Jonathan Keane
24 April 2006

Use this version to print | Send this link by email | Email the author

For a growing number of US workers, dreams of a decent retirement are quickly evaporating as companies shift retirement costs onto workers, in the form of deductions from already declining wages, in order to maintain profits in a competitive global economy.

In the wake of the post-World War II business boom, US workers were granted certain limited concessions in a three-legged system of retirement security that included individual savings, government programs and private employer pensions. Between the 1940s and the 1980s, private pensions with a guaranteed payout (also known as defined-benefit pensions), became a standard component of compensation for a large section of the American workforce.

However, in the early 1980s, defined-benefit pension coverage peaked and then fell in part due to that decade’s deindustrialization. The service sector jobs that supplanted industrial jobs had, for the most part, lower wages, fewer employer-paid benefits and less job security.

According to a recent study by the Aon Corporation, a consulting firm, a majority of over 1,000 US employers surveyed believe that a large portion of the US workforce will not have enough income to retire at a reasonable age. Of the employers surveyed, 32 percent said that between half and three-quarters of their employees would not have the needed income to retire between the ages of 62 and 65. And 37 percent asserted that one-quarter to nearly half of their employees would not be able to retire in this age range.

“A growing number of companies are shedding their pension plans, accelerating a trend that has resulted in the loss of nearly three-quarters of pension plans during the past two decades,” Tami Luhby wrote in Newsday April 3. “Just under 47,000 companies offered defined-benefit pensions in 2001...down from more than 170,000 in 1985.”

Company after company is now freezing its pension plan, replacing defined benefits with employee-paid 401(k) defined contribution plans. These include Alcoa Inc., General Motors Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp., Sprint-Nextel, Unisys Corp. and WellPoint Inc.

Read on...

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Coming to a station near you...

Click on image to see full size

White House shuffle: Bush shifts personnel but continues program of war and reaction

By Kate Randall and Patrick Martin
22 April 2006

Use this version to print | Send this link by email | Email the author

Changes in White House personnel announced earlier this week represented a reshuffling of key Bush loyalists rather than any fundamental change in policy. The shifts began immediately after former budget director Joshua Bolten took over as the new White House chief of staff Friday, replacing Andrew Card, who announced his resignation last month.

Bolten met with the White House staff Monday and brusquely invited anyone contemplating leaving the administration for a more lucrative position in the private sector to do so immediately. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the first major shifts were announced.

US Trade Representative Rob Portman was named to replace Bolten as budget director, while Bolten’s former deputy, Joel Kaplan, followed him to the executive office, replacing Karl Rove as deputy chief of staff for domestic policy. Rove, who remains the most powerful figure in the White House staff, will focus on campaign politics, attempting to salvage Republican control of the House and Senate in the November election.

White House press spokesman Scott McClellan also resigned, with several Fox News “journalists” being considered as his replacement. McClellan took over the job from Ari Fleischer in July 2003, and has been the public face of the president as Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction failed to materialize and public support for the war in Iraq steadily declined.

One of his most high-profile lies came in repeated declarations to the press corps that longtime Bush confidant Rove and Lewis Libby, vice president Cheney’s chief of staff, had no involvement in the Valerie Plame CIA leak case. Libby was indicted last October after a two-year investigation by a special prosecutor. More recently, McClellan had the task of defending the administration’s massive National Security Agency spying on Americans.

The replacement of Bolten by Portman, who will be replaced by his own deputy, Susan Schwab, and the shift of Kaplan from OMB to the White House to assume some of Rove’s duties only demonstrate the musical-chairs character of the reshuffling. These are all individuals not identified not with any particular policy views or even any particular wing of the Republican Party, but rather personal followers of the Bush family who are prepared to shift their positions in the most cynical fashion based on what serves the immediate political interests of the administration. Which one occupies which office has little or no significance, given the White House commitment to continuing the war on the people of Iraq as well as its economic and social war on the working people of the United States.

More significant was the announcement that Deputy Chief of Staff Rove would be relieved of his policy-making responsibilities to concentrate on “long-term strategy” and to rally support for the Republicans in the upcoming midterm elections. In an effort to rebut suggestions that this represented a demotion, administration officials were dispatched to leak to the press the most obsequious and flattering descriptions of Bush’s closest aide

Nearly identical quotes appeared in the New York Times and Washington Post accounts of the White House reshuffle. An “unnamed Republican official” told the Times, referring to Rove, “He’s the best thinker in our party, and in the last year he’s been doing all the staffing memos and making sure the paperwork is done on time and all that,” but would now return to his “strong suit,” electoral politics.

A Republican strategist who “did not want to be named because of restrictions on talking with the media” told the Post that the “principal goal” was to free Rove from the minutiae of domestic policy. “This allows our best and smartest thinker in the party to focus on strategic planning and the things he does best,” the strategist said.

There could be no greater indictment of the abysmal intellectual and moral level of American politics than to describe Karl Rove as the “best thinker” of the leading American bourgeois party. Rove is a political thug, a man who trades in smear tactics, provocations and dirty tricks. His electoral “genius” is the product of the intervention of the Supreme Court in 2000, and the capitulation of the Democratic Party in 2002 and 2004.

In his overt policy role, assumed in early 2005, Rove has been less than stellar. Given responsibility for domestic policy, he was the chief mover behind the failed attempt to privatize Social Security, and later played a major role in the incompetent and indifferent federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

The removal of the policy portfolio is not so much a punishment for these debacles as a recognition on the part of Bush, Cheney & Co. that they face the very real prospect of losing Republican control of one or both houses of Congress in the 2006 mid-term elections.

The concern is not that a Democratic-controlled House or Senate would reverse the policies of the Bush administration in Iraq or elsewhere, or—as suggested in mass e-mails to Republican Party donors—that a Democratic Congress might impeach Bush.

The real fear is that control of the House or Senate by the opposition party would create conditions where key administration officials—including the president—could face congressional hearings on everything from the initial decision to go to war, to profiteering by Cheney and Bush cronies on the billions spent in Afghanistan and Iraq, to domestic matters like the illegal NSA spying and the Katrina disaster.

Such hearings could well result, despite the best efforts of the Democrats, in significant revelations of Bush administration lawbreaking and provoke public demands for criminal proceedings against major figures in the government. Jail time and financial ruin are certainly a possibility.

What underlies the crisis of the Bush administration are two factors: the debacle in Iraq, and the deteriorating economic and social conditions of life for the vast majority of the American people. These objective factors account for the growing popular hatred of the administration reflected only very roughly in the opinion polls, and reflected not at all in the Democratic Party, which continues to support the war in Iraq and consistently looks for opportunities to attack the administration from the right on terrorism, on trade, on civil liberties.

A Pew Research Center survey conducted April 7-16 found 65 percent of those polled disapprove of Bush’s handling of the Iraq war, with only 32 percent approving. A solid majority, 57 percent, felt the US made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq in the first place.

A poll conducted by Opinion Dynamics Corp. for Fox New published this week showed Bush’s overall approval rating falling to 33 percent, a record low, down from 36 percent two weeks ago and 47 percent just one year ago. This drop was due in large part to eroding support among Republicans, with only 66 percent approving the way Bush is handling the presidency, down almost 20 percentage points from a year ago. According to a figure published this week by SurveyUSA, Bush has an approval rating higher than 50 percent in only four states.

A CBS poll earlier this month exposed the impact this eroding support for Bush’s policies would have on Republicans seeking reelection to the House and Senate. Among registered voters, more than one third in the poll said they would think of their vote as a vote against the president. If Bush backed a candidate, only 10 percent said they would be more likely to vote for that candidate, while 31 percent would be less likely. Under these circumstances, even more so than in 2004, the president campaigning for an incumbent Republican seeking reelection would be seen as a liability.

In this latest White House shake-up, Rove has been deputized in an attempt to put the brakes on this crumbling political support for the Bush administration. But like other Bush administration changes in its staff and cabinet, the rearranging of personnel is likely to have the effect of narrowing the administration’s base even further.

Moreover, Rove himself is still a “subject of investigation” in Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation into the outing of former ambassador Joseph Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame.

An April 20 article in the Nation by Jason Leopold cited sources close to the investigation saying that “Fitzgerald told the grand jury that Rove lied to investigators and the prosecutor eight out of the nine times he was questioned about the leak and also tried to cover up his role in disseminating Plame Wilson’s CIA status to at least two reporters.”

See Also:
The generals’ revolt and the decay of US democracy
[20 April 2006]
Leak investigation puts spotlight on Bush war lies
[14 April 2006]
White House chief of staff steps down
[30 March 2006]

Friday, April 21, 2006

Bush's Greedy Ilk are selling out the INTERNET to the Highest Bidder

Congress is about to sell out the Internet by letting big phone and
cable companies set up toll booths along the information superhighway.

Companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are spending tens of millions
in Washington to kill "network neutrality" -- a principle that keeps the
Internet open to all.

A bill moving quickly through Congress would let these companies become
Internet gatekeepers, deciding which Web sites go fast or slow -- and
which won't load at all -- based on who pays them more. The rest of us
will be detoured to the "slow lane," clicking furiously and waiting for
our favorite sites to download.

Don't let Congress ruin the Internet:

Rep. Joe Barton <>

Congress Sells Out

After accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from
big telecom firms, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) is sponsoring a bill to
hand over the Internet to these same companies. He's not alone.

Where Does Your Representative Stand? <>

Act Now: Save the Internet

*Tell Congress to Save Net Neutrality Now*

Our elected representatives are trading favors for campaign donations
from phone and cable companies. They're being wooed by people like
AT&T's CEO, who says "the Internet can't be free" and wants to decide
what you do, where you go and what you watch online.

The best ideas never come from those with the deepest pockets. If the
phone and cable companies get their way, the free and open Internet
could soon be fenced in by large corporations. If Congress turns the
Internet over to giants like AT&T, everyone who uses the Internet will

* *Google users* -- Another search engine could pay AT&T to
guarantee that it opens faster than Google on your computer.

* *iPod listeners* -- Comcast could slow access to iTunes, steering
you to a higher-priced music service that paid for the privilege.

* *Work-at-home parents* -- Connecting to your office could take
longer if you don't purchase your carrier's preferred
applications. Sending family photos and videos could slow to a crawl.

* *Retirees* -- Web pages you always use for online banking, access
to health care information, planning a trip or communicating with
friends and family could fall victim to Verizon's pay-for-speed

* *Bloggers* -- Costs will skyrocket to post and share video and
audio clips -- silencing citizen journalists and amplifying the
mainstream media.

* *Online activists* -- Political organizing could be slowed by the
handful of dominant Internet providers who ask advocacy groups to
pay a fee to join the "fast lane."

* *Small businesses* -- When AT&T favors their own services, you
won't be able to choose more affordable providers for online
video, teleconferencing, and Internet phone calls.

* *Innovators with the "next big idea"* -- Startups and
entrepreneurs will be muscled out of the marketplace by big
corporations that pay for a top spot on the Web.

We can't let Congress ruin the free and open Internet.

*Let Congress Know that You Want Net Neutrality Now*

We must act now or lose the Internet as we know it.


Robert W. McChesney
Free Press

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Can't resist...

Guess Hu's in the USA for a while.
Bush said he will have serious talks with Hu?
I don't know about you, but I know Hu's going to the White House today.
Do you think Taiwan is a big issue for---you know, Hu?
Demonstrators are protesting the meeting of chimpo and Hu?
Bill Gates and the CEO of Boeing had a fancy dinner with someone from China...Hu?
Now it's your turn. Use the comment box to leave your best comments on U no Hu.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Fucking Tom Delay to get $56,000 a year plus free health insurance for life (hopefully in prison)

Lawmakers Never Faced With Losing Benefits - Yahoo! News

And this comes after defrauding his "base" of several million dollars in political funds that he will use instead to pay his lawyers. What a scumbag. A crook and a thief from his first day in office to his last, and beyond. A villain who has gassed thousands of his own people (cockroaches.)

Cowboys and Arabs

Not every conflict is World War II
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, April 19, 2006

In the age of mass media, political propaganda imitates TV melodrama.

Particularly in the U. S., the discussion of foreign affairs—crucial questions involving the lives of millions—follows the conventions of the action/adventure film: an idealistic American hero, a villain with his wicked henchmen, a dramatic “crisis,” redemptive violence and an imagined resolution, order and tranquility restored. Americans have been sold the identical scenario many times, most recently in Iraq. A “madman” materializes somewhere in the Third World. Even when, like Saddam Hussein, the villain may have been a U.S. client, he’s depicted as motiveless and malign, an “evildoer” who “hates freedom.” His deluded followers are robot-like, insectile. There’s no time for critical thinking. We must destroy the brute before he attacks.

This is not to say that the evildoer may not, in reality, be a thoroughly nasty piece of work, like Saddam. Nor that, everything else being equal, the world wouldn’t be better off without him. The propagandists who concoct these melodramatic scenarios are invariably sincere.

Indeed, it’s their dreadful solemnity that’s the problem. To the typical pro-war pundit, Glenn Greenwald points out on his Web log “Unclaimed Territory,” “the world is forever stuck in the 1930s. Every leader we don’t like is Adolph Hitler, a crazed and irrational lunatic who wants to dominate the world. Every country opposed to our interests is Nazi Germany.”

Hence, every warmonger pictures himself, if not President Bush, as Winston Churchill, and everybody who opposes war as the vacillating leaders of England and France who appeased Hitler at Munich in 1938. “You have chosen dishonor over war,” Churchill thundered. “You shall have both.”

It’s a dangerously seductive emotion. Some of the same propagandists who drove the U.S. to war over Iraq’s mythical weapons of mass destruction, wrongly predicted that Iraqis would welcome American troops as liberators and foolishly denied that sectarian strife would impede democracy’s march now clamor for an attack on neighboring Iran (Persia).

So what if the main strategic effect of the Iraq war has been to weaken Persia’s traditional Sunni Arab enemies? The same word-processor warriors at The Weekly Standard are once again dragging the Nazis into it.

“It is not ‘moral progress,’” William Kristol warns, “to put off serious planning for military action to a later date, probably in less favorable circumstances, when the Iranian regime has been further emboldened....”

Have they no shame? None whatsoever.

“Political or military commentators, like astrologers,” George Orwell noted acidly, “can survive almost any mistake, because their more devoted followers do not look to them for an appraisal of the facts but for the stimulation of nationalistic loyalties.”

Thus stimulated, some readers urge a skeptic like me to ponder apocalyptic Bible verses. It’s all foretold in scripture, you see. Another warns that “the day will soon come when for the safety of America we will have to cleanse this country of traitors like yourself and allow you to see a bullet coming straight for your face.” (It’s my policy to warn such persons that “terroristic threatening” is a felony.)

Once again Bush has denied hostile intent, just as he did for many months after secretly ordering the Pentagon to draft detailed war plans against Iraq. Writing in The New Yorker, Seymour Hersh suggests that all systems are go at the White House, including possible use of tactical nuclear weapons. He hints that the neo-conservative ideologues around Dick Cheney have deluded themselves that bombing Iran would lead to internal rebellion and the overthrow of the nation’s Islamic regime.

Yeah, sure it would. Ever noticed how much the neo-cons’ ignorance of basic human psychology rivals only Osama bin Laden’s?

So how is Iran like Nazi Germany? Well, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes screwy anti-Semitic pronouncements. But he’s no dictator. Iran’s elected president serves at the pleasure of the ayatollahs, who also command the nation’s armed forces.

Otherwise, the comparison is ludicrous. Iran has expressed no territorial ambitions; history records that the Persians haven’t launched an aggressive war since the 16th century. While both sides hype Iran’s modest nuclear experiments, what may be the best intelligence suggests that the capacity to make a nuclear weapon is five to 10 years off. Military strategists doubt a bombing campaign could do anything but delay the Iranians a bit. Meanwhile, we’ve got them surrounded. There are U.S. bases in every country bordering Iran: Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Saudi Arabia. More than twice the size of Texas (and five times larger than Iraq ), Persia would be difficult to invade, impossible to occupy. Meanwhile, here’s what a “pre-emptive” tactical nuclear attack against a purely hypothetical threat would do:
According to the National Academy of Sciences, it would incinerate over a million Iranian men, women and children, and spread cancer-causing fallout across the region. And on the day it happened, America, as we have known it, would cease to exist.

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

Lily Tomlin said it best. "No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up."