Saturday, January 07, 2006

Venezuela to Expand Fuel Discounts to US

The Associated Press

Friday 06 January 206

Caracas, Venezuela - Venezuela said Friday it will expand a program to provide discounted home heating oil to low-income Americans, bringing savings to some Indian tribes in Maine.

Venezuelan-owned Citgo Petroleum Corp. has already begun selling cheaper fuel in some areas of Massachusetts and New York City as part of a plan by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to aid poor communities that he claims are neglected by Washington.

Chavez's opponents accuse him of using Venezuela's oil wealth to win friends while trying to one-up President Bush, a frequent focus of his verbal attacks. But Chavez's supporters defend the heating oil program as another example of a generous deed by a president leading a socialist revolution for the poor.

Read rest of this article from

Under Fire, DeLay Steps Down

The Associated Press

Saturday 07 January 2006

Washington - Embattled Rep. Tom DeLay decided Saturday to give up his post as House majority leader, clearing the way for new leadership elections among House Republicans eager to shed the taint of scandal, two officials said.

These officials said DeLay, R-Texas, was preparing a letter informing fellow House Republicans of his decision. These officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they did not want to pre-empt the formal announcement.

Read rest of this article from

FVC President Wayne Smith's Case Study of the All-candidates' Debate, Toronto Centre

Election Canada 2006
The President's Blog: All-candidates' debate, Toronto Centre

Below you will see an excellent case study from Fair Vote Canada President Wayne Smith, as reported today in his blog.

Note that Wayne crafted the question and message to fit with specific concerns in that riding, while clearly linking PR to voter equality, voter choice and government accountability. Also see how he followed up with the Liberal and Conservative candidates ensuring that they understood how PR addressed problems faced by their own parties. And, very importantly, note that he and other volunteers did a great job of getting FVC flyers in the hands of audience members.

Posted to Election Canada 2006 - The President's Blog

All-candidates' debate, Toronto Centre

I went to my first election debate this evening, in the riding of Toronto Centre. The incumbent is Defence Minister Bill Graham, who got 30,000 votes last time, more than double those of his nearest opponent, NDP Michael Shapcott, who nevertheless is back to try again.

I was nimble enough to get to the mike in time to ask a question. While standing in line, I had lots of time to consider my approach. This is the most downtown riding in the country, and the questions ahead of me were about transgendered and bisexual rights, gay marriage, gun violence, and racism.

My question went like this:

I am not a member of any political party. I am a member of an organization called Fair Vote Canada, which is a national citizens' movement to change our voting system so we can get the government we vote for, for a change. ( This drew applause, as it always does.)

It has already been mentioned tonight that the candidates do not reflect the diversity in the riding, and our Parliament does not reflect the diversity of our nation. We do not have enough visible minorities in Parliament. We do not have enough Aboriginal people. We have 21% women, a national disgrace. There are forty modern democracies that have more women in their legislatures than we do, and every one of them has a proportional voting system.

What I need to know from the candidates, and I need especially to hear from Mr. Reford (Conservative) and Mr. Graham (Liberal), is what your parties will do, and in particular what will you do personally to ensure that Canada gets a modern, proportional voting system that affords voters real choices, and will allow us to hold government accountable?

The Conservative danced around the question and talked about how they endeavour to achieve diversity in their nomination process while allowing the local constituency association to pick the candidate. He neglected to mention that they have only 11% women candidates.

Bill Graham allowed as how he was once opposed to proportional representation, but his wife has been on his case about improving representation of diversity. He has discovered the German system and now thinks that there may be ways to "solve the problems" associated with PR, so he is "willing to consider" changing the voting system.

After the meeting, I thanked him for agreeing to consider proportional representation. He passed me off to his wife, so I pointed out to her that our current system is endangering national unity because the balance of power is held by separatists, not because of the votes they receive, but because of the way the voting system works. I also pointed out that with a fair voting system we might be able to elect some Liberals in Alberta, and I told her that Jean Chretien had once said that if he were ever elected Prime Minister, the first thing he would do would be to bring in proportional representation, but it must have slipped his mind.

I also spoke to the Conservative candidate, a nice young fellow who had handled himself well in a tough room. I pointed out that it is conservative voters and conservative parties who are the chief victims of our current voting system, and I reminded him that Preston Manning got a quarter of the votes in Ontario, but couldn't elect anybody because of the way the voting system works.

He expressed concern at the enormity of the task of getting Canadians to endorse fundamental change, and I agreed that we have a huge job of education ahead of us because most Canadians still don't know that there are other ways to vote. I told him our message is that we have choices.

I also pointed out that if we had a proportional voting system, they would not have had to unite the right. The PC Party and the Reform Party could have remained separate and worked together in coalition governments. I explained that countries with proportional voting tend to have stable, effective coalition governments that represent a true majority of the voters and truly have the confidence of Parliament.

When he asked what system we were proposing, I told him that we weren't in the business of designing voting systems, and that what we were asking for was a process of public education and consultation leading to a referendum. He agreed that we should let the people decide.

The Green Party and Communist Party candidates also spoke well and mentioned PR in their opening remarks. Michael Shapcott for the NDP knows his stuff and spoke out for PR when asked.

There were several Fair Vote Canada volunteers in the room distributing our flyers. In all, there were several hundred people at the meeting, and a lot of them went home with Fair Vote Canada literature. I think we had a good evening.

Wayne Smith, President
Fair Vote Canada

I would just like to add a note to Wayne's post: I had just finished watching the Brampton-Springdale Riding's candidates' debate on Rogers Cable 10. The two candidates who said they are for PR via Electoral Reform are Anna Mather of the NDP and Ian Chiccio of the Green Party. Both of them mentioned it without any questions posed by the panel about PR. Kudos to these two young candidates!

Friday, January 06, 2006

AI News Release: Cambodia: New activist arrest as government pressures courts

News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International

AI Index: ASA 23/001/2006 5 January 2006

The Cambodian government must end its manipulation of the courts, said Amnesty International today after yet another activist critical of the government was charged with defamation.

"The situation is deteriorating sharply and there is a real risk that other activists will be arrested on similarly politically motivated charges," said Brittis Edman, South East Asia researcher at Amnesty International.

Pa Nguon Teang, deputy president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, was charged with defamation and sent to prison earlier today, after being arrested in the north-eastern province of Stung Treng yesterday.

"The right to freedom of expression is being fundamentally undermined, with the government increasingly using the courts as a tool to stifle criticism," said Brittis Edman.

"The government cannot lay the blame for this on the courts. It is manipulating the justice system itself and in doing so is undermining the credibility and independence of the judiciary."

Six prominent political and civil activists are now behind bars in Phnom Penh prisons. All six had been the subject of complaints lodged on behalf of the Prime Minister Hun Sen or other members of the government.

The president of Pa Nguon Teang's organisation, Kem Sokha, was arrested on 31 December, along with Yeng Virak, Director of the Community Legal Education Centre. Both were charged with criminal defamation over a banner used in a rally to mark International Human Rights Day on 10 December.

"It is a bitter irony that these individuals were arrested in connection with a human rights rally," said Brittis Edman. "The Cambodian government must show its commitment to human rights by restoring the right to freedom of expression and withdrawing the criminal complaints against those who have been arrested."

Amnesty International is concerned that other members of the rally organising committee and the 63 NGOs it represented are also at risk of arrest.


The Cambodian Center for Human Rights and the Community Legal Education Centre were two NGOs on the organising committee of a public rally to mark International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2005. Thousands of people attended the rally and some wrote comments on a banner. The defamation charges stem from one such hand-written comment, which allegedly accused Prime Minister Hun Sen of 'selling land' to Viet Nam.

In October 2005 radio manager Mam Sonando and union leader Rong Chhun were arrested and charged with criminal defamation and other charges over a radio interview and statement which expressed criticism of the government’s policy in relation to a border agreement with Viet Nam. The two men remain in pre-trial detention and face prison sentences of several years if found guilty. Amnesty International considers them prisoners of conscience.

On 22 December 2005 opposition leader Sam Rainsy was convicted in absentia of defaming Prime Minister Hum Sen and the President of the National Assembly Prince Norodom Ranariddh. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison and remains in exile.

View all AI documents on Cambodia:

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Thailand: Locals trapped by escalating violence in the South

News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International

AI Index: ASA 39/002/2006 4 January 2006

Thailand: Locals trapped by escalating violence in the South

People in the far south of Thailand are caught between daily drive-by shootings and bombings by suspected members of Muslim armed groups, and harsh or inadequate counter-measures by the security forces, said Amnesty International today.

On the second anniversary of a raid by insurgents on an army base that marked an upsurge in violence, the organization is launching a report on the issue urging the Thai authorities to adopt a consistent approach to justice, while calling on all armed groups to immediately cease indiscriminate attacks on civilians.

Since January 2004 there have been over 1000 deaths in the far south of Thailand, where Buddhists live side by side with Muslims. People of all ages and professions have been targeted by the insurgents, from schoolteachers and rubber tappers to Buddhist monks and Muslims perceived to be cooperating with the authorities. Violence has increased to an extent where it affects almost all areas of life for local people, both Muslim and Buddhist, restricting their ability to work, travel, trade and receive education.

The Thai authorities’ response has included arbitrary detention, torture, and excessive lethal force. They have also failed to properly investigate attacks against both Buddhist and Muslim civilians. Young Muslim men have been "blacklisted" and assumed guilty with no reason given. Those detained are often denied access to a lawyer or interpreter. An unknown number of people have "disappeared", and human rights workers who try to gather information on such cases have faced anonymous death threats and other forms of intimidation.

One young Muslim human rights activist said, "Even though I'm a university student I am subject to abuse -- what about the villagers? They suffer more. Villagers are constantly losing -- they suffer grief, loss, and pain. If you want peace you need to focus on justice and humanity."

"The local villagers feel increasingly unprotected from the ongoing violence," said Amnesty International. "Clearly the Thai government is facing a great challenge in dealing with the violence, but it has responsibilities towards its citizens and needs to ensure justice is done."

A group from a small Buddhist village of 24 households said seven fellow villagers had been shot dead since February 2004. They only travelled in groups and were worried about sending their children to school. They had been unable to tap rubber for two months because they were too frightened of attacks. One said, "Can the government help us find jobs? We just live a meaningless existence... Nothing is safe. We are just waiting for death to visit us."

Villagers also said that the authorities had not properly investigated these killings. The failure to conduct proper investigations has contributed to the acute sense of vulnerability felt by local people, both Buddhist and Muslim.

"The Thai authorities must investigate all reports of human rights abuses, whether attacks on civilians by armed groups or violations committed by the security forces," said Amnesty International. "Those found responsible must be brought to justice. Current laws which give complete immunity to security forces must be changed to allow for prosecution."

"Leaders of armed groups must instruct those under their command not to attack civilians or their property under any circumstances, and publicly condemn such attacks."


The Sultanate of Pattani, which included the present-day Pattani, Narathiwat, and Yala, and parts of Songkla Province, was annexed by the Royal Thai Government in the early 20th century. Approximately 80% of the population in this region are ethnic Malay Muslims, who speak a dialect of Bahasa.

Almost since the beginning of the annexation, armed groups calling for independence began to operate in the region. Muslim armed opposition groups' activities have ebbed and flowed over the last 100 years, but with the turn of the 21st century they increased dramatically.

On 4 January 2004, an unidentified armed group attacked a Royal Thai Army base in Cho Airong district, Narathiwat Province. Four soldiers were killed and some 400 weapons were stolen; at the same time 20 schools were set on fire in what appeared to be a co-ordinated operation.

Since the 2004 escalation in violence, armed groups who have launched the attacks have not identified themselves or made political demands, nor are they known to have indicated any willingness to engage in talks with the government. Moreover no group has so far claimed responsibility for individual attacks.

On 12 March 2004, Somchai Neelapaijit, a prominent Muslim lawyer who was representing some of those arrested in relation to the violence and had initiated a campaign calling for the lifting of Martial Law in the South, "disappeared" in Bangkok. His whereabouts are still unknown and Amnesty International is concerned at the lack of progress in the investigation. His "disappearance" has had a profound impact on the work of other human rights campaigners in the South, who feel they lack recourse with regard to threats they face.

In response to the violence, the government enacted an Emergency Decree in July 2005, which allows for detention without charge or trial for up to 30 days and legal immunity from prosecution for law enforcement officers. Under this decree, the state of emergency in the three southernmost provinces was extended for three months until 19 January 2006.

All AI Documents on Thailand:

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To All Toronto Area 'Make Poverty History' Supporters

As we get ready to go to the polls on January 23 for a federal
election that will determine Canada's role in the world, come to

Make Poverty History Election Debate: Poverty at Home and Abroad

Celebrated author and UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa
Stephen Lewis, journalists Linda McQuaig and John Stackhouse,
and anti-poverty activist Josephine Grey will query party
representatives on their plans to Make Poverty History through
policies of foreign aid, trade, debt and child poverty in

Where: Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)
Samuel Hall Currelly Gallery
100 Queens Park
Queens Park Entrance

When: January 12, 2006
6:45 PM

Free, seats will be distributed on a first come first served basis.

To reserve tickets contact or call 416.967.1611 ext 221.

Axis of Fanatics: Netanyahu and Ahmadinejad

By Norman Solomon
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Friday 06 January 2006

" Iran. Israel. The United States. Each country has the very real potential to move in a better direction - away from lethal righteousness. But in every society, that will require more effective grassroots efforts for peace and justice. "

With Ariel Sharon out of the picture, Benjamin Netanyahu has a better chance to become prime minister of Israel.

He's media savvy. He knows how to spin on American television. And he's very dangerous.

Netanyahu spent a lot of his early years in the United States. Later, during the 1980s, he worked at the Israeli Embassy in Washington and then became Israel's ambassador to the United Nations. By the time he moved up to deputy foreign minister in 1988, he was a star on US networks.

The guy is smooth - fluent in American idioms, telegenic to many eyes - and good at lying on camera. So, when Israeli police killed 17 Palestinians at Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque in October 1990, Netanyahu led a disinformation blitz asserting that the Palestinians were killed after they'd rioted and pelted Jewish worshipers from above the Wailing Wall with huge stones. At the time, his fable dominated much of the US media. Later, even the official Israeli inquiry debunked Netanyahu's account and blamed police for starting the clash. Read rest of this article from

Cindy Sheehan: The Opposite of Good is Apathy

Cindy Sheehan: " Hold your vigils and marches in relevant places, such as war-mongering, local congressional offices. So many senators and congresspeople come to mind. Or, in front of a recruiting station. Or federal buildings. Or military bases. Then, instead of going home and cracking open a beer or uncorking a bottle of wine, sit down and say, "We aren't leaving until you call for an immediate end to the occupation of Iraq." Put your butt on the line for humanity. Change will not happen until we make it happen. We can't make change happen by wishing or praying that it will happen. We actually have to do something. "

Read entire article from

Watch, Listen, or Log-on to Live Coverage of Jan. 9/10 Leaders' Debates on CBC

On Monday, Jan. 9 and Tuesday, Jan. 10, Gilles Duceppe, Stephen Harper, Jack Layton and Paul Martin face off in the second set of leaders' debates of the 2005/06 Federal Election Campaign. Find out what's real and what's rhetoric as the debates unfold live with CBC NEWS: CANADA VOTES on CBC Television, CBC Newsworld, CBC Radio and


Log on to on Jan. 9 and watch the second English-language debate of the 2005/06 election campaign live on the Web from 8 to 10 p.m. ET.'s Reality Check team will publish live analysis throughout the debate alongside the video stream. On Tuesday night, come back for more live analysis during the French-language debate. Be sure to check out anytime for full campaign coverage, including riding-by-riding analysis, candidate profiles,'s Voter Toolkit, The Blog Report, interactive features about campaign issues and more.


Live, this Monday, Jan. 9 at 8 p.m. ET, tune in to watch the leaders
debate their party's platforms and vision for Canada from the CBC studios in Montreal. (rebroadcast on CBC Newsworld at 8 p.m. PT.) On Tuesday, Jan. 10, the four leaders square off again -- this time in French -- with English translation on CBC Newsworld at 8 p.m. ET.
(rebroadcast at 8 p.m. PT on CBC Newsworld.)

Both the English and French-language debates will be followed by analysis on CBC NEWS: The National with chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge. (CBC Newsworld, Jan. 9 & 10 at 10 p.m. ET; CBC Television, Jan. 9 & 10 at 10 p.m. local everywhere except 11 p.m. AT and 11:30 p.m. NT.)

Tune into CBC Radio One on Jan. 9 at 8 p.m. ET for live coverage of the English debate.

Copyright 2005 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

The Tyee launches Election Central 'Super Blog'

The is a wonderful, feisty online publication based in BC but containing informative articles of interest to all Canadians. They have re-launched their Election Central 'Superblog'. Here is more info and links on how you can sign up or link your posts (in this email I received today):

" Just a quick note to draw your attention to the re-launch of Election Central - our election 'superblog':

With more tight races here than any other province, all eyes are on what happens in BC. For the last key weeks of the campaign, Election Central will be the place to go for vibrant commentary and feature articles from over a dozen regular Tyee writers, interesting feedback from readers and bloggers from around the province and country, links to election resources, and selected links from other news sources.

But don't just read Election Central. Comment, and even contribute. We want to know what the 2006 Canadian Election looks like from your corner of BC or Canada. Help turn the volume up by letting us know how you are participating in this election, what issues are important to you, and what's going on around you.

How Can You Participate?


1) Post your feedback. It's easy - anyone can do it. Just use the comment
form we've provided at the end of each Election Central post.

2) Do you have a blog? If so, use the 'trackback link' (at the bottom of
all our Election Central posts) to link your blog posts to our stories. (If
you're not already a trackback pro, find out more about it here:

We are also asking bloggers to tag their posts with 'tyeeelectioncentral'
when they are referring to the Canadian Federal Election and/or our blog. This will help us track the conversation online using the sites and

(Not a regular tagger? Find out more about it here:


If you're a user, tag any election-related photos with
'tyeeelectioncentral'. Your photos will then pop up in our sidebar
thumbnail gallery (up soon) with links back to your flickr page.

As well, you can ask to join our Election Central flickr group here: When we accept you as a contact your images may become part of the electioncentral coverage, and the best will be featured full-size on our blog.

If you're not part of yet (it's a free image storage service)
find out about using it here: and here:

You can also send us pictures the old-fashioned way - by email. Send
photos to Election Central editor Richard Warnica at

-- IMAGES AND WORDS, a great combo! --

If none of the above appeals to you but you have a great image or story
about the election we'd like to hear from you. Send your images or short
stories to We don't promise to post them all, but we will look at them.

Enjoy Election Central, and above all - VOTE!

David Beers

If you're interested in promoting Election Central, here's a graphic you
can grab for your website or blog:

Or, grab our Election Central RSS feed: "

Copyright © The Tyee


Election Canada 2006
The President's Blog: PR Problems?

In this post on his blog, Wayne Smith, President of Fair Vote Canada answers the misinformed assertions made by columnist Claire Hoy:

"A recent column in the Orangeville Citizen by Claire Hoy recycles much of the same old misinformation about proportional representation, and for that matter, about our current system." - Wayne Smith

"Critics - who don’t appear to understand how representative democracy actually works," says Hoy, "claim that if the representative of Party A is elected with, let’s say, 40 percent of the votes, the other 60 percent who voted for Parties B, C and D, are unrepresented. Therefore, they claim, we need a system where everybody’s votes are counted and seats are distributed according to the percentage of votes garnered."

Read rest of Hoy's article and Wayne's response here:
Election Canada 2006
The President's Blog: PR Problems?

There is a cure for
electoral dysfunction.

A funny video from
Fair Vote Canada
starring none other than
The Royal Canadian Air Farce!

Click here to view:
Windows Media
Real Player

Bush Looking to Bypass NATO / Cindy Sheehan Cheered in Hawaii

Building on its experience in Iraq, the Bush administration says it wants to form "coalitions of the willing" more efficiently for dealing with future conflicts rather than turning to existing institutional alliances such as NATO. The second piece focuses on Canada who has signaled a sterling commitment to Western operations in Afghanistan, and is now caught in the middle of two main camps that oppose one another: the Americans on one side and certain European countries on the other.
Read this article from here

J. Sri Raman | Waiting for Bush

J. Sri Raman writes: Can plans for a state visit serve as a pressure tactic? Yes, they can - and the George Bush administration of the USA is showing how.
Read this article from here

Anti-War Activist Cindy Sheehan Cheered

Peace activist Cindy Sheehan urged a crowd at the Church of the Crossroads last night in Honolulu to unite to stop the war in Iraq, impeach President Bush and "see justice" for those killed since the war started in 2003.
Read this article from here

Jason Leopold | NSA Destroyed Evidence of Domestic Spying

The National Security Agency, the top-secret spy shop that has been secretly eavesdropping on Americans under a plan authorized by President Bush four years ago, destroyed the names of thousands of Americans and US companies it collected on its own volition following 9/11, because the agency feared it would be taken to task by lawmakers for conducting unlawful surveillance on United States citizens without authorization from a court.
Read this article from here

Losing Their Minds

More US soldiers than ever are sustaining serious brain injuries in Iraq. But a significant number of them are being misdiagnosed, forced to wait for treatment or even being called liars by the Army.
Read this article from here

NOW | Death Penalty

Are innocent people being executed because America's capital punishment system is broken? NOW investigates.
Read this article from here

Abramoff-Bush: Ties That Bind?

The Bush-Cheney campaign is returning only a fraction of the contributions it received through Abramoff connections. During 2004, Abramoff was a top fundraiser for the Bush re-election effort, raising more than $100,000 for the campaign. While exact figures on how much he raised aren't known, Abramoff told the New York Times in July 2003 - months before active fundraising even began - that he had already raised $120,000 for Bush and Cheney. "And I haven't even started making phone calls," the lobbyist told the Times.
Read this article from here

William Rivers Pitt | Incoming

William Rivers Pitt writes: All of official Washington is at this moment waiting with bated breath for the avalanche. Jack Abramoff, the disgraced super-lobbyist, has made a plea agreement in the massive prosecution against him and his cronies. Every talking head who has spoken on the subject has stated bluntly that the fallout from this plea deal will almost certainly result in the largest scandal to hit the capital in decades.
Read this article from here

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Tomgram: Nick Turse on Repealing the Magna Carta

In my last dispatch, The Unrestrained President, I suggested that what we were dealing with in Washington was a virtual cult of the presidency and that its believers were more fervent than any religious fundamentalists in their focus on the quite un-Christian attribute of total earthly power. Their urge to create a President accountable to no one, overseen by no one, and restricted by no other force in his will to act was amply demonstrated in a simple bill-signing at the White House last Friday. It was then that George Bush inked the Defense Appropriations bill containing Senator John McCain's anti-torture amendment (vigorously opposed by the President and the Vice President), which was meant to close various loopholes in prohibitions on torture. The President, according to Charley Savage of the Boston Globe, issued a "signing statement" -- "an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law" -- in which he "quietly reserved the right to bypass the [McCain] law under his powers as commander in chief." So much for the ability of Congress to legislate, if the President can simply declare anything it passes whatever he decides it should be. ("A senior administration official, who spoke to a Globe reporter about the statement on condition of anonymity because he is not an official spokesman, said the president intended to reserve the right to use harsher methods in special situations involving national security.")

Nick Turse shines a new light on the Bush administration's cult of presidential power by showing just how far back its adherents would roll our constitutional and legal system -- back to the Middle Ages and the rule of kings. Tom

What Year Is This Anyway?
Rollback to 1214 AD

By Nick Turse

What might happen to an "often cruel and treacherous" national leader who "ignored and contravened the traditional" norms at home and waged "expensive wars abroad [that] were unsuccessful"?

On June 15, 1215, just such a leader arrived at Runnymede, England and --under pressure from rebellious barons angered by his ruinous foreign wars and the fact that "to finance them he had charged excessively for royal justice, sold church offices, levied heavy aids," and appointed "advisers from outside the baronial ranks"-- placed his seal on the Magna Carta. The document, which was finalized on June 19th, primarily guaranteed church rights and baronial privileges, while barring the king from exploiting feudal custom. While it may have been of limited importance to King John or his rebel nobles (as one scholar notes, "It was doomed to failure. Magna Carta lasted less than three months"), the document had a lasting impact on the rest of us, providing the very basis for the Anglo-American legal tradition.

Over the years, the Magna Carta came to be interpreted as a document that forbade taxation without representation and guaranteed trial by jury. In the U.S., it is seen as providing a basis for the 5th Amendment to the Bill of Rights that holds: "No person shall… be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…" (The Magna Carta states: "No Freeman shall be taken, or imprisoned… but by lawful Judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the Land.") While many progressive and democratic understandings of the document, popular from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, have now been dismissed as misinterpretations, the Magna Carta has one absolutely significant feature. As the website of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) notes, "When King John confirmed Magna Carta with his seal, he was acknowledging the now firmly embedded concept that no man -- not even the king -- is above the law."

Fast forward 561 years. Says NARA, "In 1776, the Founding Fathers searched for a historical precedent for asserting their rightful liberties from King George III and the English Parliament." They found it in the Magna Carta. Fast forward another 230 years. Their war for independence long since over, Britain's former rebel colonies begin the new year of 2006 on a precipice. During the previous 365 days, they saw, among other shocking displays, their Vice President publicly campaign against Senator John McCain's anti-torture amendment and, as such, essentially offer his support for illegal torture. Then, following a failed attempt by the President to quash a New York Times story on the National Security Agency (which the paper had already suppressed for a year), the people also found out that their President had ordered unlawful spying on American citizens.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

James Glaser: George Bush Might Call Me a Defeatist / John Pilger: The Quiet Death of Freedom

Jim Glaser, a Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran and Commander of American Legion Post 499, works to educate the American public on the consequences of war. His personal website is

My thanks to Tom Feeley of Information Clearing House (ICH), for so diligently sending me his daily, very informative newsletter. This particular newsletter is especially outstanding, containing articles by several noted, outspoken writers who intrepidly speak the truth such as James Glaser, John Pilger, Tom Engelhardt, Manuel Valenzuela, and the Iraqi blogger Riverbend (Baghdad Burning), and others.

These articles are headlined including short excerpts here, with links to the full articles, and I highly recommend reading them in their entirety.

Much appreciated, Tom! -- AMD

"When the President starts lying he begins to need evidence to back up his lies because in this democracy he is questioned on his statements. It then percolates down through the bureaucracy that you are helping the Boss if you come up with evidence that is supportive of our public position and you are distinctly unhelpful if you commit to paper statements that might leak to the wrong people.

The effect of that is to poison the flow of information to the President himself and to create a situation where a President can be almost, to use a metaphor, psychotically divorced from the realities in which he is acting...." : Daniel Ellsburg to the US Senate on Foreign Relations, May 13, 1970

“The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and these are ignorance, superstition and incompetence.” : Elbert Hubbard (American editor, publisher and writer, 1856-1915)

“Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come to pass in the heart of America.” : Dwight David Eisenhower (American 34th President (1953-61). 1890-1969)

“America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense, it is the other way around. Human rights invented America.” : Jimmy Carter (American 39th US President (1977-81). Nobel Prize for Peace in 2002. b.1924)

To read this newsletter online



To help support ICH using PayPal click here.
Or if you prefer to send a check or money order, Tom, PO Box 365 Imperial Beach, CA 91933. USA.


Number Of Iraqi civilians Slaughtered In America's War 100,000 +

Number of U.S. Military Personnel Slaughtered (Officially acknowledged) In Bush's War 2187

The War in Iraq Costs
See the cost in your community

George Bush Might Call Me a Defeatist:

By James Glaser

I’m telling you we are not even close to winning Bush’s war in Iraq. We have been in Iraq almost three years, and American troops are still in a lock down. No American trooper can take a stroll down the streets of Baghdad or any other Iraqi city.
Read full article here


The Quiet Death Of Freedom

By John Pilger

Bush has carried out the recommendations of a Messianic conspiracy theory called the "Project for a New American Century". Written by his ideological sponsors shortly before he came to power, it foresaw his administration as a military dictatorship behind a democratic façade: "the cavalry on a new American frontier" guided by a blend of paranoia and megalomania.

"...From 1945 to 2005, the United States attempted to overthrow 50 governments, many of them democracies, and to crush 30 popular movements fighting tyrannical regimes. In the process, 25 countries were bombed, causing the loss of several million lives and the despair of millions more." (Thanks to William Blum's Rogue State, Common Courage Press, 2005)
Read full article here


A Cult of Presidential Power

The Unrestrained President

By Tom Engelhardt

While much has been made of feverish Christian fundamentalist support for the President, the real religious fervor in this administration has been almost singularly focused on the quite un-Christian attribute of total earthly power.
Read full article here


The Army of Good Americans

Marching Forward

By Manuel Valenzuela

One day, in the not too distant future, in the middle of the night, a knock will come at their door, it being not a dream nor a fantasy, its noise an ominous reminder of the police state now upon America, coming to serve power on those who thought they had nothing to fear by sacrificing liberty and freedom for so-called security.

" Thinking that in allowing for warrantless wiretaps and NSA eavesdropping because they have nothing to hide will not affect them, they have helped seal their own fates, for in the evisceration of rights of minorities those of the majority are next to follow. In granting dictatorial powers to their Dear Leader, in the misguided belief that only he can protect them from bogeymen, the army of good Americans is opening the doors to the coming police state, for in such a place those apologizers of criminality soon find themselves on the receiving end of what they helped engender. In pushing for the extension of the Patriot Act, in the naïve belief that its laws only affect bogeymen, the army of good Americans is conditioning its children to a future of less freedom and rights, for the future will never miss what they never had."...
Read full article here

Manuel Valenzuela is a social critic and commentator, international affairs analyst and Internet columnist. His articles as well as his archive can be found at his blog,, and at Information Clearing House as well as at other alternative news websites from around the globe. Mr. Valenzuela is also author of "Echoes in the Wind", a fiction novel. Mr. Valenzuela welcomes comments and can be reached at
When Sharon Meets His Maker

By Gilad Atzmon

A peaceful man is on his way to meet his Creator. The Lord may ask him, just as he enters the gate of heaven, “Hey Grandpa Arik, why are your hands so red?”
Read full article here

Seven U.S. Soldiers Among 132 Killed In Iraq:

A suicide bomb attack in the city of Ramadi killed more than 70 and wounded 65, said Mahmoud al-Dulaimi, a doctor at Ramadi's main hospital.
Read full article here

Iraqi Girl Blog: Baghdad Burning:

Here we are in the first days of 2006. What does the ‘6’ symbolize? How about- 6 hours of no electricity for every one hour of electricity? Or… 6 hours of waiting in line for gasoline that is three times as expensive as it was in 2005? Or an average of six explosions per day near our area alone?
Read full article here


IMF Occupies Iraq, Riots Follow:

Bad enough that the U.S. military is occupying Iraq. Now the IMF is occupying the country.
Read full article here

Out of Iraq Events Planned in Over 130 Cities:

Local organizations have planned over 130 Out of Iraq events around the country on or about January 7th. Most of the events are town hall forums, and several will feature members of Congress, including Bobby Scott, Diane Watson, Jim McDermott, Adam Smith, Bob Filner, Martin Sabo, Jim Moran, Marty Meehan, and John Murtha
Read full article here

CIA had plenty of evidence Iraq had no illegal weapons, book reveals:

THE CIA had evidence from 30 Iraqi weapons scientists that Saddam Hussein had abandoned its weapons of mass destruction programs long before the US invaded, an explosive new book on America's spying operations says.
Read full article here

UK: Anger as Britain admits it was wrong to blame Iran for deaths in Iraq :

MPs and soldiers' families have demanded an explanation from the Government after a U-turn over claims that Iran was complicit in the killing of British soldiers in southern Iraq.
Read full article here


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

New Media Lens Book And An Interview With The Editors

Media Lens is an independent organisation, providing regular, critical watch over the mainstream media and its distorted reporting of global events, and correcting these distortions. Last year, they brought to attention the fact that so-called "liberal" media such as BBC, The Guardian UK and others neglected to report about the important findings of the World Tribunal on Iraq. Media Lens intrepidly confronts these conglomerate media giants and takes them to task for their complicity in obfuscating the "real issues" and for their gross dereliction of duty by their failure to disseminate information and news. - AMD

MEDIA LENS: Correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media

January 4, 2006


Media Lens is happy to announce that our first book, Guardians Of Power - The Myth Of The Liberal Media, is now available:

John Pilger says:

Guardians of Power ought to be required reading in every media college. It is the most important book about journalism I can remember.”

Noam Chomsky says:

"Regular critical analysis of the media, filling crucial gaps and correcting the distortions of ideological prisms, has never been more important. Media Lens has performed a major public service by carrying out this task with energy, insight, and care."

Edward Herman says:

"Media Lens is doing an outstanding job of pressing the mainstream media to at least follow their own stated principles and meet their public service obligations."

Media Lens Interview With UKWatch

Alex Doherty of UKWatch recently asked us about the new book (

Alex Doherty: Your new book is called 'Guardians of Power', who are the Guardians of Power? Who are they protecting and why?

Media Lens: The guardians are the corporate mass media. They are protecting the powerful state-corporate interests on which they depend and of which they are a part. In this book we specifically focus on the ‘liberal’ guardians of power - the Guardian, the Observer, the Independent, the BBC and so on. They are essentially protecting their own interests. For example, many people consider the BBC a bastion of honest reporting. On December 2, the media reported that Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark and her husband Alan Clements netted £1m each from the sale of IWC Media, the television production company, to RDF Media, maker of Wife Swap, for £14m. The other presenters of Newsnight - Jeremy Paxman, for example - are also millionaires.

Irish billionaire Sir Anthony O'Reilly, who is chief executive of Independent News & Media Plc, the multinational company that publishes the Independent and Independent on Sunday in London, is estimated to be worth £1.3 billion, making him the richest man in Ireland.

A Guardian Weekend supplement in March 2004 consisted of 128 pages. Of these, 90 were taken up in advertising, some of it aimed at society's wealthiest elites. The "chiffon halterneck dress with metal sequin overlay" advertised on page 74, for example, cost £5,890. The country's leading liberal newspaper described this as "absolute glamour".

The Guardian is part of the Guardian Media Group (GMG), which has only one bottom line - making money. The GMG website enlightens anyone who thinks the Guardian is a dauntless liberal force for truth and compassion in a money-grubbing world:

"Guardian Media Group has a wide portfolio of media interests. The flagship titles - the Guardian, the Observer, the Manchester Evening News, and Auto Trader - are strengthened and supplemented by a range of successful businesses which together from one of the most vibrant media organisations in the UK. Our investments in the Internet, electronic publishing and radio give us a broad and successful commercial base. Guardian Media Group is owned by the Scott Trust." (

These are obviously just a few small examples; but this is an elite media system that has been designed, and has evolved, over many decades to defend the interests of the top 5% of the British population who own 45% of the nation's wealth and who run the country. The idea that this system reports neutrally between the interests of corporate titans like O’Reilly and impoverished civilians in the Third World, for example in Iraq, is just absurd.

AD: The focus of your book is the liberal media. Why have you chosen this target rather than the right-wing media which many would consider far worse?

ML: As Joel Bakan notes in his book, The Corporation, the current status quo is fundamentally psychopathic - it systematically subordinates people and planet to profit. Much of the suffering in the Third World is the result of deliberate military, economic and other interventions to subordinate the interests of local people to Western corporate profits. Much of the destruction of the environment - for example of the climate - is the result of the same psychopathic set of priorities.

Even now the websites of major business front groups like the US National Association of Manufacturers and the US Chamber of Commerce are full of climate scepticism, Kyoto rejectionism and so on. Unfortunately, a profit-oriented corporate media system owned by wealthy people and/or parent companies, dependent on advertisers, linked with any number of business enterprises, has every interest in maintaining this psychopathic status quo. Phil Lesley, author of a handbook on public relations and communications, advises corporations:

“People generally do not favour action on a non-alarming situation when arguments seem to be balanced on both sides and there is a clear doubt. The weight of impressions on the public must be balanced so people will have doubts and lack motivation to take action. Accordingly, means are needed to get balancing information into the stream from sources that the public will find credible. There is no need for a clear-cut ‘victory’. ... Nurturing public doubts by demonstrating that this is not a clear-cut situation in support of the opponents usually is all that is necessary.”

This is the main function of ’professional’ news reporting. The main function of the ’liberal’ arm of professional journalism is indicated by Australian media analyst Alex Carey:

“There is evidence from a major wartime study that, for the best results, one side only of an issue or argument should be presented to poorly educated people. Two-sided presentations, however, are more effective in influencing better educated people and those initially opposed to the desired view.”

The liberal media tell both sides of the story - kind of. They emphasise the state-corporate version of the truth, particularly in news reporting. This is then ‘balanced’ by commentary that presents superficial or trivial counter-arguments that do not seriously challenge the official view. So, for example, on the issue of Iraqi WMD, the official view - that Iraq was a threat that had to be disarmed, by force of necessary - was countered with a superficial, trivial view - that this may well be true, but any action should be endorsed by the UN. The real counter-argument - that Iraq was clearly not a threat and that any attack on Iraq, with or without UN approval, would be the supreme war crime - the launching of a war of aggression - was almost nowhere to be seen.

The result is what Edward Herman describes as “normalising the unthinkable”. The liberal audience - the section of the population that might be expected to be most compassionate, most fiercely opposed to government crimes - was subject to endless liberal propaganda persuading them of the basic reasonableness and respectability of the US-UK government position. This consistently has the effect of pacifying and neutralising the most concerned and motivated section of society - people drawn to progressive, liberal ideas. By contrast, the right-wing press preaches to the converted, people who are happy with the status quo and keen for it not to be challenged.

AD: The liberal media do allow some genuine dissenting voices. The Guardian and the independent for instance publish articles by principled radicals such as George Monbiot, Mark Curtis, Naomi Klein, Robert Fisk amongst others. If the liberal media are truly "Guardians of Power" why let these dissenting voices be heard at all?

ML: This is not actually true. The liberal media do +not+ allow genuine dissent when it comes to analysing the structural corruption of the corporate media system. Monbiot, Klein and Fisk have written essentially nothing about this topic in the Guardian and Independent. Last time we checked, Curtis had not mentioned the role of the media at all in his Guardian articles. Fisk never criticises the Independent - in fact he praises it, as he does the British media generally. He does not focus on the appalling performance of the liberal media - he seems to believe that the Independent really is independent; an astonishingly naïve view. Recall that these are our most honest writers.

Serious media analysis is a completely taboo subject within the mainstream. We published one article on the issue in the Guardian in December 2004 but that was a one-off gesture in response to intense criticism of the Guardian from Media Lens readers - it took us four months to place the article and we haven’t been invited back.

The only journalist who has been consistently honest about the media is John Pilger. It‘s interesting to consider how he‘s treated. In our view he’s the country’s most powerful dissident - his writing is superb, and the depth and breadth of his insight is beyond most of the other writers you mention. But it seems there’s no place for him in any of the quality papers! People talk about the Guardian comment editor Seumas Milne as a radical force - but he won’t publish Pilger. We’ve asked Milne why and he refuses to answer. So our best living dissident - obviously one of the all-time greats - is required to write a fortnightly column in the New Statesman which reaches a few thousand people. So why is he treated differently to Klein and Monbiot? Because he’s honest about the media - he criticises the Guardian, he draws attention to the vital role of the entire liberal media establishment in crimes against humanity. So he is persona non grata. The same is true of Chomsky.

American dissidents are traditionally much more honest about the media - here it’s just understood that you don’t talk about it - and so they are not welcome in our press. It couldn’t be more obvious. By the way, the media in other countries are sometimes far more honest. Papers in places like South Korea and the United Arab Emirates publish material that is sometimes far more critical of the media. It matters more here - we’re closer to centres of real power - so it’s more tightly controlled.

Readers are not stupid. In the USSR it was obvious to much of the public that the media was heavily controlled and censored. As a result most people realised they were not free and so they sought out honest sources of information (like Samizdat) and energetically pushed for greater political freedom - the clear fact of media oppression motivated progressive change. By contrast, in the West, occasional examples of honest commentary and reporting create the powerful illusion that we have access to an open, independent press. It is like a vaccine that inoculates people against the truth of thought control.

AD: Why do you think the UK media does not behave more like the United States media where dissenting voices are almost totally excluded? Which system do you think is more effective in controlling the domestic population?

ML: Bush and Blair are both currently in office rather than in jail, so we conclude that both systems must be extremely effective. The US is an unusual and extreme case. Historically, US corporate elites have waged a very intense and conscious kind of class warfare - really huge, centrally directed campaigns of propaganda manipulation and political control designed to stifle opposition. The British public are largely unaware of this, but the very large and popular socialist movements in the US in the first half of the 20th century were deliberately targeted and destroyed by business power. The propaganda campaigns were like something out of Stalinism or Maoism (see Elizabeth Fones-Wolf’s remarkable work, Selling Free Enterprise, for details) - really vast attempts to brainwash society.

Things were initially not that different here. From the early days of the nineteenth century, business and government were resolutely determined to stamp out the free expression of ideas. The first resort were the seditious libel and blasphemy laws, which essentially outlawed all challenges to the status quo. When these failed to have the desired effect, elites turned to newspaper stamp duty and taxes on paper and advertisements to price radical journals out of the market. Between 1789 and 1815, stamp duty was increased by 266 per cent, helping to ensure, as Lord Castlereagh put it, that “persons exercising the power of the press” would be “men of some respectability and property“; the point being that these more “respectable” owners of the press “would conduct them in a more respectable manner than was likely to be the result of pauper management“, as Cresset Pelham observed at the time.

The rise of a parliamentary socialist opposition - which was never successful to the same extent in the US - naturally supported a left-leaning press. This has been under remorseless attack ever since. With the convergence of Labour and Tory parties in the style of the US political system, the pressure on left elements within the media has increased markedly. There are signs that the press, too, is converging - the Observer is now essentially a right-wing propaganda organ. The Guardian also makes no bones about rejecting radical causes in favour of “the centre ground”. The centre, now, in fact is the hard, corporate right. It is ruthless realpolitik dressed as humanitarian intervention. It’s noticeable that, despite being proved right in almost everything they said, several high-profile anti-war journalists and politicians have lost their jobs since 2003 - cruise missile columnists like Aaronovitch, Cohen and Hari have not been touched. That’s surely a sign of the times.

AD: Tell us a bit about Medialens. How did the project begin? What were your hopes for it?

ML: We had both published books on radical politics/media analysis. We had also managed to publish a few articles and book reviews in the mainstream press. But it was agonising work - it was clear that tests of servility were being set up, hoops were being held out, punishment for honesty was being administered. Naturally, we were expected to play the same game as everyone else - notably, don’t even +dream+ of subjecting the corporate media system to serious criticism. DC had set up a website for his book, Private Planet (, and DE suggested a similar website on media analysis. Our initial thought was to just send out useful analysis and information to a small circle of interested friends - the idea of how to reach more people than did not initially occur to us. We assumed we’d be ignored and blanked, and remain pretty much unknown.

We thought it would be interesting to conduct an experiment - what happens if you give no thought to the sensitivities of mainstream commissioning editors and just tell the truth, as we see it, about the media? So we very consciously decided to burn any media career bridges we might have, to abandon any thought of making money from writing, and just write what seemed most important. We consciously set out to reject all forms of compromise. We are both strongly drawn to the idea that motivation is crucial - we believe that it is vital that our work should be rooted in a compassionate motivation rather than in a personal concern for career security, status, and so on.

AD: An important part of what you do is getting people to regularly challenge journalists and editors. Do you think these challenges have had an impact on the way the news is reported?

ML: It’s very difficult to judge, and maybe we‘re not the best people to give an opinion. There have been clear examples where readers have changed outcomes in the media - questions have been asked of senior politicians on BBC radio and TV that otherwise would not have been asked.

AD: Medialens has understandably focussed on the crimes of the media and on raising consciousness on this issue. To turn to another side of the problem what kind of media would you like to see? In what ways should the media change and how is change to be achieved?

ML: We are an example of the media we would like to see. Forget for a moment issues of structure and so on - what is it we really need? We need individuals motivated by compassion for suffering rather than greed - people who are willing to write honestly about the causes of that suffering. We need journalists who are not compromised by their aspiration for money, status, respectability and power - people who find the idea of rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous repulsive if it means they have to subordinate the interests of the suffering and defenceless to their own career progression. We need journalists who understand that personal happiness and social welfare are ultimately rooted in concern for others - in personal qualities of kindness, generosity, compassion, patience and non-violence.

We are not trying to pretend we are exemplars of these qualities, but we +do+ aspire to be motivated by them, and we do think they should be at the heart of honest journalism. It’s reasonable to say that one-half of our focus is on challenging greed, hatred and ignorance with facts and arguments. The other half is to maintain and increase a compassionate motivation for what we’re doing.

AD: What do you think of the state of alternative media in this country? Is it capable of ever supplanting the mainstream?

ML: It already has for some people to some extent. Quite a few people who want to understand the truth of Haiti, Colombia, Iraq and so on turn to alternative media rather than seek confusing, misleading, compromised accounts in the mainstream. We have written often of how we hope that increased public awareness of the limits of political and media freedom will generate truly democratic, alternative media with the power to impose a news agenda on the mainstream, or to replace it as source of news. Ideally, beyond even this, powerful alternative media should aspire to inform and motivate large popular movements, and even new, libertarian political parties, which might then be in a position to reform media structures to limit the influence of corporate interests.

AD: What are your hopes for the book? What do you want people will take away from it?

ML: People will never seek liberation from a situation of oppression if they believe they are already free. The illusion of media freedom is incredibly potent. It is backed up by high-tech power, endorsed by endless celebrities and global heroes telling us, or implying, that the media system is fundamentally benign, free, open and honest. It’s very difficult to step outside this propaganda and think for ourselves.

We have collected the most powerful and relevant examples we can find showing how even the best media systematically impose a false, controlling, pacifying, oppressive and lethal version of the world on the public. Of course, we have read this stuff 100 times, so we assumed the impact on us personally would be pretty minimal, even tedious. We were both pleasantly surprised to find that, after reading the book in proof and final form, we came away with an unusually clear sense of just how obviously compromised and destructive the media system is. It opened our eyes! If the book has a similar effect on other readers, that would be a positive result.

Readers may also be interested in the following interview we did with Gabriele Zampirini:

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Tomgram: A Cult of Presidential Power

The Unrestrained President
By Tom Engelhardt

As 2006 begins, we seem to be at a not-completely-unfamiliar crossroads in the long history of the American imperial presidency. It grew up, shedding presidential constraints, in the post-World War II years as part of the rise of the national security state and the military-industrial complex. It reached its constraint-less apogee with Richard Nixon's presidency and what became known as the Watergate scandal -- an event marked by Nixon's attempt to create his own private national security apparatus which he directed to secretly commit various high crimes and misdemeanors for him. It was as close as we came -- until now -- to a presidential coup d'etat that might functionally have abrogated the Constitution. In those years, the potential dangers of an unfettered presidency (so apparent to the nation's founding fathers) became obvious to a great many Americans. As now, a failed war helped drag the President's plans down and, in the case of Nixon, ended in personal disgrace and resignation, as well as in a brief resurgence of congressional oversight activity. All this mitigated, and modestly deflected, the growth trajectory of the imperial presidency -- for a time.

The "cabal," as Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's chief of staff at the State Department, has called Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and various of their neoconish pals, stewed over this for years, along with a group of lawyers who were prepared, once the moment came, to give a sheen of legality to any presidential act. The group of them used the post-9/11 moment to launch a wholesale campaign to recapture the "lost" powers of the imperial presidency, attempting not, as in the case of Nixon, to create an alternate national security apparatus but to purge and capture the existing one for their private purposes. Under George Bush, Dick Cheney, and their assorted advisers, acolytes, and zealots, a virtual cult of unconstrained presidential power has been constructed, centered around the figure of Bush himself. While much has been made of feverish Christian fundamentalist support for the President, the real religious fervor in this administration has been almost singularly focused on the quite un-Christian attribute of total earthly power. Typical of the fierce ideologues and cultists now in the White House is Cheney's new Chief of Staff David Addington. The Washington Post's Dana Milbank described him this way back in 2004 (when he was still Cheney's "top lawyer"):

"[A] principal author of the White House memo justifying torture of terrorism suspects... a prime advocate of arguments supporting the holding of terrorism suspects without access to courts[,] Addington also led the fight with Congress and environmentalists over access to information about corporations that advised the White House on energy policy. He was instrumental in the series of fights with the Sept. 11 commission and its requests for information... Even in a White House known for its dedication to conservative philosophy, Addington is known as an ideologue, an adherent of an obscure philosophy called the unitary executive theory that favors an extraordinarily powerful president."

For these cultists of an all-powerful presidency, the holy war, the "crusade" to be embarked upon was, above all, aimed at creating a President accountable to no one, overseen by no one, and restricted by no other force or power in his will to act as he saw fit. And so, in this White House, all roads have led back to one issue: How to press ever harder at the weakening boundaries of presidential power. This is why, when critics concentrate on any specific issue or set of administration acts, no matter how egregious or significant, they invariably miss the point. The issue, it turns out, is never primarily -- to take just two areas of potentially illegal administration activity -- torture or warrantless surveillance. Though each of them had value and importance to top administration officials, they were nonetheless primarily the means to an end.

This is why the announcement of (and definition of) the "global war on terror" almost immediately after the 9/11 attacks was so important. It was to be a "war" without end. No one ever attempted to define what "victory" might actually consist of, though we were assured that the war itself would, like the Cold War, last generations. Even the recent sudden presidential announcement that we will now settle only for "complete victory" in Iraq is, in this context, a distinctly limited goal because Iraq has already been defined as but a single "theater" (though a "central" one) in a larger war on terror. A war without end, of course, left the President as a commander-in-chief-without-end and it was in such a guise that the acolytes of that "obscure philosophy" of total presidential power planned to claim their "inherent" constitutional right to do essentially anything. (Imagine what might have happened if their invasion of Iraq had been a success!)

Having established their global war on terror, and so their "war powers," in the fall of 2001, top administration officials then moved remarkably quickly to the outer limits of power -- by plunging into the issue of torture. After all, if you can establish a presidential right to order torture (no matter how you manage to redefine it) as well as to hold captives under a category of warfare dredged up from the legal dustbin of history in prisons especially established to be beyond the reach of the law or the oversight of anyone but those under your command, you've established a presidential right to do just about anything imaginable. While the get-tough aura of torture may indeed have appealed to some of these worshippers of power, what undoubtedly appealed to them most was the moving of the presidential goalposts, the changing of the rules. From Abu Ghraib on, the results of all this have been obvious enough, but one crucial aspect of such unfettered presidential power goes regularly unmentioned.

Click here to read more of this dispatch. (With full links)

Bush's Long War with the Truth

George W. Bush does not appear to have made a New Year's resolution to start telling the truth. His first comments to the press corps in 2006 tried to refute questions about his honesty by making at least two misleading assertions. New disclosures also make clear that the White House duped the New York Times in 2004 to stop the newspaper from disclosing Bush's warrantless wiretaps -- and possibly derailing his campaign for a second term.

For the full story about Bush's long war with reality, go to

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Electoral Dysfunction VIDEO - Watch it here

Fair Vote Canada was formed by a group of citizens who are concerned with the disproportionate way our antiquated voting system works, or rather, how it does not.

Watch this humourous short VIDEO, "Electoral Dysfunction, There is a cure" here.

Learn about PR (Proportional Representation), then sign on to find out how you can help. With only a few more weeks left in this election campaign, it is important to voice your opinion on this important issue. All of us who are concerned about our country's democracy must act now!

Tomdispatch: A Year of Folly Revisited

[Note to readers: Tomdispatch returns in the New Year full of hope and with as complete an account as possible of the Political Folly Awards of 2005, sponsored, of course, by the full Tomdispatch team. It was a resplendent event -- you had to be there to fully appreciate it (and to catch the parties afterwards) -- a genuine who isn't who of the political, media, and comedy worlds. So here's my award-by-award account, the very best I could scribble down, of the festivities that caught the spirit of our now dearly departed last year in the shade. Tom]

The Political Folly Awards of 2005
By Tom Engelhardt

As with bestselling books by big authors from publishing conglomerates and Oscar-winning films from giant studios, so, when it comes to the Political Folly Awards, the famed PFs, ever fewer members of the Bush administration and associated bureaucrats, spooks, and Pentagon officials took ever more of them in 2005. Unfortunately, our secret panel of judges, all former members of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (or FISA) courts, saw no alternative but to distribute the PFs as they did. We want, however, to give you our ironclad guarantee of probity as we run through the winners for 2005: No unwarranted decisions were made this year.

The newly minted "Complete Victory" Award, known in previous years as the "Mission Accomplished" Award, goes to President George W. Bush. It was bestowed to honor his sudden declaration on November 30, 2005, against a backdrop of "Plan for Victory" signs, that we would settle for nothing less than the whole shebang in Iraq, right down to the unconditional surrender of whomever it was we were fighting. The President drove home his point by using the word "victory" a record-breaking 15 times in that speech and once in its title ("President Outlines Strategy for Victory in Iraq"); meanwhile, the administration issued a 35-page "strategy document," supposedly from the Pentagon, on how to successfully fight the insurgency. The document was, in fact, written by Peter D. Feaver, a Duke University specialist on wartime public opinion, and as Peter Baker and Jim VandeHei of the Washington Post commented, was "principally designed to prove" that Bush had a strategy. All this left our heads spinning! The citation for this award -- that accompanied the traditional winged plastic turkey statuette -- was written for our judges by an Iraqi commentator, Ghassan Attiyah, who summed up their feelings in a single mission-accomplished sentence: "In two and a half years Bush has succeeded in creating two new Talibans in Iraq." And Ghassan, ever modest, didn't mention the half of it. After all, in the same blindingly short period, our President managed to spread democracy to the Middle East by opening the way for a Shiite theocratic government in Baghdad guaranteed to be closely aligned with the theocratic government of Iran whose shaky leader recently declared the Holocaust to be a figment of the modern Jewish and European imagination! Congratulations, George. And it all comes from skipping the frills and emphasizing the fundamental(ism)s!

The Most Imperial Vice President Award proved, for yet another year, to be a contest of one... and the winner was [redacted]. Please note, if you read further, you will be investigated. If, however, some branch or agency of the U.S. government is already investigating you, as is likely if you are an American or have ever sent an e-message like, "Virginia, the Afghan rug is unraveling. I'd love another one for my birthday. Your loving niece [name withheld]," then read on -- the damage is already done.

The Mission Leap Award (until this year, the Mission Creep Award, also known as the Security Begins Under Your Bed Award) went to the Pentagon's Counterintelligence Field Activity or CIFA. This new counterterrorism agency grew in three brief years from a small coordinating office located in a five-sided broom closet into "an analytic and operational organization with nine directorates and ever-widening authority" (as well as a sizeable secret budget). Without oversight itself, it now oversees a data-mining operation including a database codenamed Talon that contained surveillance reports on peaceful American civilian protests and demonstrations. It was, one PF judge commented, the best mission-leap example of the militarization of civilian counterintelligence seen in years.

According to our panel of judges, this was the most hotly contested category in the competition. After all, as the year ended, we learned that the National Security Agency (NSA) was warrantlessly harvesting unknown but vast numbers of domestic conversations and emails via the American telecommunication system's main arteries (and passing some of the information gleaned on to other government agencies); that FBI and Department of Energy teams were trolling Washington DC Muslim communities and institutions (and entering private property without warrants) looking for nuclear bombs, while the FBI was obtaining controversial "national security letters" to gain secret access to the personal records of tens of thousands of Americans (and depositing anything learned, even from those not suspected of wrongdoing, in permanent government data banks); that the New York City Police Department was conducting illegal surveillance of "people protesting the Iraq war, bicycle riders taking part in mass rallies and even mourners at a street vigil for a cyclist killed in an accident"; and that, despite much negative publicity this year, the CIA program known as GST, which includes the Agency's "extraordinary rendition" or kidnapping operations, its secret fleet of planes to transport kidnapped terror suspects around the globe, its network of secret prisons outside the U.S., and its enhanced ability to mine financial records and eavesdrop on suspects, has not even been slightly dented. For this, according to A. John Radsan, assistant general counsel at the CIA from 2002 to 2004, the CIA can thank the "personal commitment" of a President who "seems to relish the secret findings and the dirty details of operations."

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Monday, January 02, 2006

Bolton Testimony Revealed Domestic Spying

The NSA' clandestine spy program should have been evident during Bolton's confirmation hearings as U.S. Ambassador.

In his investigative report for t r u t h o u t, Jason Leopold refers to Newsweek, and writes: "Newsweek revealed earlier this year that the NSA disclosed to senior White House officials and other policymakers at federal agencies the names of as many as 10,000 American citizens the agency obtained while eavesdropping on foreigners. The Americans weren't involved in any sort of terrorist activity, nor did they pose any sort of threat to national security, but had simply been named while the NSA was conducting wiretaps."

By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Investigative Report

Monday 02 January 2006

" This past spring, an explosive nugget of information slipped out during the confirmation hearings of John Bolton - nominated by President Bush to be the United States Ambassador to the United Nations - that in hindsight should have blown the lid off Bush's four-year-old clandestine spy program involving the National Security Agency. "
Read rest of this article here

Jason Leopold spent two years covering California's electricity crisis as Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires. Jason has spent the last year cultivating sources close to the CIA leak investigation, and is a regular contributor to t r u t h o u t.

Bush to Nation: I AM the Law

"The democracy we love and cherish is at grave risk", is how BuzzFlash ends their commentary today, with deep concern for the Bush administration's total usurpation of power from a neutered Congress. Bush and his cronies are independently running the country as they wish, without opposition, chastising and prosecuting those who "leak" about their illegal activities, or challenge them in any way. In essence Bush says, "I AM the law".

Read all of today's headlines at BuzzFlash.

" Over the New Year's weekend, the Busheviks tried another rope-a-dope to get them off the mat. This time they brazenly decided leaks were once again harmful to the United States.

It's odd, because the Bush White House leaks all the time. That's why the Washington Post and New York Times are always quoting anonymous sources in the Bush Administration.

And Bush certainly didn't think his closest aides outing a CIA operative specializing in tracking the illicit sales of WMDs was important. He's still defending those leakers.

But if you leak information to the press that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Bush broke the law, then you are a leaker who needs to be summarily investigated and prosecuted. So, it's not the president who violates the law who is to be investigated and charged; it's a witness to the crime!

And we have to tragically laugh when Bush tosses out the totally fallacious notion (at the urging of Mr. Rove) that whoever leaked the story about the illegal NSA wiretaps was alerting the enemy and assisting them. This is so post-9/11 fear mongering redux. How does he get away with it?

Because the Dems in Congress, with few exceptions, don't know how to voice sustained outrage and demand the rule of law apply to Bush. When we say demand, we don't mean to politely ask the radical mob enforcers, Frist and DeLay, to investigate the crime. It's like putting Al Capone in charge of seeing who committed a mob hit.

But back to the blatant absurdity of Bush's public relations lie. Does one really think that Al-Qaeda members would not assume that the Busheviks would try and listen into their conversations? After all, the Busheviks had the right to eavesdrop under the FISA Court; all they had to do was ask. Al-Qaeda members knew this; Americans knew this; everyone knew this.

So, there is no truth whatsover to the leak about Bush's lawbreaking endangering the national security.

The only people it endangered were Bush, Andrew Card, and Alberto Gonazles -- the latter two who went to John Ashcroft's hospital bed to get him to agree to the illegal wiretapping, after the number two person in the Department of Justice balked because he knew that Bush was engaging in illegal activity.

So, now, Gonzales, who was an accomplice to the crime, is in charge of finding out who ratted on him.

And they call this justice!

It's a shameful violation of the Constitution and degrading to America to have such thugs running the nation. They believe they can commit crimes with impunity and intimidate the witnesses.

Just ask Joe Wilson and countless others.

This has happened so many times before, it's a bit tiring to see the Mafia dons still running the town and shooting down witnesses to their crimes.

But, in the absence of a sustained and unrelenting "push back" on behalf of the truth, justice, and accountability from the Democratic leadership, many -- if not most -- Americans will believe the Bush lies that they hear blaring from their television sets.

It's that simple. He may get away with breaking the law, again.

The democracy we love and cherish is at grave risk."

The Bushevik Liars Exposed Yet Again. It's a Daily Revelation of Betrayal, Deception, Law Breaking and Incompetence. Now We Learn, "The Bush administration does not intend to seek any new funds for Iraq reconstruction in the budget request going before Congress in February." And It Wasted Much of the Billions of Dollars in Taxpayer Money That Was Previously Spent on Allegedly "Recontructing Iraq."

Bush to Nation (and Especially Democrats in Congress): I AM the Law. Make My Day if You Think You Have Constitutional Rights. You Don't. The Founding Fathers were Radical Revolutionaries Who Overthrew a King Protecting Their National Security. I am the King. I am the Law.

Jonathan Schell: "If Congress accepts his usurpation of its legislative power, they will be no Congress and might as well stop meeting. Either the President must uphold the laws of the United States, which are Congress's laws, or he must leave office." 1/2

Radical Right Republican Congress Pulls the Rug Out from Under the Elderly and Poor and Middle Class College Students 1/2

Alito, An Advocate of Imperial White House Powers 1/2

2005's Funniest Political VIDEO Clips

Check out a review of 2005's comedic political moments, from Cheney's heckler to Novak storming off CNN. Watch reporters slamming government officials for their inept response to Hurricane Katrina, Bush kiss Joe Lieberman, and more. Ten video clips, all true, all funny!

Go to this site, then click on the headlines you want to see:

Media Channel

1) Bush Has No Exit Strategy
Watch priceless video footage of President Bush trying to escape reporters questions during a news conference in Beijing, only to be thwarted by locked doors.

2) Laura Bush's Stand-Up Act
Watch video of First Lady Laura Bush's comedy routine at the 2005 White House Correspondents' Dinner, in which she roasts President Bush and admits to being a desperate housewife.

3) 'Go F**k Yourself, Mr. Cheney!'
Watch video of Vice President Dick Cheney touring damage from Hurricane Katrina in Gulfport, Mississippi, as a heckler shouts out to him, 'Go f**k yourself, Mr.
Cheney! Go f**k yourself.'

4) Bob Novak Curses, Storms Off CNN Set
Watch video of Bob Novak coming unhinged during an interview segment with James Carville on CNN, barking "that's bullsh*t" before storming off the set.

5) Dingell's Holiday Jingle
Watch video of Congressman John Dingell reciting a hilarious poem on the floor of the House of Representatives in reponse to a Republican bill intended to defend Christmas.

6) Bush Gives the Finger to the Press
Watch video of President Bush flipping off reporters during a visit to Capitol Hill.

7) Reporters Gone Wild
Watch a highlight reel of various television news reporters slamming the government's inept response to Hurricane Katrina, from CNN's Anderson Cooper bitchslapping Mary Landrieu to Shepard Smith and Geraldo Rivera coming almost totally unglued on Fox News.

8) Kanye West: 'Bush Doesn't Care About Black People'
Watch video of Kanye West going seriously off-script and declaring 'George Bush doesn't care about black people' during NBC's Concert for Hurricane Relief.

9) Porter Goss: Osama Who?
Watch CIA Director Porter Goss's hilarious reaction when President Bush says that they spend every day gathering information to locate Osama bin Laden.

10) Bush Kisses Joe Lieberman
Watch President Bush plant a wet one on Sen. Joe Lieberman's cheek after his State of the Union speech. Marriage is between a man and a mensch?

Sunday, January 01, 2006

What's Best for the Country?

The New Year is shaping up as a crucial one in the history of American democracy. George W. Bush has made clear he intends to turn the United States into a nation governed by an authoritarian Executive with almost no checks and balances. This extraordinary assertion of power is a challenge to supporters of a traditional democratic Republic where no man is above the law. A showdown is looming in 2006 over what's best for the country.

Read this article here: - December 30, 2005

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