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Corporatism and Fascism


Corporatism and Fascism

If You Could Ask Tony Blair One Question...What Would You Ask Today?

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

Israel: Global NATO's 29th Member

Israel: Global NATO's 29th Member
By Rick Rozoff | Stop NATO | Blog site

"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." [11]

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." [1]

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.

Calif., Fla. Regulators Demand Insurers Drop Iran Investments

Calif., Fla. Regulators Demand Insurers Drop Iran Investments
By Daniel Hays | P&C National Underwriter

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.

Obama Confidant's Spine-Chilling Proposal

Obama confidant's spine-chilling proposal
By Glenn Greenwald | Salon

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.

Easily Hacked Diebold Systems to Decide 'Toss-Up' U.S. Senate Special Election in MA on Tuesday

Easily Hacked Diebold Systems to Decide 'Toss-Up' U.S. Senate Special Election in MA on Tuesday
By Brad Friedman | Brad Blog

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.

War Dealer

War Dealer
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

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.

POOF!

The Election of Barack Obama.

Xe Services (Blackwater) Killers' Story Doesn't Add Up

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

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 Street’s bonus money could rebuild Haiti.

Stop the Chamber; I Want to Get Off! Group to Expose Candidates Accepting Funds From Commerce Lobbyists


Stop the Chamber; I Want to Get Off! Group to Expose Candidates Accepting Funds From Commerce Lobbyists
By Meg White | Buzzflash News Analysis

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

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.

If You Could Ask Tony Blair One Question...


IF YOU COULD ASK TONY BLAIR ONE QUESTION...

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?"

SEND US AN EMAIL WITH YOUR QUESTION TO BLAIR.

Write "Blair question" in the message subject title and send your question to office@stopwar.org.uk

Democrats: You've Been Warned

Democrats: You've Been Warned
by Mike Stark | Daily Kos

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.

666 to 1: The U.S. Military, al-Qaeda, and a War of Futility

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.

U.S. Companies Join Race on Iraqi Oil Bonanza

U.S. Companies Join Race on Iraqi Oil Bonanza
By Timothy Williams | NY Times

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.

George W. Obama

George W. Obama
After his first year, Obama shows his true face
by Nat Hentoff | Common Dreams

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 Prepares Legislation to Ban Blackwater


Schakowsky Prepares Legislation to Ban Blackwater
By Jeremy Scahill | Rebel Reports

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


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.

Africom - Latest U.S. Bid to Recolonise Continent

Africom - Latest U.S. Bid to Recolonise Continent
By Tichaona Nhamoyebonde | All Africa

AFRICAN revolutionaries now have to sleep with one eye open because the United States of America is not stopping at anything in its bid to establish Africom, a highly-equipped US army that will be permanently resident in Africa to oversee the country's imperialist interests.

Towards the end of last year, the US government intensified its efforts to bring a permanent army to settle in Africa, dubbed the African Command (Africom) as a latest tool for the subtle recolonisation of Africa.

Just before end of last year, General William E. Garret, Commander US Army for Africa, met with defence attaches from all African embassies in Washington to lure them into selling the idea of an American army based in Africa to their governments.

Latest reports from the White House this January indicate that 75 percent of the army's establishment work has been done through a military unit based in Stuttgart, Germany, and that what is left is to get an African country to host the army and get things moving. Read more.

Killer Obama, Dr. King, and the Triple Evils

Killer Obama, Dr. King, and the Triple Evils
by Paul Street | Black Agenda Report

“He’s a Killer”

“Peace prize? He's a killer."

Thus spoke a young Pashtun man to an Al Jazeera English reporter on December 10, 2009 - the day that Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize.
"Obama,” the man added, “has only brought war to our country.”

The man spoke from the village of Armal, where a crowd of 100 gathered around the bodies of 12 people, one family from a single home. The 12 were killed, witnesses reported, by U.S. Special Forces during a late night raid.

"Why are they giving Obama a peace medal?" another village resident asked. "He claims to want to bring security to us but he brings only death. Death to him"

Al Jazeera went to the Afghan village of Bola Boluk, where a U.S. bombing butchered dozens of civilians last spring. "He doesn't deserve the award," a young woman said. "He bombed us and left us with nothing, not even a home"[1]

Obama blasted her village last May. In the first week of that month, the president’s air-strikes killed more than 140 civilians in Bola Boluk, located in western Afghanistan's Farah Province. Ninety-three of the dead villagers torn apart by U.S. explosives were children. Just 22 were males 18 years or older. As the New York Times reported:

"In a phone call played on a loudspeaker on Wednesday to outraged members of the Afghan Parliament," The New York Times reported, "the governor of Farah Province...said that as many as 130 civilians had been killed." According to one Afghan legislator and eyewitness, "the villagers bought two tractor trailers full of pieces of human bodies to his office to prove the casualties that had occurred. Everyone at the governor's cried, watching that shocking scene."[2]

“Ninety-three of the dead villagers torn apart by U.S. explosives were children.” Read more.

Big Tobacco Still At It

Tobacco Company Helped Shape European Policy System Favoring Corporate Profits Over Public Health, Study Finds

ScienceDaily (Jan. 12, 2010) — British American Tobacco (BAT), the world's second largest tobacco transnational, strategically influenced the European Union's framework for evaluating policy options, leading to the acceptance of an agenda which emphasizes business interests over public health, according to a study published in PLoS Medicine.

SEC Suit: Bank of America Failed To Disclose ’Staggering Financial Losses’ To Shareholders

SEC suit: Bank of America failed to disclose ’staggering financial losses’ to shareholders
By Associate Press | Raw Story

Federal regulators sued Bank of America Corp. on Tuesday, accusing the company of failing to disclose "staggering financial losses" at Merrill Lynch before shareholders approved a combination of the companies.

The lawsuit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission in U.S. District Court in Manhattan sought an order requiring Bank of America to pay a civil penalty for not telling shareholders it was losing $15.3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Bank of America spokesman Robert Stickler called the charges "totally without merit."

He said the company believes it provided sufficient and appropriate disclosure to shareholders prior to their vote approving the combination.

"We look forward to presenting the facts in court," Stickler said. "What we would note is that there were no charges against individuals and no charges of fraud. We were pleased with that." Read more.

Health Insurers Secretly Funded $10-$20 Million In Attack Ads

Health insurers secretly funded $10-$20 million in attack ads
By John Byrne | Raw Story

Seen one of those TV ads attacking healthcare reform?

Chances are, it may have been paid for by a health insurance company funneling money through the US Chamber of Commerce -- who then funneled it to one of two front groups it created specifically aimed at derailing or watering down the Democrats' healthcare reform bill.

According to National Journal veteran investigative correspondent Peter Stone, some $10 to $20 million of health insurer money was funneled into the Chamber of Commerce, which then doled it out to its anti-healthcare groups, Campaign for Responsible Health Reform and Employers for a Healthy Economy.

The insurers who contributed to the anti-reform effort purportedly were: Aetna, Cigna, Humana, Kaiser Foundation Health Plans, UnitedHealth Group and Wellpoint.

Each insurer reportedly gave at least $1 million to the campaign, with some insurers contributions totaling in the multi-millions. Read more.

Body Scanners Can Store, Send Images, Group Says


Body scanners can store, send images, group says
By Jeanne Meserve and Mike M. Ahlers | CNN

A privacy group says the Transportation Security Administration is misleading the public with claims that full-body scanners at airports cannot store or send their graphic images.

The TSA specified in 2008 documents that the machines must have image storage and sending abilities, the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) said.

In the documents, obtained by the privacy group and provided to CNN, the TSA specifies that the body scanners it purchases must have the ability to store and send images when in "test mode."

That requirement leaves open the possibility the machines -- which can see beneath people's clothing -- can be abused by TSA insiders and hacked by outsiders, said EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg.

EPIC, a public-interest group focused on privacy and civil rights, obtained the technical specifications and vendor contracts through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

The written requirements also appear to contradict numerous assurances the TSA has given the public about the machines' privacy protections. Read more.

Greedwashing on Wall Street

Greedwashing on Wall Street
By Mary Bottari | Bankster USA

All eyes are on Wall Street this week as the big banks get ready to report their earnings and bonuses. Rebounding banks are preparing to pay out bonuses that rival those of the pre-crisis boom years.

During the first nine months of 2009, five of the largest banks that received federal aid — Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley — together set aside about $90 billion for compensation.

To avoid pitchforks and public outrage most banks are tamping down on the cash payouts and beefing up long-term stock options. One bank is taking an even more novel approach, dare we call it, greedwashing?

Goldman Sachs is coming off one of its most profitable years in its 141-year history. This profitability was made possible through extraordinary government interventions. Goldman was given $10 billion in TARP funds, repaid with interest, but that was just the beginning. After the $182 billion taxpayer bailout of bankrupt AIG, Goldman received $12.9 billion without having to take a discount. This was due directly to the intervention of the New York Fed, headed by Tim Geithner. The continuing drip, drip, drip of revelations of this deal threatens Geithner’s tenure as the Treasury Secretary. The Fed also allowed the investment firm to reorganize as a bank holding company giving their investors the backing of FDIC insurance and access to the Fed’s discount window. Now Goldman can borrow at very low interest rates and lend at 10 percent or more. Even worse, it continues to act like an investment bank, but now its risky moves are backed by the American taxpayer.

As Goldman gets ready to announce bonuses, anticipated to be worth around $595,000 per employee, the press team at Goldman Sachs has been working overtime to come up with clever ideas on how to defray public anger at firm. Remember when they announced their plan to mentor and loan to small businesses? Now they are thinking of creating a rule that would require all their top employees to engage in charitable giving. Read more.

Obama Received $20 Million From Healthcare Industry In 2008 Campaign

Obama received $20 million from healthcare industry in 2008 campaign
By Brad Jacobson | Raw Story

Almost three times the amount given to McCain

While some sunlight has been shed on the hefty sums shoveled into congressional campaign coffers in an effort to influence the Democrats' massive healthcare bill, little attention has been focused on the far larger sums received by President Barack Obama while he was a candidate in 2008.

A new figure, based on an exclusive analysis created for Raw Story by the Center for Responsive Politics, shows that President Obama received a staggering $20,175,303 from the healthcare industry during the 2008 election cycle, nearly three times the amount of his presidential rival John McCain. McCain took in $7,758,289, the Center found. Read more.

Kucinich to Introduce “Responsible Bankers Act”

Kucinich to Introduce “Responsible Bankers Act” | Press Release

Washington D.C. (January 12, 2010) – Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today introduced legislation to impose a 75% tax on the extraordinary bonuses that bankers are planning to pay themselves using windfall profits earned from massive taxpayer support of the financial services industry. The “Responsible Bankers Act” will not penalize banks for making a profit, but rather will tax the bonus pools that are set aside.

This is the follow up to announcement made by Kucinich on December 10, 2009.

Kucinich, who has been a leading critic of the government’s unlimited support to Wall Street, remarked; “Bankers are preparing to pay themselves record bonuses rather than lending and investing in American economic prosperity. They could use their profits to do many things to improve the prospects of economic recovery, like strengthen their capital base, reduce fees charged to customers, or increase lending to small and medium sized-companies.

“Bankers’ failures to self-regulate, let us remember, were the direct cause of the crisis we are in today; they need to be told that the money they are making is a public trust, not something they have earned for good behavior.”

Other bills being discussed fall short of the Kucinich measure, which taxes all banker bonuses whether the bank has received or repaid TARP funds or not. “The aim of federal policy is to give banks the opportunity to clean up the mess they have created,” Mr. Kucinich said today, “but bank executives still don’t get it. They think the profits they are making are for themselves.”

The Responsible Bankers Act has already received the early endorsement of Public Citizen, a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971.

Behind the Veils of Power: Hope for Progressives


Behind the Veils of Power: Hope for Progressives
By Bernard Weiner, Co-Editor | The Crisis Papers | January 12, 2010

Pundits of all stripes are calling this past decade a thoroughgoing disaster, one of the worst in our nation's history. True, but there's another way of evaluating the CheneyBush era.

Sure, lots of horrific things happened in the years between 2000 and 2010: a massive terrorist attack, our country lied into a disastrous war in Iraq, the Administration colluding with corporations in looting the treasury and polluting the air and water, a great recession brought into being at least partially by refusing to enforce oversight regulations on financial institutions, eight years lost in the fight against global warming. Yes, all those things, and many more dark episodes, including the strengthening of a kind of native fascism, happened during the CheneyBush era.

But those shameful ashes of the past eight years can, Phoenix-like, also yield a momentous rebirth of American democracy, a more rational foreign policy, and economic justice. What leads me to this contrarian conclusion?

The essence of my guarded optimism rests on the Removal of the Veils.

THE RARE MOMENTS OF REVELATION

Stick with me here. Most of the time, governmental corruption, moral and ethical lapses, wrongheaded economic and foreign/military policies take place in secret, hidden behind the veils designed to keep the truth of what's really going on from the public. But once every 10 or 20 years, at least in America, the veils part a bit and we can see the scarefying reality of how our government really work: the Army/McCarthy hearings in the 1950s, Watergate and the Pentagon Papers in the early-1970s, Iran-Contra in the early-1980s, and the CheneyBush era of the past eight years.

Suddenly, the citizenry is permitted at least a long, partial glance at the true corporatist/extremist forces at work in our society. The pictures are not pretty. Historically, out of those revelations comes anger, activism, at least some reforms and, at least for a while, a new and often better crop of politicians. The GOP found out about that pattern in 2006 and 2008, when their misrule led to Democratic majorities. Now Obama's the object of anger. There is major anti-Administration activism coming from both the Left and the Right, including even a budding Know-Nothing party or faction forming on the tea-bagging extreme -- all signs that indicate the presence of major seismic activity under the tectonic plates of the American political process.

Let's use America's foreign/military policy as our first demonstration model for this Removal of the Veils:

Rally at White House: "Witness Against Torture"

On Monday, Jan. 11, 2010, a demonstration, “Witness Against Torture; Rally for Justice,” was held in front of the White House. Its purpose was to demand that President Barack Obama keep his campaign promises to close Guantanamo prison and to end torture. The Human Rights activists also oppose “any plans for holding prisoners without charge or trial in the U.S: and denounce the White House’s expansion of [Bush-Cheney Gang]-style detention in Afghanistan,” according to their press release for the event.

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