Please Boycott the NY Times by Josh Sidman

Josh

by Josh Sidman
Dandelion Salad
featured writer
Josh’s Blog Post

Aug. 26, 2007

Please Boycott the NY Times

The NY Times, in a front-page article on Sunday, August 12th, presented demonstrably false and misleading information about the Democratic presidential candidates and their positions on the Iraq war. Not only was the information false, but I believe it demonstrated a clear bias in favor of entrenched interests and against candidates who stand for genuine change.

The article (entitled “Democrats Say Leaving Iraq May Take Years”) asserted that all of the Democratic presidential candidates, despite their calls for an end to the Iraq war, were nevertheless proposing plans that would continue US military presence in Iraq for years to come. The article cited Bill Richardson as the lone exception, completely ignoring Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich, who have been the strongest and most consistent opponents of the war.

This inaccurate version of the facts favors the Bush Administration and the Democratic front-runners at the expense of those candidates who offer the American people a real alternative to current policies. This is a gross failure on the part of one of the most widely read and respected news outlets in the country, and if this behavior is not outright illegal, it is very definitely inappropriate and unethical. The article deliberately downplayed the intensity of opposition to the war, claiming that “antiwar advocates have raised little challenge to such positions by Democrats”.

This is a life-and-death issue, and I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that by misrepresenting the reality of the political situation, the Times is contributing to the on-going slaughter of Americans and Iraqis alike. After failing to do its journalistic duty in 2003 by asking the “hard questions” during the run-up to the invasion, the Times is now once again betraying the public trust and failing the American people.

I wrote an e-mail to the writers of the article outlining the facts they presented and demonstrating how their reportage was false. [To view the e-mail, please click here.] After two weeks I have received no response, and to the best of my knowledge the Times has not printed a correction. I therefore propose to organize a boycott of the NY Times. I have created an e-mail address for anyone who wishes to join me:

Please e-mail your name and city/state of residence to nytimesboycott@yahoo.com.

I furthermore ask anyone who supports this effort to repost this blog and encourage others to do likewise.

Just as it is said that in a democracy we get the leaders we deserve, we also get the press that we deserve. If we allow the NY Times to slide on such an important issue we are failing in one of our most basic responsibilities as citizens of a democratic republic.

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Ten Reasons Why Russia Can’t Trust Uncle Sam by Robert Bridge

Dandelion Salad

by Robert Bridge

Global Research, August 26, 2007

The Moscow News Weekly – 2007-07-26

The West says that it is perplexed by Russia’s “aggressive” behavior of late, and suggests that Moscow is desirous to regain its past superpower status, and even a little empire. But if cashing in on oil is imperialism, how do we explain the following U.S. moves:

10. Scrapping the Anti-Ballis­tic Missile Treaty

In Decem­ber 2001, three months after 9/11, U.S. President George W. Bush told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the U.S. was pulling out of the 1972 ABM Treaty, a Cold War-era document that specifically forbade the development and deployment of anti-missile defense systems. The treaty ensured that signatory nations adhere to the mutually assured destruction (MAD) concept – if you destroy us we will destroy you formula. Yes, it was certainly MAD, but it kept the peace for 30 years. Former Defense Secre­tary Donald Rumsfeld attempted to reassure Moscow that the decision was nothing personal. “It [the treaty] failed to recognize that the Soviet Union is gone and that Russia is, of course, not our enemy.” Putin called the move “a mistake.”

9. “Mission Accomplished”

On March 20, 2003, the United States – without a mandate from the United Nations, and against the heated objections of France, Germany and Russia – invaded Iraq on the pretext that the secular Baathist state of Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was a proud sponsor of terrorism. Both accusations were proven wrong. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the BBC in an interview that the attack was a violation of international law. “From our point of view and the UN Charter point of view, it [the war] was illegal.”

8. Pentagon Spending Spree

The United States, which just put the finishing touches on a $583 billion dollar shopping trip for 2008, accounts for about half of global expenditures (or the next 14 nations). However, as Robert Higgs of the Inde­pendent Institute argues, “the trillion-dollar defense budget is already here.” Higgs calculated that U.S. military-related spending in 2006 was actually $934.9 billion if we figure in Home­land Security ($69.1bln), the Dept. of Energy, which oversees nuclear weapons ($16.6 bln) and the Dept. of Veterans Affairs ($69.8 bln), as well as other juicy pork chops. In May, the Democrat-controlled House and Senate approved almost $95 billion for the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq through September (Go Dems!). Meanwhile, “aggressive” Russia, with a 48 percent increase in military spending since 1996, still spends ‘just’ $85 billion annually on military expenditures.

7. NATO XXL

As Dan Simpson, a retired U.S. diplomat argued in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “The United States and other NATO members have taken some actions along the way to lull the Russians into acquiescence as NATO expanded to include the former Warsaw Pact na­tions… The argument was that these countries wanted to join NATO and that their membership posed no threat to Russia. That line prevailed as NATO membership grew to include also Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, former republics of the Soviet Union. Now the Russians see the same argument being advanced for Georgia and Ukraine. That’s getting close to home.”

6. New Military Bloopers

As the Pakistani government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf struggles to contain the fallout of an 8-day battle against militants at the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque), a U.S. official turned up the heat by telling CNN that if the U.S. “had actionable targets, anywhere in the world,” including Pakistan, then “we would pursue those targets.” Meanwhile, talk about a possible attack on Iran, a nation that ranked on America’s axis of evil hit parade, continues.

5. Think-Tank Saber Rattling

Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press write an article in the prestigious U.S. journal Foreign Affairs entitled “Nuclear Primacy” (March/April 2006), which argues, in a nutshell, that “It will probably soon be possible for the United States to destroy the long-range nuclear arsenals of Russia or China with a first strike.” Is this the sort of article that America should be supporting if it wants Russia to believe that elements of the proposed U.S. missile defense system in Poland and… oops! Don’t want to spoil the plot! Anyways, Moscow ‘responds’ with very accurate penmanship one year later as it test-fires its new RS-24 ballistic missile that it said could “overcome any potential missile defense systems developed by foreign countries.”

4. Cheney Comfort

One month after the above love letter hit newsstands, Vice President Dick Cheney, during a trip to Vilnius, Lithuania, assuaged Moscow’s fears by reiterating, once again: “Russia has nothing to fear and everything to gain” by ‘democratic activity’ on her borders.

3. Gates’ Gated Community

In early 2007, Pentagon chief Robert Gates urged viligance when he warned, “We don’t know what’s going to develop in places like Russia and China, in North Korea, in Iran and elsewhere.” Was this a simple case of mistaken identity by a former White House Russian analyst? Whatever the case, it certainly helped to provoke Putin’s heated Munich speech in February, where he admonished the world’s “one master, one sovereign.”

2. EU Culpability

As the War on Terror continues, Europe is losing its Snow White innocence. As the German magazine Der Spiegel reported, “On July 19, 2002, a Gulfstream business jet took off from Frankfurt am Main bound for Amman, Jordan. The flight received an AFTM exempt [pilot code for ‘extreme situation’], although it carried neither patients nor politicians. Instead, the jet was carrying a CIA team that took a Mauri­tanian terrorism suspect… to Guan­tanamo.” Der Spiegel reported that this “camouflaging of an illegal kidnapping as a rescue flight” was not an isolated event: There were 390 such takeoffs and landings in Germany between 2002 and 2006. And considering Eastern European hotels, it’s just too scary to consider those secret terrorist prisons that allegedly exist in Poland and Romania.

1. Don’t Worry, These anti-Missile Missiles won’t Hurt You, Really – Washington is now incredulous, shocked, mortified that Moscow has the nerve to suggest that there could be less than good intentions involved in the construction of an anti-missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, even though there are no bad-guy technologies on the horizon that such a system could intercept. Go figure!

Global Research Articles by Robert Bridge


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The New Plan for Immigration Raids By David Bacon

Dandelion Salad

By David Bacon
t r u t h o u t | Guest Contributor
Sunday 26 August 2007

Oakland, California – A year ago, in the middle of the nation’s most bitterly fought union organizing drive, management at the Smithfield Foods pork slaughterhouse in Tar Heel, North Carolina, sent a letter to 300 workers. The company, Smithfield claimed, had been notified by the Social Security Administration that the workers’ numbers didn’t match the SSA database. Come up with new numbers, the company ordered, that could pass the “no-match check,” or they’d be fired within two weeks. The Smithfield plant, largest of its kind in the world, employs 5,000 people, about half of them immigrants. No one can say for sure how many lacked immigration papers, but as in most meatpacking plants, many undoubtedly did. Despite their status, during the prior year those workers had walked out twice to join immigrant rights marches. They even shut down production lines over the high accident rate. The fear created by the no-match check was an easy way to cut that activism short.

For the last two decades, employers have threatened, and often implemented, similar terminations in workplace after workplace. At the Woodfin Suites in Emeryville, California, the hotel threatened no- match firings after workers began demanding compliance with the city’s living wage law. At the Cintas Laundry chain, plant mangers fired hundreds of employees last year in no-match checks during UNITE HERE’s national organizing drive. The list goes on and on.

Now the Bush administration says that vastly increased checks will become a fact of life in every US workplace. On August 10, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told reporters that SSA will soon send letters to all sizable employers, listing all workers whose numbers don’t jibe. After a ninety-day grace period, the administration will require employers to discharge those whose numbers are still in question.

The scope of Chertoff’s order is staggering. About 12 million people living in the US have no legal immigration status. Most of them work. In order to get hired, they have to present a Social Security number to their employer. Some use invented numbers, while others borrow existing numbers that belong to someone else. This causes no harm to others – if anything, it subsidizes the Social Security fund, since undocumented workers can’t claim benefits, although they’re paying deductions like everyone else.

Yet if the Chertoff regulation is implemented as announced, as many as eight or nine million people will lose their jobs at the end of this year.

Merry Christmas. You’re fired.

The impact will be catastrophic. Most undocumented families live close to the margin as it is, from paycheck to paycheck. They would suddenly have no means to buy food, pay rent, clothe their children or send them to school. The human suffering would be immense. Working- class communities already stretched to provide services to currently unemployed workers would have no means to meet this additional need. Undocumented immigrants are ineligible for welfare, food stamps, unemployment insurance, and almost all other public benefits.

Tens of thousands of workplaces would fall silent, as those industries most dependent on immigrant labor would virtually cease to function. Crop cultivation and harvesting would stop immediately. So would meatpacking and most food processing. Hotels and restaurants would turn away customers.

Construction would stall, as laborers and other lower-paid workers would disappear. Shutting down construction would put skilled, citizen workers on the streets as well. In convalescent homes, the absence of undocumented caregivers would cause a crisis for the sick, disabled and elderly of all races and nationalities.

Many of these industries contribute heavily to Bush and the Republican Party, including to candidates who have called for this kind of draconian immigration enforcement. Accepted wisdom in Washington says the administration is pandering to win the support of anti-immigrant extremists in the Republican Party. While this may be true, it hardly explains why the administration seems so intent on biting the corporate hand that feeds it.

At the August 10 press conference, both Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez provided an explanation. Employers worried about the loss of their workers, Gutierrez said, could avail themselves of existing guest worker programs, which allow corporations to recruit workers outside the US and bring them into the country on visas tied to employment. The administration, he promised, would make the programs easier for employers to use.

In recent years, companies have pushed relentlessly to relax caps on guest worker recruitment, and cut already-weak requirements for housing, wages and labor protections. As the cries of employers for workers become louder, it’s not hard to predict that Congress will eventually be asked to authorize new contract labor schemes. Providing legal status to people here without papers, however, is excluded from this agenda.

Chertoff’s enforcement regulations, and Gutierrez’s guest worker expansion, simply implement by executive order provisions of the immigration bill Congress wouldn’t pass two months ago. That bill also coupled big guest-worker programs with no-match checks and raids. These are the centerpieces of the administration’s immigration reform program, and were originally proposed by some of the country’s largest corporations and industry groups.

“We do not have the workers our economy needs to keep growing each year,” Gutierrez said at the recent press conference. “The demographics simply are not on our side. Ultimately, Congress will have to pass comprehensive immigration reform.” Chertoff rolled out the same message last year, after huge immigration raids at the Swift meatpacking plants. Congress had to understand, he said, that Bush wants “a program that would allow businesses that need foreign workers, because they can’t otherwise satisfy their labor needs, to be able to get those workers in a regulated program.”

Firing millions of workers to gain leverage in Congress is a brutal tactic, but the administration’s pressure campaign of raids and no- match checks has been growing for the last two years. Often its enforcement actions on the ground are carried out in cooperation with employers.

When the no-match firings began at Smithfield last November, hundreds of slaughterhouse laborers walked out and stayed out for three days. In an unprecedented accomplishment, they forced the company to rescind the firing order. But after the workers were reinstated, Homeland Security agents came out to Tar Heel in January. They arrested 21 people inside the plant, and deported them. The fear it inspired broke the back of the union’s in-plant organizing strategy.

At the Woodfin Suites in Emeryville, after the company began to threaten no-match terminations, the city council went to court to prevent the firings. Then Congressman Brian Bilbray (R-San Diego), chair of the House Immigration Caucus, called Homeland Security on behalf of company president Samuel Hardage. Bilbray got the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to jumpstart an investigation of the immigration status of the workers who sought to enforce the city’s living wage ordinance. All were eventually fired.

Firings for no-match discrepancies are a misuse of the Social Security database. SSA was created not to punish workers, but to benefit them by making disability payments when they get injured and providing pensions when they’re too old to work. But for twenty years, successive administrations have tried to use Social Security as a tool for immigration enforcement. Employers have used those efforts as pretexts to discharge employees when they organize unions, demand better wages and try to enforce labor standards, or simply to replace higher-paid workers with lower-piad ones.

In the past, the Social Security Administration has sometimes been uncomfortable with this betrayal of its mission. Community protest in the 1990s convinced SSA to include a paragraph in no-match letters warning employers not to interpret them as evidence of lack of legal immigration status. In 1999, in the middle of the huge Operation Vanguard immigration raids, SSA even denied the Immigration and Naturalization Service access to its database, after 3,000 people were driven from their jobs in Nebraska meatpacking plants. Since then, however, the agency has been brought into line by the Bush administration, and is now more than willing to go after the nation’s undocumented.

Because firing several million people at once would be economically disastrous to the administration’s corporate supporters, actual enforcement will be, as always, selective. At the August press conference, Chertoff acknowledged that ICE couldn’t track down every failure to fire workers listed in no-match letters, but would instead mount highly publicized raids to scare employers into line. The order is intended to encourage employers to act on their own, as Smithfield did. In justifying its no-match firings, the company said it was simply implementing Bush’s no-match proposal in advance.

It’s time for a few reality checks about what this enforcement scheme will and won’t accomplish.

* Reality check 1: Workers who lose their jobs won’t leave the country. Immigrant communities are deeply imbedded in the social fabric of this country, not only in cities like New York and Los Angeles, but also in tiny towns like Bridgeton, New Jersey and Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. To get here, migrants often take out loans on homes in their countries of origin. Losing a job here can mean losing that home. Family members living there, depending on remittances from the states, would go hungry. And for many who emigrated because they were hungry themselves, going back is simply not an option.

* Reality check 2: When Bush and many Congress members push for new free trade agreements and implementation of NAFTA and CAFTA, they are creating the very conditions of poverty which are driving people north. With 200 million people in the world living outside the countries where they were born, the flow of migration is not stoppable. Anti-immigrant measures like raids and no-match checks create human misery, but don’t stop the movement of people.

* Reality check 3: Firing millions of undocumented migrants won’t create jobs or raise wages for other workers. When Operation Vanguard railroaded thousands of immigrant workers out of Nebraska meatpacking plants in 1999, there was no wave of hiring that followed in Omaha’s African-American neighborhoods. The de facto color line keeping Black and Chicano workers out of many US workplaces instead reflects the belief by employers that they will demand high wages and will try to organize unions. At Smithfield, where Black workers did organize, no- match firings and deportations created such fear that in-plant activism virtually stopped.

* Reality check 4: Employers complain about the no-match regulation, and many are sincerely concerned about its impact on business and workers. But some employers will benefit. Increased fear and vulnerability makes immigrant labor cheaper, by making it riskier to protest bad conditions, or ask for higher wages.

These realities are inspiring a rising wave of protest in unions and immigrant communities. The week after Chertoff’s announcement, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the union for the meatpacking industry, held a conference in Omaha to expose the abuse of rights in last year’s raids at the Swift plants. The meeting also discussed plans for opposing the new regulation, which it predicted would lead to more firings and deportations.

“We have to do everything we can to stop these aggressive enforcement actions,” said Mark Lauritzen, UFCW packinghouse division director. “Last December [in the Swift raids] workers became criminals just by going to work. The administration is using ICE as a political hammer to beat up on them.”

In California, the Mexican American Political Association and the Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana have organized sit-ins in the offices of Congress members, to demand that they take action to protect immigrant communities. Activists were outraged when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi greeted the no-match announcement by saying, “securing our border remains a top priority for the New Direction Congress.”

“Democrats should remember that undocumented people live in Latino and Asian families and communities that include millions of citizens as well,” warned MAPA President Nativo Lopez. “They will need our votes next year to elect a new administration. If they don’t defend us now, they give us no reason to come out to the polls a year from now.”

Both Lopez and Ernesto Medrano, organizer for Teamsters Local 952 in Orange County, opposed the Senate bill because of its enforcement provisions, and criticized Democrats for supporting it. “We are not seeing any leadership from our elected officials,” Medrano said bitterly. “Why aren’t they speaking out on our behalf? We need to take this to the streets.”


David Bacon is a California photojournalist who documents labor, migration and globalization. His book Communities Without Borders was just published by Cornell University/ILR Press.

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Greek Tragedy & Ours: The Burning of Olympia & Its Symbology by Glitzqueen (aka The Other Katherine Harris)

glitzqueen

Featured writer
Dandelion Salad

by The Other Katherine Harris

glitzqueen’s blog post

Aug. 26, 2007

There are lessons for us, I suggest, in the present struggle to save the site that hosted the Olympic games of antiquity.

Of course the heatwave in southern Greece, responsible for parching nearby forests so severely that recent fires have assumed unprecedented scope, reminds us of our long inattention to climate change.

Beyond this, it’s believed arson is involved. There’s been a wave of that, as well as heat, occasioned by greed for development. Greece has laws to preserve its forested land, you see, so those keen to build have been clearing it by nefarious means.

No doubt destroying a tourist magnet like Olympia was the last thing intended by those who wanted to develop the surrounding area, but it seems Zeus has exacted his fine on them — just as was done in ancient days. Athletes who dared to violate their sworn oath of fair play were not only shamed and disqualified, but also charged (along with their trainers and cities) for the creation of more statues honoring the Great God. These bronzes, set along the tunnel that led into the stadium, served as final reminders to play by the rules.

This fire could be among our final reminders to do what’s right. We’ve allowed today’s political leaders and robber barons to scoff at it and call their evil good. Now their hubris may well be the ruin of us all. The gods, more than likely, won’t be mocked for much longer.

Exclusive Report: “CHILL OUT, GOD’S WARRIORS, HAVE A BEER!” by William Mac

William’s blog: The Mac Manifesto

This Week In Time

by William Mac
featured writer
Dandelion Salad
August 26, 2007

CHILL OUT, GOD’S WARRIORS, HAVE A BEER!

Apparently the world is in complete turmoil, and the eloquent CNN lady tells me that it’s largely due to religion. I can’t believe it, Jesus Christ! Whoops, I mean: goddamnit!… oh shit; now the men in the sky have another reason to send me to hell. I better write this quick, I hear thunder outside. Just watching some of these stories about “God’s Warriors” makes me sick with the plague. One preacher man says that Christians and Jews serve good religions that are full of life and goodness, but that the Muslim religion is a religion of death and destruction “much like the pagan religion” he says “and they worshipped Satan”. Yes, a religion that wasn’t actually a religion, and that predates all other religions by thousands of years, A.K.A “The Pagans” – which were a people not a belief system – somehow worship Satan, whom they had no concept of, just like the Muslim religion does today… which they actually don’t. So… we’re spending time making a show about this? Worse yet, we’re taking it seriously? We’re literally causing mayhem and ruckus all throughout the world due to a number of insane belief systems headed up and herded by men and women who have no concept of history or education, and this is what has, and currently is causing wars, mass hysteria, fear in the streets, terrorism, dissent among nations and people in those nations, and lack of education among young people and previously logical adults. Got it!

Another preacher man tells me “we need to have America as one nation under God again!” Yet, we were never a nation under god, we were a government under the people, and a system separate from whatever god you want to serve. The Treaty of Tripoli, which was signed by the president and ratified by Congress in 1796 states “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion” and that “it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of harmony existing between the two countries.” And, let us not forget the first amendment which states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” So, when the preacher man tells me that we need to be one nation under god, I figure he’d know that we are historically not a nation under any god in any sense, and that the line in the Pledge of Allegiance which states “one nation under god” wasn’t added into the pledge until the late 1950s by a bunch of militant Catholics calling themselves “The Knights of Columbus”.

These religions are tearing our world a part, and the leaders of those religions are doing everything from flirting to fornicating with politics. Soon it turns into a whole lot of mislead, dumbed down, un-educated followers and a whole lot of rich, deal making, blasphemous religious leaders who are in it for, what else, the money. Yet, all it would take to solve these problems is to know the facts, the facts of history. The Bible is nothing more than a plagiarism of thousands of other texts predating the Christian religion by thousands of years. Jesus probably never existed because there is no evidence to support it, and the story of Jesus is another plagiarism, because there are over 100 other gods including Shiva, Dionysus, Krishna, Huron, and Osiris who were born of a virgin on December 25 under the Eastern star (Sirius), had 12 disciples (representing 12 figures of the zodiac), died on a cross at the same time Jesus was said to have died, and rose three days later to ascend into heaven, and all of them predate Christianity by anywhere from 200 to 1500 years. Those are the facts, and they cannot be disputed. Jesus, and the entire Bible for that matter, is nothing more than a copy of all of the religions that Christians consider Satanic. In fact, the Pagans were the first to come up with all of this jazz because, you see, all of these names and gods and figures are just names for astrological events, and that is how all of this hoopla began.

Furthermore, all of this religious jazz, in all spectrums and for all current warring religions, can be easily debunked by what are called “The Sumerian Tablets” which were found in 1850 about 250 miles from Baghdad, Iraq by Sir Austen Henry Layard. There are numerous books detailing exactly what these tablets say, and books explaining the tablets in detail, and you would think they were kind of important since these cuneiform tablets are the OLDEST writings from the OLDEST historical civilization: The Sumerians. These tablets say that the Annunaki, which translates as “those who from heaven came to earth” came here from another planet, in a space ship, and bio-engineered humans. What? Am I kidding? Nope, it says it… go read a book once in a while. Not only that, but the symbols used in this ancient culture were adopted by all other cultures, including the zodiac, including the trinity used by Christians, including the crescent moon and star used by Muslims, including the “star of David” (which isn’t the star of David) used by Jews, and including the cross used by Christians. Since most of you are probably more familiar with the cross, I’ll tell you right now that the Sumerians used the cross for the zodiac, and it was a respected symbol, but they also used the cross to signify the passage of the Annunaki from their home planet to earth. And, I would sort of have to listen to a people that knew all about our solar system down to the very last little calculation and planet thousands upon thousands of years before we went up there with our machines and found out about them… which was what? About 60 years ago.

All of these people who are serving under these religious beliefs are ill-informed, un-educated, and literally lost in translation. The facts are in, all of these religions are exactly the same, except they have minor itty-bitty differences that were thrown in there from later societies in order to make these already established stories and beliefs of the world and studies of astrology fit them personally by adopting what they liked the best. The facts are, that the Jews, the Christians, and the Muslims and their symbols, and stories, and texts are all spurned and copied from the Sumerian story of creation, as well as the Egyptians. These people are warring and arguing over something that does not matter, and I think it is appalling, and utterly ridiculous that man be demoted to a beast in the light and passionate fervor of imaginary gods, imaginary beliefs based off of nothing but bad translation, and the promise of heaven. Heaven may be all well and good, but I’d rather have it here first. No one deserves to go to the heaven they have created in their minds, if they cannot first live in a world peacefully and productively with each other.

People are yelling. People are waving their hands around. People are chanting. People are arguing with holy books in hand. People are warring and shooting and stabbing and taunting and looking for the holy one to float down from the sky and save them from their own self-perpetuated stupidity. Well, if and when the ol’ man in the sky comes down, I have a feeling he’ll say “chill out, have a beer or something…Jesus Christ, and read a book while you’re at it… you’ve been screwing up the whole goddamned thing. Tell you what, take my advice, and I’ll see you in about 3,000 years.” Selah.

see:

God’s Jewish Warriors + God’s Muslim Warriors + God’s Christian Warriors (videos; links)

I really f*cking hate these guys #505 – Religion took the bait. by Michael

The Prince of Peace or of Division (video)

Jesus Christ, Revolution and Socialism (video)

Bob Dylan – Gotta Serve Somebody 1980 (music vid)

http://www.jewsforjesus.com/

Those who blow whistle on contractor fraud in Iraq face penalties By Deborah Hastings

Dandelion Salad

By Deborah Hastings
AP National Writer
ICH
08/25/07 “AP

One after another, the men and women who have stepped forward to report corruption in the massive effort to rebuild Iraq have been vilified, fired and demoted.

Or worse.

For daring to report illegal arms sales, Navy veteran Donald Vance says he was imprisoned by the American military in a security compound outside Baghdad and subjected to harsh interrogation methods.

There were times, huddled on the floor in solitary confinement with that head-banging music blaring dawn to dusk and interrogators yelling the same questions over and over, that Vance began to wish he had just kept his mouth shut.

He had thought he was doing a good and noble thing when he started telling the FBI about the guns and the land mines and the rocket-launchers – all of them being sold for cash, no receipts necessary, he said. He told a federal agent the buyers were Iraqi insurgents, American soldiers, State Department workers, and Iraqi embassy and ministry employees.

The seller, he claimed, was the Iraqi-owned company he worked for, Shield Group Security Co.

”It was a Wal-Mart for guns,” he says. ”It was all illegal and everyone knew it.”

So Vance says he blew the whistle, supplying photos and documents and other intelligence to an FBI agent in his hometown of Chicago because he didn’t know whom to trust in Iraq.

For his trouble, he says, he got 97 days in Camp Cropper, an American military prison outside Baghdad that once held Saddam Hussein, and he was classified a security detainee.

Also held was colleague Nathan Ertel, who helped Vance gather evidence documenting the sales, according to a federal lawsuit both have filed in Chicago, alleging they were illegally imprisoned and subjected to physical and mental interrogation tactics ”reserved for terrorists and so-called enemy combatants.”

Corruption has long plagued Iraq reconstruction. Hundreds of projects may never be finished, including repairs to the country’s oil pipelines and electricity system. Congress gave more than $30 billion to rebuild Iraq, and at least $8.8 billion of it has disappeared, according to a government reconstruction audit.

Despite this staggering mess, there are no noble outcomes for those who have blown the whistle, according to a review of such cases by The Associated Press.

”If you do it, you will be destroyed,” said William Weaver, professor of political science at the University of Texas-El Paso and senior advisor to the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition.

”Reconstruction is so rife with corruption. Sometimes people ask me, ‘Should I do this?’ And my answer is no. If they’re married, they’ll lose their family. They will lose their jobs. They will lose everything,” Weaver said.

They have been fired or demoted, shunned by colleagues, and denied government support in whistleblower lawsuits filed against contracting firms.

”The only way we can find out what is going on is for someone to come forward and let us know,” said Beth Daley of the Project on Government Oversight, an independent, nonprofit group that investigates corruption. ”But when they do, the weight of the government comes down on them. The message is, ‘Don’t blow the whistle or we’ll make your life hell.’

”It’s heartbreaking,” Daley said. ”There is an even greater need for whistleblowers now. But they are made into public martyrs. It’s a disgrace. Their lives get ruined.”

Bunnatine ”Bunny” Greenhouse knows this only too well. As the highest-ranking civilian contracting officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, she testified before a congressional committee in 2005 that she found widespread fraud in multibillion-dollar rebuilding contracts awarded to former Halliburton subsidiary KBR.

Soon after, Greenhouse was demoted. She now sits in a tiny cubicle in a different department with very little to do and no decision-making authority, at the end of an otherwise exemplary 20-year career.

People she has known for years no longer speak to her.

”It’s just amazing how we say we want to remove fraud from our government, then we gag people who are just trying to stand up and do the right thing,” she says.

In her demotion, her supervisors said she was performing poorly. ”They just wanted to get rid of me,” she says softly. The Army Corps of Engineers denies her claims.

”You just don’t have happy endings,” said Weaver. ”She was a wonderful example of a federal employee. They just completely creamed her. In the end, no one followed up, no one cared.”

But Greenhouse regrets nothing. ”I have the courage to say what needs to be said. I paid the price,” she says.

Then there is Robert Isakson, who filed a whistleblower suit against contractor Custer Battles in 2004, alleging the company – with which he was briefly associated – bilked the U.S. government out of tens of millions of dollars by filing fake invoices and padding other bills for reconstruction work.

He and his co-plaintiff, William Baldwin, a former employee fired by the firm, doggedly pursued the suit for two years, gathering evidence on their own and flying overseas to obtain more information from witnesses. Eventually, a federal jury agreed with them and awarded a $10 million judgment against the now-defunct firm, which had denied all wrongdoing.

It was the first civil verdict for Iraq reconstruction fraud.

But in 2006, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III overturned the jury award. He said Isakson and Baldwin failed to prove that the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S.-backed occupier of Iraq for 14 months, was part of the U.S. government.

Not a single Iraq whistleblower suit has gone to trial since.

”It’s a sad, heartbreaking comment on the system,” said Isakson, a former FBI agent who owns an international contracting company based in Alabama. ”I tried to help the government, and the government didn’t seem to care.”

One way to blow the whistle is to file a ”qui tam” lawsuit (taken from the Latin phrase ”he who sues for the king, as well as for himself”) under the federal False Claims Act.

Signed by Abraham Lincoln in response to military contractors selling defective products to the Union Army, the act allows private citizens to sue on the government’s behalf.

The government has the option to sign on, with all plaintiffs receiving a percentage of monetary damages, which are tripled in these suits.

It can be a straightforward and effective way to recoup federal funds lost to fraud. In the past, the Justice Department has joined several such cases and won. They included instances of Medicare and Medicaid overbilling, and padded invoices from domestic contractors.

But the government has not joined a single quit tam suit alleging Iraq reconstruction abuse, estimated in the tens of millions. At least a dozen have been filed since 2004.

”It taints these cases,” said attorney Alan Grayson, who filed the Custer Battles suit and several others like it. ”If the government won’t sign on, then it can’t be a very good case – that’s the effect it has on judges.”

The Justice Department declined comment.

Most of the lawsuits are brought by former employees of giant firms. Some plaintiffs have testified before members of Congress, providing examples of fraud they say they witnessed and the retaliation they experienced after speaking up.

Julie McBride testified last year that as a ”morale, welfare and recreation coordinator” at Camp Fallujah, she saw KBR exaggerate costs by double- and triple-counting the number of soldiers who used recreational facilities.

She also said the company took supplies destined for a Super Bowl party for U.S. troops and instead used them to stage a celebration for themselves.

”After I voiced my concerns about what I believed to be accounting fraud, Halliburton placed me under guard and kept me in seclusion,” she told the committee. ”My property was searched, and I was specifically told that I was not allowed to speak to any member of the U.S. military. I remained under guard until I was flown out of the country.”

Halliburton and KBR denied her testimony.

She also has filed a whistleblower suit. The Justice Department has said it would not join the action. But last month, a federal judge refused a motion by KBR to dismiss the lawsuit.

Donald Vance, the contractor and Navy veteran detained in Iraq after he blew the whistle on his company’s weapons sales, says he has stopped talking to the federal government.

Navy Capt. John Fleming, a spokesman for U.S. detention operations in Iraq, confirmed the detentions but said he could provide no further details because of the lawsuit.

According to their suit, Vance and Ertel gathered photographs and documents, which Vance fed to Chicago FBI agent Travis Carlisle for six months beginning in October 2005. Carlisle, reached by phone at Chicago’s FBI field office, declined comment. An agency spokesman also would not comment.

The Iraqi company has since disbanded, according the suit.

Vance said things went terribly wrong in April 2006, when he and Ertel were stripped of their security passes and confined to the company compound.

Panicking, Vance said, he called the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, where hostage experts got on the phone and told him ”you’re about to be kidnapped. Lock yourself in a room with all the weapons you can get your hands on.”’

The military sent a Special Forces team to rescue them, Vance said, and the two men showed the soldiers where the weapons caches were stored. At the embassy, the men were debriefed and allowed to sleep for a few hours. ”I thought I was among friends,” Vance said.

The men said they were cuffed and hooded and driven to Camp Cropper, where Vance was held for nearly three months and his colleague for a little more than a month. Eventually, their jailers said they were being held as security internees because their employer was suspected of selling weapons to terrorists and insurgents, the lawsuit said.

The prisoners said they repeatedly told interrogators to contact Carlisle in Chicago. ”One set of interrogators told us that Travis Carlisle doesn’t exist. Then some others would say, ‘He says he doesn’t know who you are,”’ Vance said.

Released first was Ertel, who has returned to work in Iraq for a different company. Vance said he has never learned why he was held longer. His own interrogations, he said, seemed focused on why he reported his information to someone outside Iraq.

And then one day, without explanation, he was released.

”They drove me to Baghdad International Airport and dumped me,” he said.

When he got home, he decided to never call the FBI again. He called a lawyer, instead.

”There’s an unspoken rule in Baghdad,” he said. ”Don’t snitch on people and don’t burn bridges.”

For doing both, Vance said, he paid with 97 days of his life.

AP-WS-08-24-07 1512EDT

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Reps. Paul & Kucinich Campaign in NH (C-SPAN tonight 08.26.07 6:30pm ET)

Note: I’ll look for the videos of this program later tonight. Hopefully it will be uploaded by someone onto YouTube. ~ Lo

Dandelion Salad

C-SPAN

ON ROAD TO THE WHITE HOUSE

Reps. Paul & Kucinich Campaign in NH

Presidential candidates Rep. Paul and Rep. Kucinich are campaigning in New Hampshire. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) stops at Pete’s Gun & Tackle Shop in Hudson and the Hollis Pharmacy & General Store in Hollis. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) holds events at the Concord Cooperative Market in Concord, and later at the Morning Star Studios in Fairfield, Iowa.

“American Politics” and “Road to the White House 2008” are two intermittently alternating weekly C-SPAN shows that look at the electoral process in the United States and the candidates, issues & events shaping the 2008 presidential race. These programs airs Sundays on C-SPAN at 6:30pm ET & 9:30pm ET.

 

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.