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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Audit: Bush reading program beset by mismanagement - Sep 22, 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A scorching internal review of the Bush administration's billion-dollar-a-year reading program says the Education Department ignored the law and ethical standards to steer money how it wanted.

The government audit is unsparing in its view that the Reading First program has been beset by conflicts of interest and willful mismanagement. It suggests the department broke the law by trying to dictate which curriculum schools must use.

It also depicts a program in which review panels were stacked with people who shared the director's views, and in which only favored publishers of reading curricula could get money.

In one e-mail, the director told a staff member to come down hard on a company he didn't support, according to the report released Friday by the department's inspector general.

"They are trying to crash our party and we need to beat the (expletive deleted) out of them in front of all the other would-be party crashers who are standing on the front lawn waiting to see how we welcome these dirtbags," the program director wrote, the report says. "Read More" click link below


That official, Chris Doherty, is resigning in the coming days, department spokeswoman Katherine McLane said Friday. Asked if his quitting was in response to the report, she said only that Doherty is returning to the private sector after five years at the agency.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings pledged to swiftly adopt all the audit's recommendations. She also pledged a review of every Reading First grant her agency has approved.

"When something undermines the credibility of this department, or the standing of any program, I'm going to spring into action," Spellings told The Associated Press.

Reading First aims to help young children read through scientifically proven programs, and the department considers it a jewel of No Child Left Behind, Bush's education law. Just this week, a separate review found the effort is helping schools raise achievement.

But from the start, the program has been dogged by accusations of impropriety, leading to several ongoing audits. The new report from the Office of Inspector General -- an independent arm of the Education Department -- calls into question the program's credibility.

The ranking Democrat on the House education committee was furious.

"They should fire everyone who was involved in this," said Rep. George Miller, D-California. "This was not an accident, this was not an oversight. This was an intentional effort to corrupt the process."

Spellings said the problems happened in the early days of the program, which began in 2002, before she was secretary. She said those responsible have left the agency or been reassigned.

About 1,500 school districts have received $4.8 billion in Reading First grants.

The audit found the department:

# Botched the way it picked a panel to review grant applications, raising questions over whether grants were approved as the law requires.

# Screened grant reviewers for conflicts of interest, but then failed to identify six who had a clear conflict based on their industry connections.

# Did not let states see the comments of experts who reviewed their applications.

# Required states to meet conditions that weren't part of the law.

# Tried to downplay elements of the law it didn't like when working with states.

The report does not name Doherty, referring to him as the Reading First director.

It says he repeatedly used his influence to steer money toward states that used a reading approach he favored, called Direct Instruction, or DI. In one case, the report says, he was told a review panel was stacked with people who backed that program.

"That's the funniest part -- yes!" he responded in e-mail dating to 2002. "You know the line from Casablanca, 'I am SHOCKED that there is gambling going on in this establishment!' Well, 'I am SHOCKED that there are pro-DI people on this panel!"'

Spellings took issue with the use of such e-mails in the audit. She said they could be used to draw unfair conclusions about a person's intentions.

The inspector general rejected that. It said the e-mails were written by Doherty in his role as director, and there is no evidence they were inaccurate or pulled out of context.

Yet the audit also faults other officials who had a big hand in Reading First, including Susan Neuman, the former assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education.

Spellings, who became secretary in 2005, said she is not aware of any effort to favor certain reading programs. That, however, is just what the audit says has happened.

"I'm doing everything I can at this point," she said. "I can't undo what's been done."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
SOURCE: - Audit: Bush reading program beset by mismanagement - Sep 22, 2006

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Chris Wallace Has Never Asked A Bush Administration Official About The USS Cole

Cheney FoxThe USS Cole was bombed on October 12, 2000. As Clinton noted in his interview with Fox, “The CIA and the FBI refused to certify that Bin Laden was responsible” until early 2001 which foreclosed the possibility of a full response during his administration.

The Bush administration, on the other hand, had 8 months prior to 9/11/01 to respond to the USS bombing and did nothing.

In an interview to air Sunday, Fox News Host Chris Wallace asked
Bill Clinton why he didn’t respond to the USS Cole. Clinton said
it was a “legitimate question” but challenged Wallace:
I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked why didn’t you do anything about the Cole.”
First, Wallace responded, “we asked.” When pressed further
by Clinton, Wallace demurred: “I — with Iraq and
Afghanistan there’s plenty of stuff to ask.”

Neither Chris Wallace, nor his predecessor, Tony Snow ever asked
anyone in the Bush administration why they failed to respond to the
bombing of the USS Cole, according to a Lexis-Nexis database search.
Wallace and Snow have had plenty of opportunities:

– Vice President Dick Cheney has been on Fox News Sunday 6 times.

– Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been on Fox News Sunday 9 times.

– Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been on Fox News Sunday 23 times.

– National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley has been on Fox News Sunday 4 times.

For the record, this was Bill Clinton’s first solo appearance on Fox News Sunday.

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Herbert Spencer's Evolved Capitalists: “Proclaiming Death to the Weakling, Wealth to the Strong” - by Jason Miller

Assaulting humanity and the Earth with shocking impunity, the White House’s Machiavellian acolytes of Strauss shamelessly lead the charge for soulless corporations, obscenely wealthy individuals, perverse hypocrites of the Religious Right, a diminishing number of allies, authoritarian regimes that bow to their will, and their state terrorist proxy in Tel Aviv.

Psychologically and economically enslaving billions of human beings, facilitating the deaths of millions, and redefining the word “exploitation”, the relative few who monopolize most of the world’s material wealth and military power mercilessly inflict widespread suffering to ensure the perpetuation of their morally repugnant existences fraught with excess and hedonism.

When satiated to the point of nausea by their gluttonous over-indulgence, they occasionally spew torrents of putrid vomit upon the rest of humanity as they purge to renew their blunted appetites. What a blessing for the have-nots to receive such a feast!

Remember that the United States of America was conceived as a constitutional republic by people who had overthrown a tyrant. Unfortunately, they lacked the foresight to envision the evolution of a predatory economic system which would essentially enslave most of the populace to land-lords, creditors, employers, corporations, a failing health care system, and deeply inculcated materialism. "Read More" click link below


For years the corporate media have fostered an environment of perpetual hysteria fueled by the public’s fear of contrived enemies such as the “God-less Communists”, and most recently, the “Islamo-Fascists” and “terrorists”. Serving the dual purpose of manipulating the masses and significantly boosting the fortunes of the many-tentacled leviathan known as the military industrial complex, fear-mongering has served the purposes of the ruling elite to near perfection.

The biggest threat to the majority of the population in the United States (and the world, for that matter) is the enemy within. In the malevolent socioeconomic paradigm spawned and perpetuated by the United States, survival of the fittest is the reality. And might does indeed make right. Despite ostensibly enjoying freedom and prosperity, many US citizens pay a devastating spiritual price, much of their freedom is illusory, and prosperity is becoming increasingly concentrated into the hands of a few.

People of conscience with a genuine concern for improving the human condition have struggled since our nation’s founding to make “idealistic notions” like Abolition and Women’s Suffrage a reality. Yet in the “land of the free”, a deeply entrenched White patriarchal plutocracy has fought tooth and nail to maintain the status quo.

One day the malevolent individuals comprising the ruling elite may find themselves in Dante’s Ninth Circle for their betrayal of humanity. Or perhaps the Malebranche will keep watch over them for eternity in Malebolge. But for now those "evolved capitalists" consistently abuse their influence over humanity to maintain their material prosperity, despite the horrific human cost.

Moving from the abstract to the concrete, consider a mere handful of specific examples of US “benevolence” and “democracy”. [Note that a tyrannical socioeconomic system that virtually guarantees that power (in the form of wealth) remains in the hands of a relative few made each event or circumstance possible]:

1. The indigenous people of Turtle Island were nearly driven to extinction.

2. Chattel slavery endured until the Civil War and institutionalized racism persisted into the 1960’s.

3. Dickensonian Capitalism manifested itself through miserably low wages, child labor, hazardous working conditions, employee abuse, and a “Gilded Age” for the wealthy elite.

4. FDR schemed to draw the United States into World War II by provoking Japan into attacking Pearl Harbor (and allowing the attack to happen). On his watch, the United States also interned 110,000 Japanese Americans and killed hundreds of thousands of European and Asian civilians. In so doing, the United States did help take out two ruthless tyrants and a brutal imperialist. However, toppling Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo enabled two of history’s most despicable regimes. Stalin and Mao slaughtered tens of millions as they implemented Stalinism and Maoism. (Unfortunately for reflexive Red-haters who utilize Mao and Stalin as examples of the “evils of Communism”, neither of these monsters were actual Communists).

5. Under Truman, the American Empire annihilated over 200,000 Japanese civilians in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Truman also paved the way for the formation of Israel and the initiation of the genocide of the Palestinians.

6. LBJ and Nixon oversaw the deaths of three million Vietnamese and 59,000 US military personnel.

7. Monstrous men like Bush’s Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, who was an instrumental figure in the Reagan administration’s facilitation of the deaths of at least 200,000 people in Central America, continue to thrive and act with impunity.

8. 3,000 people died on 9/11 as a result of the Bush administration’s breath-taking incompetence (or unproven but highly plausible complicity in the destruction of the WTC).

9. At least 1,800 human beings are dead in New Orleans as a result of the Bush Regime’s willful criminal negligence.

10. Over 2,600 US service personnel have been sacrificed at the Altar of Mammon and hundreds of thousands have suffered deep physical and psychological wounds. Many of these dead or broken people enlisted in the military because the corporate media and revisionist historians indoctrinated them into believing that they would be defending their country. Instead, their sacrifices came to bolster the fortunes of those at the top of the food chain. Over a hundred thousand Iraqi civilians have died. But they are simply “collateral damage” in the Empire’s “noble cause” to introduce “democracy” into the Middle East.

11. Psychological torture methods have been in the CIA’s arsenal since they were developed through Project MKULTRA and have apparently been used liberally in the “War on Terror”. Unfortunately for “The Decider”, torture violates the Geneva Conventions. How can Bush “lead the free world” if he is not free to torture?

12. The Bush Regime’s Patriot Act, NSA eavesdropping, assault on habeas corpus, and “free speech zones” have left the Bill of Rights in tatters.

13. The 2000 Presidential election was decided by Katherine Harris and the Supreme Court. In 2004, a powerful corporation with strong ties to the Republican Party ensured Bush’s continued reign.

In November of 2003, Bush proclaimed:

"It is no accident that the rise of so many democracies took place in a time when the world's most influential nation was itself a democracy."

To what influential nation was he referring? I see little evidence of extant meaningful democratic principles in the United States.

And a recent personal experience crystallized this perception for me.

On 9/17/06, I attended a veteran’s rally for Claire McCaskill, the Democratic challenger to Missouri’s incumbent Republican US Senator, Jim Talent.

As I sat there, the sparse turn-out reminded me of the tragic demise of the influence of We the People. Two parties primarily representing the interests of the affluent have duopolized the political system. Impotence has engendered apathy.

Providing further evidence that Herbert Spencer’s dream of Social Darwinism is becoming reality in the United States is the fact that a man like Jim Talent has not been forcibly removed from office, tarred and feathered. His voting record as a US Senator clearly demonstrates that he has vigorously devoted himself to corporate interests, militarism, and the demise of laws and public programs beneficial to We the People (the majority of his constituency!).

Democracy in the United States, you say? Where?

Yet it also occurred to me that within the almost hopelessly corrupt Republocrat system are some ethical individuals striving on behalf of the poor and working class. They are few in number, face numerous obstacles, and are limited in their influence, but they do exist. So I have concluded that participation in the process and efforts to evoke change are not completely futile.

As the Bush Regime steadily moves to strengthen Bush’s expansive powers as a unitary executive, reestablishing a Democratic majority in Congress to eliminate the partisan rubber-stamp which now exists is the immediate hope for We the People. I do not support either party, but at least a Democratic majority in Congress would provide a foil to the Bush administration and would probably initiate impeachment proceedings against him.

Yet I digress. The focal point of the rally for McCaskill was the keynote speech by Max Cleland. And I had the distinct honor of meeting him prior to the event.

“Max Cleland is a truly admirable individual”, I concluded as I listened to him speak.

Cleland is a man who volunteered to go to Vietnam on what he had been led to believe was a noble crusade against the “Communist threat”. He returned home a triple amputee.

His Silver Star citation reads:

Captain Cleland distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous action on 4 April 1968 … during an enemy attack near Khe Sanh.

When the battalion command post came under a heavy enemy rocket and mortar attack, Captain Cleland, disregarding his own safety, exposed himself to the rocket barrage as he left his covered position to administer first aid to his wounded comrades. He then assisted in moving the injured personnel to covered positions.

Continuing to expose himself, Captain Cleland organized his men into a work party to repair the battalion communications equipment, which had been damaged by enemy fire.

His gallant action is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.

Anne Coulter, the mean-spirited propagandist who has been a gleeful accomplice of the war criminals in the White House, wrote this of Cleland:

"Max Cleland should stop allowing Democrats to portray him as a war hero who lost his limbs taking enemy fire on the battlefields of Vietnam….[he] lost three limbs in an accident during a routine non-combat mission where he was about to drink beer with friends. He saw a grenade on the ground and picked it up. He could have done that at Fort Dix. In fact, Cleland could have dropped a grenade on his foot as a National Guardsman. ... Luckily for Cleland’s political career and current pomposity about Bush, he happened to do it while in Vietnam."

Max Cleland served his country with honor, lost both legs and an arm, and was awarded the Silver Star for valorous action in combat. He returned home and overcame his physical limitations, severe depression, and a sorely inadequate VA system. He went on to a distinguished career in civil service, including stints as the administrator of the Veteran’s Administration and as a US Senator from Georgia.

Crusading for veterans, resigning from the 9/11 Commission to protest stonewalling by the White House, vehemently expressing his opposition to the illegal Iraqi Occupation, and campaigning for fellow Democrats, Cleland has suffered the wrath of the Bush Regime and its sycophants like Coulter.

In 2002, Cleland was “Swift-Boated” in his re-election bid for the US Senate. Saxby Chambliss took his place. Chambliss (an ardent supporter of the bellicose agenda of the Bush Regime) is a chicken-hawk who sat out the Vietnam War with a “bad knee” but won the Senatorial race with a vicious campaign that portrayed Cleland as being soft on national defense.

Thanks for your courageous service, Senator Cleland. We appreciate you sacrificing your body parts. Now bend over while we stick it to you.

Cleland and the veterans for whom he advocates so tirelessly are amongst the most grievously harmed victims of the ruling elite. Lured in by patently false assertions that they are joining the military to defend their country (or in some cases conscripted--clearly an act of a “democracy”), US military personnel have been, and are, mere cannon fodder for the imperialist war machine. Departing as heroes, veterans often return home to find themselves treated like yesterday’s garbage.

As Cleland spoke, he voiced his concerns about the Bush Regime’s numerous abuses of US military personnel, starting with sending them on a fool’s errand in Iraq chasing non-existent WMD’s and killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians. According to Cleland, the Neocon Empire is burning out the United States military. He assailed the backdoor draft and the misuse of the National Guard as a fighting force on foreign soil. As he indicated, National Guard personnel and equipment in Iraq were sorely missed during Katrina.

Characterizing the Iraqi Occupation as “Vietnam without water”, Senator Cleland called for the withdrawal of our troops. He reminded us that the United States needs to prepare for a flood of about a million returning veterans. Many of those people will need medical and psychological care, housing assistance, and job training.

When Cleland finished speaking, he received a long standing ovation. I continue to applaud him in my mind when I reflect on his speech. Max Cleland is an inspirational human being who is one of the millions of US veterans who have been exploited by the American Empire in a particularly reprehensible way. While the chicken-hawks and their cheerleaders sit safely on the side-line, members of America’s poor and working class are thrust into the maelstrom of war to further the interests of the wealthy and powerful. Jenna and Barbara Bush won’t see combat action any time soon; in spite of their father’s repeated assurances that our troops in Iraq are fighting for a noble cause.

In his recent essay entitled Why I Hate America, Mickey Z echoed William Blum’s assertion:

"I'm committed to fighting U.S. foreign policy, the greatest threat to peace and happiness in the world, and being in the United States is the best place for carrying out the battle. This is the belly of the beast, and I try to be an ulcer inside of it."

From my perspective, the wealthy elite, nearly omnipotent corporations, avarice, impunity, hubris, and bellicosity are the elements of America that comprise the beast. And as the beast of my understanding takes the implementation of Herbert Spencer’s perverse social theory to new heights, there is nowhere I would rather be than in its belly, striving to be a festering, and cankerous wound.

Someone needs to persistently document and decry the myriad foreign and domestic crimes of the American Empire. Join those of us who are. And perhaps one day justice will be served.

Jason Miller is a wage slave of the American Empire who has freed himself intellectually and spiritually. He writes prolifically and his essays have appeared widely on the Internet. He welcomes constructive correspondence at

or via his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at
Jason Miller
About author Jason Miller is a wage slave of the American Empire who has freed himself intellectually and spiritually. He writes prolifically and his essays have appeared widely on the Internet. He welcomes constructive correspondence at or via his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at
Herbert Spencer's Evolved Capitalists: “Proclaiming Death to the Weakling, Wealth to the Strong” - The Smirking Chimp

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d r i f t g l a s s: Reactionary

Lambert: See Federalist 47. Republican torture "compromise" is tyranny | CorrenteWire

Submitted by lambert on Sat, 2006-09-23 12:02.
Republicans vs. the Constitution | Department of How Stupid Do They Think We Are?

Go read the post:
See Federalist 47. Republican torture "compromise" is tyranny | CorrenteWire

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Charles Krauthammer - Tolerance: A Two-Way Street -

"..."How dare you say Islam is a violent religion? I'll kill you for it" is not exactly the best way to go about refuting the charge. But of course, refuting is not the point here. The point is intimidation.

"...As I said. No sense of irony."

So says Dr. Krauthammer. Yet he seems totally unaware of the irony inherent in his own column. He alludes to Christendom's having dropped it's warlike attitude and becoming a more peaceful religion than Islam. But this relative peacefullness is more likely a consequence of the Enlightnenment and the dropping of Christianity as the 'raison d'etre' for western civilization. But even after this 'enlightenment' Christianity clung like a 3 yr. old to it's mother's leg to every military and pseudo-military endeavor of the West.

And is Dr. Krauthammer oblivious to the adoption of, and pandering to Christian interests in this White House? Georgie's own claims to be in contact with God, and Jesus as his favorite philosopher? All this while he doles out millions of taxpayer dollars to Christian groups and courts Christian fundamentalist leaders and their followers? Does the Dr. remember W's own claim to holy war aginst terrorism? Is the good Dr. aware of the rise of fundamental Christianity in this country and even Europe? Cynical neocons are all too ready to utilize the "useful idiots" of the Christian political movement for election day victories.

Oh, the irony is as thick as the 'Armor of God' in this column.

I call Charles Krauthammer "IRONIC-WANKER-IN-CHIEF" for Sept. 22, 2006.


Charles Krauthammer - Tolerance: A Two-Way Street -

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday Funny Flurry

The Geneva Conventions by on picture to "embiggen" view.

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My invisible sky buddy is more powerful than yours!!

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Let them eat yellowcake! on picture to "embiggen" view.

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We Found Them!! on picture to "embiggen" view.

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We do it all for on picture to "embiggen" view.

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Look in the mirror A-hole! on picture to "embiggen" view.

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Bad Reporter on picture to "embiggen" view.

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Compliments of the Commander-in-"Chef" on picture to "embiggen" view.

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Special on picture to "embiggen" view.

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War is evil...but on me it does look good!

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My apologies to on picture to "embiggen" view.

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brine barrel on picture to "embiggen" view.

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Looks like a good campaign strategy to on picture to "embiggen" view.

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The ReichWing on picture to "embiggen" view.

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Stamity, you liar! The only person claiming a slamdunk' was whom Pretzelnit Bush gave a medal. Many in the CIA discounted the claims. I call WANKER on you! on picture to "embiggen" view.

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I got the solution! on picture to "embiggen" view.

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Bad Reporter - on picture to "embiggen" view.

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Rendition - CIA ‘refused to operate’ secret jails

By Guy Dinmore in Washington - Financial Times

The Bush administration had to empty its secret prisons and transfer terror suspects to the military-run detention centre at Guantánamo this month in part because CIA interrogators had refused to carry out further interrogations and run the secret facilities, according to former CIA officials and people close to the programme.

The former officials said the CIA interrogators’ refusal was a factor in forcing the Bush administration to act earlier than it might have wished. "Read More" click link below


When Mr Bush announced the suspension of the secret prison programme in a speech before the fifth anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, some analysts thought he was trying to gain political momentum before the November midterm congressional elections.

The administration publicly explained its decision in light of the legal uncertainty surrounding permissible interrogation techniques following the June Supreme Court ruling that all terrorist suspects in detention were entitled to protection under Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions.

But the former CIA officials said Mr Bush’s hand was forced because interrogators had refused to continue their work until the legal situation was clarified because they were concerned they could be prosecuted for using illegal techniques. One intelligence source also said the CIA had refused to keep the secret prisons going.

Senior officials and Mr Bush himself have come close to admitting this by saying CIA interrogators sought legal clarity. But no official has confirmed on the record how and when the secret programme actually came to an end.

John Negroponte, director of national intelligence, who was interviewed by Fox News on Sunday, said in response to a question of whether CIA interrogators had refused to work: “I think the way I would answer you in regard to that question is that there’s been precious little activity of that kind for a number of months now, and certainly since the Supreme Court decision.”

In an interview with the Financial Times, John Bellinger, legal adviser to the state department, went further, saying there had been “very little operational activity” on CIA interrogations since the passage last December of a bill proposed by Senator John McCain outlawing torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners.

Mr Bellinger said the secret prisons remained empty for the moment. But he defended the US position that use of such prisons did not contravene international conventions as some in Europe have argued. He also said that, theoretically, the Pentagon as well as the CIA had the legal right to run such facilities. The CIA declined to comment.

Key figures among the 14 prisoners transferred to Guantánamo, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, had been held in secret centres for three years or more.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
SOURCE: / US / Rendition - CIA ‘refused to operate’ secret jails

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1,100 Laptops Missing From Commerce Dept.

By Alan Sipress
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 22, 2006; A03

More than 1,100 laptop computers have vanished from the Department of Commerce since 2001, including nearly 250 from the Census Bureau containing such personal information as names, incomes and Social Security numbers, federal officials said yesterday.

This disclosure by the department came in response to a request by the House Committee on Government Reform, which this summer asked 17 federal departments to detail any loss of computers holding sensitive personal information.

Of the 10 departments that have responded, the losses at Commerce are "by far the most egregious," said David Marin, staff director for the committee. He added that the silence of the remaining seven departments could reflect their reluctance to reveal problems of similar magnitude. "Read More" click link below


In a private briefing yesterday for three members of Congress, Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez estimated that the disappearance of laptops from the Census Bureau could have compromised the personal information of about 6,200 households, Marin said. He said the department was still trying to determine the extent of the problem.

"We don't know exactly how many computers were lost or whether personal information was compromised," said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), who chairs the House Government Reform Committee and attended the briefing. "The secretary has assured me that getting that information is priority number one, and I'm confident he'll get his arms around the problem."

Commerce officials told the congressmen that the inventory of missing laptops had escalated rapidly in recent weeks as the department investigated the disappearances. Marin said the committee was concerned that that number could increase significantly as Commerce officials learn more about missing handheld computers, which are increasingly being used in the Census Bureau.

Commerce officials said in a statement that they knew of no instances in which information from the missing laptops had been improperly accessed, adding that all the equipment contained safeguards that would prevent a breach of personal data.

"The amount of missing computers is high, but fortunately, the vulnerability for data misuse is low," Gutierrez said in the statement.

With its disclosure, Commerce is the latest federal agency to admit in recent months that it had lost laptops with sensitive personal data. In May, an employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs lost a laptop containing unencrypted information on about 26.5 million people. Three months later, Veterans Affairs acknowledged that a second computer, with information on about 38,000 hospital patients in Pennsylvania, was also missing.

The Federal Trade Commission has lost two laptops with files containing people's financial account numbers, and the Department of Agriculture announced that one of its laptops had disappeared along with personal information on about 350 employees.

Gutierrez and his staff told the congressmen that 1,137 laptops had been stolen, lost or otherwise vanished since 2001, mostly from the Census Bureau and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Of these, 249 contained personally identifiable information, nearly all from the Census Bureau. All were password-protected, a low-level safeguard. Only 107 of the computers were fully encrypted.
© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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Reclaiming The Issues: "Keep George Out Of Jail"

by Thom Hartmann

The Republicans are trying to keep George W. Bush out of jail. So far, the media and the Democrats haven't done much to stop them.

On the surface, it seems the Republicans are having a debate about "wiretapping terrorists" and "harsh interrogation of prisoners." These frames about the current "rebellion" by McCain, Graham, Warner, et al, are today embraced by both the Republican Party and the mainstream media.

But the real issue is whether Republicans in Congress will trade the principles of democracy and the rule of law to keep George W. Bush and several of his colleagues out of jail, or whether they'll uphold the rule of law and American democracy while abandoning him to face the consequences of his illegal acts.

Continued on "Print Article and/or Read More" below >>>

On June 29, 2006, in the Hamden Case, the US Supreme Court ruled that Donald Rumsfeld and the Bush Administration had violated the Geneva Convention and other international treaties with regard to the treatment and prosecution of detainees in the so-called "war on terror."

The logic of the decision could subject Bush, Cheney, Gonzales, and Rumsfeld - along with those down the chain of command who followed their orders - to prosecution as war criminals both in the United States and internationally. If they violated Common Article 3 and others of the Geneva Conventions, they could be subject to lengthy imprisonment in the US for violating US laws, as well as being brought before the United Nation's International Court of Justice at The Hague, the same as Slobodan Milosevic.

A hastily convened conference call by the Justice Department to discuss the ruling caused Brian Roehrkasse at the Department of Justice Public Affairs Office to comment to those on the call that "the Supreme Court's holding indicates the military commissions, as currently constituted by DOD, while robust in affording enemy combatants more process than this or any other country has ever afforded enemy combatants, are not consistent with current congressional statutes, especially the UCMJ and treaty provisions, Common Article 3."

A plain English translation would be close to: "The Supreme Court said we've broken US law, we've broken the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and we've broken the Geneva Conventions' Common Article 3."

About six weeks later, on August 17, 2006, Federal Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled in Detroit that George W. Bush and his administration had committed numerous felonies with regard to wiretapping American citizens without a legal warrant, including violating the FISA act (which carries a 5-year prison term as the penalty for each violation) and violating the Constitution (which carries impeachment as its penalty). Later in the day, the Department of Homeland Security facilitated the arrest in Thailand of John Mark Karr for killing JonBenet Ramsey, sweeping the story off the front page and out of the weekend news analysis shows, but the ruling is still there.

Thus the Republicans are scrambling.

If either of these precedents carry forward or are seriously prosecuted - as could happen if Democrats take either the House or the Senate and gain the power to investigate crimes of the Bush Administration, or could simply happen as the normal course of events if lawyers in the Justice Department and the United Nations enforce the law - Republicans are faced with the very real possibility that George W. Bush and others in his administration could go to prison. Impeachment is a virtual given.

Thus the spin. And the compromises. And the debates within the Republican Party. And the corporate media's efforts to limit the discussion to the "wiretapping debate" and the "prisoner interrogation/torture debate."

Scratch the veneer off, though, and you quickly see that this is really about keeping George out of jail.

This one will be interesting to watch.

Will the Republicans bail George out the way Osama's half-brother, Salem Bin Laden (who soon thereafter died in a plane crash in Texas), did when Dubya's Harken Oil Company was going bust? Will they keep him from being prosecuted the way his father did when Poppy shut down an SEC investigation of Junior's inside trading? Will they keep him out of federal custody the way his daddy did when Dubya left the Texas Air National Guard to desert the military and go on a year-long drinking binge in Alabama?

And will the Democratic Party seize the frame - or use as an October Surprise - the fact of George W. Bush's vulnerability to criminal prosecution?

Or will the Republicans - and maybe even Poppy Bush (who's spending an eerie amount of time with his new surrogate son, Bill Clinton) - simply decide that after sixty years it's finally time for George to fend for himself, and leave our laws intact?

It could, after all, be the best way for a "maverick" Republican like McCain to reclaim the Republican party and pin all the blame for five years of High Crimes And Misdemeanors on Dubya, paving the way for a "cleaner" Republican slate in the '08 elections. Many of these same Republicans, remember, were pushing hard for jail time for Bill Clinton for lying to a Grand Jury about having sex in the Oval Office - and were quite vocal about how a president could be both impeached and prosecuted for crimes.

The next few weeks - and the fine print in the "compromises" being hammered out among Republicans in the Senate right now - will tell.

Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show carried on the Air America Radio network and Sirius. His most recent books include "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection," "We The People: A Call To Take Back America," "What Would Jefferson Do?" and "Ultimate Sacrifice." His most recent book is "Screwed: The Undeclared War on the Middle Class and What We Can Do About It."

Reclaiming The Issues: "Keep George Out Of Jail"

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The Threat Is from Those Who Accept Climate Change, Not Those Who Deny It - by George Monbiot

If the biosphere is ruined it will be done by people who know that emissions must be cut - but refuse to alter the way they live

You have to pinch yourself. Until now the Sun has denounced environmentalists as "loonies" and "eco beards". Last week it published "photographic proof that climate change is real". In a page that could have come straight from a Greenpeace pamphlet, it laid down 10 "rules" for its readers to follow: "Use public transport when possible; use energy-saving lightbulbs; turn off electric gadgets at the wall; do not use a tumble dryer ... "

Two weeks ago the Economist also recanted. In the past it has asserted that "Mr Bush was right to reject the prohibitively expensive Kyoto pact". It co-published the Copenhagen Consensus papers, which put climate change at the bottom of the list of global priorities. Now, in a special issue devoted to scaring the living daylights out of its readers, it maintains that "the slice of global output that would have to be spent to control emissions is probably ... below 1%". It calls for carbon taxes and an ambitious programme of government spending.

Almost everywhere, climate change denial now looks as stupid and as unacceptable as Holocaust denial. But I'm not celebrating yet. The danger is not that we will stop talking about climate change, or recognising that it presents an existential threat to humankind. The danger is that we will talk ourselves to kingdom come.

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If the biosphere is wrecked, it will not be done by those who couldn't give a damn about it, as they now belong to a diminishing minority. It will be destroyed by nice, well-meaning, cosmopolitan people who accept the case for cutting emissions, but who won't change by one iota the way they live. I know people who profess to care deeply about global warming, but who would sooner drink Toilet Duck than get rid of their Agas, patio heaters and plasma TVs, all of which are staggeringly wasteful. A recent brochure published by the Co-operative Bank boasts that its "solar tower" in Manchester "will generate enough electricity every year to make 9 million cups of tea". On the previous page it urges its customers "to live the dream and purchase that perfect holiday home ... With low cost flights now available, jetting off to your home in the sun at the drop of a hat is far more achievable than you think."

Environmentalism has always been characterised as a middle-class concern; while this has often been unfair, there is now an undeniable nexus of class politics and morally superior consumerism. People allow themselves to believe that their impact on the planet is lower than that of the great unwashed because they shop at Waitrose rather than Asda, buy Tomme de Savoie instead of processed cheese slices and take eco-safaris in the Serengeti instead of package holidays in Torremolinos. In reality, carbon emissions are closely related to income: the richer you are, the more likely you are to be wrecking the planet, however much stripped wood and hand-thrown crockery there is in your kitchen.

It doesn't help that politicians, businesses and even climate-change campaigners seek to shield us from the brutal truth of just how much has to change. Last week Friends of the Earth published the report it had commissioned from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, which laid out the case for a 90% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. This caused astonishment in the media. But other calculations, using the same sources, show that even this ambitious target is two decades too late. It becomes rather complicated, but please bear with me, for our future rests on these numbers.

The Tyndall Centre says that to prevent the earth from warming by more than two degrees above preindustrial levels, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere must be stabilised at 450 parts per million or less (they currently stand at 380). But this, as its sources show, is plainly insufficient. The reason is that carbon dioxide (CO2) is not the only greenhouse gas. The others - such as methane, nitrous oxide and hydrofluorocarbons - boost its impacts by around 15%. When you add the concentrations of CO2 and the other greenhouse gases together, you get a figure known as "CO2 equivalent". But the Tyndall Centre uses "CO2" and "CO2 equivalent" interchangeably, permitting an embarrassing scientific mish-mash.

"Concentrations of 450 parts per million CO2 equivalent or lower", it says, provide a "reasonable to high probability of not exceeding 2C". This is true, but the report is not calling for a limit of 450 parts of "CO2 equivalent". It is calling for a limit of 450 parts of CO2, which means at least 500 parts of CO2 equivalent. At this level there is a low to very low probability of keeping the temperature rise below two degrees. So why on earth has this reputable scientific institution muddled the figures?

You can find the answer on page 16 of the report. "As with all client-consultant relationships, boundary conditions were established within which to conduct the analysis ... Friends of the Earth, in conjunction with a consortium of NGOs and with increasing cross-party support from MPs, have been lobbying hard for the introduction of a 'climate change bill' ... [The bill] is founded essentially on a correlation of 2C with 450 parts per million of CO2."

In other words, Friends of the Earth had already set the target before it asked its researchers to find out what the target should be. I suspect that it chose the wrong number because it believed a 90% cut by 2030 would not be politically acceptable.

This echoes the refusal of Sir David King, the government's chief scientist, to call for a target of less than 550 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, on the grounds that it would be "politically unrealistic". The message seems to be that the science can go to hell - we will tell people what we think they can bear.

So we all deceive ourselves and deceive each other about the change that needs to take place. The middle classes think they have gone green because they buy organic cotton pyjamas and handmade soaps with bits of leaf in them - though they still heat their conservatories and retain their holiday homes in Croatia. The people who should be confronting them with hard truths balk at the scale of the challenge. And the politicians won't jump until the rest of us do.

On Sunday the Liberal Democrats announced that they are making climate change their top political priority, and on Tuesday they voted to shift taxation from people to pollution. At first sight it looks bold, but then you discover that they have scarcely touched the problem. While total tax receipts in the United Kingdom amount to £350bn a year, they intend to shift just £8bn - or 2.3%.

So the question which now confronts everyone - politicians, campaign groups, scientists, readers of the Guardian as well as the Economist and the Sun - is this: how much reality can you take? Do you really want to stop climate chaos, or do you just want to feel better about yourself?

George Monbiot's book Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning is published by Allen Lane next week. He has also launched a website - - exposing false environmental claims made by corporations and celebrities.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006
The Threat Is from Those Who Accept Climate Change, Not Those Who Deny It

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Before Sticking Your Foot in Your Mouth, Talk to Me - by Garrison Keillor

I wish the pope had talked to me before he gave his "evil and inhuman" speech that got Muslims so testy at him. I could have told him, "Don't quote some old emperor's thoughts about Muslims unless you're willing to have people confuse his views with yours." You don't tell a Mormon, "My neighbor used to be Mormon and he says it's the weirdest religion since the Incas." He'll give you the hairy eyeball and go off to the temple and start converting your deceased ancestors.

If you're the holy pontiff, you should watch what you say, with the infallibility factor and all. You toss out an idea, and suddenly people are on their knees repeating it word for word. You'd think the pope has some peeps to tell him this. He can't just put on a pair of Ray-Bans and toss back an appletini and shoot the breeze as if he were Joe Blow from Kokomo. I could have told him that, had he asked.

My advantage is that I'm in Minnesota and it's September, there's a chill in the air, and this makes us smarter. Cold is a stimulant of intelligence. This has been shown time and time again.

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If only Ford Motor Co. had spoken to me before admitting publicly that it expects to fall behind Toyota in the near future. The execs must be spending too much time at the beach. That's weenie talk. They should have said, "Market share is not what it's about for us. We know in our hearts that we are making the right cars for America at this time, and we will keep making them no matter how unpopular they are. In the end, we'll be proven right." Walk tall, Ford. Don't cry in the beer. That's my advice. Too bad you didn't ask.

I am an elder, after all, my boyish grin and insouciant manner notwithstanding. In other civilizations, I would sit cross-legged in my lodge and you people would approach me, bowing, and ask my counsel. You could do this anyway.

And that crazy Congressman John A. Boehner. He made a speech, asking whether Democrats are "more interested in protecting terrorists than in protecting the American people." He should have talked to me first. The U.S. House of Representatives, in which Mr. Boehner serves as majority leader, is not an institution held in high esteem these days, and before he chucks road apples at Democrats, he should tend to his own business.

The House took a five-week summer vacation, came back into session, debated the Abraham Lincoln Commemorative Coin Act, then spent four hours debating a bill to prohibit slaughtering horses for consumption - horse meat! In this country, horse meat is served only to carnivores in zoos, but various gasbags had to stand up and laud our equine friends, praise their role in the Western migration, the U.S. Cavalry, etc. Meanwhile the subjects of immigration, port security, terrorism and the war went unmentioned in the House chamber.

Commemorative coins!!?? The U.S. Mint is still producing pennies, though a penny costs more than a penny to produce (and a nickel costs more than a nickel), and people throw the coins away because they're worthless and a nuisance, and other people don't bend down to pick them up, despite the saying, "See a penny, pick it up, and the rest of the day you'll have good luck," and the Mint keeps cranking out more small change to replace those - it's deficit spending in action. It's foolishness on wheels.

Mr. Boehner's majority is helpless to solve this or to deal with the great issues of this country aside from whether to feed Trigger to the lions. And then he hauls off and accuses Democrats of treason.

You want to know what I think? Congress should leave town. Move north to where they can feel the crisp chill breeze of reality. Maybe a place in the middle of the country, along the Mississippi River. Let D.C. keep the Pentagon, the White House, the statuary, the vast marble and granite sheds of the federal bureaucracy, and move our nation's deliberative bodies to a place with a clearer view. There is plenty of land available along the Mississippi, rolling hills, woods, meadows. No need to spend money on a dome and pillars - just pitch two big circus tents, one for the House, one for the Senate, bring in FEMA trailers for housing, and let's see if we can't get more work out of these people.
Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" can be heard Saturday nights on public radio stations across the country.

Copyright © 2006, The Baltimore Sun
Before Sticking Your Foot in Your Mouth, Talk to Me

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Is it the PR, or the Policy? 'The Best War Ever,' Exposes Failed Propaganda Efforts by the Bush Administration - by Bill Berkowitz

Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber's new book, 'The Best War Ever,' exposes failed propaganda efforts by the Bush Administration

In a recent speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared that, "The enemy is so much better at communicating. I wish we were better at countering that because the constant drumbeat of things they say -- all of which are not true -- is harmful."

During a question-and-answer session at Fallon Naval Air Station in Nevada, Rumsfeld complained about terrorist groups that have "media committees" that "manipulate the media."

"What bothers me the most is how clever the enemy is," he said. "They are actively manipulating the media in this country... They can lie with impunity."

During the three-plus years since the U.S. invaded Iraq, the Bush Administration has repeatedly criticized the media for reporting only the "bad" news from Iraq. President Bush has frequently maintained that the consequences of the media's preoccupation with negative stories demoralizes the troops on the ground, and undercuts support for the war at home.

Never mind that there were few complaints from the administration at the beginning of the war when an embedded and compliant media filed mostly positive reports.

In their new book titled "The Best War Ever: Lies, Damned Lies, and the Mess in Iraq" (Tarcher/Penguin, 2006), which went on sale last week, co-authors Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber assert that television reporters "actually underplayed rather than overplayed the negative" in their reporting from Iraq, while "newspaper coverage during the subsequent occupation has also been sanitized."

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Rampton and Stauber cite a study by researchers at George Washington University that analyzed 1,820 stories on five U.S. television networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and Fox News, as well as the Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera, and found that "all of the American media largely shied away from showing visuals of coalition, Iraqi military, or civilian casualties. Despite advanced technologies offering reporters the chance to transmit the reality of war in real time, reporters chose instead to present a largely bloodless conflict to viewers even when they did broadcast during firefights."

Print journalists didn't perform much better. A May 2005 review by Los Angeles Times writer James Rainey of the coverage of a six-month period -- when 559 U.S. and Western allies died in Iraq -- by six major U.S. newspapers and two popular newsmagazines found that "readers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Washington Post did not see a single picture of a dead serviceman."

"Rumsfeld's complaints are an interesting twist of the truth since the reality is that the United States has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on media campaigns that have been spectacularly ineffective," Rampton told me in a telephone interview. "That the enemy has been more effective in communicating its message to the world is not so much a reflection of their media savvy as it is on the ineffective message of the United States."

"You can't expect a better messaging strategy to compensate for the fact that the underlining policy is based on falsehoods and deliberate deception," Rampton said.

As the occupation of Iraq proved unmanageable and the total number of dead and wounded U.S. military personnel mounted, stories about the revamping of schoolhouses, re-supplying of hospitals, and the building of soccer fields were given a backseat by the media.

With things continuing to spiral out of control in Iraq, the Bush administration has once again decided that it's a public relations problem; a question of propaganda not policy. Around the same time that Rumsfeld was on the road railing about anti-war appeasers and confused critics that were enabling terrorism, and how much better the terrorists were in handling the media, the Washington Post reported that "U.S. military leaders in Baghdad have put out for bid a two-year, 20-million-dollar public relations contract that calls for extensive monitoring of U.S. and Middle Eastern media in an effort to promote more positive coverage of news from Iraq."

According to the Post's Walter Pincus, the "contract calls for assembling a database of selected news stories and assessing their tone as part of a program to provide 'public relations products' that would improve coverage of the military command's performance, according to a statement of work attached to the proposal."

Pincus pointed out that the proposal "calls in part for extensive monitoring and analysis of Iraqi, Middle Eastern and American media, [and] is designed to help the coalition forces understand 'the communications environment.' Its goal is to 'develop communication strategies and tactics, identify opportunities, and execute events... to effectively communicate Iraqi government and coalition's goals, and build support among our strategic audiences in achieving these goals,'" according to a statement publicly available through the FBO Daily's Web site.

"From what I've seen, the thing about this proposal that most concerns me is the component calling for the monitoring of the media, especially when journalists will be rated as to how favorable they are toward U.S. policy objectives," Rampton pointed out.

"Monitoring journalists and maintaining a database of their stories raises a number of serious questions: Who knows where that database will wind up in two years or five years from now? What kind of retribution might be exacted against those reporters whose work is seen as unfavorable to U.S. policy?"

The administration's new maneuver appears to be deja vu all over again.

As early as September 2003, less than six months after the invasion of Iraq, it determined that the best way to sell its policy was to make its highest ranking officials -- including the president -- available for safe media opportunities.

President Bush gave the Fox News Channel a 30-minute interview and a 20-minute on-camera tour of the White House while then-National Security Advisor and current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appeared on ABC's "Nightline" and gave interviews to Fox television's Brit Hume and Bill O'Reilly and to conservative radio talk show host Sean Hannity.

A later campaign was aimed at sidestepping the mainstream media entirely by dispatching administration spokespersons to talk only to local news outlets. Another campaign had the administration hiring the Lincoln Group, a high-powered public relations firm, to plant positive stories in the Iraqi news media and to pay friendly Iraqi journalists monthly stipends.

"In the first chapter of 'The Best War Ever,' we discuss the failures of recent attempts by the U.S. to plant stories in the Iraq media," Rampton noted. "You can't throw money at a messaging problem and expect to be effective when the people you are trying to persuade are deeply outraged at what you are doing."

Rampton and Stauber document how money that was thrown to public relations outfits in order to have them promote the war in Iraq:

"Lincoln partnered initially with the Rendon Group, a public relations firm that had already played a major role in leading the U.S. into war through its work for Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress. A few weeks later, Rendon dropped out of the project and left Lincoln in charge. Lincoln hired another Washington-based public relations firm as a subcontractor -- BKSH & Associates, headed by Republican political strategist Charles R. Black, Jr. BKSH is a subsidiary of Burson-Marszteller, a PR firm whose previous experience in Iraq also included work for Chalabi and the INC. Other Pentagon contracts for public relations work were awarded to SYColeman Inc. of Arlington, Virginia, and Science applications International Corporation. All totaled, the PR contracts added up to $300 million over a five-year period."

Over the course of the war and occupation of Iraq, even the parameters of what constitutes "good" news has changed dramatically. Early on, the "good" news consisted of reports on the rebuilding of schools and hospitals, the delivery of new fire trucks to a small town, or the opening of soccer field for Iraqi children.

These days, the "good" news has more to do with whether Iraqi troops have the stuff necessary to militarily confront sectarian militias, whether attacks by insurgents have dropped from 50 a day to 25, whether daily Iraqi civilian deaths are in the dozens instead of the hundreds, and whether the situation has descended into a full-blown civil war or whether a civil war is still in the offing.

To paraphrase bluesman Albert King's song "Born Under a Bad Sign," "If it wasn't for bad news, there would be no news at all."

© 2006
Is it the PR, or the Policy? 'The Best War Ever,' Exposes Failed Propaganda Efforts by the Bush Administration

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Do the Gene Engineers Know Best? - by Deborah Rich

We Americans are eating a lot of genetically engineered food, and for no good reason.

Since the mid-1990s, when corn and soybean varieties began being injected with genes from bacteria and other unrelated species, we’ve been paying participants in a food experiment with potentially unprecedented effects on human health, the environment and food security.

By 2005, the Agriculture Department says, the vast majority of U.S. soybean acres and 52 percent of corn acres were planted with genetically engineered seed.

The bounty of these acres is in our candy, crackers and chicken pot pies, in our pizza and pasta sauce, in our Coca Cola and Campbell’s soups. Corn and soybeans are ubiquitous: tens of thousands of processed foods contain soy, and the typical consumer takes in 200 calories of high-fructose corn syrup per day. Alter the genomes of corn and soybeans, and you’ve altered the diet of most Americans.

Corn and soybeans are staples of animal feeds, so we’re also modifying the diets of our beef cattle and milk cows, our pigs and chickens.

Yet lending our grocery dollars and stomachs to this venture gains us little.

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The price of modified seed includes a technology fee that effectively siphons off the bulk of any additional revenue farmers might gain from reduced pest damage or decreased management costs.

Many hoped that genetically engineered crops would help the environment by cutting pesticide use. We should have known that growing crops engineered to tolerate herbicides could lead to more chemical use. A 2004 analysis funded by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that the introduction of engineered corn, soybeans and cotton caused a 122 million pound increase in pesticide use since 1996.

And because resistant crops have encouraged near constant use of one or two classes of herbicides, superweeds that withstand the chemicals have now emerged and will require ever more potent poisons to control.

Another hope was that gene tinkering would help end world hunger. But the dream of concocting drought-tolerant, insect-resistant, nutrient-dense supreme species ignores the reality of global markets already awash in food. Hunger and malnutrition result from poverty, not a lack of food in the world.

It’s unlikely that we’re getting health benefits from eating these crops. Scientists are studying their possible effects. Among the findings: abnormal white and red blood cell counts and inflammation of the kidney in rats fed genetically engineered corn, accelerated growth of stomach and intestinal tissues of rats fed engineered potatoes, and immune responses in mice fed altered peas. The findings are controversial, but they should, at the very least, give us pause.

Meanwhile, pollen from genetically engineered crops is on the move. In a recent study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, 50 percent of nonengineered corn and soybean varieties tested by one laboratory contained DNA from engineered versions. Chasing down and eliminating this freeflowing DNA from our seed supply, should the need arise, will require Herculean effort.

The only clear reason why we’re eating so much genetically modified food is that Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta, which together control over 25 percent of global seed sales, want us to.

In the United States, Monsanto dominates many a menu. It owns half of the American corn seed market, and its modified traits are present in roughly 90 percent of soybean acres.

Monsanto is tossing salads too. In January 2005, it bought Seminis, supplier of 3,500 varieties of fruit and vegetable seed to 150 countries. Monsanto now controls more than 30 percent of the world’s cucumber, hot pepper and bean seed sales, and more than 20 percent of onion, tomato and sweet pepper seed sales, according to the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration.

Now consider that Monsanto and its cohorts are free to undertake the genetic modification of any plant variety they own. The plant varieties they don’t modify, they can remove from the market. With one-fourth of the total value of the worldwide commercial seed market already coming from engineered seeds, our choices for unmodified crops and foods are rapidly dwindling.

As we relinquish control over our food to the gene engineers, we must ask: Does Monsanto really know best?

Deborah Rich grows olive trees near Monterey, Calif., and writes about agriculture for the San Francisco Chronicle and other publications. She wrote this essay for the Land Institute's Prairie Writers Circle, Salina, Kan.
Do the Gene Engineers Know Best?

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The Torture Battle Royal - by Sidney Blumenthal

The public violation of the Geneva convention has created a schism between the president and military

President Bush's torture policy has provoked perhaps the greatest schism between a president and the military in American history. From the outside, this battle royal over his abrogation of the Geneva conventions appears as a shadow war. But since the supreme court's ruling in Hamdan v Rumsfeld in June, deciding that Bush's kangaroo court commissions for detainees "violate both the UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice] and the four Geneva conventions", the struggle has been forced into the open.

On September 6 Bush made his case for torture, offering as validity the interrogation under what he called an "alternative set of procedures" of an al-Qaida operative named Abu Zubaydah. Bush claimed he was a "senior terrorist leader" who "ran a terrorist camp" and had provided accurate information about planned terrorist attacks. In fact, Zubaydah was an al-Qaida travel agent (literally a travel agent), who, under torture, spun wild scenarios of terrorism that proved bogus. Zubaydah, it turns out, is a psychotic with the intelligence of a child. "This guy is insane, certifiable," said Dan Coleman, an FBI agent assigned to the al-Qaida taskforce.

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Bush's argument for torture is partly based on the unstated premise that the more sadism, the more intelligence. While he referenced Zubaydah, he did not mention Jamal Ahmed al-Fadl, described by the FBI, according to the New Yorker, as "arguably the US's most valuable informant on al-Qaida", who is wined, dined and housed by the federal witness protection programme.

On September 15 the Senate armed services committee approved a bill affirming the Geneva conventions, sponsored by three Republicans with military backgrounds - John Warner, John McCain and Lindsey Graham. The former secretary of state Colin Powell, Bush's "good soldier," released a letter denouncing Bush's version. "The world," he wrote, "is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism," and Bush's bill "would add to those doubts". That sentiment was underlined in another letter signed by 29 retired generals and CIA officials. General John Batiste, former commander of the 1st army division in Iraq, appeared on CNN to scourge the administration's policy as "unlawful", "wrong", and responsible for Abu Ghraib.

Before the committee vote, Bush's administration had tried to coerce the top military lawyers, the judge advocates general (JAGs), into signing a statement of uncritical support, which they refused to do. The Republican senators opposing Bush's torture policy first learned about the military's profound opposition from the JAGs. For years, the administration has considered them subversive and tried to eliminate them as a separate corps and substitute neoconservative political appointees.

In the summer of 2004 General Thomas J Fiscus, the top air force JAG, informed the senators that the administration's assertion that the JAGs backed Bush on torture was utterly false. Suspicion instantly fell upon Fiscus, one of the most aggressive opponents of torture policy, as the senators' source. Within weeks he was drummed out under a cloud of anonymous allegations by Pentagon officials of "improper relations" with women. His discharge was trumpeted in the press, but his role in the torture debate remained unknown.

Bush had intended to use his post-Hamdan bill to taint the Democrats, but instead he has split his party and further antagonised the military. His standoff on torture threatens to leave no policy whatsoever, and leave his war on terror in a twilight zone beyond the rule of law.

Sidney Blumenthal is a former senior adviser to President Clinton.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006
The Torture Battle Royal

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The Tidal Wave Heading Straight For the Hall of Mirrors - by David Sirota

by David Sirota

There are times every now and again where you just have to step back and behold the absurdity of it all. You have to step back from the day-to-day trench wars and just marvel at how entrenched power really is in this, the country where we still cling to Horatio Alger fables or "anyone can grow up to be president" myths. What I find particularly fascinating is the intricacy and careful calibration of the propaganda system that holds this whole structure up. Like a hall of mirrors, our political debate is, in every way, designed to perpetuate the status quo. But no hall of mirrors can withstand the impact of a big enough tidal wave, which is why those inside the hall are freaking out.

Consider, for a moment, the frothing, fulminating bile now being spit from the highest reaches of Washington, D.C.'s media establishment. A few months ago, we saw one major columnist at the largest newspaper in the world say voters should not have the right to decide elections in America anymore. Not only was he not shunned for his screed, he continues to appear regularly on television as an objective, god-fearing patriotic American. Soon after that, in the face of polls showing the vast majority of Americans oppose the Iraq War, a top Washington blowhard from one of the largest television networks in the country appeared on TV to label every Democrat who has questioned the war "as weak, Jane Fonda-type Democrats."

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But really, that was only the beginning. Since then, as voter discontent with the war, stagnating wages, job outsourcing and the general direction of the country has escalated, Washington has battened the hatches, and gone from spitting bile to firing tank ordnance at the oncoming battalions of ordinary people who, goddamned them, dare to think they should be able to have some say in their own country. Washington Post columnist David Broder - the so-called dean of the Washington press corps - called voters who want change "elitist insurgents" - a not-so-subtle attempt to conflate American voters with terrorists. Then there was my personal favorite - David Brooks sitting there in his pink shirt with a smarmy half-grin in Northwest Washington telling the country "Don't Worry, Be Happy." Brooks breathed a sigh of relief that "the Clintonite centrists are reasserting their intellectual, financial and political supremacy" and that Hillary Clinton gave a speech that scholars at the fringe-right-wing American Enterprise institute "called remarkably centrist." Thank god, said Brooks, that the "renegades who rail against the establishment are being eclipsed by the canny establishmentarians" because, according to him, "They're the ones who know how to use the levers of government to get things done." Ah yes, with war raging in the Mideast, poverty rising in America, people struggling to pay their bills, Clinton-backed free trade deals shipping jobs overseas - thank the lord that the same old crew was supposedly reasserting itself because that record shows "they know how to get things done."

He's not 100 percent wrong, of course - these people do know "how to get things done" - but only exclusively for the fat cats who pay to get a seat at the table - the fat cats that people like David Brooks feel most comfortable with; the fat cats that way too many Democratic officials are more than happy to go brag to reporters about shaking down even as they deride the GOP's culture of corruption.

Incredibly, however, none of the establishment's old tricks seem to be working anymore. All of the Jedi mind tricks, all of the false storylines, all of the Clockwork Orange-style indoctrination efforts just don't seem to be sticking. And that's why it's gotten so ugly of late.

Today, we see David Broder quite literally losing control of his faculties on the pages of the Washington Post. You can almost see the veins popping out of that shiny white forehead you've gotten so used to seeing on Meet the Press. Like the bad, overdone stereotype of the crotchety senior who is angry that the world around him is changing, Broder declares that there needs to be "a new movement in this country" to "resist "the extremist elements in American society." Who are these extremists? Why, people who use the Internet to politically organize and engage. Yes, according to Broder, "bloggers" are the moral equivalent of "doctrinaire religious extremists" - yet again, another not-so-subtle effort to portray anyone who dares to excercize their democratic rights as an Osama bin Laden supporter. He then fires off a screed about various politicians such as Rep. Sherrod Brown. He calls him "a loud advocate of protectionist policies that offer a false hope of solving our trade and job problems." Right, becaue in David Broder's cloistered world, the "free" trade deals Brown has opposed have done such wonders for places like Ohio. In David Broder's world, those hundreds of thousands of blue collar workers who have been thrown out onto the street thanks to NAFTA and China PNTR are the filth of the earth that high and mighty elite Washington journalists like him cannot be bothered with. In David Broder's world, any request for our trade pacts to include restrictions on child slavery, environmental degradation, and pharmaceutical industry profiteering off desperately poor people, positively un-American. Why? Because David Broder lives in a place where all of these critical issues are merely just more fodder and gossip for a newspaper column - not real challenges in his life, nor in the life of the people he spends his time with in the Washington Beltway.

At the very least, Broder realizes that the American public is outraged at the twisted moral compass that govern him and his buddies. That's why he is freaking out. But there are still some who are prancing around, spewing happy talk, making a fast buck, totally unaware of what's really going on out here in the real world, and perhaps even more insulting, totally unconcerned about their own naked hypocrisy. For instance, just this week, we see former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, now the head of Citigroup, standing on a stage with a straight face and holding a seminar about the best ways to alleviate international poverty. That this man was the top architect of the international trade policies that have exacerbated both domestic and international poverty is an afterthought. That this same man holding this seminar still refuses to acknowledge the culpability of the trade policies he has jammed down the world's throat is not to be mentioned. All that matters to the fawning media and political establishment is that this much-worshipped moneyman is on stage saying we need to help poor people. It makes you wonder if at some point soon, we'll be seeing Jack Abramoff holding a seminar on ethics and morals in the political arena. Simultaneously, courageous reformers like Sen. Byron Dorgan (D) who has written a serious, bestselling book about how to really fix our economic policies are shoved to the side, barely getting mentioned in the press, while financial-industry-hack-turned-congressmen Rahm Emanuel and his buddy Bruce Reed who heads a corporate front group are given oodles of press attention for publishing a barely-selling pamphlet of warmed-over hollow talking points perpetuating the status quo and reinforcing negative stereotypes about those who want real change.

At this same conference, we see images of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman laughing it up with Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf. That's right, the columnist who piously champions his supposed commitment to spreading democracy is happily, publicly hamming it up with a brutal central Asian dictator. Ah yes, because it's all just so goddamned hilarious to a New York Times columnist who can sit back in his 12,000 square foot Bethesda mansion, count his $2 billion family fortune, tell the world how much he really truly cares about freedom, push American soldiers into the Baghdad shooting gallery, advocate destructive trade policies that he brags about not having even read, and blaming Americans whose economic lives have been decimated by those trade policies for not better educating themselves. It's all just so goddamned funny for Tom Friedman, because he gets to do all that, yet still also gets to ham it up every few weeks on national television with Tim Russert, and gets to be on stage with his good friend Bill Clinton and pretend to be serious.

Of course, Clinton, who convened the conference that featured Rubin and Friedman, was recently the recipient of a 20,000 word New Yorker article that was the journalistic equivalent of what Monica Lewinsky did to him in those steamy Oval Office days. In the article, New Yorker editor David Remnick proclaims from the mountaintop Clinton's supposed devotion to solving the African AIDS crisis, but never once - not once - bothers to take a moment in between lavish banquets and starfucking exchanges to actually ask Clinton why, if he was so committed to stopping this awful plague, he insisted on passing trade deals that included provisions specifically designed to allow pharmaceutical companies to inflate AIDS drug prices in the developing world? But then, if you are David Remnick and all that really gives you a professional hard-on is getting to eat barbeque in Bill Clinton's private apartment in his palatial presidential library, why would you ask such a question? Because really, the only ones who care about the answer to such a question are the millions of impoverished peasants who were never able to afford AIDS medications thanks to those trade provisions - and those aren't the people David Remnick hangs out with or is writing for.

The same disconnection from reality is prevalent among many politicians - which might explain why some of them now are reacting so angrily to the fact that yes, they do have to face voters for reelection. Take Joe Lieberman. When confronted with the fact that he skipped more than half of all U.S. Senate votes on the Iraq War and most of the votes on the destructive Medicare bill so as to attend fundraisers for himself, he angrily claimed there is a moral equivalence between him as a full-time, $160,000-a-year U.S. Senator skipping decisions on the most pressing national security and health care questions in American history, and his opponent missing 6 votes on a part-time town council 15 years ago. He also says with a straight face that the reason he worked so hard to stop health care reform in the 1990s was because he cared about small business - but then he conveniently forgets to mention that he authored legislation to raise taxes on small business health benefits.

Then there is Rep. Nancy Johnson (R) who is now airing television ads saying that asking President Bush to obtain search warrants after he's wiretapped phones as the law requires would dangerously slow down the original wiretapping. Put another way, she's actually asking audiences to quite literally believe that the basic laws of space and time do not exist. Meanwhile, chickenhawks who refused to serve in the military when they had the chance continue to sit comfortably in their Washington think tank offices and transform their sick insecurities of personal weakness and frailty into screams for more American soldiers to be sent to die in Iraq.

What you see here, folks, is that all of it - the elections, the public policies, the future of the country - is one big joke to the people in power, and they are willing to lie, cheat and distort anything to protect the integrity of that joke they are so happily enjoying. They don't want anyone asking questions of them. They don't want anyone thinking they have a right to use democracy to change things. They are fat and happy and putting the pedal to the metal in their sleek sports car on the great American highway overpass - and anyone who tries to slow them down, run them off the road or make them just glance at the blight below gets the big, road-raged middle finger.

When I get up everyday at 5:30am to start working, it is still dark out. I read through the clips and digest the daily does of ever-more raw hatred coming from our nation's capital and directed at the majority of Americans. Then I try to have some breakfast without feeling totally demoralized. But as I look out on the darkness outside, I always remind myself of the famous parable: "It is always darkest before the dawn." Win or lose, November 7th isn't going to change everything. But win or lose, it's clear that things are already changing. The rising anger coming from the halls of power are a reflection of the establishment's deep understanding that change is coming. The screams from the angry pundits and the desperate politicians and the paying-to-play lobbyists are like the early warning sirens at a beach. And just over the horizon, they see that tidal wave coming.

David Sirota is the author of "Hostile Takeover" (Crown, 2006). He is the co-chair of the Progressive States Network (

© 2006

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Joe Stalin is Alive and Living on Pennsylvania Avenue - by Danny Schechter

Think of it this way. You are a former cold warrior who spent your youth studying every aspect of the old Soviet Union. Even though you hated their policies publicly, you began privately, first grudgingly and then, with time, enthusiastically, admire the way they operated.

They were so organized and adept at imposing their agenda with top -down control. They were, in words used at the time, 'masters of deception" and pursued secretive strategies of infiltrating ideologues and mole-like operatives -- known as apparatchiks-into government agencies and military organs.

Their KGB danced circles around our CIA and when their often-innocent "suspects" were interrogated, they were tortured with no restraints. The KGB made sure of that. Now the CIA does our dirty work and the President is crusading to lift any and all restraints from their extreme electrode units. They killed their anti-communist "enemies" outright after convicting them in kangaroo courts. We just detain ours indefinitely while demonizing them as terrorists beyond the protection of the law.

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Their Party imposed "message control" and ran media with carrots and sticks. Our Republican Guard uses perception management techniques to achieve the same results.

They marveled at how controlled everything was. And so they built a machine just like the one they "hated" even as the old order of the CCCP went down the tubes of history.

They invaded Afghanistan. We invaded Afghanistan. They wiretapped. We wiretapped. They had secret police. We have secret police in the form of contractors and companies like Blackwater.

They used propaganda. We made ours better. They had a party line. We have a party line. Theirs was blatant; ours is less visible.

They were said to want to conquer the world. Now, most of the world says that about us. In the old days, today's neo-cons denounced Communist plans for world domination. Now they have their own.

In the same way that cops often make the best criminals with many believing that many who joined the police would have just as comfortably have signed up with the mafia (and some did both) -- many of the professional anti-communists were just as authoritarian and dogmatic in their instincts.

Back, there were studies of "authoritarian personalities." Among their alleged traits:

1. They travel in tight circles of like-minded people.

2. Their thinking is more likely based on what authorities have told them rather than on their own critical judgment, which results in their beliefs being filled with inconsistencies.

3. They harbor numerous double standards and hypocrisies.

4. They see the world as a dangerous place, with society teetering on the brink of self-destruction from evil and violence, and when their fear conflates with their self-righteousness, they appoint themselves guardians of public morality, or God's Designated Hitters.

5. They think of themselves as far more moral and upstanding than others."

A Description of Stalinists? Perhaps. But Former Nixon lawyer John W. Dean uses these very categorizations to describe today's "conservatives" in his book, "Conservatives Without Conscience'

Which brings us to our modern day Busheviks, today's Bolshevik wannabes with a more sophisticated rap and deadly impact. Some are former leftists turned rightists who are now as comfortable in defending torture and abuse as the agencies they used to denounce. What went around is back again under a different name.

Just as the Neo-Nazis are back as newly elected respectable members of governments in Eastern Germany, abandoning the skinhead look for suits and ties and softer rhetoric, our Neo Cons have moved from left to hard right wrapped in burkas made of the American flag.

They have borrowed the techniques of their old enemies as Cheryl Seal wrote back in 2001: "Joseph Stalin was successful in seizing and retaining power primarily because he was able to stack the Politburo with politicians as extreme as himself and to dictate their actions and their votes on every issue. Party dissenters were harassed mercilessly by the Politburo members who remained blindly loyal to Stalin. With a block of supporters who did not think for themselves, Stalin was able to completely reverse Russia's policy on a number of key issues, right across the board. For example, in 1936, he completely reversed the liberal communist doctrines pertaining to family, divorce, and abortion. He made divorce difficult, made abortion illegal, and stressed "family values" [do we see a 'dictator pattern' here?]. Stalin's propagandists used a three-point strategy to convince the Russian people that things in Stalin's policy that were in fact extremely bad for the country (including the systematic round up and extermination of all "enemies of the state") were in fact "good." Point One: Create arguments that how the negative thing is actually NOT bad, but is actually good. [Present day ex: convincing people that greenhouse gases will give us lush green plants, not fry the planet]. Point Two: Show how the negative thing is actually not true. [Present-day ex: Global warming does not exist].

Point Three: Show that the negative thing is actually being caused by "enemies of the state" - most likely liberals. [Present-day example: We can't sign Kyoto because it is really a plot to ruin our economy]."

And so the parallels continue to surface -never exact but certainly suggestive -- as recently as today when we learned that unelected professional "cadre" of the hard right-not merely members of the GOP -- enjoyed unique access to the White House as AP reports:

"Republican activists Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed landed more than 100 meetings inside the Bush White House, according to documents released Wednesday that provide the first official accounting of the access and influence the two presidential allies have enjoyed.' Finally, ponder the words of Nikita Khrushchev who first exposed the crimes of Stalin back in l956: ""Everyone can err, but Stalin considered that he never erred, that he was always right. He never acknowledged to anyone that he made any mistake, large or small, despite the fact that he made not a few mistakes in the matter of theory and in his practical activity."

Who today will take off their shoes to bang on a table at the UN about the crimes of our Busheviks?

News Dissector Danny Schechter is blogger in chief of His latest film is "In Debt We Trust" ( Comments to
Joe Stalin is Alive and Living on Pennsylvania Avenue

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