Category Archives: technology

PART I

“We support your war of terror…”
— Borat

The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness
July 30, 2007
by CHRIS HEDGES & LAILA AL-ARIAN

Over the past several months The Nation has interviewed fifty combat veterans of the Iraq War from around the United States in an effort to investigate the effects of the four-year-old occupation on average Iraqi civilians. These combat veterans, some of whom bear deep emotional and physical scars, and many of whom have come to oppose the occupation, gave vivid, on-the-record accounts. They described a brutal side of the war rarely seen on television screens or chronicled in newspaper accounts.

Their stories, recorded and typed into thousands of pages of transcripts, reveal disturbing patterns of behavior by American troops in Iraq. Dozens of those interviewed witnessed Iraqi civilians, including children, dying from American firepower. Some participated in such killings; others treated or investigated civilian casualties after the fact. Many also heard such stories, in detail, from members of their unit. The soldiers, sailors and marines emphasized that not all troops took part in indiscriminate killings. Many said that these acts were perpetrated by a minority. But they nevertheless described such acts as common and said they often go unreported–and almost always go unpunished.

Court cases, such as the ones surrounding the massacre in Haditha and the rape and murder of a 14-year-old in Mahmudiya, and news stories in the Washington Post, Time, the London Independent and elsewhere based on Iraqi accounts have begun to hint at the wide extent of the attacks on civilians. Human rights groups have issued reports, such as Human Rights Watch’s Hearts and Minds: Post-war Civilian Deaths in Baghdad Caused by U.S. Forces, packed with detailed incidents that suggest that the killing of Iraqi civilians by occupation forces is more common than has been acknowledged by military authorities.

This Nation investigation marks the first time so many on-the-record, named eyewitnesses from within the US military have been assembled in one place to openly corroborate these assertions.

While some veterans said civilian shootings were routinely investigated by the military, many more said such inquiries were rare. “I mean, you physically could not do an investigation every time a civilian was wounded or killed because it just happens a lot and you’d spend all your time doing that,” said Marine Reserve Lieut. Jonathan Morgenstein, 35, of Arlington, Virginia. He served from August 2004 to March 2005 in Ramadi with a Marine Corps civil affairs unit supporting a combat team with the Second Marine Expeditionary Brigade. (All interviewees are identified by the rank they held during the period of service they recount here; some have since been promoted or demoted.)

Veterans said the culture of this counterinsurgency war, in which most Iraqi civilians were assumed to be hostile, made it difficult for soldiers to sympathize with their victims–at least until they returned home and had a chance to reflect.

“I guess while I was there, the general attitude was, A dead Iraqi is just another dead Iraqi,” said Spc. Jeff Englehart, 26, of Grand Junction, Colorado. Specialist Englehart served with the Third Brigade, First Infantry Division, in Baquba, about thirty-five miles northeast of Baghdad, for a year beginning in February 2004. “You know, so what?… The soldiers honestly thought we were trying to help the people and they were mad because it was almost like a betrayal. Like here we are trying to help you, here I am, you know, thousands of miles away from home and my family, and I have to be here for a year and work every day on these missions. Well, we’re trying to help you and you just turn around and try to kill us.”

He said it was only “when they get home, in dealing with veteran issues and meeting other veterans, it seems like the guilt really takes place, takes root, then.”

The Iraq War is a vast and complicated enterprise. In this investigation of alleged military misconduct, The Nation focused on a few key elements of the occupation, asking veterans to explain in detail their experiences operating patrols and supply convoys, setting up checkpoints, conducting raids and arresting suspects. From these collected snapshots a common theme emerged. Fighting in densely populated urban areas has led to the indiscriminate use of force and the deaths at the hands of occupation troops of thousands of innocents.

Many of these veterans returned home deeply disturbed by the disparity between the reality of the war and the way it is portrayed by the US government and American media. The war the vets described is a dark and even depraved enterprise, one that bears a powerful resemblance to other misguided and brutal colonial wars and occupations, from the French occupation of Algeria to the American war in Vietnam and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

“I’ll tell you the point where I really turned,” said Spc. Michael Harmon, 24, a medic from Brooklyn. He served a thirteen-month tour beginning in April 2003 with the 167th Armor Regiment, Fourth Infantry Division, in Al-Rashidiya, a small town near Baghdad. “I go out to the scene and [there was] this little, you know, pudgy little 2-year-old child with the cute little pudgy legs, and I look and she has a bullet through her leg…. An IED [improvised explosive device] went off, the gun-happy soldiers just started shooting anywhere and the baby got hit. And this baby looked at me, wasn’t crying, wasn’t anything, it just looked at me like–I know she couldn’t speak. It might sound crazy, but she was like asking me why. You know, Why do I have a bullet in my leg?… I was just like, This is–this is it. This is ridiculous.”

Much of the resentment toward Iraqis described to The Nation by veterans was confirmed in a report released May 4 by the Pentagon. According to the survey, conducted by the Office of the Surgeon General of the US Army Medical Command, just 47 percent of soldiers and 38 percent of marines agreed that civilians should be treated with dignity and respect. Only 55 percent of soldiers and 40 percent of marines said they would report a unit member who had killed or injured “an innocent noncombatant.”

These attitudes reflect the limited contact occupation troops said they had with Iraqis. They rarely saw their enemy. They lived bottled up in heavily fortified compounds that often came under mortar attack. They only ventured outside their compounds ready for combat. The mounting frustration of fighting an elusive enemy and the devastating effect of roadside bombs, with their steady toll of American dead and wounded, led many troops to declare an open war on all Iraqis.

Veterans described reckless firing once they left their compounds. Some shot holes into cans of gasoline being sold along the roadside and then tossed grenades into the pools of gas to set them ablaze. Others opened fire on children. These shootings often enraged Iraqi witnesses.

In June 2003 Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejía’s unit was pressed by a furious crowd in Ramadi. Sergeant Mejía, 31, a National Guardsman from Miami, served for six months beginning in April 2003 with the 1-124 Infantry Battalion, Fifty-Third Infantry Brigade. His squad opened fire on an Iraqi youth holding a grenade, riddling his body with bullets. Sergeant Mejía checked his clip afterward and calculated that he had personally fired eleven rounds into the young man.

“The frustration that resulted from our inability to get back at those who were attacking us led to tactics that seemed designed simply to punish the local population that was supporting them,” Sergeant Mejía said.

We heard a few reports, in one case corroborated by photographs, that some soldiers had so lost their moral compass that they’d mocked or desecrated Iraqi corpses. One photo, among dozens turned over to The Nation during the investigation, shows an American soldier acting as if he is about to eat the spilled brains of a dead Iraqi man with his brown plastic Army-issue spoon.

“Take a picture of me and this motherfucker,” a soldier who had been in Sergeant Mejía’s squad said as he put his arm around the corpse. Sergeant Mejía recalls that the shroud covering the body fell away, revealing that the young man was wearing only his pants. There was a bullet hole in his chest.

“Damn, they really fucked you up, didn’t they?” the soldier laughed.

The scene, Sergeant Mejía said, was witnessed by the dead man’s brothers and cousins.

In the sections that follow, snipers, medics, military police, artillerymen, officers and others recount their experiences serving in places as diverse as Mosul in the north, Samarra in the Sunni Triangle, Nasiriya in the south and Baghdad in the center, during 2003, 2004 and 2005. Their stories capture the impact of their units on Iraqi civilians.

A Note on Methodology
The Nation interviewed fifty combat veterans, including forty soldiers, eight marines and two sailors, over a period of seven months beginning in July 2006. To find veterans willing to speak on the record about their experiences in Iraq, we sent queries to organizations dedicated to US troops and their families, including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the antiwar groups Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War and the prowar group Vets for Freedom. The leaders of IVAW and Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of IAVA, were especially helpful in putting us in touch with Iraq War veterans. Finally, we found veterans through word of mouth, as many of those we interviewed referred us to their military friends.

To verify their military service, when possible we obtained a copy of each interviewee’s DD Form 214, or the Certificate of Release or Discharge From Active Duty, and in all cases confirmed their service with the branch of the military in which they were enlisted. Nineteen interviews were conducted in person, while the rest were done over the phone; all were tape-recorded and transcribed; all but five interviewees (most of those currently on active duty) were independently contacted by fact checkers to confirm basic facts about their service in Iraq. Of those interviewed, fourteen served in Iraq from 2003 to 2004, twenty from 2004 to 2005 and two from 2005 to 2006. Of the eleven veterans whose tours lasted less than one year, nine served in 2003, while the others served in 2004 and 2005.

The ranks of the veterans we interviewed ranged from private to captain, though only a handful were officers. The veterans served throughout Iraq, but mostly in the country’s most volatile areas, such as Baghdad, Tikrit, Mosul, Falluja and Samarra.

During the course of the interview process, five veterans turned over photographs from Iraq, some of them graphic, to corroborate their claims.

Raids
“So we get started on this day, this one in particular,” recalled Spc. Philip Chrystal, 23, of Reno, who said he raided between twenty and thirty Iraqi homes during an eleven-month tour in Kirkuk and Hawija that ended in October 2005, serving with the Third Battalion, 116th Cavalry Brigade. “It starts with the psy-ops vehicles out there, you know, with the big speakers playing a message in Arabic or Farsi or Kurdish or whatever they happen to be, saying, basically, saying, Put your weapons, if you have them, next to the front door in your house. Please come outside, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And we had Apaches flying over for security, if they’re needed, and it’s also a good show of force. And we’re running around, and they–we’d done a few houses by this point, and I was with my platoon leader, my squad leader and maybe a couple other people.

“And we were approaching this one house,” he said. “In this farming area, they’re, like, built up into little courtyards. So they have, like, the main house, common area. They have, like, a kitchen and then they have a storage shed-type deal. And we’re approaching, and they had a family dog. And it was barking ferociously, ’cause it’s doing its job. And my squad leader, just out of nowhere, just shoots it. And he didn’t–motherfucker–he shot it and it went in the jaw and exited out. So I see this dog–I’m a huge animal lover; I love animals–and this dog has, like, these eyes on it and he’s running around spraying blood all over the place. And like, you know, What the hell is going on? The family is sitting right there, with three little children and a mom and a dad, horrified. And I’m at a loss for words. And so, I yell at him. I’m, like, What the fuck are you doing? And so the dog’s yelping. It’s crying out without a jaw. And I’m looking at the family, and they’re just, you know, dead scared. And so I told them, I was like, Fucking shoot it, you know? At least kill it, because that can’t be fixed….

“And–I actually get tears from just saying this right now, but–and I had tears then, too–and I’m looking at the kids and they are so scared. So I got the interpreter over with me and, you know, I get my wallet out and I gave them twenty bucks, because that’s what I had. And, you know, I had him give it to them and told them that I’m so sorry that asshole did that.

“Was a report ever filed about it?” he asked. “Was anything ever done? Any punishment ever dished out? No, absolutely not.”

Specialist Chrystal said such incidents were “very common.”

According to interviews with twenty-four veterans who participated in such raids, they are a relentless reality for Iraqis under occupation. The American forces, stymied by poor intelligence, invade neighborhoods where insurgents operate, bursting into homes in the hope of surprising fighters or finding weapons. But such catches, they said, are rare. Far more common were stories in which soldiers assaulted a home, destroyed property in their futile search and left terrorized civilians struggling to repair the damage and begin the long torment of trying to find family members who were hauled away as suspects.

Raids normally took place between midnight and 5 am, according to Sgt. John Bruhns, 29, of Philadelphia, who estimates that he took part in raids of nearly 1,000 Iraqi homes. He served in Baghdad and Abu Ghraib, a city infamous for its prison, located twenty miles west of the capital, with the Third Brigade, First Armor Division, First Battalion, for one year beginning in March 2003. His descriptions of raid procedures closely echoed those of eight other veterans who served in locations as diverse as Kirkuk, Samarra, Baghdad, Mosul and Tikrit.

“You want to catch them off guard,” Sergeant Bruhns explained. “You want to catch them in their sleep.” About ten troops were involved in each raid, he said, with five stationed outside and the rest searching the home.

Once they were in front of the home, troops, some wearing Kevlar helmets and flak vests with grenade launchers mounted on their weapons, kicked the door in, according to Sergeant Bruhns, who dispassionately described the procedure:

“You run in. And if there’s lights, you turn them on–if the lights are working. If not, you’ve got flashlights…. You leave one rifle team outside while one rifle team goes inside. Each rifle team leader has a headset on with an earpiece and a microphone where he can communicate with the other rifle team leader that’s outside.

“You go up the stairs. You grab the man of the house. You rip him out of bed in front of his wife. You put him up against the wall. You have junior-level troops, PFCs [privates first class], specialists will run into the other rooms and grab the family, and you’ll group them all together. Then you go into a room and you tear the room to shreds and you make sure there’s no weapons or anything that they can use to attack us.

“You get the interpreter and you get the man of the home, and you have him at gunpoint, and you’ll ask the interpreter to ask him: ‘Do you have any weapons? Do you have any anti-US propaganda, anything at all–anything–anything in here that would lead us to believe that you are somehow involved in insurgent activity or anti-coalition forces activity?’

“Normally they’ll say no, because that’s normally the truth,” Sergeant Bruhns said. “So what you’ll do is you’ll take his sofa cushions and you’ll dump them. If he has a couch, you’ll turn the couch upside down. You’ll go into the fridge, if he has a fridge, and you’ll throw everything on the floor, and you’ll take his drawers and you’ll dump them…. You’ll open up his closet and you’ll throw all the clothes on the floor and basically leave his house looking like a hurricane just hit it.

“And if you find something, then you’ll detain him. If not, you’ll say, ‘Sorry to disturb you. Have a nice evening.’ So you’ve just humiliated this man in front of his entire family and terrorized his entire family and you’ve destroyed his home. And then you go right next door and you do the same thing in a hundred homes.”

Each raid, or “cordon and search” operation, as they are sometimes called, involved five to twenty homes, he said. Following a spate of attacks on soldiers in a particular area, commanders would normally order infantrymen on raids to look for weapons caches, ammunition or materials for making IEDs. Each Iraqi family was allowed to keep one AK-47 at home, but according to Bruhns, those found with extra weapons were arrested and detained and the operation classified a “success,” even if it was clear that no one in the home was an insurgent.

Before a raid, according to descriptions by several veterans, soldiers typically “quarantined” the area by barring anyone from coming in or leaving. In pre-raid briefings, Sergeant Bruhns said, military commanders often told their troops the neighborhood they were ordered to raid was “a hostile area with a high level of insurgency” and that it had been taken over by former Baathists or Al Qaeda terrorists.

“So you have all these troops, and they’re all wound up,” said Sergeant Bruhns. “And a lot of these troops think once they kick down the door there’s going to be people on the inside waiting for them with weapons to start shooting at them.”

Sgt. Dustin Flatt, 33, of Denver, estimates he raided “thousands” of homes in Tikrit, Samarra and Mosul. He served with the Eighteenth Infantry Brigade, First Infantry Division, for one year beginning in February 2004. “We scared the living Jesus out of them every time we went through every house,” he said.

Spc. Ali Aoun, 23, a National Guardsman from New York City, said he conducted perimeter security in nearly 100 raids while serving in Sadr City with the Eighty-Ninth Military Police Brigade for eleven months starting in April 2004. When soldiers raided a home, he said, they first cordoned it off with Humvees. Soldiers guarded the entrance to make sure no one escaped. If an entire town was being raided, in large-scale operations, it too was cordoned off, said Spc. Garett Reppenhagen, 32, of Manitou Springs, Colorado, a cavalry scout and sniper with the 263rd Armor Battalion, First Infantry Division, who was deployed to Baquba for a year in February 2004.

Staff Sgt. Timothy John Westphal, 31, of Denver, recalled one summer night in 2004, the temperature an oppressive 110 degrees, when he and forty-four other US soldiers raided a sprawling farm on the outskirts of Tikrit. Sergeant Westphal, who served there for a yearlong tour with the Eighteenth Infantry Brigade, First Infantry Division, beginning in February 2004, said he was told some men on the farm were insurgents. As a mechanized infantry squad leader, Sergeant Westphal led the mission to secure the main house, while fifteen men swept the property. Sergeant Westphal and his men hopped the wall surrounding the house, fully expecting to come face to face with armed insurgents.

“We had our flashlights and…I told my guys, ‘On the count of three, just hit them with your lights and let’s see what we’ve got here. Wake ’em up!'”

Sergeant Westphal’s flashlight was mounted on his M-4 carbine rifle, a smaller version of the M-16, so in pointing his light at the clump of sleepers on the floor he was also pointing his weapon at them. Sergeant Westphal first turned his light on a man who appeared to be in his mid-60s.

“The man screamed this gut-wrenching, blood-curdling, just horrified scream,” Sergeant Westphal recalled. “I’ve never heard anything like that. I mean, the guy was absolutely terrified. I can imagine what he was thinking, having lived under Saddam.”

The farm’s inhabitants were not insurgents but a family sleeping outside for relief from the stifling heat, and the man Sergeant Westphal had frightened awake was the patriarch.

“Sure enough, as we started to peel back the layers of all these people sleeping, I mean, it was him, maybe two guys…either his sons or nephews or whatever, and the rest were all women and children,” Sergeant Westphal said. “We didn’t find anything.

“I can tell you hundreds of stories about things like that and they would all pretty much be like the one I just told you. Just a different family, a different time, a different circumstance.”

For Sergeant Westphal, that night was a turning point. “I just remember thinking to myself, I just brought terror to someone else under the American flag, and that’s just not what I joined the Army to do,” he said.

Intelligence
Fifteen soldiers we spoke with told us the information that spurred these raids was typically gathered through human intelligence–and that it was usually incorrect. Eight said it was common for Iraqis to use American troops to settle family disputes, tribal rivalries or personal vendettas. Sgt. Jesus Bocanegra, 25, of Weslaco, Texas, was a scout in Tikrit with the Fourth Infantry Division during a yearlong tour that ended in March 2004. In late 2003, Sergeant Bocanegra raided a middle-aged man’s home in Tikrit because his son had told the Army his father was an insurgent. After thoroughly searching the man’s house, soldiers found nothing and later discovered that the son simply wanted money his father had buried at the farm.

After persistently acting on such false leads, Sergeant Bocanegra, who raided Iraqi homes in more than fifty operations, said soldiers began to anticipate the innocence of those they raided. “People would make jokes about it, even before we’d go into a raid, like, Oh fucking we’re gonna get the wrong house,” he said. “‘Cause it would always happen. We always got the wrong house.” Specialist Chrystal said that he and his platoon leader shared a joke of their own: Every time he raided a house, he would radio in and say, “This is, you know, Thirty-One Lima. Yeah, I found the weapons of mass destruction in here.”

Sergeant Bruhns said he questioned the authenticity of the intelligence he received because Iraqi informants were paid by the US military for tips. On one occasion, an Iraqi tipped off Sergeant Bruhns’s unit that a small Syrian resistance organization, responsible for killing a number of US troops, was holed up in a house. “They’re waiting for us to show up and there will be a lot of shooting,” Sergeant Bruhns recalled being told.

As the Alpha Company team leader, Sergeant Bruhns was supposed to be the first person in the door. Skeptical, he refused. “So I said, ‘If you’re so confident that there are a bunch of Syrian terrorists, insurgents…in there, why in the world are you going to send me and three guys in the front door, because chances are I’m not going to be able to squeeze the trigger before I get shot.'” Sergeant Bruhns facetiously suggested they pull an M-2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle up to the house and shoot a missile through the front window to exterminate the enemy fighters his commanders claimed were inside. They instead diminished the aggressiveness of the raid. As Sergeant Bruhns ran security out front, his fellow soldiers smashed the windows and kicked down the doors to find “a few little kids, a woman and an old man.”

In late summer 2005, in a village on the outskirts of Kirkuk, Specialist Chrystal searched a compound with two Iraqi police officers. A friendly man in his mid-30s escorted Specialist Chrystal and others in his unit around the property, where the man lived with his parents, wife and children, making jokes to lighten the mood. As they finished searching–they found nothing–a lieutenant from his company approached Specialist Chrystal: “What the hell were you doing?” he asked. “Well, we just searched the house and it’s clear,” Specialist Chrystal said. The lieutenant told Specialist Chrystal that his friendly guide was “one of the targets” of the raid. “Apparently he’d been dimed out by somebody as being an insurgent,” Specialist Chrystal said. “For that mission, they’d only handed out the target sheets to officers, and officers aren’t there with the rest of the troops.” Specialist Chrystal said he felt “humiliated” because his assessment that the man posed no threat was deemed irrelevant and the man was arrested. Shortly afterward, he posted himself in a fighting vehicle for the rest of the mission.

Sgt. Larry Cannon, 27, of Salt Lake City, a Bradley gunner with the Eighteenth Infantry Brigade, First Infantry Division, served a yearlong tour in several cities in Iraq, including Tikrit, Samarra and Mosul, beginning in February 2004. He estimates that he searched more than a hundred homes in Tikrit and found the raids fruitless and maddening. “We would go on one raid of a house and that guy would say, ‘No, it’s not me, but I know where that guy is.’ And…he’d take us to the next house where this target was supposedly at, and then that guy’s like, ‘No, it’s not me. I know where he is, though.’ And we’d drive around all night and go from raid to raid to raid.”

“I can’t really fault military intelligence,” said Specialist Reppenhagen, who said he raided thirty homes in and around Baquba. “It was always a guessing game. We’re in a country where we don’t speak the language. We’re light on interpreters. It’s just impossible to really get anything. All you’re going off is a pattern of what’s happened before and hoping that the pattern doesn’t change.”

Sgt. Geoffrey Millard, 26, of Buffalo, New York, served in Tikrit with the Rear Operations Center, Forty-Second Infantry Division, for one year beginning in October 2004. He said combat troops had neither the training nor the resources to investigate tips before acting on them. “We’re not police,” he said. “We don’t go around like detectives and ask questions. We kick down doors, we go in, we grab people.”

First Lieut. Brady Van Engelen, 26, of Washington, DC, said the Army depended on less than reliable sources because options were limited. He served as a survey platoon leader with the First Armored Division in Baghdad’s volatile Adhamiya district for eight months beginning in September 2003. “That’s really about the only thing we had,” he said. “A lot of it was just going off a whim, a hope that it worked out,” he said. “Maybe one in ten worked out.”

Sergeant Bruhns said he uncovered illegal material about 10 percent of the time, an estimate echoed by other veterans. “We did find small materials for IEDs, like maybe a small piece of the wire, the detonating cord,” said Sergeant Cannon. “We never found real bombs in the houses.” In the thousand or so raids he conducted during his time in Iraq, Sergeant Westphal said, he came into contact with only four “hard-core insurgents.”

Arrests
Even with such slim pretexts for arrest, some soldiers said, any Iraqis arrested during a raid were treated with extreme suspicion. Several reported seeing military-age men detained without evidence or abused during questioning. Eight veterans said the men would typically be bound with plastic handcuffs, their heads covered with sandbags. While the Army officially banned the practice of hooding prisoners after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, five soldiers indicated that it continued.

“You weren’t allowed to, but it was still done,” said Sergeant Cannon. “I remember in Mosul [in January 2005], we had guys in a raid and they threw them in the back of a Bradley,” shackled and hooded. “These guys were really throwing up,” he continued. “They were so sick and nervous. And sometimes, they were peeing on themselves. Can you imagine if people could just come into your house and take you in front of your family screaming? And if you actually were innocent but had no way to prove that? It would be a scary, scary thing.” Specialist Reppenhagen said he had only a vague idea about what constituted contraband during a raid. “Sometimes we didn’t even have a translator, so we find some poster with Muqtada al-Sadr, Sistani or something, we don’t know what it says on it. We just apprehend them, document that thing as evidence and send it on down the road and let other people deal with it.”

Sergeant Bruhns, Sergeant Bocanegra and others said physical abuse of Iraqis during raids was common. “It was just soldiers being soldiers,” Sergeant Bocanegra said. “You give them a lot of, too much, power that they never had before, and before you know it they’re the ones kicking these guys while they’re handcuffed. And then by you not catching [insurgents], when you do have someone say, ‘Oh, this is a guy planting a roadside bomb’–and you don’t even know if it’s him or not–you just go in there and kick the shit out of him and take him in the back of a five-ton–take him to jail.”

Tens of thousands of Iraqis–military officials estimate more than 60,000–have been arrested and detained since the beginning of the occupation, leaving their families to navigate a complex, chaotic prison system in order to find them. Veterans we interviewed said the majority of detainees they encountered were either innocent or guilty of only minor infractions.

Sergeant Bocanegra said during the first two months of the war he was instructed to detain Iraqis based on their attire alone. “They were wearing Arab clothing and military-style boots, they were considered enemy combatants and you would cuff ’em and take ’em in,” he said. “When you put something like that so broad, you’re bound to have, out of a hundred, you’re going to have ten at least that were, you know what I mean, innocent.”

Sometime during the summer of 2003, Bocanegra said, the rules of engagement narrowed–somewhat. “I remember on some raids, anybody of military age would be taken,” he said. “Say, for example, we went to some house looking for a 25-year-old male. We would look at an age group. Anybody from 15 to 30 might be a suspect.” (Since returning from Iraq, Bocanegra has sought counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder and said his “mission” is to encourage others to do the same.)

Spc. Richard Murphy, 28, an Army Reservist from Pocono, Pennsylvania, who served part of his fifteen-month tour with the 800th Military Police Brigade in Abu Ghraib prison, said he was often struck by the lack of due process afforded the prisoners he guarded.

Specialist Murphy initially went to Iraq in May 2003 to train Iraqi police in the southern city of Al Hillah but was transferred to Abu Ghraib in October 2003 when his unit replaced one that was rotating home. (He spoke with The Nation in October 2006, while not on active duty.) Shortly after his arrival there, he realized that the number of prisoners was growing “exponentially” while the amount of personnel remained stagnant. By the end of his six-month stint, Specialist Murphy was in charge of 320 prisoners, the majority of whom he was convinced were unjustly detained.

“I knew that a large percentage of these prisoners were innocent,” he said. “Just living with these people for months you get to see their character…. In just listening to the prisoners’ stories, I mean, I get the sense that a lot of them were just getting rounded up in big groups.”

Specialist Murphy said one prisoner, a mentally impaired, blind albino who could “maybe see a few feet in front of his face” clearly did not belong in Abu Ghraib. “I thought to myself, What could he have possibly done?”

Specialist Murphy counted the prisoners twice a day, and the inmates would often ask him when they would be released or implore him to advocate on their behalf, which he would try to do through the JAG (Judge Advocate General) Corps office. The JAG officer Specialist Murphy dealt with would respond that it was out of his hands. “He would make his recommendations and he’d have to send it up to the next higher command,” Specialist Murphy said. “It was just a snail’s crawling process…. The system wasn’t working.”

Prisoners at the notorious facility rioted on November 24, 2003, to protest their living conditions, and Army Reserve Spc. Aidan Delgado, 25, of Sarasota, Florida, was there. He had deployed with the 320th Military Police Company to Talil Air Base, to serve in Nasiriya and Abu Ghraib for one year beginning in April 2003. Unlike the other troops in his unit, he did not respond to the riot. Four months earlier he had decided to stop carrying a loaded weapon.

Nine prisoners were killed and three wounded after soldiers opened fire during the riot, and Specialist Delgado’s fellow soldiers returned with photographs of the events. The images, disturbingly similar to the incident described by Sergeant Mejía, shocked him. “It was very graphic,” he said. “A head split open. One of them was of two soldiers in the back of the truck. They open the body bags of these prisoners that were shot in the head and [one soldier has] got an MRE spoon. He’s reaching in to scoop out some of his brain, looking at the camera and he’s smiling. And I said, ‘These are some of our soldiers desecrating somebody’s body. Something is seriously amiss.’ I became convinced that this was excessive force, and this was brutality.”

Spc. Patrick Resta, 29, a National Guardsman from Philadelphia, served in Jalula, where there was a small prison camp at his base. He was with the 252nd Armor, First Infantry Division, for nine months beginning in March 2004. He recalled his supervisor telling his platoon point-blank, “The Geneva Conventions don’t exist at all in Iraq, and that’s in writing if you want to see it.”

The pivotal experience for Specialist Delgado came when, in the winter of 2003, he was assigned to battalion headquarters inside Abu Ghraib prison, where he worked with Maj. David DiNenna and Lieut. Col. Jerry Phillabaum, both implicated in the Taguba Report, the official Army investigation into the prison scandal. There, Delgado read reports on prisoners and updated a dry erase board with information on where in the large prison compound detainees were moved and held.

“That was when I totally walked away from the Army,” Specialist Delgado said. “I read these rap sheets on all the prisoners in Abu Ghraib and what they were there for. I expected them to be terrorists, murderers, insurgents. I look down this roster and see petty theft, public drunkenness, forged coalition documents. These people are here for petty civilian crimes.”

“These aren’t terrorists,” he recalled thinking. “These aren’t our enemies. They’re just ordinary people, and we’re treating them this harshly.” Specialist Delgado ultimately applied for conscientious objector status, which the Army approved in April 2004.


contnued in the next post

1070

Samantha Power, Bush & Terrorism
2007-07-31
by Noam Chomsky

The following exchange took place in the ZNet Sustainer system, where Noam hosts a forum…

ZNet Sustainer: Noam, Would you be willing to comment on Samantha Power’s review essay in the 29 July NYT Book Review? The Times presents her as the very model of the liberal academic — a columnist for Time, adviser to Democratic presidential candidates, etc. The article is a good deal more than a book review.

Noam Chomsky: It was an interesting article, and her work, and its popularity, gives some insight into the reigning intellectual culture.

There are many interesting aspects to the article. One is that “terrorism” is implicitly defined as what THEY do to US, excluding what WE do to THEM. But that’s so deeply engrained in the state religion that it’s hardly worth mentioning.

A little more interesting is Power’s tacit endorsement of the Bush doctrine that states that harbor terrorists are no different from terrorist states, and should be treated accordingly: bombed and invaded, and subjected to regime change. There is, of course, not the slightest doubt that the US harbors terrorists, even under the narrowest interpretation of that term: e.g., by the judgment of the Justice Department and the FBI, which accused Cuban terrorist Orlando Bosch of dozens of terrorist acts and urged that he be deported as a threat to US security. He was pardoned by Bush I, and lives happily in Florida, where he has now been joined by his associate Luis Posada, thanks to Bush II’s lack of concern about harboring terrorists. There are plenty of others, even putting aside those who have offices in Washington. Like John Negroponte, surely one of the leading terrorists of the late 20th century, not very controversially, so naturally appointed to the position of counter-terrorism Czar by Bush II, with no particular notice.

Even keeping to the completely uncontroversial cases, like Bosch, it follows that Power and the NY Times are calling for the bombing of Washington. But — oddly — the Justice Department is not about to indict them, though people are rotting in Guantanamo on far lesser charges. What is interesting and enlightening is that no matter how many times trivialities like this are pointed out — and it’s been many times — it is entirely incomprehensible within the intellectual culture. That reveals a very impressive level of subordination to authority and indoctrination, well beyond what one would expect in totalitarian states.

A little more subtle, perhaps, is her observation that “if you continue to believe (as I do) that there is a moral difference between setting out to destroy as many civilians as possible and killing civilians unintentionally and reluctantly in pursuit of a military objective, you will indeed find “On Suicide Bombing” disturbing, if not always in the way he intends.” Let’s accept her judgment and proceed.

Evidently, a crucial case is omitted, which is far more depraved than massacring civilians intentionally. Namely, knowing that you are massacring them but not doing so intentionally because you don’t regard them as worthy of concern. That is, you don’t even care enough about them to intend to kill them. Thus when I walk down the street, if I stop to think about it I know I’ll probably kill lots of ants, but I don’t intend to kill them, because in my mind they do not even rise to the level where it matters. There are many such examples. To take one of the very minor ones, when Clinton bombed the al-Shifa pharmaceutical facility in Sudan, he and the other perpetrators surely knew that the bombing would kill civilians (tens of thousands, apparently). But Clinton and associates did not intend to kill them, because by the standards of Western liberal humanitarian racism, they are no more significant than ants. Same in the case of tens of millions of others.

I’ve written about this repeatedly, for example, in 9/11. And I’ve been intrigued to see how reviewers and commentators (Sam Harris, to pick one egregious example) simply cannot even see the comments, let alone comprehend them. Since it’s all pretty obvious, it reveals, again, the remarkable successes of indoctrination under freedom, and the moral depravity and corruption of the dominant intellectual culture.

It should be unnecessary to comment on how Western humanists would react if Iranian-backed terrorists destroyed half the pharmaceutical supplies in Israel, or the US, or any other place inhabited by human beings. And it is only fair to add that Sudanese too sometimes do rise to the level of human beings. For example in Darfur, where their murder can be attributed to Arabs, the official enemy (apart, that is, from “good Arabs,” like the tyrants who rule Saudi Arabia, “moderates” as Rice and others explain).

There’s a lot more like this. It’s of some interest that Power is regarded — and apparently regards herself — as a harsh critic of US foreign policy. The reason is that she excoriates Washington for not paying enough attention to the crimes of others. It’s informative to look through her best-seller Problem from Hell to see what is said about US crimes. There are a few scant mentions: e.g., that the US looked away from the genocidal Indonesian aggression in East Timor. In fact, as has long been indisputable, the US looked right there and acted decisively to expedite the slaughters, and continued to do so for 25 years, even after the Indonesian army had virtually destroyed what remained of the country, when Clinton, under great international and domestic pressure, finally told the Indonesian generals that the game was over and they instantly withdrew — revealing, as if we needed the evidence, that the immense slaughter could have been easily terminated at any point, if anyone cared. The implications cannot be perceived.

But in general US participation in horrendous crimes is simply ignored in Problem from Hell. Few seem to able to perceive that a similar book, excoriating Stalin for not paying enough attention to US crimes, would very likely have been very highly praised in the old Soviet Union. What better service could one provide to the cause of massacre, torture, and destruction — by the Holy State and its clients, of course, whose only fault is that they do not attend sufficiently to the crimes of others.

I don’t think, incidentally, that it would be fair to criticize Power for her extraordinary services to state violence and terror. I am sure she is a decent and honorable person, and sincerely believes that she really is condemning the US leadership and political culture. From a desk at the Carr Center for Human Rights at the Kennedy School at Harvard, that’s doubtless how it looks. Insufficient attention has been paid to Orwell’s observations on how in free England, unpopular ideas can be suppressed without the use of force. One factor, he proposed, is a good education. When you have been through the best schools, finally Oxford and Cambridge, you simply have instilled into you the understanding that there are certain things “it wouldn’t do to say” — and we may add, even to think.

His insight is quite real, and important. These cases are a good illustration, hardly unique.

NC


1069

Retired general censured in Tillman case
2007-07-31
By RICHARD LARDNER and ERICA WERNER

The Army on Tuesday censured a retired three-star general for a “perfect storm of mistakes, misjudgments and a failure of leadership” after the 2004 friendly-fire death in Afghanistan of Army Ranger Pat Tillman.

Army Secretary Pete Geren asked an Army review panel to decide whether Lt. Gen. Philip Kensinger should also have his rank reduced.

Geren told a Pentagon news conference that, while Kensinger was “guilty of deception” in misleading investigators, there was no intentional Pentagon cover-up of circumstances surrounding the former pro football player’s death — at first categorized by the military as being from enemy fire.

“He failed to provide proper leadership to the soldiers under his administrative control. … He let his soldiers down,” Geren said. “General Kensinger was the captain of that ship, and his ship ran aground.”

At least six other officers received lesser reprimands.

Geren said he considered recommending a court-martial for Kensinger but ruled it out.

“You are hereby censured for your conduct and failure of leadership in matters relating to the investigation and reporting of the death of Corporal Pat Tillman,” said a memo reprimanding the retired general. “Your failings compounded the grief suffered by the Tillman family, resulted in the dissemination of erroneous information and caused lasting damage to the reputation and credibility of the U.S. Army.”

The Army panel will decide whether Kensinger should be stripped of his third star, a move that would cut his retirement benefits. Kensinger, who headed Army special operations, retired in 2006.

Geren said that investigations have shown that accidental fire from U.S. troops was responsible for the death of Tillman, who had walked away from a $3.6 million pro football contract to become an Army Ranger.

The Army initially suggested that Tillman, who was 27, had been killed in a firefight with enemy militia forces. The Army then arranged a ceremony to award Tillman a Silver Star for bravery.

Five weeks after his death in April 2004, the Army notified the Tillman family that Tillman died from rounds fired in error by U.S. troops.

Geren cited “multiple actions on the part of multiple soldiers” in compounding the confusion that surrounded the death.

“It’s a perfect storm of mistakes, misjudgments and a failure of leadership,” he said. “There was never any effort to mislead or hide” or keep embarrassing information from the public, he added.

He said Tillman deserved the Silver Star, the military’s third-highest award for valor in combat, despite the circumstances surrounding his death.

He could understand how the Tillman family and other Americans might reach the conclusion that there was a cover-up, Geren said. “The facts just don’t support this conclusion,” he said. “There was no cover-up.”

Still, he said, “We have made mistakes over and over and over, an incredible number of mistakes in handling this. We have destroyed our credibility in their eyes as well as in the eyes of others.”

Tillman’s family has insisted there was a cover-up that went as high as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Geren was asked whether there was any indication Rumsfeld was aware that Tillman’s death was by friendly fire before that information was made public.

“I have no knowledge of any evidence to that end,” Geren replied.

Aside from his decision to censure Kensinger, Geren said that he was accepting recommendations by Gen. William Wallace, who conducted the investigation, for the other officers.

These other officers included Brig. Gen. Gina Farrisee, director of military personnel management at the Pentagon, and Lt. Col. Jeff Bailey, the battalion commander who oversaw Tillman’s platoon and played a role in the recommendation for his Silver Star. Both will receive memoranda of concern, Geren said.

Escaping any blame was Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, head of the military’s Joint Special Operations Command. He oversees the military’s most sensitive counterterrorism operations.

Ahead of the announcement, Geren briefed Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., Tuesday morning and told the congressman that Kensinger lied to military investigators on multiple occasions to protect himself, according to Daniel Kohns, Honda’s spokesman.

Honda, a Democrat who represents the area where Tillman grew up, believes “there are lingering questions hanging over this that point to the possibility of it going broader and higher,” Kohns said.

But Geren “stated that to the best of his knowledge it does not go higher than this, that he exhausted every line of investigation,” said Kohns, who sat in on the briefing.

A review of the aftermath of Tillman’s death by the Pentagon inspector general — one of more than half a dozen investigations so far — found “compelling evidence that Kensinger learned of suspected fratricide well before the memorial service and provided misleading testimony” on that issue. That misrepresentation, the report said, could constitute a “false official statement,” a violation of the Military Code of Justice.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee issued a subpoena Monday night for testimony from Kensinger, said committee spokeswoman Karen Lightfoot. The subpoena is currently in the hands of U.S. marshals who are trying to deliver it in advance of Wednesday’s committee hearing on the Tillman affair, Lightfoot said.


New Evidence Clearly Indicates Pat Tillman Was Executed
Army medical examiners concluded Tillman was shot three times in the head from just 10 yards away, no evidence of “friendly fire” damage at scene, Army attorneys congratulated each other on cover-up, Wesley Clark concludes “orders came from the very top” to murder pro-football star because he was about to become an anti-war political icon
July 27, 2007
By Paul Joseph Watson
Astounding new details surrounding the death of Pat Tillman clearly indicate that top brass decided to execute the former pro football star in cold blood to prevent him from returning home and becoming an anti-war icon.

These same criminals then engaged in a sophisticated conspiracy to create a phony “friendly fire” cover story.

Shocking new facts emerged about the case last night but were bizarrely underplayed by the Associated Press under nondescript headlines like ‘New Details on Tillman’s Death’ – a complete disservice to the horrific implications that the new evidence carries. Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman’s forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player’s death amounted to a crime, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

“The medical evidence did not match up with the, with the scenario as described,” a doctor who examined Tillman’s body after he was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2004 told investigators.

The doctors – whose names were blacked out – said that the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away.

The report also states that “No evidence at all of enemy fire was found at the scene – no one was hit by enemy fire, nor was any government equipment struck.”

The article also reveals that “Army attorneys sent each other congratulatory e-mails for keeping criminal investigators at bay as the Army conducted an internal friendly-fire investigation that resulted in administrative, or non-criminal, punishments.”

So there was no evidence whatsoever of friendly fire, but the ballistics data clearly indicated that the three head shots had been fired from just 10 yards away and then the Army tried to concoct a hoax friendly fire story and sent gloating back-slapping e mails congratulating each other on their success while preventing the doctors from exploring the possibility of murder. How can any sane and rational individual weigh this evidence and not come to the conclusion that Tillman was deliberately gunned down in cold blood?

The evidence points directly to it and the motivation is clear – Tillman abandoned a lucrative career in pro-football immediately after 9/11 because he felt a rampaging patriotic urge to defend his country, and became a poster child for the war on terror as a result. But when he discovered that the invasion of Iraq was based on a mountain of lies and deceit and had nothing to do with defending America, he became infuriated and was ready to return home to become an anti-war hero.

As far back as March 2003, immediately after the invasion, Tillman famously told his comrade Spc. Russell Baer, “You know, this war is so fucking illegal,” and urged his entire platoon to vote against Bush in the 2004 election. Far from the gung-ho gruff stereotype attributed to him, Tillman was actually a fiercely intellectual man with the courage of his convictions firmly in place.

Tillman had even begun to arrange meetings with anti-war icons like Noam Chomsky upon his return to America before his death cut short any aspirations of becoming a focal point for anti-war sentiment.

According to Daily Kos, Wesley Clark appeared on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown last night and stated that “the orders came from the very top” to murder Tillman as he was a political symbol and his opposition to the war in Iraq would have rallied the population around supporting immediate withdrawal.

The notion that the U.S. government gave orders for Army top brass to execute Pat Tillman in cold blood is the most damaging indictment of the Iraq war since it began, trumping the lies about weapons of mass destruction tenfold, but if the establishment media continue to soft-peddle and steam-valve one of the biggest stories of the century its impact will be completely diluted.

It is up to us to make this story go viral because the implications are so dire that they could act as the final death knell for the blood-soaked and illegal occupation of Iraq and become the clarion call to bring our troops home.


1066

The Threat Of Martial Law Is Real
07/27/07
By Dave Lindorff

The looming collapse of the US military in Iraq, of which a number of generals and former generals, including former Chief of Staff Colin Powell, have warned, is happening none too soon, as it my be the best hope for preventing military rule here at home.

From the looks of things, the Bush/Cheney regime has been working assiduously to pave the way for a declaration of military rule, such that at this point it really lacks only the pretext to trigger a suspension of Constitutional government. They have done this with the active support of Democrats in Congress, though most of the heavy lifting was done by the last, Republican-led Congress.

The first step, or course, was the first Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed in September 2001, which the president has subsequently used to claim-improperly, but so what? -that the whole world, including the US, is a battlefield in a so-called “War” on Terror, and that he has extra-Constitutional unitary executive powers to ignore laws passed by Congress. As constitutional scholar and former Reagan-era associate deputy attorney general Bruce Fein observes, that one claim, that the US is itself a battlefield, is enough to allow this or some future president to declare martial law, “since you can always declare martial law on a battlefield. All he’d need would be a pretext, like another terrorist attack inside the U.S.”

The 2001 AUMF was followed by the PATRIOT Act, passed in October 2001, which undermined much of the Bill of Rights. Around the same time, the president began a campaign of massive spying on Americans by the National Security Agency, conducted without any warrants or other judicial review. It was and remains a program that is clearly aimed at American dissidents and at the administration’s political opponents, since the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court would never have raised no objections to spying on potential terrorists. (And it, and other government spying programs, have resulted in the government’s having a list now of some 325,000 “suspected terrorists”!)

The other thing we saw early on was the establishment of an underground government-within-a-government, though the activation, following 9-11, of the so-called “Continuity of Government” protocol, which saw heads of federal agencies moved secretly to an underground bunker where, working under the direction of Vice President Dick Cheney, the “government” functioned out of sight of Congress and the public for critical months.

It was also during the first year following 9-11 that the Bush/Cheney regime began its programs of arrest and detention without charge-mostly of resident aliens, but also of American citizens-and of kidnapping and torture in a chain of gulag prisons overseas and at the Navy base at Guantanamo Bay.

The following year, Attorney General John Ashcroft began his program to develop a mass network of tens of millions of citizen spies-Operation TIPS. That program, which had considerable support from key Democrats (notably Sen. Joe Lieberman), was curtailed by Congress when key conservatives got wind of the scale of the thing, but the concept survives without a name, and is reportedly being expanded today.

Meanwhile, last October Bush and Cheney, with the help of a compliant Congress, put in place some key elements needed for a military putsch. There was the overturning of the venerable Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which barred the use of active duty military inside the United States for police-type functions, and the revision of the Insurrection Act, so as to empower the president to take control of National Guard units in the 50 states even over the objections of the governors of those states.

Put this together with the wholly secret construction now under way–courtesy of a $385-million grant by the US Army Corps of Engineers to Halliburton subsidiary KBR Inc–of detention camps reportedly capable of confining as many as 400,000 people, and a recent report that the Pentagon has a document, dated June 1, 2007, classified Top Secret, which declares there to be a developing “insurgency” within the U.S, and which lays out a whole martial law counterinsurgency campaign against legal dissent, and you have all the ingredients for a military takeover of the United States.

As we go about our daily lives–our shopping, our escapist movie watching, and even our protesting and political organizing-we need to be aware that there is a real risk that it could all blow up, and that we could find ourselves facing armed, uniformed troops at our doors.

Bruce Fein isn’t an alarmist. He says he doesn’t see martial law coming tomorrow. But he is also realistic. “Really, by declaring the US to be a battlefield, Bush already made it possible for himself to declare martial law, because you can always declare martial law on a battlefield,” he says. “All he would need would be a pretext, like another terrorist attack on the U.S.”

Indeed, the revised Insurrection Act (10. USC 331-335) approved by Congress and signed into law by Bush last October, specifically says that the president can federalize the National Guard to “suppress public disorder” in the event of “national disorder, epidemic, other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident.” That determination, the act states, is solely the president’s to make. Congress is not involved.

Fein says, “This is all sitting around like a loaded gun waiting to go off. I think the risk of martial law is trivial right now, but the minute there is a terrorist attack, then it is real. And it stays with us after Bush and Cheney are gone, because terrorism stays with us forever.” (It may be significant that Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic candidate for president, has called for the revocation of the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq, but not of the earlier 2001 AUMF which Bush claims makes him commander in chief of a borderless, endless war on terror.)

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has added an amendment to the upcoming Defense bill, restoring the Insurrection Act to its former version-a move that has the endorsement of all 50 governors–but Fein argues that would not solve the problem, since Bush still claims that the U.S. is a battlefield. Besides, a Leahy aide concedes that Bush could sign the next Defense Appropriations bill and then use a signing statement to invalidate the Insurrection Act rider.

Fein argues that the only real defense against the looming disaster of a martial law declaration would be for Congress to vote for a resolution determining that there is no “War” on terror. “But they are such cowards they will never do that,” he says.

That leaves us with the military.

If ordered to turn their guns and bayonets on their fellow Americans, would our “heroes” in uniform follow their consciences, and their oaths to “uphold and defend” the Constitution of the United States? Or would they follow the orders of their Commander in Chief?

It has to be a plus that National Guard and Reserve units are on their third and sometimes fourth deployments to Iraq, and are fuming at the abuse. It has to be a plus that active duty troops are refusing to re-enlist in droves-especially mid-level officers.

If we are headed for martial law, better that it be with a broken military. Maybe if it’s broken badly enough, the administration will be afraid to test the idea.


Bush Fulfills His Grandfather’s Dream
July 28 2007
By David Swanson

It’s remarkably common for a grandson to take up his grandfather’s major project. This occurred to me when I read recently of Thor Heyerdahl’s grandson taking up his mission to cross the Pacific on a raft. But what really struck me was the BBC story aired on July 23rd documenting President George W. Bush’s grandfather’s involvement in a 1933 plot to overthrow the U.S. government and install a fascist dictatorship. I knew the story, but had not considered the possibility that the grandson was trying to accomplish what his grandfather had failed to achieve.

Prescott Sheldon Bush (1895 to 1972) attended Yale University and joined the secret society known as Skull and Bones. Prescott is widely reported to have stolen the skull of Native American leader Geronimo. As far as I know, this has not actually been confirmed. In fact, Prescott seems to have had a habit of making things up. He sent letters home from World War I claiming he’d received medals for heroism. After the letters were printed in newspapers, he had to retract his claims.

If this does not yet sound like the life of a George W. Bush ancestor, try this on for size: Prescott Bush’s early business efforts tended to fail. He married the daughter of a very rich man named George Herbert Walker (the guy with the compound at Kennebunkport, Maine, that now belongs to the Bush family, and the origin of Dubya’s middle initial). Walker installed Prescott Bush as an executive in Thyssen and Flick. From then on, Prescott’s business dealings went better, and he entered politics.

Now, the name Thyssen comes from a German named Fritz Thyssen, major financial backer of the rise of Adolph Hitler. Thyssen was referred to in the New York Herald-Tribune as “Hitler’s Angel.” During the 1930s and early 1940s, and even as late as 1951, Prescott Bush was involved in business dealings with Thyssen, and was inevitably aware of both Thyssen’s political activities and the fact that the companies involved were financially benefiting the nation of Germany. In addition, the companies Prescott Bush profited from included one engaged in mining operations in Poland using slave labor from Auschwitz. Two former slave laborers have sued the U.S. government and the heirs of Prescott Bush for $40 billion.

Until the United States entered World War II it was legal for Americans to do business with Germany, but in late 1942 Prescott Bush’s businesses interests were seized under the Trading with the Enemy Act. Among those businesses involved was the Hamburg America Lines, for which Prescott Bush served as a manager. A Congressional committee, in a report called the McCormack-Dickstein Report, found that Hamburg America Lines had offered free passage to Germany for journalists willing to write favorably about the Nazis, and had brought Nazi sympathizers to America. (Is this starting to remind anyone of our current president’s relationship to the freedom of the press?)

The McCormack-Dickstein Committee was established to investigate a homegrown American fascist plot hatched in 1933. Here’s how the BBC promoted its recent story:

“Document uncovers details of a planned coup in the USA in 1933 by right-wing American businessmen. The coup was aimed at toppling President Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans. The plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families in America, (owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell Hse & George Bush’s Grandfather, Prescott) believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression. Mike Thomson investigates why so little is known about this biggest ever peacetime threat to American democracy.”

Actually, if you listen to the 30-minute BBC story, there is not one word of so much as speculation as to why this story is so little known. I think a clue to the answer can be found by looking into why this BBC report has not led to any U.S. media outlets picking up the story this week.

The BBC report provides a good account of the basic story. Some of the wealthiest men in America approached Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler, beloved of many World War I veterans, many of them embittered by the government’s treatment of them. Prescott Bush’s group asked Butler to lead 500,000 veterans in a take-over of Washington and the White House. Butler refused and recounted the affair to the congressional committee. His account was corroborated in part by a number of witnesses, and the committee concluded that the plot was real. But the names of wealthy backers of the plot were blacked out in the committee’s records, and nobody was prosecuted. According to the BBC, President Roosevelt cut a deal. He refrained from prosecuting some of the wealthiest men in America for treason. They agreed to end Wall Street’s opposition to the New Deal.

Clearly the lack of accountability in Washington, D.C., did not begin with Nancy Pelosi taking Dubya’s impeachment off the table, or with Congress’ decision to avoid impeachment for President Ronald Reagan (a decision that arguably played a large role in installing Prescott Bush’s son George H.W. Bush as president), or with the failure to investigate the apparent deal that George H.W. Bush and others made with Iran to not release American hostages until Reagan was made president, or with the failure to prosecute Richard Nixon after he resigned. Lack of accountability is a proud tradition in our nation’s capital. Or maybe I should say our former nation’s capital. I don’t recognize the place anymore, and I credit that to George W. Bush’s efforts to fulfill his grandfather’s dream using far subtler and more effective means than a military coup.

Bush the grandson took office through a highly fraudulent election that he nonetheless lost. The Supreme Court blocked a recount of the vote and installed Dubya.

Prescott’s grandson proceeded to weaken or eliminate most of the Bill of Rights in the name of protection from a dark foreign enemy. He even tossed out habeas corpus. The grandson of Prescott, that dreamer of the 1930s, established with very little resistance that the U.S. government can kidnap, detain indefinitely on no charge, torture, and murder. The United States under Prescott Bush’s grandson adopted policies that heretofore had been considered only Nazi policies, most strikingly the willingness to openly plan and engage in aggressive wars on other nations.

At the same time, Dubya has accomplished a huge transfer of wealth within the United States from the rest of us to the extremely wealthy. He’s also effected a major privatization of public operations, including the military. And he’s kept tight control over the media.

Dubya has given himself the power to rewrite all laws with signing statements. He’s established that intentionally misleading the Congress about the need for a war is not a crime that carries any penalty. He’s given himself the right (just as Hitler did) to open anyone’s mail. He’s created illegal spying programs and then proposed to legalize them. Prescott would be so proud!

The current President Bush has accomplished much more smoothly than his grandfather could have imagined a feat that was one of the goals of Prescott’s gang, namely the elimination of Congress.


Gangs Spreading In The Military
July 28, 2007

U.S. Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson got a hero’s welcome while home on leave in June of 2004.

“Not only did I love my son – but my god – I liked the man he was becoming,” his mother, Stephanie Cockrell, remembers.

But that trip home was the last time his family saw him alive.

When Johnson died, he wasn’t in a war zone, he was in Germany.

“He had finished his term in Iraq,” his mother said. “I talked to him the day before his death. He said, ‘Mom, I’m in the process of discharging out. I’ll be out in two weeks’.”

On July 3, 2005, Sgt. Johnson went to a park not far from his base in Germany to be initiated into the ‘Gangster Disciples,’ a notorious Chicago-based street gang. He was beaten by eight other soldiers in a “jump-in” – an initiation rite common to many gangs.

“My son never spoke of joining a gang,” Cockrell told CBS News correspondent Thalia Assuras.

Johnson died that night from his injuries. His son, Juwan Jr., was born five months later.

“I feel like I didn’t prepare him enough to deal with this and I should have,” his mother said. “But how would I have known there were gangs in the military? I could have had that talk with him.”

Evidence of gang culture and gang activity in the military is increasing so much an FBI report calls it “a threat to law enforcement and national security.” The signs are chilling: Marines in gang attire on Parris Island; paratroopers flashing gang hand signs at a nightclub near Ft. Bragg; infantrymen showing-off gang tattoos at Ft. Hood.

“It’s obvious that many of these people do not give up their gang affiliations,” said Hunter Glass, a retired police detective in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the home of Ft. Bragg and the 82nd Airborne. He monitors gang activity at the base and across the military.

“If we weren’t in the middle of fighting a war, yes, I think the military would have a lot more control over this issue,” Glass said. “But with a war going on, I think it’s very difficult to do.”

Gang activity clues are appearing in Iraq and Afghanistan, too. Gang graffiti is sprayed on blast walls – even on Humvees. Kilroy – the doodle made famous by U.S. soldiers in World War II – is here, but so is the star emblem of the Gangster Disciples.

The soldier who took photos if the graffiti told CBS News that he’s been warned he’s as good as dead if he ever returns to Iraq.

“We represent America – our demographics are the same – so the same problems that America contends with we often times contend with,” said Colonel Gene Smith of the Army’s Office of the Provost Marshal.

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command reported 61 gang investigations and incidents last year, compared to just 9 in 2004. But army officials point out less than 1 percent of all its criminal investigations are gang related.

“We must remember that there are a million people in the army community,” Smith said, “And these small numbers are not reflective of a tremendous, pervasive, rampant problem.”

The rise in gang activity coincides with the increase in recruits with records. Since 2003, 125,000 recruits with criminal histories have been granted what are known as “moral waivers” for felonies including robbery and assault.

A hidden-camera investigation by CBS Denver station KCNC found one military recruiter was quick to offer the waiver option even when asked, “Does it matter that i was in a gang or anything?” That is well within military regulations.

“You may have had some gang activity in your past and everything … OK … but that in itself does not disqualify…,” the recruiter said.

Military regulations disqualify members of hate groups from enlisting, but there is no specific ban on members of street gangs. Sgt. Juwan Johnson’s family says such a prohibition is long overdue.

“Just maybe we can save someone else’s child … somebody else’s husband … somebody else’s father,” his mother said. “I would have loved to have seen him with his child, I really would have — that part is hard, that part is hard.”

This month a military court sentenced two of Juwan Johnson’s attackers to prison.


Flagged down: Activists arrested in row over protest flag, allege abuse by Buncombe deputy
07/26/2007
by David Forbes

The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office arrested activists Mark and Deborah Kuhn in West Asheville Wednesday morning after a complaint that the couple was desecrating an American flag. They say a deputy invaded their home and used excessive force. [The photo at right, taken by a neighbor, shows Mark on the ground, with Deborah standing by, during the arrest.]

The flag was hung upside down as an act of protest and had several statements pinned to it, including a picture of President Bush with the words “Out Now” upon it and one explaining the meaning of the upside down flag, a sign of distress.

The Kuhns, along with several neighbors and witnesses, assert that a sheriff’s deputy violently invaded their home at 68 Brevard Road. The sheriff’s office claims that the couple assaulted deputy Brian Scarborough and resisted arrest.

According to the report from the sheriff’s office, Scarborough arrived at the home at 8:45 a.m. in response to a complaint about the desecration of a flag.

Lt. Randy Sorrell says that while the address was in the city of Asheville, “when we receive a complaint that the law is being broken, we have to respond.”

Under a rarely enforced state statute, it is a misdemeanor to desecrate or trample a U.S. or North Carolina flag. The Kuhns said the flag was taken as evidence, though the sheriff’s department has no record of it.

After knocking on the door, the couple answered it and, after being shown the statute, said they complied and took the flag down. Scarborough then asked for their identification.

“The flag covered our whole front porch; he comes up with this printout about the law and tells us that we can’t attach things to the flag, that we’re desecrating it,” Deborah Kuhn said. “We tell him we’re not meaning to desecrate it — all we had was a picture of [President] Bush with ‘out now’ on it and a note saying this was not a sign of distress or disrespect. We did this because the country is in distress and we don’t know what to do.”

Then, she said, Scarborough “started talking arrest, so we took the flag down. He kept wanting to see our ID. We refused. We said, ‘Why should we show you our ID — are you arresting us?’; so we walked back into the house and closed the door.”

There, the accounts diverge. According to Deborah Kuhn, Scarborough “tried to force the door, but we got it closed and locked it with the deadbolt. He then kicked it, punched the glass out, unlocked our door and came after us.”

The sheriff’s office report states that “the man [Mark Kuhn] refused to identify himself and slammed the door on the officer’s hand, breaking the glass pane out of the door and cutting the officer’s hand.”

However, the Kuhns’ account is backed up by Jimmy Stevenson, who was working with Ace Hardwood Floors nearby and asserts that he saw Scarborough break down the door.

“I saw that one cop [Scarborough] pull up and I saw those people come out on the porch and start talking to him,” Stevenson said. “They took their flag down, asked the officer to leave and closed the door. Then he started kicking the door, he kicked it about five or six good times, then he laid right into it. After he got done kicking it, he broke the window out – I saw him hit the window.”

Deborah Kuhn says that Scarborough then “pursued my husband into the kitchen, they were scuffling, [and] Mark was trying to get away from him. He pulls out his billy club and I call 911 and say that an officer has broken into our house and is assaulting us.”

Scarborough sustained a cut to his arm when the window broke and Mark Kuhn had several cuts on his face from the scuffle with Scarborough.

“I was just trying to defend myself and back away from him,” Kuhn said. “They never, ever told us why we were being arrested until we were in jail.”

Deborah Kuhn asserted that no warrant was displayed or permission asked to enter the house. After calling 911, she says, she ran outside and began screaming for help.

Sam York, who lives nearby the couple, was awakened by the struggle, as the Kuhns and Scarborough both came out into the yard. “I woke up to Debbie screaming,” he said. “Mark and Debbie were saying ‘you assaulted us’ and the officer [Scarborough], was demanding their identification. Then another officer threatened them with a taser. He told Debbie to back away or he’d taser her and demanded that Mark get on the ground.”

Sorrell confirms this part of the account: “When they were outside, one of the other officers produced a taser and he [Mark Kuhn] surrendered and submitted.”

Deborah Kuhn’s screams also drew the attention of Shawn Brady and several of his roommates, who live next door to the couple. “I run outside and ask them what’s going on and there’s cops chasing Mark around his car,” Brady said. “They threaten to taser him and demand that he get on the ground. He gets on the ground and we ask them what they’re being charged with. They tell us it’s none of our concern. I tell them they’re our neighbors and it is our concern.”

Neal Wilson, who lives with Brady, also saw the deputy produce the taser, he says. After repeated questions, Brady and roommate Tony Plichta said that the deputies replied that “they didn’t know yet” what the couple would be charged with.

“This is an outrage,” Brady said. “The 1st, 4th and 5th Amendments were clearly broken today.”
Plichta expressed similar anger. “They actually wanted to know why we cared — these are our neighbors,” he said.

Following the arrest, the Kuhns were taken to the Buncombe County Detention Facility, where they were charged with two counts of assaulting a government official, and one count each of resisting arrest and desecrating an American flag. Their son posted their bail shortly afterwards.

This was not the first time that the flag had attracted attention. On July 18, with just the upside-down flag hanging, an Asheville police officer stopped by to inquire about the situation.

“He was very polite and just said that because it was a sign of distress, he wanted to make sure everything was OK,” Deborah Kuhn said. “We said we had it out as a show of desperation — our country is in distress and we just don’t know what to do. We asked if we had violated any ordinance. He said, ‘No, you have every right.’”

After that, Deborah Kuhn said that she posted up the picture of Bush and the explanation of their reasons for displaying the flag in protest.

A couple of days later, Mark Kuhn said that a man in military fatigues came to their door, and was driving a car with a federal license plate. “He stood here telling me that I needed to take the flag down or fly it right,” he said.

Kuhn adds that he assumed the man was with the National Guard, due to the nearby armory.

Wilson, Plichta and Brady said that after the man stopped by, they also saw him drive by several times during the following days, and one night, witnessed several other men in fatigues taking pictures of the flag.

Furthermore, Wilson said that as the Kuhns were being arrested and taken off, he saw a man in fatigues drive by and shout “Go to jail, baby!”

After his experience, Mark Kuhn said he is convinced this is not an isolated occurrence. “If Americans don’t wake up to the martial state we’re in, the cops, the police, the sheriffs, the state police will all come to our door and take us away if we allow this to happen – it’s time for America to wake up.”


1065

Are high-profile evangelical leaders endangering victims of domestic violence?
July 25 2007
By Bill Berkowitz

While domestic violence — also known as intimate partner violence — is in no way limited to any particular race, religion, ethnic group, class or sexual preference, author Jocelyn Andersen maintains that for far too long too many evangelical pastors have tried to sweep the problem under the rug. According to Andersen, the problem of physical, as well as emotional and spiritual abuse, is being exacerbated by the outdated teachings of several high-profile conservative Christian pastors.

In the introduction to her new book “Woman Submit! Christians & Domestic Violence” (One Way Cafe Press, 2007), Andersen points out that “The practice of hiding, ignoring, and even perpetuating the emotional and physical abuse of women is … rampant within evangelical Christian fellowships and as slow as our legal systems have been in dealing with violence against women by their husbands, the church has been even slower.”

Andersen maintains that domestic violence in Christian families “often creates a cruel Catch-22 as many Christians and church leaders view recommending separation or divorce as unscriptural, but then silently view the battered woman, who chooses not to leave, with contempt for staying and tolerating the abuse. Victims quickly pick up on this hypocritical attitude and either leave the church altogether — or begin hiding the abuse. Either way they are giving up the spiritual guidance, and emotional support, they desperately need.”

“The secular medical world has had to reach in to advise and help women from the church see the truth of their situations, get shelter, and inform religious leaders about the need to accept medical and clinical facts about physical and mental abuse,” OneNewsNow.com — a news service of the American Family Association — reported in late June.

“Secular organizations are constantly addressing the religious aspects of domestic violence,” Andersen told the news service. “Christian women struggle with it and the secular organizations see what Christian women go through and religious women go through. They have set it up as their goal to educate spiritual leaders on the spiritual aspects, and the different aspects of domestic violence so they can give good counsel to the women coming to them. It’s a big issue.”

Andersen’s book discusses why women who are victims of domestic abuse stay with their abusers: “The third chapter of [the Book of] Genesis give us a clue, when the woman is told, ‘your desire will be to your husband’ — and he will ‘rule over’ you. The clue right there is no matter how he acts, her desire is often still toward him. She loves him. She responds to the abuse with an even greater determination to try to resolve the situation … and make it better.”

According to OneNewsNow, “Andersen never advocates divorce — yet she says after domestic violence enters the marriage picture, there must eventually come a point where a Christian woman decides what the will of God is for her in the face of the dangers of abuse. And that is where Andersen says the woman will likely conflict with pressure from the church to stay, no matter what.”

High-profile evangelical leaders blaming the victim
Andersen, whose account of physical abuse by her husband makes for a harrowing first chapter, says that the problem is exacerbated by misguided advice and use of outdated information in the writing of Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, and Dr. John MacArthur, a pastor-teacher at the Sun Valley, California-based Grace Community Church. “We do see some very big-name evangelical leaders blaming the battered woman for the abuse,” Andersen explained. “You know, talking about how she may provoke her husband into doing it; or that her poor, non-communicative husband can’t handle maybe what she’s trying to communicate to him and he lashes out and hits her — [that] shifts the blame right off him and to her.”

Via several emails, Anderson told Media Transparency that the work of Dobson and MacArthur perpetuate the problem of domestic violence among evangelical Christians.

She chose to look closely at their work because of the “scope of influence” they wield “within the Christian Community.” Both men are “prolific writers with best-selling books,” and the both “have large listening audiences for their radio broadcasts,” which “have been staples of Moody Christian Radio for years.” Millions of people listen to the broadcasts weekly, she said.

“Both Dobson and MacArthur are high-profile evangelical leaders with enough influence and ability to make a positive contribution to the plight of battered women which would result in lives being saved.” Instead, “their words are often used to send Christian women back into the danger zone with counsel that encourages them to try and change violent husbands or return to violent homes as soon as the ‘heat is off.’ The last time I looked, assault was a crime, but Christian women are generally not encouraged to report that crime.”

In her book, Andersen cites an incident in which a battered wife wrote to Dobson telling him that “the violence within her marriage was escalating in both frequency and intensity and that she feared for her life.” Dobson “replied that her goal should be to change her husband’s behavior–not to get a divorce (‘Love Must Be Tough,’ (1996) [this is the edition that was being sold as of March 2007]).”

“He did suggest leaving as a temporary solution, but only as a way of manipulating the husband’s behavior. I found it inexcusable that not one note of real concern for this woman’s immediate physical safety was sounded in his response–in spite of the fact that she clearly stated she was in fear for her life.”

“Dobson counseled her to precipitate a crisis in her marriage by choosing the most absurd demand her husband made, then refusing to consent to it. This was not only absurd advice in a domestic violence situation, but life-threateningly dangerous as well, and very telling of the fact that, in spite of over 1,000 deaths per year due to wife-beating, the wife beater is not generally viewed as a real threat to his wife’s life or safety. “

Andersen also takes on MacArthur: According to a tape titled Bible Questions and Answers Part 16, a member of Grace Community Church asked MacArthur how a Christian woman should react “and deal with being a battered wife.”

MacArthur’s answer contained “some very dangerous advice to battered wives. He said divorce is not an option to a battered wife, because the Bible doesn’t permit it.” While saying that it was okay “for the wife to get away while the pressure was on” it was with the understanding that she would return. “He warned wives to be very careful that they were not provoking the abusive situations. Because, he said, that was very often the problem.”

“Three years later, MacArthur said essentially the same thing (softened with a few disclaimers) in a booklet he still distributes today titled ‘Answering Key Questions About the Family.'”

“How many thousands of pastors, leaders and lay Christians have been and are still being influenced through the writing of James Dobson, John MacArthur and others who share their views?” Andersen asked.

Andersen says that both of these pastors “admit they believe a large percentage of battering cases are instigated and provoked by the wife.” While Dobson “described the issue of domestic violence as a problem of ‘epidemic proportions,’ in ‘Love Must Be Tough,’ only five-plus pages are devoted to the subject. And he used over half those pages to highlight a case in which a wife deliberately provoked her husband into hitting her so she could gain her ‘trophy’ of bruises which she could then parade around with in order to gain sympathy.”

While those incidents happen, Andersen points out that “the bulk of the research about domestic violence refutes the myth that battered wives enjoy being battered or deliberately provoke the violence in order to gain some moral advantage. That unfair example in no way typifies the face of domestic violence.”

“If a Christian Leader blames a woman for the violence in her marriage and neglects to encourage a battered wife to use the legal resources available to her in order to preserve her physical safety, that leader is not only sanctioning the abuse but perpetuating it as well,” Andersen maintains.

“Many wife-beaters who are church-goers, professing Christians, even pastors and leaders of churches are getting the message loud and clear that their spiritual leadership is not so concerned with the fact that they beat their wives as they are concerned that wives should be submitting to their husbands and not seeking legal protection or divorce.”

“Telling a woman to leave while the heat is on with the intention of returning is not uncommon advice among evangelicals. It amounts to no less than sending a battered woman back into a violent home. With a violent spouse when is the heat ever really off? This is sin and, in my opinion, it is criminal.”

Thus far, Andersen hasn’t received any grief for the charges in her book. She said that she received a request for a review copy of her book and a media kit from a news correspondent at Family News in Focus — a Focus on the Family news service — which she mailed several weeks ago, but hadn’t yet heard from them again.

1064

LSD as Therapy? Write about It, Get Barred from US
BC psychotherapist denied entry after border guard googled his work
April 23, 2007
By Linda Solomon

Andrew Feldmar, a well-known Vancouver psychotherapist, rolled up to the Blaine border crossing last summer as he had hundreds of times in his career. At 66, his gray hair, neat beard, and rimless glasses give him the look of a seasoned intellectual. He handed his passport to the U.S. border guard and relaxed, thinking he would soon be with an old friend in Seattle. The border guard turned to his computer and googled “Andrew Feldmar.”

The psychotherapist’s world was about to turn upside down.

Born in Hungary to Jewish parents as the Nazis were rising to power, Feldmar was hidden from the Nazis during the Holocaust when he was three years old, after his parents were condemned to Auschwitz. Miraculously, his parents both returned alive and in 1945 Hungary was liberated by the Russian army. Feldmar escaped from communist Hungary in 1956 when he was 16 and immigrated to Canada. He has been married to Meredith Feldmar, an artist, for 37 years, and they live in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood. They have two children, Soma, 33, who lives in Denver, and Marcel, 36, a resident of L.A. Highly respected in his field, Feldmar has been travelling to the U.S. for work and to see his family five or six times a year. He has worked for the UN, in Sarajevo and in Minsk with Chernobyl victims.

The Blaine border guard explained that Feldmar had been pulled out of the line as part of a random search. He seemed friendly, even as he took away Feldmar’s passport and car keys. While the contents of his car were being searched, Feldmar and the officer talked. He asked Feldmar what profession he was in.

When Feldmar said he was psychologist, the official typed his name into his Internet search engine. Before long the customs guard was engrossed in an article Feldmar had published in the spring 2001 issue of the journal Janus Head. The article concerned an acid trip Feldmar had taken in London, Ontario, and another in London, England, almost forty years ago. It also alluded to the fact that he had used hallucinogenics as a “path” to understanding self and that in certain cases, he reflected, it could “be preferable to psychiatry.” Everything seemed to collapse around him, as a quiet day crossing the border began to turn into a nightmare.

Fingerprints for FBI
He was told to sit down on a folding chair and for hours he wondered where this was going. He checked his watch and thought hopelessly of his friend who was about to land at the Seattle airport. Three hours later, the official motioned him into a small, barren room with an American flag. He was sitting on one side and Feldmar was on the other. The official said that under the Homeland Security Act, Feldmar was being denied entry due to “narcotics” use. LSD is not a narcotic substance, Feldmar tried to explain, but an entheogen. The guard wasn’t interested in technicalities. He asked for a statement from Feldmar admitting to having used LSD and he fingerprinted Feldmar for an FBI file.

Then Feldmar disbelievingly listened as he learned that he was being barred from ever entering the United States again. The officer told him he could apply to the Department of Homeland Security for a waiver, if he wished, and gave him a package, with the forms.

The border guard then escorted him to his car and made sure he did a U-turn and went back to Canada.

‘Curious. Very curious’
Feldmar attended the University of Toronto where he graduated with honours in mathematics, physics and chemistry. He received his M.A. in psychology from the University of Western Ontario. At University of Western Ontario, he was under supervision with Zenon Pylyshyn, who was from Saskatchewan and had participated, along with Abram Hoffer and Duncan Blewett, in the first experiments with LSD-25.

“Zenon told me he had had enough strange experiences, that he had gone about as far with LSD as he wished to go. He still had what was once legal…. Looking back 33 years, I don’t quite recall why I decided to accept his tentative offer. I was 27 years old and thought of myself as a rational scientist, and had no experience with delirium, hallucination, or altered mind states. I was curious. Very curious. I thought that, like Faust, I might make a pact with the devil in return for esoteric knowledge.”

Zenon gave him 900 micrograms of acid and the surprise of his life, he wrote in the Janus Head article. “Following this initiation, I traveled to many regions many times with the help of many different substances. I took peyote, psilocybin mushrooms, cannabis, MDMA, DMT, ketamine, nitrous oxide 5-MEO-DMT, but I kept coming back to LSD. Acid seemed my most spacious, most helpful ally. While on it, I explored my past, regressed to the womb, to my conception. I remembered, grieved, and mourned many painful events. I saw how my parents would have liked to love me, and how they didn’t because they didn’t know how. I learned, on acid, to endure troubling and frightening states of mind. This enabled me, as meditation has done, to identify with being the witness of the workings of my mind, observing whatever was going on, while knowing that I was simply captivated by the forms produced by my own psyche.”

After receiving his MA, Feldmar spent a semester in the U.S. at the Johns Hopkins University’s Ph.D. program in theoretical statistics. In 1969, he began Ph.D. work with Dr. Charles Osgood in psycholinguistics at the University of Illinois at Champagne Urbana. He did further Ph.D. studies at Simon Fraser University.

Legal options expensive
Feldmar was determined, in the months after the aborted border crossing, to turn things around. He was particularly determined because the idea of not being able to visit his children at their homes was unthinkable.

He contacted the U.S. Consul in Vancouver to protest and was again told to apply for a waiver. When he consulted Seattle attorney Bob Free at MacDonald, Hoague and Bayless about going through this process, he learned that for $3,500 (U.S.) plus incidentals, he’d have a 90 per cent chance to get the waiver, but it would probably be just for a year, and the procedure would have to be initiated again, any time he wished to cross the border. Each time, he would have to produce a statement saying that he had been “rehabilitated.”

He looked into filing suit against the U.S. government for wrongdoing but gave up the idea when he learned that a legal battle with U.S. Customs would cost his life’s savings and, with the balance of power tipped so extremely in the government’s favor, he would almost surely lose.

Again, he appealed to the U.S. Consulate. The consulate wouldn’t return his phone calls, but in this e-mail message to Feldmar, the consulate explained its position.

“Both our countries have very similar regulations regarding issuance of visas for citizens who have violated the law. The issue here is not the writing of an article, but the taking of controlled substances. I hear from American citizens all the time who have decades-old DUI convictions who are barred from entry into Canada and who must apply for waivers. Same thing here. Waiver is the only way.”

Ensnared by Section IV
“Admitted drug use is admitted drug use,” says Mike Milne, spokesman for U.S. border and protection, based in Seattle. Milne said he could not comment specifically on the Feldmar case, due to privacy issues, but he quoted from the U.S. Immigration Law Handbook section which refers to “general classes of aliens ineligible to receive visas and ineligible for admissions” to help shed light on the clauses that may have ensnared the Vancouver psychotherapist.

“Persons with AIDS, tuberculosis, infectious diseases are inadmissible,” Milne said. And then there is Section IV. “Anyone who is determined to be a drug abuser or user is inadmissible. A crime involving moral turpitude is inadmissible and one of those areas is a violation of controlled substances.”

If there’s no criminal record, as in Feldmar’s case?

Not necessarily the criterion, Milne said. You can still be considered dangerous.

‘More diligent and vigilant’
“The level of scrutiny at our nation’s borders have definitely gone up since the 9-11 disaster and we are more diligent and vigilant in checking people’s identities and criminal histories at our nation’s borders.”

Milne goes on, “There are three main areas that we have employed since 9-11 to better secure our borders. First is the number of officers we have working at our borders. We’ve doubled the numbers at the border. We’ve combined officers from Homeland Security and border protection. We brought in the officers from immigration and naturalization service, the department of agriculture and U.S. border patrol. By combining the expertise of those disparate border agencies into a single agency under a single management with the single purpose of protecting the U.S. against terrorism and other related offences, it created a more effective border agency. It created a more secure border.

“The second thing would be our information systems, our watch list systems are better shared within the U.S. government and between governments, between information sharing agreements, through Interpol, through terrorist watch list sharing internationally, we have better access for our front line officers to query information systems up to and including public based systems, including the Internet. Third, we have better infrastructure at our entries. We have cameras in some of our more remote points of entry, gates, lighting, to make them more secure. We do more checks at the borders. It depends on what level of alert we’re at. At certain alert levels we do 100 per cent identity checks.”

War on drugs meets war on terror
Eugene Oscapella is an Ottawa lawyer, who lectures on drug policy issues in the department of criminology at the University of Ottawa. He also works as a policy advisor to a range of government agencies and departments, including the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Oscapella sees the American security system upgrades and the potential uses alarming.

“This is about the marriage of the war on drugs and the war on terror, and the blind, bureaucratic mindset it encourages. Government surveillance in the name of the war on drugs and the war on terror is in danger of making us all open books to zealous governments. As someone mentioned at a privacy conference I attended in London, U.K., several months ago, all the tools for an authoritarian state are now in place; it’s just that we haven’t yet adopted authoritarian methods. But in the area of drugs, maybe we have.”

‘Ominous omen’
Feldmar was in the process of considering whether to apply for a waiver when he sought help from Ethan Nadlemann, director of the Drug Policy Alliance in New York, whose financial backer is another Hungarian, George Soros.

Nadlemann was outraged. “Nobel Peace prize winners, some of the great scientists and writers in the world have experimented with LSD in their time. We know people are being pulled out of lines and racially profiled as part of the war against terrorism. But this is a different kind of travesty, banning someone because they used a substance in another country thirty years ago,” he said.

In February he wrote Feldmar, “Not that it helps much, but I just want you to know that I have not forgotten you or your situation. I feel frustrated vis a vis the media, and on other avenues, but I am not forgetting. I really think this situation is absurd, and an ominous omen of things to come.”

When Feldmar was barred from entering the U.S., he joined the ranks of other intellectuals and artists. Pop singer Cat Stevens was turned back from the U.S. in 2004, after being detained. Bolivian human rights leader and lawyer, Leonida Zurita Vargas was prevented from entering in February of 2006. She was planning to be in the U.S. as part of a three week speaking tour on Bolivian social movements and human rights. The tour would have taken her to Vermont, Harvard, Stanford and Washington D.C., but she never got beyond the airport check-in at Santa Cruz, Bolivia where she was informed her ten-year visa had been revoked because of alleged links to terrorist activity.

‘Ideological exclusion provision’
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security denied Professor John Milios entry into the country upon his arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport last June. Milios, a faculty member at the National Technical University of Athens, had planned to present a paper at a conference titled “How Class Works” at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Milios told Academe Online that U.S. officials questioned him at the airport about his political ideas and affiliations and that the American consul in Athens later queried him about the same subjects. Milios, a member of a left-wing political party, is active in Greek national politics and has twice been a candidate for the Greek parliament. Milios’s visa, issued in 1996, was set to expire in November. The professor had previously been allowed entry into the United States on five separate occasions to participate in academic meetings.

The American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors and PEN American Center, filed a lawsuit this year challenging a provision of the Patriot Act that is being used to deny visas to foreign scholars. They did this after Professor Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss intellectual, had his visa revoked under “the ideological exclusion provision” of the Patriot Act, preventing him from assuming a tenured teaching position at the University of Notre Dame. It’s a suit that attempts to prevent the practice of ideological exclusion more generally, a practice that led to the recent exclusions of Dora Maria Tellez, a Nicaraguan scholar who had been offered a position at Harvard University, as well as numerous scholars from Cuba.

In March 2005, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request to learn more about the government’s use of the Patriot Act ideological exclusion provision. Cuban Grammy nominee Ibrahim Ferrer, 77, who came to fame in the 1999 film Buena Vista Social Club, was blocked by the U.S. government from attending the Grammy Awards, where he was nominated for the Best Latin album award in 2004. So were his fellow musicians Guillermo Rubalcaba, Amadito Valdes, Barbarito Torres and the group Septeto Nacional with Ignacio Pineiro. The list goes on.

Cut off from friends
Nine months after being turned back at the border, Feldmar has concluded that his banishment is permanent. The waiver process is exhausting, costly and demeaning. The David and Goliath aspect of the situation is too daunting.

This is devastating to his family and friends. “My father was doing nothing wrong, illegal, suspicious, or at all deviant in any way, when he was trying to visit the U.S.,” his daughter, Soma, an instructor at a Denver college, says. “In terms of family it really sucks. ”

It’s hard for his friend, Alphonso Lingis, a professor of philosophy at Pennsylvania State University. “I’m deeply pained by the prospect of no longer being able to welcome him in the United States,” Lingis said. “The notion that he and his work could harm anyone is preposterous. He’s a victim of scandalous bureaucratic incompetence by the United States officials involved in this matter.”

‘Alchemist’s dictum’
When Feldmar looks back on what has happened, he concludes that he was operating out of a sense of safety that has become dated in the last six years, since 9-11. His real mistake was to write about his drug experiences and post this on the web, even in a respected journal like Janus Head. He acknowledges that he had not considered posting on the Internet the risk that it turned out to be. So many of his generation share his experience in experimenting with drugs, after all. He believed it was safe to communicate about the past from the depth of retrospection and that this would be a useful grain of personal wisdom to share with others. He now warns his friends to think twice before they post anything about their personal lives on the web.

“I didn’t heed the ancient Alchemists’ dictum, ‘Do, dare, and be silent,'” Feldmar says. “And yet, the experience of being treated as undesirable was shocking. The helplessness, the utter uselessness of trying to be seen as I know myself and as I am known generally by those I care about and who care about me, the reduction of me to an undesirable offender, was truly frightening. I became aware of the fragility of my identity, the brittleness of a way of life.

“Memories of having been the object of the objectifying gaze crowd into my mind. I have been seen and labeled as a Jew, as a Communist, as a D. P. (Displaced Person), as a student, as a patient, a man, a Hungarian, a refugee, an émigré, an immigrant…. Now I am being seen as one of those drug users, perhaps an addict, perhaps a dealer, one can’t be sure. In the matter of a second, I became powerless, whatever I said wasn’t going to be taken seriously. I was labeled, sorted and disposed of. Dismissed.”


Flex Your Rights

1063

Sheehan: Let’s get away from usual party politics
Peace activist voices her independent streak
July 22, 2007
By Cindy Sheehan

The feedback I have been receiving since I announced that I would challenge U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, for her House seat — unless she gives impeachment the go-ahead — has been running about 3-to-1 positive.

Some people have offered to quit their jobs to move to California’s Eighth Congressional District to help my possible campaign. People are lining up to donate and help, and I am again very grateful and touched beyond belief by the generosity and energy of my fellow Americans.

I truly understand the not-so-supportive people, though, because I have been in their shoes. Here in the United States, most of us put our faith in a two-party system that has failed peace and justice repeatedly. The Republicans do not have a monopoly on the culture of corruption (although BushCo has elevated it to policy status), and the way we do politics in this country needs a serious shakeup, when all we the people are getting is a shakedown.

I was frightened out of ever voting for a third party, or an independent candidate, but voting out of fear is one of the things that bestowed us with the Bush crime mob and may give us the Republican, if not in party affiliation, Hillary Clinton.

I was a lifelong Democrat only because the choices were limited. The Democrats are the party of slavery and were the party that started every war in the 20th century, except the other Bush debacle. The Federal Reserve, permanent federal income taxes, not one but two World Wars, Japanese concentration camps, and not one but two atom bombs dropped on the innocent citizens of Japan — all brought to us via the Democrats.

Don’t tell me the Democrats are our “saviors” because I am not buying it — especially after they bought more caskets and more devastating pain when they financed and co-facilitated more of President Bush’s abysmal occupation. The Democrats also are allowing a meltdown of our republic by allowing the evils of the executive branch to continue unrestrained by their silent complicity.

Good change has happened during Democratic regimes, but as in the civil rights and union movements, the positive changes occurred because of the people, not the politicians. I will run as an independent because I find the corruption in both parties unhealthy, and I believe we need to have more allegiance to humans than to a political party.

I have nothing personally against Pelosi and have found our previous interactions very pleasant. However, being “against” the occupation of Iraq means ending it by ending the funding, preventing future illegal wars of aggression and holding BushCo accountable. Words have to be backed up by action, and if they aren’t, they are as empty as Vice President Dick Cheney’s conscience.

If Pelosi does her constitutional and moral duty by Monday, then I believe some balance will be restored to the universe, and my organization, People for Humanity, can carry on with its humanitarian projects. If she doesn’t, we will carry on anyway, with a political campaign to boot.

I hope this challenges other people who desire healthy political change and not temporary Band-Aids to replace other Democrats and Republicans who do not conform to the beatitudes of peace, sustainability and the rule of law for everybody, not just poor or marginalized people.

Being a born and raised Californian and being a Bay Area resident for the past 14 years have given me great insight into the people and concerns of San Francisco.

I am concerned with many of the same things: same-sex partnership laws, the environment, health care, affordable post-secondary education, better schools, counter-military recruitment, poverty, AIDS research and cures, decriminalization of marijuana, and especially stopping war and ensuring real peace.

I think I agree with Pelosi on many of these issues, but the difference is, I don’t live in a mansion on the hill. Many of these issues have affected me and my family personally, and I am committed to fighting for the people, not the corporate interests.

I wouldn’t put myself through this if I weren’t dead serious and committed to making America a better country than we have now, and holding people to a much higher standard than politics as usual. I am rested, restored to health and ready to rumble. I realize that if ever there was a time for politics as unusual, it is now.


The Antiwar, Anti-Abortion, Anti-Drug-Enforcement-
Administration, Anti-Medicare Candidacy of Dr. Ron Paul

July 22, 2007
By CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL

Whipping westward across Manhattan in a limousine sent by Comedy Central’s “Daily Show,” Ron Paul, the 10-term Texas congressman and long-shot Republican presidential candidate, is being briefed. Paul has only the most tenuous familiarity with Comedy Central. He has never heard of “The Daily Show.” His press secretary, Jesse Benton, is trying to explain who its host, Jon Stewart, is. “He’s an affable gentleman,” Benton says, “and he’s very smart. What I’m getting from the pre-interview is, he’s sympathetic.”

Paul nods.

“GQ wants to profile you on Thursday,” Benton continues. “I think it’s worth doing.”

“GTU?” the candidate replies.

“GQ. It’s a men’s magazine.”

“Don’t know much about that,” Paul says.

Thin to the point of gauntness, polite to the point of daintiness, Ron Paul is a 71-year-old great-grandfather, a small-town doctor, a self-educated policy intellectual and a formidable stander on constitutional principle. In normal times, Paul might be — indeed, has been — the kind of person who is summoned onto cable television around April 15 to ventilate about whether the federal income tax violates the Constitution. But Paul has in recent weeks become a sensation in magazines he doesn’t read, on Web sites he has never visited and on television shows he has never watched.

Alone among Republican candidates for the presidency, Paul has always opposed the Iraq war. He blames “a dozen or two neocons who got control of our foreign policy,” chief among them Vice President Dick Cheney and the former Bush advisers Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, for the debacle. On the assumption that a bad situation could get worse if the war spreads into Iran, he has a simple plan. It is: “Just leave.” During a May debate in South Carolina, he suggested the 9/11 attacks could be attributed to United States policy. “Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us?” he asked, referring to one of Osama bin Laden’s communiqués. “They attack us because we’ve been over there. We’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years.” Rudolph Giuliani reacted by demanding a retraction, drawing gales of applause from the audience. But the incident helped Paul too. Overnight, he became the country’s most conspicuous antiwar Republican.

Paul’s opposition to the war in Iraq did not come out of nowhere. He was against the first gulf war, the war in Kosovo and the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which he called a “declaration of virtual war.” Although he voted after Sept. 11 to approve the use of force in Afghanistan and spend $40 billion in emergency appropriations, he has sounded less thrilled with those votes as time has passed. “I voted for the authority and the money,” he now says. “I thought it was misused.”

There is something homespun about Paul, reminiscent of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” He communicates with his constituents through birthday cards, August barbecues and the cookbooks his wife puts together every election season, which mix photos of grandchildren, Gospel passages and neighbors’ recipes for Velveeta cheese fudge and Cherry Coke salad. He is listed in the phone book, and his constituents call him at home. But there is also something cosmopolitan and radical about him; his speeches can bring to mind the World Social Forum or the French international-affairs periodical Le Monde Diplomatique. Paul is surely the only congressman who would cite the assertion of the left-leaning Chennai-based daily The Hindu that “the world is being asked today, in reality, to side with the U.S. as it seeks to strengthen its economic hegemony.” The word “empire” crops up a lot in his speeches.

This side of Paul has made him the candidate of many people, on both the right and the left, who hope that something more consequential than a mere change of party will come out of the 2008 elections. He is particularly popular among the young and the wired. Except for Barack Obama, he is the most-viewed candidate on YouTube. He is the most “friended” Republican on MySpace.com. Paul understands that his chances of winning the presidency are infinitesimally slim. He is simultaneously planning his next Congressional race. But in Paul’s idea of politics, spreading a message has always been just as important as seizing office. “Politicians don’t amount to much,” he says, “but ideas do.” Although he is still in the low single digits in polls, he says he has raised $2.4 million in the second quarter, enough to broaden the four-state campaign he originally planned into a national one.

Paul represents a different Republican Party from the one that Iraq, deficits and corruption have soured the country on. In late June, despite a life of antitax agitation and churchgoing, he was excluded from a Republican forum sponsored by Iowa antitax and Christian groups. His school of Republicanism, which had its last serious national airing in the Goldwater campaign of 1964, stands for a certain idea of the Constitution — the idea that much of the power asserted by modern presidents has been usurped from Congress, and that much of the power asserted by Congress has been usurped from the states. Though Paul acknowledges flaws in both the Constitution (it included slavery) and the Bill of Rights (it doesn’t go far enough), he still thinks a comprehensive array of positions can be drawn from them: Against gun control. For the sovereignty of states. And against foreign-policy adventures. Paul was the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate in 1988. But his is a less exuberant libertarianism than you find, say, in the pages of Reason magazine.

Over the years, this vision has won most favor from those convinced the country is going to hell in a handbasket. The attention Paul has captured tells us a lot about the prevalence of such pessimism today, about the instability of partisan allegiances and about the seldom-avowed common ground between the hard right and the hard left. His message draws on the noblest traditions of American decency and patriotism; it also draws on what the historian Richard Hofstadter called the paranoid style in American politics.

Financial Armageddon

Paul grew up in the western Pennsylvania town of Green Tree. His father, the son of a German immigrant, ran a small dairy company. Sports were big around there — one of the customers on the milk route Paul worked as a teenager was the retired baseball Hall of Famer Honus Wagner — and Paul was a terrific athlete, winning a state track meet in the 220 and excelling at football and baseball. But knee injuries had ended his sports career by the time he went off to Gettysburg College in 1953. After medical school at Duke, Paul joined the Air Force, where he served as a flight surgeon, tending to the ear, nose and throat ailments of pilots, and traveling to Iran, Ethiopia and elsewhere. “I recall doing a lot of physicals on Army warrant officers who wanted to become helicopter pilots and go to Vietnam,” he told me. “They were gung-ho. I’ve often thought about how many of those people never came back.”

Paul is given to mulling things over morally. His family was pious and Lutheran; two of his brothers became ministers. Paul’s five children were baptized in the Episcopal church, but he now attends a Baptist one. He doesn’t travel alone with women and once dressed down an aide for using the expression “red-light district” in front of a female colleague. As a young man, though, he did not protest the Vietnam War, which he now calls “totally unnecessary” and “illegal.” Much later, after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, he began reading St. Augustine. “I was annoyed by the evangelicals’ being so supportive of pre-emptive war, which seems to contradict everything that I was taught as a Christian,” he recalls. “The religion is based on somebody who’s referred to as the Prince of Peace.”

In 1968, Paul settled in southern Texas, where he had been stationed. He recalls that he was for a while the only obstetrician — “a very delightful part of medicine,” he says — in Brazoria County. He was already immersed in reading the economics books that would change his life. Americans know the “Austrian school,” if at all, from the work of Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, two economists who fled the Nazis in the 1930s and whose free-market doctrines helped inspire the conservative movement in the 1950s. The laws of economics don’t admit exceptions, say the Austrians. You cannot fake out markets, no matter how surreptitiously you expand the money supply. Spend more than you earn, and you are on the road to inflation and tyranny.

Such views are not always Republican orthodoxy. Paul is a harsh critic of the Federal Reserve, both for its policies and its unaccountability. “We first bonded,” recalls Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat, “because we were both conspicuous nonworshipers at the Temple of the Fed and of the High Priest Greenspan.” In recent weeks, Paul’s airport reading has been a book called “Financial Armageddon.” He is obsessed with sound money, which he considers — along with the related phenomena of credit excess, bubbles and uncollateralized assets of all kinds — a “sleeper issue.” The United States ought to link its currency to gold or silver again, Paul says. He puts his money where his mouth is. According to Federal Election Commission documents, most of his investments are in gold and silver and are worth between $1.5 and $3.5 million. It’s a modest sum by the standards of major presidential candidates but impressive for someone who put five children through college on a doctor’s (and later a congressman’s) earnings.

For Paul, everything comes back to money, including Iraq. “No matter how much you love the empire,” he says, “it’s unaffordable.” Wars are expensive, and there has been a tendency throughout history to pay for them by borrowing. A day of reckoning always comes, says Paul, and one will come for us. Speaking this spring before the libertarian Future of Freedom Foundation in Reston, Va., he warned of a dollar crisis. “That’s usually the way empires end,” he said. “It wasn’t us forcing the Soviets to build missiles that brought them down. It was the fact that socialism doesn’t work. Our system doesn’t work much better.”

Under the banner of “Freedom, Honesty and Sound Money,” Paul ran for Congress in 1974. He lost — but took the seat in a special election in April 1976. He lost again in November of that year, then won in 1978. On two big issues, he stood on principle and was vindicated: He was one of very few Republicans in Congress to back Ronald Reagan against Gerald Ford for the 1976 Republican nomination. He was also one of the representatives who warned against the rewriting of banking rules that laid the groundwork for the savings-and-loan collapse of the 1980s. Paul served three terms before losing to Phil Gramm in the Republican primary for Senate in 1984. Tom DeLay took over his seat.

Paul would not come back to Washington for another dozen years. But in the time he could spare from delivering babies in Brazoria County, he remained a mighty presence in the out-of-the-limelight world of those old-line libertarians who had never made their peace with the steady growth of federal power in the 20th century. Paul got the Libertarian Party nomination for president in 1988, defeating the Indian activist Russell Means in a tough race. He finished third behind Bush and Dukakis, winning nearly half a million votes. He tended his own Foundation for Rational Economics and Education (FREE) and kept up his contacts with other market-oriented organizations. What resulted was a network of true believers who would be his political base in one of the stranger Congressional elections of modern times.

A Lone Wolf

In the first days of 1995, just weeks after the Republican landslide, Paul traveled to Washington and, through DeLay, made contact with the Texas Republican delegation. He told them he could beat the Democratic incumbent Greg Laughlin in the reconfigured Gulf Coast district that now included his home. Republicans had their own ideas. In June 1995, Laughlin announced he would run in the next election as a Republican. Laughlin says he had discussed switching parties with Newt Gingrich, the next speaker, before the Republicans even took power. Paul suspects to this day that the Republicans wooed Laughlin to head off his candidacy. Whatever happened, it didn’t work. Paul challenged Laughlin in the primary.

“At first, we kind of blew him off,” recalls the longtime Texas political consultant Royal Masset. “ ‘Oh, there’s Ron Paul!’ But very quickly, we realized he was getting far more money than anybody.” Much of it came from out of state, from the free-market network Paul built up while far from Congress. His candidacy was a problem not just for Laughlin. It also threatened to halt the stream of prominent Democrats then switching parties — for what sane incumbent would switch if he couldn’t be assured the Republican nomination? The result was a heavily funded effort by the National Republican Congressional Committee to defeat Paul in the primary. The National Rifle Association made an independent expenditure against him. Former President George H.W. Bush, Gov. George W. Bush and both Republican senators endorsed Laughlin. Paul had only two prominent backers: the tax activist Steve Forbes and the pitcher Nolan Ryan, Paul’s constituent and old friend, who cut a number of ads for him. They were enough. Paul edged Laughlin in a runoff and won an equally narrow general election.

Republican opposition may not have made Paul distrust the party, but beating its network with his own homemade one revealed that he didn’t necessarily need the party either. Paul looks back on that race and sees something in common with his quixotic bid for the presidency. “I always think that if I do things like that and get clobbered, I can excuse myself,” he says.

Anyone who is elected to Congress three times as a nonincumbent, as Paul has been, is a politician of prodigious gifts. Especially since Paul has real vulnerabilities in his district. For Eric Dondero, who plans to challenge him in the Republican Congressional primary next fall, foreign policy is Paul’s central failing. Dondero, who is 44, was Paul’s aide and sometime spokesman for more than a decade. According to Dondero, “When 9/11 happened, he just completely changed. One of the first things he said was not how awful the tragedy was . . . it was, ‘Now we’re gonna get big government.’ ”

Dondero claims that Paul’s vote to authorize force in Afghanistan was made only after warnings from a longtime staffer that voting otherwise would cost him Victoria, a pivotal city in his district. (“Completely false,” Paul says.) One day just after the Iraq invasion, when Dondero was driving Paul around the district, the two had words. “He said he did not want to have someone on staff who did not support him 100 percent on foreign policy,” Dondero recalls. Paul says Dondero’s outspoken enthusiasm for the military’s “shock and awe” strategy made him an awkward spokesman for an antiwar congressman. The two parted on bad terms.

A larger vulnerability may be that voters want more pork-barrel spending than Paul is willing to countenance. In a rice-growing, cattle-ranching district, Paul consistently votes against farm subsidies. In the very district where, on the night of Sept. 8, 1900, a storm destroyed the city of Galveston, leaving 6,000 dead, and where repairs from Hurricane Rita and refugees from Hurricane Katrina continue to exact a toll, he votes against FEMA and flood aid. In a district that is home to many employees of the Johnson Space Center, he votes against financing NASA.

The Victoria Advocate, an influential newspaper in the district, has generally opposed Paul for re-election, on the grounds that a “lone wolf” cannot get the highway and homeland-security financing the district needs. So how does he get re-elected? Tim Delaney, the paper’s editorial-page editor, says: “Ron Paul is a very charismatic person. He has charm. He does not alter his position ever. His ideals are high. If a little old man calls up from the farm and says, ‘I need a wheelchair,’ he’ll get the damn wheelchair for him.”

Paul may have refused on principle to accept Medicare when he practiced medicine. He may return a portion of his Congressional office budget every year. But his staff has the reputation of fighting doggedly to collect Social Security checks, passports, military decorations, immigrant-visa extensions and any emolument to which constituents are entitled by law. According to Jackie Gloor, who runs Paul’s Victoria office: “So many times, people say to us, ‘We don’t like his vote.’ But they trust his heart.”

In Congress, Paul is generally admired for his fidelity to principle and lack of ego. “He is one of the easiest people in Congress to work with, because he bases his positions on the merits of issues,” says Barney Frank, who has worked with Paul on efforts to ease the regulation of gambling and medical marijuana. “He is independent but not ornery.” Paul has made a habit of objecting to things that no one else objects to. In October 2001, he was one of three House Republicans to vote against the USA Patriot Act. He was the sole House member of either party to vote against the Financial Antiterrorism Act (final tally: 412-1). In 1999, he was the only naysayer in a 424-1 vote in favor of casting a medal to honor Rosa Parks. Nothing against Rosa Parks: Paul voted against similar medals for Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II. He routinely opposes resolutions that presume to advise foreign governments how to run their affairs: He has refused to condemn Robert Mugabe’s violence against Zimbabwean citizens (421-1), to call on Vietnam to release political prisoners (425-1) or to ask the League of Arab States to help stop the killing in Darfur (425-1).

Every Thursday, Paul is the host of a luncheon for a circle of conservative Republicans that he calls the Liberty Caucus. It has become the epicenter of antiwar Republicanism in Washington. One stalwart member is Walter Jones, the North Carolina Republican who during the debate over Iraq suggested renaming French fries “freedom fries” in the House dining room, but who has passed the years since in vocal opposition to the war. Another is John (Jimmy) Duncan of Tennessee, the only Republican besides Paul who voted against the war and remains in the House. Other regulars include Virgil Goode of Virginia, Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland and Scott Garrett of New Jersey. Zach Wamp of Tennessee and Jeff Flake, the Arizonan scourge of pork-barrel spending, visit occasionally. Not all are antiwar, but many of the speakers Paul invites are: the former C.I.A. analyst Michael Scheuer, the intelligence-world journalist James Bamford and such disillusioned United States Army officers as William Odom, Gregory Newbold and Lawrence Wilkerson (Colin Powell’s former chief of staff), among others.

In today’s Washington, Paul’s combination of radical libertarianism and conservatism is unusual. Sometimes the first impulse predominates. He was the only Texas Republican to vote against last year’s Federal Marriage Amendment, meant to stymie gay marriage. He detests the federal war on drugs; the LSD guru Timothy Leary held a fundraiser for him in 1988. Sometimes he is more conservative. He opposed the recent immigration bill on the grounds that it constituted amnesty. At a breakfast for conservative journalists in the offices of Americans for Tax Reform this May, he spoke resentfully of being required to treat penurious immigrants in emergency rooms — “patients who were more likely to sue you than anybody else,” having children “who became automatic citizens the next day.” (Paul champions a constitutional amendment to end birthright citizenship.) While he backs free trade in theory, he opposes many of the institutions and arrangements — from the World Trade Organization to Nafta — that promote it in practice.

Paul also opposes abortion, which he believes should be addressed at the state level, not the national one. He remembers seeing a late abortion performed during his residency, years before Roe v. Wade, and he maintains it left an impression on him. “It was pretty dramatic for me,” he says, “to see a two-and-a-half-pound baby taken out crying and breathing and put in a bucket.”

The Owl-God Moloch

Paul’s message is not new. You could have heard it in 1964 or 1975 or 1991 at the conclaves of those conservatives who were considered outside the mainstream of the Republican Party. Back then, most Republicans appeared reconciled to a strong federal government, if only to do the expensive job of defending the country against Communism. But when the Berlin Wall fell, the dormant institutions and ideologies of pre-cold-war conservatism began to stir. In his 1992 and 1996 campaigns, Pat Buchanan was the first politician to express and exploit this change, breathing life into the motto “America First” (if not the organization of that name, which opposed entry into World War II).

Like Buchanan, Paul draws on forgotten traditions. His top aides are unimpeachably Republican but stand at a distance from the party as it has evolved over the decades. His chief of staff, Tom Lizardo, worked for Pat Robertson and Bill Miller Jr. (the son of Barry Goldwater’s vice-presidential nominee). His national campaign organizer, Lew Moore, worked for the late congressman Jack Metcalf of Washington State, another Goldwaterite. At the grass roots, Paul’s New Hampshire primary campaign stresses gun rights and relies on anti-abortion and tax activists from the organizations of Buchanan and the state’s former maverick senator, Bob Smith.

Paul admires Robert Taft, the isolationist Ohio senator known during the Truman administration as Mr. Republican, who tried to rally Republicans against United States participation in NATO. Taft lost the Republican nomination in 1952 to Dwight Eisenhower and died the following year. “Now, of course,” Paul says, “I quote Eisenhower when he talks about the military-industrial complex. But I quote Taft when he suits my purposes too.” Particularly on NATO, from which Paul, too, would like to withdraw.

The question is whether the old ideologies being resurrected are neglected wisdom or discredited nonsense. In the 1996 general election, Paul’s Democratic opponent Lefty Morris held a press conference to air several shocking quotes from a newsletter that Paul published during his decade away from Washington. Passages described the black male population of Washington as “semi-criminal or entirely criminal” and stated that “by far the most powerful lobby in Washington of the bad sort is the Israeli government.” Morris noted that a Canadian neo-Nazi Web site had listed Paul’s newsletter as a laudably “racialist” publication.

Paul survived these revelations. He later explained that he had not written the passages himself — quite believably, since the style diverges widely from his own. But his response to the accusations was not transparent. When Morris called on him to release the rest of his newsletters, he would not. He remains touchy about it. “Even the fact that you’re asking this question infers, ‘Oh, you’re an anti-Semite,’ ” he told me in June. Actually, it doesn’t. Paul was in Congress when Israel bombed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear plant in 1981 and — unlike the United Nations and the Reagan administration — defended its right to do so. He says Saudi Arabia has an influence on Washington equal to Israel’s. His votes against support for Israel follow quite naturally from his opposition to all foreign aid. There is no sign that they reflect any special animus against the Jewish state.

What is interesting is Paul’s idea that the identity of the person who did write those lines is “of no importance.” Paul never deals in disavowals or renunciations or distancings, as other politicians do. In his office one afternoon in June, I asked about his connections to the John Birch Society. “Oh, my goodness, the John Birch Society!” he said in mock horror. “Is that bad? I have a lot of friends in the John Birch Society. They’re generally well educated, and they understand the Constitution. I don’t know how many positions they would have that I don’t agree with. Because they’re real strict constitutionalists, they don’t like the war, they’re hard-money people. . . . ”

Paul’s ideological easygoingness is like a black hole that attracts the whole universe of individuals and groups who don’t recognize themselves in the politics they see on TV. To hang around with his impressively large crowd of supporters before and after the CNN debate in Manchester, N.H., in June, was to be showered with privately printed newsletters full of exclamation points and capital letters, scribbled-down U.R.L.’s for Web sites about the Free State Project, which aims to turn New Hampshire into a libertarian enclave, and copies of the cult DVD “America: Freedom to Fascism.”

Victor Carey, a 45-year-old, muscular, mustachioed self-described “patriot” who wears a black baseball cap with a skull and crossbones on it, drove up from Sykesville, Md., to show his support for Paul. He laid out some of his concerns. “The people who own the Federal Reserve own the oil companies, they own the mass media, they own the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, they’re part of the Bilderbergers, and unfortunately their spiritual practices are very wicked and diabolical as well,” Carey said. “They go to a place out in California known as the Bohemian Grove, and there’s been footage obtained by infiltration of what their practices are. And they do mock human sacrifices to an owl-god called Moloch. This is true. Go research it yourself.”

Two grandmothers from North Carolina who painted a Winnebago red, white and blue were traveling around the country, stumping for Ron Paul, defending the Constitution and warning about the new “North American Union.” Asked whether this is something that would arise out of Nafta, Betty Smith of Chapel Hill, N.C., replied: “It’s already arisen. They’re building the highway. Guess what! The Spanish company building the highway — they’re gonna get the tolls. Giuliani’s law firm represents that Spanish company. Giuliani’s been anointed a knight by the Queen. Guess what! Read the Constitution. That’s not allowed!”

Paul is not a conspiracy theorist, but he has a tendency to talk in that idiom. In a floor speech shortly after the toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan, he mentioned Unocal’s desire to tap the region’s energy and concluded, “We should not be surprised now that many contend that the plan for the U.N. to ‘nation-build’ in Afghanistan is a logical and important consequence of this desire.” But when push comes to shove, Paul is not among the “many” who “contend” this. “I think oil and gas is part of it,” he explains. “But it’s not the issue. If that were the only issue, it wouldn’t have happened. The main reason was to get the Taliban out.”

Last winter at a meet-the-candidate house party in New Hampshire, students representing a group called Student Scholars for 9/11 Truth asked Paul whether he believed the official investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks was credible. “I never automatically trust anything the government does when they do an investigation,” Paul replied, “because too often I think there’s an area that the government covered up, whether it’s the Kennedy assassination or whatever.” The exchange was videotaped and ricocheted around the Internet for a while. But Paul’s patience with the “Truthers,” as they call themselves, does not make him one himself. “Even at the time it happened, I believe the information was fairly clear that Al Qaeda was involved,” he told me.

“Every Wacko Fringe Group In the Country”

One evening in mid-June, 86 members of a newly formed Ron Paul Meetup group gathered in a room in the Pasadena convention center. It was a varied crowd, preoccupied by the war, including many disaffected Democrats. Via video link from Virginia, Paul’s campaign chairman, Kent Snyder, spoke to the group “of a coming-together of the old guard and the new.” Then Connie Ruffley, co-chairwoman of United Republicans of California (UROC), addressed the crowd. UROC was founded during the 1964 presidential campaign to fight off challenges to Goldwater from Rockefeller Republicanism. Since then it has lain dormant but not dead — waiting, like so many other old right-wing groups, for someone or something to kiss it back to life. UROC endorsed Paul at its spring convention.

That night, Ruffley spoke about her past with the John Birch Society and asked how many in the room were members (quite a few, as it turned out). She referred to the California senator Dianne Feinstein as “Fine-Swine,” and got quickly to Israel, raising the Israeli attack on the American Naval signals ship Liberty during the Six-Day War. Some people were pleased. Others walked out. Others sent angry e-mails that night. Several said they would not return. The head of the Pasadena Meetup group, Bill Dumas, sent a desperate letter to Paul headquarters asking for guidance:

“We’re in a difficult position of working on a campaign that draws supporters from laterally opposing points of view, and we have the added bonus of attracting every wacko fringe group in the country. And in a Ron Paul Meetup many people will consider each other ‘wackos’ for their beliefs whether that is simply because they’re liberal, conspiracy theorists, neo-Nazis, evangelical Christian, etc. . . . We absolutely must focus on Ron’s message only and put aside all other agendas, which anyone can save for the next ‘Star Trek’ convention or whatever.”

But what is “Ron’s message”? Whatever the campaign purports to be about, the main thing it has done thus far is to serve as a clearinghouse for voters who feel unrepresented by mainstream Republicans and Democrats. The antigovernment activists of the right and the antiwar activists of the left have many differences, maybe irreconcilable ones. But they have a lot of common beliefs too, and their numbers — and anger — are of a considerable magnitude. Ron Paul will not be the next president of the United States. But his candidacy gives us a good hint about the country the next president is going to have to knit back together.


blurdge

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Gingrich: Fear Islamic dictatorship
He tells crowd at Stabler Arena that’s what will happen here if U.S. loses Iraq war.
July 20, 2007
By Daryl Nerl

Former House speaker and possible presidential contender Newt Gingrich, speaking Thursday night at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, conjured up images of an Islamic dictatorship in the United States as the consequence of failure in Iraq.

”It isn’t about Israel. It isn’t about us being in Iraq,” Gingrich told about 500 people gathered at the Impact ’07 leadership conference at Stabler Arena. ”They want to impose their dictatorship on us.”

In grim terms, Gingrich described the most severe consequences for women, who he said would not have been allowed to attend the Lehigh conference.

”If you want to be able to drive, to have a job, to have a checkbook; if you don’t want to have to wear a veil; if you want to be able to appear in public without a man, you’d better hope our team wins,” Gingrich said as he concluded his appearance on the Stabler stage, the first visit to the Lehigh Valley by a potential 2008 White House contender.

During a question-and-answer session, event host and radio personality Bobby Gunther Walsh put Gingrich on the spot about his presidential aspirations, but the Pennsylvania-born former congressman from Georgia remained coy.

”Beats me,” Gingrich said when Walsh asked him if he would run. Asked about a possible running mate, Gingrich said: ”I don’t know.”

Walsh then asked the crowd if they wanted Gingrich to run, and most responded with enthusiastic applause.

Among those cheering was John Hinkle, a Lehigh County Republican committeeman from Upper Milford Township, who said Gingrich is his favorite candidate.

”I think Newt is a very smart man,” Hinkle said. ”He understands the war on terror.”

Gingrich has been touring the country in much the same way a hopeful would, making frequent stops in New Hampshire and Iowa where the presidential primary will kick off in January 2008.

Before introducing Gingrich, Walsh noted that a recent poll of Republican-leaning voters had ”undecided” leading the presidential race. ”We couldn’t get him here tonight,” Walsh said.

That poll, sponsored by The Associated Press, had Gingrich in fifth place behind former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former ”Law & Order” star and ex-Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Thompson and Gingrich have not declared their candidacies. Gingrich has said he will not decide until October.

Nonetheless, Gingrich took an unsolicited swipe at another politician flirting with a run, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently announced he has abandoned the Republican Party to become an Independent. Some have speculated that the billionaire did this in preparation for a third-party run at the White House.

”I predict that if Bloomberg runs next year and he tries to spend $90 a vote, he’ll do surprisingly poorly,” Gingrich said. Voters will not respond well to a presidential candidate who is running ”as a hobby,” he said.

But the former House speaker saved his deadliest venom for Senate Democrats, accusing them of ”trying to defeat the U.S. in case Gen. [David] Petraeus wins” during a marathon debate on the war Wednesday night. Petraeus commands the U.S. military forces in Iraq.

”If Gen. Petraeus tomorrow morning announced the death of al-Qaida and peace in Iraq, a third of the U.S. Senate would be deeply disappointed,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich said he has not always been happy with the decisions made in Iraq. ”It has been a mess,” he said. ”But it is getting better.”

He was the headline speaker at the conference, for which about 1,800 tickets had been sold or handed out to sponsors, said Pat Breslin, the event’s organizer. The goal was to raise about $35,000 to support the Life Academy of Allentown and the Boys and Girls Club of Easton, though Breslin was uncertain whether the target would be reached.


Old-line Republican warns ‘something’s in the works’ to trigger a police state
07/19/2007
by Muriel Kane

Thom Hartmann began his program on Thursday by reading from a new Executive Order which allows the government to seize the assets of anyone who interferes with its Iraq policies.

He then introduced old-line conservative Paul Craig Roberts — a former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan who has recently become known for his strong opposition to the Bush administration and the Iraq War — by quoting the “strong words” which open Roberts’ latest column: “Unless Congress immediately impeaches Bush and Cheney, a year from now the US could be a dictatorial police state at war with Iran.”

“I don’t actually think they’re very strong,” said Roberts of his words. “I get a lot of flak that they’re understated and the situation is worse than I say. … When Bush exercises this authority [under the new Executive Order] … there’s no check to it. It doesn’t have to be ratified by Congress. The people who bear the brunt of these dictatorial police state actions have no recourse to the judiciary. So it really is a form of total, absolute, one-man rule. … The American people don’t really understand the danger that they face.”

Roberts said that because of Bush’s unpopularity, the Republicans face a total wipeout in 2008, and this may be why “the Democrats have not brought a halt to Bush’s follies or the war, because they expect his unpopular policies to provide them with a landslide victory in next year’s election.”

However, Roberts emphasized, “the problem with this reasoning is that it assumes that Cheney and Rove and the Republicans are ignorant of these facts, or it assumes that they are content for the Republican Party to be destroyed after Bush has his fling.” Roberts believes instead that Cheney and Rove intend to use a renewal of the War on Terror to rally the American people around the Republican Party. “Something’s in the works,” he said, adding that the Executive Orders need to create a police state are already in place.

“The administration figures themselves and prominent Republican propagandists … are preparing us for another 9/11 event or series of events,” Roberts continued. “Chertoff has predicted them. … The National Intelligence Estimate is saying that al Qaeda has regrouped. … You have to count on the fact that if al Qaeda’s not going to do it, it’s going to be orchestrated. … The Republicans are praying for another 9/11.”

Hartmann asked what we as the people can do if impeachment isn’t about to happen. “If enough people were suspicious and alert, it would be harder for the administration to get away with it,” Roberts replied. However, he added, “I don’t think these wake-up calls are likely to be effective,” pointing out the dominance of the mainstream media.

“Americans think their danger is terrorists,” said Roberts. “They don’t understand the terrorists cannot take away habeas corpus, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution. … The terrorists are not anything like the threat that we face to the Bill of Rights and the Constitution from our own government in the name of fighting terrorism. Americans just aren’t able to perceive that.”

Roberts pointed out that it’s old-line Republicans like himself, former Reagan associate deputy attorney general Bruce Fein, and Pat Buchanan who are the diehards in warning of the danger. “It’s so obvious to people like us who have long been associated in the corridors of power,” he said. “There’s no belief in the people or anything like that. They have agendas. The people are in the way. The Constitution is in the way. … Americans need to comprehend and look at how ruthless Cheney is. … A person like that would do anything.”

Roberts final suggestion was that, in the absence of a massive popular outcry, “the only constraints on what’s going to happen will come from the federal bureaucracy and perhaps the military. They may have had enough. They may not go along with it.”


You Are Destroying America. Yes, You.
Jul 19, 2007
by Brian Trent

…Terrorism will never destroy America. It will come from within. From fear-addicts who have raped the U.S. so much that they should be drawn up on charges of treason. The cowards who want a nanny state to coddle them, hug them, and ultimately contain them in a little crib with bars and monitors and cameras…

Sooner or later (as all great civilizations through time have dealt with) America will be attacked by terrorists again. There are too many people out there hopelessly addicted to extremism, to acting as pawns in a game of supernatural Risk, to blind fanaticism for it not to happen.

But that won’t destroy America.

In history, there have been the Hyksos, the Hittites, the Visigoths, the Huns, the Golden Horde, the Crusaders, and countless other unnamed peoples who have arrived with sword and torch to bring devastation to society. Today they use bombs and AK-47s. And in the future, even if education raises up humanity from the gutters of ignorance there will still be those of the fanatic pathology. It is likely there will always be barbarians.

But that won’t destroy America either.

You will.

I’m referring to the screeching fear-addicts who have raped the United States so thoroughly that they should be drawn up on charges of treason. The cowards who, unlike their grandfathers and earlier ancestors, want a nanny state to coddle them, hug them, and ultimately contain them in a little crib with bars and monitors and cameras.

These are the whining tantrum-throwers who live in such a fear-choked world that they will trade in America’s Constitution and Bill of Rights for far less than thirty pieces of silver.

They want the President to have the power to arrest Americans without review or charges. To have the power to imprison them indefinitely. To be able to strip away a citizen’s status with the magic words “enemy combatant” and cart them off to secret military trials per the PATRIOT ACT’s overbroad definitions.

These are the traitorous weasels who think that standing up for America’s rights is an act of weakness! The fools who have forgotten that every President swears an oath to “protect, defend, and preserve the Constitution of the United States.” At the end of the day, it is the Constitution which must survive us and continue as the guiding principle for America’s future as it has been for our past.

These are the cultists who have surrendered their most precious ability – freethinking – to be told by pundits what to echo and chant with brainless repetition.

I am not afraid of terrorists.

My country defeated the British Empire when we were but scattered colonies in the wilderness.

We defeated Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany.

We can defeat today’s Visigoths without devolving into a police state, without becoming the very antithesis to freedom and civil liberty that we were founded upon. For it is these notions that form the spine of our founding document – the Constitution.

And while we’re at it:

You spineless people who endorse the government listening to your phone calls, invading your homes, monitoring you beneath banners of “Freedom is Slavery” and ever-watchful eyes.

You people who are so terrified of open and honest debate that you simply parrot your equally cowardly pundit priests. You who refuse to hold the government accountable, refuse to remind them that they work for us, that we have the power in this nation, that the principles of liberty you mouth are things which must be fought for on domestic soil.

You who allows George W. Bush’s illegal wire-tapping and surveillance and propaganda machines to operate unfettered, without realizing that someday a Hillary or PETA or Moore will have access to the same system put in place today. Didn’t think of that, did you?

America can only be destroyed from within, not without. It isn’t gay marriage or pluralism that destroys us. It is the fear-addicts who are also astounding hypocrites: who support the right to bear arms despite 11,000 deaths a year (and for the record, I also support the Second Amendment wholeheartedly) but freak out when confronted with the proportion of deaths-from-terrorism over the last several years and will fork over their souls to a nanny-state self-perpetuating White House regime without hesitation.

Hypocrites. Cowards. Traitors.

Make no mistake that those in power are keenly aware of how easy you are to manipulate. They flash the lightning and you cower. They feed you a steady diet of feel-good platitudes because they know the real meal – reading the Constitution – is something you won’t bother to stomach.

Shame.

When we’re attacked again, we need to stand strong and firm and fight, against those barbarians who hurt us and against those opportunistic politicians who will try to exploit the tragedy.

Don’t let others tell you what the Founding Fathers wrote. Read it for yourself, brush up on your history, and rediscover the bravery of your progenitors.

Before it’s too late, and the “land of the free/home of the brave” becomes a footnote filed under irony.


Congressman Denied Access To Post-Attack Continuity Plans
July 22, 2007
By JEFF KOSSEFF

Constituents called Rep. Peter DeFazio’s office, worried there was a conspiracy buried in the classified portion of a White House plan for operating the government after a terrorist attack.

As a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, DeFazio, D-Ore., is permitted to enter a secure “bubbleroom” in the Capitol and examine classified material. So he asked the White House to see the secret documents.

On Wednesday, DeFazio got his answer: DENIED.

“I just can’t believe they’re going to deny a member of Congress the right of reviewing how they plan to conduct the government of the United States after a significant terrorist attack,” DeFazio said.

Homeland Security Committee staffers told his office that the White House initially approved his request, but it was later quashed. DeFazio doesn’t know who did it or why.

“We’re talking about the continuity of the government of the United States of America,” DeFazio said. “I would think that would be relevant to any member of Congress, let alone a member of the Homeland Security Committee.”

Bush administration spokesman Trey Bohn declined to say why DeFazio was denied access: “We do not comment through the press on the process that this access entails. It is important to keep in mind that much of the information related to the continuity of government is highly sensitive.”

Norm Ornstein, a legal scholar who studies government continuity at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said he “cannot think of one good reason” to deny access to a member of Congress who serves on the Homeland Security Committee.

“I find it inexplicable and probably reflective of the usual knee-jerk overextension of executive power that we see from this White House,” Ornstein said.

This is the first time DeFazio has been denied access to documents. DeFazio has asked Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., to help him access the documents.

“Maybe the people who think there’s a conspiracy out there are right,” DeFazio said.


1048

Who Runs the CIA? Outsiders for Hire.
July 8, 2007
By R.J. Hillhouse

Red alert: Our national security is being outsourced.

The most intriguing secrets of the “war on terror” have nothing to do with al-Qaeda and its fellow travelers. They’re about the mammoth private spying industry that all but runs U.S. intelligence operations today.

Surprised? No wonder. In April, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell was poised to publicize a year-long examination of outsourcing by U.S. intelligence agencies. But the report was inexplicably delayed — and suddenly classified a national secret. What McConnell doesn’t want you to know is that the private spy industry has succeeded where no foreign government has: It has penetrated the CIA and is running the show.

Over the past five years (some say almost a decade), there has been a revolution in the intelligence community toward wide-scale outsourcing. Private companies now perform key intelligence-agency functions, to the tune, I’m told, of more than $42 billion a year. Intelligence professionals tell me that more than 50 percent of the National Clandestine Service (NCS) — the heart, brains and soul of the CIA — has been outsourced to private firms such as Abraxas, Booz Allen Hamilton, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

These firms recruit spies, create non-official cover identities and control the movements of CIA case officers. They also provide case officers and watch officers at crisis centers and regional desk officers who control clandestine operations worldwide. As the Los Angeles Times first reported last October, more than half the workforce in two key CIA stations in the fight against terrorism — Baghdad and Islamabad, Pakistan — is made up of industrial contractors, or “green badgers,” in CIA parlance.

Intelligence insiders say that entire branches of the NCS have been outsourced to private industry. These branches are still managed by U.S. government employees (“blue badgers”) who are accountable to the agency’s chain of command. But beneath them, insiders say, is a supervisory structure that’s controlled entirely by contractors; in some cases, green badgers are managing green badgers from other corporations.

Sensing problems — and possibly fearing congressional action — the CIA recently conducted a hasty review of all of its job classifications to determine which perform “essential government functions” that should not be outsourced. But it’s highly doubtful that such a short-term exercise can comprehensively identify the proper “blue/green” mix, especially because contractors’ work statements have long been carefully formulated to blur the distinction between approvable and debatable functions.

Although the contracting system is Byzantine, there’s no question that the private sector delivers high-quality professional intelligence services. Outsourcing has provided solutions to personnel-management problems that have always plagued the CIA’s operations side. Rather than tying agents up in the kind of office politics that government employees have to engage in to advance their careers, outsourcing permits them to focus on what they do best, which boosts morale and performance. Privatization also immediately increased the number of trained, experienced agents in the field after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Even though wide-scale outsourcing may not immediately endanger national security, it’s worrisome. The contractors in charge of espionage are still chiefly CIA alumni who have absorbed its public service values. But as the center of gravity shifts from the public sector to the private, more than one independent intelligence firm has developed plans to “raise” succeeding generations of officers within its own training systems. These corporate-grown agents will be inculcated with corporate values and ethics, not those of public service.

And the current piecemeal system has introduced some vulnerabilities. Historically, the system offered members of the intelligence community the kind of stability that ensured that they would keep its secrets. That dynamic is now being eroded. Contracts come and go. So do workforces. The spies of the past came of age professionally in a strong extended family, but the spies of the future will be more like children raised in multiple foster homes — at risk.

Today, when Booz Allen Hamilton loses a contract to SAIC, people rush from one to the other in a game of musical chairs, with not enough chairs for all the workers who possess both the highest security clearances and expertise in the art of espionage. Some inevitably lose out. Any good counterintelligence officer knows what can happen next. Down-on-their-luck spies begin to do what spies do best: spy. Other companies offer them jobs in exchange for industry secrets. Foreign governments approach them. And some day, terrorists will clue in to this potential workforce.

The director of national intelligence has put our security at risk by classifying the study on outsourcing and keeping the truth about this inadequately planned and managed system out of the light. Much of what has been outsourced makes sense, but much of the structure doesn’t, not for the longer term. It’s time for the public and Congress to demand the study’s release. More important, it’s past time for the industry — an industry conceived of and run by some of the best and brightest the CIA has ever produced — to come up with the kind of innovative solutions it’s legendary for, before the damage goes too deep.


Sheehan weighs run against Pelosi
Anti-war mother backs Bush’s impeachment
July 8, 2007

Cindy Sheehan, the soldier’s mother who galvanized the anti-war movement, said Sunday that she plans to run against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unless she introduces articles of impeachment against President Bush in the next two weeks.

Sheehan said she will run against the San Francisco Democrat in 2008 as an independent if Pelosi does not seek by July 23 to impeach Bush. That’s when Sheehan and her supporters are to arrive in Washington, D.C., after a 13-day caravan and walking tour starting next week from the group’s war protest site near Bush’s Crawford ranch.

“Democrats and Americans feel betrayed by the Democratic leadership,” Sheehan told The Associated Press. “We hired them to bring an end to the war. I’m not too far from San Francisco, so it wouldn’t be too big of a move for me. I would give her a run for her money.”

Messages left with Pelosi’s staff were not immediately returned. The White House declined to comment on Sheehan’s plans.

She plans her official candidacy announcement Tuesday. Sunday wrapped up what is expected to be her final weekend at the 5-acre Crawford lot that she sold to California radio talk show host Bree Walker, who plans to keep it open to protesters.

Sheehan announced in late May that she was leaving the anti-war movement. She said that she felt her efforts had been in vain and that she had endured smear tactics and hatred from the left, as well as the right. She said she wanted to change course.

She first came to Crawford in August 2005 during a Bush vacation, demanding to talk to him about the war that killed her son Casey in 2004. She became the face of the anti-war movement during her 26-day roadside vigil, which was joined by thousands. But it also drew counter-protests by Bush supporters, many who said she was hurting troop morale.

Disenchantment with Democrats
Sheehan, who has never held political office, recently said that she was leaving the Democratic Party because it “caved” in to the president. Last week, she announced her caravan to Washington, an undertaking she calls the “people’s accountability movement.”

“I didn’t expect to be back so soon, but the focus is different than it was before,” Sheehan said Sunday. “Instead of talking and making accusations, we’re going into communities and talking to the people who’ve been hurt by the Bush regime. We’re finding out how we can help people.”

Sheehan, who will turn 50 on Tuesday, said Bush should be impeached because she believes he misled the public about the reasons for going to war, violated the Geneva Convention by torturing detainees, and crossed the line by commuting the prison sentence of former vice presidential aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby. She said other grounds for impeachment are the domestic spying program and the “inadequate and tragic” response to Hurricane Katrina.

Libby was convicted of lying and obstructing justice in an investigation into the leak of a CIA officer’s identity.

Sheehan said she hopes Pelosi files the articles of impeachment so Sheehan can move onto her next projects, including overseas trips for humanitarian work. But if not, Sheehan said she is ready to run for office.

“She let the people down…”
“I’m doing it to encourage other people to run against Congress members who aren’t doing their jobs, who are beholden to special interests,” Sheehan said. “She (Pelosi) let the people down who worked hard to put Democrats back in power, who we thought were our hope for change.”

Pelosi was elected to the House in 1987 and became the first female speaker in January.

Sheehan said she lives in a Sacramento suburb but declined to disclose which city, citing safety reasons. The area is outside Pelosi’s district, but there are no residency requirements for congressional members, according to the California secretary of state’s office.


Bush rips Democratic lawmakers’ failures
July 7, 2007
By JENNIFER LOVEN

President Bush accused Democratic lawmakers on Saturday of being unable to live up to their duties, citing Congress’ inability to pass legislation to fund the federal government.

“Democrats are failing in their responsibility to make tough decisions and spend the people’s money wisely,” Bush said in his weekly radio address. “This moment is a test.”

The White House has said the failure of a broad immigration overhaul was proof that Democratic-controlled Capitol Hill cannot take on major issues. “We saw this with immigration, and we’re seeing it with some other issues where Congress is having an inability to take on major challenges,” said spokesman Tony Fratto.

The main reason the immigration measure died, however, was staunch opposition from Bush’s own base — conservatives. The president could not turn around members of his own party despite weeks of intense effort.

The immigration bill was the top item on Bush’s domestic agenda. With its demise, Bush was left to focus on the annual appropriations process and reining in federal spending.

Twelve annual spending bills dole out approximately one-third of the federal budget. They must be passed each year by Congress, before the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year, but lawmakers began considering this year’s batch just in mid-June. The House has passed half and the full Senate has not yet taken up any.

“Democrats have a chance to prove they are for open and transparent government by working to complete each spending bill independently and on time,” Bush said. “I urge Democrats in Congress to step forward now and pass these bills one at a time. ”

Democratic leaders say they are behind because an emergency spending measure funding the war in Iraq came first. They also had to pass an omnibus measure cleaning up last year’s appropriations mess. Then, the Republicans who then controlled Congress failed to pass into law a single spending bill for domestic agencies save the Homeland Security Department — a situation that brought little complaint from Bush.

With the Senate and House now in Democratic hands, this year’s bills are producing skirmishes with the White House that also are causing delays. Almost every domestic bill already has attracted a veto threat because it exceeds Bush’s proposed budget in certain areas.

All told, Democrats plan spending increases for annual agency budgets of about $23 billion above the White House budget request. Bush put it in terms of a five-year outlook, and said their budget plan would be $205 billion bigger than his over that period, and would include “the largest tax increase in history” by allowing some of his tax cuts to expire as planned.

The president said Democrats are embracing “the failed tax-and-spend policies of the past,” and vowed to stand firm for fiscal restraint. Republican lawmakers have pledged to support him and sustain any vetoes.

“No nation has ever taxed and spent its way to prosperity,” Bush said. “And I have made it clear that I will veto any attempt to take America down this road.”

The president also applauded a new jobs report, which showed employers adding 132,000 jobs, paychecks growing solidly and the unemployment rate staying at a low 4.5 percent in June.

Bush said the evidence that the once listless economy is regaining energy is a result of his insistence on lowering taxes and spending.

“Democratic leaders in Congress want to take our country down a different track,” he said.


Senator’s Number on Escort Service List
July 10, 2007
By DOUGLASS K. DANIEL

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., apologized Monday night for “a very serious sin in my past” after his telephone number appeared among those associated with an escort service operated by the so-called “D.C. Madam.”

Vitter’s spokesman, Joel Digrado, confirmed the statement in an e-mail sent to The Associated Press.

“This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible,” Vitter said in the statement. “Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling. Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there – with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way.”

The statement containing Vitter’s apology said his telephone number was on old phone records of Pamela Martin and Associates before he ran for the Senate.

Deborah Jeane Palfrey was accused in federal court of racketeering by running a prostitution ring that netted more than $2 million over 13 years, beginning in 1993. She contends, however, that her escort service, Pamela Martin and Associates, was a legitimate business.

Vitter, 46, a Republican in his first Senate term, was elected to the Senate in 2004. He represented Louisiana’s 1st Congressional District in the House from 1999 to 2004.

Vitter and his wife, Wendy, live in Metairie, La., with their four children.

Palfrey’s attorney, Montgomery Blair Sibley, told the AP, “I’m stunned that someone would be apologizing for this.” He said Palfrey had posted the phone numbers of her escort service’s clients online Monday, but he did not know whether Vitter’s number was among them. Vitter’s statement was sent to the AP’s New Orleans bureau Monday evening.

Palfrey’s Web site contains 20 compressed files of phone records, dating from August 1994 to August 2006. No names are listed, only phone numbers. Palfrey wrote on the Web site that she believed a disk containing the records had been pirated, and wrote that she was posting the records “to thwart any possible distorted version and to ensure the integrity of the information.”

Silas Lee, a political analyst and pollster in New Orleans, spoke Monday about the possible political impact on Vitter.

“In the short term, I think the issue will dominate the discourse for a few days and weeks, and though he’s up for re-election in 2010, it should dissipate by then,” Lee told WWL-TV in New Orleans.

“But for some of his very conservative constituents, it might not be as easy. In their mind and eyes, they may not be able to forgive. The majority may overlook it in time depending on his job performance and how sincere voters believe he wants them to forgive him.”

Earlier this year Palfrey, 51, of Vallejo, Calif., asked the Supreme Court to delay the criminal case against her – a request the court denied in May. Her attorney had argued that it was unfair to proceed against Palfrey because her assets remain seized in a civil forfeiture case, meaning she lacks the money to hire an attorney of her choice.

Randall Tobias, a senior official in the State Department, resigned in April after ABC News confronted him about his use of the escort service. He admitted that he had hired women to come to his Washington condo and give him massages but denied that he had sex with the escorts.

Palfrey threatened for months to release her client list, which led prosecutors to accuse her of trying to intimidate potential witnesses.

Contending that her escort service was legal, Palfrey revealed details of its operation on ABC’s news magazine “20/20” on May 4. At the time, ABC said it could not link any information provided by Palfrey to members of Congress or White House officials but did find links to prominent business executives, NASA officials and at least five military officers.

Prosecutors contend that Palfrey knew the 130 women she employed over 13 years were engaged in prostitution. She claims that she operated a “legal, high-end erotic fantasy service” and that the women signed contracts in which they promised not to have sex with clients. The service charged a flat rate of $275 for 90 minutes, she said.

Palfrey pleaded guilty to pimping charges in 1991 and was sentenced to 18 months in a California prison.


Bush denies Congress access to aides
July 9, 2007
By LAURIE KELLMAN

President Bush directed former aides to defy congressional subpoenas on Monday, claiming executive privilege and prodding lawmakers closer to their first contempt citations against administration officials since Ronald Reagan was president.

It was the second time in as many weeks that Bush had cited executive privilege in resisting Congress’ investigation into the firings of U.S. attorneys.

White House Counsel Fred Fielding insisted that Bush was acting in good faith in withholding documents and directing the two aides — Fielding’s predecessor, Harriet Miers, and Bush’s former political director, Sara Taylor — to defy subpoenas ordering them to explain their roles in the firings over the winter.

In the standoff between branches of government, Fielding renewed the White House offer to let Miers, Taylor and other administration officials meet with congressional investigators off the record and with no transcript. He declined to explain anew the legal underpinnings of the privilege claim as the chairmen of the House and Senate judiciary committees had directed.

“You may be assured that the president’s assertion here comports with prior practices in similar contexts, and that it has been appropriately documented,” Fielding wrote.

Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the House panel, left little doubt where the showdown was headed.

“Contrary to what the White House may believe, it is the Congress and the courts that will decide whether an invocation of executive privilege is valid, not the White House unilaterally,” the Michigan Democrat said.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said the posturing was a waste of time and money and a distraction from the questions at hand: Who ordered the firings, why, and whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should continue to serve or be fired.

Specter, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the Democrats’ threat of taking the standoff to court on a contempt citation was spurious because the prosecutor who would consider it is a Bush appointee.

“On a case like this, does anyone believe the U.S. attorney is going to bring a criminal contempt citation against anyone?” Specter said in a telephone interview. “The U.S. attorney works for the president and it’s a discretionary matter what the U.S. attorney does.”

Historically, such standoffs over executive privilege are resolved before the full House or Senate votes on referring a congressional contempt citation to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. But rather than cooling off over the July 4th holiday, Bush and Democrats returned from the weeklong break closer to a legal confrontation.

The last contempt finding Congress sought to prosecute was against former Environmental Protection Agency official Rita Lavelle in 1983. The Democratic-led House voted 413-0 to cite her for contempt for refusing to appear before a House committee. She was later acquitted in court of the contempt charge but was convicted of perjury in a separate trial.

Just before Congress left town, Bush invoked executive privilege on subpoenas lawmakers filed for any documents Taylor and Miers received or generated about the firings. On Monday, Bush again invoked privilege on the women’s scheduled testimony for this week. Through their attorneys, Bush instructed the pair not to testify on the firings.

Lawmakers said they had plenty of questions to ask the women outside the privilege claim.

Both officials were included on e-mails about the firings released earlier this year by the Justice Department, and Miers at one point suggested the firings of all 93 federal prosecutors. Taylor also could have sent e-mails on a Republican National Committee account outside the White House, according to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, who insisted those communications were not covered by executive privilege.

The dispute squeezes Miers and Taylor between the president’s instructions and the possibility of being held in contempt of Congress. Their lawyers did not respond to requests for comment, but Leahy said he expects Taylor to appear before his panel Wednesday, as scheduled. It was unclear if Miers would appear before Conyers’ committee the next day.

Fielding invoked executive privilege in dismissing a Monday morning deadline set by Conyers and Leahy for the White House to explain and list which documents it was withholding from their committees.

“We are aware of no authority by which a congressional committee may `direct’ the executive to undertake the task of creating and providing an extensive description of every document covered by an assertion of executive privilege,” he wrote.

Bush’s counsel, a veteran of executive privilege disputes, cloaked his tough rejoinder to the Democratic committee chairmen in gentlemanly language. But his message was unequivocal: The White House won’t back down.

He argued that the committees’ “open-ended” investigation into the firings had no constitutional basis, in large part because the president has the right to hire and fire his own political appointees.

Fielding cast the impasse as a natural constitutional tension between branches of government and complained that Leahy, D-Vt., and Conyers had accused the White House of acting in something other than good faith. He called for “a presumption of goodwill on all sides.”

Democrats didn’t bite.

“The president seems to think that executive privilege is a magic mantra that can hide anything, including wrongdoing,” said New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Senate Democrats’ 2008 election campaign operation.


Gonzales was told of FBI violations
After getting report, attorney general said he knew of no wrongdoing
July 10, 2007
By John Solomon

As he sought to renew the USA Patriot Act two years ago, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales assured lawmakers that the FBI had not abused its potent new terrorism-fighting powers. “There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse,” Gonzales told senators on April 27, 2005.

Six days earlier, the FBI sent Gonzales a copy of a report that said its agents had obtained personal information that they were not entitled to have. It was one of at least half a dozen reports of legal or procedural violations that Gonzales received in the three months before he made his statement to the Senate intelligence committee, according to internal FBI documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The acts recounted in the FBI reports included unauthorized surveillance, an illegal property search and a case in which an Internet firm improperly turned over a compact disc with data that the FBI was not entitled to collect, the documents show. Gonzales was copied on each report that said administrative rules or laws protecting civil liberties and privacy had been violated.

The reports also alerted Gonzales in 2005 to problems with the FBI’s use of an anti-terrorism tool known as national security letters (NSLs), well before the Justice Department’s inspector general brought widespread abuse of the letters in 2004 and 2005 to light in a stinging report this past March.

‘In the context’ of inspector general reports
Justice officials said they could not immediately determine whether Gonzales read any of the FBI reports in 2005 and 2006 because the officials who processed them were not available yesterday. But department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said that when Gonzales testified, he was speaking “in the context” of reports by the department’s inspector general before this year that found no misconduct or specific civil liberties abuses related to the Patriot Act.

“The statements from the attorney general are consistent with statements from other officials at the FBI and the department,” Roehrkasse said. He added that many of the violations the FBI disclosed were not legal violations and instead involved procedural safeguards or even typographical errors.

Each of the violations cited in the reports copied to Gonzales was serious enough to require notification of the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board, which helps police the government’s surveillance activities. The format of each memo was similar, and none minced words.

“This enclosure sets forth details of investigative activity which the FBI has determined was conducted contrary to the attorney general’s guidelines for FBI National Security Investigations and Foreign Intelligence Collection and/or laws, executive orders and presidential directives,” said the April 21, 2005, letter to the Intelligence Oversight Board.

The oversight board, staffed with intelligence experts from inside and outside government, was established to report to the attorney general and president about civil liberties abuses or intelligence lapses. But Roehrkasse said the fact that a violation is reported to the board “does not mean that a USA Patriot violation exists or that an individual’s civil liberties have been abused.”

Two of the earliest reports sent to Gonzales, during his first month on the job, in February 2005, involved the FBI’s surveillance and search powers. In one case, the bureau reported a violation involving an “unconsented physical search” in a counterintelligence case. The details were redacted in the released memo, but it cited violations of safeguards “that shall protect constitutional and other legal rights.” The second violation involved electronic surveillance on phone lines that was reinitiated after the expiration deadline set by a court in a counterterrorism case.

The report sent to Gonzales on April 21, 2005, concerned a violation of the rules governing NSLs, which allow agents in counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations to secretly gather Americans’ phone, bank and Internet records without a court order or a grand jury subpoena. In the report — also heavily redacted before being released — the FBI said its agents had received a compact disc containing information they did not request. It was viewed before being sealed in an envelope.

Gonzales received another report of an NSL-related violation a few weeks later. “A national security letter . . . contained an incorrect phone number” that resulted in agents collecting phone information that “belonged to a different U.S. person” than the suspect under investigation, stated a letter copied to the attorney general on May 6, 2005.

At least two other reports of NSL-related violations were sent to Gonzales, according to the new documents. In letters copied to him on Dec. 11, 2006, and Feb. 26, 2007, the FBI reported to the oversight board that agents had requested and obtained phone data on the wrong people.

‘I was upset…’
Nonetheless, Gonzales reacted with surprise when the Justice Department inspector general reported this March that there were pervasive problems with the FBI’s handling of NSLs and another investigative tool known as exigent circumstances letters.

“I was upset when I learned this, as was Director Mueller. To say that I am concerned about what has been revealed in this report would be an enormous understatement,” Gonzales said in a speech March 9, referring to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller. The attorney general added that he believed back in 2005, before the Patriot Act was renewed, that there were no problems with NSLs. “I’ve come to learn that I was wrong,” he said, making no mention of the FBI reports sent to him.

Marcia Hofmann, a lawyer for the nonpartisan Electronic Frontier Foundation, said, “I think these documents raise some very serious questions about how much the attorney general knew about the FBI’s misuse of surveillance powers and when he knew it.” A lawsuit by Hofmann’s group seeking internal FBI documents about NSLs prompted the release of the reports.

Caroline Fredrickson, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the new documents raise questions about whether Gonzales misled Congress at a moment when lawmakers were poised to renew the Patriot Act and keenly sought assurances that there were no abuses. “It was extremely important,” she said of Gonzales’s 2005 testimony. “The attorney general said there are no problems with the Patriot Act, and there was no counterevidence at the time.”

Some of the reports describe rules violations that the FBI decided not to report to the intelligence board. In February 2006, for example, FBI officials wrote that agents sent a person’s phone records, which they had obtained from a provider under a national security letter, to an outside party. The mistake was blamed on “an error in the mail handling.” When the third party sent the material back, the bureau decided not to report the mistake as a violation.

‘Overcollected’ evidence
The memos also detail instances in which the FBI wrote out new NSLs to cover evidence that had been mistakenly collected. In a June 30, 2006, e-mail, for instance, an FBI supervisor asked an agent who had “overcollected” evidence under a national security letter to forward his original request to lawyers. “We would like to check the specific language to see if there is anything in the body that would cover the extra material they gave,” the supervisor wrote.

Sometimes the FBI reached seemingly contradictory conclusions about the gravity of its errors. On May 6, 2005, the bureau decided that it needed to report a violation when agents made an “inadvertent” request for data for the wrong phone number. But on June 1, 2006, in a similar wrong-number case, the bureau concluded that a violation did not need to be reported because the agent acted “in good faith.”

1047

Senator, You Used to Be a Pot Head — Now You’re Talking Like a Narc
July 6, 2007
By Norman Kent

Editor’s Note: The following is a letter addressed to Minnesota Republican Senator Norm Coleman — a strong advocate of the brutal federal drug laws on the books — reminding him that he used to be a happy, safe, fun-loving pot smoker.

My friend Norman,

Years ago, in a lifetime far away, you did not oppose the legalization of marijuana. Years ago, in our dorm rooms at Hofstra University, you, me, Billy, your future brother-in-law, Ivan, Jonathan, Peter, Janet, Nancy and a wealth of other students smoked dope.

Sure, we had to tape the doors shut, burn incense and open the windows, but we got high, and yet we grew up okay, without the help of the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s advice.

We grew up to become lawyers. Our other friends, as you go down the list, are doctors, professors, parents, political consultants and professionals. No one ever got cancer from smoking pot or diabetes from using a joint. And the days of our youth we look back fondly upon as years where we stood up, were counted and made a difference, from Earth Day in 1970 to helping bring down a president and end a war in Southeast Asia a few years later. We smoked pot when we took over Weller Hall to protest administrative abuses of students’ rights. You smoked pot as you stood on the roof of the University Senate protesting faculty exclusivity. As the President of the Student Senate in 1969, you condemned the raid by Nassau County police on our dormitories, busting scores of students for pot possession. Continue reading 1047

1040

I think war is a dangerous place.
     — George W. Bush

Our enemies…never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.
     — George W. Bush

Our nation is somewhat sad, but we’re angry. There’s a certain level of blood lust, but we won’t let it drive our reaction. We’re steady, clear-eyed and patient, but pretty soon we’ll have to start displaying scalps.
     — George W. Bush

If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator.
     — George W. Bush

I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we’re really talking about peace.
     — George W. Bush

…the role of the military is to fight and win war and, therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place.
     — George W. Bush

Free nations are peaceful nations. Free nations don’t attack each other. Free nations don’t develop weapons of mass destruction.
     — George W. Bush

We know that dictators are quick to choose aggression, while free nations strive to resolve differences in peace.
     — George W. Bush

Evil men, obsessed with ambition and unburdened by conscience, must be taken very seriously–and we must stop them before their crimes can multiply.
     — George W. Bush

These people are trying to shake the will of the Iraqi citizens, and they want us to leave…I think the world would be better off if we did leave…
     — George W. Bush (on Iraqi Insurgency)

I respect the jury’s decision.
     — George Bush, seconds before changing the decision of the jury


NYC man held for reciting 1st Amendment
July 2, 2007
By TOM HAYS

Reverend Billy says he wants the New York Police Department to get right with the Constitution.

The performance artist — a cross between a street-corner preacher and an Elvis impersonator (but blond) — was arrested on harassment charges last week while reciting the First Amendment through a megaphone in Manhattan’s Union Square. On Monday, he donned his trademark white suit and returned to the scene of his alleged sin to demand that police repent.

“It feels so good to be back on the very spot where I was denied my First Amendment rights by reciting the First Amendment,” he told reporters over the din of an NYPD helicopter hovering overhead.

Reverend Billy, whose real name is Bill Talen, was joined by women in red choir robes who sang a hymn version of the amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech. Other activists distributed an amateur videotape of his arrest.

Eyes closed and hands raised, the pretend pastor whooped, “Bill of Rights-elujah!”

Talen, 57, has spent years using his mock persona as a fire-and-brimstone evangelist to rail against consumer culture — what he portrays as the Disneyfication of Manhattan. He was arrested this year on misdemeanor trespassing charges for protesting at a Starbucks; that case is pending.

His latest run-in with the law began after he turned up to support people gathering in Union Square last Friday for the monthly Critical Mass bike ride asserting cyclists’ rights.

The NYPD has aggressively policed the rides, arguing that they can interfere with traffic and threaten public safety. Advocates for Critical Mass have accused police of infringing on the riders’ constitutional rights to free speech and free assembly.

The video shows Talen preaching the “44 beautiful words of the First Amendment” to a visibly annoyed congregation of police commanders huddled a few feet away. At one point, an officer approaches and warns him that his sermon is breaking the law.

“What’s the law?” Talen asks.

“Harassment,” the officer answers.

When Talen persists, another officer comes up behind him and slaps on handcuffs. When being put in a police van, the satirist shouts, “We have a right to peaceful assembly!”

Talen was held overnight before being released without bail. A criminal complaint alleges he harassed police officers by approaching them and “repeatedly shouting at such officers through a non-electric bullhorn.”

Civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, appearing with Talen on Monday, called on prosecutors to drop the charges.

“The arrest was a false arrest,” Siegel said. “What Reverend Billy did last Friday night does not constitute illegal conduct.”

Prosecutors declined to comment. The New York Police Department, contacted Monday evening, said it had no comment.


White House won’t rule out Libby pardon
July 3, 2007
By MATT APUZZO

The White House on Tuesday declined to rule out the possibility of an eventual pardon for former vice presidential aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby. But spokesman Tony Snow said, for now, President Bush is satisfied with his decision to commute Libby’s 2 1/2-year prison sentence.

“He thought any jail time was excessive. He did not see fit to have Scooter Libby taken to jail,” Snow said.

Snow said that even with Bush’s decision, Libby remains with a felony conviction on his record, two years’ probation, a $250,000 fine and probable loss of his legal career. “This is hardly a slap on the wrist,” Snow said.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, who sentenced Libby to prison, declined Tuesday to discuss the case or his views on sentencing. “To now say anything about sentencing on the heels of yesterday’s events will inevitably be construed as comments on the president’s commutation decision, which would be inappropriate,” the judge said in an e-mail.

With prison seeming all but certain for Libby, Bush on Monday spared the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. His move came just five hours after a federal appeals court panel ruled that Libby could not delay his prison term. The Bureau of Prisons had already assigned Libby a prison identification number.

Snow was pressed several times on whether the president might eventually grant a full pardon to Libby, who had been convicted of lying and conspiracy in the CIA leak investigation. The press secretary declined to say anything categorically.

“The reason I’m not going to say I’m not going to close a door on a pardon,” Snow said, “Scooter Libby may petition for one.”

“The president thinks that he has dealt with the situation properly,” he added. “There is always a possibility or there’s an avenue open for anybody to petition for consideration of a pardon.”

Bush’s decision was sharply criticized by Democrats. Republicans were more subdued, with some welcoming the decision and some conservatives saying Bush should have gone further.

“The president’s getting pounding on the right for not granting a full pardon,” Snow suggested.

Asked whether Cheney had weighed in on the decision to commute Libby’s sentence, Snow said, “I don’t have direct knowledge. But on the other hand, the president did consult with most senior officials, and I’m sure that everybody had an opportunity to share their views.”


Experts: Terror suspects not brainwashed
July 3, 2007
By THOMAS WAGNER

Ayman al-Zawahri, al-Qaida’s No. 2. George Habash of the PLO. Mahmoud Zahar, the Hamas strongman in Gaza. All trained as doctors — as did at least seven suspects in the failed bomb attacks in Britain.

The general public often is shocked to see that doctors — the world’s healers — can become militants or even terrorist killers. But some experts believe it is part of a socio-economic trend in which wealthy families highly educate their sons, who sometimes become radical and have the education they need to become leaders.

“People often assume that terrorists are poor, disadvantaged people who are brainwashed or need the money. But the ones who actually perpetrate violence without handlers and manipulation are highly intelligent by necessity,” said Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert at the Swedish National Defense College in Stockholm.

“It’s only the smart ones who will survive security pressures in a subversive existence. Sometimes they are doctors, a profession that provides a brilliant cover and allows entry to countries like Britain,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

At least five of the eight suspects in the failed terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow, Scotland, were identified as doctors from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and India, while staff at a Glasgow hospital said two others were a doctor and a medical student.

“It sends rather a chill down the spine to think that people’s values can be so perverted,” said Pauline Neville-Jones, former head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, which advises the British government.

“It means obviously that you can’t make any assumptions, or have any preconceptions about the kind of people who might become terrorists. It does mean that you widen the net, obviously,” she said on BBC-TV.

Newspapers carried headlines such as “Dr. Terror,” “Doctor Evil” and “Terror cell in the NHS,” the country’s National Health Service.

“It’s really shocking,” said Elaine Paige, an office manager in London. “Given what doctors do in clinics and operating rooms, how could they want to destroy lives?”

But Robert Courtney, a designer in the British capital, said: “Nothing surprises me these days.”

“People from all walks of life are being pushed toward violence by the horrible situations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel and Palestine,” he said.

If doctors were leading the cell that plotted the attacks — which Prime Minister Gordon Brown said were “associated with al-Qaida” — it wouldn’t be a first. Al-Zawahri, an Egyptian who trained as a doctor, is Osama bin Laden’s top deputy, and he often speaks out in audio tapes on behalf of al-Qaida in favor of groups such as Hamas in Gaza.

Three doctors have played prominent roles in militant Islamic groups in Gaza in recent years. Mahmoud Zahar, one of the main Hamas leaders, was the personal physician of the founder of the group, Sheik Ahmed Yassin. Zahar became a Hamas spokesman and leader in the late 1980s alongside his mentor. Yassin, a paraplegic, was killed in an Israeli airstrike in 2004.

Yassin’s successor was Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a pediatrician. He was killed by an Israeli airstrike shortly after Yassin. He was introduced to radical Islam during his medical studies in Cairo.

Also, the founder of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Mohammed al-Hindi, received his medical degree in Cairo in 1980. He returned to Gaza and formed the militant group a year later.

Habash, who trained as a pediatrician in a family of Christian Palestinian merchants, founded and led the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which was behind a spate of aircraft hijackings in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Martin Kramer, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said people often wrongly conclude that a good education and prosperity works against development of terrorists.

“The Sept. 11 bombers were better educated than the average person,” said Kramer, who also is a senior fellow at the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem think tank. “Educated people have long been drafted to fight in jihadi causes. For example, many mujahadeen fighting the Russians in Afghanistan were highly educated engineers and doctors.”

Whatever happens in the fast-moving investigation of Britain’s terrorist attacks they already have opened a debate about the country’s reliance on foreign doctors.

For years, foreign physicians who lived outside the European Union could travel to Britain on a regular visa — without a job offer or a work permit — and find employment with the National Health Service for up to three years.

That freewheeling system was designed to help Britain cope with a doctor shortage. Last year the regulations were tightened — not out of concern for security but because Britain needs fewer foreign doctors. But today’s National Health Service clinics and hospitals still rely heavily on them.

According to figures supplied by the General Medical Council, a regulatory agency, 37 percent of the 238,739 doctors practicing in Britain trained and qualified as physicians overseas. That includes 27,558 doctors from India, 6,634 from Pakistan, 1,987 from Iraq and 184 from Jordan, the agency said.


and, finally, this comes under the category DUH!

if they don’t remember where osama bin laden, then they might just as well create another one… you can’t have too many osama bin ladens hanging around…

Armed Sunnis: gains now, risks later
July 3, 2007
By ROBERT H. REID

The U.S. tactic of using armed Sunni tribesmen in the fight against al-Qaida in Iraq offers short-term gains to weaken the insurgency, but could set the stage for a full-scale sectarian civil war when the Americans begin to draw down their forces.

The danger that these alliances of convenience could backfire becomes all the greater if Iraq’s Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders fail to achieve genuine political reconciliation — the key to ending the conflict.

Instead, signs point to further polarization, despite some progress hammering out deals on sharing the oil wealth and returning many former Saddam Hussein loyalists to government jobs. Parliament could take up the oil bill as early as Wednesday.

“If anything, the use of Sunni tribes in the West has created new forms of Sunni versus Shiite polarization,” former Pentagon analyst Anthony Cordesman told a House committee last week.

Nevertheless, U.S. military officials insist the strategy is working to quell the violence, especially in Anbar province. The western desert region — threaded by the Euphrates River — had been largely written off as a haven for insurgents. But major Sunni tribal leaders agreed to come together to fight al-Qaida in Iraq late last year.

Since then, al-Qaida in Iraq has been mostly driven out of Anbar’s main population centers, according to Marine Brig. Gen. John Allen, the deputy commander for U.S. forces in western Iraq. Those include longtime troublespots such as Ramadi, Haditha and Fallujah that had been the major strongholds of the Sunni insurgency.

Encouraged by the shift in Anbar, U.S. commanders have sought to replicate the model in Diyala province northwest of Baghdad — the scene of an ongoing offensive to regain control of the provincial capital of Baqouba.

Breakaway members of the 1920 Revolution Brigade, an insurgent group led by former Saddam backers, serve as scouts and intelligence gatherers, identifying al-Qaida hideouts.

“They are tired of al Qaida and the influence of al Qaida in their tribes and in their neighborhoods,” Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, the U.S. commander for Baghdad, told reporters last week. “And they want them cleaned out and they want to form an alliance in order to rid themselves of this blight.”

U.S. officials insist they aren’t actually arming the Sunni tribesmen but simply utilizing them. Nearly every household in Iraq has at least one weapon and the country is awash in guns.

“We’ve given them a little ammo, some flares, but mostly humanitarian aid. We’re not arming these guys, we’re just changing the direction they’re pointing their guns in,” Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the U.S. ground forces commander, said last month.

Regardless of where the weapons come from, the risk is that the Sunni tribesmen won’t cooperate with the Shiite-led central government if they succeed in crushing their al-Qaida rivals. The effort could end up simply creating new Sunni militias, further undermining the authority of an already weak central government.

In rural areas, tribal loyalty is often stronger than allegiance to the national government, especially when the central administration is weak.

“There’s no question that the people with guns in Iraq are looking after their own self-interest,” said Jon Alterman, a Mideast expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “And they don’t have any sentimental attachment to the central government in Baghdad.”

Mindful of that risk, the Shiite government’s initial reaction to arming Sunnis in Anbar and elsewhere was cool. Last month, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said arming Sunnis was simply creating new militias.

Later, al-Maliki said his remarks were misunderstood and that the program should be carried out “under the supervision of Iraqi authorities and through the government.”

But the effort to arm the Sunnis grew in part out of U.S. frustration with Iraqi officials, notably in the Shiite-led Interior Ministry.

U.S. officers had complained privately that they had found Sunnis willing to join but the Shiites at the ministry in Baghdad would not authorize the slots.

“We’ve been forced to go beyond the central government because the central government’s reach doesn’t extend much beyond the Green Zone, and local police are often extensions of militias in any event,” Alterman said. “We’ve been forced to cut out the middleman because there’s no effective middleman to be had.”

The success of the program will likely depend on whether the Iraqis make progress in reaching power sharing agreements among the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities. That would reinforce a sense of national cohesion — which the country now lacks.

Prospects for lasting agreements appear uncertain. The main Sunni political bloc has refused to attend Cabinet meetings to protest an arrest warrant against a colleague. Muqtada al-Sadr’s Shiite faction has also suspended its participation in government.

Those issues would have to be resolved before meaningful agreements can be struck.

Frederick Kagan, a former West Point professor and senior analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, acknowledges that the Americans and Iraqis must be careful to ensure that the Sunnis are eventually integrated into the security forces.

But Kagan believes the gamble is worth it.

“We are serving as the bridge between the Sunni insurgents and tribal leaders and the Shia government,” Kagan wrote in The Weekly Standard. “Before the end of last year, there were virtually no Sunnis willing to step on that bridge. Now, five months into the surge, tens of thousands are walking on it.”


1038

this article doesn’t have anything directly to do with toxoplasma gondii, but it raises the question of why cats “domesticated themselves”, especially considering how prevalent toxoplasma gondii has become in human beings as a result of their interactions with cats… i’ve just got to wonder what the toxoplasma gondii microbe is really up to…

Why Do Cats Hang Around Us? (Hint: They Can’t Open Cans)
Genetic Research Suggests Felines ‘Domesticated Themselves’
June 29, 2007
By David Brown

Your hunch is correct. Your cat decided to live with you, not the other way around. The sad truth is, it may not be a final decision.

But don’t take this feline diffidence personally. It runs in the family. And it goes back a long way — about 12,000 years, actually.

Those are among the inescapable conclusions of a genetic study of the origins of the domestic cat, being published today in the journal Science.

The findings, drawn from an analysis of nearly 1,000 cats around the world, suggest that the ancestors of today’s tabbies, Persians and Siamese wandered into Near Eastern settlements at the dawn of agriculture. They were looking for food, not friendship. Continue reading 1038

1034

Exonerated defendant sues RIAA for malicious prosecution
June 25, 2007
By Eric Bangeman

Former RIAA target Tanya Andersen has sued several major record labels, the parent company of RIAA investigative arm MediaSentry, and the RIAA’s Settlement Support Center for malicious prosecution, a development first reported by P2P litigation attorney Ray Beckerman of Vandenberg & Feliu. Earlier this month, Andersen and the RIAA agreed to dismiss the case against her with prejudice, making her the prevailing party and eligible for attorneys fees.

The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the District of Oregon late last week and accuses the RIAA of a number of misdeeds, including invasion of privacy, libel and slander, and deceptive business practices.

Andersen is a disabled single mother residing in Oregon. In 2005, she was sued by the RIAA for file-sharing, accused of sharing a library of gangsta rap over Kazaa. She denied the allegations and filed a counterclaim alleging fraud, racketeering, and deceptive business practices by the record labels. Despite the lack of any evidence of infringement apart from an IP address, the RIAA continued to press ahead with the case until the abrupt dismissal earlier this month.

Andersen lays out an unsavory account of the music industry’s actions as it attempted to dig up evidence that she was guilty of infringement. Early on, an employee at the Settlement Support Center, the RIAA’s prelitigation collections agent, allegedly told Andersen that he believed she had not infringed any copyrights according to the complaint.

After the RIAA filed suit, Andersen’s complaint says that she provided the name, location, and phone number of the person she believed was behind the Kazaa account “gotenkito,” the account the RIAA accused her of using for copyright infringement. “Instead of dismissing their false claims, the defendant Record Companies persisted in their malicious prosecution of her they publicly libeled her with demanding and repulsive accusations [sic]” that she listened to misogynistic rap music according to the complaint.

The RIAA is also accused of trying to contact Andersen’s then eight-year-old daughter without her knowledge. “Knowing of her distress, the RIAA and its agents even attempted to directly contact Kylee,” reads the complaint. “They called Ms. Andersen’s apartment building looking for Kylee. Phone calls were also made to her former elementary school under false pretenses… Ms. Andersen learned of these tactics and was even more frightened and distressed.”

Andersen says that the RIAA acted negligently throughout the proceedings and engaged in fraud and negligent misrepresentation by demanding that she enter into a four-figure settlement for copyright infringement that she never engaged in. The RIAA is also accused of violating both federal and state RICO statutes, the intentional infliction of emotional distress, and  invasion of privacy. Andersen seeks statutory and punitive damages along with attorneys fees.

We explored the possibility of charging the RIAA with malicious prosecution last month. Attorney Rich Vasquez of Morgan Miller Blair told Ars Technica that he believed the RIAA could be vulnerable to such charges, but it would be an uphill battle to make them stick. Still, the complaint paints a very unflattering picture of the RIAA and its agents engaging in activity that was in many cases questionable and unethical at best.

The history of file-sharing litigation shows that Atlantic v. Andersen was not an isolated case of mistaken identity, and should Andersen get a favorable result here, other former defendants may follow her lead. That could lead to a potentially very costly class-action suit against the RIAA. “You’d have to have a lot of winners,” said Vasquez. “If you have enough people bringing charges of malicious prosecution, you could then show a pattern of practices on the part of the RIAA.”

The RIAA told Ars that it would have no comment on Andersen’s lawsuit.

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!

1024

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.

1018

blurdge

Anything is their carbonated soda which comes in six flavors: Cola with Lemon, Apple, Fizz Up, Cloudy Lemon and Root Beer. Whatever is non-carbonated teas that come in Ice Lemon, Peach, Jasmine Green Tea, White Grape, Apple, and Chrysanthemum Tea flavors, but the cans aren’t labeled beyond the names of ‘Anything’ and ‘Whatever’, so you truly don’t have a clue which flavor you are getting beforehand.

whatever… 8/

there are more bizarre drinks from japan including kimchee drink and mother’s milk.


Genuine Windows is Ubuntu

blurdge

Can cyborg moths bring down terrorists?
A moth which has a computer chip implanted in it while in the cocoon will enable soldiers to spy on insurgents, the US military hopes
May 24, 2007
By Jonathan Richards

At some point in the not too distant future, a moth will take flight in the hills of northern Pakistan, and flap towards a suspected terrorist training camp.

But this will be no ordinary moth.

Inside it will be a computer chip that was implanted when the creature was still a pupa, in the cocoon, meaning that the moth’s entire nervous system can be controlled remotely.

The moth will thus be capable of landing in the camp without arousing suspicion, all the while beaming video and other information back to its masters via what its developers refer to as a “reliable tissue-machine interface.”

The creation of insects whose flesh grows around computer parts – known from science fiction as ‘cyborgs’ – has been described as one of the most ambitious robotics projects ever conceived by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), the research and development arm of the US Department of Defense.

Rod Brooks, director of the computer science and artificial intelligence lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which is involved with the research, said that robotics was increasingly at the forefront of US military research, and that the remote-controlled moths, described by DARPA as Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems, or MEMS, were one of a number of technologies soon to be deployed in combat zones.

“This is going to happen,” said Mr Brooks. “It’s not science like developing the nuclear bomb, which costs billions of dollars. It can be done relatively cheaply.”

“Moths are creatures that need little food and can fly all kinds of places,” he continued. “A bunch of experiments have been done over the past couple of years where simple animals, such as rats and cockroaches, have been operated on and driven by joysticks, but this is the first time where the chip has been injected in the pupa stage and ‘grown’ inside it.

“Once the moth hatches, machine learning is used to control it.”

Mr Brooks, who has worked on robotic technology for more than 30 years and whose company iRobot already supplies the US military with robots that defuse explosive devices laid by insurgents, said that the military would be increasingly reliant on ‘semi-autonomous’ devices, including ones which could fire.

“The DoD has said it wants one third of all missions to be unmanned by 2015, and there’s no doubt their things will become weaponised, so the question comes: should they given targeting authority?

“The prevailing view in the army at the moment seems to be that they shouldn’t, but perhaps it’s time to consider updating treaties like the Geneva Convention to include clauses which regulate their use.”

Debates such as those over stem cell research would “pale in comparison” to the increasingly blurred distinction between creatures – including humans – and machines, Mr Brooks, told an audience at the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics and Computer Science.

“Biological engineering is coming. There are already more than 100,000 people with cochlear implants, which have a direct neural connection, and chips are being inserted in people’s retinas to combat macular degeneration. By the 2012 Olympics, we’re going to be dealing with systems which can aid the oxygen uptake of athletes.

“There’s going to be more and more technology in our bodies, and to stomp on all this technology and try to prevent it happening is just? well, there’s going to be a lot of moral debates,” he said.

Another robot developed as part of the US military’s ‘Future Combat Systems’ program was a small, unmanned vehicle known as a SUGV (pronounced ‘sug-vee’) which could be dispatched in front of troops to gauge the threat in an urban environment, Mr Brooks said.

The 13.6kg device, which measures less than a metre squared and can survive a drop of 10m onto concrete, has a small ‘head’ with infra-red and regular cameras which send information back to a command unit, as well as an audio-sensing feature called ‘Red Owl’ which can determine the direction from which enemy fire originates.

“It’s designed to be the troop’s eyes and ears and, unlike one of its predecessors, this one can swim, too,” Mr Brooks said.


1016

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.