Sunday, February 28, 2010

Whitney: Targeting Toyota, Best Doc feature fest, today

Hi. A major problem with strong theories is that people tend to accept
or reject them wholecloth, rather than see part of a complex whole.
Here's a broad, radical analysis of the Toyota dynamic dominating
the media. Agree or no, it connects with so much else going on in our
world it offers a dimension to consider as this plays out. I've added a
critique and then a response, at the bottom. But first, a great show: -Ed

From: David Magdael <>
Date: Fri, Feb 26, 2010 at 12:18 PM


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Targeting Toyota: US Economic War Directed Against Japan

by Mike Whitney
Global Research: Feb 26, 2010

Does anyone really believe that Toyota is being pilloried in the media
for a few highway fatalities?

Nonsense. If Congress is so worried about innocent people getting
killed, then why haven't they indicted US commander Stanley McChrystal for
blowing up another 27 Afghan civilians last Sunday?

But this isn't about bloodshed and it's certainly not "safety
regulations". It's about politics--bare-knuckle Machiavellian politics. An
attack on Toyota is an attack on Japan's leading export. It is an act of
war. Here's a excerpt from the New York Times which explains what is really
going on:

"The Japanese economy has emerged from its worst recession since World
War II, but is still reeling. Japan must do more to lift its economy out of
deflation and boost long-term growth", S.&P. said.

"The outlook change reflects our view that the Japanese government's
diminishing economic policy flexibility may lead to a downgrade unless
measures can be taken to stem fiscal and deflationary pressures," S.&P.
said. "The policies of the new Democratic Party of Japan government point to
a slower pace of fiscal consolidation than we had previously expected."

President Barack Obama is expected to address similar worries in the
Untied States on Wednesday, with a call for a freeze in spending on many
domestic programs, a move he hopes will quell perceptions that government
spending is out of control. Fiscal problems in Greece and Ireland have also
helped put the spotlight on the issue of national debt." ("Japan's High Debt

Japan's new liberal government is fighting deflation using the
traditional methodology, by lowering interest rates and increasing fiscal
stimulus. But that's not what Washington wants. Neoliberal policymakers and
their buddies in the right-wing think tanks want "fiscal consolidation"
which means harsh austerity measures that will deepen the recession,
increase unemployment, and trigger a wave of defaults and bankruptcies. This
is how western corporatists and bank tycoons keep their thumb on the
developing world and thrust their economies into perennial crisis. It's the
"shock doctrine" and it's been the IMF's modus operandi for over 20 years.
Japan is being stuffed into a fiscal straight-jacket by supporters of the
Washington consensus whose goal is to weaken government and accelerate the
privatization of public assets and services.

The ratings agencies are being used in the same way as the media; to
wage an economic/guerrilla war on Japan and force the administration to
rethink their economic policies. (Note: There is no chance that Japan will
default on its debt because it pays its debts in its own currency and has
large foreign exchange reserves of over $1 trillion) The attacks on Toyota
are a way of showing Tokyo what happens to countries that fail to obey
Washington's orders.

Here's a clip from the New York Times which sums up the problem in a

The government of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has "bolstered
spending on social programs aimed at helping households......The powerful
lower house of parliament approved a supplementary budget for the fiscal
year that ends in March worth ¥7.2 trillion, or $80.3 billion, to help shore
up the economy...And next year, government spending will grow further with a
record trillion-dollar budget including ambitious welfare outlays. (New York

Western elites will not tolerate economic policies which raise the
standard of living for the average working slob. "Social programs" or
"welfare outlays" are anathema to their trickle down, Voodoo capitalist
orthodoxy. What they want is upward redistribution and class warfare.
Regrettably, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has put himself at odds with US
powerbrokers and is feeling the full measure of their wrath. His public
approval ratings have plummeted to 37 percent and are headed downward still.
The message is simple: Cross Washington and you're a goner.

Mike Whitney is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global
Research Articles by Mike Whitney


From: "Razer" <>

Hash: SHA1

On 2/26/2010 9:58 AM, wrote:

> Nonsense.
> Does anyone really believe that Toyota is being pilloried in the
> media for a few highway fatalities?

Agreed. But OTOH, Toyota's failure to note the problem and deal with
it before it became a US national headline also speaks volumes about
the "Americanization" of Japanese industry, which prospered
magnificently when their industrial culture included W. Edward
Deming's statistical quality assurance principles intact with his
philosophy, lifetime employment etc.

I've worked around foreign and Japanese cars in my life and 20/25
years ago, this would not have happened. It would have been noted with
the first failures spike, most likely (from my personal experience)
within the month, the part number, the serial numbers of ALL cars with
the part installed, and part's vendor (JIT, multisourced), would have
been noted, and ALL cars with the defective part would have
immediately been recalled and repaired.

If Mr. Toyoda was sufficiently humbled, this industrial oversight, it
WILL NOT happen again

I DO want to compare this manufacturing muckup to Mattel's jobbing out
of a whole contract to produce lead-contaminated toys from China,
which they marketed and distributed without EVER INSPECTING A SINGLE
PART... unheard of in the annals of American manufacturing. Mattel
laid the blame on the Chinese in the US media, and then apologized to
them (because it was NOT ultimately the Chinese manufacturers fault.
It WAS within Mattel's specs), but not to the US consumers of the product.


Rad-Green mailing list

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Weisbrot: Latin America's path to independence, Get Lit on the Magic Bus

I'm thrilled to see the Get Lit Players featured in this august
gathering. If you see these teen-age wizards, just once, you'll
not only understand why, but become fans. Join me. -Ed


(An Evening with the California Poet Laureate & Friends)

Monday, March 1, 2010 ~ 5 P.M.

USC Davidson Conference Center

Welcome by Howard Gillman, Dean of the College
of Letters, Arts & Sciences
Prof. Meg Russett, Chair, Dept. of English
& Prof. Carol Muske-Dukes, California Poet Laureate

Readings and performances by:

THE GET LIT PLAYERS (teen "proactive" poets of LA!)

Dana Goodyear
Tom Healy
Cecilia Woloch
Gabrielle Calvocoressi
Carol Muske-Dukes

Guest reading by Stacy Keach
Guest reading by George Wendt

Cocktail reception & book-signing following program

~ Admission Free ~

Enter through Gate 4 at Jefferson Blvd. and Royal St. Parking Structure D
Fee - $8.00

Sponsored by the Office of the Dean of the College and the Dept. of English
with support provided by the Office of the Provost


Latin America's path to independence

With the creation of a new regional organisation, Latin America is emerging
as a power bloc with its own interests and agenda

By Mark Weisbrot 25 February 2010

Latin America took an historic step forward this week with the Unity Summit
and creation of a new regional organisation of 32 Latin American and
Caribbean countries. The United States and Canada were excluded.

The increasing independence of Latin America has been one of the most
important geopolitical changes over the last decade, affecting not only the
region but the rest of the world as well. For example, Brazil has publicly
supported Iran's right to enrich uranium and opposed further sanctions
against the country. Latin America, once under the control of the United
States, is increasingly emerging as a power bloc with its own interests and

The Obama administration's continuation of former President Bush's policies
in the region undoubtedly helped spur the creation of this new organisation,
provisionally named the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.
Most importantly, the Obama team's ambivalence toward the military coup that
overthrew the democratic government of President Mel Zelaya in Honduras last
summer provoked deep resentment and distrust throughout the region.

Although the Obama administration was officially against the coup, numerous
actions from day one - including the first White House statement that failed
to condemn the coup when it happened - made it clear in the diplomatic world
that its real position was something different. The last straw came in
November 2009 when the Obama administration brokered a deal for the return
of Zelaya, and then joined the dictatorship in reneging on it. Washington
then stood against the vast majority of the region in supporting the
November elections for a new president under the dictatorship, which had
systematically repressed the basic rights and civil liberties necessary to
an electoral campaign.

Arturo Valenzuela, the US state department's top official for Latin America,
said that the new organisation "should not be an effort that would replace
the OAS [Organisation of American States]".

The differences underlying the need for a new organisation were clear in the
statements and declarations that took place in the Unity Summit, held in
Cancun from 22-23 February. The summit issued a strong statement backing
Argentina in its dispute with the UK over the Malvinas (as they are called
in Argentina) or Falklands Islands. The dispute, which dates back to the
19th century and led to a war in 1982, has become more prominent lately as
the UK has unilaterally decided to explore for oil offshore the islands.
President Lula da Silva of Brazil called for the United Nations to take a
more active role in resolving the dispute. And the summit condemned the US
embargo against Cuba.

These and other measures would be difficult or impossible to pass in the
OAS. Furthermore, the OAS has long been manipulated by the United States, as
from 2000 when it was used to help build support for the coup that overthrew
Haiti's elected president. And most recently, the US and Canada blocked the
OAS from taking stronger measures against the Honduran dictatorship last

Meanwhile, in Washington foreign policy circles, it is getting increasingly
more difficult to maintain the worn-out fiction that the US's differences
with the region are a legacy of President Bush's "lack of involvement," or
to blame a few leftist trouble-makers like Bolivia, Nicaragua, and of course
the dreaded Venezuela. It seems to have gone unnoticed that Brazil has taken
the same positions as Venezuela and Bolivia on Iran and other foreign policy
issues, and has strongly supported Chávez. Perhaps the leadership of
Mexico - a rightwing government that was one of the Bush administration's
few allies in the region - in establishing this new organisation will
stimulate some rethinking.

There are structural reasons for this process of increasing independence to
continue, even if - and this is not on the horizon - a new government in
Washington were to someday move away from its cold war redux approach to the
region. The US has become increasingly less important as a trading partner
for the region, especially since the recent recession as our trade deficit
has shrunk. The region also increasingly has other sources of investment
capital. The collapse of the IMF's creditors' cartel in the region has also
eliminated the most important avenue of Washington's influence.

The new organisation is sorely needed. The Honduran coup was a threat to
democracy in the entire region, as it encouraged other rightwing militaries
and their allies to think that they might drag Latin America back to the
days when the local elite, with Washington's help, could overturn the will
of the electorate. An organisation without the US and Canada will be more
capable of defending democracy, as well as economic and social progress in
the region when it is under attack. It will also have a positive influence
in helping to create a more multipolar world internationally.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Zirin: Sportsmanship: The Great Olympic Fraud

From: Edge of Sports

E of S Readers: I want to make a plea for people to click on the link below
to read this week's column and then subscribe to the Progressive Magazine.
$14.97 for a year. An entirely indispensable publication that should be
supported by all people with the means to do so.
In struggle and sports
Dave Zirin

(I concur. Founded by Sen. Robert La Follette, the Great Progresive, it
has maintained integrity and mission since 1909. Mollie Ivins, Barbara
Ehrenreich and so many others with brains and conscience have been
its soul. I've subscribed for decades. Subscribe, ask for its 100 years
double issue, where great minds span and dig into the century. Zirin
is a most welcome arrival to this pantheon. Read the below -Ed)

Sportsmanship: The Great Olympic Fraud

By Dave Zirin
Edge of Sports: Feb 25, 2010

It was called the "Own the Podium" campaign, Canada's efforts to win enough
gold medals to make Ron Paul defect. Its zeal for gold meant such sporting
practices as locking athletes from other countries out of the practice
facilities. Anything for an edge. This lockout included the luge sliders at
the whip-fast run in Whistler. As a result, a Georgian luger by the name of
Nodar Kumaritashvili had only one-tenth the practice runs as his Canadian
opponents when he lost control and sped to his death.

Poor sportsmanship doesn't always kill. But it has been evident at every
corner of the games, and not just from our neighbors from the North. There
was Russian skater Evgeny Plushenko, who, after earning the silver medal,
first climbed up to the gold medal spot. "I stepped on the gold medal
position because I forgot that I came second," he said. "To be fair, I felt
that I'd stepped on to my position. It wasn't planned, of course. It's just
that in my brain, I'd won."

He also decided to go "figure skating macho" by criticizing gold medal
winner Evan Lysacek's gold medal, saying, "If [the] Olympic champion doesn't
know how to jump quad. . . . I don't know. Now it's not men's skating. Now
it's dancing."

Then there's the Russian ice pair, Maxim Shabalin and Oksana Domnina, who
performed a dance they called a "tribute" to Australian Aboriginal culture.
It was a tribute only if you consider Amos & Andy to be a tribute, as well.

Stephen Page, the artistic director of the Bangarra Dance Company, told the
AFP news service that their accompanying music was more African or Indian
than Aboriginal Australian and their body paint seemed as though "a
three-year-old child had drawn it on." "It looks more like they were trying
to emulate the token savage cave man," he said.

At least Shabalin and Domnina didn't use their "brown-face" makeup, which
they had used in previous routines.

Lest anyone think I'm picking on just the Canadians and the Russians, we
also had U.S. skater Johnny Weir say, after coming in sixth, that he lost
"not because I wasn't good enough, just that politically, no one was
thinking of me [as a medalist]."

Then there was South Korean gold medalist Lee Jung-Su, who slammed the U.S.
speed skater Apollo Ohno as "too aggressive" in a post-race news conference.
Even though Lee won the gold and Ohno the silver, Lee said, "Ohno didn't
deserve to stand on the same medal platform as me. I was so enraged that it
was hard for me to contain myself during the victory ceremony." In South
Korea, you can buy toilet paper with Ohno's face on it.

This range of ugliness—from the catty to the racist to the fatal—is
significant because it exposes the reality of what the Winter Olympics are
all about. The International Olympic Committee—that sewing circle of
monarchists, extortionists, and absolved fascists—likes to hide behind the
pretense of nobility. It claims to care not for profit or personal gain.
Just the glory of "Olympism" as represented in its Magna Carta: "the Olympic
Charter." That charter states: "The mission of the IOC is to promote
Olympism throughout the world and to lead the Olympic Movement. This
includes upholding ethics in sports." On the IOC's website, there is a quiz:
"The Ultimate goal of Olympism is to a) Organize the Olympic Games, b)
encourage new world records, c) build a peaceful and better world through
sport. It's perfectly understandable if you needed three tries to answer
that correctly. The answer is, of course, c—although that would certainly be
news to the family of Nodar Kumaritashvili.

What trumps these grand "ethics" is the reality of what makes the IOC go 'round:
television and corporate dollars. And if corporations can't come up with the
money, then cities and host countries pay through the nose.

This is why—despite the death of Kumaritashvili, despite the terrible
sportsmanship on display, despite the protests by Vancouver residents and at
times violent confrontations with the police—these games are being regarded
as a profound success. The IOC is claiming that more people will have
watched the games across the globe than any Winter Olympics in history with
a 47 percent jump from the Torino Games. In the United States, even American
Idol is eating the dust of Olympic fever. "Going for the gold" is no longer
about winning races but beating Simon Cowell.

For athletes, the costs of training for the Olympics means that losing are
not an option. As a result, we have petulance. We have spectacle. And we
have death. We also have something that is no longer the Olympics but
reality television, where as many titillations take place off the field of
play as on. An international sporting competition could be something to
treasure. In particular, having female athletes and a variety of different
events leading off sports coverage is very welcome. But in the hands of the
IOC, it's all a gigantic fraud.

[Dave Zirin is the author of the forthcoming "Bad Sports: How Owners are
Ruining the Games we Love" (Scribner) Receive his column every week by
emailing Contact him at]

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Krugman: Afflicting the Afflicted, GOP Makes The Case


"Grand Obstructionist Oppressive Party" Makes The Case For Simple Majority
Health Care Vote

By Bill Scher February 25, 2010

During the lunch break of today's health care summit, C-Span 3 took two
calls from Republican voters appalled at what they saw from their own
party's congressional leaders.

One praised President Obama for trying to tackle a serious problem, while
lamenting the congresspeople in his own party who clearly would not "meet
the President halfway."

The second was even angrier, saying he was "ashamed" of his party's
congresspeople and that the Republican Party acronym of G.O.P. should no
longer mean "Grand Old Party" but "Grand Obstructionist Oppressive Party."
(G.O.O.P is kinda catchy.)

Literally no Republican attending the summit made the slightest attempt to
seek common ground, despite repeated openings from the President.

And the obstructionist spectacle apparently is making even Republican voters

If skittish Democrats were worried about passing health care using Senate
budget rules that allow for a simple majority vote, they can now feel
reassured that seeing conservative obstruction up close is far more
revolting to the American public.

The summit has done its jobs. And the verdict is in.

The only way health care gets done, the only way we tackle the long-term
budget deficit, the only way we lower the cost of premiums, the only way we
extend coverage to more than 30 million Americans, is for 50 Democrats to do

There is no need to wait one more day.


Afflicting the Afflicted

NY Times Op-Ed: February 26, 2010

If we're lucky, Thursday's summit will turn out to have been the last act in
the great health reform debate, the prologue to passage of an imperfect but
nonetheless history-making bill. If so, the debate will have ended as it
began: with Democrats offering moderate plans that draw heavily on past
Republican ideas, and Republicans responding with slander and misdirection.

Nobody really expected anything different. But what was nonetheless
revealing about the meeting was the fact that Republicans - who had weeks to
prepare for this particular event, and have been campaigning against reform
for a year - didn't bother making a case that could withstand even minimal

It was obvious how things would go as soon as the first Republican speaker,
Senator Lamar Alexander, delivered his remarks. He was presumably chosen
because he's folksy and likable and could make his party's position sound
reasonable. But right off the bat he delivered a whopper, asserting that
under the Democratic plan, "for millions of Americans, premiums will go up."

Wow. I guess you could say that he wasn't technically lying, since the
Congressional Budget Office analysis of the Senate Democrats' plan does say
that average payments for insurance would go up. But it also makes it clear
that this would happen only because people would buy more and better
coverage. The "price of a given amount of insurance coverage" would fall,
not rise - and the actual cost to many Americans would fall sharply thanks
to federal aid.

His fib on premiums was quickly followed by a fib on process. Democrats,
having already passed a health bill with 60 votes in the Senate, now plan to
use a simple majority vote to modify some of the numbers, a process known as
reconciliation. Mr. Alexander declared that reconciliation has "never been
used for something like this." Well, I don't know what "like this" means,
but reconciliation has, in fact, been used for previous health reforms - and
was used to push through both of the Bush tax cuts at a budget cost of $1.8
trillion, twice the bill for health reform.

What really struck me about the meeting, however, was the inability of
Republicans to explain how they propose dealing with the issue that,
rightly, is at the emotional center of much health care debate: the plight
of Americans who suffer from pre-existing medical conditions. In other
advanced countries, everyone gets essential care whatever their medical
history. But in America, a bout of cancer, an inherited genetic disorder, or
even, in some states, having been a victim of domestic violence can make you
uninsurable, and thus make adequate health care unaffordable.

One of the great virtues of the Democratic plan is that it would finally put
an end to this unacceptable case of American exceptionalism. But what's the
Republican answer? Mr. Alexander was strangely inarticulate on the matter,
saying only that "House Republicans have some ideas about how my friend in
Tullahoma can continue to afford insurance for his wife who has had breast
cancer." He offered no clue about what those ideas might be.

In reality, House Republicans don't have anything to offer to Americans with
troubled medical histories. On the contrary, their big idea - allowing
unrestricted competition across state lines - would lead to a race to the
bottom. The states with the weakest regulations - for example, those that
allow insurance companies to deny coverage to victims of domestic violence -
would set the standards for the nation as a whole. The result would be to
afflict the afflicted, to make the lives of Americans with pre-existing
conditions even harder.

Don't take my word for it. Look at the Congressional Budget Office analysis
of the House G.O.P. plan. That analysis is discreetly worded, with the
budget office declaring somewhat obscurely that while the number of
uninsured Americans wouldn't change much, "the pool of people without health
insurance would end up being less healthy, on average, than under current
law." But here's the translation: While some people would gain insurance,
the people losing insurance would be those who need it most. Under the
Republican plan, the American health care system would become even more
brutal than it is now.

So what did we learn from the summit? What I took away was the arrogance
that the success of things like the death-panel smear has obviously
engendered in Republican politicians. At this point they obviously believe
that they can blandly make utterly misleading assertions, saying things that
can be easily refuted, and pay no price. And they may well be right.

But Democrats can have the last laugh. All they have to do - and they have
the power to do it - is finish the job, and enact health reform.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Haiti: Pretense ofRelief, U.S. Running Military Occupation,_u.s._running_a_military_occupation_?page=entire

More Pain for Devastated Haiti: Under the Pretense of Disaster Relief, U.S.
Running a Military Occupation

By Arun Gupta,
AlterNet: February 12, 2010

The rapid mobilization of U.S troops in Haiti was not primarily done for
humanitarian reasons; we're likely to see a neoliberal economic plan
imposed, at gunpoint if necessary.

Official denials aside, the United States has embarked on a new military
occupation of Haiti thinly cloaked as disaster relief. While both the
Pentagon and the United Nations claimed more troops were needed to provide
"security and stability" to bring in aid, according to nearly all
independent observers in the field, violence was never an issue.

Instead, there appears to be cruder motives for the military response. With
Haiti's government "all but invisible" and its repressive security forces
collapsed, popular organizations were starting to fill the void. But the
Western powers rushing in envision sweatshops and tourism as the foundation
of a rebuilt Haiti. This is opposed by the popular organizations, which draw
their strength from Haiti's overwhelmingly poor majority. Thus, if a
neoliberal plan is going to be imposed on a devastated Haiti it will be done
at gunpoint.

The rapid mobilization of thousands of U.S troops was not for humanitarian
reasons; in fact it crowded out much of the arriving aid into the
Port-au-Prince airport, forcing lengthy delays. Doctors Without Borders said
five of its cargo flights carrying 85 tons of medical and relief supplies
were turned away during the first week while flights from the World Food
Program were delayed up to two days. One WFP official said of the 200
flights going in and out of Haiti daily "most . are for the U.S. military."
Nineteen days into the crisis, only 32 percent of Haitians in need had
received any food (even if just a single meal), three-quarters were without
clean water, the government had received only two percent of the tents it
had requested and hospitals in the capital reported they were running
"dangerously low" on basic medical supplies like antibiotics and
painkillers. On Feb. 9, the Washington Post reported that food aid was
little more than rice, and "Every day, tens of thousands of Haitians face a
grueling quest to find food, any food. A nutritious diet is out of the

At the same time, the United States had assumed control of Haiti's airspace,
landed 6,500 soldiers on the ground, with another 15,000 troops offshore at
one point, dispatched an armada of naval vessels and nine coast guard
cutters to patrol the waters, and the U.S. embassy was issuing orders on
behalf of the Haitian government. In a telling account, the New York Times
described a press conference in Haiti at which "the American ambassador and
the American general in charge of the United States troops deployed here"
were "seated at center stage," while Haitian President René Préval stood in
the back "half-listening" and eventually "wandered away without a word."

In the first week, the U.S. commander, Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, said the presence
of the Haitian police was "limited" because they had been "devastated" by
the earthquake. The real powers in Haiti right now are Keen, U.S. ambassador
Louis Lucke, Bill Clinton (who has been tapped by U.N. Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon to lead recovery efforts) and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
When asked at the press conference how long U.S. forces were planning to
stay, Keen said, "I'm not going to put a time frame on it" while Lucke
added, "We're not really planning in terms of weeks or months or years.
planning basically to see this job through to the end."

While much of the corporate media fixated on "looters," virtually every
independent observer in Haiti after the earthquake noted the lack of
violence. Even Lt. Gen. Keen described the security situation as "relatively
calm." One aid worker in Haiti, Leisa Faulkner, said, "There is no security
threat from the Haitian people. Aid workers do not need to fear them. I
would really like for the guys with the rifles to put them down and pick up
shovels to help find people still buried in the rubble of collapsed
buildings and homes. It just makes me furious to see multiple truckloads of
fellows with automatic rifles."

Veteran Haiti reporter Kim Ives concurred, explaining to "Democracy Now!":
"Security is not the issue. We see throughout Haiti the population
themselves organizing themselves into popular committees to clean up, to
pull out the bodies from the rubble, to build refugee camps, to set up their
security for the refugee camps. This is a population which is
self-sufficient, and it has been self-sufficient for all these years."

In one instance, Ives continued, a truckload of food showed up in a
neighborhood in the middle of the night unannounced. "It could have been a
melee. The local popular organization.was contacted. They immediately
mobilized their members. They came out. They set up a perimeter. They set up
a cordon. They lined up about 600 people who were staying on the soccer
field behind the house, which is also a hospital, and they distributed the
food in an orderly, equitable fashion.. They didn't need Marines. They
need the UN."

Traveling with an armored UN convoy on the streets of the capital, Al
Jazeera reported that the soldiers "aren't here to help pull people out of
the rubble. They're here, they say, to enforce the law." One Haitian told
the news outlet, "These weapons they bring, they are instruments of death.
We don't want them. We don't need them. We are a traumatized people. What we
want from the international community is technical help. Action, not words."

A New Invasion

That help, however, is coming in the form of neoliberal shock. With the
collapse of the Haitian government, popular organizations of the poor,
precisely the ones that propelled Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the presidency
twice on a platform of social and economic justice, know that the detailed
U.S. and UN plans in the works for "recovery" - sweatshops, land grabs and
privatization - are part of the same system of economic slavery they've been
fighting against for more than 200 years.

A new occupation of Haiti -- the third in the last 16 years -- fits within
the U.S. doctrine of rollback in Latin America: support for the coup in
Honduras, seven new military bases in Colombia, hostility toward Bolivia and
Venezuela. Related to that, the United States wants to ensure that Haiti not
pose the "threat of a good example" by pursuing an independent path, as it
tried to under President Aristide -- which is why he was toppled twice, in
1991 and 2004, in U.S.-backed coups.

With the government and its repressive security forces now in shambles,
neoliberal reconstruction will happen at the barrel of the gun. In this
light, the impetus of a new occupation may be to reconstitute the Haitian
Army (or similar entity) as a force "to fight the people."

This is the crux of the situation. Despite all the terror inflicted on Haiti
by the United States, particularly in the last 20 years -- two coups
followed each time by the slaughter of thousands of activists and innocents
by U.S.-armed death squads -- the strongest social and political force in
Haiti today is probably the organisations populaires (OPs) that are the
backbone of the Fanmi Lavalas party of deposed President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide. Twice last year, after legislative elections were scheduled that
banned Fanmi Lavalas, boycotts were organized by the party. In the April and
June polls the abstention rate each time was reported to be at least 89

It is the OPs, while devastated and destitute, that are filling the void and
remain the strongest voice against economic colonization. Thus, all the
concern about "security and stability." With no functioning government, calm
prevailing, and people self-organizing, "security" does not mean
safeguarding the population; it means securing the country against the
population. "Stability" does not mean social harmony; it means stability for
capital: low wages, no unions, no environmental laws, and the ability to
repatriate profits easily.

Sweatshop Solution

In a March 2009 New York Times op-ed, Ban Ki-moon outlined his development
plan for Haiti, involving lower port fees, "dramatically expanding the
country's export zones," and emphasizing "the garment industry and
agriculture." Ban's neoliberal plan was drawn up Oxford University economist
Paul Collier. (Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff admitted, in promoting
Collier's plan, that those garment factories are "sweatshops.")

Collier is blunt, writing (PDF), "Due to its poverty and relatively
unregulated labor market, Haiti has labor costs that are fully competitive
with China." His scheme calls for agricultural exports, such as mangoes,
that involve pushing farmers off the land so they can be employed in garment
manufacturing in export processing zones. To facilitate these zones Collier
calls on Haiti and donors to provide them with private ports and
electricity, "clear and rapid rights to land," outsourced customs, "roads,
water and sewage," and the involvement of the Clinton Global Initiative to
bring in garment manufacturers.

Revealing the connection between neoliberalism and military occupation in
Haiti, Collier credits the Brazilian-led United Nations Stabilization
Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) with establishing "credible security," but
laments that its remaining mandate is "too short for investor confidence."

In fact, MINUSTAH has been involved in numerous massacres in Port-au-Prince
slums that are strongholds for Lavalas and Aristide. But that is probably
what Collier means by "credible security." He also notes MINUSTAH will cost
some $5 billion overall; compare that to the $379 million the U.S.
government has designated for spending on Haiti in response to the
earthquake. It's worth noting that one-third of the U.S. funding is for
"military aid" and another 42 percent is for disaster assistance, such as
$23.5 million for "search and rescue" operations that prioritized combing
through luxury hotels for survivors.

As for the "U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti," speaking at an October 2009
investors' conference in Port-au-Prince that attracted do-gooders like Gap,
Levi Strauss and Citibank, Bill Clinton claimed a revitalized garment
industry could create 100,000 jobs. The reason some 200 companies, half of
them garment manufacturers, attended the conference was because "Haiti's
extremely low labor costs, comparable to those in Bangladesh, make it so
appealing," the New York Times reported. Those costs are often less than the
official daily minimum wage of $1.75. (The Haitian Parliament approved an
increase last May 4 to about $5 an hour, but it was opposed by the business
elite and President René Préval refused to sign the bill, effectively
killing it. The refusal to increase the minimum wage sparked numerous
student protests starting last June, which were repressed by Haitian police

Roots of Repression

Some historical perspective is in order. In his work Haiti State Against
Nation: The Origins & Legacy of Duvalierism, Michel-Rolph Trouillot writes,
"Haiti's first army saw itself as the offspring of the struggle against
slavery and colonialism." That changed during the U.S. occupation of Haiti
from 1915 to 1934. Under the tutelage of the U.S. Marines, "the Haitian
Garde was specifically created to fight against other Haitians. It received
its baptism of fire in combat against its countrymen." Its brutal legacy led
Aristide to disband the army in 1995.

Yet prior to the army's disbandment, in the wake of the U.S. invasion that
returned a politically handcuffed Aristide to the presidency in 1994, "CIA
agents accompanying U.S. troops began a new recruitment drive for the
agency" that included leaders of the death squad known as FRAPH, according
to Peter Hallward, author of Damning the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the
Politics of Containment.

It's worth recalling how the Clinton administration played a double game
under the cover of humanitarian intervention. Investigative reporter Allan
Nairn revealed that in 1993 "five to ten thousand" small arms were shipped
from Florida, past the U.S. naval blockade, to the coup leaders. These
weapons enabled FRAPH to multiply and terrorize the popular movements. Then,
pointing to intensifying FRAPH violence in 1994, the Clinton administration
pressured Aristide into acquiescing to a U.S. invasion because FRAPH was
becoming "the only game in town."

After 20,000 U.S. troops landed in Haiti, they set about protecting FRAPH
members, freeing them from jail, and refusing to disarm them or seize their
weapons caches. FRAPH leader Emmanual Constant told Nairn that after the
invasion the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) was using FRAPH to
counter "subversive activities." Meanwhile, the State Department and CIA
went about stacking the Haitian National Police with former army soldiers,
many of whom were on the U.S. payroll. By 1996, according to one report,
Haitian Army and "FRAPH forces remain armed and present in virtually every
community across the country," and paramilitaries were "inciting street
violence in an effort to undermine social order."

During the early 1990s, a separate group of Haitian soldiers, including Guy
Philippe who led the 2004 coup against Aristide, were spirited away to
Ecuador where they allegedly trained at a "U.S. military facility." Hallward
describes the second coup as beginning in 2001 as a "Contra war" in the
Dominican Republic with Philippe and former FRAPH commander Jodel Chamblain
as leaders. A "Democracy Now!" report from April 7, 2004 claimed that the
U.S.-government funded International Republican Institute provided arms and
technical training to the anti-Aristide force in the Dominican Republic,
while "200 members of the special forces of the United States were there in
the area training these so-called rebels."

A key component of the campaign against Aristide after he was inaugurated in
2001 was economic destabilization that cut off much of the funding for "road
construction, AIDs programs, water works and health care." A likely factor
in the coup was Aristide's highly public campaign demanding that France
repay the money it extorted from Haiti in 1825 for the former slave colony
to buy its freedom, estimated in 2003 at $21 billion, or that Aristide was
working with Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba to create alternatives to U.S.
economic domination of the region.

When Aristide was finally ousted in February 2004, another round of
slaughter ensued, with 800 bodies dumped in just one week in March. A 2006
study by the British medical journal Lancet (PDF) determined that 8,000
people were murdered in the capital region during the first 22 months of the
U.S.-backed coup government and 35,000 women and girls raped or sexually
assaulted. The OPs and Lavalas militants were decimated, in part by a UN war
against the main Lavalas strongholds in Port-au-Prince's neighborhoods of
Bel Air and Cite Soleil, the latter a densely packed slum of some 300,000.
(Hallward claims U.S. Marines were involved in a number of massacres in
areas such as Bel Air in 2004.)

'More Free Trade'

Less than four months after the 2004 coup, reporter Jane Regan described a
draft economic plan, the "Interim Cooperation Framework," that "calls for
more free trade zones (FTZs), stresses tourism and export agriculture, and
hints at the eventual privatization of the country's state enterprises."
Regan wrote that the plan was "drawn up by people nobody elected," mainly
"foreign technicians" and "institutions like the U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID) and the World Bank."

Much of this plan was implemented under Préval, who announced in 2007 plans
to privatize the public telephone company, Téléco, and is being promoted by
Bill Clinton and Ban Ki-moon as Haiti's path out of poverty. The Wall Street
Journal touted such achievements as "10,000 new garment industry jobs," in
2009 a "luxury hotel complex" in the upper-crust neighborhood of
Pétionville, and a $55 million investment by Royal Caribbean International
at its "private Haitian beach paradise," surrounded by "a ten-foot-high iron
wall, watched by armed guards," just north of the capital. (That
"investment," according to the cruise line operator, included "a new
800-foot pier, a Barefoot Beach Club with private cabanas, an alpine roller
coaster with individual controls for each car, new dining facilities and a
new, larger Artisan's Market.")

Haiti, of course, has been here before when the U.S. Agency for
International Development spoke of turning it into the "Taiwan of the
Caribbean." In the 1980s, under Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, it shifted
one third of cultivated land to export crops while "there were some 240
multinational corporations, employing between 40,000 and 60,000
predominantly female workers," sewing garments, baseballs for Major League
Baseball and Disney merchandise, according to scholar Yasmine Shamsie. Those
jobs, paying as little as 11 cents an hour, coincided with a decline in per
capita income and living standards. (Ban Ki-moon wants Haiti to emulate
Bangladesh, where sweatshops pay as little as 6 cents an hour.) At such low
pay, workers had little left after purchasing food and transportation to and
from the factories. These self-contained export-processing zones, often
funded by USAID and the World Bank, also add little to the national economy,
importing tax free virtually all the materials used. The elite use the
tax-free import structure to smuggle in luxury goods. In response, the
government taxed consumption-based items more, hitting the poor the hardest.

U.S.-promoted agricultural policies, such as forcing Haitian rice farmers to
compete against U.S.-subsidized agribusiness, cost an estimated 830,000
rural jobs according to Oxfam, while exacerbating malnourishment. This and
the decimation of the invaluable Creole pig (because of fears of an outbreak
of African swine fever), led to displacement of the peasantry into urban
areas, along with the promise of urban jobs, fueled rural migration into
flimsy shantytowns. It's hard not to conclude that these development schemes
played a major role in the horrific death toll in Port-au-Prince.

The latest scheme, on hold for now because of the earthquake, is a $50
million "industrial park that would house roughly 40 manufacturing
facilities and warehouses," bankrolled by the Soros Economic Development
Fund (yes, that Soros). The planned location is Cite Soleil. James Dobbins,
former special envoy to Haiti under President Bill Clinton, outlined other
measures in a New York Times op-ed: "This disaster is an opportunity to
accelerate oft-delayed reforms" including "breaking up or at least
reorganizing the government-controlled telephone monopoly. The same goes
with the Education Ministry, the electric company, the Health Ministry and
the courts."

It's clear that the Shock Doctrine is alive and well in Haiti. But given the
strength of the organisations populaires and weakness of the government, it
will have to be imposed through force.

For those who wonder why the United States is so obsessed with controlling a
country so impoverished, devastated and seemingly inconsequential as Haiti,
Noam Chomsky sums it up best. "Why was the U.S. so intent on destroying
northern Laos, so poor that peasants hardly even knew they were in Laos? Or
Indochina? Or Guatemala? Or Maurice Bishop in Grenada, the nutmeg capital of
the world? The reasons are about the same, and are explained in the internal
record. These are 'viruses' that might 'infect others' with the dangerous
idea of pursuing similar paths to independent development. The smaller and
weaker they are, the more dangerous they tend to be. If they can do it, why
can't we? Does the Godfather allow a small storekeeper to get away with not
paying protection money?"

Arun Gupta is a founding editor of The Indypendent newspaper. He is writing
a book on the politics of food for Haymarket Books.

Reich: Bust the Health Care Trusts, The Torture Lawyers

Bust the Health Care Trusts

NY Times Op-Ed: February 23, 2010

Berkeley, Calif.

MY health insurer here in California is Anthem Blue Cross. So far, my group
policy hasn't been affected by Anthem's planned rate increase of as much as
39 percent for its customers with individual policies - but the trend
worries me, as it should everyone. Rates are soaring all over the country.
Insurers have been seeking to raise premiums 24 percent in Connecticut, 23
percent in Maine, 20 percent in Oregon and a wallet-popping 56 percent in
Michigan. How can insurers raise prices as much as they want without fear of
losing customers?

Astonishingly, the health insurance industry is exempt from federal
antitrust laws, which is why a handful of insurers have become so dominant
in their markets that their customers simply have nowhere else to go. But
that protection could soon end: President Obama on Tuesday announced his
support of a House bill that would repeal health insurers' antitrust
exemption, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled that she would put it toward an
immediate vote.

This is promising news. Forcing insurers to compete for our business would
do at least as much good as the president's proposal to give the federal
government, working with the states, the power to deny or roll back
excessive premiums. The fact is that half of the states already have the
power to approve rates and they don't seem to be holding insurers back much.

Health insurers like Anthem claim they have to raise rates (as well as
co-payments and deductibles) because of the economic downturn. Employers are
reducing coverage and cutting payrolls. As a result, more people are buying
individual policies, but they tend to be older and sicker. Younger and
healthier Americans are simply going without insurance, and thus not
subsidizing their costlier fellow policy-holders.

This can't be the whole story, because big health insurers are making
boatloads of money. America's five largest health insurers made a total
profit of $12.2 billion last year; that was 56 percent higher than in 2008,
according to a report from Health Care for America Now.

It's not as if health insurers have been inventing jazzy software or making
jet airplanes. Basically, they just collect money from employers and
individuals and give the money to providers. In most markets, consumers
wouldn't pay this much for so little. We'd find a competitor that charged
less and delivered more. What's stopping us? Not enough choice.

More than 90 percent of insurance markets in more than 300 metropolitan
areas are "highly concentrated," as defined by the Federal Trade Commission,
according to the American Medical Association. A 2008 survey by the
Government Accountability Office found the five largest providers of small
group insurance controlled 75 percent or more of the market in 34 states,
and 90 percent or more in 23 of those states, a significant increase in
concentration since the G.A.O.'s 2002 survey.

Anthem's parent is WellPoint, one of the largest publicly traded health
insurers in America, which runs Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in 14
states and Unicare plans in several others. WellPoint, through Anthem, is
the largest for-profit health insurer here in California, as it is in Maine,
where it controls 78 percent of the market. In Missouri, WellPoint owns 68
percent of the market; in its home state, Indiana, 60 percent. With 35
million customers, WellPoint counts one out of every nine Americans as a
member of one of its plans.

Antitrust laws are supposed to prevent this kind of market power. So why are
giant health insurers like WellPoint exempt? Chalk it up to an anomaly that
began seven decades ago in the quaint old world of regional, nonprofit
Blues. They were created in part by hospitals to spread the costs of
expensive new equipment and facilities over many policy holders.
Collaboration was the point, not competition. The 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act
made it official, exempting insurers from antitrust scrutiny and giving
states the power to regulate them, although not necessarily any power to
regulate rates.

The system worked fairly well until about two decades ago when insurers
began morphing into publicly held, for-profit cash machines. A new breed of
medical entrepreneur saw opportunities to profit from a rapidly aging
population eager to get every new drug and technology that might extend
their lives, and a government committed to doling out hundreds of billions
of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid.

With size has come not only market power but political clout. Big for-profit
insurers deploy enough campaign money and lobbyists to get their way with
state legislators and insurance commissioners. A proposal last year to allow
California's Department of Insurance to regulate rates, for example, died in
committee. These companies have even been known to press states to limit how
many other health insurers they license.

And when they can't get their way, insurers go to court. In Maine - one
state that aggressively regulates rates - WellPoint's Anthem subsidiary has
sued the insurance superintendent for reducing its requested rate increase.

Political clout can be especially advantageous at the federal level, as the
big Wall Street banks have so brazenly demonstrated. Over the past two and a
half years, WellPoint's employees and associates have contributed more than
$922,000 to federal political campaigns, and the company has spent $7.8
million lobbying Washington policymakers, according to the Center for
Responsive Politics. It should not be surprising that WellPoint was one of
the leading opponents of the public insurance option, which would have
subjected it to competition even where it had sewn up the market.

Antitrust is no substitute for broader health care reform, but it's an
important prerequisite. If a handful of giant health insurers are allowed to
dominate the industry, many of the other aspects of reform (establishing
insurance exchanges, requiring people to have insurance, even allowing
consumers to buy insurance across state lines) won't bring down the price of

Regardless of what happens at the White House's health care meeting on
Thursday, we've got to make sure health insurers compete for every one of
our dollars. First chance I get I'm going to find another health insurer
here in California - unless Anthem has such a lock on the market I can't
find a better deal.

Update: On Wednesday, members of the House voted overwhelmingly to eliminate
the heath insurance industry's antitrust exception.

Robert B. Reich, a professor of public policy at the University of
California, Berkeley, and a secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton,
is the author of "Supercapitalism."


The Torture Lawyers

Editors, The New York Times
February 24, 2010

Is this really the state of ethics in the American legal profession?
Government lawyers who abused their offices to give the president license to
get away with torture did nothing that merits a review by the bar?

A five-year inquiry by the Justice Department's ethics watchdogs recommended
a disciplinary review for the two lawyers who produced the infamous torture
memos for former President George W. Bush, but they were overruled by a more
senior Justice Department official.

The original investigation found that the lawyers, John Yoo and Jay Bybee,
had committed "professional misconduct" in a series of memos starting in
August 2002. First, they defined torture so narrowly as to make it almost
impossible to accuse a jailer of torturing a prisoner, and they finally
concluded that President Bush was free to ignore any law on the conduct of

The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility said
appropriate bar associations should be asked to look at the actions of Mr.
Yoo, who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, and Mr. Bybee,
who was rewarded for his political loyalty with a lifetime appointment to
the federal bench. It was a credible accounting, especially since some
former officials, like Attorney General John Ashcroft, refused to cooperate
and e-mails from Mr. Yoo were mysteriously missing.

But the more senior official, David Margolis, decided that Mr. Yoo and Mr.
Bybee only had shown "poor judgment" and should not be disciplined. Mr.
Margolis did not dispute that Mr. Yoo and Mr. Bybee mangled legal reasoning
and produced work that ultimately was repudiated by the Bush administration
itself. He criticized the professional responsibility office's investigation
on procedural grounds and excused Mr. Yoo and Mr. Bybee by noting that
everyone was frightened after Sept. 11, 2001, and that they were in a hurry.

Americans were indeed frightened after Sept. 11, and the Bush administration
was in a great rush to torture prisoners. Responsible lawyers would have
responded with extra vigilance, especially if, like Mr. Yoo and Mr. Bybee,
they worked in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. When that
office renders an opinion, it has the force of law within the executive
branch. Poor judgment is an absurdly dismissive way to describe giving the
green light to policies that have badly soiled America's reputation and made
it less safe.

As the dealings outlined in the original report underscore, the lawyers did
not offer what most people think of as "legal advice." Mr. Yoo and Mr. Bybee
were not acting as fair-minded analysts of the law but as facilitators of a
scheme to evade it. The White House decision to brutalize detainees already
had been made. Mr. Yoo and Mr. Bybee provided legal cover.

We were glad that the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees,
Representative John Conyers Jr. and Senator Patrick Leahy, committed to
holding hearings after the release of the Justice Department documents.

The attorney general, Eric Holder Jr., should expand the investigation into
"rogue" interrogators he initiated last year to include officials
responsible for facilitating torture. While he is at it, Mr. Holder should
assign someone to look into the disappearance of Mr. Yoo's e-mails.

The American Bar Association should decide whether its rules are adequate
for deterring and punishing ethical failures by government lawyers.

The quest for real accountability must continue. The alternative is to leave
torture open as a policy option for future administrations.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Karzai Asserts Control Over Elections, Gates: European Mood a Danger to Peace

Gates Calls European Mood a Danger to Peace

Published: February 23, 2010

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who has long called European
contributions to NATO inadequate, said Tuesday that public and political
opposition to the military had grown so great in Europe that it was directly
affecting operations in Afghanistan and impeding the alliance's broader
security goals.

"The demilitarization of Europe - where large swaths of the general public
and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with
it - has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to
achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st," he told NATO
officers and officials in a speech at the National Defense University, the
Defense Department-financed graduate school for military officers and

A perception of European weakness, he warned, could provide a "temptation to
miscalculation and aggression" by hostile powers.

The meeting was a prelude to the alliance's review this year of its basic
mission plan for the first time since 1999. "Right now," Mr. Gates said,
"the alliance faces very serious, long-term, systemic problems."

Mr. Gates's blunt comments came just three days after the coalition
government of the Netherlands collapsed in a dispute over keeping Dutch
troops in Afghanistan. It now appears almost certain that most of the 2,000
Dutch troops there will be withdrawn this year. And polls show that the
Afghanistan war has grown increasingly unpopular in nearly every European

The defense secretary, putting a sharper point on his past criticisms,
outlined how NATO shortfalls were exacting a material toll in Afghanistan.
The alliance's failure to finance needed helicopters and cargo aircraft, for
example, was "directly impacting operations," he said.

Mr. Gates said that NATO also needed more aerial refueling tankers and
intelligence-gathering equipment "for immediate use on the battlefield."

Yet alliance members, he noted, were far from reaching their spending
commitments, with only 5 of 28 having reached the established target: 2
percent of gross domestic product for defense. By comparison, the United
States spends more than 4 percent of its G.D.P. on its military.

Dana Allin, a senior fellow with the International Institute of Strategic
Studies in London, called Mr. Gates's remarks "very striking."

"Whether this is a conscious statement to sound a real sharp warning,
no question that the frustration among the American military establishment
is palpable regarding coalition operations in Afghanistan," he said.


Afghan Leader Asserts Control Over Election Body

Published: February 23, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan - To the dismay of his political opponents and many of
his international backers, President Hamid Karzai has moved to ensure that
he can handpick members of an electoral monitoring commission, removing
significant United Nations oversight of future elections.

Using a loophole in the Afghan Constitution, the Karzai government
unilaterally rewrote the election law, and the president put it into effect
by a legislative decree on Feb. 13.

Under the new version, the five members of the Election Complaint
Commission, created to oversee voting irregularities, will now be chosen by
the president after consultation with the parliamentary leadership.
Previously, three of the seats were held by foreigners appointed by the
United Nations. The other two members were Afghans.

The Election Complaint Commission was the oversight body that documented
widespread irregularities in the presidential elections last August, ruling
that at least a million votes cast for Mr. Karzai were suspect and forcing
him into a runoff.

Mr. Karzai's opponents denounced the new decree, saying the move threatened
the nation's stability. They predicted that without an impartial complaint
commission, elections would lead to a Parliament whose members were indebted
to Mr. Karzai or others in his government. Parliamentary elections are
expected this summer.

"This is really a critical moment in the run-up to the parliamentary
elections," said Abdullah Abdullah, who was Mr. Karzai's main opponent in
last year's presidential election. "There has to be a fair way for the
people to participate in the elections."

Even after the Election Complaint Commission forced the runoff last fall,
Mr. Abdullah withdrew, saying he could not get a fair vote. Mr. Karzai was
then pronounced president by another election body, the Independent Election
Commission, whose members the president had appointed.

"You cannot live without an independent, impartial electoral body in the
hope that democracy will take root," Mr. Abdullah added.

Mr. Karzai's government was unabashed about the new law.

"In order to make these truly national commissions, this decree has excluded
the foreign members," said Ahmad Zia Seyamak Herawi, a deputy spokesman for
President Karzai.

"There can be Afghan and international monitoring bodies to monitor the
elections of Afghanistan, but we are not going to allow the foreigners with
high salaries to be involved in our elections," Mr. Herawi said. "As they
are not Afghans, they won't care about Afghanistan's national interest, and
they are creating problems for us."

The change in the law was part of "the process of Afghanization," Mr. Herawi
said. The term has been coined by American and other Western diplomats to
describe the process of Afghans taking responsibility for their own
governing and security.

Afghans have begun to use it, too, to burnish their bona fides as patriots
intent on promoting their countrymen.

Indeed, some Afghans appeared to avoid being overly critical of efforts to
give Afghans the powerful roles previously filled by Westerners. Mohammad
Kabir Ranjbar, an independent member of Parliament who represents Kabul,
supported Afghans assuming a greater role, but he said the government was
not yet ready. "To Afghanize the process and the complaint commission is
something necessary, but it should happen when we have a government to obey
the law which we don't have yet," he said.

Potential candidates in the parliamentary elections found the new law
discouraging. "His aim is to engineer a Parliament that will be his 'yes'
men," said Saleh Registani, a former member of Parliament who was hoping to
run again this year.

The loophole Mr. Karzai took advantage of was an apparent contradiction
between two provisions in the Afghan Constitution.

Article 79 states that when the Parliament is in recess, the president has
the right to enact emergency legislative decrees, which have the force of
law, but that when the Parliament returns, it has 30 days to reject them.

However, another provision, Article 109, states that "proposals for amending
elections law shall not be included in the work agenda of the National
Assembly during the last year of the legislative term." That means the one
kind of decree that Parliament cannot discuss in the last year of its term
is one that changes electoral laws.

While some legislative scholars say that the prohibition on discussing an
electoral law would not include a straight up-or-down vote on the
decree, it seemed unlikely that such a reading would gain ground.

"We are currently studying this legislative decree," said Dan McNorton, a
United Nations spokesman. "We hope that this decree is in line with the
Constitution and with what Parliament and civil society has called for in
terms of reforming the system."

Abdul Waheed Wafa contributed reporting.

NY Times: Lawmakers' Ties to Toyota, Rattling Cages

From: Tim Carpenter for PDA
Rattling Cages
Lobby and Call-in Day, Agitator Voices, and Brown Bag Lunch Vigils

Dear Friend,

On Monday, President Obama released his healthcare proposal. Similar to the
Senate version, the Obama proposal includes a regulatory body to control
insurance price increases. Considering the state of corporate regulation in
this country, the most viable alternative to containing rising costs is
Medicare for all.

"Public option" advocacy groups have been beating Senate bushes trying to
whip up support for an idea whose time has come and gone. Congress should
reconsider what Americans really want-Medicare for all-and it's up to us to
rattle their cages.

This Thursday, Feb. 25, Healthcare-NOW! is sponsoring the Sidewalk Summit
for Medicare for All! in front of the White House. Please attend if you live
nearby, and lend a hand with the lobby visits. If you can't attend, please
call your member of Congress on Thursday-click for talking
points and all contact info.

PDA and our allies-CNA/NNOC,, After Downing Street, Defund
Wars, United for Peace & Justice, and CODEPINK-have been turning up the heat
in the street and in Congressional district offices at our monthly Brown Bag
Lunch Vigils. (Scroll to the bottom of the BBLV page to read vigil reports
and view photos.)

Find a vigil near you. Can't find one? Start one-we're here to help you!
Don't forget to order materials for the next vigil on St. Patrick's Day,
March 17! Get HNW labels for your lunch bags, T-shirts, and more.

Stay tuned for more info on the greening of next month's Brown Bag Lunch

Tim Carpenter
PDA National Director

Progressive Democrats of America is a grassroots PAC that works both inside
the Democratic Party and outside in movements for peace and justice. PDA's
advisory board includes seven members of Congress and activist leaders such
as Tom Hayden, Medea Benjamin, Thom Hartmann, Jim Hightower, and Lila

Join a PDA Issue Organizing Team

More info | Find Chapters | Find Local Events


Lawmakers' Ties to Toyota Questioned at Start of Inquiries

NY Times: February 22, 2010
WASHINGTON - As Congress prepares to open hearings on Tuesday into Toyota's
rash of safety problems, government watchdog groups are questioning whether
the deep financial and personal connections between lawmakers and the
carmaker could taint the inquiries.

Toyota, as both a major employer in the United States and a major lobbying
force in Washington, has staked out a position in the capital unlike almost
any other foreign corporation, with close ties to a number of the lawmakers
who will lead inquiries into the safety defects that have led to the recall
of more than eight million vehicles.

Federal disclosure records show that Toyota, with 31 lobbyists in Washington
last year, has spent nearly $25 million on federal regulatory and
legislative lobbying matters in the last five years, far more than any other
foreign automaker. That amount is certain to grow this year, with Toyota in
full damage-control mode in the face of myriad federal investigations.

"Toyota has lobbied to a degree that no other foreign automaker has," said
Dave Levinthal, communications director for the Center for Responsive
Politics, a research group that has analyzed Toyota's record in Washington.

"They've built up years' worth of connections with federal lawmakers, and
that counts for something, when you know the people who are waiting for you
on the other side of that door in a contentious situation," he said. "Now,
does that mean they're going to get off easily? That remains to be seen."
However, the potential for conflicts of interest was significant, he added.

Toyota's registered lobbyists include at least eight former officials from
Congress and the executive branch. The company also employs former engineers
and officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the
federal regulatory agency faulted by some critics for failing to spot a
pattern of safety problems at Toyota.

A number of lawmakers have personal financial ties to Toyota as well. More
than a dozen members of Congress have owned stock in Toyota since 2008,
valued, in some cases, at tens of thousands of dollars. Representative Jane
Harman, a California Democrat, led the way, with Toyota stock valued at
$116,000 to $315,000 in her most recent disclosure report.

Ms. Harman serves on the House energy committee, which will begin a public
examination of Toyota's problems at a hearing on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the House oversight committee will hold a hearing of its own
on Toyota. The ranking Republican on the committee, Representative Darrell
Issa of California, has pressed Toyota for a fuller accounting of the safety
problems, but he too has a history of financial connections to automakers.

Mr. Issa is one of the wealthiest members of Congress with reported assets
of as much as $337 million, in his most recent Congressional filing. He made
his money in the auto-alarm business, selling the Viper alarm and other
brands for Toyotas and many other makes. Although he sold his financial
interests in the company he founded a decade ago, he remains on its board.

Kurt Bardella, a spokesman for Mr. Issa, said that the company that Mr. Issa
founded had never had any exclusive contracting agreements with Toyota and
that financial connections between the company and any lawmakers should not
hinder the examinations by Congress.

Mr. Issa "has been the most aggressive person in Congress in this
investigation, and he has no vested interest in Toyota's success or
failure," Mr. Bardella said.

The third panel examining Toyota - the Senate commerce committee - will hold
its hearing next week, and its chairman, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV,
Democrat of West Virginia, has extensive ties to Toyota as well.

Mr. Rockefeller helped Toyota establish one of its fastest-growing plants in
West Virginia, and the company honored him for his support with a lavish
dinner in 2008. At the time, he said he was proud to call Toyota a friend
and added, "We boast of the 1,500 jobs and more than $1 billion in
investment they've brought us."

Toyota employs an estimated 172,000 people in the United States at plants,
dealerships and suppliers. With a steady stream of damaging articles in
recent weeks about Toyota's years of knowledge of safety problems,
supporters say the company's employment record should earn it a fair and
even-handed review by federal officials.

"Toyota has unquestionably placed the safety of its customers above
profits," Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky, which is home to a Toyota
manufacturing plant, said in a letter to Congress this month that was signed
by three other governors.

"At the same time, they have not laid off a single employee, despite the
impact these concerns have had on sales," the letter said. "All of these
actions are representative of the valuable friend we have in Toyota."

Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a
consumer group that has examined Toyota's safety record, said he hoped that
members of Congress would be able to set aside their connections to Toyota
and undertake the kind of tough examination seen a decade ago in a
controversy over Ford and Firestone tires.

Ford and Firestone "had very close ties to Capitol Hill, too, and that didn't
prevent Congress from fully examining the situation and coming up with some
pretty strong recommendations," Mr. Ditlow said. "When you're in a public
crisis like this with Toyota, your lobbying contacts aren't going to save
the day."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hayden: Welcome Home Alex Sanchez, Celebration! ~ Wednesday, February 24th, 7:00 PM

From: johnaimani


A Welcome Home Celebration for Alex Sanchez

Wednesday, February 24th, 7:00 PM

National Center for The Preservation of Democracy
111 N. Central Avenue, Los Angeles 90012
(Across from Japanese American National Museum & MOCA/Geffen)

A Conversation on Youth Violence & Juvenile Justice
with Youth, Gang Interventionists, Academics, Activists and Artists.

Donations accepted at the door! No one turned away for lack of funds.
Please support.

Update: <>

From Mike De La Rocha

Dear Friends,
First off, thank you so much for your continued support of Alex and
for your commitment to working to increase positive alternatives for
gang-involved youth and their families.

As you know, Alex is now free on bail and to celebrate his homecoming
and to update the community on what's happening, the We Are Alex
Campaign are having a Peace Platica / Welcome Home Celebration for
Alex next Wednesday, February 24th at 7pm at the National Center for
the Preservation of Democracy across from the Japanese American Museum
in downtown LA.

We have one week to publicize the event so please utilize your
facebook pages, twitter, and classrooms (extra credit opportunity for
you teachers out there) to get the word out. All donations collected
at the door will be utilized for the overall campaign (as many of you
know we still need to raise $7,000 to pay for costs associated with
the bail). Let's keep the momentum building for what will most
certainly be a long trail and sincere thanks for all the organizations
and individuals who have consistently come out to all the We Are Alex

Sincere thanks for everything,


By Tom Hayden

The indictment of Alex Sanchez, a revered gangbanger-turned-peacemaker,
raises new doubts about whether the Los Angeles police department has
reformed enough to be released from a federal court order.

The Sanchez indictment makes the same charges hurled by the LAPD and federal
anti-gang task force a decade ago, that his community-based violence
prevention work is only a "front" for continuing ties to Mara Salvatrucha,
the feared immigrant street gang that arose after the 1970s Central American

The Rampart scandal, named after a police precinct in the immigrant
Pico-Union neighborhood, erupted in the late 1990s when a corrupt police
officer, Rafael Perez, began testifying to widespread police criminality
after being caught selling cocaine out of his locker room. The US Justice
Department charged a pattern and practice of constitutional violations,
including shootings, brutality, and planting of evidence. Sanchez was
targeted for deportation by the LAPD and INS in January 2000, months after
testifying publicly about police harassment of community peace workers. As
the scandal mounted, federal prosecutors chose not to prosecute him for
illegal entry to the US, where his two-year old son and family lived, but
turned the case over to an INS court. On July 10, 2002 the INS judge granted
him political asylum, the first such verdict in history.

Since those days, Sanchez has built up Homies Unidos, a transnational gang
peace organization from the US to El Salvador. Its hazardous work centered
on trying to prevent gang violence and open alternative paths for young
people, including art therapy, spiritual exercises, education,
rehabilitation, training and job development. Alex became a beloved figure
in the community, making endless presentations before wider audiences around
the country. His activity spawned enemies in the gang world, and never
satisfied the LAPD and federal war-on-gangs units' desire to retaliate
against one who caused them unprecedented embarrassment.

The escalating war against mara salvatrucha provided the prosecutors the
opportunity. The use of federal racketeering and conspiracy laws is the
favored prosecution tool in this war, charging large numbers of alleged MS
members with operating a large top-down enterprise with a board of
directors, finding them guilty of conspiracy instead of trying them on
individual counts of drug-dealing or violence. Alex Sanchez is named in the
indictment as one of four "shot-callers" in the Normandie neighborhood in
Pico-Union. He therefore is held accountable for any crimes of anyone who
can be connected with the organization. The indictment includes 153 overt
acts in furtherance of the conspiracy to violate the racketeering laws.

Fifty-six of the overt acts consist of street corner drug sales to
undercover FBI informants. The serious counts include eight murders and one
murder plot, five of them occurring between 2001 and 2003. Instead of
bringing murder charges in individual cases, where evidence might be
difficult to accumulate, the defendants need only to be "associated" with
the conspiracy to be found guilt.

Alex Sanchez is accused of being heard on wiretapped phone calls on May 6
and 7, 2006, in which several members of MS "conspired" to kill Walter
Lacinos, whose street name was Cameron. On May 15, an alleged MS member
killed Cameron in La Libertad, El Salvador.

To illustrate the nature of the charge, imagine that the following
conversation took place:

First party: that dude should be shot.
Second party: No question.

In an ordinary criminal trial, it would be difficult to connect these words
to an actual deed one week later. There would be evidence, for example, that
all kinds of people wanted Cameron dead. He was deported to El Salvador
after serving at least fifteen years in California state prisons as a
high-ranking gang member. He had enemies as well as friends. But in the
conspiracy model, it is easier for the prosecution to "prove" that the
wiretapped voices are people who "conspired" in his death.

This example is purely hypothetical. The government has not released the
actual content of the tapes, nor a list of its witnesses, nor any of the
documents it will be compelled to hand the defense.

Alex Sanchez denies the charges.

Most gang researchers and defense attorneys are critical of RICO and state
laws like California's Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act
[STEP]. Malcolm Klein, considered the dean of gang research at the
University of Southern California, thinks the notion of vertically-organized
cartels with an Al Capone at the top makes no sense.

"These [federal] agencies know and understand organized crime. They do not
know street gangs. They often assume the two are similar, when in fact they
are not…Calling each kind of group a gang leads to the application of cartel
thinking to street gangs." [Klein, The American Street Gang, Oxford, 1995,
p. 167]

Even more dismissive is Father Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit who works directly
with street gang members in the most well-known organization of its kind in
the country.

"These [federal] agencies know and understand organized crime. They do not
know street gangs. They often assume the two are similar, when in fact they
are not…Calling each kind of group a gang leads to the application of cartel
thinking to street gangs." [Klein, The American Street Gang, Oxford, 1995,
p. 167]

Even more dismissive is Father Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit who works directly
with street gang members in the most well-known organization of its kind in
the country, from whose June 28 email I quote here:

"This is all heartbreaking, I've sent a letter for the granting of bail…A
New York Times reporter called me and what they think they have is a 'gang
interventionist gone bad' story. I've told two reporters here's your story:
law enforcement is unable to interpret what they have.

"There is a gulf between what they have [wiretap evidence, witnesses] and
what they think they have. The FBI could multiply their tools and resources
and this still would not issue in actual knowledge of how gangs think or

"I spoke to two MS members who I trust and who would tell me the unvarnished
truth about Alex. They actually hadn't heard the news. I said, "They claim
that Alex is the shot caller for the Normandie clique of MS." They laughed
and deemed the whole thing ridiculous. They would have told me otherwise if
it was true. I didn't need affirmation in this but it just underscores my
point. Law enforcement will never have access or knowledge of this issue.
But they see through a glass darkly and so Alex gets caught up in their

"Just yesterday, a homie who works for me, gets stopped by Hollenbeck cops,
who tell him, "I know for a fact that Fr. Greg is affliated with the Mexican
Mafia." A month ago , a cop tells another homie that the Mexican Mafia holds
meetings at Homegirl Cafe (Chief Bratton has his Tues. morning meeting at
the Homegirl Cafe every week--but I don't know when the EME has their
meetings at my place.)

"They aren't just trying to discredit me--I think they believe this
stuff--because they know very little about gangs, and so have to interpret
what they see from a place of real ignorance. Yet every jury and judge in
the land think law enforcement (and of course, the FBI,) know what they're
talking about. But no one who lives in any of the 12 hot-zones in LA think
cops know very much about this. Anyway--it's complex. The cops must force
the square peg into the round hole. It's not a conspiracy to get Alex, it's
what happens when you only possess half the pieces to the jigsaw puzzle and
feel forced to assert that they have all the pieces.

Later I received a follow up email from the priest:

"You know me--I'm not much of a conspiracy buff--it requires so much
sophistication. Cops don't possess this. All of this is cultural--a
bias and predisposition, a by-product of wholesale demonizing. Which is
to say, it's worse than a conspiracy.

"Had mass at the Chino YTS last night--again, illuminating to speak to
MS guys. They were very clear about Alex's role in the community and
how he was, in fact, the opposite of "shot caller" for MS. If he is
the shot caller, why do all his troops not know it?

All this raises severe questions about whether – and how – the LAPD has been
reformed, almost a decade after agreeing to terminate its patterns and
practices about rampant constitutional violations at Ramparts.


Videos from Press Conference following Alex Sanchez's Bail Hearing -

Phone: 213.383.7484
Fax: 213.383.7482


Web Site:

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Landau: The Hottest Decade, Shorties: cancer drug success, Air America

Hi. wonderful news. The headline story in today's NY
National News section is about a specific, but amazing cancer drug
success. Check it out:


From: bigraccoon
Subject: So Air America "just" failed....with a lot of help

ABC memo reveals Air America advertiser blacklist

October 31, 2006

An internal ABC Radio Networks memo

obtained by Media Matters for America, originally from a listener to The
Peter Collins Show, indicates that near 100 ABC advertisers insisted
that their commercials be blacked out on Air America Radio affiliates.
According to the memo, the advertisers insist that "NONE of their
commercials air during AIR AMERICA programming." Among the
advertisers listed are Bank of America, Exxon Mobil, Federal Express,
General Electric, McDonald's, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, and the U.S. Navy.


The Hottest Decade

By Saul Landau
Landau's ZSpace: February 18, 2010

"The decade ending in 2009 was the warmest on record, new surface
temperature figures released Thursday by the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration show…. 2009 was the second warmest year since 1880, when
modern temperature measurement began. The warmest year was 2005. The other
hottest recorded years have all occurred since 1998, NASA said."

Global temperatures varied because of changes in ocean heating and cooling
cycles. `When we average temperature over 5 or 10 years to minimize that
variability,' said Dr. James E. Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute
for Space Studies, one of the world's leading climatologists, `we find
global warming is continuing unabated.'" John M. Broder NY Times Jan. 21

In the documentary "The Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore -remember him? - warned
that greenhouse gasses and other sources of hydro carbons would increase,
and threaten future planetary life. After issuing this filmic challenge,
Gore advised citizens to recycle and buy gas-efficient cars.

Inconvenient? How about shutting down most of the factories belching smoke
around the world, which contribute little to global health? Or abandoning
the high rise office buildings that require heating and cooling 24/7?

Traffic jams have become ever more inconvenient. How about doing away with
them by closing auto and truck plants in China, Brazil, India as well as
those in the West and Japan? How about thinking of exhaust pipes as shotguns
loaded with deadly vapors and aimed at the common atmosphere?

Convenient American suburbia with individual family dwellings, involves
daily commuting, two car or more garages and fireplaces! How comfy! What
would Hollywood, TV and advertisers do without these "happy" people to use
as models to sell entertainment products, all of which require pollution as
part of their production process? Think how inconvenient life would become
if we had no more McDonald's Burger King, Carl's Junior or any fast food
chains! Instead, think of no more farting (methane) cows bunched together
like four-legged sardines in open air pens. Oops, I'm getting nauseated.

The foundations and routines of modern industrial life -- the context for
the fabled American dream - assume perpetual consumption; more and
technologically improved commodities as symbols of prosperity and even
identity. The United States has exported this "dream" throughout much of the
world in its films and TV programs. But these "entertainment" products don't
contain warning signs, similar to those on cigarette packages: this product
will cause serious environmental damage; future generations will suffer from
an unsustainable environment.

Most political leaders face a challenge they refuse to acknowledge: To gain
control of runaway climate change - alongside of melting ice sheets
releasing more hydro carbon gasses. T accomplish this Herculean task, they
must abandon convenience, the unchallenged assumptions that place the
corporation as means and ends of policies.

When the now-retired Fidel Castro reflected on this situation or Bolivia's
President Evo Morales spoke about it, the NY Times and equivalents in the
major capitals give scant or no coverage. Not convenient material? Castro
said (author's interview) last September that the greatest crime of the
right wing exiles "was the theft of the 2000 election because it set back
the environmental movement by 10 years." He referred to votes cast by non
US citizens in Miami and to intimidation by goon squads who threatened vote
counters in certain south Florida precincts.

After recovering from his failed presidential bid, Gore, using his access to
mass media, delivered a first alarm message. Last December, German
Chancellor Angela Merkel flayed doubters of global warming. She said: In our
knowledge, however, there has never been so rapid an increase in
temperatures as predicted by science today. Previously, she noted, "plants
and animals had the opportunity to adapt to changes over thousands of years.
Not anymore. She expressed concern over people in coastal areas who "are
most vulnerable to global warming with rapidly rising sea levels." She
pleaded for "a sensible use of valuable and limited resources such as
natural gas and oil." She reminded the public that "in 2050, nine billion
people will live on the earth. It won't work without conservative use of
resources." December 16, 2009 Bild am Sonntag

President Obama's State of the Union speech to Congress avoided truly
inconvenient truths. Their voters (consumers not citizens) might not want to
curtail production and consumption, the twin life bloods of the world's
economies. Instead, Obama boasted of how he and Congress bailed out the
job-and pollution-producing auto industries. It's convenient to piously
refer to "green technology," but the least gas guzzling vehicles still emit
polluting compounds.

In 2009, the powerful convened in Copenhagen to demonstrate pathetic if not
criminal timidity. Only the demonstrators showed they understood the stakes;
few of their concerns reached front pages or lead TV stories. Rather,
headlines emphasized violence and chaos - appeal to consumers' base tastes.
Who wants to face the "inconvenient" challenge humans face about their
future on the planet? Hey, this Sunday it's Super Bowl time and we can put
aside those trivial concerns about resources and climate and root for our

Landau is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow. His films on dvd are
available from Counterpunch published his A

From: Z Net - The Spirit Of Resistance Lives