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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 06/01/2008 - 06/08/2008
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Saturday, June 07, 2008

Door-to-door in 48 hours

well, not quite... from the time i woke up at the project compound in kabul at 5 a.m. on friday, finished packing, and headed to the airport, until i walked in the door here at my son's in northern nevada this afternoon, bags in hand, comes to about 47 hours... but, add in time to do enough unpacking to uncover the top of the bed so i can crash later, shoveling four months of mail into two stacks (read later and toss), eating dinner, and displaying some of my treasures for the family, i am now at the 50-hour mark, the first time i feel like i've actually stopped moving since friday morning... here's hoping i don't wake up at some ungodly hour due to the 11 1/2 hour time difference... thank goodness i managed to sleep a fair bit of the 14-hour flight from dubai to new york...

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Friday, June 06, 2008

Add this story to the three in the previous post - somethin's goin' on, I tell ya...

so, here we have a big bank on the brink of failure...
National City Corp, a large U.S. Midwest regional bank, has entered into a memorandum of understanding with federal regulators, effectively putting the bank on probation, the Wall Street Journal said on Friday, without saying where it got the information.

Terms of the confidential agreement with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency are not known, the newspaper said. The agreement was entered into over the past month or so, the newspaper said.

Neither Cleveland-based National City nor the OCC immediately returned calls seeking comment.

The agreement reflects the growing regulatory pressure that financial institutions face, as they struggle with the fallout from the credit market turmoil.

Memoranda of understanding allow banks to work with federal regulators to address financial problems, without necessarily triggering alarm among depositors. Regulators have been pushing lenders to raise more capital and cut lending risk.

Banking experts estimate that a handful of medium-sized banks have recently entered memoranda of understanding, the newspaper said.

but, wait just a cotton-pickin' minute...

national city has been on the brink of failure for ALMOST A MONTH and they've been COVERING IT UP...!?!?!

and that ain't all...

there's ALSO "a handful of medium-sized banks" poised on the brink of default...?!?!?!?

somethin' big is goin' on... i can smell it...

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What's going on here?

i'm not sure i believe any of these official stories... somethin's up... each one of these is big news all by itself but, in every one, the story is either being underplayed or the explanation seems fishy - or both...

why is gates firing top generals...? yeah, i know what it SAYS, but there's more to this than meets the eye...

Gates ousts Air Force leaders in historic shake-up

Defense Secretary Robert Gates ousted the Air Force's top military and civilian leaders Thursday, holding them to account in a historic Pentagon shake-up after embarrassing nuclear mix-ups.

Gates announced at a news conference that he had accepted the resignations of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne — a highly unusual double firing.

Gates said his decision was based mainly on the damning conclusions of an internal report on the mistaken shipment to Taiwan of four Air Force electrical fuses for ballistic missile warheads. And he linked the underlying causes of that slip-up to another startling incident: the flight last August of a B-52 bomber that was mistakenly armed with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.

this next one is equally explosive and, natch, hasn't even been covered in u.s. news media...
US issues threat to Iraq's $50bn foreign reserves in military deal

The US is holding hostage some $50bn (£25bn) of Iraq's money in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to pressure the Iraqi government into signing an agreement seen by many Iraqis as prolonging the US occupation indefinitely, according to information leaked to The Independent.

US negotiators are using the existence of $20bn in outstanding court judgments against Iraq in the US, to pressure their Iraqi counterparts into accepting the terms of the military deal, details of which were reported for the first time in this newspaper yesterday.

Iraq's foreign reserves are currently protected by a presidential order giving them immunity from judicial attachment but the US side in the talks has suggested that if the UN mandate, under which the money is held, lapses and is not replaced by the new agreement, then Iraq's funds would lose this immunity. The cost to Iraq of this happening would be the immediate loss of $20bn. The US is able to threaten Iraq with the loss of 40 per cent of its foreign exchange reserves because Iraq's independence is still limited by the legacy of UN sanctions and restrictions imposed on Iraq since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in the 1990s. This means that Iraq is still considered a threat to international security and stability under Chapter Seven of the UN charter. The US negotiators say the price of Iraq escaping Chapter Seven is to sign up to a new "strategic alliance" with the United States.

The threat by the American side underlines the personal commitment of President George Bush to pushing the new pact through by 31 July. Although it is in reality a treaty between Iraq and the US, Mr Bush is describing it as an alliance so he does not have to submit it for approval to the US Senate.

Iraqi critics of the agreement say that it means Iraq will be a client state in which the US will keep more than 50 military bases. American forces will be able to carry out arrests of Iraqi citizens and conduct military campaigns without consultation with the Iraqi government. American soldiers and contractors will enjoy legal immunity.

The US had previously denied it wanted permanent bases in Iraq, but American negotiators argue that so long as there is an Iraqi perimeter fence, even if it is manned by only one Iraqi soldier, around a US installation, then Iraq and not the US is in charge.

The US has security agreements with many countries, but none are occupied by 151,000 US soldiers as is Iraq. The US is not even willing to tell the government in Baghdad what American forces are entering or leaving Iraq, apparently because it fears the government will inform the Iranians, said an Iraqi source.

then, there's this last one which only serves to tell me that the financial/economic collapse that seemed imminent only a couple of months ago hasn't gone away...
Banks fear new $5,000bn balance burden

Accounting changes could force US banks to take thousands of billions of dollars back on to their balance sheets in the coming months in a move that is likely to curb further their lending and could push them into new capital raisings, analysts have warned.

Analysts at Citigroup said a planned tightening of the rules regarding off-balance sheet vehicles would force banks to reconsider arrangements and could result in up to $5,000bn of assets coming back on to the books.

The off-balance sheet vehicles have been used by financial institutions to keep some assets off their balance sheets, thereby avoiding the need to hold regulatory capital against them.

i was hoping the article would give me some more information about these "accounting changes" other than broad general strokes... ('course, if it had, i probably wouldn't have understood it anyway...)

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Lo-o-o-ong trip comin' up [UPDATE: Progress Report]

friday 9 a.m.

kabul - dubai, 2 1/2 hrs

friday, noon - saturday, 2 a.m.

dubai airport, 14 hrs

saturday, 2 a.m.

dubai - new york, 13 1/2 hrs

saturday, 9 a.m.

new york - northern nevada, 8 hrs

saturday, 4 p.m.

dead on my butt

[UPDATE: Progress Report]

ok... i'm in dubai international airport where i arrived a few hours ago and am now riding along on their free wifi... it's 1:15 p.m. on friday here, and my flight to the u.s. doesn't leave until 2 a.m. saturday morning... < twiddles thumbs, looks around, watches muslim mom in black burka chase her toddler across the concourse for the umpteenth time > ah, well... i knew it was going to be a LONG, LONG day...

as a sidenote, lemme tell ya what it's like flying out of the kabul airport (which i did for the first time this morning)...

short version: it sucks...

long version: first thing off the bat, before you even get to the parking lot, you have to stop at this dusty little shack on this dusty little detour, where you and everybody else line up outside, waiting to have some afghan soldiers open up your bags and do a physical inspection in front of the big x-ray scanner that's sitting there unused because there's no electricity to run it... from there, you load everything back in the car, drive to the parking lot, park, walk across the lot to a waiting hall where, for some reason, everybody's waiting even though you don't have to... once you figure out you don't have to wait and get back on your way, you find that it's still almost a three block walk across more parking lot to the terminal proper...

at the front door of the terminal, they do ANOTHER physical bag inspection, and, then, GLORY HALLELUJAH, you get to go INSIDE the terminal, where you're met by an x-ray inspection for bags and an x-ray passenger walk through... well, gosh and golly, sports fans, you're NOW ready to CHECK IN for your flight... after they give you your boarding pass and pick your pocket for an excess baggage fee at check-in, there's - you guessed it - ANOTHER x-ray bag inspection and x-ray passenger walk-through... then, by gosh, you get to go upstairs to passport control where you get your exit visa... whew...! after all that, you're FINALLY in the boarding lounge...

the good news in all this...? the flight left on time... son-of-a-gun... btw, did i mention the four pat-downs...?

p.s. on the drive to the airport, i got to witness one of those once-in-a-lifetime, only-in-a-place-like-afghanistan scenes... we were exiting a traffic circle, trying to get around a truck that was barely moving... we were just to the right rear of the truck and, from the passenger seat, i could see that the truck's passenger side door was open... as we pulled around it to the right, we could see an afghan policemen standing on the truck's running board, scuffling with someone sitting in the passenger seat... my afghan driver rolled his eyes and ruefully explained to me that the cop was, quite literally, shaking down the two men in the truck for money... the passenger was trying to push the cop off the truck but the policeman was holding on tight... it looked like they were engaging in the kind of slap fight kids get into... it would have been funny if it hadn't been so pathetic...

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Bush wants 50 military bases, control of Iraqi airspace and legal immunity for all American soldiers and contractors

the ugly scoop on the agreement being negotiated between the u.s. and iraq...
Revealed: Secret plan to keep Iraq under US control

A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the US presidential election in November.

The terms of the impending deal, details of which have been leaked to The Independent, are likely to have an explosive political effect in Iraq. Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise Iraq's position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country.

But the accord also threatens to provoke a political crisis in the US. President Bush wants to push it through by the end of next month so he can declare a military victory and claim his 2003 invasion has been vindicated. But by perpetuating the US presence in Iraq, the long-term settlement would undercut pledges by the Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama, to withdraw US troops if he is elected president in November.

The timing of the agreement would also boost the Republican candidate, John McCain, who has claimed the United States is on the verge of victory in Iraq – a victory that he says Mr Obama would throw away by a premature military withdrawal.

America currently has 151,000 troops in Iraq and, even after projected withdrawals next month, troop levels will stand at more than 142,000 – 10 000 more than when the military "surge" began in January 2007. Under the terms of the new treaty, the Americans would retain the long-term use of more than 50 bases in Iraq. American negotiators are also demanding immunity from Iraqi law for US troops and contractors, and a free hand to carry out arrests and conduct military activities in Iraq without consulting the Baghdad government.

The precise nature of the American demands has been kept secret until now. The leaks are certain to generate an angry backlash in Iraq. "It is a terrible breach of our sovereignty," said one Iraqi politician, adding that if the security deal was signed it would delegitimise the government in Baghdad which will be seen as an American pawn.

The US has repeatedly denied it wants permanent bases in Iraq but one Iraqi source said: "This is just a tactical subterfuge." Washington also wants control of Iraqi airspace below 29,000ft and the right to pursue its "war on terror" in Iraq, giving it the authority to arrest anybody it wants and to launch military campaigns without consultation.

i posted this video clip last week of an al jazeera interview with david satterfield, a senior iraq advisor at the u.s. state department, categorically denying any u.s. intent to have permanent bases in iraq...

they're liars, every last one of 'em...

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Ding-dong, the witch is dead... And, of course, McSame wants to poach her disgruntled supporters...

friggin' FINALLY...!
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will endorse Senator Barack Obama on Saturday, bringing a close to her 17-month campaign for the White House, aides said. Her decision came after Democrats urged her on Wednesday to leave the race and allow the party to coalesce around Mr. Obama.

Howard Wolfson, one of Mrs. Clinton’s chief strategists, and other aides said she would express support for Mr. Obama and party unity at an event in Washington that day. One adviser said that Mrs. Clinton would concede defeat, congratulate Mr. Obama and proclaim him the party’s nominee, while pledging to do what was needed to assure his victory.

a few powerful folks must have had a "come to jesus" chat with her behind closed doors... they probably also insisted that she leave her broom outside... (sorry, i'm not feeling terribly "gracious"...)

cue the poacher...

Memo to disappointed women supporters of Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton: Republican John McCain wants your vote.

McCain, the senator from Arizona who has wrapped up his party's White House nomination, moved on Wednesday to woo women and other Clinton backers whose disappointment over her defeat by Illinois Sen. Barack Obama could cause them to switch teams.

"I would welcome any of Senator Clinton's supporters' vote," McCain told reporters in Louisiana, adding he would seek backing from people across the political spectrum.

"I think there's a lot of Senator Clinton's supporters who will support me because of their belief that Senator Obama does not have the experience or the knowledge or the judgment to address this nation's national security challenges," McCain said.

i suppose if someone was misguided enough to support hillary, they're probably also misguided enough to support mccain... establishment look-alikes, dontcha know... i'm just hoping that, beneath all that inspiring rhetoric, obama isn't one of 'em...

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In the Bush administration, what are ya gonna do when somebody tells the truth...? Swiftboat 'em, of course...!

from tpmtv's veracifier...
Scott McClellan's surprisingly critical memoir of his time as White House Press Secretary put the White House in full-on damage control mode. McClellan's book may have been off-message, but the White House and its surrogates were conspicuously "on" in their response.

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Obama's acceptance speech (btw, Hillary, you can go home now)...

the next president of the united states...

last night...

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Obama and Web 2.0 - up until now "American politics had been dominated by rich old cranky white people"

juan cole...
I think it is more significant that Obama is the first major party candidate for president who got where he is through the current iteration of the World Wide Web, which includes the blogging world, distributed information networks, social networking, and video sites such as YouTube (i.e. Web 2.0). That is, the Iowa breakthrough was iconic of Obama's success, because youth, progressivism, metro-racialism and independent politics are all tightly interwoven with Web 2.0.

Ironically, Bill Clinton's campaign in 1992 was the first to use email extensively to shape the news cycle and contact supporters, but Hillary Clinton's people did not seem as good (or maybe as interested) in being on the vanguard of communications technology.

Among the more important capabilities bestowed by the Web 2.0 has been a new model of grassroots fundraising. American politics had been dominated by rich old cranky white people, because they had the money and they voted. They gave us all those Republican administrations and they shaped the Clinton administration as essentially neo-Eisenhowerism. Obama really does have an opportunity to accomplish some new things in American politics, and to avoid slavish adherence to Lobby politics, precisely because he has a different economic base. People younger than 65, and people for whom certain racial categories are not the most important thing in the world, might finally have a voice. In the past, the promise of the youth vote has always faltered when it comes to the November elections. If people in their 20s, 30s and 40s really want change (and with Iraq, the economy, etc., why would they not?) they have to go on organizing, canvassing, giving and above all voting. It is in your hands, O Generation of Web 2.0.

interesting thoughts... no argument here...

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And here ya have it - it's Obama

it's about goddam time... now, can we please get on with the very serious business of kicking mccain's flabby, white, geriatric* ass...?
Posted at 10:07 PM ET, 06/ 3/2008

Obama Secures Nomination, According to Network Projections

By Chris Cillizza

Sen. Barack Obama has effectively secured the Democratic nomination for president, according to several television networks and the Associated Press -- an historic achievement that for the first time will place an African American at the top of a major political party's ticket.

Obama's apparent nomination victory came even as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton scored a come-from-behind victory in South Dakota, a state where Obama was expected to win relatively easily a few weeks ago. South Dakota and Montana, which allocate a total of 31 delegates, brought the 2008 Democratic primary process to a close after five months of voting.

The victory in South Dakota, while gratifying for Clinton, makes no difference as Obama has already crested the magic number of delegates needed to claim the party's nomination.

* yeah, ok... full disclosure... at 60, i'm arguably a senior citizen myself, and i've got nothin' against a geezer running for prez... when i say something like the above, i'm just sayin' it for effect... lord only knows, given my asset-free existence, i'm pro'ly going to be working my flabby, white, geriatric ass off until i fall out of the saddle... believe me, my beef with mccain has zero to do with his age...

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Chris Hedges - America's Democratic Collapse

this is a violation of "fair use," but what chris hedges has to say here deserves the full treatment...

from truthdig via alternet...


America's Democratic Collapse

By Chris Hedges, Truthdig
Posted on June 3, 2008, Printed on June 3, 2008
Note: Chris Hedges gave this keynote address on Wednesday, May 28, in Furman University's Younts Conference Center. The address was part of protests by faculty and students over the South Carolina college's decision to invite George W. Bush to give the May 31 commencement address.

When it was announced in May that Bush would deliver the commencement address, 222 students and faculty signed and posted on the school's Web site a statement titled "We Object." The statement cites the war in Iraq and the administration's "obstructing progress on reducing greenhouse gases while favoring billions in tax breaks and subsidies to oil companies that are earning record profits."

"We are ashamed of the actions of this administration. The war in Iraq has cost the lives of over 4,000 brave and honorable U.S. military personnel," the statement read. "Because we love this country and the ideals it stands for, we accept our civic responsibility to speak out against these actions that violate American values."

I used to live in a country called America. It was not a perfect country, God knows, especially if you were African American or Native American or of Japanese descent in World War II, or poor or gay or a woman or an immigrant, but it was a country I loved and honored. This country gave me hope that it could be better. It paid its workers wages that were envied around the world. It made sure these workers, thanks to labor unions and champions of the working class in the Democratic Party and the press, had health benefits and pensions. It offered good public education. It honored basic democratic values and held in regard the rule of law, including international law and respect for human rights. It had social programs from Head Start to welfare to Social Security to take care of the weakest among us, the mentally ill, the elderly and the destitute. It had a system of government that, however flawed, was dedicated to protecting the interests of its citizens. It offered the possibility of democratic change. It had a media that was diverse and endowed with the integrity to give a voice to all segments of society, including those beyond our borders, to impart to us unpleasant truths, to challenge the powerful, to explain ourselves to ourselves.

I am not blind to the imperfections of this America, or the failures to always meet these ideals at home and abroad. I spent 20 years of my life in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans as a foreign correspondent reporting in countries where crimes and injustices were committed in our name, whether during the Contra war in Nicaragua or the brutalization of the Palestinians by Israeli occupation forces. But there was much that was good and decent and honorable in our country. And there was hope.

The country I live in today uses the same words to describe itself, the same patriotic symbols and iconography, the same national myths, but only the shell remains. America, the country of my birth, the country that formed and shaped me, the country of my father, my father's father and his father's father, stretching back to the generations of my family that were here for the country's founding, is so diminished as to be nearly unrecognizable. I do not know if this America will return, even as I pray and work and strive for its return. The "consent of the governed" has become an empty phrase. Our textbooks on political science are obsolete. Our state, our nation, has been hijacked by oligarchs, corporations and a narrow, selfish political elite, a small and privileged group which governs on behalf of moneyed interests. We are undergoing, as John Ralston Saul wrote, "a coup d'etat in slow motion." We are being impoverished -- legally, economically, spiritually and politically. And unless we soon reverse this tide, unless we wrest the state away from corporate hands, we will be sucked into the dark and turbulent world of globalization where there are only masters and serfs, where the American dream will be no more than that -- a dream, where those who work hard for a living can no longer earn a decent wage to sustain themselves or their families, whether in sweatshops in China or the decaying rust belt of Ohio, where democratic dissent is condemned as treason and ruthlessly silenced.

I single out no party. The Democratic Party has been as guilty as the Republicans. It was Bill Clinton who led the Democratic Party to the corporate watering trough. Clinton argued that the party had to ditch labor unions, no longer a source of votes or power, as a political ally. Workers, he insisted, would vote Democratic anyway. They had no choice. It was better, he argued, to take corporate money. By the 1990s, the Democratic Party, under Clinton's leadership, had virtual fundraising parity with the Republicans. Today the Democrats get more. In political terms, it was a success. In moral terms, it was a betrayal.

The North American Free Trade Agreement was sold to the country by the Clinton White House as an opportunity to raise the incomes and prosperity of the citizens of the United States, Canada and Mexico. NAFTA would also, we were told, staunch Mexican immigration into the United States.

"There will be less illegal immigration because more Mexicans will be able to support their children by staying home," President Clinton said in the spring of 1993 as he was lobbying for the bill.

But NAFTA, which took effect in 1994, had the curious effect of reversing every one of Clinton's rosy predictions. Once the Mexican government lifted price supports on corn and beans for Mexican farmers, they had to compete against the huge agribusinesses in the United States. The Mexican farmers were swiftly bankrupted. At least 2 million Mexican farmers have been driven off their land since 1994. And guess where many of them went? This desperate flight of poor Mexicans into the United States is now being exacerbated by large-scale factory closures along the border as manufacturers pack up and leave Mexico for the cut-rate embrace of China's totalitarian capitalism. But we were assured that goods would be cheaper. Workers would be wealthier. Everyone would be happier. I am not sure how these contradictory things were supposed to happen, but in a sound-bite society, reality no longer matters. NAFTA was great if you were a corporation. It was a disaster if you were a worker.

Clinton's welfare reform bill, which was signed on Aug. 22, 1996, obliterated the nation's social safety net. It threw 6 million people, many of them single mothers, off the welfare rolls within three years. It dumped them onto the streets without child care, rent subsidies and continued Medicaid coverage. Families were plunged into crisis, struggling to survive on multiple jobs that paid $6 or $7 an hour, or less than $15,000 a year. But these were the lucky ones. In some states, half of those dropped from the welfare rolls could not find work. Clinton slashed Medicare by $115 billion over a five-year period and cut $25 billion in Medicaid funding. The booming and overcrowded prison system handled the influx of the poor, as well as our abandoned mentally ill. And today we stand in shame with 2.3 million of our citizens behind bars, most for nonviolent drug offenses. More than 1 in 100 adults in the United States is incarcerated, and 1 in 9 black men ages 20 to 34 is behind bars. The United States, with less than 5 percent of the global population, has almost 25 percent of the world's prisoners.

The growing desperation across the United States is unleashing not simply a recession -- we have been in a recession for some time now -- but the possibility of a depression unlike anything we have seen since the 1930s. This desperation has provided a pool of broken people willing to work for low wages and without unions or benefits. This is good news if you are a corporation. It is very bad news if you work for a living. For the bottom 90 percent of Americans, annual income has been on a slow, steady decline for three decades. The majority's income peaked at $33,000 in 1973. By 2005, according to New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston in his book "Free Lunch," it had fallen to a bit more than $29,000, this despite three decades of economic expansion. And where did that money go? Ask ExxonMobil, the biggest U.S. oil and gas company, which made a $10.9 billion profit in the first quarter of this year, leaving us to pay close to $4 a gallon to fill up our cars. Or better yet, ask Exxon Mobil Corp. Chief Executive Rex Tillerson, whose compensation rose nearly 18 percent to $21.7 million in 2007, when the oil company pulled in the largest profit ever for a U.S. company. His take-home pay package included $1.75 million in salary, a $3.36 million bonus and $16.1 million of stock and option awards, according to a company filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He also received nearly $430,000 of other compensation, including $229,331 for personal security and $41,122 for use of the company aircraft. In addition to his pay package, Tillerson, 56, received more than $7.6 million from exercising options and stock awards during the year. Exxon Mobil earned $40.61 billion in 2007, up 3 percent from the previous year. But Tillerson's 2007 pay was not even the highest mark for the U.S. oil and gas industry. Occidental Petroleum Corp. CEO Ray Irani made $33.6 million, and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. chief James Hackett took in $26.7 million over the same period.

For each dollar earned in 2005, the top 10 percent got 48.5 cents. That was the top tenth's greatest share of the income pie, Johnston writes, since 1929, just before the Roaring '20s collapsed in the Great Depression. And within the top 10 percent, those who made more than $100,000, nearly all the gains went to the top tenth of 1 percent, people like Tillerson or Irani or Hackett, who made at least $1.7 million that year. And until we have real election reform, until we make it possible to run for national office without candidates kissing the rings of Tillersons, Iranis and Hacketts to get hundreds of millions of dollars, this rape of America will continue.

While the Democrats have been very bad, George W. Bush has been even worse. Let's set aside Iraq, the worst foreign policy blunder in American history. George Bush has also done more to dismantle our Constitution, ignore or revoke our statutes and reverse regulations that protected American citizens from corporate abuse than any other president in recent American history. The president, as the Boston Globe reported, has claimed the authority, through "signing statements," to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution. Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, whistle-blower protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." George Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ''execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional. The Bush administration has gutted environmental, food and product safety, and workplace safety standards along with their enforcement. And this is why coal mines collapse, the housing bubble has blown up in our face, and we are sold lead-contaminated toys imported from China. Bush has done more than any president to hand our government directly over to corporations, which now get 40 percent of federal discretionary spending.

Over 800,000 jobs once handled by government employees have been outsourced to corporations, a move that has not only further empowered our shadow corporate government but helped destroy federal workforce unions. Everything from federal prisons, the management of regulatory and scientific reviews, the processing or denial of Freedom of Information requests, interrogating prisoners and running the world's largest mercenary army in Iraq has become corporate. And these corporations, in a perverse arrangement, make their money off the American citizen. Halliburton in 2003 was given a no-bid and non-compete $7 billion contract to repair Iraq's oil fields, as well as the power to oversee and control Iraq's entire oil production. This has now become $130 billion in contract awards to Halliburton. And flush with taxpayer dollars, what has Haliburton done? It has made sure only 36 of its 143 subsidiaries are incorporated in the United States and 107 subsidiaries (or 75 percent) are incorporated in 30 different countries. Halliburton is able through this arrangement to lower its tax liability on foreign income by establishing a "controlled foreign corporation" and subsidiaries inside low-tax, or no-tax, countries known as a "tax havens." They take our money. They squander it. And our corporate government not only funds them but protects them. Halliburton -- and Halliburton is just one example -- is the engine of our new, rogue corporate state, serviced by people like George Bush and Dick Cheney, once the company's CEO.

The disparity between our oligarchy and the working class has created a new global serfdom. Credit Suisse analysts estimates that the number of subprime foreclosures in the United States over the next two years will total 1,390,000 and that by the end of 2012, 12.7 percent of all residential borrowers in the United States will be forced out of their homes. The corporate state, which as an idea is an abstraction to many Americans, is very real when the pieces are carefully put together and linked to a system of corporate power that has made this poverty, the denial of our constitutional rights, and a state of permanent war inevitable. The assault on the American working class -- an assault that has devastated members of my own family -- is nearly complete. The U.S. economy has 3.2 million fewer jobs today than it did when George Bush took office, including 2.5 million fewer manufacturing jobs. In the past three years, nearly 1 in 5 U.S. workers was laid off. Among workers laid off from full-time work, roughly one-fourth were earning less than $40,000 annually. A total of 15 million U.S. workers are unemployed, underemployed, or too discouraged to job hunt, according to the Labor Department. There are whole sections of the United States which now resemble the developing world. There has been a Weimarization of the American working class. And the assault on the middle class is now under way. Anything that can be put on software -- from finance to architecture to engineering -- can and is being outsourced to workers in countries such as India or China who accept a fraction of the pay and work without benefits. And both the Republican and Democratic parties, beholden to corporations for money and power, allow this to happen.

Take a look at our government departments. Who runs the Defense Department? The Department of Interior? The Department of Agriculture? The Food and Drug Administration? Who runs the Department of Labor? Corporations. And in an election year where we are numbed by absurdities, we hear nothing about this subordinating of the American people to corporate power. The political debates, which have become popularity contests, are ridiculous and empty. They do not confront the real and advanced destruction of our democracy. They do not confront the takeover of our electoral processes.

We have watched over the past few decades the rise of a powerful web of interlocking corporate entities, a network of arrangements within subsectors, industries, or other partial jurisdictions to diminish and often abolish outside control and oversight. These corporations have neutralized national, state and judicial authority. They dominate, for example, a bloated and wasteful defense industry, which has become sacrosanct and beyond the reach of politicians, most of whom are left defending military projects in their districts, no matter how redundant, because they provide jobs. This has permitted a military-industrial complex, which contributes lavishly to political campaigns, to spread across the country with virtual impunity.

Defense-related spending for fiscal 2008 will exceed $1 trillion for the first time in history. The U.S. has become the largest single seller of arms and munitions on the planet. The defense budget for fiscal 2008 is the largest since the Second World War even as we have more than $400 billion in annual deficits. More than half of federal discretionary spending goes to defense. This will not end when Bush leaves office. And so we build Cold War relics like $3.4 billion submarines and stealth fighters to evade radar systems the Soviets never built and spend $ 8.9 billion on ICBM missile defense that will be useless in stopping a shipping container concealing a dirty bomb. The defense industry is able to monopolize the best scientific and research talent and squander the nation's resources and investment capital. These defense industries produce nothing that is useful for society or the national trade account. (Seymour) Melman, like President Eisenhower, saw the defense industry as viral, something that, as it grew, destroyed a healthy economy. And so we produce sophisticated fighter jets while Boeing is unable to finish its new commercial plane on schedule, and our automotive industry tanks. We sink money into research and development of weapons systems and starve technologies to fight against global warming and renewable energy. Universities are awash in defense-related cash and grants, and struggle to find money for environmental studies. This massive military spending, aided by this $3 trillion war, is hollowing us out from the inside. Our bridges and levees collapse, our schools decay, and our safety net is taken away.

The corporate state, begun under Ronald Reagan and pushed forward by every president since, has destroyed the public and private institutions that protected workers and safeguarded citizens. Only 7.8 percent of workers in the private sector are unionized. This is about the same percentage as in the early 1900s. There are 50 million Americans in real poverty and tens of millions of Americans in a category called "near poverty." Our health care system is broken. Eighteen thousand people die in this country, according to the Institute of Medicine, every year because they can't afford health care. That is six times the number of people who died in the 9/11 attacks, and these unnecessary deaths continue year after year. But we do not hear these stories of pain and dislocation. We are diverted by bread and circus. News reports do little more than report on trivia and celebrity gossip. The FCC, in an example of how far our standards have fallen, defines shows like Fox's celebrity gossip program "TMZ" and the Christian Broadcast Network's "700 Club" as "bona fide newscasts." The economist Charlotte Twight calls this vast corporate system of spectacle and democratic collapse "participatory fascism."

How did we get here? How did this happen? In a word, deregulation -- the systematic dismantling of the managed capitalism that was the hallmark of the American democratic state. Our political decline came about because of deregulation, the repeal of antitrust laws, and the radical transformation from a manufacturing economy to a capital economy. This understanding led Franklin Delano Roosevelt on April 29, 1938, to send a message to Congress titled "Recommendations to the Congress to Curb Monopolies and the Concentration of Economic Power." In it, he wrote:
The first truth is that the liberty of democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism -- ownership of Government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. The second truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in such a way to sustain an acceptable standard of living.

The rise of the corporate state has grave political consequences, as we saw in Italy and Germany in the early part of the 20th century. Antitrust laws not only regulate and control the marketplace, they serve as bulwarks to protect democracy. And now that they are gone, now that we have a state that is run by and on behalf of corporations, we must expect inevitable and perhaps terrifying political consequences.

I spent two years traveling the country to write a book on the Christian right called "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America." In depressed former manufacturing towns from Ohio to Kentucky it was the same. There are tens of millions of Americans for whom the end of the world is no longer an abstraction. They have lost hope. Fear and instability has plunged the working class into personal and economic despair, and not surprisingly into the arms of the demagogues and charlatans of the radical Christian right who offer a belief in magic, miracles and the fiction of a utopian Christian nation. And unless we re-enfranchise these Americans back into the economy, unless we give them hope, our democracy is doomed.

As the pressure mounts, as this despair and desperation reaches into larger and larger segments of the American populace, the mechanisms of corporate and government control are being bolstered to prevent civil unrest and instability. It is not accidental that with the rise of the corporate state comes the rise of the security state. This is why the Bush White House has pushed through the Patriot Act (and its renewal), the suspension of habeas corpus, the practice of "extraordinary rendition," the warrantless wiretapping on American citizens and the refusal to ensure free and fair elections with verifiable ballot-counting. It is part of a package. It comes together. It is not about terrorism or national security. It is about control. It is about their control of us.

Sen. Frank Church, as chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence in 1975, investigated the government's massive and highly secretive National Security Agency. He wrote:
"That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything. Telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide. If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology. I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capability that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."

When Sen. Church made this statement, the NSA was not authorized to spy on American citizens. Today it is.

... We are fed lie after lie to mask the destruction the corporate state has wrought in our lives. The consumer price index, for example, used by the government to measure inflation, has become meaningless. To keep the official inflation figures low, the government has been substituting basic products they once measured to check for inflation with ones that do not rise very much in price. This trick has kept the cost-of-living increases tied to the CPI artificially low. The disconnect between what we are told and what is actually true is worthy of the old East German state. The New York Times' consumer reporter, W.P. Dunleavy, wrote that her groceries now cost $587 a month, up from $400 a year earlier. This is a 40 percent increase. California economist John Williams, who runs an organization called Shadow Statistics, contends that if Washington still used the CPI measurements applied back in the 1970s, inflation would be in the 10 percent range. The advantage to the corporations is huge. A false inflation rate, one far lower than the real rate, keeps equitable interest payments on bank accounts and certificates of deposit down. It masks the deterioration of the American economy. The Potemkin statistics allow corporations and the corporate state to walk away from obligations tied to real adjustments for inflation. These statistics mean that less is paid out in Social Security and pensions. It has reduced the interest on the multitrillion-dollar debt. Corporations never have to pay real cost-of-living increases to their employees. The term "unemployment" has also been steadily redefined. This has rendered official data on employment worthless. In real terms, about 10 percent of the working population is unemployed, a figure that is, over the long run, unsustainable. The economy, despite the official statistics, is not growing. It is shrinking. And as the nation crumbles, we are awash with the terrible simplicity of false statistics. We confuse our emotional responses, carefully manipulated by advertisers, pundits, spin doctors, television hosts, political consultants and focus groups, with knowledge. It is how we elect presidents and those we send to Congress, how we make decisions, even decisions to go to war. It is how we view the world. Four media giants -- AOL-Time Warner, Viacom, Disney, and Rupert Murdoch's NewsGroup -- control nearly everything we read, see and hear. This growing disconnect with reality is the hallmark of a totalitarian state.
"Before they seize power and establish a world according to their doctrines," Hannah Arendt wrote, "totalitarian movements conjure up a lying world of consistency which is more adequate to the needs of the human mind than reality itself; in which, through sheer imagination, uprooted masses can feel at home and are spared the never-ending shocks which real life and real experiences deal to human beings and their expectations. The force possessed by totalitarian propaganda -- before the movements have the power to drop iron curtains to prevent anyone's disturbing, by the slightest reality, the gruesome quiet of an entirely imaginary world -- lies in its ability to shut the masses off from the real world."

So what do we do? Voting is not enough. If voting was that effective, to quote the activist Philip Berrigan, it would be illegal. And voting in an age when elections are stolen by rigged ballot machines and a stacked Supreme Court willing to overturn all legal precedent to make George Bush president, will not work. I am not saying do not vote. We should all vote. But that has to be the starting point if we want to reclaim America. We must lobby, organize and advocate for the dissolution of the World Trade Organization and NAFTA. The WTO and NAFTA have handcuffed workers and consumers and stymied our efforts to create clean environments. These agreements are beyond the control of our courts and have crippled our weakened regulatory agencies. The WTO forces our working class to compete with brutalized child and prison labor overseas, to be reduced to this level of slave labor or to go without meaningful work. We need to repeal the anti-worker Taft-Hartley law of 1947. The act obstructs the organization of unions. We need to transfer control of pension funds from management to workers. If these pension funds, worth trillions of dollars, were in the hands of workers, the working class would own a third of the New York Stock Exchange.

The working class has every right to be, to steal a line from Obama, bitter with liberal elites. I am bitter. I have seen what the loss of manufacturing jobs and the death of the labor movement did to my relatives in the former mill towns in Maine. Their story is the story of tens of millions of Americans who can no longer find a job that supports a family and provides basic benefits. Human beings are not commodities. They are not goods. They grieve and suffer and feel despair. They raise children and struggle to maintain communities. The growing class divide is not understood, despite the glibness of many in the media, by complicated sets of statistics or the absurd, utopian faith in unregulated globalization and complicated trade deals. It is understood in the eyes of a man or woman who is no longer making enough money to live with dignity and hope.

George Bush, who will be here on Saturday, has done more to shred, violate or absent the government from its obligations under domestic and international law. He has refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, backed out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, tried to kill the International Criminal Court, walked out on negotiations on chemical and biological weapons, and defied the Geneva Convention and human rights law. He has set up offshore penal colonies where we deny detainees basic rights and openly engage in torture. He launched an illegal war in Iraq based on fabricated evidence we now know had been discredited even before it was made public. And if we as citizens do not hold him accountable for these crimes, if we allow the Democratic majority in Congress to get away with its refusal to begin the process of impeachment, which appears likely, we will be complicit in the codification of a new world order, one that will have terrifying consequences. For a world without treaties, statutes and laws is a world where any nation, from a rogue nuclear state to a great imperial power, will be able to invoke its domestic laws to annul its obligations to others. This new order will undo five decades of international cooperation -- largely put in place by the United States -- destroy our own constitutional rights and thrust us into a Hobbesian nightmare. We are one, maybe two, terrorist attacks away from a police state. Time is running out.

We must not allow international laws and treaties -- ones that set minimum standards of behavior and provide a framework for competing social, political, economic and religious groups and interests to resolve differences -- to be discarded. The exercise of power without law is tyranny. And the consequences of George Bush's violation of the law, his creation of legal black holes that can swallow American citizens along with those outside our borders, run in a direct line from the White House to Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and military brigs in cities such as Charleston. George Bush -- we now know from the leaked Downing Street memo -- fabricated a legal pretext for war. He decided to charge Saddam Hussein with the material breach of the resolution passed in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War. He had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was in breach of this resolution. And so he and his advisers manufactured reports of weapons of mass destruction and disseminated them to a frightened and manipulated press and public. In short, he lied. He lied to us and to the rest of the world. There are tens of thousands, perhaps a few hundred thousand people, who have been killed and maimed in a war that has no legal justification, a war waged in violation of international law, a war that under the post-Nuremberg laws is defined as "a criminal war of aggression."

We have blundered into nations we know little about. We are caught between bitter rivalries and competing ethnic groups and leaders we do not understand. We are trying to transplant a modern system of politics invented in Europe characterized, among other things, by the division of earth into independent secular states based on national citizenship in a land where the belief in a secular civil government is an alien creed. Iraq was a cesspool for the British when they occupied it in 1917. It will be a cesspool for us as well. We can either begin an orderly withdrawal or watch the mission collapse.

A rule-based world matters. The creation of international bodies and laws, the sanctity of our constitutional rights, have allowed us to stand pre-eminent as a nation -- one that seeks at its best to respect and defend the rule of law. If we demolish the fragile and delicate domestic and international order, if we permit George Bush to create a world where diplomacy, broad cooperation, democracy and law are worthless, if we allow these international and domestic legal safeguards to unravel, our moral and political authority will plummet. We will erode the possibility of cooperation between nation-states, including our closest allies. We will lose our country. And we will, in the end, see visited upon us the evils we visit on others. Read Antigone, when the king imposes his will without listening to those he rules or Thucydides' history. Read how Athens' expanding empire saw it become a tyrant abroad and then a tyrant at home. How the tyranny the Athenian leadership imposed on others it finally imposed on itself. This, Thucydides wrote, is what doomed Athenian democracy; Athens destroyed itself. For the primary instrument of tyranny and empire is war and war is a poison, a poison which at times we must ingest just as a cancer patient must ingest a poison to survive. But if we do not understand the poison of war -- if we do not understand how deadly that poison is -- it can kill us just as surely as the disease.

Hope, St. Augustine wrote, has two beautiful daughters. They are anger and courage. Anger at the way things are and the courage to see they do not remain the way they are. We stand at the verge of a massive economic dislocation, one forcing millions of families from their homes and into severe financial distress, one that threatens to rend the fabric of our society. We are waging a war that devours lives and capital, and that cannot ultimately be won. We are told we need to give up our rights to be safe, to be protected. In short, we are made afraid. We are told to hand over all that is best about our nation to those like George Bush and Dick Cheney, who seek to destroy our nation.

A state of fear only engenders cruelty -- cruelty, fear, insanity, and then paralysis. In the center of Dante's circle, the damned remained motionless. If we do not become angry, if we do not muster within us the courage, indeed the militancy, to challenge those in the Democratic and Republican parties who herd us toward the corporate state, we will have squandered our courage and our integrity when we need it most.

Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter, was the Middle East bureau chief for the New York Times. He spent seven years in the Middle East and reported frequently from Iran. His latest book is "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America."
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truer words were never penned...

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"If an entire administration lied a nation into war ... an 'inconvenient truth-teller-gate'"

i have deliberately avoided the entire mcclellan fol-de-rol, primarily because the focus of the entire spectacle is so divorced from the sad truth that our media salivated over scotty's lies like pavlov's dog... however, keith olbermann does a respectable job pulling the story together...

from brasscheck tv...
The White House Lie Factory

It must be pretty clear now - even to the densest of individuals - that Bush and his fellow weasels deliberately lied the US into the Iraq war.

So how does the US news media respond to a former press secretaries account of this reality?

They question his loyalty, his accuracy, his motivations.

And it's largely working.

These questions have framed the discussion of the McClellan book.

Not the fact that we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Bush and Rove and Rice and Cheney lied, betrayed the country and did it for personal gain.

How many Iraqi civilians dead now?

How many US servicemen and women dead or injured gravely?

How many innocent lives destroyed?

And the f%$%ing brain dead news media is talking about whether or not McClellan was good team player?

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Monday, June 02, 2008

The U.S.-Iraq security agreement sails into troubled waters

as well it should... look at what the u.s. is asking for... no wonder the iraqis are pissed off (see my post from saturday)... it's even uniting the sunnis and the shiites in a common cause...

juan cole...

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that both Sunni and Shiite Iraqis have united to reject the draft of a security agreement proposed by the United States. A high-level Iraqi source told the pan-Arab London daily that one point of dispute is that the US wants its troops to have complete freedom of movement in the country, whereas the Iraqis want it to be limited. The Americans are said to be seeking to retain the right to dominate Iraqi air space up to 29,000 feet, and to gain open access to the land, air and water of Iraq. The US wants to retain the right to arrest and detain any Iraqi whom the US believes represents a security threat. Washington desires the right to launch military operations to chase terrorists without seeking Iraqi government permission. The US wants immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts for American troops, contractors and corporations in Iraq.

The US also wants to retain the right to define terrorism against Iraq. It does not want to give any undertaking that it will defend Iraq from any outside attack unless it is convinced about the nature of that attack. Likewise it is not offering to safeguard the democratic regime in Iraq [emphasis added].

Iraqis for their part are demanding a recognition of Iraqi sovereignty.

geeeeez... can you even IMAGINE another country trying to impose these conditions on the u.s...? yeah, right... in your dreams...

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U.S. reinstates Fulbright scholarships for Gaza students but will Israel let them leave?


on friday i posted my outrage over israel refusing exit visas to fulbright scholarship winners in gaza and the u.s. state department summarily canceling the offers... thankfully, a sufficient outcry went up to force a re-thinking of such idiocy...
The American State Department has reinstated seven Fulbright grants offered to Palestinians in Gaza for advanced study in the United States, reversing a decision to withdraw the scholarships because of Israel’s ban on Palestinians’ leaving Gaza for study abroad.

The American Consulate in Jerusalem sent e-mail messages on Sunday night to all seven telling them it was “working closely” with Israeli officials to secure them exit permits. Maj. Peter Lerner, spokesman for the Israeli Defense Ministry’s office of civilian affairs, said the Gazans would be granted permits after individual security checks.

israel had better not pull any bullshit over those "individual security checks"...

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Foreign Policy magazine - glorifying repressive regimes for being "tough on terrorism" while stirring up more fear

a publication with the impressive title of "Foreign Policy" ought to be able to rise above being a propaganda tool... oh, well... so much for a mag published by the carnegie endowment for international PEACE, eh...?
The List: The Worst Places to Be a Terrorist

Fighting transnational terrorism often involves making unsavory choices between protecting civil rights and providing security. The following regimes have opted for the latter and are definitely not the kind of places you want to get caught if you’re plotting some terrorist mayhem.

so where are these places that are so zealously safeguarding their citizens...?
  • Jordan
  • Egypt
  • Singapore
  • Russia
and, oh, by the way...
  • France
i just gotta ask, what's the implied message here...? are these places the u.s. should be emulating...?

now, for the fear-mongering...

How (Not) to Spot a Terrorist

Identifying terrorists on the battlefield is relatively simple. My scout-sniper school instructor always reminded us of a solid truism that applies perfectly both in Afghanistan and Iraq—shoot the one with the gun. The same cannot be said of the world’s most dangerous terrorists—the ones operating covertly inside the United States and Europe. They are an entirely different matter. Hunting them down is more akin to finding Soviet spies during the Cold War. It requires an educated, deeply institutionalized counterintelligence apparatus...

Meet the New Face of Al Qaeda

Few of the deadliest modern-day suicide bombers fit the stereotype of a mass murderer. Here’s a look at four once-average people who epitomize the changing profile of the terrorists we fear most.

and they go on to profile folks that, horror-of-horrors, could pass among us unnoticed...

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Saudi Arabia and 9/11

the philadelphia daily news is doing a super job of investigative jounalism with an epic story on the suit pending before the u.s. court of appeals for the second circuit...

this is from the first of two parts...

Cozen O'Connor law firm has filed an 812-page lawsuit on behalf of U.S. and global insurance companies alleging that Saudi Arabia and Saudi-backed Islamist charities nurtured and financed al-Qaeda, the author of those deadly attacks.


Round 1 in this titanic legal battle went to the Saudis and their high-powered lawyers three years ago when a U.S. District Court judge removed the government and Saudi royals as defendants.


But Cozen argued that the kingdom and its officials should be restored as defendants. A fiercely competitive lawyer who built a tiny practice into one of the world's leading law firms for insurers, Cozen, 67, contended that the defendants "knew and intended to support al-Qaeda through these charities."

With a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit imminent, Cozen and his partners have unearthed facts and made connections missed not only by the 9/11 Commission but also by Congress in its investigations.


Cozen is suing under the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which protects foreign governments from being sued by U.S. citizens except in rare circumstances. While the standard is extremely high, federal courts have permitted lawsuits in cases where foreign countries engaged in criminal conduct, such as murder.

Even if Cozen loses the appeal and the Saudis retain immunity, U.S. District Judge Richard Conway Casey ruled that there is enough evidence to proceed against several Islamist charities, banks, and alleged terrorism financiers named in the lawsuit.

While Cozen was the first, a half-dozen other groups have sued the Saudis to hold them liable for supporting Islamist charities allegedly tied to al-Qaeda.

Among the other plaintiffs: the estate of an FBI agent killed in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, and the investment firm Cantor Fitzgerald, which lost 657 employees when American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the north tower.

even though part 1 was published on saturday, the website says part 2 will be posted "tomorrow," and the website is carrying news datelined monday, i am having no success finding part 2... stay tuned...

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The hopelessness of the child war refugee in Uganda - "I cannot see another life for me"


Stephen Bati, 10 years old, who lost his
mother in the quarry in January when she
was buried by a mud slide, breaks rocks
in the Acholi Quarters, a slum located
in Kireka, Kampala Uganda
Friday, Feb. 29, 2008.

(AP Photo/ Vanessa Vick)

Women and children sit in groups, crushing
rocks together with a small piece of metal
atop a piece of whittled wood just outside
Kampala, Uganda Saturday, May 17, 2008.
Most of the people working in this area
are urban refugees who have fled a 20-year
civil war in Northern Uganda, in search of
a better life in the capital.

(AP Photo/Glenna Gordon)

from the ap...
Stephen Batte works in a quarry under the blazing sun, chipping rocks into gravel with a homemade hammer. It's tiring, boring and dangerous.


"Life has always been hard here," he whispers, carefully positioning a sharp rock before striking it with well-practiced accuracy. "But since my mother died, things have been much harder."

His mother, the woman who taught him to smash rocks when he was a toddler, was killed here in a landslide in August.

His T-shirt torn and his feet bare, Stephen is one of hundreds of people who work in the quarry on the outskirts of Uganda's capital, Kampala. Their shabby figures sit hunched over their heaps of gravel. The chink of metal against stone bounces off the rock faces.

Most of the workers are refugees who fled a civil war in northern Uganda. Now they make 100 Uganda shillings, 6 U.S. cents, for every 5-gallon bucket that they fill with chipped rocks. Stephen works 12 hours a day to fill three buckets.

There's no safety code or protective clothing. The children's arms and legs are covered in scabs from flying stones. Stephen says a friend lost an eye.

the hopelessness of the situation is simply indescribable...
When Musa Ecweru, the minister of relief and disaster preparedness, visited the quarry, relief workers had to meet his car two miles from the site because his driver couldn't find it.

The normally talkative Ecweru seemed at a loss for words at what he saw, and unable to make firm commitments to help. He admitted that the government "may not have appreciated fully the magnitude" of the problem, and promised to bring it to the government's attention.

Then he gave a group of women and children with whom he spoke $30 and told them to divide it among themselves.

Two months after the minister's visit, Stephen's situation is unchanged.

"I wish I could be helped," he said, picking at a large scab on his knee, "but I cannot see another life for me."

on my daily runs back and forth to meetings and doing other errands, i can see a lot of this same hopelessness here in afghanistan... it's almost overwhelming...

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Floating U.S. black-site prisons and more on Diego Garcia

i posted just the other day on the possible existence of u.s. prison ships...

here's some more from the guardian...

The United States is operating "floating prisons" to house those arrested in its war on terror, according to human rights lawyers, who claim there has been an attempt to conceal the numbers and whereabouts of detainees.

Details of ships where detainees have been held and sites allegedly being used in countries across the world have been compiled as the debate over detention without trial intensifies on both sides of the Atlantic. The US government was yesterday urged to list the names and whereabouts of all those detained.

Information about the operation of prison ships has emerged through a number of sources, including statements from the US military, the Council of Europe and related parliamentary bodies, and the testimonies of prisoners.

The analysis, due to be published this year by the human rights organisation Reprieve, also claims there have been more than 200 new cases of rendition since 2006, when President George Bush declared that the practice had stopped.

It is the use of ships to detain prisoners, however, that is raising fresh concern and demands for inquiries in Britain and the US.

According to research carried out by Reprieve, the US may have used as many as 17 ships as "floating prisons" since 2001. Detainees are interrogated aboard the vessels and then rendered to other, often undisclosed, locations, it is claimed.

Ships that are understood to have held prisoners include the USS Bataan and USS Peleliu. A further 15 ships are suspected of having operated around the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, which has been used as a military base by the UK and the Americans.

diego garcia is a busy little place with a lot of covert activity... it's also about as far away from nosy reporters and prying eyes as it's possible to get (with the possible exception of antarctica, where i fully expect there's some pretty black stuff going on as well)...

here are some google earth shots of and a bit of background on diego garcia... note the ships in the harbor...

The above shows the entire Diego Garcia
atoll surrounding the lagoon. Although
you can't see them very well in this shot,
there are 7 ships in the lagoon and 2
in port.

The above is a closer-in shot of the
airbase. The port is in the middle left
and the housing area is on the extreme
upper left.

from wikipedia... i've highlighted particularly interesting facts in bold...
Diego Garcia (-7.317, 72.417) is an atoll located in the heart of the Indian Ocean, some 1,000 miles (1,600 km) south off Colombo, Sri Lanka's southern coast. Diego Garcia is the largest atoll by land area of the Chagos Archipelago. It is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), a British overseas territory.

Since the enforced depopulation of Diego Garcia in the years leading up to 1973, it has been used as a military base by the United States and the United Kingdom. Diego Garcia hosts one of three ground antennas (others are on Kwajalein and Ascension Island) that assist in the operation of the Global Positioning System (GPS) navigational system. GEODSS that tracks satellites optically along with the other GEODSS sites at White Sands Missle Range and on top of Mt. Kilauea in Hawaii. The Scripps Institute maintains Project IDA/IRIS sesmic montitors used there to correlate worldwide sesmic events for locating and underground nuclear testing for the US Govenment. Project ECHELON is also hosted there to provide worldwide reception of electronic signals. SNOOPY planes out of Offut AFB in Omaha regularly stop there as they skirted foreign countries intercepting SIGNET from their borders. The Anotonov-225 jet flys there providing cargo heavy lift for the island. B-1's from Ellsworth AFB still launch daily from there for OIF and OEF, as well as B-2's, and formerly B-52's were launched from there against Iraq during the Gulf War. To this day Navy P-3 Orion Subhunters operate out of there. The Navy Submarine Warfare Center is located there. The island is outfitted with sonophone microphones capable of detecting ship Screws turning 5000 miles away. The SR-71 Blackbird flew out of BIOT during the Cold War. The island's shape (similar to that of a human footprint) has led the US Navy to refer to Diego Garcia as "The Footprint of Freedom." You must have a US security clearance to even visit the island. Flights are provided by AMC out of Paya Lebar AB in Singapore.

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Hillary supporter: "An inadequate black male ... and they think we won't turn and vote for McCain"

the truth rears its ugly, angry, vicious head (and i'm not referring to physical characteristics)...

a clinton supporter is ejected from the democratic rules committee meeing...

there's more than one kind of conspiracy theorist...

(thanks to john at americablog...)

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