Thursday, January 15, 2009

The One Big Thing George W. Bush Did Right

The One Big Thing George W. Bush Did Right

Go To Original

History will record that George W. Bush made one critically important contribution to our country -- and to the entire world. He and his administration provided unquestionable proof of the bankruptcy of radical-conservative ideology, and set the stage for a qualitatively different progressive era in American politics.

History is not linear. It is not gradual or evolutionary. Human progress proceeds in fits and starts like a volcano, where pressure gradually builds over years and then erupts with enormous power.

Very often those explosions of progress -- periods when we expand the realm of democratic values, human dignity, economic opportunity and optimism -- are precipitated by periods of domination by the forces of privilege, inequality and selfishness.

By assuring that all of the fruits of the growth of productivity in our economy went to the wealthiest 2% of our population, the Bush administration set the stage for the current economic collapse.

By actually putting into practice the Neo-Conservative theories of pre-emptive war and unilateralism, George W. Bush demonstrated their failure more persuasively than could the most articulate progressive critic.

By abandoning our historic commitment to due process and sinking into the dark world of torture, George W. Bush and his partner Dick Cheney isolated themselves from the growing worldwide commitment to human rights.

A brilliant new book by Democratic strategist and author Mike Lux documents the other periods in our history when conservative domination led to progressive renewal. The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be, describes the five "big change" moments in American history since the American Revolution: the Bill of Rights, the ending of slavery, the Progressive Era, the New Deal and the civil rights movement.

He argues that big changes have never occurred gradually -- nor have they been spread randomly over our history. Rather, they have been concentrated in these periods of "big change.". In each, a cascade of progressive innovation took place over a short period of time, after years of right wing opposition.

Lux writes:

Progressives invented the American ideal and inspired the American Revolution. Conservatives, then known as Tories, opposed it. Since then, every major advancement in American freedom, democracy, social justice, and economic opportunity has been fostered, fought for, and won by progressives against conservative resistance. Now who's anti-American?

We've already seen previews of the new progressive era, but the curtain will really go up next Tuesday when Barack Obama is inaugurated the 44th President of the United States. The next few years could be a transformational period -- if we all make it so.

As for Bush, he will be remembered as the man who set the stage. He has played the Hoover to Obama's Roosevelt, the James Buchanan to Obama's Lincoln.

Lux's study also makes something else absolutely clear. In American history, the pendulum has not swung inevitably back and forth between conservative and progressive periods with some form of historic equivalency. Instead, the changes emerging from periods of progressive success, once made, remain a permanent feature of our society.

Conservatives fought against the ending of slavery, women's suffrage, Social Security, collective bargaining, Medicare, and the end of segregation. After the progressive period that brought them to life was done, a conservative backlash often tried to limit the scope of these important advances -- with Jim Crow, assaults on Labor, or attempts to privatize Social Security. But conservatives have never been successful at eliminating them.

Once enacted, progressive change is hard to dislodge. That's because progressive change is progress. Progressive values are the most adaptive trait human beings have yet created to ensure our success and survival on this small planet.

The Right battled for decades to take complete control of the levers of power in Washington. The election of George W. Bush finally gave them the ability to combine the power of the presidency with their control of Congress to make their program the law of the land.

Ironically, their very success may assure that George W. Bush is remembered as the president whose failures created the conditions we needed to craft a new bottom-up economy, to pass universal health care and to create new international institutions that bring us closer to a world where we no longer rely on war to resolve our differences.

Of course nothing is inevitable. We cannot afford to squander the opportunity that history and George W. Bush have provided us. It is time for all of us to report for duty in the battle to turn this historic opportunity into the next great period of progress in America.

Rewriting the First Draft of History

Rewriting the First Draft of History

Go To Original

We're all neocons now.
- Chris Matthews, MSNBC, 09 April 2003

Seeing as how we currently find ourselves hurtling along this downhill run towards new history - the countdown to the day America has itself a president named Obama can be measured in hours instead of days or weeks now - it seems an appropriate moment to pause and reflect on a bit of older history we've already passed through. I'm not talking about any kind of ancient history, mind you. For the purposes of this reflection, we need only take a small leap backwards in time, just six short years ago.

We all passed through the little slice of history that began to take shape in the early months of 2003, and we all remember that time in our own way. Today, however, there is a great deal of effort being expended to make sure this bit of history is remembered differently than how it really happened. An even better result for those exerting this effort would be if this bit of history were not remembered at all. That may, in fact, be their ultimate goal.

I am referring, of course, to the very beginning of another downhill run towards history, the one that began in 2003 and led us into the current Iraq debacle that is about to become another president's problem.

I am not, however, referring to anyone who works or once worked within the Bush administration. To be sure, Mr. Bush would prefer if we remembered all this differently than it happened, as would Mr. Cheney, Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Powell, Mr. Wolfowitz, Mr. Feith, Ms. Rice, and every other one of the glorified think-tank cube-rats who ginned the whole thing up to begin with. Richard Perle, in an amusing aside, actually allowed himself to be quoted saying the neocons had nothing to do with Iraq, had no hand in the planning and implementation of same, and anyone who says differently is just wrong and dumb and should go away.

That one's a hoot, in'it?

No, I am referring to an equally large, craven and culpable body outside the official bounds of our federal governmental: the mainstream American news media. They work fist in glove with that government now, worked with them yesterday, and will likewise be working with them tomorrow. Specifically, they will be working as hard as Bush & Co. to make us remember that downhill run to Iraq differently, because they never worked more closely with our government on anything than they did on Iraq just six short years ago.

The mainstream news media did not concoct false evidence to justify a course for war, but they fobbed off that false proof as if it were holy truth. They did not lie to the American people about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but they passed on Bush administration lies to the American people with full-throated credulity. They did not browbeat the American people with dire threats of impending terrorism to cover up political liabilities, but they passed those threats on from Bush's people to the American people with the kind of breathless energy only seen whenever media types have skyrocketing ratings and ad revenues twinkling in their eyes.

The mainstream American news media is just as responsible for what has happened in Iraq as the Bush administration; they are as responsible for the lies they repeated as the ones who first told them, and are as guilty for what happened in Iraq as the Bush administration officials they enabled and covered for.

Many people, by now, may have forgotten the manner in which this gruesome symbiosis played out six years ago. An organization called Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has compiled a little refresher course on the topic. Behold some of the highlights:

"Oh, it was breathtaking. I mean I was almost starting to think that we had become inured to everything that we'd seen of this war over the past three weeks, all this sort of saturation. And finally, when we saw that it was such a just true, genuine expression. It was reminiscent, I think, of the fall of the Berlin Wall. And just sort of that pure emotional expression, not choreographed, not stage-managed, the way so many things these days seem to be. Really breathtaking."

- Ceci Connolly, Washington Post reporter, on Fox News Channel on 09 April 2003

"This has been a tough war for commentators on the American left. To hope for defeat meant cheering for Saddam Hussein. To hope for victory meant cheering for President Bush. The toppling of Mr. Hussein, or at least a statue of him, has made their arguments even harder to defend. Liberal writers for ideologically driven magazines like The Nation and for less overtly political ones like The New Yorker did not predict a defeat, but the terrible consequences many warned of have not happened. Now liberal commentators must address the victory at hand and confront an ascendant conservative juggernaut that asserts United States might can set the world right."

- David Carr, New York Times reporter, 16 April 2003

"We're proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who's physical, who's not a complicated guy like Clinton or even like Dukakis or Mondale, all those guys, McGovern. They want a guy who's president. Women like a guy who's president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It's simple. We're not like the Brits."

- Chris Matthews, MSNBC, 01 May 2003

"He looked like an alternatively commander in chief, rock star, movie star and one of the guys."

- Lou Dobbs, CNN, 01 May 2003

"We had controversial wars that divided the country. This war united the country and brought the military back."

- Howard Fineman, MSNBC, 07 May 2003

Some people may remember hearing these lines when they were uttered. A great many people can probably remember hearing or reading similar comments during that time. The sentiment was all but ubiquitous, at least within the mainstream media's echo chamber, that the weapons were there, that Bush was right, that war was necessary, so let's go.

I remember it a little differently.

In the summer of 2002, after working in concert with former chief UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, I wrote and had published a book titled "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know." The book argued that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, no al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq, no connection between Iraq and 9/11, thus there was no reason to go to war against Iraq, and that any such war would be a disaster of vast proportions.

In short, the book was spot-on correct.

The latter half of 2002, however, saw very few people arguing these points make their way into the mainstream media conversation. I tried, believe me. I did dozens of radio interviews with every small-market, community-based radio personality in and out of America. I traveled tens of thousands of miles trying to let people know what was what. By the spring of 2003, the book became a New York Times and international best seller, and was translated into 13 languages, but my own informed perspective on the issue had failed to break into the mainstream media conversation.

Mine was not nearly the only voice shut out of the debate by the mainstream news media. From the very beginning, independent or investigative journalists were sounding the alarm, preparing the facts, and not getting heard. People like Amy Goodman, Sy Hersh, Mike Malloy, Juan Cole, Dahr Jamail, Bernard Weiner, Norman Solomon, William Greider, Joe Conason, Robert Scheer, Robert Kuttner, Molly Ivins and Naomi Klein have been horribly vindicated by the passage of time. There are many, many other voices like theirs which, had they been included in the conversation six years ago, could have perhaps saved us all from the disaster they saw coming a mile away.

Of course, not everyone in the mainstream news media participated six years ago in making sure the Iraq war happened, but so very many of them did. Those well-known personalities who actively participated in selling the war, along with their editors, producers and corporate owners, want no part of being rightly remembered for their role in the debacle that is Iraq. For the last couple of years, they've been backpedaling furiously away from the mess they were deeply involved in creating; all those once-dismissed "left-wing" talking points about the folly of this war and the absence of Iraqi WMD, seemingly overnight, were adopted by the mainstream news media with nary a hiccup.

Remember how that worked? From 2003 until around 2006, the line from the media was, "Of course everyone knows there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." But after the WMD's failure to turn up entered a fourth year, a switch got thrown. Suddenly, the line from the media was, "Of course everyone knows there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," after which came all the anti-Bush rhetoric they'd once ridiculed.

They skipped the all-important middle part. In between "Of course they have WMD" and "Of course they had no WMD" should have been a few deadly serious questions: Why did they tell us there were WMD? Why did we accept their version of the facts so easily? How responsible are we for making the American people believe all that WMD stuff was true?

They skipped all that, because media people avoid self-analysis the way cats avoid water. Now, they want us to remember things differently than how they were. Again.

The folks in the mainstream news media see themselves as the writers and crafters of the first edition of history. This is a position they monstrously abused regarding Iraq, and now, they would like to rewrite that first draft, so they can edit out their own direct involvement as major players in the drama.

Bush must be held responsible, along with all his minions and Congressional enablers, for the bloodbath of criminal wrongdoing that took place and continues in Iraq. But the media must be held accountable, as well. They'd like us to forget what they did. Don't let them let us forget. We all have skin in this particular game.

Citigroup downsizes as US and global bank crisis deepens

Citigroup downsizes as US and global bank crisis deepens

By Andre Damon and Barry Grey

Go To Original

Citigroup announced Tuesday that it will spin off its Smith Barney retail brokerage arm in a joint venture with Morgan Stanley, a move that reportedly is only the first step in a drastic plan to shed a series of businesses and shrink the bank's balance sheet by one-third from its current size of about $2 trillion.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the bank, the world's largest by revenues as of 2008, will announce steps to rid itself of two consumer-finance units and its private-label credit card business and scale back its trading operations when it reports its fourth quarter 2008 results next week. It is expected that the giant bank, which employs more than 300,000 people in 100 countries, will report an operating loss of at least $10 billion, its fifth straight quarterly loss.

Since October, the bank has received $45 billion in cash infusions from the US Treasury, making the US government its largest shareholder. In November, the Treasury and the Federal Reserve mounted a massive rescue operation, allocating more than $300 billion in cash, loans and guarantees to prevent the bank from failing.

None of this has halted a precipitous slide in Citigroup stock, which fell another 21 percent last week and tumbled a further 23 percent on Wednesday. The collapse of the bank's stock is one of the sharpest expressions of a crisis of solvency that is affecting many major banks in the US and around the world. Citigroup was one of the most aggressive speculators in subprime mortgages, encouraged to dive into that high-risk, high-profit market by Robert Rubin, who became a board member and senior counselor after serving as treasury secretary in the Clinton administration. Rubin resigned his post under fire last Friday.

With its move to shed many of its businesses, a desperate attempt to stem its losses and stave off bankruptcy, Citigroup is removing large pieces of the company formed in a 1998 merger of Citicorp and Travelers Group, designed to create a "one-stop supermarket" financial behemoth embracing commercial banking, investment banking, stock trading and other financial businesses. That merger produced a highly profitable entity in a period of government deregulation and cheap credit that fueled an enormous growth of debt and huge compensation packages for Wall Street executives. The inevitable implosion of the housing and credit bubbles has cut the ground from beneath the bank and sent it, and others, into the current tailspin.

The spread of the crisis from the financial sector to the broader economy, producing the deepest global recession since the 1930s, is feeding back on the banks, undermining their holdings and investments beyond housing to credit card debt, auto loans, commercial real estate and other assets as unemployment surges and consumers and businesses are unable to make their payments. This, in turn, is compounding an already sharp contraction in credit and further eroding confidence in the solvency of major financial institutions.

Citigroup's announcement places in sharper relief the rush by the incoming Obama administration and outgoing Bush administration to secure congressional approval for the release of the second $350 billion installment of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) passed by Congress last October. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke delivered a speech in London on Monday, the same day that Obama and Bush formally requested the second $350 billion in bailout funds for the banks, in which he insisted that these and perhaps much greater sums of taxpayer money would be needed to prop up the banks.

The New York Times web edition reported Wednesday that the Treasury Department is preparing to provide Bank of America with billions of dollars in additional aid. The bank received $25 billion in TARP funds last year, but, according to the Times, is facing mounting losses at Merrill Lynch, which it acquired in a government subsidized deal last September engineered to avert the collapse of the investment bank.

It is widely reported in the financial press that US banks will report their first-ever collective quarterly loss when they issue their earnings results in the coming days. It is expected that JPMorgan Chase, up to now considered among the stronger major banks, will report a loss.

The global scope of the banking crisis was underscored Tuesday when Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest bank, reported a loss of about €4.8 billion ($6.3 billion) in the fourth quarter and British bank Barclays announced plans to lay off 2,100 employees worldwide.

The latest signs of financial crisis coincide with new indications that the recession is worsening at a rapid rate. US stock exchanges fell sharply Wednesday in response, beyond the dire news on the banking sector, to a record drop in retail sales in December. The Commerce Department reported that sales at retailers dropped 2.7 percent, more than twice as much as forecast. The December slump marked the sixth straight months of declines, the longest since records began in 1992.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 248 points, or 3 percent; the Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 57 points, or 3.7 percent; and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index fell 29 points, or 3.4 percent.

Announcements of new layoffs are coming on a daily basis. Motorola announced Wednesday that it will slash another 4,000 jobs as a result of a sharp fall in its cell phone business. Gannett, the biggest US newspaper publisher, said it will force thousands of its workers to take week-long unpaid furloughs. The Canadian telecom giant Nortel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, as did Gottschalks, a department store chain with 58 stores in six Western US states.

Other firms announcing layoffs over the past several days include the bookseller Barnes & Noble, the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, engine maker Cummins, printer maker Lexmark and the Dutch financial services group ING, which is cutting 750 jobs in the US.

The US Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Tuesday that the US in November had 3.8 job seekers for every job vacancy, more than twice the 1.8 job seekers per job vacancy in November 2007. This is the highest figure since the recession of 1981-82.

US tortured Guantanamo prisoners, Army judge admits

US tortured Guantanamo prisoners, Army judge admits

By Patrick Martin

Go To Original

In an extraordinary public declaration, the top military judge overseeing the military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay admitted two of the principal charges long made against the Bush administration—that prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp have been tortured, and that the torture was carried out in accordance with an official policy set in Washington.

In an interview with Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, Susan Crawford said that prisoner Mohammed al-Qahtani had been so systematically abused through isolation, sleep deprivation, forced nudity and exposure to cold that he was in a "life-threatening condition."

"We tortured Qahtani," she told Woodward. "His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.

A 61-year-old former Army counsel and former Pentagon inspector general, Crawford served from 1991 to 2006 as a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. In February 2007, Defense Secretary Robert Gates named her the convening authority of the military commissions. In May 2008 she dismissed war crimes charges against Qahtani, without giving her reasons publicly.

While saying that she did not know any specifics of the treatment of the five other Guantanamo prisoners accused of 9/11 offenses, Crawford said, "I assume torture," noting that Bush administration officials have admitted that several of the prisoners, including alleged 9/11 organizer Khalid Sheik Mohammed, had been waterboarded.

Crawford made clear that the abuse of prisoners was not the result of lower-ranking interrogators being overzealous, but the consequence of policies set at the top. The techniques used against Qahtani were approved by then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "A lot of this happened on his watch," she said.

The responsibility, she suggested, goes even higher, to the Bush White House. "I think the buck stops in the Oval Office," Crawford told the Post. "I think he hurt his own effort," she added, referring to Bush's establishment of the system of military tribunals. "I think someone should acknowledge that mistakes were made and that they hurt the effort and take responsibility for it."

A Saudi national, Qahtani was refused entrance to the United States at the airport in Orlando, Florida in August 2001. Bush administration officials have described him as the "20th hijacker," an Al Qaeda militant who was seeking to join the 19 other men, mostly Saudis, who took part in the September 11 attacks.

He was subsequently picked up by US forces in Afghanistan and shipped to Guantanamo in January 2002, where he attracted little initial attention—inexplicably, given his supposed role in 9/11. His interrogation began in November 2002 and continued for three months, followed by another three months of solitary confinement.

The grisly nature of his treatment at Guantanamo has been previously reported in the American press, based on statements from defense attorneys and others familiar with the case. But no high-level official—let alone the presiding judicial authority—has confirmed the details and categorically declared his treatment to be torture.

"The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent," she told the Post. "You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge" to call it torture.

Qahtani was repeatedly strip-searched, frequently with female agents involved, forced to wear women's underclothes and a dog leash while chained and being interrogated, threatened with assault by military dogs, and compelled to perform a series of dog tricks. He suffered long periods of sleep deprivation, including "48 of 54 consecutive days of 18-to-20-hour interrogations," according to one document.

The suffering was so intense that Qahtani was hospitalized twice with bradycardia, a severe lowering of the heart rate which can be fatal. At one point his heart rate was only 35 beats per minute. According to his attorney, Qahtani suffers from loss of memory and ability to focus, as well as paranoia. Still imprisoned at Guantanamo, he maintains his innocence and denies any connection to Al Qaeda.

Crawford, a Republican and career military jurist, expressing sentiments now widespread in the Pentagon, voiced her concern that the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay has been a public relations disaster for the US government, as well as endangering US military personnel who may be captured in the future.

"I sympathize with the intelligence gatherers in those days after 9/11, not knowing what was coming next and trying to gain information to keep us safe," she told the Post. "But there still has to be a line that we should not cross. And unfortunately what this has done, I think, has tainted everything going forward."

The treatment of Qahtani "did shock me," she said. "I was upset by it. I was embarrassed by it. If we tolerate this and allow it, then how can we object when our servicemen and women, or others in foreign service, are captured and subjected to the same techniques? How can we complain? Where is our moral authority to complain? Well, we may have lost it."

Crawford's interview with the Post coincided with another major legal blow against the kangaroo courts at Guantanamo Bay. A former Guantanamo prosecutor, Darrel Vandeveld, filed a declaration with a US appeals court Tuesday supporting the release of Mohammed Jawad, an Afghan youth seized by US troops in 2002 and held in Guantanamo for the past six years.

Vandeveld, a former lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve responsible for the cases against seven prisoners facing military tribunal, resigned his position last September citing the abuse of Jawad by Afghan police and the US military and the use of evidence he said was suspect, false or outright fabricated, including a confession signed by Jawad in a language, Farsi, that he does not speak.

Jawad is one of two prisoners facing trial at Guantanamo Bay who were 17 years old or younger when captured by US forces. The Bush administration is prosecuting both Jawad and Canadian citizen Omar Khadr as adults, although international agreements require that both be classified as "child soldiers" and treated as victims of the conflict.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Human Rights First and Human Rights Watch issued an appeal Monday to President-elect Barack Obama to halt proceedings against Jawad.

This appeal came one day after an ABC television interview in which Obama backed off from his election campaign pledge to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp as soon as he takes office, and distanced himself from suggestions that top Bush administration officials should face prosecution for authorizing torture, illegal wiretapping and other attacks on democratic rights.

Meanwhile, the Times of London reported that nearly one fifth of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have gone on hunger strike and are being force-fed by the military authorities. According to the newspaper, of the 248 inmates of the facility, 44 are refusing food and 33 are suffering the brutal reprisal of liquid being forced up their noses through tubes and into their stomachs. One attorney for several prisoners said the actual total of hunger strikers was over 70, nearly one third of those still held.

Over the past seven years, the Bush administration has incarcerated more than 700 men at Guantanamo, portraying them as, in Rumsfeld's words, "the worst of the worst." Of these, nearly 500 have been repatriated and released without charges—and without any compensation for the loss of years of their lives to brutality and false imprisonment.

The testimony of Susan Crawford, Darrel Vandeveld and other military and civilian officials who have spoken out on the crimes taking place at Guantanamo or their cover-up would be of critical importance in bringing the top officials of the Bush administration to justice.

All the officials responsible for the Guantanamo Bay atrocities should face an international tribunal for their crimes—as well as the other acts of torture, illegal detention, kidnapping and murder committed by US agencies in the course of the "war on terror." This should include Bush himself, Vice President Cheney, Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and the high-ranking CIA and military officers who implemented the torture policy, as well as executive branch lawyers who wrote the legal apologetics for these gross violations of international law.

Obama's statement that he wants to "look forward rather than back" amounts to declaring a political amnesty for all the crimes committed by the Bush administration. Obama and the congressional Democrats are adamantly opposed to any serious investigation into these crimes because such an effort would expose the complicity of the Democrats themselves—as well as cut across the program of state violence and repression that the Obama administration intends to carry out in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries targeted by American imperialism.

Don’t Give the Banks Another $350 Billion

Don’t Give the Banks Another $350 Billion

By Matthew Rothschild

Why in the world should we be giving the banks another $350 billion?

They caused this financial crisis in the first place.

Then Bush and Paulson just threw billions of dollars at them.

Bush and Paulson didn't demand a voting share of these banks.

And the banks weren't required to lend to businesses, though that was the main rationale for the bailout.

Nor were the banks required to refinance mortgages and go easy on foreclosures, though this is what triggered the crisis.

Basically, the banks weren't required to do anything accept open their wallets.

And afterward, they didn't even have to tell us, the taxpayers, what they did with the money, which was essentially to hoard it.

Now they deserve $350 billion more?

You've got to be kidding.

But that's what Bush is saying. And he formally asked Congress to OK this second disbursement.

The odd thing is that Obama urged Bush to do so.

Yeah, Obama says he'll impose a lot more stringent requirements on what the banks do with that money, but if it's not in the legislation, and the banks get the money anyway, what leverage will he have?

On top of that, we could use this $350 billion in much wiser and more progressive ways-by helping people stay in their homes, for instance.

"We all have a huge stake in stopping this heist," as Naomi Klein told me a couple of months ago.

Congress shouldn't be dispensing the $350 billion.

It should be saying, "Stop, thief!"

Trans Texas Corridor Dead Only in Name Says Group

Trans Texas Corridor Dead Only in Name Says Group

By Mark Anderson

Go To Original

Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, one of the main citizen groups that has steadfastly fought the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) portion of the NAFTA Superhighway for several years, does not buy new claims by Texas highway officials that the TTC is “dead”—not by a long shot.....

“The announcement by TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz at the Texas Transportation Forum that the ‘Trans ....Texas.... Corridor, as it was originally envisioned, is no more,’ is just another in a series of comments to lead opponents into believing the Trans Texas Corridor is indeed dead. TURF believes this is a deliberate move to dupe opponents into complacency, and we expect iron-clad action before we begin celebrating victory,” TURF founder Terri Hall informed American Free Press in a news release Jan. 7.

AFP had just covered a Jan. 5 federal court hearing where TURF is fighting for the right to hang two banners across ....San Antonio.... city public right-of-ways to alert the public about a TTC-related plan to convert area freeways into tollways. TURF wants to let the public know that conventional gas-tax plans for maintaining and improving ....Texas.... highways will suffice and no tolling is needed, along with highlighting an effort with a separate banner to recall a pro-toll city councilwoman.....

That hearing had just been held—with the judge promising a decision soon—when TURF responded to claims that the TTC is “dead.” ....

It’s clear from the TxDOT director’s speech, that it’s only a name change and the Trans Texas Corridor is, in reality, “going underground,” Ms. Hall added, noting that just about every news source in ....Texas.... indicates this sobering reality. ....

For instance, the Austin American Statesman, while noting the TTC will be broken up into smaller projects, noted that those smaller projects “will apparently include the 300-plus miles of what has been called TTC-35 from ..San Antonio.. to the ..Oklahoma.. border and the I-69 project from the ..Rio Grande.. ..Valley.. to ..Texarkana.. [near ....Arkansas....]. But they will not be called the Trans Texas Corridor.”....

Hall pointed to a San Antonio Express-News piece that noted: Other than backpedaling from the Trans Texas Corridor brand, and the goals and priorities set over the years, the Trans Texas Corridor remains intact. TxDOT still plans to partner with private corporations to build and lease projects. Toll roads, truck-only lanes and rail lanes are also still on the table. Environmental studies for the I-35 and ..East Texas.. corridor segments still chug through the pipeline. And a development contract with Cintra of Spain and Zachry Construction Co. of San Antonio, for projects paralleling I-35, is still valid.”....

“The renewed effort now will operate under the name ‘Innovative Connectivity Plan,’ ” the ....Houston.... Chronicle noted. ....

Ms. Hall added: “No law has been changed, no minute order rescinded, no environmental document re-done (as is required by federal law), and there are still two contracts signed giving two Spanish companies the right of first refusal on segments of the corridor previously known as TTC-35 and TTC-69. So by every real measure, the Trans Texas Corridor goes on full steam ahead. What [this] hype was about is a political ploy to make the public go back to sleep while it gets built under a different name. While we welcome genuine responsiveness from TxDOT and a true repeal of the Trans Texas Corridor, this hardly qualifies.”....

TURF agrees with Texas State Sen. Robert Nichols’s recent statement in the Dallas Morning News: “If it is just a name change, and nothing more, I don’t think that is going to do much to appease lawmakers,” said Nichols, R-Jacksonville.....

For more information call TURF at (210) 275-0640; EMAIL: terri@texasturf.org. The website is www.TexasTURF.org

Will Diving Dollar Force Acceptance of ‘Amero’ Currency?

Will Diving Dollar Force Acceptance of ‘Amero’ Currency?

By Victor Thorn

Go To Original

FINANCIAL EXPERTS ARE SPEAKING loud and clear. “The dollar is a doomed currency, thanks to Washington,” well-known investor Jim Rogers said on Nov. 25. Peter Schiff, president of Euro Pacific Capital and adviser for Ron Paul’s 2008 GOP primary campaign, took it one step further.

“This is just not a financial crisis. This is an economic collapse. Our entire phony economy is collapsing around us. There is nothing the government can do to stop it. They should just get out of the way and let it happen.”

David Tobin of Mission Capital Advisers agrees, stating on November 24, “The banking system is bankrupt.”

Economic problems couldn’t be more evident. Shockwaves from a burst housing bubble still linger, Detroit’s auto industry is on the verge of collapse, Wall Street investors have lost over $23 trillion in the past few months, socialist-style bailouts became the trend in 2008, while the dollar’s value is plummeting once again. As a result, William Engdahl of Global Research reported on December 15, “In November, U.S. companies cut jobs at the fastest rate in 34 years. Some $1.9 million U.S. jobs have vanished so far in 2008.”

Could this situation deteriorate to such an extent that Americans will actually beg for a new currency to replace the dollar? If globalist planners have their way, such a collapse is precisely what they’re trying to orchestrate.

On Nov. 27, Unfit for Command author Jerome Corsi wrote about billionaire investor Stephen Jarislowsky, who recently told the Canadian House of Commons, “Canada and the United States should both abandon their national dollar currencies and move to a regional North American currency as soon as possible.” Jarislowsky continued, “We have to really start thinking of the model of a continental currency. The idea would be a European Union-type setup with a North American central bank that would issue the new currency and sit over the Bank of Canada and the Federal Reserve in the United States.”

This new currency has popularly been called the “amero.” It was first officially proposed in 1999 by Canadian economist Herbert Grubel, who is a senior member of the “free-trade” oriented Fraser Institute and author of The Case for the Amero. His view on the erosion of national borders is apparent: “Sovereignty is not infinitely valuable.”

In March, 2005, the U.S. came one step closer to this reality when President Bush, Mexico’s Vicente Fox, and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin met in Waco, Tex. to announce their plans for a Security and Prosperity Partnership (SSP)—step one in the creation of a North American Union. With illegal immigration virtually unimpeded and threats of false-flag terrorism ever present, the recipe for disaster looms large.

Ben Steil, director of international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote an article in the May/June 2007 issue of Foreign Affairs entitled The End of National Currency. His primary thesis was unambiguous.

“National currencies and global markets simply do not mix. In order to globalize safely, countries should abandon monetary nationalism and abolish unwanted currencies.”

Setting the stage for such a move are two recent events of monumental importance. First, Bloomberg reported on Dec. 15 that “U.S. policy makers are flooding the world with an extra $8.5 trillion.”

John Taylor, chairman of New York’s FX Concepts Inc., observed, “The dollar will go to new lows as the U.S. attacks its currency.”

These are strong words, prompting many to warn of the second variable, Weimar-style hyperinflation, especially since the Fed is now virtually giving money away for free.

In mid-December, the Fed cut its funds rate to 0.25%, leading Michael Feroli of JP Morgan Chase to predict that the central bank will “cut the overnight lending rate to zero in January, and hold it there throughout the year.”

To make matters even more perilous, no one knows where all the money under our government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) is going. According to conservative commentator Saundra McDavid on December 22, “The Associated Press contacted 21 banks which received over $1 billion of federal bailout money, and none of them were able or willing to disclose the use of the funds.”

Or, as JP Morgan spokesman Thomas Kelly so arrogantly put it, “We’ve lent some of it. We’ve not lent some of it. We have not disclosed that to the public. We’re declining to.”

Considering our fiscal climate, could we be teetering on the edge of financial Armageddon? Robert Pastore thinks so. Known as “Father of the North American Union,” he’s spent years planning a merger between Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. Chillingly, in an October 2006 speech, he declared, “A 9-11 crisis might be just the type of catastrophe needed to overcome governmental inertia in advancing the type of economic integration necessary to form a North American community.”

He added, “In a fiscal 9-11 crisis triggered by a dollar collapse, the amero might then look reasonable.”

With economic collapse, chaos would ensue; a scenario not deemed unlikely by Igor Panarin, a professor at Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On November 24, he announced that the U.S. could potentially split into six separate regions following a financial crisis.

“The dollar isn’t secured by anything. The country’s foreign debt has grown like an avalanche. This is a pyramid which has to collapse.” He also anticipates that moves are underway to “replace the dollar with a common amero currency as a new monetary unit.”

Is this where Barack Obama enters the picture? Since his mantra for the past two years has been change, publisher Bob Chapman of The International Forecaster fits the final piece to the puzzle. “Creating the amero will be presented to the American public as the administration’s solution for dollar recovery.”

To do so, could an emergency be declared where the U.S. is reorganized under some form of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, with the entire banking industry nationalized, including the Federal Reserve?

In an Oct. 7 column, documentary filmmaker Patrick Henningsen considered the possibility. “The dollar will become basically worthless after the exchange for the Amero, and will have little international value. If you understand who owns the Fed, you will know that U.S. dollars are essentially printed by the same private institutions who print the euro. The amero is about expanding this bank’s operation out of Mexico and Canada, essentially allowing European central banks (and their U.S. Federal Reserve “franchise”) to gain complete control over the entire money supply of North America. The amero will simply bring us one step closer to a global currency; and one step closer to a global government.”

One can’t help but be reminded of Vice President Joe Biden’s words at an Oct. 19 Seattle fundraiser: “Mark my words. It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. We’re going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy. And he’s going to need help because it’s not going to be apparent initially; it’s not going to be apparent that we’re right.”

Was he referring to suspending the Constitution, then instituting the amero? Tragically, we’re only one major event away from finding out.

U.S. Economy: Retail Sales Decline for a Sixth Month

U.S. Economy: Retail Sales Decline for a Sixth Month

By Bob Willis

Go To Original

Sales at U.S. retailers fell more than twice as much as forecast in December as job losses and the lack of credit led Americans to cut back on everything from car purchases to eating out.

The 2.7 percent slump marked the sixth straight month of declines, the longest string since comparable records began in 1992, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. Labor Department data showed the global collapse in commodities caused prices of goods imported by the U.S. to fall for a fifth month.

Today’s sales figures indicate the hit to spending in the recession is even deeper than estimated, and spurred a sell-off in stocks. The loss of 2.6 million jobs and declining home and stock values are squeezing households, hurting retailers from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to Tiffany & Co., which today said its holiday sales fell 21 percent and cut its earnings forecast.

“There is a major retrenchment going on,” said Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at Maria Fiorini Ramirez Inc., a New York forecasting firm. “All that policy can do at this stage is cushion this. You can’t short-circuit it.”

Commerce also reported that inventories at all businesses in November dropped 0.7 percent, more than economists estimated and the third straight decrease. A 1.7 percent decline in stockpiles at retailers, as furniture stores and auto dealers cut back, paced the overall slump.

Stocks Slump

Treasuries rallied, sending yields on benchmark 10-year notes down to 2.20 percent at 4:26 p.m. in New York, from 2.29 percent late yesterday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Stock Index slid 3.4 percent to close at 842.62.

Retail sales were projected to fall 1.2 percent after an originally reported 1.8 percent drop the prior month, according to the median estimate of 78 economists in a Bloomberg News survey. Forecasts ranged from declines of 3.5 percent to 0.3 percent.

Purchases excluding automobiles slumped 3.1 percent, the most since records began. The decline also exceeded the median estimate of economists surveyed that projected a 1.4 percent drop.

The decline in purchases and lack of credit caused a further weakening in the economy across almost all areas of the country in the past month, the Federal Reserve said today in its regional business survey. Retailers engaged in “deep discounting” during the holidays, with “sizable” price cuts, while wage pressures were “largely contained,” the Fed report found.

Obama Plan

Today’s sales report will serve as a reminder to lawmakers of the urgency to enact President-elect Barack Obama’s stimulus proposals to combat the recession.

Obama, who takes office Jan. 20, is proposing a two-year recovery plan that includes about $300 billion in tax cuts for individuals and businesses and infrastructure spending aimed at creating or saving 4 million jobs.

“It’s not too late to change course -- but only if we take immediate and dramatic action,” Obama said in his weekly radio address on Jan. 10.

Labor Department figures showed the import-price index decreased 4.2 percent, less than economists forecast, after a revised 7 percent drop in November. Prices from a year earlier were down 9.3 percent, the largest year-over-year decline since the index was first published in 1982. Prices excluding fuels dropped 1.1 percent last month.

“This is a reflection of the synchronicity of a slowdown in demand worldwide,” said Jonathan Basile, an economist at Credit Suisse Holdings USA Inc. in New York.

First Drop

Retail sales fell 0.1 percent for all of 2008 compared with the prior year, the first decrease in the Commerce Department’s records. Comparable data only go back to 1992 because government economists reformulated their retail-sales figures earlier this decade, and didn’t revise historical records beyond that year.

November’s decline was revised to 2.1 percent from a previously estimated fall of 1.8 percent.

Today’s report showed declines in 11 of the 13 major categories tracked by the government, led by a 16 percent plunge at gasoline service stations that partly reflected the slump in fuel costs. The drop at grocery stores was the biggest since April 2002 and the decrease at restaurants was the largest since the terrorist attacks in September 2001.

Only health and beauty stores and a miscellaneous category saw increases last month.

Auto Slump

Purchases of expensive goods are falling as banks restrict access to credit. Auto sales fell 36 percent in December from the same month last year, capping the industry’s worst year since 1992.

Same-store sales dropped 2.2 percent in the last two months of 2008, making it the worst holiday shopping season in almost four decades of record keeping, the International Council of Shopping Centers said last week.

The first half of this year will also be “extraordinarily challenging,” Wal-Mart Chief Executive Officer H. Lee Scott told a retailers’ convention this week in New York City. “Some people are giving up eating out; some people are giving up movies; some people are giving up other things like shopping,” Scott said. “Those are fundamental changes that will continue.”

Knoxville, Tennessee-based Goody’s LLC, operator of a 282- store U.S. clothing chain, and Fresno, California-based Gottschalks Inc., owner of department stores in six western states, sought bankruptcy protection after sales slumped.

‘No Other Recourse’

“Persistent challenges in the economy and recent unexpected reductions to our borrowing capacity as a result of tightening credit markets have left us with no other recourse,” Jim Famalette, Gottschalks’ chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Americans are scrimping as unemployment last month rose to 7.2 percent, the highest level in almost 16 years. Job losses are likely to continue for most of this year, economists said.

The plunge at filling stations in part reflected a 43 cent- per-gallon drop in the average cost of gasoline last month. Excluding gas, retail sales fell 1.4 percent.

The U.S. economy shrank at a 0.5 percent annual pace from July through September as Americans reduced purchases at a 3.8 percent annual rate, the first decline in consumer spending since 1991 and the biggest in 28 years, the government said last month.

The economic slump probably worsened in the fourth quarter as declines in business investment and construction intensified and consumers continued to pull back.

Excluding autos, gasoline and building materials, the retail group the government uses to calculate gross domestic product figures for consumer spending, sales dropped 1.4 percent, after a 0.1 percent increase in the prior month. The government uses data from other sources to calculate the contribution from the three categories excluded.

Bank of America to Get Billions More From Treasury

Bank of America to Get Billions More From Treasury

Go To Original

The Treasury Department plans to invest billions of dollars in Bank of America to help the company absorb troubled investment bank Merrill Lynch, according to two people familiar with the matter, The Post's Binyamin Appelbaum reports.

The new investment, which is expected to be announced next week, is in addition to $25 billion the government already has invested in Bank of America, including $10 billion specifically in connection with the Merrill Lynch deal.

Losses at Merrill Lynch have outpaced expectations since the deal was announced in September. Bank of America had enough capital to support its own operations, but not enough to absorb Merrill Lynch's losses, the sources said.

The banks closed the deal on Jan. 1 after Treasury committed to making the new investment.

Bank of America and Treasury declined to comment.

We're still not doing right by our vets

We're still not doing right by our vets

By Peter Erlinder

Go To Original

The two sides of our nation’s "schizophrenic" approach to recognizing the special needs of military veterans were on display in stories last week in the Star Tribune.

The paper reported on the special courts being established in a number of states for veterans who find themselves charged with crimes before realizing the full extent of the treatment and support they need when returning from war. These courts provide support services, counseling and diversion from the punishment-based criminal prosecution system in recognition of the natural and predictable consequences of combat, which have been present in every war from Revolutionary to Iraq. From debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to substance abuse to feelings of alienation and disconnection that make reintegration difficult, many young men, trained as warriors, naturally find it difficult to admit that they need help.

These courts are a huge step forward from 1981, when PTSD first appeared in diagnostic literature and when otherwise law-abiding Vietnam veterans found themselves charged with serious crimes that actually resulted from their military service. It was the study of PTSD among these veterans that led to the understanding that the disorder can be a consequence of other sorts of trauma, too, such as rape, child abuse and other man-made and natural catastrophes.

On the other hand, almost the same day that we learned about these much-needed and forward-thinking "veteran’s courts," the Pentagon announced that it would not award Purple Hearts to veterans who suffer from PTSD as a consequence of military service. According to the Pentagon announcement, PTSD injuries do not qualify because "the condition had not been intentionally caused by enemy action … and because it remained difficult to diagnose and quantify." The Pentagon seems to have decided that physical injuries, whether debilitating or not, are more worthy of recognition than psychological wounds that can destroy lives and families.

The military "warrior culture" makes it hard enough to admit or seek treatment. The failure to recognize predictable, life-threatening psychological wounds resulting from service will only make it more difficult for veterans and their families to seek the services they need.

In the early 1980s, many of us thought the growing understanding that psychological damage would always result from war and that these enormous personal costs were usually borne by veterans and their families would eventually provide another measure to decide whether going to war was worth it. And that, if there ever were a full acknowledgement of the problem, that decision would be much more difficult indeed.

Minnesota’s late Sen. Paul Wellstone campaigned tirelessly to end discriminatory treatment of mental illness, with notable success. He was also a strong advocate for the rights of veterans to proper treatment and the best benefits our society can offer. One can only wonder what Wellstone would say about our society’s continuing "schizophrenia" regarding the consequences of wars.

Struggling states cut healthcare for poor

Struggling states cut healthcare for poor

Go To Original

The unprecedented reductions come as millions are losing their jobs and insurance. They are so steep that the federal rescue package may not be able to revive them.By Noam N. Levey

January 14, 2009

Reporting from Washington — Even as President-elect Barack Obama plans an ambitious push to expand health coverage nationwide, states are slashing health services to their poorest residents amid the economic downturn.

The unprecedented cuts in public assistance come as millions of Americans are losing their jobs and health insurance.

In many cases, the cuts are so deep that even the massive federal rescue package being assembled on Capitol Hill may not be enough to restore services being eliminated in the burgeoning crisis, health officials warn.

And the faltering economy has all but killed trailblazing state campaigns to expand coverage for the working poor -- once seen as hopeful signs for national healthcare reform.

Illinois' senior citizens are facing the traumatic prospect of being moved from nursing homes teetering on the edge of bankruptcy as the homes wait for months to be paid by the floundering state government.

South Carolina has cut treatment for low-income women under 40 with breast or cervical cancer and stopped providing nutritional supplements for people with kidney failure.

In southern Nevada, cancer patients without health coverage no longer have a place to get chemotherapy after the state's largest public hospital stopped providing outpatient oncology services.

"This is exactly the time when we should be beefing up services," said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a leading consumer advocacy group. "Instead, we are unraveling the safety net to the point where it may not be possible to stitch it back together again."

The Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives began offering some help today, approving a measure to extend federally funded heath insurance to 4 million more children.

The legislation, which is expected to be signed into law by Obama, would commit about $33 billion over the next 4½ years to the popular State Children's Health Insurance Program.

The 12-year-old program now covers about 7 million children from families just above the poverty line that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are also at work on a stimulus package that could include as much as $100 billion to bail out Medicaid, the primary federally funded health program for the poor administered by the states.

That aid package is expected to require states to maintain some of the medical services currently on the chopping block, though it may come too late to reverse many cuts already made.

Lawmakers plan additional assistance to help Americans keep their health insurance if they lose their jobs.

But even some congressional leaders concede the help will be insufficient. "Let's be honest," said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), a close Obama ally. "We won't be able to save every soul here."

At least 44 states are facing budget shortfalls over the next two years totaling more than $350 billion, according to a recent survey by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal Washington-based think tank.

In the last recession -- which was mild compared with what many economists say is happening now -- more than 1 million people lost health coverage as 34 states cut eligibility for public health programs, the center found.

Unable to run deficits like the federal government, states have been scrambling for months to cut aid to schools, universities and, increasingly, residents who rely on the state for medical care.

Nationwide, roughly 60 million low-income people -- half of them children -- use the Medicaid program to get some form of healthcare, including basic physician services, prescription drugs, X-rays, dental care and even hospice care.

Some of those services are now in jeopardy.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is wrestling with about $40 billion in shortfalls a year after his plan for universal healthcare coverage collapsed, has proposed ending free medical care or cutting services for millions of Californians, some in families making as little as $14,000 a year.

Policymakers also are considering cuts in grants to low-income elderly, blind and disabled Californians, many of whom rely on the checks to pay for home-based services so they can avoid institutionalization.

Florida is poised to cut its home services for poor senior citizens, such as bathing and meal preparation, as nearly 19,000 seniors in the state are on a waiting list to get the care rather than be sent to nursing homes.

Utah lawmakers are looking at cutting public health programs and eliminating coverage for about 20,000 low-income people who rely on the state-funded Utah Primary Care Network.

"The scale of this is unprecedented," said AARP Vice President Elaine Ryan, who has spent nearly three decades working on health policy at the state and federal level. "I really have never seen anything like this."

Some states have tried to avoid cuts in services by delaying or reducing payments to doctors and other medical providers who treat low-income patients.

This is taking a toll, however, as a growing number of providers stop treating those with state-funded insurance.

Nevada's largest county closed its outpatient oncology clinic last year, citing decreases in Medicaid funding for treating low-income cancer patients.

Now, advocates in Las Vegas are having to counsel patients to look at getting care by moving to other states where they have relatives.

"We're essentially creating medical refugees," said Stacey Gross, community programs manager at Susan G. Komen for the Cure of Southern Nevada.

Melvin Siegel, who operates five nursing homes serving some 400 seniors around Springfield, Ill., said he is close to closing because of slow payments from the state.

Nursing homes, which rely heavily on Medicaid, often don't have the option of rejecting patients on public assistance.

"There is no place to go," said Siegel, 79, who said he has borrowed against his home, life insurance and retirement savings to keep in business. "If this falls apart, I'll be penniless. . . . It's never been this bad."

Judge Orders Search of Bush Administration E-Mails

Missing White House E-Mails Traced, Justice Aide Says

By R. Jeffrey Smith

Go To Original

A Justice Department lawyer told a federal judge yesterday that the Bush administration will meet its legal requirement to transfer e-mails to the National Archives after spending more than $10 million to locate 14 million e-mails reported missing four years ago from White House computer files.

Civil division trial lawyer Helen H. Hong made the disclosure at a court hearing provoked by a 2007 lawsuit filed by outside groups to ensure that politically significant records created by the White House are not destroyed or removed before President Bush leaves office at noon on Tuesday. She said the department plans to argue in a court filing this week that the administration's successful recent search renders the lawsuit moot.

Hong's statement came hours after U.S. District Court Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. ordered employees of the president's executive office -- with just days to go before their departure -- to undertake a comprehensive search of computer workstations, preserve portable hard drives and examine any e-mail archives created or retained from 2003 to 2005, the period in which e-mails appeared to be missing.

Hong said private contractors had helped find the e-mails by searching through an estimated 60,000 tapes that contain daily recordings of the entire contents of the White House computers as a precaution against an electronic disaster.

Her remarks prompted Anne Weisman, the counsel for one of two plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), to say, "I'll believe it when I see it." Weisman said she hoped the administration's efforts to recover the e-mails can be verified by an independent expert, noting that officials have repeatedly declined to detail the procedures they used. She also said questions persist about whether backup tapes still existed for all of the days for which e-mails were reported missing.

Meredith Fuchs, counsel for the other plaintiff, a historical group known as the National Security Archive, said the Justice Department's statement was "striking" because the admission that 14 million e-mails had to be recovered showed "the level of mismanagement at the White House" of its historically significant records. She said, "For the past year and a half, they said, 'Don't worry, don't worry, leave us alone.' Now they say, at the last minute, they have solved it. I want to see the evidence."

Kennedy's order was the latest in a series of rulings about the fate of Bush administration records that have been unfavorable to the White House. Bush aides had long contended that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue, and they had resisted a court order requiring that White House preserve the backup tapes that were used to recover the e-mails; the courts rejected both positions.

Last week, a different judge overrode White House objections and ordered the administration to search for information that CREW is seeking on White House visitors during the Bush tenure. Another judge turned aside White House objections to handing copies to aides of President-elect Barack Obama of documents related to the controversial firings of U.S. prosecutors in 2006, which Congress has demanded to see. Still to be decided, possibly in coming days, is a lawsuit by CREW demanding the preservation of vice presidential records that aides to Dick Cheney have said he alone can decide to withhold or discard.

The dispute over recovery of the missing e-mails was provoked by the disclosure four years ago that the White House, in switching to a new internal e-mail system shortly after Bush's election, had abandoned an automatic archiving system meant to preserve all messages containing official business. Under the new system, any of the 3,000 or so regular White House employees could access e-mail storage files, enabling them to delete messages.

An internal White House report noted in 2005 that e-mails from specific periods appeared to be missing, including key moments related to the invasion of Iraq and to a federal probe of the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson's classified employment with the CIA. White House officials called that study flawed after congressional investigators released it.

Once the e-mails are transferred to the National Archives, federal law allows them to be requested under the Freedom of Information Act after a five-year interval.

From Mississippi to Gaza Killing Children With Impunity

From Mississippi to Gaza Killing Children With Impunity

By Henry A. Giroux

Go To Original

The unsettling and deeply disturbing images of children in Gaza mutilated, bleeding, and dead evoke similar images from our collective memory. One such image is that of Emmett Till, whose body arrived home in Chicago in September 1955. White racists in Mississippi had tortured, mutilated, and killed the young 14-year-old African-American boy for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Determined to make visible the horribly mangled face and twisted body of the child as an expression of racial hatred and killing, Mamie Till, the boy's mother, insisted that the coffin, interred at the A.A. Ranier Funeral Parlor on the South Side of Chicago, be left open for four long days. While mainstream news organizations ignored the horrifying image, Jet magazinepublished an unedited photo of Till's face taken while he lay in his coffin. Shaila Dewan points out that "[m]utilated is the word most often used to describe the face of Emmett Till after his body was hauled out of the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi. Inhuman is more like it: melted, bloated, missing an eye, swollen so large that its patch of wiry hair looks like that of a balding old man, not a handsome, brazen 14-year-old boy."

Till had been castrated and shot in the head; his tongue had been cut out; and a blow from an ax had practically severed his nose from his face—all of this done to a teenage boy who came to bear the burden of the inheritance of slavery and the inhuman pathology that drives its racist imaginary. The photos not only made visible the violent effects of the racial state; they also fuelled massive public anger, especially among blacks, and helped to launch the Civil Rights Movement.

From the beginning of the early Civil Rights Movement to the war in Vietnam and more recently the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, images of human suffering and violence provided the grounds for a charged political indignation and collective sense of moral outrage inflamed by the horrors of poverty, militarism, war, and racism—eventually mobilizing widespread opposition to these antidemocratic forces.

Fifty years after the body of Emmett Till was plucked out of the mud-filled waters of the Tallahatchie River, another set of troubling visual representations emerged that both shocked and shamed the nation. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, grotesque images of bloated corpses floating in the rotting waters that flooded the streets of New Orleans circulated throughout the mainstream media. Dead people, mostly poor African-Americans, left uncollected in the streets, on porches, in hospitals, nursing homes, electric wheelchairs, and collapsed houses prompted some people to claim that America had become like a "Third World country" while others argued that New Orleans resembled a "Third World Refugee Camp."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) tried to do damage control by forbidding journalists to "accompany rescue boats as they went out to search for storm victims." As a bureau spokeswoman told Reuters News Agency, "We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media."

But questions about responsibility and answerability would not go away. Even the dominant media, CNN included, for a short time rose to the occasion of posing tough questions about accountability to those in power in light of such egregious acts of incompetence and indifference. The images of dead bodies kept appearing in New Orleans. For many, the bodies of the poor, black, brown, elderly, and sick came to signify what the battered body of Emmett Till once unavoidably revealed, and America was forced to confront these disturbing images and the damning questions behind the images. The Hurricane Katrina disaster, like the Emmett Till affair, revealed a vulnerable and destitute segment of the nation's citizenry that conservatives not only refused to see but had spent the better part of two decades demonizing. But like the incessant beating of Poe's tell-tale heart, cadavers have a way of insinuating themselves on consciousness, demanding answers to questions that aren't often asked.

In light of this legacy of collective indignation to horrible images of human suffering, why is it that shocking representations of devastation, suffering, and the killing of hundreds of children in Gaza have elicited so little outrage among the mainstream media and intellectuals in the United States? In the international media stories abound of children being killed as part of the military imperative—supported by weapons from the United States—to stop Hamas from firing rockets into Israel, indeed a terrible act but one that has resulted in very few deaths. Jimmy Carter and others rightly argue that Hamas's launching of rockets from Gaza is an act of terrorism. But terrorism is most destructive when it makes its own politics and use of power invisible—that is, when it disguises itself as its opposite, as a legitimate act of violence.

Even when terrorist acts become visible, should all acts of terrorism be treated equally, regardless of the scope and degree of military operations and human suffering they cause among civilians, and especially children? Certainly not for the Israeli government, which portrays itself as a victim and refuses to end the slaughter of civilians and children on the grounds that its military operations have not yet been successful enough. In this discourse, children no longer serve as an ethical referent against acts of barbarism, they simply become collateral damage, while a ghastly and inhumane act is justified under the pretense of historical necessity and “surgical strikes”—a language that reveals more about a political state that uses such euphemisms than the repugnant strategies it denotes.

Is any military strategy justified when it results in the killing of over 300 defenseless children? And what does it mean when the issue of military disproportionality is simply treated by the media as an obvious fact and not understood as part of the equation used to define state terrorism, particularly when the most sophisticated military weapons are used unchallenged against densely crowded civilian populations that have no comparable military technology? Why are the shocking images of Emmet Till or the bloated bodies of Katrina victims any more moving or a cause for outrage and collective action among Americans than the image of a two year-old child hit by an Israeli shell while running for safety? One such image was described by an aid worker in the following terms: "It was like charcoal. ... Also without any limbs, because some of the animals ate some of his limbs." Is it conceivable that Palestinians are now viewed as a population so disposable and without any redeeming value that even images of Palestinian children being blown apart by rockets and gunfire no longer elicit a need for moral outrage and rigorous political criticism?

What is it that connects the death of Emmett Till, the abandonment of largely poor African-Americans in New Orleans, and the deaths of innocent children in Gaza? All three are tied together by the racialized logic of disappearance and disposability implemented under the practices of a modern state. All three reference, as David Theo Goldberg points out in his newest book, The Threat of Race, populations marked as targets to be dispensed with, "heel on face eating dust when they have anything to eat at all ... deserted, reduced to philistinism, untrusted because untrustworthy. And once deserted, having nowhere to turn, no one to appeal to but a few folks of conscience, they are fair game."

All three embody the ideology of a racial state in which it is assumed that in the absence of African-Americans and Palestinians, including children, there would be no police violence, threats, insecurity, checkpoints, blockades, economic problems, immigrants—just a racially cleansed society no longer at war with itself and others. What unites all three events is the shame of racist violence and the practices of state terrorism, hardly a legitimizing foundation, normative or political, for the repulsive images and deadly actions of the type we see in Gaza promoted by Israel in the name of democracy.

Children provide a powerful referent for social criticism and collective change because their suffering and hardships offer the promise of both a public hearing and a potent social category by which to connect a range of issues and problems that are too often addressed in isolation as a subtle effect of identifying grievances without inquiring into their social and political roots. More than any other group, they provide a credible referent for opening up the possibility for progressive individuals and movements to create new ethical discourses and modes of advocacy within the wider struggle for democracy. Children invoke compassion and understanding, which are crucial to shaping the civic imagination. A critical analysis of the plight and killing of children in Gaza is important because it foregrounds the relationship between acts of military power and aggression and the lived realities of massive suffering and death shaped by an expansionist state. Moreover, it reminds us once again that the plight of children must play a central role in reclaiming those democratic values, practices, and relations that would make such treatment of children indefensible regardless of the appeals to justice, defense, and democracy made by those for whom a child's death can be legitimated as one unfortunate element in waging a successful military strategy.

Of course, there is more at work here than the horror and immediacy of children being killed senselessly, there is a suppressed history, dangerous memories of entire populations being displaced after the 1967 war, and how unchecked state power can commit the most ruthless deeds in the name of fighting terrorism and spreading democracy. But there is more. There is also the issue of what a country becomes when it loses its ability to question power, views military values as the highest ideals, ignores international law, and becomes indifferent to the suffering of the most innocent and defenseless. Hannah Arendt once argued that when the public realm loses its power of illumination, one result is that more and more people retreat Afrom the world and their obligations within it.

Surely, in this instance, we are seeing more than a retreat: we are witnessing a crime against humanity for which indifference and silence makes one deeply complicit with the killing and disappearance of young children. Gaza reminds us that the "dark times" that haunted Arendt's generation can now be seen in the images of wounded and dead children and should serve as a desperate reminder of what it means when politics, social responsibility, and justice, as the lifeblood of democracy, become cold and indifferent in the face of death.

Henry A. Giroux holds the Global TV Network chair in English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Canada. His most recent books include: "Take Back Higher Education" (co-authored with Susan Searls Giroux, 2006), "The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex" (2007) and "Against the Terror of Neoliberalism: Politics Beyond the Age of Greed" (2008). His newest book, "Youth in a Suspect Society: Democracy or Disposability?" will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2009.

Sources.

Rosa Brooks, Our Homegrown Third World,” Los Angeles Times (September 07, 2005), pp. 1–2.
Terry M. Neal, “Hiding Bodies Won’t Hide the Truth,” Washington Post (September 8, 2005).
Cited in Ahmed Abu Hamda and Dion Nissenbaum, “UN Wants to Know if war Crimes were Commited in Gaza.Truthout (January 1, 2009).
David Theo Goldberg, The Threat of Race (Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, p. 119.
Hannah Arendt, Men in Dark Times (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1955), p. 4.