Friday, December 30, 2005

2005: Twelve Months Of Hell For The GOP.

2005 has been one hell of a year, particularly for the GOP. Republican Congressmen and Senators have seen themselves entangled in scandal after scandal, President Bush has seen his approval ratings tank, with calls for impeachment, and GOP Governors have been found guilty of ethics violations. 2005 saw so much trouble for the GOP, that it’s hard to remember it all. For this reason, Nitwit Planet takes our readers on a quick stroll through Memory Lane, to relive the year that was 2005.

January 2005 saw the inauguration of President Bush’s second term. But it wasn’t pain free. Due to widespread reports of voter fraud, Senator Barbara Boxer signed to contest the Electoral College count in Ohio. The House was forced to certify the election, so Bush could get his frat party on January 20th. On that freezing cold day, 10,000 peace activists took to the streets, lining Pennsylvania Ave., forcing the fat cats paying for the party to deal with the People. Some of those fat cats included CheveronTexaco, Exxon Mobil, Occidental Petroleum, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. Who wouldda guessed?

But the news in January didn’t get better. A Freedom of Information Act request obtained by USA Today found that the Bush Administration paid conservative pundit Armstrong Williams $240,000 to promote Bush’s No Child Left Behind act. Bush’s Secretary of Education, Roderick Paige called the illegal propaganda an “outreach effort.”

The National Intelligence Council for the CIA couldn’t produce good news for the GOP either. They found that Iraq would be the training ground for the next generation of terrorists. Then a 220 paged Pentagon report entitled “Transition To And From Hostilities” said that the Bush administration needed another 350,000 troops in Iraq to bring a proper transition to peace in the nation. Furthermore, the David Kay report found that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction after all. Opps.

Shortly thereafter, a joint investigation by the Financial Times and the Italian business daily Il Sole 24 Ore found that the United States too was involved in the Oil-For-Food Scandal. It seemed that the Bush administration permitted 7 million barrels of oil be transferred to Jordan so that the nation could build up its reserves prior to going to war with Iraq. The transfer allowed a third of the $150 million dollar sale to go the Saddam Hussein.

A poll by the New York Times found Bush’s approval rating to be 49%, entering his second term with the lowest approval rating of any President in 50 years.

Bush nominated Condi Rice to be our next Secretary of State, which put Rice in the uneasy position of a Senate confirmation hearing. Senator Barbara Boxer was there to prove Rice was a bald face liar, using her own words against her:
“It was a case that said he was trying to reconstitute. He's trying to acquire nuclear weapons. Nobody ever said that it was going to be the next year.” -Condi Rice 7/30/2003

“The intelligence assessment was that he was reconstituting his nuclear program; that, left unchecked, he would have a nuclear weapon by the end of the year.”
-Condi Rice 10/10/2004
It wasn’t long before the Secretary of Defense was on the run too. Rumsfeld was forced to cancel a trip to Germany to avoid being charged with War Crimes in a German court.

All of this didn’t look good, and it wasn’t long before the Bush administration attempt to push it’s “political capital” and proposing privatizing Social Security, a move so radical that the Republican chair of the House Ways and Means Committee Bill Thomas, and Republican Senator Olympia Snow both publicly opposed the plan. The proposal went steadily down-hill from there.

In February things seemed to be getting better for the GOP. At least until it was revealed by left-wing bloggers that a conservative White House Press Corp “journalist” Jeff Gannon was actually a homosexual prostitute, being paid to throw softball questions to Scotty McClellan.

By March things were looking rougher for the GOP, which meant that the President had to go on vacation again. Looking at their dipping poll numbers, and increasing criticism on the proposed Social Security privatization proposal, Bush cut his vacation short in order to sign into law the Terry Schiavo bill. A “talking points” memo was leaked that the move will rally pro-life America behind the GOP. Polling finds that the overwhelming majority of Americans are disgusted with the move.

By April the fallout of the Schiavo fiasco set even more eyes on House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Republican Congressman Chris Shays was so disgusted with DeLay that he called on him to resign his post.

But DeLay wasn’t feeling the heat alone. The EPA under public pressure was forced to cancel a program that gave poor Florida families a thousand dollars in exchange for documenting the effects of poisoning their children with pesticides.

In May the GOP saw things begin to crumble. The Times of London published The Downing Street Memo, showing that the Bush administration had fixed the pre-war intelligence to fit their policy of invading Iraq. Vice President Dick Cheney informed the American People that the Iraqi Insurgency was in its “last throws.”

On the lighter side, Alan Colmes talked to Republican anti-abortion activist Neal Horsley on his radio program, who admitted on the air that while he was growing up on the farm in Georgia his first girlfriend was a mule.

By July it was revealed in Newsweek that White House advisor Karl Rove had spoken to Time Magazine reporter Matthew Cooper about Valerie Plame just days before Robert Novak leaked Plame’s identity in a column. The GOP’s response was to release “talking points”, distributed by RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman to discredit Plame’s husband Joe Wilson. Days later, after Wilson was interviewed on Meet the Press, Republican Congressman Peter King said that Tim Russert ought “to be shot.”

In August US forces had seen an average increase of 50% in insurgent attacks from the year prior. A special election in Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District showed that Republicans were in deeper trouble than they thought. In a district that had not sent a Democrat to Congress in 40 years, with the previous Republican always easily winning the seat by 72% or more, the special election proved to be highly competitive. Democrat Paul Hackett, an Iraq War vet, who heavily criticized Bush, barely lost the election with 48% of the vote. The Republican candidate, Jean Schmidt, who barely won the election had spent $300,000 on attack ads against Hackett. It marked her first, but not her last attack on a war veteran in 2005.

In August the bad news kept coming for the GOP, as an AP-Ipsos poll found Bush’s approval ratings had slipped to 38%. As usual, when times are bad, the President responded by again going on vacation. Unfortunately, for him, he had some unwelcomed guests in Crawford, as dozens of military families from Alabama to Arkansas, Georgia to Missouri, New Jersey to Washington joined Cindy Sheehan in demanding an answer to her question: “For what noble cause did my son die for?”

Things grew worse as federal prosecutors subpoenaed the Treasurer of the Republican National Committee, Robert Kjellander on corruption charges involving an Illinois state pension fund and The Carlyle Group. Kjellander, who had headed up Bush’s re-election campaign in three states was paid $3 million by Carlyle to land contracts with the company controlling the pension fund.

But Kjellander wasn’t the only one in legal trouble. Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff was indicted for fraud for ripping off millions of dollars from Native Americans.

But massive fraud wasn’t just happening in the United States. In Iraq investigators discovered that more than $1 billion worth of weapons was embezzled in kickbacks for middlemen. An audit found that at least $500 million in funds for Iraq has disappeared.

And days after RNC Chair Ken Mehlman announced a “zero-tolerance” policy against voter fraud by GOP operatives, the RNC decided to pay $722,000 in legal bills to defend a former RNC official James Tobin who was charged with 4 felonies involving voter fraud.

Things got weirder for the GOP, as the Associated Press found that to keep our nation safe from terrorist attack, infants with similar sounding names to those on the no-fly list were barred from boarding air planes.

And as Cindy Sheehan’s peace protest continued to grow in Crawford, on August 17th one thousand, six hundred and twenty seven individual candlelight vigils were held all over the nation honoring the troops who have died in Iraq, and calling for our brave men and women to be brought home.

Meanwhile America continued to grow even more insecure. The National Counterterrorism Center assembled new terrorist attack statistics showing that 2004 saw a marked spike in terrorist activity world-wide. In 2003 the Patterns of Global Terrorism report cited 208 terrorist incidents, but that number had jumped to 3,192 terrorist incidents in 2004. The Bush administration’s response was to stop publishing the annual report. But Muslims weren’t the only ones carrying out terrorist attacks. The US News & World Report found that in the ten years since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, 60 terrorist plots have been uncovered and prevented in the United States, plots all planned by extreme right-wing groups. The Bush administration’s response was to spy on left-wing animal rights activists.

And in Ohio the Republican Governor Bob Taft was charged with four ethics violations, marking the first time in Ohio’s history that a governor had been charged with a crime. Taft saw his approval ratings drop to a measly 15%. Mark Rickel, a spokesman for Taft, said, “The governor doesn’t govern by polls.” The Ohio Governor would later in the year be found guilty of those charges.

And then came Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans drowned. And Bush, still on vacation, strummed.

In September, as New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast was left abandoned by the GOP, revelation after revelation was revealed about FEMA’s gross negligence of the rescue effort, if not intentional abandonment of those in need. Five days after the hurricane struck Mississippi towns had still yet to see any federal aid arrive in areas that had seen 90% of the buildings destroyed. Despite the destruction, President Bush, Condi Rice, Vice President Cheney and White House Chief of Staff Andy Card were still on vacation days after the hurricane hit. On FEMA’s website, the agency listed Pat Robertson’s Operation Blessing as one of the top three charities to donate relief funds to, despite the organization’s checked past of human rights violations in Africa.

International aid offers came pouring in from around the globe. Venezuela’s Citgo Petroleum Corporation pledged a million dollars in aid. Russia offered to dispatch rescue teams and other aid, but was rejected by FEMA. Japan, Canada, France, Honduras, Germany, Jamaica, Australia, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Greece, Hungry, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, China, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and NATO all made international aid offers. Israel offer hundreds of doctors, nurses, and trauma experts, as well as field hospitals, medical kits, and temporary housing. None of the aid was accepted. The UK shipped 400,000 rations of food to feed Katrina survivors, rations that the Food and Drug Administration burned, along with additional food aid from Israel, Spain, and Italy.

Meanwhile 2 million people were left without power, tens of thousands remained trapped in New Orleans with no food or water, and corpses littered the streets and floated through the flood waters. The headline in the New Orleans Time-Picayune read “Help Us, Please.”

Meanwhile the USS Bataan sat docked on the port of New Orleans, with doctors, hospital beds, food, and the ability to produce 100,000 gallons of water per day, and the Bush administration refused to give the order to permit the Bataan crew to help the people of New Orleans.

Leaked FEMA memos showed that FEMA director Michael Brown only bothered to dispatch 1,000 Homeland Security personnel to the region, two days after the hurricane struck, and that the employees were not expected to help those in need but to “convey a positive image of disaster operations” to local government officials and to the public.

FEMA’s response went from bad to worse, as they prepared flights out of town for evacuees, sending them to wrong locations. FEMA’s response was so slow that Vancouver-based Canadian rescue teams arrived in New Orleans five days before American rescue units. When FEMA contractors arrived, some of them were arrested for looting in Plaquemines Parish. President Bush made an executive order preventing federal contractors from paying local workers prevailing wages who were attempting to rebuild. Gas prices around the nation soar to $3.00 to $4.00 a gallon and ExxonMobil announced it expected it’s 2nd quarter to be the single most profitable quarter for any company ever, making an average of $4.5 million dollars per hour.

As the nation became increasingly enraged with FEMA and the Bush administration, Republicans played the race card, blaming the African Americans left in the city. House Speaker Republican Dennis Hastert questioned if New Orleans should be rebuilt at all, and Republican Senator Rick Santorum suggested punishing those left behind in the city. Republican Congressman Richard Baker said of the disaster, “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did.” On his radio program, Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh called the New Orleans mayor “Mayor Nager.” Bill Bennett on his radio program said that if every black baby was aborted in America the crime rate would go down. And Louisiana state Senator Republican Craig Romero visited Washington, D.C. to garner support for his run for Congress in the 3rd district of Louisiana. Romero went to drum up support to prevent Katrina victims from moving back home, because he said without New Orleans residents the seat would go solidly Republican.

Meanwhile, the White House’s chief procurement officer, David Safavian was arrested for obstruction of justice, in the investigation of Jack Abramoff. But Safavian was just small fries. Soon the Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist found himself being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for insider trading. This was followed by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay being indicted on conspiracy charges, and then for money laundering. DeLay was forced to step down as the House Majority Leader, who pushed for Congressmen David Dreier to take his place. But because Dreier is a homosexual, the GOP choose the House Majority Whip Roy Blunt to replace DeLay.

As the summer ended and October came, the GOP began to prepare for Halloween, and in this case didn’t involve tricks or treats, but for calling for foreign leaders of sovereign nations to be assassinated. The Christian Right apparently forgot the 6th Commandment (“Thou shall not kill“), and Pat Robertson called on the democratically elected President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez to be killed. Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly soon joined Robertson by saying that the US ought to consider assassinating the President of Syria Bashar al-Assad if the country failed to help our war effort in Iraq.

Meanwhile MSNBC reported that when the FBI was using roving wiretaps to spy of suspected terrorists, the FBI may have mistakenly listened in on wrong numbers. A Justice Department Inspector General report showed that the FBI had a backlog of 38,514 hours of conversations. And the Secret Service took a visit to Currituck County High School remove a photo of President Bush with a thumb tack stuck in his head. It seems that the photo was part of a class project in which the students were to demonstrate their Constitutional Rights. It seemed that the Secret Service thought otherwise.

Then Raw Story reported that because of the government no-bid contracts to Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney’s stock options soared an astonishing 3,281%.

But the worse was yet to come. As the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq topped 2,000, the White House was looking to make some good PR on the war front. In an event billed as a “conversation with our troops”, President Bush held a teleconference with 10 soldiers with the Army’s 42nd Infantry Division. The event went on without a hitch, that is until the media ran a segment that they had taped showing Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Allison Barber coaching the soldiers in giving the precise answers the White House wanted to hear. The staged event disgusted the public so much that Bush’s job approval ratings fell to an all time new low of just 29%.

With figures that low, things weren’t looking good for the GOP with several state elections to be held in November. In Virginia Democratic candidate Tim Kaine won the Governorship. In New Jersey the GOP lost another Governor’s race. In Dover, Pennsylvania voters kicked out eight school board members who had been shoving Christian Right “intelligent design” down their children’s throats. Pat Robertson promptly called down God’s vengeance upon the town. And California Governor Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger saw every single one of his ballot initiatives, most targeted against the Nurses’ union, voted down.

Behind the scenes top Pentagon brass, angered over the crippling of US defenses from the war in Iraq, looked elsewhere for a leader to voice their concerns. Knowing the President would silence them, they chose a hawkish Democrat, and Marine vet, Congressman Jack Murtha to disengage from the Iraq war. The move prompted an angered reaction by the GOP. Ohio Republican Jean Schmidt, who had spent $300,000 earlier in the year on negative campaigning against an Iraqi war vet Paul Hackett in order to get elected, came out and called Rep. Murtha a “coward” on the House floor. In less than a week Schmidt was forced to apologize on that very same House floor.

But still problems mounted with the GOP. After years of investigation, Vice President Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby was indicted on five counts of obstructing justice in the investigation into who leaked the identity of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Republicans began to feel somewhat relieved with the indictments, thinking that the worse was behind them. That was until another Downing Street memo appeared in The Daily Mirror of London, showing that Tony Blair had to talk George Bush out of bombing Al-Jazeera in Doha, Qatar. The White House called it “outlandish”, despite that the US military had bombed Al-Jazeera bureaus in Afghanistan and Baghdad in 2001 and 2003. This didn’t come as good news for the Pentagon, as it was further revealed by the Washington Post that the Counterintelligence Field Activity, a little known Pentagon agency was set up to spy on American citizens domestically.

But all the GOP’s woes didn’t come from the federal level. In Kentucky, it was revealed that Republican Governor Ernie Fletcher had hired his personal friend Jimmy Holiday to do nothing but answer phones for the state’s Department of Transportation. The problem came when Holiday refused to do this simple task, despite a handsome salary. The entire incident may never have been noticed if it hadn’t been for that the Governor had run on a platform against “making work for friends”.

And if that wasn’t disgraceful enough, Republican Congressman “Duke” Cunningham was forced to resign his post after admitting he took $2.4 million dollars in bribes from defense contractors in exchange for favorable government contracts.

And to top all of this repugnant behavior off, right-wing pundit Bill O’Reilly said on the air that Al-Qaeda should blow up Coit Tower in San Francisco.

It hasn’t been a good year for the GOP. 2005 has been marked with more scandals, indictments, and guilty verdicts than an elephant can shake a stick at. But with the 2006 Congressional elections coming up next year, 2006 could be remarkably worse.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Merry Winter Solstice!

Christmas may now be over, but with Bill O’Reilly’s “war on Christmas”, I thought now would be a good time for a little history lesson to begin.

What exactly are we celebrating during Christmas? Gift-giving? Mistletoe? The birth of Jesus?

The Christian faith pronounces Christmas as “the mass of Christ” (thus the name of the holiday), a celebration of Jesus’ birth. But is there any historical, much less biblical evidence that Jesus was born on December 25th, much less during that time of year?

In the Gospel, the book of Luke gives the most detail of the birth of Jesus’ and his early childhood, and I have personally found nothing which would indicate what time of year Jesus was born. The book of Luke, Chapter 2 states:
The angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
But there’s nothing about what month or day this took place. So why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25th ?

The first scholarly text showing the practice of December 25th as Christmas was in the Roman Empire in the year 325 A.D. The practice had been first decreed by Emperor Aurelian in 274 A.D. However, a celebration around December 25th had been taken place for centuries prior.

Winter Solstice comes around every December 21st , marking the shortest day of the year. Solstice, coming from the Latin words “sol” (sun) and “sistere” (to make stand still), in the Winter was a celebration to call the sun back to give new life for the next year. Yes, Christmas originated as a form of Sun Worship.

Before it was Christmas, the Romans called it Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun. The ancient Roman celebration of Saturnalia was practiced, a holiday named after the god Saturn, who ruled over agriculture. Typically Saturnalia was celebrated for 7 days, giving praise to Saturn after the crops had been sown. It was considered the greatest holiday of the year. Work was suspended, schools were closed, the army rested, criminals were not executed, homes were decorated, and friends would visit one another bringing good-luck gifts to each other. Lamps and fires were kept burning to ward off the spirits of darkness, and evergreen trees were decorated, to celebrate their life and strength, which remained green throughout the winter months.

But the Romans weren’t the only ones celebrating Winter Solstice. In Scandinavia, which was still pagan, the people celebrated the winter festival of Yule. Yule logs were burned throughout the night, it believed to have a magical effect to help the sun shine more brightly. If the fire burned out, it was considered bad luck, and the next year would bring trouble. Mistletoe, which grew on the most sacred oak tree, was cut in ceremony and hung in doorways for good luck. Hanging it in rooms was an offer of goodwill to visitors and kissing was a pledge of friendship.

But the Scandinavians weren’t alone either. In Ancient Greece the Winter Solstice celebration was called Lenaea, the Festival of the Wild Women! On this day, the harvest god Dionysus (represented by a man) was torn to pieces and eaten by a gang of women, and the ritual would conclude with Dionysos being reborn as a child. Human sacrifice was eventually replaced with the killing of a goat.

But Europeans weren’t the only ones celebrating the Winter Solstice. In Iran Shabe-Yalda is celebrated. The celebration of Yalda, which predates Islam, originated in the Zoroastrian faith. The name of Yalda refers to the rebirth of the sun, a celebration where people gather at home all night to tell stories and eat pomegranates, while bonfires are lit outside.

But Westerners weren’t the only ones celebrating this time of year either. The Native Americans celebrated Winter Solstice as well. The Pueblos observed Winter Solstice rites, praying for the rebirth of vegetation. The Hopi celebrated 20 days of Soyal which included purification rituals, feasts and blessings. The Chumash celebrated Winter Solstice as well for several days. The Incas celebrated a festival of the sun, honoring the sun god Wiracocha. The celebration continues today by the Quecia Indians in Cusco, Peru. And in Vermont a 20 acre sized stone amphitheatre was built centuries ago by native peoples. In the center of the structure a series of vertical rocks are formed, shining a shadow onto the side, which has notches set to mark the Winter Solstice.

Celebrations of Winter Solstice predates the Christian faith by thousands of years, by peoples all over the globe. It’s origins have nothing to do with Christianity. It has been a celebration of life and rebirth, of giving and good times, of feasts and wishing goodwill onto others. Is that not the real meaning of Christmas? Or should the holiday be simply reserved for getting into somebody’s face and screaming at them when they say “Happy Holidays”? You can be sure that in a year’s time, Bill O’Reilly will have the answer for you.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Bush Administration Was Denied Spy Authority.

Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle has disclosed that while he was the Senate Majority Leader, he denied the Bush administration the legal authority to eavesdrop on American citizens. While the White House has claimed that it was granted the authority to violated the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution in a joint Congressional resolution authorizing military forced after 9/11, Daschle says the administration requested the authority, but was denied.

Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle said:
"Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words 'in the United States and' after 'appropriate force' in the agreed-upon text. This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas -- where we all understood he wanted authority to act -- but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused."
Meanwhile, the Justice Department has admitted that the spy program does not comply with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

And The New York Times is reporting that the NSA has collected massive volumes of telecommunication data without court-approved warrants, far exceeding what the White House has already acknowledged.

According to the Times, the program approved by President Bush granted the NSA to extensive spying using US telecommunication arteries, with the cooperation of American telecommunication companies to obtain backdoor access to streams of domestic and international communications.

Phil Karn, a computer engineer and technology expert at a major West Coast telecommunications company said that the NSA’s access to backdoor streams gives the spy agency “the capability of an enormous vacuum operation to sweep up data.”

Jack Abramoff Set To Squeal.

According to the New York Times, Indicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff is close to a plea deal in which he would provide testimony against former political and business associates. The deal could come as early as next week.

Abramoff has been the center of a vast corruption probe that has implicated several Republican legislators in Washington, including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX).

How The House Spells P.A.T.R.I.O.T.

The House of Representatives has rejected the Senate’s proposal to approve a six-month extension on the USA Patriot Act, and have decided to grant only a one-month extension instead. Senate Democrats had been hoping to only grant a three month extension, but compromised on six-month extension instead. The White House had lobbied hard to make the Patriot Act permanent. The House move will force the White House and Senate leaders back into negotiations.

Wal-Mart To Pay $172 Million To Employees.

A California jury has awarded over 110,000 current and former Wal-Mart employees $172 million dollars for illegally denying them lunch breaks.

The jury found that Wal-Mart violated California state law that guarantees an unpaid half-hour lunch break to workers who work at least 6 hours, and grants then an extra hour’s pay if the break is denied. Wal-Mart says it will appeal the ruling.

Across the country, Wal-Mart is accused of about 40 other workplace violations.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Good Luck On Your New Endeavor.

I would like to wish our resident Reich winger, Miamimiami, good luck on his new blog, Squirrel Wars.

I think the tag line to his blog is “Where Conservatives Can Let Their Hair Down, And Act Bat-shit Crazy,” but don’t quote me on it.

I also would like to invite all my readers to take a look at his blog, and leave some kind comments for him, to give him all the encouragement he needs to keep on posting.

Hopefully, it will keep him busy for at least a month before he starts trying to spam NP again. We can only pray.

Man You Are A Big Pussy…A Message From MiamiMiami.

Subject: Man you are a big pussy
Date: 12/22/2005 12:14:12 PM Eastern Standard Time
I see that you have prevented me from posting. It’s ok. But remember this if you will. You speak so much about freedom of speech that you can’t handle it when someone consistently hands you your own ass. If it weren’t for folks like me giving you counter point I don’t think anyone would have even read your silly rants. But I guess by “banishing” from posting on your blog I guess your fear of the truth is finally confirmed.

I will tell you what though. I am a generous person. Whenever I do post my own blog I will give you free reign to post at will and even encourage your debate because I do understand the freedoms of speech. I helped protect them. So as far as I am concerned enjoy the silence.
By all means, feel free to comment however you like. However, your comments must follow the guidelines I laid out. Thank you for your comments to my post Welcome Back COINTELPRO!, however since you could not be 1. Polite and courteous, and 2. Copy and paste entire paragraphs of what was previously said, I was forced to delete them. Feel free to try again, this time following the commentary guidelines.

You’re A Mean One, Mister Grinch.

In a move showing the blackness of Republican hearts, the Senate voted yesterday to approve of cutting the federal budget by $39.7 billion over the next five years, for programs designed to help the most needy in our country.

With the vote tied at 50-50, Vice President Dick Cheney, in his dual role as President of the Senate, cast the tie breaking vote.

The cuts would impose premiums and co-payments on millions of low-income Americans covered by Medicaid. It also makes it more difficult for the elderly to qualify for Medicaid coverage for nursing home care. The move also freezes Medicare subsidies for home health services.

Recipients of welfare (the human kind, corporate welfare is left alone as is) are subject to stricter work requirements. If you’re a single mother on welfare who is trying to work and raise your child, much less better yourself by taking evening college courses, then you are simply screwed. Additionally, states are subject to penalties (yes, penalties) if they don’t throw more people off of welfare. Meanwhile, those single mothers get the shaft again, as aid to help states collect child support from dead-beat dads are reduced.

But those hardest hit by the bill are college students. 32% of the budget “savings” will be paid by college students having to pay higher interest rates on their loans.

Those reductions in the budget is expected to become mute point by February however. The GOP plans to extend tax cuts to the rich by an additional $70 billion dollars, while the Pentagon budget has grown by an additional $50 billion to a total of $452 billion.

This Christmas season it seems that the GOP is endlessly crowing about a “war on Christmas”, while giving the Spirit of Christmas a final nail in the coffin.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Clinton/Carter Executive Orders Didn’t Authorize Warrantless Searches Of Americans.


The top of the Drudge Report claims “Clinton Executive Order: Secret Search On Americans Without Court Order…“ It’s not true. Here’s the breakdown –
What Drudge says:
Clinton, February 9, 1995: “The Attorney General is authorized to approve physical searches, without a court order.”
What Clinton actually signed:
Section 1. Pursuant to section 302(a)(1) [50 U.S.C. 1822(a)] of the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance] Act, the Attorney General is authorized to approve physical searches, without a court order, to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year, if the Attorney General makes the certifications required by that section.
That section requires the Attorney General to certify is the search will not involve “the premises, information, material, or property of a United States person.“ That means U.S. citizens or anyone inside of the United States.

The entire controversy about Bush’s program is that, for the first time ever, allows warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens and other people inside of the United States. Clinton’s 1995 executive order did not authorize that.

Drudge pulls the same trick with Carter.

What Drudge says:
Jimmy Carter Signed Executive Order on May 23, 1979: “Attorney General is authorized to approve electronic surveillance to acquire foreign intelligence information without a court order.”
What Carter’s executive order actually says:
1-101. Pursuant to Section 102(a)(1) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1802(a)), the Attorney General is authorized to approve electronic surveillance to acquire foreign intelligence information without a court order, but only if the Attorney General makes the certifications required by that Section.
What the Attorney General has to certify under that section is that the surveillance will not contain “the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party.“ So again, no U.S. persons are involved.

America’s Culture Of Death Got It Wrong Again.

Meet Harold Wilson. In 1989 Wilson was found guilty of three murders. Wilson was given the death penalty. Now after 17 years in prison, Wilson has been completely exonerated based on DNA evidence. He was released just over a month ago, on November 15th, 2005.

In 1989, Wilson was convicted by a Pennsylvania jury. He was sentenced to die three times, one for each murder. Ten years later, Wilson’s death sentence was overturned because it was found that he had had an ineffective defense attorney. His defense attorney, Willis Berry, has since become a judge.

Despite that his death sentence was overturned, he stayed on Death Row, sometimes being force to endure freezing temperatures, a tactic used by the guards in order to maintain discipline. One of the guards at the prison was later found guilty of torturing Iraqis at Abu Gharib.

Wilson had originally been prosecuted by former Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Jack McMahon. In 1997, the courts began to re-examine Philly’s jury selection process after McMahon’s role in a training tape revealed him instructing colleagues to keep poor blacks off of juries because they were less likely to convict.

In 2003 Wilson was given a new trial after it was found that McMahon had used racial bias to eliminate black jurors. On October 31st, 2005 Wilson got a new trial, this time with DNA evidence being presented for the first time. Sixteen days later Wilson was acquitted of all charges and set free.

This isn’t the first time, and it surely will not be the last time that those who are sentenced to face the barbaric death penalty have been found innocent and set free. For some, their innocence have only been found until after they have already been executed. The United States is the only first world nation to execute its citizens, but still has the highest murder rate in the industrialized world.

We Are A Community.

When I started Nitwit Planet, just over a year ago, I envisioned the comment section as a place on the web for all of us to share, and to have a free and open dialog where we can all freely share our opinions, whether we agree with each other or not.

I am happy to say that the comment section has served this purpose quite well, even among those of us who are extreme right wingers.

Unfortunately, someone have abused this system, and used it as if the comment section was their own blog. Out of the last 57 comments that have been made, 40 of them has been from one individual.

I have received several e-mails, and had it expressed to me several times, from several people with their displeasure that one individual is essentially ruining the reading experience for all of us, but I have defended this person’s right to say what he wishes, time and time again.

It occurs to me that things cannot continue as it has in the past, lest my faithful readers become utterly disgusted with it.

For this reason, I have come to a decision, and not lightly, that there will be some slight changes made to the comments section. I hate to have to do this, but it seems there is no other way around it.

From now on, all comments must be approved by me. Unfortunately, because of this, comments will no longer be made in real time, but will have a delay until I can review them, and approve them. This is how the journalspace site has worked from day one, and it has worked quite well. There is typically only a 24 hour wait for approval.

Unfortunately, only one person has strayed from what is courteous and polite in the comments section. For that reason, here are the following guidelines that all comments must follow:

1. All comments must be courteous and polite.
2. Everyone is welcomed to link whatever they wish to the comments section, but the links must work at the time of posting.
3. Copy and pasting news stories will not be permitted. If you wish to link a relevant news story, feel free to do so. If you need any help with linking such a news story, let me know, and I will gladly help you out.
4. Copy and pasting entire paragraphs of the posts will not be permitted.
5. Spamming the comments section will not be permitted. If you have a lot to say, do it in a concise manner, and do it with 1 to 2 posts.
6. Everyone is still completely welcomed to comment, so long as they are courteous enough to follow these guidelines.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Welcome Back COINTELPRO!

Remember the good ole days of Richard Nixon, and our fabulous FBI Czar, J. Edgar Hoover? Remember how wonderful it was to have the FBI spy on Martin Luther King, on the basis that he was a communist? Well you can relive your glory days all over again, with the all new Presidential home game, Welcome Back COINTELPRO!

Watch how fun it is to have the Pentagon engage in its own spying of American citizens! See all the joys and laughs when they are forced to admit that they aren’t looking for terrorists, but for peace activists! And most fun of all, a joy that the whole family is sure to love, watch and see how fun it is for the President of the United States authorize the National Security Agency to spy on American Citizens!

See how fun it is to watch the President explain his actions as Constitutional! Watch him say:
"As president and commander in chief, I have the constitutional responsibility and the constitutional authority to protect our country. Article II of the Constitution gives me that responsibility and the authority necessary to fulfill it…We know that a two-minute phone conversation between somebody linked to al Qaeda here and an operative overseas could lead directly to the loss of thousands of lives. To save American lives, we must be able to act fast and to detect these conversations so we can prevent new attacks. So, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, I authorize the interception of international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations.”
See all the zany hi-jinks that result when the American People frantically read Article II of the US Constitution!
Article. II.
Section. 1.
Clause 1: The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows

Clause 2: Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

Clause 3: The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner chuse the President. But in chusing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote; A quorum for this Purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall chuse from them by Ballot the Vice President.

Clause 4: The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.

Clause 5: No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

Clause 6: In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.

Clause 7: The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.

Clause 8: Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:--"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Section. 2.
Clause 1: The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

Clause 2: He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

Clause 3: The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

Section. 3.
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.
See the bewildered reactions of the children when they realize there is no provision in Article II of the US Constitution to permit the President to spy on US citizens! Watch the hilarious reactions of family and friends when reading over the Constitution, they find the little-known Fourth Amendment when reading over the Bill of Rights!
Article [IV.]
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
And finally, see the nods of understanding, when the American People finally find the relevant section of the Second Article of the Constitution that President Bush must have been talking about!
Article II
Section. 4.
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
Until next time kids, be careful what you say on the telephone! Someone might be listening!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Bush Admits Iraq Intelligence Was Faulty, But Was It?

President Bush said on Wednesday that the responsibility for invading Iraq was based in part on faulty intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Bush said, “It is true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong.”

But was the intelligence really faulty?

Bush went on to say that foreign intelligence agencies, including several governments who didn’t back his decision to invade Iraq, also believed that Saddam Hussein had possession of WMDs.

But did they really say that?

We do know that the Bush administration was quite wrong on Iraq’s supposed stockpile of WMDs. We know that Vice President Dick Cheney was wrong when he said on March 17th, 2002 that “We know they have biological and chemical weapons.” We know that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was wrong when he said on January 29th, 2003 that “[Saddam’s] regime has the design for a nuclear weapon, was working on several different methods of enriching uranium, and recently was discovered seeking significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” We know that former Secretary of State Colin Powell was wrong when he said on May 16th 2003 that “In fact, we have found a couple of items of equipment, some mobile vans, so that with each passing day the evidence is clearer to us that they were used for biological weapons purposes.” And we know that President George W. Bush was wrong when he said on May 1st, 2003 that, “The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We’ve removed an ally of al Qaeda.”

But was the Bush administration simply wrong because our intelligence services had given them faulty information? Or did the Bush administration fix the intelligence to their pre-determined policy of going to war with Iraq?

Vice President Cheney had said that we know that Iraq has biological and chemical weapons, however the information the Vice President received from the intelligence community was an “estimate”. Former CIA Director George Tenet said, “it is important to underline the word estimate. Because not everything we analyze can be known to a standard of absolute proof.” Furthermore, Cheney’s statement flew right in the face of the Defense Intelligence Agency, whose position on the subject prior to the war was that, “There is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons or where Iraq has -- or will -- establish its chemical warfare agent production facilities.”

And while Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was claiming that Saddam’s regime had “the design for a nuclear weapon”, and “was discovered seeking significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” the CIA was waving red flags about the claim. In two memos sent to the White House, one of which was addressed to National Security Advisor Condi Rice, the CIA was expressing serious doubts that such a claim was accurate. CIA Director George Tenet warned against using such a claim in the State of the Union Address, which Rice claims “we forget to take it out.”

But did she simply forget to take it out? On July 13th, 2003 Secretary Rice said that, “knowing that apparently there were concerns swirling around about this, had we known that at the time, we would not have put it in…And had there been even a peep that…George Tenet did not want that sentence in…it would have been gone.” One can only conclude that a personal memo sent to the White House, addressed to the National Security Advisor of the President of the United States simply does not count as “a peep.”

The CIA had expressed doubts on the Niger claim for good reason. More than a year before Bush declared the claim in his 2003 State of the Union address, French intelligence was warning the CIA that there was no evidence to support the allegation. After extensive on-the-ground investigations into Niger and other former French colonies, where uranium mines are controlled by French companies, French officials concluded that there was no evidence that Iraq had obtained yellowcake uranium from Niger.

Former French official Alain Chouet said the CIA had contacted French intelligence several times on the allegation, including a mid 2002 inquiry that Nigerian officials had agreed to sell 500 metric tons of uranium to Iraq. Chouet had dispatched a team to double-check any reports of a sale or an attempt by Iraq to purchase uranium. The team found none.

Furthermore, Niger Prime Minister Hama Hamadou told Britain’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper on July 28th, 2003 that “Niger had never had diplomatic or bilateral relations with Iraq.” Hamadou said that the US and British governments had been mistreating his country, which had sent 500 troops to support the 1991 Gulf War.

And while Secretary of State Colin Powell claimed that US forces had found “some mobile vans” that showed “evidence” that they were “used for biological weapons purposes”, the Defense Intelligence Agency had come to radically different conclusions. Engineers at the DIA who had examined the trailers concluded that they were most likely used to produce hydrogen for artillery weather balloons.

And despite that on May 1st, 2003, when President Bush said, “We’ve removed an ally of al Qaeda.”, Anthony Cordesman, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies said that there were “no evidence of any Iraqi effort to transfer weapons of mass destruction or weapons to terrorists.” Additionally, Andrew Wilie, a former Australian defence analyst resigned his post as the Iraq war began, saying that the links between Saddam Hussein and terrorists were a “concoction.”

US intelligence was well aware that Iraq did not possess any weapons. Saddam’s own son-in-law, General Hussein Hamel had said under US detention that he personally oversaw the destruction of all of Iraq’s biological, chemical, and nuclear capabilities.

But the Bush administration didn’t have to rely on Saddam’s own son-in-law for the information. All they had to do was ask the US Army. Before the war began, Delta Force, Task Force 20, a covert specialized army unit, had scoured Iraq for weapons of mass destruction. They found “no working conventional munitions, long-range missiles or missile parts, [or] bulk store of chemical or biological warfare agents or enrichment technology for the core of a nuclear weapon.”

If the Bush administration was so wrong then, would it follow that they would be wrong now? This Wednesday, President Bush claimed that several foreign intelligence agencies, including several governments that didn’t back his decision to invade Iraq, believed Saddam had WMDs. However, on February 25th, 2003, a month before the war began, the Guardian reported that Russia, China, France, and Germany offered a “counter-proposal” to the US draft resolution before the UN to go to war. The memorandum offered by the four nations stated: “While suspicions remain, no evidence has been given that Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction or capabilities in this field.”

But if France, Germany, China, Russia, Australia, Niger, the CIA, the DIA, George Tenet, and Saddam Hussein’s own son-in-law could not convince the Bush administration of the obvious, then you would think that the Bush administration would at least pay attention to their own National Security Advisor and Secretary of State.

Long before the events of 9/11 took place, in February 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “[Saddam] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.” In July of 2001, National Security Advisor Condi Rice said, “We are able to keep arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt.”

So was the pre-war intelligence on Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction faulty? Or did the Bush administration simply manipulate it and cherry pick it for their own benefit? Surprisingly, our very own Secretary of Defense can quite possibly shed the most light on this quandary.

“There are a lot of people who lie and get away with it. And that’s just a fact.” - Donald Rumsfeld.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The American Culture Of Death Strikes Again.

Despite a world-wide call for his clemency, Republican Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to execute Stanley Tookie Williams earlier this morning. At 12:01 a.m. PST, Williams was executed by lethal injection, for a crime that he said he never committed.

Schwarzenegger, under pressure from the GOP, decided to carry out the execution, despite that a material witness had come forward, swearing to an affadavit that he had heard an inmate claim that he was going to frame Williams on murder charges, in order to receive a reduced sentence offered to him by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office.

Williams had been one of the founders of the Crips street gang in Los Angeles, but from behind bars managed to arrange a truce from the rival street gang the Bloods. A prolific author, William’s work lead him to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The United States stands as the only industrialized nation in the world that executes its citizens.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Day That Will Live In Infamy.

64 years ago, a growing fascist threat in Europe and Japan struck the United States, destroying large portions of our Navy, stationed in Pearl Harbor. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in an address to the American People said, that this day, December 7th, 1941 will be a day that lives in infamy.

At 7:55 a.m., Sunday morning, Japanese fighter pilots destroyed and sunk five of the eight battleships docked at Pearl Harbor, and the remaining three were considerably damaged. On that day over 2,400 Americans paid the ultimate price in the service of their nation.

But it wasn’t just the United States that would look back on December 7th as a day of infamy. Thirty years ago, December 7th, 1975, Indonesia invaded and annexed East Timor. The next 24 years would see Indonesia slaughtering over 200,000 Timorese, a third of the total population, in one of the worse genocides of the 20th century.

East Timor had been a Portugal colony since the 17th century, but in 1974 Portugal began to give up it’s colonial holdings. With an independent East Timor, President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger [pgs. 16-17] visited with Indonesia’s military dictator, General Suharto on December 6th, and approved of the Indonesian invasion. Worried that the invasion might cause some political embarrassment for President Ford, the administration requested that Suharto wait to invade until Ford had left. The next day President Ford left, after striking a deal with Suharto to give Indonesia all the weapons they needed for the annexation of East Timor.

For women and children, the Indonesian forces often resorted
to using starvation as a weapon against the domestic Timorese population.

As the invasion began, the Timorese attempted to bring the situation to the attention of the United Nations. Unfortunately, the United States made sure that no significant resolution would be passed to prevent the slaughter of the Timorese. The US ambassador to the United Nations, Daniel Patrick Moynihan later said, “The Department of State desired that the UN prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook: This task was given to me, and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success.”

With the situation worsening in Timor, the Australian journalist Greg Shackleton made this report from East Timor, saying, “That’s all they want, for the United Nations to care about what is happening here.” The next day Greg Shackleton, and Australian journalists Gary Cunningham, Malcolm Rennie, Brian Peters, and Tony Stewart were all killed by Indonesian forces. Indonesia moved to start executing Timorese en masse. Washington doubled its military aid.

Australian journalist Greg Shackleton
reporting from East Timor, for Channel 7 Melbourne,
the night before he was murdered by Indonesian forces.

16 years later, with the genocide continuing, two American journalists, Allan Nairn and Amy Goodman traveled to East Timor to report on a special delegation from the United Nations and Portugal to examine the situation in East Timor. Unfortunately, the United States pressured the delegation into not going, and Indonesian forces killed a young male named Sebastiao Gomes, who had taken refuge in Dili’s main Catholic church, the Moteal.

Indonesia death squads would sometimes proudly deplay their kills.
Here they gladly hold up the severed heads of two Timorese.

November 12th, 1991, two weeks after Gomes’ murder, a memorial mass was held at the Moteal, followed by the Timorese masses coming out into the street, demonstrating, in a land where public assembly had been forbidden for 16 years.

As the demonstration proceeded, more and more Timorese joined in, some 5,000 strong, all marching to the cemetery, where Timorese laid flowers upon Gomes’ grave. It wasn’t long before hundreds of Indonesian troops came toward them, marching with American-made M-16s drawn in front of them.

Journalists Amy Goodman and Allan Nairn, still there to report on the UN/Portuguese delegation that never came, was with the Timorese as the Indonesian forces approached. Hoping to act as a shield to protect the Timorese, Goodman and Nairn moved in front of the crowd, with microphones and cameras in full view, hoping that the sight of foreign journalists would prevent any violence.

Allan Nairn recalled the events: “The soldiers marched straight up to us. They never broke their stride. We were enveloped by the troops, and when they got a few yards past us, within a dozen yards of the Timorese, they raised their rifles to their shoulders all at once, and they opened fire. The Timorese, in an instant, were down, just torn apart by the bullets. The street was covered with bodies covered with blood. And the soldiers just kept on coming. They poured in, one rank after another. They leaped over the bodies of those who were down. They were aiming and shooting people in the back. I could see their limbs being torn, their bodies exploding. There was blood spurting out into the air. The pop of the bullets, everywhere. And it was very organized, very systematic. The soldiers did not stop. They just kept on shooting until no one was left standing.”

Amy Goodman recalled: “A group of soldiers grabbed my microphone and threw me to the ground, kicking and punching me. At that point, Allan threw himself on top of me, protecting me from further injury. The soldiers then used their rifle butts like baseball bats, beating Allan until they fractured his skull. As we sat on the ground, Allan, covered in blood, a group of soldiers lined up and pointed their M-16s at our heads. They had stripped us of all of our equipment. We just kept shouting, ‘We’re from America!’ In the end, they decided not to execute us.”

The Santa Cruz massacre had only just begun. As the Timorese ran, the soldiers kept on firing, moving into the cemetery to shoot or beat those hiding behind graves. Inside the cemetery, Max Stahl, a filmmaker from Yorkshire TV caught all the carnage on tape. As the Indonesian soldiers moved into the cemetery, Stahl buried his videocassettes into a fresh grave. Minutes later he was arrested by Indonesian troops.

After nine hours of interrogation, Stahl, under the cover of night, went back for his videocassettes, and managed to successfully smuggle them out of the country. Amy Goodman and Allan Nairn was forced to leave the country and Allan had to seek medical care. Amy Goodman and Pacifica Radio told the story to the world.

Finally, with public pressure building among some key activist groups within the United States, and indeed around the world, and worsening economic woes in Indonesia, General Suharto was forced to resign in 1998. His successor, BJ Habibie, reportedly under pressure from President Bill Clinton, called for a free election to be held in East Timor, for the Timorese to vote for independence. Despite that the vote was delayed twice, and Indonesian forces terrorized Timorese who wished to vote for independence, on August 30th, 1999 75% of the Timorese voted for Indonesia to end their occupation of East Timor.

After the election, the Indonesian military went on a rampage, kidnapping, murdering, and forcing mass evacuations of a third of the population from their homes. Aid workers, UN workers, and foreign diplomats became targets, forcing President Bill Clinton to cut off US military aid to the country in September.

As the Indonesians left, the UN took temporary control in the administration of the state. Finally, on May 20th, 2002, the Timorese flag was finally raised and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan officially handed over power to Timor’s first democratically elected president, Xanana Gusamo.

December 7th, indeed does live on as a day of infamy. But unlike the Japanese, those who committed the crimes of aggression and crimes against humanity have never been held accountable, and brought to justice. How long will the world be forced to wait, is anyone’s guess.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

God Rest Ye Merry Torturers, A Children’s Story.

’Twas the night before Christmas, and all was still through the house. Not a creature was stirring, except those American prison guards with sharp knives…Gather around the campfire, boys and girls, Uncle Alva has a story to tell.

It’s all about a man named Benyam Mohammed. Wouldn’t you like to hear Mister Mohammed’s story, children? I’m sure he would certainly like to tell you all about it.

Mister Mohammed is a 26 year man from a place called London, England, who has spent the last two and a half years in prison as a “ghost detainee,” after being arrested three years ago in a very scary place called Pakistan.

The people who arrested him, who are called “US intelligence officials”, said Mohammed was a mean, mean man, who wanted to set off an al-Qaeda “dirty bomb” in a US city. How did these US intelligence officials came to such a conclusion? Gather around, boys and girls, for Mister Mohammed has quite a story to tell.

“They cut off my clothes with some kind of doctor’s scalpel. I was naked. I tried to put on a brave face.” Unfortunately children, for Mister Mohammed, he needed more than a brave face. “One took my penis in his hand and began to make cuts. He did it once, and they stood still for maybe a minute, watching my reaction. I was in agony. They must have done this 20 to 30 times, in maybe two hours. There was blood all over.”

But don’t worry, children. Mister Mohammed’s story of Christmas carnage was far from over: “They cut all over my private parts. One of them said it would be better just to cut it off, as I would only breed terrorists. I asked for a doctor.”

Benyam Mohammed spent the next 18 months in Morocco suffering. He would get the scalpel treatment, be given some time to heal, and then it would be back to the slicing and dicing. Doesn’t that sound like fun, boys and girls?

“There were even worse things. Too horrible to remember, let alone talk about. About once a week or even once every two weeks I would be taken for interrogation, where they would tell me what to say. They said if you say this story as we read it, you will just go to court as a witness and all this torture will stop. I eventually repeated what was read out to me.”

After this, all became quite throughout the house again. Days passed and nothing happened. But then late one night, on the rooftop, you could hear a clicky-click! And coming down that great big chimney, was old Saint Nick! With him, was Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, Donner and Blizen! But who could forget, but three mean-looking men wearing black masks!

“Then three men came in…It seemed to go on for hours. I was in so much pain I’d fall to my knees. They’d pull me back up and hit me again. They’d kick me in my thighs as I got up. I vomited within the first few punches…After that, there was to be no more first-class treatment. No bathroom. No food for a while.”

I guess we sure know who’s been naughty and who’s been nice, don’t we, children? “For 18 months, there was not one night when I could sleep well. Sometimes I would go 48 hours without sleep…They continued with two or three interrogations a month. They weren’t really interrogations, more like training me what to say…I suffered the razor treatment about once a month for the remaining time I was in Morocco, even after I’d agreed to confess to whatever they wanted to hear. It became like a routine. They’d come in, tie me up, spend maybe an hour doing it…Then they’d tip some kind of liquid on me - the burning was like grasping a hot coal. The cutting, that was one kind of pain. The burning, that was another.”

And the lesson we have all learned children, from this story? As one US interrogator told Benyam Mohammed, “We’re going to change your brain.”

Then on Monday, children, our very own Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice said, “The United States does not permit, tolerate, or condone torture under any circumstances…The U.S. does not transport and has not transported detainees from one country to another for the purpose of being tortured. The United States does not use the airspace or the airports of any country for the purpose of transporting a detainee to a country where he or she will be tortured.”

And Mister Mohammed I’m sure would agree with Condi, children. Make 30 long deep slits into a man’s penis for two hours, and he’ll say whatever you want him to.

Until next time boys and girls, remember that freedom isn’t free, and two plus two equals five.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Bush’s Plan For A Never-Ending Occupation.

We’ve all seen the banners, and we’ve heard the tired old message. We must “stay the course” because we just need a little bit more time to train the Iraqis to defend themselves.

But what does Bush’s “Plan for Victory” really mean? And why, after three years, and 2,000 dead American soldiers later are we now just learning that the Bush administration have any “plan” for “victory”?

Bush has only one “plan for victory”. And that is to occupy Iraq forever, or at least until we can pump out all the oil out of the ground. Bush’s plan means nothing more than more death, more debt, and more destruction.

But do the Iraqis really need further training to defend themselves? Or are they simply unwilling to fight for George W. Bush? If training is all that’s needed for the Iraqis to defeat the “insurgency”, then one should wonder, who the hell trained the insurgents?

Friday, December 02, 2005

You Can’t Support The Troops If You Openly Exploit Them.

While the Bush White House continues the mantra of “staying the course”, the American public has grown increasingly tired of Bush’s war for oil, and have called for the war to come to an end. A few weeks ago Representative Murtha produced headlines when he told the American public the truth: That our very presence in Iraq is what is fueling the insurgency.

With an overwhelming chorus from the American people demanding some sort of exit strategy from Iraq, Bush made a speech on Wednesday saying that we must continue to “stay the course” until there is “progress on the ground”.

Which leads one to wonder, is this administration even remotely capable of producing progress in Iraq, when the last three years have proven to be an utter failure, growing worse by the day?

Despite all the failures in the Iraq war, no one in this administration has been fired for its mishandling. Rumsfeld continues to call the shots, producing the shoddy results. One would think that if this administration even remotely supported own men and women fighting in Iraq, Bush would at least have the gumption to show Rumsfeld the door.

Instead, the administration ordered the Veterans Administration to review the status of Iraqi War vets, claiming there was massive fraud in the number of vets returning home claiming to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Despite that the Pentagon knows that one in four Iraq War vets return home with some combination of mental or physical illness, the VA was to review 72,000 current cases for VA disability benefits, and review them for fraud.

But this isn’t the first time the Bush administration has played the lip service of “supporting the troops” while actively screwing them. Just last year the administration cut $1.5 billion in funds to military family housing and medical facilities. But that was followed by a cut of monthly imminent-danger pay for our troops from $225 to $150. Back at home, while their loved ones were being shot at, the Bush administration cut the family-separation allowance from $250 to $100 a month. Then, the Bush administration refused to give National Guard and Reserve members access to the Pentagon’s health-insurance system. As a result the GAO found that one in five Guard members don’t even have any health insurance.

It doesn’t end there. The Bush administration continued to “support the troops” by cutting access to health care for 164,000 veterans. While this administration try to wage war on the cheap, in order to keep public funds flowing to Dick Cheney’s Halliburton, the Bush administration plans to cut $910 million from the Department of Veterans Affairs in fiscal year 2006. The cuts to the VA, which have been consistent under this administration, has been so bad that veterans are having to wait six months for medical appointments, while those in need of receiving disability compensation must wait anywhere from six months to two years.

And it doesn’t end there. According to the Army Times, the Bush administration tried to cap the raises for E-1s, E-2s and O-1s at a measly 2 percent, more than half the average raise of 4.1%. Meanwhile, the 2005 VA health care budget was called “the lowest appropriation…made by any Administration in nearly a decade,” by the Paralyzed Veterans of America. Then, this administration, who has been so apt at wasting federal tax dollars, called the 2004 defense budget laid out by Congress as “wasteful and unnecessary.” Why? Because it included a proposal to double the $6,000 gratuity paid to families of troops who die on active duty. While Americans are dying more and more in Iraq, the Bush administration has decided that the value of a soldier’s life is not even worth that of one year’s wage working at McDonald’s.

So, if we are to “stay the course” in Iraq, then shouldn’t we actually be supporting the troops instead of actively screwing them?