Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Misdirection and magic in foreign policy

I'm watching the NBC show "Phenomenon," and although it's presented as if these people have supernatural powers, I've yet to see anything that wasn't a straight math trick or magic trick. Yet people in the audience are amazed, and seem persuaded that these people have supernatural powers.

It makes me realize how easily people are fooled, and not just in such matters. According to a recent Zogby poll, 52% of the American public thinks the U.S. should launch a military strike at Iran to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons.

The magic act is a complete success, but the truth has not been served. THERE ARE NO NUCLEAR WEAPONS IN IRAN. And worse, IRAN IS YEARS AWAY FROM GETTING THE BOMB.

Yet a majority of fellow citizens believe this. I believe that's why Hillary Clinton, who is surely smart enough to see through the hype, is nonetheless siding with the fearmongers on the Iran issue.

Wouldn't it be a miracle if someone of Hillary's stature stood up and said look, I know how this works. This is all propaganda. Here's the real truth.

But truth doesn't sell. It's usually messy, confusing, and subject to numerous qualifications. The truth is nearly always complicated. In reality, Occam's Razor is usually NOT the correct explanation, because it is oversimplified.

Here's a scary little Halloween gift for you. It's part of a larger film called "Zeitgeist" which I would warn you to view most skeptically. Some of the data presented is provably true. Some is provably not. And then there's the stuff that can't be proved one way or another. It is NOT "the truth". But I believe it's closer to where this all is heading than anything you see on the nightly news. This is just a ten minute clip. Watch it. Then do your own homework.

Yes, there really is talk of creating "the Amero," a cross-border currency between Mexico, the U.S., and Canada to challenge the rising power of the Euro. Yes, there really are plans for a European Union (beyond the economic union - but a union with its own flag, it's own anthem, etc.), an Asian Union, and an African Union. Unmentioned is "Syriana," and I'm not talking about a film. I'm talking about something the screenwriter heard while researching the book. He sat in on high level meetings in the government and heard the term used to describe a hypothetical Middle Eastern Union.

Whether or not a Rockefeller told Aaron Russo what Russo claims, I don't know. I can't verify that. There's another provocative quote assigned to David Rockefeller, but I can find no primary source for that quote - only a repeat of it, not sourced, across the Internet. Quotes can be invented. And context is everything. Maybe that was a punchline to a joke Rockefeller was telling. Who knows?

But all that aside, I do think we're nearly in a dictatorship already, and it terrifies me. My own state, California, just passed a law prohibiting employers from requiring their employees to be microchipped. What scares me is why such a law was considered necessary! Who is planning on forcibly chipping us as a condition of employment?

If we don't get very loud, very vocal, and very visible in the next few years, the America that never was, that we all hoped would be, will cease to exist in any meaningful way.

"Happy" Halloween.

SPOILER AHEAD. Don't read further if you don't want to know how many magic tricks are done. So many are just variations on this simple theme.

That matchbook trick on Phenomenon? That's just the ultimate in misdirection. The trick was not about finding the "needle in the haystack" that matched the card. The trick was to get the woman to pick the right card, and the matchbook was planted. You see?

People want to believe that some people can read minds and have magical power over matter. A deception is not as pleasant as a magic trick. But the deception is the reality.

There is no war on terror. There never can be. That's the magic trick. The reality, the real deception, is that the powers that be can expand empire, reduce the world's population and produce more wealth for the already superwealthy through war. And the "beauty" of the war on terror is that it can never be won. "Perpetual war for perpetual peace." Now that's some genuine sleight of hand, however demonic.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The CIA is suppressing key JFK assassination history

The CIA is withholding key documents in the JFK assassination case. As Jefferson Morley reports in the Huffington Post:

Lawyers for the Central Intelligence Agency faced pointed questions in a federal court hearing Monday morning about the agency's efforts to block disclosure of long-secret records about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Morley filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the CIA for failing to disclose records about a CIA officer named George Joannides. Joannides was responsible for running the DRE, an anti-Castro CIA front group that had extensive interactions with Lee Harvey Oswald in the months leading up to the assassination of President Kennedy. The CIA has consistently refused to release Joannides' records, even though they are mandated to by the 1992 JFK Assassination Records Act.

What's at stake here matters greatly to all historians. If the government can simply choose which records to release, and which to withhold, they can pervert and deliberately misshape history to serve their purposes.

In this particular case, the CIA appears hellbent on ondoing the will of the people. The JFK act came into being due to an enormous outcry from the public when they learned, at the end of Oliver Stone's film JFK, that many records relating to the assassination were still classified.

Congress passed what became known as "The JFK Act," which mandated the creation of a board to declassify records and, if necessary, seek out new and pertinent records and make them public. The Board, officially named the Assassination Records and Review Board, put Joannides on the JFK assassination story map when they declassified five personnel reports of his in 1998. In addition, researchers learned that it was Joannides who had helped shut down an early investigation of the CIA's possible involvement in the assassination. Joannides was responsible for kicking out two staffers of the House Select Committee on Assassinations who had been set up with full access at CIA to CIA records pertaining to that time period. When the records they dug up got more interesting in terms of suggesting possible CIA involvement in a plot to kill Kennedy, Joannides had the two staffers removed from their temporary office at CIA headquarters.

Morley discusses why Joannides records are of interest:

Oswald approached the DRE's delegation in New Orleans and offered to train guerrillas to fight the Castro government. He was rebuffed. When DRE members saw Oswald handing out pro-Castro leaflets a few days later an altercation ensued that ended with the arrest of all the participants. A week after that, the DRE's spokesman in New Orleans debated the Cuba issue with Oswald on a radio program. After these encounters, the DRE issued a press release calling for a congressional investigation of the pro-Castro activities of the then-obscure Oswald.

The CIA was passing money to the DRE leaders at the time, according to an agency memo dated April 1963, found in the JFK Library in Boston. The document shows that the Agency gave the Miami-based group $250,000 a year -- the equivalent of about $1.5 million annually in 2007 dollars.

The secret CIA files on Joannides may shed new light on what, if anything, Joannides and other CIA officers in anti-Castro operations knew about Oswald's activities and contacts before Kennedy was killed.
Morley has spent several years now trying to obtain these records, and his frustration is palpable. But his frustration should be ours, as it's our history that is being hidden from us. If the CIA was involved in the Kennedy assassination, wouldn't that change entirely our understanding of events from that time forth, and wouldn't that call into question much of the reporting on the case, and the credibility of the media from that time forward?

And aren't laws meant to be upheld? As Morley writes:

In my admittedly subjective view, the JFK Records Act is being slowly repealed by CIA fiat. In defiance of the law and common sense, the Agency continues to spend taxpayers' money for the suppression of history around JFK's assassination. In the post-9/11 era, you would think U.S. intelligence budget could be better spent.
Several former members of the ARRB, including its chairman, filed affidavits in support of Morley's request. Even anti-conspiracy authors Gerald Posner and Vincent Bugliosi have sided with the law, calling for the documents to be released.

If our government can simply choose which laws to support and which to break, is it really our government anymore?

For more information on Morley's suit, click here.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Slave labor building our American Embassy in Iraq - where is the outrage?

UPDATE: The above video shows Rory Mayberry testifying to Rep. Henry Waxman's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. After he spoke, the blog Washington Wire asked the following:

Did Rep. Henry Waxman, committee chairman, have any idea who Mayberry was when he asked him to testify before his oversight panel?

Extensive police and court records from Oregon and California show that Mayberry has a string of convictions going back to the mid-1980s, including two for forgery, one for burglary and a fourth for welfare fraud. In 2004, before heading off to Iraq to work as a medic, food service manager, radio technician, and sometime mortician, Mayberry was fined $4,000 for working as an embalmer without a license and for various Oregon state infractions as a “crematory operator,” records show.
Rep. Waxman's response is included in the same post:

One of the issues the Committee examined at the hearing was whether the prime contractor building the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was engaged in the mistreatment of foreign laborers. Mr. Mayberry’s testimony addressed this subject. Prior to the hearing, there were several reports in the media regarding the use of forced labor to construct the U.S. Embassy. In June 2007, the Wall Street Journal published a lengthy story reporting that the Department of Justice was investigating allegations that the First Kuwaiti workers were brought to work on the U.S. Embassy against their will. According to the Wall Street Journal:

The Department of Justice launched the probe of First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting Co. after former employees alleged that workers at the company were told they were being sent to Dubai, only to wind up in Iraq instead, people familiar with the matter said. According to the allegations, First Kuwaiti confiscated the workers’ passports, so they were unable to depart Baghdad, these people said.

The allegations of human trafficking and labor violations were also reported by NBC News and the Washington Post.

These were serious allegations and they deserved responsible oversight by Congress.
The Committee appropriately invited witnesses from a variety of different perspectives to testify about these allegations. Ambassador Patrick F. Kennedy, Director of the Office of Management Policy, Major General (Ret.) Charles E. Williams, Director of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations, and William Moser, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisitions, were invited to present the State Department’s perspective. Howard Krongard, the State Department’s Inspector General, was invited to testify about the results of his investigation into the allegations. And Mr. Mayberry and John Owens, both of whom worked at the embassy site and had concerns about labor conditions, were invited to provide their first-hand observations.


There were multiple sources for the allegations of trafficking and adverse labor conditions beyond Mr. Mayberry. Mr. Owens gave similar testimony at the hearing. A report by the Multinational Forces-Iraq Inspector General found that the laborers working at the site reported fraudulent hiring practices, including recruiting fees that effectively made the workers indentured servants. The existence of these multiple sources does not make the allegations true, but it certainly makes them worthy of oversight.

I was not previously aware of the background and his prior criminal convictions are relevant in assessing his credibility. At the same time, his lack of any apparent motive to deceive and the existence of corroborating sources are also relevant.

Elsewhere, I read that the American Embassy in Baghdad is of "Vatican" size. If you have ever been to the Vatican, you know that means a compound the size of a small city. In fact, Vatican City is an independent state, despite being surrounded on all sides by Italy. What the hell are we doing building an Embassy that size? Are we trying to show the world how we conquered Iraq?? How will they EVER forgive us??

It should come as no surprise that the contractor, First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting, is a subsidiary of the Halliburton-owned Kellogg, Brown and Root.

The allegations that First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting were forcing people to work in Iraq against surfaced two years ago in a Chicago Tribune series called "Pipeline to Peril". According to articles in that series, other companies were using similar tactics.

This is America. This is AMERICA. We should not be allowing people to besmirch the constitutional principles of freedom that we stand for by Shanghai'ing them off to Iraq. That is morally wrong, ethically wrong, and legally wrong, by any standard.

I hope Waxman holds more than hearings on this matter. I hope he initiates some prosecutions.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Conspiracy Theory as Reformation

Conspiracy theory is "deconstructive history" because it is in rebellion against official explanations and against orthodox journalism and orthodox history. Conspiracy theorists cast out demography, market forces, technological development, social evolution, and other abstract, constructed categories of explanation. Conspiracy theory is radically empirical: tangible facts are the focus, especially facts that orthodox doctrine tries to make disappear. There is a ruthless reduction down to what is without doubt real, namely, persons. Conspiracy theory presumes that human events are caused by people acting as people do, including cooperating, planning, cheating, deceiving, and pursuing power.
Read the whole piece here. Pretty interesting.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Irony

“In any country, if you don’t have countervailing institutions, the power of any one president is problematic for democratic development.”

-- Condi Rice, as quoted in today's New York Times, speaking about the president of ... Russia.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Dragonfly Spies, Brain Prints, and DCCC Priorities

I'm so frustrated! I just got this fundraising notice masquerading as a questionnaire from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). I had to stop after the third question and come here because the answers I want are not even options on the form!

Here's what I'm going to send back.

Question #1 (paraphrased). If the election were held now, who would you vote for?
  • Joe Biden

  • Hillary Clinton

  • Christopher Dodd

  • John Edwards

  • Dennis Kucinich

  • Barack Obama

  • Bill Richardson

  • Other
Naturally, I chose "Other," and wrote in, duh,


He's got more experience than any of them. He's been more of a leader on the world's second most important issue (I'll get to the first most important issue, in my opinion, in another couple of questions). He's smart. My gosh, just imagine what it would be like to have a President who could form complete sentences! He has great name recognition, especially today, having just won the Nobel Prize (thank you, Nobel committee! Good call!)

I turned to the next page and was distressed by the next set of options in answer to this question: which of the following strategies is key to electing Democrats in 2008:
  • Door to door canvassing/get out the vote drives
  • Devoting more resources to radio and television ads
  • "Keep working hard to secure more legislative successes in Congress." (Er, what successes? What successes have they had that haven't been killed in the Senate or vetoed?)
  • "Democrats need to invest in all smart and strategic plans in order to win in 2008.

Wrong. Every single one of them wrong, wrong, wrong. Because until we can guarantee our VOTES are COUNTED AS CAST, my gosh, spending money on these other efforts is equivalent to pouring all your cash into the ocean. You have no idea where it's going to go, who will use it, and to what ends. I can't BELIEVE they still REALLY DON'T GET IT!!!

Now, if we knew for certain (and we can't, currently) that our votes DID count, my next choice is still not on the list: invest in creating a left-wing media infrastructure, to counter the right-wing's media strategy. Rupert Murdoch single-handedly set up a wholly one-sided news channel. Keith Olbermann set up a left-wing news show. Not channel. One show. Okay, so we have a couple of good shows on the Comedy Channel as well.

I had the same problem with the third question. "Please rank the following Democratic Priorities in order of importance."

Here are the choices. They're good. But they don't include the first and third most important issues, in my opinion of course, of our time:

  • Achieving energy independence
  • Expanding access to affordable health care
  • Setting a new course in Iraq
  • Guaranteeing retirement security for America's seniors
  • Enacting middle-class tax relief
  • Improving educational opportunities
  • Raising wages and protecting jobs for working Americans
  • Taking swift action to stop global warming
  • Restoring fiscal responsibility in government
  • Strengthening congressional ethics rules
  • Funding promising stem-cell research

  • Protecting our nation from the threat of terrorism.

That's quite a list. But again, the number one issue on the planet is missing: REFORMING OUR VOTE. The reason it's of global importance is that electronic voting might have started in America, but it's spread quickly, like a virus, around the planet. I've read, in recent months, stories about electronic voting being implemented all around the globe. It's so depressing. This is the easiest way to take over the world I've ever seen. Only a handful of programmers on the planet control the way all our votes are counted. I'm not saying our votes are being deliberately stolen. But we'd be fools to think some of them aren't, since there's no accountability, no audits of any paper records of our vote. That alone should frighten all people who value the freedoms they still have.

I put reforming our vote above global warming because who cares if we save the planet only to end up living in BigBrotherLand? I've just been rereading George Orwell's 1984, and it's scary how close we are to that scenario.

Consider this, from the Washington Post of 10/9/07:

Dragonfly or Insect Spy? Scientists at Work on Robobugs.

By Rick Weiss, Washington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 9, 2007; Page A03

Vanessa Alarcon saw them while working at an antiwar rally in Lafayette Square last month.

"I heard someone say, 'Oh my god, look at those,' " the college senior from New York recalled. "I look up and I'm like, 'What the hell is that?' They looked kind of like dragonflies or little helicopters. But I mean, those are not insects."

Out in the crowd, Bernard Crane saw them, too.

"I'd never seen anything like it in my life," the Washington lawyer said. "They were large for dragonflies. I thought, 'Is that mechanical, or is that alive?' "


The CIA was among the earliest to tackle the problem. The "insectothopter," developed by the agency's Office of Research and Development 30 years ago, looked just like a dragonfly and contained a tiny gasoline engine to make the four wings flap. It flew but was ultimately declared a failure because it could not handle crosswinds.

Agency spokesman George Little said he could not talk about what the CIA may have done since then. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service also declined to discuss the topic.

Only the FBI offered a declarative denial. "We don't have anything like that," said a spokesman.

We're being watched by satellite. Our every voice message, text message, email and fax can be read by the NSA. There are surveillance cameras and microphones everywhere. And now we are apparently being "bugged" at rallies too? We have this great illusion of freedom, but the reality is, we're not as free as we think, and can lose the freedoms we have rapidly, under such a system.

And in related news, new scanners that can pretty much see your entire anatomy are going up in airports. This gives strip search a whole new meaning! We're assured faces will be blurred out. Not so, private parts. And when a celebrity walks through, will their private parts be all over the Internet and television in no time flat? (Yes.)

When I read about these new scanners, I felt a chill. I remembered a story from right after 9/11, about how NASA had a plan to screen for terrorist thoughts at airports:

Airport security screeners may soon try to read the minds of travelers to identify terrorists.

Officials of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration have told Northwest Airlines security specialists that the agency is developing brain-monitoring devices in cooperation with a commercial firm, which it did not identify.

Space technology would be adapted to receive and analyze brain-wave and heartbeat patterns, then feed that data into computerized programs "to detect passengers who potentially might pose a threat," according to briefing documents obtained by The Washington Times.

NASA wants to use "noninvasive neuro-electric sensors," imbedded in gates, to collect tiny electric signals that all brains and hearts transmit. Computers would apply statistical algorithms to correlate physiologic patterns with computerized data on travel routines, criminal background and credit information from "hundreds to thousands of data sources," NASA documents say. ...

"We're getting closer to reading minds than you might suppose," says Robert Park, a physics professor at the University of Maryland and spokesman for the American Physical Society. "It does make me uncomfortable. That's the limit of privacy invasion. You can't go further than that."
Just how close is the government getting to reading our thoughts? Ever hear the term "Brain Prints"?
Mapping human brain functions is now routine. By viewing a brain scan recorded by a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine, scientists can tell what the person was doing at the time of the recording - say, reading or writing. Emotions from love to hate can be recognized from the brain's electrical activity.

Thought police. So could the murderous thoughts of a terrorist, asserts [John] Norseen, who wrote his thesis at the Naval War College on applying neuroscience research to antiterrorism. He has submitted a research-and-development plan to the Pentagon, at its request, to identify a terrorist’s mental profile. A miniaturized brain-mapping device inside an airport metal detector would screen passengers’ brain patterns against a dictionary of brain prints. Norseen predicts profiling by brain print will be in place by 2005.
By the way - in the same piece, Noreen states clearly the implications of this research, however (and distressingly) nonchalantly:
“If this research pans out”, says Norseen, “you can begin to manipulate what someone is thinking even before they know it.” But Norseen says he is “agnostic” on the moral ramifications, that he's not a “mad” scientist - just a dedicated one. “The ethics don’t concern me,” he says, “but they should concern someone else.”
Don't you feel all warm and cozy inside knowing someone is figuring out a way to manipulate your brain without you knowing, who doesn't care about the ethical considerations? Is this really a planet worth saving, if such a plan becomes reality?

Hilariously (if I stop laughing I'll scream), the ever-sharp brand-aware people at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have a mind-reading program they call Project Hostile Intent:
Deception Detection

Sensors tested for Project Hostile Intent aim to identify signs of deception right on the spot With 400 million people entering the country every year, authorities are always on the lookout for individuals who may harbor hostile intent toward the United States and its citizens. But while measures such as biometrics—including fingerprints, iris, and facial scans—are in place to detect known terrorists, how do we detect those without a past? What about those with no known ties to terrorist organizations? Or those who do not appear in any government database?

Now, with a program called Project Hostile Intent, the Human Factors Division of the DHS S&T Directorate aims to answer these questions. Through Directorate-sponsored research, capabilities are being sought to identify deception and hostile intent in real time, on the spot, using non-invasive sensors. The goal is a prototype technology that can equal or exceed the abilities of today’s screening methods—without ever impeding the flow of travelers.

Project Hostile Intent comprises two components. First, hostile intent and deception models are needed, focusing on behavioral and speech cues. These cues are determined from experiments derived from operationally based scenarios that reflect the screening and interviewing objectives of DHS. Second, an automated suite of non-invasive sensors and algorithms is needed. Integrated, these sensors automatically detect and track the input cues to the models.

“The early test results have us cautiously optimistic,” said Larry Willis, the program manager for the project. “This technology has the potential to revolutionize the screening and interviewing process supporting access control for borders and critical infrastructure.”

For more information about this story, click here.

The hostile intent I see is not that they are going to pick this up from terrorists. The hostile intent is that they feel they have the right to literally get inside our heads. Who hasn't had a nasty thought of doing something one would never ACTUALLY do. Are we to be arrested for ThoughtCrime now?

Let me pull these stories together the way I see it:

1. TSA has just put new scanners in the airport that use radio waves.
2. NASA wants to scan at the airport for terrorist thoughts and has had a private contractor working on this for several years.
2. John Noreen says a brain printing device could be placed inside a metal scanner at the airport, and that the technology for brainprinting could be ready in 2005.

Is it possible the new scanners have a brainreading device in them? In the CNN story linked above, this item leapt out at me:
A TSA officer will escort a passenger to the machine for the test, but the person looking at the actual body scans will be at a different location and will not see the passenger, the TSA said.
Is this to protect the passenger, or to protect the output of the technology from scrutiny?

At the end of the DHS article above, the final link brings up the email address of a contact at DHS. So I emailed him and asked him this:
If DHS put such a system in place, would they tell the public, or not? I ask because I saw that TSA just got a new radio detection system to use in airport screening where the results would be sent to a person in another room. I wondered if this tied into your program.
I have yet to hear an answer.

The third most important issue is too long to discuss tonight, but will be the subject of a future post. I think we can all agree that the rapidly increasing redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich is crushing not just folks at home here in the Good Ol' USA, but in third world countries around the globe. The solution must begin with banking reform. I've been reading quite a bit on this subject and will have much to say re this soon.

To close the loop on this post, I decided not to return the DCCC questionnaire. My party really doesn't get it, and my measly little ballot isn't going to change any of their minds. But if you who care and read and learn help spread the word, there may be hope for us all yet. As H. G. Wells said, history is a race between education and disaster.

Keep pumping.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fascism Watch: Silencing the Watchdogs

The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, has ordered an unusual internal inquiry into the work of the agency’s inspector general, whose aggressive investigations of the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation programs and other matters have created resentment among agency operatives.

A small team working for General Hayden is looking into the conduct of the agency’s watchdog office, which is led by Inspector General John L. Helgerson. Current and former government officials said the review had caused anxiety and anger in Mr. Helgerson’s office and aroused concern on Capitol Hill that it posed a conflict of interest.

The review is particularly focused on complaints that Mr. Helgerson’s office has not acted as a fair and impartial judge of agency operations but instead has begun a crusade against those who have participated in controversial detention programs.

Any move by the agency’s director to examine the work of the inspector general would be unusual, if not unprecedented, and would threaten to undermine the independence of the office, some current and former officials say. [Source: NYT 10/12/2007]

Ya think??!?

This stuff scares the sh-- out of me. The Inspector General's office is the only true oversight the agency has, because it's integrated deeply into the CIA already. Congress is limited in the oversight it can provide because they can't object to what they don't know about. Many of them aren't given 'clearance' - can you imagine? The people we elect to run the country don't deserve this information? The people trust them, but the CIA doesn't, so the CIA overrules the people's wishes and decides who can and can't oversee them, and to what degree? I mean, I've known this to be the case. But the last refuge of sanity has always been the office of the Inspector General (IG). The IG report on the Castro assassination plots is the only place in official history where you learn that the CIA did not inform the Kennedys of the assassination plots against Castro until the Phase I plots were over, and moreover, that the CIA did not inform the Kennedys of the Phase II plots, which were happening without their knowledge. (See David Talbot's book Brothers for the fullest discussion of this in print yet.)

When the CIA publicly denied having anything to do with the cocaine connection in Los Angeles, revealed by Gary Webb, it was the IG report that showed that Webb had gotten it right.

I have a great fondness for the IG office. I feel those professionals in the CIA really have proven, time and again, that they have our interests at heart. I hope they get some protection, because the fascists brook no opposition, and the IG's office is standing between us and fascism right now. We need to give the IG thanks, and cover.

And could someone on Capitol Hill please grow some balls and take on Gen. Hayden over this? Don't just exhibit anxiety and wring your hands, damn it.

Do something important, for once.

Take a stand that might cost you something.

Be a leader.

That's why we put you there in the first place.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

What can we do? A LOT, so get busy!!

The people who read this blog are a fascinating bunch. They come from all over the world, from a variety of backgrounds. Some have followed me since my alt.conspiracy.jfk newsgroup days. Others stumble upon me fresh every day. One of the things I most treasure about the Internet is that the communication is not just one way. Every day, I have opportunities to enter into dialog with different people, time permitting.

This message came to me as a proposed comment, but I thought it was a really good set of questions, and related to something I’ve wanted to talk about for a long time. Me. :-) Just kidding, sort of. I don’t think history is about me so I don’t usually like to talk about myself. But I’ve found people have some interesting assumptions about me which are pretty far from the truth! And much more importantly, the real question is, what can any of us do, and I have a lot of thoughts on that matter as well. So maybe my story will help give others ideas of what they can do.

i would like to leave what i call a " macro comment" . a view based on macro econmics and yet also based on ones own micro economics. we enjoy your writngs, lisa, but i guess what you dont really get, it seems to me, is: how do people support themselves and pay their bills? when u answer that, u can c their world view. the guy who owns a McDonalds , for instance, fights against a ban on fatty foods. a Bar owner wants to protect his weekly income from the in store lottery powerball stuff, so he fights against a casino in his town, finding more palatable reasons for it, saying " gambling is wrong" or the " traffic will kill us". VP Cheney gets so much $$ ea. yr from halliburton that, well, you know the rest. . . . . every speaker should reveal how he pays his own bills. me for instance, i was a divorce lawyer for 23 yrs. i had to give it up, i hated it, i was like a hate dealer...but within that world, i saw everyone struggling to pay their bills and thats how everyones world view is shaped. . . . . . how do i support my family? how early can i retire and get out of the rat race? ? ? even the guys who work for blackwater, r they bad? well some of them are, some of them are not, but they all have mortgages and kids who want $80 sneakers and ipods, etc.

. . . . .do u have any kids lisa? do u know how FRIKKIN expensive it is just to raise one kid ? ? ? do you have an adjustable rate mortgage ? do u know what a NY electric bill runs ? ? and so on and so forth. . . . . . . so the liberal slant on things and the bush bashing is all understandable. and, i DO agree with 95% of what u say, but when u ponder openly abt " woe our beloved country", well, we peons out here in blog land hafta wonder > > how does this lady pay her own bills? ? ? ? ( i dont want to get personal, but do you go home every night to a nice home and a doctor boyfriend who pays all the bills? or do you support yourself by continually writing and speaking abt all these unsolvable issues ? or what ? ( p.s. feel free to tell me to go F-ck myself, its none of my biz. . . i'm a big boy i can take it ) we ask b/c/ your world view seems to not really consider money, poof !! almost as if money does not matter? ? ? ( alas, if only that was true !!) it ALL stems from that one question, sorry to say. . . . i didnt invent this capitalistic system, im just here to remind people that it is here to stay so better make the most of it and figure out t how to make it work or you, b/c its not gonna change, even if hillary wins . . .

Allow me to add another equally pertinent quote before I answer:

I’m looking at the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and make a change.
That’s my answer, in a nutshell.

YES. Money and the lack thereof drives most of what we do, every day.

YES. Money makes us do things we wouldn’t necessarily do if we had more of it, or better yet, had no need for it.

YES. I know how much it costs to raise a child.

YES. The system will not change much if Hillary wins.

But here’s what I’ve been doing.

Long ago I had a choice to make. I got accepted to law school. I opted not to go, for a variety of reasons. But one of the key reasons was that I was getting into studying real history, and I honestly thought I’d serve the world better by pursuing that path then by becoming a lawyer. Whether that was a right or wrong thought, we’ll never know. But I had it, I trusted it, and here we are, having this discussion.

Twice I’ve stepped out of my normal life, left jobs and even a condo that hadn’t earned its money back yet to work for change. Once was in 1992, when I dropped everything to work for the candidate who ran on a “We the People” platform, who refused to take more than $100 in campaign contributions from any person as a way to protest the influence of money on politics. Jerry Brown made a bold choice. I wanted to make an equally bold choice to help that man. I took a cut in pay and worked my butt off seven days a week to keep that campaign alive. When I quit my job, I told people I felt like I was jumping off a cliff without even being able to see the bottom. And when I hit bottom hard, at the end of the campaign, it was so hard and cold it nearly broke me. I lost my job, my boyfriend, and my hope for this country in the space of a couple of weeks. It’s horrible to be out of work. But try it when you’re out of hope too. Believe me, I’ve been there, done that. I know a lot about the bottom. I could write volumes on it.

I had left a profession I wasn’t sure I wanted to return to and had to start over. Slowly I worked my way up. And up. And up. But in 2003, I felt compelled to do it again. This time, I had to support the guy who stood up in the winter of 2002 and said this:

What I want to know is why in the world the Democratic party leadership is supporting the president's unilateral attack on Iraq.

What I want to know is why are Democratic party leaders supporting tax cuts. The question is not how big the tax cut should be, the question should be can we afford a tax cut at all with the largest deficit in the history of this country.

What I want to know is why we're fighting in Congress about the Patient's Bill of Rights when the Democratic party ought to be standing up for health care for every single American man, woman, and child in this country.

What I want to know is why our folks are voting for the president's No Child Left Behind bill that leaves every child behind, every teacher behind, every school board behind, and every property tax payer behind.

I'm Howard Dean and I'm here to represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.
So there I was. I had hoped to move back to Los Angeles from Seattle because I hated the weather and felt compelled to pursue a different path. But when this man stood up and said something so strong, so compelling, I had to go and help, again. (I can’t help noting that the only two times I’ve taken a detour from my life to work on a campaign have both been to defeat a Bush. But I digress.)

I got rid of my nice feather down sofa it had taken me years to purchase. I got rid of that oh-so-comfy bed, the decent dining table set I’d always wanted and finally gotten. I had to get rid of it all, because I couldn’t afford to move it all twice (to Vermont, and then to Los Angeles). I sold a few things, gave the rest to Goodwill, kept a few books, files, music, and some clothes, packed it into a tiny U-Haul trailer attached to my tiny car, and drove myself to Vermont to help the man who stood up to my party and spoke the truth. Again, my pay was about half what I had been making previously. And I wasn’t able to sell my condo before I left – I ran out of time, and had to keep paying even when I was no longer in it. I did sell it, eventually. But I ran up a scary amount of debt.

Just getting to Vermont, having to stay in hotels each night, and having to pay for twice the normal gas because I had the trailer, cost me a few thousand. But it was a price I was willing to pay. Of course, I did not have anyone else depending on me. I did not have to worry about dragging children back and forth. I had confidence that eventually, I’d find a way to work my way back up to the salary level I felt I deserved.

And I knew, as perhaps few on the campaign did, that it would most likely end unhappily. I did not think it likely that Dean would win the nomination. Not because he wasn’t the best candidate, but because the system is what it is. I suppose, knowing that, having already paid my dues once before, I would have been entitled to sit that one out. But the thought that we were attacking a country that had never done any harm to us, killing all those innocent people, propelled me from my own struggles and caused me to dig a little deeper, to find out what I was truly made of. IT WAS HARD. I don’t mean the work. Try picking yourself up, in your mid-forties, and moving to a place where you know absolutely no one, which you also know will be temporary. Try making friends or finding a lover under such circumstances. Try doing it when you’re tired and angry and overweight and full of the knowledge that this is all yet another tilt at a windmill. But every now and then, you beat the windmill. It happens. You have to try. You MUST try, with all your heart, when so much is at stake.

So then, the inevitable. The campaign ended. I think it ended in Iowa, before the scream. It ended when the perceived front-runner came in third, not even second. New Hampshire was simply a confirmation of that. I left after New Hampshire. Those who were serving on their first campaign undoubtedly thought me a traitor. But at that point, I was going to be serving no one by staying, not myself, and not the campaign, feeling the way I did. And I really couldn’t bear to go through all of that pain again. I was in no condition to endure that twice. So I took all the boxes I had never even bothered to unpack, rented another U-Haul trailer, and drove to Los Angeles.

Now I work for “one of the best companies to work for” in America. It’s a 40-55 hour a week job, depending on the week. Is it the career of my dreams? No, and no one I work with imagines that it is. Fortunately, they know of my work on the assassinations of the sixties, my appearance on the Discovery Channel (to be repeated in December, I think?), my screenplay award, and my upcoming appearance on Ugly Betty, and have been tremendously supportive of all my efforts. I definitely give them MY vote as one of the best places to work, hands down.

I can just hear the minds screeching. Did she just say she was going to be on Ugly Betty? Yes. October 18, assuming they adhere to the current schedule. Episode 4. I will say nothing other than if you see three women holding chocolate soufflé, I’ll be the one on the left. Your left, as you watch. If you watch. And why not. We all need our escape from reality momentarily.

That’s the key though, isn’t it. A lot of people spend their whole lives escaping reality. Or escaping the reality I think really matters. Family problems? Finances? Are those really the most important things in the world? They sure seem to be, when you are wrapped up in them. We all lose a lot of time on things that don’t really matter. Fights? Who has the time? Upset? Hurt feelings? How about a sense of perspective? Upset that your dog died? Try losing your entire family in a war of aggression by a foreign power. I’m not saying don’t miss your dog. I’m saying, keep a small amount of perspective.

So that’s my answer. Things might not get better if you fight. But they will DEFINITELY get worse if you roll over and play dead. We all have to do what we can. Those of us in a position to do more than others really MUST do more than others. But everyone can do more than they think they can. Just watch an episode of “The Biggest Loser” to see that proven every week.

It starts by letting go of some fear.

Debt is bad. But debt is not the end of the world. I refuse to let my fear of debt keep me from achieving my goals.

I’m single. I get lonely at times. But I refuse to let my fear of loneliness dictate my choice of whom to allow into my life.

I treasure some great friends. I am blessed to have made the acquaintance of some of the best minds on the planet. But I would never have met many of them nor had some of the remarkable experiences I have if I had acted from fear.

I have made bold choices. Some of them have been costly, on a personal level. But when I look back, I don’t see any choices I regret making. I see a few choices I regret not making sooner, perhaps, but that is all.

Do you like to hike? Those who do see mountains as challenges. Those who don’t see mountains as annoyances, something to be gotten around.

I’m a hiker. I’ve learned that there’s nothing you can’t do if you just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Nothing. It took 4,000 years to make slavery illegal. It took over 100 years from “all men are created equal” to giving women the right to vote. Nothing is granted. Everything must be fought for. But everything can ultimately be achieved. I truly believe that.

So don’t whine. Don’t complain that life is hard, that you have to make money, that you can’t change the world. I don’t accept that as legitimate. Rosa Parks had to make a living too. Helen Keller didn’t have your advantages. Robert Parry has given up a chance at mainstream media fortune because he answered to a higher call. There are so many others.

And there are so many small things one can do. Give that $10 bucks to the next environmental organization that asks. Spend the $150 you might be tempted to spend to get your kid an iPod on a political candidate who will be less fascist. Your kid truly will thank you some day, when they realize what you did. Or hate you, when they realize what you didn’t do, that you left for them to try to fix.

So take some small steps. And then, try some larger ones.

At some point, a lot more of us are going to have to take much bigger steps to avoid fascism in this country. And wouldn’t you rather be on the end of preventing it, rather than having to oppose it from within a concentration camp? I don’t mean to be alarmist. But when a national TV network allows people to call those with liberal views “Traitors” we should all be very much alarmed, and alert.

Pick up the phone. It costs you all of five minutes to find and call your Representative in Congress, to make yourself heard, to press for change. It’s a free call, if you need it to be. Start by asking for your Rep to pass HR 811. If your vote is gone, all our battles get so much more difficult. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is a simple act. It’s free. And will do much good.

You can change the world, just by trying. We all can. And we must, if we are to endure.

Our forward progress may seem infinitesimal. But keep at it. It’s worth it. Doing the right thing is truly deeply gratifying, beyond anything money can buy.

I promise.

You’ll see.

Make that change.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Vote fraud, fascism, is anyone out there???

Got this in the mail today. Stunning:

Got this in the mail today. Heartbreaking:

I used to give thought to what historical time and place I would like to have lived in. Europe in the 1930s was usually my first choice. As the war clouds darkened, I'd be surrounded by intrigue, spies omnipresent, matters of life and death pressing down, the opportunity to be courageous and principled. I pictured myself helping desperate people escape to America. It was real Hollywood stuff; think "Casablanca". And when the Spanish Republic fell to Franco and his fascist forces, aided by the German and Italian fascists (while the United States and Britain stood aside, when not actually aiding the fascists), everything in my imaginary scenario would have heightened -- the fate of Europe hung in the balance. Then the Nazis marched into Austria, then Czechoslovakia, then Poland ... one could have devoted one's life to working against all this, trying to hold back the fascist tide; what could be more thrilling, more noble?

Miracle of miracles, miracle of time machines, I'm actually living in this imagined period, watching as the Bush fascists march into Afghanistan, bombing it into a "failed state"; then Iraq: death, destruction, and utterly ruined lives for 24 million human beings; threatening more of the same endless night of hell for the people of Iran; overthrowing Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti; bombing helpless refugees in Somalia; relentless attempts to destabilize and punish Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Gaza, and other non-believers in the empire's god-given mission. Sadly, my most common reaction to this real-life scenario, daily in fact, is less heroic and more feeling scared or depressed; not for myself personally but for our one and only world. The news every day, which I consume in large portions, slashes away at my joie de vivre; it's not just the horror stories of American military power run amok abroad and the injustices of the ever-expanding police state at home, but all the lies and stupidity which drive me up the wall. I'm constantly changing stations, turning the TV or radio off, turning the newspaper page, to escape the words of the King of Lies and the King of Stupidity -- those two twisted creatures who happen to occupy the same humanoid body -- and a hundred minions.

Nonetheless, I must tell you, comrades, that at the same time, our contemporary period also brings out in me a measure of what I imagined for my 1930s life. Our present world is in just as great peril, even more so when one considers the impending environmental catastrophe (which the King of Capitalism refuses to confront lest it harm the profits of those who lavish him with royal bribes). The Bush fascist tide must be stopped.
(Read the rest at The Anti-Empire Report.)

Along with an illegal war against people who have never attacked us, plans for a second war against people who have ALSO never attacked us, the tasering of a kid who asked too long a question and the accidental(??) death of a woman handcuffed after losing it at the airport - what kind of a people are we becoming??

And now we're outsourcing our security, in a most corrupt fashion:

When we evaluate the facts, the use of private military contractors appears to have harmed, rather than helped, the counterinsurgency efforts of the U.S. mission in Iraq, going against our best doctrine and undermining critical efforts of our troops. Even worse, the government can no longer carry out one of its most basic core missions: to fight and win the nation's wars. Instead, the massive outsourcing of military operations has created a dependency on private firms like Blackwater that has given rise to dangerous vulnerabilities.

On Tuesday, among those testifying on Capitol Hill will be Erik Prince, the chairman and owner of Blackwater, as well as a series of State Department officials who were supposed to have overseen the firm's activities. We can expect that Prince will wrap himself in the flag, discussing all the vital missions that Blackwater conducts in Iraq, while downplaying the recent killings. State Department officials are likely to say that they had no other option but to use the firm, given their lack of Diplomatic Security forces -- conveniently ignoring that the department has chosen to hollow out its Diplomatic Security corps and instead hand over the task to a consortium of private firms led by Blackwater under a multibillion-dollar contract.

Waxman's committee, which has already been focused on politically connected companies and contracting corruption in Iraq, has disclosed a series of documents in recent days that reveal some dark patterns with Blackwater. The documents appear to show that the firm cut corners that may have contributed to employee deaths, it may have tried to have documents classified in order to cover up corporate failures, and the State Department's own inspector general may have tried to impede investigations into Blackwater, including threatening to fire any of his inspectors who cooperated with Congress.

Where are our leaders?

Oh yeah. They were all assassinated, one by one, and none dared raise his head so high again.