31 May 2008

The Waste, the Fraud, and the Abuse : Staggering

Byron Dorgan’s Contracting Fraud Crusade
By Brian Beutler, The Media Consortium / May 31, 2008

The North Dakota senator has made investigating contractor corruption his mission, but will he succeed in creating a congressional committee devoted to it?

In the wake of a recent Defense Department report from the Office of Inspector General that documents (PDF file) the improper accounting of billions of dollars in war contracting funds, the issue of waste, fraud, and abuse in Iraq is once again in the spotlight on Capitol Hill.

Those findings were amplified on Tuesday when the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington-based watchdog group, obtained a separate inspector general report that found that the number of Pentagon auditors overseeing military contracts has not kept pace with defense spending, which has doubled under the Bush administration — creating conditions that are ripe for corruption and abuse.

While Congress has launched sporadic inquiries into contracting fraud, one legislator, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., has made it his mission to investigate contractor corruption.

Dorgan chairs the Democratic Policy Committee, a Senate entity tasked with gathering and distributing policy, strategy, and oversight information to congressional staff and other Democratic officials. (There is also a Republican Policy Committee.) Since 2003, the DPC has held 14 hearings dedicated to exposing the corruption of the Iraq reconstruction effort, and last month the committee released an encyclopedic report detailing major examples of fraud.

When the war in Iraq began, says Dorgan, “no one really [decided] to say, ‘All right, now we’re going to be an investigative committee so there’s accountability.’” In order to fill the void, Dorgan decided to use his committee for that purpose — though its oversight authority is somewhat diminished by the fact that the panel, as a partisan committee, lacks subpoena power. In light of this, since 2005 Dorgan has attempted to establish a congressional committee with full oversight clout to oversee military contracting. Dubbed the Special Committee on War and Reconstruction Contracting, the proposed panel is modeled on the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program (commonly known as the Truman committee), which was charged with investigating the waste and corruption of billions of dollars of World War II-era defense contracts.

So far legislation to create a committee to oversee contracting for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq hasn’t gained traction. During the previous Congress, which ended in December 2006, Dorgan’s resolution was swatted down three separate times along partisan lines. (In each case, presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain voted with the Republican majority to nix the committee.)

A Dorgan aide says that the third-term senator plans to introduce his proposal again within the year, and is currently looking for Republican co-sponsors, which he believes will improve his chances of passing the bill. In the past, the only Republican to vote in favor of the commission was Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island, who lost his seat during the Democratic landslide in November of 2006. So Dorgan’s contracting committee is still a long shot.

Other senators have taken a milder approach to the idea of a modern-day Truman committee. Last year, Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va. — along with all of his fellow freshman Democrats in the Senate — sponsored a measure mandating the creation of an independent bipartisan commission (distinct from a congressional committee, which has subpoena power) to “investigate U.S. wartime contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.” The measure passed unanimously last September as an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act, only to be written out of existence by a presidential signing statement when the bill hit President Bush’s desk in January.

If Dorgan gets his way, it could substantially bolster the Democrats’ efforts to uncover and deter acts of fraud and corruption in war contracting. Currently those efforts have been driven almost exclusively by House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich. Since taking the House oversight gavel in January 2007, Waxman has held a host of hearings on defense contracting fraud, with a particular emphasis on the companies, like Blackwater and KBR, that have been some of the biggest beneficiaries of the war in Iraq.

Levin has spotlighted the issue of contractor fraud on a number of occasions, but, like Waxman, the focus of his committee extends well beyond contracting oversight. The existing congressional committees, Dorgan says, “have not had the investigators and the time,” to give this issue the focus it deserves. “So, we have held these hearings, and the waste, the fraud, and the abuse is staggering.”

Source / In These Times

The Rag Blog

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Thanks to Harry Edwards / The Rag Blog

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More Wrongful Convictions : The Justice Project

New DNA tests "do not support the current conviction" of Texas Death Row inmate Michael Blair (pictured), who was condemned in the 1993 slaying of 7-year-old Ashley Estell, a high-profile case that led to the creation of tough sex-offender laws, Collin County District Attorney John Roach said recently, as quoted in an AP story.
The Top Stories This Week in Criminal Justice Reform
By Jeff Miller / May 30, 2008

Here are the top stories in criminal justice reform, taken from the Justice Newsladder.

Tennessee will retry death row inmate Paul House but will not seek the death penalty. The decision meets a deadline set by the U.S. Supreme Court to retry or free House by June 17. In June 2006, the Court concluded that reasonable jurors would not have convicted House if they had seen the results of DNA tests from the 1990s. House has been in prison since 1986. (www.tennessean.com)

Michael Blair will most likely become the 9th Texas death row inmate to be exonerated. DNA evidence cleared Blair, already a convicted sex offender, of connection to the murder of seven year-old Ashley Estell; the case led to tougher sex offender laws called "Ashley's Laws". (standdown.typepad.com

The district attorney's office in Dallas County, America's leading county in exonerations, approved of DNA tests for three more inmates that were denied testing by a previous DA. (dallasnews.com)

Authorities in Illinois are preparing to free Dean Cage, who has served 14 years of a 40 year sentence for aggravated sexual assault after being cleared by DNA tests. Cage was linked to the crime because of his resemblance to a police sketch that appeared in the newspaper. Police then brought the 15 year-old victim to the store where Cage worked and she identified him as the offender. (suntimes.com)

As part of their editorial series They Didn't Do It: Convicting the Innocent, The Buffalo News argues for videotaping police interrogations. 10 of New York's 23 wrongful convictions have sprung from false confessions. The entire Buffalo News series can be read on the Justice Newsladder. (buffalonews.com)

The Justice Project, an organization which works to increase fairness and accuracy in the American criminal justice system, is proud to sponsor the Justice Newsladder, a new tool to find the top news and articles about criminal justice reform.

Source. Burnt Orange Report / The Justice Project
Our Agenda for Reform

The Justice Projects works to increase the fairness and accuracy of the American criminal justice system. We develop, coordinate, and implement integrated national and state-based campaigns involving public education, litigation and legislation to reform the criminal justice system, with particular focus on capital punishment.

The Problem: A Broken System

The American criminal justice system is broken. Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in the 1970s, 130 people have been exonerated from death row in 26 states - roughly one for every nine executed. The most comprehensive study of capital trials ever conducted found that nearly seven of every 10 death sentences handed down by state courts from 1973 to 1995 were overturned due to “serious, reversible error,” including egregiously incompetent defense counsel, suppression of exculpatory evidence, eyewitness misidentification, false confessions, snitch and accomplice testimony, and unreliable forensic science. Read more

The Solution: National Agenda for Reform

To promote solutions to the problem of wrongful convictions and enhance protections for innocent people accused of crimes, The Justice Project has constructed a national program of eight specific reform initiatives designed to increase the fairness and accuracy of the criminal justice system.
Read more

From prosecutors to victims’ rights groups, from defense lawyers to judges to law enforcement, reasonable people agree that our system of justice must protect the innocent and punish the guilty - not the other way around.

The Justice Project
Also see Campaign to End the Death Penalty and Free Rodney Reed.

The Rag Blog

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Monks, not Junta, Providing Relief in Myanmar

A monk organized relief donations this week for people left homeless by the cyclone. This monastery, outside of Yangon, has become a temporary shelter. Photo by AP.

In desperate times, Burmese turn to their monks

KUN WAN, Myanmar / May 30, 2008 -- It is a scene Myanmar's ruling generals are unlikely to see played out for themselves: As a convoy of trucks carrying relief supplies, led by Buddhist monks, passed through storm-devastated villages, hungry children and homeless mothers bowed in supplication and respect.
Since the cyclone, the Burmese have become even closer to the monks while their alienation from the junta grows.
"When I see those people, I want to cry," said Sitagu Sayadaw, 71, one of Myanmar's most respected senior monks.

At his makeshift clinic in this village near Bogalay, an Irrawaddy Delta town 120 kilometers, or 75 miles, southwest of Yangon, hundreds of villagers left destitute by Cyclone Nargis arrive each day seeking the assistance they have not received from the junta or international aid workers.

They paddle for hours on the stormy river, or carry their sick parents on their backs through the mud and rain - all traveling from kilometers around to reach the one source of help they know they can always depend on: Buddhist monks.

The May 3 cyclone left more than 134,000 dead or missing and 2.4 million survivors grappling with hunger and homelessness. Recently, people who had taken shelter at monasteries or gathered on roadsides waiting for aid to arrive were being displaced again, this time by the junta, which wants them to stop being an embarrassment to the government and return to their villages "for reconstruction." UN officials said Friday that refugees were also being evicted from government-run camps.

But they have little left of their homes and find themselves almost as exposed to the elements there as their mud-coated water buffaloes. Meanwhile, outside aid is slow to arrive, with foreign aid agencies gaining only incremental access to the hard-hit Irrawaddy Delta and the government impounding cars of some private Burmese donors.

"In my entire life, I have never seen a hospital. I don't know where the government office is. I can't buy anything in the market because I lost everything to the cyclone," said Thi Dar. "So I came to the monk."

With tears welling in her eyes, the 45-year-old woman pressed her hands together in respect before the first monk she saw at Sitagu's clinic and told her story. The other eight members of her family were killed in the cyclone. She now felt suicidal but no longer had anyone to talk with. The other day, word reached her village that a monk had opened a clinic 10 kilometers upriver. So on Thursday, she got up early and caught the first boat going upstream.

Nay Lin, 36, a volunteer doctor at the Kun Wan clinic, one of the six emergency clinic shelters Sitagu has opened in the delta, said: "Our patients suffer from infected wounds, abdominal pains and vomiting. They also need counseling for mental trauma, anxiety and depression."

Since the cyclone, the Burmese have become even closer to the monks while their alienation from the junta grows. This bodes ill for the government, which brutally cracked down on thousands of monks when they took to the streets last September appealing to the generals to improve conditions for the people.

Village after storm-hit village, it is clear who has won people's hearts.

Some monks died with people in the storm. Now, others console the survivors while sharing their muddy squalor.

While the government has been criticized for obstructing the relief effort, the Buddhist monastery, the traditional center of moral authority in most villages here, proved to be the one institution people could rely on for help.

Monasteries in the delta - those still standing after the storm - were clogged with refugees. People went there with donations or as volunteers. Monasteries that served as religious centers, orphanages and homes for the elderly were now also shelters for the homeless.

"The monks' role is more important than ever," said Ar Sein Na, 46, a monk in the delta village of That Kyar. "In a time of immense suffering like this, people have nowhere to go except to monks."

Kyi Than, 38, said she had traveled 25 kilometers by boat to Sitagu's camp.

"Our village monk died during the storm. I felt so good today having my first chance to talk to a monk since the storm. Monks are like parents to us," she said. "The government wants us to shut up, but monks listen to us."

Faced with the country's deadliest natural disaster in recent memory, senior monks have organized their own relief campaigns.

Every day, their convoys head down delta roads. A leading figure in these efforts is Sitagu, whose name invariably draws words of reverence or a thumbs-up sign here.

"Meditation cannot remove this disaster. Material support is very important now," Sitagu said. "Now in our country, spiritual and material support are unbalanced."

Trucks of rice, beans, onions, clothes, tarpaulins and cooking utensils, donated from all over Myanmar, pulled into Sitagu's International Buddhist Missionary Center in Yangon from early morning on. Each day, shortly after dawn, a convoy of trucks or a barge on the Yangon River departs for the delta, loaded with relief supplies and volunteers.

Among villagers here, Sitagu appeared to command as much authority as the pope among Roman Catholics. As he sat on a wooden bench in his field headquarters, people lined up to pay their respects. Villagers came to present lists of their most urgent needs. Monks from outlying villages came asking for help to repair their temples. Rich families from towns knelt before him and donated bundles of cash.

However, like other senior monks here he must strike a careful balance. He has the moral duty to speak out on behalf of his suffering people but he must also protect his social programs and hospitals, which provide free medical care to the destitute in a country whose government views such private undertakings as a reproof.

But, speaking at his shelter as an afternoon monsoon rain drummed against the roof, Sitagu sounded frustrated with the government.

"In my country, I cannot see a real political leader. General Than Shwe's 'Burmese way to democracy?"' he said, referring to the junta's top leader. "What is it?"

He defended the monks' uprising last September, saying the government's failures to provide "material stability" for the people undermined the monks' ability to provide "spiritual stability."

Among monks interviewed in the delta and Yangon, there was no sign of imminent organized protests.

Still, a 40-year-old monk at Sitagu's camp said that "monks are very angry" about the government's recent move to evict refugees from monasteries, roadside huts and other temporary shelters, even while the state-run media are filled with stories of government relief efforts. "The government doesn't want to show the truth."

A young monk in the Chaukhtatgyi Paya monastery district in Yangon predicted trouble ahead. "You will see it again because everyone is angry and everyone is jobless," said the monk, who said he joined the September "saffron revolution" and had a large gash over his right eye from a soldier's beating to show for it.

A monk from Mon State in southern Myanmar, who was visiting the delta to assess the damage and arrange an aid shipment, said: "For the government, these people are no more than dead animals in the fields."

The simmering confrontation between the two pillars of Myanmar life today - the military and the Buddhist clergy - was evident at the village level after the cyclone.

Shortly after the storm, a monk in Myo Thit, a village 30 kilometers from Yangon, walked around with a loudspeaker inviting victims to his monastery and asking people to donate. The monk had to stop, villagers said, after a township leader affiliated with the government threatened to confiscate the loudspeaker.

The interdependence between monks and lay people is age-old. Monks receive alms - food, medicine, clothes, cash to buy books - from the laity. In return, they offer spiritual comfort. In villages without government schools, a monastic education is often the only one available for children.

"There is a relationship of reciprocity between monks and the lay people," said Desmond Chou, a Burmese-born scholar of comparative religion in New Delhi. "If a fire breaks out in a Myanmar village, it is usually the monks, not firefighters, who arrive first to rescue the people."

Source. / International Herald Tribune

The Rag Blog

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Torture. Such a Simple Word. Why Not Use It?

Kids In America(n Torture Camps): Why Does the Media Cover Up War Crimes?
By Ted Rall / May 30, 2008

LOS ANGELES--In last week's column I cited New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau as a prime example of what ails us: reporters who don't report, a.k.a. journalists who love the government too much.

When Lichtblau found out that the Bush Administration was listening to Americans' phone calls and reading their e-mail, he decided to hold the story. Instead of fulfilling his duty to the Times' readers and running with it, he asked the White House for permission. By the time the NSA domestic surveillance story finally ran, 14 months had passed--and Bush had won the 2004 election.

Again, in a May 17th piece bearing the headline "FBI Gets Mixed Review in Interrogation Report," Lichtblau is running interference for the government. "A new Justice Department report praises the refusal of FBI agents to take part in the military's abusive questioning of prisoners in Guantánamo Bay, Iraq and Afghanistan," begins the article, "but it also finds fault with the bureau's slow response to complaints about the tactics from its own agents."

"Abusive questioning." "Harsh interrogation tactics."

According to the Justice Department report, "routine" treatment of Guantánamo prisoners--witnessed by the FBI--includes "bending the detainee's thumbs back and grabbing his genitals." Military and CIA torturers chained detainees' hands and feet together for as long as a full day, "left to defecate on themselves." They terrorized them with dogs, stripped them and made them wear women's underwear and subjected them to blaring music, freezing cold and searing heat.

Torture. Such a simple word. Why not use it?

Lichtblau's "mixed review" appellation notwithstanding, the report by the Justice Department paints a shocking, uniformly negative portrait of a federal law enforcement agency whose officers react to appalling conduct with the Nuremberg defense--"I was just following orders."

"Indeed," reported U.S. News & World Report, "time after time, the report concludes that FBI agents saw or heard about numerous interrogation methods--from sleep deprivation to duct-taping detainees' mouths to scaring them with dogs--that plainly violated their own agency's code of conduct." (Not to mention the Geneva Conventions.) Rather than report their scruples to someone who might raise hell and put a stop to the systemic torture at Gitmo and other U.S. concentration camps--i.e., the public--FBI agents turned to the criminals. Just like Lichtblau did with domestic spying.

"When [one] agent mentioned [a torture] incident to the general [at Guantánamo], the general's response...was 'Thank you, gentlemen, but my boys know what they're doing.'" Ultimately the FBI, worried that agents could be charged with war crimes if they continued to witness the torture by CIA operatives and mercenaries, pulled its employees out of Gitmo and other camps. No one called a Congressman. None called a press conference.

FBI agents kept quiet--even when the CIA frat-boy-style torture tactics screwed up their interrogations.

In 2003 one FBI agent had "begin building a rapport" with Yussef Mohammed Mubarak al-Shihri, a Saudi citizen. Al-Shihri told the agent that female CIA agents had "forced to listen to the 'meow mix' jingle for cat food for hours and had a women's dress 'draped' on him." As usual, the agent turned to the torturer. "The agent said he confronted a female military intelligence interrogator who admitted to 'poaching' his detainee, but there was little more the agent could do. Following the incident, al-Shihri became uncooperative, and the agent said he never bothered to tell his superiors about the military interrogator's actions."

Turning a blind eye to torture. Watching passively as CIA goons destroy the trust of a possible material witness to terrorism. What "mixed review"?

As usual, the Newspaper of Record's worst sins in Gitmogate are those of omission--the really weird stuff that could deprive the Administration of its few remaining supporters. "Buried in a Department of Justice report," reported ABC News, "are new allegations about a 2002 arrangement between the United States and China, which allowed Chinese intelligence to visit Guantánamo and interrogate Chinese Uyghurs held there."

Like their Tibetan neighbors, the Uyghurs of western China are victims of government oppression, including mass executions. Throughout the 1990s, U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia urged Uyghurs to revolt against Chinese occupation. After 9/11, however, the U.S. agreed to help China capture and torture Uyghur independence activists--as a quid pro quo for not using its U.N. veto to stop the American invasion of Afghanistan. (There's more about the U.S. betrayal of the Uyghurs in my book "Silk Road to Ruin.")

"Uyghur detainees were kept awake for long periods, deprived of food and forced to endure cold for hours on end, just prior to questioning by Chinese interrogators," said ABC. "When Uyghur detainees refused to talk to Chinese interrogators in 2002, U.S. military personnel put them in solitary confinement as punishment."

It's a tale bizarre enough to make Rush Limbaugh blush: intelligence agents from communist China invited to an American military base, where they're allowed to torture political dissidents in American custody, with American soldiers as their sidekicks. In light of China's crackdown on Tibet during the run-up to the Olympics, it's a tasty news tidbit. But it didn't run in The Times--as far as I can tell, it only ran in one newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor.

At the same time journo-wimp Lichtblau was penning his "balanced" take on the Justice Department's bombshell report, the U.S. government admitted that it has more than 500 children in its torture and concentration camps. More than 2,500 children have gone through U.S. secret prisons since 2002, including at least eight at Guantánamo.

I know a lot of right-wing conservatives. We don't share much political common ground, but it's hard to imagine any of them thinking the indefinite detention and torture of children, against whom there is no evidence whatsoever of wrongdoing, is anything other than the behavior of a monster.

If a man screams in a government torture chamber, does he make a sound? Not if the only one who hears him is an American reporter.

Ted Rall is the author of the book "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?," an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy challenge. Visit his website http://www.tedrall.com/.

Source / Information Clearing House

The Rag Blog

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Stop Military Recruitment

Stopping the War Machine: Military Recruiters Must Be Confronted
By Ron Kovic

As a former United States Marine Corps sergeant who was shot and paralyzed from my mid-chest down during my second tour of duty in Vietnam on Jan. 20, 1968, I am sending my complete support and admiration to all those now involved in the courageous struggle to stop military recruitment in Berkeley and across the country.

Not since the Vietnam War protests of the late 1960s has there been a cause more just than the one you are now engaged in. Who knows better the deep immorality and deception of military recruiters than those of us who, decades ago, entered those same recruiting offices with our fathers, believing in our hearts that we were being told the truth — only to discover later we had been deceived and terribly betrayed? Many of us paid for that deceit with our lives, years of suffering and bodies and minds that were never the same again. If only someone had warned us, if only someone had had the courage to speak out against the madness that we were being led into, if only someone could have protected us from the recruiters whose only wish was to make their quota, send us to boot camp and hide from us the dark secret of the nightmare which awaited us all.

Over the past five years, I have watched in horror the mirror image of another Vietnam unfolding in Iraq. So many similarities, so many things said that remind me of that war 30 years ago which left me paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for life. Refusing to learn from the lessons of Vietnam, our government continues to pursue a policy of deception, distortion, manipulation and denial, doing everything it can to hide from the American people their true intentions and agenda in Iraq. As we pass the fifth anniversary of the start of this tragic and senseless war, I cannot help but think of the young men and women who have been wounded, nearly 30,000, flooding Walter Reed, Bethesda, Brooke Army Medical Center and veterans hospitals all across our country. Paraplegics, amputees, burn victims, the blinded, shocked and stunned, brain-damaged and psychologically stressed, a whole new generation of severely maimed men and women who were not even born when I came home wounded to the Bronx Veterans Hospital in New York in 1968.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which afflicted so many of us after Vietnam, is just now beginning to appear among soldiers recently returned from the current war. For some the agony and suffering, the sleepless nights, anxiety attacks and awful bouts of insomnia, alienation, anger and rage will last for decades — if not their whole lives. They will be trapped in a permanent nightmare of that war, of killing another man, a child, watching a friend die … fighting against an enemy that can never be seen, while at any moment someone, a child, a woman, an old man — anyone — might kill them.

These traumas return home with us and we carry them, sometimes hidden, for agonizing decades. They deeply impact our daily lives, and the lives closest to us. To kill another human being, to take another life out of this world with one pull of a trigger, is something that never leaves you. It is as if a part of you dies with that person. If you choose to keep on living, there may be a healing, and even hope and happiness again, but that scar and memory and sorrow will be with you forever. Why did the recruiters never mention these things? This was never in the slick pamphlets they gave us.

Some of these veterans are showing up at homeless shelters around our country, while others have begun to courageously speak out against the senselessness and insanity of this war and to demand answers from the leaders who sent them there. During the 2004 Democratic National Convention, returning soldiers formed a group called Iraq Veterans Against the War, just as we had marched in Miami in August of 1972 as Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Still others have refused deployment to Iraq, gone to Canada and begun resisting this immoral and illegal war. Like many other Americans, I have seen them on television or at the local veterans hospitals, but for the most part, they remain hidden like the flag-draped caskets of our dead returned to Dover Air Force Base in the dark of night, as this administration continues to pursue a policy of censorship, tightly controlling the images coming out of that war and rarely allowing the human cost of its policy to be seen.

Many of us promised ourselves long ago that we would never allow what happened to us in Vietnam to happen again. We had an obligation, a responsibility, as citizens, as Americans, as human beings, to raise our voices in protest. We could never forget the hospitals, the intensive-care wards, the wounded all around us fighting for their lives, those long and painful years after we came home, those lonely nights. There were lives to save on both sides, young men and women who would be disfigured and maimed, mothers and fathers who would lose their sons and daughters, wives and other loved ones who would suffer for decades to come if we did not do everything we could to stop the momentum of this madness.

Mario Savio once said, “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free the machine will be prevented from working at all.”

It is time to stop the war machine. It is time for bold and daring action on the part of us all. Precious lives are at stake, both American and Iraqi, and military recruiters must be confronted at every turn, in every high school, every campus, every recruiting office, on every street corner, in every town and city across America. In no uncertain terms we must make it clear to them that by their actions they represent a threat to our community, to our children and all that we cherish. We must explain to them that condemning our young men and women to their death, setting them up to be horribly maimed, and psychologically damaged in a senseless and immoral war, is wrong and unpatriotic and will not be tolerated by Berkeley — or, for that matter, any town or city in the United States.

The days of deceiving, manipulating and victimizing our young people are over. We have had enough, and I strongly encourage all of you to use every means of creative, nonviolent civil disobedience to stop military recruitment all across our country. I stand with you in this important and courageous fight, and I am confident your actions in the days ahead will inspire countless others across our country to do everything they can to end this deeply immoral and illegal war.

(Note: This statement represents portions of several essays and writings I have done over the past five years.-R.K.)

Paralyzed from the chest down by Vietnam War wounds, and confined to a wheelchair for almost 40 years, Ron Kovic stands as a symbol of the brutality of war. He also exemplifies a man’s ability to transform such tragedy into a lifelong pursuit of peace—for himself and his country.

Kovic was born in Ladysmith, Wis., and grew up in Massapequa, N.Y. His autobiography, "Born on the Fourth of July," was adapted as an Academy Award-winning film directed by Oliver Stone and starring Tom Cruise as Kovic. Kovic received a Golden Globe for his screenplay adaptation of his autobiography

Kovic is an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq.
Click here to view Truthdig’s Ron Kovic photo essay.

Copyright © 2008 Truthdig, L.L.C.

Source / Information Clearing House / Truthdig / May 28, 2008

Thanks to Jim Retherford / The Rag Blog

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30 May 2008

John McCain: His Own Best Caricature

In what is labeled as discussion of Bob Dole blasting Scott McClellan (not altogether wrongly!) as a johnny-come-lately "miserable creature" motivated solely by profit to make his belated "revelations" about Bush & Co's misdeeds, is this seeming non sequitur, which I pass along in honor of the real Memorial Day, May 31.

Mariann Wizard / The Rag Blog
Army Veteran Against McCain
May 30, 2008

Reasons why Veterans, active duty personnel, and anyone who cares about them should not vote for McCain:

*AWOL for May 22nd vote on GI Bill. Expressed opposition to bill saying "it was too generous to Veterans".

*Voted against Bill in September that would have mandated adequate rest for troops between combat deployments.

*Voted No on $1.5-billion increase for Veteran Medical services (money would have come from closing corporate tax loophole).

*Voted No on establishing a trust fund to bolster underfunded Veteran Hospitals.

*Voted No in May 2006 against $20-billion allotment for expanding Veteran Medical Facilities.

*Voted No in April 2006 to increase Veteran Outpatient care.

*Voted No in March 2004 another $1.8-billion reserve for Veteran Medical care (again funded by closing corporate tax loopholes).

Bottom line, McCain is more interested in taking care of big business then the men and women he wrongly sent to fight in Iraq."

Source / CNN Political Ticker

The Rag Blog

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Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts

What the Jihadists REALLY Have in Mind
By James Retherford / The Rag Blog / May 30, 2008

[An earlier version of this article was published by New York Times Online, October 29, 2004. James Retherford is an Austin activist, graphic designer and regular contributor to The Rag Blog.]

"Time is on my side, yes it is."

The Rolling Stones
If you have been paying attention — really paying attention — then you know already that, since the first War Room meeting after Sept. 11, 2001, and George W. Bush’s infamous “Crusade” speech a few days later, the United States has been losing the Global War on Terror. Losing badly. In fact — please excuse the unfortunate choice of words — it has been a bomb.

First, we lost the Bill of Rights — in particular, habeas corpus and privacy rights — as our elected legislators caved in to White House fear mongering about the “next” enemy attack. Then came and went the Constitution with its notion of separation of powers — George W. Bush anointed himself the supreme “decider.” The unique framework of checks and balances which for more than two centuries provided our nation with the underpinnings of liberty and the ever-present dynamic possibilities of democracy are now heaped in a dumpster behind 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. Attacked by a foe radically opposed to secular democratic ideals and institutions, our national leadership quickly (and, let’s not forget, opportunistically) ran up the white flag to surrender of our most sacred national trust, Rule of Law. Without Rule of Law getting in the way, American security specialists (i.e., spooks) can now do their jobs — really do their jobs! — using domestic surveillance, warrantless detention, and torture to keep us safe from each other.

A couple policy wonks, Robert Weiner and John Larmett (“War Spending Furthers al-Qaeda Goal of Undermining U.S. Economy,” Billings [MO] Gazette, May 29, 2008), have stumbled onto the rest of the visionary jihadist battle plan which, as I write this, is successfully bringing the American Empire to its knees. Together with a 2004 analysis by New York Times op-ed writers Daniel Benjamin and Gabriel Weimann (“What the Terrorists Have in Mind,” October 27, 2004), these four commentators provide a rare look at the radical Islamists’ strikingly simple strategic and tactical plan to “bleed” the U.S. economy (Weiner and Larmett) by exploiting contradictions between America’s rampant consumerism and the Bush Co.’s imperial objectives. Werner and Larmett quote bin Laden in 2004:
The mujahedeen have finally forced Bush to have recourse to an emergency budget in order to continue the fight in Afghanistan and Iraq, which indicates the success of the plan to exhaust them to the point of bankruptcy, God willing.
Understanding that Westerners live in a discordant relationship with the dynamics of time and history, our adversaries have an uncannily accurate measure of American weaknesses as well as a demonstrated ability to exploit these flaws with patience and resolve.

Unfortunately this news may come as an unpleasant surprise to many Americans. The Bush administration falsely states that this is a war with a military solution — that is how these superpower imperialists think, unilaterally and one-dimensionally, the gunslinger mentality. So Bush's defense team called in the heavy weapons. Armed to the teeth with the most intimidating weaponry known to mankind, the U.S. military was ordered to ride into a box canyon and now finds itself boxed in. What good is superior firepower when its use contradicts your strategic goals? Benjamin and Weimann call it “the classic quandary of counterinsurgency: we do not want to use the force necessary to wipe out the terrorists because we would kill numerous civilians and further alienate the Iraqi population.”

I am convinced that the radical Islamist leadership has studied cowboy hubris and has evolved a new methodology of warfare, sort of a value-added guerrilla jihad. Even as the Bushies stage ongoing single-minded preemptive military countermeasures against al Qaeda's terrorist capabilities, the jihadists themselves have hatched a bold plan to “globalize” the battlefield into the economic and cultural, as well as military, theatres and to wage holy war wherever they themselves choose.

They believe they cannot lose. They believe that the deeper U.S. drives its own oil-leveraged imperial interests into the heart of the Moslem world, the greater will be the demand on American resources around the world to secure and protect supply lines, frontlines and flanks, homeland, and hundreds of potential flashpoints around the world. They envision an American government and its allies so overextending economic, military, and cultural influence to confront Islamic nationalism in a new imperial crusade for oil that the Westerners will sink slowly into the self-made quagmire. Stated in words any corporate accountant will understand, the Islamic militants predict that, as the bills pile up, the American corporatist dream of a 21st century empire will die the death of a thousand paper cuts.

Proclaiming it to be "very important to concentrate on striking the American economy by every possible means," Osama bin Laden and his associates clearly anticipated the 9/11 attacks as a major blow against America's economic well-being — and the opening salvo in a perpetual siege to drain the economic life-blood from global capitalism. So far the invoice includes:
1. the costs for the Iraqi, Afghani, and Balkan occupations and day-in day-out military force readiness alert against Iran: according in Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz, at least $3 trillion and counting

2. the costs of a so-called “preemptive” military strike against Iran (according to “leaked” sources, now expected to be launched against Iranian Quds facilities in August) and the uncalculated “fallout” — perhaps literal fallout if the Israeli air force attacks Iranian nuclear facilities in a coordinated air offensive — in terms of Iranian military retaliation as well as the cost of trying to contain the collective outrage of the people of North America, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East as we take our anger to the streets.

3. the costs for securing borders, transportation, infrastructure, industry (especially nuclear, petrochemical, and chemical), government buildings, and events such as gala global economic summits and international media spectacles, e.g. the Olympics and the U.S. political conventions: approximately $250 billion since 2001 (with many billions more secreted inside other spending packages)

4. an unbudgeted but neocon-predicted “endless war” for oilfield control as frenzied global industrial markets requiring uninterrupted petroleum supplies confront the twin spectres of dwindling post-peak oil production and escalating extraction costs

5. the willingness to borrow a trillion dollars or more from our historic ideological enemy, China, in order to maintain wealthy Americans’ unsustainably opulent lifestyles and to pay for protracted imperial wars

6. the increasingly exposed contradictions — and subsequent escalating security costs — within the Mideast region's oil-wealthy, pro-Western, anti-democratic Arab oligarchies

7. the costs of maintaining Israel as our Middle East Fort Apache: according to Washington economist Thomas Stauffer, about $1.6 trillion between 1973-2002 (Christian Science Monitor 12/9/02)
The jihadists correctly predict that the Western-style democracies, to mitigate against global inflation while vastly increasing military and security spending across the board, will choose to savage social programs serving millions of middle-class, working-class, and nonworking-class citizens rather than pass the escalating costs on to their corporate sponsors as higher taxes. Such policy will widen the class gap between the have-nots and what George W. Bush affectionately calls the “have-mores” and will further destabilize Western-style democracies.

Brothers of the Cross and the Crescent

I have described this as a kind of “value-added” guerrilla jihad and suggested how the economic component is inextricably tied to the terror-centered military campaign. Now I would like to describe the jihadists’ startling success on a third front: the culture war.

It is well documented how America's tradition of tolerance and moral/ethical relativism is disgusting to radical Islamists. In this context, then, our nation’s enemies must view the U.S. government's lock-step march to USA-PATRIOT, the legalizing of domestic spying, and dismantling of habeas corpus as a spectacular and ridiculously easy victory. What the jihadists wanted, the Bush administration delivered — a new vision of America stripped of many of those unique but suddenly deemed unnecessary personal freedoms fought for and won by our Founding Fathers in their own war on tyranny and terror. The Bush White House and Congress displayed the intellectual resolve and historical understanding of a flock of dodo birds as they walked off the deep end. Ironically, Islamic fundamentalists find themselves on the same page as Christian fundamentalists on this moral crusade — brothers of the cross and the crescent seeking to deliver America to the doorstep of faith-based fascism.

America’s headlong descent into the politics of fear must be seen by the defiant survivors of Tora Bora as further proof that Allah has chosen this ragtag group of Islamic cultists to wield the scimitar that will smite Western civilization and its crusading infidels. The mere idea — supported by televised image — of an effete American populace cowering in terror as Michael Chertoff orchestrates his light show on cue to pull in the “fear” vote … such a vision must make Osama’s followers feel mighty righteous. George Bush evoked the memory of FDR to hype his own handling of the “global war on terror,” but the contrast in message then and now is stark. Bush tells us that we have everything to fear. Six decades ago an undaunted American president stood strong after Pearl Harbor and convinced this shaken land that we “have nothing to fear but fear itself?”

Finally, as economic war segues between religious crusade and market meltdowns, the class divisions re-emerging in the United States are also gaining momentum in the Middle East — wherever oil-wealthy, pro-Western, anti-democratic Arab regimes require American firepower and state-sponsored interpretation of the Koran to contain their own restless masses. I must add, however, that militant Arabs — unlike many American voters — seem to be able to determine the difference between a genuine political leader and a snake in the grass. The problem apparently is more complicated for us Americans since most of our politicians and corporate media commentators are known to speak with forked tongues.

In conclusion, I have stated that we face a motivated opponent with an expansive, non-linear sense of time, a single-minded objective, and a devout understanding of historical imperative and that we are going to war against this relentless foe behind national political and military “leadership” for whom time is measured by the length of the media news cycle and history is to be repeated until the desired outcome is obtained. The Three Stooges at the White House, Department of Defense, and the State Department are in charge of the battle planning and nation building. “Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk” sums up our foreign policy.

Meanwhile our enemies are content to wait and pick their fights until Western civilization implodes — culturally and economically and militarily — from arrogance, fear, wasteful extravagance, and self-serving contradictions. Even if the conflict lasts another thousand years or more.

If you are an Arab or Persian mujahadeen, why not wait and fight, fight and wait, carefully picking the target? Islamic populations comprise the fastest-growing demographic group in the world, insuring an endless army of holy warriors and martyrs. “Iraq,” as Benjamin and Weimann point out, “in fact, has become a theater of inspiration for this drama of faith.”

Against this stark tableau of Islamic insurgency, U.S. leadership is auditioning for the role of emperor of the world, but the emperor has no clothes and is reading from a script borrowed from Dumb and Dumber.

Related article: What the Terrorists Have in Mind / By Daniel Benjamin and Gabriel Weimann / New York Times / Oct. 27, 2004

The Rag Blog

Graphic by Stout / Austin Chronicle.

War Spending Furthers al-Qaeda Goal of Undermining US Economy
By Robert Weiner and John Larmett / May 30, 2008
The Bush administration has chosen to sink taxpayers' money into Iraq over public investment, undermining the US economy and infrastructure.

As the Congress takes up the latest Bush administration "supplemental" appropriation of another $160 billion for the war in Iraq, the impact of the war on families has been enormous. Montana now has the highest number per capita of killed or wounded in the country - 26.09 per 100,000 population - and a total of 250 deaths or injuries as of May 10.

In fact, the Congress should consider whether the funding - almost a trillion dollars to date - helps al-Qaida more than us. The question of whom the war funding actually helps and its draining of our own needs should be a major issue in the June 3 Montana primary.

In his audio addresses, Osama bin Laden has underscored the importance of hitting economic targets, threatening the United States with financial ruin. Bleeding the U.S. economy is an explicitly stated and oft-repeated aim of al-Qaida. In 2004, soon after the war began, bin Laden stated clearly: "The Mujahedeen have finally forced Bush to have recourse to an emergency budget in order to continue the fight in Afghanistan and Iraq, which indicates the success of the plan to exhaust (them) to the point of bankruptcy, God willing." Bin Laden emphasized the economic nature of the targets chosen in New York City for the Sept. 11 attacks, proclaiming it to be "very important to concentrate on striking the American economy by every possible means."

Draining Our Economy

He must be thrilled we've continued the emergency supplemental war funding, draining our economy for more than five years and counting. The U.S. economy is spiraling into crisis with the costs of oil and gas, college education, food doubling and tripling since 2001, drugs and other staples not far behind and home foreclosures at all-time highs.

Al-Qaida continues this objective right to the present.

The war in Iraq has been the economic disaster for the United States that bin Laden, without even having to deploy many resources, wished for (our own intelligence agencies confirm that al-Qaida is no more than 2 percent of the Iraq insurgents; the remainder is the civil strife that has persisted there for centuries).

With just the amount of our Iraq budget in 2007, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi points out, our government could instead have repaired 70,000 bridges across the U.S. rated deficient; rebuilt the New Orleans levees; covered all children in the State Children's Health Insurance Plan; equipped U.S. agencies with interoperable communications equipment not available on Sept. 11, 2001; enrolled 1.4 million more children in Head Start; doubled the budget for the National Cancer Institute; screened all air cargo for 10 years; and hired 51,000 more police officers. Instead, Bush has vetoed programs like CHIP and insisted on war dollars. All the while, al-Qaida has regrouped and strengthened outside Iraq - in Afghanistan and around the world.

Fewer Jobs Created

While the Clinton administration created 23 million new jobs, Bush has created 6 million - the worst jobs record since Herbert Hoover. The Bush administration chose to sink taxpayers' money into Iraq over public investment.

It is counterproductive to our own security that we paradoxically give al-Qaida exactly what it wants. The CIA's National Intelligence Estimate - now suddenly blocked from public view by the Bush administration likely because the document has spoken too much truth - stated on Jan. 13, 2005, that the war in Iraq "provides terrorists with a training ground" and "opportunity," and "the Jihadists will disperse to other countries" and "merge with local movements."

As to the president's objective to "fight them over there so we don't have to over here," the real question is whether it's al-Qaida keeping us bottled up in Iraq instead of the other way around. It's the classic strategy - divert the enemy to another location away from you, so that they will lose time, troops and effort - while you conduct your own priorities with no interference. Is al-Qaida beating us at our own game?

[Editor's note: The war deaths and injuries statement is based on ICasualties data and U.S. Census population numbers. Wyoming is a distant second at 19.31.

Democratic strategist Robert Weiner is a former spokesman in the Clinton White House. John Larmett is former foreign policy assistant and press secretary to Sen. Gaylord Nelson and Rep. Jim McDermott.]

Source. / truthout / Billings Gazette

The Rag Blog

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Rudi Dutschke Strasse : From Our Man in Berlin

Rudi Dutschke, then.

Rudi Dutschke Strasse, now.

Street Party Celebrates Memory of Sixties German Activist
By David MacBryde / The Rag Blog / May 30, 2008

[David MacBryde was an Austin activist and a contributor to The Rag Blog’s historical precursor, The Rag., an icon of the 60s-70s underground press. He now lives in Berlin and will be posting to The Rag Blog from time to time.]

An enjoyable sign of the times in Berlin, Germany.

There was a street party on April 30, to celebrate the renaming of a local street Rudi Dutschke Strasse.

It was an historical day in town, marking both success in honoring Rudi and also demonstrating historical paradigm changes in the society here.

Forty years ago Gretchen and Rudi Dutschke were very active in the local German “SDS” -- by happenstance the same initials as the Students for a Democratic Society in the United States -- and at about the same time -- though there were some differences. One similarity: German SDS was, like its U.S. counterpart, a particularly visible if numerically small part of a much larger movement.

Rudi was very active and was (or was picked upon as) a media figure. The Axel Springer press (with eight per cent market coverage in Berlin at the time) picked Rudi as the object of hate – as a media icon to focus hate against the “tiny minority” of “student revolutionaries.”

In 1968 Rudi was shot in the head in an attempted assassination, and was badly wounded. In 1968, outraged at the shooting, thousands of Berliners went to the Axel Springer publishing house to blockade it, blaming the publisher for creating a climate of hate against Rudi.

(Rudi recovered to a great extent, went on to help with the creation of the German Greens, and died, may he rest in peace, on Christmas Eve, 1979, in his bathtub, of an epilepsy fit resulting from his wounds.)

Now naming a street in his honor demonstrates a change in thinking here about Rudi, and much more. Back then "conservatives" and particularly the Axel Springer press tried to fan fear and hate, and focused on Rudi. Now there are still some conservatives who try to blame “the 60’s-‘70s” (here usually referred to iconically as the “1968ers”) for all modern evils. The current pope, at least before he became pope, was among those blaming the 1968ers for the collapse of morality and other evils.

But this year, 2008, 40 years after "68", a huge kaleidoscope of photo exhibits, film series, discussions and events in Berlin have revisited "68" – at places like the Academy of Art, and, my favorite, actually inside the building of the America Haus, with an old water cannon parked in front, showing the protests back then outside the America Haus. Keep your eyes on The Rag Blog for more on this in the future.

Renaming the street with a party in the street was one major focus.

Our correspondent, with sign, at street party.

Rag fans and Ragblog aficionados may enjoy the fact that it was Die Tageszeitung (literally “the daily paper,” affectionately known as the TAZ) that initiated the name change. Whereas The Rag was published in Austin, Texas from 1966 to 1977, the TAZ was, after a number of attempts, finally founded in 1979 to create an alternative presence in the then miserable media landscape. The TAZ is now a major national daily paper. Their building (see the video clip) is named the Rudi Dutschke Haus, and is now on the Rudi Dutschke Strasse, formerly Koch Strasse, which was historically the newspaper street in Berlin, like Fleet Street in London. The new Rudi Dutschke Strasse intersects the Axel Springer Strasse -- a nice historical touch, with the Rudi Dutschke Strasse having the right of way.

A number of conservatives and the current Axel Springer company intensely tried all sorts of things to block the name change. But the local borough council is strongly red-green-red (with the local "conservative" party stuck at about 20 per cent of the vote), and voted heavily in favor of the change. A petition drive against the change failed. The courts threw out challenges and an

As was noted at the street party celebration, although the Axel Springer building is now a bit larger now, their influence is much, much smaller. They lost their attempt to block the
change -- the change of the street name, and of the opinions of people in town. This is a sea change in Berlin that has taken a while.

{One current note from Berlin to those of you in Austin: the photo exhibits here about local history were helpful. In Austin, Alan Pogue (now a contributor to The Rag Blog) took many pictures indeed, and provided considerable glee and memory glue for the Rag Reunion.. As one particular proactive project I would like to help work towards creating The Alan Pogue Picture Archive, somehow, for a bunch of reasons including some fun. Contact me via http://sdswiki.pbwiki.com/ if also interested.}

Street Party on Rudi Dutschke Strasse

The Rag Blog

[+/-]

Obama Practices Looking-Off-Into-Future Pose

Subtle muscular adjustments can show, from left, wistfulness, determination, and unbridled hopefulness.

Still working on the squinting, Axlerod admits...

CHICAGO—As the 2008 presidential election draws closer, Democrat Barack Obama has reportedly been working tirelessly with his top political strategists to perfect his looking-off-into-the-future pose, which many believe is vital to the success of the Illinois senator's campaign.

When performed correctly, the pose involves Obama standing upright with his back arched and his chest thrust out, his shoulders positioned 1.3 feet apart and opened slightly at a 14-degree angle, and his eyes transfixed on a predetermined point between 500 and 600 yards away. Advisers say this creates the illusion that Obama is looking forward to a bright future, while the downturned corners of his lips indicate that he acknowledges the problems of the present.

"The senator spends six hours a day gazing resolutely off into the distance," said chief political strategist David Axelrod, who regularly analyzes video of the pose with Obama, pinpoints areas that need improvement, and makes necessary tweaks.

"It is critical to get every detail right," Axelrod continued. "If he looks up an inch too high, he appears aloof or confused. If he looks down too low, it appears that he is distracted by something in the back of the auditorium. If the curvature of his upper lip is not at the exact 0.87-centimeter radius, it reads that he does not care about preserving the environment for future generations."

The pose also requires Obama to arch his eyebrows at 32-degree angles, open his mouth to prevent the misconception that he is frowning about the future, and briefly flare his nostrils to convey faith in the nation's children.

He must then clench his jaw with sufficient force to express strength and decisiveness—if he uses too much force, Axelrod said, his supraorbital forehead vein becomes visible and makes it appear as though he is in physical pain.

"Every millimeter of that head vein costs him 150,000 votes," Axelrod said.

To complete the pose, Obama must then open his eyes at an aperture of 1.43 centimeters, tilt his chin slightly upward, and rotate his head 37 degrees to the left. His advisers stressed that he must always look to the left.

"When you look to the future, you look to the left," Axelrod said. "Looking to the right is an I-am-sorry-for-the-mistakes-I've-made-in-the-past-but-promise-to-work-my-hardest-for- this-great-nation-from-now-on pose. It's too early for that."

The biggest obstacle Obama has had to overcome in recent weeks is his proclivity to squint while looking toward the future, which aides say alienates voters.

"We've worked on the squinting," said Obama adviser Sam Hosking, who claimed it was a "death knell" for a candidate to appear to be struggling to see the nation's future. "It took a lot of work, but we were able to turn the squint into a solemn blink."

"The blink humanizes him," Hosking added. "But you have to be careful. Two blinks and people will start to question if he's a man of his word."

Obama has also worked on increasing the speed with which he can strike the pose. Advisers say that it is critical for him to be able to quickly and seamlessly transition into the looking-off-into-the-future pose at any moment, especially during applause breaks in his speeches, while being photographed from low angles, and whenever there is a large American flag waving gently behind him.

Obama's advisers have recently given him clearance to nod resolutely upon completing the looking-off-into-the-future pose.

"A nod is acceptable," Hosking said. "The American people respond well to nods."

Although Obama's pose has been modified and fine-tuned over the course of the campaign, some pundits claim that Obama's original looking-off-into-the-future pose was the strongest and most believable.

"I fell in love with the chin-three-inches-from-the-neck Barack Obama," said longtime Obama supporter and MoveOn.org employee Peter Koechley. "I just don't know if a chin-four-inches-from-the-neck or, even worse, a chin-two-inches-from-the-neck Obama is the same Obama that first inspired me."

As soon as Obama masters his looking-off-into-the-future pose, aides say he will begin honing his looking-straight-down-and-gripping-the-lectern-while-taking-a-deep-breath-to- communicate-both-his-rise-from-humble-roots-and-his-dedication-to-upholding- the-honor-and-responsibility-of-the-presidency-while-still-fully-understanding- the-historical-significance-of-the-moment pose.

Source. / The Onion

Thanks to Carl Davidson / The Rag Blog

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Anti-Semitic Christian Comic Aimed at Kids

Called a "Training Manual" For "The Next Pogrom Against Jews"
By Bruce Wilson / May 30, 2008

For several years now, I have been tracking and studying the covert aspects of Christian Zionism but today an anonymous source -- a devoted and concerned student of the spread of anti-Semitic ideas within American pop-culture and religious culture -- sent to me a product, currently sold at Barnes and Noble bookstores, that suggests the historically covert anti-Semitism within American Christian Zionist culture is mutating, changing and entering a new phase: the anti-Semitism is becoming overt. The Christian Zionism of Tim Lahaye and of Senator John McCain's recently renounced political endorser Pastor John Hagee, which has traditionally perpetrated coded attacks on Jews while also declaring them to be blessed by God, especially if they move to Israel, may be entering a new and very dark phase.

According to Chip Berlet, senior analyst at Political Research Associates, based near Boston, the portrayal of Jews found in a Manga comic now sold in Barnes and Noble depicts "A colorful comic training manual for motivating young leaders of the next pogrom against Jews. Not just offensive -- ghastly and horrific in content with a clear enemy scapegoat identified for venting apocalyptic religious bigotry."

Tyndale House, one of the largest Christian and Christian Zionist publishers in the United States, was built largely on the breakthrough publishing success of Tim LaHaye's and Jerry Jenkin's "Left Behind" books, movies and other paraphernalia attached to the now enormous "Left Behind" brand name and Tyndale publishes books by James Dobson, head of the enormous Colorado Springs Christian conservative nonprofit organization "Focus On The Family".

My source who originally discovered what Berlet identifies as a "comic training manual" for "the next pogrom against Jews" states that she:

bought this copy of Manga Messiah at a local Barnes and Nobles, day before yesterday. Tyndale, the Christian publishing house, was also the publisher of the wildly successful Left Behind series, which popularized dispensational Christian Zionism and provided sales of over 60 million books. The growing acceptability in our society of this stereotype of Jews is not happening in spite of the apocalyptic Christian Zionist movement. It is happening because of it! This movement has been the incubator of media objectifying Jews as non human as well as the source of media that is mainstreaming anti-Jewish conspiracy theory. It is dressed up as biblical interpretation or futuristic prophecy but the images are being projected to millions of people all over the world. Even worse, the images are being validated in the minds of these millions as an acceptable way to view Jews because of the visible participation of Jewish leaders with the movement."
In the aftermath of the recent controversy over a video which I made and which subsequently was shown widely on national television, CNN's Wolf Blitzer credited the website I co-founded with journalist Frederick Clarkson with having forced Arizona Senator John McCain to drop Texas megachurch Pastor John Hagee's February 28, 2008 endorsement of McCain's current presidential bid -- because my video showcased an audio excerpt from a sermon Hagee had given which, I believed at the time, had been given "in the late 1990s", in which Hagee stated that "God sent Hitler" and that Jews were not "spiritually alive".

Many news reports have minimize the audio excerpt, passing it off as a one-time event and as "historic". But, Pastor Hagee has not denied his remarks that God sent Hitler, and John Hagee Ministries up to the moment I am writing this, May 29, 2008, 3:49 PM EST, still sells the 3-sermon "Countdown To Crisis" DVD set from which I extracted the audio clip (the "Battle For Jerusalem" sermon). And, Pastor Hagee has over the years, in his sermons, books and films, promoted a wide range of anti-Jewish themes: most of the classic anti-Semitic tropes and slurs that have simmered in the background of Christianity and sometimes come to the foreground -- with tragic results.

But how can Pastor Hagee, who has raised substantial amounts of money to help Jews make Aliyah to Israel, who have publicly shed tears over the Holocaust, possibly be anti-Semitic ? The answer is complex and far beyond the scope of this short article, but one particular historical anecdote shines a telling light on the question.

As described in the book Henry Ford and The Jews, by Neil Baldwin, from the period of 1913 to 1920, Henry Ford made a regular, and generous, gift of new Ford automobiles to a one-time neighbor of Ford's: Rabbi Leo Franklin. By 1920, Franklin was on his 7th gifted Ford auto but in the years Franklin had enjoyed Ford's largesse, the Rabbi had risen in local Jewish leadership circles and by 1920 had come to a realization which led the Rabbi to return Ford's 7th gifted auto, a customized Model T; Rabbi Franklin had come to the moral realization he could no longer accept gifts from a man, Henry Ford, whose publication the Dearborn Independent was launching vicious anti-Jewish fusillades and which had begun to echo the evolving German Dolchstosslegende, the German "stab in the back" myth that formed a substantial part of the anti-Jewish animus growing in Germany in the early 1920s and which attributed the German loss in World War One to a Jewish plot.

As my anonymous source for the striking Manga comic book material featured in this post explains:
Henry Ford believed that his friend, Rabbi Franklin, should not be concerned about Ford's spread of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," because as his spokesperson explained, he was only targeting "a certain type of Jew to open up the way for those Jews' self-correction." There could not be a better description of the current dispensationalist activities. They happily embrace the "good Jews" who will play their role in bringing about the violent apocalyptic drama that will end the "Jewish Question" forever and bring Jews to correct belief. However, while wrapped in the protection of a big Israeli flag, they are free to brutally attack "a certain type of Jew" which is the source of the moral degeneration in America and the obstacle to the Christian millennial reign."
In the 1920s, automaker Henry Ford paid for a mass printing of his "The International Jew" pamphlet, a close derivation of the "Protocols", and through such nakedly anti-Semitic literature Ford helped shape the ideological climate in Germany that fed the rise of Third Reich and The Holocaust. But, Ford did not believe he hated Jews as a people: only the "wrong" Jews.

As conservative Baptist scholar David P.Gushee described, in an address given at the Andover-Newton Theological Seminary, in Andover Massachusetts, during the summer of 2006, there are many troubling similarities between the narrative of cultural despair and cultural complaint that prevailed in Germany of the 1930's and corresponding narratives of cultural despair and complaint that have been on the rise in America in recent decades:
It was this cultural despair--a toxic brew of reaction against secularism, anger related to the loss of World War I, distress over cultural disorientation and confusion, fears about the future of Germany, hatred of the victorious powers and of those who supposedly stabbed Germany in the back, and of course the search for scapegoats (mainly the Jews)--that motivated many Germans to adopt a reactionary, authoritarian, and nationalistic ethic that fueled their support for Hitler's rise to power. A broadly appealing narrative of national decline (or conspiratorial betrayal) was met by Hitler's narrative of national revenge leading to utopian unity in the Fuhrer-State.

Conservative American evangelicals in recent decades have been deeply attracted to a parallel narrative of cultural despair. Normally the story begins with the rise of secularism in the 1960s, the abandonment of prayer in schools, and the Roe decision, all leading to an apocalyptic decline of American culture that must be arrested soon, before it is too late and "God withdraws his blessing" from America. While very few conservative evangelicals come into the vicinity of Hitler in hatefulness, elements similar to that kind of conservative-reactionary-nationalist narrative can be found in some Christian right-rhetoric: anger at those who are causing American moral decline, fear about the future, hatred of the "secularists" now preeminent in American life, and the search for scapegoats. The solution on offer -- a return to a strong Christian America through determined political action -- also has its parallels with the era under consideration."
In Germany of the 1920s the key purported villains behind an alleged national, cultural and moral decline were the same as today in America of the early 3rd millennium: liberal Jews, socialists, liberals, gays, artists and those in society who follow non-conventional lifestyles and cleave to non-conventional, leftist politics. Germany in the 1920s was culturally one of the most liberal, permissive societies on Earth, but that changed radically -- and in a breathtakingly short period of time -- with the rise of Nazism.

Pastor John Hagee professes, with great apparent sincerity, even to tears, to love Jews. But Hagee also promotes, in his sermons and literature, conspiracy theories that trace back, in their lineage, to "The Protocols of The Elders of Zion" and Henry Ford's "The International Jew". How, then, can these clashing views of John Hagee be reconciled ? One answer comes, in the form of a question, from the account of Henry Ford and Rabbi Frankel -- what is the nature of friendship and what is the nature of love ? Another answer comes from the field of criminology, which recognizes: love, hate and murder are, all too often, tragically, not far apart.

As Political Research Associates Senior Analyst Chip Berlet further characterized the Manga comic book "Manga Messiah" currently sold at Barnes and Noble bookstores, the comic:

Portrays a version of reading Biblical text about the crucifixion of Christ rejected by most Christians for decades--especially since the Nazi genocide of Jews.

Many readers of the Bible's New Testament will recognize the jibes from the jeering crowd as coming from Jewish chief priests, elders, scribes, and Pharisees. If readers don't know the references, the Bible verses cited below the images can be consulted to make clear the Jewish identity of the bloodthirsty crowd taunting Jesus.

These images of Jews as the Christ killers make Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" hideous snuff movie seem tame in comparison."

Source. / The Huffington Post

The Rag Blog

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Revolting Repression Runs Rampant with Sheeple

Here is a blatant, repellent example of censorship in the wolf-suit of patriotism. The call to participate in the Ferndale, MI Memorial Day parade called for no political signs. The respondent to this announcement is Peter Werbe, an activist and radio announcer in Michigan, who rejects the original writer's admonition regarding signs and insists that Constitutional rights be exercised without censorship.

Stop the kow-towing to the propaganda. Stop the censorship of the media and the people. Eat the state! Up the revolution!

Richard Jehn / The Rag Blog

Re: MEMORIAL DAY IN FERNDALE @ 9:30 a.m. Werbe
Peter Werbe pwerbe@yahoo.com Sun, May 25, 2008 at 4:02 PM Reply-To: pwerbe@yahoo.com To: Mel4hwpeace@aol.com Cc: Peter Werbe pwerbe@yahoo.com

Playing into patriotism only strengthens the empire. You're making a colossal political error in encouraging this type of participation. I was in the Ferndale parade along with any number of us three years ago carrying anti-war and anti-Bush signs and we received standing ovations from parade viewers. Now, everyone agrees with us, why shouldn't we have POLITICAL SIGNS? In fact, I'm sending this to all of my friends urging them not to pay any attention to such censorship.

One final thing: Someone carried out Bush's orders, followed them, in destroying Iraq and bears responsibility for millions of dead, wounded, and displaced Iraqi citizens. You're asking us to carry signs "recognizing" the men who carried out these orders. We should be carrying signs recognizing those millions who are the victims of our government, not its perpetrators.

I'm sending this to about 150 people asking them to show up with POLITICAL SIGNS. Speak your mind, people! NO WAR! TROOPS HOME NOW! BUSH LIED; PEOPLE DIED!


--- On Sun, 5/25/08, Mel4hwpeace@aol.com Mel4hwpeace@aol.com wrote:
From: Mel4hwpeace@aol.com Mel4hwpeace@aol.com Subject: MEMORIAL DAY IN FERNDALE @ 9:30 a.m. To: hwpeace@googlegroups.com, dapjn@yahoogroups.com Date: Sunday, May 25, 2008, 4:31 PM


The Human Cost of War" - recognizing service men/women from MI who died in Afghanistan and Iraq. 200 posters have been made recognizing military personnel who have been killed. Wear RED WHITE OR BLUE tops, NO POLITICAL SIGNS. For more information call 248-548-3920 or report at 9:30am at Livernois near W. Maplehurst. Parade starts at 10am.

Many thanks to Mariann Wizard / The Rag Blog

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29 May 2008

Holy Horny Toads, Batman

When I look at this list of former military officers, for the first time I am struck that the offbeat account of 9/11 may not be just another conspiracy theory. Some of the statements from these folks are chilling. Perhaps it is time to revisit this event with a truly independent body to determine what really happened.

Richard Jehn / The Rag Blog

USA Military Officers Challenge Official Account of September 11
May 29, 2008

Twenty-five former U.S. military officers have severely criticized the official account of 9/11 and called for a new investigation. They include former commander of U.S. Army Intelligence, Major General Albert Stubblebine, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Col. Ronald D. Ray, two former staff members of the Director of the National Security Agency; Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, PhD, and Major John M. Newman, PhD, and many others. They are among the rapidly growing number of military and intelligence service veterans, scientists, engineers, and architects challenging the government’s story. The officers’ statements appear below, listed alphabetically.

Lt. Col. Robert Bowman, PhD

“A lot of these pieces of information, taken together, prove that the official story, the official conspiracy theory of 9/11 is a bunch of hogwash. It’s impossible,” said Lt. Col. Robert Bowman, PhD, U.S. Air Force (ret). With doctoral degrees in Aeronautics and Nuclear Engineering, Col. Bowman served as Director of Advanced Space Programs Development under Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

“There’s a second group of facts having to do with the cover up,” continued Col. Bowman.
“Taken together these things prove that high levels of our government don’t want us to know what happened and who’s responsible. Who gained from 9/11? Who covered up crucial information about 9/11? And who put out the patently false stories about 9/11 in the first place? When you take those three things together, I think the case is pretty clear that it’s highly placed individuals in the administration with all roads passing through Dick Cheney.”

Regarding the failure of NORAD to intercept the four hijacked planes on 9/11, Col. Bowman said, “I'm an old interceptor pilot. I know the drill. I've done it. I know how long it takes. I know the rules. … Critics of the government story on 9/11 have said: ‘Well, they knew about this, and they did nothing’. That's not true. If our government had done nothing that day and let normal procedure be followed, those planes, wherever they were, would have been intercepted, the Twin Towers would still be standing and thousands of dead Americans would still be alive.”

During his 22-year Air Force career, Col. Bowman also served as the Head of the Department of Aeronautical Engineering and Assistant Dean at the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology. He also flew over 100 combat missions in Viet Nam as a fighter pilot.

Lt. Jeff Dahlstrom

Former U.S. Air Force pilot Lt. Jeff Dahlstrom wrote in a 2007 statement to this author, “When 9/11 occurred I bought the entire government and mainstream media story line. I was a lifelong conservative Republican that voted for Bush/Cheney, twice. Curiosity about JFK’s death, after a late night TV re-run of Oliver Stone’s movie, got me started researching and digging for the truth about his assassins.

“My research led me to a much more important and timely question: the mystery of what really did happen on 9/11. Everything that seemed real, turned out to be false. The US government and the news media, once again, were lying to the world about the real terrorists and the public murder of 2,972 innocents on 9/11.

“The ‘Patriot Act’ was actually written prior to 9/11 with the intention of destroying the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. It was passed by Congress, based upon the government's myth of 9/11, which was in reality a staged hoax. 9/11 was scripted and executed by rogue elements of the military, FAA, intelligence, and private contractors working for the US government.

“In addition to severely curtailing fundamental rights of Americans, the 9/11 crime was then used by this administration, the one I originally voted for and supported, to justify waging two preemptive wars (and most likely a third war), killing over 4,500 American soldiers, and killing over one million innocent Afghan and Iraqi people.

“It was all premeditated. Treason, a false flag military operation, and betrayal of the trust of the American people were committed on 9/11 by the highest levels of the US government and not one person responsible for the crimes, or the cover-up, has been held accountable for the last six years.
“After reading fifteen well-researched books, studying eight or nine DVD documentaries, and devoting months of personal research and investigation, I have arrived at one ultimate conclusion: The American government and the US Constitution have been hijacked and subverted by a group of criminals that today are the real terrorists. They are in control of the US government and they have all violated their oaths of office and committed treason against their own citizens.”

Read all of it here. / Axis of Logic

The Rag Blog

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Media : Michael Crichton, Vindicated

Stefan Stroe.

His 1993 prediction of mass-media extinction now looks on target.
By Jack Shafer / May 29, 2008

In 1993, novelist Michael Crichton riled the news business with a Wired magazine essay titled "Mediasaurus," in which he prophesied the death of the mass media—specifically the New York Times and the commercial networks. "Vanished, without a trace," he wrote.

The mediasaurs had about a decade to live, he wrote, before technological advances—"artificial intelligence agents roaming the databases, downloading stuff I am interested in, and assembling for me a front page"—swept them under. Shedding no tears, Crichton wrote that the shoddy mass media deserved its deadly fate.

"[T]he American media produce a product of very poor quality," he lectured. "Its information is not reliable, it has too much chrome and glitz, its doors rattle, it breaks down almost immediately, and it's sold without warranty. It's flashy but it's basically junk."

Had Crichton's prediction been on track, by 2002 the New York Times should have been half-fossilized. But the newspaper's vital signs were so positive that its parent company commissioned a 1,046-foot Modernist tower, which now stands in Midtown Manhattan. Other trends predicted by Crichton in 1993 hadn't materialized in 2002, either. Customized news turned out to be harder to create than hypothesize; news consumers weren't switching to unfiltered sources such as C-SPAN; and the mainstream media weren't on anyone's endangered species list.

When I interviewed Crichton in 2002 about his failed predictions for Slate, he was anything but defensive.

"I assume that nobody can predict the future well. But in this particular case, I doubt I'm wrong; it's just too early," Crichton said via e-mail.

As we pass his prediction's 15-year anniversary, I've got to declare advantage Crichton. Rot afflicts the newspaper industry, which is shedding staff, circulation, and revenues. It's gotten so bad in newspaperville that some people want Google to buy the Times and run it as a charity! Evening news viewership continues to evaporate, and while the mass media aren't going extinct tomorrow, Crichton's original observations about the media future now ring more true than false. Ask any journalist.

So with white flag in hand, I approached Crichton to chat him up once more. Magnanimous in victory, he said he had often thought about our 2002 discussion and was happy to revisit it. (Read the uncut e-mail interview in this sidebar.)

Although Crichton still subscribes to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, he dropped the Los Angeles Times a year ago—"with no discernable loss." He skims those two dailies but spends 95 percent of his "information-gathering time" on the Web.

He concedes with a shrug that the personalized infotopia he crystal-balled in 1993 has yet to arrive. When we talked in 2002, Crichton scoffed at the Web. Too slow. Its page metaphor, too limiting. Design, awful. Excessive hypertexting, too distracting. Noise-to-signal ratio, too high.

Today he's more positive about the medium. He notes with satisfaction that the Web has made it far easier for the inquisitive to find unmediated information, such as congressional hearings. It's much faster than it used to be, and more of its pages are professionally assembled. His general bitch is advertisements in the middle of stories, and he's irritated by animation and sounds in ads. "That, at least, can often be blocked by your browser," he says.

Michael Crichton holding miniature computer.

In 1993, Crichton predicted that future consumers would crave high-quality information instead of the junk they were being fed and that they'd be willing to pay for it. He's perplexed about that part of his prediction not panning out, but he has a few theories about why it hasn't.

"Senior scientists running labs don't read journals; they say the younger people will tell them about anything important that gets published—if they haven't heard about it beforehand anyway," he says. "So there may be other networks to transmit information, and it may be that 'media' was never as important as we who work in it imagine it was. That's an argument that says maybe nobody really needs a high-end service."

It will take a media visionary, he believes—somebody like Ted Turner—to create the high-quality information service he foresaw in his 1993 essay. In addition to building the service, the visionary will also have to convince news consumers that they need it.

Sounding like a press critic, Crichton criticizes much of the news fed to consumers as "repetitive, simplistic, and insulting" and produced on the cheap. Cable TV news is mostly "talking heads and food fights" and newspaper reporting mostly "rewritten press releases," he says.

Crichton suggests that readers and viewers could more objectively measure the quality of the news they consume by pulling themselves "out of the narcotizing flow of what passes for daily news." Look at a newspaper from last month or a news broadcast.

"Look at how many stories are unsourced or have unnamed sources. Look at how many stories are about what 'may' or 'might' or 'could' happen," he says. "Might and could means the story is speculation. Framing as I described means the story is opinion. And opinion is not factual content."

"The biggest change is that contemporary media has shifted from fact to opinion and speculation. You can watch cable news all day and never hear anything except questions like, 'How much will the Rev. Wright hurt Obama's chances?' 'Is Hillary now looking toward 2012?' 'How will McCain overcome the age argument?' These are questions for which there are endless answers. Contentious hosts on cable shows keep the arguments rolling," he says.

Crichton believes that we live in an age of conformity much more confining than the 1950s in which he grew up. Instead of showing news consumers how to approach controversy coolly and intelligently, the media partake of the zealotry and intolerance of many of the advocates they cover. He attributes the public's interest in Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright to its hunger for a wider range of viewpoints than the mass media provide.

He tosses out a basket of questions he'd like to see the press tackle, some of which I've seen covered. "What happened at Bear Stearns?" got major play this week, after Crichton answered my questions, in a Wall Street Journal series. And I know I've seen "How much of the current price of gas can be attributed to the weak dollar?" answered a couple of times but can't remember where. (Answer: a lot.) But such Crichton questions as "Why have hedge funds evaded government regulation?" and what specific lifestyle changes will every American have to make "to reduce CO2 emissions by 60 percent?" would be great assignments for news desks.

"I want a news service that tells me what no one knows but is true nonetheless," he says.

Source. / Slate

Who You Calling Mediasaurus? -- Jack Shafer's 1992 feature on Chrichton and the media. / Slate.

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