Thursday, April 21, 2005

NUKE the Nuclear Option! Say NO to the NEOCons.

Republicans have a plan to use the "nuclear option" -- a parliamentary trick to eliminate the filibuster -- to control (i.e. "eliminate") the right to extend debate on controversial judicial nominations. In the name of judicial reform, the extreme conservative segment of this country sees this as a restoration of"their way" democracy.

If speech can be controlled, they reason, then opponents will have less chance to block "Bush" court nominees.
Democracy is not any one group's property--not Liberal, not Conservative.

I oppose the restriction against extended debate no matter whose political views are threatened! Let's not allow this Nuclear "option" to devastate democracy.

A wise person knows to be careful what he/she wishes for--since that wish may come true with unintended consequences. We are the People, and we must not be persuaded to resort to limiting our right to speak through our Congressional leaders. We must let our Congressmen and Congresswomen understand that hearings are not political games.

Let us not forget that freedom relies on our right to speak up--whether or not that speech is long or short, friendly or controversial. No political party has the moral right to take that away.


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

STOP NAFTA in Indianapolis this SUMMER

The global transfer of commodities between the sectors involved in the NAFTA agreements requires neo-liberal infrastructure development projects.

These federally mandated “roads” are environmentally and socially devastating projects that are focused on two areas in North America: the Plan Puebla Panama in Latin America and its companion project, I-69. The I-69 highway is in the initial stages of construction in the Midwestern U.S. (already a completed 6 lane trucking route from Canada to Indianapolis where the good workers have stopped its construction – a highway that is supposed to continue to Mexico).

This highway built specifically for corporate truckers and the bypassing of family farm/business products is critical to the success of NAFTA. Consequently, the highway (and other infrastructure projects) were authorized at the same time as Congressional approval of NAFTA.

For 15 years, farmer-led resistance In Indiana has delayed the construction of Interstate 69, the NAFTA superhighway. Now, with the looming passage of the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the politicians and bureaucrats in Washington D.C. and the Indiana Department of Transportation are preparing to finally restart construction.

For this purpose, activists are discussing the possibilities of taking action to stop I-69 (the "NAFTA Superhighway") as a practical way to undermine and impede the overarching plans for globalization formatted by governments, corporations, and international institutions.

The Roadblock tour
(that recently visited New Orleans) represents an attempt to create a dialogue about new strategies to combat ecocide and the domination of the global economy. We are also trying to raise awareness about I-69 (the proposed NAFTA superhighway) and efforts in Indiana and throughout the Midwest to stop it, and thus deal a blow to both NAFTA and the FTAA.

The People are calling for a summer of community organizing, civil disobedience, and direct action to finally stop this bid to pave over tens of thousands of acres of forests and farms, displace hundreds of families, and destroy communities throughout the Midwest, all to serve the interests of multinational corporations.

In New Orleans and in states along the corridor from Canada to Brownsville TX, we are hoping to show solidarity with the farmers and concerned citizens of Indiana who have courageously STOPPED the I-69 so far.

Let’s not let the road restart. This line has to be held, or we’ll be fighting it in Shreveport, and along down the LA TX line.


People who can travel to Indianapolis to work this summer (living space and basic needs will be provided) are encouraged to contact the activists listed on their website.

Some of us will travel to Indianapolis on May 21 for direct action, and we hope to have sister events at the corporate offices where self interested corporations are pushing the I-69 project forward in spite of a 90% disapproval survey of the Indiana people—people who have already lost tens of thousands of jobs to NAFTA business relocations.


More info:
http://www.roadless-summer.org/
http://www.geocities.com/theroadblocktour/

Background on I-69 and the Route--RE NAFTA post

From the web site of the roadblock tour:
I-69 and the Midwest

Within Indiana, I-69 is a proposed new terrain highway providing a direct connection between Indianapolis and Evansville. While several roads already connect these two cities, proponents of I-69 claim that the new highway would cut down travel time by a staggering 25 minutes (realistically closer to 10). Apparently these 10-25 minutes are what is holding southwestern Indiana's economy back: the corporations and government agencies pushing the I-69 agenda argue that if the highway is built, southwestern Indiana’s economy will experience immense and rapid growth. In reality, these 10 minutes mean nothing to the local people but billions of dollars to corporations.

I-69, in its current "preferred" route, would be intensely destructive to all of Indiana. In terms of economics, I-69 is slated to cost the state two billion dollars, two billion dollars that the state does not have. From a social perspective, it will bring about the forced relocation of hundreds of families and the seizure of thousands of acres of old family farms. Equally devastating in its environmental impact, it will cut down around 1150 acres of forest and destroy more than 300 acres of rich wetlands. But this is only within Indiana. I-69, with its stated purpose being to "connect the three North American trading partners of Canada, the United States and Mexico by means of an Interstate highway located in the states of Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas," is the proposed realization of a NAFTA super-highway. This NAFTA highway, in conjunction with the proposed Plan Puebla Panama, would bring about economic, social, and environmental wreckage.

I-69, Plan Puebla Panama, and Capitalist Globalization

In the years since it has been instated, NAFTA has brought about job losses in the U.S. and increased exploitation of persons and resources in Mexico, as well as a loosening of environmental policies throughout the free trade area. I-69 would only serve to augment NAFTA's capacity for destruction by providing a straight shot for job migration and movement of capital.

While Mexico's low wages and labor standards grant it preferred status as a center of production within the free trade area, the inclusion of the rest of Central and South America in the free trade zone through the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) would threaten this position. Workers in countries with even lower wages and labor standards would be made all the more available for corporate exploitation. To counter this threat, Mexico has thrown its support behind the Plan Puebla Panama, a highway connecting the Mexican state of Puebla directly to Panama, making Mexico additionally attractive to corporate investors. The combination of I-69 and Plan Puebla Panama would create a direct highway system from the Canadian border through the entirety of Mesoamerica.

Plan Puebla Panama is hailed as a way to foster economic growth in rural Mesoamerica, not only as a transportation project but as a "development" project. The facts prove otherwise: Of the $20 billion projected cost, 90% is specifically directed towards transportation infrastructure. The governments and corporations pushing Plan Puebla Panama are not concerned with sustainable economic development, but with the creation of a system of roads to replace the increasingly obsolete Panama Canal and allow the quick transportation of commodities produced in the sweatshops of Mesoamerica to consumers in the Global North. Whatever "development" does come with Plan Puebla Panama will address not human needs, but the whims of the global capitalist economy: hydroelectric dams being built on indigenous lands in southern Mexico and Guatemala will not power indigenous communities, but rather additional maquiladora sectors; the biological reserve promoted as the "greener side" of Plan Puebla Panama is not being designed to counteract the environmental devastation that Mesoamerica will experience as it is forced to industrialize, but is rather being underwritten by the Grupo Pulsar, a multinational biotech firm that hopes to pirate the genetic diversity of the region; Plan Puebla Panama is not promising open borders with its highways, allowing people the same freedoms accorded to capital, but rather the militarization of borders, allowing Mexico to protect the privileged status it gained with NAFTA, even as the free trade area is expanded by the passage of the FTAA.


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Aid Worker's Words, Just a Week Before She Was Killed

Downloaded from Common Dreams.Org.
Published on Tuesday, April 19, 2005 by USA Today
Aid Worker's Words, Just a Week Before She Was Killed
by Marla Ruzicka
The writer, a 28-year-old humanitarian aid worker from California, was killed Saturday in Baghdad when a suicide bomber aiming for a convoy of contractors pulled alongside her vehicle and detonated his explosives. Her driver also died. She filed this piece from Baghdad a week before her death. The facts cited in it have been reported elsewhere as a matter of public record. However, estimates of the number of civilian deaths in Iraq vary widely. Media reports put the number between 17,000 and 20,000 people.

In my two years in Iraq, the one question I am asked the most is: "How many Iraqi civilians have been killed by American forces?" The American public has a right to know how many Iraqis have lost their lives since the start of the war and as hostilities continue.

In a news conference at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in March 2002, Gen. Tommy Franks said, "We don't do body counts." His words outraged the Arab world and damaged the U.S. claim that its forces go to great lengths to minimize civilian casualties.

During the Iraq war, as U.S. troops pushed toward Baghdad, counting civilian casualties was not a priority for the military. However, since May 1, 2003, when President Bush declared major combat operations over and the U.S. military moved into a phase referred to as "stability operations," most units began to keep track of Iraqi civilians killed at checkpoints or during foot patrols by U.S. soldiers.

Here in Baghdad, a brigadier general commander explained to me that it is standard operating procedure for U.S. troops to file a spot report when they shoot a non-combatant. It is in the military's interest to release these statistics.

Recently, I obtained statistics on civilian casualties from a high-ranking U.S. military official. The numbers were for Baghdad only, for a short period, during a relatively quiet time. Other hot spots, such as the Ramadi and Mosul areas, could prove worse. The statistics showed that 29 civilians were killed by small-arms fire during firefights between U.S. troops and insurgents between Feb. 28 and April 5 — four times the number of Iraqi police killed in the same period. It is not clear whether the bullets that killed these civilians were fired by U.S. troops or insurgents.

A good place to search for Iraqi civilian death counts is the Iraqi Assistance Center in Baghdad and the General Information Centers set up by the U.S. military across Iraq. Iraqis who have been harmed by Americans have the right to file claims for compensation at these locations, and some claims have been paid. But others have been denied, even when the U.S. forces were in the wrong.

The Marines have also been paying compensation in Fallujah and Najaf. These data serve as a good barometer of the civilian costs of battle in both cities.

These statistics demonstrate that the U.S. military can and does track civilian casualties. Troops on the ground keep these records because they recognize they have a responsibility to review each action taken and that it is in their interest to minimize mistakes, especially since winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis is a key component of their strategy. The military should also want to release this information for the purposes of comparison with reports such as the Lancet study published late last year. It suggested that since the U.S.-led invasion there had been 100,000 deaths in Iraq.

A further step should be taken. In my dealings with U.S. military officials here, they have shown regret and remorse for the deaths and injuries of civilians. Systematically recording and publicly releasing civilian casualty numbers would assist in helping the victims who survive to piece their lives back together.

A number is important not only to quantify the cost of war, but as a reminder of those whose dreams will never be realized in a free and democratic Iraq.

Marla Ruzicka was founder of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict. In 2003, she organized surveyors across Iraq to document civilian casualties. Before that, she managed a similar project in Afghanistan that helped to secure assistance from the U.S. government for civilian victims.

© 2005 USA Today


Marla Ruzicka --A Hero for Peace!

Read more about this remarkable 28 year old young woman who lost her life trying to help others in Iraq. This is only 1 of the many stirring eulogies to Marla Ruzicka from all over the world. If only our government "leaders" had 10% of her heart and her courage!

paulette s.

----------------------------

Counting On Marla

By Tai Moses, AlterNet. Posted April 18, 2005.

More stories by Tai Moses

Counting On Marla
I only knew Marla Ruzicka a few short years, but that was all it took for her to leave an indelible impression on me.

Marla's self-assigned mission in life was to help innocent people who are caught in the crossfire of armed conflict. So, perhaps it was fitting, in the brutally impersonal way of the universe, that Marla herself became an innocent victim of war. On Saturday, April 16, Marla was killed in a car bomb attack as her vehicle traveled along the road to the Baghdad airport. She was 28 years old.











READ THE REST by going to: http://www.alternet.org/story/21779

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

LA Respected Environmental Advocate Forced Out of Job

 
Below is a press release from the Antioch New England Graduate
School concerning harassment of the school's faculty and
students during their Environmental Justice tour in Louisiana.
The tour was led by Attorney General's Office Community Liaison
Officer Willie Fontenot. As a result of his defense of the
participants' academic freedom and of their basic civil
liberties he was forced out of his 27-year long position with
the Attorney General's Office.

Willie Fontenot will speak at
the conclusion of Loyola University New Orleans's
Gaia Fest, which will be held on
Earth Day, April 22 from 3:00 to 6:00 PM.


For immediate release
April 7, 2005

For more information, please contact:
Eleanor Falcon, Director of Public Affairs
603.357.3122 ext 213
efalcon@antiochne.edu

Antioch New England Study Trip Sparks Political Harassment In
Louisiana Respected Environmental Advocate Forced Out of Job By
Attorney General

Keene, NH - From March 14 to 25, two instructors and 13
master's students from Antioch New England Graduate School's
Environmental Studies Program in Keene, NH visited Louisiana as
part of a field studies course entitled Environmental Justice
in the Mississippi Delta.
During their visit, the Antioch New England class met with a
diverse array of stakeholders, including elected officials,
petrochemical industry executives, union leaders, scientists,
EPA officials, environmental activists, and members of polluted
communities along the stretch of the Mississippi River that
many state officials call "the Chemical Corridor" and local
people often call "Cancer Alley." The Antioch New England study
group also met some people they did not expect to, including
off-duty police and sheriff's department officers and corporate
security officials who detained them on two separate occasions
because they took photos of industrial facilities from public
roadways and sidewalks.
On March 16, Mr. Willie Fontenot was accompanying the group in
his official capacity as Community Liaison Officer for the
Louisiana Attorney General's Office. They were touring the
neighborhood surrounding the major ExxonMobil chemical facility
in the area. Mr.Fontenot took the group to the neighborhood
because ExxonMobil has engaged in a program to buy out nearby
homeowners who had long complained of toxic emissions from the
plant. During a stop on a side street off Scenic Highway, some
students got out of the group's vehicle and took photos of a
remaining home and the ExxonMobil facility. Students are
required to complete a visual presentation about the trip as a
course assignment and took photos throughout their stay in
Louisiana.
Course instructor Steve Chase, the Director of Antioch's
Environmental Advocacy and Organizing Program, said members of
the group had been detained the day before by a corporate
security guard near the Shell chemical plant in Norco who
claimed that photographing industrial facilities was a
violation of federal law and had threatened Chase and the
students with images of FBI agents knocking on their doors in
the middle of the night. Mr. Fontenot explained, however, that
while the police had every right to stop and ask people who
they were, standing on public property and photographing
facilities was perfectly legal. "I've researched this
extensively over the years because I often give tours to
academics and journalists as part of my job with the Attorney
General's Office," said Mr. Fontenot.
Within two minutes of the stop near the ExxonMobiil plant, a
pair of off-duty officers from the Baton Rouge sheriff's and
police departments, wearing their official public service
uniforms, but in the employ of ExxonMobil, quickly detained the
group. Fulltime ExxonMobil security officials soon joined the
detention team. "We were less than impressed," said
co-instructor Abigail Abrash Walton, "when one of the officers
falsely stated that three of the students had gone on company
property and then falsely claimed that we were refusing to turn
over our IDs." When asked by the course instructor about what
actions he would be taking in filing a report about the group,
the off-duty sheriff's department officer refused to answer,
and instead responded aggressively that he was going to call in
"homeland security" people who would detain the group into the
night.
The group was released after more than an hour, but later
learned that the sheriff's department had filed a complaint
with the Attorney General against Mr. Fontenot, the group's
local guide for the day. Both The New Orleans Times-Picayune
and The Baton Rouge Advocate reported that Mr. Fontenot was
forced to retire at 10 am on Tuesday, April 5, or risk being
fired over the incident. Said Mr. Fontenot, "I was advised that
taking retirement was a better way to go."
"I am very disappointed," said Chase, "that our detention
served as the catalyst for the Attorney General to force Mr.
Fontenot out of the public service job he's held for 27 years.
Given what we experienced, I suspect that this whole matter has
just been used as an excuse to remove one of the state's most
respected citizen participation advocates from the Attorney
General's Office." Chase added, "I am particularly stunned that
Mr. Fontenot lost his job when even the U.S. Coast Guard
investigator who phoned me when we arrived back in New
Hampshire assured me that there is absolutely no local, state,
or federal law against photographing industrial facilities from
public sidewalks."
Co-instructor Abigail Abrash Walton noted, "This incident
showed our students a vivid example of how law enforcement and
corporations can sometimes overstep their legitimate security
duties in the guise of 'homeland security.' This experience was
also a firsthand glimpse of the type of over-the-top repression
that community members and their supporters told us they
experience on the frontlines of trying to defend their
communities' health and homes in Louisiana."
As a response to Mr. Fontenot being forced out of his job, the
Environmental Advocacy and Organizing Program at Antioch New
England Graduate School is working with Marylee Orr, Executive
Director of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN),
to create a fund to help Mr. Fontenot make up his lost salary
and continue to work for environmental justice in Louisiana
through a nonprofit organization of his choice. The
Environmental Advocacy and Organizing Program, LEAN, and other
Louisiana citizen groups and members of the academic community
are considering further actions aimed at addressing the
political harassment of academics, concerned community members,
and advocates in Louisiana.
# # #

Saturday, April 02, 2005

A handful of good reasons to join us at the "Nash-ional" Election Reform Conference, April 8-10

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: A handful of good reasons to join us at the "Nash-ional" Election Reform Conference, April 8-10
Date: Sat, 02 Apr 2005 10:42:50 -0600
From: Bernie Ellis
To: undisclosed-recipients:;


A HANDFUL OF REASONS TO COME TO NASHVILLE APRIL 8-10, OR TO
PAY ATTENTION TO THE NATIONAL ELECTION REFORM CONFERENCE
(WHEREVER YOU ARE)
( www.freepress.org/conf.php )


1. The National Election Reform Conference will provide an opportunity for anyone who is seriously concerned about election reform and election justice to meet others of like mind and similar commitment from throughout the country, in the springtime in the South. Right now, we have people coming to the conference from almost half the states, and more are registering every day. This will be a unique opportunity to co-mingle researchers, legislators, election reform/justice advocates and grassroots voting rights organizations to learn together and begin to decide – together – where we must go to repair and restore the franchise. And it is happening now.

2. There are many facets to the 2004 election fraud "story" which persist, and the quality and volume of evidence for a tampered-with election process continues to grow, both nationally and in many individual states. The National Election Reform Conference will provide an opportunity to receive an in-depth briefing of the experiences of at least a dozen states that will provide considerable evidence to demonstrate the immediate need to repair and reform our election process. At the same time, the conference will allow all of us to be updated together about the important developments in these and other states that are moving us toward real election reform and election justice. We all need to get on the same page, and Nashville on April 8-10 is that "page".

3. We remain convinced that the American media has a principally-untapped reservoir of newsworthy stories available to them on the 2004 election and the need for election reform. We have followed the excellent coverage on the 2004 election that has appeared scattered and sporadic throughout local media around the country, but we remain convinced that the "story of the century" remains largely untouched by the mainstream media. We believe that the National Election Reform Conference will be the best place for all media who are attuned to the 2004 election fraud story to "refresh" this story by being updated with the rest of us on many aspects of this story. At the same time, we view the conference as a place where the total coverage of this story, and its penetration into other media outlets and forms, can also expand. We have a number of media representatives who are aware of the conference and several documentary film-makers coming to film the event. We hope that, in the next week, we can interest many more journalists to join us for this newsworthy event.

4. At the present time, we see an election reform and election justice movement filled with highly energetic, committed and focused people. We also see a plethora of newly formed organizations and communication arenas devoted to election reform that have joined the fewer number of organizations for which voting rights have been a long-standing concern. The National Election Reform Conference will allow us a forum to share our priorities, our strategies and our histories; particularly in the discussion groups that are scheduled before and after the conference plenary sessions. Before we can ever succeed in achieving true election reform and election justice in our country, we must be able to hear (and not just talk or type at) each other. We must be willing to learn that there are many paths available for us to take our country back, and that we can work together to achieve that patriotic goal. Gathering together in Nashville, we can get those movement-building blocks laid.

5. Once again ... springtime in the South. Though I know that forecasts a week ahead of time are like exit polls these days – subject to major modification – our weather people are calling for sunny skies and temps in the low 70s on Friday, April 8. What better time and place than the early spring of 2005 in the South to begin planting the seeds for a regrowth of our nation's democratic foundations. We are happy to offer Nashville as the place where that rebirth can begin. Why Tennessee? Because our state has a proud history as a pivotal place in the expansion of the franchise in this country. And because we were the first place to step forward and offer to host this national Gathering. We are honored and humbled by the widespread support that the idea of a national conference has received over the past few months. Without the persistent and persuasive early encouragement that we received from throughout the country for the conference idea, and the willingness of a small number of local individuals and organizations to support us directly in accomplishing this Gathering, it would not have been possible. But after all, Tennessee is the Volunteer State, so we come by this role naturally.

Come to Nashville, April 8-10 for the National Election Reform Conference. For more information, to pre-register and/or to donate to the conference, go to www.freepress.org/conf.php . We're the ones we've been waiting for.



Columbia U and WMD Report--postings from Nabil

Universities are not the sanctuary for Free Speech or Academic Freedom that many believe they should be.  Students who protest the War are being disciplined, and then there is Columbia:

1) Here's the link to the Columbia University report
concerning alleged "anti-semitism" on campus:

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/news/05/03/ad_hoc_grievance_committee_report.html



2) NYT article concerning the Columbia report:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/31/education/31columbia.html?ex=1112936400&en=1e797fe806367574&ei=5070



3) AP Article on same:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-4904675,00.html

Columbia Finds No Anti-Semitic Remarks

Thursday March 31, 2005 6:01 PM


By VERENA DOBNIK

Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - A special committee found no evidence
that professors at Columbia University made
anti-Semitic statements to intimidate Jewish students
in classes, according to a university report released
Thursday.

But the five-member panel did identify one instance in
which a professor ``exceeded commonly accepted
bounds'' of behavior when he angrily implied a student
should leave his classroom after she defended Israel's
conduct toward Palestinians.


4) www.countingthecost.org


5) The Final Report of The Commission on the
Intelligence Capabilities of the United States
Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, 30 March 2005

[otherwise known as the presidential committee to
absolve the presidency of all responsibility for
misrepresenting the threat posed by GOI weapons
capabilities in 2002-2003. Amazingly, one of their
conclusions is that the intelligence services over
relied on (unreliable) secret information at the
expense of (reliable) open source information. Put
another way, all those months that those of us who
cared to check KNEW that GOI was no threat to the US
militarily had more reliable source information than
those hacks who claimed to have special knowledge that
they weren't at liberty to share. Those same hacks --
instead of facing war crimes trials at the Hague --
have instead since been promoted to Secretary of
State, World Bank Chief, National Director of
Intelligence, US Ambassador to the United Nations,
Attorney-General, and Director of Homeland Security.
Well, some of us haven't forgotten your crimes...]:

http://www.wmd.gov/report/index.html

Here is the original (unclassified version) National
Intelligence Estimate, issued October 2002.

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB129/nie_first%20release.pdf

Note Opening Paragraph:

"Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destructions
(WMD) programs in defiance of UN resolutions and
restrictions. Baghdad has chemical and biological
weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of
UN restrictions; if left unchecked, it will probably
have a nuclear weapon within the decade."

You get the gist. THIS is why the US public agreed to
the hostile invasion of a neutral country halfway
around the world. It is this report which the new
report has declared is "dead wrong".



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