Friday, September 29, 2006

Republican Pedophilia

From ABC News:
Florida Rep. Mark Foley's resignation came just hours after ABC News questioned the congressman about a series of sexually explicit instant messages involving congressional pages, high school students who are under 18 years of age.

In Congress, Rep. Foley (R-FL) was part of the Republican leadership and the chairman of the House caucus on missing and exploited children.
Talk about the fox guarding the chickens. I chose that term deliberately, as "chickens" is a slang term for a young, gay boy.

Is Foley the exception? Not at all. Check out the long list at Nor is this a new problem in the Republican party. Check out the link from the Washington Times front page of 6/29/89 pictured below to see how this story reached into the Reagan White House:

You would be shocked and horrified if you read about the right-wing pedophilia circles in this country.

I have the burden of having read, i.e., borne witness too, some of the darkest acts of man through a book written by Nebraska State Senator and Attorney John DeCamp. He detailed a broad Republican child sex ring run by Larry King - not the guy from CNN, but the guy who sang the National Anthem at two Republican Conventions, who was released from jail on April 11, 2001, after serving 10 years of his 15-year sentence for embezzling $39 million from Franklin Community Federal Credit Union (now defunct) in Omaha. The book is called the "Franklin Coverup." Here is a quick summary, from
On November 4, 1988 the Omaha Franklin Credit-Union Bank was raided and closed by the IRS and the FBI. The raid and closing were conducted resulting from an audit on Lawrence King’s, the Franklin Credit Union's manager, (see key players page) personal tax returns.

Initially public investigators estimated King had stolen about $4 million from the Franklin Credit Union assets. By the end of their investigation, Officials totaled the missing assets in the tune of $39 million.

Along with the charges of embezzlement, reports came in that the FBI had confiscated child pornography, videotapes and photographs at Franklin Credit Union offices.

Investigators began looking into allegations involving drugs, sexual misconduct, child abuse, pornography, and satanic activity. Along with the allegations came names of prominent individuals in the Omaha Community. Including, then Chief of Police in Omaha, Robert Wadman (see key players page), Alan Baer, Harold W. Anderson, then publisher of the Omaha World Herald, and Lawrence E. King.

In January of 1989 the Nebraska State Legislature constituted a committee to look into the child abuse and drug allegations. Twenty days later Nebraska State Attorney General Robert Spire called a Grand Jury to investigate allegations of what came to be known as the Franklin Case.
Beyond his book, detailing the allegations of sexual abuse and the using of young children as couriers, a British investigative team worked with The Discovery Channel to produce a show called "Conspiracy of Silence," detailing the Franklin case. But check any list of proverbs to find out what happened next. Tell the truth and run, they say, because the truth is rarely welcomed with open arms:
Finally, the big day came. Their documentary was to air nation-wide on the Discovery Channel on May 3, 1994. It was advertised in the TV Guide and in newspapers for that day. But no one ever saw that program. At the last minute, and without explanation, it was pulled from the air. It was not shown then, and has never been broadcast anywhere since.
Until now, of course. You can see this online here.

This is the kind of history historians rarely write about. It is sordid. It is unbelievable, until you read the data; then it becomes undeniable. And horrific. I nearly threw up after reading the account of acts performed to one young boy.

And worse, those who perpetrate this are so hellbent on keeping the truth from coming out that they make secondary victims of those who come forward. In the Franklin case, the two victims who testified were made out to be perpetrators of the fraud. This secondary rape was equally as horrific as the primary acts that led them to testify in the first place.

Children are our future. We should guard them and protect them, not sell them into sex slavery to slate the sordid tastes of politicians.

I'm glad Foley stepped down. But we should follow him out the door. Pull on that thread, and who knows what will unravel?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

TIME says Iranian War absurd, but likely

In case anyone still doubts Bush's plans in this regard, consider the following, from this week's TIME Magazine (subscription required):
On its face, of course, the notion of a war with Iran seems absurd. By any rational measure, the last thing the U.S. can afford is another war. Two unfinished wars--one on Iran's eastern border, the other on its western flank--are daily depleting America's treasury and overworked armed forces. Most of Washington's allies in those adventures have made it clear they will not join another gamble overseas. What's more, the Bush team, led by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, has done more diplomatic spadework on Iran than on any other project in its 51/2 years in office. For more than 18 months, Rice has kept the Administration's hard-line faction at bay while leading a coalition that includes four other members of the U.N. Security Council and is trying to force Tehran to halt its suspicious nuclear ambitions. Even Iran's former President, Mohammed Khatami, was in Washington this month calling for a "dialogue" between the two nations.

But superpowers don't always get to choose their enemies or the timing of their confrontations. The fact that all sides would risk losing so much in armed conflict doesn't mean they won't stumble into one anyway. And for all the good arguments against any war now, much less this one, there are just as many indications that a genuine, eyeball-to-eyeball crisis between the U.S. and Iran may be looming, and sooner than many realize. "At the moment," says Ali Ansari, a top Iran authority at London's Chatham House, a foreign-policy think tank, "we are headed for conflict."

Earlier in the piece, Time talked about orders that give the notion of imminent war substance:
The first message was routine enough: a "Prepare to Deploy" order sent through naval communications channels to a submarine, an Aegis-class cruiser, two minesweepers and two mine hunters. The orders didn't actually command the ships out of port; they just said to be ready to move by Oct. 1. But inside the Navy those messages generated more buzz than usual last week when a second request, from the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), asked for fresh eyes on long-standing U.S. plans to blockade two Iranian oil ports on the Persian Gulf. The CNO had asked for a rundown on how a blockade of those strategic targets might work. When he didn't like the analysis he received, he ordered his troops to work the lash up once again.

What's going on? The two orders offered tantalizing clues. There are only a few places in the world where minesweepers top the list of U.S. naval requirements. And every sailor, petroleum engineer and hedge-fund manager knows the name of the most important: the Strait of Hormuz, the 20-mile-wide bottleneck in the Persian Gulf through which roughly 40% of the world's oil needs to pass each day. Coupled with the CNO's request for a blockade review, a deployment of minesweepers to the west coast of Iran would seem to suggest that a much discussed--but until now largely theoretical--prospect has become real: that the U.S. may be preparing for war with Iran.

No one knows whether--let alone when--a military confrontation with Tehran will come to pass. The fact that admirals are reviewing plans for blockades is hardly proof of their intentions. The U.S. military routinely makes plans for scores of scenarios, the vast majority of which will never be put into practice. "Planners always plan," says a Pentagon official. Asked about the orders, a second official said only that the Navy is stepping up its "listening and learning" in the Persian Gulf but nothing more--a prudent step, he added, after Iran tested surface-to-ship missiles there in August during a two-week military exercise. And yet from the State Department to the White House to the highest reaches of the military command, there is a growing sense that a showdown with Iran--over its suspected quest for nuclear weapons, its threats against Israel and its bid for dominance of the world's richest oil region--may be impossible to avoid. The chief of the U.S. Central Command (Centcom), General John Abizaid, has called a commanders conference for later this month in the Persian Gulf--sessions he holds at least quarterly--and Iran is on the agenda.

Norman Solomon notes some media parallels in his piece on this today:
When the USA's biggest newsweekly devotes five pages to scoping out a U.S. air war against Iran, as Time did in the same issue, it's yet another sign that the wheels of our nation's war-spin machine are turning faster toward yet another unprovoked attack on another country.

...Now, warning signs are profuse: The Bush administration has Iran in the Pentagon's sights. And the drive toward war, fueled by double standards about nuclear development and human rights, is getting a big boost from U.S. media coverage that portrays the president as reluctant to launch an attack on Iran.

Time magazine reports that "from the State Department to the White House to the highest reaches of the military command, there is a growing sense that a showdown with Iran ... may be impossible to avoid."

The same kind of media spin -- assuming a sincere Bush desire to avoid war -- was profuse in the months before the invasion of Iraq. The more that news outlets tell such fairy tales, the more they become part of the war machinery.

The growing concern about an imminent war with Iran isn't limited to the left. In his column today, Pat Buchanan sounds an alarm of his own:
One school contends that the White House has stared down the gun barrel at the prospect of war with Iran and backed away. The costs and potential consequences ... are too high a price to pay for setting back the Iranian nuclear program a decade.

Another school argues thus: If Tehran survives the Bush era without dismantling its nuclear program, Bush will be a failed president. He declared in his 2002 State of the Union Address that no axis-of-evil nation would be allowed to acquire the world's worst weapons. Iran and North Korea will have both defied the Bush Doctrine. His legacy would then be one of impotency in Iran and North Korea, and two failed wars - in Iraq and Afghanistan - which will be in their sixth and eighth years.

Those who know him best say that George Bush is not a man to leave office with such a legacy. He will go to war first, even if no one goes along.

Buchanan offers a sharp reminder that Congress, not the President, should be the one to declare, or decline, war:
Today, President Bush does not have the constitutional authority to launch pre-emptive war. Congress should remind him of that, and demand that he come to them to make the case and get a declaration of war, before he undertakes yet another war - on Iran.

Before any air strikes are launched on Iran's nuclear facilities, every American leader should be made to take a public stand for or against war. No more of these "If-only-I-had-known" and "We-were-misled" copouts.

I hate to agree with Buchanan on anything, but when he's right, he's right. And I'm with him on wanting no more feigned ignorance from the hill. If they're more ignorant than us bloggers, they shouldn't be sitting on the hill, period.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Remembering Phil Melanson

A good friend to the cause of Real History has passed away. Dr. Philip H. Melanson, a professor at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, was the first major researcher to publish works on three of the major assassinations of the sixties – those of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Senator Robert Francis Kennedy. He wrote important books on each of these cases, respectively, Spy Saga (about Lee Harvey Oswald’s probably career as an asset of American intelligence agencies), The Murkin Conspiracy: An Investigation into the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and The Robert F. Kennedy Assassination.

I first met Phil at a Coalition On Political Assassinations (COPA) conference in 1994. I was still very much a novice researcher at that time, although I had recently stumbled upon a full set of the Warren Commission volumes in the library. I had read two of the very best books on the Robert Kennedy assassination by then – Bill Turner’s book and Phil’s. After I returned, I posted copius notes from the conference in the alt.conspiracy.jfk newsgroup. Here are the sections pertaining to Phil. Please ignore the awful grammar – I wrote this in a hurry for people who already knew me well, at least, virtually.

About 6:30 that night was the first 'official' event of the convention, a cash bar mixer where I met Bill Turner - author of The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy as well as The Fish Is Red, now rereleased and updated as Deadly Secrets. I was complimenting him on his wonderful book on RFK and talking about how I thought it was the best book on the subject, only to find I was standing right next to Phil Melanson, author of the other wonderful book on the RFK assassination. Talk about foot in mouth! hahahha! I honestly love BOTH books, and immediately congratulated Phil on his book and he was teasing me like 'too late now'. I didn't think he believed that I had read his book so I mentioned the specific things his book had that Bill Turner's did not and said that was a valuable contribution (Melanson found tapes of the interrogation of Sandy Serrano - the major witness of the girl in the polka dot dress fleeing the scene saying "we shot Kennedy!" - tapes that showed strong intimidation of Serrano until Serrano eventually backed down and denied everything and disappeared from the scene for many years.) But I also pointed out that Turner's book had the wonderful scene hiding out in the offices of Playboy and Melanson laughed and said I was right - he couldn't top that! ;) Both are extremely, EXTREMELY nice men - so unpretentious, so knowledgeable, so interesting! ...

I ended up sitting with Jim DiEugenio ..., Dennis Effle, Bill Davy, and then Phil Melanson walked over and asked if he could join us, saying Paul Hoch had told him he was surprised to find I was a seemingly bright, intelligent woman. Phil then joked "will it hurt my credibility to be seen with you guys? Paul Hoch already invited me to join him and Gus Russo, saying 'will it hurt your credibility to be seen with us'?" DiEugenio laughed and said "Phil - if your choice is between us and Russo this will RAISE your credibility!"

For those of you who remember Dr. Bob Artwohl's lunch with spooks (Colby, Shackley etc.) Gus Russo was also there, as well as the producer of the PBS Frontline documentary that many in the community felt was a surprising about face from Russo who had previously been considered a conspiracy researcher.

Somewhere right around this time Paul Hoch walks up beside Phil and looks right at me and says, out of the blue I felt, "Are you going to call me a disinformationist now? I know you're fond of doing that on the net!" I laughed and said back "hey, if you want the label, it's yours!" At that point all I knew about Hoch was that he had worked with Alvarez [paid by the CIA for other experiments], endorsed the single bullet theory, considered me a 'fake' poster here [alt.conspiracy.jfk] and was hanging out with Gus Russo. Hmmmm! :) What am I SUPPOSED to think?

Hoch left, and Phil was asking what that was all about - I told him about the Russo lunch deal and Phil thought that was curious, but Phil absolutely did not consider Hoch to be anything other than a researcher and, I gathered, a friend. Talk turned to the CIA putting people in universities and Phil rolled his eyes and said "don't I know it!" and then DiEugenio jumped in and said "how do you know?" and Phil shook his head and declined to say more on the subject. Not long after that poor Phil started to choke on his drink and I jumped up and ran to the bar to get him a glass of water, telling the bartender a man was choking and needed water fast. The bartender couldn't have moved more slowly, even stopping to fill the glass with ice and I yelled over NO ICE! hahah! The guy might have died for all he seemed to care! Anyway - he did live, I brought him the water, and the talk turned to the RFK and MLK cases. Phil was mostly talking to DiEugenio who is one of the COPA board members, saying 'he had a bone to pick with COPA' for not drawing more attention to the other cases, I point with which I heartily agreed. I talked with Phil about the RFK case in particular, and how OBVIOUS the conspiracy there was and how it was so frustrating that others didn't want to get involved - a comment I heard from more than a few over the weekend was "I don't have time to get involved in ANOTHER assassination," even though the data about the other assassinations is pretty adequately covered through just a couple of books each, since so little else has been researched.
My online signature for a time carried a quote from Phil’s book on Oswald:
"The only variable as salient and consistent as the CIA's presence in the contexts in which Oswald appeared is the Agency's alleged disinterest in monitoring him -- as a defector who might be returning to the United States as a Soviet spy, or as a pro-Castro activist who might be trying to infiltrate the Agency's anti-Castro network. The best explanation for all this is that the "dirty rumor" is true: Lee Harvey Oswald was a U.S. intelligence agent." --From Dr. Philip Melanson's book SPY SAGA
Phil was a key driver in getting the Los Angeles Police Department’s investigative files on the RFK assassination opened to the public. It took twenty years and a lot of dogged effort, but he and others persisted. I, for one, am particularly grateful, as much of my own work on the case is based on the files he helped make public.

Although Phil and I drew different conclusions from the data at times, I respected his research. After his final book on the RFK case, I had a strange conversation with him. He sounded very sad, and told me he had “sold out.” I asked, does your book say Sirhan acted alone? He said no. “Then how could you have sold out?” I asked. He didn’t respond. After reading Shadow Play, I think I knew what he meant. He helped paint Grant Cooper, Sirhan’s lead lawyer, as a better guy than I believe the record allows, and tried to paint the cops more as bumblers than as parties to the cover-up, something else that is at variance with the record. But by doing so, he created a book that reached a lot of people, and which provided, overall, some very good information about the case. I certainly forgave him, after all the great work he has done. I hope he forgave himself. I debated with myself whether to share this publicly, but I feel his confession shows him to be a man who cared deeply about his choices, and paints him in an admirable light. Not many people would admit to something like that, and to me, that made him all the greater. I am so sorry that he is gone. He was only 61.

The family asked that rather than sending flowers, they would appreciate donations be sent to the Philip H. Melanson Scholarship Fund for students pursuing graduate and undergraduate studies in public policy at UMass Dartmouth. The address is: UMass Dartmouth Foundation, 285 Old Westport Road, North Dartmouth MA 02747.


You can also send letters of condolence to:

Mrs. Judy Melanson
18 Partridge Pl
Marion MA 02738

Friday, September 15, 2006

Arlen Specter screws the country again

Sen. Arlen Specter is about to finish the job he started in 1964.

In 1964, Specter was a staffer working for the recently appointed Warren Commission, charged with investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The Commission was in a pickle. The last thing LBJ or other high-level people in government wanted to deal with was a conspiracy, especially one that might include Cuba and/or the Soviet Union. The CIA had a (now provably false) story in their own files suggesting Oswald was acting at the behest of the Communists. No one wanted to start WWIII over Kennedy's assassination. The Warren Commission members knew what was at stake, and sought to spin the tale as the work of a lone assassin. But they had a big problem.

The Zapruder Film showed Kennedy reacting to a shot, and then dying in the final head shot. The film set a clock for the assassination that allowed for no more than three shots total. No one could prove that the gun found on the sixth floor, the alleged murder weapon, could be fired any more rapidly with the needed accuracy.

The problem was, one of those three shots had to be a head shot. Another had to have missed. So that left one other shot to explain the seven other wounds found on JFK and Gov. John Connally. That or there were two or more shooters, an unacceptable conclusion.

Enter Arlen Specter. Warren Commission staffer Specter came to the rescue by proposing that a single bullet entered Kennedy's back, exited his throat, passed through Connally and wounded his wrist, ending in his thigh. This despite the fact that all the initial reports had been that the shot had entered, not exited, Kennedy's throat; that the doctors were surprised that there was no bullet in the back wound because they found no exit path; and the fact that the two best eyewitnesses - John Connally and his wife Nellie, who were in the car and could see and hear what was happening up close - were adamant that Connally and Kennedy had been hit by separate shots.

Did the Warren Commission laugh Specter out of the room? Heck no. The goal of the Warren Commission was not to discover the truth, but to bury it. And bury it they did, for nearly 30 years. It took Oliver Stone's film JFK to cause Congress to open its long suppressed files from the Warren Commission and the later House Select Committee on Assassinations that reinvestigated the case in the seventies (concluding that there was a probable conspiracy).

Specter's actions landed him a permanent career in Government. By covering for people in power, he was rewarded with power himself.

So when the wiretapping was exposed, and Arlen Specter was the first to call for hearings, some lauded his actions. But I realized he was simply moving to gain control of the investigation, so once again, he could twist the truth to serve the wishes of the people above him, just as he had done in 1964.

What amazes me is how simple minded people can be on this issue. They think that, because they personally have nothing to hide, this is a good idea. If terrorists are talking on the phones, shouldn't we be able to find out?

Of course, the problem isn't that simple. Once you legalize wiretapping without a warrant, what's to stop the President, or any number of people in government, from spying on other conversations? Listening to corporate calls to get insider trading tips. Listening to political opponents to find items that can be used to blackmail them. Think I'm reaching here? A European Parliament document on the NSA's "global eavesdropping system," called Echelon, notes:
As long as 50 years ago there was interest in information not only from the political and security spheres but also from the fields of science and economics.
More specifically:
...the STOA report by Duncan Campbell alleges that the system has been misused for purposes of obtaining competitive intelligence, causing serious losses to the industries of European countries. Furthermore, there are statements by the former CIA Director R. James Woolsey, that although the USA was spying on European firms, this was only to restore a level playing field since contracts had only been secured as a result of bribery.
(We wouldn't spy for competitive advantage - but only to reverse someone else's ill-gained competitive advantage? Yeah right. We're not that honest.)

So clearly, we need protection from the electronic eyes and ears of our government. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was created to offer individuals some small measure of protection. It was passed because of the abuses and excesses of another President who considered himself above the law: Pres. Richard Nixon.

FISA had, until the Bush administration, routinely approved requests for wiretapping with little modification of the requests. As the Seattle P-I recently reported:
The 11-judge court that authorizes FISA wiretaps has approved at least 18,740 applications for electronic surveillance or physical searches from five presidential administrations since 1979.

The judges modified only two search warrant orders out of the 13,102 applications that were approved over the first 22 years of the court's operation. In 20 of the first 21 annual reports on the court's activities up to 1999, the Justice Department told Congress that "no orders were entered (by the FISA court) which modified or denied the requested authority" submitted by the government.

But since 2001, the judges have modified 179 of the 5,645 requests for court-ordered surveillance by the Bush administration. A total of 173 of those court-ordered "substantive modifications" took place in 2003 and 2004 -- the most recent years for which public records are available.
As David Lindorff notes in the Baltimore Chronicle:
These are desperate acts of a man who sees impeachment in his future, who is acting while he can to try to cover up a few of his crimes.The Bush administration's full-court press against the Constitution is on, with the president getting closer to Senate, and possibly full Congressional approval of his warrantless spying program by the National Security Agency, and with a lobbying campaign on to get his program for kangaroo courts and life-time detention without trial for terror "war" detainees approved by Congress.

It's staggering to see this happening after a federal court just ruled that NSA spying without a show of probable cause is a violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Fourth Amendment, and after the US Supreme Court just ruled that Bush was in violation of the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of POWs for refusing to treat the detainees at Guantanamo in accordance with US and International Law.

One might think this to be a case of a powerful president just steamrolling the courts and the Congress, but I think it is not a sign of strength, but rather the desperate act of a man who sees impeachment in his future, and who is acting while he can to try to cover up a few of his crimes.
So when you are desperate and need help from someone with no scruples, someone who was willing to tell big lies of Hitlerian scale to the American public about what happened in the assassination of a President, who you gonna call? Ghostbusters need not apply. This Specter will do the job.

If you oppose widespread surveillance of communications in America and abroad without the need for a court order, then please ask your Senators to vote NO on Specter's bill S. 2453.

Act quickly, before Specter turns our Constitution into a spectre.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering 9/11

There is so much, and also not enough yet, to say about 9/11. Here's what I remember.

I was up early that morning. Couldn't sleep, so I turned on CNN. It was around 5:30 AM. At that point, the first tower was already burning, and I went into immediate shock. What the hell had happened?

I was still groggy. It was like a bizarre dream. Surreal. But then the second tower was hit, and I remember just shaking my head. Were we under attack? From who? Why? Actually, the third question was, to me, the easiest to answer. Who hadn't we bullied and bent to our will at some point in our short 200+ years of existence? Whose country hadn't we tampered with, fixed elections in, supported a dictator in? Who DIDN'T have a motive to attack us?

But the third strike was truly the most bizarre. I flipped through the channels, stopped, watched, flipped some more. At one of the pauses, on CNN, a man was talking by phone, from the Pentagon. There was no picture.

"I think a bomb went off" is what I remember hearing. A bomb? In the Pentagon? That really did sound like war. I mean, now it wasn't JUST New York, as if that wasn't bad enough. That had the makings of a military attack, right? So I started flipping again, through the channels. But no other channel was covering anything about the Pentagon. How can that be, I thought? If a bomb went off, surely this guy on the phone talking to the CNN reporter wasn't the only witness? Where were the pictures?

The caller had not seen anything. He had only heard something, and was definitely guessing, by his own admission. But what got me was the fear in his voice. Somehow, I didn't expect that. It was many minutes before other stations starting reporting that the Pentagon had been hit. By another plane.

And then back to New York. Bodies falling. People leaping in a last ditch attempt to save their lives. What a horrible choice. Leap out of a tall building or burn to death. I was horrified. Still am horrified.

And yet, as I watched, I had this weird thought. Whoever did this is really smart. They know exactly where the power lies in this country. And it isn't in DC. It's on Wall Street. They're hitting us in our pocketbook, in the financial center of America. Whoever is doing this is speaking out about our economic imperialism.

I knew some people in New York, but no one who lived that far downtown. But I couldn't fail to be moved by the images of people in fear, the looks of horror as they gazed up at the towers.

And then it went from surreal to unreal, as the first tower came down. It was just unbelievable. It made no sense. It still makes no sense to me how one plane could do that, and that's not to say I subscribe to the explosives theory because I don't. I truly don't have any belief. I haven't seen enough science I can understand enough to believe, or enough experts credible enough to believe in, on any side of that debate. It was just - bizarre.

And the billowing cloud of dust, which I was only later to find out contained lead, mercury, radioactive materials from the fire alarms, PCBs and other horrific compounds. All I knew then was that people couldn't breathe. Homes and businesses were going to be ruined for months, if not years, to come. All those people. All that dust.

Then the second tower came down. The helicopter shots of the plume - a dark, ugly plume of smoke rising up and floating out over the Hudson.

People. People crying. People staring. People walking, thousands of them, walking home, having abandoned cars, buses, subways. Walking across the Brooklyn bridge. Defeated. Scared. Sad. Shaken. And mostly, shocked. It was like watching refugees in another country. It was so bizarre.

Up in Pennsylvania, a black hole in a ground. Not a crash site - not anything even resembling a crash site. A black pit. It was impossible to process the images, and the text that was being read to me, through the TV screen. How could a plane have crashed there? Where did the plane go? Even if it was pulverized I would have expected to have seen silver dust. But I accepted it all, lacking any capacity to evaluate what I was seeing in my stunned stupor.

And then there was no more time. I had to leave my sofa and head to work. It was the one of the quietest workdays of my life. Conversations were kept to a bare minimum. Everyone wandered around like the raised dead, lost in private thoughts, not ready yet to share them with others. Maybe saying prayers for loved ones. All of us, moving like living ghosts through the workday. Working until the clock said we could go home, and regluing myself to the TV for the next several nights.

More strangeness. EVERY FLIGHT IN AMERICA grounded. No planes. Anywhere. My God. Our government didn't know what was going on.

One of the most unsettling images, in a day of deeply unsettling images, was seeing our President, our leader, sitting in a chair after being notified of the attack. Just sitting, his face revealing the depths of his mind - a complete blank.

And all day - where was the President? In the air - out of DC, not speaking to us, not assuring the grounded nation that all would be well. Just...absent. At the most important moment in our collective lives.

Early on, people were pushing me and others in the JFK research community to "go after 9/11." I didn't want to. I have enough conspiracies to fight. If there's something there, let others find it. As I learned in the Kennedy case, it can take many years for solid evidence to surface. I am in no rush. The truth, the Haitians say, is like water in a clay pot. It always seeps out. I was, and still am, content to wait until the simple "my expert" vs. "your expert" phase passes. People can be wrong, and people can lie. So how can we know what it true? Whom to believe?

The only way I found that in the Kennedy case was by doing my own investigation. Only when I saw the files for myself, read original testimony for myself, did I form an opinion. That's what makes an informed opinion. An uninformed opinion as is worthless as it is, unfortunately, common. Finding the truth takes hard work and diligent research. And drawing conclusions about a 3D world from 2D pictures and videos seems to me a perilous exercise, at best.

So I'll read. And watch. And wait. Everything in my body screams there's something wrong with the official story. But I don't think the answer is to be found in the rubble of the World Trade Center, or the facade of the Pentagon. I think the answers are to be found in the laying in of a false history that paved a road to Iraq. That is where the story took a bizarre turn, a turn that I don't think would have been possible before 9/11. I think if there's something to find, that's where it will be. I hope there are people with the curiosity and fortitude to find out who planned and executed the mass mind control operation that caused good people to support a war that now, in hindsight, they wish they had not supported. That story will necessarily include the bizarre Anthrax scare coupled with Cipro profiteering. And it will include the further terrorization of the officials who had to vote on the war while the "DC Sniper" was killing randomly in their midst.

The full story will also include how a President who so completely abandoned us not just on 9/11, but again during Katrina, was able to get re-elected. Impossible. People are not THAT stupid.

I want to end by thanking Kahli, over at Booman Tribune, for a lovely essay reminding us that 9/11 is not just a day of sadness and horror. It is also the anniversary of one of the most hopeful movements of all time - Mahatma Gandhi began his non-violent resistance campaign on this day.

I think honoring Gandhi and what he stood for is the best way to honor the victims of 9/11. Because they would not have wanted their deaths to precipitate more deaths. They would have wanted us to find another way, to spare others their own fate. Protest when necessary. Do it without resorting to violence, and the moral authority will always be yours. Take no lives, but be willing to put yours on the line to help others. Therein lies the path to true greatness, and a most deserved immortality.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

How to do and NOT do Docudrama

Come on, ABC. This should be simple. Fictionalize the non-essential elements all you want. Tell the truth about the key facts that matter. ABC appears to have done this in reverse as any search of "Path to 9/11" in Google will quickly make apparent.

But I wanted to draw a contrast. The film JFK got a sound trouncing from many critics for wildly fictionalizing a real event. But was that justified?

In fact, very little was fictionalized. Almost all the witness dialog came word for word from their Warren Commission testimony or the Garrison trial records. The opening scene depicts Rose Cheramie, who, in the hospital after her injuries, did in fact tell doctors and nurses that Kennedy was to be killed in Dallas. Lt. Fruge from New Orleans went to the hospital and interviewed a number of witnesses who confirmed that.

Where there was speculation of what might have happened, that was based on speculations Garrison himself, or others on his staff, made. The bugging really happened. Gordon Novel, hired by Garrison to provide security for his office, instead bugged the place and gave the tapes to the FBI, Walter Sheridan (who was paying him big bucks -"We doctored the tapes we gave to Sheridan," he told me), LBJ's office, and - as he revealed a couple of years ago - Allen Dulles. That's not surprising, as Gordon knew Dulles personally and had dinner with him, as he confirmed to me.

The scenes with the military overlaid by Donald Sutherland's narrative came primarily from the personal experiences and research of Fletcher Prouty and John Newman (who makes a small cameo in the film, as does Jim Garrison himself, as Earl Warren, ironically.)

There was nothing about the assassination story itself that was wholly invented for the film. Some of the characters were composites - such as the Kevin Bacon character, who was drawn from the testimony of three different people, two of which reported wild sex scenes such as those depicted in the film. (When Clay Shaw was arrested, among other torture accoutrements in his place was a hook with dried blood on it hanging over his bed. The film went easy on the guy.)

As a historical drama, it was amazing that Stone DIDN'T fall for the more crazy conspiracy theories that were pushed on him. And of course, screenwriter Zach Sklar knew the case intimately, having edited Jim Garrison's fine book "On the Trail of the Assassins", the primary narrative on which the movie was based.

The only thing invented for dramatic effect in the film was the subplot with Garrison's wife. She had been very supportive of his efforts before and during the trial, but the writer and the director chose to heighten the conflict with an alternate story line. Since the story wasn't about her or their marriage, that didn't offend me. If I had been her, I might have felt differently, of course. But that was not the point of the film, and it wasn't the thing people were going to take away from it. That wasn't a fact of national, political significance.

In contract, ABC's 9/11 "docudrama" contains key dramatic moments that were wholly invented solely to add tension and drama. But fictional events were attributed to real people of high national stature, whose actions effected an important historical and political event. You can't fictionalize events that are directly related to the history of such an important event and call it docudrama. At that point, ABC should have fictionalized the names and dates as well, and not pretended this was based on the "path to 9/11" to make the fictional points they were making.

The New York Times quoted the avowed conservative writer who penned the show describing how they simply made up a key scene and presented it as part of the history of the event!
[Sandy] Berger’s character is also seen abruptly hanging up during a conversation with a C.I.A. officer at a critical moment of a military operation. In an interview yesterday with KRLA-AM in Los Angeles, Cyrus Nowrasteh, the mini-series’ screenwriter and one of its producers, said that moment had been improvised.

“Sandy Berger did not slam down the phone,” Mr. Nowrasteh said. “That is not in the report. That was not scripted. But you know when you’re making a movie, a lot of things happen on set that are unscripted. Accidents occur, spontaneous reactions of actors performing a role take place. It’s the job of the filmmaker to say, ‘You know, maybe we can use that.’ ”

The moment discussed is the moment the CIA guys on the ground ask for permission to pick up Usama Bin Laden. Rather than answer, the fictional Sandy Berger slams the phone down.

The problem, is, that event never happened until it was improvised on the set! Even conservative author Richard Miniter, author of a book about how Bill Clinton lost the war on terror, says that event never happened:

If people wanted to be critical of the Clinton years there’s things they could have said, but the idea that someone had bin Laden in his sights in 1998 or any other time and Sandy Berger refused to pull the trigger, there’s zero factual basis for that. (Primary and secondary sources here.)

Last year, I had the great pleasure to hear the filmmakers of Hotel Rwanda discuss how, knowing they had history in their hands, they took special care to make sure they portrayed the history accurately. They moved events around in time when they were central to characters but not the timeline of the event itself. They took an incident that happened to someone else at the hotel and gave it to the main character's wife for dramatic effect. These are the kinds of manipulations one expects in a docudrama. It's a film. It's not the literal truth.

But to take an important historical figure, and insinuate they did something really awful when no such event transpired, is just outrageous.

It's not to late to protest this misrepresentation of history. Here's a way to help, from ThinkProgress:

Over 50,000 ThinkProgress readers have written ABC in the last 48 hours about “The Path to 9/11.” We’re going to keep the pressure on ABC, but we’re also broadening our focus today to the Walt Disney Company, which owns ABC.

Disney’s Chairman of the Board is former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-ME). Senator Mitchell has a long and distinguished career both inside and outside government and he knows how important it is to accurately represent historical events.

We need to remind him that 9/11 was a national tragedy, and that politicizing and flagrantly misrepresenting the facts about 9/11 is wrong.

Senator George J. Mitchell
T: (212) 335-4600
T: (212) 335-4500
F: (212) 335-4605

(Remember to be polite, and please copy us at so we can keep track your comments.)

ABC is feeling the pressure. Let’s keep it up.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

A Brief History of Labor

It’s Labor Day. But how much do we really know about the history of labor in this country? I decided to give myself a crash course. I could study this topic for years, it is so inspiring.

It’s not surprising to me that the birthplace of our nation and the birthplace of unions in America were the same place: Philadelphia.

In 1724, carpenters in Philadelphia joined together to form the Carpenters Company, a loose union designed to educate its members in architectural sciences and to support those who fell upon unfortunate circumstances, becoming the first guild in America.

In 1768, the lot was purchased upon which Carpenters Hall would soon be built. Designed by a company member in 1770, Carpenters Hall was to take on extraordinary significance for our country. The first Continental Congress met there. The Declaration of Independence was signed there. Ben Franklin set up what functioned as the first Library of Congress on the 2nd floor of the Hall.

While the Carpenters Company was the first guild, the first union to collect dues and meet regularly was also formed in Philadelphia, by shoemakers.

Workers soon organized in Boston, and New York. According to this page:
In "pursuit of happiness" through shorter hours and higher pay, printers were the first to go on strike, in New York in 1794; cabinet makers struck in 1796; carpenters in Philadelphia in 1797; cordwainers in 1799.
The eighteen-hundreds ushered in the age of factories. And with factories, the link between employer and employee was effectively severed. Whereas before, employers and workers labored together in small spaces, talking to each other, learning about each others lives, becoming friends and sharing political views, factories allowed the employer to hire hundreds and in some cases thousands or workers. With distance came disregard. The workers were upset because where they had once handcrafted items, now they were reduced to cogs in a machine, cranking out carbon copies of items. It was dehumanizing. It was only natural that this led people to bond more closely to their co-workers, and to organize together to fight their working conditions.

Early unions were considered dangerous conspiracies by employers and by the courts:
Employers found the courts to be an effective weapon to protect their interests. In 1806, eight Philadelphia shoemakers were brought to trial after leading an unsuccessful strike. The court ruled that any organizing of workers to raise wages was an illegal act. Unions were "conspiracies" against employers and the community. In later cases, courts ruled that almost any action taken by unions to increase wages might be criminal. These decisions destroyed the effectiveness of the nation's early labor unions. Not until 1842 was the way opened again for workers to organize. That year several union shoemakers in Boston were brought to trial. They were charged with refusing to work with non-union shoemakers. A municipal court judge found the men guilty of conspiracy. But an appeal to a higher court resulted in a victory for labor unions generally. Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw ruled that it was not unlawful for workers to engage peacefully in union activity. It was their right to organize, he said. Shaw's decision was widely accepted. For many years following this decision, unions did not have to fear conspiracy charges.

In the early days of our country, it was common for people to work 12-13 hours a day, to work six days a week, and for children to work as well as adults. Many of them lived in company housing facilities, and were paid with company script, redeemable only at company shops for overpriced goods.

In 1825, carpenters in Boston struck for a 10-hour workday, a relief from the longer hours they were expected to work.

Concurrent with the Civil War came the cry from workers for an eight-hour day. In Chicago, these cries became particularly effective, for a time:
When the Chicago labor movement emerged in 1864, the eight-hour day quickly became its central demand. Exhausted by 12 to 14 hours a day of work, six days a week, workers throughout the city and state organized to secure a law limiting the workday to eight hours. In 1867, the Illinois legislature passed such a law but allowed a huge loophole that permitted employers to contract with their employees for longer hours. Trying to eliminate that option, Chicago labor called for a citywide strike that began on May 1, 1867, and practically shut down the city's economy for a week. When the strike collapsed, the law collapsed with it and workers were left unprotected.
The first major nationwide strike was The Great Railroad Strike of 1877. Before the “Great Depression” of the 1920s, there were a series of smaller periods of depression.

A bank panic in September of 1873 triggered a depression across America. Layoffs, wage cuts, breadlines and other misery forced the desperate workers to take collective action. But the trigger point came in 1877, when many Americans felt that the Republican candidate, Rutherford Hayes, won the presidency through fraud! Does this sound familiar?
Rutherford B. Hayes, a Republican, was not the man for whom a majority of voters had cast their ballots the previous year. Democrat Samuel Tilden overcame the Ohio governor in the popular vote but 20 disputed electoral votes from Florida and other states threw the election into House of Representatives.

Thomas Scott of the Pennsylvania Railroad reached a deal with Hayes: in exchange for a federal bailout of his troubled investment in the Texas and Pacific Railroad, the millionaire industrialist would deliver Congressional votes to Hayes. As a further inducement, the Republicans promised to end Reconstruction, a blatant betrayal of African Americans. Southern Congressmen deserted Tilden, handing the election to Hayes.

President Hayes withdrew federal troops from the South, ending Reconstruction and its promise of political equality for former slaves.
The final straw came when the Pennsylvania Railroad cut wages by 10% for a second time, in June of 1877, followed by a July announcement that the numbers of trains to be serviced would double, while the workforce would not. Another railroad, the Baltimore & Ohio, cut its already too short workweek from three days to two, further starving the workers. On July 16, firemen and brakemen refused to work, and refused to let replacements be sent in. They managed to halt all railroad traffic at the Camden Junction just outside of Baltimore.

Word of the strike reached workers in Martinsburg, West Virginia, who stopped working on the trains. These protests fanned out like a ripple in water, reaching Chicago and places beyond. With nearly half the train’s in the country halted, President Hayes sent in the National Guard and other federal troops to force the workers back into action. Curiously, the local police and militia sided with the workers. Although the workers were promised an eight hour week and a rise in pay, as soon as the military arrived, all promises went out the window. As one worker put it, “we were shot back to work.” This event solidified both the union movement and the class of business owners who opposed it.

in 1882, a thirty year-old Irish Catholic man named Peter J. McGuire, who already had over ten years experience organizing workers from all over the growing United States, introduced a resolution to the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC)proposing a “festive parade through the streets of the city” of New York, on the first Monday in September. The parade was done to bring attention to the effort towards the eight-hour workday. But the parade was also a shrewd reminder of the power of the people when united. McGuire’s efforts were so successful that other cities followed suit. In 1887, the state of Oregon was the first to declare the first Monday in September a holiday. As celebrations grew, Congress declared the creation of Labor Day, in 1894.

McGuire was equally responsible for the first May Day parade, also intended to show the power of Labor, and to advocate for the eight-hour day. After 80,000 people marched in Chicago, 350,000 workers in other cities made a similar march.

In Chicago, a peaceful meeting at Chicago’s Haymarket Square was broken up by police. But a man named Schnaubelt threw a bomb into the crowd, killing several police officers, and launching what became known as the “Haymarket Riot.” The violence put an end, for a while, to the calls for an eight-hour workday.

In 1893, another depression led to another strike, this time against the Pullman Palace Car Company. Management slashed workers pay but did not cut the pay of management; predictably, the workers rebelled. They were led by Eugene V. Debs, who initially opposed the strike, fearing the mood in the country was not well suited to support their needs at this time. The Pullman railroad cars were created in the city of Pullman, in a near-feudal setting:
Its residents all worked for the Pullman company, their paychecks drawn from Pullman bank, and their rent, set by Pullman, deducted automatically from their weekly paychecks. The town, and the company, operated smoothly and successfully for more than a decade.
When the Pullman company started laying off workers, cutting wages, but not cutting rents, employees, led by the American Railway Union under Eugene Debs, walked out. Railroad workers in other cities started boycotting trains carrying Pullman cars. And the President, Grover Cleveland, stepped in. He claimed the strike interfered with the ability of the federal government to deliver mail, and therefore declared the strike a federal crime. (As a side note, Debs was not a Socialist at the time of his arrest. He became one while jailed, where he started reading Karl Marx.)

Miners were having the least success with their protests. Coal was known as black gold then in the same way oil is called black gold now. Coal powered industry. Without coal, there was no market growth. Federal troops were frequently brought in to break up coal miner strikes.

The first major miners’ strike came in the same state where the most tragic strike would also take place: Colorado.

These events also introduce us to one of the most extraordinary women of the labor movement, one who would not live to see a magazine named after her: Mary Harris Jones, AKA Mother Jones. Born poor in Ireland, she came to America when her father established himself as an American citizen and sent home for his family. She married a union man, who died in a fever epidemic when she was only in her mid thirties. She worked for a time for the very wealthy in Chicago, and was struck by the gap between their outrageous fortune and the extreme poverty of the workers she could see through the window.

Mother Jones became more and more involved in the labor movement, and found herself in demand. Nearly every major movement in the country wanted her. Could she come help them? She traveled far and wide, well into old age, to help the poor workers across America.

In her autobiography, she describes the problem in Colorado at the time of the 1903 strike against the John D. Rockefeller owned Colorado Fuel and Iron Company at Cripple Creek:
The state of Colorado belonged not to a republic but to the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, the Victor -Company and their dependencies. The governor was their agent. The militia under Bell did their bidding. Whenever the masters of the state told the governor to bark, he yelped for them like a mad hound. Whenever they told the military to bite, they bit.

The people of Colorado had voted overwhelmingly for an eight-hour day. The legislature passed an eight hour law but the courts had declared it unconstitutional. Then when the measure was submitted directly to the people, they voted for it with 40,000 votes majority. But the next legislature, which was controlled by the mining interests, failed to pass the bill.

The miners saw that they could not get their demands through peaceful legislation. That they must fight. That they must strike. All the metal miners struck first. The strike extended into New Mexico and Utah. It became an ugly war. The metal miners were anxious to have the coal miners join them in their struggle.
The workers appealed to the United Mine Workers union for help. The executive board of the union sent Mother Jones to look into the matter, and report back. She put on an old calico dress and sunbonnet, and went down to the coal fields of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company.

As a peddler, I went through the various coal camps, eating in the homes of the miners, staying all night with their families. I found the conditions under which they lived deplorable. They were in practical slavery to the company, who owned their houses, owned all the land, so that if a miner did own a house he must vacate whenever it pleased the land owners. They were paid in scrip instead of money so that they could not go away if dissatisfied. They must buy at company stores and at company prices. The coal they mined was weighed by an agent of the company and the miners could not have a check weighman to see that full credit was given them. The schools, the churches, the roads belonged to the Company. I felt, after listening to their stories, after witnessing their long patience that the time was ripe for revolt against such brutal conditions.
Mother Jones reported back to the UMW, and they authorized a strike to press for an eight-hour day, and money rather than company scrip. The strike shut down the state of Colorado, which badly needed the coal in the cruel November temperatures. Under intense pressure, the union caved in, and ordered the workers in the northern part of the state to stop their strike.
The union also asked Mother Jones not to raise a fuss, and to come home, because the union was paying her wages. But this was not any woman! This was Mother Jones:
"Are you through?" said I.

He nodded.

"Then I am going to tell you that if God Almighty wants this strike called off for his benefit and not for the miners, I am going to raise my voice against it. And as to President John paying me, ... he never paid me a penny in his life. It is the hard earned nickels and dimes of the miners that pay me, and it is their interests that I am going to serve."
She went to the convention set up to discuss this issue, and addressed the workers:
"You English speaking miners of the northern fields promised your southern brothers, seventy per cent of whom do not speak English, that you would support them to the end. Now you are asked to betray them, to make a separate settlement. You have a common enemy and it is your duty to fight to a finish. The enemy seeks to conquer by dividing your ranks, by making distinctions between North and South, between American and foreign. You are all miners, fighting a common cause, a common master. The iron heel feels the same to all flesh. Hunger and suffering and the cause of your children bind more closely than a common tongue. I am accused of helping the Western Federation of Miners, as if that were a crime, by one of the National board members. I plead guilty. I know no East or West, North nor South when it comes to my class fighting the battle for justice. If it is my fortune to live to see the industrial chain broken from every workingman's child in America, and if then there is one black child in Africa in bondage, there shall I go."
The delegates gave her a standing ovation. They took a vote. The majority of the membership voted to support their southern brothers, against the union president’s wishes. Sadly, this incident then pitted the union president against Mother Jones. He wanted her out, and asked the Governor to evict her from Colorado.

Penniless, without food or shelter, she waited at the train station for the train to Denver. She asked the conductor to take her to Denver, and he said she would. Honest to the core, Mother Jones showed him the letter from the Governor, saying she wouldn’t want him to lose his job. He said to hell with his job – he would take her there.

When she got to Denver, she wrote the following note:
"Mr. Governor, you notified your dogs of war to put me out of the state. They complied with your instructions. I hold in my hand a letter that was handed to me by one of them, which says 'under no circumstances return to this state.' I wish to notify you, governor, that you don't own the state. When it was admitted to the sisterhood of states, my fathers gave me a share of stock in it; and that is all they gave to you. The civil courts are open. If I break a law of state or nation it is the duty of the civil courts to deal with me. That is why my fore-fathers established those courts to keep dictators and tyrants such as you from interfering with civilians. I am right here in the capital, after being out nine or ten hours, four or five blocks from your office. I want to ask you, governor, what in Hell are you going to do about it?"
She called a messenger and asked him to deliver it. When the Governor heard it, his face grew red. He asked a reporter who had just heard the note read, “what shall I do?” “Leave her alone,” the reporter answered. “There is no more patriotic citizen in America."

The northern workers were eventually pressured into resuming work, which brought the strike to an end. Tired, hungry, and without support, the southern workers returned to the mines.

Ten years later, the festering wounds from Cripple Creek erupted anew. Company men wielding guns were routinely breaking streaks, killing indiscriminately, and torturing the workers and their families in horrific ways. Try as she might, Mother Jones and other union workers could not bring attention to their cause.

Until Ludlow happened. As Mother Jones wrote:
Little children roasted alive make a front page story. Dying by inches of starvation and exposure does not.
John D. Rockefeller hired essentially a private army to put down the strikers who threatened his interests at Ludlow. Mother Jones described the horrific scene:

On the 19th of April, 1914, machine guns, used on the strikers in the Paint Creek strike, were placed in position above the tent colony of Ludlow. Major Pat Hamrock and Lieutenant K. E. Linderfelt were in charge of the militia, the majority of whom were, company gun-men sworn in as soldiers.

Early in the morning soldiers approached the colony with a demand from headquarters that Louis Tikas, leader of the Greeks, surrender two Italians. Tikas demanded a warrant for their arrest. They had none. Tikas refused to surrender them. The soldiers returned to quarters. A signal bomb was fired. Then another.
Immediately the machine guns began spraying the flimsy tent colony, the only home the wretched families of the miners had, riddling it with bullets. Like iron rain, bullets' upon men, women and children.

The women and children fled to the hills. Others tarried. The men defended their home with their guns. All day long the firing continued. Men fell dead, their faces to the ground. Women dropped. The little Snyder boy was shot through the head, trying to save his kitten. A child carrying water to his dying mother was killed.

By five o'clock in the afternoon, the miners had no more food, nor water, nor ammunition. They had to retreat with their wives and little ones into the hills. Louis Tikas was riddled with shots while he tried to lead women and children to safety. They perished with him.

Night came. A raw wind blew down the canyons where men, women and children shivered and wept. Then a blaze lighted the sky. The soldiers, drunk with blood and with the liquor they had looted from the saloon, set fire to the tents of Ludlow with oil-soaked torches. The tents, all the poor furnishings, the clothes and bedding of the
miners' families burned. Coils of barbed wire were stuffed into the well, the miners' only water supply.

After it was over, the wretched people crept back to bury their dead. In a dugout under a burned tent, the charred bodies of eleven little children and two women were found-unrecognizable. Everything lay in ruins. The wires of bed springs writhed on the ground as if they, too, had tried to flee the horror.

By the end of the day, at least 24 miners, and 11 children had been murdered.
Oil and fire and guns had robbed men and women and children of their homes and slaughtered tiny babies and defenseless women. Done by order of Lieutenant Linderfelt, a savage, brutal executor of the will of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. The strikers issued a general call to arms: Every able bodied man must shoulder a gun to protect himself and his family from assassins, from arson and plunder. From jungle days to our own so-named civilization, this is a man's inherent right. To a man they armed, through-out the whole strike district. Ludlow went on burning in their hearts.
As both sides armed for a full-out war, a delegation went from Ludlow to talk to President Wilson. Wilson ordered a three-year truce, which the mine operators refused. John D. Rockfeller denied any responsibility for the massacre at Ludlow. Wilson sent out the United States cavalry to stop the gunmen on both sides. And writer Upton Sinclair staged anti-Rockefeller demonstrations.

After the massacre, the United Mine Workers called off the strike. The union had lost, but this time, so had the establishment. Rockefeller’s image was forever tarnished, and no amount of philanthropy was ever going to wash that blood away. And the union movement was now a lit fire, poised to sweep across the nation. Out of the embers of Ludlow came the recognition that collective action is the only way to protect the rights of the individual, because no individual is powerful enough to fight on his own.

Mother Jones is hardly remembered today. And that’s a tragedy, since her voice showed us that passion begets action, and that we have to be willing to stand up and make a difference. The chapter in her autobiography devoted to the Ludlow incident is titled, “You don’t need a vote to raise hell.”

As for the eight-hour workday, it would take 74 years from the 1864 demand before workers would have a reasonable work day. It took the passage of President Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation in 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act, before eight hours became the legal workday in America.

The battle of labor has been a long and arduous uphill battle, and one that has claimed as many lives as some of our military engagements. Just as we honor soldiers who give their lives for us, we must also honor those who put their lives on the line to strike for better wages, better living conditions, more equality. Union wages made possible the middle class in America. And as unions have become weaker, we’ve seen the middle class shrink.

On this Labor Day, I hope you’ll join me in a moment of deep gratitude to all those with the courage to stand up and fight for what they deserve. And after Labor Day, think about how all these events happened not from electing the right people, but telling the elected officials what to do, by making their choice inevitable. That's what we need to do. We keep trying to elect leaders. But we need to BE the leaders.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Is the Mexican Election all about oil?

As the President stepped up to the podium, members of Congress marched on the podium chanting "ballot by ballot", and calling the President a "traitor to democracy."

Yes, this really happened. No, it didn't happen in the United States, although it should have. This, my friends, is how Democracy looks in Mexico.

Mexican President Vicente Fox was unable to give his State of the Union address today, the first time in 180 years that the annual speech was not delivered.

Two months after the Mexican election of July 2, we still don't know for sure whom the Mexicans elected. After the initial count of the votes, the conservative candidate, Felipe Calderon, of the National Action Party (PAN), was ahead by a margin of less than 1% of the votes of his closest rival, Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Obrador, 52, was the popular mayor of Mexico City from 2000 to 2005. According to this Washington Post piece, he left office with an unheard of 80% approval rating. As the WP's Heather Murphy wrote,
Obrador has defined himself as an antidote to the corrupt, wealthy leaders of the past, a crusader poised to "make history" for the benefit of the underdogs. He has vowed to, for example, to force Mexican monopolies to hire on the basis of merit rather than connections. His campaign slogan, "For the Good of Everyone, the Poor First," is supported in his policy proposals; he is the favorite of Mexico's vast underclass.
I talked to some Mexican Americans recently, and they compared Obrador to President Kennedy in terms of his popularity there. He stood up for the underdog. He got things done. Calderon got things done too, but for a different, richer, and smaller segment of society.

Greg Palast sounded the alarm early in this case:
The precinct-by-precinct returns were quite otherworldly. I used to teach statistics and what I saw in Mexico would have stumped my brightest students.

Here’s the conundrum: The nation’s tens of thousands of polling stations report to the capital in random order after the polls close. Therefore, statistically, you’d expect the results to remain roughly unchanged as vote totals come in. As expected, AMLO [Obrador] was ahead of the right-wing candidate Calderon all night by an unchanging margin — until after midnight. Suddenly, precincts began reporting wins for Calderon of five to one, the ten to one, then as polling nearly ended, of one-hundred to one.
So it is not surprising that hundreds of thousands of Mexicans took to the streets of Mexico City, literally shutting the city down, to protest what they feel was a stolen election. Shades of 2000, and 2004, in the U.S.

I haven't been following this story too closely. I'm sort of on tragedy overload right now and trying to stay focused where I feel I can do the most good. (I'm very active with electronic voting issues in Los Angeles.) But it outrages me when people steal. And when rich people steal from the poor, that outrageous me perhaps the most. And that's exactly what happens when rich people steal the vote from the poor. They gobble up the goods of society for themselves, leaving those most in need to become even more miserable.

I knew that a federal court in Mexico denied Obrador's claims of fraud and said the count remains unchanged, and Calderon is the winner. I knew that the mainstream media around the world had pretty much declared Calderon the winner and told Obrador to go home.

But when I read today that Calderon was the former energy secretary under the current President, Vincente Fox, I had a horrible, and horribly familiar, feeling.

Is this all about oil? This little piece of info in a Bloomberg report makes me think so:
On Aug. 28, a federal electoral court rejected Lopez Obrador's claims of irregularities in the elections, putting Calderon a step closer to taking office. Calderon, former energy minister under Fox, vowed to allow private investment in the energy industry and continue promoting free-trade policies.

Mexico's oil is controlled by a state-owned monopoly. So it makes sense that the candidate who vowed to open up oil markets to private profiteering would get support from all kinds of covert operators, who know where there bread is buttered. It would explain a scene like this, reported at NarcoNews:

  • In 3,074 precincts (29 percent of those recounted), 45,890 illegal votes, above the number of voters who cast ballots in each polling place, were found stuffed inside the ballot boxes (an average of 15 for each of these precincts, primarily in strongholds of the National Action Party, known as the PAN, of President Vicente Fox and his candidate, Felipe Calderón).
  • In 4,368 precincts (41 percent of those recounted), 80,392 ballots of citizens who did vote are missing (an average of 18 votes in each of these precincts).
  • Together, these 7,442 precincts contain about 70 percent of the ballots recounted. The total amount of ballots either stolen or forged adds up to 126,282 votes altered.
  • If the recount results of these 10,679 precincts (8.2 percent of the nation’s 130,000 polling places) are projected nationwide, it would mean that more than 1.5 million votes were either stolen or stuffed in an election that the first official count claimed was won by Calderon by only 243,000 votes

But Mexico doesn't have enough oil to steal, does it? Maybe. Maybe not. According to this Washington Post article today,

Officials at Mexico's state-owned oil monopoly said Monday that the company has detected massive new oil deposits in the Gulf of Mexico that could potentially double the country's reserves, but industry analysts cautioned that the company's findings are still unproven.

Officials at Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, said that a three-year, deep-water exploration project found areas that could boost the country's total reserves to 102 billion barrels. Luis Ramirez, the company's head of exploration and production, told El Universal newspaper the find could "put us on a par with reserves levels of the big players like Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait or Iran."

Industry analysts cautioned that the figures were based on scientific estimates, not actual drilling. They said the findings, if proven, would be encouraging news in a country that produces about 3.3 million barrels of oil per day and is among the top three suppliers to the United States.

Now, by the time stories of a massive new oil find hits the papers, that knowledge was already known in certain circles much, much earlier. So it makes sense that those with secret knowledge of this windfall would work really hard to ensure the man who promised to open oil fields to privatization was elected president. It makes sense that the boxes would be stuffed to ensure the desired outcome. And most of all, it makes PERFECT sense that the media, which serves at the pleasure of the oil-based establishment, would report the story the oil barons want the world to see.

What doesn't make sense is how little people in the US care about what's happening south of our borders. What happens to one of us on this little spinning ball in space happens to all of us. Stolen elections should not be ignored, washed away, overlooked, no matter where they happen, and no matter who does the stealing. This is a tragedy, and I, for one, stand with those who cry for a genuine audit of the vote.

Ballot by ballot.