Sunday, November 4, 2007
At the outset, I wish to say something personal.
Today, November 4, is the anniversary of the tragic murder of the late Yitzhak Rabin. We held the official memorial service according to the Hebrew date two weeks ago, and last night masses of people gathered in Rabin Square to commemorate his memory as they do every year.
However, today, November 4, is the day seared in our collective consciousness as the day of the murder. He will never be forgotten.
I bow my head in profound sorrow to the memory of Yitzhak Rabin. He was a special man who left his mark – which will never be erased – on the life of our country.
I mentioned that I would say something personal: from where I am now, I understand the difficult dilemmas and the power of the suffering Yitzhak Rabin dealt with. Rabin did not charge towards the peace process with excessive enthusiasm. More than anything, he exhibited doubt, hesitation, and was repeatedly tormented by the cost of peace and the risks it entailed.
However, when he saw a chance, he acted to realize it. When he recognized an opportunity, he did not undermine it, but rather he was willing to take chances, to expose himself to criticism, to face the accusatory voices both domestic and international. He did everything in order to realize the opportunity.
He made no political considerations. He did not take into account temporary benefits, inter-party balances of power, and what could be worthwhile. He weighed all the doubts against the hopes, the fears against the chances, the horrible loneliness against the weight of responsibility – and acted.
This is Rabin’s legacy. All the rest are slogans which often cover up the lack of desire to act. This is a legacy to which I am obligated; this is a legacy according to which I intend to lead the State of Israel over the coming months – before the meeting in Annapolis, during it and most importantly after it.
Tonight, I wish to remember my predecessor, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Exactly two years ago, in this place, I sat together at the head of the table with the Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon. This was only days after the implementation of the Disengagement Plan, and ahead of the upcoming elections.
I have no doubt that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon intended to continue advancing the peace process between ourselves and the Palestinians.
Disengagement was not meant to be isolated from the wider context of our relations with the Palestinians. Arik contemplated the continuation of the path, versus the need to realize the Roadmap. It was necessary to reach purposeful, substantial, open and daring negotiations with the Palestinians.
I am committed to this inheritance with all my heart, with all my strength. I do not intend to be satisfied with statements. Chances and opportunities are not slogans, but rather a working plan – and they obligate me.
Annapolis is a landmark, it is an international seal of approval, on the path to negotiations and of the genuine effort to achieve the realization of the vision of two nations: the State of Israel – the nation of the Jewish people; and the Palestinian state – the nation of the Palestinian people.
There will not be negotiations on the vision; there will be no bargaining about this fundamental goal which the U.S. President, George Bush, declared so eloquently: “Two countries for two peoples". A Jewish state for the Jewish people – a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people.
We will not negotiate about the right of existence for the State of Israel as a Jewish state. We will not bargain about the right of the Palestinian people to their own state.
Both are fundamental conditions, basic positions, obvious understandings which cannot be denied. All the basic questions, all the substantive problems, all the historic questions which are pertinent to the disagreement between us and the Palestinians are on the agenda. We will avoid none of them, we will not run from discussing any of them.
Annapolis will not be a place for negotiations, but it will certainly be a starting point. Annapolis will be the jumping-off point for continued serious and in-depth negotiations which will not avoid any issue or ignore any division which has clouded our relations with the Palestinian people for many years.
That is why – Annapolis.
Because it is time. Years ago, the Oslo Accords were signed. I was not among its supporters. I feared its negative effects. At the time, I estimated that its results would not lead to peace between us and the Palestinians. The opportunity which ripened then collapsed under the furor of terror; the lack of credibility of the Palestinian leadership at time and the stormy disagreement in Israeli society, which ended with three bullets in Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s back.
There was another chance developing in 2000 – the special effort made by the State of Israel which reached its peak at the Camp David summit in July of that year. That meeting unfortunately ended with an explosion that led to the bloody Intifada, which even today continues in the most sensitive areas of our lives.
Now is the time. The Palestinian leadership is headed by men committed to all the agreements previously signed with the State of Israel. We do not ignore their weaknesses; we are completely aware of the failures of the Palestinian Authority – of the lack of stable governing mechanisms, of the total disintegration of the security mechanisms in Judea and Samaria, of the Hamas rule over the Palestinian parliament and of the violent control of the murderous organizations in the Gaza Strip. Their control allows for unceasing firing of Qassam missiles at residents in the south of the country.
We have abundant reasons to postpone Annapolis; we have very convincing arguments – why the conditions are not yet ripe in the Palestinian Authority to take practical and comprehensive responsibility to implement the understandings with the State of Israel which have yet to be enacted.
However, ladies and gentlemen, we are capable of facing these constraints. Under the existing circumstances, we have a partner and we are not willing to postpone negotiations to a later date, at which point our partner might not be capable of fulfilling the mission.
Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, and Salaam Fayyad, its Prime Minister, publicly state – without hesitation and despite the inherent difficulties of the complex relations within Palestinian society – that they want to live with us in peace. This is an opportunity – it should be taken.
We agreed that if and when we reach an understanding with the leaders of the Palestinian Authority, this understanding will be implemented according to the Roadmap, with all its phases and its sequence. The Palestinians are obligated to fight terrorism and to completely change their internal reality. It should be remembered that the Roadmap sets out a series of steps for the State of Israel. These steps, like the obligations of the Palestinians, have yet to be implemented. We will not concede to the Palestinians on any of the obligations outlined in the Roadmap, and we will not avoid fulfilling our own obligations to the letter. Some of them are difficult, some will create considerable political hardships – and I have no intention, no matter how difficult it is, of attempting to escape the obligations imposed on the State of Israel.
I recommend to each of the leaders and involved parties to deal bravely and unhesitatingly with all the components of this opportunity, this chance. Be open to hope and face the genuine and clear risks and difficulties so that the process may move ahead.
After Annapolis, we will enter into vigorous, ongoing and continuing negotiations. If we and the Palestinians act with determination, there is a chance that we can achieve real a ccomplishments perhaps even before the end of President Bush's term in office. There is no intention of dragging the negotiations on endlessly; there is no reason to suffer the same foot-dragging which previously characterized our discussions. There is no basis for the assumption that someone will attempt to circumvent dealing with the fundamental issues which are a condition for realizing the vision of two states living side-by-side in security and peace.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Guests,
This is a good moment. I am excited by the chance to contribute to our chances. I know all the excuses and arguments why not, but I believe – from the bottom of my heart – that the time has come.
In this spirit, I will come to Annapolis; to extend my hand in friendship and good will to all those who come to the meeting, and I promise: the State of Israel will be there. Indeed, we will come with caution; we will examine every issue responsibly; we will consider every proposal sensitively; but we come in good will, happily and full of hope.
(Printed with permission from MFA Isreal)
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
By Tariq Ramadan
London - Living in a democratic society that grants an individual's right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the cherished privilege and pride of Western citizenry and the dream longed for by the rest of the world.
Countless have fought and died to secure these rights in the West, and millions the world over are dying for them today – dying to be free to worship, free to associate, free to speak, free to participate in the governance of their own countries.
But the struggle for the protection of rights and civil liberties in the West is not a finished chapter in our history. The constitutions of Western democracies and the rights they enshrine do not protect themselves. The preservation of these liberties requires a vigilant, critical, and courageous citizenry that can be neither complacent in times of security nor compromising in times of fear and insecurity – citizens who understand that the violation of the basic rights of one is a violation of the rights of all. Loyalty to country and constitution demands that we speak up against injustice, uphold our ideals, and hold our leaders accountable.
For years, I worked tirelessly in academic and public circles to dismantle the barriers erected by those who see Islam and the West as mutually exclusive, to build bridges of mutual understanding and respect. Since 2001, I have also intensified my work to remind my fellow Western citizens of the fragility of our societies and the precariousness of our civil liberties as we are thrust into this so-called war on terrorism. Since the end of 2004, I have done this primarily in Europe through my academic work, debates, and public lectures and by working closely with European politicians, governmental agencies, and civic institutions. But I have been prevented from doing this work on American soil.
In the summer of 2004, I was poised to start a dual professorship at Notre Dame University and eager for a more concentrated academic and public engagement than was previously allowed by my numerous but brief visits to the United States.
But that was not to happen. My visa was canceled at the last minute at the behest of the Department of Homeland Security, supposedly under a provision of the Patriot Act. This revocation not only cost me my academic post, it deprived me and Americans of a much needed mutually enriching dialogue and debate. It also fueled fantastical allegations of terrorism support and of shadowy associations that tarnished my reputation and cast a cloud of suspicion over my character and work.
After American organizations sued, the government abandoned its initial reason for excluding me but came up with a new one – that, between 1998 and 2002, I had contributed small amounts of money to a Swiss charity supporting humanitarian work in the Palestinian territories. The government is relying on a "material support" law that didn't exist until 2005 – long after I made the donations – and it is holding me accountable for donating to a charity that still operates lawfully in Europe today. And while the US government has blacklisted the charity, it didn't do so until 2003 – a year after I made my last donation. Many US organizations believe that I am being barred from the country not because of my actions but because of my ideas. The conclusion seems inescapable.
The US government's shifting arguments in my case might be absurd – even comical – if the stakes were not so high. But, in the name of defending the country against terrorism, the government seems to be trampling over the rights that make democracies worth defending. In a time when we are inundated with the daily rhetoric of ideologues, exclusivists, and merchants of fear, we are in dire need of engaged academics and public intellectuals who can write and speak authoritatively on the topics of the day and who also provide visible public models for ethics of citizenship. Yet, publicized as my case might be, it is not the only example of this administration's exclusion of academics critical of its domestic and foreign policies.
Bleak as this picture might seem at times, I remain hopeful. I am encouraged by the unwavering support I have received from ordinary Americans, civic groups, and particularly from scholars, academic organizations, and the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued my case in federal court last week. I am heartened by the emerging debate in the US about what has been happening to our countries and ideals in the past six years.
I am hopeful that justice will prevail and I will be allowed to enter this country so that I may contribute to the debate and be enriched by dialogue. It is much more important than a personal vindication for me; it is a matter of protecting of collective ideals and academic freedom, a cornerstone of democracy.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
The British government facility (AWE) was taken over 3 years ago by Halliburton, which refused at first to release air monitoring data, as required by law, to Dr. Busby. An international expert on low level radiation, Busby serves as an official advisor on several British government committees, and co-authored an independent report on low level radiation with 45 scientists, the European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR), for the European Parliament. He was able to get Aldermaston air monitoring data from Halliburton /AWE by filing a Freedom of Information request using a new British law which became effective January 1, 2005; but the data for 2003 was missing. He obtained the 2003 data from the Defence Procurement Agency.
The fact that the air monitoring data was circulated by Halliburton/AWE to the Defence Procurement Agency, implies that it was considered to be relevant, and that Dr. Busby was stonewalled because Halliburton/AWE clearly recognized that it was a serious enough matter to justify a government interpretation of the results, and official decisions had to be made about what the data would show and its political implications for the military. In a similar circumstance, in 1992, Major Doug Rokke, the Director of the U.S. Army Depleted Uranium Cleanup Project after Gulf War I, was ordered by a U.S. Army General officer to write a no-bid contract "Depleted Uranium, Contaminated Equipment, and Facilities Recovery Plan Outline" for the procedures for cleaning up Kuwait, including depleted uranium, for Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), a subsidiary of Halliburton. The contract/proposal was passed through Madeleine Albright, the Secretary of State, to the Emirate of Kuwait, who considered the terms and then hired KBR for the cleanup.
Aldermaston is one of many nuclear facilities throughout Europe that regularly monitor atmospheric radiation levels, transported by atmospheric sand and dust storms, or air currents, from radiation sources in North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. After the "Shock and Awe" campaign in Iraq in 2003, very fine particles of depleted uranium were captured with larger sand and dust particles in filters in Britain. These particles traveled in 7-9 days from Iraqi battlefields as far as 2400 miles away. The radiation measured in the atmosphere quadrupled within a few weeks after the beginning of the 2003 campaign, and at one of the 5 monitoring locations, the levels twice required an official alert to the British Environment Agency.
In addition to depleted uranium data gathered in previous studies on Kosovo and Bosnia by Dr. Busby, the Aldermaston air monitoring data provided a continuous record of depleted uranium levels in Britain from the other recent wars. Extensive video news footage of the 2003 Iraq war, including Fallujah in 2004, provided irrefutable documented evidence that the US has unethically and illegally used depleted uranium munitions on cities and other civilian populations. These military actions are in direct violation of not only the international conventions, but also violate US military law because the US is a signatory to The Hague and Geneva Conventions and the 1925 Geneva Gas Protocol. Depleted uranium weaponry meets the definition of a Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) in two out of three categories under US Code TITLE 50, CHAPTER 40 Sec. 2302. After action mandates have also been violated such as US Army Regulation AR 700-48 and TB 9-1300-278 which requires treatment of radiation poisoning for all casualties, including enemy soldiers and civilians, and remediation. Dr. Busby's request for this data through Halliburton from AWE, and subsequently provided by the Defence Procurement Agency, was necessary to establish verification of Iraq's 2003 depleted uranium levels in the atmosphere. These facts demonstrate why Halliburton (AWE) refused to release the 2003 data to him, and it obviously establishes that weaponized depleted uranium is an indiscriminate weapon being distributed all over the world in a very short period of time, immediately after its use.
The recent documentary film BEYOND TREASON details the horrific effects of depleted uranium exposure on American troops and Iraqi civilians in the Gulf region in 1991; not to speak of those civilians continuing to live in permanently contaminated and thus uninhabitable regions. Global increases since 1991 of melanoma, infant mortality, and frog die-offs can only be explained by an environmental contaminant. Alarming global increases in diabetes, with high correlation to depleted uranium wars in Iraq, Bosnia/Kosovo, and Afghanistan, demonstrate that diabetes is a sensitive indicator and a rapid response to internal depleted uranium exposure. Americans in 2003 reported visiting Iraqi relatives in Baghdad who were suffering from an epidemic of diabetes. After returning to the US following 2-3 weeks in Iraq, they discovered within a few months that they too had diabetes. Japanese human shields and journalists who worked in Iraq during the 2003 war are sick and now have symptoms typical of depleted uranium exposure.
Likewise, after the US Navy, several years ago, moved depleted uranium bombing and gunnery ranges from Vieques Island in Puerto Rico to Australia, health effects there are already being reported. The documentary film BLOWIN' IN THE WIND, has an interview with a family with two normal teenage daughters, living near the bombing range where depleted uranium weaponry is now being used. The parents showed photos of their baby born recently with severe birth defects. The baby looked like Iraqi deformed babies, and like many of the Iraqi babies, died 5 days after birth.
Other than anonymous British government officials denying that Iraq was the source of the depleted uranium measured at Aldermaston by AWE, and some unnamed 'establishment scientists' blaming it on local sources or natural uranium in the Iraq environment, there is no one, as of this writing, willing to lend their name or office to refuting this damning evidence reported by Dr. Busby. All of the anonymous statements used by the media thus far are contradicted by the factual evidence found in the filters, which was all transported from the same region. The natural abundance of uranium in the crust of the earth is 2.4 parts per million, which would not become concentrated to the high levels measured in Britain during a long journey from the Middle East. These particles traveling over thousands of miles would dilute the concentration rather than increase it. There are no known natural uranium deposits in Iraq which make it impossible for these anonymous claims to have scientific credibility. Unnamed government sources blamed local sources in Britain such as nuclear power plants; however that would also leave evidence of fission products in the filters which were not in evidence. The lowest levels measured at monitoring stations around Aldermaston were at the facility, which means it could not be a possible source. Atomic weapons facilities would be more likely to produce plutonium contamination, also not reported as a co-contaminant at Aldermaston. In other words, all factual evidence considered, the question must be asked, what were the Medias anonymous experts and government officials basing their claims on?
Dr. Keith Baverstock exposed a World Health Organization (WHO) cover-up on depleted uranium in an Aljazeera article, "Washington's Secret Nuclear War" posted on September 14, 2004. It was the most popular article ever posted on the Aljazeera English language.
This is extremely alarming information on low level radiation risk, since the AWE data from Aldermaston confirms that rapid global transport of depleted uranium dust is occurring. Dr. Katsuma Yagasaki, a Japanese physicist at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, has estimated that the atomicity equivalent of at least 400,000 Nagasaki bombs has been released into the global atmosphere since 1991, from the use of depleted uranium munitions. It is completely mixed in the atmosphere in one year. The "smog of war" from Gulf War I was found in glaciers and ice sheets globally a year later. Even more alarming is the non-specific catalytic or enzyme effect from internal exposures to nanoparticles of depleted uranium. Soldiers on depleted uranium battlefields have reported that, after noticing a metallic taste in their mouths, within 24-48 hours of exposure they became sick with Gulf War syndrome symptoms.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
The War on Working Americans
By Stephen Lendman
This article was written to assess the state of working America in the run-up to Labor Day, 2007. Organized labor today is severely weakened following decades of government and business duplicity to crush it. Part I reviewed the labor movement's rise in the 19th century and subsequent decline post-WW II and especially in the last three decades. Hope arose for some change in the Democrat-led 100th Congress. A weak effort emerged, but Senate Republicans killed it.
Organized labor is struggling to remain relevant and claw its way back. The enormous obstacles it faces are reviewed below as well as the condition of working Americans today in a globalized world affecting their lives and welfare heading "south" in the "land of opportunity" offering pathetically little.
The Loss of High-Paying Jobs from Outsourcing Under Globalized Market-Based Rules
World trade isn't new, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was its mid-20th century version after 23 founding nations signed it 1on October 30, 1947 in Geneva. Earlier in 1946, they drafted the International Trade Organization (ILO) that followed the creation of the IMF and International Bank for Reconstruction (now the World Bank) at Bretton Woods in 1944. Fifty-three nations then signed the GATT in Havana in March, 1948 as the founding international instrument governing world trade.
Subsequent rounds of negotiations followed through number eight launched in Punta del Este, Uruguay (the Uruguay Round) in 1986. It was signed in Marrakesh, Morocco in April, 1994 by most of the 123 participating countries as the updated version of the original 1947 GATT. It was then succeeded by the WTO January 1, 1995, one year to the day after NAFTA took effect as another worker rights legislative weapon of mass job destruction. DR-CAFTA followed next for the Central American countries signing on to it after El Salvador did first in March, 2006.
The WTO is well-seasoned with a corporate-friendly alphabet soup of Uruguay-negotiated agreements like the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), and others all designed for one purpose. It's to override member states' national sovereignty so they're now governed under a uniform set of global market trading rules favoring capital.
They're designed for the Global North, giant corporations and the rich at the expense of Global South developing nations, ordinary people everywhere, concern for environmental standards as well as sanity and public safety. Along with the IMF, World Bank, and other international lending agencies, this entire structure is big capital's neo-liberal scheme to commoditize everything, including people and life itself in the human genome, to strip-mine the planet for profit.
Globalized trade has a long history, but the notion of a globalized marketplace came into its own in the 1980s. It was hailed as a western, mainly US, prescription for economic growth and prosperity lifting all boats. In fact, only yachts benefited by design so the privileged could gain at the expense of all others preyed on.
The UN's International Labour Organization's (ILO) commission on the social dimensions of globalization is comprised of representatives from labor, government and business. In 2004, it issued a damning appraisal of world trade rules harm and the subsequent distress caused by unfair practices. It ranges from how TRIPS prevents affordable generic life-saving drugs being sold in developing countries to the shifting tax burden from business and the rich to workers, and much more.
In the US and West, the damage comes from exporting jobs and off shoring manufacturing and service operations to low-wage countries. It began in the late 1950s when modest numbers of them went to Canada to take advantage of the cost savings there. The pace then quickened in the 1960s and 1970s with the exodus of production jobs in autos, shoes, clothing, cheap electronics, and toys as well as routine service work like credit card receipt processing, airline reservations and basic software code writing.
What started as simple assembly and service work early on, then took off in the 1980s. It spread up and down the value chain and now embraces almost any type good or service not needing a home-based location such as retail clerks, plumbers, and carpenters; top-secret defense research, design and selected types of manufacturing; and certain types of specialized activities companies so far have kept at home. What's moving abroad, however, is big business getting bigger with Gartner Research estimating outsourcing generated $298.5 billion in 2003 global revenues.
The toll adds up to a global race to the bottom in a country where services now account for 84% of the economy. The once bedrock manufacturing portion is just 10% and falling as more good jobs in it are lost in an unending drain. Since the start of 2000 alone, about one in six factory jobs, over three million in total, have been affected. The sector is less than a third of its size 40 years ago and one-fourth the peak it hit during WW II.
It's been devastating for the nation's 130 million working people. No longer are unions strong and workers well-paid with assured good benefits like full health insurance coverage and pensions. Today, all types of financial services comprise the largest economic sector. Much of it is in trillions of dollars of high stakes speculation annually producing wads of cash for elite insiders (when things go as planned) and nothing for the welfare of most others and the good of the country.
Worst of all is the poor and declining quality of most service sector jobs measured by wages, benefits, job security and overall working conditions. It's because fewer good ones exist, unions are weak, and workers are at the mercy of employers indifferent to their plight. People are forced to work longer and harder for less just to stay even. Jobs in this sector are mostly concentrated in unskilled or low-skill areas of retail, health care and temporary services of all kinds. They pay lots less than full-time jobs, and have few or no benefits and little prospect for future improvement. This all happened by design to crush worker rights and commoditize them like all other production inputs.
The Department of Labor now projects job categories with the greatest future expected growth are cashiers; waiters and waitresses; other restaurant-related workers; janitors and cleaning personnel; retail clerks; and child care workers - all low-skill areas. Harvard degrees aren't required. Neither are high school ones.
Most in-demand higher-skilled jobs are projected to be for nurses, post-secondary teachers and sales representatives. There are still plenty of high-tech jobs in areas like network systems and data analysis and software engineering applications and systems. But watch out. They're being lost as well to low-wage countries in an unending domestic job drain affecting all types of work able to be done anywhere. It shows why domestic job growth is stagnant (despite the hype it isn't), eligible workers are dropping out of the work force, and the decline is sure to continue unless legislation stops it. None is in sight or imagined.
The loss of good well-paying jobs means fewer high-end and a range of low-skilled ones are all that remain for vast numbers of young people whose future looks bleak. Two research studies among others highlight the problem. One by University of California staffers in 2004 estimated up to 14 million American jobs are at risk to outsourcing, and another by Gartner Research predicts as many as 30% of high-tech jobs may be lost to low-wage countries by 2015. In addition, writing in the March/April, 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs on what he calls a "third Industrial Revolution," former Federal Reserve vice-chairman Alan Blinder estimated 28 - 42 million American service sector jobs are vulnerable and could be lost to foreign labor.
In low-wage countries, they're done at far less cost to US employers in their company-owned or subcontracted out operations. Blinder added starkly "We have so far barely seen the tip of the offshoring iceberg, the eventual dimensions of which may be staggering." Veteran financial analyst and writer Bob Chapman calls this the "rape of our economy" with enormous, wrenching and destructive consequences to the lives of millions of working people pursuing an illusory American dream.
It affects the skilled and unskilled alike for all types of jobs at risk. Chapman cites India as an example noting once only low-skill and routine programming jobs went there. Now, he says, it's "software aeronautical engineers, banking, insurance, investment banking and drug research" along with many other high-end jobs where companies can hire skilled professionals at a fifth the cost of US and European ones. So why wouldn't they, and more are in a growing trend.
All types of financial jobs at all levels are also being eliminated with financial institutions moving sizeable chunks of investment banking, research, trading operations, and other professional jobs abroad for big cost savings. Deloitte Touche estimates the industry will outsource 20% of its cost base by 2010 with more to come in a continuing job drain for big cost savings abroad. The ones lost will be in financial services and most other sectors in a trend looking like it won't end until the US is as low a wage nation as those now taking our jobs.
An Unprecedented Fall in Workers' Standard of Living
Over the past 30 years, most people have seen an unprecedented fall in their standard of living. Adjusted for inflation, the average American worker now earns less than in the mid-1970s with the minimum wage unchanged at $5.15 an hour since 1997 until the 110th Congress raised it in pathetically small steps to a wholly inadequate top level. Beginning July 24, it rose to $5.85, will go to $6.55 July 24, 2008 and to $7.25 July 24, 2009. Until the increase, minimum worker pay was at the lowest point relative to average wages since 1949. It got many states, comprising over half the population, to raise their own, but it's not enough.
A recent study released by the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) shows the dire state of things. It reported about one in three jobs in the country, about 47 million of them, pay low wages (defined as two-thirds the median wage or $11.11 per hour or less) with few or no benefits like health insurance, pensions or retirement accounts. It's barely enough for a family of two adults and two children to exceed the official understated poverty level of $20,444 in 2006 (or $9.83 an hour), and by this definition one in four workers (35 million) only earned poverty-level wages. But millions of others fall below it because official statistics way understate the problem, and workers earning around $11.11 an hour in cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and other large ones can't get by if they have to support a family on it.
These growing millions now comprise a permanent underclass in a nation unwilling to admit what census data and private research now show. America is a rigid class society by design with extreme wealth at the top, a declining (maybe dying) middle class, and a growing underclass of low-paid workers and poor, many desperately so.
Following the inequalities of the 1920s, the nation experienced what economic historians Claudia Goldin and Robert Margo called "the Great Compression." Income gaps narrowed from the positive effects of New Deal and Great Society programs, strong unions, and an equitable tax system for individuals and corporations. From then to now, call it "the Great Expansion" of inequality with the gap between rich and most others the greatest it's been since the Gilded Age of the "robber barons" and getting worse.
Business Week magazine highlighted the trend in December, 2003 and accompanying research. It showed a decline in social mobility over the past few decades. The article was called "Waking Up from the American Dream - Meritocracy and Equal Opportunity Are Fading Fast." It noted the "Wal-Martization" of the country corporate America embraces to control labor costs by outsourcing jobs, de-unionizing, hiring temps and part-timers, and dismantling internal career ladders to boost profits at the expense of people. What's left is a proliferation of dead-end, low-wage jobs with public policy skewed to keep it that way. It needs stressing again. This didn't happen by chance. It was by design to destroy organized labor, and so far it's working.
In its most recent State of Working America
2006/2007, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) reports the official poverty level in 2004 stood at 12.7% or
37 million people, including 13 million children. It also showed for the first time ever, poverty in the country grew in the first three years of an economic recovery. In its study, EPI cited factors today they call "historically unique:"
-- increased globalized trade;
-- low union membership;
-- more low-skilled and high-skilled immigration; and
-- fewer favorable social norms guiding employer behavior to provide "adequate safety nets, pensions, and health care arrangements."
EPI noted the biggest challenge in today's "new economy" isn't (macro) growth but how benefits get distributed with such a high proportion skewed upward.
Left out entirely are the 16 million 2005 census figures show are on the very bottom living in "extreme" poverty that's defined as a family of four with an annual income of $9903 or less. Even more disturbing is how fast the poverty rate is increasing. The numbers of those worst off grew by 26% from 2000 - 2005 or 56% faster than for the total poverty population. Further, it happened mostly in years of economic expansion after the 2001 recession ended late that year. Notable also is the disturbing decline in higher-paying jobs leaving what's left for unskilled or low-skill workers. They pay pitiful wages and few, if any, benefits with crumbling social safety net protection left to pick up the slack.
The Oakland Institute policy think tank promotes social and economic justice. It recently reported its disturbing assessment of things saying 10% of the US population (around 30 million) "experiences hunger or is at risk of going hungry." A December, 2006 Helsinki-based World Institute for Development Economics Research of the UN University study also reported disturbing findings. They showed the richest 1% of adults owned 40% of global assets in 2000, and the richest 10% held 85% of them.
EPI reported the top 1% controls more than one-third of America's wealth, the bottom 80% has 15.3%, and the top 20% holds 84.7% of it. In contrast, the poorest 20% are in debt and owe more than they own. Globalization, automation, outsourcing, the shift from manufacturing to services, weak unions, deregulation, and other harmful economic factors all add to the problem.
Other data show an astonishing generational shift of well over $1 trillion of national wealth annually from 90 million US working class households to for-profit corporations and the richest 1% of the population. It created what economist Paul Krugman calls an unprecedented wealth disparity getting worse that shames the nation and is destroying the bedrock middle class without which democracy can't survive.
A similar conclusion also came from an analysis of income tax data by Professor Emmanuel Saez of the University of California-Berkeley and Professor Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics. Both men are noted for their work on income inequality. Their research found the top 1% of Americans in 2005 (about
3 million people) got their largest share of national income since 1928 - 21.8%, up from 19.8% a year ago or a 10% gain. Further, the top 10% received 48.5% of all reported income in 2005, also the highest level since 1928, up 2% from 2004, and one-third since the late 1970s.
The top one-tenth of 1% (about 300,000 people) did best of all, to no surprise. It got as much income in total as the bottom 150 million Americans combined. In addition, while total reported income rose almost 9% in 2005, average incomes for the bottom 90% of the population dropped .6% from the previous year.
Further, the Bush administration tax cuts for the wealthy greatly widened the income gap between rich and poor that was the whole idea behind them with a healthy piece of the benefits going to big corporations. In the 1950s, they contributed an average of 28% to federal revenues. That dropped to 21% in the 1960s and about 10% and falling since the 1980s. It's happening with the corporate tax rate at 35%, but few of the giants pay it. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), 94% of major corporations now pay less than 5% of their income in taxes, and corporate tax payments overall are at their lowest level in 60 years. In addition, many large companies pay no tax, and some end up with sizable rebates on top of huge corporate welfare subsidies under a system of socialism for big corporations and the rich and "free market" capitalism for the rest of us.
Saez and Piketty also reported their findings may be understated because the wealthy are more likely to file late tax returns so those who did weren't included in the study. Also, the IRS acknowledges it can account for only about 70% of business and investment income, most, of course, going to high-income earners. What's missing is $300 - $400 billion a year that adds up to trillions of untaxed dollars for the rich with the rest of us having to make up for it.
Recent US Commerce Department data is also disturbing. It shows the share of national income going to wages and salaries the lowest on record with their data going back to 1929. And the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) finds wage and salary growth in the current recovery growing at half the average rate for post-recessionary periods since the end of WW II while corporate profits in the current period grew over 50% more than the post-WW II average. It's the first time on record, corporate profits got a larger share of income growth in a recovery than wages and salaries - 46% to 34%.
Lyndon Johnson's Great Society earlier saw other landmark social legislation with the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. It guaranteed the elderly and indigent health care coverage at affordable, minimal or no cost when they needed it most.
That was the good news, but it changed with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Mark Weisbrot from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) called his administration's rollback of social services his "project of building a bridge to the 19th century in areas of social policy." It was that and more, but despite it, the dominant media shamelessly exalted him in life (see Mark Hertsgaard 1989 book "On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency") and practically deified him following his death on June 4, 2004. Left out of the eulogies was the true scorched earth legacy he left behind. His "war on international terrorism" was a devastating precursor to its updated version under the current administration. This article, however, only addresses his domestic damage on people least able to handle it.
The Reagan administration instituted a generational decline of worker rights and vital social programs. It allowed them to erode through higher payroll taxes, raising the retirement age, increasing Medicare premiums, and cutting Medicaid benefits for the poor. His years were characterized by large increases in military spending, big tax cuts for the rich and big business while slashing social benefits, union worker rights and running up huge deficits.
Discretionary domestic spending for most social programs, other than Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, was cut by one-third from 1981 - 1988. Programs for low income earners were hard hit with a 54% cut. Subsidized housing lost over 80%, housing assistance for the elderly 47%, and training and employment services over 68%. Reagan also reduced health and safety protections and weakened federal statutes guaranteeing workers the right to organize and bargain collectively.
Beneath his avuncular persona, Reagan was callous and indifferent to notions of equal justice, civil liberties and human need. He showed it in his support for the Christian Right's hate campaign against gays and lesbians in its early days of ascendency by refusing to address the AIDS problem he allowed to become a global epidemic.
HIV/AIDS first surfaced in the US among gay men in New York and California in 1981, Reagan's first year in office. It was called a "gay disease", and still is largely today by those who demean it. Most notably, extremist Christian Right leaders call it God's revenge against gay people they say are diseased sinners. When the Centers for Disease Control first reported the outbreak they, too, stigmatized the gay community as disease-carriers calling it GRID - gay-related immune deficiency.
Ronald Reagan went along with this notion refusing even to mention AIDS or do anything to address the problem in the first seven years in office. It caused enormous setbacks for HIV/AIDS research and appalling discrimination against the infected and gay community overall. In addition, there were no government-directed efforts at prevention or education. It thereby allowed a health problem that might have been contained to become an epidemic killing a half million people in the US alone and infecting an estimated one million others now living with the disease.
Worldwide the numbers are catastrophic with an estimated 25 million deaths and another 34 - 47 million people currently infected. In addition, millions more are added to the numbers each year who might have been helped if the Reagan administration had led a worldwide effort to contain what's now an out-of-control plague in parts of the world like sub-Saharan Africa. None of this was mentioned in Reagan's eulogy that should have been a denunciation for this and his other crimes against humanity George Bush is now doing his best to match or exceed.
The GHW Bush years followed the "Reagan Revolution." They were pathetically "kinder and gentler" domestically and made worse by a "new world order" imperial agenda harming working people everywhere that's standard practice now under all Presidents. It was the same under Bill Clinton who called himself a Democrat but never governed like one. His tenure included NAFTA and WTO responsible for mass and growing poverty, human misery and ecological destruction under one-way globalized trade rules providing cover for predatory capitalism.
So-called "welfare reform" in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) also was passed. Before it did, the needy got welfare payments through Aid to Families with Dependent Children or AFDC help. That changed in 1996 with time limits set so no one would be helped for more than five years under the new program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF. Under it, the Federal government allots fixed block grants to the States they then administer at their discretion meaning the needy now get cheated by an uncaring state.
TANF also requires most recipients to participate in some kind of work or training to qualify for help. It doesn't matter that much of it goes to single mothers with young children needing them at home to provide care unavailable if the law prevents it. There's also no relief during recessions when jobs are lost and unskilled workers are least able to find one.
Clinton's main social initiative was his ill-conceived health care "reform." It was a complex mess based on the notion of "managed competition" and marketplace medicine instead of what's really needed in the form of a "single-payer" national health insurance program modeled on the kind in Western Europe, Canada or that all members of Congress and the administration get. They cover everyone, irrespective of ability to pay, and for US legislators and the executive it's gold-plated for life.
The Clinton plan (dubbed "Hillarycare") offered the public less choice for more affordability but wanted big insurers and HMOs to run it guaranteeing an illusion of full coverage the way it is now. Profits always trump need with insurers targeting young and healthy prospects while avoiding those posing the greatest risks.
The pace of social spending cuts accelerated dramatically under George Bush who'd eliminate them all given the choice, and he's working on it. He's against all of them to fund more tax cuts for the rich and provide multi-billions for his permanent state of war plus every imaginable weapon system the Pentagon and defense contractors want to wage them.
Bush's assault on organized labor was covered above, but he has lots more targets as well. Education is one of them in his appalling No Child Left Behind Act. It focuses on testing, not children. It's a boon to corporations supplying the materials but not to teachers who hate them. It forces them to teach "to the test" instead of educating students in course material that's the only way to run a classroom. Otherwise, kids don't learn, but that's part of the scheme as what kind of future do all but the well-off have to look forward to.
The Bush education agenda also promotes school vouchers disguising a broader goal to privatize public education and aid the white supremacist parochial part of it. Christian Right zealots support these schools because of their brand of hard right extremism dangerous to everyone outside the faithful. In most areas where vouchers are used, 80% of them are for these type schools. They renounce proved science like evolution and teach creationism instead, repackaged as "intelligent design."
They also preach an extremist Christian doctrine waging war on truth and democratic principles of a free and open society. They replace it with faith-based pseudoscience on everything from creation to HIV/AIDS to pregnancy prevention to global warming to militarism, and all the while denounce non-believers as heretics. These schools also threaten the survival of public education. They divert funding from them and violate the constitutional separation of church and state which is why the Bush administration supports them.
His administration also opposes college aid at a time tuitions and fees are more unfordable than ever and rising much faster than inflation. An undergraduate year at Harvard now costs over $50,000 with all expenses included, but even lower-tuition state schools aren't affordable for many with the University of Illinois typical of most others. It's much cheaper than Harvard but still costs about $26,000 a year "base rate" that's unfordable for low-income families without considerable financial aid. George Bush's solution - cut or freeze maximum allowable Pell Grants so even holding them steady means amounts offered don't keep up with rising costs and needy students lose out.
Bush's prescription for health care is no better at a time 47 million have no coverage, millions more are under insured, and 80 million in the country have no coverage at some time during the year meaning they need to be judicious about when they're sick. Administration solutions are pathetic at best showing no intent to tackle a problem this huge. Suggested tax breaks are so inadequate, families with annual incomes under $10,000 would only save $23 in 2007. Those with higher incomes fare little better with the Bush plan only covering 9 million uninsured leaving 38 million others (and rising) with no help.
Then there's Bush's 2003 Kafkaesque Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act
(MMA) scamming seniors. It took strong-arming threats and bribes in an all-night congressional session to get it passed. Its controversial Part D costs tens of billions annually, does little for most Medicare recipients, but provides huge benefits for "Big Pharma." It's able to charge top dollar because the administration won't negotiate lower prices the way the Veteran's Administration (VA) does getting big savings on all drugs it buys so veterans today only pay $8 a prescription. Two decades ago, they paid nothing.
More social wreckage gets into each new FY budget with billions of new cuts heaped on past ones. It's to free up more funds for the military, the rich, and corporate allies with the White House now audaciously proposing a further cut in corporate tax rates. It's part of a near-three decade agenda furthering the interests of the privileged at the expense of all others. In America today, social welfare and the greater good are nonstarters.
Earlier damage included -
-- killing OSHA workplace ergonomic rules more than 10 years in the making;
-- revoking grants to study workplace safety and health;
-- cutting funding for job training; and
-- more cuts for enforcement positions at OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration that was a key reason for the early 2006 Sago and Alma mine deaths in West Virginia, the latest tragedy in Utah (not earthquake caused), and the death of 60 miners and counting since January, 2006.
-- Bush also proposed paying welfare recipients below-minimum wages;
-- denying Homeland Security employees protection for being a whistle blower;
-- blocking release of funds to monitor Ground Zero;
-- ignoring New York rescue workers' health;
-- cutting health care benefits for veterans and billions more cuts for Medicare and Medicaid;
-- raising interest rates on student college loans;
-- cutting the number of WIC-eligible participants;
-- reducing the number of adults eligible for food stamps and children qualifying for school meals;
-- cutting the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, child care, Head Start, affordable housing units for the elderly, home energy assistance (LIHEAP), Employment/Training Services, and education for the disadvantaged; and
-- stiffening work requirements for two million adults (mostly single mothers) on welfare.
His administration is also at fault for the Walter Reed Hospital scandal because medical facilities for military personnel and veterans across the country are understaffed, underfunded and allowed to deteriorate under federal or private contractor management. The result is inadequate or sub-standard care for the severest of problems, and the worst is yet to come with tens of billions of new planned cuts through FY 2011. Only Bush's plummeting approval rating may slow him down. But it doesn't stop his war machine from getting all the funds it wants and lots more for the asking in supplemental add-ons.
Looking Ahead - Tough Choices with No Easy Answers
The state of working America today is bleak with few signs of improving in a globalized world of corporate omnipotence and an indifferent to hostile government. It backs the rights of the privileged while scorning the social welfare needs of all others. Somehow, some way this must change, but wishing only works if backed by effective action. A look back suggests how.
Past labor successes were noted above. What worked before can again, and there's nothing complicated about it. Above all, new leaders are needed because too many today are uninspiring at best. They must be committed and dedicated to the rights and needs of ordinary working people and be willing to go to the wall for them. Effective mass organizing is needed to build unity and strength of numbers, educate workers on what they lost, and lead the fight to win them back. It means taking to the streets, storming the halls of Congress, going on strikes, holding boycotts, doing battle when necessary that in the past meant paying for it in blood and lives.
It worked when it won an eight hour day, a living wage keeping pace with inflation, essential benefits like health care coverage and pensions, and a more level playing field guaranteeing labor the right to bargain collectively on equal terms with management. Those gains weren't handed over because change never comes from the top down. They were fought for and won with lots of blood and sweat expended to get them. Why not again?
It's called democracy, equity and justice and one thing about them is clear. Achieving and keeping them requires a strong middle class of ordinary working people that, in turn, needs a vibrant labor movement as a foundation and springboard for progressive grassroots social change. Organized labor is in tatters today at barely over 7% of private sector workers (a 100 year low). It's on life support, needs a survival strategy, and is heading for the dustbin of history only major change can avoid. The way is through organized people out-muscling organized money. It happened before and can again.
This is the great class struggle of our time against long odds for success. The stakes though are huge, and our future as a democratic society depends on the outcome as former US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis explained in 1941 when he said "We can (either) have a democratic society or we can have great concentrated wealth in the hands of the few. We cannot have both." The concentration is greater than ever at a time American workers are in their weakest position in decades.
Bowed but not broken, they're in a war for survival with the rest of us, and their sovereign worker rights and ours in a free society are at stake. It's no time for timidity. It's a time for unity and pressing ahead. It happened once. Why not again, and the time to go for it is now with the rest of us pitching in to help for our own preservation and survival.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on The MicroEffect.com Saturdays at noon US central time.
(added note: the most recent Canadian census taken in 2004-5 shows that the annual household income for a Canadian Family is $48,000.00. When the top 10% of the population's biggest bosses are taken out, the number drops, on household income, to over 60% barely hitting $22,000.00 per year. When reading any stats one must be very careful as to "who" is included in the stats in our few democratically elected countries)
Sunday, August 26, 2007
"I believe we cannot go on as Two Americas—one favored, the other forgotten—if we plan to stay productive, competitive and secure. I want to live in an America where we value work as well as wealth. I know that together we can build One America – a place where everyone has a fair shot at the American Dream." -- John Edwards
In America today, families are working harder to get by. Over the last 20 years, American incomes have grown apart: 40 percent of the income growth in the 1980s and 1990s went the top 1 percent. The top 300,000 individuals now make more than the bottom 150 million. Thirty-seven million Americans—including more than 9.3 million of working-age—live in poverty. The result is Two Americas, one struggling to get by and another that has everything it could want. [EPI, 2006; Saez, 2007; Census, 2006]
John Edwards believes we have to build One American Economy—where everyone has the opportunity to work hard and build a better life. He will restore respect for work to our tax code and cut taxes for working families. He will overhaul our weak labor laws to give workers a real right to organize.
- Strengthen Labor Laws: Unions made manufacturing jobs the foundation of our middle class, and they can do the same for our service economy. That's why Edwards has helped more than 20 national unions organize thousands of workers over the last few years. Union membership can be the difference between a poverty-wage job and middle-class security. Federal law promises workers the right to choose a union, but the law is poorly enforced, full of loopholes, and routinely violated by employers. Edwards supports the Employee Free Choice Act to give workers a real choice in whether to form a union, and making penalties for breaking labor laws tougher and faster, so unions can compete on a level playing field and the right to join a union means something. Edwards also supports banning the permanent replacement of strikers so unions can negotiate fairly.
- Enact Smarter Trade Policies: Trade deals need to make sense for American workers, not just corporations. Edwards will make sure any new trade agreements include strong labor and environmental standards and will vigorously enforce American workers' rights in existing agreements. He will also expand trade adjustment assistance to do much more for the workers and communities that are hurt by global competition and reform our international tax code to remove incentives for companies to move overseas.
- Make Work Pay: Edwards will increase the reward for working by raising the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2012, tripling the Earned Income Tax Credit for adults without children and cutting the EITC marriage penalty. In 2001, a $1 increase in the minimum wage alone would have lifted an estimated 900,000 people out of poverty. [Sawhill and Thomas, 2001]. Protect Prevailing Wages: Edwards pledges to protect the Davis Bacon Act, which ensures that workers on federal construction projects receive the local prevailing wage. The Act prevents contractors from slashing wages in order to win federal contracts with low-ball bids. It was shocking when President Bush intervened to keep workers from earning a decent wage after Hurricane Katrina, but we must be vigilant every day against abuses. />Help Families Save and Get Ahead: Half of American families say they are living paycheck to paycheck, and three out of 10 American workers have not been able to save a dime for their retirement. Edwards will crack down on abusive lenders by creating a new Families Savings and Credit Commission to protect families and with strong national laws against abusive and predatory credit cards, payday loans and mortgages. Edwards will create Work Bonds to help families save and invest, providing financial safety nets for hard times. Work Bonds, a new tax credit of up to $500, would help low and moderate-income, working Americans save for the future. [MetLife, 2003; Employee Benefit Research Institute, 2006]
Monday, August 20, 2007
One in ten Iraqis has left the country. Baghdad's elite are trying to make ends meet in neighboring Jordan and Syria. Washington wants the United Nations to address the refugee crisis. In the meantime, the country is losing its best minds -- the very people needed to rebuild Iraq.
The first stage on the road to safety is a $20 taxi ride. It takes the future refugee past nervous soldiers, through dangerous checkpoints and along streets with nicknames -- like "Grenade Alley" and "Sniper Boulevard" -- that bespeak the perils of travel in Iraq.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Published on Tuesday, August 7, 2007 by The Nation
Things got a little testy at the Camp David Summit between Afghan President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and American President George Bush.
Karzai, who when he is in the U.S. is expected to act as a puppet of the Bush administration, made the mistake of actually speaking his mind. In a CNN interview broadcast Sunday, the Afghan president said terrorism in Afghanistan is getting worse, that the hunt for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is at a standstill and, then, he described Iran as a positive player — “a helper and a solution” — in the region. All of these statements are objectively true.
But George Bush does not deal in the realm of truth. And he certainly does not like his puppet presidents getting off their strings.
On the eve of the summit, Karzai told CNN that:
1. “The security situation in Afghanistan over the past two years has definitely deteriorated. The Afghan people have suffered. Terrorists have killed our schoolchildren. They have burned our schools. They have killed international helpers.”
2. “We are not closer (to catching bin Laden), we are not further away from it. We are where we were a few years ago.”
3. “So far, Iran has been a helper (in the fight against terrorism).” All of those statements, made by Karzai in an interview with Wolf Blitzer on the eve of his trip to Camp David, were corrected by Bush upon the Afghan president’s arrival.
On the security situation, Bush told Karzai not to believe what he was seeing on the ground in Afghanistan. “There is still work to be done, don’t get me wrong,” Bush said. “But progress is being made.”
On the bin Laden search, Bush spoke of how the hunt is progressing and declared that, “With real actionable intelligence, we will get the job done.”
On Iran’s positive role in the region, Bush again told Karzai not to believe his own experience but instead to accept the neo-conservative version of events. “I would be very cautious about whether or not the Iranian influence there in Afghanistan is a positive force,” the American president pointedly told the Afghan president.
So there you have it, a meeting of the minds Bush-style.
A foreign leader from a region of supreme interest to the United States comes to Camp David to brief the American president on what is going on. The foreign leader speaks his mind, offering his best assessment of the experience he is living. Then the president tells the visitor from abroad that he is wrong.
As Bush famously declared at a policy session in 2005, “See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.”
And it is just so damned inconvenient when a puppet who is supposed to help spread the propaganda instead messes everything up by talking about what is really happening.
John Nichols’ new book is The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders’ Cure for Royalism. Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson hails it as a “nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum- polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use of the ‘heroic medicine’ that is impeachment with a call for Democratic leaders to ‘reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by the founders for the defense of our most basic liberties.’”
Copyright © 2007 The Nation
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
You need an hour to watch this video. You can pause and think or even download it and watch it later. The video is a bit gruesome in some parts as it show the shots being fired at JFK many times. As you watch this, think about how things are being run by the current government. The wire tapping and all those cameras appearing on every street corner, and even in parking meters! Put your mind in the mood to actually read the Patriot Act and see how all civil liberties have been suspended. How could one man have so much power, that a Democratic Congress and a split Senate, are completely rendered useless?
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Thank you to my friend half the planet away DannyT from the UK for the music for this show. Danny is that kind of person.
The message must go out now from you. Your music, your poetry and in the words you write. Dennis is going to be away for a little while as I no longer have my home. It took 500 civil servants and who knows how many taped phone calls more than 2 years to take my home away.
In late 2002 Dennis took it upon himself to gather up over a million Canadians and send a message to our "Leaders". No to Iraq! There was and never will be a reason for an invasion such as the one we saw live on blablevision. 2000 to 5000 lb bombs were being dropped all over the country and then the main target Baghdad.
The once great late night coffee shops blown to little pieces. The once paved streets littered with corpses and pieces of bodies. The once enchanting palms with the lights peering through them leveled. Baghdad was more than a city, it held claim for 6 or 7 thousand years as the cradle of civilization.
My show is going on the road and as always Dennis will do his best to keep in touch. For now "Good Night and Good Luck"....
The Show Must go On (Freedie said that)
Friday, August 3, 2007
When a man points out evil, it might be wise to see what the same man would do, to his own people after Katrina hit New Orleans. When he called someone evil he must have been referring to himself. Look, see what he is doing to total strangers.
Watch and then read the letter following the video. Be Well
Why Is Half Of Iraq In Absolute Poverty ?
By Layla Anwar
What does it say about you? What does it say about your countries? What does it say about your institutions? What does it say about your governments, your "culture", your "civilization", your history, your "progress", your "values", your concepts...?
Have you ever stopped and pondered these questions? Have you ever stopped and asked yourselves ; how come?
How come we are so advanced, how come we are so democratic, how come we are so great, how come we are so free... And how come we allow so much murder, oppression, abuse, go unaccounted for ?
Have you ever asked yourself this question ?
I was just listening to the BBC World radio. A report from Oxfam - and in your eyes that makes it credible - over 70 % of us Iraqis, no longer have access to clean drinking water.
I say no longer have because I remember not so long ago, one could turn on the tap and drink. As simple as that.
The report goes on to say that over 50% of Iraqis are under nourished and 1 out of 3 is literally starving. And that 50% live in abject poverty. 50% !!!
Again, I remember a time, even during the "civilized" sanctions that your countries imposed upon us, everyone had to eat. Not much, but there was food.
The Iraqi government had developed a system of rationing that, to this day, still leaves your top U.N reps in awe. When I mention that in my posts, I am accused of waging a war of disinformation, psy-ops and being a paid agent.
Now you listen to me and you get off your butts and read. Educate yourselves, oh great people of the West.
A few years back, you could not even locate Iraq on a map . Now you have all suddenly become experts on Her.
Prior to your liberation, there was no starvation in Iraq. Prior to your liberation, there was no abject poverty, the kind we witness today. Prior to your liberation, kids did not stutter out of fear. Prior to your liberation, they went to free schools, learned, grew up and became full functioning adults, with degrees, diplomas and expertise. No, we did not have learning impediments before your liberation. Today 92 % of Iraqi children suffer from it. Today, 99% of Iraqi children are traumatized for life.
So I ask you again - Why ?
What have Iraqis done to you? Did they invade you? Did they steal your homes? Did they imprison you? Did they torture you? Did they rape you? Did they occupy your lands?
Of course, some of you will come and present me with your usual condescending, paternalistic, patronizing lists of political theories, attempting to explain the inexplicable.
Save your time and energy. I know all about your theories. I know all about your theories of imperialism, neo-cons, zionists...I also know all about your handy explanations regarding oil, cartels, monopolies, globalization...
None of that satisfies me. I still need to know why?
Why us? why Iraq? why this? why now?
If you fail to answer that question, then you would have not learned one single thing about yourselves. And I say yourselves, because your governments are a reflection of who you are, your aspirations, your mindsets, your thinking, your illusions...You are part of it and it is part of you.
And all I can see right now are nothing but murderous thoughts - yours.
A few days ago, I was reading an article about a French film producer called Alain Tasma who has just finished directing a film on the Rwandan Genocide.
During "Operation Turquoise", between 700,000 and 900,000 Rwandans perished.
None of you, not a single one of you, had any objections to calling it a Genocide.
It was a given, it was accepted, it was fact. And rightly so, because it was a genocide.
But when it comes to Iraq, all sorts of counter figures pop up. All kinds of other statistics are put forward to try to prove "well, yes but"...
Again my question is why ?
Why did you accept it without questions in the case of Rwanda, why did you accept it without questions in the case of the Holocaust, why is it when it comes to Arabs and Arab Muslims in particular, it becomes a topic for debate and nit picking? And "it" refers to Genocide.
Can you answer this question?
Why is it that what happened over 60 years ago in your lands, still makes you grovel in mortification and supplications of forgiveness but when it comes to us, you have so many "red flags"? Your phrases are almost always qualified with a "yes but..."
What does that tell me about you? It tells me exactly what I said earlier on, you and your governments are one and the same.
And you will come and say "yes but... I did not vote", "yes but, I sent an email", "yes but....yes but...yes but..."
I don't care for your "yes buts". I truly don't. And that applies to all of you. All of you whose governments have a finger in the Iraqi pie. If you had really wanted, you could have easily gone out en masse, in front of your government's offices...
If only 5 million of you, not more, only 5 million, had done that and had thrown your passports in a huge bonfire in front of your White house, 10 Downing street or wherever the hell you happen to be, then I am sure, we would not be experiencing what we are experiencing now.
There are also mass pickets, sit ins, huge demonstrations, strikes...
There are ways, many ways. You just need to get your "creativity" going. Or maybe you are just creative in killing us?
I don't care much for your opinions and comments anymore. Actually I don't give a damn.
All I know is that you have participated directly or indirectly in the crime. That is all I know.
But there is still a little hope left. Go and sit with yourself for a little while and ask yourself why and then ask yourself what am I supposed to do next? I can assure you, answers will come to you.
For those of you who prefer to sit and engage in quid pro quos of ifs and buts, then I can already tell you in advance, you are a hopeless case. And I will not even bother to ask why.
Layla Anwar, Who am I ? The eternal Question . Have not figured it out fully yet . All you need to know about me is that I am a Middle Easterner ,an Arab Woman - into my 40's and old enough to know better . I have no homeland per se . I live in Iraq,Lebanon,Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Egypt simultaneously .... All the rest is icing on the cake.
Monday, July 30, 2007
Do you ever feel that you want to share a feeling with someone, yet the words are missing? Perhaps the people you want to share with are at a distance and some else has the way and means to send along a message. Turn up the music and share the feelings that you will no longer tolerate the Criminals in Washington and their born again Hitler Youth.
There is a feeling around the world now, with billions of people hating the United States with Iraq in ruins. The total destruction of the world's "cradle of civilization" is going to come back and haunt Bush and all the criminals in Washington. It is my prediction since they have violated every Crime Against Humanity with a 100% Illegal make believe war, they will stand before the world as did the Nazi War Criminals. Be cheerful people of the world and applaud when you see them hanged by their necks until dead.
When the United Nations Charter was signed in 1945, it became a part of their Constitution and Bush and company have violated 14 statutes of the Charters points to this day. You will never see an honest news broadcaster in the United States let you see the destruction that Saddam would never have allowed.
Did you really believe that nobody was murdered when 2000 lb bombs were dropped all over Iraq?
Nobody can escape the "I was only obeying my orders.." as the Nazi's at Nuremberg discovered. That too, is written into the United Nations Charter as a War Crime. Who is the one leader that will stand up and lead the billions of people against the Criminals in Washington, along with their military commanders?
Beware, the Criminals in Canada and England for destroying the freedoms that millions died for in World War I and World War II. You too, have taken the rights and liberties from your people, without ever letting them know. Yet I know, by what you have done to me, so it is my right that my family fought for, to tell the world the truth. Over 90% of you so called leaders, elected officials, bureaucrats never wore a uniform and went into battle for the freedoms you so quickly remove.
Friday, July 27, 2007
MFA launches Persian-language Website
The website constitutes part of the MFA's diplomatic effort to reveal the true Israel to the Iranian public, who for many years has been denied any reliable information about the country, while at the same time being exposed to hateful, distorted, and deceptive information by the Iranian regime.
The new website, named "Hamdani" - which in Persian means "camaraderie" - can be accessed at https://hamdami.com - a name easy to remember and user-friendly for Iranian surfers. The launching ceremony marks the end of a long process that took most of a year. The project was initiated by Israel's current ambassador to Dublin, Dr. Zion Evroni, in his previous position as head of the Ministry's Political Planning Division.
The website will be managed by the Arab Media Department of the MFA's Information and Media Division. Mr. Menashe Amir, formerly head of the Israel Broadcasting Authority's Persian language division, was appointed as chief editor of the new website.
FM Livni welcomes visitors to MFA's Persian-language website "The Israeli Foreign Ministry today is opening a new channel of communication with the Iranian people. We have always made a clear distinction between the peace-loving Iranian people and the regime that, by its declarations and actions, is isolating Iran and turning it into a threat to world peace.
The Jews are considered to be one of the most ancient groups among Iran's population. The relations between the Iranian people, coming from one of the most ancient cultures in the world, and the Jewish people, who gave the world monotheism and the Book of books, began 2700 years ago, when the Jews first settled the Persian plain.
We remember Cyrus the Great, who not only freed the Jews from the Babylonian exile but allowed them to return to their homeland and provided them with material assistance for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, which is the focus of Jewish spiritualism and the symbol of the restored Jewish state.
Israeli-Iranian relations reached their peak, for the benefit of both peoples and the strengthening of regional peace, before the change of regime in Iran. In the 1960s and 1970s, Iran and Israel had friendly relations that extended to the realms of economics, science and politics, and included cooperation in medicine, agriculture, etc.
Unfortunately, the regime's extremism, statements that include Holocaust denial, and the threats that it expresses publicly against Israel and the entire world have created a rift between us.
Israel is making a genuine, sincere effort to promote peace with the Arab states and is constantly striving to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Israel's values are based on the desire for good neighborliness between us and all the peoples in the region.
The launching of a website by the Israeli Foreign Ministry in the Persian language indicates the importance Israel assigns to deepening the understanding between the two peoples, in anticipation of a future of peace and cooperation."
Transcript of web-launching ceremony
Amira Oron [Head of Arab Media Department]: Madam Foreign Minister, Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Director General of Information and Media, we are pleased to hold the ceremony launching the Foreign Ministry’s Persian language website. Your presence here attests to the great importance that we ascribe to public diplomacy and to the effort to build a bridge and to open a channel to the Iranians.
The website will be going online today after a concerted effort over the past year by the Information and Media Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and thus we continue the pioneering tradition of the Ministry, which was the first government body to set up information websites online in foreign languages: English, Arabic and now Persian. All of them contain a great deal of information on the State of Israel and Israeli society.
After the Foreign Minister addresses us, I will request that Mr. Menashe Amir, the chief editor of the website and the person who served until recently as the director of the Voice of Israel in Persian, take us on a tour of the website. Afterwards we will be happy to answer questions from the press. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni: First of all, thank you very much. From our standpoint, this is an opportunity to put our policies into practice. Now, in 2007, in light of the fact that the world really has turned into a global village, the tool that we must use more than ever is really the Internet. There is no doubt that there is an enormous gap between Israel's image around the world, primarily in the Arab world, and what we really are.
Unfortunately, from Israel's standpoint, that leads to two extremely problematic processes in public opinion in the Arab nations. One is the fact that the extremist leadership takes advantage of such public opinion to unite opinion around ideas of the type expressed by Ahmadinejad - about wiping Israel off the map, denying the Holocaust and other intolerable texts - when there is no alternative information available to that public giving them the real facts.The second problem is one I have encountered personally, even with moderate leaders in the Arab world, who today understand that the threat to the region is not coming from Israel, that we share the same interests and maybe are even exposed to the same threats. Those leaders say to us: "We have a problem with public opinion in our countries. Our people are still living with the history in which Israel is the source of the problem, in which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impacts public opinion and we have trouble facing that public and enacting policies that call for more cooperation with Israel when, in actuality, the general public thinks otherwise."
In the past, we thought that progress and technology would provide the opportunity to foster a process of moderation among these communities. Today these tools are being utilized by extremist entities precisely to strengthen those extremist or religious sentiments, or extremism based on other ideology. If we are now seeing openness to the world, this openness is happening through the warped lens of television such as Al Jazeera or other television broadcasts that present the events in a distorted manner. This, of course, develops on the convenient basis of a system of distorted stereotypes.
The Internet is now being used by organizations such as Al-Qaeda to reach that public, in order to incite them. We see Shi'ite organizations that use Internet websites to promote radical ideologies and even such practical matters as how to make a bomb. So we must make a concerted effort to get into this field, to get our message across, not at the level of propaganda, in the antiquated sense of the word, but simply to try to bring the actual reality to as large a public as possible, precisely in those countries where the possibilities for us to reach out and for the public to be exposed to us are limited. In this context, the Iranian arena and the Persian language website are critical.
We must understand that today the world is applying economic sanctions, resolutions of the UN Security Council. We are trying to expand the sanctions through other entities, which are not just government related, but also economic entities. But there is also a public in Iran, not just leaders, and that public must understand that this is happening to them because of their leaders. They must understand the international view of the issues in context, that the sanctions are not intended to harm them, but rather to change policies that are unacceptable to the world, along with the intolerable desire to attain the bomb to implement those policies.
We will also open a section on the website for questions and answers. We hope that we will receive many e-mails from Iranians with pertinent questions and we will try to respond to them, and post selected questions and answers on the site. With regard to the rest of the website, it covers many aspects of Israel. There is an explanation of Israeli democracy, the subject of the Holocaust is covered extensively, and not just the Holocaust itself. We have also set up a section in which we respond to 20 contentions of Holocaust deniers in Iran. There is also material on culture, literature, industry, economics, technology, and medicine in the State of Israel. The history of the people of Israel is presented and there is a special section on Jerusalem and the importance of maintaining its unity, and a small section on the Israel Foreign Ministry.The growth rate of Internet surfing in Iran is unprecedented. Only three years ago, the number of surfers was less than a million. A year ago, there were already three million, and today, the number is estimated at 11 million surfers (out of a population of about 70 million people). It is assumed that most of the surfers in Iran are young, knowledgeable about the Internet and frequently visit a variety of sites. Considering that 60% of Iran's citizens are under the age of 40, the new MFA website can be a valuable source of information about Israel to the Iranian population as well as an important means of connecting the two peoples.
Visitors to the site can send in comments and questions. The webmasters will respond to questions of general interest and post selected responses on the website.
Copyright 2007 The State of Israel
(Used with Permission)