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Corporatism and Fascism
Corporatism and Fascism
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.
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.
“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"
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."
“Ninety-three of the dead villagers torn apart by U.S. explosives were children.” Read more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
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.
President Obama, the CIA and the Master of the Cover-Up
By Melvin A. Goodman | Truthout
The Obama administration quietly announced Friday the appointment of John McLaughlin, former deputy CIA director, to head the internal investigation of the intelligence failures that led to the Christmas Day attempted bombing of a Delta airliner headed for Detroit as well as the events leading to the shootings at Fort Hood in November.
With this appointment, President Barack Obama has assured that the culture of intelligence cover-up will continue. McLaughlin has participated in and sought to cover-up many of the CIA's most egregious failures and misdeeds of the past decade. When he left the CIA, he then served as the agency's chief apologist.
So, who is John McLaughlin? Most of official Washington and the mainstream media view McLaughlin as the mild-mannered, professorial CIA bureaucrat, who former CIA director George Tenet called the "smartest man he had ever met."
Few people understand, however, that McLaughlin played the most important role in making sure that the Bush administration received the intelligence that would be used and misused to justify the use of force against Iraq in 2003. Read more.
All You Need Is.....Truth!!
By Philip A. Farruggio
There are many insulting commercials to have to watch, especially lately. Bad enough to have to watch the yuppie couple with kids as they argue over cell phones. Or the idiots hawking the poison fast foods that dominate the airwaves. How about those $50K to $70K luxury cars and SUVs that flood the airwaves....As if 95% of us can ever afford one of them? Yet, to this writer, the most offensive of them all is the new "All You Need Is Love" song pitching.......credit cards! Whomever owns the rights to that Lennon/McCartney song should be ashamed of themselves for selling the rights to that classic song to a credit card bank! Welcome to 21st century capitalism. Everything and everyone is for sale. Now horse racing jockeys can wear advertisements on their pants. Boxers in the ring can hawk ads on their......bare backs! In Europe most of the major soccer leagues have the sponsors on the player’s jerseys. Here, in my so called provincial town of Port Orange, all the bus stop benches are replete with ads. One joker, an insurance agent, has his mug on at least 20 or more benches throughout town. For that reason alone, this writer would never patronize him!
Well, there is a group, a too small group here in Port Orange, that also advertises once a week on the same street corner for.......five plus years! The difference is that this group stands with signs not hawking products or businesses.
Professor John Yoo to Teach New “Secret Class” at UC Law School
Event: Protest Action and Press Conference
Where: UC Berkeley Law School, The Office of the Dean, #215 Boalt Hall
When: Tuesday, January 12 at 3:00 PM
BERKELEY– With anti-torture protest continuing to focus on the presence on the University of California faculty of former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo, UC officials have adopted a new tactic. Yoo will again teach spring semester at Berkeley Law (Boalt Hall) – but the location of his classroom is being kept secret from the public, and Yoo himself is unlikely to be physically present for the first night of his class Tuesday, January 12.
Yoo’s course is listed on Boalt’s schedule by day and time only, with location only as “To Be Announced.” Calls requesting the UC Registrar and Berkeley Law divulge the information are being rebuffed. Although Yoo formerly taught major courses including Constitutional Law, Separation of Powers, and Ethics, in the spotlight of controversy over his role as legal architect of the Bush-Cheney torture program Yoo has now been re-assigned to teach only a single course on the California constitution, to a class limited to 24 students, and has been given a co-teacher.
Protesters including the national organization World Can’t Wait have announced they will arrive at the office of the dean of Berkeley Law, Christopher Edley, Jr. earlier that afternoon, to ask for more information about UC’s new “secret classes” policy:
- What will be taught behind closed doors that needs to be kept secret?
- Is this a new policy behind which UC hides from public accountability?
“We continue to call for Yoo to be fired, disbarred, and prosecuted for war crimes, along with his entire cohort from the Bush-Cheney Torture Team,” said World Can’t Wait organizer Stephanie Tang today. “Torture is a war crime. Thousands have been tortured thanks to John Yoo’s work for the White House, long after Yoo himself returned to teaching. The faculty and students right here at UC – and all people of conscience everywhere -- need to denounce these crimes, not turn away in silent complicity.”
January 11, 2010 marks the 8th anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, now made infamous by revelations of torture and other inhumane, illegal treatment of detainees. Barack Obama’s inaugural promise to close Guantanamo had set an original deadline of January 22, 2010 – yet Guantanamo is still open, and a new Guantanamo is being prepared for opening at the Thomas Federal Correctional Facility in Illinois.
Join Us in DC to Stop the PATRIOT Act
Since 2001, the USA PATRIOT Act has enabled the US government to intrude on Americans' privacy and violate our fundamental constitutional rights. And since then, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee has helped lead the struggle for transparency, accountability, and the restoration of civil liberties and the rule of law. That struggle continues in 2010, and we invite you to raise your voice in Washington.
With three provisions of the PATRIOT Act set to expire at the end of 2009, the House and Senate rejected a proposal, the JUSTICE Act, that would have added long overdue civil liberties protections to the many controversial provisions of the PATRIOT Act. Other competing bills simply renewed the provisions without consideration for their significant toll on the rights and freedoms of law-abiding Americans.
Instead of passing any of these bills, Congress voted late last month to renew the expiring provisions for 60 days. Now, with calls emerging to demand even more power to monitor and spy on Americans of all walks of life, we must demand that Congress uphold our Constitution and protect our rights. As the Constitution once again finds itself with few allies in Washington, Congress is about to resuscitate a cornerstone of the domestic surveillance regime and shred what little remains of constitutional privacy.
For almost the entirety of the health care debate, the Obama Administration has relied on economist Jonathan Gruber to make the public case for its idea of reform - even the most unpopular parts. But as Firedoglake revealed on Friday, the Obama Administration has failed to disclose that it paid the same economist more than $780,000.
Jonathan Gruber's work has been cited by the White House, Members of Congress, and countless media outlets, but not once did the Obama Administration disclose it was paying him more than $780,000 in tax dollars. This is a huge ethical violation that undermines the entirety of health care reform.
Once we broke this scandal, The New York Times, Washington Post, Time Magazine, and other publications all said they should have disclosed Gruber's lucrative contracts if they were aware of the conflict of interest. Dozens of Members of Congress cited Gruber's work in their floor speeches. The White House pushed Gruber hundreds of times to the press and on its website.
While Gruber's ethical lapses are his own personal and professional issue, the true problem here is that the White House used Gruber and his research as a seemingly unbiased source in support of its unpopular reforms.
When Obama wanted to tax middle class health care plans, Gruber defends the tax. When Obama to force people to buy private insurance, Gruber defends individual mandate. When Obama does not want public option, Gruber says a public option is not important. When Obama needs to pretend the bill has cost controls, Gruber says it has the greatest cost controls ever.
It is simply not right for the White House to cite Gruber's analysis to illustrate the benefits of the bill they support without disclosing that Gruber is on the government payroll. A biased insider can't be an unbiased outside observer. But that's exactly the approach of the Obama Administration, to the tune of $780,000 in tax dollars.
The Obama Administation's $780,000 "buy-an-economist" scandal threatens to shake the foundation of health care reform. We need to get to the bottom of this.
We need to do health care reform right. But not telling the truth about reform won't help anyone. Thanks so much for your support.
Torture Is Continuing Under the Obama Administration, Creating More Terrorists and Further Destabilizing the Economy
As I pointed out in May 2008:
The U.S. has imprisoned 2,500 children since 9/11 as "enemy combatants", in violation of the Geneva Convention against classifying children as POWs ...
Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Seymour Hersh says that the U.S. Government has videotapes of boys being raped at Abu Ghraib prison (and see this; see also this - General Taguba discusses the sexual humiliation of a father with his son - see this and this).
This doesn't come as a complete surprise, given that assistant deputy Attorney General John Yoo has publicly argued that the president can order the torture of a child of a suspect in custody – including by crushing that child’s testicles. Read more.