An intellectual freedom blog with an emphasis on libraries and technology

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Assault on Reality

The next wave

We have early indications of how pro-censorship forces will proceed during the next four years. The irrational and unscientific testimony of Judith Reisman of the California Protective Parents Association before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation indicates that we are going to have a bumpy ride. Her statements to the committee on November 18th have only now come up in the alternative press. Rather than read second hand reviews and analysis, you can read Reisman's testimony yourself on the Committee's web site.

Here are some highlights:

Thanks to the latest advances in neuroscience, we now know that pornographic visual images imprint and alter the brain, triggering an instant, involuntary, but lasting, biochemical memory trail, arguably, subverting the First Amendment by overriding the cognitive speech process. This is true of so-called “soft-core” and “hard-core” pornography. And once new neurochemical pathways are established they are difficult or impossible to delete.

And wait, it's gets better:

Pornography triggers myriad kinds of internal, natural drugs that mimic the “high” from a street drug. Addiction to pornography is addiction to what I dub erototoxins -- mind-altering drugs produced by the viewer’s own brain.

What are Ms. Reisman's qualifications? Well, like it or not, she does have a Ph.D. from Case Western University. But the subject of her dissertation, A Rhetorical Analysis of Dorothy Fuldheim's Television Commentaries relates to mass communications, not neuroscience. She hardly has the qualifications to name a new brain chemical. And as Analee Newitz in her column in the San Francisco Bay Guardian writes:

Geneticist Dean Hamer argued in his recent book, The God Gene, that the feelings associated with revelation and transcendence are hard-wired into our brains. In addition, many neuroscientists now believe that all kinds of thought patterns have the power to alter the brain's neural circuitry. Being converted to Christianity probably changes the brain's structure far more than masturbating to some glitter-covered cutie on It's even addictive, since Christians start to feel bad if they don't go to church at least once a week.

If pornography re-wires the brain, so do lots of other stimuli. If I testify that looking at Arlen Specter makes me sick, can Congress outlaw him too?

Newitz also points out that Reisman's illogical unsubstantiated testimony makes a frontal assault on the First Amendment. In a similar fashion to the effort to promote creationism as science after the courts threw biblical study out of the public school system, the far-right now looks to subvert science to impose censorship. We can reasonably guess that those who advocate censorship will not stop at pornography.

Dr. Reisman has also made news (although not in the mainstream broadcast media, yet) with her attacks on Kinsey which have gathered some media attention in the publicity surrounding the new movie about the sex researcher about to open in December. You can read an excellent description and analysis of Reisman's hysterical and bizarre accusations about Kinsey and his research in a New Yorker article: Why Know? by Daniel Radosh.

I liked Mr. Rasosh's article so much that I wrote this e-mail to the New Yorker:

Dear New Yorker staff,

I greatly enjoyed reading Daniel Radosh's piece on the right-wing ideologue Judith Reisman. I have one question. Mr. Radosh writes "To a reader of Reisman’s scholarly papers, it sometimes appears that there is little for which she does not hold Kinsey responsible." My question is what scholarly papers? I am a professional librarian with access to commercial databases of academic peer reviewed journals. I tried to find her scholarly writing but did not find any results in Proquest's Academic Research database (which covers the social sciences quite well). I did find some self-published lunacy on Google with her name and affiliation. This then looks like a new use of the word "scholarly" with which I am up to now not familiar. I do not mean to nit-pick, but I think it important to note that Judith Reisman could not pass her so-called research off on a peer review committee unless she drugged them.

What "self-published lunacy" you ask? The more I looked for Reisman's writings, the more strange and reprehensible verbiage I found. She writes high praise for "The Pink Swastika" a book that makes the argument that Nazism was a homosexual inspired movement. (I'm not making this up! I don't have the imagination. You can see for yourself--the book's on sale on

Here are some choice passages from my Google search:

On Judith Reisman's web site you can find the following document: in which I found this:

Instead of evidence finding Nazism in conflict with homosexuality, Lively and Abrams [authors of The Pink Swastika] report the strategies of the German homosexual movement to ensconce National Socialism (the Nazi party) and Adolf Hitler, triggering a holocaust which engulfed all of Europe.  Writing of those days in The Mass Psychology of Fascism, radical German sexologist and Hitler contemporary, Wilhelm Reich, warned that Nazi leadership was both ideologically and actually homosexual. 

And on

Lively and Abrams reveal the reigning gay history as revisionist and expose the supermale German homosexuals for what they were - Nazi brutes, not Nazi victims.

Why do we care what a right-wing ideologue says to a Senate Committee? As Dan Perkins (a.k.a.: Tom Tomorrow, author of This Modern World) stated in his blog entry about Reisman:

Easy to dismiss her as a crank, but she's the sort of crank to whom our Republican overlords give face time. And that's really the point here: if you voted for Bush, then this, too, is part of what you voted for.

Remember, censors will not stop with pornography.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The Prisoner

There's an article in that tells the story of a young naive man from New Zealand who entered Iraq while backpacking his way through the region, seeking a job with an NGO. He spent 3 months as a secret prisoner that the U.S. continues to deny knowing anything about despite the fact that U.S. military personnel interrogated him repeatedly. I realize that many people do not like subscription-based web news, but this article alone is definitely worth a subscription to salon. Some highlights from the article (A prisoner's tale, By Graeme Wood):

When Andreas Schafer was released from a prison in Iraq earlier this year, the Iraqi police apologized abjectly for having inconvenienced him for three months. They made sure he knew that if ever he wanted to get back at the arresting officer by, say, slaying the man's brother, it would be all right by them. And he could expect not to be prosecuted for the crime.

It says something about Iraqi justice and the American-led occupation that Iraq's finest viewed an invitation to murder as a triumph of decency and due process.

Many of his fellow prisoners were former new Iraqi police.

The "Mukhabarat", Saddam's former secret police, continue to function under the direction of the coalition forces.

Schafer claims to have seen beatings and torture by Iraqi police and that Americans visited the prison regularly and did nothing to stop or discourage the torture.

Of his U.S. military interrogators:
The failing most relevant to Schafer was the Americans' failing of imagination. "They cannot imagine that someone would come to a country less pleasant than their own, unless they're invading it or have got a really good job."

He described the illiterate Iraqi Shi'ites in the prison with him thus:
"They all confused democracy with anarchy," Schafer says. "They thought democracy was lawlessness. They thought it was anarchy where everything works properly, where you can walk into shops and just take things."

Friday, October 29, 2004

Critical thinking and polemical film

An essay critically examining two films appears on Roger Ebert's web site

As part of this blog's educational mission to encourage critical thinking I highly recommend you read Jim Emerson's review of Fahrenhype 9/11, a right-wing answer to Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. The review gives examples of several rhetorical tricks (used by both Moore and his detractors in the film) and deconstructs some of the fallacies and errors of fact found in both "documentaries." This review also contains some factual information I had not know before, such as in 1998 Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Richard Armitage, John Bolton, and others signed an open letter to President Clinton, in which they advocated the very sort of military action against Iraq that we have seen during the Bush administration.

I find Emerson one of the most clear and articulate writers who addresses the reader and the material with good humor and intelligence. I particularly like his "Political disclaimer" at the end of this essay. This essay appears on Roger Ebert's web site with Ebert acting as editor.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Bush planned to invade Iraq since 1999

Ghost writer goes public

George W. Bush's former biographer, Mickey Herskowitz, has made some interesting revelations in Common Dreams. Read the full article: Two Years Before 9/11, Candidate Bush was Already Talking Privately About Attacking Iraq.

The scary bits:
Herskowitz said that Bush expressed frustration at a lifetime as an underachiever in the shadow of an accomplished father. In aggressive military action, he saw the opportunity to emerge from his father's shadow.

"One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief."

"He [Bush] told me that as a leader, you can never admit to a mistake," Herskowitz said. "That was one of the keys to being a leader."

Thanks to Bob Harris from who's blog I found out about this.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Errol Morris to the rescue

Republicans who voted for Bush in 2000 but for Kerry in 2004 tell why

Errol Morris (who won the Oscar for Fog of War) has produced scores of campaign commercials that feature Republicans who are voting for Kerry this time explain why. Go to Errol Morris' web site to see the commercials. Those who do not live in swing states have escaped the deluge of Presidential advertising, but also miss these.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Another view of conscription

A blog called "Under the Same Sun" views conscription as unnecessary in the current war as an impoverished Central American will work for even less than a U.S. Army private and no one in the U.S. media will notice when they die.

Take a look at We need cheaper lives. At first glance it looks, from the atavistic Bush Administration perspective, like a great idea. Mercenaries and the "security companies" that employ them operate largely free of accountability. And what about veterans of the counter-insurgeny forces in places like Guatamala and Honduras (and El Salvador!!) who are now out of work? Experienced counter-insurgency experts! And they're happy to be employed in Iraq! How could this go wrong? You would think that a President concerned about the belief in the rest of the world that we're at war with Islam would think twice about setting these dogs loose (again!). But not to worry. Most of the recruits will likely come from the impoverished peasant population. And after we employ desperate peasants as mercenaries in Iraq, what will happen when they return home after their tour of duty? There's probably nothing to worry about. We saw how well fighting with a proxy army worked in Afghanistan in the 80s. That hasn't come back to haunt us, has it?

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Haunted by the ghost of Henry Kissenger (and he's not even dead yet)

The National Review wrestles with the The mess in Iraq and the still-birth of a Strong Man

Do the same standards apply to all? Given the scathing denunciations of Bill Clinton and his foreign policy from conservatives, including the writers of The National Review I wonder what they would have written if Clinton had committed the blunders in Iraq, rather than Bush? Unfortunately, we'll never know. But the recent The October 25 (2004) issue of the National Review has an article by Richard Lowry that is a must read for anyone who can't wait to see how the consevative bastion explains the disaster in Iraq and defends the Bush Administration at the same time.

I found his attempt to attack liberals and defend the Bush Administration required some selective use of facts, misdirection and the defense of a bad policy dating back decades. At the beginning of the article he defends not the Administration but the Pentagon. He sets off by paraphrasing (not quoting anyone) the "standard critique of what has gone wrong" and this critique implicates the Pentagon. He attributes this argument to "journalists such as James Fallows and David Rieff," that from these two the idea "entered the slipstream of conventional wisdom" as if the notion the Pentagon ignored all other sources of information comes only from these two journalists and has no basis in fact.

What about conservative critics of the war? Gen. Anthony Zinni, former CentCom commander, has published an article in : The 10 mistakes and you can also read Why we can not win by a soldier on active duty in Iraq. The week of October 11th the weekday "Doonesbury" cartoons gave 5 URLs of conservatives critics of the Bush Administration, including President Eisenhower's son. Recently, the Bagdad Blogger, who writes under the pseudonym Salam Pax, traveled to Washington D.C. and among other people met with a former CIA agent who actually has been to Iraq numerous times. Salam Pax is one of those "middle class not a religious nut-job" type of Iraqis that the Bush administration has hoped will prevail and form the basis of a stable democracy. The Former CIA agent is, well, a former CIA agent - hardly a clone of Howard Dean. From the Guardian re-publication of the Washington trip blog:

"The established wisdom in the state department, intelligence community and the Future of Iraq project was that we had between three and six months after the end of the war before an Iraqi revolt. This is the time you had to get things going nicely for the Iraqis before they turn against you."

"The state department had, through its Future of Iraq project, detailed plans on how to proceed. There were plans for all the ministries. Months were spent preparing reports that once they reached the Pentagon ended up in the waste basket."

Leaving aside for the moment the amount of evidence supporting this view of the relationship between the Pentagon and the State Dept. and the question of the Pentagon's culpability for the mess we're in, this is not a concoction by two liberal writers. Plenty of conservatives have published their outrage and the source of information about the Pentagon's "planning" comes from within the government, not a vicious liberal rumor.

(By the way, Salam Pax is a wonderful writer, his blog entries are laugh out loud funny and his perceptions and insights I found very interesting. To read about his meeting with the former CIA agent from which the above quote comes click here.)

Lowry zeros in on the weakest criticisms, attributes them only to liberals (ignoring the conservatives who share them and their factual basis) and hopes to make so much noise and smoke that no one notices the most damaging ones. Lowry only mentions elections in Iraq to deride General Garner for attempting to hold them too soon (Bremer would subsequently cancel all local elections in June of 2003 specifically because he did not want Baathists or Islamists to win, which he thought would happen.) The words "Abu Ghraib" do not appear anywhere in this article. Nor would one expect any reference to the Red Cross report that revealed the opinion of the U.S. intelligence officers interviewed that between 70-90% of the people incarcerated by U.S. forces were arrested by mistake. He also does not mention Bremer having shut down Mohammad Al-Sadr's newspaper at the low-point of its circulation leading to the Shi'ite leader's subsequent rise in popularity. You see no mention of the fact that the Coalition Provisional Authority can not account for 5 billion dollars that it spent. (Try to imagine the howls of outrage rising from the pages of the National Review if a Democratic President appointed these clowns). And the mainstream media has only given passing mention of the reconstruction and the contractors' hiring practices: shipping in workers from Southeast Asia and hiring rural Iraqis who did not need the jobs - because the workers were cheaper than urban Iraqis. You certainly won't read about that in the National Review.

Lowry's prose attempts to exonerate the Administration with repetitious references to the unpredictability of the course of events. He uses expressions like "inevitable uncertainties and surprises of warfare," and states that "the brilliant and successful war plan had unintended consequences." However, during Salam Pax's trip to Washington he visited with two experts on Iraq who actually knew something about the country. One of them was Judith Yaphe at the National Defense University who recalls the British in 1920 making the same mistakes as the Bush Administration has now and the other was the above mentioned retired CIA officer. At the end of his last day in Washington Pax writes: "There is no way the Bush administration can get away with the mess it created in Iraq by saying it did not know and could not predict this, because for two hours I sat with a man who was so knowledgeable on things I thought no one in the west knew or cared about. It is a shame he is now in the "private sector. ... On my way out of the US, I have to go to the office of border protection again to get my passport stamped. I do my "I believe we should work with the Americans" spiel, but with less conviction than I usually do. The Americans I want to work with seem to be excluded - all they can do is wring their hands and say: "We tried to tell them.""

Let's move on to Lowry's apologia for the Pentagon staff. He defends them with this arguement: "the pure Defense Department pre-war vision that wasn't implemented would have avoided one of the pitfalls of what transpired..." And this was "[The Pentagon favored] the creation of an Iraqi government even before the invasion. And it pushed from the very beginning for a serious effort to train indigenous Iraqi forces, ... so that Iraqis can carry on the fight for their country themselves." Doesn't this sound familiar? It should.

What about this idea of a "creation of and Iraqi government even before the invasion?" Hint: he's talking about Ahmad Chalabi. Lowry's explanation of Chalabi speaks volumes. He quotes a former CPA official: "He had no street credibility, if you ask people about him, you would hear one of three things, or maybe all three: 1) He's a crook; 2) he's not one of us; 3) he's a stooge of the U.S." But then Lowry writes "In any case, he lost all support from the U.S. government when he was quoted in the Daily Telegraph saying any erroneous information that members of his group might have given the U.S. about WMD prior to the war was fine, that they were "heroes in error."" What does this mean?! If Chalabi had not blabed to the press that he lied about WMD and was proud of it then the U.S. would have continued to support him regardless of his obvious unpopularity in Iraq? This also does not explain why the Bush Administration supported a convicted embezzler without supporters in the country. The more Lowry tries to defend the Pentagon planners, the worse they look.

To see what an Iraqi who actually lives in Iraq thinks of Chalabi and the exile government read the Bagdad Blogger. You can even read news from conservative papers like the Wall Street Journal about the corruption of Chalabi and his cronies, his links to Iran and his fall from grace. Attempting to push an exile government on Iraq (especially Chalabi) was one of the blunders, not a solution.

But in his descriptions of specific failings Lowry falls deeper into an astonishingly appauling alternate reality (one we have seen before). The Administration was too nice and too humanitarian. [No kidding, go look up the article yourself if you don't believe me.] He quotes General Myers appearance in the Senate Armed Services Committee in June. "[The idea was] to let regular Iraqi divisions [go], while destroying equipment and some of their people. If they melted away, then let them melt away, because they were conscripts, after all. So if there is a blame here, it was making some assumptions on how the Iraqi people would react to that, and I would submit we were probably too gracious in our victory in hindsight." So what was the alternative? Kill them all? Lowry writes: " In Iraq, the conciliatory gesture, the half-measure, took priority over the work of smashing the enemy and establishing order." Read that sentence again. It is very revealing. This is an old argument that dates back to the time that Nixon was Vice President: "They [insert name of foreigners here] hate us because they think we're weak and they do not respect us."

This ignores Gen. Anthony Zinni, who wrote in that in the 90s the U.S. dropped leaflets all over Iraq promising to take care of the ordinary Iraqi soldier if there was another war. The fact that Bremer ignored and effectively broke this promise Lowry explains away by blaming the Iraqis: "the army had really disbanded itself. It was, in its essence, an instrument of repression. Shia conscripts weren't going to serve another day under the lash of Sunni officers." Does this mean the U.S. could not appoint Shia officers from among the ranks? And how do we know that this disaffection did not happen after they realized that no one would receive their army pay anymore? Lowry does not even bother discussing the devastating economic effects on the businesses from which the soldiers used to purchase goods and services. No, we were too gracious in our victory (?!). But this line of reasoning grows far worse: "The U.S. got a little taste of how trying to maintain Saddam's army would have worked in its April 2004 deal with former Baathist officers in Fallujah, who promised to police the city and promptly faded away or joined the other side." Fast forward to a year later as a justification for screwing the Iraqi Army soldiers?! And Lowry forgets that when Bremer disbanded the army he let them keep their weapons "because we may need to use them again someday"(?!). Lowry's perception of cause and effect exists in its own separate (and surreal) version of the space-time continuum.

Lowry spends a lot of ink writing about how the training of an Iraqi security force sooner would have made all the difference while ignoring the fact that the recruits have to come from somewhere. He treads a fine line between conceding the obvious and ignoring factual information readily available from even conservative news sources (such as the Wall Street Journal). If we use the same "fast forward" technique as Lowry, consider the experience of Canadian Journalist Scott Taylor (, Wednesday, September 22nd, 2004) who was kidnapped at an Iraqi police check-point with the aid of the Iraqi security people. This makes one wonder whether "better training" done sooner would have made the them more or less dangerous and for whom. The insurgency has heavily infiltrated the Iraqi Security Forces (surprise?). Maybe the problem does not boil down to a choice between an intact Iraqi Army vs. "Security Forces" but instead on a foundation of betrayal and broken promises. I am not just talking about disbanding the Iraqi Army. Remember that Bush Sr. called upon the Iraqi people to rise against Saddam in 1992 and then halted that war while anti-Baathist Iraqis and Shi'ites were rioting in the streets. During the recent war U.S. forces found the mass graves of the current Bush Administration's would-be Iraqi supporters. That Bush Jr. does not have a sizable part of the Iraqi population, grateful for the fall of Saddam and supportive of U.S. objectives, should not come as a surprise: his father expended many their lives in a cravenly opportunistic, atavistic act, even for warfare. Does Lowry think that their surviving relatives, as well as most other Iraqis, have forgotten that? They still remember the crusades.

This article also shows a contempt for democracy, or at least a democracy that would elect leaders lacking Lowry's or the Bush Administration's approval. Throughout the article Lowry brushes aside the importance of a democratic process in Iraq. He writes of establishing an Iraqi government more quickly, but concurs with Bremer and derides General Garner regarding elections: "He [Garner] talked, absurdly, of convening a constitutional convention, writing a constitution, and holding an election all by August. He had a political tin ear, and the U.S. military didn't take him seriously." And of Bremer he writes: "With his [Bremer's] arrival, the U.S. lurched into a full-fledged military occupation of a country in much worse shape than it had imagined. This represented a total defeat of the Pentagon's vision, which had been to avoid, or minimize, a U.S. occupation, by creating an Iraqi provisional government before the invasion or immediately after it." (emphasis mine). He also bemoans in passing a plan to recruit and train Iraqi security forces before the invasion did not materialize. In Lowry's world a puppet regime of Iraqi exiles would prove far more acceptable to Iraqis than early elections. Doesn't this sound familiar? It should.

Keep in mind that the "solution" Lowry argues for, an emphasis on "Iraqi Security Forces" recruited and trained by the United States under the control of a puppet regime of former exiles, echos a failed policy of the past. A leader "friendly to U.S. interests" with a Pretorian Guard loyal to him should look sickeningly familiar to any student of 20th century U.S. foreign policy: remember Manuel Noriega, Augusto Pinochet, Anastacio Samoza, Papa and Baby Doc Duvallier, and [drum roll please] the Shah of Iran (Gee, remember how well that worked out for us?). Lowry cleverly avoids stating outright this return to past practice, but the spirit of Henry Kissenger's "strong man policy" lurks between the lines. We do not see anything new here. Had the Pentagon a "clear field" and installed the exile regime with their "Iraqi security force" to back them, what would have happened instead? In Lowry's mind: victory, a "stable" pro-Israel, Pro-U.S. "democracy." And pigs will fly over Mecca. When will this old decrepit and anti-democratic policy finally die, when will people in the U.S., even republicans, recognize it in whatever guise it may take, and repudiate the policy and the leaders (and writers) who perpetrate it? But more importantly, just because initial attempts to install a friendly regime in Iraq (with a pretense of democracy) have failed does not mean that the Bush Administration will quit trying.

Not surprisingly, Lowry comes to the conclusion is that Bush should have a second term. He quotes an un-named official who thinks "... there is going to be vigorous retooling in a second term." Is that a promise or a threat?

What Went Wrong? Richard Lowry. National Review. New York: Oct 25, 2004. Vol. 56, Iss. 20; pg. 34, 8 pg

Friday, October 22, 2004

Democracy in 2004

The state we're in

First, let me recommend Theodore Roszak's excellent essay on the changes in the Republican party: Where did the middle go?. Using factual, verifiable information every step of the way he explains far better than I could how the Republican party has changed from the party of Eisenhower to the collection of single-issue contituencies united by political ambition and little else.

Second, Bob Harris, a very active blogger (see : Serving the Reality-Based Community) has gathered some recent poll data that shows that most republican supporters of President Bush do not know his publicly stated positions on major issues. He also has a picture of the 3 Oregon school teachers kicked out of a Bush rally for wearing subversive t-shirts. Click here to see these dangerous subversives in their t-shirts.

Third, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a report recently: Redefining rights in America" (in .pdf format). This is scathing and as Bob Harris points out "This is from inside Bush's own government."

Fourth, Gov. Jeb Bush and Jim Crow by computer. Not only did the Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood attempt to keep the felon purge of the voter rolls secret, but Gov. Bush stated publicly that he did not know of any problems with the list. Recent release of the list along with a state officials' e-mail message proves that 1.) Bush lied, he had been told of the problems and refused to halt the purge and 2.) the list included a few thousand voters who had their voting rights restored and 3.) The list contained thousands of black voters (likely democrats) and about 62 latino ones (likely republicans). The Herald Tribune of Southwest Florida has an article that documents the whole mess. Refer back to the Roszen essay above for a possible reason why the Republicans hardly bother to hide their efforts to rig the election.

And thanks to my friend John Gear for sending me this: there's a little ray of hope as librarians in Washington (state) stands up to the F.B.I. and the Patriot Act: Small Library Stands up to FBI. They have one State Trooper to patrol the entire coast of Oregon (part-time) but they have agents and resources to try to find out who wrote a Bin Laden quote in a book about Bin Laden.

If bringing democracy to Iraq is the administration's last justification for the war (see below for more about that) then how about bringing democracy to the U.S.?

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Snatching defeat from the jaws of Victory

The "Coalition" Provisional Authority, party hacks and the stillbirth of democracy in Iraq.

Michael Moore compiled some of the letters and e-mails he has received from people in (or formerly in) the military presently or recently in Iraq. The letters that appear in the book "Will they ever trust us again?" (Simon & Schuster, 2004) have importance not as a measurement of the percentage of people serving in Iraq who disapprove of the war or some aspect of it. These letters represent a minority of opinion in the ranks. No, the importance comes from the first hand observations of the writers. These are primary source documents. The factual information that the mainstream media will not touch comes from people in the best position to know what happened -- the participants.

The most significant information I found in a letter from an intelligence officer named Andrew Balthazor. He writes (and I paraphrase) that in Najaf in May 2003 the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) appointed a Sunni mayor [Abdul Munim Abud, a former artillery colonel]. Najaf is a Shi'ite holy city. When the Shi'ite protested the Marine Battalion Commander in charge of the city at the time decided to hold an election. The Iraqis gave speeches on street corners and all different factions put forward candidates. The Marines even re-built the T.V. station to broadcast the election results (around June 2003). Democracy in action. Balthazor does not mention any violence or accusations of fraud. But what happened? "The CPA stated that the election was invalid because the Marines did not have the authority to hold elections or change the CPA's designated mayor." (This letter appears on p. 33-36 of the book referenced above). This astonishing anti-democratic act on the part of Bush appointees has not seen any media attention anywhere that I have seen. What could possibly justify this? If the administration has changed its policy from a war over "weapons of mass destruction" to a mission to spread democracy, then where's the democracy?

There is confirmation from a mainstream source: The Washington Post. (Occupation Forces Halt Elections Throughout Iraq). The operative word here is "occupation." As quoted in the Post article, The head of the CPA explained: "In a postwar situation like this, if you start holding elections, the people who are rejectionists tend to win," L. Paul Bremer said. "It's often the best-organized who win, and the best-organized right now are the former Baathists and to some extent the Islamists." I recall the words of Jesse Helms: "Democracy used to be a good thing, but now it has gotten into the wrong hands." Who controls most of Southern Iraq today anyway? And who expects a great turn-out at the scheduled elections this January? Those who vote now look like collaborators with a foreign occupation.

This is a story of great urgency that the mainstream media have largely ignored. Given that the President changed his justification for this war (after the first justifications evaporated) to one of spreading democracy, then how could his appointees bungle so badly such an important mission? A battalion of Marines who passed their 8th grade civics class did the vitally important work of establishing democracy. The appointees in the Coalition Provisional Authority snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11

A Review

I saw Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 on Sunday the 27th and this is my review. First, the theaters were more packed than I can ever remember in the 17 years that I have lived in San Francisco. All attempts by Moore's opponents to scuttle this film have failed. The box office gross reported so far indicates that this movie is doing well in all the theaters showing it.

I have had my problems with Moore's documentaries and television work in the past. This time he hired fact checkers from The New Yorker to vet the content and save him from the errors in fact that detract from some of his earlier works. He also quite wisely does not linger for long on camera, instead allowing those he interviews, people with relevant experience or expertise, do the talking instead. And he shows footage of the President and his inner circle speaking as well, often to very good effect. On the whole, Fahrenheit 9/11 succeeds despite Moore as much as because of him.

First the bad news
Michael Moore has a love of cheap shots and juvenile humor that makes him insufferable. He blew several great opportunities here. At one point instead of showing President Bush speaking a complete sentence, he robs the segment of context and information by "looping" a few frames to have Bush look and sound like a cartoon character. Not only did this not prove humorous but more clips of Bush making statements that have subsequently proven untrue would have done much more to educate the audience. Anyone can make almost anyone look ridiculous on camera with enough looping and editing. What does Moore prove?

The sequence on the invasion of Afghanistan in which "satire" takes the form of the opening credits of the old Western TV show "Bonanza" just wasted everyone's time. This bit of juvenile humor has already circulated on right-wing web sites as the principle example of Moore as the champion of the cheap shot. Jokes like these only give his detractors something to attack and focus on. And focus on his adolescent jokes they must, because the rest of the movie systematically deconstructs lie after lie, and hypocrisy after hypocrisy, and more.

The Good News
As much as I fume over Moore's poor taste and worse humor, he does an excellent job of nailing down the factual evidence that the viewer can use to judge whether or not Moore succeeds in proving that the President has plunged us into an unnecessary war without regard to consequences or loss of life. The President's attempts to characterize opposition to the war as a slap in the face of the soldiers smacks into the hard wall of reality: Bush has lowered combat pay, cut Veterans benefits, fought expansion of veterans' benefits and even mandatory minimum funding for veterans. At the same time that enlisted soldiers have seen pay cuts a truck driver for Halliburton in Iraq makes $10,000 a month. While the administration elevates the "threat level" now and then with only the most vague justifications, the entire coast of Oregon is patrolled by one State Trooper -- part time.

And my personal favorite: after the "shoe bomber" attempted to light an old-fashioned fuse for his device the Administration imposed restrictions on airline passengers from bringing matches or cigarette lighters on aircraft. But the rules only restrict how many, not forbidding them entirely. You can have two lighter and 4 books of matches, but no more. But would not restricting them entirely make more sense? Does anyone think that a bomber with 2 lighters is less dangerous than a one with 3 lighters?! Moore suggests that the tobacco industry may have had a word with the administration about how people who have just escaped from a long non-smoking flight will want to light up ASAP. I can think of no other explanation.

And there are a few "classic" Moore moments. For example, near the end of the documentary Moore approaches representatives and Senators on the steps of the capital and asks them to enlist their grown children in the army. Only one member of Congress has a son in Iraq. This contrasts with an earlier segment in which Marine recruiters approach young people at the mall in a poor neighborhood. The sight of a Congressman literally running away from Moore is one of the very last images you see.

The Gory Bits
Unfortunately, The R rating is well deserved. The movie does not flinch from showing the real effects of war. Images similar to what we saw during the Vietnam War and worse make this a difficult film to watch at times. I most dreaded the beheading -- a public execution in Saudi Arabia-- which I had read about before having seen the movie. But the execution is not as bad as I feared: it's in black & white, perhaps clandestinely filmed on grainy video, seen from a distance, and over quickly. Worse sights await you in other scenes: children killed or horribly wounded, a child's arm burned and/or ripped open to the bone and assorted other dead bodies. Do not plan to eat dinner afterwards.

Summary and recommendation
Fahrenheit 9/11 contains a large amount of verifiable factual information which Moore does an admirable job of weaving into a clear and focussed narrative. In spite of its flaws this is his best work ever.

Monday, June 14, 2004


Campaign to censor Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11

You can read an article by Kurt Nimmo in Progressive News Republicans behind effort to censor Fahrenheit 9/11 that describes the clumsy effort by a PR firm that works for the Republican Party to organize a letter writing campaign to intimidate theaters and distributors planning to show or considering showing Michael Moore's expose on the links between the Bush family and Saudi Arabia. Although Nimmo suggests that people contact the PR firm to voice their disapproval, Dan Perkins (a.k.a.: Tom Tomorrow) has a better idea: use the web site that urges people to write to the distributors and theaters to voice our support of businesses that "do not buckle under right-wing pressure tactics."

Regardless of what you may think of Michael Moore, he has provided information and viewpoints absent from mainstream media. When Mel Gibson released his everything-but-the-rat-bites movie about the gruesome crucifixion of Jeshua ben David (a.k.a.: Jesus Christ) he answered critics by saying "Don't criticize it if you haven't seen it." Why should Moore and his movie not receive the same consideration?

Below I have provided the text of e-mail that I sent. You can find the e-mail addresses of the distributors and theaters that have decided and to promote and show the film as well as those considering showing the movie at the Stop Micheal Moore web site. Brief, polite and to the point e-mails should prove most effective.

Sample e-mails:

[To a theater in your city that is undecided]:

Subject: Please show Fahrenheit 9/11

I am writing to ask you to show Michael Moore's film "Fahrenheit 9/11." I realize that an organized campaign to intimidate theaters that plan to show this movie has already started and I hope that theaters and distributors will stand up to right-wing pressure tactics. I am an avid movie-goer and I often see movies in the AMC 1000 Van Ness and AMC Kabuki theaters in San Francisco. I am looking forward to seeing this movie and appreciate businesses that uphold and practice freedom of speech.

[To a theater or distributor that has started to promote the film]:

Subject: Fahrenheit 9/11 thank you!

Thank you for promoting Michael Moore's film "Fahrenheit 9/11" I am glad that theaters and distributors are standing up to right-wing pressure tactics. I am looking forward to seeing this movie and appreciate businesses that uphold and practice freedom of speech.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Who was Martin Niemöller and why should you care?

Mini-Biography and Bibliography

   In Germany they came first for the Communists and I didn't speak up
because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then the came for me--and by that time no one was left to speak up. *

Martin Niemöller 1892-1984.

I have noticed that this quote comes up frequently in discussions about Intellectual Freedom issues and therefore provide this background:

The son of a pastor, a U-Boat Captain (WWI) and later a pastor in a comfortable Berlin Suburb in the 1930s Niemöller did not start out as a great advocate for intellectual freedom. He initially supported Hitler but quickly grew disillusioned. Although arrested by the Gestapo in 1937 for his open opposition to Hitler and incarcerated in Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps, he nonetheless berated himself for not doing more, as in the quote above.

His accomplishments include:

  • Founded "Confessing Church" part of the larger Lutheran Reformed Church of Germany.
  • Founded the Pfarrernotbund (Pastors' Emergency League) During the 1930s.
  • Partly responsible for the "Stuttgarter Schuldbekenntnis"
    ("Stuttgart Confession of Guilt") acknowledging the German People's collective guilt for the Holocaust
  • President of the World Council of Churches (1961-1968)

He became unpopular with many Western political leaders for his outspoken pacificism: he preached reconciliation and disarmament throughout the post-war years.

The quote above serves as a rallying cry for intellectual freedom advocates and the most eloquent justification for defending the free speech rights individuals and groups that many in society regard with contempt (i.e.: the KKK, Larry Flynt, Oliver North, to name a few).

A further note about the quote: This quote appears in a number of wordings in various sources. Niemöller gave hundreds of speeches and talks in his post-war travels and often concluded his speaking engagements in the United States with these words. Thus, he may have changed the wording somewhat from one speech to the next. I have yet to find an original source for any of Niemöller's exact wordings. Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (from which I derive the wording above) does not cite an exact source, but renders the note: "attributed."

Yet another note about the quote: several people have e-mailed me with the citation from the Congressional Record. This is the only instance of Niemöller's name occuring in that source. I checked the reference. Unfortunately, Niemöller never addressed the U.S. Congress. The quote comes from a Representative parapharasing Niemöller and not the man himself and thus an authoritative "single, correct" version of these famous words continues to elude us.


Bartlett, John, 1820-1905. Familiar quotations : a collection of passages, phrases, and proverbs traced to their sources in ancient and modern literature / John Bartlett ; Justin Kaplan, general editor. 16th ed. (Boston : Little, Brown, 1992) p.684:19

Vom U-Boot zur Kanzel (1934; From U-Boat to Pulpit). [His Autobiography]

Exile in the Fatherland : Martin Niemöller's letters from Moabit Prison / Translated by Ernst Kaemke, et al (Grand Rapids, MI : Eerdmans, 1986)

D. Schmid. Pastor Niemöller (Eng. trans., 1959)

C. Start-Davidson God's Man (1959).

"Niemöller, (Friedrich Gustav Emil) Martin" Encyclopedia Britannica Online

William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall the Third Reich (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1960) p.234-239.

Many thanks to Ann Hotta of Graduate Theological Union (Berkeley, CA) for her asssistance in the research for this page.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Who was Ignatz Mezei and why should you care?


   This man, who seems to have led a life of unrelieved insignificance, must have been astonished to find himself suddenly putting the Government of the United States in such fear that it was afraid to tell him why it was afraid of him.

Shaughnessy v. Mezei, 345 U.S. 206 (1953) (Jackson, J., dissenting)

Many may have read or heard of Hale's Man without a country, but hardly anyone knows about the true story of Ignatz Mezei, who experienced such a lack of citizenship as no one before in U.S. history. Unlike the fictional lieutenant Philip Nolan, Ignatz Mezei led a very unremarkable life until 1948, when he tried to visit his dying mother in Romania.

He arrived in the U.S. in 1923 and lived in Buffalo, NY for most of his life from that time to 1948. He worked as a cabinet maker, and had no problems with the law except for pleading guilty to a misdemeanor of receiving stolen property (seven sacks of flour).

He was denied entry into Romania and had to stay in Hungary for 19 months while waiting for a visa to return to the country where he had lived for the preceding 25 years of his life. Upon his return to the U.S. the INS denied him entry on the basis of an emergency proclamation by the President issued during the Second World War. That proclamation stated that an alien could be excluded from the U.S. if his/her entry "would be prejudicial to the interests of the United States."

What we know about Mezei:

  • Member and briefly President of the International Workers Order Hungarian lodge in Buffalo, NY in the 1930s. (a.k.a.: the "Wobblies")
  • Worked as a cabinet maker
  • Lived without citizenship (of any country) from February 9, 1950 to the end of his life.

He found himself caught in an Alice-in-Wonderland legal battle during most of which he had to live in detention on Ellis Island. The legislation that authorized the Presidential proclamation allowed for the evidence against Mezei to remain secret. No other country would accept him once the U.S. refused his entry for reasons of national security. Attempts to deport him failed. The INS even sent him to England and France but each time those countries refused to let him off the ship. Mezei contacted15 other countries which all refused to issue him a visa. Mezei sued for his right to re-enter the United States and that's when he stepped "through the looking glass." After an initial victory and an immigration parole back to Buffalo in December of 1951 the case finally came before the U.S. Supreme Court in March of 1953. But the majority opinion found that Mezei had no standing before the court not only because he was not a U.S. citizen but also because his denial of entry meant that he did not reside in the United States. He returned to an indefinite detention on Ellis Island and entered a legal limbo within which he had no rights whatsoever. The legal fiction that he was not in the United States allowed the Supreme Court's majority to duck the entire question of secret evidence and the deprivation of due process in its decision. (The quote at the top of this page comes from Justice Jackson's minority dissenting opinion in this case).

Public opinion:
By 1951 stories appeared in newspapers such as The New York Times which described Mezei's situation. After the Supreme Court decision public opinion turned markedly hostile towards the Justice Department and in favor of Mezei. An editorial appeared in The New York Times on December 28, 1953 which denounced the Supreme Court's decision in the Mezei case. [*]
Although not legally required--the Attorney General won his case before the Supreme Court--public opinion forced the Justice Department to hold a hearing in February 1954.

The Hearing:
In keeping with the Alice in Wonderland metaphor of this biography, the hearing that took place unfolded as a kind of legal mad tea party. Hardly a heroic figure, Mezei did not make a good showing on the witness stand. He had made numerous contradictory statements, both on the stand and in INS paperwork he had filed over the years (for example, he had listed three different birth places in three different documents). [*] The government turned out two professional witnesses, Manning Johnson and Louis Reed, who accused Mezei of working as an active member of the U.S. Communist party. The fact that Johnson had already admitted to having made false statements under oath in previous cases and received sizable sums in return for his testimony over the years was unknown to Mezei's lawyer. The government also brought up Mezei's membership in the International Workers Order (on the Attorney General's list of subversive organizations, along with the NAACP), as well as his old misdemeanor conviction for receiving stolen property. [**] Given this evidence, the hearing revealed the travesty of the government's claims of national security in its case against Mezei. But in the context of the time, the evidence looked bad for Mezei.

The Conclusion:
Two liars and seven sacks of flour could have kept Mezei incarcerated on Ellis Island for the rest of his life. The Hearing resulted in an exclusion order. But the Board of Special inquiry made an off-the-record recommendation to the Attorney General to grant Mezei an immigration parole. "On August 9, 1954, the day the exclusion decision was affirmed by the Board of Immigration Appeals, the Attorney General announced that Mezei would be paroled. Ignatz Mezei was never admitted to the United States as a citizen or permanent resident, but he was at least able to return to Buffalo and to avoid life imprisonment on Ellis Island. " [**]

In looking back on the case today the pettiness of powerful public officials comes through with sickening clarity. Once the initial exclusion set events in motion the Attorney General and the INS had to continue their case against a man remarkable only in his total lack of any importance. An attempt to quit at any given stage of the legal battle would have looked like an admission they never had any realistic national security concern in the first place.

To this day later decisions by the Supreme Court failed to repudiate the Mezei decision, clinging to the legal fiction that he was not in the United States and therefore had no right to due process.[***]

Why you should care
In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks recent Anti-Terrorism legislation strips aliens of many civil rights. The creation of military tribunals that hear cases in secret and need not make evidence public to protect national security also violates the concept of due process. Many have defended the legislation and other developments as necesary measures in light of the terrorist attacks. Many people assume that these measures will only come into use against terrorists or other clearly dangerous people. But the odd case of Ignatz Mezei proves that small-minded and petty public officials have mis-used unchecked power to ruin the lives of innocent people.

Update: 2004
I write this as news of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal breaks. Many conservatives defend the use of abusive interrogation techniques and speak of the prisoners as very dangerous terrorists. But from the Red Cross Report: "Certain CF [Coalition Forces] military intelligence officers told the ICRC that in their estimate between 70% to 90% of the persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake." Mezei's case continues to serve as a cautionary tale of abuse of power and the injustices that occur in the absence of due process.

One Last Quote
"Liberty is too highly prized in this country to permit executive officials to imprison and hold heople on the basis of information kept secret from courts." [Justice Black, dissenting, Shaughnessy v. Mezei]


Proclamation No. 2487, 3 C.F.R. 234 (1938-1943), reprinted in 55 Stat. 1647 (1942). (The Presidential order that the INS used to deny Mezei entry upon his return from Europe.)
Act of June 21, 1941, ch. 210, 55 Stat. 252 (1942) (The Act of Congress that authorized the President to make the proclamation listed above).
the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.

The words in red above ought to prevent the use of secret evidence since such secrecy violates the concept of "due process."
Manning Johnson and Louis Reed.

These two could be the subject of yet another Intellectual Freedom mini-biography. Former communists who made a good living testifying against others, accusing people and organizations of being communist before Congressional Committees or administrative hearings. Among the accused we find Dr. Ralph Bunche, the U.N. diplomat and winner of the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize and the NAACP to name only two examples. Later in the same year as the Mezei hearing Johnson would face charges of perjury which abruptly stopped his appearances as a government witness. For more see ** below

*  The New York Times ran stories and editorials from 1951-1954. From 1955 on Mezei dissapears from the pages of newspapers and magazines.
"Bad security risk wins aid of court," Dec. 15, 1951 6:8
"Aliens are human, too" Dec. 28, 1953 20:6 (editorial denouncing the Supreme Court Decision): "Alien faces 'exile' on Ellis Island" Feb. 25, 1954 9:6

There is also a letter from Mezei printed in The New York Times:
"Barred alien's case stated" Jan. 1, 1954 22:7

**   You will find the most complete description of the Mezei case, including the Board of Special Inquiry hearing, in the excellent article by Charles D. Weisselberg "The Exclusion and detention of aliens: lessons from the lives of Ellen Knauff and Ignatz Mezei" University of Pennsylvania Law Review April, 1995.
***  Zadvydas v. Davis: the most recent of the cases similar to Mezei's, according to James Tyre, concerned whether an illegal alien who is in the U.S. could be detained indefinitely. The Court said no, in the face of the government's reliance on _Mezei_. It could have rebuked the decision, but instead chose merely to distinguish it on the basis of the legal fiction that Mezei, unlike today's detainees, wasn't actually in the U.S., even though he was.

For more information on the related case law (of primary interest to lawyers, para-legals and those with some legal training) see Wendy R. St. Charles "Recognizing Constitutional Rights Of Excludable Aliens: The Ninth Circuit Goes Out On A Limb To Free The "Flying Dutchman"--Dispensing With A Legal Fiction Creates An Opportunity For Reform" Journal of Transnational Law & Policy Spring, 1995.

The title of the document usually called "the Red Cross Report": Report of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on the Treatment by the Coalition Forces of Prisoners of War and Other Protected Persons by the Geneva Conventions in Iraq During Arrest, Internment and Interrogation. February 2004. I have downloaded a copy of the report in .pdf format from the CBS news web site and found the quote above on page 8, paragraph 7.

Many thanks to Steve Benson of the Richardson (Texas) Public Library and Rita Liu for researching and sending me law articles for this biography.

And to James Tyre of Culver City, CA for his legal insights, research for this page and for bringing Mezei to my attention in the first place.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Deconstructing disinformation

As Brock explains in his article and forthcoming book (see Right-wing lie factory), Right wing publications, internet sites and radio shows repeat a baseless accusation and then chastise the "liberal" media for failing to cover the "story." Here is one example.

A recent (May 6, 2004) article by Larry Elder in features an interview with a "terrorism expert" who claims that Saddam Hussein snuck his weapons of mass destruction into Syria and Lebanon just prior to the war. Therefore, the President did not lie about the weapons of mass destruction and the imminent threat to the world they posed. The interviewer alleges that the media has "ignored" a major development. Notice the title of the article: The curious lack of curiosity about WMDs.

Let's start with basic logic:

1.) Their boy has the bully pulpit. Every conspiracy theory involving the allegedly left-wing media hits one big logical snag: if XYZ left-wing conspiracy to conceal information is true, the President can explode the "wall of silence" by calling a press conference. Why doesn't he? One would expect that if there were an Iraq WMD connection that the Bush administration would be howling about it from the rooftops like werewolves on steriods.

2.) How did the Iraqis sleep walk the weapons past arial surveillance? Both satellites and aircraft, including observation drones, somehow missed the truck convoys shipping tons of chemical and biological weapons across the Syrian border? How?! If not trucks then what? Bicycle messengers? Tourists?

The qualifications and credentials game. Let's take a careful look at the expert:

[From the Townhall article]: So, I interviewed terrorism expert John Loftus, who once held some of the highest security clearances in the world. Loftus, a former Army officer, served as a Justice Department prosecutor. He investigated CIA cases of Nazi war criminals for the U.S. attorney general. Author of several books, Loftus once received a Pulitzer Prize nomination.

What positions did this person hold? According to the first sentence, he held security clearances. So what. The government gives security clearances for a variety of reasons and applicable to a variety of jobs. Also, how old is that security clearance? They no longer remain in force after the person no longer holds the job that requires the clearance. We do not have a job title. Contrast this with people like Richard Clarke, John Stockwell and Philip Agee who can tell you what jobs they held and what sort of intelligence matters they dealt with.

Next sentence: He was an army officer and JD prosecutor.

Better, but not specific. Also not true. His qualifications receive a pretty devastating blow in a review of one of his books published in a peer-review journal, placed on the web with permission at

You can read how he was only a legal researcher, and not a prosecutor. The criticism by a career scholar of Loftus' research methods tells a very different story than Loftus' self-promotion. Also, in order to be a prosecutor he has to have a law degree. Can anyone find a bio of Loftus that tells where he received his J.D? Where did he pass the bar? You will not find his name in any bar association directories.

3rd sentence: He investigated CIA cases of Nazi war criminals...

What? Does this sentence even make sense? What CIA cases? Investigated how? This sentence is just Bizarre. According to the book review (link above) he did indeed work on prosecuting Nazi war criminals. But this is the only job that he had that required a security clearance. (No biographic information I could find on or by him mentioned anything else). What indication exists that his information about classified matters is at all current? Does his bio ever mention any anti-terrorist work? His security clearance expired ages ago.

Last sentence: He is the author of several books...Pulitzer Prize nomination.

And just what does he mean by "nominated" for a Pulitzer prize? Nominations are meaningless. Anyone can nominate anyone for a Pulitzer prize. It's fast and easy. Just fill out the form online at the Pulitzer prize committee's web site ( This web site also has an archive of winners and finalists. I did a search and his name turned up no results. Someone has to be one of the finalists in order to be in the archive. If you're not one of the finalists then your "nomination" fell into the round file. But technically if someone filled in the form correctly and sent it in with the $50 dollar fee then he can claim to be a nominee: instant credentials: just add BS!

Credibility of sources and "experts" has a fragile quality. Once you find one lie or distortion, you must ask yourself what else the person has falsified or misrepresented? People who claim to have inside information and special expertise are asking for your trust: "I have access to information you do not have access to, trust that I am telling you the truth as well as I understand it." Why believe someone whose biography contains one outright lie (he's not a lawyer), one distortion (anyone can claim to have a Pulitzer prize nomination after submitting the entry form), one exaggeration (His security clearance is so old it has dust on it), one glaring omission (No job experience related to the mid-east or terrorism) and only one truthful statement (author of several books)?

The Claim

Read the article and examine the sources. A Syrian journalist repeating second hand what his friends in Syrian intelligence told him. Loftus claims "The Israelis confirmed it" but does not give a source. A search of the Lexis-Nexis database did not find any reports that mention this. And remember the logic test: what possible motivation could the Bush administration have for keeping this quiet?!

My favorite sentence in the whole article: They know where the stuff is, but the problem is that the United States can't just go around invading Arab countries. Really? Since when!?!?

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Right-Wing lie factory

I usually avoid inflamatory writing. But my new find is a man named David Brock who has already published one book (Blinded by the Right) and his new book, The Republican Noise Machine : right-wing media and how it corrupts democracy is due on May 18th. You can read an excerpt by Brock in The Mighty Wind Bags to find out what he experienced from the inside of several right-wing media enterprises. ( requires a subscription or forces you to endure an ad. It's well worth either for this article).

Summary: Brock describes himself as a reformed right-wing extremist who worked for the Washington Times and the Heritage Foundation. He explains that wealthy republicans subsidize pundits, radio shows, internet sites and print publications and how these publications take unsubstantiated stories and repeat them endlessly in what Rush Limbaugh calls the "Echo-chamber" -- the repitition of a story so many times that they force it into the "mainstream" media despite having no credible (or any) basis in fact. After a while many ask why the mainstream media ignores the "story" thereby forcing the baseless accusation into otherwise reputable publications.

Remember the "Gore is a liar and exaggerator" stories? Several polls found that most Americans believed that Iraqis participated in the September 11th attacks. These are just two examples of stories without any factual basis. No one could ever produce a quote of one of Gore's alleged lies or exaggerations from any public record of his speeches or writings. And the hijacker beastiary consists of 15 Saudi Arabians, 1 Egyptian, 1 lebanese and 2 from the United Arab Emirates.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

"War reaches the depth of horror because of idiots who perpetrate acts of terror from generation to generation in the name of revenge."
--Guy Sajer, The Forgotten Soldier

Monday, May 10, 2004

More Conscription Contradictions

[Note: as of August 23, 2005 we still have not seen a return of the draft. My prediction from a year ago has not proven true. The war by this writing has lost much of its support (the poll results show less than half the U.S. population approve of the administration's handling of the war). Despite the fact that the prediction did not come to pass and regardless of why, I think that the questions I raised in this and other posts are only now showing up in the mainstream press. I will leave this and related entries as they originally appeared.]

Updated below

The recent stories about the abuse of inmates in Abu Ghraib and other prisons in Iraq have revealed another important piece of information: the U.S. military does not have enough personnel. (See the earlier entry on this topic). According to numerous reports (some making excuses for the U.S. MPs) have mentioned that they were understaffed and overworked, that some personnel left when their time was up and were not replaced and that the population of the prison continued to rise without any additional guards (see the Toronto star story : Guards untrained and overwhelmed).

The point that no one, not even the congressional committee members, has called attention to the Bush Administration's continuing refusal even to talk about conscription until after the election. Have you ever heard the phrase "conspicuous by its absence?"

What I do not understand is why the Pro-War people have not clamoured for a return of the draft? (I also wonder why they don't volunteer, but one inconsistency at a time). The obvious lack of troops together with the Spanish pulling out paints a picture that contradicts the Pentagon's assurances that the draft remains unnecessary.

And here's a controversial idea: Consciencious objectors and anti-war people should welcome the draft as well. A "True" Consciencious objector refuses to fight in all wars (and does not pick and choose or use the phrase "un-just war") and is willing to face the consequences of performing alternate service. A draft would create a "hypocrisy problem" for a whole new generation of chicken hawks (Pat Buchanan, George W. Bush and Dan Quayle have all had powerful fathers who kept them out of combat, to name a few). It would also galvanize a new anti-war movement. Like it or not, many people stay indifferent until their's is the ass on the line.

Conscription is coming, and it's only a matter of time and of whether enough people believe that it will not happen.

Update March 6, 2009
While reviewing this blog's content I found that this entry looks badly out of date. My prediction of a draft proved incorrect. The best I can hope for is what writer David Brin calls the "self-preventing prophecy." By a large number of people paying attention to the possibility of a draft along with the growing unpopularity of the war, the plans for conscription turned into a third rail for the Bush administration. I have no way to take credit for this. who reads this blog?

I'm leaving the entries as I wrote them, as I enjoy pointing out the hypocrisy of the Congress and Bush & Co. sending other people to fight without their own grown children joining in. (Only a handful of relatives of Congress-people have served in either Iraq or Afghanistan as of this writing). And as President Obama tries to succeed where all others have failed in Afghanistan, we may yet see a draft.

Saturday, May 08, 2004


[Note, as of October 2006 my predictions of a draft in 2005 did not materialize. I am happy to be wrong.]
I wonder about contradictions in the official answers to the question of reviving military conscription. Despite the Pentagon's denials, the actions of Congress show clear indications that a draft will start in 2005 (see U.S. Preparing For Military Draft in Spring of 2005 and Pentagon denies need to revive military draft). But why has no one noticed that the 15,000 "security personnel" are doing the work of soldiers? The contractors working in Iraq hire their own security people to perform such tasks as guarding installations, body-guards for civilian workers, running motorcades for when workers move between armed compounds and other military duties. If the military does not need to implement conscription because its manpower needs are under control, then why do the contractors in Iraq need to hire private security?

The costs of these mercenaries (let's call them what they are) the civilian contractors simply charge back to the government. That is to say, back to us. A mercenary makes about $1000 a day. A reasonable estimate puts a private's combat pay at about $2000 a month. Does no one realize that the use of private security firms prevents the military from having to implement a draft before the election? The taxpayers provide cover for the Bush Administration through paying mercenaries to allow the Pentagon to tread water in Iraq until conscription can start.

Additional Sources:

If anyone can come up with a better estimate of a private's combat pay after looking over the Defense Finance and Accounting Service pay table, please let me know.

I have found the existence of and the pay for mercenaries in Iraq widely reported in the mainstream media. But I always like to document all facts I mention: Operation Hired Guns : Contractors earn $10 K to $60 K per month from the NBC San Diego site.

Old examples from my previous web site:

Specific examples of under-reporting,creative editing and "self-censorship"

"We paid $3 billion for these television stations. We'll decide what the news is. News is what we say it is." -- David Boylan (Fox Television Manager) cite

The word "Censorship" no longer accurately describes the various ways that government and media can conceal information. The outright banning of stories or reporters attracts attention. In modern times the never-ending flow of information makes picking out important facts and events extremely difficult. How do people in power hide damaging information and avoid the accusation of ham-fisted dictatorial style censorship? See the following examples:

Hiding in the noise

Spin-doctor caught
Burying the bad news: one form of subtle censorship comes in the form of "buried" news. Instead of ham-fisted banning or concealing information PR flacks can "bury" inconvenient news in a number of ways. Saturday issues of daily newspapers, the end or articles or the pages near the obituaries have often proven to have some of the most interesting news items that official sources would like as few people to read as possible.

Look carefully on the back pages when a major event takes place, such as innaugerations, elections, etc. In this way both news sources and publishers can avoid the accusation of outright censorship while limiting the dissemination of "bad news."

Well, one spin-doctor got caught: Jo Moore, a British "Special Advisor" to a cabinet minister sent an e-mail to the staff of the Ministry of Transportation suggesting that September 11th "was a good day to bury bad news." This craven opportunism was a bit too much even for hardened bureaucrats and the e-mail leaked to the press created a controversy in Great Britain that you do not see mentioned in the U.S. media.

More of the same: Jo Moore and Martin Sixsmith resign. Sixsmith suggests that Princess Margaret's funeral would be another "good day to bury bad news" and the e-mail leaked (from the UK Guardian)
Byer's Advisor apologises over e-mail from Ananova has links to the earlier coverage of Jo Moore's e-mail message.

Web Links:

Project Censored features an excellent selection of un- or under-reported current news stories.
Project Censored has a Yearbook page. You can read the top un or under-reported stories for 1989-present.
Progressive Review's Undernews

You can not even pay to be heard
Examples of advertisements that mainstream media refuse to run. If alternative viewpoints can not even pay for access to media what hope do democracy and free speech have? had the money to pay to run an ad during the Superbowl in 2004. But money was not enough. CBS shields pigskin fans from ads from

Horowitz on reparations for slavery Conservative Columnist David Horowitz has attempted to run an advertisement in college newpapers. Most have declined. Regardless of what one may think of his attack on the idea of paying reparations for slavery in the U.S., this example shows that dealing with unpopular ideas by supression happens on all sides of the political spectrum.

An ad naming 1998's "Golden Leash" winners from Public
-- a leading voice for campaign spending reform -- that the
New York Times refused to run. TDI (Transportation Displays Inc.) refuses to run anti-war ad on BART ([San Francisco] Bay Area Rapid Transit). The advertising displays that commuters watch on the monitors in subway stations comes from such sources.

Current politics

Do we have the right to vote?

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights reports that the Florida vote in the 2000 Presidential Election was unfair. You can read The Commission's Report on the vote in Florida.

see the Blog Blackbox Voting for more details about the use and mis-use of electronic voting machines.

More on the 2000 election
The watchdog didn't bark By Harold Evans of Pay close attention to the end of the article. All of the pertinent information about George W. Bush and Harken Oil became public knowledge before the election.

President Bush links federal funding of religious organizations charitable activities to the anti-abortion campaign:
"It begins to affect the life issue," Bush said, "because
when you're talking about welcoming people of faith to help people who
are disadvantaged and unable to defend themselves, the logical step is
also those babies. My job -- listen, there will be legislative initiatives
and there will be the sort of money from Mexico, you know the thing there,
the executive order I signed about Mexico City. But there's a larger calling
. . . about changing the culture of the country. And that's the mission."
(First Two Trips Didn't Count, Washingon Post, February 1, 2001; A Section; Pg. A19)

Conservative Christians appointed by Bush to attend the U.N. Human Rights Conferences have been teaming up with nations such as Iran, Iraq, Lybia and Sudan to oppose abortion, gay rights and AIDS awareness worldwide. See the cartoon by Tom Tomorrow and for reference see the Washington Post 6-17-2002.

Miscarriages of Justice:
Tulia, TX community jails scores of blacks on the word (no evidence) of a single under-cover cop wanted for theft and fraud in another county!

Gov. George W. Bush ignores a murder confession that should exonerate two men still in jail. National media ignores this as well. Fortunately, the innocent men were eventually freed.

Unequal justice, or it helps to be white: Feds do not prosecute white collar coke heads. (New York Post Dec. 20, 2000.) [Story no longer in web archive]
Over 100 well-off "middle class" cocaine users did not face prosecution after a sting operation busted a cocaine delivery service operation in New York City.

Creative editing:

The "creative editing" of a letter to the editor to destroy the letter writer's credibility by the New York Times.

Nixon biographer [Anthony Summers, The Arrogance of Power] and the priorities of the New York Times. The NYT fixates on the weakest allegation in a scathing book filled with uncontrovertable facts about the crimes, bigotry and insanity of President Nixon. Watergate was among the least of his crimes.

Medicine and medical research:
Privitazation of Washington D.C.'s General Hospital directly and immediately resulted in overcrowded emergency rooms and long ambulance rides for critical patients. Hunger strike protest ignored.

  • One mainstream source: Health Care in Critical Condition; The city trashed a working system without having a suitable alternative.; [FINAL Edition]; The Washington Post, Washington, D.C.; Jun 3, 2001; pg. B.08

Patient dumping rampant. The practice of refusing medical treatment to uninsured and/or non-English speaking people has become epidemic.
A search on news and newspaper databases has shown hardly any attention
to this issue in the mainstream news sources.

  • Patient Dumping Piles Up from
  • One mainstream source: THE NATION; 10% of ERs Rejected Patients, Study Finds; Health: Hundreds, including 77 in state, broke law requiring treatment regardless of ability to pay.; [Home Edition]; The Los Angeles Times TED ROHRLICH; Jul 13, 2001.

HMO racketeering. The badly under-reported story of how HMOs can lie, cheat and steal and damn well get away with it:

Senate Committee Print 103-97 contains official government admissions of involuntary human experimentation on U.S. military personnel for the last 50 years. From the Gulf War Veterans Association.

The Over-prescribing of Ritalin to school children. Dr. Peter R. Breggin of the Center for Psychiatry and Psychology has denounced the use of Ritalin on healthy active children. Are we drugging the sort of restless children who in other times grew up to be fine artists, writers, and advocates of social change?

Adventures in Genetically Modified Foods and
Agri-business vs. reality

The Pusztai affair. Dr. Arpad Pusztai published a paper in the Medical Journal The Journal of Nutrition which found that a substance created by a gene implanted in genetically engineered potatos causes harm to the digestive and immune systems of lab rats. The fact that his research team added to regular potatoes the toxin called concanavalin A rather than the genetically engineered potatos became the pretext for his employer, the Rowett Research Institute in Scotland, to suspend him and his research. Dr. Pusztai himself have come under attack. This is a complex issue and sorting through the various accusations and information takes some time and careful reading.


Ewen, Stanley W B; Pusztai, Arpad. "Effect of diets containing genetically modified potatoes expressing Galanthus nivalis lectin on rat small intestine" The Lancet; London; Oct 16, 1999.

Pusztai, Arpad; Grant, George; Duguid, Tracey; Brown, David S; et al. "Inhibition of starch digestion by alpha-amylase inhibitor reduces the efficiency of utilization of dietary proteins and lipids and retards the growth of rats" The Journal of Nutrition, Bethesda; Jun 1995; Vol. 125, Iss. 6; pg. 1554, 9 pgs [the abstract on the first page contains the methodology that the Rowett Institute used as the pretext for firing him 3 years later].

Monsanto sues farmers after their crops have been contaminated with Monsanto patented Canola DNA from wind-driven cross polination. Regardless of how the Monsanto DNA gets into a farmer's crop, the farmer must find out and take action or owe Monsanto a licensing fee. From the Canadian Broadcasting Company's web site.
Also see a web site by the Saskatewan farmer who lost the patent lawsuit brought against him by Monsanto: Percy Schmeiser

The alteration of reality by business concerns: the London Guardian's Bob Woffinden reveals that 20 years ago the Spanish Government covered up the actual cause of poisoning that killed over 1,000 people.

Terminator seeds and traitor seeds, developed with tax-payer dollars, could increase poverty and starvation throughout the world. Despite condemnation from National Governments, the UN and the public the USDA continues to develop and support this technology developed by Monsanto and AstraZeneca. Check RAFI (Rural Advancement Foundation International) for updates.

"Exposes" on genetically engineered foods somehow omit any mention of terminator seeds or traitor seeds. In addition,
genetically engineered foods creep into the human food supply despite restrictions.

An editorial in the Lancet describes what happened when Martin Cormican, a bacteriologist at University College Hospital, Ireland, asked Bayer for a supply of Bayer's antibiotic, ciprofloxacin, for tests with anti-biotic resistant bacteria. Bayer would not give him any without his signature on an agreement not to publish any research results without Bayer's consent. The Lancet, April 14, 2001.

The "Vegie Libel Laws" squash free speech: Shut up and eat everything on your plate lists specific examples of self-censorship or lawsuits to silence criticism of Agri-business. From Freedom Forum Online. (These pre-date the Ophrah Winfrey lawsuit).

What we don't know keeps hurting us - Informing America's Policy on Illegal Drugs, a report from the National Research Council of the National Academies. Ignored in the mainstream media.

Miscellaneous examples:

Class in the United States:

Among the many examples of how the media treats different classes of people differently, consider this example from Indianapolis, Indiana: An antiquated sewer system routinely belches billions of gallons of raw sewage to low-income communities downstream each year. Read The Cost of Clean from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies for details. Then imagine what would happen if Bel Air or another wealthy area had the same problem.

Courtney Love does the math This unedited transcript from Courtney Love's speech to the Digital Hollywood online entertainment conference, given in New York on May 16 reveals much solid information and a perspective that you can not find in the mainstream news media.
A follow-up article from Salon: Four little words, gives more detail and an epilogue to what should be a scandal.

Citation for the quote at the top of this page: "Hold on a minute...Digger still plays dirty." by Nick Cohen. The Observer (London), July 5, 1998. p. 28.

Friday, April 16, 2004


I once had a web page devoted to news and descriptions of some of the more inane activities of censors today. I have found some selections that still have live links!

December 2001

Which is which? Take the Ashcroft - McCarthy test! From

Flag burning controversy

the Missouri republican who introduced legislation to legalize beating up flag burners. Sad to say, I'm not making this up!

The opposite extreme from people who wish to outlaw flag burning comes from people who would ban the flag:

Flag banning idiocy from Boulder Colorado. In this ALA-Online article, look to the end of the piece about prohibiting the display of the U.S. flag.

More flag banning cases:

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in his own words:

"Freedom is about authority." Mayor Giuliani, NY Times 3/17/94

"You don't have a right not to be identified".
Giuliani- NY Times 12/17/98 "Giuliani Backs DNA Testing of Newborns for Identification"

"An exhibition of paintings is not as communicative as speech, literature or live entertainment, and the artists' constitutional interest is thus minimal."
- Giuliani appeal brief 's argument against street artists having First Amendment rights, Giuliani v Lederman et al and Giuliani v Bery et al, filed with the US Supreme Court 2/24/97.

"Civilization has been about trying to find the right place to put excrement."
--Giuliani quoted in NY Times, 10/13/99

"The whole school system should be blown up, and a new one put in its place. I feel like a prophet today."
--Giuliani-Daily News 4/23/99

"When they make the decision to shoot they have to shoot to kill".
--Mayor Giuliani on NYPD policy CBS News 9/2/99

"Let's say somebody is acquitted, and it's one of those acquittals in which the person was guilty, but there is just not quite enough evidence beyond a reasonable doubt," the Mayor said. "That might be a situation in which the car would still be forfeited."
-- Giuliani, NY Times 2/23/99 "Police Seize Three Cars in Crackdown"

"Streets do not exist in civilized cities for the purpose of people sleeping there. Bedrooms are for sleeping."
--Giuliani - Daily News 11/20/99

"If teachers want to put up the Ten Commandments, they should be allowed to do that,"
--Giuliani -Associated Press 2/10/2000.

"The comparisons to Adolph Hitler and fascism have to stop".
-- New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. NY Times 3/28/99

Filtering Follies

Some of the more amusing cases of web filtering censorware run amok:

Beaver College forced to change its name. Internet filters did not think the name was appropriate for children?!

Nice irony here: Conservactive christian Congressional candidate Jeffrey Pollack, whose web site fell victim to CyberPatrol's filtering. He used to advocate adamantly to place web filters on all public library computers.

And there's more! Dick Armey's personal web site blocked.

The U.S. Congress. The debate in Congress over filtering the internet in public libraries has taken an absurd turn after four web filtering programs block the Starr report of President Clinton's conduct with Monica Lewinsky. Tom Tomorrow's cartoon asks what would have happened if the Communications Decency Act had not been ruled unconstitutional?!

Making schools safe?

The Owasso School District in Oklahoma for suspending a student for writing a poem about killing a teacher. The usual suspects determined the student posed no actual threat but inflicted a nearly full-year suspension anyway.

The Harrison County (Mississippi) School Board banned the Star of David as a Gang Symbol (Hey, how come the Philistines never thought of that?). The Board later reconsidered its position.

State dictates science

The Kansas Board of Education has ruled that "Creation Science" must be taught as Scientific Theory on par with Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection. Some interesting links: