Monday, July 31, 2006


Carl Hiaasen: The Lies

Just in case I get a little rattled when I try to remember all the lies that came out of D.C. about why we had to go to war with Iraq...

I don’t often buy new books. Carl Hiaasen is the exception: he’s sharp, ironic, and to the point. This is a good example:

Carl Hiaasen: 'Disillusioned with the war? Here's why'
Date: Sunday, July 30 @ 08:57:54 EDT
Topic: War & Terrorism

Carl Hiaasen, Miami Herald

Al Qaeda's No. 2 beard appeared on Al-Jazeera television the other day and urged all Muslims to join a holy war against Israel.

Ayman al Zawahri told the faithful that the whole world is their "battlefield," and that they must keep fighting until Islam prevails from "Spain to Iraq."

Spain seems stable, for the moment. Unfortunately, Iraq is a bloody mess, and the rest of the Mideast is erupting.

The fact that al Zawahri is still alive and ranting nearly five years after 9/11 sums up the botched and misguided war on terror.

No less undead and chatty is al Zawahri's boss, Osama bin Laden, the loon who headed the conspiracy that targeted the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. Osama has delivered five videotaped messages already this year, exhorting followers to pursue the jihad.

Polls say that, by a large majority, Americans are disillusioned with the president, his foreign policy and the grinding war in Iraq. It's hardly surprising.

So much of what we've been told has turned out to be bull, starting with the reason for the invasion. Who can forget these solemn declarations from the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld brain trust?

* Saddam Hussein is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.

* Saddam's regime has secret connections to al Qaeda.

* U.S. troops will be "welcomed as liberators."

* Forget what experienced battle commanders say. We've got more than enough forces on the ground to assert control in Iraq.

* Major combat is over!

* The insurgents in Iraq are just pesky "dead-enders" who will be vanquished in short order.

* American soldiers have been issued the top-of-the-line body and vehicle armor for protection.

* The training of Iraqi military and police forces is progressing smoothly.

* The rebuilding of Iraq will be financed by revenues from its vast oil holdings, not by American taxpayers.

* Don't worry -- this isn't anything like Vietnam.

So far, the president and his team are batting .000 in Baghdad. They haven't been right yet.

Iraq finally has a new government on paper, but Washington is running the show. Without coalition forces patrolling the streets, Iraq could explode into open civil war. It may yet.

So we're stuck in a bad place with nothing but bad options. There simply is no good, swift way out.

It's understandable that Americans are so worried about the fighting between Hezbollah and Israel -- and so leery of U.S. involvement. The scorecard in Iraq inspires nothing but skepticism about future White House initiatives, diplomatic or military, in that crazed part of the world.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the war in Iraq has cost U.S. taxpayers about $300 billion so far -- a mind-blowing sum that's been deliberately excluded from federal deficit computations.

The human cost is much harder to conceal. Iraqi civilians are dying at the rate of 100 a day as a result of "sectarian strife" -- a sanitized way of saying blood hatred -- between the Sunnis and Shiites.

Through July 27, the sobering toll on the American military was 2,558 dead, and many thousands more who've been injured and crippled.

The insurgency at which Donald Rumsfeld was scoffing two years ago remains aggressive and elusive today. The roadside bombings and rocket attacks have sapped the morale of many U.S. troops.

"It sucks. Honestly, it feels like we're driving around waiting to get blown up," Army Spec. Tim Ivey told The Washington Post last week in Baghdad.

A medic, Spec. David Fulcher, said that in World War II, "the big picture was clear -- you know you're fighting because somebody was trying to take over the world, basically. This [Iraq] is like, what did we invade here for?"

It's a damn good question that millions of sane and patriotic people have been asking.

Especially when they see al Zawahri on TV, posing before a photograph of the smoking World Trade Center, beseeching Muslims everywhere to strike out against Israel and the United States.

Al Zawahri isn't hiding in Iraq. Neither is Osama bin Laden.

They're both still holed up in Afghanistan, along with a resurging Taliban that continues to do battle with the remaining coalition forces.

You remember Afghanistan? The place where George Bush was going to wipe out al Qaeda, before he brilliantly decided that Saddam Hussein was more important.

Source: Miami Herald

The URL for this story is:

Sunday, July 30, 2006


The Shards of Iraq

Another kind of war wounds—the war at home—courtesy of George and Dick and Donny and the gang. Susan G, thank you for this. Thanks in the long run, I guess, because this one takes a while to digest and to reflect on. We’ve all been damaged by this shit the administration has flung around. It’ll never wash off. The smell will never go away.

The Impossibility of Unknowing
by SusanG
Sun Jul 30, 2006 at 10:01:32 AM PDT

Fallujah. Signing statements. Abu Ghraib.

Waterboarding. Stress positions. Free speech zones.

The theological and historical differences between Sunni and Shi'ite. How levees are constructed. Why levees fail.

These are things I knew nothing about until George W. Bush.

I've always considered gaining knowledge an indisputable good, but these pieces of the world I've come to know in the past six years have the feel of being forced into me under threat. They now carry with them a weight and a darkness.

The Ninth Ward. Haditha. Guantanamo Bay.

How much sweeter to have picked up these nuggets of geography and history as I always have, serendipitously led through a leisurely stepping stone process of one book or conversation suggesting another, and yet another, and now a couple of twists and turns ... you start out here, reading Faulkner and next you're drawn to learning about cotton production and before you know it, you're at civil rights.

Instead, in all cases above, I'd begun my acquaintance because of headlines and horrors and a screaming, driving voice in my head: There's something wrong! There's something very, very wrong! Learn about it! Fast!

The jumble of panicked facts I feel I've had to jam into my brain to qualify as a reasonably informed citizen makes my skull feel swollen, as though I've had to take a crash correspondence course - sometimes several at once - at the same time I'm in a sprint for my mental life.

There's a loss in that, a taint on the previously enjoyable process of innocent inquiry. I've found fascinating, for instance, the original historical split between the Sunni and Shi'ite sects of Islam. Yet if subjects are filed in the brain under a color-coded system, this tale is filed under black and blue (and red for blood). The accompanying score is Adagio for Strings.

The tone is completely different for, say, my recent thirst for jazz, which arose through my son's budding interest and the two of us watching Ken Burns' marvelous series over a course of several days, eating life-threatening amounts of junk food while sprawled on couches in the living room.

Some nights I go to sleep under this administration and wonder: What new horror am I going to have cram into my head tomorrow morning? What new form of torture? What unfamiliar town or province?

My brain's been hijacked and my eagerness to read news killed. I know too much now compared with how much I knew in the innocent 1990's. And there seems no way to un-know it or bleach it clean of the flavor of its original acquisition. (I still see the infamous picture of the hooded prisoner standing on the box, arms outspread at Abu Ghraib, on a background of baby blue because I first encountered the photo and the terse, stunned narrative of horror over at Billmon's Whiskey Bar.)

Certainly of all the atrocities and diminishments since Bush took office, having personal fact-flavor problems seems unworthy of even a footnote. Arguably, I should have removed my head from my sorry American provincial ass a long time ago to learn more about Islam or the precise wording of the Geneva Conventions. Still, the knowledge of foreign cities, dodges of the law, how Abramoff's money came to be laundered ... all of these facts feel IV'ed into me on a timetable set by an administration I despise. That seems a final, intrusive indignity, small as it is.

When I was 20, I was in a serious car accident. I fractured my back, collar bones, four ribs. I'd ruptured my kidney, I'd had a chunk of flesh the size of a Girl Scout cookie ripped out of my knee. I was hospitalized more than a month, and I'd been proud of being reasonably stoic and properly grateful to have survived.

The day I was released from the hospital, I went home and took a shower, the first in nearly six weeks. As I lathered up - a luxury I can still savor in memory after weeks and weeks of bed-bound sponge baths - my fingers found, underneath my arm and along my shoulder blade, embedded pieces of gravel and glass that had not been properly debrided. I realized they were going to be a part of me forever because my flesh had already healed over them. And finally, I lost it, completely. I stood in the shower and wept for twenty minutes; it was some sort of symbolic final straw for me, this discovery of physical objects in me from the accident, minor though they were in the overall injury scheme. I think what grieved me the most was that they were on the hidden underside, the most tender part of my underarm and back, and that although they were harmless, I'd spend a lifetime remembering, every time I bathed, the precise stretch of road they came from and how they got there.

I feel like George W. Bush and his policies are gravel and glass in my brain. Forever.

There's no debridement of the image of the little girl in a dress, crying in horror and crouching over a pool of her parents' blood after they were killed at a checkpoint. There's no erasure of Gonzales' calling the Geneva Conventions "quaint." There's no rewinding of the tape in my head that juxtaposes the president playing guitar at a birthday party while people floated face down in the streets of New Orleans.

I find myself longing for ignorance, and that's a weakness and betrayal of everything I'd believed until George W. Bush came onto the scene. Again, this is a minor personal complaint and I'm sure I'll recover, eventually. My real concern is that this is less than you can say with certainty about the effects of this administration on this country and the rest of the world.


Join The Army; Travel; Meet People; Kill them

Yeah, just the kind of troops we should support. This guy shouldn’t have even got into the army, let alone be trained in how to kill people.

Yahoo! News
"Killing people is like squashing an ant:" former US soldier;_ylt=Ap3lwmqtSA8_6So_4ymFRnnZa7gF;_ylu=X3oDMTA3MXN1bHE0BHNlYwN0bWE-

A former US soldier accused of raping and murdering an Iraqi girl compared killing people in Iraq to "squashing an ant," in an interview with a reporter about a month before the attack.

Steven Green, 21, a former private with the 101st Airborne Division, is under arrest in Kentucky and could face the death penalty if convicted of the March 12 murders of the Iraqi girl and three of her relatives.

Writing in Sunday's editions of The Washington Post, Andrew Tilghman, a former correspondent for the US military newspaper Stars and Stripes, said he interviewed Green several times in February at his unit south of Baghdad.

"I came over here because I wanted to kill people," he quoted Green as saying. "The truth is, it wasn't all I thought it was cracked up to be.

"I mean, I thought killing somebody would be this life-changing experience," Green was quoted as saying. "And then I did it, and I was like, 'All right, whatever.'

"I shot a guy who wouldn't stop when we were out at a traffic checkpoint and it was like nothing," Green was quoted as saying. "Over here, killing people is like squashing an ant.

"I mean, you kill somebody and it's like, 'All right, let's go get some pizza.'"

Copyright © 2006 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved


Kennedy Says Roberts and Alito Fooled Them

It isn’t that they do stupid things, it’s that they do stupid things and then claim to have been deceived. "We didn't know!"

Anyone with a brain larger than a goldfish’s could have seen that Alito and Roberts were ideologues who lied to Congress.

Geez, Ted, get a clue ahead of time, OK?

Roberts and Alito Misled Us
By Edward M. Kennedy
The Washignton Post
Sunday 30 July 2006


But the careful, bipartisan process of years past - like so many checks and balances rooted in our Constitution - has been badly broken by the current Bush administration. The result has been the confirmation of two justices, John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr., whose voting record on the court reflects not the neutral, modest judicial philosophy they promised the Judiciary Committee, but an activist's embrace of the administration's political and ideological agenda.

Now that the votes are in from their first term, we can see plainly the agenda that Roberts and Alito sought to conceal from the committee. Our new justices consistently voted to erode civil liberties, decrease the rights of minorities and limit environmental protections. At the same time, they voted to expand the power of the president, reduce restrictions on abusive police tactics and approve federal intrusion into issues traditionally governed by state law.


Israel Claims Green Light From Big Powers

A little sommething from the other front of the “War Against Isl—err, “Terrorism.” Israel claims that it had an OK from the conference in Rome against the war to continue the war. “Authorization,” like, yeah, sure, go ahead, kill more. Looks great on TV, everybody can feel outrage and sympathy for whichever side they want, gives Larry King something new to talk about, all those news anchors get to pad their resumes about their time in Lebanon…

You know what? I think the U.S. did tell Israel to go ahead; Britain, too. They really think they’re going to find the Hydra’s main head and cut it off and everything’s going to be cool again. The administration in Washington has minimal contact with reality.


Israel 'authorised' to continue attacks
By Aljazeera

07/27/06 "Aljazeera" -- -- Israel has said it has recieved implicit "authorisation" from international powers to continue its attacks in Lebanon.

The Israeli justice minister, Haim Ramon, said Israel had "in effect obtained the authorisation to continue our operations" by Wednesday's 15-nation Rome conference on the crisis in Lebanon.

Ramon said on Thursday the conference had implicitly said Israel could continue its attacks "until Hezbollah is no longer present in southern Lebanon".

"The whole world knows that a Hezbollah victory will mean a victory for international terrorism, which will be a catastrophe for the world and for Israel."

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister, described Ramon's interpretation as a "gross misunderstanding" of the outcome of the conference.

"I would say just the opposite - yesterday in Rome it was clear that everyone present wanted to see an end to the fighting as swiftly as possible."

The conference failed to reach agreement on calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah, instead agreeing to work to towards a ceasefire.

Ramon made his remarks before an Israeli security cabinet meeting on the crisis.

Air strikes

At the meeting, the Israeli government continue its limited incursions into Lebanon rather than launch a bigger ground offensive, an Israeli political source said.

The meeting took place after nine soldiers were killed in south Lebanon on Wednesday, the heaviest loss the army has suffered in 24 hours since the war began.

"It was decided to continue the offensive with the same strategy, using pinpointed ground incursions and air strikes, not to bring in massive forces," the source said.

"At the moment the army is not bound by time, it can act as long as needed."

Israel Radio said ministers made it clear that they had no intention of widening the conflict to confront Syria, which backs Hezbollah.

A statement from the prime minister's office said the security cabinet had authorised the call-up of more reserve troops.

Reserve units

"The cabinet has decided ... to mobilise reserve units to reinforce the military potential and capacity in the face of Hezbollah in Lebanon," the statement said.

Israel says it is trying to push Hezbollah back from the border and end rocket attacks on the north of the country.

European Union officials and diplomats met on Thursday to discuss plans to help Lebanon and whether any EU nations would be prepared to join a peacekeeping force there.

Officials said many countries remain cool on the proposed force, only Germany, Italy and non-EU member Turkey have voiced support for contributing to a mission.

Finland, which holds the rotating EU presidency, is leading the meetings in Helsinki and at the EU headquarters in Brussels.


In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Information ClearingHouse endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)


More GIs Charged With Murders in Iraq

Jesus, some days it’s like I don’t know where to start. OK, war crimes. This seems to be one of the big shadows hanging over our country these days. We, America, have been doing some things during this war that are not questionable: we’ve been committing war crimes. As long as the U.S. is the most powerful nation, nobody’s going to have to pay the piper for these behaviors. But nations, like people, hang onto their resentments: sooner or later, we are going to have to pay. All of us.

There are far too many stories like this one coming out of Iraq. After all of the administration's efforts to spin the war the way they want, they couldn't pull it off. This will make the war-makers just want more censorship. If they just could control the information...

The New York Times
July 28, 2006
Sergeant Tells of Plot to Kill Iraqi Detainees

For more than a month after the killings, Sgt. Lemuel Lemus stuck to his story.

“Proper escalation of force was used,” he told an investigator, describing how members of his unit shot and killed three Iraqi prisoners who had lashed out at their captors and tried to escape after a raid northwest of Baghdad on May 9.

Then, on June 15, Sergeant Lemus offered a new and much darker account.

In a lengthy sworn statement, he said he had witnessed a deliberate plot by his fellow soldiers to kill the three handcuffed Iraqis and a cover-up in which one soldier cut another to bolster their story. The squad leader threatened to kill anyone who talked. Later, one guilt-stricken soldier complained of nightmares and “couldn’t stop talking” about what happened, Sergeant Lemus said.

As with similar cases being investigated in Iraq, Sergeant Lemus’s narrative has raised questions about the rules under which American troops operate and the possible culpability of commanders. Four soldiers have been charged with premeditated murder in the case. Lawyers for two of them, who dispute Sergeant Lemus’s account, say the soldiers were given an order by a decorated colonel on the day in question to “kill all military-age men” they encountered.


Just before leaving, the soldiers had been given an order to “kill all military-age men” at the site by a colonel and a captain, said Paul Bergrin and Michael Waddington, the lawyers who are disputing Sergeant Lemus’s account. Military officials in Baghdad have declined to comment on whether such an order, which would have been a violation of the law of war, might have been given.

The colonel, Michael Steele, is the brigade commander. He led the 1993 mission in Somalia made famous by the book and movie “Black Hawk Down.”

The two lawyers say Colonel Steele has indicated that he will not testify at the Article 32 hearing — the military equivalent of a grand jury hearing — or answer any questions about the case. Calls and e-mail messages to a civilian lawyer said to be representing Colonel Steele were not returned.

It is very rare for any commanding officer to refuse to testify at any stage of a court-martial proceeding, said Gary D. Solis, a former military judge and prosecutor who teaches the law of war at Georgetown University.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Friday, July 28, 2006


What's Been Going On? A Short List...

Plans are afoot for something called "Camp Democracy" to be established in Washington, D.C.. It will be a place for those of us who really really object to our current government's behavior. I think it's a good idea. But...

Just a thought about...oh...the Bonus Marchers, Plaza of Three Cultures, places like that, you know. In some ways the administration would love to have something like this and then provoke some sort of incident...

Anyhow, here's an exerpt from their position paper:
Here's a sampling:

a. Illegal spying in violation of FISA and the Fourth Amendment, openly confessed to, openly promoted in signing statements, known to involve phone calls, phone records, internet use, bank records, and observation of legal nonviolent activities.

b. Illegal detentions in violation of the Fourth Amendment, International law, US Law, and a recent Supreme Court ruling.

c. Rounding up of thousands of citizens and legal residents for detention or deportation.

d. Torture, maintenance of secret camps, and extraordinary rendition, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, International Law, US Law, and openly promoted in signing statements and administration policy papers.

e. Illegal war - launched illegally under international law, launched in violation of the US Constitution, which requires that the Congress declare war, and launched on the basis of felonious misleading of Congress and the American public.

f. Use of a variety of illegal weapons.

g. Illegal targeting of civilians, journalists, and hospitals.

h. Illegal seizure of another nation's resources.

i. Illegal use of funds in Iraq that had been appropriated for Afghanistan.

j. Leaking of classified information in order to mislead the Congress and the public, and in order to punish truth-tellers.

k. Leaking of the identity of an undercover agent.

l. Retribution against whistleblowers.

m. Use of signing statements to reverse 750 laws passed by Congress.

n. Production of phony news reports at home and abroad.

o. Dereliction of duty in neglecting global warming, hurricanes, hunger, AIDS, and warnings of 9-11 attacks.

p. Facilitating Israel's attacks on Lebanon.

q. Obstruction of investigations by Congress, the 9-11 Commission, and Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald.

r. Stealing elections.

When is it enough? When does it become clear that history will view us as those who let it all go to waste, as those who sat by as they came for the Muslims and then the immigrants and then for the next group on the list, as those who saw the nation sliding into fascism and let it slide. Or, as those who rose up and resisted and restored what was most worth saving in a system of government based on the rule of law?

The time is now. On the Camp Democracy web site you can arrange to share cars, vans, buses, trains, or planes, as well as tents or rooms. Please plan to join us, and please contribute what you can to help cover expenses. Together we can turn everything around. Other people in other nations have done so. It's much easier than you think.


Fake Zombies Busted on Bogus WMD Charges

Just to lighten things up, a little insight as to how laws to protect and to serve us can be used:
Fake Zombies Arrested On WMD Charges
POSTED: 12:47 pm EDT July 25, 2006
MINNEAPOLIS -- Six friends spruced up in fake blood and tattered clothing were arrested in downtown Minneapolis on suspicion of toting "simulated weapons of mass destruction."

Police said the group were allegedly carrying bags with wires sticking out, making it look like a bomb, while meandering and dancing to music as part of a "zombie dance party" Saturday night.

"They were arrested for behavior that was suspicious and disturbing," said Lt. Gregory Reinhardt, a police spokesman. Police also said the group was uncooperative and intimidated people with their "ghoulish" makeup.

One group member said the "weapons" were actually backpacks modified to carry a homemade stereos and were jailed without reason. None of the six adults and one juvenile arrested have been charged.

"Given the circumstance of them being uncooperative ... why would you have those (bags) if not to intimidate people?" said Inspector Janee Harteau. "It's not a case of (police) overreacting."

Harteau also said police were on high alert because they'd gotten a bulletin about men who wear clown makeup while attacking and robbing people in other states.

Kate Kibby, one of those arrested, said previous zombie dance parties at the Mall of America and on light-rail trains have occurred without incident. Last fall, nearly 200 people took part in a "zombie pub crawl" in northeast Minneapolis.

Kibby said they were cooperative and followed the two officers to the station where they were questioned and eventually loaded into a van and booked into jail.

"It was clear to us that they were trying to get a rise out of us," KIbby said.

Members of the group could face lesser charges like disorderly conduct, police said.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Bend, Oregon, Prices Itself Beyond Workers Ability To Pay

Central Oregon, where I live, is a beautiful place. We live in Bend and we rent. We moved here six and a half years ago and couldn’t afford to buy a house. We really can’t afford to buy one now!

Bend has managed, through skillful self-promotion and unregulated development, apparently, to price itself silly. The market, free as the wind, has exploded with multi-thousand square foot mcmansions. An attempt at zoning for smaller homes on smaller lots ended up with big homes on small lots. The realtors and developers—we used to call them “sub-dividers” but there’s a new, more...benign term—are happy as clams. We even have half-million dollar town-houses now. L.A. prices.

The city is in hock to the developers, because the city is, surprise!, broke. Service charges don't cover the services demanded by new developments. More streets to plow in the winter, more schools for kids, more street repaid, more streets have to be widened to handle the traffic, and so on. But the developers kick in just enough goodies, like co-sponsoring concerts in the parks and crafts markets and drinking events that nobody wants to offend them. The developers are kind of like your friendly and rather generous neighborhood heroin dealers...

High housing costs discourage even white collar buyers
7/28/2006, 12:14 a.m. PT
The Associated Press

BEND, Ore. (AP) — High home prices in Central Oregon are making it difficult for businesses to fill white collar jobs despite the booming economy, according to a new report.

A survey of 118 local employers showed that 23 percent indicated that upper management job-seekers are having "major to moderate" difficulty locating housing in the region.

"We rely on hiring really good people to keep us competitive and innovative, but we're finding ourselves challenged by the housing question," Patricia Moss, CEO of Bank of the Cascades, said in a statement released with the survey.

"In a beautiful, safe, dynamic place like Central Oregon, people from all over the country want to live and work here, but the cost and availability of housing becomes a barrier," Moss said.

Partly due to rapidly rising housing costs, business owners who have been considering a move to Central Oregon for several years are beginning to recalculate their decisions as median housing prices have spiked beyond $340,000 in Bend, and beyond $255,000 in Redmond, said Roger Lee, executive director of Economic Development for Central Oregon, or EDCO.

"We have definitely lost some leads," Lee said. "I would say, if you add them up there are probably at least 1,000 jobs in companies that are not considering us anymore."

Facing a similar explosion in industrial land prices, particularly in Bend, most of EDCO's current recruitment efforts are focused on enticing new businesses to less-expensive La Pine, Madras and Prineville, Lee said.

Redmond is still on the recruitment map, he said. Bend has largely fallen off.

The 76-page report was coordinated by Housing Works, formerly known as the Central Oregon Regional Housing Authority, which runs several programs devoted to creating affordable housing in the Jefferson, Crook and Deschutes counties region.

Among the findings were:

• An estimated 5,200 jobs are going unfilled in Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook counties, "due in part to the housing affordability crunch."

• Labor shortages exist for workers in a broad array of fields, including shortages of accountants, skilled technicians, engineers, entry-level production employees and skilled construction workers.

• Housing prices in much of the region have climbed beyond a typical middle-income family's ability to afford them. In Crook and Deschutes counties, 92 percent of residential real estate listings are priced above what is considered affordable for households earning 120 percent of the area's median income.

"Affordable" is defined as needing to spend no more than 30 percent of gross income on housing. The median household income in Deschutes County in 2003 was $44,111, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In Crook, it was $35,903.

Except in Jefferson County, the median Central Oregon home price is more than double the amount considered affordable for people earning the average income.

With 10,400 new jobs expected to be added to Central Oregon's economy over the next three years, the area is expected to need to add 6,600 additional "work force housing units" to make room.

"Work force housing" is defined as housing occupied by people who are employed here, as opposed to retiree housing or vacation homes.

The city of Redmond is proposing to add roughly 2,200 acres to its boundaries this year to accommodate residential, commercial and industrial growth. Bend hasn't finished its formal expansion plans yet, but city planners have said they plan to propose adding 3,000 to 4,000 more acres to the city's urban growth boundary over the next couple of years just for residential housing.

The report was produced by Colorado consultant Melanie Rees. It was sponsored by the Bank of the Cascades, South Valley Bank & Trust, Umpqua Bank, U.S. Bank, the cities of Prineville and Madras, and Central Oregon Partnership.


Information from: The Bulletin,

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Military Lawyers Admit Violations of War Crimes Act

This may be a crack in the (cheap) facade of the administration’s shabby treatment of war prisoners—they are prisoners of war, no matter what the slimy Al Gonzales or Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, or Gorgeous George says they are. The administration is committing war crimes as defined in the Geneva Conventions. The violations of which are criminal offenses in this country.

I don’t know, though, who has the moral—and maybe physical—courage to stand up and start the prosecution rolling. Probably not Congress. We may have to wait until someone in the Hague starts the proceedings.

Someone once as Sam Johnson which was the most important virtue. He said, “Courage is, sir, because without courage none of the other virtues are possible.”

This is the key paragraph:
"At a July 13 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Air Force's top military lawyer, Maj. Gen. Jack L. Rives, affirmed that "some of the techniques that have been authorized and used in the past have violated Common Article 3" of the Geneva Conventions. The top military lawyers for the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, who were seated next to Rives, said they agreed."

Detainee Abuse Charges Feared
Shield Sought From '96 War Crimes Act

By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 28, 2006; A01
An obscure law approved by a Republican-controlled Congress a decade ago has made the Bush administration nervous that officials and troops involved in handling detainee matters might be accused of committing war crimes, and prosecuted at some point in U.S. courts.

Senior officials have responded by drafting legislation that would grant U.S. personnel involved in the terrorism fight new protections against prosecution for past violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996. That law criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions governing conduct in war and threatens the death penalty if U.S.-held detainees die in custody from abusive treatment.

In light of a recent Supreme Court ruling that the international Conventions apply to the treatment of detainees in the terrorism fight, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has spoken privately with Republican lawmakers about the need for such "protections," according to someone who heard his remarks last week.

Gonzales told the lawmakers that a shield is needed for actions taken by U.S. personnel under a 2002 presidential order, which the Supreme Court declared illegal, and under Justice Department legal opinions that have been withdrawn under fire, the source said. A spokeswoman for Gonzales, Tasia Scolinos, declined to comment on Gonzales's remarks.

The Justice Department's top legal adviser, Steven G. Bradbury, separately testified two weeks ago that Congress must give new "definition and certainty" to captors' risk of prosecution for coercive interrogations that fall short of outright torture.

Language in the administration's draft, which Bradbury helped prepare in concert with civilian officials at the Defense Department, seeks to protect U.S. personnel by ruling out detainee lawsuits to enforce Geneva protections and by incorporating language making U.S. enforcement of the War Crimes Act subject to U.S. -- not foreign -- understandings of what the Conventions require.

The aim, Justice Department lawyers say, is also to take advantage of U.S. legal precedents that limit sanctions to conduct that "shocks the conscience." This phrase allows some consideration by courts of the context in which abusive treatment occurs, such as an urgent need for information, the lawyers say -- even though the Geneva prohibitions are absolute.

The Supreme Court, in contrast, has repeatedly said that foreign interpretations of international treaties such as the Geneva Conventions should at least be considered by U.S. courts.

Some human rights groups and independent experts say they oppose undermining the reach of the War Crimes Act, arguing that it deters government misconduct. They say any step back from the Geneva Conventions could provoke mistreatment of captured U.S. military personnel. They also contend that Bush administration anxieties about prosecutions are overblown and should not be used to gain congressional approval for rough interrogations.

"The military has lived with" the Geneva Conventions provisions "for 50 years and applied them to every conflict, even against irregular forces. Why are we suddenly afraid now about the vagueness of its terms?" asked Tom Malinowski, director of the Washington office of Human Rights Watch.

Since the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, hundreds of service members deployed to Iraq have been accused by the Army of mistreating detainees, and at least 35 detainees have died in military or CIA custody, according to a tally kept by Human Rights First. The military has asserted these were all aberrant acts by troops ignoring their orders.

Defense attorneys for many of those accused of involvement have alleged that their clients were pursuing policies of rough treatment set by officials in Washington. That claim is amplified in a 53-page Human Rights Watch report this week that quoted interrogators at three bases in Iraq as saying that abuse was part of regular, authorized procedures. But this argument has yet to gain traction in a military court, where U.S. policy requires that active-duty service members be tried for any maltreatment.

The War Crimes Act, in contrast, affords access to civilian courts for abuse perpetrated by former service members and by civilians. The government has not filed any charges under the law.

The law's legislative sponsor is one of the House's most conservative members, Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. (R-N.C.). He proposed it after a chance meeting with a retired Navy pilot who had spent six years in the notorious "Hanoi Hilton," a Vietnamese prison camp. The conversation left Jones angry about Washington's inability to prosecute the pilot's abusers.

Jones's legislation for the first time imposed criminal penalties in the United States for breaches of the Geneva Conventions, which protect detainees anywhere. The Defense Department's deputy general counsel at the time declared at the sole hearing on it in 1996 -- attended by just two lawmakers -- that "we fully support the purposes of the bill," and urged its expansion to cover a wider range of war crimes. The Republican-controlled House passed the bill by voice vote, and the Senate approved it by unanimous consent.

The law initially criminalized grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions but was amended without a hearing the following year to include violations of Common Article 3, the minimum standard requiring that all detainees be treated "humanely." The article bars murder, mutilation, cruel treatment, torture and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." It applies to any abuse involving U.S. military personnel or "nationals."

Jones and other advocates intended the law for use against future abusers of captured U.S. troops in countries such as Bosnia, El Salvador and Somalia, but the Pentagon supported making its provisions applicable to U.S. personnel because doing so set a high standard for others to follow. Mary DeRosa, a legal adviser at the National Security Council from 1997 to 2001, said the threat of sanctions in U.S. courts in fact helped deter senior officials from approving some questionable actions. She said the law is not an impediment in the terrorism fight.

Since September 2001, however, Bush administration officials have considered the law a potential threat to U.S. personnel involved in interrogations. While serving as White House legal counsel in 2002, Gonzales helped prepare a Jan. 25 draft memo to Bush -- written in large part by David Addington, then Vice President Cheney's legal counsel and now Cheney's chief of staff -- in which he cited the threat of prosecution under the act as a reason to declare that detainees captured in Afghanistan were not eligible for Geneva Conventions protections.

"It is difficult," Gonzales said in the memo, "to predict the motives of prosecutors and independent counsels who may in the future decide to bring unwarranted charges." He also argued for the flexibility to pursue various interrogation methods and said that only a presidential order exempting detainees from Geneva protections "would provide a solid defense to any future prosecution." That month, Bush approved an order exempting those captured in Afghanistan from these protections.

But the Supreme Court's ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld effectively made Bush's order illegal when it affirmed that all detainees held by the United States are protected by Common Article 3. The court's decision caught the administration unprepared, at first, for questions about how its policy would change.

On July 7, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England signed a memorandum ordering all military departments to certify that their actions in the fight with al-Qaeda comply with Article 3. Several officials said the memo, which was reviewed by military lawyers, was provoked by the renewed threat of prosecution under the War Crimes Act.

England's memo was not sent to other agencies for review. Two White House officials heavily involved in past policymaking on detainee treatment matters, counsel Harriet Miers and Addington, told friends later that they had not been briefed before its release and were unhappy about its language, according to an informed source. Bradbury and Gonzales have since drafted legislation to repair what they consider the defects of the War Crimes Act and the ambiguities of Common Article 3.

Several officials said the administration's main concerns are Article 3's prohibitions against "outrages upon personal dignity" and humiliating or degrading treatment. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters on July 12 that he supported clearing up ambiguities so that military personnel are not "charged with wrongdoing when in fact they were not engaged in wrongdoing."

Several advocates and experts nonetheless said the legal liability of administration officials for past interrogations is probably small. "I think these guys did unauthorized stuff, they violated the War Crimes Act, and they should be prosecuted," said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based group that has provided lawyers for detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Ratner said authorized interrogation techniques such as stress positions, temperature extremes and sleep deprivation are "clearly outlawed" under Common Article 3. But he added that prosecutions are improbable because the Justice Department -- which has consistently asserted that such rough interrogations are legal -- is unlikely to bring them. U.S. officials could argue in any event, Ratner said, that they were following policies they believed to be legal, and "a judge would most likely say that is a decent defense."

Some officials at the Pentagon share the view that illegal actions have been taken. Alberto J. Mora, the Navy's general counsel from 2001 until the end of last year, warned the Pentagon's general counsel twice that some approved interrogation methods violated "domestic and international legal norms" and that a federal court might eventually find responsibility "along the entire length of the chain of command," according to a 2004 memo by Mora that recounted the warnings. The memo was first obtained by the New Yorker magazine.

At a July 13 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Air Force's top military lawyer, Maj. Gen. Jack L. Rives, affirmed that "some of the techniques that have been authorized and used in the past have violated Common Article 3" of the Geneva Conventions. The top military lawyers for the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, who were seated next to Rives, said they agreed.

Researchers Julie Tate and Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company


Mexico, Narco-Traficantes, and Prohibition Part Two

Progress, like NAFTA, has it’s down side. Like Norm Stamper, I used to run to Tijuana in the early ‘60s. Bullfights, drinking in bars, Carta Blanca and Cuervo. I never saw anyone get killed down there. Never saw a dead body, either. The worst stuff I brought back was little more than a liter of tequila. I was an innocent—Hell, I took marijuana into Mexico to smoke it, rather than go through complicated drug dealings down there. “Complicated” it was; now it’s just mean and vicious.

Sometimes I have fantasies of going down to Mexico for a vacation—San Miguel, maybe, San Cristobal, someplace with amenities but still a sense of Mexican culture. San Cristobal, of course, is stomping ground for the Zapatistas and the Mexican government’s efforts to liquidate them. I used to like Oaxaca, but these days it seems to be in a state of near-rebellion. And San Miguel is an outpost of upscale America. Guess I’ll just stay away. Don't smoke dope or drink anymore, anyhow....

How Legalizing Drugs Will End the Violence
By Norm Stamper, AlterNet
Posted on July 28, 2006, Printed on July 28, 2006

Back in the early 1960s, I often sneaked into Mexico at the San Diego-Tijuana border. Too young to cross legally, I'd coil up in the trunk of Charlie Romero's '54 Merc. My buddies and I would head straight for the notorious Blue Fox to guzzle Carta Blancas, shoot Cuervo Gold and take in the "adult entertainment" acts. It wasn't something I'd necessarily want my kid doing, but there was a certain innocence to it: tasting freedom, partaking of forbidden adult pleasures. The frontera of Mexico was a fun, safe place to visit.

All that has changed.

From Tijuana to Matamoros, drug gang violence along the U.S.-Mexico border has taken the lives of thousands -- cops, soldiers, drug dealers, often their families, other innocent citizens from both sides of the border. Even a cardinal of the Catholic Church. Many others have gone missing and are presumed dead.

In the mid-'90s, the Arellano brothers' drug cartel ruled Tijuana, perched atop the hierarchy of Mexico's multibillion dollar illegal drug trafficking industry. Using cars, planes and trucks -- and an intimate knowledge of NAFTA -- the Arellanos transported hundreds of tons of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine into American cities.

They enlisted U.S. drug gangs. In 1993, in my last days as San Diego's assistant police chief, the local gang Calle Treinte was implicated in the Arellano-inspired killing of Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo. The Arellanos bribed officials on both sides of the border, spending over $75 million annually on the Mexican side alone, to grease their illicit trafficking.

And they enforced their rule not just with murder but with torture. If Steven Soderbergh's gritty 2000 film "Traffic" caused you to squirm in your seat, the real-life story of Mexican drug dealing is even more disquieting. The brothers once kidnapped a rival's wife and children. With videotape running, they tossed two of the kids off a bridge, then sent their competitor a copy of the tape, along with the severed head of his wife. Another double-crosser had his skull crushed in a compression vice. And who can forget the carne asada BBQs, where the Arellanos would roast entire families over flaming tires?

Just this week, the bodies of four men, three of them cops, were found wrapped in blankets in Rosarito Beach. Their heads showed up in Tijuana. Corruption of public officials, useful to sustain and grow illicit drug trafficking everywhere, has always run deep in Mexico. But with the country now having supplanted Colombia as the biggest supplier of illegal drugs to the United States, and with annual profits topping $65 billion a year, the numbers of federal, state and local cops on the take has never been greater.

Drug criminals have an unlimited supply of high-powered weapons at their disposal. Kingpins pay mules, usually impoverished, always expendable, to travel to the states to pick up a firearm or two at a gun show. Using the Brady Bill "loophole" (and congressional and presidential failure to extend the ban on assault rifles), all it takes is a phony stateside driver's license and a handful of cash to walk out with semi-automatic Uzis, AR-15s and AK-47s.

Last June in Nuevo Laredo, across the border from Laredo, Texas, Alejandro Dominguez was sworn in as the city's police chief. That same day, three dark Chevy Suburbans with tinted windows pulled up to his office. Moments later, Dominguez, a reluctant top cop who only took the job at the pleading of a terrified citizenry, was dead. Police recovered 35 to 40 casings from an AR-15 assault rifle.

Mexico's drug dealers, including the Zetas (elite military commandos assigned to fight drugs but who've gone over to the other side), are among the most organized, proficient and prolific killers in history.

The violence does not end with the capture or the killing of major players like the Arellano brothers. (Ramon was shot and killed by the federales in February of 2002; Benjamín was captured a month later. Francisco has been in prison for years.) As with the illicit drug scene in the United States, thousands of low-level drug-dealing wannabes are marking time -- waiting for today's kingpin to fall so they can move up.

And the violence grows, and grows.

Virtually every analysis of the Mexican "drug problem" points to the themes raised here: the inducements of big money and wide fame; the crushing poverty of those exploited by drug dealers; the entrepreneurial frenzy of expanding and protecting one's markets; the large, unquenchable American demand for drugs; and the complicity of many in law enforcement.

But something's missing from the analysis: the role of prohibition.

Illegal drugs are expensive precisely because they are illegal. The products themselves are worthless weeds -- cannabis (marijuana), poppies (heroin), coca (cocaine) -- or dirt-cheap pharmaceuticals and "precursors" used, for example, in the manufacture of methamphetamine. Yet today, marijuana is worth as much as gold, heroin more than uranium, cocaine somewhere in between. It is the U.S.'s prohibition of these drugs that has spawned an ever-expanding international industry of torture, murder and corruption. In other words, we are the source of Mexico's "drug problem."

The remedy is as obvious as it is urgent: legalization.

Regulated legalization of all drugs -- with stiffened penalties for driving impaired or furnishing to kids -- would bring an immediate halt to the violence. How? By (1) dramatically reducing the cost of these drugs, (2) shifting massive enforcement resources to prevention and treatment and (3) driving drug dealers out of business: no product, no profit, no incentive. In an ideal world, Mexico and the United States would move to repeal prohibition simultaneously (along with Canada). But even if we moved unilaterally, sweeping and lasting improvements to public safety (and public health) would be felt on both sides of the border. (Tragically and predictably, just as Mexico's parliament was about to reform its U.S.-modeled drug laws, the Bush administration stepped in, pressuring President Vicente Fox to abandon the enlightened position he'd championed for two years.)

With drugs stringently controlled and regulated by our own government, Mexico would once again become a safe, inviting place for American tourists -- and for its own citizens, who pay the steepest price of all for our insistence on waging an immoral, unwinnable war on drugs.

Norm Stamper is former chief of the Seattle Police Department and an advisory board member of NORML and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). He is the author of "Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing" (Nation Books, 2005).
© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Krugman on Orwell and Bush

I found this on Atrios. The Krugman link is to Times Select website, which I don't subscribe to, so you'll just have to settle on this for a while.

The evidence just keeps piling up, doesn’t it? Torture, lies about history, ignoring the Constitution, rampant corruption that has destroyed political opposition, domestic spying without constraints. It ain’t good, folks! And, you might wonder if Krugman is overlooking a very basic fact about today's America: it is more totalitarian than not.


Whatever the reason, the fact is that the Bush administration continues to be remarkably successful at rewriting history. For example, Mr. Bush has repeatedly suggested that the United States had to invade Iraq because Saddam wouldn’t let U.N. inspectors in. His most recent statement to that effect was only a few weeks ago. And he gets away with it. If there have been reports by major news organizations pointing out that that’s not at all what happened, I’ve missed them.

It’s all very Orwellian, of course. But when Orwell wrote of “a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past,” he was thinking of totalitarian states. Who would have imagined that history would prove so easy to rewrite in a democratic nation with a free press?


Bush's New Draft Bill on Terror Worthy of Stalin

The President’s respect for the Constitution is hard to measure, isn’t it?

He just doesn’t get it. I suspect there may be a personality quirk, what in AA they call a "defect of character," or..hmm...well, maybe that’s why the Air Force Guard let him go without a fuss: they were better off without him. It would seem that George just doesn’t understand that being preisdent does NOT mean you get to be king of everything.


White House has draft bill on terror trials: report
Wed Jul 26, 2006 12:22 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House has drafted legislation covering trials of terror detainees that would allow hearsay evidence and let defendants be excluded from trials to protect national security, The New York Times reported in Wednesday's edition.

The Times said a draft of the proposal was being circulated within the administration and among military lawyers at the Pentagon. The present draft preserves the idea of using military commissions to prosecute terror suspects and makes only modest changes in their procedural rules, including some expanded protections for defendants.

President George W. Bush wants to push a bill through Congress this fall to allow trials of suspects held at the U.S. naval facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after the Supreme Court said the military commissions Bush set up were not in accord with U.S. or international laws.

The plan could run into trouble in Congress where some lawmakers have said they want to base the new rules on the military code of justice that would significantly expand detainee's rights.

The Times said the draft measure notes that military court-martial procedures are "not practicable in trying enemy combatants" because doing so would "require the government to share classified information" and exclude "hearsay evidence determined to be ... reliable."

Rather than requiring a speedy trial for enemy combatants, the draft says they "may be tried and punished at any time without limitations," the Times said.

The draft legislation would bar "statements obtained by the use of torture" for use as evidence, but evidence obtained in interrogations where coercion was used would be admissible unless found "unreliable" by a military judge. To prevent them hearing classified evidence, the Times said the draft would allow defendants to be barred from trials, but would require them be given a summary of the information.

The report cited deputy White House press secretary Dana Perino as saying the administration was "working to strike a balance of a fair system of justice that deals with terrorists who don't recognize the rules of war."

The copy of the draft legislation provided to the Times was labeled "for discussion purposes only, deliberative draft, close hold," the report said, and the official who shared it did so on condition of anonymity.

The Times cited Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and former military lawyer who has seen the draft measure as calling it "a good start" but adding, "I have some concerns." He declined to be specific, saying he wanted to withhold judgment until hearing the views of military lawyers.

© Reuters 2006. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.


Same Old Police Behavior—Agents—In Anti-War Protests

The United States of Amnesia continues to be just that. The most frustrating thing about all the revelations of police spying, illegal wiretaps, and other extra-Constitutional activities on the part of government agencies is that we’ve seen it all before. Many times. This is what governments do when they feel threatened. And they are more inclined to do it when there’re piles of money for them to spend on “anti-terrorism” activities.

Look back at America’s labor history: police agents infiltrated and broke the Molly McGuires back in the Pennsylvania coal-fields. They infiltrated labor groups in Chicago and may well have been responsible for the Haymarket Massacre. The Everett Massacre, the lynching of IWW organizer Frank Little, the House Committee on Un-American Activities, blacklisting, COINTELO—and that’s only a partial list.

COINTELPRO is a fine example: dreamed up by the FBI in the 1950s to fight the imagined demon of Communist subversion, it became a standard modus operandi for decades; the FBI now trains many police, they wouldn’t do anything like teach COINTELPRO, not much.

(link at end of article)

SF Gate
Police spies chosen to lead war protest
- Demian Bulwa, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, July 28, 2006

Two Oakland police officers working undercover at an anti-war protest in May 2003 got themselves elected to leadership positions in an effort to influence the demonstration, documents released Thursday show.

The department assigned the officers to join activists protesting the U.S. war in Iraq and the tactics that police had used at a demonstration a month earlier, a police official said last year in a sworn deposition.

At the first demonstration, police fired nonlethal bullets and bean bags at demonstrators who blocked the Port of Oakland's entrance in a protest against two shipping companies they said were helping the war effort. Dozens of activists and longshoremen on their way to work suffered injuries ranging from welts to broken bones and have won nearly $2 million in legal settlements from the city.

The extent of the officers' involvement in the subsequent march May 12, 2003, led by Direct Action to Stop the War and others, is unclear. But in a deposition related to a lawsuit filed by protesters, Deputy Police Chief Howard Jordan said activists had elected the undercover officers to "plan the route of the march and decide I guess where it would end up and some of the places that it would go."

It was revealed later that the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center, which was established by the state attorney general's office to help local police agencies fight terrorism, had posted an alert about the April protest. Oakland police had also monitored online postings by the longshoremen's union regarding its opposition to the war.

The documents showing that police subsequently tried to influence a demonstration were released Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union, as part of a report criticizing government surveillance of political activists since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The ACLU said the documents came from the lawsuit over the police use of force.

Jordan, in his deposition in April 2005, said under questioning by plaintiffs' attorney Jim Chanin that undercover Officers Nobuko Biechler and Mark Turpin had been elected to be leaders in the May 12 demonstration an hour after meeting protesters that day.

Asked who had ordered the officers to infiltrate the group, Jordan said, "I don't know if there is one particular person, but I think together we probably all decided it would be a good idea to have some undercover officers there."

Several months after the rally, Jordan told a city police review board examining the April 2003 port clash that "our ability to gather intelligence on these groups and this type of operation needs to be improved," according to a transcript provided by the ACLU.

"I don't mean same-day intelligence," Jordan told the civilian review panel. "I'm talking about long-term intelligence gathering."

He noted that "two of our officers were elected leaders within an hour on May 12." The idea was "to gather the information and maybe even direct them to do something that we want them to do," Jordan said.

"I call that being totalitarian," said Jack Heyman, a longshoremen's union member who took part in the May 12 march. He said he was not certain whether he had any contact with the officers that day.

Jordan declined to comment when reached at his office Thursday. In his deposition, he said the Police Department no longer allows such undercover work.

City Attorney John Russo said he was not familiar with the police infiltration of the protest, but said the city had made "significant changes" in its approach toward demonstrations after the port incident. Police enacted a new crowd-control policy limiting the use of nonlethal force in 2004.

The ACLU said the Oakland case was one of several instances in which police agencies had spied on legitimate political activity since 2001.

Mark Schlosberg, who directs the ACLU's police policy work and wrote the report released Thursday, cited previously reported instances of spying on groups in Santa Cruz and Fresno in addition to the Oakland case. He called on state Attorney General Bill Lockyer and local police to ensure that law-abiding activist groups don't come under government investigation.

"It's very important that there be regulation up front to prevent these kinds of abuses from occurring," Schlosberg said at a news conference.

Schlosberg said the state needs an independent inspector looking into complaints and keeping an eye on intelligence gathering at such agencies as the California National Guard and the state Department of Homeland Security.

Tom Dresslar, a spokesman for Lockyer, said the attorney general had not yet read the ACLU report. But he said his boss "won't abide violations of civil liberties. There's no room in this state or anywhere in this country for monitoring the activity of groups merely because they have a political viewpoint."

Following the Oakland port protest and disclosures about the monitoring of activists, Lockyer issued guidelines in 2003 stating that police must suspect that a crime has been committed before collecting intelligence on activist groups.

But Schlosberg said the ACLU had surveyed 94 law enforcement agencies last year and found that just eight were aware of the guidelines. Only six had written policies restricting surveillance activities, he said.

Page B - 1
©2006 San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Tribal Canoe Capsizes in Washington

This may seem like small-time news. It isn’t; the annual canoe event, a gathering of tribal canoes from Puget Sound and western Canada has been a strong event, promoting sobriety and traditions ammong Indian/First Nations people. My condolences to the Jack family, the Makah and Muchalaht tribe and all their relatives. Prayers and smoke have been sent.

Tribal canoe capsizes; 1 killed

DUNGENESS -- High winds and five- to seven-foot swells capsized a
Makah tribal canoe near the Dungeness Spit late Wednesday afternoon,
killing a Canadian tribal chief and hospitalizing three canoeists.

Jerry Jack, 55, of Gold River, British Columbia, was pronounced dead
at the scene, Clallam County Undersheriff Rich Sill said.

His family was notified Wednesday evening by Neah Bay tribal police.

Jack, hereditary chief of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht tribe... (snipped)


Even Andrew Sullivan Gives Up On Rummy

I generally regard Andrew Sullivan as a rather prissy stooge. I don’t understand how he deals with the contradictions between himself and his party-of-choice. But, that’s really not my problem. I admit the times I’ve seen him on Bill Maher’s TV programs I’ve enjoyed him; he does seem to be a good sport.

And this piece, on Rumsfeld’s insulting, stupid, and deranged behavior toward the Israeli-Jordanian War, is very astute. Rummy is, well, it's like he's rummy.

Andrew Sullivan.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006
The Glibness of Rumsfeld
26 Jul 2006 12:42 pm

His detachment from his own responsibility is breathtaking. The glibness with which he describes tha mass slaughter of innocents in a country whose security he is responsible for is astonishing. Check this transcript out. Money quote:

Q: Is the country closer to a civil war?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I don't know. You know, I thought about that last night, and just musing over the words, the phrase, and what constitutes it. If you think of our Civil War, this is really very different. If you think of civil wars in other countries, this is really quite different. There is - there is a good deal of violence in Baghdad and two or three other provinces, and yet in 14 other provinces there's very little violence or numbers of incidents. So it's a - it's a highly concentrated thing. It clearly is being stimulated by people who would like to have what could be characterized as a civil war and win it, but I'm not going to be the one to decide if, when or at all.

His relevance to allowing this to happen is as overwhelming as his irrelevance is today. He's treating one of the biggest military fiascoes in recent history as something to debate at night, the way one would discuss the merits of an interesting movie. Greg Djerejian comments here. The man is a disgrace. (snipped)


DOJ Snooping Habit Out of Hand; Time For An Intervention

It would be nice if there was a way to do a classic intervention on the Justice Department. Those folks have a jones for snooping that really is interfering with the way they do the rest of their work. Assuming they have other work, well, yeah. The more we keep pretending there’s nothing wrong with their actions the worse it gets; give those guys a few more years and they seriously will suggest implanting chips in all of us so we could communigate directly with each other—with extensions, of course, to Homeland Security, DIA, FBI, NSA and other interested partners. Anyone ever see the movie “The President’s Analyst”?

Officials Urge Law to Allow Eavesdropping
Foreign Calls Routed Through U.S. at Issue
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 27, 2006; A02

Senior Justice Department and intelligence officials urged Congress yesterday to approve new laws to accommodate the government's controversial warrantless eavesdropping program.

Arguing that the 1978 law governing surveillance of terrorists is out of step with current technology, the officials, appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, said they previously had not sought new legislation to avoid disclosing a key part of the operation. That is the ability to intercept foreign phone calls and e-mails no matter what their destination as they pass through telecommunications facilities inside the United States, said Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency.

But in the wake of media disclosures about the spying, that is no longer the case. "What's happened in the last seven months is that much of this program has already been put out into the public domain," said CIA Director Michael V. Hayden. "That inoculates some of the discussion we're having today against some of the downside."

President Bush launched the program shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, allowing eavesdropping without court warrants on phone calls and e-mails between the United States and locations overseas if one party was suspected of links to terrorists. As part of a proposed deal with Bush to submit the program to court review, the Senate Judiciary Committee is considering changes to the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which governs surveillance of suspected terrorists and spies.

What Alexander and Hayden described to the senators are vast facilities that route foreign-to-foreign communications through the United States, where they are readily accessible to the NSA. Alexander testified that because no U.S. court order is needed to acquire communications of foreign intelligence targets overseas, even when they call to the United States, "it ought not to matter whether we do so from the United States or elsewhere."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a member of the Judiciary Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence who has been briefed on the NSA program, said Alexander had "for the first time" told the Judiciary panel about "foreign-to-foreign switching." She said based on what she had learned in secret briefings about the number of U.S. citizens subject to wiretaps, the surveillance program "is easily accommodatable to an individual warrant for U.S. persons."

Alexander disagreed. "If you were in hot pursuit, with the number of applications that you would have to make" for court warrants "and the times to make those, you could never catch up to the target," he said.

Another witness at yesterday's hearing, Steven G. Bradbury, an acting assistant attorney general, made it clear that legislation introduced by Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) after negotiations with the White House would "encourage" -- but not require -- Bush or a future president to present any future surveillance program to the secret FISA court for approval.

"It would be a very substantial change in FISA today by adding a new title that would give the court jurisdiction to review such a program on a program-wide basis," Bradbury said. "It is an important new tool that any president would have going forward."

But Bradbury stressed that the president retained authority to institute such a program on his own and that Bush's pledge to submit the program for judicial review was only "if the chairman's legislation were enacted in its current form or with the further amendments sought by the administration."

Bradbury also said Specter's proposal that civil litigation involving companies cooperating in the surveillance program be transferred to the FISA court was done "to ensure protection of sensitive national security information and promote uniformity in the law."
© 2006 The Washington Post Company


Molly Ivens And The Merchanising of Fear

Media, fear, and election—what a fortunate combination for the Bush-Cheney junta. The mess in Palestina and surroundings is just ideal for diverting the public's attention from other, perhaps, equally dangerous scenes. Iraq, Congressional corruptions, unconsitituional actions by the administration... Nah, let 'em go. Old stuff.

Thank you, Molly Ivins, for being such a voice of sanity.

Coverage doesn't cut it
(link at end)
Molly Ivins - Creators Syndicate

07.27.06 - AUSTIN, Texas -- State of play in the Middle East: Lebanon, extensively damaged plus a half-million refugees; Syria, tired of being dissed; Israel, disproportionate. Are you kidding? Did it work last time they occupied Lebanon? Condi Rice, undercut by neocons at home? Iraq, completely fallen apart. Iran, only winner? Everybody else, mad at Bush. Most under-covered story, collapse of Iraq.

And what do I think this is? A media story, of course.

From the first day of 24/7 coverage, you could tell this was big. By the time Chapter 9,271 of the conflicts in the Middle East had gotten its own logo, everyone knew it was HUGE. I mean, like, bigger than Natalee Holloway. Then anchormen began to arrive in the Middle East and people like Anderson Cooper and Tucker Carlson - - real experts and then Newt Gingrich -- and who would know better than Newt? -- declared it was World War III. Let's ratchet up the fear here -- probably good for Republican campaigning.

By then, of course, you couldn't find a television story about the back corridors of diplomacy and what was, or more importantly, what was not going on there. Between Anderson Cooper and Tucker Carlson, it was obviously World War III, and besides, there were a bunch of American refugees in Lebanon who couldn't get out, and so, elements of the Katrina story appeared, Thank God Anderson was there.

Meanwhile, people who should have known better were all in a World III SNIT over Chapter 9,271. Actually, they all knew better, but it was a better story if you overplayed it -- sort of like watching a horror movie that you know will turn out OK in the end, but meanwhile you get to enjoy this delicious chill of horror up your spine. What if it really was The End? I mean, any fool could see it could easily careen out of control, and when George W. Bush is all you've got for rational, fair-minded grown-ups, well, there it is.

If I may raise a nasty political possibility. One good reason for the Bush administration to leave Chapter 9,271 to burn out of control is that this administration thrives on fear. Fear has been the text and the subtext of every Republican campaign since 9/11. Endless replay of the footage from 9/11 has graced every Republican campaign since. Could it be that 9/11 is beginning to pall, to feel as overplayed as Natalee Holloway? Fear is actually more dangerous than war in the Middle East. For those who spin dizzily toward World War III, the Apocalypse, the Rapture -- always with that delicious frisson of terror -- the slow, patient negotiations needed to get it back under control are Not News.

All we have to fear, said FDR, is fear itself. And when we are afraid, we do damage to both ourselves and to the Constitution. Our history is rank with these fits of fear. We get so afraid of some dreadful menace, so afraid of anarchists, Reds, crime or drugs or communism or illegal aliens or terrorists that we think we can make ourselves safer by making ourselves less free. We damage the Constitution because we're so afraid. We engage in torture and worse because we're afraid. We damage our standing in the world, our own finest principles, out of fear. And television enjoys scaring us. One could say cynically, "It's good for their ratings," but in truth, I think television people enjoy scary movies, too. And besides, it makes it all a bigger story for them.

What's fascinating about this as a media story is how much attention can be given to one story while still only about a fifth of it gets told. The amount of misinformation routinely reported on television is astounding. For example, "Israel is our only democratic ally in the Middle East." How long has Turkey been a real republic and ally?

The more surprising development is how completely one story drives out another. At other times, the collapse of Iraq would have been news.

(c) 2006 Creators Syndicate


Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Bush As Dictator—How Soon?

What if...the Supreme Court told Bush his signing statements were unconstitutional, as were his wiretaps? I wish they would, as a matter of fact. But what if Bush and Cheney and Gonzales said, “Well, fuck the Supreme Court; Andrew Jackson got away with it, and we will too!”

What would we do? Congress would reluctantly start impeachment proceedings, hoping to stall them out until the next presidential election. The idea of impeaching a president—and vice-president, why not?—is momentus. I remember quite well when Nixon was forced to resign, after the SCOTUS ordered him to turn over the tape recordings that gave away the game. According to John Dean, ex-White House lawyer, Nixon played with the idea of the ultimate stonewall, but somehow had the good sense to not do it. Nixon was a through-and-through politician, though; Bush is not. He’s the dummy sitting on Cheney’s lap. But, what if?

Reports have it that the GOP-niks in Congress don’t mind the signing statements; the only reason they might be starting to distance themselves from the war is the upcoming November election. I doubt, these days, that very many of the reformed GOP give a hoot, really, about the Bill of Rights or any part of the Constitution.

If that all happened, why, then, Bush would be dictator, wouldn’t he?

This is a scary essay, but worth reading. It might come to pass.

...whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.

--Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence


When Will the Purge Trials Begin?

Here’s a follow-up to the previous story. The GOP will not try to stop Bush. I think the correct assumption is this: they like the idea of a dictatorship. We’ll see if they like it when the purge trials begin.

GOP will not support restriction on Bush signing statments
07/26/2006 @ 9:05 am
Filed by RAW STORY

Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) has been unsuccessful in lining up Republican support in his efforts to challenge the White House on President Bush's use of "signing statements," today's edition of Congressional Quarterly's Congress Today is reporting.

The American Bar Association has issued a report (see American Bar Association denounces Bush's signing statements) which criticizes the statements, more than 800 of which have been signed by Bush. In signing the statements, Bush has made clear his intent to ignore portions of laws and to consider other laws as 'advisory.'

Specter will be introducing a bill to give Congress standing to sue Bush over the statements. If Specter is able to muster the support of most Democrats, he would still face a difficult time in passing the proposal before this session of Congress ends, reports CQ. A number of Republicans, including Sen. Olympia Snowe (ME), have been critical of the President's actions, but have stopped short of endorsing Specter's Bill.

Excerpts from the registration-restricted article follow....

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is preparing for another showdown with the White House, this time over President Bush's use of "signing statements" to challenge provisions he finds objectionable in bills he signs into law.

But opposition from other Republicans means that Arlen Specter will have a difficult time making legislative headway in his latest move to counter executive powers assumed by the Bush White House.

Bush has used hundreds of signing statements during his five years in office to effectively declare his intention to ignore portions of new laws or view them as advisory.

Specter, R-Pa., said he will offer a bill later this week that would lay the groundwork for Congress to challenge Bush's signing statements in court. His announcement came after a working group of the American Bar Association (ABA) issued a July 24 report criticizing Bush for issuing more than 800 such statements.

Specter said his legislation would "give the Congress standing to seek relief in the federal courts in situations where the president has issued such signing statements" and "authorize the Congress to undertake judicial review of those signing statements, with the view to having the president's acts declared unconstitutional."


Spector: Can He Get Bush Into The Courts? Dubious—But It's A Good Idea!

This is an excellent idea.

But, the GOP is so invested in the power they have right now, and so hooked into Bush, they’ll squash any attempt to preserve the Constitution and the Separation of Powers. They’re as hooked into Bush as they were into Nixon—maybe more so because, as I’ve mentioned, they still harbor resentments about the way Nixon was forced out of office. Hell, they’re still pissed about Herbert Hoover losing to FDR. Come to think about it, so many of them are southerners, they’re still pissed about losing the Civil War and LBJ and the Voting Rights Act. “Stabbed in the back,” yes.

If anything happens to force Bush into the courts, it’s going to come from the Democrats, I’m afraid. I’m also afraid they’re too afraid.

This article, by the way, comes from a kind of interesting web site known as "My Way." Worth looking at...

Specter Prepping Bill to Sue Bush

Jul 24, 7:20 PM (ET)


WASHINGTON (AP) - A powerful Republican committee chairman who has led the fight against President Bush's signing statements said Monday he would have a bill ready by the end of the week allowing Congress to sue him in federal court.

"We will submit legislation to the United States Senate which will...authorize the Congress to undertake judicial review of those signing statements with the view to having the president's acts declared unconstitutional," Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said on the Senate floor.

Specter's announcement came the same day that an American Bar Association task force concluded that by attaching conditions to legislation, the president has sidestepped his constitutional duty to either sign a bill, veto it, or take no action.

Bush has issued at least 750 signing statements during his presidency, reserving the right to revise, interpret or disregard laws on national security and constitutional grounds.

"That non-veto hamstrings Congress because Congress cannot respond to a signing statement," said ABA president Michael Greco. The practice, he added "is harming the separation of powers."

Bush has challenged about 750 statutes passed by Congress, according to numbers compiled by Specter's committee. The ABA estimated Bush has issued signing statements on more than 800 statutes, more than all other presidents combined.

Signing statements have been used by presidents, typically for such purposes as instructing agencies how to execute new laws.

But many of Bush's signing statements serve notice that he believes parts of bills he is signing are unconstitutional or might violate national security.

Still, the White House said signing statements are not intended to allow the administration to ignore the law.

"A great many of those signing statements may have little statements about questions about constitutionality," said White House spokesman Tony Snow. "It never says, 'We're not going to enact the law.'"

Specter's announcement intensifies his challenge of the administration's use of executive power on a number of policy matters. Of particular interest to him are two signing statements challenging the provisions of the USA Patriot Act renewal, which he wrote, and legislation banning the use of torture on detainees.

Bush is not without congressional allies on the matter. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a former judge, has said that signing statements are nothing more than expressions of presidential opinion that carry no legal weight because federal courts are unlikely to consider them when deciding cases that challenge the same laws.


Senate Wants Teen-Age Girls To Be Mothers, Not have Abortions

The Senate, yesterday, voted to make it illegal to help an “under-age” girl get an abortion without notifying her parents. I’m sorry they did this. I’m glad that Oregon’s Wyden voted against the bill; I’m sad that our other senator, Gordon Smith, voted for it. I'm unclear, by the way, as to what the Times means when it says "Young Girls": at first glance, I thought it meant like 12 or 13 year-olds and pre-adolescents.

I remember quite well what it used to be like for women to get abortions: it was like walking through a mine field. When Oregon loosened it’s laws against abortions, I did what I could to help women...which wasn’t much, but I tried. Before then, I helped an underage female relative get an abortion. I’d do it again. I’d help any woman get an abortion, whether or not the religious conservatives consider it a prosecutable offence. Maybe that makes me a one-person conspiracy.

July 26, 2006
Senate Removes Abortion Option for Young Girls

WASHINGTON, July 25 — The Senate passed legislation Tuesday that would make it a federal crime to help an under-age girl escape parental notification laws by crossing state lines to obtain an abortion.

The bill was approved on a 65-to-34 vote, with 14 Democrats joining 51 Republicans in favor.

A similar measure passed the House last year, and President Bush said he would sign the legislation if the two chambers could work out their differences and send a final bill to him.

In a statement, Mr. Bush said that “transporting minors across state lines to bypass parental consent laws regarding abortion undermines state law and jeopardizes the lives of young women.”

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Iraq Disintegrating into Seperate Nations

And a telling post from the Independent about the on-going disaster in Iraq. In June, 3,149 civilians were killed in what's essentially religious warfare; there will be many more this month. The country is disintegrating—as did Yugoslavia after Tito’s death. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Iraq vanishing off the map, since it was a construct of the winners in World War One, with the major powers trying to protect their interests in the area. But it’s too damn bad there can’t be another way for the country to split up.

Sectarian break-up of Iraq is now inevitable, admit officials
By Patrick Cockburn in Amman
Published: 24 July 2006

The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, meets Tony Blair in London today as violence in Iraq reaches a new crescendo and senior Iraqi officials say the break up of the country is inevitable.

A car bomb in a market in the Shia stronghold of Sadr City in Baghdad yesterday killed 34 people and wounded a further 60 and was followed by a second bomb in the same area two hours later that left a further eight dead. Another car bomb outside a court house in Kirkuk killed a further 20 and injured 70 people.

"Iraq as a political project is finished," a senior government official was quoted as saying, adding: "The parties have moved to plan B." He said that the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish parties were now looking at ways to divide Iraq between them and to decide the future of Baghdad, where there is a mixed population. "There is serious talk of Baghdad being divided into [Shia] east and [Sunni] west," he said.

In the past two weeks, at a time when Lebanon has dominated the international news, the sectarian civil war in central Iraq has taken a decisive turn for the worse. There have been regular tit-for-tat massacres and the death toll for July is likely to far exceed the 3,149 civilians killed in June.



One Hundred Years of Overthrowing Governments

One of America’s greatest delusions is that we have been specially chosen by God (as in Jewish-Christian thinking) to carry a blazing sword of "Americanism" throughout the world. About all that sword does, though, is start terrible fires. Viet Nam, Iraq, Nicaragua...all horribly burned by America’s messianic nuttiness. What terrifies me is that one of the main reasons Bush came to power was because he said over and over that God had called him with a mission. He’s crazy, sure. But he’s still the president, Bible-thumper-in-chief, the head armed clergyman. What he's given us is our own version of the Thousand-Year-Republic.

America's 100 Years of Overthrow
By Robert Sherrill, Texas Observer
Posted on July 25, 2006, Printed on July 25, 2006

George Bush and Dick Cheney may get your vote as the worst, the dumbest, the most venal, and the most dangerous bunglers in foreign affairs in U.S. history. But this book will show you that their equals have appeared before. Author Stephen Kinzer's Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change From Hawaii to Iraq (Times Books, 2006) is an infuriating recitation of our government's military bullying over the past 110 years -- a century of interventions around the world that resulted in the overthrow of 14 governments -- in Hawaii, Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Vietnam, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, Chile, Iran, Grenada, Afghanistan, and ... Iraq.

Stephen Kinzer, who spent years on various front lines for The New York Times, calls these regime changes "catastrophic victories," but of course some were more catastrophic than others.

Most of these coups were triggered by foreign combatants and then taken over and finished by us. But four of them, in many ways the worst of the lot, were all our own, from conspiracy to conclusion. "American agents engaged in complex, well-financed campaigns to bring down the governments of Iran, Guatemala, South Vietnam, and Chile. None would have fallen -- certainly not in the same way or at the same time -- if Washington had not acted as it did.

"Each of these four coups was launched against a government that was reasonably democratic (with the arguable exception of South Vietnam). ... They led to the fall of leaders who embraced American ideals, and the imposition of others who detested everything Americans hold dear. They were not rogue operations. Presidents, cabinet secretaries, national security advisers, and CIA directors approved them. ... The first thing all four of these coups have in common is that American leaders promoted them consciously, willfully, deliberately, and in strict accordance with the laws."

For all 14 regime changes, Kinzer assigns blame to the smug American belief that we are the most righteous people in the world and that we are obliged to force our version of righteousness on nations we judge to be backward -- especially if they have a bountiful supply of minerals that our corporations want (i.e., oil in Iran, copper in Chile). In short, our military conquests have been launched under the glorious banner of Bible-thumping Christian capitalists.

Yes, of course, you immediately think of George Bush, but he is just the last of a long line.

Though World War I is beyond the scope of this book, it must be mentioned simply to bring in the pronouncement of President Woodrow Wilson as he prepared to lead us into that war: "There is a mighty task before us. .... It is to make the United States a mighty Christian nation, and to Christianize the world." (Some of the more radical senators of that era doubted his piety and were convinced he wanted to help England and France win so that they could pay their huge debts to our arms merchants.)

Of the four regime changes launched independently by the United States, two were concocted in the sedate office of John Foster Dulles. (That office, as Kinzer reminds us, has been moved and reconstructed, down to Dulles' silver tea set, at the University of Texas, at the Harry Ransom Center.) Of this book's several candidates for the title Most Dangerous Nutcase, my odds-on favorite is Dulles, President Eisenhower's secretary of state. His influence over Ike in foreign affairs seems to have been as strong as Cheney's influence over Bush.

Dulles was the grandson and son of preachers, and, being exceedingly devout himself, he would have gone into the clergy if he had not decided to enter an even more suspect profession: law. For years he worked for some of the world's richest corporations, and as secretary of state he continued to serve them.

In 1953 the brutal, venal shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was pushed into exile by Mohammad Mossadegh, the democratically elected prime minister.

"Modern Iran has produced few figures of Mossadegh's stature," Kinzer says.

Iranians loved Mossadegh. He made clear that his two ambitions were to set up a lasting democracy and to strengthen nationalism -- by which he meant get rid of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co., which had been robbing Iran for half a century. Indeed, the British company had been earning each year as much as all the royalties it paid Iran over 50 years. Mossadegh intended to recapture those riches to rebuild Iran.

In a scheme to get rid of Mossadegh, the British enlisted Secretary of State Dulles; he in turn enlisted his brother, CIA Director Allen Dulles, and what ensued was a truly masterful piece of skullduggery. First came a propaganda campaign to convince the West that Mossadegh was a communist, which in the U.S. of the 1950s put him on the level of a child molester. Actually, Mossadegh hated communists, but most of our press swallowed the lie. Time Magazine had previously called Mossadegh "the Iranian George Washington" and "the most world-renowned man his ancient race had produced for centuries." Now it called him "one of the worst calamities to the anti-communist world since the Red conquest of China."

The propaganda program on the outside was followed by a bogus "revolution" inside Iran, with a CIA agent-provocateur hiring such a huge army of thugs and terrorists to roam the streets of Tehran that the town fell into violent anarchy. The CIA plotters ousted Mossadegh and restored the shah to his Peacock Throne.

For Secretary of State Dulles and his old law clients -- including Gulf Oil Corp., Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey, Texaco Inc., and Mobil Corp., who were subsequently allowed to take 40 percent of Iran's oil supply -- the shah's return was a happy and very lucrative event. But, Kinzer reminds us, "The shah did not tolerate dissent [to silence some, he simply killed them] and repressed opposition newspapers, political parties, trade unions, and civic groups. As a result, the only place Iranian dissidents could find a home was in mosques and religious schools, many of which were controlled by" radical fundamentalists. So when the revolution against the shah finally broke out in 1979, it was inevitable that these clerics led it.

They then went on to sponsor acts of terror from Saudi Arabia to Argentina, mostly to humiliate the United States, and "their example inspired Muslim fanatics around the world, including those who carried out the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. None of this ... might have happened if Mossadegh had not been overthrown."

At roughly the same time Secretary of State Dulles was destroying democracy in Iran, he was also busy destroying democracy in Central America, and once again it was on behalf of a renegade industry: United Fruit Co. If any bureaucrat deserved to spend the rest of his life in prison for conflict of interest, it was Dulles. And several of his bureaucratic buddies would have been right there beside him breaking rocks.

"Few private companies have ever been as closely interwoven with the United States government as United Fruit was during the mid-1950s," writes Kinzer. For decades, Dulles had been one of its principal legal counselors.

(At one time Dulles negotiated an agreement with Guatemala that gave United Fruit a 99-year lease on a vast tract of land, tax free.) Dulles' brother -- Allen, the CIA Director -- had also done legal work for the company and owned a big block of its stock. So did other top officials at State; one had previously been president of United Fruit. The head of our National Security Council was United Fruit's former chairman of the board, and the president of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development was a former board member.

These fine chaps and their numerous colleagues in our government were, not surprisingly, very upset when between 1944 and 1954, Guatemala entered what would be known as its "democratic spring," denoting the presidencies of Juan José Arevalo and -- after the first peaceful transfer of power in Guatemalan history -- Jacobo Arbenz.

What those two did was nothing less than breathtaking. Under Arevalo, the National Assembly was persuaded to establish the first social security system, guarantee the rights of trade unions, fix a 48-hour workweek, and even slap a modest tax on the big landholders -- meaning three American companies: a huge electric monopoly, a rail monopoly, and, of course, United Fruit, which controlled the other two.

Arbenz was even bolder. He persuaded the National Assembly to pass the Agrarian Reform Law, which gave the government the power to seize and redistribute uncultivated land on estates larger than 672 acres. United Fruit owned more than 550,000 acres, about one-fifth of the country's arable land, but cultivated less than 15 percent -- while many thousands of Guatemalans were starving for land. So in 1953, Arbenz's government seized 234,000 uncultivated acres of United Fruit's land, for which the government offered in compensation (one can imagine the vengeful hilarity this must have stirred in Arbenz's circle) a paltry $1.185 million -- the value United Fruit had declared each year for tax purposes.

That did it. The Dulles gang back in Washington, all "products of the international business world and utterly ignorant of the realities of Guatemalan life, considered the idea of land redistribution to be inherently Marxist," writes Kinzer. So they began using the same techniques as in Iran, although much more elaborately played out -- first portraying Guatemala as having fallen into the hands of Communists, a falsehood that was supported by the U.S. press, including a series in The New York Times. Dulles even got Francis Cardinal Spellman, the most powerful and most hysterically anti-communist priest in America, to recruit Guatemala's Catholic clergy to "rise as a single man against this enemy of God and country." Then the CIA launched a bogus "invasion" by an "anti-Communist" force, followed by a bogus "revolt."

Arbenz was forced into exile and replaced by Col. Carlos Armas, who promptly canceled reforms and established a police state. He was soon assassinated, but bedlam continued. By overthrowing Arbenz, writes Kinzer, "the United States crushed a democratic experiment that held great promise for Latin America. As in Iran a year earlier, it deposed a regime that embraced fundamental American ideals but that had committed the sin of seeking to retake control of its own natural resources."

The dismantling of Arbenz's administration was named, with the usual buffoonery of our undercover government, "Operation Success."

When Guatemalans saw that democracy was dead, thousands revolted, took to the hills, and, inspired by Fidel Castro's victory in Cuba, formed guerrilla bands. "To combat this threat," writes Kinzer, "the Guatemalan army used such brutal tactics that all normal political life in the country ceased. Death squads roamed with impunity, chasing down and murdering politicians, union organizers, student activists, and peasant leaders. Thousands of people were kidnapped... and never seen again. Many were tortured to death on military bases ... This repression raged for three decades, and during this period soldiers killed more civilians in Guatemala than in the rest of the hemisphere combined." A United Nations commission put the toll at 200,000.

It was a great victory for Dulles' side; today 2 percent of the people in Guatemala still own half the arable land.

To maintain that status quo, the United States from 1960 to 1990 gave Guatemala hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid, including training and arming its death squads. Guatemala didn't need an air force; we dispatched our own planes from the Canal Zone to drop napalm on suspected guerrilla camps.

"This bloodiest of all modern Latin American wars would not have broken out if not for Operation Success," writes Kinzer. "Operation Success taught Cuban revolutionaries -- and those from other countries -- that the United States would not accept democratic nationalism in Latin America. It gave them a decisive push towards radicalism."

Never mind the regime change in Vietnam. The heart of it was simply the stupidity and administrative paralysis of the Kennedy administration. At the very moment when a close watch on the turmoil in South Vietnam was vitally needed (hey, it was supposedly "our" government), Kennedy and his important cabinet members were out of town, playing golf, sailing, or at a baseball game. In their absence, lesser officials sent word to dump Ngo Dinh Diem, our unpopular puppet president of South Vietnam. (Diem, by the way, was another protégé of Dulles and Francis Cardinal Spellman.) When the Kennedy insiders returned to their duties, they dithered for four days, largely agreeing that the dumping was a bad idea, but doing nothing to cancel it.

Nor, writes Kinzer, were any of the counselors bright enough to suggest that it might be a perfect time to walk away from the mess and leave it all to the Vietnamese. "That," writes Kinzer, "would probably have led to the establishment of a Communist... rule over the entire country, but that is what ultimately happened anyway." And a withdrawal at this point "would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives... and spared the United States its greatest national trauma since the Civil War."

Once dumped, Diem was assassinated. With a bizarre measurement of historical events, this seemed to bother Kennedy the most. Historian Ellen Hammer writes that he was "shaken and depressed" to realize that "the first Catholic ever to become a Vietnamese chief of state was dead, assassinated as a direct result of policy authorized by the first American Catholic president."

What a pleasure it is to move away from sheer stupidity and back to sheer meanness, supplied by the man many love to hate, Henry Kissinger, and his part in Kinzer's fourth featured regime change, in Chile. Misplaced piety cannot be blamed for any part of this. The motivation was entirely capitalistic. "For us there are two sorts of people in the world," Dulles once said. "There are those who are Christian and support free enterprise, and there are the others." Leaving out the Christians, Kissinger would have agreed.

The Chilean foreign minister once accused him of knowing nothing about the Southern Hemisphere. Kissinger nodded, saying, "And I don't care ... The axis of history starts in Moscow, goes to Bonn, crosses over to Washington and then goes to Tokyo. What happens in the South is of no importance."

Unless it carried the odor of Soviet influence. And Kissinger, then secretary of state, was certain he detected the odor of communism in the election of Salvador Allende Gossens to the presidency of Chile. "Kissinger would be more directly responsible for what happened in Chile than any other American," writes Kinzer, "with the possible exception of Nixon."

Chile was one of the most stable countries in South America, with a high literacy rate, a relatively large middle class, and a strong civil society. But millions of its people lived in desperate poverty, and Allende made no secret of his ambition to lift that class -- and to do it by controlling some of the giant corporations operating in Chile but owned by yanquis.

Topping his hit list, besides consumer-product companies like PepsiCo Inc., were the world's two largest copper mining companies, Kennecott Corp. and Anaconda Mining Co., and International Telephone and Telegraph Co., all owned by U.S. interests. Allende wanted the Chilean government to take them over.

The men running these outfits, along with swingers like Kissinger's close friend David Rockefeller of Chase Manhattan Bank, which had multibillion-dollar interests in South America, struck back and got all the help they needed. Banks were persuaded to put a devastating credit squeeze on Allende's government. The CIA (though some of its officers wanted nothing to do with these dirty tricks) was turned loose, hiring assassins, paying for strikes that caused severe shortages of food, gasoline, electricity, and other materials. "Within two years, one-third of Chile's buses and 20 percent of its taxis were out of service due to lack of spare parts." Much, but not all, of the Chilean military was corrupted. Ditto the Chilean press.

Kinzer's account of these rebellious years ends with the death of Allende in La Moneda, the presidential palace and traditional seat of Chilean democracy. He had been president for 1,042 days. He refused an offer of free passage out of the country and committed suicide.

So Kissinger and Nixon and Rockefeller and their friends got what they wanted: a Chile run by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who took office after the coup of September 11, 1973. His first act was to order a nationwide roundup of tens of thousands of leftists and other supporters of the Allende regime. Thousands were tortured in prison. Many were never seen again.

In 1976, Kissinger met privately with Pinochet in Santiago to assure the dictator that although his upcoming speech to the Organization of American States "would include a few perfunctory references to human rights, it was 'not aimed at Chile ...' We are not out to weaken your position.'"

Okay, so after that depressing encounter with Kissinger, you need to get back to someone who can offer you piety, comedy, and, well, brutality of a different sort. Meet the inflated president, William McKinley, elected by midwestern industries. He launched the Spanish-American War in 1899, which brought Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines into the U.S. kennel. Later he would admit he saw the war as "a commercial opportunity," but at first he peddled the war as a sacred duty, telling a group of Methodist missionaries that while he wrestled with the question of taking the Philippine archipelago (which he at first had trouble finding on the map), he fell to his knees in the White House on several evenings and "prayed Almighty God for light and guidance. One night late, it came to me that there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos and uplift them and Christianize them."

Kinzer points out that McKinley obviously didn't realize that most Filipinos were already practicing Catholics. Nor did he have a clue as to the natives' feelings about being "saved" by force. McKinley's missionary invasion ended only after three and a half years of horrific fighting (deaths: 4,374 American soldiers, 16,000 guerrillas, and at least 20,000 civilians) in which both sides engaged in wholesale torture. Abu Ghraib was a cakewalk compared with some of the things our soldiers did in that war. "The most notorious was the 'water cure,' in which sections of bamboo were forced down the throats of prisoners and then used to fill the prisoners' stomachs with dirty water until they swelled in torment. Then soldiers would jump on the prisoner's stomach to force the water out."

Actually, the people of the Philippines and Cuba didn't need our help to whip Spain. The natives of those places had been hitting their Spanish overlords so hard for so many years that Spain was already willing to give Cuba home rule. The chief organizer of the rebellion at that stage, José Martí, encouraged his fighters to push on, not only to win freedom from Spain but "to prevent, by the independence of Cuba, the United States from spreading over the West Indies and falling, with that added weight, upon other lands of our America."

Uh oh. That kind of talk scared the devil into American businessmen who had more than $50 million -- big bucks in those days -- invested in Cuban agriculture. Obviously a war to pre-empt the Martí crowd was needed. That was nicely cooked up by a "friendly" visit of the U.S. battleship Maine to the Havana harbor, where an explosion killed 250 of its sailors, and the Hearst newspapers were filled with mendacious stories fixing the guilt on Spain. Hearst and his loud crowd called for all-out war. McKinley enthusiastically complied.

But there were enough members of Congress, touched by the Cubans' long fight for freedom, who refused to back a pro-war resolution until McKinley agreed to an amendment promising that at war's end, we would leave the government and control of the island to its people. When the promise was made, our military's brief, Hollywood-style part in the liberation of Cuba took place. Kinzer tells us, "in three one-day battles, the most famous being one in which [Teddy] Roosevelt, dressed in a uniform he had ordered from Brooks Brothers, led a charge up Kettle Hill" and "American cruisers destroyed the few decrepit Spanish naval vessels anchored at Santiago" in a single day.

"Just 385 Americans had been killed in action, barely more than Sioux Indians had killed at Little Big Horn in the country's last major military engagement, twenty-two years before." No wonder the American statesman John Hay called it "a splendid little war."

As for our promises to let Cuba rule itself, we quickly backed off on that. Republicans in Congress and much of the press greatly exaggerated our part in whipping Spain and argued, successfully, that Cubans had little to do with it and deserved to rule themselves only so long "as they allowed the United States to veto any decision they made." Castro was still a long way off. A couple of Kinzer's regime changes are pure comic opera.

Grenada for example -- a tiny, former British colony in the Caribbean. On October 21, 1983, eager to get away from Washington for a few rounds of golf at Augusta, President Reagan hurriedly signed an order for a naval task force heading for Lebanon to change course and go to Grenada to ... Well, nobody was exactly sure, but apparently a couple of wacky "Marxist" cliques were in a shooting donnybrook to see who would have political control down there. And maybe a couple of hundred American students at a medical school on Grenada were in danger. Actually, when polled by their dean, 90 percent of the students said they felt perfectly safe. But the naval task force steamed on.

The invasion -- named Operation Urgent Fury -- would not be easy. The Pentagon had no up-to-date maps of Grenada, so some of our troops had to use photocopies of tourist maps. About 6,000 troops landed in Grenada, "at least twice the number needed for the job," writes Kinzer. A mental hospital was accidentally bombed, killing more than a dozen patients. Several dozen others stumbled away, dazed, and some were still wandering days later.

Oops! Neither Reagan nor any other American official had told the Brits what we were up to. "The United Nations General Assembly overwhelming passed a resolution 'deeply deploring' ... a flagrant violation of international law."

But Representative Dick Cheney of Wyoming said the invasion made "a lot of folks around the world feel we are more steady and reliable than heretofore."

Reagan was doggone proud, too. In a speech to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society in New York, he proclaimed, "Our days of weakness are over! Our military forces are back on their feet, and standing tall."

Except for the 250 Marines who had been killed by a bomb in Lebanon at the same time we were invading Grenada.

And finally we musn't forget our very first regime change, in 1893, when a few dozen sugar planters and descendants of missionaries, wanting more control of island commerce, overthrew Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii. It wasn't a fair fight. The sugar planters got the help of 162 American Marines and sailors who were passing through. The queen's "army" consisted of the Honolulu police chief.

Texas Observer contributor Robert Sherrill's most recent book is First Amendment Felon: The Story of Frank Wilkinson, His 132,000 Page FBI File and His Epic Fight for Civil Rights and Liberties (Nationbooks, 2005).
© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

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