Thursday, November 30, 2006

Message of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad To the American People

by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran
November 29, 2006

Noble Americans,

Were we not faced with the activities of the US administration in this part of the world and the negative ramifications of those activities on the daily lives of our peoples, coupled with the many wars and calamities caused by the US administration as well as the tragic consequences of US interference in other countries;

Were the American people not God-fearing, truth-loving, and justice-seeking, while the US administration actively conceals the truth and impedes any objective portrayal of current realities;

And if we did not share a common responsibility to promote and protect freedom and human dignity and integrity;

Then, there would have been little urgency to have a dialogue with you.

While Divine providence has placed Iran and the United States geographically far apart, we should be cognizant that human values and our common human spirit, which proclaim the dignity and exalted worth of all human beings, have brought our two great nations of Iran and the United States closer together.

Both our nations are God-fearing, truth-loving and justice-seeking, and both seek dignity, respect and perfection.

Both greatly value and readily embrace the promotion of human ideals such as compassion, empathy, respect for the rights of human beings, securing justice and equity, and defending the innocent and the weak against oppressors and bullies.

We are all inclined towards the good, and towards extending a helping hand to one another, particularly to those in need.

We all deplore injustice, the trampling of peoples’ rights and the intimidation and humiliation of human beings.

We all detest darkness, deceit, lies and distortion, and seek and admire salvation, enlightenment, sincerity and honesty.

The pure human essence of the two great nations of Iran and the United States testify to the veracity of these statements.

Noble Americans,

Our nation has always extended its hand of friendship to all other nations of the world.

Hundreds of thousands of my Iranian compatriots are living amongst you in friendship and peace, and are contributing positively to your society. Our people have been in contact with you over the past many years and have maintained these contacts despite the unnecessary restrictions of US authorities.

As mentioned, we have common concerns, face similar challenges, and are pained by the sufferings and afflictions in the world.

We, like you, are aggrieved by the ever-worsening pain and misery of the Palestinian people. Persistent aggressions by the Zionists are making life more and more difficult for the rightful owners of the land of Palestine. In broad daylight, in front of cameras and before the eyes of the world, they are bombarding innocent defenseless civilians, bulldozing houses, firing machine guns at students in the streets and alleys, and subjecting their families to endless grief. No day goes by without a new crime.

Palestinian mothers, just like Iranian and American mothers, love their children, and are painfully bereaved by the imprisonment, wounding and murder of their children. What mother wouldn’t?

For 60 years, the Zionist regime has driven millions of the inhabitants of Palestine out of their homes. Many of these refugees have died in the Diaspora and in refugee camps. Their children have spent their youth in these camps and are aging while still in the hope of returning to homeland.

You know well that the US administration has persistently provided blind and blanket support to the Zionist regime, has emboldened it to continue its crimes, and has prevented the UN Security Council from condemning it. Who can deny such broken promises and grave injustices towards humanity by the US administration?

Governments are there to serve their own people. No people wants to side with or support any oppressors. But regrettably, the US administration disregards even its own public opinion and remains in the forefront of supporting the trampling of the rights of the Palestinian people.

Let’s take a look at Iraq. Since the commencement of the US military presence in Iraq, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed, maimed or displaced. Terrorism in Iraq has grown exponentially. With the presence of the US military
in Iraq, nothing has been done to rebuild the ruins, to restore the infrastructure or to alleviate poverty. The US Government used the pretext of the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but later it became clear that that was just a lie and a deception.

Although Saddam was overthrown and people are happy about his departure, the pain and suffering of the Iraqi people has persisted and has even been aggravated.

In Iraq, about one hundred and fifty thousand American soldiers, separated from their families and loved ones, are operating under the command of the current US administration. A substantial number of them have been killed or wounded and their presence in Iraq has tarnished the image of the American people and government.

Their mothers and relatives have, on numerous occasions, displayed their discontent with the presence of their sons and daughters in a land thousands of miles away from US shores. American soldiers often wonder why they have been sent to Iraq.

I consider it extremely unlikely that you, the American people, consent to the billions of dollars of annual expenditure from your treasury for this military misadventure.

Noble Americans,

You have heard that the US administration is kidnapping its presumed opponents from across the globe and arbitrarily holding them without trial or any international supervision in horrendous prisons that it has established in various parts of the world. God knows who these detainees actually are, and what terrible fate awaits them.

You have certainly heard the sad stories of the Guantanamo and Abu-Ghraib prisons. The US administration attempts to justify them through its proclaimed “war on terror.” But every one knows that such behavior, in fact, offends global public opinion, exacerbates resentment and thereby spreads terrorism, and tarnishes the US image and its credibility among nations.

The US administration’s illegal and immoral behavior is not even confined to outside its borders. You are witnessing daily that under the pretext of “the war on terror,” civil liberties in the United States are being increasingly curtailed. Even the privacy of individuals is fast losing its meaning. Judicial due process and fundamental rights are trampled upon. Private phones are tapped, suspects are arbitrarily arrested, sometimes beaten in the streets, or even shot to death. I have no doubt that the American people do not approve of this behavior and indeed deplore it.

The US administration does not accept accountability before any organization, institution or council. The US administration has undermined the credibility of international organizations, particularly the United Nations and its Security Council. But, I do not intend to address all the challenges and calamities in this message.

The legitimacy, power and influence of a government do not emanate from its arsenals of tanks, fighter aircrafts, missiles or nuclear weapons. Legitimacy and influence reside in sound logic, quest for justice and compassion and empathy for all humanity. The global position of the United States is in all probability weakened because the administration has continued to resort to force, to conceal the truth, and to mislead the American people about its policies and practices. Undoubtedly, the American people are not satisfied with this behavior and they showed their discontent in the recent elections. I hope that in the wake of the mid-term elections, the administration of President Bush will have heard and will heed the message of the American people.

My questions are the following:

Is there not a better approach to governance?

Is it not possible to put wealth and power in the service of peace, stability, prosperity and the happiness of all peoples through a commitment to justice and respect for the rights of all nations, instead of aggression and war?

We all condemn terrorism, because its victims are the innocent.

But, can terrorism be contained and eradicated through war, destruction and the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocents?

If that were possible, then why has the problem not been resolved?

The sad experience of invading Iraq is before us all.

What has blind support for the Zionists by the US administration brought for the American people? It is regrettable that for the US administration, the interests of these occupiers supersedes the interests of the American people and of the other nations of the world.

What have the Zionists done for the American people that the US administration considers itself obliged to blindly support these infamous aggressors? Is it not because they have imposed themselves on a substantial portion of the banking, financial, cultural and media sectors?

I recommend that in a demonstration of respect for the American people and for humanity, the right of Palestinians to live in their own homeland should be recognized so that millions of Palestinian refugees can return to their homes and the future of all of Palestine and its form of government be determined in a referendum. This will benefit everyone.

Now that Iraq has a Constitution and an independent Assembly and Government, would it not be more beneficial to bring the US officers and soldiers home, and to spend the astronomical US military expenditures in Iraq for the welfare and prosperity of the American people? As you know very well, many victims of Katrina continue to suffer, and countless Americans continue to live in poverty and homelessness.

I’d also like to say a word to the winners of the recent elections in the US:

The United States has had many administrations; some who have left a positive legacy, and others that are neither remembered fondly by the American people nor by other nations.

Now that you control an important branch of the US Government, you will also be held to account by the people and by history.

If the US Government meets the current domestic and external challenges with an approach based on truth and Justice, it can remedy some of the past afflictions and alleviate some of the global resentment and hatred of America. But if the approach remains the same, it would not be unexpected that the American people would similarly reject the new electoral winners, although the recent elections, rather than reflecting a victory, in reality point to the failure of the current administration’s policies. These issues had been extensively dealt with in my letter to President Bush earlier this year.

To sum up:

It is possible to govern based on an approach that is distinctly different from one of coercion, force and injustice.

It is possible to sincerely serve and promote common human values, and honesty and compassion.

It is possible to provide welfare and prosperity without tension, threats, imposition or war.

It is possible to lead the world towards the aspired perfection by adhering to unity, monotheism, morality and spirituality and drawing upon the teachings of the Divine Prophets.

Then, the American people, who are God-fearing and followers of Divine religions, will overcome every difficulty.

What I stated represents some of my anxieties and concerns.

I am confident that you, the American people, will play an instrumental role in the establishment of justice and spirituality throughout the world. The promises of the Almighty and His prophets will certainly be realized, Justice and Truth will prevail and all nations will live a true life in a climate replete with love, compassion and fraternity.

The US governing establishment, the authorities and the powerful should not choose irreversible paths. As all prophets have taught us, injustice and transgression will eventually bring about decline and demise. Today, the path of return to faith and spirituality is open and unimpeded.

We should all heed the Divine Word of the Holy Qur’an:

“But those who repent, have faith and do good may receive Salvation. Your Lord, alone, creates and chooses as He will, and others have no part in His choice; Glorified is God and Exalted above any partners they ascribe to Him.” (28:67-68)

I pray to the Almighty to bless the Iranian and American nations and indeed all nations of the world with dignity and success.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Monday, November 27, 2006

Happy To Bed, Happy To Rise

by Malcolm Ritter
The Associated Press
Published on November 27, 2006 by the Albany Times Union

As a motivational speaker and executive coach, Caroline Adams Miller knows a few things about using mental exercises to achieve goals. But last year, one exercise she was asked to try took her by surprise.

One night, she was to think of three good things that happened that day and analyze why they occurred. That was supposed to increase her overall happiness.

"I thought it was too simple to be effective," said Miller, 44, of Bethesda, Md. "I went to Harvard. I'm used to things being complicated."

Miller was assigned the task as homework in a master's degree program. But as a chronic worrier, she knew she could use the kind of boost the exercise was supposed to deliver.

She got it.

"The quality of my dreams has changed, I never have trouble falling asleep and I do feel happier," she said.

Results may vary, as they say in the weight-loss ads. But that exercise is one of several that have shown preliminary promise in recent research into how people can make themselves happier -- not just for a day or two, but long-term. It's part of a larger body of work that challenges a long-standing skepticism whether that's even possible.

There's no shortage of advice in how to become a happier person, as a visit to any bookstore will demonstrate. In fact, Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues have collected more than 100 specific recommendations, ranging from those of the Buddha through the self-improvement industry of the 1990s.

The problem is, most of the books on store shelves aren't backed up by rigorous research, says Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, who's conducting such studies now. (She's also writing her own book).

In fact, she says, there has been very little research in how people become happier.

Why? The big reason, she said, is that many researchers have considered that quest to be futile.

For decades, a widely accepted view has been that people are stuck with a basic setting on their happiness thermostat. It says the effects of good or bad life events like marriage, a raise, divorce or disability will simply fade with time.

We adapt to them just like we stop noticing a bad odor from behind the living room couch after a while, this theory says. So this adaptation would seem to doom any deliberate attempt to raise a person's basic happiness setting.

As two researchers put it in 1996, "It may be that trying to be happier is as futile as trying to be taller."

But recent long-term studies have revealed that the happiness thermostat is more malleable than the popular theory maintained, at least in its extreme form. "Set-point is not destiny," says psychologist Ed Diener of the University of Illinois.

The think-of-three-good-things exercise that Miller, the motivational speaker, found so simplistic at first is among those being tested by Seligman's group at the University of Pennsylvania.

People keep doing it on their own because it's immediately rewarding, said Seligman colleague Acacia Parks. It makes people focus more on good things that happen, which might otherwise be forgotten because of daily disappointments, she said.

Miller said the exercise made her notice more good things in her day, and that now she routinely lists 10 or 20 of them rather than just three.

A second approach that has shown promise in Seligman's group has people discover their personal strengths through a specialized questionnaire and choose the five most prominent ones. Then, every day for a week, they are to apply one or more of their strengths in a new way.

Strengths include things like the ability to find humor or summon enthusiasm, appreciation of beauty, curiosity and love of learning. The idea of the exercise is that using one's major "signature" strengths may be a good way to get engaged in satisfying activities.

These two exercises were among five tested on more than 500 people who'd visited a Web site called "Authentic Happiness." Seligman and colleagues reported last year that the two exercises increased happiness and reduced depressive symptoms for the six months that researchers tracked the participants. The effect was greater for people who kept doing the exercises frequently. A follow up study has recently begun.

Another approach under study now is having people work on savoring the pleasing things in their lives like a warm shower or a good breakfast, Parks said. Yet another promising approach is having people write down what they want to be remembered for, to help them bring their daily activities in line with what's really important to them, she said.

Lyubomirsky, meanwhile, is testing other simple strategies. "This is not rocket science," she said.

For example, in one experiment, participants were asked to regularly practice random acts of kindness, things like holding a door open for a stranger, for 10 weeks. The idea was to improve a person's self-image and promote good interactions with other people.

Participants who performed a variety of acts, rather than repeating the same ones, showed an increase in happiness even a month after the experiment ended. Those who kept doing the acts on their own did better than those who didn't.

Other approaches in which she has found some preliminary promise include thinking about the happiest day in your life over and over, without analyzing it, and writing about how you'll be in 10 years, assuming everything goes just right.

Some strategies appear to work better for some people than others, so it's important to get the right fit, she said.

But it'll take more work to see just how long the happiness boost from all these interventions actually lasts, with studies tracking people for many months or years, Lyubomirsky said.

Any long-term effect will probably depend on people continuing to work at it, just as folks who move to southern California can lose their appreciation of the ocean and weather unless they pursue activities that highlight those natural benefits, she said.

In fact, Diener says, happiness probably is really about work and striving.

"Happiness is the process, not the place," he said via e-mail. "So many of us think that when we get everything just right, and obtain certain goals and circumstances, everything will be in place and we will be happy. . . . But once we get everything in place, we still need new goals and activities. The Princess could not just stop when she got the Prince."

Copyright 2006 Associated Press

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Suppression of Asbestos Warning Attempted at OSHA

By Andrew Schneider
The Baltimore Sun
November 20, 2006

It took six years to get federal worker safety officials to issue warnings to auto mechanics that the brakes they're working on could contain lethal asbestos fibers. But it took only three weeks after the warnings were posted before a former top federal official with ties to the auto industry reportedly pushed to have them removed.

John Henshaw, a former head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, called Aug. 15 for the agency to make changes to its warnings, according to documents obtained by The Sun.

But Ira Wainless, an OSHA scientist who wrote the advisory bulletin about asbestos in brakes, refused, according to agency documents. Wainless cited dozens of studies, including work at his own agency, to show that his presentation of the medical risk to mechanics was solid.

Last week, David Ippolito, an official with OSHA's Directorate of Science, Technology and Medicine, told Wainless that he would be suspended without pay for 10 days if the changes weren't made, according to documents.

Wainless refused again, and the advisory bulletin remains online.

"It is outrageous that OSHA would try to intimidate one of its own scientists for doing his job with integrity," said Ed Stern of Local 12 of the American Federation of Government Employees.

According to the union, OSHA wants the July 26 advisory to include studies, financed by the auto industry, that say that asbestos in brakes does not harm mechanics.

In a six-page letter to Ippolito rebutting the agency's charges against Wainless, Stern wrote: "It becomes clear that you have selected [him] as a scapegoat and whipping boy to justify revising the [warning] in response to big industry. Mr. Wainless, like every other OSHA employee, is supposed to serve the public interest, not industry lobbyists."

The union rebuttal letter noted that former OSHA chief Henshaw worked with two consulting firms run by Dennis Paustenbach, ChemRisk and Exponent. These firms, according to Stern and documents obtained by The Sun, have been paid more than $23 million since 2001 by Ford, General Motors and Daimler-Chrysler to help fight asbestos lawsuits brought against them by former workers.

Neither Paustenbach nor Henshaw responded to a request for comment. OSHA and the Department of Labor also did not respond to phone calls and e-mails seeking comment

Wainless, a 32-year veteran of the agency, declined to be interviewed for this article.

According to OSHA documents, the need for the warnings surfaced in 2000 when the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published an investigative series that documented high levels of asbestos being released as mechanics worked on brakes in garages in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and five other cities.

The effort to get warnings out to mechanics who wrongly believed that asbestos was banned took six years. Industry lawyers sued to have earlier warnings eliminated; industry-funded research found that there is no harm from the asbestos used in brakes. Car and truck manufacturers also said they had stopped using asbestos in brakes in the 1990s.

The United States is one of the few industrialized nations that hasn't banned the use or importation of most asbestos products.

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat who is on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said the effort to change the warnings is "what the auto industry and brake industry is doing to defend itself against lawsuits from people who died from occupational exposure to asbestos."

"The people that repair our cars and trucks deserve, at a bare minimum, to be warned," Kucinich said. "In the long run, we need to ban asbestos from the U.S. to catch up with much of the rest of the world."

Henshaw and others say the warnings aren't needed because asbestos is no longer used in the United States.

In May, The Sun reported an 83 percent increase in imported brakes with asbestos over the past decade. Most of these are replacement brakes used by garages and backyard mechanics.

Further, an Aug. 31 internal OSHA memo on the brake warnings to agency chief Edwin Foulke Jr. stated: "Some domestic automobile manufacturers continue to use, in certain models, asbestos brake pads and linings."

In the agency's suspension notification to Wainless, it faulted the industrial hygienist, who is an expert on the recognition, evaluation and control of hazardous materials, with failing to have adequate scientific documentation to support the claim of asbestos' danger. Yet the internal memo to Foulke lists 35 studies and reports.

In that memo, OSHA allows that asbestos can cause cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, but it plays down the risk to brake mechanics.

Many medical specialists disagree.

"Asbestos causes cancer, whether it is pulled out of a mountain, scraped off a steam pipe or shed from a brake shoe," says Dr. Michael Harbut, who has examined thousands of autoworkers for asbestos disease under a project funded by the Occupational Health Legal Rights Foundation, which is financed by units of the AFL-CIO.

"To withhold these warnings to mechanics who have no knowledge of asbestos or believe it's banned is unconscionable," said Harbut, co-director of the National Center for Vermiculite and Asbestos-Related Cancers at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit.

Stern said he and other union officers hope to meet with senior OSHA officials this week to discuss Wainless' suspension.

"Meanwhile, [Wainless] continues to worry about his future because he's being punished for offending the Big Three automakers," Stern said. "There is a real fear that by this action the agency will intimidate other employees from doing what's right for the health and safety of the workers."

To read the OSHA advisory bulletin, go to

Copyright © 2006 The Baltimore Sun

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Plan for Big Mercury Cuts Advances

by Sandy Bauers
The Philadelphia Inquirer
November 17, 2006

Mercury from coal-fired power plants - currently responsible for the bulk of all mercury emitted in Pennsylvania - is expected to fall by 90 percent over the next nine years under a plan approved yesterday by a state regulatory board.

The plan, vigorously debated for two years and heavily opposed by power plants and mining companies, trumps a weaker federal rule. Pennsylvania would join Illinois as the first major coal-producing states to move beyond the federal limits and make them tougher - if measures to do so in both states become final.

"This is a landmark victory for environmental protection and public health in Pennsylvania," Gov. Rendell said in a statement. "We cannot accept that our state is laden with more toxic mercury pollution than nearly anywhere else in the nation and do nothing about it."

While the Republican-controlled state legislature has 14 days to stop the rule approved by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, observers say that's unlikely.

John Hanger, president of the environmental group Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, which initiated the drive for the rule, praised yesterday's decision but also called for "vigilance."

"The Republican Party - particularly from the southeast - has a lot to gain or lose on this matter," he said. "I don't think the Republican Party wants to be identified as the party of mercury pollution."

Hanger said the rule proved "the birth of a new Pennsylvania that understands a clean environment is essential for not only public health but also a vibrant economy."

However, Douglas L. Biden, president of the Electric Power Generation Association, reiterated that the rule was "not in the best interests of Pennsylvania."

Power-plant owners have warned that complying with a tougher rule would drive up electric bills, force some coal-fired power plants out of business, and send power plant jobs out of the state.

The state has 36 plants and is second only to Texas in mercury emissions. Pennsylvania emits 5 tons of mercury each year, 80 percent of it from power plants.

"If they start shutting power plants down, there's going to be a political price to pay," Biden said.

He said the issue "was never about whether to reduce mercury emissions but how to do it."

A key part of the rule prohibits plants that emit more mercury than permitted from purchasing "credits" from cleaner plants, as the federal rules allow.

Biden said the combination of annual federal caps and the state's refusal to allow credits will actually require emission reductions of up to 98 percent.

"There's no technology that enables us to get to those levels," he said.

Mercury, which becomes airborne in the coal-burning process, is a neurotoxin that can remain in the environment for centuries. Once it falls into waterways, it becomes the more toxic methylmercury, which accumulates in fish and other wildlife.

It poses the greatest danger to the developing fetus and young children, causing brain and nervous-system damage. Adults are at risk for heart and immune-system damage.

Many streams and rivers in Pennsylvania have advisories warning anglers against eating their catch because of mercury pollution.

The rule passed yesterday by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission calls for an 80 percent reduction in mercury emissions by 2010 and a 90 percent reduction by 2015.

The move for the more stringent state legislation began in 2004, when Hanger's group filed a petition with the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board on behalf of 10 public-health, sporting, women's rights, and environmental and conservation organizations.

Eventually, nearly 70 organizations, including the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association, the Pennsylvania Parent Teachers Association, the Learning Disabilities Association, and the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, supported the effort.

The Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs added its voice. "It seems like hunters and anglers are usually the first ones to see the results of any type of environmental changes," said the group's executive director, Melody Zullinger.

During a public-comment period, the Environmental Quality Board received 10,934 responses, a record for rulemaking in Pennsylvania. Fewer than three dozen opposed the rule.

Joseph Minott, executive director of the Clean Air Council, said Pennsylvania had been struggling with "what the role of coal should be. We're very protective in Pennsylvania of our coal, of our coal jobs. Somehow, there was a feeling that this was going to hurt Pennsylvania coal."

He thinks it does exactly the opposite. "It shows Pennsylvania is willing to make the hard decisions to protect public health, and that may give new opportunities for coal."

© Copyright 2006 Philly Online, LLC

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

More of the Same? Not This Congress

by Jesse Jackson
Chicago Sun-Times
November 14, 2006

As Democrats take control of the House and Senate, many wonder whether it makes a difference. The corporate lobbies aren't going anywhere -- they started to hedge their bets by contributing to Democrats late in the election. The foreign policy establishment that led us into Iraq and continues to support a global economic posture that benefits the capital but undermines work isn't going anywhere. Does it make a difference?

Yes, it does, in ways that are big and small. First, the agenda of the country will change. Consider the six-point agenda that Democrats will pass through the House in the first 100 hours. They will vote to raise the minimum wage for the first time in a decade; cut interest rates on student loans in half and expand Pell grants; lower drug prices by removing the ban on Medicare's negotiating bulk purchases; revoke subsidies to Big Oil and put it in renewable energy; revoke tax breaks for companies outsourcing jobs and take commonsense homeland security steps like requiring chemical companies to have their defense plans reviewed.

Second, the new congressional majority will force the administration to face oversight and accountability for the first time. Perhaps the worst aspect of one-party rule is that Congress stopped holding the executive branch accountable. The result was billions looted in the reconstruction of Iraq, regulatory agencies simply handed over to the companies they were supposed to regulate and a lawless president checked only by the courts. Many commentators warn Congress against holding hearings, using subpoena power, inquiring into the presidential lawlessness, claiming it would descend into partisan spitball fights. That's nonsense. Accountability is vital and exposing the waste, fraud and abuse that has gone on would be a national service.

Third, the new Congress, needless to say, will force -- has already begun to force -- a change of course in Iraq. The current policy is failing, as even the president now seems ready to acknowledge, with the replacement of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Iraq was the major issue in the campaign -- with the public voting overwhelmingly for a change in course. Democrats will force the administration to begin a process that will get the troops out of an occupation in midst of a civil war. There aren't any good options in Iraq, which surely will be seen as the worst foreign policy debacle in the nation's history.

The new Congress also will challenge the country's ruinous trade policies, which have turned us into the world's largest debtor and made our prosperity increasingly dependent on the decision of Chinese and Japanese central bankers. There is no majority for a new course, but there is a strong majority and mandate against continuing down the old path.

This Congress will be more sympathetic to poor and working people, and less beholden to the corporate top floor. The majority is more concerned about growing inequality, catastrophic climate change and our broken election system. They'll focus on investing in schools, not prayer in schools; on health care for children, not flag-burning amendments.

Skeptics are right to point out the limits. The corporate lobbies will focus on the Senate, where a minority can stop progress. After Gingrich Republicans took Congress in 1994, they passed the Contract with America out of the House, but it went nowhere in the Senate. The same might happen in this Senate, unless citizens organize big time to show that they want the 100-hour agenda passed. Broader progress on poverty, on an urban agenda, on climate change, on corporate accountability and empowering workers probably will depend on more than one election, and a change in the White House.

But this election has marked the end of a 25-year conservative era. In January, Congress starts debating progress again, not reaction. How far they will get depends on how mobilized citizens become. But one thing is clear -- the direction has changed, the conversation has changed. We're now about to debate how to get things done for the country, not simply how to stop bad things from happening. And that makes a difference.

© Copyright 2006 Sun-Times News Group

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

"The Beginning of the End of a Six-Year Nightmare for the World"

by Paul Haven
The Associated Press
November 8, 2006

The electoral rebuke for President Bush and the resignation of his defense secretary, both deeply unpopular away from American shores over the Iraq war, was celebrated throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Still, there was concern Wednesday that a Washington power split and a severely weakened Bush might mean uncertainty in crucial areas like global trade talks.

On Iraq, some worried that Democrats will force a too-rapid retreat, leaving the country and the region in chaos. Others said they doubted the congressional turnover would have a dramatic impact on Iraq policy any time soon, largely because the Democrats have yet to define the course they want to take.

But from Paris to Pakistan, politicians, analysts and ordinary citizens said Wednesday they hoped the Democratic takeover of both Houses of Congress would force Bush to adopt a more conciliatory approach to global crises, and teach a president many see as a "cowboy" a lesson in humility.

In an extraordinary joint statement, more than 200 Socialist members of the European Parliament hailed the American election results as "the beginning of the end of a six-year nightmare for the world."

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has consistently railed against the Bush administration, called the election "a reprisal vote."

In Paris, American expatriates and French citizens alike packed the city's main American haunts to watch results overnight and early Wednesday, with some standing to cheer or boo as vote tabulations came in.

One Frenchman, 53-year-old teacher Jean-Pierre Charpemtrat, said it was about time U.S. voters figured out what much of the rest of the world already knew.

"Americans are realizing that you can't found the politics of a country on patriotic passion and reflexes," he said. "You can't fool everybody all the time — and I think that's what Bush and his administration are learning today."

Bush is deeply unpopular in many countries, with particularly intense opposition to the war in Iraq, the U.S. terror holding facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and allegations of Washington-sanctioned interrogation methods that some equate with torture.

Many said they thought the big gains by Democrats signaled the beginning of the end of Bush's tenure.

In Copenhagen, Denmark, Jens Langfeldt, 35, said he didn't know much about the midterm elections but was opposed to Bush, referring to the president as "that cowboy."

In Sri Lanka, some said they hoped the rebuke would force Bush to abandon a unilateral approach to global issues.

"The Americans have made it clear that current American policy should change in dealing with the world, from a confrontational approach, to a more consensus-based and bridge-building approach," said Jehan Perera, a political analyst. The Democratic win means "there will be more control and restraint" over U.S. foreign policy.

Passions were even higher in Pakistan, where Bush is deeply unpopular despite billions in aid and support for President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

One opposition lawmaker, Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, said he welcomed the election result, but was hoping for more. Bush "deserves to be removed, put on trial and given a Saddam-like death sentence," he said.

But while the result clearly produced more jubilation than jitters, there were also some deep concerns.

In Denmark, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen told broadcaster TV2 he hoped the president and the new Congress would find "common ground on questions about Iraq and

"The world needs a vigorous U.S.A.," Fogh Rasmussen said.

There was also some concern that Democrats, who have a reputation for being more protective of U.S. jobs going overseas, will make it harder to achieve a global free trade accord. And in China, some feared the resurgence of the Democrats would increase tension over human rights and trade and labor issues. China's surging economy has a massive trade surplus with the United States.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

5 Good Reasons to Vote Today

by Michael Moore
November 7, 2006

1. IT'S A NATIONAL REFERENDUM. Although candidates' names will be on the ballot today, this election is NOT about this candidate or that candidate. Make no mistake about it: This election is nothing less than a National Referendum on George W. Bush and his War. Don't waste your time trying to learn about who the schlump is that's running for office. You know they're all pretty much the same, a few are better than others, but... please. They is who they is. THIS election is not about them. It's a simple up or down vote on staying the course.

To vote in favor of the war, vote for the Republican. To vote against the war, vote for the Democrat. As crazy as it sounds, even if the Republican is against the war, or the Democrat is for it, it doesn't matter. All that will matter by midnight tonight is the math on the big tote board. Did America say YES to Bush or NO to Bush? The ONLY way they're going to add it up is by counting the number of votes under the big D and the big R. The only way to take a stand against Bush today is to vote for the Dems on the ballot.

2. IN ORDER TO CATCH THE REPUBLICANS STEALING YOUR VOTE, YOU FIRST HAVE TO VOTE. There are huge and valid concerns about the new electronic voting machines that must be addressed. It is far too easy to use new technology to rig the vote. But if your fear of that leads you to decide that you shouldn't bother voting, well, then, I guess they've succeeded in snuffing out your voice without having to rig the machine. Make them break the law if they want to win. Vote. We'll catch them if they do. I promise.

3. WITH THE DEMOCRATS IN POWER IN THE HOUSE AND/OR SENATE, WE CAN GO AFTER THEM! These spineless Democrats who enabled Bush to start this war and funded it ever since are due for a shellacking from all of us. For nearly 6 years, they've hidden behind the cop-out of, "Hey, we're the minority, we have no power." As of tomorrow, hopefully, they will have no mask to hide behind. And it will be up to us to go after them.

4. I'LL PUT YOU ON MY WEBSITE. That's right. You can appear on my home page and be seen by millions later today. All you need to do is bring a broom when you go to vote. The broom is our mascot today because we're going to sweep the crooks and the warmongers outta office. Take a picture of yourself holding a broom outside your polling place, e-mail it to me, and I'll put as many of you as I can up on the home page of my website. People all around the world will see you! Government files with your name on them will be initiated! What better way to celebrate this historic day?!

And the final reason to vote today...

5. 2,836 + 655,000. Each one of them, American and Iraqi, are no longer with us because of the decision by one man to start a war. Each one of them represented a precious, God-given life that no man had the right to take away. Each one of them had a mother and father, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, friends and loved ones, little boys and little girls. It's mad, my friends, utterly mad, this senseless loss of human life.

So, do it for them. Call up whoever you know and tell them to meet you at the polls. And tell them to bring a broom, real or imaginary, with a big D on it. It's the only true American thing to do.

See ya at the victory party tonight!

Michael Moore

Monday, November 06, 2006

New Telemarketing Ploy Steers Voters on Republican Path

by Christopher Drew
The New York Times
November 6, 2006

An automated voice at the other end of the telephone line asks whether you believe that judges who “push homosexual marriage and create new rights like abortion and sodomy” should be controlled. If your reply is “yes,” the voice lets you know that the Democratic candidate in the Senate race in Montana, Jon Tester, is not your man.

In Maryland, a similar question-and-answer sequence suggests that only the Republican Senate candidate would keep the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. In Tennessee, another paints the Democrat as wanting to give foreign terrorists “the same legal rights and privileges” as Americans.

Using a telemarketing tactic that is best known for steering consumers to buy products, the organizers of the political telephone calls say they have reached hundreds of thousands of homes in five states over the last several weeks in a push to win votes for Republicans. Democrats say the calls present a distorted picture.

The Ohio-based conservatives behind the new campaign, who include current and former Procter & Gamble managers, say the automated system can reach vast numbers of people at a fraction of the cost of traditional volunteer phone banks and is the most ambitious political use of the telemarketing technology ever undertaken.

But critics say the automated calls are a twist on push polls — a campaign tactic that is often criticized as deceptive because it involves calling potential voters under the guise of measuring public opinion, while the real intent is to change opinions with questions that push people in one direction or the other.

The calls have set off a furor in the closing days of a campaign in which control of Congress hinges on a handful of races.

Late last week, Representative Benjamin L. Cardin, the Democratic candidate for Senate in Maryland, demanded a halt to the calls, saying “this sort of gutter politics” was distorting his record. Some political analysts said the practice could mislead voters and discourage them from taking calls from more objective pollsters.

Andrew Kohut, a longtime pollster and the president of the Pew Research Center in Washington, said the automated calling “smells like a push poll, it feels like a push poll, so I guess we have to call it a push poll.”

But Harold E. Swift, one of the organizers of the Ohio group, said he viewed the move beyond phone banks or simple taped attack messages as a “very sophisticated approach to voter education.” The goal, he said, is to “make people aware of the candidate’s stand on the issues that are important to them.”

Mr. Swift said his group, Common Sense Ohio, is a nonprofit advocacy organization and is financed by wealthy Republican donors. A sister organization, Common Sense 2006, has received a donation from the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee, an affiliate of the Republican Governors Association. Under federal law, the groups are not required to disclose their donors publicly or reveal how much money they have raised.

Mr. Swift acknowledged in an interview that if some critics thought the group’s polling approach seemed deceptive, “I grant that they can reach that conclusion.”

During the automated calls, which last about a minute, the moderator first asks whether the listener is a registered voter or which candidate he favors. Voters receive different sets of questions depending on how they answer. The system then asks a series of “yes” or “no” questions about different issues, and each answer guides the system forward.

For instance, in the Montana race, if a voter agrees that liberal-leaning judges seem to go too far, the moderator quickly jumps to another question that highlights the differences between Mr. Tester and the Republican incumbent, Senator Conrad Burns: “Does the fact that Jon Tester says he would have voted against common-sense, pro-life judges like Samuel Alito and John Roberts, and Conrad Burns supported them, make you less favorable toward Jon Tester?”

In Tennessee, after listeners are asked if terrorists should have the same rights as Americans, this comparison between Representative Harold E. Ford Jr., the Democratic Senate candidate, and Bob Corker, the Republican, is given: “Fact: Harold Ford Jr. voted against the recommendations of the 9/11 commission and voted against renewing the Patriot Act, which treats terrorists as terrorists. Fact: Bob Corker supports renewal of the Patriot Act and how it would treat terrorists.”

In some cases, Democrats say, the language is too provocative, and, in others, contrary facts are omitted. Mr. Ford and Mr. Tester, the Montana State Senate president, are both said in the calls to have voted repeatedly for tax increases, but no mention is made of the times they voted for tax cuts, their campaigns say.

Mr. Cardin, who supports stem cell research, said he was incensed that the issue was reduced to the notion that he voted to allow “research to be done on unborn babies,” while his opponent, Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, “opposes any research that destroys human life.”

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

The Race Between the Right Wing and the Right Thing

by Michael Moore
November 6, 2006


Tomorrow night, those who sent 2,800 of our soldiers to their deaths -- all because of a lie the president concocted -- will find out if America chooses to reward them -- or remove them.

As good as things look for the Democrats, do not pop the corks and start the partying yet. Do not believe for a second that the Republicans plan on losing. They will fight like dogs for the next 24 hours -- relentless, unforgiving, nonstop action to squeeze every last conservative voter out of the house on election day. While the rest of us go about our day today, tens of thousands of Republican volunteers are knocking on doors, making phone calls, and lining up rides to the polls. They're not sleeping, they're not eating, they're not even watching Fox News. A day without Fox News? That's right, that's how insanely dedicated they are.

But the reason they have to work so hard is that, before they can get the vote out, they first have to completely turn around the massive public opinion against them. Almost 60% disapprove of Bush. Over 60% are opposed to the war. Those are landslide numbers. And the American people are not going to turn pro-war or into Bush-lovers by tomorrow morning. So it should be easy for us, right?

Yup. Just like it was when we won the popular vote in 2000 and when we were ahead in the exit polls all day long in 2004. You know the deal -- the other side takes no prisoners. And just when it seems like things are going our way, the Republicans suddenly, mysteriously win the election.

Well, it's not really that mysterious. They're out there busting their asses this very minute, right down the street from you. What are YOU doing? You're on a computer reading my cranky letter! Stop reading this! We have only a few hours left to wrestle control of the Congress away from these "representatives" who, if returned, will continue shipping our young men and women over there to die.

Here's what I'm imploring you to do right now:

1. Go through your address book on your cell phone and computer and call/e-mail everyone you know. Tell them how much it would mean to you if they vote on Tuesday. If they don't know where to vote, help them find their polling place.

2. Contact ASAP. They will connect you to the folks who need you to make calls.

3. Contact your local Democratic Party headquarters. There are close races in nearly every state. They'll put you to work -- on the ground or on the phones. Or go to the local HQ for the Dem candidate running for the House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate and say, "Put me to work!"

OK, turn off the computer -- and I will, too. There's serious work to do. The good news? There's more of us than there are of them. Let's prove that, once and for all.

Is there anything more important that you have to do today? Nothing less than the rest of the world is depending on us.

Michael Moore

Friday, November 03, 2006

Carter Says Claim That North Korea Cheated Is False

by Judy Mathewson
November 3, 2006

The Bush administration claim that North Korea cheated or reneged on a 1994 agreement with the U.S. to freeze its nuclear program is ``completely false and ridiculous,'' former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said.

Carter, a Democrat who helped broker the agreement with the North Koreans on behalf of then-President Bill Clinton, said the pact was ``observed pretty well by both sides'' for eight years.

``It lasted until 2002 when the United States in effect abandoned that agreement and branded North Korea as an axis of evil,'' Carter, 82, said in an interview to be broadcast this weekend on ``Conversations with Judy Woodruff'' on Bloomberg Television. Carter also said the U.S. further undermined the agreement by condemning summit meetings that took place in 2000 between North Korea and South Korea.

President George W. Bush said on Oct. 11, two days after North Korea tested a nuclear bomb, that the 1994 agreement ``just didn't work.'' Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Oct. 10 said the North Koreans ``cheated'' on that agreement.

Bush and Rice also said such a history justified the administration's refusal to talk directly with North Korea and instead urged the Asian nation to return to six-nation disarmament talks.

North Korea said Oct. 31 it will rejoin that six-country forum if the U.S. agrees to discuss lifting financial sanctions imposed last year.

It's wrong to say that North Korea cheated on the 1994 agreement, Carter said. Under Clinton, North Korea agreed to bring back international atomic inspectors, freeze its nuclear program and put its spent fuel rods in cold storage, he said.

Rice Reaffirms

Rice reaffirmed her claim that the North Koreans cheated in an interview with ``Political Capital with Al Hunt'' to air this weekend on Bloomberg Television.''

``We know that not too long after they signed that deal, yes, they'd frozen their plutonium program and they'd begun to search for a highly-enriched-uranium route,'' Rice said. ``Now, I guess you can quibble about whether it is cheating to close off one route to a nuclear weapon and start another route to nuclear weapon. I would call it cheating.''

Jon B. Wolfsthal who lived on a North Korean nuclear reservation in 1995 and 1996 as a U.S. monitor, said the reality of how the deal unraveled is more nuanced than either the Carter or Rice account.

``There's plenty of blame to go around for both sides,'' said Wolfsthal, who is now a fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. In North Korea, his job had been to ensure that North Korea was complying with the 1994 agreement. |

Fuel Oil

To begin with, the U.S. didn't keep to its required schedule under the agreement for delivering fuel oil to the North Koreans. The reason was because in 1995 the Republican-controlled Congress exercised its constitutional right not to fund such shipments, Wolfsthal said in a telephone interview.

While the agreement didn't explicitly forbid the North Koreans from enriching uranium, Wolfsthal said ``the spirit of the agreement was that they shouldn't do that, though.''

``Eventually there was a breakdown in both momentum and trust on both sides,'' he said, with another reason being the U.S. failure to recognize North Korea in the same way that China and Russia had officially recognized South Korea.

David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector who is now president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, said one reason the U.S. was slow to fulfill its obligations was that many people mistakenly thought Kim Jong Il's government was about to collapse.

2000 Confrontation

``The North Koreans can rightly argue that they didn't get what they were promised,'' he said in a telephone interview. ``North Korea is accused of cheating by the United States, but the United States wanted the deal dead anyway.''

U.S. concerns that North Korea was enriching uranium led to a 2002 confrontation between the Bush administration, which was by then in power, and Kim Il Jong. The U.S. offered new incentives to North Korea if it would stop enrichment and publicly admit to it. North Korea rejected the offer, Wolfsthal and Albright said.

Carter, the 2002 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, called for direct U.S.-North Korea talks, though he said they would probably have to be arranged discreetly at the six-party negotiations.

To arrange talks between just the U.S. and North Korea at a separate forum ``would result in too much loss of face by the current administration, but they could do it under the aegis of the umbrella of the so-called six-power talks, assembled with a secret, private, unpublicized agreement by the North Koreans in advance,'' Carter said.

Excessive Response

The Bush administration has said that bilateral conversations with North Korea have already taken place at the six-party talks and can occur again.

Carter also said Israelis ``responded excessively'' in the conflict with Hezbollah in July ``when they began a massive bombing operation against a major part of Lebanon.''

He said the Bush administration made a mistake by ``abandoning the effort in Afghanistan to stamp out al-Qaeda, to capture Osama bin Laden'' when it shifted most of the U.S. military effort from Afghanistan into Iraq. Carter called Iraq ``an unnecessary war based on false premises.''

Asked whether he thinks there should be some limits on free trade to protect American jobs, Carter said that while that issue is important, he is more concerned about what he called ``the growing chasm between rich people and poor people.''

International Trade

``The main thing I see in international trade is to be sure that we treat fairly the people who are already living devastated lives because of poverty and deprivation and not worry overly much about withholding trade from them in order to protect a few American jobs.''

Carter, the 39th president, served one term starting in 1977. He and his wife Rosalynn founded the Carter Center, an Atlanta-based human-rights organization, in 1982. Its mission is to improve human rights and alleviate suffering by resolving conflicts, improving health and promoting freedom and democracy.

British Believe Bush Is More Dangerous Than Kim Jong-il

by Julian Glover
The Guardian
November 3, 2006

America is now seen as a threat to world peace by its closest neighbours and allies, according to an international survey of public opinion published today that reveals just how far the country's reputation has fallen among former supporters since the invasion of Iraq.

Carried out as US voters prepare to go to the polls next week in an election dominated by the war, the research also shows that British voters see George Bush as a greater danger to world peace than either the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, or the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Both countries were once cited by the US president as part of an "axis of evil", but it is Mr Bush who now alarms voters in countries with traditionally strong links to the US.

The survey has been carried out by the Guardian in Britain and leading newspapers in Israel (Haaretz), Canada (La Presse and Toronto Star) and Mexico (Reforma), using professional local opinion polling in each country.

It exposes high levels of distrust. In Britain, 69% of those questioned say they believe US policy has made the world less safe since 2001, with only 7% thinking action in Iraq and Afghanistan has increased global security.

The finding is mirrored in America's immediate northern and southern neighbours, Canada and Mexico, with 62% of Canadians and 57% of Mexicans saying the world has become more dangerous because of US policy.

Even in Israel, which has long looked to America to guarantee national security, support for the US has slipped.

Only one in four Israeli voters say that Mr Bush has made the world safer, outweighed by the number who think he has added to the risk of international conflict, 36% to 25%. A further 30% say that at best he has made no difference.

Voters in three of the four countries surveyed also overwhelmingly reject the decision to invade Iraq, with only Israeli voters in favour, 59% to 34% against. Opinion against the war has hardened strongly since a similar survey before the US presidential election in 2004.

In Britain 71% of voters now say the invasion was unjustified, a view shared by 89% of Mexicans and 73% of Canadians. Canada is a Nato member whose troops are in action in Afghanistan. Neither do voters think America has helped advance democracy in developing countries, one of the justifications for deposing Saddam Hussein. Only 11% of Britons and 28% of Israelis think that has happened.

As a result, Mr Bush is ranked with some of his bitterest enemies as a cause of global anxiety. He is outranked by Osama bin Laden in all four countries, but runs the al-Qaida leader close in the eyes of UK voters: 87% think the al-Qaida leader is a great or moderate danger to peace, compared with 75% who think this of Mr Bush.

The US leader and close ally of Tony Blair is seen in Britain as a more dangerous man than the president of Iran (62% think he is a danger), the North Korean leader (69%) and the leader of Hizbullah, Hassan Nasrallah (65%).

Only 10% of British voters think that Mr Bush poses no danger at all. Israeli voters remain much more trusting of him, with 23% thinking he represents a serious danger and 61% thinking he does not.

Contrary to the usual expectation, older voters in Britain are slightly more hostile to the Iraq war than younger ones. Voters under 35 are also more trusting of Mr Bush, with hostility strongest among people aged 35-65.

· ICM interviewed a random sample of 1,010 adults by telephone from October 27-30. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. Polling was by phone in Canada (sample 1,007), Israel (1,078) and Mexico (1,010)

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2006

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Great Divider

by The New York Times
November 2, 2006

As President Bush throws himself into the final days of a particularly nasty campaign season, he’s settled into a familiar pattern of ugly behavior. Since he can’t defend the real world created by his policies and his decisions, Mr. Bush is inventing a fantasy world in which to campaign on phony issues against fake enemies.

In Mr. Bush’s world, America is making real progress in Iraq. In the real world, as Michael Gordon reported in yesterday’s Times, the index that generals use to track developments shows an inexorable slide toward chaos. In Mr. Bush’s world, his administration is marching arm in arm with Iraqi officials committed to democracy and to staving off civil war. In the real world, the prime minister of Iraq orders the removal of American checkpoints in Baghdad and abets the sectarian militias that are slicing and dicing their country.

In Mr. Bush’s world, there are only two kinds of Americans: those who are against terrorism, and those who somehow are all right with it. Some Americans want to win in Iraq and some don’t. There are Americans who support the troops and Americans who don’t support the troops. And at the root of it all is the hideously damaging fantasy that there is a gulf between Americans who love their country and those who question his leadership.

Mr. Bush has been pushing these divisive themes all over the nation, offering up the ludicrous notion the other day that if Democrats manage to control even one house of Congress, America will lose and the terrorists will win. But he hit a particularly creepy low when he decided to distort a lame joke lamely delivered by Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. Mr. Kerry warned college students that the punishment for not learning your lessons was to “get stuck in Iraq.” In context, it was obviously an attempt to disparage Mr. Bush’s intelligence. That’s impolitic and impolite, but it’s not as bad as Mr. Bush’s response. Knowing full well what Mr. Kerry meant, the president and his team cried out that the senator was disparaging the troops. It was a depressing replay of the way the Bush campaign Swift-boated Americans in 2004 into believing that Mr. Kerry, who went to war, was a coward and Mr. Bush, who stayed home, was a hero.

It’s not the least bit surprising or objectionable that Mr. Bush would hit the trail hard at this point, trying to salvage his party’s control of Congress and, by extension, his last two years in office. And we’re not naïve enough to believe that either party has been running a positive campaign that focuses on the issues.

But when candidates for lower office make their opponents out to be friends of Osama bin Laden, or try to turn a minor gaffe into a near felony, that’s just depressing. When the president of the United States gleefully bathes in the muck to divide Americans into those who love their country and those who don’t, it is destructive to the fabric of the nation he is supposed to be leading.

This is hardly the first time that Mr. Bush has played the politics of fear, anger and division; if he’s ever missed a chance to wave the bloody flag of 9/11, we can’t think of when. But Mr. Bush’s latest outbursts go way beyond that. They leave us wondering whether this president will ever be willing or able to make room for bipartisanship, compromise and statesmanship in the two years he has left in office.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company