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Corporatism and Fascism
Corporatism and Fascism
According to the NCIS, each prisoner had fashioned a noose from torn sheets and T-shirts and tied it to the top of his cell’s eight-foot-high steel-mesh wall. Each prisoner was able somehow to bind his own hands, and, in at least one case, his own feet, then stuff more rags deep down into his own throat. We are then asked to believe that each prisoner, even as he was choking on those rags, climbed up on his washbasin, slipped his head through the noose, tightened it, and leapt from the washbasin to hang until he asphyxiated. The NCIS report also proposes that the three prisoners, who were held in non-adjoining cells, carried out each of these actions almost simultaneously.
When President Barack Obama took office last year, he promised to “restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great.” Toward that end, the president issued an executive order declaring that the extra-constitutional prison camp at Guantánamo “shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order.” Obama has failed to fulfill his promise. Some prisoners are being charged with crimes, others released, but the date for closing the camp seems to recede steadily into the future. Furthermore, new evidence now emerging may entangle Obama’s young administration with crimes that occurred during the Bush presidency, evidence that suggests the current administration failed to investigate seriously—and may even have continued—a cover-up of the possible homicides of three prisoners at Guantánamo in 2006.
Late in the evening on June 9 that year, three prisoners at Guantánamo died suddenly and violently. Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, from Yemen, was thirty-seven. Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, from Saudi Arabia, was thirty. Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, also from Saudi Arabia, was twenty-two, and had been imprisoned at Guantánamo since he was captured at the age of seventeen. None of the men had been charged with a crime, though all three had been engaged in hunger strikes to protest the conditions of their imprisonment. They were being held in a cell block, known as Alpha Block, reserved for particularly troublesome or high-value prisoners.
As news of the deaths emerged the following day, the camp quickly went into lockdown. The authorities ordered nearly all the reporters at Guantánamo to leave and those en route to turn back. The commander at Guantánamo, Rear Admiral Harry Harris, then declared the deaths “suicides.” In an unusual move, he also used the announcement to attack the dead men. “I believe this was not an act of desperation,” he said, “but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.” Reporters accepted the official account, and even lawyers for the prisoners appeared to believe that they had killed themselves. Only the prisoners’ families in Saudi Arabia and Yemen rejected the notion. Read more.
Excerpts: ...They are attempts to lie about some of the worst crimes committed by a president and vice-president of the United States in history. Anyone with their eyes open and their mind not closed knows this somewhere deep inside. And the only reason we do not know more about this is because of the criminal cover-up under the Bush administration and the enraging refusal of the Obama administration to do the right thing and open all of it to sunlight....
Many branches of government must have been involved in such an act of torture or negligence or both, and the subsequent cover-up - from the FBI, the Justice Department, the State Department, the Pentagon and the CIA, and JSOC. The cover-up appears to have been continued by the Obama administration - a staggering surrender to pragmatism that is in fact a cooptation of evil....
Among those who need to be subpoenaed are the former president and vice-president of the United States. Read more.
US Security Company Offers to Perform "High Threat Terminations" and to Confront "Worker Unrest" in Haiti
US Security Company Offers to Perform "High Threat Terminations" and to Confront "Worker Unrest" in Haiti
Here we go: New Orleans 2.0
By Jeremy Scahill | Rebel Reports
We saw this type of Iraq-style disaster profiteering in New Orleans and you can expect to see a lot more of this in Haiti over the coming days, weeks and months. Private security companies are seeing big dollar signs in Haiti thanks in no small part to the media hype about “looters.” After Katrina, the number of private security companies registered (and unregistered) multiplied overnight. Banks, wealthy individuals, the US government all hired private security. I even encountered Israeli mercenaries operating an armed check-point outside of an elite gated community in New Orleans. They worked for a company called Instinctive Shooting International. (That is not a joke).
Now, it is kicking into full gear in Haiti. As we know, the member companies of the Orwellian-named mercenary trade association, the International Peace Operations Association, are offering their services in Haiti. But look for more stories like this one:
On January 15, a Florida based company called All Pro Legal Investigations registered the URL Haiti-Security.com. It is basically a copy of the company’s existing US website but is now targeted for business in Haiti, claiming the “purpose of this site is to act as a clearinghouse for information seekers on the state of security in Haiti.” Read more.
Between Hope and Despair: Martin Luther King, Barack Obama and War
By Medea Benjamin | AlterNet
Obama gave us hope when he promised global cooperation, re-engagement with the Muslim world and respect for international law. But his actions speak another language.
The Washington DC memorial to Martin Luther King, located on the Tidal Basin between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, was supposed to be completed by now. President Clinton authorized the memorial in 1996; President Bush appeared at a groundbreaking ceremony in 2006, as did Senator Barack Obama. But the memorial, designed with a massive statue of King and two huge rocks representing the Mountain of Despair and the Stone of Hope, was left hovering in legal and bureaucratic limbo for a dozen years.
In the meantime, Senator Obama became President Obama. And in the course of one year, those who thought President Obama would move our nation closer towards Dr. King's vision find themselves tottering, like King's memorial, between hope and despair.
Obama certainly gave the world hope when he spoke of the importance of diplomacy, global cooperation, re-engaging with the Muslim world and respecting international law.
But his actions speak another language. He promised to end torture and close Guantanamo but extraordinary renditions continue, Guantanamo is still open, and the Bagram prison in Afghanistan is still filled with over 600 prisoners who have been held indefinitely -- some for six years -- with no charges and no trials. Read more.
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.
In her book, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism," Naomi Klein explores the myth of free market democracy, explaining how neoliberalism dominates the world with America its main exponent exploiting security threats, terror attacks, economic meltdowns, competing ideologies, tectonic political or economic shifts, and natural disasters to impose its will everywhere.
As a result, wars are waged, social services cut, public ones privatized, and freedom sacrificed when people are too distracted, cowed or in duress to object. Disaster capitalism is triumphant everywhere from post-Soviet Russia to post-apartheid South Africa, occupied Iraq and Afghanistan, Honduras before and after the US-instigated coup, post-tsunami Sri Lanka and Aceh, Indonesia, New Orleans post-Katrina, and now heading to Haiti full-throttle after its greatest ever catastrophe. The same scheme always repeats, exploiting people for profits, the prevailing neoliberal idea that "there is no alternative" so grab all you can.
On Her web site, Klein headlines a "Haiti Disaster Capitalism Alert: Stop Them Before They Shock Again," then quotes the extremist Heritage Foundation saying:
"In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the US response to the tragic Haiti earthquake offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti's long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region."
Heritage notes "Things to Remember While Helping Haiti," itemized briefly below:
- be bold and decisive;
- mobilize US civilian and military capabilities "for short-term rescue and relief and long-term recovery and reform;"
- US military forces should play an active role interdicting "cocaine to Haiti and Dominican Republic from the Venezuelan coast and counter ongoing efforts of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to destabilize the island of Hispaniola;"
- US Coast Guard vessels should stop Haitians from trying "to enter the US illegally;"
- Congress should authorize "assistance, trade and reconstruction efforts;" and
- US diplomacy should "counter the negative propaganda certain to emanate from the Castro-Chavez camp (to) demonstrate that the US's involvement in the Caribbean remains a powerful force for good in the Americas and around the globe."
U.S. Military Weapons Inscribed With Secret 'Jesus' Bible Codes
Pentagon Supplier for Rifle Sights Says It Has 'Always' Added New Testament References
By Joseph Rhee, Tahman Bradley and Brian Ross | ABC News
Coded references to New Testament Bible passages about Jesus Christ are inscribed on high-powered rifle sights provided to the United States military by a Michigan company, an ABC News investigation has found.
The sights are used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the training of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers. The maker of the sights, Trijicon, has a $660 million multi-year contract to provide up to 800,000 sights to the Marine Corps, and additional contracts to provide sights to the U.S. Army.
U.S. military rules specifically prohibit the proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan and were drawn up in order to prevent criticism that the U.S. was embarked on a religious "Crusade" in its war against al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents....
"This is probably the best example of violation of the separation of church and state in this country," said [Mikey] Weinstein [of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation]. "It's literally pushing fundamentalist Christianity at the point of a gun against the people that we're fighting. We're emboldening an enemy." Read more, view slideshow of more Bible inscriptions on US military weapons.
At least one suspected U.S. drone fired on a house in Pakistan's volatile tribal region Sunday, killing 20 people in the 11th such attack since militants in the area orchestrated a deadly suicide bombing against the CIA in Afghanistan, intelligence officials said.
Four missiles slammed into the house in the Shaktoi area of South Waziristan, the same region where a drone strike Thursday targeted a meeting of militant commanders in an apparently unsuccessful attempt to kill Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud.
The militant leader helped organize the Dec. 30 attack against a remote CIA base in Afghanistan's Khost province that killed seven of the agency's employees and appeared in a video alongside the Jordanian man who carried out the bombing.
Analysts suspect the Haqqani network, an al-Qaida-linked Afghan Taliban faction based in North Waziristan, also helped carry out the CIA attack, the worst against the spy agency in decades.
Since the bombing, the U.S. has carried out eleven suspected drone strikes in North and South Waziristan, an unprecedented volley of attacks since the CIA-led program began in earnest in Pakistan two years ago.
The house targeted in Sunday's attack was being used by Usman Jan, the head of the al-Qaida-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, intelligence officials said. Five Uzbeks were killed in the strike, but it was unclear if Jan was among them. Jan's predecessor, Tahir Yuldash, was also killed in a drone strike in South Waziristan last year.
The other 15 people killed in Sunday's strike were Pakistani Taliban, said the officials. Read more.
Oil giant Shell and Malaysia's state-run Petronas oil company finalised a contract on Sunday to develop Iraq's giant Majnoon oil field.
In December Shell and Petronas beat a rival bid from France's Total and China's CNPC to develop the 12.6bn barrel field in southern Iraq.
The field currently produces just 46,000 barrels per day.
Shell and Petronas have pledged to increase that output to 1.8 million barrels per day. Read more.
If you shared my pain you would not continue to make me suffer, to torture me, to deny me my dignity and my rights, especially my rights to self-determination and self-expression.
Six years ago you sent your Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to perform an action illegal under the laws of your country, my country and of the international community of nations.
It was an act so outrageous, so bestially vile and wicked that your journalists and news agencies, your diplomats and politicians to this day cannot bring themselves to truthfully describe or own up to the crime that was committed when US Ambassador James Foley, a career diplomat, arrived at the house of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide with a bunch of CIA thugs and US Marines to kidnap the president of Haiti and his wife.
The Aristides were stowed aboard a CIA plane normally used for 'renditions' of suspected terrorists to the worldwide US gulag of dungeons and torture chambers.
The plane, on which the Aristides are listed as "cargo", flew to Antigua - an hour away - and remained on the ground in Antigua while Colin Powell's State Department and the CIA tried to blackmail and bribe various African countries to accept ("give asylum to") the kidnapped president and his wife. Read more.
NATO: US Troops Shot Civilian Protesters in Afghanistan’s Garmsir District
Shootings Came at Protest Against Shooting of Civilians the Day Before
by Jason Ditz | AntiWar.com
In the second NATO shooting incident in a little over 24 hours in the Garmsir District of Afghanistan’s restive Helmand Province, US troops opened fire on a crowd of civilian protesters on Wednesday, wounding five.
NATO explained that US Marines went out to direct an anti-NATO protest in Garmsir and when the “civilians in the crowd disregarded instructions,” the troops opened fire on the crowd. US Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale shrugged off the civilian casualties, insisting “things like this happen.”
Ironically the civilians at the Wednesday rally, estimated at between 200 and 400 strong by the NATO forces, were protesting against a Tuesday incident, in which NATO forces opened fire on civilians at a Tuesday protest, killing 13 people and wounding several others. Read more.
THE PEOPLE'S DOSSIER VERSUS THE DODGY DOSSIER | Stop The War | Press Release
Have you submitted your question to Tony Blair for the People's Dossier, which Stop the War will be presenting to the Iraq Inquiry? Hundreds of questions have been sent in, including contributions from Hans von Sponeck, the former UN coordinater in Iraq, musician Brian Eno and a number of military families.
Sami Ramadani, from Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation, has sent in this question:
Mr Blair, you have often said that you "strongly believed" you were doing "the right thing" when you sent British troops to invade and occupy Iraq. Considering that Hitler and other war criminals strongly believed that what they were doing was right, do you think that strongly believing in something makes it right, or pardonable if it proved to be terribly wrong?
Last week Alistair Campbell told the Iraq Inquiry he defends "every single word" of the dossier presented to parliament in September 2002. Blair wrote in the forward that it showed "beyond doubt" that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, when both he and Campbell knew full well that the intelligence had not produced any evidence that they existed.
The second "dodgy" dossier" published in February 2003 was an even more blatant fabrication intended to justify war crimes.
If you haven't sent in your question yet, please do so now. Blair will be appearing at the Iraq Inquiry within the next three weeks and we want the People's Dossier to be representative of everyone who protested in such vast numbers against his warmongering under the slogan "not in our name".
HOW TO SEND YOUR QUESTION
"Whereas Israel's geopolitical location could offer an 'external base' for the defence of the West, NATO's military and economic status could provide added security and economic benefits for the host state.
"In a rapidly changing strategic environment, Israeli policy makers are recognising definite advantages, especially in security affairs, in developing closer ties with NATO. The present Israeli government's enthusiasm for this project can be seen in an ambitious set of proposals submitted to the Alliance," which included "joint military training [and] future joint development of weapons systems." 
As the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is pressuring its 28 member states and dozens of partnership affiliates on five continents to contribute more troops for the war in Afghanistan, the Jerusalem Post reported on January 13 that "Israel is launching a diplomatic initiative in an effort to influence the outcome of NATO's new Strategic Concept which is currently under review by a team of experts led by former United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright." 
NATO is crafting its updated Strategic Concept to replace that last formulated in 1999, the year of the military bloc's expansion into Eastern Europe and its first full-fledged war, the 78-day bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.
Madeleine Albright, arguably the individual most publicly identified with orchestrating both NATO's absorption of three former Warsaw Pact members, including her native Czech Republic, and in launching Operation Allied Force, co-chairs NATO's Group of Experts with Jeroen van der Veer, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell until June of 2009.
California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner said an inquiry has revealed state insurers hold $12 billion in indirect Iran-related investments and he will push them to divest, leading another regulator to say Poizner’s effort should go national.
“I have consulted with other state insurance commissioners to evaluate the practicality of developing a national initiative similar to the undertaking by the California Department of Insurance,” said Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty....
He [Poizner] added, "Iran's ambition to dominate the region under a nuclear umbrella is a very serious threat to this country and to people all over the world. It's just wrong for consumers here in California to find out that their hard-earned money that they pay in insurance premiums are propping up the regime in Iran. We need to do whatever it takes to put maximum pressure on Iran to change its behavior."...
According to the California insurance department total indirect Investments reported by Insurance Companies broken down by sector are: banking $6,150 million; defense, $40 million; energy, $3,994 million; nuclear, $147 million; unclassified, $1,803 million. Read more.
Cass Sunstein has long been one of Barack Obama's closest confidants. Often mentioned as a likely Obama nominee to the Supreme Court, Sunstein is currently Obama's head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs where, among other things, he is responsible for "overseeing policies relating to privacy, information quality, and statistical programs." In 2008, while at Harvard Law School, Sunstein co-wrote a truly pernicious paper proposing that the U.S. Government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-"independent" advocates to "cognitively infiltrate" online groups and websites -- as well as other activist groups -- which advocate views that Sunstein deems "false conspiracy theories" about the Government. This would be designed to increase citizens' faith in government officials and undermine the credibility of conspiracists. The paper's abstract can be read, and the full paper downloaded, here.
Sunstein advocates that the Government's stealth infiltration should be accomplished by sending covert agents into "chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups." He also proposes that the Government make secret payments to so-called "independent" credible voices to bolster the Government's messaging (on the ground that those who don't believe government sources will be more inclined to listen to those who appear independent while secretly acting on behalf of the Government). This program would target those advocating false "conspiracy theories," which they define to mean: "an attempt to explain an event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role." Sunstein's 2008 paper was flagged by this blogger, and then amplified in an excellent report by Raw Story's Daniel Tencer.
There's no evidence that the Obama administration has actually implemented a program exactly of the type advocated by Sunstein, though in light of this paper and the fact that Sunstein's position would include exactly such policies, that question certainly ought to be asked. Regardless, Sunstein's closeness to the President, as well as the highly influential position he occupies, merits an examination of the mentality behind what he wrote. This isn't an instance where some government official wrote a bizarre paper in college 30 years ago about matters unrelated to his official powers; this was written 18 months ago, at a time when the ascendancy of Sunstein's close friend to the Presidency looked likely, in exactly the area he now oversees. Additionally, the government-controlled messaging that Sunstein desires has been a prominent feature of U.S. Government actions over the last decade, including in some recently revealed practices of the current administration, and the mindset in which it is grounded explains a great deal about our political class. All of that makes Sunstein's paper worth examining in greater detail. Read more.
Since writing today's piece for Upstate New York's right-leaning Gouverneur Times, a new poll has come out this morning showing the Republican Scott Brown now leading the Democrat Martha Coakley by 4 points in the race for the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by a Democrat named Kennedy for nearly 60 years.
As of last night, when I filed the story with them, the latest survey from a Democratic-leaning pollster showed Coakley up by 8, though a day or two earlier, Republican Rasmussen had Brown down only by 2 points.
Suffice to say it's now officially "a toss-up," at least according to the Rothenberg Political Report, and to all the Dems and Reps now sweating out what was previously thought to have been an easy Democratic win.
With the 60th "filibuster-proof" Senate seat now hanging precariously in the balance, I'm sure you'll be delighted to hear that the winner will now be whoever Diebold declares it to be. The near-entirety of the state will vote next Tuesday on paper ballots to be counted by Diebold op-scan systems. The same ones used dubiously in the New Hampshire Primary in 2008, and the same ones notoriously hacked --- resulting in a flipped mock election --- in HBO's Emmy-nominated Hacking Democracy. Read more.
By Missy Comley Beattie
Barack Obama’s aides assert that the president wants to be the anti-Bush and that’s why, after the bomb-in-the-briefs incident, he said, “The buck stops with me.” This would be a departure from W whose eight years were marked by no apologies. Bush did, however, finally say he regretted standing in front of a “Mission Impossible” sign in 2003. Note his glaring parapraxia. The sign, in fact, was emblazoned “Mission Accomplished.”
It’s one thing though for Obama to express remorse and another to act on this compunction. Especially when one year after his swearing in, he has kept the campaign promise we in the peace movement hoped he’d denounce—continuing and escalating what he calls the “right war” in Afghanistan.
Seems there’s a statute of limitations on most pledges advanced on the campaign trail.
According to Wikipedia, passing the buck probably had its origin with the game of poker during frontier days. A knife with a buckhorn handle was used to indicate who dealt the cards. If a player didn’t want to deal, he could pass the knife to the next person.
Most of us know that President Harry Truman famously said, “The buck stops here.” A sign of the phrase, on his desk in the Oval Office, was a reminder that he would accept the consequences of his decisions. One wonders if he ever came to regret the choice resulting in his comment quoted in the August 7, 1945 edition of The New York Times: “We have spent two billion dollars on the greatest scientific gamble in history and won.”
Truman’s “scientific gamble” killed more than 200,000 people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Most died from flash burns, but in the following months, many people suffered agonizing deaths from radiation sickness. Years later, there were more deaths from leukemia and other cancers related to irradiation. In both cities, most of the casualties were civilians.
Obama Dictates Ominous Consolidation of War Powers
by Bryce Shonka
During the Bush years, unprecedented numbers of Americans poured into the streets, oftentimes ignored by establishment media, to protest the Iraq War. Some of those were not so much anti-war, but rather pro-constitution- people who recognized the fraudulent nature of the Bush's war and total lack of congressional oversight.
As more time passed and the Middle East body count moved into the millions, even more Americans joined the anti-war effort, motivated by revelations of no-bid/cost-plus Federal contracts and carnage by taxpayer funded mercenaries. 9/11 mania faded and ethical concerns about the nature of preemptive strikes replaced it.
When W was elected for a second term the war resistance REALLY heated up, with large numbers of demonstrators continuing to gather until.
The Election of Barack Obama.
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.
GIVE ALL THE BANK BONUS MONEY TO HAITI
Necessity and Justice demands it!
A PETITION TO THE HEADS OF WALL STREET'S BIG BANKS:
John Mack of Morgan Stanley, Lloyd C. Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase, Brian Morgan of Bank of America, Robert H. Benmosche of AIG, and Piyush Gupta of Citibank
We call on the major banks to give all of the money that they have set aside for bonuses to the people of Haiti in their hour of desperate need. Justice and dire necessity demands that those who have profited while others have lost everything now bail out the people of Haiti.
Whatever the full amount of the money that the Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Citibank, and AIG have set aside for bonuses, that sum will easily be between 10 to 100 times the amount of the combined aid that the People of Haiti will receive from the entire world.
With that kind of money, still very small by comparison to the bail out money that the U.S. government has given to the big banks, the people of Haiti may actually have the possibility of recovering from the unimaginably devastating blow that has cause so much death, destruction and suffering. Wall Streets bonus money could rebuild Haiti.
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.
Can't Have Guns and Butter Anymore - Time to Speak Out
By Bruce Gagnon | Organizing Notes
We had about 70 people join us today at the Maine state capital in Augusta for our Bring our War $$ Home campaign kick-off news conference this morning. We had some key media turn out so our message will get out there across the state.
Just as I began typing this post my radio was tuned to Maine Public Radio and I heard a news spot about our protest. They quoted Lisa Savage saying that Mainers have paid $2.5 billion toward the wars in Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan since 2001.
Each of our speakers did a fine job of talking about the serious cuts facing education, health care, social programs and infrastructure across the state. Sadly up to this point those opposing the $438 million in education and social spending cuts in Maine's budget have called for tax increases to make up the difference. But the Democrat Governor John Baldacci has vowed to veto any tax increases and the state legislature has virtually discounted any tax increases. Thus no one across Maine has been talking about the real "elephant" in the middle of the room which is Pentagon spending and endless war. Today we broke that silence in our state.
Following our news conference a large group of us went to a legislative hearing room for a combined meeting of the state House and Senate Appropriations and Education Committees which are overseeing a massive slashing of programs. After a series of agency directors stood up and spelled out the cutbacks in their programs the floor was opened for public comments. At that point five of us from across the state got up one after the other and talked about the creation of our Bring Our War $$ Home campaign before the overflowing committee hearing room. Click "Read more" for more and photos.
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
Yesterday I spoke with Republican Rep. John Shadegg....You simply cannot have a mandate without a public option. The idea that people will have to turn over nearly 10% of their income to a private insurance company isn't something that is going to sink in until people start seeing it happen in real time. And then, when these insurance companies deny claims... well, the federal government (Democrats) will be seen as the accomplice and handmaiden to the private insurance rip-off industry.
With things so bad, I've begun to believe that Republicans must secretly be hoping this thing passes with as much of the Senate language intact as possible. That's what I asked about.
Shadegg confirmed my worst fears. Republicans can't wait to get started. Read more.
In 2001, George W. Bush declared the U.S. "at war" against al-Qaeda. Barack Obama also claims that we are "at war" and that al-Qaeda is our main enemy. In their latest collaboration, Nick Turse and Tom Engelhardt take this claim seriously by offering a comparison of the two militaries, the two enemies locked in mortal combat. The forces on both sides are assessed: al-Qaeda's shock troops in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and North Africa, based on the best intelligence estimates available, add up to about 2,100 fighters; the U.S. has approximately 1.4 million active duty men and women under arms. In other words, a ratio of forces that comes out to 666:1, which is either "the mark of the beast" or the mark of the single most futile military campaign in memory.
And that's only the beginning of the military comparisons in this piece, all of which point to a single conclusion: In the present War on Terror, called by whatever name (or, as at present, by no name at all), the two “sides” might as well be in different worlds. To call this "war" is like shooting a machine gun at a swarm of gnats. Some will be killed, but the process is visibly self-defeating.
Turse and Engelhardt conclude with a question: "Isn’t it time, then, to stop imagining al-Qaeda as a complex organization of terrorist supermen capable of committing super-deeds, or as an organization that bears any resemblance to a traditional enemy military force? With al-Qaeda, the path of war has undoubtedly been the road to perdition -- as we should have discovered by now, more than one trillion dollars later... It’s time to put al-Qaeda back in perspective -- a human perspective, which would include its stunning successes, its dismal failures, and its monumental goof-ups, as well as its unrealizable dreams. (No, Virginia, there will never be an al-Qaeda caliphate in or across the Greater Middle East.) The fact is: al-Qaeda is not an apocalyptic threat. Its partisans can cause damage, but only Americans can bring down this country."
666 to 1: The U.S. Military, al-Qaeda, and a War of Futility
By Nick Turse and Tom Engelhardt
In his book on World War II in the Pacific, War Without Mercy, John Dower tells an extraordinary tale about the changing American image of the Japanese fighting man. In the period before the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, it was well accepted in military and political circles that the Japanese were inferior fighters on the land, in the air, and at sea -- “little men,” in the phrase of the moment. It was a commonplace of “expert” opinion, for instance, that the Japanese had supposedly congenital nearsightedness and certain inner-ear defects, while lacking individualism, making it hard to show initiative. In battle, the result was poor pilots in Japanese-made (and so inferior) planes, who could not fly effectively at night or launch successful attacks.
In the wake of their precision assault on Pearl Harbor, their wiping out of U.S. air power in the Philippines in the first moments of the war, and a sweeping set of other victories, the Japanese suddenly went from “little men” to supermen in the American imagination (without ever passing through a human phase). They became “invincible” -- natural-born jungle- and night-fighters, as well as “utterly ruthless, utterly cruel and utterly blind to any of the values which make up our civilization.”
Sound familiar? It should. Following September 11, 2001, news headlines screamed “A NEW DAY OF INFAMY,” and the attacks were instantly labeled “the Pearl Harbor of the twenty-first century.” Soon enough, al-Qaeda, like the Japanese in 1941, went from a distant threat -- the Bush administration, on coming into office, paid next to no attention to al-Qaeda’s possible plans -- to a team of arch-villains with little short of superpowers. After all, they had already destroyed some of the mightiest buildings on the planet, were known to be on the verge of seizing weapons of mass destruction, and, if nothing was done, might soon enough turn the Muslim world into their “caliphate.” Read more.
A wave of American companies have been arriving in Iraq in recent months to pursue what is expected to be a multibillion-dollar bonanza of projects to revive the country’s stagnant petroleum industry, as Iraq seeks to establish itself as a rival to Saudi Arabia as the world’s top oil producer.
Since the 2003 American-led invasion, nearly all of the biggest reconstruction projects in Iraq have been controlled by the United States. But many rebuilding contracts are expected to be awarded as soon as this month for drilling hundreds of new wells, repairing thousands of miles of pipeline and building several giant floating oil terminals in the Persian Gulf, and possibly a new port.
The contracts will be administered either directly by the Iraqi government or as part of Baghdad’s oversight of international oil companies that have signed agreements during the past few months to develop the country’s most promising oil fields.
There are misgivings, however, about Iraq’s ability to adequately monitor contracts that could total $10 billion over the next five years. The concerns have been heightened by the prominent role expected to be played by American companies that have been criticized in the past by United States government auditors and inspectors for overcharging by hundreds of millions of dollars, performing shoddy work and failing to finish hundreds of crucial projects while under contract in Iraq. Read more.
Before President Obama, it was grimly accurate to write, as I often did in the Voice, that George W. Bush came into the presidency with no discernible background in constitutional civil liberties or any acquaintance with the Constitution itself. Accordingly, he turned the "war on terror" over to Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld-ardent believers that the Constitution presents grave obstacles in a time of global jihad.
But now, Bush's successor-who actually taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago-is continuing much of the Bush-Cheney parallel government and, in some cases, is going much further in disregarding our laws and the international treaties we've signed.
On January 22, 2009, the apostle of "change we can believe in" proclaimed: "Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of my presidency." But four months into his first year in command, Obama instructed his attorney general, Eric Holder, to present in a case, Jewel v. National Security Agency, a claim of presidential "sovereign immunity" that not even Dick Cheney had the arrant chutzpah to propose.
Five customers of AT&T had tried to go to court and charge that the government's omnipresent spy, the NSA, had been given by AT&T private information from their phone bills and e-mails. In a first, the Obama administration countered-says Kevin Bankston of Electronic Frontier Foundation, representing these citizens stripped of their privacy-that "the U.S. can never be sued for spying that violated federal surveillance statutes, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or the Wiretap Act."
It is one thing, as the Bush regime did, to spy on us without going to court for a warrant, but to maintain that the executive branch can never even be charged with wholly disregarding our rule of law is, as a number of lawyers said, "breathtaking." Read more.
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.
Ex-Qaeda man links motive to alleged U.S. abuse: report
Editing by Noah Barkin | Reuters
A former Guantanamo inmate who fled to Yemen to help lead an al Qaeda branch after his release says he was motivated by the memory of abuse he says he suffered in U.S. custody, the BBC reported on Wednesday.
Concern about Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has risen sharply since it claimed responsibility for a failed plot to blow up a U.S. passenger jet on December 25.
The group has several former Guantanamo detainees in its ranks, which are believed to number about 300.
The former Guantanamo detainee, a Saudi named Mohammed al-Awfi, said he had been tortured while in detention six years ago at the Bagram U.S. military base in Afghanistan before he was sent to Guantanamo, the BBC reported him as saying.
The memory of this abuse doomed efforts by Saudi officials to ensure he did not resume militant activities, he told the BBC in an interview in Saudi Arabia, where he has been in prison following his surrender to Yemeni and Saudi authorities in 2009.
"When I asked al-Awfi why the rehabilitation program had not worked for him, he said it was because the memories of what he had suffered at the hands of Americans were far more powerful than any corrective inducements he had received in the Care program," BBC journalist Peter Taylor wrote in an online report, referring to a Saudi deradicalization campaign aimed at former Guantanamo detainees.
"Al-Awfi claimed his U.S. interrogators had done terrible things to him. He alleges they sat him on a chair, made a hole in the seat, and then "pulled out the testicles from underneath which they then hit with a metal rod"," Taylor reported.
"They'd then tie up your penis and make you drink salty water in order to make you urinate without being able to do so, until they make you scream," Taylor quoted him as saying. Read more.