Monday, October 31, 2005


The mayor and city council of Newark, New Jersey "hired a fledging newspaper called Newark Weekly News to publish 'positive news' about the city - and will pay $100,000 over the next year for it." The no-bid contract specifies that the paper will "generate stories based on leads" from the mayor's spokesperson and city communications staff. A senior scholar at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies said, "If you are publishing government propaganda in the guise of neutral, detached reporting, that's about as unethical as you can get." Rutgers University journalism department chair John Pavlik told the New York Times that the arrangement was "fake news."

Guarding the Guardian

The most recent SF Weekly printed a letter from yours truly regarding the slide toward corporate uniformity prevalent in the "alternative weekly" newspaper circle recently (see: Village Voice and New Times Publishing). That they used to be known as "underground" papers seems to be lost on the young journalists working for them in the Bush II age. --Pete

Here 'tis:

Regarding your full-page ad disparaging the venerable San Francisco Bay Guardian, questioning whether I and other readers were insulted, the answer is emphatically, "Yes!" I will no longer read SF Weekly, where the inexorable slide toward corporate journalistic mediocrity appears to be complete. As far as your conspiracy-theory accusations are concerned, don't you think you should have hung them on something other than the Guardian's stellar PG&E monopoly reporting?

Good luck shilling for the man.

By the way, I will miss Katy St. Clair -- the only reason left to read your corporate rag.

Peter Stanislaw
San Jose (not a permanent link - look to archived letters 10/26 after 11/02)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Friday, October 28, 2005

Saved Premillenialist Christians Shouldn't Drive

From Stay Free Daily

I'm sure everyone here has been driving and seen the bumper sticker that reads "In case of Rapture, car will be unmanned." While this never fails to inspire some very action-movie style daydreams and exciting video game premises, it also brings up a far more practical issue: should saved Christians be allowed to drive?

One would think that, if we don't grant driver's licences to narcoleptics, epileptics, or other people who may, at random, lose all control of their careening vehicle, we sure as hell won't grant a license to someone who may just up and disappear without warning. But, this never seems to come up.

That fundamentalist, evangelical, end-times-anticipating Christians seek to create or alter legislation to support their beliefs is not exactly news. And, of course, it's well within their rights to petition and badger and seek to achieve their goals of teaching religious pseudoscience in schools, or keeping gay people from marrying, and so on-- but it seems to me that if they are really going to be forthright in their goals of altering the laws of the United States to fit their theology, they can't just pick and choose the laws they want. To really be taken seriously, they need to go all the way, to do the right thing and press for legislation stipulating that anyone who has accepted Jesus Christ into their hearts cannot safely pilot a motorized vehicle or similar heavy machinery.

I'm willing also to consider legislation that would provide for them the right to pilot small, possibly electric city-cars that are speed-limited to 25 MPH, contain adequate warning lights and signage, and, upon detection of loss of driver (via a simple switch in the seat that disengages when the driver is raptured away) sounds a warning klaxon as it slowly comes to a safe, controlled stop under automatic control.

So, saved Premillenialist Christians, here's my challenge to you: go all the way. Fight for what you want in our schools, our hospitals, our public places, but stick to your beliefs on our highways as well. I mean, that's what being a fundamentalist is all about, right?

Boortz suggested that Katrina victim turn to prostitution

On the October 24 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio program, Neal Boortz suggested that a victim of Hurricane Katrina currently housed in an Atlanta hotel consider prostitution. "If that's the only way she can take care of herself," Boortz posited, "it sure beats the hell out of sucking off the taxpayers." The woman was featured in an October 23 Atlanta Journal-Constitution article; Boortz repeated her first name on the air.

From the October 24 edition of Cox Radio Syndication's The Neal Boortz Show:

BOORTZ: Somebody just put a story in front of me. Let me tell you, aside from the looters, one of the things I was talking about earlier this morning was a huge article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which is a left-wing rag, about Hurricane Katrina evacuees in a hotel in Atlanta. Her name -- the female is Rolanda. She has a 1-year-old baby and her boyfriend, who apparently likes to lounge around on the bed without a shirt on. Well, at least that was the picture in the newspaper. And the whole story was about how worried Rolanda is that she'll be kicked out of her taxpayer-paid hotel room. She might get kicked out. I mean, it says right here, "Rolanda is worried about being evicted from the hotel. She says, 'We have a place to stay. We have food. The only worry is how long it will last.'" That's all she's worried about, the only worry. And it goes through the whole article here talking about how fed up Rolanda is with FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] and how she spends all this time on a computer looking for more free housing. Not one mention in the entire story anywhere about the "W" word, W-O-R-K, work, job. I dare say she could walk out of that hotel and walk 100 yards in either direction on Fulton Industrial Boulevard [the street on which the hotel is located] here in Atlanta and have a job. What's that? Well, no, no, no --

ROYAL MARSHALL (Atlanta radio host and former engineer of Boortz's show): Watch out, Neal. Those people who know Fulton Industrial Boulevard think you might be suggesting something a little risqué.

BOORTZ: Well, that's true. Well, you know what? [laughing] Now that you mention it --

MARSHALL: That's not the way.

BOORTZ: If that's the only way she can take care of herself, it sure beats the hell out of sucking off the taxpayers.
MARSHALL: Watch out, man. It's the same thing, technically.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Shadow Governments and Armed Imperial Isolationists

Excerpted from

Now, here we are. So call me prescient or, less charitably, chalk it up to the fact that, if you say anything over and over, sooner or later it may come true. Already we have the first front-page tabloid report -- in the New York Daily News -- on a President (whose reigning adjectives not so long ago were "resolute" and "steady") beginning to unravel. Under the headline, Bushies Feeling the Boss's Wrath, Thomas DeFrank, that paper's Washington Bureau Chief, wrote, "Facing the darkest days of his presidency, President Bush is frustrated, sometimes angry and even bitter, his associates say… ‘This is not some manager at McDonald's chewing out the help,' said a source with close ties to the White House when told about these outbursts. ‘This is the President of the United States, and it's not a pleasant sight.'… Presidential advisers and friends say Bush is a mass of contradictions: cheerful and serene, peevish and melancholy, occasionally lapsing into what he once derided as the ‘blame game.'" Frankly, the description already has a touch of Richard Nixon (as his presidency delaminated after Watergate finally hit).

If you want to understand the present moment, however, it's important to grasp one major difference between the Nixon years and today. In the early 1970s, Richard Nixon had to compete, elbows flying, for face and space time in what we now call the mainstream media. There wasn't any other game in town. (For instance, I suspect that if the secret history of the first op-ed page, which made its appearance in the New York Times in 1970, was ever written, its purpose would turn out to have been to give the hard-charging Nixon administration a space in the liberal paper of record where Vice President Spiro Agnew and other administration supporters could sound off from time to time.)

George Bush arrived at a very different media moment. From Rush Limbaugh and Sinclair Broadcasting to Fox News, the Washington Times, and the Weekly Standard, he had his own media already in place -- a full spectrum of outlets including TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, and publishing houses. As for the rest of the media, his task, unlike Nixon's, wasn't to compete for space, but to pacify, sideline, and, if need be, punish. In this sense, no administration has been less giving of actual news or more obviously tried to pay less attention to major media outlets. The President was proud to say that he didn't even read or watch such outlets. His was a shock-and-awe policy and, from September 12, 2001 to last spring, it was remarkably successful.

Article Here...

The Two-Way Squeeze

[from the December 24, 1955 issue of The Nation]

Editor's Note: Rosa Parks died October 25 at the age of 92, a quiet woman whose refusal to move to the back of a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, helped change the course of history. She is not identified by name in this editorial from the December 24, 1955, edition of The Nation. But her quiet purposefulness, along with the thousands of others who participated in the Montgomery bus boycott, bears eloquent witness to the power of the protest.

The "economic pressure" that is the stock in trade of the White Citizens Councils can be a two-way squeeze--especially in those sectors of the South where Negroes, by their labor and by their spending, provide so much of the economy's life-blood. However menial their jobs, however small their individual purchasing power, if all the Negroes of a Deep South town or county were to stay home for even one day, that area would be paralyzed.

In Montgomery, Alabama, recently an impressive demonstration of this latest strength occurred when the Negro community--some 40,000 strong--declared a boycott against the city bus lines. The incident provoking the ban was the arrest of a seamstress who refused to give up her seat at the order of a driver. The driver testified that he had twenty-two Negro passengers and fourteen whites in his thirty-six-seat bus, and he ordered the woman and others to move back to "equalize" the seating.

Such incidents have been all too frequent in "the Cradle of the Confederacy": last summer a fourteen-year-old Negro girl was dragged off a bus by three policemen and taken in handcuffs to jail because of a refusal to relinquish her place to a white man. A bus driver left his vehicle to beat up a mentally deficient Negro who had "bothered" him from the sidewalk. Drivers have been said to carry guns in their cash boxes to "settle" disputes about transfers and change-making. Because of the stored-up resentment these caused, no organization or leader can be said to have inspired the boycott. ''The leaders were led," said one Negro minister. "It was a vertical thing, sweeping through all our people. It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen, and the most heartening."

On the first day of-the boycott, December 5, motorcycle police escorted buses on their routes and patrolmen were stationed at major stops. But the buses rolled along, as empty as husks, while long lines of Negro workers trudged with quiet purposefulness to their jobs. Parents formed car pools to get their children to school. The Negro taxicab companies offered a special rate of a dime a person to any place in the city. Bus-line officials admitted that the boycott was 95 per cent effective.

That same day, the arrested woman was convicted and fined $14. Her attorneys announced their intention to appeal the verdict with a clear view toward getting a federal ruling on the constitutionality of segregation in intrastate transportation. That night 5,000 Negroes overflowed the auditorium and lawn of a church and voted to continue the boycott until the bus line agreed to halt the "intimidation, embarrassment and coercion" of Negro patrons.

This dramatic display of unity may well inspire the Negro residents of other Southern cities to similar action. But whether it does or not, most observers agree that it has severely discouraged the White Citizens Council's recruiting drive in Montgomery.

Fire Truck! Fire Truck! Fire Truck!

Satire from The Onion (I nearly died laughing!--Pete)

Look, out the window! A fire truck! I've seen drawings of fire trucks in my picture books, of course, but how could I have ever known how pale and insignificant those crude representations were in comparison to the real thing! Fire truck! Oh, great God in heaven, fire truck! This has got to be the most moving of mankind's creations, and perhaps of nature's, as well.

This whirlwind of sensory input is almost more than my tiny mind can process! Mere words cannot begin to convey what I am feeling! This incredible, life-changing, soul-shattering wonder is... Why, it is beyond description!

Run! Run to the window as fast as your giant legs can carry you! Whatever you are doing right now, place it aside for a moment—it can't possibly be as important as the opportunity to see a fire truck with your own eyes.

This is quite possibly the greatest experience of my life thus far.

How do I even begin to describe its magnificence? First off, it is big—bigger than anything I could ever imagine! Secondly, it's painted an incredible, alarming, eye-catching red! Thirdly, it makes the most attention-grabbing sounds: whistles, bangs, gearshifts, bells. And that siren! Of all the noises, the siren is surely the best! I wonder if, somehow—but no, surely not—unless... Well, could I? Could I possibly? EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE... No, that's not right: It's high-pitched enough, but missing some crucial... OOOOOOOOOO... No, again, it's got the booming quality, but lacks the screechingly irritating aspect of the higher register. Wait! What if I combine the two, in an alternating series of high- and low-frequency modulations, and belt it out at the top of my lungs? EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-OOOOOOOOO,EEEEEEEEEEEEE-OOOOOOOOO! That's it! That's the same noise that the fire truck is making! EEEEEEEEEEEEE-OOOOOOOOOOOO, EEEEEEEEEEEEEE-OOOOOOOO! EEEEEEEEEEEE-OOOOOOOOOOOOO, EEEEEEEEE-OOOOOOOO! Oh, God. I could make this noise all day! I never want to do anything else!

And now—am I really seeing this? It can't be! Surely there are not colorfully dressed men with powerful bodies, brave expressions, and purposeful toolbelts hanging off the side of the fire truck as it careens around the corner! If this is a dream, let me never wake. Look at their hats! They have the most wonderful hats ever made! I must acquire a child-sized version of such a hat! They are the most large and most yellow hats I have ever seen.

That's it: My fate in this life is sealed. I must become one of these men. Nothing will ever sway me from this goal.

But what a spectacle it is! You must come and look upon this immediately! This fire truck is blowing my mind. It is as if God Himself has created this piece of machinery just for me! But it will not be here long. It is driving away. It grows quieter and quieter as it recedes from my visual field and...

It is gone. It was only here for one fleeting moment, and you never even saw it. This is the greatest tragedy that has ever occurred. My faith in the universe is shaken to its core by the magnitude of what you have missed. If only you had listened to me. You may never be able to comprehend my experience, for I have seen the fire truck, and I will never think about anything else again as long as I live.

Huh? What is... Why... Afgh! Airplane! Airplane! Mommy! Airplane! Don't bother with those towels! Don't you see? Look! There is an actual airplane in the sky!

Former Powell Aide Says Bush Policy Is Run by 'Cabal'

October 21, 2005
Article Here...

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 - Secretary of State Colin Powell's former chief of staff has offered a remarkably blunt criticism of the administration he served, saying that foreign policy had been usurped by a "Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal," and that President Bush has made the country more vulnerable, not less, to future crises.

The comments came in a speech Wednesday by Lawrence Wilkerson, who worked for Mr. Powell at the State Department from 2001 to early 2005. Speaking to the New America Foundation, an independent public-policy institute in Washington, Mr. Wilkerson suggested that secrecy, arrogance and internal feuding had taken a heavy toll in the Bush administration, skewing its policies and undercutting its ability to handle crises.

"I would say that we have courted disaster, in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran, generally with regard to domestic crises like Katrina, Rita - and I could go on back," he said. "We haven't done very well on anything like that in a long time."

Mr. Wilkerson suggested that the dysfunction within the administration was so grave that "if something comes along that is truly serious, truly serious, something like a nuclear weapon going off in a major American city, or something like a major pandemic, you are going to see the ineptitude of this government in a way that will take you back to the Declaration of Independence."

Mr. Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel and former director of the Marine Corps War College, said that in his years in or close to government, he had seen its national security apparatus twisted in many ways. But what he saw in Mr. Bush's first term "was a case that I have never seen in my studies of aberration, bastardizations" and "perturbations."

"What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues," he said.

The former aide referred to Mr. Bush as someone who "is not versed in international relations, and not too much interested in them, either." He was far more admiring of the president's father, whom he called "one of the finest presidents we've ever had."

Mr. Wilkerson has long been considered a close confidant of Mr. Powell, but their relationship has apparently grown strained at times - including over the question of unconventional weapons in Iraq - and the former colonel said Mr. Powell did not approve of his latest public criticisms.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Iraq vote was a fraud (video)

By Evan Derkacz
Posted on October 25, 2005

Draft Constitution Adopted by Iraq Voters was the top headline on Google news this morning. This is the first draft of history. And it has an air bubble in it.


Veteran ABC News Correspondent Martha Raddatz covered the Iraq constitutional referendum and was a witness to voter fraud [VIDEO -- big thanks to eagle-eyed Peek reader Ed Schwing for the tip].

On PBS' Washington Week Raddatz recounted her experience of going to a Sunni neighborhood and witnessing numerous voters come out to proudly register their opposition to the constitution.

At one polling place, however, she watches as an Iraqi voter fills out seven cards in support of the constitution. According to her, he was by no means the only case. Just the only one during their 20 minute stay.

Yet she still refers to it as irregularities: "There are some irregularities and I can tell you right now, I witnessed them."

Here's how PBS introduces a segment that includes a veteran mainstream media professional who directly witnessed (and recorded on camera) vote fraud:

Administration Awaits Iraq Election Results

The outcome of Iraq's constitutional referendum was uncertain due to accusations of voter fraud, but the next steps to building the new government hinge on the constitution's success.

Oh, just accusations... There are nearly always accusations of voter fraud. One would think this eyewitness account would constitute (sorry, I'm working on the puns...) a gen-u-ine scoop. A broadcast to hang your hat -- not to mention some sexy promos -- on.

Nope. Just allegations. And no need to wait for the consequences of "burying the lead." Here's the first line of today's AP report: "Iraq's landmark constitution was adopted by a majority in a fair vote..."

The Sunnis will be very happy and the insurgency will be over any day now.

Evan Derkacz is a New York-based writer and contributor to AlterNet.

© 2005 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Texas Court Issues Arrest Warrant for DeLay

By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 19, 2005; 5:09 PM

A Texas court today issued an arrest warrant for Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), the powerful former House majority leader, ordering him to appear for booking at a county jail in his home district.

The court in Travis County, Tex., set bail for DeLay at $10,000, and a lawyer for the embattled congressman said it would be posted.

Dick DeGuerin, the lead counsel on DeLay's defense team, said the arrest warrant was "a matter of routine," the Associated Press reported.

However, the defense reportedly had hoped to avoid submitting DeLay, formerly the second-ranking Republican leader in the House, to the fingerprinting and mug shot photography that accompanies a formal arrest.

The procedure was required before DeLay makes his first court appearance Friday on conspiracy and money laundering charges in connection with an allegedly illegal campaign financing scheme.

Officially called a "writ of capias," the arrest warrant was a "purely procedural event," but it would require DeLay to surrender to authorities to be fingerprinted and photographed, Travis County Grand Jury Clerk Linda Estrada said, according to Reuters news agency.

A spokesman for DeLay, Kevin Madden, said this was "standard operating procedure" and came as no surprise to defense attorneys.

DeLay was ordered to show up for booking at the Fort Bend County jail in the Houston metropolitan area. It was not immediately clear when he would do so.

A Texas grand jury indicted DeLay Sept. 28 on a criminal count of conspiring with two political associates to violate state campaign finance law. The indictment prompted DeLay to announce that he was temporarily stepping down as House majority leader in accordance with GOP rules.

DeLay denounced the charge against him as "reckless," and he accused the Democratic district attorney prosecuting the case, Ronnie Earle, of being "an unabashed partisan zealot" out to avenge political defeats in Texas.

The indictment, issued on the last day of the grand jury's term, accused DeLay of criminally conspiring to inject illegal corporate contributions into 2002 state elections that ultimately helped the Republican Party redraw congressional boundaries in Texas, leading to victories in the 2004 elections that cemented GOP control of the House of Representatives in Washington. At issue are corporate campaign contributions totaling $190,000 that prosecutors say were illegally channeled through the Republican National Committee for distribution to GOP candidates for the state legislature. Under Texas law, it is illegal to use corporate funds to elect state candidates.

DeLay was accused of conspiring with two associates: John D. Colyandro, the former executive director of a political action committee in Texas that was formed by DeLay, and James W. Ellis, the head of DeLay's national political committee. Colyandro and Ellis had previously been charged in an indictment that did not name DeLay.

Earle obtained a new indictment on Oct. 3 from another grand jury accusing DeLay of money laundering as part of the campaign financing scheme.

DeLay's attorneys filed a motion to quash the indictment on grounds of "prosecutorial misconduct" by Earle. The motion asserted that Earle's original conspiracy indictment charged DeLay with "a crime that did not exist in Texas law." As a result, it said, Earle then "unlawfully" engaged in an "irregular and desperate attempt" to obtain a substitute indictment for money laundering before a statute of limitations ran out on Oct. 3.

The Fix Is In

Grand jury indictments for some of Bush's closest collaborators?

by Chris Floyd

October 20, 2005
Moscow Times

Having railed at the wanton criminality of the Bush faction for so long, this column naturally partakes of the general glee arising from the looming possibility of genuine, grade-A grand jury indictments for some of the gang's top thugs.

Of course, we all know that the fix is in: If anyone in the White House is actually indicted and convicted for the high crime of exposing the identity of an undercover agent -- in wartime, no less -- they will certainly be pardoned when George W. Bush finally limps away from the steaming, stinking, blood-soaked ruin of his presidency. Nobody will do any hard time; in the end, the whole sick crew will simply pass through the golden revolving door into the lifetime gravy train of corporate grease and right-wing lecture-circuit glory.

Still, it is heartening to see the fever-sweat of fear popping out on the brows of these swaggering world-shakers, these third-rate goons and half-wit cranks posing as great statesmen, if only for a little while. Fear has always been their weapon of choice: They've used it to foment aggressive war, to crush political opposition, to manipulate the electorate and to mask their own incompetence, corruption and greed. Now they're getting a taste of it themselves -- and they can't take it.

You can see it in their darting eyes, the twitches and fidgets: the fear, the nagging worry that perhaps, just perhaps, they haven't got it all nailed down this time; that perhaps, just perhaps, the law is something more than a fancy cane to beat the poor with; that it might, just might, apply to them as well. The sight of Bush's porky puppetmaster, Karl Rove, tottering out of his fourth grand jury appearance last week, with the shadow of manacles dangling before his pinched, bloated face, was an image to warm the cockles of every American patriot's heart.

But this schadenfruede, however tasty and effervescent, is no substitute for the strong meat of justice. And even in the unlikely -- not to say inconceivable -- event that the entire pack of jackals gets herded into the hoosegow for the agent-outing conspiracy, it will not bring back the innocent dead murdered at their command. It will not restore the shattered families writhing in the pits of grief and loss, from Baghdad to Burbank. It will not be recompense for the pointless sacrifice of soldiers and reservists sent on a criminal errand, plunged into a brutal and brutalizing hell -- for nothing, for a chimera, for ideological lunacy, for the enrichment of cats already so fat they can barely stand up and waddle to the dish for another slurp of cream.

Not unless every one of the war conspirators and their chief minions -- Bush, Rove, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz, Condi Rice, Scooter Libby, Andrew Card, Douglas Feith, John Bolton, Karen Hughes, John Yoo, Zalmay Khalilzad, George Tenet, Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee, Stephen Hadley, Jerry Bremer, Nicholas Calio, Richard Perle, Tony Blair and all the rest -- were lined up in the public square with the entrails of their victims draped around their necks would anything approaching justice be done. But as Shakespeare told us long ago, "in the corrupted currents of this world, offence's gilded hand may shove by justice, and oft 'tis seen the wicked prize itself buys out the law."

For while official Washington strains to read the special prosecutor's tea leaves, Bush's war crime grinds on. Last weekend saw the "passage" of the much-ballyhooed Iraqi constitution -- a desperately thrown-together rigamarole that quietly preserves the special privileges for Bush's business cronies imposed by the former satrap, Bremer, while exacerbating the violent ethnic rivalries that Bush has unleashed across the tortured land.

This "victory for democracy" -- achieved, in typical Bushist fashion, through outrageously rigged vote counts, as The New York Times reports -- is in fact a blueprint for disaster. The Kurds will accelerate their U.S.-backed "ethnic cleansing" of the oil-rich north, while the Iranian-backed Shiite militias in the oil-rich south will accelerate their already murderous imposition of Talibanic religious rule. The once-dominant Sunni Arab minority, now marginalized and impoverished, will swell the ranks of the growing insurgency, as Baghdad and the nation's central provinces plunge further into Somali-style anarchy. Terrorist freebooters, set loose in the one of the world's most strategic locations by Bush's destruction of the Iraqi state, will thrive in the chaos.

With no chance for the deliberately enfeebled central Iraqi government to take responsibility for the nation's security, U.S. forces will remain knee-deep in the quagmire, killing and being killed without rhyme or reason -- or hope of escape. Indeed, Bush is already signaling "a longer, broader conflict" in his speeches on the war, The New York Times reports. There is no "exit strategy" because Bush has never intended to leave. The installation of a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq has been the war conspirators' loudly proclaimed goal for many years, long before Bush was shoehorned into power -- as we have noted here incessantly since 2002, citing chapter and verse from their own publications.

This is why they lied their way into war, this is why they outed a CIA agent whose husband exposed one of their lies: to pursue their dream of "global dominance," of endless war profiteering and oil baksheesh. The prosecutor might give them a pinch, but the damage is already done: The dead will stay dead, the maimed will stay maimed, the tortured will never escape their nightmares. And the killing, the wounding and torment will go on.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

SPJ Undercuts First Amendment With Miller Award


The Society of Professional Journalists' decision to give its prestigious "First Amendment Award" to embattled New York Times reporter Judith Miller is a blow to freedom of expression. By rewarding a reporter who was apparently collaborating with and protecting a powerful official in an effort to punish the free speech of a government critic, the SPJ is undermining, not advancing, the principles of the First Amendment.

The award, coming two days after details of Miller's involvement in the CIA leak story and her grand jury testimony were revealed by the New York Times (10/16/05), was defended by SPJ board member Mac McKerral, who told Editor & Publisher (10/17/05), "It's not a lifetime achievement award.... I could understand people being upset if we were recognizing her work over a period of time, but this is an award for being willing to not reveal a source, willing to spend so many days in jail, and that is how we distinguish it…. Issues raised in the past couple of days really had no bearing on the award."

But why wouldn't new information about the case be relevant to a journalism group? For months, Miller claimed a journalistic privilege to protect Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis Libby. Miller would eventually tell the grand jury that Libby had identified Valerie Plame Wilson--the wife of White House critic and former Ambassador Joseph Wilson--as a CIA employee (New York Times, 10/16/05). Miller seemed to have little doubt about what motivated this disclosure: Asked why she agreed to Libby's request to identify him only as a "former Hill staffer," Miller told the grand jury, "I assumed Mr. Libby did not want the White House to be seen as attacking Mr. Wilson."

In other words, Miller understood that Libby was not a whistleblower but was someone out to punish a government critic. Not only was it unethical for her to agree to identify Libby in a misleading way, but promising him any kind of anonymity in this case violated the Times' rules against allowing unnamed sources to make partisan attacks.

SPJ's case rests on the belief that Miller was not wavering on the principle of not revealing a confidential source. But Miller's refusal to testify doesn't in the end seem as principled as either she or her paper originally claimed--which is the whole reason SPJ deemed her worthy of an award. Instead, the Times' October 16 report suggests that Miller was seeking a suitable waiver from Libby all along, and eventually based her decision not to testify in part on the feeling that she would harm Libby if she testified:

Once Ms. Miller was issued a subpoena in August 2004 to testify about her conversations with Mr. Libby, she and The Times vowed to fight it. Behind the scenes, however, her lawyer made inquiries to see if Mr. Libby would release her from their confidentiality agreement. Ms. Miller said she decided not to testify in part because she thought that Mr. Libby's lawyer might be signaling to keep her quiet unless she would exonerate his client.

The form that "signaling" took, according to Miller, was Libby's explaining that he had testified about their conversations in ways that in Miller's view were false. In other words, she refused to testify because she didn't want to expose her friend as a perjurer. Is this really a journalist that SPJ wants to hold up as an example to others?

There is much that is inexplicable and contradictory in Miller's account of her behavior. But even taking her story at face value, she is a reporter who violated the standards of professional journalism to work with a top White House official to get revenge on a government critic--and then declined to testify to protect him from the criminal consequences of his lies. This context has an obvious bearing on Miller’s qualifications for an award celebrating freedom of expression.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Some Neighborhoods Rebuild, But Part of Lower 9th Remains Off-limits

by Jessica Azulay, NewStandard

After traveling hundreds of miles to see their flood-ravaged homes, some New Orleans residents found themselves locked out of their neighborhood, which they say has been maligned and targeted by elites with ulterior motives.

Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans, Oct 17 - As residents of New Orleans's Lower Ninth Ward trickled into their neighborhood this week at what they thought was the behest of city authorities, the National Guard set up checkpoints along Claiborne Avenue and blocked many from reaching their homes on the northern side of the heavily damaged area.

Frustrated residents – many who had traveled hours last week to finally see what had become of their homes – milled from blocked intersection to blocked intersection, pleading with soldiers to let them through. For the most part, the guards stood their ground, telling angry flood survivors that the area was still too dangerous to enter.

But for many who waited over a month to see if there is anything of their former lives to salvage, to show insurance adjusters proof of damage, or simply to find closure so they can begin to rebuild their lives, the roadblocks symbolized just one more insult from a city they increasingly feel is trying to push them out.

"I want somebody to explain to me, Mr. Mayor, or somebody who's in control, what's really going on," said Doretha Broomfield, a Lower Ninth Ward resident who drove from Cheneyville, Louisiana to inspect her home. "Why can't we go see our property? I would love to have some closure… I know there's nothing there, but I just want to stand there and look."

Addressing Mayor C. Ray Nagin, she said: "I've been in that house at 2607 Tennessee [for] 38 years, Mr. Mayor, 38 years, I raised my kids in that house; my memories are there. I can't go inside the building because it's no longer there. I can't collect memorabilia. There's nothing there for me, but I do want to go in there. It's my right. It's my land."

Ethel Mitchell, who drove 18 hours from North Carolina in order to show her flood-insurance adjuster her house, was also incensed. "I think it's ridiculous that they announce all over the country that the Lower Ninth Ward is going to be open for inspection and then you come all these many miles and they won't let you back in there just to view your house," she said. "It's no different… than it is out here and they claim that it's all toxic back there," she continued, pointing first to the areas that were open to traffic and then down the street past the National Guard checkpoint.

The rules and the reasons for denying people passage beyond Claiborne varied depending on which checkpoint soldiers were asked. Most were allowing insurance inspectors, contractors and government workers past the checkpoints, but denying residents and press.

Some soldiers told residents the area was toxic. Others said people could not enter because there was too much unstable debris. Still others said that the search for bodies had not concluded and that authorities did not want people finding the dead in their homes.

But residents expressed deep skepticism, fueled by suspicion that the government was using Katrina's devastation to obliterate this historic neighborhood in the interest of industry.

"They are going to figure out a way how to get all these people out this area to open up that canal and build a bigger port in there, and this is their opportunity for them to do that," said Anthony Jones, Mitchell's bother. "This is going to be an industry area; they've been trying [to make it so] for years."

Most Lower Ninth Ward residents who spoke to The NewStandard said they believed the levees had been intentionally destroyed – either by dynamite, barges or neglect – in order to divert flood waters from richer neighborhoods. Decades of hostility from the rest of the city and the memory that the government blew up a levee in 1927 to save parts of New Orleans at the expense of poorer areas contribute to the belief.

Residents were also quick to counter what they saw as the unscrupulous media portrayal of their neighborhood as a high-crime, poverty-stricken area.

Tanya Harris, an organizer with national low-income advocacy group ACORN, whose house sat out of reach beyond the checkpoints, emphasized that her neighborhood was known for its high number of grassroots and civic organizations organizing to improve life for residents of the area.

The Lower Ninth Ward is also known as the seat of black home ownership in the area, with a 59 percent owner-occupancy rate. That rate far outstrips the owner-occupancy rate of Orleans Parish as a whole, which stands at just over 46 percent.

It is this investment in the community by its own occupants, and resistance against projects like the Army Corps of Engineers' Canal Expansion project, that residents believe makes it a target for mass removal.

"It's bullshit; it's double talk," said Harris of the excuses she'd heard all day from soldiers. She pointed out that the streets in the unrestricted area were not completely cleared of debris either and pointed down the apparently equally navigable streets visible on the other side of the checkpoints.

She also expressed doubt that the EPA had declared the area was toxic, as many of the soldiers claimed. Later, Colonel Jerry Sneed, who was on sight representing the Louisiana Department of Homeland Security, told The NewStandard that the EPA had told him it was safe for people to be there.

In fact, the EPA has said little about much of New Orleans and the actual toxicity levels in the Lower Ninth Ward are not yet fully known. But to Harris, Sneed's statement confirmed her suspicions that soldiers were lying in order to keep her away from her home. Harris is adamant the she and others will live in their neighborhoods and take up their various struggles again.

"We had started so many different projects to boost the Lower Ninth," she said. "It's like we had one step forward and this has brought us ten steps back, and it's like, What do we do now?"

She continued: "I'm not prepared to give up; I'm not prepared to leave. People will return – just like they did before, they will return, I believe that wholeheartedly. I know I'm coming back, my family's coming back. There's no way that we're going to leave the Lower Ninth."

In the end, some residents were able to convince police or other official personnel to drive them into the area to see their homes, but the lucky ones were a minority. Most languished in frustration.

© 2005 The NewStandard

Friday, October 14, 2005

Martial Law In US?

Has the monumental silence from the public and the media in the wake of the President's comments about changing the Posse Comitatus Act so that the executive branch could order the use of the military for search and rescue, enforcing flu quarantines, confiscating privately-owned weapons, and generally erecting a totalitarian state frightened anyone as much as it has me?

Why is no one telling this megalomaniac "NO!"? Why is no one besides the alternative media saying anything at all?

Do you think it's because he resonates so well with their "moral values" (yeah, right!)? More likely it's because people are scared to speak up for fear of reprisal.

Good God, spare us from this arrogant, dangerous man...


Bush Teleconference With Soldiers Staged

President Bush Teleconference With U.S. Troops Was Choreographed to Match His Goals for Iraq War
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - It was billed as a conversation with U.S. troops, but the questions President Bush asked on a teleconference call Thursday were choreographed to match his goals for the war in Iraq and Saturday's vote on a new Iraqi constitution.

"This is an important time," Allison Barber, deputy assistant defense secretary, said, coaching the soldiers before Bush arrived. "The president is looking forward to having just a conversation with you."

Barber said the president was interested in three topics: the overall security situation in Iraq, security preparations for the weekend vote and efforts to train Iraqi troops.

Before he took questions, Bush thanked the soldiers for serving and reassured them that the U.S. would not pull out of Iraq until the mission was complete.

"So long as I'm the president, we're never going to back down, we're never going to give in, we'll never accept anything less than total victory," Bush said.

The president told them twice that the American people were behind them.

"You've got tremendous support here at home," Bush said.

Less than 40 percent in an AP-Ipsos poll taken in October said they approved of the way Bush was handling Iraq. Just over half of the public now say the Iraq war was a mistake.

Paul Rieckhoff, director of the New York-based Operation Truth, an advocacy group for U.S. veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, denounced the event as a "carefully scripted publicity stunt." Five of the 10 U.S. troops involved were officers, he said.
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"If he wants the real opinions of the troops, he can't do it in a nationally televised teleconference," Rieckhoff said. "He needs to be talking to the boots on the ground and that's not a bunch of captains."


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Poll: Lying on Iraq as an impeachable offense

Congress should consider impeaching President Bush if he lied about his reasons for going to war in Iraq, according to half of the Americans surveyed in a recent poll.

The poll, commissioned by the After Downing Street Coalition, a loose aggregation of antiwar, Democratic and progressive groups, was conducted by the nonpartisan firm Ipsos Public Affairs U.S.

Here's how the question was put: "If President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should consider holding him accountable by impeaching him." Fifty percent of the 1,001 Americans surveyed agreed with that statement, while 44 percent disagreed; 6 percent said they didn't know or declined to answer. The breakdown was not entirely on partisan lines. Twenty percent of Republicans surveyed agreed with the statement, as did 72 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of independents.

Last June, a similar poll conducted by Zogby International found that 42 percent of those surveyed supported impeachment. As the death toll for American troops in Iraq approaches 2,000 and Bush's sorry approval ratings sag, maybe the "I" word can finally be spoken. Not that it's likely to be heeded in the Republican-controlled House and Senate, where not a single Democrat dares utter the word.

-- Katharine Mieszkowski, Salon

Thurston Howell's Island?

I figured that the repercussions from the eminent domain decision in Kelo would be extreme but I didn't think that they would devolve into parody so quickly. Riviera Beach, Florida is talking about using eminent domain on up to 2,000 homes (6,000 people) to build a yacht club. Once again, life imitates The Onion.

Taxes blah blah jobs blah blah - once again eminent domain is going to be used to take private property from poor people to give it to rich people because it will make things better for, um, the people who happen not to live in the footprint of the new development? The Mayor? I don't know exactly who it is supposed to benefit, but I do know that there is no fucking way that a yacht club is a public fucking service.

(Via Metafilter)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

While we're talking about people like our president, who invoke God to justify their policies and actions, our friend, Thomas McCullock, at, forwards a great piece by Doug Thompson at Capitol Hill Blue.

In his post, titled The Ghost of Joe McCarthy , Doug makes apt comparisons between the “Red Scare” days of Joe McCarthy and the current terrorist-scare days. He also talks about Bush's unfortunate tendency to tell the world that God made him do it:

"A fundamentalist Christian President who claims God told him to invade Iraq – an act that killed more than 150,000 civilians, mostly women and children – is not that much different from a fundamentalist Islamic fanatic who claims it is the will of Allah that he send young men to America to crash airliners into office buildings and kill 3,000 plus.

"Both are extremists. Both are fanatics. Both use religion as an excuse to kill people. The only real difference is that one has heavy artillery and can kill a lot more innocent people with his extremism. "

Read the rest of this excellent piece here.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Bush's Most Desperate Speech Yet

By Evan Derkacz, AlterNet
Posted on October 10, 2005

On the very day that New York City received "credible" (then "doubtful") information that 19 operatives had been dispatched to bomb the subways, President Bush gave a speech to remind America that the "war on terror" was on the front burner. Channeling elder statesman David Letterman, Bush claimed that 10 serious terrorist plots had been derailed since 9/11.

Bush was hoping to deliver us from our dangerous preoccupation with Rove's troubles, DeLay's indictment, Frist's SEC problems, the fallout from Katrina, his holy-shit-I've-even-lost-the-evangelicals 37-percent approval rating, and the $3 gallon of gas. You know, to focus on the real threat (Ter'r), and thus, his argument went, to remain in Iraq.

Or, from The New York Times:

A senior White House official said Thursday evening that the president's 40-minute speech arose from Mr. Bush's desire to remind Americans, after "a lot of distractions" in recent months, that the country was still under threat, and had no choice but to remain in Iraq so Al Qaeda did not use it as a base to train for attacks on the United States and its allies.

In other words, Bush is asking America to continue to Fight the Enemy -- though now it's an enemy created by failed policy. He's even exhumed Osama bin Laden again, calculating, apparently, that he has more to gain by invoking the bogeyman than he has to lose reminding the public he hasn't caught him after four years and billions down the drain. Talk about desperation.

Speaking of desperation, listed among the 10 threats derailed over the past four years by the Bush Administration are attempts "to attack ships in the Persian Gulf in late 2002 and 2003; to attack ships in the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow part of the gulf where it opens into the Arabian Sea, in 2002 ... "

One doesn't want to make light of any legitimate threat, nor value the life of one people over another, but does anyone seriously believe that the president went on TV to inspire the confidence of Americans (or to assure them of his leadership) by invoking a 3-year-old plot to attack ships in the Strait of Hormuz? Can one in 100 Americans even find the Strait of Hormuz on a map?

And, when one considers the sound-bite companion to "stay the course" -- that America will "stand down when Iraqis stand up" -- the folly of Bush's speech gave way to absurdity because the number of trained Iraqis "standing up" has actually dropped.

On Sept. 29, General George Casey testified that "the number of Iraqi battalions capable of fighting without American support has dropped from three to one." Insurmountable? Not if you move the goal posts and remain vague: "There are over 30 Iraqi battalions in the lead," claimed the president at an Oct. 4 press conference.

So thin was the gruel served up in Thursday's speech, that even the typically charitable New York Times refused to play along. David Sanger's article positively dripped with sarcasm and disdain. After the press grilled Scott McClellan over the Top 10 Derailed Plots mentioned in Bush's speech, and after his underwhelming response (Jose Padilla, Iman Faris), the Times' Sanger noted that a list was "hastily put together" and that "It was not immediately clear whether other items on the list represented significant threats."

Judged in its entirety, Bush's speech was a flailing disaster. But the zenith -- or nadir, depending on your perspective -- has to be Bush's inclusion of Jose Padilla on his list of 10. It goes without saying that if Padilla had plotted what he is accused of plotting -- namely, to detonate a "dirty bomb" on a plane -- then he legitimately belongs on the list.

But Padilla doesn't yet, becuase he hasn't had due process. As Findlaw's Joanne Mariner put it, "The truth of the allegations against [Padilla] -- that he planned to commit acts of terrorism -- has never been tested in court." By including Padilla on that list, Bush shows he's content to convict a man in the court of his own opinion.

The implications of the Padilla case are themselves terror-inducing. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, in his dissent to the Supreme Court's rejection of the Padilla case on "procedural grounds," put it this way: "At stake in this case is nothing less than the essence of a free society."

Indeed, if the Bush administration is given the go-ahead to classify anyone it desires an enemy combatant, and thus exclude them from their right to due process, well, you do the math.

Evan Derkacz is a New York-based writer and contributor to AlterNet.

© 2005 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Terror in NYC?

By Evan Derkacz
Posted on October 7, 2005

After a "credible tip" that 19 operatives had been dispatched to bomb the NYC subway system (and some nervous twitching from this Brooklyn --> Manhattan rider), suspicions are rising.

Noting that the "Homeland Security office is calling the threat 'specific but not credible,'" my fellow New Yorker and subway rider, Jazz, takes a deep breath and writes:

"one of the biggest casualties in the 'war on terror' is probably faith in our government...How many times have we seen the 'terror level' alert raised precisely when somebody from the Bush administration or the GOP at large has gotten themselves in trouble?"

"Rove and Libby appear on the verge of being indicted by a Federal Grand Jury, DeLay has already been indicted, and other GOP operatives are being dragged out of the shadows. Support for Bush's war is bottoming out [actually, his approval hit an embarrassingly low 37% yesterday] and his SCOTUS nomination looks to be in trouble. And suddenly... BANG! 'The terrorists are going to blow up the subway!' How terribly convenient."

Via the Heretik: "Sources told NBC that the information came from a single informant of varying credibility...A homeland security official tells NBC News that though the source has "doubtful" credibility, the heightened security in NY is necessary out of an abundance of caution. The source has apparently given some accurate information in the past, and some inaccurate."

The Heretik also excerpts yesterday's press briefing, at which Scott McClellan claims that 10 al-Qaeda threats have been averted -- though he only mentions two.

Ten is a nice round number. Reminds me of that scene in Manchurian Candidate where the McCarthy stand-in's at dinner deciding just how many Communists there are in Congress and camera cuts to a shot of the Heinz 57 sauce on the table before the press conference where he claims -- with unshakable authority -- that there are 57 Communist in Congress! (Running Scared)

Christian Conservatives For Cancer

By Evan Derkacz
Posted on October 7, 2005

From the title and teaser you're probably not expecting good news.

Here it is anyway: late stage trials of a vaccine to prevent women from developing virus-related cervical cancer -- a cancer that kills 300,000 women each year -- have been completely successful.

But, Jessica Valenti writes: "who knows if the vaccine will ever actually get to women. The Christian right is doing their best to block the vaccine. Cause it will make you slutty. No, seriously."

She excerpts a Katha Pollitt article explaining that the fact that HPV (one of the cervical cancer-causing viruses the vaccine prevents) is one of the main bogeymen in the Christian conservative scare-kit, they fear that eradication of another dire consequence will cause further sluttiness.

Now how, exactly, is this mindset politically linked with the personal responsibility fanatics? (Feministing)

Wal-Mart Turns in Student’s Anti-Bush Photo, Secret Service Investigates Him

By Matthew Rothschild,
October 4, 2005

Selina Jarvis is the chair of the social studies department at Currituck County High School in North Carolina, and she is not used to having the Secret Service question her or one of her students.

But that’s what happened on September 20.

Jarvis had assigned her senior civics and economics class “to take photographs to illustrate their rights in the Bill of Rights,” she says. One student “had taken a photo of George Bush out of a magazine and tacked the picture to a wall with a red thumb tack through his head. Then he made a thumb’s down sign with his own hand next to the President’s picture, and he had a photo taken of that, and he pasted it on a poster.”

According to Jarvis, the student, who remains anonymous, was just doing his assignment, illustrating the right to dissent.

But over at the Kitty Hawk Wal-Mart, where the student took his film to be developed, this right is evidently suspect.

An employee in that Wal-Mart photo department called the Kitty Hawk police on the student. And the Kitty Hawk police turned the matter over to the Secret Service.

On Tuesday, September 20, the Secret Service came to Currituck High.“At 1:35, the student came to me and told me that the Secret Service had taken his poster,” Jarvis says. “I didn’t believe him at first. But they had come into my room when I wasn’t there and had taken his poster, which was in a stack with all the others.”

She says the student was upset.

“He was nervous, he was scared, and his parents were out of town on business,” says Jarvis.

She, too, had to talk to the Secret Service.

“Halfway through my afternoon class, the assistant principal got me out of class and took me to the office conference room,” she says. “Two men from the Secret Service were there. They asked me what I knew about the student. I told them he was a great kid, that he was in the homecoming court, and that he’d never been in any trouble.”

Then they got down to his poster.

“They asked me, didn’t I think that it was suspicious,” she recalls. “I said no, it was a Bill of Rights project!”

At the end of the meeting, they told her the incident “would be interpreted by the U.S. attorney, who would decide whether the student could be indicted,” she says.

The student was not indicted, and the Secret Service did not pursue the case further.

“I blame Wal-Mart more than anybody,” she says. “I was really disgusted with them. But everyone was using poor judgment, from Wal-Mart up to the Secret Service.”

A person in the photo department at the Wal-Mart in Kitty Hawk said, “You have to call either the home office or the authorities to get any information about that.”

Jacquie Young, a spokesperson for Wal-Mart at company headquarters, did not provide comment within a 24-hour period.

Sharon Davenport of the Kitty Hawk Police Department said, “We just handed it over” to the Secret Service. “No investigative report was filed.”

Jonathan Scherry, spokesman for the Secret Service in Washington, D.C., said, “We ertainly respect artistic freedom, but we also have the responsibility to look into incidents when necessary. In this case, it was brought to our attention from a private citizen, a photo lab employee.”

Jarvis uses one word to describe the whole incident: “ridiculous.”

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Real Reason For Mier's Nomination

Shining up the jackboots, pressing all the brownshirts...
From Attyood

We have no idea whether the Senate is going to confirm Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court. For once, it may actually be up to the Democrats, who right now are too busy watching and laughing at conservatives and their cat fights to be bothered with taking a stand. And that may take a while, considering that it's still three years and counting for any type of Democratic position on Iraq.

We do know that's there's a lot of head fakes going on right now. Miers is a conservative...but wait, she's pro gay-rights...but wait, she belongs to a fundamentalist church that opposes abortion...but wait, she used to be a Democrat..but wait, she supports "the Founders" interpretation of the Constitution...but wait...

Don't fall for any of it. And keep your eye on the ball. George Bush wants Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court for one reason, and one reason alone. The president -- and his minions -- want to concentrate an unprecedented amount of power in the executive branch. And Bush wants to use that power to further take away your rights, to use the military to keep order here at home -- and God knows what else.

And he knows that Harriet Miers will help him get there.

Where do we get these crazy ideas from? How about from Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Here's what he was reported saying earlier this week about Miers:

Mehlman yesterday unveiled a politically powerful argument linking Bush’s nomination to the war on terrorism. He said that as a former White House counsel Miers would know the importance of not letting the courts or the legislative branch “micromanage” the war on terrorism.

"Micromanage." Is that what the kids are calling the Bill of Rights these days?

This all starts with the John Roberts nomination. On April 1, Roberts -- then a federal appeals court judge in Washington, met with Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez (Miers' former boss in the White House counsel's office) to talk about the then-rumored vacancies on the High Court.

Just six days later, Roberts was seated on the appeals bench as a Gonzalez deputy argued in a key case in Bush's crusade to prosecute his war on terror -- allowing military tribunals to try the cases of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay. One month later, Roberts interviewed with Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, among others, and he finally met Bush face-to-face on July 15 -- the very same day that Roberts and two other judges ruled on behalf of the administration in the Guantanamo matter.

Here's how the Washington Post spun it:

Nobody is alleging that Roberts sided with the administration to curry favor with Bush, but some academics say Roberts should have, at the very least, considered stepping aside to make sure there was not an appearance of conflict.

Appearance, indeed. The rest is history, and now John Roberts is the 17th Chief Justice of the United States. And if Miers joins him, the Bush White House is sure to have two solid votes in its war on terror -- and its war on civil liberties as well.

The Boston Globe gets it:

WASHINGTON -- As President Bush's counsel, Harriet E. Miers continued the expansive interpretation of presidential powers favored by her predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, who backed Bush's authority to hold terrorist suspects without trial, as well as the White House's right to withhold more administration documents from public disclosure than in the past.

Miers has also been outspoken in her support of reauthorizing the Patriot Act, which gave the executive branch new powers of surveillance over US citizens.

Now, Miers is Bush's choice to join the Supreme Court, to replace Sandra Day O'Connor.

That selection determines how much power a president can wield under the Constitution. Her nomination, announced Monday, followed the confirmation of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who supported broad war powers for the president in a case he heard during his brief tenure as an appellate judge.

The two appointments, both of lawyers with extensive White House experience, have raised alarm among critics of the Bush administration's broad reading of executive branch authority.

"The fact that the president is now seeding the Supreme Court with people who have been handmaidens in his efforts to increase the power of the executive without any check or oversight whatsoever is very disturbing," said Bill Goodman, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which sued Bush on behalf of prisoners at the US facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

That alone is troubling. But what troubles us even more is this: What exactly does Bush plan on bringing up before the Supreme Court in the next three years that is so important?

Well, unlike the president, we don't have the ability to look into people's hearts, so we can't say for sure. But we're alarmed that there may be a connection to Bush's recent, alarming plans for getting around the Posse Commitatus Act of 1878, which...

passed in 1878 after the end of Reconstruction, and was intended to prohibit Federal troops from supervising elections in former Confederate states. It generally prohibits Federal military personnel and units of the United States National Guard under Federal authority from acting in a law enforcement capacity within the United States, except where expressly authorized by the Constitution or the Congress. Coupled with the Insurrection Act, the powers of the Federal government to use the US military for law enforcement are limited.

Not if Bush can help it. Just yesterday, the president was talking about using the military in response to an Avian flu outbreak, similar to his recent comments about the military in natural disasters:

Drawing a lesson from Katrina, Bush suggested that he should have the authority to use the military to seal off an infected region in a pandemic, as well as to help deal with natural disasters.

"It's one thing to shut down airplanes. It's another thing to prevent people from coming in to get exposed to avian flu," Bush said. "One option is the use of a military that's able to plan and move."

To many Americans, that may sound reasonable in the wake of the Katrina disaster. But the truth is that Katrina only spun out of control due to Bush's inept cronies at FEMA, not because we need to send in the 82nd Airborne every time something goes wrong.

What Bush is proposing is a slippery slope. And he knows it will be challenged up to the Supreme Court.

And pretty soon, he'll know that he has the votes.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Jose Padilla and The Death of Liberty

"The very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the Executive." Judge Antonin Scalia

By Mike Whitney

09/10/05 "ICH" -- -- I had to sit down when I heard the Padilla case had been settled. I literally felt sick to my stomach, like I was gasping for air. The case of Jose Padilla is quite simply the most important case in the history of the American judicial system. Hanging in the balance are all the fundamental principles of American jurisprudence including habeas corpus, due process and "the presumption of innocence". All of those basic concepts were summarily revoked by the 3 judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court. The Court ruled in favor of the Bush administration which claimed that it had the right to indefinitely imprison an American citizen without charging him with a crime. The resulting verdict confers absolute authority on the President to incarcerate American citizens without charge and without any legal means for the accused to challenge the terms of his detention. It is the end of "inalienable rights", the end of The Bill of Rights, and the end of any meaningful notion of personal liberty.

I remember reading 3 or 4 years ago, in Zbigniew Brzezinski's, "The Grand Chessboard", of a strategy to dominate the world that would result in the loss of freedom for American citizens. Brzezinski recognized the inherent threat that liberty posed to the development of empire. He stated:

"It is also a fact that America is too democratic at home to be autocratic abroad. This limits the use of America's power, especially its capacity for military intimidation. Never before has a populist democracy attained international supremacy. But the pursuit of power is not a goal that commands popular passion, except in conditions of a sudden threat or challenge to the public's sense of domestic well-being. The economic self-denial (that is, defense spending) and the human sacrifice (casualties, even among professional soldiers) required in the effort are uncongenial to democratic instincts. Democracy is inimical to imperial mobilization." (p.35)

Brzezinski's prescient forecast has proved to be astonishingly accurate. The determination of the neocons, the Federalist Society, the far-right radio giants, the Olin, Scaife, Coors and Bradley foundations, and the entire stable of right-wing, quasi-fascist groups that operate openly within American society, have pounded the final wooden stake into the heart of the personal freedom. The basic legal protections that safeguard the citizen from the arbitrary and hostile action of the state have been rescinded. We all stand naked before the absolute power of the President.

The government has no case against Jose Padilla, a hapless Chicago gang-banger who allegedly visited Pakistan before he was arrested at O'Hare airport 3 and a half years ago. He is simply an unwitting victim of circumstance; a convenient scapegoat for eviscerating the rule of law. The Bush administration has used its extraordinary influence in the media to demagogue the case and keep him locked-away without producing one shred of evidence against him. The entire affair has been a grotesque mockery of justice. The hard-right groups that engineered this plot know exactly where the fault-lines in American jurisprudence lie; in the inalienable protections of its citizens.

Padilla became the test-case for shattering the Bill of Rights with one withering blow. It has succeeded beyond anyone's wildest expectation.

There's no chance that the Supreme Court will retry the case and draw more attention to the shocking details of this judicial-coup; they already punted once before preferring to pass it along to the lower court. Rather, the meaning of the case will be ignored until the president needs to exercise the newly-bestowed powers of supreme leader. That authority is now firmly rooted in the legal precedent established by the Padilla ruling.

No Longer the Land of the Free

Americans seem unaware of the great loss we've all suffered by the Padilla verdict. If the President is allowed to arbitrarily decide who has "inalienable rights", than those rights become the provisional gifts of the government rather than a reliable shield against the abuse of state power. It means that every American citizen is as vulnerable to the same violation of human rights as the men currently imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. It also means that the legal wall that shelters the citizen from the random violence of the political establishment has been reduced to rubble.

The Padilla ruling is the blackest day in American history. The icons of American liberty; the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Statue of Liberty; are empty shrines if they are not underscored by the guarantee of freedom. The Vietnam Memorial, the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, the 4th of July, the Federalist Papers, and the American flag; all gratuitous expressions of a principle that has vanished from the political landscape.

Every man and woman who ever wore an American uniform and died in the service of their country, died in vain. Their sacrifice has been rendered completely worthless by the action of the 4th Circuit Court.

George Bush has now extinguished every meaningful part of the American dream. The last vestige of the social contract has been defiled and desecrated by the administration and their court. Personal freedom is dead in America; it was impaled by the verdict against Jose Padilla. How many thousands or, perhaps, millions of Americans will die or endure incalculable suffering to regain what we have lost on this tragic day?

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at:

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

CBS's One-Sided DeLay Discussion

All-Republican panel discusses a "Republican problem"

It was no surprise that the Sunday morning talkshows would focus on the indictment of Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay on conspiracy charges. But CBS' Face the Nation covered the DeLay scandal in an unusual manner: by convening a panel of three Republicans.

Congressmembers David Dreier of California, John Shadegg of Arizona and Jim Leach of Iowa--all Republicans--were host Bob Schieffer's only guests on the topic.

Why the curious booking decision? Schieffer explained midway through the interview: "Let me just point out, I didn't invite any Democrats to be on this morning because I thought this was a Republican problem and wanted to give you a chance to talk about it."

But how could the allegation that DeLay illegally funneled corporate donations to Texas Republicans in an effort to win local elections and gerrymander the state's Congressional districts be considered merely a "Republican problem"? Given that the redistricting scheme increased the size of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, the DeLay story affects everyone.

In the discussion of the DeLay scandal, the opposition party did come up: Dreier commented, for instance, that "frankly, there is really no plan that has come forward from Democrats on any issue whatsoever." Presumably if Democrats had been invited to take part in the program, they would have had a response to that statement--not to mention a different take on DeLay's woes.

It's not the first time CBS has apparently determined that a given subject was an exclusively Republican matter. After last November's election--which saw the GOP solidify its power in the White House and Congress--Face the Nation turned to three Republicans to talk about the election: senators Arlen Specter, Susan Collins and Chuck Hagel (11/7/04).

This is not typically how Face the Nation has handled controversies involving Democratic politicians. After the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, for instance, the program (2/8/98) interviewed Republican Majority Leader Trent Lott and former Clinton chief of staff Leon Panetta for reactions. When there were allegations that Vice President Al Gore was connected to fundraising violations at a Buddhist temple, Face the Nation (7/20/97) discussed the charges with Republican Sen. Thad Cochran and Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman. The show did not describe these affairs as "Democratic problems."

Contact CBS and tell them that this weekend's Face the Nation discussion about Tom DeLay should not have been turned over exclusively to Republican politicians. Let them know that DeLay's indictment is not, as anchor Bob Schieffer put it, a "Republican problem," but a national one.

CBS Face the Nation
Phone: (202) 457-4481

Also, you can contact CBS's new "Public Eye" ombudsman:

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Read: The Killing Was Necessary(!)

The U.S. army has again exonerated itself in the killing of an Iraq war correspondent. An internal investigation "confirmed that he was killed by an American soldier and then left dead in his car--but concluded that the killing was necessary."

This is cause for public outrage, indictment, conviction and incarceration for all complicit.

It will, of course, go completely unpunished if all we do is read about it.

It is well past time to rise up, cast off our given role as mere consumers and reclaim our role as citizens in a free and open society! Time to stop allowing the corporate/military complex to control the flow of (mis)information! Let us raise the black flags now!--Pete