American Samizdat Guernica
Saturday, May 15, 2004
"They Rule allows you to create maps of the interlocking directories of the top companies in the US in 2004. The data was collected from their websites and SEC filings in early 2004, so it may not be completely accurate - companies merge and disappear and directors shift boards."
Whoo boy.
"According to the 5/14/04 New York Times, Federal regulators fined the Riggs National Corporation, the parent company of Riggs Bank, $25 million yesterday for "failing to report suspicious activity, the largest penalty ever assessed against a domestic bank in connection with money laundering. The fine stems from Riggs's failure over at least the last two years to actively monitor suspect financial transfers through Saudi Arabian accounts held by the bank."

[snip]

"According to the nonprofit Texans for Public Justice, Jonathan Bush is the President and CEO of Riggs Investment Management - a major arm of Riggs Bank. He is also the uncle of President George W. Bush."
Rest of the story here.
Friday, May 14, 2004
"On May 5, Bush's Pentagon announced it will keep U.S. troop strength in Iraq at 135,000 through the year 2005. Mark that as the day the United States moved inevitably toward reinstating the draft -- no matter who's elected..."

"Since the Reagan era, the Pentagon has claimed we can fight two full-scale wars at once in two different parts of the globe. Iraq has proved that claim false. The premise was that the U.S. could bring overwhelming force to bear against any enemy and win any war quickly. Iraq and Afghanistan have taught that beating an enemy army and actually winning a war can be two very different things. We've learned the U.S. has neither enough combat-ready troops, nor enough supplies, to fight a protracted war -- even when we have complete air and weapons superiority. The Pentagon organized its forces for victory, not struggle. Now it's clear that if we can't get in and out quickly, we're in bad trouble. Iraq has proved us vulnerable, and the whole world knows it. This will inevitably require a complete revision of our military, beginning with procurement."

What the world... needs now... are fewer dire pronouncements. Individuals need to remember that they are the ones who will define their existence. We can choose an alternate path for ourselves. George Bush (or whoever sits in that Oval Office) is not the architect of reality. "We the people" means me. And I have no interest -- and nothing to gain -- in seeing kids that I've taught marched off toward the killing fields.

just a little disinformation
Mis-Education President

In an effort to court female voters, Bush now has wife Laura touting his failed education policy in a campaign ad. As I mentioned previously, I wrote an essay for Big Bush Lies about the unfunded mandate scam referred to in polite company as "No Child Left Behind." Edited by Jerry "Politex" Barrett of BushWatch fame, the book includes 20 essays about George W. Bush written by academics, legal experts, financial leaders, activists, and journalists. You can order it directly from the publisher, Riverwood Books.

In the meantime, if you want to know what's wrong with the ad and with Bush's education policy, this FactCheck.org article is a must read. And here's my "poetic" take on the same topic:
Mis-Education President
By Madeleine Begun Kane
Bush swore he'd leave no child behind,
A very worthy goal.
Instead, he left the states a great big budgetary hole.

States' rights must be preserved, Dub said.
The states know what is best.
Then signed a law he failed to fund, which makes them test, test, test.

Bush said they have to test to prove
That kids learn what they must.
Then handed out a budget that betrays our nation's trust.
The rest of my Mis-Education President is here.

Thursday, May 13, 2004
Oh my goodness gracious, what you can buy off the Internet!




If you think of Rumsfeld as a character in a Gulf Wars II musical, these are the songs he might sing. The seven songs show the Secretary not only holding forth from his press podium, but in introspective moments as well. We see Rumsfeld being haughty and impatient, but also caught by surprise -- even vulnerable. These extremes are the natural results of the situation in which Rumsfeld finds himself -- waging a war with no easy outcome and trying to sell a story that doesn't hold up, as the public can see now.

Reflecting these different moods, the songs are set in a variety of musical forms and show strong contemporary influences. The first song, The Unknown, has a jaunty beat and repeated rhythms more often associated with pop music. You may recognize the words ("As we know, there are known knowns…"). A Confession is a haunting ballad. Happenings is a Hungarian-style march but with pop influences. Other songs include a waltz and even a Baroque aria.



Since I'm plugging somebody else's album, I'll use this opportunity to point towards my own poetic excursion into Rumsfeldia, Skydiving with Rummy: A Fever-Dream in Prose...

As has been the case in the past, the Israeli response to the killing of their soldiers has been far harsher then reaction after the killing of their civilians. As of this report, 19 have died in response to the deaths of 11 Israeli soldiers in Gaza, and military operations are continuing in one of the most densely populated places on earth, the desperately poor Gaza Strip.
A civil probe on this was already underway by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, but now federal prosecutors are looking into possible criminal violations by commodities traders who may have received advance knowledge about the first U.S. case of mad cow disease and used it to reap profits in the cattle futures market. The disclosure of an investigation by criminal authorities was made today in testimony before the Senate Agriculture Committee.

But how could any insider trading be possible here? After all, the USDA would've been the first to know if the test was positive, and they wouldn't have wasted one minute to let people know about this - wouldn't have allowed cronies to profit while they scheduled the release of potentially life-saving information for Christmas Eve, would they?

A friendly reminder from the December 27, 2002 edition of The Scotsman:

AL-QAEDA suspects captured by the United States have been handed over to foreign intelligence agencies for torture, it was claimed yesterday.

A US official was reported to have said intelligence agencies in countries such as Jordan, Egypt and Morocco and who are known to use brutal methods were used to get answers to questions posed by the CIA.

"We don't kick the **** out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the **** out of them," the official is reported to have said.

"If you don't violate someone?s human rights some of the time, you probably aren't doing your job," another said. "I don't think we want to be promoting a view of zero tolerance on this. That was the whole problem for a long time with the CIA." [more]
Today's NY Times led with a story about the CIA's torture of Al Qaeda suspects. It was featured as a major scoop, but I think everyone and their grandma knew this was going on.

What's highlighted above -- the outsourcing of torture by the US government -- is probably a much more common occurrence than the outright torture of detainees. And yet, it receives scant attention.
Another Venezuelan coup?
Justin Podur, writing for ZNet on May 10:
A beleaguered democracy beset by continual terrorist attacks by ruthless, depraved, and highly imaginative terrorists managed to foil a terrorist plot yesterday. By taking swift, decisive police action, a terrorist training camp full of foreign fighters and outside agitators were apprehended. Despite the depraved nature of the terrorist threat against democracy, the democratic country continues to hold itself up to higher standards of human rights and democratic process.
The country Podur speaks of is Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez claims his government is under assault from Colombian paramilitaries abetted by the United States.

The US has shown a recent proclivity for tampering with left-leaning governments in the Western Hemisphere, by funding previous coup attempts in Venezuela, fostering the recent coup in Haiti, and ramping up efforts against Castro's Cuba. Viewed in this context, Chavez's assertions hardly seem far fetched.
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
The beheading of an American contractor in Iraq by extremists thought to be linked to al-Qaeda has intensified attention on foreign terrorists in the country at a time when negotiations between local insurgents and coalition forces are being seen as a possible solution to the violence.

...

'The beheading comes after some signs that things may have been moving towards coming under control, so it may be intended to reignite the violence by provoking a US response,' Jonathon Stevenson, terrorism expert at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, said yesterday.

The replacement of US forces in Falluja by Iraqi forces, and signs that negotiations may be opened with the militia loyal to the Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, stand in marked contrast to the refusal by jihadists linked to al-Qaeda to even consider negotiations with western countries.
I doubt things were "coming under control," but this idea the beheading was intended to provoke an American military response is interesting.

The video can only embolden those who increasingly make no distinction between Iraqi civilians, Iraqi insurgents, Al-Qaeda, and whoever else is in the mix, an eventuality which serves Al-Qaeda's purposes more than anybody else's.
Sixty-five million Americans, or 24 percent of the population, have housing problems, according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition in Washington. Some are elderly or unemployed. Others juggle two, even three low-paying jobs. Many are single moms. Some are disabled. All are scrambling, one way or another, to pay the mortgage or find the rent.


And it looks as though the scramble might get harder. President Bush's budget proposal for 2005 calls for cutting the Section 8 housing voucher program - the nation's principal low-income housing assistance program - by $1 billion, leaving it $1.6 billion short of what's required to maintain the program's current level of service. [more]
The loyal opposition, or weenies in full flight

Quite a selection, John Negroponte as "Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Iraq" (and no, I am not making that title up). He made a smashing impression in a previous Ambassador gig:

From 1981 to 1985, Negroponte was U.S. ambassador to Honduras, where he helped prosecute the contra war against Nicaragua and helped strengthen the military dictatorship in Honduras. Under the helm of General Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, Honduras's military government was both a close ally of the Reagan administration and was disappearing dozens of political opponents in classic death squad fashion.

... On Negroponte's watch, diplomats quipped that the embassy's annual human rights reports made Honduras sound more like Norway than Argentina. Former official Rick Chidester, who served under Negroponte, says he was ordered to remove all mention of torture and executions from the draft of his 1982 report on the human rights situation in Honduras.

...Yet, according to a four-part series in the Baltimore Sun, in 1982 alone the Honduran press ran 318 stories of murders and kidnappings by the Honduran military. In a 1995 series, Sun reporters Gary Cohn and Ginger Thompson detailed the activities of a secret CIA-trained Honduran army unit, Battalion 316, that used "shock and suffocation devices in interrogations. Prisoners often were kept naked and, when no longer useful, killed and buried in unmarked graves." In 1994, Honduras's National Commission for the Protection of Human Rights reported that it was officially admitted that 179 civilians were still missing.



Last week the United States Senate confirmed Negroponte's appointment 95-3, with 2 not voting.


John Kerry was one of the two to abstain. To be fair, it wasn't exactly a tight vote.


Among the leading lights of the Weenie Party who voted to confirm the appointment: Robert Byrd, Hillary Clinton, Russ Feingold, Ted Kennedy, Carl Levin, Dianne Feinstein... Hell, except for three holdouts, they all went for it.


Nice bit of teamwork.


Democracy Now airs a recent speech by Noam Chomsky that notes Negroponte's experience as a "modern pro consul" was undeniably seen as a qualification, and that Honduras checked out of the coalition within days of his appointment.

Iraq Videotape Shows the Decapitation of an American

A video recently released shows American Nicholas Berg being beheaded by his captors in retaliation for the abuse and torture of iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. It is worth noting that Mr. Berg was not military personnel, but was in Iraq seeking work in the rebuilding process. In the video, his captors claim to have offered the US Berg in exchange for Iraqis held at Abu Ghraib, but the US refused. How many more videos like this will it take before the current administration realizes they can't fix the mess they have created?
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
Insurgency
This is an open call for articles, inks, digital media, or audio files on the topic of insurgency.

Submission deadline is May 15th for concepts and June 15th for a final product.

Your work will appear in the first issue of Galeropia, a digital magazine produced by Why War? Galeropia's vision is a nonviolent theory and practice more potent than the prevailing reliance on polemics and death. Our method will be a targeted expansion of the movement's self-knowledge, aesthetics, and practice. Each issue of Galeropia will be released without prohibitive copyrights.

We invite all interested individuals to send a proposal, thesis, or sketch to submissions@galeropia.org by May 15, 2004.
"Many of the people who are now in Iraq, especially those in the reserves are cops and prison guards. The treatment of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib has the dark precedence in the prisons and police stations across America. According to journalist, Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker there have been cases of sodomy against prisoners and killing. Shades of Abner Luima, huh? If you hate someone, if you disrespect them, if you fear them, how can you liberate them? ... It is somehow fitting that these depraved events have happened in one of the most dreadful prisons of the Hussein regime. It shows the continuity of torture and terror."

Mumia Abu Jamal, by way of Danny Schechter's News Dissector


According to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) on Tuesday, 1110 men, women and children of all ages have nowhere to go.

It says the Israeli military demolished or damaged beyond repair 131 residential buildings since the start of May, bringing to 17,594 the total number of people who have lost their homes in Gaza.

Commissioner-General Peter Hansen said the "overwhelming majority of the more than 17,000 Palestinians who have lost their homes in Gaza since the start of the intifada have been guilty of nothing more than living in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Monday, May 10, 2004
Generally pro-Iraq war commentator Fareed Zakaria has this to say:

Leave process aside: the results are plain. On almost every issue involving postwar Iraq—troop strength, international support, the credibility of exiles, de-Baathification, handling Ayatollah Ali Sistani—Washington's assumptions and policies have been wrong. By now most have been reversed, often too late to have much effect. This strange combination of arrogance and incompetence has not only destroyed the hopes for a new Iraq. It has had the much broader effect of turning the United States into an international outlaw in the eyes of much of the world.

Whether he wins or loses in November, George W. Bush's legacy is now clear: the creation of a poisonous atmosphere of anti-Americanism around the globe. I'm sure he takes full responsibility.
"Arresting authorities entered houses usually after dark, breaking down doors, waking up residents roughly, yelling orders, forcing family members into one room under military guard while searching the rest of the house and further breaking doors, cabinets and other property," the report said.

"Sometimes they arrested all adult males present in a house, including elderly, handicapped or sick people," it said. "Treatment often included pushing people around, insulting, taking aim with rifles, punching and kicking and striking with rifles."

It said some coalition military intelligence officers estimated "between 70 percent and 90 percent of the persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake. They also attributed the brutality of some arrests to the lack of proper supervision of battle group units."
"This was a failure that ran straight to the top," said the editorial appearing in the May 17 edition of the Military Times weeklies.

"Accountability here is essential -- even if that means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war," it said.

Owned by Gannett, the Military Times publishes the Army, Navy and Air Force times, weeklies that are widely read by servicemembers and distributed on US military bases around the world.
Sunday, May 09, 2004
The sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison was not an invention of maverick guards, but part of a system of ill-treatment and degradation used by special forces soldiers that is now being disseminated among ordinary troops and contractors who do not know what they are doing, according to British military sources.

The techniques devised in the system, called R2I - resistance to interrogation - match the crude exploitation and abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad.

One former British special forces officer who returned last week from Iraq, said: 'It was clear from discussions with US private contractors in Iraq that the prison guards were using R2I techniques, but they didn't know what they were doing.'

He said British and US military intelligence soldiers were trained in these techniques, which were taught at the joint services interrogation centre in Ashford, Kent, now transferred to the former US base at Chicksands.

'There is a reservoir of knowledge about these interrogation techniques which is retained by former special forces soldiers who are being rehired as private contractors in Iraq. Contractors are bringing in their old friends'.

Using sexual jibes and degradation, along with stripping naked, is one of the methods taught on both sides of the Atlantic under the slogan 'prolong the shock of capture', he said.
BAGHDAD -- The commander of U.S. detention facilities in Iraq said yesterday the military will continue to operate the notorious Abu Ghraib prison. The decision comes despite calls from some U.S. legislators to close it because of a scandal over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners.

However, Maj.-Gen. Geoffrey Miller said the U.S. plans to reduce the prison population.

He said 300 prisoners had been released last week and about 350 will be freed next week.

'Currently, we will continue to operate at the Abu Ghraib facility,' Miller said, adding interrogations at the prison will also continue.

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