Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sept. 27, 2009, Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter

September 27, 2009 Issue #151

The Activist Newsletter, published in New Paltz, N.Y., appears once a month, supplemented by the Activist Calendar of progressive events, which is sent to Hudson Valley readers only. Editor: Jack A. Smith (who writes the articles that appear without a byline or credit to other publications). He is the former editor of the (U.S.) Guardian Newsweekly. Copy Editor: Donna Goodman. Calendar Editor: Rocco Rizzo. If you know someone who may benefit from this newsletter, ask them to subscribe at If you no longer wish to receive the newsletter, unsubscribe at the same address. Please send event listings to the above email address. The current and back issues of the newsletter/calendar are available at


1. LET’S MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION — President Obama is rethinking strategy for the war in Afghanistan. Let’s help him out at our Kingston peace rally Oct. 17 by telling him the only winning strategy is to End the War Now!

2. THE U.S. AND IRAN: A MANUFACTURED CRISIS — Part 1: The facts of the matter.

3. THE U.S. AND IRAN: A MANUFACTURED CRISIS — Part 2: Behind the Allegations.

4. THE U.S. AND IRAN: A MANUFACTURED CRISIS — Part 3: The case for Iran.

5. RIGHTS GROUPS CHALLENGE GOVERNMENT — Several organizations that protect U.S. civil liberties and human rights have issued separate statements critical of the White House and the CIA.

6. AFGHANISTAN, IRAQ AND U.S. STRATEGY — As Gen. McChrystal and the Pentagon scramble to avoid the appearance of defeat, Brian Becker writes that Afghanistan and Iraq will never accept colonialism of any kind.

7. WASHINGTON MARCH OCT. 11 FOR GAY/LESBIAN RIGHTS — Information about the march and rally and local transportation options.

8. IN DEFENSE OF ACORN — ACORN is being dragged through the mud recently because of a few very foolish employees, but it is a worthwhile progressive enterprise.


Editor's Note:

This is Part 2 of our October newsletter that was emailed Sept. 18 and is on our website. We had planned to write articles about Afghanistan, healthcare and poverty for this issue but along came Washington’s extraordinary allegations about Iran, suggesting that the Tehran government was preparing to secretly produce nuclear weapons. We had no choice but to concentrate on writing what turned out to be a 3-part series headlined “The U.S. and Iran: A Manufactured Crisis.” We decided to put all three parts in this issue. It’s an eye-opener and we hope you read it carefully and, if you wish, let us know what you think.

We’re not without coverage of Afghanistan, however. Brian Becker, the national coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition, has written an article titled “Afghanistan, Iraq and U.S. Strategy.”

We’re just 20 days away from the Oct. 17 nationwide protests protesting the beginning of the 9th year of George W. Bush’s Afghan war. An article about our Kingston demonstration is directly below. We hope to see you there.

And now for something entirely different, as the Monty Python announcer used to say, as “we” switch to the first person singular for approximately the third time in a decade:

Over the last year I’ve have received a great many invitations to become what is called a Facebook friend, mainly from readers, but friends and family, too. Thanks to all of you, including those of my daughters who sought my electronic “friendship,” but I’m just not ready to get on to Facebook, largely for reasons of time, and let it go at that.

I’m mentioning this only because it’s the best way of explaining to a lot of readers who have graciously extended me an invitation that it’s not a decision to say yes to one and no to another but an across-the-board disinclination to participate. I’m told it’s a great organizing tool, but I’ll stick with the newsletter for that.

I’m always many years behind trends involving new technologies and the latest this and that, except, of course, for Google. For instance, I still enjoy my martinis with gin, a hint of vermouth and three olives, and am close to being scandalized when asked whether it will be vodka and onion or similar concoctions.

In another 10 years I’ll probably obtain my own Facebook page and tell everybody how great it is, only to be informed that it’s so, well, 2009 of me to suggest something so quaint. By that time, “martinis” will probably consist of two parts Jack Daniel’s, three parts cherry soda, a hint of asphalt and a substantial twist of whale blubber.

— Jack



So far things are going quite well in preparing for the antiwar rally in Kingston Saturday, Oct. 17, organized by Peace & Social Progress Now! to mark the 8th anniversary of the U.S. invasion/occupation of Afghanistan. This is more than we can say about the war itself.

The Obama Administration is in the midst of rethinking its strategy in Afghanistan as the fighting intensifies, the war is going nowhere fast and the costs are breaking the bank. A majority of American public opinion, including nearly 80% of Democratic voters, has turned against this unnecessary, unwinnable and now unpopular remnant of the Bush Administration’s malicious imprint upon our society. The only majority behind this war are the Republicans.

Let’s help President Obama make the right decision at this critical juncture by reviving our Hudson Valley peace movement and telling him the winning strategy is to End the War Now! This is an important juncture when our voices must be heard. Join us Saturday, Oct. 17, at Academy Green Park from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., rain or shine.

At this point we’re collecting endorsements from various groups, picking speakers and entertainers, making signs and encouraging people to write letters to the editor of their local papers announcing the event. We’re not only asking our readers to attend the rally but to bring people with them if possible. Local groups are invited to set up lit tables and to bring their signs and organizational banners, if desired.

Here are directions to Academy Green Park from Kingston Thruway exit 19: Leaving the toll booths you will enter a traffic circle. Go most of the way around and emerge at Chandler Drive. Drive for about a mile to the first traffic light at Albany Ave. Turn right a short distance and you’re there. Park in the small shopping center lot right there or on local streets.

For rally information, leaflets to distribute, or to volunteer, contact Jack or Donna at or call at (845) 255-5779.


2. THE U.S. AND IRAN: A MANUFACTURED CRISIS — Part 1: The facts of the matter.

No one knows what will emerge ultimately from the talks beginning in Geneva Oct. 1 between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany on the matter of the Tehran government’s nuclear program.

Iran says it looks forward to the talks and promises to be forthcoming. But judging by the stance of the United States, Great Britain, France and Germany last week at the UN conferences in New York and the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh, draconian sanctions may be enacted against Iran in a few months. This would result in yet another crisis that the world doesn’t need just now.

Russia and China — which hold veto power in the Security Council that can weaken or prevent additional sanctions — have up to now resisted the Obama Administration’s drive for tough new UN punishments. President Barack Obama met separately during the week with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao in an effort to obtain their agreement to threaten more stringent sanctions should Iran procrastinate during the talks.

The White House later suggested to the press that Medvedev may be coming around to Obama’s point of view, but this seems to be based on very skimpy evidence — a remark that "in some cases sanctions are inevitable." Hu evidently didn’t even go that far. China opposes sanctions in principle as a means of resolving international disputes.

Moscow and Beijing do not subscribe to the negative depiction of Iran promoted by Washington, Tel Aviv, London, Paris and Berlin. They understand the situation to be far more complex than the U.S. and its allies publicly acknowledge.

The Iran question suddenly took center stage Sept. 25 during a week of hectic political activity. The White house set up a hastily arranged and theatrically produced press conference at the start of the G20 meeting in order to detonate a political bombshell intended to destroy Tehran’s contention that it is only interested in nuclear power, not nuclear weapons.

The conference opened with Obama standing at the microphone with French President Nicholas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown standing solemnly to his left and right. It was explained that German Chancellor Angela Merkel would have joined the trio but was delayed.

Obama then declared that Iran had for several years been secretly building an underground plant in mountainous terrain to manufacture nuclear fuel near the city of Qom about 100 miles from Tehran, in addition to the plant and facilities in Natanz already known to the world. He suggested the new plant was intended to produce weapons without the world’s knowledge.

Obama then charged that “Iran's decision to build yet another nuclear facility without notifying the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] represents a direct challenge to the basic compact at the center of the non-proliferation regime .... Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow .... and threatening the stability and security of the region and the world.” Refusal to “come clean,” he said, “is going to lead to confrontation.”

Sarkozy and Brown followed Obama and seemed to go even further than the American leader in denouncing Iran, explicitly demanding harder sanctions. Said Brown: “The level of deception by the Iranian government, and the scale of what we believe is the breach of international commitments, will shock and anger the entire international community.”

The New York Times reported that “after months of talking about the need for engagement, Mr. Obama appears to have made a leap toward viewing tough new sanctions against Iran as an inevitability .... American officials said that they expected the announcement to make it easier to build a case for international sanctions.”

The majority of House and Senate members have long been critical of Iran’s government and the new allegations have only substantiated their suspicions. Right wing Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the leading Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, declared: "The U.S. and other countries must immediately impose crippling sanctions on the Iranian regime, including cutting off Iran’s imports of gasoline. The world cannot stand by and watch the nightmare of a nuclear-armed Iran become reality." Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stated "now is the time to supplement engagement with more robust international sanctions."

As intended, the hyped disclosure created headlines around the world. It probably convinced many Americans, already primed to detest Iran, that Tehran is building nuclear bombs to obliterate the U.S. and Israel. This is not an unlikely conclusion for many people to accept after 30 years of Washington’s incessant campaign to demonize the government that overthrew and replaced America’s puppet, the dreaded Shah of Iran. The U.S. broke diplomatic relations with Iran after this act of lèse majesté and the subsequent “hostage crisis,” and has nourished a grudge to this day.

If push does come to shove with Iran it is important to remember how effortless it was to hoodwink the majority of American politicians and the masses of people into backing a completely unnecessary war against Iraq. As in the buildup to the unjust invasion of Iraq, today’s U.S. corporate mass media is playing its principal part to perfection — uncritically echoing government distortions about the danger of Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons. The Iran situation is different, but yet similar in terms of mass public manipulation and the possibility of a future confrontation getting out of hand.

Can this be, once again, a situation of high-stakes geopolitics where things are not as they seem? We think so. Let’s look at the immediate charge against Iran, based on the “revelations” of the last week, then take on the bigger picture in Part 2.

The “shocking” news may have been delivered with a sense of surprise and high urgency, but U.S. intelligence agencies, joined by their counterparts in some allied countries, were aware since 2006 that Iran was constructing a second uranium processing plant that still remains under construction and is not operational. According to a Sept. 26 article circulated by the McClatchy newspaper group quoting a U.S. intelligence official, "There was dialogue with allies from a very early point.”

Bush Administration Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnel first informed Obama about the facility soon after he won election. He has been kept up to date since then. Before going public with the information last week, the president saw to it that several other governments were told in advance, as was the IAEA and others.

Washington officials claimed Iran became aware “in late spring” that the U.S. was spying on the “secret” facility. They said Iran then informed the International Atomic Energy Agency Sept. 21 about the existence of its project, implying Tehran did so because its cover was blown. In a statement Sept. 24 the IAEA acknowledged that Tehran had informed them that a “pilot fuel enrichment plant is under construction in the country,” and that it “also understands from Iran that no nuclear material has been introduced into the facility.”

Iran insisted to the Vienna-based IAEA and the world that the enrichment plant under construction is designed only for fueling nuclear power installations. Soon after Obama’s G20 speech, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization declared the new “semi-industrial enrichment fuel facility” was “within the framework of International Atomic Energy Agency’s regulations.” Press reports said “The head of Iran's nuclear program suggested UN inspectors would be allowed to visit the site.” The invitation was extended before Washington’s demand that it do so.

A quite unruffled Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appeared at a press conference in New York after Obama’s disclosures. He seemed to regard the American president’s allegations, and the staged manner in which they were delivered, not only the making of a mountain out of a molehill but an act of bad faith just before the talks are to begin, suggesting non-threateningly that Obama will come to regret his confrontational demeanor.

Ahmadinejad told the press that the plant in question wouldn't be operational for 18 more months and that it did not violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). He went further and said nuclear weapons "are against humanity [and] they are inhumane," comments in keeping with his recent calls for eliminating all nuclear weapons. The Iranian leader also said that Iran informed the IAEA about the plant only a few days ago instead of when ground was broken because construction had reached the stage where it should be reported, not because it found out that a U.S. spy agency was watching.

What are we to make of this? First it must be understood there is a complex dispute over the IAEA’s safeguard provisions governing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Iran considers itself to be in total compliance with the NPT, and this appears to be true. Inter-Press Service reporter Jim Lobe wrote Sept. 25 that “Under the basic Safeguards Agreement of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of which Iran is a signatory, member states are required to declare their nuclear facilities and designs at least 180 days before introducing nuclear materials there.”

According to an article in the Sept. 26 New York Times by Neil MacFarquhar, “Tehran’s stance hinges on different interpretations of the agency’s regulations, said Graham Allison, the director of Harvard University’s Belfer Center and an Iran nuclear expert.

“For two decades, the agency required Iran to report only when nuclear material [for uranium enrichment] was introduced to a facility. By 2003 it rescinded that, in line with the guidelines for most [but not all] countries, demanding reporting when construction began, Mr. Allison said. But the agency never declared Iran out of compliance when Tehran claimed the old agreement was still in place.”

In talking to the press after Obama’s speech, Ahmadinejad said that the new facility would be completed in 18 months, so under Iran’s understanding of its responsibilities, its notification was a year in advance. The U.S. maintains that Iran informed the IAEA when it learned U.S. spy agencies had become aware of the plant, but if that were so, why did Teheran wait three months before contacting the nuclear agency?

"What we did was completely legal, according to the law,” the Iranian president said. “We have informed the agency, the agency will come and take a look and produce a report and it's nothing new." According to the Associated Press Teheran’s notice to the IAEA specified that the enrichment level would be up to 5%, suitable only for peaceful purposes. Weapons-grade material is more than 90% enriched.”

The AP also noted that the IAEA now “says Iran is obliged to make such a notification when it begins design of such facilities” and that “a government cannot unilaterally abandon such an agreement.” This is confusing, of course. But since Iran was never designated as noncompliant and was allowed to proceed under the previous rules after it registered its rejection, the thunderous criticism emanating from the U.S., Britain and France appears to have no merit.


3. THE U.S. AND IRAN: A MANUFACTURED CRISIS — Part 2: Behind the Allegations

There’s obviously more than meets the eye to unproven allegations of late September from the U.S. and its allies that Iran’s nuclear program is really intended to result in the clandestine production of nuclear weapons, presumably to attack other countries.

As we proceed with our analysis, here are a few things that should be kept in mind.

• So far there is absolutely no evidence Iran is going to “weaponize” its nuclear power program and build atomic bombs. So far it has been abiding by the NPT, has pledged not to produce nuclear weapons, is under very close scrutiny by the IAEA, and obviously its program is the target of intensive surveillance by the United States. There is no secret way in which it can construct nuclear weapons under such circumstances.

• Israel possesses an arsenal of up to 200 nuclear weapons and thumbs its nose at the IAEA and the NPT, with which it is notoriously noncompliant. If President Obama must sternly castigate Iran, which does not have nuclear weapons, for “breaking rules that all nations must follow .... and threatening the stability and security of the region and the world,” why does he protect Israel from international sanction and subsidize its military machine? Pakistan and India are also noncompliant, but they too are allies of Washington and thus have been granted immunity.

• In this connection it must be noted that the far right wing Tel Aviv government appears to be on the verge of launching an attack on Iran and has made this well known to the world. But it receives no censure for such threats from the U.S. and its European allies, or for the horror it inflicted on Gaza a few months ago. Imagine the outcry if Iran threatened to attack Israel, or its army entered the territory of a neighboring society and inflicted terrible cruelties largely upon its civilian population for not submitting to national oppression. And yet Tel Aviv calls Iran an "existential" threat despite Israel’s nuclear weapons, it’s superior military force and its support from the entire American military apparatus, including 2,600 strategic nuclear warheads on hair-trigger readiness. But as we've noted before, the only concrete threat to Israel’s existence would be if the U.S. government withdrew its political, military and financial support.

• Washington's geopolitical interests are key to America’s relationship to Iran and the Middle East in general. The U.S. desires to control — or at minimum to keep out of "unfriendly" hands — the immense oil reserves possessed by Iran and neighboring Iraq. It fears a future alliance between these resource rich developing countries, who also happen to be the only two nations in the world governed by Shi’ite Muslims. The U.S. invaded to overthrow the "unfriendly," Sunni-backed Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. But it can neither rely totally on its selected successor regime in Baghdad, nor has it yet been able to remove the theocratic government in Tehran, which is conservative domestically but puts forward an anti-imperialist foreign policy that drives the world’s remaining superpower to distraction.

Washington’s objective at the talks beginning Oct. 1 is to coerce Iran to accept extremely intrusive controls on its nuclear development, combining dire threats for refusal with small rewards for agreement. The Tehran government said it will reject demands that it halt uranium enrichment, a main concern of the five members of the Security Council plus Germany, but indicated without elaboration that "Iran is ready to ... help ease joint international concerns over the nuclear issue." (Enriched uranium is required to power nuclear plants for civilian uses. Much greatly enriched uranium is required for weapons.)

Washington wants to confine the seven-party discussions to Tehran’s nuclear project, but the Iranian government put forward it own proposal in early September for “comprehensive, all-encompassing and constructive negotiations.” The U.S. rejected the proposal, but accepted it with seeming reluctance the next day. (We don’t know what happened to change things.) The Iranian suggestions include hastening global nuclear disarmament, ending nuclear proliferation and working toward world peace. Theoretically, Washington agrees with these goals, but doesn’t really want to discuss them with Iran.

The White House knows that in a broader discussion of nonproliferation issues Iran would draw attention to the three U.S. allies presently defying the NPT and getting away with it, and also show that the U.S. itself is noncompliant because it was supposed to have made more progress by now in reducing the Pentagon's nuclear arsenal. Further, the U.S. will hardly discuss an Iranian proposal for a comprehensive agreement to achieve “global peace and security based on justice” that includes an inquiry into America’s aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Israel’s astonishingly disproportionate violence against Gaza and Lebanon.

The Obama Administration wants at minimum to impose stringent sanctions on Iran if no progress is made to its satisfaction in the next few months as demanded by U.S. neoconservatives, the right wing in general and those influenced by AIPAC, which describes itself as “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby.”

One reason for harsh sanctions would be to hasten the downfall of the Ahmadinejad government, if possible, by creating a serious economic crisis, unemployment, and suffering to exacerbate existing social tensions within the Islamic Republic. The last time Washington engaged in deep sanctions was from 1991-2003 when it has been verified that over a million Iraqis, including a huge number of children, died from various deprivations from hunger to unclean drinking water.

If sanctions are the minimum, the maximum response would be unleashing Israel to attack Iran — an action that would backfire as surely as there is water in the Hudson River.

After his Pittsburgh speech Obama told the press he wasn't “taking any options off the table,” a phrase he has used a number of times in relation to Iran. It means war remains an option for the U.S., even over the relatively petty issue of an empty building still under construction that’s probably intended to produce energy, not violence. This same statement was a favorite of Bush II as well, and he used it repeatedly in relation to Iran. In April 2006, at a time when Dick Cheney, the neoconservatives and their supporters were pushing hard for war against Iran, the BBC reported that “Bush says all options, including the use of force, are on the table." As they say, the more things change....

Although some in Washington are hopeful that Ahmadinejad will be weakened in the nuclear talks because of opposition claims that he "stole" the June 12 election in Iran, we don’t believe this is a factor. So far, more than three and a half months later, there has not been any concrete evidence to support the opposition allegations of electoral fraud.

While the U.S. mass media depicts Ahmadinejad as being under virtual siege from a majority of Iranians, other information shows this is exaggerated. Inter-Press Service reported the following Sept. 19 in an article by Jim Lobe headlined, "New Poll Finds Strong Domestic Support for Iran Regime.":

"A new survey of Iranian public opinion released here [today] suggests majority domestic support for both him [Ahmadinejad] and the country’s basic governing institutions. Four out of five of the 1,003 Iranian respondents interviewed in the survey released by, a project of the highly respected Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) of the University of Maryland, said they considered Ahmadinejad to be the legitimate president of Iran.

"Sixty-two percent of respondents said they had 'a lot of confidence' in the declared election results, which gave Ahmadinejad 62.6% of the vote within hours of the polls’ closing Jun. 12 and which were swiftly endorsed by the Islamic Republic’s Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Three of four respondents said Khamenei had reacted correctly in his endorsement."

No mass demonstrations have taken place from early August until Sept. 18, when thousands of protestors marched in Tehran in an attempt to rival much larger government-sponsored annual rallies in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle on what is called "Jerusalem Day" in Iran. Coming just two weeks before the opening of the nuclear talks, it was obviously intended to convey the impression internationally that Ahmadinejad did not really represent the will of the Iranian people. Police handled the dissenters with kid gloves.

A number of the demonstrators and signs seemed to oppose the Tehran government's support for the Palestinians as well as Ahmadinejad's re-election. The Economist reported chants of "Not Gaza, Not Lebanon, I'll only give my life for Iran," although Jerusalem Day observances never suggested Iranians should give their lives for either Gaza or Lebanon, both of which have been targets of Israeli military aggression. There were also chants of "Death to Russia" and "Death to China," evidently a reference to their refusal to join the U.S. and Israel in denunciations of the Tehran government.

In a speech that day, Ahmadinejad in effect pulled the rug from under his own feet in terms of international opinion by once again charging that the Holocaust was a "lie." Wisely, the Iranian leader did not repeat the preposterous allegation during his 35 minute speech to the UN General Assembly in New York Sept. 23. He mainly discussed building durable world peace and “elimination of all nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons to pave the way for all nations to have access to advanced and peaceful technology.”

He criticized the U.S. and Israel, but seemed somewhat subdued. According to Sarah Wheaton in the New York Times blog that evening, he “said the United States was aiding Israel in ‘racist ambitions,’ called Israel’s attack on Gaza in December ‘barbaric’ and said the economic blockade of Palestinians amounts to ‘genocide’” — comments that provoked the U.S. and 10 other delegations to walk out. Israel didn’t attend in the first place.

Soon after Ahmadinejad’s speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the General Assembly that “The most urgent challenge facing this body is to prevent the tyrants of Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons,” and urged the delegates to oppose Iranian “barbarism.”

Back in Israel Sept. 26, according to an AP dispatch from Jerusalem, “Netanyahu spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a number of unidentified U.S. senators and told them that now is the time to act on Iran. Israel maintains the Islamic republic is seeking nuclear weapons. ‘If not now then when?’ the official quoted Netanyahu as saying. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak with the media. He did not disclose what kind of action Netanyahu recommended be taken.

“Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said earlier in the day that the Iranian nuclear facility proves ‘without a doubt’ the Islamic republic is pursuing nuclear weapons. ‘This removes the dispute whether Iran is developing military nuclear power or not and therefore the world powers need to draw conclusions,’ Lieberman told Israel Radio. ‘Without a doubt it is a reactor for military purposes not peaceful purposes.’”

(End of Part 2. Part 3 follows below)


4. THE U.S. AND IRAN: A MANUFACTURED CRISIS — Part 3: The case for Iran

There have been a number of reports this year that Iran is not constructing weapons. For example, “Intelligence Agencies Say No New Nukes in Iran” was the headline on a Newsweek article Sept. 16 that read in part:

“The U.S. intelligence community is reporting to the White House that Iran has not restarted its nuclear-weapons development program, two counter-proliferation officials tell Newsweek. U.S. agencies had previously said that Tehran halted the program in 2003.

“The officials, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, said that U.S. intelligence agencies have informed policymakers at the White House and other agencies that the status of Iranian work on development and production of a nuclear bomb has not changed since the formal National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's ‘Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities’ in November 2007. Public portions of that report stated that U.S. intelligence agencies had ‘high confidence" that, as of early 2003, Iranian military units were pursuing development of a nuclear bomb, but that in the fall of that year Iran ‘halted its nuclear weapons program.’ The document said that while U.S. agencies believed the Iranian government ‘at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons,’ U.S. intelligence as of mid-2007 still had ‘moderate confidence’ that it had not restarted weapons-development efforts.

“One of the two officials said that the Obama administration has now worked out a system in which intelligence agencies provide top policymakers, including the president, with regular updates on intelligence judgments like the conclusions in the 2007 Iran NIE. According to the two officials, the latest update to policymakers has been that as of now — two years after the period covered by the 2007 NIE — U.S. intelligence agencies still believe Iran has not resumed nuclear-weapons development work. ‘That's the conclusion, but it's one that—like every other—is constantly checked and reassessed, both to take account of new information and to test old assumptions,’ one of the officials told Newsweek.”

In this connection, National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair — the insider’s insider — testified before Congress in February that there was no evidence Iran is producing the highly enriched uranium required for nuclear weapons.

The September-October issue of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists contained an interview with Mohamed El Baradei, the retiring long time director of the IAEA, in which he declared: "We have not seen concrete evidence that Tehran has an ongoing nuclear weapons program .... But somehow, many people are talking about how Iran's nuclear program is the greatest threat to the world....

“In many ways, I think the threat has been hyped. Yes, there's concern about Iran's future intentions and Iran needs to be more transparent with the IAEA and the international community .... But the idea that we'll wake up tomorrow and Iran will have a nuclear weapon is an idea that isn't supported by the facts as we have seen them so far."

The Sept. 21 issue of Newsweek reported that “quarrels concerning the ultimate aim of Iran's secretive nuke program have become so heated that some UN officials are making comparisons to the proliferation of misinformation in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.” The article continued:

“In a private email sent last week to nuclear experts and obtained by Newsweek, Tariq Rauf, a senior official with the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, wrote that the mainstream media are repeating mistakes from 2003, when they ‘carried unsubstantiated stories on Iraq and WMD — the same mistakes are being repeated re IAEA and Iran.’ Rauf added that ‘the hype is likely originating from certain (known) sources.’ The message does not specify the sources, but U.S. and European officials have previously accused Israel of exaggerating Iran's nuclear progress.”

On Feb. 22, India’s mass circulation daily The Hindu reported: “Iran has not converted the low-grade uranium that it has produced into weapon-grade uranium, inspectors belonging to the International Atomic Energy Agency have said. The Austrian Press Agency quoted an IAEA expert as saying that the uranium substances that Iran has produced at its Natanz enrichment facility have been carefully recorded and remote cameras have been installed to supervise part of the stockpile. ‘If the Iranians intend to transport these uranium substances to a secret location for further processing, the agency’s inspectors will find out,‘ he said. The expert added that ‘so far, Iran has carried out good cooperation with us in relevant verifications.’”

The French news agency AFP reported Sept. 20 that “Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei today denied the West's charge that Tehran aims to develop nuclear weapons under a covert program, insisting the Islamic Republic bans such activity. ‘They falsely accuse [Iran] of producing nuclear weapons. We fundamentally reject nuclear weapons and prohibit the production and the use of nuclear weapons,’ Khamenei said in a speech broadcast by state television. ‘They know themselves that it's not true ... but it is part of Iran-phobia policy that controls the behavior of these arrogant governments today.’”

In our view, Iran is no danger to Israel, the United States, or the Sunni Arab world. It wants to protect its revolution, independence and what it considers its precious Islamic Republic. The Ahmadinejad government and Ayatollah Khamenei fully understand that heavy U.S. sanctions are capable of causing extreme agony for the masses of its people and would lead to a weakening of the state. Tehran is also aware that if it produces one nuclear weapon it may be mercilessly attacked.

Iran’s leadership is not suicidal, and is well aware that if Tehran not only produced a weapon but actually launched a nuclear missile toward Israel, the massive retaliation from the U.S. and Israel would obliterate most of Iranian society, whether or not its weapon was deflected by the U.S. anti-missile system that the Obama Administration is now going to place aboard Navy ships in the Mediterranean. (President Bush wanted to deploy the system to Poland and the Czech Republic to threaten Russia, not to defend Europe against an Iranian attack. By moving the ABMs south, Obama achieved two objectives: He got Russia off his back, while assuring Israel of yet another layer of U.S. protection.)

For all its fiery international rhetoric, Iran’s leadership is essentially cautious, and its military intentions are defensive. The country hasn’t started a war in almost 200 years, and the Iranian people have no desire to replicate the horror of the defensive war they waged against the Iraqi aggressor for most of the 1980s.

Developing nuclear weapons in today’s world makes a country a recognized power, and is a great defense against imperial aggression, particularly for a country that has long been on Washington’s hit list and narrowly avoided an invasion during the Bush years.

But we believe that Iran — even if it knows how to produce a nuclear bomb — will not weaponize because it wishes to demonstrate its adherence to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and because it desires to survive the hostility of America and Israel. At the same time, Iran does not intend to be humiliated and hampered by hugely excessive restrictions and intrusive surveillance that is not applied to other countries in compliance with the NPT. Nor does it intend to turn tail because of threats from those who object to its support of the Palestinian people and its opposition to imperialism.

If the United States genuinely wishes to resolve its dispute with Iran, it is possible to do so rationally and without violence. But this means President Obama must treat Iran as an equal, accept the reality that Tehran and Washington see the world differently, and negotiate in good faith.

Most Americans and virtually the rest of the world have high hopes about Obama, especially after the dreadful Bush Administration. We certainly recognize the improvement, but have doubts, not high hopes, when it comes to the direction of American foreign policy. We see little difference, other than the cosmetic, between the Obama Administration’s international strategy and the strategy of American global domination and hegemony based on military power that has prevailed in Washington in its present incarnation since the end of World War II.

We’d like nothing better than to be proven wrong. But that would take the development of a massive progressive movement in this country, focused in this instance on world peace, the equality of peoples, and justice for all, a not unreasonable goal worth struggling for, in our view. And as far as nuclear proliferation is concerned, the only true solution is total nuclear disarmament, a position, by the way, that Iran appears to be putting forth these days.

— Our analysis of the Iranian election and the meaning of the opposition movement was published July 12, 2009, in the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter (#148), titled "What Really Just Happened in Iran?" It is available at



Several guardians of U.S. civil liberties and human rights were critical of the White House and the CIA in separate statements Sept. 22 and 23.

The American Civil Liberties Union testified before a key House subcommittee Sept. 22 on the need for comprehensive reform of the USA Patriot Act. The ACLU has challenged the Act both in the courts and in the halls of Congress in the nearly eight years since its passage.

Three surveillance provisions — the John Doe roving wiretap provision, Section 215 or the "library records" provision and the "lone wolf" provision — are up for renewal this year and will expire on Dec. 31 if Congress does not take action. The New York Times reported Sept. 16 that the Justice Department told Congress the White House "supports extending the three provisions" and seeks their renewal.

The next day, in response to the CIA's refusal to confirm or deny the existence of key torture documents, three human rights groups called on President Obama to hold true to his promise of a transparent era.

The groups — Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Amnesty International USA (AI), and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at NYU School of Law — made their statement following the CIA's refusal to acknowledge documents detailing detainee abuse and 'black site' detention in the groups' Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation.

The ACLU is seeking comprehensive reform of the Patriot Act and is urging Congress to revisit other surveillance laws expanded in recent years to bring them back in line with the Constitution. The ACLU also urges Congress to pass the JUSTICE Act, a bill introduced in the Senate in mid-September to narrow several provisions of the Patriot Act and other surveillance laws, including the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, by inserting privacy and civil liberties safeguards into each law. The bill was introduced by Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution and committee member Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL).

"The Patriot Act has not only been a minefield for Americans’ rights, it also started a steady expansion of many of America’s surveillance laws," said Michael German, ACLU National Security Policy Counsel and former FBI agent. "In the wake of 9/11, Congress hastily amended and expanded the government’s authority to conduct domestic surveillance without any suspicion of wrongdoing. Congress must now seize the opportunity to bring these laws in line with the Constitution by passing the JUSTICE Act."

Since it was rushed through Congress just 45 days after Sept. 11, the Patriot Act has paved the way for the expansion of government-sponsored surveillance including the gutting of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to allow dragnet collection of Americans’ communications. Over the last eight years, numerous expansions of executive authority have worked in tandem to infringe upon Americans’ rights. The ACLU says only by understanding the larger picture of the combined effects of Patriot Act, the amendments to FISA and other changes to surveillance law can Congress make an informed, consistent and principled decision about whether and how to amend all of these very powerful surveillance tools.

"The Patriot Act fundamentally altered the relationship Americans share with their government," said German. "By expanding the government’s authority to secretly search our private records and monitor our communications, often without any evidence of wrongdoing, the Patriot Act eroded our most basic right — the freedom from unwarranted government intrusion into our private lives. Put very simply, under the Patriot Act the government now has the right to know what you’re doing, but you have no right to know what it’s doing. The time for Patriot Act reform is long overdue."

The statement from CCR, AI, and CHRGJ followed the CIA's suggestion that Congress may have an interest in withholding 10 documents related to the torture program. "Now that the CIA has released so much, there is no good justification for continuing to withhold this information carte blanche on 'national security' grounds," said AI's Tom Parker. "Today's move is an abuse of these allowances. By hiding behind this weak justification, the government is violating the very spirit of FOIA just to hide its own embarrassing and illegal behavior."

Commented CCR attorney Gitanjali S. Gutierrez: "For our democratic system to work, we must be able to ensure that all members of government follow our laws and adhere to the limits of their power. The only way to do this is through real transparency and responsibility, not further evasion and cover-ups created by secrecy or a play on words."

Added Jayne Huckerby of CHRGJ: "As the public record on the U.S. secret detention program continues to grow, the government's persistent secrecy becomes more inexcusable by the day. The Obama Administration should provide the countless individuals who were disappeared ... with the basic dignity they have long been denied, starting with an acknowledgment that the U.S. abducted and secretly imprisoned them, without explanation, and without any recourse to justice."

In another case, the Obama Administration is doing everything possible to withhold new photographs of U.S. torture and gross humiliation of detainees held abroad and additional documents relating to America's torture program. President Barack Obama reversed himself in May and agreed to block publication of these pictures and related documents. Publication, he said, could harm the safety of U.S. troops and "inflame anti-American opinion."

The ACLU won a lawsuit stipulating that the torture trove was to be made public Aug. 31 unless the CIA provided a justification for keeping them classified. The day the CIA was supposed to release the material, the spy agency — backed by the Justice Department — filed a legal justification for hiding the torture information, arguing release would endanger national security.

Commenting on the CIA/Justice Department rationale, Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU National Security Project, declared:

"The CIA's justification for withholding the documents is entirely incompatible with the Obama administration's stated commitment to ending torture and restoring governmental transparency. On the one hand, President Obama has publicly recognized that torture undermines the rule of law and America's standing in the world, but on the other, the CIA continues to argue in court that it cannot disclose information about its torture techniques because it would jeopardize the CIA's interrogation program. The CIA's arguments are utterly disconnected from the Obama administration's stated positions. The agency seems to be disregarding altogether the important policy changes that President Obama announced immediately after he took office."

— Most of the information in this article was made available to us by the ACLU and CCR.



[Editor's Note: The following analysis has been written by Brian Becker, the national coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition*. As Gen. McChrystal and the Pentagon scramble to avoid the appearance of defeat, he writes that Afghanistan and Iraq will never accept colonialism.]

By Brian Becker

The U.S. public largely opposed the invasion of Iraq while being generally supportive of the invasion of Afghanistan. That is now changing. Majority sentiment has moved, and will continue to move, in opposition to the plans for a protracted war and occupation in Afghanistan.

There is both uncertainty and debate within the Obama administration and among the Pentagon brass about what to do in Afghanistan: continue to send ever more troops; seek a truce with the Taliban and create a government of "national unity" that includes the Taliban and either Hamid Karzai or another U.S. political puppet; or both.

Because of the division within the ruling class on its Afghanistan policy, it is possible that the intervention of a mass grassroots movement opposing the war can become a factor in domestic political calculations. This is precisely what happened during the Vietnam War.

The primary strategic objectives and goals that originally motivated the U.S. invasion have been significantly modified as a consequence of the unanticipated armed resistance, also known as the insurgency, in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

The political alignments in Iraq bear little or no resemblance to the constellation of political forces in Afghanistan and yet there is an overarching similarity, at least in terms of the evolved objectives of the U.S. invasion and occupation.

Both in Iraq and in Afghanistan, a principal goal of the Pentagon morphed into a much lower baseline objective: to avoid defeat or the appearance of defeat at the hands of an armed insurgency.

Avoiding defeat in Vietnam was the goal Nixon and Kissinger set for themselves when they took office in 1969. They, however, quickly modified the objective: They quickly discovered that defeat was inevitable, so they settled on an even lesser objective: to avoid the appearance of being defeated. Thus was born the fraudulent slogan "Peace with Honor." For this noble cause, another 30,000 young GIs perished before the inevitable troop pullout from Vietnam in 1973. The number of Vietnamese killed between 1969 and 1973 was greater by many hundreds of thousands.

The initial goal of both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars was far greater. "Avoiding defeat" did not enter into the calculations of Bush, Cheney or Rumsfeld. No, they were sure that they could create in both countries a colonial-type state.

A colonial-type state is distinguished from a classic colonial entity. Classic colonialism features the acquisition by the colonial entity of the formal state power and with it the formal and legal administrative and military obligations that belong to government. The indigenous population provides personnel, administrators, bureaucrats and soldiers under the command of the hierarchal authority of the colonizers.

Classic colonialism also features the complete control and direction of the indigenous economy by the colonizing entity for the purpose of acquiring natural resources, cheap labor and access to markets for the industrial and commercial capitalist interests of the colonizer. This characteristic is equally present in both classic colonialism and in the modern colonial-type arrangement sought by the United States. In the case of Iraq, its vast nationalized oil fields were to be privatized and controlled by U.S. and British oil interests. Its nationalized banking sector was to be gobbled up by Wall Street.

Kwame Nkrumah, the former president of Ghana and a leader of the Pan-African movement, described the features of what he called neo-colonialism: "The essence of neo-colonialism is that the State which is subject to it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. In reality its economic system and thus its political policy is directed from outside."

Nkrumah prophetically described the many variants of the new colonialism, but placed the primacy of economic penetration as the "normal" and central method whereby the old colonial powers retain control over the former colonies.

"The methods and form of this direction can take various shapes. For example, in an extreme case the troops of the imperial power may garrison the territory of the neo-colonial State and control the government of it. More often, however, neo-colonialist control is exercised through economic or monetary means."

In the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, the creation of a colonial-type or neo-colonial state requires the garrisoning of large numbers of U.S. troops on U.S. military bases to dominate the political landscape and protect large numbers of U.S. administrators. Nkrumah called this "an extreme case," but it is indispensable in both Iraq and Afghanistan, although for widely different reasons. Without vast numbers of foreign forces on its soil, neither Iraq nor Afghanistan can function as colonial-type states. Iraq for instance—with its oil, significant water resources, large and educated population, potential military capability, and political legacy since the triumph of the 1958 anti-colonial revolution—would resume its place as a regional power in the Arab world.

The destruction of the Ba’athist state by foreign military invasion was supposed to blast open the possibility of large, multiple U.S. military bases that would remain forever in Iraq. U.S. rulers understood that, without foreign troops and permanent military bases on its soil providing protection for legions of U.S. administrators and technocrats, Iraq would resume its position of independence, notwithstanding its economic decline from years of war and sanctions.

The Bush administration and the Pentagon initially envisioned laying the foundation for a new strategic axis for the Middle East. It would be the Washington-Baghdad-Tel Aviv partnership that would police the oil-rich Middle East on behalf of U.S. interests. That would require turning Iraq into a colonial-type state.

It was a policy that had some historical resonance. It was a throwback to the golden days of a Washington-Tel Aviv-Tehran axis policing the oil-rich Gulf. The Shah of Iran was a loyal puppet, and the Israelis functioned as a dependent garrison state striking out at any expression of Arab nationalism that threatened U.S. domination strategies.

But the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld strategy was a fantasy that has been shattered by subsequent events. Starting in 2007, the Pentagon adjusted its approach. The 2007 so-called surge of troops in Iraq was basically propaganda masking the actual new strategy, which was to pay the insurgents to stop shooting at U.S. troops and blowing them up with IEDs. This would allow the eventual withdrawal of U.S. forces in an orderly way, thus avoiding the appearance that the empire had been defeated or had been unable to succeed in Iraq.

The humongous U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was conceived as the directing body of the new colonial-type state in Iraq. It is the largest in the world. Conceived for more than 1,000 U.S. personnel to function as behind-the-scenes administrators, the embassy would serve as the management arm of the new colonial-type state.

This, too, will turn out to be unviable. Iraq has been economically devastated, but the aspirations for a colonial-type state administered by the U.S. Embassy in downtown Baghdad are incompatible with the reality of Iraq. The Iraqi people are imbued with anti-colonial consciousness directly resulting from 90 years of struggle—dating back to at least the 1920 national rebellion that defeated British colonial forces.

Iraqi reporter Muntadhar al-Zaidi became a national hero when he risked death and endured terrible torture for hurling his shoes at Bush. His words on Sept. 15 upon his release and the depth of the support he continues to receive from throughout Iraq speak volumes about the political intensity of Iraqi anti-colonial sentiment:

"They [U.S. officials] will boast about the deceit and the means they used in order to gain their objective. It is not strange, not much different from what happened to the Native Americans at the hands of colonialists. Here I say to them (the occupiers) and to all who follow their steps, and all those who support them and spoke up for their cause: Never. Because we are a people who would rather die than face humiliation."

In the United States, a large sector of the population recognized that the Iraq invasion was a war of aggression, pure and simple.

It was different with Afghanistan. Public opinion was largely supportive of the invasion, because the Bush administration and all Democratic Party leaders promoted the idea that Afghanistan was the source of the Sept. 11 attacks. After all, Osama Bin Laden was a "guest" of the Taliban government in Kabul at the time of the attack.

The cold fact is that there were no Iraqis or Afghans on the planes that were hijacked on Sept. 11, yet hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans are dead because of the U.S. invasion. Millions more live as refugees.

Afghanistan, according to the Bush administration and the Pentagon, was to serve as the military pivot for policing U.S. interests. Huge forward bases for the Pentagon throughout the country would change the relationship of forces in Central Asia.

Afghanistan shares extensive borders with Iran to the west and a long border with Pakistan to the south and east. It borders China to the northeast and the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to the north.

As with Iraq, the Bush and Pentagon military strategy in Afghanistan—now officially the policy of the Obama administration—has morphed, as the goals of the occupation have had to be scaled back. When asked to explain what a victory in Afghanistan would mean, U.S. government and Pentagon officials can only dish out vagaries. They cannot actually tell the truth because then more soldiers and marines and their families would hesitate to continue to act as bait and cannon fodder.

The real and rarely mentioned goal is now to avoid defeat. Or, and this is important, to avoid the perception of defeat. Thus, tens of thousands more troops are being rushed into the country because the Pentagon cannot figure out what else to do.

General David Petraeus became a hero in the imperialist establishment because he was the architect of the so-called surge followed by the announced intention to withdraw from Iraq. In short, glory and reverential honor befalls the great general, not because he put U.S. forces on track to victory but because his policy may permit the withdrawal of military forces on conditions far less humiliating than the Pentagon’s rushed exit from Vietnam in the 1970s.

The people of the United States need to rise up and go into the streets demanding the immediate and full withdrawal from Afghanistan. The vast majority of the people of Afghanistan, including large numbers of those who despise the odious policies of the Taliban, revile the colonial character of the occupation. As the bodies of civilians pile up in an escalating conflict, the hatred for the U.S./NATO occupiers will only grow. The mission is doomed.

* The ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism) Coalition has organized the biggest and most numerous national antiwar demonstrations since 9/11 — the first taking place in Washington just two weeks after the terror attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, demanding that President Bush not launch an attack on Afghanistan. ANSWER brought a half-million demonstrators to the nation's capital in January 2003, two months before the invasion of Iraq, in one of a dozen national protests in Washington as well as innumerable regional protests throughout the country.


By Sam Sussman

Forty-six years ago this August, a quarter of a million men, women, and children descended upon Washington to demand Jobs and Freedom. Their voices, epitomized by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, shook America. Eleven months later, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Today, millions of Americans still endure the inequity of second-class citizenship. Across America, our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters are denied rights ranging from marriage to military service, hospital visits to health care benefits. They suffer this inequity not because of any choice of their own, but because of the claim of straight Americans that there are “more important” issues that preclude closing the rights gap between heterosexuals and homosexuals.

Critics of gay rights have long described homosexuality as a choice, and called gay rights “special rights.” Yet it is not gay America that has a choice in this matter; it is straight America. We have a choice to hate or to love, to familiarize or to fear, to build walls or build bridges.

On October 11, 2009, tens of thousands of Americans will gather on the National Mall in our nation’s capitol. We will stand between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, and together — young and old, gay and straight — we will jointly demand equal rights for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

If you believe in equal rights; if you know that discrimination of any kind, at any time is wrong; if you consider the causeless deprivation of essential liberty unjust, then add your voice to the collective outcry on the National Mall on October 11. Together, we can end state-sanctioned discrimination and secure equal rights for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

— The writer, a Hudson Valley resident, is the founder of the Alliance for the Realization of Legal Equality. ARLE is partnering with other organizations to coordinate transportation to Washington from New Paltz, Binghamton, Poughkeepsie, and Monroe. Contact him at for more information.



[Editor's Note: We consider the nationwide community service organization ACORN, which has been dragged through the mud recently because of the deplorable behavior of a few employees, to be a worthwhile progressive enterprise. This article by political journalist Joe Conason, which appeared in Salon Sept. 18, is a useful antidote to the one-sided or superficial reports in the mass media and to the knee-jerk defunding of ACORN by the Senate and House. The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, its full name, has received a total of $53 million from the government over the last 15 years. We have inserted a paragraph below explaining how the New York politicians voted.]

By Joe Conason

For many years the combined forces of the far right and the Republican Party have sought to ruin ACORN, the largest organization of poor and working families in America. Owing to the idiocy of a few ACORN employees, notoriously caught in a videotape "sting" sponsored by a conservative Web site and publicized by Fox News, that campaign has scored significant victories on Capitol Hill and in the media.

Both the Senate and the House have voted over the past few days to curtail any federal funding of ACORN's activities. While that congressional action probably won't destroy the group, whose funding does not mainly depend on government largesse, the ban inflicts severe damage on its reputation.

[Activist Newsletter: The Senate vote Sept. 14 was 85-7 in favor of cutting off funds. New York's Sen. Gillibrand, unexpectedly and to her credit, voted against the measure; Sen. Schumer was with the majority. The House vote Sept. 17 was 345-75 against ACORN. All those opposed to defunding were Democrats, including New York Reps. Hinchey, Crowley, Engel, Meeks, Nadler, Rangel, Serrano, Slaughter, Towns, and Velazquez. The remaining New York Democrats were among the 172 Democrats voting in favor.]

In the atmosphere of frenzy created by the Big Government videos — which feature a young man and an even younger woman who pretend to be a prostitute and a pimp seeking "advice" from ACORN about starting a teenage brothel — it is hardly shocking that both Democrats and Republicans would put as much distance as possible between themselves and the sleazy outfit depicted on-screen.

Like so many conservative attacks, the crusade against ACORN has been highly exaggerated and even falsified to create a demonic image that bears little resemblance to the real organization. Working in the nation's poorest places, and hiring the people who live there, ACORN is not immune to the pathologies that can afflict institutions in those communities. As a large nonprofit handling many millions of dollars, it has suffered from mismanagement at the top as well — although there is nothing unique in that, either.

Yet ACORN's troubles should be considered in the context of a history of honorable service to the dispossessed and impoverished. No doubt it was fun to dupe a few morons into providing tax advice to a "pimp and ho," but what ACORN actually does, every day, is help struggling families with the Earned Income Tax Credit (whose benefits were expanded by both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton). And while the idea of getting housing assistance for a brothel was clever, what ACORN really does, every day, is help those same working families avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes.

Perhaps the congressional investigation now demanded by some Republican politicians would be a useful exercise, if conducted impartially. A fair investigation might begin to dispel some of the wild mythology promoted by right-wing media outlets. Among the most popular canards on the right, repeated constantly by conservative pundits and politicians, is that ACORN has been found guilty of engaging in deliberate voter fraud, using federal funds. In reality, ACORN has registered close to 2 million low-income citizens across the country over the past five years — a laudable record with a very low incidence of fraud of any kind.

Over the past several years, a handful of ACORN employees have admitted falsifying names and signatures on registration cards, in order to boost the pay they received. When ACORN officials discovered those cases, they informed the state authorities and turned in the miscreants. (That was why the Bush Justice Department's blatant attempt to smear ACORN with rushed, election-timed indictments became a national scandal for Republicans rather than Democrats.) The proportion of fraud is infinitesimal. For example, a half-dozen ACORN workers were charged with registration fraud or other election-related crimes in the 2004 election. They had completed fewer than two dozen false registrations — out of more than a million new voters registered by ACORN during that cycle. The mythology that suggests that thousands or even millions of illegal registrants voted is itself a fraud.

If only the Republicans who have worked up a frenzy over ACORN's alleged crimes were so indignant about real and damaging voter fraud — such as the amazing case of Young Political Majors, the firm that ran GOP registration efforts in California, Massachusetts, Florida, Arizona and elsewhere before the authorities in Orange County, Calif., busted its president, Mark Anthony Jacoby, and sent him to jail last year. He had built a lucrative partisan career by teaching his minions to deceive thousands of voters into registering as Republicans rather than Democrats, among other scams. Of course, the only on-air mention of the Young Political Majors scandal on Fox News was made by blogger Brad Friedman — and the national media, mainstream and conservative, generally ignored it. They were too busy generating "controversy" over ACORN.

So now the overhyped voting registration tales are metastasizing into wild accusations about ACORN's finances and programs, including claims that the group will receive billions in federal bailout funding and that it is a hotbed of corruption, perhaps even murder. In fact, ACORN affiliates — those not involved with voter registration — have received a few million dollars annually in federal funding. The group is not scheduled to receive any bailout money (although working people would probably benefit more from subsidizing ACORN than greasing AIG and Goldman Sachs).

The fans of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck regard ACORN as a criminal enterprise that fosters tax fraud, prostitution, child prostitution and even murder (thanks to a satirical "confession" by an employee filmed surreptitiously in the San Bernardino ACORN office). But ACORN chief organizer and CEO Bertha Lewis swiftly dismissed the employees caught on those videotapes and set about reforming the flawed processes that enabled those individuals to speak for the organization. No overt acts were committed by any of the people caught on those tapes — and so far nobody has found that any of those theoretical "crimes" ever took place.

To claim that the stupid behavior of a half-dozen employees should discredit a national group with offices in more than 75 cities staffed by many thousands of employees and volunteers is like saying that Mark Sanford or John Ensign have discredited every Republican governor or senator. Indeed, the indignation of the congressional Republicans screaming about ACORN and the phony streetwalker is diluted by the presence of at least two confirmed prostitution clients — Rep. Ken Calvert and Sen. David Vitter — in their midst. Neither of those right-wing johns has been even mildly chastised by their moralistic peers. Nobody is cutting off their federal funding.

ACORN has pledged to institute reforms, with the appointment of a distinguished outside panel to oversee that process. Let us hope they succeed. Even now they seem far more likely to improve their performance — and to be more sincere in their intentions — than the Washington hypocrites who are trying to destroy them.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Activist Calendar Sept. 21, 2009

ACTIVIST CALENDAR, Sept. 21 2009, Issue #150
Of the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter

Current and back copies of the Activist Newsletter as well as the Activist Calendar are at Send event announcements to
Editor's Note: Part 2 of the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter will be emailed by Oct. 1.

Tuesday, Sept. 22, KINGSTON: As part of MoveOn's "Big Insurance Makes Us Sick" day, there will be a 12 noon rally near the United Healthcare Insurance Co. at 505 Boices Lane and Enterprise Drive. From the organizers: "We will show how big insurance companies drive up costs and deny coverage in order to make big profits. We will dramatize how they 'make us sick' by wearing bandages, using crutches and wheelchairs and wearing slings. Folks will share stories of denied coverage and highlight some of the abuses of health insurance companies. We will let the community know how important a healthcare bill with a strong public option is." Information,,

Tuesday, Sept. 22, ALBANY: MoveOn and Citizens' Action are sponsoring a "Big Insurance Makes Us Sick" protest outside Group Health Incorporated's local headquarters at 80 Wolf Rd, beginning at 2 p.m. The activists will "present a report highlighting the health insurance company's service record, calling on GHI to meet a list of demands." Among the policies to be challenged are denying coverage to those with preexisting conditions, and using corporate dollars to fund the movement to stop health care reform. "Following a short rally and press conference, a group of protesters will attempt to hand-deliver the report to GHI's head executive in Albany." Information, (518) 465-4600, ext. 115,,

Thursday, Sept. 24, WOODSTOCK: The Middle East Crisis Response group of Hudson Valley residents opposed to Israeli and U.S. policies toward the Palestinians meets 7-8:30 p.m. at the Public Library, 5 Library Lane. All welcome. Information, (845) 876-7906, ,

Friday, Sept. 25, ONEONTA (Hartwick College campus): A lecture entitled "Torture, Ethics, Human Rights, and the U.S. School of the Americas" will be held at Anderson Theater, 1 Hartwick Dr. on campus, from 7-9 p.m., featuring Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of School of the Americas Watch. The "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security," formerly known as the "School of the Americas," is a training camp for military personnel in Latin American countries under U.S. influence. Sponsored by Hartwick College Sociology, History, Political Science, Philosophy and Religious Studies. Information, (607) 437-4894,,,

Saturday, Sept. 26, ALBANY: The film "Trouble the Water" will be screened at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany, 405 Washington Ave at 7:30 p.m. This film is a redemptive tale of two self-described street hustlers who become heroes, surviving Katrina and seizing an opportunity for a new beginning. Free and public. Sponsored by Solidarity Committee of the Capital District, Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace, and Upper Hudson Peace Action. Information (518) 426-0883,

Saturday, Sept. 26, KINGSTON: Milan Cupurdija will discuss the innovations and social views of the innovative Serbian inventor, electrical and mechanical engineer, Nikola Tesla at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Catskills, 320 Sawkill Rd. at 7:30 p.m. Tesla is often cited as being the most important contributor to the birth of commercial electricity. Tesla was a war opponent and hoped his inventions could help improve communications to avoid them. He was also a proponent of gender equality, and vegetarianism. Sponsored by Hudson Valley Humanists. A $4 donation is requested. Information, (845) 247-0098.

Tuesday, Sept. 29, EAST GREENBUSH: The Documentary, "Rick Steves' Iran - Yesterday and Today" will be shown at the East Greenbush Public Library, 10 Community Way, 7-9 p.m. World traveler Rick Steves, visits "the most surprising and fascinating land he's ever visited: Iran." See historical monuments of Iran's rich past, and hear the complex 20th century story of this country. Followed by a question and answer discussion with people who have visited Iran. Free and public. Refreshments served. Sponsored by Southern Rensselaer Neighbors for Peace, Peace Action, and Women Against War. Information (518) 859-5773, About the film,

Thursday, Oct. 1, WHITE PLAINS: A "Take Back the Night!" event gathers at 6:30 p.m. at the United Methodist Church, 252 Bryant Ave. There's a 7 p.m. rally and then a 7:30 p.m. march to the YWCA of White Plains and Central Westchester. A speakout starts at 8:15 p.m. This is a protest against the sexual assault of women and intimate partner violence. It is sponsored by the Alliance for Just Solutions, Girl's Inc, Lambda Peer Support Services, and others. Information, Antoinette Klatzky, (914) 949-6227, ext. 199,

Thursday, Oct. 1, TROY: "The Climate Crisis: Updating An Inconvenient Truth" is the 7:30-9:30 p.m. presentation by Dr. Steven A. Leibo, a professor of International History and Politics at the Sage Colleges, and Climate Project district manager for Upstate New York and Vermont. He is best known to Capital Region residents as a long time international affairs commentator for WAMC public radio. Information, (518) 244-2330,,

Saturday, Oct. 3, WEST POINT: Antiwar picketing and leafleting to people arriving to attend the Army-Tulane football game starts at 10:30 a.m. at the Thayer Gate. (Thayer Gate is accessed by exiting Rt. 9W at the exit marked as the "Highland Falls, West Point.") RSVP (914) 806-6179,

Monday, Oct. 5, OLD CHATHAM: The documentary, "Body of War" will be screened at Powell House Quaker Conference and Retreat Center, 524 Pitt Hall Rd. from 7-9 p.m. The film tells the story of a young American veteran who returns home from the Iraq war paralyzed by a bullet to his spine. He learns to deal with this disability, and indicts the government's handling of the invasion. Sponsored by Old Chatham Quaker Meeting. Information, (518) 794-0259, Directions,

Tuesday, Oct. 6, NATIONWIDE: A group called World Can't Wait is calling for Anti-Recruiting Efforts in High Schools across the country today. They say: "Help stop the propaganda being professed by recruiters in High School, where serving the country in the military is a 'life with purpose,' but what purpose?" Information, (866) 973-4463,

Wednesday, Oct. 7, NATIONWIDE: Students for a Democratic Society is calling for a "U.S. out of Afghanistan! End the War Now" nationwide student protest today to commemorate the 8th anniversary of the Afghan war. Information,,

Thursday, Oct. 8, WOODSTOCK: The Middle East Crisis Response group of Hudson Valley residents opposed to Israeli and U.S. policies toward the Palestinians meets 7-8:30 p.m. at the Public Library, 5 Library Lane. All welcome. Information, (845) 876-7906, ,

Saturday-Sunday, Oct. 10-11, WASHINGTON, D.C.: The National Equality March and related rallies will take place in many parts of the nation's capital. The main event is a 12 noon on Sunday, culminating in a 2 p.m. rally Capitol West Lawn. From the organizer: "We will gather in Washington from all across America to let our elected leaders know that now is the time for full equal rights for LGBT people. We've had a moment thrust upon us by the election of President Barack Obama and the spirit of hope and change, and also by the sense of entitlement in the new generation of grassroots organizing. This march is a vehicle to a larger goal. We want to work to bridge the gap between the national organizations and the grassroots community organizers. We will gather. We will strategize. We will march. And we will leave energized and empowered to do the work that needs to be done in every community across the nation." For transportation from New Paltz, Binghamton, Poughkeepsie, and Monroe contact for more information. For a complete schedule of events, For local actions in NYC, (718) 768-7306,

Monday, Oct. 12, WESTERN HEMISPHERE: This is Trade Action Day. Say the organizers: "People throughout the Americas, including a majority of U.S. citizens, reject the destructive model of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Yet it continues to profit the few at the expense of the many. On Oct. 12, Indigenous Peoples Day, social movements across the hemisphere will launch coordinated actions to call for this failed model to be replaced with trade that actually benefits the majority. Host a movie night, do some street theater, or join a demonstration." At various locations. Sponsors: Witness for Peace, Nicaragua Network, Stop CAFTA Coalition, others. Information, (202) 403-1752, and

Saturday, Oct. 17, KINGSTON: A region-wide antiwar rally, commemorating the 8th anniversary of George W. Bush's ill-advised invasion of Afghanistan — a stalemated war that has lasted longer than World Wars I and II combined, with no end in sight other than the inevitable quagmire — will take place at Academy Green Park, 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. (rain or shine). There will be speakers, singers, literature tables, petitions — the works. It is sponsored by Peace & Social Progress Now! (PSPN), the new group organized by the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter, and endorsed by a number of local peace and justice organizations. As well as a protest, this rally is an effort to reinvigorate the Mid-Hudson regional peace movement, which has seen better days, as has the national movement. "Whether our action succeeds or not depends in certain measure on the thousands of readers of this calendar throughout the Hudson Valley, so join us for the sake of peace!" This protest is one of many taking place in the United States Oct. 17 (including in Albany, see below) in response to a call from the National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupation, the ANSWER Coalition, and a number of other national peace organizations. Academy Green Park is in the Uptown section of Kingston. From the traffic circle at NY Thruway Exit 19, go around the circle and emerge via the Chandler Drive outlet. At the first traffic light, turn right on Albany Ave. for about a block and you're there. Park in the lot of a small shopping center or on area streets. Arrive a bit early for the best parking. If you wish to distribute leaflets in your town before the rally or help out on the day of the event, contact us as soon as possible. Information,, and (845) 255-5779. National information, and

Saturday, Oct. 17, ALBANY: A Capital District coalition is sponsoring a 12 noon-3 p.m. antiwar protest here at Capitol West Park (west side of Capitol building), demanding: "Bring all the Troops Home Now from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan." The event begins with a noon rally, followed by a mach up Lark St., then back to the park. This protest is sponsored by the Northeast Peace and Justice Action Coalition. Information, (518) 439-1968 and

Saturday, Oct. 17, BEACON: The annual Dissident Folk & Arts Festival will return for its fourth season to Beacon's Howland Cultural Center, 7-11 p.m. The Festival ‘s theme this year will be Looking Forward: In Praise of Activism. Its goal is to act as a bridge between socially-conscious arts and progressive philosophy, toward political awareness and social change. Performers include this year’s headliners, the progressive Hip-Hop artists Readnex Poetry Squad, from New Paltz and Newburgh; protest song ensemble The Flames of Discontent; folk expansionists Hope Machine from Peekskill; Beacon’s Alvin Bell and Chris Rhue's Freedom Song Review; and other poets, musicians and groups. The Howland Cultural Center is at 477 Main St. Admission is $10, seniors $7, unemployed by affordable donation. Information, (845) 831-4988, (845) 591-2161,,

Saturday, Oct. 24, U.S. AND WORLD: This is the International Day of Climate Action. So far, about 1,600 actions, at minimum, are taking place in some 120 countries, and the list is growing by the day. Many actions are taking place in the Hudson Valley as well as the rest of the country. The worldwide climate change movement is organizing this international campaign. The number 350 is used, because it is the "safe upper limit," of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, in parts per million (ppm), to preserve the current climate conditions, and stabilize the planetary environment. Current climate treaty proposals act too slowly to get to this level, and it is often cited that 350 ppm is a turning point, where more than this number would make the effects of climate change irreversible. (One reason there are objections to the recently passed climate bill in the House is that it's aiming, at best, for 450 ppm.) Scores of actions are planned for this day within the circulation area of this calendar. To find one near you, access, then click on "find an action." A list of all the protests in the U.S., including in our district, is at

Saturday, Oct. 24, NEW PALTZ: There will be a 350 Climate Action Fair starting at 1 p.m. at Hasbrouck Park, just west of the SUNY campus (north side), a block south of New Paltz Village Hall, near Main St. This event is part of today's international protest (above). It is sponsored by the Climate Action Coalition of New Paltz and the SUNY NYPIRG. Say the organizers: "Come to the fair. Experience your green future: cool cars; solar-powered, energy-saving stuff; windmills, etc. Enjoy the outrageous climate change fashion show. Watch children make animal costumes, play games and use the 2,000-plastic-bag rope, listen to music from Mid-Hudson bands, talk with local scientists about the ways climate change might affect our region, and taste local food and beverages. The final event is a group photo of hundreds of people spelling out "350" on the field. Information, Ann Guenther,, or call (845) 626-2847 or (845) 255-9297 or Ariana Bosco, Also, .

Thursday, Oct. 29, PURCHASE (Manhattanville College campus): A lecture on the death penalty will be held in the Castle on campus (2900 Purchase St.) at 7 p.m., featuring author Thomas Cahill. Sponsors: Lower Hudson Valley Chapter of the NY Civil Liberties Union and the Connie Hogarth Center for Social Action. For more info (914) 997-7479,

Friday, September 18, 2009

Activist Newsletter Sept. 28, 2009

September 18, 2009 Issue #150

The Activist Newsletter, published in New Paltz, N.Y., appears once a month, supplemented by the Activist Calendar of progressive events, which is sent to Hudson Valley readers only. Editor: Jack A. Smith (who writes the articles that appear without a byline or credit to other publications). He is the former editor of the (U.S.) Guardian Newsweekly. Copy Editor: Donna Goodman. Calendar Editor: Rocco Rizzo. If you know someone who may benefit from this newsletter, ask them to subscribe at If you no longer wish to receive the newsletter, unsubscribe at the same address. Please send event listings to the above email address. The current and back issues of the newsletter/calendar are available at



1. REVIVING THE PEACE MOVEMENT OCT. 17 — Save the date! Nationwide peace demonstrations, including in the Hudson Valley, coincide with the eighth anniversary of Bush's war in Afghanistan. This is a chance to revive our antiwar movement. Don't miss it!

2. CLIMATE CHANGE LEGISLATION: TOO HOT TO HANDLE IN CONGRESS — Republicans and other problems beset the Obama Administration's climate change/energy legislation, but many of the difficulties come from conservative Democrats.

3. SHUT IT DOWN! — Up to 300 peace demonstrators marched in protest to the Army Experience Center (AEC) in Philadelphia Sept. 12, resulting in the arrest of six activists.

4. END THE EMBARGO, FREE THE FIVE — Just three days after we demonstrated in a Mid-Hudson village against the economic and trade sanctions on Cuba, President Obama announced he was extending them for another year. He obviously didn't get to read our leaflets.

5. IT'S TOUGH FOR YOUNG WORKERS — If they can find jobs at all, young workers today have lower-paying jobs than their counterparts did 10 years ago. Health care is a luxury, and retirement security is something for their parents, not them."

6. SETBACK FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES — The Obama Administration has made two decisions this month that eroded civil liberties. One strengthens the Patriotic Act. The other denies rights to foreign inmates in the Pentagon's main prison in Afghanistan.

7. AFL-CIO ENDORSES SINGLE-PAYER — It marks the first time in perhaps two decades that the union federation has formally supported "Medicare for all."

8. IRAN DOES NOT BACK THE TALIBAN — Contrary to U.S. allegations, Shi'ite Iran is certainly not aiding the Sunni Taliban.

9. HIDDEN NUMBERS OF ELDERLY IN POVERTY — Poverty among Americans 65 years and older my be twice as high as official statistics indicate.

10. END OF LIFE COUNSELING — The "death panel" hoax articulated by Sarah Palin and her ultra-right cohorts amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

11. BIG FOOD VS. BIG HEALTH INSURANCE — Even the most efficient healthcare system would still confront a rising tide of chronic disease linked not to illness or injury but to diet.

12. HONDURAS: VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS — Inter-American Commission condemns crackdown on civil rights and violations of human rights by right wing coup regime.




Editor's Note:

This is Part 1 of our October newsletter, a couple of weeks early. Part 2 will be sent on Sept. 28. Contents of the next issue include an analysis of the Obama Administration's decision to reposition the U.S. anti-missile system; a report on the failing Afghan war; developments in the fight over healthcare; and a study of the new Census Bureau statistics showing as significant rise in poverty, among other pieces.

The Activist Calendar will be sent to Hudson Valley readers in several days.



Save the date Saturday, Oct. 17. That's when our new organization, Peace & Social Progress Now! (PSPN), will conduct an antiwar demonstration in Kingston, N.Y. Anti-war protests will be taking place in many cities on that day, including in Albany and in Rockland.

October marks the eighth anniversary of President George W. Bush's ill-advised invasion of Afghanistan — a stalemated war that has lasted longer than World Wars I and II combined, with no end in sight other than the inevitable quagmire.

The anniversary comes at a time when the majority of Americans now oppose that war, according to all the recent public opinion polls. Yet, our peace movement in the Hudson Valley — once strong and vital — is now considerably weaker, an unfortunate process that has been developing over the last two years. Aside from the remaining weekly vigils in various towns, not much has been happening.

That will change on Oct. 17. One of the main purposes of this action, calling for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops, is to reinvigorate our peace movement — nationwide and, for our purposes, throughout the Hudson Valley.

Our Kingston demonstration will be held in Academy Green Park, for which we have a permit, from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. There will be speakers, singers, literature tables, petitions — the works. We encourage people to attend from throughout the Mid-Hudson region.

PSPN is now seeking endorsements of the Kingston rally from regional peace groups. How about your group? Talk it over and send us an endorsement. It just means the group supports the action and will spread the word, and that some members plan to show up. This is very important to us because it will help rebuild and unify our movement for the future. Contact us at or call at (845) 255-5779.

We'll have more information about this rally in Kingston and the activities in Albany and Rockland in the next newsletter on Sept. 28, including speakers, directions, slogans, etc.


2. Climate change legislation:

The Democrats may have possession of the White House and a substantial majority in Congress but — similar to their healthcare proposals — they are encountering considerable difficulties producing climate and energy legislation, another major goal of the Obama Administration.

The main problem is the adamant rejection by congressional Republicans of all major White House initiatives except for expanding the Afghan war, about which their enthusiasm is boundless. Even the few Republican Senators who last year expressed support for legislation to reverse global warming — such as Sen. John McCain, the GOP presidential candidate — seem to have drifted away.

Secondarily, right wing Democrats in Congress continue to successfully adulterate already moderate administration goals. Even after major concessions were made to coal mining, forestry, agricultural, electric utility and other business interests, some Democratic representatives ended up siding with the Republicans. The House Democrats enjoy a 256-178 majority, but the climate change bill — the American Clean Energy and Security Act — was passed June 29 by a close vote of 219-212. Four more Blue Dog defections and it would have lost.

In addition, while most environmental groups back the legislation despite justifiable reservations, a few groups — such as Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and Rainforest Acton Network — are sharply critical of the cap and trade provisions of the Democratic measure, while some progressives are balking at the huge giveaways to big business.

At the same time, a broad coalition of 63 organizations has been formed to fight for congressional passage of the administration's environmental agenda. Known as Clean Energy Works, it is composed of environmental, labor, religious, social, political and community groups. Opposition to global warming will get a big boost Oct. 24, the International Day of Climate Action, when demonstrations will take place in the U.S. and over 100 other countries.

Commenting on the House bill, New York Times reporter John M. Broder termed it "the most ambitious energy and climate-change legislation ever introduced in Congress," but pointed out that it was "fat with compromises, carve-outs, concessions and out-and-out gifts intended to win the votes of wavering lawmakers and the support of powerful industries.

"The deal making continued right up until the final minutes, with the bill’s co-author Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, doling out billions of dollars in promises on the House floor to secure the final votes needed for passage. The bill was freighted with hundreds of pages of special-interest favors, even as environmentalists lamented that its greenhouse-gas reduction targets had been whittled down....

"The biggest concessions went to utilities, which wanted assurances that they could continue to operate and build coal-burning power plants without shouldering new costs. The utilities received not only tens of billions of dollars worth of free pollution permits, but also billions for work on technology to capture carbon-dioxide emissions from coal combustion to help meet future pollution targets."

A version of this bill is now before Senate committees. The Democrats prevail 60-40, but they evidently are further diluting the legislation in hopes of winning over their own conservative Blue Dogs, such as Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, among others.

Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and John Kerrey of Massachusetts were to have introduced legislation they co-authored in early September, but it's been put off a few weeks. It may take months to reach the Senate floor for a vote, thus missing an early December deadline for passage before the international global warming summit conference in Sweden.

Most environmental groups and leaders supported the House effort, which is also known as the Waxman-Markey bill, but were quite critical of the Obama Administration's many concessions to greenhouse gas-producing industries that are responsible for the increase in global warming.

Typical was a comment by Angela Ledford, U.S. Climate Action Network: "We cannot blow this moment. But we shouldn’t think for a second our job is done once the bill is passed." Said Joseph Romm of the Center for American Progress: "Waxman-Markey is the only game in town. Let’s work hard to improve it, but killing it would be an act of environmental suicide."

Greenpeace USA's Carroll Muffett said her organization opposed Waxman-Markey because it "sets emission reduction targets far lower than science demands, then undermines even those targets with massive offsets. The giveaways and preferences in the bill will actually spur a new generation of nuclear and coal-fired power plants to the detriment of real energy solutions."

Michael Brune of Rainforest Action Network said, "Scientists state that an atmospheric concentration of 350 parts per million of CO2 is the upper limit for a stable climate; this bill aims for 450." The 350 goal is the objective of the Oct. 24 climate change demonstrations. (We will list them in an upcoming calendar.)

Friends of the Earth, a network of grassroots groups in 77 countries, published a major report Sept. 10 critical of the cap and trade practice of carbon offsetting — a central feature of the House bill. The report explains how offsets work and concludes that they are a flawed approach to combating global warming.

Offsetting, says the environmental group, "allows U.S. polluters to send money overseas in exchange for promised — and often pretend — pollution reductions elsewhere." Offsets are a centerpiece of the House legislation, and are expected to appear in the Senate proposal.

"It is suicide to base our future on offsets," according Michael Despines, one of the authors of the report. "Offsets provide the illusion of taking action to stop global warming when in fact they often allow emissions to rise. People need to realize how dangerous offsets can be — they provide a false sense of security because they often do not deliver as promised."

The offsets in the House bill, "could allow the United States to keep increasing emissions of heat-trapping gases until 2029, even though scientists say we need to reduce emissions now," said Karen Orenstein, a climate finance campaigner at Friends of the Earth.

The 28-page report titled "A Dangerous Distraction" recommends that the U.S. establish ambitious climate pollution reduction targets that do not rely on offsets; urges policy makers to reject any plans for new or expanded offset schemes, and finally recommends that the U.S. support alternative financial mechanisms that will promote sustainable development in poor countries.

The formation of Clean Energy Works, the coalition supporting passage of the Obama Administration's climate and energy legislation, was announced Sept. 8. Its objective is to get a law this year, but that may be unrealistic, particularly since the White House is putting most of its resources into obtaining approval for healthcare legislation. The coalition has sent organizers to 28 states — mostly in the South, West and Midwest —to drum up support for congressional passage of the environmental bills. The group will also advertise on radio, the Internet and TV.

According to David Di Martino, coalition communications director: "Millions of Americans want more clean energy jobs, less pollution, and greater national security. We send a billion dollars a day overseas to pay for our oil. It's time to invest that money here — in secure, renewable energy sources that are made in America, provide jobs for Americans and work for America.... Public support for clean energy legislation is overwhelming. Unfortunately, an army of special interests are doing everything they can to block comprehensive energy reform. This campaign will mobilize the voices of those millions of Americans who want to put us back in control of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet."

Among the organizations joining the coalition are American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; American Federation of Teachers; ACORN; Audubon; Catholics United; Center for American Progress Action Fund; Environmental Defense Fund; Faithful America; Laborers’ International Union; League of Conservation Voters; League of Rural Voters; NAACP; National Security Network; National Wildlife Federation; Natural Resources Defense Council; Service Employees International Union; Sierra Club; Sierra Student Coalition; Wilderness Society; Union of Concerned Scientists; United Steel Workers; Utility Workers Union of America; Veterans and Military Families for Progress; Veterans Green Jobs; and World Wildlife Fund.

— The Friends of the Earth report is at:
— Clean Energy Works is at:



Up to 300 peace demonstrators marched in protest to the Army Experience Center (AEC) in Philadelphia's Franklin Mills Mall Sept. 12, resulting in the arrest of six activists — five women and one man — and a woman journalist photographing the event who was not part of the protest.

The right wing mounted a counter-demonstration at the event, including the pro-war "Gathering of Eagles" motorcyclists, who still seem to be fighting the Vietnam War, and others who were on hand to "defend" the militarist project from the nonviolent protestors.

The Experience Center is a $13 million dollar, 14,500 sq. ft. Pentagon experiment to induce young teens to join the Armed Forces when they reach recruitment age. In essence, its an "amusement" arcade offering 80 free video games for young people, nearly all of which tend to glorify war and military service.

The AEC includes a replica command-and-control center, video games and virtual shooting ranges offering overwhelmingly male teens the opportunity to "kill" America's enemies from simulated helicopters and Humvees. Military personnel are on hand to discuss the virtues and opportunities of life as a warrior with impressionable young visitors.

A total of 34 local and national peace groups, including peace-minded veterans, supported the anti-militarist action, which was organized by Shut Down the Army Experience Center. This group held an earlier protest in May, when seven other activists were arrested.

Among those arrested was Elaine Brower of Military Families Speak Out, who declared: "The AEC is giving guns to 13 year olds, drawing them in with violent video games. As more and more Afghani civilians and U.S. military are being killed in the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, we're saying 'No' to these wars. We've got to stop the flow of youth into the military where they're being used to commit war crimes in our name."

The event began with a rally addressed by several speakers including Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Christopher Hedges, a former New York Times war correspondent. He stated: "War is not a game. Weapons are not toys. The essence of war is death. The purpose of war is to extinguish all opposing living systems from the economic to the political, social, cultural and finally, familial. Those who entice children to play with mock weapons of war will never allow these children to see what these weapons do to human bodies. They hide from them the fundamental truth about violence and in this way socialize them to kill."

It is understood the Army may not continue the Experience Center experiment when its trial period is over next summer, though this could change. The protests may be a factor in a closing, but the Pentagon says it's mainly because recruitment goals — which had been lagging for years — are now being met or exceeded due to increasing joblessness for young workers.



Three days after our new group, Peace and Social Progress Now!, conducted a small street demonstration in New Paltz, N.Y., Sept. 12 calling on the U.S. government to finally end its economic and trade embargo against Cuba, President Barack Obama decided to extend the onerous sanctions for another year.

He obviously didn't read our leaflets. And for some reason he seems not to be listening to major business organizations, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, public opinion polls showing a majority of Americans want to normalize relations with the Havana government, the views of members of Congress, and a virtually unanimous demand from world nations. We'll get to this later.

Standing with our signs and distributing handbills on Main St. near a shopping plaza, we also demanded freedom for five Cuban anti-terrorists on the anniversary of the 11th year of their unjust incarceration in U.S. prisons, and an end to restrictions preventing U.S. citizens from traveling to Cuba.

In extending the Cold War sanctions — known as the Trading with the Enemy Act — for another year (the 48th), Obama indicated it was in America's "national interest" to continue punishing this small, neighboring, socialist Caribbean island nation of 11.5 million people. The rest of the world does not agree, of course, judging by about a dozen years of lopsided UN General Assembly votes calling on Washington to end the embargo.

Actually, the sanctions would have been continued automatically, as a result of the Helms-Burton law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996. So it can only be assumed that the White House took "credit" for the extension because it wanted to make a point about defying not only the General Assembly but virtually all the other countries in our Western Hemisphere. This action comes just months after President Obama announced he wanted a "new beginning" and "equality" in relations between the U.S. and the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean.

"If the U.S. can maintain friendly and profitable relations with the gigantic People's Republic of China," we asked in our leaflets, "why does it remain hostile to tiny Cuba nearly 20 years after the end of the Cold War? Cuba is no danger to the U.S. or any other country." We also asked why the U.S. has erected an "Iron Curtain" to prevent American citizens from traveling to Cuba — to vacation in the sun, for business travel or just to check things out for themselves.

President Obama implicitly stipulates that Cuba must turn away from socialism, and first and foremost release its political prisoners, before he would entertain a reduction in sanctions. Many Americans evidently have the impression — based on Washington's decades of demonizing the Havana government and socialism — that Cuba's jails are bursting with dissenters. According to Amnesty International two years ago there are about 70 prisoners of conscience in Cuba. Some were arrested six years ago, charged with being financed from the U.S. to cause disruptions in Cuba. (A human rights NGO in Cuba claims there are 206 dissidents in prison, a number the Havana government disputes. This group has functioned freely in Cuba for years.)

What's more, President Raul Castro repeatedly tells Washington that Havana will exchange all its imprisoned so-called dissidents for the five anti-terrorist Cubans held in American prisons since Sept. 12, 1998, but the U.S. refuses the offer. Their case is a cause célèbre in Cuba and the subject of many large demonstrations on the island. Their situation is not well known in the U.S. except to Americans who care enough to find out.

So who are the Cuban Five? They are five Cuban men who devoted themselves to opposing terrorism against their country. They joined émigré groups in Florida that had committed or planned past acts of terrorism against Cuba. The five monitored these groups, and when they discovered plans for a new attack on Cuba they notified authorities in Havana, who then told Washington about the plans.

But instead of moving against the terror group, the U.S. government arrested the five opponents of terrorism on charges of being unregistered foreign agents (not spies, as some reports falsely claim). Their sentences range from 15 years to double life. Three will be re-sentenced in Miami Oct. 13, a venue not distinguished by its generosity toward those who support Cuban socialism.

In the U.S. the Cuban Five have received support from the National Lawyers Guild, the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and a defense group centered in San Francisco — the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five. This committee urges that the men be released, and requests in the interim that Washington at least allow the prisoners to receive visits from their families, which have been prohibited.
Details about this case and suggestions about how to help are at or call (415) 821-6545.

The defense committee announced Sept. 9 that "the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund filed a lawsuit on its behalf today in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Broadcasting Board of Directors (BBG) because it has 'unlawfully failed to disclose specific U.S. government-paid contracts with journalists' who published materials that were negative to Cuba and prejudicial to the case of the Cuban Five."

The five men are also backed by various left and progressive organizations, and Latin America solidarity groups in the U.S. Locally these include the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter, Peace and Social Progress Now!, and the two Mid-Hudson organizations who endorsed our Sept. 12 demonstration: the Caribbean and Latin America Support Project and Middle East Crisis Response.

We don't know what's going to happen to the Cuban Five, but we believe the embargo and travel restrictions — regardless of the present negative attitude of the Obama government — will be dropped completely within the next several years, assuming public pressure continues.

The anti-communist Cold War is long over, except in the minds of the ultra-right and political opportunists who prey upon the naiveté of those subject to a lifetime of anti-Cuba propaganda. The Cuban-American émigré community has softened up a great deal, though it still has a small minority of die-hards who want to retake the island through violence.

A number of NGOs are calling on the U.S. to drop the sanctions and the travel ban — for humanitarian as well as political reasons, and just plain common sense. Amnesty International, for instance, criticized President Obama for extending the sanctions. Amnesty Secretary-General Irene Khan declared: "The U.S. embargo against Cuba is immoral and should be lifted. It's preventing millions of Cubans from benefiting from vital medicines and medical equipment essential for their health."

The AFL-CIO, meeting in convention in mid-September, passed a resolution to "end travel restrictions on Americans seeking to visit Cuba," and "calls upon Congress to initiate legislation that would repeal the economic embargo against the Republic of Cuba and broaden diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba."

A considerable number of U.S. corporations and major agricultural producers have been calling for an end to the boycott for years. They want to export to Cuba, invest in its tourist industry, and hunt for oil in its territorial waters. Members of Congress — such as Mid-Hudson Democratic Rep. Maurice Hinchey — say it's time to resume normal relations with Cuba.

According to an Inter-Press Service article by respected news analyst Jim Lobe, if President Obama "wants to begin dismantling Washington’s nearly 50-year-old trade embargo against Cuba, it appears he will have widespread support for doing so." He wrote several months ago that "foreign policy heavyweights" and "major U.S. business groups" are agreeable. Among the favorable groups he named were the "politically potent Business Roundtable, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Retail Federation, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce."

In April nine retired U.S. Army generals and two rear admirals wrote a letter to President Obama stating that America's "current policy of isolating Cuba has failed," and after 50 years "it is time to change the policy." They encouraged the president to back those in Congress who want to end the embargo and travel restrictions.

Six months ago, CNN / Opinion Research Corp. poll showed that 64% of Americans surveyed think the U.S. should lift its travel ban on Cuba, while 71% thought the U.S. should reestablish diplomatic relations with the island nation.

We don't know why the White House is still continuing this Cold War absurdity. Presidential advisers probably think Obama may lose some votes if he ended sanctions without receiving major concessions in return. Perhaps they worry that the Republicans may criticize him, or think that it's the obligation of a superpower to punish a small country that insists on going its own way in the very shadow of the Yankee colossus.

No wonder the Cuban people, among many others in Latin America, look upon the U.S. as "the Empire." We act that way toward them and have done so for over 100 years. Let's bury this relic of imperialism and the Cold War. Let's lift the embargo and travel ban, free the Cuban Five, and extend the hand of neighborly acceptance and friendship to a cultured, educated and creative people just 90 miles from our shores.



A new report by the AFL-CIO and Working America points out that "if they can find jobs at all, young workers today have lower-paying jobs than they did 10 years ago. Health care is a luxury, and retirement security is something for their parents, not them."

The report, "Young Workers: A Lost Decade," finds that the economic meltdown over the past decade has handicapped young workers' ability to transition into adulthood and financial independence. Some of the report’s key findings include:

• 31% of young workers report being uninsured, up from 24% 10 years ago, and 79% of the uninsured say they don’t have coverage because they can’t afford it or their employer does not offer it.

• Only 31% say they make enough money to cover their bills and put some money aside — 22% fewer than in 1999 — while 24% cannot even pay their monthly bills.

• A third cannot pay their bills and seven in 10 do not have enough saved to cover two months of living expenses.

• Some 37% have put off education or professional development because they can’t afford it.

• When asked who is most responsible for the country’s economic woes, close to 50% of young workers place the blame on Wall Street and banks or corporate CEOs. And young workers say greed by corporations and CEOs is the factor most to blame for the current financial downturn.

• By a 22-point margin, young workers favor expanding public investment over reducing the budget deficit. Young workers rank conservative economic approaches such as reducing taxes, government spending and regulation on business among the five lowest of 16 long-term priorities for Congress and the president.

• A total of 35% say they voted for the first time in 2008, and nearly three-quarters now keep tabs on government and public affairs, even when there’s not an election going on.

• The majority of young workers and nearly 70% of first-time voters are confident that Obama will take the country in the right direction.

Young workers are hardest hit by frequent recessions in the U.S. economy. They are laid off first and re-hired last. Indeed, not all the teen jobs lost in the 2002 recession were ever recovered. In August, according to the Sept. 4 New York Times, "the teenage unemployment rate — that is, the percentage of teenagers who wanted a job who could not find one — was 25.5%." This summer, total teen employment fell to 29.1% — the lowest since records were kept 64 years ago. This was despite some $1.2 billion in economic stimulus money set aside for summer jobs.

According to John Sweeney, who stepped down as president of the AFL-CIO at the organization's convention, "Young workers in particular must be given the tools to lead the next generation to prosperity. Our national survey shows just how broken our economy is for our young people — and what's at stake if we don't fix it."

The labor federation's new president, former Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka, summed up the report’s findings this way: "We’re calling the report 'A Lost Decade' because we’re seeing 10 years of opportunity lost as young workers across the board are struggling to keep their heads above water and often not succeeding. They’ve put off adulthood — put off having kids, put off education — and a full 34% of workers under 35 live with their parents for financial reasons."

Trumka, the former head of United Mineworkers, is making union outreach to young people a top priority. He said one of the report’s conclusions is especially striking: "Young people want to be involved but they’re rarely asked. Their priorities are even more progressive than the priorities of the older generation of working people, yet they aren’t engaged by co-workers or friends to get involved in the economic debate."

— Here's a link to an article that provides access to the full report on young workers:



The Obama Administration has made two decisions this month that are considered setbacks for civil liberties. One was to strengthen the Patriot Act, an intrusive Bush Administration law long opposed by progressives. The other was to deny prisoners being held at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan the same limited rights now extended to inmates held in Guantanamo.

The New York Times reported Sept. 16 that the Justice Department told Congress the White House "supports extending three provisions of the USA Patriot Act that are scheduled to expire at the end of the year. The provisions give the government the authority to access business records, operate roving wiretaps and conduct surveillance on 'lone wolf' suspects with no known link to foreign governments or terrorist groups. Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich said the administration was willing to consider stronger civil rights protections in the law 'provided that they do not undermine the effectiveness' of the three provisions."

Jason Ditz reported in Sept. 14 that "though the Department of Defense has made a big deal about the major changes being made in the detention procedures at Bagram... the Obama Administration showed today that those 'rights' don’t extend very far." In effect, they are denying habeas corpus rights to some 600 prisoners.

A judge ruled recently that foreign prisoners in Bagram were similar to those held at the U.S. internment camp in Cuba and should receive the same rights. But the Obama Administration challenged this ruling in the federal Court of Appeals, arguing that to do so may be a threat to the Washington's war effort in Afghanistan.

Instead of being assigned a lawyer, as in Guantanamo, "the Pentagon will assign a non-lawyer soldier to them to help them gather evidence in an attempt to prove" their innocence. Responding to the Obama Administration decision, ACLU lawyer Melissa Goodman commented that "since the Supreme Court declared that prisoners in Guantánamo Bay have the right to habeas corpus, it would appear that the government is attempting to use Bagram, instead, as the new off-shore warehouse for indefinite detention."


By California Nurses Association

In a historic vote that adds the nation’s leading voice of American workers to a broad national campaign, the AFL-CIO voted unanimously at its national convention in Pittsburgh Sept. 15 to endorse the enactment of single-payer universal healthcare for all Americans.

The resolution was sponsored by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, and the Alameda County (California) Central Labor Council.

It marks the first time in perhaps two decades that the AFL-CIO has been formally on record in support of single-payer, which would essentially expand and improve Medicare to cover all Americans. Labor unions around the country have been in the forefront of grassroots actions around the nation in support of single-payer and many labor bodies submitted resolutions to the national convention in support of an endorsement.

The resolution notes that "the experience of Medicare (and of nearly every other industrialized country) shows the most cost-effective and equitable way to provide quality healthcare is through a single-payer system. Our nation should provide a single high standard of comprehensive care for all." It also sites specific single-payer bills, including HR 676, which has 86 cosponsors in Congress.

Regardless of the outcome of the current healthcare legislative action, said United Steel Workers President Leo Gerard,"we’re going to continue the fight for single-payer. I’m not in favor of universal insurance, I’m in favor of universal healthcare. We are going to fight to make sure every single American gets high quality healthcare. "



In recent months the Obama Administration has been charging that Iran is supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan in its struggle against the U.S. and NATO occupation forces. As we have pointed out in the past, the charge is incorrect, not least because the Sunni Taliban is antagonistic toward Shi'ite Iran, and vice-versa. The latest exposure of Washington's distortion was reported by the U.S. news agency Inter Press Service (IPS), on Sept. 3, which stated:

In support of the official U.S. assertion that Iran is arming its sworn enemy, the Taliban, the head of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), Dennis Blair, has cited a statement by a Taliban commander last year attributing military success against NATO forces to Iranian military assistance.

But the Taliban commander's claim is contradicted by evidence from the U.S. Defense Department, Canadian forces in Afghanistan and the Taliban itself that the increased damage to NATO tanks by Taliban forces has come from anti-tank mines provided by the United States to the jihadi movement in Afghanistan in the 1980s. [At that time Washington sent arms and billions of dollars to defeat the progressive government in Afghanistan that was supported by the Soviet Union.]

The Taliban claim was cited by ODNI in written responses to questions for the record from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence following testimony by Blair before the Committee Feb. 12, 2009. The responses were released to the Federation of American Scientists under the Freedom of Information Act July 30.

The rapid rise in casualties over the past two years is attributed in part to the increased lethality of the Taliban mines. But according to the Pentagon agency responsible for combating roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, the increased Taliban threat to U.S. and NATO vehicles comes not from any new technology from Iran but from Italian-made mines left over from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's military assistance to the anti-Soviet jihadists in the 1980s.

In response to an inquiry from IPS, the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) said in an email that Italian-manufactured TC-6 anti-tank mines are "very common" in the Taliban-dominated areas of the country and that they have been modified to increase their lethality in IED attacks. The Taliban's tank-killing bombs came from U.S., not Iran.



According to an article by Associated Press writer Hope Yen Sept. 4, "The official poverty rate for Americans 65 years and older has stood for years at 10%, the lowest rate among age groups. But the true rate could be nearly twice that high, reports a revised formula created by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS)."

She reported: The NAS formula would put the poverty rate for older Americans at 18.6%, or 6.8 million people, compared with 9.7%, or 3.6 million people, under the existing measure. The original government formula, created in 1955, doesn't take account of rising costs of medical care and other factors.

"It's a hidden problem," said Robin Talbert, president of the AARP Foundation, which provides job training and support to low-income seniors and is backing legislation that would adopt the NAS formula. "There are still many millions of older people on the edge, who don't have what they need to get by."

In a related development, a Pew Research poll published Sept. 3 revealed that 40% of employed workers age 63 and older postponed retiring due to the economy. The New York Times commented that "in other parts of the developed world, people are retiring as planned, because of relatively flush state and corporate pensions that await them. But here in the United States, financial security in old age rests increasingly on private savings, which have taken a beating in the last year. Prospective retirees are clinging to their jobs despite some cherished life plans." (See item in News Briefs.)

If the academy's formula is adopted, a more refined picture of American poverty could emerge that would capture everyday costs of necessities besides just food. The result could upend long-standing notions of those in greatest need and lead eventually to shifts in how billions of federal dollars for the poor are distributed for health, housing, nutrition and child-care benefits.

The overall official poverty rate would increase, from 12.5% to 15.3%, for a total of 45.7 million people, according to rough calculations by the Census Bureau. Data on all segments, not only the elderly, would be affected:

• The rate for children under 18 in poverty would decline slightly, to 17.9%.

• Single mothers and their children, who disproportionately receive food stamps, would see declines in the rates of poverty because non-cash aid would be taken into account. Low-income people who are working could see increases in poverty rates, a reflection of transportation and child-care costs.

• Cities with higher costs of living, such as New York, Chicago and San Francisco, would see higher poverty rates, while more rural areas in the Midwest and South might see declines.

• The rate for extreme poverty, defined as income falling below 50% of the poverty line, would decrease due to housing and other noncash benefits.

• Immigrant poverty rates would go up, due to transportation costs and lower participation in government aid programs.

The changes have been discussed quietly for years in academic circles, and both Democrats and Republicans agree that the decades-old White House formula, which is based on a 1955 cost of an emergency food diet, is outdated.

The current calculation sets the poverty level at three times the annual cost of groceries. For a family of four that is $21,203. That calculation does not factor in rising medical, transportation, child care and housing expenses or geographical variations in living costs. Nor does the current formula consider noncash aid when calculating income, despite the recent expansion of food stamps and tax credits in the federal economic stimulus and other government programs. The result: The poverty rate has varied little from its current 12.5%.

"The current poverty measure does a very bad job of measuring the impact of quite a few of our anti-poverty policies," Rebecca Blank, the Commerce Department's undersecretary of economic affairs, said in an interview. "It isn't meaningless, but it isn't complete."

Although the White House Office of Management and Budget dictates how federal poverty is measured, legislation pending in Congress would require use of the National Academy approach. Advocates are hoping the White House may act on its own.

Cities are already showing interest. In New York City, roughly one in three senior citizens fell below the poverty line after Mayor Michael Bloomberg adopted the new formula last year; state officials in Albany, N.Y., plan to publish their revised numbers next month. Los Angeles, Miami, Washington, San Francisco and Chicago also have been considering a switch.
In a related development, AARP's Carole Fleck reported Sept. 1: Most Americans are spending less these days as the recession drags on, but older consumers are showing the greatest restraint."

A survey this year of boomers (those born from 1946 to 1964) reported an average of $64 in daily spending, down substantially from $98 in 2008, according to a Gallup poll released Aug. 27. The poll of 260,000 adults excluded spending on typical household bills and major purchases. The survey was conducted between January 2008 and June 2009.

Spending also decreased among those born before 1930 from $63 a day last year to $35 a day in 2009. Those born between 1930 and 1945 pulled back from spending $84 a day last year to $50 a day this year, the poll found.

Despite the downturn, the biggest spenders this year were members of Generation X (born between 1965 and 1979), who averaged $71 a day, down from $110, according to the poll. Millennials (born between 1980 and 1991) spent $61 a day this year compared with $92 last year.



According to Republican Sarah Palin and other misinformed or malicious conservatives, end-of-life counseling amounts to "death panels" which will decide who will and will not live. This monstrous lie has caused a number of older Americans to draw back from the Obama Administration's healthcare proposals. In this article, Michael Haederle, a writer for the AARP Bulletin, tells a quite different story:

The woman on the phone was worried. She had signed an advance directive specifying what kind of end-of-life care she would receive in the event she could no longer communicate her wishes—and now she wanted to revoke it.

Why? Because someone had told her that it didn’t matter what the directive said — just having a directive meant that she would not be given even the most basic care or pain relief, said Kathy Brandt, the woman who took that call. Brandt, a vice president of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, said the woman had come to believe that she had signed away her right to medical treatment.

Advance directives do not signal the patient wants to die in pain, without any care at all. They are legal documents that specify the kind of treatment patients would like if unable to speak for themselves. But rational planning for debilitating illness and eventual death is an idea that seems to attract whole clusters of frightening misconceptions.

Brandt talked to that caller a few months ago, before an obscure section of House bill HR 3200—the American Affordable Health Choices Act — seemed to take on a life of its own amid charges that the government was creating "death panels" to euthanize the elderly. Angry protesters flocked to town hall meetings where they vented their rage at members of Congress.

What the proposal would actually do is allow physicians to bill Medicare for discussing with their patients what kind of end-of-life care they would want in the event there was little chance of recovery and they were unable to decide for themselves. Would they merely want pain control or expect the doctors to try every available treatment?

Such discussions would not be mandatory, but could help patients to articulate their wishes in a living will and designate a health proxy—usually a spouse or adult child—to carry out their wishes.

"You can boil it down to two words: 'Who decides?'" says Bill Thomas, M.D. of Ithaca, N.Y., a nationally known geriatrician who developed the concept of "green house" nursing homes — facilities that are less institutional and help patients live richer lives in smaller settings.

"The entire point of doing this planning is thoughtful communication with a physician and creating some documents that can guide your care," he says. "It’s so you decide."

Palliative care, in which doctors control pain symptoms without trying to treat a terminal illness, is different from assisted suicide or active euthanasia, Thomas stresses. Palliative care is what’s done "when someone's in an end-of-life situation," he says. "When there’s no cure available, you definitely want palliative care."



[Following is an excerpt from an Op-Ed article in the N.Y. Times Sept. 10 by University of California Professor Michael Pollan. It deals with an important though rarely mentioned reason why U.S. healthcare spending is so high. Pollen is the author of "In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto" (2008).]

To listen to President Obama’s speech Sept. 9, or to just about anyone else in the health care debate, you would think that the biggest problem with healthcare in America is the system itself — perverse incentives, inefficiencies, unnecessary tests and procedures, lack of competition, and greed.

No one disputes that the $2.3 trillion we devote to the healthcare industry is often spent unwisely, but the fact that the United States spends twice as much per person as most European countries on healthcare can be substantially explained, as a study released last month says, by our being fatter. Even the most efficient healthcare system that the administration could hope to devise would still confront a rising tide of chronic disease linked to diet.

That’s why our success in bringing healthcare costs under control ultimately depends on whether Washington can summon the political will to take on and reform a second, even more powerful industry: the food industry.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three-quarters of healthcare spending now goes to treat "preventable chronic diseases." Not all of these diseases are linked to diet — there’s smoking, for instance — but many, if not most, of them are.

We’re spending $147 billion to treat obesity, $116 billion to treat diabetes, and hundreds of billions more to treat cardiovascular disease and the many types of cancer that have been linked to the so-called Western diet. One recent study estimated that 30 percent of the increase in healthcare spending over the past 20 years could be attributed to the soaring rate of obesity, a condition that now accounts for nearly a tenth of all spending on healthcare....

Reforming the food system is politically even more difficult than reforming the healthcare system.... A healthcare reform bill, no matter how ambitious, is only the first step in solving our healthcare crisis. To keep from bankrupting ourselves, we will then have to get to work on improving our health — which means going to work on the American way of eating.

Full article:



After several days of on-the-spot observation in Honduras in late August, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a preliminary report condemning the crackdown on civil rights and violations of human rights by the right wing regime that seized power June 28 and crushed the democratically-elected government of President Manuel Zelaya.

Washington has condemned the coup and imposed token sanctions against the bogus regime. But the U.S. still refuses to discontinue all its annual aid to the Honduras government, has not broken ties with Honduran military and the top officers that the Pentagon trained, and continues to station American troops at its base in the Central American country.

The IACHR reported that demonstrations against the coup "were suppressed throughout the country — including Tegucigalpa (the capital), San Pedro Sula, Choloma, Comayagua, and the town of El Paraíso." It said that military and police forces loyal to the usurpers engaged in "a pattern of excessive violence, resulting in deaths, cases of torture and mistreatment, hundreds of injured, and thousands of arbitrary detentions." The report continued:

"Along with the loss of institutional legitimacy brought about by the coup d'état, which affects the regular functioning of democratic institutions, during its visit the Commission confirmed a pattern of disproportionate use of public force, arbitrary detentions, and the control of information aimed at limiting political participation by a sector of the citizenry. The Commission confirmed the use of repression against demonstrations through the placement of military roadblocks; the arbitrary enforcement of curfews; the detentions of thousands of people; cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; and poor detention conditions.

"The control of information has been implemented through the temporary shutdown of some media outlets; a ban on the transmission of signals of certain cable television stations that were reporting on the coup d’état; the selective use of power outages to affect the transmission by audiovisual media reporting on the coup; and attacks and threats against journalists from media outlets with editorial positions opposed to the coup d’état.

"In addition, the IACHR received testimony indicating that acts of harassment have been perpetrated against individuals who have publicly demonstrated political affinity with President Zelaya. Governors, deputies, mayors, and social leaders who had allegedly demanded the restitution of the constitutional president have reported that they were subject to reprisals, threats, acts of violence, budget cuts, and military occupation of the public installations in which they worked, among other measures. President Zelaya’s family, in particular, informed the Commission about the harassment and smear campaign that have affected all of their members."

The IACHR, which is headquartered in Washington, promotes and protects humans rights throughout the Western Hemisphere. It is an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS) and represents [and is elected by] all of its member states.

— Full report at


By Nathan Rosenblum

MORE AMERICANS DELAY RETIREMENT: A larger number of older workers in the United States are delaying retirement, according to a Sept. 3 report from the Pew Research Center. The reason is a lack of financial security, in large part brought about by the recession. For a number of years American companies have been eliminating so-called defined-benefit pension plans for employees fortunate enough to receive pensions, replacing them with 401(k) plans.

Defined benefit means a retired worker would receive fixed monthly or annual payments for life. The 401(k) plans are connected to the financial markets and are usually administered by fund managers. These plans are primarily invested in stocks, and have lost much of their value. As a consequence, Pew reports, about 10% of workers over 62 have delayed retirement. Almost a third of Americans between age 65 and 69 are still working. This contrasts with workers of that age group in countries that provide social benefits far superior to those offered in the United States. In France, where the retirement age is 60, only 4% of such workers remain on the job. These governments, particularly in most of Europe, provide pensions that retain most of the income workers received before retirement. In the U.S., Social Security provides less than half the income a retiree received while working. Attempts in certain European countries to raise the retirement age or reduce benefits are usually confronted with mass public opposition, often led by unions.

U.S. LEADS WORLD IN ARMS SALES, AS USUAL: According to a recently released congressional report, the United States was responsible for 68.4% of foreign arms sales in 2008. The sales equaled $37.8 billion, an increase from $25.4 billion the previous year. Arms sales declined last year for most of the other countries engaged in the trade. Among the U.S. supplied projects were a $6.5 billion air defense system to the United Arab Emirates, $2.1 billion for jet fighters for Morocco, and $2 billion for attack helicopters to Taiwan. Other countries that purchased U.S. weapons include India, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Brazil. Over the decades Israel has received more U.S. arms than any other country, but it is not on the official list of arms recipients because Washington provides the weapons free of charge. The right wing regime in Colombia likewise receives free military aid. Last year it was over $420 million. Developing countries are among Uncle Sam's biggest clients for weapons. In 2008, the U.S. accounted for over 70% of arms sales to third world nations estimated to be worth almost $30 billion.



• RACIST OUTBURST: New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd's take on the "You lied!" outburst of South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson during President Obama's healthcare speech was that the underlying motivation was racism — and that anti-black feeling is behind a number of right wing shenanigans these days. As she wrote in her Sept. 13 column:

"I’ve been loath to admit that the shrieking lunacy of the summer — the frantic efforts to paint our first black president as the Other, a foreigner, socialist, fascist, Marxist, racist, Commie, Nazi; a cad who would snuff old people; a snake who would indoctrinate kids — had much to do with race.... But Wilson’s shocking disrespect for the office of the president... convinced me: Some people just can’t believe a black man is president and will never accept it."

— Full article at:

• HOUSE MEMBERS VISIT ISRAEL: Fully 13% of the entire U.S. House of Representatives — 56 members — traveled to Israel last month in a "fact-finding" delegation organized by AIPAC, the influential pro-Tel Aviv lobby. In an article titled "The Best Congress AIPAC Can Buy," conservative writer Philip Giraldi observed Sept. 2:

"The August congressional junkets were paid for by the American Israel Education Foundation, which is a non-profit foundation that is part of AIPAC. The non-profit foundation part means that the trip to convince already acquiescent congressmen that Israel needs more aid and special treatment was more-or-less subsidized by the U.S. taxpayer. Taking congressmen to Israel to make sure they understand the issues properly is not exactly new, but the scale and seniority of the recent visits sent a clear message to President Barack Obama that he should not pressure Israel in any way or he will face bipartisan opposition... that he will not bLinke able to overcome."

— Full article at: