Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Barack Hussein Obama's speech against the Iraq War - October 2002

"I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances. The Civil War was one of the bloodiest in history, and yet it was only through the crucible of the sword, the sacrifice of multitudes, that we could begin to perfect this union and drive the scourge of slavery from our soil.

I Don't Oppose All Wars

I don't oppose all wars. My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton's army. He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil.

I don't oppose all wars.

After September 11, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this administration's pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such tragedy from happening again.

Opposed to Dumb, Rash Wars

I don't oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income, to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.

That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

On Saddam Hussein

Now let me be clear: I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power.... The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors...and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.

I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars. So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the president.

You Want a Fight, President Bush?

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's finish the fight with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to make sure that...we vigorously enforce a nonproliferation treaty, and that former enemies and current allies like Russia safeguard and ultimately eliminate their stores of nuclear material, and that nations like Pakistan and India never use the terrible weapons already in their possession, and that the arms merchants in our own country stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil through an energy policy that doesn't simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil.

Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance. Corruption and greed. Poverty and despair."

Thursday, August 29, 2002

What do Americans eat and why?

The great food debate

Come on in
Aug 29th 2002 | SAN FRANCISCO
From The Economist print edition

How bad is American food? And whose fault is it?

AMERICANS are in a pickle over food. Just as a decade of financial optimism has given way to the shocked discovery that people are poorer than they thought they were, so an era of working out in gyms and low-fat dieting has been mocked by reports of the nation's shocking chubbiness and other food-related forms of ill-health.

The figures on fat are striking. The proportion (if not the proportions) of Americans who are obese rose from 15% in 1991 to 27% in 1999. Youngsters show the same trend: 10% of them are now obese. Add in the merely overweight and you cover 60% of American adults and 25% of children. David Satcher, who retired as surgeon general in February, has estimated that obesity contributes to 300,000 of the 2m deaths each year in America. Treating diet-related conditions such as cancer and heart disease cost $117 billion in 2000.

What to do? The Bush administration has launched a $190m advertising campaign aimed at making children more energetic. This week, the Los Angeles school board moved to ban the sale of fizzy drinks in its schools. In May, a Californian state senator abandoned her bill to impose a tax of two cents on every can of pop statewide, but others are still pushing for “sin taxes” on burgers and sugary drinks.

The courts have become involved too. Last month, a New Yorker sued four fast-food chains. He had eaten their food regularly in the course of reaching 272lb (123kg) and notching up two heart attacks. The restaurants, he said, had not warned him that his diet might be harmful.

Meanwhile, another battle has broken out within the fad-crazed health industry itself. The traditional low-fat, bran-and-broccoli dieticians have been challenged by another school that advocates high-protein eating. Beef and lobster, they say, are fine, but you have to stay off carbohydrates such as pasta and bread.

Is the American stomach really in such poor shape? By the standards of most of the world, Americans are fairly healthy. Life expectancy continues to rise; it is bettered only by places that absorb far fewer immigrants from poor countries. Despite jeers from Europe about the number of additives and hormones that go into American food, there have been no health scares on the scale of Britain's mad-cow disease.

Yet Americans are surely right to be agitated about their food. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that their diet is doing many of them a great deal of harm. The “fat-acceptance” lobby is right that you can be heavy and fit; but without exercise, too much weight makes diabetes and other potentially fatal diseases more likely. Independent of the implications of being overweight, diet also plays a role in other illnesses, such as cancers of the bowel, colon and prostate.

There is also a clear social divide. Both hunger (which still afflicts 10m households in America) and unhealthy excess correlate closely with poverty and poor education. Shops in poor neighbourhoods stock less fresh food (and at higher prices), while fast-food joints proliferate. Poorer people also have fewer parks and playgrounds in which to exercise.

This sounds bad. Yet the food industry is largely giving American consumers (rich and poor) what they want. A pattern of life in which fewer families eat regular meals together, fewer parents remain at home during the day to cook, and increasing amounts of time are spent working or commuting creates demand for convenient, fast food (especially when it is as cheap as it is). Tummy size, then, is largely a side-effect of modern American life—and the choices that Americans make.

That said, there is a debate about how well informed consumers are when they make these choices. Even if you regard the case of the litigious 272lb New Yorker as absurd, America's food industry is particularly powerful and unfettered. In Europe, the most powerful bit of the food-production chain is the one closest to the consumer—the supermarkets. In America, the industry is controlled by food processors. Three facets of the food business are particularly troubling:

Misleading information. Marion Nestle of New York University points out in “Food Politics” (University of California Press, 2002) that blurbs on packaging are highly selective. Breakfast cereals, for instance, come blazoned with information about how their added minerals and vitamins will strengthen young bones; they have less about what the coating of sugar will do to children's teeth and waistlines.

Poor regulation. The power of the food lobby extends to Washington. The agriculture department has a huge conflict of interest. It is responsible both for promoting the interests of farmers and for disseminating nutritional information. The Food and Drug Administration has been restrained by Congress, at the behest of food interests, in its efforts to regulate dietary claims.

•Schools. Eating habits formed by children are hard to shake in adulthood: 60% of obese children grow up into obese adults. Fast-food firms often serve as official caterers, while soft-drink firms have installed numerous snack dispensers in schools (especially poor ones), in exchange for providing things like TVs.

Far from representing something new, the current debate about carbohydrates reflects the confusion created when science and marketing mix. While the 1990s fads concentrated on fatty foods and their link to cholesterol, the high-protein dieticians blame starchy carbohydrates. These, they say, produce a rush of sugar in the blood that destabilises the body's regulation of appetite and so lead to overeating.

This does help to explain one mystery of the past 20 years: why “low-fat” food did not work. The low-fat meals that Americans guzzled down were often packed with refined flour and heavily sugared to give them flavour (which the customers also wanted); people who tucked into them kept on wanting to eat more. The food industry did not rush to alert them to this point; nor did its packaging mention the sugar as clearly as the “low fat”.

Yet the more you delve into the issue, the more nuanced it appears. Just as some fatty foods, such as avocados and peanuts, are now thought to protect the heart (not harm it), there are also some sorts of carbohydrates, such as those found in whole grains, that don't encourage appetite. And the newest research seems to imply that people's genetic disposition might matter more than all these things. Variations in the apOE gene, for example, may determine your blood cholesterol level more than your diet. And all that is before you consider things like the amount of exercise people take.

Over the past 25 years or so, Americans have repeatedly jumped at quick-fix solutions for their fast-food habits. In the late 1990s there was a craze for anti-fat drugs, which inevitably led to lawsuits. But in the end nearly all the arguments about food come back to the choices that consumers make.

Americans have got larger because they have chosen (mainly consciously) to eat the way that they do. Millions of them actually eat rather well: these tend to be the richer and better-educated sorts, who go to gyms and buy their vegetables from organic farmers' markets. Their buying power is having an effect: one of the fastest-growing supermarket chains in America is Whole Foods Markets, based in Austin, Texas, which mixes organic vegetables and free-range chicken with a sorcerer's array of vitamin tonics. But, for the moment at least, they are in a clear thin minority.

My recommendation? Go vegetarian!

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Wither Congress, Wither America?

Crushing Congressional Dissent: The Fall of Hilliard, Barr and McKinney

by Wayne Madsen

[Reprinted With Permission]

Historians will one day write that the 107th Congress was the last to stand up to the constitutional encroachment by the military and monarchist policies of the Bush II administration. Just as with the Roman Senate, the Congress of the United States is becoming an elite club of pathetic assenters and global elitists. Once the domain of great orators and dissenters like Cato and Cicero, the Roman Senate was eventually subsumed by the Roman Army when the Emperor took on dictatorial powers. The Roman Senate could say nothing as the Roman

dictatorship annexed Macedonia, Spain, Greece, the Middle East, and North Africa. By the time Emperors Tiberius and Septimius Severus took power, the Senate, which had grown to an elite club of 600, was a rubber stamp body that had no choice but to go along with the military's continued usurpation of power.

The United States Congress stands on the same precipice as its Roman ancestor. If Bush pulls another electoral coup in 2004 and we see the presidential election thrown into the House of Representatives, the future for the country appears very dim.

The August 20 defeat of two Georgia Representatives, one Democrat, the other Republican, is a bellwether event that bodes ill for this November's elections. Rep. Cynthia McKinney was successfully challenged by a Republican-turned-Democrat for her Fourth District seat. Before a cleverly contrived political operation was launched under the aegis of Georgia's other quasi-Republican, Senator Zell Miller, no one outside of Georgia had ever heard of former state judge Denise Majette, a self-described supporter of fringe lunatic GOP presidential candidate Alan Keyes in 2000. Majette will join in Congress fellow Ivy Leaguer Artur Davis, who beat Alabama Democratic Representative Earl Hilliard in that state's primary because of the latter's outspoken support for a more even-handed Middle East policy. Hilliard and McKinney join a long list of politicians who were defeated after advocating an independent U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East: Senators Charles Percy, James Abourezk, James Abdnor, and J. William Fulbright, and Representatives Paul Findley and Paul McCloskey. The careers of Adlai Stevenson and William Scranton were similarly ended after they supported a Middle East policy less tied to the interests of Israel. Only Michigan's veteran Representative John Dingell was able to stave off a recent assault from the powerful

American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) in a match off with fellow Representative Lynn Rivers in a redrawn congressional district.

However, Dingell's National Rifle Association ally, Georgia Representative Bob Barr, was not as fortunate. Barr was also a target of Miller's political operation. An opponent of the more draconian elements in Bush's and John Ashcroft's USA-PATRIOT Act and Homeland Security Department bill, Barr was a target of opportunity for the extreme right that favors turning the United States into a version of East Germany or North Korea. Moreover, Barr's chairmanship of the House Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law gave him real gavel power to block Bush and Ashcroft on critical civil liberties and privacy infringements, a power Barr has not hesitated to wield. And after supporting Steve Forbes in the 2000 GOP primary, Barr did not fit into Bush's binary and simplistic world: "If you're not with me, you're against me." Therefore, Miller, who, according to a former aide, is targeting fellow Senator Max Cleland and Georgia Governor Roy Barnes for defeat by conservative Republicans, figured out that if Barr supporters in Gwinnett County, which straddles McKinney's Fourth District and Barr's Seventh District, could be coaxed into crossing over party lines and voting for Majette, it would kill two birds with one stone. Barr would lose votes to his opponent John Linder and McKinney would get trounced by Majette in a low turnout (25 per cent) election with a high GOP crossover vote. The gambit paid off. McKinney and Barr were both defeated handily, McKinney with the help of 25,000 crossover votes. Of course, the fact that people not authorized to vote in the Fourth District may have voted anyway would fall into the category of election fraud. But after the Florida debacle, the Ashcroft Justice Department sees such electoral machinations as a way to remain in power a la any totalitarian regime parading around before the world as a democracy.

That McKinney and Barr were on the same neo-conservative hit list was exemplified on August 21 by a second-tier conservative radio talk show host in Washington, DC. Speaking on WTNT-AM, Oral Roberts University graduate, Pat Buchanan political adviser, and Tom DeLay- style Republican talk show host Michael Graham said it was great news that two "kooks" had been beaten in Georgia. He then stated he was talking about "Cynthia McKinney and her photo negative twin, Bob Barr." The statement was clearly racist in nature and a not-so-veiled reference, through a warped attempt at humor, to Barr's long rumored African-American heritage. But for the extreme right that dominates the GOP, such incendiary ethnophobic comments are the rule and not the exception.

McKinney had incurred the wrath of the White House by her question about what George W. Bush knew in advance about the September 11 terrorist attacks. But that was only the tip of the iceberg for the Republicans and their major campaign contributors. While it true that McKinney has championed the cause of Palestinian statehood and self- determination, thus inviting the enmity of major Jewish organizations in the United States, it was her long-time opposition to the trade of

blood diamonds and other strategic minerals in Africa that earned her a major challenge from multinational corporations, including Barrick Gold, on whose board President Bush's father serves as an international adviser. Among its other misdeeds, Barrick has been accused of helping to cover up the 1996 burying alive by one of its subsidiaries of over 50 Tanzanian gold miners in Bulyanhulu, in the northwest part of the country. Of course, when it comes to the lives and welfare of non-white people, the Bushes have never really held any soft spot, whether they are blacks in Africa or America's inner cities, Afghan or Iraqi children, or even a troubled half-Hispanic daughter/niece/granddaughter in Florida.

McKinney long advocated a halt in the pilferage of blood diamonds out of African war zones. She cited, on numerous occasions, the result of such commerce: the hacked off limbs, hands, and ears of small children in Sierra Leone; the permanent crippling from land mines of children in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and over 2.5 million deaths from civil wars in the DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi. The diamond profiteers from this mayhem and death are largely the Hasidic diamond dealers of Antwerp, Amsterdam, New York, and Tel Aviv. These dealers and their lobbyists often circled in and out of House hearing rooms and McKinney's office when issues relating to stemming the flow of ill-gotten African diamonds came up for discussion. These diamond merchants also have a powerful ally in long- time Democratic Party fundraiser and diamond cartel magnate Maurice Tempelsman.

The 108th Congress, lacking the consciousness of Cynthia McKinney and the skepticism of Bob Barr, will be a far more dangerous place. I have had the pleasure of working and knowing both of them over the years - fighting battles, in the case of McKinney, against U.S. human rights offenses in Africa and elsewhere and in the case of Barr, against rampant U.S. government surveillance of the private lives and activities of American citizens. The next Congress will be full of complacent African-American parlor servants like Majette and Davis, dangerous extreme rightists like former cockroach exterminator DeLay and former sportscaster J. D. Hayworth of Arizona, pitiful morons like Florida's former Secretary of State and chief election rigger Katherine Harris, Republican moles and sleepers like Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman, and Democratic spineless amoebas like Richard Gephardt and Tom Daschle. They will stand ready to back Bush's military campaigns into Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Colombia, or wherever Bush's economic interests are at stake. The country stands on the brink of disaster. But we cannot count on the future Congress to save us. Lacking a spine or any guts, it will surely help to bury us.

Wayne Madsen is a Washington-based investigative journalist. He testified before Cynthia McKinney's hearing on the genocide in the DRC in May 2001 and has worked with Bob Barr on privacy legislation in the past. He wrote the introduction to Forbidden Truth. Madsen can be reached at: WMadsen777@aol.com

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