BlackBoxVoting: Election Reality TV – First in series

Dandelion Salad


You, too, can (and should) keep your camera running and ask common-sense questions. This film shows the surprises you’ll uncover — and should expose to the public — when you set out to see for yourself what’s going on in America.

Added: February 25, 2008

Vodpod videos no longer available. from posted with vodpod


Olbermann: Double Talk Express + Questioning Obama’s Patriotism + Clinton’s Shameful Attitude

Dandelion Salad


February 25, 2008

John McCain’s Quickest Retraction In History!

Questioning Obama’s Patriotism


More at

MSNBC political analyst and Air America Radio host Rachel Maddow joins Keith Olbermann to discuss the attacks on Barack Obama’s patriotism and his response.

Clinton’s Shameful Attitude



World’s Worst

Worse: WHNT, the CBS station in Huntsville.

Worser: James Rosen

Worst: Mort Kondracke

The Calm Before the Conflagration By Chris Hedges

Dandelion Salad

By Chris Hedges
Feb. 25, 2008

The United States is funding and in many cases arming the three ethnic factions in Iraq-the Kurds, the Shiites and the Sunni Arabs. These factions rule over partitioned patches of Iraqi territory and brutally purge rival ethnic groups from their midst. Iraq no longer exists as a unified state. It is a series of heavily armed fiefdoms run by thugs, gangs, militias, radical Islamists and warlords who are often paid wages of $300 a month by the U.S. military. Iraq is Yugoslavia before the storm. It is a cauldron of weapons, lawlessness, hate and criminality that is destined to implode. And the current U.S. policy, born of desperation and defeat, means that when Iraq goes up, the U.S. military will have to scurry like rats for cover.

Continue reading

Jihad and 21st Century Terrorism (video)

Dandelion Salad


In the post-September 11 world, Al Qaeda is no longer the central organizing force that aids or authorizes terrorist attacks or recruits terrorists. Rather, it serves as an inspiration for individuals and other groups who have branded themselves with the Al Qaeda name.

Continue reading

Ralph Nader on Israel/Palestine Impeachment & the Candidates

Dandelion Salad


February 25, 2008 MSNBC TUCKER


Eye To Eye: Ralph Nader (video)

Ralph Nader on Fox Business (vid) + Bloomberg: What spoiler?

In defense of Ralph Nader (video)

Ralph Nader Announces Candidacy (videos) (updated)

On the Issues: Ralph Nader

Road Trip for Ralph

The Audacity of Revolution VS The Hope of Chumps by Manila Ryce (video)

An Unreasonable Man (must-see videos; Nader) Parts 1-4

Ralph Nader on the Candidates, Corporate Power and His Own Plans for 2008 (video link)

Nader considers running for president again (videos)


9/11: The Unraveling of the Official Story Continues By Mark H. Gaffney

Dandelion Salad

By Mark H. Gaffney
02/25/08 “ICH

Humpty-Dumpty sat on a wall.

Humpty-Dumpty had a great fall.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Today in America we are witness to a great unraveling, the likes of which we have never seen before. There are no historical precedents. For many months now the official narrative about the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on America has been coming apart, and I mean: at the seams. The official story about that terrible day is disintegrating. The trend shows no sign of abating and in recent weeks it even appears to have accelerated. At the present rate, soon there will be nothing left of the official version of events but a discordant echo and a series of extremely rude after shocks.

Is our nation prepared to face those rude shocks?

The unraveling began within weeks of the release of the 9/11 Commission Report (in July 2004) with the shocking revelation that members of the 9/11 commission were convinced that government officials, including NORAD generals, had deceived them during the investigation–––in essence, had lied to their faces during the hearings.[1] According to the Washington Post the members of the commission vented their frustrations at a special meeting in the summer of 2004. The panel even considered referring the matter to the Justice Department for a criminal investigation.

The unraveling continued in 2006 with the release of a follow-up volume, Without Precedent, authored by the two men who had co-chaired the commission, Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton. The men had come under increasing fire ever since the release of their final report for presiding over what many now believe was a failed investigation. Stung by so much criticism, Kean and Hamilton felt the need to explain (and defend) themselves. The gist of their 2006 book is easily summarized. They write: ”We were set up to fail.”

The bleeding continued in May 2007 with the stunning announcement that former BYU physicist Steven Jones had found residues of thermate, a high temperature explosive, in the dust of the collapsed World Trade Center.[2] The discovery has the gravest implications for our nation, and probably for this reason the announcement went reported in the US media. In a later chapter I will discuss this important evidence in detail.

Yet another startling revelation occurred in December 2007 when we learned that the CIA destroyed evidence, in the form of audio-tapes, deemed vital to the official investigation.[3]

The news prompted 9/11 Commission co-chairs Kean and Hamilton to fire off an angry salvo in the New York Times in which they charged that the CIA had obstructed their investigation.[4] Their blunt accusation was explosive and should have caused every American to sit up and take notice. Unfortunately, the average American probably failed to connect the dots because, as usual, the US media offered nothing in the way of helpful context or analysis. We were fed the usual diet of tidbits and sound bytes: a wealth of minutiae. The big picture remained elusive.

But back to the unraveling story.

Starting in 2002, the CIA conducted interrogations of captured Al Qaeda operatives, including Abu Zubaydah and Ramzi Binalshibh, at undisclosed CIA prisons outside the US. During these interrogations the CIA resorted to “enhanced interrogation techniques” (the CIA’s euphemism for torture) to extract information.[5] The methods included “waterboarding,” which induces a sensation of drowning in the unlucky individual. Evidently, the CIA decided for its own internal reasons to video-tape these early interrogation sessions. However, years later (in 2005), Jose A, Rodriquez, the CIA’s Director of Operations, ordered the tapes destroyed. For what reason? Well, according to current CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, because the tapes posed “a serious security risk.”[6] Hayden went on to clarify his rather cryptic remark, and explained to the press that if the tapes had become public they would have exposed CIA officials “and their families to retaliation from Al Qaeda and its sympathizers.” The excuse was flimflam, but the US media hung on Hayden’s every word as if he were speaking gospel. The press certainly did not throw him any hard balls. Nor did they press him on the point.

Hayden also claimed that the CIA had notified the appropriate committee heads in Congress in 2005 before destroying the evidence. But according to the Times this was immediately denied by the top two members of the House Intelligence Committee. A spokesman for Representative Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), who at the time chaired the oversight committee, said that he was “never briefed or advised” that the tapes even existed, let alone “that they were going to be destroyed.”[7]

Kean and Hamilton had a similar reaction–––outrage. In their article they state categorically that the CIA never informed them about any taped interrogations, despite their repeated requests for all pertinent information about the captured Al Qaeda operatives, who were then in CIA custody. In fact, as damaging as the news about the CIA’s destruction of evidence surely was, the story exposed an even more serious problem. One might naturally assume that the official commission charged to investigate the events of 9/11 would have had unfettered access to all of the evidence pertinent to the case, including government documents and key witnesses. This goes without saying. Access was vital to the success of the investigation. How else could the commission do its work? Yet, it never happened.

CIA Stonewalled the Official Panel

In their article Kean and Hamilton summarize their dealings with the CIA.[8] They describe their private meeting with CIA Director George Tenet and how he denied them access to the captured members of Al Qaeda. Which means, of course, that the panel never had a chance to conduct its own interviews. Tenet even denied them permission to conduct second-hand interviews with the CIA interrogators, which Kean and Hamilton felt were needed to “to better judge the credibility of the witnesses and clarify ambiguities in the reporting.”[9] Ultimately, the commission was forced to rely on third-hand intelligence reports prepared by the CIA itself. Many of these reports were poorly written and incomplete summaries[10] which, according to the co-chairs “raised almost as many questions as they answered.”

In order to resolve the many uncertainties the commission prepared a list of questions, which they then submitted to the CIA. The questions covered a range of topics, such as the translations from the Arabic, inconsistencies in the detainees’ stories, the context of the questioning, how the interrogators followed up certain lines of questioning, and the assessments of the interrogators themselves. But the CIA’s response was less than helpful. In their article Kean and Hamilton state that “the [CIA] general counsel responded in writing with non-specific replies.” This is a bland way of saying that the agency stiffed the panel. Not satisfied, Kean and Hamilton made another attempt to gain access to the captives, but were again rebuffed during a head-to-head meeting with Tenet in December 2003. For this reason the ambiguities and other questions went unresolved and still flaw the commission’s final report. Yet, as I have indicated, the more serious problem was the panel’s lack of access to begin with, a problem that was by no means obvious until the recent story broke in the mainstream press. As we now know, Kean and Hamilton had inserted a caveat in their report (on page 146) conceding that they were denied access to the witnesses. Most readers, however, probably pass right over it without understanding its awful significance. I know I did, the first time I read the report.

The latest unraveling also came with a twist. Not even Porter J. Goss, CIA Director at the the time, knew that the tapes had been destroyed. That decision, as noted, was made by Jose A, Rodriquez, the CIA’s Director of Operations–––as in covert operations. According to the Times, Goss was angered to learn he had been left out of the loop.[11] But Goss declined to make a public statement. What are we to make of this? Why was the CIA chief kept in the dark about the destruction of evidence deemed vital to the 9/11 investigation? This is just as shocking as the destruction of the tapes because it points to a disconnect in the chain of command. Was the CIA’s covert branch, long notorious for staging rogue operations, up to its old tricks? Are there loose cannons at Langley still?

The 9/11 Commission Report was packaged and sold to the American people like some trendy product. The US media has told us countless times it is the definitive version of the events of September 11, and in 2008 most Americans probably take this for granted. When something is repeated enough times on television people begin to believe it whether it is true or not. This is what happens when mass marketing is made to serve a political agenda. We witnessed a similar phenomenon during the run-up to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, when President G.W. Bush’s mantra about Saddam’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and his supposed links to Al Qaeda were drummed into the brain of every American. Today, of course, we know different. None of it was true. Yet, on the eve of that war a Washington Post poll found that 70% of Americans believed that Saddam was responsible for 9/11. The case is a sobering example of the power of the corporate media to shape public opinion with–––let us call it by its true name–––propaganda.

OK. It is now 2008. Is America prepared to face reality? The 9/11 Commission’s lack of direct access to the captured members of al Qaeda can only mean that the official 9/11 investigation was fundamentally compromised from the outset. No other conclusion is possible, given the latest disclosures. In their recent article Kean and Hamilton do not repudiate their own report, at least, not in so many words. But they come close. They insinuate that the CIA’s stonewalling now calls into question the veracity of key parts of the official story, especially the plot against America supposedly masterminded by Khalid Shiekh Mohammed and approved by Osama bin Laden. Until now, the nation has assumed that all of this was soundly based on the testimony of the captured al Qaeda operatives, several of whom supposedly confessed. This is the story told in the 9/11 Commission Report. However, when you probe more deeply you discover the devil lurking in the details. I personally believe there was a plot by al Qaeda to attack America. Yet, without independent confirmation about what the captives actually confessed to, precisely what was said and by whom, indeed, whether they confessed at all, there is absolutely no way for us to know how much of the official story is true and how much was fabricated by the CIA for reasons we can only guess.

For all that we know, the entire story is a pack of lies. It comes down to whether the CIA is telling the truth. Should we believe them? Another important question is: How did the miscarriage of a lawful process of discovery happen, given that Congress invested the 9/11 Commission with the authority to subpoena evidence?

Philip Shenon’s New Book

Now, in February 2008, along comes a new “tell-all” book by Philip Shenon with much to say about the above, and some answers.[12] His book’s sub-title, The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Commission, sounds very promising. Nor does the author fail to deliver. Shenon covered the 9/11 Commission for the New York Times and over the course of the investigation he personally interviewed many of the commissioners and staff. His book is an overnight best-seller, and for good reason. It is a well-written expose and affords our best look yet at what went on behind-the-scenes. Instead of burdening us with his personal opinions, Shenon plays the role of reporter, and describes what happened through the eyes of the commissioners and staff. The book provides valuable insights into why the investigation failed.

Of course, we already knew large parts of the story. We knew about National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice’s incompetence, for example, and about the serious conflicts of interest on the commission, particularly in the case of Philip Zelikow, who served as the panel’s executive director. In that capacity Zelikow controlled many facets of the investigation, including the scheduling of witnesses and the vital flow of information between the staff and commissioners. Zelikow also edited (and, no doubt, doctored) the final report. In addition to being a long-time confidante of Rice, with whom he coauthored a book, Zelikow served on Bush’s transition team and even drafted a national security strategy paper that became the basis for the Bush administration’s attempts in late 2002 to justify the coming war against Iraq. It is hard to believe that Kean and Hamilton, who claim their goal was to lead a nonpartisan investigation, would have knowingly hired such a man–––a neocon–––to manage the day-to-day affairs of their panel. According to Shenon, it only happened because Zelikow failed to report the full extent of his ties to the Bush administration when he submitted his resume for the job. If Zelikow had been more forthcoming he would have been instantly eliminated from consideration. But this hardly excuses Kean and Hamilton for failing to properly vet the candidate.

Shenon’s most important revelation is sure to fuel the unraveling process. Shenon names CIA Director George Tenet as one of the government officials whom the commissioners and staff were certain had lied during the hearings.[13] Tenet gave testimony on three occasions (in addition to the private meetings with Kean and Hamilton) and in each of these hearings the CIA Director suffered from a faulty memory, frequently responding with “I can’t remember.” Initially, the commissioners were inclined to be sympathetic and gave the director the benefit of the doubt. (Tenet’s supporters at the agency reportedly made excuses for their boss: George could not remember because he was dead-tired, physically exhausted from dealing with the war on terrorism, and suffering from sleep deprivation–––not getting enough shuteye.[14] Poor old George.) But gradually the tide turned. By Tenet’s third appearance it was obvious to everyone he was perjuring himself.

Curiously, there no mention of this spectacle in the 9/11 Commission Report. Why not? Kean gave the reason at the panel’s first public hearing in New York City, when he said: “Our…purpose will not be to point fingers.” The comment was not well received. According to Shenon, it prompted a rumble in the audience, including sneers from the families of the victims who wanted those officials responsible to be held accountable.[15]

It is important to understand that when Tenet stiffed the commission he was carrying on a time-honored Langley tradition. For the first 25 years of its existence the CIA functioned entirely outside our constitutional framework of government. Like it or not, this is the disturbing reality. The state of affairs prevailed until the Watergate era when the Church hearings exposed a laundry list of criminal activities by the CIA, such as domestic spying, the assassination of foreign leaders, the overthrow of governments, plus the nasty habit of deceiving Congress. The Church hearings shocked the nation and led to the creation of House and Senate intelligence committees to provide the democratic oversight that was sorely lacking. At any rate, that was the intent. But as with so many good ideas it never worked as expected. The CIA soon found ways around the oversight process. This is not surprising when you consider that the agency’s expertise is clandestine operations. Today, the Intelligence Committees in both houses are widely viewed as a joke, and despite a chorus of denials from the agency and its admirers the perception is undoubtedly correct. To his credit, Shenon touches on the problem. The author mentions that one of the commissioners, former Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA), once served on the Senate Intelligence Committee but quit in frustration because of the lack of any serious business. Said Gorton: “I felt it was a useless exercise–––I never felt I was being told anything that I hadn’t learned in the Washington Post.”[16] Does such an agency deserve our trust and respect?

As to why Kean and Hamilton did not make more aggressive use of their authority to subpoena evidence, Shenon’s answer is not very satisfying but rings true. The co-chairs were overcautious because they wished to avoid a legal showdown that would drag out in the courts.[17] A legal stalemate threatened to delay their investigation beyond the mandated deadline, which in their view would have been tantamount to a Bush victory. It was a huge mistake, however. Had Kean and Hamilton stood tough and issued blanket subpoenas early in the investigation as their legal counsel advised, the inevitable showdown in the courts would have worked in their favor. Bush and Tenet would have been perceived–––correctly–––as obstructing the investigation and would have come under increasing pressure and scrutiny. That sort of confrontation would have served the discovery process and the cause of 9/11 truth. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. This helps to explain why the official investigation failed in its stated objective: “to provide the fullest possible account of the events surrounding 9/11.”[18]

Although Philip Shenon supports the official narrative, his research was so narrowly focused that his rather casual discounting of “conspiracy theorists” can do no harm to the 9/11 truth movement. (Here, of course, “conspiracy theorist” means anyone who does not agree with the official conspiracy theory.) Judging from his book, Shenon appears to be genuinely unaware that in 2007 the evidence shifted decisively in favor of the “conspiracy theorists.” It is ironic that, whatever his personal views, his book is likely to speed the unraveling process.

The showdown with the CIA, though long delayed, appears to be developing as I write, and it portends–––I believe–––a coming shift in the terms of the debate, away from the previous discussion about the incompetence of officials and “security failures” to more grave issues. But how this important drama will be played out remains unclear. Obviously, a new legally empowered investigative body is urgently needed, since the 9/11 Commission no longer exists. While there are many reasons to worry about the future––––we have entered the most dangerous time in our history––––the good news is that, once begun, the unraveling process is irreversible. It moves in only one direction: forward. As in the famous nursery rhyme, the official reality is falling apart and the pieces will never be put back together again.

Mark H. Gaffney’s forthcoming book, The 911 Mystery Plane and the Vanishing of America, will be released in September 2008. Mark’s latest, Gnostic Secrets of the Naassenes, was a finalist for the 2004 Narcissus Book Award. Mark can be reached for comment at Visit Mark’s web site at


1 Dan Eggen, “9/11 Panel Suspected Deception by Pentagon,” The Washington Post, August 2, 2006.

2 The Jones paper is posted at

3 Mark Mazzetti, “CIA Destroyed 2 Tapes Showing Interrogations,” New York Times, December 7, 2007.

4 Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, “Stonewalled by the CIA,” New York Times, January 2, 2008.

5 “CIA destroyed terrorism suspect videotapes. Director says interrogation tapes were security risk. Critics call move illegal,” NBC News, December 7, 2007.

6 Mark Mazzetti, “CIA Destroyed 2 Tapes Showing Interrogations,” New York Times, December 7, 2007.

7 Ibid.

8 Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, “Stonewalled by the CIA,” New York Times, January 2, 2008.

9 The 9/11 Commission Report. Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, W.W. Norton & Co., New York, p.146.

10 Philip Shenon, The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Commission, Grand Central Publishing, New York, 2008, p.391.

11 Mark Mazzetti, “CIA Destroyed 2 Tapes Showing Interrogations,” New York Times, December 7, 2007.

12 Philip Shenon, The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Commission, Grand Central Publishing, New York, 2008, p. 360.

13 Ibid., p. 360.

14 Ibid., pp. 258-260.

15 Ibid., p. 99.

16 Ibid., p. 229.

17 Ibid. pp. 94 and 201.

18 The 9/11 Commission Report. Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, W.W. Norton & Co., New York, p. xvi.

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. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


9/11: Insider Trading by Davis Fleetwood (video)

Kucinich to Investigate 9/11 Insider Trading

Dennis Kucinich on The Alex Jones Show 02.20.08


Will American Empire End Before It Ends the World? By Paul Craig Roberts

Dandelion Salad

By Paul Craig Roberts
February 24, 2008

The hypocrisy of US government officials is boundless. On February 18, the US government inflamed Serbians by recognizing Muslim separatists in Kosovo, a historic province of Serbia, as an independent country. Two hundred thousand Serbs marched in protest and the US embassy in Belgrade was damaged. Is this surprising? No, not unless you are an official in the American Empire. The notorious Empire Neocon Counsel, Azlmay Khalilzad, Bush’s representative to the UN, declared: “I’m outraged by the mob attack.”

What’s an embassy building compared to a province of Serbia, a province that stirs nationalist sentiments associated with the Serbs’ long military struggles with the Turks? Had it not been for the Serbs, Europeans would probably be Turks.

To neocon Khalilzad a province of Serbia is nothing. It is merely real estate to be given away by US recognition bestowed on a break-away movement led by what some consider to be a gang of Muslim drug runners.

Secretary of State Condi Rice also found the Serbian response to the US giving away part of their country to be “intolerable.”

Former Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke also sees no reason for the Serbs to be upset that America gave away part of their country. He explained away the Serbian protests by declaring: “The Russians are behind this.”

We can understand why US diplomacy is a failure when we see our diplomats explaining that, had it not been for the Russians stirring them up, Serbians wouldn’t have noticed the loss of a historic part of their country.

Perhaps Kosovo should have its independence. However, the US government could not have handled the issue in a more provocative way.

Washington has been interfering in Serbian internal affairs since the Clinton administration. Told that Americans had to prevent genocide, few paid enough attention to Washington’s facilitation of the breakup of the Yugoslav state during the 1990s and to the Clinton administration’s bombing and murder of Serbian civilians in order to support Muslim separatists in Kosovo in 1999. Clinton used NATO as cover, but the bombing campaign was not backed by the UN Security Council. Bombs fell on Serbia for 78 days, taking out public infrastructure, bridges, factories, power stations, petrochemical plants, telecommunications facilities, markets, refugees, the Chinese Embassy and a passenger train. “Sorry honey, tell the kids I won’t be home tonight. President Clinton decided to bomb my train.” Cluster bombs and depleted uranium were used. Clearly, the US government and its NATO puppets were guilty of war crimes under the Nuremberg standard.

Americans were told by an obedient media that the bombings were necessary in order to prevent Yugoslav leader, Slobodan Milosevic, from committing war crimes against the separatists who were stealing part of his country. After Clinton’s bombings intimidated the Serbian political establishment, Milosevic was turned out of office and handed over to the Americans for a payment of several hundred million dollars and delivered to the Hague for trial as a war criminal.

Milosevic represented himself at his trial and was more than a match for the trumped up charges. Unfortunately, he died in prison. Many believe he was helped on his way by an embarrassed American Empire unable to convict him.

What is the US government’s secret agenda in the Balkans? Why is the US government on the side of Muslims intent on severing Kosovo from Serbia? What is being served by creating a new Muslim state closer to Europe?

Whose interests are being served by Washington? Clearly, not our own. Or Europe’s.

And, please, none of that BS about “building freedom and democracy.” As one of England’s most famous conservatives, Peregrine Worsthorne, wrote on February 20, America’s reputation as “the West’s conscience is fatally weakened.”

Supposedly our time is the era of globalism and one worldism. Ancient European nationalities are dissolving into the European Union, a new super state. US corporations now have transnational interests devoid of any national loyalties. Yet, the US is hard at work dissolving a small Balkan state into even smaller constituent parts. Why is this happening? Why did Bush order US puppets in Britain, France and Germany to instantly recognize the historic Serbian province as a new Muslim state?

Is the new state of Kosovo, as rumors would have it, Richard Perle’s payoff to the Turks, or is the explanation that Serbia, like Palestine, Iraq, and Iran, lacking any international media reach, was easy for Empire Neocons to demonize in order to establish the precedent that Washington decides what territory belongs to who and who rules it. Clinton’s bombing of Serbia was a precedent for Bush’s bombing of Afghanistan and Iraq and now Africa and tomorrow Iran and Syria.

The day the Empire Crazies bomb Russia or China, we are all fried.

Be a macho super patriot, believe your government, help to fry the world. It’s the American way.

Paul Craig Roberts [email him] was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan’s first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Mitterrand. He is the author of Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider’s Account of Policymaking in Washington; Alienation and the Soviet Economy and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice. Click here for Peter Brimelow’s Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.

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. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

The Subprime Hangover – Here Comes The $739 Billion Taxpayer Bailout

Dandelion Salad

By Mike Whitney
25/02/08 “ICH

“The SEC probe of the securitization of subprime mortgages into collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), announced last summer, has yielded no official enforcement cases….SEC chief, Christopher Cox, along with other top-level administration officials, has cautioned against quick-fire regulatory or enforcement responses to the worsening credit crisis, noting that the market instead should be left to work it out.” Nicholas Rummel, “SEC Drift Said to Prevent Action on Credit Crunch”, Financial WeekThat’s right. The biggest economic scandal in the last half century, the subprime fiasco, and the “business friendly” stooges at the SEC are still sitting on their hands reciting passages from Milton Friedman instead of dragging crooked banksters off to the hoosegow in leg-irons. Go figure? SEC Chairman, Christopher Cox, has come under withering attack from Senator Christopher Dodd who chairs the Banking Committee and who accuses the SEC of being “asleep at the switch”.

Dodd said the SEC “needs to help restore investor confidence in the markets by more vigorous enforcement, by more comprehensive regulation of credit rating agencies, and increased accountability and transparency of publicly traded companies.” (Financial Week)

“Accountability…transparency” in Bushworld? Nice try, Dodd, but its a losing cause. The Bush administration is not just philosophically opposed to oversight; they’ve handed over the entire financial system to a cabal of banking scalawags who’ve turned it into their personal fiefdom. This same cast of fraudsters engineered the subprime swindle and ripped off trillions of dollars from investors around the world. And, don’t kid yourself; Bush is proud of the damage he’s done by taking a wrecking ball the SEC. For him, it’s like a good day at the races. He has no intention of reigning in the crooks or restoring the publics’ confidence.

New York Governor Elliot Spitzer has joined Dodd in criticizing the so-called “regulatory agencies” for failing to determine whether any securities laws were broken. In a Washington Post article, Spitzer blasted the SEC’s inaction saying that the Bush Administration would be judged by history as a “willing accomplice” to the subprime collapse.

But Spitzer and Dodd are wasting their breath. The culture of corruption from 7 years of Bush misrule has spread like Kudzu to every jag and eddy in Washington. If we were really a nation of laws rather than nincompoops, federal agents would be busy rounding up every investment banker and hedge fund sharpie on Wall Street so they could get to the bottom of the subprime boondoggle. Regulators still haven’t even decided whether it was a case of overzealous marketing of dodgy securities or downright fraud. That should be “job one” for the SEC.

The reason all this talk about “regulation” is so important now is that the same banking giants who cooked up the subprime scam have just presented the Bush administration with a $739 billion bailout package they plan to unload on the American taxpayer. According to Sunday’s New York Times:

“As losses from bad mortgages and mortgage-backed securities climb past $200 billion, talk among banking executives for an epic government rescue plan is suddenly coming into fashion. A confidential proposal that Bank of America circulated to members of Congress this month provides a stunning glimpse of how quickly the industry has reversed its laissez-faire disdain for second-guessing by the government — now that it is in trouble. The proposal warns that up to $739 billion in mortgages are at “moderate to high risk” of defaulting over the next five years and that millions of families could lose their homes. To prevent that, Bank of America suggested creating a Federal Homeowner Preservation Corporation that would buy up billions of dollars in troubled mortgages at a deep discount, forgive debt above the current market value of the homes and use federal loan guarantees to refinance the borrowers at lower rates.”

What Bank of America is proposing is that the US government guarantee the shoddy mortgages that the banks issued to “unemployed shoe-clerks with bad credit” so they could peddle them as Triple A “securities” to unsuspecting investors. Now that subprimes are blowing up at a record pace, the banks need a government bailout before their balance sheets are reduced to cinders.

But what does the poor taxpayer get out of the deal besides soaring inflation, bulging fiscal deficits, and the “warm and fuzzy” feeling that he’s helped some tasseled-shoed charlatan keep his  larder in the Hamptons full of Dom Perignon and crab cakes?

The reason we’re in this mess is because financial innovation and deregulation have driven the markets off a cliff. And that started with the bankers. Financial innovation has nothing to do with the efficient deployment of capital for productive activity. No way. In fact, it is the exact opposite. The financial innovations of the last decade have primarily focused on transforming the liabilities of dubious mortgage applicants into complex debt-instruments which are enhanced with massive amounts of leverage and exotically-named derivatives. The investments banks and brokerage houses fought hard to establish the present system which they call “structured finance”. They spent over $100,000 million lobbying congress to remove the legislative firewall which kept investment and commercial banks separate. Those laws, particularly Glass Steagall, made sure that the public was protected from the Ponzi-scams which proliferated just prior to the Great Depression. But, now, 30 years later, the same scams are back with a vengeance. The cult of free market orthodoxy and Reagan-era flim-flam has put us on track for another stock market crash ala 1929. That’s why Bank of America and their buddies in the industry have turned to the administration for a way out. Their flagging balance sheets can’t take another year of rising foreclosures and dwindling assets. They need Big Brother to cover their debts and rebuild their capital-base. Otherwise its curtains.

Other versions of the so-called “Rescue Bill” have been floating around Washington for the last three weeks, but they all follow the same basic guidelines. Under one of the plans, 600,000 subprime mortgage-holders, many of whom are already delinquent on their payments or in some stage of foreclosure, would be able to refinance their loans under the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) which would federally guarantee the mortgage in the event of default.

Great idea, eh? So, now the taxpayer is going to have to pay for the people who lied on their applications (and who really can’t afford the homes they’re in) so the banks can recoup their losses. This plan doesn’t make sense.

Why on earth would the taxpayer want to buy 600,000 subprime mortgages at “current value” when housing prices are falling, inventory is soaring, sales are sagging, foreclosures are at historic highs, and millions of homeowners are expected to simply “walkaway” from their loans?

No thanks. Let the banks go under. They created this mess. Besides, all we’re doing is rewarding the people who deliberately destroyed the system. They can fend for themselves. The first order of business should be to restore public confidence; not bail out crooks. “Credibility” matters in a market-based system; especially one that relies so heavily on the hocus-pocus of fractional banking. When trust is lost; the system crashes. End of story. That means it’s time to clean house at the SEC. Give everyone a pink slip, two weeks pay and send them home.  Then scour the countryside like Diogenes for a few honest men.

Second, people in positions of authority have to be held accountable for their crimes. Millions of investors have lost their life savings or retirement in the subprime/securitzation debacle. Someone’s got to go to jail. Apologies just don’t cut it.  So far, not one CEO has been led off to the Paddy-wagon in handcuffs. It has all been swept under the rug by an administration that has filled every regulatory position in Washington with industry lobbyists, business-friendly tycoons and corporate “yes-men”. The results are just what any sane person would expect; disaster. The financial markets are completely unsupervised; the SEC is just a subsidiary of the multi-national corporations. It has no teeth. If it was really independent; then Cox and his goons would be storming the investment banks with tasers and truncheons. Instead, he spends most his time explaining why he won’t enforce the laws and prosecute cases.

And there should be no doubt about who is really responsible for the subprime woes. The investment banks employ some of the country’s “best and brightest”. These are sharp guys who have studied at some of our finest colleges and universities. Does anyone really believe that a Harvard MBA—who understands all the fine-points of high-finance–really thought that ignoring all of the standard criteria for prudent lending, and issuing trillions of dollars in loans to applicants who had no job, no collateral, bad credit, and were unable to come up with a few thousand dollars for a down-payment—was a great idea?

Of course not. It was a swindle from the get-go. The reason the banks looked the other way and issued these shaky mortgages was because they didn’t really think there was any risk involved. After all, it wasn’t their money. They simply repackaged the loans into bonds and sold them off to someone else. No worries. But, does that make them any less guilty?

Consider this: If the banks didn’t know that the mortgages were bogus, than why are all the various types of mortgages; including Alt-As, piggybacks, home equity loans, ARMs, prime, and “interest only”—defaulting at the same time? It is not just subprime mortgages that are failing; it runs the gamut.

The reason is obvious; it’s because the banks were making windfall profits and didn’t want to rock the boat. They knew they were peddling garbage. How could they not know?  The banker’s primary task in life is to figure out who can pay him back “with interest”.  And they’re pretty good at it, too. So why did they start handing out hundreds of billions of dollars to anyone who could fog a mirror? In fact, it got so out-of-hand that (according to The New York State Commission of Investigation) “a homeless woman earning $10 an hour was recently approved for a $470,000 adjustable rate mortgage”. In a similar incident, two Hispanic migrant workers in Bakersfield, California, who made roughly $45,000 in combined income, were approved for a mortgage on a home valued at $725,000.

These aren’t innocent mistakes. They’re part of a broader pattern to fudge the paperwork so unqualified “high-risk” loan applicants would look like J. Paul Getty and secure a mortgage. That way, the banks could continue to rake in lavish origination fees and maximize their profits.

But then the plan hit a rough patch and the Gravy-train tipped over into the ditch. When the credit storm hit the markets in August, the mortgage securitization went into deep freeze and the easy money from Wall Street dried up. The banks got stuck holding billions of their own bad paper. Now every foreclosure eats into their capital so, they’ve turned to the government for a handout. Of course, they don’t want the public to know what’s really going on so they’ve asked the Bush administration to help them pull the wool over everyone’s eyes. According to the New York Times one banking official summed it up like this:

“We believe that any intervention by the federal government will be acceptable only if it is not perceived as a bailout of the bond market.”

Really? So, on top of everything else, the banks want the Bush administration to organize a public relations campaign that will make the multi-billion bailout look like it was designed to help struggling homeowners instead of crafty bankers. Unbelievable. No doubt Team Bush will do whatever they can to help out.

Bank of America’s proposed $739 billion bailout is just the first of many hyper-inflationary, economy-busting trial-balloons we can expect to see in the near future. The banking system is in terminal distress; collapsing from hundreds of billions in worthless assets, bad bets, and poor decision-making. Their capital impairment problems were all brought on by themselves. And they should be forced to pay the consequences, whatever that may be. They managed to take a simple, revenue-generating activity like mortgage lending, and turn it into a textbook case of grand larceny. It’s pathetic.

In their present condition, many of the banks will be back for another handout in a matter of months. Next will be commercial real estate (CRE) which is already slumping and on its way down. Then it’ll be the $160 billion in private equity deals and leveraged buyouts (LBOs) which need refinancing. Then it’ll be the maxed-out credit cards, and delinquent student loans and defaulting car loans all of which are failing at a faster and faster pace. It is not just the “structured investment” market that’s unraveling now; it’s the whole speculative paradigm of hyper-inflated assets, toxic bonds, over-priced equities and bizarre-sounding derivatives which are crashing down in one great debt waterfall. The investment banks are at the very center of the problems. They’ve played it fast and loose from the very beginning and now they’ve come up snake-eyes. Tough luck. Only they shouldn’t count on a $700 billion freebie from Uncle Sam to make up for their own bad judgment.

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Mosaic News 2/22/08: World News from the Middle East

Dandelion Salad



This video may contain images depicting the reality and horror of war and should only be viewed by a mature audience.


“Turkish Troops Enter Northern Iraq,” Al Jazeera English, Qatar
“Amer Musa Postpones Trip to Lebanon,” Dubai TV, UAE
“Famous Mosque to be Rebuilt in Iraq,” Al Arabiya TV, UAE
“EU Support to Hamas Weakens Moderates,” IBA TV, Israel
“Palestinian Village Ressists Israeli Wall for 3 Years,” Al Jazeera English, Qatar
“Hezbollah May Target Israeli Interests Abroad,” ANB TV, England
“IAEA Report Confirms Iran’s Legitimacy,” IRIB2 TV, Iran
“Expired Medications in Iraq,” Al-Iraqiya TV, Iraq
“MIR: Kosovo is not Palestine,” Link TV, USA
Produced for Link TV by Jamal Dajani. 

Vodpod videos no longer available. from posted with vodpod


The Arab-Israeli Conflict by Dr. Sigmund Freud

Dandelion Salad

by Dr. Sigmund Freud
Global Research, February 25, 2008

Vienna: 26 February 1930: Letter to the Keren Hajessod (Dr. Chaim Koffler)

Freud would not have been surprised at the continuing conflict in the Middle East. He predicted as much 70 years ago.

We can predict Freud’s response because of a letter he wrote to Dr. Chaim Koffler in 1930.

In February 1930 Freud was asked, as a distinguished Jew, to contribute to a petition condemning Arab riots of 1929, in which over a hundred Jewish settlers were killed.  This was his reply:

Letter to the Keren Hajessod (Dr. Chaim Koffler)

Vienna: 26 February 1930

Dear Sir,

I cannot do as you wish. I am unable to overcome my aversion to burdening the public with my name, and even the present critical time does not seem to me to warrant it. Whoever wants to influence the masses must give them something rousing and inflammatory and my sober judgement of Zionism does not permit this. I certainly sympathise with its goals, am proud of our University in Jerusalem and am delighted with our settlement’s prosperity. But, on the other hand, I do not think that Palestine could ever become a Jewish state, nor that the Christian and Islamic worlds would ever be prepared to have their holy places under Jewish care. It would have seemed more sensible to me to establish a Jewish homeland on a less historically-burdened land. But I know that such a rational viewpoint would never have gained the enthusiasm of the masses and the financial support of the wealthy. I concede with sorrow that the baseless fanaticism of our people is in part to be blamed for the awakening of Arab distrust. I can raise no sympathy at all for the misdirected piety which transforms a piece of a Herodian wall into a national relic, thereby offending the feelings of the natives.

Now judge for yourself whether I, with such a critical point of view, am the right person to come forward as the solace of a people deluded by unjustified hope.

Your obediant servant,

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Washington v. Cuba After Castro by Stephen Lendman

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, February 25, 2008

On February 18, at 5:30PM in Havana an era ended when Fidel Castro’s written statement announced it. It was read on early Tuesday morning radio and television and reprinted in the Cuban newspaper Granma as follows:

“….I will neither aspire to nor accept, I repeat, I will neither aspire to nor accept the positions of President of the State Council and Commander in Chief….it would be a betrayal to my conscience to accept a responsibility requiring more mobility and dedication than I am physically able to offer….Fortunately, our Revolution can still count on cadres from the old guard and others….who learned together with us the basics of the complex and almost unattainable art of organizing and leading a revolution.

The path will always be difficult….We should always be prepared for the worst….The adversary to be defeated is extremely strong; however, we have been able to keep it at bay for half a century….

I was able to recover the full command of my mind (and am able to do) much reading and meditation. I had enough physical strength to write for many hours….My wishes have always been to discharge my duties to my last breath. That’s all I can offer.

This is not my farewell to you. My only wish is to fight as a soldier in the battle of ideas. I shall continue to write under the heading of ‘Reflections by comrade Fidel.’ It will be just another weapon you can count on….


Fidel Castro Ruz”

The world press reacted, and here’s a sampling:

The New York Times cautioned that “Castro May Not Be Exiting the Stage Completely….but whether the surprise announcement represented a historic change or a symbolic political maneuver remained unclear….It was not clear what role, if any, Fidel Castro would play in a new government (because) he signaled that he was not yet ready to completely exit the stage….There was little evidence in the streets of the capital and in other cities to suggest that a monumental change was taking place in the Cuban hierarchy.”

The Washington was almost passive in stating: “Fidel Castro retires….he said on Tuesday that he will not return to lead the communist country….Cuba’s National Assembly, a rubber-stamp legislature, is expected to nominate….Raul Castro as president (who’s) been running the country since emergency intestinal surgery forced his brother to delegate power on July 31, 2006.” The Bush administration earlier announced it would not negotiate with any Cuban government headed by either Castro brother. More on that below.

The Wall Street Journal was vintage Murdoch on its editorial page. It called Castro’s legacy “ruthless….but less widely appreciated is that he was also an economic incompetent….the island is a malnourished backwater….staples are rationed, severe shortages exist in the medical system and electricity is a luxury….Cuba begs at the feet of Venezuela….young Cubans routinely take their chances with the security police and shark-infested waters rather than face life under the Castro brothers.”

The shame is that readers believe this because the Journal and the rest of the major media suppress the truth about Cuba, Venezuela and other regimes that successfully challenge Washington. In Cuba’s case, it defeated a US invasion, a 49 year economic embargo, over 600 attempts to kill Castro, repeated US state terrorism to destabilize the country, and relentless efforts to isolate the island politically and economically.

In spite of it, Castro survived. He’s now 81, an icon and living legend throughout Latin America, and most world nations have normal diplomatic and trade relations with him. In addition, Cuba is a member of the Latin American Economic System (SELA), the Organization of American States – OAS (but excluded from active participation since 1962), the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and in September 2006, it assumed leadership of the 118 member nation Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) that states it’s united to ensure “the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security (of its members) in their “struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neocolonialism, racism, Zionism, and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony….”

Latin American expert James Petras explains Cuba’s “great virtue” – that “it survived (and maintains) many of its positive social achievements (while other) reformist or revolutionary regimes were defeated or overthrown or collapsed” – Iran under Mossadegh, Guatemala under Arbenz, Chile under Allende, the Congo under Lumumba, Indonesia under Sukarno, Nicaragua under the Sandinistas, Haiti under Aristide twice and many others.

Still, 49 years of US hammering took its toll. Cubans, indeed, endure hardships that wouldn’t exist or would be less severe under more ideal conditions. Incomes are low, housing shortages chronic, embargoed products scarce or unavailable and many services, like public transport, inadequate. Yet, Cuban advances under Castro have been impressive, and his support remains strong after five decades in power.

The country is a biotech industry leader and does state-of-the-art research at the Cuban Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology Center. The government also encourages small retail and light manufacturing enterprises, fosters joint ventures in tobacco, citrus and other homegrown products, invested in advanced computer science schools, and developed a thriving tourism industry after it changed its constitution in 1995 to encourage it through offshore private investment.

Then consider Cuba’s social services, especially its education and health care ones. These alone, institutionalized the revolution in the hearts and minds of the people who never before had a government that provided them and much more.

Take health care for example. It’s world-class, and Article 50 of the 1976 Constitution mandates it for all Cubans. They get free medical, hospital and dental care including prophylactic services with emphasis on public health, preventive care, health education, programs for periodic medical examinations, immunizations and other preventive measures. The Constitution also guarantees worker health and safety, help for the elderly and pregnant working women, and paid leave before and after childbirth. In addition, Cuba’s Public Health Law obligates the state to assure, improve and protect the health of all citizens, including providing rehabilitation services for physical and mental disabilities.

Compare this to World Health Organization’s (WHO) rankings for America – 37th in the world in “overall health performance,” 54th in health care fairness, worst of all western countries overall, and only developed nation besides South Africa with no single-payer national health insurance system. Except for seniors under Medicare, the indigent under Medicaid, veterans through the Veterans Administration (VA), no national program exists and benefits under existing ones are dramatically eroding.

The US spends more than twice as much on health care on average as other industrialized states. Yet, it’s performance is poor by comparison – on life expectancy, infant mortality, immunization rates and more. In addition, over 47 million Americans are uninsured and over 80 million are without coverage during some portion of every year.

Then consider education. In Cuba, it’s first-rate because the Constitution’s Article 51 assures it free for everyone to the highest level. It’s Latin America’s best, and it outdoes most parts of America’s public school system. It stresses math, reading, the sciences, arts, humanities, social responsibility, civics, and participatory citizenship. It virtually eliminated illiteracy and compare it to America where US Department of Education figures show a 20% functional illiteracy rate that, in fact, is much higher based on inner-city math and english achievement test scores.

Consider Cuba’s other achievements as well. Major US media won’t report them, but James Petras does – low rents and utility costs, worker pensions at retirement, food subsidies for the needy combined with rationing that’s never desirable but needed to assure adequate distribution to all, and an emphasis on “cultural, sports and recreational activities (in spite of) sharp cutbacks in funding.” Impressively, “despite general scarcities and social deprivation, crimes rates (are) far below Latin American and US levels.”

Petras observes that: “Even more noteworthy” is Cuba’s transition to a mixed economy that aids its growth and provides jobs for its people. Unlike Eastern Europe, including Russia, however, “Cuba did not suffer the massive outward transfer of profits, rents and illegal earnings from large-scale networks of prostitution, narcotics and arms sales.” Nor have there been crime syndicates that corrupted the economies of Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, Albania, NATO-occupied Kosovo, and other emergent “capitalist democracies.” And most impressively, Cuba is growing its economy, if modestly, while remaining a vibrant social state that delivers essential services and remains committed to its revolutionary principles. That won’t change under a new cadre of leaders after Castro.

So far, Petras explains that Cuba’s survival, economic gains and “formidable national defense” are largely the result of “popular perseverance, loyalty to revolutionary leaders (and their dedication to) common values of egalitarianism, solidarity, national dignity and independence.” Some dictatorship, but at the same time Cuba’s no paradise. Its problems are huge, and as Petras puts it, it faces new “challenges and contradictions:”

— less skilled tourism-related jobs pay better than ones for doctors, scientists and many others in the country;

— new tourist enterprises created inequality and an unrevolutionary “nouveau riche bourgeoisie;”

— “hustlers,” prostitutes, drugs trafficking and other enterprise-related fallout; and

— tourist infrastructure investments divert funds from essentials like agriculture; output thus declined, and Cuba now depends on imports.

On the plus side is the hard currency Cuba needs for everything it imports outside its ALBA-related trade. Cuba and Venezuela founded the system in 2004, Bolivia and Nicaragua joined it, and it stands for the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. It’s an integrative, cooperative system of goods and services exchanges outside the exploitive WTO-international banking one. So it lets Cuba get Venezuelan oil, for example, by providing doctor services and literacy programs to teach Venezuelans to read and write.

Looking Ahead

In spite of five decades of achievements, Cuba’s problems are huge, and its new leaders must address them. They include growing inequality, corruption and public theft, a flourishing black market, productivity-sapping inefficiencies, an imbalance between an educated population and enough skilled jobs, its agriculture in decline, and more.

In addition, Cuba is no democracy, but it’s no dictatorship either the way Washington and Murdoch describe it. Castro came to power as Prime Minister in February 1959. He kept the title of premier until 1976, and then became President of the Council of State and Council of Ministers as Head of State and its ruling Communist Party of Cuba (PCC).

The PCC has governed Cuba since it was formed in 1965 and is the country’s only legally recognized party. Others exist as well as opposition groups, but their activities are minimal and the state calls them illegal. Cuba is a socialist state. It recognizes no other economic or political system.

Its Constitution allows free speech, but Article 62 states: “None of the freedoms which are recognized for citizens can be exercised contrary to….the existence and objectives of the socialist state, or contrary to the decision of the Cuban people to build socialism and communism. Violations of this principle can be punished by law.”

Cuba now begins a new era, its challenges are huge, and consider the biggest of all – Washington’s relentless pressure the way Deputy Secretary of State (and veteran state terrorist) John Negroponte put it: Castro stepping down means nothing, US policy won’t change, “I can’t imagine that happening any time soon.”

George Bush was even more hostile by calling for international efforts to isolate Cuba and force it to accept democracy US-style. And he added: “The United States will help the people of Cuba realize the blessings of liberty.” Of course, Cubans fought a revolution against that type “liberty” and won’t tolerate returning to it. Remaining free, however, will be daunting, and the section below explains why.

US Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba

Washington-style freedom is Orwell’s kind from his classic novel “1984.” In it, he described a totalitarian state where “war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength.” Iraqis know it. So do Afghans. It’s rooted in America, and the Bush administration wants to export it everywhere, including to Cuba under and after Castro.

So it set up the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba to plot how. In July 2006, it delivered its 93 page report to the president that calls for regime change. Not surprisingly, Bush embraced it, it got an initial $80 million budget, and an open-ended one for as much more as needed.

The report is public but has a classified attachment with a secret plan to topple Cuba’s government or co-opt its new leaders post-Castro. It also targets Venezuela and mentions the country nine times with comments like: “Cuba can only meet its budget needs with the considerable support of foreign donors, primarily Venezuela.” It uses Chavez “money….to reactivate its networks in the hemisphere to subvert democratic governments,” meaning, of course, any that opt out of Washington’s orbit.

The report’s aim is clear. Cuba and Venezuela threaten US interests so “friendlier” regimes must replace them and soon. How is left out, but what’s said is ugly, and here’s a sample. It calls for “Hastening the End of the Castro Dictatorship: Transition not Succession.” America “stand(s) with the Cuban people against (Castro’s) tyranny (and will) identify (any) means by which the United States can help the Cuban people” free themselves.

Regional “friends of Cuba” are also targeted and will be dealt with by unspecified political, economic, legal and military means. The message, however, is clear, and America’s record leaves no doubt what it is.

It recommends new “more proactive, integrated, and disciplined (policies) to undermine (Castro’s) survival strategies” and outlines a six part strategy to do it:

— “Empower Cuban Civil Society:” It calls it “weak…divided (and) impeded by pervasive and continuous repression.” But that’s changing, “public opinion has turned, Cubans are….losing their fear (so by) supporting the democratic opposition….the US can help the Cuban people….effect positive political and social change….;”

— “Break the Cuban Dictatorship’s Information Blockade:” It claims Castro “controls all formal means of mass media and communication….through the regime’s pervasive apparatus of repression.” It also “impede(s) pro-democracy groups and the larger civil society….to effectively communicate their message to the Cuban people.” So, Washington will step up efforts to export propaganda to Cuba and suppress whatever information Cubans now get;

— “Deny Resources to the Cuban Dictatorship:” The report claims Castro ignores his peoples’ needs to keep his grip on power. It sounds like Murdoch as it denounces Castro for “exploit(ing) humanitarian aspects of US policy (and) siphon(ing) off hundreds of millions of dollars for (himself).” This refers to funds and other donations Cubans outside the country send relatives back home. The report says Castro steals them to help “keep the regime afloat;”

— “Illuminate the Reality of Castro’s Cuba:” Stated here is that Cuba depends on “project(ing)….a benign international image” and hides its true nature as a “sponsor of terrorism (under the) erratic behavior of its leadership;”

— “Encourage International Diplomatic Efforts to Support Cuban Civil Society and Challenge the Castro Regime:” Claimed here is a “growing international consensus” that “fundamental political and economic change on the island” is needed. Thus, “multilateral diplomatic efforts” must be encouraged to support “pro-democracy groups in Cuba….to hasten an end to the Castro regime;” and

— “Undermine the Regime’s ‘Succession Strategy:” – It refers to Raul Castro replacing his brother as an “unelected and undemocratic” leader, calls the “ruling elite….an impediment to a democratic and free Cuba,” and recommends unspecified pressures to remove it.

It then lists “Selected Recommendations” with the main ones kept classified. It mentions budgets, enlisting third-country allies, “democracy-building” efforts, training and funding opposition, beaming in propaganda, and various other measures to make Cuba scream and topple the regime. These efforts and others have failed for 49 years. Nineteen months after this report was issued, they’ve still failed, but remain in place nonetheless and may be toughened under Cuba’s new leadership.

America’s three leading presidential candidates provide hints of it from their February 19 comments. John McCain said now is a “great opportunity for Cuba to make a transition to a democracy, to empty their political prisons, to invite human rights organizations into their country and begin the transition to a free and open society….anything short of that….might….prop up a new regime….” He also hoped Castro would die and have “the opportunity to meet Karl Marx very soon,” and added that Raul will be a worse leader.

Hillary Clinton said Cuba’s “new leadership….will face a stark choice – continue with the failed policies of the past….or take a historic step to bring Cuba into the community of democratic nations. The people of Cuba want to seize this opportunity for real change and so must we….The United States must pursue an active policy that does everything possible to advance the cause of freedom, democracy and opportunity in Cuba.”

Barack Obama’s statement was equally unfriendly: “Today should mark the end of a dark era in Cuba’s history. Fidel Castro’s stepping down is an essential first step, but it is sadly insufficient in bringing freedom to Cuba.”

We know the type “freedom” he means. So do Cubans who want none of it. So does Raul Castro in his late 2007 comments when he said: “The challenges we have ahead are enormous, but may no one doubt our people’s firm conviction that only through socialism can we overcome the difficulties and preserve the social gains of half a century of revolution.”

Fidel also commented in response to presidential candidates demanding change on the island: “One by one….they….proclaim(ed) their immediate demands to Cuba so as not to alienate a single voter….Half a century of economic embargo seemed like not much to these favorites. Change, change, change! they shouted in unison. I agree. Change! But in the United States. The end of one era is not the same as the beginning of an unsustainable system. Cuba changed a while ago and will continue on its dialectical course.”

Castro aimed at George Bush as well and stated: “Annexation, annexation, annexation! the adversary responds. That’s what he thinks, deep inside, when he talks about change.”

Cuban and American Elections

Cuban and US elections have marked similarities and differences. Cuba is a one party state. So is America the way Gore Vidal describes it: the Property or Monied Party with two wings. There’s not a dimes worth of difference between them that matters so Americans have no choice. That’s not how things are in Cuba, and here’s the difference.

Cubans overwhelmingly support their government. They remember or learned what went on before Castro and won’t tolerate going back to how people once were treated so the rich could profit. Under Fulgencio Bastista, conditions were nightmarish as a de facto US colony – a combination police state and casino/brothel linked to US crime syndicates. There was systemic corruption, indifference to social needs, disdain for the common good, brutal exploitation, subservience to corporate interests, and a regime keeping power through brute force. When Cubans vote, they remember, and how it works would puzzle Americans. On the local/municipal level:

— it’s through municipal electoral commissions;

— only ordinary citizen loyalists may nominate candidates;

— the Communist Party has no role in the process;

— the commissions select nominees for municipal elections and for half the provincial legislative seats;

— a secret ballot process then elects 12,000 municipal representatives and half the members of provincial legislatures; Cuba has 169 municipalities and about 15,000 electoral constituencies within them;

The system works because participation is high, and ordinary Cubans alone choose their candidates – not politicians, corporations, the privileged or other monied or influential interests.

The rest of the process works this way to elect members of the National Assembly and remaining provincial seats:

— it’s also through municipal and provincial electoral commissions; Cuba has 14 provinces;

— only ordinary citizen members again may nominate candidates, but included for this process are all sectors of society – labor, students, youths, women, farmers, scientists, artists, community organizers, educators, health workers and so on as well as members of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution.

— the final candidate list exactly equals the number of seats to be filled; it’s drawn up by the National Candidature Commission (comprised of student and grassroots organizations) that chooses candidates based on their patriotism, overall merit, and support for the revolution;

— even with no opposition, those selected must get over 50% of the vote to win;

— voting isn’t mandatory but participation is high; voters, nonetheless, have choices – to vote, not vote or destroy their ballots.

On January 20, Cubans elected National Assembly and half of the provincial legislative members. Turnout was high at around 95% because Cubans support the revolution and want officials who represent it. Look at the results and compare them to American elections discussed below.

Cuba’s National Electoral Commission released the data:

— only 36.78% of newly elected National Assembly members (224 seats) previously served in Cuba’s parliament;

— 63.22% of the winners (391 seats) are first time representatives;

— racially, 118 parliamentarians are black and another 101 are of mixed race (35.67% in total);

— women comprise 42.16% (265 seats) of the legislature;

— educationally, 78.34% (481 seats) are university graduates and 20.68% (127 seats) completed high school or technical education training; and

— skill areas represented include engineers, economists, doctors, nurses, lawyers, sociologists, the military, scientists, physical culture teachers, meteorologists, historians and theologians. Note that most new parliamentary members aren’t politicians.

The rest of the electoral process works this way:

— the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) has governed the nation since its formation in 1965 and is the country’s only legally recognized party;

— all legislative power is vested in the country’s 614 member National Assembly of People’s Power;

— a 31 member Council of State (that includes ministers) sits at the executive level;

— 45 days after being elected, National Assembly members elect a President, Vice-President and National Assembly Secretary;

— they also elect the 31 member Council of State that includes the President, first Vice-President, five Vice-Presidents, a Secretary and 23 other members; this process took place on February 24 on the same day National Assembly members took office and, as expected, elected Raul Castro as Cuba’s new President; others elected included:

— Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada (reelected) President of the National Assembly;

— Jose Ramon Machado Ventura first Vice-President of the councils of State and Ministers;

— Juan Almeida Bosque, Abelardo Colome Ibarra, Carlos Lage Davila, Esteban Lazo Hernandez and Julio Casas Regueiro Vice-Presidents;

— Jose Millar Barruecos Secretary of the Council of State plus 23 other Council of State members;

— the President of the Council of State is Head of State and government and its ruling PCC.

Overall, Cuba has what Hugo Chavez calls a “revolutionary democracy.” It’s not perfect, but compare it to America.

Voting in Cuba is participatory. People do it out of choice, not coercion. In America, in contrast, half or more of the electorate abstains. In national elections since 1970, turnout ranged from 36.4% in 1986 and 1998 to 55.3% in 2004 when angry voters failed to oust George Bush, but not for lack of trying.

US elections have never been free, open and fair. Democracy is an illusion, and more people know it and opt out. Others eligible aren’t allowed to vote because of how the process works. Overall, monied interests control things, those with most of it have the most say, Americans get the best democracy money can buy, and things really got ugly in 2000 when the candidate who lost became president.

It led to the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA) with federal funding for these stated goals:

— replace punch card voting systems;

— create the Election Assistance Commission to help administer federal elections; and

— establish minimum election administration standards.

That’s what it said. Here’s what it did. It created a stampede to electronic voting that privatized the process and gave corporate giants unregulated control of it.

In the 2004 election, more than 80% of votes were cast and counted on machines that are owned, programmed and operated by three large corporations with close ties to the administration. The process is secretive, most machines have no verifiable receipts, so recounts are impossible because they’ll only tally the same count.

And that’s just part of the problem. In 2000 and 2004, the whole process was tainted. Millions of votes cast weren’t counted. They included “spoiled ballots,” rejected absentee ones and others lost or deliberately ignored in tabulating. In addition, there was massive voter roll purging and other restraints to prevent voters from making “bad choices” like ones less receptive to monied interests or Democrats over Republicans in key states or districts.

In Cuba, every citizen age 16 or over can vote and nearly all of them do. In America, all sorts of restraints and exclusions exist, starting off with a flawed Constitution. It established no universal rules, doesn’t explicitly ensure the right to vote, and left most voter eligibility qualifications to the states. So unfair laws are in force, and citizens are denied their most fundamental democratic right – to vote for candidates of their choice in free, open and fair elections. Democracy in America is a sham. In Cuba, the process is flawed, but there’s more of it there than here. In addition, Cubans know what they’re getting and vote for it. Americans, on the other hand, know the futility of elections so half or more of them opt out of the process.

It shows in polling data with the latest record-setting February 18-published American Research Group numbers for George Bush:

— he scored an all-time low for a US president at 19%; that compares to other presidential lows as follows: Clinton – 36%; GHW Bush – 29%; Reagan – 35%; Carter – 28%; Nixon – 23% during Watergate; and Harry Truman – 22% during the depths of the Korean War. On the economy, 79% disapprove how Bush handles it.

If Castro’s poll numbers were available, they’d tell an opposite story. Most Cubans support him, many love him, but now his era is passing. He’s still first PCC secretary, but he’ll assume a new role as Cuba’s elder statesman, to write, comment and always make his presence felt. So let Fidel have the last word from his commentary called “The Moment Has Come” and a few memorable quotes.

It’s (time) to “nominate and elect” new leaders, he says. “For many years (he’s) occupied the honorable position of President.” But his “critical health position (forced his) provisional resignation on July 31, 2006.” His brother and “other comrades….were unwilling to consider (him) out of public life” in spite of it. “It was an uncomfortable situation for (him) vis-a-vis an adversary which had done everything possible to get rid of (him), and (he) felt reluctant to comply.”

Now, he’s “recover(ed) the full command of (his) mind (and) enough physical strength” to go on.

This is not (a) farewell.” His voice will continue to be heard, and here’s a sampling:

“A revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past.”

“I find capitalism repugnant. It is filthy. It is gross, it is alienating….because it causes war, hypocrisy and competition.”

“North Americans don’t understand….that our country is not just Cuba; our country is also humanity.”

“The revenues of Cuban-run companies are used exclusively for the benefit of the people, to whom they belong.”

“The revolution is a dictatorship of the exploited against the exploiters.”

“They talk about the failure of socialism but where is the success of capitalism in Africa, Asia and Latin America?

Global Research Associate Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to The Global Research News Hour on Mondays from 11AM to 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions of major world and national topics with distinguished guests.

Stephen Lendman is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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Sunday February 24th, 2008

Bruce Fein: Independence promotes stability

Bruce Fein is the founder of the American Freedom Agenda, that works to restore constitutional checks and balances. He served in the US Justice Department under President Reagan and has been an adjunct scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, a resident scholar at the Heritage Foundation, a lecturer at the Brookings Institute, and an adjunct professor at George Washington University. He is an advisor to Ron Paul.

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