It looked unstoppable. In 2004, the draft EU Constitution contained a little noticed provision for a citizen's petition where a million signatures would force the EU commission to take action.
My colleague Gisela Stuart, MP for Edgbaston, and I were excited by the potential for the first such petition to have great symbolic importance and generate significant political momentum.
We couldn't think of a better target for Europe's first citizen's petition than to tackle the devastation caused by HIV/ AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa which has created over ten million orphans already. Tackling this terrible pandemic is one of the most urgent moral imperatives facing the world. Five billion euros a year would fund generic anti-retroviral drugs and support for the millions of people in Africa living with AIDS. The funding would help end a human catastrophe -- what the World Bank has called a development crisis.
We thought that this money could be found most easily and fairly by reforming one of the key reasons for public scepticism about the EU. Of all the idiocies I came across as a government minister, the most glaringly unforgivable was the Common Agricultural Policy. This European boondoggle puts Â£8 a week on the food bill of the average family of four in Britain, but because poorer families spend a higher proportion of their budgets on food, it costs them proportionately more. And the World Bank estimates such agricultural protection costs poor countries around Â£40 billion a year by shutting them out of rich country markets, when food is often the only thing they can produce competitively to sell! And it doesn't even help the European farmers most in need of help. Although it gobbles up nearly half of the EU budget, around a quarter of it goes to the 2% richest farmers.
(That's right. You read that correctly. 2% OF EUROPE'S RICHEST FARMERS GET OVER 10 BILLION EUROS A YEAR IN HAND-OUTS FROM TAXPAYERS.)Add a comment
by Chris Floyd
As Washington waits with bated bipartisan breath to unwrap the shiny Christmas present known as "the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group," it becomes more and more obvious that the newly empowered Democrats are walking into a trap.
But it's not an artful contrivance prepared for their demise by the infinitely devious Karl Rove -- the "political genius" who, since his appearance on the national stage, has managed to lose two elections (2000 and 2004) and eke out very narrow, dubious victories in two others. (And it wasn't Rove who cheated Bush into office in 2000, so that doesn't count even as a technical KO for him. The post-election coup d'etat was directed by Bush family fixer James Baker -- now chairman of the, er, Iraq Study Group.)
No, the trap awaiting the Democrats has been laid by reality itself. As so often noted here before, there is no good solution to the blood-puking hell that George W. Bush has wrought in Iraq. There is no path out of this killing field that won't involve more slaughter, more suffering, more hate, more grief. No "bipartisan panel" â€“ certainly not one led by the lifelong peddler of Bush Family snake oil, Jim Baker, and the Democratic whitewasher for all seasons, Lee Hamilton â€“ is going to find some new, unlooked-for way to untangle this knotted gut. They can only sift through the same reality that we all can see. The options are extremely limited, and all of them have ugly consequences.
Writer and documentary-maker Edward Cox gives a mostly excellent analysis of the situation in a recent Guardian article, Same as it Ever Was. (He is, I think, off base in a brief look at the 2008 presidential election, but this is a minor point in a penetrating takedown of the wildly unrealistic expectations rising around the "Baker Commission.") Very briefly, the main choices break down this way:
"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act".
"I don't want to be part of your revolution if I can't dance."
Rumsfeld is gone. Mehlman is gone. Delay is gone. Yet -- let's not have our progressives' version of a strutting on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier moment. Because mission has not been accomplished.
For those who haven't noticed: While we were busy with other concerns, many of our rights and liberties went missing. Moreover, along with them, have went or are going fast: our planet's polar ice caps; accountability of the corporate sector (our nation's true power brokers); as well as, a sense of place, history, and even a cursory understanding, among a large percent of the populace of the US, of the precepts of civilization and of democratic discourse.
These circumstances, like the melting of the polar ice caps, have transpired, incrementally, and have been going on for longer than that Reign of Terror in Tiny Town known as the Bush presidency. For example, regarding the increasingly authoritarian terrain we negotiate our way through daily: In American work places, bosses routinely snoop into underlings' personal e-mails and monitor our web-surfing practices. How did it come about that so many Americans have grown to accept such demeaning intrusions into our privacy? Add a comment
Of Incorrigible Transgressors, Tacit Complicity, and Lady Justiceâ€™s Conspicuous Absence
â€œThe illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer.â€
---Henry Kissinger, New York Times, October 28, 1973
Baghdadâ€™s kangaroo court has issued a verdict that virtually guarantees that Saddam Hussein will launch his journey into the hereafter from the platform of a gallows. Convicted of â€œrevenge killings of 148 people, deportation of 400, and razing of orchards,â€ (1), and still facing a charge of genocide that resulted in the deaths of 180,000 Kurds, Hussein is undoubtedly a malevolent individual.
by Dave Lindorff
Forget all the talk about civility and compromise.
It's clear that President Bush and his aiders and abettors in the Congress are going to do their damndest to cover their tracks over the next few weeks, using their "lame duck" majorities in House and Senate to pass legislation, while they still can, protecting them as much as possible from future investigation and retaliation.
Bush clearly wants a bill granting him retroactive immunity for his crime of violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act--probably the surest path to his impeachment in a growing list of some dozen crimes against law and Constitution. He may push other actions insulating himself and his cohorts from future prosecution too, as he already did just before the election in ramming through a bill immunizing him against prosecution for authorizing torture.
While the Democrats won't have a majority in either branch of Congress until early January, when newly elected Democrats are sworn in and replace some 30 Republican members of the House and six members of the Senate, they have plenty of members already in place to perform a blocking action--particularly in the Senate, where the Democrats can fillibuster to death any bill they want by just keeping 40 of their 45 caucus members together.
There was no shortage of opportunists present as they broke ground the other day for the $100 million Martin Luther King memorial in Washington, DC. Charlatans from Oprah to Hilfiger lined up in the hope a little of Dr. King's integrity might rub off on them. But the most out of place speaker was, of course, President George W. Bush, who told the crowd, "our journey to justice is not complete. There are still people in our society who hurt, neighborhoods that are too poor ... there's still prejudice that holds citizens back." That whirring noise heard in the background...well, you know the rest.
As Dubya spoke about "the promise of America," I had to wonder what he'd think of the Dr. King who said: "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom ... Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men." Surely, today's America would have an orange jumpsuit all ready for the MLK that believed, "The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be" and "When you are right, you cannot be too radical."
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by Walter Brasch
The ressignation of Donald Rumsfeld doesn't change the problem of a President who is incompetent and malevolent, nor is it likely to bring about a significant change in the Iraq policy.
The forced resignation of Donald Rumsfeld the day after the midterm elections says as much about the Secretary of Defense as it does about the President of the United States.
Almost seven months before the elections, six retired generals, including two who commanded divisions in Iraq, called for Rumsfeldâ€™s resignation. In response, President Bush said that Rumsfeld was â€œdoing a fine job.â€
Two months before the midterm elections, Josh Bolten, the Presidentâ€™s chief of staff, told the Democratic leadership, who had demanded Rumsfeldâ€™s resignation, â€œWe strongly disagree.â€ By the Presidentâ€™s direction, he told the opposition party that Rumsfeld â€œis an honorable and able public servant [who] retains the full confidence of the President.â€
One week before the midterm elections, President Bush said that Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney â€œare doing fantastic jobs and I strongly support them.â€ Lying through his ever-present smirk, he said he planned to keep Rumsfeld until the end of his term; with Cheney, a constitutionally-elected politician, he had no choice. The only comment the President hadnâ€™t made the previous few weeks was, â€œRummy, youâ€™re doing a heckuva job.â€
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by Shepherd Bliss
The Democratic Party prevailed in the Nov. 7 midterm elections. "Weâ€™ve just moved out of a straightjacket," a friend commented. Many celebrated. But after that, lets think carefully about the larger picture of the current state of the American Empire. Signs exists that its power is declining. Little in the post-election coverage has considered this issue.
"Defeat is not an option," Bush again insisted in his press conference the day after his resounding defeat, referring to the Iraq War. Yet it is precisely defeat in Iraq that stares him in the face, as even many American generals have admitted. This defeat is not just in Iraq, not just of the Republican Party, not just of Bush, and not just on Nov. 7. It plunges deeper into the Empire itself. On Nov. 8 Bush once again attempted to mount his Victory horse, though with a changed tone of less arrogance.
Bush and company seemed amazingly conciliatory toward the Democrats in the first few days after their stunning defeat. But letâ€™s not trust them. They are surely conniving and remain poised to attack when ready. Elections can open up the space for change, but deeper changes result from not only celebrations but also from vigilance and continuing campaigns for liberty. Letâ€™s not be lulled into complacency.s." Add a comment
by Mike Whitney
Donald Rumsfeld never really understood the war he was fighting in Iraq. Thatâ€™s why the results have been so terrible. He liked to say that â€œthe war in Iraq is a test of willsâ€, but that just showsthat he had no idea what he was doing and was in way over his head.
War shouldnâ€™t be personalized; that just makes it a battle of egoswhich inevitably clouds oneâ€™s judgment. War is a means of using organized violence to achieve political objectives. Period. Rumsfeld never really grasped that point, so it was impossible for him to prevail. His statement just shows the shortsightedness of a man who is incapable of thinking politically and therefore wasn't able to appreciate the larger strategic goals.
For people like Rumsfeld, violence and deception are the natural corollaries of their distorted views; they become an end in themselves. That is not only tragic, but it also ensures failure. According to the recently released Lancet report, over 650,000 Iraqis have been killed in the conflict so far. This proves that Rumsfeld didnâ€™t know what he was doing so he simply ratcheted up the violence to conceal his ignorance. He had no plan for occupation, reconstruction, security, or victory. The whole thing was a sham predicated on his unflagging belief in over-whelming force. The outcome was not only predictable; it was predicted! Now, the country in a shambles, the society is irretrievably ripped apart, and the entire project is in ruins.
In his parting statement, Rumsfeld reiterated his belief that we are facing a â€œnew kind of enemyâ€ in a â€œnew kind of warâ€. But this is just more buck-passing from a guy who wouldnâ€™t listen to his subordinates and was thoroughly convinced of his own genius. Anyone who has seen the pictures from Abu Ghraib and Falluja are already familiar with Rumsfeldâ€™s genius and his insatiable appetite for violence. They also know that, to great extent, he is fully responsible for the unspeakable tragedy that is currently unfolding in Iraq.
The day after the impressive Democratic election victory, Senate Majority Leader-to-Be Harry Reid declared that a top priority for the new congress would be policy leading to "energy independence" for America. The time of jubilee will certainly come, but not in the way Harry Reid thinks it will - nor in the way the rest of the country imagines this idea.
When politicians flog the term around - "energy independence" - they invariably mean that we will continue enjoying the happy motoring utopia by other means than imported oil (which makes up 70 percent of all the oil we burn). Get this: the day is not far off when, for one reason or another, the flow of imported oil to the US will cease. But when that day comes, we will not be running our shit the way we have been running it. That day will be the end of the interstate highways, Walt Disney World, and WalMart - in short, the way of life we are fond of calling "non-negotiable."
We are not going to run that shit on coal liquids or tar sand byproducts or oil shale distillates or ethanol or biodiesel, or second-hand french-fry oil. Nor on solar, wind, nuclear, or hydrogen. You can run things on that stuff, but not the biggies we run at their current scale. If the Democrats really want to get serious and act responsibly, they'd better not squander whatever is left of our credit and collective confidence in a futile campaign to keep this racket going. They'd better prepare the public to start living differently.
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by Mickey Z.
"A rumor without a leg to stand on will get around some other way."
- John Tudor
Did you know there are alligators-discarded pets flushed down urban toilets-living in the NYC subway...getting fat and edgy on a steady diet of rats and the coffee runoff from all those Starbucks franchises?
Long before Al Gore invented the Internet, Winston Churchill declared:
"A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."
WMDs ... the Saddam/Osama connection ... we will be greeted as liberators
... mission accomplished...
The power of suggestion vs. reality. Gossip vs. guns. Rumors instead of demonstrations. Could this be a viable tool for dissent? Ani DiFranco sez:
"Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right" (but don't let Alberto Gonzalez hear you say that).
Elvis is alive and well; he's sharing a summerhouse in the Hamptons with Marilyn Monroe, Bruce Lee, and Jim Morrison.
With Ani in mind, I thought I'd resurrect an old idea of mine: What would happen if as many people as possible - I'm talking a potential for millions - were to log onto chat rooms, comment boards, etc. and engage in a little wishful thinking? Instead of all those hoaxes about missing children, imagine a steady supply of rumors that George W. Bush is about to propose universal health care.
Picture hundreds of thousands of e-mails crisscrossing the Web claiming to know that Oregon is about secede from the U.S. and name Ralph Nader as its president.
Dick Cheney has shot another lawyer. Hillary Clinton has joined the Green Party. Henry Kissinger and Donald Rumsfeld were arrested for war crimes on a visit to Paris. Michael Moore turned vegan. Bill O'Reilly has the human form of Mad Cow Disease. The Pope has come out of the closet. Pick any one you like and there could be postings at every Craig's List in every city-every minute of every day.
Performance art as protest. Gossip as direct action.
What if word flooded media outlets of a secret plan by the U.S. government to return some land to the indigenous population? It would have to reported at some point and thus, the concept of America as "occupied territory" would have its fifteen minutes...at least.
Jack Ruby was the mastermind behind 9/11.
The Situationists urged: "Trade your boredom for chaos." Could chaos be created if millions in America and tens of millions worldwide spread the rumor that Leonard Peltier was to be pardoned on December 31, 2006? I'm talking about relentless, hourly rumors...day after day. Letters to the editor. E-mails to CNN and the White House. Posters, stickers, fliers...billboards? Whatever means at our disposal. "From each according to his/her abilities," I believe it goes.
Hey, did you hear? Leonard Peltier will be free by the end of the year? Yeah, Bush is trying to appease all those who voted Democrat and show that he's not such a hardass. Tell everyone you know. This is amazing news. Well, that's what the Rumor Club is saying. What's the Rumor Club? Well, the first rule of Rumor Club is...well, you know.
Spread the word: a little chaos could go a long, long way.
by Andrew Bard Schmookler
Confronting the Paradox
The goal is no less than to defeat the evil that, in recent years, has
risen to ascendancy in America. Finding the optimal strategy for
achieving this is no small challenge.
In part, itâ€™s a challenge because, in matters of the spirit, the reality is always so complex and many layered that it is beyond our capabilities to understand fully. In part, itâ€™s because when a cultural system has been so swept up into pathology as ours has lately in America, the disease is likely to have infiltrated even the thoughts and feelings of those who wish to cure the system. It behooves us, therefore, not to be driven by our impulses but to think and proceed with care.
One of the complexities of the present challenge is that we are now called upon to accomplish two things simultaneously which are in contradiction with each other. On the one hand, we must wage and win the battle against the Bushite forces, taking away their power, discrediting them in the eyes of the public, driving the evil spirit they represent back into the recesses of the American cultural system. On the other hand, we must erase the deep and destructive imprint these forces have left on America, and an important part of that imprint is the pervasiveness of conflict and division in our social and political processes.
We must, that is, both wage war and build peace.
On the one hand, there is good reason for the passion that many of us feel about going after these Bushites to bring them low. We are rightly enraged at their lies, their crimes, their arrogance, their wanton disregard of any value other than sating their lust for power and wealth without limits. It is doubtful that any holders of the highest offices of the land have ever, in the course of more than two centuries of American history, been more deserving of impeachment. And so lawless has this administration been that even impeachment may not satisfy all the rightful demands of justice.
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