Saturday, January 14, 2006

US Defends Mexican 'Berlin Wall'

The US has hit back at Mexico for criticising a proposal by Washington to build a border fence and make illegal immigration to the United States a serious crime. On Friday, Tony Garza, the US ambassador to Mexico, criticised statements by Mexican officials comparing the fence with the Berlin Wall and denied that the initiative violated the human rights of migrants trying to improve their lives. Last month, the US House of Representatives approved a bill that would put up additional barriers along the US-Mexican border, a plan Vicente Fox, the president of Mexico, quickly opposed and compared with the Berlin Wall.
Full Story

Alito & the Ken Lay Factor

Confirmation of Samuel Alito would put the right wing of the U.S. Supreme Court within reach of imposing the radical theory of the "unitary executive," which cedes to the President extraordinary powers over national security and federal regulations. Agencies -- like the Securities and Exchange Commission -- would be stripped of their independence, leaving open the question of how George W. Bush might deal with a future Enron case when a big donor like Kenneth Lay is facing ruin if an accounting investigation digs too deep.

For the full story about how this "unitary executive" theory might pave the way for an autocratic American government, go to at

If you'd like to help expand their ability to investigate wrongdoing in politics, please consider a tax-deductible donation either by credit card at the Web site or by sending a check to: Consortium for Independent Journalism, Suite 102-231, 2200 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22201.

Death of an American Hero

At one of America's darkest moments -- the My Lai massacre of Vietnamese civilians in 1968 -- an American helicopter pilot named Hugh Thompson risked his life and his reputation to do the right thing, placing himself and his helicopter door-gunner between rampaging U.S. soldiers and fleeing Vietnamese civilians. Thompson's death last week at the age of 62 stirs timely thoughts about the meaning of true heroism and the danger of false hero-worship.

For the full story of what happened to Thompson -- and what happened to another soldier, named Colin Powell, who chose a different course -- go to at

If you want to help support honest investigative journalism, please consider a tax-deductible donation to keep alive. You can donate by credit card at the Web site or send a check to Consortium for Independent Journalism (CIJ), Suite 102-231, 2200 Wilson Blvd., Arlington VA 22201.

Pellet Gun Wielding Florida Teen Died of Injuries

A Florida eighth grader who pulled out a pellet gun in class yesterday (Friday, the 13th), and was shot by police has died of his injuries, his brother said.

Jeb Bush's recent Florida lax gun laws have taken the state back into the Wild West days.

Read report from CNN here

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price

Angela Saini
13 - 1 - 2006

The success of Robert Greenwald’s documentary on the American retail behemoth holds an inspiring lesson, says Angela Saini

Work just isn't what it used to be. There was a time you could get up in the morning, go down to the office and be happy in the knowledge that you had a job for life, and you'd be home in time for dinner. Not any more.

Facing global competition, companies in the west have started chipping away at working conditions to lower costs. Freelance contracts, long and unsociable hours, low pay, and zero benefits are leaving millions of workers helpless.

Robert Greenwald captures the desperate situation in his latest film, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. He tells the shocking tale of working conditions in America's biggest supermarket. Wal-Mart is the epitome of stack 'em high, sell 'em cheap warehouse-style chain stores, which are scattered across the country like Lego bricks in a playroom.

Greenwald's film comes hot on the heels of his last corporate attack, on Rupert Murdoch's Fox News. In Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, Greenwald used news clips and interviews with ex-employees to mount an incredible attack on the broadcaster. His new film is structured in exactly the same way, and carries as much of a punch.

There is something bizarrely manic about the smiling faces in Wal-Mart's recruitment adverts. They are the same smiling faces that warn you in a company video, after you have been recruited, not to join a union. Wal-Mart's strict anti-union policy has been one of the reasons why it has managed to slash wages and gradually remove benefits like health insurance. Union membership is already low in the United States, running at just above 12% of all waged workers. But the casual nature of retail work, combined with a deliberate anti-union strategy, forces that proportion down to almost zero among Wal-Mart employees

"It is incredible that an independent filmmaker can wield such power over the largest retailer in the world. But his example holds a lesson for us all - consumers, workers and voters - we have the power to change the way the world works."

Click here to read rest of this article.

opendemocracy.netThis article originally appeared on under a Creative Commons licence. To view the original article, please click here.

Ariel Sharon and Israel’s Unique Democracy

Jim Lederman
12 - 1 - 2006

The question of who succeeds Ariel Sharon as Israeli prime minister is less important than to understand what the Israeli polity has become - a new form of democratic governance, says Jim Lederman.

Ariel Sharon’s battle for life has been accompanied by a wave of commentary assessing the implications of his departure from the political scene for Israel’s elections on 28 March and for the prospects of peace and security in the region. What has been missing is any attempt to place the soldier-politician’s career in the context of the political development of the country he served for more than half a century.

More particularly, the dawn of the post-Sharon era is an opportunity to identify the unique political character of the Israeli body-politic as it has developed over the last generation – a character that Sharon himself has both helped to shape and been forced to adapt to, and whose form of governance arguably represents an innovative formation in the world’s democratic politics. Whoever replaces Sharon as Israel’s prime minister, this is a reality likely to endure.

Israel is Different

Click here to read rest of this article.

opendemocracy.netThis article originally appeared on under a Creative Commons licence. To view the original article, please click here.

Iraq Dispatches: Fear Overshadows Eid Festival

Fear Overshadows Eid Festival

*Inter Press Service*
Dahr Jamail and Arkan Hamed

*BAGHDAD, Jan 14 (IPS) - What should have been a joyous four-day Islamic holiday for Eid al-Adha which Iraqis began to celebrate Jan. 10, has only highlighted the suffering under U.S. occupation.*

The feast of sacrifice which begins on the tenth day of the Islamic month of Dhul Hijja is celebrated as a commemoration of Prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son for God.

Eid festivities in Baghdad used to be an occasion for family reunions, where everyone turned up in their best. But sky-rocketing fuel costs have driven up the price of food, clothing and everything else, and Eid could no longer be the same. The frightening lack of security did much to dampen the holiday mood.

"I hope that everybody finds happiness in these days, even our enemies," Salma, a 15-year-old student told IPS. "Because these are days we wish good to everybody, even though we are not free to go where we like due to the security situation or the obstacles that are put up to secure our city, as they say."

Salma, who did not want to give her last name added, "I wish for God to forgive their sins against these peaceful people. Eid is the day we meet our relatives, yet on this one we are missing so many of our friends and relatives."

U.S. Brig. Gen. Donald Alston estimates that at least 500 Iraqis have been killed since the Dec. 15 elections. Over this period, at least 54 U.S. soldiers have also been killed.

"Nobody will allow us to leave our homes now," 17 year-old student Salam told IPS after a roadside bomb exploded just blocks away from his home in central Baghdad. "Everybody is afraid they might be kidnapped just like our relative who had been kidnapped for two weeks."

Salam said his relative was released after 4,000 dollars ransom was paid. Now, he said, no one will allow children to leave the house.

Salam's uncle who had traveled from Amman to join them in their Eid celebration had his car robbed at gunpoint.

"They held guns to me and my mother's heads," the 50 year-old man told IPS. "They then pushed both of us out of the car along with my daughter, and took our car. We tried to catch them but they went away very fast.."

He added: "How can we love the country if we can't enjoy the pleasure of celebrating Eid with our family?"

Those meant to provide security are themselves not safe. Two policemen died and five were wounded when a car bomb struck their patrol in Baquba on Friday. In Iskandariya, Iraqi police found the body of a blindfolded policeman with his hands tied behind his back. He had been shot in the head.

"There is a big difference between here and Amman," his 14 year-old daughter Maessa told IPS. "We are free to go wherever we want there but here we should stay in our homes. Everybody here is afraid we will be lost, even during Eid. What kind of freedom have the Americans brought us? The freedom to steal, kill and humiliate everybody. And deny their rights to live as humans?"

(c)2004, 2005 Dahr Jamail.
All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr's Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the website. Website by photographer Jeff Pflueger's Photography Media . Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr's dispatches via email.

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** Visit the Dahr Jamail Iraq website **
** Website by **

Note: All of Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches are reposted here with the kind, explicit permission of Dahr.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Tomgram: The Year of Living Dangerously

Bush v. Reality
War, Trials, Leakers, Investigations, Packed Courts, and a Constitutional Crisis

By Tom Engelhardt

2006 is sure to be the year of living dangerously -- for the Bush administration and for the rest of us. In the wake of revelations of warrantless spying by the National Security Agency, we have already embarked on what looks distinctly like a constitutional crisis (which may not come to a full boil until 2007). In the meantime, the President, Vice President, Secretaries of Defense and State, various lesser officials, crony appointees, acolytes, legal advisors, leftover neocons, spy-masters, strategists, spin doctors, ideologues, lobbyists, Republican Party officials, and congressional backers are intent on packing the Supreme Court with supporters of an "obscure philosophy" of unfettered Presidential power called "the unitary executive theory" and then foisting a virtual cult of the imperial presidency on the country.

On the other hand, determined as this administration has been to impose its version of reality on us, the President faces a traffic jam of reality piling up in the environs of the White House. The question is: How long will the omniscient and dominatrix-style fantasies of Bushworld, ranging from "complete victory" in Iraq to non-existent constitutional powers to ignore Congress, the courts, and treaties of every sort, triumph over the realities of the world the rest of humanity inhabits. Will an unconstrained presidency continue to grow -- or not?

Here are just a few of the explosive areas where Bush v. Reality is likely to play out, generating roiling crises which could chase the President through the rest of this year. Keep in mind, this just accounts for the modestly predictable, not for the element of surprise which -- as with Ariel Sharon's recent stroke -- remains ever present.

Who, after all, can predict what will hit our country this year. From a natural-gas shock to Chinese financial decisions on the dollar, from oil terrorism to the next set of fierce fall hurricanes, from the bursting of the housing bubble to the arrival of the avian flu, so much is possible -- but one post-9/11 truth, revealed with special vividness by hurricane Katrina, should by now be self-evident: Whatever the top officials of this administration are capable of doing, they and their cronies in various posts throughout the federal bureaucracy are absolutely incapable of (and perhaps largely uninterested in) running a government. Let's give this phenomenon a fitting name: FEMAtization. You could almost offer a guarantee that no major problem is likely to arise this year, domestic or foreign, that they will not be quite incapable of handling reasonably, efficiently, or thoughtfully -- to hell with compassionately (for anyone who still remembers that museum-piece label, "compassionate conservative," from the Bush version of the Neolithic era). So here are just four of the most expectable crisis areas of 2006 as well as three wild cards that may remain in the administration's hand and that could chase all of us through this year -- adding up, in one way or the other, to the political tsunami of 2006.

1. Iraq. Bush's war (and occupation) of choice has shadowed him like a boogeyman from the moment that banner over his head on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln announced "Mission Accomplished" and he declared "major combat operations" at an end on May 2, 2003. On that very day, in news hardly noticed by a soul, one of the first acts of insurgency against American troops occurred and seven GIs were wounded in a grenade attack in Falluja. As either a prophet of the future or a master of wish-fulfillment, the President was never more accurate than when, in July 2003, he taunted the Iraqi guerrillas, saying, "Bring ‘em on." Well, they've been bringing it on ever since.

Unwilling to face the realities of its trillion-dollar folly of a war and dealing with presidential polling figures entering free fall, the administration did the one thing it has been eternally successful at -- it launched a fantasy offensive, not in Iraq, but here at home against the American people and especially the media. A series of aggressive speeches, news conferences, spin-doctored policy papers, and attacks on the opposition as "defeatists who refuse to see that anything is right," all circling around an election likely to put an Islamic theocratic regime in power in Baghdad, pumped up the President's polling numbers modestly and, more importantly, caused reporters and pundits to back off, wondering yet again whether we weren't finally seeing the crack of light at the end of that tunnel. (Wasn't the President implicitly admitting to the odd mistake in Iraq policy? Wasn't he secretly preparing his own version of withdrawal? Weren't the Iraqis turning some corner or other?)

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Iraq Dispatches: “Freedom in action”

January 12, 2006

“Freedom in action”

Yesterday Mr. Bush warned U.S. citizens of more violence in Iraq…again.

He called it the “price of progress” as Iraq “moves toward democracy.”

In the shady, smoke and mirror filled world of Mr. Bush where violence is progress and Iraq inches ever closer to their elusive “democracy,” truth remains ever distant from the rhetoric of his speech writers.

Mr. Bush referred to “a good deal of political turmoil” in Iraq as “freedom in action.”

If only reality matched his hallucinatory projections…

If only Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, the most influential politician in Iraq and leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, hadn’t issued a not-so-veiled warning yesterday to Sunni Arab Iraqis that the ruling Shiites would not allow significant amendments to the country’s new constitution…

If only…

The commander-in-chief of the U.S. military, speaking to members of Veterans of Foreign Wars also stated yesterday, “We will continue to hand over territory to the Iraqis so they can defend their democracy, so they can do the hard work, and our troops will be able to come home with the honor they have earned.”

Like Brandon Bare from North Carolina.

The 19 year-old soldier returned from Iraq last April, wounded with cuts and other injuries from a grenade attack. Three months after his return home young Brandon Bare found it necessary to kill his 18 year-old wife by stabbing her 71 times. He was obviously traumatized by his time in Iraq which found him engaged in combat in both Mosul and Fallujah.

“Pacified” Fallujah, the “City of Hope,” as FOX “News” likes to call it, where three more U.S. soldiers were killed yesterday when their Humvee was destroyed by a roadside bomb…and a fourth soldier, like Brandon Bare, was wounded in action.

Yet, the land of hallucinations is a nice place to be for someone like Mr. Bush, who also said yesterday that most Iraqis are upbeat about their future.

Despite rampant kidnappings, unemployment soaring to well over 50%, little electricity, no potable water and violence continuing unabated, Bush said, “The vast majority of Iraqis prefer freedom with intermittent power to life in the permanent darkness of tyranny and terror.”

The security is so bad in Baghdad that many people now don’t leave their homes unless it is absolutely necessary. Rampant abductions of Iraqis are symptomatic of the escalating lawlessness in Iraq which is of course aggravated by the political turmoil that has engulfed the country since the December 15 polls.

Iraqi officials say as many as 30 Iraqis a day are reported kidnapped in Baghdad. The abductions are part of the rising lawlessness accompanying the country's political turmoil/“freedom in action.”

Nothing has changed with the kidnapping since my last trip to Baghdad. Many of the hostages are freed when the ransom demanded is paid by their families. Other times when the ransom is paid, as happened to a friend of my interpreter, the family received a call telling them they could pick up the body of their 16 year-old son at the morgue.

An email I received today from an Iraqi man in Baghdad runs a bit contradictory to the rhetoric of Mr. Bush’s speechwriter:

“Dear Dahr,

It is difficult to make a picture of what is going on, the situation is just so bad.

Lack of supplies, including water, petrol and electricity.

Jamming of traffic, as the police allow one lane to pass through the security check points, and it takes long time to pass through these check points.

Many areas in Baghdad are very unsafe, and quite inaccessible.

The kidnapping and assassination of physicians is still going on.

A consultant surgeon was recently assassinated in his home. He lives in Yarmouk district near the culture center. One of his sons was kidnapped a few months before and released after paying several thousands of U.S. dollars.

A friend of mine, Dr. S. who is a well known Neurologist, was kidnapped from his clinic and his family asked the help of his friends and relatives to help collect the ransom.

My wife was driving downtown and she was hit on her left hand by a big stone thrown from a police pickup because she did not recognize that she should give way to a fast car that was trying to bypass her.....she is lucky not to get shot by them!!!!

The Iraqis now get frightened from the local police and military as they exhibit a very high level of misconduct and abuse of the authority that they now have.

Have I mentioned that power supply is one hour every five hours!!!!!

Ahmed [Name changed for security reasons]”

(c)2004, 2005 Dahr Jamail.
All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr's Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the website. Website by photographer Jeff Pflueger's Photography Media Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr's dispatches via email.

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** Visit the Dahr Jamail Iraq website **
** Website by **

Make Poverty History: All Candidates Debate on Child Poverty, January 12, in Toronto

Make Poverty History is pleased to let you know about an important

All Candidates Debate on children's Issues

Thursday Night - January 12th

7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Metro Hall, 55 John Street, Toronto

Council Chambers - second floor

Candidates include:

Carolyn Bennett - Liberal Party

Valery Phillip - Green Party

Olivia Chow - NDP

Peter Conroy - Conservative Party

Moderator - Judy Rebick

The meeting is sponsored by the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care,
the Association for Early Childhood Educators and Campaign 2000.

Child Care will be provided from 6:45 -

Please help the organizers plan appropriately for child care by
registering in advance at 416 -538-7630

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Government Keeping Missile Defence Secrets

On January 9, the Council of Canadians and the Polaris Institute called on the federal party leaders to respect Canadians’ desire to not join George W. Bush’s missile scheme. They have distributed 100,000 copies of their voter’s guide, and I recommend you download your own copy from their web site.

January 9, 2006

Groups decry missile defence secrecy

Ottawa - The Council of Canadians and the Polaris Institute are calling on federal party leaders to take a firm stance against ballistic missile defence. The organizations fear that a Liberal or Conservative majority might result in Canada’s participation in Star Wars.

“Prime Minister Paul Martin’s February 2005 announcement that Canada would not be involved in the United States’ costly and dangerous ballistic missile defence program was supported by the majority of Canadians and should be respected by all the parties,” said John Urquhart, Executive Director of the Council of Canadians. In March, following the decision, a Decima poll found that 57 per cent of Canadians supported the government’s decision, while only 26 per cent opposed it.

The Council of Canadians and the Polaris Institute are alarmed by media reports today that the Department of National Defence is cloaking in secrecy documents related to Canada’s participation in the US missile shield, even denying the release of information already publicly available.

“Stephen Harper has indicated his willingness to go back to the missile defence table with the Americans,” said Steven Staples of the Polaris Institute. “The clampdown on information from the government raises suspicions about Paul Martin’s intentions on missile defence as well.”

100, 000 copies of the Council of Canadians' voter's guide are being distributed across Canada for electors to query candidates on deeper integration with the United States. The organization hopes Canadians will use the guide to urge candidates to oppose ballistic missile defence and work to re-establish Canada’s role as an international peacekeeper.

- 30 -

For information, contact:
Meera Karunananthan, Media Officer, Council of Canadians
Tel.: (613) 233-4487, ext. 234
Cell: (613) 795-8685

Steven Staples, Director of Security Programs, Polaris Institute
Tel.: (613) 237-1717, ext. 107
Cell: (613) 290-2695

The Council of Canadians - 700-719 Laurier Avenue West, Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5V5 1-800-387-7177

This is why we need to Put it to the Politicians - to demand that they tell us where they stand on missile defence.

Read this Media Release and learn more about this important organization on The Council of Canadians website.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

ANNOUNCEMENT: Important Documentary Film Series in Burlington, Ontario in January

I just received this announcement from my friend, Doug Brown, Chair, the Burlington Association for Nuclear Disarmament. The public is invited, so if you live in the GTA/Burlington/Hamilton area, consider attending these three important film nights coming up this month (January).

SUNDAY EVENING FORUM goes film in January

Important films on critical issues with informed discussion leaders

2225 New Street (west of Guelph Line)
905-335-5537 or 905-634-2477

Sunday, January 15, 7 p.m. Admission $3.00

*A documentary with excellent quality and information on the global dangers of moving the arms race to space.
Further information at
Discussion Leader: Mr. Doug Brown, Chair, Burlington Association for Nuclear Disarmament (BAND)

Sunday, January 22, 7 p.m. Admission $3.00
*Part documentary & part story, this film leaves the question of whether science and religion describe the same phenomena.
Further information at

Discussion Leader: Dr. David Chettle, Professor of Medical Physics, McMaster University

Sunday, January 29, 7 p.m. Admission $3.00
* A thought provoking documentary on the impact of the coming oil shortage on our way of life.

Further information at
Discussion Leader: Mr. Mike Balkwill, Policy Consultant

For more detailed information on the January film series go to

Tomgram: Michael Schwartz on Iraq as a Killing Ground

One of the true scandals of media coverage of the war in Iraq has been the simple fact that you -- relatively small numbers of you anyway -- had to visit, or Juan Cole's invaluable Informed Comment blog, or, or other Internet sites to find out anything about the fierce (if limited) ongoing air war in that country. The American media's record on coverage of the air campaign against the Iraqi insurgency since Baghdad was taken in early April 2003 has been dismal in the extreme. Our military has regularly loosed its planes in "targeted" attacks on guerrillas in Iraq's heavily populated urban areas (where much of the fighting has taken place), sometimes, as in largely Shiite Najaf and largely Sunni Falluja in 2004, destroying whole sections of major cities, in part from the air. Despite this, American reporters in Iraq have essentially refused to look up, or even to acknowledge the planes, predator drones, and low-flying helicopters passing daily overhead.

In these years, only one journalist, Bradley Graham of the Washington Post, seems to have visited an American air base in Iraq and written a piece about it -- an anodyne piece from an otherwise good reporter. As far as I can tell, no American reporters have been assigned to, or written about, the part of the American air campaign that has been mounted from outside Iraq -- from air bases in places like the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, or from aircraft carriers; and hardly more has been written from the United States where our fleet of unmanned but deadly Predator drones are (remotely) controlled. Because the military has continued to release limited amounts of information on its air campaign, the odd line or even paragraph (clearly taken from military press releases or news conferences) about bombing or missile runs on Iraq's urban areas made it into boilerplate wire-service news stories; otherwise the air campaign has simply been missing in action.

There was no excuse for this. To take just this site: If, in August 2004, you had read What Do We Call the Enemy?, you would have known that the air war, to my mind, was already the number-one missing story in Iraq coverage (followed closely, as is still true, by the issue of administration plans for maintaining permanent bases in Iraq). As I wrote then, "Air power has been at the heart of the American-style of war since World War II." For war reporters with even the slightest historical memory, that alone should have made it an obvious topic of interest. Several months later, in December 2004, I devoted a dispatch to the subject, Icarus (Armed with Vipers) Over Iraq, writing:

"The complete absence of coverage [of the American air campaign]… is a little harder to explain. Along with the vast permanent military base facilities the U.S. has been building in Iraq to the tune of billions of dollars… the loosing of air power on Iraq's cities is the great missing story of the postwar war. Is there no reporter out there willing to cover it? Is the repeated bombing, strafing, and missiling of heavily populated civilian urban centers and the partial or total destruction of cities such a humdrum event, after the last century of destruction and threatened destruction, that no one thinks it worth the bother to attend to? Is the Bush administration really to be given another remarkable free ride?"

This all seemed so obvious, even to someone thousands of miles from Iraq. Still, no reporter took the subject up. Soon after -- in February 2005 -- I asked Dahr Jamail, an independent journalist covering the war from Baghdad, to write a piece on the subject. His report, Living Under the Bombs, ended with this vision of air power in Iraq:

"Helicopters buzz the tops of buildings and hover over neighborhoods in the capital all the time, while fighter jets often scorch the skies. Below them, traumatized civilians await the next onslaught, never knowing when it may occur."

In December, 2005, back in the U.S., he returned to the subject ("An Increasingly Aerial Occupation"), doing what any reporter in or out of Iraq should have been quite capable of doing -- mining the news releases the military was regularly producing on its air campaign.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Iraq Dispatches: 'Democracy' Brings Bleak Days

*Inter Press Service*
Dahr Jamail and Arkan Hamed

*BAGHDAD, Jan 10 (IPS) - Many Iraqis see dismal days ahead in the face of rising violence and the decision by the U.S. administration not to seek any further funds for reconstruction.*

"It is obvious that the situation is much worse than it used to be," retired army general Ahmed Abdul Aziz told IPS. "Can you walk free in the streets? Did you receive your food ration last month? It is essential for most Iraqis to receive the food ration just to feed their families."

The former Iraqi general added: "When you go to the hospital, do you find medicines? The answer is no medicines, no services, no sheets or pillows, no beds, no nursing, and no ambulances to carry you from your house."

World Bank president and former U.S. deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz had said Iraq could "really finance its own reconstruction." But such words have fallen flat because the state of the infrastructure is clearly worse now than even during the harsh economic sanctions of the 1990s.

As the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq approaches, a study by Linda Bilmes at Harvard University and Dr. Joseph Stiglitz at Columbia University found that "the total economic costs of the war, including direct costs and macroeconomic costs, lie between 1 trillion and 2 trillion dollars." A trillion is a thousand billion.

This money has done little for Iraq. The situation on the ground remains dire, with estimates of unemployment at 70 percent.

"My three sons have graduated from college, yet they still cannot find decent jobs because there are no jobs available," former deputy minister for trade Dr. Abdul Hadi told IPS.

The Saddam regime "did not allow any of the graduates to be without jobs," he said. Now there is even a severe shortage of teachers in the universities.

"I will not be satisfied until I find that all the people have the will to rebuild their country instead of humiliating their brothers," said Dr. Hadi. "I want to tell (U.S. President George) Bush that he has destroyed our country for at least the next 25 years. He is the greatest terrorist, Arabs can never forget."

People have no recourse to law any more. "We are not living in a proper way," restaurant owner Qassim Abdul Hamed told IPS. "We are suffering at the hands of those who come in their vehicles just to have meals free of charge."

The restaurant has to go on serving free meals to the Iraqi police, he said. "We can't say a word because they have guns."

And the free meals have to be served when the cost of food has risen due to fuel shortages. "There have been scuffles in the restaurant which we have not seen before," Hamed said.

Munaim Abid Hassan, a 22-year-old waitress at the restaurant said she is working to feed 12 people in her family, since she was the only one with a job.

"We used to love the American people but not any more," she said. "Hatred is spreading all over now, and everyone wants revenge on them. You (Bush) are bringing disasters to the people of your own country, not only to Iraqis."

With 2,206 U.S. soldiers killed so far, and more than 100 attacks on coalition forces every day, occupation forces appear unable to protect either themselves or Iraqis. Under the Geneva Conventions, it is the responsibility of the occupying power to provide security for citizens.

"The Americans destroyed everything in Iraq," Gen. Aziz said. "I think every Iraqi should weep all his life over what is going on. Bush should be among the greatest terrorists along with his colleagues in Britain, because they are all criminals who have killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis."

(c)2004, 2005 Dahr Jamail.
All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr's Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the website. Website by photographer Jeff Pflueger's Photography Media . Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr's dispatches via email.

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** Visit the Dahr Jamail Iraq website **
** Website by **

Note: All of Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches are reposted here with the kind, explicit permission of Dahr.

Monday, January 09, 2006

FVC Report Documents Decades of Voting System Dysfunction

Fair Vote Canada calls on party leaders to state clearly whether they support or oppose the adoption of a fair voting system.

Fair Vote Canada today [January 9, 2006] released “Dubious Democracy: Report on Federal Elections in Canada from 1980 – 2004”. The 14 page summary report is available here (in pdf)

“This report provides a very concise overview of how our dysfunctional first-past-the-post system subverts democratic values, drives wedges between the regions, unfairly rewards and punishes various political viewpoints, and makes a mockery of representative democracy and government accountability,” said the report’s author, Larry Gordon, Executive Director of Fair Vote Canada.

The report reviews the performance of the voting system during the critical political era that saw the rise of the Reform Party and Bloc Québecois, the demise of the Progressive Conservative Party and the emergence of the Green Party.

“The data illustrate just how badly the voting system has warped our political arena,” said Wayne Smith, President, Fair Vote Canada. “Given the way the system treats voters, it’s not surprising 40 per cent of registered voters don’t vote—it’s surprising 60 per cent still do.”

Among the findings:

· In 2004, a half-million Liberal voters in Atlantic Canada elected 22 MPs, while more than a half-million Green Party voters across the country elected nobody.

· In 2004, in the prairie provinces, the Conservatives attracted twice as many votes as the Liberals but won seven times as many seats.

· In 2004, the NDP received far more votes than the Bloc Québecois, but the Bloc gained nearly three times as many seats and hold the balance of power.

· In 2004, thirteen Conservative MPs were elected in Saskatchewan, but none in Quebec, where almost twice as many people voted Conservative.

· In the last New Zealand election, 1% of the voters cast wasted votes that elected no one. In Germany, 4%, and Scotland, 6%. In the last Canadian election, 50% cast wasted votes.

· Among the provinces, Saskatchewan has the highest percentage of wasted votes, where voting has been a futile exercise for nearly six of ten voters.

· In recent decades, Canadians experienced only one legitimate majority government (Mulroney 1984). The remainder were phony majorities, including Jean Chretien’s 1997 government, elected by 38.5 per cent of the popular vote.

· In many provinces, when a party captures 50 to 55 per cent of the vote, that is enough to effectively wipe out representation for other parties. In 1997, half the voters in Ontario voted Liberal and elected 101 MPs, while the other half elected 2 MPs from other parties.

· PEI, Ontario and Alberta had the most distorted federal election results over the past twenty-five years.

· Canada now ranks 42nd among nations on the percentage of women serving in parliaments.

· In 1984, 37% of eligible voters voted for the winning party, and 25% did not vote. In 2000, 25% of eligible voters voted for the winning party, and 39% did not vote.

- 30 -

Fair Vote Canada
26 Maryland Blvd.
Toronto, ON M4C 5C9

Phone: 416-410-4034
Fax: 416-686-4929


Viva la revolucion!

George W Bush is the world's greatest terrorist and millions of Americans support the ideals of Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, according to Harry Belafonte, the singer and rights activist. Belafonte led a delegation of Americans that met President Chavez for more than six hours on Saturday. Some in the group, which included Danny Glover, the actor, and Cornel West, the Princeton scholar, attended the president's television and radio broadcast on Sunday.
Full Story

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Iraq Dispatches: URGENT APPEAL TO SAVE IRAQ'S ACADEMICS. * Sign the petition online *

*URGENT APPEAL TO SAVE IRAQ'S ACADEMICS. ** Sign the petition online here* ***

A little known aspect of the tragedy engulfing Iraq is the systematic liquidation of the country's academics. Even according to conservative estimates, over 250 educators have been assassinated, and many hundreds more have disappeared. With thousands fleeing the country in fear for their lives, not only is Iraq undergoing a major brain drain, the secular middle class - which has refused to be co-opted by the US
occupation - is being decimated, with far-reaching consequences for the future of Iraq.

Already on July 14, 2004, veteran correspondent Robert Fisk reported from Iraq that:

/"University staff suspect that there is a campaign to strip Iraq of its academics, to complete the destruction of Iraq's cultural identity which began when the American army entered Baghdad."/

The wave of assassinations appears non-partisan and non-sectarian, targeting women as well as men, and is countrywide. It is indiscriminate of expertise: professors of geography, history and Arabic literature as well as science are among the dead. Not one individual has been apprehended in connection with these assassinations.

According to the United Nations University, some 84 per cent of Iraq's institutions of higher education have already been burnt, looted or destroyed. Iraq's educational system used to be among the best in the region; one of the country's most important assets was its well-educated people.

This situation is a mirror of the occupation as a whole: a catastrophe of staggering proportions unfolding in a climate of criminal disregard. As an occupying power, and under international humanitarian law, final responsibility for protecting Iraqi citizens, including academics, lies with the United States.

With this petition we want to break the silence.

1. We appeal to organisations which work to enforce or defend international humanitarian law to put these crimes on the agenda.

2. We request that an independent international investigation be launched immediately to probe these extrajudicial killings. This investigation should also examine the issue of responsibility to clearly identify who is accountable for this state of affairs. We appeal to the special rapporteur on summary executions at UNHCHR in Geneva.


*You can sign this petition online** or write to:
subject: "I sign the appeal to save Iraq's academics"
if you want to support the campaign.

This petition was launched by the Brussell's Tribunal and is already endorsed by CEOSI (Spain), the Portuguese hearing of the WTI, (Germany), the Swedish Antiwar committee, the IAC (USA), the International Association of Middle East Studies (IAMES), the German Middle East Studies Association (DAVO) and the European Association for Middle Eastern Studies (EURAMES), and several personalities, like Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Tony Benn, Harold Pinter, Eduardo Galeano, John Pilger and Michael Parenti.

See the list of principal endorsers.

See also the call for action underneath and more information on

Other languages: NL - Arabic - Spanish - Portuguese - Japanese: **
**Read the petition**


*Call for action** to save Iraq's Academics*

1. We call upon all people, especially academics and students, to help end the silence that surrounds the ongoing crime of the assassination of Iraqi academics and the destruction of Iraqi's educational infrastructure, and support Iraqi academics' right and hope to live in an independent, democratic Iraq, free of foreign occupation and hegemony.

2. We urge that academic institutions and organisations declare solidarity with their Iraqi colleagues.

3. We urge that academics forge links between Iraqi educators, both in exile and in Iraq, and universities worldwide.

4. We urge that student organisations link with Iraqi student organisations.

5. We urge that educators mobilise colleagues and concerned citizens to take up the cause of the salvation of Iraq's intellectual wealth, by organising seminars, teach-ins and forums on the plight of Iraq's academics.

The world's academics and intellectuals must act now to save the lives of their colleagues in Iraq.

[The Brussell's Tribunal, in cooperation with other organisations, has started to build a network of contacts and raise public awareness and can provide information and support to individuals and groups who wish to mobilise on this issue. We are able to act as a depository and hub for this campaign]

Other languages: NL - Spanish - Arabic - Japanese - Portuguese: **
**Read the petition**


***ACADEMICS AND ARTISTS FOR PEACE - Stop the Killing of Iraq's Academics.***

*_Principal endorsers, Patronizing this campaign_*

*Noam Chomsky*, Professor of Linguistics, Philosophy of Language, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Linguistics & Philosophy, USA**

*Tony Benn*, President of the STOP THE WAR COALITION, Former MP, Cabinet Minister and Chairman of the British Labour Party, UK**

*John M. Coetzee, *Nobel Prize in Literature 2003, South Africa**

*Harold Pinter, *Nobel Prize in Literature 2005, UK**

*Eduardo Galeano*, essayist, journalist, historian, and activist, Uruguay.**

*Denis J. Halliday,* former UN Assistant Secretary-General 1994-98**

*Hans von Sponeck*, former UN Assistant Secretary General, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq 1998-2000, Germany**

*Howard Zinn*, professor, writer, educator, and leader in nonviolent social protest, USA**

*John Pilger, *journalist and documentary film-maker, UK/Australia**

*Michael Parenti*, author, USA**

*Antonio Negri*, moral and political philosopher, Italy**

*Robert A. Dahl*, Political Theorist, Yale University**

*Curtis F.J. Doebbler*, Dr., International Human Rights Lawyer.**

*François Houtart,* Prof. Em., Director of the Tricontinental Center – Cetri, Belgium**

*Immanuel Wallerstein*, Prof. Yale University, USA.**

*Richard Falk, *Prof. Em. of International Law and Practice at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor of Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Chair of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, recipient of the UNESCO Peace Education Prize, USA**

*Craig Calhoun*, president of the Social Science Research Council and university professor of social sciences, New York University, USA**

*Naomi Klein*, award-winning journalist and author, Canada**

*Gabriel Kolko*, author and historian.**

*Dennis Brutus, *professor emeritus Dept. of Africana Studies, Univ. of Pittsburgh, USA**

*Norman Paech*, Prof. Dr., Professor für öffentliches Recht an der Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Politik, member Deutscher Bundestag, Germany**

*Juan R. I. Cole,* Professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History at the History Department of the University of Michigan, USA**

*Michael Mann*, Professor of Sociology, UCLA, USA**

*Jean Bricmont, *scientist, Prof. specialist in theoretical physics,
U.C. Louvain-La-Neuve, Belgium**

*Pierre Klein, *Professor International Law, U.L. Bruxelles, Belgium**

*Paul Kennedy*, professor of history, Yale University, author of /The
Rise and Decline of Great Powers, USA/**

*Saskia Sassen*, Professor of Sociology, The University of Chicago, USA**

*Tareq Ismael*, Prof. of Political Science, University of Calgary.**

*Mohammed Aref*, Science writer based in Surrey, UK Former advisor to /Arab Science and Technology Foundation in United Arab Emirates/ (2000-2003) and science editor for /Al Hayat/ newspaper in London (1988-2000).**

*Raymond William Baker*, President of IAMES (International Association of Middle East Studies) and President of the Administrative Board of a transnational initiative to build an international university in Iraq, Global Partners for the International University of Iraq GP-IUI).**

*Guenter Meyer*, Prof. Dr., Centre for Research on the Arab World (CERAW), University of Mainz , Germany**

*Michel Chossudovsky*, Professor of Economics, University of Ottawa, director Centre for Research on Globalization, Canada**

*Jean Leca*, Professor (emeritus) at the Institut d' Etudes Politiques de Paris**

*Lieven De Cauter*, philosopher, Prof. Dr. K.U. Leuven / Rits, initiator of the Brussell's Tribunal**

*Anthony Arnove*, editor, writer, USA**

*Jim Harding, *Dr., Past Director and retired Professor, School of Human Justice, University of Regina, Canada**

*Saadalla Al Fathi*, former head of the Energy Studies' Department at the OPEC secretariat**

*Azmi Ashour*, managing editor of Al Ahram Al Democratia magazine in Egypt**

*Ian Douglas*, Dr., Visiting Professor Political Science Department An-Najah National University* *Nablus, Palestine**

*Abdul Ilah Al-Bayaty* (Writer - Iraq / France) **

*Leslie Sklair*, emeritus professor of sociology, London School of Economics, UK**

*Olle Josephson*, Professor in Scandinavian Languages, Director of Swedish language Council, Co-editor of the Swedish socialist quarterly Clarté**

*Dirk Berg-Schlosser*, Ph.D., Prof. Dr., Institute of Political Science, Philipps-University, Marburg/Germany**

*Haifa Zangana* (Novelist - Iraq / UK) **

*Sabah Al-Mukhtar* (President of the Arab Lawyers Association - Iraq / UK) **

*Mujbil Al-Marsumi*, University professor, IRAQ, Applied Science University, Amman, Jordan**

*Imad Khadduri* (Nuclear scientist - Iraq / Canada) **

*Sami Ramadani* (Senior lecturer in sociology at London Metropolitan University - Iraq / UK) **

*Mundher Al-Adhami* (Research Fellow at Kings College London - Iraq / UK) **

*Amir Al Ani* (Sociologist - Iraq / France)**

*Ghali Hassan* (Science and Mathematics Education Centre, Curtin University - Perth, Australia)**

*Niloufer Bhagwat* (Vice President of Indian Lawyers Association - Mumbai / India) **

*Karen Parker* (Attorney , Association of Humanitarian Lawyers, partners of the B/Russell/s Tribunal - USA) **

*Thomas McCarthy*, professor of philosophy, Northwestern University, USA**

*Haideh Moghissi*, Ph.D, Professor, Director, MCRI Diaspora, Islam, Gender Project, Atkinson Faculty, York University, UK **

*Jan Fermon* (Lawyer of Court case against General Tommy Franks in Brussels, Progress Lawyers Network - Belgium)**

*Amy Bartholomew* (Law professor - Canada)**

*James C. Faris*, Prof., Director Emeritus, University of Connecticut Program in Middle East Languages and Area Studies, USA**

*Ayse Gul Altinay* , Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology, Sabanci University, Turkey**

*Dr Martha Mundy*, Reader in Anthropology, London School of Economics **

*Michael Hardt*, Professor of Literature, Duke University, USA, co-author of /Empire/**

*Arturo Escobar*, Professor of Anthropology, University of North Carolina, USA**

*Thomas Fasy*, Associate Professor of Pathology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, USA**

*William E. Connolly*, Political Theorist and Krieger-Eisenhower Professor, Johns Hopkins University, USA**

*Diana Judit Milstein* . Universidad Nacional del Comahue. Argentina**

*Habib Ajroud, *University of Manouba, Tunesia**

*Gabriele Zamparini* (independent filmmaker - Italy/UK) **

*Paola Pisi, *professor religious sciences, Italy **

*Jeffrey Blankfort* (Former editor of the Middle East Labor Bulletin and currently hosts radio programs - USA) **

*Jeff Archer/Malcom Lagauche* (Journalist - USA)**

*Corinne Kumar* (Secretary General of El Taller International - Tunesia / India)**

*Dahr Jamail, *independent journalist, USA.**

*Carlos Varea *(coordinator of SCOSI - Spanish Campaign against Occupation and for the Sovereignty of Iraq - Spain)**

*Joachim Guilliard* (Journalist, Anti-war movement - Germany) **

*Sigyn Meder* (Anti-war movement - Sweden) **

*Manuel Raposo* (Anti-war movement - Portugal) **

*John Catalinotto* (International Action Center - USA) **

*Charles Jenks* (Chair of Advisory Board and Web Manager, Traprock Peace Center, USA) **

*Dahlia Wasfi* M.D. (Anti-war activist, speaker, Global Exchange, Iraq / USA) **

*Larry Everest* (Author / Journalist - USA)**

*Patrick Deboosere*, demographer, VUB, Belgium**

*Hana Al Bayaty,* filmmaker / journalist - Iraq / Egypt / France**

*Dirk Adriaensens,* coordinator SOS Iraq, executive committee Brussell's Tribunal**

*Inge Van De Merlen, *Brussell's Tribunal, Belgium**

*Bernard Genet* (Comaguer, Anti-war Committee Marseille - France)**

*Bert De Belder M.D.* (Coordinator Intal & Medical Aid For The Third World - Belgium) **

*Pol De Vos* (Stop USA - Belgium) **

*Ludo De Brabander* (Vrede - Belgium)**

*Dr. Nada M. Shabout*, Assistant Professor of Art History, School of Visual Arts, University of North Texas, USA**

*Paola Manduca*, Prof. Genetics, University of Genua, Italy**

*Ayse Berktay*, World Tribunal Organiser, Turkey**

*Salah Almukhtar*, Author , journalist and Chairman Of friendship, peace and solidarity Organisation, Iraq**

*Mohammed Al-Obaidi*, Prof. U.K., Spokesman and Deputy General Secretary, The People's Struggle Movement - IRAQ **

*Fouad Elhage*, Dr., Editor in Chief, Al-Moharer **

*Ibrahim Ebeid,* Co-Editor , Al-Moharer**

*Amir Alfarge*, president of l'Association of Iraqi of France**

*Ernst-Peter Rührnschopf*, mathematician, Erlangen, Germany,**

*Siegrun Dewald-Rührnschopf*, Erlangen, Germany.**

*Hashim Al-Tawil*, Ph.D. Art History, Henry Ford Community College, Dearborn, MI, USA**

*Andy Griggs*, Board Member, United Teachers Los Angeles; Steering Committee Member, US Labor Against the War; Executive Ctte Member, National Education, Association Peace and Justice Caucus, USA **

*Dan Kaplan*, Executive Secretary San Mateo (CA) Community College Federation of Teachers, USA**

*Barzan Ali A. Aziz*, Senior Process Engineer, UAE**

*Natasa Tucev*, PhD candidate, English Department, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Nis, Serbia, Yugoslavia**

*Garbis Altinoglu*, writer and activist, Turkey**

*Yildiz Aydin*, Prof. Dr., Turkey**

*Analia Diana Matas* Lic. en Ciencias de la Educación Docente Universitaria Universidad Nacional de Entre Ríos. Argentina**

*Chana Bloch*, Professor Emerita, poet and translator Mills College USA**

*Karen Brodkin*, Professor UCLA USA **

*Michael McKinley*, Senior Lecturer, International Relations and Strategy, Australian National University, Australia**

*Dr Ismail Jalili*, Consultant Surgeon, Chairman National Association of British Arabs, Past President British Arab Medical Association UK **

*Sherna Berger Gluck*, Professor Emerita, USA**

*Daizo Kutsuzawa*, secretary general ICTI (Internatiomal Criminal Tribunal for Iraq), Japan**

*may muzaffar*, poet-writer, Iraq**

(c)2004, 2005 Dahr Jamail.
All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr's Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the website. Website by photographer Jeff Pflueger's Photography Media . Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr's dispatches via email.

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** Visit the Dahr Jamail Iraq website **
** Website by **

Party Leaders Answer Question of Proportional Representation

(CP) - Each week during the federal election campaign, The Canadian Press puts a question to the federal party leaders. This week's question:

"Should Canada move toward a system of proportional representation?"

The answers:

Paul Martin - Liberals

"The issue of electoral reform has been, and continues to be, on the government's agenda. Recently, the government introduced major changes to political financing and political party registration rules. These reforms are directed to greater openness, fairness, transparency and diversity in the Canadian electoral system.

At the same time, it is premature to seize upon any single solution to the challenges facing our democracy. We first need to identify the problems we wish to solve. We have announced a series of initiatives - including a citizen engagement process - to gain a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of our democratic institutions and practices.

We agreed with all parties to task the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to recommend a process for engaging Canadians and Parliamentarians in an examination of our electoral system. The election was forced upon us by the Opposition before the work could begin."


Stephen Harper - Conservatives

"A Conservative government will work with like-minded parties in the House of Commons to democratize Canada's parliamentary and electoral institutions. Among other democratic reform measures, this could include looking at changes to the electoral system to consider different models of proportional representation.

A Conservative government will also implement other democratic reforms such as fixed election dates every four years, and electing senators. We also feel that it is unfair that Canada's electoral system causes rapidly growing provinces like British Columbia to send fewer MPs to the House of Commons than is warranted by their populations and we would therefore seek to correct this problem while ensuring that no province sees its number of MPs decline.

In reviewing options for a more proportional electoral system, a Conservative government will not endorse any new system that would weaken the link between MPs and their ridings, create unmanageably large ridings, or that would strengthen the control of party machines over individual MPs."


Gilles Duceppe - Bloc Quebecois

No response received.


Jack Layton - New Democratic Party

"Yes, absolutely, and the NDP is alone among parties in saying we will bring proportional representation in. That's one big reason why this time, people who want to change politics should look at the third option - because unless people vote for the kind of change they want, they'll never get it.

As with so many things, Paul Martin has no credibility on changing politics. During the last Parliament, Liberals reneged on an all-party process led by NDP MP Ed Broadbent on voting reform. Martin will pretend to believe almost anything for a vote, but his record shows his words to be meaningless.

We need to change politics to a system that makes it easier to vote for good ideas, elects more women and fairly reflects diversity of opinions within regions. Already in place in the vast majority of democracies, a PR system that retains local representation is key to changing politics for good. Every vote for the NDP on Jan. 23 helps elect many more NDP MPs - and every new NDP MP will change politics for good."


Jim Harris - Green party

"Yes. Canada's democracy is ready to evolve, to become a fairer, more accountable and truly representative electoral system. The Green party believes that it's time to get past the first-past-the-post system and build a House of Commons that reflects Canada's diversity by electing more women, visible minorities and members of smaller parties to Parliament.

Proportional representation has been a key thrust of the Green party since its inception as an essential priority of democratic reform in order to give power back to the people. Since there are many options and variations, this change should be citizen-driven via a Citizens' Assembly and referendum.

Decentralized decision-making and participatory democracy are core principles of the Green party. Green party MPs will work to create a broad-based, result-driven public consultation process to determine the form of proportional representation that best serves Canadians for the next federal election. The Green party also supports the legislative changes required to introduce the proportional representation electoral system recommended by the public consultation. The need for urgent action on electoral reform is based on the recognition that our system adopted at the time of Confederation is now antiquated and undemocratic."

Wilf Day
Port Hope, Ont.

Tomgram: Michael Klare, Bush's Botched War on Terror

Peering ahead into what will certainly be a lively New Year, one aspect of the President's generally poor polling numbers -- which bumped up modestly thanks to a holiday propaganda onslaught about democracy, progress, and victory in Iraq (and in the first poll to arrive in January) are already sinking again -- remains striking. What "approval" George Bush now retains seems to rest largely on a single strand of popular feeling: the belief in the President's special aptitude for conducting his global war on terror and keeping Americans safe. Even taking a mid-December ABC/Washington Post poll (scroll down) that had anomalously high positives for the President, in no other area -- health care (37%), Iraq (46%), the economy (47%) and "ethics" (48%) -- did his approval ratings hit the 50% mark. On "terrorism," however, he was at 56%. In other polls, where the rest of those mediocre numbers aren't even matched, his "handling" of terrorism still continues to hover just above or close to 50%. For example, the latest Time magazine poll (scroll down) in early December, had the President's approval rating on terrorism at 49%. Last spring, however, the same poll had it reaching a high for the year of 63%; and let's not forget that in early 2002 it rested at about 90%. Recent polls also seem to indicate that Americans are coming to believe that either political party could handle terrorism equally well.

This is perilous territory for the President to be entering. If, as Michael Klare, author of the ever more indispensable book, Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependence on Imported Petroleum, indicates below, if Americans truly come to believe that Bush has botched his war on terrorism at every level and has made Americans less secure in the world, then this year and the coming elections could prove uncomfortable indeed for Bush and his associates. Tom

Losing the War on Terrorism
Our Incompetent Commander-in-Chief

By Michael T. Klare

President Bush has lost the support of most Americans when it comes to the economy, the environment, and the war in Iraq, but he continues to enjoy majority support in one key area: his handling of the war on terrorism. Indeed, many analysts believe that Bush won the 2004 election largely because swing voters concluded that he would do a better job at this than John Kerry. In fact, with his overall opinion-poll approval ratings so low, Bush's purported proficiency in fighting terror represents something close to his last claim to public legitimacy. But has he truly been effective in combating terror? As the war on terrorism drags on -- with no signs of victory in sight -- there are good reasons to doubt his competency at this, the most critical of all his presidential responsibilities.

So let's consider, for a moment, the President's view of the global war on terror. While the White House keeps trying to stretch this term to include everything from the war in Iraq to the protection of oil pipelines in Colombia, most Americans wisely view it in more narrow terms, as a global struggle against Muslim zealots who seek to punish the United States for its perceived anti-Islamic behavior and to free the Middle East of Western influence through desperate acts of violence. These zealots -- or "jihadists" as they are often termed -- include the original members of Al Qaeda along with other groups that claim allegiance to Osama bin Laden's dogmas but are not necessarily in direct contact with his lieutenants. It is in this contest that the public wants Bush to succeed, and it is in this contest that he is failing.

Why is this so? Consider the nature of the commander-in-chief's primary responsibilities in wartime. Surely, his overarching task is to devise (with the help of senior advisers) a winning strategy to defeat, or at least pummel, the enemy and to mobilize the forces and resources needed to successfully implement this framework. Choosing the tactics of battle -- the day-by-day management of combat operations -- should not, on the other hand, fall under the commander-in-chief's responsibility, but rather be delegated to professionals recruited for this purpose. Bush has failed on both counts, embracing a deeply flawed blueprint for the war on terror and then meddling disastrously in the tactics employed to carry it out.

Finding Terrorism's Center of Gravity

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Note: All of Tom Engelhardt's Tomgrams are published here with the kind, explicit permission of the author.

Iraq Dispatches: US Propaganda vs. Iraqi Reality

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** Visit the Dahr Jamail Iraq website**
** Website by **

It appears as though the Cheney administration will soon “redeploy” thousands of US troops out of Iraq. While several permanent US military bases are under construction there as I type this, the Capital Hill Cabal, desperate to paint the Iraq disaster in a glorious hue, are working their pundits and spokespeople overtime to convince the ill-informed they have not failed dismally in every aspect of their illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq.

In his weekly radio address on Saturday, Mr. Bush did not mention Iraq once. Instead, he spoke of the bright and shining US economy and the need to maintain current tax cuts.

“Unfortunately, just as we’re seeing new evidence of how our tax cuts have created jobs and opportunity, some people in Washington are saying we need to raise your taxes,” he said, “They want the tax cuts to expire in a few years, or even repeal the tax cuts now.”

What better time to maintain tax cuts in the US, particularly when a new study by Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard budget expert Linda Bilmes estimates the cost of the Iraq war to be between $1-2 trillion, and the national debt already over $8 trillion?

Meanwhile, the reality in Iraq is the opposite of that generated by the Cheney administration as the carnage and chaos in Iraq worsens each day.

A quick look at foreign media outlets yields the following developments that were either not reported or under-reported in the US:

January 4:

-Unidentified gunmen assassinated Rahim Ali al-Sudani, director-general of the Iraqi Oil Ministry, and his son early on the morning of 4 January in Al-Amiriyah area in northern Baghdad.

-Clashes broke out between civilians protesting against unemployment and Iraqi police in Al-Nasiriyah city in Dhi Qar Governorate, wounding scores of civilians and police officers. The TV added within the same news summary that two civilians were “martyred” and two others were injured when an explosive charge missed a US patrol unit in Kirkuk.

-Al Sharqiyah television reported that a US plane had crashed in Mosul. Quoting its correspondent in the city, the TV said that US forces had rushed to the area and sealed off the scene where the crash occurred.

January 5:

-At least 130 Iraqis and 11 US soldiers die (highest number of US soldiers killed in one day since August) in one of the bloodiest days in Iraq since the invasion.

January 6:

-A medical source at Al-Ramadi State Hospital [speaking on condition of anonymity] reports that 14 civilians, including three children, “were martyred at the hands of US snipers today.” The source added that “the snipers stationed on roof tops of high buildings in Al-Ramadi, killed those victims in the Al-Ma’arid district in the city center this morning”. Al Sharqiyah correspondent adds that “Al-Ramadi has witnessed
massive protests against the presence of US snipers who have been deployed throughout the city, spreading fear among residents.” Al-Sharqiyah says that the US armed forces have yet to comment on this incident.

-For security purposes, Iraq has suspended its daily pumping of 200,000 barrels of crude oil to major oil refineries in Bayji, north of Baghdad.

-A US convoy came under attack in Samarra when an explosive device planted near a petrol station was detonated. Four children were injured in the attack and were rushed to Samarra State Hospital.

-A doctor at Nasiriyah Hospital reported that two Iraqis were killed and 23 were injured today as clashes between demonstrators, who were protesting against unemployment, and Iraqi police continued in Nasiriyah in southern Iraq.

January 7:

-Fierce clashes broke out between resistance fighters and US forces in Fallujah when armed men battled with the US troops in al-Tharthar Street in the eastern part of the city as the latter tightened security measures, blocking all main entrances to the city. Local residents also reported fierce clashes between US soldiers and resistance fighters on Arba’ien Street in central Fallujah.

-Earlier in the day, a roadside bomb went off at about 7:30 a.m. (0430 GMT) in eastern Fallujah as a US military patrol was passing by, destroying a US Humvee, killing or wounding the soldiers aboard, the source said. An Iraqi doctor from Fallujah General Hospital was killed by a US sniper, according to residents.

A recent email from a good friend in Baghdad sums up life for Iraqis in their new “democracy”:

“We are living in a very critical situation now, for the ING [Iraqi
National Guard] are covering every corner around us wherever you go inside Baghdad. The killings are ongoing everywhere inside and outside the city.”

“Everybody in my family is safe for now only because no one is interested in putting themselves in danger. Demonstrations are going on all over Iraq for different reasons; price of fuel, lack of security, jobless people are having demonstrations as well as those who do not accept the presence of the Badr Brigades or the American forces. [Meanwhile others are demonstrating in support of the Badr Brigades but
against the Americans.]”

“This is some kind of situation around us. The last four nights without electricity…only half an hour every six hours. Fuel prices prevent people from running their generators at home. Fuel on the black market is fifty times the price what it used to be, and nobody can stand waiting at the pumps for days anymore. The minister of oil resigned for this, and Ahmed Chalabi is now the minister…everybody is frustrated yet life is still going on as if the people are hypnotized.”

“Nothing has changed except that we see US Humvees and pick-up trucks full of Iraqi National Guard everywhere [in Baghdad,]” he concluded.

(c)2004, 2005 Dahr Jamail.
All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr's Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the website. Website by photographer Jeff Pflueger's Photography Media Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr's dispatches via email.

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at

Note: All of Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches are republished here with the kind, explicit permission of Dahr.

Harper's Tax 'Cuts'

In my humble opinion, no matter which way I look at Harper's tax 'cuts', poorer Canadians would be hurt by it. His removal of the capital gains tax on listed stock donations to charity would help those who can actually afford to make sizeable donations in the first place. To the great number of Canadians who are struggling just to make ends meet, this tax 'cut' is absolutely useless. However, the Liberal plan to increase the basic personal exemption by $500. and trim the tax rate at the bottom income bracket to 15% from 16% would at least be a little help. Hence, I agree with Martin when he said the Tory plan would hurt poorer Canadians.

Math has never been my strong point, so perhaps I'm missing something when:

"Members of Harper's team said they had costed their plan, estimating Tory tax cuts would total $32 billion while Liberal cuts would total $29 billion."

And I don't understand how they came up with these numbers, later on the same day:

"Later Saturday, on the campaign plane, Stephen Harper told reporters that the Conservative tax cuts would actually total about $49 billion... This plan will save Canadians money. It will be far less tax than you're paying under the Liberals."

Read full CBC article here

Bloggers of Ontario Unite!

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