Wednesday, November 30, 2005

NY Times Editorial tells Bush how it is...

Note: And Bush's speechwriters need to stop cribbing from the neocons' PNAC manifesto...word for word.

December 1, 2005
Plan: We Win

We've seen it before: an embattled president so swathed in his inner circle that he completely loses touch with the public and wanders around among small knots of people who agree with him. There was Lyndon Johnson in the 1960's, Richard Nixon in the 1970's, and George H. W. Bush in the 1990's. Now it's his son's turn.

It has been obvious for months that Americans don't believe the war is going just fine, and they needed to hear that President Bush gets that. They wanted to see that he had learned from his mistakes and adjusted his course, and that he had a measurable and realistic plan for making Iraq safe enough to withdraw United States troops. Americans didn't need to be convinced of Mr. Bush's commitment to his idealized version of the war. They needed to be reassured that he recognized the reality of the war.

Instead, Mr. Bush traveled 32 miles from the White House to the Naval Academy and spoke to yet another of the well-behaved, uniformed audiences that have screened him from the rest of America lately. If you do not happen to be a midshipman, you'd have to have been watching cable news at midmorning on a weekday to catch him.

The address was accompanied by a voluminous handout entitled "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq," which the White House grandly calls the newly declassified version of the plan that has been driving the war. If there was something secret about that plan, we can't figure out what it was. The document, and Mr. Bush's speech, were almost entirely a rehash of the same tired argument that everything's going just fine. Mr. Bush also offered the usual false choice between sticking to his policy and beating a hasty and cowardly retreat.

On the critical question of the progress of the Iraqi military, the president was particularly optimistic, and misleading. He said, for instance, that Iraqi security forces control major areas, including the northern and southern provinces and cities like Najaf. That's true if you believe a nation can be built out of a change of clothing: these forces are based on party and sectarian militias that have controlled many of these same areas since the fall of Saddam Hussein but now wear Iraqi Army uniforms. In other regions, the most powerful Iraqi security forces are rogue militias that refuse to disarm and have on occasion turned their guns against American troops, like Moktada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.

Mr. Bush's vision of the next big step is equally troubling: training Iraqi forces well enough to free American forces for more of the bloody and ineffective search-and-destroy sweeps that accomplish little beyond alienating the populace.

What Americans wanted to hear was a genuine counterinsurgency plan, perhaps like one proposed by Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr., a leading writer on military strategy: find the most secure areas with capable Iraqi forces. Embed American trainers with those forces and make the region safe enough to spend money on reconstruction, thus making friends and draining the insurgency. Then slowly expand those zones and withdraw American forces.

Americans have been clamoring for believable goals in Iraq, but Mr. Bush stuck to his notion of staying until "total victory." His strategy document defines that as an Iraq that "has defeated the terrorists and neutralized the insurgency"; is "peaceful, united, stable, democratic and secure"; and is a partner in the war on terror, an integral part of the international community, and "an engine for regional economic growth and proving the fruits of democratic governance to the region."

That may be the most grandiose set of ambitions for the region since the vision of Nebuchadnezzar's son Belshazzar, who saw the hand writing on the wall. Mr. Bush hates comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq. But after watching the president, we couldn't resist reading Richard Nixon's 1969 Vietnamization speech. Substitute the Iraqi constitutional process for the Paris peace talks, and Mr. Bush's ideas about the Iraqi Army are not much different from Nixon's plans - except Nixon admitted the war was going very badly (which was easier for him to do because he didn't start it), and he was very clear about the risks and huge sacrifices ahead.

A president who seems less in touch with reality than Richard Nixon needs to get out more.


100,000 applications to CIA...

From Secrecy News...


The Central Intelligence Agency is in several respects a wounded agency. Its authority is diminished, and its credibility oneverything from weapons of mass destruction to information classification policy is in tatters, leaving it an object of derision.

See, for example, "CIA Realizes It's Been Using Black Highlighters All These Years," which is intended to be a satire, in The Onion,November 30:

But there are still plenty of people who are eager to work there, more than the Agency can even consider hiring. See "It's no secret: CIA scouting for recruits" by John Diamond, USAToday, November 23:

In recent years, "We had 100,000 applicants for CIA," said Rep. Randy"Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) at an October 19 hearing of the House Intelligence Committee. "You know how many got looked at? Thirty thousand. Seventy thousand never even got a letter back. That's bad."

Speaking of bad, Rep. Cunningham, who was an intelligence subcommittee chairman, resigned in disgrace from Congress onNovember 28 after admitting that he accepted millions of dollars inbribes and evaded taxes.The public policy consequences of such gross corruption at the highest levels of the intelligence oversight process have barely begun to be assessed.

Rep. Cunningham was a reliable advocate of unbending secrecy inintelligence matters. On at least two occasions, in 1997 and 2000, he voted against public disclosure of the aggregate intelligence budget figure-- since that would damage national security.


Congressional Ethics....blah...

From International Herald Tribune:

Duke shames the capitol
The New York Times

When Representative Randy Cunningham confessed to taking at least $2.4 million in bribes from government contractors, he shed tears before the cameras and vowed to atone. That could take some time. Cunningham, a California Republican known as Duke, had been greedily accepting gifts for years from military contractors - including bribes that helped pay for a yacht, a Rolls-Royce and such luxury antiques as a Louis Philippe commode. When he reciprocated with scores of millions of dollars in government contracts, the public paid the bill. It was a symbiosis between an ethically challenged lawmaker and easy-money boosters that might still be under way but for the fact that San Diego newspapers discovered a suspicious home sale by the congressman that concealed one payoff.

It was federal prosecutors - and certainly not any congressional ethics monitors - who followed the rent-a-lawmaker trail. As Congress mulls over the larger lessons of the Duke's demise, it should begin with the House's ethics process, which has been shamefully locked into immobility for the past year while scandals have arisen as predictably as the new moon. The Republican majority has already seen its leader, Tom DeLay, indicted. The influence-peddling schemes attributed to the lobbyist Jack Abramoff are said to be unraveling, with prosecutors reported to be focusing on the dealings of at least a half-dozen lawmakers in both houses.

Where is Congress's resolve to show the public that it can police itself? Something far better than passive denial was writ large in the first sentence of the Contract With America - the campaign tract that helped Republicans take power a decade ago - with its promise "to restore the bonds of trust between the people and their elected representatives."

Anxious lawmakers - and there should be plenty of them returning from holiday recess - had better consult those old laminated pocket copies of the contract and get on with the bonds of trust. They can start with two obvious reforms: legislating credible controls over the dealings between lobbyists and members of Congress, and repairing an ethics process that now stands as a scandal unto itself.


Rep Duncan Hunter on Rep Randy Cunningham, born again...


Hunter consoling his former colleague
By Joe Cantlupe
November 30, 2005

WASHINGTON – After pleading guilty Monday to taking $2.4 million in bribes, Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham spent the day in prayer and talked about a new chapter in his life – a "chapter of service to God," said Cunningham's longtime friend, Rep. Duncan Hunter.

Hunter, R-El Cajon, had avoided talking about Cunningham's guilty plea until last night, when he issued a statement expressing regret over Cunningham's crimes but offering hope that his friend can find a new purpose in life. Both men have said they are born-again Christians.

"Duke committed crimes, and now he will pay for them," Hunter said. "His future on earth is now in the hands of the justice system, but Duke's soul is in the hands of God and the forgiveness of Christ. We, his remaining friends, have spent the last day with Duke praying and talking . . . ."

While Cunningham awaits his Feb. 27 sentencing, he "wants to serve those who are suffering, to begin his long road of atonement," Hunter said.

"There are lots of folks out there who need help. Duke now has no money, no power, and no reputation, but he has value to God and he wants to prove that value."

Cunningham could not be reached for comment.

Hunter ended his statement by asking Americans to "look beyond" Cunningham's crimes and remember "the young Phantom pilot of 1972 who was awarded the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, 15 air medals and the Purple Heart, serving our nation over the skies of North Vietnam.
"That's the Duke I remember," he said.

Joe Cantlupe: (202) 737-7687


Wes Clark wants accountability....

It is no coincidence that for every month that the White House has refused accountability, for every month that the Republican Congress has abdicated its oversight responsibilities, Iraq has sunken deeper into turmoil. With Members of Congress home in their districts this week, they will find that America is demanding answers, and that they can no longer simply sit on their hands.

Republicans refused accountability for the lack of equipment for our troops, and to this day soldiers are still buying their own body armor. Republicans refused accountability for the White House's role in Abu Ghraib, and our reputation in the world has been tarnished even further.

Republicans have still not taken a serious look at the Bush Administration's use and manipulation of pre-war intelligence, and our national credibility is heading for an all-time low.

All of these issues, and so many more, put our troops in danger and undermine our remaining chances to get Iraq right. We will not complete the mission that almost 2,000 Americans have given their lives for unless we address these questions, demand benchmarks for success, and hold the White House and the Pentagon accountable for meeting those benchmarks.

The Republican Congress must not abdicate its responsibility and leave President Bush to his own devices any longer. We must demand a strategy from the Administration that sets benchmarks for success and a commitment from Congress to hold the White House accountable for meeting them.

The unfortunate truth is, only a new Democratic majority in Congress will likely provide full accountability and answers to the tough questions that the Bush Administration has dodged for years.

But Iraq cannot wait until after the November 2006 elections -- by then it may be too late. So I am standing with Democrats in Congress and urging those Republicans of conscience to join us to change the course in Iraq before it's too late. With Tom DeLay indicted, Bill Frist under investigation, and President Bush's White House paralyzed by indictments and investigations that have brought dwindling poll numbers, America needs real leadership now. We Democrats must provide that leadership, because the Republicans have clearly demonstrated they can't, or won't.

Because Congress has taken itself out of the equation, the American people have no real way to find out from President Bush why our "progress" is measured in negative numbers, whom we can hold accountable, or most importantly, how to rectify the problem. If we are to have any chance of leaving a stable Iraq behind, we must change course now.

Accountability is not just about clarifying the past; it is about success in the future, and getting the right people in the right positions to make the decisions that will make or break the mission. If we do not have benchmarks for progress, we will not make progress. If we do not hold those people making decisions accountable, we will never get the right people making the right decisions.

Our mission in Iraq has been hurt by the lack of oversight and accountability over President Bush's blundering strategy, and nothing is more crucial to turning the tide than Congress living up to that critical responsibility.

Tell Republicans in Congress that the mistakes of the past must be examined and rectified, and that a course for the future must be concrete and accountable:
Click here to demand accountability for the past and future in Iraq!

It is clear that we can no longer trust the Bush Administration to be honest with us about our progress in Iraq. With oversight, accountability, and transparency from the Congress, though, we will not need to. And perhaps Iraq will yet have a chance.

Wes Clark


Wonder if Bush even knew it....

Key parts of Bush's speech (at Annapolis) were lifted word for word from PNAC's doctrine, which is x-number of years old.


Bush ruled by his PR people...

From American Progress:

A Public Relations Pitch Masquerading As A Strategy

After two-and-a-half years and 2,110 U.S. troop fatalities, the Bush administration released what it calls a "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" (NSVI). The problem is, it's not a new strategy for success in Iraq; it's a public relations document. The strategy describes what has transpired in Iraq to date as a resounding success and refuses to establish any standards for accountability. It dismisses serious problems such as the dramatic increase in bombings as "metrics that the terrorists and insurgents want the world to use."

Americans understand it's time for a new course in Iraq. Unfortunately, this document is little more than an extended justification for a President "determined to stay his course."

(For a bold new approach, check out American Progress's plan, Strategic Redeployment)


A really good guy won the Lotto...

November 30, 2005

Where to for Lotto Winner? Back Home to Help His Town
By John M. Glionna, Times Staff Writer

BATAGRAM, Pakistan — Ihsan Khan angrily walks the rubble-strewn streets of his hometown where buildings tumbled like children's play blocks during the recent magnitude 7.6 temblor that killed 87,000 people.Where was the heavy equipment that was so desperately needed to help free those who were trapped beneath the debris, Khan wants to know.

"We heard children crying to be saved from the rubble, but we couldn't get to them," he says. "We used horses and mules against tons of broken concrete because there was not one bulldozer in our entire region. Why is this? Where does the money go?"

The 47-year-old Khan aims to find out. And more than anyone else in this tiny Himalayan town, he has the means to do so.

Khan's is an unlikely international tale of abject poverty turned to fantastic riches. Leaving Batagram for the U.S. penniless in 1977, he returned two decades later as one of the wealthiest men in Pakistan.For years, the slightly built Khan, who worked as a cabbie in Washington, D.C., had regularly played the lottery in a longshot effort to strike it rich. He sometimes slept in his cab, but Khan never gave up hope. He kept a fortune cookie prediction that read, "Among winners, you are the chosen one." He played numbers that came to him in a dream: 2, 4, 6, 17, 25 and 31.

Then the incredible happened: In November 2001, the immigrant won a $55.2-million jackpot.

He opted for a lump-sum prize payout and posed for photos with an oversized check for $32,499,939.24.

Soon after, Khan cashed in the American dream for Pakistani rupees, returning to a region where the average salary is $500 a year.The former hard-working hack transformed himself into a high-energy public figure who is now promising to rebuild his hometown, where 4,500 people died in the Oct. 8 quake. He has already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money to get the job done.

Just days before the earthquake, Khan was elected district nazim, or mayor, of Batagram. After the quake hit, he helped pull survivors from the rubble, and paid to get the most seriously injured to regional hospitals. He told pharmacists he would pay them later for dispensing all the medicine on their shelves. The bill came to 10 million rupees, almost $200,000.

Khan has bankrolled a program to supply roofing materials to rebuild shattered dwellings. He bought 150 tents, some of which occupy land just outside his mansion with breathtaking views of snowcapped peaks.

Outspoken Critic

Most important, Khan has emerged as a colorful and outspoken critic of local government corruption.

In recent days, the blue-eyed nazim — who refers to himself simply as Khan — has dismissed the town's police chief and fired another official.Khan promises to continue the housecleaning. "We have a calamity and people are lazy, unable to move," he says. "So I started firing people."

Relief workers are impressed. "He's a take-charge person," says Aziuddin Ahmad, who works with a Malaysian aid group.

One of Khan's targets is the Pakistani army. "The army is worthless," he says into his cellphone, pacing the living room of his 20,000-square-foot mansion.

An American citizen since 1984, he keeps a similarly sized house outside Washington as well as a smaller home in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, where his second wife and two younger children live.

In rapid-fire sentences spoken in his native Urdu but laced with English expletives, Khan directs a personal staff of six that includes two bodyguards. He collects no public salary and is chauffeured about his domain in his own new Toyota 4x4. Wearing the traditional loose-fitting Pakistani tunic and pants called a shalwar kameez, Khan barks at his staff to serve coffee. "Where's the Starbucks?" he says as the men jump. "Doesn't anyone know how to use this coffee machine?"

His home is filled with mementos of his time abroad — American-made clothes, vitamins, a box of Kellogg's Corn Flakes, even an L.L. Bean jacket, which he calls his favorite piece of clothing."I miss the United States," he says. "But for some godly reason I came back here to deal with a lot of stupidity and corruption…. What we need is some of that good old Bill Clinton know-how. Remember that?"

Khan arrived in the U.S. at 19. He earned a political science degree at Northern Illinois University, where he met his first wife. They had one child, but the marriage didn't last: "She was a good Christian and I was a bad Muslim."After his divorce, Khan moved to Washington, where he began driving a cab: "It's the worst job in the world. But I told myself I'd go on until I had a heart attack and then people would know what Khan went through."

He often returned to Pakistan for months at a time. On one trip, Khan remarried and later fathered two more children, who remained in Batagram. But the cabdriver, hungry to make his mark, always returned to Washington.

In 1995, his son from the first marriage told Khan he was applying to Georgetown University.

How was a cabbie going to come up with that kind of cash for one child, then for two more? Several years later, Khan won the lottery, and no longer had to worry about paying for university educations.

Returning to Batagram, Khan noticed how the poor were denied equal education and job opportunities by provincial officials who favored their friends.Two weeks before the October election for district nazim, Khan entered the race. Like a plain-talking Pakistani Ross Perot, he campaigned with his own money, promising to build a modern Batagram with street lighting, parks and more schools. He defeated an incumbent whose family had been involved in local politics for 45 years, yet who Khan contends was not getting the job done.

"A lot of politicians in this country are happy to just have a flag on their car. I'm not one of them. Voters gave me a sacred trust. If a single penny of their public money was wasted, I'm responsible," he says.

Put to the Test

The earthquake put that new public trust to the test. "That day I saw some bodies piled on the ground, people crying out and dying," he says. He found one small boy hooked up to an IV machine. A doctor had chalked an X on the youth's bare chest to designate that he was not expected to live unless he was taken to a hospital two hours away.Khan grabbed a woman with a car. He took out his wallet. "Take this boy, please, I'll pay you," he told her. The woman agreed.

But the lottery winner turned public servant learned that money cannot buy everything. The boy died minutes later."I can see that boy now," an emotional Khan says. "His face is something I will never forget."

He walks the town shaking hands like a homecoming hero. Passing what remains of a government bank leveled in the earthquake, he stops."You see this?" he says. "This is how they build a government bank in Pakistan. You do this and you go to jail in the United States. There must be accountability."

Khan insists his lottery winnings have not changed him and waves off thanks from people he passes. "You help and then you leave it to God and mankind to judge you," he says. "That's how it is."


Speaking truth to deaf BushCo ears...

From :

Washington's Wars and Occupations
By Max Elbaum
The War Times/Tiempo de Guerras
Wednesday 30 November 2005

Iraq: Things Fall Apart

Things are coming apart in Iraq. The US occupation is blundering from one crisis to another with no guiding strategy beyond "staying the course" (keeping a permanent military presence in the country). The occupation-fueled Shiite-Sunni conflict is growing in fury, casualties and dangers. The ripple effects of both the occupation/resistance and Sunni/Shiite conflicts are spreading throughout the region. The longstanding effort to cover up US torture and related brutalities has collapsed. Support among the US public for Bush's Iraq policy has plummeted to record lows and several of Washington's few remaining international supporters are jumping ship. Divisions within the US governing elite have turned into open and nasty fights.

Analysts across the political spectrum are calling this a "tipping point" moment. The future is up for grabs in a way it has not been since before the US invasion in March 2003.

Among the new developments that have pushed matters to this point are:

A newly released secret poll commissioned by senior British military officers showed "the true strength of anti-Western feeling in Iraq" according to London's Daily Telegraph (Oct. 23). According to the poll more than 82% of Iraqis "strongly oppose" the US occupation and less than 2% believe Coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security.

According to official US figures, the average number of insurgent attacks on Coalition and Iraqi forces is at its highest level ever: more than 550 attacks per week.

The top US government watchdog agency overseeing Iraqi reconstruction released a report at the end of October saying that Washington had "no comprehensive policy or regulatory guidelines" for staffing the management of postwar Iraq. Three weeks later the first charges were brought in a case involving large-scale corruption and kickbacks by US contractors and former officials of the Coalition Provisional Authority. "This is the first case, but it won't be the last," said a spokesman for the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

The myth that the new Iraqi government is truly sovereign was punctured by no less than the Iraqi President himself. On November 1 Iraqi President Jalal Talibani told the U.N.: "I categorically refuse the use of Iraqi soil to launch a military strike against Syria or any other Arab country.... But at the end of the day my ability to confront the US military is limited and I cannot impose on them my will."

The discovery of at least one Ministry of the Interior detention site where mostly Sunni detainees have been tortured by Shiite special police fueled already intense Sunni anger at the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government. Simultaneously, suicide attacks on Shiite civilians - including gatherings at Mosques - reached a new level with at least 70 killed in two Shiite Mosques Nov. 18. This combination, according to the New York Times (Nov. 18), "underscored the growing divide between ethnic and religious groups in Iraq, even as the country moves toward elections in December for a full, four-year government." Less cautious observers simply state that Iraq is already immersed in a low-intensity but high-casualty civil war.

November 9 suicide bombings in Amman, Jordan - claimed by Al-Qaeda in Iraq led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi - killed 38 people attending a wedding and overall resulted in 57 dead and 90 wounded. The bombings, which were denounced at massive demonstrations in Jordan, heightened fears of terrorism and warfare spreading from Iraq throughout the Middle East.

Washington Busted on Torture, Chemical Weapons

The Washington Post published a new investigative report November 2 about the CIA holding and interrogating suspects at a secret facility in Eastern Europe. The Post reported that the Soviet-era compound is part of a network of "special rendition" prisons that has included sites in eight countries. The report has sparked investigations in at least four European countries.

The Pentagon admitted in mid-November that its earlier denials were wrong and it did use incendiary "white phosphorus" weapons against insurgents in Fallujah. White phosphorus bombs aren't totally banned by international law, since they can be used to create illumination in battle. However, when used for chemical properties that burn on contact and keep burning when exposed to oxygen, they can be a horrific force for civilian terror, and are prohibited by Protocol III of the 1980 convention on Certain Conventional Weapons from being used in this fashion.

A newly released report explains that the US has detained some 83,000 people during the four years of the "war on terror," most of them in Iraq. Some 14,500 remain in detention there. Many detainees are not guilty of anything, but still cannot obtain their release.

Amnesty International, along with the British organization Reprieve, issued a press release in November that "called on the US government to stop blocking meaningful U.N. access to its Guantanamo detention centre." Amnesty Secretary General Irene Khan said: "Denying meaningful access to those held in Guantanamo Bay is totally unacceptable. Guantanamo is just the visible tip of an iceberg of abuse, the most notorious link in a chain of detention camps including Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, prisons in Iraq and secret facilities elsewhere."

Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies summed up the impact of all these developments and more November 17: "What the New York Times editorializes as 'the ultimate Iraqi nightmare' does not just, as the Times claims, 'seem to be drawing closer.' Rather, the realities of 'civil war, the persecution of minority populations in the new states, an alliance between the Shiites and Iran, and a complete breakdown of American moral and military influence in the Middle East' are very much in existence today in Iraq."

Hearts and Minds at Home

In the US, meanwhile, more and more people have decided that Bush's Iraq policy is a failure and that Washington must change course. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released November 17 showed 63% opposed to Bush's handling of the Iraq war, with 52% saying US troops should be pulled out now or within 12 months. A Harris Interactive Poll released the same day showed Bush's job rating reaching a new low: just 34% approval. This compares with 88% soon after 9/11, 50% at this time last year, and 40% in August. A majority of the US population now believes that Vice-President Dick Cheney (whose approval rating is just 30%) manipulated the intelligence on Iraq before the war.

The few remaining international participants in Bush's "Coalition of the Willing" are likewise leaving the President adrift. Right in the midst of Bush's visit to Asia November 19 South Korean defense officials said they are seeking to reduce their troop contribution in Iraq (the second-largest among US coalition partners, after Britain) - by nearly one-third next year. Bulgaria has announced that it will begin pulling out its small contingent of troops after the December 15 Iraqi vote; likewise the Ukraine.

Faced with this level of policy failure, opposition and isolation, the differences of opinion which have long existed within US ruling circles about Iraq have exploded into bitter public disputes. The first bombshell in the latest round of intra-elite warfare was dropped by Lawrence B. Wilkerson, who had served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell from 2002 to 2005. First in a major speech and then in an Op-Ed piece in the Los Angeles Times (October 25), Wilkerson declared that "vital decisions about postwar Iraq" had been made by a "secretive, little-known cabal.... made up of a very small group of people led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld." Wilkerson added that this "secret process was ultimately a failure" that had "produced a series of disastrous decisions." He concluded that "Today, we have a president whose approval rating is 38% and a vice president who speaks only to Rush Limbaugh and assembled military forces. We have a secretary of Defense presiding over the death-by-a-thousand-cuts of our overstretched armed forces.... It's a disaster."

Three days later, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief-of-staff, Scooter Libby, was indicted in the "Plamegate" investigation (which is a key legal front in the elite's internal conflict over manipulated intelligence and the decision to invade Iraq). Then Republican Senator Chuck Hagel publicly suggested that the Middle East is worse off after the invasion of Iraq because the administration failed to anticipate the consequences of removing Saddam Hussein.

Reflecting these political shifts, the Senate took a small but symbolically important step November 13 by endorsing a "phased redeployment" of US troops from Iraq. Though toothless, the measure (a Republican substitute for a slightly stronger Democratic resolution) passed overwhelmingly - 79 to 19 - and was universally interpreted as an effort by a large number of Republicans to distance themselves at least a little from their President's policy.

Shock and Awe in Congress

Then, November 17, the battle escalated dramatically. Democratic Rep. John Murtha - a hawkish decorated Marine veteran who "has long been influential on military matters on both sides of the partisan divide" - issued a blistering critique of Bush's Iraq policy and called for US troops to withdraw "as soon as practicable." Shocking and awing top policy-makers, Murtha said bluntly:

"The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. The American public is way ahead of [Congress].... The future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action is not in the best interests of the US, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region ... before the Iraqi elections, scheduled for mid-December, the Iraqi people and the emerging government must be put on notice that the US will immediately redeploy. All of Iraq must know that Iraq is free. Free from US occupation."

Republicans immediately baited Murtha for embracing a "cut and run" policy that would surrender to the terrorists. They followed by utilizing control of the House to put an "immediate withdrawal" resolution (somewhat different than Murtha's actual position) up for a vote in hopes of splitting and embarrassing the Democrats. In the bitter House floor debate that followed an Ohio congresswoman essentially called Murtha a coward, causing such a backlash she was forced to withdraw her remarks from the record.

The fact that immediate withdrawal from Iraq is still a position subject to baiting rather than serious consideration in Congress (only three Congressmembers, all Democrats, voted in favor of Out Now in the final vote) shows the distance the antiwar movement has yet to travel. But the main upshot of this controversy was to sharpen the criticism of Bush's Iraq policy and put the question of quickly and completely getting out of Iraq on the mainstream political agenda with new force and urgency. Murtha did not back off an inch from the position he staked out, saying on television Sunday Nov. 20 that "I'm absolutely convinced that we're making no progress at all [in Iraq] ... They'll have to work this out themselves. This is their country. We've become the enemy." He added that his sentiments enjoyed private support in circles in the Pentagon - a certainty no Republican even tried to deny.

Attack and Smear Didn't Work This Time

Bush, on the other hand, was forced to signal a retreat from the vicious attacks on Murtha that had come from other members of his administration and party. "People should feel comfortable about expressing their opinions about Iraq," Bush said, "I know the decision to call for an immediate withdrawal of our troops by Congressman Murtha was done in a careful and thoughtful way." This was one time that the Bush/Rove formula of "attack, smear, discredit, attack" was not working - a clear sign of just much trouble the administration is in. (This trouble only got worse when the next day representatives of almost the full range of Iraqi political parties collectively called for a timetable for withdrawal of all US forces at the conclusion of a reconciliation conference in Cairo.)

It all added up to a terrible month for Bush. Both within the US elite and in the populace at large, critics of the Iraq occupation have been emboldened, and the White House placed almost irreversibly on the defensive.

Still, this does not yet mean Iraq policy is going to change. Both Bush and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld repeated their "stay the course/stay in Iraq" formula November 20. Bottom line, the White House still clings to its "lower expectations"/fallback strategy (see Month in Review #4/September) of maintaining a permanent military presence in Iraq even if it cannot establish the kind of stable, credible, pro-Western puppet government it once fantasized about. Washington's current plan (if it can be called that) is to (1) muddle through the December Iraqi elections; (2) make a great fanfare of spring 2006 withdrawals of some US troops in hopes of lowering antiwar sentiment and avoiding Republican losses in the 2006 elections; and (3) hope that in alliance with Kurdish and (on a shakier basis) Shiite leaders the occupation will be able to continue, with Kurdish and Shiite forces taking up more of the fight against the Sunni-based insurgency, US troops suffering fewer casualties and increasingly removed to permanent bases, and together this alignment exercising enough muscle to keep oil flowing even if life for most Iraqis gets more miserable than it already is today.

It is a plan as shaky as all Bush's previous ones. A host of things - from the Shiite population taking action on its anti-occupation sentiments to Sunni-Shiite conflict sharpening even further - could send it wildly off track. But there is no reason to believe the Bush administration will abandon it (or some other version of permanent occupation) until it is unmistakable that the political, social, economic and/or military costs of "staying the course" are greater than those of getting out. A huge factor in this calculation is the domestic political consequence of staying in Iraq.

This defines the challenge facing the antiwar movement: building such broad and deep support among the US people for an end to the occupation that whoever is in power in Washington is afraid to defy the demand to Bring Them Home Now.


Forget America's future..Repubs too greedy...

From :

The War on Our Children
By Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA)
In These Times
Friday 25 November 2005

We must stop accepting that low-wage, low-benefit, part-time jobs are the best our children can do. We need to ensure a livable wage for all.

Funding a war in Iraq and providing tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans does more damage than Republicans in Congress care to admit. As they clamor on about patriotism, their funding priorities are costing America its future.

The Republican Congress is placing hurdles in front of our children that are nearly impossible to clear. At every turn, from age zero to 18, roadblocks have been erected that block them from reaching their potential.

Since 2002, Republican budgets have cut nearly 7,000 slots for children in low-income families to receive Head Start services. These cuts were made despite studies demonstrating that Head Start children are more likely to graduate from high school and are less likely to repeat a grade. Head Start students are also less likely to commit a crime than low-income children who do not attend Head Start. But such empirical findings mean little to a party that prefers its policies based on faith.

After slashing Head Start budgets, it seems only logical for Republicans to next target poor mothers with children under 6 years old. A recent Republican budget proposal would require these mothers to double their weekly work hours from 20 to 40 in order to remain eligible for job training and vocational education. Yet that plan fails to provide $10.5 billion for childcare funding that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated would be needed for mothers to afford to work the longer hours and maintain their benefits. The blatant hypocrisy would be comical if it weren't true.

As our children - unprepared for the challenges they'll face - reach public schools, they will get less help than ever before. After taking credit for "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB), President Bush and his Republican allies wasted no time in underfunding the Act, thereby ensuring schools could not meet new, stricter achievement standards. As of June 2005, the House Republicans have shortchanged public schools by $40 billion since the passage of the much-lauded NCLB law. At the same time, yearly progress tests created by NCLB to determine if individual students are improving in math and reading show almost a quarter of schools failing to show improvement on state student tests.

If those weren't enough obstacles to place in front of our children, the Republicans want to force the average student borrower to pay an additional $5,800 for college. The single most effective springboard to a well-paying job is a college degree. So, this year the Republicans are proposing $14.3 billion in cuts to federal student aid programs.

At every turn, our future is threatened - not by mythical weapons of mass destruction or by the lack of prayer in the classroom - but by policies that continually rob our children of the skills they need to compete. The results of such policies speak for themselves. Since President Bush took office, 1.7 million more Americans live in poverty and the average median income has declined $2,710. Meanwhile, the federal minimum wage, $5.15 an hour, has not been increased since 1997, and has its lowest purchasing power since 1990.

Recently, the impact of cutting our children out of America's future became abundantly clear when a new Wal-Mart opened in my home community of Oakland, California. Some 11,000 people applied for 400 jobs that pay less than $20,000 a year and offer few benefits. It was a microcosm of the fate of working families everywhere, forced to get by with far too little.

Working together, America can do better. We can improve the economic outlook for our children by investing in their education. We can add funding for student loans and grants. We can provide vocational education and job training.

We must stop accepting that low-wage, low-benefit part-time jobs are the best our children can do. And for all workers, we need to ensure a livable wage and provide for paid family and medical leave.

Not surprisingly, two bills to do just that have been introduced by Democrats and were quickly buried by Republicans. In May, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) introduced The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2005, which would have raised the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour over two years. In June, I introduced the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, which would build on the highly successful Family and Medical Leave Act by providing up to 12 weeks of paid benefits to workers who take time off for reasons allowed under the new Act. Both bills would easily improve the lives of working families, but the priorities of this Republican-controlled Congress are focused in other areas.

If the United States can find $250 billion for a failed war in Iraq and give American millionaires an average tax break of $41,574 apiece in 2006, then the most affluent country in the world can find the funds to improve its schools and workplaces. Our future depends on it.

Rep. Pete Stark has served California's 13th District since 1973. He is currently the ranking minority member on the Health Subcommittee.


The teens and the mosquito...

This Mosquito makes unruly teenagers buzz off
By Sarah Lyall
The New York Times
BARRY, Wales

Though he did not know it at the time, the idea came to Howard Stapleton when he was 12 and visiting a factory with his father, a manufacturing executive in London. Opening the door to a room where workers were using high-frequency welding equipment, he found he could not bear to go inside.

"The noise!" he complained.

"What noise?" the grownups asked.

Now 39, Stapleton has taken the lesson he learned that day - that children can hear sounds at higher frequencies than adults can - to fashion a novel device that he hopes will provide a solution to the eternal problem of obstreperous teenagers who hang around outside stores and cause trouble.

The device, called the Mosquito ("It's small and annoying," Stapleton said), emits a high-frequency pulsing sound that, he says, can be heard by most people younger than 20 and almost no one older than 30. The sound is designed to so irritate young people that after several minutes, they cannot stand it and go away.

So far, the Mosquito has been road-tested in only one place, at the entrance to the Spar convenience store in this town in south Wales. Like birds perched on telephone wires, surly teenagers used to plant themselves on the railings just outside the door, smoking, drinking, shouting rude words at customers and making regular disruptive forays inside.

"On the low end of the scale, it would be intimidating for customers," said Robert Gough, who, with his parents, owns the store. "On the high end, they'd be in the shop fighting, stealing and assaulting the staff."

Gough planned to install a sound system that would blast classical music into the parking lot, another method known to horrify hanging-out youths into dispersing, but never got around to it. But last month, Stapleton gave him a Mosquito for a free trial.

The results were almost instantaneous. It was as if someone had used anti-teenage spray around the entrance, the way you might spray your sofas to keep pets off. Where disaffected youths used to congregate, now there is no one.

At first, members of the usual crowd tried to gather as they normally did, repeatedly going inside the store with their fingers in their ears and "begging me to turn it off," Gough said. But he held firm and neatly avoided possible aggressive confrontations: "I told them it was to keep birds away because of the bird flu epidemic."

A trip to Spar here in Barry confirmed the strange truth of the phenomenon. The Mosquito is positioned just outside the door. Although this reporter could not hear anything, being too old, several young people attested to the fact that yes, there was a noise, and yes, it was extremely annoying.

"It's loud and squeaky and it just goes through you," said Jodie Evans, 15, who was shopping at the store even though she was supposed to be in school. "It gets inside you."

Evans and a 12-year-old friend who did not want to be interviewed were once part of a regular gang of loiterers, said Gough's father, Philip.

"That little girl used to be a right pain, shouting abuse and bad language," he said of the 12 year old. "Now she'll just come in, do her shopping and go."

Robert Gough, who said he can hear the noise even though he is 34, described it as "a pulsating chirp." By way of demonstration, he emitted a bat-like squeak that was indeed bothersome.

Stapleton, a security consultant whose experience in installing store alarms and the like alerted him to the gravity of the loitering problem, studied other teenage-repellents as part of his research.

Some shops, for example, use "zit lamps," which drive teenagers away by casting a blue light onto their spotty skin, accentuating any whiteheads and other blemishes.

Using his children as guinea pigs, he tried a number of different noise and frequency levels, testing a single-toned unit before settling on a pulsating tone that, he said, is more unbearable, and that can be broadcast at 75 decibels, within government auditory-safety limits.

"I didn't want to make it hurt," Stapleton said. "It just has to nag at them."

The device has not yet been tested by hearing experts. Andrew King, a professor of neurophysiology at Oxford University, said in an e-mail interview that while the ability to hear high frequencies deteriorates with age, the change happens so gradually that many non-teenagers might well hear the Mosquito's noise. "Unless the store owners wish to sell their goods only to senior citizens," he wrote, "I doubt that this would work."

Stapleton argues, though, that it does not matter if people in their 20s and 30s can hear the Mosquito, since they are unlikely to be hanging out in front of stores, anyway.

It is too early to predict the device's future. Since an article about it appeared in The Grocer, a British trade magazine, Stapleton has become modestly famous, answering inquiries from hundreds of people and filling orders for dozens of the devices, not only in stores but also in places like railroad yards.

He is considering introducing a much louder unit that can be switched on in emergencies with a panic button.

It would be most useful when youths swarm into stores and begin stealing en masse, a phenomenon known in Britain as "steaming."

The idea would be to blast them with such an unacceptably loud, high noise - a noise that would be inaudible to older shoppers - that they would immediately leave.

"It's very difficult to shoplift," Stapleton said, "when you have your fingers in your ears."


Another phony Congressional Hearing...

From Christian Science Monitor:

posted November 30, 2005 at 11:00 a.m.
National security whistle-blowers call for boycott of hearing
Groups say witnesses to be called by panel will not represent their 'concerns and experiences.'
By Tom Regan

Groups representing national security whistle-blowers are calling for a boycott of a congressional hearing to be held next week to examine "whether [US government] agencies are unjustly revoking or suspending security clearances in retaliation against employees who speak out against wrongdoing.", the daily news service of Government Executive magazine, reported Tuesday that the whistleblower groups say that the witnesses to be called before the House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations do not include whistle-blowers with firsthand knowledge of problems.

"The National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, together with supporting organizations and over 100 national security whistleblowers, respectfully urges you to postpone this hearing," Sibel Edmonds, founder and director of the coalition, wrote in a letter to Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., the subcommittee chairman. "We stand ready to work with your office to do the work necessary to schedule a meaningful event where valuable testimony and information may be provided to Congress."

The National Security Whistleblowers Coalition was founded by Ms. Edmonds in August of 2004. Edmonds is a former FBI agent who was fired in 2002 after she came forward with stories of wrongdoing and incompetence in the agency. Other members of the coalition include Coleen Rowley, the FBI agent who tried to tell superiors about Zacarias Moussaoui taking flight lessons that didn't include training on how to land the plane, and Daniel Ellsberg, founder of the Truth Telling Project and the individual who leaked the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times in the '70s.

Another group protesting the hearing is Concerned Foreign Service Officers, which has been working with the NSWBC for several months. These groups and others met last month to discuss how to strengthen their legal protections against reprisals. also reports that Lawrence Halloran, subcommittee staff director and counsel for the panel hearing from whistle-blowers, said he was surprised and confused by the groups' position on the hearing.

He added that the panel would hear from several people and groups who have extensive experience with whistleblowing. "It's just too bad they can't take yes for an answer," Halloran said. "This is the hearing that the whistle-blowers wanted."

But Daniel Hirsh, who earlier this year founded Concerned Foreign Service Officers, said in a letter to the committee, "None of your panel members can truly testify to the real problems, real issues, real cases, that need your attention and need to be addressed."

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court decided Tuesday not to review Ms. Edmonds's case. The court also rebuffed an attempt by Edmonds and media organizations to decide if an appellate court improperly held arguments in the case in secret without being asked to do so by either side.
The New York Times reports that Edmonds, who had been hired as a contract linguist by the FBI, had among other issues "complained repeatedly that bureau linguists produced slipshod and incomplete translations of important intelligence before and after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001." The FBI has said that Edmonds allegations were incorrect and that she was "disruptive."
Ms. Edmonds's accusations had caused great discomfort within the bureau. Justice Department officials had complained that allowing the suit to proceed could expose intelligence-gathering methods and disrupt diplomatic relations. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft invoked a rarely used power and declared that the case fell under the "state secret" privilege.

The Associated Press reports that Edmonds's firing created a controversy in Congress after the Justice Department's inspector general ruled in 2004 that the FBI had not taken her complaints seriously enough and had fired her for lodging complaints about the translation unit.


BushCo's screw-ups...


November 30, 2005
Printer FriendlyVersion

Pointing Fingers
By Carl M. Cannon, National Journal

Former White House adviser George Stephanopoulos, once asked to account for a Bill Clinton gaffe, explained that the 42nd president had been "ill-staffed." If President Bush was a finger-pointing kind of guy, there are several candidates in his employ for such a description.
Just a year after winning a second term, Bush's job-approval rating is hovering in the 30s -- the lowest for a second-term president since Richard Nixon. Democrats scalped Republicans in Virginia and New Jersey elections this month, leaving GOP candidates openly fearful about 2006; Bush's signature domestic issue of the year -- Social Security reform -- has gone nowhere; and the Iraq war grinds on with mounting casualties.

So, whom should Bush blame?

Well, he could start with Dick Cheney, the front man on Saddam Hussein's proximity to nuclear weapons. It was the vice president who predicted that American troops would "be greeted as liberators" in Iraq. If Bush looks to the Pentagon, he might recall that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed Army estimates that "several hundred thousand" U.S. soldiers would be needed to control Iraq.

On the domestic side, political mastermind Karl Rove assured the president that the way to celebrate re-election was to take on Social Security, the most popular government program of the last century. White House Chief of Staff Andy Card deduced that naming a Texas lawyer and Bush friend with no experience in constitutional law to the Supreme Court was a brilliant stroke.
The uncertain response of Bush's Homeland Security Department, and its stepchild FEMA, exacerbated the suffering after two hurricanes battered the Gulf Coast. Cheney's former top aide, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, got himself indicted for his part in discrediting administration critic Joseph Wilson -- while helping to make Wilson a best-selling author.

White House communications officials inexplicably ceded the field for months to liberal critics who have insisted that Bush "lied" about weapons of mass destruction. And Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist this week caved on a Senate amendment putting pressure on the U.S. to get out of Iraq.

So there is no shortage of culprits, not counting the biggest one of all: When he shaves each morning, George W. Bush could point to the man in the mirror as the source of his troubles. He's the one who made the decision that, according to public opinion surveys, has done more to undermine his standing than any other issue.

"There's a whole lot of blame to go around, but you don't go to war unless the president of the United States says so," says P.J. Crowley, a Clinton foreign policy aide. "Iraq was his decision."

But West Wing aides said this week that notwithstanding news accounts speculating that Bush is more distant from Cheney these days, and less enamored of Rove, they have seen little evidence that the president is peering inward at himself or at his aides. He is not searching for scapegoats on Iraq, they say, because he still believes that things will turn out well there.

With the exception of his team's response to Hurricane Katrina, which did give Bush pause, they describe a president who dismisses criticism, particularly on the war, as partisan or misguided.
That's pretty typical of commanders-in-chief, during times of war or peace.

"As a rule of thumb, presidents find it extraordinarily difficult to admit fault," says Shirley Anne Warshaw, a presidency scholar at Gettysburg College. "Presidents tend to believe that their decisions were not faulty in the first place and, perhaps more importantly, that the admission of fault in one decision could be the beginning of a slippery slope in public confidence in presidential decision-making."

But because of his cocky public persona, Bush is finding that his steadfastness -- a trait usually considered a virtue -- is increasingly perceived as a flaw. Americans have always found Bush hard-headed, but they also considered him to be decisive, principled, and likable. Increasingly, however, people appear to be concluding that Bush's mulish nature has a downside -- and this realization is coloring their view of him in other areas.

In an Ipsos Public Affairs poll conducted earlier this month, 82 percent of Americans said they consider Bush "stubborn" -- up from 75 percent a year ago. Worse, from Bush's standpoint, only 57 percent (down from 75) found him decisive; 54 percent (down from 65) considered him "strong"; 42 percent (down from 53) thought him "honest."

Many of Bush's critics equate his unwavering approach, particularly regarding Iraq, with a nearly pathological unwillingness to admit mistakes. Even more ominous, in their critiques of his presidency, these critics have coalesced around a single, animating idea: that Bush and his top aides deliberately exaggerated the extent of Saddam's arsenal of prohibited weaponry.

At first, this theory was the realm of Michael Mooresville. But a lot of Americans saw Moore's movie, and they weren't all Bush-hating left-wingers. Moreover, history didn't stop with Bush's re-election: American military personnel kept dying, a few every week, until the number of dead surpassed 2,000.

A tenacious Gold Star mother camped out in front of Bush's Texas ranch. The two-year mark of the invasion passed with no end in sight. Libby got indicted. Democratic senators who supported Bush's war resolution began looking to explain a vote they had come to rue. So they, too, began voicing the rhetoric of Bush's "lies" and "manipulating the intelligence."

And one week -- in late June, to be exact -- a majority of Americans told pollsters that Bush "deliberately misled" the public before the war. This was a singularly ominous development in Bush's presidency, but the White House was slow to react. Bush's aides considered it a smear so outside the realm of truth or logic that they thought it wouldn't stick -- that it would, in fact, discredit those making the claim.

"No one would justify a war based on information you know to be false and which would be shown to be false within months after the war concluded," says White House aide Peter Wehner. "The claim that the president 'lied' about the war is both demonstrably untrue and implausible."
Nevertheless, this perception has now metastasized into a kind of national conventional wisdom. In the past week, it finally galvanized the White House into action.

In firing back, White House officials have revealed in public statements and private asides whom Bush blames for the current state of affairs. His nominees, in descending order, appear to be Senate Democrats (at least those who voted for the Iraq war and now oppose it), the media, and the CIA.

"Reasonable people can disagree about the conduct of the war, but it is irresponsible for Democrats to now claim that we misled them and the American people," Bush said on Monday at Alaska's Elmendorf Air Force Base.

The president read a litany of prewar quotes from three Democratic senators (Harry Reid, Carl Levin, and Jay Rockefeller IV) who voted for the war and are now griping about it, adding at the end: "They spoke the truth then, and they're speaking politics now."

Bush made a similar speech in Pennsylvania on Veterans Day. The following morning, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters that the administration acted on "the same intelligence" that led the Clinton administration, world leaders, and the Senate to conclude that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and would eventually use them.

"It was relied on by the prior administration and other world leaders, the Congress, the president of the United States," Hadley added. "Turns out, we were wrong."

Any criticism of the CIA for this miscalculation was only implicit. Even privately, White House aides would not fault George Tenet, the Clinton-chosen CIA director who famously assured Bush that the WMD case against Saddam was a "slam dunk."

But if Tenet avoided a hit, anti-war Democrats did not. White House Counselor Dan Bartlett made the rounds of the network morning talk shows on Monday to denounce the Democrats for behavior that was "unbecoming" to national leaders.

The White House is doing "stuff they should have been doing a long time ago," says Richard Carlson, vice president of the conservative-leaning Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. "They acted as though it was beneath the president to respond. But one and a half years later, I don't know if it will have an impact."

White House aides privately conceded the criticism. "There was a reluctance to relitigate the war, because of the issue of the [missing] WMD," one said. "But, finally, the president felt like enough was enough."

Plummeting poll numbers apparently concentrate the mind.

"We're being battered, for sure, but there's not a sense of drift or lack of energy," said another Bush aide. "We're in a political brawl now -- and a tough war in Iraq."

That's all well and good, but the second part of that realization underscores the true dimensions of Bush's challenge. For starters, Hadley's admission about WMD -- "Turns out, we were wrong" -- came late, and it raises the question of what comes next. The White House answer is: Iraq's December elections. But Iraqis have gone to the polls twice now, with no diminution in the violence, and American voters no longer share Bush's optimism. If anything, they mirror the Democrats' ambivalence.

"I don't see a lot of difference between what is happening with the Senate Democrats and the general public," says University of Wisconsin political scientist Charles O. Jones. "Senate Democrats are working out how it was they supported the war that is now unpopular. The public, too, supported the war and, likewise, wants a reason to distance themselves. Must be that Bush misled everyone!"

Such thinking frustrates Bush's lieutenants, but they realize they have to answer it. "You win by engaging," one White House aide said. "It's got to be litigated. It's not just politics -- it's history."
They also understand something else as well, although they are reluctant to talk about it, even off the record: To truly win the argument, the United States must ultimately win on the battlefield of Iraq. And if the Senate is any barometer, "ultimately" means "soon."

"That's why the elections that are key for us are not next year," said this official, referring to the U.S. midterms in 2006, "but the ones next month -- in Iraq."


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Dem Rep Rush Holt & getting paper ballots...

From: ,an excerpt:

Note: click on link above to sign a petition to at least get this good bill, HR550, to a vote!

The 2000 election was highly contested, but there was physical evidence - punch cards - through which the results could be independently confirmed. In 2004, more than 43.5 million voters (25%) voted on electronic voting systems that cannot be independently audited. While the 2004 election too was highly contested, there were even fewer audit trails to review than in 2000 (only 12.5% of registered voters voted on unauditable electronic voting systems in 2000).

Thus, an aura of uncertainty remains about the result. We cannot allow another federal election to take place, and perhaps again be subject to dispute, without the availability of a voter verified paper record for every vote cast so that the results can be confirmed and accepted with finality. Both the losing and winning candidates - and their supporters - deserve such confirmation. Our future as a democratic republic demands it.

The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act (H.R. 550) will:

Mandate a voter verified paper ballot for every vote cast in every federal election, nationwide; because the voter verified paper record is the only one verified by the voters themselves, rather than by the machines, it will serve as the vote of record in any case of inconsistency with electronic records;

Protect the accessibility requirements of the Help America Vote Act for voters with disabilities;

Require random, unannounced, hand-count audits of actual election results in every state, and in each county, for every Federal election;

Prohibit the use of undisclosed software and wireless and concealed communications devices and internet connections in voting machines;

Provide Federal funding to pay for implementation of voter verified paper balloting; and

Require full implementation by 2006 There are many politically contentious issues in election reform, but making sure votes are counted accurately is not one of them.

Because of its narrow scope, its realistic goals, and its strong bi-partisan support with now 159 co-sponsors both Democrat and Republican, H.R. 550 is our best hope to restore integrity and voter confidence to our electoral process - the very foundation of a representative democracy.

We urge you to pass H.R. 550 as written immediately.


Monday, November 28, 2005

Can tell more truth in fiction...True...Clarke's novel...

NY Times Review of Books:

November 29, 2005
Books of The Times 'The Scorpion's Gate'
A Political Warning Disguised as Thriller

Here is the plot of the former counterterrorism czar Richard A. Clarke's new book, "The Scorpion's Gate": there is trouble again in the Middle East, and the United States is on the verge of getting involved in another war. An arrogant, gung-ho secretary of defense and his eager-beaver under secretary are intent on regime change in a certain Arab country with huge oil reserves. They charge that this nation's government has ties with Al Qaeda and is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons.

The "SecDef," who has a taste for pre-emptive wars and a simultaneous desire to reconfigure the armed services, is regarded with skepticism by many members of the uniformed military, but he enjoys the confidence of the president. When it becomes clear that intelligence estimates do not support the SecDef's theories - and in fact suggest that his invasion plans could further destabilize the Middle East - a small band of intelligence analysts and military officers decide to see if they can thwart the rush to war.

In his much-discussed 2004 nonfiction bestseller "Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror," Mr. Clarke criticized the Bush administration's handling of the war on terror and its willful determination to go to war against Iraq, but this time he is not talking about real events - he is writing fiction.

Though Mr. Clarke's fast, twisty plot could easily be turned into an implausible Tom Cruise action-adventure movie, "The Scorpion's Gate" is less interesting as a Tom Clancy-esque thriller than as a kind of parable. Indeed its often absurd plot is primarily a vehicle for its author to lay out his views about the current Iraq war (and its role in further radicalizing the Arab street), the precariousness of the current Saudi regime and the dangers posed by Iran - a country, Mr. Clarke argues, that not only benefited from the American invasion of its neighbor, but also embodies the very threats the Bush administration lodged against Iraq (i.e., its support of terrorism and its alleged pursuit of nuclear capabilities).

The story Mr. Clarke tells in these pages takes place several years in the future: the United States has finally pulled out of Iraq, and Iraq has become closely aligned with Iran, which, bolstered by its success there, has ambitious plans to widen its sphere of influence in the Persian Gulf.

Meanwhile, the Saudi regime has collapsed, and the former Saudi Arabia has become a new country called Islamyah, a country whose ruling council is torn between radicals, eager to impose a strict Wahhabi rule, and moderates, who are in favor of reform and modernization.

Three countries have designs on Islamyah's oil reserves - Iran, China and the United States - and the novel's heroes become convinced that the invasion of Islamyah, being secretly planned by America's defense secretary, Henry Conrad, will put those three nations on a collision course toward nuclear war.

Mr. Clarke's heroes, who fought in Iraq and lost comrades there, blame the SecDef, "who didn't think it out, had no plan, put in too few troops," and the neo-cons who pushed for war. Their friends died, as one puts it, "because some set of lunatics from a think tank escaped and took over the Pentagon."

Needless to say, Mr. Clarke's fictional secretary of defense bears more than a passing resemblance to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, just as his neo-con cronies seem meant to conjure associations with Paul D. Wolfowitz, former deputy secretary of defense, and company.

Determined to head off another war, Mr. Clarke's heroes - Marine Maj. Gen. Bobby Doyle, Vice Adm. Brad Adams and Rusty MacIntyre, deputy director of the new Intelligence Analysis Center - begin investigating the SecDef's charges about Islamyah's terrorist ties. They will get vital assists from an influential senator, a British intelligence agent and an American newspaper reporter, but their investigations will take a series of harrowing turns, as the clock to war winds down.

Many of the views on terrorism, the Middle East and American foreign policy delineated in these pages were previously sketched out by Mr. Clarke in the final chapters of "Against All Enemies," and they were also treated in fictional form in a long futuristic tale that he published last January in the Atlantic Monthly. In that short story, Mr. Clarke (until recently a contributor to the New York Times Magazine), envisioned a world in which the war in Iraq had led to more terrorist attacks on the United States, to bombings in malls, casinos, subways and trains, which in turn lead to a crackdown on civil liberties at home; after his fictional president launches a pre-emptive attack against Iran, there is a coup in Saudi Arabia and a Iranian-led cyberattack that cripples the American economy.

Why has Mr. Clarke turned to fiction as a venue for his arguments? No doubt it's a way to say - or imply - things about the Bush administration that he can't quite come out and say in an essay, as well as a way to satirize the intelligence bureaucracy and neo-conservative policy making. It's also a way for Mr. Clarke to dramatize his arguments and try to reach a broader audience.

As the opening chapter of "Against All Enemies" (which provided an insider's account of what happened at the White House on 9/11) demonstrated, Mr. Clarke has a flair for creating vivid, you-are-there narratives, but "The Scorpion's Gate" still reads like a journeyman effort: there are awkward passages of exposition shoehorned into the early portions of the story and stilted conversations meant to convey key information to the reader.

Although one of Mr. Clarke's heroes, Rusty MacIntyre, is a credible enough creation, most of his characters have the cardboardy feel of generic figures in a thriller. The action sequences, based on Mr. Clarke's knowledge of spy tradecraft and military maneuvers, are decidedly more gripping, though even they pale in comparison to the real-life drama of terrorism, governmental bungling and bureaucratic infighting that the author laid out in his nonfiction account of 9/11 and the war against Iraq.


No Repub cowards here..the Brits want the truth...

From American Progress:


British Prime Minister Tony Blair "now seems to be facing the full-scale parliamentary inquiry into the Iraq war -- it's justification, conduct and aftermath -- that Bush has been able to avoid."

Leading figures in the Conservative, Liberal-Democratic, Scottish National and Plaid Cymru parties have joined hands to back a motion entitled "Conduct of Government policy in relation to the war against Iraq." Such an investigation will help determine whether Blair was "double-crossed" by Bush aides, as former Ambassador Joseph Wilson has suggested, or whether he "planned the Iraq war from the start."

Here in the United States, despite the fact that U.S. taxpayers have funded the 9-11 Commission, the Silberman-Robb Commission, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Duelfer Report, and a host of executive branch reviews to look into some aspect of the Iraq conflict, not a single one has comprehensively examined the justification, conduct, and aftermath of the Iraq war as the British parliamentary inquiry plans to do.


Only damned fools lie to Fitzgerald...


Fitzgerald Targets Rove Again
By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t Investigative Report
Monday 28 November 2005

Continuing his two-year-old investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson's identity as a covert CIA agent, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will present evidence to a second grand jury this week that could lead to a criminal indictment being handed up against Karl Rove, President Bush's deputy chief of staff, sources inside the investigation said over the weekend.

For the past month, Rove has remained under intense scrutiny by Fitzgerald's office. During that time Fitzgerald, according to these sources, has acquired evidence that Rove tried to cover up his role in the leak by withholding crucial facts from investigators and the grand jury on three separate occasions, beginning in October 2003, about a conversation he had with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, as well as not being truthful about the reasons that call was not logged by his office.

Rove's conversation with Cooper took place a week or so before Plame Wilson's identity was first revealed, in a July 14, 2003, column published by conservative journalist Robert Novak. Cooper had written his own story about Plame Wilson a few days later.

During previous testimony before the grand jury, Rove said he first learned Plame Wilson's name from reporters - specifically, from Novak's column - and only after her name was published did he discuss Plame Wilson's CIA status with other journalists. That sequence of events, however, as described by Rove during his grand jury testimony, has turned out not to be true, and his reasons for not being forthcoming have not convinced Fitzgerald that Rove had a momentary lapse, according to sources.

Still, Robert Luskin, Rove's lawyer, maintains that his client has not intentionally withheld facts from the prosecutor or the grand jury but had simply forgotten about his conversations with Cooper, the sources said.

Luskin would not return calls for comment.

Fitzgerald will present evidence to the grand jury later this week, obtained from other witnesses who were interviewed by the Special Prosecutor or who testified, showing that Rove lied during the three times he testified under oath and that he made misleading statements to Justice Department and FBI investigators in an attempt to cover up his role in the leak when he was first interviewed about it in October 2003, the sources said.

The most serious charges Rove faces are making false statements to investigators and obstruction of justice, the sources said. He does not appear to be in jeopardy of violating the law making it a crime to leak the name of a covert CIA agent, because it's unlikely that Rove was aware that Plame Wilson was undercover, the sources said.

However, according to the sources, two things are very clear: either Rove will agree to enter into a plea deal with Fitzgerald or he will be charged with a crime, but he will not be exonerated for the role he played in the leak, based on numerous internal conversations Fitzgerald has had with his staff. If Rove does agree to enter into a plea, Fitzgerald is not expected to discuss any aspect of his probe into Rove, because Rove may be called to testify as a prosecution witness against Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby was indicted last month on five counts of lying to investigators, perjury, and obstruction of justice related to his role in the leak.

Moreover, a second high-ranking official in the Bush administration also faces the possibility of indictment for making false statements to investigators about his role in the leak: National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

Hadley had been interviewed in 2004 about his role in the leak and had vehemently denied speaking to reporters about Plame Wilson, the sources said. However, these sources have identified Hadley as sharing information about Plame Wilson with Washington Post editor Bob Woodward, whose stunning revelation two weeks ago - that he was the first journalist to learn of Plame Wilson's identity in mid-June 2003 and had kept that fact secret for two years - led Fitzgerald to return to a second grand jury. A spokeswoman at the National Security Council denied that Hadley was Woodward's source. Hadley, on the other hand, would neither confirm nor deny that he was Woodward's source when he was questioned by reporters two weeks ago. Woodward testified two weeks ago about what he knew and when he knew it. Woodward would not publicly reveal the identity of his source.

Rove had emailed Hadley following the conversation he had with Cooper in July 2003 regarding former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's trip to Niger to investigate allegations Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from the African country, which President Bush had referred to in his January 2003 State of the Union address, and which many critics believe was the silver bullet that convinced the American public and Congress to support a pre-emptive strike against Iraq.

Wilson, who is married to Plame Wilson, was a critic of the administration's pre-war Iraq intelligence. It was during Rove's conversation with Cooper that Wilson's CIA agent wife was discussed with the reporter, in an attempt to discredit Wilson and dissuade him from continuing to criticize the administration's rationale for war.

Earlier this month, the sources said, Fitzgerald received additional testimony from Rove's former personal assistant, Susan B. Ralston, who was also a special assistant to President Bush. Ralston said that Rove instructed her not to log a phone call Rove had with Cooper about Plame Wilson in July 2003.

Ralston previously worked as a personal secretary to Jack Abramoff, the Republican power lobbyist being investigated for allegations of defrauding Indian tribes and who was recently indicted on conspiracy and wire fraud charges. While working with Abramoff, Ralston arranged fundraisers and events at Washington MCI Center skyboxes for members of Congress. Ralston communicated with Rove on Abramoff's behalf on tribal affairs, though she is not accused of wrongdoing.

Ralston provided Fitzgerald with more information and some "clarification" about several telephone calls Rove allegedly made to a few reporters, including syndicated columnist Robert Novak, lawyers close to the investigation say.

Ralston testified in August that Cooper's name was not noted in the call logs from Rove's office, those familiar with the case say, testifying that because Cooper's call was transferred to Rove's office from the White House switchboard it was not logged. If Cooper had called Rove's office directly, the call would have been logged, Ralston testified.

But sources say that Fitzgerald has obtained documentary evidence proving that that scenario does not jibe with other unrelated calls to Rove's office that were also transferred to his office by the switchboard but were logged.

As Rove's senior adviser, Ralston screened Rove's calls. Her additional testimony may help Fitzgerald prove that there were inconsistencies in Rove's account of his role in the leak and assess why he withheld a crucial fact from the prosecutor: that Rove had spoken with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper as well as Novak about Plame and confirmed that she was an undercover CIA agent.

On Sunday, Time magazine reported that another one of its reporters, Viveca Novak, who bears no relation to Robert Novak, is cooperating with Fitzgerald's probe and will give a deposition to Fitzgerald about a conversation she had with Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, in May 2004.

However, Viveca Novak did not write a single story about the Plame Wilson leak under her byline between May and December 2004. The first time she authored or co-authored a story about the leak following the May 2004 meeting with Luskin was in July 2005, so it's unclear why Fitzgerald is suddenly interested in questioning her. But her upcoming testimony proves that Fitzgerald is keeping the pressure on Rove.

Jason Leopold spent two years covering California's electricity crisis as Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires. Jason has spent the last year cultivating sources close to the CIA leak investigation, and will be a regular contributer to t r u t h o u t.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

America....the end...

From Drudge Report:


The TV networks are getting edgier in their '06 pilot plans. The nets have filled their development slates with a bevy of brave ideas and bold format experiments, VARIETY reports on Monday, including shows about THE END OF AMERICA! ABC alone has at least two would-be shows set in post-apocalyptic America ("Resistance" and "Red & Blue") while Gavin Polone and Bruce Wagner are teaming for the comfy-sounding plague drama "Four Horsemen" at CBS (which also is developing "Jericho," about life in a small town after America is destroyed).

Says Fox exec VP Craig Erwich: "The creative community appears to be really inspired this year," he says. "It was an exciting time to be buying. I came away pretty encouraged about network TV."



The Carlyle Corporation..War makes them stinking rich...

You want to know who's wheeling and dealing? Who's getting beyond rich with this war? THE $$$$$$$$$$ Corporation? Just take a look at this!!! (click on above link)


Corporations rule the media...

From Information Clearing House:

an excerpt:

"“The press is going through a very difficult time,” said Vietnam correspondent David Halberstam, “because the technology is changing under our feet …. You go from three or four channels to cable and the fragmentation of the audience. So that has tended to change the dynamic. First print is in decline, then the networks are in decline. The networks are utterly corporatized, not interested in news in the way the networks in the 60’s still cared …. Now you have these giant corporations that don’t really care that much about news. It is a tiny tail on a very large dog.”


It's neo-liberal in Canada, neocon in US..same, same...

From Information Clearing House:

Fascism then. Fascism now?

When people think of fascism, they imagine Rows of goose-stepping storm troopers and puffy-chested dictators. What they don't see is the economic and political process that leads to the nightmare.
By Paul Bigioni
"Toronto Star"

Observing political and economic discourse in North America since the 1970s leads to an inescapable conclusion: The vast bulk of legislative activity favours the interests of large commercial enterprises. Big business is very well off, and successive Canadian and U.S. governments, of whatever political stripe, have made this their primary objective for at least the past 25 years.

Digging deeper into 20th century history, one finds the exaltation of big business at the expense of the citizen was a central characteristic of government policy in Germany and Italy in the years before those countries were chewed to bits and spat out by fascism. Fascist dictatorships were borne to power in each of these countries by big business, and they served the interests of big business with remarkable ferocity.

These facts have been lost to the popular consciousness in North America. Fascism could therefore return to us, and we will not even recognize it. Indeed, Huey Long, one of America's most brilliant and most corrupt politicians, was once asked if America would ever see fascism. "Yes," he replied, "but we will call it anti-fascism."

By exploring the disturbing parallels between our own time and the era of overt fascism, we can avoid the same hideous mistakes. At present, we live in a constitutional democracy. The tools necessary to protect us from fascism remain in the hands of the citizen. All the same, North America is on a fascist trajectory. We must recognize this threat for what it is, and we must change course.

Consider the words of Thurman Arnold, head of the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in 1939:"Germany, of course, has developed within 15 years from an industrial autocracy into a dictatorship. Most people are under the impression that the power of Hitler was the result of his demagogic blandishments and appeals to the mob... Actually, Hitler holds his power through the final and inevitable development of the uncontrolled tendency to combine in restraint of trade."

Arnold made his point even more clearly in a 1939 address to the American Bar Association:"Germany presents the logical end of the process of cartelization. From 1923 to 1935, cartelization grew in Germany until finally that nation was so organized that everyone had to belong either to a squad, a regiment or a brigade in order to survive. The names given to these squads, regiments or brigades were cartels, trade associations, unions and trusts. Such a distribution system could not adjust its prices. It needed a general with quasi-military authority who could order the workers to work and the mills to produce. Hitler named himself that general. Had it not been Hitler it would have been someone else."

I suspect that to most readers, Arnold's words are bewildering. People today are quite certain that they know what fascism is. When I ask people to define it, they typically tell me what it was, the assumption being that it no longer exists. Most people associate fascism with concentration camps and rows of storm troopers, yet they know nothing of the political and economic processes that led to these horrible end results.

Before the rise of fascism, Germany and Italy were, on paper, liberal democracies. Fascism did not swoop down on these nations as if from another planet. To the contrary, fascist dictatorship was the result of political and economic changes these nations underwent while they were still democratic. In both these countries, economic power became so utterly concentrated that the bulk of all economic activity fell under the control of a handful of men. Economic power, when sufficiently vast, becomes by its very nature political power. The political power of big business supported fascism in Italy and Germany.

Business tightened its grip on the state in both Italy and Germany by means of intricate webs of cartels and business associations. These associations exercised a high degree of control over the businesses of their members. They frequently controlled pricing, supply and the licensing of patented technology. These associations were private but were entirely legal. Neither Germany nor Italy had effective antitrust laws, and the proliferation of business associations was generally encouraged by government. This was an era eerily like our own, insofar as economists and businessmen constantly clamoured for self-regulation in business.

By the mid 1920s, however, self-regulation had become self-imposed regimentation. By means of monopoly and cartel, the businessmen had wrought for themselves a "command and control" economy that replaced the free market. The business associations of Italy and Germany at this time are perhaps history's most perfect illustration of Adam Smith's famous dictum: "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices."

How could the German government not be influenced by Fritz Thyssen, the man who controlled most of Germany's coal production? How could it ignore the demands of the great I.G. Farben industrial trust, controlling as it did most of that nation's chemical production? Indeed, the German nation was bent to the will of these powerful industrial interests.

Hitler attended to the reduction of taxes applicable to large businesses while simultaneously increasing the same taxes as they related to small business. Previous decrees establishing price ceilings were repealed such that the cost of living for the average family was increased. Hitler's economic policies hastened the destruction of Germany's middle class by decimating small business. Ironically, Hitler pandered to the middle class, and they provided some of his most enthusiastically violent supporters. The fact that he did this while simultaneously destroying them was a terrible achievement of Nazi propaganda.

Hitler also destroyed organized labour by making strikes illegal. Notwithstanding the socialist terms in which he appealed to the masses, Hitler's labour policy was the dream come true of the industrial cartels that supported him. Nazi law gave total control over wages and working conditions to the employer.

Compulsory (slave) labour was the crowning achievement of Nazi labour relations. Along with millions of people, organized labour died in the concentration camps. The camps were not only the most depraved of all human achievements, they were a part and parcel of Nazi economic policy. Hitler's Untermenschen, largely Jews, Poles and Russians, supplied slave labour to German industry. Surely this was a capitalist bonanza. In another bitter irony, the gates over many of the camps bore a sign that read Arbeit Macht Frei — "Work shall set you free." I do not know if this was black humour or propaganda, but it is emblematic of the deception that lies at the heart of fascism.

The same economic reality existed in Italy between the two world wars. In that country, nearly all industrial activity was owned or controlled by a few corporate giants, Fiat and the Ansaldo shipping concern being the chief examples of this. Land ownership in Italy was also highly concentrated and jealously guarded. Vast tracts of farmland were owned by a few latifundisti. The actual farming was carried out by a landless peasantry who were locked into a role essentially the same as that of the sharecropper of the U.S. Deep South.

As in Germany, the few owners of the nation's capital assets had immense influence over government. As a young man, Mussolini had been a strident socialist, and he, like Hitler, used socialist language to lure the people to fascism. Mussolini spoke of a "corporate" society wherein the energy of the people would not be wasted on class struggle. The entire economy was to be divided into industry specific corporazioni, bodies composed of both labour and management representatives. The corporazioni would resolve all labour/management disputes; if they failed to do so, the fascist state would intervene.

Unfortunately, as in Germany, there laid at the heart of this plan a swindle. The corporazioni, to the extent that they were actually put in place, were controlled by the employers. Together with Mussolini's ban on strikes, these measures reduced the Italian labourer to the status of peasant.

Mussolini, the one-time socialist, went on to abolish the inheritance tax, a measure that favoured the wealthy. He decreed a series of massive subsidies to Italy's largest industrial businesses and repeatedly ordered wage reductions. Italy's poor were forced to subsidize the wealthy. In real terms, wages and living standards for the average Italian dropped precipitously under fascism.

Even this brief historical sketch shows how fascism did the bidding of big business. The fact that Hitler called his party the "National Socialist Party" did not change the reactionary nature of his policies. The connection between the fascist dictatorships and monopoly capital was obvious to the U.S. Department of Justice in 1939. As of 2005, however, it is all but forgotten.

It is always dangerous to forget the lessons of history. It is particularly perilous to forget about the economic origins of fascism in our modern era of deregulation. Most Western liberal democracies are currently in the thrall of what some call market fundamentalism. Few nowadays question the flawed assumption that state intervention in the marketplace is inherently bad. As in Italy and Germany in the '20s and '30s, business associations clamour for more deregulation and deeper tax cuts.

The gradual erosion of antitrust legislation, especially in the United States, has encouraged consolidation in many sectors of the economy by way of mergers and acquisitions. The North American economy has become more monopolistic than at any time in the post-WWII period. U.S. census data from 1997 shows that the largest four companies in the food, motor vehicle and aerospace industries control 53.4, 87.3 and 55.6 per cent of their respective markets. Over 20 per cent of commercial banking in the U.S. is controlled by the four largest financial institutions, with the largest 50 controlling over 60 per cent.

Even these numbers underestimate the scope of concentration, since they do not account for the myriad interconnections between firms by means of debt instruments and multiple directorships, which further reduce the extent of competition. Actual levels of U.S. commercial concentration have been difficult to measure since the 1970s, when strong corporate opposition put an end to the Federal Trade Commission's efforts to collect the necessary information.

Fewer, larger competitors dominate all economic activity, and their political will is expressed with the millions of dollars they spend lobbying politicians and funding policy formulation in the many right-wing institutes that now limit public discourse to the question of how best to serve the interests of business. The consolidation of the economy and the resulting perversion of public policy are themselves fascistic. I am certain, however, that former president Bill Clinton was not worried about fascism when he repealed federal antitrust laws that had been enacted in the 1930s.

The Canadian Council of Chief Executives is similarly unworried about fascism as it lobbies the Canadian government to water down proposed amendments to our federal Competition Act. (The Competition Act, last amended in 1986, regulates monopolies, among other things, and itself represents a watering down of Canada's previous antitrust laws. It was essentially rewritten by industry and handed to the Mulroney government to be enacted.)

At present, monopolies are regulated on purely economic grounds to ensure the efficient allocation of goods. If we are to protect ourselves from the growing political influence of big business, then our antitrust laws must be reconceived in a way that recognizes the political danger of monopolistic conditions. Antitrust laws do not just protect the market place, they protect democracy.

It might be argued that North America's democratic political systems are so entrenched that we needn't fear fascism's return. The democracies of Italy and Germany in the 1920s were in many respects fledgling and weak. Our systems will surely react at the first whiff of dictatorship.

Or will they?

This argument denies the reality that the fascist dictatorships were preceded by years of reactionary politics, the kind of politics that are playing out today. Further, it is based on the conceit that whatever our own governments do is democracy. Canada still clings to a quaint, 19th-century "first past the post" electoral system in which a minority of the popular vote can and has resulted in majority control of Parliament.

In the U.S., millions still question the legality of the sitting president's first election victory, and the power to declare war has effectively become his personal prerogative. Assuming that we have enough democracy to protect us is exactly the kind of complacency that allows our systems to be quietly and slowly perverted. On paper, Italy and Germany had constitutional, democratic systems. What they lacked was the eternal vigilance necessary to sustain them. That vigilance is also lacking today.

Our collective forgetfulness about the economic nature of fascism is also dangerous at a philosophical level. As contradictory as it may seem, fascist dictatorship was made possible because of the flawed notion of freedom that held sway during the era of laissez-faire capitalism in the early 20th century.

It was the liberals of that era who clamoured for unfettered personal and economic freedom, no matter what the cost to society. Such untrammelled freedom is not suitable to civilized humans. It is the freedom of the jungle. In other words, the strong have more of it than the weak. It is a notion of freedom that is inherently violent, because it is enjoyed at the expense of others.

Such a notion of freedom legitimizes each and every increase in the wealth and power of those who are already powerful, regardless of the misery that will be suffered by others as a result. The use of the state to limit such "freedom" was denounced by the laissez-faire liberals of the early 20th century. The use of the state to protect such "freedom" was fascism.

Just as monopoly is the ruin of the free market, fascism is the ultimate degradation of liberal capitalism.

In the post-war period, this flawed notion of freedom has been perpetuated by the neo-liberal school of thought. The neo-liberals denounce any regulation of the marketplace. In so doing, they mimic the posture of big business in the pre-fascist period.

Under the sway of neo-liberalism, Thatcher, Reagan, Mulroney and George W. Bush have decimated labour and exalted capital. (At present, only 7.8 per cent of workers in the U.S. private sector are unionized — about the same percentage as in the early 1900s.)

Neo-liberals call relentlessly for tax cuts, which, in a previously progressive system, disproportionately favour the wealthy. Regarding the distribution of wealth, the neo-liberals have nothing to say. In the end, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. As in Weimar Germany, the function of the state is being reduced to that of a steward for the interests of the moneyed elite. All that would be required now for a more rapid descent into fascism are a few reasons for the average person to forget he is being ripped off.

Hatred of Arabs, fundamentalist Christianity or an illusory sense of perpetual war may well be taking the place of Hitler's hatred for communists and Jews.

Neo-liberal intellectuals often recognize the need for violence to protect what they regard as freedom. Thomas Friedman of The New York Times has written enthusiastically that "the hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist," and that "McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15."

As in pre-fascist Germany and Italy, the laissez-faire businessmen call for the state to do their bidding even as they insist that the state should stay out of the marketplace. Put plainly, neo-liberals advocate the use of the state's military force for the sake of private gain.

Their view of the state's role in society is identical to that of the businessmen and intellectuals who supported Hitler and Mussolini. There is no fear of the big state here. There is only the desire to wield its power. Neo-liberalism is thus fertile soil for fascism to grow again into an outright threat to our democracy.

Having said that fascism is the result of a flawed notion of freedom, we need to re-examine what we mean when we throw around the word. We must conceive of freedom in a more enlightened way. Indeed, it was the thinkers of the Enlightenment who imagined a balanced and civilized freedom that did not impinge upon the freedom of one's neighbour.

Put in the simplest terms, my right to life means that you must give up your freedom to kill me. This may seem terribly obvious to decent people. Unfortunately, in our neo-liberal era, this civilized sense of freedom has, like the dangers of fascism, been all but forgotten.

Paul Bigioni is a lawyer practising in Markham. This article is drawn from his work on a book about the persistence of fascism.

Copyright Toronto Star Newspapers Limited