Thursday, July 9
Forget Shorter Showers: Why Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change
July 8, 2009, Orion Magazine

by Derrick Jensen,

Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal “solutions”?

Part of the problem is that we’ve been victims of a campaign of systematic misdirection. Consumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organized political resistance. An Inconvenient Truth helped raise consciousness about global warming. But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption—changing light bulbs, inflating tires, driving half as much—and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet? Even if every person in the United States did everything the movie suggested, U.S. carbon emissions would fall by only 22 percent. Scientific consensus is that emissions must be reduced by at least 75 percent worldwide.

Or let’s talk water. We so often hear that the world is running out of water. People are dying from lack of water. Rivers are dewatered from lack of water. Because of this we need to take shorter showers. See the disconnect? Because I take showers, I’m responsible for drawing down aquifers? Well, no. More than 90 percent of the water used by humans is used by agriculture and industry. The remaining 10 percent is split between municipalities and actual living breathing individual humans. Collectively, municipal golf courses use as much water as municipal human beings. People (both human people and fish people) aren’t dying because the world is running out of water. They’re dying because the water is being stolen. [...more]

... The good news is that there are other options. We can follow the examples of brave activists who lived through the difficult times I mentioned—Nazi Germany, Tsarist Russia, antebellum United States—who did far more than manifest a form of moral purity; they actively opposed the injustices that surrounded them. We can follow the example of those who remembered that the role of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much integrity as possible, but rather to confront and take down those systems.
Wednesday, October 8

Victory on Points for Obama

By Lola Adesioye,, October 8, 2008

Town hall meetings have been feted as the arena in which John McCain excels and so it was expected that he would breeze through last night's presidential debate in Nashville. As it turned out, however, McCain's prowess was slightly overrated as Barack Obama proved that he too can fare very well in a town hall environment.

On the basis of the dramatic economic events that have taken place since the last time McCain and Obama came face to face, McCain was under the most pressure to impress, in order to bridge the polling gap that has opened up between himself and his opponent. While he wasn't bad, he certainly wasn't brilliant enough to give him any significant advantage over Obama. Post-debate polls are already showing that Obama – who appeared more composed and collected than McCain and displayed a real sense of knowledge and gravitas – is well ahead.

Considering the different physical setting of the debate – including the candidates' ability to move around and engage directly with the audience – Obama's and McCain's stylistic, body language and generational differences were much more obvious tonight, and will no doubt play a much larger role in determining who voters believe won the debate.

The ability to connect with voters was important for both candidates and in that respect McCain was physically clearly at ease with the audience. Whilst not quite as folksy as Sarah Palin, he often addressed the audience using the somewhat forced expression "my friends" and went to some lengths to repeat the names of the individuals who had asked questions, standing closer to them than Obama and even shaking hands with one. Making McCain appear amiable, this was a tactic that will no doubt go down well with Republican voters.

However, McCain's physical closeness was at odds with a disconnect revealed not only by his jokes about needing a hair transplant (which was met with silence) or the obvious disdain directed towards Obama – who he at one point addressed as "that one" – but also by his statement that members of the audience may never have heard of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before last week – highly unlikely considering that they are two of America's largest mortgage providers.

Obama, although physically more distant from the audience, did an excellent job at connecting in a more down-to-earth, in touch and less forced way than McCain by making clear references to the experiences of middle class people, and directing his key points on issues back to their specific and practical impact on average Americans. On healthcare, for example, he shared his own experience – one that is not uncommon in America - of how his mother, dying from cancer had to "spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies" over whether they would pay for her treatment. (...more)

Anyone who says that Obama is unable to square up to McCain was certainly proven wrong. McCain insisted – as he has done for some time and as Sarah Palin did in her debate with Joe Biden last week – on repeating his misrepresentation of Obama's position on taxes. But Obama – when moderator Tom Brokaw would allow him the opportunity to rebut McCain's points – fought back, laying out exactly where McCain was incorrect.

More vigorously than ever, Obama also delivered some excellent smack-downs to McCain. On McCain's assertions of Obama's apparent naiveté he asserted: "Well, you know, Senator McCain, in the last debate and today, again, suggested that I don't understand. It's true. There are some things I don't understand. I don't understand how we ended up invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, while Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida are setting up base camps and safe havens to train terrorists to attack us." On McCain's suggestion that Obama is, as Obama himself put it, "spouting off", he said: "[McCain] is the guy who sang, "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran," who called for the annihilation of North Korea. I don't think that is an example of speaking softly."

McCain, who repeated the motto "record over rhetoric" several times, delivered some optimistic rhetoric of his own, declaring – somewhat bizarrely - "I'll get Osama bin Laden, my friends. I'll get him. I know how to get him." Of course, he didn't quite divulge how he would do that.

Overall, John McCain was not bad, but – unfortunately for him – he just wasn't great.
Tuesday, July 15

Cover charges
Los Angeles Times, July 15, 2008, Editorial

If Obama's campaign is upset by a magazine satire, what will it do when the real attacks begin?

Let's be frank. People sophisticated enough to read, say, newspaper editorials are smart enough to know that the New Yorker's cover art this week -- portraying Barack Obama as a be-turbaned Muslim and wife Michelle as an Afro-sporting terrorist with an AK-47 across her back -- is a work of satire. But what about the millions of dumb Americans who will think otherwise?

Obama's campaign is deeply worried about the legions of morons who they apparently believe make up the heart of this great nation.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton helpfully interpreted the sensibilities of these uneducated masses when he said Monday, "Most readers will see [the cover] as tasteless and offensive. And we agree."

Republican nominee-apparent John McCain's spokesman, Tucker Bounds, seemingly too bored with the controversy to come up with an original epithet, simply agreed that the cover was "tasteless and offensive." ... ...

What Parks, Burton and myriad critics across the blogosphere agree on is that, yes, people who subscribe to the New Yorker are probably smart enough to understand the concept of satire, but the issue will be seen by clueless people at newsstands nationwide -- and they will come to the dangerous conclusion that, well, some artist hired by the New Yorker thinks Obama is a Muslim, his wife is a terrorist, he uses the American flag for kindling and he'd put a portrait of Osama bin Laden in the Oval Office. It's terrifying to imagine the impact this might have on the campaign.

Even before Jonathan Swift modestly proposed in 1729 that poverty-stricken Irish peasants could solve their money problems by selling their children as food for English aristocrats, most people understood that one way to demolish an opponent's argument was to carry it to extremes.

It may be that there are some spectacularly literal-minded Americans who will see the New Yorker's over-the-top portrayal of Obama as a confirmation of their worst fears.

But then, they weren't going to vote for him anyway.

The real mudslinging of this year's presidential campaign won't even start until after the party conventions in August, but it's already beginning to seem as though the Obama camp is a trifle thin-skinned. If it reacts this way to a cartoon drawn by a sympathizer who was mocking the outrageous slurs that have been directed at the candidate, what are they going to do when the Republicans start sharpening their artists' pencils?
Saturday, June 21
(AP photo)
Olympic torch in Tibetan capital

by Raghavendra, Press Trust of India,
Beijing, June 21, 2008

The Olympic torch made its way through the Tibetan capital Lhasa amidst tight security today, three months after the deadly riots hit the remote Himalayan region during anti-China protests spearheaded by monks.

The 9.3 km relay kick-started from Norbulingka, known as the Summer Palace of the Dalai Lama, with 156 torch bearers, including 75 Tibetans, and wound its way through the streets in Lhasa as the security personnel kept a close vigil.

"We are convinced that the Olympic Games torch relay in Lhasa will further inflame the patriotic spirit of the people," Lhasa Communist Party chief Qin Yizhi said at the opening ceremony.

Groups of people cheered and students waved the Chinese flags and Olympic banners.

On the eve of the relay, the Tibet Autonomous Regional government Executive Vice-Chairman Palma Trily said the government was confident of a "safe and successful" relay in Tibet.

Police have been deployed for security but there was none from the People's Liberation Army as "their duty is to guard the frontier and protect the territory," he was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

The relay in Tibet confined to Lhasa only for a day after a three-day programme was scaled down with organisers citing the devastating earthquake in Sichuan province in southwest China that has left nearly 69,200 people dead as the reason.
Friday, June 20

Arrogance or elegance? The most expensive house in the world

Towering high above Mumbai and far from the teeming shanty towns, a billion-dollar home, an oasis of ultimate luxury, is being built for the world's fifth-richest man.

By Andrew Buncombe,
The Independent, 20 June 2008

Anyone wishing to cast their eyes upon Mukesh Ambani's new house will very quickly find themselves with a stiff neck. The 27-storey tower soars huge and unmissable amid the greenery and quiet of the expensive Mumbai suburb of Malabar Hill. Abuzz with the noise of cranes and shouts of helmeted workmen, it is a human ants' nest of activity, set vertical amid the skyline of this booming city.

Mr Ambani is reckoned to be the world's fifth-richest man and when his extraordinary property is completed in an estimated six months, the $1bn (£500m) building named Antilia will be the priciest house in the world. "Yes, it will be the most expensive," said a shopkeeper, whose humble store stands next to the tower. He handed over a newspaper cutting about Mr Ambani that he had pinned to the wall.

Mukesh Ambani, aged 51 and said to be worth $43bn, is used to being in the headlines. Usually, it is about his business dealings as chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries, India's largest private company. Often it is about his infamous ongoing squabble with his younger brother, Anil, 49, a fellow industrialist with whom he fell out after their father's death; he is said to be the world's sixth-richest man. [...more]

It is fair to say that many of the Ambanis' soon-to-be neighbours appear a little bemused by the new building. "It's nice but it's a lot of room for one family," said Binu Manukshani. Another neighbour, SC Banerji, a retired doctor, said he was concerned about the noise that the helicopters would create. "It will have three helicopters on top to go to the airport or wherever else he wants," the 87-year-old sai. "That worries me: the sound." Asked to account for the building's 27 floors, he said: "Some will be for his office, some for his son, some for the car-park. But how can five people occupy so much floor space?"

If some people feel a little bewildered by Mr Ambani's new 550ft-high home, others have expressed anger. When the Mumbai Mirror printed the design for the property, commentators posting on the newspaper's website asked why the industrialist was devoting so much of his wealth to this project when so many in India endure lives of impoverishment.

One web contributor, Shailahja, wrote: "It's a great shame that well-educated and wealthy people of our great nation can only think about raising themselves to greater heights, rather than thinking about the basic necessities of many needy people. I cannot understand why is it so important for you to spend so much for your residence when there is so much you can do for the country's poor."

Some have even questioned whether Mr Ambani should be occupying the land on which the house is being built. A case now before the Bombay High Court argues that the land, formerly occupied by a Muslim orphanage was improperly granted to Mr Ambani in 2002 by local authorities. "It should not have been given," said AU Pathan, a lawyer involved in the case. "We are seeking compensation

But Mr Ambani is unlikely to let anything get in his way of seeing the completion of the project he reportedly planned to give him a "complete view of the Arabian Sea". The hard-headed businessman, who also owns the city's cricket team, rarely backs down from a challenge, be it from rivals or family.

Just last week, he and his brother, Anil, were involved in a spat over a planned merger between Anil Ambani's company, Reliance Communications, and the South African company MTN.
Mukesh claimed that if his brother's company were to sell a such a stake it was legally obliged to first offer it to his company. Anil, a stylish but austere vegetarian who does not smoke or drink and who jogs most morning along Mumbai's Marine Parade, responded with a statement claiming that his brother's suggestion was "legally and factually untenable".

This outburst of unbrotherly behaviour was hardly the first time Anil and Mukesh have been at odds. The two brothers, who inherited their wealth from their late father, Dhirajlal, a former fuel station manager who created a business empire, have had a difficult and competitive relationship since his death in 2002. It was this that led to their father's business being divided between them.

Indeed, it may have been that spat that ultimately led to Mukesh Ambani's decision to build this controversial building. In the aftermath of their father's death, all the family continued to live at a 14-storey home called Sea Winds, located in Mumbai's Cuffe Parade. Ongoing squabbles persuaded Mukesh to opt for an alternative home and, in six months, Sea Winds is expected to be used solely by Anil Ambani and his family. By then his brother will have plenty of room of his own.
Thursday, June 19

Manmohan Singh’s Daughter Nails Bush Lies on Torture [Pic: courtesy ACLU]

Oh boy, oh boy.

As Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cozies up to the Bush Administration, his youngest daughter Amrit Singh blasts the same administration for borrowing methods from tyrannical regimes (and she is right).

In her new book Administration of Torture, Manmohan Singh’s U.S-based daughter Amrit Singh plunges the dagger deep into the rotting carcass of the Bush administration, twists the knife around and exposes the maggot of lies and evasions surrounding the brutal torture of prisoners by American soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

Written in a take-no-prisoner style, Amrit Singh and her co-author Jameel Jaffer tell a compelling and shameful story of pervasive torture, abuse and mistreatment of prisoners by the U.S. military in America’s war on terror.

Through meticulous documentation, Amrit Singh and Jameel Jaffer leave no doubt that American servicemen tortured prisoners through beating, sleep deprivation, electrocution, burning, kicking, intimidation with dogs, waterboarding and occasionally by murder.

Some American soldiers, in fact, have gone beyond torture of detainees by engaging in rape and murder of civilians as well. But American soldiers’ atrocities on civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan is a story for another day.

Administration of Torture tears into the Bush administration for merely talking the talk on commitment to democracy and human rights but not walking the walk when it comes to action.

A graduate of Yale Law School, Cambridge and Oxford Universities and a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, Amrit Singh (and Jameel Jaffer) argues that the well publicized abuse at Abhu Ghraib was not an aberration but widespread:

While the government continues to withhold many key records, the documents that have been released show that the abuse and torture of prisoners was not limited to Abu Ghraib but was pervasive in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay, and that the maltreatment of prisoners resulted in large part from decisions made by senior civilian and military officials. [P.2]

On a subsequent page, the authors write:

[T]he abuse captured in the Abu Ghraib photographs was far from isolated. The same kind of abuse, and indeed much worse, was inflicted on prisoners at detention facilities throughout Afghanistan and Iraq. [p.29]
[Pic: Courtesy]

Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh do not break new ground but yet go beyond daily newspaper reporting by putting the information they’ve collected from thousands of pages (via the Freedom of Information Act) into context with supporting documents and a brief easy-to-read format for those without daily access to the New York Times.

The core of the book is a short 44 pages but includes an additional 374 pages of key primary documents culled from the U.S. Army, Defense Department, FBI and other sources that strongly support the authors’ thesis of widespread torture of detainees flowing from decisions of senior military and civilian officials. [...more]

Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh have done a fine job in producing a must-read book for those who still believe in the notion of basic human rights. They deserve our thanks.

Now that Amrit Singh (and Jameel Jaffer) has decisively exposed the use of torture by American forces in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and Afghanistan, if only she would prevail upon her father Manmohan Singh to improve the human rights situation in Bihar, Gujarat and other dark corners of India.

Currently a Staff Attorney at the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, Amrit Singh is married to Barton Beebe, Associate Professor of Law at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University on Fifth Avenue in New York City. A specialist in intellectual property law, Amrit Singh’s husband Barton Beebe works closely with the NALSAR Law University in the South Indian city of Hyderabad.

The book is available at Barnes & Noble stores in the U.S. and

Administration of Torture
by Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh
(2007: Columbia University Press, New York)
Price - $29.95


Italy officer tells of spying on spies in cleric's kidnapping

Testifying in the trial of 26 Americans, the officer recalls how police tracked cellphone traffic to piece together prosecution of the disputed practice known as extraordinary rendition. [pic: Luca Bruno, Associated Press]

By Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, May 29, 2008

MILAN, ITALY -- One of Italy's top cops told a court Wednesday how, with meticulous detective work and substantial luck, he blew the lid off one of the Bush administration's most controversial counter-terrorism tactics.

Testifying in the trial of 26 Americans, most of them CIA operatives, who are accused of abducting a radical Egyptian cleric in Milan, the senior officer described tracking massive amounts of cellular telephone traffic to piece together Europe's only prosecution of the much-disputed practice known as extraordinary rendition.

The officer, Bruno Megale, recounted an astonishing tale of spies spying on spies. Police, armed with judicial warrants, used cellphone logs, wiretaps and intercepted e-mails to ensnare a CIA station chief, a U.S. Air Force colonel, five American diplomats and officers from Italy's military intelligence service accused of collaborating with the Americans.

The Americans are being tried in absentia; none are in Italy and none have acknowledged the proceedings in Milan's main courthouse. For their 20-plus court-appointed defense attorneys, one said, this is a trial of ghosts.

Megale, head of the Italian anti-terrorism police in Milan, said he and his agents first became aware of the disappearance of the cleric, known as Abu Omar, when his wife and friends reported him missing after he dropped out of sight Feb. 17, 2003. They wondered, did Italian authorities have him?

The Italians didn't. As is now known, Abu Omar was nabbed by an alleged CIA squad that threw him in a car, put him on a private jet at a U.S. military base in northern Italy and whisked him off to Egypt, where he has said he was tortured.

But Megale and the police were unaware of the CIA operation. And so they began to try to find out who had kidnapped Abu Omar.

"The sensation was that he had been kidnapped. . . . We spoke of possibilities, of the Americans, the Egyptian [security] service. . . , " Megale testified.

"At first there were no definitive clues."

Megale and his agents interviewed people in Milan's large Muslim community, including a couple of people who saw Abu Omar being taken away. But there was no real progress until 14 months later, when Abu Omar telephoned home from Egypt and told his wife and friends what had happened.

Before his disappearance, Abu Omar, whose full name is Hassan Osama Nasr, was being investigated by Megale's office for possible ties to radical groups sending Islamic militants to Iraq. As part of that inquiry, police bugged the phones in Abu Omar's home and mosque. When he called, the police listened, and jumped into action.

Megale obtained records of all cellphone traffic from the transmission tower nearest the spot where Abu Omar was abducted, for a 2 1/2 -hour period around the time he disappeared. There were 2,000 calls.

Then, using a computer program, Megale was able to narrow down the pool by tracing the phones that had called each other, in other words, an indication of a group of people working together. Seventeen phone numbers, which showed intensifying use around the time of the abduction, were pinpointed. By following all other calls made from those phones, the investigators ultimately identified 60 numbers, including that of a CIA officer working undercover at the U.S. Embassy in Rome.

In his testimony, Megale revealed that one telephone number he recognized was that of Robert Seldon Lady, then-CIA station chief in Milan. Lady and Megale had worked together in counter-terrorism investigations. It was a number, Megale said somberly, that he and his team knew. [...more]

In security circles, Megale is widely known as a prominent expert on Islamic terrorism, a field he has specialized in for a decade. Yet he shuns the spotlight, is rarely quoted in news accounts and his public appearances are generally limited to courtrooms, where, as a lead investigator on numerous terrorism cases, he is often called to testify."

He knows all the names, all the connections," senior prosecutor Armando Spataro said. "Counter-terrorism officials all over the world want to know about him."

An owl-faced man with heavy brows who comes from Italy's poor south, Megale is discreet and fiercely serious. He rarely smiles, or shows much emotion of any kind. [...more]
Saturday, May 19
Wolfowitz Out,, May 17, 2007

In its story announcing that World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz is resigning, The New York Tmes notes:

In a carefully negotiated statement, the board praised Mr. Wolfowitz for his two years of service at the bank, and especially for his work in arranging for debt relief and pressing for more assistance to poor countries, especially in Africa, and also combating corruption, which was Mr. Wolfowitz's signature issue.

Mr. Wolfowitz said he was grateful for the directors' decision and, referring to the bank's mission of helping the world's poor, added: "Now it is necessary to find a way to move forward. To do that I have concluded that it is in the best interests of those whom this institution serves for that mission to be carried forward under new leadership."

Words don't matter at this stage. Neither the Bank nor Wolfowitz can spin the scent of scandal from the finale of the Wolfowitz affair. The Bank's board may have accepted his claim that his actions were honorable in order to ease him out--ignoring that a special panel had concluded he broke the rules in arranging for a hefty salary boost for his girlfriend. But Wolfowitz's (forced) departure says more than any explanatory statement from the Bank or from him. Wolfowitz had to leave because of what he did. Still, under his contract, he's entitled to a year's salary of $375,000 and other benefits. If he wants to help the world's poor, perhaps he ought to donate that money to Oxfam.

Wolfowitz (Ieft) and Riza have been dating for years. According to Wolfowitz's lawyer, it was Riza who 'worked up the numbers' at the heart of the conflict-of-interest probe that threatens to topple the World Bank president.

By Michael Hirsh, Newsweek, May 3, 2007 (Web-exclusive commentary)

Only a few years ago, Shaha Riza was what is known in journalistic parlance as a flack.
She was a media relations person, in other words—and a fairly junior one—whose job it was to reach out to reporters like me so that we would write about various World Bank activities. As recently as mid-2004, Riza was faxing and e-mailing PR releases to reporters around town, requesting that we contact her about exciting new Bank initiatives like a “$38 million investment loan to help the Government of Jordan develop efficient transport and logistics services,” or the “$359 million in loans for two projects aimed at helping the government of Iran improve housing conditions for poor and middle-income urban neighborhoods as well as expand access to clean water and coverage of sanitation services.”

At the bottom of each missive she listed her number (202 458 1592) and her e-mail ( Guess what? Many of us never called.

Now we’re calling and calling, and Shaha Riza just won’t pick up. The Libyan native has been quietly dating Paul Wolfowitz since at least 2000, says a longtime friend of the couple who would only speak about them anonymously.

The two shared not just a mutual attraction but also a passionate cause: transforming the Arab world, ousting Saddam, and promoting democracy and rights for women. In recent weeks, this little-known relationship has exploded into public view. It is at the center of a titanic scandal that has pitted Wolfowitz, Riza and their high-powered Washington lawyers, Bob Bennett (for him) and Victoria Toensing (for her) against many European governments who serve on the Bank’s board.

The Europeans have made their distaste for Wolfowitz—and their eagerness to see him go—very well known, and what began as minor brush fire that Wolfowitz tried to sweep aside is now engulfing him.

The immediate issue is whether Wolfowitz committed an ethical breach by setting Riza up in a high-paying job outside the bank—as he admits he did—when he took over the presidency in 2005.

But what’s really going on, says Bennett, is a power play by Europeans to take control of the bank, and to rid themselves once and for all of a top Bush administration hawk whom they hold responsible for the Iraq War.
Saturday, May 12

Like OmG Paris Hilton in Jail !!?

Just for you to know Paris Hilton might be sentenced for 45 days in jail for her drunk driving incidents.

Tell me what you think about this !!

Thursday, May 10

A Fate Worse Than Debt
The Jailing of Indian Farmers
By P. SAINATH, Counterpunch, May 5/6, 2007

"The tea in Kadapa jail was better than the chai we get here in Garladinne mandal. But the rest of the food was awful," says M. Nallappa Reddy. His brief sojourn behind bars has made this man in his Sixties a minor celebrity in this State. Not so much because he liked the tea in Kadapa jail. But because many see his experience as the revival of an ominous trend: the jailing of bankrupt farmers for debt in Andhra Pradesh.

"It happened before during the time of Chandrababu Naidu's government, it is happening again now. More aggressively," says Malla Reddy, general secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Ryuthu Sangham (APRS). "Banks are turning the screws on hard-up farmers, sending them to jail. Mind you, these are farmers in drought-hit regions with no crop and no capacity to pay. The same banks won't touch big industrialist defaulters who owe them crores. But farmers owing a few thousand rupees go to jail." Till recently, the website of the A.P. Debt Recovery Tribunal listed some 200 names of VIPs, industrialists, contractors, and politicians owing over Rs.1,000 crore to the banks. The money was not recovered but the site seems to have vanished. [...more]

... Media coverage following his arrest ensured Mr. Nallappa Reddy's early release. He was out in a week. Others were not so lucky. "I spent a full month inside," says Gengi Reddy in Kadiri mandal. He too went to Kadapa central jail. "That was in the time of Chandrababu Naidu's government. I too, tried for a settlement whereby I paid back both principal and more. I even offered them some of my six acres to sell and recover the money. But they [the Kadiri branch of the same bank] told me flatly: `we don't want your land. Only cash. You should go to jail.'" He did. And has since sold off irrigated land to clear his debts.

"This practice has now revived," says Mr. Malla Reddy. "In Mahbunagar district, just two months ago, a Dalit farmer and an OBC farmer spent two weeks in jail. This time, the State Bank of India was involved. Again, drought-hit farmers with no ability to repay."

They were only released when their families borrowed more money from usurers to pay off their bank debts. All those who have been to jail speak of meeting others in there for the same reasons.

Mr. Nallappa Reddy was more fortunate. "His neighbours love him," says one of them. "The publicity he got stopped a lot of us from also going inside." The question is: for how long? "The banks are getting more forceful now, as you can see from the Telangana cases," says Mr. Malla Reddy. "This matter can explode one day."

"The government is not interested in us," says Sainath Reddy, a nephew of the man who sank borewells in the graveyard. "They want corporate agriculture. We are a nuisance in the way. I tell you, those you wish well, ask them to stay away from agriculture. Don't even wish it on your enemies."

Adieu, Blair, Adieu
By TARIQ ALI, Counterpunch, May 10, 2007
Bush's Zombie Shuffles Off Stage

Tony Blair's success was limited to winning three general elections in a row. A second-rate actor, he turned out to be a crafty and avaricious politician, but without much substance; bereft of ideas he eagerly grasped and tried to improve upon the legacy of Margaret Thatcher. But though in many ways Blair's programme has been a euphemistic, if bloodier, version of Thatcher's, the style of their departures is very different. Thatcher's overthrow by her fellow-Conservatives was a matter of high drama: an announcement outside the Louvre's glass pyramid during the Paris Congress brokering the end of the Cold War; tears; a crowded House of Commons.

Blair makes his unwilling exit against a backdrop of car-bombs and mass carnage in Iraq, with hundreds of thousands left dead or maimed from his policies, and London a prime target for terrorist attack. Thatcher's supporters described themselves afterwards as horror-struck by what they had done. Even Blair's greatest sycophants in the British media: Martin Kettle and Michael White (The Guardian), Andrew Rawnsley (Observer), Philip Stephens (FT) confess to a sense of relief as he finally quits.

A true creature of the Washington Consensus, Blair was always loyal to the various occupants of the White House. In Europe, he preferred Aznar to Zapatero, Merckel to Schroeder, was seriously impressed by to Berlusconi and, most recently, made no secret of his desire that Sarkozy was his candidate in France. He understood that privatisation/deregulation at home were part of the same mechanism as the wars abroad. If this judgement seems unduly harsh let me quote Sir Rodric Braithwaite, a former senior adviser to Blair, writing in the Financial Times on 2, August, 2006:

"A spectre is stalking British television, a frayed and waxy zombie straight from Madame Tussaud's. This one, unusually, seems to live and breathe. Perhaps it comes from the Central Intelligence Agency's box of technical tricks, programmed to spout the language of the White House in an artificial English accent...

Mr Blair has done more damage to British interests in the Middle East than Anthony Eden, who led the UK to disaster in Suez 50 years ago.

In the past 100 years--to take the highlights--we have bombed and occupied Egypt and Iraq, put down an Arab uprising in Palestine and overthrown governments in Iran, Iraq and the Gulf.
We can no longer do these things on our own, so we do them with the Americans.

Mr Blair's total identification with the White House has destroyed his influence in Washington, Europe and the Middle East itself: who bothers with the monkey if he can go straight to the organ-grinder?...

This, too, is mild compared to what is said about Blair in the British Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence.

Senior diplomats have told me on more than one occasion that it would not upset them too much if Blair were to be tried as a war criminal. [...more]
Tuesday, May 8

Impeach Cheney First?
by John Nichols, The Nation, April 19, 2007

It is no secret that Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich has been toying with the idea of moving articles of impeachment against a member of the Bush administration. And he appears to be focusing more and more of his attention on the man that many activists around the country see as the ripest target for sanctioning: Vice President Dick Cheney.

Despite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s efforts to convince Democrats to keep presidential accountability “off the table,” Kucinich is just one of many House Democrats who have acknowledged in recent days that they are hearing the call for action loud and clear from their constituents and from grassroots activists across the country.

“I get one call after another saying, ‘Impeach the president,’” says Congressman John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania. Congresswoman Diane Watson, D-California, says constituents in Los Angeles “are saying impeachment. I am hearing that more and more and more.”

Kucinich, for his part, has sent more signals than anyone else in the caucus about his interest in raising accountability issues. The congressman, who has broken with Pelosi on issues relating to the funding of the war in Iraq, has been blunt about his frustration with the caution of Congress when it comes to addressing executive excess.

“This House cannot avoid its constitutionally authorized responsibility to restrain the abuse of Executive power,” he told the House last month, adding that “impeachment may well be the only remedy which remains to stop a war of aggression against Iran.”

Around the same time, in a letter to supporters of his anti-war bid for the 2OO8 Democratic presidential nomination, Kucinich asked it it was time to put impeachment on the table. The response was an overwhelming “yes.”

Earlier this week, according to media reports Kucinich emailed House colleagues with a note that began, “I intend to introduce Articles of Impeachment with respect to the conduct of Vice President Cheney.”

Kucinich put the plan on hold after the Virginia Tech shooting massacre. But the general expectation is that he will raise the issue anew after a decent interval.

Cheney’s office sees no grounds for impeachment. “The vice president has had nearly 40 years of government service and has done so in an honorable fashion,” says Megan McGinn, Cheney’s deputy press secretary.

McGinn got that line out with a straight face.

Americans of who are not on the vice president’s payroll are inclined to recognize Cheney’s manipulation of intelligence prior to the Iraq War, his active role in going after administration critic Joe Wilson and Wilson’s wife Valarie Plame, and his ongoing links to the Halliburton war-profiteering cartel as arguments against giving the vice president any prizes for “honorable” government service.

Impeachment activists have in recent months pushed an “Impeach Cheney First” message, in part to counter the complaint that impeaching Bush would put an even darker figure in charge.

Of course, going after the most powerful vice president in history has consequences, as well. In the unlikely event that Cheney were removed from office, one line of reasoning goes, Bush would for the first time find himself in charge.


Is Condi Hiding the Smoking Gun?
Frank Rich, New York Times, May 6, 2007

IF, as J.F.K. had it, victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan, the defeat in Iraq is the most pitiful orphan imaginable. Its parents have not only tossed it to the wolves but are also trying to pin its mutant DNA on any patsy they can find.

George Tenet is just the latest to join this blame game, which began more than three years ago when his fellow Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Tommy Franks told Bob Woodward that Douglas Feith, the Pentagon’s intelligence bozo, was the “stupidest guy on the face of the earth” (that’s the expurgated version).

Last fall, Kenneth Adelman, the neocon cheerleader who foresaw a “cakewalk” in Iraq, told Vanity Fair that Mr. Tenet, General Franks and Paul Bremer were “three of the most incompetent people who’ve ever served in such key spots.” Richard Perle chimed in that the “huge mistakes” were “not made by neoconservatives” and instead took a shot at President Bush. Ahmad Chalabi, the neocons’ former darling, told Dexter Filkins of The Times “the real culprit in all this is Wolfowitz.”

And of course nearly everyone blames Rumsfeld.

This would be a Three Stooges routine were there only three stooges. The good news is that Mr. Tenet’s book rollout may be the last gasp of this farcical round robin of recrimination. Republicans and Democrats have at last found some common ground by condemning his effort to position himself as the war’s innocent scapegoat.

Some former C.I.A. colleagues are rougher still. Michael Scheuer, who ran the agency’s bin Laden unit, has accused Mr. Tenet of lacking “the moral courage to resign and speak out publicly to try to stop our country from striding into what he knew would be an abyss.” Even after Mr. Tenet did leave office, he maintained a Robert McNamara silence until he cashed in.

Satisfying though it is to watch a circular firing squad of the war’s enablers, unfinished business awaits. Unlike Vietnam, Iraq is not in the past: the war escalates even as all this finger-pointing continues.

The only White House figure to take any responsibility for the fiasco is the former Bush-Cheney pollster Matthew Dowd, who in March expressed remorse for furthering a war he now deems a mistake. For his belated act of conscience, he was promptly patronized as an incipient basket case by an administration flack, who attributed Mr. Dowd’s defection to “personal turmoil.” If that is what this vicious gang would do to a pollster, imagine what would befall Colin Powell if he spoke out. Nonetheless, Mr. Powell should summon the guts to do so. Until there is accountability for the major architects and perpetrators of the Iraq war, the quagmire will deepen. A tragedy of this scale demands a full accounting, not to mention a catharsis.

That accounting might well begin with Mr. Powell’s successor, Condoleezza Rice. Of all the top-tier policy players who were beside the president and vice president at the war’s creation, she is the highest still in power and still on the taxpayers’ payroll. She is also the only one who can still get a free pass from the press. The current groupthink Beltway narrative has it that the secretary of state’s recidivist foreign-policy realism and latent shuttle diplomacy have happily banished the Cheney-Rumsfeld cowboy arrogance that rode America into a ditch.

Thus Ms. Rice was dispatched to three Sunday shows last weekend to bat away Mr. Tenet’s book before “60 Minutes” broadcast its interview with him that night.

But in each appearance her statements raised more questions than they answered. She was persistently at odds with the record, not just the record as spun by Mr. Tenet but also the public record. She must be held to a higher standard — a k a the truth — before she too jumps ship.

It’s now been nearly five years since Ms. Rice did her part to sell the Iraq war on a Sept. 8, 2002, Sunday show with her rendition of “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

Yet there she was last Sunday on ABC, claiming that she never meant to imply then that Saddam was an imminent threat."The question of imminence isn’t whether or not somebody is going to strike tomorrow” is how she put it. In other words, she is still covering up the war’s origins. On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” she claimed that intelligence errors before the war were “worldwide” even though the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Mohamed ElBaradei publicly stated there was “no evidence” of an Iraqi nuclear program and even though Germany’s intelligence service sent strenuous prewar warnings that the C.I.A.’s principal informant on Saddam’s supposed biological weapons was a fraud. [...more]

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