WAR TAX BOYCOTT
A People’s Campaign to Defund the War
For over five years peace activists have voted, lobbied, marched, and taken direct action to first prevent and then end the war in Iraq. Courageous soldiers have refused to fight the war. But Congress repeatedly votes to appropriate billions of dollars to continue the war and appears ready to authorize a future military attack on Iran. It’s time for taxpayers who oppose this war to join together in nonviolent civil disobedience and show Congress how to cut off the funds for this war and redirect resources to the pressing needs of people.
The U.S. government expects taxpayers to behave themselves and keep bankrolling this illegal, immoral, wrongful war. What does the U.S. government want from us in order to fight this war? For most of us, the government doesn't want our bodies, and it doesn't even want our consent. What the government wants from us, is our money. We can each resist $100 for one year. The consequences would not be so cataclysmic if the IRS caught up with you, and we can pool all of the refused war tax money and give it to survivors of Katrina and people who have fled from violence in Iraq.
Bush makes me want to gouge my eyes out.
March 2, 2008 Editorial
Horrifying and Unnecessary
In the next few days President Bush is expected to again claim the right to order mistreatment of prisoners that any civilized person would regard as torture.
Mr. Bush is planning to veto a law that would require the C.I.A. and all the intelligence services to abide by the restrictions on holding and interrogating prisoners contained in the United States Army Field Manual. Mr. Bush says the Army rules are too restrictive.
What are these burdens? In addition to a blanket prohibition of torture, the manual specifically bans:
¶ Forcing a prisoner to be naked, perform sexual acts or pose in a sexual manner.
¶ Placing hoods or sacks over the head of a prisoner, and using duct tape over the eyes.
¶ Applying beatings, electric shocks, burns or other forms of physical pain.
¶ Using military working dogs.
¶ Inducing hypothermia or heat injury.
¶ Conducting mock executions.
¶ Depriving a prisoner of necessary food, water or medical care.
Such practices have long been prohibited by American laws and international treaties respected by Republican and Democratic presidents. Mr. Bush, however, declared that he was unbound by the laws of civilization in responding to the barbarism of Sept. 11, 2001. And reports soon surfaced about the abuse of prisoners at detention centers in Afghanistan, the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and secret Central Intelligence Agency prisons.
Finally, in 2006, a compliant, Republican-controlled Congress outlawed the kinds of abuse and torture that Mr. Bush’s lawyers had turned into government policy.
Unfortunately, Congress applied the prohibitions only to the military, and Mr. Bush immediately made clear that he would issue whatever orders he wanted to the intelligence agencies. In response, Congress approved an amendment to the intelligence budget bill this year that binds those agencies to the same rules as the military.
Opponents of Mr. Bush’s policies on prisoners have long argued that it is immoral, dangerous and counterproductive to abuse and torture prisoners. We do not hold out much hope that the president will heed our last, urgent plea not to veto this bill.
We urge him to read the Army Field Manual, which says: “Use of torture by U.S.
personnel would bring discredit upon the U.S. and its armed forces while undermining domestic and international support for the war effort. It could also place U.S. and allied personnel in enemy hands at greater risk of abuse.”
He could check the testimony of Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, who told Congress last week that waterboarding violated the Geneva Conventions.
Or he could read the letter that Gen. David Petraeus, the commander in Iraq, wrote to his troops.
“Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy,” General Petraeus wrote. “They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary.”
This is a must read article.
March 2, 2008
INDEMNIFICATION....As we all know, the Bush administration is hellbent on passing a law granting telecom companies retroactive immunity for any surveillance laws they may have broken in the aftermath of 9/11. But there's an odd aspect to this whole thing: the telecom companies themselves don't really seem to be fighting all that hard on behalf of this legislation.
A couple of days ago I got an email from commenter/blogger bmaz proposing an explanation for this. To be honest, I sort of blew him off at first without reading his argument carefully, which I now think was a mistake. There's some guesswork in what he says, but he's an attorney with considerable experience dealing with wiretapping cases and he suggests that the reason the telcos don't care all that much about the lawsuits being pursued against them is because they almost certainly signed indemnification agreements with the feds back in 2001. Such agreements would force the federal government to pay any legal judgments awarded in suits against the telcos:
It is my contention that the telcos have just such indemnification agreements with the Administration/government, that we do not know about because they are classified and hidden, that so protect them for any liability and losses resulting from the litigation they are faced with; thus they do not need immunity to protect them from potential liability verdicts, they are already covered....As someone that has had dealings with such entities regarding bad/illegal wiretaps, I can attest that they always protect themselves vis a vis the governmental entity they are working for and are not shy about the use of indemnity provisions.
In email, bmaz put it to me even more strongly: "The general counsels and legal departments of telcos are extremely accomplished and always protect their company's interests meticulously. They have been dealing with wiretapping and surveillance agreements with the government and law enforcement for over seven decades, this was not a matter of first impression to them; and in difficult and unique cases, I have never seen them not insist on indemnification. Never."
South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com
'Free Lunch' shows the rich getting richer
By Max Castro
March 2, 2008
Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You With the Bill). David Cay Johnston. Penguin Books. $24.95. 323 pp.
For many Americans, especially those of conservative persuasion, government is constantly being robbed by all manner of disreputable people, especially welfare mothers, illegal immigrants and others outside the pale.
It is a belief almost immune to contradictory information, like Americans' perception, consistently reflected in public opinion polls, that about one quarter of the U.S. government budget goes to foreign aid (the actual figure is less that one half of one percent).
Nevermind that legislation 10 years ago made undocumented immigrants ineligible for almost all government benefits. Nevermind that welfare reform eliminated Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), drastically shrinking the welfare rolls.
Free Lunch is a journalistic missile launched against the myth that those who mooch off the government are mostly on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic order.
Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times, gives example after example to build an overwhelming case that the opposite is the case.
Warren Buffett and George W. Bush are just two wealthy Americans who have benefited hugely from government subsidies. Buffett is famed for producing high returns for investors to his funds. One of the secrets to the success of this master of the market, however, is that his "company has a two-thirds billion dollar, interest-free loan from our government for 28 years."
Bush, an advocate of pure capitalism and small government, made most of his money from the sale of the Texas Rangers, an enterprise which benefited greatly from a taxpayer subsidy to build a stadium.
Nine years after buying the team, Bush and his group of investors sold the team for three times the purchase price.
Did they manage this through business prowess? No, says Johnston. "Bush and his investors made no economic profit from the market. ... The only money they received came from the increased sales tax that flowed into the stadium deal."
As a result of such subsidies, breaks and policies that systematically favor the very rich, the reality of the last quarter century, Johnston writes, is that "the rich are getting fabulously richer, the vast majority [90 percent of taxpayers] are somewhat worse off, and the bottom half ... are being savaged by our current economic policies."
What is the cause that the U.S. income pyramid each day looks more like that of Brazil and less than that of other rich democracies? Johnston asserts that "since the market-based solutions came to dominate government policy, the winners have been the rich, the very rich, and most of all, the superrich ..."
It's an assertion he documents with a wealth of statistics and solid studies. They show that since 1975, income for the 270 million people in the lower 90 percent of the distribution (the vast majority) has increased by a mere 3 percent in real terms while income for the three million rich has risen 209 percent and income for the 30,000 superrich skyrocketed 650 percent.These lucky few now make an average of more than $22 million a year.
This is a provocative, highly readable and well-documented work. It won't convince anyone whose belief system is immune to notions like social justice and injustice.
But, after reading this book, anybody that thought that John Edwards was right in his denunciations of corporate perfidy and government collusion with it but that he went too far is likely to think he did not go far enough.
Max Castro is a public policy analyst in Miami and Washington, D.C.
I’d like to see Bush tell this to our energy pirates here. I use propane to heat my home and since Bush took office it has more than doubled. The propane man won’t even come out unless you buy $ 388.00 worth.
Gas and electricity bosses told 'give back profits'
By Mark Kleinman, City Editor
Last Updated: 2:24 am GMT 03/03/2008
The heads of the biggest gas and electricity companies are being ordered by the Government to hand over part of their multi-billion pound profits - or face a new windfall tax.
The Sunday Telegraph has learnt the chief executives of the utility giants have been summoned to Downing Street and given a dressing-down over the soaring sums being made from millions of customers.
They are being told that, unless they agree to subsidise a new nationwide "fuel poverty" scheme aimed at the 4.5 million poorest households, a levy will be put on their profits. It is understood that the fuel poverty programme is to be unveiled by Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, as part of the Budget on March 12.
The Government has moved to curtail what is increasingly seen as "excessive profiteering" by the utilities industry, with customers having to pay soaring household gas and electricity bills.
This comes only weeks after the major energy providers raised prices by as much as 15 per cent. The biggest utility, Centrica, recently announced a £571 million profit from its residential energy business British Gas, which serves 16 million customers.
Campaigners have demanded action against the big utilities, with the union Unison and the National Right to Fuel Campaign describing their profits as "obscene".
The series of Downing Street summits, which are being held over a seven-day period spanning this weekend, reflects frustration in Whitehall about the way the Government - rather than the profit-laden utilities - has become a focus for consumer anger over the failure to control sky-high energy prices.
Lucky you if you live in Orange County, Santa Ana California.
The Kurdish situation in Turkey & iraq :
Speaker: Kani Xulam
Director of the American Kurdish Information Network
Kani Xulam is the director of the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN), a group based in Washington, DC that aims to foster Kurdish-American friendship and understanding. He is featured in the documentary Good Kurds, Bad Kurds: No Friends But the Mountains.
March 9, 2008 2 p.m.
Armenian Center of Orange County
5305 W. McFadden Ave.
Santa Ana, Ca 92704
For more information, visit www.ayfoc.org
Shell likely to miss Canada tar sands
By Russell Hotten
Last Updated: 1:48 am GMT 03/03/2008
Hopes that Royal Dutch Shell would be allowed to include oil reserves from a huge project in Canada in time for a major strategy announcement later this month have been dashed.
This will disappoint the City and raise concern about the Anglo-Dutch giant's ability to grow profits from its multibillion-pound expansion into unconventional sources of oil such as Canada's tar sands fields.
Shell's oil and gas reserves have been a sensitive issue since the 2004 scandal when Shell booked more assets than it actually had.
Shell is due to update investors on March 17 and wanted to include tar sands as part of its asset base. The company needs permission from America's Securities and Exchange Commission, which, according to one source, has been "watching Shell like a hawk" since 2004.
Shell now accepts that any permission will not be in time for the update. It means that Shell's reserve replacement ratio - the rate at which it is replenishing the fuel being pumped - will be weak.
Shell's replacement ratio is expected to be just above 100pc - meaning that it is barely replacing the crude being brought to market. Last week BP announced a replacement ratio of 112pc.
Investors were nervous about Shell's reserves figure because the company must strip out potential assets from Sakhalin-2. Last year, Shell was forced to sign away a majority stake in the project to Gazprom. Then, in January, Shell surprised investors by delaying the announcement of its replacement ratio. An oil analyst said: "Shell got us all worried by January's delay, and it's been a bit of an issue ever since. The bottom line is: Shell needs to give some good news on reserves, and now probably won't."
With the discovery of so-called "easy oil" drying up, Shell has led the way in the search for unconventional sources like tar sands and oil shale. Canada is rich in tar sands, but turning it into usable oil is expensive and fraught with problems.
The SEC has so far refused permission for Shell to book tar sands, believing that there is a high risk of projects failing.
In a statement, Shell said: "We can confirm that we have written to the SEC in response to their December 2007 consultation on possible revisions to disclosure requirements relating to oil and gas reserves. We welcome this process as recognition of technical advances made by our industry in respect of unconventional sources of oil and gas. It is our belief that developments in our industry mean that current regulations are no longer aligned with our business environments." The SEC did not return calls.
If you need help to save your home these people can do it 1-888-995-HOPE
'Ninja' loans explode on sub-prime frontline
By Edmund Conway, in San Francisco
Last Updated: 7:45 am GMT 03/03/2008 Page 1 of 2
Never in her 20 years in the property market has Heidi Mueller been so much in demand. As one of the leading foreclosure and short sales agents in the San Francisco property market, she is the first person you go to when you can't afford your mortgage payments and need to sell your home, fast.
As the sub-prime crisis reaches its climax, she has barely had a moment to stop.
"This year is the vintage of 2005," she says. "Last year everyone that came in had bought in 2004. Just like clockwork: three years go by, then the teaser rates go and," she gestures towards the door of her real estate office, "in they come."
This is the front line of the sub-prime maelstrom and the biggest crisis in US property for decades. With an economic earthquake shuddering through the American housing market, prices have already fallen by around 10pc nationwide. Appropriately enough, one of the major epicentres runs along the San Andreas Fault. By January, California had the biggest number of properties facing default and foreclosure in the US - at just over 57,158 more than double the equivalent figure from last year.
IRAQ NEWS LINKS
Telegraph Basra's last battle: the untold story
Rifleman Stephen Vause was close to death. The 20-year-old soldier had been badly injured in an insurgent mortar attack and medics inside the besieged base in the centre of Basra believed his only chance of survival was to be airlifted out and given surgery.
03/03/08 AP: At least 23 killed by pair of car bombs in Baghdad (Update) In the deadlier of the two attacks in Baghdad, a parked car bomb killed at least 21 people and wounded 43 in central Baghdad's Bab al-Mudham area. The car was parked on a road leading to the nearby Housing and Municipality Ministry, police said.
03/03/08 AFP: 14 bodies found in mass grave US troops found the bodies of 14 men with their hands tied behind their backs and shot in the head in a mass grave in the restive central Iraqi town of Samarra, the military said.
AFGHANISTAN NEWS LINKS
03/03/08 AFP: Roadside bomb kills Canadian in Afghanistan
The 79th Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan -- a trooper only days away from returning to Canada -- was killed by an improvised explosive device yesterday afternoon while taking part in a supply mission.
03/03/08 AFP: Twenty Taliban killed, injured in Afghan clash More than 20 Taliban-led rebels were killed or injured in an operation by Afghan security forces and NATO troops in southern Afghanistan, the defence ministry said Monday.
03/02/08 Reuters: Afghans protest Danish cartoons, Koran film About 1,000 Afghans, incensed by the republication of Prophet Mohammad's caricatures in a Danish paper, marched in a northern city on Sunday demanding withdrawal of Danish and Dutch troops from the country.
03/02/08 AFP: Militants destroy second Afghan mobile phone antenna A mobile phone antenna was destroyed in southern Afghanistan, police said Sunday, the second such attack since militants threatened to bring down the masts which they claim are used to locate hideouts.