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1033

UK Gov boots intelligent design back into ‘religious’ margins
Not science, not likely to be science
25th June 2007
By Lucy Sherriff

The government has announced that it will publish guidance for schools on how creationism and intelligent design relate to science teaching, and has reiterated that it sees no place for either on the science curriculum.

It has also defined “Intelligent Design”, the idea that life is too complex to have arisen without the guiding hand of a greater intelligence, as a religion, along with “creationism”.

Responding to a petition on the Number 10 ePetitions site, the government said: “The Government is aware that a number of concerns have been raised in the media and elsewhere as to whether creationism and intelligent design have a place in science lessons. The Government is clear that creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science. ”

It added that it would expect teachers to be able to answer pupil’s questions about “creationism, intelligent design, and other religious beliefs” within a scientific framework.

The petition was posted by James Rocks of the Science, Just Science campaign, a group that formed to counter a nascent anti-evolution lobby in the UK.

He wrote: “Creationism & Intelligent design are…being used disingenuously to portray science & the theory or evolution as being in crisis when they are not… These ideas therefore do not constitute science, cannot be considered scientific education and therefore do not belong in the nation’s science classrooms.”


Former Ex-Gay Ministry Leaders Apologize
June 28, 2007

Three former leaders of a ministry that counsels gays to change their sexual orientation apologized, saying although they acted sincerely, their message had caused isolation, shame and fear.

The former leaders of the interdenominational Christian organization Exodus International said Wednesday they had become disillusioned with promoting gay conversion.

“Some who heard our message were compelled to try to change an integral part of themselves, bringing harm to themselves and their families,” the three said in a statement released outside the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center.

The statement was from former Exodus co-founder Michael Bussee, who left the group in 1979, Jeremy Marks, former president of Exodus International Europe, and Darlene Bogle, the founder of Paraklete Ministries, an Exodus referral agency.

The statement coincided with the opening of Exodus’ annual conference, which is being held this week at Concordia University in Irvine.

Exodus’ president, Alan Chambers, said the ministry’s methods have helped many people, including himself.

“Exodus is here for people who want an alternative to homosexuality,” Chambers said by phone. “There are thousands of people like me who have overcome this. I think there’s room for more than one opinion on this subject, and giving people options isn’t dangerous.”

Founded in 1976, the Orlando, Fla.-based Exodus has grown to include more than 120 ministries in the United States and Canada and over 150 ministries overseas. It promotes “freedom from homosexuality” through prayer, counseling and group therapy.


1032

US student loses ruling over ‘Bong Hits 4 Jesus’
June 26, 2007
By James Vicini

A divided Supreme Court on Monday curtailed free-speech rights for students, ruling against a teenager who unfurled a banner saying “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” because the message could be interpreted as promoting drug use.

In its first major decision on student free-speech rights in nearly 20 years, the high court’s conservative majority ruled that a high school principal did not violate the student’s rights by confiscating the banner and suspending him.

The decision marked a continuing shift to the right by the court since President George W. Bush appointed Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. The court has issued a series of narrow 5-4 decisions on divisive social issues like abortion and the death penalty.

In another decision on Monday by the same 5-4 vote, the court ruled taxpayers cannot challenge Bush’s use of government funds to finance social programs operated by religious groups.

“Both of these First Amendment cases reflect the clear right-wing trend of the Roberts court. Unmistakably. Both are clearly wrong,” said Abner Greene, a Fordham University law professor.

In the school case, student Joseph Frederick said the banner’s language was meant to be nonsensical and funny, a prank to get on television as the Winter Olympic torch relay passed by the school in January 2002 in Juneau, Alaska.

But school officials say the phrase “bong hits” refers to smoking marijuana. Principal Deborah Morse suspended Frederick for 10 days because she said the banner advocated or promoted illegal drug use in violation of school policy.

The majority opinion written by Roberts agreed with Morse. He said a principal may restrict student speech at a school event when it is reasonably viewed as promoting illegal drug use.

Drug abuse by the nation’s youth is a serious problem, Roberts said.

Liberal Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented on the free-speech issue.

“Although this case began with a silly nonsensical banner, it ends with the court inventing out of whole cloth a special First Amendment rule permitting the censorship of any student speech that mentions drugs,” Stevens wrote.

Justice Stephen Breyer said he would have decided the case without reaching the free-speech issue by ruling the principal cannot be held liable for damages.

The Bush administration supported Morse and argued that public schools do not have to tolerate a message inconsistent with its basic educational mission.

Kenneth Starr, the former special prosecutor who investigated former President Bill Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal, argued the case for Morse and said the ruling has implications for public school districts nationwide.

Morse said, “I am gratified that the Supreme Court has upheld the application of our common sense policies.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Frederick, criticized the ruling for allowing censorship of student speech without any evidence that school activities had been disrupted.

“The court’s ruling imposes new restrictions on student speech rights and creates a drug exception to the First Amendment,” said Steven Shapiro, its national legal director.


Justice Stevens, with whom Justice Souter and Justice Ginsburg join, dissenting.

A significant fact barely mentioned by the Court sheds a revelatory light on the motives of both the students and the principal of Juneau-Douglas High School (JDHS). On January 24, 2002, the Olympic Torch Relay gave those Alaska residents a rare chance to appear on national television. As Joseph Frederick repeatedly explained, he did not address the curious message—“BONG HiTS 4 JESUS”—to his fellow students. He just wanted to get the camera crews’ attention. Moreover, concern about a nationwide evaluation of the conduct of the JDHS student body would have justified the principal’s decision to remove an attention-grabbing 14-foot banner, even if it had merely proclaimed “Glaciers Melt!”

I agree with the Court that the principal should not be held liable for pulling down Frederick’s banner. See Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U. S. 800, 818 (1982) . I would hold, however, that the school’s interest in protecting its students from exposure to speech “reasonably regarded as promoting illegal drug use,” ante, at 1, cannot justify disciplining Frederick for his attempt to make an ambiguous statement to a television audience simply because it contained an oblique reference to drugs. The First Amendment demands more, indeed, much more.

The Court holds otherwise only after laboring to establish two uncontroversial propositions: first, that the constitutional rights of students in school settings are not coextensive with the rights of adults, see ante, at 8–12; and second, that deterring drug use by schoolchildren is a valid and terribly important interest, see ante, at 12–14. As to the first, I take the Court’s point that the message on Frederick’s banner is not necessarily protected speech, even though it unquestionably would have been had the banner been unfurled elsewhere. As to the second, I am willing to assume that the Court is correct that the pressing need to deter drug use supports JDHS’s rule prohibiting willful conduct that expressly “advocates the use of substances that are illegal to minors.” App. to Pet. for Cert. 53a. But it is a gross non sequitur to draw from these two unremarkable propositions the remarkable conclusion that the school may suppress student speech that was never meant to persuade anyone to do anything.

In my judgment, the First Amendment protects student speech if the message itself neither violates a permissible rule nor expressly advocates conduct that is illegal and harmful to students. This nonsense banner does neither, and the Court does serious violence to the First Amendment in upholding—indeed, lauding—a school’s decision to punish Frederick for expressing a view with which it disagreed.

I

In December 1965, we were engaged in a controversial war, a war that “divided this country as few other issues ever have.” Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist., 393 U. S. 503, 524 (1969) (Black, J., dissenting). Having learned that some students planned to wear black armbands as a symbol of opposition to the country’s involvement in Vietnam, officials of the Des Moines public school district adopted a policy calling for the suspension of any student who refused to remove the armband. As we explained when we considered the propriety of that policy, “[t]he school officials banned and sought to punish petitioners for a silent, passive expression of opinion, unaccompanied by any disorder or disturbance on the part of petitioners.” Id., at 508. The district justified its censorship on the ground that it feared that the expression of a controversial and unpopular opinion would generate disturbances. Because the school officials had insufficient reason to believe that those disturbances would “materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of discipline in the operation of the school,” we found the justification for the rule to lack any foundation and therefore held that the censorship violated the First Amendment . Id., at 509 (internal quotation marks omitted).

Justice Harlan dissented, but not because he thought the school district could censor a message with which it disagreed. Rather, he would have upheld the district’s rule only because the students never cast doubt on the district’s anti-disruption justification by proving that the rule was motivated “by other than legitimate school concerns—for example, a desire to prohibit the expression of an unpopular point of view while permitting expression of the dominant opinion.” Id., at 526.

Two cardinal First Amendment principles animate both the Court’s opinion in Tinker and Justice Harlan’s dissent. First, censorship based on the content of speech, par-ticularly censorship that depends on the viewpointof the speaker, is subject to the most rigorous burden of justification:

“Discrimination against speech because of its message is presumed to be unconstitutional… . When the government targets not subject matter, but particular views taken by speakers on a subject, the violation of the First Amendment is all the more blatant. Viewpoint discrimination is thus an egregious form of content discrimination. The government must abstain from regulating speech when the specific motivating ideology or the opinion or perspective of the speaker is the rationale for the restriction.” Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of Univ. of Va., 515 U. S. 819, 828–829 (1995) (citation omitted).

Second, punishing someone for advocating illegal conduct is constitutional only when the advocacy is likely to provoke the harm that the government seeks to avoid. See Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U. S. 444, 449 (1969) (per curiam) (distinguishing “mere advocacy” of illegal conduct from “incitement to imminent lawless action”).

However necessary it may be to modify those principles in the school setting, Tinker affirmed their continuing vitality. 393 U. S., at 509 (“In order for the State in the person of school officials to justify prohibition of a particular expression of opinion, it must be able to show that its action was caused by something more than a mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint. Certainly where there is no finding and no showing that engaging in that conduct would materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school, the prohibition cannot be sustained” (internal quotation marks omitted)). As other federal courts have long recognized, under Tinker,

“regulation of student speech is generally permissible only when the speech would substantially disrupt or interfere with the work of the school or the rights of other students. … Tinker requires a specific and significant fear of disruption, not just some remote apprehension of disturbance.” Saxe v. State College Area School Dist., 240 F. 3d 200, 211 (CA3 2001) (Alito, J.) (emphasis added).

Yet today the Court fashions a test that trivializes the two cardinal principles upon which Tinker rests. See ante, at 14 (“[S]chools [may] restrict student expression that they reasonably regard as promoting illegal drug use”). The Court’s test invites stark viewpoint discrimination. In this case, for example, the principal has unabashedly acknowledged that she disciplined Frederick because she disagreed with the pro-drug viewpoint she ascribed to the message on the banner, see App. 25—a viewpoint, incidentally, that Frederick has disavowed, see id., at 28. Unlike our recent decision in Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Assn. v. Brentwood Academy, 551 U. S. ___, ___ (2007) (slip op., at 3), see also ante, at 3 (Alito, J., concurring), the Court’s holding in this case strikes at “the heart of the First Amendment ” because it upholds a punishment meted out on the basis of a listener’s disagreement with her understanding (or, more likely, misunderstanding) of the speaker’s viewpoint. “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment , it is that the Government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” Texas v. Johnson, 491 U. S. 397, 414 (1989) .

It is also perfectly clear that “promoting illegal drug use,” ante, at 14, comes nowhere close to proscribable “incitement to imminent lawless action.” Brandenburg, 395 U. S., at 447. Encouraging drug use might well increase the likelihood that a listener will try an illegal drug, but that hardly justifies censorship:

“Every denunciation of existing law tends in some measure to increase the probability that there will be violation of it. Condonation of a breach enhances the probability. Expressions of approval add to the probability. … Advocacy of law-breaking heightens it still further. But even advocacy of violation, however reprehensible morally, is not a justification for denying free speech where the advocacy falls short of incitement and there is nothing to indicate that the advocacy would be immediately acted upon.” Whitney v. California, 274 U. S. 357, 376 (1927) (Brandeis, J., concurring).

No one seriously maintains that drug advocacy (much less Frederick’s ridiculous sign) comes within the vanishingly small category of speech that can be prohibited because of its feared consequences. Such advocacy, to borrow from Justice Holmes, “ha[s] no chance of starting a present conflagration.” Gitlow v. New York, 268 U. S. 652, 673 (1925) (dissenting opinion).

II

The Court rejects outright these twin foundations of Tinker because, in its view, the unusual importance of protecting children from the scourge of drugs supports a ban on all speech in the school environment that promotes drug use. Whether or not such a rule is sensible as a matter of policy, carving out pro-drug speech for uniquely harsh treatment finds no support in our case law and is inimical to the values protected by the First Amendment .1 See infra, at 14–16.

I will nevertheless assume for the sake of argument that the school’s concededly powerful interest in protecting its students adequately supports its restriction on “any assembly or public expression that . . . advocates the use of substances that are illegal to minors … .” App. to Pet. for Cert. 53a. Given that the relationship between schools and students “is custodial and tutelary, permitting a degree of supervision and control that could not be exercised over free adults,” Vernonia School Dist. 47J v. Acton, 515 U. S. 646, 655 (1995) , it might well be appropriate to tolerate some targeted viewpoint discrimination in this unique setting. And while conventional speech may be restricted only when likely to “incit[e] imminent lawless action,” Brandenburg, 395 U. S., at 449, it is possible that our rigid imminence requirement ought to be relaxed at schools. See Bethel School Dist. No. 403 v. Fraser, 478 U. S. 675, 682 (1986) (“[T]he constitutional rights of students in public school are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings”).

But it is one thing to restrict speech that advocates drug use. It is another thing entirely to prohibit an obscure message with a drug theme that a third party subjectively—and not very reasonably—thinks is tantamount to express advocacy. Cf. Masses Publishing Co. v. Patten, 244 F. 535, 540, 541 (SDNY 1917) (Hand, J.) (distinguishing sharply between “agitation, legitimate as such” and “the direct advocacy” of unlawful conduct). Even the school recognizes the paramount need to hold the line between, on the one hand, non-disruptive speech that merely expresses a viewpoint that is unpopular or contrary to the school’s preferred message, and on the other hand, advocacy of an illegal or unsafe course of conduct. The district’s prohibition of drug advocacy is a gloss on a more general rule that is otherwise quite tolerant of non-disruptive student speech:

“Students will not be disturbed in the exercise of their constitutionally guaranteed rights to assemble peaceably and to express ideas and opinions, privately or publicly, provided that their activities do not infringe on the rights of others and do not interfere with the operation of the educational program.

“The Board will not permit the conduct on school premises of any willful activity … that interferes with the orderly operation of the educational program or offends the rights of others. The Board specifically prohibits … any assembly or public expression that. . . advocates the use of substances that are illegal to minors … .” App. to Pet. for Cert. 53a; see also ante, at 3 (quoting rule in part).

There is absolutely no evidence that Frederick’s banner’s reference to drug paraphernalia “willful[ly]” infringed on anyone’s rights or interfered with any of the school’s educational programs.2 On its face, then, the rule gave Frederick wide berth “to express [his] ideas and opinions” so long as they did not amount to “advoca[cy]” of drug use. Ibid. If the school’s rule is, by hypothesis, a valid one, it is valid only insofar as it scrupulously preserves adequate space for constitutionally protected speech. When First Amendment rights are at stake, a rule that “sweep[s] in a great variety of conduct under a general and indefinite characterization” may not leave “too wide a discretion in its application.” Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U. S. 296, 308 (1940) . Therefore, just as we insisted in Tinker that the school establish some likely connection between the armbands and their feared consequences, so too JDHS must show that Frederick’s supposed advocacy stands a meaningful chance of making otherwise-abstemious students try marijuana.

But instead of demanding that the school make such a showing, the Court punts. Figuring out just how it punts is tricky; “[t]he mode of analysis [it] employ[s] is not entirely clear,” see ante, at 9. On occasion, the Court suggests it is deferring to the principal’s “reasonable” judgment that Frederick’s sign qualified as drug advocacy.3 At other times, the Court seems to say that it thinks the banner’s message constitutes express advocacy.4 Either way, its approach is indefensible.

To the extent the Court defers to the principal’s ostensibly reasonable judgment, it abdicates its constitutional responsibility. The beliefs of third parties, reasonable or otherwise, have never dictated which messages amount to proscribable advocacy. Indeed, it would be a strange constitutional doctrine that would allow the prohibition of only the narrowest category of speech advocating unlawful conduct, see Brandenburg, 395 U. S., at 447–448, yet would permit a listener’s perceptions to determine which speech deserved constitutional protection.5

Such a peculiar doctrine is alien to our case law. In Abrams v. United States, 250 U. S. 616 (1919) , this Court affirmed the conviction of a group of Russian “rebels, revolutionists, [and] anarchists,” id., at 617–618 (internal quotation marks omitted), on the ground that the leaflets they distributed were thought to “incite, provoke, and encourage resistance to the United States,” id., at 617 (internal quotation marks omitted). Yet Justice Holmes’ dissent—which has emphatically carried the day—never inquired into the reasonableness of the United States’ judgment that the leaflets would likely undermine the war effort. The dissent instead ridiculed that judgment: “nobody can suppose that the surreptitious publishing of a silly leaflet by an unknown man, without more, would present any immediate danger that its opinions would hinder the success of the government arms or have any appreciable tendency to do so.” Id., at 628. In Thomas v. Collins, 323 U. S. 516 (1945) (opinion for the Court by Rutledge, J.), we overturned the conviction of a union organizer who violated a restraining order forbidding him from exhorting workers. In so doing, we held that the distinction between advocacy and incitement could not depend on how one of those workers might have understood the organizer’s speech. That would “pu[t] the speaker in these circumstances wholly at the mercy of the varied understanding of his hearers and consequently of whatever inference may be drawn as to his intent and meaning.” Id., at 535. In Cox v. Louisiana, 379 U. S. 536, 543 (1965) , we vacated a civil rights leader’s conviction for disturbing the peace, even though a Baton Rouge sheriff had “deem[ed]” the leader’s “appeal to … students to sit in at the lunch counters to be ‘inflammatory.’ ” We never asked if the sheriff’s in-person, on-the-spot judgment was “reasonable.” Even in Fraser, we made no inquiry into whether the school administrators reasonably thought the student’s speech was obscene or profane; we rather satisfied ourselves that “[t]he pervasive sexual innuendo in Fraser’s speech was plainly offensive to both teachers and students—indeed, to any mature person.” 478 U. S., at 683. Cf. Bose Corp. v. Consumers Union of United States, Inc., 466 U. S. 485, 499 (1984) (“[I]n cases raising First Amendment issues we have repeatedly held that an appellate court has an obligation to make an independent examination of the whole record in order to make sure that the judgment does not constitute a forbidden intrusion on the field of free expression” (internal quotation marks omitted)).6

To the extent the Court independently finds that “BONG HiTS 4 JESUS” objectively amounts to the advocacy of illegal drug use—in other words, that it can most reasonably be interpreted as such—that conclusion practically refutes itself. This is a nonsense message, not advocacy. The Court’s feeble effort to divine its hidden meaning is strong evidence of that. Ante,at 7 (positing that the banner might mean, alternatively, “ ‘[Take] bong hits,’ ” “ ‘bong hits [are a good thing],’ ” or “ ‘[we take] bong hits’ ”). Frederick’s credible and uncontradicted explanation for the message—he just wanted to get on television—is also relevant because a speaker who does not intend to persuade his audience can hardly be said to be advocating anything.7 But most importantly, it takes real imagination to read a “cryptic” message (the Court’s characterization, not mine, see ibid., at 6) with a slanting drug reference as an incitement to drug use. Admittedly, some high school students (including those who use drugs) are dumb. Most students, however, do not shed their brains at the schoolhouse gate, and most students know dumb advocacy when they see it. The notion that the message on this banner would actually persuade either the average student or even the dumbest one to change his or her behavior is most implausible. That the Court believes such a silly message can be proscribed as advocacy underscores the novelty of its position, and suggests that the principle it articulates has no stopping point.

Even if advocacy could somehow be wedged into Frederick’s obtuse reference to marijuana, that advocacy was at best subtle and ambiguous. There is abundant precedent, including another opinion The Chief Justice announces today, for the proposition that when the “ First Amendment is implicated, the tie goes to the speaker,” Federal Election Comm’n v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc., 551 U. S. ___ (2007) (slip op., at 21) and that “when it comes to defining what speech qualifies as the functional equivalent of express advocacy … we give the benefit of the doubt to speech, not censorship,” post, at 29. If this were a close case, the tie would have to go to Frederick’s speech, not to the principal’s strained reading of his quixotic message.

Among other things, the Court’s ham-handed, categorical approach is deaf to the constitutional imperative to permit unfettered debate, even among high-school students, about the wisdom of the war on drugs or of legalizing marijuana for medicinal use.8 See Tinker, 393 U. S., at 511 (“[Students] may not be confined to the expression of those sentiments that are officially approved”). If Frederick’s stupid reference to marijuana can in the Court’s view justify censorship, then high school students everywhere could be forgiven for zipping their mouths about drugs at school lest some “reasonable” observer censor and then punish them for promoting drugs. See also ante, at 2 (Breyer, J., concurring in judgment in part and dissenting in part).

Consider, too, that the school district’s rule draws no distinction between alcohol and marijuana, but applies evenhandedly to all “substances that are illegal to minors.” App. to Pet. for Cert. 53a; see also App. 83 (expressly defining “ ‘drugs’ ” to include “all alcoholic beverages”). Given the tragic consequences of teenage alcohol consumption—drinking causes far more fatal accidents than the misuse of marijuana—the school district’s interest in deterring teenage alcohol use is at least comparable to its interest in preventing marijuana use. Under the Court’s reasoning, must the First Amendment give way whenever a school seeks to punish a student for any speech mentioning beer, or indeed anything else that might be deemed risky to teenagers? While I find it hard to believe the Court would support punishing Frederick for flying a “WINE SiPS 4 JESUS” banner—which could quite reasonably be construed either as a protected religious message or as a pro-alcohol message—the breathtaking sweep of its opinion suggests it would.

III

Although this case began with a silly, nonsensical banner, it ends with the Court inventing out of whole cloth a special First Amendment rule permitting the censorship of any student speech that mentions drugs, at least so long as someone could perceive that speech to contain a latent pro-drug message. Our First Amendment jurisprudence has identified some categories of expression that are less deserving of protection than others—fighting words, obscenity, and commercial speech, to name a few. Rather than reviewing our opinions discussing such categories, I mention two personal recollections that have no doubt influenced my conclusion that it would be profoundly unwise to create special rules for speech about drug and alcohol use.

The Vietnam War is remembered today as an unpopular war. During its early stages, however, “the dominant opinion” that Justice Harlan mentioned in his Tinker dissent regarded opposition to the war as unpatriotic, if not treason. 393 U. S., at 526. That dominant opinion strongly supported the prosecution of several of those who demonstrated in Grant Park during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, see United States v. Dellinger, 472 F. 2d 340 (CA7 1972),and the vilification of vocal opponents of the war like Julian Bond, cf. Bond v. Floyd, 385 U. S. 116 (1966) . In 1965, when the Des Moines students wore their armbands, the school district’s fear that they might “start an argument or cause a disturbance” was well founded. Tinker, 393 U. S., at 508. Given that context, there is special force to the Court’s insistence that “our Constitution says we must take that risk; and our history says that it is this sort of hazardous freedom—this kind of openness—that is the basis of our national strength and of the independence and vigor of Americans who grow up and live in this relatively permissive, often disputatious, society.” Id., at 508–509 (citation omitted). As we now know, the then-dominant opinion about the Vietnam War was not etched in stone.

Reaching back still further, the current dominant opinion supporting the war on drugs in general, and our antimarijuana laws in particular, is reminiscent of the opinion that supported the nationwide ban on alcohol consumption when I was a student. While alcoholic beverages are now regarded as ordinary articles of commerce, their use was then condemned with the same moral fervor that now supports the war on drugs. The ensuing change in public opinion occurred much more slowly than the relatively rapid shift in Americans’ views on the Vietnam War, and progressed on a state-by-state basis over a period of many years. But just as prohibition in the 1920’s and early 1930’s was secretly questioned by thousands of otherwise law-abiding patrons of bootleggers and speakeasies, today the actions of literally millions of otherwise law-abiding users of marijuana,9 and of the majority of voters in each of the several States that tolerate medicinal uses of the product,10 lead me to wonder whether the fear of disapproval by those in the majority is silencing opponents of the war on drugs. Surely our national experience with alcohol should make us wary of dampening speech suggesting—however inarticulately—that it would be better to tax and regulate marijuana than to persevere in a futile effort to ban its use entirely.

Even in high school, a rule that permits only one point of view to be expressed is less likely to produce correct answers than the open discussion of countervailing views. Whitney, 274 U. S., at 377 (Brandeis, J., concurring); Abrams, 250 U. S., at 630 (Holmes, J., dissenting); Tinker, 393 U. S., at 512. In the national debate about a serious issue, it is the expression of the minority’s viewpoint that most demands the protection of the First Amendment . Whatever the better policy may be, a full and frank discussion of the costs and benefits of the attempt to prohibit the use of marijuana is far wiser than suppression of speech because it is unpopular.

I respectfully dissent.

Notes

1 I also seriously question whether such a ban could really be enforced. Consider the difficulty of monitoring student conversations between classes or in the cafeteria.

2 It is also relevant that the display did not take place “on school premises,” as the rule contemplates. App. to Pet. for Cert. 53a. While a separate district rule does make the policy applicable to “social events and class trips,” id., at 58a, Frederick might well have thought that the Olympic Torch Relay was neither a “social event” (for example, prom) nor a “class trip.”

3 See ante, at 1 (stating that the principal “reasonably regarded” Frederick’s banner as “promoting illegal drug use”); ante, at 6 (explaining that “Principal Morse thought the banner would be interpreted by those viewing it as promoting illegal drug use, and that interpretation is plainly a reasonable one”); ante, at 8 (asking whether “a principal may … restrict student speech … when that speech is reasonably viewed as promoting illegal drug use”); ante, at 14 (holding that “schools [may] restrict student expression that they reasonably regard as promoting illegal drug use”); see also ante, at 1 (Alito, J., concurring) (“[A] public school may restrict speech that a reasonable observer would interpret as advocating illegal drug use”).

4 See ante, at 7 (“We agree with Morse. At least two interpretations of the words on the banner demonstrate that the sign advocated the use of illegal drugs”); ante, at 15 (observing that “[w]e have explained our view” that “Frederick’s banner constitutes promotion of illegal drug use”).

5 The reasonableness of the view that Frederick’s message was unprotected speech is relevant to ascertaining whether qualified immunity should shield the principal from liability, not to whether her actions violated Frederick’s constitutional rights. Cf. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U. S. 194, 202 (2001) (“The relevant, dispositive inquiry in determining whether a right is clearly established is whether it would be clear to a reasonable officer that his conduct was unlawful in the situation he confronted”).

6 This same reasoning applies when the interpreter is not just a listener, but a legislature. We have repeatedly held that “[d]eference to a legislative finding” that certain types of speech are inherently harmful “cannot limit judicial inquiry when First Amendment rights are at stake,” reasoning that “the judicial function commands analysis of whether the specific conduct charged falls within the reach of the statute and if so whether the legislation is consonant with the Constitution.” Landmark Communications, Inc. v. Virginia, 435 U. S. 829, 843, 844 (1978) ; see also Whitney v. California, 274 U. S. 357, 378–379 (1927) (Brandeis, J., concurring) (“[A legislative declaration] does not preclude enquiry into the question whether, at the time and under the circumstances, the conditions existed which are essential to validity under the Federal Constitution… . Whenever the fundamental rights of free speech and assembly are alleged to have been invaded, it must remain open to a defendant to present the issue whether there actually did exist at the time a clear danger; whether the danger, if any, was imminent; and whether the evil apprehended was so substantial as to justify the stringent restriction interposed by the legislature”). When legislatures are entitled to no deference as to whether particular speech amounts to a “clear and present danger,” id., at 379, it is hard to understand why the Court would so blithely defer to the judgment of a single school principal.

7 In affirming Frederick’s suspension, the JDHS superintendent acknowledged that Frederick displayed his message “for the benefit of television cameras covering the Torch Relay.” App. to Pet. for Cert. 62a.

8 The Court’s opinion ignores the fact that the legalization of marijuana is an issue of considerable public concern in Alaska. The State Supreme Court held in 1975 that Alaska’s constitution protects the right of adults to possess less than four ounces of marijuana for personal use. Ravin v. State, 537 P. 2d 494 (Alaska). In 1990, the voters of Alaska attempted to undo that decision by voting for a ballot initiative recriminalizing marijuana possession. Initiative Proposal No. 2, §§1–2 (effective Mar. 3, 1991), 11 Alaska Stat., p. 872 (Lexis 2006). At the time Frederick unfurled his banner, the constitutionality of that referendum had yet to be tested. It was subsequently struck down as unconstitutional. See Noy v. State, 83 P. 3d 538 (Alaska App. 2003). In the meantime, Alaska voters had approved a ballot measure decriminalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, 1998 Ballot Measure No. 8 (approved Nov. 3, 1998), 11 Alaska Stat., p. 882 (codified at Alaska Stat. §§11.71.090, 17.37.010–17.37.080), and had rejected a much broader measure that would have decriminalized marijuana possession and granted amnesty to anyone convicted of marijuana-related crimes, see 2000 Ballot Measure No. 5 (failed Nov. 7, 2000), 11 Alaska Stat., p. 886.

9 See Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U. S. 1, 21, n. 31 (2005) (citing a Government estimate “that in 2000 American users spent $10.5 billion on the purchase of marijuana”).

10 Id., at 5 (noting that “at least nine States … authorize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes”).


1031

The Rich Are Making the Poor Poorer
A bloated overclass can drag down a society as surely as a swelling underclass. A great deal of the wealth at the top is built on the low-wage labor of the poor.
June 13, 2007
By Barbara Ehrenreich

Twenty years ago it was risky to point out the growing inequality in America. I did it in a New York Times essay and was quickly denounced, in the Washington Times, as a “Marxist.” If only. I’ve never been able to get through more than a couple of pages of Das Kapital, even in English, and the Grundrisse functions like Rozerem.

But it no longer takes a Marxist, real or alleged, to see that America is being polarized between the super-rich and the sub-rich everyone else. In Sunday’s New York Times magazine we learn that Larry Summers, the centrist Democratic economist and former Harvard president, is now obsessed with the statistic that, since 1979, the share of pretax income going to the top 1 percent of American households has risen by 7 percentage points, to 16 percent. At the same time, the share of income going to the bottom 80 percent has fallen by 7 percentage points.

As the Times puts it: “It’s as if every household in that bottom 80 percent is writing a check for $7,000 every year and sending it to the top 1 percent.” Summers now admits that his former cheerleading for the corporate-dominated global economy feels like “pretty thin gruel.”

But the moderate-to-conservative economic thinkers who long refused to think about class polarization have a fallback position, sketched out by Roger Lowenstein in an essay in the same issue of the New York Times magazine that features Larry Summers’ sobered mood.

Briefly put: As long as the middle class is still trudging along and the poor are not starving flamboyantly in the streets, what does it matter if the super-rich are absorbing an ever larger share of the national income?

In Lowenstein’s view: “…whether Roger Clemens, who will get something like $10,000 for every pitch he throws, earns 100 times or 200 times what I earn is kind of irrelevant. My kids still have health care, and they go to decent schools. It’s not the rich people who are pulling away at the top who are the problem…”

Well, there is a problem with the super-rich, several of them in fact. A bloated overclass can drag down a society as surely as a swelling underclass.

First, the Clemens example distracts from the reality that a great deal of the wealth at the top is built on the low-wage labor of the poor. Take Wal-Mart, our largest private employer and premiere exploiter of the working class: Every year, 4 or 5 of the people on Forbes magazine’s list of the ten richest Americans carry the surname Walton, meaning they are the children, nieces, and nephews of Wal-Mart’s founder.

You think it’s a coincidence that this union-busting low-wage retail empire happens to have generated a $200 billion family fortune?

Second, though a lot of today’s wealth is being made in the financial industry, by means that are occult to the average citizen and do not seem to involve much labor of any kind, we all pay a price, somewhere down the line. All those late fees, puffed up interest rates and exorbitant charges for low-balance checking accounts do not, as far as I can determine, go to soup kitchens.

Third, the overclass bids up the price of goods that ordinary people also need — housing, for example. Gentrification is dispersing the urban poor into overcrowded suburban ranch houses, while billionaires’ horse farms displace the rural poor and middle class. Similarly, the rich can swallow tuitions of $40,000 and up, making a college education increasingly a privilege of the upper classes.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the huge concentration of wealth at the top is routinely used to tilt the political process in favor of the wealthy. Yes, we should acknowledge the philanthropic efforts of exceptional billionaires like George Soros and Bill Gates.

But if we don’t end up with universal health insurance in the next few years, it won’t be because the average American isn’t pining for relief from escalating medical costs. It may well turn out to be because Hillary Clinton is, as The Nation reports, “the number-one Congressional recipient of donations from the healthcare industry.” And who do you think demanded those Bush tax cuts for the wealthy — the AFLCIO.

Lowenstein notes, that “if the very upper crust were banished to a Caribbean island, the America that remained would be a lot more egalitarian.”

Well, duh. The point is that it would also be more prosperous, at the individual level, and democratic. In fact, why give the upper crust an island in the Caribbean? After all they’ve done for us recently, I think the Aleutians should be more than adequate.


Resegregation Now
June 29, 2007

The Supreme Court ruled 53 years ago in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated education is inherently unequal, and it ordered the nation’s schools to integrate. Yesterday, the court switched sides and told two cities that they cannot take modest steps to bring public school students of different races together. It was a sad day for the court and for the ideal of racial equality.

Since 1954, the Supreme Court has been the nation’s driving force for integration. Its orders required segregated buses and public buildings, parks and playgrounds to open up to all Americans. It wasn’t always easy: governors, senators and angry mobs talked of massive resistance. But the court never wavered, and in many of the most important cases it spoke unanimously.

Yesterday, the court’s radical new majority turned its back on that proud tradition in a 5-4 ruling, written by Chief Justice John Roberts. It has been some time since the court, which has grown more conservative by the year, did much to compel local governments to promote racial integration. But now it is moving in reverse, broadly ordering the public schools to become more segregated.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who provided the majority’s fifth vote, reined in the ruling somewhat by signing only part of the majority opinion and writing separately to underscore that some limited programs that take race into account are still acceptable. But it is unclear how much room his analysis will leave, in practice, for school districts to promote integration. His unwillingness to uphold Seattle’s and Louisville’s relatively modest plans is certainly a discouraging sign.

In an eloquent dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer explained just how sharp a break the decision is with history. The Supreme Court has often ordered schools to use race-conscious remedies, and it has unanimously held that deciding to make assignments based on race “to prepare students to live in a pluralistic society” is “within the broad discretionary powers of school authorities.”

Chief Justice Roberts, who assured the Senate at his confirmation hearings that he respected precedent, and Brown in particular, eagerly set these precedents aside. The right wing of the court also tossed aside two other principles they claim to hold dear. Their campaign for “federalism,” or scaling back federal power so states and localities have more authority, argued for upholding the Seattle and Louisville, Ky., programs. So did their supposed opposition to “judicial activism.” This decision is the height of activism: federal judges relying on the Constitution to tell elected local officials what to do.

The nation is getting more diverse, but by many measures public schools are becoming more segregated. More than one in six black children now attend schools that are 99 to 100 percent minority. This resegregation is likely to get appreciably worse as a result of the court’s ruling.

There should be no mistaking just how radical this decision is. In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens said it was his “firm conviction that no Member of the Court that I joined in 1975 would have agreed with today’s decision.” He also noted the “cruel irony” of the court relying on Brown v. Board of Education while robbing that landmark ruling of much of its force and spirit. The citizens of Louisville and Seattle, and the rest of the nation, can ponder the majority’s kind words about Brown as they get to work today making their schools, and their cities, more segregated.


plus:
Failed States Index Scores 2007 from the Fund For Peace… it’s instructive to note that the United States is not in the “Sustainable” category, but in the “Moderate” category… i bet most people you ask wouldn’t know that…

1030

White House, Cheney’s office subpoenaed
June 28, 2007
By LAURIE KELLMAN

The Senate subpoenaed the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney’s office Wednesday, demanding documents and elevating the confrontation with President Bush over the administration’s warrant-free eavesdropping on Americans.

Separately, the Senate Judiciary Committee also is summoning Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to discuss the program and an array of other matters that have cost a half-dozen top Justice Department officials their jobs, committee chairman Patrick Leahy announced.

Leahy, D-Vt., raised questions about previous testimony by one of Bush’s appeals court nominees and said he wouldn’t let such matters pass.

“If there have been lies told to us, we’ll refer it to the Department of Justice and the U.S. attorney for whatever legal action they think is appropriate,” Leahy told reporters. He did just that Wednesday, referring questions about testimony by former White House aide Brett Kavanaugh, who now sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The escalation is part of the Democrats’ effort to hold the administration to account for the way it has conducted the war on terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The subpoenas extend the probe into the private sector, demanding among other things documents on any agreements that telecommunications companies made to cooperate with the surveillance program.

The White House contends that its search for would-be terrorists is legal, necessary and effective — pointing out frequently that there have been no further attacks on American soil. Administration officials say they have given classified information — such as details about the eavesdropping program, which is now under court supervision — to the intelligence committees of both houses of Congress.

Echoing its response to previous congressional subpoenas to former administration officials Harriet Miers and Sara Taylor, the White House gave no indication that it would comply with the new ones.

“We’re aware of the committee’s action and will respond appropriately,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto said. “It’s unfortunate that congressional Democrats continue to choose the route of confrontation.”

In fact, the Judiciary Committee’s three most senior Republicans — Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, former chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah and Chuck Grassley of Iowa — sided with Democrats on the 13-3 vote last week to give Leahy the power to issue the subpoenas.

The showdown between the White House and Congress could land in federal court.

Also named in subpoenas signed by Leahy were the Justice Department and the National Security Council. The four parties — the White House, Cheney’s office, the Justice Department and the National Security Council — have until July 18 to comply, Leahy said. He added that, like House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., he would consider pursuing contempt citations against those who refuse.

Gonzales, in Spokane, Wash., on Wednesday to discuss gang issues with local officials, said he had not seen the subpoena documents and could not comment on them directly.

“There are competing institutional interests,” Gonzales said.

The Judiciary committees have issued the subpoenas as part of a look at how much influence the White House exerts over the Justice Department and its chief, Gonzales.

The probe, in its sixth month, began with an investigation into whether administration officials ordered the firings of eight federal prosecutors for political reasons. The Judiciary committees subpoenaed Miers, one-time White House legal counsel, and Taylor, a former political director, though they have yet to testify.

Now, with senators of both parties concerned about the constitutionality of the administration’s efforts to root out terrorism suspects in the United States, the committee has shifted to the broader question of Gonzales’ stewardship of Justice.

The issue concerning Kavanaugh, a former White House staff secretary, is whether he misled the Senate panel during his confirmation hearing last year about how much he was involved in crafting the administration’s policy on enemy combatants.

The Bush administration secretly launched the eavesdropping program, run by the National Security Agency, in 2001 to monitor international phone calls and e-mails to or from the United States involving people the government suspected of having terrorist links. The program, which the administration said did not require investigators to seek warrants before conducting surveillance, was revealed in December 2005.

After the program was challenged in court, Bush put it under the supervision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, established in 1978. The president still claims the power to order warrantless spying.

The subpoenas seek a wide array of documents from the Sept. 11 attacks to the present. Among them are any that include analysis or opinions from Justice, NSA, the Defense Department, the White House, or “any entity within the executive branch” on the legality of the electronic surveillance program.

Debate continues over whether the program violates people’s civil liberties. The administration has gone to great lengths to keep it running.

Interest was raised by vivid testimony last month by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey about the extent of the White House’s effort to override the Justice Department’s objections to the program in 2004.

Comey told the Judiciary Committee that Gonzales, then-White House counsel, tried to persuade Attorney General John Ashcroft to reverse course and recertify the program. At the time, Ashcroft lay in intensive care, recovering form gall bladder surgery.

Ashcroft refused, as did Comey, who temporarily held the power of the attorney general’s office during his boss’ illness.

The White House recertified the program unilaterally. Ashcroft, Comey, FBI Director Robert Mueller and their staffs prepared to resign. Bush ultimately relented and made changes the Justice officials had demanded, and the agency eventually recertified it.

Fratto defended the surveillance program as “lawful” and “limited.”

“It’s specifically designed to be effective without infringing Americans’ civil liberties,” Fratto said. “The program is classified for a reason — its purpose is to track down and stop terrorist planning. We remain steadfast in our commitment to keeping Americans safe from an enemy determined to use any means possible — including the latest in technology — to attack us.”


but…

Bush won’t supply subpoenaed documents
June 28, 2007
By TERENCE HUNT

President Bush, in a constitutional showdown with Congress, claimed executive privilege Thursday and rejected demands for White House documents and testimony about the firing of U.S. attorneys.

His decision was denounced as “Nixonian stonewalling” by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Bush rejected subpoenas for documents from former presidential counsel Harriet Miers and former political director Sara Taylor. The White House made clear neither one would testify next month, as directed by the subpoenas.

Presidential counsel Fred Fielding said Bush had made a reasonable attempt at compromise but Congress forced the confrontation by issuing subpoenas. “With respect, it is with much regret that we are forced down this unfortunate path which we sought to avoid by finding grounds for mutual accommodation.”

The assertion of executive privilege was the latest turn in increasingly hostile standoffs between the administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress over the Iraq war, executive power, the war on terror and Vice President Dick Cheney’s authority. A day earlier, the Senate Judiciary Committee delivered subpoenas to the offices of Bush, Cheney, the national security adviser and the Justice Department about the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.

While weakened by the Iraq war and poor approval ratings in the polls, Bush has been adamant not to cede ground to Congress.

“Increasingly, the president and vice president feel they are above the law,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Bush’s assertion of executive privilege was “unprecedented in its breadth and scope” and displayed “an appalling disregard for the right of the people to know what is going on in their government.”

White House press secretary Tony Snow weighed in with unusually sharp criticism of Congress. He accused Democrats of trying “to make life difficult for the White House. It also may explain why this is the least popular Congress in decades, because you do have what appears to be a strategy of destruction, rather than cooperation.”

Over the years, Congress and the White House have avoided a full-blown court test about the constitutional balance of power and whether the president can refuse demands from Congress. Lawmakers could vote to cite witnesses for contempt and refer the matter to the local U.S. attorney to bring before a grand jury. Since 1975, 10 senior administration officials have been cited but the disputes were all resolved before getting to court.

Congressional committees sought the documents and testimony in their investigations of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ stewardship of the Justice Department and the firing of eight federal attorneys over the winter. Democrats say the firings were an example of improper political influence. The White House contends that U.S. attorneys are political appointees who can be hired and fired for almost any reason.

In a letter to Leahy and Conyers, Fielding said Bush had “attempted to chart a course of cooperation” by releasing more than 8,500 pages of documents and sending Gonzales and other officials to Capitol Hill to testify.

The president also had offered to make Miers, Taylor, political strategist Karl Rove and their aides available to be interviewed by the Judiciary committees in closed-door sessions, without transcripts and not under oath. Leahy and Conyers rejected that proposal.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s senior Republican, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said the House and Senate panels should accept Bush’s original offer.

Impatient with the “lagging” pace of the investigation into the U.S. attorney firings, Specter said he asked Fielding during a phone call Wednesday night whether the president would agree to transcripts on the interviews. Fielding’s answer: No.

“I think we ought to take what information we can get now and try to wrap this up,” Specter told reporters. That wouldn’t preclude Congress from reissuing subpoenas if lawmakers do not get enough answers, Specter said.

Fielding explained Bush’s position on executive privilege this way: “For the president to perform his constitutional duties, it is imperative that he receive candid and unfettered advice and that free and open discussions and deliberations occur among his advisers and between those advisers and others within and outside the Executive Branch.”

This “bedrock presidential prerogative” exists, in part, to protect the president from being compelled to disclose such communications to Congress, Fielding argued.

In a slap at the committees, Fielding said, “There is no demonstration that the documents and information you seek by subpoena are critically important to any legislative initiatives that you may be pursuing or intending to pursue.”

It was the second time in his administration that Bush has exerted executive privilege, said White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto. The first instance was in December 2001, to rebuff Congress’ demands for Clinton administration documents.

The most famous claim of executive privilege was in 1974, when President Nixon went to the Supreme Court to avoid surrendering White House tape recordings in the Watergate scandal. That was in a criminal investigation, not a demand from Congress. The court unanimously ordered Nixon to turn over the tapes.


because…

Following Bush Signing Statements, Federal Agencies Ignore 30 Percent Of Laws Passed Last Year
June 18, 2007

Federal agencies ignored 30 percent of the laws Bush objected to in signing statements last year, according to a report released today by the Government Accountability Office. In 2006, President Bush issued signing statements for 11 out of the 12 appropriations bills passed by Congress, claiming a right to bypass a total of 160 provisions in them.

In a sample set of 19 provisions, the GAO found that “10 provisions were executed as written, 6 were not, and 3 were not triggered and so there was no agency action to examine.”

The report, which was requested by House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Byrd (D-WV), gives the first indication of the impact that President Bush’s signing statements have had on the enforcement of laws passed by Congress.

In a statement, Byrd said the report shows the Bush administration’s desire to grab as much power as possible:

The White House cannot pick and choose which laws it follows and which it ignores. When a president signs a bill into law, the president signs the entire bill. The Administration cannot be in the business of cherry picking the laws it likes and the laws it doesn’t. This GAO opinion underscores the fact that the Bush White House is constantly grabbing for more power, seeking to drive the people’s branch of government to the sidelines….We must continue to demand accountability and openness from this White House to counter this power grab.

Since taking office in 2001, President Bush has issued signing statements challenging over 1,100 laws, claiming that he has the right to bypass them if they interfere with his alleged presidential powers. Though signing statements have been utilized by most presidents, Bush has used them to object to more laws than all previous presidents combined.

Here are a few of the laws Bush has controversially issued signing statements about:

– In 2005, after Congress passed a law outlawing the torture of detainees, Bush issued a signing statement saying that he would “construe [the law] in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President . . . as Commander in Chief,” which experts say means Bush believes he can waive the restrictions.

– In 2006, Congress passed a law requiring minimum qualifications for future heads of the Federal Emergency Management Administration in response to FEMA’s poor handling of Hurricane Katrina. When Bush signed the law, he issued a statement saying he could ignore the new restrictions and appoint a FEMA chief based on whatever qualifications he wanted.

– In 2006, Bush signed a statement saying he would view a ban on “the transfer of nuclear technology to India if it violates international non proliferation guidelines” as “advisory.” Indian newspapers reported that the government of India took note of Bush’s statement, “raising the possibility it would not take the ban seriously.”

The GAO report makes a point of noting that although “the agencies did not execute the provisions as enacted,” it cannot necessarily be concluded that “agency noncompliance was the result of the President’s signing statements.” It does, however, provide creedence to claims that confusion created by differing congressional and presidential interpretations of laws could lead increased laxity in the proper enforcement of the law.

UPDATE: “We expect to continue to use statements where appropriate, on a bill-by-bill basis,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.


and this is part of the reason why…

Within the architecture of denial and duplicity: The Democratic Party and the infantile omnipotence of the ruling class
June 26, 2007
By Phil Rockstroh

Why did the Democratic Congress betray the voting public?

Betrayal is often a consequence of wishful thinking. It’s the world’s way of delivering the life lesson that it’s time to shed the vanity of one’s innocence and grow-the-hell-up. Apropos, here’s lesson number one for political innocents: Power serves the perpetuation of power. In an era of runaway corporate capitalism, the political elite exist to serve the corporate elite. It’s that simple.

Why do the elites lie so brazenly? Ironically, because they believe they’re entitled to by virtue of their superior sense of morality. How did they come to this arrogant conclusion? Because they think they’re better than us. If they believe in anything at all, it is this: They view us as a reeking collection of wretched, baseborn rabble, who are, on an individual level, a few billion neurons short of being governable by honest means.

Yes, you read that correctly: They believe they’re better than you. When they lie and flout the rules and assert that the rule of law doesn’t apply to them or refuse to impeach fellow members of their political and social class who break the law, it is because they have convinced themselves it is best for society as a whole.

How did they come by such self-serving convictions? The massive extent of their privilege has convinced them that they’re the quintessence of human virtue, that they’re the most gifted of all golden children ever kissed by the radiant light of the sun. In other words, they’re the worst sort of emotionally arrested brats — spoiled children inhabiting adult bodies who mistake their feelings of infantile omnipotence for the benediction of superior ability. “I’m so special that what’s good for me is good for the world,” amounts to the sum total of their childish creed. In the case of narcissists such as these, over time, self-interest and systems of belief grow intertwined. Hence, within their warped, self-justifying belief systems, their actions, however mercenary, become acts of altruism.

The elites don’t exactly believe their own lies; rather, they proceed from neocon guru Leo Strauss’ dictum (the modus operandi of the ruling classes) that it is necessary to promulgate “noble lies” to society’s lower orders. This sort of virtuous mendacity must be practiced, because those varieties of upright apes (you and I) must be spared the complexities of the truth; otherwise, it will cause us to grow dangerously agitated — will cause us to rattle the bars of our cages and fling poop at our betters. They believe it’s better to ply us with lies because it’s less trouble then having to hose us down in our filthy cages. In this way, they believe, all naked apes will have a more agreeable existence within the hierarchy-bound monkey house of capitalism.

This may help to better understand the Washington establishment and its courtesan punditry who serve to reinforce their ceaseless narrative of exceptionalism. This is why they’ve disingenuously covered up the infantilism of George W. Bush for so long: Little Dubya is the id of the ruling class made manifest — he’s their troubled child, who, by his destructive actions, cracks the deceptively normal veneer of a miserable family and reveals the rot within. At a certain level, it’s damn entertaining: his instability so shakes the foundation of the house that it causes the skeletons in its closets to dance.

By engaging in a mode of being so careless it amounts to public immolation, these corrupt elitists are bringing the empire down. There is nothing new in this: Such recklessness is the method by which cunning strivers commit suicide.

Those who take the trouble to look will comprehend the disastrous results of the ruling elites’ pathology: wars of choice sold to a credulous citizenry by public relations confidence artists; a predatory economy that benefits 1 percent of the population; a demoralized, deeply ignorant populace who are either unaware of or indifferent to the difference between the virtues and vicissitudes of the electoral processes of a democratic republic, in contrast to the schlock circus, financed by big money corporatists, being inflicted upon us at present.

Moreover, the elitists’ barriers of isolation and exclusion play out among the classes below as an idiot’s mimicry of soulless gated “communities” and the pernicious craving for a vast border wall — all an imitation of the ruling class’s paranoia-driven compulsion for isolation and their narcissistic obsession with exclusivity.

Perhaps, we should cover the country in an enormous sheet of cellophane and place a zip-lock seal at its southern border, or, better yet — in the interest of being more metaphorically accurate — let’s simply zip the entire land mass of the U.S. into a body bag and be done with it.

What will be at the root of the empire’s demise? It seems the elite of the nation will succumb to “Small World Syndrome” — that malady borne of incurable careerism, a form of self-induced cretinism that reduces the vast and intricate world to only those things that advance the goals of its egoistical sufferers. It is a degenerative disease that winnows down the consciousness of those afflicted to a banal nub of awareness, engendering the shallowness of character on display in the corporate media and the arrogance and cluelessness of the empire’s business and political classes. It possesses a love of little but mammon; it is the myth of Midas, manifested in the hoarding of hedge funds; it is the tale of an idiot gibbering over his collection of used string.

What can be done? In these dangerous times, credulousness to party dogma is as dangerous as a fundamentalist Christian’s literal interpretation of the Bible: There is no need to squander the hours searching for an “intelligent design” within the architecture of denial and duplicity built into this claptrap system — a system that we have collaborated in constructing by our loyalty to political parties that are, in return, neither loyal to us nor any idea, policy or principle that doesn’t maintain the corporate status quo.

Accordingly, we must make the elites of the Democratic Party accountable for their betrayal or we ourselves will become complicit. The faith of Democratic partisans in their degraded party is analogous to Bush and his loyalists still believing they can achieve victory in Iraq and the delusion-based wing of the Republican Party that, a few years ago, clung to the belief, regardless of facts, that Terri Schiavo’s brain was not irreparably damaged and she would someday rise from her hospital bed and bless the heavens for them and their unwavering devotion to her cause.

Faith-based Democrats are equally as delusional. Only their fantasies don’t flow from the belief in a mythical father figure, existing somewhere in the boundless sky, who scripture proclaims has a deep concern for the fate of all things, from fallen sparrows to medically manipulated stem cells; rather, their beliefs are based on the bughouse crazy notion that the elites of the Democratic Party could give a fallen sparrow’s ass about the circumstances of their lives.

In the same manner, I could never reconcile myself with the Judea/Christian/Islamic conception of god — some strange, invisible, “who’s-your-daddy-in-the-sky,” sadist, who wants me on my knees (as if I’m a performer in some kind of cosmic porno movie) to show my belief in and devotion to him — I can’t delude myself into feeling any sense of devotion to the present day Democratic Party.

Long ago, reason and common sense caused me to renounce the toxic tenets of organized religion. At present, I feel compelled to apply the same principles to the Democratic Party, leading me to conclude, as did Voltaire regarding the unchecked power of the Church in his day, that we must, “crush the infamous thing.”

Freedom begins when we free ourselves from as many illusions as possible — including dogma, clichés, cant, magical thinking, as well as blind devotion to a corrupt political class.

I wrote the following, before the 2006 mid-term election: “[ . . . ] I believe, at this late hour, the second best thing that could come to pass in our crumbling republic is for the total destruction of the Democratic Party — and then from its ashes to rise a party of true progressives.

“[ . . . ] I believe the best thing that could happen for our country would be for the leaders of the Republican Party — out of a deep sense of shame (as if they even possessed the capacity for such a thing) regarding the manner they have disgrace their country and themselves — to commit seppuku (the act of ritual suicide practiced by disgraced leaders in feudalist Japan) on national television.

“Because there’s no chance of that event coming to pass, I believe the dismantling of the Democratic Party, as we know it, is in order. It is our moribund republic’s last, best hope — if any is still possible.”

I received quite a bit of flack from party loyalists and netroots activists that my pronouncement was premature and we should wait and see.

We’ve waited and we’ve seen. Consequently, since the Republican leadership have not taken ceremonial swords in hand and disemboweled themselves on nationwide TV, it’s time we pulled the plug on the Democratic Party, an entity that has only been kept alive by a corporately inserted food-tube. In my opinion, this remains the last, best hope for the living ideals of progressive governance to become part of the body politic.


1025

Evolving Towards Telepathy
Demand for increasingly powerful communications technology points to our future as a “techlepathic” species
04.26.2004
By George Dvorsky

I recently read with great interest of researcher Chuck Jorgensen’s work at NASA’s Ames Research Center. It was the kind of news item that made the rounds among the cognoscenti that day, only to be forgotten the next. But it stuck with me for days afterwards.

Jorgensen and his team developed a system that captures and converts nerve signals in the vocal chords into computerized speech. It is hoped that the technology will help those who have lost the ability to speak, as well as improve interface communications for people working in spacesuits and noisy environments.

The work is similar in principle to how cochlear implants work. These implants capture acoustic information for the hearing impaired. In Jorgensen’s experiment the neural signals that tell the vocal chords how to move are intercepted and rerouted. Cochlear implants do it the other way round, by converting acoustic information into neural signals that the brain can process. Both methods capitalize on the fact that neural signals provide a link to the analog environment in which we live.

As I thought further about this similarity it occurred to me that the technology required to create a technologically endowed form of telepathy is all but upon us. By combining Jorgensen’s device and a cochlear implant with a radio transmitter and a fancy neural data conversion device, we could create a form of communication that bypasses the acoustic realm altogether.

I decided to contact Jorgensen and other researchers about the prospect of such “techlepathy.” While I have always entertained the idea that we’ll eventually develop telepathy-enabling technologies, the optimistic responses I received from these researchers startled me nonetheless. And as I suspected, the technologies and scientific insight required for such an achievement are rapidly coming into focus—an exciting prospect to be sure.

The dream of mind-to-mind communication and the desire to transcend one’s own consciousness is as old as language itself. You could make a strong case that there’s a near pathological craving for it, a tendency that manifests through the widespread belief in paranormal telepathy.

ESP aside, it seems that this craving will soon be satisfied. Several advances in communications technology and neuroscience are giving pause about the possibility of endowing us with techlepathy. As we continue to ride the wave of the communications revolution, and as the public demand for more sophisticated communications tools continues, it seems a veritable certainty that we are destined to become a species capable of mind-to-mind communication.

This prospect is as profound as it is exciting. Such a change to the species would signify a prominent development in the evolution of humanity—a change that would irrevocably alter the nature of virtually all human relations and interactions.

The shrinking planet
Our civilization’s current postindustrial phase has often been referred to, quite rightly, as the Information Age. Moreover, the speed at which information is processed and exchanged is only getting faster. There’s no question that humanity’s collective clock-speed is steadily increasing. Indeed, as is Moore’s Law, the communications revolution is still in effect and showing no signs of abating.

Thanks to the rapid-fire nature provided by such things as email correspondence and instant messaging, conversations that used to take weeks or days now only take hours or minutes.

In fact, as I recently read an archived exchange between Charles Darwin and his rival Louis Agassiz from the 19th Century, I realized that the entire exchange must have taken months if not years since their letters had to cross the Atlantic by boat. (Darwin lived in England while Agassiz was in the US.) Today when scientists converse, they debate, critique and collaborate at breakneck speed.

What’s interesting isn’t just the types of communication tools that now exist. It’s also the way in which people use them—ways that hint at a desire for more intimate and open forms of communication.

Sitting at a red light the other day, I noticed a herd of pedestrians crossing the street—each and every one of them with a cell phone held tightly against their ear. These days, information transfer between people is nearly instantaneous, regardless of what they’re doing and where they are.

Many people are also tapping into the power of instant messaging. Programs such as Messenger, ICQ and GAIM are immensely popular, changing the way in which people interact altogether. Family members converse with each other while in the same house (calling the kids down for dinner will never be the same again). Parents chat with their kids while at work. Coworkers, whether they’re in the same building or offsite, can quickly exchange information and work in collaborative ways.

Social networking programs, such as Friendster, Tribe and Orkut, are also contributing to novel forms of communication. These programs are undoubtedly making the world a smaller place by steadily decreasing the number of so-called degrees of separation that exist between people. I’m continually stunned at the efficiency of how this works. I have only 19 immediate friends in my Friendster network, but it explodes out from there to 1,010 second-degree friends and 50,611 third-degree friends. I’m pretty much convinced that if you’re on the Internet there’s no less than four degrees of separation between you and anyone else on the Web, which is two complete degrees below the conventional six degrees of separation that is thought to exist for all people.

One of the most exciting and innovative ways to use the Web is found in the blogging (“Web logging”) phenomenon. While bloggers chronicle the news, they also chronicle their own lives. Some bloggers use their sites to post personal journals and diaries. The difference with blogs, of course, is their public nature. What’s fascinating is how many people want to make the most personal and private details of their life public. The largest segment of the population currently engaging in this are adolescents who use it to communicate with their friends, as an outlet to express their frustrations, anxieties and experiences and to provide each other with support. I’m both awestruck by and jealous of today’s teens.

Bridging minds and machines
Needless to say, the communications revolution and the driving tendencies therein are not going to stop at cell phones, instant messaging and blogs. The work of research labs and universities around the world reveals that some of the most profound developments are still yet to come. It appears that the public’s demand for ever more sophisticated communications devices will soon be met by supply.

We live in a day where neural interfacing technologies are enabling monkeys to move cursors across a computer screen with sheer thought alone and where paraplegics are able to type letters on a computer screen just by thinking about it. Recently, the FDA granted approval to Cyberkinetics in the US to implant chips in the brains of disabled people—chips that will map neural activity when they think about moving a limb. These signals will then be translated into computer code that could one day be fed into robotic limbs or applied to computer interfacing devices.

These advances in neural interfacing technology are now expanding from motor functioning to communications, an area that NASA’s Chuck Jorgensen is actively exploring.

As I mentioned earlier, I contacted Jorgensen and asked him if he’d given any consideration to the issue of techlepathy. His answer was positive, noting that his next goal is to determine whether he can directly correlate auditory speech signals and subvocal signals recorded at the same time by learning nonlinear mapping equations to relate one to the other. Ideally, Jorgensen’s team would like to develop a completely noninvasive process, starting initially with understanding highly intertwined surface measured signals. Such efforts would be in contrast to work focusing on embedded neural probes or surgical intrusions such as those used for highly disabled persons.

I also spoke with graduate student researcher Peter Passaro, a scientist pushing the envelope of human communications in the neural engineering lab at Georgia Tech. As is Jorgensen, Passaro and his team are trying to correlate mappings within a system, but in their case it’s an in vitro system with no native structures. They are trying to determine general rules for how systems set up in response to sensory input and what the state space of their output will be. Once these rules are determined, says Passaro, it will become much easier to produce such things as cortical implants.

Passaro is fairly certain that all that’s required to acquire sufficient neural information is an array of listening electrodes rather than interfacing with numerous single neurons. That being said, he believes incoming neural information is going to be a more difficult case because no one is sure how to use extracellular field stimulation to get information into cortical neural networks except in the simplest of cases. “Luckily,” says Passaro, “cochlear information is the simplest of cases.”

Passaro asserts that the technology required to create an implantable cell phone already exists—it’s just a matter of someone getting around to doing it. He believes that such a device has the potential to be one of the first widely used nonmedical implants, what he dubs the world’s first “killer app” implant.

The next progressive step as far as techlepathy goes, says Pasarro, is to tap into the brain’s language centers, specifically the part of the motor cortex responsible for output for the region of the throat and mouth. With such a system in place muscular movement wouldn’t be required at all to generate a neural signal. Instead, sheer thought alone will produce the desired language output.

Our telepathic future
Cybernetics pioneer Kevin Warwick also believes in the future of techlepathy. In fact, he’s actively trying to communicate in such a manner with his wife by creating an implant that connects his nervous system with hers. “If I have to have a long-term goal for my career,” says Warwick, “it would be creating thought communication between humans.” Of significance, he sees this as a realistic goal within his lifetime.

But Warwick believes that signals other than thoughts or language are transferable as well. Humans will eventually be able to communicate all sorts of signals, he argues, such as “whether you are feeling bad, as well as where you are.” He believes that the body produces an array of information that can be picked out and made to use in a variety of ways.

Indeed, humanity appears to be on the cusp of a rather remarkable development: We are, for all intents and purposes, about to become a telepathic species. Such a development will occur this century and it will likely happen in three major phases.

The first generation of telepathic devices will likely be of the subvocal variety in which communication travels one way, much like a normal conversation. The second phase will also involve unidirectional transmission, but consciousness (i.e. language center output) will be output instead of subvocalized speech. And the third phase will likely involve the seamless bidirectional transference of consciousness and emotions to one or more receiving persons—in other words, telepathy in the truest sense. It’s highly probable that the medium of exchange for such communication will be the Internet, or its future form, the global mind or Noosophere.Given such an endowment, human cooperation and performance, particularly in team environments, will be greatly enhanced—whether it be a search and rescue team or a prog rock band. Indeed, artists will undoubtedly exploit such advancements by creating unimaginably powerful expressions that involve the transference of conscious and emotive experiences.

Come together
While some might be perturbed by the ethical and practical ramifications of techlepathy, I am overwhelmingly in favor. Changes in communication and language have largely captured the human story, giving rise to not only technology and civilization, but also to our enhanced moral capacity and our ability to empathize. Undoubtedly, it is through communication that we learn to relate and understand one another.

As Robert Wright points out in Nonzero and Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs and Steel, effective communications have historically been the crucial key for humanity’s ongoing survival and progress. In fact, Wright meticulously chronicles how improving communication technologies steadily result in more and more positive sum games and enhanced cooperative social and interpersonal frameworks. This holds true, argues Wright, whether it be a freshly carved path that connects two tribes in the jungle or the Internet.

There’s no reason to believe that techlepathy won’t have a similar impact on individuals, social groups and society as a whole. Moreover, imagine how it will further strengthen the bonds of interpersonal communication and intimacy. As we all live alone in our own minds—forced to live near-solipsistic existences—I cannot think of anything more powerful than the prospect of sharing someone else’s thoughts and experiences. It’s been said that such unions will signify the next phase of not just human communications and social interactions, but of personal and sexual intimacy as well.

Many people complain about the dehumanizing and depersonalizing effects of technology. Personally, my usage of communications technology has only resulted in increased interactivity with the rest of the world.

Further, this tendency seems to be the driving force in the history of the development of communications technology. On the surface humanity appears to be spreading outward, venturing across continents and into space. Yet in actuality we are journeying towards one another. Our globe has never appeared smaller and our proximity to each other has never been closer.

This trend shows no signs of slowing down, pointing the way to a remarkable interconnected future.


also:
Christian Condoms
How to tie a Fundoshi
Heironymous Bosch Action Figures – i want one!

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American contractor snared in secret U.S. prison
FBI informant imprisoned and treated like an insurgent for 97 days
June 17, 2007
By Lisa Myers

For Donald Vance, a 29-year-old veteran and an American citizen, the desire to play a small part in a big event would lead to the scariest experience of his life. While in Iraq, he was neither a victim of a roadside bomb nor taken prisoner by insurgents. Instead, he was held captive by the U.S. government — detained in a secret military prison.

“It’s probably the worst thing I’ve ever lived through,” says Vance, who along with another American is now suing his own government, which he says “treated me like a terrorist.”

It all started in the summer of 2005 when Vance went to Baghdad. Born in Chicago, Vance had joined the Navy after high school and later worked in security.

He took a job with an Iraqi company, Shield Group Security, or SGS, which provides protection for businesses and organizations. Vance supervised security and logistics operations. Before long, he says he started noticing troubling things at the company — explosives and huge stockpiles of ammunition and weapons, including anti-aircraft guns. He worried they were going to militias involved in sectarian violence.

There was “more ammunition than we could ever, ever need,” says Vance. “We employed somewhere between 600 and 800 Iraqis. We had thousands of rifles.”

Vance became so alarmed by what he saw that when he returned to Chicago in October 2005 for his father’s funeral, he called the FBI office there and volunteered his services. He says he became an informant because, “It’s just the right thing to do.”

Once back in Baghdad, Vance says he began almost daily secret contact with the FBI in Chicago, often through e-mails and with officials at the U.S. embassy, alleging illegal gun-running and corruption by the Iraqis who owned and ran the company.

“I really couldn’t tell you how many days I thought about, ‘What if I get caught?'” says Vance.

In April 2006, he thought that day had come. His co-worker, Nathan Ertel, also an American, tendered his resignation. And with that, Vance says, the atmosphere turned hostile.

“We were constantly watched,” Vance says, “We were not allowed to go anywhere from outside the compound or with the compound under the supervision of an Iraqi, an armed Iraqi guard.”

Vance says an Iraqi SGS manager then took their identification cards, which allowed them access to American facilities, such as the Green Zone. They felt trapped.

“We began making phone calls,” Vance recalls. “I called the FBI. The experts over at the embassy let it be known that you’re about to be kidnapped. We barricaded ourselves with as many guns as we can get our hands on. We just did an old-fashioned Alamo.”

The U.S. military did come to rescue them. Vance says he then led soldiers to the secret cache of rifles, ammunition, explosives, even land mines.

The two men say they — and other employees who were Westerners — were taken to the U.S. embassy and debriefed. But their ordeal was just beginning.

“[We saw] soldiers with shackles in their hands and goggles and zip-ties. And we just knew something was terribly wrong,” says Vance.

Vance and Ertel were eventually taken to Camp Cropper, a secret U.S. military prison near the Baghdad airport. It once held Saddam Hussein and now houses some of the most dangerous insurgents in all of Iraq.

Here’s what Vance and Ertel say happened in that prison: They were strip-searched and each put in solitary confinement in tiny, cold cells. They were deliberately deprived of sleep with blaring music and bright lights. They were hooded and cuffed whenever moved. And although they were never physically tortured, there was always that threat.

“The guards employ what I would like to call as verbal Kung-Fu,” says Vance. “It’s ‘do as we say or we will use excessive violence on you.'”

Their families back home had no idea what was happening. Until they were detained, Vance had called or e-mailed his fiancée, Diane Schwarz, every day while in Iraq — and now he was not allowed to do either.

“I am thinking, you know, he’s dead, he’s kidnapped,” recalls Schwarz.

After a week of intense interrogations for hours at a time, Vance learned why he was detained. He was given a document stating the military had found large caches of weapons at Vance’s company and suspected he “may be involved in the possible distribution of these weapons to insurgent/terrorist groups.”

He was a security detainee, just like an insurgent. And he says he was treated that way.

“The guards peeking in my cell see a Caucasian male, instantly they think he’s a foreign fighter,” says Vance. He recounts guards yelling at him, “You are Taliban. You are al-Qaida.”

Vance says the charges against him were false and mirror exactly the allegations he had been making against his own company to the FBI.

“I’m basically saying to them: ‘What are you talking about? I’ve been telling you for seven months now that this stuff is going on. You’re detaining me but not the actual people that are doing it!'”

A military panel, which reviews charges against detainees, eventually questioned Vance and Ertel. Both men were given a document that said, “You do not have the right to legal counsel.” The men say they could not see all the evidence used against them and did not have the legal protections typically afforded Americans.

But they were eventually allowed very infrequent phone calls, which were very frustrating for Vance and his fiancée.

“He’s crying, you know, he’s not getting any answers and I’m not able to help him,” says Schwarz. “And he’s not able to help himself.”

The military cleared Ertel and released him after more than a month in prison. But Vance stayed locked up.

At that point, prohibited from keeping notes, he began secretly scribbling diary entries and storing them in his military-issued Bible, whenever he had access to a pen.

The military now acknowledges that it took three weeks just to contact the FBI and confirm Vance was an informant. But even after that, Vance was held for another two months. In all, he was imprisoned for 97 days before being cleared of any wrongdoing and released.

“I looked like hell, completely emaciated, you know — beard, shaggy, dirty,” remembers Vance. “They showered me, shaved me, cleaned me up and dumped me at Baghdad International Airport like it never happened.

Throughout the ordeal, the U.S. military said it thought Vance was helping the insurgents. Wasn’t that a reasonable basis to hold and interrogate him?

“They could have investigated the true facts, found out exactly what was happening,” says Vance. “What doesn’t need to happen is throw people in a cell, we’ll figure out the answers later. That’s not the way to do things.”

Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel have now filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government and Donald Rumsfeld, who was secretary of defense when they were detained. It is generally very difficult to sue the government, but experts say this case may be different because Vance and Ertel are American citizens; they were civilians held by the U.S. military; and they were detained for such a long time.

Military officials would not comment, but a spokeswoman previously has said the men were treated fairly and humanely. The FBI also declined to comment, as did officials at SGS. The company’s name has changed, but it’s still doing business in Iraq. Neither the company, nor its executives, has been charged with any wrongdoing.

Vance says he hopes the lawsuit will reveal why the military held him so long, and why he was denied the legal protections guaranteed American citizens.

“This is just another step of our Constitution slowly being whittled away,” says Vance when asked why with all the tragedies and injustice in Iraq anyone should care about his story. “It’s basic fundamental rights of our founding fathers.”


Bin Laden may have arranged family’s US exit: FBI docs
June 20, 2007

Osama bin Laden may have chartered a plane that carried his family members and Saudi nationals out of the United States after the September 11, 2001 attacks, said FBI documents released Wednesday.

The papers, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, were made public by Judicial Watch, a Washington-based group that investigates government corruption.

One FBI document referred to a Ryan Air 727 airplane that departed Los Angeles International Airport on September 19, 2001, and was said to have carried Saudi nationals out of the United States.

“The plane was chartered either by the Saudi Arabian royal family or Osama bin Laden,” according to the document, which was among 224 pages posted online.

The flight made stops in Orlando, Florida; Washington, DC; and Boston, Massachusetts and eventually left its passengers in Paris the following day.

In all, the documents detail six flights between September 14 and September 24 that evacuated Saudi nationals and bin Laden family members, Judicial Watch said in a statement.

“Incredibly, not a single Saudi national nor any of the bin Laden family members possessed any information of investigative value,” Judicial Watch said.

“These documents contain numerous errors and inconsistencies which call to question the thoroughness of the FBI’s investigation of the Saudi flights.

“For example, on one document, the FBI claims to have interviewed 20 of 23 passengers on the Ryan International Airlines flight … on another document the FBI claims to have interviewed 15 to 22 passengers on the same flight.”

Asked about the documents’ assertion that either bin Laden or the Saudi royals ordered the flight, an FBI spokesman said the information was inaccurate.

“There is no new information here. Osama bin Laden did not charter a flight out of the US,” FBI special agent Richard Kolko said.

“This is just an inflammatory headline by Judicial Watch to catch people’s attention. This was thoroughly investigated by the FBI.”

Kolko pointed to the 9-11 Commission Report, which was the book-length result of an official probe into the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington that killed nearly 3,000 people.

“No political intervention was found. And most important, the FBI conducted a satisfactory screening of Saudi nationals that left on chartered flights. This is all available in the report,” Kolko said.

On the issue of flights of Saudi nationals leaving the United States, the 9-11 report said: “We found no evidence of political intervention” to facilitate the departure of Saudi nationals.

The commission also said: “Our own independent review of the Saudi nationals involved confirms that no one with known links to terrorism departed on these flights.”

Meredith Diliberto, an attorney with Judicial Watch, said that her group had seen a first version of the documents in 2005, although the FBI had heavily redacted the texts to black out names, including all references to bin Laden.

Nevertheless, unedited footnotes in the texts allowed lawyers to determine that bin Laden’s name had been redacted. They pressed the issue in court and in November 2006, the FBI was ordered to re-release the documents.

Diliberto said mention that “either” bin Laden or Saudi royals had chartered the flight “really threw us for a loop.”

“When you combine that with some of the family members not being interviewed, we found it very disturbing.”


How Low Can Bush Go?
President Bush registers the lowest approval rating of his presidency—making him the least popular president since Nixon
June 21, 2007
By Marcus Mabry

In 19 months, George W. Bush will leave the White House for the last time. The latest NEWSWEEK Poll suggests that he faces a steep climb if he hopes to coax the country back to his side before he goes. In the new poll, conducted Monday and Tuesday nights, President Bush’s approval rating has reached a record low. Only 26 percent of Americans, just over one in four, approve of the job the 43rd president is doing; while, a record 65 percent disapprove, including nearly a third of Republicans.

The new numbers—a 2 point drop from the last NEWSWEEK Poll at the beginning of May—are statistically unchanged, given the poll’s 4 point margin of error. But the 26 percent rating puts Bush lower than Jimmy Carter, who sunk to his nadir of 28 percent in a Gallup poll in June 1979. In fact, the only president in the last 35 years to score lower than Bush is Richard Nixon. Nixon’s approval rating tumbled to 23 percent in January 1974, seven months before his resignation over the botched Watergate break-in.

The war in Iraq continues to drag Bush down. A record 73 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Bush has done handling Iraq. Despite “the surge” in U.S. forces into Baghdad and Iraq’s western Anbar province, a record-low 23 percent of Americans approve of the president’s actions in Iraq, down 5 points since the end of March.

But the White House cannot pin his rating on the war alone. Bush scores record or near record lows on every major issue: from the economy (34 percent approve, 60 percent disapprove) to health care (28 percent approve, 61 percent disapprove) to immigration (23 percent approve, 63 percent disapprove). And—in the worst news, perhaps, for the crowded field of Republicans hoping to succeed Bush in 2008—50 percent of Americans disapprove of the president’s handling of terrorism and homeland security. Only 43 percent approve, on an issue that has been the GOP’s trump card in national elections since 9/11.

If there is any good news for Bush and the Republicans in the latest NEWSWEEK Poll, it’s that the Democratic-led Congress fares even worse than the president. Only 25 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing.

In the scariest news for the Democratic candidates seeking their party’s nomination in 2008, even rank-and-file Democrats are unhappy with Congress, which is narrowly controlled by their party. Only 27 percent of Democrats approve of the job Congress is doing, a statistically insignificant difference from the 25 percent of Republicans and 25 percent of independents who approve of Congress.

Overall, 63 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing, including 60 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of Independents. Apparently, voters aren’t happy with anyone in Washington these days.


"Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical." – “president” George W. Bush, who vetoed Wednesday a bill that would have eased restraints on federally funded embryonic stem cell research, June 20, 2007. i have one word to say in response: IRAQ.

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You Are So F–ing Obscene
The president says it, you say it, your kids say it all the time. So what’s the f–ing problem?
June 13, 2007
By Mark Morford

My grandmother’s face used to scrunch up like she just stepped in dog droppings whenever she heard it.

My own cherubic and supercute mother rarely used to say it but has become much more friendly with it over the years because, you know, what the hell, and now whenever she launches an f-bomb or even an s-bomb she almost can’t help but smile a little sheepishly afterward, like her own mother is looking down from the heavens and making that face, or if my mother’s really angry and the cuss is meant to be a serious exclamation, well, it’s almost impossible not to smile yourself, like you just heard this really adorable squirrel pass gas.

Me, I remember my first time. Somewhere around 7 or 8 years old, just chillin’ on my bike in my Spokane ‘hood on a warm summer’s eve, a gaggle of other boys scampering around (there might have been girls too, but at that point girls were still incredibly toxic and hence my brain would not have registered their existence) and everyone just doing boy stuff.

Suddenly, it happened. From outta nowhere, one kid launched a never-before-heard “screw you” at some other kid and all chattering stopped as we all sort of looked at each other as if to say “huh?” and “what was that?” while this weird electrical charge shot through the air like creamy peanut butter on fire.

Everyone felt it. Everyone present sort of knew, even then, even without the slightest clue as to what the words actually meant, that something interesting had just occurred, something powerful and strange and, well, just a little bit wonderful.

As a quick test, I dashed home with those two words hot in my mouth and promptly unleashed them on the head of my older sister. To, if I recall, absolutely fantastic effect.

Clearly, Bush’s Federal Communications Commission is terrified of boys like me. Oh yes they are.

Let us now recap: Since 2003, BushCo’s own nipple-terrified regulatory agency has been working like a prudish little ferret to destroy perceived indecency, particularly those “fleeting expletives” that love to pop up in major media, threatening to fine any network roughly $5 bazillion for any appearance of the dreaded “f–” or “s–” or anything else that causes unusual tingling sensations anywhere in the pallid body of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.

Dismissed as eye-rollingly idiotic by every cunning linguist in existence, this absurdly strict rule nevertheless caused enormous panic and trepidation among generally spineless network honchos who immediately shifted programming and yanked uncut versions of “Saving Private Ryan” from broadcast and fired on-air talent for the slightest indiscretion and desperately called their lawyers in prayer. It was, to put it simply, f–ing ugly.

Fast-forward to now. A New York appeals court just told Bush’s hard-line FCC that they are, in essence, a bunch of simpleminded out-of-touch dweebmonkeys and that the TV networks, while morally vacant in nearly every way imaginable, still cannot be held to such impossible standards when such juicy curse words are a common element of everyday speech, including that of President “Stop This S–” Bush and Dick “Go F– Yourself” Cheney and just about every other being anywhere, with the possible exception of the ghost of my late grandmother.

“We are sympathetic to the networks’ contention that the FCC’s indecency test is undefined, indiscernible, inconsistent and consequently unconstitutionally vague,” Judge Rosemary Pooler wrote in a delicious smackdown, a decision that also called the FCC’s obscenity rules “divorced from reality,” a perfect kicker that promptly induced Kevin Martin to whine uncontrollably.

“It is the New York court, not the commission, that is divorced from reality,” he puled. “Boogerbooger wabba, jerkface thhhbbbppptt!” he did not spittle, his face turning bright red as he hopped on his Big Wheel and pedaled away furiously.

Ahh, obscenity. Here is where you may want to jump in and play devil’s advocate and argue that, while swearing may be delightful amounts of everyday fun, mature discourse doesn’t actually require such language. And sure enough, you can go through your entire life and never utter a single curse word or, for that matter, never let alcohol pass your lips or enjoy a butt plug or inhale from a joint or be just like Frank Sinatra and never once wear a pair of jeans, and you can still make it to your grave a reasonably happy person. It’s true.

But maybe that’s beside the point. Because as far as Bush’s God-spanked FCC is concerned, it is, always and forever, all about protecting the children. Or rather, it is all about protecting some imaginary Christian Everychild, some sort of perfect hypersheltered dovelike organism made of spun glass and delicate bunny hearts and little golden crucifixes, a fragile, blessed thing whose happy, unblemished life had been completely free of blood or spit or pain right up until he overheard Bono say “f–” at the Golden Globes and his precious virgin heart shattered forever.

No matter. It’s all fast becoming rather moot anyway. Broadcast television as we know it is dying a clumsy, confused death, curse-happy cable/satellite TV is in 87 percent (combined) of American homes, satellite radio remains free to blaspheme up a storm, the Internet is a giant linguistic smut-for-all and even the more serious blogs and indie media outlets are happily loosening crusty journalistic binds and slanging their way into the hearts and minds of readers everywhere.

See, most people seem to get it: As is always the case in things prurient and dirty and fun, it all comes down to balance. Too many gratuitous f-bombs and you sound juvenile and uneducated and mean. Too few (or too awkwardly placed, or unearned) and you sound prudish and awkward and far too much like, say, Jerry Seinfeld.

This, then, is the real linguistic lesson kids need to learn. When it comes to a good curse, it’s all about the placement, the timing, the precise usage. After all, “f–” is a delightful power word, one I wish I could actually employ in this very column every so often without those damnable dashes that protect, well, no one.

The truth is, there are always perfect cuss-ready moments. There are always those times when it’s not only entirely appropriate to launch a well-placed swear word, but not to do so would feel, well, downright irresponsible. Let me see if I can think of a good example …

Ah yes. How about this: “The FCC finally got some comeuppance from the courts? The Christian right’s death grip on the culture is weakening even further, and the nation as a whole appears to be slowly but surely coming to its senses? Well. Thank goodness. Praise Jesus. Pass the wine.”

“And oh yes, it’s about f–ing time.”

See? Perfectly reasonable.


FBI tries to fight zombie hordes
The FBI is contacting more than one million PC owners who have had their computers hijacked by cyber criminals.
2007/06/14

The initiative is part of an ongoing project to thwart the use of hijacked home computers, or zombies, as launch platforms for hi-tech crimes.

The FBI has found networks of zombie computers being used to spread spam, steal IDs and attack websites.

The agency said the zombies or bots were “a growing threat to national security”.

Signs of trouble
The FBI has been trying to tackle networks of zombies for some time as part of an initiative it has dubbed Operation Bot Roast.

This operation recently passed a significant milestone as it racked up more than one million individually identifiable computers known to be part of one bot net or another.

The law enforcement organisation said that part of the operation involved notifying people who owned PCs it knew were part of zombie or bot networks. In this way it said it expected to find more evidence of how they are being used by criminals.

“The majority of victims are not even aware that their computer has been compromised or their personal information exploited,” said James Finch, assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division.

Many people fall victim by opening an attachment on an e-mail message containing a virus or by visiting a booby-trapped webpage.

Many hi-tech criminals are now trying to subvert innocent webpages to act as proxies for their malicious programs.

Once hijacked, PCs can be used to send out spam, spread spyware or as repositories for illegal content such as pirated movies or pornography.

Those in charge of botnets, called botherders, can have tens of thousands of machines under their control.

Operation Bot Roast has resulted in the arrest of three people known to have used bot nets for criminal ends.

One of those arrested, Robert Alan Soloway, could face 65 years in jail if found guilty of all the crimes with which he has been charged.

In a statement about Operation Bot Roast the FBI urged PC users to practice good computer security which includes using regularly updated anti-virus software and installing a firewall.

For those without basic protections anti-virus companies such as F Secure, Trend Micro, Kaspersky Labs and many others offer online scanning services that can help spot infections.

The organisation said it was difficult for people to know if their machine was part of a botnet.

However it said telltale signs could be if the machine ran slowly, had an e-mail outbox full of mail a user did not send or they get e-mail saying they are sending spam.


Perfect silicon sphere to redefine the kilogram
June 15, 2007
By Chee Chee Leung

SECURELY tucked away inside a French vault is a lump of metal known as the International Prototype. A mixture of platinum and iridium, it was made in the 1880s to define the mass of a kilogram.

But work by a team of Australians could help pave the way for the retirement of this century- old prototype, as weight and measurement experts across the globe work towards a more scientific definition of the kilogram.

The project requires the development of perfect silicon spheres, and optical engineers at CSIRO’s Australian Centre for Precision Optics — considered world leaders in the craft — are doing their part.

Scientists will use the spheres to determine how many silicon atoms make up a kilogram, and this will be used as the new definition — bringing the kilogram into line with other base units such as the metre and the second, which are all defined by physical constants.

“It’s really an atom-counting exercise … and we’ll come up with a new definition of the kilogram based on atoms, rather than based on the thing in Paris,” explained Walter Giardini, of Australia’s National Measurement Institute.

CSIRO’s optical engineers will form two perfect spheres from a 20-centimetre cylinder of exceptionally pure silicon that arrived in Australia last night. The silicon, which has taken three years to produce, was made in Russia and grown into a near-perfect crystal in Germany.

The precision optics centre, located in the Sydney suburb of Lindfield, has already made about a dozen spheres for what is known as the Avogadro Project — with the most perfect sphere so far just 35 nanometres away from being perfectly round.

This means the diameter of the sphere varied by an average of only 35 millionths of a millimetre, making it a top contender for the title of the roundest object in the world.

A spherical shape was chosen for the project because it has no edges that might be damaged, and the volume can be calculated by using its diameter.

Optical engineer Katie Green, who will be involved in the precise cutting, grinding and polishing of the spheres, said it was exciting to be a part of a high-profile international project.

“It’s probably going to take around three months’ work, start to finish,” she said. “It’s been a number of years waiting for this material to be completed, so we’re definitely looking forward to seeing it in the flesh, so to speak.”

After the completion of the spheres, the silicon objects will be sent around the world to be measured and analysed by scientists.

http://www.csiro.au

http://www.bipm.fr


1015

Spitzer is open to New York legalizing medicinal marijuana
Governor changes position after earlier opposition
06/13/07
By Tom Precious

ALBANY — Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer, in a reversal of a campaign position, said Tuesday he could support legislation legalizing the use of marijuana for certain medicinal purposes.

The governor’s position comes as lawmakers stepped up a push in the final two weeks of the 2007 session for New York to join 12 other states and allow marijuana for those suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis and other painful conditions.

In a debate last summer, Spitzer said he opposed medical marijuana. Now he said he is “open” to the idea after being swayed by advocates in the past couple of months.

“On many issues, hopefully you learn, you study, you evolve. This is one where I had, as a prosecutor, a presumption against the use of any narcotic which wasn’t designed purely for medicinal and medical effect. And now there are ways that persuaded me that it can be done properly,” the governor told reporters.

In 2005, lawmakers were close to a measure legalizing medical marijuana but dropped the effort after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said the federal government could prosecute cases against those using marijuana in states that had legalized its use.

But after federal officials signaled no desire to prosecute individual patients using marijuana, a slowly growing number of states has begun moving ahead again to permit the drug to be used in tightly controlled circumstances. Advocates, who include groups representing physicians, nurses and hospices, liken medicinal marijuana to morphine and other drugs that are used to treat pain but are otherwise illegal on the streets.

A measure pending in the Assembly would permit the drug’s use for life-threatening illnesses and diseases, which could include everything from cancer and AIDS to hepatitis-C, and any other conditions designated by the state health commissioner, a provision the Spitzer administration insisted on, legislative sources said.

The Assembly bill, written by Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried, DManhattan, is supported by a bipartisan assortment of upstate and downstate lawmakers, including Buffalo Democratic Assembly members Sam Hoyt and Crystal Peoples.

In the State Senate, the author of the 2005 measure, Sen. Vincent Leibell, a Putnam County Republican, is preparing to quickly introduce legislation again with hopes of passage next week. “I think that’s very significant,” Leibell said of Spitzer’s support. The issue has been backed in the past in the Senate by Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, a Republican and a prostate cancer survivor.

Federal court rulings have greatly altered how people medically eligible for marijuana in New York could obtain the drug.

A measure two years ago permitted hospitals, pharmacies and nonprofit groups to apply to grow and sell marijuana for medical use. But the courts ruled the federal government could prosecute, and it has done so in California by raiding state-sanctioned marijuana dispensers. So, New York officials have taken a different route: Marijuana users would be on their own.

Legislation in Albany would permit an eligible patient to grow up to 12 marijuana plants or be in possession of up to 2.5 ounces of harvested marijuana. To get the marijuana, though, patients would need to find their own suppliers, whether on the streets or by other means.

The law would still make it illegal for dealers to sell them marijuana — though not illegal if they give it away. And it would not be illegal for the patient to purchase or possess the drug.

Gottfried, who said the measure now has a greater chance of passage than it has in a decade, believes it could help thousands of New Yorkers suffering from the effects of chemotherapy or severe pain or loss of appetite for HIV-positive individuals. “The current prohibition is political correctness run amok,” Gottfried said.

The State Association of District Attorneys has taken no formal position on the issue, said Rockland District Attorney Michael Bongiorno, president of the group.

“Essentially, personal marijuana use for all intents and purposes has been decriminalized anyway in New York,” said Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark, pointing to state law that makes a first marijuana possession subject to only a violation with a $100 fine.

Clark said that he could see some “general benefit” to a medical marijuana law if it “were crafted in the right way and very strictly limited.”

But, he added, “You mean to tell me the only drug that can treat this particular condition or relieve this discomfort or pain is marijuana? I’m a little skeptical from a medical standpoint.”

The Assembly measure requires certification from a physician that no other treatment alternatives are available before marijuana can be recommended for a patient. The individual also must be a regular patient of the physician.

The state’s small but influential Conservative Party opposes the legislation. “We think it’s the wrong way for society to go,” said Michael Long, the party’s chairman. He said the measure could encourage fraud among unethical physicians trying to cash in on writing prescriptions, and he noted the federal courts have already spoken on the issue. “We are looking for trouble,” Long said.

Spitzer gave backers encouraging signals Tuesday but cautioned that his support depends on the final bill that emerges. “It depends upon access control, how you regulate it, how you ensure you’re not just dispensing a narcotic. There are obviously issues there that have to be dealt with,” he said.

Gottfried said he has been quietly working with Spitzer’s office on the matter for the past several weeks and already amended his bill to resolve concerns raised by the governor’s aides, such as pushing off the effective date until January 2009.

How patients would get access to marijuana is a sticking point. Leibell, the Senate backer, said he wants it done in a “controlled setting,” but Assembly Democrats said that could run afoul of the federal court rulings. Leibell said he also would be open to permitting its use for more conditions, such as glaucoma.

“It just doesn’t seem that big a lift in this day and age to try to help people,” Leibell said of medical marijuana.


Drug raid nabs wrong woman
Officers try to arrest 77-year-old; intended target was next door
June 15, 2007
By Shane Benjamin

Law-enforcement officers raided the wrong house and forced a 77-year-old La Plata County woman on oxygen to the ground last week in search of methamphetamine.

The raid occurred about 11 a.m. June 8, as Virginia Herrick was settling in to watch “The Price is Right.” She heard a rustling outside her mobile home in Durango West I and looked out to see several men with gas masks and bulletproof vests, she said.

Herrick went to the back door to have a look.

“I thought there was a gas leak or something,” she said.

But before reaching the door, La Plata County Sheriff’s deputies shouted “search warrant, search warrant” and barged in with guns drawn, she said. They ordered Herrick to the ground and began searching the home.

“They didn’t give me a chance to ask for a search warrant or see a search warrant or anything,” she said in a phone interview Thursday. “I’m not about to argue with those big old guys, especially when they’ve got guns and those big old sledgehammers.”

La Plata County Sheriff Duke Schirard and Southwest Drug Task Force Director Lt. Rick Brown confirmed Herrick’s story.

Some deputies stayed with Herrick as others searched the house. They entered every bedroom and overturned a mattress in her son’s room.

Deputies asked Herrick if she knew a certain man, and she said no. Then they asked what address they were at, and she told them 74 Hidden Lane.

Deputies intended to raid 82 Hidden Lane – the house next door.

While Herrick was on the ground, deputies began placing handcuffs on her. They cuffed one wrist and were preparing to cuff the other.

“I had gotten really angry, and I was shaking from the whole incident,” she said.

Once deputies realized their mistake, they tried to help Herrick stand up and help her clean up the mess they created.

“I’m kind of a little stiff getting up,” she said.

But Herrick wanted the deputies out.

“Not too much later, the sheriff came up and apologized, and apologized and apologized,” she said.

Schirard and Brown provided context for how the mistake occurred, and said that they ultimately busted the correct house and captured $51,520 worth of meth.

For one month, the Southwest Drug Task Force had been investigating drug activity at 82 Hidden Lane, and investigators made several undercover meth purchases from a man who lived at the house. Brown declined to release the man’s name, citing an ongoing investigation.

On June 8, the task force decided to end the undercover operation and arrest the man. Rather than arrest him inside his home, investigators set up a drug deal to lure him outside.

As the suspect drove toward the meeting location at the entrance of Durango West I, a deputy attempted to pull him over as if it were a routine traffic stop.

But the suspect hit the gas and led deputies on a 57-second chase through the Durango West neighborhood. The chase covered four-tenths of a mile with speeds reaching 45 mph. While driving, the suspect threw bags of meth out of the car and erased phone numbers from his cell phone, Brown said.

The suspect eventually crashed into a power box and was arrested without incident.

While task-force members were detaining him, other law-enforcement-officials were ordered to execute a search warrant at 82 Hidden Lane.

After raiding the wrong house, deputies regrouped and decided to enter the correct house. That raid was successful: Two people were arrested and 7.2 ounces of meth was seized, Brown said.

In all, the task force seized a total of 2.3 pounds of meth during the investigation, he said. That includes the meth investigators bought while undercover and the meth the suspect threw from his car during the chase, Brown said. The street value for 1 ounce of meth is $1,400.

“They were slinging a lot of dope in this community,” Brown said. “We took a lot of meth off the streets.”

Raiding the wrong house was a mistake, but it’s one the task force has been learning from, Brown said. The mistake could have compromised the investigation and deputy safety. Had the true suspects learned of the raid, they could have disposed of the narcotics and armed themselves in anticipation of a raid.

Agencies involved in the raid included the task force and the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team.

Herrick’s home and the one next door had similar qualities, Brown said, and it didn’t help that deputies were entering through the back.

In the future, Brown said agents familiar with a particular raid will physically point deputies to the home, and pictures of the home will be distributed to those involved.

Herrick’s son, David Herrick, said investigators surveilled the neighbor’s house before the raid, and it was extremely unprofessional to enter the wrong house.

“There is a big difference between 74 and 82,” he said, referring to the house numbers.

What’s more, Herrick doesn’t understand why his 77-year-old mother was handcuffed.

“Why they thought it was necessary to handcuff her and put her on the floor I don’t know,” he said. “And then they had to ask her what the address was.”

Brown said it is common practice to make all occupants lie on the ground handcuffed in case gunfire erupts.

“It’s just safe for everybody if they’re controlled on the ground,” he said.

David Herrick said he has contacted lawyers about a possible lawsuit.

“It’s pretty upsetting that they do that to a 77-year-old,” he said. “A little common sense, I think, would have helped out on the problem a lot.”

Virginia Herrick said she is glad her meth-dealing neighbors are gone, but also said: “I’m still angry at the whole situation. For them to raid the wrong trailer was not very smart.”


1014

Anti-war Marine gets general discharge
June 13, 2007
By HEATHER HOLLINGSWORTH

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – An Iraq war veteran was kicked out of the Marines early with a general discharge after he wore his uniform during an anti-war demonstration, the military announced Wednesday.

Lt. Gen. John W. Bergman, commanding general of Marine Forces Reserve in New Orleans, agreed Monday to give Marine Cpl. Adam Kokesh a general discharge under honorable conditions, based on a military panel’s recommendation. The general discharge, which is one notch short of honorable, was effective Monday.

Kokesh got in trouble after The Washington Post published a photograph of him in March roaming the nation’s capital with other veterans on a mock patrol.

A superior officer e-mailed Kokesh, saying he was being investigated because he might have violated a rule prohibiting troops from wearing uniforms at protests.

Kokesh, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, responded to the superior with an obscenity, prompting the Marines to take steps to remove him with an “other than honorable” discharge.

Kokesh, who is from Santa Fe, N.M., but is living in Washington, stressed that he removed his name tag and military emblems from his uniform, making it clear he was not representing the military. His attorneys also argued the demonstration was “street theater,” exempting it from rules governing where troops can wear uniforms.

Kokesh’s attorney, Mike Lebowitz, said he planned to appeal to the Navy Discharge Review Board in Washington, D.C., which he described as a step toward getting the case into federal court.

“It’s just an affirmation of a weak decision,” Kokesh said of Bergman’s decision, “and we are going to continue to fight this to re-establish the precedence that the Marine Corps can’t be used for political purposes.”

Staff Sgt. Dustan Johnson, a Marine spokesman, said the review board was separate from the Marine Corps Mobilization Command and he could not comment on the appeal.

During the hearing last week at the Marine Corps Mobilization Command in Kansas City, Kokesh’s attorneys said the case was about free speech, while a Marine attorney said it was about violating orders.

Kokesh’s attorneys argued their client was not subject to military rules because he is a nondrilling, nonpaid member of the Individual Ready Reserve, which consists mainly of those who have left active duty but still have time remaining on their eight-year military obligations.

His IRR service had been scheduled to end June 18; Kokesh had received an honorable discharge from active duty in November.

Because Kokesh was an inactive reservist, the Marines were required to prove that his conduct “directly affects the performance of military duties” for him to receive an “other than honorable” discharge.

The Marine attorney, Capt. Jeremy Sibert, argued that the case met that criterion, noting Congress was debating military spending during the protest.

Two other Iraq veterans were contacted by the Marines about their protest activities and traveled to Kansas City for Kokesh’s hearing. Cloy Richards, 23, of Salem, Mo., cooperated, and the Marines did not act further. A hearing date for the other Marine, Liam Madden, 22, of Boston, has not been set.

“Now that the Marine Corps is going after honorably discharged members, who are in fact civilians, for free speech rights, we are fighting back,” Lebowitz said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “We are seeking a precedent in federal court.”


What Do We Do Now?
June 14, 2007
By BRUCE K. GAGNON

I often hear from people asking me, “What should we do about all this? How can we stop Bush?”

I would first say that we must move beyond blaming Bush. The fact of U.S. empire is bigger than Bush. Hopefully by now, all of us are more clear how the Democrats have been, and are now, involved in enabling the whole U.S. military empire building plan. It is about corporate domination. Bush is just the front man for the big money.

So to me that is step #1.

Step #2 is to openly acknowledge that as a nation, and we as citizens, benefit from this U.S. military and economic empire. By keeping our collective military boot on the necks of the people of the world we get control of a higher percentage of the world’s resources. We, 5% of the global population in the U.S., use 25% of the global resource base. This reality creates serious moral questions that cannot be ignored.

Step #3 is to recognize that we are addicted to war and to violence. The very weaving together of our nation was predicated on violence when we began the extermination of the Native populations and introduced the institution of slavery. A veteran of George Washington’s Army, in 1779, said, “I really felt guilty as I applied the torch to huts that were homes of content until we ravagers came spreading desolation everywhere….Our mission here is ostensibly to destroy but may it not transpire, that we pillagers are carelessly sowing the seed of Empire.” The soldier wrote this as Washington’s Army set out to remove the Iroquois civilization from New York state so that the U.S. government could expand its borders westward toward the Mississippi River. The creation of the American empire was underway.

Our history since then has been endless war. Two-Time Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Major General Smedley D. Butler, U.S. Marine Corps, told the story in his book War is a Racket. Butler recalls in his book, “I spent 33 years and 4 months in active military service….And during that period I spent most of my time as a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism….Thus I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street….I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927, I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested.”

Step # 4 We have to begin to change how we think about our country. We have to learn to understand what oligarchy means. I’ll save you the trouble of having to look up the definition – A government in which power is in the hands of a few. When you have lost your democracy then what do the citizens do? They must fight (non-violently) to take it back. This of course means direct action and sometimes civil disobedience. Virtually everything good in our nation (abolition of slavery movement, women’s suffrage, civil rights movement, anti-war movements, etc) have come from people stepping up when they were needed. Calling for impeachment by the Congress becomes imperative today. Are you in or out?

Step #5 Forget the “every man for himself” mythology. We are all brainwashed in this country to believe in the rugged individualism story. But movement for change can only happen in community – working with others. So forget the ego centric notion that “one great man” is going to come save us. It’s going to take a village – in fact all the villages. Just like an addict goes to a group to seek help for addiction, knowing they can’t do it themselves, so we must form community to work for the needed change if we are to protect our children’s future.

Step # 6 What about my job? Another smothering myth in America is success. Keep your nose clean and don’t rock the boat. Don’t get involved in politics, especially calling for a revolution of values (like Martin Luther King Jr. did) or you will get labeled and then you can forget about owning that castle on the hill you’ve always dreamed of. In a way we become controlled by our own subservience to the success mythology. We keep ourselves in line because success and upward mobility become more important than protecting free speech, clean water, clean air, and ending an out of control government bent on world domination. Free our minds, free our bodies and we free the nation.

Step #7 Learn to work well with others. Sure we all want to be stars. But in the end we have to learn to set aside our egos if we want to be able to work with others to bring about the needed changes. Cindy Sheehan should not be hammered just for telling the truth about the Democrats playing footsie with Bush on the war.

Step # 8 It’s the money. How can I do this peace work when I have to work full-time just to pay the mortgage? I’d like to help but I’ve got bills to pay! Maybe we can begin to look at the consumerist life we lead and see that our addiction to the rat race keeps us from being fully engaged in the most important issue of our time – which is protecting the future generations. How can we begin to explore cooperative living arrangements, by building community, that free us up economically to be able to get more involved?

Step # 9 Learn to read again. Many of us don’t read enough. We spend our time in front of the TV, which is a primary tool that the power structure uses to brainwash us. We’ve got to become independent thinkers again and teach our kids to think for themselves. Reading and talking to others is a key. Read more history. All the answers and lessons can be found there.

Step #10 Learn to trust again and have fun. Some of the nicest people in the world are doing political work. Meet them and become friends with them and your life will change for the better.


Losing Iraq, Nuking Iran
June 7, 2007
By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

The war in Iraq is lost. This fact is widely recognized by American military officers and has been recently expressed forcefully by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of US forces in Iraq during the first year of the attempted occupation.

Winning is no longer an option. Our best hope, Gen. Sanchez says, is “to stave off defeat,” and that requires more intelligence and leadership than Gen. Sanchez sees in the entirety of our national political leadership: “I am absolutely convinced that America has a crisis in leadership at this time.”

More evidence that the war is lost arrived June 4 with headlines reporting: “U.S.-led soldiers control only about a third of Baghdad, the military said on Monday.” After five years of war the US controls one-third of one city and nothing else.

A host of US commanding generals have said that the Iraq war is destroying the US military. A year ago Colin Powell said that the US Army is “about broken.” Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn says Bush has “piecemealed our force to death.” Gen. Barry McCafrey testified to the US Senate that “the Army will unravel.”

Col. Andy Bacevich, America’s foremost writer on military affairs, documents in the current issue of The American Conservative that Bush’s insane war has depleted and exhausted the US Army and Marine Corps:

“Only a third of the regular Army’s brigades qualify as combat-ready. In the reserve components, none meet that standard. When the last of the units reaches Baghdad as part of the president’s strategy of escalation, the US will be left without a ready-to-deploy land force reserve.”

“The stress of repeated combat tours is sapping the Army’s lifeblood. Especially worrying is the accelerating exodus of experienced leaders. The service is currently short 3,000 commissioned officers. By next year, the number is projected to grow to 3,500. The Guard and reserves are in even worse shape. There the shortage amounts to 7,500 officers. Young West Pointers are bailing out of the Army at a rate not seen in three decades. In an effort to staunch the losses, that service has begun offering a $20,000 bonus to newly promoted captains who agree to stay on for an additional three years. Meanwhile, as more and more officers want out, fewer and fewer want in: ROTC scholarships go unfilled for a lack of qualified applicants.”

Bush has taken every desperate measure. Enlistment ages have been pushed up from 35 to 42. The percentage of high school dropouts and the number of recruits scoring at the bottom end of tests have spiked. The US military is forced to recruit among drug users and convicted criminals. Bacevich reports that wavers “issued to convicted felons jumped by 30 percent.” Combat tours have been extended from 12 to 15 months, and the same troops are being deployed again and again.

There is no equipment for training. Bacevich reports that “some $212 billion worth has been destroyed, damaged, or just plain worn out.” What remains is in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Under these circumstances, “staying the course” means total defeat.

Even the neoconservative warmongers, who deceived Americans with the promise of a “cakewalk war” that would be over in six weeks, believe that the war is lost. But they have not given up. They have a last desperate plan: Bomb Iran. Vice President Dick Cheney is spear-heading the neocon plan, and Norman Podhoretz is the plan’s leading propagandist with his numerous pleas published in the Wall Street Journal and Commentary to bomb Iran. Podhoretz, like every neoconservative, is a total Islamophobe. Podhoretz has written that Islam must be deracinated and the religion destroyed, a genocide for the Muslim people.

The neocons think that by bombing Iran the US will provoke Iran to arm the Shiite militias in Iraq with armor-piercing rocket propelled grenades and with surface to air missiles and unleash the militias against US troops. These weapons would neutralize US tanks and helicopter gunships and destroy the US military edge, leaving divided and isolated US forces subject to being cut off from supplies and retreat routes. With America on the verge of losing most of its troops in Iraq, the cry would go up to “save the troops” by nuking Iran.

Five years of unsuccessful war in Iraq and Afghanistan and Israel’s recent military defeat in Lebanon have convinced the neocons that America and Israel cannot establish hegemony over the Middle East with conventional forces alone. The neocons have changed US war doctrine, which now permits the US to preemptively strike with nuclear weapons a non-nuclear power. Neocons are forever heard saying, “what’s the use of having nuclear weapons if you can’t use them.”

Neocons have convinced themselves that nuking Iran will show the Muslim world that Muslims have no alternative to submitting to the will of the US government. Insurgency and terrorism cannot prevail against nuclear weapons.

Many US military officers are horrified at what they think would be the worst ever orchestrated war crime. There are reports of threatened resignations. But Dick Cheney is resolute. He tells Bush that the plan will save him from the ignominy of losing the war and restore his popularity as the president who saved Americans from Iranian nuclear weapons. With the captive American media providing propaganda cover, the neoconservatives believe that their plan can pull their chestnuts out of the fire and rescue them from the failure that their delusion has wrought.

The American electorate decided last November that they must do something about the failed war and gave the Democrats control of both houses of Congress. However, the Democrats have decided that it is easier to be complicit in war crimes than to represent the wishes of the electorate and hold a rogue president accountable.

The prospect of nuking Iran doesn’t seem to disturb the three frontrunners for the Republican nomination, who agreed in their June 5 debate that the US might use nuclear weapons to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities.

If Cheney again prevails, America will supplant the Third Reich as the most reviled country in recorded history.


Twenty Things You Should Know About Corporate Crime
June 16, 2007
By Russell Mokhiber

20. Corporate crime inflicts far more damage on society than all street crime combined.

Whether in bodies or injuries or dollars lost, corporate crime and violence wins by a landslide.

The FBI estimates, for example, that burglary and robbery — street crimes — costs the nation $3.8 billion a year.

The losses from a handful of major corporate frauds — Tyco, Adelphia, Worldcom, Enron — swamp the losses from all street robberies and burglaries combined.

Health care fraud alone costs Americans $100 billion to $400 billion a year.

The savings and loan fraud — which former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh called “the biggest white collar swindle in history” — cost us anywhere from $300 billion to $500 billion.

And then you have your lesser frauds: auto repair fraud, $40 billion a year, securities fraud, $15 billion a year — and on down the list.

19. Corporate crime is often violent crime.

Recite this list of corporate frauds and people will immediately say to you: but you can’t compare street crime and corporate crime — corporate crime is not violent crime.

Not true.

Corporate crime is often violent crime.

The FBI estimates that, 16,000 Americans are murdered every year.

Compare this to the 56,000 Americans who die every year on the job or from occupational diseases such as black lung and asbestosis and the tens of thousands of other Americans who fall victim to the silent violence of pollution, contaminated foods, hazardous consumer products, and hospital malpractice.

These deaths are often the result of criminal recklessness. Yet, they are rarely prosecuted as homicides or as criminal violations of federal laws.

18. Corporate criminals are the only criminal class in the United States that have the power to define the laws under which they live.

The mafia, no.

The gangstas, no.

The street thugs, no.

But the corporate criminal lobby, yes. They have marinated Washington — from the White House to the Congress to K Street — with their largesse. And out the other end come the laws they can live with. They still violate their own rules with impunity. But they make sure the laws are kept within reasonable bounds.

Exhibit A — the automobile industry.

Over the past 30 years, the industry has worked its will on Congress to block legislation that would impose criminal sanctions on knowing and willful violations of the federal auto safety laws. Today, with very narrow exceptions, if an auto company is caught violating the law, only a civil fine is imposed.

17. Corporate crime is underprosecuted by a factor of say — 100. And the flip side of that — corporate crime prosecutors are underfunded by a factor of say — 100.

Big companies that are criminally prosecuted represent only the tip of a very large iceberg of corporate wrongdoing.

For every company convicted of health care fraud, there are hundreds of others who get away with ripping off Medicare and Medicaid, or face only mild slap-on-the-wrist fines and civil penalties when caught.

For every company convicted of polluting the nation’s waterways, there are many others who are not prosecuted because their corporate defense lawyers are able to offer up a low-level employee to go to jail in exchange for a promise from prosecutors not to touch the company or high-level executives.

For every corporation convicted of bribery or of giving money directly to a public official in violation of federal law, there are thousands who give money legally through political action committees to candidates and political parties. They profit from a system that effectively has legalized bribery.

For every corporation convicted of selling illegal pesticides, there are hundreds more who are not prosecuted because their lobbyists have worked their way in Washington to ensure that dangerous pesticides remain legal.

For every corporation convicted of reckless homicide in the death of a worker, there are hundreds of others that don’t even get investigated for reckless homicide when a worker is killed on the job. Only a few district attorneys across the country have historically investigated workplace deaths as homicides.

White collar crime defense attorneys regularly admit that if more prosecutors had more resources, the number of corporate crime prosecutions would increase dramatically. A large number of serious corporate and white collar crime cases are now left on the table for lack of resources.

16. Beware of consumer groups or other public interest groups who make nice with corporations.

There are now probably more fake public interest groups than actual ones in America today. And many formerly legitimate public interest groups have been taken over or compromised by big corporations. Our favorite example is the National Consumer League. It’s the oldest consumer group in the country. It was created to eradicate child labor.

But in the last ten years or so, it has been taken over by large corporations. It now gets the majority of its budget from big corporations such as Pfizer, Bank of America, Pharmacia & Upjohn, Kaiser Permanente, Wyeth-Ayerst, and Verizon.

15. It used to be when a corporation committed a crime, they pled guilty to a crime.

So, for example, so many large corporations were pleading guilty to crimes in the 1990s, that in 2000, we put out a report titled The Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the 1990s. We went back through all of the Corporate Crime Reporters for that decade, pulled out all of the big corporations that had been convicted, ranked the corporate criminals by the amount of their criminal fines, and cut it off at 100.

So, you have your Fortune 500, your Forbes 400, and your Corporate Crime Reporter 100.

14. Now, corporate criminals don’t have to worry about pleading guilty to crimes.

Three new loopholes have developed over the past five years — the deferred prosecution agreement, the non prosecution agreement, and pleading guilty a closet entity or a defunct entity that has nothing to lose.

13. Corporations love deferred prosecution agreements.

In the 1990s, if prosecutors had evidence of a crime, they would bring a criminal charge against the corporation and sometimes against the individual executives. And the company would end up pleading guilty.

Then, about three years ago, the Justice Department said — hey, there is this thing called a deferred prosecution agreement.

We can bring a criminal charge against the company. And we will tell the company — if you are a good company and do not violate the law for the next two years, we will drop the charges. No harm, no foul. This is called a deferred prosecution agreement.

And most major corporate crime prosecutions are brought this way now. The company pays a fine. The company is charged with a crime. But there is no conviction. And after two or three years, depending on the term of the agreement, the charges are dropped.

12. Corporations love non prosecution agreements even more.

One Friday evening last July, I was sitting my office in the National Press Building. And into my e-mail box came a press release from the Justice Department.

The press release announced that Boeing will pay a $50 million criminal penalty and $615 million in civil penalties to resolve federal claims relating to the company’s hiring of the former Air Force acquisitions chief Darleen A. Druyun, by its then CFO, Michael Sears — and stealing sensitive procurement information.

So, the company pays a criminal penalty. And I figure, okay if they paid a criminal penalty, they must have pled guilty.

No, they did not plead guilty.

Okay, they must have been charged with a crime and had the prosecution deferred.

No, they were not charged with a crime and did not have the prosecution deferred.

About a week later, after pounding the Justice Department for an answer as to what happened to Boeing, they sent over something called a non prosecution agreement.

That is where the Justice Department says — we’re going to fine you criminally, but hey, we don’t want to cost you any government business, so sign this agreement. It says we won’t prosecute you if you pay the fine and change your ways.

Corporate criminals love non prosecution agreements. No criminal charge. No criminal record. No guilty plea. Just pay the fine and leave.

11. In health fraud cases, find an empty closet or defunct entity to plead guilty.

The government has a mandatory exclusion rule for health care corporations that are convicted of ripping off Medicare.

Such an exclusion is the equivalent of the death penalty. If a major drug company can’t do business with Medicare, it loses a big chunk of its business. There have been many criminal prosecutions of major health care corporations for ripping off Medicare. And many of these companies have pled guilty. But not one major health care company has been excluded from Medicare.

Why not?

Because when you read in the newspaper that a major health care company pled guilty, it’s not the parent company that pleads guilty. The prosecutor will allow a unit of the corporation that has no assets — or even a defunct entity — to plead guilty. And therefore that unit will be excluded from Medicare — which doesn’t bother the parent corporation, because the unit had no business with Medicare to begin with.

Earlier, Dr. Sidney Wolfe was here and talked about the criminal prosecution of Purdue Pharma, the Stamford, Connecticut-based maker of OxyContin.

Dr. Wolfe said that the company pled guilty to pushing OxyContin by making claims that it is less addictive and less subject to abuse than other pain medications and that it continued to do so despite warnings to the contrary from doctors, the media, and members of its own sales force.

Well, Purdue Pharma — the company that makes and markets the drug — didn’t plead guilty. A different company — Purdue Frederick pled guilty. Purdue Pharma actually got a non-prosecution agreement. Purdue Frederick had nothing to lose, so it pled guilty.

10. Corporate criminals don’t like to be put on probation.

Very rarely, a corporation convicted of a crime will be placed on probation. Many years ago, Consolidated Edison in New York was convicted of an environmental crime. A probation official was assigned. Employees would call him with wrongdoing. He would write reports for the judge. The company changed its ways. There was actual change within the corporation.

Corporations hate this. They hate being under the supervision of some public official, like a judge.

We need more corporate probation.

9. Corporate criminals don’t like to be charged with homicide.

Street murders occur every day in America. And they are prosecuted every day in America. Corporate homicides occur every day in America. But they are rarely prosecuted.

The last homicide prosecution brought against a major American corporation was in 1980, when a Republican Indiana prosecutor charged Ford Motor Co. with homicide for the deaths of three teenaged girls who died when their Ford Pinto caught on fire after being rear-ended in northern Indiana.

The prosecutor alleged that Ford knew that it was marketing a defective product, with a gas tank that crushed when rear ended, spilling fuel.

In the Indiana case, the girls were incinerated to death.

But Ford brought in a hot shot criminal defense lawyer who in turn hired the best friend of the judge as local counsel, and who, as a result, secured a not guilty verdict after persuading the judge to keep key evidence out of the jury room.

It’s time to crank up the corporate homicide prosecutions.

8. There are very few career prosecutors of corporate crime.

Patrick Fitzgerald is one that comes to mind. He’s the U.S. Attorney in Chicago. He put away Scooter Libby. And he’s now prosecuting the Canadian media baron Conrad Black.

7. Most corporate crime prosecutors see their jobs as a stepping stone to greater things.

Spitzer and Giuliani prosecuted corporate crime as a way to move up the political ladder. But most young prosecutors prosecute corporate crime to move into the lucrative corporate crime defense bar.

6. Most corporate criminals turn themselves into the authorities.

The vast majority of corporate criminal prosecutions are now driven by the corporations themselves. If they find something wrong, they know they can trust the prosecutor to do the right thing. They will be forced to pay a fine, maybe agree to make some internal changes.

But in this day and age, in all likelihood, they will not be forced to plead guilty.

So, better to be up front with the prosecutor and put the matter behind them. To save the hide of the corporation, they will cooperate with federal prosecutors against individual executives within the company. Individuals will be charged, the corporation will not.

5. The market doesn’t take most modern corporate criminal prosecutions seriously.

Almost universally, when a corporate crime case is settled, the stock of the company involved goes up.

Why? Because a cloud has been cleared and there is no serious consequence to the company. No structural changes in how the company does business. No monitor. No probation. Preserving corporate reputation is the name of the game.

4. The Justice Department needs to start publishing an annual Corporate Crime in the United States report.

Every year, the Justice Department puts out an annual report titled “Crime in the United States.”

But by “Crime in the United States,” the Justice Department means “street crime in the United States.”

In the “Crime in the United States” annual report, you can read about burglary, robbery and theft.

There is little or nothing about price-fixing, corporate fraud, pollution, or public corruption.

A yearly Justice Department report on Corporate Crime in the United States is long overdue.

3. We must start asking — which side are you on — with the corporate criminals or against?

Most professionals in Washington work for, are paid by, or are under the control of the corporate crime lobby. Young lawyers come to town, fresh out of law school, 25 years old, and their starting salary is $160,000 a year. And they’re working for the corporate criminals.

Young lawyers graduating from the top law schools have all kinds of excuses for working for the corporate criminals — huge debt, just going to stay a couple of years for the experience.

But the reality is, they are working for the corporate criminals.

What kind of respect should we give them? Especially since they have many options other than working for the corporate criminals.

Time to dust off that age-old question — which side are you on? (For young lawyers out there considering other options, check out Alan Morrison’s new book, Beyond the Big Firm: Profiles of Lawyers Who Want Something More.)

2. We need a 911 number for the American people to dial to report corporate crime and violence.

If you want to report street crime and violence, call 911.

But what number do you call if you want to report corporate crime and violence?

We propose 611.

Call 611 to report corporate crime and violence.

We need a national number where people can pick up the phone and report the corporate criminals in our midst.

What triggered this thought?

We attended the press conference at the Justice Department the other day announcing the indictment of Congressman William Jefferson (D-Louisiana).

Jefferson was the first U.S. official charged with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Federal officials alleged that Jefferson was both on the giving and receiving ends of bribe payments.

On the receiving end, he took $100,000 in cash — $90,000 of it was stuffed into his freezer in Washington, D.C.

The $90,000 was separated in $10,000 increments, wrapped in aluminum foil, and concealed inside various frozen food containers.

At the press conference announcing the indictment, after various federal officials made their case before the cameras, up to the mike came Joe Persichini, assistant director of the Washington field office of the FBI.

“To the American people, I ask you, take time,” Persichini said. “Read this charging document line by line, scheme by scheme, count by count. This case is about greed, power and arrogance.”

“Everyone is entitled to honest and ethical public service,” Persichini continued. “We as leaders standing here today cannot do it alone. We need the public’s help. The amount of corruption is dependent on what the public with allow.

Again, the amount of corruption is dependent on what the public will allow.”

“”f you have knowledge of, if you’ve been confronted with or you are participating, I ask that you contact your local FBI office or you call the Washington Field Office of the FBI at 202.278.2000. Thank you very much.”

Shorten the number — make it 611.

1. And the number one thing you should know about corporate crime?

Everyone is deserving of justice. So, question, debate, strategize, yes.

But if God-forbid you too are victimized by a corporate criminal, you too will demand justice.

We need a more beefed up, more effective justice system to deal with the corporate criminals in our midst.


1012

"I am both Muslim and Christian"
June 17, 2007
By Janet I. Tu

Shortly after noon on Fridays, the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding ties on a black headscarf, preparing to pray with her Muslim group on First Hill.

On Sunday mornings, Redding puts on the white collar of an Episcopal priest.

She does both, she says, because she’s Christian and Muslim.

Redding, who until recently was director of faith formation at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, has been a priest for more than 20 years. Now she’s ready to tell people that, for the last 15 months, she’s also been a Muslim — drawn to the faith after an introduction to Islamic prayers left her profoundly moved.

Her announcement has provoked surprise and bewilderment in many, raising an obvious question: How can someone be both a Christian and a Muslim?

But it has drawn other reactions too. Friends generally say they support her, while religious scholars are mixed: Some say that, depending on how one interprets the tenets of the two faiths, it is, indeed, possible to be both. Others consider the two faiths mutually exclusive.

“There are tenets of the faiths that are very, very different,” said Kurt Fredrickson, director of the doctor of ministry program at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. “The most basic would be: What do you do with Jesus?”

Christianity has historically regarded Jesus as the son of God and God incarnate, both fully human and fully divine. Muslims, though they regard Jesus as a great prophet, do not see him as divine and do not consider him the son of God.

“I don’t think it’s possible” to be both, Fredrickson said, just like “you can’t be a Republican and a Democrat.”

Redding, who will begin teaching the New Testament as a visiting assistant professor at Seattle University this fall, has a different analogy: “I am both Muslim and Christian, just like I’m both an American of African descent and a woman. I’m 100 percent both.”

Redding doesn’t feel she has to resolve all the contradictions. People within one religion can’t even agree on all the details, she said. “So why would I spend time to try to reconcile all of Christian belief with all of Islam?

“At the most basic level, I understand the two religions to be compatible. That’s all I need.”

She says she felt an inexplicable call to become Muslim, and to surrender to God — the meaning of the word “Islam.”

“It wasn’t about intellect,” she said. “All I know is the calling of my heart to Islam was very much something about my identity and who I am supposed to be.

“I could not not be a Muslim.”

Redding’s situation is highly unusual. Officials at the national Episcopal Church headquarters said they are not aware of any other instance in which a priest has also been a believer in another faith. They said it’s up to the local bishop to decide whether such a priest could continue in that role.

Redding’s bishop, the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner, says he accepts Redding as an Episcopal priest and a Muslim, and that he finds the interfaith possibilities exciting. Her announcement, first made through a story in her diocese’s newspaper, hasn’t caused much controversy yet, he said.

Some local Muslim leaders are perplexed.

Being both Muslim and Christian — “I don’t know how that works,” said Hisham Farajallah, president of the Islamic Center of Washington.

But Redding has been embraced by leaders at the Al-Islam Center of Seattle, the Muslim group she prays with.

“Islam doesn’t say if you’re a Christian, you’re not a Muslim,” said programming director Ayesha Anderson. “Islam doesn’t lay it out like that.”

Redding believes telling her story can help ease religious tensions, and she hopes it can be a step toward her dream of creating an institute to study Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

“I think this thing that’s happened to me can be a sign of hope,” she said.

Finding a religion that fit
Redding is 55 and single, with deep brown eyes, dreadlocks and a voice that becomes easily impassioned when talking about faith. She’s also a classically trained singer, and has sung at jazz nights at St. Mark’s.

The oldest of three girls, Redding grew up in Pennsylvania in a high-achieving, intellectual family. Her father was one of the lawyers who argued the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case that desegregated the nation’s public schools. Her mother was in the first class of Fulbright scholars.

Though her parents weren’t particularly religious, they had her baptized and sent her to an Episcopal Sunday school. She has always sensed that God existed and God loved her, even when things got bleak — which they did.

She experienced racism in schools, was sexually abused and, by the time she was a young adult, was struggling with alcohol addiction; she’s been in recovery for 20 years.

Despite those difficulties, she graduated from Brown University, earned master’s degrees from two seminaries and received her Ph.D. in New Testament from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. She felt called to the priesthood and was ordained in 1984.

As much as she loves her church, she has always challenged it. She calls Christianity the “world religion of privilege.” She has never believed in original sin. And for years she struggled with the nature of Jesus’ divinity.

She found a good fit at St. Mark’s, coming to the flagship of the Episcopal Church in Western Washington in 2001. She was in charge of programs to form and deepen people’s faith until March this year when she was one of three employees laid off for budget reasons. The dean of the cathedral said Redding’s exploration of Islam had nothing to do with her layoff.

Ironically, it was at St. Mark’s that she first became drawn to Islam.

In fall 2005, a local Muslim leader gave a talk at the cathedral, then prayed before those attending. Redding was moved. As he dropped to his knees and stretched forward against the floor, it seemed to her that his whole body was involved in surrendering to God.

Then in the spring, at a St. Mark’s interfaith class, another Muslim leader taught a chanted prayer and led a meditation on opening one’s heart. The chanting appealed to the singer in Redding; the meditation spoke to her heart. She began saying the prayer daily.

Around that time, her mother died, and then “I was in a situation that I could not handle by any other means, other than a total surrender to God,” she said.

She still doesn’t know why that meant she had to become a Muslim. All she knows is “when God gives you an invitation, you don’t turn it down.”

In March 2006, she said her shahada — the profession of faith — testifying that there is only one God and that Mohammed is his messenger. She became a Muslim.

Before she took the shahada, she read a lot about Islam. Afterward, she learned from local Muslim leaders, including those in Islam’s largest denomination — Sunni — and those in the Sufi mystical tradition of Islam. She began praying with the Al-Islam Center, a Sunni group that is predominantly African-American.

There were moments when practicing Islam seemed like coming home.

In Seattle’s Episcopal circles, Redding had mixed largely with white people. “To walk into Al-Islam and be reminded that there are more people of color in the world than white people, that in itself is a relief,” she said.

She found the discipline of praying five times a day — one of the five pillars of Islam that all Muslims are supposed to follow — gave her the deep sense of connection with God that she yearned for.

It came from “knowing at all times I’m in between prayers.” She likens it to being in love, constantly looking forward to having “all these dates with God. … Living a life where you’re remembering God intentionally, consciously, just changes everything.”

Friends who didn’t know she was practicing Islam told her she glowed.

Aside from the established sets of prayers she recites in Arabic fives times each day, Redding says her prayers are neither uniquely Islamic nor Christian. They’re simply her private talks with God or Allah — she uses both names interchangeably. “It’s the same person, praying to the same God.”

In many ways, she says, “coming to Islam was like coming into a family with whom I’d been estranged. We have not only the same God, but the same ancestor with Abraham.”

A shared beginning
Indeed, Islam, Christianity and Judaism trace their roots to Abraham, the patriarch of Judaism who is also considered the spiritual father of all three faiths. They share a common belief in one God, and there are certain similar stories in their holy texts.

But there are many significant differences, too.

Muslims regard the Quran as the unadulterated word of God, delivered through the angel Gabriel to Mohammed. While they believe the Torah and the Gospels include revelations from God, they believe those revelations have been misinterpreted or mishandled by humans.

Most significantly, Muslims and Christians disagree over the divinity of Jesus.

Muslims generally believe in Jesus’ virgin birth, that he was a messenger of God, that he ascended to heaven alive and that he will come back at the end of time to destroy evil. They do not believe in the Trinity, in the divinity of Jesus or in his death and resurrection.

For Christians, belief in Jesus’ divinity, and that he died on the cross and was resurrected, lie at the heart of the faith, as does the belief that there is one God who consists of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Redding’s views, even before she embraced Islam, were more interpretive than literal.

She believes the Trinity is an idea about God and cannot be taken literally.

She does not believe Jesus and God are the same, but rather that God is more than Jesus.

She believes Jesus is the son of God insofar as all humans are the children of God, and that Jesus is divine, just as all humans are divine — because God dwells in all humans.

What makes Jesus unique, she believes, is that out of all humans, he most embodied being filled with God and identifying completely with God’s will.

She does believe that Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected, and acknowledges those beliefs conflict with the teachings of the Quran. “That’s something I’ll find a challenge the rest of my life,” she said.

She considers Jesus her savior. At times of despair, because she knows Jesus suffered and overcame suffering, “he has connected me with God,” she said.

That’s not to say she couldn’t develop as deep a relationship with Mohammed. “I’m still getting to know him,” she said.

Matter of interpretation
Some religious scholars understand Redding’s thinking.

While the popular Christian view is that Jesus is God and that he came to Earth and took on a human body, other Christians believe his divinity means that he embodied the spirit of God in his life and work, said Eugene Webb, professor emeritus of comparative religion at the University of Washington.

Webb says it’s possible to be both Muslim and Christian: “It’s a matter of interpretation. But a lot of people on both sides do not believe in interpretation. ”

Ihsan Bagby, associate professor of Islamic studies at the University of Kentucky, agrees with Webb, and adds that Islam tends to be a little more flexible. Muslims can have faith in Jesus, he said, as long as they believe in Mohammed’s message.

Other scholars are skeptical.

“The theological beliefs are irreconcilable,” said Mahmoud Ayoub, professor of Islamic studies and comparative religion at Temple University in Philadelphia. Islam holds that God is one, unique, indivisible. “For Muslims to say Jesus is God would be blasphemy.”

Frank Spina, an Episcopal priest and also a professor of Old Testament and biblical theology at Seattle Pacific University, puts it bluntly.

“I just do not think this sort of thing works,” he said. “I think you have to give up what is essential to Christianity to make the moves that she has done.

“The essence of Christianity was not that Jesus was a great rabbi or even a great prophet, but that he is the very incarnation of the God that created the world…. Christianity stands or falls on who Jesus is.”

Spina also says that as priests, he and Redding have taken vows of commitment to the doctrines of the church. “That means none of us get to work out what we think all by ourselves.”

Redding knows there are many Christians and Muslims who will not accept her as both.

“I don’t care,” she says. “They can’t take away my baptism.” And as she understands it, once she’s made her profession of faith to become a Muslim, no one can say she isn’t that, either.

While she doesn’t rule out that one day she may choose one or the other, it’s more likely “that I’m going to be 100 percent Christian and 100 percent Muslim when I die.”

Deepened spirituality
These days, Redding usually carries a headscarf with her wherever she goes so she can pray five times a day.

On Fridays, she prays with about 20 others at the Al-Islam Center. On Sundays, she prays in church, usually at St. Clement’s of Rome in the Mount Baker neighborhood.

One thing she prays for every day: “I pray not to cause scandal or bring shame upon either of my traditions.”

Being Muslim has given her insights into Christianity, she said. For instance, because Islam regards Jesus as human, not divine, it reinforces for her that “we can be like Jesus. There are no excuses.”

Doug Thorpe, who served on St. Mark’s faith-formation committee with Redding, said he’s trying to understand all the dimensions of her faith choices. But he saw how it deepened her spirituality. And it spurred him to read the Quran and think more deeply about his own faith.

He believes Redding is being called. She is, “by her very presence, a bridge person,” Thorpe said. “And we desperately need those bridge persons.”

In Redding’s car, she has hung up a cross she made of clear crystal beads. Next to it, she has dangled a heart-shaped leather object etched with the Arabic symbol for Allah.

“For me, that symbolizes who I am,” Redding said. “I look through Jesus and I see Allah.”


1006

Music Industry Puts Troops in the Streets
Quasi-legal squads raid street vendors
January 8, 2004
By Ben Sullivan

Though no guns were brandished, the bust from a distance looked like classic LAPD, DEA or FBI work, right down to the black “raid” vests the unit members wore. The fact that their yellow stenciled lettering read “RIAA” instead of something from an official law-enforcement agency was lost on 55-year-old parking-lot attendant Ceasar Borrayo.

The Recording Industry Association of America is taking it to the streets.

Even as it suffers setbacks in the courtroom, the RIAA has over the last 18 months built up a national staff of ex-cops to crack down on people making and selling illegal CDs in the hood.

The result has been a growing number of scenes like the one played out in Silver Lake just before Christmas, during an industry blitz to combat music piracy.

Borrayo attends to a parking lot next to the landmark El 7 Mares fish-taco stand on Sunset Boulevard. To supplement his buck-a-car income, he began, in 2003, selling records and videos from a makeshift stand in front of the lot.

In a good week, Borrayo said, he might unload five or 10 albums and a couple DVDs at $5 apiece. Paying a distributor about half that up-front, he thought he’d lucked into a nice side business.

The RIAA saw it differently. Figuring the discs were bootlegs, a four-man RIAA squad descended on his stand a few days before Christmas and persuaded the 4-foot-11 Borrayo to hand over voluntarily a total of 78 discs. It wasn’t a tough sell.

“They said they were police from the recording industry or something, and next time they’d take me away in handcuffs,” he said through an interpreter. Borrayo says he has no way of knowing if the records, with titles like Como Te Extraño Vol. IV — Musica de los 70’s y 80’s, are illegal, but he thought better of arguing the point.

The RIAA acknowledges it all — except the notion that its staff presents itself as police. Yes, they may all be ex-P.D. Yes, they wear cop-style clothes and carry official-looking IDs. But if they leave people like Borrayo with the impression that they’re actual law enforcement, that’s a mistake.

“We want to be very clear who we are and what we’re doing,” says John Langley, Western regional coordinator for the RIAA Anti-Piracy Unit. “First and foremost, we’re professionals.”

Langley, based in Los Alamitos, California, oversees five staff investigators and around 20 contractors who sniff out bootleg discs west of the Rockies. The former Royal Canadian Mountie said his unit’s on-the-streets approach has been a big success, netting more than 100,000 pieces of unauthorized merchandise during the recent Christmas retail blitz.

With all the trappings of a police team, including pink incident reports that, among other things, record a vendor’s height, weight, hair and eye color, the RIAA squad can give those busted the distinct impression they’re tangling with minions of Johnny Law instead of David Geffen. And that raises some potential legal questions.

Contacted for this article, the Southern California branch of the American Civil Liberties Union said it needed more information on the practices to know if specific civil liberties were at risk.

But if an anti-piracy team crossed the line between looking like cops and implying or telling vendors that they are cops, the Los Angeles Police Department would take a pretty dim view, said LAPD spokesman Jason Lee.

“I will not say it’s okay to be [selling] illegal stuff,” Lee said. “That’s a violation of penal codes.

“But it doesn’t really matter what your status is. If that person feels he was wrongly interrogated or under the false pretense that these people were cops, they should contact their local police station as a victim. We’ll sort it all out.”

For its part, the RIAA maintains that the up-close-and-personal techniques are nothing new. RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy says its investigators do not represent themselves as police, and that the incident reports vendors are asked to sign, in which they agree to hand over their discs, explicitly state that the forfeiture is voluntary.

Lamy and the RIAA are unapologetic about taking the fight against music piracy to the streets. Though the association has suffered a few high-profile legal setbacks in recent months — most notably when a three-judge panel ruled that Internet service providers do not have to squeal on their file-swapping customers — community action is extremely effective.

Langley says the anti-piracy teams have about an 80 percent success rate in persuading vendors to hand over their merchandise voluntarily for destruction.

“We notify them that continued sale would be a violation of civil and criminal codes. If they’d like to voluntarily turn the product over to us, we’ll destroy it, and we agree we won’t sue,” he explained.

The pink incident sheets and photos that Langley’s teams take of vendors are meant to establish a paper trail, particularly for repeat offenders.

“A large percentage [of the vendors] are of a Hispanic nature,” Langley said. “Today he’s Jose Rodriguez, tomorrow he’s Raul something or other, and tomorrow after that he’s something else. These people change their identity all the time. A picture’s worth a thousand words.”

Though Langley says he doesn’t know what tack his new boss will take, the recent hiring of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Director Bradley Buckles to head the anti-piracy unit has some RIAA watchers holding their breath.

On its face, the move looks like a shift toward even more in-your-face enforcement. But don’t expect all RIAA critics to rally to the side of Borrayo and other sellers.

“The process of confiscating bootleg CDs from street vendors is exactly what the RIAA should be doing,” said Jason Schultz, a staff attorney for the San Francisco–based Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

The EFF has frequently crossed swords with the record industry over its strategy of suing ISPs and individual listeners accused of downloading tunes from the Internet. A champion of copyright “fair use,” the EFF says Buckles could bring a more balanced approach to the RIAA’s anti-piracy efforts. The more time the association spends rousting vendors, the thinking goes, the less it will spend subpoenaing KaZaa and BearShare aficionados.

Meanwhile, Borrayo will have to keep his eyes open for another source of income. Though he says he still sees nothing wrong with what he did, the guy who once supplied him records hasn’t been around in a couple months.

“They tried to scare me,” Borrayo said. “They told me, ‘You’re a pirate!’ I said, ‘C’mon, guys, pirates are all at sea. I just work in a parking lot.’ “


1005

Court rules in favor of enemy combatant
11 June, 2007
By ZINIE CHEN SAMPSON

RICHMOND, Va. – A divided panel from a conservative federal appeals court harshly rebuked the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism strategy Monday, ruling that U.S. residents cannot be locked up indefinitely as “enemy combatants” without being charged.

The three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the government should charge Ali al-Marri, a legal U.S. resident and the only suspected enemy combatant on American soil, or release him from military custody.

The federal Military Commissions Act doesn’t strip al-Marri of his constitutional right to challenge his accusers in court, the judges found in Monday’s 2-1 decision.

“Put simply, the Constitution does not allow the President to order the military to seize civilians residing within the United States and then detain them indefinitely without criminal process, and this is so even if he calls them ‘enemy combatants,'” the court said.

Such detention “would have disastrous consequences for the Constitution — and the country,” Judge Diana G. Motz wrote in the majority opinion, which was joined by Judge Roger Gregory. Judge Henry E. Hudson, a federal judge in Richmond, dissented.

“This is a landmark victory for the rule of law and a defeat for unchecked executive power,” al-Marri’s lawyer, Jonathan Hafetz, said in a statement. “It affirms the basic constitutional rights of all individuals — citizens and immigrants — in the United States.”

The government intends to ask the full 4th Circuit to hear the case, Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said.

“The President has made clear that he intends to use all available tools at his disposal to protect Americans from further al-Qaida attack, including the capture and detention of al-Qaida agents who enter our borders,” Boyd said in a statement.

The court said its ruling doesn’t mean al-Marri should be set free. Instead, he can be returned to the civilian court system and tried on criminal charges.

In his dissent, Hudson said the government properly detained al-Marri as an enemy combatant.

“Although al-Marri was not personally engaged in armed conflict with U.S. forces, he is the type of stealth warrior used by al-Qaeda to perpetrate terrorist acts against the United States,” wrote Hudson, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Bush. The other two judges were appointed by President Bill Clinton.

The decision is the latest in a series of court rulings against the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism program.

Last August, a federal judge in Detroit said the government’s domestic spying program violated constitutional rights to free speech and privacy, and the constitutional separation of powers. Five months later, the Bush administration announced it would allow judicial review of the spying program run by the National Security Agency.

A year ago, the Supreme Court threw out Bush’s system of military trials for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, saying he had exceeded his authority and was in violation of international treaties. The Republican-led Congress then pushed through legislation authorizing war-crime trials for the detainees and denying them access to civilian courts.

But last week, military judges barred the Pentagon from prosecuting two of the Guantanamo detainees because the government had failed to identify them as “unlawful” enemy combatants, as required by Congress. The decisions were a blow to efforts to begin prosecuting dozens of detainees the government regards as the nation’s most dangerous terrorism suspects.

Al-Marri has been held in solitary confinement in the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., since June 2003. The Qatar native has been detained since his December 2001 arrest at his home in Peoria, Ill., where he moved with his wife and five children a day before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to study for a master’s degree at Bradley University.

Federal investigators found credit card numbers on al-Marri’s laptop computer and charged him with credit card fraud. Upon further investigation, the government said, agents found evidence that al-Marri had links to al-Qaida terrorists and was a national security threat. Authorities shifted al-Marri’s case from the criminal system and moved him to indefinite military detention.

Al-Marri has denied the government’s allegations and is seeking to challenge the government’s evidence and cross-examine its witnesses in court. Hafetz said prosecutors haven’t charged his client because they lack evidence, “or the evidence they’ve obtained is through torture, unreliable or unacceptable in civilized society.”

Al-Marri is currently the only U.S. resident held as an enemy combatant within the U.S.

Jose Padilla, who is a U.S. citizen, had been held as an enemy combatant in a Navy brig for 3 1/2 years before he was hastily added to an existing case in Miami in November 2005, a few days before a U.S. Supreme Court deadline for Bush administration briefs on the question of the president’s powers to continue holding him in military prison without charge.

Yaser Hamdi, an American citizen captured in Afghanistan in 2001, was released to his family in Saudi Arabia in October 2004 after the Justice Department said he no longer posed a threat to the United States. As a condition of his release, he gave up U.S. citizenship.

If the government’s stance was upheld, civil liberties groups said, the Justice Department could use terrorism law to hold anyone indefinitely and strip them of the right to use civilian courts to challenge their detention.

The Bush administration’s attorneys had urged the federal appeals panel to dismiss al-Marri’s challenge, arguing that the Military Commissions Act stripped the courts of jurisdiction to hear cases of detainees who are declared enemy combatants. They contended that Congress and the Supreme Court have given the president the authority to fight terrorism and prevent additional attacks on the nation.

The court, however, said in Monday’s opinion that the act doesn’t apply to al-Marri, who wasn’t captured outside the U.S., detained at Guantanamo Bay or in another country, and who has not received a combatant status review tribunal.

“The MCA was not intended to, and does not apply to aliens like al-Marri, who have legally entered, and are seized while legally residing in, the United States,” the court said.

The court also said the government failed to back up its argument that the Authorization for Use of Military Force, enacted by Congress immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, gives the president broad powers to detain al-Marri as an enemy combatant. The act neither classifies certain civilians as enemy combatants, nor otherwise authorizes the government to detain people indefinitely, the court ruled.

The case, which is expected to reach the Supreme Court, could help define how much authority the government has to indefinitely detain those accused of terrorism and to strip detainees of their rights to challenge the lawfulness or conditions of their detention.


The Emptiness of the US Rhetoric of Success
10, June, 2007
By Neil Berry

It has been said that the United States is apt to view the rest of mankind as “failed Americans”. This is hardly new, but the era of President George W. Bush has surely witnessed an unprecedented upsurge of American self-flattery and self-aggrandizement. Bush and the neoconservative ideologues gathered around him have routinely portrayed the US as the very summit of human achievement, a polity before which the wider world is bound to genuflect in abject awe.

It is true that the Bush administration, with its catastrophic foreign policy, has rendered America globally unpopular as perhaps never before. Yet there has not been a more concerted effort to challenge the US rhetoric of success, the endless boasting about the superiority of all things American. Possibly because of the ubiquity of American popular culture there is still a willingness to accept America at its own overblown valuation. It is a willingness that is perhaps particularly deep-rooted in the Arab world.

It is curious that so many Arabs remain envious of the American way of life at a time when the US has demonstrated such contempt for the Arab people. The truth is that the idea of America retains a dazzling allure — though America is afflicted by a chronic moral and spiritual malaise.

Increasingly, the ills of the US are also the ills of the West in general, not least of Britain, which since the 1980s has in many ways become a European mirror of American society. During a recent public discussion in London about “Being Arab”, the collection of essays by the assassinated Palestine-born intellectual Samir Kassir, a member of the audience blurted out that she could not understand why it was taken for granted that it is Arab culture that is in an especially parlous condition. What about Britain? Was the Britain presided over by Prime Minister Tony Blair such an exemplary place? It was an excellent point and one which none of the participants in the discussion tried very hard to refute. With its apotheosis of the free market and cult of acquisitive individualism, Britain has striven hard to become a mini-US, though the results have not been encouraging.

It could even be argued that it is not freedom and democracy but high levels of stress and mounting psychological disorder that are America’s true gift to the world. As arrogant as he is inadequate, George W. Bush may be taken as an authentic personification of contemporary America.

Historians will savor the irony that at such a moment the United States and Britain spawned self-righteous Christian leaders who did not hesitate to lecture other peoples on the higher virtue of their “civilization”. America and its British satellite alike had less on which to congratulate themselves than they liked to claim even before the epoch-making betrayal of their own vaunted moral standards epitomized by Guantanamo Bay. That there is now a worldwide tide of anti-American feeling must be accounted a positive development. Even a former US president is now lining up with much of the rest of the world as an “anti-American”. Indeed, too much can hardly be made of the extraordinary denunciation by former President Jimmy Carter of Bush’s unilateralism and the appalling folly of Britain’s prime minister in endorsing it. When if ever before did a former president castigated a successor in such terms?

This is a welcome reminder that the current administration does not speak for the whole of America. The grievous damage it has done to America’s standing will not be quickly undone, even if the influence of neoconservative ideologues like Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle is no longer in the ascendant. And it is thanks to regressive policymakers such as Wolfowitz that Washington has brought to its dealings with the Middle East an absence of understanding that has been above all notable for its sheer perversity. In his timely and informative study, “What the Arabs think of America”, Andrew Hammond points out that the neoconservatives have promoted a fundamental misconception of the Arab worldview. Wolfowitz set special store by the work of the Zionist historian Bernard Lewis. The departing president of the World Bank maintained that Lewis’ book on Islam, “What went Wrong?” taught him “how to understand the complex and important history of the Middle East and use it to guide us where we will go next to build a better world for generations”. Yet Lewis’ book is a far from reliable guide. Most dubiously, it explains anti-American sentiment in the Arab world not with reference to the latter-day Arab preoccupation with the Zionist project and the Palestine-Israel conflict but in terms of historic Arab feelings of humiliation at the hands of the Christian West. In fact, the book makes scant mention of Israel.

It may be that neoconservative Zionists, with their obsession with the fate of Israel, have deliberately sought to mislead Western public opinion over this central issue — though it also seems likely that the public which turned Bernard Lewis’ book into a post-9/11 best-seller was only too ready to embrace its anti-Islamic stance; after all, it is not only rabid Zionists who loath to see beyond Judeo-Christian views of the Middle East.

What can safely be said is that today’s warmongering Western leaders and ideologues will not be remembered for their wisdom. Rather, they will be recalled for getting things woefully wrong — for being, in a word, precisely what they accused others of being: Failures.