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Archive for August 1st, 2008

America In An Economic Free Fall?

By- Suzie-Q @ 9:00 AM MST

America’s Economic Free Fall

By William Greider, The Nation. Posted August 1, 2008

In their haste to do anything Wall Street wants, Congress and the lame-duck President are sowing far more profound troubles for the country.

Washington can act with breathtaking urgency when the right people want something done. In this case, the people are Wall Street’s titans, who are scared witless at the prospect of their historic implosion. Congress quickly agreed to enact a gargantuan bailout, with more to come, to calm the anxieties and halt the deflation of Wall Street giants. Put aside partisan bickering, no time for hearings, no need to think through the deeper implications. We haven’t seen “bipartisan cooperation” like this since Washington decided to invade Iraq.

In their haste to do anything the financial guys seem to want, Congress and the lame-duck President are, I fear, sowing far more profound troubles for the country. First, while throwing our money at Wall Street, government is neglecting the grave risk of a deeper catastrophe for the real economy of producers and consumers. Second, Washington’s selective generosity for influential financial losers is deforming democracy and opening the path to an awesomely powerful corporate state. Third, the rescue has not succeeded, not yet. Banking faces huge losses ahead, and informed insiders assume a far larger federal bailout will be needed — after the election. No one wants to upset voters by talking about it now. The next President, once in office, can break the bad news. It’s not only about the money — with debate silenced, a dangerous line has been crossed. Hundreds of billions in open-ended relief has been delivered to the largest and most powerful mega-banks and investment firms, while government offers only weak gestures of sympathy for struggling producers, workers and consumers.

The bailouts are rewarding the very people and institutions whose reckless behavior caused this financial mess. Yet government demands nothing from them in return — like new rules for prudent behavior and explicit obligations to serve the national interest. Washington ought to compel the financial players to rein in their appetite for profit in order to help save the country from a far worse fate: a depressed economy that cannot regain its normal energies. Instead, the Federal Reserve, the Treasury, the Democratic Congress and of course the Republicans meekly defer to the wise men of high finance, who no longer seem so all-knowing.

Let’s review the bidding to date. After panic swept through the global financial community this spring, the Federal Reserve and Treasury rushed in to arrange a sweetheart rescue for Bear Stearns, expending $29 billion to take over the brokerage’s ruined assets so JPMorgan Chase, the prestigious banking conglomerate, would agree to buy what was left. At the same time, the Fed and Treasury provided a series of emergency loans and liquidity for endangered investment firms and major banks. Investors were not persuaded. Their panic was not “mental,” as former McCain adviser Phil Gramm recently complained. The collapse of the housing bubble had revealed the deep rot and duplicity within the financial system. When investors tried to sell off huge portfolios of spoiled financial assets like mortgage bonds, nobody would buy them. In fact, no one can yet say how much these once esteemed “safe” investments are really worth.

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Bush in the dock? Don’t count on it

Sudhan @12:10 CET

But that doesn’t mean the next president can’t hold this administration accountable.

Even war criminals have fan clubs. On Tuesday, 15,000 people in Belgrade, Serbia, protested the transfer of indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic to the International Criminal Tribunal at The Hague. Karadzic is implicated in torture, rape, murder and genocide, but to some self-styled Serbian patriots, these are mere details. “Long Live Radovan!” chanted the protesters.

For the many Americans who read of Karadzic’s arrest but wondered, “Yes, great — and when will George W. Bush and Dick Cheney face trial for war crimes?” this is something to keep in mind. Karadzic was the leader of a small, unrecognized rogue republic and presided over a genocide — but he evaded justice for more than a decade and still keeps a loyal fan base.

Bush and Cheney are the leaders of the most powerful state in the world, and their misdeeds, though egregious, aren’t on the same level as Karadzic’s. (Unless — ahem — you count the Iraq war, on the “it was all a tissue of lies” theory. But for the sake of the argument, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.) So no one should be surprised that there’s still a Bush fan club (albeit a small one) or that the prospects of criminal proceedings against the president and his henchmen are virtually nonexistent.

It’s not that Bush, Cheney and Co. don’t deserve to end up in the dock. Retired Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who was commissioned by the Pentagon in 2004 to investigate the abuses at Abu Ghraib, recently concluded that “the commander in chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture. … A government policy was promulgated to the field whereby the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice were disregarded. … There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes.”

The human cost of those crimes? It’s hard to say for sure, given the administration’s penchant for secrecy (understandable, because the president was warned as early as January 2002 of “the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act” by his then-chief counsel, Alberto Gonzales). But when the nongovernmental Detainee Abuse and Accountability Project examined thousands of pages of internal government records, it documented more than 330 cases “in which U.S. military and civilian personnel are credibly alleged to have abused or killed detainees” at “U.S. facilities throughout Afghanistan, Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay.”

A McClatchy Newspaper Group report released a few weeks ago came to a similar conclusion, finding that brutal mistreatment of prisoners was routine in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo, even though in many cases the abused detainees had no ties to Al Qaeda.

Did all this violate U.S. and international law? You betcha. The U.S. is party to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, and torture is also a federal crime. At the time most of the abuses were committed, the War Crimes Act also criminalized violations of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits “cruel treatment and torture [and] outrages upon personal dignity.” And under the doctrine of “command responsibility,” senior civilian and military leaders could all face criminal liability for authorizing or tolerating the abuses.

But don’t hold your breath. As far back as 2001, administration lawyers were crafting legal opinions designed to shelter their bosses from any future criminal liability, and much evidence has since been hidden and destroyed. Then in 2006, the GOP-dominated Congress amended the War Crimes Act — with retroactive effect — to make future prosecutions almost impossible.

In any case, neither Democrats nor Republicans have the stomach for criminal proceedings against high-ranking current or former officials who still retain substantial public support. Meanwhile, no international tribunal is ever likely to have jurisdiction over the U.S. participants involved in the abuses.

But that doesn’t mean we should give up on accountability. John McCain and Barack Obama should be urged to establish a high-level, nonpartisan “truth commission” with robust subpoena powers early in 2009. That commission should investigate, hold hearings and issue a public report on responsibility for torture, war crimes and other abuses committed during the Bush administration.

Such a panel wouldn’t satisfy those who’d like to see Bush and Cheney in prison garb, but it would be a major step toward undoing the damage the administration did to our reputation as a nation committed to human rights. And as more incriminating details come out — and they will — some Bush-Cheney fan club members might even turn in their membership cards.

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anthony @ 10:48 BST

Kurt Nimmo | Infowars | July 31, 2008

In the video here, taped at the Campus Progress journalism conference earlier this month, the Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh reveals how the neocons convened around Dick Cheney and brainstormed ways to kick off World War IV, as they fondly call their pet project to take out the Muslims and foment a contrived “clash of civilizations.”

According to Hersh, this meeting occurred after the neocons failed miserably to stage a rehashed version of the Gulf of Tonkin incident in the Strait of Hormuz, mostly because it is no longer 1964 and such Big Lies — thanks to the internet and bloggers — are far more difficult to float. “For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there,” quipped LBJ about the imaginary act of North Vietnamese boats supposedly attacking U.S. ships, leading to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and undeclared war in Southeast Asia, ultimately resulting in the death of nearly 60,000 Americans and around 3 million Southeast Asians.

In an exclusive Think Progress story, we learn the meeting took place in Cheney’s office and the subject on the table was “how to create a casus belli between Tehran and Washington,” part of an ongoing effort to provide an excuse to attack Iran. “There was a dozen ideas proffered about how to trigger a war,” Hersh explains. “The one that interested me the most was why don’t we build — we in our shipyard — build four or five boats that look like Iranian PT boats. Put Navy seals on them with a lot of arms. And next time one of our boats goes to the Straits of Hormuz, start a shoot-up.”

Hersh would have us believe this scenario did not play out because “you can’t have Americans killing Americans,” an absurd explanation considering the fact the attacks of September 11 were just that — “Americans killing Americans,” a calculated and cold-blooded act of mass murder carried out by elements in the U.S. government as a “new Pearl Harbor,” a cynical pretext to launch the “war on terror,” now grinding into its seventh year. (more…)

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