Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year, Sara Jane Moore

One of the happiest people on New Year's Eve, 2007, had to be Sara Jane Moore, released from jail many years after being put there for shooting at President Ford in the 1970s (just seventeen days after Manson devotee Squeaky Fromme attempted the same feat).

I've wanted to write about Moore for some time. Besides being an FBI informant and a go-between for the Symbionese Liberation Army and William Hearst, after his daughter was kidnapped, she had also been arrested -- and let go -- for carrying a concealed weapon the day before she shot Ford, even though the weapon was part of a deal she had done with ATF and SFPD escort.

I've never put the time aside to pull the data I have together. I'll see what I can do in the next week or two. It's a twisty, convoluted tale, but a very interesting one. I copied a few pages from a hearing held in the Senate on the matter from 1975.

In the meanwhile, this is an interesting piece, comparing the media's coverage of the Bhutto assassination (shouting, "conspiracy") to their coverage of the Kennedy assassination (shouting, "no conspiracy").

I wish all readers of Real History the courage and sanity to prevail in these twisted times. I hope the new year brings a healthy dose of both to any who would be our leaders in the next few years.

Happy New Year. It's hard to say that, knowing how many are suffering at my country's hands. It's really hard to be happy about anything whenever I think of Afghanistan and Iraq, and even Iran, whose fundamentalism is a direct outgrowth of our having overthrown their very democratic leadership in the 50s.

I'm sorry, world. I'm personally sorry for all my country has done. I know a lot of us feel the same way. Please don't hate us all.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Did Musharraf have Bhutto killed?

Before she was assassinated, former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto sent an e-mail message to her friend Mark Siegel, expressing fears for her safety, blaming the current Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for the inadequate security he was providing her:

Just wanted u to know if it does in addition to the names in my letter to Musharaf of Oct 16nth, I wld hold Musharaf responsible. I have been made to feel insecure by his minions and there is no way what is happening in terms of stopping me from taking private cars or using tinted windows or giving jammers or four police mobiles to cover all sides cld happen without him.
As CNN reports:
Just before returning to Pakistan after eight years of self-imposed exile, Bhutto told CNN she was aware of threats against her and said that some had come from people who hold "high positions" in Pakistan's government. She said she had written a letter to Musharraf about her fears, apparently the same letter she refers to in her e-mail to Siegel.

In a speech, she listed four groups she believed posed the biggest threat to her and her cause -- the Taliban in Pakistan, the Taliban in Afghanistan, al Qaeda and a suicide team from Karachi that she did not describe.

After the October bombing, ... "She basically asked for all that was required for someone of the standing of a former prime minister," Siegel told CNN's "The Situation Room." "All of that was denied to her. ... She got some police protection, but it was sporadic and erratic."
Ironically, just yesterday, I had just forwarded lyrics from a Jackson Browne song that seemed particularly apt at this time of year:

Well we guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why there are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus
Bhutto was concerned enough about the plight of her fellow countrymen to willing risk her life for a chance to serve them. Only a handful of others have knowingly taken this risk. Those that come instantly to mind: John and Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Ghandi. I'm not comparing her politics to any of those people. But it's a rare person who knowingly walks into potentially fatal danger because it's the right thing to do, and such people are deserving of respect. Just twenty minutes before she was killed, she told a crowd, "I put my life in danger because this country is in danger."

I am waiting for the "official story" to be rammed down our throats. It was a lone suicide bomber. Or a small conspiracy of disaffected Muslims. We don't want to have to start calling a nuclear-armed Musharraf our enemy, so I expect to see Bush go through some contortions, condemning the act but not blaming Musharraf in any way. We'll see.

And in perhaps the ultimate irony, Sen. Arlen Specter, the author of the keystone to the John Kennedy assassination cover-up (the "magic bullet theory"), was to join Kennedy's nephew Rep. Patrick Kennedy at dinner with Musharraf the night Bhutto was killed. He had the gall to say, "It's a night reminiscent of Kennedy, Robert Kennedy's assassination." (I can't help but wonder if he couldn't bear to make the comparison to the John Kennedy assassination out of guilt for his actions in that case.)

As Robert Parry laments over at
Now, with Bhutto’s death and with unrest sweeping Pakistan, Bush’s Iraq War backers are sure to argue that these developments again prove the president right, that an even firmer hand is needed to combat terrorism and that the next president must be someone ready to press ahead with Bush’s concept of a “long war” against Islamic extremism.

But the reality again appears different. Though rarely mentioned in the American press, the evidence is that bin Laden and other extremists have cleverly played off Bush’s arrogance and belligerence to strengthen their strategic hand within the Muslim world.
So what happens now? The Daily Mail has a good suggestion, although I doubt it will be followed:
If her sacrifice is to mean anything, General Musharraf must use it to hasten the restoration of democracy.

This will not be easy in a country where the electorate is largely poor and ignorant, the ruling elite riddled with corruption, Islamist terror on the rise and the military jealous of its supreme power.

But Musharraf is used to walking a political tightrope. He is an artful diplomat and has been the West's staunchest ally in the War on Terror.

He should accept that the best hope of long-term stability is reform. Rapid movement towards civil rule must be his imperative - and Miss Bhutto's memorial.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

"Many Americans Still Believe in Conspiracy Theories" well they should!

I found the headline of this Scripps Howard News Service article more than a little disturbing:

"Many Americans still believe in conspiracies"

It sounds as if the rest of the sentence is missing: "despite our best efforts."

Indeed, the Scripps-Howard new service, like every other major media outlet in the country, has been one of the CIA's media assets, according to Carl Bernstein's landmark 10/20/1977 Rolling Stone article "The CIA and the Media." So it's fitting then, that not only does Scripps decry the findings, it's also misrepresenting them.

The article focuses on one set of findings reported from a survey of the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University:

Nearly two-thirds of Americans think it is possible that some federal officials had specific warnings of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, but chose to ignore those warnings, according to a Scripps Howard News Service/Ohio University poll.

A national survey of 811 adult residents of the United States conducted by Scripps and Ohio University found that more than a third believe in a broad smorgasbord of conspiracy theories including the attacks, international plots to rig oil prices, the plot to assassinate President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and the government's knowledge of intelligent life from other worlds.

The last sentence is incredibly misleading, in that it lumps all these conspiracy theories together as if, if one believes one of them, one believes all of them. But that's not how the survey was conducted.

It's also inaccurate on the number surveyed, in that 880 answered the question about gas prices, while only 808 answered the question about intelligent life elsewhere.

In addition, quite a bit more than a third believe in most of those theories, according to the posted survey results.

The survey questions were individual, and contained the following results:
I'd also lke [sic] to ask about some conspiracy theories that are sometimes mentoned among Americans. Please tell me whether you think each of these is very likely, somewhat likely or not likely. So when I say that oil companies are conspiring to keep gasoline prices high, is that very likely, somewhat likely or not likely.*

Very likely 50%
Somwhat likely 30%
Not Likely 14%
Don't know 4%
Can't answer, refused 2%

*This question had 880 respondents; it was part of a survey posted on on September 22, 2007.
Compare this data to the quotation above. While the report said 811 people had been surveyed, 880 answered this question, while less than 811 answered some of the others. And regarding this question, it's not just a third who believe in the oil prices may be rigged, it's 80%! So the reporting so far on this survey is not only inaccurate, but dramatically misleading.
How about that some people think the federal government had specfic warnings of the 9/11 attacks in New york and Washington, but chose to ignore these warnings. Is this very likely, somewhat likely or not likely?*

Very likely 32%
Somewhat likely 29%
Not likely 30%
Don't know 6%
Can't answer, refused 2%

*This question had 808 respondents; it was part of a survey posted on on September 22, 2007.
This question was the only one reported accurately, in that yes, about two thirds believe there is some likelihood that the government ignored specific warnings about the 9/11 attacks.

The next question deals with Kennedy's assassination:
How likely is it that some people in the federal government knew about the assassinaton of President Kennedy in advance?*

Very likely 20%
SOmewhat likely 22%
Not likely 40%
Don't know 17%
Can't answer, refused 1%

*This question had 808 respondents; it was part of a survey posted on on September 22, 2007.
First of all, that's an odd question. Would you consider a CIA field operative a "member of the federal government"? Or Allen Dulles, the retired head of the CIA? But of course, the purpose of the survey was to gauge the public's feelings towards the federal government.

Note that the question does not specifically ask about a conspiracy, yet it was reported as such. After all, some might believe the Feds had an eye on Oswald, but refused to act, not because of any conspiracy, but because of incompetence.

In addition, those who believe that Castro did it, or the Mob, may not have believed anyone in the federal government had any foreknowledge, making any statement about a belief in a conspiracy regarding "the plot to assassinate President John F. Kennedy in 1963" nonsensical, given the specific wording of the question.

Even so, less than half the people surveyed believed it was unlikely that the government had foreknowledge of the plot. In other words, a majority left open the possibility that someone in the federal government did have foreknowledge. In any case, there's no way to know how many believed JFK's death was the result of a conspiracy, because the question was not worded that way.

The last question regarding conspiracies was this one:

Some Americans feel that flying saucers ae [sic] real and that the federal government is hiding the truth about them from us. Do you think this is very likely, somewhat Likely or not likely?*

Very likely 11$ [sic]
SOmewhat likely 24%
Not likely 55%
Don't know 7%
Other 1%
Can't answer. refused 2%
*This question had 808 respondents; it was part of a survey posted on on September 22, 2007.
This is the only question that fits the one-third description in the original story.

Missing from the overall discussion is the question of whether people are justified in their mistrust of the federal government in these issues. After Watergate, Iran-Contra, the BCCI scandal, the ripping off of the Savings and Loans by people in government, after the Niger forgeries and the Downing Street memo, why should anyone have blanket faith that our government is telling us the truth about 9/11, or the Kennedy assassination?

On the flip side, however, blanket distrust of the government can be as harmful to us as blanket trust. No government is entirely good, or entirely evil. It's made up of people who do good and bad things. I've been in private discussions with activists on evoting issues, and there are those who think any federal legislation is bad legislation because it gives the federal government near dictatorial powers. My point is that, sometimes such powers can be wielded for the good. Would you rather have 50 separate Social Security systems in place of the one we have now? I wouldn't.

The most important thing for us all to do is to question everything, but answer only by carefully pinning down points of verifiable data. Sometimes data is missing, and you have to use a theory to connect the data points you have. That's legitimate theorizing. Good conspiracy theory is simply pattern recognition.

Bad conspiracy theory, however, is when you read information unquestioningly, and believe things that are provably not true. Conspiracy theory is not for the faint of heart, or the lazy. If you're willing to do the research, however, there is a world of interesting history out there that you can't read about in the mainstream media.

I think skepticism of any media-promoted/government-sanctioned version of events is always prudent. But any theories must fit the facts. We should never stoop to the level of the Warren Commission members to twist the facts to fit our theories.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Review of "Charlie Wilson's War"

Robert Parry is carrying my review of the new film "Charlie Wilson's War" over at Definitely catch this one during the holiday season.

Another film you won't want to miss: "The Great Debaters," which opens Christmas day. Here's my review re that one, also on Parry's site.

Friday, however, I will be foregoing all serious movies and enjoying the second "National Treasure" film. I so enjoyed the first one, and am looking forward to a fun-filled ride for the second!

Enjoy the holidays while you still can!

Next month, the campaign to convince us that Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy, and John Kennedy were all killed by random lone nuts begins in earnest. I'll have much to say about that all year long, 2008 being the 40th and 45th anniversaries of those heinous events.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Be who you must, that's a a part of the plan

I'm so sorry to see Dan Fogelberg has just died. In the soundtrack of my life, Fogelberg played a big part. I can remember many nights, pining away over some unrequited love, listening to his all too familiar stories of hope and heartbreak.

I remember the first time I heard the title song from his Nether Lands album and thought wow, that is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard.

Some people just get inside your soul and remain there. Fogelberg did that, for me. His songs were so evocative of the love and longing in my own life that it felt he was reading my thoughts to music to the rest of the world, or thoughts I hoped someone was having about me.

It's funny how a song can revive a personal era. Hearing his music today took me back to my college -- those naive, innocent days when I didn't know squat about the assassination of liberal leaders, when I didn't imagine our votes weren't being counted as cast, when all I cared about was getting a good role in the next show, even as I was beginning to realize I had a role to play in making the world a better place.

I always liked the sentiment in this song, and share this here in his honor. From "Part of the Plan":
I have these moments
All steady and strong
I'm feeling so holy and humble
The next thing I know
I’m all worried and weak
And I feel myself
Starting to crumble.

The meanings get lost
And the teachings get tossed
And you don’t know what you’re
Going to do next.
You wait for the sun
But it never quite comes
Some kind of message comes
Through to you.
Some kind of message comes through.
And it says to you

Love when you can
Cry when you have to
Be who you must
That’s a part of the plan
Await your arrival
With simple survival
And one day we’ll all understand...

Love when you can. Cry when you have to. Be who you must. That's a part of the plan.

Lyrics to live by, indeed.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Why Barack Obama is ahead of Hillary Clinton in Iowa

I love Iowa. I got to spend some time there during Howard Dean's campaign. People in Iowa take democracy very seriously. They read. They meet the candidates in person. They evaluate carefully. They take their responsibility of being the first vote in the nation VERY seriously. Democracy, to many Iowans, is not just about a vote. It's a way of life.

I love the Caucus system, too. It forces you to vote in public, on the Democratic side. You literally stand in clumps to support your candidate and there's a public head count. There's no question, to caucus attenders, if their vote was counted accurately, because everyone sees it happen.

I've been following the polls lately to see who is ahead, but more importantly,who is rising. As we relearn in every cycle, it's not who the press touts necessarily that wins, but who's got the "mo" - wonkspeak for "momentum." I was surprised and, I dare say, pleased to find Barack Obama either ahead of Hillary Clinton or tying her in every recent major poll in Iowa and New Hampshire. For nearly a year, Obama was in third place, behind Edwards and Hillary. Edwards' numbers haven't changed that much. Hillary's have dropped. So the one with the mo is clearly Obama, and I don't attribute that all to Oprah Winfrey's first political endorsement.

I think it's largely attributable to the fact that Obama has run a 'clean' campaign, devoid of slurs against his opponents. And I think that's when Hillary's campaign took a major stumble - when her staffers started talking about Obama's past drug use, as a youth. I also think Obama's response to such attacks were refreshing as well. Instead of saying he "didn't inhale" as Hillary's husband had, Obama said of course he inhaled. "That was the point."

And that leads to what I really think is working for Obama and against Hillary. Obama doesn't talk down to people. I happened to catch one of his town hall meetings today, and far from the usual platitudes such as "I support Social Security" without detail, Obama gave the audience a detailed lesson in what works with Social Security, what doesn't, how the hype that it needs fixing is overblown, but how there's a grain of truth under the hype that does eventually need to be addressed. I realized right then, that's why Iowans like him. He treats them like they're intelligent enough to understand most questions don't deserve a yes or a no, but a nuanced explanation. He doesn't see the world in terms of black or white. Neither does Hillary, but I think she or her advisors think it's better for her to just say something strongly, even if it's not 100% true, than to appear to waffle. But the way Obama does it, it isn't waffling. It's letting you in on the facts he knows, and when he shares those, you find yourself in the same position as well, because the less black and white response is what the facts demand.

I also caught the Republican debate earlier this morning. I was surprised and pleased to see the current frontrunner, Governor Huckabee, state clearly why arts and music are as important to one's education as reading and arithmetic. He stated we need to develop both the left and right brain. Bravo and amen. I've been saying that for years, but it was shocking to find a Republican willing to say the same thing.

I also see Huckabee's appeal, in that he's not snide or sarcastic, but comes across as warm and genuine. But if I were a Republican, I'd be all over Ron Paul. He's dead right when he says the most regressive tax in America is inflation, which is caused by the issuance of currency backed by almost nothing at all. He is the only candidate in either party who understands this part of the equation, and I think it's an important one. If he shared my Democratic values, he'd be the one for me. But he's too conservative for my reality. He's not what we need.

Obama, on the other hand, would put a very new face on America to the world, one that is sorely needed. One that shows we're not this racist, divided society. One of the things I've noted most in Obama's record is his willingness to work on bi-partisan initiatives. He's not one to demonize opponents. He's not one to say "you're either for us or against us." He is someone who might yet be able to pull the country back from the divisions that threaten this country.

I get upset when people write to me about "rethuglicans" or "dumbocrats." Until we see each other as people first, last, and always, we will never have the conversations we need. I truly believe the division between the right and the left is far less, and far less significant, than the division between the haves and the have nots. But it suits the goals of the haves to keep us warring with each other, and creates a semblance of Democracy, when in fact we've rarely had leaders who truly challenged the elites to do better for America. Those that have, notably Lincoln and Kennedy, have been shot down.

But back to Clinton and Obama. I wouldn't count Clinton out yet. She's sharp, she's tough, and she's been through two presidential campaigns before. She's got more experience in her left pinkie than anyone else running. But this all can work against her, as well. People are tired of the past, and want to have something new to look forward to. A lot of Democrats I know are terrified that the one thing that could unite the beaten down and disillusioned Republican base is someone they can agree to hate, and that would be Hillary. Not all of them hate Hillary. I've talked to several Republicans this year that assured me they'd vote for whoever the Democratic nominee was because they think their party is headed in the wrong direction. (After Obama's appearance, one of the callers to C-SPAN claimed to be a Republican who was fed up and liked the calm intelligence Obama showed, and that he would be supporting him.)

Edwards fans and supporters of other candidates, I'm sorry if you feel left out. But the race, at this point, is between Clinton and Obama, and I'd be very surprised if that changed. But we'll see. Of the three, I like Edwards the least. But I'd take him over Huckabee, Giuliani, Paul, or any of the other Republican candidates.

For those interested in following the latest polls, this is one of the best free sites with solid information: Real Clear Politics. Have fun. And don't miss your own primary. My state, California, has moved its primary up much sooner so as to be more relevant to the selection of our candidates. I'm happy to see that, even as that must place an additional burden on the campaigns, who can't get to everyone!

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Friday, December 14, 2007

The Great Debaters

Robert Parry is carrying my review of the new film "The Great Debaters" over at Consortium News. Check it out!

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Trade your coins for oil money (assuming you're not doing that already)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Not dead yet

And no, I'm not talking about Dick Cheney. It's just a really busy time of year for me, and I've been fighting a neverending virus, and there's so much I want to write about it's hard to juggle it all.

I'm finishing a second draft of a current script. In the home stretch. But then it goes out for comments and a new cycle of revisions begins. Most people have no idea how hard it is to write something. Until you've done it yourself, you can't really appreciate it. Others like to write, but hate to rewrite. For me, the real writing starts with the rewriting. The first draft is the roadmap, the basic elements of the story. But subsequent drafts focus on fleshing out characters, smoothing out transitions, finding what works and what doesn't, and then killing your babies. No wonder the writers are striking. That's a lot of work, sweat, pain, hair pulling, eyestrain, lack of sleep, and lack of human contact to trade for four cents on the DVD. I'll have more to say about that in the weeks (and possibly months) ahead.

It's also pre-awards time here in La La Land. That means I get to see just about every movie ever released this year, for free, often with the star or writer or director speaking afterwards. And you were wondering why I moved back to LA! Last night I sat about 20 feet from Denzel Washington after a screening of his phenomenal new film, The Great Debaters. (Washington directs as well as stars in the story.) This one is my early pick for the Oscar for best film. More on that later too.

Another MUST SEE this season: Charlie Wilson's War. The dialog is the best you'll hear in any film this year, bar none, thanks to West Wing scribe Aaron Sorkin. We sowed the seeds of our own destruction, but not for the reasons mentioned in the film. Am I being cryptic? I hope so. Go see the film so we can discuss it together.

Tonight I just got back from seeing 3:10 to Yuma, after which the director and two of the actors, including Christian Bale, appeared. I enjoyed the film and was engrossed in the relationship between Bale's character and the marvelous one portrayed by Russell Crowe, a personal favorite. It was hilarious to hear the director spin the movie as rebelling against the current state of affairs. He offered that maybe America gets involved in these horrible wars because for too long Hollywood gave us happy endings and painted Americans as invincible. He didn't want such an easy ending for his film because that's not the way the world really works. He said maybe if people see more realism in films they won't vote for -- well, you get the picture.

But you didn't come here to read about films (even though the first two are based on real history). You may have come to get an update on Washington Post reporter Jefferson Morley's lawsuit against the CIA over the records of George Joannides, the CIA officer responsible for the DRE group that Lee Harvey Oswald clashed with in New Orleans shortly before Kennedy's assassination. Morley just won the latest round when the United States Circuit Court reversed a lower court decision. That doesn't mean records are in hand. But it's a good step in the right direction. You can read the court opinion here.

Meanwhile, follow this tennis match. Serve. The CIA issued an NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) concluding Iran is not developing nuclear weapons. Return. Word leaked out that the CIA destroyed interrogation tapes that showed "severe interrogation techniques." Smash. An ex-CIA agent says waterboarding was approved by the administration at the highest levels. Gee, the last time the White House and the CIA duked it out in the wake of another watery episode (Watergate), Nixon was forced to resign. So I'm cheering right now. Fight! Fight! Fight!

In other news, Al Gore proves himself the true leader of the country and the world, continuing to remind us that all our petty bickering will mean nothing if the world fries or freezes in the next several years. Read or watch his Nobel Prize acceptance speech here.

I hope to do a more substantive post in the near future, but what with holiday purchases and parties and other activities, it may be a while yet. Thanks for poking in. And if you don't want to have to keep checking back, just enter your email in the box on the right and you'll be alerted any time this blog is updated.

And if I don't have a chance to say it later, try to get out and enjoy this holiday season a bit. If we are on the verge of destroying the planet, go out and enjoy it for a few moments while you still can!