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Thursday, August 05, 2004

RED CROSS COMES DOWN OFF THE FENCE...FOR THE BRITISH 

I don't mean to complain. It's great that the International Red Cross has finally come out with what we all knew: that the US has committed systematic war crimes in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. I wonder, though, why it took the testimonies of three British ex-prisoners in the past couple of days to tip the IRC off the fence. The photos, video footage and testimonies of abuse of hundreds of Iraqi, Afghani and other prisoners weren't compelling enough already? Allegations that as many as 100 Iraqi children were abused, tortured and raped by coalition [sic] and Iraqi forces didn't jar the IRC into action?

[[[BushWhackedUSA.com & BushWhackedUSA: THE BLOG]]]

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

JUST FOR TODAY 

Today, and only today, I've posted the BushWhackedUSA items here instead of on the main site. My partner in crime is traveling, and rather than screwing up his system I thought this would be easier. So, now that you're here, feel free to comment on things. What's on your mind? Oh, and welcome!
-Eric Bosse
Co-Editor, BushWhackedUSA

BushWhackedUSA.com

BUSHWHACKEDUSA: INTERNATIONAL ITEMS, 5 AUGUST 2004 

US ABUSE COULD BE WAR CRIMES: Red Cross Says Britons May Have a Case
By Vikram Dodd and Tania Branigan
The Guardian (UK), 5 August 2004

EXCERPT: Repeated abuses allegedly suffered by three British prisoners at the hands of US interrogators and guards in the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba could amount to war crimes, the Red Cross said yesterday. The organisation, which maintains a rigidly neutral stance in public, took the unusual step of voicing its concerns in uncompromising language after the former detainees, known as the Tipton Three, revealed that they had been beaten, shackled, photographed naked and in one incident questioned at gunpoint while in US custody. Their vivid account of the harrowing conditions at the camp, as told to their lawyers and published for the first time in yesterday's Guardian, has reignited the debate about the treatment of prisoners and the British government's role in their questioning and detention. Last night the Red Cross was joined by the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, which argued that if the allegations were true they indicated systematic abuse, amounting to torture.
SEE ALSO: Editorial: Justice in the Balance (Guardian)
SEE ALSO: Families call for immediate freeing of Britons caught in 'Kafka nightmare' (Guardian)
SEE ALSO: Questioned at Gunpoint, Shackled, Forced to Pose Naked: British Detainees Tell Their Stories of Guantanamo Bay
By Vikram Dodd and Tania Branigan
The Guardian (UK) 4 August 2004

EXCERPT: Britain and the US last night faced fresh allegations of abuses after a British terror suspect said an SAS soldier had interrogated him for three hours while an American colleague pointed a gun at him and threatened to shoot him. The allegation is contained in a new dossier detailing repeated beatings and humiliation suffered by three Britons who were captured in Afghanistan, then held in Guantánamo Bay for two years, before being released in March without charge. Rhuhel Ahmed, one of the "Tipton Three", claims in the 115-page dossier that shortly after his capture in November 2001 he was interviewed in Afghanistan by a British interrogator who said he was from the SAS. Mr Ahmed alleges he was taken by US guards to be interrogated by the British officer in a tent. "One of the US soldiers had a gun to his head and he was told if he moved they would shoot him," the report says. The SAS officer pressed him to admit he had gone to Afghanistan to fight a holy war.

Coalition Forces Holding Children in Iraqi Prisons
Human rights groups demand immediate access to children held as criminals or 'security detainees.'
By Tom Regan
Christian Science Monitor, 4 August 2004

EXCERPT: The Sunday Herald of Scotland reported this week on its own investigation into allegations that more than 100 children, some as young as 10 years-old, are being detained by coalition forces in Iraq under suspicion of "alleged activities targeting the occupying forces." Many of the children are being held in a special wing at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. The Herald's story includes allegations that some of the children were abused, tortured, or raped, by coalition and Iraqi soldiers.

Bush Administration Knew They Were Lying About Iraq
Despite the whitewash, we now know that the Bush administration was warned before the war that its Iraq claims were weak
By David Sirota and Christy Harvey
In These Times, 3 August 2004

EXCERPT: If desperation is ugly, then Washington, D.C. today is downright hideous. As the 9/11 Commission recently reported, there was “no credible evidence” of a collaborative relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. Similarly, no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. With U.S. casualties mounting in an election year, the White House is grasping at straws to avoid being held accountable for its dishonesty. The whitewash already has started: In July, Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee released a controversial report blaming the CIA for the mess. The panel conveniently refuses to evaluate what the White House did with the information it was given or how the White House set up its own special team of Pentagon political appointees (called the Office of Special Plans) to circumvent well-established intelligence channels. And Vice President Dick Cheney continues to say without a shred of proof that there is “overwhelming evidence” justifying the administration’s pre-war charges. But as author Flannery O’Conner noted, “Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” That means no matter how much defensive spin spews from the White House, the Bush administration cannot escape the documented fact that it was clearly warned before the war that its rationale for invading Iraq was weak. Top administration officials repeatedly ignored warnings that their assertions about Iraq’s supposed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and connections to al Qaeda were overstated. In some cases, they were told their claims were wholly without merit, yet they went ahead and made them anyway. Even the Senate report admits that the White House “misrepresented” classified intelligence by eliminating references to contradictory assertions. In short, they knew they were misleading America.

Weapons of Miller's Descriptions
Spoon-fed information about Iraq's WMDs, New York Times reporter Judith Miller authored many stories later found to be misleading or downright false.
By Herbert L. Abrams
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July/August 2004

EXCERPT:By June 3, 2003, according to a Harris Poll, 35 percent of Americans believed that weapons of mass destruction (WMD) had been found in Iraq, while 10 percent were not sure; in October, 30 percent were still persuaded, although six months of searching had failed to uncover any such weapons. How could so many have been convinced in the face of the total absence of evidence? Selected comments from New York Times reporter Judith Miller's dispatches from December 2001 through June 2003 provide part of the answer. Miller, with a special knack for writing what the Pentagon liked to read, was the sole reporter embedded with the 75th Exploitation Task Force, which operated Mobile Exploitation Teams (MET Alpha, MET Bravo) hunting for WMD in Iraq. Her stories, which were widely reprinted or reported in other newspapers, on cable TV, and on talk radio, helped convey the impression to the nation that illicit weapons had been found in Iraq, supposedly validating the decision for war.

Doctors and Torture: Medical Professionals Complicit in Illegal Procedures
By Robert J. Lifton, M.D.
New England Journal of Medicine, 29 July 2004

EXCERPT: There is increasing evidence that U.S. doctors, nurses, and medics have been complicit in torture and other illegal procedures in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. Such medical complicity suggests still another disturbing dimension of this broadening scandal. We know that medical personnel have failed to report to higher authorities wounds that were clearly caused by torture and that they have neglected to take steps to interrupt this torture. In addition, they have turned over prisoners' medical records to interrogators who could use them to exploit the prisoners' weaknesses or vulnerabilities. We have not yet learned the extent of medical involvement in delaying and possibly falsifying the death certificates of prisoners who have been killed by torturers.

New Thinking in an All-Orange World
By Tom Englehardt and Mark LeVine
TomDispatch, 3 August 2004

EXCERPT #1 (Engelhardt): Unfortunately, our media is programmatically like some exceedingly slow, brain-damaged acquaintance. You have this constant urge to stretch out your hand and say, "Here, here, I'll help you along." But you also know that, massive and influential as it may be, on certain crucial matters it is institutionally incapable of learning. I mean, it's almost three years after 9/11 and we know we have an administration that never saw a piece of false intelligence it couldn't run with or accurate intelligence it couldn't mangle or suppress.
EXCERPT #2 (LeVine): It is time for the United States to declare a truce with the Muslim world, and radical Islam in particular. This may sound like a naïve, even defeatist statement in the context of The 9/11 Commission Report's reminder that America remains very much at war with "Islamist terrorism" and the ideas behind it. Yet a truce -- in Arabic, hudna -- rather than an increasingly dangerous "clash of civilizations," is the only way to avoid a long, ultimately catastrophic conflict. And it's up to Europe to be the good broker. Indeed, there is no chance for a halt in the war on terror, or any fundamental change in U.S. foreign policy as long as George Bush is President. Even if John Kerry wins this November, the possibility that he might initiate such a transformation is slim. However, there is one major difference -- at least rhetorically -- between the two possible presidencies: Kerry has made a point of saying that he would "listen" to European allies and strive to build a common approach to combating terrorism.

[[[BushWhackedUSA.com & BushWhackedUSA: THE BLOG]]]

BUSHWHACKEDUSA: NATIONAL ITEMS, 5 AUGUST 2004 

FUBAR
Source for New Terror Alerts Fed U.S. False Information in 2002

Capitol Hill Blue, 4 August 2004

EXCERPT: An imprisoned terror suspect that the Bush administration says provided "vital" information that led to increased alerts in Washington, New York and New Jersey is the same suspect who provided false information that led to false alerts in 2002, angry intelligence officials say. The administration claimed it learned from an imprisoned terror suspect, separately from the documents and two prisoners named this week, that al-Qaida was plotting to attack U.S. financial buildings, officials. The White House described the latest information as "another new stream of intelligence" that supported its decision to issue warnings. It arrived days before the public alert, even as officials were reviewing reams of documents and photographs that showed surveillance of five such financial buildings in New York, New Jersey and Washington carried out years ago by al-Qaida. But Capitol Hill Blue has learned the terror suspect is Abu Zubaydah, an al-Qaida honcho captured in Pakistan in March, 2002. At that time, Zubaydah claimed suicide bomb attacks against the same financial institutions were imminent and U.S. officials responded by raising the terror alert status only to lower it a short time later and admit Zubaydah's information was "questionable." "Old information isn't irrelevant information - particularly with this kind of enemy," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Wednesday in Nashville, Tenn. "Horseshit," muttered a DHS agent who, for obvious reasons, asked that his name be withheld. "We're chasing ghosts and we're chasing our tails. How many times must this clown lead us around by the nose before we learn we have been made fools of once again?"
SEE ALSO: Despite "Terror" Warnings, Laura Bush Visits Citicorp Building in New York (CNN/Money)


NYT Editorial: The Terror Alerts
New York Times, 5 August 2004

EXCERPT: Given the unprecedented circumstances and the costs of making a mistake, it's easy to understand why the administration has had so much trouble managing the way it informs the public about potential danger. But after 17 months in which alerts blinked from yellow to orange and back a half-dozen times, the White House should be past its learning curve. It isn't. The events of this week showed starkly that the system is not working. The administration was obviously right to warn the country that Al Qaeda had apparently studied financial institutions in three cities with the idea of a possible attack. But the delivery of the message was confusing. The color-coded threat chart doesn't serve the purpose for which it was invented, and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge is hopeless as a public spokesman on this issue. The Bush administration needs to come up with a method of communication that informs the public in a calm, clear way. Perhaps most important, people need to be made totally confident that this critical matter is not being tangled up in the presidential campaign.

Bush Announces 20 Recess Appointments
Associated Press, 31 July 2004

EXCERPT: President Bush on Friday announced his intention to make 20 appointments during the congressional recess, including a new chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, a manufacturing czar and three ambassadors.

The Sultan Brought Cheesecake
The Smoking Gun, 4 August 2004

EXCERPT: Three hundred pounds of lamb. A $12,000 Franck Muller watch. Christian Dior after-shave lotion. A Lady McDuffies gourmet lemon cheesecake. Those are just a few of the fabulous gifts received last year by the Bush family from foreign leaders, according to a list released this week by the Department of State's Office of Protocol (below you'll find excerpts from the 52-page report). It will probably come as no surprise that the most valuable gift came from Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdallah, who gave First Lady Laura Bush a matching set of diamond and sapphire jewelry valued by U.S. officials at $95,500. The Saudi royal also gave the president an $8500 mantel clock and the "first family" (that would be first daughters Jenna and Barbara) received Bulgari necklaces valued at $8500 and $8000 apiece. Other recipients of Saudi largesse were Chief of Staff Andrew Card and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, both of whom got small daggers priced at $1500.

Playing Dirty: Negative Ads Aren't the Only Weapons in the GOP Arsenal
By David Corn
TomPaine.com, 4 August 2004

EXCERPT: Here come the dirty bombs. I’m not referring to the most recent terror alert, which just so happened to coincide with the conclusion of the Democrats’ successful convention. (Isn’t it awful that the public—quite justifiably—cannot approach the Bush administration’s terror announcements without a healthy dose of cynicism?) No, the dirty bombs being launched these days are coming from GOP HQ. No sooner had Commander Kerry accomplished his mission in Boston—by presenting himse

Bush's Daughters Get Ride on Rare Diverted Flight
WRAL, 3 August 2004

EXCERPT: A representative for US Airways said the decision to divert the plane had nothing to do with the Bush twins. In fact, the representative said US Airways often diverts planes for such problems, but could not provide an exact number when asked. Several passengers at Reagan National Airport said they have never heard of such treatment. Industry experts say such diversions are extremely rare.

Maybe two wrongs sometimes make a right...
Liberals Want Their Own Network

By Mark Baard
Wired News, 30 July 2004

EXCERPT: A group of progressive media activists covering the Democratic National Convention in Boston plans to launch a new television network to counter the conservative news coverage they see on Fox News and CNN. The group includes one of the producers of the Clinton documentary, The Hunting of the President, and the author of a book about corporate influence on politics, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: The Truth About Corporate Cons, Globalization and High-Finance Fraudsters. Also on board are a veteran record producer, multimedia producers for the Democratic Party's website, leftist bloggers and the former head of the Dean Media Team Network, which produced online ads for the Howard Dean presidential campaign.

Action Alert: Join the Million Worker March on Washington D.C.
Sunday 17 October 2004

EXCERPT: This mobilization is being proposed in response to the attacks upon working families in America and the millions of jobs lost during the Bush administration and with the complicity of Congress. The working class has not suffered such hardships since the Great Depression.


Bush Zones Go National

By Jim Hightower
The Nation, 3 August 2004

EXCERPT: At the 2000 GOP nominating convention in Philadelphia, candidate Bush created a fenced-in, out-of-sight protest zone that could only hold barely 1,500 people at a time. So citizens who wished to give voice to their many grievances with the Powers That Be had to: (1) Schedule their exercise of First Amendment rights with the decidedly unsympathetic authorities. (2) Report like cattle to the protest pen at their designated time, and only in the numbers authorized. (3) Then, under the recorded surveillance of the authorities, feel free to let loose with all the speech they could utter within their allotted minutes (although no one--not Bush, not convention delegates, not the preening members of Congress, not the limousine-gliding corporate sponsors and certainly not the mass media--would be anywhere nearby to hear a single word of what they had to say). Imagine how proud the Founders would be of this interpretation of their revolutionary work. The Democrats, always willing to learn useful tricks from the opposition, created their own "free-speech zone" when they gathered in Los Angeles that year for their convention. Once ensconced in the White House, the Bushites institutionalized the art of dissing dissent, routinely dispatching the Secret Service to order local police to set up FSZs to quarantine protesters wherever Bush goes. The embedded media trooping dutifully behind him almost never cover this fascinating and truly newsworthy phenomenon, instead focusing almost entirely on spoon-fed soundbites from the President's press office.

[[[BushWhackedUSA.com & BushWhackedUSA: THE BLOG]]]

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

THE DEVIL'S IN THE DETAILS 

Josh Marshall has nailed the mainstream media's willingness to believe ANYTHING Bush(co) says to the wall again. Here's an excerpt from today's Talking Points Memo:

...Wouldn't it be nice if we had a press which would make some effort to point out instances where the 'details' utterly belie what the president says he's doing?

The issue here is the president's supposed embrace of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, particularly on the creation of a new National Intelligence Director under whom the heads of the various intelligence agencies would operate.

I was working on another project pretty much constantly through most of the day and heard discussion of this on the cable networks, particularly CNN. What I heard there was that the president had embraced the commission's recommendation on this point while only disagreeing on whether this new head of national intelligence would be housed within the White House or have cabinet rank status outside the White House structure.

Yet it turns out that this is but one, and not at all the most significant way in which the policy the president has embraced differs from that of the commission. In fact, when you look closely at it, it's nothing like what the commission recommended at all. The president went out into the Rose Garden, said he was adopting the commission's proposals. But in fact he was doing close to the opposite, doing more or less what they said shouldn't be done.


(Read the rest if you've got a minute.)

BushWhackedUSA.com

Monday, August 02, 2004

MORE ON FASCISM IN AMERICA 

What are the signs of fascism in America today? Let's compile a list!

The Bush adminsistration has inched us steadily closer to the line when this country, this military and economic empire we call the USA, crosses over into fascism. Maybe we've already crossed over. In any case, this will be a new twist on an old favorite. It might not look like the regimes of Mussolini and Hitler, but given another four years George W. Bush's name could well belong right up there with those two.

So, again, what signs of fascism exist in the US today? Please post comments here in this thread or send me an E-mail, and in a few days I'll compile the list and publish it either here or on the main BushWhackedUSA site. Keep in mind the list of fourteen qualities of fascist states that we examined recently, not to mention the past three-plus years. (Hell, the past three-plus decades are fair game -- no, make that the past three-plus centuries, if you'd like.)

I'll start. Here are a few, just off the top of my nearly empty head:

- Ashcroft Tells Libraries to Destroy Citizen-Friendly Publications
- The Potential for Republicans to Steal the Next Election (too)
- The persistent fear-mongering, in the form of bogus terror warnings timed for convenient political gain
- The ubiquitous American flags, post-9/11
- The high-level authorization of human rights abuses and disdain for the Geneva Conventions
- Using Al Qaeda and fairy tales of scary WMDs to leverage support for the Iraq invasion
- The Bush Doctrine
- Using homophobia for political gain
- The military/industrial/congressional/media complex's obsession with "defense," which has turned the US into the most deadly and dangerous empire in the history of humankind
- Bush's consultations with right-wing Christian leaders on Middle East policies
- Use of the Supreme Court in 2000 and various Republican corporations in 2004 to rig elections
- And, perhaps most interestingly, the restriction of protesters to the "Free Speech Cage" at the Democratic National Convention in, of all places, BOSTON!

OK, your turn....

THE TIMES SHOWS ITS TEETH (Well, a tooth, anyway) 

While I'm not about to give the New York Times credit for transforming itself into a newspaper with the public interest at heart, after watching the Times behave as a slathering lapdog for the Bush administration during the run-up to the Iraq invasion it's heartening to see the two top stories of the moment (eleven o'clock, Mountain time, Monday evening):

1. Reports That Led to Terror Alert Were Years Old, Officials Say
EXCERPT: Much of the information that led the authorities to raise the terror alert at several large financial institutions in the New York City and Washington areas was three or four years old, intelligence and law enforcement officials said on Monday. They reported that they had not yet found concrete evidence that a terrorist plot or preparatory surveillance operations were still under way.
(And the corollary report: Few Measures to Avert Truck Bombs.)

2. A Czar Without Power? Support Leaves Questions
EXCERPT: President Bush on Monday cast his support for a new post of national intelligence director as an historic overhaul of the nation's major spy agencies. But White House officials left vague the authority that the new director would wield over personnel and spending, raising doubts among some experts about the real power of the new position.
Mr. Bush said the new director would "coordinate" the budgets for the nation's 15 major intelligence agencies, while Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff, said the director would have a "coordinating role" in hiring. But neither the president nor Mr. Card said that the director should directly hire and fire or have authority over the estimated $40 billion that the government spends each year on intelligence. Right now, the Pentagon controls about 80 percent of the money.
"If the national intelligence director has no real budgetary authority, he or she will have no real power," said Representative Jane Harman of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.


---------

Tell me again: What's the legal definition of treason?

BushWhackedUSA.com

Sunday, August 01, 2004

IF IT LOOKS LIKE FASCISM, WALKS LIKE FASCISM AND QUACKS LIKE FASCISM... 

Well well well, here we go. Timed conveniently to overshadow John Kerry's post-convention, super-tough-guy bounce in the polls, Tom Ridge and the Homeland Security folks have given us the first batch of highly specific terror warnings. And what's their target?

Here are a pair of pictures to illustrate the Bush team's vigilance. The first comes from the New York Times and shows armed guards outside the Citigroup building in Manhattan:



The second photo comes from the AP and shows an armed guard protecting both the New York Stock Exchange and a very large American flag:



So, today in America you cannot attend a speech by the Vice President (a once and future corporate bigwig) without signing a pledge of loyalty to Bush (another well connected corporate bigwig -- in fact, if you're a photojournalist you may not even be able to take the V.P.'s photo, depending on your ethnicity), you can't count on your vote getting counted by voting machines produced by Republican-owned and operated corporations, you can't hold a national political convention without getting into bed with corporations, and you've got armed guards crawling all over corporate financial headquarters -- and why? Because the government tells us to fear more terror attacks.

Sure, it's possible that this time there's a real threat. It's even possible that these actions will make the difference in protecting Americans from actual terrorists -- something the 9/11 Commission made abundantly clear that the Bush team (among others) failed to do. But if a few days pass without an attack, how will we know? Will this threat warning simply vanish down the "memory hole" like so many prior warnings?

We shall see. Meanwhile, this story dominates headlines while the administration's political rivals would otherwise be getting much more attention. Sound familiar? See below.

Hey, even Colin Powell has given us some pretty clear hints about the inner, darker workings of the Bush administration when he referred to the neocons in Doug Feith's crew as the "Gestapo office."

[[[BushWhackedUSA / BushWhackedUSA: THE BLOG]]]

FASCISM IN AMERICA: YOU'RE LOOKING AT IT 

I've thought a lot about fascism in the past year and a half. When I started BushWhackedUSA with my father in March of 2003, we decided against making much of accusations that the Bush administration's behaviors increasingly resembled fascism. Lately, though, we've watched all the pieces clicking into place. More on this subject in future posts -- in fact, I'm working on an essay about fascism in America, which I just might finish one of these days. In the meantime, I just came across a list of fourteen characteristics of fascist and protofascist states, by Laurence Britt. It's hard to find any of these qualities that aren't prominent in the US today:

1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism
2. Disdain for the importance of human rights.
3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause.
4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism.
5. Rampant sexism. [Homophobia, anyone?]
6. A controlled mass media.
7. Obsession with national security.
8. Religion and ruling elite tied together.
9. Power of corporations protected.
10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated.
11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts.
12. Obsession with crime and punishment.
13. Rampant cronyism and corruption.
14. Fraudulent elections.

For more on that last item, take a look at Ronnie Dugger's article in The Nation: How They Could Steal the Election This Time And, in case you missed these items elsewhere:

- People attending a Cheney rally required to sign pledge of support for Bush
- Bush camp solicits race of photojournalist.

Those, along with these conveniently timed (to coincide with Kerry's bounce in the polls) terror alerts, the stink of fascism is growing awfully strong.

(Readers: drop a line to annalsofobscurity@yahoo.com if you spot an item of particularly conspicuous fascism in action -- or simply post a link here in the comments for this or other threads.)

[[[BushWhackedUSA / BushWhackedUSA: THE BLOG]]]

DEMOCRATS vs. REPUBLICANS: The Race for Corporate Cash 

From today's Observer (UK): USA Inc pays cash for access

EXCERPT: At the Democratic national convention last week, big business put on its biggest party at a political event. The return on its investment was simple: access and influence.

The American Gas Association budgeted to spend $700,000 on bashes at both major parties' conventions, evenly splitting its entertainment fund - typical corporate behaviour in what is expected to be a mighty close presidential contest.

While John Kerry accepted the Democratic nomination, the real action was in the skyboxes ringing the conference arena - making a mockery of Democrat criticism of Bush being in the thrall of 'special interests'.

Here, money guarantees access. It's something Bobby Savoie, who has raised over $200,000 for the Kerry campaign, laps up. Savoie's firm created the laser-guided system used during the Iraq war to target a restaurant where Saddam Hussein was thought to be eating. Last week, Savoie enjoyed invitations to 30 galas and lunches and had prime access to the convention hall and the exclusive 'sixth floor'.

Last week saw the first real sign that corporate America thinks Kerry can win. Sensing change was in the air, it lobbied potentially influential politicians and policymakers in a frenzy. Big business footed the bill for dozens of lunches, galas and nightclub events where the powerful guzzled champagne and consumed enough shellfish to empty a small sea.

Corporations have neatly sidestepped recent US legislation banning the donation of unlimited 'soft money' to political parties from business, unions and the wealthy. But funding official hosting committees that sponsor conventions is perfectly legal; and in a further boost to multinationals eager to buy influence, last year the Federal Election Commission withdrew a 10-year-old regulation that required companies contributing to host committees to be locally based.

Business has jumped through these loopholes with both feet. Campaign Finance Institute figures show that private donations to conventions have jumped from $8.4 million in 1992 (14 per cent of total funding) to $103.5m this year (60 per cent)....

CHOMSKY ALERT 

Today's ZNet has an exellent interview of Noam Chomsky, by Colombia University student Merlin Chowkwanyun. Here is the opening question and answer, but don't miss the rest (which includes such topics as the Bush administration, Haiti, Latin America and "liberal" academia):

Merlin Chowkwanyun: One scholar and activist whom you've cited (and whom I wish more people knew about and read) is Seymour Melman, who more than two decades ago articulated the concept of a "permanent war economy." What was Melman describing, and how does it limit or shape a chief executive's foreign policy?

Prof. Noam Chomsky: The term "permanent war economy" is attributed to Charles Wilson, CEO of GE, who warned at the end of World War II that the US must not return to a civilian economy, but must keep to a "permanent war economy" of the kind that was so successful during the war: a semi-command economy, run mostly by corporate executives, geared to military production. Among other very important contributions, Melman has written extensively on the harmful effects of gearing much of the economy to military production rather than to civilian needs. What he describes is correct and important, but there are other dimensions to be considered. After World War II, most economists and business leaders expected that the economy would sink back to depression without massive government intervention of the kind that, during the war years, finally overcame the Great Depression. The New Deal had softened the edges, but not much more. Business understood that social spending could overcome market catastrophes as well as military spending, but social spending has a downside: it has a democratizing and redistributive effect while military spending is a gift to the corporate manager, a steady cushion. And the public is not involved. People care about hospitals and schools, but if you can "scare the hell out of them," as Senator Vandenberg recommended, they will huddle under the umbrella of power and trust their leaders when it comes to jet planes, missiles, tanks, etc. Furthermore, business was well aware that high-tech industry could not survive in a competitive free enterprise economy, and "government must be the savior," as the business press explained. Such considerations converged on the decision to focus on military rather than social spending. And it should be borne in mind that "military spending" does not mean just military spending. A great deal of it is high-tech R&D. Virtually the entire "new economy" has relied heavily on the military cover to socialize risk and cost and privatize profit, often after many decades: computers and electronics generally, telecommunications and the Internet, satellites, the aeronautical industry (hence tourism, the largest "service industry"), containerization (hence contemporary trade), computer-controlled machine tools, and a great deal more. Alan Greenspan and others like to orate about how all of this is a tribute to the grand entrepreneurial spirit and consumer choice in free markets. That's true of the late marketing stage, but far less so in the more significant R&D stage. Much the same is true in the biology-based sectors of industry, though different pretexts are used. The record goes far back, but these mechanisms to sustain the advanced industrial economy became far more significant after World War II.

In brief, the permanent war economy has an economic as well as a purely military function. And both outcomes -- incomparable military force and an advanced industrial economy -- naturally provide crucial mechanisms for foreign policy planning, much of it geared to ensuring free access to markets and resources for the state-supported corporate sector, constraining rivals, and barring moves towards independent development.

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