Friday, February 29, 2008

New Abu Ghraib Photos from Philip Zimbardo

As a witness called in the Abu Ghraib case, Dr. Philip Zimbardo, famous for the Stanford Prison Experiment, released yesterday at the Monterey TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference some photos not previously publicly available.

I am reminded in looking at the above photo of the infamous picture of Southern whites milling around in a picnic atmosphere, laughing and smiling, while above them dangle two lynched black men. I could not find an Internet posting of that photo, but did find this one below:

As Zimbardo, a social psychologist, has indicated, attributing these barbaric actions to a few bad apples constitutes the "fundamental attribution error:" explaining human behavior based on the individual personalities of people involved instead of the social context in which such behavior becomes the norm. This does not excuse the inhumanity of the individuals depicted here, but it does account for why such behavior can occur and why the actions of those who construct such situations are principally to blame.

In the case of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and other sites where U.S. forces and U.S. proxies are routinely torturing and killing innocents (70% of those being held in GITMO are, by the U.S. government's own admission, not guilty of anything) the blame lies with the Defense Department leadership and the White House, beginning with Bush and Cheney and on down to loathsome individuals such as David Addington, Jay Bybee, Alberto Gonzalez, John Yoo, Condoleeza Rice, Michael Mukasey, and Donald Rumsfeld.

Those who buy into the fraudulent claims by these monsters that we must do these things to "protect American lives" will buy anything at all, no matter how horrid and unjustified. Those who are in a position to put a stop to this immediately - U.S. Senators, for example, including those who are now running for the presidency - who have refused to stop it by filibuster if necessary - are complicit.

How can we sit by knowing that for seven years this kind of policy has been in place and is now, as you read these words, going on in our names, and not do everything in our power to stop it NOW? How can anyone who claims the mantle of moral leadership and aspires to be our president, not do everything in their power NOW to end it NOW?

Washington Post writer Monica Hesse, in describing the orange ribbons and wristbands being worn by many of Hollywood at the Academy Awards, called these orange protest symbols "cheap, ugly."

I beg to differ. What is ugly are these daily acts of inhumanity. Protest against torture is beautiful. Those who can permit these monstrosities to go on and who don't protest are the ones who are engaging in what can only euphemistically be described as "ugly."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

On Manners, Evidence and Politics

In the course of writing and speaking about various things - for example, the stolen elections of 2000 and 2004 and about impeachment - I've on a very few occasions come up against individuals who contact me to express their disagreements with me. Or I should say, more accurately, most of these few people have hurled invective.

In response to my "No Paper Trail Left Behind: the Theft of the 2004 Presidential Election," which was published online at Project Censored in August 2005, I received scores of supportive emails and about six hostile emailers. Not a bad ratio.

When I respond to these hostile emails, which I almost invariably have done, at least once and in a very civil tone in order to explore whether or not a civil, evidenced-based dialogue can actually ensue, what is striking about this exchange has been the kind of debate style that the hostile ones employ.

(I should point out, however, that even hostile critics can sometimes have a point. Indeed, our critics can at times be our best tests for the strength of our argument. Truth emerges through struggle and it helps, not hurts, to have a debate, even with people who are difficult to take. In my case, two critics DID point out a couple evidentiary issues about which they were right and I accordingly deleted those points from my case.)

Some people write merely to say things on the order of "Bush won! You lost! Ha Ha Ha!" as if this was some kind of argument. But a few have actually at some point or another cited what they present as evidence and in some instances there is actually a fact or two there. The problem, however, is two-fold. One, the evidence they cite is generally - actually I'd have to say, almost invariably - flawed in any number of ways. Evidence is good and when someone puts some forward, I'm actually quite pleased.

The ones who DO offer evidence might, for example, cite a single poll from a specific source that they say contradicts my polls. What they don't do, however, is take the sum total of the evidence, their's and mine, and then weigh them against each other. You also need to weigh the source's credibility. Is this a poll from a reputable pollster with no particularly striking ax to grind (such as John Zogby or Gallup) or is this some conservative think tank's poll? The fact that it's a conservative think tank's poll doesn't necessarily rule it inadmissible, one needs to consider this and then look at other polls taken by others measured against this. (Ad hominem arguments won't do, after all. But I'd have to say that none of my handful of angry critics have any idea what an ad hominem argument is. I even used the term once or twice with a correspondent and he heatedly denied he was one - on principle- while at the same time engaging in it as he was writing! It was if he knew enough to know that saying that something was ad hominem was a bad thing, but he didn't know what it actually meant.)

You also need to take into account trends and motion and a number of other factors when you consider polling data. I had one guy who I engaged in a lengthy exchange with who claimed, for example, that just because polls on the eve of the 2004 election were showing a dramatic shift of momentum away from Bush and in favor of Kerry, and that polls that close to the actual election (in addition to what the exit polls stated before being "adjusted" by the pollsters to conform to the official tallies) have never been wrong, meant nothing because, according to him, "past practice doesn't predict future performance." Now, the phrase is in the abstract true as, in for instance, the warnings given to investors in companies on the stock market. But the phrase is inapplicable in the case of polls on the eve - i.e., e.g., the day before - an election.

You're taught in graduate school in the sciences to weigh evidence and how to develop evidence and so on, and most people haven't learned this practice. They think that if they can cite one fact that fits their viewpoint that they have defeated your argument. So that's on the one hand.

The other thing, which is actually the main point I want to make in this essay, is the strikingly incivil nature of the dialogue from many of these folks. I blame this on the Karl Rove's, the Bill O'Reilly's, the Rush Limbaugh's, the Ann Coulter's, and their imitators who have made their careers by employing insult, invective, exaggeration and sheer fabrication of "facts." O'Reilly, for example, was so upset when GOP Representative Mark Foley got caught in a sex scandal that he made him into a Democrat! The people who have been or are currently (and hopefully not forever) fans of these purveyors of untruth and distortions have, at least the ones who have communicated with me and who I've on occasion read in blogs and so on, adopted the same style of "argument."

There was this one guy who started out our exchanges with insults and continued to use them even after I sent him back a couple or so very civil responses asking him for evidence. I finally got frustrated and sent him a final email asking him if his "Momma ever taught him manners." He wrote back apologizing for his tone and saying that indeed his Momma had taught him manners. Which was nice. I didn't expect it. I thought, that's good and that's that.

But then, right after that, within the next hour, I get another email from him hurling the same insults that he had been engaging in previously. It's as if he knew enough to know that when it was pointed out to him that one should have manners and be civil, that he was supposed to have good manners (and supposed to defend his momma), but when he resumed arguing his case, he couldn't help but fall into a pattern of invective.

I noticed today, in another example, a posting from someone calling himself, right wing nut, or something like that, who was complaining about the orange ribbons at the Oscars. After attacking the ACLU for their role in this, he went on to say that I was an "alleged Associate Professor of Sociology," as if I am claiming a job title that I don't have, and then that I said that the ACLU had "stolen" the orange ribbon idea from me.

I never said anything of the sort.

I am glad that the ACLU has adopted the orange idea and the ribbons. The more the better - although I intended with the orange that it stand for all of the outrages of the Bush regime and not just Guantanamo, which is the much narrower tact the ACLU is taking. (It's in the nature of political movements that people who join a movement do so from varying perspectives and with varying objectives, united behind a general stance. The larger a movement becomes, the more likely this becomes.) I did say that the idea was something I started back in the summer of 2007, which is so. Whether or not the ACLU knew this before or not, I don't know, but that's all I said. But somehow this gets converted in the right wing nut's mind and on his blog into my claiming that the idea was "stolen." Go figure. (It's also revealing of this poster that he automatically translates what I said into a complaint about theft, as if I have a product and someone else is stealing my profits! Tells you something about his ideology.)

The larger point I'm trying to make here, however, is that this coarsening (degradation is probably a better descriptor) of the public and private dialogue is really destructive to people being able to think and consider evidence and reach logical conclusions. If you can heap calumny on those who disagree with you, and you can't use arguments and facts, if you can just shout people down or call them, this is one of their favorites, "America haters," then you have created a situation in which dialogue is virtually impossible. Which, of course, is their objective. As Mark Crispin Miller points out very well in his chapter in my book, "Bush and Cheney's War on the Enlightenment," they are at war with reason itself.

DC Mobilization March 19th

Wednesday MARCH 19

Too Many Years of a Criminal Regime! 5 Years of Illegitimate War!
End It! Drive the War Criminals from Office!

On March 19, World Can't Wait, along with other organizations, plans to disrupt business as usual in Washington, D.C. Come to the home of the criminals!

Gather in Lafayette Park at 1:30 pm with people in a sea of orange jumpsuits, in solidarity with and representing those that are being tortured in Guantanamo Bay Prison, Abu Ghraib, Bagram in Afghanistan, and CIA “black sites” around the globe.

A demonstration showing that waterboarding IS torture, is planned directly in front of the residence of the biggest war criminal in history. Join in acts of creative non-violent civil resistance! The Park will become a rallying point for those determined to put an end to this illegitimate and immoral war, and who demand justice by driving the war criminals from office now, not waiting until 2009!

We are done with secret renditions, spying on people, lying to the public, using hundreds of signing statements to disobey laws, rounding up immigrants and detaining them in facilities still being built. We mean it!

Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War will congregate at approximately 3:30 pm at the White House and we will be there to join and support their actions at the scene of the crime. At sundown prepare to witness the film exposing the ultimate crimes committed by this regime at Lafayette Square Park: The Bush Crimes Commission film! Visit www.5yearstoomany.organd for more information about daytime
events in D.C.

We urge you to follow the Winter Soldier Investigation.

From March 13-16th, U.S. veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan will testify to what is really happening day in and day out, on the ground in these occupations. Winter Soldier will be held at the National Labor College, Silver Spring, MD. Audio and video of panels will be available live online, and if possible over cable TV and Pacifica radio.

World Can’t Wait - - 866.973.4463 - 202.536.4313

Afghan journalist for CTV labelled 'unlawful enemy combatant'

CTV = Canadian Television Network, Canada's largest privately owned TV network.

Having shot at and killed other journalists who stood in their way, the US military is now taking this another step: declaring a reporter to be an enemy combatant.

Just how far down this slide to open dictatorship - where anyone who dares to speak out or merely report the news can be detained and potentially tortured - will this be allowed to go by us? The intended chilling effect on reporters is obvious. Whoever reports is supposed to think about whether they want to risk incurring the wrath of the US government/military.

The category that the Bush regime has created, and the Congress and Judiciary have allowed, of "unlawful enemy combatant," is entirely up to the whims of the government. There are no criteria other than their assertion that someone is a national security threat. That is not rule of law. That is rule by men - and not good men.

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2008 | 8:27 AM ET

The Associated Press

The U.S. military has designated a journalist employed by CTV in Afghanistan as an unlawful enemy combatant.

A military spokesman told the Associated Press that a review board has determined Jawed Ahmad, an Afghan national, is a danger to foreign troops and the Afghan government.

Ahmad has been held for the last four months at the U.S. military compound in Bagram, 50 kilometres north of the capital, Kabul. U.S. officials alleged he had Taliban phone numbers and videos in his possession when he was picked up.

Maj. Chris Belcher, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, says Ahmad was given an opportunity to provide a statement to the military's enemy combatant review board.

Belcher did not say when the review took place or whether Ahmad was represented by counsel.

Belcher also refused to provide details about what he called "credible information" against Ahmad. Nor would he say whether the military believed Ahmad had any more contact with the Taliban than other journalists working in Afghanistan.

It is common for journalists in Afghanistan to have contact information on Taliban fighters so that they can seek comments for news stories.

© The Canadian Press, 2008

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Orange Ribbons at the Oscars!

"Out on the red carpet, Paul Haggis (the director whose 'Crash' won Best Picture in 2006) said he didn't know what accounts for all these deeply dark, brooding, troubled films. But isn't it obvious, he asked, flashing an orange ribbon on his lapel. Orange, why orange? 'It's Guantanamo,' his Max Azria-clad wife, Deborah, said, showing off her orange bracelet, which read: 'Silence + torture = complicity.' Suddenly, we noticed -- orange ribbons and bracelets everywhere (boldfacing added)." From the Washington Post, "Lights, Camera, Glamour," by William Booth, 2/25/08.

Alex Gibney, Winner for Best Documentary, "Taxi to the Dark Side:"

"Wow. Thank you very much, Academy. Here's to all doc filmmakers. And, truth is, I think my dear wife Anne was kind of hoping I'd make a romantic comedy, but honestly, after Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition that simply wasn't possible. This is dedicated to two people who are no longer with us, Dilawar, the young Afghan taxi driver, and my father, a navy interrogator who urged me to make this film because of his fury about what was being done to the rule of law. Let's hope we can turn this country around, move away from the dark side and back to the light. Thank you very much."

Here is an interview of Gibney by Robert Scheer.

Julie Christie, nominee for Best Actress

Ms. Christie mentions in this interview that several people at the awards including nominees were also wearing orange ribbons. (Note: the orange idea was picked up by ACLU but actually originated in summer 2007 with Declare It Now!)

This is an excerpt from an essay I wrote back in July 2007 entitled "Shifting the Center:"

More on the Competing, Legitimate Authority

Shifting the center of gravity is directly tied to the matter of bringing forth a competing, legitimate authority. That leadership will manifest itself in two ways. First, it is materially present in us as activists. We are contending for the people’s allegiance against the suasion and influence of the existing establishment. We are trying to bust them loose from following these bankrupt misleaders who can say with a straight face disingenuous things like “I haven’t seen any impeachable offenses” or “We just don’t have the votes.” We are urging people to follow us and to step forward themselves to become leaders and thereby materially expand the ranks of the DOBR [Drive Out the Bush Regime] movement. There isn’t something magical about us as individuals that they should follow us. It’s the content of our morality, our worldview, and our motives that we want them to respect, follow, and emulate. Another part of that leadership will come from among prominent individuals in society - authors, lawyers, teachers, artists, actors, military officers, politicians, etc. – who step forward.

Second, the choice all of the people now face is whether we are going to go along with torture and war crimes and so on, or are we going to condemn it, speak out against it, and fight it. Taking the moral high ground is itself a form of asserting leadership. To the extent that the people make the conscious choice to declare themselves against the horrid things that this regime is responsible for and represents, they are becoming part of that competing legitimate authority. They are acting as carriers and popularizers of the very different future that we want and need. Their visible stance on this moral question is a form of authority and a form of leadership in its own right. That is another reason why the heart and soul of DIN [Declare It Now] is the day-to-day lives of individual people.

We aren’t just making visible the invisible majority sentiment – although that is a key part of what we’re doing. We are also throwing into high contrast the gulf between this system’s morality – it’s ok to invade other countries who pose no threat to us, it’s ok to commit mass murder, it’s ok to use nukes on innocent countries and people, it’s ok to torture people, it’s ok to deny science and global warming, it’s ok to elevate the rights of a fetus over the life of a woman, it’s ok to create a theocracy, it’s ok to allow the torture and killing to go on if it benefits my political party’s ambitions, and it’s not ok to challenge any of this – and the morality of holding dear the rights of humanity and the planet, equality among peoples of all nations (for Iraqi and Afghani lives are just as valuable and just as important as American lives), truth, facts and science. We are the carriers of a sacred trust (I’m not religious, but I do think sacred is an appropriate word here) to be this precious, irreplaceable planet’s guardians and not allow it to be savaged by the people presently in charge.

If we do this work right, we are going to see a blossoming of this movement because the soil for this to take root is exceedingly rich and deep. There are going to be difficulties and there are challenges we have to solve. We will have to work hard and with great verve, we don’t have time to waste contenting ourselves with small improvements and small advances, and it’s not going to be a linear development, but all of our experiences tell us so far that this campaign resonates powerfully among the people and that it can work.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Moral Authority and Unclean Hands

Photos from Abu Ghraib

Lawyers have a phrase they sometimes use to refer to people or companies who file actions that they shouldn't: "unclean hands."

In my last posting, "The Democrats' Sleight of Hand," I pointed out that the major candidates for president (i.e., the ones that the mass media and the major parties will give credence to, the ones that they find acceptable) have sullied themselves by their failure to act against monstrosities such as torture - even though they have had the power to do so - when it counted and when they should have. They have had the power for more than the last seven years to prevent these terrible crimes against humanity and against the people from being carried out.

In fact, they had the power to prevent Bush and Cheney from stealing office in the first place in 2000 - which they failed to do - and once again failed when Bush and Cheney stole the 2004 election.

Time and again they have failed to the point where quite some time ago - I would personally date this from the September 2006 Congressional vote on the Military Commissions Act - they crossed the Rubicon and threw in their lot with the Bush regime. After a certain point you become complicit in the crimes you allow to be carried out and you cannot go back subsequently and repudiate these actions without also implicating yourself in those crimes. You knew and you didn't stop it. You knew and you facilitated it. You knew.

Even if Obama and Clinton and McCain were to want to redress the terrible wrongs that they have committed, they would have to expose not only themselves as moral cowards but expose their parties' leadership and the mass media. They would have to go up against everything that they have benefited from and been an integral part of.

They have not only unclean hands. They are dripping with blood from head to toe.

Anyone who hopes that voting for and supporting one of these criminals will somehow magically restore decency and humanity and the rule of law needs to look very carefully at what these people have done over the last several years and draw the appropriate conclusions.

Imagine the upheaval in this country if one of them were to actually open the Pandora's Box of crimes and monsters and reveal to the world what they were part and parcel of permitting? There is no way to undo these crimes and right these wrongs without self-incrimination.

Even beyond self-incrimination, they would be implicating the entire system. Does anyone of us think that they have that kind of courage? Does anyone think that if any of them were to have a sudden awakening that they wouldn't instantly be marginalized by the rest of the establishment and silenced in one way or another?

The only force capable of righting these terrible wrongs is the mass actions of the American people. Nothing else will do. It begins with a few people with the courage and determination to stand up and say "Here I stand in witness. I can do no other. Join me, all you who have a conscience."

The Democrats' Sleight of Hand

In the frenzy surrounding the elections, the major candidates are acting like magicians, hoping that their audience won't notice. I am going to focus here on Obama since he is the one most attractive to progressive minded people. (Obama and I, by the way, share some things in common - both of us attended Punahou School in Hawaii and Harvard - but that's where the similarities end.)

Obama tells us that he is on the side of the angels on the war in Iraq - he is against it - and that he's against torture and for the restoration of habeas corpus. The question you have to ask here, however, is if this so, then why hasn't he done anything about these things other than make eloquent speeches about them? He's been in the US Senate after all. He's voted for war funding to continue this immoral and unjust war and has not once used the opportunity to block - i.e., filibuster - any of the horrid bills that legalized torture and stripped habeas corpus rights from people (e.g., the Military Commissions Act of 2006).

On the telecom immunity bill that just passed the Senate, giving the major telecom companies a free pass for their express violations of the law - and FISA in particular - by bowing to the White House's February 2001 demands that the NSA be allowed to intercept all of Americans' electronic communications, Obama and the rest of the Democrats should have, but refused to filibuster the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did his obligatory bemoaning of the fact that he couldn't keep all of the Democrats in line to vote as a group against the bill. This is another element of his and Nancy Pelosi's disengenuousness and the game they're playing: they vote against bills they say they don't like (so they can say that they voted "no"), but they don't use their powers both as leaders of the chambers to block a bill from even coming to the floor and/or as individual members of Congress to filibuster it. They don't do anything, in other words, that would actually make a difference.

The GOP hasn't been afraid to filibuster bills they don't like, yet the Democrats, our self-proclaimed saviors, won't do it.

What are they afraid of?

They are afraid of precisely the thing that they claim that we should support them in fighting against: they will not take on and repudiate, they will not fight against and expose, the fundamental lie of the Bush White House - that anything and everything is acceptable, including torture, massive, illegal spying, indefinite detentions, and mass murder - in the name of "defending American lives" and in the name of "national security." In fact, the Democrats will not take on anything that vaguely hints at challenging the rightness of American Empire and American dominance and plunder.

No civil liberty, no civil right, no law, nor Constitutional provision, no international law or institution (e.g., the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or the Geneva Conventions), no common human decency, and no scruple is safe from their aggressive and immoral assertions that it's OK to do monstrous things as long as you wrap it in the garb of "protecting Americans' lives and property."

This is not a slippery slope; it's a straight, dead drop off of a cliff.

The question we have to ask ourselves is: are we lemmings? Are we willing to follow the immoral sleight of hand trick that the major candidates are purveying? Even if you feel that getting someone else into the White House in January 2009 is critical, are you willing to say that the daily torture and the daily new outrages of shredding any legal protections against dictatorial and fascistic actions are something that can be allowed to continue every single day for the next year?

What kind of morality is that? What kind of moral leaders tell us that something is terrible and they plan to do something about it, but we must wait another year for any action to be done about it? What kind of people are we if we aren't fighting these crimes against humanity every day? What kind of fools would we be to be taken in by speech-makers who have refused every day of their political lives to actually fight against and actually put a stop to the things they say they're against? They can't hide behind the fact that they don't have the power. They HAVE the power. They won't use it.

And if they won't use it now and they haven't used it for the last seven years when it actually counted, then why would they use it a year from now? You don't fight against crimes against humanity when it suits you. You fight grave crimes always. If you don't, you don't deserve to claim the mantle of leadership. You should withdraw from public life and hide in a cave in shame.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Where Else Is Orange Protest Showing Up? In London High Fashion!

With a Rebel Yell

Young designers at London Fashion Week displayed a daring streak, as well as literary inspiration.

by Booth Moore
LA Times Staff Writer

London Fashion Week: Fall '08 Collections

... But here in London, there's still a rebel spirit...Then there's Vivienne Westwood, the oldest young designer in the business, returning to the London catwalk for the first time in nine years, with a cross-dressing model in a pair of "Guantanamo orange" panties with the slogan "Fair Trial My Arse" across the backside.

These are designers who have something to say!

Of course, none of it looked as good as Westwood did taking her bow. Orange hair flying, she walked the runway in a sparkly shrug and the highest heels in the room.

A true London original.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Willie Nelson Calls for Impeaching the Bastards

"If you break the law you have to pay for it one way or another and if these guys haven't broke the law nobody has."

February 18, 2008 on the Alex Jones Show. Listen here.

Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet
Monday, February 18th, 2008

"The deck's been stacked and we need to figure out a way to get a new fresh deck in there in the deal and I don't know how else to do it except throw the bastards out," said Nelson.

But the award winning star of stage and screen was quick to clarify that he didn't see the Democrats as any kind of viable alternative.

"We went through a couple of elections now and we didn't do anything, we thought we did but come to find out that the voting machines are crooked, everything's stacked against us, the politicians that we vote for won't stay and fight and they won't count the votes."

Nelson agreed that an elite cherry picked presidents and leaders to do their bidding against the interests of the people.

"They find them and they groom them and they put them in office and tell them exactly what to do and you give the speeches will small words and big letters and let them go," said Nelson.

"I really believe that George Bush believes he's right, he believes what he's saying and that makes it even more pathetic because to have someone that wrong think they're right and have him be the leader of our country - that's a scary thought," he added.

The star also re-iterated a warning made during his last appearance on the show, that the Bush administration could potentially stage an event to postpone or cancel the presidential election.

"It could be anything and anything will work because they have everyone scared to death, I just think there are people out there who will do anything to stay in power, anything to keep what they have, they've already proven they'll do anything to keep it," he said.

Reacting to the big response his last appearance on The Alex Jones Show generated, Nelson said "I think it would take courage not to say something, I usually say what I think and it's harder for me to shut up."

"I don't have the ability to remain quiet when all this stuff is going on all around us," he added.

Nelson clarified his previous comments about Building 7 after the news media attempted to skew his words and claim he said that no planes hit the WTC on 9/11. Nelson made it clear he was talking about WTC 7, which imploded symmetrically within seven seconds on the late afternoon of 9/11 despite the fact that it was only hit by minimal debris from the falling towers and not a commercial airliner.

"I was talking about the third building that nothing hit and yet it fell as if it was hit the same way, all three buildings fell the same way, but the third building wasn't hit by anything," said the country music star.

Nelson's contention that the twin towers were deliberately imploded received media attention after his first appearance on the radio show two weeks ago.

Actor John Heard, Attorney Michael Rapkin, Sunsara Taylor and Dennis Loo at the 1/10/08 WCW Forum on Guantanamo

This program will rend your heart. I strongly encourage you to listen to/view it all.

John Heard: View it here.

Michael Rapkin, Part 1 View it here.

Michael Rapkin, Part 2

Sunsara Taylor, Part 1 View it here.

Sunsara Taylor, Part 2 View it here.

Dennis Loo, Part 1 View it here.

Dennis Loo, Part 2 View it here.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Some Preliminary Thoughts on Berkeley

These are early reflections, as more information will be coming in that can be summed up, but what is emerging looks like this to me.

Clearly a breakthrough has occurred.

The Berkeley City Council's opposition to the Marine Recruitment Center and the three people who chained themselves to the Recruiting Center sparked a fury. The right-wing on the national and local level were apoplectic, stung by the Berkeley City Council's actions and by activists from Code Pink and World Can't Wait. The right mobilized people to come and counter-demonstrate, US senators threatened federal funding for Berkeley (which caused some of the Council members to back off), but the anti-war movement stepped up and high school youth especially jumped into the breach and declared themselves. Look at the passion in their faces!

Hundreds of youth joined the fight in person. Orange has blossomed at Berkeley High. Unable to meet the anti-war, anti-torture and anti-Bush regime movement with rational arguments (because they have none), the right-wing and police have resorted to brutality, including against 13 year olds and 85 year olds, further enraging people against them and further exposing the reactionary nature of the Bush forces. People are saying that they're proud that they're from Berkeley again and that the outpouring of protesters gives them confidence and inspiration that getting punched in the nose by reactionaries is worth it!

Actions in other cities inspired by Berkeley's lead have happened and other city councils and mayors are signaling their displeasure with the military recruiters who are feeding young bodies to this immoral, unjust war of imperialism.

It is possible that the Berkeley actions and the recruitment of youth issue may be playing a role analogous in some ways to the role of the draft during the Vietnam War: an ongoing insult and concrete, concentrated manifestation of the unacceptable that youth can specifically mobilize around. Our government cannot continue this war without fresh meat for their war machine and therefore cannot back off from their efforts to lie and deceive people into signing up. The actions of a few people daring to put their bodies on the line, placing their bodies on the gears of war, has been heard around the country, and either already or soon, around the world.

One of the lessons from this fight is that the actions of even a very small number of people - who put themselves directly in the way of this oppressive war machine that is torturing and murdering people while lying about it all - can spark many. And youth in particular have a huge role to play, as they have always before in history, catalyzing broader sections of the people to storm the heavens and remake the world.

Shutting Down the Military Recruiters in Berkeley CA 2-12-08

Photo by Felix Barrett

Shutting Down Marine Recruiters in Berkeley- No Support for an Illegitimate War!

Audio, Photo, Video here at

KPFA RADIO interview with high school students 2-12

VIDEO interviews with Berkeley residents

Tuesday night, February 12, the Berkeley City Council voted not to send a letter to the Marine Corps telling them their new recruiters, near Berkeley High School, "is not welcome in the city, and if recruiters choose to stay, they do so as uninvited and unwelcome intruders." The Council had received 24,000 messages, reportedly mostly favorable to their stand, but also a great storm of protest on right-wing blogs. Republican politicians in California, and US Senators threatened to take away funds for education and transportation projects in Berkeley, and vilified the Council for being against the war. The Council refused to apologize to the Marines, however, and reaffirmed its stand against the Iraq war and occupation.

Starting at 7 PM Monday February 11, an emergency 24 hour vigil called by Code Pink, numbering close to a hundred people from several progressive organizations, encamped on the City Hall lawn to support the Berkeley City Council resolution to oust the Marine Corps recruiting station, and to counter a right-wing, pro-war mobilization that had been called for on Tuesday at 5 AM.

Later that morning, as the crowds on both sides grew, and after a few initial and sharp skirmishes, it became increasingly clear that the anti-war side was gaining momentum and the upper hand.

Then, just before noon, the scene took a dramatic turn, as hundreds and hundreds of orange-clad students took the lead and poured out of Berkeley High and into the park across the street, joining dozens of their classmates who had already been confronting the pro-war crowd all morning. Meanwhile, a wide variety of people of conscience numbering in the hundreds, converged at the encampment to declare their support for the Berkeley City Council's courageous stand against the Marine Corps recruiting station, and to further declare their determination to shut it down.

On the other side of the street, hundreds of pro-war rightwingers were supported by formations of Berkeley riot squad police who started in by roughing up the youth and students - some as young as 12 years old. Over the course of the afternoon, the police would display increasing belligerence, aggressively jabbing their batons at people, and shoving youth and others aside, or to the ground – including at one point, some photographers and a local news cameraman. Four people – 3 of them minors – were grabbed and arrested.

Overall though, for the better part of 20 hours, the loud - and vicious - reactionaries were decisively outnumbered by the youth, veterans, ***activists from many groups, as well as a good number of Berkeley residents who energetically chanted:

“What are they recruiting for? “Murder, rape, torture, war!”
“Stop the torture, stop the war! That is what we're standing for!”

If you were a part of this beautiful day, we want to know about your experiences, your thoughts . . . and your pictures and your videos. We invite you to email any of this to us at:

***Code Pink, A.N.S.W.E.R., Courage to Resist, Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, the ACLU, and many others . . .

Friday, February 15, 2008

New York Times Coverage of New York Protest 2/15/08

Protesters held signs and chanted outside the Army Career Center at 126 East 103rd Street, in East Harlem. (Photo: Jennifer S. Altman for The New York Times)

February 15, 2008, 6:30 pm

The Army Recruiter Is Not In
By Sewell Chan
February 15, 2008, 6:30 pm
New York Times

About 20 antiwar activists gathered outside an Army recruiting office in East Harlem this afternoon to protest what they described as the military focus on persuading young blacks and Latinos to fight in Iraq. But if their aim was to disrupt recruiting, they did not. The office had already been closed for the day, with a metal gate drawn down over the plate glass windows.

Capt. Charles V. Jaquillard, the Army Recruiting Command’s company commander for New York City, said the East Harlem office was not closed because of the protest. “We were conducting a training,” he said. “We had everybody out at Fort Hamilton today.”

After a 1 p.m. news conference at City Hall, the demonstrators gathered at 3 p.m. outside the new Army Career Center, which opened two years ago, at 126 East 103rd Street. They marched and chanted outside the closed office, as two New York City police officers looked on.

“The question of military recruitment is important because you can’t carry out this war without fresh troops,” said Debra Sweet, the director of an organization called World Can’t Wait! Drive Out the Bush Regime. “These troops are being trained to carry out war crimes. We’re sending a message that military recruiters are not welcome to prey on youth. The war will be stopped by the action of the people. That is the only way it will be stopped.”

Ms. Sweet said that Latinos have been disproportionately represented among service members who have fought and died in Iraq. (The Times reported last year that the Army has focused much of its local recruitment efforts on public events popular among Hispanic New Yorkers.)

Stephanie Rugoff, a volunteer with the antiwar group, said that “military recruiters go to neighborhoods with high unemployment” and make inflated promises of education and work training.

“What are they recruiting for?” the protesters chanted, replying: “Murder, rape, torture, war!”

They held aloft signs with the messages “Say No to the Military Recruitment Center” and “Shut Down The Military Recruiters! No Iraq War! Drive Out Bush Regime!”

One protester, Elaine Bower, whose 26-year-old son recently returned from Iraq, asked, “Instead of putting a recruiting center why don’t they put a place where kids could work?”

Captain Jaquillard disputed the protesters’ assertions that the Army disproportionately targets minorities. “The Army provides opportunity for everybody,” We’re looking for qualified applicants. Some may live on the Upper West Side, some may live in the Financial District, some may live in Harlem. We put in individuals who have chosen to serve their country, of various backgrounds. There’s something that the Army offers for everybody. I don’t believe we target one demographic over another.”

The Army’s New York City recruiting battalion is based at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn.

“An Army is a reflection of its people,” said Emily Gockley, the chief of advertising and public affairs for the battalion. “America’s Army is a reflection of who and what Americans are. We have the largest recruitment mission, because we need the most people.” She said that the Army’s demographic makeup largely reflects that of the population.

Ms. Gockley acknowledged that the Army uses marketing and advertising agencies to specifically reach out to potential black and Hispanic recruits. “Just like McDonald’s markets to the African-American community differently than it does to the Hispanic or Caucasian community, we do the same thing. We apply the same marketing strategies, market segmentation. We look at various groups — white, blacks — with the propensity to enlist. It’s very complex. When they put a recruiting station in a particular area, it’s not because it’s a minority area. In fact, we had a grand opening today for a new recruiting station in Massapequa, Long Island.”

Even though there were no military officers to greet them, the protesters today were undeterred. Around 4 p.m. they left the shuttered East Harlem recruiting office and made their way toward a joint armed forces recruiting station at 76 West 125th Street, in Harlem, where they planned another demonstration.

Dmitry Kiper contributed reporting.

Bush Defends Torture: What Alternative Universe Do You Occupy, Mr. Bush?

Is this our country? Is this our leader? Is this the kind of world you want to live in, where torture and terror are being carried out against innocent people in the name of fighting terror? And lies are passed off as truth as blithely as one might toss a cigarette butt onto the sidewalk?

London bombs justify 'torture', says Bush
Ewen MacAskill in Washington
The Guardian, Friday February 15 2008

President George Bush cited the London July 7 bombings in an interview broadcast last night to justify his support for waterboarding, an interrogation technique widely regarded as torture.

In an interview with the BBC he said information obtained from alleged terrorists helped save lives, and the families of the July 7 victims would understand that. Bush said waterboarding, which simulates drowning, was not torture and is threatening to veto a congressional bill that would ban it.

In a wide-ranging interview, Bush:

· Defended the existence of Guantánamo Bay where many of those caught up in the US "war on terror" are held, and claimed that the US was a defender of human rights.

· Insisted the US still occupied the moral high ground worldwide.

· Stood by his decision to remove Saddam Hussein and claimed he would be vindicated as long as the US did not leave Iraq prematurely.

· Said he would attend the Beijing Olympics and that he had regular contact with the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, to urge him to do more on the issue of the genocide in the Sudanese province of Darfur.

The president was more forthcoming than normal in defence of his legacy, reflecting that he has less than a year to go in office.

But his most controversial remarks were over waterboarding. He told the BBC's Matt Frei: "To the critics, I ask them this: when we, within the law, interrogate and get information that protects ourselves and possibly others in other nations to prevent attacks, which attack would they have hoped that we wouldn't have prevented?

"And so, the United States will act within the law. We'll make sure professionals have the tools necessary to do their job within the law."

He claimed the families of victims of the July 7 terror attacks in London would understand his position. "I suspect the families of those victims understand the nature of killers. What people gotta understand is that we'll make decisions based upon law. We're a nation of law."

But Bush was undercut by a senior official in his administration who admitted yesterday, for the first time, that waterboarding is illegal. Stephen Bradbury, head of the justice department's office of legal counsel, giving evidence to a congressional committee, said: "Let me be clear, though: There has been no determination by the justice department that the use of waterboarding, under any circumstances, would be lawful under current law."

In the BBC interview, Bush was asked whether, given waterboarding and other alleged human rights abuses, he could claim the US still occupied the moral high ground. He replied: "Absolutely."

He added: "We believe in human rights and human dignity. We believe in the human condition. We believe in freedom. And we're willing to take the lead. We're willing to ask nations to do hard things. We're willing to accept responsibilities. And - yeah, no question in my mind, it's a nation that's a force for good.

"And history will judge the decisions made during this period of time as necessary decisions."

On Guantánamo Bay, where the US has held hundreds of prisoners for years without trial, he said he would "like it to be empty" but he was "comfortable with recognising this is still a dangerous world".

He said: "There's some people there that need to be tried. And there will be a trial. And they'll have their day in court. Unlike what they did to other people. [70% of those held at Guantanamo, according to the US government itself, are innocent - DL.]

"Now, there's great concern about and I can understand this, that these people be given rights. They're not willing to grant the same rights to others. They'll murder. But, you gotta understand, they're getting rights. And I'm comfortable with the decisions we've made."

Commenting on at his legacy, he listed as pluses Afghanistan, Iraq and recognition of the right to Palestinians to their own state.

"You know, dealing with liberating 25 million in Afghanistan is part of what I hope people think of when they look at my presidency. Being the first president to propose a two-state solution on Israel and Palestine. I mean, there's a lot of other issues. And I'm happy with Iraq.

"The ... decision to move Saddam Hussein was right. And this democracy [in Iraq] is now taking root.

"And I'm confident that if America does not become isolationist - you know, and allow the terrorists to take back over, Iraq will succeed."

He was speaking in advance of a visit to Africa, though he threatened yesterday to delay it because of his confrontation with Congress over the issue of waterboarding. He urged China to do more to help resolve the Darfur crisis but said that he would still attend the Olympic Games in Beijing.

China is believed to have influence over the Sudanese government because it buys two-thirds of the country's oil exports while selling it weapons and defending it in the UN .

He also urged South Africa to play a greater role in confronting Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's president.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Cat's Out of the Bag: Items in the News

If you've been wondering if, and hoping that, the nightmare under Bush and Cheney, and more broadly, under the neocons, is nearly over, all you have to do is check out each and everyday's news and it reminds you that their reign of terror is not abating, it's building and building.

The news daily also reveals that the institutions and organizations that most Americans believe will protect them from dictators are nothing less than fellow foxes in the hen house with the Bush regime.

I've reposted three news items below. The first two are about Supreme Court Justice Scalia's comments yesterday about what he dubs "so-called torture."

The third item is today's NY Times article about the US Senate giving unprecedented powers to the executive branch to conduct surveillance on us and granting immunity to the telecoms (AT&T and Verizon in particular). These telecom giants - who keep selling us their cute cell phones and telling us all how cool it is that we can now watch TV on our portable devices and "Can you hear me now?" (yes, the NSA can hear me now) - co-conspired with the Bush White House to violate the Constitution and FISA to give Bush et al access to all of Americans' phone calls and Internet activity beginning in February 2001.

That's right, just after Bush and Cheney assumed the presidency and seven months before 9/11. In other words, this had nothing to do with 9/11, their all-purpose-scare-everyone-tactic. Rather, it revealed the White House's program for massive surveillance, damn the law, and its larger agenda for tightening social control over the people that has been in the works for quite some time. See, for example, Project for a New American Century's documents dating from the 1990s.

So those fools who think that torture is permissible sometimes because it allegedly might save Americans lives - an immoral argument to begin with because it says that Americans' lives are more precious than other people's lives, including especially the completely innocent people who are being tortured and beaten to death by us daily - should think about this one. The White House had all of the information they say they need to stop terrorist attacks - they had it before 9/11 - and yet they did nothing with it! They have enflamed the Islamic world against us by attacking a country that they knew from the start had nothing to do with 9/11 (killing to date over a million Iraqis and thousands of Americans), thus making terrorism a more likely prospect against us, and this makes us safer?!

As for Supreme Torturer Scalia, check out his tortured logic. Speaking to the matter of the US Constitution's prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishment," he says: "Is it obvious that what can’t be done for punishment can’t be done to exact information that is crucial to this society? It’s not at all an easy question, to tell you the truth."

In other words, yes, it would be unconstitutional to use cruel and unusual punishment against a person convicted of a crime, but since interrogation of a suspect believed to have information about a pending terrorist attack isn't a criminal procedure you can use "so-called torture."

And what is "so-called" about torture? Does this man, who has admitted to thinking that his brains are too superior to be serving in the lowly capacity of the US Supreme Court, not understand what torture is? I suggest that he and the US Congress and the Bush White House, the Pentagon leadership and the NSA, be subjected to "so-called torture" and see how they like it.

Let's have Attorney General Mukasey, who continues to say that he doesn't know whether waterboarding is torture, waterboarded, and see if he, through his gagging and choking, can render his chief-legal-officer-in-the-nation opinion then! Shall we invoke the tenets of Middle Ages Holy Inquisition logic, a time period, by the way, that our rulers would like to go back to - waterboarding was invented by the Spanish Inquisition after all - and if he drowns, we decide that he was innocent and if he survives the waterboarding, we declare that this proves his guilt!?

What does it tell us about where things have come to when a leading member of the US Supreme Court is endorsing torture, when the country's chief legal officer refuses to call waterboarding torture, where the Vice-President declares that waterboarding is a "no-brainer," and where the opposition party refuses to filibuster these fascist bills and the leading candidates for president won't bring up the issue and fight it on the floor of the Senate - a simple vote for or against isn't enough, they should have filibustered this if they had any moral principles - because they're too busy trying to distract people and get themselves made the next president?

The people need to act as an independent and autonomous political force on the scene. The actions of hundreds of people that we see being played out in Berkeley now in the fight over the Marine Recruiting Station are a vivid and heartening illustration of this (between 600-700 Berkeley high schoolers joined the protest yesterday). As I say at the top of my blog: "The inchoate feelings that so very many people feel today need to be acted upon by the people. It needs to be organized and it needs to find its voice. The world awaits. The future beckons. Who will answer the call?"

And if you're thinking that you're just one person, note that three people standing in defiance against this war outside the Berkeley Marine Recruiting Station sparked this. Recall that one mother - Cindy Sheehan - standing outside the Crawford Ranch - inspired thousands and thousands. One person is all it takes to start it.

And if you're worried that you have no experience doing something like this, or that you don't yet know enough: if you know that torture's wrong, if you are outraged that your government is endorsing, defending, and carrying out torture, then you know enough. One person with a little bit of courage speaks more loudly than a Congress full of cowards.

Scalia says 'so-called torture' may not be unconstitutional
from the Jurist
Mike Rosen-Molina at 7:33 PM ET

[JURIST] US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia Tuesday defended the use of harsh physical interrogation techniques, saying in an interview [recorded audio] with Law in Action [media website] on BBC Radio 4 that they may be justified to deter an immediate threat. Scalia argued that "so-called torture" may not necessarily be prohibited by the US constitution, as he said the Eighth Amendment bar against "cruel and unusual punishment" was only intended to apply to criminal punishments:

"Is it really so easy to determine that smacking someone in the face to find out where he has hidden the bomb that is about to blow up Los Angeles is prohibited under the Constitution? Because smacking someone in the face would violate the Eighth Amendment in a prison context. You can’t go around smacking people about.

"Is it obvious that what can’t be done for punishment can’t be done to exact information that is crucial to this society? It’s not at all an easy question, to tell you the truth."

In the same interview, Scalia criticized European opposition to the death penalty as "self-righteous," saying that most Europeans probably privately support the use of capital punishment despite the official stance of European governments. BBC News has more.

Scalia has long been known for bluntly expressing controversial opinions. In 2006, he sparked a furor in the lead-up to oral arguments in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld [Duke Law backgrounder; merit briefs] on the constitutionality of using presidentially-authorized military tribunals [JURIST news archive] to try foreign terror suspects, when he commented [JURIST report] that "foreigners, in foreign countries, have no rights under the American Constitution."

Top court's Scalia defends physical interrogation from Reuters

By James Vicini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said on Tuesday some physical interrogation techniques can be used on a suspect in the event of an imminent threat, such as a hidden bomb about to blow up.

In such cases, "smacking someone in the face" could be justified, the outspoken Scalia told the BBC. "You can't come in smugly and with great self satisfaction and say 'Oh it's torture, and therefore it's no good.'"

His comments come amid a growing debate about the Bush administration's use of aggressive interrogation methods on terrorism suspects rights after the September 11 attacks, including the use of a widely condemned interrogation technique known as waterboarding.

Scalia said that it was "extraordinary" to assume that the U.S. Constitution's ban on "cruel and unusual punishment" also applied to "so-called" torture.

"To begin with the Constitution ... is referring to punishment for crime. And, for example, incarcerating someone indefinitely would certainly be cruel and unusual punishment for a crime," he said in an interview with the Law in Action program on BBC Radio 4.

Scalia said stronger measures could be taken when a witness refused to answer questions.

"I suppose it's the same thing about so-called torture. Is it really so easy to determine that smacking someone in the face to determine where he has hidden the bomb that is about to blow up Los Angeles is prohibited in the Constitution?" he asked.

"It would be absurd to say you couldn't do that. And once you acknowledge that, we're into a different game" Scalia said. "How close does the threat have to be? And how severe can the infliction of pain be?"

Scalia, who has long supported capital punishment, also ridiculed European criticism of the death penalty in the United States.

"If you took a public opinion poll, if all of Europe had representative democracies that really worked, most of Europe would probably have the death penalty today," he said.

"There are arguments for it and against it. But to get self-righteous about the thing as Europeans tend to do about the American death penalty is really quite ridiculous," he said.

(Reporting by James Vicini, Editing by Randall Mikkelsen and David Wiessler)

Senate Votes for Expansion of Spy Powers

By Eric Lichtblau
The New York Times
Wednesday 13 February 2008

Washington - After more than a year of wrangling, the Senate handed the White House a major victory on Tuesday by voting to broaden the government's spy powers and to give legal protection to phone companies that cooperated in President Bush's program of eavesdropping without warrants.

One by one, the Senate rejected amendments that would have imposed greater civil liberties checks on the government's surveillance powers. Finally, the Senate voted 68 to 29 to approve legislation that the White House had been pushing for months. Mr. Bush hailed the vote and urged the House to move quickly in following the Senate's lead.

The outcome in the Senate amounted, in effect, to a broader proxy vote in support of Mr. Bush's wiretapping program. The wide-ranging debate before the final vote presaged discussion that will play out this year in the presidential and Congressional elections on other issues testing the president's wartime authority, including secret detentions, torture and Iraq war financing.

Republicans hailed the reworking of the surveillance law as essential to protecting national security, but some Democrats and many liberal advocacy groups saw the outcome as another example of the Democrats' fears of being branded weak on terrorism.

"Some people around here get cold feet when threatened by the administration," said Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who leads the Judiciary Committee and who had unsuccessfully pushed a much more restrictive set of surveillance measures.

Among the presidential contenders, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, voted in favor of the final measure, while the two Democrats, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, did not vote. Mr. Obama did oppose immunity on a key earlier motion to end debate. Mrs. Clinton, campaigning in Texas, issued a statement saying she would have voted to oppose the final measure.

The measure extends, for at least six years, many of the broad new surveillance powers that Congress hastily approved last August just before its summer recess. Intelligence officials said court rulings had left dangerous gaps in their ability to intercept terrorist communications.

The bill, which had the strong backing of the White House, allows the government to eavesdrop on large bundles of foreign-based communications on its own authority so long as Americans are not the targets. A secret intelligence court, which traditionally has issued individual warrants before wiretapping began, would review the procedures set up by the executive branch only after the fact to determine whether there were abuses involving Americans.

"This is a dramatic restructuring" of surveillance law, said Michael Sussmann, a former Justice Department intelligence lawyer who represents several telecommunication companies. "And the thing that's so dramatic about this is that you've removed the court review. There may be some checks after the fact, but the administration is picking the targets."

The Senate plan also adds one provision considered critical by the White House: shielding phone companies from any legal liability for their roles in the eavesdropping program approved by Mr. Bush after the Sept. 11 attacks. The program allowed the National Security Agency to eavesdrop without warrants on the international communications of Americans suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda.

AT&T and other major phone companies are facing some 40 lawsuits from customers who claim their actions were illegal. The Bush administration maintains that if the suits are allowed to continue in court, they could bankrupt the companies and discourage them from cooperating in future intelligence operations.

The House approved a surveillance bill in November that intentionally left out immunity for the phone companies, and leaders from the two chambers will now have to find a way to work out significant differences between their two bills.

Democratic opponents, led by Senators Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, argued that the plan effectively rewarded phone companies by providing them with legal insulation for actions that violated longstanding law and their own privacy obligations to their customers. But immunity supporters said the phone carriers acted out of patriotism after the Sept. 11 attacks in complying with what they believed in good faith was a legally binding order from the president.

"This, I believe, is the right way to go for the security of the nation," said Senator John D. Rockefeller, the West Virginia Democrat who leads the intelligence committee. His support for the plan, after intense negotiations with the White House and his Republican colleagues, was considered critical to its passage but drew criticism from civil liberties groups because of $42,000 in contributions that Mr. Rockefeller received last year from AT&T and Verizon executives.

Senator Olympia J. Snowe, a Maine Republican on the intelligence panel, said the bill struck the right balance between protecting the rights of Americans and protecting the country "from terrorism and other foreign threats."

Democratic opponents, who six months ago vowed to undo the results of the August surveillance vote, said they were deeply disappointed by the defection of 19 Democrats who backed the bill.

Mr. Dodd, who spoke on the floor for more than 20 hours in recent weeks in an effort to stall the bill, said future generations would view the vote as a test of whether the country heeds "the rule of law or the rule of men."

But with Democrats splintered, Mr. Dodd acknowledged that the national security argument had won the day. "Unfortunately, those who are advocating this notion that you have to give up liberties to be more secure are apparently prevailing," he said. "They're convincing people that we're at risk either politically, or at risk as a nation."

There was a measure of frustration in the voice of Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, as he told reporters during a break in the daylong debate, "Holding all the Democrats together on this, we've learned a long time ago, is not something that's doable."

Senate Republicans predict that they will be able to persuade the House to include immunity in the final bill, especially now that the White House has agreed to give House lawmakers access to internal documents on the wiretapping program. But House Democrats vowed Tuesday to continue opposing immunity.

Congress faces a Saturday deadline for extending the current law, but Democrats want to extend the deadline for two weeks to allow more time for talks. The White House has said it opposes a further extension.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats hope to put some pressure on Republicans on Wednesday over another security-related issue by bringing up an intelligence measure that would apply Army field manual prohibitions against torture to civilian agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency.

Republicans plan to try to eliminate that provision, a vote that Democrats say will force Republicans to declare whether they condone torture. Democrats also say it could show the gap between Mr. McCain, who has opposed torture, and the administration on the issue.

"We know how we would feel if a member of the armed services captured by the enemy were, for example, waterboarded," Mr. Reid said. "So I think that we're headed in the right direction, and I hope that we'll get Republican support on this."


Carl Hulse contributed reporting from Washington.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

87-Year Old New Hampshire State Representative Says She Will Not Eat and Is Willing to Die for Impeachment

By Susan Serpa

I just got off the phone with Betty Hall. She is the 14-term State of N.H. representative who has introduced to the state house HR 24 to impeach Bush and Cheney. The public Hearing for the resolution is next Tuesday Feb. 19th (the day after President's day).

She is joining the Code Pink fast.

She is 87 years old and refuses to eat again until Conyers begins impeachment proceedings. She told me "I've had a good life. I can't think of any better way to end it."

Now, before you think I am heartless by "encouraging" this act by announcing it, I know Betty. When she decides to do something, there is no changing her mind - she's going to do it. She will not eat until impeachment proceedings begin in earnest. We owe it to her to make this worth her while. It's time to pull out ALL the stops and get Conyer's ass into gear! We cannot let this clear-headed, heroic woman sacrifice herself.

Another View of What It's Like to Fight the Bush Regime

Two pictures from the confrontation today over the U.S. Marine Recruiting Station in Berkeley, California. The youth are from Berkeley High. Rumor has it that they are being threatened with suspension if they don't take off their orange garb and WCW shirts at school.

What words can do justice to what these photos display about the alternative paths before us?

Monday, February 11, 2008

What It Feels Like Going Up Against the Bush Regime

They're clutching at you and they're undefeated (cheaters). You keep trying because you must.

First photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Second photo: Barton Silverman/The New York Times

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Join World Can’t Wait, Code Pink, high school students, anti-war veterans and many others at 64 Shattuck Sq. in Berkeley (2 blocks from Berkeley BART). Civil Resistance all day beginning 7AM. Rally and Convergence 3PM

When the Berkeley City Council called U.S. Marine Corps recruiters "uninvited and unwelcome intruders" and invited them to leave, millions around the country cheered! And Fox News, rightwing talk radio and bloggers went ballistic.

Into this charged situation, last week for two days World Can’t Wait led a lively protest to shut down “business as usual” at this recruiting station. There was nonviolent mass civil resistance action, with some protestors chaining themselves to each other and to the gate, videotape strewn everywhere, representing the CIA's destruction of the torture tapes. Suddenly a riot formation of 40 police arrived to arrest the three nonviolent resisters.

The Right Wing is Mobilizing, But So Are The People!

Pro-war rightwingers intend to force Berkeley to back down. A South Carolina Senator has introduced the “Semper Fi” Act to take federal funding away from Berkeley and transfer it to the Marine Corp! The City Council and Mayor Bates have been getting thousands of emails, the hostile ones largely orchestrated by the rightwing noise machine. One eloquent anti-war council member has even received death threats. They are attempting to intimidate and silence any potential antiwar movement.

Now the rabid right is organizing an invasion of Berkeley next Tuesday, the day the City Council meets. The pro-war Move group “Move America Forward” is announcing its attack will begin at 5:00 AM next Tuesday, going on all day till they invade the 5:00 PM City Council meeting.

Everyone who supports the Berkeley City Council’s courageous stand against the war must make our support public, loud, and real. The whole country is watching. We are the majority, in Berkeley, in this country, and in the world. But the pro-war, pro-torture side is mobilizing, and they are loud. Are you against war and torture? It does not count if you think good thoughts but do not actively resist.

“That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn – or be forced – to accept.”

--- from the World Can’t Wait Call

FEBRUARY 12: Support the Berkeley City Council!

EMERGENCY 24-HOUR VIGIL Gather on the City Hall lawn, 2134 MLK Jr. Way Monday Feb. 11 7:00 PM until Tuesday Feb. 12 7:00 PM. Come to the City Council meeting at 5PM

The city council members need to hear from you now in support of their resolution declaring the Marine Corps Recruiting Center to be "unwelcome" in Berkeley. Email or call them your support and cc:

District 1 Linda Maio (510) 981-7110
District 2 Darryl Moore (510) 981-7120
District 3 Maxwell Anderson (510) 981-7130
District 4 Dona Spring (510) 981-7140
District 5 Laurie Capitelli (510) 981-7150
District 6 Betty Olds (510) 981-7160
District 7 Kriss Worthington (510) 981-7170
District 8 Gordon Wozniak (510) 981-7180

World Can't Wait! Drive Out the Bush Regime
Contact us: 415 864-5153

Why shut down military recruiting centers?

Because 1 million Iraqis have been killed. Because 4.5 million have been driven from their homes. Because this is an illegal “preemptive” war of aggression, no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to Al-Queda. Because lying to and preying on the youth is not acceptable, killing and dying for oil, power and empire is not a career opportunity. Because torture, rape, collective punishment – like cutting off water supplies, shooting at ambulances, raiding hospitals, and destroying whole cities – are being carried out every day by the U.S. military, and these are war crimes. Military recruiting centers represent the Bush Regime’s unending war on the world, and those of us who don’t want to live an empire that goes around the world murdering in our name need to take a stand.

Why don’t we just rely on “politics as usual” and wait for Obama or Hillary to stop this war?

Because Americans voted the 2006 Democratic Congress into office to stop the war. The first thing they did was to give Bush billions and send 20,000 more troops in. Because all the “viable” candidates support the “war on terror” and none of them are talking about repealing the Military Commissions Act, the Patriot Act or addressing the gross abuse of executive power.

I’m against the war, but it seems like you’re saying you don’t support the troops?

We do not support a military that is engaging in war crimes and crimes against humanity. When U.S. soldiers sign up for the military, they give up all their rights. They can be executed for disobeying orders. Think about the orders that are being given, and carried out. U.S. troops may be “just doing their job,” but think about what that job is. During the Civil War, would you have “supported” the Confederate troops that were defending slavery? We don’t hate individual soldiers that get sucked into this war machine, but we hate what they do… and they should too. We support the troops, like Ehren Watada and many others, who refuse to fight.

Don’t the recruiting centers have a right to “free speech”?

First of all, let’s be clear: the First Amendment was designed to protect people’s speech from government infringement, not government speech from people’s infringement! The Marine Corps IS the government. They have billions of dollars at their disposal to lie to the youth through advertisements that make war seem like a video game. It is actually OUR speech, the voices that oppose this criminal war, that is being marginalized by the corporate media and monitored by government surveillance. On another level, this really isn’t about “free speech.” This is about what people are being recruited for. This is about what kind of future we want for the youth. People making this argument should think about whether it would be OK if there was a Nazi recruiting station in Berkeley.

OK, but isn’t Berkeley totally out of touch with what the rest of the country thinks?

First of all, the majority of people in this country are against war, torture, and the Bush administration. It may be true that Berkeley has the only City Council to take such a courageous stand. But this wouldn’t be the first time that Berkeley led the way and did what was right.

Friday, February 8, 2008

InfraGard: FBI Privatizes an "Anti-Terrorist" Force

As you read this, note that the scenarios being described by the FBI in its meetings with this privatized corporate force and what InfraGard is authorized to do when, not if, martial law is declared (this is how the FBI put it, according to the whistleblower quoted in this story) are entirely consistent with Blackwater forces' behavior in New Orleans after Katrina: protect private property and shoot at will at anyone they wanted to, with no repercussions. Blackwater beat, as you may know, the U.S. military to New Orleans.

Note my immediate last posting on White House warnings of another 9/11 too.

The hollowing out of government functions and their privatization is something that Naomi Klein details in her book, The Shock Doctrine.

Exclusive! The FBI Deputizes Business

By Matthew Rothschild, February 7, 2008

Today, more than 23,000 representatives of private industry are working quietly with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. The members of this rapidly growing group, called InfraGard, receive secret warnings of terrorist threats before the public does—and, at least on one occasion, before elected officials. In return, they provide information to the government, which alarms the ACLU. But there may be more to it than that. One business executive, who showed me his InfraGard card, told me they have permission to “shoot to kill” in the event of martial law.

InfraGard is “a child of the FBI,” says Michael Hershman, the chairman of the advisory board of the InfraGard National Members Alliance and CEO of the Fairfax Group, an international consulting firm.

InfraGard started in Cleveland back in 1996, when the private sector there cooperated with the FBI to investigate cyber threats.
“Then the FBI cloned it,” says Phyllis Schneck, chairman of the board of directors of the InfraGard National Members Alliance, and the prime mover behind the growth of InfraGard over the last several years.

InfraGard itself is still an FBI operation, with FBI agents in each state overseeing the local InfraGard chapters. (There are now eighty-six of them.) The alliance is a nonprofit organization of private sector InfraGard members.

“We are the owners, operators, and experts of our critical infrastructure, from the CEO of a large company in agriculture or high finance to the guy who turns the valve at the water utility,” says Schneck, who by day is the vice president of research integration at Secure Computing.

“At its most basic level, InfraGard is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the private sector,” the InfraGard website states. “InfraGard chapters are geographically linked with FBI Field Office territories.”

In November 2001, InfraGard had around 1,700 members. As of late January, InfraGard had 23,682 members, according to its website,, which adds that “350 of our nation’s Fortune 500 have a representative in InfraGard.”

To join, each person must be sponsored by “an existing InfraGard member, chapter, or partner organization.” The FBI then vets the applicant. On the application form, prospective members are asked which aspect of the critical infrastructure their organization deals with. These include: agriculture, banking and finance, the chemical industry, defense, energy, food, information and telecommunications, law enforcement, public health, and transportation.

FBI Director Robert Mueller addressed an InfraGard convention on August 9, 2005. At that time, the group had less than half as many members as it does today. “To date, there are more than 11,000 members of InfraGard,” he said. “From our perspective that amounts to 11,000 contacts . . . and 11,000 partners in our mission to protect America.” He added a little later, “Those of you in the private sector are the first line of defense.”

He urged InfraGard members to contact the FBI if they “note suspicious activity or an unusual event.” And he said they could sic the FBI on “disgruntled employees who will use knowledge gained on the job against their employers.”

In an interview with InfraGard after the conference, which is featured prominently on the InfraGard members’ website, Mueller says: “It’s a great program.”

The ACLU is not so sanguine.

“There is evidence that InfraGard may be closer to a corporate TIPS program, turning private-sector corporations—some of which may be in a position to observe the activities of millions of individual customers—into surrogate eyes and ears for the FBI,” the ACLU warned in its August 2004 report The Surveillance-Industrial Complex: How the American Government Is Conscripting Businesses and Individuals in the Construction of a Surveillance Society.

InfraGard is not readily accessible to the general public. Its communications with the FBI and Homeland Security are beyond the reach of the Freedom of Information Act under the “trade secrets” exemption, its website says. And any conversation with the public or the media is supposed to be carefully rehearsed.

“The interests of InfraGard must be protected whenever presented to non-InfraGard members,” the website states. “During interviews with members of the press, controlling the image of InfraGard being presented can be difficult. Proper preparation for the interview will minimize the risk of embarrassment. . . . The InfraGard leadership and the local FBI representative should review the submitted questions, agree on the predilection of the answers, and identify the appropriate interviewee. . . . Tailor answers to the expected audience. . . . Questions concerning sensitive information should be avoided.”

One of the advantages of InfraGard, according to its leading members, is that the FBI gives them a heads-up on a secure portal about any threatening information related to infrastructure disruption or terrorism.

The InfraGard website advertises this. In its list of benefits of joining InfraGard, it states: “Gain access to an FBI secure communication network complete with VPN encrypted website, webmail, listservs, message boards, and much more.”
InfraGard members receive “almost daily updates” on threats “emanating from both domestic sources and overseas,” Hershman says.

“We get very easy access to secure information that only goes to InfraGard members,” Schneck says. “People are happy to be in the know.”

On November 1, 2001, the FBI had information about a potential threat to the bridges of California. The alert went out to the InfraGard membership. Enron was notified, and so, too, was Barry Davis, who worked for Morgan Stanley. He notified his brother Gray, the governor of California.

“He said his brother talked to him before the FBI,” recalls Steve Maviglio, who was Davis’s press secretary at the time. “And the governor got a lot of grief for releasing the information. In his defense, he said, ‘I was on the phone with my brother, who is an investment banker. And if he knows, why shouldn’t the public know?’ ”

Maviglio still sounds perturbed about this: “You’d think an elected official would be the first to know, not the last.”
In return for being in the know, InfraGard members cooperate with the FBI and Homeland Security. “InfraGard members have contributed to about 100 FBI cases,” Schneck says. “What InfraGard brings you is reach into the regional and local communities. We are a 22,000-member vetted body of subject-matter experts that reaches across seventeen matrixes. All the different stovepipes can connect with InfraGard.”

Schneck is proud of the relationships the InfraGard Members Alliance has built with the FBI. “If you had to call 1-800-FBI, you probably wouldn’t bother,” she says. “But if you knew Joe from a local meeting you had with him over a donut, you might call them. Either to give or to get. We want everyone to have a little black book.”

This black book may come in handy in times of an emergency. “On the back of each membership card,” Schneck says, “we have all the numbers you’d need: for Homeland Security, for the FBI, for the cyber center. And by calling up as an InfraGard member, you will be listened to.” She also says that members would have an easier time obtaining a “special telecommunications card that will enable your call to go through when others will not.”

This special status concerns the ACLU.

“The FBI should not be creating a privileged class of Americans who get special treatment,” says Jay Stanley, public education director of the ACLU’s technology and liberty program. “There’s no ‘business class’ in law enforcement. If there’s information the FBI can share with 22,000 corporate bigwigs, why don’t they just share it with the public? That’s who their real ‘special relationship’ is supposed to be with. Secrecy is not a party favor to be given out to friends. . . . This bears a disturbing resemblance to the FBI’s handing out ‘goodies’ to corporations in return for folding them into its domestic surveillance machinery.”

When the government raises its alert levels, InfraGard is in the loop. For instance, in a press release on February 7, 2003, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General announced that the national alert level was being raised from yellow to orange. They then listed “additional steps” that agencies were taking to “increase their protective measures.” One of those steps was to “provide alert information to InfraGard program.”

“They’re very much looped into our readiness capability,” says Amy Kudwa, spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security. “We provide speakers, as well as do joint presentations [with the FBI]. We also train alongside them, and they have participated in readiness exercises.”

On May 9, 2007, George Bush issued National Security Presidential Directive 51 entitled “National Continuity Policy.” In it, he instructed the Secretary of Homeland Security to coordinate with “private sector owners and operators of critical infrastructure, as appropriate, in order to provide for the delivery of essential services during an emergency.”

Asked if the InfraGard National Members Alliance was involved with these plans, Schneck said it was “not directly participating at this point.” Hershman, chairman of the group’s advisory board, however, said that it was.

InfraGard members, sometimes hundreds at a time, have been used in “national emergency preparation drills,” Schneck acknowledges.

“In case something happens, everybody is ready,” says Norm Arendt, the head of the Madison, Wisconsin, chapter of InfraGard, and the safety director for the consulting firm Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc. “There’s been lots of discussions about what happens under an emergency.”

One business owner in the United States tells me that InfraGard members are being advised on how to prepare for a martial law situation—and what their role might be. He showed me his InfraGard card, with his name and e-mail address on the front, along with the InfraGard logo and its slogan, “Partnership for Protection.” On the back of the card were the emergency numbers that Schneck mentioned.

This business owner says he attended a small InfraGard meeting where agents of the FBI and Homeland Security discussed in astonishing detail what InfraGard members may be called upon to do.

“The meeting started off innocuously enough, with the speakers talking about corporate espionage,” he says. “From there, it just progressed. All of a sudden we were knee deep in what was expected of us when martial law is declared. We were expected to share all our resources, but in return we’d be given specific benefits.” These included, he says, the ability to travel in restricted areas and to get people out.

But that’s not all.

“Then they said when—not if—martial law is declared, it was our responsibility to protect our portion of the infrastructure, and if we had to use deadly force to protect it, we couldn’t be prosecuted,” he says.

I was able to confirm that the meeting took place where he said it had, and that the FBI and Homeland Security did make presentations there. One InfraGard member who attended that meeting denies that the subject of lethal force came up. But the whistleblower is 100 percent certain of it. “I have nothing to gain by telling you this, and everything to lose,” he adds. “I’m so nervous about this, and I’m not someone who gets nervous.”

Though Schneck says that FBI and Homeland Security agents do make presentations to InfraGard, she denies that InfraGard members would have any civil patrol or law enforcement functions. “I have never heard of InfraGard members being told to use lethal force anywhere,” Schneck says.

The FBI adamantly denies it, also. “That’s ridiculous,” says Catherine Milhoan, an FBI spokesperson. “If you want to quote a businessperson saying that, knock yourself out. If that’s what you want to print, fine.”

But one other InfraGard member corroborated the whistleblower’s account, and another would not deny it.

Christine Moerke is a business continuity consultant for Alliant Energy in Madison, Wisconsin. She says she’s an InfraGard member, and she confirms that she has attended InfraGard meetings that went into the details about what kind of civil patrol function—including engaging in lethal force—that InfraGard members may be called upon to perform.
“There have been discussions like that, that I’ve heard of and participated in,” she says.

Curt Haugen is CEO of S’Curo Group, a company that does “strategic planning, business continuity planning and disaster recovery, physical and IT security, policy development, internal control, personnel selection, and travel safety,” according to its website. Haugen tells me he is a former FBI agent and that he has been an InfraGard member for many years. He is a huge booster. “It’s the only true organization where there is the public-private partnership,” he says. “It’s all who knows who. You know a face, you trust a face. That’s what makes it work.”

He says InfraGard “absolutely” does emergency preparedness exercises. When I ask about discussions the FBI and Homeland Security have had with InfraGard members about their use of lethal force, he says: “That much I cannot comment on. But as a private citizen, you have the right to use force if you feel threatened.”

“We were assured that if we were forced to kill someone to protect our infrastructure, there would be no repercussions,” the whistleblower says. “It gave me goose bumps. It chilled me to the bone.”