Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Stuck on Yoo

Cheney's gift: Waterboarding the captured GI?

by Jane Stillwater

Let us hope with all our hearts that the Taliban aren't doing the same thing to the US soldier who was recently captured in Afghanistan that Dick Cheney and George Bush ordered to be done to Taliban soldiers held in Baghram and Guantanamo.

Hey, Taliban! Let's have a prisoner exchange! Please give us back our soldier -- and you can have Dick Cheney instead. And we'll even throw in George Bush! Then you could give them to poppy-growing warlords like Bush's friend Dostum, who would leave them in airless boxcars until they die of suffocation and then bury them in an unmarked mass grave. You could use broom handles on them. You could waterboard them 183 times. Or you can set a higher example than Bush and Cheney did and treat them humanely -- and hopefully you will treat the captured GI humanely too.

"Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."

US to add 22,000 troops to army

Robert Gates: "The army faces a period where its ability to deploy combat brigades at acceptable fill rates is at risk"

The US Army will "temporarily" increase its size by 22,000 soldiers for the next three years, Defence Secretary Robert Gates has announced.

The additional troops are intended to ease the strain of the US's deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr Gates said.

The extra manpower will raise the total number of active US soldiers from 547,000 to 569,000.


Gambling with peace: how US bingo dollars are funding Israeli settlements

• California charity 'a barrier to West Bank resolution'
• Millionaire's foundation must be curbed, critics say

An Israeli construction worker keeps an eye on a crane working above the building site for an extention to the Maale Zeitim.

For the winning punters chancing their luck at Hawaiian Gardens' charity bingo hall in the heart of one of California's poorest towns, the big prize is $500. The losers walk away with little more than an assurance that their dollars are destined for a good cause.

But the real winners and losers live many thousands of miles away, where the profits from the nightly ritual of numbers-calling fund what critics describe as a form of ethnic cleansing by extremist organisations.

Each dollar spent on bingo by the mostly Latino residents of Hawaiian Gardens, on the outskirts of Los Angeles, helps fund Jewish settlements on Palestinian land in some of the most sensitive areas of occupied East Jerusalem, particularly the Muslim quarter of the old city, and West Bank towns such as Hebron where the Israeli military has forced Arabs out of their properties in their thousands.

Over the past 20 years, the bingo hall has funnelled tens of millions of dollars in to what its opponents — including rabbis serving the Hawaiian Gardens area — describe as an ideologically-driven strategy to grab land for Israel, as well as contributing to influential American groups and thinktanks backing Israel's more hawkish governments.

But the bingo operation, owned by an American Jewish doctor and millionaire, Irving Moskowitz, has taken on added significance in recent weeks as President Barack Obama has laid down a marker to Israel in demanding an end to settlement construction, which the White House regards as a major obstacle to peace. "Moskowitz is taking millions from the poorest town in California and sending it to the settlements," said Haim Dov Beliak, a rabbi serving Hawaiian Gardens and one of the Jewish religious leaders in California who have campaigned to block the flow of funds to the settlers.

"The money Moskowitz puts in to the settlements has changed the game. Moskowitz has helped build a hardcore of the settler movement that may number 50-70,000.

"He's not paying for all of it but he puts the money up front for the vanguards that get things off the ground. That ties Israel's hands. That ties the hands of the Obama administration. If the administration wants to be serious about stopping the settlers it has to begin in Hawaiian Gardens."


PETA Brings us the Sea Kitten

sea kittenThe much lampooned People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has offered to save Pescadero State Beach in California. That is if the name is changed to Sea Kitten State Park. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has mandated the closure of 219 state parks, including Pescadero, in an effort to cut costs and save money on the state budget. But PETA have sent California State Parks Director Ruth Coleman a letter offering to save one of the beaches…for a price. Pescadero is a PETA target, because it translates to "the place to fish". And PETA is no fan of harm to any animal, including fish. The idea behind the campaign is to associate fish with kittens (something people wouldn't eat), in an effort to stop people from going fishing. But I think this video explains the idea better:

Note: Sea kittens dipped in mayonnaise taste soooo good.


Unaired questioning from the Sotomayor confirmation hearings...

Scientific Inquiry concludes: Inhofe List “Not credible …”

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Senator James Inhofe (R-Exxon) has misused the power of his chairmanship and, now, Ranking Minority status on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) committee to expend taxpayer resources on distorting, misleading, and outright deceiving when it comes to scientific issues, most notably in relation to questions of Global Warming. One of the most infamous examples of this are the various incarnations of a "report" cobbling together statements from scientists that supposedly dissent from the scientific consensus on humanity's role in driving accelerating global warming. This is a quite favorite 'denier' citation, the supposed 400 or 600 or 700 (depending on which version) number of scientists who have, supposedly, gone on record against the Theory of Global Warming. And, they like to cite this as from the "Senate Environment and Public Works Committee", without mentioning that this is a Minority Report from global-warming denier, fossil fool James Inhofe's staff.

Well, today the Center for Inquiry (CFI), "an organization committed to defending scientific integrity,

has today dealt a body blow to global warming skeptics by releasing findings exposing the lack of credibility of dissenting scientists challenging man-made global warming

CFI's Office of Public Policy undertook an assessment of the 687 people listed as "dissenting scientists" in the January 2009 version of the 'Inhofe list'. Their conclusions:

  • Slightly fewer than 10 percent could be identified as climate scientists.
  • Approximately 15 percent published in the recognizable refereed literature on subjects related to climate science.
  • Approximately 80 percent clearly had no refereed publication record on climate science at all.
  • Approximately 4 percent appeared to favor the current IPCC-2007 consensus and should not have been on the list.

Here (pdf) is a spreadsheet providing a first-order analysis of the 687 alledged "dissenting scientists" in the 2009 version.


Al-Jazeera journalist imprisoned in Guantánamo Bay to sue George Bush

Sami al-Haj – freed in May 2008 after more than six years – to launch legal action against former US president

by Gwladys Fouché in Oslo

Sami al-HajAn al-Jazeera journalist who was imprisoned in Guantánamo Bay plans to launch a joint legal action with other detainees against former US president George Bush and other administration officials, for the illegal detention and torture he and others suffered at the hands of US authorities.

The case will be initiated by the Guantánamo Justice Centre, a new organisation open to former prisoners at the US base, which will set up its international headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, later this month.

"The purpose of our organisation is to open a case against the Bush administration," said co-founder Sami al-Haj, an al-Jazeera reporter from Sudan who was illegally detained by US authorities for over six years after being captured while he was working as a cameraman. He was freed in May 2008.

"We need to start our organisation first and then we will prepare a whole case. We don't want to do this case by case," said the 40-year-old journalist during a recent visit to Oslo.

"We are in the process of collecting information from all the people, such as medical evidence. It takes time," he said.

He added: "I need them to go to court … we don't want [what happened to us] to be repeated again."

The legal action may be modelled on an action against General Augusto Pinochet, who was arrested in the UK in 1998 at the request of a Spanish prosecutor for the alleged murders of Spanish citizens in Chile under his dictatorship.


What We Really See: GOP Senators Question Sotomayor

Like Kryptonite To Stupid

Well howdeee there Missus Sota-mah-yaor!

Good morning, Senator.

Now, I'm a-looking here at your papers and such and I see where you sez, that you're a wise latin-a.

Well actually Senator, that pull quote misrepresents the full context of what I was saying…

Well I gotta say ma'am, I'm mighty unnerved. Powerful unnerved by the sen-ti-ments you got here on this paper.

Yeah, you tell her boss!

Quiet down, Sen. Graham.


Now, you think, ma'am, with you being a… what is it y'all call yourselves nowadays… a "latina" woman, you can judge white people, such as myself, fairly?

Yeah, who's gonna stand up for a white fella?

Senator, I pride myself on fidelity to the law.

I don't know. I. Just. Don't. Know. We'll retire for the afternoon to our porches and do some powerful thinking over a nice mint julep. Good day, ma'am.


STIMULUS WATCH: No-bid contracts mean higher costs


WASHINGTON — The Defense Department frequently awards no-bid work to small contractors for repairs at military bases under the new economic stimulus law, costing taxpayers millions of dollars more than when businesses compete for the work, according to an Associated Press analysis of 570 such contracts.

The Pentagon saves more than three times as much money when companies compete, the AP analysis showed. Yet more than $242 million in federal contracts — representing more than one-fourth of the military's stimulus contract spending so far — has been awarded under the recovery program through no-bid contracts for repairs and maintenance.

President Barack Obama promised last month to save money through competition.

"By ending unnecessary no-bid contracts and reforming the way government contracts are awarded, we can save the American people up to $40 billion every year," Obama said, as he announced new procedures to increase competition.

In many of the cases, the military bases are eager to spend the stimulus money. Speed is an important element of the Obama administration's effort to jump-start the economy. Bidding and its delays can be avoided by federal rules that permit contract awards to small and disadvantaged businesses without competition, said Navy Cmdr. Darryn James, a Pentagon spokesman.

Across the government, more than $543 million in federal contracts have been awarded so far without competition under Obama's $787 billion stimulus program.


From Tax Breaks to Tax Hits

In the struggle for a less unequal America, could the House health care surtax on the wealthy turn out to be a game-changer?

Sam Pizzigati's picture

The push to overhaul the system that takes care of America's health may be on the verge of morphing into something even grander, a promising new offensive against the unhealthy concentration of America's wealth.

The entire House Democratic leadership now stands united behind health care reform legislation that hikes taxes on America's richest well beyond the levels that pundits, over recent years, have deemed "politically feasible."

surtax chartAt the heart of that legislation: a 5.4 percent surtax on income over $1 million.

Taxpayers who make over $1 million, under the bill now moving through House committees, would pay $88,582 more to Uncle Sam in 2011, the year the bill would kick in. Taxpayers who make over $2.4 million — America's most affluent 0.1 percent — would see their tax bills go up by an average $280,000.

Overall, if the House surtax ever became law, 2011 would likely see the largest single-year tax hike on America's rich since 1935.

That's because the George W. Bush tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 — a bonanza for the awesomely affluent — all expire at the end of 2010. President Obama has pledged repeatedly that he won't let any of these tax cuts for the rich be extended.

If the President sticks to that promise, the tax rate on income in the nation's top income bracket — currently 35 percent — would revert back to 39.6 percent, the rate in effect when Bill Clinton left the White House. The House health care surtax would bring that top rate, on income over $1 million, to 45 percent.

The United States hasn't seen a tax rate on the rich that high since 1986.

The health reform surtax would actually take a bigger bite out of rich people's income than these numbers suggest, Citizens for Tax Justice points out, for two reasons. The first: The surtax would apply to "adjusted gross income," the IRS label for income before taxpayers subtract deductions and exemptions.

Rich people do far more subtracting than average taxpayers. They've lobbied hard, over the years, to fill the tax code with loopholes, and they aggressively exploit these loopholes to lower their "taxable" income.

Rich people, under the House health care reform, wouldn't be able to do this exploiting on the surtax. They would have to pay surtax on what they actually make.


Berlin Wall Enshrined by Unsanctioned Art

Historic kiss on the lips revived

The autumn of 2009 will mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which is now being renovated after years of decay, pollution and vandalism.

It took lots of tears and fighting to bring down 155 kilometers of concrete. And it was more than just a wall for Germans. It was a physical embodiment of the iron curtain between the West and the Communist East.

On the day it fell, the celebrations in Berlin seemed like they would last forever.

Since the end of the Cold War, the Wall, which was once a great divide, has now become a source of inspiration for many.

Twenty years on, the once-odious barrier has been transformed into a treasured icon – one that sells well both in parts and as a whole. The wall's remains are now officially an open air gallery called East Side, which has quickly become one off Germany's top tourist attractions.

Watch the video or click here for the rest of the story.


Journalist Files Charges against WHO and UN for Bioterrorism and Intent to Commit Mass Murder

As the anticipated July release date for Baxter's A/H1N1 flu pandemic vaccine approaches, an Austrian investigative journalist is warning the world that the greatest crime in the history of humanity is underway. Jane Burgermeister has recently filed criminal charges with the FBI against the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations (UN), and several of the highest ranking government and corporate officials concerning bioterrorism and attempts to commit mass murder. She has also prepared an injunction against forced vaccination which is being filed in America. These actions follow her charges filed in April against Baxter AG and Avir Green Hills Biotechnology of Austria for producing contaminated bird flu vaccine, alleging this was a deliberate act to cause and profit from a pandemic.

Summary of claims and allegations filed with FBI in Austria on June 10, 2009

featured stories   Journalist Files Charges against WHO and UN for Bioterrorism and Intent to Commit Mass Murder
"Worldwide, the number of deaths is small… we do not expect to see a sudden and dramatic jump in the number of severe or fatal infections," said WHO's Director-General, Harvard-trained Dr Margaret Chan.

In her charges, Burgermeister presents evidence of acts of bioterrorism that is in violation of U.S. law by a group operating within the U.S. under the direction of international bankers who control the Federal Reserve, as well as WHO, UN and NATO. This bioterrorism is for the purpose of carrying out a mass genocide against the U.S. population by use of a genetically engineered flu pandemic virus with the intent of causing death. This group has annexed high government offices in the U.S.

Specifically, evidence is presented that the defendants, Barack Obama, President of the U.S, David Nabarro, UN System Coordinator for Influenza, Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, Kathleen Sibelius, Secretary of Department of Health and Human Services, Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Department of Homeland Security, David de Rotschild, banker, David Rockefeller, banker, George Soros, banker, Werner Faymann, Chancellor of Austria, and Alois Stoger, Austrian Health Minister, among others, are part of this international corporate criminal syndicate which has developed, produced, stockpiled and employed biological weapons to eliminate the population of the U.S. and other countries for financial and political gain.

The charges contend that these defendants conspired with each other and others to devise, fund and participate in the final phase of the implementation of a covert international bioweapons program involving the pharmaceutical companies Baxter and Novartis. They did this by bioengineering and then releasing lethal biological agents, specifically the "bird flu" virus and the "swine flu virus" in order to have a pretext to implement a forced mass vaccination program which would be the means of administering a toxic biological agent to cause death and injury to the people of the U.S. This action is in direct violation of the Biological Weapons Anti-terrorism Act.


Were The Middle Ages Better Than Today?

By Annalee Newitz

Futurist and media maven Douglas Rushkoff has just published Life, Inc., a book about how corporations control and permeate our lives. In a recent interview, Rushkoff says the middle ages were better than our corporate-controlled future.

Peggy Nelson interviewed Rushkoff for the blog Reality Sandwich, and summed up one of the major themes of Life, Inc. by referring to science fiction:

An over-arching theme I found in the book is how the common-sense stuff of our reality, the economy and money and shopping and working, is really science fiction; we don't live inside a "natural" economic structure — we made it up.

She's right: One of Rushkoff's criticisms of corporate life is that it divides us from the real world around us in a way that the economy didn't a thousand years ago.

Early in this terrific, funny interview, Nelson asks Rushkoff whether the Middle Ages perhaps weren't so bad after all, if they existed in pre-corporate times. And Rushkoff replies:

I'm not usually a conspiracy theorist about these things, but I think the reason why we celebrate the Renaissance as a high point of western culture is really a marketing campaign. It was a way for Renaissance monarchs and nation-states, and the industrial age powers that followed, to recast the end of one of the most vibrant human civilizations we've had, as a dark, plague-ridden, horrible time.

Historically, the plague arrived after the invention of the chartered corporation, and after central currency was mandated. Central currency became law, and 40 years later you get the plague. People got that poor that quickly. They were no longer allowed to use the land. It shifted from an abundance model to a scarcity model; from an economy based on annual grain production to one based on gold released by the king.

That's a totally different way of understanding money. Land was no longer a thing the peasants could grow stuff on, land became an investment, land became an asset class for the wealthy. Once it became an asset class they started Partitioning and Enclosure, which meant people weren't allowed to grow stuff on it, so subsistence farming was no longer a viable lifestyle. If you can't do subsistence farming you must find a job, so then you go into the city and volunteer to do unskilled labor in a proto-factory for some guy who wants the least-skilled, cheapest labor possible. You move your whole family to where the work is, into the squalor, where conditions are overcrowded and impoverished — the perfect breeding ground for plague and death!

I love the idea that people from the Renaissance Era started a smear campaign against the Middle Ages in order to make people think the capitalist market system was way better than feudalism.


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