Sunday, April 19, 2009

Gen. Taguba: Accountability for torture does not stop at White House dooor

Major General Antonio Taguba called for an independent commission to investigate war crimes committed by senior members of the Bush Administration in remarks in Ames Courtroom on Tuesday, April 14. The event was sponsored by Physicians for Human Rights and the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School.

Taguba, who was pressured to resign by the Bush Administration in 2007 following the 2004 leak of his report detailing abuses by U.S. armed forces in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, declared in the preface of the 2008 Physicians for Human Rights publication "Broken Laws, Broken Lives," that, "there is no longer any doubt as to whether the [Bush] administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

While the Obama Administration has "reaffirmed its commitment to valuing human rights and international law" by officially closing CIA black sites and the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Taguba insisted that "there are a lot of stories that have yet to be told."

[ ... ]

Ultimately, Taguba concluded, investigation of the Bush Administration is needed if "accountability is not to be just a hollow term." "In my opinion accountability is a condition of employment. Government leaders who chose to accept high level positions of influence ought to hold firm and be accountable."

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Rick Wolff, "Regulations do not prevent capitalist crises"

From Creative-i :

...Economic regulations fail because of two fatal flaws. First, they may be poorly enforced or simply ignored. When political conditions permit leaders to be selected and/or controlled by the enemies of regulation, they can block the state's enforcement of regulations. Second, even when politicians try to enforce regulations on corporations, they successfully evade, weaken, or eliminate most of them. It is the organization of capitalist enterprises that explains both flaws and their repeated sabotage of regulations.

Counter-recessionary regulations always more or less constrain corporations' freedom of action in pursuing market share and profits. However, past regulations stopped short of changing the basic structure of capitalist corporations (and so do those proposed by Obama). Thus, the vast majority of people participating in corporate enterprises, the workers, always exercised little or no control over the decisions governing what the enterprises would produce, how and where they would produce, and what would be done with the resulting profits.

Those decisions were always made by each corporation's board of directors, usually 15-20 individuals chosen by and responsible to the corporation's major shareholders. Shareholding in the US is highly concentrated. Federal Reserve data show that the vast majority of US families own either no shares or so small a portion of outstanding shares that they exercise little or no influence over the selection or the decisions of boards of directors.

Inside capitalist enterprises, the huge majority — the workers — depends on the jobs, incomes, and working conditions determined by the tiny minority, the board of directors. While the tenth of US workers who are unionized wield some limited influence over boards of directors, most US workers cannot participate in deciding the what, how, and where of production or how enterprise profits are used. The capitalist organization of enterprises is undemocratic. This lack of internal democracy dooms counter-recessionary regulations to failure.

From FDR to Obama, capitalist crashes brought state interventions into the economy that always included new or increased regulations. Immediately after (and sometimes already during) every phase of regulation, boards of directors and major shareholders of many US corporations began to undermine that regulation. They used corporate profits to pay for lobbying, publicity and mass media campaigns, think tank 'research,' and so on. By shaping public opinion and academic understanding, they persuaded politicians to ignore or minimally enforce the regulations. At the same time, they hired lawyers, accountants, and economists to evade the regulations and public relations experts to mask or justify their evasion. When politically feasible, their opposition to regulation ramped up another notch. They got Congress, federal agencies, and state and local governments to first weaken and eventually eliminate many regulations.

Corporate boards of directors have every incentive to undermine regulations that limit their profits and market share.  Major shareholders demand that and reward them accordingly.  Boards of directors have the corporate profits needed to finance the defeat of unwanted regulations. The capitalist structure of enterprises thus provided both the incentive and the means for corporations' boards of directors to undermine FDR's New Deal regulations. FDR's tragic legacy was preservation of the capitalist organization of enterprise, leaving in place the corporate boards of directors and major shareholders. If we say 'shame on them' for undermining regulations imposed after capitalism's 1930s crash, we will have to say 'shame on us' if we allow the same process to unfold now under Obama...

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Why Europe won’t fight America’s war

From Nasir Khan's blog :

By Pat Buchanan

creators.com, April 10, 2009

“No one will say this publicly, but the true fact is we are all talking about our exit strategy from Afghanistan. We are getting out. It may take a couple of years, but we are all looking to get out.”

Thus did a “senior European diplomat” confide to The New York Times during Obama's trip to Strasbourg.

Europe is bailing out on us. Afghanistan is to be America's war.

During what the Times called a “fractious meeting,” NATO agreed to send 3,000 troops to provide security during the elections and 2,000 to train Afghan police. Thin gruel beside Obama's commitment to double U.S. troop levels to 68,000.

Why won't Europe fight?

Because Europe sees no threat from Afghanistan and no vital interest in a faraway country where NATO Europeans have not fought since the British Empire folded its tent long ago.

Al-Qaida did not attack Europe out of Afghanistan. America was attacked. Because, said Osama bin Laden in his “declaration of war,” America was occupying the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia, choking Muslim Iraq to death and providing Israel with the weapons to repress the Palestinians.

As Europe has no troops in Saudi Arabia, is exiting Iraq and backs a Palestinian state, Europeans figure, they are less likely to be attacked than if they are fighting and killing Muslims in Afghanistan.

Madrid and London were targeted for terror attacks, they believe, because Spain and Britain were George W. Bush's strongest allies in Iraq. Britain, with a large Pakistani population, must be especially sensitive to U.S. Predator strikes in Pakistan.

Moreover, Europeans have had their fill of war.

In World War I alone, France, Germany and Russia each lost far more men killed than we have lost in all our wars put together. British losses in World War I were greater than America's losses, North and South, in the Civil War. Her losses in World War II, from a nation with but a third of our population, were equal to ours. Where America ended that war as a superpower and leader of the Free World, Britain ended it bankrupt, broken, bereft of empire, sinking into socialism.

All of Europe's empires are gone. All her great navies are gone. All her million-man armies are history. Her populations are all aging, shrinking and dying, as millions pour in from former colonies in the Third World to repopulate and Islamize the mother countries.

Because of Europe's new “diversity,” any war fought in a Muslim land will inflame a large segment of Europe's urban population.

Finally, NATO Europe knows there is no price to pay for malingering in NATO's war in Afghanistan.

Europeans know America will take up the slack and do nothing about their refusal to send combat brigades.

For Europeans had us figured out a long time ago.

They sense that we need them more than they need us.

While NATO provides Europe with a security blanket, it provides America with what she cannot live without: a mission, a cause, a meaning to life.

Were the United States, in exasperation, to tell Europe, “We are pulling out of NATO, shutting down our bases and bringing our troops home because we are weary of doing all the heavy lifting, all the fighting and dying for freedom,” what would we do after we had departed and come home?

What would our foreign policy be?

What would be the need for our vaunted military-industrial complex, all those carriers, subs, tanks, and thousands of fighter planes and scores of bombers? What would happen to all the transatlantic conferences on NATO, all the think tanks here and in Europe devoted to allied security issues?

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the withdrawal of the Red Army from Eastern Europe and the breakup of the Soviet Union, NATO's mission was accomplished. As Sen. Richard Lugar said, NATO must “go out of area or out of business.”

NATO desperately did not want to go out of business. So, NATO went out of area, into Afghanistan. Now, with victory nowhere in sight, NATO is heading home. Will it go out of business?

Not likely. Too many rice bowls depend on keeping NATO alive.

You don't give up the March of Dimes headquarters and fund-raising machinery just because Drs. Salk and Sabin found a cure for polio.

Again, one recalls, in those old World War II movies, the invariable scene where two G.I.s are smoking and talking.

“What are you gonna do, Joe, when this is all over?” one would ask.

Years ago, we had the answer.

Joe stayed in the Army. He couldn't give it up. Soldiering is all he knew. Just like Uncle Sam. We can't give up NATO because, if we do, we would no longer be the “indispensable nation,” the leader of the Free World.

And, if we're not that, then who are we? And what would we do?

Patrick Buchanan is the author of the new book “Churchill, Hitler and 'The Unnecessary War.” To find out more about Patrick Buchanan, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.


Pakistani PM rejects conditions attached to U.S. aid

Xinhua News Agency :

13 Apr, 2009

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said on Monday that the United States should not set conditions for its financial assistance, demanding stop of drone attacks inside Pakistan.

"Pakistan-U.S. relationship should be based on mutual respect and trust," said Gilani while meeting with visiting U.S. Senator John Kerry.

Pakistan has done a lot in war against terrorism. Conditional aid will not help in war against terror, Gilani said.

The prime minister also urged the United States to stop drone attacks and ensure intelligence-sharing.

Kerry, chairman of U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, arrived in Islamabad on Monday to talk with Pakistani leaders on the proposed financial aid package to the country.

John is also expected to meet with Pakistani President Asif AliZardari and hold talks with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

"He would discuss the prudent utilization of the assistance money during his meetings," the English-language newspaper Daily Times reported on Monday.

U.S. Senator John Kerry and Senator Richard Lugar has proposed a bill for tripling of the non-civilian aid to Pakistan to 1.5 billion dollars a year for a period of five years.

Unveiling a new U.S. strategy to defeat Taliban and al-Qaeda last month, U.S. President Barack Obama called upon the Congress to approve the Kerry-Lugar bill to meet Pakistan's economic challenge.

But the Obama administration has said that the assistance could only be provide[d] when Pakistan demonstrates strong commitment to rooting out militancy and terrorism.

Pakistan has warned that its would not need support attached with conditions from the United States.

At least 23 feared dead in India heat wave

From Inquirer.net :

Agence France-Presse

19 Apr, 2009

NEW DELHI -- At least 23 people are suspected to have died in a heat wave swirling across eastern India, officials said Sunday.

The heat-wave deaths were reported in Orissa state, where the district of Talchar recorded a temperature of 44.3 degrees Celsius (111.7 degrees Fahrenheit) Sunday, the Press Trust of India reported.

"The reported deaths occurred this month but we are trying to confirm if the heat wave was the reason for the casualties," a spokesman for Orissa's health department told AFP by telephone.

Elsewhere, Hissar city was the hottest place in northern India, at 42 degrees Celsius, while the mercury reached 41.6 degrees Celsius in the Indian capital, New Delhi, the meteorological department said.

The heat wave has hit campaigning in many of the 141 parliamentary constituencies during the current national elections, PTI reported.

The staggered national elections, which began Thursday, will end May 13, when temperatures are expected to rise even further.

At least 137 people died in last summer's heat wave in India.

Income gaps hit record levels In 2006, new data show

From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities :

Rich-Poor Gap Tripled Between 1979 and 2006

By Arloc Sherman

17 Apr, 2009

New data from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) show that in 2006, the top 1 percent of households had a larger share of the nation's after-tax income, and the middle and bottom fifths of households had smaller shares, than in any year since 1979, the first year the CBO data cover. As a result, the gaps in after-tax incomes between households in the top 1 percent and those in the middle and bottom fifths were the widest on record.

The data reveal starkly uneven income growth over recent decades. Between 1979 and 2006, real after-tax incomes rose by 256 percent — or $863,000 — for the top 1 percent of households, compared to 21 percent — or $9,200 — for households in the middle fifth of households and 11 percent — or $1,600 — for households in the bottom fifth. (See Figure 1, next page.) In 2006, the average household in the top 1 percent had an income of $1.2 million, up $63,000 just from the prior year; this $63,000 gain is nearly two times the total income of the average middle-income household. [1]

In addition, the share of national after-tax income going to the top 1 percent of households more than doubled between 1979 and 2006, rising from 7.5 percent to 16.3 percent.

Taken together with prior research, the new data suggest greater income concentration at the top than at any time since 1929. [2] The data precede the current recession, which is likely to reduce the income of the wealthiest Americans substantially, given the decline in the stock market, and thereby shrink somewhat the income gap between rich and poor households. But there was a similar development when the dot.com bubble burst a few years ago — income at the top of the income scale fell sharply — and it turned out to be just a speed bump. Incomes at the top more than made up the lost ground from 2004 to 2006.


Changes in Inequality Since 1979

The gap in income between the wealthiest Americans and all others has grown strikingly in recent decades, the CBO data show. In 1979, when the data begin, the average after-tax incomes of the top 1 percent of households were 7.9 times higher than those of the middle fifth of households. By 1989 they were 13.5 times higher.

Top incomes continued climbing in the 1990s, to 20.6 times higher than the middle fifth of households in 2000 and 21.3 times higher in 2005. By 2006, top incomes were 23.0 times higher than those of the middle fifth — nearly tripling the income gap between the top 1 percent and those in the middle since 1979.

The gap between the top 1 percent and the poorest fifth of Americans widened even more dramatically over this same period. In 1979, the incomes of the top 1 percent were 22.6 times higher than those of the bottom fifth. Top incomes continued climbing to 63.1 times higher in 2000 and 72.7 times higher by 2006 — more than tripling the rich-poor gap in 27 years.

The CBO data also show that between 1979 and 2006:

    * The average after-tax income of the top 1 percent of the population more than tripled, from $337,000 to over $1.2 million. As noted, this represented an increase of $863,000, or 256 percent.
    * By contrast, the average after-tax income of the middle fifth of the population rose from $42,900 in 1979 to $52,100 in 2006 — a relatively modest gain of $9,200 or 21 percent over a 27-year period.
    * The average after-tax income of the poorest fifth of the population rose only from $14,900 to $16,500, an increase of $1,600 or 11 percent. [3]

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