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Wishes for 2005
by Mina Hamilton
December 31, 2004

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(A) That Americans will set aside issues of color, nationality, religion, and political beliefs and truly care as much about the staggering number of Tsunami-catastrophe victims as they do about the victims of 9/11.  And, in light of this caring, that the US's 277 billionaires will leap into the breach left by President Bush's inadequate offering of $35 million dollars of aid (which was a full $33 million short of the $68 million offered by the considerably poorer nation of Spain). (1) That each of the said billionaires will give 10% of their total assets to relief and reconstruction efforts in India, Southeast Asia and East Africa.

Since this still would leave about ˝ of US billionaires with a generous $900,000,000 each in assets (surely enough for even the most rapacious of individuals) it seems an eminently reasonable and fair proposition. Given that the remaining ˝ of US billionaires are not billionaires, but, in fact, multi-billionaires, with assets ranging from 5 billion, 8 billion, 11 billion and up to 48 billion dollars, a 20% gift of each one's total assets would also be nice.  (Credit is due to Bill Gates for having already coughed up $3 million for this effort, though arguably it's a modest donation for someone worth $48 billion.)

(B) That Americans will stop drinking what Chris Hedges calls the “dark elixir of blind patriotism.” (2) The US will end the brutal occupation of Iraq and set a departure date of June, 2005.  Harvard professor Stanley Hoffman who eloquently deflated several fictions recently advocated this date.  The US cannot prevent a civil war in Iraq or, while still an occupying force, in any meaningful way mend that which the US military has so effectively destroyed.  Hoffman also argued that, even if the elections in January 2005 cannot take place, this departure date or one close thereto must still be adhered to. (3) As recently discussed by Naomi Klein reparations and compensation to the Iraqis must be generously paid for by the US. (4) Reconstruction will include the decontamination of those areas of Iraq polluted by the approximately 300 tons of depleted uranium fired during Gulf War 1 and any additional DU pollution from the current Iraq War.

(C) That only publicly held companies can bid on Defense/War Department contracts or any other federally funded projects.  No privately held companies can do so. And, in the case of such companies, for example Bechtel, that are currently holding on-going contracts, the companies will be required to either terminate the contract or institute complete transparency regarding their financial activities.  Said companies will be required to have available for public review at easily accessible locations full financial data.  This will include the identities, salaries, stock options, deferred income and other financial perks (yachts, company jets, rent subsidies on palatial apartments, vacations, and the like) of CEOs and Boards of Directors, plus clear, detailed, and independently audited profit-and-loss statements for each federal project.

(D) That Leonard Peltier, the Native American AIM activist unjustly jailed for 27 years, will be immediately released from prison and paid a restitution fee of $10 million dollars. (5)

(E) That Mumia Abu-Jamal, the African-American activist unjustly jailed for 23 years will be immediately released from prison and paid a restitution fee of $10 million dollars. (6)

(F) That all of the federal and state “control unit prisons,” such as the federal Marion penitentiary and the California Pelican Bay prison, will be immediately closed.  In these inhumane "lockdown" prisons inmates are held in tiny, single cells for 23 hours a day.  Prisoners have no possibility of congregant dining, recreation, religious service or communication with fellow inmates.  These conditions are in flagrant violation of the UN's Standard Minimum Rules for treatment of prisoners. 

Further, these prisons, although described as for “high-security” inmates, often have been used for the punishment of politically active inmates with such persons defined as those who are organizing against prison abuses or writing "too many" lawsuits. (7) All prisoners in these units will be transferred to regular prisons.  In those cases where the inhumane “lockdown” conditions have driven inmates insane, they will be sent to competent and professional mental institutions for treatment and, wherever possible, rehabilitation.   Prison guards who generally come from economically depressed, job-less communities and who are frequently brutalized by the experience of working in prisons will be retrained to participate in life promoting as opposed to death promoting activities.

(G) That the New York Rockefeller drug laws and the California three-strikes-and-your-out laws and other similar draconian laws will be repealed.  How can it be fairly wished that a law such as the California three-strikes law be repealed when the voters of that state nixed such a repeal on November 2, 2004?  An examination of the vote and the meretricious advertising that, at the last minute, killed the measure provides an answer to this question.  As noted below, advertising budgets pro and con any referendum will not go to the highest bidder, but be strictly controlled with each side receiving an equal amount of public monies.

(H) That high school and college education programs will be developed for the entire prison system and that real job training that directly ties to the Energy Efficient Housing Initiative (see below) will be instituted.

(I) That scholarship monies for financially challenged students will be restored at all institutions of higher learning.

(J) That the costs of the various programs in this New Year's wish list will be paid for by shifting the priorities of our nation away from death to life.  That $300-$375 billion from the annual Defense Department budget will be transferred to programs described in this wish list.  That any workers in military industries who lose their jobs as a result of the re-ordering of priorities of US society from death to life will be given training, job counseling and funneled into the new programs being proposed here.

(K) That other federal government costs, including the rapidly increasing budget deficit, will be covered not only by the rescinding of President Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations. But that also there will be a radical tax reform.  This reform will reverse the decades-long program of both Democrats and Republicans to shift taxes from the rich to the middle-class and the poor. 

It's startling to note that in 1970 the top income bracket was 70%.  In 2004, the top bracket had slipped to 35%. This figure, however, is misleading since the rich typically avoid paying this rate by a full armature of tricks, including off-shore banking, revolving charitable trusts, hidden stock options, deferred income and the like.  The shocking result?  Some of the wealthiest individuals pay only 2% in taxes. (8) That said tax reform will also cease the bleeding of the US by corporations that, via multiple subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas and other trickery, avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

(L) That a new “luxury” tax be instituted. This tax of 10% on any luxury products, food or clothing will apply in any of the following cases: the production or manufacture of luxury goods that are 1) damaging to the economy and/or ecology of the country of origin, 2) currently depend on the use of child labor, slave labor, indentured labor, debt bondage, sweatshop workers and other underpaid, workers laboring under unsafe and inhumane conditions without adequate medical treatment or medical insurance, 3) are depleting the stocks of species threatened by extinction.

Examples of the types of luxury goods that might be covered include teak or mahogany furniture, the manufacture of which depends on harvesting rapidly diminishing tropical forests and destroying important local fisheries resources through the sedimentation of local streams in Malaysia.  Or Oriental carpets made using child labor in Pakistan and India. (Rugmark labeled rugs -- carpets made by producers who guarantee they are not using child labor -- will be exempted from such a tax.) (9) Or diamonds mined under backbreaking, demeaning, debt-bondage, slave conditions in Brazil and Africa.  Or gold extracted from mines so as to pollute and destroy the surrounding environment in Indonesia, South Africa, Latin America and Australia.  Or caviar harvested from rapidly disappearing populations of sturgeon in Russia.  These are just a few of the examples of products that can be covered by the luxury tax. 

This 10% surcharge will go into an International Fund, which might be administered by individuals of the caliber and integrity of author/activist, Arundhati Roy, Kenyan activist and Noble Prize winner, Wangari Maathai, Brazilian anti-slavery activist Pureza Lopes Loyola, and other grassroots activists. The Fund's purpose will be to develop in conjunction with local activists economic and social programs for the countries of origin.  Said programs will involve the planning of cooperative, community-based, indigenous industries sustainable to the economy and the environment in the long run.  Said program can also include the training of all of the workers that will be displaced as luxury industries sized-down or closed because of this measure.

(M) That as tufts of grass and swards of “lawn” are now cropping up in Antarctica (10) that as even the Washington Post is admitting global warming is “undeniable” (11), it's time to acknowledge the reality of this awesome global threat.  That an Energy Efficient Housing Program be designed to help move the US economy away from dependence on foreign sources of oil.  This emergency effort will involve the training of millions of unemployed workers.  Their task?  To bring the housing stock of the country up to 21st century standards in terms of energy efficiency.  This would include blowing in insulation in basements and attics, replacing leaky windows with the latest double-glazed thermal glass, replacing old furnaces with top-rate, energy efficient models, insulating hot water pipes and ducts, insulating hot water heaters and engaging in any other appropriate retrofits.  And that every household, office, school, hospital or other institution in the country be required to install energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs for at least 50% of their lighting in the year 2005.

The transfer of up to $100 billion dollars from the currently bloated Defense Department annual budget of $400 billion dollars can fund such a program in its first year.

(N) That another $100 billion dollars from the Department of Defense be allocated to a crash program to install solar panels, windmills and other sustainable energy technologies on private and public housing stock in the US in the coming year.

(O) That a final $100 billion be spent on the transportation grid of the US.  Following the model of Japan, the system will be completely overhauled, with hubs of efficient, modern, fast and comfortable trains in every major city.  These hubs will branch out to suburban areas and be interconnected with inner-city mass transit systems.  The number of railroad miles in the country will be expanded many times, generating a vast number of jobs in the steel and construction industry.  That other innovative transportation systems from different countries will be adapted for use in the US.  For example, take Curitiba, Brazil.  Here buses travel along dedicated bus lanes, bus transport is speeded by bus “pods” where passengers buy tickets in advance of the arrival of the buses - and automobile traffic has dropped precipitously. (12)

(P) That, as energy efficient strategies are implemented nuclear power plants will be shutdown with, at least, five nuclear power plants in the US to be shutdown in 2005 and in subsequent years for the rate of shutdowns to accelerate.  Again displaced workers will be retrained and employed in other life-sustaining projects, such as the projects proposed here.

(Q) That the production of SUV's, Hummers and other gas-hogs will be phased out.  Until such a time as this phase-out occurs that the sale of these vehicles will entail a 20% “energy-hog surcharge.”  This surcharge will go for projects for public and social benefit, including those described above and also for the funding of public schools in the US, particularly those in inner cities.  These schools will be upgraded with all necessary roof, wall, window, heating and plumbing repairs, supplied with desks, text-books, computers, up-to-date science labs, increased numbers of qualified teachers, psychologists and other appropriate staff.

(R) That the War in Colombia be immediately stopped.

(S) That the Apartheid Wall in Israel/Palestine will be pulled down.  That all ruined wells will be rebuilt.  That all uprooted and destroyed olive trees will be replanted.  There will be appropriate restitution to Palestinians who have lost their livelihood as a result of construction of the wall.  Funding for said program to come out of the approximately $3 billion a year the US is pouring into Israel coffers.  That there will be full transparency regarding how the annual allocation of $3 billion of US aid to Israel is spent.

(T) That all the 550 prisoners in America's gulag, Guantanamo, will be immediately visited by competent legal counsel not associated with the US military.  They will be charged (if there is credible evidence) or not charged with some specific crime and brought before a legitimately constituted court of law.

(U) That all elections in the US are publicly funded and that there is absolute parity regarding the amount of TV coverage both incumbents and all challengers, including Third Party challengers, can obtain.  That public money will also fund any referendums on the ballot. That all electronic voting machines must have paper trails. That the oddity of voting anomalies of 2003 found in Ohio, Florida, New Mexico and other states will be investigated by the UN or some entity not contaminated by partisan politics.

(V) That the US becomes a signatory of the International Criminal Court, the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 1997 Ottawa Treaty banning Landmines.

(W) That the Patriot Act will be repealed.

(X) That the 44-year-old economic sanctions against Cuba will be immediately lifted and all normal forms of trade and travel re-instituted.

(Y) That, with the number of Americans without any health insurance standing at a scandalous 43 million, a single payer national health insurance program will be implemented in the US.  (A useful antidote to the frequent lies perpetuated about health insurance is the Physicians for a National Health Program.) (13)

(Z) That the White House and the US Congress will be shrouded in black cloth until such a time as these innovations and programs are initiated.

This is an incomplete wish list for 2005.  It's just a beginning!

Mina Hamilton is a writer based in New York.  She can be reached at


(1) Sanger, David, "It's About Aid, And an Image," New York Times, December 30, 2004, p. A1.

(2) Hedges, Chris, "On War," New York Review of Books, December 16, 2004, p.12.

(3) Hoffmann, Stanley, "Out of Iraq," New York Review of Books, October 21, 2004, p. 4.

(4) Klein, Naomi,  "You Break It, You Pay for It," the Nation, January 10/17, 2005, p. 12.

(5) Anyone not yet convinced of the injustice of Peltiers incarceration might check out information regarding false affidavits, perjured witnesses and a corrupted legal process at and in Jim Messerschmidt's book The Trial of Leonard Peltier.

(6) Anyone not yet convinced of the injustice of Mumia Abu-Jamal's incarceration might check out information regarding false affidavits, perjured witnesses and a corrupted legal process at

(7) Information on "lockdowns" is available at

(8) Johnston, David Cay, Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich - and Cheat Everybody Else, Portfolio, 2003, p.47.

(9) Bales, Kevin, Disposal People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, University of California Press, 1999, p. 240.

(10) "Thaw Sees Grass Take Hold in Australia," The Weekend Australian, December 27, 2003,

(11) Oreskes, Naomi, "Undeniable Global Warming, The Washington Post, December 26, 2004,

(12) Rabinovitch, Jonas and Leitman, Josef, "Urban Planning in Curitiba," Scientific American, March 1996, p. 46.

(13) Visit for more information.

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