Saturday, September 30, 2006

'No pasaran'

"They shall not pass."

"I pushed myself forward and because I was 6ft I could see Mosley. They were surrounded by an even greater army of police. There was to be this great advance of the police force to get the fascists through. Suddenly, the horses' hooves were flying and the horses were falling down because the young kids were throwing marbles."

Thousands of policemen were sandwiched between the Blackshirts and the anti-fascists. The latter were well organised and through a mole learned that the chief of police had told Mosley that his passage into the East End could be made through Cable Street.

"I heard this loudspeaker say 'They are going to Cable Street'," said Prof Fishman. "Suddenly a barricade was erected there and they put an old lorry in the middle of the road and old mattresses. The people up the top of the flats, mainly Irish Catholic women, were throwing rubbish on to the police. We were all side by side. I was moved to tears to see bearded Jews and Irish Catholic dockers standing up to stop Mosley. I shall never forget that as long as I live, how working-class people could get together to oppose the evil of racism.",,1884440,00.html

School shootings.

Violence in schools was sort of a pet issue of mine when I was in high school, because I saw it all around me. Kids were brutally beating up other kids while other kids stood around in a big circle-jerk and watched. I actually wrote an editorial about it in the school newspaper advocating that instead of just standing around with their mouths hanging open, maybe these large groups of people could step in and do something about it. It tapered off, since I think seeing students advocating vigilante action motivated administrators to clamp down on it.

Eleven years later, and I'm hearing about a thwarted shooting plot at my alma mater, Green Bay East High School. I see that the problem, in the long run, hasn't gotten better. It's gotten worse. Why is this? What do we need to be doing differently? Here's another story of a disgruntled student who, tragically, killed his principal before being stopped.

Why is this allowed to happen? Every time one of these students goes over the edge and kills students, teachers, and an occasional principal, you always hear about the warning signs that the kids exhibited that were ignored until it was too late. Suggested solutions generally range from better counseling, cracking down on teasing, and metal detectors. All of these are band-aid approaches. The problem isn't that we aren't acting to prevent the violence in schools. The problem is that we're putting these mentally ill children in the same schools as everyone else, putting them in different classes that only serve to further ostracize them from their peers, and then still subjecting them to the harsh ridicule that inevitably stems from being unique or different. In some cases, these mentally ill children are very fragile and can only take so much. In other cases, they're just sociopaths who see nothing wrong with using violence to solve their problems.

We need to get past the tendency to sugar-coat mental illness in children. A homicidal maniac is a homicidal maniac, whether he's 15 or 51. The notion that we can put these square pegs into the round holes of public education is absurd. So many of these kids are ticking time bombs that need to be defused, but never get the help they need. In most cases, they don't blow up while they're still in school. Instead, they go on to be abusive spouses, abusive parents, criminals, or serial killers. Treatment in early adolescence could prevent a lot of these problems, but instead, we insist on working harder to force conformity on them. Mental illness isn't something that you can beat out of a kid with a "good whuppin' behind the wood shed". They need to be treated, and yes, coddled. They're sick.

How do I know that Eric Hainstock was mentally ill? I don't, but any child whose solution to a little teasing is to grab his dad's guns and gun down the principal clearly doesn't have all of his faculties about him.

And that's another thing: what were this psychopath's parents' doing keeping guns in the house? Did they just not know their kid wasn't right in the head? His peers seemed to.

Rupp described Hainstock as a freshman with few friends who was “just weird in the head.“

“He always used to kid around about bringing things to school and hurting kids,” she said.

Student Ellen Laufenberg said Hainstock was always nice to her but described him as a “problem kid” with “a short fuse.“

I'll tell you the real reason nobody wants to talk about setting up separate schools for mentally ill children: the financial cost. It would cost a lot of money to get these kids the help they need. Nobody wants to acknowledge the human cost of just putting these kids in "special ed". Instead, they say what these kids need is just a good whuppin', when in fact that just exacerbates the problem.

I feel compelled to point out that not all special ed kids are mentally ill. But there are enough of them that are that I feel that they merit a more comprehensive approach.

Do parents feel safe knowing that four eight hours a day, their kids are locked into a brick building that may or may not contain psychopaths who are ready to show up out of the blue and start killing people? I wouldn't want that for my kids. Nobody wins in that situation. Not the normal kids, not the teachers, not the parents, and not the mentally ill kids in need of treatment. It's just short-sighted.

Friday, September 29, 2006

We can still win this in the courts.

The suspension of habeas corpus is blatantly unconstitutional, whether through executive or legislative fiat.

Donate to the ACLU. I just gave money. They're still fighting the good fight, and they have the resources to bring habeas corpus back from the grave through judicial review.

Let's not throw in the towel yet. The system still has a few avenues we can pursue.

We can't not fight. They want us to quit, but the fight's not over yet.

October 5 -- Day of Mass Resistance

Thanks again to pandora...

October 5 - Day of Mass Resistance

On October 5, people everywhere will walk out of school, take off work, and come to the downtowns & townsquares and set out from there, going through the streets and calling on many more to join us - making a powerful statement: "NO! THIS REGIME DOES NOT REPRESENT US! AND WE WILL DRIVE IT OUT!"

Below you can find a growing listing of protests across the country. Check back here for the latest information (updated daily), or contact a local World Can't Wait chapter in your area (see menu to the left).

If there is not a protest organized in your area, head to the downtown or town square at noon on Oct. 5.

Turn your despair into rage.

Turn your broken heart into a fist.

Then go visit my friend Tony at /.

We're talking real-time action, not venting online.

One of us is a nut. Two of us is a conspiracy. Three of us is legion and unstoppable. Won't you join us?

The Senate just voted to end habeas corpus.

This is going to get worse before it gets better. Ready yourselves.

Here's the vote count.

Give my man Monkeyfister a visit. His blog is listed on the right. He's got some important discussions going. We need to seriously consider our options here. Civil disobedience may become necessary if these "people" continue trying to shred our Constitution.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Democracy's last stand.

Bush is seeking to over-turn habeus corpus. As I've said before, it's time. Bush and his people are seeking to establish an authoritarian regime. This is not hyperbole; this is the truth. Nancy Pelosi, in the video below, is can be seen taking a stand for American values.

This nation cannot withstand two more years of an unchecked Bush administration. If the Republicans win in November, our nation is through. Please, for the love of God, don't let this happen to my country.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Oh, this is rich....

Check out the variant covers of Newsweek across the world:

Greg Palast interviews Hugo Chavez

Palast covers some basic points: high prices put Chavez into a position to usurp Saudi Arabia's place as the dominant player in OPEC. That's why they're so peeved with Chavez; he wants to keep Venezuelan petro dollars for Venezuela.

There are only two ways to defeat the rise of Chavez as the New Abdullah of the Americas. First, the unattractive option: Cut the price of oil below $30 a barrel. That would make Chavez’s crude worthless. Or, option two: Kill him.


Q: Your opponents are saying that you are beginning a slow-motion dictatorship. Is that what we are seeing?

Hugo Chavez: They have been saying that for a long time. When they’re short of ideas, any excuse will do as a vehicle for lies. That is totally false. I would like to invite the citizens of Great Britain and the citizens of the U.S. and the citizens of the world to come here and walk freely through the streets of Venezuela, to talk to anyone they want, to watch television, to read the papers. We are building a true democracy, with human rights for everyone, social rights, education, health care, pensions, social security, and jobs.

Q: Some of your opponents are being charged with the crime of taking money from George Bush. Will you send them to jail?

Chavez: It’s not up to me to decide that. We have the institutions that do that. These people have admitted they have received money from the government of the United States. It’s up to the prosecutors to decide what to do, but the truth is that we can’t allow the U.S. to finance the destabilization of our country. What would happen if we financed somebody in the U.S. to destabilize the government of George Bush? They would go to prison, certainly.

Q: How do you respond to Bush’s charge that you are destabilizing the region and interfering in the elections of other Latin American countries?

Chavez: Mr. Bush is an illegitimate President. In Florida, his brother Jeb deleted many black voters from the electoral registers. So this President is the result of a fraud. Not only that, he is also currently applying a dictatorship in the U.S. People can be put in jail without being charged. They tap phones without court orders. They check what books people take out of public libraries. They arrested Cindy Sheehan because of a T-shirt she was wearing demanding the return of the troops from Iraq. They abuse blacks and Latinos. And if we are going to talk about meddling in other countries, then the U.S. is the champion of meddling in other people’s affairs. They invaded Guatemala, they overthrew Salvador Allende, invaded Panama and the Dominican Republic. They were involved in the coup d’etat in Argentina thirty years ago.

Q: Is the U.S. interfering in your elections here?

Chavez: They have interfered for 200 years. They have tried to prevent us from winning the elections, they supported the coup d’etat, they gave millions of dollars to the coup plotters, they supported the media, newspapers, outlaw movements, military intervention, and espionage. But here the empire is finished, and I believe that before the end of this century, it will be finished in the rest of the world. We will see the burial of the empire of the eagle.

Much more at the link. Take a good read, and then look at Noam Chomsky's book, Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance per President Chavez's recomendation.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Green Arrow & Hurricane Katrina

I was debating on whether or not to blog on this here, but I decided that whereas I have about three actual readers, there was no inherent harm in it.

A few years ago, I picked up my childhood addiction to comic books. I rationalize it by telling myself that it's healthier than the adulthood addiction to cigarettes that I gave up last year. A title which has really caught my eye is Green Arrow because of its uncommon social commentary. I didn't catch the allegory at first, but let me give you the run-down:

Star City, Green Arrow's home city, has been devestated by a huge calamnity. The city's plight was largely ignored by the federal government, and the local government's response was to build a huge wall down the middle, separating the desirables from the undesirables. The "have-nots" call their side of the wall "the Glades" (shades of "the Pits" in New Orleans) due to the fact that the wall was constructed in a trench, which filled up with a lot of standing water, which attracted a lot of mosquitoes and created a swamp-like odor.

Green Arrow's alter ego is a multi-millionaire by the name of Oliver Queen. Queen runs for mayor of Star City on the promise to build the city back up and tear the wall down. He won.

Queen is a dyed in the wool liberal. He holds gay weddings outside city hall and withholds sales taxes from the state to put them toward rebuilding the city. His controversial policies result in corporate types putting out a hit on him.

But this exchange in Green Arrow #65 between a right-wing talking head from the "United Freedom Council of Americans for America" named Marc Spillman and the founder of a website called "Bring'" named Jenny Parks (a fairly obvious allusion) on a cable talk show where they debate the merits of Mayor Queen's administration brought home the parallels to me:

Spillman: "My heart goes out to the children who live in that city."
Parks: "Mine too. Their homes were blown up."
Spillman: "I meant the lawless, unpatriotic..."
Parks: "He's trying to--"
Spillman: "...liberal agenda that he just keeps ramming---"
Parks: "It's not a liberal agenda, it's---"
Spillman: "---down the troats of every decent person trying to live in---"
Parks: "WE LEFT THEM THERE TO DIE! Their city was destroyed and fell into ruin and we did nothing! And we continue to do nothing! Those are men, women and children who lived their lives, paid their taxes, and thought that they were living under the protection of this nation."
Spillman: (shifting uncomfortably in his seat)
Parks: "We didn't do anything to help them. He is. The very least we can do is stay out of his way."

Civil War may be addressing the War on Terror, but under the radar, Green Arrow is tackling Bush's response to Katrina. There's also a lot of other stuff going on in the title that makes it good reading. I highly recommend it to any comic book fans.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Coaxing the unwilling.

Thanks to pandora from BCF for pointing this out to me:

While the secretary of defense's long-standing goal of transforming the planet's most powerful military into its highest-tech, most agile, most futuristic fighting force has, in the words of the Washington Post's David Von Drehle, "melted away", the very makeup of the armed forces has been mutating before our collective eyes under the pressure of the war in Iraq. This actual transformation has been reported, but only in scattered articles on the new recruitment landscape in the United States.

Last year, despite NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing), professional bull-riding and Arena Football sponsorships; popular video games that doubled as recruiting tools; television commercials dripping with seductive scenes of military glory; a "joint marketing communications and market research and studies" program actively engaged in measures to target for military service Hispanics, dropouts and those with criminal records; and at least US$16,000 in promotional costs for each soldier it managed to sign up, the US military failed to meet its recruiting goals.

The use of IRR and stop-loss are hurting recruitment numbers more than anything else. Recruiters were able to gloss over the IRR commitment in the past (back in the day when I first enlisted) because it was never used. "World War III" was listed as the circumstance under which I'd get called back under IRR. This is hardly WW III, despite Newt's contention that it is, but we're still pulling people back from IRR. People see that.

I think there are a number of people out there who would be willing to serve in the Army and even go to Iraq as long as they know how long their commitment actually is. IRR being used takes that away, and if they really want to improve recruitment numbers they need to start by doing away with the standard eight year IRR commitment so that people know that they're done when their contact expires.

But the things that trouble me are the recruitment of gang bangers and white supremacists, which I've covered in earlier entries, and the hiring of mercenaries by DynCorp and Blackwater, et al. Here's an article from October of last year in The Nation:

Armed men shuffled in and out of the building as a handful told stories of their past experiences in Iraq. "I worked the security detail of both Bremer and Negroponte," said one of the Blackwater guys, referring to the former head of the US occupation, L. Paul Bremer, and former US Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte. Another complained, while talking on his cell phone, that he was getting only $350 a day plus his per diem. "When they told me New Orleans, I said, 'What country is that in?'" he said. He wore his company ID around his neck in a case with the phrase Operation Iraqi Freedom printed on it.

My heart swells.

Mercenaries are a natural result of manning shortages in the military. Traditionally though, governments only rely on mercenaries after they've maxed out potential conscripts. This is because the problems associated with mercenaries outweigh the short-term political fall-out from holding a draft. No less an authority than Nicolo Machiavelli writes in The Prince:

Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they are disunited, ambitious and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies; they have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is; for in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. The fact is, they have no other attraction or reason for keeping the field than a trifle of stipend, which is not sufficient to make them willing to die for you. They are ready enough to be your soldiers whilst you do not make war, but if war comes they take themselves off or run from the foe; which I should have little trouble to prove, for the ruin of Italy has been caused by nothing else than by resting all her hopes for many years on mercenaries, and although they formerly made some display and appeared valiant amongst themselves, yet when the foreigners came they showed what they were.

But apparently this isn't a problem to this crowd. Losing Congress to the Democrats is.

Again, I hate to be redundant, but we've got a lot of chickens waiting to come home to roost. As bad as things are now, they're going to get a lot worse, and they're going to stay that way for the next twenty years. We have no idea what the fall-out from George and Dick's Excellent Adventure in Iraq is going to be, but I'm starting to see some potential troubles already.

This kind of stuff is why I can only blog with some wine in me. Most of the time, I'd just rather not think about it.

A compromise on torture?

(Before I begin, let me emphasize that compromising on torture is like... well, if I need to explain why torture is bad, I think I should consider emigrating from this country.)

President Bush's stalled anti-terrorism agenda edged forward Tuesday, with a rebellious House member rewriting her bill on wiretaps more to his liking and maverick Senate Republicans reopening talks over how to handle detainees.

Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., offered to substitute her original bill on giving legal status to Bush's warrantless surveillance program with a bill that would grant a key administration request: allow wiretapping on Americans in the event of an "imminent" terrorist attack.


Sen. John Warner, R-Va., said "progress was being made in good faith," while Majority Leader Bill Frist said he hoped to vote on a final measure by the end of next week.

The Senate Armed Services Committee last week approved detainee legislation written by Warner, the panel's chairman, and Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., but opposed by Bush. The White House has said the committee's bill would put an end to the CIA interrogation program.

"See? It's safe to vote for Republicans in the fall. They'll hold Bush to account." This is part of what digby calls the "kabuki dance" between Republican President George Bush and Republican Senator John McCain.

Support among House moderates for the White House proposal on detainees also was faltering. GOP moderates Christopher Shays, R-Conn., and Mike Castle, R-Del., said in a letter to House GOP leaders Tuesday that they support Warner's bill.

Amid the whirl of developments, the prospects for congressional passage of the wiretapping and detainee policies were unclear in the waning week-and-a-half before Congress recesses for the Nov. 7 election. House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he expects Wilson's bill to come to the floor next week. But even if it passes the House, the Senate must churn through three conflicting pieces of legislation on the same matter.

Where are the Democrats on this issue? Not a single Democrat was cited in this article. You'd think they'd been completely silent. They haven't:

The Senate's top Democrat, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, predicts little momentum on the legislation amid continued Republican disagreement. "The President picked a battle, and he thought it would be with Democrats, but it has been with Republicans. Until they resolve their issues, I do not think there is much that can be done on that," he said.

Um, well, okay. Thanks for that principled stand, Sen. Reid.

In a speech today, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, said praised the four Republicans ``who had the courage to speak'' and who voted with 11 Democrats to pass the alternative detainees-tribunal proposal. ``There is a way for us to protect America and not lose our values,'' Durbin said.

``I hope the administration will re-evaluate'' the legislation and ``move forward with us on a bipartisan basis,'' Durbin said.

Well, I guess the new definition of bi-partisanship in the U.S. is Republicans disagreeing with each other. Welcome to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republicans.

Well, surely Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) has something to say about this issue, and if anybody can find one of his comments on this matter, please let me know. I'd love to see it.

Seriously, why are the Democrats on the sidelines on this issue? The principle that torture is bad is one of the most basic American principles. Why the fuck can't we agree on even that? Why the fuck can't we at least fight against the use of torture by this administration? Why the fuck should we compromise on that point? Have we completely given up?

Fun with Astroturf!

Alan LeClair’s letter in my hometown newspaper smelled a little like Astroturf, so I did a Google search on “President Bush has a clear plan for victory in Iraq that begins with training Iraqi forces”. Nothing gives off that unique aroma quite like freshly fertilized GOP talking points.

Lookee what I found:

In Green Bay, WI….

Tremendous progress is taking place in Iraq

DE PERE — President Bush has a clear plan for victory in Iraq that begins with training Iraqi forces so they can defend their country and fight the terrorists. We are making tremendous progress towards this objective.

Earlier this year, Iraqi forces led the fight in clearing out terrorists during the crucial battle of Tal Afar, with U.S. troops in a supporting role, and every day, Iraqis are taking more control of the situation on the ground.

Withdrawing from Iraq, as some Democrats in Washington propose, would send a dangerous signal to our enemies that we cut and run when the going gets tough.

President Bush is offering a clear strategy to win, not a political quick fix.

Alan LeClair

In Lafeyette, IN….

Positive push for Bush's victory plan

President Bush has a clear plan for victory in Iraq that begins with training Iraqi forces so they can defend their country and fight the terrorists. We are making tremendous progress towards this objective.

Earlier this year, Iraqi forces led the fight in clearing out terrorists during the crucial battle of Tal Afar, with U.S. troops in a supporting role, and every day, Iraqis are taking more control of the situation on the ground.

Withdrawing from Iraq, as some Democrats in Washington propose, would send a dangerous signal to our enemies that we cut and run when the going gets tough. President Bush is offering a clear strategy to win, not a political quick fix.

Carol Galloway

In Lawrence, KS….

President Bush has a clear plan for victory in Iraq that begins with training Iraqi forces so they can defend their country and fight the terrorists. We are making tremendous progress toward this objective.

Earlier this year, Iraqi forces led the fight in clearing out terrorists during the crucial battle of Talafar, with U.S. troops in a supporting role, and every day, Iraqis are taking more control of the situation on the ground. Withdrawing from Iraq, as some Democrats in Washington propose, would send a dangerous signal to our enemies that we cut and run when the going gets tough. President Bush is offering a clear strategy to win, not a political quick fix.

Burwyn Bender,

In San Antonio, TX from a retired Colonel who actually bothered to add a few of his own words so he could “argue from authority”….

I am recently retired from the Army and served two tours of duty during Operation Iraqi Freedom — one in the Sunni Triangle and the other in Baghdad and farther south near Nasiriyah.

I believe President Bush has a clear plan for victory in Iraq that begins with training Iraqi forces so they can defend their country and fight the terrorists.

We are making tremendous progress toward this objective. I met and
worked with many dedicated and brave Iraqi civilians and soldiers. Earlier this year, Iraqi forces led the fight in clearing out terrorists during the crucial battle of Tal Afar, with U.S. troops in a supporting role, and every day, Iraqis are taking more control of the situation on the ground.

Withdrawing from Iraq, as some Democrats propose, would send a dangerous signal to our enemies that we cut and run when the going gets tough. Bush is offering a clear strategy to win, not a political quick fix.

Equally important, withdrawal from Iraq would abandon friends and allies who have staked their lives on helping us achieve a free Iraq. Leaving them to die at the hands of terrorists in anarchy would be immoral and unconscionable.

We must stop partisan bickering and support our president. We must see this war through to a successful conclusion.

—Retired Col. David J. Cohen

Finally, here’s the original source at the GOP website:

President Bush has a clear plan for victory in Iraq that begins with training Iraqi forces so they can defend their country and fight the terrorists. We are making tremendous progress towards this objective. Earlier this year, Iraqi forces led the fight in clearing out terrorists during the crucial battle of Tal Afar, with U.S. troops in a supporting role, and every day, Iraqis are taking more control of the situation on the ground. Withdrawing from Iraq, as some Democrats in Washington propose, would send a dangerous signal to our enemies that we cut and run when the going gets tough. President Bush is offering a clear strategy to win, not a political quick fix.

Honestly, the fact that I was able to spot this just reading the letter tells me a few things:

  1. They do this A LOT.
  2. They need better writers.
Apparently some colonels retire their integrity when they retire from the service. I simply hate when military members, past or present, use their positions in the military to advance a political agenda. Argue based on the merits of your points, not based on whatever perceived authority you think you have.

BTW, here's what a Google search on Col Cohen turned up:

COL David J. Cohen, MD, USA

The content of the article is unimportant. And while the fact that he's a doctor doesn't detract from any of the alleged points he makes in "his" letter, it does put the lie to the fact that he signed his letter as a retired colonel who served in Iraq. He's a doctor, which is a non-combat officer. This is a fact he conveniently excludes from "his" letter. According to the late Col Dave Hackworth's rule about fake vets, a supply troop who says that he served with the 101st Airborne Division but leaves out the fact that he was a supply troop is a fake vet because, through his lie of omission, he leaves people with the impression that he was an airborne ranger. So too does Dr. Cohen leave people with the impression that he had something to do with the logistics and planning of the reconstruction of Iraq, when in fact, he had about as much to do with it as I do and therefore can speak from no more authority on it than I can.

In fact, even if one accuses me of being no better than him by the implication that I'm putting out some sort of partisan screed, I say this: "At least I wrote my partisan screed."

Friday, September 15, 2006

Breaking the law.

From my good friend American Stranger at

Exxon Mobil drops charges against Greg Palast.

Good news from Palast's website:


September, 14, 2006

Forget the orange suit. Exxon Mobil Corporation, which admits it was behind the criminal complaint brought by Homeland Security against me and television producer Matt Pascarella, has informed me that the oil company will no longer push charges that Pascarella and I threatened "critical infrastructure."

The allegedly criminal act, which put us on the wrong side of post-9/11 anti-terror law, was our filming of Exxon's Baton Rouge refinery where, nearby, 1,600 survivors of Hurricane Katrina remain interned behind barbed wire.

I have sworn to Homeland Security that we no longer send our footage to al-Qaeda -- which, in any case, can get a much better view of the refinery and other "critical infrastructure" at Google maps.

Given Exxon's back-down, I hope to confirm with Homeland Security, Baton Rouge, that charges will be dropped today.

Matt and I want to thank you, our readers and viewers, for your extraordinary and heartfelt responses. Public support undoubtedly led Exxon to call off the feds.

Of course, this was never about our tipping off Osama that Louisiana contains oil refineries. This has an awful lot to do with a petroleum giant's sensitivity to unflattering depictions of their plants which are major polluters along Louisiana's notorious "Cancer Alley."

I've learned that, in April last year, Exxon brought a similar Homeland Security charge against Willie Fontenot, an assistant to the Attorney General of Louisiana. Fontenot was guiding a group of environmental studies pupils from Antioch College on a tour of Cancer Alley. Exxon's complaint about the "national security" threat posed by their photos of the company's facility cost Fontenot his job.

The issue is not national security but image security. You can get all the film you want from Exxon of refineries if you'll accept nice, sanitized VPRs (video press releases) of clean smokestacks surrounded by happy herons.

What's dangerous is not that reporters will end up in Guantanamo; the insidious effect of these threats is to keep networks from filming government and corporate filth, incompetence and inhumanity. Besides the Exxon foolishness, our camera crew was also blocked from filming inside the notorious Katrina survivors trailer encampment.

Furthermore earlier that same day, a FEMA contractor had grabbed our camera, in mid-interview, when polite but pointed questions exposed their malfeasance.

As with Exxon, the bar from filming at the refugee camp and in the offices of the government contractor were presented to us as a "Homeland Security" matter.

After the September 11 attacks, CBS Newsman Dan Rather said, "George Bush is the President. …Wherever he wants me to line up, just tell me where."

Reporters who step out of line, who ask uncomfortable questions and film uncomfortable scenes, soon find their careers toasted, as Dan can attest to.

One of George Bush's weirder acts in office (and that's saying a lot) was to move FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, whose main job is to save us from floods and earthquakes, into the control of the Department of Homeland Security. Exxon's refineries, once "pollution source points" scrutinized by government watchdogs, are now "critical infrastructure" protected by federal hounddogs.

As the front lines in the War on Terror expand from Baghdad to Baton Rouge, we find that America has been made secure only against hard news and uncomfortable facts.

Again, our sincere thanks and gratitude for your support. Cakes with files have been consumed.

- Greg Palast, New York


Many of you have asked for copies of the film which threatened national security. In response to your requests, with the permission of LinkTV, we are making "Big Easy to Big Empty: the Untold Story of the Drowning of New Orleans" available on DVD. The disc will also include an interview of reporter Greg Palast by Democracy Now's Amy Goodman plus an excerpt from Palast's bestseller, Armed Madhouse on the topic, "Class War and Hurricane Katrina."

For a copy of the film, I am asking for a modest, tax-deductible donation to our foundation, the Palast Investigative Fund. The fund supports our work and pays our legal fees.

Thanks to everybody who showed Palast some love. He does important work and has done more to expose the criminal acts of this administration than any single person. Now he can focus on the up-coming election and exposing any malfeasance that might (and likely will) pop up with it.

Thanks Greg, for everything you do.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

"Trust me," he says.

"What we're doing is within the law. We had our lawyers look at it."

Lawyers like Alberto Gonzales.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said yesterday that Bush set broad guidelines, rather than dealing with specific techniques. "While we will seek to gather intelligence from al Qaeda terrorists who seek to inflict mass harm on the American people, the president expects that we do so in a way that is consistent with our laws," McClellan said.

White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales said in a May 21 interview with The Washington Post: "Anytime a discussion came up about interrogations with the president, . . . the directive was, 'Make sure it is lawful. Make sure it meets all of our obligations under the Constitution, U.S. federal statutes and applicable treaties.' "

An Aug. 1, 2002, memo from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, addressed to Gonzales, said that torturing suspected al Qaeda members abroad "may be justified" and that international laws against torture "may be unconstitutional if applied to interrogation" conducted against suspected terrorists.

This is their definition of "lawful". What we says goes. And Bush stays out of the dirty work of picking and choosing specific "techniques". With a wink and a nod, he says, "Keep it legal, boys," and everybody understands what that means:

"Do what you want, just don't get caught."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Keith Olbermann spanks Bush

Video courtesy of Crooks and Liars.

The Palast stuff deserves the bulk of our attention, but Olbermann's commentary deserves a tip of the hat.

Sample of Palast's investigative report on "Democracy Now".

Order the full DVD for a $30 donation (consider giving more; this goes toward Palast's legal defense fund) here:

Department of Homeland Security brings charges against Greg Palast.

I've been away for a few weeks, since I've' been having trouble finding motivation to post. This e-mail I received from Greg Palast lit a fire under my ass, though:

September 11, 2006
by Greg Palast

It’s true. It’s weird. It’s nuts. The Department of Homeland Security, after a five-year hunt for Osama, has finally brought charges against… Greg Palast. I kid you not. Send your cakes with files to the Air America wing at Guantanamo.

Though not just yet. Fatherland Security has informed me that television producer Matt Pascarella and I have been charged with unauthorized filming of a “critical national security structure” in Louisiana.

On August 22, for LinkTV and Democracy Now! we videotaped the thousands of Katrina evacuees still held behind a barbed wire in a trailer park encampment a hundred miles from New Orleans. It’s been a year since the hurricane and 73,000 POW’s (Prisoners of W) are still in this aluminum ghetto in the middle of nowhere. One resident, Pamela Lewis said, “It is a prison set-up” — except there are no home furloughs for these inmates because they no longer have homes.


After I assured Detective Pananepinto, “I can swear to you that I’m not part of Al Qaeda,” he confirmed that, “Louisiana is still part of the United States,” subject to the first amendment and he was therefore required to divulge my accuser.

Not surprisingly, it was Exxon Corporation, one of a handful of companies not in love with my investigations. [See “A Well-Designed Disaster: the Untold Story of the Exxon Valdez.”]

So I rang America’s top petroleum pusher-men and asked their media relations honcho in Houston, Marc Boudreaux, a simple question. “Do you want us to go to jail or not? Is it Exxon’s position that reporters should go to jail?” Because, all my dumb-ass jokes aside, that is what’s at stake. And Exxon knew we were journalists because we showed our press credential to the Exxon guards at the refinery entrance.

What's important here is not so much that Palast has been charged, but why he's been charged. The documentary in question strongly demonstrates the Department of Homeland Security's massive failures in the follow-up to Hurricane Katrina. I cannot emphasize this enough: this is all part of a larger picture. The entire priority of our federal government is to protect themselves (and one of their major contributors) from the embarrassment of being exposed for what they are. This is not about security, this is about payback. I have already notified my senators and am now imploring any of you who may be reading this to do the same: this is one of the most outrageous abuses of power I've ever seen. And think: if they feel they can get away with doing this to a high-profile journalist like Palast, what's to stop them from doing it to any one of us. They're sending a message and they're going for broke. They want to shut down all of their critics now, before the Democrats retake Congress.

Now is not the time to sit back and timidly take it. Now is the time to fight back. Demand the same of your senators and congressmen, Democrats and Republicans alike. We cannot afford to become a country when "Homeland Security" means intimidating critics and punishing journalism. If we lose now, we lose forever. Support Greg Palast's legal fund, and demand that your congressmen stop this before it's too late.

The right to film a very public building in a documentary is the very essence of the freedom of the press. They take that away, we live in a sham democracy. I simply cannot let this pass.