Friday, November 28, 2008

Mike Whitney, Ralph Nader, etc.

Thanksgiving, hope you had a great one! :D I did. I said I'd post on Thanksgiving and I am. C.I. is working on "I Hate The War" and I'll wrap up when that's done.

I see Crazy Ass Dave Lindorff is attempting to get some attention. He'll have to do it without me, he is the loon. No matter how crazy the rest of the world is, Dave is always Supreme Crazy Ass. But I see Ralph Nader has something up at CounterPunch. This is from his "Open Up Those Corporate Tax Returns:"

Disclosure of corporate income tax returns would help offset the intentional obscurity and complexity surrounding corporate records that has so directly contributed to the current financial crisis.
It would also lead to much better tax policy. President-elect Obama has stated that he and his administration will carefully review every budget expenditure, in order to save taxpayer dollars and eliminate or curtail programs that have outlived their usefulness or never should have been started. This is a welcome commitment. Aside from cutting wasteful Pentagon spending, however, the really big ways to improve the government's balance sheet are in eliminating unfair, inefficient corporate tax loopholes, and escapes to tax havens abroad.
The complexity of the tax code -- itself the product of long-term, persistent and intensive lobbying -- invites esoteric gaming by large corporations, aided and abetted by lawyers and accountants.
Some tax provisions are included in the Code with almost no one other than the lobbyists who wrote them understanding what their implications will be.
And some tax provisions are muscled through by powerful interests, but impose public costs not fully understood at the time of enactment, while offering minimal public benefits.

And because corporate welfare is violence, we'll move over to this on violence from the State Dept last week:

UNIFEM: "Say No to Violence Against Women" CampaignStatement by Secretary Condoleezza RiceWashington, DCNovember 19, 2008
One year ago, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) began its global campaign to advocate among publics and governments for an end to violence against women. In the course of the year, we have taken important steps to address this issue.
During its June 2008 Security Council Presidency, the United States focused on actions that would follow from UN Security Council Resolution 1325, on "Women, Peace, and Security." On June 19, the United States chaired an open Security Council thematic discussion on the topic of violence in situations of armed conflict. The debate culminated in adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1820, which condemns the use of sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations.
Violence against women remains a fact of life in countries worldwide. Like poverty, HIV/AIDS, poor maternal health, and lack of access to education, violence against women is an ill that affects the person, her community, and her nation.
As the campaign to "Say No to Violence against Women" enters its second year, we should dedicate ourselves to creating awareness among individuals and communities of the great damage violence against women inflicts, and commit ourselves to end this atrocity.

Of course, the US has inflicted so much violence around the world in the last eight years, it may be hard for many people to take the above statement seriously. It's hard to take "Change" Barack seriously as well. This is from Mike Whitney's "You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet:"

Obama hasn’t even been sworn in yet, and already the Wall Street cheerleaders are celebrating his first great triumph. According the pundits, the stock market staged a surprise 494 point rally on Friday because -- get this -- it was announced that Timothy Geithner would be appointed Obama’s Treasury Secretary.
Timothy who?
What nonsense. The sudden turnaround in stocks had a lot more to do with short-covering than anything else, but don’t let that get in the way of a good story. Even so, the last minute surge on the NYSE couldn’t stop another week-long bloodbath that ended with the Dow and S&P 500 tumbling another five percent. That’s not to say that Geithner is not bright and talented guy. He is, and so is his White House counterpart, Lawrence Summers. But the media hype is way overdone. Geithner doesn’t drive the markets and he isn’t “change you can believe in.” In fact, he’s a protege of Henry Kissinger, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and has the same political pedigree as his predecessor, Henry Paulson. They’re both part of the ruling fraternity and their views of the world are nearly identical. There’s no doubt that Geithner will be more competent and effective than Paulson but, then again, who wouldn’t be? Paulson may be the biggest flop at Treasury since Andrew Mellon steered the country onto the reef during the Great Depression. The recent flap over the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) just proves the point. After convincing Congress to pass a $700 billion bailout plan — by invoking the specter of economic Armageddon and martial law — the former G-Sax chairman proceeded to set up a program for buying back mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and other junk paper from his banking buddies. Paulson argued that removing the crappy loans would help the banks get back on their feet and start lending again. Of course, no one could really figure out how the process was going to be executed, but maybe that’s just nit-picking. Fortunately, Paulson never got a chance carry out his plan. He was torpedoed by the stock market which plunged seven days in a row losing nearly 20 percent of its value until Paulson threw in the towel and did what 200 economists had suggested from the very beginning — buy preferred shares in the banks so they could rev-up their credit engines again.
Will Geithner be that stubborn? Not likely. And Paulson is a hard-nosed class warrior, too. Notice how every dime of the bailout has gone to banksters while all the efforts to provide relief to autoworkers, consumers or struggling homeowners have been blocked. Anyone who isn’t in the upper 1 percent income bracket can forget about getting a helping hand.

Okay, C.I. is done so I'm going to post as well. We're all about to watch some movies. Happy Thanksgiving. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, November 27, 2008. The White House finally releases a copy of the treaty (knowing that everyone's on a holiday), the treaty passes in the Iraqi Parliament (but not by the required number), chaos and violence continue, a war resister seeks asylum in Germany, and more.

"Iraqi lawmakers today approved a pact allowing U.S. forces to stay in the country through 2011 after winning support from skeptics by promising a public referendum on the plan,"
explain Raheem Salman and Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) and they go on to note that "[a]ccording to the agreement" troops out in 2011! Which agreement? The Arabic one the puppet government thinks is final or the English one the White House refuses to release because, as Adam Ashton, Jonathan S. Landay and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) reported, "Officials in Washington said the administration has withheld the official English translation of the agreement in an effort to suppress a public dispute with the Iraqis until after the Iraqi parliament votes." This was noted last week in a Congressional hearing as well so it's really past time to stop speaking of the agreement singular. Salman and Susman do a better job explaining this:The pact, while not explicitly stating that an extension can be sought, allows for amendments if both sides agree to them.U.S. officials have indicated that they interpret that as permitting a possible extension, if security conditions in Iraq are deemed too shaky to leave Iraqi security forces in charge. "There is a provision for extension, by agreement of both sides," one U.S. official said in discussing the pact. Yeah, it's a one-year agreement. Only 2009 cannot be changed or cancelled. Everything else that the White House says is set-in-stone is actually a conditional option that can be wiped away by either side. Today the White House finally released the agreement in English. We'll jump in at Article 30 The Period for which the Agreement is Effective:

1) This Agreement shall be effective for a period of three years, unless terminated sooner by either Party pursuant to paragraph 3 of this Article.

Get it? Paragraph three: "This Agreement shall terminate one year after a Party provides written notification to the other Party to that effect." Meaning only 2009 is set in stone. It is too late for either party (US or Iraq) to give one year's notice and cancel it in 2009. They can give notice to cancel in 2010 or 2011. The second clause is also worth noting because it weakens the strength of any agreement as well: "This Agreement shall be amended only with the official agrement of the Parties in writing and in accordance with the constitutional proceudures in effect in both countries." That's the aspect that allows for a change and all the 'flowery' respect for Constitutional procedures is hog wash. The Iraqi Parliament needed to have two-thirds of all members (not just members present) to pass the treaty today. They did not have that. According to their Constitution and their laws, that's what was needed. In the US, Congressional approval is needed over all treaties and we know that has not take place. We further know that Barack Obama -- alleged Constitutional scholar -- doesn't give a damn about the Constitution. He show boated and did his little pretty words number while campaigning but despite all his insisting that the treaty would have to come before the Congress -- including becoming one of thirteen co-sponsors on Hillary Clinton's Senate bill insisting upon that -- he shut his corporate mouth and put his tiny tail between his legs to slink off like the disgusting, cowering trash he is. He's not going to stand up for the Constitution 'later.' He couldn't stand up for it right now.

An agreement built upon a systematic disrespect for the rule of law does not suddenly develop one. An agreement built upon lies does not suddenly embrace honesty. The treaty is built on lies and they include the lies to the American people. Why is the US pursuing this treaty? The White House keeps talking about these 'recent' gains in Iraq. Today is November 27th of 2008. Recent would, for most of us, go back no further than the end of spring. But Article 25 explains Nouri al-Maliki and Condi Rice notified the United Nations that the Security Council's mandate would be cancelled at the end of this year . . . last year. al-Maliki's letter was dated December 7th, Rice's December 10th. 'Recent' events?

The agreement the White House has released may not be the official agreement or the final one. It is the one that US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari signed November 17, 2008. The note above their signatures states: "Signed in duplicate in Baghdad on this 17th day of November, 2008, in the English and Arabic languages, each text being equally authentic."

That version is published online by the White House in PDF format (
click here). The Bully Boy of the United States released the following statement today: "Earlier today, in another sign of progress, Iraq's Council of Representatives approved two agreements with the United States, a Strategic Framework Agreement and a Security Agreement, often called a Status of Forces Agreement or SOFA. The Strategic Framework Agreement sets the foundation for a long-term bilateral relationship between our two countries, and the Security Agreement addresses our presence, activities, and withdrawal from Iraq. Today's vote affirms the growth of Iraq's democracy and increasing ability to secure itself. We look forward to a swift approval by Iraq's Presidency Council. Two years ago, this day seemed unlikely -- but the success of the surge and the courage of the Iraqi people set the conditions for these two agreements to be negotiated and approved by the Iraqi parliament. The improved conditions on the ground and the parliamentary approval of these two agreements serve as a testament to the Iraqi, Coalition, and American men and women, both military and civilian, who paved the way for this day."

But wasn't this day 'paved' in December of 2007 when Rice and al-Maliki notified the UN that there would be no extension of the mandate following its December 31, 2008 expiration?

Rumors abound that al-Maliki has consolidated his power with the passage. For the so-bad it's good reporting, check out
Alissa J. Rubin, Campbell Robertson and Stephen Farrell of the New York Times proving that reporters can serve up camp too. In the real world CBS News' Elizabeth Palmer explains that this means an extension of US troops in Iraq and link includes video. Meanwhile Ruth explained how certain members of the press are actively participating in the manufacture of consent and deliberately distorting what the treaty says (Ruth utilizes Ayad Allawi's "US-Iraq agreement needs work" from the Boston Globe) to make her point. What happens now in Iraq? The treaty now goes before Iraq's presidency council where the president or either of the country's two vice-presidents can veto it. To pass it requires all three give thumbs up. Only one need give a thumbs down to veto.

The referendrum was included in the vote today and the Los Angeles Times notes: "If voters rejected the agreement in the July 2009 referendum, Iraq's government would have to cancel SOFA or demand changes to it. The terms of the agreement allow either side to give the other a year's notice of cancellation, so if Iraq scrapped the pact, U.S. forces would have to leave the country in July 2010."

Today's violence?
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing that resulted in the death of 1 police force member, a Baghdadroadside bombing that resulted in the death of an Iraqi soldier with three more wounded, another Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed 1 life and left sic more people wounded, a Mosul 'sucide' bombing that took the life of the bomber and left six police officers wounded, a Mosul car bombing that claimed the life of the driver and 2 civilians with 28 more people wounded.

Meanwhile in Germany a US soldier is seeking aslyum.
Andreas Buerger (Reuters) reports 31-year-old Iraq War veteran Andre Shepherd self-checked out of the military in 2007 and is now seeking sancturay in Germany where he held a press conference today and declared: "When I read and heard about people being ripped to shreds from machine guns or being blown to bits by the Hellfire missiles I began to feel ashamed about what I was doing. I could not in good conscience continue to serve. . . . Here in Germany it was established that everyone, even a soldier, must take responsibility for his or her actions, no matter how many superiors are giving orders."

In Iraq, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres wrapped up a thee day visit by visiting with Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani:

Guterres, who was accompanied by Staffan de Mistura, the UN Secretary-General's special representative in Iraq, said UNHCR's operations for uprooted Iraqis had until now focused primarily on refugees in neighbouring states, mainly Syria and Jordan. He told Al-Sistani that the two nations deserved praise for their generosity to Iraqi refugees. UNHCR supports both nations' efforts to assist the Iraqi refugees.
With the improved security situation in Iraq, including in Najaf itself, UNHCR was now moving toward increasing its presence in the country and stepping up its activities on behalf of internally displaced people and returning refugees, the High Commissioner said. The agency is doubling its budget to US$81 million in 2009 and increasing the number of provincial offices from the current 10 to 14, covering the whole country.

the common ills
mikey likes it

iraqjonathan s. landaymcclatchy newspapers
nancy a. youssefadam ashton
the los angeles timestina susman
the new york timescampbell robertsonalissa j. rubinstephen farrell
cbs news
elizabeth palmer
ruths report