31 August 2007

Nooky's Bakery

Thanks to Mariann Wizard for sharing this with us.

Flour and Sugar and Eggs - Oh My!
Susan DuQuesnay Bankston

Most of you are familiar with our local Spirit of Freedom Republican Women. They are real; they meet monthly. They are one of the few local Republican clubs that doesn't have a website of its own. I suspect that's because they're pretty much positive that the Internet is a tool of the devil, secular humanists, and Jennifer Anniston.

About five years ago, I took to calling them The Belles of Heaven Republican Women's Club. It kinda stuck and local folks - even Republicans - started calling them that. Well, the Belles have gotten their brassiere straps all uptight and grotesquely twisted over a new locally-owned female-run business: a mother and daughter bakery.

Specifically, Nooky's Erotic Bakery.

No, I'm not joking. Nooky's opened a couple of months ago on Highway 6 right in the heart of Sugar Land, within frosting distance of Tom DeLay's home. It's in a strip shopping center with other businesses. A mother and daughter team own and run it. They make bakery goods for wedding showers, birthdays, and people too grown up for a Cinderella or Spiderman cake but not so grown up that they don't want a birthday party.

It's not something I'd want, but you might and I respect your birthday wishes.

The Belles had their monthly meeting last week and Nooky's got some free advertising. One blogger described the Belles as being "outraged" over Nooky's. I can understand that. Women. Baking. Free enterprise. That's the Trifecta of Torrid. Outrage is a valuable commodity and, bless their hearts, the Belles have cornered the market.

So, poor Criminal District Attorney John Healey, who is a man with absolutely no sense of humor - I mean that literally, we think he had a humorectomy - shows up at the Belles' meeting and gets cornered by some really pissed-off women who want to know what he's going to do RIGHT NOW to rid their fair city of the horror of cake.

Healey, as the blogger put it, was "rather put on the spot when he was asked to explain how this occurred." Well, I imagine so! Envision yourself trying to explain how batter formed itself into a set of ta-tas. You gotta start with that whole spring form cake pan thing, oven temperature, food coloring, and then some other stuff that Julia Childs probably took to her grave.

I would think that not having a sense of humor would be a help in these situations. However, one of my newly found spies tells me that poor Healey walked out of the meeting smelling of Eau de Pious and carrying 40 pounds of grief. It didn't occur to him that icing is not a criminal act in Texas. In a rare moment of bureaucratic irony, it truly is not his job to do anything about this.

Personally, I think the Belles knew that but brought it up just to hear dirty talk and get themselves all aquiver with outrage. This passes for foreplay in many Republican homes.

By three o'clock that afternoon, County Commissioner Andy Meyers, a man far too obsessed with other people's hoochy-koochy activities to have much of his own, was issuing press releases and getting everybody in the county drawing a taxpayer salary to quit whatever they were doing and get ---- well, outraged!

Andy contends that Nooky's Bakery is a sexually oriented business.

Dude, it's flour, sugar, and eggs. If that gets you frisky then you've got bigger problems than your diet. I don't even think that the Mayor of Spokane is that perverted.

Look, there's a simple solution to this whole thing. Let's take Andy over to Nooky's and let him look at the cakes. If Andy gets unduly excited and will sign an affidavit attesting to such, then I'll help close the place down. I don't know how we'll certify Andy's level of "excitement." I haven't worked that out yet. We asked Thelma to help and she said, "Not even for a three-layer dinky cake."

You would think that at some point Republican women would realize that they should just shut-up about sex. The more they talk, the more Republican men get caught doing really kinky stuff --- and I mean kinky in more than running for Governor.

Thelma, Verdelia, and I are going to Commissioners Court when they discuss this just so we can sit in the audience to point and giggle every time a commissioner says "nooky." The county will probably have to hire a consultant to explain to one commissioner what nooky is and remind the rest.

Now I know that people in foreign states think I'm making this up. I am not. You can't make this stuff up. That's why I live here. It's like living in Wonderland!

[+/-]

30 August 2007

You Lose Your Soul

History Will Not Absolve Us
By Nat Hentoff

08/30/07 "Village Voice" -- -- If and when there's the equivalent of an international Nuremberg trial for the American perpetrators of crimes against humanity in Guantánamo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the CIA's secret prisons, there will be mounds of evidence available from documented international reports by human-rights organizations, including an arm of the European parliament—as well as such deeply footnoted books as Stephen Grey's Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Torture Program (St. Martin's Press) and Charlie Savage's just-published Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy (Little, Brown).

While the Democratic Congress has yet to begin a serious investigation into what many European legislators already know about American war crimes, a particularly telling report by the International Committee of the Red Cross has been leaked that would surely figure prominently in such a potential Nuremberg trial. The Red Cross itself is bound to public silence concerning the results of its human-rights probes of prisons around the world—or else governments wouldn't let them in.

But The New Yorker's Jane Mayer has sources who have seen accounts of the Red Cross interviews with inmates formerly held in CIA secret prisons. In "The Black Sites" (August 13, The New Yorker), Mayer also reveals the effect on our torturers of what they do—on the orders of the president—to "protect American values."

She quotes a former CIA officer: "When you cross over that line of darkness, it's hard to come back. You lose your soul. You can do your best to justify it, but . . . you can't go back to that dark a place without it changing you."

Few average Americans have been changed, however, by what the CIA does in our name. Blame that on the tight official secrecy that continues over how the CIA extracts information. On July 20, the Bush administration issued a new executive order authorizing the CIA to continue using these techniques—without disclosing anything about them.

If we, the people, are ultimately condemned by a world court for our complicity and silence in these war crimes, we can always try to echo those Germans who claimed not to know what Hitler and his enforcers were doing. But in Nazi Germany, people had no way of insisting on finding out what happened to their disappeared neighbors.

We, however, have the right and the power to insist that Congress discover and reveal the details of the torture and other brutalities that the CIA has been inflicting in our name on terrorism suspects.

Only one congressman, Oregon's Democratic senator Ron Wyden, has insisted on probing the legality of the CIA's techniques—so much so that Wyden has blocked the appointment of Bush's nominee, John Rizzo, from becoming the CIA's top lawyer. Rizzo, a CIA official since 2002, has said publicly that he didn't object to the Justice Department's 2002 "torture" memos, which allowed the infliction of pain unless it caused such injuries as "organ failure . . . or even death." (Any infliction of pain up to that point was deemed not un-American.) Mr. Rizzo would make a key witness in any future Nuremberg trial.

As Jane Mayer told National Public Radio on August 6, what she found in the leaked Red Cross report, and through her own extensive research on our interrogators (who are cheered on by the commander in chief), is "a top-down-controlled, mechanistic, regimented program of abuse that was signed off on—at the White House, really—and then implemented at the CIA from the top levels all the way down. . . . They would put people naked for up to 40 days in cells where they were deprived of any kind of light. They would cut them off from any sense of what time it was or . . . anything that would give them a sense of where they were."

She also told of the CIA interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, who was not only waterboarded (a technique in which he was made to feel that he was about to be drowned) but also "kept in . . . a small cage, about one meter [39.7 inches] by one meter, in which he couldn't stand up for a long period of time. [The CIA] called it the dog box."

Whether or not there is another Nuremberg trial—and Congress continues to stay asleep—future historians of the Bush administration will surely also refer to Leave No Marks: Enhanced Interrogation Techniques and the Risk of Criminality, the July report by Human Rights First and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

The report emphasizes that the president's July executive order on CIA interrogations—which, though it is classified, was widely hailed as banning "torture and cruel and inhuman treatment"—"fails explicitly to rule out the use of the 'enhanced' techniques that the CIA authorized in March, 2002, "with the president's approval (emphasis added).

In 2002, then–Secretary of State Colin Powell denounced the "torture" memos and other interrogation techniques in internal reports that reached the White House. It's a pity he didn't also tell us. But Powell's objections should keep him out of the defendants' dock in any future international trial.

From the Leave No Marks report, here are some of the American statutes that the CIA, the Defense Department, and the Justice Department have utterly violated:

In the 1994 Torture Convention Implementation Act, we put into U.S. law what we had signed in Article 5 of the UN Convention Against Torture, which is defined as "an act 'committed by an [officially authorized] person' . . . specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering . . . upon another person within his custody or physical control."

The 1997 U.S. War Crimes Act "criminalizes . . . specifically enumerated war crimes that the legislation refers to as 'grave breaches' of Common Article 3 [of the Geneva Conventions], including the war crimes of torture and 'cruel or inhuman treatment.'"

The Leave No Marks report very valuably brings the Supreme Court— before Chief Justice John Roberts took over—into the war-crimes record of this administration. I strongly suggest that Human Rights First and Physicians for Social Responsibility send their report—with the following section underlined—to every current member of the Supreme Court and Congress:

"The Supreme Court has long considered prisoner treatment to violate substantive due process if the treatment 'shocks the conscience,' is bound to offend even hardened sensibilities, or offends 'a principle of justice so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental.'"

Among those fundamental rights cited by past Supreme Courts, the report continues, are "the rights to bodily integrity [and] the right to have [one's] basic needs met; and the right to basic human dignity" (emphasis added).

If the conscience of a majority on the Roberts Court isn't shocked by what we've done to our prisoners, then it will be up to the next president and the next Congress—and, therefore, up to us—to alter, in some respects, how history will judge us. But do you see any considerable signs, among average Americans, of the conscience being shocked? How about the presidential candidates of both parties?


[+/-]

What Matters Is Making the Stand

My Story
By Army National Guard Spc. Eleonai "Eli" Israel

098/30/07 "Courage To Resist" --- - Two months ago, I took a stand that changed my life forever. As a Soldier, a JVB Protective Service Agent, and a Sniper with the Army who had been in Iraq for a year (running over 250 combat missions), I refused to continue to be a part of the occupation. I regret nothing. This is my story. Currently, as I write this I am sitting in Kuwait, on "stand-by" to return to the States sometime hopefully this week. After getting out of the brig last week, I’m now scheduled to be discharged from the Army within the month. I'm looking forward to joining forces with anti-Iraq-War movements, such as Courage to Resist and Iraq Veterans Against the War.

What led me to this place in my life?

Joining up, the first time

I joined the U.S. Marine Corps in the spring of 1999, the month of my 18th birthday.

I grew up in the custody of the state of Kentucky with little contact with my biological parents since I was 13. I had no family support system and ended up on the streets, doing what street kids do.

By 16, I had eased into hard drugs. I had not been to school since the first part of 9th grade, and I was short on about everything but street smarts, an untapped sense of ambition, and a tough guy attitude.

When I walked into the recruiting station I learned that in order to join the Corps, I would need either a high school diploma or a GED with a waiver—unless I also had certain college credits. When I told them that I was 16 and had only completed 8th grade, they quickly dismissed me, not expecting to see me again.

They were wrong.

Not only did I earn my GED, I also did a semester at the local college. A year and a half later the month I turned 18, March 1999, I walked back into the same recruiting station, spoke to the same recruiter, showed him my GED and my college transcripts and felt my first real sense of pride.

Thirteen weeks after arriving at Parris Island, I was changed forever. I graduated as the leader of a platoon squad with a meritorious promotion, and was now well on my way to a shining career as a Marine.

Then came September 11, 2001.

Re-enlisting for my country

Like many after September 11th I wanted to serve, again. I felt I owed something more to my country after my years of training. I trusted my president and my leadership to tell me the truth. I also trusted my own integrity. I knew that I would never willingly do anything that I knew to be immoral or wrong.

I re-enlisted in 2004—this time in the Army National Guard.

At the time I believed that those serving in the 'global war on terror' were doing so because they believed in what they were doing—not because they were under compulsion by a contract or retained by stop-loss. After having seen the situation on the ground, I now believe I was wrong. In 2006, I shipped out to Iraq.

In Iraq I was as a JVB Agent—the JVB (Joint Visitors Bureau) served as the protective service for "three star generals and above" and their "civilian equivalents". This included the Vice President, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, their equivalents in a number of our "allied nations", and others. I trained for my job as part of this "special unit" prior to deployment, and I spent the majority of my tour in the company of the most powerful people connected to the "global war on terror".

Even as a JVB agent, my primary job was still infantry. On days when we didn't have any JVB missions, we would be called on for "search and cordon" operations and other infantry assignments. So, although I worked at the JVB, I was still on the roster of a sniper platoon tasked with various missions "outside the wire"—either as "sniper overwatch" or house raids.

I reasoned that my actions during these missions were justified in the name of "self-defense." However, I came to realize my perception was wrong. I was in a country that I had no right to be in, violating the lives of people, and doing so without regard to the same standards of dignity and respect that we as Americans hold our own homes and our own lives to.

Destroying lives

I have taken and/or destroyed the lives of people who were defending their families from being the "collateral damage" of the day. Iraqi boys are joining groups like "Al Qaeda" for the same reason street kids in the U.S. join the "Cribs" and the "Bloods". It’s about self protection, a sense of dignity, and making a stand.

The young man whose father and cousin we "accidentally" killed, and whose mother and siblings cry every time the tank rolls through the neighborhood, doesn't care who Osama Bin Laden is. The "militants" we attacked were usually no different than an armed neighborhood watch group who didn't trust their government. We didn’t trust the government either, and we put them in power!

Our own sacrifices, as tragic as they are (and they are tragic), are dwarfed in comparison to the carnage that has been brought on the Iraqi people.

"Success" in Iraq is not a matter of the number of coalition deaths "declining". Success would be an end of the catastrophe we have inflicted on a entire society, and restoration of dignity and sovereignty

Iraqis continue to die at a rate 10 to 20 times that of the coalition forces. In Baghdad alone, five years and $950 billion later, the population suffers power and water outages that last for weeks at a time. Meanwhile, we often impose martial law so that no one can leave. The day I saw myself in the hateful eyes of a young Iraqi boy who stared at me was the day I realized I could no longer justify my role in the occupation.

I envy the soldier who is able to see the injustice of this war from afar, and has the courage and conviction to take the stand against it. There will be those who criticize soldiers for being willing to weigh moral convictions against political ambition. What matters is making the stand. Whether you chose not to join the military in the first place, or you realized after joining that it fell short of the requisite levels of integrity, the moment you realize the truth is the moment to take a stand. My moment came with only three weeks of combat missions remaining during my one year in Iraq. Moral conviction has no timing.

Taking a stand

I informed my chain of command of my beliefs. I could tell from that first conversation that things were not going to go well. I told them that I believed our presence in Iraq was unlawful. I explained that I no longer believed in a policy of war and that I would file as a conscientious objector. Simply put, I could no longer in good conscience participate in a combat role against the Iraqi people.

Seconds after the words left my mouth, my life changed. Inside I had more peace than I had felt in over a year. I knew immediately that I had done the right thing. However, I was aggressively disarmed, confined, and shut off from contacting anyone, including family or an attorney.

I was illegally confined to a cot in an operations room, placed under 24 hour guard, and escorted to the bathroom before I was formally charged with refusal to follow an order two weeks later. I remained confined until I pled guilty (with little choice) less than a week after that. I was immediately sent to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait to serve 30 days in a military prison. I was just released from the brig the other day and I’m now in the process of being "kicked out" with an "Other Than Honorable" discharge. I regret nothing.

After I told my command my beliefs, and once they realized they couldn't intimidate me and that I was serious, they decided that it was going to become an "information war".

I had many anti-war friends from MySpace and other online networks that got wind that I was being mistreated and it circulated around the world, literally overnight. Before I knew it, I was dragged into the First Sergeant’s office and they began yelling and screaming about how their names were "all over the internet". They didn't try to deny what was being said about them—that I was being treated unfairly and that they refused to acknowledge my claim as a conscientious objector—they were simply mad about the exposure.

Military strikes back

The next day I was told that I had been "flagged" as an OPSEC (operational security) “concern”. No reason given. They were hostile and consumed with the task of making "an example" out of me, and they were looking for ways to ruin my reputation and credibility.

They spent days typing up pages of fabricated "counseling statements" to retroactively discredit my military record. The fact that there were no prior record of statements made these accusations obviously fake, and they knew it. They "needed more".

They demanded repeatedly all of my Internet user names and pass words—MySpace, personal email, everything. All under the threat that "more charges" would be brought against me if I refused.

They wanted to read my emails, all my blogs, everything, in an attempt to find something. Anything they could use to make it look like I had been giving out classified information. They wanted to charge me and ruin my credibility as much as possible, and they desperately needed to be able to justify my illegal confinement.

Two weeks later, when they finally realized that they were not going to be able to charge me with "divulging intel", they finally charged me with a series of "not following orders". Not only did these include my refusal to continue combat missions, but ridiculous stuff like "not standing at parade rest" and "being late for work". You get the picture.

My command eventually offered to "chapter me out" if I would immediately plead guilty to everything and accept a summary court martial. My options were clear. I could play ball, spend 30 days in a brig, and get my life back. Or I could let them put me back on a fully confined restriction for the next two months, while they took every opportunity to make an example of me—to show everyone in the battalion, "this is what happens if you oppose the war.”

I’ll let them think they won, for now.


The truth will come out, and there is nothing they can do to hide it. The occupation is a disaster. I’m convinced that every day it continues that it makes America, and the Iraqis less safe.

Objecting to the war and standing up to the military was without question, one of the best decisions I have ever made. I made a stand that was the right one, and I have my freedom back as a bonus. Maybe ten years from now those of us resisting from within the military today will be seen as some of the first few to speak the truth and to follow up with action. Even now I have many to remind me that I'm not alone in my thinking, even a majority of Americans who know that all the pieces of this conflict simply don't add up.

Seek the truth. Make the stand

Please visit "Courage to Resist" website http://www.couragetoresist.org/x/.


[+/-]

No End In Sight

Director's Interview: Charles Ferguson

Charles Ferguson, director of "No End in Sight," talks to NOW about the dangers of filming in Iraq, his career jump from M.I.T. scholar to filmmaker, and his surprise at Sundance.

NOW: What inspired you to tell the story behind the invasion of Iraq?

First, there is the example of my Ph.D. thesis advisor, who had been President Kennedy's deputy national security advisor, and who taught me to choose important questions and think hard about them. Second, conversations with journalist friends who were covering Iraq made it clear to me that television news was not telling the whole story, and to my astonishment nobody else appeared to be making a film about American policy in Iraq. Finally, it was clear that the Bush Administration didn't want the story told, and I love a challenge.

NOW: It's clearly extremely dangerous to be in Iraq, much less film there. What was it like?

Very, very tense. Nobody tried to kill us, but the sense of danger is everywhere. Automatic weapons are as common and normal as cellphones, we heard gunfire and explosions quite often, and several of us came across dead bodies in the street. The tension began as soon as we entered the country. Because the Baghdad airport was closed for a week, we traveled to Baghdad by road, driving overnight from Kurdistan in four armored pickup trucks with machine guns mounted in back. Three times our convoy was forced to stop because roadside bombs had just been discovered, or had just gone off, ahead of us.

In Baghdad, I stayed outside the Green Zone, in a barricaded, guarded compound. When going to meetings, we never gave our true arrival time in advance, and traveled from compound to compound in three armored cars, switching cars every few days. I fired the first director of my security detail, an American ex-special forces soldier, because he drove aggressively and screamed at Iraqis, which drew attention to the fact that we were foreigners. At other times, I would travel "low-profile," dressed as an Iraqi, with several Kurdish bodyguards carrying concealed weapons walking nearby, pretending not to know me. We never stayed in any one place longer than 20 minutes, never went back to the same place twice, and if someone nearby started using their cellphone, we left immediately. When I read recently of Senator McCain's comments about visiting a Baghdad market and feeling safe, escorted as he was by dozens of American soldiers supported by armored vehicles and helicopters, I truly wondered what planet the man was on.

NOW: How were you able to get footage of prayers and Moqtada Al-Sadr's sermon?

We hired an American journalist, Nir Rosen, who had spent the previous three years in Iraq covering the war, and who speaks Arabic. We trained him in the United States in the use of a new, small, high definition camcorder, and he was able to film many things not visible to most journalists.

NOW: What was the most surprising thing you learned about the invasion while making this film?

While I already knew that major mistakes had been made, I was truly shocked when I learned how casually, stupidly, hastily, and carelessly major decisions were made. In the film, we go into considerable detail about one crucial example, the decision to disband the Iraqi military and secret police, a decision made secretly by a handful of men who had never even been to Iraq, and who consulted virtually nobody before making perhaps the most sweeping and destructive decision of the occupation. I cannot recall any other instance in which such enormous decisions have been made by the United States government in such a way.

NOW: You interviewed many people — journalists, American and Iraqi policymakers, experts — for this film. Who left the most lasting impression on you and why?

It is very hard to choose. Colonel Paul Hughes, who watched helplessly as L. Paul Bremer destroyed his careful work to recall the Iraqi Army; Lieutenant Seth Moulton, one of the first Marines to enter Baghdad, and who asks in the film: Is this the best America can do? And all the many Iraqis I spoke with who had welcomed the war, who initially supported the U.S., and who had such high hopes for an Iraq free of Saddam, only to see their country deteriorate into carnage and hopelessness. Of these perhaps the most poignant was Iraq's deputy human rights minister, a woman who had fought Saddam for decades only to find things even worse after he was overthrown.

NOW: What do you hope your film will do for America?

I hope that it will help Americans understand that we must never go to war casually, and that reconstructing a nation after conquering it is just as important as defeating its army. Wars are sometimes necessary, but war is not a game, and the war is not over when the opposing army surrenders.

NOW: What make you take the unusual leap from scholar to filmmaker?

First, I have always loved film—I started going to film festivals when I was still a high school student. And second, while I love writing and academic work, I would like to reach people beyond the academic world, and to reach them in a way which is emotionally powerful as well as factually accurate.

NOW: This is your first film ever and you won a special jury prize at Sundance film festival. What was your reaction?

Very, very emotional. For both myself and, especially, my two editors, Chad Beck and Cindy Lee, making the film was an extremely intense, emotional experience, and when we heard our film's name we felt drained and elated at the same time.

Link: noendinsightmovie.com


[+/-]

Spencer for President - Position Paper Number 14

14. Add Equal Rights Amendment covering all reasonable definitions of “rights” to the U.S. Constitution

Thirty-five years ago, an Equal Rights Amendment that spoke only to gender inequality, was approved by Congress and forwarded to the states for ratification. It missed ratification by 3 to 8 states, depending on how you view the 5 rescissions that occurred before the deadline of 1979 or 1982 (depending on how you view the relevant acts of Congress and the decisions of the courts). In some ways we are “beyond all that”, but the political times and temperaments being what they sometimes are, let us try to establish broad and liberal terms that guarantee the same rights for all of us.

It may not be the end-all and be-all of the evolution of democracy, but we should formalize the level of development that existed prior to the Bush’ regime. What is – or should be – that “level of development”? Here’s my take:

  1. Constitutional rights, unabridgeable and without reservation, to all U.S. citizens (effectively, this would rescind the elements of the Patriot Act, the FISA laws, and the Military Commissions Act that allow search and seizure beyond the criminal standards that we had developed previous to the events of 9/11/01);

  2. Civil and voting rights, as described in Amendments XIV, XV, XIX, XXIV, and XXVI, without reservation to all U.S. citizens;

  3. Legal rights, as defined in the U.N.’s Declaration of Human Rights, plus the Geneva Conventions, for any person under any form of U.S. jurisdiction or control (including the U.S. Constitution’s requirements for habeas corpus, due process, and protections against ‘cruel or unusual punishment’;

  4. An exclusion that states specifically that, in the absence of germane criminal standards, seizure of any individual is prohibited at penalty of law;

  5. An additional exclusion that states that, in the absence of germane criminal standards, seizure of any individual’s property has a specified duration (e.g., 30 days). By the end of this deadline, a court with appropriate jurisdiction must review the situation and can decide to permit further sequestration only on the basis of standard due process and rules of evidence.

Those who agree with the points raised above – #s 1 and 2 in particular – may also require a list of categories to which these rules would apply, such as gender, “race” or ethnic identity, sexual orientation, nationality, creed, and, perhaps, affiliations. I do not oppose such a list, but I suggest that simply stating the rule without delineation is the widest approach. Likely there will arise some new category in the future, and inclusion by lack of exclusion may reduce the amount of struggle required to add such a category.

As to the “exclusions” in points # 4 and 5, I include these, because - lacking them - we all have the equal right of being arrested or expropriated for some vague ‘cause’, such as vagrancy or suspicion of …. Judicial review over the last 40 years has tended to reduce such uses, but there is nothing permanent about judicial review. It is merely precedent and has more effect in some courts than in others.

Many commentators have said it better than I can: it is the idea and the ideals of the structure of the U.S. government that justified any international leadership role that we may have entertained in the past. It is our current practices, plus the degradation of those ideals, that have severely harmed our reputation and standing.
Of more direct importance to us is that such degradation imperils our ability to influence the critical decisions that affect us individually and collectively. If an official – elected or appointed – can neglect the rules – habeas corpus, due process, or rules of evidence – that official can prevent or hinder us from speaking effectively, from voting, from affiliating with like-minded individuals, from educating/organizing the uncommitted. Do I need to continue? Is it not obvious what a ‘police state’ can do?

The history of the development of our Constitution is to add bits of enfranchisement at each epoch, after a bitter contest. How about if we just make the leap and say that we are all in this together? I believe that it is a minority position in the citizenry at-large to withhold the benefits of our ideals from this group or that. It is time for our country to embrace our historical tendency: include everyone in the benefits of liberal democracy.

Paul Spencer

[+/-]

Stop the Money - No More War

Kucinich: Congress Must Tell The President 'No' To Additional War Funding

WASHINGTON - August 29 - Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) issued the following statement calling on Congress to not appropriate any more funds for the war in Iraq, in response to today's Washington Post report that President Bush plans on asking Congress for $197 billion in funding for the Iraq war for FY 2008:

"We do not have to fund the war. The Democratic leadership must tell the President NO to any additional funding. No legislation is required. No vote is required. We have the money to bring the troops home. It does not require a vote. The only thing required is honesty, integrity and a willingness to end the war," Kucinich said.

"The President's request escalated by $50 billion to continue the surge-a surge that is failing.

"More than 3,700 Americans have died and an estimated one million innocent Iraqis have perished in an unjust and unnecessary war. It is commonly accepted that there is no military solution in Iraq, so why are we there?

"Each year this war is getting more and more costly-both in the amount of money spent and in the number of lives lost. Now the Administration is asking for almost $200 billion for one year alone-just so we can continue down a path of destruction and chaos.

"If the $197 billion was spent on education instead of the war, the federal education budget would triple.

"Congress needs to take a stand against this President and say they will not give him any more money. That is the only way to end this war and bring our troops home.

"The Administration is undermining the political process in Iraq. This money is fueling the occupation, which in turn, is fueling the insurgency. The Democratic leadership must act to end this war and end it now," Kucinich said.

Kucinich introduced HR 1234 on February 28, 2007, which is a plan for the United States to use existing money to bring the troops and necessary equipment home and transition to an international security and peacekeeping force.


[+/-]

Stand Up For Peace

Stand Up In September Vigil On Staten Island
By Next Left Notes - August 28, 2007 | News

Our Very Own David Hamilton of MDS at the Stand Up vigil - in Austin, TX
(Photo: Sally Hamilton / MDS)

STATEN ISLAND, NY - August 28, 2008. On Tuesday, August 28, Staten Islanders joined ordinary people from all over the country in holding a vigil to tell Congress that the time to stand up to Bush and redeploy US troops out of the unwinnable civil war in Iraq is NOW. Turnout was high and so were spirits as vigilers engaged people passing by. Drivers and pedestrians honked, cheered and stopped to take photographs. The event concluded with speakers from local antiwar organizations, including a military mom whose son has already done a tour in Afghanistan and another in Iraq - and who might be redeployed. The vigil was sponsored by MoveOn.org and hosted by the Staten Island chapter of Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS) and other local antiwar groups.

On a very pleasant August evening, organizers from several different local activist organizations joined together to hold a candlelight vigil at the seat of Staten Island’s local government, Borough Hall, directly across busy Richmond Terrace from the famous Staten Island Ferry. The goal - to let the US Congress know that the world is watching and they need to stand up to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Bush, known for his intellectual rigor mortis, is continuing to promote the fiction that the recent troop “surge” is having a positive effect. Vigil organizers scoffed at this and were insistent that the Congress must bring the troops home now and impeach Bush and Cheney for war crimes as well. The vigil featured signs that said: “Iraq Escalation - Wrong Way”, “Support The Troops - End The War” and “Impeach Them Now”. Several vigilers wore baseball caps that asked the largely rhetorical question: “Impeach Cheney?” Others wore tshirts that demanded “Arrest Bush”. On the sidewalk two pairs of military boots - with the names of fallen soldiers affixed - flanked a peace sign made of votive candles.

“Bush is playing three card monte again - telling voters and Congress that the ’surge’ is working. I grew up in during the Viet Nam war, I’ve heard all the lies before. It’s time to get our people home before we lose any more lives in a war based totally on lies,” said Tom Good, an organizer with Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS). “I have a twelve year old son. I want more for him than endless war,” he added.

“The surge is a colossal failure. The religious civil war in Iraq is spiraling out of control and our presence there is exacerbating the situation. We aren’t helping anything and our children are coming home maimed and worse - from a war that has already claimed too many lives,” said Elaine Brower, a World Can’t Wait organizer whose son served with the Marines in Iraq - and may be redeployed.

“The reckless policy in Iraq could drag on for another decade if we sit back and allow a crumbling Republican administration to continue their failed policies,” said Devra Morice, a vigil organizer and MDS member.

The vigil, was held simultaneously with similar events in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and featured speakers from Peace Action Staten Island (PASI), The Staten Island Green Party, Movement for a Democratic Society, The World Can’t Wait (WCW), Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the War Resisters League (WRL) and Critical Voice.

Sally Jones of Peace Action spoke about the need for concerned citizens to plug into local groups - and to attend a march on Vito Fossella’s Brooklyn office scheduled for September 15, 2007. Jim Moschella of the WRL’s NYC chapter discussed Operation No Recruit - a week of protests at the Times Square recruiting center. John Cronan of Pace SDS spoke about the Iraq Moratorium, scheduled to begin September 21, 2007. Elaine Brower of WCW, whose son James is in the Marine Corps, spoke about the horror of war and the need to remove Bush from office. Rebecca White of the Green Party talked about Counter Recruitment, the achilles heel of the military and Laurie Arbeiter of Critical Voice spoke about a letter writing campaign to House Speaker Pelosi, demanding the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. Arbeiter also stressed the need for the American people to make a “citizen’s arrest” of George Bush on September 25, 2007, referring to a protest scheduled to coincide with Bush’s next trip to the United Nations.

About 40 people attended the spirited event and organizers were pleased. The next MDS event is a “Honk For Impeachment” vigil at the SI Ferry Terminal on Sunday, September 2 from Noon to 1 pm. All are welcome.


[+/-]

29 August 2007

Karl Rove's Car Gift-Wrapped

These pranksters were perhaps a bit too kind ....

[+/-]

Update on New Iraq Strategy Hypothesis - P. Spencer

The Developing Situation in Iraq

I wrote an article last week - Oil and the new Sunni alliance with the U.S. – and there are some interesting developments to this story for your consideration.

David Ignatius (WaPo) published an article yesterday in which one Ayad Allawi figures prominently. Ignatius, in true Beltway-insider form, quotes an "administration official" as stating that frustration with Iranian meddling has caused the U.S. occupation establishment to decide that al-Maliki is too much of an Iranian ally (whether consciously or objectively is not germane) and that new leadership is needed. If you read my previous, related diary, then you know that I think that this is window-dressing for a decision to separate Iraq into two or three "states".

Almost as an aside, Ignatius makes two pertinent comments concerning Allawi. He says: 1) that the Sunni support him, and 2) that the Saudis are bank-rolling his push for an appointment as essentially a martial-law Prime Minister. Now Allawi is nominally a Shi’a, but his real religion is money and power. Of course, this is the true nature of the regime in Saudi Arabia, however much the House of Saud may tolerate the fundamentalist Wahhabists, so they understand one another quite well. Some western and Baghdadi Sunni even have a modicum of fondness for Allawi, because he is a sometime Ba’athist, which represents to them the period of their ascendancy. And being on Saddam Hussein’s bad side is not necessarily a demerit in this region, either. Saddam seems little mourned, other than in Tikrit.

The CW on Allawi has been that either he and his buddies stole a lot of the money when they were heading up the pre-election show in Iraq, or that some of his bandit buddies are fronting his "reappointment" campaign – or that our administration is still supporting him via the CIA. If the Saudis turn out to be the Sugardaddies, we can guess that they have a dog in this fight.

Beyond the Allawi campaign, there are significant realignments happening here in the second half of August. Besides the ever-connected Clinton and Levin pronouncements (plus those of the connectivity-wannabe, Representative Brian Baird), we have the latest NIE, the "ambassador" Ryan Crocker, the "liberal media", and various "administration officials" – all swelling the al-Maliki-must-go chorus to a mightly crescendo. Why?

First and foremost, the U.S. military must pacify Baghdad, as a key component of the row of permanent bases (read "forts") from the western Kurdish region to the soon-to-be-former British base in Basrah province. The Shi’a in Baghdad must either accept subservience there, or – at the least – move across the river to the eastern suburbs where their brethren are already concentrated. Under the rubric of neutralizing the militias, our forces in Baghdad are primarily targetting the Shi’a districts. Until lately, al-Maliki has resisted the focus on his fellow Shi'a.

All other reasons for his downfall are secondary, but follow from the same relationship. Abandonment of the national project is the ulterior motive.

Another indicator of the new strategy is the $20 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia and the related Persian Gulf regimes. Basically, they will be responsible for their northern border (plus Kuwait) where it faces the soon-to-become Shi’a region. In my opinion this deal will also support additional internal security forces, because al-Qaeda is becoming persona non grata in the new arrangement. Knowing al-Qaeda, they will try to wreak a little havoc in the old hometown.

OK – there is the latest installment on my guess as to the new Iraq strategery. I want to end with a couple of potential implications to the U.S. progressive cause for your consideration. First, if this strategy finds some traction on the ground, at some point in the next six months or so, our troops will be more secure, because they will be on one side of a relatively distinguishable line with a simple mission: Protect yourself and the people behind this line. I’m fairly sure that we have the resources to succeed in that regard.

This defensive alignment, and the enhanced security, will mean that troop levels can be reduced. This will improve their morale immediately, will make their mission acceptable to them again, will make rhetoric about eventual withdrawal more credible, and will allow a return to an R&R schedule that meets the nominal program of the armed services.

Such a situation also changes the debate with respect to attacks on Iran in that, once in defensive mode, any attacks are seen as Shi’a (read Iranian) provocation. The normal – and I use the term advisedly – military reaction will be to throw missiles and bombs in the general direction from which the attack originated. (Forget invasion – that has been nothing but a bluff for some time now.)

I think that you can see where I’m headed with this. The implications go all the way to the elections next year, and beyond. If this strategy shows some measurable success, then we will lose some of the support for ending the occupation and electing progressives that we currently "enjoy" as a function of the debacle that our current rulers have created and nurtured. If we continue to oppose occupation, the MSM will have renewed ammunition for describing us as whiners and as unpatriotic.

Personally, it doesn’t matter to me, as I am anti-imperialist – always have been, always will be. I’m used to being on the wrong side of the MSM and of the U.S. ruling class. I’m just bringing it up, because it is better to think about potential consequences ahead of events, whenever possible. Sounds like a future article.

Paul Spencer

[+/-]

Neo-Liberalism - Catalysing Crisis After Crisis

How Did We Get Into This Mess?
by George Monbiot, August 29, 2007, Guardian

For the first time, the United Kingdom's consumer debt now exceeds our gross national product: a new report shows that we owe £1.35 trillion(1). Inspectors in the United States have discovered that 77,000 road bridges are in the same perilous state as the one which collapsed into the Mississippi(2). Two years after Hurricane Katrina struck, 120,000 people from New Orleans are still living in trailer homes and temporary lodgings(3). As runaway climate change approaches, governments refuse to take the necessary action. Booming inequality threatens to create the most divided societies the world has seen since before the first world war. Now a financial crisis caused by unregulated lending could turf hundreds of thousands out of their homes and trigger a cascade of economic troubles.

These problems appear unrelated, but they all have something in common. They arise in large part from a meeting that took place 60 years ago in a Swiss spa resort. It laid the foundations for a philosophy of government that is responsible for many, perhaps most, of our contemporary crises.

When the Mont Pelerin Society first met, in 1947, its political project did not have a name. But it knew where it was going. The society's founder, Friedrich von Hayek, remarked that the battle for ideas would take a least a generation to win, but he knew that his intellectual army would attract powerful backers. Its philosophy, which later came to be known as neoliberalism, accorded with the interests of the ultra-rich, so the ultra-rich would promote it.

Neoliberalism claims that we are best served by maximum market freedom and minimum intervention by the state. The role of government should be confined to creating and defending markets, protecting private property and defending the realm. All other functions are better discharged by private enterprise, which will be prompted by the profit motive to supply essential services. By this means, enterprise is liberated, rational decisions are made and citizens are freed from the dehumanising hand of the state.

This, at any rate, is the theory. But as David Harvey proposes in his book A Brief History of Neoliberalism, wherever the neoliberal programme has been implemented, it has caused a massive shift of wealth not just to the top one percent, but to the top tenth of the top one per cent(4). In the United States, for example, the upper 0.1% has already regained the position it held at the beginning of the 1920s(5). The conditions that neoliberalism demands in order to free human beings from the slavery of state - minimal taxes, the dismantling of public services and social security, deregulation, the breaking of the unions – just happen to be the conditions required to make the elite even richer, while leaving everyone else to sink or swim.

So the question is this. Given that the crises I have listed are predictable effects of the dismantling of public services and the deregulation of business and financial markets, given that it damages the interests of nearly everyone, how has neoliberalism come to dominate public life?

Richard Nixon was once forced to concede that "we are all Keynesians now": even the Republicans supported the interventionist doctrines of John Maynard Keynes. But we are all neoliberals now. Mrs Thatcher kept telling us that "there is no alternative", and by implementing her programmes, Clinton, Blair, Brown and the other leaders of what were once progressive parties appear to prove her right.

The first great advantage the neoliberals possessed was an unceasing fountain of money. American oligarchs and their foundations – Coors, Olin, Scaife, Pew and others – have poured hundreds of millions into setting up thinktanks, founding business schools and transforming university economics departments into bastions of almost totalitarian neoliberal thinking. The Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institute, the American Enterprise Institute and many others in the US, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Adam Smith Institute in the UK were all established to promote this project. Their purpose was to develop the ideas and the language which would mask the real intent of the programme – the restoration of the power of the elite - and package it as a proposal for the betterment of humankind.

Their project was assisted by ideas which arose in a very different quarter. The revolutionary movements of 1968 also sought greater individual liberties, and many of the soixante-huitards saw the state as their oppressor. As Harvey shows, the neoliberals coopted their language and ideas. Some of the anarchists I know still voice notions almost identical to those of the neoliberals: the intent is different, but the consequences very similar.

Hayek's disciples were also able to make use of economic crises. One of their first experiments took place in New York City, which was hit by budgetary disaster in 1975. Its bankers demanded that the city follow their prescriptions: massive cuts in public services, the smashing of the unions, public subsidies for business(6). In the United Kingdom, stagflation, strikes and budgetary breakdown allowed Margaret Thatcher, whose ideas were framed by her neoliberal adviser Keith Joseph, to come to the rescue. Her programme worked, but created a new set of crises.

If these opportunities were insufficient, the neoliberals and their backers would use bribery or force. In the US the Democrats were neutered by new laws on campaign finance. To compete successfully with the Republicans, they would have to give big business what it wanted. The first neoliberal programme of all was implemented in Chile following Pinochet's coup, with the backing of the US government and economists taught by Milton Friedman, one of the founding members of the Mont Pelerin Society. Drumming up support for the project was a simple matter: if you disagreed, you got shot. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank used their power over developing nations to demand the same policies.

But the most powerful promoter of this programme was the media. Most of it is owned by multi-millionaires who use it to project the ideas that support their interests. Those which threaten their plans are either ignored or ridiculed. It is through the newspapers and television channels that the socially destructive ideas of a small group of extremists have come to look like common sense. The corporations' tame thinkers sell the project by reframing our political language (for an account of how this happens, see George Lakoff's book, Don't Think of an Elephant!(7)). Nowadays I hear even my progressive friends using terms like wealth creators, tax relief, big government, consumer democracy, red tape, compensation culture, job seekers and benefit cheats. These terms, all deliberately invented or promoted by neoliberals, have become so commonplace that they now seem almost neutral.

Neoliberalism, if unchecked, will catalyse crisis after crisis, all of which can be solved only by the means it forbids: greater intervention on the part of the state. In confronting it, we must recognise that we will never be able to mobilise the resources its exponents have been given. But as the disasters they have caused develop, the public will need ever less persuading that it has been misled.



1. Larry Elliott, 23rd August 2007. Consumers' debt overtakes gross domestic product. The Guardian.

2. Ed Pilkington, 24th August 2007. Guano theory in bridge collapse. The Guardian.

3. Anthony Lane, 27th August 2007. New Orleans: A National Humiliation. The New Statesman.

4. David Harvey, 2005. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford University Press.

5. See the graph on p17 of Harvey's book.

6. David Harvey, ibid.

7. George Lakoff, 2004. Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate. Chelsea Green.


[+/-]

Another Miscarriage of Justice

Who Won't Stand Up for Kenneth Foster? Charles Rangel, For One

Barring a miracle--and miracles are in short order on Texas' death row--Kenneth Foster is likely to die Thursday. The battle around his case has been a heroic one. Kenneth's horrifying story of being condemned to death on a misapplication of an already draconian legal monstrosity--Texas' "Law of Parties," which enshrines guilt by association--as well as his own clear-eyed and articulate work telling his story and speaking out for others, have won him a host of supporters.

Foremost, of course, there is his family, including his heartbreakingly articulate daughter Nydesha--who has never touched her father, and now may never do so. There is the Coalition to Save Kenneth Foster, a group of activists who have rallied to his defense. There is also the New York hip-hop collective the Welfare Poets, and Kenneth's wife, the Dutch hip-hop artist Jav'lin, who dedicated the moving song Walk With Me on the Poets' Cruel and Unusual Punishment CD to her husband's struggle to live. Mumia Abul-Jamal, from his own death row confinement, wrote in solidarity, while Amnesty International called the case "a new low for Texas"--and that is low indeed.

There are others. Sportswriter Dave Zirin's Jocks 4 Justice, a coalition of socially conscious sports figures like Ruben "Hurricane" Carter, Etan Thomas and Dr. John Carlos, said that Kenneth should live. Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa filed an amicus curae brief for Kenneth. And the European Union singled Kenneth's case out as particularly egregious in condemning Texas' 400th execution. (Governor Perry's response was to state that the U.S. had fought a war to be free of European influence, and that "Texans are doing just fine governing Texas.")

The major papers in Texas have all come out against the execution. There is even a soul-searching statement from Sean-Paul Kelley, a boyhood friend of Michael LaHood, the murder victim in whose name Kenneth will be strapped to a gurney this Thursday: "the execution of a young man who didn't even kill Mike? That's not justice." Kelley writes. "It's senseless vengeance, a barbarism cloaked in the black robes of justice."

With the picture of this broad, international roster of supporters before our eyes, a coalition of activists in New York decided to approach our own formally anti-death-penalty Democratic representative Charles Rangel, co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus. Kenneth's impeding execution is clearly a Civil Rights issue, as is the death penalty in general. It is difficult to imagine a wealthy white 19-year-old receiving the same treatment that Kenneth did. All five--yes, five--of the executions scheduled in Texas for this month are people of color (four are Black, one is Latino).

Two weeks ago, Rangel's staff took a draft letter we wrote to Governor Perry on Kenneth's behalf, which we hoped he would sign onto. They pumped us for information about the case; they wanted to know who was on board already. We told them that we wanted Rangel, as a politician with an abolitionist record, to take the lead in making Kenneth's case heard in the halls of power. Then we waited. And as of last week, we were informed that Rangel would not see our letter for "several more days." Given that after Tuesday it did not really matter, since it is was on Tuesday that the Pardons Board was to make its decision whether or not to recommend the case to the Governor (it has been delayed to today, Wednesday), this was the same as shutting the door.

So Monday morning, we decided to pay a visit to Charles Rangel.

We brought members of Harlem's Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP) and supporters of Kenneth. There was Ray Ramirez from the Welfare Poets, and Ronnique Hawkins from the Anti-Lynching Movement, and Michael Letwin, the radical lawyer and former President of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW. There was Jeffrey Deskovic, recently released on DNA evidence after 17 years in jail, and Lawrence Hayes, former Black Panther, New York death row inmate and Campaign founder. There was a man whose son has been a penpal of Kenneth's for years. We were students and activists and independent journalists, former prisoners and family members--those that have the most at stake in fighting the death penalty and criminal injustice. And we were there to ask that our anti-death-penalty representative to take a stand while it still mattered.

They didn't want to let us up at first, but at last Rangel's policy advisor came down to meet our community delegation. He sat us around a cafeteria table, and explained to us that Rangel was a very busy man, that he hadn't read the letter and that we hadn't gotten it to him in time. He explained that whether we liked it or not, Kenneth had been convicted by a real law in Texas, and that Rangel had to be careful what he said about that. He seemed to have forgotten--the fight for racial justice in the US meant overturning "real" laws like slavery and Jim Crow. Unjust laws are made to be broken. Rangel, the man said, had a pile of papers on his desk. This representative of our elected official sat at a table with those who'd been railroaded by the criminal injustice system and had their lives destroyed by it and told them that Kenneth's case was not urgent enough.

But, they'd "talk to the communications director at the Congressional Black Caucus." They'd "put it in front of Rangel."

Kenneth Foster's execution date is Thursday at 6 pm.

Meanwhile, a few of us, waiting outside in Adam Clayton Powell Plaza for our press conference to begin, were confronted by security guards for carrying "Save Kenneth" signs. They told us we needed a permit. Not even for holding up the signs. Just for holding them in our hands. A guard in a beret told us we were inciting a disturbance--that is, he seemed to think that the sight that the words "Save Kenneth Foster" and a picture of Kenneth and Nydesha under someone's arm might incite a disturbance.

Just another example of post-9/11 paranoia in New York, maybe. But it also shows how the law-and-order agenda has sapped away all our rights, has made acceptable affronts that would have seemed absurd a few years ago, with the death penalty being only the sharpest expression of this. Kenneth himself has written about how his case symbolizes this assault. And Kenneth, through his own activism behind bars, has helped build a movement to shine a light on the injustice--to expose the racism, the bloodlust and the social blindness that our criminal injustice system is built onnot least of all the out-of-control Texas death machine.

And it seems that some people would rather not have to be confronted with this.

There is a final thought. At the end of the day, Kenneth is being executed for not having predicted a murder that he had no way of predicting, for not having read Mauricio Brown's mind when he exited the car Kenneth has been driving. For not having called out to stop a murder he did not know was going to be committed. He is being killed for not seeing the future, "sentenced to death for leaving his crystal ball at home," as Amnesty puts it.

Our representatives, unlike Kenneth, can see the future. They know exactly the hour and the date that the killing of Kenneth Foster will take place. The state of Texas is methodically, inexorably plotting the death of Kenneth Foster, piece by piece, hour by hour.

Some politicians have built their careers on promises of racial equality--careers they've too-often put ahead of the lives of individuals like Kenneth when it could make a difference. Texas is bucking a national trend against the death penalty. Texas kills with impunity, at least in part because none of our Democratic elected officials will call out to stop them. This may or may not make them "party" to Kenneth's murder by some obscure legal standard -- the important thing is that the cries for justice have been too infrequent.

We know that unjust laws like the "law of parties" are applied only to the voiceless and never to the powerful with their lawyers and policy advisers. But this doesn't change the fact that those with power should speak out when their influence could make the difference. Or that it is long past time to call for a halt to the Civil Rights catastrophe that is the Texas killing machine, the fulcrum of the moral abyss that is the U.S. penal system. And if we cannot count on our elected officials to make this cry for justice heard, it will be up to us, at the grassroots--the kind of people represented so well Monday at Charles Rangel's office--to make it heard.

Ben Davis is a member of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty in New York City.

What you can do:
Call the Governor and the Texas Board and urge them to grant clemency to Kenneth Foster:
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles:
Phone (512)406-5852
Fax (512)467-0945

Gov. Rick Perry
Phone (512)463-1782
Fax (512)463-1849

To get involved, go to www.freekenneth.com or email nyc@nodeathpenalty.org.


[+/-]

The Greatest Combination of Idiocy and Evil

Will Bush Take Everything Down With Him? More Shame, More Sorrow

In the administration of George W. Bush, the Republican Party has achieved the greatest combination of idiocy and evil in human history.

The Republicans have bogged America down in a gratuitous and illegal war. The war has destroyed Iraq, killed between 650,000 and 1,000,000 Iraqi civilians, displaced 4,000,000 Iraqis, and littered the country with depleted uranium. Bush's war remains unwon despite its five year duration and $1 trillion in out-of-pocket and incurred future costs.

Bush's invasion of Iraq is a war crime under the Nuremberg standard, a direct counterpart to Hitler's invasion of Poland. Both were based on lies and deception, and the declared reasons for both were masks for secret agendas.

Bush's invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, his planned attack on Iran, and his support for Israel's attack on Lebanon and genocidal policies toward the Palestinians have radicalized the Middle East and Muslims worldwide. American and Israeli aggression have vindicated Osama bin Laden's propaganda, produced massive recruits for Al Qaeda, and unleashed destabilizing forces throughout the Middle East

Bush's wars are strengthening Islam. Abdullah Gul has just been elected president of Turkey. Gul is described by the American media as "former Islamist." Gul is supported by the ruling political party of prime minister Erdogan, another "former Islamist."

Gul's election to the presidency by 76% of the Turkish parliament has upset Turkey's secularized military, long in the pay of the US government. On August 27 Turkey's military chief, General Yasar Buyukanit, declared that "centers of evil systematically try to corrode the secular nature of the Turkish Republic." The Turkish military, many believe at the request and pay of the US, has overthrown four Turkish governments since 1960, the last only 10 years ago.

With President Bush's rant about "bringing democracy to the Middle East," the Turkish military is less able to impose Western values on an Islamic people. Similarly, the American puppet in Egypt cannot as easily suppress the Islamic values and aspirations of Egyptians.

US puppet rulers in Jordan and Pakistan, and even the Saudis and oil emirates, report the ground shaking under their feet. America's puppet in Pakistan is in trouble, and his difficulties are compounded by US military incursions into Pakistan. The Bush administration is considering contingency plans to seize Pakistan's nuclear weapons in the event the American puppet is overthrown, delusional contingency plans considering the over-stretched US military.

In the postwar years, the US managed with its money and influence to secularize an elite class in Middle Eastern countries, an elite that identifies with the West and not with their own cultures. This artificial elite has produced a wide political gap between the masses of the people and the rulers. Increasingly, Muslim masses perceive their rulers as allied with foreign powers against them.

In Iraq the American puppet government of Nuri al-Maliki seems to be on its last legs. The Sunnis have pulled their support, as has the most important Shi'ite leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, who realizes that the Maliki government is too complicit in US crimes to be a legitimate government of Iraq. With both the Bush administration and Congress blaming Maliki for America's failure in Iraq, Maliki's fate looks increasingly to be that of Ngo Dinh Diem, America's Vietnam puppet who was blamed for the failure of US intervention in Vietnam.

Just as Hitler long denied German defeats on the Russian front and even in his last days was ordering non-existent German divisions to relieve Berlin, the Bush regime finds a new straw to grasp in Iraq each time the previous straw proves to be a delusion. The latest straw is "the surge." While Americans surge, the British have been defeated in southern Iraq and have withdrawn to two bases in eerie similarity to the French at Dien Bien Phu. The British bases are subjected to between 30 and 60 mortar and rocket attacks each day. British generals want their troops out of Iraq. The longer UK prime minister Brown keeps them in Iraq in order to appease the Bush administration, the harder it will be to rescue the survivors.

With American retreat south to Kuwait now potentially cut off, how will the US extract its troops and equipment when American defeat can no longer be denied?

The Bush administration and its politicized military are already blaming the failure of "the surge" on Iran. Iran is alleged to be training and arming Iraqis who resist the US occupation. Bush has said he will hold Iran responsible. There is abundant evidence that the Bush administration is preparing yet another illegal attack on a Muslim country without assessing the consequences.

The Bush administration seems destined to produce such disasters that it will be driven to the use of nuclear weapons in order to avoid defeat. The Bush administration possesses the combination of evil and stupidity required to escalate a failed "cakewalk war" into a nuclear one.

Many of the administration's most evil members--Wolfowitz, Feith, Libby, Rumsfeld, Rove, and Gonzales--have been discarded as the tragedy deepens, but Cheney remains ensconced as does the moron in the White House. Before they fall, Bush and Cheney will bring more sorrow to the world and more shame to Americans.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com.


[+/-]

Maybe 2008 Will Rid Us of These Hypocrites

The Forced Freeing of Gay Men from the Republican Closet: The GOP's Outed All-Stars

One more Republican conservative was outed this week for his illicit sexual conduct. "Roll Call," the newspaper that covers Capitol Hill, broke the story that Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct for soliciting a male undercover police officer in a toilet at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Craig agreed to pay $500-plus in fines and fees, received a suspended 10-day jail sentence plus one year's probation.

With a true politician's cynicism, Craig insists that he was innocent and would not have accepted the plea had he had a lawyer. He must have missed his buddy Fred Thompson on "Law & Order."

Last year, the gay activist Web site - blogactive.com ­ outed Craig as a closeted gay man. Craig's office denied the allegation, claiming that the accusation was "completely ridiculous" and with "no basis in fact."

Craig joins a growing list of Republicans caught-up in sex scandals. Most recently, David Vitter, Louisiana's Republican senator, was exposed for his use of the "DC Madam's" escort service. Last year, two congressmen, Mark Fowley (R-FL) and Don Sherwood (R-PA), lost their House seats because of, respectively, questionable conduct with underage male interns and an out-of-wedlock affair. And, of course, there is good old Ted Haggard, the former Evangelical pastor, who was outed for his affair with a male escort.

Hidden in the closet of the Republican house of secrets, along with under-the-table earmarks and other clandestine deal making, are the innumerable outings of gay party stalwarts. While an individual's sexual proclivity is really no one's business other than the individual, the moral hypocrisy that marks much of both local and national Republican agenda serves only to deny the sexual desires of all Americans.

* * *

The "Roll Call" account provides a remarkable glimpse not simply into the questionable behavior of an aging Senator, but the secret world of sexual solicitation in a men's public restroom.

In June, Craig was apprehended by an undercover officer, Sgt. Dave Karsnia, who was checking out complaints about lewd conduct in a Minnesota airport men's room. Airport police had previously made numerous arrests in the restroom (often called a "tearoom") in connection with illicit sexual activity.

As "Roll Call" retells Karsnia's official report, the policeman entered the bathroom at noon and hung out for about 13 minutes before taking a seat in a stall. He reported that he saw "an older white male with grey hair standing outside my stall." The older man, who was later identified as Craig, lingered in front of the stall for two minutes. "I could see Craig look through the crack in the door from his position. Craig would look down at his hands, 'fidget' with his fingers, and then look through the crack into my stall again. Craig would repeat this cycle for about two minutes," the report states.

Kasnia then reports that Craig then entered the stall next to his and placed his roller bag against the front of the stall door. "My experience has shown that individuals engaging in lewd conduct use their bags to block the view from the front of their stall," Karsnia reports. "From my seated position, I could observe the shoes and ankles of Craig seated to the left of me," he adds.

Craig was wearing dress slacks with black dress shoes. "At 12:16 hours, Craig tapped his right foot. I recognized this as a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct. Craig tapped his toes several times and moves his foot closer to my foot. I moved my foot up and down slowly. While this was occurring, the male in the stall to my right was still present. I could hear several unknown persons in the restroom that appeared to use the restroom for its intended use.

The presence of others did not seem to deter Craig as he moved his right foot so that it touched the side of my left foot which was within my stall area," Kasnia reports.

Craig then swiped his hand under the stall divider several times. The officer noted that " Craig had a gold ring on his ring finger as his hand was on my side of the stall divider." Karsnia then held his identification down by the floor to notify Craig that he was a police officer.

He continues, "[w]ith my left hand near the floor, I pointed towards the exit. Craig responded, 'No!' I again pointed towards the exit. Craig exited the stall with his roller bags without flushing the toilet. ... Craig said he would not go. I told Craig that he was under arrest, he had to go, and that I didn't want to make a scene. Craig then left the restroom."

After being placed under arrest, Craig challenged the officer's account of the events. He repeatedly said that he "either disagreed with me [Kasnia] or 'didn't recall' the events as they happened." Craig stated "that he has a wide stance when going to the bathroom and that his foot may have touched mine." Craig insisted that he reached down with his right hand to pick up a piece of paper on the floor.

The officer noted that "there was not a piece of paper on the bathroom floor, nor did Craig pick up a piece of paper."

On August 8th Craig accepted a guilty plea for disorderly conduct. One fall-out from this incident is that Craig resigned his position as liaison to the Senate for the Romney campaign. [Roll Call, August 27, 2007]

* * *

Joining Craig, we should not forget the other members in the exclusive but growing GOP Outed Allstars. Among nationally-elected officials, other Allstars include:

* Bob Allen of Florida. In July 2007, Allen was arrested in Titusville, FL, for solicited an undercover male officer inside a restroom and offering to perform oral sex for $20. The arresting offices stated that he noticed Allen acting suspiciously as he went in and out of the men's restroom three times.

* Robert Bauman of Maryland. In October 1980, Bauman was arrested (and pleaded innocent) on a charge of solicitation and having sex with a 16-year-old male dancer he met at a gay bar. Married and the father of four, he was formerly chairman of the American Conservative Union and took a strong position against gay rights.

* Jon Hinson of Mississippi. He resigned after being caught in April 1981 performing oral sodomy in a House office building public restroom. He was then married and a fierce conservative. However, he admitted that in 1976 he was accused of having oral sex in a Virginia gay bar and that in 1977 he had survived a fire in a D.C.gay movie theater.

These Allstars are joined by members of the alleged "Franklin Child Sex Ring," the MVP of the '80s-era GOP Outed Allstars. According to a series of 1989 reports in the "Washington Times," a homosexual prostitution ring was operating out of the White House during the Reagan and Bush-I administrations. It alleged that the ring provided male (often teenage) prostitutes to prominent government officials, including military officers, congressional aides and U.S. and foreign businessmen with close ties to Washington movers and shakers. It was also alleged that teenage boys from Nebraska orphanages were transported around the United States by top Republican officials as part of a prostitution service. [Washington Times, June 29, 1989]

Among the leading figures of the scandal were:

* Craig J. Spence, Republican lobbyist, was alleged to have taken friends and male prostitutes on late-night cruises through the White House; he was found dead in a Boston hotel room. [Washington Times, July 26, 1989]

* Paul Robert Balach, was political personnel liaison for Labor Secretary Elizabeth Dole's to the White House and a former aide to Rep. Robert Bauman; he resigned "due to the public disclosure of activities concerning my personal life."

* Charles K. Dutcher, an associate director of presidential personnel in the Reagan administration, apparently paid for homosexual prostitute services with this own credit card.

Two other Allstars who gained national prominence are:

* James Guckert, aka Jeff Gannon, a Republican blogger who regularly attended White House press conferences and contributor to GOPUSA.com, but had no journalism credentials. Although he made anti-gay statements, he ran a gay website soliciting guys for military-themed trysts, particularly marine. He once advertised himself as a "top" who is "8 inches, cut."

* Paul Crouch was a televangelist and former president of Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). In September 2004, the "Los Angeles Times" broke the story of how TBN paid $425,000 to Enoch Lonnie Ford in an attempt to stop him from revealing his relations with Crouch. Ford, a former TBN employee, claims to have had sexual liaisons with Crouch at the network-owned cabin at Lake Arrowhead in 1996.

Many other Republican political operatives, ministers and local and state officials could be added to the Allstar list. However, since they haven't risen to the major leagues of social disrepute, they have not been included.

* * *

The scandal involving Senator Craig, like those involving David Vitter, Mark Foley, Don Sherwood and Ted Haggard, will not be the last to befall the holier-then-though righteous GOP. Hopefully, the latest revelation of the Republican, Christian right's hypocrisy will only make Americans wary of anything they say about the morality of others. And, as occurred following the Fowley and Sherwood revelations last year, the 2008 elections may well rid the nation of these hypocrites once and forever.

David Rosen can be reached at drosen@ix.netcom.com.


[+/-]

Junior Lives on Another Planet

We find it generally nonconstructive to report on Junior, but this reality he's in is scaring us. The surge is working, Iran is a menace, a Mid-East nuclear arms race ... Where does he live?

Bush sells Iraq troop-surge policy, slams Iran
By William Douglas and Warren P. Strobel | McClatchy Newspapers

RENO, Nev. — President Bush said Tuesday that "there are unmistakable signs" that his troop buildup in Iraq is working and blasted critics who say that the failure of Iraq's national government to foster political reconciliation proves that the troop increase is failing.

Bush painted a stark picture of what might happen if U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq, saying that would embolden Iran, al Qaida and other extremists to spread instability throughout the Middle East and spur a regional nuclear-arms race that would endanger the world.

"Iran could conclude that we are weak — and not stop them from gaining nuclear weapons," he told the American Legion convention here. "And once Iran had nuclear weapons, it could set off an arms race in the region."

The president's speech appeared to have two objectives: to amplify his warning to Iran that he won't tolerate its aggression, and to build public support for his "surge" policy in Iraq before Congress returns from vacation next week to weigh anew what to do there.

On Iran, Bush was unusually hawkish. He said Iran's regime embodied and sustained one of two strains of radicalism — Shiite Muslim extremism — that threatened the Middle East. The other is Sunni Muslim extremism, led by al Qaida.

"Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere," he said. "We will confront this danger before it is too late."

The president said Iranians were supplying extremists in Iraq with money and weapons that were killing U.S. troops. "I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities," he said.

Bush gave a more extensive argument to his view that his troop increase is working. He said coalition forces were killing and capturing far more insurgents in recent months, sectarian violence was down, political reconciliation was improving in several provinces, the central government was helping with provincial reconstruction and that electricity production was rising.

"The surge is seizing the initiative from the enemy — and handing it to the Iraqi people," he said.

Yet the president's version of Iraq's reality glossed over the findings in a bleak National Intelligence Estimate released last Thursday. Like Bush, the intelligence report warned that changing the U.S. military mission could have negative results, but it was much less optimistic about chances for national reconciliation. Iraq's government, it predicted, will become "more precarious" over the next six to 12 months.

Read it here.

[+/-]

A Belligerent, Arrogant Society

When It Comes to Guns, We're No. 1
By Laura MacInnis,Reuters
Posted: 2007-08-29 07:12:06

GENEVA (Aug. 28) - The United States has 90 guns for every 100 citizens, making it the most heavily armed society in the world, a report released on Tuesday said.

U.S. citizens own 270 million of the world's 875 million known firearms, according to the Small Arms Survey 2007 by the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies.

About 4.5 million of the 8 million new guns manufactured worldwide each year are purchased in the United States, it said.

"There is roughly one firearm for every seven people worldwide. Without the United States, though, this drops to about one firearm per 10 people," it said.

India had the world's second-largest civilian gun arsenal, with an estimated 46 million firearms outside law enforcement and the military, though this represented just four guns per 100 people there. China, ranked third with 40 million privately held guns, had 3 firearms per 100 people.

Germany, France, Pakistan, Mexico, Brazil and Russia were next in the ranking of country's overall civilian gun arsenals.

On a per-capita basis, Yemen had the second most heavily armed citizenry behind the United States, with 61 guns per 100 people, followed by Finland with 56, Switzerland with 46, Iraq with 39 and Serbia with 38.

France, Canada, Sweden, Austria and Germany were next, each with about 30 guns per 100 people, while many poorer countries often associated with violence ranked much lower. Nigeria, for instance, had just one gun per 100 people.

"Firearms are very unevenly distributed around the world. The image we have of certain regions such as Africa or Latin America being awash with weapons -- these images are certainly misleading," Small Arms Survey director Keith Krause said.

"Weapons ownership may be correlated with rising levels of wealth, and that means we need to think about future demand in parts of the world where economic growth is giving people larger disposable income," he told a Geneva news conference.

The report, which relied on government data, surveys and media reports to estimate the size of world arsenals, estimated there were 650 million civilian firearms worldwide, and 225 million held by law enforcement and military forces.

Five years ago, the Small Arms Survey had estimated there were a total of just 640 million firearms globally.

"Civilian holdings of weapons worldwide are much larger than we previously believed," Krause said, attributing the increase largely to better research and more data on weapon distribution networks.

Only about 12 percent of civilian weapons are thought to be registered with authorities.

Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited.


[+/-]

28 August 2007


Occupation 101
Posted by Layla Anwar

Compared to this occupation, even colonialism looks like a nice ride.

At least, colonialism still managed to build a road or two, a couple of schools and maybe a health dispensary.

But tell me, what has this occupation done apart from destroy ?
Do you understand the word DESTRUCTION ? Do you know what it means?

Ok, let me refresh your memories since you do not know what destruction is.

Remember when you had two towers crumbling to the ground, in a mass of rubbles, with fire shooting all over the place ?
Yes, that is destruction.

Ok, let me refresh some more since you happen to have a few amnesic lapses.
Do you remember your 3'000 dead and their families still seeking therapy 6 years down the line?
Yes, that is destruction.

Do you remember how that tiny spot looked so desolate, empty, ravaged, afterwards ?
Yes, that is destruction.

Do you remember the people crying, shocked, lost ?
Yes, that is destruction.

But that was no occupation.

Occupation is multiplying that one episode of destruction by 1000. Nay, by 1'000.000.000 and you get the full picture today.


Your tanks rolling on pavements where people are meant to be walking, destroying the pavements and the lamp posts on their way and running over a couple of civilians. That is OCCUPATION.

Your guns shooting innocent civilians at checkpoints just because one of your shits is having a bad day. That is OCCUPATION.

Your jets roaming the skies day and night and bombarding neighborhoods and villages and killing children, women and men. That is OCCUPATION.

Your especially designed prisons filled with innocent "local" detainees, for years without trial. That is OCCUPATION.

Every single street, building, school, office, in rubbles and ruins. That is OCCUPATION.

No water, no electricity, no food, no functional hospitals...That is OCCUPATION.

Arbitrary arrests, arbitrary killings, daily house searches, ransacking, pillaging from the "locals". That is OCCUPATION.

Raping women, girls, boys, men. Torturing them, spitting on them, humiliating them, insulting them, castrating them, sodomizing them, burning them, pissing on them.

Destroying houses of worship, burning Holy Books, and drawing crucifixes on the walls, pissing and shitting inside, and shooting the elders. That is OCCUPATION.

Having 1 million widows dressed in black, orphaned children eating from garbage dumps, 70% unemployed, villages where famine is rampant, 4 million "locals" with their homes and belongings destroyed and now living in squalor, begging the streets.

Seeing young women and mothers sell their bodies in exchange for bread and older women sleeping on sidewalks. That is OCCUPATION.

Having your children, boys and girls, either sold to strangers, kidnapped as sex slaves, or caught in pedophile rings. That is OCCUPATION

Having your schools, universities, libraries burned down and emptied. That is OCCUPATION.

Witnessing the fleeing and/or the slaughter of your academics, researchers, scholars, doctors, nurses, engineers, scientists...That is OCCUPATION.

Seeing your palm trees, your fields, your parcs, your rivers, your soil either burned down, or razed to the grounds or filled with garbage and dead bodies, or contaminated with toxic waste, radiation and Depleted Uranium. That is OCCUPATION.

Turning your agricultural land that used to sustain you into poppy fields, open for drugs traffickers and mafias. That is OCCUPATION.

Walking out of your doorstep and stumbling on rotting cadavers, immersed in pools of sewage and have your neighborhood turned into a junk yard. That is OCCUPATION.

Having your loved ones kidnapped, abducted, tortured, mutilated, raped and dumped in some street. That is OCCUPATION.

Seeing the "locals" riddled with disease, cancer, allergies, asthma, swellings, inflammations of all sorts, skin lesions due to your "smart" bombs, plus the fact that they can't get treatment for already existing ailments. That is OCCUPATION.

Looking at your cultural, historical heritage in ruins. Seeing your museums, art galleries, musical conservatory...emptied. Seeing your archelogical sites turned into military bases and the walls of your ancient towers either destroyed or filled with yankee graffitis. That is OCCUPATION.

Having neighborhoods sealed and turned into ghettoes, building huge walls that suffocates you in. That is OCCUPATION.

Seeing your family ripped apart, either because you are christian, sunni, shia, yezidi, sabaean and having your friends disappearing or be driven out in hordes. That is OCCUPATION.

Not being able to walk the streets, go out at night, curfews, bombs, snipers, explosions, mortars, militias, armies, mercenaries, contractors...That is OCCUPATION.

Having your life reduced to survival and catching your breath. That is OCCUPATION.

Running from morgue to morgue, cemetery to cemetery, counting the 1 Million massacred. That is OCCUPATION.

Becoming an undertaker, coffin maker or a professional mourner because that is the only lucrative affair today. That is OCCUPATION.

Dismantling the State apparatus, the "local" army, sacking civil servants or killing them, taking over ministries and government offices. That is OCCUPATION.

Installing a puppet government made of corrupt thugs, criminals, spies, bandits, psychopaths, sectarian, chauvinistic fundamentalists, and embezzlers...That is OCCUPATION.

Dividing your country, enabling its cleansing, partitioning it along sectarian and ethnic lines when these lines were non existent before, even forcing couples to divorce as a result of these new maps. That is OCCUPATION.

Emptying your country's treasury of its wealth in billion of Dollars, making fraudulent contracts and stealing by every mean possible. That is OCCUPATION.

And last but not least, witnessing your smelly shits, squatting the palaces of the legitimate President that you slaughtered. That is OCCUPATION.

And I can write a thousand more lines on occupation...So forgive me, Iraq, if I have missed out on something.

So tell me, what part of OCCUPATION don't you understand?


[+/-]

The Surge - Another Resounding BushCo Success

US surge sees 600,000 more Iraqis abandon home
By Leonard Doyle, Saturday, August 25, 2007

The scale of the human disaster in the Iraq war has become clearer from statistics collected by two humanitarian groups that reveal the number of Iraqis who have fled the fighting has more than doubled since the US military build-up began in February.

The Iraqi Red Crescent Organisation said the total number of internally displaced has jumped from 499,000 to 1.1 million since extra US forces arrived with the aim of making the country more secure. The UN-run International Organisation for Migration says the numbers fleeing fighting in Baghdad grew by a factor of 20 in the same period.

These damning statistics reveal that despite much- trumpeted security improvements in certain areas, the level of murderous violence has not declined. The studies reveal that the number of Iraqis fleeing their homes ­ not intending to return ­ is far higher than before the US surge.

The flight is especially marked in religiously mixed areas of central Iraq, with Shia refugees heading south and Sunnis towards the west and north of the country.

Calling it the worst human displacement in Iraq's modern history, a report by the UN migration office suggests that the fierce fighting that has followed the arrival of new US troops is partly responsible.

The spectre of ethnic cleansing now hovers over the once relatively harmonious country. The UN found that 63 per cent of the Iraqis fled their neighbourhoods because of threats to their lives. More than 25 per cent said they fled after being thrown out of their homes at gunpoint.

The statistics were released as President George Bush's policy of staying the course in Iraq was under grave threat yesterday as the scale of the humanitarian disaster became clearer and a key Republican senator said that it was time to bring the troops home.

A dangerous rift has also emerged inside the US military between the high command, which says the strain the war is putting on the military endangers American security, and commanders on the ground who still say it is a winnable war.

For President Bush, the greatest danger may come from losing the support of Senator John Warner, one of the most influential Republicans in Congress on Iraq. Just back from a trip to the country, he bluntly told the President to start pulling troops out in time for Christmas. He did so as a damning new assessment was delivered by all 15 US intelligence agencies. Written by the CIA, it concluded that the government in Baghdad was "unable to govern effectively" and "will become more precarious" in the next six to 12 months, with little hope of reaching accommodation among political factions.

There was further bad news for the President overnight when it emerged that the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff is quietly advising that US forces in Iraq be halved by early next year. The advice, from Marine General Peter Pace, is a direct challenge to the White House and other senior military chiefs, in particular the man now running the war in Iraq, the Army General David Petraeus.

General Petraeus has told President Bush that forces in Iraq need to be kept higher than 100,000 troops well into next year. General Petraeus is widely expected to back the White House view that in the absence of political progress in Iraq, US troops need to be increased.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Los Angeles Times reports, were privately sceptical about the military "surge" ordered by President Bush. Although they backed the surge policy in public, the country's top generals and the Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, believe the size of the US force in Iraq must be reduced so that the military can respond to other global threats.


[+/-]

Reforming Amerikkka's Prison Camps

Deal will bring reforms to immigrant detention site: The detention of children in Central Texas would be 'less penal'
By SUSAN CARROLL, Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

Attorneys for immigrant children at a Central Texas detention center have reached a settlement agreement with the government that would create changes both big and small — from increasing oversight to letting youngsters bring pencils and paper to their cells.

Attorneys with the Department of Homeland Security and the American Civil Liberties Union reached an agreement Sunday but need final approval from a judge. The case was scheduled to go to trial on Monday before U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin.

The agreement involves a range of reforms at the center in Taylor, which is the focus of international controversy over reports that families were kept in prisonlike conditions. Attorneys for the ACLU and co-counsel filed 10 lawsuits on behalf of immigrant children in March in U.S. District Court, stating that detainees were subject to psychological abuse from guards, received poor medical care and inadequate nutrition.

The Texas center — one of only two in the nation that house immigrant families facing deportation — is privately run by the Corrections Corporation of America and was once a medium-security prison.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials denied that immigrant families were treated below acceptable standards, according to the settlement agreement. But ICE agreed to a range of conditions in the proposed settlement — including increasing scrutiny of the length of time families are detained and allowing for independent monitoring by the judge assigned to mediate the case, U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew W. Austin.

Other concessions allowed children to have curtains around toilets and go on field trips with their parents' permission.

'Urgent problem'

ICE spokeswoman Nina Pruneda would not answer questions about the settlement on Monday, but she released a statement that defended conditions at Hutto and welcomed the outside monitoring.

The judge's participation "will help improve communication about the facility and end any misconceptions and allegations falsely made about the Hutto facility," the ICE statement said.

Pruneda also said Monday afternoon that ICE could not provide the number of detainees currently in Hutto.

Lisa Graybill, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said the center has made progress since the ACLU first sued in March, including changing the menu, allowing limited, supervised visitation and providing more hours of schooling.

Children are no longer required to wear prison uniforms and are allowed to spend more time outdoors.

ACLU attorneys have argued that conditions at Hutto don't comply with Flores v. Meese, an earlier federal settlement agreement that calls for immigration authorities to house children in the least restrictive environment possible, such as shelters or foster homes.

In April, Sparks ruled that the plaintiffs in the ACLU lawsuit were "highly likely" to prevail in arguments that immigration officials had violated legal standards for their treatment. The judge called the children's detention in "substandard conditions" an "urgent problem."

Under the terms of the settlement, children 12 and older would be able to move freely about the center. Immigration officials also would eliminate periodic head counts, instead having immigrants check in on their own, the agreement states.

Only families designated for "expedited removal" are to be housed at Hutto, barring a shortage of bed space at other facilities, according to the agreement.

Plaintiffs all released

Immigrants placed into expedited removal typically have a final order of deportation and are moved through the system relatively quickly. More complex cases, such as asylum claims, take months — or sometimes years — to resolve.

The settlement proposal also requires that ICE provide a full-time pediatrician and immunize children in the center. The settlement proposal is a "recognition that the environment needs to be more homelike and less penal," Graybill said. "It has resulted in significant changes for kids who have to spend time at Hutto."

ICE officials opened the Hutto facility in May 2006 as part of a push to end the controversial "catch-and-release" policy. Before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, most families caught by immigration authorities were released because of a shortage of space in detention centers. Immigration officials reported that many of the released families did not show up for scheduled court hearings.

Since the lawsuits were filed last spring and later consolidated, all of the 26 plaintiffs have been released, according to the ACLU.


[+/-]

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