Sunday, September 30, 2007

Huckabee Voices The Question On The Mind of Many of Us.

Whether you consider your political views "left of center" or "right of center " you may well agree with the comments that GOP Presidential Candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee had the courage to express. 

Why has the Bush Administration done their best to paint the former Iraqi regime and Iran as evil while turning a blind eye to the deeds of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan?   

If you get to the heart of this question then you'll have the answer to ending the Iraq war and avoiding war with Iran.  Just one more good reason for holding hearings to impeach both Bush and Cheney. 

plk  



excerpt from:


TheHill.com - Huckabee knocks Bush foreign policy

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee leveled some of the harshest criticisms of the Bush administration's foreign policy yet from the GOP presidential field, saying it has mismanaged relations with Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Laying out his foreign policy platform in Washington on Friday, Huckabee restated his support for continuing the war in Iraq. But the bulk of his speech was devoted to the United States' and Bush's shortcomings.

Huckabee said the U.S. is ignoring options besides armed conflict with Iran, has trusted the Saudis too much and has allowed Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to go back on his commitment to allow American forces to root out terrorism within his borders.

"Just like Musharraf, since 9/11, the Bush administration has played both ends and the middle, assuring the American people that it's doing everything it can to protect them, while tiptoeing around our supposed ally," Huckabee said. "It's been afraid of upsetting the apple cart, even though the cart contains poisoned apples destined for export to the United States."

Huckabee said the United States has trusted the Saudis and made them rich, only to see the funds used as "seed money for terrorism," and that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan will ultimately back whoever can win

14 Days in Race Relations









Kudos to Mike Huckabee

Saturday, September 29, 2007

France and Total under fire for 'financing' regime


France and Total under fire for 'financing' regime - Independent Online Edition > Asia

By John Lichfield in Paris

Published: 29 September 2007


The French government and France's largest company, Total, were struggling yesterday to contain growing criticism of the oil company's record in Burma.

Total and the French government have rejected pleas from Burmese opposition and French trades unions and human rights group for the oil giant to suspend its activities in the Yadana gas field in southern Burma.

Critics point out Total is the largest economic operator in Burma and a significant conduit of cash to the military regime. Several human rights groups have accused Total of making use of forced or child labour – something the oil company angrily rejects.

Paris, and the company, argue that Total's presence is, on the whole, a force for good. Withdrawal would allow carte blanche for Chinese or other companies which would be "less respectful of ethical issues".

"Our departure would threaten a worsening of the situation for the (Burmese) population," Total said ina communiqué.

France's Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, this week rejected suggestions that Total is a, de facto, ally of the military junta in Rangoon. He can claim to be something of an expert on the issue. In 2003, when he was out of office, his company BK Conseil was paid to advise Total on how to improve the public image of its Burmese operations.

So They Say That They Support The Troops


an excerpt from:
Wounded vets also suffer financial woes on Yahoo! News

He was one of America's first defenders on Sept. 11, 2001, a Marine who pulled burned bodies from the ruins of the Pentagon. He saw more horrors in Kuwait and Iraq.

Today, he can't keep a job, pay his bills, or chase thoughts of suicide from his tortured brain. In a few weeks, he may lose his house, too.

Gamal Awad, the American son of a Sudanese immigrant, exemplifies an emerging group of war veterans: the economic casualties.

More than in past wars, many wounded troops are coming home alive from the Middle East. That's a triumph for military medicine. But they often return hobbled by prolonged physical and mental injuries from homemade bombs and the unremitting anxiety of fighting a hidden enemy along blurred battle lines. Treatment, recovery and retraining often can't be assured quickly or cheaply.

These troops are just starting to seek help in large numbers, more than 185,000 so far. But the cost of their benefits is already testing resources set aside by government and threatening the future of these wounded veterans for decades to come, say economists and veterans' groups.

"The wounded and their families no longer trust that the government will take care of them the way they thought they'd be taken care of," says veterans advocate Mary Ellen Salzano.

How does a war veteran expect to be treated? "As a hero," she says.

___

Every morning, Awad needs to think of a reason not to kill himself.

He can't even look at the framed photograph that shows him accepting a Marine heroism medal for his recovery work at the Pentagon after the terrorist attack.

It might remind him of a burned woman whose skin peeled off in his hands when he tried to comfort her.

He tries not to hear the shrieking rockets of Iraq either, smell the burning fuel, or relive the blast that blew him right out of bed.

The memories come steamrolling back anyway.

"Nothing can turn off those things," he says, voice choked and eyes glistening.

He stews alternately over suicide and finances, his $43,000 in credit card debt, his $4,330 in federal checks each month — the government's compensation for his total disability from post-traumatic stress disorder. His flashbacks, thoughts of suicide, and anxiety over imagined threats — all documented for six years in his military record — keep him from working.

The disability payments don't cover the $5,700-a-month cost of his adjustable home mortgage and equity loans. He owes more on his house than its market value, so he can't sell it — but he may soon lose it to the bank.

"I love this house. It makes me feel safe," he says.

Awad could once afford it. He used to earn $100,000 a year as a 16-year veteran major with a master's degree in management who excelled at logistics. Now, at age 38, he can't even manage his own life.

There's another twist. This dedicated Marine was given a "general" discharge 15 months ago for an extramarital affair with a woman, also a Marine. That's even though his military therapists blamed this impulsive conduct on post-traumatic stress aggravated by his Middle East tours.

Luckily, his discharge, though not unqualifiedly honorable, left intact his rights to medical care and disability payments — or he'd be in sadder shape.

Divorced since developing PTSD, Awad has two daughters who live elsewhere. He spends much of his days hoisting weights and thwacking a punching bag in the dimness of his garage. He passes nights largely sleepless, a zombie shuffling through the bare rooms of his home in sunny California wine country.

___

Few anticipated the high price of caring for Awad and other veterans with deep, slow-healing wounds.

So You Think You Own A PC!

Are you still living under the illusion that the pc that you purchased is really yours?  

If Microsoft can install what they want when they want and even shut down your applications if they decide that you've been naughty, do you still think it's YOUR pc?   

plk



Microsoft's Stealth Update Backfires for Some Users - Security Fix

A software update Microsoft quietly delivered to millions of PCs this summer prevents the installation of at least 80 security updates when some Windows users try to fix a problem with their computer using the software's "repair" feature, according to reports.

Microsoft has acknowledged that in July it started shipping an update to its Windows Update program. The patch was automatically installed for any Windows user who took advantage of the built-in software-update feature ( including automatic update users who had selected the option to "download updates for me, but let me choose when to install them").

The story received a fair amount of attention in the tech press, with many people remarking that they had suspected all along that Microsoft would try something like this, and that such a scenario was the primary reason they had chosen not to allow automatic updates of any kind. Microsoft acknowledged that it could have handled the patch rollout more transparently, but defended its actions, saying the silent fix was meant merely to ensure that the auto-update feature worked as advertised for those who chose to use it.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Tell The World That You Care About Myanmar

Dear Friends,

Please do not close your eyes to the events in Myanmar. Without internet access, and in a nation that is closed to the outside media, the protesters are in grave danger.

plk

Myanmar breaks up rallies, cuts Internet - Yahoo! News

YANGON, Myanmar - Soldiers clubbed and dragged away activists while firing tear gas and warning shots to break up demonstrations Friday before they could grow, and the government cut Internet access, raising fears that a deadly crackdown was set to intensify.

Troops also occupied Buddhist monasteries in a bid to clear the streets of Myanmar's revered monks, who have spearheaded the demonstrations.

The government said 10 people have been killed since the violence began earlier this week, but British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he believed the loss of life in Myanmar was "far greater" than is being reported. Dissident groups have put the number as high as 200, although that number could not be verified.

* * * * *






From Amnesty International:

At least 500 people were reported to have been arrested in a crackdown on anti-government protests in Myanmar by the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

The crackdown escalated on the evening of 25 September in the former capital Yangon, the second-biggest city, Mandalay, and also Meiktila, Pakokku and Mogok. There have been at least nine reported fatalities and Amnesty International has learned that many people have gone into hiding.

Some people were reported to have been arrested in the evening of 24 September, but most were seized during the following 48 hours, as the crackdown by security forces escalated. Among those arrested were hundreds of monks in Yangon.

Others arrested include:

  • Famous comedian and former prisoner of conscience Zargana
  • Myint Myint San (f), National League for Democracy (NLD) member
  • Paik Ko (m), NLD Member of Parliament, Pakokku
  • Par Par Lay (m), comedian (pictured)
  • Tin Aung (m), NLD Member of Parliament
  • Tin Ko (m), NLD youth member in Meiktila
  • U Win Naing (m), politician

Amnesty International believes these and other detainees are at grave risk of torture or other ill-treatment.

The security forces have reportedly beaten demonstrators with batons, used tear gas on crowds that defy orders to disperse and fired warning shots into the air. Despite the high tension, thousands of people continue to take to the streets in continued anti-government protests.

Read the latest news on the situation in Myanmar

Take action!


Join the global protest!


Amnesty International members across the globe have begun a series of demonstrations outside Myanmar’s embassies and high profile public locations calling for the Myanmar authorities not to respond with violence and to respect the human right to peaceful protest.

Join a demonstration in your town or city: your support is urgently needed. Some of the following demonstrations organised by or with AI include:

  • Belgium: Saturday 29 September at noon, at "Place De la Liberte"
  • Canada: Saturday 29 September in Victoria, Regina, Toronto
  • Czech Republic: Saturday 29 September in the centre of Prague
  • Germany: Saturday 29 September in Berlin
  • Hong Kong: Evening of Friday 28 September and Saturday 29 September
  • Ireland: Saturday 29 September at 2pm in Dublin
  • Italy: Afternoon of Friday 28 September in Rome; and Saturday in Milan
  • Japan: Daily in Tokyo
  • Luxembourg: Afternoon of Friday 28 September
  • Malaysia: Morning of Friday 28 September
  • Nepal: Monday 1 October, 2pm, in Kathmandu
  • Netherlands: Saturday 29 September, Amsterdam
  • Norway: Friday 28 September in Oslo
  • Philippines: Daily events
  • Spain: Friday 28 September in Bilbao; Sunday 30 September in Castelldefels, Madrid, Molins de Rey and Tarragona
  • Switzerland: Saturday 29 September, at noon in Geneva
  • Thailand: Morning of Friday 28 September
  • UK: Sunday 30 September at 11:30am, Trafalgar Square
  • USA: Monday 1 October, noon in New York
For more information on these and other Amnesty International events around the world, contact your local Amnesty Section.

Take action!
Call on the Myanmar authorities to release protesters

Foreign Minister Nyan Win
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Naypyitaw
Union of Myanmar

Fax: +95 1 222 950 OR +95 1 221 719

E-mail: mofa.aung@mptmail.net.mm


Isn't It Amazing

Isn't it amazing how those who did not choose military service so easily criticize those who have, and still are, serving?

And it isn't amazing how easily those who do not have children or spouses serving in the military send the children and spouses of others off to battle?
Polls have shown that the majority of troops on the ground in Iraq, and those who have returned, do not back the President's failed policy.

Should these soldiers, who have put their lives on the line for Bush's failed policies, be labeled "phony"?

Apparently, Rush Limbaugh thinks so. He recently said that those troops who come home and want to get America out of the middle of the religious civil war in Iraq are "phony soldiers."

Click here to urge Limbaugh to invite Jon Soltz onto his show and say all of this again, right to the face of someone who served in Iraq!

http://ga4.org/campaign/rushlimbaugh?rk=4727Ldd1ZViHW
It's time to set the record straight on just who IS supporting the troops.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

No Analysis Required!

After reviewing my notes from last night's MSNBC Democratic Presidential Candidate debate and reviewing the wealth of video available I decided that no analysis is required.

Virtually everyone was just about as candid as it gets for a politician.

Really!

No kidding!

But, I did say virtually. You can decide who was ducking and dodging.

After all, if you've read this blog for any length of time you know that I am a John Edwards supporter. I believe that he is sincere and I believe in his vision for one America.

I've also made no secret that I deeply respect Joe Biden's political knowledge and candor. Whether you like his views or not, Joe is going to shoot straight. Even when I disagree with his views I have to respect them.

I support the creation of a Department of Peace and therefore deeply admire Dennis Kucinich.

I would be thrilled to see the US make history by electing a woman. And Hillary is a fellow baby boomer and a Scorpio too!

I would also be thrilled to see the US make history by electing an African-American or a Latino to the highest office in the land. I will never stop believing in Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream for this nation.

I've given Chris Dodd more that one kudo over the past year.

And Mike Gravel ... Mike Gravel reminds me of that family member that comes to holiday dinner and you're never quite sure what they'll say at the dinner table. Sometimes it's wisdom and sometimes it's something that makes you choke on your turkey or spit out your water.

So, for me, in November 2008 it will come down to where each of these candidates stands on the issues that I think are important to me and in the best of this country.

I have my list and you have yours.

In the end, the political pundits may give us food for thought but they can't tell us what matters most in our individual lives. It's time for all Americans to think for ourselves.

Luckily Josh Micah Marshall of TMPtv put together a great "the best of" video of last night's debate.



And since I thought Josh missed a few of my favorite moments, here's a video reel of straight shooting Joe.



Joe, I agree with you. There are many Pharisees.

Misogyny in Media

Forget the rappers, Chris Matthews' post debate comments about Hillary Clinton demonstrated misogyny at its best. And his buddy Tim Russert played right along.

Anyone that watched Chris Matthews' post-debate analysis and his follow-up questions to the candidates had to ask themselves -
Did Chris Mathews just have a fight with his wife, is he drinking or is he just a Hillary hater? Luckily, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd refused to play Matthews' game.

Matthews' comments were as bad as the media spin that tried to claim that Elizabeth Edwards stated that Hillary was acting like a man. Ridiculous.

If this is the type of political analysis that we can look forward to for the next 13 months, God help us all. No wonder there are Americans that still believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11. And they all don't watch Fox News.



But don't take my word for it. Judge for yourself:

Watch the clip


courtesy of Media Matters:

During MSNBC's analysis of the September 26 Democratic presidential debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, while discussing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), host Chris Matthews said to moderator Tim Russert, "Let me tell you how short Hillary's leash is. She was asked by you, sir, about whether we're going to get full disclosure of contributors to presidential libraries. And she did not feel that she had the latitude in her husband's absence to give you an answer." Matthews continued, "She said, 'You'll have to ask my husband.' As if you're a guy going door to door trying to sell something and says, 'You'll have to wait for my husband to get home.' " Matthews began to ask, "Do you think she's that much --" but then stopped and asserted, "[N]ever mind, let's just drop this."

In the exchange to which they were referring, Russert asked Clinton, "[D]o you believe the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Library should publish all the donors who give contributions to those two entities?" Clinton responded by noting she had "co-sponsored legislation that would have sitting presidents reveal any donation to their presidential library." Russert then asked, "Until such legislation, would they voluntarily -- the Clinton Library and Clinton Foundation -- make their donors public?" Clinton, who does not control the foundation, asserted, "Well, you'll have to ask them." When Russert asked for a "recommendation," Clinton asserted, "I don't talk about my private conversations with my husband, but I'm sure he'd be happy to consider" making donors public.

From the MSNBC post-debate analysis:

RUSSERT: What I want to hear is the conversation tonight between President Clinton and Hillary Clinton about President Clinton's comments last year on Meet the Press that we ought to have an exception that if we know the number three guy in Al Qaeda knows a bomb is going off and where it's going off, it's OK to beat the hell out of him. Have a presidential finding.

MATTHEWS: Let me tell you how short Hillary's leash is. She was asked by you, sir, about whether we're going to get full disclosure of contributors to presidential libraries. And she did not feel that she had the latitude in her husband's absence to give you an answer. She said, "You'll have to ask my husband." As if you're a guy going door to door trying to sell something and says, "You'll have to wait for my husband to get home." It was unbelievable that she wouldn't answer that. Do you think she's that much -- never mind, let's just drop this.

RUSSERT: Unlike Kathleen Matthews [Chris Matthews' wife and former Washington, D.C., local news anchor].

MATTHEWS: Thank you. I just thought it was extraordinary that their deal doesn't have that much clarity to it. Anyway, up next, another of the candidates from tonight's debate, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. He's coming here. You're watching MSNBC's coverage of the Democratic presidential candidates` debate, live from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire on MSNBC.

From the September 26 debate on MSNBC:

RUSSERT: I want to turn to politics and money. Senator Clinton, as you well know, you had to turn back $850,000 in contributions from Norman Hsu because of his rather checkered past. Again, President Clinton said this: "Now, we don't have to publish all our donors for the Clinton Foundation, but if Hillary became president, I think there would be questions about whether people would try to win favor by giving money to me." In light of that, do you believe that the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Library should publish all the donors who give contributions to those two entities?

CLINTON: Well, Tim, I actually co-sponsored legislation that would have sitting presidents reveal any donation to their presidential library. And I think that's a good policy.

RUSSERT: And the foundation?

CLINTON: Well, it would be the same, because that's where the library comes from.

RUSSERT: Until such legislation, would they voluntarily -- the Clinton Library and Clinton Foundation -- make their donors public?


CLINTON: Well, you'll have to ask them.

RUSSERT: What's your recommendation?

CLINTON: Well, I don't talk about my private conversations with my husband, but I'm sure he'd be happy to consider that.



This is what Russert thought was his shining moment.



I loved Hillary's comeback -- "Well He's not standing here right now"

I may not agree with all of Hillary Clinton's political views but I have to speak out when the boys start stooping to sexist cheap shots.

Oversight Committee Releases Report on Blackwater Incident in Fallujah


The Gavel » Blog Archive » Oversight Committee Releases Report on Blackwater Incident in Fallujah

On February 7, 2007, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing to on performance and accountability of private military contractors in Iraq. The hearing included the examination of one prominent case study: a pivotal event of the Iraq War in which four Blackwater USA security contractors were ambushed and killed in Fallujah on March 31, 2004, while escorting a convoy. The Committee has since pursued a thorough investigation, and has just released its findings based on eye-witness accounts, unclassified investigative reports, and other evidence — much of it obtained and discovered despite fierce resistance from Blackwater.

Read the Full Report: Private Military Contractors in Iraq - An Examination of Blackwater's Actions in Fallujah (pdf) >>

This Time Demand All of The Facts!



The first thing that you can do is commit to seeking out the truth.


Here are two excellent analyses of the Iranian President, his visit to NYC and his role in Iranian politics. Both articles are well worth reading in their entirety.


excerpt from:
Ahmadinejad's New York state of mind
By Hooman Majd


Ahmadinejad is a shrewd politician, a populist who tailors his remarks and speeches for specific audiences, and plays as good a propaganda game as anyone in the Byzantine maze of Iranian politics. Although his tactics backfire as often as they succeed, he once again managed to forcefully project himself onto the world stage with the welcome assistance of the press, and accomplish much of what he set out to do within the boundaries of his authority. The raison d'ĂȘtre of his visit, a declarative laying out of Iranian policy in front of the world body -- including a reiteration of Iran's nuclear ambitions -- would have to closely reflect the views of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the true center of Iranian political power. But the words uttered in Ahmadinejad's address to the U.N. would be his own, and he is not one to lose an opportunity to further his own agenda, especially in the media capital of the world.

In the eyes of Muslims, his day at the U.N. served to show him as a world leader of great importance, and audiences watching throughout the Middle East undoubtedly noticed not only that the television cameras turning on him frequently as President Bush spoke, but that he politely sat and listened to Bush's speech at all. In contrast, worldwide telecasts showed the U.S. delegation rising and walking out en masse, as they customarily do whenever an Iranian president takes to the lectern. Diplomacy, which is fundamentally about reciprocity, often means that if one party snubs another, the other responds in kind -- but Ahmadinejad's tactical refusal to play by those rules and to instead show respect to the leader of the U.S., begged the question, "Who's the unreasonable man?"


* * * * *


excerpt from the
Tuesday, September 25th, 2007 broadcast of Democracy Now
The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States


AMY GOODMAN:
I interviewed exiled Iranian activist Azar Derakhshan earlier this summer. She's the editor of the Women of March 8 magazine and helped organize the 2006 European march against anti-women laws in Iran. I just want to play an excerpt from my conversation with her. This is Azar Derakhshan.

    AZAR DERAKHSHAN: I have seen a portrait in the media, Western media. In the media, there is two sides. There is the United States and government of Iran. There are clashes. And the people, the voice of people is absent completely. And the opinion of -- foreigner opinion, they think that this thing, the future of Iran is going to be decided by these two powers.

    I try to tell to the people in foreigner countries, in European countries, it's not true, this portrait. There is another fact, very important. The people of Iran, the movement, they are going to take the future. They are not forced to choose between neither the United States, neither the government of Iran. There is another force in Iran. If really somebody wants to prevent the war, the clashes, should be support this movement, this movement for equality, for freedom.

    We don't need United States to liberate us. First of all, we are here, and this is our legitimate to liberate ourselves. We want to decide about our future ourselves. We want to fight our native enemy by ourselves. We don’t need -- that’s first. Second one, we already have seen, because Afghanistan and Iraq, they are neighbor of Iran. And the women of Iran, they can see it. Maybe before, not, but right now it’s really -- it’s enough to know what kind of program they have for the people of Iran.

AMY GOODMAN: Iranian dissident, Azar Derakhshan. Professor Abrahamian, your response?

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Well, I think she's right in that there are -- Iran is a very complicated society. There are very different political movements. And the idea that somehow it's a frozen system, that it's not going to change, already precludes any type of possibility of negotiations and changes. In fact, the Iranian system has an electoral system -- is and electoral system. We are going to come up with elections very soon. There is no guarantee that Ahmadinejad would be re-elected again. It's very possible that reformers, liberals, would get in into power again.

AMY GOODMAN: When is the election?

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: In less than two years' time. And the base, in fact, of Ahmadinejad’s -- I would say the core base -- is very similar to Bush's core base. It's about 25%. For him to get re-elected, he has to stretch out and find independents and others, and this is going to be very hard. If the reformers can actually rally around one candidate, as they did in the 1990s, they could have landslide victories, in which over 70% of the electorate was voting for liberals and reformers.

AMY GOODMAN: And what direction would a US attack on Iran push the election?

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Oh, it would play right into the hands of Ahmadinejad, because you would have a national emergency. He would declare, basically, the country's in danger. Everyone would have to rally around the flag. People who disliked him would keep their mouth shut. At a time of when the existence of the state is in question, you don't mess around with the leaders. He would basically be able to act as a much more of a strongman national leader.

* * * * *

Sadly, the highy promoted and much anticipated interview by Christiane Amanpour with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was cut from one hour to 5 minutes. Anderson Cooper felt compelled to dispel any rumors that CNN canceled the interview.


related posts:

Lieberman-Kyl Amendment Passes

OK, So You Don't Like Ahmadinejad

What More Can I Say?

Shootings by Blackwater Exceed Other Firms in Iraq - New York Times

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 — The American security contractor Blackwater USA has been involved in a far higher rate of shootings while guarding American diplomats in Iraq than other security firms providing similar services to the State Department, according to Bush administration officials and industry officials.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

If the Iraqis Hate Them and Troops Don't Care For Them Why Are They There?

You Decide.

quotes from the Washington Post article :

Private Security Puts Diplomats, Military at Odds


Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, September 26, 2007; Page A01


"This is a nightmare," said a senior U.S. military official. "We had guys who saw the aftermath, and it was very bad. This is going to hurt us badly. It may be worse than Abu Ghraib, and it comes at a time when we're trying to have an impact for the long term." The official was referring to the prison scandal that emerged in 2004 in which U.S. soldiers tortured and abused Iraqis.

In interviews involving a dozen U.S. military and government officials, many expressed anger and concern over the shootings in Nisoor Square, in Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood. Some worried it could undermine the military's efforts to stabilize Iraq this year with an offensive involving thousands of reinforcements.

"This is a big mess that I don't think anyone has their hands around yet," said another U.S. military official. "It's not necessarily a bad thing these guys are being held accountable. Iraqis hate them, the troops don't particularly care for them, and they tend to have a know-it-all attitude, which means they rarely listen to anyone -- even the folks that patrol the ground on a daily basis."

Most officials spoke on condition of anonymity because there are at least three ongoing investigations of Blackwater's role in the shootings. There are also sensitive discussions between various U.S. agencies and the Iraqi government over the future of Blackwater and other private security firms in Iraq.

A State Department official asked why the military is shifting the question to State "since the DOD has more Blackwater contractors than we do, including people doing PSD [personal security detail] for them. . . . They've [Blackwater] basically got contracts with DOD that are larger than the contracts with State."

* * * * *

The following is a series of videos that shine a spotlight on this shadow organization:

Lieberman-Kyl Amendment Passes

Think Progress

BREAKING: Lieberman-Kyl's Iran amendment passes.

By a vote 76-22, the Senate passed the Lieberman-Kyl amendment, which threatens to "combat, contain and [stop]" Iran via "military instruments." Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) called the amendment " Cheney's fondest pipe dream" and said it could "read as a backdoor method of gaining Congressional validation for military action."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

They're Doing It Again -- The Build Up

Talking Points Memo | War with Iran for Fun and Profit

Did you hear about the War on Iran Authorization bill the Senate is going to vote on perhaps as early as today? No, that's not how it's getting billed. But that's what the 'Kyl-Lieberman' amendment is. In fact, the supporters of going to war against Iran are using exactly same strategy with this amendment that they did to lay the ground work for the Iraq War.

We give you the rundown in today's episode of TPMtv ...

Watch the video


Need more ..

Think Progress » Webb: Lieberman And Kyl's Hawkish Iran Amendment Is 'Cheney's Fondest Pipe Dream'

On the Senate floor today, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) made an impassioned appeal to his fellow senators, declaring that the Lieberman-Kyl amendment on Iran should be "withdrawn" because the "proposal is Dick Cheney's fondest pipe dream." Webb cautioned that the "cleverly-worded sense of the Congress" could be "interpreted" to "declare war" on Iran. He continued:

Those who regret their vote five years ago to authorize military action in Iraq should think hard before supporting this approach. Because, in my view, it has the same potential to do harm where many are seeking to do good.

"At best, it's a deliberate attempt to divert attention from a failed diplomatic policy," said Webb. "At worst, it could be read as a backdoor method of gaining Congressional validation for military action, without one hearing and without serious debate."

Watch it


This time you can't say that the media tricked you or the government misled you. 


This is more important than ever. The Lieberman-Kyl amendment would undermine efforts for diplomacy and essentially give the green light for a military attack on Iran. A vote may come as soon as this
week.

Several organisations have set up portals for you to take action. I recommend using them all. We cannot be too vocal on opposing even more death, displacement, and instability.


Just Foreign Policy

The People's Email Network (PEN)

Democrats.com



Also, please CALL your senators to voice your opposition against this
dangerous amendment. The number for the Capitol switchboard is
202-224-3121.



OK So You Don't Like Ahmadinejad!

" Evil Flourishes When Good Men Do Nothing " -- Edmund Burke


You could also turn that phrase and say that evil flourishes when good people say nothing.


During the past 24 or so hours many Americans have faced their pseudo-Hamlet moment. Instead of struggling with the issue "To Be or Not To Be", many Americans are struggling with the decision of whether to speak or not to speak. And as one of them, it has taken me a day to decide whether I would write this post.


After all, this is still the land that believes in free speech and political discourse, Right?

Yesterday afternoon I watched the live coverage of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech on CNN and to my chagrin the speech was scheduled during the "CNN Newsroom" segment anchored by Kyra Phillips and Don Lemon.

While I respect both of these journalists, you could not have asked two more blatantly biased news anchors to provide analysis of the speech. Listening to those two I kept hearing myself saying. "OK So You Don't Like Ahmadinejad and You Don't Want Your Viewers to Evaluate His Speech For Themselves -- We Get It, We Get It! "

Don't get me wrong I'm no fan of the Iranian President. But these days I trust the media ( that did not question the build-up to the Iraq War ) about as much as I trust Ahmadinejad, or for that matter, the Bush administration. It would have been so nice if Christiane Amanpour or Michael Ware would have been available to provide serious analysis. Instead CNN viewers were left with the Lee Bollinger cheering section.

As I said to a friend, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger's comment might well be true but his timing was simply inappropriate. Is that the example that he wants to provide for the future diplomats? Does anyone still want peace?

Of course Ahmadinejad was evasive but have you asked Bush about Blackwater lately?

Of course Ahmadinejad's comment about homosexuality in Iran was silly but Bush recently stated that Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas.

Yes Ahmadinejad attempts to stifle free speech in Iran. In the US, those that disagree with Bush administration policy are "swift boated", accused of being unpatriotic ( ask the Dixie Chicks), or slandered. And if you're a CIA agent you just might get outed.

Yes, Iran has a terrible record on human rights. In the US we're still struggling with the New Orleans forced diaspora and the Jena 6.

Ahmadinejad keeps asking for more research on the Holocaust and the Bush Administration
fails to respond to genocide. ( as did the Clinton Administration in the case of Rwanda ). And I'm still not sure whether Bush believes in global warming, which has the potential of killing us all.

I'm not excusing any of Ahmadinejad's behavior but I am not excusing any of the actions of Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rice either. I wish the media would stop trying to stage global debate like an old western -- good guys in white hats, bad guys in black. That just doesn't work anymore - not in the movies and definitely not in a discussion of international politics.

plk

For more on this issue read Ian Williams' article "
AlterNet: MediaCulture: Hypocrisy Surrounding Ahmadinejad's Visit Was Stunning "


other posts on this topic:

How Does A Peace Process Begin?



Worlds Apart - Two Uses of Technology.

While Americans are lining up in the streets to purchase a violent video game, Buddhist monks in Myanmar have taken to the street to protest for basic human rights. And brave bloggers and ordinary citizens in Myanmar are risking their lives to get their story out to the West.


" 24.09.2007 - Yangon, Myanmar (Burma) - More than 100,000 people flooded the streets of Myanmar's biggest city on Monday, joining Buddhist monks in the strongest show of dissent against the ruling generals in nearly two decades. In swelling tides of humanity, two major marches snaked their way through the nation's commercial capital led by robed monks chanting prayers of peace and compassion, witnesses said"




" 23.09.2007 in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma) -Thousands of monks, nuns and members of the general populace, marched on the streets of Myanmar's capital Yangon (formerly Rangoon)"



an excerpt from:
Defiant monks resume street protests - Independent Online Edition

Published: 25 September 2007

Buddhist monks spearheading Burma's biggest anti-government marches in nearly two decades defied orders from the military junta to stay out of politics and relaunched their protests in the country's two biggest cities today.

About 4,000 monks, cheered on by several thousand supporters, gathered for the eighth day of peaceful protest at Rangoon's soaring Shwedagon Pagoda, while some 700 marched in the country's second largest city of Mandalay.

The demonstrations came despite orders to the Buddhist clergy to halt all political activity and return to their monasteries, and as pro-junta supporters in pick-up trucks cruised Rangoon warning that large crowds were illegal.

The protests in Rangoon reached 100,000 yesterday, becoming the biggest demonstrations since a pro-democracy uprising 19 years ago. The authorities did not stop the protests, even as they built to a scale and fervour that rivalled the 1988 uprising when the military fired on peaceful crowds and killed thousands, terrorising the country.

The government has been handling the monks gingerly, wary of angering ordinary citizens in this devout, predominantly Buddhist nation.

But diplomats said troops have been discreetly deployed in downtown Rangoon and could easily be called in against the protesters. Some schools in the capital were closed.

Following yesterday's march, authorities in cars cruised Rangoon's streets today, announcing that the clergy have been directed not to take part in "secular affairs" and saying that certain elements were trying to instigate unrest in the country. Warnings were also sent out against all illegal gatherings in a country where an assembly of more than five can amount to breaking the law.

* * * * *

" Jim Carrey calls for people to support the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi. He also decries Burma's military regime for recruiting more child soldiers than any other country in the world, destroying 3,000 villages in eastern Burma, and forcing 1.5 million refugees to flee."




He appeals to viewers to join two organizations:

The Human Rights Action Center
www.humanrightsactioncenter.org

U.S. Campaign for Burma
www.uscampaignforburma.org

Note: as of this post CNN is reporting that Aung San Suu Kyi has been moved from house arrest to one of the worst prisons in Myanmar.

The Black Republican -- An Oxymoron

The Washington Monthly

REPUBLICANS AND RACE.... Bob Herbert looks at the recent antics of the Republican Party and decides it's time for a history lesson:

The G.O.P. has spent the last 40 years insulting, disenfranchising and otherwise stomping on the interests of black Americans....This is the party of the Southern strategy — the party that ran, like panting dogs, after the votes of segregationist whites who were repelled by the very idea of giving equal treatment to blacks.

....In 1981, during the first year of Mr. Reagan's presidency, the late Lee Atwater gave an interview to a political science professor at Case Western Reserve University, explaining the evolution of the Southern strategy:

"You start out in 1954 by saying, 'Nigger, nigger, nigger,' " said Atwater. "By 1968, you can't say 'nigger' — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights, and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites."

Campaign: No Dirty Tricks

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Must Read Story: "I Was Born Woman"

A friend sent me the link to this story today and I found it so deeply moving that I could not wait to share it. I think that you will feel the same. plk

excerpt from:

I was born woman!

from Jon of " Out of Africa-Too "


" Irene had come to see me for help. I had met her at the airport and we had spoken as she served me some somosas at a restaurant while I was waiting for a flight to Kigali, Rwanda. People were always interested in the kind of work I did and often wanted to stay in touch about a job or help for a relative. Here was a person who had come to see me because she needed help, had come to the end of herself and felt that maybe I would know what to do. Tears were streaming down her face as she told me that the manager where she worked had asked her to have sex with him in order to keep her job as a waitress at the restaurant. Her salary was only 50 dollars a month but even that was more than most people made who had to yield a shovel all day long.


As she told me her story she said something that touched my heart profoundly, "My problem is, I was born woman." There was such a sadness in her voice, I could tell she was speaking from the depth of her being. It was the cry of her heart, her frustration, her inner war of values; she wanted to be someone of significance who could simply hold a job on the basis of quality work given.


She was not the only one who had told me of such trials and tribulations. Every other woman had been told the same things and it was not unusual what I was hearing, it simply reflected the ongoing practices and was one of the many reasons AIDS had impacted Uganda and other parts of Africa as much as it had. (One woman told me that her husband had confessed to 50 affairs during the period of 12 months)

Africa and women; on the one hand they are the matriarchs of society, simply because they outlive men, on the other hand on their way to getting to be the matriarch, the journey is strewn with pain, tears, sweat, abuse, shame based communication and so much more."

read the rest

Elizabeth Edwards is Just Too Cool!

Unlike Laura Bush, I believe that Elizabeth will speak up if she sees John acting crazy and saying stupid things like "Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas". I also don't believe that Elizabeth will remain quiet ( like Hillary Clinton ) if she sees John turning a blind eye to a genocide. And if John Edwards has to take a cell phone call from Elizabeth during a speech it probably won't be to tell him that she's going shopping.

In the following clip Elizabeth Edwards speaks at a send-off rally for those departing by bus to the march in Jena, La from Columbia, S.C. on September 19, 2007

Jury Selection Begins For Boot Camp Death


an excerpt from:
cbs4.com - Jury Selection Begins For Boot Camp Death

Nurse Stood By Watching As Guards Punished Anderson

(CBS4) PANAMA CITY Martin Lee Anderson walked onto the exercise yard of a Panama City boot camp for troubled teens nearly two years ago. Within hours, a grainy camp surveillance tape showed, he was struck repeatedly by guards as a nurse watched and soon collapsed. The 14 year old was carried off on a stretcher and died the next day.

Jury selection is under way in the manslaughter trial of seven Bay County juvenile boot camp guards and a nurse charged with the boy's death. Potential jurors were greeted Monday morning by chanting protesters carrying photographs of the slain teenager outside a government center in Panama City.

The case has gotten so much media attention locally that more than 1,400 Bay County residents - or one of every 90 adults - have been called to the Panama City Marina Civic Center in an attempt to find an impartial jury. If not, the trial will have to be moved to another Florida county.

"I can think of lots of trials where 300, 400 or 500 potential jurors were called but I cannot think of one with 1,400 - that's somewhat unprecedented," said Philip K. Anthony, chief executive officer of Decision Quest, a national jury consulting firm.

But Anthony, whose company has consulted in more than 15,000 trials, predicted a local jury will eventually be seated .

"It always amazes me the people you ultimately find who know absolutely nothing about an issue," he said.

Anderson was sent to the camp for a probation violation - he trespassed at a school after he and his cousins were charged with stealing their grandmother's car from a church parking lot.

During his first hours at the camp, which has since closed, Anderson became lethargic during a physical fitness test. An exercise yard videotape shows the guards using their fists and knees to repeatedly take Anderson to the ground and then holding ammonia capsules under his nose. The camp nurse, Kristin Schmidt, watched and did nothing during most of the 30-minute encounter with the seven men. The teen died hours later on Jan. 6, 2006.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

What Happened To Pink?

As my long time readers know, I am a football fan -- American football, soccer, even the occasional rugby match. So I know that someone was wondering when I was going to mention this.

What happened to Pink aka Alecia Moore?

We now have Faith Hill singing the opening to NBC's Sunday Night Football.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of Faith but there was so much hype over the fact that Pink was singing the opening song during the 2006 season and now she's suddenly disappeared.


I know that Pink isn't highlighting Billboard's charts these days but Hank Williams certainly hasn't had a top 100 hit every year of Monday Night Football. Oh well, I guess NBC is trying to appeal more to the cheerleader oggling types. Or maybe, someone thinks that Faith does a better rendition of the song?

I wonder if it had anything to do with this:



I really hope not. I guess the addition of Keith Olbermann to the pre-game/half-time show was supposed to keep us from noticing.

PeopleWatch: General Martin Luther Agwai

OK, I can hear you saying, "Who?"

General Martin Luther Agwai is not as famous as Angelina Jolie or George Clooney but he will certainly have more direct impact on the future of Darfur than either of the above. And isn't it time that we pay attention to someone besides the celebrities?


excerpt from:
BBC NEWS | Africa | Darfur's peacekeeper: Africa's toughest job?

If General Martin Luther Agwai's name is not yet familiar, it will be soon.

He has been given one of the toughest jobs in Africa, and perhaps the most thankless: Commander of the new combined United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force for Darfur.

General Agwai will lead the biggest peacekeeping operation in the world with 20,000 troops and 6,000 police under his command.

The general told BBC News that building a peacekeeping force of that size from scratch would take time, and he warned against high expectations, saying without peace his troops would be in a "in a very uncomfortable position".

The former head of Nigeria's armed forces is courteous and softly-spoken.

He told me his military heroes are General George Patton and General Ariel Sharon.

Asked if his new job is a poisoned chalice, his response is characteristically low-key.

"When I was accepting this job I did it with all sincerity," he said, "believing that somebody has to do the job and if somebody has to do it, why not me.

* * * * *


Sound Familiar?

" Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
-- George Santayana



The following information is courtesy of Wikipedia. Since Wikipedia can be edited by many persons I don't ask you to take this information at face value. I encourage you to research it out for yourself. plk


" The Praetorian Guard (in Latin: praetoriani) consisted of a special force of bodyguards used by Roman Emperors. Before being used by the emperors, a Roman general's bodyguard, also styled the praetorian guard, was employed, dating at least to the Scipio family — around 275 BC. Constantine I dissolved it in the 4th century.

Although its name has become synonymous with intrigue, conspiracy, disloyalty and assassination, it could be argued that for the first two centuries of its existence the Praetorian Guard was, on the whole, a positive force in the Roman state. During this time it mostly removed (or allowed the removal of) cruel, weak, and unpopular emperors while generally supporting just, strong, and popular ones. By protecting these monarchs, thus extending their reigns, and also by keeping the disorders of the mobs of Rome and the intrigues of the Senate in line, the Guard helped give the empire a much needed stability that led to the period known as the Pax Romana.

Only after the reign of Marcus Aurelius, when this period is generally considered to have ended, the guard began to deteriorate into the ruthless, mercenary and meddling force for which it has become infamous. However, during the Severan dynasty and afterwards during the Crisis of the Third Century, the legions, the Senate and the emperorship along with the rest of Roman government were falling into decadence as well." courtesy of Wikipedia

* * * * *


" The Schutzstaffel (German for "Protective Squadron"), abbreviated Runic "SS" (Runic) or SS (Latin), was a large security and paramilitary organization of the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazi Party) in Germany.

The S.S. was established in 1925 as a personal guard unit for Nazi leader Adolf Hitler."Die Schutz-Staffel der NSDAP" (shield squadron of the Nazi party) Under the leadership of Heinrich Himmler between 1929 and 1945, the SS grew from a small paramilitary formation to become one of the largest and most powerful organizations in Nazi Germany. The Nazis regarded the SS as an elite unit, the party's "Praetorian Guard," with all SS personnel selected on the principles of racial purity and unconditional loyalty to the Nazi Party.

In contrast to the black-uniformed Allgemeine-SS, the political wing of the SS, the military wing, the Waffen-SS evolved into a second German army within the Wehrmacht, operating in tandem with the regular German army, the Heer. The Waffen-SS gained a reputation as extraordinary soldiers, but also for notorious brutality against civilians and prisoners of war. Its units helped wipe out resistance by Polish Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and slaughtered a number of U.S. prisoners of war near the Belgian town of Malmedy during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. " courtesy of Wikipedia


* * * * *

" Blackwater USA is a private military company and security firm founded in 1997 by Erik Prince and Al Clark. It is based in the U.S. state of North Carolina, where it operates a tactical training facility that it claims is the world's largest. The company trains more than 40,000 people a year, from all the military services and a variety of other agencies. The company markets itself as being "The most comprehensive professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations company in the world". At least 90% of its revenue comes from government contracts, two-thirds of which are no-bid contracts." -- courtesy of Wikipedia


* * * * *

If you see a pattern here or this information makes you uncomfortable make your voice heard.


" In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." -- Martin Luther King Jr.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Evidence Building in the Case Against Blackwater

Iraq: Blackwater Fired Unprovoked | World Latest | Guardian Unlimited

Saturday September 22, 2007 8:46 PM

By ROBERT H. REID

Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD (AP) - Iraqi investigators have a videotape that shows Blackwater USA guards opened fire against civilians without provocation in an incident last week in which 11 people died, a senior Iraqi official said Saturday. He said the case had been referred to the Iraqi judiciary.

Iraq's president, meanwhile, demanded that the Americans release an Iranian arrested this week on suspicion of smuggling weapons to Shiite militias. The demand adds new strains to U.S.-Iraqi relations only days before a meeting between President Bush and Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said Iraqi authorities had completed an investigation into the Sept. 20 shooting in Nisoor Square in western Baghdad and concluded that Blackwater guards were responsible for the deaths.

He told The Associated Press that the conclusion was based on witness statements as well as videotape shot by cameras at the nearby headquarters of the national police command. He said eight people were killed at the scene and three of the 15 wounded died in hospitals.

Blackwater, which provides most of the security for U.S. diplomats and civilian officials in Iraq, has insisted that its guards came under fire from armed insurgents and shot back only to defend themselves.

Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said Saturday that she knew nothing about the videotape and was contractually prohibited from discussing any details of the shooting.

Khalaf also said the ministry was looking into six other fatal shootings involving the Moyock, N.C.-based company, including a Feb. 7 incident outside Iraqi state television in Baghdad in which three building guards were fatally shot.

``These six cases will support the case against Blackwater, because they show that it has a criminal record,'' Khalaf said.

*  *  *  *  *

Friday, September 21, 2007

Headzup: Blackwater's Back




We have to laugh sometimes to keep from crying. But Blackwater USA is no laughing matter. If you think it's time for them to leave Iraq sign the petition.

No One Could Make This Stuff Up

Print Story: Mandela still alive after embarrassing Bush remark on Yahoo! News

Nelson Mandela is still very much alive despite an embarrassing gaffe by U.S. President George W. Bush, who alluded to the former South African leader's death in an attempt to explain sectarian violence in Iraq.

"It's out there. All we can do is reassure people, especially South Africans, that President Mandela is alive," Achmat Dangor, chief executive officer of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, said as Bush's comments received worldwide coverage.

In a speech defending his administration's Iraq policy, Bush said former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's brutality had made it impossible for a unifying leader to emerge and stop the sectarian violence that has engulfed the Middle Eastern nation.

"I heard somebody say, Where's Mandela?' Well, Mandela's dead because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas," Bush, who has a reputation for verbal faux pas, said in a press conference in Washington on Thursday.

Jailed for 27 years for fighting white minority rule, Mandela became South Africa's first black president in 1994. He won a Nobel Peace Prize for preaching racial harmony and guiding the nation peacefully into the post-apartheid era.

References to his death -- Mandela is now 89 and increasingly frail -- are seen as insensitive in South Africa.


The Real Reasons We're Worrying About Food & Product Safety


" So here's the thing, if Congress did exactly all the right things with their domestic law -- increased inspection, put third party certification into the plants in China, etc. China, as a WTO member -- something Congress delivered with a vote -- has the authority to drag the U.S. to one of the WTO foreign tribunals and basically claim we have to gift get rid of our law because it's a violation of their WTO rights. It's outrageous. " -- Lori Wallach



Did you know this? I sure didn't

It's easy for everyone to blame China for the tainted food and toxic toys but nothing will change until consumers understands what caused this situation and demand change.

In the following transcript from yesterday's Lou Dobbs broadcast, Kitty Pilgrim interviews Lori Wallach of Global Trade Watch on her testimony to Congress on this issue.

* * * * *


http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0709/20/ldt.01.html



Well, more Congressional testimony today about how Communist China is flooding this country with millions of dangerous toys and poisonous food products.

Lori Wallach with Global Trade Watch was one of the people who testified today on Capitol Hill and she joins us now. Thanks, Lori, for being with us.

You really do know your stuff on this issue. I've seen you on Capitol Hill many times over the past months. One of the things you say -- and you told the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection today is that the root cause of this is U.S. trade policy.

Can you explain that a bit for our viewers?

LORI WALLACH, PUBLIC CITIZEN: Basically, we've seen a series of trade agreements that resulted in good jobs out, bad products in. For instance, right before NAFTA was the peak of U.S. toy prediction at home. After NAFTA, the companies moved for the $6 a day wages. Then, in 2001, after Congress voted to let China into the WTO, all the jobs went to $1 a day China, to a point where now, literally, we have 25 percent of the jobs in the industry. So it's not surprising the production has been moved to countries like China, where there's no safety structure.

Are we shocked that then when those toys get sent back in, they're dangerous?

PILGRIM: Yes.

WALLACH: We've created a problem with our trade agreements.

PILGRIM: It certainly seems so.

We have some Peru and Panama agreements pending.

Will this make the problem worse, do you believe?

WALLACH: Well, if the definition of insanity is to do the same thing and expect a different result, these are some crazy ideas to expand NAFTA to Peru and Panama, which is what's at stake. So we're taking the NAFTA model, which both sets limits on safety standards and limits how much products can be inspected at the border, and we're literally incorporating the worst part of NAFTA and WTO and extending those failed agreements to more countries. It's a very bad idea.

PILGRIM: One of the things that you explained so very well is how the U.S. is limited in their inspections of foreign operations.

Why is that?

Is that built into the trade agreements?

WALLACH: So, trade agreements like NAFTA, like the NAFTA expansions to Peru and Panama, they have a rule that says you can't treat foreign goods differently than you treat your domestic goods. Now, in the case of imported food or toys, that's crazy because when you have a production in a place where -- the business guys call China the wild, wild east -- there's no regulation, then you need really tight inspection on the way back, versus in the U.S., there are many levels of inspection. The final check is the final touch. But under our trade agreements, we're required to keep domestic and foreign goods the same, even if we have a good reason, a serious safety reason based in fact to do otherwise.

PILGRIM: So these are written right into the agreements?

We agree to this up front?

WALLACH: It's crazy, but I always hoped members of Congress didn't know. But now they know and that's why they shouldn't vote for these Peru and Panama NAFTA expansions.

Now, the thing is we need to fix our trade agreements. We need to update our laws because, you know, the laws were written when a lot of this stuff was made here. We need to update our laws to take into account it's being made in places where there is no safety standard. And we need to get money from the importers to pay for the extra expenses of inspection in China and at the border.

They wanted to go for dollar a day wages and get rid of all those jobs, they should pay for the added costs to make sure the products they want to send back under those conditions are safe. Let's not add insult to injury.

PILGRIM: And yet they say they're raising prices in the interests of safety.

Is that a bit duplicitous?

WALLACH: Well, if you look at the profit margins of these companies that offshore jobs from the U.S., where they were paying union wages and benefits, to a dollar a day in China, where they're dumping their waste on the ground, etc. It's very duplicitous. They can -- they can take a nip out of the profits to make sure our kids aren't being exposed to dangerous kids, so that they can profit through race to the bottom trade agreements.

PILGRIM: Now, Lori, one of the things I love about talking to you is that you not only point out the flaws, you propose some suggestions.

So let me run through a few of yours.

Eighty percent of the toys sold in this country are made in China. In your testimony today, you urged a three-pronged approach. And we'll put this up so our viewers can take a look at it, too -- expand and improve authority of domestic inspection and safety agencies. You also say increase funding for U.S. imports both overseas and at the border. And after provisions of U.S. trade agreements are altered, alert provisions of U.S. trade agreements which limit border inspection of imports.

All three of those things have to be done simultaneously to actually remedy this problem.

WALLACH: Well, here's the crazy thing. Most Americans don't realize that by getting into trade agreements like NAFTA or WTO or this proposed expansion of NAFTA and CAFTA to Peru and Panama, we agree to make all of our domestic laws conform to the trade agreements. And when we have a law that's more safety protective, more pro-environment or health, we can get challenged in a foreign tribunal.

So here's the thing, if Congress did exactly all the right things with their domestic law -- increased inspection, put third party certification into the plants in China, etc. China, as a WTO member -- something Congress delivered with a vote -- has the authority to drag the U.S. to one of the WTO foreign tribunals and basically claim we have to gift get rid of our law because it's a violation of their WTO rights. It's outrageous.

We've got to change those provisions.

PILGRIM: Let me just bring out Nancy Nord, the acting chairman of the CPSC, had this to say about -- there are going to be new recalls and she had this to say about the situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY NORD, ACTING CHAIRMAN, CPSC: While it may appear that we're undergoing an epidemic of lead paint on toys, these recalls have served their intended purpose. Not only are they getting violative products off the shelves and out of consumers' hands, but they have caused the entire toy industry to change practices to prevent such violations from occurring in the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PILGRIM: We only have a few minutes, but there are expected more recalls.

So isn't this explaining the problem away a bit?

WALLACH: Well, first of all, recalls don't give back all the dangerous products. The trick is to not get them on the market. But listening to Chairman Nord, I have to say, she should be an export himself -- right out of that job. We need someone who actually is interested in protecting our safety.

What she's basically saying is trust the companies. But the fact that we have all these recalls is evidence the companies regulating themselves aren't cutting it. And all this stuff is getting out to our kids.

Plus, think of all the small companies. Think of the ones that don't have the fancy brand names. I bet the problem is a lot bigger than the recalls, because the only way we ever know anything is wrong is if a company fesses up.

There's no Consumer Product Safety Council inspector. There's no one watching what's going on. If the company didn't fess up, our children are probably playing with the stuff. That's why we need new government policies, change the trade agreements and more funding for inspection paid for by the companies that took off to the dollar a day unsafe venues.

PILGRIM: Lori Wallach, we are glad you're on the case.

And thanks for talking to us tonight.

WALLACH: Thank you.

PILGRIM: Lori Wallach of Public Citizen.

Thank you.

* * * * *

The following is a more in depth discussion by Lori Wallach on this issue





Other posts on this issue:

China Bashing - A Diversionary Tactic


Consumer Safety -- Not Much Has Changed ...

More on The Politics of Food Safety

The Politics of Food Safety