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Barry C. Lynn's "Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction"
By Stephen Lendman | Blogspot
Lynn is director of the Markets, Enterprise, and Resiliency Initiative, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, and author of "Too Big to Fail" about the dangers of monopoly capitalism. He will be Stephen's radio guest on Saturday, March 6th, on the Progressive Radio Network.
He expands on the threat in his newest book titled, "Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction," explaining today's peril given the power of predatory giants.
They control governments, the courts, war and peace, dominant information sources, and essential services, including health care, air and water, what we eat and drink, where we live, what we wear, and school curricula to the highest levels. They own genetic code patents, basic human life elements to be commodified the same as toothpaste, tomatoes or toilet paper.
Omnipotent, they plunder recklessly, ruthlessly at our expense. They're private tyrannies, endangering humanity, basic freedoms, environmental sustainability, and planetary survival. Without exaggeration, they're unaccountable, unchecked "weapons of mass destruction."
In "Cornered," Lynn explains the danger and urgency to address it. Our lives and futures depend on it.
Rove "...confirmed to be one of two sources outing Valerie Plame...."
Wikipedia: Agreeing with the Bush administration, the Obama Justice Department argues the Wilsons have no legitimate grounds to sue. On the current justice department position, Sloan [Melanie Sloan, of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington], stated: "We are deeply disappointed that the Obama administration has failed to recognize the grievous harm top Bush White House officials inflicted on Joe and Valerie Wilson. The government’s position cannot be reconciled with President Obama’s oft-stated commitment to once again make government officials accountable for their actions."
"The (US) economy has reached its debt limit and is entering its insolvency phase. We are not in a cycle but (at) the end of an era. The old world of debt pyramiding to a fraudulent degree cannot be restored..."
Project Censored's top 2010 story was "US Congress Sells Out to Wall Street," highlighting that since 2001, "eight of the most troubled firms have donated $64.2 million to congressional candidates, presidential candidates and the Republican and Democratic parties." It's no surprise that they own them, what Wall Street Watch.org showed in a March 2009 Essential Information and Consumer Education Foundation report titled,"Sold Out: How Wall Street and Washington Betrayed America."
The accompanying press release said:
Over the past decade, "$5 billion in political contributions bought Wall Street freedom from regulation, (and) restraint." From 1998 - 2008, "Wall Street investment firms, commercial banks, hedge funds, real estate companies and insurance conglomerates (the FIRE sector)" spent over $1.7 billion in political contributions and another $3.4 billion on lobbyists, in return for which:
- they were freed from regulation;
- could speculate on financial derivatives and an alphabet soup of securitized garbage, including asset-backed securities (ABSs), mortgage-backed securities (MBSs), collateralized mortgage obligations (CMOs), collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), collateralized bond obligations (CBOs), credit default swaps (CDSs), and collateralized fund obligations (CFOs) - combined, sliced, diced, packaged, repackaged, and sold in tranches to sophisticated and ordinary investors, many unwittingly through mutual funds, 401(k)s, pensions, and the like;
- could merge commercial and investment banking and insurance operations;
- bilk investors and the public through fraudulent schemes; and
- get trillions of bailout dollars when the economy crashed.
Spying for Dollars: Military Contractors and Security Firms Reap Huge Profits
As the Defense Budget Soars, Billions of Dollars are Channelled Offshore to Avoid Paying Taxes
By Tom Burghardt | Global Research | Antifascist Calling
<p>The Obama administration is seeking to increase the obscenely bloated U.S. Defense Department budget to a whopping $708 billion for fiscal year 2011, 3.4% above 2010's record level, The Wall Street Journal reported.
While the overall budget deficit will balloon to a staggering $1.6 trillion in 2011, the result of massive tax cuts for the rich, declining revenues, a by-product of capitalism's economic meltdown, imperial adventures abroad and general corporate malfeasance (the old tax-dodge grift), the administration plans to cut $250 billion over three years from non-military "discretionary spending" on domestic social programs.
However, as the World Socialist Web Site points out: "President Barack Obama has done nothing to reverse decades of wage stagnation, mounting poverty, and attacks on the social welfare system. On the contrary, following George W. Bush, he has seized on the crisis to redistribute wealth to a tiny financial elite through the ongoing bailout of the finance industry."
It is no small irony that despite stark budget figures and an even bleaker future for the American working class, Washington Technology reported January 28 that the "29 largest publicly traded defense contractors increased their use of offshore subsidiaries by 26 percent from 2003 to 2008."
Citing reports by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), journalist Alice Lipowicz disclosed that the "subsidiaries helped the contractors reduce taxes, in part by avoiding Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes for U.S. workers hired at the foreign subsidiaries."
Considering that the Pentagon hands out some $396 billion annually to contractors, outsourcing everything from "in theatre" construction in places like Afghanistan and Iraq to pricey "intelligence analysts" at secret state agencies, cash not spent on payroll taxes by dodgy firms slices another hole into the already-shredded social safety net.
Amongst the largest firms cited in GAO's 2008 report, updated in January 2010, Oracle Corp., operates in 77 tax havens; Boeing Co., 38; Dell Inc., 29; BearingPoint Inc., 28; Computer Sciences Corp., 21; Fluor Corp., 34; General Dynamics, 5; Harris Corp., 13; Hewlett-Packard, 14; Honeywell International, 7; ITT Corp., 18; L-3 Communications, 15; Sprint Nextel, 7.
Federal Lobbying Climbs in 2009 as Lawmakers Execute Aggressive Congressional Agenda | Open Secrets
Efforts by Health, Business Industries Help Push Influence Peddling to New Heights
At nearly $266.8 million, the pharmaceutical and health products industry’s federal lobbying expenditures not only outpaced all other business industries and special interest areas in 2009, but stand as the greatest amount ever spent on lobbying efforts by a single industry for one year....In 2009, this sector spent nearly $544 million on federal lobbying efforts, up almost 12 percent from its 2008 total of about $487 million.
The economy stunk. Corporations slashed jobs. And some firms, once juggernauts of American industry, simply ceased to exist.
But for federal lobbyists, 2009 proved to be a year of riches unlike any other, a Center for Responsive Politics analysis indicates.
In all, federal lobbyists’ clients spent more than $3.47 billion last year, often driven to Washington, D.C.’s power centers and halls of influence by political issues central to the age: health care reform, financial reform, energy policy.
That figure represents a more than 5 percent increase over $3.3 billion worth of federal lobbying recorded in 2008, the previous all-time annual high for lobbying expenditures. And it comes in a year when a recession persisted, the dollar’s value against major foreign currencies declined and joblessness rates increased....
To explore the Center for Responsive Politics' full lobbying database, go here.
US: Adopt Anti-Corruption Proposals | Human Rights Watch
Senators’ Investigation Follows the Hidden Money Trail from Foreign Kleptocrats
Human Rights Watch documented that between 2004 and 2006, the president’s son spent almost $44 million on luxury houses and cars in the US and South Africa, while the entire education budget of the country was $43 million in 2005.
The Obama administration should adopt recommendations in a report issued today to help stop the flow of stolen money into the United States, Human Rights Watch said. The report is the result of a detailed investigation by Senators Carl Levin and Tom Coburn into corruption in abusive, resource-rich states and the “enablers” that allow officials to funnel money out of their impoverished countries to spend lavishly abroad.
The 330-page report “Keeping Foreign Corruption out of the United States: Four Case Histories,” details how officials in Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Nigeria funneled millions of dollars into the US with the help of a network of facilitators, including lawyers, realtors, banks, and other individuals and institutions. The Senate investigation exposed the infrastructure that allows corrupt officials to steal their countries’ wealth, denying their populations vital resources that should be used to secure basic rights, Human Rights Watch said.
“It’s time for the US to stop allowing corrupt officials to use their countries as personal ATMs and the US as a shopping mall,” said Arvind Ganesan, business and human rights director at Human Rights Watch. “Kleptocrats need to know that the US is not open for business.” Read more.
It's Official: 2009 Was Record Year For Lobbying, Despite Recession
By Arthur Delaney | Huffington Post
Every big sector spent more, first and foremost the pharmaceutical and health products industry, which spent $266.8 million -- "the greatest amount ever spent on lobbying efforts by a single industry for one year," according to CRP. Business associations spent $183 million, oil and gas interests spent $168.4 million and the insurance industry shelled out $164.2 million.
The final reports are in and we can now officially say that 2009 was the most profitable year ever for the lobbying industry.
The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics tallied lobbying income data from tens of thousands of disclosure filings, and the data show that special interests of all stripes spent $3.47 billion lobbying the federal government in 2009, up from $3.3 billion the previous year.
How did the influence industry manage such a banner year despite a battered economy? The simple answer is that the Obama administration's aggressive change agenda has prompted businesses to open their wallets to an unprecedented degree in the hope of preventing reform. Read more.
By Linda Milazzo
Tomorrow morning, ABC's Jonathan Karl will audition to replace George Stephanopoulos on the network's flagship Sunday morning program, This Week. Karl's exclusive "get" for his hosting debut is former Vice President Dick Cheney, whom Karl last interviewed on December 16, 2008 - a month after Barack Obama was elected President, and a month after Jonathan Karl was named ABC's Senior Congressional Correspondent.
“Justice was not served,” Tina Foster, executive director of the International Justice Network and the spokesperson for Aafia Siddiqui’s family, told me. “The U.S. government made a decision to label this woman a terrorist, but instead of putting her on trial for the alleged terrorist activity she was put on trial for something else. They tried to convict her of that something else, not with evidence, but because she was a terrorist. She was selectively prosecuted for something that would allow them to only tell their side of the story.”
The conviction of the Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui in New York last week of trying to kill American military officers and FBI agents illustrates that the greatest danger to our security comes not from al-Qaida but the thousands of shadowy mercenaries, kidnappers, killers and torturers our government employs around the globe.
The bizarre story surrounding Siddiqui, 37, who received an undergraduate degree from MIT and a doctorate in neuroscience from Brandeis University, often defies belief. Siddiqui, who could spend 50 years in prison on seven charges when she is sentenced in May, was by her own account abducted in 2003 from her hometown of Karachi, Pakistan, with her three children—two of whom remain missing—and spirited to a secret U.S. prison where she was allegedly tortured and mistreated for five years. The American government has no comment, either about the alleged clandestine detention or the missing children.
Siddiqui was discovered in 2008 disoriented and apparently aggressive and hostile, in Ghazni, Afghanistan, with her oldest son. She allegedly was carrying plans to make explosives, lists of New York landmarks and notes referring to “mass-casualty attacks.” But despite these claims the government prosecutors chose not to charge her with terrorism or links to al-Qaida—the reason for her original appearance on the FBI’s most-wanted list six years ago. Her supporters suggest that the papers she allegedly had in her possession when she was found in Afghanistan, rather than detail coherent plans for terrorist attacks, expose her severe mental deterioration, perhaps the result of years of imprisonment and abuse. This argument was bolstered by some of the pages of the documents shown briefly to the court, including a crude sketch of a gun that was described as a “match gun” that operates by lighting a match. Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
President Barack Obama is a relative newbie to Washington. He didn’t even complete one term in the senate, and now he’s just finished his first year in the White House, so it’s stunning to see how quickly this one-time “community organizer” has lost his moorings in the marbled halls of power in Washington.
In an interview reported in the Bloomberg news service, Obama expresses no concern with the latest huge bonuses that CEOs Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase ($17 million) and Lloyd Blankenfein of Goldman Sachs (9 million) paid themselves, saying not only that they are “savvy businessmen” and that “success and wealth” are “part of the American system,” but equating them with professional baseball players who “are making more than that who don't get to the World Series either.”
Talk about being out of it!
Coleen Rowley shares with us her views on the latest spectacle surrounding the Christmas Day foiled terrorist attempt, and how it reflects on policies that were implemented after 9/11. She provides us with insight into the pretend investigations carried out by the 9/11 Commission, and how they conducted many of their interviews of FBI witnesses and experts inside the FBI HQ and offices. Ms. Rowley talks about the absence of real investigations and accountability in almost any government related wrong doing and issues, our shameful treatment of inmates in Guantanamo detention center, the alarming desensitization of our people bolstered by the culprit mainstream media, and much more.
Rowley, a FBI special agent for almost 24 years, was legal counsel to the FBI Field Office in Minneapolis from 1990 to 2003. She came to national attention in June 2002, when she testified before Congress about serious lapses before 9/11 that helped account for the failure to prevent the attacks. She now writes and speaks on ethical decision-making and on balancing civil liberties with the need for effective investigation. Interview with Coleen Rowley [73:05m] | Link to Podcast
Video: Arnold Weiner: “Mayor Dixon Got a Fair Deal!”
By William Hughes
On Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010, Mayor Sheila Dixon’s controversial plea deal, in the two criminal cases pending against her with the State Prosecutor’s Office, was accepted by the Trial Judge. As a result, she is no longer the Mayor of Baltimore City. At a curbside press conference, outside of the Court House East, Dixon’s attorney, Arnold Weiner, spoke to the media. He insisted: “Mayor Dixon got a fair deal under all the circumstances.” Mr. Weiner is one of Baltimore City’s top criminal defense lawyers. For details on the plea deal and the Mayor’s “probation before judgment” sentence, go here. For my slant on the case, see links here and here.
...In a double-barreled blast, House Oversight Committee Chairman Edolphus Towns called on both the Head of Homeland Security and its Inspector General to investigate "disturbing allegations of widespread discrimination, retaliation and other inappropriate conduct ..." within the Federal Air Marshal Service.
...sources say, a number of air marshals got into trouble while working overseas... accused of excessive drinking, hiring prostitutes -- even rape....[called] these isolated incidents, and not representative of an agency whose budget may grow by $100 million next year to nearly one billion dollars.
By Dave Lindorff
There were two points in President Obama’s State of the Union address that provoked resounding and universal applause in the chamber from the assembled senators and representatives of both parties. One point was when the president said he wanted to start his job-creation program “in small businesses, companies that begin when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream, or a worker decides its time she became her own boss.” The other point was when he said, “While we're at it, let's also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment; and provide a tax incentive for all businesses, large and small, to invest in new plants and equipment.”
The Supreme Court’s seismic January ruling that corporations are free to spend unlimited amounts of their profits to advertise for or against candidates may have been the latest shakeup of campaign finance – but gaping holes already allow corporations to spend enormous sums without leaving a paper trail, a Raw Story investigation has found.
Campaign finance experts confirmed that though disclosure rules remained intact in the new Supreme Court decision, there are effective methods to circumvent them.
Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, an attorney and campaign finance expert at New York University's Brennan Center for Justice, said corporations already effectively end-run campaign finance law by shuffling money through trade associations.
“One of their favorites right now is spending through trade associations,” Torres-Spelliscy said.
Trade associations are considered tax-exempt non-profit organizations under US law. While they must report contributions received from other corporations to the Internal Revenue Service, the document itself remains confidential and is not made available to the public. Read more.
9/11, Deep Events, and the Curtailment of U.S. Freedoms
A talk delivered to the New England Antiwar Conference, MIT, January 30, 2010.
by Prof Peter Dale Scott | Global Research
Hello everyone! I’m honored to be invited to this important anti-war conference. As I am in the final stages of editing my next book, The Road to Afghanistan, I have been turning down invitations to speak. But I was eager to accept this one, and to join my friends and others in debunking the war on terror, the false justification for the Afghan-Pakistan war.
Let me make my own position clear at the outset. There are indeed people out there, including some Muslim extremists, who want to inflict terror on America. But it is crystal clear, as many people inside and outside government have agreed, that it makes this problem worse, not better, when Washington sends large numbers of U.S. troops to yet another country where they don ‘t belong.
A war on terror is as inappropriate a cure as a U.S. war on drugs, which as we have seen in Colombia makes the drug problem worse, not better. The war on terror and the war on drugs have this in common: both are ideological attempts to justify the needless killings of thousands – including both American troops and foreign civilians -- in another needless war.
Why does America find itself, time after time, invading countries in distant oil-bearing regions, countries which have not invaded us? This is a vital issue on which we should seek a clear message for the American people. Unfortunately it has been an issue on which there has been serious disagreement dividing the antiwar movement, just as it divided people, even friends, inside the anti-Vietnam War movement of the 1960s.
Perhaps many of you in this room know that there was disagreement between Noam Chomsky and myself in our analysis of how America entered the Vietnam War. This did not stop Noam and I from speaking out on the same platform against the war, or remaining friends, even after our public disagreements. There was too much on which we agreed.
Let me turn to today’s topic, the war on terror, by reading a long quote from Noam Chomsky in 2002, with which I fully agree:
"the war on terrorism was not declared on September 11 ; rather, it was redeclared, using the same rhetoric as the first declaration twenty years earlier. The Reagan administration, as you know, I'm sure, came into office announcing that a war on terrorism would be the core of U.S. foreign policy, and it condemned what the president called the "evil scourge of terrorism. " …. International terrorism was described as a plague spread by "depraved opponents of civilization itself," in "a return to barbarism in the modern age.”"
Today it is easy to see the falsehood of the government rhetoric in the 1980s about heroic freedom fighters fighting the “evil scourge of terrorism.” Most of the CIA money in the 1980s went to the terrorist drug trafficker Gulbeddin Hekmatyar, remembered for his habit of throwing acid in the faces of women not wearing burkas. Hekmatyar did not represent Afghan aspirations for freedom, but the interests of the U.S. ally Pakistan. As a true Afghan leader said in 1994, “We didn't choose [him]. The United States made Hekmatyar by giving him his weapons.” To describe Hekmatyar’s men as freedom fighters was a fraud. Read more.
Can somebody make sense of this?
By Dave Lindorff
Flash! The Supreme Court’s latest 5-4 decision overturning the over 60-year-old ban on corporations giving money to political campaigns is not the end of democracy as we know it, or the onset of fascism in America, as some of hyperventilating progressives have been claiming.
Sure it’s an outrage to say, as the court majority did, that corporations have the same rights as people. But let’s face it: Corporations have long dominated the American political scene. They didn’t need to be free to donate in their own corporate names. They have had their political action committees to do the job, and that’s worked just fine for them, as witness the current state of the two pro-corporate parties in Congress, and the string of blatantly pro-corporate presidents we’ve had for as far back as I can remember.
Senator John McCain, who helped rewrite the nation's campaign finance laws, said Sunday that this week's Supreme Court ruling removing limits from corporate spending on political advertising means that campaign finance reform is dead.
"I don't think there's much that can be done," he told "Face the Nation" moderator Bob Schieffer.
McCain said he was not surprised by Court's decision: "I went over to observe the oral arguments," he said. "It was clear that Justice Roberts, Alito and Scalia, by their very skeptical and even sarcastic comments, were very much opposed to it.
"I think that it was interesting that they have had no experience in the political arena," McCain said. "I was reminded of the story of Lyndon Johnson, when he was vice president, was told about President Kennedy's appointments of all these brilliant people, and he said, 'You know, I wish one of them had run for county sheriff.'"
The Republican senator noted that in prior Court hearing on the issue of campaign financing, Justices Rehnquist and O'Connor had taken a different position. "Both had significant political experience; Justices Roberts, Alito and Scalia have none," he said.
"We are going to see now an inundation of special-interest money into political campaigns," McCain warned. "I think that diminishes the influence of average citizens."
Schieffer asked McCain if he thought the issue of campaign finance reform was "dead."
"Oh, I think so." He predicted a backlash would occur when people see the amounts of unfettered money, from corporations and unions, that will go into political campaigns. Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
The Democratic Party’s embarrassing electoral disaster in Massachusetts, losing a seat held for 46 years by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, provided a clear warning that the party, and President Obama’s presidency, are headed for an epic trouncing this November, when all members of the House and a third of the Senate face re-election.
But all the frantic strategizing within the sclerotic Democratic Party leadership ignores the bigger crisis yet to come for this party that once brought the nation Social Security, unemployment compensation, public jobs programs and Medicare. That crisis is the economy, which is now showing signs of falling off a second cliff instead of beginning to recover.
By Dave Lindorff
What's missing in Congress these days is real progressive leadership and real political courage.
Over the past several decades, the Democratic Party has been entirely taken over by corporate shills and money-grubbing sleazes while those who might still have some vestigial remnant of a conscience or genuine concern for the plight of the common person have been co-opted or intimidated into silence or powerlessness.
Look at Dennis Kucinich (D-OH). He says all the right things. He's fought all the good fights. And yet after 15 years in Congress, he is chair of what? The House subcommittee on domestic policy of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Heck, his post doesn't even merit capitalization in the AP Stylebook!
It is clear that the most dangerous and sickening crimes being committed by the US government are being directed by the CIA. The CIA poses the biggest threat to US national security and the security of the planet. The US Constitution and international law must be used to ensure security and enforce justice.
An Open Letter to Leon Panetta
Dear Mr. Panetta:
We are writing you to express our anger and dismay at the criminal and sadistic actions of the Central Intelligence Agency. There is overwhelming evidence that your organization and its front companies are guilty of the most supreme crimes against humanity. These include but are not limited to destabilizing and overthrowing elected governments, drug smuggling, child prostitution, and of course, orchestrating illegal wars of aggression. The latter was done under the pretext of eliminating a shadowy terrorist organization, Al Qaeda, which was in fact created by your own treasonous agency.
Perhaps the most sickening of the CIA's crimes is the systematic torture of human beings. Not only do you and your colleagues engage in this cowardly act, you attempt to cover up the crime through destruction of evidence and control of the media.
By Dave Lindorff
The media punditry, corn-fed on conventional wisdom, are all atwitter about the looming Democratic debacle in Massachusetts, saying that win or lose, the poor showing by the Democratic candidate for the late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s seat, state Attorney General Martha Coakley, means Democrats in Congress should abandon plans to push through a House-Senate compromise health bill, and instead just go with the Senate’s version of health “reform” legislation, thus circumventing a certain Republican filibuster attempt.
US magazine claims Guantánamo inmates were killed during questioning
Harper's investigation quotes camp staff who say suspects died in interrogation and their deaths were made to look like suicides
By Ian Cobain | Guardian.co.UK
US government officials may have conspired to conceal evidence that three Guantánamo Bay inmates could have been murdered during interrogations, according to a six-month investigation by American journalists.
All three may have been suffocated during questioning on the same evening and their deaths passed off as suicides by hanging, the joint investigation for Harper's Magazine and NBC News has concluded.
The magazine also suggests the cover-up may explain why the US government is reluctant to allow the release of Shaker Aamer, the last former British resident held at Guantánamo, as he is said to have alleged that he was part-suffocated while being tortured on the same evening.
"The cover-up is amazing in its audacity, and it is continuing into the Obama administration," said Scott Horton, the contributing editor for Harper's who conducted the investigation.
When the three men – Salah Ahmed al-Salami, 37, a Yemeni, and two Saudis, Talal al-Zahrani, 22, and Mani Shaman al-Utaybi, 30 – died in June 2006, the camp's commander declared that they had committed suicide and that this had been "an act of asymmetrical warfare", rather than one of desperation.
According to an official inquiry by the US navy, whose report was heavily censored before release, each man was found in his cell, hanging from bedsheets, with their hands bound and rags stuffed down their throats.
However, Horton spoke to four camp guards who alleged that when the bodies were taken to the camp's medical clinic they had definitely not come from their cell block, which they were guarding, and appeared to have been transfered from a "black site", known as Camp No, within Guantánamo, operated by either the CIA or a Pentagon intelligence agency. Read more.
Xe Services (Blackwater) Killers' Story Doesn't Add Up
Posted by Joshua Holland | AlterNet
Wherever Xe Services' mercenaries are deployed, dead civilians stack up.
Subjects of the empire tend to get pretty pissed off when this faceless American multinational kills off innocent people -- families out for a drive, folks walking down the street in the middle of the afternoon.
This can be bad for business. After the Nisour Square Massacre, XE Services -- then known as Blackwater Worldwide -- was briefly booted out of Iraq as a result of a massive public outcry (before the Iraqi government demonstrated its legendary sovereignty by buckling to U.S. demands that the company be reinstated).
Xe Services is in Afghanistan, and as one might expect civilian bodies have turned up over there as well. Last week, two of its mercenaries were charged by federal authorities for a shooting last May in Kabul which resulted in far fewer casualties than Nisour Square, but according to prosecutors was equally unjustified.
TPM reports that the killers -- who were fired after the incident for violating the company's alcohol policy -- say they're being "thrown under the bus by a company desperate to preserve its standing with the Afghan government, after another shooting case in Iraq led to a crackdown on its operations in that country." The company says they were out on a bender when the shooting occurred, and not on the official clock. The men say they were working at the time, and that the shooting was justified. Read more.
Stop the Chamber; I Want to Get Off! Group to Expose Candidates Accepting Funds From Commerce Lobbyists
It's 2010. Do you know which corporate pocket your representative is in?
There is no better analogy for the outsize influence of corporations upon government than the behavior of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of late. The "world's largest business federation" has transformed itself into a lobbying machine for some of the nation's dirtiest corporate crooks in a series of misleading campaigns against climate change legislation, affordable healthcare, the employee free choice act, campaign spending reform, corporate responsibility, consumer protection, and keeping social security private.
All the more reason to know who they've been wining and dining on the Hill.Velvet Revolution, a nonprofit organization "dedicated to clean and honest government," issued a statement today announcing they plan to target political candidates who accept contributions from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
"If a candidate gets support from the Chamber, we are going to call him or her out for accepting tainted money -- money from big business that is not going into creating jobs, providing health care, and cleaning up Wall Street. We will demand that candidates renounce the Chamber's support, return any funding, and condemn the Chamber’s advertisements and policies. If they do not, we will expose them," said Kevin Zeese, spokesman and attorney for Velvet Revolution in a statement.
Today's news release is part of Velvet Revolution's larger "Stop the Chamber" campaign (to which BuzzFlash has signed on), which seeks to expose the Chamber's lobbying efforts against all kinds of reform, as well as to precipitate an investigation into allegations of the organization's illegal activities:
Polluters like Big Coal, Big Asbestos, and Big Oil only need call the Chamber to stop any accountability for their toxic destruction. Wall Street banks and CEOs need only make sure that they have paid their Chamber dues to ensure that they can continue to rip off the taxpayers. And killers like Big Tobacco need only form a partnership with the Chamber to ensure that they will be given immunity from lawsuits that seek accountability for the death and sickness of millions of Americans...
Not only is the Chamber lobbying and advertising against the interests of Americans, it is also committing fraud and violating campaign finance laws by creating fake astroturfing front groups, with patriotic names like Citizens for a Strong Ohio, and then illegally funneling millions of anonymous dollars into those groups to attack candidates and judges who won't do their bidding.
This announcement doesn't come a moment too soon. Not only are primary elections coming up, but the Chamber of Commerce just recently signaled its plans to spend record amounts of money in the 2010 elections. Read more.
The Iraq Inquiry committee needs your help. Its weak, deferential questioning of witnesses has been widely criticized as inadequate for an inquiry into the most disastrous foreign policy decision of the past half century.
This doesn't augur well for Tony Blair's much awaited appearance in the next few weeks. Stop the War wants your help in providing suggestions for the type of questioning which will be required to expose the lies and deception that Blair used to take Britain into an illegal war.
Stop the War is inviting questions from all of our supporters, which we will publish on our website and then collate to send to the Iraq Inquiry committee.
Writer and broadcaster Michael Rosen has already sent us his question:
"You say that the war was right and that it was worth it, so this is a question about your level of acceptable death and destruction: at what number of deaths and at what level of destruction would such a war become not-worth-it?"
Write "Blair question" in the message subject title and send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org
Schakowsky says Blackwater has “severely damaged the credibility and security of our military and harmed our relationship with other governments”
As multiple scandals involving Blackwater continue to emerge almost daily, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is preparing to introduce legislation aimed at ending the US government’s relationship with Blackwater and other armed contracting companies. “In 2009, the U.S. government employed well over 20,000 armed private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, and there is every indication that these figures will continue to rise in 2010,” Schakowsky wrote in a “Dear Colleage” letter asking for support for her Stop Outsourcing Security (SOS) Act. “These men and women are not part of the U.S. military or government. They do not wear the uniform of the United States, though their behavior has, on numerous occasions, severely damaged the credibility and security of our military and harmed our relationship with other governments.”
Schakowsky originally introduced the bill in 2007, but it only won two co-sponsors in the Senate: Vermont’s Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Ironically, Clinton—now Secretary of State— is currently the US official responsible for most of Blackwater’s contracts. “The legislation would prohibit the use of private contractors for military, security, law enforcement, intelligence, and armed rescue functions unless the President tells Congress why the military is unable to perform those functions,” according to Schakowsky. “It would also increase transparency over any remaining security contracts by increasing reporting requirements and giving Congress access to details about large contracts.”
Meanwhile, a national coalition of groups opposed to Blackwater have issued an open letter to Congress urging support for Schakowsky’s SOS Act and have called on Congress to investigate the US Justice Department’s handling of the criminal case against the Blackwater operatives alleged to have been responsible for the 2007 Nisour Square massacre. Read more.