Thursday, August 31, 2006

Kennedy assassination in the news

Lately - it seems everywhere I turn, there's some story related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Here are some snippets of note:

At Lawrence Livermore Labs in Berkeley, California, Metallurgist Erik Randich and forensic scientist Pat Grant have studied the infamous "neutron activiation analysis" used by the FBI in 1964 (and for many years before and since) and concluded that the test cannot be used to prove, as had been thought, whether bullet fragments could be matched to a particular bullet based on their chemical composition. They determined that 1) not enough lead was missing from the only recovered bullet to account for all the fragments and 2) there could have been one to five bullets used, based on the composition of the fragments. Because the shooter would not have had time, given the clock set by the Zapruder film, to fire four shots in the time allotted, if the magic bullet didn't give off all the fragments, then there were at least two shooters. Case wide open.

Vaughn Ververs at CBS News, which has a well-documented aversion to the truth in the case of the Kennedy assassination, predictably had this to say:
Conspiracy theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination are largely rooted in the breakdown of trust Americans had in their government through World War II and the 1950s and they were fueled by the tumultuous years that followed.
Uh, wrong, Vaughn. See the above. See the over 40 years worth of accumulated evidence that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was, in fact, a conspiracy that killed Kennedy. We can argue forever over who exactly was involved, but we cannot pretend Oswald killed Kennedy. The facts of the case preclude that. Randich and Grant are just adding another, albeit important, nail in the coffin of the always preposterous single bullet theory.

The Kennedy assassination is also being invoked in this AP story on the "War on Terror":

Fear of another terrorist attack remains real for many Americans. For people who lived in the two cities struck by the terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001 - New York and Washington - the fears are intensely personal and vivid.

...Much like the bombing of Pearl Harbor during World War II and President Kennedy's assassination in 1963, Sept. 11 has become one of the nation's defining days.
In another story, Katrina is being put into this same bucket as a traumatic national event:
A year ago I was sitting in my parents living room, my father and I transfixed on the Weather Channel. We were watching a gigantic cyclonic blob slowly creep directly toward New Orleans. I was working on my column at the time, whatever it was I had been working on I erased and began to write about this storm crawling through the Gulf of Mexico knocking on the Coast's back door. We all knew it would be bad, but I don't think anyone dreamed just how bad it would be.

The worst natural disaster in America's history would be Katrina. Hundreds dead, thousands displaced, and billions of dollars worth of damage. We would be fed pictures and hear stories of people taking refuge on rooftops and living on interstates, the nation standing back aghast. The public consciousness would not remember Katrina as a storm, but as something else entirely. For the rest of our lives we will talk about her the way we talk about the World Trade Center or the Kennedy assassination. Where were you when Katrina hit? Where were you when New Orleans almost drowned?
I have argued for years that by not demanding the truth about the past, we're giving people permission to lie to us about the present, and the future. The comparision is apt. By not demanding accountability from the government for the failure of government at every level to protect the citizens hit by Katrina, we're essentially giving the government a blank check to fail us again.

Lastly, before I leave this topic, if a KGB officer sends you an email offering documents on the Kennedy assassination, it's a scam. Spend your money instead on real information in my new Real History Store (note the permanent link on the right). Enjoy.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

No, Mr. Bush. America is NOT more safe now.

I was astonished to hear in the President's address this morning his claim that America is safer now than before 9/11. As the Associated Press reported,

"This country is safer than it was prior to 9-11," Bush said this morning from the airport tarmac in Green Bay, Wisc., where he was appearing at events focused on the economy. "We've taken a lot of measures to protect the American people but obviously we're not completely safe ... It is a mistake to believe there is no threat to the United States of America."

I beg to differ. Strongly. I would argue the opposite: that we have never been so ill-protected. Here are my reasons:

The Iraq war incites hatred of the US

We're breeding terrorists through our immoral war in Iraq. Our actions, killing people who had nothing to do with 9/11, who were not making weapons of mass destruction, but who, with OPEC, control the supply, and therefore the price volatility, of oil markets, not to mention the oil itself. We're proving ourselves to be the "Great Satan" after all.

Today, we saw a real or fake terror attempt thwarted in the UK. It doesn't matter if it was sponsored by foreign terrorists or if it was a false flag intelligence operation caught in advance. In either case, it shows that there are people who are going to great lengths to prepare elaborate assaults against America. How does the threat of such calculation make us "more safe"?

9/11 - What Could Have Been Prevented.

For the sake of argument, let's just say, for a moment, that the government's version of 9/11 is correct, that it couldn't be prevented. But there was another attack related to 9/11 that COULD have been prevented - the attack on the health of the rescue workers in the aftermath of the attacks.

After the World Trade Center was pulverized, the EPA wanted to issue an albeit mild-warning about the air quality in the city. But any warning could have sent Wall Street stocks plummeting even further. So the White House Council on Environmental Quality overruled the warning the EPA wanted to give, forcing the EPA instead to tell NYC workers that "the air was safe to breathe."

Years later, we're now seeing the horrific aftereffects of that attack on the rescue workers:

There is more evidence that the number of people sick with 9/11 related illnesses is growing dramatically.

So much so - there's a name for it -- "the World Trade Center cough". And there is a waiting list for victims seeking medical help.

It's similar to what may have killed NYPD Officer James Zadroga who spent hundreds of hours at ground zero.

...It is a warning sign of what's to come: more and more people seeking help for deteriorating lung problems and chronic coughs linked to their work at ground zero.

The NYPD said goodbye to one of its detectives yesterday. His friends and family believe "the World Trade Center cough" killed him at age 34.

And last summer, an Eyewitness News investigation broke the story on the death of a 41-year-old FDNY medic from the killer cough.

Mt. Sinai is currently treating 1,600 people with similar symptoms, and hundreds more are on a awaiting list. With that list growing, the government has yet to spend a dime on medical treatment.

Dr. Herbert: "To date at this point there's been no public funding available to provide treatment for WTC responders with illness and it's really a sad and terrible situation."

There is some hope that Congress will set aside some funds for the treatment of those with World Trade Center illness, but more than four years after 9/11, they're still trying to work it out.

The rescue workers of New York City are still under attack. And the government has not listed a financial finger to help. They are far less safe now than ever before.

Katrina Victims

As clammyc just noted on the Booman Tribune front page today, a year after Katrina, many victims of the tragic hurricane are still without homes, without jobs, without hope.

Until recently, it was even worse. As FAIR noted, based on the reporting of the Baton Rouge paper Advocate,

The Federal Emergency Management Agency prohibits journalists from having unsupervised interviews with Hurricane Katrina victims who have been relocated to FEMA trailer parks, according to a report in the Baton Rouge Advocate (7/15/06).

"If a resident invites the media to the trailer, they have to be escorted by a FEMA representative who sits in on the interview," FEMA spokesperson Rachel Rodi is quoted in the article. "That's just a policy."

Due to the exposure of FEMA's policy, FEMA did backtrack and allow victims to talk to the press. But if the Advocate had not exposed that, some Katrina victims would still be living not only in tragedy, but under a muzzle as well.

But having the freedom to talk to the press does not provide blankets, housing, or badly needed jobs. The most basic need - a place of their own in which to sleep, has not been filled:

Eleven months after Hurricane Katrina washed away her home, Janice Tambrella doesn't have a place to live. She doesn't even have a trailer of her own.

Tambrella's currently jammed with ten other family members into a single trailer delivered to a luckier relative.

Nearly 2,100 Saint Bernard Parish families are still waiting to get into trailers that have been delivered to their home sites but still need utilities or other services. FEMA also says 400 families are waiting to simply get a trailer delivered.

Americans are not being paid fair wages

Economic health makes a person safe. Debt makes a person much less safe. And for the first time in our country, Americans now owe more than they make:

A new study by the Center for American Progress shows that our average household debt is now 8 percent more than our household income. Total consumer debt now totals a record $2 trillion.

But that's not the government's problem, right? If people are just living beyond their means, that's their fault, right?

Not exactly:

"People are right to feel squeezed," said Chris Farrell, a personal finance expert on Minnesota Public Radio.

But it's not fancy televisions and luxury cars that are the problem.

"People love to say, 'Americans they just borrow, they borrow, they borrow and shop till they drop' but that's not what's going on," said Farrell. "What's been happening since 2000 is that wages are stagnant and if you adjust for inflation they're down."

And our debt is up mostly because houses, education, healthcare and gas cost more.

"And the disappointment is not that we've taken on too much debt, it's that we're not getting paid what we're worth," said Farrell. "Salaries are not keeping up."

The average U.S. worker will get a 3.7 percent raise this year, but inflation is on pace to increase 4.7 percent. Wages are stagnant but many corporations are making large profits.

"They are doing extremely well," said Farrell. "The rich are getting richer. No question. It's the middle class that is getting squeezed."

And it's not just the middle class getting squeezed. Consider how much inflation has affected prices over the last ten years, while the minimum wage has been frozen in place.

Because the Bush Administration has failed us so miserably in this particular regard, some states and even cities are taking matters into their own hands.

After weeks of harried lobbying, grassroots protests and dueling full-page newspaper ads, the Chicago City Council, by a vote of 35 to 14, passed a controversial ordinance requiring "Big Box" retailers (defined as stores that occupy more than 90,000 square feet, whose parent companies gross over $1 billion dollars annually) to pay employees a minimum or "living" wage of $10 per hour by the year 2010. The Big Box ordinance, the first such law in the United States to set apart large retailers for wage rules, also requires large retailers in the City of Chicago to pay an additional $3 an hour worth of benefits.

...Living wage ordinances have been enacted in more than 70 localities(both state and municipalities) across the nation. A "living wage" is defined by its proponents as the wage a full-time worker would need to earn to support a family of three to four people above the federal poverty line. In most instances, a living wage ordnance requires employers to pay wages that substantially exceed federal or state minimum wage levels.

So no, Mr. Bush. America is not more safe. Any gains being made are being made in spite of the Federal government, not because of it. In fact, America has never been so unsafe in my lifetime.

I can only hope that 2008 will mark a sea change for this country, one that will put us on a path that will lead to more economic and physical safety for the citizens of our country.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Living in a Dali painting

I see America melting like a clock in a Dali painting.

She slumps from justice to injustice, from a noble beginning to a wicked ending, slithering over naked bodies of formerly hooded and wired human beings, tortured just for the sake of torture, no intelligence gained.

What used to be a thriving middle class is morphing slowly but inexorably into a third world economy, where the rich and upper middle class get richer while the lower middle and poorer classes fall not just below the poverty line, but out of sight.

The noble lady lifting her torch in the harbor of New York is ignored. Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, your tempest-tost, she cries. But America says instead, work for pennies but don't ask for any social services or we'll deport you. But before you leave, please, pick some more lettuce for my dinner table.

The news, which used to hold up a mirror to the world and shine the reflection back to us so we could view what we did at a distance is now shattered, refracting back distorted realities, allowing people to see only fragments, the whole forever obscured.

Abroad, America stalks ungainly across foreign sands, searching not only for oil, but for hegemony, and homogeneity, yielding to the obscene temptation of power.

Images of our lifestyle, of excess consumption, soulless sex, and our disconnectedness from the planet emanate from airwaves, telephone lines, and satellite signals across barren lands, where such excesses are not only immoral, they are as unwanted as they are impossible.

Science, religion, and philosophy paint us the same picture: everything is connected. Science calls it "entanglement" or "nonlocality." Einstein described it as "spooky action at a distance." There's a strange phenomena whereby two particles with no physical connection at a great distance from each other behave as if they are in instantaneous communication. Science can't explain it, it can only note it. When one particle is affected, another is inexplicably and instantly affected. So it must be with our actions, human against human. How can we not be killing ourselves when we embrace the visage of war?

Can we transcend our history? Can we set a new path in motion, towards greater cooperation, diversity, one that allows the right of self-determination to other nations? Can we stop America from melting? Or are we like Dali's Geopoliticus child watching the birth of the new man as he claws his way, bloody, from America's womb, tearing at the planet, crushing Europe, causing not wonder, but disgust, from observers?

Maybe America cannot be saved by Americans. Maybe it will take the child of a foreign land to see us for what we are, a powerful, if selfish, monster among starving people, ripping our way beyond the recognized boundaries of our nation, exercising irrighteous dominion over the planet. Maybe the children of foreign lands will remind us who we were, and could be again.

And maybe Dali was wrong about the persistence of memory. Memory need not melt away. If we protect it, and honor it, the memory of the America that never was, and yet must be, can persist, solid and sure, like the lady in the harbor, who tirelessly lifts her lamp beside the golden shore, showing us the way home.