Saturday, November 1, 2008

RAND Lobbies Pentagon: Start War To Save U.S. Economy

According to reports out of top Chinese mainstream news outlets, the RAND Corporation recently presented a shocking proposal to the Pentagon in which it lobbied for a war to be started with a major foreign power in an attempt to stimulate the American economy and prevent a recession.

A fierce debate has now ensued in China about who that foreign power may be, with China itself as well as Russia and even Japan suspected to be the targets of aggression.

The reports cite French media news sources as having uncovered the proposal, in which RAND suggested that the $700 billion dollars that has been earmarked to bailout Wall Street and failing banks instead be used to finance a new war which would in turn re-invigorate the flagging stock markets.

The RAND Corporation is a notoriously powerful NGO with deep ties to the U.S. military-industrial complex as well as interlocking connections with the Ford, Rockefeller, and Carnegie foundations.

Current directors of RAND include Frank Charles Carlucci III, former Defense Secretary and Deputy Director of the CIA, Ronald L. Olson, Council on Foreign Relations luminary and former Secretary of Labor, and Carl Bildt, top Bilderberg member and former Swedish Prime Minister.

Carlucci was chairman of the Carlyle Group from 1989-2005 and oversaw gargantuan profits the defense contractor made in the aftermath of 9/11 following the invasion of Afghanistan. The Carlyle Group has also received investment money from the Bin Laden family.

Reportedly, the RAND proposal brazenly urged that a new war could be launched to benefit the economy, but stressed that the target country would have to be a major influential power, and not a smaller country on the scale of Afghanistan or Iraq.

 

State employee says she was ordered to check out Joe the Plumber

Vanessa Niekamp said that when she was asked to run a child-support check on Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher on Oct. 16, she thought it routine. A supervisor told her the man had contacted the state agency about his case.

Niekamp didn't know she just had checked on "Joe the Plumber," who was elevated the night before to presidential politics prominence as Republican John McCain's example in a debate of an average American.

The senior manager would not learn about "Joe" for another week, when she said her boss informed her and directed her to write an e-mail stating her computer check was a legitimate inquiry.

The reason Niekamp said she was given for checking if there was a child-support case on Wurzelbacher does not match the reason given by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Director Helen Jones-Kelley said her agency checks people who are "thrust into the public spotlight," amid suggestions they may have come into money, to see if they owe support or are receiving undeserved public assistance.

Niekamp told The Dispatch she is unfamiliar with the practice of checking on the newly famous. "I've never done that before, I don't know of anybody in my office who does that and I don't remember anyone ever doing that," she said today.

Democrat Gov. Ted Strickland and Jones-Kelley, both supporters of Democrat Barack Obama, have denied political motives in checking on Wurzelbacher. The Toledo-area resident later endorsed McCain. State officials say any information on "Joe" is confidential and was not released.

Today, Strickland press secretary Keith Dailey said neither the governor's office nor Job and Family Services officials could comment due to an ongoing investigation by Ohio's inspector general.

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World is facing a natural resources crisis worse than financial crunch

The world is heading for an "ecological credit crunch" far worse than the current financial crisis because humans are over-using the natural resources of the planet, an international study warns today.

The Living Planet report calculates that humans are using 30% more resources than the Earth can replenish each year, which is leading to deforestation, degraded soils, polluted air and water, and dramatic declines in numbers of fish and other species. As a result, we are running up an ecological debt of $4tr (£2.5tr) to $4.5tr every year - double the estimated losses made by the world's financial institutions as a result of the credit crisis - say the report's authors, led by the conservation group WWF, formerly the World Wildlife Fund. The figure is based on a UN report which calculated the economic value of services provided by ecosystems destroyed annually, such as diminished rainfall for crops or reduced flood protection.

The problem is also getting worse as populations and consumption keep growing faster than technology finds new ways of expanding what can be produced from the natural world. This had led the report to predict that by 2030, if nothing changes, mankind would need two planets to sustain its lifestyle. "The recent downturn in the global economy is a stark reminder of the consequences of living beyond our means," says James Leape, WWF International's director general. "But the possibility of financial recession pales in comparison to the looming ecological credit crunch."

The report continues: "We have only one planet. Its capacity to support a thriving diversity of species, humans included, is large but fundamentally limited. When human demand on this capacity exceeds what is available - when we surpass ecological limits - we erode the health of the Earth's living systems. Ultimately this loss threatens human well-being." Speaking yesterday in London, the report's authors also called for politicians to mount a huge international response in line with the multibillion-dollar rescue plan for the economy. "They now need to turn their collective action to a far more pressing concern and that's the survival of all life on planet Earth," said Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the president of WWF International.

Sir David King, the British government's former chief scientific adviser, said: "We all need to agree that there's a crisis of understanding, that we're removing the planet's biodiverse resources at a rate which is as fast if not faster than the world's last great extinction."

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IMF to investigate its director

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is investigating whether its French director abused his power in an alleged relationship with a subordinate.

The IMF said the inquiry was instigated by a long-serving governing board member, Shakour Shaalan of Egypt.

In a statement Dominique Strauss-Kahn said he was co-operating with the inquiry but denied abusing his power, according to Reuters news agency.

It comes as the world grapples with the worst financial crisis for decades.

The investigation is believed to centre on whether Mr Strauss-Kahn had a relationship with Piroska Nagy, until recently a senior IMF official.

It is to examine whether she got a larger severance package than would otherwise have been expected when she left the organisation in August.

The investigation is also looking at whether she was put under pressure to leave her job.

The IMF is currently receiving an increased number of requests for help from countries seeking to ease the effects of the global financial crisis.

~ BBC News ~

United states of Africa?

When realised, the single trade bloc and customs union that the leaders envisage would stretch from South Africa to Egypt and from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Kenya, encompassing a population of over 527 million and a combined GDP of US$ 624 billion. Spanning 26 countries, the new regional economic community would be just one member shy of the world's largest economic community, the EU.

Work on the matter will begin immediately. The leaders have given a special taskforce six months to develop a roadmap for the creation of the free trade area and the merger of the regional economic communities.

The leaders also asked the three economic bodies to prepare a timetable for integration; to examine the legal and institutional framework that would be necessary to underpin the free trade agreement; and to develop measures to facilitate the movement of businesspersons across the regional trade blocs.

The three regional economic communities agreed to approve a memorandum of understanding on the establishment of the free trade area within six months. That document would then be up for signature by the chairs of each of the coalitions.

This tripartite arrangement is considered a crucial building bloc towards the attainment of an African Economic Community, which was first envisaged in the Treaty of Abuja in 1991. Many say that the move toward greater integration is long overdue, and that it will be a big step forward for Africa's economic development.

Analysts say that the merger of the three main trade groups will boost inter-Africa trade by creating larger markets and more opportunities for economies of scale. Trade within the continent - which accounts for only 2 percent of global trade - is considered an underexploited growth area for Africa. Although the current global financial crisis is expected to dampen growth worldwide, Africa, the world's poorest continent, is forecast to be relatively sheltered from the fallout.

Moreover, the deal is expected to strengthen Africa's voice on the world stage. "By coming together, the member states will have a strong voice in advancing our interests on the international scene," said South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, reported the BBC.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni concurred: "The greatest enemy of Africa, the greatest source of weakness has been disunity and a low level of political and economic integration," reported the BBC.

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911 - Aftermath: Unanswered questions from 9/11








8 Aug, 2006

With the ongoing controversy over the federal probe into the September 11 terrorist attacks, GNN decided to pre-empt the government and produce its own version of a 'truth commission' with: "AfterMath: Unanswered Questions from 9/11". Narrated by Hip Hop legend Paris and featuring interviews shot by GNN syndicate producers in six cities, AfterMath features nine (9) people answering eleven (11) of the most pressing questions that emanate from the terrible and, as yet, unexplained, events of that day. As you will see, these are questions that continue to overshadow and critically challenge the official 'version' of the story. Featuring: George Soros, (billionaire philanthropist), Mary Schiavo (Aviation Disaster Attorney), Mike Ruppert (Publisher: From the Wilderness), Nafeez Ahmed (Author: The War on Freedom), David McMichael (former CIA analyst), Michel Chossudovsky (Author: War and Globalization), Peter Dale Scott (Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley), Alex Jones (Editor: Infowars.com), John Judge (Founder, C.O.P.A.), Riva Enteen (Exec. Director, SF National Lawyer's Guild).

Free Gaza Movement: Defying 'an unjust and illegal policy while the rest of the world is too intimidated to do anything'

We've done it again

29 Oct, 2008

LARNACA - The Free Gaza Movement is delighted to announce that their third boat, the SS Dignity carrying 27 crew and passengers arrived in Gaza at 8:10 Gaza time, in spite of Israeli threats to stop them. In the pouring rain, the boat pulled into port amid cheers from the people of Gaza and tears from the passengers.

David Schermerhorn, one of the crew members called an hour before the boat entered the waters of Gaza and said, "There is a rainbow stretching across the Mediterranean from where we are right now."

Yesterday, The Israel Navy said they would stop the stop our vessel once it reached Israel's territorial waters. Apparently to save face, they said they would harm our boat, arrest us and tow us IF we entered Israeli waters. The problem for Israel is that the SS Dignity had no intention of getting anywhere near those waters.

One of the organizers, Huwaida Arraf cheered, "Once again we've been able to defy an unjust and illegal policy while the rest of the world is too intimidated to do anything. Our small boat is a huge cry to the international community to follow in our footsteps and open a lifeline to the people of Gaza."

For the second time, the Free Gaza Movement has demonstrated that the might of the Israeli navy is no match for a small boat of human rights activists determined to call to the attention of the world the occupation of the people of Gaza.

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council added, "Despite the injustice against the Palestinian people, we believe in justice and will keep on trying to break Israel's siege. The occupation has divided the Palestinians, but our nonviolent resistance has united us."

Osama Qashoo, one of the organizers of the Free Gaza Movement, overjoyed for the second time in three months, "We are all capable of leading a nonviolent and effective movement to end the Israeli Apartheid and expose the injustice that has been meted out to the Palestinians. We in the FG movement have provided the new dictionary, it's up to the Palestinians and the Israelis and the Internationals to add the words."

For More Information, Please Contact:
Greta Berlin (Cyprus) +357 99 081 767 / iristulip@gmail.com
Osama Qashoo (Cyprus) +44 (0)78 3338 1660 / osamaqashoo@gmail.com
Angela Godfrey Goldstein (Jerusalem)  +972 (0)54 736 6393 / angela@icahd.org

~ Free Gaza Movement ~

 

'Haider is our Lady Di'

With state broadcaster ORF planning live coverage, President Heinz Fischer, who will give the main speech, and other politicians have asked for assurances that they will not appear in the same frames as anyone from the far right. "They realise it could get very embarrassing," says Hans Rauscher, veteran writer for Der Standard newspaper.

The fear gripping the elite shows the extent to which Haider managed to impose himself on Austria's political scene, becoming a figurehead for an array of far-right European groups. Particularly at such a sensitive economic moment, when parallels with 1929 and the great depression are drawn every day, the fear is that the extreme right may seek to exploit the symbolic power of such a gathering.

"The possibilities for a rise of the far right in the light of the financial and economic crisis are there," warns Anton Pelinka, professor of politics at the Central European University in Budapest and author of The Haider Phenomenon.

In fact the extreme right is already in the ascendant in several European countries. In Italy the Northern League is enjoying its place in Silvio Berlusconi's ruling coalition. Blocher's Swiss People's party is the biggest political force in the country, Belgium's Vlaams Belang maintains its strength in Flanders, while in Denmark Pia Kjærsgaard's anti-immigrant Danish People's party is the third largest in the parliament. Racism has risen in Europe in recent years, with polls showing widespread antisemitism and anti-Muslim sentiment.

But the far right does not seem to be finding it any easier to work together. "In the European parliament there's a strong incentive to do this - if you establish a party group you get funds and more opportunities," Pelinka says. "But the far-right parties have contradicting nationalistic narratives and this makes it very difficult to form one group."

"Denmark and the Netherlands suffered under the Nazis so their far-right groups would never consider joining forces with far-right groups from Austria and Germany," says Richard Brem, editor in chief of a Vienna-based online youth culture magazine. The same goes for the far-right movements of Poland and the Czech Republic. Like Bossi and Blocher, the Netherlands' late Pim Fortuyn might well have seen the well-dressed, perma-tanned Haider as a visual model for his own brand of populist politics, but in fact they had little in common beyond their anti-immigrant rhetoric. Fortuyn, who was openly gay, saw himself as a libertarian whose rights were being curtailed by the immigrant Muslim population. Haider's ethos grew out of an old-time fascism, his country's Nazi past and a psychological need to defend the Nazi generation - including his parents - who he thought were unjustly treated after the war.

"Official Austrian state doctrine after the war was that the Allies liberated Austria from Nazi Germany in 1945 and that Austria had been a victim of the Nazis in 1938," says Pelinka. "This overlooks the fact that the percentage of Austrians who participated in the Nazi regime was the same as in Germany. In contrast, Germany was forced to confront its past directly and did so. Austria was not and didn't."

In Germany, Haider - famous for his outbursts lauding SS veterans, his description of Austria as an "ideological miscarriage", his labelling of Nazi death camps as "punishment camps" and admiration for the Third Reich's "sensible employment policies" - could never have achieved the same success.

Haider himself was frustrated in his attempts to form a pan-European far-right club, though he was successful at least in his intention of provoking European leaders after they slapped sanctions on Austria following the electoral success of his Freedom party (FPO) in 2000.

Nonetheless he is credited with having injected new life into far-right politics. "He was one of the first in Europe to grasp that it's not about issues or a rational discourse, but about emotion," says Brem. "He understood that politics was about marketing and you need to be marketing savvy to succeed."

more... ~

 

Wall Street banks in $70bn staff payout

 
By Simon Bowers
 
18 Oct, 2008
 
Financial workers at Wall Street's top banks are to receive pay deals worth more than $70bn (£40bn), a substantial proportion of which is expected to be paid in discretionary bonuses, for their work so far this year - despite plunging the global financial system into its worst crisis since the 1929 stock market crash, the Guardian has learned.

Staff at six banks including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are in line to pick up the payouts despite being the beneficiaries of a $700bn bail-out from the US government that has already prompted criticism. The government's cash has been poured in on the condition that excessive executive pay would be curbed.

Pay plans for bankers have been disclosed in recent corporate statements. Pressure on the US firms to review preparations for annual bonuses increased yesterday when Germany's Deutsche Bank said many of its leading traders would join Josef Ackermann, its chief executive, in waiving millions of euros in annual payouts.

The sums that continue to be spent by Wall Street firms on payroll, payoffs and, most controversially, bonuses appear to bear no relation to the losses incurred by investors in the banks. Shares in Citigroup and Goldman Sachs have declined by more than 45% since the start of the year. Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley have fallen by more than 60%. JP MorganChase fell 6.4% and Lehman Brothers has collapsed.

At one point last week the Morgan Stanley $10.7bn pay pot for the year to date was greater than the entire stock market value of the business. In effect, staff, on receiving their remuneration, could club together and buy the bank.

In the first nine months of the year Citigroup, which employs thousands of staff in the UK, accrued $25.9bn for salaries and bonuses, an increase on the previous year of 4%. Earlier this week the bank accepted a $25bn investment by the US government as part of its bail-out plan.

At Goldman Sachs the figure was $11.4bn, Morgan Stanley $10.73bn, JP Morgan $6.53bn and Merrill Lynch $11.7bn. At Merrill, which was on the point of going bust last month before being taken over by Bank of America, the total accrued in the last quarter grew 76% to $3.49bn. At Morgan Stanley, the amount put aside for staff compensation also grew in the last quarter to the end of August by 3% to $3.7bn.

Days before it collapsed into bankruptcy protection a month ago Lehman Brothers revealed $6.12bn of staff pay plans in its corporate filings. These payouts, the bank insisted, were justified despite net revenue collapsing from $14.9bn to a net outgoing of $64m.

None of the banks the Guardian contacted wished to comment on the record about their pay plans. But behind the scenes, one source said: "For a normal person the salaries are very high and the bonuses seem even higher. But in this world you get a top bonus for top performance, a medium bonus for mediocre performance and a much smaller bonus if you don't do so well."

Many critics of investment banks have questioned why firms continue to siphon off billions of dollars of bank earnings into bonus pools rather than using the funds to shore up the capital position of the crisis-stricken institutions. One source said: "That's a fair question - and it may well be that by the end of the year the banks start review the situation."

Much of the anger about investment banking bonuses has focused on boardroom executives such as former Lehman boss Dick Fuld, who was paid $485m in salary, bonuses and options between 2000 and 2007.

Last year Merrill Lynch's chairman Stan O'Neal retired after announcing losses of $8bn, taking a final pay deal worth $161m. Citigroup boss Chuck Prince left last year with a $38m in bonuses, shares and options after multibillion-dollar write-downs. In Britain, Bob Diamond, Barclays president, is one of the few investment bankers whose pay is public. Last year he received a salary of £250,000, but his total pay, including bonuses, reached £36m.

New discoveries reveal US intervention in Bolivia

 
Written by Jeremy Bigwood   
14 Oct, 2008

Photo: ABI
J. Bigwood (ABI)
As a photo and investigative journalist for more than two decades, I often come across revealing government documents and information through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) requests. These requests declassify and allow me access to documents from various entities of the US government.

I made my first request of US government documents about Bolivia in 1997 and since then have made subsequent requests for information, ranging from American embassy communiques in La Paz to USAID grant requests. The information below reveals a clear policy of US intervention and meddling in Bolivia´s internal affairs. Almost all the time, this has been done without the knowledge and at the expense of the American taxpayer.

  1. The first document, from 2001 is written before a visit by then President Quiroga, to the US, in which the US Embassy states that they didn´t believe he had acted strongly enough against the MAS party, led by Evo Morales. In talking points prepared by the US embassy in La Paz to be used by US Secretary Beers during his meeting with the President, the US government suggests he say, "We were quite concerned by the agreement in November to halt eradication…. We believe that a continued strong response could have weakened the political base of Evo Morales even further." View the full document here.

  2. In 2002, the American embassy qualifies Evo Morales as an "illegal coca agitator" and admits that cocaine production in Bolivia is insignificant for the US. More importantly though, the embassy details a USAID "Political Party Reform Project" that should specifically "serve as a counterweight to the radical MAS or its successors." View the full document here.

  3. In 2004, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) funds the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce organization, CAINCO, through CIPE (Center for International Private Enterprise) to alter an existing Bolivian law and "gain popular support for their policy recommendations". This clearly shows that US funding was spent to alter internal legislation and in this case, it also shows a historic relationship between US funding institutions and the Santa Cruz opposition. View the full document here.

  4. Many organizations funded by NED show a clear political bias. One, the IIPS or Institute of Pedagogical & Social Investigation, refers to Evo Morales and the MAS in their grant request and project summary as an "anti-democratic, radical opposition" that doesn't represent the majority. Of the three program objectives listed, the last is telling. The NED grant awarded to them will help, "efficient and effective social monitoring." View the full document here.

  5. By 2006, it is evident that the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and USAID are openly working to promote events centered around regional autonomy and decentralization. "…NDl adapted the community forum model piloted in this program to conduct a Santa Cruz dialogue event through its USAID funded political party program to facilitate an open discussion about regional autonomy and decentralization." View the full document here.

  6. The most telling documents from my point of view, are a series of e-mails from within USAID-Bolivia last year. They detail the forming relationship between the U.S. government (specifically Ambassador Philip Goldberg and the US embassy in La Paz) and indigenous groups in the Chapare and Media Luna departments to create a common USAID-guided front against Evo Morales and the MAS. In discussing who to invite to a lunch between indigenous leaders and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg in 2007, USAID staff write that the litmus test for being invited is, "a su situacion real frente el gobierno del MAS, etc. ademas son aliados nuestros." The staff members goes on to discuss the indigenous organizations that USAID programs fund and how their principal demand is to "fortalecer sus organizaciones de base para hacerle frente al MAS:" In order to facilitate communications, one of the USAID officers recommends "immediate assistance" by sending them radios. Shades of Vietnam and the US assistance to the Hmong tribesmen, which only guaranteed the destruction of their way of life. View the full document here.

  7. Among my many Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests on Bolivia, I have made five such requests to USAID since 2005 to determine exactly what they are doing there. So far, USAID has not responded to my requests, I can only conclude, because they wish to keep their activities there clandestine. USAID denied any response to my latest request about their activities in Bolivia during the last year (2008) by stating that "the few people who are still there will not be able to conduct a search of the documents you request" because of the "political crisis" in the country. This is simply not the case: as anyone who drives by the USAID building knows, for the parking lot is still full and there are hundreds of employees still working there. View October 2008 photos of USAID-Bolivia's full parking lot taken by me and the full document requests and responses here from September 14, 2008, September 19, and September 28.

To summarize, I believe that these documents provide clear proof that the US government, through its various entities - especially USAID - have been, and continue to conspire against the legal and democratically elected government of Bolivia. In coming weeks, I will reveal more of the documents that I have uncovered in my ongoing investigation and research on website: Bolivia Matters.


Jeremy Bigwood is a Washington, D.C.-based investigative journalist and photographer. For more, please visit his personal website: http://www.bigwood.biz/.

Argentina: The Creation of an Urban Guerrilla

 
By Stuart Archer Cohen    
30 Oct, 2008

Image
Plaza de Mayo 1973

 

Stuart Archer Cohen's controversial new novel, The Army of the Republic, (St. Martin's Press) is set in a near-future United States where economic collapse and a one-party "democracy" has spawned a violent backlash. The book centers around Lando, a Seattle urban guerrilla devoted to violent resistance, Emily, a political organizer in Seattle, and James Sands, a billionaire and government crony. Critics have called the book "brilliant," "terrifying," and "treasonous."

We all complain about politics, but have you ever wondered what makes a person pick up a gun and start violently resisting the government? That was one of the questions I wanted to answer when I started writing The Army of the Republic.

Some of the factors that make fertile ground are already well-known: an elite intent on keeping and expanding its privileges, a State that refuses to incorporate or entertain alternative ideas, an economy where downward mobility has become the new rule. But those factors have existed in many countries without sparking violent resistance. Why, I wondered, did people in one country organize and fight, while others suffered on in silence.

It wasn't an answer I could find in the United States. Compared to Argentina's 30,000 disappearances, or the hundreds of thousands killed in El Salvador, Guatemala and Columbia, the U.S.'s record for settling internal differences in the last century is pales in comparison.

So, when I decided to set my book about urban guerrillas in the United States, I had to look elsewhere to try to understand why people resort to violent struggle, especially in modern times. I chose Argentina because it was (until recently) a primarily middle-class Western country with a high level of education, similar to the United States. I studied the Montoneros and the ERP (People's Revolutionary Army), two groups active in Argentina in the first half of the 70's. I read biographies and autobiographies to get a general feeling for the rise, career and destruction of these groups, and followed it up with interviews of people who had participated on both sides.

The two groups had different reasons for fighting. The ERP began as a tiny Marxist political group trying to organize workers and build their strength with the goal of establishing a Socialist state. They turned to armed struggle in 1969, when the dictatorship had made their political organizing efforts impossible. The Montoneros were a far bigger and broader-based group. Their members initially organized under various banners to bring back the exiled former president of Argentina, Juan Peron. They finally turned to armed struggle as the Montoneros in 1970, and pursued a growing campaign of bombings, kidnappings, robberies and assassinations against the dictatorship and international business interests. Free elections and Peron's return led the Montoneros to briefly become a legitimate political party, with 500,000 members and elected officials at the State and National level. To their horror, though, Peron turned savagely against them and they were forced to go underground again in 1974, now embroiled in what they envisioned as a war against the Argentine state. By 1976 they were effectively annihilated by the Argentine government.

There are certainly things that could be added to the following list about what creates an insurgent, but these are some of the which shaped the American insurgents of The Army of the Republic.

Image
Roldolfo Galimberti, leader of Montoneros
1) REVOLUTIONARIES ARE YOUNG

No secret here: that's the reason why authoritarian regimes often infiltrate, harass or shut down universities. Young people are most willing to take the risks and usually have no dependents. Young people are more apt to be uncompromising in their ideals. The average age of the ERP at its height was 23 years old. Reaching one's mid-thirties made one a wise old man by revolutionary standards.

2) DEMOCRATIC AVENUES FOR CHANGE ARE CLOSED

In the America portrayed in The Army of the Republic, a psuedo-democratic regime controls the country. Elections are held, but the Party always wins, which leads tiny armed groups of every political stripe to make sporadic attempts that are as much acts of frustration as a coherent strategy.

In Argentina in the 70's, dictatorships already had a history of coming in and snuffing democratic governments when things went against the ruling class. Both Montoneros and ERP started as political organizations, and turned to violence when they lost hope in achieving their goals politically. Truly extremist groups (such as that surrounding Timothy McVeigh) may act even in a democracy, because the lack of public support guarantees that they will never achieve their aims through organizing and voting.

3) VIOLENCE IS "IN VOGUE"

In the 70's guerrilla groups existed all over the world. Fidel Castro had triumphed in Cuba after being reduced to 20 men, and the Communists had triumphed in North Vietnam and were winning in South Vietnam. For this reason, the idea of a tiny minority taking over the state through a combination of guerrilla strategy and iron will was widespread in Argentine and many other societies. Also, in the late 60's and 70's young people all over the world staged non-violent uprisings, even in wealthy France and the United States. This gave violent resistance an intellectual currency that encouraged people to take up arms. Armed struggle attracts most recruits when it is chic, whether that style is expressed in posters of Che Guevara or the funerary videos of suicide bombers. Once inside, revolutionary groups provide the same sense of teamwork and brotherhood as military forces, probably stronger.

4) REVOLUTION IS A MIDDLE CLASS PHENOMENA

The idea that the poor and the working class rise up against the state is a myth, propagated chiefly by the middle-class intellectuals that actually organize the insurgency. Poor people seldom have the education and organizational skills to coordinate the logistics and indoctrination necessary to create a group and keep it alive. Working-class people are too busy working, unless they are being organized through a labor union. In Argentina in the 70's, nearly all the founding members of the Montoneros were students or young professionals. The founder of the ERP, Mario Roberto Santucho, was a public accountant. Beyond that, Castro was a lawyer. Mao had been a librarian, Che Guevara was a medical student.

That said, in the book, I do include working-class armed resistance groups. MacFarland, the leader of the Libertarian/Right Wing half of the Army of the Republic, is a mechanic. I based this on the existence of some radical right-wing groups like the Montana Freemen and the cell that pulled off the Oklahoma City bombing. Also, in the United States the difference between working class and middle class is often blurry, and people can be both working class, educated and informed.

Image5) ARMED RESISTANCE IS A LEFT/LIBERAL PHENOMENA

Some people have criticized the book as being a left-wing fantasy, (these people somehow missed the Right Wing half of the Army of the Republic), but in fact, I emphasized the Left because most armed resistance movements in the West in the last century have come from the Left, or from Liberals. At first I thought this was due to the fact that the dominant revolutionary idea of the 20th Century was Socialism, which is by definition Leftist. However, there was little or no organized Right-wing activity against the Communist dictatorships of Eastern Europe. Even in cases where heinous dictators were oppressing the whole country, such as Somoza in Nicaragua, the Right was usually late to the party in opposing the dictator, when they aren't actively supporting him.

The Fascist takeovers of Germany and Italy before World War 2 fit the bill for a Right-Wing takeover, and the Secret Army Organization in 1960's France, but the Right usually seizes power through coups or counter-revolutions, while the Left and Liberals are more apt to organize and wage a guerrilla war when democratic means are not available.

Even the American Revolution, cited by many Right-Wing people in the United States as their icon of violent resistance, was actually organized primarily by educated liberals like Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, who would likely belong to today's Liberal/Left/Libertarian spectrum.

6) ONCE BEGUN, VIOLENT RESISTANCE HAS A LIFE OF ITS OWN

Once a group gets started, its momentum will keep sometimes keep it going even after it's clear that the battle is lost or the cause has lost popular support. While both the ERP and the Montoneros groups began during a dictatorship, the ERP kept fighting even after its PRT party only gained a miniscule fraction of the vote in the 1973 elections. The Montoneros were ultimately forced to fight the very government they'd fought to have democratically elected.

Groups fight on for many reasons. One is simple institutional momentum. Another is that when people take up arms against the state, they are beginning such an uneven struggle that statistics or balance of forces no longer have meaning. In the revolutionary narrative, even major setbacks become part of the road toward ultimate victory, and part of the revolutionary ideal is the willingness to sacrifice oneself for a higher good. Another reason militants die rather than give up is that they feel they have to keep fighting to dignify the sacrifices of fallen comrades.

One big reason, though, which I think held true particularly with the ERP, is a refusal to recognize that the People you think you're fighting for really aren't on your side. The delusion sets in that some external factor is impeding you: government lies, lack of education among the people. There's often the belief that just eliminating a given politician or group of people will at last open the floodgates of popular support. Indeed, the attempt to re-capture the public imagination with ever-larger military feats can lead guerrilla groups to devastatingly overreach themselves. The ERP's last gasp in 1975 was one of their biggest operations, an attack on the Monte Chingolo military barracks that left over a hundred of their militants dead. The Montoneros tried a similarly grandiose attack on a military barracks, hijacking a jet to make their getaway. In both cases, the losses far outweighed the gains.

7) THE REAL BATTLE IS FOR THE STORY

While guerrilla groups are sometimes able to simply shoot their way into power against a weak state, most insurgent groups realize that if they can't win the battle of narratives, their road will be longer and harder. One of the reasons rural guerrilla groups take and hold territory is to be able to proselytize the peasants and build support for their ideas. But the ERP and Montoneros, being urban guerrillas, couldn't hold territory. Instead, both had a network of clandestine printing presses where they produced magazines and newspapers that told their side of the story to their own people and to the population at large. These publications explained their politics, gave news about operations or fallen members and made accusations against the regime they were fighting. Losing a printing press or mimeograph machine was a major blow.

Naturally, though, Big Media always sides with the State. Distribution of a clandestine newspaper might run to tens of thousands at most, while television and radio reach tens of millions, and nearly all of it is unfavorable to the guerrillas. For that reason, the Montoneros and the ERP saw their support drop as reports of their violent actions were broadcast far and wide, while reports of state terrorism were kept quiet.

All in all, taking up arms against the state requires a healthy dose of delusion, anger, hope, and insane bravery, all qualities we might admire in those we agree with, and condemn in those we don't. The final conclusion I reached, though, and the conclusion which trumps all the others, is that once the road of violent resistance is undertaken, it brings in its wake devastating consequences that no one can control.

Novelist Stuart Archer Cohen [send him mail] is the author of The Army of the Republic (Saint Martin's Press), a novel about an American insurgency. His previous novels have been translated into 10 languages. Visit his website.

Indigenous Colombians begin 10,000-strong march against Uribe government

 
More than 10,000 indigenous Colombians have begun a protest march against President Alvaro Uribe. Marchers are protesting the militarization of their territories, the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, and the failure of Uribe's administration to fulfill various accords with the indigenous communities. We speak to Rafael Coicué, an indigenous leader who lost sight in his left eye when he was assaulted by masked gunmen in his home, and Mario Murillo, a US journalist and professor currently in Colombia.
 
 
JUAN GONZALEZ: In Colombia, more than 10,000 indigenous Colombians have begun a protest march against President Alvaro Uribe. The march comes one week after three people were killed and dozens were injured at the outset of a national mobilization for indigenous rights. The activists are protesting the militarization of their territories, the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, and the failure of President Uribe's administration to fulfill various accords with the indigenous communities. Uribe has responded by calling for the investigation of indigenous leaders, including Daniel Piñacue.

    PRESIDENT ALVARO URIBE: [translated] The Colombian government asks for the prosecution of those who are violent. The Colombian government asks the judges to investigate the behavior of people like Daniel Piñacue, which is a behavior that incites violence and deserves to be studied by Colombian prosecutors and judges.


JUAN GONZALEZ: The Colombian government has accused indigenous groups of being infiltrated by FARC rebels. Daniel Piñacue denied the allegations.

    DANIEL PINACUE: [translated] I am very surprised, and I consider it very unfortunate. I do not cover my face to take action in this walk. My actions are clear, and I face the Colombian people. And this is why President Uribe has to face us, the indigenous farmers and the people here at this protest walk.


AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Washington, D.C., to be joined by Rafael Coicué. He is an indigenous leader in Colombia from Northern Cauca. His brother was killed in the '91 Nilo massacre. In July, he lost sight in his left eye when he was assaulted by masked gunmen in his home. Rafael Coicué is in Washington to testify before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.

And we're also joined in Colombia by Mario Murillo. He's a professor of communications at Hofstra University, Pacifica Radio producer at WBAI in New York, author of Colombia and the United States: War, Terrorism and Destabilization, completing a book on the indigenous movement in Colombia and its use of popular media in community organizing, currently living in Colombia and blogging at mamaradio.blogspot.com. He joins us via video stream from Colombia.

First, let's go to Mario in Colombia. Mario, tell us what's happening there.

MARIO MURILLO: Well, first of all, the march, the indigenous march that began on the 12th of October, it was actually a mobilization. Today, they started—they continued marching along the Pan-American Highway in a peaceful protest. The idea is that the entire indigenous movement from southern Colombia and other parts of the region are going to be merging on the weekend in the third largest city of Colombia, Calle. And that mobilization has already started.

And it comes just a day after—last night, late last night, President Uribe made an announcement, an official announcement, accepting responsibility for misinformation, basically saying that after days and days of denying that any gunfire was being shot at or directed at indigenous communities that were mobilized in La Maria. He actually accepted last night that indeed one police official was caught on videotape by CNN, and that was presented to him yesterday, and accepted responsibility for that gunfire.

But at the same time, he was denying the fact that anybody who was killed or any of the wounded were shot by national police or army officials that went to confront the indigenous protesters over the last week. So even though he admitted it, because it was caught on videotape, I was just speaking to members of the ACIN, Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, and they told me this morning that, no, the march continues and that the information put out yesterday by the president continues to [inaudible] address [inaudible] principal issues that the communities are putting forth in this mobilization.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Mario, obviously, the protests, you said, started on October 12th, which is the anniversary of el Dia de la Raza, or of Columbus Day, as it's called here in the United States. What is the—in terms of the condition of the indigenous under the Uribe government, what is it like right now?

MARIO MURILLO: That's a great point, and this is interesting that finally, after over almost two weeks of mobilizing and weeks before the mobilization began, the indigenous communities were putting out communiqués consistently on their websites and holding press conferences to draw attention to five key points that the communities are trying to address and to get the government to address, but it hasn't gotten any coverage whatsoever. Only the last couple of days, because the government has been forced to respond to the specific points, are the media now here in Colombia actually addressing them.

One of them, you pointed out in the introduction. They're really concerned about the free trade agreement that was signed by the Colombian government, and they're waiting for approval in the US Congress. It hasn't been approved by the Congress. And so, the Colombian indigenous movement and the popular movement in general are saying that this free trade agreement has to be reconsidered, because the communities were not consulted.

Another major issue, which addresses specifically your question about the conditions, is the human rights violations that have been carried out against the communities. The indigenous movements are saying no to the democratic security strategy, the so-called democratic security strategy of the Uribe government, because it hasn't brought security, and it is by no means democratic, as far as they're concerned, given the fact that over the last month alone, since early September, over twenty-four indigenous members of the different communities throughout the country have been assassinated, eight of which were attributed to public security forces in different parts of the country, and particularly in northern Cauca. So they're saying that these human rights violations continue. The displacement of indigenous communities, 400,000 displaced under the six-year administration of Uribe. They're saying that this all has to stop, and these are the issues that have to be addressed. Unfortunately, the Colombian government continues to kind of whitewash it all and say that, OK, we're going to talk about lands, territories, that we're going to buy from large landowners in the south and give some of those lands back to the indigenous communities. But they're not addressing the fundamental points that the communities are putting forward in this mobilization.

AMY GOODMAN: Mario, thank you so much for joining us from Cauca. Also, as we said, we're joined in Washington, D.C. by Rafael Coicué, a former mayor of the indigenous city of Corinto in Cauca, in northern Colombia, shot on July 3rd during an indigenous mobilization when he was confronted by heavily armed special forces commandos dispatched to disperse the indigenous activists. Explain what happened to you, Rafael, and what you think needs to be understood by Americans today.

RAFAEL COICUÉ: [translated] Very well. First of all, good morning, everyone who's listening this morning.

I am here in Washington representing the indigenous communities of the Cauca in Colombia before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to follow up on and to clarify the facts in all the human rights violations that the Colombian state, in administration after administration, has committed against the indigenous communities, Afro-Colombians, trade unionists and students in Colombia.

And it's true, as you were saying, I am a victim of this state and the different administrations, first because the demands of the indigenous communities are fair and just, and the response of the government has been just repression. And so, on July 3rd, when I was traveling along the road between Caloto and Corinto, the indigenous peoples were mobilizing to free the land, and the anti-riot police was there. And there, I was hit by BBs that they were shooting at us and took my left eye, and I've lost the sight in the left eye.

Well, I continue fighting. I continue calling on the government to listen and to understand our just demands and that they respect our right to mobilize. We are peaceful peoples. We are peoples who only have the force of our sticks, the force of our conscience, the force of our word. This is what leads us to mobilize.

And as Mario Murillo was saying, the situation in Colombia today is very critical, very critical in terms of the policies that this government has been promoting. For example, the free trade agreement is very harmful to us, because it means handing over natural resources to the multinational corporations. It's pillaging our natural resources. It also means exploiting cheap labor that one finds in Colombia, setting up companies that would not have to pay taxes, as well as cultural issues, intellectual property rights issues. The rights of the indigenous people will be decimated, will be destroyed, will simply be relegated to museums and paintings.

And in the face of that, we, the communities, engaged in a consultation in 2005, and we said we are not in agreement with the free trade agreement. Six, this was followed by communities, by students, by rice growers, wheat growers and potato growers in the central part of the country, trade unionists from the national federation CUT, the teachers' unions. There have been consultations. And most of the poor in Colombia today are rejecting that kind of a treaty. Instead, a treaty needs to respect and recognize Colombia's sovereignty. There needs to be a fair, balanced economic policy, and all of us peoples should be able to have access to the benefits, not just the industrialists or Mr. Ardila-Lulle, who is the owner of the largest companies in Colombia. All of us Colombians should have opportunities in—under a fair and egalitarian treaty. [inaudible] to the other issue—

AMY GOODMAN: Rafael Coicué, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Unfortunately, we've run out of time, former mayor from Corinto. I will say he will be speaking in New York on Sunday. We'll list where it is on our website at democracynow.org. Special thanks to Charlie Roberts for translation.

For whom the bailout tolls

During the Stock Market Crash in 1929, that curtain raising overture to the Great Depression, stories abounded of Wall Street brokers rushing to their office windows and leaping to their deaths. But according to the late John Kenneth Galbraith and other economic historians, those accounts of suicide were, by and large, fairy tales.

Perhaps they were more dark-hearted, wishful thinking than reality -- revenge fantasies on the part of those whose real-life savings had been wiped out by ravenous speculators.

Nonetheless, the myth of those fatal plunges, like so many urban legends, is hard to shake. With more than a drop of cold blood, some have asked why, during this current fiscal crisis, we haven't seen similar tragedies in the ranks of high finance.

A close look at the recent government bailouts may explain why. The fat cats at the top had nothing to worry their pretty little whiskers about.

Not only have most of their businesses been saved, for now at least, but they've already been pretty successful at protecting their high-rolling lifestyles, and finding bailout loopholes that allow them to keep hauling in the big bucks.

To that ancient business axiom, "Buy low, sell high," add this amendment: When you get into trouble, beg for a bailout. Then, new money in hand, continue to act with the rapacious greed of Caligula or the Sun King.

You may already have heard how AIG, the insurance giant, after being saved to the tune of $85 billion, threw a $440,000 shindig at a California spa and then blew another $86,000 on a hunting trip to the English countryside, picking off partridge just as they were asking the Feds for an additional $38 billion. Bit of a sticky wicket, that.

Caught red-handed, AIG canceled plans for another 160 sales and promotion events that would have cost a cool $80 million AND – get this – agreed to stop spending millions of their newly gained tax dollars on lobbying efforts against increased government regulations -- this after being rescued from extinction by that very same government.

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is demanding that AIG get back from its execs millions of dollars the insurer paid out as the company neared collapse, and on Wednesday, the insurance giant agreed to freeze $600 million worth of deferred compensation and bonuses for its top brass.
 
There are "claw back" provisions in the big $700 billion bailout passed by Congress three weeks ago, requiring that financial institutions get money back from their senior executives, if the payments were "based on statements of earnings, gains, or other criteria that are later proven to be materially inaccurate."
 
But the executive pay limits in the legislation apparently have so many loopholes you could fly a fleet of Gulfstream corporate jets through them.

Oregon Congressman Peter de Fazio caught at least seven, "that will protect their outrageous paychecks and golden parachutes," he wrote fellow Democratic House members, adding, "Imagine how many more loopholes the Wall Street lawyers will find."
 
No doubt the nine banks into which the U.S. is planning to inject billions in capital – again, all taxpayer dollars – have their lawyers searching for those escape hatches.

Writing in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, Sarah Anderson and Sam Pizzigati of the Institute for Policy Studies calculated that last year the CEO's of those nine banks took home "on average, $32.2 million each, nearly triple the average CEO pay at the 500 biggest U.S. companies. This is more than $600,000 a week." Apiece.
 
Bloomberg News columnist Jonathan Weil figures that since the start of fiscal 2004, the once mighty five of Wall Street – Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns – lost around $83 billion in stock market value. But they reported employee compensation of around $239 billion.

In other words, the engineers who dug this disastrous hole paid themselves almost three dollars for every dollar they lost.

The cost of all the bailouts to the taxpayer, as calculated by the Internet investigative newsroom ProPublica.org, is a whopping $8,750 per household, more than two and half times what lucky us got to fork over 20 years ago during the savings-and-loan crisis.

But the masters of the universe are just fine, thank you, in no small part due to the tolerance and largesse of their guru Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, late of Goldman Sachs, where Forbes magazine reports that during a 32-year-career he accumulated more than $700 million.

He said limiting compensation too punitively might prevent some institutions from participating in his plan to save the economy.

No, the people suffering are the nearly 800,000 out of work so far this year.

More families with children are homeless. Delinquencies and foreclosures are at their highest in nearly three decades, and the Los Angeles Times reported earlier this month that, "Worries about home foreclosures, job losses and plunging stock prices have sparked a surge in mental health problems."

Including suicide.

In California, recently, where professionals say mental health referrals have tripled in the last year, unemployed financial advisor Karthik Rajaram killed himself and four members of his family, including his wife, children and mother-in-law.

In two suicide notes, he said he was broke and had run out of options. Variations of his story are appearing all over the country, from Colorado to Tennessee.

There are some happier stories. Tom Dart, the sheriff of Cook County, Illinois, suspended all foreclosure evictions because they were throwing into the street tenants of buildings who had nothing to do with their landlords' inability to make payments.

Or Jocelyn Voltaire, an immigrant from Haiti, about to lose her home after the death of her eldest son, a Marine in Iraq who had been sending her money to help meet the mortgage. After seeing a report produced by the American News Project, members of the antiwar group CodePink raised $30,000 to save Voltaire's house.
 
Testifying before the House Budget Committee this week, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke agreed that homeowners in jeopardy of foreclosure need help.

"I agree that stopping preventable foreclosures is extremely important," he said. "I hope we continue to look for ways to do that."

But so far the government and the businesses bailed out haven't looked very hard. They've done little or nothing and it's every man for himself, devil take the hindmost.

In his history of the 1929 market crash, John Kenneth Galbraith wrote, "The sense of responsibility in the financial community for the community as a whole is not small. It is nearly nil."
 
In other words, virtually non-existent, somewhere around zero. In other words, my fellow Americans, look out below. Do not ask for whom the bailout tolls. It tolls for thee.

Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program Bill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS. Check local airtimes or comment at The Moyers Blog at www.pbs.org/moyers.

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