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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Libya Peace, Politics and Oil

Independent Submission
August 25, 2011

Fighting continues despite the absence of Ghaddafi to an uncertain future while entrepreneurial nations are circling like vultures.

Turkey and Italy have made their intentions known, and  China is revising its language. It is clear that the fighters of the National Transitional Council paid no attention whatsoever to the calls to resolve the crisis through dialogue. 

Post-Ghaddafi Libya will no doubt see significant changes and a closer look at relationships both economic, political and military as well as potential outcomes of the winners and losers as a result of the conflict.

International Responses

    •    China:  On August 24, Beijing was forced, by the advance of the NTC fighters, to abandon its measured approach to diplomacy and issue a statement - posted on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website - which addressed new tactical realities:

"The Chinese side has closely followed the major changes in Libya's political situation, respects the will of the Libyan people, and hopes Libya will realize a smooth transition of political power. We have consistently attached importance to the significant role of the 'National Transitional Council' in solving Libya's problems, and maintained relations with it. We hope in the future the new regime takes effective measures to consolidate the power of all factions, and to resume normal social order as soon as possible, to help begin political and economic reconstruction, and enable the Libyan people to quickly resume happy and stable lives." WSJ

The Chinese do not formally acknowledge the NTC as the new legal government in Libya, but are being forced by the orchestrated events to reconsider.

If China does recognize the NTC, it will because of the need for Libyan oil to feed the Chinese energy needs, and also to provide jobs for the oil sector - the Chinese are concerned at the prospect of an Arab Spring occurring in China, and Beijing is aware of the unemployment and disaffection driving the revolutions seen across the Middle East.

There has been no acceptance of the emerging events by other nation states:

    •    Algeria:   Opposed the Arab League resolution to back NATO air strikes.  Concerned of migration of conflict into Algeria where Algiers continues to struggle against Al Qaida.

    •    Angola:  Condemned NATO air strikes and believes that negotiations are the way to resolve differences between Ghaddafi and the NTC.

    •    Bolivia: President Evo Morales called for "an immediate halt to the invasion and armed assault to Libya" and for an international commission to seek a diplomatic solution to the 'civil war'.  "You can not defend human rights by violating human rights," Morales said, regarding the authorization of UN intervention and the alleged subsequent bombing of homes and hospitals by the United States, the UK and France.

    •    Cuba: Fidel Castro published on the Cuba Debate website between February 21 and March 3 that: "NATO's plan is to occupy Libya."  According to the paper, "Not even the fascist leaders of Germany and Italy were so supremely shameless immediately following the Spanish Civil War unleashed in 1936, an episode that many people have possibly recalled in recent days" and has announced that the U.S. is seeking Libya's oil.

    •    Ecuador: President Rafael Correa compared Libya with the start of the invasion of Iraq. "Remember that it was false reports which led to the United Nation's approval. As in the case of Libya, the only thing the United Nations adopted was the no-fly zone" he said.  The president was ironic about the U.S. response to certain Arab countries. "In Saudi Arabia there are no elections, but a hard monarchy. They say that Iran does not respect human rights under Islamic law, but in Saudi Arabia it is three times stronger, we shall see when they bomb Saudi Arabia," he said.

    •    Nicaragua: In February President Daniel Ortega spoke to the Libyan leader to express his solidarity, an adviser to Ortega said his government would consider giving asylum to Ghaddafi if he asked for it, but that it would be difficult to arrange.

    •    Russia: It has criticized NATO for overstepping its mandate and as yet does not  recognize the rebels as the sole legitimate representative of Libya.

    •    South Africa:  South Africa has not recognized the NTC, and its diplomats continue to advocate a peaceful, negotiated transition, condemning NATO strikes and that South Africa is a possible safe haven for Ghaddafi.

    •    Syria:  Bashir al-Assad stated that NATO airstrikes are a violation of Libya's sovereignty (he is concerned that he will be next.)

    •    Uruguay:    President José Mujica said of the NATO airstrikes, "saving lives with bombings  are an inexplicable contradiction, the cure is worse than the disease.".

    •    Venezuela: President Hugo Chávez said: "European 'democratic' governments, not all of them, one knows who is who, are virtually demolishing Tripoli with their shelling and the allegedly US democratic government does it, because it feels like doing it. It is an excuse for meddling."  On Tuesday, Chavez said "We recognize only one government: the one led by Muammar Ghaddafi."  and  condemned the roles of NATO and the US government in Libya's conflict.  "Without a doubt, we're facing imperial madness," he said.

    •    Zimbabwe: President Robert Mugabe, a close ally of Ghaddafi for many years, and the recipient of much Libyan money, said the West interpreted the UN resolution "in their own hypocritical way" to mean they had a right to bomb Libya. Mugabe said the resolutions was meant to ground Ghaddafi's planes and save civilians not disarm him, and wage a Western-led campaign against his regime, that has instead butchered innocent civilians. 

Many nations have condemned NATO's actions; and the traditional international antagonisms between powerful nations highlight unrest  over the use of force to resolve internal political issues.

Most Arab countries continue to sit on the fence and have not made any contribution or comment on the actions of the NTC with the exceptions of Qatar and the UAE and will likely to reap the fruits of such commitment.


Monday, August 22, 2011

US Park Police Seek to Intimidate Oil Pipeline Protesters

By: Kevin Gosztola
Firedoglake Dissenter
August 21, 2011

A major two-week action involving daily sit-ins at the White House against the granting of a permit for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline began Saturday. Just over seventy people were arrested. The action continues today, as over thirty plan to engage in civil disobedience at the White House again.

Bill McKibben, founder of, Gus Speth, Lt. Dan Choi, Jane Hamsher and many other fine activists came together at 10:30 am on Saturday morning. They all participated in a rally in Lafayette Park. Following the rally, a carefully orchestrated civil disobedience action took place with more than seventy people lining up in front of the White House.

Two banners were held. One said “Climate Change is Not in Our Interest” and the other said “We Sit-In Against the XL Pipeline.” One long row of people stood along the fence. Two short rows sat on the ground in front of the long row.

It didn’t take long for the police to give the obligatory three warnings to protesters and signal that those still along the fence were under arrest. One by one they were put into police vehicles and taken to the Anacostia Station in DC to be processed. The activists were charged with “failure to obey a lawful order.

In jail, the activists expected to be processed and out of jail quickly. Tar Sands Action asserts in “multiple phone calls and in person meeting” US Park Police told protest organizers protest participants would be able to pay a $100 fine and be released the same day. But, the US Park Police went back on what they said and made a calculated decision to hold the activists for 48 hours.

The Park Police told Tar Sands Action organizers jail time was given to deter future participants from engaging in civil disobedience.

Tar Sands Action reacted in a press statement, “While the escalated response from the police came as a surprise for organizers behind the protest, they assured the police that the night in jail was not a deterrent for future participants. At a church in Columbia Heights this evening, over 50 more participants from across the country prepared to take part in Sunday morning’s sit-in.”

Not to take away from the activists who have a much more robust history of environmental activism, but it’s worth noting that Dan Choi is once again facing arbitrary punishment for protesting in front of the White House. Choi currently faces federal charges for participating in previous protest actions at the White House. Choi has only been arrested three times but is facing “federal charges.” Numerous people have protest many, many times and have not faced any “federal charges” at all.

An FDL action post put together by Jane Hamsher provides a nice portrait of what typically happens to those who engage in civil disobedience at the White House:

  • July 27 2011: Luis Guitierrez and ten others arrested for protesting mass undocumented immigrant deportations. “Gutierrez [paid] his $100 fine and was released by the police.”
  • July 11: 4 people were arrested after 100 people delivered 51 cardboard coffins to the White House to protest the Columbia Free Trade Agreement.
  • June 25: 12 DC residents arrested for demonstrating on behalf of DC voting rights, bringing the total to 73 since April.
  • April 19: 41 protesters including DC Mayor Vincent Gray arrested for demonstrating for DC voting rights. All were charged with unlawful assembly and given a $50 fine.
  • March 19 – Daniel Ellsberg is one of 113 people arrested in front of the White House for protesting the abuse of Bradley Manning by Quantico brig commander.
  • January 18 2011: Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney was arrested for protesting human rights abuses of the Chinese government
  • December 17 2010 – 135 arrested for protesting the war.
  • June 1 2010: Actress Q’orianka Kilcher, who starred as Pocahontas in the 2005 film “The New World,” was arrested for chaining herself to the White House fence to protest the President’s meeting between Alan Garzia Perez. Hazmat teams were called in after her mother poured a black substance over her to simulate oil, which turned out to be paint. She was charged with disorderly conduct and her mother was charged with destruction of government property. They were arraigned in D.C. Superior Court, released and “ordered to stay away from the White House.”
  • September 2010: James Hansen and 100 others arrested for protesting mountaintop removal.
  • May 2010 – Luis Guiterrez arrested for protesting to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
  • March 20 2010: Cindy Sheehan arrested in front of White House.
  • October 5 2009: Cindy Sheehan and 60 others arrested for protesting against the war in Afghanistan.
  • November 9 2006: Cindy Sheehan arrested after leading 50 protesters to the White House gates to deliver anti-war petitions.
  • October 26 2005: Cindy Sheehan and 28 others arrested in a sit-in at the White House.
  • September 26 2005: 370 people including Cindy Sheehan were arrested for protesting against the war in Iraq. They were “charged with demonstrating without a permit, a misdemeanor that carries a $50 fine and — like a traffic ticket — can be paid by mail or challenged later in court” said Park Police spokesman Sgt. Scott Fear.

This list of recent protests at the White House and the way law enforcement and courts have handled them shows the US Park Police are interested in preventing the Tar Sands Action from building momentum. They are willing to teach participants a lesson in a society where people who are responsible for oil spills rarely, if ever, face punishment for their negligent acts.

Ironically, US Park Police are arbitrarily enforcing provisions of the law because the planned daily sit-ins that are to take place from now until September 2 will conflict with the dedication of a new memorial for Martin Luther King Jr, who was a great believer in the power of civil disobedience to bring about social change and justice. After being arrested for taking nonviolent direct action against segregation by Birmingham’s city government and downtown retailers, King wound up in jail and wrote the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

Two lines seem applicable to the bold action being taken by concerned citizens over the next weeks: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

 The possible construction of the Keystone XL pipeline is a prime example of something that would be a huge injustice that would threaten justice everywhere. The TransCanada pipeline will wind its way from Alberta to Texas through Nebraska and ruin the livelihoods of farmers while at the same time polluting the Sandhills and the Ogallala aquifer in Nebraska. It would put the Missouri, Yellowstone, Cheyenne and Niobrara Rivers at risk of spills.

TransCanada CEO Hal Kvisle and others can claim the project will “meet or exceed world-class safety and environmental standards.” They can say it will be the “safest pipeline in the US.” But, there is no reason to believe any corporate executive from TransCanada that makes this claim. The company has been responsible for at least twelve oil spills. One spill in North Dakota from their “state-of-the-art” Keystone pipeline resulted in a “six-story geyser” that gushed at least 21,000 gallons of oil into the environment.

Energy companies and their think tanks are selling the government and citizens of the United States a bill of goods. American Petroleum Institute’s Energy Citizens claim the pipeline will bring the US energy security.

  • They claim it will bring the country national security because the US will be relying on Canada instead of other nations. 

  • They claim it will bring economic growth bringing up to $600 million to the US economy each year. 

  • They claim Canada is environmentally conscious so their energy companies would never develop a pipeline that would destroy the environment. 

  • And, most importantly, they assert over 300,000 US jobs could be created between 2011 and 2015 if the Keystone XL pipeline was given the go ahead today.

The participants in the Tar Sands Action understand on some level that working within the system has failed. As climate activist hero Tim DeChristopher, who is now in jail for making fake bids to block the selling of Utah land for oil and gas drilling, explained in an interview at Netroots Nation 2011 those who “those who write the rules are those who profit from the status quo.” He concluded if people want to move away from a “fossil fuel economy that always leads to a concentration of wealth,” we have to overthrow the current power structure.
What we are talking about is overthrowing our current power structure and that will take some sacrifice on our part. It will take us escalating the tension and the situation so the country has to come down on one side or another. And, really that’s how it’s been with most social movements that have been advocating for significant change. They’ve had to make major sacrifices. They’ve had to escalate the tension and the situation to the point that it couldn’t be avoided. We’re no different from those and we should be willing to make the sacrifices that so many activists in the past have done.

Who knows if the US Park Police are getting cues from anyone within the White House to do whatever they can to stop the daily sit-ins. Those inspired by Tim DeChristopher and the activists—who are taking action and following in his footsteps and the footsteps of many fine US citizens in our nation’s history—should not let the threat of trumped up charges scare them.

Bill McKibben told fellow organizers after his arrest, “The only thing we need in here is more company. We don’t need your sympathy, we need your company.

Understand, the more people who participate in the action, the harder it will be for the action to be successfully suppressed. The more people who seek to expose the corruption of power—which is seriously considering this project that would cut through the heart of the United States—the more likely citizens are to force the Obama Administration into a position where approving the Keystone XL pipeline is unconscionable.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Fellow American

Submitted Article
Aug. 11, 2010

Muslims are our fellow Americans. They are part of the national fabric that holds our country together. They contribute to America in many ways, and deserve the same respect as any of us. I pledge to spread this message, and affirm our country’s principles of liberty and justice for all.

My Fellow American is an online film and social media project that calls upon concerned Americans to pledge and spread a message that Muslims are our fellow Americans. It asks people of other backgrounds to pledge, and share a real life story about a Muslim friend, neighbor, or colleague that they admire. Using the power of social media, My Fellow American seeks to change the narrative – from Muslims as the other, to Muslims as our fellow Americans.

Most Americans have never met an American Muslim. Many only know Muslims through the way they are portrayed in the media. American Muslims are so often vilified as “the other” that it is possible not to recognize that most were born in the U.S. Or that those who immigrated here came seeking the same freedoms and opportunities that have always attracted people to America.

Muslims are our fellow Americans, who today face threats to their civil rights and even their personal safety because of the fearful and often hateful rhetoric that would not be tolerated were it uttered about any other minority group.

Unity Productions Foundation (UPF)

My Fellow American is a project of Unity Productions Foundation (, a 501©3 media and education non profit organization. The mission of Unity Productions Foundation (UPF) is to create peace through the media. Founded in 1999, UPF produces documentary films for television and online broadcast and theatrical release, and implements long-term educational campaigns aimed at increasing understanding between people of different faiths and cultures, especially between Muslims and other faiths. We are convinced of the power of media to empower citizens with greater understanding and to nourish pluralism in America.

UPF films have been viewed by an estimated 150 million people worldwide and have won dozens of national and international awards. UPF has partnered with prominent Jewish, Muslim, Christian and interfaith groups to run dialogues nationwide — with more than 80,000 participants in classrooms, community centers, living rooms, government offices and religious congregations.

Year after year, UPF’s films are recognized for excellence:

  • Best Documentary at the 2007 American Black Film Festival
  • 5 Telly Awards for excellence in educational documentaries
  • 11 TIVA-DC Peer Awards, including Best Documentary
  • Hamburg World Media Film Festival’s Gold and Silver Awards
  • 4 CINE Golden Eagle Awards
  • 4 Grand Goldies Awards
  • Newark Black Film Festival’s 2008 Paul Robeson Award
  • Official Selection of 2 dozen film festivals around the world

Watch the My Fellow American Movie Trailer

About the Film

My Fellow American was produced by Unity Productions Foundation in association with Gardner Films, Inc ( It was directed by the Oscar-nominated, multiple Emmy Award winning documentary filmmaker, Robert Gardner. Unity Productions Foundation has collaborated with Gardner Films on several previous projects, including the PBS documentary, Cities of Light: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain and a documentary based on the Gallup Poll of the Muslim world called Inside Islam: What A Billion Muslims Really Think.

My Fellow American was shot in Baltimore using some of the personnel who worked on the popular television series, The Wire. The voices heard in the film are actual excerpts found on youtube, and were a small sample of such comments from various public figures, including law makers, radio and television personalities, and leading religious leaders.

My Fellow American was made possible by the support of individuals and charitable organizations including the Odyssey Networks, a media organization delivering videos of interfaith news beyond the headlines and inspirational stories of faith in action.

Unity Productions Foundation


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Hidden History of ALEC and Prison Labor

Mike Elk and Bob Sloan
The Nation
August 1, 2011

This article is part of a Nation series exposing the American Legislative Exchange Council, in collaboration with the Center For Media and Democracy. John Nichols introduces the series.

The breaded chicken patty your child bites into at school may have been made by a worker earning twenty cents an hour, not in a faraway country, but by a member of an invisible American workforce: prisoners. At the Union Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Florida, inmates from a nearby lower-security prison manufacture tons of processed beef, chicken and pork for Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises (PRIDE), a privately held non-profit corporation that operates the state’s forty-one work programs.

In addition to processed food, PRIDE’s website reveals an array of products for sale through contracts with private companies, from eyeglasses to office furniture, to be shipped from a distribution center in Florida to businesses across the US. PRIDE boasts that its work programs are “designed to provide vocational training, to improve prison security, to reduce the cost of state government, and to promote the rehabilitation of the state inmates.”

Although a wide variety of goods have long been produced by state and federal prisoners for the US government—license plates are the classic example, with more recent contracts including everything from guided missile parts to the solar panels powering government buildings—prison labor for the private sector was legally barred for years, to avoid unfair competition with private companies.

But this has changed thanks to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), its Prison Industries Act, and a little-known federal program known as PIE (the Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program). While much has been written about prison labor in the past several years, these forces, which have driven its expansion, remain largely unknown.

Somewhat more familiar is ALEC’s instrumental role in the explosion of the US prison population in the past few decades. ALEC helped pioneer some of the toughest sentencing laws on the books today, like mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenders, “three strikes” laws, and “truth in sentencing” laws. In 1995 alone, ALEC’s Truth in Sentencing Act was signed into law in twenty-five states. (Then State Rep. Scott Walker was an ALEC member when he sponsored Wisconsin's truth-in-sentencing laws and, according to PR Watch, used its statistics to make the case for the law.)

More recently, ALEC has proposed innovative “solutions” to the overcrowding it helped create, such as privatizing the parole process through “the proven success of the private bail bond industry,” as it recommended in 2007. (The American Bail Coalition is an executive member of ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections Task Force.)

ALEC has also worked to pass state laws to create private for-profit prisons, a boon to two of its major corporate sponsors: Corrections Corporation of America and Geo Group (formerly Wackenhut Corrections), the largest private prison firms in the country. An In These Times investigation [5] last summer revealed that ALEC arranged secret meetings between Arizona’s state legislators and CCA to draft what became SB 1070, Arizona’s notorious immigration law, to keep CCA prisons flush with immigrant detainees. ALEC has proven expertly capable of devising endless ways to help private corporations benefit from the country’s massive prison population.

That mass incarceration would create a huge captive workforce was anticipated long before the US prison population reached its peak—and at a time when the concept of “rehabilitation” was still considered part of the mission of prisons. First created by Congress in 1979, the PIE program was designed “to encourage states and units of local government to establish employment opportunities for prisoners that approximate private sector work opportunities,” according to PRIDE’s website.

The benefits to big corporations were clear—a “readily available workforce” for the private sector and “a cost-effective way to occupy a portion of the ever-growing offender/inmate population” for prison officials—yet from its founding until the mid-1990s, few states participated in the program.

This started to change in 1993, when Texas State Representative and ALEC member Ray Allen crafted the Texas Prison Industries Act, which aimed to expand the PIE program. After it passed in Texas, Allen advocated that it be duplicated across the country. In 1995, ALEC’s Prison Industries Act was born.

This Prison Industries Act as printed in ALEC’s 1995 state legislation sourcebook, “provides for the employment of inmate labor in state correctional institutions and in the private manufacturing of certain products under specific conditions.”

These conditions, defined by the PIE program, are supposed to include requirements that “inmates must be paid at the prevailing wage rate” and that the “any room and board deductions…are reasonable and are used to defray the costs of inmate incarceration.” (Some states charge prisoners for room and board, ostensibly to offset the cost of prisons for taxpayers. In Florida, for example, prisoners are paid minimum wage for PIE-certified labor, but 40 percent is taken out of their accounts for this purpose.)

The Prison Industries Act sought to change this, inventing the “private sector prison industry expansion account,” to absorb such deductions, and stipulating that the money should be used to, among other things: “construct work facilities, recruit corporations to participate as private sector industries programs, and pay costs of the authority and department in implementing [these programs].”

Thus, money that was taken from inmate wages to offset the costs of incarceration would increasingly go to expanding prison industries. In 2000, Florida passed a law that mirrored the Prison Industries Act and created the Prison Industries Trust Fund, its own version of the private sector prison industry expansion account, deliberately designed to help expand prison labor for private industries.

The Prison Industries Act was also written to exploit a critical PIE loophole that seemed to suggest that its rules did not apply to prisoner-made goods that were not shipped across state lines. It allowed a third-party company to set up a local address in a state that makes prison goods, buy goods from a prison factory, sell those products locally or surreptitiously ship them across state borders.

It helped that by 1995 oversight of the PIE program had been effectively squashed, transferred from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance to the National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA), a private trade organization that happened to be represented by Allen’s lobbying firm, Service House, Inc. In 2003, Allen became the Texas House Chairman of the Corrections Committee and began peddling the Prison Industries Act and other legislation beneficial to CCA and Geo Group, like the Private Correctional Facilities Act.

Soon thereafter he became Chairman of ALEC’s Criminal Justice (now Public Safety and Elections) Task Force. He resigned from the state legislature in 2006 while under investigation for his unethical lobbying practices. He was hired soon after as a lobbyist for Geo Group.
Today’s chair of ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections Task force is state Representative Jerry Madden of Texas, where the Prison Industries Act originated eighteen years ago. According to a 2010 report from NCIA, as of last summer there were "thirty jurisdictions with active [PIE] operations."

These included such states as Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and twelve more. Four more states are now looking to get involved as well; Kentucky, Michigan and Pennsylvania have introduced legislation and New Hampshire is in the process of applying for PIE certification. Today these state’s legislation are based upon an updated version of the Prison Industries Act, which ALEC amended in 2004.

Prison labor has already started to undercut the business of corporations that don’t use it. In Florida, PRIDE has become one of the largest printing corporations in the state, its cheap labor having a significant impact upon smaller local printers. This scenario is playing out in states across the country. In addition to Florida's forty-one prison industries, California alone has sixty. Another 100 or so are scattered throughout other states.

What's more, several states are looking to replace public sector workers with prison labor. In Wisconsin Governor Walker’s recent assault on collective bargaining opened the door to the use of prisoners in public sector jobs in Racine, where inmates are now doing landscaping, painting, and other maintenance work.

According to the Capitol Times, “inmates are not paid for their work, but receive time off their sentences.”

The same is occurring in Virginia, Ohio, New Jersey, Florida and Georgia, all states with GOP Assembly majorities and Republican governors. Much of ALEC’s proposed labor legislation, implemented state by state is allowing replacement of public workers with prisoners.

“It’s bad enough that our companies have to compete with exploited and forced labor in China,” says Scott Paul Executive Director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a coalition of business and unions. “They shouldn’t have to compete against prison labor here at home. The goal should be for other nations to aspire to the quality of life that Americans enjoy, not to discard our efforts through a downward competitive spiral.”

Alex Friedmann, associate editor of Prison Legal News, says prison labor is part of a “confluence of similar interests” among politicians and corporations, long referred to as the “prison industrial complex.” As decades of model legislation reveals, ALEC has been at the center of this confluence.

“This has been ongoing for decades, with prison privatization contributing to the escalation of incarceration rates in the US,” Friedmann says. Just as mass incarceration has burdened American taxpayers in major prison states, so is the use of inmate labor contributing to lost jobs, unemployment and decreased wages among workers—while corporate profits soar.


Sunday, August 07, 2011

Creating Evidence Where There Is None

by Paul Craig Roberts
OpEd News
Aug 5, 2011

The New Yorker has published a story planted on Nicholas Schmidle by unidentified sources who claim to be familiar with the alleged operation that murdered Osama bin Laden.

There is no useful information in the story. Its purpose seems simply to explain away or cover up holes in the original story, principally why did the Seals murder an unarmed, unresisting Osama bin Laden whose capture would have resulted in a goldmine of terrorist information and whose show trial would have rescued the government's crumbling 9/11 story?

The gullible Schmidle tells us: ""There was never any question of detaining or capturing him -- it wasn't a split-second decision. No one wanted detainees,' the special-operations officer told me." In other words, the SEALs murdered bin Laden because the US government did not want detainees, not because trigger-happy stupid SEALs destroyed a font of terrorist information.

Why did the SEALS dump bin Laden's body in the ocean instead of producing the evidence to a skeptical world? No real explanation, just that SEALS had done the same thing to other victims. Schmidle writes: "All along, the SEALs had planned to dump bin Laden's corpse into the sea -- a blunt way of ending the bin Laden myth." But before they did so, the US checked with an unidentified Saudi intelligence operative, who allegedly replied, "Your plan sounds like a good one."

I mean, really.

After all of Sy Hersh's New Yorker revelations of US government lies and plots, one can understand the pressure that might have been applied to the New Yorker to publish this fairy tale. But what is extraordinary is that there was a real story that Schmidle and the New Yorker could have investigated.

In the immediate aftermath of bin Laden's alleged murder by the SEALs, Pakistani TV interviewed the next door neighbor to bin Laden's alleged compound. Someone supplied the video with an English translation running at the bottom of the video.

According to the translation, the next door neighbor, Mr. Bashir, said that he watched the entire operation from the roof of his house. There were three helicopters. Only one landed. About a dozen men got out and entered the house. They shortly returned and boarded the helicopter. When the helicopter lifted off it exploded, killing all aboard. Mr.Bashir reports seeing bodies and pieces of bodies all over.

The US government acknowledges that it lost a helicopter, but claims no one was hurt. Obviously, as there were no further landings, if everyone was killed as Mr. Bashir reports, there was no body to be dumped into the ocean.

A real investigation would begin with Mr. Bashir's interview. Was he actually saying what the English translation reported? I have not been able to find the interview with the English translation, but I believe this is the interview that I saw.

Pakistani news reporters went to compound of Bin laden's raid. Eyewitness of the raid tells strange things about the raid that Mainstream media never talked about. According to the eyewitness, all the troops that participated in raid were killed in helicopter explosion and the dead bodies were secretly recovered by Pakistan military and Police. If there were navy seals in that helicopter, they all died in the operation. Americans did not carry a single body back to their base.

Surely there is a qualified interpreter who can tell us what Mr. Bashir is saying. If the English translation that I saw is not a hoax, then we are presented with a story totally different from the one the government told us and repeated again through Mr. Schmidle.

If the English translation of Mr. Bashir's interview is correct, one would think that there would be some interest on the part of US news organizations and on the part of the intelligence committees in Congress to question Mr. Bashir and his neighbors, many of whom are also interviewed on Pakistani TV saying that they have lived in Abbottabad all their lives and are absolutely certain that Osama bin Laden was not among them.

Mr. Schmidle goes to lengths to describe the SEALs' weapons, although his story makes it clear that no weapons were needed as bin Laden is described as "unarmed" and undefended. The "startled" bin Laden didn't even hear the helicopters or all the SEALs coming up the stairs. In addition to all his fatal illnesses which most experts believe killed him a decade ago, bin Laden must have been deaf as neighbors report that the sound of the helicopters was "intense."

When Pakistanis on the scene in Abbottabad report a totally different story from the one that reaches us second- and third-hand from unidentified operatives speaking to reporters in the US who have never been to Abbottabad, shouldn't someone qualified look into the story?

Paul Craig Roberts was an editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Pres


Pakistan TV Report Contradicts US Claim of Bin Laden's Death

by Paul Craig Roberts
OpEd News
Aug 6, 2011

In my recent article, "Creating Evidence Where There Is None," about the alleged killing of Osama bin Laden by a commando team of US Seals in Abbottabad, Pakistan, I provided a link to a Pakistani National TV interview with Muhammad Bashir, who lives next door to the alleged "compound" of Osama bin Laden. I described the story that Bashir gave of the "attack" and its enormous difference from the one told by the US government.

In Bashair's account, every member of the landing party and anyone brought from the house died when the helicopter exploded on lift-off. I wrote that a qualified person could easily provide a translation of the interview, but that no American print or TV news organization had investigated Bashir's account.
An attorney with a British Master of Laws degree in international law and diplomacy, who was born in Pakistan, provided the translation below. He writes: "I have no problem with being identified as the translator, but would prefer to remain anonymous."

The translator provides these definitions and clarifications:

"Gulley" is generally referred (in Urdu) to a sidewalk or pavement. Also for the space between two houses.
"Kanal" is a traditional unit of land area, so that one kanal equals exactly 605 square yards or 1/8 Acre; this is equivalent to about 505.857 square meters.

Muhammad Bashir refers to himself as "We." This is common respectable language for the self; to use the plural term instead of singular. The English language equivalent would be the "Royal, We."
Urdu is the national language and lingua franca of Pakistan.

The translator:
I have translated the entire text of the video.

I have tried my best to keep words in a chronological order, but in some cases this is not possible, as in translation words must be replaced in reverse order to make sense! However, I have had to put a few words in brackets to clarify meaning. If you want to ask about any section - please supply time stamp and I will supply a contextual text.

Read Entire Video Transcript here:

Readers can arrive at their own conclusions. It seems clear that under intense pressure and serious threats from the US government, the Pakistani government fell in line with the US government's claim that a commando raid had killed bin Laden and all had returned safely, and that the TV news organization also got the message to get in line.
It is likely that the many witnesses who observed the dead from the helicopter crash have been warned to keep quiet. However, a news organization, should one be so inclined, could certainly interview Bashir and the 200 others who saw the dead bodies. A good reporter, perhaps accompanied by trained psychologists, would be able to tell if people were lying out of fear and encourage some to speak anonymously. 
I am confident that no news organization believes that it could confront such an important US national myth in this way.  The killing of bin Laden satisfies the emotional need for revenge and justice. In the least, a news organization that challenged the government's story would be cut off from all government sources and be denounced by politicians and a large percentage of the US population as an anti-American terrorist-serving organization.
OBL's death will remain one of those many "truths" that rest on nothing but the government's word. 

Secretive Corporate-Legislative Group 'ALEC' Holds Annual Meeting to Rewrite State Laws

Amy Goodman
Democracy Now
August 5, 2011

Hundreds of state legislators from all 50 states have gathered in New Orleans for the annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC.

Critics say the Washington-based organization plays a key role in helping corporations secretly draft model pro-business legislation that has been used by state lawmakers across the country. Unlike many other organizations, ALEC’s membership includes both state lawmakers and corporate executives who gather behind closed doors to discuss and vote on model legislation.

In recent months, ALEC has come under increasing scrutiny for its role in drafting bills to attack workers’ rights, roll back environmental regulations, privatize education, deregulate major industries, and passing voter ID laws.

Nonetheless, this year’s annual ALEC meeting boasts the largest attendance in five years, with nearly 2,000 guests in attendance. We go to New Orleans to speak with Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy.

Last month, her organization released 800 model bills approved by companies and lawmakers at recent ALEC meetings. [includes rush transcript]

Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy.

ALEC Exposed
Center for Media and Democracy

AMY GOODMAN: Hundreds of state legislators from all 50 states have gathered in New Orleans, Louisiana, for the 38th annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, also known as ALEC. The meeting’s top donor? BP, followed by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and Takeda Pharmaceutical Company. Critics say the Washington-based group has played a key role in helping corporations secretly draft model pro-business legislation that’s been used by state lawmakers across the country.

Unlike many other organizations, ALEC’s membership includes both state lawmakers and corporate executives. At its meetings, the corporations and politicians gather behind closed doors to discuss and vote on model legislation. Before the bills are publicly introduced in state legislatures, they’re cleansed of any reference to who actually wrote them. However, the chair of ALEC, Noble Ellington, insisted in an interview with NPR’s Terry Gross that he works for the tax-paying public. Ellington is a Republican member of the Louisiana State Legislature.

REP. NOBLE ELLINGTON: We represent the public, and we are the ones who decide. So the tax-paying public is represented there at the table, because I’m there.

TERRY GROSS: I understand that, but you’re there at the table with corporations. But at the table—

REP. NOBLE ELLINGTON: Can I interrupt you again?


REP. NOBLE ELLINGTON: It’s not just corporations. I’m there, and members of ALEC is the Americans for Tax Reform, the National Taxpayers Union, National Federation of Independent Businesses. Those are people that we represent, as well, and those are people who are members.

TERRY GROSS: But those are—those are all pro-business, anti-tax groups. People not represented at the table include workers, union members, teachers, students—

REP. NOBLE ELLINGTON: No, ma’am. No, ma’am. You are—

TERRY GROSS: —patients, patients who can’t pay medical bills.

REP. NOBLE ELLINGTON: You are completely wrong.

AMY GOODMAN: That was, an exchange between NPR’s Terry Gross and ALEC chairman Noble Ellington.

In recent months, ALEC has come under increasing scrutiny for its role in drafting bills to attack worker rights, roll back environmental regulations, privatize education, deregulate major industries, and pass voter ID laws. Nonetheless, this year’s annual ALEC meeting boasts the largest attendance in five years, with nearly 2,000 people in attendance. The conference features speakers like, oh, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former West Virginia Governor Bob Wise, Wall Street Journal contributor Steve Moore, and the president of the American Enterprise Institute, Arthur Brooks.

Now, a new exposé in The Nation magazine called "The Hidden History of ALEC and Prison Labor" details ALEC’s instrumental role in the explosion of the U.S. prison population in the past few decades. According to the article, ALEC pioneered some of the toughest sentencing laws on the books today and paved the way for states and corporations to replace unionized workers with prison labor.

We’re joined now by the one of the reporters who wrote the article, Mike Elk, contributing editor to The Nation magazine. We’re also joined by Lisa Graves. She’s in New Orleans right now, where the ALEC conference is taking place. She’s executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy. Last month, the Center for Media and Democracy released 800 model bills approved by companies and lawmakers at recent ALEC meetings. We invited a member of ALEC to join us, but they denied our request.

Mike Elk, Lisa Graves, welcome to Democracy Now! Lisa, talk about what’s happening right now in New Orleans. Are you getting into this conference? What are you seeing? What are the seminars, these sessions about?

LISA GRAVES: Well, the Center for Media and Democracy was denied access to the convention with one of our cub reporters, and he was required to leave the convention hotel, the Marriott. But we have received reports, from behind closed doors, from those meetings, at which corporations and politicians are voting on model legislation. And one of the reports we received yesterday from insiders is that corporations vetoed model legislation that politicians had voted for. And so, it is in fact the case that politicians and corporations are voting as equals on model legislation through ALEC task forces, and corporations have the right to veto, through this process, legislation that even a majority or—a majority of politicians within those meetings would approve.

Those meetings cover every area of law, including tax, environment, workers’ rights, the rights of Americans killed or injured by corporations, as well as healthcare, pensions—you name it, basically it’s covered. And we’ve even seen coverage from inside about sessions with ALEC, in which they had one session called "Warming Up to Climate Change: How Increased CO2 Can Benefit You."

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to Terry Gross of NPR speaking with the national chair of ALEC, Noble Ellington, the Republican member of the Louisiana State Legislature. Terry Gross asked Ellington why ALEC gives corporations such a big say in drafting legislation. This is an excerpt of their exchange.

TERRY GROSS: Why give corporations such a big say in drafting legislation?

REP. NOBLE ELLINGTON: Well, partly because they are one of the ones who will be affected by it. And you say "a big say," but as I expressed to you earlier, and I think it needs to be made perfectly clear, that they have—they do not have the final say about model legislation. It is done with work with task forces, which is both public and private sector working together. But before it ever becomes model legislation or ALEC policy, it has to go through the public sector board, not the private sector. So only the public sector had the final say as to whether or not something becomes model legislation.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s the ALEC chair, Noble Ellington. Lisa Graves, your response?

LISA GRAVES: Well, it’s interesting, because what we saw and what we heard from inside yesterday is that, quite clearly, corporations can veto things before the public board that Noble Ellington sits on have a chance to approve it. So, in essence, if the corporations disagree on proposed legislation at the task force level, it never makes it to the board that Senator Ellington sits on.

The fact is that corporations exert extraordinary influence and control over this process. They can veto legislation through the task forces. They are the bankrollers of ALEC. Over 98 percent of the money that funds ALEC’s operations come from everything except for legislative dues, which are 50 bucks a year. Some legislators are so cheap, they don’t even pay it themselves; they have the taxpayer pay it for them. Meanwhile, corporations can pay $7,500 or $25,000 a year for membership, and then some corporations, like BP, a year after the disaster in the Gulf, is now the headline corporation underwriting this convention. They’re the top corporation listed in the President’s Circle for ALEC’s convention this year.

AMY GOODMAN: Taking place, of course, there in New Orleans. What has the debt deal negotiations and this whole crisis that has happened in Washington meant for this conference and for ALEC? What are they saying about it?

LISA GRAVES: Well, they haven’t—they haven’t mentioned a lot about it directly, at least in the sessions that we’ve heard reports from. However, we do know that Governor Jindal spoke sort of extensively about the power of being stubborn, the importance of being stubborn and the power of that, which I think was a direct reference to the debt negotiations. The fact is that ALEC alums include Congressman John Boehner, who’s the speaker of the House, as well as Congressman Eric Cantor, who’s the Republican leader of the House. ALEC legislation parallels legislation that has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to cap spending by government, to reduce taxes on the richest of Americans and the richest corporations, and so that agenda is moving both through Congress and through the states, and it’s an agenda whose ideas are made concrete through model legislation that ALEC produces every year. These politicians who sit on the board with Senator Ellington and others, they have approved over 850 pieces of legislation or resolutions, that we’ve made available to the public and have analyzed, and that the public is joining us, along with reporters, in analyzing. And so, we know what this agenda looks like. It looks like the same sort of deal that was pushed through in Congress this week.

AMY GOODMAN: Lisa Graves, the significance of holding this conference in post-Katrina New Orleans? I mean, you’ve talked about BP sponsoring it—of course, the huge BP oil spill. But also, all the teachers fired in New Orleans. It’s known as a Petri dish for policy in this country, and not as many people may be aware—as aware of that.

LISA GRAVES: Well, that’s right. Well, on the one hand, we certainly are happy to see money coming into the New Orleans—the New Orleans economy, even from a convention like ALEC’s, where these corporations and politicians are engaged in this sort of unprecedented joint voting.

The fact is that we had a press conference earlier this week with local school board representatives, including a Republican on the school board, as well as local teachers, who have talked about the failure of policies that basically privatize public education in New Orleans to push money out of the public school system into not-well-regulated charter schools, charter schools that have had severe problems, and how those policies have failed at the ground-floor level here in New Orleans. People who were part of that conference said they wondered where the push was coming for these proposals to just massively change the school system. It turns out these proposals are echoed in ALEC legislation that’s being pushed across the country. It’s a one-size-fits-all, McBill sort of factory within ALEC, and it serves the interests of ALEC corporations, including the ALEC Education Task Force, which is co-chaired by an online school company, a for-profit company.

AMY GOODMAN: Is there anything else you think is critical to understand about this organization that not that many people know about by name, ALEC, but may know about by laws that are passed in their states, with them not knowing where they are coming from?

LISA GRAVES: Well, we think that fellow reporters and citizens can make a lot of use of our website, We have lists of politicians. We’ve added over a thousand politicians over the past few weeks since the site was launched. We have profiles and links to profiles on some of the corporations that are the leading players within ALEC, including Koch Industries. And we also are discovering new corporations every day. For example, today, Dick Armey, who is the leader of FreedomWorks, who basically is one of the leaders of the Tea Party effort, is speaking at a luncheon, and that is sponsored by Visa. I say to Visa: "Not priceless." The fact is that what we’re seeing here is an extraordinary influence of corporations on our policy. And we do know—and I would say, with respect to your next segment, we understand from other reporters that ALEC is denying that the Corrections Corporation of America is a member or leader of ALEC, but we have proof that Corrections Corporation of America, which has been involved in pushing this prison privatization agenda, was a member of ALEC as of at least last month.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us. "The Hidden History of ALEC and Prison Labor" is our next segment. Lisa Graves, of the Center for Media and Democracy, in New Orleans.

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Saturday, August 06, 2011

Lying to Ourselves About the Good Old Days

A popular right-wing fantasy-bite now winging virally around the World Wide Web is a snatch of phony nostalgia called “The Green Thing”.

by David Benjamin
August 5, 2011

You could look it up. Everywhere.

This gem came my way via my right-wing friend John, who — like most of my right-wing friends — asserts that he’s not right-wing or even (God forbid) Republican. He insists he’s “independent.” However, John’s “independence” emerges — in practice — as a visceral hostility toward all forms, all levels and all actions of any legally elected government. He’s actually sort of a casual nihilist — which puts him smack-dab in the mainstream of current Republican eschatology.

But never mind. John’s a great guy. If only because he feeds me these wonderful, whacked-out tracts from the paranoid wards of Wingnut World.

The point of “The Green Thing,” a gently nostalgic dig at any sort of communitarian efforts to reduce pollution and protect the earth, is that in some halcyon “good old days” — during which, as far as I can tell, I was alive — environmental protection (“the green thing”) just sort of happened all over the place. It popped up naturally — as the offspring of what Dick Cheney calls “personal virtue.”

I’ve already digressed about John, but I have to wander again, because the lead purveyor of “The Green Thing” is “Miss Cellania” (I know! Isn’t that just adorable?), who’s depicted on her website ( as blond, housewifely (child on lap) and 30-ish. Which means I’m roughly twice her age — old enough to actually HAVE the memories for which she’s taking credit but is too young to have ever experienced. [If you check out Miss Cellania's site be sure to read the comments]

For instance, who remembers chamber pots? I do, but I’ll wager that Miss Cellania wouldn’t recognize one if I dipped into it and ladled her up a nice bowl of gazpacho.

The “Green Thing” premise, aimed at “smart aleck young persons” who think they invented environmentalism, is that once, not long ago, we all swept our own doorways, thus rendering the whole word clean and green, with no government interference.

For instance, according to “The Green Thing,” there was a time before escalators, when folks preferred stairs — loved ‘em and ran up ‘em. But now, with escalators everywhere, millions of American kids don’t even know what a stair looks like. No wonder we never see a kid bouncing a spaldeen off a stoop. “Daddy, what’s a stoop?”

Miss Cellania, what’s a spaldeen?

Also, things were so much nicer before appliances. I remember how joyously my grandma, Annie, greeted laundry days (three times a week). She would spend the morning (a song on her lips) in the cellar, scrubbing clothes by hand, running them through a wringer and humping 40 pounds of wet laundry outdoors. She reveled in the caprice of Wisconsin weather — horizontal sleet, 90-degree heat, subzero cold, sparrows crapping on her clean sheets — whoopee. Mother Nature was Annie’s BFF!

By the way, Miss Cellania, how many clothespins can you fit in your mouth?

In the good old days, we also loved hand lawnmowers — none of your sissy motorized jobs. Except… wait! Just a goddamn minute here! Archie, my grandpa, bought his first Sears power mower 60 years ago. Because the patron saint of hand mowers was Sisyphus. Because nobody, until “The Green Thing,” ever had a kind word for hand mowers. Until power mowers, people either didn’t bother keeping a lawn — or they hired a dumb kid, or a really hard-up hobo to cut the grass. The hobo usually died.

Those good old days — whenever they were — were allegedly better because we had “deposit bottles” for soft drinks and such. But then, we — callous consumers — heartlessly forsook that rustic, spontaneous, capitalist recycling regimen.

Except we didn’t. We just did what we were told. In those days, every town had bottling plants. In Tomah, with fewer than 5,000 people, we had two. Neither survived the corporate wisdom of Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Seven-Up, who decided they could make more money by closing all those local bottlers, firing all those local breadwinners, shifting to plastic and centralizing the bottle operation far far away — like in Mexico.

Don’t blame us, Miss Cellania. We didn’t make this choice. Big Business did.

Here’s a good one! The good old days apparently featured people strolling, on foot, to the grocery store and carrying their milk and beer, canned hams and watermelons, and 50-pound bags of Purina Dog Chow home in big brown bags, without need of a car.

Say what? We did what? When?

Back to 1955. Tomah had five slightly-less-than-super markets: The A&P, the Red Owl, Cram’s, Shutter’s and Burnstad’s, all located more or less on the main drag, which put them about six blocks from your average house. The closest corner store to my grandparents was Woodliff’s, over at Cady and Elm. Grandma Annie never once in her life considered the folly of shlepping six blocks over to Woodliff’s, then returning with 20 pounds of groceries in her bony old arms. She either called up Betty Woodliff and gave her an order (later delivered by Betty’s husband Mose), or she waited ‘til Archie got home and sent him, in the Ford, to the store. (He didn’t mind. He loved driving.)

Note to Miss Cellania: Sane Americans have never, ever, walked to the grocery store — for one simple reason. Groceries are heavy. Before the Ford, there were horses; there were buggies. You can see them in John Wayne movies!

Today, although larger, Tomah has two supermarkets. Both are way out on the highway, each surrounded by a 40-acre parking lot. The reason everyone in town now MUST burn two bucks’ worth of BP’s gas just to get a pound of butter at the store has nothing to do with generational sloth or personal virtue. It has to do with Wal-Mart.

We didn’t make this choice. Big Business did.

It has become a cottage industry among America’s reactionaries to lie about matters like health care and birthplaces, debt and taxes, war and heroism, and other such trivia.

But now, in saccharine reminiscences and homespun anecdotes that circulate the right-wing Web, they’re lying about memories — lying about their own lives.

And they’re believing themselves.

David Benjamin is a novelist and journalist. Originally from Madison, Wisconsin and a graduate of Beloit College, he now lives in Brooklyn. He is the author of 'The Life and Times of the Last Kid Picked'. His latest book, released in 2010 by Tuttle Publishing, is SUMO: A Thinking Fan's Guide to Japan's National Sport. He blogs at       This article was originally posted here: