Professor who criticized Bush told added to terrorist ‘no-fly’ list

April 12th, 2007

A top Constitutional scholar from Princeton who gave a televised speech that slammed President George W. Bush’s executive overreach was recently told that he had been added to the Transportation Security Administration’s terrorist watch list. He shared his experience this weekend at the law blog Balkinization.

Walter F. Murphy, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Emeritus, at Princeton University, attempted to check his luggage at the curbside in Albuquerque before boarding a plane to Newark, New Jersey. Murphy was told he could not use the service.

“I was denied a boarding pass because I was on the Terrorist Watch list,” he said.

When inquiring with a clerk why he was on the list, Murphy was asked if he had participated in any peace marches.

“We ban a lot of people from flying because of that,” a clerk said.

Murphy then explained that he had not marched, but had “in September, 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the Web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the Constitution.”

The clerk responded, “That’ll do it.”

Military spending to retain troops skyrockets

April 12th, 2007

WASHINGTON – The struggle to entice Army soldiers and Marines to stay in the military, after four years of war in Iraq, has ballooned into a $1 billion campaign, with bonuses soaring nearly sixfold since 2003.

The size and number of bonuses have grown as officials scrambled to meet the steady demand for troops on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan and reverse sporadic shortfalls in the number of National Guard and Reserve soldiers willing to sign on for multiple tours.

Besides underscoring the extraordinary steps the Pentagon must take to maintain fighting forces, the rise in costs for re-enlistment incentives is putting strains on the defense budget, already strapped by the massive costs of waging war and equipping and caring for a modern military.

Between Good and Evil

April 7th, 2007

…I wonder how the majority of British people would feel about a bunch of Iranian naval commandos operating in the English Channel, stopping every Western vessel and searching its belly for some potential military goods. I wonder as well how most Brits would feel about the democratically elected Iranian government interfering with the British Parliament’s recent decision to spend dozens of billions of Sterling on a new Trident, a weapon designed for the indiscriminate killing of millions of people. Obviously there is no need to elaborate on these rhetorical questions, the answers are clear. The vast majority of Brits wouldn’t accept anyone interfering either with British politics or with the Kingdom’s territorial waters. Yet, for the majority of Westerners, constant intimidation and destruction of Muslim or Arab States seems to be nothing other than business as usual.

Somalia: Let’s hear it for the war on terror

April 7th, 2007

…Meanwhile, back in Somalia, turns out that, after the initial euphoria, the regime installed by the Ethiopians and -one presumes-their American advisors, has been incapable of bringing together the major clans. Large numbers of African peacekeepers who were supposed to take over from the Ethiopians have, for more the most part, yet to show up. Meanwhile, as the interim government, which was supposed to be a transition on the road to democracy, has become ever more authoritarian and isolated, a new insurgency has grown. It began with some clans linked to the Islamists, but has now greatly expanded.

The past weeks have seen increasingly bloody battles in Mogadishu. Government troops often refused to take action , while the Ethiopians, feeling no such restraint, have reportedly been launching devastating and indsicriminate barrages into heavily populated urban areas. Mogadishu is once again filled with death and destruction. Over a hundred thousand Somalis have fled.

Impressive, while we’ve been obsessed with Iraq and Afghanistan and Iran, the progress being made elsewhere in the War Against Terror.

Conservatives for the Constitution

April 7th, 2007

Just imagine if one of the leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination endorsed this radical agenda:

´ End the use of military commissions to prosecute crimes.

´ Prohibit the use of secret evidence or evidence obtained by torture.

´ Prohibit the detention of American citizens as enemy combatants without proof.

´ Restore habeas corpus for alleged alien combatants.

´ End National Security Agency warrantless wiretapping.

´ Empower Congress to challenge presidential signing statements.

´ Bar executive use of the state secret privilege to deny justice.

´ Prohibit the President from collaborating with foreign governments to kidnap, detain of torture persons abroad.

´ Amend the Espionage Act to permit journalists to report on classified national security matters without threat of persecution.

´ Prohibit of the labeling of groups or individuals in the U.S. as global terrorists based on secret evidence.

Of course, it is difficult to conceive of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or even the somewhat more Constitutionally-courageous John Edwards going to such extremes.

They are, above all, cautious candidates. They don’t want to be accused of getting too serious about maintaining the basic underpinnings of the Republic.

Only the nuttiest of radicals who ask that candidates for president would ask that candidates for nation’s top job to start talking about the notion that the lawless presidency of George W. Bush has created a Constitutional crisis.

So what left-wing cabal is promoting the above assault on the executives excesses of the Bush administration?

The group that’s advancing this so-called “American Freedom Agenda” is chaired by Bruce Fein, a former Nixon administration aide who served as deputy attorney general under President Reagan and who helped to formulate some of the serious — pre-blue dress — arguments for impeaching Bill Clinton. Fein is joined by former Georgia Republican Congressman Bob Barr, veteran conservative fund-raiser Richard Viguerie and David Keene, the former aide to Bob Dole who for many years has served as chairman of the American Conservative Union.

What gives? How come conservatives are taking the lead in the fight to restore basic Constitutional protections?
the nation

Russian intelligence sees U.S. military buildup on Iran border

March 29th, 2007

MOSCOW, March 27 (RIA Novosti) – Russian military intelligence services are reporting a flurry of activity by U.S. Armed Forces near Iran’s borders, a high-ranking security source said Tuesday.

“The latest military intelligence data point to heightened U.S. military preparations for both an air and ground operation against Iran,” the official said, adding that the Pentagon has probably not yet made a final decision as to when an attack will be launched.

He said the Pentagon is looking for a way to deliver a strike against Iran “that would enable the Americans to bring the country to its knees at minimal cost.”

He also said the U.S. Naval presence in the Persian Gulf has for the first time in the past four years reached the level that existed shortly before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Col.-Gen. Leonid Ivashov, vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Sciences, said last week that the Pentagon is planning to deliver a massive air strike on Iran’s military infrastructure in the near future.

A new U.S. carrier battle group has been dispatched to the Gulf.

The USS John C. Stennis, with a crew of 3,200 and around 80 fixed-wing aircraft, including F/A-18 Hornet and Superhornet fighter-bombers, eight support ships and four nuclear submarines are heading for the Gulf, where a similar group led by the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower has been deployed since December 2006.

The U.S. is also sending Patriot anti-missile systems to the region.

Environmental Activist Questions the Goals of Globalization

March 24th, 2007

Vandana Shiva. An inspiring woman. She lives her truth from the roots up

PAUL SOLMAN: For three decades, physicist Vandana Shiva has been a key activist in the fight against globalization, especially in her native India, where she says it threatens hundreds of millions of peasants still down on the farm.

She’s accused beverage companies of stealing the people’s water in India, this footage by a new documentary by Swedish filmmakers PeA Holmquist and Suzanne Khardalian.

Outside the European patent office, Shiva challenged corporate patents of seeds, what she calls the biopiracy of natural resources.

VANDANA SHIVA, Physicist: Our world is not for sale.

PAUL SOLMAN: She joined protests against the World Trade Organization in Cancun.

VANDANA SHIVA: WTO is an instrument of corporate unilateralism.

PAUL SOLMAN: At home at the foot of the Himalayan Mountains, Shiva is trying to hold back the forces of globalization, and return to what she says would be a more sustainable way of life, traditional agriculture. She’s using the Indian farm she grew up on to preserve native crops by maintaining a seed bank, promoting the use of India’s equally native fertilizer.

This had led the likes of free-market think tanker Barun Mitra to bestow a B.S. award on Shiva for sustaining global poverty.

VANDANA SHIVA: Why did you give me an award in Johannesburg for making the world starve because of organic farming?

MAN: It is because the agriculture today is not economically viable.

PAUL SOLMAN: Everywhere she goes, Shiva fights globalization. We met up with her recently at the University of Oregon Law school, and its 25th annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference, where Dr. Shiva was to give a keynote speech, before which she sat down to answer some questions — among them, doesn’t Barun Mitra have a point, that small-scale farming isn’t viable?

VANDANA SHIVA: Farming on small plots of land is viable if it’s done without generating super-profits for agribusiness and the seed corporations.

Our farmers in the organic movement are doubling their incomes and their production, and are not in a desperate situation. Farming, as a vocation, is something the small farmer of India or the small farmer of Africa or the small farmer of Latin America is not voluntarily giving up.

PAUL SOLMAN: But we have a term, a phrase in America: How are you going to you keep them down on the farm after they have seen Paris? There’s a draw to urban areas, to the excitement of the city, to the idea that you can better yourself. You don’t have to stay down on the farm.


VANDANA SHIVA: … but for one indicator. The new national sample survey of India, which is the official data collection, shows there’s absolutely no growth of employment in urban areas at all.

Slums are being cleared out. Earlier, you get flushed out of the rural areas, went and settled in the slum, somehow did some petty servicing, and made a living. Today, for the poor, either it is a dignified and free life as a peasant or nothing, because the options in the cities that used to be able to become the alternative are also closing down under globalization.

They have to now become investment centers for foreign direct investment. Cities have to get cleaned up of people.

Disenfranchisement of workers

PAUL SOLMAN: Meanwhile, in the countryside, says Shiva, the government, in the name of globalization, clears out farmers to create corporate-friendly, tax-free enterprise zones to build their economies.

VANDANA SHIVA: No environmental law, no labor law, foreign territories within India, that’s the way these corporations compete. They compete on a totally false economy. They have every advantage against any honest industry that is domestic, against any honest farmer who works through hard work.

PAUL SOLMAN: But the history of economic progress and growth has been exactly the — the process that you’re now trying to resist.

VANDANA SHIVA: In the last decade, one-third of the world’s hungry and malnourished kids are now in India, in the India that is growing at 9 percent.

And I think we need to recognize that globalization means that we get larger and larger-sized middlemen, fewer and fewer of them making bigger and bigger margins, and therefore leading to a growth figure. When measured in terms of national economies, there’s growth. But, when measured in terms of the worker, the peasant, the farmer, the woman, there’s a huge, huge disenfranchisement.

PAUL SOLMAN: If we didn’t have this market system that you’re condemning, would we have the bicycle, for example? Would we have penicillin?

VANDANA SHIVA: Well, the penicillin came out of the will to do public good, the treatment for malaria, the — most of the medicines, most of the antibiotics…

PAUL SOLMAN: The bicycle? The bicycle came out of somebody’s desire to do public good? It was somebody trying to figure out how he or she could make more money, no?

VANDANA SHIVA: But I think that’s one of the biggest false assumptions, particularly in America is prevalent, that you don’t think unless you can privately profit out of it. In fact, the entire intellectual property edifice is built on that.

Understanding biopiracy

PAUL SOLMAN: To Shiva, by contrast, intellectual property is often piracy by the rich from the rest of us. Take the neem tree for example, N-E-E-M.

VANDANA SHIVA: It’s called the village pharmacy in India. It can be used for hundreds of things.

PAUL SOLMAN: People brushing their…

VANDANA SHIVA: We brush our teeth with it. We use it for skin treatment. It’s even used as a contraceptive, the oil. We use the oil for lighting, but we also use the oil for therapeutics. It’s ayurvedic medicine. It’s — it’s wonderful to get rid of pimples. It’s the magic treatment.

PAUL SOLMAN: Wait a second. This is…

PAUL SOLMAN: I think you’re selling me a bill of goods here.

VANDANA SHIVA: No, but it is.

PAUL SOLMAN: The magic neem tree? I mean…

VANDANA SHIVA: It is. It is magic.

PAUL SOLMAN: Magic enough, anyway, to make an organic pesticide from neem seed oil.

When the infamous union carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, leaked poison gas in 1984, killing thousands, Shiva asked herself a question.

VANDANA SHIVA: Why should people die for horrible toxic pesticides, when we have wonderful trees, like neem, which give us pest control?

And I started to plant trees. I started to distribute neem to farmers, train them. And then, in 1994, I find a patent held by W.R. Grace. Well, Grace claims to have invented the neem, invented the use of neem for biopesticide.

So, we challenged a patent held jointly by them and the United States Department of Agriculture. We fought that case 11 years. We won it. But this was a case of biopiracy.

PAUL SOLMAN: Biopiracy, says Shiva, further encouraged by globalization’s new trade regime, since it’s committed to protecting intellectual property.

VANDANA SHIVA: There’s a case of basmati. A company in Texas called RiceTec claims to have invented the basmati that grows in our valley.

So, when I find RiceTec in Texas claims to have invented the height of the plant, the length of the grain, the aroma, and the methods of cooking, I said that, my grandmother taught me when I was a 6-year-old, took on that challenge. We fought that one four years.

And, then, much later, Monsanto, who claims to always invent new seeds, had the cheek to steal an old Indian wheat variety and patent it as an invention. That was struck down in a four-month legal battle in the European patent office.

Problems with industrial society

PAUL SOLMAN: But you’re not saying that a patent is necessarily a bad thing. I mean, don’t you want companies and entrepreneurs to have the incentive to create something?
VANDANA SHIVA: I would like them to have an honest incentive for an honest innovation.

PAUL SOLMAN: More than that, she thinks, we need to rethink globalization, so-called wealth creation, at the expense of our common property, our natural resources, our environment.

VANDANA SHIVA: I think we are in a deep, deep mess, in terms of providing well-being and satisfaction for people. And we can’t use the assumption of today’s industrialized society with huge pressure on the world’s climate, as the model.

PAUL SOLMAN: So, a key part of your critique, then, is that there are all these hidden costs associated with the way we do things that…

VANDANA SHIVA: Totally, totally.

PAUL SOLMAN: And we’re just not acknowledging them, at our peril?

VANDANA SHIVA: That, to me, is the heart of the issue, that the so-called growth, as defined in the indicators that have been evolved to suit those who control the wealth of the world and the political decision-making in the world, that that growth hides behind it huge amounts of destruction in the lives of people, in the lives of the Third World, and in the planet’s life.

PAUL SOLMAN: Well, how would you measure economic growth?

VANDANA SHIVA: I would measure economic growth by seeing, how much food are people eating, how much clean water do they have in their rivers and their wells, how much clothing do they have access to, how much education and health services can — are they provided as public systems?

PAUL SOLMAN: You’re trained as a quantum mechanics nuclear physicist, right? How did you make the leap from that to one of the world’s most vocal and — and, in some sense, most extreme activists on environmental issues?

VANDANA SHIVA: If globalization had not been forced on us, I can imagine I would have gone back to doing my puzzles with quantum theory.

But now that we have, A, the WTO and its massive destruction — and I can’t watch our farmers die as if they were flies that are being swatted in a global economy. And then you have climate change. And I do feel we need a massive shift in thinking, massive shift in the way we live. We could crash in the next 20 years, not just as a civilization, but as a species.

Call me crazy, but this might be it…

March 23rd, 2007

 Iran Nabs 15 British Sailors in Iraqi Waters

Iranian naval vessels seized 15 British sailors in Iraqi waters on Friday, the Ministry of Defense said.

The British Navy personnel were “engaged in routine boarding operations of merchant shipping in Iraqi territorial waters,” and had completed their inspection of a merchant ship when they were accosted by Iranian vessels, the ministry said.

“We are urgently pursuing this matter with the Iranian authorities at the highest level and … the Iranian ambassador has been summoned to the Foreign Office,” the ministry said.

A Pentagon official said the Britons were in two inflatable boats from the frigate H.M.S. Cornwall during a routine smuggling investigation, said the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the incident.

He said the confrontation happened as the British contingent was traveling along the boundary of territorial waters between Iran and Iraq. They were detained by the Revolutionary Guard’s navy, he said.

A fisherman who said he was with a group of Iraqis from the southern city of Basra fishing in Iraqi waters in the northern area of the Gulf said he saw the Iranian seizure. The fisherman declined to be identified because of security concerns.

“Two boats, each with a crew of six to eight multinational forces, were searching Iraqi and Iranian boats Friday morning in Ras al-Beesha area in the northern entrance of the Arab Gulf, but big Iranian boats came and took the two boats with their crews to the Iranian waters.”

The Britain government said it had demanded “the immediate and safe return of our people and equipment.”

 yahoo news

This is what deluded people voted for in November…

March 12th, 2007

Dems abandon war authority provision

WASHINGTON – Top House Democrats retreated Monday from an attempt to limit President Bush’s authority for taking military action against Iran as the leadership concentrated on a looming confrontation with the White House over the Iraq war.

Officials said Speaker Nancy Pelosi (news, bio, voting record) and other members of the leadership had decided to strip from a major military spending bill a requirement for Bush to gain approval from Congress before moving against Iran.

Conservative Democrats as well as lawmakers concerned about the possible impact on Israel had argued for the change in strategy.

Oh yeah and I forgot to fume last week about how, when they announced their big bold ‘Out of Iraq Sometime’ initiative, the Dems said troops leaving Iraq should be redeployed to Afghanistan!

Born-Again Killer Rios Montt Runs for Congress in Guatemala

March 12th, 2007

Former Guatemalan dictator General Jose Efrain Rios Montt, who prosecuted a Reagan administration-supported war of genocide against the Mayan population, on January 17, 2007 announced that he plans to run for Congress in September.

This would provide him with immunity from prosecution on the charges of genocide and other violations of human rights during the country’s 36-year civil war, according to SOA (School of Americas) Watch.

Members of the country’s Congress enjoy immunity from prosecution unless they are suspended from office by a court. “I am certain and sure” of getting a seat in Congress, Rios Montt, told a news conference. Rios Montt, who continues to be an influential and powerful politician in Guatemala, ran for the presidency in 2004 and finished third (Associated Press, January 17).

The Spanish National Court has charged the former dictator, who attended a “special course” in the 1950 at the SOA (now called WHINSEC – the ñWestern Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), with the crimes of genocide, torture, terrorism and illegal detention. In July 2006, Spanish Judge Santiago Pedraz issued warrants for the arrest of General RĠos Montt and several other former senior officials.

“The Guatemalan authorities subsequently took some of the accused into custody in order to ensure that they would not flee the country,” according to Amnesty International. “However, General RĠos Montt remains free. Strong international pressure is needed to ensure that all either face trial in Guatemala or are extradited to Spain.”