Sunday, February 10, 2008

U.S. economy's descent steepens

U.S. economy's descent steepens

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Job losses and a contraction in the business sector where more than 80 percent of Americans work show that the angle of descent for the U.S. economy is steepening.

Unsurprisingly, while problems are spreading to the formerly indefatigable American consumer, the old issues - falling home prices and crippled credit markets - show no signs of healing themselves or being healed from on high.

And yet, the Dow Jones industrial average is just 14 percent below its all-time closing high, an improbable combination.

The big question - can the economy possibly shake off a deflating debt bubble? - seems to have been answered.

The Institute for Supply Management's index of the all-important services sector fell abruptly in January to 41.9, from 54.4 in December, indicating that the sector is shrinking outright.

Private-sector services account for nearly 70 percent of U.S. economic output and have been the engine of growth during the past seven years as manufacturing increasingly moved overseas.

"That was really a crunching number, a recessionlike number," said Lex Hoogduin, chief economist at the Dutch fund manager Robeco.

Hoogduin, who takes comfort from data showing an uptick in the manufacturing sector, said the services numbers had prompted him to rate a recession at nearly an even shot, up from about a 30 percent chance before.

The ABC News/Washington Post Consumer Comfort index has just dropped to its lowest reading since November 1993, capping a monthlong decline that eerily mirrored drops before recessions in 1990 and 2001.

"They don't ring a bell when a recession starts, but that tinkling sound seems to be getting louder," said Kevin Logan, an economist at Dresdner Kleinwort in New York.

"Some shift is taking place in January and February that wasn't evident in 2007."

And it is true that businesses and consumers have suffered through a blizzard of bad news since the year began, with President George W. Bush and others calling for a stimulus plan to rescue the economy, an emergency inter-meeting rate cut by the Federal Reserve and more pain from financial markets.

Seeing this, it is very likely that consumers and businesses are doing what they classically do in a recession: deferring decisions and consumption. This can combine with what is happening in credit in a dangerously self-reinforcing way.

An increasing number of American businesses and consumers will be finding credit harder to come by. The great piggy bank called home is definitely tapped out, with declining house prices and banks' unwillingness to extend more credit making further borrowing difficult.

Look no further for confirmation than the Fed's January senior loan officer survey, which showed less demand for loans and less desire to make them on easy terms, both to consumers and businesses.

Banks do not want to lend both because do not have the money, having already lent and lost too much, and because they are turning downbeat about overall prospects for the people they lend to.

Banks, too, are subject to huge evolving risks, not least the crisis among bond insurance companies, that could be causing them to preserve capital even more aggressively.

So-called monoline bond insurers, which insure structured financings and municipal bonds, are at risk of downgrades from ratings agencies that could touch off yet another round of losses and write-downs by banks.

In a week of incredible stories, maybe the most amazing was that Fitch Ratings was reviewing 172,326 bond issues after putting on a negative watch the triple-A ratings of one such insurer, MBIA.

Banks own about $615 billion of structured securities insured by monolines, according to Marc Chandler of Brown Brothers Harriman. A downgrade to double-A would force a write-down of $20 billion to $25 billion, while one to a single-A rating would require $140 billion to $150 billion, according to Chandler.

Besides hitting credit, this could undermine a stock market that is already looking vulnerable at these levels if we head into recession.

If American consumers really take a close look at their finances, they may not just defer spending but cut back hard.

Paul Kasriel of Northern Trust in Chicago points out that from 1929 to 1998 U.S. households had been in deficit in only six years, including two during the Depression and several after World War II when there was finally stuff to buy with money they had been forced to save.

Internet interruption in the Middle East looks fishy

Using the Internet as a weapon

Internet interruption in the Middle East looks fishy

By John C. Dvorak

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Nobody knows what caused the cut cables in the Mediterranean that interrupted Internet service to parts of the Middle East last week, but there are now conspiracy theories galore written by bloggers and pundits.

Some say it will benefit terrorists and Iran somehow. In fact, the cut cables -- originally blamed on ships dragging anchors -- look more like a ploy by some intelligence agency to disrupt Iranian commerce, specifically an emerging oil bourse that the Iranians have been quietly establishing and hoped to roll out fully in the next 60 days.

This concept seems a little farfetched until you look at the details which were provided to me by one of my readers, Martin Kuplens-Ewart who has been following the story from the outset. He notes: "there is a substantial event that has effectively been killed by the loss of connectivity: the launch of the Iranian Oil Bourse.

"A marketplace for oil, gas, and various petrochemicals, the Iranian Oil Bourse would trade exclusively in non-dollars and probably substantial negative impact to the U.S. economy and financial system. The bourse was scheduled for launch this week (between Feb. 1 and 11. With complete elimination of Internet connectivity to the country, this launch is now impossible and unlikely to be achievable before month's end (given the estimate 10-14 days for repairs to fiber-optic cables)."

He cites various articles expressing the mystery behind the cut cables and describing the bourse and its overall threat to the U.S. economy, as well as how the thing could backfire, ruining the Iranian economy. See Seattle Times article. See World Press article. See Energy Bulletin item.

The second bourse article, written in 2005, discusses the early planning for the bourse and suggests or wonders if someone might take some covert actions against it.

Communication breakdown

In most instances Internet connectivity can be rerouted, and much of the Middle East has already done this. But what makes this situation unique is that the bourse was being established on Kish Island, a free-trade zone set up by the Iranians in hopes of creating a cool tourist destination.

For an example of what they are up to check out the Web site for one of the new hotels here. See link to Dariush Grand Hotel.

There doesn't seem to be an alternate Internet connection to the island other than the cut cables. I attempted to email the three top hotels on the island and all the email bounced. I was also unable to make a telephone call there indicating a large telecommunications failure.

The Web sites for the hotels are likely to be hosted off the island and are still working.

This sort of telecom and Internet failure/collapse, no matter what the cause, is unlikely to give anyone confidence in an international oil trading system on Kish Island. Too much money is at risk. The island obviously needs satellite access or some form of connectivity back up that is foolproof.

There has always been talk about disrupting commerce by screwing up the Internet. We've just seen a proof of concept, whether done on purpose or by accident.

It doesn't make a lot of difference how it happened if we want to learn a lesson as to how delicate the Internet mechanism can be.

If the cut cable was done on purpose you can expect the U.S. to get blamed although it could have just as easily benefited Britain, China or even Saudi Arabia for that matter. I'm guessing we will never know how it happened or who suffered the most. All I can say for sure is that it does look fishy.

More importantly, investors should know more about this sort of risk and which companies in their portfolio could suffer a negative impact from this sort of event.

No room for two states

No room for two states

The case for a single state solution for Palestine is irrefutable

By Hassan Nafaa

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Is there truly hope for the establishment of a viable, sovereign Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel in peace? Sadly, I doubt it very much, at least in the foreseeable future, in view of current local, regional and international conditions.

The creation of a Palestinian state should not be regarded as an end in itself, but rather as a means for resolving a long and complex historical conflict. Accordingly, our judgement on a formula for a proposed state should rest not so much on whether it complies with necessary formal and legal conditions as whether it meets that overriding criterion: will it serve to draw to a close, once and for all, that protracted conflict?

After all, the concrete existence of a Palestinian state with certain specifications could, in itself, become an instrument in the conflict as opposed to a step towards its solution. The conflict between the Palestinians and the Zionist movement is not over disputed borders or material interests and, therefore, resolvable by merely coming to an agreement over permanent borders and a give-and-take over material interests. Rather, it is a conflict between two identities, each of which claims sole propriety right over a given territory. Such a conflict cannot be solved by the same means that are brought to bear on conventional international conflicts.

Identity conflicts can only be solved by two means, either by the overwhelming defeat of one side by the other, or through compromise, after both sides finally reach the conviction that continuing the zero-sum game, whereby a gain for one side must result in an equal loss for the other, will not result in victory over and elimination of the other side. I believe that in identity conflicts compromise is only possible when there is mutual recognition of the other party's equal rights.

If we were to apply this concept to the Palestinian- Zionist conflict, a compromise solution would require that both sides commit themselves fully to two indispensable, mutually complementary conditions. The first is for them to accept the fair and equal partition of the territory under dispute. The second is for them to agree to complete equality in rights and duties in the process of building peaceful, friendly, mutually beneficial relations. Unfortunately, there are no signs that these conditions can be met today or even in the foreseeable future.

The total land area designated for a Palestinian state, as a proposed solution to the conflict, amounts to no more than 10 per cent of the actual territory under dispute, which is historic Palestine. Moreover, that designated area is not geographically contiguous, but rather consists of disconnected and isolated patches of territory. If and when that state is founded, it will not have an army or any autonomous means to defend itself and its borders will be subject to constant surveillance by land, sea and air. But if it is to be founded at all, that phantom state will first have to recognise Israel's right to 90 per cent of the disputed territory, the purely Jewish character of that state and, hence, its right to remain eternally open to Jews from around the world, along with the right of that state to an immensely powerful army equipped with every available type of weapon, including nuclear missiles.

Obviously, there can be nothing remotely resembling equality in a relationship between such disparate states. A Palestinian state so encumbered by restrictions and conditions can only be an Israeli dependency subjected to total Israeli control. This is not a situation conducive to lasting peaceful coexistence, because the very conditions of dependency and subordination to Israeli must inevitably continue to fire the Palestinian urge for true national independence and expression. At the same time, it is difficult to perceive how such a state, so crippled at birth that it is little more than an Israeli protectorate, could eventually evolve into a fully-fledged viable state capable of safeguarding Palestinian rights and fulfilling their aspirations.

There are several reasons for this. First, Israel has given no indication of a willingness to set aside its policy of imposing de facto realities by force of arms in favour of the search for a historic compromise, which means that Israel will perpetually seek to sustain its qualitative superiority -- military superiority in particular -- not only over the Palestinians but over all Arab and Islamic nations combined.

Second, the US can no longer maintain even a fa├žade of impartiality now that its positions on the Middle East conflict have become virtually identical to those of Israel. In fact, some powerful and influential forces in the US are more pro-Zionist than Israeli Zionists and have pitted their weight behind the most extreme forces in Israel, which reject out of hand a settlement founded upon a historic compromise with the Palestinians. It is, therefore, impossible to envision an American government willing and able to pressure Israel into accepting the conditions for a just and lasting settlement.

Third, joint US-Israeli efforts have succeeded in excluding the UN from any involvement in the peace process, with the result that this process has been effectively stripped of any framework of international legitimacy. It is patently obvious that all relevant international resolutions and instruments have been discarded as bases for negotiations, with the sole exception of Resolution 242, which favours Israel's negotiating position and paves the way for a settlement that reflects the actual balance of powers on the ground as opposed to the principles of justice and fairness enshrined in all other UN resolutions and instruments.

Fourth, the Palestinian cause no longer occupies the priority it once had on the agenda of the official Arab order. What was once a central and unifying Arab- Islamic cause has been effectively reduced to a local problem that primarily concerns the Palestinians alone. Arab governments hide behind the current Palestinian rift, which they played no small part in precipitating, to conceal their shift in stance, and they have thus effectively become accomplices in Israel's criminal blockade of the Palestinian people, which is intended to force the Palestinians to their knees and to accept Israeli conditions for a settlement. Again, there are no signs that this situation is about to change in the near future.

Clearly, then, the so-called Palestinian state that is supposed to arise from the current "peace process" is never going to lead to a just and lasting solution to the conflict. Indeed, that conception of a state has been specifically designed to help Israel ward off what it regards as the foremost threat, which it unabashedly terms the "Palestinian demographic bomb". With considerable perseverance and dexterity, Israel managed to steer negotiations currently taking place with the Palestinian Authority into a long, dark tunnel, the only glimmer of light at the end of which is a congenitally disfigured state that will ultimately prove a means for inflaming tensions rather than ending them.

It seems to me, therefore, that the Palestinians and Arabs have no other choice but to abandon the two- state solution and rehabilitate that solution the Palestine Liberation Organisation espoused until the mid- 1980s, which is the creation of a single, unified democratic state, in which all its citizens -- Muslims, Christians or Jews -- are equal.

Some might counter that this proposal is so divorced from reality that its only effect will be to drive the Palestinians and Arabs into chasing a new mirage. Naturally, such sceptics will easily find support for their argument, especially given that Israel would never agree to such a solution or even take it seriously as a negotiating basis. These sceptics may have a point, but I would counter that this proposal is no less idealistic than the Arab Peace Initiative. At the same time, it is superior in many ways.

The two-state solution, as understood in the Arab initiative adopted at the Beirut Arab summit, is radically different to the two-state solution as understood by the Israeli interpretation of the Bush "vision". Although Israel and the US have never openly rejected the Arab initiative and only recently announced that they welcomed some of its "positive points", they have no intention of adopting it, as it stands, as a basis for negotiations with the Arabs. Under current balances of power, since the Arabs neither have the power to impose their initiative nor the ability to withdraw from the current "process", even if they wanted to, their initiative will be chipped away at until all that is left is the Bush "vision" as interpreted by Israel. That eventuality will, in turn, take the peace process back to square one, and the endless cycle of Israeli coercion to impose its own conditions for a settlement will begin again. Since the Arabs are not prepared for direct military confrontation with Israel, reformulating the Arab position on the basis of the one-state solution would offer a much more rational -- and much less costly -- way out of their predicament.

The single, bi-national democratic state solution has the advantage of conforming to modern liberal democratic principles officially espoused in the West and in Israel itself. It could therefore stand a good chance of eliciting a positive response abroad that would acquire impetus, especially if the Palestinians and Arabs unified themselves behind this alternative in a serious and constructive way. In addition, this solution would favour innovative ways of overcoming the most obdurate obstacles to a settlement -- notably the questions of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees. The chances of ensuring the administration of Christian, Jewish and Muslim holy places by independent religious authorities in a climate of freedom and tolerance are definitely higher and easier to safeguard in a democratic state. The Palestinian refugee problem also becomes solvable in a unified secular state if it is linked to the right to return as a right extended to both Jews and Palestinians.

I fully appreciate the difficulties standing in the way of the establishment of a unified secular democratic state in Palestine in the near future. However, in the long run, this is the only solution capable of keeping the Middle East and the rest of the world away from the dangerous brink towards which all are heading. On the one hand, it can forestall the victory of Zionist racism which would open the gates to the forces of bigotry and intolerance on this side that have been pushing in from the sidelines and clamouring to meet fire with fire. On the other hand, if that solution succeeded in Palestine, it would set into motion a tide of democratisation that would sweep the entire region, just as occurred in Eastern Europe in the 1990s. In addition, it would prevent the fragmentation of the region and stimulate a dynamic process of social and economic development.

Hassan Nafaa is a professor of political science at Cairo University.

McCain found a tool with which to woo conservative Republicans: Israel

McCain found a tool with which to woo conservative Republicans: Israel

By Shmuel Rosner

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There's been a lot of talk lately about John McCain's problem with the more conservative (and religious) right wing of the Republican Party. In Super Tuesday McCain won among self-identified conservatives in only three of the nine states that were covered by the exit polls I looked at. His real strength is among moderates.

The dominant narrative for the rest of the Republican race could be McCain's uneasy relationship with the right, writes Michael Grunwald in Time. The candidate is making an effort to win over this important constituency: "I promise you," McCain assured conservatives in his victory speech, "if I am so fortunate to win your nomination, I will work hard to ensure that the conservative philosophy and principles of our great party ... will again win the votes of a majority of the American people."

The problem he has is clear: How does one win over the more radical wing of his party without alienating the more centrist voters on which one relies to help him win not just the nomination but also the general election. McCain is using a couple of tools as to try and achieve this goal. One of them, and not a marginal one, is the State of Israel.

Senator Joe Lieberman is playing a role here. The staunchest Jewish supporter McCain has, Lieberman can promise both Jews and Evangelical voters that McCain is the candidate who will not abandon Israel (no wonder some people still think Lieberman is McCain's top pick for Vice President).

Lieberman also says that McCain understands how significant the establishment of the state of Israel was. He is an avid reader of history and also has "a sense of history." He is familiar with the story of the country. He will not do anything that will "compromise Israel's security." Lieberman has real confidence in McCain, a "total comfort level" because "I know this man."

"In his potential outreach to evangelical Christians, Lieberman could trade on a relationship rooted in a shared concern for the safety of Israel, as well the respect many evangelicals have for Lieberman's Orthodox Jewish background and for his activism on values issues like violence in the media", wrote Jennifer Siegel of the Forward, and rightly so.

But who needs Lieberman when it is so clear that the candidate himself is using the Israel tool with his most problematic constituency? Two weeks ago I reported that "it is not only the Jews who McCain is courting" with gestures and statements concerning Israel:

Asked about his chances of winning the Republican nomination despite his poor relations with evangelical Christians, he noted that an influential segment of this community is very committed to Israel, and "obviously I have been a very strong proponent to the State of Israel."

And here is a statement he made earlier, in the summer: "The State of Israel has never needed your support and your hopes and your prayers they way they need it today," McCain said. "And God bless you for your commitment." The occasion: the annual Christians United for Israel Summit in Washington.

McCain's speech Thursday, at the Conservative Political Action Conference here in Washington, was designed to hammer this point home in an even more forceful way: "Those [Democratic] senators won't recognize and seriously address the threat posed by an Iran with nuclear ambitions to our ally Israel in the region", McCain said. Meaning: If you conservatives really care about Israel as you often say you do - I'm you're man. Here?s some more: "I intend to make unmistakably clear to Iran we will not permit a government that espouses the destruction of the State of Israel as its fondest wish and pledges undying enmity to the United States to possess the weapons to advance their malevolent ambitions".

His speech, wrote Stephen Hayes "was surprisingly well-received". After the speech, Hayes reports:

[Tom] DeLay told a few reporters that a speech at CPAC could not make up for McCain's record, but he would not rule out voting for him. That might not seem like a big deal unless we recall that DeLay had previously said that McCain "has done more to hurt the Republican Party than any elected official I know of." And he'd still consider voting for him?

DeLay is definitely one of those people to which a positive message concerning Israel is of great importance, and might help McCain do the trick.

Out of America

Out of America

Whoever wins the presidency will most likely fail to take on the unholy trinity of arms manufacturers, the Pentagon, and Congress

By Rupert Cornwell

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Lockheed Martin," intones the fruity male voice, drenched in patriotism. "We begin with the things that matter... [pregnant pause]... Freedom." Such are the joys of listening to radio commercials as you drive to work in Washington DC. Lockheed, of course, is a giant defence contractor. Hearing this ad, and similar inspirational stuff from Boeing and the like, you might think you were on the front lines of a war that reached into your living room.

That, of course, is precisely what George W Bush would like you to think of his "war on terror", even though the closest the average citizen here ever gets to it is a security line at an airport. But those commercials are part of another struggle, less violent but no less relentless. It is being fought out by companies like Lockheed over the lucrative and effectively captive US government arms market.

Obscured by the great Obama-Hillary battle and the drama of Super Tuesday, the final budget of the Bush era was published last week. It covers the 2009 financial year, and contains one startling fact. If this President has his way, the US will next year be spending more on its military (adjusted for inflation) than at any time since the Second World War.

The raw figures are mind-boggling. The official Pentagon budget for 2009 runs to $515bn (£265bn), or around 4 per cent of America's total economy (the equivalent figure for Britain is 2.5 per cent), and about the same size as the entire output of the Netherlands. Throw in an expected $150bn of supplementary outlays and you've got defence spending larger than Australia's entire gross domestic product.

Even that may be an understatement. Add in various "black items", such as military spending tucked away in other parts of government, and some claim that America's total annual spending on the military now exceeds a trillion dollars – roughly half the entire British economy.

Students of these matters claim that the wind-down of the surge in Iraq, and the likelihood that the Democrats will recapture the White House in December, mean that the latest growth cycle in Pentagon spending, that began at the end of the Clinton era, has probably peaked. But don't bet on it.

A faltering economy may be the biggest worry for voters this election year, but national security runs it close. On Thursday, Mitt Romney justified his decision to drop out of the Republican race for the White House by his party's need to set aside divisive internal squabbling "at this time of war". As for John McCain, the man now set to carry the Republican standard in November, maintaining the strength of the US military is his top priority. The economy, he freely admits, is not his strong suit. National security, however, is. If McCain wins, it will be because Americans deem him the candidate to keep them safe.

Appearing "soft" on national security can be fatal, as Democrats know only too well after their stinging defeats in the 2002 mid-terms and the presidential election of 2004. Hillary Clinton has been trying to establish herself as a hawk ever since, while Barack Obama knows full well he also has to convince in the role of commander-in-chief. In short, even a liberal Democratic President will hesitate before taking an axe to the Pentagon budget. But he should.

The US simply does not get value for its defence dollars. The Pentagon is still fighting the Cold War, not the terrorists who rely on infiltration and ambush rather than submarines and strategic bombers. Yet for all the money Bush has lavished on the military since 9/11, Iraq has stretched America's armed forces to breaking point.

The US defence budget may reach a 60-year high next year, but the number of combat troops is smaller than ever. Politicians – Democrats as well as Republicans – all now agree the armed forces need more boots on the ground. That, however, means more, not less, Pentagon spending – unless, of course, some of those blue-chip weapons programmes are cut back.

But again, don't bet on it. Vast spending on defence is locked into the contemporary American system as firmly as it was into the former Soviet one. Paradoxically, it took a general-turned-president to warn against such excesses. Indeed, Dwight Eisenhower had hardly taken office in 1953 when he spoke of the danger of amassing military strength at the expense of all else, a policy that amounted "to defending ourselves against one disaster by inviting another".

Eisenhower famously referred to a "military-industrial complex". A better term, however, is perhaps an "Iron Triangle" whose three corners are the Pentagon, arms manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing, and – most important – Congress. All three are locked together by a common vested interest. The Pentagon chiefs want the best weaponry possible. The companies want to keep the orders flowing ever more munificently. But the ultimate enablers are the elected representatives of the people.

Lockheed operates in 45 of the 50 states, where its factories provide jobs, and the congressmen and senators from those states will do anything to keep them. Far from voting less money for the Pentagon, they often provide more than the President of the day is seeking, to finance extra projects – needed or not – if that will keep the money flowing into their district. And, fearful of appearing soft on defence, few will oppose them. Thus the spending merry-go-round continues. In the America of 2009, that is the real war economy.

Hillary, Will You Renounce Your Ties to Monsanto?

Hillary, Will You Renounce Your Ties to Monsanto?

By Linn Cohen-Cole

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Dear Hillary,

By polling logic, I should be your supporter -- Democrat, woman, white, liberal. But this past summer I saw a News Hour show on farmers committing suicide in Maharastra, India, which affected me deeply. I started learning what was happening to farmers and to food and how the Clintons are connected.

The News Hour piece said Monsanto, a US agricultural corporation, hired Bollywood actors to sell illiterate farmers Bt (genetically engineered) cotton seeds, promising they'd get rich from big yields. The expensive seeds needed expensive fertilizer and pesticides (Monsanto's) and irrigation. There is no irrigation there. Crops failed. Farmers had immense debt and couldn't collect seeds to try again because Monsanto seeds are "patented" as "intellectual property").

"Genetic Engineering is often justified as a human technology, one that feeds more people with better food. Nothing could be further from the truth. With very few exceptions, the whole point of genetic engineering is to increase sales of chemicals and bio-engineered products to dependent farmers."

David Ehrenfield: Professor of Biology, Rutgers University.

Monsanto has a $10 million budget and 75 person staff to prosecute farmers.

Since the late 1990s (as industrial agriculture took hold in India),166,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide and 8 million have left the land (P. Sainath, The Hindu). Farmers in Europe, Asia, Africa, Indonesia, South America, Central America and here, have all protested Monsanto and genetic engineering.

What does this have to do with you?

Your Orwellian-named "Rural Americans for Hillary" were Monsanto's lobbyists. My greater concern, though, is you former-employer, Rose Law Firm, representing Monsanto, world's largest GE (GE - genetic engineering) corporation; Tyson, world's largest meat producer; Walmart, the world's largest retailer. Rose is home to Industrial FOOD.

Rose's cozy connections: Jon Jacoby, senior at the Stephens Group - one of the largest shareholders of Tyson, Walmart, DP&L - is C.O.B. of DP&L, arranged the Wal-Mart deal. Jackson Stephens' Stephens Group staked Walton, financed Tyson. Monsanto bought DP&L. Walmart's board invited you on, Tyson executive helped you do $100,000 trade just before Bill' governorship, Jackson Stephens backed Bill for Governor, then President (donating $100,000).

Monsanto made Agent Orange, PCBs, nuclear weapons components, pesticides, and with that diverse background in death, are now "doing" food.

Bill in office:

USDA immediately significantly weakened chicken waste/contamination standards, easing Tyson's poultry-factory expansion.

1. Monsanto people were put in charge of food, ...

2. FDA okayed Monsanto's rBGH (bovine growth hormone), first GE-product ever approved.

3. Despite bovine illness/death, FDA didn't recall or warn.

4. When dairymen labeled milk "rBGH-free," USDA threatened confiscation.

5. Organic food was the last way around unknown danger. FDA tried to close that escape with new "organic" standards, to include: genetic engineering of plants/animals, food irradiation , sewage sludge fertilizer.
USDA backed down from public response 20 times greater than to anything before American food:

Oils: Indian sheep died eating from Bt cotton fields. Our children eat Bt cottonseed oil in peanut butter, cookies.

Grains: 49 per cent of corn acreage planted in Bt corn in 2007. A French study indicates it causes kidney and liver toxicity. . Monsanto controls US's two main crops, soy (90% GMO, 90% of traits "belong" to Monsanto) and corn, the largest crop (60% GMO, nearly 100% Monsanto "owned" traits).

Meat: Steroids bulk athletes, Monsanto steroids fatten animals, our fattening children eat steroid-laced meats. FDA allowed "known TSE-positive (Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy Mad Cow Disease) material to be used in pet food, pig, chicken and fish feed." Monsanto's GE-hormone increases risk sick cows are entering US food chain

Poultry: USDA weakened waste/contamination standards. Waste from transnational poultry industry is now implicated as the source of bird flu. The poultry industry is using the crisis to push out small farmers.

Milk: Scientific studies indicate Monsanto's rBGH increases risks of breast cancer by up to seven-fold, increases colon, prostate cancers risks. Canada, 29 European nations, Norway, Switzerland, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa ban U.S. rBGH dairy products. Bill's USFDA put no restrictions, warning labels, or any labels.

Control out of control.

Monsanto's Terminator genes make plants sterile after one season, posing apocalyptic risk of breaking out into nature. GE breakouts have contaminated maize and weeds, already.

Monsanto, meat-packers, and the USDA are pushing NAIS (National Animal Identification System), a corporate database tracking small farmers' livestock.
Monsanto pushing state laws taking control from farmers, communities, over GE planting.

Cattle living in filth, 12,000-year-old seed loss, poultry industry implicated in bird flu, Mad Cow disease, bee colony collapse, poisoned soil, depleted water, Superweed), lawsuits against farmers, loss of family farms throughout the world, ... farmers committing suicide. Industrial agriculture.

Bees and farmers, dead canaries in that mine.

Your proposed "Department of Food Safety" centralizes control over food into whose hands? Tough talk on labeling "foreign" food but Bill degraded US food and prevented minimally sane labeling. You never objected.

Monsanto uses child labor in India.

You take Monsanto donations. Blacks, our poorest group, have to eat Monsanto's steroid/hormone/antibiotic-filled GE food. You take Monsanto donations.

Who are you protecting? National Black Farmers Association, boycotting Monsanto? Babies drinking rBGH milk? Women fearing breast cancer? Despairing farmers? Suffering animals? Children fed kidney-and-liver-toxic Bt-corn?

Or Monsanto?

I am a person before I am a woman. Your gender is irrelevant. Given deadly threats to my grandchildren's future by your corporate connections (Edwards was right), I don't believe your talk of "caring" about Blacks/women/children/health/farmers/food.

I will vote for someone committed to small farmers - our ONLY real food safety. Your friends, though, are the heart of an international industrial agricultural nightmare.

Adrian Hamilton: Nato should not be fighting this war in Afghanistan

Adrian Hamilton: Nato should not be fighting this war in Afghanistan

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That is not the same question, although inextricably linked, with the question of whether we, the Brits or the Americans, should be there still or getting out of the morass. Nor is it the same question of whether the current spat between America and its European allies over troop deployments and numbers is a defining point in the alliance or not. But it is to ask whether Nato, the most successful military alliance since the Second World War, is the right organisation for this job, and indeed, whether it can survive the strains that the Afghan occupation is putting on it.

For, make no mistake, that is what the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has now got itself involved in. When it was first decided to go into Afghanistan and to use Nato as the military command to do it, the case seemed obvious enough. The US had been attacked, it wanted to retaliate as head of an international coalition, its allies in Europe were anxious to show willing, and the political and military heads of Nato itself were keen to establish a new "out-of-theatre" role for an alliance that had lost much of its meaning with the end of the Cold War. Add to that the fact that the institution had a tried and tested command system, and a Nato force appeared just the ticket.

Maybe it was in the initial stages, or maybe someone should have asked at the beginning whether the whole concept of "out-of-theatre" ventures was right for an alliance that had plenty on its plate in the Balkans. But nobody did think about those questions because all the pressure was on to do something in support of the US after 9/11, and Nato seemed convenient as an answer.

But it isn't any longer. What might have seemed a relatively straightforward military venture to overthrow a government and rid the country of al-Qa'ida and its protectors, the Taliban, has now taken on a quite different hue. Having forced regime change, Nato is now there as occupiers, charged with not just fighting the resurgent Taliban, but ensuring security, rooting out drugs production and supporting local civilian rulers whom the alliance favours and removing those it disapproves of.

When President Karzai rounded on the British actions in Helmand recently and rejected Britain and America's candidate for the post of UN representative in Afghanistan, his objections were treated as just the outpouring of a local politician fearful of the loss of his own power. He should have been listened to. What he was saying was that Britain's intervention to remove the local governor – however unpleasant and corrupt he may have been – had changed the rules of the game.

If the object of the exercise was to defeat the Taliban, then the Western alliance should have kept with the local chieftains Kabul knew could manage security in a country where central control barely extended beyond the capital. Once we started to intervene in local politics because of the Western desire to suppress the opium trade and to create a "clean" democracy in its own image, and once we decided to impose a UN representative tasked with ordering political governance in the country, then you made the West part of the political game not an umpire of it.

The argument over the rightness or otherwise of local warlords in Afghanistan is a real one. But Karzai's central point is right. Nato is now there as an army of occupation, tasked with reshaping the country, not a military venture dedicated to seeking and destroying a defined enemy. If this is what we want – and that is what Rice and Miliband seem to be seeking on their latest visit to the country – then let us be honest about it.

Whatever the objectives, however, Nato is the wrong instrument to achieve it. The row over troop commitments in Germany, as in Canada, has shown there isn't the democratic support for a foreign venture such as this among the public of the alliance. And understandably so. Nato has quite enough problems with keeping together in the Balkans and deciding who should join it from the former Soviet Union (it's in the mad position at the moment of having a Hungarian former spy, trained by the KGB in Moscow, acting as chairman of its security committee) without looking beyond its own natural borders.

Last week a group of former top-ranking generals in the organisation produced a paper arguing that the alliance needed to assert a right of first strike if it was to attain its new role of global policeman. God help us all if they should gain a hearing in Brussels, or in Washington. This is nothing to do with Nato and it should have nothing to do with it.

Israeli minister urges liquidation of Hamas political leaders

Israeli minister urges liquidation of Hamas political leaders

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Israeli Minister of Housing and Construction Zeev Boim called on the Israeli Defense Forces and security services Sunday to liquidate the political leaders of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS) including the sacked prime minister Ismail Haniya.

"Israel needs to talk a combat language to Gaza Strip," Boim said in statements to Israeli Army Radio (Galei Tzahal).

"The rules of war against its (the strip's) residents must be clearly understood by all," he underscored.

"All members of HAMAS political leadership are involved in terrorist acts against Israel ... So they must be liquidated," Boim claimed.

He termed HAMAS leaders in Gaza Strip, on top of who is Haniya, as "heads of snakes." Boim made the ferocious remarks following the missile attacks launched last night by Ezzedeen AL-Qassam Brigades - the armed wing of HAMAS, and other Palestinian militant groups against Israeli towns near Gaza Strip.

The Israeli Air Force launched air strikes against several areas in the strip last night and early this morning, killing one Palestinian citizen and injuring 15 others.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said earlier Sunday his army would launch secret operations in the Palestinian territories.

Reacting to Boim's threats, Hamas said the recent statements of Israeli leaders showed "the terrorist nature of the Jewish mentality." "The Israeli occupation forces are planning for new atrocities against Gaza Strip," according to a statement issued by spokesman of the sacked HAMAS-led Palestinian government Fawzi Barhom.

"They are preparing for an ethnic cleansing campaign in order to liquidate the Palestine cause and reaffirm the concept of the Jewish state," said the statement of which KUNA received a copy.

Barhom termed the Israeli government a "terrorist institution" which poses a grave danger not only to the Palestinian people but also to the Middle East region as a whole.

"The ongoing Israeli military offensive against Gaza Strip and the recent statements followed the visits to the region by top U.S. officials which indicated the hypocrisy of the U.S. administration.

"The United States turned to be the sponsor of terrorism and exports terrorism to all world countries," the statement added.

Borhom urged all Arab and Muslim nations as well as all peace-loving people across the world to render support to the defenseless Palestinian people.

No Funds in Bush Budget For Troop-Benefits Plan

No Funds in Bush Budget For Troop-Benefits Plan

He Made Proposal in January Speech

By Michael Abramowitz and Robin Wright

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President Bush drew great applause during his State of the Union address last month when he called on Congress to allow U.S. troops to transfer their unused education benefits to family members. "Our military families serve our nation, they inspire our nation, and tonight our nation honors them," he said.

A week later, however, when Bush submitted his $3.1 trillion federal budget to Congress, he included no funding for such an initiative, which government analysts calculate could cost $1 billion to $2 billion annually.

Bush's proposal was added to the speech late in the process, administration officials said, after the president decided that he wanted to announce a program that would favor military families. That left little time to vet the idea, develop formal cost estimates or gauge how many people might take advantage of such a program. Some administration officials said the proposal surprised them, and they voiced concerns about how to fund it.

Some critics in Congress cite the episode as a case study of what they consider the slapdash way Bush has put together the legislative program for his final year in office. Still, the idea is generating bipartisan interest from members of Congress who are eager to assist military families coping with long-term absences of loved ones deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have drawn up legislation that would remove restrictions that currently prevent most troops from transferring education benefits to family members.

"It has some merit to it. I don't have any idea what it costs -- that's been one of the problems in the past," said Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. (D-S.C.), chairman of the House Budget Committee. "That's not the only inconsistency or contradiction in his budget by any means. The budget overstates revenues and understates expenditures in a big way."

A senior White House official said the proposal was suggested to the president by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who got the idea from a military spouse who told him that the Army has a limited program to transfer education benefits. The spouse told Gates, " 'Army spouses get this benefit, other branches should, too.' He brought it to the president and said, 'I think this is a valid point,' " the official said.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Bush liked Gates's suggestion, which eventually became one sentence in the president's 53-minute State of the Union speech. "It is a good idea, and we are trying to determine the cost and put together a proposal," the official said.

Under the current GI Bill, service members are eligible for nearly $40,000 in education benefits, such as college tuition or employment training, after they complete three years of active duty. Nearly 70 percent of active-duty U.S. troops and veterans use at least part of these benefits, which cover three-quarters of the cost of tuition, room, board and fees in a four-year state university, according to Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, a Pentagon spokesman. U.S. officials concede that the cost would probably soar, with most families making full use of the benefits.

The GI Bill education benefits cost nearly $2 billion in fiscal 2006. Pentagon officials said they are unable to provide a figure for the potential cost of the new proposal, or for other initiatives for military families that Bush proposed in his State of the Union speech.

The president also called for expanded access to child -- care for military families and for new preferences for military spouses competing for positions in the federal government. Pentagon officials are working on those proposals as well. They said Bush envisions expanding child care for at least 58,000 military children ages 1 to 12 year-round. The Pentagon already provides care facilities for about 200,000 children.

A third component of the Bush initiative involves opening up more government employment opportunities for military spouses and providing money for training or professional certification so they can more easily find jobs when they move from state to state. A pilot program now provides up to $6,000 over two years to help spouses create such "portable" careers.

The Pentagon is still working out the potential costs, but it reports that about 77 percent of the 675,000 spouses of active-duty troops say they want or need to work and that they might take advantage of such a program.

The Army has a limited program that allows soldiers to transfer some of their education benefits to spouses or children, but it has several restrictions. For instance, only soldiers reenlisting in certain critical skill areas are eligible, and they are allowed to transfer only about half their benefits.

Retired Col. Robert Norton, deputy director for government relations at the Military Officers Association of America, said military families have been "clamoring" for an expansion of the GI Bill in recent years as a critical incentive for troops to stay in the service. He noted that the families endure much hardship and stress while following their spouses around the world or being separated for great lengths of time.

Most U.S. troops who use the GI program use only about half the education benefits, Norton said, and only a tiny percentage use all of their money, so the cost of allowing family members to participate in the program would probably be high. "There is likely to be a pretty hefty price tag," Norton said. "We think it's a good thing for military families. We would like to see the details."

The idea of allowing more troops to extend education benefits to family members has been percolating on Capitol Hill for some time. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Md.) has been pushing it for years and introduced a bill after Bush's surprise endorsement. His measure would drop the restrictions on how many benefits can be transferred and would allow members of the reserves and National Guard to participate.

In the Senate, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) has introduced similar legislation. In an interview, she said that she hopes the White House will back her plan. "We ought to be able to get it pretty quickly through," she said. "It was their idea, and they ought to get credit for it."

The idea has bipartisan support. "It was a very pleasant surprise coming from an administration that has tried to balance its budgets on the backs of military families," said Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), who is co-sponsoring Bartlett's bill. "I don't know where they got the idea, but I am not going to quibble."

Document Shows Army Blocked Help for Soldiers

Document Shows Army Blocked Help for Soldiers

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A document from the Department of Veterans Affairs contradicts an assertion made by the Army surgeon general that his office did not tell VA officials to stop helping injured soldiers with their military disability paperwork at a New York Army post.

The paperwork can help determine health care and disability benefits for wounded soldiers.

Last week, NPR first described a meeting last March between an Army team from Washington and VA officials at Fort Drum Army base in upstate New York. NPR reported that Army representatives told the VA not to review the narrative summaries of soldiers' injuries, and that the VA complied with the Army's request.

The day the NPR story aired, Army Surgeon General Eric B. Schoomaker denied parts of the report. Rep. John McHugh (R-NY), who represents the Fort Drum area, told North Country Public Radio, that "The Surgeon General of the Army told me very flatly that it was not the Army that told the VA to stop this help."

Now, NPR has obtained a four-page VA document that contradicts the surgeon general's statement to McHugh. It was written by one of the VA officials at Fort Drum on March 31, the day after the meeting. The document says Col. Becky Baker of the Army Surgeon General's office told the VA to discontinue counseling soldiers on the appropriateness of Defense Department ratings because "there exists a conflict of interest."

When contacted by NPR, Baker referred an interview request to the Army Surgeon General's spokeswoman. The spokeswoman rejected requests for interviews with Baker and Schoomaker.

The document says that before the Army team's visit, people from the Army Inspector General's office came to Fort Drum and told the VA it was providing a useful service to soldiers by reviewing their disability paperwork.

According to the document, joining Baker on the Army team at the Fort Drum meeting was Dr. Alan Janusziewicz. He retired as deputy assistant surgeon general for the Army in October.

"I was part of the team, and I was probably instrumental in the surgeon general denying that the Army had instructed the VA" to stop reviewing soldiers' Army medical documents, Janusziewicz told NPR in a phone interview.

Janusziewicz says he has no memory of Baker telling the VA to stop helping soldiers with their military paperwork. In fact, he says, he thought the VA at Fort Drum was doing the best job of any base he visited. But he also says his recollection of the meeting is spotty, since it took place almost a year ago.

"I believe that document is more likely to represent a miscommunication of intent between what Col. Baker was trying to get across and what folks on the receiving end of that communication likely heard," Janusziewicz said.

The document describing the meeting at Fort Drum says the primary purpose for the visit was to "ensure that there are no other 'Walter Reed' situations at other Army installations." That's a reference to the scandal at Walter Reed Army hospital in Washington, which detailed reports of neglect of soldiers recovering from injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to the document, Rosie Taylor, who recently retired as Fort Drum's Disability Program manager, described soldiers at the base in conditions of squalor and neglect. In an interview on Wednesday, Taylor described "soldiers crawling on their bellies to go to the bathroom, or soldiers who'd had surgery who couldn't go to chow because they had no way to get there."

The document says one soldier was bedridden for three days without a change of clothes or meal. Taylor says nobody listened to her complaints until the Walter Reed scandal.

"Every time I walked into a meeting before, it was like 'Oh my God, there goes $70,000.' And after Walter Reed hit the fan, it was like I was getting phone calls, 'Rosie we're doing over a building and we need your advice on access,'" Taylor says.

Taylor says the accessibility problems have generally been solved.

She doesn't remember whether the Army told the VA to stop helping soldiers with their disability paperwork. But she will say this about Fort Drum's VA workers: "They stand on their heads for soldiers. They put their jobs on the line for soldiers. They don't care if they're not supposed to do something; if a soldier needs something done, they do it anyway."

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) has already asked the Army to investigate the situation at Fort Drum. She called the allegations in last week's report "deeply disturbing."

Whether the situation at the Army base is a result of poor communication, poor memory or something else altogether, the result is the same: For the last year, hundreds of disabled soldiers at Fort Drum have received less help with their disability paperwork than the soldiers who came before them.

Hillary Clinton's advisers 'in a state of panic'

Hillary Clinton's advisers 'in a state of panic'

By Tim Shipman

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Hillary Clinton's most senior advisers are in a state of "panic" about her presidential prospects and are plotting to enlist Democrat leaders in Congress to thwart her rival Barack Obama's ambitions.

The Clinton camp is braced for Mr Obama to win a series of primary elections over the next three weeks, which they fear could hand the Illinois senator unstoppable momentum in the race for the White House.

Mr Obama has begun calling those "super delegates" - 795 congressmen and senior party officials who could break a dead heat - who are committed to Mrs Clinton, asking them to change their minds and help him wrap up the nomination.

As of tonight, the two candidates were neck and neck but Mr Obama appeared to be gaining momentum.

"He's saying: 'Hey, I won your state and I won your congressional district, why are you supporting her?'" a Democrat strategist revealed.

The Clinton camp hopes to stop the Obama bandwagon by winning Texas and Ohio primaries on March 4, after which Mrs Clinton is planning to call on party grandees including Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Harry Reid, the party's leader in the Senate, to persuade Mr Obama to stand down.

Clinton aides have privately admitted that Mr Obama would only consider such a move if offered the position of vice presidential running mate, something Mrs Clinton has always been reluctant to consider.

A senior Democrat who has discussed Clinton campaign thinking with a member of her inner circle said: "The Clintons are in a state of panic. She has to win both Texas and Ohio."

But he added that this might prove impossible if Mr Obama maintains his momentum and wins most, or all, of the nine contests which come before that.

Mr Obama won yesterday's primary elections held in Washington state and Nebraska, and is expected to do well in Louisiana.

He is also favourite to sweep Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC, which all vote on Tuesday, as well as Wisconsin and Hawaii, where he once lived, on February 19.

Only in Maine is Mrs Clinton confident, though Virginia and Wisconsin may also go her way.

Asked about the upcoming states, Mr Obama's chief strategist David Axelrod told The Sunday Telegraph: "We feel comfortable with them. What was once inevitable is no longer inevitable. The momentum has switched in this race.

"We closed a 20 point gap in the national polls in the last two weeks. The more people are exposed to his message, the better he does."

But he added: "We are up against the Clinton machine. We are the perpetual underdog and will be throughout this process. We're ready to go all the way to the convention."

Clinton aides believe that if Mr Obama does not deliver a knock-out blow before March 4, the advantage will swing back to her and she will argue for a deal in which uncommitted super-delegates unite behind her, to preserve party unity.

But the prospect of a deal behind closed doors, that could brush aside the views of voters in the primaries, is already creating fury in the party.

Donna Brazile, an African American strategist, said last week: "If 795 of my colleagues decide this election, I will quit the Democratic Party."

But the Clinton camp fears that a failure to engineer a deal could lead to bitter battles at the Democrat convention in Denver in late August, which could even end with Al Gore, the former vice president, emerging as a compromise candidate.

"There's a five per cent chance of that happening, but that's five percent too high," the Clinton source said.

Mrs Clinton is also under financial pressure.

She claimed that she received $7.5m in donations after admitting lending her campaign $5m last week.

But the source claimed that her campaign is actually in far worse financial trouble than they are letting on.

There will be no proof of how much she raised for three months, when the totals are formally declared to election watchdogs.

The one thing the Clinton and Obama camps can agree on is that John McCain, who is popular with independents and moderate Democrats, is their "worst nightmare".

They now fear that he could pick Colin Powell or former congressman JC Watts, both of whom are African American, as his running mate.

But Mr McCain still has to shore up his conservative base and is actively looking at the Governors of Minnesota, South Carolina, Indiana, Mississippi, Florida and Texas: Tim Pawlenty, Mark Sandford, Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, Charlie Crist and Rick Perry.

Allies of President Bush are making the case for Rob Portman, a former White House Budget office director and Ohio congressman.

Bush Family Chronicles: The Patriarchs

Bush Family Chronicles: The Patriarchs

By Morgan Strong

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Cold War secrecy gave the rich and powerful extraordinary abilities to hide information from the American people, including the unsavory history of the Bush family, as journalist/historian Morgan Strong observes in this guest essay:

James Madison wrote passionately in the Federalist Papers that in order for a democracy to function and not descend into a tyranny of the wealthy and the well-connected, the citizenry must stay well informed. In Madison’s view, a democratic society was wholly dependent on an informed citizenry.

Much of the responsibility to inform was placed on the press and the educational system. Indeed, the Founders gave the press the unchallenged right to seek out and publish information under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In recent years, however, the U.S. press has failed in that responsibility dreadfully. Education in this country also has been a dismal failure. But in the end, it is the citizens who bear the principal duty to make themselves informed.

Below, in a bleak and foreboding history, is what occurs when the citizenry is deprived of meaningful information and then fails in its obligation to find out the facts and exercise the critical judgment required for self governance.

The Bushes

In the late 19th Century, Samuel Bush moved to Ohio from Orange, New Jersey, where he had attended the nearby Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. He made the first big move in his manufacturing career as an engineer with Buckeye Steel Castings Company, which produced gun barrels and railroad parts.

Samuel Bush became a confidante of the company’s president, Frank Rockefeller, a brother of the enormously wealthy and powerful John D. Rockefeller, who owned Standard Oil. Another participant in Buckeye Steel was railroad baron E.H. Harriman.

The Rockefeller-Harriman connection was to remain important through the lives and careers of several generations of the Bush family.

Samuel Bush took over from Frank Rockefeller as president of the company in 1908, and held that job for the next 20 years. Through his Rockefeller-Harriman connections, he was made chief of the Ordnance, Small Arms and Ammunition Section of the War Industries Board in the Wilson administration during World War I.

Percy Rockefeller, John D. Rockefeller’s first cousin who had acquired Remington Arms in 1914, built a new plant just in time to enjoy enormous profit from the sale of weapons in World War I. Percy benefited from no-bid contracts to manufacture arms and supply ammunition to the U.S. military, arranged by Samuel Bush.

Samuel Bush’s Buckeye Steel made the gun barrels for Remington, which also outfitted the Czar’s forces in Russia after contracting to supply a million rifles to Russia in 1916. During World War I, Remington supplied 67 percent of all the weapons and ammunition used by the Allied forces.

Samuel’s son, Prescott Bush, served as an artillery liaison officer with the French forces during the war and wrote back home about his heroic exploits in letters that were published. But the exploits proved to be fabricated, forcing Prescott to apologize. But that didn’t deter him – or dim his career prospects.

Prescott was a Yale College graduate and a member of the influential Skull and Bones Society along with Averell Harriman, the son of his father’s associate, railroad magnate E.H. Harriman. Prescott also married well, wooing the favorite daughter of financier George Herbert Walker, who brought Prescott into the Wall Street firm of Harriman & Co., which later became Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.

During the 1930s, Prescott Bush was a fanatical opponent of Franklin D. Roosevelt. There were even rumors that Bush tried to encourage a military coup against Roosevelt after his election as President in 1933. But the evidence – while intriguing – has never been conclusive.

Similar secrecy and uncertainty surrounded the intricate web of ownership and control of Harriman’s Union Banking Corp., which Prescott Bush administered in collaboration with backers of Germany’s Nazi Party.

As a rising star at the Harriman firm, Prescott Bush became a director (effectively in charge) of Harriman’s UBC, which had a financial relationship with German industrialist Fritz Thyssen, an early supporter of Adolf Hitler.

Brown Brothers Harriman supplied Thyssen with financing and other banking services that allowed the Nazis to build up their war machine. After Thyssen broke with Hitler in 1939, Thyssen’s banking empire came under control of the Nazi government, with Prescott Bush continuing as a behind-the-scenes force in the relationship.

One of these Bush-connected companies, Consolidated Silesian Steel, made use of Nazi slave labor from concentration camps, including Auschwitz. After Germany declared war on the United States, the U.S. government investigated these relationships and seized Harriman’s UBC in 1943 under the Trading with the Enemy Act.

However, following the war, rather than face the ignominy of profiting off his dealings with the Nazis, Bush was compensated for the seizure of the bank, receiving a $1.5 million settlement from the U.S. government, an astonishing amount of money in 1945.

It was remarkable that despite Prescott Bush’s lying about his heroics in World War I and his assistance to the Nazis in World War II, he was nonetheless elected to the U.S. Senate as a Republican from Connecticut in 1952 and served there until 1963.

While in the Senate, Prescott Bush continued to serve the interests of his financial benefactors, the Harrimans and Rockefellers, especially by aiding the oil industry. Short of those services, his legislative accomplishments amounted to little.

But Prescott Bush’s business and personal connections were to have a profound impact on the course of American history. Many of his wealthy friends bankrolled his son, George Herbert Walker Bush, in launching his first oil business in Texas – and then a political career that would take the Bush family to the White House.

The Armageddon Shuffle

The Armageddon Shuffle

By Douglas Johnson

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War drums are once again pounding in America; this time the target is Iran. Iran is a rogue state, they say, hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, headed by a Hitler-like lunatic who calls the holocaust a fairy-tale and who vows to wipe Israel off the map. A US naval fleet has moved within close proximity of Iran and economic sanctions have been levied. If not for the blowback from 17 years of US genocide in Iraq – which is crippling the US' military, literally and figuratively, no doubt US leaders would have already begun raining bombs on Iran.

I'm praying that never happens. Hopefully enough Americans will begin to see the insanity of it. First of all, although I acknowledge that Ahmadinijad lacks common sense (as well as charisma… and intelligence), he's not a monster as he's portrayed. Ahmadinijad never said anything about wiping Israel off the map and his comments on the 'myth' of the holocaust were misconstrued. Instead, he advocated the kind of "regime change" which has occurred in the former Soviet Union and in Iran itself, and he labels the holocaust a "crime" for which the perpetrators – rather than Palestinians – should be punished. Furthermore, the 'myth' of the holocaust (i.e., a story rooted in real events that teaches a lesson) refers to Israel's constant use of their unparalleled atrocity to label ANY dissent or criticism of its policies as anti-Semitic. The complicit western media altered translations of Ahmadinijad's speeches into something that's, well, monstrous, in order to keep the drumbeats pounding.

Nobody wants a madman at the helm of a nuclear armed country, right? I certainly don't, yet I can't understand how Americans tolerate the outrageous hypocrisy of George Bush calling Ahmadinijad a dangerous madman.

After all, it was America who invented the "madman theory" of nuclear deterrence. A study was issued by the US Strategic Command (STRATCOM) in 1995, which states that "nuclear weapons always cast a shadow over any crisis or conflict," and therefore should be very visible and ready. Remarkably, the study advises military planners to not come across "as too fully rational and cool-headed." It adds that "the image [T]hat the US may become irrational and vindictive if its vital interests are attacked should be a part of the national persona we project." It further advises that "some elements" of nuclear protocol seem "out of control." After all, what value is the deterrence if rogue countries don't believe the US is crazy enough to nuke them? This policy finds Bush as a perfect (albeit unwitting) stooge, and is modeled on the Nixon/Kissinger "madman theory," first applied in 1969. STRATCOM also advises that the US retain the right to use nuclear weapons as a first strike, even against countries which have no nuclear weapons and which signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970. (Hegemony or Survival, Chomsky)

Amazingly, (yet perhaps not so amazing when you understand US doctrine), the US invoked Security Council Resolution 687 (Article 14) to justify the Shock and Awe campaign of 2003. This article seeks the "goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery." That's a goal we should all strive for, but how can we expect Middle Eastern countries to refrain from arming themselves when they see countries like nuclear North Korea and Pakistan escaping the 'irrational and vindictive' wrath of a nuclear armed US, while unarmed countries like Iraq get decimated. It's interesting to note that after Iraq's disastrous foray into Kuwait, Saddam Hussein made an offer to withdraw his army (and avoid what turned out to be the deaths of over 1 million innocents), provided Article 14 were applied to all countries in the Middle East. Given the article's goal, this made sense. (This offer was never made known to the American public.) But the two madmen, one powerful and the other weak, couldn't come to terms, I guess.

Besides, everyone knows that Israel has at least two hundred illegal nuclear weapons, but of course Israelis aren't subject to international law; they ARE the law (or at least the deputy). They never signed the NNPT, have never permitted inspections of their facilities, and in fact, have never even admitted that they have nuclear weapons. They're not only in violation of SCR 687, they are the main reason the article was written. The neighbors of Israel no doubt feel threatened by its arsenal, especially given Israel's expansionist foreign policy. In fact, according to the kind of madman logic the US endorses, a "rational" response by Iran to Israel's "secret" arsenal would be to develop their own secret, illegal arsenal. This is why Israel's and the US' hypocrisy precludes the enforcement of any principle of nonproliferation, because principles by definition must be universally applied.

I guess this means we're living in a world where power prevails over principle, leaders delight over their boundless insanity, and followers shuffle complacently towards nuclear Armageddon.

America's Blinders

America's Blinders

By Howard Zinn

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First Published, April 2006 Issue Of The Progressive Magazine

Now that most Americans no longer believe in the war, now that they no longer trust Bush and his Administration, now that the evidence of deception has become overwhelming (so overwhelming that even the major media, always late, have begun to register indignation), we might ask: How come so many people were so easily fooled?

The question is important because it might help us understand why Americans—members of the media as well as the ordinary citizen—rushed to declare their support as the President was sending troops halfway around the world to Iraq.

A small example of the innocence (or obsequiousness, to be more exact) of the press is the way it reacted to Colin Powell's presentation in February 2003 to the Security Council, a month before the invasion, a speech which may have set a record for the number of falsehoods told in one talk. In it, Powell confidently rattled off his "evidence": satellite photographs, audio records, reports from informants, with precise statistics on how many gallons of this and that existed for chemical warfare. The New York Times was breathless with admiration. The Washington Post editorial was titled "Irrefutable" and declared that after Powell's talk "it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction."

It seems to me there are two reasons, which go deep into our national culture, and which help explain the vulnerability of the press and of the citizenry to outrageous lies whose consequences bring death to tens of thousands of people. If we can understand those reasons, we can guard ourselves better against being deceived.

One is in the dimension of time, that is, an absence of historical perspective. The other is in the dimension of space, that is, an inability to think outside the boundaries of nationalism. We are penned in by the arrogant idea that this country is the center of the universe, exceptionally virtuous, admirable, superior.

If we don't know history, then we are ready meat for carnivorous politicians and the intellectuals and journalists who supply the carving knives. I am not speaking of the history we learned in school, a history subservient to our political leaders, from the much-admired Founding Fathers to the Presidents of recent years. I mean a history which is honest about the past. If we don't know that history, then any President can stand up to the battery of microphones, declare that we must go to war, and we will have no basis for challenging him. He will say that the nation is in danger, that democracy and liberty are at stake, and that we must therefore send ships and planes to destroy our new enemy, and we will have no reason to disbelieve him.

But if we know some history, if we know how many times Presidents have made similar declarations to the country, and how they turned out to be lies, we will not be fooled. Although some of us may pride ourselves that we were never fooled, we still might accept as our civic duty the responsibility to buttress our fellow citizens against the mendacity of our high officials.

We would remind whoever we can that President Polk lied to the nation about the reason for going to war with Mexico in 1846. It wasn't that Mexico "shed American blood upon the American soil," but that Polk, and the slave-owning aristocracy, coveted half of Mexico.

We would point out that President McKinley lied in 1898 about the reason for invading Cuba, saying we wanted to liberate the Cubans from Spanish control, but the truth is that we really wanted Spain out of Cuba so that the island could be open to United Fruit and other American corporations. He also lied about the reasons for our war in the Philippines, claiming we only wanted to "civilize" the Filipinos, while the real reason was to own a valuable piece of real estate in the far Pacific, even if we had to kill hundreds of thousands of Filipinos to accomplish that.

President Woodrow Wilson—so often characterized in our history books as an "idealist"—lied about the reasons for entering the First World War, saying it was a war to "make the world safe for democracy," when it was really a war to make the world safe for the Western imperial powers.

Harry Truman lied when he said the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima because it was "a military target."

Everyone lied about Vietnam—Kennedy about the extent of our involvement, Johnson about the Gulf of Tonkin, Nixon about the secret bombing of Cambodia, all of them claiming it was to keep South Vietnam free of communism, but really wanting to keep South Vietnam as an American outpost at the edge of the Asian continent.

Reagan lied about the invasion of Grenada, claiming falsely that it was a threat to the United States.

The elder Bush lied about the invasion of Panama, leading to the death of thousands of ordinary citizens in that country.

And he lied again about the reason for attacking Iraq in 1991—hardly to defend the integrity of Kuwait (can one imagine Bush heartstricken over Iraq's taking of Kuwait?), rather to assert U.S. power in the oil-rich Middle East.

Given the overwhelming record of lies told to justify wars, how could anyone listening to the younger Bush believe him as he laid out the reasons for invading Iraq? Would we not instinctively rebel against the sacrifice of lives for oil?

A careful reading of history might give us another safeguard against being deceived. It would make clear that there has always been, and is today, a profound conflict of interest between the government and the people of the United States. This thought startles most people, because it goes against everything we have been taught.

We have been led to believe that, from the beginning, as our Founding Fathers put it in the Preamble to the Constitution, it was "we the people" who established the new government after the Revolution. When the eminent historian Charles Beard suggested, a hundred years ago, that the Constitution represented not the working people, not the slaves, but the slaveholders, the merchants, the bondholders, he became the object of an indignant editorial in The New York Times.

Our culture demands, in its very language, that we accept a commonality of interest binding all of us to one another. We mustn't talk about classes. Only Marxists do that, although James Madison, "Father of the Constitution," said, thirty years before Marx was born that there was an inevitable conflict in society between those who had property and those who did not.

Our present leaders are not so candid. They bombard us with phrases like "national interest," "national security," and "national defense" as if all of these concepts applied equally to all of us, colored or white, rich or poor, as if General Motors and Halliburton have the same interests as the rest of us, as if George Bush has the same interest as the young man or woman he sends to war.

Surely, in the history of lies told to the population, this is the biggest lie. In the history of secrets, withheld from the American people, this is the biggest secret: that there are classes with different interests in this country. To ignore that—not to know that the history of our country is a history of slaveowner against slave, landlord against tenant, corporation against worker, rich against poor—is to render us helpless before all the lesser lies told to us by people in power.

If we as citizens start out with an understanding that these people up there—the President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, all those institutions pretending to be "checks and balances"—do not have our interests at heart, we are on a course towards the truth. Not to know that is to make us helpless before determined liars.

The deeply ingrained belief—no, not from birth but from the educational system and from our culture in general—that the United States is an especially virtuous nation makes us especially vulnerable to government deception. It starts early, in the first grade, when we are compelled to "pledge allegiance" (before we even know what that means), forced to proclaim that we are a nation with "liberty and justice for all."

And then come the countless ceremonies, whether at the ballpark or elsewhere, where we are expected to stand and bow our heads during the singing of the "Star-Spangled Banner," announcing that we are "the land of the free and the home of the brave." There is also the unofficial national anthem "God Bless America," and you are looked on with suspicion if you ask why we would expect God to single out this one nation—just 5 percent of the world's population—for his or her blessing.

If your starting point for evaluating the world around you is the firm belief that this nation is somehow endowed by Providence with unique qualities that make it morally superior to every other nation on Earth, then you are not likely to question the President when he says we are sending our troops here or there, or bombing this or that, in order to spread our values—democracy, liberty, and let's not forget free enterprise—to some God-forsaken (literally) place in the world. It becomes necessary then, if we are going to protect ourselves and our fellow citizens against policies that will be disastrous not only for other people but for Americans too, that we face some facts that disturb the idea of a uniquely virtuous nation.

These facts are embarrassing, but must be faced if we are to be honest. We must face our long history of ethnic cleansing, in which millions of Indians were driven off their land by means of massacres and forced evacuations. And our long history, still not behind us, of slavery, segregation, and racism. We must face our record of imperial conquest, in the Caribbean and in the Pacific, our shameful wars against small countries a tenth our size: Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq. And the lingering memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is not a history of which we can be proud.

Our leaders have taken it for granted, and planted that belief in the minds of many people, that we are entitled, because of our moral superiority, to dominate the world. At the end of World War II, Henry Luce, with an arrogance appropriate to the owner of Time, Life, and Fortune, pronounced this "the American century," saying that victory in the war gave the United States the right "to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit."

Both the Republican and Democratic parties have embraced this notion. George Bush, in his Inaugural Address on January 20, 2005, said that spreading liberty around the world was "the calling of our time." Years before that, in 1993, President Bill Clinton, speaking at a West Point commencement, declared: "The values you learned here . . . will be able to spread throughout this country and throughout the world and give other people the opportunity to live as you have lived, to fulfill your God-given capacities."

What is the idea of our moral superiority based on? Surely not on our behavior toward people in other parts of the world. Is it based on how well people in the United States live? The World Health Organization in 2000 ranked countries in terms of overall health performance, and the United States was thirty-seventh on the list, though it spends more per capita for health care than any other nation. One of five children in this, the richest country in the world, is born in poverty. There are more than forty countries that have better records on infant mortality. Cuba does better. And there is a sure sign of sickness in society when we lead the world in the number of people in prison—more than two million.

A more honest estimate of ourselves as a nation would prepare us all for the next barrage of lies that will accompany the next proposal to inflict our power on some other part of the world. It might also inspire us to create a different history for ourselves, by taking our country away from the liars and killers who govern it, and by rejecting nationalist arrogance, so that we can join the rest of the human race in the common cause of peace and justice.

Howard Zinn is the co-author, with Anthony Arnove, of "Voices of a People's History of the United States."