Thursday, December 30, 2004

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Picture of the Day


Zoucabrée
©2004 Pierre-Paul Feyte

On Beating a Dead Horse
SOTT
December 30, 2004

Every now and then, we at Signs of the Times try to spice up the day's news a bit. Sometimes we will take a brief break from reporting on the actions of the Neocons and Zionists as a change of pace for both our readers and ourselves. Nevertheless, the following day's page will once again focus on reports and analyses of the latest moves by the US and Israel on the grand chess board.

On a fairly regular basis, we receive e-mails from various readers wondering or complaining about our repeated coverage of Bush and his gang, the war on terror, Sharon, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We are asked questions like: Why can't we see the bigger picture? Why are we obsessed with Bush and Sharon? Where's the love and light? What about the higher perspective?

We are even accused of being Democrats, liberals, French, anti-American pigs, cowards, and numerous other insults that are not quite fit to print. One might think that receiving such scathing comments would cause us to feel disheartened. While some of the e-mails may give us pause on an "off" day, we quickly remind ourselves and each other that the people who are sending such messages are the exact reason why we continue to make the Signs page. Emotionally charged propaganda rules our world.

But we are not the bricklayers in the ongoing construction of some sort of Fortress of Truth; in fact, we are simply attempting to pass along sturdy stones to whomever chooses to read Signs of the Times. Each individual then has an opportunity to See that they have a choice: build a house out of the lies and propaganda made of straw, or build a house made of stone that will be more able to weather the coming superstorms - and resist the Big Bad Wolves whose only desire seems to be the acquisition and utilisation of power to manipulate and control others.

As we were saying, emotionally charged propaganda and disinformation rules our world. A case in point is the accusation that we are French. Given that France is arguably one of the most beautiful countries on the planet, with friendly people, haute cuisine, fine wines, and what seems to be an abnormally large dose of rational thought, we certainly have to question the campaign of freedom fries and French-bashing in the US. It is pretty standard procedure in the US when defaming another country to claim that the "other" is anti-American based on zero facts, when the truth is that it is those doing the bashing that are "anti-everything else".

So, just how exactly does the sort of brainwashing occurring in countries like the US work? How is it that the facts can be so easily and blatantly ignored by so many people, and replaced by irrational anger and hatred of the "other"? For a potential answer, we turn to a recent holiday celebrated in many parts of the world: Christmas.

Christmas, we are told, is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the only son of god who became man in order to die and thereby forgive all of our sins and so on and so forth. Thus, the Christmas holiday is one in which we celebrate the birth of the Son of Man by spreading warmth and compassion over the land by eating, buying each other stuff, and generally hoping that others will buy us good stuff as well. Christmas has certainly become rather commercialised; yet everyone convinces themselves that they are chock full of Christmas Cheer. Many people even become severely depressed around the holiday season, because they do not have a family with whom they can share the special day.

And yet, it seems that most people are NOT filled with warmth, glad-tidings, joy, etc. around the holiday season. Most people seem to be filled with programmed responses that they misinterpret as all these positive feelings. How many times have we all sat around with our families and talked about all the chaos and misery of past family gatherings, only to conclude with, "Well, that was a nice Christmas Eve." Years later, only the final "joyful" conclusion was accepted as the reality of that particular holiday, even though the horrid details were still there in each of our memory banks.

Perhaps we have a clue here as to just how the "system" in the US works. The facts of our Christmases past become less important than the final, emotionally charged conclusion about how wonderful the experiences were. In effect, something as simple as a holiday can lay down a circuit in our minds - from a very young age - that causes us to disregard the facts in favor of a powerful emotional response. Think about the irrationality of a magical bearded fat man who is able to climb down tiny chimneys and leave presents, bringing "joy" to millions of children the world over. Parents lie to their children to make them "happy". How hard is it, then, for a group like the Neocons to activate this circuit to control the masses?

Take Iraq, for example. First, Saddam had WMD's and the US government knew where they were. Then he might have WMD's. After that, Saddam certainly had plans to create WMD's. Now, Saddam is a bad man. The fact that Bush and his Neocon pals lied so many times is irrelevant in the minds of many Americans. Why? Perhaps because US leaders repeatedly stated that Saddam was a threat to the world after presenting the latest reason for the invasion of Iraq. How many times have we heard the phrases "a threat to freedom" or "a threat to democracy"? The word "threat" will forever be associated with the horror of 9/11 in the minds of most Americans. The words of the Neocons inspire a fear that overrides rational thought in the same manner that words like "Christmas" are associated with feeling "joy" and "the spirit of giving".

In the end, the results are the same: a less-than-pleasant - though accurate - perception of reality is replaced by a rose-colored "memory" reinforced by powerful emotions. And yet, the facts remain. Anyone who objectively reexamines recent memories would remember that the reason for the invasion of Iraq changed several times. Thus, the "Evil Magician" does not cast a spell to make us forget; he teaches us to choose to cast spells on ourselves.

Returning to the questions that readers have often posed: Why can't we see the bigger picture? Why are we obsessed with Bush and Sharon? Where's the love and light? What about the higher perspective?

Perhaps it is more clear now why we must constantly return to the same issues on the Signs page. Not only do the topics of Neocon and Zionist efforts in our world remain important to citizens all over the globe - and therefore Seeing them for what they are is essential - but our analyses and insights into those efforts will change over time. Consideration of simple programs that we each run around the holidays has shed a bit of new light on the mechanisms behind the deception. Even old news stories, when viewed in light of new information, can reveal previously hidden clues that help us to better discern the truth. As such, researching and re-researching these topics is never "boring" or "just more of the same" if we are paying attention to objective reality left and right. One can't beat a dead horse, because the horse is never dead as long as our world still exists. In The Sufi Path of Knowledge, William Chittick writes:

Perfect man alone is able to see all things in their proper places. He is the divine sage who has so thoroughly assimilated the Scale of the Law that he witnesses through his very nature the correct relationships among things. This discernment of relationships is the most difficult of all human tasks, because of the intrinsic ambiguity of existence.

There is no absolute point of reference to which man can cling, since "None knows God but God." Instead there are numerous "relatively absolute" standpoints in respect of which knowledge can be acquired. But some of these may lead to felicity, and some may not.

Ibn al-'Arabi's deconstruction of all doctrinal absolutes must be grasped from the outset, or one will be tempted to provide a definitive statement of "what Ibn al-'Arabi believes" without defining his standpoint on the question at issue. [...]

Every formulation which attempts to describe the real must assume a delimited, defined, and relative standpoint. What is accepted from one point of view may have to be denied from a second point of view. The Essence alone is absolutely Real, but the essence is forever beyond our grasp or understanding. Each standpoint in respect of which God and the cosmos are perceived becomes a "relative absolute" or a "presence" (hadra) from which certain conclusions can be drawn, conclusions which will be valid for that point of view. But Ibn al-'Arabi is constantly changing his points of view, as is clearly indicated by the structure of many of his works, the Fusus in particular. Each of the divine wisdoms incarnated in each of the twenty-seven prophets speaks in a unique language, thus throwing new light on the self-revelation of the Unknown. Each revelation provides a unique way of looking upon God and the cosmos.

Indeed, discerning the correct relationships among things in this world is an incredibly difficult task. Regarding the idea of "relative absolute standpoints," it is here where we place the idea of embracing either the entropic principle or the creative principle. Both principles are equally valid. There is no "morally right" or "morally wrong" label attached to either principle. Bush certainly believes that his conclusions regarding the war on terror and the clampdown on civil liberties are correct, but they are based on his point of view - which is itself based on lies and manipulating others. It is in choosing to align with one principle that we may decide our fate: Do we choose felicity in the form of knowledge, or do we decide upon the lies and half-truths of the self-serving entropic path? Each of us is certainly free to choose for ourselves - but only if we are aware that the choice even exists in the first place. A good many Americans who support Bush's empire are not bad people; they may simply be unaware that a choice for something different exists.

And so we continue to produce the Signs page each day, often returning to the same important issues from subtly different perspectives. Learning to See the subtle differences can be a powerful tool in our individual work to purge ourselves of the effects of the control system.

Perhaps some day we will experience the joy that we had convinced ourselves we were experiencing around the holidays. With continued effort, maybe we can get to the point of experiencing a certain joy based not on illusions, but on an understanding of objective reality. We must also consider that if our previous idea of "joy" was based on illusion, true joy does not match the standard definition we would normally assign to the word.

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IRAN: Meteor weighing 16kg hits house
AFP
Posted Thu, 30 Dec 2004
A meteorite weighing at least 16 kilograms has hit a house in the southeast of Iran, the state news agency IRNA reported on Thursday.

According to local police official Mohammad Arab, the sparkling crystalline rock hit a home in Saravan in Sistan-Baluchestan province. No injuries or serious damage were reported.

The report said most of the meteor had already been broken up and taken away by local people before police arrived at the scene.

Comment: We have the unfortunate sensation that this is only the beginning. Earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, and meteors...

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Tsunami death toll tops 116,000
Relief workers find devastation in Indonesia
Thursday, December 30, 2004 Posted: 1351 GMT (2151 HKT)

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (CNN) -- The death toll from Sunday's tsunamis has jumped sharply to over 116,000 after Indonesia reported nearly 80,000 people were killed in that country alone.

Comment: The death toll in the recent earthquake and tsunami is horrific. There are reports that as many again could die from disease as a result of the catastrophe. But looking at the figures, it appears that what shocks us is that so many people died so quickly, at one blow as it were. Compare the figures from SouthEast Asia with the figures of deaths from the embargo of Iraq between the two wars, from 1991 to 1993.

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Lifting the Iraq Embargo After Almost 2 Million Deaths

What Have We Learned From the Embargo's Lessons?

May 28, 2003

On May 22, 2003, the United Nations Security Council passed resolution 1483 finally lifting the 12-year embargo on Iraq. The United Nations had imposed a comprehensive ban on trade with Iraq on August 6, 1990, under resolution 661, amounting to a complete siege on the country. The embargo was then enforced by a military land, air, and sea blockade. This blockade continued until the end of the recent 2003 war, with land border checkpoints in Jordan, naval interdiction of ships, and no-fly zones imposed in the north and south of the country.

After the imposition of the embargo, a devastating bombing campaign against Iraq in 1991 destroyed the country's civilian infrastructure (water, sewage, and electrical power infrastructure, among other sectors). Much of the diseases rampant in Iraq are due to the destruction of the civilian infrastructure and lack of spare parts in the 1991 war. Some of which was modestly repaired between 1991 and 2003, was destroyed again in the 2003 war. Contaminated drinking water and lack of electricity for hospitals are a major cause of the suffering for Iraq’s twenty five million people today.

In addition, the depleted uranium (DU) shells used in both the 1991 and 2003 wars have caused a significant increase in radiation-related cancers and birth defects. Iraq still does not have the necessary tools (primarily due to the embargo) to clean up the DU contamination.

What Was Destroyed in War

The 2003 war can only be a continuation of what happened in 1991, since the 12-year embargo did not allow the rebuilding of what was destroyed then. The 1991 war destroyed or severely damaged the following sectors of the civilian infrastructure, and the 12-year embargo prevented its the proper reconstruction:

1) Drinking water infrastructure

2) Sewage system

3) Electrical power grid

4) National healthcare infrastructure (more than 100 hospitals and healthcare centers destroyed)

5) National education system (over 4,000 schools, institutes, colleges, universities destroyed)

6) Transportation sector (air traffic banned, sea vessels damaged, railroad cars & trucks crumbling)

7) Telecommunications (telephone exchanges and transmitters destroyed)

8) Textile and other light industries (factories destroyed)

9) Pharmaceutical sector (factories destroyed and components and ingredients banned by embargo)

10) Social fabric and modernity (modern society reduced to sufficing with obtaining food and medicine only)

Summary of the Effects

According to the humanitarian reports, the ongoing embargo imposed in 1990, coupled with the destruction caused by the 1991 Gulf war, has in turn directly caused the following:

1) As of March 2003 (just prior to the war), between 1.7 and 2 million Iraqi civilians have died due to malnutrition and disease, about 700,000 of them are children. Health Ministry documents under-5 and over-50 deaths due to disease and/or malnutrition at 1.7 million. If over-5 and under-50 age sectors are added, which is well over 500,000 deaths, that makes the total number of deaths over 2 million. Estimates of deaths due to the 2003 war range from 10,000 to 100,000.

2) Prior to the 2003 war, 1.5 million children were made orphans.

3) Prior to the 2003 war, 10,000 Iraqi civilians were dying every month (half of which were children). That amounted to 333 deaths a day, or 14 deaths an hour. An Iraqi civilian died from malnutrition and disease every 4 minutes. Since the 2003 war caused even more destruction of the civilian infrastructure (water, electricity, etc), coupled with the extensive of anti-personnel cluster bombs dropped on Iraq, and the mass lootings of hospitals and pharmacies, this average will be greatly skewed for the initial months after the 2003 war, until such a time when the civilian infrastructure is properly rebuilt.

4) The combination of the destruction of the water pipes and the water pumping stations in the 1991 war and the looting after the 2003 war, coupled with the lack of chlorine and electricity to re-activate the pumps for over 12 years due largely to the embargo, all make clean drinking water widely unavailable today in Iraq, and thereby creating a dangerous recipe for a rapid spread of infectious diseases and possible epidemics. Prior to 1990, over 90% of Iraqis has access to clean drinking water, whereas it was between 33-50% just prior to the 2003 war (1999 UN Report).

5) The destruction of the national medical healthcare system has been one of the largest single contributors to the death and disease in Iraq. Over 100 hospitals and healthcare centers were destroyed in the 1991 war. Prior to 1990, over 90% of Iraqis had access to high quality medical care, free of charge, whereas as the majority of Iraqis lack it now (1999 UN Report).

6) The destruction of the national school system in the 1991 war has caused a sharp decline in the overall literacy rate. Half of Iraq's schools (4,000 out of 8,000) were bombed. The remaining schools (4,000) sharply decayed and became dilapidated due to the 12-year embargo. This lack of enough schools coupled with Iraq's growing population, made the problem even worse. When Iraq had over 8,000 functioning schools in 1990, the country's population was about 18 million. Now that Iraq's population is well over 25 million, the number of functioning schools is less than a quarter of what it was in 1990. This severe shortage of schools has caused a sharp increase in the illiteracy rate and led to children wandering in the streets. Prior to 1990, over 80% of Iraqis could read and write, whereas now the school attendance is almost 50% (1999 UN report).

7) Prior to the 2003 war, the local Iraqi currency (dinar) had been decimated as a result of U.S. counterfeiting efforts, the 1991 destruction of the civilian infrastructure, and the 12-year embargo which banned foreign (hard) currency from legally entering the country. The combination of the counterfeiting, bombing, and embargo has caused the value of the dinar to drop from its original value of just over three dollars to being worth 1/20th of a cent (20 dinars makes a cent), just prior to the 2003 war.

8) Prior to the fall of the former government, Iraq was essentially a massive welfare state. The state employed over a million people and provided food coupons for over 80% of Iraq's 25 million people. The fall of the government meant the effective end of this welfare state. In addition, the U.S. administration's firing of hundreds of thousands of paid state employees has made the situation even worse. The government employees, who were barely living above the starvation level, are now unemployed and income-less.

9) Clearly the most short-sighted decision taken yet by the U.S. administration in Baghdad was to totally dissolve Iraq's military, leaving its employees with no compensation at all. That decision meant that over half a million ex-military men were left to starve, along with their families. Since the typical Iraqi family is made of at least five members, that meant at least 2.5 million Iraqis were left to starve. What would prevent these starving men from armed revolt to avoid starvation? Anyone with some common sense would have devised a plan to either retire these men with some type of retirement income to prevent them from starving and revolting, or offering them new jobs as policemen or the like, similar to what the U.S. military did with the former Japanese soldiers after World War 2. This decision is indeed a recipe for disaster. [...]

Comment: It would appear that when deaths are "limited" to 333 per day, the world need not take notice, even if half of these deaths are children, even if these deaths go on and on and on for years on end, finishing with an accumulation of deaths that staggers the imagination.

A recent report on Iraqi civilian deaths suggests that 100,000 Iraqis have died since the beginning of the US invasion and occupation in the spring of 2003. Once again, these deaths are spread out over about 20 months rather than happening in one fell swoop. Not only are they not making headlines, the US doesn't even bother to count the Iraqi dead. The US media want the public to perceive the war as clean and antiseptic, waged by "smart" bombs that target only the evil-doers and that somehow, through their sophisticated engineering, are able to avoid innocent deaths, with certain allowances made, of course, for "collateral damage".

One might suggest that the deaths are another expression of the old adage "Divide and conquer". Divide all of these deaths up into neat, little bundles, figures that don't have the same weight, say, as 100,000 in one day, and then slip them past the consciousness of the world's population. Drop by drop, death by death, allow them to add up over a decade, and, voila, no one cares. Genocide on the cheap.

The same thing is happening in Palestine where the Israelis are going about their genocide of the Palestinians in the same manner, with daily raids that destroy homes, olive groves, and children on their way home from school.

Or look closer to home where the US is bringing in vast changes to laws under the cover of the war against terrorism. Once again, the same tactic is being used: incremental changes over a long period, turning up the heat one degree at a time, so that the population gets accustomed to a series of small changes rather than having to confront a large change all at once.

Would Americans have accepted all of new laws and limitations on their freedoms in 2000 if Bush had campaigned openly on this program? Of course not. Now, four years later, Americans are waking up to the fact that they are living under fascism...

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Living Under Fascism
By Rev Davidson Loehr
Al-Jazeerah, December 22, 2004

You may wonder why anyone would try to use the word “fascism” in a serious discussion of where America is today. It sounds like cheap name-calling, or melodramatic allusion to a slew of old war movies. But I am serious. I don’t mean it as name-calling at all. I mean to persuade you that the style of governing into which America has slid is most accurately described as fascism, and that the necessary implications of this fact are rightly regarded as terrifying. That’s what I am about here. And even if I don’t persuade you, I hope to raise the level of your thinking about who and where we are now, to add some nuance and perhaps some useful insights. 

The word comes from the Latin word “Fasces,” denoting a bundle of sticks tied together. The individual sticks represented citizens, and the bundle represented the state. The message of this metaphor was that it was the bundle that was significant, not the individual sticks. If it sounds un-American, it’s worth knowing that the Roman Fasces appear on the wall behind the Speaker’s podium in the chamber of the US House of Representatives.

Still, it’s an unlikely word. When most people hear the word "fascism" they may think of the racism and anti-Semitism of Mussolini and Hitler. It is true that the use of force and the scapegoating of fringe groups are part of every fascism. But there was also an economic dimension of fascism, known in Europe during the 1920s and '30s as "corporatism," which was an essential ingredient of Mussolini’s and Hitler’s tyrannies. So-called corporatism was adopted in Italy and Germany during the 1930s and was held up as a model by quite a few intellectuals and policy makers in the United States and Europe. 

As I mentioned a few weeks ago (in “The Corporation Will Eat Your Soul”), Fortune magazine ran a cover story on Mussolini in 1934, praising his fascism for its ability to break worker unions, disempower workers and transfer huge sums of money to those who controlled the money rather than those who earned it. 

 Few Americans are aware of or can recall how so many Americans and Europeans viewed economic fascism as the wave of the future during the 1930s. Yet reviewing our past may help shed light on our present, and point the way to a better future. So I want to begin by looking back to the last time fascism posed a serious threat to America.

In Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel "It Can't Happen Here," a conservative southern politician is helped to the presidency by a nationally syndicated radio talk show host. The politician - Buzz Windrip - runs his campaign on family values, the flag, and patriotism. Windrip and the talk show host portray advocates of traditional American democracy — those concerned with individual rights and freedoms — as anti-American. That was 69 years ago. 

One of the most outspoken American fascists from the 1930s was economist Lawrence Dennis. In his 1936 book, The Coming American Fascism — a coming which he anticipated and cheered — Dennis declared that defenders of “18th-century Americanism” were sure to become "the laughing stock of their own countrymen." The big stumbling block to the development of economic fascism, Dennis bemoaned, was "liberal norms of law or constitutional guarantees of private rights."

So it is important for us to recognize that, as an economic system, fascism was widely accepted in the 1920s and '30s, and nearly worshiped by some powerful American industrialists. And fascism has always, and explicitly, been opposed to liberalism of all kinds. 

Mussolini, who helped create modern fascism, viewed liberal ideas as the enemy. "The Fascist conception of life," he wrote, "stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with the State. It is opposed to classical liberalism [which] denied the State in the name of the individual; Fascism reasserts the rights of the State as expressing the real essence of the individual." (In 1932 Mussolini wrote, with the help of Giovanni Gentile, an entry for the Italian Encyclopedia on the definition of fascism. You can read the whole entry at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/mussolini-fascism.html)

Mussolini thought it was unnatural for a government to protect individual rights: The essence of fascism, he believed, is that government should be the master, not the servant, of the people.

Still, fascism is a word that is completely foreign to most of us. We need to know what it is, and how we can know it when we see it. 

In an essay coyly titled “Fascism Anyone?,” Dr. Lawrence Britt, a political scientist, identifies social and political agendas common to fascist regimes. His comparisons of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Suharto, and Pinochet yielded this list of 14 “identifying characteristics of fascism.” (The following article is from Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 23, Number 2. Read it at http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/britt_23_2.htm) See how familiar they sound.

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism

Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights 

Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats
as a Unifying Cause

The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc. 

4. Supremacy of the Military

Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism

The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.

6. Controlled Mass Media

Sometimes the media are directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media are indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security

Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined

Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected

The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed

Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed. 

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts

Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment

Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption

Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders. 

14. Fraudulent Elections

Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

This list will be familiar to students of political science. But it should be familiar to students of religion as well, for much of it mirrors the social and political agenda of religious fundamentalisms worldwide. It is both accurate and helpful for us to understand fundamentalism as religious fascism, and fascism as political fundamentalism. They both come from very primitive parts of us that have always been the default setting of our species: amity toward our in-group, enmity toward out-groups, hierarchical deference to alpha male figures, a powerful identification with our territory, and so forth. It is that brutal default setting that all civilizations have tried to raise us above, but it is always a fragile thing, civilization, and has to be achieved over and over and over again. 

But, again, this is not America’s first encounter with fascism. 

In early 1944, the New York Times asked Vice President Henry Wallace to, as Wallace noted, “write a piece answering the following questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?”

Vice President Wallace's answer to those questions was published in The New York Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan. See how much you think his statements apply to our society today.

“The really dangerous American fascist,” Wallace wrote, “… is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.”

In his strongest indictment of the tide of fascism he saw rising in America, Wallace added, “They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.” By these standards, a few of today’s weapons for keeping the common people in eternal subjection include NAFTA, the World Trade Organization, union-busting, cutting worker benefits while increasing CEO pay, elimination of worker benefits, security and pensions, rapacious credit card interest, and outsourcing of jobs — not to mention the largest prison system in the world. 

The Perfect Storm

Our current descent into fascism came about through a kind of “Perfect Storm,” a confluence of three unrelated but mutually supportive schools of thought. 

1. The first stream of thought was the imperialistic dream of the Project for the New American Century. I don’t believe anyone can understand the past four years without reading the Project for the New American Century, published in September 2000 and authored by many who have been prominent players in the Bush administrations, including Cheney, Rumsfleid, Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Donald Kagan to name only a few. This report saw the fall of Communism as a call for America to become the military rulers of the world, to establish a new worldwide empire. They spelled out the military enhancements we would need, then noted, sadly, that these wonderful plans would take a long time, unless there could be a catastrophic and catalyzing event like a new Pearl Harbor that would let the leaders turn America into a military and militarist country. There was no clear interest in religion in this r! eport, and no clear concern with local economic policies.

2. A second powerful stream must be credited to Pat Robertson and his Christian Reconstructionists, or Dominionists. Long dismissed by most of us as a screwball, the Dominionist style of Christianity which he has been preaching since the early 1980s is now the most powerful religious voice in the Bush administration. 

Katherine Yurica, who transcribed over 1300 pages of interviews from Pat Robertson’s “700 Club” shows in the 1980s, has shown how Robertson and his chosen guests consistently, openly and passionately argued that America must become a theocracy under the control of Christian Dominionists. Robertson is on record saying democracy is a terrible form of government unless it is run by his kind of Christians. He also rails constantly against taxing the rich, against public education, social programs and welfare — and prefers Deuteronomy 28 over the teachings of Jesus. He is clear that women must remain homebound as obedient servants of men, and that abortions, like homosexuals, should not be allowed. Robertson has also been clear that other kinds of Christians, including Episcopalians and Presbyterians, are enemies of Christ. (The Yurica Report. Search under this name, or for “Despoiling Am! erica” by Katherine Yurica on the internet.)

3. The third major component of this Perfect Storm has been the desire of very wealthy Americans and corporate CEOs for a plutocracy that will favor profits by the very rich and disempowerment of the vast majority of American workers, the destruction of workers’ unions, and the alliance of government to help achieve these greedy goals. It is a condition some have called socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor, and which others recognize as a reincarnation of Social Darwinism. This strain of thought has been present throughout American history. Seventy years ago, they tried to finance a military coup to replace Franlkin Delano Roosevelt and establish General Smedley Butler as a fascist dictator in 1934. Fortunately, the picked a general who really was a patriot; he refused, reported the scheme, and spoke and wrote about it. As Canadian law professor Joel Bakan wrote in ! the book and movie “The Corporation,” they have now achieved their coup without firing a shot. 

Our plutocrats have had no particular interest in religion. Their global interests are with an imperialist empire, and their domestic goals are in undoing all the New Deal reforms of Franklin Delano Roosevelt that enabled the rise of America’s middle class after WWII. 

Another ill wind in this Perfect Storm is more important than its crudity might suggest: it was President Clinton’s sleazy sex with a young but eager intern in the White House. This incident, and Clinton’s equally sleazy lying about it, focused the certainties of conservatives on the fact that “liberals” had neither moral compass nor moral concern, and therefore represented a dangerous threat to the moral fiber of America. While the effects of this may be hard to quantify, I think they were profound. 

These “storm” components have no necessary connection, and come from different groups of thinkers, many of whom wouldn’t even like one another. But together, they form a nearly complete web of command and control, which has finally gained control of America and, they hope, of the world. 

What’s coming

When all fascisms exhibit the same social and political agendas (the 14 points listed by Britt), then it is not hard to predict where a new fascist uprising will lead. And it is not hard. The actions of fascists and the social and political effects of fascism and fundamentalism are clear and sobering. Here is some of what’s coming, what will be happening in our country in the next few years: 

  • The theft of all social security funds, to be transferred to those who control money, and the increasing destitution of all those dependent on social security and social welfare programs.
  • Rising numbers of uninsured people in this country that already has the highest percentage of citizens without health insurance in the developed world.
  • Increased loss of funding for public education combined with increased support for vouchers, urging Americans to entrust their children’s education to Christian schools.
  • More restrictions on civil liberties as America is turned into the police state necessary for fascism to work
  • Withdrawal of virtually all funding for National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System. At their best, these media sometimes encourage critical questioning, so they are correctly seen as enemies of the state’s official stories.
  • The reinstatement of a draft, from which the children of privileged parents will again be mostly exempt, leaving our poorest children to fight and die in wars of imperialism and greed that could never benefit them anyway. (That was my one-sentence Veterans’ Day sermon for this year.)
  • More imperialistic invasions: of Iran and others, and the construction of a huge permanent embassy in Iraq.
  • More restrictions on speech, under the flag of national security.
  • Control of the internet to remove or cripple it as an instrument of free communication that is exempt from government control. This will be presented as a necessary anti-terrorist measure. 
  • Efforts to remove the tax-exempt status of churches like this one, and to characterize them as anti-American.
  • Tighter control of the editorial bias of almost all media, and demonization of the few media they are unable to control – the New York Times, for instance.
  • Continued outsourcing of jobs, including more white-collar jobs, to produce greater profits for those who control the money and direct the society, while simultaneously reducing America’s workers to a more desperate and powerless status.
  • Moves in the banking industry to make it impossible for an increasing number of Americans to own their homes. As they did in the 1930s, those who control the money know that it is to their advantage and profit to keep others renting rather than owning.
  • Criminalization of those who protest, as un-American, with arrests, detentions and harassment increasing. We already have a higher percentage of our citizens in prison than any other country in the world. That percentage will increase.
  • In the near future, it will be illegal or at least dangerous to say the things I have said here this morning. In the fascist story, these things are un-American. In the real history of a democratic America, they were seen as profoundly patriotic, as the kind of critical questions that kept the American spirit alive — the kind of questions, incidentally, that our media were supposed to be pressing.

Can these schemes work? I don’t think so. I think they are murderous, rapacious and insane. But I don’t know. Maybe they can. Similar schemes have worked in countries like Chile, where a democracy in which over 90% voted has been reduced to one in which only about 20% vote because they say, as Americans are learning to say, that it no longer matters who you vote for.

Hope

In the meantime, is there any hope, or do we just band together like lemmings and dive off a cliff? Yes, there is always hope, though at times it is more hidden, as it is now. 

As some critics are now saying, and as I have been preaching and writing for almost twenty years, America’s liberals need to grow beyond political liberalism, with its often self-absorbed focus on individual rights to the exclusion of individual responsibilities to the larger society. Liberals will have to construct a more complete vision with moral and religious grounding. That does not mean confessional Christianity. It means the legitimate heir to Christianity. Such a legitimate heir need not be a religion, though it must have clear moral power, and be able to attract the minds and hearts of a voting majority of Americans. 

And the new liberal vision must be larger than that of the conservative religious vision that will be appointing judges, writing laws and bending the cultural norms toward hatred and exclusion for the foreseeable future. The conservatives deserve a lot of admiration. They have spent the last thirty years studying American politics, forming their vision and learning how to gain control in the political system. And it worked; they have won. Even if liberals can develop a bigger vision, they still have all that time-consuming work to do. It won’t be fast. It isn’t even clear that liberals will be willing to do it; they may instead prefer to go down with the ship they’re used to. 

One man who has been tireless in his investigations and critiques of America’s slide into fascism is Michael C. Ruppert, whose postings usually read as though he is wound way too tight. But he offers four pieces of advice about what we can do now, and they seem reality-based enough to pass on to you. This is America; they’re all about money:

  • First, he says you should get out of debt. 
  • Second is to spend your money and time on things that give you energy and provide you with useful information. 
  • Third is to stop spending a penny with major banks, news media and corporations that feed you lies and leave you angry and exhausted.
  • And fourth is to learn how money works and use it like a (political) weapon — as he predicts the rest of the world will be doing against us. (from fromthewilderness.com)

That’s advice written this week. Another bit of advice comes from sixty years ago, from Roosevelt’s Vice President, Henry Wallace. Wallace said, “Democracy, to crush fascism internally, must...develop the ability to keep people fully employed and at the same time balance the budget. It must put human beings first and dollars second. It must appeal to reason and decency and not to violence and deceit. We must not tolerate oppressive government or industrial oligarchy in the form of monopolies and cartels.”

Still another way to understand fascism is as a kind of colonization. A simple definition of “colonization” is that it takes people’s stories away, and assigns them supportive roles in stories that empower others at their expense. When you are taxed to support a government that uses you as a means to serve the ends of others, you are — ironically — in a state of taxation without representation. That’s where this country started, and it’s where we are now. 

I don’t know the next step. I’m not a political activist; I’m only a preacher. But whatever you do, whatever we do, I hope that we can remember some very basic things that I think of as eternally true. One is that the vast majority of people are good decent people who mean and do as well as they know how. Very few people are evil, though some are. But we all live in families where some of our blood relatives support things we hate. I believe they mean well, and the way to rebuild broken bridges is through greater understanding, compassion, and a reality-based story that is more inclusive and empowering for the vast majority of us. 

Those who want to live in a reality-based story rather than as serfs in an ideology designed to transfer power, possibility and hope to a small ruling elite have much long and hard work to do, individually and collectively. It will not be either easy or quick.

But we will do it. We will go forward in hope and in courage. Let us seek that better path, and find the courage to take it — step, by step, by step. 

This article was given in the form of a sermon by Rev. Davidson Loehr, on 7 November 2004.

The First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin
www.austinuu.org,

About  Minister, Davidson Loehr, Ph.D. http://www.austinuu.org/aboutourminister.htm

Comment: Yes, once more the "F" word. Once more, some trouble-making dissident is raising the spectre of fascism in the US. But for how much longer will ministers be able to preach in this way from their pulpits? For how much longer will dissent and a clear take on the objective situation be permitted?

Already, the "moralists" in the fundamentalist churches are working to limit freedom of expression, as the next article demonstrates.

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'We have to protect people'

President Bush wants 'pro-homosexual' drama banned. Gary Taylor meets the politician in charge of making it happen

Thursday December 9, 2004
The Guardian

What should we do with US classics like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or The Color Purple? "Dig a hole," Gerald Allen recommends, "and dump them in it." Don't laugh. Gerald Allen's book-burying opinions are not a joke.

Earlier this week, Allen got a call from Washington. He will be meeting with President Bush on Monday. I asked him if this was his first invitation to the White House. "Oh no," he laughs. "It's my fifth meeting with Mr Bush."

Bush is interested in Allen's opinions because Allen is an elected Republican representative in the Alabama state legislature. He is Bush's base. Last week, Bush's base introduced a bill that would ban the use of state funds to purchase any books or other materials that "promote homosexuality". Allen does not want taxpayers' money to support "positive depictions of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle". That's why Tennessee Williams and Alice Walker have got to go.

I ask Allen what prompted this bill. Was one of his children exposed to something in school that he considered inappropriate? Did he see some flamingly gay book displayed prominently at the public library?

No, nothing like that. "It was election day," he explains. Last month, "14 states passed referendums defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman". Exit polls asked people what they considered the most important issue, and "moral values in this country" were "the top of the list".

"Traditional family values are under attack," Allen informs me. They've been under attack "for the last 40 years". The enemy, this time, is not al-Qaida. The axis of evil is "Hollywood, the music industry". We have an obligation to "save society from moral destruction". We have to prevent liberal libarians and trendy teachers from "re-engineering society's fabric in the minds of our children". We have to "protect Alabamians".

I ask him, again, for specific examples. Although heterosexuals are apparently an endangered species in Alabama, and although Allen is a local politician who lives a couple miles from my house, he can't produce any local examples. "Go on the internet," he recommends. "Some time when you've got a week to spare," he jokes, "just go on the internet. You'll see."

Actually, I go on the internet every day. But I'm obviously searching for different things. For Allen, the web is just the largest repository in history of urban myths. The internet is even better than the Bible when it comes to spreading unverifiable, unrefutable stories. And urban myths are political realities. Remember, it was an urban myth (an invented court case about a sex education teacher gang-raped by her own students who, when she protested, laughed and said: "But we're just doing what you taught us!") that all but killed sex education in America.

Since Allen couldn't give me a single example of the homosexual equivalent of 9/11, I gave him some. This autumn the University of Alabama theatre department put on an energetic revival of A Chorus Line, which includes, besides "tits and ass", a prominent gay solo number. Would Allen's bill prevent university students from performing A Chorus Line? It isn't that he's against the theatre, Allen explains. "But why can't you do something else?" (They have done other things, of course. But I didn't think it would be a good idea to mention their sold-out productions of Angels in America and The Rocky Horror Show.)

Cutting off funds to theatre departments that put on A Chorus Line or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof may look like censorship, and smell like censorship, but "it's not censorship", Allen hastens to explain. "For instance, there's a reason for stop lights. You're driving a vehicle, you see that stop light, and I hope you stop." Who can argue with something as reasonable as stop lights? Of course, if you're gay, this particular traffic light never changes to green.

It would not be the first time Cat on a Hot Tin Roof ran into censorship. As Nicholas de Jongh documents in his amusingly appalling history of government regulation of the British theatre, the British establishment was no more enthusiastic, half a century ago, than Alabama's Allen. "Once again Mr Williams vomits up the recurring theme of his not too subconscious," the Lord Chamberlain's Chief Examiner wrote in 1955. In the end, it was first performed in London at the New Watergate Club, for "members only", thereby slipping through a loophole in the censorship laws.

But more than one gay playwright is at a stake here. Allen claims he is acting to "encourage and protect our culture". Does "our culture" include Shakespeare? I ask Allen if he would insist that copies of Shakespeare's sonnets be removed from all public libraries. I point out to him that Romeo and Juliet was originally performed by an all-male cast, and that in Shakespeare's lifetime actors and audiences at the public theatres were all accused of being "sodomites". When Romeo wished he "was a glove upon that hand", the cheek that he fantasised about kissing was a male cheek. Next March the Alabama Shakespeare festival will be performing a new production of As You Like It, and its famous scene of a man wooing another man. The Alabama Shakespeare Festival is also the State Theatre of Alabama. Would Allen's bill cut off state funding for Shakespeare?

"Well," he begins, after a pause, "the current draft of the bill does not address how that is going to be handled. I expect details like that to be worked out at the committee stage. Literature like Shakespeare and Hammet [sic] could be left alone." Could be. Not "would be". In any case, he says, "you could tone it down". That way, if you're not paying real close attention, even a college graduate like Allen himself "could easily miss" what was going on, the "subtle" innuendoes and all.

So he regards his gay book ban as a work in progress. His legislation is "a single spoke in the wheel, it doesn't resolve all the issues". This is just the beginning. "To turn a big ship around it takes a lot of time."

But make no mistake, the ship is turning. You can see that on the face of Cornelius Carter, a professor of dance at Alabama and a prize-winning choreographer who, not long ago, was named university teacher of the year for the entire US. Carter is black. He is also gay, and tired of fighting these battles. "I don't know," he says, "if I belong here any more."

Forty years ago, the American defenders of "our culture" and "traditional values" were opposing racial integration. Now, no politician would dare attack Cornelius Carter for being black. But it's perfectly acceptable to discriminate against people for what they do in bed.

"Dig a hole," Gerald Allen recommends, "and dump them in it."

Of course, Allen was talking about books. He was just talking about books. He never said anything about pink triangles.

Comment: Yes, dig a hole. And dump them in it, which now applies to books, may soon apply to those who write them or who live outside of the fantasy land of fundamentalist morality where it is fine to kill people in Iraq but a blight on God to perform Tennessee Williams.

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Careful Not to Get Too Much Education...Or You Could Turn Liberal
by Dr. Teresa Whitehurst
CommonDreams.org
Published on Tuesday, December 28, 2004 by CommonDreams.org
I've been giving a lot of thought lately to a conversation I overheard at a Starbucks in Nashville last winter. It was a cold and rainy night as I worked away at my laptop, but the comforting aroma of cappuccino kept me going. My comfort was interrupted, however, by two young men who sat down in upholstered chairs near my table. One was talking, the other listening, in what appeared to be an informal college orientation.

"The only trouble with David Lipscomb (a conservative Christian college nearby) is that old man Lipscomb apparently didn't like football. So we don't have a football team, but we have a great faculty."

"But you do have to be careful about one thing," he said more quietly, coming closer and speaking in hushed tones, "My professor-I have this great professor-told me that you have to be careful not to get too much education, because you could lose your foundation, your core values."

The neophyte nodded solemnly, his eyebrows raised with worry.

"If you get a bachelors," the seasoned student reassured, "you'll probably be okay. But my professor said that when you get a master's, and definitely if you go beyond that, you can lose your values. He said that college students have to be watchful because if you get too much education, you could turn LIBERAL. He's seen it happen to a lot of good Christians."

Both young men looked around again to make sure no-one was listening (unfortunately my hearing is excellent, even when I wish it weren't), and shuddered visibly. They shook their heads at the terrifying fate that could befall them.

I found it hard to concentrate after that, my mind returning again and again to one question: "What would happen to higher education in America if this fear of "too much education", and this presumption that liberal views are the devil's snare rather than the logical consequences of exposure to science, philosophy, literature and diversity, became widespread?"

Sadly, it has already happened, and is growing on college campuses across the US. A recent article by Justin Pope, "Conservatives Flip Academic Freedom Debate: Liberal professors are accused of attempting to indoctrinate students. But some teachers say pupils are trying to avoid new ideas." (AP, 12/25/04) describes this anti-liberal movement, weakly disguised as "balancing" their courses with conservative views:

"Leading the movement is Students for Academic Freedom, with chapters on 135 campuses and close ties to David Horowitz, a onetime liberal campus activist turned conservative commentator. The group posts student complaints on its website about alleged episodes of grading bias and unbalanced, anti-American propaganda by professors - often in classes.

"Instructors "need to make students aware of the spectrum of scholarly opinion," Horowitz said. "You can't get a good education if you're only getting half the story."" The "other half" of the story may not be factual, however, but doctrinal. As the young man in Starbucks said just before he and the incoming freshman got up to leave,

"Even at Lipscomb, you have to be careful what you pay attention to. My professor said that a few faculty members might lead you astray without meaning to, by bringing in ideas that aren't biblical. He said that if you're ever taught anything that sounds questionable, you should talk about it with your minister to see if it's right."

Even as a Christian raised in the evangelical tradition, this shocked me. I suppose it shouldn't have; the Southern Baptist Convention recently considered a proposal to urge all parents to pull their children out of public schools to prevent their exposure to "non-biblical ideas" which, as it happens, run rampant in fields like medicine, physics, archeology, literature, philosophy, history, astronomy, psychology, theology-in short, everything.

What will happen to that innovative American spirit if radical "conservatives" have their way with our educational system? How will the US fare in the global marketplace when certain ideas, or entire fields, become off-limits to students who've been indoctrinated to consult their ministers before learning new information?

What will happen to medical research, for instance, if this movement proceeds to its logical conclusion: outlawing the scientific method, a method notorious for not relying on biblical principles?

I fear men like Horowitz because uncensored education is essential to our democracy, our people's well-being and the nation's long-term survival. The "conservative" movement that he's spearheading reminds me of the news reports coming out of Iran in the months just prior to the conservative religious takeover of that country when its professors were warned to present the "correct" views in class.

This movement pretends to be about "balancing" liberal with conservative views, but the reality is a lot uglier than that. As the conversation I overheard suggests, this movement isn't about balance, it's about censorship-or even better, self-censorship that's easily achieved by frightening students with social rejection, hellfire or both. Either way, scholarship is degraded in the process. According to the article, "many educators, while agreeing that students should never feel bullied, worry that they just want to avoid exposure to ideas that challenge their core beliefs - an essential part of education. Some also fear that teachers will shy away from sensitive topics or fend off criticism by "balancing" their syllabuses with opposing viewpoints, even if they represent inferior scholarship."

Whether through self-censorship or junk education, our country's children are paying the price for the political aggression of the far right. Robert Frost once wrote, "Education is the ability listen to almost anything without losing your temper."

Tempers are short in today's radical "conservative" America, and the emboldened radical right is in no mood to listen to anyone.

Dr. Teresa Whitehurst is a clinical psychologist, author of Jesus on Parenting (2004) and coauthor of The Nonviolent Christian Parent (2004). She offers parenting workshops, holds discussion groups on Nonviolent Christianity, and writes the column, "Democracy, Faith and Values: Because You Shouldn't Have to Choose Just One", which is posted on her website, wwww.JesusontheFamily.org

Comment: It is all of a piece -- the Right has been working hard for decades to implement its fascist, theocratic coup d'état in the US. It looks like it has succeeded. Two stolen presidential elections in a row, and the dissenting voices are turn in derision, ignored by the mass media who prefer shots of Bush in his new "Commander-in-Chief" jacket.

Sieg heil!

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Bush and the Tsunami
Juan Cole
The transcript of President George W. Bush's remarks on the Tsunami is now available. After days of silence and invisibility, Bush finally came out on Wednesday to address perhaps the greatest natural disaster of our times.

He said he had called four heads of state to express his condolences and was coordinating with other countries, and was sending some military logistical help, along with the $35 million in aid now promised (initially it was $15).
QUESTION: Mr. President, were you offended by the suggestion that rich nations have been stingy in the aid over the tsunami? Is this a sign of another rift with the U.N.?

BUSH: Well, I felt like the person who made that statement was very misguided and ill-informed.

Take, for example, in the year 2004, our government provided $2.4 billion in food, in cash, in humanitarian relief to cover the disasters for last year. That's $2.4 billion. That's 40 percent of all the relief aid given in the world last year was provided by the United States government. We're a very generous, kind-hearted nation, and, you know, what you're beginning to see is a typical response from America.
First of all, we provide immediate cash relief to the tune of about $35 million. And then there will be an assessment of the damage so that the next tranche of relief will be spent wisely. That's what's happening now.

Just got off the phone with the president of Sri Lanka. She asked for help to assess the damage. In other words, not only did they want immediate help, but they wanted help to assess damage so that we can better direct resources. And so our government is fully prepared to continue to provide assistance and help.

It takes money, by the way, to move an expeditionary force into the region. We're diverting assets, which is part of our overall aid package. We'll continue to provide assets. Plus the American people will be very generous themselves. I mean, the $2.4 billion was public money, of course provided by the taxpayers.

But there is also a lot of individual giving in America . . .
This entire spiel was very well rehearsed and mostly wrong.

As The Guardian notes,
Jan Egeland - the United Nations' emergency relief coordinator and former head of the Norwegian Red Cross... question[ed] the generosity of rich nations. "We were more generous when we were less rich, many of the rich countries,'' Egeland said Monday. "And it is beyond me, why are we so stingy, really. ... Even Christmas time should remind many Western countries at least how rich we have become.'' Egeland told reporters the next day that his complaint wasn't directed at any one nation.
So Egeland had not in fact singled out the United States. He was talking about the 30 richest countries generally.

Second, Bush is an MBA, so he knows very well the difference between absolute numbers and per capita ones. Let's see, Australia offered US $27 million in aid for victims of the tsunami. Australia's population is about 20 million. Its gross domestic product is about $500 billion per year. Surely anyone can see that Australia's $27 million is far more per person than Bush's $35 million. Australia's works out to $1.35 per person. The US contribution as it now stands is about 9 cents per person. So, yes, the US is giving more in absolute terms. But on a per person basis, it is being far more stingy so far. And Australians are less wealthy than Americans, making on average US $25,000 per year per person, whereas Americans make $38,000 per year per person. So even if Australians and Americans were both giving $1.35 per person, the Australians would be making the bigger sacrifice. But they aren't both giving $1.35; the Bush administration is so far giving an American contribution of nine cents a person.

The apparent inability of the American public to do basic math or to understand the difference between absolute numbers and proportional ones helps account for why Bush's crazy tax cut schemes have been so popular. Americans don't seem to realize that Bush gave ordinary people checks for $300 or $600, but is giving billionnaires checks for millions. A percentage cut across the board results in far higher absolute numbers for the super-wealthy than for the fast food workers. But, well, if people like being screwed over, then that is their democratic right.

Bush's underlining of the $2.5 billion he says the United States gave in emergency humanitarian aid last year annoyed the hell out of me. He said it was 40% of such monies given by the industrialized world. But the US is the world's largest economy, and neither on a per capita basis nor as a percentage of GDP is that very much money. Bush said "billion" as though it were an astronomical sum. But he spends a billion dollars a week in Iraq, without batting an eye. That's right. Two weeks of his post-war war in Iraq costs as much as everything the US spent on emergency humanitarian assistance in 2003 for all the countries in the world.

One reader wrote in,
If the US didn't have 150,000 troops bogged down in Iraq with hundreds of thousands more either winding down from or preparing for deployment, just think of how many lives we could be saving right this instant by putting hundreds of thousands of the most mobile and most efficient airlift, sealift, rapid emergency management, and medical forces in the world to work throughout the Indian Ocean Basin (and for a fraction of the cost of the war). Instead we're barely managing a couple warships and 15,000 or so troops, a fraction of what we might have done if the Administration had their priorities straight. Opportunity cost may seem like an abstract economic principle, but it seems there's nothing quite like the most devastating tidal wave in human history to make it crystal clear. Bush's War is now costing lives in Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, the Maldives, etc, etc, etc.
The US Federal budget in 2004 consists of about $1.8 trillion in receipts and $2.3 trillion in expenditures. The 2003 official development assistance budget was $15 billion (a very large portion of which goes to countries that don't need the assistance, and is given for strategic reasons). That is about 0.14 percent of the US GDP. Norway, in contrast, spends $2 billion a year on humanitarian assistance, which comes to almost a full 1.0 percent of its GDP. This is the sort of thing that drove Egeland to make his remark. He was even complaining about Norway, which is several times more virtuous than the US on a per capita basis in this regard.

Bush fears the tsunami for two big reasons. If the US government really stepped up to the plate, Bush would not be able to argue for making his tax cuts for the rich permanent.

And, the world public has just seen on its television screens the sort of disasters we can expect if Bush's denial of global warming continues as US policy. So he has to fall back on silly arguments from meaningless absolute numbers and on vague hopes for private giving. The tsunami says that government is needed to help people. That's not what Bush wants the US public to believe. But the tsunami is bigger than Bush.

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Muslim Conspiracy Theories
By Steven Stalinsky
MEMRI | December 30, 2004

The following article is the fourth in a series highlighting recent conspiracy theories from the Middle East. Following up on the previous reports from the summer and fall, conspiracies have continued to abound, specifically on such issues as: blaming the U.S. for 9/11; accusing "Zionists" of spreading AIDS; claiming that Abu Musab Al-Zarwaqi is an American propaganda invention; saying that the CIA is writing sermons for Egyptian imams and that the Jews are re-writing the Koran; and more recently, accusing Israel of killing Yasser Arafat.

Conspiracy theories surrounding Iraq have been especially popular - in fact, MEMRI has been the subject of several. For example, Hizbullah’s Al-Manar TV broadcast a program about MEMRI’s alleged activities in Iraq, claiming that MEMRI is commanding “Zionist squads specializing in car bombs.”  Iranian TV channel 1 claimed that MEMRI was responsible for the bombing of Iraqi oil fields.
 
One of the most popular conspiracies about Iraq deals with claims of Jewish/Israeli/Zionist involvement in terror attacks and fighting Iraqis.  For example, in a sermon broadcast on Sudan TV on September 19, Sheik 'Abd Al-Jalil Al-Karouri preached, “There are currently 1,000 Jewish soldiers in Falluja. Among them are 37 rabbis. The rabbis raise the morale among the Jewish soldiers fighting in Fallujah. So America is fighting for Israel… The Jews came to conduct urban warfare on behalf of America, and America is supporting them in exchange.”
 
Iran's Mehr News Agency published an article on October 5, explaining that “Israeli commandos played an active role in the occupying forces’ attacks on Najaf, Sadr City…  Falluja, and some areas in Tikrit, Ramadi, and Baqubah.”  The article added, “Israelis have taken over some military operations… According to certain reports, there are over 200 Zionist troops in Iraq dressed in U.S. Army uniforms…”
 

Similarly, Iran’s Al-‘Alam TV broadcast an interview with Jordanian MP Dr. ‘Adnan Hasouna on October 28, in which he claimed that the Mossad is responsible for attacks in Iraq: “The Israeli Mossad, the Jewish Mossad, and others strive to distort the image of Islam by striking the National Guard soldiers and civilians.”
 
The December 2nd edition of the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported that Mohamed Selim El-Awwa, a prominent Egyptian Islamist and Secretary-General of the International Association of Muslim Scholars (IAMS), claimed that the Iraqi resistance had been infiltrated by "Zionist and international intelligence services." El-Awwa explained that Muslims would not decapitate a hostage. “It is no coincidence that decapitations or the brutal killing of innocent hostages always occur just after a scandal exposing the violations of the occupation forces.”
 
In the Saudi daily Arab News on September 7th, Hassan Tahsin wrote an article titled “Danger Of Israeli Presence In Iraq.”  Tahsin alleged that there is a Jewish conspiracy to make another Jewish state in Iraq: “… Is this the fulfillment of the Zionist dream to create a Jewish state from the Nile to the Euphrates?… Those who follow what is happening in Iraq will see that Israel has a hand in the country. Mossad, its secret service, has many operation centers both in Baghdad and in other major cities in Iraq; their job is to organize terrorist activities to guarantee that Iraq remains unstable… "
 
According to Iraq’s Al-Zaman newspaper, a report on September 21st detailed that the Saudi Royal Family’s Muslim World League “accused Zionist and Christian Evangelist organizations of infiltrating Iraq to introduce programs to Iraqi youth in order to weaken their Islamic and national sentiments.” 
 
However, the most popular conspiracy about Christians in Iraq has to do with the bombing of churches.  In an October 18 article published by Iran’s Mehr News Agency, Hassan Hanizadeh wrote, “The criminals who bombed the churches in Baghdad were trying to create a religious crisis in Iraq, and the Zionists definitely have great experience in creating religious conflicts… Bearing in mind the goals of the bombers, it can be concluded that these terrorists most likely have some connection with Israeli intelligence agencies…”
 
A November 12th sermon by Hizballah Leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah on Al-Manar TV explained the CIA and the Mossad are responsible for church bombings: “Examine very carefully those who blow up the churches… You will discover that some of these groups are run by the CIA … the Mossad…”
 
Writing in Al-Hayat on December 12, columnist George Haddad similarly explained, “During a few weeks only, a third wave of outrageous bombing of Christian churches occurred in Iraq… If we look at these crimes from a criminal investigation point of view, and ask who is benefiting from these attacks, it would not be difficult to discover that the American occupation, international Zionism, and Israel get the real benefits from such attacks.”
 
In addition to blaming the CIA for attacking Iraqi churches, a conspiracy which appeared on the Islamist website Islam Online on November 10 reported that “the U.S. occupation troops are gassing resistance fighters and confronting them with internationally-banned chemical weapons.”  The article added, “The U.S. troops have sprayed chemical and nerve gases on resistance fighters, turning them hysteric in a heartbreaking scene… Some Fallujah residents have been further burnt beyond treatment by poisonous gases.”
 
It should be noted that while conspiracy theories continue to be rampant in the Middle East, Arab reformists and progressives have spoken out against them.  For more information on this rising phenomenon, visit MEMRI’s Reform Project at www.memri.org/reform. 

Comment: We are grateful to the author above for going through the trouble to compile the numerous reports from Arabic news channels that detail the involvement of Israeli and American secret service in many of the attacks routinely blamed on so-called insurgents.

Interestingly, it seems the author believes as if merely by labeling such stories as "conspiracy theories" is enough to discount the lot of them entirely. Notice he gives no evidence or proof that these conspiracies are false, but just by calling them conspiracy theories he dismisses all of them out of hand, as if the mere thought of such ideas is beyond examination.

The editors here at Signs of the Times feel that many of the above allegations have a high probability of being true, judging of course by the documented past behaviour of such organizations and by looking clearly at who benefits from such attacks.

We are left to conclude that the above story is a prime example of damage control by either a willing dupe or perhaps conscious representative of the powers-that-be in order to marginalise and debunk any report of events that contradict the "official version". Given that MEMRI is the offspring of Israeli intelligence, we have our doubts that it is the first explanation.

The mainstream press propagates the lie, while professional debunkers are left to deal with those who document the truth.

Judging by the almost complete silence and non-reaction from the rest of the world, who don't even get a chance to consider the other side of the story before it is ridiculed, it seems this strategy works extremely well.

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Dozens dead as Iraq rebels clash with US forces, bomb house explodes
30 December 2004 0623 hrs
- AFP

BAGHDAD : Pitched battles between US troops and Iraqi insurgents in strife-torn Mosul left 25 dead and another 30 people were killed when a Baghdad house rigged with explosives blew up during a police raid.

Despite the volatile security situation, US President George W. Bush insisted Iraq's landmark national elections must go ahead, while a hardline Islamist militant group reiterated its intention to cause bloodshed on the January 30 polling day.

In Mosul, insurgents detonated car bombs against a US patrol and a combat outpost and then about 50 fighters launched an assault on the outpost, firing small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars, the military said.

US forces called in air strikes and at least 25 insurgents were killed, said Lieutenant Colonel Paul Hastings.

Masked gunmen were seen running down Mosul's deserted streets, firing off guns and rocket-propelled grenades, as a column of smoke shot up into the sky, an AFP correspondent reported.

Violence has paralysed the city of 1.5 million people, where US forces are expected to increase their numbers ahead of the January 30 elections for an Iraqi national parliament.

As the clock ticks down to the election, doubts loom over whether US and Iraqi forces can pacify cities like Mosul, a bastion of the Sunni Muslim minority whose alienation from the US-backed political order is fueling the lethal insurgency.

The Iraqi government earlier Wednesday hailed the capture in Mosul of a militant linked to Al-Qaeda operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has a 25-million-dollar price on his head.

The government identified the fighter as 33-year-old Abu Marwan, a senior commander with Mosul-based Abu Talha groups, which the government said was linked to the Jordanian-born Zarqawi.

The deaths raised to 98 the number of people killed in Iraq in a span of 48 hours as insurgents carried out a series of brazen attacks Tuesday on police stations and checkpoints north of Baghdad in the Sunni Muslim heartland.

Apparently lured into a trap, police raided a home in Baghdad's squalid western Ghazaliya district late Tuesday, and were still inside when a massive blast leveled the house, an interior ministry official said.

Thirty people died, six of them police, the ministry said. Another 25 were wounded, including four policemen, and four police were listed as missing.

Officials said a Sudanese drew them towards the house by firing at neighbours. However, a witness said the man had actually threatened to blow up the home if police entered.

Neighbor Mohammed Ali Hassan Awad, 21, said the Sudanese man "climbed to the roof and threatened to blow up the house if they entered", suggesting the Iraqi police were aware of the danger.

Ambulances rushed victims to hospital as rescuers sifted through the rubble of the house and neighbouring dwellings looking for survivors. Police and army sealed off the site.

The attack resembled those in Fallujah during last month's US-led offensive on the city, where rebels rigged homes to blow up on ground troops.

The US army estimated that up to 900 kilograms (1,980 pounds) of explosives were used in the blast.

"What kind of Muslim stores these kinds of explosives in the middle of innocent civilians," neighbour Omar Hussein demanded in rage.

In other unrest, an Iraqi businessman, a female engineer working for the US military and a Turkish truck driver were killed in separate attacks to the north of Baghdad, police said. [...]

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U.S. Launches Offensive After Iraq Ambush
By DUSAN STOJANOVIC
Associated Press Writer
Published December 29, 2004, 5:16 PM CST

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- U.S. forces launched a new offensive Wednesday against insurgents in an area south of the capital dubbed the "triangle of death," while militants ambushed an elite Iraqi police unit in a Baghdad neighborhood known for its loyalty to ousted dictator Saddam Hussein, killing 29 people, most of them civilians.

The militants set off a huge explosion in the staunchly Baathist neighborhood of Ghaziliya as a contingent of special police and national guards were about to raid a house late Tuesday after receiving an anonymous tip. The blast killed 22 civilians and seven officers, and damaged a dozen nearby homes, a police spokesman said.

Between 1,700 to 1,800 pounds of explosives were used in the blast, a U.S. military statement said. American and Iraqi troops searched the rubble for survivors through the night and rescued one civilian.

It was not immediately clear whether any of the casualties were guerrillas who appeared to have lured the police into the building. The area is a predominantly Sunni Muslim neighborhood where support for Saddam has traditionally been strong.

The fighting came as an insurgent group which claimed responsibility for the Dec. 21 suicide bombing of a U.S. base near Mosul -- in which 22 people were killed -- warned Iraqis not to take part in parliamentary elections scheduled for next month.

"We also warn everyone to keep away from all military targets, whether they were bases, American Zionist patrols, or the forces of the pagan guard, and police," Ansar al-Sunnah said.

The group is believed to be made up mainly of Sunnis and has focused on targeting Americans and those viewed as collaborating with them. It has avoided outright civilian targets.

The latest warning followed Monday's audiotape statement from al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden urging Iraqis to boycott the elections and praising attacks against Americans and those who cooperate with them. [...]

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Mystery jet that takes suspects for interrogation
December 29, 2004

The aircraft is a Gulfstream V turbojet of the sort favoured by tycoons and celebrities.

Since September 11, 2001, it has been seen at military airports from Pakistan to Indonesia to Jordan, sometimes being boarded by hooded and handcuffed passengers.

The plane's owner of record, Premier Executive Transport Services Inc, lists directors and officers who appear to exist only on paper. Each one of those directors and officers has a recently issued US social security number and an address consisting only of a post office box.

They are "sterile identities" the CIA uses to conceal involvement in clandestine operations. In this case, the CIA is flying captured terrorist suspects from one country to another for detention and interrogation - an activity it calls "rendition".

The Gulfstream helps make all this possible. Since September 11, 2001, secret renditions have become a principal weapon in the CIA's arsenal against suspected al-Qaeda terrorists.

Airport officials, documents and amateur plane spotters say the Gulfstream V has been used to whisk detainees in or out of Jakarta, Pakistan, Egypt and Sweden, usually at night.

Morton Sklar, of the World Organisation for Human Rights, said rights groups are working on legal challenges to renditions because one of their purposes is to transfer captives to countries that use harsh interrogation methods outlawed in the US.

The CIA has the authority to carry out renditions under a presidential directive dating back to the Clinton administration, which the Bush Administration has since reviewed and renewed.

The story of the Gulfstream began to unravel less than six weeks after the September 11 attacks. On October 26 that year, Masood Anwar, a Pakistani journalist, broke a story that claimed Pakistani intelligence had handed over to US authorities a Yemeni microbiologist, Jamil Qasim Saeed Mohammed, who was wanted in connection with the October 2000 bombing of the warship USS Cole.

The report noted that an aircraft bearing the tail number N379P, and parked at Karachi airport, had whisked Mohammad away on October 23.

On December 18 men with American accents, wearing hoods and working with special Swedish security police, brought two Egyptian nationals onto a Gulfstream V that was parked at night at Stockholm's Bromma airport, Swedish officials and airport personnel said.

The account was confirmed independently by The Washington Post. The plane's tail number: N379P. The men were flown to Cairo. Later, Ahmed Agiza was convicted by Egypt's Supreme Military Court of terrorism-related charges. Muhammad Zery was set free. Both say they were tortured while in Egyptian custody. Sweden has opened an investigation into the decision to allow them to be rendered.

In January 2002, a US-registered Gulfstream V landed in Jakarta. Indonesian officials say it carried away Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni, an Egyptian travelling on a Pakistani passport who was suspected of being an al-Qaeda operative. Without a hearing, he was flown to Egypt. His status and whereabouts are unknown.

On December 1, 2002, the aircraft, complete with a new tail number, was transferred to a new owner, Bayard Foreign Marketing of Portland. Its registered agent, Scott Caplan, did not return calls.

Bayard's sole listed corporate officer, Leonard Bayard, has no residential or telephone history. His name does not appear in any other public records.

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Israel shells Palestinian refugee camp
Tuesday 28 December 2004, 23:44 Makka Time, 20:44 GMT  
AFP

Israeli occupation forces have fired tank shells into the heavily populated Khan Yunus refugee camp in southern Gaza, wounding at least 13 Palestinians.

A 13-year-old boy and a girl aged about 10 were among those injured by the shelling on Tuesday, which the Israeli military said was aimed at a source of mortar fire on the illegal Gush Khatif settlement.

The shelling was carried out by troops manning a post near the illegal Neve Dekalim colony and came several hours after a failed Israeli air strike on a car carrying two Palestinian resistance fighters in the same area.

The car was targeted by a drone that fired a single rocket in the Khan Yunus region of the southern Gaza Strip, witnesses said.

Palestinian security sources said both men who fled the strike on foot were members of the Islamic Jihad movement that seeks to push Israeli occupation forces out of Gaza and the West Bank by force of arms.

Israeli security sources confirmed the strike, saying their target had been resistance members behind the firing of mortars which have become increasingly frequent in recent days.

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Israel approves anti-terror financing law
www.chinaview.cn 2004-12-30 05:24:12
JERUSALEM, Dec. 29 (Xinhuanet) -- Israeli Knesset (parliament) approved Wednesday a law prohibiting funding for families of terrorists, Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reported.

The new bill allows authorities to fight terror by targeting sources of funding.

The law, which will take effect in six months, is also meant to enable the state to take part in the international fight against sources that fund terror.

Under the new law, anyone who funds terrorists, or family of terrorists, will be considered a financier of terror, and could face a jail sentence up to seven to ten years.

The law allows Israel to seize assets of a person or a group that has been declared a terrorist organization by a third country, even if the group's activities do not target Israel or Israelis. Arab member of Knesset Wasal Taha voted against the bill, saying he could not support the bill because it failed in defining terror. He cited the Palestinian resistance against Israel as example, saying the Palestinian action against Israeli occupation was not terror.

He said the bill could also raise unjustified suspicion against humanitarian organizations.

Comment: Targeting the families of "terrorists" is against the Geneva Conventions. Of course, Israel has a long history of such laws that permit it to confiscate the land and possessions of non-Jews. Once such property is stolen by the Israeli state, it can never, under Israeli law, be returned. It can then only be given for use to Jews. It is through laws such as this that Israeli has stolen much of the land in its possession in its drive to push its border to that of Greater Israel, the long-term goal of the Zionist State.

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Saudi forces kill seven militants after car bombings: security sources
30 December 2004 0623 hrs
- AFP

RIYADH : Saudi security forces raided a house in northern Riyadh Wednesday night and killed seven militants shortly after two car bomb attacks in the Saudi capital, security men at the scene said.

Four security men were seriously wounded during the raid.

Saudi-owned Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television said the seven militants were suspected of involvement in the bombings against the interior ministry and a security forces camp that left several people wounded.

Security forces chased seven "terrorists" in the northern districts of Maseef and Taawun, the security men told AFP.

"The militants fled to a villa in the Taawun district, which was stormed by security forces who killed the seven," one said. "Four security men were gravely wounded in a shootout after storming the villa."

Security forces blocked the main access to the Taawun district, and an AFP correspondent saw three ambulances leaving the area.

The raid occurred a couple of hours after the twin car bombings, the latest in a wave of attacks by suspected Al-Qaeda militants launched in the oil-rich kingdom in May 2003.

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Moscow refuses to accept poll results
December 30, 2004
SMH

A fresh crisis in relations between Russia and the West over Ukraine has threatened to erupt after Moscow said international monitors who gave the country's presidential election a clean bill of health were not objective, just as European leaders hailed the result.

The Russian statement, the first from Moscow since the weekend's election results were announced, suggested that the Kremlin might refuse to recognise the victory of Viktor Yushchenko, who led the "orange revolution".

Ukraine's government called off a meeting at its headquarters yesterday after hundreds of demonstrators massed outside to prevent the Prime Minister, Viktor Yanukovich, the defeated candidate, from entering the building.

Mr Yushchenko had called the session illegal and urged his supporters to prevent the cabinet meeting from going ahead.

Mr Yushchenko won the election by more than 2.2 million votes, by 51.99 per cent to 44.19 per cent, the Ukrainian central election commission said.

But Mr Yanukovich has refused to concede defeat, claiming that there were huge violations and that 5 million old and sick voters could not make it to the polls because of questionable electoral regulations.

Despite a pre-election pledge by President Vladimir Putin that Moscow would recognise Sunday's poll, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry reiterated Mr Yanukovich's complaints and added that Western observers "preferred in their report not to record these facts".

An observer mission from the Commonwealth of Independent States - which is politically dominated by Russia - also reported that it had found evidence of huge electoral fraud that favoured Mr Yushchenko.

The wrangling may derail attempts to bring a swift end to Ukraine's protracted political crisis and may usher in a new crisis in already strained relations between the West and Moscow. It came despite European countries welcoming the elections. [...]

Mr Yushchenko's victory cannot be certified until the legal challenges submitted by Mr Yanukovich are ruled on, which may take several days.

Since it became clear that he was set to lose, Mr Yanukovich has accused America and western Europe of engineering his rival's victory.

He told the Russian newspaper Izvestia: "The American influence in the Ukrainian elections was systematic and planned. I consider that to be interference in Ukraine's internal affairs."

However, several ministers in the Ukrainian Government threw in their lot with Mr Yushchenko in a sign the political tide could be moving in his favour.

Meanwhile, there was speculation that Heorhiy Kyrpa, the Ukrainian Transport Minister and a successful businessman, found shot dead at his dacha on Monday, was killed by gangsters.

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What is America's top-secret spy program?
By Robert Windrem
Investigative Producer
NBC News

Experts think Democrats objected to satellite weapon

NEW YORK - What is the hush-hush intelligence project that apparently costs a fortune and has angered key Democratic senators?

Intelligence experts speculate that the highly classified endeavor is a top-secret satellite that would, or perhaps already can, intercept and shut down other countries' spy satellites.

The debate over the project leaked into the open on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, when Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, publicly complained that an unnamed spy project was "totally unjustified and very, very wasteful and dangerous to the national security." He called the program "stunningly expensive."

Rockefeller and three other Democratic senators — Richard Durbin of Illinois, Carl Levin of Michigan and Ron Wyden of Oregon — refused to sign a congressional compromise negotiated by others in the House and Senate that provides for future U.S. intelligence activities. But Rockefeller declined to discuss the precise nature of the project, saying that would have to wait until the Senate could go into closed session.

After a frenzied round of press inquiries on Thursday, Rockefeller's office released a statement saying, "Any assertion about classified intelligence programs based on Senator Rockefeller's statement is wholly speculative."

The statement, which was characterized as a clarification of Rockefeller's remarks on the Senate floor, implied that he considered the project dangerous only because it was so costly.

"Senator Rockefeller's reference to this program, which was fully vetted and approved by security officials, makes the point that continuing to fund an enormously expensive, unjustified, and wasteful program is dangerous to our national security," the statement read. "He believes these funds should be spent on other far more critical intelligence programs."

Mum's the word

Other members of the committee and spokesmen at the nation's intelligence agencies declined to comment on the controversy.

“We have no comment on classified intelligence matters,” Paul Gimigliano, the CIA’s acting director of public affairs, told NBC News.

“Since Senator Rockefeller did not specify which program was involved or even identify which agency, we are not commenting,” said Rick Oborn, director of public affairs at the National Reconnaissance Office, which manages America’s spy satellites.

But that didn't stop the speculation.  Even though much of the technology is highly classified, enough of it is out in the open that intelligence experts can comment on it, usually on condition of anonymity.

"It almost has to be a spy satellite," said Jeffrey T. Richelson, an intelligence historian who has written nearly a dozen books on spy technology. "The cost element Rockefeller talks about would indicate that."

Subtler technologies

Back in the 1990s, President Clinton helped kill earlier anti-satellite programs, also known as "asats." In those programs, U.S. satellites would take out foreign satellites using "space mines" or lasers.

But the current technology, according to intelligence experts, may be much more subtle.  There have been various programs based on the technology, some unclassified and dressed up as U.S. defensive measures, others highly classified.   One unclassified program, called the Counter Surveillance and Reconnaissance System (CSRS, pronounced "Scissors") was recently held up by Congress, according to Defense Daily. 

The program was aimed at blocking an adversary's access to commercial or government space resources.  It was one of a few concepts on the table for offensive counterspace operations, where the United States actively works to counter an adversary's access to space, said the paper.

"That program is stopped," Defense Daily quoted the Air Force Space Command's chief, Gen. Lance Lord, as saying. "The idea to look at that mission area is still open."

'Prowler' at work

The United States has long been interested in such offensive programs, launching an experimental and highly classified satellite called "Prowler" on the space shuttle Atlantis  November 1990.

Prowler stealthily maneuvered close to Russian and presumably other nations’ communications satellites in high Earth orbit, 24,000 miles (38,400 kilometers) up. These satellites are ideal targets.  They are at much higher altitudes, and thus difficult to track visually. Most of the key military satellites are in this orbit — relay satellites that transmit imagery uplinked from spy satellites, military communications satellites and electronic eavesdropping satellites that target terrestrial microwave communications.

Prowler gathered all manner of data on the high-Earth-orbit satellites: their size, measurements, radar signature, mass and the frequencies on which they relay their data.   Now experts suggest that the United States may be trying to use, or has already succeeded in using, that stealth technology to "negate" an adversary's satellite communications.

A satellite using such technology would not have to jam the other satellite's signals, strictly speaking.  Knowing how its communications systems were configured, the satellite could simply step in front of it and block its signals.  In fact, one expert said Prowler did just that in tests using U.S. communications satellites, without being detected.

How close can such a U.S. satellite get to another satellite? Within about a foot (30 centimeters), the expert said. The Prowler technology could even allow the satellite to maneuver close to the target without receiving data from Earth.  Once it came within a certain range of the target, it resorted to an internal computer program. 

Is it war?

Many in the arms control community have long worried about such an anti-satellite program, saying that, particularly in time of crisis, such an operation could be construed as a hostile act and the first phase of a space war.

"The best asat is not a weapon that detonates next to an enemy satellite," said William E. Burrows of New York University, author of "Deep Black," a book on spy satellites. "Instead, it would be a signal that would tell the satellite to take the rest of the afternoon off."

Sending even defensive satellite weapons into orbit could start an arms race in space, warned John Pike, a defense analyst with GlobalSecurity.org, who has studied anti-satellite weapons for more than three decades. Pike said other countries would inevitably demand proof that any weapons were only defensive.

"It would present just absolutely insurmountable verification problems, because we are not going to let anybody look at our spy satellites," Pike said. "It is just not going to happen."

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Plane crashes near Roswell, New Mexico, killing pilot
Associated Press
December 28, 2004

ROSWELL, N.M. - Federal authorities were called in to investigate the crash of a single-engine airplane here that went down shortly after takeoff, killing the pilot.

State police identified the pilot as 21-year-old Joseph Hudgens of Roswell.

The Cessna 172 took off from a Roswell airport and crashed about 20 miles west of the city Monday evening, Deputy Chief Richard Newman said.

Department of Public Safety spokesman Peter Olson said Tuesday that National Transportation Safety Board investigators were headed to the crash site in southeastern New Mexico.

The crash occurred just off U.S. 70. Fuel spilled onto the highway and forced the temporary closure of westbound lanes. One lane reopened by late Monday night, but the other remained closed early Tuesday.

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The Year the Earth Fought Back
By SIMON WINCHESTER
Published: December 29, 2004

London — LIKE two bookends of calamity, earthquakes at Bam in Iran and off Sumatra in Indonesia have delineated a year of unusual seismic ferocity - a year, one might say, of living dangerously. Twelve months, almost to the very hour, before Sunday's extraordinary release of stress at the India-Burma tectonic plate boundary, a similar jolt at the boundary of the Arabian and the Eurasian Plates devastated one of the most celebrated of Persian caravan cities. The televised images of Bam's collapsed citadel and the sight of thousands of bodies being carried from the desert ruins haunted the world then just as the images of the drowned around the shores of the Bay of Bengal do today.

But that has not been the half of it. True, these two disasters were, in terms of their numbers of casualties, by far the most lethal. But in the 12 months that separated them, there have been many other ruinous and seismically ominous events, occurring in places that seem at first blush to be entirely disconnected.

This year just ending - which the all-too-seismically-aware Chinese will remind us has been that of the Monkey, and so generally much prone to terrestrial mischief - has seen killer earthquakes in Morocco in February and Japan's main island of Honshu in October. The Japan temblor left us with one widely published image - of a bullet-train, derailed and lying on its side - that was, in its own way, an augury of a very considerable power: no such locomotive had ever been brought low before, and the Japanese were properly vexed by its melancholy symbolism.

In America, too, this year there have been some peculiar signs. Not only has Mount St. Helens been acting up in the most serious fashion since its devastating eruption of May 1980, but on one bright mid-autumn day in California this year the great San Andreas Fault, where the North American and Pacific Plates rub alongside one another, ruptured. It was on Sept. 28, early in the morning, near the town of Parkfield - where, by chance, a deep hole was being drilled directly down into the fault by geologists to try to discern the fault's inner mysteries.

The rupture produced a quake of magnitude 6.0 - and though it did not kill anyone, it frightened millions, not least the government scientists who have the fault in their care. They had expected this particular quake to have occurred years beforehand - and had thought a seismic event so unlikely at the time that most were at a conference in Chicago when it happened. They rushed home, fascinated to examine their instruments, but eager also to allay fears that their drilling had anything to do with the tremors.

As every American schoolchild knows, the most notorious rupture of this same fault occurred nearly a century ago, at 5:12 a.m. on April 18, 1906 - an occurrence now known around the world as the great San Francisco Earthquake. An entire city, a monument to the hopes and dreams of America's westward expansion, was destroyed by a mere 40 seconds of shaking. It was an occurrence possessed of a historical significance that may well be matched by the tragedy now unfolding on the far side of the world.

But, curiously, it turns out that there were many other equally momentous seismic events taking place elsewhere in the world in 1906 as well. Ten weeks before the San Francisco quake there was one of magnitude 8.2 on the frontier between Colombia and Ecuador; then on Feb. 16 there was a violent rupture under the Caribbean island of St. Lucia;then on March 1, 200 people were killed by an earthquake on Formosa; and then, to pile Pelion upon Ossa, Mt. Vesuvius in Italy erupted, killing hundreds.

But even then it wasn't over. The grand finale of the year's seismic upheaval took place in Chile in August, a quake that all but destroyed the port of Valparaiso. Twenty thousand people were killed. Small wonder that the Chinese, who invented the seismograph and who tend to take the long view of all historical happenings, note in their writings that 1906 was a highly unusual Year of the Fire Horse, when devastating consequences are wont to abound, worldwide.

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Western coast of N.America faces major Tsunami, Canadian scientists predict
www.chinaview.cn 2004-12-30 05:15:27
OTTAWA, Dec. 29 (Xinhuanet) -- Canadian scientists say devastating tsunami that cost so many lives and caused so much destruction in southeast Asia could happen in the northwestern coastal areas in Canada and the United States.

"We know that earthquakes of this type occur right off of our coast", research scientist John Cassidy of the Geological Survey of Canada told Canadian Television Wednesday.

"What we are trying to understand is how the ground will shake in Vancouver and Victoria during our future earthquake," he said.

Under the water off the west coast of North America, massive pressure is building up in the Cascadia Subduction Zone. The release causes earthquakes. Eventually, British Columbia will be hit by the big one.

Bob Bugslag, director of British Columnbia's Provincial Emergency Program, told the Canadian Press that communities in the coastal areas in the province are at risk from tsunamis. If a major earthquake happened off the coast, coastal communities would have about 3 hours warning.

"We are on the Pacific Rim and the entire area is very vulnerable to tsunamis," said Bugslag. The earthquake in Alaska had a devastating impact on B.C. The Vancouver Island community of Port Alberni was swamped by a tsunami triggered by the powerful quake. The tidal wave destroyed everything in its path. Amazingly, no one was killed or even seriously injured. That quake and the one is south Asia this week were remarkably similar and provide scientists with a rare opportunity to understand their power, Canadian scientists say.

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Deluge tops list of Canada's Top 10 weather events
Last Updated Wed, 29 Dec 2004 23:12:39 EST

OTTAWA - The July storm system that sent hail and rain pounding down on Edmonton and flooded homes in Peterborough , Ont., leads the list of the Top 10 weather stories of 2004, released Wednesday by Environment Canada.

In fact, that weather system took two spots on the annual list prepared by senior climatologist David Phillips.

Phillips chose the July 11 Edmonton deluge as the top weather event of 2004 because of its intensity and drama.

Hailstones the size of golf balls briefly gave the city a Christmas-like appearance, and 15 cm of rain caused flooding and forced the evacuation of the West Edmonton Mall.

The Peterborough flooding triggered by the same continent-wide weather system ranked fourth on Phillips's list.

About 24 cm of rain drenched the Ont ario town on July 15, leading to widespread damage.

The "White Juan" blizzard that paralysed parts of the Maritimes on Feb. 19 and left Halifax buried under a metre of snow took the No. 2 spot on the list.

The storm was accompanied by winds of up to 124 km/h, which qualify as hurricane force.

"Our reputation as a winter people has been maintained," Phillips told one interviewer.

In third place was the unusually cool, wet summer that much of the country experienced.

Phillips credited that chill with giving Canada the only "good-news" weather event on his list: a halt in the spread of West Nile disease, which took the No. 10 spot.

The disease is spread by mosquitoes , but insect numbers were way down because of the cold temperatures, Phillips said.

Other weather events on the list:

  • Fires and hot weather plaguing British Columbia and the Yukon, in fifth place.
  • A nationwide deep freeze in January, during which Key Lake, Sask., was officially the coldest place on Earth one night with a temperature of –52.6 C, in sixth place.
  • The Aug. 20 frost that destroyed $1-billion worth of crops in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, in seventh place.
  • An early winter storm that buried the Maritimes in up to 62 cm of snow on Nov. 13-14, in eighth place.
  • Spring snow on the Prairies that left some places covered with almost 50 cm on May 11, in ninth place.

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Volcano erupts in Andaman Islands
From correspondents in Port Blair
December 30, 2004
INDIA's last active volcano, in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, has erupted in the aftermath of the earthquake that set off tsunamis killing thousands of people, official sources said today.

People have been evacuated from Barren Island since the eruption began on Tuesday night and there are no reports of injury.

Lava was flowing out of the rim of the crater, which towers above the Indian Ocean, the sources said.

Tourists used to visit by boat and the island has a police station.

The volcano, known as Barren 1, is located 135km north-east of the capital Port Blair and last erupted in 1996.

It runs about 150 fathoms under the sea and usually gives off smoke.

M M Mukherjee of the Geological Survey of India said the volcano presented little real danger.

"The risk is minimised because it is surrounded by the sea so if at all there is a lava flow it will roll off into the sea," he said.

The Andamans has reported a series of major aftershocks daily since the massive undersea earthquake off Sumatra.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are located near a zone of intense tectonic activity.

A second volcano, called Narcondam and considered dormant, lies close to Barren Island, which also erupted in 1991 after more than a century of inactivity.

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