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ACLU Files Lawsuit Seeking Disclosure Of Still-Secret Torture Documents

ACLU Files Lawsuit Seeking Disclosure Of Still-Secret Torture Documents | Press Release
Case Marks Launch Of Group's "Accountability For Torture" Initiative

The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a lawsuit seeking the disclosure of still-secret records relating to the torture of prisoners held by the U.S. overseas. The requested documents include legal memos authored by John Yoo and Steven Bradbury, who were lawyers in the Bush administration Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), as well as documents sent by the Bush White House to the CIA. The government has failed to turn over the documents in response to a December 2008 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

"The information already in the public domain makes clear that the torture policies were devised and developed at the highest levels of the Bush administration, but there are still unanswered questions about precisely what the policies permitted, how they were implemented and who specifically signed off on them," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. "This lawsuit is an effort to fill some of the gaps in the narrative."

Today's lawsuit marks the launch of the ACLU's new "Accountability for Torture" initiative, which has four goals: comprehensive disclosure of information relating to the Bush administration's torture policies; the creation of an accurate and comprehensive historical record; the appointment of an independent prosecutor to investigate issues of criminal responsibility; and recognition and compensation for torture victims.

Accountable for Torture

Restore the Rule of Law

We are finally beginning to learn the full scope of the Bush administration's torture program. Government documents show that hundreds of prisoners were tortured in the custody of the CIA and Department of Defense, some of them killed in the course of interrogations. Justice Department memos show that the torture policies were devised and developed at the highest levels of the Bush administration.

The ACLU is committed to restoring the rule of law. We will fight for the disclosure of the torture files that are still secret. We will advocate for the victims of the Bush administration's unlawful policies. We will press Congress to appoint a select committee that can investigate the roots of the torture program and recommend legislative changes to ensure that the abuses of the last eight years are not repeated. And we will advocate for the appointment of an independent prosecutor to examine issues of criminal responsibility.

We can't sweep the abuses of the last eight years under the rug. Accountability for torture is a legal, political, and moral imperative. Much more to read.

US Moving To Appeal Bagram Detention Ruling

US moving to appeal Bagram detention ruling
By Associated Press | Google News

The Obama administration is moving to appeal a ruling that some detainees at a military air base in Afghanistan can use U.S. civilian courts to challenge their detention. Read more.


Petraeus on Miranda Rights at Bagram
By Tim Fernholz | Tapped | American Prospect

I'm at the Center for a New American Security's day-long conference today to learn a few things about Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. I won't be live-blogging the whole thing, but one interesting note came just after General David Petraeus's keynote speech. Yesterday, Fox News passed along a report from Republican Congressman Mike Rogers that detainees in Afghanistan and particularly at Bagram Airforce base are, on the orders of the Obama administration, being read their Miranda Rights -- the "right to remain silent," etc., afforded to domestic criminal suspects -- which could somehow compromise their intelligence value. (This is, presumably, because 'mirandizing' suspects would make them legally ineligble for "enhanced interrogation," which is already prohibited by executive order.)

A Fox News correspondent at the CNAS conference lucked out after Petreaus' speech and managed to be called on for one of three allowed questions; he asked the general, who supervises Afghanistan as the head of U.S. Central Command, about the Miranda reports. "This is the FBI doing what the FBI does," Petraeus replied. "These are cases where they are looking at potential criminal charges. We're comfortable with this." He denied that his soldiers and other relevant American agents are reading Miranda rights to detainees, some of whom are detained as enemy combatants, while others are high-value anti-terrorism targets. (A U.S. federal court recently ruled that some Bagram detainees have the same habeas rights as prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.) Read more.

Where's the Anger as the Wheels Come Off Obama's and the Democrats' Recovery Program?

By Dave Lindorff

My bank, a small regional institution that was not involved in sub-prime lending, and that was not a recipient of any TARP bailout money, cut off my home equity line of credit two weeks ago. They did it abruptly, with no notice—I only discovered it had happened when I tried to get a $500 advance from it to cover a payment I was making on my credit card. When I asked what was going on, the local branch manager informed me that “we are closing out a lot of credit lines while we reassess the value of houses in this region, which have been falling.”

Wartime Contracting Report: We Have Big, Costly Problems

Wartime Contracting Report: We Have Big, Costly Problems
By Robert O'Harrow, Jr. | Government, Inc. Blog

As promised, here's the new report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the organization formed by Congress to examine where all the money went.

It's a sad reminder about just how bad the contracting system has been in recent years, and all the billions that have been wasted because of poor oversight, poor planning and plain old corruption.

"The environment in Iraq and Afghanistan has been and continues to be susceptible to waste, fraud, and abuse," the report said.

The report, called "At What Cost? Contingency Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan," contains the interim findings of the commission, which will issue a final report next year. It underscores the gloomy finding about the troubled federal procurement system from a host of other analysis in recent years.

It'll be the subject of a hearing today by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's national security and foreign affairs subcommittee. Read more.

Newt Gingrich Declares: "I Am Not A Citizen Of The World!"

By Linda Milazzo

This evening at a Washington DC fundraiser, in a statement that can best be described as regressive American exceptionalism, former Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich said of himself:

"I am not a citizen of the world. I think the entire concept is intellectual nonsense and stunningly dangerous!"

Witness the video below of Mr. Gingrich's pronouncement that defines in two simple sentences the elitism, racism and egotism that have destroyed his Republican Party:

Case of Tortured U.S. Citizen Tests Obama Administration on Human Rights

Case of Tortured U.S. Citizen Tests Obama Administration on Human Rights | ACLU Blog of Rights

It appears that Mr. Hamdan is the latest victim of the U.S. government’s practice of asking foreign governments to detain terrorism suspects whom the federal government cannot itself detain and interrogate under U.S. law — a practice known as “proxy detention.” By asking other countries to detain on our behalf, the U.S. government apparently believes it can avoid the constraints of the U.S. Constitution, allowing federal agents to interrogate individuals held in secret, incommunicado detention, without charge or access to a lawyer, and subject to torture.

In only two weeks a U.S. citizen will go on trial in the United Arab Emirates. The American man, who lived in Los Angeles for the better part of 20 years and built his family and business there, reports having been severely tortured while in the custody of the State Security forces of the United Arab Emirates. Yet, his own government has said nothing publicly to inquire about or protest his treatment. There is only one plausible explanation for the federal government’s silence on the issue: our nation was complicit in the detention and torture that took place.

The case presents a simple yet profound question for the Obama Administration: whether it will actually end the human rights abuses of the Bush Administration, or instead simply stand silent while they continue.

More than eight months ago Naji Hamdan was arrested by State Security forces in the U.A.E. He was detained without charges or access to a lawyer until the ACLU filed a lawsuit in U. S. court seeking his release from incommunicado detention. One week later, he was transferred into U.A.E. criminal custody, officials disclosed his location and the torture stopped.

In criminal custody, Mr. Hamdan told both his family and the U.S. consular officer who visited him that he had been severely tortured: repeatedly beaten on his head, kicked on his sides, stripped and held in a freezing cold room, placed in an electric chair and made to believe that he would be electrocuted, and held down in a stress position while his captors beat the bottoms of his feet with a large stick. During this horrific process, he said whatever the agents wanted him to say, and those statements may now be used against him in a criminal trial in the U.A.E.

Mr. Hamdan’s description of the torture and interrogation he endured strongly suggests that American agents have been involved. Read more.

D-Day, Obama and Hitler

D-Day, Obama and Hitler
By Kurt Nimmo | InfoWars

Saturday marked the 65th anniversary of D-Day. Obama was on hand at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer in northern France, as was France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, Britain’s Prince Charles, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“No man who shed blood or lost a brother would say that war is good,” said Obama, reading from his trusty teleprompters. “But all know that this war was essential. For what we faced in Nazi totalitarianism was not just a battle of competing interests. It was a competing vision of humanity.”

It was an essential war because it was designed that way. Corporations associated with the Morgan-Rockefeller international investment bankers subsidized and facilitated the rise of Nazi totalitarianism and industry. “General Motors, Ford, General Electric, DuPont and the handful of U.S. companies intimately involved with the development of Nazi Germany were — except for the Ford Motor Company — controlled by the Wall Street elite — the J.P. Morgan firm, the Rockefeller Chase Bank and to a lesser extent the Warburg Manhattan bank,” writes economist, historian, and author Antony C. Sutton in his book, Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler. Read more.

Obama's Outreach to Muslims: Empty Rhetoric, Same Old Policies

Obama's Outreach to Muslims: Empty Rhetoric, Same Old Policies
By Stephen Lendman

As well as anyone, Edward Said understood the West's long-standing antipathy to Islam - reflected in Samuel Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations" article in the summer 1993 issue of Foreign Affairs and later a 1996 book.

He wrote that future conflicts won't be "primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural....the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future" - demagogically suggesting a benevolent, superior West confronting a belligerent, hostile, inferior Muslim world. In other words, good v. evil.

Corporations Behind Efforts To Label Sotomayor ‘Racist’

Corporations behind efforts to label Sotomayor ‘racist’
By Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane | Raw Story

Corporate interests posing as a grassroots conservative group are behind attacks on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, a RAW STORY investigation has found.

The Committee for Justice (CFJ), an astroturf group established by big business in July 2002 to create an appearance of popular support for President Bush’s judicial nominees, is now leading the effort to oppose the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the US Supreme Court. Read more.

US Delays Embassy Transfer To Jerusalem

US delays embassy transfer to Jerusalem | Press TV

President Barack Obama has decided to delay the transfer of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (al-Quds) amid a heightening row between the US and Israel.

Sources in the White House revealed on Friday that the US policy towards Israeli-Palestinians issue had not been changed and that the US embassy would remain in Tel Aviv for at least six more months.

The US Congress ratified the Jerusalem Embassy Act in October 1995, which states that Jerusalem be recognized as the capital of Israel. The act also states that the United States had to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem no later than 31 May 1999.

However, the decision has been delayed every six months due to the Palestinian-Israeli row over the city.

The status of Jerusalem has been among the thorny issues in the stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, with the Israelis claiming the city as their "eternal, undivided capital" -- a position not recognized by the international community. Read more.

Obama May Toss ‘Full Trials’ For Alleged 9/11 Plotters

Obama may toss ‘full trials’ for alleged 9/11 plotters
By Agence France-Presse | Raw Story

One advantage of permitting guilty pleas by defendants in the Sept. 11 case would be that the government would not have to expose harsh interrogation techniques during full trials that would otherwise have to be carried out, the Times said. It said the proposal to permit guilty pleas — which are not allowed in the legal framework the U.S. military uses in trials for its own personnel — would in effect permit the Sept. 11 defendants to achieve a self-proclaimed desire for martyrdom.

A plan under consideration by the Obama administration would permit Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainees facing the death penalty to plead guilty without a full trial, it has been reported.

This option would principally be aimed at a group of detainees accused of planning the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, five people who have already indicated they prefer this resolution of the case, The New York Times said in a story posted late Friday on its Web site.

The terrorism-era U.S. military commission format has come under withering criticism from legal and human rights quarters, and American military prosecutions employing this structure and legal rules have for the most part been put on hold since January while the new administration considered other options. Read more.

Obama Administration Announces National Strategy to Reduce Drug Trafficking & Flow of Bulk Cash and Weapons Across SW Border

Obama Administration Announces National Strategy to Reduce Drug Trafficking & Flow of Bulk Cash and Weapons Across Southwest Border | Press Release

Today, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Department of Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano, and Director of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske released President Obama’s strategy to stem the flow of illegal drugs and their illicit proceeds across the Southwest border and reduce associated crime and violence in the region.

The National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy directs federal agencies to increase coordination and information sharing with state and local law enforcement agencies, intensifies national efforts to interdict the southbound flow of weapons and bulk currency, and calls for continued close collaboration with the Government of Mexico in their efforts against the drug cartels. The strategy is an important component of the Administration’s national drug control policy and complements the Administration’s comprehensive efforts to respond to threats along the border.

Solidarity Rally in Support of Gaza at Israeli Embassy, in Washington, D.C.

On June 6, 2009, a spirited solidarity rally in support of the people of Occupied Gaza was staged by human rights activists in front of the Israeli Embassy, in Washington, D.C. The protest action demanded: "End the Siege of Gaza!" June 6th marks the 42nd anniversary of the Israeli" seizure of Gaza." The demonstration was sponsored by the ANSWER Coalition, among other groups.

Click here for featured speakers and organizations.

Afghanistan To 'Try Criminal Foreign Troops'

Afghanistan to 'try criminal foreign troops' | Press TV

Afghanistan's Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of parliament, has accused foreign troops based in the country of war crimes, urging a trial for the criminals.

Wolesi Jirga secretary Abdul Sattar Khawaasi told reporters that 73 members of parliament are collecting documents regarding foreign troops' crimes and offences in Afghanistan.

"The foreign troops came to the country claiming to bring security, but the crimes perpetrated by the them are not pardonable," he said.

Khawaasi added that foreign troops based in Afghanistan have violated the Constitution as well as international agreements in more than 20 instances.

In May, the Afghan parliament slammed the brutal bombardment of civilian areas by US-led forces, demanding legal restrictions on the activities of foreign forces.

Nearly 150 civilians were killed when US warplanes dropped bombs last month on two villages in Bala Baluk district in western Farah Province. Read more.

Cartwright: U.S. Force-Sizing, Basing Strategy Need Overhaul

Cartwright: U.S. Force-Sizing, Basing Strategy Need Overhaul
By John T. Bennett | Defense News

Over the next few years, the U.S. military is likely to become engaged in a number of hot and cold conflicts, each spanning five to 10 years, meaning the Pentagon must "adjust" its decades-old force sizing and basing constructs, says Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

Since the Cold War, the Pentagon has used a so-called "force-sizing construct" that focused on a need to fight two conventional wars at once, while also placing emphasis on "the most deadly" threats to American national security, Cartwright said June 4 in Washington.

But the world has changed in major ways, meaning the two conventional war-based approach is no longer a good fit, according to defense officials. Those changes are the reason senior Pentagon officials are examining whether the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) should include a new force-planning construct, as well as a new plan for how American bases, troops and combat equipment are located around the globe.

"It is clear we are going to have conflicts whose character will not be the same" as the ones on which the Pentagon has for decades based its force planning and global basing postures, Cartwright said. "It's clear [U.S. forces] will be engaged in operations that [each] last five or 10 years - and that is fundamentally different that in the past."

Read more.

Obama Administration Targets Environmental and Animal Rights Activists as Eco-Terrorists

Obama Administration Targets Environmental and Animal Rights Activists as Eco-Terrorists
By Stephen Lendman

What began under George Bush continues under Barack Obama - targeting dedicated activists with "one of today's most serious domestic terrorism threats," according former FBI Deputy Assistant Director of Counterterrorism John Lewis before a Senate panel in May 2005. Called "eco-terrorism," it grew out of the 2001 USA Patriot Act that created the federal crime of "domestic terrorism" and applied it to US citizens as well as aliens.

In his February 2002 testimony before the House Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, the FBI's Domestic Terrorism Section Chief, Counterterrorism Division, James Jarboe defined eco-terrorism as:

Military-Backed Public Schools on the Rise in U.S.

Military-Backed Public Schools on the Rise in U.S.
By The Associated Press | Google News

The U.S. Marine Corps is wooing public school districts across the country, expanding a network of military academies that has grown steadily despite criticism that it's a recruiting ploy.

The Marines are talking with at least six districts — including in suburban Atlanta, New Orleans and Las Vegas — about opening schools where every student wears a uniform, participates in Junior ROTC and takes military classes, said Bill McHenry, who runs the Junior ROTC program for the Marines.

Those schools would be on top of more than a dozen public military academies that have already opened nationwide, a trend that's picking up speed as the U.S. Department of Defense looks for ways to increase the number of units in Junior ROTC, which stands for Reserve Officers Training Corps.

"Many kids in our country don't get a fair shake. Many kids live in war zones. Many kids who are bright and have so much potential and so much to offer, all they need to be given is a chance," McHenry said. "If you look at stats, what we're doing now isn't working."

Last year, Congress passed a defense policy bill that included a call for increasing the number of Junior ROTC units across the country from 3,400 to 3,700 in the next 11 years, an effort that will cost about $170 million, Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen M. Lainez said. The process will go faster by opening military academies, which count as four or more units, McHenry said.

Other military branches also are aiming to increase their presence in school hallways, but the Marines are leading the charge. Read more.

Crisis at the VA as Benefits Claims Backlog Nearly Tops One Million

Crisis at the VA as Benefits Claims Backlog Nearly Tops One Million
By Jason Leopold t r u t h o u t | Report

During the past four months, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) backlog of unfinished disability claims grew by more than 100,000, adding to an already mountainous backlog that is now close to topping one million.

The VA's claims backlog, which includes all benefits claims and all appeals at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and the Board of Veterans Appeals at VA, was 803,000 on January 5, 2009. The backlog hit 915,000 on May 4, 2009, a staggering 14 percent increase in four months.

The issue has become so dire that veterans now wait an average of six months to receive disability benefits and as long as four years for their appeals to be heard in cases where their benefits were denied.

The Binary Fallacy and The End of Both Parties

The Binary Fallacy and The End of Both Parties
By Michael Collins

The results of eight years of Bush-Cheney at the helm make the demise of the Republican Party an easy call. Our financial system is on life support. The major banks are insolvent, according to banking and legal authority William K. Black. If they’re not, they’re in intensive care. No matter how many trillions of dollars worth of infusions they receive, they’re not making loans. The economy is in a free fall with growth down 6% a quarter and job losses running at nearly 600,000 a month. We’re stuck in two catastrophic wars. Despite President Obama’s election, we’re viewed with suspicion and disregard throughout the world.

Judge Rules Telecoms Have Immunity Under Unconstitutional FISA Amendments Act

Judge Rules Telecoms Have Immunity Under Unconstitutional FISA Amendments Act | Press Release
EFF and ACLU Planning to Appeal Dismissal of Dozens of Spying Cases

A federal judge today dismissed dozens of lawsuits over illegal domestic surveillance of American citizens, ruling that telecommunications companies had immunity from liability under the controversial FISA Amendments Act (FISAAA). The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) California and Illinois affiliates are planning to appeal the decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that FISAAA is unconstitutional.

"We're deeply disappointed in Judge Walker's ruling today," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "The retroactive immunity law unconstitutionally takes away Americans' claims arising out of the First and Fourth Amendments, violates the federal government's separation of powers as established in the Constitution, and robs innocent telecom customers of their rights without due process of law."

Signed by President Bush in 2008, the FISAAA allowed for the dismissal of the lawsuits over the telecoms' participation in the warrantless surveillance program if the government secretly certifies to the court that the surveillance did not occur, was legal, or was authorized by the president. Then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey filed that classified certification with the court in September and demanded that the cases be dismissed.

Kennedy Bill Would Make Employers Provide Care

Kennedy bill would make employers provide care | Associated Press

Employers would be required to offer health care to employees or pay a penalty — and all Americans would be guaranteed health insurance — under a draft bill circulated Friday by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's health committee.

The bill would provide subsidies to help poor people pay for care, guarantee patients the right to select any doctor they want and require everyone to purchase insurance, with exceptions for those who can't afford to.

Insurers would be supposed to offer a basic level of care and would be required to cover all comers, without turning people away because of pre-existing conditions or other reasons. Insurance companies' profits would be limited, and private companies would have to compete with a new public "affordable access" plan that would for the first time offer government-sponsored health care to Americans not eligible for Medicare, Medicaid or other programs.

It all adds up to sweeping changes in how America's health care system operates and aims to achieve President Barack Obama's goal of holding down costs and extending health coverage to 50 million uninsured Americans. Read more.

Report: US Weighs Guilty Pleas In Some 9/11 Cases

Report: US weighs guilty pleas in some 9/11 cases | Associated Press

A plan under consideration by the Obama administration would permit Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainees facing the death penalty to plead guilty without a full trial, it has been reported.

This option would principally be aimed at a group of detainees accused of planning the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, five people who have already indicated they prefer this resolution of the case, The New York Times said in a story posted late Friday on its Web site.

The terrorism-era U.S. military commission format has come under withering criticism from legal and human rights quarters, and American military prosecutions employing this structure and legal rules have for the most part been put on hold since January while the new administration considered other options.

President Barack Obama recently approved the continued use of these commissions. And the Times reported in its story that the possibility of permitting guilty pleas under some circumstances is among a series of options circulated within the administration by a special task force. The newspaper cited individuals who had been briefed on the proposal or had studied it.

Obama already has said that he wants to close Guantanamo by January 2010, declaring it has caused the United States more harm than good and has served as a recruitment tool for the al-Qaida terrorist network. Read more.

Intelligence Pick Bows out Over CIA Tactic Ties

Intelligence Pick Bows out Over CIA Tactic Ties
Homeland Security intelligence nominee drops out of consideration over ties to CIA tactics
By Eileen Sullivan, Associated Press |

President Barack Obama's pick for intelligence chief at the Homeland Security Department withdrew from consideration Friday amid questions about his role in the CIA's interrogations of suspected terrorists.

Philip Mudd was scheduled to appear next week before senators considering his nomination as undersecretary of intelligence and analysis. He notified the White House on Friday that he was withdrawing his name because he did not want to be a distraction.

At issue was the extent of Mudd's involvement in the interrogation program while he was a senior CIA official in the Bush administration. The interrogation methods have been criticized by Democratic lawmakers and Obama. Read more.

Update on Department of Justice Efforts To Invalidate the Arcata and Eureka Youth Protection Acts

Stop Recruiting Kids! | Press Release | June 4, 2009



On Tuesday, June 9 at 1pm, in Courtroom 3 at the Oakland Federal Courthouse, Federal Court Judge Saundra Armstrong is scheduled to hear oral arguments regarding the Arcata and Eureka Youth Protection Acts. These ordinances prohibit military recruiters from initiating contact with minors for the purpose of recruiting them into any branch of the military. They were approved as ballot initiative Measures F and J, on November 4, 2008 by margins of 73% in Arcata and 57% in Eureka.

Changing the Discourse: First Step Toward Changing the Policy?

Changing the Discourse: First Step toward Changing the Policy?
By Phyllis Bennis | Institute for Policy Studies

President Barack Obama's much-anticipated Cairo speech reflected a significant shift away from the ideological framework of militarism and unilateralism that shaped the Bush administration's war-based policy towards the Arab and Muslim worlds. His "not Bush" focus was perhaps most sharply evident in his public denunciation of the Iraq War as a "war of choice." Obama's call for a "new beginning" based on "the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition" was followed by a move to shift the official U.S. discourse towards something closer to internationalism - particularly by pointing to parallels between historical (and some contemporary) grievances and treating them as equivalent. This included his reference to the U.S. "role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government" along with Iran's "role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians."

Certainly, the equivalences were limited. Equating Palestinians and Israelis as "two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history..." doesn't reflect the reality that Israel is an occupying power with specific obligations under the Geneva Convention, while Palestinians living under occupation are a protected population under international law. But in the context of decades of U.S. privileging of Israelis as the only ones who have suffered, equating the two was a major step forward.

As expected, Obama focused first on the historic contributions of Arabs and Muslims to global civilization and to U.S. culture and history. His articulation of U.S. policy - and particularly U.S. active obligations - on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were addressed only in broad strokes, although there was more detail regarding Iran.

The shift in discourse, away from justifying reckless imperial hubris, unilateralism and militarism and towards a more cooperative and potentially even internationalist approach was potent. The actual policy shifts were much smaller. It remains the work of mobilized people across the U.S. - starting with the millions who mobilized to build a movement capable of electing Barack Hussein Obama as President - to turn that new language into new policies - reversing the escalation and moving towards ending Obama's war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, ending the occupation of Iraq immediately rather than years from now, ending U.S. military aid to Israel and creating a policy based on an end to occupation and equality for all, launching new negotiations with Iran not based on military threats, implementing U.S. nuclear disarmament obligations, and more.

That's the next step.

Time to Look Past Obama’s Words and Face-up to His Actions

Time to Look Past Obama’s Words and Face-up to His Actions
U.S. Foreign Policy Continues Rapidly in the Wrong Direction
The Peace Movement Needs to Escalate Anti-War Actions
By Kevin Zeese | Voters for Peace, Prosperity Agenda.US

There is long-time saying about politicians: you cannot trust their words, but must judge them by their actions.

President Obama is very good with words, perhaps the best communicator we have seen in the White House in a generation. But now he has been in office long enough that he should be judged on his actions.

The direction of U.S. foreign policy is moving rapidly in the wrong direction on many fronts. It is time for the peace movement to step up its activities throughout the country and demand a change in course.

Obama as Spock? Not in this Trekker's Cosmos

Obama as Spock? Not in this Trekker's Cosmos
By Don Williams | New Millenium Writings

As one of the teeming teens who wrote letters to NBC in the late sixties urging execs to keep Star Trek on the air, I've often felt vindicated by the success of the franchise. And so I felt an odd disquiet after my mother and my wife opted on seeing Star Trek and dinner out to celebrate Mother's Day. I'm sure they did it to sweeten the deal for two grown sons and me, but it was an oddly appropriate choice. The film opens with a heroic child delivery, along with a nascent notion that something's not right about this film, maybe this culture.

By opening his film in a Star Trek universe pre-altered by a vicious tattooed time traveler, director J.J. Abrams dodges several space mines. First he shields the film from sentimentality. Because the movie's pre-history is all wrong, the appearance of so many familiar characters in the bloom of youth serves for more than misting the eyes of aging Trekkies. It obliterates the original series, in which Captain Kirk's father lives on, Spock's mother lives on, the planet Vulcan is very much with us, Uhuru kisses Kirk, not Spock, and so on.

Altering history through time travel has become a hackneyed plot device, sure, but using it on such a cultural touchstone is a stroke of dark genius.

Newsweek recently featured a cover story suggesting Obama must be a Vulcan.

Let's hope not, for this film is a betrayal of Spock, indeed the Star Trek canon. Not because of the changed prehistory, per se, but for the dark uses Abrams puts it to. Read more.


Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, short story writer and the founding editor and publisher of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of literary stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Michigan Journalism Fellowship, a Golden Presscard Award and the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize. He is finishing a novel, "Oracle of the Orchid Lounge," set in his native Tennessee and Iraq. His book of selected journalism, "Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes, the Best Writings About People" by Don Williams, is due a second printing. For more information, email him at Or visit NMW website.

What Makes Sense for Health Care Makes Sense for Autos: Car Industry Needs Public Option Too

By Dave Lindorff

Just imagine for a moment that you are a retired contractor, struggling to get by on your pathetically shriveled 401(k). when your ne-er-do-well child suddenly comes to you saying he’s got this idea to start buying derelict homes and rehabbing them for resale. He asks you to stake him with a $100,000 loan (about half of what you’ve got left in your retirement fund), promising to repay you when he sells his first couple of houses. You know the kid’s flat busted and has been laid off from his job as a dishwasher, so you want to help, but you’ve also seen his carpentry skills: The doghouse he build in high school fell apart on a windy day, and his own house has a leaking roof, needs repainting, and all the plumbing leaks. You’ve also seen his business skills: He plays the Lotto excessively, hasn’t saved a penny, and buys most of his supplies at the local 7-Eleven.

Would you front this kid half your money?

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