Friday, February 17, 2006

Experts Claim Official 9/11 Story is a Hoax

 

 

Scholars for 9/11 Truth call for verification and publication by an international consortium.

Duluth, MN (PRWEB) January 30, 2006 -- A group of distinguished experts and scholars, including Robert M. Bowman, James H. Fetzer, Wayne Madsen, John McMurtry, Morgan Reynolds, and Andreas von Buelow, have concluded that senior government officials have covered up crucial facts about what really happened on 9/11.

They have joined with others in common cause as members of "Scholars for 9/11 Truth" (S9/11T), because they are convinced, based on their own research, that the administration has been deceiving the nation about critical events in New York and Washington, D.C.

These experts suggest these events may have been orchestrated by elements within the administration to manipulate Americans into supporting policies at home and abroad they would never have condoned absent "another Pearl Harbor."

They believe that this White House is incapable of investigating itself and hope the possibility that Congress might hold an unaccountable administration accountable is not merely naive or wishful thinking.

They are encouraging news services around the world to secure scientific advice by taking advantage of university resources to verify or to falsify their discoveries. Extraordinary situations, they believe, require extraordinary measures.

If this were done, they contend, one of the great hoaxes of history would stand naked before the eyes of the world and its perpetrators would be clearly exposed, which may be the only hope for saving this nation from ever greater abuse.

They hope this might include The New York Times, which, in their opinion, has repeatedly failed to exercise the leadership expecedt from our nation's newspaper of record by a series of inexplicable lapses. It has failed to vigorously investigate tainted elections, lies leading to the war in Iraq, or illegal NSA spying on the American people, major unconstitutional events. In their view, The Times might compensate for its loss of stature by helping to reveal the truth about one of the great turning-point events of modern history.

Stunning as it may be to acknowledge, they observe, the government has brought but one indictment against anyone and, to the best of their knowledge, has not even reprimanded anyone for incompetence or dereliction of duty. The official conspiracy theory--that nineteen Arab hijackers under control of one man in the wilds of Afghanistan brought this about--is unsupportable by the evidential data, which they have studied. They even believe there are good reasons for suspecting that video tapes officially attributed to Osama bin Laden are not genuine.

They have found the government's own investigiation to be severely flawed. The 9/11 Commission, designated to investigate the attack, was directed by Philip Zelikow, part of the Bush transition team in the NSA sector and the co-author of a book with Condoleezza Rice. A Bush supporter and director of national security affairs, he could hardly be expected to conduct an objective and impartial investigation.

They have discovered that The 9/11 Commission Report is replete with omissions, distortions, and factual errors, which David Ray Griffin has documented in his book, The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions. The official report, for example, entirely ignores the collapse of WTC7, a 47-story building, which was hit by no airplanes, was only damaged by a few small fires, and fell seven hours after the attack.

Here are some of the kinds of considerations that these experts and scholar find profoundly troubling:

* In the history of structural engineering, steel-frame high-rise buildings have never been brought down due to fires either before or since 9/11, so how can fires have brought down three in one day? How is this possible?

* The BBC has reported that at least five of the nineteen alleged "hijackers" have turned up alive and well living in Saudi Arabia, yet according to the FBI, they were among those killed in the attacks. How is this possible?

* Frank DeMartini, a project manager for the WTC, said the buildings were designed with load redistribution capabilities to withstand the impact of airliners, whose effects would be like "puncturing mosquito netting with a pencil." Yet they completely collapsed. How is this possible?

* Since the melting point of steel is about 2,700*F, the temperature of jet fuel fires does not exceed 1,800*F under optimal conditions, and UL certified the steel used to 2,000*F for six hours, the buildings cannot have collapsed due to heat from the fires. How is this possible?

* Flight 77, which allegedly hit the building, left the radar screen in the vicinity of the Ohio/Kentucky border, only to "reappear" in very close proximity to the Pentagon shortly before impact. How is this possible?

* Foreign "terrorists" who were clever enough to coordinate hijacking four commercial airliners seemingly did not know that the least damage to the Pentagon would be done by hitting its west wing. How is this possible?

* Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, in an underground bunker at the White House, watched Vice President Cheney castigate a young officer for asking, as the plane drew closer and closer to the Pentagon, "Do the orders still stand?" The order cannot have been to shoot it down, but must have been the opposite. How is this possible?

* A former Inspector General for the Air Force has observed that Flight 93, which allegedly crashed in Pennsylvania, should have left debris scattered over an area less than the size of a city block; but it is scattered over an area of about eight square miles. How is this possible?

* A tape recording of interviews with air traffic controllers on duty on 9/11 was deliberately crushed, cut into very small pieces, and distributed in assorted places to insure its total destruction. How is this possible?

* The Pentagon conducted a training exercise called "MASCAL" simulating the crash of a Boeing 757 into the building on 24 October 2000, and yet Condoleezza Rice, among others, has repeatedly asserted that "no one ever imagined" a domestic airplane could be used as a weapon. How is this possible?

Their own physics research has established that only controlled demolitions are consistent with the near-gravity speed of fall and virtually symmetrical collapse of all three of the WTC buildings. While turning concrete into very fine dust, they fell straight-down into their own footprints.

These experts and scholars have found themselves obliged to conclude that the 9/11 atrocity represents an instance of the approach--which has been identified by Karl Rove, the President's closest adviser--of "creating our own reality."

LINK

Documents show Maryland held election, primary on uncertified, illegal Diebold voting machines

The Maryland State Board of Elections allowed Diebold Election Systems to operate its touch-screen voting machines during the state's 2002 gubernatorial election and the 2004 presidential primaries before the state agency actually certified the controversial machines, according to recently disclosed documents.

That is a violation of state law, according to Linda Schade, executive director of TrueVoteMD.org, an election integrity group.

Schade discovered the document among thousands of others she recently acquired through a lawsuit filed against the Maryland State Board of Elections in 2004. After almost two years of public records requests and attorney wrangling, she received four boxes filled with e-mail conversations, faxes and contracts between the elections office and Diebold.

Read On

Tory warns Bush over US 'moral defeat' as Tories seek to mend ties

William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, made a calculated critique of United States foreign policy last night, saying Washington and its allies faced a "critical erosion" of their moral authority across the globe.

In a speech in Washington, he warned the White House that loss of international goodwill over the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandals and Guantanamo Bay could prove as costly as a battlefield defeat.

Read On

From hunter to hunted; Cheney

FORGET ABOUT quail. If you're Dick Cheney, your eye should be on Scooter.

While quail-hunting last weekend, the vice president accidentally shot a friend and fellow hunter, 78-year-old Harry M. Whittington. This unfortunate event came a few days after a piece of Cheney-related news that might rattle any marksman's aim.

According to a Feb. 9 report posted by the National Journal, the vice president's former chief of staff, I. Lewis ''Scooter" Libby, told a federal grand jury he was ''authorized" by Cheney and by ''superiors" to disclose classified information about Iraq's nuclear weapons capability. A president can declassify information and a vice president has some legal leeway to do so as well. No one is suggesting any crime was committed. The implication is that information was declassified for political gain, so Libby could defend the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence.

Last October, Libby was indicted on criminal charges involving the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson. Libby was basically accused of lying about how and when he learned that Wilson was a CIA agent. The indictment specifically states that Libby ''was advised by the vice president of the United States" that Wilson worked at the Central Intelligence Agency and that ''the vice president had learned this information from the CIA."

At the time, Libby's indictment raised questions about what he would give up about Cheney and others, including Bush senior adviser Karl Rove. Would he make it easier for special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to charge someone in the Bush administration with the specific crime of leaking the identity of a covert CIA agent? Those questions remain relevant and potentially troubling for the Bush White House.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan easily dodged an inquiry about the National Journal report, saying, ''I heard about this story . . . but I think you know our policy when it comes to this ongoing legal proceeding and it hasn't changed."

It has been much harder to dodge questions about Cheney's hunting accident. Long after the hunting jokes grew stale, the vice president left it to the White House to handle the increasingly hostile media barrage.

Cheney gave his first interview on the hunting mishap four days after it took place, and after Whittington suffered a minor heart attack. Cheney told Fox News Channel yesterday: ''You can't blame anybody else. I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend."

From the start, the White House press corps focused on the usual: itself. Why, White House reporters wanted to know, did the vice president, through an intermediary, put out belated word about the shooting, first to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, instead of to the White House press corps? The question should have been: Why did it take so long for Cheney to inform the public?

But whatever the level of media haughtiness, the level of Cheney's haughtiness is hard to beat. In this case, Cheney's legendary arrogance turned into an easy metaphor for the generic arrogance of the Bush administration. Never explain, never apologize, until you are forced to, whether the matter at hand is a war gone wrong or a shot gone wrong.

In this case, Cheney also displayed contempt for President Bush, along with his well-documented contempt for the press. By stonewalling, the vice president turned a bird hunting mishap into a political albatross for the White House. That, in turn, reinforced the recurring theme of a president who is not in control of his own administration or its policies. Who's the boss? Cheney, not Bush. It gave Democrats a new line of attack, linking Cheney's penchant for secrecy to an overall pattern of secrecy in the Bush administration.

Cheney, the hunter, is now Cheney, the hunted. The media have him in their sights, with fresh ammunition thanks to the shots he accidentally fired at Whittington. As a political lame duck, he can dodge the press as he sees fit. But what about the special prosecutor? Fitzgerald's investigation is not as easily sidestepped.

When Libby was indicted, the Washington media predicted he would be too loyal to turn on his former boss. But an ex-chief of staff facing jail time and disgrace can redirect loyalty from an ex-boss to his family and himself. Libby's case is not scheduled to go to trial until January 2007. Cheney has plenty of time to find out whether Libby's loyalties run as deep as he believed or hoped.

For Cheney, ducking questions about a hunting accident could be preferable to ducking questions about Scooter Libby.

Joan Vennochi's e-mail address is vennochi@globe.com. 

LINK; 

Behind the Silence

Cheney Reveals His Power -- and Arrogance

By Eugene Robinson
Friday, February 17, 2006; A19

With all that's going on in the world -- appalling new photos from Abu Ghraib, a looming nuclear showdown with Iran, Hurricane Katrina victims being evicted from New Orleans hotels while 11,000 mobile homes sit unused in Arkansas -- isn't it time to move on from the tragicomic Cheney shooting incident?

Not just yet.

Not until we deconstruct his strange interview with Brit Hume on Fox News the other night. Fox, by the way, did as much as any media outlet to keep the Cheney story alive, first by running story after story accusing other media outlets of keeping the story alive and then by filling a whole news cycle with snippets from Hume's exclusive interview. But when Fox finally showed the whole encounter, it was compelling television.

What did we learn from the vice president's version of the shooting? Plenty.

We learned, as Cheney acknowledged, that it wasn't 78-year-old attorney Harry Whittington's fault that Cheney blasted him in the face, neck and chest with a 28-gauge shotgun. "You can't blame anybody else," the vice president said. "I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend. And I say that is something I'll never forget."

That was the substance of the interview -- Cheney confirmed something we already knew. It was the atmospherics that proved revelatory and disturbing.

Cheney is often described as the most powerful vice president in the nation's history -- he mentioned to Hume that he has the personal authority to declassify secret information, for example -- and it seems clear from his recounting of the shooting's aftermath that his authority extends far beyond White House control. He shot Whittington on Saturday afternoon and didn't bother to speak to a soul in the White House until Sunday morning. Even Karl Rove, the president's political wizard, had to get his information elsewhere -- from Katharine Armstrong, whose family owns the 50,000-acre ranch where Cheney was spending the weekend.

Cheney revealed that he didn't talk to President Bush about the shooting until Monday. Is it just me, or is that weird?

 
Yep, it is very weird.
 
It seems to me that Cheney is as "in-your-face" with Junior and Frogman Rove as he is with everyone else (except Lynne.)
 
The MSM commentators like to say that Cheney can do as he pleases because he does not plan to run for president. So, he can tell us all to go "Cheney" ourselves, including the president.
 
I have another theory. Cheney knows more about where the bodies are buried than Junior does, but those bodies and public knowledge of where they are buried would destroy the Bushites and the GOP.
 
Meanwhile, Voldemort just keeps right on slitherin'......

Here is the article that got Cynthia McKinny censured on te House Floor

Published on Monday, February 13, 2006 by CommonDreams.org
Rumsfeld and Cheney Revive Their 70's Terror Playbook
by Thom Hartmann
 
Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney are at it again.

Last week, Rumsfeld told the press we should be preparing for "the Long War," saying of the war this administration has stirred up with its attack on Iraq that, "Just as the Cold War lasted a long time, this war is something that is not going to go away."

The last time Rumsfeld talked like this was in the 1970s, in response to the danger of peace presented by Richard Nixon.

In 1972, President Richard Nixon returned from the Soviet Union with a treaty worked out by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the beginning of a process Kissinger called "d├ętente." On June 1, 1972, Nixon gave a speech in which he said:

"Last Friday, in Moscow, we witnessed the beginning of the end of that era which began in 1945. With this step, we have enhanced the security of both nations. We have begun to reduce the level of fear, by reducing the causes of fear—for our two peoples, and for all peoples in the world."

But Nixon left amid scandal and Ford came in, and Ford's Secretary of Defense (Donald Rumsfeld) and Chief of Staff (Dick Cheney) believed it was intolerable that Americans might no longer be bound by fear. Without fear, how could Americans be manipulated? And how could billions of dollars taken as taxes from average working people be transferred to the companies that Rumsfeld and Cheney - and their cronies - would soon work for and/or run?

Rumsfeld and Cheney began a concerted effort - first secretly and then openly - to undermine Nixon's treaty for peace and to rebuild the state of fear.

They did it by claiming that the Soviets had a new secret weapon of mass destruction that the president didn't know about, that the CIA didn't know about, that nobody knew about but them. It was a nuclear submarine technology that was undetectable by current American technology. And, they said, because of this and related-undetectable-technology weapons, the US must redirect billions of dollars away from domestic programs and instead give the money to defense contractors for whom these two men would one day work or have businesses relationships with.

The CIA strongly disagreed, calling Rumsfeld's position a "complete fiction" and pointing out that the Soviet Union was disintegrating from within, could barely afford to feed their own people, and would collapse within a decade or two if simply left alone.

As Dr. Anne Cahn, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency from 1977 to 1980, told the BBC's Adam Curtis for his documentary "The Power of Nightmares":

"They couldn't say that the Soviets had acoustic means of picking up American submarines, because they couldn't find it. So they said, well maybe they have a non-acoustic means of making our submarine fleet vulnerable. But there was no evidence that they had a non-acoustic system. They’re saying, 'we can’t find evidence that they’re doing it the way that everyone thinks they’re doing it, so they must be doing it a different way. We don’t know what that different way is, but they must be doing it.'

"INTERVIEWER (off-camera): Even though there was no evidence.

"CAHN: Even though there was no evidence.

"INTERVIEWER: So they’re saying there, that the fact that the weapon doesn’t exist…

"CAHN: Doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. It just means that we haven’t found it."

But Rumsfeld and Cheney wanted Americans to believe there was something nefarious going on, something we should be very afraid of. To this end, they convinced President Ford to appoint a commission including their old friend Paul Wolfowitz to prove that the Soviets were up to no good.

Wolfowitz's group, known as "Team B," came to the conclusion that the Soviets had developed several terrifying new weapons of mass destruction, featuring a nuclear-armed submarine fleet that used a sonar system that didn't depend on sound and was, thus, undetectable with our current technology. It could - within a matter of months - be off the coast of New York City with a nuclear warhead.

Although Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld's assertions of this powerful new Soviet WMD was unproven - they said the lack of proof proved the "undetectable" sub existed - they nonetheless used their charges to push for dramatic escalations in military spending to selected defense contractors, a process that continued through the Reagan administration.

Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz helped re-organized a group - The Committee on the Present Danger - to promote their worldview. The Committee produced documentaries, publications, and provided guests for national talk shows and news reports. They worked hard to whip up fear and encourage increases in defense spending, particularly for sophisticated weapons systems offered by the defense contractors for whom many of these same men would later become lobbyists.

And they succeeded in recreating an atmosphere of fear in the United States, and making themselves and their defense contractor friends richer than most of the kingdoms of the world.

Trillions of dollars and years later, it was proven that they had been wrong all along, and the CIA had been right. Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Wolfowitz lied to America in the 1970s about Soviet WMDs and the Soviet super-sub technology.

Not only do we now know that the Soviets didn't have any new and impressive WMDs, but we also now know that the Soviets were, in fact, decaying from within, ripe for collapse any time, regardless of what the US did - just as the CIA (and anybody who visited Soviet states - as I had - during that time could easily predict). The Soviet economic and political system wasn't working, and their military was disintegrating.

But the Cold War was good for business, and good for the political power of its advocates, from Rumsfeld to Wolfowitz to Cheney who have all become rich in part because of the arms industry.

Today, making Americans terrified with their so-called "War On Terror" is the same strategy, run for many of the same reasons, by the same people. And by hyping it - and then invading Iraq to bring it into fruition - we may well be bringing into reality forces that previously existed only on the margins and with very little power to harm us.

Most recently we've learned from former CIA National Intelligence Officer for the Middle East and South Asia Paul Pillar that, just like in the 1970s, the CIA disagreed in 2002 with Rumsfeld and Cheney about an WMD threat - this time posed by Iraq - even as Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Wolfowitz were telling America how afraid we should be of an eminent "mushroom cloud."

We've seen this movie before. The last time, it cost our nation hundreds of billions of dollars, vastly enriched the cronies of these men, and ultimately helped bring Ronald Reagan to power. This time they've added on top of their crony enrichment program the burden of over 2200 dead American servicemen and women, tens of thousands wounded, as many as a hundred thousand dead Iraqis, and a level of worldwide instability not seen since the run-up to World War Two.

When Hilary Clinton recently noted that the only political card Republicans are any longer capable of playing is the card of fear, she was spot-on right. They're now even running radio and TV commercials designed to terrorize our children ("Do you have a plan for a terrorist attack?"), the modern reincarnation of "Duck and Cover."

Now that former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has confessed that many of the terror alerts that continually popped up during the 2004 election campaign were, as USA Today noted on 10 May 2005, based on "flimsy evidence" or were >done over his objection at the insistence of "administration officials," it's increasingly clear that the Bush administration itself is the source of much of the "be afraid!" terror inflicted on US citizens over the past 5 years.

It's time for patriotic Americans of all political affiliations, and for our media, to join with Senator Clinton, former CIA official Paul Pillar, and the many others who are pointing this out, and refuse to allow the Bush administration to inflict terror on Americans - and the world - for political gain.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his first inaugural address in 1932, when Americans were terrorized by the Republican Great Depression, the echoes of World War One, and the rise of Communism in Russia:

This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Indeed, the best hope for the growth of democracy around the world and the survival of individual liberty in the United States is for us to turn away from Rumsfeld's and Cheney's politics of terror and fear, and once again embrace the great vision of this nation, held by her great statesmen and women from 1776 to today. Indeed, they are still among us, as we saw most recently when a brave few senators stood up to filibuster the nomination of Samuel Alito.

In this election year, we must redouble our efforts to swell their ranks, to involve ourselves in local and national political groups, and to return America to her destiny as the world's beacon of courage, liberty, and light.

Thom Hartmann [thom (at) thomhartmann.com] is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author and host of a nationally syndicated noon-3pm Eastern Time daily progressive talk show syndicated by Air America Radio. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent book is "What Would Jefferson Do?"

© 2006 Thom Hartmann

A surge in whistle-blowing ... and reprisals

Congress eyes tricky question of blowing the whistle in wartime.
 
| Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Dissent often carries a price in official Washington, especially in the war years of the Bush presidency.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the number of insiders alleging wrongdoing in government - either through whistle-blower channels or directly to the press - has surged, as have reprisals against them.

Read On

Doing the President's Dirty Work

Roberts has been an active member of the Bushite Thugs since 9/11, helping them cover-up crimes still not imaginable to most Americans. He has yet to complete even one investigative hearing.

The people of Kansas may continue to elect him, but that does not mean that the rest of us have to put up with his thuggery, in silence, like sheep led to slaughter.

It is high time that government officials have an appropriate amount of fear of their bosses; We, the people!

Is there any aspect of President Bush's miserable record on intelligence that Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is not willing to excuse and help to cover up?

For more than a year, Mr. Roberts has been dragging out an investigation into why Mr. Bush presented old, dubious and just plain wrong intelligence on Iraq as solid new proof that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was in league with Al Qaeda. It was supposed to start after the 2004 election, but Mr. Roberts was letting it die of neglect until the Democrats protested by forcing the Senate into an unusual closed session last November.

Now Mr. Roberts is trying to stop an investigation into Mr. Bush's decision to allow the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans without getting the warrants required by a 27-year-old federal law enacted to stop that sort of abuse.

Mr. Roberts had promised to hold a committee vote yesterday on whether to investigate. But he canceled the vote, and then made two astonishing announcements. He said he was working with the White House on amending the 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to permit warrantless spying. And then he suggested that such a change would eliminate the need for an inquiry.

Stifling his own committee without even bothering to get the facts is outrageous. As the vice chairman of the panel, Senator John Rockefeller IV, pointed out, supervising intelligence gathering is in fact the purpose of the intelligence committee.

Mr. Rockefeller said the White House had not offered enough information to make an informed judgment on the program possible. It is withholding, for instance, such minor details as how the program works, how it is reviewed, how much and what kind of information is collected, and how the information is stored and used.

Mr. Roberts said the White House had agreed to provide more briefings to the Senate Intelligence Committee — hardly an enormous concession since it is already required to do so. And he said he and the White House were working out "a fix" for the law. That is the worst news. FISA was written to prevent the president from violating Americans' constitutional rights. It was amended after 9/11 to make it even easier for the administration to do legally what it is now doing.

FISA does not in any way prevent Mr. Bush from spying on Qaeda members or other terrorists. The last thing the nation needs is to amend the law to institutionalize the imperial powers Mr. Bush seized after 9/11.

Read On

Secrecy over security

Libby revelation puts things in perspective


Published 2:15 am PST Thursday, February 16, 2006

When it comes to keeping secrets, the Bush administration has what might be called a two-handed approach.

On one hand, the administration will do and has done all kinds of gymnastics to avoid giving Congress information about intelligence programs. On the other, the administration is willing to reveal classified information selectively when doing so suits its political aims.

Actions here speak louder than words.

Just in case you have forgotten: Last year, a grand jury led by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald indicted Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, on one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of making false statements and two counts of perjury related to the leaking of the identity of an undercover officer working for the CIA. Libby's trial, originally scheduled to begin Feb. 3, has been postponed until January 2007, after the November elections.

Last week, the National Journal reported that court papers in the case reveal that Libby testified before a federal grand jury that he was "authorized to disclose" - that is, to leak - highly classified intelligence information to the press "by his superiors." The evidence is a Jan. 23 letter from the prosecutor responding to Libby's lawyers, who asked what information the government will make available to the defense.

Congress, which has the duty under our system of government to watch and check the government, gets information in dribs and drabs - or not at all - at the whim of the president. The administration sends people up to Congress who wax eloquently about "inherent" presidential authority. In short, Americans are simply expected to have faith that the president is exercising powers constitutionally, legally and appropriately without accountability to Congress and the courts. Just to make sure of that faith, administration officials also try to scare people by saying that oversight would somehow harm efforts to combat terrorism.

You might think the president would want Congress as a partner in the worldwide struggle against terrorism. Yet this president acts as if he and the executive branch are the only ones who care about protecting Americans - that they alone decide what is in the national interest and that Congress somehow is an impediment. The Libby testimony underlines that. It also reveals in stark terms an administration more concerned with gaining and maintaining power than building common cause to protect national security.

LINK

Republicans Block Investigation of Domestic Spying Program

This is beyond unacceptable!
 
So, what are we going to do about it?
 
13:01. Congress | Criminal Prosecution | Spying

By Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (Cross-posted at DailyKos)

You may recall that a few weeks ago I introduced a resolution of inquiry to obtain Justice Department documents about the President's domestic spying program.

Many of you are no doubt familiar with the procedure for resolutions of inquiry; however, for those who are not, a brief explanation. A resolution of inquiry requests information or documents from the Executive Branch. The Committee to which it is referred must vote on it within a specified period of time or the full House must consider it.

As a practical matter, if the Republicans want to dodge an issue, they refer the bill to Committee and then "adversely report" it, which kills it, stopping the request for documents and protecting every non-Committee Republican from having to vote on it.

Today, the House Judiciary Committee considered my resolution of inquiry on the domestic spying program. The Resolution was rejected 16 to 21, with all Democrats and one Republican (Congressman Hostetler) voting for it.

A few quick impressions: first, I was surprised at how half hearted the Republican defense of the program was. I would even go further -- while some offered a full throated defense of the program, many of my Republican colleagues seemed almost sheepish about it, and many did not speak about it at all.

Second, Republicans repeatedly asserted that the documents were not needed because Judiciary Chairman Sensenbrenner has unilaterally submitted 51 questions (pdf) to the Attorney General, and that the Attorney General would testify at a general oversight hearing at some undetermined point in the future. I and the other Democratic Members responded that this was wholly inadequate, and that to fulfill their constitutional oversight role the Committee needed to obtain documents from the Administration and hold separate hearings on the NSA issue.

More to the point, while some news outlets touted the Chairman's letter, his questions are, in my view, inadequate. A close reading of them reveals that the first 38 questions essentially ask the Department whether they think the program is legal. They have already given us their answer on that. The remaining questions are so general, that they can be answered by a google search of what is already in the press.

A few are such softballs it is hard to take them seriously. Take number 18, for example -- "Do you agree that it is debatable as to whether the United States homeland is still a target of al Qaeda?" Wonder what the Justice Department will answer. That sounds like the Fox News question of the day.

My third impression is a very positive one: every single Democrat present spoke passionately and eloquently about the legitimate questions surrounding this program and the desperate need for Congressional oversight of it.

To me, this is one of the most serious problems with one-party, Republican rule: there is no check and balance of Executive Branch wrongdoing. The refusal to assert basic prerogatives to obtain documents and engage in oversight is dangerous and disheartening. We are not giving up -- we, meaning every House Judiciary Democrat, have sent our own questions to the Chairman and asked for a series of hearings on this issue.

Some Republicans are breaking ranks, however, particularly those in competitive districts. They know what many may learn the hard way in November -- the American people expect the Congress to be a check and balance, not to give the President a blank check.

If you are interested in watching the debate (and I highly recommend it) go here.

My prepared statement follows:

STATEMENT OF CONGRESSMAN JOHN CONYERS, JR.
House Judiciary Committee Markup of House Resolution 643
February 15, 2006

I urge my colleagues to support my resolution of inquiry, which has been cosponsored by 44 individuals, including every single Democrat on this Committee.

First, let me make clear what materials this Resolution is requesting. It simply asks the Attorney General to submit all documents in his possession relating to warrantless electronic surveillance of telephone conversations and electronic communications of persons in the United States conducted by the National Security Agency, subject to necessary redactions or requirements for handling classified documents. This request would include any and all opinions regarding warrantless electronic surveillance of telephone conversations and electronic communications of persons in the United States, as well as other records which would allow us to better understand the size, scope, and nature of the program.

Second, I want to explain why we are asking for this information. We are not asking for this information in a conclusory fashion. We are not saying that the President broke the law or has acted contrary to the Constitution. In fact, this resolution may well produce documents that rebut those allegations. What is clear is that, assuming what has been reported is true, many Constitutional and legal experts - Republicans and Democrats - have indicated that this secret domestic surveillance program raises substantial questions about whether the program is legal and whether it is constitutional.

These include the Nation's most preeminent legal and intelligence authorities: (1) Harvard Professor Laurence Tribe; (2) 14 of the nations preeminent legal scholars, including William S. Sessions, the former Director of the FBI under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and William W. Van Alstyne, a Law Professor at William and Mary who was a witness called by this Committee's Republican Members during the impeachment of President Clinton; (3) Bruce Fein, a former Deputy Associate Attorney General in the Reagan Administration, (4) Jonathan Turley, a Constitutional scholar and another witness called by the Republicans on this Committee during the Clinton impeachment, and (5) the non-partisan Congressional Research Service.

The question before us is not whether you agree or disagree with these individuals, but whether you think their judgments are sufficiently serious to warrant further inquiry by this Committee. I would also add that the Justice Department, when it briefed staff on Monday, indicated that some of the legal questions involved here are close calls.

Third, if you agree that this warrants further inquiry, the question is what kind of action this Committee should take?

I commend the Chairman for sending a letter to the Attorney General asking questions about this program. Many of us have questions of our own and I hope the Chairman will forward them to the Attorney General and ask that they be answered with the same speed.

Questions alone - which can be ignored or danced around - are not sufficient. This Committee has always taken the common sense approach that the best way to find out what people were thinking at the time they made decisions, is to get the documents they wrote at that time reflecting those thoughts. In fact, on a number of matters - including biometric passports, judicial sentencing practices, the Civil Rights Commission, and Legal Service Commission - the Chairman's first step has been to obtain and preserve relevant documents.

The Washington Post has written, that the Executive Branch treats Congress "as an annoying impediment to the real work of government. It provides information to Congress grudgingly, if at all. It handles letters from lawmakers like junk mail, routinely tossing them aside without responding."

It is time that Congress begins to serve as a genuine check and balance on the Administration. This is not a partisan issue, to me it's a constitutional issue, and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to help us, before it's too late.

Blogged by JC on 02.15.06 @ 08:41 PM ET LINK

See No Evil, Become That Evil

Supporting the War As An Act of Unpatriotic Cowardice
by David Michael Green
 

Nowadays, Americans have to actively journey far out of their way to blind themselves to how the country was utterly duped into fighting a completely unnecessary war in Iraq.

Last week, the former chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell called the WMD rationale for the invasion “a hoax on the American people."

This week, the top CIA official in charge of intelligence assessments on Iraq reported that the administration “used intelligence not to inform decision making, but to justify a decision already made," and that “it went to war without requesting – and evidently without being influenced by – any strategic level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq.”

Add these to the revelations which have already been made by other top officials and those with access to them – Paul O’Neill, Richard Clarke, Bob Graham, Bob Woodward (along with Powell’s chief of staff and CIA spooks, a bunch of radical anti-American lefties if ever there were any). Not to mention certain inconvenient facts on the ground, like the complete absence of WMD in Iraq and a war that’s gone completely off the rails. It’s getting to the point where you have to very badly want to believe whatever the president says in order to do so. It’s getting to the point where you have to actively hide from the evidence in order to keep your faith-based war politics safe from the cognitive dissonance induced by overwhelming empirical evidence to the contrary.

Unfortunately, that is precisely what many conservatives are now choosing to do.

And to some extent, I don’t even care. If some forty percent of the American public is crouched in such a state of perpetual fear, I guess they have problems enough without being further burdened by somebody’s extended rants on the existential threat which willful ignorance poses to a democracy.

And to some further extent, I don’t even care that they still bolster their own ideological insecurities by throwing down yet again the card which the regressive right plays so well (they must have 53 of them in their decks): the attack labeling critics of the president’s patently failed policies as traitors and threats to American security. By the way, that group includes a heck of a lot of people nowadays. Just once I’d like to see Bill O’Reilly question the patriotism of the 57 percent of Americans (that’s 171 million of your fellow citizens, Bill) who disapprove of the way Bush is handling Iraq. But, alas, more likely that will have to wait for another lifetime...

No, even though conservatives make it their business to constantly worry about my sexual proclivities, I will not return the favor. They are free to indulge themselves in as much private political masturbation as suits them.

But what I do mind, I really have to say, is their loudly-proclaimed belief that they are patriots, and that they support the troops in Iraq.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing could further misunderstand the intentions of the American Founders to create a republic on these shores. Nothing could be more corrosive of democracy. And nothing could be less supportive of our troops suffering in the bottomless pit George Bush created for them in Iraq.

I don’t care if someone concludes on the other side of an educational process that this war really does make us safer, that it really was morally justified, and that those beliefs really do support the troops over there. That’s fine – do your homework and reach whatever conclusion you reach. But, goddammit, if you’re gonna make those claims, the very least you can do is to genuinely examine the facts. The very least you can do is transcend your own fears just enough to learn the truth about the war.

People are dying in Iraq by the tens of thousands, and that destructive project is entirely dependent on the acquiescence of the American people in allowing it to continue in their name, and financed by their tax dollars (or, more accurately, by their children’s tax dollars which will be used to pay back the massive loans we are racking up in China and Japan).

No one who is a true patriot can support such a grave policy decision until they have seriously examined it. No one who really supports the troops can put them in harm’s way without studying and analyzing carefully the justification for doing so.

Anyone who does otherwise is, in fact, an unpatriotic coward.

For what could be more unpatriotic than to support a war – the most serious decision a government can make – without learning the facts? What could be less supportive of the troops than to allow them to go kill, to die and get maimed without being sure there is a good justification for doing so? And if the reasons for thoughtlessly sending people off to war are either laziness or fear of one’s own inadequacies, what could be more despicable?

Recently I published an essay suggesting that the President of the United States was at war with Americanism, for all the obvious reasons (see the Bill of Rights for further elaboration). That piece produced the following emailed response (with the subject line: “Get A Life”) from a conservative reader: “I read your article. Have you ever had any family or friends hit by the terrorists? In my opinion you are just another loser liberal. I served in the military. Did you? Go ‘W’.”

So I wrote back at some length, posing some difficult questions for my interlocutor to consider.

He did not. But he did write back to tell me of his surprise at receiving my note and his admiration at my actually responding. I get this all the time. I think the shock troops of the fearful right must be so bought into their own stereotypes (and perhaps also inadvertently reflecting their own level of political comprehension) that they figure all of us on the other side are just mindless Michael Moore clones taking our marching orders from Havana. They seem so surprised when you show them that you can think on your own, that you’re willing to engage in dialog, that you have facts to support your arguments, and that you can actually string two coherent sentences together, back to back.

That became more evident when my correspondent wrote “I don't follow or believe the likes of Ted Kennedy, Howard Dean, Hillary and of course, the great Jesse. I have to assume these are the leaders you follow. Your arguments mirror these jerks.” Leaving aside the rich irony of his presumption that I’m a fan of Hillary Clinton’s, what I think this comment reveals is a mind set in which politics is a game where citizens pick the ‘leaders’ they then slavishly follow and support, never quite coming to their own conclusions or interpretations. In my book, it is a politics which is a lot more reminiscent of either baseball or religion than it is of citizenship in a participatory democracy.

Which brings to mind another comment my friend on the right made in this second and last note to me, after apparently believing he had parried the questions I posed to him: “I will concede you are a good writer. You must teach English.” This I took to actually mean, “Your words make a lot of sense, and so does the evidence you present, but that can’t be right because you’re a liberal and these ideas contradict my political gospel. Therefore you must be tricking me with your fancy rhetoric.”

After receiving from me just a handful of challenging questions, my right-wing correspondent replied “How do you know the W planned to invade Iraq before 9/11? How do you know Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11? How do you know the W is a liar? All liberal propaganda.”

And then he concluded with this: “Please do not write back. I will not open your mail again. I see neither of us winning this war of words. I'm too busy thinking about more important issues.”

Clearly, he is saying that he doesn’t want to think about this stuff. Rather than letting me answer his questions, which is easily and conclusively done, he immediately writes it all off as “liberal propaganda”. But, just to make sure no errant facts should crawl beneath the door and invade his warm cocoon of self-deceit, he then not only asks me not to write back, but insists that he will refuse to look at anything I send. Why he didn’t just come right out and say “See No Evil”, I don’t know.

‘Course, I wrote him back anyhow. ‘Course, I know he read my note, too – though he was careful not to give me the satisfaction of telling me so.

I have no desire to pick on this nice gentleman, who appears from his own description to be a good family man, successful career guy, etc. I just think he is entirely reflective of a very pervasive mentality in this country, and that this mentality is crippling us.

This is the reason why those of us on the thinking left are just so incredulous, so paralyzingly shocked at the support that exists for George Bush. It is as if someone wrote the textbook on how to be a disastrous president and he walked into the part as an object lesson.

Imagine if everyone, left and right, had sat down five years ago and agreed (which to some large degree we probably could have) on the criteria to define a successful presidency. We probably would have included items like protecting American security from foreign attack, proactively protecting against natural disaster and responding competently when it hits, building on the federal surpluses in order to pay down the national debt, honest and open government, improving relations with our allies and American moral leadership in the world, making the world environmentally safe for our children, improving the standard of living for all economic classes, serving as a force for peace in the Middle East and elsewhere, preventing WMD proliferation and discouraging it by our own actions, deploying American forces prudently so as not to decimate the military, genuinely supporting the troops by providing them proper armor and numbers adequate to the task, and more.

What is so shocking is that George W. Bush has failed every objective test, including all those which virtually all Americans, regardless of their ideological commitments, would have agreed to five years ago. But what is even more shocking is the degree to which this has pushed so many of us into simply going post-empirical, so that we can avoid the ugly task of confronting a reality contrary to our political beliefs. The absolute easiest way to see this is just to consider what these folks would be saying if we took the entirety of the last five years’ historical record, completely intact, and simply changed one word. Imagine the howls of foaming outrage which would bellow across the land if this president, with this track record of unending failure, was named Clinton.

I don’t know what’s gotten into the perhaps forty percent of Americans who cannot seem to be dissuaded from supporting this president, regardless of how badly he screws up. What I do know is that we progressives need to think broadly and deeply about this very question if we hope to save the republic from Cheneyism, the Founders’ worst nightmare come to life. These legions of the willfully mindless are the death knell of American democracy if ever there was one.

I suspect the causes for Bush’s support are multiple. Obviously, if you’re one of the narrow sliver of Americans in the economic elite and all you care about is your own wallet, Bush is your man. Moreover, poll data shows that ridiculous percentages of Americans believe that they will be joining that club one day and so are tempted to swallow anything, including a war consuming their neighbors’ children, to receive their precious would-be, someday, tax cuts.

I think other Americans are simply tuned out of politics for a variety of reasons, making them easy prey for the Rovian tactic of employing simplistic, emotional-button laden politics, of which conservatives are now the undisputed masters. Between educational failures, shameful media commercialization and trivialization of news, and pounding conservative ideology that government is the problem, we have dumbed down sufficiently to become a very politically unsophisticated country, perfect fodder for the politics of fear, caricature, personalization and slogan which the right employs ruthlessly, even against such radical leftist threats like John McCain.

Some Americans undoubtedly don’t have time for politics. With a criminally low minimum wage of five bucks and change, many people have to work all the time to stay afloat. It is especially ironic that they can’t spare the time somehow to change the government’s law (if not the government itself) so that they could then get some rest. At a campaign stop, the president once marveled at the greatness of America when a woman announced that she worked two-and-a-half jobs. No wonder he and his ilk would. Low wages, high profits, prostrate politics – hey, what’s not to like about that? (Oops, sorry – am I engaging in ‘class warfare’? We can’t have that.)

But many of us have that free time – especially those among the more potentially influential segments of society – and we spend it mesmerized by yet another football game on the idiot box, yet another life lived vicariously in the pages of celebrity magazines, yet another pathetically self-affirming episode of reality TV degradation. I know it’s easy for me to preach. I love my work, and if I had to dig ditches or wait tables for twelve hours, I’d probably be inclined to collapse in exhaustion at the end of each shift, no more interested in intellectual stimulation than physical.

But I still think we have an obligation to muster up the energy to do more, especially if we’re fond of calling ourselves patriots. We have eighteen year-old kids, fellow citizens who are willing to slog through the hell George Bush created on Earth, all in the name of protecting our security. Can we not give up one game and educate ourselves about their lot? Can we not forego one more breathless article on why Brad left Jen, and devote that time to learning about the war being fought in our name? Could we not turn off American Idol and instead read the Downing Street Memo?

And if we can’t, could we at least please just stop calling ourselves patriots who nobly support our troops in the field? If ol’ Zell Miller were to experience a momentary lapse into sanity, he might rightly ask, “Support the troops? With what? Bumper stickers?”

Never mind that the last years’ deluge of such ‘stickers’ (tellingly magnetic, not actually stuck on) are fading, when they can be seen at all. I guess we can’t even be bothered with that anymore.

There is a war going on in Iraq which is fast consuming America’s blood, treasure, reputation and security. The simple fact is, this war goes on in our name. The rest of the world certainly believes that, and they are right to do so. Whether they are also right to condemn we individual Americans for our actions in Iraq is a matter we ought to care about, for reason of our reputation and honor alone. But, of course, a better reason is that people are dying there with our acquiescence.

Patriots? Supporters of the troops? I say if you can’t be bothered to learn about this war which your taxes, votes and silence enable, you are a traitor and a coward.

David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (pscdmg@hofstra.edu), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond.

###

Farewell to Ground Zero

Published on Thursday, February 16, 2006,
by Jonathan Schell
 

This article will appear in the March 6, 2006 issue of "The Nation" magazine.

This column will be my last "Letter From Ground Zero." The series will be succeeded by another, "Crisis of the Republic." Until recently it seemed possible to trace the main developments in the Bush administration's policies back to that horrible, fantastical day in September 2001, as if following an unbroken chain of causes and effects. Now it no longer does. The chain is too entangled with other chains, of newer and older origin.

The war against Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden had his headquarters and support from the ruling Taliban, was, for better or worse, a clear response to the attack on the United States. The Patriot Act and the reorganization of the national security apparatus likewise were responses to September 11. But with the launch of the Iraq War, the subject was already beginning to change. The political support for the war still flowed from 9/11, but the administration was already veering toward other objectives. For one thing, we know that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others had wanted to attack Iraq since their first days in office, and, for that matter, even before. For another, the war proved to be a kind of test case of a far more sweeping revolution in American foreign policy, soon outlined in the White House document of 2002, the National Security Strategy of the United States of America, which set forth American ambitions for nothing less than global hegemony based on military superiority, absolute and perpetual, over all other nations. Many friends of this policy frankly and rightly called it imperial.

The Iraq test case has failed; in doing so it has tied down forces that otherwise might have been given further aggressive missions. The imperial plan stalled -- as the nuclearization of North Korea without an effective American response, among other things, attests. Nevertheless, the administration's international ambitions had a scarcely less sweeping domestic corollary, for which no master strategic document was supplied: a profound transformation of the American state, in which, in the name of the "war on terror," the President rises above the law and the Republican Party permanently dominates all three branches of government. That project had even less to do with 9/11 than did the Iraq War. Its roots can be traced at least as far back as the election of 2000, when the Supreme Court improperly interjected itself into the electoral dispute in Florida and a majority consisting of Republican-appointed Justices awarded the presidency to the man of their own party. Or perhaps we need to look back even further, to the attempt by the Republican-dominated Congress to knock a Democratic President out of office by impeaching him for personal misbehavior accompanied by a minor legal infraction. (If those standards were still in force, President Bush would have been impeached eleven times over by now.) Obviously, these events had nothing to do with 9/11 or the Iraq War. Their roots are older and deeper. To arrange all the new developments, domestic and international, under the heading "Letter From Ground Zero," as if it all began with Osama bin Laden, would therefore be misleading. It would be a kind of lie.

For the series' new title, I want to acknowledge a debt to Hannah Arendt, who in 1972 published a book of essays titled Crises of the Republic. My single-letter change in her title reflects a belief that today the many disparate crises of the past have combined into one general systemic crisis, placing the basic structure of the Republic at mortal risk. At the forefront of concern must be the question: Will the Constitution of the United States survive? Is the American state now in the midst of a transmutation in which the 217-year-old provisions for a balance of powers and popular freedoms are being overridden and canceled? Or will defenders of the Constitution step forward, as has happened in constitutional crises of the past, to save the system and restore its integrity?

The obvious precedent is Watergate. Then as now, the presidency became "imperial." Then as now, a misconceived and misbegotten war led to presidential law-breaking at home. Then as now, a quixotic crusade for freedom abroad really menaced freedom at home. Then as now, the law-breaking President was re-elected to a second term. Then as now, the systemic rot went so deep that only a drastic cure could be effectual. Then as now, opposition at the outset consisted not of any great public outrage but the lonely courage of a few bureaucrats, legislators, and reporters. Then it was the war in Vietnam; now it is the war in Iraq and the wider and more lasting "war on terror." Then it was secret break-ins and illegal wiretapping; now it is arbitrary imprisonment, torture and, again, illegal wiretapping. Then it was presidential assertion of "executive privilege"; now it is a full-scale reinterpretation of the Constitution to give the "unitary executive" power to do anything it likes in "wartime."

Of course, there are obvious differences. In the early 1970s, the opposition party controlled both houses of the legislature, which launched vigorous investigations and, eventually, impeachment proceedings. Now of course the President's party controls the legislative branch and possibly (it's still too early to say, given the traditional independence of the judiciary and its consequent unpredictability) the judicial branch as well. Then, the movement against the war had forced a decision to withdraw; now the anti-war movement is much weaker. On the other hand, when the crisis began back then, the President's popularity was high; now it is low.

Yet what remains most striking and most surprising is the degree of continuity of the systemic disorder in the face of radical, galloping change in almost every other area of political life. After all, the cold war, which seemed at the time to be the seedbed of the Watergate crisis, ended sixteen years ago, in the greatest upheaval of the international system since the end of World War II. How is it, then, that the United States has returned to a systemic crisis so profoundly similar to the one in the early 1970s? By looking at external foes, are we looking in the wrong place for the origins of the illness? Is this transformation what a more "conservative" public now wants? Or is there instead something in the dominant institutions of American life that push the country in this direction? Those are some of the questions that will be taken up in "Crisis of the Republic."

Jonathan Schell is The Nation Institute's Harold Willens Peace Fellow. He is the author of "The Unconquerable World," among many other books.

This article will appear in the March 6, 2006 issue of "The Nation" magazine.

© 2006 Jonathan Schell

America's Moral Decline and the Rise of False Christianity

Published on Thursday, February 16, 2006,
by CommonDreams.org
by Karen Horst Cobb
 

"This is the year God wants to make you a millionaire.” The visiting evangelist stomped back and forth on the stage of the rented school building. His “hallelujahs” and “praise God” crescendos were followed by jumping up and down. Sweat ran down his face as he proclaimed that the church members would not need to be afraid if the economy collapses and their neighbors houses are foreclosed upon because they are blessed and will have all of their needs met. The service ended with the explanation that the first step to becoming a millionaire is to pledge $200 of “seed faith money” to the church .

Just prior to the introduction of the evangelist the young single minister with spiky hair introduced the beginning of fellowship “life groups," explaining that the “free market” will decide which ones succeed. Recently, Ted Taggard of mega church New Life Fellowship in Colorado Springs explained that Spirituality is a “commodity “ to be bought and sold. The writings of Milton Friedman are recommended for all new converts. This young minister must also be a free market convert . His small group is a satellite of World Harvest Church. The sermon themes of the mega churches are all very similar and reflect the cause of America‘s moral decline. Christianity is getting a makeover using the classic trappings of Money, domination and military aggression.

It looks like the 50 million dollar Bible theme park which was to be built in Israel by evangelicals will not happen now that Pat Robertson insulted Arial Sharon. Imagine a 50 million dollar Bible theme park protected by nuclear weapons in the holy land and off limits to Arabs. The harvest of the mega church is ready; welcome the gleaners, the seed faith money has matured.

According to a 2003 article in Forbes Magazine big churches are big business. Researchers found that in 2003 there were 740 mega churches each averaging 6,876 participants. The average net income of each was $4.8 million at the time of the study. The Forbes article states, “[the] entrepreneurial approach has contributed to the explosive growth of mega churches“.

Is it the entrepreneurial spirit or the Holy Spirit which is enticing the converts to this new religion? Some used to say that the love of money is the root of all evil and the rich man (like the camel) will forever be outside the kingdom. I guess that is just “too first century” for the modern believer. The millennium church makeover is all about Christian capitalism, he who the free market has set free shall be free indeed! Remember, this is the year God wants me to be a millionaire.

Some might think that putting your last hundred bucks in the offering satchel as “seed faith money” is a lot like gambling or buying a lottery ticket. Perhaps James Dobson and Ralph Reed can explain that to the Indians (and the rest of us.) A Washington Post article explains that Ralph Reed (former head of the Christian coalition) “received $4 million to whip up public sentiment against expansion of gambling in Louisiana and Texas." He did this by mobilizing evangelicals to take a stand against the immorality of gambling.

The buildings and technologies of the mega-fellowships are edifices to capitalism, free market economics, and the entrepreneurial spirit. The lexicon is slightly different but the concepts are exactly the same as those of CEO motivational speakers or a slick late night infomercial promoting real estate schemes. You can do it! You can win! You can be a success! You are smart! There are no limits to what you can achieve. Just send me some money and get started today. A quick internet search reveals sources concerning the personal life styles of the pastors of many of these churches. Their seed faith has been harvested into private jets, extravagant cars, multimillion dollar homes and much, much more. The storehouses are overflowing and with this wealth comes power.

Like Ted Taggard’s New Life Fellowship in Colorado Springs, World Harvest Church is a very politically active mega church. Rod Parsley is the pastor , “co-laborer“, as he puts it. He is also founder and president of the politically active “Center for Moral Clarity." In a few weeks he is scheduled to speak on the topic “the War on Christians and the Values Voter in 2006” at the Vision America Conference Other speakers scheduled for the event are Alan Keyes, Senator Sam Brownbeck, John Cornyn, Gary Bauer, Phyllis Schlafley, Janet Parshall, Rick Scarbrough, and Tom Delay. (yes that’s right - the multiply-indicted Tom Delay.)

I have not listened to Pastor Parsley’s CD set “Injustice in American Courts” nor have I purchased the shiny “King Arthur style sword” for $41.10 to display in my home. I have not considered taking courses at World Harvest Bible College where I can lean to "shape the culture” nor have I spent the thousands necessary to learn how to “walk in Dominion power to advance the kingdom of God though the earth” [italics added]

In his Ohio Community, religious leaders exposed the use of Pastor Parsley’s religious tax-free status to support Gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell. Yes, the same Ken Blackwell who was the co-chair of the committee to re-elect Bush/Cheney in 2004 while at the same time responsible for overseeing Ohio’s election which ended up with many irregularities.

Parsley and Blackwell launched a voter registration campaign but only to register Republican voters. Money leads to power and power leads to war.

It seems today there is a need for a tougher, meaner Jesus, a government issue Jesus (GI-Joe) who comes complete with state of the art Kevlar tunic, two edged sword, and secret code book (the book of Revelation). Evangelical Christians are organizing and conspiring to manipulate governments to use weapons if necessary to kill some of God’s children so that prime real estate goes to people whom they believe God likes best.

This immoral clarity was reported recently in the Jerusalem Post. Rev John Hagee is the organizer and leader of the Armageddon war cry and has now created the powerful political lobby, Christians United for Israel (CUFI). Christians untied for Israel (CUFI) includes Jerry Falwell, Benny Hinn, Jack Hayford, George Morrison, Rod Parsley and Steven Strang and many other media evangelicals. According to Hagee, “ The goal is to be strategically placed to successfully lobby Washington on behalf of Israel… Every state in the Union, every congressional district will be accounted for.” Reportedly, this lobbying group represents 30 million evangelical Christians. As we know, congress alone has the power to declare war. Will it be Christians who pressure elected officials into war? Will it be people who declare themselves to be Christ-like, who use his name to sound the collective war cry which unleashes the deadliest weapons on earth? George W. Bush said recently that “all options are on the table” when it comes to Iran.

The Evangelical Christian right is working to insure a manmade apocalypse develops in the Middle east. This powerful political faction runs parallel to the economic foreign policies of the slightly more secular neo-conservative “republican” party which has visions of empire and military rule as outlined in the Project for a New American Century's "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces And Resources For A New Century" [pdf format]. It was written a year before 9/11, and, prophetically, the plan to put bases throughout the Middle East is right on schedule. John Hagee’s latest book is Jerusalem Countdown which can be viewed on his website. Evidently, it presents Iran as a horrible nuclear threat to Israel and the United States. Just for a quick check with reality here is the score on nuclear weapons: Iran-0, Israel-200, US-10,600 (as of 2002). Please explain to me who are these "people of faith” and what do they put their faith in? Experts agree that Iran is at the very least ten years away from obtaining even one nuclear warhead.Ten years is a lot of time to wage peace.

Theocratic capitalism appeals to human lust for money, power, and military rule. Conversely, simplicity, service, and humility belong to the divine. Confusing fables are taught to itching ears. (Timothy 4:3 paraphrased). The first century followers of Christ did not entertain the entrepreneurial spirit, market competition and accumulation of wealth or organized to lobby Caesar.

For some, generosity is a strategy to gain wealth to purchase political power. Christ-like generosity however results from empathic compassion and a longing for the welfare of others. This is the core of moral clarity and makes it impossible for true believers to horde wealth. The rich man and the camel are both unable to kneel low enough to pass through the eye of the needle. (Matthew 19:24).

In the upside down kingdom Jesus taught that the poor are rich, the weak are strong, and the servant is the master. It is a change of heart rather than a change of legislation and circumstances. The new Jerusalem is a community governed by the golden rule, not ancient real estate governed by religious politicians. A person living in love does not need PowerPoint seminars, CD boxed millennium sets, ornamental swords, or novels written in code. It’s all summed up in a sentence and a sacrifice- Love the lord and love your neighbor.

Warriors lust for more powerful weapons. If the Christians Untied for Israel are successful in lobbying Washington on behalf of Israel they will insure that more living souls will be destroyed. God is not an angry real estate broker who uses extortion and violence to get his way. He does not think of suffering and dying children as “collateral damage”.

The charred bodies in Fallujia incinerated by white phosphorus were living souls. Deformed babies fused together or born without limbs because of the use of depleted uranium weapons is beyond depravity. It is estimated that 150,000 living souls have been extinguished directly or indirectly as a result of the war in Iraq. Many of these are women and children.

Beautiful news models and impressive military strategists describe “magnificent” weapons and manipulate us into pride and patriotism brought to us by companies with military contracts. With deadened empathy we watched the “shock and awe” as whole families explode before our eyes. What families values support this behavior? The American dilemma remains unspoken. If I become aware, how can I remain comfortable and keep shopping?

The lust for money, dominance, and military power is at the core of America‘s moral decline. It is imperative that church leaders and laity boldly proclaim that violence, torture, hostage taking, conquests of land and resources are actions Christians can never condone. Killing for Christ is an abomination leaving us with blood-stained hands and darkness in our hearts! Every church must be a peace or it will become a state church and then it will be… no church at all.

[Note from the author:] Some might read this article with a spirit of anger and hatred toward those mentioned. If so please re-read it in a spirit of extreme sorrow, compassion and utter despair for the loss of the Gospel of love. You may direct comments to me at cairnhcobb@msn.com.

Karen Horst Cobb wrote No Longer a Christian and No Longer a Christian - Part II published by CommonDreams.org in the fall of 2004. She is a mother and a grandmother, and with God’s grace, tries to follow the example of Christ as she speaks Christ’s message to the world that there is no Government Issue Jesus (GI-Joe Jesus.)

UhOh, Arlen! Not good

Published on Thursday, February 16, 2006
Senate Aide's Spouse Gets a Windfall
by Matt Kelley
 
WASHINGTON - Sen. Arlen Specter helped direct almost $50 million in Pentagon spending during the past four years to clients of the husband of one of his top aides, records show.

Specter, R-Pa., used a process called "earmarking" 13 times to set aside $48.7 million for six clients represented by lobbyist Michael Herson and the firm he co-founded, American Defense International. The clients paid Herson's firm nearly $1.5 million in fees since 2002, federal lobbying records show.


Vicki Siegel Herson, Michael Herson
Herson's wife, Vicki Siegel Herson, is Specter's legislative assistant for appropriations. She deals with Specter's work on the Senate Appropriations Committee and its defense subcommittee, where all the earmarks originated. Siegel, who uses her maiden name at work, is a former lobbyist for defense contractors who has worked for Specter since 1999.

Earmarks are a way for powerful members of Congress to specify how federal money must be spent. They have been the subject of attention on Capitol Hill because they played a role in recent scandals, including the bribery conviction of former representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a longtime critic of earmarks, introduced legislation last week to curb the use of earmarks. The 2005 federal budget included 15,877 earmarks for $47.4 billion in spending, according to a Congressional Research Service study that McCain requested.

In a statement responding to questions from USA TODAY, Specter said he did not know the earmarks were going to clients of Siegel's husband. "I am advised that at no time did her husband lobby my office or seek appropriations from any member of my staff," the statement said. Specter declined to be interviewed.

Specter claimed credit for all the earmarks in news releases, noting the projects' ties to Pennsylvania. "These projects, key to our nation's defense, will be invaluable in our continuing war on terror," a Dec. 22 press release said in announcing $56 million worth of earmarks, including $17 million for four Herson clients.

The earmarks paid for research, software and oxygen masks. The largest of the earmarks — $11 million in fiscal 2005 and $6.5 million in fiscal 2006 — went to Drexel University for an initiative to link the military's computer systems.

Senate ethics rules prohibit senators and their staffers from using their positions to further their personal financial interests. Taking official action in return for money or other benefits is illegal. Ethical issues arise more frequently than criminal cases, said Jan Baran, a Washington lawyer who has handled several ethics cases. "Usually these types of situations are political and not legal issues," he said.

Siegel did not return telephone and e-mail messages about her role in the earmarks and if she recused herself from matters involving her husband's firm.

Herson said neither he nor anyone from American Defense International had lobbied Siegel or anyone in Specter's office. "I do not set foot in Specter's office as a lobbyist," Herson said.

Herson said he contacted members of Congress from New Jersey about clients who got earmarks. Neither New Jersey senator is on the Appropriations Committee, where the earmarks originated.

"Even when there is nothing improper about the actual earmark, it's very difficult for citizens and even other members to be sure," said Dennis Thompson, who teaches ethics at Harvard University.

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