Thursday, September 11, 2008

Palin Advocates War With Russia

Sarah Palin Defends Experience, Takes Hard Line Approach on National Security

Republican VP Candidate Speaks with ABC News' Charles Gibson in Exclusive Interview


Go To Original

On the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, Gov. Sarah Palin took a hard-line approach on national security and said that war with Russia may be necessary if Georgia were to join NATO and be invaded by Russia.

In her first of three interviews with ABC News' Charles Gibson and the only interview since being picked by Sen. John McCain as his Republican vice presidential nominee, Palin categorized the Russian invasion of Georgia as "unacceptable" and warned of the threats from Islamic terrorists and a nuclear Iran.

See Excerpts of Charles Gibson's Interview With Sarah Palin HERE.

The governor advocated for the admittance of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO.

When Gibson said if under the NATO treaty, the United States would have to go to war if Russia again invaded Georgia, Palin responded: "Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help.

"And we've got to keep an eye on Russia. For Russia to have exerted such pressure in terms of invading a smaller democratic country, unprovoked, is unacceptable," she told Gibson.

Watch Charles Gibson's exclusive interviews with Gov. Sarah Palin beginning tonight on "World News" and "Nightline." Charles Gibson will do three interviews with Palin today and tomorrow. More Friday on "Good Morning America " at 7 a.m. ET," "World News" and on "20/20," which will broadcast a one-hour special edition at 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT.

Palin, who obtained her first passport last year and who has served just two years as Alaska's governor, told Gibson that she was up to the challenge of being Sen. John McCain's vice president.

"I answered [McCain] 'yes,' because I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can't blink, you have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we're on, reform of this country and victory in the war, you can't blink.

Palin sat down with Gibson on a day that was filled with wrenching memories and solemn ceremonies for the nearly 3,000 people who died in the 9/11 attacks seven years ago.

It was also the day that Palin, the mother of five, attended a deployment ceremony for her oldest son, Track, an Army infantryman whose Stryker unit is being shipped off to Iraq later this month.

Palin defended a previous statement in which she reportedly characterized the war in Iraq as a "task from God".

Gibson quoted her as saying: "Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God."

But Palin said she was referencing a famous quote by Abraham Lincoln.

"I would never presume to know God's will or to speak God's words. But what Abraham Lincoln had said, and that's a repeat in my comments, was let us not pray that God is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on God's side."

When asked if she believed she was "sending [her] son on a task that is from God," Palin said: "I don't know if the task is from God, Charlie. What I know is that my son has made a decision. I am so proud of his independent and strong decision he has made, what he decided to do and serving for the right reasons and serving something greater than himself and not choosing a real easy path where he could be more comfortable and certainly safer."

9/11 and the "American Inquisition"

9/11 and the "American Inquisition"

By Michel Chossudovsky

Go To Original

Today's "Global War on Terrorism" is a modern form of inquisition. It has all the essential ingredients of the French and Spanish inquisitions.

Going after " Islamic terrorists", carrying out a Worldwide preemptive war to " protect the Homeland" are used to justify a military agenda.

"The Global War on Terrorism" (GWOT) is presented as a "Clash of Civilizations", a war between competing values and religions, when in reality it is an outright war of conquest, guided by strategic and economic objectives.

The GWOT is the ideological backbone of the American Empire. It defines US military doctrine, including the preemptive use of nuclear weapons against the "state sponsors" of terrorism.

The preemptive "defensive war" doctrine and the "war on terrorism" against Al Qaeda constitute essential building blocks of America's National Security Strategy as formulated in early 2002. The objective is to present "preemptive military action" --meaning war as an act of "self-defense" against two categories of enemies, "rogue States" and "Islamic terrorists", both of which are said to possess weapons of mass destruction.

The logic of the "outside enemy" and the evildoer, allegedly responsible for civilian deaths, prevails over common sense. In the inner consciousness of Americans, the attacks of September 11, 2001 justify acts of war and conquest:

"As was demonstrated by the losses on September 11, 2001, mass civilian casualties is the specific objective of terrorists and these losses would be exponentially more severe if terrorists acquired and used weapons of mass destruction." (National Security Strategy, White House, Washington, 2002)

America's Inquisition

The legitimacy of the inquisition is not questioned. The "Global War on Terrorism" justifies a mammoth defense budget at the expense not only health and education, but virtually every single category of public expenditure.

The "Global War on Terrorism" requires "going after" the terrorists, using advanced weapons systems. It upholds a preemptive religious-like crusade against evil, which serves to obscure the real objectives of military action.

The lies underlying 9/11 are known and documented. The American people's acceptance of this crusade against evil is not based on any rational understanding or analysis of the facts.

America's inquisition is used to extend America's sphere of influence and justify military intervention, as part of an international campaign against "Islamic terrorists". Its ultimate objective, which is never mentioned in press reports, is territorial conquest and control over strategic resources.

The GWOT dogma is enunciated and formulated by Washington's neoconservative think tanks. It is carried out by the military-intelligence establishment. It is embodied in presidential speeches and press conferences:

"We've been warned there are evil people in this world. We've been warned so vividly. ... And we'll be alert. Your government is alert. The governors and mayors are alert that evil folks still lurk out there. As I said yesterday, people have declared war on America and they have made a terrible mistake. ... My administration has a job to do and we're going to do it. We will rid the world of the evil-doers," (George W. Bush, CNN, September 16, 2001)

The objective of the "Global War on Terrorism" launched in September 2001 is to galvanize public support for a Worldwide campaign against heresy. In the eyes of public opinion, possessing a "just cause" for waging war is central. A war is said to be Just if it is waged on moral, religious or ethical grounds.

The Demonization of Muslims and the Battle for Oil

The US led war in the broader Middle East Central Asian region consists in gaining control over extensive reserves of oil and natural gas. The Anglo-American oil giants also seek to gain control over oil and gas pipeline routes out of the region. (See table and maps below).

Muslim countries possess 66 percent of total oil reserves. (Michel Chossudovsky, The "Demonization" of Muslims and the Battle for Oil, Global Research, Jannuary 4, 2007). In contrast, the United States of America has barely 2 percent of total oil reserves. Iraq has five times more oil than the United States.

Demonization is applied to an enemy, which possesses more than 60 percent of the world's oil reserves. "Axis of evil", "rogue States", "failed nations", "Islamic terrorists": demonization and vilification are the ideological pillars of America's Inquisition. They serve as a casus belli for waging the battle for oil.

The Battle for Oil requires the demonization of those who possess the oil. The enemy is characterized as evil, with a view to justifying military action including the mass killing of civilians. (Ibid)

Historical Origins of the Inquisition

The objective is to sustain the illusion that "America is under attack" by Al Qaeda. Under the American inquisition, Washington has a self-proclaimed holy mandate to extirpate Islamic fundamentalism and "spread democracy" throughout the world.

"Going after Bin Laden" is part of a consensus. Fear and insecurity prevail over common sense. Despite the evidence, the White House, the State Department, the two Party system, cannot, in the minds of Americans, be held responsible for a criminal act (9/11/) resulting in the deaths of American civilians.

What we are dealing with is an outright and blind acceptance of the structures of power and political authority.

In this regard, the American Inquisition as an ideological construct, is, in many regards, similar to the inquisitorial social order prevailing in France and Spain during the Middle Ages. The inquisition, which started in France in the 12th century, was used as a justification for conquest and military intervention.

Initially it took the form of a campaign in southern France directed against the Cathars and Waldensians, which challenged the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The Cathar movement was a religious sect which was protected by the regional feudal order in southern France, against the dominion of the Catholic Church and the French monarchy in Paris. "The Cathars believed they were the true Christians and the Catholic Church was a false church, founded by the devil."

In the early 13th Century, "Pope Innocent III declared a crusade against the Cathars" at the behest of the French royal family. The crusade was in fact a war of conquest under the disguise of a campaign against heresy.

The Inquisition directed against heresy was intended to consolidate the Monarchy's territorial control. It provided a pretext to intervene militarily in south and southwestern France, using the authority of the Catholic Church as a façade.

The inquisition became part of a political consensus, carried out by the Church's inquisitors, imposed by the ruling feudal order and supported militarily. Its purpose was to maintain and sustain the social and political order, extend the powers of the central State, subjugate regional powers in France, using the campaign against heresy as "a justification to wage war". Sounds familiar?

Today's Inquisitorial Order

Anybody who doubts the legitimacy of the American inquisition (9/11 and "Global War on Terrorism") is a heretic conspiracy theorist or an accomplice of the terrorists.

The American Inquisition is part of a Bipartisan Consensus. Both the Democrats and the Republicans support the American Inquisition.

"Going after Osama bin Laden" is part of the election platform of both political parties. In fact it is the central component of the election campaign:

I [Barack Obama] argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights (Barack Obama, Acceptance Speech, National Democratic Convention, Denver, August 2008)

We have dealt a serious blow to al Qaeda in recent years. But they are not defeated, and they’ll strike us again if they can. (John McCain, Acceptance Speech, Republican National Convention, St Paul, September 2008)

There is an "outside enemy". The Homeland is under attack. Islamic terrorists "threaten our way of life". "We must defend ourselves" preemptively against Osama and his lieutenants.

US Northern Command (Northcom), with headquarters at the Petersen Air Force base in Colorado was established in early 2002 to protect America against a terrorist attack. It was presented to public opinion as a response to the 9/11 attacks. The real strategic objectives of Northern Command using sophisticated aero defense weapons including nuclear warheads, are not mentioned.

Political Consensus

The mouthpiece of America's inquisitorial order is the Western corporate media.

People who question the validity of any of these statements or who have doubts about who is behind the 9/11 attacks, are considered to be accomplices of those who threaten the American Homeland.

In 1232, Pope Gregory IX set up a system of special religious courts called the inquisition. The Dominican friars were sent out to find and question heretics:

"Heresy cannot be destroyed unless heretics are destroyed and ... their defenders and [supporters] are destroyed, and this is effected in two ways: ... they are converted to the true catholic faith, or ... burned. (Henry Charles Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, p. 535, 1887)

Those who refused to recant, which means give up their heresy, were burned alive.

Today's Patriot Act, the military courts, the Guantanamo concentration camp, the CIA rendition camps, Abu Ghraib, etc., are part of an advanced inquisitorial system. Terrorist suspects are held incommunicado. They are tortured, tried by military courts and sentenced. They are not given the right to recant.

The objective is not to "make the World safer" by putting the terrorists behind bars.

The trials of the alleged terrorists perform an important social function. They sustain the illusion, in the inner consciousness of Americans, that the "Islamic terrorists" constitute a real threat.

The arrests, trials and sentences of "Islamic terrorists" sustain the legitimacy of the American State and its inquisitorial legal and law enforcement apparatus.

The ultimate objective is to convince public opinion that the enemy is real and that the US Adminstration is protecting the lives of its citizens.

Manufacturing Dissent

Washington does not silence its antiwar critics. Quite the opposite. The inquisitorial social order allows certain forms of dissent. It is politically correct under a "democracy" to condemn US foreign policy in the strongest terms.

What is not allowed is to question the inquisition.

Those who oppose the US Administration are not branded as heretics. Many "Progressives", Liberals and Antiwar activists, led by prominent intellectuals, firmly believe that Muslims were behind the 9/11 attacks. "We are against the war, but we support the war on terrorism."

The New World Order builds a political and media consensus (i.e. the GWOT) but at the same time it creates and moulds its own opposition. It establishes the limits of dissent. It "manufactures dissent".

The presidential candidates in the bipartisan race are supported by powerful corporate interests including the oil companies, Wall Street and the defense contractors.

At the same time, these same corporate interests, through their various foundations (including Ford, Rockefeller, Gates, et al), support and finance a number of Liberal/Progressive organizations and alternative media.

9/11 is the cornerstone of the American Inquisition.

The lies underlying 9/11 are accepted by the mainstream antiwar movement.

US foreign policy is condemned, but the "Global War on Terrorism" is upheld. Wittingly or unwittingly, this endorsement of the GWOT by those who claim to be opposed to the US administration, provides a legitimacy to the inquisitorial order, which underlies the actual practice of US foreign policy.

On the other hand, those who have serious doubts regarding the official 9/11 narrative, including the 9/11 Truth Movement, are branded as heretics and nonbelievers.

The "Just War" theory

The "Just War" theory (justum bellum) has a longstanding tradition. It has been used throughout history to uphold the dominant social order and provide a justification for waging war.

In the case of Afghanistan, 9/11 played a key role in justifying the invasion. The war on Afghanistan was considered a "Just War", waged on humanitarina grounds.

On September 12, 2001, NATO invoked for the first time in its history "Article 5 of the Washington Treaty - its collective defense clause" declaring the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC) and the Pentagon "to be an attack against all NATO members."

Afghanistan was tagged, without a shred of evidence and prior to the conduct of an investigation, as the "state sponsor" of the 9/11 attacks. The invasion of Afghanistan in early October 2001 was presented as a counter-terrorism operation directed against the perpetrators of 9/11 and their state sponsors.

Trade unions, NGOs and many "progressive" intellectuals endorsed the US-NATO led invasion. The events of 9/11 played a key role in gaining the support of various sectors of American society including the opponents and critics of the Bush adminstration's foreign policy.

The war on Afghanistan was prepared prior to 9/11. War preparations were already in an advanced stage of readiness. The green light to wage war by the US and NATO on Afghanistan was provided within 24 hours of the 9/11 attacks.

The press reports failed to reveal a fact which is known and acknowledged by military analysts: a major theater war cannot, under any circumstances, be planned and carried out in a matter of 4-5 weeks.

9/11 was used as a justification to carry out a "humanitarian war". Known to military analysts, the war on Afghanistan had been planned well in advance of the tragic events of September 11, 2001.

The Spanish Inquisition

In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Inquisition spread to other parts of Europe. In Italy, the inquisition went after nationalist movements in regions like Lombardy in the north, Venice, or Sicily. It was used to suppress these political movements. In northern France and Germany, the inquisition used the pretext of small mystical sects, to intervene politically and militarily. Regional powers including local principalities refused to cooperate with the inquisition. In today's world, this form of interventionism is carried out by sending in US special forces to "help governments" to combat terrorism.

Spain, conquered by Muslims and in part reconquered by Christians in the 13th Century, was "religiously heterogeneous, and a tolerance had developed so Muslims, Christians, and Jews could live together in relative peace." Toward the end of the 15th Century, coinciding with a period of political and territorial consolidation, "Spanish tolerance changed abruptly. Spain saw the rise of a form of inquisition more ruthless and disruptive than anywhere else in Europe." (Bill of Rights in Action)

The Spanish inquisition was also characterized by a process of building a consensus, of going after the heretics and nonbelievers. The inquisition was used to support the process of territorial consolidation in the Iberian peninsula. The objective was to reinforce the absolute monarchy and the powers of the landed aristocracy against the Muslim and Jewish merchant classes.

The Spanish Inquisition was executed at the behest of Queen Isabel, Reina Catolica. In 1483, The Reyes Catolicos, Isabel de Castilla and Ferdinando de Aragon, established a Council to direct the Inquisition. Tomas de Torquemada, an advisor to Isabel become the first General Inquisitor. Torquemado had previously preached against the Jewish and Muslim Converts (Conversos). The objective was to repress the upcoming merchant classes. "One country, one ruler, one faith" became the mandate of the General Inquisitor.

Goya's Inquisition

The pope upheld the inquisition, the hidden agenda was the feudal order and the Spanish led colonial wars. The Spanish inquisition lasted for 300 years.

Today in America, the General inquisitor is the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

The Legal Apparatus

The inquisition in the Middle Ages would collect accusations:

"If two witnesses under oath accused someone of heresy, the accused person would be summoned to appear. opinions, prejudices, rumors, and gossip were all accepted as evidence. the accused was never told the names of the accusers, nor even the exact charges.

Inquisitors examined the accused in secret. Anyone who refused to confess immediately was assumed to be guilty. Inquisitors were trained only in religion, and they would try to trap the accused with religious questions. For example, an inquisitor might ask, "Do you believe what the holy church believes?"

"I am a faithful Christian," the fearful suspect might reply.

"So!" the inquisitor might shout. "We already know you believe in heresies! You're saying your beliefs are the true Christianity and the church is false!" (Bill of Rights in Action)

No lawyers were allowed, because it was considered heresy to defend a heretic:

"They would torture those who refused to recant. During torture, the religious inquisitors would stand by as witnesses to record confessions or take down the names of other heretics. The government also carried out the final sentence of imprisonment or death.

Those who recanted immediately might receive a fairly light sentence -- saying prayers, fasting, being whipped in public, or making a pilgrimage. Some who recanted were forced to wear a yellow cross of felt sewn on all their clothing. The cross marked them as a former heretic, and many people would stay away from them in fear.

Many who refused to recant right away were sentenced to prison for life. If they refused to recant at all, the Inquisition turned them over to government authorities to be burned alive. Some inquisitors were so thorough that they went after the dead. If a dead person was accused of heresy, his or her bones could be dug up and burned.

For most accused heretics, there was no appeal. A few rich or powerful people might beg the pope to change a sentence, but for most of the condemned, the sentence was final. The families of those sent to prison or to the stake lost their property.

(Bill of Rights in Action, see also History of the inquisition)

Today's legal system in America has all the essential features of an inquisitorial order. Torture is permitted "under certain circumstances", according to an August 2002 Justice Department "legal opinion":

"if a government employee were to torture a suspect in captivity, 'he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the Al Qaeda terrorist network,' said the memo, from the Justice Department's office of legal counsel, written in response to a CIA request for legal guidance. It added that arguments centering on "necessity and self-defense could provide justifications that would eliminate any criminal liability" later. (See Washington Post, June 7, 2004)

"Even if an interrogation method might arguably cross the line drawn in Section and application of the stature was not held to be an unconstitutional infringement of the President's Commander in Chief authority, we believe that under current circumstances [the war on terrorism] certain justification defenses might be available that would potentially eliminate criminal liability." (Complete August 2, 2002 Justice Department Memorandum in pdf)


"The Spanish Inquisition was particularly terrifying because of its inherent characteristics. The accused never knew who their accusers were. Once arrested, the accused heretic's properties were seized."

"These properties were then administered at first by the Crown, and later by the General Inquisitor....

Even if the accused was now a devout Christian, he was tried as severely as possible because of his roots. The accused was also not allowed to have a lawyer or counsel for his defense, and the names of all witnesses were kept secret from him (Jason L. Slade, The Spanish Inquisition August 6, 1996)

Torture was the order of the day. The accused were not allowed to have a lawyer.

The torture methods applied by today's CIA inquisitors bear a canny resemblance to the torture techniques used by the Inquisitors in the Middle Ages, including the water torment or aselli, commonly referred to in CIA jargon as "water booarding":

"Because the trials were for spiritual matters, the Church handled them. However, the punishments were usually very much physical, so they were handled by the state. There were many means of this physical torture for confession. The two most famous or infamous were the strappado or pulley, and the aselli or water torment.(Jason L. Slade, The Spanish Inquisition August 6, 1996)

Water-boarding then and now

Alfred McCoy reports in the regard that the CIA:

"had often added to their no-touch repertoire physical methods reminiscent of the Inquisition's trademark tortures -- strappado, question de l'eau, "crippling stork," and "masks of mockery." At the CIA's center near Kabul in 2002, for instance, American interrogators forced prisoners "to stand with their hands chained to the ceiling and their feet shackled," an effect similar to the strappado. Instead of the Inquisition's iron-framed "crippling stork" to contort the victim's body, CIA interrogators made their victims assume similar "stress positions" without any external mechanism, aiming again for the psychological effect of self-induced pain... (Alfred McCoy, The Hidden History of CIA Torture: America's Road to Abu Ghraib, Global Research, December 2004)

In Spain in the 16th Century, the inquisition was accepted. It was a consensus. The population was led to believe that it was a good thing and that torture "served to purify society".

"A bishop came out and shouted out the names of the condemned. then the heretics were led out, wearing black robes decorated with red demons and flames. officials of the government tied them to the stake.

"do you give up your heresy against the holy church?" a priest would challenge.

anyone who repented would be strangled to death before the fires were lit. most, however, stood silent or defiant. the fires were lit, and the square echoed with the screams of the heretics and cheers from the crowd." (quoted in Bill of Rights in Action, op cit)

Anybody who dared to question the validity of this "war on terrorism" was himself branded a terrorist and subjected to the anti-terrorist laws, which at the time, in Spain, was death.

In today's inquisitorial environment, most people are skeptical regarding the official 9/11 narrative, but nobody dares question the validity of the "war on terrorism".

"These are bad people, and we must go after them, take them out." The discourse is almost the same.

The ultimate objective is to subdue the citizens, totally depoliticize social life in America, prevent people from thinking and conceptualizing, from analyzing facts and challenging the legitimacy of the inquisitorial social order which rules America.

The Big Lie becomes the Truth. Realities are turned upside down.

War becomes peace, a worthwhile "humanitarian undertaking",

Peaceful dissent becomes heresy.

The objective is to create an atmosphere of fear and insecurity, with a view to upholding the New World Order.

In the words of Monthy Python:

"NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise....

Our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency....

Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope....

Our *four* *Amongst* our weapons.... Amongst our weaponry... are such elements as fear, surprise....

I'll come in again." (Monthy Python, The Spanish Inquisition)

How to reverse the tide?

Undermine the Inquisition;

Reveal the lies behind 9/11;

Break the consensus;

Reveal the Crimes committed by those in High Office;

Unseat the inquisitors:

"Millions of people have been misled regarding the causes and consequences of September 11.

Across the land, the image of an "outside enemy" is instilled in the consciousness of Americans. Al Qaeda is threatening America and the world. The repeal of democracy under the Patriot legislation is portrayed as a means to providing "domestic security" and upholding civil liberties.

When people across the US and around the World find out that Al Qaeda is not an outside enemy but a creation of US foreign policy and the CIA, the legitimacy of the bipartisan war agenda will tumble like a deck of cards... (Michel Chossudovsky, America's "War on Terrorism", Global Research 2005)

GOP Trademarks 9/11

GOP Trademarks 9/11

On the eve of the seventh anniversary of 9/11, Keith Olbermann delivered a special comment slamming Republicans for their exploitation of 9/11 for political purposes.

Bolivia: a Coup in the Making?

Bolivia: a Coup in the Making?


Go To Original

Yesterday, in Bolivia, Minister of Government, Alfredo Rada, accused the right-wing autonomist leader Branko Marinkovic, and Santa Cruz prefect, Rubén Costas, of orchestrating a wave of violence as part of a “civic governors’ coup d’état.” Rada accused Marinkovic of having just returned from the United States where he allegedly received instructions for fomenting the coup attempt.

“Bolivia on the Brink,” is a phrase too often uttered by passing journalists unaccustomed to the country’s regular politics of the streets. But events of the last two weeks cannot be passed off as the ordinary business of protest. Rather, a right-wing coup attempt is in the offing in the five departments (states) governed by the right-wing opposition to President Evo Morales, of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party. The critical “media luna” departments of the eastern lowlands – Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni, and Pando – have been joined in part by far-right elements in the government of the department of Chuquisaca. Thus far, these right-wing autonomists have not achieved critical support within the military, but the passivity of the Morales government in the face of ferocious racism, violence, and the takeover of state institutions and airports on an unprecedented scale, does not bode well for the future of Bolivia.

One indication of the seriousness of the situation is that Morales just announced that US ambassador Philip Goldberg is no longer welcome in Bolivia and will be asked officially to leave the country in the coming hours. Morales accused Goldberg of meeting with the oppositional prefects (governors) of the five departments in rebellion, to help coordinate what has become a full-scale destabilization campaign.

The campaign is being led by the Consejo Nacional Democrático (National Democratic Council, CONALDE), which brings together the prefectures and civic committees of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, Tarija, and Sucre, under the banner of “departmental autonomy.” These prefectures and civic committees in turn represent the agro-industrial, petroleum, and financial elite of these departments. While they are led by the bourgeoisie, the autonomists have won over substantial sectors of the popular classes by manipulating real democratic desires for decentralized “autonomous” self-governance, as opposed to alienating central state control. If the civic committees and prefects are the pretty face of autonomism, a growing network of proto-fascist youth groups linked to them are the clenched fist in the streets.

The immediate objective of the autonomist right is to destabilize the Morales government and to weaken left-indigenous forces throughout the country. One longer term goal is to reaffirm and consolidate private elite control over the natural gas and agricultural wealth of the country that is currently under threat due to widespread popular sentiment in favour of expropriation, nationalization, redistribution, and the establishment of social control over Bolivia’s riches. A related long-term objective of the autonomist right is to re-conquer state power at the national level.

The Post-Referendum Conjuncture

Evo Morales and Álvaro García Linera won the support of nearly 7 of every 10 Bolivians in a recent recall referendum. At the same time, however, right-wing prefects consolidated power in five of the country’s nine departments.

While the Morales and García Linera line since the referendum has been moderation and calls for negotiation and dialogue with the far-right, CONALDE has launched massive and coordinated direct actions: road blockades; racist attacks against unarmed pro-government rallies; gang-land terrorization of poor, mainly indigenous neighbourhoods in the eastern lowlands; armed assaults on military and police personnel guarding public institutions; occupations and shutdowns of airports; looting and burning of state offices; and the vandalizing of state-owned media outlets.

In so doing, the autonomist have established real power in most of the departments of Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni, and Pando, and urban areas of Chuquisca, particularly the departmental capital of Sucre. It is literally unsafe for the President and state representatives to visit these areas. Momentum is on the side of the right, and they are in no mood for negotiation.

Morales and his government have refused to declare a state of emergency and thus the right-wing advances and brutal acts of racist violence in over half of the country’s territory continue apace with impunity. “We are not going to declare a state of emergency,” stated Vice-Minister of Social Movements, Sacha Llorenti. “We are not going to succumb to the provocation.” Likewise, Foreign Affairs Minister, David Choquehuanca, said, “This is a government of dialogue…. The groups committing the violence, violating laws and human rights are small. We call on these violent groups to return to negotiations.”

But a state of emergency, in combination with the concerted mobilization and organization of popular left-indigenous forces throughout the country, might allow the government to reestablish constitutional order and to detain and bring to justice right-wing subversives bent on destroying a government which enjoys the support of 68 percent of the population. It would help to guarantee military and police protection of state property and basic rights for the civilian population in the face of racist terror. It would help to provide a means of defense against right-wing autonomists wielding guns and Molotov cocktails.

It might turn the tide against the colonial-era violence and public denigration of the indigenous poor in urban plazas of the major eastern lowland cities: whippings, beatings with clubs and two-by-fours, and punching, kicking, and swarming captured on private and state media alike. All of this is accompanied by disgusting racist epithets, and legitimated by the departmental prefectures and civic committees who say Morales’ “dictatorship” brought it all on.

Jorge Soruco, a human rights activist in the department of Beni, conveyed the exasperation of popular sectors loyal to the government living in the five departments in rebellion: “This is racist dementia, madness that we can’t allow. We are living in an era of insanity, where the people of the opposition… are confronting the people with situations of extreme violence.”

A Late-August Festival of Hate against the Indigenous of Santa Cruz

After registering astonishing levels of support in the referendum, the MAS government declared that it was going to bring forward for popular referendum the draft of a new constitution approved by the Constituent Assembly in Oruro several months ago.

In celebration, indigenous peasant and working-class supporters of the government set off on August 29 for a peaceful march to the Plaza 24 de Septiembre, in the centre of the city of Santa Cruz. A gathering of autonomists, organized in part by the Unión Juvenil Cruceñista (Cruceño Youth Union, UJC), were there to greet them.

According to the mainstream daily La Prensa, one UJC speaker at the autonomist rally declared: “We are not going to permit [the entrance of the masistas] into the Plaza. When we go to their communities, they treat us like dogs. We want independence. We don’t want this damned race in our territory.” Other chants and phrases used that day, according to the vociferously anti-Morales La Razón newspaper, included: “shitty collas,” (colla is a racial epithet used in Santa Cruz to refer to indigenous people from the western highlands), and, “Indians return to your lands.”

After the speeches, the racists when on a rampage against the unarmed trade unionists and peasants, as well as any visibly indigenous person in proximity of the plaza. Indigenous women wearing the traditional pollera, or gathered skirt, were particularly vulnerable to beatings and racist taunts. One autonomist youth leader, Amelia Dimitri, was captured in video footage and photographs whipping an indigenous woman wearing a pollera. This occurred immediately after Dimitri addressed the crowd of autonomist thugs in a rousing speech. She’s only the latest face of hatred on the autonomist right.

On national television, Bolivians watched as racist teenagers wielded clubs, whips, and two-by-fours against unarmed indigenous workers and peasants. Images of men and women with broken noses and shirts literally drenched in blood quickly made their way to You Tube, private and national state media, and the front pages of the local newspapers. These are the “democracy supporters” supported by imperialism against the “dictatorship” of Evo Morales.

But where were the cops? Where was the military? The MAS government refused to act, calling instead for negotiations.

And in the following weeks things intensified further, such that in the last two days Bolivia has been perched on a precipice, below which lies the defeat of left-indigenous power – on the rise since the wave of insurrections between 2000 and 2005 – and the conquest of power by imperialism and the rich and the white-mestizo elite who have long-ruled the country, and who retain control of economic power despite Morales’ electoral victory.

The Makings of a Coup

The latest phase of pressure tactics in the “media luna” departments began in earnest with the initiation of a road blockade on August 25 in the Chaco region of the department of Tarija, followed a week later by parallel road blockades in the departments of Beni and Santa Cruz. This latter period also saw the occupation by force of several public institutions in Santa Cruz, as well as an attempt by the proto-fascist UJC to take over the police barracks in the capital city of that department, also named Santa Cruz.

As many analysts have pointed out, the latest actions by the autonomist right are merely the consolidation of their power in the eastern lowlands, given that for most of this year it has been impossible for the President and other government officials to safely visit major cities in the eastern lowlands, due to airport occupations and violent acts perpetrated against state ministers.

Yesterday, at least 22 state entities were occupied and taken over by the youth wing of the Pro Santa Cruz Committee and their sister organizations in the departments of Santa Cruz, Beni, Tarija, Pando, and Sucre. The right-wing occupiers have declared that they will transfer power of these state institutions to autonomous departmental authorities.

In Pando, for example, the prefect, Leopoldo Fernández, named a departmental director of the National Agrarian Institute (INRA). President of the Beni Civic Committee, Luis Alberto Melgar, and Vice-President of the Pando Civic Committee, Ricardo Shimokawa, announced that the occupations and mobilizations in their departments to date were just beginning.

Among the state institutions taken over across the country were the state television channel, Televisión Boliviana, and radio station, Patria Nueva. The airports of the eastern lowland cities of Trinidad, Guayaramerín, and Riberalta were also seized by autonomist forces. Two natural gas stations were seized, and 29 different road blockades were erected on the highways of these five departments.

Despite presidential authorization to protect state institutions, the National Police and Military Police lost control of these entities, as they were forcefully driven from their stations by violent mobilizations of the far-right.

University students, proto-fascist political youth gangs, functionaries of the departmental prefectures, and an array of other social sectors, including organized housewives (amas de casa), participated in the right-wing autonomist assaults on public institutions and confrontations with the coercive apparatuses of the state. These street actions are directly linked, however, with the finely-dressed men occupying the highest institutions of departmental power – the prefectures and the civic committees. And these men represent the agro-industrial, petroleum, and finance capitalists. Indeed, many autonomist politicians have millions of their own money invested in these sectors.

The Scope of Right-Wing Assault

Santa Cruz, where the confrontations between the National Police and the Military Police and the UJC were most intense, witnessed the takeover of the National Tax Services (SIN) offices, the National Agrarian Institute (INFRA), and the state telecommunications company (ENTEL).

The offices of Televisión Boliviana and Nueva Patria in Santa Cruz were initially broken into at night by young thugs who damaged equipment and lit parts of the offices on fire. Security of the premises was then reestablished by state forces for a period of time yesterday morning, until bands of the UJC effectively drove the police forces away with Molotov cocktails. The state then lost control entirely of their state media companies in the city.

Right-wing autonomist forces also launched violent attacks against various indigenous NGOs and human rights organizations, such as the Centro de Estudios Jurídicos y de Investigación Social (CEJIS). CEJIS on two earlier occasions this year was attacked with Molotov cocktails.

The El Trompillo and Viru Viru airports have been taken over by the state military to ensure they are not taken over by autonomist forces.

In Tarija, where road blockades have persisted for the last 16 days in the Chaco region, the right-wing autonomist forces took over government tax offices (SIN), the offices of the National Agrarian Institute (INRA), and the border state’s migration offices. Perhaps most importantly, they also managed to occupy the offices of the Superintendent of Hydrocarbons. Given that roughly 82 percent of natural gas production occurs in the department of Tarija, this is of major concern.

In the department of Beni, the Jorge Henrich airport was taken over, and its runways blockaded with transport trucks and piled debris. The offices of the Administration of Airports and Aerial Navigation (AASANA) were taken over. Likewise, the airport of Riberalta was shutdown. Also in Riberalta, the doors of the offices of Televisión Boliviana were damaged, while the mob didn’t manage to enter the premises. The Bolivian Postal Service (ECOBOL), ENTEL, and the Migration offices were also taken over in this city.

In the community of Guayaramerín, autonomist activists violently seized the offices of the National Customs office and the airport terminal.

Elsewhere, in the city of Villamontes, the Civic Committee took illegal control of a natural gas station, giving it the capacity to turn off supplies to the Yacuiba-Río Grande Gas Pipeline (GASYRG), the main natural gas source for Brazil.

In Sucre, the Unión Juvenil de la Chuquisaqueñidad (Youth Union of Chuquisaca, UJCh – Sucre is the capital of the department of Chuquisaca) and associated organizations, took over the tax offices and other state institutions. These protests were led in part by the notorious Roberto Lenin Sandóval, currently awaiting trial for his participation in the right-wing take over of state institutions several months ago, as well as for his role in racist attacks against indigenous peasants as part of the Chuquisaca Conscience movement.

However, unlike in the other four departments controlled by the right, Chuquisaca’s autonomist actions against the central government have been limited to the capital of Sucre, as the countryside is controlled by indigenous peasants overwhelmingly aligned with the Morales government.

The future of left-indigenous liberation struggle in Bolivia lies in the balance. If this right-wing tide is to be turned, there must be wide-scale direct actions by the vast majority of the country against the right-wing conspiracy. Such action would be greatly facilitated by a shift in the Morales government away from negotiation with a right that clearly is uninterested in dialogue. Let’s hope that the banishment of US Ambassador Goldberg from the country marks the first step in such a turn.

A Murderous Theatre of the Absurd

A Murderous Theatre of the Absurd

In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger examines news as parody as those prominent in the British media seek to justify the official versions of the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

By John Pilger

Go To Original

Try to laugh, please. The news is now officially parody and a game for all the family to play.

First question: Why are “we” in Afghanistan? Answer: “To try to help in the country’s rebuilding programme.” Who says so? Huw Edwards, the BBC’s principal newsreader. What wags the Welsh are.

Second question: Why are “we” in Iraq? Answer: To “plant a western-style open democracy”. Who says so? Paul Wood, the former BBC defence correspondent, and his boss Helen Boaden, director of BBC News. To prove her point, Boaden supplied with 2,700 words of quotations from Tony Blair and George W Bush. Irony? No, she meant it.

Take Andrew Martin, divisional adviser at BBC Complaints, who has been researching Bush’s speeches for “evidence” of noble democratic reasons for laying to waste an ancient civilisation. Says he: “The ‘D’ word is not there, but the phrase ‘united, stable and free’ [is] clearly an allusion to it.” After all, he says, the invasion of Iraq “was launched as ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’”. Moreover, says the BBC man, “in Bush’s 1 May 2003 speech (the one on the aircraft carrier) he talked repeatedly about freedom and explicitly about the Iraqi transition to democracy . . . These examples show that these were on Bush’s mind before, during and after the invasion.”

Try to laugh, please.

Laughing may be difficult, I agree, given the slaughter of civilians in Afghanistan by “coalition” aircraft, including those directed by British forces engaged in “the country’s rebuilding programme”. The bombing of civilian areas has doubled, along with the deaths of civilians, says Human Rights Watch. Last month, “our” aircraft slaughtered nearly 100 civilians, two-thirds of them children between the ages of three months and 16 years, while they slept, according to eyewitnesses. BBC television news initially devoted nine seconds to the Human Rights Watch report, and nothing to the fact that “less than peanuts” (according to an aid worker) is being spent on rebuilding anything in Afghanistan.

As for the notion of a “united, stable and free” Iraq, consider the no-bid contracts handed to the major western oil companies for ownership of Iraq’s oil. “Theft” is a more truthful word. Written by the companies themselves and US officials, the contracts have been signed off by Bush and Nouri al-Maliki, “prime minister” of Iraq’s “democratic” government that resides in an air-conditioned American fortress. This is not news.

Try to laugh, please, while you consider the devastation of Iraq’s health, once the best in the Middle East, by the ubiquitous dust from British and US depleted uranium weapons. A World Health Organisation study reporting a cancer epidemic has been suppressed, says its principal author. This has been reported in Britain only in the Glasgow Sunday Herald and the Morning Star. According to a study last year by Basra University Medical College, almost half of all deaths in the contaminated southern provinces were caused by cancer.

Try to laugh, please, at the recent happy-clappy Nurembergs from which will come the next president of the United States. Those paid to keep the record straight have strained to present a spectacle of choice. Barack Obama, the man of “change”, wants to “build a 21st-century military . . . to stay on the offensive everywhere”. Here comes the new Cold War, with promises of more bombs, more of the militarised society with its 730 bases worldwide, on which Americans spend 42 cents of every tax dollar.

At home, Obama offers no authentic measure that might ease America’s grotesque inequality, such as basic health care. John McCain, his Republican opponent, may well be a media cartoon figure – the fake “war hero” now joined with a Shakespeare-banning, gun-loving, religious fanatic – yet his true significance is that he and Obama share essentially the same dangerous prescriptions.

Thousands of decent Americans came to the two nominating conventions to express the dissenting opinion of millions of their compatriots who believe, with good cause, that their democracy is evaporating. They were intimidated, arrested, beaten, pepper-gassed; and they were patronised or ignored by those paid to keep the record straight.

In the meantime, Justin Webb, the BBC’s North America editor, has launched a book about America, his “city on a hill”. It is a sort of Mills & Boon view of the rapacious system he admires with such obsequiousness. The book is called Have a Nice Day.

Try to laugh, please.

Human Rights Are Crumbling

Human Rights Are Crumbling

Go To Original

The 1990s marked a significant advance in international justice. The May 1999 indictment of Serbian leader Milosevic was emblematic of the progress achieved in the fight against impunity. The attempt now afoot by certain Security Council members, including France and Great Britain, to torpedo an International Criminal Court trial even before it's launched could very well squander the benefits of the "moral decade."

By expressing his resolve to indict Sudanese Head of State Omar el-Bashir for genocide and crimes against humanity, the ICC president committed a quasi-foundational act. By threatening to straightaway undermine it, the great powers show that they're ready to instrumentalize the Criminal Court to promote their own political agenda. Peace in Darfur cannot all the same be had for no matter what price. The message conveyed is devastating. It casts doubt on these same powers' commitment to international justice. It weakens the International Criminal Court's future credibility and posits the question of its independence with respect to a Security Council deemed to be "without morals." This treacherous blow - should it be borne out - proves that the era of euphoric multilateralism is over. Confronted with the multipolar world's new threats, we witness the great return of national sovereignties, hostile to outside views. This reversal in trend has negative repercussions on the United Nations. With the weak leadership of its Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, human rights will see their status as the UN's third pillar crumble and the Security Council satisfy itself with turning a deaf ear. It's worrying. For whether the destroyers of the cause like it or not, human rights are not just some appendage to good conscience. Respect for them is essential for durable post-conflict reconstruction.

Report: Banks helped foreigners escape US taxes

Report: Banks helped foreigners escape US taxes

Senate report: Investment banks helped foreigners evade millions in US stock dividend taxes

By Marcy Gordon

Go To Original

Big Wall Street investment banks have designed and marketed schemes enabling non-U.S. taxpayers, including offshore hedge funds, to evade millions of dollars in taxes each year on U.S. stock dividends, Senate investigators have found.

Some banks have been crafting for more than 10 years transactions designed to enable their foreign clients to dodge U.S. taxes on dividends, while the Internal Revenue Service failed to act to prevent the abuse, two senators say.

A yearlong investigation by a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee, whose results are to be made public Thursday, found that the evasion of dividend taxes adds up to billions of dollars in revenue lost to the U.S. Treasury over the past decade.

IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman is scheduled to testify on the issue at a hearing Thursday by the investigative subcommittee. Executives of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank, and from several hedge funds also are expected to appear as witnesses.

The inquiry is part of a series of hearings by the Senate panel on offshore tax abuse, which is estimated to cost the United States $100 billion a year in lost tax revenue.

In July, the subcommittee accused banks in Switzerland and Liechtenstein of helping wealthy Americans commit large-scale tax evasion, and called for tougher laws to combat offshore tax havens around the world.

"Major financial institutions have devised complex financial structures to enable their offshore clients to dodge U.S. dividend taxes," Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the subcommittee's chairman, said in a statement Wednesday. "We need legislation to take these abusive tax-avoidance gimmicks off the market, and we need to end the silence and inaction of the Treasury (Department) and IRS in the face of rampant dividend tax dodging."

The panel's senior Republican, Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, said it was "especially troubling that the IRS has failed to address many of these problems for so long."

Offshore hedge funds have frequently participated in the tax-evasion transactions, and their U.S. investment mangers often facilitate their participation, the Senate panel found.

The banks designed and marketed transactions, mainly involving stock swaps or loans, that were described as offering dividend or yield "enhancement" or "dividend uplift," according to the investigators.

They developed case histories involving six major investment banks: Citigroup Inc., Deutsche Bank, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., Morgan Stanley and UBS.

Foreigners who invest in the United States are exempt from many U.S. taxes. If they invest in a U.S. company that pays a dividend to shareholders, however, U.S. law requires foreign investors to pay taxes on the dividends they receive. Dividends sent abroad are meant to be taxed at a 30 percent rate in most countries and at 15 percent in countries that have a tax treaty with the United States.

Actually, the investigators say, many foreign shareholders never pay the dividend taxes they owe, in part because banks are helping them escape paying them.

"We believe we acted in good faith when we advised our clients and believe we acted appropriately under existing tax law," Merrill Lynch spokesman William Halldin said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday.

Spokesmen for Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, Lehman, Morgan Sanley and UBS couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday night

Political dissent as terrorism: “Minnesota Patriot Act” charges filed against RNC Eight

Political dissent as terrorism: "Minnesota Patriot Act" charges filed against RNC Eight

By Tom Eley
Go To Original

The charges of terrorism leveled against the eight youth who had sought to organize protests and civil disobedience against the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Minnesota last week sound an alarm that political opposition in the US is on its way toward being criminalized.

In what may be the first case of its kind, American citizens have been arrested and charged as terrorists for no other act than planning to protest and obstruct a political event. In this case the occasion was the nominating convention of a party chiefly responsible for policies detested by the majority of Americans, including the war in Iraq and the enrichment of a tiny layer of the enormously wealthy.

Even a casual review of the case reveals that the charges are a baseless frame-up, carried out in the name of constitutionally dubious "anti-terrorist" legislation enacted since 2002.

More alarming than the case itself, however, is the fact that it has gone virtually unnoted by the national news media. This reporter could also find no mention of the case on the web sites of left-liberal publications such as the Nation, the Progressive, or In These Times. No major politician from either party has commented on the case, including Minnesota's Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar. Attempts to contact the campaign and Senate office of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama revealed that the nominee has no media contact phone number and that he had not released a statement on the arrests.

This silence on the case is no indication of its lack of importance. In essence, the terrorism charges against the RNC 8 show what the World Socialist Web Site has long warned: that anti-terrorism laws like the Patriot Act—enthusiastically supported by both major parties—have never been about protecting the American people from terrorism. They were put into place to create the legal framework for the suppression of basic constitutional and democratic rights of the population.

The eight members of the anarchist group Republican National Convention Welcoming Committee (RNCWC) were arrested the weekend before the RNC began and charged with the felony "conspiracy to commit riot in the second degree in furtherance of terrorism." They have since been released on $10,000 bail. If convicted at trial, the RNC Eight could each face five years in prison plus a $10,000 fine. A ninth individual has been named in the police complaint, but has yet to be charged.

Bruce Nestor, president of the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and attorney for Monica Bicking, one of the eight defendants, told the World Socialist Web Site that the authorities have shown no indication that the charges will be dropped.

The charges are predicated on an a priori assumption of guilt; not on what actually happened, but what might have happened had no arrest been made.

Furthermore, the charges are almost entirely based upon the evidence of two confidential paid informants.

Nestor pointed out in an earlier interview with the Minnesota Independent that "the most outrageous allegations made by the authorities are not supported by any evidence other than the statement of the confidential informants. They're not supported by the evidence seized."

The physical evidence gathered by law enforcement was even more threadbare than the purchased testimony of informants. "We have the sheriff displaying a single plastic item that he claims was a shield," Nestor said, "as if one shield was going to protect demonstrators from 3,500 armed riot police who have projectile-tear-gas weapons." In addition, police seized a rusty hatchet, nails, lighters and other common household items as evidence, and rather ludicrously reported discovering "weaponized urine."

This is the same method the Federal Bureau of Investigation has used in its attacks on Muslim organizations and other "terrorism" suspects. In such scenarios, anonymous police infiltrators enter an organization, create a provocation or even a crime itself, and then turn over uncorroborated testimony, thereby implicating an entire group of people

Lawyers for the RNCWC members have also pointed to the climate of fear created surrounding their clients by the very charge of terrorism. "All they do is they label people as terrorists and anarchists, and at that point what people are actually saying and the content of their views has no meaning anymore," said attorney Jordan Kushner.

Nestor told the WSWS that the arrests are "part of an overall law enforcement strategy to intimidate people from exercising political rights in the streets and to intimidate people from political organizations, to put citizens outside of the realm of acceptable behavior, to limit acceptable protest to voting and writing letters, and anything else is dangerous and potentially criminal."

The arrests are based on a 2002 law enacted with overwhelming bipartisan support in response to 9/11 and the adoption of the national USA Patriot Act. According to Nestor the Minnesota law is a version of the latter. According to the law, "a crime is committed to 'further terrorism' if the crime is a felony and is a premeditated act involving violence to persons or property that is intended to: (1) terrorize, intimidate, or coerce a considerable number of members of the publicdisrupt or interfere with the lawful exercise, operation, or conduct of government, lawful commerce, or the right of lawful assembly" (emphasis added). in addition to the direct victims of the act; and (2) significantly

In other words, the statute lays out a legal framework for the categorization of protest as "furthering terrorism." Police could quite easily determine that a protest aims to "coerce" "members of the public" or "interfere with" the operations of government, industry and meetings. In a broad sense, that is precisely what public demonstrations have always aimed to do.

The passing of the 2002 legislation was not the only, or most recent, preparation made by the government for the repression that has unfolded in St. Paul.

It has been revealed that the city government of St. Paul and the Host Committee of the Republican National Convention—which organized the event and solicited corporate donors—worked out a bargain whereby the Host Committee would assume the first $10 million in liability resulting from lawsuits civilians might launch against the city's police. This agreement gave a signal to police that financial liability need not serve as a deterrent to police repression of protests.

Police preparation in the Twin Cities was elaborate. Because the RNC, like the Democratic National Convention, was declared a "National Security Event," the local police were placed under the supervision of the federal government through the Secret Service and combined with numerous other state and federal police and military agencies.

It has also become clear that the media, especially independent media, were targeted for harassment and arrest during the convention. This included the unlawful search and seizure of filming equipment, computers, and cell phones.

As the scope of the arrests and police brutality has begun to take shape—multiple reports have emerged of police beatings, gassings, denial of medical treatment, and use of mace and taser guns on protesters and those already detained or arrested—it appears increasingly unlikely that this was simply an overreaction, as some liberal commentators have claimed.

The goal of this repression—which most assuredly would be a central preoccupation of the mainstream media had it taken place in, for instance, Russia—was only secondarily aimed at intimidating or squelching the RNC protests. Instead these measures were cut from the same cloth as the sort of massive repression carried out in third world police states. The massive police operation's primary aim was to benumb, intimidate and silence the population as a whole.

It also provided the opportunity for a trial run of large-scale repression against the mass opposition to war and social immiseration that will inevitably emerge in the coming months and years.

Lose your house, lose your vote

Lose your house, lose your vote

Go To Original

Michigan Republicans plan to foreclose African American voters

The chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County Michigan, a key swing county in a key swing state, is planning to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the upcoming election as part of the state GOP’s effort to challenge some voters on Election Day.

“We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses,” party chairman James Carabelli told Michigan Messenger in a telephone interview earlier this week. He said the local party wanted to make sure that proper electoral procedures were followed.

State election rules allow parties to assign “election challengers” to polls to monitor the election. In addition to observing the poll workers, these volunteers can challenge the eligibility of any voter provided they “have a good reason to believe” that the person is not eligible to vote. One allowable reason is that the person is not a “true resident of the city or township.”

The Michigan Republicans’ planned use of foreclosure lists is apparently an attempt to challenge ineligible voters as not being “true residents.”

One expert questioned the legality of the tactic.

“You can’t challenge people without a factual basis for doing so,” said J. Gerald Hebert, a former voting rights litigator for the U.S. Justice Department who now runs the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington D.C.-based public-interest law firm. “I don’t think a foreclosure notice is sufficient basis for a challenge, because people often remain in their homes after foreclosure begins and sometimes are able to negotiate and refinance.”

As for the practice of challenging the right to vote of foreclosed property owners, Hebert called it, “mean-spirited.”

GOP ties to state’s largest foreclosure law firm

The Macomb GOP’s plans are another indication of how John McCain’s campaign stands to benefit from the burgeoning number of foreclosures in the state. McCain’s regional headquarters are housed in the office building of foreclosure specialists Trott & Trott. The firm’s founder, David A. Trott, has raised between $100,000 and $250,000 for the Republican nominee.

The Macomb County party’s plans to challenge voters who have defaulted on their house payments is likely to disproportionately affect African-Americans who are overwhelmingly Democratic voters. More than 60 percent of all sub-prime loans — the most likely kind of loan to go into default — were made to African-Americans in Michigan, according to a report issued last year by the state’s Department of Labor and Economic Growth.

Challenges to would-be voters

Statewide, the Republican Party is gearing up for a comprehensive voter challenge campaign, according to Denise Graves, party chair for Republicans in Genessee County, which encompasses Flint. The party is creating a spreadsheet of election challenger volunteers and expects to coordinate a training with the regional McCain campaign, Graves said in an interview with Michigan Messenger.

Whether the Republicans will challenge voters with foreclosed homes elsewhere in the state is not known.

Kelly Harrigan, deputy director of the GOP’s voter programs, confirmed that she is coordinating the group’s “election integrity” program. Harrigan said the effort includes putting in place a legal team, as well as training election challengers. She said the challenges to voters were procedural rather than personal. She referred inquiries about the vote challenge program to communications director Bill Knowles who promised information but did not return calls.

Party chairman Carabelli said that the Republican Party is training election challengers to “make sure that [voters] are who they say who they are.”

When asked for further details on how Republicans are compiling challenge lists, he said, “I would rather not tell you all the things we are doing.”

Vote suppression: Not an isolated effort

Carabelli is not the only Republican Party official to suggest the targeting of foreclosed voters. In Ohio, Doug Preisse, director of elections in Franklin County (around the city of Columbus) and the chair of the local GOP, told The Columbus Dispatch that he has not ruled out challenging voters before the election due to foreclosure-related address issues.

Hebert, the voting-rights lawyer, sees a connection between Priesse’s remarks and Carabelli’s plans.

“At a minimum what you are seeing is a fairly comprehensive effort by the Republican Party, a systematic broad-based effort to put up obstacles for people to vote,” he said. “Nobody is contending that these people are not legally registered to vote.

“When you are comprehensively challenging people to vote,” Hebert went on, “your goals are two-fold: One is you are trying to knock people out from casting ballots; the other is to create a slowdown that will discourage others,” who see a long line and realize they can’t afford to stay and wait.

Challenging all voters registered to foreclosed homes could disrupt some polling places, especially in the Detroit metropolitan area. According to the real estate Web site RealtyTrac, one in every 176 households in Wayne County, metropolitan Detroit, received a foreclosure filing during the month of July. In Macomb County, the figure was one household in every 285, meaning that 1,834 homeowners received the bad news in just one month. The Macomb County foreclosure rate puts it in the top three percent of all U.S. counties in the number of distressed homeowners.

Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Kent and Genessee counties were — in that order — the counties with the most homeowners facing foreclosure, according to RealtyTrac. As of July, there were more than 62,000 foreclosure filings in the entire state.

Joe Rozell, director of elections for Oakland County in suburban Detroit, acknowledged that challenges such as those described by Carabelli are allowed by law but said they have the potential to create long lines and disrupt the voting process. With 890,000 potential voters closely divided between Democratic and Republican, Oakland County is a key swing county of this swing state.

According to voter challenge directives handed down by Republican Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, voter challenges need only be “based on information obtained through a reliable source or means.”

“But poll workers are not allowed to ask the reason” for the challenges, Rozell said. In other words, Republican vote challengers are free to use foreclosure lists as a basis for disqualifying otherwise eligible voters.

David Lagstein, head organizer with the Michigan Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), described the plans of the Macomb GOP as “crazy.”

“You would think they would think, ‘This is going to look too heartless,’” said Lagstein, whose group has registered 200,000 new voters statewide this year and also runs a foreclosure avoidance program. “The Republican-led state Senate has not moved on the anti-predatory lending bill for over a year and yet [Republicans] have time to prey on those who have fallen victim to foreclosure to suppress the vote.”

Kucinich introduces comprehensive regulatory framework for GMOs

Kucinich introduces comprehensive regulatory framework for GMOs

Go To Original

Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced three bills designed to protect consumers, defend farmers’ rights, and increase food safety. The bills collectively create a comprehensive framework to regulate GMOs.

• H.R. 6636, The Genetically Engineered Food Right To Know Act, would require mandatory labeling of all foods that contain or are produced with GM material.

• H.R. 6635, The Genetically Engineered Safety Act, would require that GE foods follow a food safety review process to prevent contamination of food supplies by pharmaceutical and industrialcrops. This Act would also require that the FDA screen all GE foods to ensure they are safe forhuman consumption.

• H.R. 6637, The Genetically Engineered Farmer Protection Act, places liability from the impacts of GM crops on the biotechnology companies that created the GMOs, and protects farmers from lawsuits by biotechnology companies.

Source: September 2008 The Organic & Non-GMO Report