You are hereCorruption
As an Afghan woman who was elected to Parliament, I am in the United States to ask President Barack Obama to immediately end the occupation of my country.
Eight years ago, women's rights were used as one of the excuses to start this war. But today, Afghanistan is still facing a women's rights catastrophe. Life for most Afghan women resembles a type of hell that is never reflected in the Western mainstream media.
In 2001, the U.S. helped return to power the worst misogynist criminals, such as the Northern Alliance warlords and druglords. These men ought to be considered a photocopy of the Taliban. The only difference is that the Northern Alliance warlords wear suits and ties and cover their faces with the mask of democracy while they occupy government positions. But they are responsible for much of the disaster today in Afghanistan, thanks to the U.S. support they enjoy.
The U.S. and its allies are getting ready to offer power to the medieval Taliban by creating an imaginary category called the "moderate Taliban" and inviting them to join the government. A man who was near the top of the list of most-wanted terrorists eight years ago, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has been invited to join the government.
Over the past eight years the U.S. has helped turn my country into the drug capital of the world through its support of drug lords. Today, 93 percent of all opium in the world is produced in Afghanistan. Many members of Parliament and high ranking officials openly benefit from the drug trade. President Karzai's own brother is a well known drug trafficker.
Meanwhile, ordinary Afghans are living in destitution. The latest United Nations Human Development Index ranked Afghanistan 181 out of 182 countries. Eighteen million Afghans live on less than $2 a day. Mothers in many parts of Afghanistan are ready to sell their children because they cannot feed them. Read more.
The House of Representatives debate on the health insurance “reform” is over with the Democrats failing the people and the Republicans disgracing themselves as having left their minds back in the third grade (with apologies to third graders).
House Democrats were determined to pass any bill with a nice sounding name, such as “The Affordable Health Care for America Act”. Single payer, full Medicare for all was never on the table even though a majority of citizens, physicians and nurses support that far more efficient, free choice of health care professionals, system.
There are no effective cost containment or prevention measures in the bill. The public option is so weak it will be a receptacle for the sickest of patients among the meager number of people who qualify for its coverage. There are no provisions to reduce the number of people (100,000) who die annually from medical malpractice in hospitals.
Nor is there a major program to reduce the tens of billions of dollars that is stolen yearly out of Medicare from criminals inside and outside the medical profession. Read more.
Blackwater Said to Pursue Bribes to Iraq After 17 Died
By Mark Mazzetti and James Risen | NY Times
Blackwater’s strategy of buying off the government officials, which would have been illegal under American law, created a deep rift inside the company, according to the former executives.
Top executives at Blackwater Worldwide authorized secret payments of about $1 million to Iraqi officials that were intended to silence their criticism and buy their support after a September 2007 episode in which Blackwater security guards fatally shot 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, according to former company officials.
Blackwater approved the cash payments in December 2007, the officials said, as protests over the deadly shootings in Nisour Square stoked long-simmering anger inside Iraq about reckless practices by the security company’s employees. American and Iraqi investigators had already concluded that the shootings were unjustified, top Iraqi officials were calling for Blackwater’s ouster from the country, and company officials feared that Blackwater might be refused an operating license it would need to retain its contracts with the State Department and private clients, worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
Four former executives said in interviews that Gary Jackson, who was then Blackwater’s president, had approved the bribes and that the money was sent from Amman, Jordan, where the company maintains an operations hub, to a top manager in Iraq. The executives, though, said they did not know whether the cash was delivered to Iraqi officials or the identities of the potential recipients. Read more.
It’s Baltimore, Hon!: Did Mayor Dixon Steal from the Poor?
By William Hughes
“Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.” - H. L. Mencken
Baltimore, MD - On Monday, Nov. 9, 2009, the criminal trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon will open up in the Circuit Court House, only two blocks from City Hall, where she’s reigned as boss of bosses since 2007. In a way, it will be like watching one of the iconic John Waters’ flicks. The case will have it all: sex, fur coats, a shop-till-you drop mentality, comedy, a married boyfriend in heat, gift cards, sleazy politics, back room deals, greed and high priced lawyers. In fact, the Mayor has seven lawyers on her defense team! This is probably a world record! (Saddam Hussein only had three.) This is also something film guru Waters would never allow in any of his movies. One legal eagle blowing off hot steam on behalf of a client would be more than enough for him.
The Barack Obama administration is talking tough to Afghan President Hamid Karzai about the need for decisive action on corruption and governance reform, but its main objective is to prevent particularly corrupt and incompetent warlords from getting plum ministries as rewards for helping clinch his fraudulent reelection, IPS has learned.
Obama told reporters Monday that he had emphasised to Karzai in a phone call to congratulate him on his re-election that there would have to be "a much more serious effort to eradicate corruption" and that "the proof is not going to be in words, it's going to be in deeds".
The New York Times reported the day after the Obama-Karzai conversation that the Obama administration wants Karzai to prosecute certain high-profile figures who are known to be involved in corruption. The story referred to the president's brother, Kandahar warlord Ahmed Wali Karzai, former defence minister Muhammad Qasim Fahim and Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum.
And on Wednesday, Adm. Mike Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Karzai must "take concrete steps to eliminate corruption", adding it means "you have to rid yourself of those who are corrupt, you have to actually arrest and prosecute them".
The new public rhetoric and press stories have given the impression that the Obama administration is now pursuing far-reaching reform of Afghanistan's system of governance. But the sudden intensification of administration pressure on the issue of corruption is aimed less at far-reaching reform of the system than at avoiding a significant worsening of the problem in the wake of Karzai's fraudulent re-election. Read more.
The U.S. Government has agreed to pay $3 million to a former Drug Enforcement Administration official who claims he was spied on by a CIA agent and a U.S. diplomat while working at the U.S. Embassy in Burma more than a decade ago.
The settlement of a long-running lawsuit brought ex-DEA agent Richard Horn was filed tonight [11/04/09] in U.S. District Court in Washington.
Horn claimed that in 1993 a CIA officer in Rangoon, Arthur Brown, and the chief of mission there, Franklin Huddle, conspired to place a listening device in a coffee table at Horn's residence and that the pair then relayed information they obtained to Washington.
The case became a massive headache for the government recently after U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth found that government lawyers committed fraud on the court by pressing forward with state secrets claims in the case even after Huddle's cover was formally rolled back by the CIA. Read more.
Cites Chamber President Donohue’s own track record as director of Scandal-ridden companies
Washington, D.C. – Change to Win (CTW) Chair Anna Burger today called on members of the House Committee on Financial Services to reject the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s less than credible rhetoric and to approve the Waters/Peters Amendment to the Investor Protection Act of 2009 in this Wednesday’s vote. The Waters/Peters amendment affirms the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) authority to adopt a uniform proxy access rule.
In her letter to Committee members, Ms. Burger highlights U.S. Chamber President Tom Donohue’s own record as a director of four scandal-ridden, publicly-traded companies to demonstrate the need for this essential investor reform. That record is detailed in CtW’s new report on the Chamber, “Preaching Principle, Enabling Excess,” which Ms. Burger provided to Committee members and which is attached.
The text of the letter follows:
Even the least of us deserves justice and accountability starts with you. So why don't you send out a reminder. Even Bush deserves all the justice he can get and we should ensure he gets his day in court.
Use these images as a 4 PAK and send 4 different cards to the same person; or, choose your favorite and send the same postcard to 4 different persons.
It's easy. Each individual postcard is formatted to the dimensions of 4.25"x5.5". Quarter a sheet of paper and combine the cards as you like. Don't forget to print the other side. Remember the postage stamps. Then mail one to your best beloved, your friends and neighbors, some acquaintance--your politicians and their parties. Show someone you care about them and about justice. Don’t forget Cheney, Condi, Gonzales and Rove: CCGR 4 PAK.
MAY BE USED AS HANDBILLS W/O REVERSE SIDE.
By Dave Lindorff
Next time you see a junkie sprawled at the curb in the downtown of your nearest city, or read about someone who died of a heroin overdose, just imagine a big yellow sign posted next to him or her saying: “Your Federal Tax Dollars at Work.”
Kudos to the New York Times, and to reporters Dexter Filkins, Mark Mazzetti and James Risen, for their lead article today reporting that Ahmed Wali Karzai, brother of Afghanistan’s stunningly corrupt President Hamid Karzai, a leading drug lord in the world’s major opium-producing nation, has for eight years been on the CIA payroll.
Pentagon Instructs Officials to Cancel Contracts with ACORN. The Problem: They Don't Exist
While the DoD targets a community group that does no business with the Pentagon, actual corporate crooks go un-confronted and continue to rake in $ billions in contracts.
By Jeremy Scahill | Rebel Reports
While the DoD sends out memos regarding an organization that it does not contract with, the Pentagon currently does business with a slew of corporate criminals whose billions of dollars in annual federal contracts make the $53 million in government funds received by ACORN over the past 15 years look like, well, acorns. The top three government contractors—all of them weapons manufacturers—committed 109 acts of misconduct since 1995, according to the Project on Oversight and Government Reform. In that period, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Boeing paid fines or settlements totaling nearly $3 billion. In 2007 alone, the three companies won some $77 billion in federal contracts. There has been no letter sent around to federal agencies instructing them to cancel contracts with these companies that have ripped off taxpayers and engaged in a variety of fraudulent activities with federal dollars.
On Tuesday night, US Undersecretary of Defense Shay Assad, the Pentagon’s top contracting official, sent a memo to the commanders and directors of all branches of the military instructing them to cease all business with the embattled community organization ACORN and to take “all necessary and appropriate” steps to prevent future contracts with the organization. Assad’s brief memo [PDF] contained the two-page guidelines issued October 7 by Peter Orszag, the director of the Office of Management and Budget. Orszag’s guidelines were issued following the passage of Congressional legislation aimed at “defunding ACORN.”
Orszag’s guidelines were sent on October 7 to “the heads of Executive Departments and Agencies” and instructed them to “immediately commence all necessary and appropriate steps” to comply with the terms of the Defund ACORN Act. These include: no future obligation of funds, suspension of grant and contract payments and no funding of ACORN and its affiliates through Federal grantees or contractors. “Your agency should take steps so that no Federal funds are awarded or obligated” to ACORN, wrote Orszag.
While the DoD memo sent by Assad is basically a formality initiated by Orszag’s guidelines to all federal agencies, it is nonetheless remarkable given that ACORN is not a Defense Department contractor. According to an ACORN spokesperson, the group has not received Pentagon funds, nor has the community group even considered applying for such funds. “Of course we were hoping to win the contract to build the B-1 bomber, but we didn’t get that one,” says Brian Kettering, ACORN’s Deputy Director of National Operations, sarcastically. “This is all just silly, but the travesty here is that once again the witch-hunt against ACORN continues while there is a total neglect of [the misconduct] of the likes of Blackwater and Halliburton.” Read more.
Media Enabled Bush 1's Savage Attacks on Maddow and Olbermann, Yet Continue to Ignore Bush Family's Sordid Past
The other day, George H.W. Bush fired a salvo against mean media liberals who savaged his son. Soon, brickbats were flying to and fro about who said what about whom. But this mini-controversy is nothing more than a distraction from the real story: even the most animated of Bush critics on television have not gotten around to acknowledging the full, unspeakably dark nature of the Bush enterprise. Bush41, it turns out, has nothing at all to complain about.
The kerfuffle began last Friday, when CBS ran a story on its website about George H.W. Bush criticizing MSNBC hosts Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow for edgy rhetoric and name-calling, in which he then … called them names -- specifically, “sick puppies.”
"The way they treat my son and anyone who's opposed to their point of view is just horrible," Mr. Bush said. "When our son was president they just hammered him mercilessly and I think obscenely a lot of the time and now it's moved to a new president," he added.
Of course, this is ridiculous on many counts. First is the absurdity of the man who employed the political assassin Lee Atwater (look up Willie Horton) and gave Karl Rove his first job, whining about incivility. Then there is the way the former president glided over the snapping trash- mouths and conjurers of the Right, from Limbaugh to Hannity to Beck, who dominate and influence the media’s vast market of vulnerable and hurting Americans. And finally, it is hard to recall criticism of H.W.’s son that was wildly inaccurate, truly out of bounds, or not reflective of the awful reality of W.’s presidency.
The real problem is not that popular media figures have gone after the Bushes, it is quite the opposite: that they have stopped well short of sharing the full story with the American people.
CBS inadvertently touched on this when it reported H.W.’s general satisfaction with how his personal saga was playing out in his golden years:
“Mr. Bush also said his own life is "very good, very private."
Perfect irony resides in that remark. One reason that the elder Bush’s life is so very good, and remains so very private, is because of the media’s failure to unearth the extent of the continuing deception perpetrated by the Bush family and their allies. The guilty parties surely include CBS itself -- which stopped asking questions when under pressure and unceremoniously tossed to the lions Dan Rather, the most visible television personality willing to dig into the truth about the Bushes. Read more.
Y'all know the story here already. (Renewed kudos to Reidar Visser for breaking it for all those of us who don't read Norwegian... Reidar, I know I should have slotted in a quotoid from you there... Sorry that I didn't.)
My conclusion in the IPS piece is, Read more.
Codepink co-founder catching a lot of flak for suggesting that all troops out of Afghanistan immediately would lead to a Taliban takeover and bloodbath. It began with a Christian Science Monitor article in which Medea Benjamin said after a trip to Afghanistan ™We have been feeling a sense of fear of the people of the return of the Taliban. So many people are saying that, 'If the U.S. troops left the country, would collapse. We'd go into civil war.' A palpable sense of fear that is making us start to reconsider that."
Scott Horton followed up with an interview of Medea.
Anything but everyone and everything out of the water pronto is neo-imperialist stooge? What's happening here is a long-overdue discussion that goes beyond "troops out now" for the peace movement. Does troops out now mean everything out now, even humanitarian aid? First, there is no such thing as "troops out now" because even a full withdrawal would take six months to a year, as there are logistics of troop transport, bringing back equipment or just leaving it and burning it (the military-industrial complex loves that one woo hoo! More contracts). You don't get 60,000 troops into a country overnight. You don't take them out overnight either.
We take a pre-bombed country, bombed because Ziggy Brzezinski couldn't wait to arm Islamic extremists to give the Russians "their own Vietnam", then bomb it some more then split. Nice! In the Seventies women were wearing mini-skirts in Kabul. Brzezinski and US policy fixed all that.
Leave them to work their own problems out now? With what? They are already starving, have nothing to grow but poppies, their irrigation and canal systems are still trashed with Russian bomb rubble because we haven't helped them clear it, and this winter if we just split thousands of more children will starve and freeze. Prosecute Brzezinski as a war criminal if we must, but these people don't know or care who made the mess. Only that they are starving, and someone is always bombing them. When will the world have pity on this country?
There is a solution. Get money to the poorest people in a way which "tunnels" through the corruption, so that they don't have to depend on the Taliban for the $8 a day they pay for insurgent work, and they will turn on the Taliban themselves. The Taliban is hated by most of the population as it ruled only by fear, not any popular consent.
We identified one functional ministry of the Karzai government which has done the work of building more than 25,000 community development councils (CDCs) which work with the villages and the elders on work projects which benefit the communities, not corrupt foreign contractors like Loius Berger or corrupt Afghan warlords. Details are in our White Paper "Stabilizing Afghanistan Through a Cash-for-Work Initiative." Read more.
Honduran Human Rights Defender Bertha Oliva to Come to the November Vigil to Close the SOA in Georgia
SOA's Hendrik Voss wrote:
Honduran Human Rights Defender Bertha Oliva to Come to the November Vigil to Close the SOA in Georgia
We just talked with Human Rights Defender Bertha Oliva from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. She is planning to come to the United States to stand with thousands and to speak out at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia during the November Vigil to close the SOA (November 10-22, 2009). She will bring the call for accountability and the anti-coup resistance to the place where the coup plotters received their training: the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC)!
Bertha wanted to relay her gratitude for all that people here are doing in solidarity with Honduras. We have kept her abreast of our efforts, and she senses the outpouring of solidarity, along with concrete actions.
She told us that, although she and everyone else are exhausted, and a few pounds lighter, that they are exhilarated at the energy and hope and spirit of the resistance movement. She feels so proud of her people at this moment.
I asked Bertha how we could be of help in addition to what we are doing. Her response was: Send concrete reports (photos, places, statements) about Honduran solidarity events that have taken place in the U.S. International solidarity is having a huge impact on Honduran society, and is putting pressure on the coup govt. By sending info about these expressions of solidarity throughout the U.S., you would make a huge contribution, according to Bertha. COFADEH's press team is very effective in getting things out widely there, as Father Roy and Lisa Sullivan have experienced in several visits, and they would get this info out. She mentioned several times that this would be very helpful.
By Dave Lindorff
The Democrats in Congress, and their main man Barack Obama in the White House, have taken tens of millions in legal bribes from the health insurance industry over the past year, and have obligingly been hammering out in Congress a health “reform” bill that, instead of helping people, has been designed to help the insurance industry.
They started out by immediately blackballing any discussion of real health reform in the form of an expansion of Medicare to cover everyone of every age, which of course would have ended the problem of the uninsured, while cutting the nation’s overall health bill by at least a third, but in the process shutting down the private health insurance business.
Then they chipped away and are at this point on the verge of eliminating any so-called “public option” or government-run health insurance plan to even compete with the private insurance sector.
The Bush administration is no more. But his legacy lives on in the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, massive joblessness, the trashed economy, the transfer of power to the Executive Branch. During Bush's tenure, the Justice Department also became politicized to an unprecedented degree.
One of the most visible among the hundreds of political prosecutions was former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. A Democrat and the only Alabamian to have served in all four of the top state elected positions, he was a choice target of Karl Rove. After several unsuccessful attempts, Gov. Siegelman was convicted of corruption and sentenced to prison. He is presently out as he awaits his appeal. Ninety-one former US Attorneys of both parties have asked President Obama, AG Holder and DOJ to reexamine Siegelman's case. Andrew Kreig, Roger Shuler, Scott Horton, and Glynn Wilson have done a stellar job covering the Siegelman case. [For more background information, a sampler of their articles can be found at the end of the second part of this interview.]
Tamarah Grimes was a paralegal working with the prosecution in the case against Don Siegelman. She contacted House Judiciary Committee Chairman Conyers and the DOJ about the prosecutorial misconduct of Alabama US Attorney Leura Canary and her team. For her pains, Grimes was chastised, intimidated, and ultimately fired, her reputation trashed. To add insult to injury, she was denied health insurance and they're trying to rescind her unemployment benefits.
This is particularly grievous for Grimes because she was the sole breadwinner in her household and her health insurance policy covered her disabled son. Grimes was terminated just eight days after sending a letter to AG Holder, laying out her concerns about the Siegelman case. Her firing will surely have a stifling effect on any other DOJ employees contemplating similar actions.
Unemployed and uninsured, she is on the brink of financial ruin. Tamarah may be bloodied but she is also unbowed. She seeks no one's pity. This is her story. Read more.
by Linda Milazzo
Our great buddy Mike is angry. For the past twenty years, Michael Moore, our everyday hero, has worked hard for us. He's documented sadistic acts against us by industry and government. He's exposed case after case of devious schemes that robbed us of our homes and our jobs, sent our children to war, and sacrificed our health. He's given us irrefutable proof that our leaders lied us to war, our insurers denied us care, and our lenders deceived us into hopelessness and destitution.
Mike's been our teacher, our ally and our devoted friend. Few people in recent memory have worked harder to inform us - ALL OF US - of the inhumanity and greed that are decaying our nation, which we perpetuate through apathy and inertia.
FRONT: See a PENNY, pick it up and...That's YOUR GOV'T Bail Out!
BACK: As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. ABRAHAM LINCOLN - Purportedly in a letter to Colonel William F. Elkins (21 November 1864)
The Senate last night passed an amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would require the Department of Defense to calculate how much the Pentagon pays companies that committed fraud.
The measure, added to a defense appropriations bill, also would make the Pentagon recommend how to penalize contractors that repeatedly cheated the government out of hundreds of millions of dollars....According to the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight, the three largest government contractors – Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman – all have a history riddled with fraud and other illegal behavior. Altogether, the three companies engaged in 109 instances of misconduct since 1995, and were fined $2.9 billion. How were they punished? In one year alone, the big-three pocketed $77 billion in government contracts in 2007. Read more.
WASHINGTON, October 2 – The Senate last night passed an amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would require the Department of Defense to calculate how much the Pentagon pays companies that committed fraud.
The measure, added to a defense appropriations bill, also would make the Pentagon recommend how to penalize contractors that repeatedly cheated the government out of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Sanders contrasted the sweeping scope of defense contractor fraud to misdeeds by a few employees of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. The ACORN workers were fired for what Sanders called “an outrageous and absurd discussion with actors.” The sledge-hammer response in the House of Representatives and the Senate was to cut off federal funds for ACORN.
By Dave Lindorff
Some years ago, my wife and I, together with our young daughter, took a circuitous summer train trip through France, Italy, Austria and Germany. The last leg was an overnight express from Berlin that deposited us at the Gare du Nord in Paris just at sunrise. Feeling washed out from the ride, we made our separate ways to the facilities. I was standing at the urinal with a bunch of other men, relieving myself, when I heard this awful groaning coming from a stall. The groaning grew louder and more painful sounding. Some guy was obviously having a terrible time with his bowels. The agony continued, to the point that we who were by now washing our hands at the sinks were looking at each other in puzzlement, wondering what was going on. I even wondered if someone should ask if the poor wretch if he needed help.
Alan Grayson, Bernie Sanders, Ron Paul and others keep hammering away at this whole Fed-secrecy issue, and every now and then we get some pretty interesting exchanges. Zero Hedge relates this one between Grayson and Fed counsel Scott Alvarez. It’s becoming abundantly clear that at some point we’re going to start to hear details about monstrous front-running operations involving the major banks on Wall Street. Read more.
Yet, while bending to Republican demands to speak out against a poor people’s group, Obama continued to resist the notion that powerful Republicans from the Bush administration deserved to be investigated for authorizing the use of torture against prisoners in the “war on terror.”
In recent days, the Washington Post, the New York Times and other major news outlets have recounted the “troubled” history of the poor people’s advocacy group ACORN, but left out the five-year anti-ACORN campaign led by White House adviser Karl Rove and other Republican operatives.
Dropped down the memory hole is the fact that ACORN was at the center of the so-called “prosecutor-gate” scandal, when the Bush administration pressured U.S. Attorneys to bring indictments over the grassroots group’s voter-registration drives and then fired some prosecutors who resisted what they viewed as a partisan strategy not supported by solid evidence.
The latest furor over ACORN was touched off by conservative filmmaker James E. O’Keefe III and a right-wing columnist who posed as a couple planning to buy a house for use as a brothel and getting advice from a few ACORN employees, rather than being turned away.
The pair filmed their meetings at ACORN offices with a hidden-camera, producing a video that brought to a fever pitch the long-simmering Republican war against ACORN. The video was trumpeted by Fox News and other right-wing news outlets, starting a stampede in the mainstream press and in Congress, where a majority of panicked Democrats joined the herd in approving legislation to strip ACORN of federal funds. Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
When the White House or Democrats in Congress talk about health care reform, and about wanting to preserve the central role of the private insurance industry in health care, it pays to look at just what it is that they they’re so anxious to preserve.