Spun Around Nation

Dandelion Salad

Thanks to Diggers who left this as a link on another blog post.


Who gains to win in war? The biggest winners are the War Profiteers. Over 150 in US government are profiting in a big way. NO PUBLIC SERVANT SHOULD PROFIT FROM WAR. That is a conflict of interest. Bring back dignity. Increase the Peace. Many thanks to Rook Faded – http://www.wildscreen.tv/videos/323/rooky-faded – – Gonzo – http://www.wildscreen.tv/videos/386257 – – Babylon A.D – – http://www.wildscreen.tv/videos/386254 – – Political vdo – – Vietnam – – Gonzo — Eagle Eye — Iron Man — I.O.U.S.A. – – W. – – We all can make a difference and increase the peace. More opportunities are open to us then ever before. * StopWarOnIran.org * Get involved.

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Nader: Restoring the Rule of Law

Dandelion Salad

by Ralph Nader
September 17, 2008

Statement of Ralph Nader September 16, 2008 Before the Constitution Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee on “Restoring the Rule of Law”

Mr. Chairman and members of the Constitution Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony on the important and fundamental topic of “Restoring the Rule of Law” to the workings of the Executive Branch. I ask that this statement be made part of the printed hearing record and I commend you for taking the initiative to explore what steps the next President and the next Congress must take to repair the massive damage that President George W. Bush has done to the rule of law and our democracy.

When the President beats the drums of war, the dictatorial side of American politics begins to rear its ugly head. Forget democratic processes, Congressional and judicial restraints, media challenges, and the facts. All of that goes out the door. Dissenting Americans may hold rallies in the streets, but their voices are drowned out by the President speaking from the bully pulpit.

The invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the resulting quagmire, is Bush’s most egregious foreign policy folly, but reflects a broader dynamic. Remember retired General Wesley Clark’s stinging indictment of the administration: “President Bush plays politics with national security. Cowboy talk. The administration is a threat to domestic liberty.”

President George W. Bush often uses the words and terms, “freedom,” “liberty,” and “our way of life” to mask his unbridled and largely unchallenged jingoism. The politics of fear sells. Cold war politics sold. The war on terrorism sells. But it’s a very expensive sale for the American people. Even with the Soviet Union long gone, America’s military budget amounts to half the operating federal budget. While vast resources and specialized skills are sucked into developing and producing redundant and exotic weapons of mass destruction, America’s economy suffers and its infrastructure crumbles.

As the majority of workers fall behind, Bush has appointed himself ruler of Baghdad and, with the complicity of a fawning Congress, is draining billions of dollars away from rebuilding America’s public works—schools, clinics, transit systems, and the rest of our crumbling infrastructure. How does Bush sell America on this diversion of funds and focus?

With the politics of fear at his back, President Bush and company openly tout the state of permanent war. There are no limits to their hubris. The same Bush regime that applies rigid cost-benefit analysis to deny overdue government health and safety standards for American consumers, workers, and the environment sends astronomical budgets to Congress for the war on stateless terrorism. Bush’s own Office of Management and Budget throws its hands up and observes that the usual controls and restraints are nowhere in sight. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) deems the Pentagon budget to be unauditable. To appropriate runaway spending in the name of homeland security, the powers-that-be need only scream one word: Terrorism!

If you ask Bush Administration officials how much this effort will cost, they recite a convenient mantra: “whatever it takes to protect the American people.” In fact, trillions of dollars annually would not suffice to fully secure our ports, endless border crossings by trucks and other vehicles, the rail system, petrochemical and nuclear plants, drinking water systems, shipments of toxic gases, dams, airports and airplanes, and so forth. So “whatever it takes” is actually a prescription for unlimited spending. Much of the war on terrorism involves domestic guards and snoops. The word “terrorism,” endlessly repeated by the President and his associates, takes on an Orwellian quality as a mind-closer, a silencer, an invitation to Big Brother and Bigger Government to run roughshod over a free people.

A country with numerous and highly complex vulnerable targets cannot be fully secured against determined, suicidal, well-financed and equipped attackers. That obviously doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take prudent measures to reduce risks, but our allocation of funds must be made realistically, and we shouldn’t just throwing money at the problem. And, our policies and expenditures must address the climate in which terrorism flourishes.

Then there’s the great unmentionable. If you listen to President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and the other members of their cabal, well-financed suicidal al Qaeda cells are all over the country. If so, why haven’t any of them struck since September 11? No politician dares to raise this issue, though it’s on the minds of many puzzled Americans. As General Douglas McArthur advised in 1957, and General Wesley Clark did much more recently, it is legitimate to ask whether our government has exaggerated the risks facing us, especially when such exaggeration serves political purposes—stifling dissent, sending government largesse to corporate friends, deflecting attention from pressing domestic needs, and in concentrating more unaccountable power in the White House to pursue wars that provide a recruitment ground for more stateless terrorists.

George W. Bush willingly moves us toward a garrison state, through the politics of fear. We’re experiencing a wave of militarism resulting in invasive domestic intelligence gathering and disinvestment in civilian economies. The tone of the President has become increasingly imperial and even un-American. As he once told his National Security Council, “I do not need to explain why I say things. That’s the interesting thing about being the President . . . I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation.” The president has implied that he occupies his current role by virtue of divine providence. His messianic complex makes him as closed-minded as any president in history. Not only is he immune from self-doubt, but he fails to listen to the citizenry prior to making momentous decisions. In the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003, Bush didn’t meet with a single major citizens’ group opposed to the war. In the weeks leading up to the war, thirteen organizations— including clergy, veterans, former intelligence officials, labor, business, students—representing millions of Americans wrote Bush to request a meeting. He declined to meet with a single delegation of these patriotic Americans and didn’t even answer their letters.

Bush’s authoritarian tendencies preceded the march to Baghdad. First, he demanded an unconstitutional grant of authority from Congress in the form of an open-ended war resolution. Our King George doesn’t lose sleep over constitutional nuance, especially when members of Congress willingly yield their authority to make war to an eager president. Next, Bush incessantly focused the public on the evils of Saddam Hussein (a U.S. ally from 1979–1990), specifically how his weapons of mass destruction and ties to al Queda posed a mortal threat to America. The Administration’s voice was so loud and authoritative, and the media so compliant, that all other voices—of challenge, correction, and dissent—were overwhelmed. And so Bush plunged the nation into war based on fabrications and deceptions, notwithstanding notes of caution and disagreement from inside the Pentagon, the CIA, and the State Department. This was a war launched by chicken hawks, counter to the best judgment of battle-tested army officers inside and outside the government.

In retrospect, it is clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction except those possessed by the invading countries. It also seems clear that Saddam Hussein was a tottering dictator “supported” by a dilapidated army unwilling to fight for him and surrounded by
far more powerful hostile nations (Israel, Iran, and Turkey). The notion that this man posed a mortal threat to the strongest nation in the world fails the laugh test. Bush’s dishonest and disastrous maneuvers to take our country to war meets the threshold for invoking impeachment proceedings under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution.

Some brave Americans did speak out against the war, or at least expressed grave reservations. The media were mostly cheerleaders—uncritical of the leader, dismissive of dissenters, indifferent to their obligation to search for truth and hold officialdom’s feet to the fire.

The legal profession, except for a handful of law professors and law school deans and Michael S. Greco, a past President of the American Bar Association, provided very little organized resistance to the Bush war. The situation was even worse within government.

The system of checks and balances requires three vigilant branches, but Congress has disgraced itself from virtually the beginning of the Bush administration, assisting an extraordinary shift of power to the executive branch. In October 2001, a panicked Congress passed the Patriot Act, without proper Congressional hearings, giving the Bush administration unprecedented powers over individuals suspected (and in some cases not even suspected) of crimes. Subsequently, Congress gave the President a virtual blank check to wage a costly war.

In these respects, and others, the war on terrorism has important parallels to the Cold War. Domestically, the latter was characterized by relentless focus on a bipolar world largely dictated by the iron triangle of giant defense companies, Congress, and the military leadership, mutually reinforced with campaign contributions, lucrative contracts, new weaponry, and bureaucratic positions. A foreign policy responsive to the iron triangle produced some perverse results. The United States overthrew any number of governments viewed as too congenial to similar reforms that our own ancestors fought for—land reform, workers rights, and neutrality toward foreign countries. We replaced such governments with brutal puppet regimes. We also used our armed forces to protect the interests of the oil, timber, mining, and agribusiness industries.

Indeed, such policies long preceded the Cold War. No one articulated it more clearly or candidly than Marine General Smedley Butler, whose provocative eyewitness accounts rarely made their way into our history books:

I spent 33 years in the Marines, most of my time being a high-class muscle man for big business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for Capitalism. I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American Sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

“War is a racket,” Butler wrote, noting that it tends to enrich a select few. Not the ones on the front lines. “How many of the war millionaires shouldered a rifle?” he asked rhetorically. “How many of them dug a trench?”

Butler devoted a chapter of his long-ignored book, War Is a Racket, to naming corporate profiteers. He also recounted the propaganda used to shame young men into joining the armed forces, noting that war propagandists stopped at nothing: “even God was brought into it.” The net result? “Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability.”

Does this all sound familiar? The September 11 attack gave rise to a corporate profiteering spree, including a demand for subsidies, bailouts, waivers from regulators, tort immunity, and other evasions of responsibility. Before the bodies were even recovered from the ruins of the World Trade Center, the Wall Street Journal was editorializing that its corporate patrons should seize the moment.

Foreign policy amounts to more than national defense, and national defense amounts to more than a mega-business opportunity for weapons and other contractors. All too often, corporate sales priorities have driven defense priorities, leading to militarization of foreign policy.

Consider the 1990’s “peace and prosperity” decade, possibly the greatest blown opportunity of the twentieth century. In 1990, the Soviet Union collapsed in a bloodless implosion. Suddenly, we faced the prospect of an enormous “peace dividend,” an opportunity for massive savings or newly directed expenditures since the main reason for our exorbitant military budget had disappeared. Not so fast, said the military-industrial complex, there must be another major enemy out there—maybe Communist China, or a resurgent Russia, or some emerging nation developing nuclear weapons. We allegedly needed to prepare for the unknown, hence went full-speed ahead with tens of billions for missile defense technology, considered unworkable by leading physicists.

In the battle for budget allocations, what chance did the “repair America” brigades have against the military-industrial complex? More B-2 bombers or repaired schools? F-22s or expansion of modern health clinics? More nuclear submarines or upgraded drinking water systems? We know who won those battles. And after 9/11, it was no contest.

As the perceived threat shifted from the Soviet Union to stateless terrorism, the weapons systems in the pipeline from the Cold War days moved toward procurement. On top of that is the chemical, biological, surveillance, detection, and intelligence budgets to deal with the al Qaeda menace. Everything is added, almost nothing displaced. We are constantly told by politicians and the anti-terrorist industry that 9/11 “changed everything.”

This sentiment suggests the lack of proportionality of our new permanent war. It’s also a sentiment that must make Osama bin Laden ecstatic. Bin Laden wanted to strike fear in America. He did so, and then watched as the first response to this fear was a sweeping crackdown on people with a Muslim or Arab name or visage. Thousands were detained or arrested or jailed on the flimsiest of suspicions, opening the Bush administration up to the charge of hypocrisy when we challenge Islamic nations about due process violations. All of this created more contempt for America among young people throughout the Middle East, no doubt helping the recruiting efforts of our enemies.

Bin Laden must have delighted in attempting to push America toward becoming a police state and sowing discord among us. He must have been thrilled by red and orange alerts, inconvenience at airports, and all kinds of excessive expenditures damaging our economy. And bin Laden must have taken perverse delight in press reports that Bush believes he was put on this earth by God to win the war on terrorism. If he wished to inspire a clash of civilizations, he apparently found a willing collaborator in Bush, who invaded Iraq, prompting Bush’s retired anti-terrorism expert Richard A. Clarke to write in his book, Against All Enemies, that by invading and occupying Iraq, “We delivered to al Qaeda the greatest recruitment propaganda imaginable…” Bin Laden must have been very pleased to hear the news about Bush’s war of “shock and awe”.

As all this suggests, America’s response to 9/11 was not only disproportionate but also counterproductive. A Washington think-tank fellow said something sensible: “When you are fighting terrorism, you want to do it in a way that does not produce more of it.” Are we doing that? Terrorism takes many forms, as in the Sudan, as in the Rwanda rampage that claimed 800,000 lives, the state terrorism of dictators, the added terrorism of hunger, disease, sex slavery, and man-made environmental disasters. With no major state enemy left, what can we do to prevent and diminish these various forms of terrorism, as well as deter more suicidal attacks from fundamentalists? Perhaps we need to redefine national security, redirect our mission, reconsider our relations with other countries.

All in all, the failures of Congress and the judiciary to reign in an out-of-control Executive Branch significantly contributed to the erosion of the “rule of law.” And, working to restore the “rule of law” will require Congress to embrace its duties as a co-equal branch of government.

Throughout our nation’s history, we have witnessed sacrifices in civil liberties that went too far. We should not get swept away by rhetoric and exaggerations suggesting that the current threat is greater than those we faced before — rhetoric routinely employed throughout history to justify curtailment of civil liberties.

The “war on terrorism” does present one new aspect. Unlike all of the nation’s previous wars (with the partial exception of the Cold War), it is “limitless in duration and place,” which has major ramifications for our civil liberties. In the past, the arguably extra-constitutional powers assumed by government in war-time (such as the suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War and the internment of the Japanese during World War II) were understood as temporary measures, with a return to the status quo ante expected as soon as hostilities ceased. The same cannot be said about our current concern with terrorism.

In the absence of a time when we clearly revert from war back to peace and reclaim our usual civil liberties, we need to be particularly careful about the “temporary” surrender of these rights. Inertia is a potent force and we run the risk of forfeiting liberties we never reclaim, especially when fighting a war that may never end. This may be a good reason to drop the nomenclature “war on terrorism.” It’s certainly good reason to sunset laws that compromise civil liberties.

Here, as so often, we can learn from the founders. The nation’s first law that dangerously curtailed civil liberties, the infamous Sedition Act in late 1799, lasted only a few years. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, it was not repealed by Thomas Jefferson’s Democrat-Republican Party after he and it came to power in 1801. They didn’t have to take action: the act was, by its own terms, to expire after two years unless reauthorized.

In a similar vein, Congress should attach to each law that materially diminishes our freedoms an automatic expiration in two or four years unless, after the designated period, Congress determines that the act: 1) achieved enough in terms of security to justify its diminution of our freedom, and 2) remains necessary. Similarly, civil liberties-diminishing executive orders should automatically expire unless renewed by the president or through legislative enactment. Holding Congress accountable for the ongoing suspension of civil liberties is indispensable for preventing abuses.

Yale Law professor Bruce Ackerman recently devoted a book to essentially a single proposition: the need for a mechanism to ensure that, following any major terrorist attack, responsive measures that limit civil liberties be temporary. (Ackerman terms his proposal an “emergency Constitution,” but it is actually a statutory approach requiring no constitutional amendments.) Ackerman proposes many specifics – for example, that all emergency powers subside after two months, and every reauthorization require a higher degree of congressional support (60% the first time, 70% the next time, and so forth), but the specifics are less important than the insight that animates it: liberties taken in times of crisis will not necessarily be returned after the crisis subsides. Government officials may be sanguine about retaining powers seized during a national emergency, and, regrettably, the American people may become accustomed to diminished liberty.

Courts provide a degree of protection, but Ackerman emphasizes the courts’ dangerous tendency to lump all wars together and allow precedents derived from earlier wars to dictate decisions in very different circumstances. Thus emergency measures enacted for a major threatening war like World War II are invoked as justification for sweeping governmental powers during far more limited engagements. Not all wars are created equal, and Ackerman argues that the war on terrorism does not pose a threat to America’s existence like the Civil War. The biggest difference between the battle against terrorism and other major engagements is not the nature of the threat as much as its duration (although, again, the Cold War suggests that this, too, is not unprecedented). Ackerman rightly emphasizes this point. Because the present state of hostilities could last decades, it is imperative that we not casually accept all curtailments of liberty enacted in its name.

As the experience with the U.S.A. Patriot Act suggests, an attack on the United States sets in motion irresistible pressure for immediate action. The U.S.A. Patriot Act permits federal agents to search our homes and businesses without even notifying us, simply by asking a court for a warrant — a court that almost never says no. It permits the government to find out from libraries and bookstores what we’ve been reading and prohibits the librarian or store owner from telling us about the snooping. The Act permits government to listen in on conversations between lawyers and their clients in federal prisons, and to access our computer records, e-mails, medical files, and financial information on what is essentially an enforcement whim. It eviscerates the great constitutional restraint called “probable cause.” Without probable cause, government agents can covertly attend and monitor public meetings, including at places of worship.

The enhanced government powers were not narrowly tailored to prevention of terrorist attacks. Rather, as Professors Laurence Tribe and Patrick Gudridge observed, under the guise of preventing another 9/11, Congress took action affecting “the most commonplace bureaucratic and policing decisions . . . not only at obvious focal points of precaution like airports but also at other, seemingly unconnected institutions such as public libraries,” expanding government power “in the everyday settings of general police procedures and criminal prosecutions of defendants charged with strictly domestic crimes.” We witnessed, in their apt phrase, the “bleeding of emergency into non-emergency, of extraordinary into ordinary.”

Note that Bruce Ackerman’s “emergency Constitution” does not prevent the President and Congress from responding fully to the initial attack and doing whatever is necessary to ward off subsequent attacks. To the contrary, it clarifies and codifies the emergency powers needed to achieve these goals. But, critically, it also clarifies and codifies that such a response will not permanently curtail civil liberties.

During periods of relative calm, it is hard to realize what may transpire when times cease to be calm. We need to remember that President Roosevelt herded the Japanese Americans into camps during World War II. Ackerman rightly asks us to consider whether we can be certain that millions of Arab Americans won’t be interned if Muslim extremists strike us again. Of course, any preexisting restraints may be swept aside in the post-attack environment, but that is no reason not to do everything we can to put the breaks on future over-reaction now, while things are relatively calm. Ackerman reminds us that we needn’t choose between giving presidents the authority to handle emergencies and safeguarding civil liberties during normal periods. We can and must do both.

Three days after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), permitting the President to “use all necessary and appropriate forces against those nations, organizations or persons he determined planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks of 9/11, or harbored such organizations, or persons.” At that point, the Bush administration and Congress did not know which nations played a role in assisting those who attacked us. The U.S. government just wanted to do whatever was necessary to punish the perpetrators of the attacks.

The most open-ended terms in AUMF, “appropriate” and “aided,” present an obvious risk. What about nations that may have provided minimal aid to bin Laden? At one point or another, at least a dozen nations may have given safe haven to him or members of his organization – out of indifference, inertia, or domestic political calculation, not to help him launch an assault on America. Such assistance may be something for us to protest and actively discourage in the future, and there are numerous diplomatic and economic means for doing so, but AUMF appears to authorize the President to wage all-out war against any such nations if he elastically interprets the phrase “aided the terrorist attacks of 9/11.”

We needn’t speculate that a president might interpret the authorization elastically. Under the guise of using necessary and appropriate force against persons and organizations that may have played some role in the attack, the Bush administration engaged in extensive eavesdropping on telephone calls by and to American citizens. Such surveillance may be necessary to help capture terrorists or thwart specific attacks, but the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) already exists for that purpose and FISA courts have been overwhelmingly compliant with requests for warrants to wiretap. Under the guise of AUMF’s authorization of “necessary and appropriate force” to fight those involved in the 9/11 attack, the administration ignored FISA’s requirement of a warrant, which is a felony under FISA’s terms.

Can AUMF reasonably be read to trump FISA? Conservative columnist George Will notes that “[n]one of the 518 legislators who voted for the AUMF has said that he or she then thought that it contained the permissiveness the administration now discerns in it.” The argument that it nevertheless trumps FISA, observes Will, is “risible coming from [an] administration” that purports to demand strict construction of statutes to ensure conformity to legislative intent. The Bush Administration also cited a second legal basis for the eavesdropping program: the President’s inherent war-making authority under Article II of the Constitution. On this interpretation, surveillance required no Congressional authorization.

The dangers of this monarchical doctrine, and its disregard for separation of powers, are too obvious to belabor. Congress should not assist the executive in a power-grab by providing additional war-making weapons that amount to a blank check. Admittedly, it is hard to thwart a president hell-bent on expanding executive powers and willing to mangle the Constitution in the process. George Will jokingly proposes that when Congress passes laws authorizing executive power, it should “stipulate all the statutes and constitutional understandings that it does not intend the act to repeal or supersede.” A more realistic approach is for Congress to accompany its grant of power with a straightforward stipulation that it is “subject to the limitations of existing law.” Moreover, Congress should accompany such legislation with a definitive procedure for consultation on whatever war-related powers the executive chooses to exercise. In fact, Congress should never authorize the president to use all “necessary and appropriate force” without a declaration of war.

The notion that the Administration was listening to whatever conversations it wanted without any need to show any basis for suspicion, and would happily have done so indefinitely (the American people and most members of Congress were unaware of the surveillance program until it leaked), because years earlier Congress authorized use of “necessary and appropriate force” against those who assisted a terrorist attack – this notion vividly illustrates the dangers of an open-ended authorization of force. Permitting the Executive Branch exclusive power to define its own authority virtually guarantees the supplanting of the rule of law by the rule of men. That this may happen in practice, with the executive branch ignoring or circumventing legal restraints, is no excuse for Congress to create the monster itself.

Vice President Cheney suggested that surveillance is solely a means of keeping tabs on known terrorists, not a matter of eavesdropping on ordinary Americans for no reason. This view would allow the government to employ surveillance against anyone about whom it has some suspicion, however remote. A more alarming peril is that surveillance will be used as part of a campaign to discredit, harass or intimidate political opponents. This possibility is just the kind of abuse the founding fathers saw the Fourth Amendment as safeguarding against.

The 1763 British case of Wilkes v. Wood is worth noting. John Wilkes was a popular member of Parliament who authored an anonymous pamphlet attacking the King. The ministry proceeded to break into Wilkes’ house and seize his private papers. It also rounded up many of his friends as well as the publishers and printers of the offending pamphlet. The Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures represented a response to such politically-motivated abuse of power.

If the founders saw the need for protection against this sort of thing, history vindicated their judgment. Richard Nixon notoriously ordered illegal wire-tapping of political groups and persons whom he considered hostile, and his administration wasn’t the first. It was a Democratic attorney general under Democratic presidents who engaged in illegal surveillance of Dr. Martin Luther King. Of course, Nixon, John and Robert Kennedy, and J. Edgar Hoover did not see themselves as engaged in unjustified, undemocratic behavior. Rather, people in power tend to rationalize such misconduct, convincing themselves that their opponents are actually disloyal and dangerous to America. In other words, the risk is not that an administration will decide it wants to hear innocent conversations between citizens, but rather the conversations of certain political adversaries. On the flimsiest or most attenuated evidence, officials may convince themselves that such persons present a threat to the nation.

Moreover, as the framers well understood, the power to search, seize, and harass tends to be exercised by government officials below the public’s radar. Legal scholar John Hart Ely notes that the Fourth Amendment was motivated by “a fear of official discretion,” a recognition that in exercising powers over individuals based on suspicion, “law enforcement officials will necessarily have a good deal of low visibility discretion.”

This observation suggests the fallacy of those who minimize concern about civil liberties and offer reassurance that only phone calls involving terrorists will be monitored. That might be the case if all relevant decisions were made by accountable officials, but the reality on the ground is often different. Some of the worst abuses of civil liberties will inevitably result from the clandestine actions of unaccountable, lower-level officials. They mustn’t be supplied with the means unnecessarily.

Nor must we acquiesce in the intuition of many innocent laypeople, stoked by politicians’ rhetoric, that those who obey the law have nothing to fear. Again, as the founders well understood, the world isn’t neatly divided between innocent citizens and Osama bin Laden, with the government interested in using surveillance solely to disrupt the latter. In our much messier world, vigilance against governmental abuse should not be swept aside by naVve or disingenuous rhetoric.

In the discourse on the tradeoff between freedom and security, “patriotism” has been hijacked by those most willing to sacrifice civil liberties. Samuel Johnson famously considered patriotism “the last refuge of a scoundrel” but his biographer Boswell, who passed along that judgment, added that Johnson “did not mean a real and generous love of our country, but that pretended patriotism which so many, in all ages and countries, have made a cloak of self-interest.” If patriotism is the love of country, then making one’s country more lovely is the mark of a true patriot. Blind obedience fails to help a country fulfill its promise.

When Congress moved hastily in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks to take measures enhancing security, without carefully considering the dangers of over-reacting and over-curtailing civil liberties, it cleverly titled its legislation the “U.S.A. Patriot Act.” Talk about seizing the rhetorical high ground! But Senator Feingold, the sole Senator to oppose the Act (because he saw certain provisions, among others, as needlessly authorizing the invasion of innocent citizens’ privacy), was no less patriotic than his peers. To the contrary, Senator Feingold acted in a great American tradition.

Thomas Jefferson was a far-sighted founder who understood the value of political dissent. While sharing his fellow founders’ instinctive aversion to political parties (he allegedly remarked that if “I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all”), he nevertheless inspired and led the first opposition party. That party came to power in 1800 in large part because Jefferson appreciated that criticism of the government must be tolerated – indeed, welcomed. The Sedition Act, employed by the Adams administration to punish dissent, reminds us that war fever tends to produce a crackdown on freedom. But it also reminds us that the framers, subject to the same frailties as their successors, were wise enough to provide protection against those frailties. Jefferson and his political allies opposed the Act because it ran afoul of the spirit and letter of the Constitution.

The affronts to the rule of law can come in a variety of forms. Congress allowed President Bush to mislead Congress and to engage in an undeclared war. In a September 3, 2007 oped which appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Mario M. Cuomo, the former governor of New York wrote:

The war happened because when Bush first indicated his intention to go to war against Iraq, Congress refused to insist on enforcement of Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. For more than 200 years, this article has spelled out that Congress — not the president — shall have “the power to declare war.” Because the Constitution cannot be amended by persistent evasion, this constitutional mandate was not erased by the actions of timid Congresses since World War II that allowed eager presidents to start wars in Vietnam and elsewhere without a “declaration” by Congress.

Nor were the feeble, post-factum congressional resolutions of support of the Iraq invasion — in 2001 and 2002 — adequate substitutes for the formal declaration of war demanded by the founding fathers.

The Bush Administration sanctioned warrantless wiretapping, and supported wide-ranging violations of privacy. The use of torture, unconstitutional detention policies, suspension of habeas corpus, and immunity for illegal wiretapping by telephone companies, have all brought shame on our country.

And, the Bush Administration’s questionable claims of executive privilege and the presumption that excessive government secrecy is almost always justifiable and beneficial undermine our country’s moral authority to promote democracy. In testimony in July of this year before the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives, former Member of Congress Bob Barr said that the “state secret privilege” should “be treated as qualified, not absolute.” He added, “Congress could assist the judiciary by holding hearings and drafting legislation clarifying the authority of judges, procedures to be used to adjudicate executive claims of state secrecy, and sanctions to be imposed for the executive branch’s refusal to comply.” This small, but consequential suggestion, if followed, would do much to avoid the misdeeds that can proliferate when transparency is obscured.

The Bush Administration’s attempt to increase the power of the Executive Branch at the expense of Congress through signing statements even prompted the reserved American Bar Association to adopt a resolution opposing this overreaching abuse. The resolution states:

That the American Bar Association opposes as contrary to the rule of law and our Constitutional system of separation of powers, the misuse of presidential signing statements by claiming the authority or stating the intention to disregard or decline to enforce all or part of a law the President has signed, or to interpret such a law in a manner inconsistent with the clear intent of Congress…

Much of what has been done by the Bush Administration to undermine the rule of law can best be remedied by Congressional action. The next President can, however, start to immediately right the egregious wrongs of the Bush Administration by issuing appropriate Executive Orders to clarify government policies on issues such as torture and abuses of civil liberties.

Let me conclude by saying Congress has been far too docile in dealing with the Bush Administration’s corruption of the rule of law. Indeed, Congress has also been derelict in its duties by resisting consideration of impeachment proceedings.

Prominent Constitutional law experts believe President Bush has engaged in at least five categories of repeated, defiant “high crimes and misdemeanors”, which separately or together would allow Congress to subject the President to impeachment under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution. The sworn oath of members of Congress is to uphold the Constitution. Failure of the members of Congress to pursue impeachment of President Bush is an affront to the founding fathers, the Constitution, and the people of the United States.

In July of this year Elizabeth Holtzman, a former Member of Congress, testified before the House Judiciary Committee. In her testimony she made a compelling case for impeachment. She said:

But sad as the responsibility to deal with impeachment is, it cannot be shrugged off. The framers put the power to hold presidents accountable in your hands. Our framers knew that unlimited power presented the greatest danger to our liberties, and that is why they added the power of impeachment to the constitution. They envisioned that there would be presidents who would seriously abuse the power of their office and put themselves above the rule of law. And they knew there had to be a way to protect against them, aside from waiting for them to leave office.

Her advice to the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives merits consideration by the House of Representatives, even at this late date. Ms. Holtzman said:

I understand the great time constraints and the virtual impossibility of completing a full-blown impeachment inquiry before this session of Congress is over. Nonetheless, there are compelling, pragmatic reasons–as well as a constitutional imperative–to commence an inquiry now, and pursue it in a meaningful and, constructive way over the few remaining months.

Even if an impeachment inquiry is not completed or does not result in an impeachment vote in the House or the Committee, it still should be undertaken. It is warranted and since impeachment inquiries cannot be evaded by citing executive privilege, initiating an inquiry now would accomplish several valuable purposes:

a) It would send a clear message to the American people and future presidents that the actions engaged in by top Administration officials are serious enough on their face to warrant an impeachment inquiry. It would create a precedent whereby executive privilege does not effectively vitiate a president’s accountability to Congress, as this Administration has sought to do. This would create a deterrent to future administrations. So would the historic nature of impeachment. Opening an impeachment inquiry would put this Administration in a very small category along with only three others in US history that have been the subject of such an inquiry.

b) Because there is no executive privilege in an impeachment inquiry, [pursuing] one would allow the Committee to obtain additional material on presidential and vice presidential conduct which the Administration has until now refused to provide. That material would disclose the details about Administration actions that are currently secret. Those details would better inform Congress about what the appropriate response to this Administration’s actions should be. They would also better inform it about how to avert abuses of power by future presidents. That in itself would be an important outcome of new disclosures. Alternatively, if the Administration still refuses to provide the information and documents requested as part of an impeachment inquiry, that refusal would itself be an impeachable offense under the precedent established in the Nixon proceedings, with the bi-partisan adoption of the third article of impeachment holding that the refusal to respond to committee subpoenas in an impeachment proceeding was an impeachable offense; and

c) It would allow a serious, sober and respectful discussion, in the appropriate and constitutionally mandated forum, of whether or not specific Administration officials committed impeachable offenses. The discussion would include a full and fair airing of evidence and argument on both sides, both allegations and defenses. As I understand it, such a discussion cannot be fully and satisfactorily conducted under House rules without a real impeachment inquiry.

One of the best ways for Congress to prevent future administrations from trampling the Constitution and the rule of law is to use the impeachment powers when necessary. The Bush Administration’s criminal war of aggression in Iraq, in violation of our constitution, statutes and treaties, the arrests of thousands of individuals in the United States and their imprisonment without charges, the spying on Americans without judicial warrant, systematic torture, and the unprecedented use of defiant signing statements should prompt Congress to act immediately after the Presidential elections, when it has more than seventy-five days before the inauguration of the next President.

Let us hope that we have all learned lessons from the overreaching of the Bush Administration that will serve to prevent future destructions of the rule of law – the essence of a just and orderly society.

Thank you.


General Wesley Clark: America Needs Urgent Action

It’s the Derivatives, Stupid! Why Fannie, Freddie, AIG had to be Bailed Out

The Economy Sucks and or Collapse


Domestic Spying

Ralph Nader Posts & Videos

Democracy Now!: US bails out AIG for 85 million dollars

Dandelion Salad

US Seizes Control of AIG with $85 Billion Bailout


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It’s the Derivatives, Stupid! Why Fannie, Freddie, AIG had to be Bailed Out

Congressional Hearing Federal Bureau of Investigation Oversight

Rep. Kapture: They Want Mama To Make It All Better!

The Economy Sucks and or Collapse

Mosaic News – 9/17/08: World News from the Middle East

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


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“U.S. Embassy Attacked in Yemen,” Dubai TV, UAE
“Nigeria: Militant attacks cutting oil production,” Al Jazeera English, Qatar
“Clashes Rage at Ain al-Hilweh,” Al Arabiya TV, UAE
“Kadima Party Elections Under Way,” Al Jazeera TV, Qatar
“Exit polls: Livni clear winner in Israeli primary,” IBA TV, Israel
“Darwish Poem’s Under Israeli Scrutiny,” Al-Alam TV, Iran
“Four Iraqi TV Crew Members Assassinated,” Al-Iraqiya TV, Iraq
Produced for Link TV by Jamal Dajani.

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It’s the Derivatives, Stupid! Why Fannie, Freddie, AIG had to be Bailed Out

by Dr. Ellen Hodgson Brown
featured writer
Dandelion Salad
Ellen’s post
Sept 5, 2008

“I can calculate the movement of the stars, but not the madness of men.” – Sir Isaac Newton, after losing a fortune in the South Sea bubble

Something extraordinary is going on with these government bailouts. In March 2008, the Federal Reserve extended a $55 billion loan to JPMorgan to “rescue” investment bank Bear Stearns from bankruptcy, a highly controversial move that tested the limits of the Federal Reserve Act. On September 7, 2008, the U.S. government seized private mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and imposed a conservatorship, a form of bankruptcy; but rather than let the bankruptcy court sort out the assets among the claimants, the Treasury extended an unlimited credit line to the insolvent corporations and said it would exercise its authority to buy their stock, effectively nationalizing them. Now the Federal Reserve has announced that it is giving an $85 billion loan to American International Group (AIG), the world’s largest insurance company, in exchange for a nearly 80% stake in the insurer . . . .

The Fed is buying an insurance company? Where exactly is that covered in the Federal Reserve Act? The Associated Press calls it a “government takeover,” but this is not your ordinary “nationalization” like the purchase of Fannie/Freddie stock by the U.S. Treasury. The Federal Reserve has the power to print the national money supply, but it is not actually a part of the U.S. government. It is a private banking corporation owned by a consortium of private banks. The banking industry just bought the world’s largest insurance company, and they used federal money to do it. Yahoo Finance reported on September 17:

“The Treasury is setting up a temporary financing program at the Fed’s request. The program will auction Treasury bills to raise cash for the Fed’s use. The initiative aims to help the Fed manage its balance sheet following its efforts to enhance its liquidity facilities over the previous few quarters.”

Treasury bills are the I.O.U.s of the federal government. We the taxpayers are on the hook for the Fed’s “enhanced liquidity facilities,” meaning the loans it has been making to everyone in sight, bank or non-bank, exercising obscure provisions in the Federal Reserve Act that may or may not say they can do it. What’s going on here? Why not let the free market work? Bankruptcy courts know how to sort out assets and reorganize companies so they can operate again. Why the extraordinary measures for Fannie, Freddie and AIG?

The answer may have less to do with saving the insurance business, the housing market, or the Chinese investors clamoring for a bailout than with the greatest Ponzi scheme in history, one that is holding up the entire private global banking system. What had to be saved at all costs was not housing or the dollar but the financial derivatives industry; and the precipice from which it had to be saved was an “event of default” that could have collapsed a quadrillion dollar derivatives bubble, a collapse that could take the entire global banking system down with it.

The Anatomy of a Bubble

Until recently, most people had never even heard of derivatives; but in terms of money traded, these investments represent the biggest financial market in the world. Derivatives are financial instruments that have no intrinsic value but derive their value from something else. Basically, they are just bets. You can “hedge your bet” that something you own will go up by placing a side bet that it will go down. “Hedge funds” hedge bets in the derivatives market. Bets can be placed on anything, from the price of tea in China to the movements of specific markets.

“The point everyone misses,” wrote economist Robert Chapman a decade ago, “is that buying derivatives is not investing. It is gambling, insurance and high stakes bookmaking. Derivatives create nothing.”1 They not only create nothing, but they serve to enrich non-producers at the expense of the people who do create real goods and services. In congressional hearings in the early 1990s, derivatives trading was challenged as being an illegal form of gambling. But the practice was legitimized by Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, who not only lent legal and regulatory support to the trade but actively promoted derivatives as a way to improve “risk management.” Partly, this was to boost the flagging profits of the banks; and at the larger banks and dealers, it worked. But the cost was an increase in risk to the financial system as a whole.2

Since then, derivative trades have grown exponentially, until now they are larger than the entire global economy. The Bank for International Settlements recently reported that total derivatives trades exceeded one quadrillion dollars – that’s 1,000 trillion dollars.3 How is that figure even possible? The gross domestic product of all the countries in the world is only about 60 trillion dollars. The answer is that gamblers can bet as much as they want. They can bet money they don’t have, and that is where the huge increase in risk comes in.

Credit default swaps (CDS) are the most widely traded form of credit derivative. CDS are bets between two parties on whether or not a company will default on its bonds. In a typical default swap, the “protection buyer” gets a large payoff from the “protection seller” if the company defaults within a certain period of time, while the “protection seller” collects periodic payments from the “protection buyer” for assuming the risk of default. CDS thus resemble insurance policies, but there is no requirement to actually hold any asset or suffer any loss, so CDS are widely used just to increase profits by gambling on market changes. In one blogger’s example, a hedge fund could sit back and collect $320,000 a year in premiums just for selling “protection” on a risky BBB junk bond. The premiums are “free” money – free until the bond actually goes into default, when the hedge fund could be on the hook for $100 million in claims.

And there’s the catch: what if the hedge fund doesn’t have the $100 million? The fund’s corporate shell or limited partnership is put into bankruptcy; but both parties are claiming the derivative as an asset on their books, which they now have to write down. Players who have “hedged their bets” by betting both ways cannot collect on their winning bets; and that means they cannot afford to pay their losing bets, causing other players to also default on their bets.

The dominos go down in a cascade of cross-defaults that infects the whole banking industry and jeopardizes the global pyramid scheme. The potential for this sort of nuclear reaction was what prompted billionaire investor Warren Buffett to call derivatives “weapons of financial mass destruction.” It is also why the banking system cannot let a major derivatives player go down, and it is the banking system that calls the shots. The Federal Reserve is literally owned by a conglomerate of banks; and Hank Paulson, who heads the U.S. Treasury, entered that position through the revolving door of investment bank Goldman Sachs, where he was formerly CEO.

The Best Game in Town

In an article on FinancialSense.com on September 9, Daniel Amerman maintains that the government’s takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was not actually a bailout of the mortgage giants. It was a bailout of the financial derivatives industry, which was faced with a $1.4 trillion “event of default” that could have bankrupted Wall Street and much of the rest of the financial world. To explain the enormous risk involved, Amerman posits a scenario in which the mortgage giants are not bailed out by the government. When they default on the $5 trillion in bonds and mortgage-backed securities they own or guarantee, settlements are immediately triggered on $1.4 trillion in credit default swaps entered into by major financial firms, which have promised to make good on Fannie/Freddie defaulted bonds in return for very lucrative fee income and multi-million dollar bonuses. The value of the vulnerable bonds plummets by 70%, causing $1 trillion (70% of $1.4 trillion) to be due to the “protection buyers.” This is more money, however, than the already-strapped financial institutions have to spare. The CDS sellers are highly leveraged themselves, which means they depend on huge day-to-day lines of credit just to stay afloat. When their creditors see the trillion dollar hit coming, they pull their financing, leaving the strapped institutions with massive portfolios of illiquid assets. The dreaded cascade of cross-defaults begins, until nearly every major investment bank and commercial bank is unable to meet its obligations. This triggers another massive round of CDS events, going to $10 trillion, then $20 trillion. The financial centers become insolvent, the markets have to be shut down, and when they open months later, the stock market has been crushed. The federal government and the financiers pulling its strings naturally feel compelled to step in to prevent such a disaster, even though this rewards the profligate speculators at the expense of the Fannie/Freddie shareholders who will get wiped out. Amerman concludes:

“[I]t’s the best game in town. Take a huge amount of risk, be paid exceedingly well for it and if you screw up — you have absolute proof that the government will come in and bail you out at the expense of the rest of the population (who did not share in your profits in the first place).”4

Desperate Measures for Desperate Times

It was the best game in town until September 14, when Treasury Secretary Paulson, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, and New York Fed Head Tim Geithner closed the bailout window to Lehman Brothers, a 158-year-old Wall Street investment firm and major derivatives player. Why? “There is no political will for a federal bailout,” said Geithner. Bailing out Fannie and Freddie had created a furor of protest, and the taxpayers could not afford to underwrite the whole quadrillion dollar derivatives bubble. The line had to be drawn somewhere, and this was apparently it.

Or was the Fed just saving its ammunition for AIG? Recent downgrades in AIG’s ratings meant that the counterparties to its massive derivatives contracts could force it to come up with $10.5 billion in additional capital reserves immediately or file for bankruptcy. Treasury Secretary Paulson resisted advancing taxpayer money; but on Monday, September 15, stock trading was ugly, with the S & P 500 registering the largest one-day percent drop since September 11, 2001. Alan Kohler wrote in the Australian Business Spectator:

“[I]t’s unlikely to be a slow-motion train wreck this time. With Lehman in liquidation, and Washington Mutual and AIG on the brink, the credit market would likely shut down entirely and interbank lending would cease.”5

Kohler quoted the September 14 newsletter of Professor Nouriel Roubini, who has a popular website called Global EconoMonitor. Roubini warned:

“What we are facing now is the beginning of the unravelling and collapse of the entire shadow financial system, a system of institutions (broker dealers, hedge funds, private equity funds, SIVs, conduits, etc.) that look like banks (as they borrow short, are highly leveraged and lend and invest long and in illiquid ways) and thus are highly vulnerable to bank-like runs; but unlike banks they are not properly regulated and supervised, they don’t have access to deposit insurance and don’t have access to the lender of last resort support of the central bank.”

The risk posed to the system was evidently too great. On September 16, while Barclay’s Bank was offering to buy the banking divisions of Lehman Brothers, the Federal Reserve agreed to bail out AIG in return for 80% of its stock. Why the Federal Reserve instead of the U.S. Treasury? Perhaps because the Treasury would take too much heat for putting yet more taxpayer money on the line. The Federal Reserve could do it quietly through its “Open Market Operations,” the ruse by which it “monetizes” government debt, turning Treasury bills (government I.O.U.s) into dollars. The taxpayers would still have to pick up the tab, but the Federal Reserve would not have to get approval from Congress first.

Time for a 21st Century New Deal?

Another hole has been plugged in a very leaky boat, keeping it afloat another day; but how long can these stopgap measures be sustained? Professor Roubini maintains:

“The step by step, ad hoc and non-holistic approach of Fed and Treasury to crisis management has been a failure. . . . [P]lugging and filling one hole at [a] time is useless when the entire system of levies is collapsing in the perfect financial storm of the century. A much more radical, holistic and systemic approach to crisis management is now necessary.”6

We may soon hear that “the credit market is frozen” – that there is no money to keep homeowners in their homes, workers gainfully employed, or infrastructure maintained. But this is not true. The underlying source of all money is government credit – our own public credit. We don’t need to borrow it from the Chinese or the Saudis or private banks. The government can issue its own credit – the “full faith and credit of the United States.” That was the model followed by the Pennsylvania colonists in the eighteenth century, and it worked brilliantly well. Before the provincial government came up with this plan, the Pennsylvania economy was languishing. There was little gold to conduct trade, and the British bankers were charging 8% interest to borrow what was available. The government solved the credit problem by issuing and lending its own paper scrip. A publicly-owned bank lent the money to farmers at 5% interest. The money was returned to the government, preventing inflation; and the interest paid the government’s expenses, replacing taxes. During the period the system was in place, the economy flourished, prices remained stable, and the Pennsylvania colonists paid no taxes at all. (For more on this, see E. Brown, “Sustainable Energy Development: How Costs Can Be Cut in Half,” webofdebt.com/articles, November 5, 2007.)

Today’s credit crisis is very similar to that facing Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s. In 1932, President Hoover set up the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) as a federally-owned bank that would bail out commercial banks by extending loans to them, much as the privately-owned Federal Reserve is doing today. But like today, Hoover’s ploy failed. The banks did not need more loans; they were already drowning in debt. They needed customers with money to spend and invest. President Roosevelt used Hoover’s new government-owned lending facility to extend loans where they were needed most – for housing, agriculture and industry. Many new federal agencies were set up and funded by the RFC, including the HOLC (Home Owners Loan Corporation) and Fannie Mae (the Federal National Mortgage Association, which was then a government-owned agency). In the 1940s, the RFC went into overdrive funding the infrastructure necessary for the U.S. to participate in World War II, setting the country up with the infrastructure it needed to become the world’s industrial leader after the war.

The RFC was a government-owned bank that sidestepped the privately-owned Federal Reserve; but unlike the Pennsylvania provincial government, which originated the money it lent, the RFC had to borrow the money first. The RFC was funded by issuing government bonds and relending the proceeds. Then as now, new money entered the money supply chiefly in the form of private bank loans. In a “fractional reserve” banking system, banks are allowed to lend their “reserves” many times over, effectively multiplying the amount of money in circulation. Today a system of public banks might be set up on the model of the RFC to fund productive endeavors – industry, agriculture, housing, energy — but we could go a step further than the RFC and give the new public banks the power to create credit themselves, just as the Pennsylvania government did and as private banks do now. At the rate banks are going into FDIC receivership, the federal government will soon own a string of banks, which it might as well put to productive use. Establishing a new RFC might be an easier move politically than trying to nationalize the Federal Reserve, but that is what should properly, logically be done. If we the taxpayers are putting up the money for the Fed to own the world’s largest insurance company, we should own the Fed.

Proposals for reforming the banking system are not even on the radar screen of Prime Time politics today; but the current system is collapsing at train-wreck speed, and the “change” called for in Washington may soon be taking a direction undreamt of a few years ago. We need to stop funding the culprits who brought us this debacle at our expense. We need a public banking system that makes a cost-effective credit mechanism available for homeowners, manufacturing, renewable energy, and infrastructure; and the first step to making it cost-effective is to strip out the swarms of gamblers, fraudsters and profiteers now gaming the system.

1 Quoted in James Wesley, “Derivatives – The Mystery Man Who’ll Break the Global Bank at Monte Carlo,” SurvivalBlog.com (September 2006).

2 “Killer Derivatives, Zombie CDOs and Basel Too?”, Institutional Risk Analytics(August 14, 2007).

3 Kevin DeMeritt, “$1.14 Quadrillion in Derivatives – What Goes Up . . . ,” Gold-Eagle.com (June 16, 2008).

4 Daniel Amerman, “The Hidden Bailout of $1.4 Trillion in Fannie/Freddie Credit-Default Swaps,” FinancialSense.com (September 10, 2008).

5 Alan Kohler, “Lehman End-game,” Business Spectator (Australia) (September 15, 2008).

6 Ibid.

Ellen Brown, J.D., developed her research skills as an attorney practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles.  In Web of Debt, the latest of eleven books, she turns those skills to an analysis of the Federal Reserve and “the money trust.”  She shows how this private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves and how we the people can get it back.  Her websites are www.webofdebt.com and www.ellenbrown.com.

© Copyright Ellen Hodgson Brown, webofdebt.com, 2008


Rep. Kapture: They Want Mama To Make It All Better!

The end of (capitalist) history? By William Bowles

The Economy Sucks and or Collapse

Burning the First Amendment by Walter Brasch

by Walter Brasch
featured writer
Dandelion Salad
Sept 18, 2008

“Got a match?”

I didn’t know where he came from, but there he was, right behind me—as usual. “You know I don’t smoke,” I told Marshbaum. “Come to think of it, you don’t either. What’s up?”

“Not much. Planning to roast some marshmallows and hotdogs. Burn some books.”

“Marshbaum,” I commanded. “You can’t burn books.” Continue reading

Valuable, Voluntary and Educational National Youth Service by William Cox

by William Cox
featured writer
Dandelion Salad
Sept 18, 2008

Irrespective of who’s anointed at the presidential coronation in January, many more Americans will soon be performing national service, including compulsory military tours of duty in the never-ending War Against Terror and the soon-to-be-announced Wars Against Sedition, Starvation, Unemployment, and Internal Insurrection, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Continue reading

America and its wars on terror

Dandelion Salad


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


An in-depth examination of the US War on Terror, its logic and effect, with Marwan Bishara.

Continue reading

Noble Evo faces Allende’s fate

Dandelion Salad

Sent to me by Jason Miller from Thomas Paine’s Corner. Thanks, Jason.

photos at the original source

By Roger Burbach
Simulposted with The Greanville Journal

Day after day, the crisis deepens in Bolivia, where a rightwing insurgency, supported by the usual suspects, is threatening to shut down the Evo Morales presidency and produce an “Allende” outcome. We all know that Washington, mired in Iraq/Afghanistan, and now with some headaches of its own due to its impertinence in Russia’s sphere of influence, has not been able to intervene in the usual manner to stem the leftwing drift in Latin America. But rest assured that this monster nation has plenty of well-paid, well-trained personnel — above ground and under—in and out of uniform, watching and meddling in such events, even if the distractions elsewhere have prevented a more forceful and effective response.

Now, however, in the defiant insurrectionist stance of Eastern elites who control most of the nation;s riches, Washington planners have bumped into something promising: a native rightwing power base to roll back the long overdue reforms that President Morales is struggling to secure. We must always keep in mind that what is cigarette money at the Pentagon is big money in Latin America and other parts of the Third World, so even a few dollars and resources from the US can easily complicate matters enormously for the growing Latin revolution. And Washington, of course (Obama or McCain won’t be different in this area) wants to bag the big prize: to isolate and then bring down Venezuela’s Chavez and possibly even the Fidelistas. This report by Latin America expert Roger Burbach outlines clearly the high stakes in Bolivia and the rest of the Southern Hemisphere.

Confronting Right Wing Rebellion, Bolivian President Evo Morales’ Commitment to Democracy Evokes Memories of Salvador Allende

As Bolivia teeters on the brink of civil war, President Evo Morales staunchly maintains his commitment to constructing a popular democracy by working within the state institutions that brought him to power. The show down with the right wing is taking place against the backdrop of the thirty-fifth anniversary of the overthrow of Salvador Allende, the heroic if tragic president of Chile who believed that the formal democratic state he inherited could be peacefully transformed to usher in a socialist society.

Like Allende, Morales faces a powerful economic and political elite aligned with the United States that is bent on reversing the limited reforms he has been able to implement during his nearly three years in power. Early on, Morales — Bolivia?s first indigenous president — moved assertively to exert greater control over the natural gas and oil resources of the country, sharply increasing the hydro-carbon tax, and then using a large portion of this revenue to provide a universal pension to all those over sixty years old, most of whom live in poverty and are indigenous.

The self-proclaimed Civic Committees in Media Luna (Half Moon) — Bolivia’s four eastern departments — have orchestrated a rebellion against these changes, demanding departmental autonomy and control of the hydro-carbon revenues, as well as an end to agrarian reform and even control of the police forces. The Santa Cruz Civic Committee, dominated by agro-industrial interests, is supporting the Cruceño Youth Union (UJC), an affiliated group that acts as a para-military organization, seizing and fire bombing government offices, and attacking Indian and peasant organizations that dare to support the national government.

Morales’ efforts to transform the institutions of the country have focused on the popularly elected Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution. The assembly was convened in mid 2006 with representatives from Morales political party, the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) holding 54 percent of the seats. In the drafting of the new constitution, the right wing political parties, led by Podemos (We Can), insisted that a two-thirds vote was needed even for the working committees to approve the different sections of the constitution. When they were overruled and a new constitution was close to being approved in November, 2007, members of the assembly, including its indigenous president, Silvia Lazarte, were assaulted in the streets of Sucre, the old nineteenth century capital where the assembly was being held.

“Workers of my country, I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will overcome this dark and bitter moment when treason seeks to prevail. Keep in mind that, much sooner than later, great avenues will again be opened, through which will pass the free man, to construct a better society…”—President Salvador Allende, Last Address from the Moneda Palace (as it was being bombed), September 11, 1973

Using words that evoked Allende’s last stand in the Chilean presidential palace, Evo Morales declared dead or alive, I will have a new constitution for the country. He quartered the assembly in an old castle under military protection where it adopted a constitution that has to be approved in a national referendum. Labeling Morales a “dictator”, the civic committees and the departmental prefects (governors) of Media Luna were able to stall the vote on the referendum, and instead organized departmental referendums for autonomy in May of this year that were ruled unconstitutional by the National Electoral Council.

Taking recourse in democracy rather than force, and searching for a national consensus, Morales then held up the vote on the new constitution, and instead put his presidency on the line in a recall referendum in which his mandate as well as that of the prefects of the departments could be revoked. On August 10, voters went to the polls and Morales won a resounding 67 percent of the vote, receiving a majority of the ballots in 95 of the country’s 112 districts with even the Media Luna department of Pando voting in his favor.

However, the insurgent prefects also had their mandates renewed. Based on the illegal, departmental plebiscites held in May, they moved to take control of Santa Cruz, the richest department. UJC shock troops roamed the streets of the city and surrounding towns, attacking and repressing any opposition by local indigenous movements and MAS-allied forces. Not wanting to provoke an outright rebellion, Evo Morales did not deploy the army or use the local police, leaving the urban area under the effective control of the UJC.

Simultaneously, the right wing — led by the Santa Cruz Civic Committee — began sewing economic instability, seeking to destabilize the Morales government much like the CIA-backed opposition did in Chile against Salvador Allende in the early 1970s. As in Chile, the rural business elites and allied truckers engaged in strikes, withholding or refusing to ship produce to the urban markets in the western Andes where the Indian population is concentrated, while selling commodities on the black market at high prices. The Confederation of Private Businesses of Bolivia called for a national producers’ shutdown if the government “refused to change its economic policies.”

The social movements allied with the government have mobilized against this right wing offensive. In the Media Luna, a union coalition of indigenous peoples and peasants campaigned against voting in the autonomy referendums, and have taken on the bands of the UJC as they try to intimidate and terrorize people. In the Andean highlands, the social movements descended on the capital La Paz in demonstrations backing the Morales? government, including a large mobilization in June that stormed the American embassy because of its support for the right wing. In July, the federation of coca growers in the Chapare, where US anti-drug operations are centered, expelled the US Agency for International Development.

This past week the Civic Committees stepped up their efforts to take control of the Media Luna departments. In Santa Cruz on September 8, crowds of youth lead by the UJC seized government offices, including the land reform office, the tax office, state TV studios, the nationalized telephone company Entel, and set fire to the offices of a non-governmental human rights organization that promotes indigenous rights and provides legal advice. The military police, who had been dispatched to protect many of these offices, were forced to retreat, at times experiencing bloody blows that they were forbidden from responding to due to standing orders from La Paz not to use their weapons. The commanding general of the military police, while angrily denouncing the violent demonstrators, said that the military could take no action unless Evo Morales signed a degree authorizing the use of firearms.

What was in effect occurring was a struggle between Morales and the military over who would assume ultimate responsibility for the fighting and deaths that would ensue with a military intervention in Media Luna. The armed forces do not support the autonomous rebellion because it threatens the geographic integrity of the Bolivian nation. Yet they are reluctant to intervene because under past governments, when they fired on and killed demonstrators in the streets of La Paz, they were blamed for the bloodshed.

On September 10, as violence intensified throughout Media Luna, Evo Morales expelled US ambassador Philip Goldberg for conspiring against democracy. The month before, Goldberg had met with the prefect of Santa Cruz, Ruben Costas, who subsequently declared himself “governor” of the autonomous department and ordered the formal take over of government offices — including those collecting tax revenues. Costas is the principal leader of the rebellious prefects, and the main antagonist of Evo Morales.

September 11, the 35th anniversary of the coup against Allende, was the bloodiest day in the escalating conflict. In the Media Luna department of Pando, a para-military band with machine guns attacked the Indian community of El Porvenir, near the departmental capital of El Cobija, resulting in the death of at least 28 people. In a separate action, three policemen were kidnapped. The Red Ponchos, an official militia reserve unit of Indians loyal to Evo Morales, mobilized its forces to help the indigenous communities organize their self defense.

The next day Morales declared a state of siege in Pando and dispatched the army to move on Cobija and to retake its airport that had been occupied by right wing forces. Army units are also being sent to guard the natural gas oleoducts, one of which had been seized by the UJC, cutting the flow of gas to neighboring Brazil and Argentina. General Luis Trigo Antelo, the commander in chief of the Bolivian Armed Forces declared: “We will not tolerate any more actions by radical groups that are provoking a confrontation among Bolivians, causing pain and suffering and threatening the national security.” In signing the order authorizing the use of force in Pando, Morales stated that he felt responsible for the humiliation of the military and the police by radicals and vandals because he had not authorized them to use their weapons. This was the quid pro quo for getting the military high command to act.

After sustained fighting with at least three dead, the army took control of the airport and moved on the city. An order for the arrest of the prefect of Pando was issued for refusing to recognize the state of siege and for being responsible for the massacre in El Porvenir. In Santa Cruz, the police arrested 8 rioters of the UJC. Peasant organizations have announced they will march on the city to retake control of the government offices. The dissident prefects, led by Costas, are still demanding departmental autonomy and refusing to accept a national vote on the referendum for the new constitution.

Evo Morales refuses to back down, declaring in a meeting with supportive union leaders, “we will launch a campaign to approve the new constitution.” He did, however, indicate he may modify the draft to accommodate some of the demands for autonomy by the prefects. Like Allende, Morales continues to search for a democratic solution to the crisis in his country. For the moment, he has the backing of the Bolivian armed forces along with overwhelming popular support, thereby avoiding the ultimate fate of the Chilean president.

Roger Burbach is Director of the Center for the Study of the Americas (CENSA) based in Berkeley, CA. He has written extensively on Latin America and is the author of The Pinochet Affair: State Terrorism and Global Justice.

See: http://globalalternatives.org/news


Democracy Now: Tariq Ali on Pakistan and Bolivia

Bolivia: Fascist right launches ‘civic coup’ by Federico Fuentes & Stuart Munckton

Congressional Hearing Federal Bureau of Investigation Oversight

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Federal Bureau of Investigation Oversight Congressional Hearing Sept 16, 2008

115 min – Sep 17, 2008

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Rep. Kapture: They Want Mama To Make It All Better!

Dandelion Salad


September 16, 2008 C-SPAN

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General Wesley Clark: America Needs Urgent Action

The end of (capitalist) history? By William Bowles

US Federal Reserve announces $85 billion bailout of insurance giant AIG

The Economy Sucks and or Collapse

Regarding Senator Biden and “Tasks from God”

Sent to me by Jason Miller from Thomas Paine’s Corner. Thanks, Jason.

photos at the original source

By Eileen Fleming

Recently Senator Biden spoke with Shalom TV and stated that, “There is this inextricable tie between culture, religion, ethnicity that most people do not understand…You don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist, I am a Zionist.” [1]

“Christian Zionism is a contradiction in terms…Zionism deviates from the heart of the New Testament…Christian Zionism is adding fuel to the tensions between Muslims, Christians and Jews…If the Christian Zionists’ agenda is realized, it will mean the death of Palestinian Christianity in the Holy Land…Zionism is militarizing the church…Christian Zionists overwhelmingly supported the war in Iraq and continue to support oppressive Israeli measures in the West Bank…the slaughter of [1,255,026 Iraqis*] goes virtually unnoticed and unchallenged because of their belief that President George W. Bush is a dedicated Christian who is carrying out the will of God…The ‘blind spot’ of Christian Zionists is the fact that the Palestinian people, every day and in every aspect of their lives are living under an oppressive military occupation…Unlike the prophets of the Old Testament Christian Zionists have no prophetic words of reprimand for the State of Israel.” [2]

But Christians who understand that God is love and who strive to practice the Beatitudes, have a few and Love is not the starving of whole populations. Love is not the bombardment of open cities. Love is not killing……Our manifesto is the Sermon on the Mount, which means that we will try to be peacemakers.” -Dorothy Day

Zionism began as a nationalistic philosophy that developed among European Jews in the 19th century which aspired to create a safe secure homeland for Jewish people.

Christian Zionism is an extremist movement which supports the claims of those who believe that the State of Israel should take control of all of the land currently disputed between Palestinians and Israelis. It views the creation and expansion of the modern state of Israel as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy toward the second coming of Jesus.

Christian Zionism is also a modern theological and political movement that embraces the most extreme ideological positions of Zionism, thereby becoming detrimental to a just peace within Palestine and Israel.

The Christian Zionist program provides a worldview where the Gospel is identified with the ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism. In its extreme form, it laces an emphasis on apocalyptic events leading to the end of history rather than living Christ’s love and justice today.

Believing that God fights on the side of Israel, Christian Zionists call for the unqualified support for the most extreme political positions related to the Holy Land that preclude a just peace between all of its citizens. Some Christian Zionist spoke-persons have even attributed Hurricane Katrina to God’s wrath over America’s failure to stop Israel from ‘disengaging’ in Gaza. Many also consistently oppose any moves towards a solution to the conflict which would validate the political aspirations of both Palestinians and Israelis.

Christian Zionism is both a political movement and a way of interpreting current events with the focus on Israel and the Middle East and its promoters share many beliefs but are not organized through any one institution.

Throughout history Christians have at times twisted scripture to justify violence: for the Crusades, for Anti-Semitism, for slavery and the church has been too slow to respond to these biblical distortions with disastrous results.

Christian Zionists – particularly those with dispensationalist leanings, whose motives are couched in terms of compassion toward the Jewish people- adhere to a literal reading of scripture that promotes a political agenda of territorial expansion which has given the green light to injustices against Palestinians and added fuel to the fire of conflict in the Middle East.

However, some mainstream churches have spoken out against Christian Zionism which is an inherently anti-Semitic theology. The Presbyterian Church in the USA at its July 2004, National General Assembly issued a statement on Confronting Christian Zionism: “Christian Zionism promotes a theology that justifies grievous violations of basic rights of people who are also made in the image of God, and is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The United Church of Christ in July 2003, at its National General Synod offered An Alternative Voice to Christian Zionism: “We believe that the tenets of Christian Zionism neither reflect the intention of the teachings of Jesus and the prophets, nor promote peace in the Middle East, and respectfully recommend …an alternative voice to this theology.”

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, in June 2005 at its Chicago Metropolitan Synod issued a Resolution to Encourage the Study of Christian Zionism: “the movement of Christian Zionism based on these biblical interpretations seeks to influence U.S. policy toward Israel in a manner that would arguably facilitate mistreatment of Palestinians, continued occupation of the land, opposition to a two-state solution, and exclusive Israeli control of Jerusalem.”

The United Methodist Church, in June 2005 at its Illinois Conference on Unwrapping the Rapture warned, “Every household should give prayerful consideration as to how God will actually judge us for our silence about and complicity in the crushing of the Palestinian people.”

The Episcopal Church, in November 2004 at its Diocese of Chicago Confronted Christian Zionism: “A partial response to Christian Zionism would be to say that we read Scripture in light of [Jesus’] two great commandments – to love God and our neighbor.”

In 2006, The Nation reported that Christians United for Israel/CUFI pressed White House officials to adopt a more confrontational posture toward Iran, to refuse aid to the Palestinians and to give Israel a free hand as it ramped up its military conflict with Hezbollah.

The White House has not revealed the names of the officials who met with the CUFI lobbyists, which is a venomous tentacle from the Armageddon-based foreign-policy view of its founder, John Hagee. Hagee is a fundamentalist, fire-and-brimstone preacher who seeks to convert Jewish people to his understanding of God or see them perish in a nuclear holocaust that he believes he and his kind of Christian will be raptured/lifted out of.

False prophets like Hagge adhere to a 200 year old convoluted interpretation of disparate scriptures that they have chosen to weave together to support their fear based judgmental narrow minded doctrine. Hagee has mesmerized nearly 18,000 misled Christians at his Cornerstone Church and hosts a major TV ministry where he explains his views of how the end times will unfold. He blatantly ignores the philosophy of Jesus for he is a warmonger, not a peace maker of peace seeker.

I contend that the cult of ‘Christian’ Zionism is what the concept of the Anti-Christ is all about, and by anti-Christ, I mean anti/against Jesus’ teachings which are that God is love, God loves all of his creation and the greatest command is that we love God first and then all of our neighbor [meaning all people] as we love our self.

Fundamentalist Christians have come to worship a worship a punitive father as God; a god of Armageddon and not the God of love, forgiveness and compassion that Jesus spoke of. The theology that is promoted in the Left Behind fiction is a theology based on fear and punishment and its adherents do not have eyes to see that nature is God’s primary temple, and war the greatest abomination, although they have been warned by Jesus:

“Violence breeds violence, those that live by the sword shall die by the sword.”Mt. 26:52

“Blessed are the Peacemakers; they shall be called the children of God.”Mt. 5:9

Christian Zionists often quote Genesis 12:3:”I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse: and in you all the families of the world are blessed.”

It is irresponsible and anti-Christ [against his teachings] “to suggest that God will bless us materially if we support the largely secular State of Israel, especially when this invariably means ignoring the plight of the indigenous Christian population of Palestine.” [3]

The indigenous Christians of the Holy Land have dwindled from 20% of the total population to less than 1.3% since 1948 when the British Mandate over Palestine expired and Israel became a state.

Talking with Shalom TV, Senator Joe Biden also called for leniency for Jonathan Pollard.

“Pollard, a civilian intelligence analyst in the Navy, wanted to be a spy so badly that he even seemed to think he was a spy long before he actually was. As a college student at Stanford he boasted that he had contacts in the Israeli intelligence services and that his father was a CIA agent who worked in Prague. Both claims were false. He entered phony education and employment information on job applications and mailed himself telegrams under aliases he made up for himself. Strangely, none of the odd details about Pollard’s personality were noted on his Navy background check report.

“…In 1984 Pollard was promoted to a position as an analyst in the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NIS)…He was placed in a new, high-priority unit, the Anti-Terrorism Alert Center, where he gained access to satellite photographs and CIA reports…Shortly after he began working at the NIS Pollard met an Israeli intelligence officer in New York named Avi Sella, who was posing as a graduate student at New York University. Sella requested classified information from Pollard — any information he could deliver — and told him that he would be paid for whatever he could provide…Pollard provided detailed information on chemical warfare manufacturing plants in Iraq. For this initial transaction Pollard was given a $10,000 diamond and sapphire ring for his fiancée, Anne Henderson, and paid over $10,000 in cash. Sella also agreed to pay Pollard $1,500 a month for his espionage activities as long as they continued. For about a year after the time Pollard met Avi Sella, he gathered computer printouts, satellite photographs, and classified documents from his department three times a week and brought them to various Washington apartments. There, they were copied and returned to Pollard, who restored them to the Navy the following day. In exchange for his services Pollard received, in addition to the agreed salary, a lavish collection of gifts for himself and his wife, including a honeymoon in a private compartment aboard the Orient Express.

“By his own estimates Pollard passed to his Israeli handlers more than 800 classified publications and more than 1,000 cables, probably the largest cache of materials ever passed through espionage…then Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger said, “It is difficult for me…to conceive of greater harm done to national security.” [4]

Initially Israel denied Pollard was spying for them, but eventually admitted he was. Israel has given him citizenship and has repeatedly called for his release. The Jerusalem City Council, in support of Pollard, changed the name of a square near the official prime minister’s residence from Paris Square to Freedom for Jonathan Pollard Square. The full extent of the information Pollard gave to Israel has still not been officially revealed.

A year after Pollard was arrested for espionage after walking out of his office with 60 top-secret documents in his briefcase, Mordechai Vanunu was kidnapped, clubbed, drugged, bound and gagged in Rome by the Mossad and transported back to Israel where he was convicted of treason and espionage treason for handing over to the London Sunday Times, 56 photos that documented Israel’s clandestine underground WMD facility in the Negev where upwards of 200 nuclear weapons were being assembled.

In 1963, Shimon Peres, then Israel’s Deputy Minister of Defense met with President John Kennedy at the White House. Kennedy told Perez, “You know that we follow very closely the discovery of any nuclear development in the region. This could create a very dangerous situation. For this reason we monitor your nuclear effort. What could you tell me about this?”

Peres replied, I can tell you most clearly that we will not introduce nuclear weapons to the region, and certainly we will not be the first.”

In September of 1986, Peres ordered the Mossad, to Bring the son of a bitch back here,” and Vanunu was, just a few weeks after being baptized a Christian. The London Times never signed a contract with Vanunu and he has not received any payment for the photos he shot because he listened to his conscience [another name for God] and wanted to avoid a nuclear holocaust.

In 1987, from prison Vanunu wrote that he was, “the secret agent of the people…the eyes of the nation. I have no choice. I’m a little man, a citizen, one of the people, but I’ll do what I have to. I’ve heard the voice of my conscience and there’s nowhere to hide.”[5]

Prophets do not necessarily predict the future, but prophets who are inspired by God will point out danger ahead and provoke people to remember God.

The word of God is living and active. Sharper than a two-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:12-13

Christians understand that individuals as well as nations will be judged, not on Bible trivia, but on our hearts.

“War is the greatest plague that afflicts humanity, it destroys religion, it destroys states and it destroys families…Any nation that year after year continues to raise the Defense budget while cutting social programs to the neediest is a nation approaching spiritual death.” – Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

What the nations of the world so desperately need is a kitchen table meeting with the Prince of Peace who commanded his followers that in order to be forgiven, they must forgive, they must love all people, they are not judge any other and that it is the peacemakers who are God’s children: not those that bomb, torture or occupy any other.

1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZvypFPscP8&feature=related
* http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/iraq/iraqdeaths.html

2. Rev. Alex Awad, Palestinian Memories, pages 244-248

3. Rev. Stephen Sizer, Zion’s Christian Soldiers, page 46

4. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/venona/dece_pollard.html

5. http://vanunu.com/


If Americans Knew What Israel Is Doing!
If Americans Knew What Israel Is Doing! Video was Censored! (video)

Patriot Follows the Money and Exposes Foreign Agents

The Vanunu Saga:

Eileen Fleming is the Reporter and Editor of WAWA, Author of “Keep Hope Alive” and “Memoirs of a Nice Irish American ‘Girl’s’ Life in Occupied Territory,” and Producer of “30 Minutes With Vanunu” and “13 Minutes with Vanunu”


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