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Wed

08

Nov

2006

Would Tom Paine end up in an orange jumpsuit today?

by Mickey Z

The coast-to-coast mall known as America just loves to sing the praises of its revolutionary heroes-the land-owning white slaveholders affectionately called "Founding Fathers." But America, the land of denial, would rather ignore the revolutionary roots and spirit behind its birth. In other words, if pamphleteer Tom Paine were around today, well, he might not be around today. Can you say "enemy combatant"?

 



We are often told actions speak louder than words but the life of Thomas Paine (1737-1809) tells a different story. Born in England, Paine eventually found a home as resident radical in the Colonies. His mutinous pamphlet, "Common Sense," was written anonymously, published in January 1776, and promptly read by every single member of Congress.

Time out: Every member of Congress read "Common Sense" (Insert your own punch line here).
 

 

Tue

31

Oct

2006

"Where Commerce Sits on Every Tree" Pushing India Toward a Dollar Democracy
By Aseem Shrivastava

In an article concerned with the rapid urbanization of India and China, Victor Mallet of London's Financial Times (August 5/6, 2006) points out that Bangalore "has become a byword for a catastrophic failure of urban planning."


Interestingly, he attributes this lapse to "Indian sentimentalism about the supposed benefits of village life, and the consequent incompetence in managing cities" which "contrasts starkly with the ruthless pragmatism of the central and local authorities in China."

 

 


Let us not bring up that bugbear of the absence of democracy in China just yet, no matter that the Anglo-Americans are all so keen to bomb us all to "freedom" these days, China being that fearsome and much envied exception.


 

Thu

16

Nov

2006

Help "Help Africa"
by Michael Wills (British MP for North Swindon.)

It looked unstoppable. In 2004, the draft EU Constitution contained a little noticed provision for a citizen's petition where a million signatures would force the EU commission to take action.

My colleague Gisela Stuart, MP for Edgbaston, and I were excited by the potential for the first such petition to have great symbolic importance and generate significant political momentum.

We couldn't think of a better target for Europe's first citizen's petition than to tackle the devastation caused by HIV/ AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa which has created over ten million orphans already. Tackling this terrible pandemic is one of the most urgent moral imperatives facing the world. Five billion euros a year would fund generic anti-retroviral drugs and support for the millions of people in Africa living with AIDS. The funding would help end a human catastrophe -- what the World Bank has called a development crisis.

We thought that this money could be found most easily and fairly by reforming one of the key reasons for public scepticism about the EU. Of all the idiocies I came across as a government minister, the most glaringly unforgivable was the Common Agricultural Policy. This European boondoggle puts £8 a week on the food bill of the average family of four in Britain, but because poorer families spend a higher proportion of their budgets on food, it costs them proportionately more. And the World Bank estimates such agricultural protection costs poor countries around £40 billion a year by shutting them out of rich country markets, when food is often the only thing they can produce competitively to sell! And it doesn't even help the European farmers most in need of help. Although it gobbles up nearly half of the EU budget, around a quarter of it goes to the 2% richest farmers.

(That's right. You read that correctly. 2% OF EUROPE'S RICHEST FARMERS GET OVER 10 BILLION EUROS A YEAR IN HAND-OUTS FROM TAXPAYERS.)

 

Sun

29

Oct

2006

American Voters Must Not Reward Failure

By Ramzy Baroud

How critical is the situation in Iraq? It depends on who you ask and when. Common sense tells us that the situation there has always been critical. In fact, one could dare claim that the country has been stricken with political and social upheaval since the early 1990s, when the US led its ‘coalition of the willing’ to liberate Kuwait.


Unfortunately, since American intent was hardly freedom for Kuwait for its own sake, the violent episode didn’t end right there and then. The war established a completely different mood in the region where a permanent American military presence and subsequent built ups threatened a second, and much larger war.


Unlike the dominant narrative, however, the 1990-91 war never brought peace or tranquility to the region; rather, it agitated internal strife within Iraq, positioning the entire region through the barrel of a gun. Over the next decade, US-led UN economic sanctions wrought untold destruction to the very fabric of Iraqi society, as hundreds of thousands perished because of lack of medicine and food. The US government calculated that a weary Iraq could not withstand a future military action, and that ravished Iraqis would welcome the toppling of the Iraqi dictator.


 

Tue

17

Oct

2006

Nukes: Iran and North Korea are not the problem

by Mickey Z.

Thanks to the nuclear aspirations of North Korea and Iran, there's no shortage of rhetoric along these lines: "We can't let rogue nations have nukes. They might use them." Absent from the discussion are two elementary questions. First: What is the only nation to have used nuclear weapons (and have civilians been targeted)?

On August 6, 1945, the U.S. government ordered the dropping of an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

 

 

 

A Tokyo radio broadcast describe how "the impact of the bomb was so terrific that practically all livin things, human and animal, were seared to death by the tremendous heat an pressure engendered by the blast." Tokyo radio went on to call Hiroshima  city with corpses "too numerous to be counted...literally seared to death. It was impossible to "distinguish between men and women."

The Associated Press carried the first eyewitness account: a Japanese soldier who describe the victims as "bloated and scorched-such an awesome sight-their legs an bodies stripped of clothes and burned with a huge blister." After visitin the devastated city, Australian war correspondent, Wilfred Burchet described Hiroshima as a "death-stricken alien planet" with patient presenting purple skin hemorrhages, hair loss, drastically reduced white blood cell counts, fever, nausea, gangrene, and other symptoms of radiation disease he called an "atomic plague."

 

Sat

28

Oct

2006

The Battle in Seattle (Looking Back Seven Years)

by Mickey Z.


When activists made global headlines by essentially shutting down the meetings of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle in late 1999, the term "anti-globalization" was bandied about without much serious explanation. The majority of those in the streets were not against the literal concept of global interaction; it was the current form of remote control imperialism euphemistically known as trade or globalization that inspired the demonstrations.

Created in 1995, the WTO is a bonanza for corporate profit that slipped in under the public radar. "Most of America slept right through the birth of this 134-nation organization, including many in Congress who voted to ratify U.S. membership," says Mark Weisbrot, Research Director of the Preamble Center, in Washington, D.C. "In the fall of 1994 Ralph Nader's Public Citizen offered $10,000 to any member of Congress that would read the 500-page treaty and answer ten simple questions to prove it. Senator Hank Brown of Colorado, a Republican who had voted for NAFTA and planned to vote for the WTO, took the bet. He passed the quiz with a perfect score, collected the winnings (for a charity of his choice), and then proceeded to announce that having read the agreement, he felt compelled to vote against it.

 

Wed

08

Nov

2006

Unleashing the Christ Within:Last Hope for the Moribund Soul of a Nation?

by Jason Miller

“What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?”
-Jesus Christ

Humanity’s “beacon of hope” is unraveling at its moral seams faster than George Bush can say nucular. 230 years ago, disciples of the Enlightenment shattered the shackles of colonial oppression and inaugurated their conception of a haven for humanity. While tainted by patriarchy and racism, the founding of the United States was arguably the pinnacle of social and political evolution. Tragically, the descendents of those who ascended to that zenith are racing to the bottom at a dizzying velocity.

In a collective sense, the soul of the United States is writhing in the agony of spiritual asphyxiation. Trapped in an overflowing cesspool of its own making, the nation’s élan vital desperately needs freedom and an infusion of spiritual oxygen. Sans significant change, its odds for survival equal those of an under-sized fish carelessly tossed ashore by a heartless angler.



Yet it is not too late for the “cradle of democratic civilization” to fulfill the dream of a nation governed by We the People. Our ancestors overcame seemingly insurmountable odds by defying a tyrant. What is preventing us from following their lead? Humanity and the Earth desperately need for us to end the Corporatocracy’s destructive rampage and direct our unparalleled resources, wealth, and technology toward the betterment of the world.

We the People need to recapture the Zeitgeist of 1776 and initiate a revolt. To overcome a ruling class that maintains its power through the manipulation and enslavement of our psyches, we need a spiritual revolution. Since reactionary forces have assassinated the influential spiritual leaders whom have arisen in recent history, it appears we will need to resurrect one in the abstract.


 

Tue

10

Oct

2006

Red October: Killing the Truth in Moscow

I.


Early October can be dismal in Moscow. The short, harsh summer is over, the brief and beautiful refreshment of September has passed, yet the snow – in which the city has its deepest life – has not yet come. Instead there is often miasma: gray days pocked with rain or fog, vague and ragged days, neither autumn nor winter but suspended in a limbo state.

 They say last Saturday was just such a day in Moscow: tepid, damp, fog through the morning, clouds all afternoon, a limp breeze pushing at the torpor. The muffled sunlight would have just begun draining toward night when a young man – dressed in black, carrying a 9mm Makarov pistol – approached the non-descript apartment building at 18/13 Lesnaya Street. His target was in sight: a woman, early middle age, laden with groceries, walking toward the door. A few stray lines of the setting sun might have split the clouds as he moved toward her – or perhaps it stayed dim, miasmic. He wouldn't have noticed in any case: the door was open, they were inside, the pistol was out, he fired – a few shots to the body, one to the head; the woman fell. Her life was gone; the job was done. He dropped the pistol, as he'd been taught to do, and left the scene. It was, they say, about 4:30 in the afternoon.

That's how Russia's leading journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, came to die last week. Many details of the death are still unclear – and as the Russian authorities launch their usual "thorough investigation" of yet another reporter's murder, no doubt the details will grow more and more muddled, more vague and ragged, until the chain of accountability leading back to the real culprits, the instigators of the hit, is lost in the murk. All we will be left with is this stark, basic fact: one of the world's most fearless voices for truth and human decency has been silenced forever.

 

Sat

18

Nov

2006

Criminalizing Compassion in the War on Terror: Muslim Charities and the Case of Dr. Rafil A. Dhafir
By Katherine Hughes
 
“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But ... the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The truth shall set you free? Maybe. But first the Truth must be set free.”

Wole Soyinka, Nigerian playwright, educator.


Since the events of 9/11 the government has implemented powerful new prosecutorial tools to gain convictions in its War on Terror. In an article entitled, “Terrorist Financing,” Jeff Breinholt, Deputy Chief of the Department of Justice's Counterterrorism Section, explains these tools and how they are being used to win convictions.On page thirty-one of the article he lists the statutes being used in the criminal prosecution of terrorist financing and among these statutes is the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which Breinholt also labels as “United States economic sanctions.” IEEPA provides the President of the United States with authority to deal with any “unusual and extraordinary threat” that has its source in whole or substantial part outside the United States; this includes threat to “national security, foreign policy, and the economy.”

Prosecutors armed with the statutes listed in Breinholt’s paper are further empowered by using them in conjunction with the “material support of terrorism” laws, Executive Order 13224, and civil asset forfeiture laws, particularly those under IEEPA, which were amended by the PATRIOT Act. Under the IEEPA civil asset forfeiture provisions the government can close down an organization and seize its assets while an investigation is ongoing, without probable cause of criminal activity and without any charges ever being brought against anyone.

E.O. 13224 was issued on September 23, 2001, and introduced a blacklist of organizations and individuals suspected of terrorism, materially aiding terrorism, or associating with terrorists. IEEPA and international law permit humanitarian assistance for these suspects, including food, clothing and medicine, but this humanitarian aid is outlawed under the E.O. 13224. The penalty, for an IEEPA violation, for organizations that knowingly engage in terrorist financing already carries a sentence of twenty years to life in prison. What this new provision does is “drastically increase the penalties for knowing violations of non-terrorism-related IEEPA offenses.” People with a concern for civil liberties are troubled by the fact that the government provides no legal definition of what they consider a “specially designated terrorist” and by the broad manner in which the government is interpreting the new rules.
 

Wed

08

Nov

2006

The trial of Saddam Hussein and the coming trials of George W. Bush and Anthony Charles Lynton Blair

by Richard Marsden

 

Sunday's announcement of the verdict in the trial of Saddam Hussein and his seven co-defendants was, of course, timed to occur on the eve of the mid-term elections to the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

To what end?

Clearly, to mobilise and motivate U.S. citizens to vote Republican. But how will this work?

It will work the same way that the invasion and occupation worked—emotionally, as the concluding act of a White House scripted morality play.

I argued in June (Pleasure-in-cruelty: Bush, Nietzsche and Haditha) that the Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq was a collective emotive response to 9/11.  The link between 9/11 and Iraq is the moral and emotive connection between suffering an injury and inflicting pain to relieve it. This connection is felt, not thought; it involves all of the body, not just the head.

This logic of equivalence lies at the heart of Judeo-Christian morality. When America experienced great injury and loss of face, President Bush, as a "born-again Christian", felt morally entitled to inflict great pain and humiliation.

On whom did not matter. But preferably a defenceless, Arab nation. It is an understandable impulse (equivalent to kicking the dog because your wife's left you), but one that could and should have been resisted.

Bush and Blair made love to this basest of impulses.

 

Tue

10

Oct

2006

Swing Blades: Don Rumsfeld Bats Both Ways

In February 2003, I wrote a column for the Moscow Times detailing Don Rumsfeld's personal – and profitable – connection with North Korea's nuclear program. Today Greg Saunders at This Modern World notes (from a Guardian story from May 2003), that the Bush Administration continued to shove money toward Rumsfeld's corporate cronies, allowing them to help accelerated North Korea's nuke push – even as the Dear Leader (theirs, not ours) was kicking out weapons inspectors and withdrawing from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

What I wrote more than three years ago unfortunately still holds true today. The nuclear blast test that North Korea conducted this week is not only the result of the Bush Administration's incompetent and sinister diplomatic philosophy – which seems to consist solely of provoking unfriendly regimes into countermeasures which can then be used as excuses for war-profiteering "regime change" assaults – but also stems from the overwhelming lust for loot that lies behind the noble rhetoric of the third-rate goons of the Bush Gang.

Swing Blades
(Originally published in the Feb. 28, 2003 edition of The Moscow Times; the version here excerpted from the book, Empire Burlesque.)
 

Wed

15

Nov

2006

Yo Ho Ho and an Embottled Rummy

by Walter Brasch

The ressignation of Donald Rumsfeld doesn't change the problem of a President who is incompetent and malevolent, nor is it likely to bring about a significant change in the Iraq policy.


The forced resignation of Donald Rumsfeld the day after the midterm elections says as much about the Secretary of Defense as it does about the President of the United States.

Almost seven months before the elections, six retired generals, including two who commanded divisions in Iraq, called for Rumsfeld’s resignation. In response, President Bush said that Rumsfeld was “doing a fine job.”

Two months before the midterm elections, Josh Bolten, the President’s chief of staff, told the Democratic leadership, who had demanded Rumsfeld’s resignation, “We strongly disagree.” By the President’s direction, he told the opposition party that Rumsfeld “is an honorable and able public servant [who] retains the full confidence of the President.”

One week before the midterm elections, President Bush said that Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney “are doing fantastic jobs and I strongly support them.” Lying through his ever-present smirk, he said he planned to keep Rumsfeld until the end of his term; with Cheney, a constitutionally-elected politician, he had no choice. The only comment the President hadn’t made the previous few weeks was, “Rummy, you’re doing a heckuva job.”
 

Sat

28

Oct

2006

They Are No Angels: Throw The Bums Out!

By Tom Chartier

When does our government actually function at it’s best? Stop laughing! This is a serious question. Ponder it for a moment. The answer is easy. The government functions best when it does nothing! That’s right, nothing, nada, zilch.

Should any poor soul actually depend on the U.S. government for anything, well… I got some prime beachfront property for sale in Nevada. When was the last time that any government schemes actually worked? Worked for the taxpayer that is.  We all know these schemes work just fine for the “elected officials.”  I can’t think of any that worked for us. Hm… maybe the Tennessee Valley Authority

 

Do our schools work? No.

Does FEMA work? Ask the city of New Orleans.

How about Social Security? Will that be there for you when you retire?  No way.

Does the government protect us and keep us safe? Absolutely not! Uncle Sam couldn’t care less about keeping us safe. Our all-volunteer military is nothing but cannon fodder to serve the greedy corporations who own our “elected officials.” Decades of meddling in the Middle East are the root cause of 9/11. And we sure as hell ain’t safer now that President George W. Bush’s “The War on Terror” has been grinding away nearly as long as the U.S. involvement in WW II.

 


 

Tue

10

Oct

2006

BREAKING NEWS: Eisenhower Carrier Group Sails for Iran Theater

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Eisenhower and its accompanying strike force of cruiser, destroyer and attack submarine slipped their moorings and headed off for the Persian Gulf region on Oct. 2, as I had predicted in a piece in The Nation magazine a few weeks back.

The Eisenhower strike force, according to my sources, is scheduled to arrive in the vicinity of Iran around October 21, at the same time as a second flotilla of minesweepers and other ships.

This build-up of naval power around the coast of Iran, according to some military sources, is in preparation for an air attack on Iran that would target not just Iran's nuclear enrichment facilities, but its entire military command and control system.

 

Thu

16

Nov

2006

A different kind of occupation - American Indians and Alcatraz Island
by Mickey Z.

Until the notorious federal penitentiary was closed in 1963, Alcatraz Island was a place most folks tried to leave.On November 20, 1969, the island's image underwent a rather drastic makeover. That was the day thousands of American Indians refused to leave thus beginning an occupation that would last until June 11, 1971.

The 1973 armed occupation of Wounded Knee along with the siege at the Pine Ridge Reservation one year later (which led directly to the incarceration of the still imprisoned Leonard Peltier) are etched deeper in the public consciousness in terms of recent Indian history, but is was the Alcatraz Island occupation that ushered in a brave new era of Native American activism.

"The occupiers," writes Ben Winton in the Fall 1999 issue of Native Peoples magazine, "were an unlikely mix of Indian college activists, families with children fresh off reservations and urban dwellers disenchanted with what they called the U.S. government's economic, social and political neglect."
 

Tue

07

Nov

2006

All the leaves are brown

by Mickey Z.

Each fall, even the most nature-oblivious humans can't help but notice-and likely marvel-as the leaves turn. Here in New York City, many folks will go as far as driving up north to New England solely to witness the spectacular shades of ginger, auburn, gold, and crimson. This annual phase of nature presages both the colder weather and the shopping day countdown that lurk in our not so distant future"

Speaking of rampant holiday season consumerism, as you try to remember where you parked your SUV in that crowded shopping mall parking lot, gaze upward.

Take a good long look at the leaves that have changed color and are now breaking from the trees and wafting slowly downward to finish their life's mission...on the friggin' pavement. Imagine the shock those nutrient laden leaves experience when they land not on sodden, inviting soil but instead on the unforgiving, oil stained asphalt we all know and loathe.

 


Central Park, NYC


More than two million acres of parks, farms, and open space are destroyed each year in the name of a little something called sprawl. During the twentieth century, an area equal to all the arable land in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania was paved in the United States. This swath of terra firma requires maintenance costing over $200 million a day and the surreptitious cost of our car culture totals nearly $500 billion a year in the U.S. alone (much of that going to the sustentation of waging perpetual war to keep the world safe for petroleum).


 
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