Bob's Links and Rants
Saturday, December 13, 2003



According to Reuters:

A KBR sign adorns the Halliburton corporate headquarters near downtown Houston, December 12, 2003. The company has removed the Halliburton name from the building and renamed it KBR (Kellogg, Brown and Root) amid controversy that surrounds the company's White House links and overbilling the government for military contracts in Iraq.

Michelle, as usual, found this one. I can see where they got the "B" and the "R"; where'd they get the "K"? Also, I assume that it's no coincidence that Halliburton's KBR's headquarters looks like about half of the US embassies I've ever seen pictures of.

By several measures, Kucinich is now running second to Dean
According to the Utne Reader:
The same internet statistics that predicted within less than one percentage point the percentage Howard Dean won the the internet primary by shows Dennis Kucinich ahead of all the candidates except Howard Dean, who holds a strong lead on Kucinich as well. And in the California Democratic Council (CDC) Vote, Howard Dean took a commanding first place with 56.11 percent of the vote with Dennis Kucinich placing second with 17.19 percent and Wesley Clark with 14.48 percent.

Kucinich is now, with a usual estimate of two percent support in most polls, where Clinton Was in the Months before the Start of the 1991 Primaries. But the congressman's very strong showing in web activity is a very positive sign that suggests pollsters who poll just a few hundred people may be wrong about Kucinich. The stats used in this article that show Dean, then Kucinich in the lead, ahead of the pack, are based on data from hundreds of thousands of internet users. The CDC vote was based on votes from delegates, representing 130 Democratic clubs and county central committees.

The most common response I get when I tell people I'm volunteering for the Kucinich campaign is "Oh, I like him, but he doesn't have a chance." Last week I was distributing flyers at John Dingell's talk a couple of days before Kucinich's visit here, and one woman said "Oh, Kucinich--you're shaming me for not staying with him." There is nothing about Kucinich, his positions or his campaign that makes him unelectable. He is smart, extremely energetic, and has a vision for saving this country. His positions on NAFTA, universal health care, and the environment are supported by millions throughout the country, and his plan for withdrawal from Iraq gets more appealing with every day and every soldier's death. The media and some in the party machinery (including some of his presidential opponents) have done everything possible to treat him as a fringe candidate without a chance, and unfortunately a lot of people seem to believe it. But I suspect that if every Democrat voting in a caucus or primary would vote for their first choice, not their first supposedly electable choice, then Kucinich would finish first or second in most states. He also would have a great chance of beating aWol in the general election, because he would be offering something distinctly different that most people could understand.

So please, wherever you are, don't buy the lame argument that Kucinich is unelectable, or that voting for him will in some way harm the eventual Democratic nominee. (Remember that a drawn-out primary race and a contested convention will call a lot more attention to the Democrats; free publicity they'll need to counter aWol's millions.) Get the word out about Kucinich, and vote for him when you get a chance. Thank you for your support.

From Steve Sack.

From Ted Rall.
Two more soldiers killed, two wounded
AWol's American body count, Iraq division, is now at 455 dead, some 2600 wounded. The number of Iraqis killed is in the tens of thousands. C'mon America, impeach the bastard!
Friday, December 12, 2003
The ball's in your court, Mr. Safire
The NY Times reports that the Iraqi who by some discredited accounts had met with 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta in Prague has stated that the meeting never happened. The CIA and FBI believe that Atta never left the US during the time of the supposed meeting, and this statement should convince pretty much everyone except for Dick Cheney and NY Times columnist William Safire. Every three months or so, Safire drags out the old story and says once again that it justifies the invasion of Iraq. I suspect we'll see another such column any day now.
The Gulag Bushipelago
The Guardian has a lengthy two-part article on the ongoing war crime known as Guantanamo Bay. Of the multitude of really horrible things that Bush has done, this is one of them.
BartCop has it right
BartCop is an outspoken Okie who doesn't like aWol or the whole Bush Family Evil Empire (B.F.E.E) very much. I think he nails aWol's "puerile taunt" perfectly:

"It's very simple: Our people risked their lives; friendly coalition folks risked their lives. And, therefore, the contracting is going to reflect that. And that's what the US taxpayers expect." -- the evil Bush boy

I got really, really angry when I heard this yesterday.
Maybe f***ing outraged out of my mind is a better term, because I just can't believe he's admitting it.

Bart's Law #2: Any time a person or entity makes a "mistake" that puts extra money in their pocket, expect them to make that "mistake" again and again and again.

Bush is saying that since it's mostly Americans that have died, the B.F.E.E. is entitled to the hundreds of billions of dollars to be made by rebuilding that which Bush destroyed.

The more men die, the more rights Halliburton and Bechtel have to those billions.

Just like with Auschwitz, where the B.F.E.E. got their start, they have to kill to get that niagara of money rolling in. They can't make any money during peace time, they have to manufacture a phoney war.

Do you think it's a coincidence that both Bushes started wars in the Middle East?

Doesn't that make anybody else angry?

Also, in today's edition, BartCop has an online presidential poll. It's about 1/4 of the way down the page; go let BartCop know about Kucinich!
Gulf Wars keep on killing...
Long after "mission accomplished."

Mildred Muhammad said she and the now convicted sniper had been a happy couple until he returned from the first Gulf War a changed man, and that he believes he is a prisoner of war now that he is in jail.

"I feel that right now he's operating as a prisoner of war. So he gives name, rank, and serial number. I wasn't surprised that he did not give a psych evaluation, because he doesn't want anyone to know how he thinks. So I'm sure he's creating diversions in jail to make an escape plan," she said.

She says her former husband was a happy man with a strong sense of humor before Operation Desert Storm. She said their relationship began to fall apart when he returned home.
-- Good Morning America

So add the name of John Allen Muhammad to those of Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, and Osama bin Laden on the list of those whose attitudes towards life in general and America in particular were changed for the worse by Gulf War I. And that Bush war was a cakewalk compared to this one.
Not his first "puerile taunt," he keeps bringing 'em on...
From a great editorial in today's Washington Post:

When told yesterday that Mr. Schroeder believed Mr. Bush's contract decision might violate international law, the president responded with a sarcastic gibe: "International law? I better call my lawyer." Like other puerile taunts delivered by administration officials, the president's words will merely serve to further erode support for his policies in countries that historically have stood with the United States.
Mr. Bush and his Pentagon hawks may believe they are meting out just punishment to countries that have opposed the mission in Iraq. But there will be little cost to Germany, France, Canada or Russia. Instead, the real price will be paid by Iraqis and the American soldiers and civilians trying to help them. They will have to continue an uphill struggle to stabilize and rebuild Iraq without substantial support from many of the world's richest and most powerful nations. Efforts to repair U.S. relations with Europe and sinking American prestige around the world will be set back once again. And what will Mr. Bush have gained? Better ask his lawyer.

Cleland out, Bob Kerrey in
The commission supposedly investigating the attacks of September 11, 2001 and what the Bushies did or did not know or do about them has been further compromised. Not only has the most outspoken member of the commission, former Georgia senator Max Cleland, left the commission, he is being replaced by former Nebraska senator Bob Kerrey. The WSWS reports many reasons for being concerned about Kerrey's selection:

In 1969, Kerrey, then a Navy lieutenant, led a SEAL unit in a death squad attack on a Vietnamese village in which he and six enlisted men under his command killed 21 women, children and elderly men. The massacre was carried out as part of “Operation Phoenix,” a CIA-run program that targeted political supporters of the Vietnamese liberation movement for assassination and claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Vietnamese civilians.

For more than 30 years, Kerrey remained silent on the 1969 massacre. When it was exposed by the publication of a New York Times magazine article in April 2001, he continued to evade responsibility, speaking only in the vaguest terms about his actions. Last year, he published an autobiography, When I Was a Young Man, that amounted to yet another attempt to cover up his own role in the massacre.
Kerrey’s own conflicts of interest are myriad. As vice-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Kerrey is a veteran of political cover-ups. While Kerrey was no longer a senator at the time, the committee on which he had served as the highest-ranking Democrat carried out a whitewash of the government role in 9/11, together with its House counterpart, in their toothless joint investigation of the terrorist attacks last year.

Kerrey was also one of the key figures who approved the nomination of CIA Director Tenet and has remained his defender and political ally. What the CIA knew before September 11 is one of the key questions facing any legitimate investigation into the events.

The former senator is also complicit in the Bush administration’s manipulation of the September 11 events to justify a war, already decided upon, against Iraq. Little more than a year ago, Kerrey surfaced as a leading member of an outfit known as the “Committee for the Liberation of Iraq,” formed to promote an unprovoked invasion of the Middle Eastern country.

The group, in which Kerrey was the only prominent Democrat, was essentially an offshoot of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a Republican think tank that served as a virtual administration-in-waiting. Its principals included Richard Cheney (now vice president), Donald Rumsfeld (now defense secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld’s deputy secretary), George Bush’s younger brother Jeb, the governor of Florida, and Lewis Libby (Cheney’s chief of staff). The PNAC elaborated a blueprint for achieving US global hegemony by means of military force, beginning with a war against Iraq.

Kerrey had himself been a proponent of a war against Iraq since 1998, joining right-wing Republicans in sponsoring the “Iraqi Liberation Act” and forging close political ties to the Iraqi National Congress, which is headed by the convicted bank embezzler Ahmed Chalabi.

The more the Bushies try to cover up what they knew and what they did, the more I believe that they, at the very least, allowed 9/11 to happen in order to further their agenda. Cynthia McKinney would have been absolutely right if she had actually said what she was accused of saying.
I guess Poland gets a (small) contract now...
Bombing in Iraq wounds two Polish soldiers. Billmon has a great post about the insanity/silliness of the Bushies regarding the awarding of contracts.
Take on the media, Dennis!
Who cares about Al Gore?
Dennis Kucinich now has Al Giordano and Michelle on his side!

Al, formerly of Narco News fame, has some great suggestions for the Kucinich campaign to capitalize on Tuesday's debate in New Hampshire. In the debate, Kucinich took ABC's Ted Koppel to task for focusing on the game--polls, money, endorsements--instead of the issues. Kucinich further placed much of the blame for the lack of substance in politics on the corporate media. ABC's response, as you probably already know, was to pull their reporter off of covering the Kucinich campaign, and doing the same thing to Al Sharpton and Carol Mosely-Braun. (I'm still unclear as to whether ABC dropped the two black candidates as cover for their retribution against Kucinich, or used the spat with Kucinich as an excuse to drop the black candidates, which they probably wanted to do anyway.) Al Giordano suggests that Kucinich make media THE issue for now:

My first advice to the Kucinich campaign: Use your paid advertising in the New Hampshire-Boston market to show the confrontation with Koppel and tell the story of WMUR Manchester's flagship - ABC - getting revenge on your candidate for having told the truth that all Americans and New Hampshire citizens know is the truth:

KUCINICH: ...and I can tell you, Ted, you know, we started at the beginning of this evening, talking about an endorsement. Well, I want the American people to see where the media takes politics in this country...
Dennis: You've GOT $750,000 in the bank, more than enough to saturate the New Hampshire media markets with such a message. If WMUR bans your ad, that will be a national story. If ABC's Boston affiliate WCVB Channel 5 bans it, well, you've got yourself a lawsuit, plus an FCC complaint, in the town where the Democratic National Convention will take place next summer.

Begin, today, the teach-in about "where the media takes politics in this country." If you do, if you make THEM, the real usurpers of democracy, the Commercial Media, the issue, you will have found your issue... which is our (as in "We, the People") issue... and the voters will come.

You'll be surprised how fast it happens if you do it right.

Al also makes some great points with respect to the totally uncalled for disrespect of Kucinich's candidacy:

Whether you are Republican, Democrat, or Independent... whether you like Dennis Kucinich or hate him or don't care... something much larger is at stake here... and ABC should not be allowed to use our airwaves to pick and choose which candidates are in the race.

It's particularly disturbing because Kucinich, by the following standards, is one of the top three candidates in terms of measurable public support: website traffic, number of "MeetUp" groups, and his second-place finish in the MoveOn online primary.

Kucinich is also a standing, elected, member of the United States Congress. Like him, or not... agree with his views, or not... he deserves an equal and fair shake to be reported on before a single caucus or primary has taken place.

And thanks to Michelle for finding this for me, and for adding her own inciteful comments!


From Bruce Beattie.
Excellent Mike Thompson cartoon on Russia!
It's a little too big to fit on the blog, so just click here to see it.
Tell Florida to drop charges against FTAA protesters
You can send a free fax here.
Okay, I'm not staying up much longer, so some quick hits
Pentagon investigating Halliburton's overbilling
Diebold intends to make paper-trail option "prohibitively expensive"
US helping to send smuggled arms to Libya?
Union busting in Iraq
Labor and Anti-war movements coming together?
There's some hope. I attended a very small discussion this evening on the topic, featuring a few UAW organizers and a couple of people involved with the Borders strike. One of the UAW guys is a member of USLAW, or U.S. Labor Against War. He said that while unions in general are torn between the "patriotic" support of war and their own interest in defeating the Republican agenda, the anti-war message has a lot more resonance among union members now than it did in the Vietnam era. Two women who have been involved in organizing at auto parts suppliers among Latino (mostly Mexican) workers reported on the difficulties involved and the nasty and cynical tactics used by employers to exploit immigrants, especially undocumented ones. The speakers were not especially optimistic about the Borders strike, but said that it was necessary and would serve a needed function even if it fails. Meanwhile, we'll do what we can to help it succeed.
Thursday, December 11, 2003
Global trade is killing the environment
Just one early impact of increasing long-distance trade is the emerging issue of "food miles." The fossil-fuel energy spent to transport food products often exceeds the energy contained in the foods themselves. To add insult to injury, transportation is a major source of carbon-dioxide emissions.

Sustain, a U.K.-based food and farming alliance, has shown that iceberg lettuce flown from Los Angeles to London requires 127 calories of fuel for every food calorie. Sustain also reports that countries often end up swapping food instead of importing critical items that cannot be produced locally. The U.K., for example, imported 126 million liters of milk and exported 270 million liters in 1997.

Researchers at Iowa State University have found that fruits and vegetables travel an average of 1,500 miles within the U.S., a 22 percent increase since 1981. When imported foods are added to the mix, the average distance from farm to the dinner table increases significantly. Studies show that a basic diet with imported ingredients can easily consume four times the fossil-fuel energy and emit four times the carbon dioxide compared to domestically produced ingredients.
-- Salon

A Peace of Her Mind
From Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian woman who won this year's Nobel Peace Prize:

In the past two years, some states have violated the universal principles and laws of human rights by using the events of 11 September and the war on international terrorism as a pretext. The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 57/219, of 18 December 2002, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1456, of 20 January 2003, and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights Resolution 2003/68, of 25 April 2003, set out and underline that all states must ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorism must comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights and humanitarian law. However, regulations restricting human rights and basic freedoms, special bodies and extraordinary courts, which make fair adjudication difficult and at times impossible, have been justified and given legitimacy under the cloak of the war on terrorism.

The concerns of human rights' advocates increase when they observe that international human rights laws are breached not only by their recognized opponents under the pretext of cultural relativity, but that these principles are also violated in Western democracies, in other words countries which were themselves among the initial codifiers of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is in this framework that, for months, hundreds of individuals who were arrested in the course of military conflicts have been imprisoned in Guantanamo, without the benefit of the rights stipulated under the international Geneva conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the [United Nations] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Moreover, a question which millions of citizens in the international civil society have been asking themselves for the past few years, particularly in recent months, and continue to ask, is this: why is it that some decisions and resolutions of the UN Security Council are binding, while some other resolutions of the council have no binding force? Why is it that in the past 35 years, dozens of UN resolutions concerning the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the state of Israel have not been implemented promptly, yet, in the past 12 years, the state and people of Iraq, once on the recommendation of the Security Council, and the second time, in spite of UN Security Council opposition, were subjected to attack, military assault, economic sanctions, and, ultimately, military occupation??

Two more soldiers die
Along with 14 wounded and one missing. (Apparently the one soldier killed by suicide bombers is worthy of a Washington Post headline, but the one who drowned in the Tigris is not.)
Eli of Left I on the News cited a particular bit of Rumsfeld Donsense (a term Eli claims to have created and has actually copyrighted--I'm applying the fair use concept to my stealing of it here) reported in the Village Voice: use the phrase 'targeted killing' I think is a misunderstanding of the fact that we're in a war where, obviously, the people who don't surrender, who are terrorists trying to kill innocent Iraqis and coalition forces, are people we want to stop. We would be happy to capture them, we'd be happy to have them surrender, and if they don't, we'd be happy to kill them. And that's what's going on. But the implication or the connotation of 'targeted killing' I think is unfortunate because it suggests an appetite to do that, which is not the case. The goal is to stop terrorists from killing innocent men, women, and children, Iraqis, and coalition forces. It seems like a perfectly logical thing to me.

I left Eli some comments, and I'll post them for you here:

Shorter Donsense:
"The people who don't surrender...are terrorists." The people who do surrender? Enemy combatants.

"The goal is to stop terrorists from killing innocent men, women, and children, Iraqis, and coalition forces." As far as I know, Iraqis are the only ones in this list that US forces HAVE NOT killed in Afghanistan (ask the Canadians about the coalition forces).

"It suggests an appetite to do that, which is not the case." "We'd be happy to kill them."

My GOOD quote du jour, from Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, from Greg Palast via Politics in the Zeros.

The President raced through a dozen more examples, from Bolivia to Chiapas, Mexico, where the miracle of the marketplace came out of the barrel of a gun.
Quote du Jour
There's nothing I am worse at than long-term planning. -- Condiloser Rice. Perfect choice for National Security Advisor to an idiot. Maybe somebody a little better at planning, or even just someone with a CLUE, would have been able to imagine airplanes flying into buildings.

From Kirk Anderson.

From Doonesbury.
Big Bend National Park
You see desert, mountains, beautiful scenery in a fragile landscape. Republicans see just one more way to make a quick buck. The picture is from Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas, as close to the middle of nowhere as I've ever been. Aside from the few National Park facilities and a couple of places to hire rafts, the nearest towns on either side of the Rio Grande are about 100 miles away, in a landscape just as dry and barren. So how are these Midland maniacs going to turn a buck out here? By drilling for water and shipping it El Paso and elsewhere:

Angry West Texans and some state officials are demanding a halt to a deal that allows a group of politically well-connected Midland oilmen to tap the desert and sell billions of gallons of water from the state's public reserves.

The venture was advancing without announcement or competitive bidding by the powerful Texas General Land Office, which controls 20 million acres of public lands and the liquids and minerals beneath them.
Asked why the talks with Rio Nuevo had not been announced at the time, Mr. Patterson said, "We don't announce a lot of things under consideration."

I'll bet that's right.
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Supremes Uphold McCain-Feingold
Good news, I guess. Now if they'll just commit to not overturning elections themselves. The votes were 5-4, with Sandra Day O'Connor leaving the bad guys to vote with the good guys on this one. I wish Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) were here right now so I could laugh in his ugly face.

Gore's early endorsement drowns out voters' voices
This op-ed from USA Today expresses pretty clearly what I've been thinking.

The former vice president's endorsement is another sign of how a compressed campaign increases the influence of party insiders at the expense of voters. Gore conceded that a quick end to the contest was behind his move, calling on Democrats to unite behind Dean as "the strongest candidate" to defeat President Bush in November.
In fact, the primary process emerged from an attempt to move away from the days when insiders picked candidates. Yet, the nation appears headed back there again.

The reasons driving the early 2004 schedule are not solely of the Democrats' making. The Bush campaign's plan to raise a record $200 million presents a formidable juggernaut. Little wonder the Democrats want to settle their race and turn to the main event.

But while the rushed schedule serves insiders' purposes, it doesn't serve the interests of voters cut out of the process.

Of course, in America, what the voters think doesn't much matter.
Bottled Water: An environmental and social disaster...
as well as being a corporate hoax. According to a fine article in E/The Environmental Magazine, bottled water is generally held to fewer standards than tap water:

"Unlike tap water violations, which are directly enforceable, if a company exceeds bottled water standards, it is not necessarily a violation-they can just say so on the label, and may be insulated from enforcement." Further, while EPA rules specify that no confirmed E. coli or fecal coliform (bacteria that indicate possible contamination by fecal matter) contamination is allowed in tap water, the FDA merely set a minimum level for E. coli and fecal coliform presence in bottled water. Tap water from a surface source must be tested for cryptosporidium, giardia and viruses, unlike bottled water, and must also be disinfected, unlike bottled water. Hoober also notes that food products such as "carbonated water," "soda water" and "seltzer water"-in addition to most flavored waters-are held to even looser standards than "true" bottled water.

Bottled water also requires huge amounts of plastics, which causes environmental problems in both its manufacture and disposal.

One issue that the article doesn't address is the economic threat it poses to municipal water systems and the less-than-wealthy people who rely on them. Because people who have too much disposable income (Americans) are willing to spend three times as much per gallon for bottled water as they do for gasoline, bottled-water corporations like Coke and Pepsi are willing to pump springs and aquifers dry to meet the demand. Since the wealthy are getting their water in bottles, they lose interest in the municipal systems and become unwilling to pay for safe and reliable public water. This is a major concern in Chiapas, Mexico (where I visited last spring). Companies like Coca-Cola have their greedy little eyes focused on the fresh water of Chiapas, which is some 30% of all fresh water in Mexico. By bottling this water up and shipping it to other parts of the country and world that are able to pay for it, they threaten a key requirement for survival of the local population.

So, PLEASE don't buy any bottled water! (Thanks again to Michelle for the link.)
Pot. Kettle. Black.
"The comments and actions made by the leader of Taiwan indicate that he may be willing to make decisions unilaterally, to change the status quo, which we oppose," Mr. Bush said in the Oval Office. "We oppose any unilateral decision by either China or Taiwan to change the status quo." -- Globe and Mail
Incoming Canadian PM finds Iraq contract snub "difficult to fathom"
"What is most important is, in fact, the reconstruction of Iraq," Mr. Martin told reporters. "There's a huge amount of suffering there, and I think it is the responsibility of every country to participate in developing it.

"I understand the importance of these kinds of contracts, but this shouldn't just be about who gets contracts, who gets business, it ought to be, what is the best thing for the people of Iraq."
Deputy Prime Minister John Manley said in Paris that, if the Pentagon decision has been accurately reported, it could lead to a reassessment of official Canadian government aid to Iraq.

"To exclude Canadians just because they are Canadians would be unacceptable if they accept funds from Canadian taxpayers for the reconstruction of Iraq," Mr. Manley said.
-- Globe and Mail
Why James Baker is now in charge of Iraq's "debt"
From Greg Palast:
Well, ho ho ho! It's an early Christmas for James Baker III.

All year the elves at his law firm, Baker Botts of Texas, have been working day and night to prevent the families of the victims of the September 11 attack from seeking information from Saudi Arabia on the Kingdom's funding of Al Qaeda fronts.
For the Bush administration, this marks a new low in their Conflicts-R-Us appointments process.

Or maybe there's no conflict at all. That is, if you see Jim Baker's new job as working not to protect a new Iraqi democracy but to protect the old theocracy of Saudi Arabia.

Iraq owes something on the order of $120 billion to $150 billion, depending on who's counting. And who's counting is very important.

Much of the so-called debt to Saudi Arabia was given to Saddam Hussein to fight a proxy war for the Saudis against their hated foe, the Shi'ia of Iran. And as disclosed by a former Saudi diplomat, the kingdom's sheiks handed about $7 billion to Saddam under the table in the 1980's to build an "Islamic bomb."

Should Iraqis today and those not yet born have to be put in a debtor's prison to pay off the secret payouts to Saddam?

Then and now
Shortly after 9/11, several leading neocon whackos got together at the American Enterprise Institute and had a conference. Newtron Gingrich and Prince of Darkness Richard Perle were there, and some others, including super neocon nut Michael Ledeen. He called for total war:

If we just let our own vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don't try to be clever and piece together clever diplomatic solutions to this thing, but just wage a total war against these tyrants, I think we will do very well and our children will sing great songs about us years from now. (The quote was frequently mis-attributed to Perle)

It looks now as though Ledeen was wrong about "we will do very well," but his children may well sing songs about him. After all, he finds them jobs for which they are clearly unqualified:

Simone Ledeen is serving her country. She is the daughter of Michael Ledeen, the Iran-Contra luminary, AEI scholar, and all-around capo in the neocon mafia. She's 29, a freshly-minted M.B.A., with little to no experience in war-torn countries. But as an advisor for northern Iraq at the Ministry of Finance in Baghdad, she is, in essence, helping shape one quarter of that nation's economy.

When the history of the occupation of Iraq is written, there will be many factors to point to when explaining the post-conquest descent into chaos and disorder, from the melting away of Saddam's army to the Pentagon's failure to make adequate plans for the occupation. But historians will also consider the lack of experience and abundant political connections of the hundreds of American bureaucrats sent to Baghdad to run Iraq through the Coalition Provisional Authority.
-- from an article in the Washington Monthly.

Ledeen Jr. isn't the only young Republican holding a patronage job in Iraq. According to the article:

CPA officials say that the older GOP functionaries do a reasonable job keeping their partisanship publicly under wraps. But the younger Republicans in Iraq spend much of their time plotting against the Democrats. "Everything is seen in the context of the election, and how they will screw the Democrats," said one CPA official. "It was really pretty shocking to hear them talk."

"They are all on the campaign trail," said another official. "They see this as a stepping stone to a better job in the next Bush administration." "I don't always know if they are Republicans," said yet another senior CPAer. "But what is clear is that they know nothing about development, and nothing about transitional economies." They're trying to do the right thing, this official adds, "but they do what they do without any knowledge of how the post-war world works in reality. They come up with hare-brained schemes that cause so many problems they take more time to fix than to create."

It's also driven journalists on the ground, watching these operatives move in and out of Saddam's marble Republican Palace, which CPA commandeered as its headquarters, to joke: "They don't call it the Republican Palace for nothing."

The terrorists have won
According to Billmon and the Guardian. From the Guardian article:

There is a tendency in the west to play down - or ignore - the extent of Bin Laden's success. The US and UK governments regard mentioning it as disloyal or heretical. But look back on interviews by Bin Laden in the 1990s to see what he has achieved. He can tick off one of the four objectives he set himself, and, arguably, a second.

The objectives were: the removal of US soldiers from Saudi soil; the overthrow of the Saudi government; the removal of Jews from Israel; and worldwide confrontation between the west and the Muslim world.

His success in the first is clear-cut. Bin Laden's animosity towards the US began in earnest with the arrival of tens of thousands of US soldiers in his home country, Saudi Arabia, for the war against Iraq in 1991. He objected to their presence because Saudi Arabia holds Islam's two holiest sites, Mecca and Medina.

After September 11, the US did exactly what Bin Laden wanted. It pulled almost all its troops out of Saudi Arabia and moved its regional headquarters to Qatar. Relations between Washington and Riyadh have remained strained since September 11, not surprising given that the bulk of the attackers were from Saudi Arabia.

Bin Laden has not succeeded in his second objective of overthrowing the Saudi regime. But its position is much more precarious than when he first called for it to be deposed. The US government's ambivalence towards Riyadh has created jitters in the kingdom. The Saudi authorities, after a decade in denial, are now confronting al-Qaida and cracking down on preachers regarded as too fiery. Saudi Arabia, in spite of its oil wealth, has huge economic and social problems -including a large, disgruntled pool of unemployed youths - that leave it vulnerable. Reports of firefights between the Saudi authorities and al-Qaida-related groups are now commonplace.

Bin Laden has not achieved his third objective either: the destruction of Israel. In spite of its suffering at the hands of suicide bombers, Israel is in the ascendant, with strict controls over the daily lives of Palestinians, frequentassassination of suspected bombers and other militants, and a continued land grab in the West Bank. But the one-sided nature of the conflict and the emotions it arouses beyond its boundaries have helped Bin Laden achieve the fourth and most important of his objectives: polarisation.

Returning to the scene of the crime
Donald Rumsfeld was recently in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, near the Qala-i-Janghi prison fortress where hundreds of POW's were killed two years ago. The WSWS has the details.

While largely forgotten and less expensive in terms of American lives and dollars, and having had more international support, the Afghan war was just as criminal as the Iraq war. W's statement that he makes no distinction between terrorists and those who "harbor" them was a crock from the start, for several reasons. Pretty clearly, there was at least one other nation with much stronger ties to the 9/11 terrorists than Afghanistan: Saudi Arabia. Also, these people had been "harbored" in the US for several months (including in the rogue state of Florida), and were being "harbored" in Germany before that. Furthermore, I doubt that the Taliban could have expelled Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda if they had wanted to. (I ranted in detail about this back in September.) Furthermore, the invasion of Afghanistan, like that of Iraq, was already on the Pentagon's drawing board before 9/11.

The administration and the media presented attacking and invading Afghanistan as an either/or proposition. Either we bomb the poorest country in the world even further back into the stone age, or else the terrorists have won. There were many possible responses to 9/11 aside from invading Afghanistan and doing nothing. Actually finding out what happened on 9/11 and why would have been a good start. Two bad wars and tens of thousands of deaths later and that still hasn't been done.
What does George Bush have against the children of Afghanistan?
Six more killed, making a total of at least 15 in the last week.
Tuesday, December 09, 2003
Can you say petty and stupid?
The Pentagon has barred French, German and Russian companies from competing for $18.6 billion in contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq, saying the step "is necessary for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States."
Under the guidelines, which were issued on Friday but became public knowledge today, only companies from the United States, Iraq and 61 other countries designated as "coalition partners" will be allowed to bid on the contracts, which are financed by American taxpayers.
-- NY Times

I guess, given the fine jobs that Halliburton and Bechtel are doing, we wouldn't want them to have any free-market competition in wasting our $87 billion.

I guess these could be considered sanctions for NOT violating the UN charter by supporting the illegal invasion of a sovereign country. AWol's granddaddy continued to do business with Germany after they had pre-emptively invaded several neutral countries; aWol won't do business with the Germans now for NOT invading a country.
Firebomb Hits Arab-American News Building in Dearborn
Police believe someone tried to burn down the building that houses The Arab American News in Dearborn late Monday or early Tuesday, Local 4 reported.

Investigators say the building on Chase Road was hit with what appeared to be a homemade firebomb. A glass bottle was found shattered near the back entrance where the sidewalk was charred from the fire, according to the station's reports.


From Mad Magazine! (Funny that Mad would go after someone so close to them.)
Cleland off 9/11 panel
This story is over two weeks old, but I just read about it for the first time on BartCop. Former Senator Max Cleland, who lost his legs and one arm in Vietnam, and lost his seat in the Senate from the former Confederate state of Georgia to Diebold black-box voting machines, has been nominated by aWol to serve on the board of the Export-Import Bank. Accepting the post, which apparently Cleland is doing, requires that he resign from the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, aka the 9/11 Commission. Cleland has been probably the most outspoken member of the commission in complaining about the secrecy and stalling of the Bushies in providing the information needed to complete the investigation.

I know why aWol offered him the post at the Export-Import Bank, but why would he take it?

Sending another man to the moon?
Don't knock it until you've heard this suggestion:

Nine out of ten Democrats said that sending a man to the moon was an excellent goal, as long as that man was George W. Bush. "We don't have much money to spend on big goals," said Democrat Kirsti Summers, who was taking up a collection, "but sending Bush to the moon could end up saving us trillions." -- From Opinions You Should Have
Kerry does a lousy job of getting nasty
When I voted for the war, I voted for what I thought was best for the country. Did I expect Howard Dean to go off to the left and say, `I'm against everything?' Sure. Did I expect George Bush to f--- it up as badly as he did? I don't think anybody did. -- John Kerry in a Rolling Stone interview, via AP

Kerry got some attention for using the f-word, but jeez, it's the only thing in the whole statement that makes any sense at all. Voting for the war was best for the country? Howard Dean on the left? Left of what? Lieberman? And I'm highly insulted that Kerry doesn't recognize that I and millions of others knew that aWol would "f--- it up." Besides, he had Afghanistan to look at. Bush has never done a single thing well in his miserable failure of a life. And Kerry's just pathetic.
Israel trains US assassination squads in Iraq
Israeli advisers are helping train US special forces in aggressive counter-insurgency operations in Iraq, including the use of assassination squads against guerrilla leaders, US intelligence and military sources said yesterday. The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has sent urban warfare specialists to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the home of US special forces, and according to two sources, Israeli military "consultants" have also visited Iraq.

US forces in Iraq's Sunni triangle have already begun to use tactics that echo Israeli operations in the occupied territories, sealing off centres of resistance with razor wire and razing buildings from where attacks have been launched against US troops.

But the secret war in Iraq is about to get much tougher, in the hope of suppressing the Ba'athist-led insurgency ahead of next November's presidential elections.

US special forces teams are already behind the lines inside Syria attempting to kill foreign jihadists before they cross the border, and a group focused on the "neutralisation" of guerrilla leaders is being set up, according to sources familiar with the operations.

"This is basically an assassination programme. That is what is being conceptualised here. This is a hunter-killer team," said a former senior US intelligence official, who added that he feared the new tactics and enhanced cooperation with Israel would only inflame a volatile situation in the Middle East.

"It is bonkers, insane. Here we are - we're already being compared to Sharon in the Arab world, and we've just confirmed it by bringing in the Israelis and setting up assassination teams."
-- Guardian

Juan Cole comments:

The US is doomed not just to a small run of the mill disappointment in Iraq if it goes on riding roughshod over ordinary Arabs' feelings like this. It is doomed to a major blow-up that will do incalculable damage to the security and well-being of you and me. Any of you who write your congressmen should please take up the issue of Boykin and his crazy schemes to Sharon-ize the US military.

It is no wonder that the US effort in Iraq is being slammed even by friends such as the Indonesian Foreign Minister.

I have a sinking feeling that Bush just lost the war on terror.

Mitch Albom on Smith
What made Nick Smith notable was that his story found its way to the public. Here was a rare brave guy who not only voted his conscience, but was willing to say he was politically bullied -- out loud, where we can hear it -- and of course, the minute he said it, the pressure doubled on him to backtrack.

He should name names. They all should. They won't. The saddest part of this coercion story isn't that it came out -- it's that there are so many others that never will.
-- Mitch Albom

Detroit Free Press on the Nick Smith bribery case:
From last Friday's Free Press:

Smith won't say exactly who made the offer.

He should. It's a serious charge, if not rising to the level of a federal bribery offense, then certainly worthy of a review by the House Ethics Committee. Smith may not wish to further offend the GOP leadership by naming names, but to do otherwise casts a pall on every Republican in Congress and hands the Democrats an election-year issue.

If this was just hardball politics, well, that's hardly a new game in Washington, and Democrats played it pretty well when they had the power. But if somebody stepped over the line from nasty rhetoric to outright threats and even an offer of money for a vote, the public has a right to know. Smith decided not to shut up about it. Good for him. But now he should put up and let this air out -- for the good of the Congress.

John Dingell on Medicare:
Yesterday, when the president signed into law the Medicare bill that barely passed Congress, he performed radical experimental surgery that will cause great long-term harm to one of our nation's most vital health care programs. This new law ends Medicare as we know it, a program that has provided efficient and quality medical care to our nation's seniors and disabled for nearly 40 years.

The most draconian change of all turns Medicare into a voucher program. Known as "premium support" it marks the beginning of the privatization of Medicare with the end goal of giving seniors a set amount of money to pay for health care. When this provision goes into effect in 2010, long after the next election cycle, up to 6.8 million people will be thrown into the world of HMOs and other private insurers, leaving them to fend for themselves.

Read the rest of the article. John Dingell is my representative in the House, and a pretty good one.

So depressing
The money interests have apparently decided that picking a Democratic candidate is too important to be left to the voters, so they're all stacking the deck for Dean. Al Gore's endorsement is getting all sorts of headlines, encouraging the casual voter to just concede that Dean is a done deal. Apparently, that, and not any great love for Dean, was behind Gore's decision:

Prior to Tuesday's endorsement, a source told CNN that Gore -- the Democratic Party's presidential candidate in 2000 -- thinks a protracted primary campaign would serve only to help President Bush.

Completely wrong. Handing Dean the nomination on a silver (and lots of gold) platter would only help Bush, and especially the big-money concerns supporting him and Dean--no more debates about withdrawing from Iraq, about cutting the Pentagon budget, about universal single-payer health care, about withdrawing from NAFTA and the WTO, about ending the corporate stranglehold on the country. Business as usual in America.

Well, I'm committed to supporting Kucinich all the way. I despise Bush, I don't like Dean, and I'm seriously considering leaving the country if those are my choices. This country is just too stupid to be believed.
At least two more soldiers dead, 33 wounded
Bombings at two U.S. bases in northern Iraq wounded at least 33 American soldiers Tuesday -- attacks that occurred less than three hours apart, U.S. military officials said.
Two U.S. soldiers died Monday in Iraq when a bridge collapsed near Balad, overturning two of the Army's newest fighting vehicles called Strykers. A Pentagon official said that one of the Strykers landed upside down in the water below and that at least two soldiers were killed.
-- CNN

Terrorist Plot in Rogue State
According to KTVT, the CBS affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth, federal authorities seized “at least one weapon of mass destruction—a sodium cyanide bomb capable of delivering a deadly gas cloud” as well as “at least 100 other bombs, bomb components, machine guns, 500,000 rounds of ammunition and chemical agents.”
The threat was serious enough to be included regularly in the presidential daily briefings and to trigger a nationwide FBI manhunt. Yet, outside of Texas, the case remains virtually unknown. The reason for the silence is clear.

The convicted individuals were not Arab or Muslim immigrants, nor could they be linked to any Islamist groups. Rather, they were native-born US citizens connected to the extreme right.
Monday, December 08, 2003
Army blows the whistle on Bechtel
Kudos to Army Major Linda Scharf for speaking out about incredibly shoddy work done by no-bid contractor Bechtel:

During repairs, "reports started coming in about poor quality," said 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion Maj. Linda Scharf, who was responsible for the schools in question, and who started fielding calls from concerned teachers and headmasters.

"So I asked one of my teams to go verify the rumors," Scharf said. "They took their digital camera, and the reality turned out to be worse than the rumors."

What they found: The subcontractors Bechtel hired left paint everywhere - on the floors, on desks, all over windows. The classrooms were filthy, the school's desks and chairs were thrown out into the playground and left, broken. Windows were left damaged, and bathrooms that were reportedly fixed were left in broken, unsanitary condition.

"Would you allow your child to use that bathroom? I wouldn't," Scharf said, pointing to a photograph of a stained, broken hole in a dirty, tiled stall.
Scharf said that, "because of the work in the schools, I have come out very vocal that I will do everything in my power to keep Bechtel out of my area."

Congress should cancel Bechtel's contracts and demand that they repay every penny they took for work not adequately performed. If they don't have it on hand, take it out of Bush campaign contributions.

(via Left I on the News)
Mr. Smith went to Washington, refused a bribe, then wouldn't say who offered it...
and it's hard to find anything about it in his home district newspaper. Browsing through the editorials and letters to the editor in the Jackson Citizen-Patriot, I finally found this one letter calling on Rep. Smith to come clean:

I am disturbed by reports that a Republican congressional leader attempted to bribe Rep. Nick Smith in an effort to sway his "no" vote on the Medicare bill. I urge Rep. Smith to go public with the name of the would-be briber. To stay silent on the matter would be to allow dirty business as usual to continue in Washington.

Stephen Fife-Adams, Chelsea

Harley Sorensen on Wal-Mart
As Californians, I think we should support our grocery workers on strike and lockout in Southern California. If they lose, we all lose eventually.

On the other hand (and this is where it gets complicated), we should at the very least sympathize with supermarket management. If not for their fear of Wal-Mart, they'd be willing to settle with their workers.

Maybe the California Legislature can repass the bill outlawing big-box stores (i.e., Wal-Mart). Maybe Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will sign such a bill. His predecessor, Gray Davis, vetoed it last time around. Schwarzenegger is more honest than Davis, but, then, who isn't?

You and I can save money by shopping at Wal-Mart. We also can save money by stealing. The question becomes, Is money the most important thing in our lives, or do we have higher values?

The whole article is here.

Early in the article, Sorensen writes:

To the best of my limited knowledge, Sam Walton did not break any laws building his fantastic Wal-Mart empire.

What about anti-trust laws? Isn't the very idea of anti-trust that companies should be able to compete in the marketplace but not control it?
Buchanan for President!
No, not Pat Buchanan, and no, I'm not abandoning Kucinich as my choice in 2004. But I do now have a favorite for the Republican nomination: John Buchanan. From his campaign web site:

Are you worried about the future of America under George W. Bush?

Do you think George W. Bush put corporate greed ahead of sound policy - in National Defense, Jobs, Medicare, the Environment, Energy, and Taxes? Do you think George W. Bush misled us about the reasons for sacrificing over 400 brave American lives and $166 billion in Iraq - while he gives billion-dollar no-bid contracts to Halliburton? Do you want an end to secret government, "outing" of CIA officers, domestic spying under the un-American USA Patriot Act, and official coverups - including the coverup of September 11th? Then YOU have a choice in the Republican Primaries!

Don't give George W. Bush four more years to lead America to ruin. Vote for John Buchanan instead! With your help, we can Stop the Corporate Takeover!

Thanks to Cyndy for finding that. I was pretty bummed when Wesley Clark decided he was a Democrat; I was really hoping he'd take aWol on in the Republican primaries. Clearly, this guy Buchanan has a long way to go, since this is the first I've ever heard of him (you too, I'll bet, unless you've been reading MouseMusings).

Buchanan has an interesting comparison between "Real Republicans" and "Bush's Anti-Republican Record" on his web page.

Fallout from the Bush Administration
Michelle is keeping track of the numerous mysterious deaths of politicians, diplomats and scientists with possible links to the Bushies, as well as a long list of resignations. Her latest addition to the death list is Gus W. Weiss, 72, of Tennessee, who had lots of ties to the intelligence community, was very opposed to the Iraq war, and just happened to fall out of a Watergate apartment window last month.
Another Link in the Cheney
Newsweek reports that lies about WMD's and supposed links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda were funnelled directly to one of Fearmaster Cheney's top aides, John Hannah.

For months, Cheney’s office has denied that the veep bypassed U.S. intelligence agencies to get intel reports from the INC. But a June 2002 memo written by INC lobbyist Entifadh Qunbar to a U.S. Senate committee lists John Hannah, a senior national-security aide on Cheney’s staff, as one of two “U.S. governmental recipients” for reports generated by an intelligence program being run by the INC and which was then being funded by the State Department. Under the program, “defectors, reports and raw intelligence are cultivated and analyzed”; the info was then reported to, among others, “appropriate governmental, non-governmental and international agencies.” The memo not only describes Cheney aide Hannah as a “principal point of contact” for the program, it even provides his direct White House telephone number.
Hearts and Minds
Quotes from yesterday's New York Times article by Dexter Filkins:

"With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them," Colonel Sassaman said.
"This fence is here for your protection," reads the sign posted in front of the barbed-wire fence. "Do not approach or try to cross, or you will be shot."
"You have to understand the Arab mind," Capt. Todd Brown, a company commander with the Fourth Infantry Division, said as he stood outside the gates of Abu Hishma. "The only thing they understand is force — force, pride and saving face."
"We really hammered the place," Maj. Darron Wright said.
In Abu Hishma, residents complain that the village is locked down for 15 hours a day, meaning that they are unable to go to the mosque for morning and evening prayers. They say the curfew does not allow them time to stand in the daylong lines for gasoline and get home before the gate closes for the night.

But mostly, it is a loss of dignity that the villagers talk about. For each identification card, every Iraqi man is assigned a number, which he must hold up when he poses for his mug shot. The card identifies his age and type of car. It is all in English.

"This is absolutely humiliating," said Yasin Mustafa, a 39-year-old primary school teacher. "We are like birds in a cage."

Colonel Sassaman said he would maintain the wire enclosure until the villagers turned over the six men who killed Sergeant Panchot, though he acknowledged they may have slipped far away.

Another Day, Another Dead
Soldier killed in Mosul.
Sunday talk shows
I don't watch them, but apparently there was plenty of excitement yesterday. Hillary was doing the only thing that pro-war Democrats like her and Kerry can do; complain about how the war is being fought, not that it shouldn't have been fought at all. She thinks we need even more troops over there to get shot at. I used to kind of like Hillary, but I'm thinking she's worse than useless at this point. One thing Rush Limbaugh and I can agree on. Andy Card was responding to Newtron Gingrich's "off a cliff" remark about what's happening in Iraq.

And while I really, really don't like Howard Dean, I'll give him kudos for his remarks:

Dean, interviewed on "Fox News Sunday," defended his recent statements in New Hampshire that he needed to "teach" Bush about defense because the president "doesn't understand what it takes to defend this country, that you have to have high moral purpose."

"There are not very many countries, after three years of George W. Bush's presidency, where people want to be like us anymore," Dean said. "That is what I mean by the loss of high moral purpose." He also said Bush had backed off efforts to cut combat pay for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dean was asked about his comments on National Public Radio's "The Diane Rehm Show" last week concerning the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He said then: "The most interesting theory that I've heard so far -- which is nothing more than a theory, it can't be proved -- is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis."

Dean said yesterday that "I can't imagine the president of the United States doing that," but added that Bush needs to "give the information" to the commission investigating the attacks. Asked why he raised the theory, Dean said: "Because there are people who believe that. We don't know what happened in 9/11."

Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie later called Dean "reckless and irresponsible" for "floating this incendiary theory."

Screw Gillespie. Calling attention to the Bushies' coverup of 9/11 is the most responsible thing Dean has done in his campaign. Release the documents, not just to the 9/11 commission but to the NY Times and CNN and the BBC and AFP; let everyone know how and why 9/11 happened, and let the chips fall where they may.

As usual, Liberal Oasis has a good summary on his weekly Sunday Talkshow Breakdown.

From Ted Rall.
Sunday, December 07, 2003
NGO-rgia on my mind
It's late and I'm tired and the sink is full of dirty dishes, so I don't have time to read the Counterpunch article Cyndy links to about NGO's being involved in the Georgian coup.
The Nick Smith saga continues
Rep. Nick Smith (R-MI) recently tried to retract his allegations that Republican leaders tried to bribe him on the House floor during the Medicare all-nighter in November. Fortunately for us, his accusations were caught on tape, effectively rebutting his rebuttal:

According to a report last night by WOOD TV, a Grand Rapids station, Smith confirmed the $100,000 offer in a taped phone interview with Vandenbroek on Dec. 1:

"And so the first offer was to give [Smith's son Brad] $100,000-plus for his campaign, and endorsements by national leadership, and I said no, I'm going to stick to my guns on what I think is right for the constituents in my district."

Thanks to Michelle, again, for helping me keep up with this one. Neither of us have figured out yet how it ties into the "rose revolution" in Georgia, but we're working on it!

Never Mind
I never thought I'd say it, but there's an excellent editorial in today's Ann Arbor News:

It was Emily Litella who immediately sprang to mind Friday when we learned that U.S. Rep. Nick Smith, the Republican congressman representing much of Washtenaw County, had retracted his accusation of the previous week that leaders of his own party tried to bribe him into voting for the Medicare bill.

Smith, who voted against the 10-year, $400-billion measure, also had been claiming that congressional leaders had threatened to block his son's attempt to succeed him if he didn't back the bill. Smith is retiring next year after 12 years in Congress.

"I want to make it clear that no member of Congress made an offer of financial assistance for my son's campaign in exchange for my vote," said Smith, backpedalling on the bribery charge in a story that ran Friday. "Some members said they would work against Brad (his son) if I voted no."

In other words, "Never mind."
Nick Smith's use of the word (bribe) would seem to mean one of two things. Either it reflects little thought on his part in shrilly using it to fight back at those playing hardball politics in trying to win his vote on Medicare. Or, if there was any truth in what he was alleging, he owed his constituency and the public at-large more backbone than giving up his accusation just one week after making it.

Whichever scenario is the more accurate, Smith should be embarrassed.

From the picket line
AKA "The Central Front in the War on Corporatism." I just spent an hour and a half on the picket line in front of Borders. The strike will be one month old tomorrow. While business seems to be down, quite a few people still cross the picket line, which is depressing. Even in supposedly liberal Ann Arbor, the "I've got mine, screw you" mentality is rampant. I was getting a little bitter, and started haranguing people leaving the store with purchases with some variation on: "Happy holidays to you, sir (ma'am) for choosing to support a criminal corporation over the workers. You are destroying America by helping the corporations turn it into a sweatshop. Because of your purchases, your children and grandchildren may be working for $2 an hour with no benefits, if they can find a job at all."

You can support the strikers in several ways. If you're in or near Ann Arbor, come downtown and join the picket line for a while, and/or bring them some food. Don't shop at Borders or Waldenbooks, or at Go to the Borders Readers United web site and sign the petition and make a donation. They also have flyers that you can print out to hand to people outside your local Borders. Calling your local Borders and telling the workers about the strike is also suggested (only the Ann Arbor store is on strike, and only it and one in Minneapolis have unions).

Workers and unions spent a century of blood, sweat and tears to bring basic rights to working people, and many of us enjoy those rights (weekends, holidays, overtime pay, health insurance, etc.) even if we don't belong to unions. The "cheap-labor conservatives" have spent the last quarter of a century chipping away at these rights. It is coming to a head now; if the current strikes are lost and aWol gets reselected, America WILL become a sweatshop.

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