Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My RFK assassination articles back online in full

Because of the recent BBC Newsnight segment featuring Shane O'Sullivan's allegations that George Joannides, David Morales, and Gordon Campbell, three CIA agents, were at the Ambassador Hotel the night Bobby Kennedy was killed, and the barrage of disinformation certain to be unleashed in the next couple of years as we approach the 40th anniversary (2008) of the Robert Kennedy assassination, I wanted to republish my full RFK articles online.

In 1998, after several years of research, I wrote and published a large two-part article on the key facts and allegations surrounding the assassination of Robert Kennedy in Probe Magazine. For a few years, the full versions were available online. When they were published in the book The Assassinations: Probe Magazine on JFK, MLK, RFK, and Malcolm X (Feral House, 2003), I truncated the online versions in the hope that people would buy the book. Many did. Thanks!

There is a great amount, sadly, of bad, inaccurate, misleading, and incomplete data on the Web regarding just about any subject, but especially where alleged CIA operations are involved. Bear in mind that if the CIA was behind the assassination, they would make certain they had mouthpieces all over the blogosphere and the Web decrying any who would suggest a conspiracy. Trust no one. Read as much as you can and make up your own mind.

I firmly believe that the RFK assassination is the most transparent of all the assassinations of the sixties. The police records on the case were extensive, with a great deal of detailed information captured in over 20 reels of microfilm at the California State Archives. If people are serious about the case, you have to go to the primary sources, read the original witness reports, listen to the untranscribed tapes. Find out what was deliberately suppressed. And we will never know how much more information about this case lurks (or used to lurk) in the files of the CIA because no government body has ever pushed for them to be made public.

Since the initial writing of these articles, I have collected dramatic new evidence I have yet to publish. Some of it is really damning. But it will take me a while to compile it all into a digestible tract. So meanwhile, I have reposted my original articles as they appeared in Probe Magazine back in 1998 on my Web site, the Real History Archives. If you want the updated versions of these articles, which include information on another key suspect in the case, not mentioned in these two pieces, you'll have to get the book.

As I wrote in Part I:
There is no quick way to tell the incredible story of this case. It defies abbreviated summation. Those who wish to learn the truth must first find within themselves the requisite patience and interest necessary to discover it.

Are you up to the task?

Can you handle the truth?

If so, Happy Holidays. This is my gift to you.

Part 1: Sirhan and the RFK Assassination: The Grand Illusion

Part 2: Sirhan and the RFK Assassination: Rubik's Cube

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Now you see it, now you don't - the EU report on the Mexican Election

[Update: Because context is everything, I suggest people read Jeff Morley's piece posted at the National Security Archives re the CIA's close relationship with past governments of Mexico, begging the question of the present relationship. Given the CIA's support of the upper classes and disdain for the peasants, its a safe bet the CIA favored Calderon over Obrador in the last Mexican election.]

I had to check the times and dates. Rarely do you see a story change that quickly, and in the same source.

Check out this report from the People's Daily in China from 11/25/06:
The European Union (EU) on Friday recommended Mexico to hold a second round of presidential elections to solve the conflict generated by Mexico's July 2 presidential race.

Jose Ignacio Salafranca, a deputy from the EU observer team to Mexico, made the suggestion in his team's report on the July election.

He said a second round race would broaden the advantage enjoyed by the winning candidate and thus give him greater backing.
But then check out this report, also from the People's Daily, as of 11/26/06:
The observers from the European Union (EU) submitted their report to Mexican officials on Saturday, saying Mexico's July 2 presidential elections were transparent, lawful and legitimate. Jose Ignacio Salafranca, head of the EU observers' mission, said there were irregularities but the vote results were valid.

"These elections were free, authentic and the results represent the legitimate will of the Mexican people," Salafranca said in a statement distributed by Mexico's Attorney General's Office.

"The elections complies with respect for the law, transparency and the principles of the rule of law," he said.
Whaat? There's a big difference in calling for a second election and saying the first one was fair and legal.

Is the problem with the reporting, did Salafranca change his mind, or did he say both - that the elections looked legit but to solve the perception issue they should vote again?

If anyone knows where the EU's report can be found, I'd love to see it.

I think Obrador won, based on the early evidence, and based on the money traders betting on his success. As Jim Lampley said of the American election of 2004:
At 5:00 p.m. Eastern time on Election Day, I checked the sportsbook odds in Las Vegas and via the offshore bookmakers to see the odds as of that moment on the Presidential election. John Kerry was a two-to-one favorite. You can look it up.

People who have lived in the sports world as I have, bettors in particular, have a feel for what I am about to say about this: these people are extremely scientific in their assessments. These people understand which information to trust and which indicators to consult in determining where to place a dividing line to influence bets, and they are not in the business of being completely wrong. Oddsmakers consulted exit polling and knew what it meant and acknowledged in their oddsmaking at that moment that John Kerry was winning the election.
The odds were favoring Obrador as well, at the start of the Mexican election this year:
As Sunday's election approaches, the price of Mexican bonds has been going down because of fears that López Obrador will win the race and then mismanage the national economy. And the traders on a Web site that sells futures contracts about election outcomes are bullish about a victory for the populist former Mexico City mayor.

Bond traders are worried that López Obrador, who has promised massive infrastructure projects that rely heavily on government financing, has focused too much on spending and not enough on attracting investment, said Salvador Moreno, chief economist for ING Group's Mexico division. Prices of Mexican bonds have slipped about 13 percent since March, he said.

"We think López Obrador is going to win, and he's been talking about all these big projects, and that we don't like," Moreno said."
If we really want to solve the problem at the border - how do you think our money would be better spent? Building a wall, or helping pay for a new election, conducted on machines that give paper records, and paying for an audit afterwards? Don't you think if the Mexicans had someone truly concerned with providing jobs and a higher quality of life for all, including the poor, that they would have no reason to come to America? I sure do.

When, on when can the people of the world get the representation they choose, rather than the one thrust on them in the guise of free and fair elections?

There's provocative evidence that a major attempt was made to steal the election (again) here in America in our midterm elections. But since the Democrats won, it seems unlikely that real scrutiny will occur. But there's no way the Democrats will be as popular in two years as they were this year, short of some bold legislation with a populist bent. Instead, the 4% swing observed (4% went to Republicans that should have gone to Democrats according to this study) might be enough to swing the election in 2008.

We need, Mexico needs, every election on this planet needs a way for a rigorous, substantial audit of a voter verified paper record to ensure the accuracy of our elections. We should not stop pressing for reform until this key goal is met. We need both a vertical audit and a horizontal audit - a sample of every voting district/township/precinct needs to be made, but we also need to do an apples-to-apples audit (a vertical audit) to pinpoint problems with the electronic voting count. Only an audit of 100% of the votes has a 100% chance of catching error or fraud if it occurred. But the certainty will be limited to the precincts audited ,hence the need for the separate audit.

Several individuals and groups are proposing various audit standards. I hope people will ask in their own counties how their votes are audited, and if the answer is, "they aren't," that people band together and demand a change.

Nothing is more important than our vote. No cause, no war, no terrorist attack, NOTHING. If we give up our vote, we cease to be America. I can't think of anything worse than that. And if we tolerate stolen elections in Mexico, we're culpable in the subversion of their democracy as well.

I hope the people of Mexico continue to fight for Obrador, to force the issue, to demand an accurate count. I hope they get it. I hope we get one in the races still undecided here. And I especially hope we get one in 2008.

It took six years to get the machines in place. It may take us six years to make them work properly, and we only have two left. I hope people can find a way to talk about this, write about this, learn about this, and lead on this issue. It will take so many of us to do this right.

This isn't someone else's problem, and no leaders are coming. It's up to us, individually, to find ways to lead on this issue.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What I'm Grateful For

I want to take a moment to be grateful. I have a lot to be grateful for these days.

First and foremost, I'm so grateful that there are liberal activists in the world who fight every day, often at great sacrifice, not for private wealth, not for personal health, not for public recognition. So many sacrificed their own happiness, risked their reputations, and in many case, risked their lives to give us the quality of life we take for granted today.

I started my day reading a wonderful article about "the most effective activist Angelenos never heard of," about Willis Edwards, who, among billions of other acts, was the one who got President Clinton to acknowledge Rosa Parks in the State of the Union address. You'd think that would have been a no-brainer, but Edwards had to strategize like crazy to make this happen:

Willis Edwards had always dreamed that civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks would one day be honored in a State of the Union address. So, L.A. activist legend Edwards did what he usually does when he has a dream. He negotiated. “I had this idea if Mrs. Parks was in [then-President] Clinton’s speech, that moment would take away all the negativity of the impeachment,” the 60-year-old civil rights leader remembers. “So, on the day of the [1999] State of the Union, we brought Mrs. Parks to D.C. And then I went through a firestorm of negotiations.”

Looking back, the concept was so perfect, it’s hard to imagine that the Clintons didn’t think of it themselves. But, according to Edwards, it almost didn’t happen. “I got ‘maybe’ and ‘maybe not.’ You have to be invited. So, I called up the speaker’s office [Dennis Hastert, R-Il.] and said, ‘Could you give Mrs. Parks three tickets in your box?’ That’s the speaker of the House and he’s a Republican, right? Then I went back to the Clinton people and said, ‘The speaker says we can have tickets in his box.’"

Within an hour, Edwards, who sits on the National Board of Directors for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), got a call back from the Clinton camp. “The first lady would like Mrs. Parks to sit in her box,” the caller said.

Edwards laughs, remembering how Parks got a seven-minute standing ovation from Congress that night. “Then it became, ‘Oh my God, this was such a great idea.’”

“So after all that negotiation we can look back and say it finally happened. You have to be persistent about what you want.”

God bless Willis Edwards and Rosa Parks.

I'm grateful that we once had a liberal activist in the White House named John F. Kennedy. I'm grateful he appointed his brother Bobby to be his Attorney General, and his most honest, conscientious sounding board. The two stood alone against the others in their administration during the Cuban Missile Crisis, refusing to resort to war, finding another, peaceful way, to end the nuclear showdown. God bless the Kennedy brothers who gave their lives in their quest to find a peace beyond a "Pax Americana:"

What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children-not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women, not merely peace in our time but peace for all time. . . .

First: Let us examine our attitude toward peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable, that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we cannot control.

We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade; therefore they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as be wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man's reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again.

I am not referring to the absolute, infinite concept of universal peace and good will of which some fantasies and fanatics dream. I do not deny the values of hopes and dreams, but we merely invite discouragement and incredulity by making that our only and immediate goal.

Let us focus instead on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions - on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single, simple key to this peace, no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new generation. For peace is a process, a way of solving problems.

With such a peace there will still be quarrels and conflicting interests, as there are within families and nations. World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor; it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement. . . .

God bless the Kennedys.

I'm grateful for people like Michael Jay, one of Los Angeles' little-known but fabulous activists. Michael is patient and kind, passionate and dogged. He's been a diehard on the electronic voting issue for the last few years, which is how I met him. When I had a particularly bad day, he called me to give me hope, to tell me what I did mattered. He leads with his heart. He's sacrificed time he could have used to pursue a more lucrative career. He's a composer and a screenwriter, and both of those require endless amounts of time. But amazingly, he always finds time to help the right cause, to go the extra mile. He singlehandely organized one of the biggest evoting events in Los Angeles - an event so big it drew a surprise appearance from country registrar Conny McCormack, whose disdain for activists is palpable. But she came, because the event was important. And it was important because Michael Jay had stepped up and done what needed to be done. No one asked him to do it. No one paid him to do it. He just saw a need, and filled it. God bless Michael Jay.

God bless Al Gore. As the greatest elected president not allowed to serve, Gore found a way to lead in other areas. He singlehandedly elevated the debate on global warming from a fringe issue to a mainstream story. I don't intend to demean or ignore all the activists who worked with Al Gore on his groundbreaking film, "An Inconvenient Truth." Far from it. But Al Gore could have sailed off into the sunset, grumbled over the spilt milk, or gotten fat (or lean) doing speaking engagements. But he chose to put his fame and credibility on the line for something that couldn't possibly matter more - the survival of life as we know it on this planet. (Yes, it's that serious, and if you don't believe that, you're part of the problem. Join reality. Start here.)

God bless Ida Tarbell. What, you ask? She died 62 years ago! But her serialized master work on the History of the Standard Oil Company, founded by John D. Rockefeller, still stands as one of the most important biographies of a company ever produced. Her series was so compelling it ultimately led to the breakup of the Standard Oil Trust. Or so the story should have ended. The sad truth was, the Rockefellers maintained control of all the little Standard Oil spinoffs that were created. But that's not Tarbell's fault. In a day when woman raised children or taught to support their spinster lives, she traveled to France and studied how to tell history. The funny thing is, she never though she was much of a writer. But she toppled the Rockefeller empire. I'd say she knew what she was doing!

Grey's Anatomy. Now's there's something to be grateful for. No matter my week, it all ends the moment that show starts. That and 24 are the only shows I want to watch live, as they happen. I plan to be home at those times. I turn on the set in eager anticipation. I watch the episdes live. Then I watch them again on TiVo (God bless TiVo!) Grey's is one of those rare shows that usually makes me laugh and sob in the same episode. I love all the characters, their interconnected woes and triumphs, the love stories, the surgical stories, and the pure heart that radiates through every episode. God bless Grey's Anatomy, its entire above and below the line crew, and creator Shonda Rhimes. You go, girl!! A woman showrunner on TV's most successsful show. Take a hint, Hollywood! (And don't miss Grey's special two-hour episode after your Thanksgiving Dinner!)

Most importantly, God bless you, dear reader. You care deeply about finding the truth about our real history. If I thought people didn't care I wouldn't waste my time writing. But you let me know in comments, in emails, in page views, in links, that our true history continues to matter. God bless Real History Lovers, my friends, and my family, all of whom support me in ways they may not fully understand. I am so very grateful.

I'll end with a quote that brought me to tears this morning, from Willis Edwards, the activist mentioned at the start, who continues his activism even through his battle with AIDS:
We have a responsibility to do what we can as individuals in our lives. If you see something wrong, stand up and be counted. You might have AIDS, you might have cancer, but pick up the phone and lead from where you are.
Lead from where you are. I, the World, and Real History will be ever so grateful.

God Bless, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Did the CIA Kill Bobby Kennedy? Probably - but not with THOSE guys

I've gotten many emails today regarding this Guardian article, about a TV special to be shown tonight in the UK:

Three years ago, I started writing a screenplay about the assassination of Robert Kennedy, caught up in a strange tale of second guns and "Manchurian candidates" (as the movie termed brainwashed assassins). As I researched the case, I uncovered new video and photographic evidence suggesting that three senior CIA operatives were behind the killing. I did not buy the official ending that Sirhan acted alone, and started dipping into the nether-world of "assassination research", crossing paths with David Sanchez Morales, a fearsome Yaqui Indian.

Morales was a legendary figure in CIA covert operations. According to close associate Tom Clines, if you saw Morales walking down the street in a Latin American capital, you knew a coup was about to happen. When the subject of the Kennedys came up in a late-night session with friends in 1973, Morales launched into a tirade that finished: "I was in Dallas when we got the son of a bitch and I was in Los Angeles when we got the little bastard." From this line grew my odyssey into the spook world of the 60s and the secrets behind the death of Bobby Kennedy.

People who have read my work, published in the volume The Assassinations: Probe Magazine on JFK, MLK, RFK, and Malcolm X (Feral House, 2003) are well aware that I believe strongly that the CIA was deeply involved in the JFK and RFK assassinations and investigations that followed.

But when I got this story in my mailbox today, my heart sank. Because I believe this will result in the discrediting of the notion that the CIA killed Kennedy. I think it will be shown that the photos and videos do not show David Morales or George Joannides.

Why do I think that? Consider this information, from Shane O'Sullivan, in the article above:

The source of early research on Morales was Bradley Ayers, a retired US army captain who had been seconded to JM-Wave, the CIA's Miami base in 1963, to work closely with chief of operations Morales on training Cuban exiles to run sabotage raids on Castro. I tracked Ayers down to a small town in Wisconsin and emailed him stills of Morales and another guy I found suspicious - a man who is pictured entering the ballroom from the direction of the pantry moments after the shooting, clutching a small container to his body, and being waved towards an exit by a Latin associate.

Ayers' response was instant. He was 95% sure that the first figure was Morales and equally sure that the other man was Gordon Campbell, who worked alongside Morales at JM-Wave in 1963 and was Ayers' case officer shortly before the JFK assassination.

I've met Brad Ayers. I talked to him for several hours one night when he was desperate. He contacted me and Jim DiEugenio and wanted to sell us information, his services, frankly, whatever he could to get money to continue his journey to the northern Midwest. I was so moved by this poor man, with nothing but the clothes on his back and his dogs, that I walked over to an ATM and made a withdrawal I really could not afford to make, and sent him away with some cash in hand. But I did not pay him for his information. I had no way of assessing its validity, and when someone is that desperate for money, they will stretch the truth in any way that interests you. I just wanted to put gas in his car, food in his belly, and leave him with a little extra to feed his beautiful dogs.

In addition - it was clear from our conversation that he was more than a bit obsessed with David Morales. At that time, the only real discussion of Morales had been in Gaeton Fonzi's stellar book, The Last Investigation (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1994). Brad now wanted to inject Morales into another case: the Martin Luther King assassination. In all our long conversation, which dwelt heavily on Morales, Ayers never once mentioned him in connection with the Robert Kennedy assassination. That came much later.

A few years ago, I first heard the story about Morales in the Ambassador Hotel, and pretty much blew it off. I was certain the source was Ayers, and as much as I liked the man personally, I just didn't find him credible on that subject. I felt he was overreaching what he knew. And, as mentioned before, I felt he'd stretch the truth. He seemed too honorable to invent anything out of whole cloth - don't get me wrong. I would not call the guy a liar. I just think his personal feelings have caused him to pursue a line for which he has probably now been financially rewarded.

The other big red flag in this story is the suggestion that George Joannides would be there, or involved. Consider:

1. I believe the CIA directed and controlled the assassination of John Kennedy. I think Joannides was involved in helping set up Oswald as a Communist through his role with the DRE (Carlos Bringuier of the DRE "fought" Oswald in the street, leading to Oswald's arrest and subsequent appearance on a televised debate, enhancing the "legend" (intelligence parlance for a false identity story) of Oswald as Communist rebel. But Joannides was a headquarters man, from what I gather. He was not a field operative. He has never been placed in Dealey Plaza, even though there's strong reason to believe he abetted the coverup and possibly helped orchestrate events from a distance. Joannides is a handler, a puppetmaster. And his region was Florida and the East Coast. If he was going to handle someone killing Bobby, the last place he'd be would be the site of the crime.

2. I believe Morales was likely involved in the Kennedy assassination. But with Jim Garrison concurrently conducting his investigation into the CIA's role in the assassination of John Kennedy that same year, that very month - why on Earth would anyone in the CIA been so stupid as to send someone involved in one assassination to commit another? It makes much more sense that a new team would be used - all new players. Different reporting structure. Different agents, assets, and cutouts. It makes NO sense that the team that had so botched the Kennedy assassination as to have given rise to a real life prosecution effort in New Orleans would be used again.

I'm sorry, Shane O'Sullivan. I really think you've been had.

Remember what happened to William Pepper? He believed some Ayers-like informants on the MLK case and made a central case against a former military man whom Pepper believed (and wrote) was then dead. So on national TV, what happened? The "dead" guy walked out onto the stage. His living didn't negate all of Pepper's work in reality. But in the popular mind? Pepper was the guy who had 'gotten it wrong' on TV. I fear strongly the same will happen to those who pursue this line of inquiry.

I've read more of the police files on this case than any other researcher alive (Phil Melanson, who may have read more, is now dead.) I have kept a lot of what I've found secret for a couple of reasons: 1) I do plan to write my own book on the new evidence I've found, and 2) like the police, I see the value in keeping some things secret so those with their own "evidence" have enough rope to hang themselves with. There are details of the girl in the polka dot dress I've amassed but never shared publicly, so that when others come forward saying oh, she was this person, or that person, I can then bring out the evidence they never saw and refute that. The more they know, the more they try to concoct someone who fits the mold. I get mails all the time from people assuring me that "this" is the girl, and it never is.

At any rate, I'd love to see this special, just to see who really says what, and based on what evidence. I imagine Shane O'Sullivan is in earnest. But I think he's been had, in a very serious way. And now, sadly, so will a whole generation of people who, not understanding how these things work, not knowing the backstory re Ayers, not knowing how easy it is to misidentify a 3D person from a 2D photograph or video, will be taken in by what I believe, at this time, to be calclated disinformation.

I do believe the CIA killed Robert Kennedy. I don't believe those are the guys who did it though. And I do believe that will come out (that Morales and Joannides will provably have been elsewhere at the time), and that the case against the CIA will be set back years because of it. I believe that, in fact, is the real reason this special is getting on the air.

But hey - prove me wrong. If anyone wants to send me a video of this, I'd absolutely watch and comment.

And I hope - WHATEVER the truth of this special, that it causes a new investigation into the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. Those are hard to start, and I'm not holding my breath, but wouldn't THAT be loverly?

Update: I saw the video, and my objections and suspicions still stand.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Oh, Happy Day!

It is indeed a happy day! A tsunami of Democrats washed away years of corruption, deadwood, and fundamentalist hypocrisy to make way for a new, Democratically-controlled house and Senate!

And Rumsfeld resigned!! Amazingly, had he done so a month ago, the tsunami might have been avoided. By refusing to admit error, the Bush administration sealed its fate.

And here in California, I'm personally celebrating the fact that Debra Bowen will be our new Secretary of State. Finally, someone who understands computers and sees the need to seriously audit the processes and machinery of our elections. Oh, Happy Day indeed!

I feel like I'm on a roll. Just a couple of weeks ago, I won the Creative Screenwriting Open, a writing tournament conducted onsite at Screenwriting Expo, judged by the good people over at Coverage, Ink. I and about 700 other people sat down for an hour and a half to write a scene based on a given setup, or "prompt."

Here's the prompt I faced in Round One:
Your PROTAGONIST is a bored bureaucrat just going through the motions of life who stumbles onto a staggeringly huge conspiracy. Write the scene in which your protagonist wrestles with whether or not he or she should take action even as the clock is ticking towards the end of life as we know it. You may use any other characters of your choosing in this scene.
A world-ending conspiracy? Right up my alley! As a published author on the assassinations of the sixties, I've often imagined all sorts of horrible world-ending conspiracies. I thought for a few minutes, and came up with something I would at least enjoy writing. Suffice it to say that my score of 90 (out of a hundred) put me right at the 10% cutoff. I eeked my way into Round Two.

I almost missed competing in Round Two. I had misread the program, and thought Round Two was Sunday morning. It wasn't. It was Saturday night. I was about to get in my car, but for no ascertainable reason decided instead to wander out and mingle with some fellow Screenwriting Expo conference attendees. One of them mentioned Round Two was starting in a few minutes at the 'other' hotel - a 15 minute walk from where I was. "Oh no," I assured him. "You're wrong. It's tomorrow. Look."

I pulled out the program to show him how right I was, and of course, he was right, and I was completely wrong. God bless him. I ran to the other hotel, huffing and puffing, and retook the same 'winning' seat that had gotten me out of the previous round.

And then the nightmare round began.

When I got the prompt for Round Two, I was upset. What was I going to do with this??
Your PROTAGONIST is a famous but fading star in his field. His YOUNGER SIBLING, whom he has always been overprotective of, has eclipsed him in the same field, and their relationship has become contentious. Enter MOM, who suffers no fools. Write the scene in which the two siblings are forcibly thrown together by mom and are told they must work together to accomplish a goal of Mom's choosing.
I had NO ideas. Zip. Zilch. Zero. I wanted to write something funny. And I couldn't think of anything funny about that prompt. I was certain that everyone in the room had a better idea than me. At least, everyone in the room HAD an idea. I had none. NONE!

The clock was ticking.

10 minutes. Beavers building a dam? Nah. Skunk family? Nah.

20 minutes. Actual human siblings? Serious drama? Blech!!! Nada.

30 minutes, and still no ideas. I only had 60 minutes left to plan, write, and review my little scene. What to do? What to DOOOOOOOOO??????

From some mildewed corner of my mind, I thought of the old Jack and Jill rhyme, and thought, well, Jill could be the older sister - the one who always brought the water back. But now Jack's getting older, and faster, and Jill is both threatened and concerned! Mom orders them to bring the water back TOGETHER. That works, right? Silly idea. Really goofy. But hey, you go with whatever you have. At that point, any idea was better than sitting around blankly for yet ANOTHER ten minutes, watching any hope of making it to the next round slip away.

So I started. And a funny thing happened. I noticed the lines were coming out in rhyme. And then I started rhyming the action between the lines. And the parentheticals. I decided I'd do the whole damn scene in rhyme from start to finish. Suddenly I was having fun again, snickering and thinking, well, either I'll get high points for creativity, at the very least, or I'll be thrown out on my ear, and rightly so, for so bending the rules of screenwriting! Because I hadn't planned to rhyme when I started, I had to rewrite the whole thing at the end to fix the beginning and tighten it up. I still managed to finish a few minutes before the hour and a half was up. We'd been told to use every minute to improve our scripts, and that leaving early was a bad idea. But when have I EVER been one to completely follow the rules? I left early, knowing if I stayed I'd start second-guessing myself and just make it worse.

Since I had a copy of what I'd written, I showed it to a few others after I'd left the room. Total strangers. I knew I had a chance when they were all laughing by the end of the first page (my handwritten scenes in each round were around five pages each. That's with lots of space on the page, mind you.) Maybe! Damn, maybe I really had a chance! Oh, don't get your hopes up, Lisa. Wow, but it would be so cool to move up. But what will the judges think? Will they appreciate the effort? Or give me the lowest score ever????

I went home unconcerned with the outcome. I was happy with what I had done. To have made it from having NO idea to finding something that made others laugh and that I had fun writing was good enough for me.

Surprisingly, it was good enough for the judges too! They gave me a 95!

At 11:30pm that night, as I was about to go to bed, I got "the call."

"You're in the top 10!" I heard. I was so excited I missed the part where I was told what time to show up the following day. I didn't want to take a chance on missing it. So I arrived at 8am, having slept maybe four hours, feeling terribly nervous, terribly tired, and terribly excited. Two hours too early. But better early than late, right?

What would the final prompt be? Softball? Hardball? I love having to create on the spot, but what would they give me? I also knew that the top three scenes would be staged before an audience, so I wanted something that would be funny (it's really hard for drama to be compelling in such a short scene) and something that would visually appeal to an audience. When I saw the prompt, I thought, a gift from God! I had an idea right away, and I knew I was going to have fun with it.

Here was the final Round Three prompt:
Your PROTAGONIST is a washed-up shell of what he used to be. Formerly a star in his field, he's now reduced to working a soul-sucking menial job. But then TWO UNUSUAL COWORKERS confess a startling secret and bring him to a special place. PROTAGONIST is presented with an opportunity to regain what he once had. The only problem is, he will have to part with the one thing he most truly cares about to make it happen. Write the scene in which your protagonist wrestles with his dilemma. You may use any other characters or settings of your choosing.
I wrote about a failed UFOlogist, now tending bar in Roswell NM, who finds out two barmaids are actually multi-tentacled aliens! They offer to show him their colony on one condition: he can never write about it. As I wrote his big 'dilemma' speech, I realized there was an opportunity to play to the Expo audience, and took it.

When I laid down my pen, for the first time in the competion, I actually felt I'd nailed it. I had a funny premise, the scene had a beginning, middle, and an end, wildly visual characters, and ended with a punchline any screenwriter could love. I walked out feeling I had indeed made the top three. I just knew it in one of those there's-no-reason-for-this-but-I-know-it-anyway sort of things.

So I waited.

And waited.

And... waited.

I was told I'd hear by 12:30pm if I was in the top three.

It was 1:00pm.

And 1:30pm.

I wandered by the whiteboard where winners were to be posted. Nothing.

Well, they would have called me by now. So I didn't make the top three. Oh well. I liked it. That's what counts, right?


Wrong! I walked by the board again and there were three names on it:

1) Todd van Der Werff
2) Fran Ervin
3) Lisa Pease

I was there!! My name was there!!! I got on the phone and told people I had come in third! Woohoo! How cool was that? But then someone overheard me and said wait - the audience hasn't voted - that's not your place - that just means you're in the top three.

Really? I could still win? Yeah right. But how cool would it be to see my scene staged, anyway??

So I watched as the actors named our scenes and acted them out. I crossed my fingers and hoped they'd bring my multi-tentacled alien to life, because that was the funniest visual in my scene. I was an actor for over 20 years and knew that multi-armed beings were sure crowd-pleasers. I also hoped the actor would sell the joke at the end. I hoped he would find the other humorous bits I had tried to include.

My scene was up first. The acting troupe had hilariously named it "Roswell that Ends Well" - a title far more clever than any I would have come up with! But as they started, something was off. The main actor was misreading my protagonist. I imagined a hardened, sardonic, bitter guy who has lived a life of ridicule. Instead, some young kid blew the first two jokes and acted like a scaredy cat. Oh gosh, I thought. Well, there goes my chance.

But then the actors put the alien together - eight arms and all, and it got a big laugh. Maybe there's hope! And although the actor blew a few words in his final speech, he was close enough:
To be right and not be able to
tell. To have found the truth
and not be able to share. To
have a million dollar story
that no one will ever read. Why
I'm no better than a screenwriter!
Another big laugh. Cool! The scene got a nice round of applause. And I waited.

The next scene, by Fran, started great. Snow White, now 50 years old, smoking in a bar, bemoaning her job at McDonalds because the prince had dumped her long ago. It was funny and smart, but the audience didn't seem to connect with it - didn't laugh quite as loudly, didn't clap quite as much. Hmmm. Maybe I really have a chance!

The final scene was called "Where there's a Will, there's a Way," and featured - of all characters, Will Shakespeare. My heart sunk. How can you compete with Shakespeare? And the scene was funny. His parents beaming back into his life in some weird sci-fi (if low tech) effect, giving him script notes. The scene ended with his mother saying how she liked his play about the two young lovers, asking, "but do they really have to die in the end?" I thought it would get a bigger laugh, but then I realized, most writers at Expo are still trying to sell their first story. They haven't been through "development hell", the realm in which this scene clearly took place.

I turned to my friend Ken Schretzmann, who had edited "Cars" at Pixar. He came down from Northern California to hear his fellow Pixarians speak at Expo, and stayed when he found out I was going to be in the final three. "Who won?" I asked him. He pointed to me. "No way!" I whispered. "Really?"

Jim Cirile of Coverage Ink took the stage. He called the top three writers up on the stage. And then he played "Miss America" with us.

"And the first runner-up is..."

- and it wasn't me!

"And the second runner-up is..."

And that wasn't me either!!

OMIGOD!!! I had just WON!!!! And the top prize was $5000!!!!! After hugging Jim heartily, I gave a short acceptance speech that went something like this:

"I've been to Expo three times. The first time, I was too chicken to enter this contest. The second time, I didn't make it out of the first round. The third time, I won! So there's hope for ALL of you!"

As I left the stage, the man who had clued me in to the correct time of Round Two caught up with me and said, "Aren't you glad you talked to me?" I grabbed his hand and kissed it. "I so owe you!" I said. "No you don't," he responded. "I believe in Karma." So do I. I hope he wins next year.

I've won things before. I won a couple of harp contests. I won the President's award at a company I worked at. I even won $2500 on the gameshow "Win, Lose or Draw" a bunch of years ago. But $5000 for doing what I love best??? Nothing beats that.

Nothing, of course, except a Democratic House and Senate, and the news that Rumsfeld is out. That's truly the best news I've had in six years.

Oh, Happy Day!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November

[Slightly updated from an earlier version of this post.]

"Remember, remember the fifth of November
the Gunpowder, Treason and Plot
I see no reason why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot"

When this English child’s rhyme was uttered by the lead character, known only as V, early in the film V for Vendetta, I sat upright, alert, because I suddenly knew what this movie was going to be about. 9/11. Metaphorically at least. How did I get that from a reference to the Gunpowder plot? Read on, MacDuff...

Most Americans don’t know the story behind the Gunpowder plot. It is surprisingly relevant to our time. It was a huge event, one that continues to echo to our present, as this film ably demonstrates. And like all important events that change the course of history, there is a measure of controversy as to what we really happened. Who were the plotters and who were the victims?

According to the official account prepared for the King (i.e., the Warren Report of its time), on the fifth of November in 1605, a team of conspirators planned to blow up the House of Parliament in London on opening day of the new session, killing King James in the process. The plot was foiled by the November 4th arrest of Guy Fawkes (pronounced “Fox”), a hapless conspirator found in a cellar under the House of Lords while guarding thirty-six barrels of gunpowder. Under torture, Fawkes gave up the names of his co-conspirators.

The episode became known as “The Gunpowder Plot” and is marked every year with fireworks and bonfires in which, on occasion, Guy Fawkes is burned in effigy. For a few hundred years, the government required that its citizens celebrate the exposure of the plot and the protection of its government. The law requiring celebrations was repealed in 1859, but ad hoc celebrations continue to this day every November 5, although some revelers will tell you they are celebrating the planning of the plot rather than the foiling of it.

So why was the plot hatched? Therein lies the rub. To understand the plot, and the controversy, we need to examine a brief part of English history.

The Gunpowder plot was born, ultimately, from the hubris of King Henry VIII, or the rigidness of the Pope – take your pick. This is a complicated chain of events, but bear with me. As Stephen Rea’s character voiced in V for Vendetta during a particularly brilliant sequence, “everything is connected.”

In his search for a male heir, Henry VIII married and divorced six women. When the Catholic Church would not grant him his much needed divorce(s), he split with the Roman Catholic Church and set up the new Church of England with himself as head. One of his wives, Anne Boleyn, bore him the daughter Elizabeth. When Anne, like his other wives, fell from the King’s favor, he had her beheaded and stripped of her title. By that action, he bastardized his own daughter, and she was declared illegitimate. After Henry VIII died, Elizabeth’s half-sister Mary took the throne. Mary was a Catholic who wanted to reverse what Henry had done. When she died, Elizabeth, herself a dedicated Protestant, took the throne. Technically, the position should have gone to her cousin, the granddaughter of her father’s sister, a different Mary, called commonly “Mary, Queen of Scots” since she was from the age of six days old the Queen of Scotland by birth. Mary should have been Queen of England too, through the rules of succession. Elizabeth, however, had a will from Henry VIII, the authenticity of which was questionable, in which she was named the preferred heir to the throne. More importantly, Elizabeth was in town and Mary was in Scotland. Thus Elizabeth became the Queen of England.

Mary was accused of murdering her husband, and married the man accused of being her co-conspirator a couple of weeks later. This infuriated the Scots, who locked Mary up. She managed to escape, and sought the protection of Elizabeth. But Elizabeth saw in Mary a threat to her rule, and locked her up for 19 years. During this period, Elizabeth’s advisors repeatedly suggested Elizabeth kill Mary, but Elizabeth was satisfied with keeping her from the throne, and feared perhaps a Catholic rebellion if she killed the woman they believed was their true leader.

So Elizabeth’s chief of security devised a way to get rid of Mary. He set Mary up in a purported assassination plot. Through manipulations and machinations, Mary was ultimately presented a letter from Anthony Babington, in which the assassination of Elizabeth was suggested. Mary did not condone the plot, but that didn’t matter. It was argued that she had foreknowledge of the plot and had done nothing to stop it. She was eventually tried and convicted by the English court, and beheaded. Ironically, her son, James, would ascend the throne when Elizabeth, “the Virgin Queen,” died heirless.

King James was raised Protestant, but had sympathies for the Catholics, like his mother. (Curiously, the man who gave us the King James bible may have been bisexual!) He adopted a liberal policy towards religion. But he was surrounded by the same forces that had worked with Elizabeth. They wanted to get rid of the Catholics, and there is quite a bit of speculation that one close advisor in particular was involved in setting up the Gunpowder Plot, and then exposing it. James feared a violent end, and when he heard of the plot, he was, naturally, terrified, and supported actions that would have been unthinkable before the discovery of the plot. Was that, perhaps, the point?

The official story of the Gunpowder plot has Guy Fawkes interacting with a set of Catholics who wished to overthrow a government increasingly hostile to their religion. Ostensibly, they wanted to set events in motion that would restore Catholicism to what they felt was its rightful place in England. But some, including Webster Tarpley and Barrie Zwicker, fellow speakers from the 9/11 tour I participated in last summer, believe that the plot was a false flag operation set up by the Protestants to discredit the Catholics as a justification to going to war with Spain, which was, in any case, the result.

Zwicker, in an article for Canada’s Globe and Mail on November 5, 2005, quotes from Adam Nicolson's book God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible:

The fallout from the plot is uncontestable. “The English became fixated on homeland security,” Mr. Nicolson writes. “An inclusive, irenic idea of mutual benefit (between Spain and England, which had recently signed a peace treaty and between which trade was growing) was replaced by a defensive/aggressive complex in which all Catholics, of all shades, never mind their degree of enthusiasm for the planned attack, were, at least for a time, identified as the enemy. . . . The state had invaded and taken over the English conscience.” War with Spain ensues. England's course is set for a century of wars against the Spanish and Portuguese empires, out of which the British Empire emerges. In 1917, the British add Iraq to their empire after the defeat of the Ottomans. Neo-colonial turmoil in Iraq continues to this day. The official story of “gunpowder treason” set much in motion.
The parallels from that event to 9/11 resound. Whether or not 9/11 was a domestically inspired plot, the result was that the Bush Administration seized that event and made it the cornerstone for launching the very “Pax Americana” President Kennedy and his brother Bobby refused to pursue. Bush starting running the playbook written by PNAC – the Project for a New American Century. The result: a horror story of unprovoked aggression in Iraq in the guise of stopping WMD. When no WMD were found, Bush invoked that old fallback position: we went into Iraq to spread Democracy, a move which has produced to date not democracy, but civil war.

At home, people handed over their freedoms for a measure of protection, a gift which has already been criminally, impeachably, abused. As Joyce Appleby, professor emerita of history at UCLA, and former Senator Gary Hart co-wrote:

When President Nixon covertly subverted checks and balances 30 years ago during the Vietnam War, Congress passed laws making clear that presidents were not to engage in unconstitutional behavior in the interest of "national security." Then, Congress was reacting to violation of Fourth Amendment protections against searches and seizures without judicial warrants establishing "probable cause," attempts to assassinate foreign leaders, and surveillance of American citizens.

Now, the Iraq war is being used to justify similar abuses. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, providing constitutional means to carry out surveillance, and the Intelligence Identification Protection Act, protecting the identity of undercover intelligence agents, have both been violated by an administration seeking to restore "the legitimate authority of the presidency," as Cheney puts it.

The presidency possesses no power not granted to it under the Constitution. The powers the current administration seeks in its "war on terror" are not granted under the Constitution. Indeed, they are explicitly prohibited by acts of Congress.

So take the events of the recent past, fast forward a few years into the future, and you’re smack in the middle of “V for Vendetta.”

If you haven’t seen the film yet, get thee to a rental store. Do not pass Go, and DO NOT READ BEYOND THIS POINT.


The movie presents a parable for our times, a post-9/11 world in which freedoms have been traded for security with disastrous results. The “former United States” is a mess. The UK has become a fascist regime enforced through the near-total surveillance of its citizens. One man, a literate, intelligent, but vengeful man, who goes by the name of “V” for reasons revealed as the film progresses, has a vendetta, indeed, but it's much more than a personal one. Knowing that he has the power to change things, possibly for the better, he decides to take matters into his own hands. V cloaks his identify behind a Guy Fawkes mask, and becomes a terrorist.

Or is terrorist the right word? He isn’t trying to terrorize the citizens of London. He’s trying to rouse them from their fear-induced slumber. He tells them that if they are unhappy with the way things are going, if they are looking for people to blame, they need to start by looking in the mirror, as they were the ones who stood by complacently as their world disintegrated. He invites them to join him at Parliament a year from that date, the next November 5, so that they can witness the act Guy Fawkes never got to finish. Why? Because there's something wrong with the country, and everybody knows it.

Natalie Portman portrays the character Evey (“E V”, V articulates with relish, noting that there are no coincidences). Throughout the film, after every new revelation about V, Evey asked my own questions. Was V a good guy or a horrible guy? Should one support his choices or not? Would I choose his path, given similar circumstances? At what point is the law the problem, when the law is used to justify heinous deeds? At what point is one justified in breaking it?

As someone who believes in the power of nonviolent, legal, collective action, the film was both disturbing and intriguing in its implications. The act of blowing up Parliament in the film had nothing to do with violence, and everything to do with symbolism. As Evey noted, the people needed hope more than they needed the building. And the blowing up of Parliament was a show of strength. As V had said early in the film, "People shouldn't be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people." Blowing up Parliament was a way for the people to reclaim their power. And feeling that power, they might yet right the wrongs that had been done in their name.

I loved the story and movie on so many levels. The writing was brilliant, even Shakespearean at times. (Indeed, the Bard was nearly a character in the film, so often was he quoted.) The images were sleek and dark and sterile, like the world in which the story takes place. V’s underground home was strange yet inviting, and warmed considerably by the slow jazz emanating from his jukebox. And everything had a meaning, including the signature roses V left with each of his vendetta victims.

The acting was compelling. You wouldn’t believe a man in an immobile mask could make you feel so many emotions. Through his voice, his body, and somehow through that masked face, I felt every joy and anger and pain that V did. I will be forever in awe of Hugo Weaving’s impeccable, faceless performance, as well as Natalie Portman's moving portrayal of a woman who came to discover ultimate freedom by choosing integrity over fear. And the love story between them was incredibly compelling. I was falling in love with V too, even as I deplored some of his actions.

It’s remarkable to see any interesting movie made in the age of cookie cutter remakes of shows that weren’t that good the first time around. But what really sparked my interest was the way this film melded the real past into an all too scary near future. I was surprised at the fairly overt parallels to the 9/11 controversy, especially given that the graphic novel on which the film is based was written in the 1980s, well before the attacks. In the film, the big “terrorist attacks” that resulted in the newly fascist society came in the form of a virus unleashed in the UK which wiped out hundreds of thousands of people. At one point, one of the government investigators searching for V, portrayed by the always interesting Stephen Rea, starts to open his mind. He asks his fellow investigator a question to which he requires no answer. In his world, the act of asking the question was itself a very bold step: “If our government was behind the attacks, would you really want to know?”

My personal conclusion, after years of such discussions, is that a lot of people don’t want to know such truths. They don’t mind believing them. Belief does not require action. But true knowledge does. And most people don’t want that burden. And yet, by not taking action, we are still responsible, and for things we wouldn’t support, if asked. V is right, in that regard. To find the villains, we need only look to our own inaction.

Perhaps my favorite sequence was the one in which Rea suddenly starts seeing all the puzzle pieces fall into place, how "Everything is connected." In a brilliant series of intercuts, he glimpses the past, present, and future--the throughline of history. As V says, "for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." That's a well known principle of physics. But it goes for government and personal actions too. Everything we do--and don't do--has a consequence. And we have to be aware of those so we can choose more wisely. Interestingly, the future Rea envisions in that moment does not entirely come to pass, but might have, had he been successful in his effort to capture V. Ironically, his failure to stop the "terrorist" ends up saving an untold numbers of lives.

The most thrilling part of the film, for me, came at the end, as masses of people come out to stand in support of V’s actions. There’s something about people taking massive, collective action that inspires me to no end. We have the power to do amazing things, together. No force on earth can resist the masses when we act righteously in unison. As V said, in a quote I’m badly mangling, you can kill people. But you can’t kill ideas. And ideas carry tremendous force.


But ideas need advocates, and outlets. Ideas need to be shaped into words that people can read, hear, and understand. And that is the reason bad governments turn repressive. Controlling the media, controlling the publishing houses, controlling the distribution of films and books is the goal of every illicit government. It is the only way they can stay in power. The degree to which those efforts succeed or fail depends on the integrity of the people working in those systems. Good governments do not need to resort to control. Only bad ones do. But bad ones are aided by people who refuse to see the implications of the small steps they allow to be taken. And one day, we find ourselves past the tipping point, with no way out but armed rebellion.

Our nation, at its founding, was, I believe, one of the greatest ideas of all time. Just imagine. At a time when most people were still answering to a monarch, the people rose up, threw away their wealth--in the form of tea--into the harbor, declared they would no longer tolerate taxation without representation, and fought their way to freedom. They created, by means of the Constitution, laws designed to guarantee a place where people could be free from tyranny and prejudice. That the initial drafting allowed for slavery and kept women from voting is more a reflection of the time than a lack of vision of the founding fathers. For its time, it was revolutionary, and the language of the Declaration of Independence still moves me. In that moment, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and John Adams created a new form of government, one answerable to the rule of law, and not the whims of man.

Or so our founding fathers envisioned. Today, we have a president hell-bent on extending the power of the president far beyond the checks and balances so carefully provided for by the Constitution. The president is attacking the very idea of who we are as a nation. As this article by Joyce Appleby, professor emerita of history at UCLA, and former Senator Gary Hart states:

When President Nixon covertly subverted checks and balances 30 years ago during the Vietnam War, Congress passed laws making clear that presidents were not to engage in unconstitutional behavior in the interest of "national security." Then Congress was reacting to violation of Fourth Amendment protections against searches and seizures without judicial warrants establishing "probable cause," attempts to assassinate foreign leaders and surveillance of American citizens.

Now the Iraq war is being used to justify similar abuses. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, providing constitutional means to carry out surveillance, and the Intelligence Identification Protection Act, protecting the identity of undercover intelligence agents, have both been violated by an administration seeking to restore "the legitimate authority of the presidency," as Cheney puts it.

The presidency possesses no power not granted to it under the Constitution. The powers the current administration seeks in its "war on terror" are not granted under the Constitution. Indeed, they are explicitly prohibited by acts of Congress.

So what are we going to do about it? Are we going to sit silently and watch as our country becomes distorted into something we no longer wish to support? Do we resort to violence? Or do we simply, as a people, stand up and march? The immigrants recently gave us a demonstration of what real power looks like. 500,000 people marching in unison in downtown Los Angeles is no small thing. When will America experience its first general strike to protest the destruction of our Constitution? We still have the power, should we decide to use it.

As some reviewers have noted, with a sentiment I want to echo, we should all take heart in the fact that a major studio (Warner Brothers) backed and released this film. If we were truly living in V’s world, such would not have been possible.

The movie is a warning, not a reflection. But we would do well to examine the road we are on.

And then do something about it.

Remember, remember the fifth of November.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What keeps Rumsfeld up at night

What do you think keeps Rumsfeld up at night?

The war in Iraq? Heck no.

The calls for him to resign? Not a chance.

Here's what keeps Rumsfeld up at night:
"Today we're engaged in the first war in history - unconventional and irregular as it may be - in an era of e-mails, blogs, cell phones, Blackberries, instant messaging, digital cameras, a global internet with no inhibitions, cell phones, hand-held video cameras, talk radio, 24-hour news broadcasts, satellite television. There's never been a war fought in this environment before."

He returned to the theme of the media deficit in August: "That's the thing that keeps me up at night", he told an audience of naval personnel.
That's right. The media's presentation of the war is what keeps Donald Rumsfeld, our "Defense" Secretary, up at night.


The quote is from this BBC article titled "Pentagon gears up for new media war."

This is really interesting to me, because I've long studied the CIA's control and manipulation of the media not just in America, but worldwide. For example:
PAO (Public Affairs Office) has relationships with reporters from every major wire service, newspaper, news weekly and TV network ... this has helped turn some "intelligence failure" stories into "intelligence success" stories, and it has contributed to ... countless others. In many instances we have persuaded reporters to postpone, change, hold or even scrap stories. Source
So why does the Pentagon now feel the need to control the media too?

And, ahem, since when is that part of the military's charter? To "sell" the war to America? They should stick to fighting and the facts, and not engage in any way in any form of propaganda. But they started this effort long ago. I don't mean the propaganda efforts that have accompanied every war this country has ever waged. I'm referring specifically to the Pentagon's effort to infiltrate military personnel from Fort Bragg into CNN's newsroom. Yep. Remember that story, from 2000? Here's Alexander Cockburn's version:

CNN is up in arms about our report in the last issue of CounterPunch concerning the findings of the Dutch journalist, Abe de Vries about the presence of US Army personnel at CNN, owned by Time-Warner. We cited an article by de Vries which appeared on February 21 in the reputable Dutch daily newspaper Trouw, originally translated into English and placed on the web by Emperor's Clothes. De Vries reported that a handful of military personnel from the Third Psychological Operations Battalion, part of the airmobile Fourth Psychological Operations Group based at Fort Bragg, in North Carolina, had worked in CNN's hq in Atlanta.

De Vries quoted Major Thomas Collins of the US Army Information Service as having confirmed the presence of these Army psy-ops experts at CNN, saying, "Psy-ops personnel, soldiers and officers, have been working in CNN's headquarters in Atlanta through our program, 'Training with Industry'. They worked as regular employees of CNN. Conceivably, they would have worked on stories during the Kosovo war. They helped in the production of news."
Eason Jordan, then the self-described "president of newsgathering and international networks" (per Cockburn), called Cockburn angrily and, while confirming that CNN had hosted five "interns" from the Army's psychological warfare division, said the program had ended recently. Probably, Cockburn speculated, after they read De Vries' article.

De Vries, in response to a follow-up call from Cockburn, responded:
"The facts are", De Vries told me, " that the US Army, US Special Operations Command and CNN personnel confirmed to me that military personnel have been involved in news production at CNN's newsdesks. I found it simply astonishing. Of course CNN says these psyops personnel didn't decide anything, write news reports, etcetera. What else can they say. Maybe it's true, maybe not. The point is that these kind of close ties with the army are, in my view, completely unacceptable for any serious news organization. Maybe even more astonishing is the complete silence about the story from the big media. To my knowledge, my story was not mentioned by leading American or British newspapers, nor by Reuters or AP."
It's gotten to the point where I don't watch local news anymore. There's never much of significance - mostly "human interest" stories which don't interest me at all. They don't keep me up at night.

What keeps me up at night are stories like Darfur, where millions live in threat of slaughter every day, those that are still alive; Iraq, where 600,000+ Iraqis have been killed, not to mention the hapless American soldiers sent to give their blood for oil; global warming, which even the Pentagon agrees is a greater threat to national security threat greater than terrorism:
A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.

The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents.

'Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,' concludes the Pentagon analysis. 'Once again, warfare would define human life.'

The findings will prove humiliating to the Bush administration, which has repeatedly denied that climate change even exists. Experts said that they will also make unsettling reading for a President who has insisted national defence is a priority.
The report was commissioned by the Pentagon but authored by "CIA consultant and former head of planning at Royal Dutch/Shell Group" Peter Schwartz, and Doug Randall of the Global Business Network.

When you have an oil/CIA guy and another CIA guy a representative from the business world arguing that we really need to fix global warming, shouldn't we all be paying exceedingly close attention?

And of course, what keeps me up in recent nights are all the myriad stories about electronic voting that now appear daily in newspapers across America. No amount of citizen protest, lawsuits, or impassioned reports from Lou Dobbs and Keith Olbermann can save us in the next election. It's just too late. We're going to suffer the consequences, be they small or large. I pray they are small, and truly accidental. I fear they will be large, and that on November 8th we'll all wake up to a still-Republican Senate and Congress, not because they won, but because they were rigging the vote. For the record, take a good look at the polls now, and right before the election. Any swings from the last poll numbers should be very seriously investigated.

So sweet dreams, Rumsfeld. You have so little on your mind, the media "problem" shouldn't keep you up very long. But don't expect much company in slumberland. Many of us are wide awake, on the front lines, fighting far more important national security battles.