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January 2005 Articles

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January 28-29

Teaching the Constitution in a Post-Democratic America

by Mark W. Bradley

Come to think of it, why shouldn’t we let God back into the classroom? I mean, it’s not as if all those nasty French ideas about “social contracts” and “rational thought” ever really caught on here in America anyway, so what’s the big deal? If we cranky old Liberals would just stop all the grousing, quit fighting the inevitable, and get with the program, maybe we could all lock arms and march boldly forward into the brave new classroom of the future. Just imagine...(full article)

What the US Has in Store for Iran
by Lance Selfa

A few hours before President George Bush gave his inauguration address promising to rid the world of tyranny, Vice President Dick Cheney made a few comments that tell more about where the administration is heading. Yukking it up with right-wing talk show host Don Imus on MSNBC, Cheney placed Iran at the “top of the list” of “potential trouble spots” that the Bush administration was determined to deal with in its second term. Of course, added Cheney, Israel “might well decide to act first” to destroy Iran’s nuclear capacity and “let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards.” For someone who normally plays the role of the administration’s Prince of Darkness, Cheney’s concluding calls for a diplomatic solution seemed out of character. But it could all be an elaborate setup for what Bush, Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and every other neoconservative in Washington wants -- a decisive confrontation with Iran leading to “regime change.”...(full article)

Iraq’s Non-Election
by Robert Jensen and Pat Youngblood

Predictably, the U.S. news media are full of discussion and debate about this weekend’s election in Iraq. Unfortunately, virtually all the commentary misses a simple point: There will be no “election” on Jan. 30 in Iraq, if that term is meant to suggest an even remotely democratic process....(full article)

Why the Children in Iraq Make No Sound When They Fall
by Bernard Chazelle

The abject surrender of the media fed a slew of illusions to the public, none more craven than the belief that he whom we kill must be killed. Yeah, yeah, we occasionally obliterate the wrong house and incinerate its occupants, but that's just “friendly fire.” (A lovely phrase if there's one: Let's hear the surgeon who amputates the wrong leg inform his patient of his “friendly amputation.”) Minus the friendliness, however, our whiz-bang weapon wizardry never fails to separate the wheat from the chaff, the nursing mother from the crazed beheader. So goes the creed, anyway....(full article)

To Hell, and They're Coming Back
Iraq War veterans face formidable challenges and
Bush Administration funding cuts
by Bill Berkowitz

After the body bags are removed from the tarmac and the dead are buried; after children have said farewell to a father or mother and parents bid goodbye to a son or a daughter; after seriously injured soldiers are shuffled off to understaffed rehabilitation facilities and others are left to deal with their wounds on their own; and after soldiers that escaped physical harm return home with severe mental health problems, America will reap a whirlwind it hasn't seen since the end of the Vietnam War....(full article)

Abu Ghraib, Tiger Cages and Flying Viet Cong
by Robert Gaiek

Abu Ghraib and the torture of our enemies no longer light up cable news with that mind numbing repetition of perp walks and stacked nude bodies. The military, we are assured, is taking care of the problem and the slate will be wiped clean once again for a little while. The enlisted kids being punished now and in the future will take the rap for "getting caught." The career officers will escape accountability, just as they did in Vietnam over 30 years ago....
(full article)

by Bill Berkowitz

Team Bush and Big Pharma's plan for the nation's mental health includes heavy emphasis on new and expensive drugs....(full article)

Another Conservative Commentator Discovered
on the White House Payroll

by Katherine Brengle

Less than two weeks ago, many of us sat shell-shocked for a moment as we learned that conservative pundit Armstrong Williams was paid a cool $241,000 by the Department of Education to talk up Bush's No Child Left Behind Act.  Williams failed to disclose to his readers and listeners that he had a contract with the federal government. It has just come to light that another conservative commentator, Maggie Gallagher, had a similar, if less lucrative, contract with the Bush Administration in 2002.  Gallagher was paid a total of $41,500 to advertise the Bush Administration's $300 million marriage initiative....(full article)

* Website of the Week:  Political


January 26-27

Of Death Be Not Proud
by Norman Solomon

The story today is going to be very discouraging to the American people,” President Bush said at a news conference Wednesday, hours after 37 American troops died in Iraq. “I understand that. We value life. And we weep and mourn when soldiers lose their life.” How long will the U.S. news media continue to indulge that sort of pious talk from the White House without challenge? The evidence is overwhelming that the president and his policy team are quite willing to devalue -- in fact, destroy -- life when it gets in their way. And if they “weep and mourn when soldiers lose their life,” the grief is rigorously selective....(full article)

The Pharisee’s Fire Sermon: Terror, Perpetual War,
and the Holy Empire in Bush’s Second Inaugural Speech
by Lila Rajiva

Not having had a chance to listen to the inaugural speech, I read it in transcript and was struck like everyone else by those ominous, symmetrical allusions to fire in it. . . . In Bush’s religio-political theater, fire isn’t a damp metaphoric squib but a powerful symbol, the leitmotif of the soaring neo-conservative soundtrack -- fire consuming the twin towers, fire as inspiration, and then fire as “freedom” crackling over the globe, warming its friends and incinerating its enemies. This isn’t vague bombast. The meanings are precise and meant to resonate with deep-rooted themes in American culture....(full article)

Veterans Benefits “Hurtful” to National Security, Says Pentagon
by Joel Wendland

The Wall Street Journal describes the pittance set aside for veteran’s benefits as “Congress’ generosity,” even as the Republican-controlled Congress and Bush Pentagon get set to slash billions more from Veterans Administration’s (VA) programs. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal (1-25-05), Pentagon official David Chu, in a mockery of the contribution of veterans, defended a new round of cuts by ironically describing funding for programs like veterans’ education and job training, health care, pensions, VA housing and the like as “hurtful” to national security....(full article)

Bush Gives Key to Medicare Fund to Known Criminals
by Evelyn J. Pringle

The new Medicare Prescription Drug Bill was supposed to make drugs more affordable for senior citizens, but numerous studies reveal that it has done just the opposite. The actual so-called benefit from the bill will not go into effect until 2006, so in the meantime Bush and his cronies in the industry came up with the idea for a prescription drug discount card program intended to reduce prescription costs for senior citizens until 2006. To that end, Bush chose roughly 70 private companies to administer the program and provide the discount cards to seniors, at a fee of up to $30 to use at pharmacies. Time to do the math. The Medicare program has about 40 million participants. So multiply that number by $30 and see how much it comes to. If the Bush scam had gone according to the plan, the companies authorized to administer the program would have made a bundle before the first prescription drug was even purchased. However, Bush and his gang underestimated the intelligence of seniors because few people signed up for the cards. In fact, last time I checked the companies couldn't even give them away. What qualifications did a company have to have to be approved?  That question requires a one-word answer -- money....(full article)

The Freedom of Choice
by Monica Benderman

In a democracy, we are supposed to have choices. Our constitution gives us those choices. Our constitution is founded on the premise of morality and the values represented by the highest order of morality. As a soldier, my husband, Sgt. Kevin Benderman, has a sworn duty to defend his country and its constitution. As a soldier, my husband has a sworn duty therefore, to defend morality. “Thou shall not kill.”  After seeing the immorality of war firsthand, my husband has laid down his weapons to kill no more. What greater defense of our constitution is there?  (full article)

To War or Not to War, That is the Question
by Jack Dalton

If there is one thing I understand it is simply this, once one “sees” war up close and personal and you look into the abyss, that “Heart of Darkness” of war; you are forever changed--period. Some become very self-defensive and become strong supporters of war—what else can they do? If they do not support war then they would be compelled to revisit “war” and come to terms with it. That in itself shakes the very foundations of one’s beliefs, and this is something a lot of people just do not want to do, or are unwilling to do; it hurts like hell! Then there are those like Jim Massey, Mike Hoffman, Kevin Benderman, Dave Bischel, Tim Goodrich, Camillo Mejas just to name a very few, who have confronted the issue of wars immorality and inhumanity from the perspective of those who have participated in war; and thru that participation have found war sorely lacking, and due to that have come out in opposition to participation and opposition to war in general, as a methodology of solving our problems....(full article)

Drink, Pray, Fight, Fuck: The Borderer Legacy Haunts America
by Joe Bageant

You may not meet them among your circle of friends, but there are millions of Americans who fiercely believe we should nuke North Korea and Iran, seize the Middle East’s oil, and replace the U.S. Constitution with the Christian Bible. They believe the United States will conquer the entire world and convert it to our notions of democracy and fundamentalist Christian religion. And that will happen says my Christian neo-conservative friend Dave Henderson, “when win we elect a man with the balls to use our nukes.” You may not believe me, and if you don’t I cannot blame you for never having been exposed to such folks. Only an idiot or a masochistic observer of the American scene would subject himself or herself to these Americans. I like to think I am the latter, but the jury is still out. In understanding how such ominous political ideations manifested themselves in this country, it helps to look back 450 years to a group of Celtic cattle thieves killing one another in the mud along Hadrian’s Wall -- the Borderers. Fanatically religious and war loving, these Scottish Protestants made their way first to Ireland as the “Ulster Scots,” then to American shores during the early 18th century. Known to most Americans as the Scots Irish or Scotch Irish, the Borderers brought cultural values that govern (some would say screw up) the political emotions of millions of Americans to this day....(full article)

Boarding Up the “Window of Opportunity”    
by Mike Whitney

After weeks of the “red carpet” treatment from his cohorts in Tel Aviv, a bewildered Mahmoud Abbas was kicked down the stairwell before he even took the oath of office. A bombing at a Gaza border crossing has thrust him into the spotlight; forcing him to utilize his new powers to defuse the latest flare-up between the warring parties. It’s the very same situation that faced Arafat nearly every day for the last three years. It explains how he became the unwitting scapegoat for any violence directed at the occupation. Now that moniker looks like it will be passed off to the new President Abbas. Sharon has threatened to sever all diplomatic ties and instigate another major operation like last September’s “Days of Repentance”. That incursion into Gaza claimed more than 100 Palestinian lives and destroyed nearly as many homes. Now, its Abbas’ turn to see if he can settle down the hostilities and restore the brittle peace. There’s a steep learning curve for those who accept the job of Israel’s security guard, and Abbas is scrambling to meet the challenge....(full article)

Freedom on Steroids
by John Chuckman

A writer at The NY Times counted 27 references to freedom in Bush's inaugural speech. The speech contained not one reference to his ugly war in Iraq, but for hundreds of thousands of Iraqis the only freedom established by Bush's invasion was their freedom to miserable deaths or future lives as cripples. Bush promised he would bring freedom to the world's dark corners. It is worth noting that none of the world's people asked Bush to assume such a task, and every poll of those living outside the United States shows Washington now widely regarded as one of the world's darkest corners, a source of fear itself rather than freedom from fear....(full article)

Next Stop on Drive-By Armageddon
by Rosa Faiz

If, as betrayed by the announced plans of the fanatics dreaming up Another American Century, Afghanistan and Iraq are the antechambers of hell on earth in the Middle East, the “Iranian Campaign” would constitute the inner-chambers. Weapons of Mass Destruction present or not, speedily coming up next on the agenda for another century of barbarity: when (not if) and how to militarily attack Iran, a nation at peace with its neighbors, and most of the rest of the world. No apologies for belaboring the point that Iran is also a nation that has already been subjugated to premeditated US aggression, in a 1953 CIA-conducted coup that overthrew our democratically elected Prime Minister Mossadegh; an aggression that completely changed the course of our modern history, for the worse. More, the invasion of our country by Iraq in 1980 was completely and actively supported militarily, financially and logistically by the successive Carter and Reagan administrations. And now the Americans are back for more mass murder and mayhem in our country....(full article)

Should Iran Be The Next Target?
by Ivan Eland

In a recent article in The New Yorker, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reports that the Bush administration has conducted missions using military special forces on Iranian territory in an attempt to find Iran’s nuclear facilities for possible later targeting with air strikes or commando raids. Such military actions would have dire consequences for the United States and the Middle East. As unbelievable as it might seem, despite its disastrous martial adventure in neighboring Iraq, the administration appears to be once again leaning toward using the military option to deal with a country that it believes is attempting to get nuclear weapons. U.S. government intelligence agencies believe that Iran is still three to five years from getting such a weapon, but given their recent track record of failure on the Indo-Pakistan nuclear tests, the September 11 attacks, and Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, no one can be sure if they are correct. Using this information, however, as the government must, targeting of Iran is over-the-top—given that an Iranian nuclear weapon is not imminent....(full article)

Plan B: Parallel Elections & Signed Ballots
by Lynn Landes

Something's got to give.  Another election is just around the corner.  What's it going to be?  Another opportunity to document election “irregularities” and computer “glitches”?  Another chance to analyze mysterious exit polls?  Another exercise in frustration?  Another charade.  Democrats will need a mighty good reason to go back to the polls.  Many believe that our elections are rigged.  And they have good reason.  Republicans own the voting machine companies that count 80% of the votes.  Congress and the courts are unlikely to change that.  And the Democratic leadership has hardly made it an issue. So, let's do something different.  We'll go to Plan B.  We'll organize our own “Parallel Elections”....(full article)

It Takes a Comic: The Appeal of Lewis Black
by Derrick O'Keefe

Lewis Black brought his unique brand of anger, wit and political commentary to Vancouver this week, performing to a sold-out crowd at The Vogue theatre. The skyrocketing popularity of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, where Black does a 2-minute rant every Thursday, has taken the 56-year-old comic from cult following to near star status. The brief “Back in Black” spots with Jon Stewart, though, just scratch the surface of Lewis’ critical rage. Seen live, one truly gets an idea of the Black appeal. For more than an hour, he blistered the Democrats, the Republicans, MTV, John Kerry, the Christian Right, and the rest of the cultural and political morass that defines the social landscape of the United States. George W. Bush was featured, of course, but curiously Black never mentioned him by name – always “him”, “the president,” “that guy” -- suggesting perhaps that the cantankerous comic’s anger might slip from hilarious to frightening or dangerous if the emperor’s name crossed his lips....(full article)

The Convergence
by Zbignew Zingh

Just as the American empire was crowned as the world's one and only super power, the energy that sustains that power sputtered and started to give out. Regardless whether oil production has already peaked or whether it peaks in one year or two, petroleum's high energy return on the energy invested to produce it is a thing of the past. So, too, are all hydrocarbon empires. Whatever oil remains to be pumped out of the earth will be very expensive to produce, and the resulting economic toll will be charged to us all (as has already happened) as inflation. It will be passed on to us in the degradation of our schools; the hollowing out of our health care system; the malnutrition of our retirement plans, our legal system, our transportation systems, our libraries, and our environment....(full article)

January 24-25

The Rationale of Suicide Bombing
by Kim Petersen

In an original Star Trek episode, “Journey to Babel,” a high-speed Orion spaceship was attacking the Starship Enterprise. Using subterfuge, the Enterprise managed to disable the attacking vessel, which self-destructed rather than be captured. A disguised Orion captive died on the bridge of the Enterprise from a self-administered poison. It turned out that the suicide mission was intended to foment interplanetary war so that the neutral Orions could clean up by selling dilithium crystals to the two sides in the conflict. In other words, the crew of the Orion ship had executed a suicide bombing to enrich some capitalists back on their home world. Now imagine yourself as a jobless Iraqi surrounded by two M-16 assault rifle-toting US troops and their soulless Iraqi collaborators. Being jobless in Iraq is the norm, as 70 percent of your neighbors can attest. Besides, the few jobs that are available involve selling one’s soul to the occupying enemies, the ones who bombed your house to smithereens with your wife and three children in it. The same ones that imprisoned and raped your innocent mother and sister in Abu Ghraib -- this after your father died with the jackboot of an American soldier on his face and a rifle wedged excruciatingly deep into his groin. It wasn’t enough that they had looted your parents’ house of any savings and the few valuables; they had also bulldozed the house to the ground....(full article)

On Civil Liberties Myopia: It’s a God Awful Affair
by Joshua Frank and Merlin Chowkwanyun

So when did the assault on Americans’ civil liberties get jumpstarted? The current liberal establishment seems to deem 9/11 the chief catalyst. Many of the most loathsome specimens within the haughty club imply that drastic incursions on Americans’ civil liberties only began after 9/11, while the Clinton Administration represented a civil liberties paradise....(full article)

US Media's Desperate Wishful Thinking on Palestine/Israel
by Ahmed Bouzid

Ariel Sharon's tactic of throwing fine sand in the air as he plows forward with his time-tested, time-honored strategy of establishing facts-on-the-ground, is working to perfection -- at least on the US mainstream media. When Ariel Sharon announced back in June of 2004 Israel's decision to go ahead with the implementation of a unilateral “Gaza pull-out plan,” the US media hailed the event as a watershed moment. Sharon was portrayed as taking great political risks and putting not only his political life but his very physical life on the line. Completely missed in the sand storm was the much bigger story: the official decision by his cabinet of permanently taking over large portions of the West Bank....(full article)

Quarter Mil for a Shill: So Much for a Free Press
by Mark Drolette

The Bushies really should have come to me before bribing -- uh, hiring; no, no, I was right the first time -- right-wing commentator Armstrong Williams to shill for the federal No Child Left Behind Act in his newspaper columns and on his radio and TV show “The Right Side.” According to Eunice Moscoso of the Cox News Service, Williams raked in $240,000 for his best Fox faux facts impersonation. . . . The most basic problem, of course, is that Williams is obviously not a journalist but still plays one on TV.  With my sincerest apologies to members of the world’s oldest profession, he’s a whore -- a very dangerous, democracy-destroying whore -- much more suited to joining the streetwalkers union than any to which real journalists might apply.  (Chances are slim, though, the hookers would take him; professional integrity, you know.) Williams, however, still seeks to semantically split hairs while in damage control mode when he claims, per Moscoso, “that although he [is] a commentator, and not a journalist, he still should abide by the same ethical standards.”  (Funny how ethics come up after checks have been cashed and beans spilled.)....(full article)

Airline Overcapacity, Profitability and Society
by Seth Sandronsky

I read in my daily paper about overcapacity in the airline industry. There are more airline seats than buyers. Mr. Supply outstrips Mr. Demand. Consequently, the profitability of these carriers is down. When profits drop, airline workers get pay cuts and layoffs.  They don’t need advanced degrees to understand work and wages. Neither option is their cup of tea. And who can argue? Investors can, because it is their continued profitability that governs how everybody else lives and works. Corporate investors have powerful allies in their pursuit of profitability.  They control the state, a result of the elite’s bloody victories over the majority. We can call them the ownership class. At the top of this heap in terms of wealth is the Walton family of U.S. fame. They own the nation-state of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. In the meantime, consider some of the service provided to investors by federal bankruptcy judges.  Recently, one of them voided the labor union contracts for mechanics employed by US Airways.  Poof.  All gone.  Just like that, baby.  After all, it was better for some of the mechanics to get fired then for their employer to fold, the court ruled....(full article)

Claude Allen in the House
by Bill Berkowitz

Anti-abortion, homophobic, abstinence-only supporting African American chosen as President Bush's chief domestic advisor....(full article)

Halliburton -- Poster Child For War Profiteering
by Evelyn J. Pringle

Of course, by now everybody has at least heard of Halliburton, the all-time poster child for war profiteering.  But I'll bet most people don't understand exactly how this company has gone the full financial circle in Iraq....
(full article)


“Piss on Pity”: Clint Eastwood's “Million Dollar” Snuff Film
by Mickey Z.

Fresh off some big Golden Globes wins, “Million Dollar Baby” seems poised for Oscar success...but not everyone is pleased with the boxing flick-cum-snuff film. . . “This movie is a corny, melodramatic assault on people with disabilities,” writes Steve Drake in The Ragged Edge. “It plays out killing as a romantic fantasy and gives emotional life to the ‘better dead than disabled’ mindset lurking in the heart of the typical (read: non-disabled) audience member.” It will likely come as a bit of shock to those unfamiliar with the disability rights movement, but not every disabled person would rather be dead (or even non-disabled)....(full article)

David and Goliath
by William Fisher

His name is Clare Callan. He is a feisty 85-year-old former congressman from rural Nebraska. And he is asking the Supreme Court to declare that President Bush had no legal authority to go to war in Iraq. Mr. Callan does not see himself as Don Quixote. He is not asking the Supreme Court to end the war. He is a World War II veteran who served on a US Navy destroyer in the Pacific, who is proud of the US military, proud of his own service, and proud of the troops fighting in Iraq. But he believes that president violated the Constitution when he sent American troops into harm’s way. Now, he wants the nation’s highest court to say so. Here’s his case....(full article)

Peaceful Tomorrows: 9/11 Victims Against the War in Iraq
by Katherine Brengle

I was privileged to attend not one, but two Counter-Inaugural demonstrations this past week. The first, held by The Greater Fall River (MA) Committee for Peace and Justice, was a small candlelight vigil in front of Fall River's Government Center. The second was a much larger gathering in Bridgewater, MA....(full article)

Why are the Rich Districts Helping the State
Rush to Appeal the School Funding Case?

by Greg Moses

The lower court ruling in the Texas school funding case needs to be modified to more strongly protect rights to equitable funding for property-poor districts, argued the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) in a December motion. But on inauguration day, the property-rich districts suddenly joined forces with the state to move jurisdiction to the Texas Supreme Court. Why is MALDEF being left behind? (full article)

The Politics of SpongeBob
by Gene C. Gerard

Conservative Christian organizations have accused a children’s cartoon character, SpongeBob SquarePants, of being part of a secret agenda to promote homosexuality. The character appears in a music video, produced by the non-profit We Are Family Foundation, which was established following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to promote greater cultural understanding. The video, which is being distributed to 61,000 elementary schools, features SpongeBob, Winnie the Pooh, and other popular children’s characters. Although the video does not mention sexuality, the website of the foundation asks people to take a tolerance pledge by respecting those of different abilities, beliefs, culture, sexual identity, and race....(full article)

Imperialist Solidarity?
by Macdonald Stainsby

There have been many times where the penetrating analysis of James Petras has come in essential to my personal development. In a world where, even on the supposed “revolutionary left” we have a tendency to put things into black and white, good and bad, up and down, red vs. blue, ad nauseum--Petras has usually been able to smash such shortcuts to intellectualism and come through with a more nuanced and real analysis. Even in times where I personally disagree with the work he puts out -- such as his August offering proclaiming the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela a mere reformist upsurge -- his take comes from neither bloated dogma nor a need to denounce. Petras’ newest article reminded me clearly of the frailty of human thought when we are exposed to unrelenting propaganda about the various movements that resist imperialism, in particular American imperialism. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army—FARC-EP—have recently seen Colombian special agents enter the Venezuelan capital of Caracas and kidnap a man who has unofficially been FARC’s foreign minister and face to the world -- Rodrigo Granda. In so doing, President of Colombia Alvaro Uribe has violated the sovereignty of Venezuela and committed what amounts to virtually an act of war. No less than this, the president himself has announced that he personally paid off members of the Venezuelan security apparatus to help with this Mossad-like operation....(full article)

January 21

(The Anti-Empire Report) Imperial Wonderland
by William Blum

William Blum on police state measures in the age of the PATRIOT Act, Condoleezza Rice's confirmation hearings, CIA intervention in foreign countries, the Dems copy the Republican religious song and dance, Lawrence Summers, and more....(full article)

KGB Chieftain Finds Home at Homeland Security  
by Mike Whitney

Why would Homeland Security hire former Stasi chief Markus Wolfe and former head of the KGB General Yevgeni Primakov? Is this part of the Bush anti-terror strategy? After all, Wolfe is the man who is credited with building up the feared East German secret police that was responsible for the disappearance and deaths of thousands of citizens. And, Primakov’s record is not any better. As skipper of the KGB he was driving force behind the machinery of state terror; a legacy that still has a chilling affect on many Russians....(full article)

Mis-Defining Terrorism
by John Janney

If you live outside the DC metropolitan area, you likely heard little about a man who parked his van in front of the White House this past Tuesday, threatening to blow it up if his political demands were not met. There was never any need to worry. The FBI quickly assured the media, and therefore the public, that this is not an act of terrorism. After all, how could it be? The man in the van was white. But wait. White males can be terrorists, too. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols became terrorists when they blew up a moving van full of explosives outside a federal building. Perhaps there were other criteria that led the FBI to quickly discount a man parking his van claiming to be full of explosives outside the White House and threatening to blow it up if his demands were not met as not an act of terrorism. Reviewing what the government considers terrorism should bring some light on this subject....(full article)

January 20

>>External Link of the Day<<
Bush's Inaugural Address: After a Spritz of "B.S. Away!" by Bernard Weiner

A New Citizens Oath of Office for Inauguration 2005
by Robert Jensen

Four years ago at the counter-inaugural event on the steps of the state Capitol in Austin, TX, I administered a Citizen’s Oath of Office to a crowd that was eager to fight the incoming Bush administration’s reactionary agenda: “I do solemnly pledge that I will faithfully execute the office of citizen of the United States, and that I will, to the best of my ability, resist corporate control of the world, resist militarism, resist the roll-back of civil rights, and resist illegitimate authority in all its forms.” Predictably, the Bush gang has spent four years doing its best to strengthen the corporate elite’s grip on the country, jack up military spending and use that military to deepen U.S. control in key regions of the world, and undermine fundamental political freedoms. We couldn’t have predicted that the events of 9/11 would raise the stakes so dramatically, but the oath was on target about the basic nature of the threats. But looking back I realize the oath failed to capture the heart of citizens’ obligations -- it talked only about resisting reactionary forces and didn’t speak to the democratic force we have to create. It made the mistake of talking about politics only as the rejection of injustice, not the process of creating justice and the means of achieving justice over the long term. So, this time around, I want to update the oath....(full article)

Democrats Support Bush’s Iran Policy
by Joshua Frank

By now you have probably heard about the Bush Administration’s secret plan to attack Iran and how US Special Forces units have been operating in the country for some time. Seymour Hersh, the maverick journalist for the New Yorker, broke the story earlier this week. . . . But the Bush administration may not have to worry about the opposition for round two. While Hersh surmises that Bush’s Iran invasion could be carried out with Israeli special operatives, political opposition may never reach the doorsteps of Congress. After all, the Democrats have long agreed that Iran must be dealt with militarily....(full article)

US Army Sergeant Kevin Benderman Charged With Desertion
by Robert Finnegan

The Army yesterday charged Sergeant Kevin Benderman with two counts of violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), for his refusal to re-deploy to Iraq in a case that has sparked a worldwide media feeding-frenzy and elicited condemnation of both the Bush administration and the U.S. Army....(full article)

Bush’s Grand Plan: Incite Civil War
by Mike Whitney

The Bush Administration is intentionally steering Iraq towards civil war. The elections are merely the catalyst for igniting, what could be, a massive social upheaval. This explains the bizarre insistence on voting when security is nearly nonexistent and where a mere 7% of the people can even identify the candidates. (This figure gleaned from Allawi’s Baghdad newspaper, Al-Sabah)  Rumsfeld is using the elections as a springboard for aggravating tensions between Sunnis and Shiites and for diverting attention away from the troops. It’s a foolhardy move that only magnifies the desperation of the present situation. The Pentagon brass expected a “cakewalk” and, instead, they’ve found themselves mired in a guerilla war....(full article)

A Shaky Media Taboo -- Withdrawal from Iraq
by Norman Solomon

The latest polls show that most Americans are critical of the war in Iraq. But the option of swiftly withdrawing all U.S. troops from that country gets little media attention. So far this year, many news outlets have lapsed into conjecture on what George W. Bush has in mind for the Iraq war. At the end of a recent lengthy editorial, the New York Times noted that, “there’s speculation about whether President Bush intends to use the arrival of a new elected government [in Baghdad] as an occasion to declare victory and begin pulling out American troops.” Right now, that kind of speculation amounts to a smokescreen for a war-crazed administration. Its evident intention is for large numbers of U.S. troops to stay in Iraq for a long time....(full article)

Lifetime Detainment: No Pros, All Cons
Or, To Torture or Not to Torture: How Is That Even the Question?
by Mark Drolette

A glaring, galling example of the administration’s basement-level baseness is provided in a recent article by Dana Priest of the Washington Post:“Administration officials are preparing long-range plans for indefinitely imprisoning suspected terrorists whom they do not want to set free or turn over to courts in the United States or other countries…The Pentagon and the CIA have asked the White House to decide on a more permanent approach for potentially lifetime detentions, including those for hundreds of people now in military and CIA custody whom the government does not have enough evidence to charge in courts.” Well, where to start?  The indefinite imprisonments?  The fact that one need only be “suspected” of being a terrorist (as so designated by George Bush; now there’s a comforting thought) to be detained for a “lifetime” because of a lack of “enough evidence to charge in courts”? Not to be an alarmist (impossible these days, anyway), but this means you or I could be put away forever simply at Dubya’s discretion.  If you consider this far-fetched, I remind you here that Education Secretary Rod Paige identified the country’s largest teacher’s union, the National Education Association, as a “terrorist organization”; it is a small step indeed for the Constitution-reviling, Patriot Act-revering team of Bush/Cheney to label --  yes, believe it or not -- even non-educators as mortal enemies of the state....(full article)

Two Celebrations, Two Americas: MLK Day and Bush’s Inauguration
by Derrick O'Keefe

This week features two major celebrations in the United States, and the contrasts between the figures being feted couldn’t be starker. Thursday’s second inauguration for George W. Bush comes only three days after Martin Luther King Day was celebrated on Monday, January 17. The two celebrations couldn’t be more opposed, revealing the chasm between the two Americas. Gay and lesbian rights, and peace and justice issues were raised in a series of marches celebrating the birthday of the civil rights icon; the run-up to Bush’s second swearing in was marked by a continuing crisis in Iraq, and revelations of new covert war preparations for Iran....(full article)

Social Security Deception Funded with Taxpayer Dollars
by Mark Weisbrot

Using taxpayers' dollars and government employees to deceive the public is generally prohibited, but lately this seems to have become standard operating procedure. The latest outrage is the Bush Administration's conscription of federal employees at the Social Security Administration in its effort to convince the public that Social Security is in "crisis." This comes on the heels of a scandal involving the Department of Education payment of $240,000 of taxpayers' money to commentator Armstrong Williams to promote the Administration's "No Child Left Behind" education agenda....
(full article)

America’s New Civilizing Mission
by M. Shahid Alam

Historically, Islamdom has nearly always been the principal Other in the Western dialectic of imagination, fear and domination. Over the past few decades, with the growing salience of the Israeli-Arab conflict, the re-entry of Islam into the politics of the Islamicate world, and finally with the collapse of the communist challenge, a growing body of thought in the United States has sought to reclaim, to resurrect, this old Western adversary....(full article)

Hollywood’s Patriots
by Walter Brasch

Sandra Bullock and Leonardo DiCaprio each donated about $1 million for disaster relief following the recent tsunami in Southeast Asia. The Steven Spielberg family donated $1.5 million. Jet Li donated more than $125,000; Jackie Chan added at least $64,000. Among several dozen rock bands which donated proceeds of their concerts or made outright donations, U2 and Linkin Park each donated $100,000; Ozzie and Sharon Osborn donated almost $200,000. At the Laugh Factory in both L.A. and New York, major comedians donated their time, with proceeds benefiting the victims. The Red Cross says innumerable celebrities made anonymous donations. Dozens of “A”-list celebrities, many with Oscars, Grammys, Emmys, Tonys, and Obies became part of a live broadcast fund-raiser for the tsunami victims—and worked the phones to take pledges from Americans whose names are unknown outside their own communities. George Clooney, who had helped organize the creative community for the 9/11 telethon that raised more than $130 million three years earlier, again rounded up his friends and their friends for “Tsunami Aid: A Concert of Hope.” These are the people whom President George W. Bush believes “don’t represent the heart and soul of America.” To innumerable conservative talk-show hosts who bash celebrities, while bathing in the limelight of celebrity themselves, they’re the “Hollyweird.” Rush Limbaugh and his Dittoheads call most of the creative community “Left Coast Hollywood Kooks,” even if they live in Omaha; simply, they’re traitors who should be exiled. But it is these “kooks” who are among the first to respond to humanitarian needs....(full article)

January 17-18

Bush Uses Tsunami Aid to Regain Foothold in Indonesia
by Jim Lobe

Besides improving Washington’s image in South and Southeast Asia, the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush is hoping to achieve something more concrete from its aid efforts in the aftermath of the Dec. 26 tsunami that killed over 175,000 people along the coasts of the Indian Ocean. In particular, it is reviving its hopes of normalizing military ties with Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, whose strategically located archipelago, critical sea lanes, and historic distrust of China have long made it an ideal partner for containing Beijing....(full article)

Martin Luther King. Jr. and “The Triple Evils That Are Interrelated”
by Paul Street

As the United States experiences its second Martin Luther King Jr. Day to occur with Iraq under American occupation, it’s an opportune moment to remember King as a border crosser who refused to restrict his focus to just one city or one nation or to just one or two social and political problems. King thought that difficulties in Vietnam and the Philippines were inseparably linked to difficulties in Chicago and Washington D.C. and Montgomery, Alabama. And in a remarkable essay titled “A Testament of Hope,” which was published after his death, he wrote that “the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated.”....(full article)

A Matter of Conscience
by Sgt. Kevin Benderman

Having watched and observed life from the standpoint of soldier for ten years of my life, I felt there was no higher honor than to serve my country and defend the values that established this country. My family has a history of serving this country dating back to the American Revolution and I felt that to continue on in that tradition was the honorable thing to do. As I went through the process which led to my decision to refuse deployment to Iraq for the second time, I was torn between thoughts of abandoning the soldiers that I serve with, or following my conscience which tells me: war is the ultimate in destruction and waste of humanity....(full article)

One Man Has Stopped Killing: Hope for More to Do the Same
by Monica Benderman

For the past two weeks, my husband Kevin and I have answered questions from reporters, journalists, interested citizens from almost every state in the union, and about eight foreign countries.  After all of these interviews, I have a few questions of my own. What is wrong with a country in which a man and his wife have to jump through hoops, take psychological tests, and wait three months for the results of an application that declares he has made a conscious choice to never go to war again? What is wrong with the state of affairs of a country when a man and his wife must use every media source available, and during those interviews face the questioning of his and their character, all because that man has decided he cannot in good conscience ever participate in war again? (full article)

Gauging the Worth of US Troops in Neocon Eyes
by Kim Petersen

Kim Petersen ruminates on American spending priorities and the "opulent outburst of vainglory" of the War administration: Bush's upcoming inauguration party is slated to cost $40 million, while American troops in Iraq lack adequate armor, and a new Census Bureau report finds more Americans slipping into poverty. Many die so a few can party? (full article)

The Ideology of American Empire
by Lila Rajiva

Lila Rajiva on Abu Ghraib, Christian Zionism, American religious fundamentalism, the war on terror, and the US-Israel relationship....
(full article)

Two Million Black Americans Are Still Not Free at Last
by Matthew Cardinale

Voting is the American way,” says Miles, an ex-felon staying at the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles. “Once it’s taken, you become a third-class citizen, and you can’t participate in what this country’s all about and what wars were fought for.” “Losing the right to vote affects my views of those in power,” said Steve, with an unmistakable inflection of regret in his voice. “I believe in democracy, but not the way they’re trying to use it.” The mysterious “they” was a recurring theme among the ex-felons I talked to, showing how so many ex-felons who lose the right to vote in turn feel that American politics is something conducted by other people, for other people....(full article)

Where Lip Service is Not an Option: King and the Christian Left
by Greg Moses

All religions, said Simone de Beauvoir, have “embarrassing flexibility on a basis of rigid concepts.” Practitioners and believers who swear to core principles find themselves fighting each other from opposite extremes of the political spectrum. At the time she said it, in the second chapter of The Second Sex, Beauvoir had three great religions in mind: Christianity, Marxism, and Psychoanalysis. In each case there were right wingers and left wingers then, and in each case there are right and left wingers still. Today, as we blow out 76 candles to celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., I am thinking that in a nation where 79 percent of the people believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, there is no good reason not to imagine the possibility of a revived and renewed Christian left....(full article)

From Axis of Evil to Exit Door for Weasels
by Ahmed Amr

In making the case for the war against Iraq, the Bush administration insisted that Iraq had WMDs and intimate relationships with Bin Laden.  Two years and a billion dollars later -- the search is over and the president will stage his inauguration party with yet another dry hole on his hands. Bush can handle dry holes as well as any man. He already has a long history of losing other people’s money as a wildcatter in the Texas oil patch. . . .In any case, things have obviously turned out worse than the bleakest initial projections. We are now witnessing the end game. Which brings us to Iran -- a former founding member of the axis of evil -- now elevated to a partner in designing an exit strategy with the neocon weasels who orchestrated this war of choice....
(full article)

The Failures of Security Through Homogeneity
by Adam Williams

In justifying the War in Iraq, it has been continually maintained by the United States that violent regime change in Iraq to install a democracy will not only produce a peaceful, democratic Iraq, but also provide an “inspiring example” for other such rouge nations. A clear example of this rhetoric turned to policy can be found in an executive memorandum by the Heritage Foundation’s James A. Phillips, in which he says the post-Saddam goal for the United States in Iraq is that of “building a stable, democratic, pro-American Iraqi government.” These claims are based on the democratic peace argument, which maintains that democracies do not go to war with one another. Arguments such as this, which propose security through homogeneity, though initially compelling and appearing to be inductively justified, when analyzed are categorically dubious. Moreover, if the US truly waged war on Iraq -- a substantial political and financial investment -- on the grounds that installing a democracy would be in its best interests as well as a move towards a greater peace, it did so either foolishly or to serve other interests. As I will show -- and I expect top-level officials already know -- arguments proposing security through homogeneity (STH) are fatally flawed except as a means to rhetorically justify further systemic hegemony or promote other interests....(full article)

Bush’s Choice for Energy Secretary Was One of Texas’
Top Five Worst Polluters
by Jason Leopold

In the bizarro world that President Bush lives in, it pays—literally—to be a miserable failure, a criminal and a corporate con man. Those are just some of the characteristics of the dastardly men and women who were tapped recently to fill the vacancies in Bush’s second-term cabinet. But one of the President’s most outrageous decisions (besides naming Alberto Gonzales, who concocted a legal case for torturing foreign prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, Attorney General) has got to be choosing 66-year-old Sam Bodman to serve as Secretary of Energy. This is a guy who for a dozen years ran a Texas-based chemical company that spent years on the top five lists of the country’s worst polluters....(full article)

For Social Security, Stability or Volatility?
by Seth Sandronsky

I wonder what President Bush’s plan to change the Social Security system with private accounts for younger workers means for businesses nationwide?  Likely, the workers who patronize these firms will end up with less cash. Why add such risk to consumer income that helps to stabilize U.S. businesses and living standards? (full article)

The Revolution Starts Now
by Katherine Brengle

The time has come to boycott the Democratic Party, a party which has failed us again and again, and continues to ask us to open our wallets, as recently as this week in a whining, equally pandering mass email campaign.  Are we gluttons for punishment?  Why do we insist on clinging to the coattails of the Democrats when they no longer espouse those beliefs that we hold closest to our hearts? (full article)

Buffoon Harry and the Clash of Civilizations
by Gary Corseri

As I write this, I can hear Hannity, O’Reilly, Coulter and Co. accusing the Left (er, make that “Lib’rals”) of making too much of the imbecility of Britain’s heir-apparent two steps removed. It would be easy to dismiss the sordid judgment of bonnie Prince Harry, this wastrel and good-for-nothing, if he were merely another spoiled American celebrity -- a male Paris Hilton, for example. But he’s not that. He’s a potential King of England -- land of Shakespeare and Milton, Keats and Shelley, and crazy King George III against whom we had the good sense to rebel some umpteen decades ago. The problem with letting Harry out of his golden box, free from his highly remunerated toady handlers, is that he rather baldly demonstrates the fairly precipitous decline of British “civilization”. The Brits invented the idea of a clash of civilizations long before Harvard’s Samuel Huntington. Kipling celebrated the clash in rather sophomoric poems like “Gunga Din,” and a slew of doomed First World War poets like Rupert Brooke ruefully embraced it: “If I should die, think only this of me: / That there’s some corner of a foreign field/ That is forever England.”....(full article)

SpongeBob GayPants?
by Bill Berkowitz

American Family Association blasts children's television characters for participating in “We Are Family” video that “promotes the normalization of homosexuality”....(full article)

January 14-15

US Army Sergeant Refuses Redeployment to Iraq; Two Soldiers
Attempt Suicide at 2-7 Infantry, 17 Go AWOL
by Robert Finnegan

On Friday, January 7, 2005 Sergeant Kevin Benderman, stationed with the 2-7 Infantry Battalion at Ft. Stewart, Georgia, refused an order from the Command Sergeant Major of his unit Samuel Coston to deploy to Iraq and requested a General Courts-Martial. Benderman, 40 is a combat veteran, having served one tour in Iraq in 2003 during which a Captain in his command ordered soldiers from Benderman’s outfit to fire on children throwing rocks at unit personnel. Having personally witnessed this and other illegal acts by military personnel during his tour, Benderman now says that under no circumstances will he participate further in the war in Iraq, a war Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan has labeled “illegal”. Benderman has applied for Conscientious Objector status. His commanders have not yet acted on his request, as required by Army regulations....
(full article)

A Marine Comes Home: The Untold Story Of War
by Jack Random

On Sunday, January 9, 2005, nineteen-year-old Andres Raya shot two police officers, killing Sergeant Howard Stevenson of the Ceres Police Department, and was himself killed in the ensuing gun battle. Raya had served seven months in Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines of the 1st Marine Division.  Though he served in the infamous Sunni Triangle, the military denied he had participated in the assault on Fallujah. Andres Raya and Howard Stevenson will not be entered on the official casualty list for the war in Iraq but they are both casualties of the war as certainly as the Iraqi civilians who were not targeted by American bombs but died under them just the same....
(full article)


The Moral High Ground?
by William Fisher

Here is a sure-fire nomination for the most outrageous quote of the week: “Accusations that we are torturing people tend to be mythology.” These are the words an un-named Egyptian official questioned by The Washington Post about prisoner abuse. Here are the facts of the case The Post was enquiring about. The reader can decide who was doing what to whom. An Egyptian-born Australian citizen, currently a prisoner at the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, charges that the US Government forcibly transferred him to Egypt, where he was tortured for six months. He has petitioned a US Federal Court to block plans to send him back to an Egyptian prison a second time....(full article)

The Light is Going Out
by William Fisher

At his confirmation hearing to be America’s next attorney general, President Bush’s White House Counsel, Alberto Gonzales ducked most of the potentially contentious questions asked by his US Senate questioners. But he pledged that he would work around the clock to protect civil liberties and human rights. Well, here’s a place for him to begin: Since June 2003, Ahmed Abu Ali, a 23-year-old US citizen, has been held in al-Ha’ir prison in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He was reportedly arrested by Saudi Arabian authorities on June 11, 2003 in the city of Medina, while taking an exam at the Islamic University there. He has no access to legal counsel or to family members. It is not clear whether he has been charged with a crime, nor is it clears when, or if, he will be put on trial. The US Government says it had nothing to do with his detention, although three FBI agents reportedly questioned him soon after his arrest. Saudi officials have declined to give an explanation for his detention, but say they are holding him at the request of the US State Department and would be glad to release him if there was a request from the US....(full article)

The Case of the Ticking Time Bomb: Or, How Not to Argue Against Torture
by John Turri

Ted Rall is rightly outraged at the Bush Administration for the culture of abuse torture that has blossomed under their watch.  He's also rightly outraged over their plan to permanently imprison hundreds of enemy combatants people because they "don't have enough evidence" to bring them to trial.  No doubt he's also outraged that the Bush Administration is considering fielding death- and kidnapping squads in Iraq because, well, because "we can't just go on [there] as we are."  I agree with Rall on all that. But we shouldn't endorse his argument against the use of torture.  In fact, we should repudiate it....(full article)

Dwarfing the Tsunami – A Warning
by Media Lens

The weeks and months leading up to December 25 are characterized by a manic focus on consumption, materialism and unrestrained hedonism. The Season of Good Will actually sees more alcohol-fuelled violence on our streets, more family strife, and raised levels of suicide. One in two people suffer from “festive depression” after Christmas. . . .For many Westerners, then, the tsunami of December 26 struck at an extraordinary time and place. A catastrophe that left millions with nothing occurred exactly as Westerners were over-indulging in everything. The waves that killed 150,000 brought hell on earth to many of the places we think of as paradise. Empathy for the victims was doubtless increased by the dramatic, televised nature of the disaster, the involvement of large numbers of Western tourists – a number of journalists were themselves holidaying in the area at the time – and by the fact that these are indeed much-loved tourist destinations. Indonesia, in particular, is also a major economic and military ally of the West. . . . Likewise, leading British and US politicians - in actuality war criminals still at large - eagerly swooped on the chance to divert public attention from the ongoing, man-made catastrophe in Iraq, and to recast themselves as humanitarians bringing aid, fair trade and justice to the Third World....
(full article)

Aceh’s Dual Disasters: The Tsunami and Military Rule
by John Roosa

On December 25, 2004, one day before Aceh was devastated by an earthquake-driven tsunami, the Indonesian military (TNI) announced that it had just killed eighteen guerrillas in the province. Such news had long since become routine. A week earlier, the TNI killed five. TNI chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto stated in early December that his men had killed 3,216 Acehnese since martial law was imposed upon the province in May 2003. In all these reported armed clashes, very few Indonesian soldiers died. The war was lopsided, with Acehnese, especially civilians (posthumously labeled “rebels” by the TNI), bearing nearly all the casualties. Aceh was already a killing field before the Indian Ocean wreaked havoc on the land. . . . One should not imagine that the severity of the tsunami in Aceh (the latest estimate is more than 100,000 dead) renders this history of military rule irrelevant. The Indonesian government is now using the military as its primary coordinator of relief aid. Worse, the military is still waging war on the pro-independence Free Aceh Movement (GAM). Mother nature inflicted enormous damage on Aceh but did not fundamentally alter the pre-existing social institutions....
(full article)


Rumsfeld's Bloody Paths of Glory
by Bill Berkowitz

Defense Secretary's shameful journey to Iraq is followed by Pentagon discussions of forming El Salvador-like death squads....(full article)

Why We are Horrified by the Destructive Forces of Nature
but Accept Our Own Violence
by Lucinda Marshall

The recent avalanche of American generosity towards those whose lives have been destroyed by the horrific damage of the Tsunami offers a troubling contrast to our callousness towards those whose lives have been wrecked by the man-made horrors of war. The uncomfortable reality is that the purposeful suffering inflicted by armed conflict is more morally tolerable than suffering caused by natural disasters....(full article)

World Bank Imposes Debt Against Democracy-Deprived Haiti
by Yves Engler

On January 6, the World Bank announced it would release $73 million in cash to Haiti’s government of Gerard Latortue, which was installed by foreign powers after elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide was forced from office. For Haiti to get the World Bank cash it had to pay $52 million in outstanding arrears. Canada helped out by giving the regime a $12.7 million grant. What’s going on? (full article)

Crime and Reward: Immunity to the World Bank
by Anu Muhammad

The World Bank has formally asked the government of Bangladesh for legal immunity. It was reported that the WB became impatient to obtain a total immunity in Bangladesh. Anu Muhammad asks why? What wrong has the WB done for which it needs the cover of immunity for saving its skin? Why is the government moving fast to give full-fledged immunity to the Bank? Why does the government need to afford the Bank protection? What makes the champion of transparency and development nervous of the court and public scrutiny?  Is it only to keep the reported internal irregularities under carpet or something more? (full article)

Stupid Is As Stupid Does
by Allen Snyder

Since November, Christian fundamentalists have been flourishing their alleged popular mandate for taking America back to the days of forced prayer, heresy laws, and witch hunts.  The media trumpets to High Heaven that it was good Christian folk with solid “moral values” who put the born-again Chimpster back in office.  Now the fundies are aggressively pushing their retro agenda on rabidly approving Republican toadies and meek opposition Fraidy-crats. The ink wasn’t even dry on the gift checks before fundies were everywhere screeching about the Pledge, the Ten Commandments, evolution, Intelligent Design, gays, Christmas, and the horrible oppression they suffer at the hands of secular liberals and other assorted communist sympathizers (gag!). Their sick goal, of course, is nothing short of a medieval Christian America with their highly perverted version of the Jesus myth explicitly codified right into the fabric of America’s legal, political, educational, and judicial systems....(full article)

Social Security Con Job
by Lee Sustar

Say you're expecting to rely on a modest retirement fund. Along comes a hotshot stockbroker promising that if he can handle your money, he’ll guarantee you 15 or 40 percent less of a payout than you would have gotten in the first place. It sounds absurd -- but that’s the essence of George W. Bush’s Social Security “reform.” For all of Bush’s hype about diverting a portion of the Social Security payroll tax into individual retirement accounts, his proposal is simply a smokescreen for a cut in benefits....(full article)

Meet The Real Domestic Terrorists
by Doris Colmes

Well, what’s fascism anyhow? Everybody’s hollering about it, and pointing accusatory fingers at everybody else, so what is it, exactly? Is fascism the tacit approval -- by some citizens --of local skinheads burning crosses and running hate-filled websites? Or is a fascist your neighbor down the street who uses racial epithets at all cultures other than his own and won’t let his kid play with your kid because you’re an immigrant? None of the above. Matter of fact, all of the above consist of those liberties of free speech that we, as Americans, have treasured since the inception of our country. Fascism is, “A Right-Wing Dictatorship Ruling Any Country.” Simple. Easy. And happening here....(full article)

Ohio On My Mind: Quiz for January 2005
by Mina Hamilton

Take the Election 2004/Ohio quiz. An easy action assignment follows....
(full quiz)

Pink Slips at CBS
by Mike Whitney

The only thing surprising about the purge at CBS was that they handed out the pink slips with a straight face. Other than that the episode was sadly reminiscent of Porter Goss wielding his scimitar over at the CIA. A few quick swishing motions and the erring parties were removed. Dan Rather, of course, was spared the humiliation of getting the boot down the office stairwell and, instead, was asked to commit ritual seppuku in the privacy of his own Park Ave. penthouse. The others simply got a brisk walk to the front door. The whole incident yielded the unpleasant odor of corporate despotism; four careers sacrificed to the god of political loyalty. But, then, that seems to be the way of things now. One’s future is strangely tied to one’s deference to the “Dear Leader” just as it is at state-run TV. Slip up on story about Bush’s faithful service in the National Guard and it’s a quick jaunt to the unemployment line. What a joke....(full article)

Pizza Pie
by Peter Kurth

What do tsunamis, the war on Iraq, podophilia, pie-related murder, and choice pizza have to do with each other? Peter Kurth explains....(full article)

Every Hero a Killer? Not:
A Spring Syllabus for America 2005

by Greg Moses

“Every hero must learn to kill,” says the online invitation for Fable, the Xbox video game by Microsoft. “You can save those in peril and aid those in need. But you are also free to be as wicked, violent and dark as you wish.” For me, this promo also describes the reality game being played across the globe by the USA. Send the tsunami relief supplies if you want, but you are free to drop bombs on Falluja. Like the game Fable, we are invited to choose the kind of hero we want to be. And we are buying an ideology that says in order to be heroes we must be ready to kill. So I am pleased to get word via email that a group of activists in Chicago, while training to join Christian Peacemaker Teams, kicked off their new year by inspecting the video-game shelves at a local toy store....(full article)

Hope is Not on the Way: The Farce of the DNC Contest
by Joshua Frank

Howard Dean formally announced on January 11 that he was officially entering the race for chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) which will be voted on in early February. The ex-governor of Vermont had been unofficially campaigning for the position since the Democrats’ loss to the Republicans in November’s presidential election. Dean joins a field of contenders that includes Democratic activists Simon Rosenberg and Donnie Fowler, former Texas Representative Martin Frost, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, former Representative from Indiana Tim Roemer, and former Ohio Democratic Party chairman David Leland. Dean’s decision to enter the race so late in the game reflects his fears that if he had peaked early as a contender, he would have deflated by nomination day....
(full article)

Far From Media Spotlights, the Shadows of “Losers”
by Norman Solomon

A system glorifies its winners. The mass media and the rest of corporate America are enthralled with professionals scaling career ladders to new heights. Meanwhile, the people hanging onto bottom rungs are scarcely blips on screens. Far from the media spotlights are countless lives beset with financial scarcity, often in tandem with chronic illness, monotony, adversity and despair. The same institutions and attitudes that lavish outsized respect on high achievers (the wealthier the better) are apt to convey ongoing disrespect for low achievers....(full article)

Did Bush Steal the White House Again?
by Lance Selfa

People saw Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 will recall the scene of Congressional Black Caucus members requesting a single member of the Senate to support their calls for investigations into the stolen election in Florida that put Bush in the White House in 2000. Last week, that scene was re-enacted over disputed results in Ohio last November. Only this time, instead of responding with craven silence, Democratic senators--or at least one of them, Barbara Boxer of California -- agreed to support a challenge to Bush getting Ohio’s electoral votes. But after a few minutes of speechmaking on the importance of electoral reform, the Congress went ahead and dismissed the complaints about Ohio, certifying Bush as the victor in that state, and therefore the next president. Bush’s opponent, John Kerry, was AWOL -- having arranged for a visit to troops in Baghdad to coincide with the certification vote. In the Senate, only Boxer voted to pursue an investigation. In the House, 81 Democrats voted with the Republicans to dismiss the objections -- and 80 House Democrats didn’t even bother to show up. As Salon’s Tim Grieve described the spectacle, “There was no sense of history being made, no sense that anything was really happening at all.” In the end, the Democrats’ performance in 2004 was only slightly improved over their dive in 2000....(full article)

January 11-12

Website of the Week: Seven Oaks Magazine >>

Tsunamis, Mangroves and the Market Economy
by Devinder Sharma

As the first news reports of the devastation caused by the tsunami killer waves began to pour in, a newsreader on Aaj Tak’s Headline Today television channel asked his correspondent reporting from the scene of destruction in Tamil Nadu in south of India: “Any idea about how much is the loss to business? Can you find that out because that would be more important for our business leaders?” Little did the newscaster realize or even know that the tsunami disaster, which eventually turned out to be a catastrophe, was more or less the outcome of faulty business and economics. The magnitude of the disaster was only exacerbated by the neoliberal economic policies that pushed economic growth at the expanse of human life. It was the outcome of an insane economic system -- led by the World Bank and IMF -- that believes in usurping environment, nature and human lives for the sake of unsustainable economic growth for a few....
(full article)

Where Will It End?
by William Fisher

Though it received thousands of pages of documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) regarding prisoner abuse by the Defense Department (DOD) at the US Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) charges that the FBI investigation was “sharply scaled back”, records related to the FBI’s investigation are still being withheld, and those it has received are so heavily redacted (blacked out) that they “raise more questions than they answer.”....(full article)

The Financial Immorality of American Generosity
by Lucinda Marshall

The remarkable generosity of Americans in offering help to the victims of the recent Tsunami is truly heartwarming. All across our country, individuals, corporations and countless organizations, religious groups and charities have not only opened their hearts, but their wallets as well, this on top of the $350 million pledged by our government. . . .But before we pat ourselves on the back as Colin Powell did when he suggested that our largesse might well bolster our battered image in the Muslim world, we would be well advised to view our giving in the larger context of our overall spending habits....
(full article)

The Nixon Option
by Mikel Weisser

From the prison torture scandal, to the Salvador Option, to natural disaster miserliness and photo opportunism . . .  perhaps we might consider pursuing the Nixon option for the Bush Administration? (full article)

Time For Trickle Down Effects of Tax Cuts & War Profiteering
by Evelyn J. Pringle

Bush knew he couldn't have both. He had to make some serious choices. Basically he had to decide whether to have tax cuts for the rich, and a bogus war on terror that provides endless defense contracts to benefit his family and cronies, in and out of the administration, or to provide adequate funding for government programs that benefit US citizens. For Bush that was easy. To hell with the citizens. According to a secret memo revealed by the Washington Post, Bush has already warned most federal agencies to expect major spending cuts in 2006 if he is reelected. The memo, which was discovered on May 19, 2004, instructs federal agencies to use proposed cuts in calculating their future budgets. Under its formula, spending would face substantial cuts in areas like veteran benefits, homeland security, education, nutrition programs, home ownership, and scientific research....(full article)

The Last Man to Concede
by Sheila Samples

On November 3, just hours after Democratic vice presidential hopeful John Edwards made a national announcement that he and John Kerry were not going to concede until all the votes were counted, Kerry grabbed the spotlight and conceded -- before all the votes were counted. Kerry took the money and ran. Seems he couldn't stick around because he and the missus were spending Christmas at a holiday extravaganza in Sun Valley as personal guests of California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who just weeks before had fired up the Republican Convention at Madison Square Garden by declaring that “America is safer with George W. Bush as president.” According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “The former candidate, largely AWOL post-election, was seen in intense conversation with Dennis Miller.” It would be another two months before Kerry got around to emailing his millions of stunned, exhausted, and much poorer supporters to let them know that, although he was committed to “ensuring that every vote in this election is counted,” alas, he wouldn't be joining the protest of the Ohio Electors....
(full article)

The Democratic Consultants Whose Bad Advice Handed Bush the Victory
by Doug Ireland

The National Journal's Daily Poll Track yesterday brought news of a new national survey that ought to make Democrats disgusted with the leadership of their party sit up and take notice: “Television advertising alone cost more than a billion and a half dollars in 2004, but who exactly was supposed to get the message?,” asked the Journal. “A new Annenberg survey found that only 15 percent of voters considered voting for the other presidential candidate at any point in the election cycle. Supporters of President Bush and John Kerry were statistically even: Eighty-four percent of Bush voters and 85 percent of Kerry voters said there was never a time they thought they would cast ballots for the other candidate.”....(full article)

Bush Violated FCC Laws
by Larry S. Rolirad

President Bush and others in his administration have violated FCC laws when they gave a million dollars to right-wing groups and individuals to promote the “No Child Left Behind” law.  The same FCC laws, which originated in the 1950s to combat the illegal practice called “payola”, should be applied to President Bush and everyone in his administration who participated in the crime.  “Payola” was a common practice in the ‘50s and ‘60s when music corporations paid disc jockeys large amounts of money to give airtime to songs they wanted to promote.  This practice was deemed by Congress to be illegal and they passed laws prohibiting “payola” through stronger FCC laws.  Since President Bush spent $240,000 of our hard earned taxpayer's money to pay to have a radio jockey, Armstrong Williams, promote Bush's law, then Bush should be indicted under the same laws in which music corporations and deejays were indicted fifty years ago.  It's called “payola” and its practice is illegal....(full article)

The Capital Research Center at 20
Defunding progressive organizations drives DC-based institute 
by Bill Berkowitz

In the constellation that comprises the growing sector of right wing think tanks and policy institutes, the Capital Research Center (CRC) isn't the best funded, the most noteworthy, or the most influential. It doesn't have the largest staff, or the biggest building. Unlike its well-known sister institutions -- the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institution -- the Capital Research Center mostly slogs away in relative anonymity. Don't be fooled by the CRC's general lack of buzz-generating activities: For over twenty years, the CRC has been hell-bent on carrying out its mission -- defunding and disempowering the progressive non-profit sector and casting a wary eye on the foundations that fund them....(full article)

(Dispatches from Iraq) Baghdad As Usual
by Dahr Jamail

The usual spiral descent in the airplane landed me into a grey day in Baghdad…the weather the same as when I left a few weeks ago. The usual hordes of ‘Global’ mercenaries crowded the airport…where a person isn’t allowed to take their carry-on into the bathroom with them-for fear of bombs. Keep in mind that the airport is the largest US military base in Iraq. Then there was the usual joy of waiting at the front checkpoint to be picked up. As usual, Abu Talat had arrived early…only to be gridlocked in the nerve-wracking wait in the line of cars to have his car sniffed by dogs for explosives. Standing inside the checkpoint in the small parking area is not my idea of a good time-everyone eyeing one another, wondering if that person is a kidnapper, or if that car in the distance is a bomb....(full article)

A Tale of Two Elections
by Gila Svirsky

There seemed to have been two elections in Palestine on Sunday: the one conducted in the West Bank and Gaza, and the one in Jerusalem. Voting day in the West Bank and Gaza was marked in many places by a mood of ebullience and celebration. There was singing, dancing, the firing of guns into the air, families strolling together to the polling stations. Palestinian women’s organizations had spent weeks encouraging women to vote, and many women did show up for their first election, especially in urban centers. While not all checkpoints were eased and not all Palestinians wanted to vote under an occupation regime, the overall climate was one of hope and a new beginning....(full article)

January 10

A Mean and Unholy Ditch
The Sleep of Reason Amid Wild Dogs and Gin

by Joe Bageant

The hardest thing for garden variety American liberals to grasp is what a truly politicized and hateful place much of America has become -- one long mean ditch ruled by feral dogs where the standards of civility no longer apply. The second hardest thing for liberals is to admit that they are comfortably insulated in the middle class and are not going to take any risks in the battle for America’s soul . . . not as long as they are still living on a good street, sending their kids to Montessori and getting their slice of the American quiche. Call it the politics of the comfort zone....(full article)

From El Salvador to Iraq: Death Squads Come in Waves
by Charles Demers

Remember the heady, idealistic days of early 2005?  You know, like, January 1st through to, say, the 7th or 8th?  After the three-hundred-and-sixty-six day bloodbath that was 2004, and once the Are-the-Tourists-Okay? angle of the Tsunami story was driven into the ground – because apparently middle-aged sex tourists are still a more compelling image of Thai suffering than orphaned locals – it really seemed as though, this year, mourning brown-skinned folks as though they were real people would be en vogue. News agencies started turning away, slowly, from the fates of small, exclusive sea-side resorts, and started talking about the indigenous human toll of the South East Asian catastrophe; news that’s not, it should be pointed out, without its relevance to the goings-on of American capitalism: the post-traumatic suffering of those lucky children who survived the waves raises relevant commercial questions, like how many Asian kids is Nike’s Philip Knight going to have to fire as absenteeism skyrockets whilst they look for their parents’ bodies?  (A quick aside: Remember how nobody wanted to give up wearing Nikes despite the devastation the company wrought on South-East Asia?  Seriously, though, that Tsunami was positively Shakespearean.)....
(full article)

The Tsunami: Sea Change or Back to Business-As-Usual?
by Mina Hamilton

The tsunami catastrophe will be a defining event for the 21st century. There will be other catastrophes in this century. What will be defining about this one are both the image and the reality of the response. How did the West, particularly the US, respond? Did we quickly tire of the grisly images? Did we go back to business-as-usual? Did we dole out some band-aids and then forget about the suffering? Or did we jump in for the long haul? Did we help fishermen replace crushed boats? Did we rebuild matchstick houses, cratered roads and collapsed bridges? Did we help create a functioning medical system? Set up trauma counseling? Train teachers? Build schools? Did we funnel aid to the people, instead of a corrupt military? (full article)

Baboons, Troops, and GI Resistance
by Dan Raphael

Baboons know what to do when they are threatened by other baboons:  they grab the nearest infant and hold it in front of them.  Since baboons dote on their young, this often serves to deflect violence between adults.  You might say that baboons understand and employ the same maneuver as do politicians who “support our troops.”  Talk about “the troops” serves as a ready ploy designed to deflect criticism of the US government’s war against the Iraqi people.  By inviting understandable sympathy for Americans sent to fight and die in Iraq to be transferred onto the politicians themselves, a kind of moral authority is conferred upon the war makers and armaments profiteers.  That this extension of sympathy is undeserved, has been repeatedly demonstrated by the offhand dismissal of GI concerns and willingness to bend every unadvertised clause and footnote in the contract for military service, to prolong service. GIs are not stupid.  The level of resistance being shown across Iraq and within the United States itself already far surpasses what had occurred after a comparable period of time had passed in the war conducted by this country against the Vietnamese.  Only in the last years of that marathon atrocity did instances of “fragging”—attacks upon officers by enlisted men—become a matter of public knowledge.  This phenomenon had already surfaced in the Iraq theater, on the eve of the invasion....(full article)

Getting Real About the Draft: Why the Peace Churches are Meeting in March
by Greg Moses

Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a Democrat and West Point grad, has an interesting theory about Iraq.  Call it the Korea thesis.  “Consider South Korea,” said Reed in early December.  “We have been there since the early 50s. It was not until the 80s that we began to see an irreversible commitment to the democratic process to complement an aggressive market economy.” “If we are unwilling or unable to ‘stay the course’ in Iraq,” continues Reed, “a premature departure by the United States or an ejection by a frustrated Iraqi government will lead to civil conflict and an explicit or implicit partition of the country that will force adjacent countries to exert their influence over events in Iraq. This situation will create a ‘Lebanon on steroids’ in the apt words of Tom Friedman.” Reed’s Korea thesis of Iraq is fascinating to think about as we ponder the meaning of an upcoming assessment of the occupation to be undertaken by retired Army General Gary E. Luck....(full article)

Rigoberta Menchu, The Philippine Revolution, and
US Production of Knowledge: Speaking Truth to Power?

by E. San Juan, Jr.

The recent controversy over Nobel prizewinning Guatemalan activist Rigoberta Menchu and her authority as an indigenous spokesperson brings into sharp relief the substantive issues of objectivity versus human interest in what has come to be known as the current “Culture Wars.”  It serves as a timely reminder that the dispute over truth (now referred to as “truth effect,” after Foucault and postmodern nominalists) and its representation is transnational in scope and perennial in nature. It evokes the memory of some durable controversies in the humanities and social science disciplines that have assumed new disguises since the “two cultures” of C.P. Snow, or much earlier, the anarchy/culture polarity of Matthew Arnold. Should the tale be trusted over the teller, as D.H. Lawrence once advised? Or is it the case that if there is no teller, there is no worthwhile tale? (full article)

I Want My DDT: Little Nicky Kristof Bugs Out
by Mickey Z.

In a January 8, 2005 New York Times op-ed column ("It’s Time to Spray DDT"), Nicholas D. Kristof begins: “If the U.S. wants to help people in tsunami-hit countries like Sri Lanka and Indonesia—not to mention other poor countries in Africa—there’s one step that would cost us nothing and would save hundreds of thousands of lives. It would be to allow DDT in malaria-ravaged countries.” Why would anyone make such a suggestion? Well, in Little Nicky’s case, let’s start with the fact that he’s just “thrilled” that we are “pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the relief effort.” Ah yes, moments like this tend to bring out that time-honored capitalist response to tragedy: Buy guilt relief, congratulate oneself profusely, and then swiftly return to one’s bubble of denial....(full article)

Acts of God, Acts of Media
by Norman Solomon

The new year has scarcely begun, but Americans watching television have already heard a lot about God. When Larry King interviewed George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton the other night, CNN presented ample split-screen evidence that the Lord transcends political parties and backgrounds. The former presidents -- blue-blooded Yankee and hardscrabble Arkansan -- spoke eloquently about faith. By now, perhaps no subject has achieved more agreement in the USA's news media. Faith in God is a televised no-brainer....(full article)

New US Democracy Postal Stamps for 2005 (cartoon comment)
by John Chuckman

Three new attractive and timely US postal stamps for 2005: Democracy . . . We Deliver! (full cartoon)

January 6-7

The Other Man-Made Tsunami
by John Pilger

The hypocrisy, narcissism and dissembling propaganda of the rulers of the world and their sidekicks are in full cry. Superlatives abound as to their humanitarian intent while the division of humanity into worthy and unworthy victims dominates the news. The victims of a great natural disaster are worthy (though for how long is uncertain) while the victims of man-made imperial disasters are unworthy and very often unmentionable. Somehow, reporters cannot bring themselves to report what has been going on in Aceh, supported by "our" government. This one-way moral mirror allows us to ignore a trail of destruction and carnage that is another tsunami....
(full article)

Tsunami Cover Up? NOAA and the Flood
by Lila Rajiva

Questions are still seething about the Sumatra earthquake and tsunami. I’ll avoid the ones about what set off the quake, although speculation is rife about nuclear, and more controversially, electromagnetic technology, some of it referencing a remark by then defense Secretary William Cohen that admits to on-going research in environmental weaponry (DOD briefing, Monday, April 28, 1997 at the University of Georgia).  I’ll skip the other set of questions too about why the aid effort seems to be highly politicized and militarized or what long-term strategy may be served by the penetration of South Asia by spy satellites and soldiers when some of the countries there are battling insurgencies and others are making economic changes crucial to the world financial markets. The truth is, under Secretary Rumsfeld’s watch, civilian and military functions have become so melded together that it’s likely military involvement is unavoidable in the humanitarian efforts. As for what the governments in the Asian countries did wrong, so far it’s not clear what kind of warnings they received and when, what types of seismic detectors they had, and whether those were sufficient to predict tsunamis. As it stands, the most sophisticated monitoring equipment was in the Pacific warning system and only that equipment could really have estimated the size and direction of the waves. So it makes sense to ask why this sophisticated network simply didn’t do anything at all when it came to preventing what looks right now as the biggest natural disaster of the century....(full article)

Bush League Group Think
by Ahmed Amr

In a recent interview with CBS television, US Secretary of State Colin Powell predicted that, “the insurgency will not end.” He went on to say that “the insurgency will continue and the insurgency will have to be defeated by coalition forces, but increasingly the insurgency will be defeated and brought under control, if not completely defeated, by Iraqi forces that we are building up as rapidly as we can.” So, there you have it from the oracle at Foggy Bottom. To cover all possible outcomes, Powell came up with three scenarios.  The Iraqi insurgency could continue -- which by definition means that it would survive undefeated. Or coalition forces will vanquish the rebels in some epic battle like Fallujah - which was supposed to decapitate the insurgency. The third and most unlikely outcome is that the ill-trained 40,000 man Iraqi army will put down the insurgency. If this was a multiple-choice test, the correct answer could be “none of the above.”....(full article)

Did Networks Fake Exit Polls, While AP Accessed
2,995 Mainframe Computers?
by Lynn Landes

Why have exit polls historically matched election results?  How about this?  It's all made up.  It's a scam.  A con.  A fake.  A fraud.  Since they first started “projecting” election night winners in 1964, the major news networks have never provided any “hard” evidence that they actually conducted any exit polls, at all.  Researchers and activists who point to the disparity between the early exit polls and the 2004 election results, have failed to consider the obvious -- that exit polls never existed to begin with....
(full article)

The DLC’s Plan for Destroying the Democratic Party
by Craig Axford

Recent articles printed in the conservative Democratic Leadership Council’s (DLC) Blueprint Magazine articulate more bluntly then ever before a strategy of moving the Democratic Party even further to the right, or the “center” as they like to call it.  According to the DLC, then and only then can Democrats again become a majority party in the United States....(full article)

An Interview with Allan Nairn on Aceh, the Tsunamis,
and Indonesian Military Abuses
by Derrick O'Keefe

Investigative journalist Allan Nairn has for many years written and lectured extensively about Indonesian abuses in East Timor and Aceh, and US support for Indonesia's brutal military. Nairn and Democracy Now! reporter Amy Goodman were badly beaten by Indonesian troops in Dili, East Timor in 1991, as they witnessed and recorded the massacre of 271 Timorese by Indonesian forces. Nairn has been a leading voice in the campaign to end US support for the Indonesian military. Derrick O'Keefe talked with Allan Nairn about the tsunamis that devastated Aceh, ongoing Indonesian abuses there, including the blocking of international relief aid to disaster stricken Acehnese, and the connection between US corporate interests and Indonesian military repression ...(full article)

Not Your Grandma's Religious Right
by Bill Berkowitz

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, Dr. James Dobson and Alabama's state representative Gerald Allen are on the warpath. The Rev. Falwell is promising to build his newly launched Moral Majority Coalition into an awesome electoral force to be reckoned with for decades to come. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, is warning Democratic Senators that if they block President Bush's judicial nominees their political careers will be toast. And Allen wants to turn gay-positive literature, currently located at state supported institutions, to toast. While you might have thought that President Bush's victory in November would initiate a fundamentalist time-out for hosannas and celebrations, they're keeping their joy in check. Instead of dancing in the streets, Christian right political warriors are donning full battle gear and scoping out new terrain....(full article)

Boot Up America!: Helmly Memo Leaks Bush’s New Deal
by Greg Moses

I was fifty five percent done with my download of America’s Army, the game you can get for free on the internet (or in CD format from your Army recruiter if you don’t have broadband, kid) when notice came down an anti-war list that the Army Reserve is, according to a leaked memo, “rapidly degenerating into a ‘broken force.’” Since memos are to be taken seriously when leaked the day before Congress convenes, I’ve little choice right now but to toggle between my Army made Army game and this Army induced article, which is good preparation, don’t you think for the all-Army future that is bringing purpose and clarity to your muddled life and mine.? The author of the (ahem) leaked memo, James Helmly, is no whiner, having worked his way up from Vietnam-era Private to three-star General and Chief of Army Reserves. In Sept. of 2003 he was quoted in USA Today saying that the Army Reserve is now on “a war footing” and needs to enter full war mode. In fact, he seems to have a pretty clear idea about how Congress can help him fix his “broken force”....(full article)

Italy's War Against Libya Presages America's Defeat in Iraq
by Dennis Rahkonen

Dennis Rahkonen on the relevance of the fascist Italian war on Libya in the first half of the 20th century to America's imperial war against Iraq and the Middle East today....(full article)

More New Year's Bageantry
The Richard Oxman/Joe Bageant Interview, Part Two
by Richard Oxman

Part Two of Richard Oxman's interview with writer extraordinaire Joe Bageant: "And I am convinced that America has now completely destroyed the connective social tissue that is inherent in man in his natural social state. Our differences between one another are merely what we consume. A yuppie liberal is as defined by what he consumes as the gun toting redneck with his truck. And living here among the reddest of necks, I can tell you that these days rural and small-town people are no warmer, nicer or better connected with their neighbors and relatives and families than the most career obsessed urbanites. Big spook America done gobbled de hearts out of all her chillun. We're talking night of the living dead, only the dead don't know they are dead because they cannot remember ever being alive. Even older people's memories have been cleansed. I remind my elderly mother of the way life was then, and she can barely find the memory. When she does she cries. Some younger people suspect it should be a lot warmer and more fun around this joint called the U S of A, but they have never seen proof it ever was so. Only the bullshit propaganda of the movies. It's a cold-assed place and getting colder, spookier and more ominous by the day. But Americans seem to be accepting it. We few who feel otherwise are seen as odd, as aliens. Unpatriotic. Eventually we will be classified as dangerous."....
(full interview)


The Death of Ideas: On the Passing of Susan Sontag
by Am Johal

They are few, those writers that take you places with the deftness, beauty and lucidity of their words, that you can no longer be an innocent bystander. They have the power to provoke, to challenge and force you to look at the world through a different prism.  For me, Susan Sontag was the kind of writer I could fall in love with just for the way she wrote....(full article)

A Historic Day: The Death of Democracy
by Katherine Brengle

Today is a historic day for America. For the first time since 1877, members of Congress chose to contest the certification of electoral votes. The vote count stopped when Vice President Dick Cheney reached Ohio. Based on concrete facts about voter disenfranchisement compiled by John Conyers and his staff, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH) stood together and forced debate in both houses of Congress about certification of Ohio's electoral votes. The Senate's debate convened quickly, as only 75 Senators were available to vote and it takes only a simple majority to turn down such an objection. Out of 75 Senators, 55 were Republicans. The objection was overturned 74 to 1. This means that 19 Democrats voted with the Republican Party on this. The dissenting vote was cast by Senator Barbara Boxer, who had cosigned the objection with Stephanie Tubbs Jones....(full article)

Expulsion Wasn’t End for Gay Student in Texas
by Matthew Cardinale

A homosexual student who was expelled last month from Trinity Christian Academy High School in Dallas, Texas, is now facing additional problems at home and says he may be kicked out of his house by his parents due to the media fallout from the incident. “My parents couldn’t believe it,” James Barnett, 18, recalled in a phone interview Monday. In an email he added, “My parents have worked with me on Keeping open [James’s gay support website], but my Mom doesn’t like the fact that I’m gay and doesn’t approve of it.” James has also had his hopes to attend college significantly crushed when his parents told him they were withholding financial assistance for him to attend college because of his sexual orientation unless he stayed in Dallas and went to the University of Texas, presumably so they could keep tabs on him....(full article)

Adventures in American Theocracy:
(Part 2) Heretics and Liberals
by Mark W. Bradley

In the autumn of 1636, John Winthrop and his Puritan friends were preparing to dip their hands up to their elbows in Native American blood. Once they committed to a policy of launching a pre-emptive strike against the Pequot people (in retaliation for atrocities committed by members of an entirely different tribe), they pursued that inexplicable course with a rare mixture of cultural arrogance and xenophobic malice. Significantly, the policy itself seems to have been driven by more than simple revenge, more, even, than a chronically insatiable hunger for land. It may, in fact, have constituted a gruesome demonstration of overwhelming force and resolve, one designed to dissuade any potential rival, Native American or European, from challenging Puritan hegemony in southern New England for the foreseeable future....(full article)

The Government We Deserve?
by William Fisher

The 2004 Presidential campaign reminded me of an earlier time. Two decades ago, I worked for a major public relations firm. Our biggest client was the world’s largest cigarette maker. One of my jobs for this client was writing press releases. We had two criteria for success. One was whether the press release was technically excellent. The other was how many newspapers published it. Whether it was accurate or not was not on the table. We knew it wasn’t. But no one cared....(full article)

Nazis 'R Us
by Michael K. Smith

We all owe a great debt of gratitude to Mr. Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, for pointing out that anti-Semitism is actually worse today than it was during the Nazi era. It’s awfully easy to overlook a thing like that, but nothing gets past Honest Abe, who announced three months after 911 that “we are facing a threat as great, if not greater, to the safety and security of the Jewish people than we faced in the thirties. Greater, because forty percent of the Jewish people are centered in one geographic tiny location.…” Of course, anti-Semites are the first to claim that it was Zionist fear-mongering designed to “in-gather” Jews from lands they had lived in for centuries that put so many Jews in such a vulnerable spot in the first place -- and this in order to make them permanently safe from anti-Semitism. Equally predictably, these bigots can’t resist leaping to the conclusion that driving out the indigenous Palestinians and abusing, torturing, and murdering those that remained, somehow had something to do with producing the rising anti-Israel sentiment we see all around us. Fortunately, rational people recognize that anger at so-called Israeli injustice is really ancient Jew hatred in disguise....(full article)

Media Sense and Sensibilities 
by Norman Solomon

At a pair of British daily newspapers -- The Independent and The Guardian -- plus the Observer on Sunday, journalists are far more willing than their U.S. counterparts to repeatedly take on powerful interests. Tough questions get pursued at length and in depth. News coverage is often factually devastating. And commentaries don't mince words. A recent essay in The Independent contended that Prime Minister Tony Blair “has, in short, proved himself a scoundrel and a hypocrite again and again and again.” The column, by Matthew Norman, continued: “How he has survived at all is something for tomorrow's political historians to explain, but one thing is clear: without a press that has erred, if anything, towards over-indulging him, he'd have got clean away with the lot of it.” In other words, overall, media outlets in Britain haven't challenged Blair enough -- but if they'd challenged him less, then the situation would be even worse and Blair would have a freer hand. There's a lot of alarmed commentary about the ostensibly left-leaning Blair government's drift into authoritarian rule. Under such circumstances, in any country (nowhere more than in the USA), vigorous journalism is essential to prevent further erosion of civil liberties and other fundamental rights....
(full article)

January 2

Testing Free Speech In America
by M. Shahid Alam

Professor Shahid Alam's previous essay on Dissident Voice provoked a wave of vicious responses from far right-wing websites, including death threats and numerous emails to his university caterwauling for his ouster from his teaching post. Professor Alam's latest essay follows up on the controversy with a reply to his anti free speech critics....(full article)

A Star of Liberation
by Dan Raphael

At knife point, they are kidnapped:  in their villages, on their way to school, or anywhere that a quick abduction can be carried out…or, with promises of wages that would be a gold mine in their own countries, they are offered regular employment abroad as nannies, waitresses, maids, or performing other modest work.  Sometimes these offers are made at job fairs, the smiling woman or man assuring them that the jobs are real and honorable. Transportation and housing are included; all these young women need do is to sign the application and be at the airport on time. In the economic devastation that “freedom” has brought upon the nations of the former Soviet Union, families with little or no income are commonplace.  How can these girls refuse to try, hoping against hope that despite the stories they have heard, their own experience will be what was promised--honest work that will support themselves and their parents and siblings.  And so, hope and fear intertwined, they go. The reality awaiting these innocents is an apartment where they are confined with any number of other girls who have been similarly deceived and abducted.  There begins their real job training, where they are “broken” to become suitable employees of the pimps who will purchase them from the brokers.  The methods are effective, if not imaginative:  starvation, gang rape, torture with lit cigarettes, beatings, threats to kill them and their families.  Sometimes these murder threats are carried out; sometimes a slave-in-training will commit suicide....(full article)

Bring Them Home . . . Sooner Rather Than Later
by Sheila Samples

USA Today founder Al Neuharth's New Year's Resolution that we should support the troops in Iraq by bringing them home has stirred up a hornet's nest, according to Editor & Publisher Magazine which, after describing Neuharth's Dec. 22 Christmas column, was inundated with hate mail. The E&P staff wrote that Neuharth said if he were eligible to serve in Iraq, "I would do all I could to avoid it."  Neuharth also wrote in his weekly column for the paper that America's New Year's Resolution should be to bring the troops home "sooner rather than later." Neuharth, who is 80, recalled his duty as an infantryman in France, Germany and the Philippines during World War II as "highly moral." But he said that troops floundering around in the bloody Iraqi mess today were, like those in Vietnam, thrust into an "ill-advised adventure by an unwise commander-in-chief," and should be brought home post-haste. The vitriolic response was immediate, and got the attention of editor Greg Mitchell, who said E&P's little four-paragraph article "drew more letters than virtually any story we have ever posted." Mitchell made the strange conclusion that the vicious responses to Neuharth's commentary (opinion) were mostly a result of Americans increasingly hating or distrusting the press....(full article)

A Sporting Revolution: The Parecon Hockey League
by Kim Petersen

Up to now, there is no 2004-2005 National Hockey League (NHL) season for ice hockey aficionados. The public NHL players and behind-the-scenes owners are incurring the wrath of disgruntled fans. The wrangling is between what are portrayed as aloof, millionaire hockey players and rich, money-losing owners of NHL franchises. The players are under pressure to pare their wages to bail out the supposedly financially troubled NHL. But there is an alternative available to the NHL Players Association (NHLPA), the players union, which would free the players from constant confrontation with the owners. If the NHLPA would be so bold as to consider an economic alternative and implement a progressive, egalitarian program, the players could liberate themselves and curry fan loyalty. Just imagine if the players pursued a revolutionary approach contrary to the capitalism of professional sports....(full revolutionary vision)

Privacy Piracy? What Howard Dean May Bring to the DNC
by Joshua Frank

A year before Howard Dean announced his bid for the presidency; he spoke at a Pittsburg event sponsored by a “smart-card” firm, Wave Systems. At the conference Dean announced that he hoped to one day implement a national identification card that would discourage online terrorism and identity theft, which would ultimately make Wave Systems a very rich corporation. “We must move to smarter license cards that carry secure digital information that can be universally read at vital checkpoints,” Dean explained during his speech in March 2002. “Issuing such a card would have little effect on the privacy of Americans.” Dean's Star Trek like fantasy went as far as to state that the Federal government should mandate the implementation of ID card readers in all personal computers. The computer could then only be accessed once the system user inserted his or her national ID number into the security login....(full article)

Wireless Politics May Determine Future of Digital Democracy
(Part 1 of 2)
by Michelle Chen

A teenage public housing resident searches the web for scholarship opportunities while her mother looks up tips on starting a small business. A public art space lets visitors download a multimedia exhibition onto their laptops, which are simultaneously linked to a dozen other galleries around the city. A local Independent Media Center breaks news before the major network affiliates by sending a report instantly to thousands of home computers sharing a wireless network. You may not be able to see into the future of digital democracy, but you may already be breathing it; the new frontier, say activists and technophiles, is on the air. Broadband access and its wireless digital "ether" are giving rise to a new technological geography that defies spatial boundaries and historical precedent....(full article)

Activists Bring the Digital Frontier to New Communities
(Part 2 of 2)
by Michelle Chen

A laptop and an antenna might not signify political activism to most, but in the Digital Age, they might soon become indispensable vehicles for social change. With the rapid growth of wireless internet technology since the 1990s, the allure of using unlicensed airwaves to enable widespread high-speed internet access has created new alliances and new tensions among grassroots nonprofit organizations, government agencies and corporations, all of which have a stake in developing wireless technology, or "WiFi." Wireless networking -- which allows for decentralized, sharable internet connectivity at low or no cost to the user -- has the potential to connect millions to the internet -- even remote and poor populations. This is an empowering prospect for community organizations and corporations alike. And where there is power, a struggle is never far behind....(full article)

Get Off Your Knees!
by Dan Raphael

Self-touted "revolutionaries" and "anarchists" could be found supporting the Kerry version of power to a certain select few, albeit with obligatory sighs and even an occasional shaken fist. One must keep up appearances, after all--the fact that support brought nothing in return, was compelling reason enough to huff and puff a bit, just to show that well, you know, we could go elsewhere, if... But what, one wonders, is this "if" floating, as it seems, disembodied and free of all earthly connections? What would have prompted progressives--sometimes dubbed "pwogwessives," in their ABB mode--to have left the warm bosom of the pro-war, pro-globalization, dealmaker par excellence, chosen to bear the banner of The Party That Fights for the Common People? There was presumably some threshold, some imaginary line beyond which even they were not prepared to go in pressing the cash-rich flesh of the ABB crowd. What, one wonders, could this limit have been? (full article)

J. Kenneth Blackwell: A Man All for Democracy, Except, Uh, When He’s Not
by Mark Drolette

Read the following two items carefully because there is a quiz afterwards:
1) From Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell’s op-ed, Cincinnati Post, December 8, 2004: “No, Ohio’s system of elections is not perfect…I look forward to working to improve it with those who have constructive proposals…”
2) From Associated Press, December 27, 2004: “[Blackwell], who declared President Bush the official winner in Ohio, is seeking a court order to keep himself from being interviewed as part of a court challenge of the Nov. 2 vote.”
OK, ready?  Here goes: Pick the real J. Kenneth Stonewall -- er, Blackwell.  (Hint: The answer is not an odd number.) How quickly the worm turns (often, this is just an analogy): Secretary Blackout stayed pretty congenial on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown on November 29 when asked about Ohio’s then-upcoming recount (although he did froth a bit over Jesse Jackson, who had had the audacity to publicly question Ohio’s voting process the previous day.  Secretary Blockwell asserted that “Jackson has not had the courage or the credibility to run and get elected to dog catcher”; which got me to thinkin’: in Ohio, are Diebold machines used in that contest?)....(full article)

IRS To Amway -- The Party's Over
by Evelyn J. Pringle

Apparently, the IRS has decided that Amway distributors are having too much fun listening to tapes, reading books, and attending the same training seminars year after year after year.  In July 2004, the United States Tax Court issued a ruling that barred two distributors from claiming business related tax deductions for the cost of these items. The husband and wife distributors, Randall and Kay Ollett, have been in Amway since 1996, and have listed thousands of dollars in Amway-related business expenses on their tax returns each and every year, even though they have never showed one dime of profit. The Tax Court has evidently decided that partying with the Amway crowd is no longer going to be funded at the tax payers expense, because when it was asked to determine whether the Olletts engaged in their Amway activity with the intent of making a profit in 1999 and 2000, it concluded that the Olletts did not have an actual and honest objective of making a profit from their distributorship, and therefore, could not deduct Amway-related expenses on their Federal Tax Return....(full article)

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