Wednesday, May 5, 2010

If more businesses operated like Goldman Sachs...

Did Kent State Have to Happen?

By Robert Parry (A Special Report)
Forty years ago, the United States took a very ugly turn as President Richard Nixon escalated the war in Indochina by invading Cambodia, prompting angry college protests, including a confrontation at Kent State which ended with National Guardsmen killing four students on May 4, 1970.

With Nixon denouncing protesters as "bums," the President's "silent majority" was pitted against an increasingly radicalized anti-war movement. Parents turned against their own children, and "hardhats" spat on "hippies." Fissures opened in U.S. society that have never entirely closed.

However, those troubled times also marked the Republican discovery of a winning political strategy: exploit wedge issues. Along with Nixon's Southern Strategy, which manipulated racial tensions to draw white Southerners into the GOP, the bitter divisions around the Vietnam War opened the way toward a broader "culture war," which attracted many working-class Americans.

Today, looking at the consequences from the resulting Republican political dominance over much of the past four decades – weakened labor unions, rampant deregulation, a shrinking American middle class, a swelling national debt, endless foreign wars, crimped civil liberties, and a deeply polarized electorate – the question must be: did it all have to happen?

And the answer is no. Though little known to the American people – and almost never discussed by mainstream journalists or popular historians – it's now clear that the Vietnam War was on the verge of ending a year and a half before the Kent State killings.

President Lyndon Johnson, who had decided not to seek reelection so he could concentrate on ending the war, was much closer to his goal than has been generally understood. In the closing weeks of 1968, Paris peace talks were expected to finalize an agreement with North Vietnam that would lead to a U.S. military pullout.

Johnson's optimism about this settlement can be heard in now-public audiotapes of his conversations with other top U.S. politicians. But in the final days of the 1968 campaign, Johnson became aware of an unexpected roadblock – secret contacts between Nixon campaign operative Anna Chennault and South Vietnamese President Nguyen van Thieu, promising him a better deal if he derailed LBJ's peace talks.

No One Cares

LOGO: Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines. A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion. Editor, Robert Scheer. Publisher, Zuade Kaufman.

U.S. Air Force / Airman 1st Class Eboni Knox
U.S. troops board an airplane headed for Afghanistan.

By Chris Hedges

We are approaching a decade of war in Afghanistan, and the war in Iraq is in its eighth year. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands more Afghans and Pakistani civilians have been killed. Millions have been driven into squalid displacement and refugee camps. Thousands of our own soldiers and Marines have died or been crippled physically and psychologically. We sustain these wars, which have no real popular support, by borrowing trillions of dollars that can never be repaid, even as we close schools, states go into bankruptcy, social services are cut, our infrastructure crumbles, tens of millions of Americans are reduced to poverty, and real unemployment approaches 17 percent. Collective, suicidal inertia rolls us forward toward national insolvency and the collapse of empire. And we do not protest. The peace movement, despite the heroic efforts of a handful of groups such as Iraq Veterans Against the War, the Green Party and Code Pink, is dead. No one cares.

The roots of mass apathy are found in the profound divide between liberals, who are mostly white and well educated, and our disenfranchised working class, whose sons and daughters, because they cannot get decent jobs with benefits, have few options besides the military. Liberals, whose children are more often to be found in elite colleges than the Marine Corps, did not fight the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994 and the dismantling of our manufacturing base. They did nothing when the Democrats gutted welfare two years later and stood by as our banks were turned over to Wall Street speculators. They signed on, by supporting the Clinton and Obama Democrats, for the corporate rape carried out in the name of globalization and endless war, and they ignored the plight of the poor. And for this reason the poor have little interest in the moral protestations of liberals. We have lost all credibility. We are justly hated for our tacit complicity in the corporate assault on workers and their families.

Our passivity has resulted, however, in much more than imperial adventurism and a permanent underclass. A slow-motion coup by a corporate state has cemented into place a neofeudalism in which there are only masters and serfs. And the process is one that cannot be reversed through the traditional mechanisms of electoral politics.

Last Thursday I traveled to Washington to join Rep. Dennis Kucinich for a public teach-in on the wars. Kucinich used the Capitol Hill event to denounce the new request by Barack Obama for an additional $33 billion for the war in Afghanistan. The Ohio Democrat has introduced H. Con Res. 248, with 16 co-sponsors, which would require the House of Representatives to debate whether to continue the Afghanistan war. Kucinich, to his credit, is the only member of Congress to publicly condemn the Obama administration's authorization to assassinate Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen and cleric living in Yemen, over alleged links to a failed Christmas airline bombing in Detroit. Kucinich also invited investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, writer/activist David Swanson, retired Army Col. Ann Wright and Iraq war veteran Josh Stieber to the event.

The gathering, held in the Rayburn Building, was a sober reminder of our insignificance.

For Many, It's "Report an Illegal Day" Every Day

By Kevin Gosztola

On Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican independence holiday that many immigrants in America will celebrate, it seems that those who come from a culture which participate in this holiday will have to face down fear and bigotry especially in public displays of celebration. This may not be entirely new for Mexican immigrants in the southwest part of the United States, but because of SB1070, the focus on immigrants in this country has taken on a fearful and hostile nature nationwide.

Specifically, in Arizona there is a group of National Socialists (or neo-Nazis) who have handed out fliers that rebrand the holiday of Cinco de Mayo "Report an Illegal Day." It asks "recipients [of the flier] to fax or email Congress demanding that the 'border be secured.' It also seeks the aid of local businesses in an effort to verify and turn people in to the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement."

Another group, the Arizona Citizens Militia, is also rebranding the holiday "Cinco de Ammo" Day. Asking members and people sympathetic to their cause to buy up five boxes of ammo on May 5th, the group seems intent on pushing armed residents to take the law into their own hands.

This may seem like fringe activity, but there is reason to believe that the neo-Nazis may have support for their white civil rights/singling out of "Mexican" people in Arizona.

A majority may not be participating in militant activity, which whips up support for explicitly targeting people who look Mexican or may be Mexican. But, the majority of the state of Arizona has its citizens fearful of illegal immigration and convinced that illegal immigrants bear some responsibility for the drug cartels and the death of cattle ranchers in the state.

Strenger than Fiction / Jewish liberals from all nations, unite


Diaspora Jews around the world are realizing the time has come to reject the right's dictate that being pro-Israel means that you need to support the policies of Israeli governments, no matter what they do.

The failure of the Camp David summit in 2000 and the onset of the Second Intifada have in stages swung the pendulum of Israeli politics to the right to the current government that includes Avigdor Lieberman - one of the most anti-democratic ministers Israel has ever had, who is moving Israel ever closer to the brink of total international isolation - and the Shas Party whose main impact is to push construction in East Jerusalem and the settlements.

This has been reflected in an amazing distortion in the Jewish voice from the Diaspora, primarily the U.S., in the last decade. Judging from the media presence, you might think that most Jews are right-leaning and support Israel's settlement policy and foot-dragging over ending the occupation. But this has never been true: most Diaspora Jews, including most of American Jewry, is committed to liberalism.

Bernard-Henri Levy

French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy in Geneva on April 20, 2009.

Photo by: AP

Now the pendulum is swinging back. Diaspora Jews around the world are beginning to realize that the time has come to reject the right's dictate that being pro-Israel means that you need to support the policies of Israeli governments, no matter what they do; that the Jewish right represents a small minority of the Jewish people. Caring about friends and family doesn't mean that we do not criticize them, when we believe that they are harming themselves. In caring for somebody's wellbeing, we are often required to make clear that they are going the wrong way. Hence Liberal Jews in the Diaspora firmly stand by Israel while trenchantly criticizing the occupation and settlements.

This week a delegation of J Street representatives visited Israel. They were hosted by President Shimon Peres, and they heard from central Israeli politicians like Labor MK Matan Vilnai and from opposition leader Tzipi Livni that ending the occupation is Israel's most urgent task to safeguard it as the democratic state of the Jewish people. The Netanyahu government's attempt to brand J Street as outside the legitimate Jewish discourse has failed, and finally, after refusing to attend J Street's first convention, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren met them a few weeks ago.

The movement initiated by J Street is now joined by the European JCall, which includes leading Jewish intellectuals like Bernard-Henri Levy and Alain Finkielkraut, and which will present its message to the European Parliament today. Their name is short for the Jewish European Call to Reason. This development is doubly important: first, because it gives a voice to the majority of European Jews, who, while caring for Israel, are liberal in orientation. Second: because its leaders are severely critical of Europe's anti-Israeli left, as shown in Bernard-Henri Levy's Left in Dark Times and Alain Finkielkraut's The Defeat of Reason.

GOP and FOX NEWS Campaign Continues to Stamp Israeli Brand On Time Square Bomber

More Airport Magic….

By Gordon Duff

Times Square Bomber Faisal ShahzadWatching the news on the arrest of the Time Square bomber, or as we will call him, "the Time Square Fizzler,"  and the flood of political attacks on the president and news reports condemning Pakistan and Islam make it all clear as a bell.  The 'highly trained' terrorist, supposedly schooled in explosives and 'secret agent stuff' is another patsy.

Think "Mumbai" and the recent trial.  All our suspect could say, over and over, knowing he is doomed is that he was 'set up.' 

With the Pakistan Taliban the biggest security risk for the only Islamic nuclear power, they became extremely attractive to India and Israel some time ago.  Noting that India has been given free rein to run intelligence operations on the Pakistani border, they and their good friends in Israel, have flooded the region with "helpers" busy recruiting, training and supporting attacks, primarily on Pakistan.

Some time ago, it was warned that these Indian and Israeli trained groups that the US had knowingly allowed, and admitted to, would be used against the United States.  Welcome to that world.

Last month, while in Pakistan with Jeff Gates and Raja Mujtaba, a number of supposed Germany "contractors" working for, well, we don't know, were seen in Islamabad.

They were not hard to identify for some of us and Jeff confronted them about their real nationality.  Later, in private discussions with officials, whose identities we were asked to withhold, we confirmed that even Pakistan has a significant presence of Israeli "visitors" who can use their endless alternative identities and contracting relationships to move wherever they want.

Pakistan's dependence on American fund to fight terrorism has left them helpless to oppose this openly.  With America under the thumb of Israel and Pakistan their biggest target, America's mixed loyalties has led to a very disturbing situation.  Imagine having to invite a dangerous criminal into your home because your rich uncle loves him?

You now have an idea of the dynamic involved.

Watching the arrests and news stories is a wonder, seeing a "no fly list" person move in and out of America freely is amazing.

With a Pakistani visa in my passport, signed by their Defense Attache to Washington, I was held up last week from an Air France flight.  I need more Israeli friends if I want to get thru airports quicker.  Only after Homeland Security was notified, did I get on a plane.

This was good.  It was efficient.  I appreciated the security and everyone was highly effective and doing their jobs.

However, were I a "no fly list" terrorist, I could have gotten right thru.

However, were I the "crotch bomber" with no passport at all, I would have gotten right thru, right thru security in Israeli run airports.

As the news stories drone on, this will become clear.  The 'trained terrorist' will be tied to a huge network of idiots and dupes, all working in the region along the Afghani/Pakistan border, an area where India, and their Israeli friends, really do train terrorists who kill hundreds with real bombs in Pakistan.

Nobody will ever learn how our friend got thru airports or who helped him.  More and more videos from the Pakistan Taliban will come forward, all serving to bring a rain of ruin on them but damning Pakistan and raising sympathy for India and Israel.

BP Oil spill trajectory

Things Fall Apart

"Things fall apart," William Butler Yeats wrote. "The center cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned." He could have been talking about us, about this past week in America, about what happens when madness, greed and fear combine and conspire to show us what it looks like when the gates of Hell crack open.

Two separate incidents took place in two different parts of the country. The least severe of the two was merely an attempted car bombing in New York's Times Square. An alert T-shirt vendor observed a parked SUV with smoke pouring out of it, and raised the alarm. When authorities arrived, they discovered the car was filled with propane tanks, fireworks and fertilizer that were wired to cheap alarm clocks intended to be detonators. Had it gone off, police say, the resulting fireball could have caused considerable death, injury and damage.

Fortunately, the attempt was thwarted, but the consequences of what could have been are daunting to consider. The event raised the specter of Bush-era "Red Alert" and the possible declaration of martial law. For the last decade, a pile of laws and executive orders have been passed and signed making it spectacularly easy for the government to suspend the Constitution in the event of terrorist activity. Had that bomb gone off, we could very well have seen troops in the streets, and the end of the rule of law as we have known it.

The second event has some people talking, quite literally, about the end of the world.

Oil Companies Pay a Pittance in Penalties to Offshore Drilling Regulator


Men position oil boom barriers to contain the ongoing spill from BP's Deepwater Horizon platform. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)
Men position oil boom barriers to contain the ongoing spill from BP's Deepwater Horizon platform. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

Last week, as part of our coverage of the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, we noted the troubled past of the Minerals Management Service, the agency that regulates offshore oil and gas drilling.

On its website, MMS says that it issues civil penalties for serious safety violations [1]. And there have been violations. A study conducted by the Minerals Management Service found that from 2001 to 2007, offshore drilling accidents resulted in 41 deaths and 302 injuries [2], according to The Huffington Post.

Anonymous Tipline: If you work for BP or a contractor on a rig in the Gulf, or anywhere else, we'd like to hear from you. Tell us about your work conditions, your management, and your observations of what is happening. We will not publish your identity. Call 917-512-0254, fax documents to 212-514-5250 or e-mail Abrahm.Lustgarten

In an analysis of civil penalties levied by the regulator, we at ProPublica found that over the past 12 years the average penalty has been $45,000. Currently, MMS can fine oil and gas companies a maximum of $35,000 per violation per day [3] (PDF). The biggest fine an oil company has paid to the agency since 1998 was $810,000, paid in 2001 by Chevron. Overall, the Minerals Management Service has collected $20 million in penalties in those 12 years.

That kind of money is unlikely to sting much, considering the profits that major oil companies take in.

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