Monday, July 31, 2006

"If You Haven't Left, You're Hezbollah"
by Dahr Jamail

SIDON, Lebanon - The Israeli attack on Qana has taken the biggest toll of the war, but it is only one of countless lethal attacks on civilians in Lebanon.

Large numbers fled the south after Israelis dropped leaflets warning of attacks. Others have been unable to leave, often because they have not found the means. The Israelis have taken that to mean that they are therefore Hezbollah.

Israeli justice minister Haim Ramon announced on Israeli army radio Thursday that "all those in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah."

Justifying the collective punishment of people in southern Lebanon, Ramon added, "In order to prevent casualties among Israeli soldiers battling Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon, villages should be flattened by the Israeli air force before ground troops move in."

This policy explains the large number of wounded in the hospitals of Sidon in the south..

Wounded people from southern Lebanon narrate countless instances of indiscriminate attacks by the Israeli military.

Thirty-six-year-old Khuder Gazali, an ambulance driver whose arm was blown off by an Israeli rocket, told IPS that his ambulance was hit while trying to rescue civilians whose home had just been bombed.

"Last Sunday people came to us and asked us to go help some people after their home was bombed by the Israelis," he said from his bed in Hamoudi Hospital in Sidon, the largest in southern Lebanon. "We found one of them, without his legs, lying in a garden, so we tried to take him to the nearest hospital."

On way to the hospital an Israeli Apache helicopter hit his ambulance with a rocket, severely injuring him and the four people in the back of the vehicle, he said.

"So then another ambulance tried to reach us to rescue us, but it too was bombed by an Apache, killing everyone inside it," he said. "Then it was a third ambulance which finally managed to rescue us."

Khuder, who had shrapnel wounds all over his body, said "this is a crime, and I want people in the west to know the Israelis do not differentiate between innocent people and fighters. They are committing acts of evil.. They are attacking civilians, and they are criminals."

At Labib Medical Centre in Sidon, countless survivors of Israeli bombardment had similar stories to tell.

Sixteen-year-old Ibrahim al-Hama told IPS that he and his friends were hit by an Israeli bomb while they were swimming in a river near a village north of Tyre.

"Two of my friends were killed, along with a woman," said al-Hama. "Why did they bomb us?"

In an adjacent room, a man whose wife and two small children were recovering from wounds suffered in Israeli bombing told IPS that they had left their village near the border because the bombings had become fierce, and the Israeli military had dropped leaflets ordering them to leave.

"We ran out of food, and the children were hungry, so they left with my wife and her sister in a car which followed a Red Crescent ambulance, while another car took the two other sisters of my wife," he said. "They reached Kafra village, and an F-16 bombed the car with my wife's two sisters. They are dead."

Such killings have been common throughout the south.

On July 23, a family left their village after Israelis dropped leaflets ordering them out. Their car carried a white flag, but was still bombed by an Israeli plane. Three in the car were killed.

The same day, three of 19 passengers in a van heading away from the southern village Tiri were killed when it was bombed by an Israeli plane.

A 43-year-old man from Durish Zhair village south of Tyre lay at the Labib Medical Centre with multiple shrapnel wounds and half his body blackened by fire.

"Please tell them to stop using white phosphorous," he said. "The Israelis must stop these attacks. Do not allow the Israelis to continue murdering us." He and his family were bombed in their home.

Zhair said his family were scattered in hospitals and refugee centres in Sidon and Beirut. But in the hospital hallway outside his room, head nurse of the hospital Gemma Sayer said "all of his family is dead. We cannot tell him yet because he is so badly injured."

United Nations forces have been targeted again by the Israelis. Two soldiers with the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon were wounded after their observation post was damaged in an Israeli air strike.

Last week, an Israeli missile killed four UN observers; an attack that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan described as "apparently deliberate."

Thousands of angry protestors stormed the UN building in Beirut Sunday after at least 34 children and 20 adults were killed inside a shelter targeted by an Israeli air strike in the southern town Qana.

As Israeli military drones buzzed over the capital city, smoke was seen rising from the building as UN troops struggled to control the crowds.

Efforts to evacuate the wounded in Qana have been hindered because roads around the town have been destroyed by air strikes.

The Israeli military refused to take responsibility for the Qana deaths, because they said Hezbollah had used the village to launch rockets.

Lebanese President Emile Lahoud told reporters Sunday that the Qana attack was a "disgrace" and that there was no chance for peace talks until an immediate ceasefire was called. "Israel's leaders think of nothing but destruction, they do not think of peace."

Prime Minister Fuad Siniora described the bombing in Qana as a "war crime." At least 600 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 51 Israelis have been killed since the conflict began.

Is it me or does it appear that the media is finally awakenning from a deeeeeeeep slumber?
Save 1.800.SUICIDE
1-800-SUICIDE is in danger of being shut off or worse falling into the hands of the Federal Government. With teenage suicide being the 3rd leading cause of death between 18 to 24 year olds - our government should not be duplicating prevention efforts but helping fund the many local organizations and non-profits with proven track records on prevention. In addition our government should not be in the business having access to this private and sensitive information!
No other crisis hotline is owned by the federal government!
Despite the fact that almost 2 million callers have reached help and hope over the last 8 years, and a government funded evaluation stating the benefits of 1-800-SUICIDE, the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), a division of Health & Human Services, has decided to create their own government run system where they would have direct access to confidential data on individuals in crisis.
To protect the callers to suicide crisis hotlines the management of 1-800-SUICIDE has refused to turn over the control of the National Hopeline Network to the SAMHSA. As a result it is in danger of being completely shut off to the almost 2,000 individuals in crisis who reach out daily because our government has not only ended all funding but also continues to owe $266,000 in overdue bills to the Hopeline from 2 years ago. (This is not new funds – but money that was already allocated!).
Tell the Government to keep their commitment to 1-800-SUICIDE and send the $266,000 that was already allocated.
Help Fund 1.800.SUICIDE.We need to raise $266,000 for our bills with AT&T to keep the Suicide Prevention Hotline running privately. Once we pay off AT&T for our old phone agreement We have to pay roughly $30,000 per month for the next 6 months in order to come out of debt.
Keep Suicide Prevention Private and Confidential Petition. Our Government should not duplicate the efforts of the Hopeline – but help with training of social works, education and awareness of the issues of mental health.
E-mail your friends.
The Price of a Minimum Wage?
July 28, 2006
The House is preparing for a last-minute vote today on a House leadership sponsored minimum wage bill. Weighted down with an Association Health Plans (AHPs) attachment and labor poison pills, the bill will likely hurt workers more than it will help them.
In the past two months, Representative Hoyer (D-MD) and Senator Kennedy (D-MA) have offered Congress prime opportunities for a serious consideration of the minimum wage. Congress has not increased the minimum wage since 1997. During this time, the economy has grown and profits have risen to record highs, making it very feasible for businesses to raise wages.
Nearly 15 million Americans, 70 percent of whom are workers 20 years and older, would benefit from a minimum wage increase. Almost 60 percent of these workers are women, 40 percent are people of color, and more than a third are the sole breadwinners for their families.
Americans overwhelmingly support an increase to the minimum wage. According to a recent
poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, 86 percent of Americans favor raising the minimum wage, and 43 percent of Americans consider raising the minimum wage a top priority.
It is inexcusable for the House to offer legislation on this vital issue with contingencies that will harm the working Americans that it purports to help.
Association Health Plan legislation will increase premiums for most small businesses, reduce benefits for Americans who are shifted into AHP plans, and lead to an increase in the number of Americans without health insurance.
Mercer estimates that four years after full implementation of AHP legislation, the number of uninsured workers and dependents in small firms would increase by more than 1 million individuals—an 8.5 percent increase.
Key consumer protections that would be wiped out for individuals who receive their coverage through these arrangements include:
AHPs represent a bad deal for consumers and a bad deal for businesses. For example:
AHPs Undermine Existing Benefit Guarantees. AHPs would be exempted from most current coverage requirements. Access to critical services such as cervical and colorectal cancer screening, contraceptive coverage, well-child care and mental health benefits could disappear.
AHPs Limit Patient Protections. AHPs would not need to abide by state-level consumer protections, including access to specialty care, access to clinical trials, and the right to independent, external review of denied claims.
AHPs would increase premiums for most small businesses. The majority of small businesses would experience increased premiums under AHP legislation. These premium increases could affect more than 20 million employees and dependents.
AHPs could charge high and discriminatory premiums. Plans would be able to charge unlimited premiums based on age, gender and geography. AHPs could also charge higher premiums to members who have become older and sicker over time.
Attached flextime labor legislation frees employers from rules that mandate a 40-hour work week. Over the past decade, repeated attempts to pass such legislation have failed due to strong opposition from workers and labor unions who claim that flextime legislation will deny millions of workers overtime pay
Any minimum wage legislation that takes steps backwards in gaining healthcare and labor protections for American workers moves us farther away from progress. Even with, 83 percent of Americans support a two dollar increase to the minimum wage. Yet if this comes at the cost of losing overtime wages and healthcare, Congress has not done justice to working Americans.
Insanity Musings

I was thinking about how the guys on hate radio always sound as if they are reading from some sort of fact sheet, not just blowing opinion through an over-confident, distorted mouthpiece. I usually try to listen once or twice a week, whichever I can stomach. My son refuses to allow it on in the car because he believes they are rude and arrogant and he gets enough of that from people he can’t turn a nob to shut the heck up. But it concerns me that so many people blindly follow these guys and think that what they say is true. So, here’s a little something on Sean Insanity that I found that if you listen to him, perhaps you might want to read. It is only from what he has said, countered with certifiable fact.

June 2004
Speaking at the Take Back America conference on June 3, American Progress CEO John Podesta said, "I think when you get so distant from the facts as -- as guys like Limbaugh and Sean Hannity do, yeah, I think that tends to -- it kind of -- it tends to corrupt the dialogue." Apparently he struck a nerve with Fox News' Sean Hannity. Hannity challenged Podesta to "defend and explain one example where I -- where I said something that was so false." Since choosing just one of Hannity's distortions is too difficult, here are fifteen examples:
All Hannity quotes from Hannity and Colmes unless otherwise noted.
1. WMD
HANNITY: "You're not listening, Susan. You've got to learn something. He had weapons of mass destruction. He promised to disclose them. And he didn't do it. You would have let him go free; we decided to hold him accountable." (4/13/04)
FACT: Hannity's assertion comes more than six months after Bush Administration weapons inspector David Kay testified his inspection team had "not uncovered evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material" and had not discovered any chemical or biological weapons. (Bush Administration Weapons Inspector David Kay,
2. Colin Powell on Iraq
HANNITY: "Colin Powell just had a great piece that he had in the paper today. He was there [in Iraq]. He said things couldn't have been better." (9/19/03)
FACT: "Iraq has come very far, but serious problems remain, starting with security. American commanders and troops told me of the many threats they face--from leftover loyalists who want to return Iraq to the dark days of Saddam, from criminals who were set loose on Iraqi society when Saddam emptied the jails and, increasingly, from outside terrorists who have come to Iraq to open a new front in their campaign against the civilized world." (Colin Powell,
3. Saddam/Al-Qaeda Connection
HANNITY: "And in northern Iraq today, this very day, al Qaeda is operating camps there, and they are attacking the Kurds in the north, and this has been well-documented and well chronicled. Now, if you're going to go after al Qaeda in every aspect, and obviously they have the support of Saddam, or we're not." (12/9/02)
FACT: David Kay was on the ground for months investigating the activities of Hussein's regime. He concluded "But we simply did not find any evidence of extensive links with Al Qaeda, or for that matter any real links at all." He called a speech where Cheney made the claim there was a link "evidence free." (Boston Globe,
4. 9/11 Investigation
HANNITY: "[After 9-11], liberal Democrats at first showed little interest in the investigation of the roots of this massive intelligence failure...[Bush and his team] made it clear that determining the causes of America's security failures and finding and remedying its weak points would be central to their mission." (Let Freedom Ring, by Sean Hannity)
TRUTH: Bush Opposed the creation of a special commission to probe the causes of 9/11 for over a year. On 5/23/02 CBS News Reported "President Bush took a few minutes during his trip to Europe Thursday to voice his opposition to establishing a special commission to probe how the government dealt with terror warnings before Sept. 11." Bush didn't relent to pressure to create a commission, mostly from those Hannity would consider "liberal" until September 2002. (CBS News,
5/23/02; ABC News, 9/20/02)
5. The Recession
HANNITY: "First of all, this president -- you know and I know and everybody knows -- inherited a was by every definition a recession" (11/6/02)
HANNITY: "Now here's where we are. The inherited Clinton/Gore recession. That's a fact." (5/6/03)
HANNITY: "The president inherited a recession." (7/10/03)
HANNITY: "He got us out of the Clinton-Gore recession." (10/23/03)
HANNITY: "They did inherit the recession. They did inherit the recession. We got out of the recession." (12/12/03)
HANNITY: "And this is the whole point behind this ad, because the president did inherit a recession." (1/6/04)
HANNITY: "Historically in every recovery, because the president rightly did inherit a recession. But historically, the lagging indicator always deals with employment." (1/15/04)
HANNITY: "Congressman Deutsch, maybe you forgot but I'll be glad to remind you, the president did inherit that recession." (1/20/04)
HANNITY: "He did inherit a recession, and we're out of the recession." (2/2/04)
HANNITY: "The president inherited a recession." (2/23/04)
HANNITY: "The president inherited a recession." (3/3/04)
HANNITY: "Well, you know, we're going to show ads, as a matter of fact, in the next segment, Congressman. Thanks for promoting our next segment. What I like about them is everything I've been saying the president ought to do: is focusing in on his positions, on keeping the nation secure in very difficult times, what he's been able to do to the economy after inheriting a very difficult recession, and of course, the economic impact of 9/11." (3/3/04)
HANNITY: "All right. So this is where I view the economic scenario as we head into this election. The president inherited a recession." (3/16/04)
HANNITY: "First of all, we've got to put it into perspective, is that the president inherited a recession." (3/26/04)
HANNITY: "Clearly, we're out of the recession that President Bush inherited." (4/2/04)
HANNITY: "Stop me where I'm wrong. The president inherited a recession, the economic impact of 9/11 was tremendous on the economy, correct?" (4/6/04)
HANNITY: "[President George W. Bush] did inherit a recession." (5/3/04)
HANNITY: "[W]e got [the weak U.S. economy] out of the Clinton-Gore recession." (5/18/04)
HANNITY: "We got out of the Clinton-Gore recession." (5/27/04)
HANNITY: "We got out of the Clinton-Gore recession." (6/4/04)
FACT: "The recession officially began in March of 2001 -- two months after Bush was sworn in -- according to the universally acknowledged arbiter of such things, the National Bureau of Economic Research. And the president, at other times, has said so himself." (Washington Post,
6. The Hispanic Vote
HANNITY: "The Hispanic community got to know him in Texas. They went almost overwhelming for him. He more than quadrupled the Hispanic vote that he got in that state." (9/16/03)
FACT: Exit polls varied in 1998 governors race, but under best scenario he increased his Hispanic vote from 24 to 49 percent – a doubling not a quadrupling. He lost Texas Hispanics to Gore in 2000, 54-43 percent. (Source:
7. White House Vandalism
HANNITY: "Look, we've had these reports, very disturbing reports -- and I have actually spoken to people that have confirmed a lot of the reports -- about the trashing of the White House. Pornographic materials left in the printers. They cut the phone lines. Lewd and crude messages on phone machines. Stripping of anything that was not bolted down on Air Force One. $200,000 in furniture taken out." (1/26/01)
TRUTH: According to statements from the General Services Administration that were reported on May 17, little if anything out of the ordinary occurred during the transition, and "the condition of the real property was consistent with what we would expect to encounter when tenants vacate office space after an extended occupancy." (
8. Patriotism
HANNITY: "I never questioned anyone's patriotism." (9/18/03)
HANNITY: (to attorney Stanley Cohen) "Is it you hate this president or that you hate America?" (4/30/03)
HANNITY: "Governor, why wouldn't anyone want to say the Pledge of Allegiance, unless they detested their own country or were ignorant of its greatness?" (6/12/03)
HANNITY: "You could explain something about your magazine, [the Nation]. Lisa Featherstone writing about the hate America march, the [anti-war] march that took place over the weekend..." (1/22/03)
HANNITY: "'I hate America.' This is the extreme left. There is a portion of the left -- not everybody who's left -- that does hate this country and blame this country for the ills of the world..." (1/23/02)
HANNITY: (speaking to Sara Flounders co-director of the International Action Center) "You don't like this country, do you? You don't -- you think this is an evil country. By your description of it right here, you think it's a bad country." (9/25/01)
9. Separation of Church and State
HANNITY: "It doesn't say anywhere in the Constitution this idea of the separation of church and state." (8/25/03)
FACT: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." (
1st Amendment)
"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." (
Article VI)
10. James Madison
HANNITY: "You want to refer to some liberal activist judge..., that's fine, but I'm going to go directly to the source. The author of the Bill of Rights [James Madison] hired the first chaplain in 1789, and I gotta' tell ya' somethin', I think the author of the Bill of Rights knows more about the original intent--no offense to you and your liberal atheist activism--knows more about it than you do." (9/4/02)
TRUTH: The first congressional chaplains weren't hired by James Madison--they were appointed by a committee of the Senate and House in, respectively, April and May, 1789, before the First Amendment even existed. James Madison's view: "Is the appointment of Chaplains to the two Houses of Congress consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom? In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative." (
James Madison)
11. Alabama Constitution
HANNITY: "But the Alabama Constitution, which Chief Justice Roy Moore is sworn to uphold, clearly it says, as a matter of fact that the recognition of God is the foundation of that state's Constitution." (8/21/03)
FACT: While the preamble of the Alabama Constitution does reference "the Almighty," section three provides: "That no religion shall be established by law; that no preference shall be given by law to any religious sect, society, denomination, or mode of worship; that no one shall be compelled by law to attend any place of worship; nor to pay any tithes, taxes, or other rate for building or repairing any place of worship, or for maintaining any minister or ministry; that no religious test shall be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this state; and that the civil rights, privileges, and capacities of any citizen shall not be in any manner affected by his religious principles." (Alabama Constitution,
Section 3)
12. Rent for Public Housing
HANNITY: Betsy, they're not going to lose it [public housing], because if you work less than 30 hours a week -- if you work more than 30 hours a week, you don't have to do it. If you're between the ages of 18 and 62 and you're not legally disabled and you have free housing -- in other words...
BETSY MCCAUGHEY: No. Wait a second, Sean. Let me correct you. Most people in public housing are not receiving free housing. Many of them are paying almost market rates.
HANNITY: Betsy, that is so ridiculous and so false, it's hardly even worth spending the time. (10/23/03)
FACT: Residents of public housing pay rent scaled to their household's anticipated gross annual income, less deductions for dependents and disabilities. The basic formula for rent is 30 percent of this monthly adjusted income. There are exceptions for extremely low incomes, but the minimum rent is $25 per month. No one lives in public housing for free. (
Department of Housing and Urban Development)
13. Kerry Tax Plan
HANNITY: "The Kerry campaign wants to cut taxes on people who make two hundred thousand dollars. She [Teresa Heinz Kerry] only paid 14.7 percent of her income in taxes, because their plan doesn't go to dividends, only income. So they don't want to tax themselves." (5/12/04)
FACT: Kerry's plan would "Restore the capital gains and dividend rates for families making over $200,000 on income earned above $200,000 to their levels under President Clinton. (Kerry Press Release,
14. Kerry and Weapons Systems
HANNITY: "He's [Kerry's] flip-flopped all over the place... on the issue of Iraq. All the munitions that we have built up, most of them wouldn't be there." (1/30/04)
HANNITY: "But he wanted to cancel…every major weapons system. Specific votes that he would have canceled the weapons systems we now use." (2/26/04)
FACT: "In 1991, Kerry opposed an amendment to impose an arbitrary 2 percent cut in the military budget. In 1992, he opposed an amendment to cut Pentagon intelligence programs by $1 billion. In 1994, he voted against a motion to cut $30.5 billion from the defense budget over the next five years and to redistribute the money to programs for education and the disabled. That same year, he opposed an amendment to postpone construction of a new aircraft carrier. In 1996, he opposed a motion to cut six F-18 jet fighters from the budget. In 1999, he voted against a motion to terminate the Trident II missile." (Slate,
15. Kerry and the CIA
HANNITY: "If he (Kerry) had his way and the CIA would almost be nonexistent." (1/30/04)
FACT: John Kerry has supported $200 billion in intelligence funding over the past seven years - a 50 percent increase since 1996.
Kerry votes supporting intelligence funding:
FY03 Intel Authorization $39.3-$41.3 Billion[2002, Unanimous Senate Voice Vote 9/25/02]
FY02 Intel Authorization $33 Billion[2001, Unanimous Senate Voice Vote 12/13/01]
FY01 Intel Authorization $29.5-$31.5 Billion[2000, Unanimous Senate Voice Vote 12/6/00]
FY00 Intel Authorization $29-$30 Billion[1999, Unanimous Senate Voice Vote 11/19/1999]
FY99 Intel Authorization $29.0 Billion[1998, Unanimous Senate Voice Vote 10/8/98]
FY98 Intel Authorization $26.7 Billion[1997, Senate Roll Call Vote #109]
FY97 Intel Authorization $26.6 Billion[1996, Unanimous Senate Voice Vote 9/25/96]
US Agency Hid Cost Overruns in Iraq, Audit Finds
By Greg Miller
The Los Angeles Times
Sunday 30 July 2006

The report says expenses in projects that exceeded budgets were concealed in unrelated accounts.

Washington - The U.S. agency responsible for administering $1.4 billion in reconstruction funds in Iraq has sought to hide major cost overruns on high-profile projects from Congress by engaging in questionable accounting maneuvers, according to a federal audit released late Friday.
The agency has masked budget spillovers on a children's hospital in the southern city of Basra and other facilities by hiding the expenditures in seemingly unrelated accounts, the report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction says.
Overall, the report found a "lack of effective program management" by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, which oversees U.S. reconstruction spending in Iraq and other countries.
The accounting issues are the latest in a series of problems, including fraud allegations and the soaring costs of protecting work sites and crews from attacks, that have beset the massive rebuilding effort in Iraq.
The report focuses on cost overruns and construction delays at the children's hospital, whose advocates include First Lady Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. But the document also points to similar accounting irregularities on other projects, including a power station in Musayyib and an electricity project in Baghdad.
USAID has continued to list the hospital project's cost at $50 million in reports to Congress, even as its actual budget has ballooned to more than $149 million, the audit found. The discrepancy was disguised by spreading indirect costs associated with the project - such as security and transportation expenditures - to other accounts, according to the report.
As a result, "millions of dollars in indirect costs that should have been applied to the hospital project were applied to other USAID projects, resulting in a serious misstatement of hospital project costs," the report says. At the same time, a facility that was supposed to be finished in December is now scheduled for completion in July 2007.
A spokeswoman for USAID, an independent agency that receives overall foreign policy guidance from the State Department, could not be reached for comment.
State Department spokesman Justin Higgins said he could not comment on the contents of the report. "We have not yet had a chance to fully review this report but certainly will consider it carefully as we do all the findings of the inspector general," Higgins said.
"Despite the challenges, we are committed to completing this project so that sick children in Basra can receive the medical help they need," he said.
The lead contractor on the hospital had been Bechtel National, based in Frederick, Md. But the company was reportedly dropped from the project last week - a development first reported in the New York Times - after long-standing complaints about cost overruns and construction delays. Attempts to reach a representative of Bechtel were unsuccessful Saturday.
Cliff Mumm, a Bechtel official, was quoted in a New York Times article Friday as saying the company had essentially volunteered to bow out of the project and recommended that work be stopped because of security problems. Any plan to press ahead, Mumm said, "is not a good use of the government's money."
The inspector general's report says USAID officials went to the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office in March 2005 seeking permission to downsize a number of its projects and adjust its handling of overhead costs to "resolve its funding problems" largely stemming from escalating security expenses.
The U.S. Embassy's reconstruction office allowed the changes, but the report says that USAID wrongly interpreted the agreement as "blanket permission to change the reporting of all indirect costs."
Even as the budget for the hospital soared, USAID continued to conceal the overruns from Congress, according to the report. In a series of reports to lawmakers from January 2005 through April 2006, the agency identified the hospital project as a $50-million project," the inspector general found.
The latest estimates of the cost to complete the hospital range from $149.5 million to $169.5 million, according to the inspector general's report.
The report also questions the accounting of other reconstruction projects.
USAID documents obtained by the inspector general, for example, list direct costs for the Musayyib thermal power station at $6.6 million, and indirect costs at $27.6 million, a ratio wildly out of line with those on other projects, according to the report.
In a more typical case, budgets for an electricity project in Baghdad list direct costs of $164.3 million and indirect costs of $1.4 million - a surprisingly small sum in a country where the expense of securing work sites typically causes indirect costs to balloon.
The budget pr
oblems involving the Basra hospital are likely to add to the criticism that the project has faced since its inception in 2004, when the first lady worked with the National Security Council to push for funding for a state-of-the-art children's hospital in Iraq. From the beginning, critics questioned the wisdom of building such a high-end facility in a country where many citizens lack basic healthcare. At the time, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the foreign operations subcommittee, questioned whether the project was "more the result of political pressure than the best use of taxpayer dollars."

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Great Time for the Rich in America
by Rob McKay
It's a great time to be rich in America. But if you're the kind of person whose idea of a good time involves a certain level of risk--high stakes gambling, sky diving or tax fraud, for instance--the Bush Administration just took away one of your thrills.
Within the next 70 days, the IRS will permanently eliminate the jobs of half of the lawyers who audit the wealthiest Americans' tax returns.
According to internal IRS documents leaked
to the New York Times by outraged IRS employees, six of whom agreed to be interviewed by the paper, the IRS is axing 157 of its 345 estate tax lawyers and 17 support personnel.
The Agency is doing de facto what the Bush tried and failed to do de jure: Sway Congress to entirely eliminate the estate tax to help the richest taxpayers in the country pay even less of their fair share.
The decision is not because the Agency's estate tax lawyers have too much time on their hands or aren't finding any tax criminals out there. By the IRS' own admission, 85 percent of the large taxable gifts they audit are fraudulent and intended to cheat the public.
For every hour that the Agency's estate tax lawyers work, they uncover on average $2,200 in taxes that Americans worth $1 million or more are illegally withholding from the government. That adds up to about $1.4 billion in lost tax revenues a year.
This is white collar crime on steroids.
One would think that on a practical level, the Bush Administration would prefer to have another billion and a half on hand to pay for military, homeland security and boarder guards. In other words, to fight tax crime in order to pay for fighting crimes likes terrorism and imagined threats of immigration.
But these are costs that the poor, somehow, someway, must continue to cover with their rent money, diaper money, food money, gas money and, when it comes to securing employment by fighting the War in Iraq, their lives.
Israel's Secret War: The Humanitarian Disaster Unfolding in Palestine
by Anne Penketh in Gaza City

A 12-year-old boy dead on a stretcher. A mother in shock and disbelief after her son was shot dead for standing on their roof. A phone rings and a voice in broken Arabic orders residents to abandon their home on pain of death.
Those are snapshots of a day in Gaza where Israel is waging a hidden war, as the world looks the other way, focusing on Lebanon.
It is a war of containment and control that has turned the besieged Strip into a prison with no way in or out, and no protection from an fearsome battery of drones, precision missiles, tank shells, and artillery rounds.
As of last night, 29 people had been killed in the most concentrated 48 hours of violence since an Israeli soldier was abducted by Palestinian militants just more than a month ago.
The operation is codenamed "Samson's Pillars," a collective punishment of the 1.4 million Gazans, subjecting them to a Lebanese-style offensive that has targeted the civilian infrastructure by destroying water mains, the main power station, and bridges.
The similarities with Israel's blitz on Lebanon are striking, raising suspicions that the Gaza offensive has been the testing ground for the military strategy now unfolding on the second front in the north.
In Gaza, following the victory of the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas in January, Israel, with the help of the US, initiated an immediate boycott and ensured the rest of the world fell into line after months of hand-wringing. Israel has secured the same flashing green light from the Bush administration over Lebanon, while the rest of the world appeals in vain for an immediate ceasefire.
The Israelis, who launched their Lebanon offensive on July 12 after the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah fighters, intend to create a "sterile" zone devoid of militants in a mile-wide stretch inside Lebanon.
In Gaza, Palestinian land has already been bulldozed to form a 300-meter open area along the border with Israel proper. And in both cases, the crisis will doubtless end up being defused by a prisoner exchange. With Lebanon dominating the headlines, Israel has "rearranged the occupation" in Gaza, in the words of the Palestinian academic and MP, Hanan Ashrawi. But unlike the Lebanese, the desperate Gazans have nowhere to flee from their humanitarian crisis.
Before Israeli tanks moved into northern Gaza, yesterday, 12-year-old Anas Zumlut joined the ranks of dead Palestinians, numbering more than 100. His body was wrapped in a funeral shroud, just like those of the two sisters, a three-year-old and an eight-month-old baby, who were killed three days ago in the same area of Jablaya.
In the past three weeks, the foreign ministry and the interior ministry in Gaza city have been smashed, prompting speculation that Israel's offensive is not only aimed at securing the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, or bringing an end to the Qassam rocket attacks that have wounded one person in the past month and jarred the nerves of the residents of the nearest Israeli town of Sderot.
"At first we thought they were bombing the Hamas leaders by targeting Haniyeh and Zahar," a Palestinian official said, referring to the Palestinian Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. "But when they targeted the economy ministry we decided they wanted to completely destroy the entire government."
The only functioning crossing, Erez, is closed to Palestinians who are almost hermetically sealed inside the Strip. As the local economy has been strangled by donor countries, Gaza City's 1,800 municipal employees have not been paid since the beginning of April. Families are borrowing to the hilt, selling their jewellery, ignoring electricity bills and tax demands, and throwing themselves on the mercy of shopkeepers.
Western officials say they hope the pressure will coerce Hamas into recognizing Israel but the Palestinians believe the real goal is the collapse of the Hamas government - six of whose cabinet members have been arrested, the rest in hiding.
The signs on the ground are that Israel's military pressure is proving counter-productive. There is the risk of a total breakdown of the fabric of society at a time when the main political parties, Fatah and Hamas, are at each other's throats. "The popularity of Hamas is increasing," says the Palestinian deputy foreign minister, Ahmed Soboh, from the comparative safety of his West Bank office in Ramallah.
The situation has become unbearable for Gazans, says Nabil Shaath, a veteran Fatah official who is a former foreign and planning minister. Through the window, small fishing boats are anchored uselessly in the harbor, penned in by Israeli sea patrols.
All mechanisms for coping are being exhausted.
Mr. Shaath, who had a daughter, Mimi, late in life, says that he tried "laughter therapy" with his five-year-old at home in northern Gaza. "Every time there was a shell, I would burst out laughing and she would laugh with me. But then the Israelis occupied everything around us, and there were tanks, and shrapnel in the garden, and she saw where the shells were coming from, and she was terrified. So Mimi now gets angry when I laugh."
Only a few miles away, on the other side of the border, the Israeli army says it is taking pains to minimize civilian casualties. Hila, a 21-year old paratrooper who is not allowed to give her last name, says the Hamas fighters in Gaza - like Hezbollah in Lebanon - deliberately mingle with the civilian population as a tactic. Weapons are stored in the upper stories of houses where families live downstairs, she says. "The terrorists deliberately choose places where we can't retaliate."
But these places are being hit. And Mr. Shaath is scornful of the disproportionate Israeli reaction to the Palestinian rockets. Five Israelis have been killed by the 10km range Qassams since 2000.
Mrs. Ashrawi believes "Samson's Pillars" are no closer to falling. "Israelis think they are searing the consciousness of the Palestinians and the Lebanese with a branding iron. But if people have a cause they will never be defeated."
Day 17
* Israeli aircraft kill 12 in southern Lebanon, with hill villages near Tyre among the targets.
* Hezbollah fires a new long-range missile, the Khaibar-1, at Afula south of Haifa, the furthest a Hezbollah rocket has landed inside Israel.
* At least six people are wounded in rocket attacks on northern Israel. One rocket hits a hospital in Nahariya.
* US State Department describes Israel's remarks that the Rome conference gave it a ''green light'' to continue its attack on Lebanon as ''outrageous."
* Emergency relief co-ordinator Jan Egeland asks Israel and Hezbollah for a 72-hour ceasefire to allow evacuation of the elderly.
* Israeli aircraft attack homes owned by Palestinian militants and a metal workshop in the Gaza Strip, wounding seven, doctors say.
* Death toll:
At least 459 people, mostly civilians, in Lebanon.
* 51 Israelis, including 18 civilians, according to Reuters' tally.
* Israeli military says 200 Hezbollah fighters killed, Hezbollah has said 31 of its fighters killed.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Interesting interview........
I'll apologize now. I would write but I am so exhausted that I don't think I could put a paragraph together that would be readable.
Damn you cute four week old puppies!
Every three hours.
They are up.
I forgot what having babies is like.
How does anyone do this over the age of forty!? I have to admit, I have become selfish with my sleep. I like having it, unbroken, when I choose.
I am still a HUGE advocate of fostering. I don't regret it for a second. I'm just really tired. That's why you have to read what other people are writing for a little while..

Homeland contracts oversight deemed poor

Associated Press Writer
Thu Jul 27, 8:28 PM ET
The Homeland Security Department spent $34 billion in its first two years on private contracts that were poorly managed or included significant waste or abuse, a congressional report concluded Thursday.
Faulty airport screening machines, unused mobile homes for hurricane victims and lavish employee office space — complete with seven kitchens, a gym and fancy artwork — were among 32 contracts on which Homeland Security overspent, the report found.
"The cumulative costs to the taxpayer are enormous," concluded the report, which was prepared for Reps. Tom Davis, R-Va., and Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who head the House Government Reform Committee.
The House report was a comprehensive study of more than 350 earlier-reported government audits and investigations of Homeland Security contracts between 2003, when the department was created, and 2005.
Still, the broad look found that Homeland Security's procurement spending ballooned from $3.5 billion, on 14,000 contracts, to $10 billion for 63,000 contracts during the two-year period. The report also concluded that half of what the department spent on contracts in 2005 was awarded without full and open competition — creating potential waste and mismanagement.
Over the two-year period, spending on noncompetitive contracts jumped from $655 million to $5.5 billion, the report concluded.
Questionable contracts highlighted in the report included:
_$1.2 billion to install and maintain luggage screening equipment at commercial airports that had a high false alarm rate.
_$915 million on nearly 26,000 mobile homes and trailers to house hurricane victims and relief workers — none of which could be sent to disaster zones in Louisiana and Mississippi because of prohibitions on their use in flood plains.
-$19 million for Transportation Security Administration office space for 140 employees that includes 12 conference rooms, seven kitchens, a fitness center, and $500,000 worth of artwork and decorative items.
Homeland Security chief procurement officer Elaine Duke told the House Government Reform Committee that part of the problem stemmed from a lack of department officers to oversee the contracts. In 2004, congressional investigators concluded that each procurement employee was responsible for overseeing an average of $101 million worth of contracts.
"Balancing the appropriate number of DHS contracting officials with the growth of DHS contracting requirements has been a challenge," Duke said in written testimony to the committee.
She said department has since begun recruiting and hiring additional procurement officers.


Two bills are moving rapidly through the U.S. House of Representatives that would undermine or eliminate critical public health and environmental protection programs. The legislation creates un-elected and unaccountable commissions with the authority to eliminate federal programs and agencies behind closed doors with no opportunity for public input. The commissions are being called sunset commissions because they sunset programs. Unless you act now, critical public health programs including EPA's Clean Air programs that offer protection for all Americans to breath cleaner air, the Preventative Health and Health Services Programs run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and many others are at risk for elimination. These programs could be eliminated without any public input or a specific vote by Congress.
The legislation, H.R. 3282 and H.R. 5766, is moving through Congress with no public hearings, limited debate in Congress, and little opportunity for lawmakers to offer amendments.
Members of the House are expected to vote on one or both of these bills later this week! So, please act today! Let your Representative know you don't want an unelected body making important decisions about key programs that protect public health and the environment. That's the job we elected Congress to do. Lawmakers have all the authority they need to make decisions about federal programs. Congress should not delegate this authority to "sunset commissions.
For those that appreciate history and experience - this from The Washington Post

A Time To Act
By Warren Christopher

Friday, July 28, 2006; A25

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's just-concluded trip to Lebanon, Israel and Rome was an exercise in grace, bravery and, to my regret, wrongly focused diplomacy. Especially disappointing is the fact that she resisted all suggestions that the first order of business should be negotiation of an immediate cease-fire between the warring parties.
In the course of her trip, the secretary repeatedly insisted that any cease-fire be tied to a "permanent" and "sustainable" solution to the root causes of the conflict. Such a solution is achievable, if at all, only after protracted negotiations involving multiple parties. In the meantime, civilians will continue to die, precious infrastructure will continue to be destroyed and the fragile Lebanese democracy will continue to erode.
My own experience in the region underlies my belief that in the short term we should focus our efforts on stopping the killing. Twice during my four years as secretary of state we faced situations similar to the one that confronts us today. Twice, at the request of the Israelis, we helped bring the bloodshed to an end.
In June 1993, Israel responded to Hezbollah rocket attacks along its northern border by launching Operation Accountability, resulting in the expulsion of 250,000 civilians from the southern part of Lebanon.
After the Israeli bombardment had continued for several days, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin asked me to use my contacts in Syria to seek their help in containing the hostilities. I contacted Foreign Minister Farouk Shara, who, of course, consulted with Syrian President Hafez al-Assad. After several days of urgent negotiations, an agreement was reached committing the parties to stop targeting one another's civilian populations. We never knew exactly what the Syrians did, but clearly Hezbollah responded to their direction.
In April 1996, when Hezbollah again launched rocket attacks on Israel's northern border, the Israelis countered with Operation Grapes of Wrath, sending 400,000 Lebanese fleeing from southern Lebanon. Errant Israeli bombs hit a U.N. refugee camp at Cana in southern Lebanon, killing about 100 civilians and bringing the wrath of international public opinion down upon Israel.
This time Shimon Peres, who had become prime minister after the assassination of Rabin, sought our help. In response, we launched an eight-day shuttle to Damascus, Beirut and Jerusalem that produced a written agreement bringing the hostilities to an end. Weeks later, the parties agreed to a border monitoring group consisting of Israel, Syria, Lebanon, France and the United States. Until three weeks ago, that agreement had succeeded for 10 years in preventing a wholesale resumption of hostilities.
What do these episodes teach us?
First, as in 1996, an immediate cease-fire must take priority, with negotiations on longer-term arrangements to follow. Achieving a cease-fire will be difficult enough without overloading the initial negotiations with a search for permanent solutions.
Second, if a cease-fire is the goal, the United States has an indispensable role to play. A succession of Israeli leaders has turned to us, and only us, when they have concluded that retaliation for Hezbollah attacks has become counterproductive. Israel plainly trusts no one else to negotiate on its behalf and will accept no settlement in which we are not deeply involved. Further, based upon my experience in helping bring an end to the fighting in the Balkans, the Europeans are unlikely to participate in a multinational enforcement action until the United States commits to putting its own troops on the ground.
Finally, Syria may well be a critical participant in any cease-fire arrangement, just as it was in 1993 and 1996. Although Syria no longer has troops in Lebanon, Hezbollah's supply routes pass through the heart of Syria, and some Hezbollah leaders may reside in Damascus, giving the Syrians more leverage over Hezbollah's actions than any other country save Iran. Syria has invited a direct dialogue with the United States, and although our relations with Syria have seriously deteriorated in recent years (we have not had an ambassador in Damascus for more than a year), we do not have the luxury of continuing to treat it with diplomatic disdain. As the situations with North Korea and Iran confirm, refusing to speak with those we dislike is a recipe for frustration and failure.
Because Hezbollah has positioned itself as the "David" in this war, every day that the killing continues burnishes its reputation within the Arab world. Every day that more of the Lebanese infrastructure is turned to dust, Beirut's fragile democracy becomes weaker, both in its ability to function and in the eyes of its people.
The impact is not limited to Lebanon or Israel. Every day America gives the green light to further Israeli violence, our already tattered reputation sinks even lower. The reluctance of our closest allies in the Middle East even to receive Secretary Rice this week in their capitals attests to this fact.
It is time for the United States to step forward with the authority and balance that this moment requires.
The writer was secretary of state from 1993 to 1997.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Speaking of Iraq....
Q: Is the country closer to a civil war?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I don't know. You know, I thought about that last night, and just musing over the words, the phrase, and what constitutes it. If you think of our Civil War, this is really very different. If you think of civil wars in other countries, this is really quite different. There is - there is a good deal of violence in Baghdad and two or three other provinces, and yet in 14 other provinces there's very little violence or numbers of incidents. So it's a - it's a highly concentrated thing. It clearly is being stimulated by people who would like to have what could be characterized as a civil war and win it, but I'm not going to be the one to decide if, when or at all.

Thanks for clarifying that for us, buddy.
Sure am glad that those in the know are in charge.
If you don't know about factory farming you need to read this:
it is a comprehensive, factual information booklet that is based, soley, on what is allowed by the government and the standard practices of the Meat and Dairy (MAD) Industry in this country.
I have to be honest....I could not have said the following better myself.
It's true!
I tried.
From the Democratic Underground

Thoughts on Republican Accusations of “Class Warfare” Against Democrats
Posted by Time for change on Wed Jul-26-06 07:40 PM

The term “class warfare” as it is used in the United States today is very misleading – and purposely so. It is primarily used by Republican operatives to conjure up fears of the “lower class” masses rising up to steal from the rich what is rightfully theirs, in the process plunging our country into Communism or anarchism. For example, the number one Republican operative in our country, George W. Bush,
said not too long ago in preparation for another round of tax cuts for the wealthy: "I understand the politics of economic stimulus -- that some people would like to turn this into class warfare."Not only is this line of propaganda condescending and offensive, as it implies the existence of a so-called “lower class” that is somehow inferior to the upper classes who are the defenders of our civilization. But it is also terribly misleading. There is indeed a kind of internal warfare going on in our country today, as is testified to by the massive grassroots support for the impeachment of the worst President in our history. But this warfare does not involve lower class vs. upper class, or even the poor vs. the rich. Rather, it is more accurately characterized as a struggle between those who seek responsible government versus those who currently hold power in our country and who wish to expand their wealth and power at the expense of everyone else. In fact, it is the former group, not the latter, who are the defenders of our civilization, and it is the latter group who are plunging our country into anarchism. The idea that these two groups break out along so-called “class” lines, whatever that means, is ridiculous, unless by that we mean the moral class vs. the robber baron class.
For example, consider the 90 some thousand persons who have registered with the DU. These people certainly represent the whole spectrum of economic status, and yet they are almost uniformly on the side of this struggle that seeks responsible government. True, they are doubtlessly much more intelligent and better educated on average than the other side. But that doesn’t qualify this as “class warfare”.
Furthermore, those who spew out this venomous spin aren’t even consistent about it. Whereas they use the term “class warfare” to their higher income audiences, to arouse fear of insurrection from below, to their lower income audiences they are much more likely to use the phrase “liberal elites”, in order to arouse a different kind of hatred.
But in order to put this into better perspective I need to back up in time a bit to consider some historical events and situations.

A brief example of anarchy – 14th century France
The Republicans know what they’re doing when they try to conjure up fears of anarchy, which is indeed a dreadful state of affairs.

Barbara Tuchman, in “A Distant Mirror – The Calamitous 14th Century”, describes what the anarchy occasioned by warfare in 14th Century France was like:
The breakdown of authority was reaching catastrophe. Its catalyst was the brigandage of military companies… and were to become the torment of the age…They had acquired in the Prince’s campaigns a taste for the ease and riches of plunder… they swelled, merged, organized, spread, and operated with ever more license. Seizing a castle, they would use it as a stronghold from which to exact tribute from every traveler and raid the countryside… They imposed ransoms on prosperous villages and burned the poor ones, robbed abbeys and monasteries… pillaged peasants’ barns, killed and tortured those who hid their goods or resisted ransom… violated virgins, nuns, and mothers, abducted women…

That’s anarchy. In a nutshell, anarchy is where, in the absence of adequate government authority a power vacuum is created whereby opportunistic men without morals act as predators on the rest of society. Who benefits from anarchy? Certainly not society as a whole. The only people who “benefit” from this, if “benefit” is the appropriate word, are the powerful, greedy, aggressive men who have the means of power to get what they want and the lack of conscience to restrain themselves from trampling over everyone else to get it. One of the main reasons that people create governments is to protect themselves against that sort of thing.

But sometimes government itself is the problem: The American Revolution
Of course, not any old government will do. Often government itself is headed by men who use their authority to enrich themselves and enhance their power, rather than to serve their people. Such was the situation that incited the Revolution that gave birth to the United States of America. Thus, the
Declaration of Independence, which formally signaled the birth of our country, contains a list of numerous grievances against King George III that mostly involve his accumulation of power at the expense of the Americans. Today, nobody thinks of the Founding Fathers of the United States as “anarchists” or as men who fought a “class war”. Rather, they were a group of men who believed that their government was tyrannical, that they therefore had the moral right to overthrow it, and who did so. Thus, they were a group of men who fought for responsible government, not unlike the group of people whom I mention in the first section of this article.

The Gilded Age
Gilded Age encompasses the period of United States History from roughly 1865 to 1901. It was characterized by rapid industrialization and a great widening of the income gap between the rich and the poor. The term “robber baron” was used to characterize the leading industrialists of this period, who were described by Thorstein Veblen in “The Theory of the Leisure Class” as being “not different from a barbarian because he uses brute force, cunning and competitive skills to make money from others, and then lives off the spoils of conquests rather than producing things himself.” Note the similarity between this characterization of robber barons and the brigands of 14th Century France described above. The major difference is that the robber barons didn’t use force and violence with their own hands to enhance their wealth and power, but rather used the power of government for that purpose. Some would also argue that these people did not act immorally in their acquisition of wealth and power because their actions were supported by the legal power and authority of government.This is obviously a very complex issue. But to add some human perspective to it, consider the events of May 1886, highlighted by the Haymarket bombing incident and its aftermath, and considered to represent a major turning point in the history of America’s labor movement. These events are described in detail in James Green’s “Death in the Haymarket – A story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement and the Bombing that Divided Gilded Age America”.

A very brief history of the Haymarket Square bombing incident and its precedents and aftermath

Working people had it very rough in those days. They often worked very hard, under very bad physical conditions, for very little money, and for so many hours that they had very little time for leisure or to spend with their families. Labor unions began to form as a response to these conditions. One of the main goals of the labor movement was the establishment of the 8 hour working day. Industry vigorously resisted this, and they were greatly assisted in this resistance by the leading newspapers of the time, as well as the powers of government. Yet, the labor movement persisted, and through organization, political activity, strikes, and demonstrations meant to appeal to the American masses, by the end of April 1886, it appeared to be on the verge of winning substantial concessions. On May 1st a general strike began, with its most intense activity in Chicago. By the afternoon of May 3rd, several employers had granted major concessions to the labor unions, and the situation was looking bright for them. Then about 200 police officers attacked strikers at the McCormick plant in Chicago with clubs and guns, resulting in six dead strikers.Rather than quelling the strikes, the deaths at the McCormick plant infuriated the workers, who responded by gathering together for numerous meetings, where angry and violent rhetoric was spoken. The strikes continued on May 4th.

The Haymarket Square bombing incident
On the evening of May 5th a protest rally was held in Haymarket Square, Chicago, with about 3,000 people attending. By 10:20 p.m., bad weather had caused many people to leave, and only about 500 remained. As the meeting was winding down, police entered the square and commanded the crowd to disperse. The speaker, Samuel Fielden, briefly argued with the police, claiming that the rally was peaceable, but relented after further insistence by the police. Fielden then began to climb down from his platform. At that moment a grenade was thrown, landed on the ground, and exploded. There is controversy about what followed, but most of the witnesses who were not bribed or threatened or tortured into giving specific testimony said that the gunfire which followed the explosion of the grenade came entirely or almost entirely from the police. By the end of the mayhem that followed the exploded grenade, three civilians and seven police officers were dead or lay dying.

The “terrorist attack” set off hysteria throughout the country, but especially in Chicago. The hysteria was occasioned by the fact that the use of bombs for such a purpose was not previously known, and there was a belief that this could auger in an era where police were defenseless against terrorists who chose to fight by methods such as this.In the following days many of the leaders of the labor movement in Chicago were rounded up and held for interrogation. Eight of them were indicted on conspiracy to commit murder. These eight men were mostly anarchists, Communists, or socialists, and all of them were immigrants to the United States. The trial of the eight men became one of the most controversial trials in American history because of its many irregularities. In the first place, people were admitted to the jury only if they expressed prejudice against the defendants. The person who threw the bomb was neither identified nor charged, and indeed many people suspected that it was thrown by someone whose motivation was to cast a cloud over and destroy the labor movement. Furthermore, it was made clear to the jury that the defendants were being tried on the basis of their political beliefs rather than on the basis of their relationship to the specific events of May 5th.

The prosecutor put it like this in his charge to the jury:
America… might be in danger, for … anarchy is possible… There is but one step from republicanism to anarchy… Freeing the anarchists would mean taking that step… If the jurymen unjustly acquit the anarchists, their followers would flock out again like a lot of rats and vermin.

And the judge agreed, instructing the jury that they could find the men guilty of murder even if the crime was committed by someone who was not charged. 7 of the 8 men were found guilty of murder and sentenced to be hung, while the 8th was sentenced to 15 years in prison. A sympathetic governor later commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment for 2 of the 7 men who were sentenced to hang, refusing to do so for the remaining 5 because they refused to ask for mercy, on the grounds that they maintained their innocence. One man committed suicide, and four were hung to death. A new mayor eventually pardoned the remaining three, based on the paucity of evidence against the defendants, the numerous irregularities of the trial and the finding that most of the witnesses for the prosecution had been either bribed, threatened, or tortured into testifying against the defendants. Nevertheless, the hysteria and fear occasioned by the “terrorism” unleashed at Haymarket Square led to aggressive suppression of the labor movement in the following years, very possibly setting back the labor movement in the United States by decades. And to give you a general idea of the violence involved in conflicts between labor and employers, the historian Richard Hofstadter, writing in 1970, concluded that the United States had experienced at least 160 instances in which state or federal troops had intervened in strikes, and at least 700 labor disputes in which deaths were recorded, with clearly most of the violence being perpetrated by state or federal authorities.

Amelioration of the excesses of the Gilded Age
Eventually, reaction set in against the robber barons, and measures were taken to reduce income and power disparities in America. Landmark measures included the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in 1890, President Teddy Roosevelt’s vigorous enforcement of those laws during his Presidency, the 16th Amendment to the Constitution in 1913, which allowed the graduated income tax, and Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Finally, Congress mandated the eight hour working day with the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

Relevance to the present day situation
Republicans cry “class warfare” whenever Democrats suggest measures that are meant to improve the lives of American citizens in general, but which may cut into the profits of the wealthy and powerful benefactors of the Republican Party. They like to pretend that they represent the forces of law and order, and that they will protect us against those of us who wish to institute “class warfare” and plunge our country into anarchy and terrorism. But in reality they are similar in many ways to the brigands of 14th century France or the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age. Thousands of examples could be provided of how current day Republicans are moving our country in a direction that makes the wealthy and powerful less accountable for their actions or unfairly increases their wealth and power at the expense of everyone else, thus reversing so much of the progress that has been made since the late 19th century in leveling the playing field to make opportunity for a good life available to all Americans.

Here are just a few of those examples:
 Passing of a
Medicare bill that prohibits government negotiation of prices with the drug companies, thus enriching drug companies at the expense of our senior citizens
Massive tax cuts for the rich
Nominating a Secretary of Labor who is rabidly anti-union
Nominating a Secretary of the Interior who is rabidly anti-environment
No bid contracts for reconstruction in Iraq, and then failure to follow up on gross violations of those contracts
Failure to raise the minimum wage for almost 10 years
 Passage of a
bankruptcy bill that encourages predatory lending practices
 Passage of the
Telecommunications Act of 1996, which allowed the consolidation and monopolization of the news media
 Failure to take seriously or
respond to the worst hurricane to hit our country in several years or decades
 Deregulation of the energy industry, which allowed Enron to create an
artificial power crises in order to raise energy prices
 Voting machines provided by allies of the Republican Party, that count our votes using secret software and produce results
that cannot be verified

As a result of all this, the
poverty rate has increased substantially during the Bush administration for the first time since the end of the first Bush Presidency, the wealth gap has widened to the highest levels since the Gilded Age, so that CEOs now make on average 431 times the annual income of their average employee, and even infant mortality rate has begun to rise for the first time in 40 years.
The Haymarket bombing incident is very reminiscent of the September 11 attacks on our country:
 Both incidents set off widespread hysteria and fear in our country because of the advent of a new form of terror.
 Both incidents resulted in massive repression by government, which consequently greatly enhanced its powers.
 And, the investigations of both incidents were grossly inadequate, with widespread government interference, so that numerous questions remained as to who was responsible.

Even worse, our leaders have used the events of the September 11 terrorist attacks as a pretense for preemptive war, for spying on its own citizens without the use of warrants as demanded by U.S. law and our Constitution, and for violating the terms of international treaties whose purpose is to establish the rule of law among nations. And all for no apparent reason – other than to enhance the wealth and power of our leaders and their friends.

In Summary
Democrats and other people who are disgusted with our current leaders are not interested in “class warfare”, as Republicans repeatedly whine about. They are primarily interested in restoring responsible government to our country. Part of that includes removing some of the privileges that have been heaped upon the ultra-wealthy and ultra-powerful during the past several years of Republican rule. One of the major indications of Fascism is a tight relationship between corporate power and government, so that in many ways corporate power rather than the people is in control of the government. Can anyone claim that we’re not there yet? I don’t think that opposing Fascism is the same thing as class warfare. But if it is then I guess that many of us Democrats will just have to plead guilty to that charge.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Four UN observers were killed in Lebanon, after making 10 calls to the Israeli commanders, stating that the bombing was getting very close to their location.
Considering this administration and its allies obvious contempt for the UN, I have to say that it appears deliberate.
Ten calls?
That can be documented, easily.
How many calls does it take, anyway?
And what's the real possibility that Annan's request for a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of these observors will actually be followed up.
I'm sick to death of these people bashing the UN.
What's the point?
People on the outside, who have never truly understood the inner workings of this organization are so quick to point out the problems it has had, the scandals, etc. Look to our own administration and our own government's corruption. That's just one country's inability to stay clean. Now step back and look at the whole picture. So easy to judge, isn't it?
I have to admit, I get furious at those that continuously swipe at a great idea, pointing out the shortcomings, the failings.
What they would prefer to have is the biggest, most powerful countries running everything, crapping all over everyone else.
I support the UN.
I support anything that tries to level the playing field and include everyone. Everything has its flaws. Take a look at the good that it has done. Admit that any organization that is constantly bludgeoned by the strongest members, constantly usurped by the most powerful seats, is bound to be handicapped.
Andrea Yates has been given a verdict that will get her the help she needs. She got "not guilty by reason of insanity" for the drowning death of three of her five children. After the 2002 verdict of guilty of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison, I really thought that we had completely lost our way. Mental health is such a misunderstood phenomenon. Did she know right from wrong at the time she was drowning her children? What a ridiculous question! When you are suffering from mental illness that standard is just so simplistic. Maybe now, real strides can be made in this area. Maybe we can start delving a little deeper into these cases and start coming up with real solutions. At least, now, a real precedent has been set.
Thank God.
Why is President Bush Against the (Notso) Fair Tax?
By Steve Young

“The check is in the mail" has long been one of the world's greatest lies.

And today that pitch just might be the prelude to the biggest lie ready to be foisted on the American public...a national sales tax, or what some have taken to call the Fair Tax.
When the new congress assembles in January, the so-called Fair Tax will hit on the legislative agenda - if some Republicans have their way.
In a preemptive strike, talk show host Neal Boortz and Congressman John Linder (R. Ga - 7 District), have put out a book (pamphlet), then ran the talk show table facing toothless hosts hustling the benefits of their Fair Tax. Representative Tom Price (R. Ga - 6th District) is making it his baby as the co-sponsor of a bill that will catapult the IRA from existence.
It sounded great. A little too great. Snake oil salesman great. And when I read the dedication of the Bootz/Linder pamphlet, the snake oil began to put out that odor that can turn one's stomach.
"This book is dedicated to the tens of thousands of Americans-individuals and business owners alike-who have found their dreams of a better live crushed under the weight of an oppressive tax system that stifles initiative and punished achievement."
Hmm. Tens of thousands. Omigawd! I pulled out my trusty calculator and figuring quickly that the United States is made up of tens of ten millions, it would seem that Boortz and Linder intend their NOTSO Fair Tax plan to help less that 1/10th of 1% of America. Wow. That only leaves, let's see...OVER 99.9% OF AMERICA out in the cold!
Wonder which 1/10th of 1% it intends to help?
Now, I'm no expert on medical questions, that's why when I get sick I go to my doctor. I'm also no expert on taxes. Ask my accountant. So to find out about the realities of the Fair Tax I went to the experts. And so I wouldn't be accused of going to the dark - Democrats - side, I figured I go to the experts who you'd think would naturally partner up with Boortz, Linder and Price...the ones that President George Bush sides with.
In this case, his experts; the White House's own Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform.
Since you probably won't find out why President Bush doesn't agree with Boortz and Linder from any show they go on to promote their book or when Tom Price hits the campaign trail, I figure the following should explain some of the President's problems with their plan. This just may be the most important Q&A that you'll need to bring into the voting booth this November. (The answers are expropriated directly from the final report of the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform. The snide remarks are mine. I mean, I have the right. I had to put out the good money to buy the pamphlet.)

Question - Would the National Sales Tax that Boortz/Linder/Price have laid out lower the amount American's pay in taxes?
White House Advisory Panel Answer - It is "absent a way to ease the burden on the low and middle class Americans." It would increase taxes for over 80% of Americans, reducing taxes for less than the top 20 %. (Far less if Boortz and Linder's dedication is anywhere near right.)

Q - Will the plan eliminate entitlements?

A - It will create the largest entitlement plan in American history. (Republicans have touted their efforts to reduce entitlement, now we've got Republicans figuring on ways to increase it.)

Q - Will the plan will decrease the size and scope of government?

A - It will actually INCREASE the SIZE and SCOPE of government. (Can't wait to see that Price use that as a campaign pledge.)

Q - Would the plan make American's less dependent on the government?

A - It would make most Americans dependent on a monthly check from the government for a substantial portion of their income. (Good God I thought we were trying to get rid of welfare.)

Q - Is the plan a progressive tax as the President wanted?

A.- Nope. (And we're not talking "progressive" in any liberal method or manner. Progressive in what the word "FAIR" should really be about.)

Q - Would the new plan reduce tax evasion?

A - The tax rate will likely be in the 34% level and would likely cause tax evasion. That means more policing and more expenses to pay for it. (See "Increasing the size and scope of government).

Q - Would this plan do away with the cumbersome IRS?

A - Yes. And it would need to be replaced by another to administer the program. ( like the IRS?)

Well, looking up at the old tick-tock on the wall, that's about all the time we have for this Q&A. I want to thank Mr. Boortz, Linder and Price for bringing their plan to the column. If you'd like check out any more myths in the NOTSO Fair Tax program, and why President Bush thinks it's wrong, why not check out Chapter Nine of President Bush's Tax Reform Panel report

I understand that Republicans may not cotton to putting a Democrat in office, but when even your party's President says your party is trying to sell you snake-oil, you just might want to place the American people ahead of the party. Sometimes good medicine doesn't taste so good, but it's a hell of a lot better than swallowing the stuff that will only make you sicker.
T. BOONE PICKENS calls on Congress to shut down killing factories and end the export of horsemeat
Dallas Morning News, 12:00 AM CDT on Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Texas has a dirty little secret that should shame all of us who live here.
FILE 2005/AP
Although the slaughter of horses for human consumption is illegal in Texas, foreign-owned companies that process horsemeat here are using federal loopholes to continue killing horses. As a result, Texas provided a large portion of the 39.5 million pounds of horsemeat shipped to France, Belgium and Japan in 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There are three horse slaughter plants in the U.S. – all foreign-owned – and two are in North Texas (Dallas Crown in Kaufman and Beltex in Fort Worth). Every day, horse carcasses are shipped out of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, bound for Paris.
This is a black eye on our state and nation, and it demands action.
According to the USDA, these three foreign-owned plants slaughtered nearly 100,000 American horses last year. Owners across the country take their horses to legitimate sale barns and never suspect that, within days, these horses may end up on plates in high-end restaurants in Europe and Japan. The meat processors brag they can take a horse "from stable to table in four days."
And, despite the fact that none of the horsemeat is sold or consumed in the U.S., the slaughterhouses receive USDA oversight that costs millions of taxpayer dollars. To add insult to injury, these slaughterhouses use accounting loopholes to pay few or no taxes – shipping 100 percent of the horsemeat and profits to France and Belgium.
You would be shocked at the beautiful horses sent to these slaughterhouses. According to the USDA, nearly all of the Thoroughbreds, Arabians, quarter horses and wild mustangs arriving at these plants are healthy young horses in "good to excellent condition." Because of the quick kill and export, these plants have become convenient dumping grounds for stolen horses. In fact, after California instituted a ban on horse slaughter in 1998, horse thefts there dropped 34 percent.
Congressional hearings are scheduled to begin this week on the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (HR503), a strongly bipartisan bill to end the slaughter of horses in the U.S. for human consumption. The bill has the support of 200 co-sponsors and is championed by more than 100 organizations, including such industry groups as the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Churchill Downs.
Every poll taken on this subject shows that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to horse slaughter: In a recent Texas poll, more than 70 percent opposed it.
The horse has a special place in American culture and history. It helped settle this country and provided inspiration for the "horsepower" inside the vehicles that make this nation go. It's no surprise that, when reports surfaced that 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand ended up in a Japan slaughterhouse three years ago, they galvanized a movement to close the U.S. plants.
Let's hope it won't take the slaughter of another Derby winner to put the spotlight on this important issue and shut down these killing factories once and for all.
I strongly oppose horse slaughter. It is un-American. Contact your congressional members and let them know these horses deserve better.
T. Boone Pickens has been a world leader in the oil and gas industry for 50 years. He now runs BP Capital LLC, a Dallas-based energy trading partnership. Lifelong animal lovers, T. Boone and Madeleine Pickens earned national attention by funding the airlift rescue of stranded cats and dogs after Hurricane Katrina. His e-mail address is

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