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George W. Bush Is Still Lying About Iraq

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David Corn notices a key point in George W. Bush’s new selective autobiography: GWB still is pushing the line about Saddam Hussein’s pursuit of WMD, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Bush is mounting a defense, as selective as it might be, of the Iraq war. He acknowledges that he experiences “a sickening feeling every time” he recalls the absence of WMDs in Iraq, but he contends that invading Iraq was the right move because “America is safer without a homicidal dictator pursuing WMD.”

Yet that statement is flat-out wrong. Not the “safer” part, but the description of Saddam Hussein and WMDs. Bush is still trying to mislead the American public, for at the time of the invasion, Saddam, brutal dictator that he was, was not pursuing the development or production of WMDs. The Bush administration’s own investigation found this. Following the invasion, there was a probe of Iraq’s WMD activity conducted by Charles Duelfer, a hawkish fellow who had been handpicked by the administration to handle this sensitive job. In 2004, his Iraq Survey Group submitted its final report. The report noted that Saddam “aspired to develop a nuclear capability.” But it was quite clear on the key point: Iraq had not been actively working on WMD projects. The Duelfer report concluded that Iraq’s ability to produce nuclear weapons — the most troubling W in the WMD category — had “progressively decayed” since 1991 and that inspectors had found no signs of any “concerted efforts to restart the program.” In plain talk: nada on nuclear. The same was true, the report said, for biological and chemical weapons. It found that by 1995, under U.N. pressure, Iraq had abandoned its biological weapons efforts and that there was no evidence Iraq had made any chemical weapons in the preceding 12 years.

The report was blunt:

The former regime had no formal written strategy or plan for the revival of WMD after sanctions. Neither was there an identifiable group of WMD policy makers or planners. Nobody working on WMDs; no schemes to develop or obtain such weapons. The bottom line: Saddam was not pursuing weapons of mass destruction. The U.N. inspections of the 1990s and the international anti-Iraq sanctions had rendered Iraq’s weapons programs kaput.

(click to continue reading George W. Bush: Still Not Telling the Truth About Iraq.)

So, what are the odds that any upcoming interviews with or discussions of Bush will mention this? 3% chance? Less?

Written by Seth Anderson

November 8th, 2010 at 8:31 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , , ,

2010 Elections

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V O T E

Well, that was a disappointing result, wasn’t it? Quite a somber mood today in Progressive corners of the country, in contrast to 2008 where it seemed as if we had finally turned a corner. Russ Feingold lost to some climate change denier, John Boehner is going to be the first orange Speaker of the House, and Harry Reid will still be Senate Majority Leader in all likelihood. Bleh.

I’m disappointed that the Democrats ran shitty campaigns, perturbed that Barack Obama has been so centrist and milquetoast that liberals couldn’t or wouldn’t rally around him, and even more discouraged that the nation’s electorate allowed themselves to be swayed by talking points, duped by false statements, and swayed by the gazillions of advertising dollars that flooded the election. Chief Justice John Roberts is partially culpable, with his judicial activist over-reach, allowing corporations1 to purchase elections for their minions.

California voted to keep the Drug War farce alive, Rick Perry won reelection as Texas Governor, the GOP is already planning to shut down everything beneficial to our country, except military spending, of course. Serial liar Mark Kirk won in Illinois, helped in no small part by the $8 million in outside money spent against Giannoulias. Alan Grayson lost, with a probable result that future Democrats will not speak frankly and candidly in the future about the Rethuglican juggernaut. Even the despicable Rick Scott and Marco Rubio won in Florida.

Dewey Defeats Truman

Bright spots? A few I guess, if you squint. Both Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman lost, California’s ridiculous Prop 23 lost, Barney Frank and Lloyd Doggett both retained their seats, and maybe Ken Buck lost to Michael Bennet.

Big sigh, in other words. Not to mention, the GOP/Tea Party are notoriously poor winners – cocky assholes when they lose, even worse in victory. Insufferable bastards, nearly each and every one. Since these tactics worked so well in 2012, I expect 2014’s election cycle to be even more toxic – more corporate dollars involved, more lies and liars, and our country will suffer.

Footnotes:
  1. Citizens United vs. F.E.C. []

Written by Seth Anderson

November 3rd, 2010 at 10:48 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with ,

Fast Track to Banana Republic

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or Third World country, or whatever phrase you want to use. The US became the economic juggernaut it once was by having a healthy, wealthy middle class. If all the cash gets sucked up by the leeches in the upper bracket, there isn’t enough left for the rest of us.

The clearest explanation yet of the forces that converged over the past three decades or so to undermine the economic well-being of ordinary Americans is contained in the new book, ““Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class” (Paul Pierson, Jacob S. Hacker)

The authors, political scientists Jacob Hacker of Yale and Paul Pierson of the University of California, Berkeley, argue persuasively that the economic struggles of the middle and working classes in the U.S. since the late-1970s were not primarily the result of globalization and technological changes but rather a long series of policy changes in government that overwhelmingly favored the very rich.

Those changes were the result of increasingly sophisticated, well-financed and well-organized efforts by the corporate and financial sectors to tilt government policies in their favor, and thus in favor of the very wealthy. From tax laws to deregulation to corporate governance to safety net issues, government action was deliberately shaped to allow those who were already very wealthy to amass an ever increasing share of the nation’s economic benefits.

“Over the last generation,” the authors write, “more and more of the rewards of growth have gone to the rich and supperrich. The rest of America, from the poor through the upper middle class, has fallen further and further behind.”

As if to underscore this theme, it was revealed last week (by David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter for The New York Times), that the incomes of the very highest earners in the United States, a small group of individuals hauling in more than $50 million annually (sometimes much more), increased fivefold from 2008 to 2009, even as the nation was being rocked by the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

(click to continue reading Bob Herbert’s Fast Track to Inequality – NYTimes.com.)

Electricity comes from other planets

All the more reason to vote, if you haven’t already

Written by Seth Anderson

November 2nd, 2010 at 7:13 am

Virginia Thomas is Creepy

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Almost twenty years after the notorious 1991 conformation hearing, Virginia Thomas – wife of ultra-conservative Clarence Thomas, and a notorious Rethuglican Tea Bagger herself – calls up Anita Hill out of the blue, and creepily demands an apology. If I was Ms. Hill, I would turn the message over to the FBI too, there seems to be a veiled threat contained therein. Maybe Ms. Thomas had a few too many limoncellos?

Limoncello

Andrew Gully, senior vice president of the Brandeis University communications office, confirmed that Ms. Hill had received the message and that she had turned it over to the campus department of public safety. That office, in turn, passed it on to the F.B.I.

ABC News quoted from the voicemail:

“Good morning, Anita Hill, it’s Ginny Thomas,” it quoted from the voicemail. “I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. Okay have a good day.”

Ms. Thomas has long been active in conservative circles in Washington, and in the past year has rose to greater prominence as the founder of a new nonprofit activist group, Liberty Central, which opposes what she characterizes as the leftist “tyranny” of the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats.

Her activities with the group have raised questions of judicial ethics because the group, which pays her, has accepted large contributions from unidentified donors. She began the group with two gifts of $500,000 and $50,000 from undisclosed contributors, tax forms show.

(click to continue reading Thomas’s Wife Reaches Out to Anita Hill – NYTimes.com.)

It has been a long time since I revisited the facts of the contentious proceedings, but shouldn’t Justice Thomas be proffering the apology?

ABC has more:

Mark Matthews of [ABC] affiliate KGO learned about this and reached out to Virginia Thomas.

Thomas emailed him, saying: “I did place a call to Ms. Hill at her office extending an olive branch to her after all these years, in hopes that we could ultimately get passed what happened so long ago.    That offer still stands, I would be very happy to meet and talk with her if she would be willing to do the same. Certainly no offense was ever intended.”

Hill tells ABC News: “Even if it wasn’t a prank, it was in no way conciliatory for her to begin with the presumption that I did something wrong in 1991. I simply testified to the truth of my experience. For her to say otherwise is not extending an olive branch, it’s accusatory.”

She continues: “I don’t apologize. I have no intention of apologizing and I stand by my testimony in 1991.”

(click to continue reading Virginia Thomas Leaves Anita Hill a Voicemail Asking for An Apology — Hill Says No – Political Punch.)

Written by Seth Anderson

October 19th, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

U.S. Will Enforce Marijuana Laws, Despite Wishes of Voters

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Disappointing decision by Eric Holder and the Obama administration. What purpose does locking up non-violent drug users accomplish anyway? Other than let politicians check off the box that says, “tough on crime” on their reelection mailers, that is.

Single serving pod

LOS ANGELES — The Department of Justice says it intends to prosecute marijuana laws in California aggressively even if state voters approve an initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot to legalize the drug. Related

The announcement by Eric H. Holder Jr., the attorney general, was the latest reminder of how much of the establishment has lined up against the popular initiative: dozens of editorial boards, candidates for office, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other public officials.

Still, despite this opposition — or perhaps, to some extent, because of it — the measure, Proposition 19, appears to have at least a decent chance of winning, so far drawing considerable support in polls from a coalition of Democrats, independents, younger voters and men as Election Day nears. Should that happen, it could cement a cultural shift in California, where medical marijuana has been legal since 1996 and where the drug has been celebrated in popular culture at least since the 1960s.

But it could also plunge the nation’s most populous state into a murky and unsettling conflict with the federal government that opponents of the proposition said should make California voters wary of supporting it.

(click to continue reading U.S. Will Enforce Marijuana Laws, State Vote Aside – NYTimes.com.)

Grass Fed Change

So which officials in California are for the bill?

The state Republican Party has officially come out against Proposition 19 and plans to urge people to vote no, said Ron Nehring, the party chairman. He called repeal a “big mistake” and mocked the notion that placing the proposition on the ballot would help Democrats.

“We call that their Hail Mary Jane strategy,” he said.

John Burton, the chairman of the California Democratic Party, said his party had decided to stay neutral on this issue. Asked if he supported it, Mr. Burton responded: “I already voted for it. Why not? Brings some money into the state. Helps the deficit. Better than selling off state buildings to some developer.”

Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, noted that polls showed the measure breaking 50 percent, but said that given the history of initiatives in the state, that meant its passage was far from assured.

Opposition has come from a number of fronts, ranging from Mr. Baca and other law enforcement officials to the Chamber of Commerce, which has warned that it would create workplace health issues.

Still, the breadth of supporters of the proposition — including law enforcement officials and major unions, like the Service Employees International Union — signal how mainstream this movement is becoming.

“I think we consume far more dangerous drugs that are legal: cigarette smoking, nicotine and alcohol,” said Joycelyn Elders, the former surgeon general and a supporter of the measure. “I feel they cause much more devastating effects physically. We need to lift the prohibition on marijuana.”

Written by Seth Anderson

October 17th, 2010 at 9:26 am

Hey, Small Spender: The False Narrative

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Paul Krugman writes in response to the oft repeated assertion that Obama is ballooning the federal government:

Recovery.gov

Here’s the narrative you hear everywhere: President Obama has presided over a huge expansion of government, but unemployment has remained high. And this proves that government spending can’t create jobs

Here’s what you need to know: The whole story is a myth. There never was a big expansion of government spending. In fact, that has been the key problem with economic policy in the Obama years: we never had the kind of fiscal expansion that might have created the millions of jobs we need.

Ask yourself: What major new federal programs have started up since Mr. Obama took office? Health care reform, for the most part, hasn’t kicked in yet, so that can’t be it. So are there giant infrastructure projects under way? No. Are there huge new benefits for low-income workers or the poor? No. Where’s all that spending we keep hearing about? It never happened.

(click to continue reading Paul Krugman – Hey, Small Spender – NYTimes.com.)

Daughter to a Sister of Thought

and the reason why people think there was a massive increase in federal programs is a familiar, if discouraging reason, namely lies, more lies, and a partisan and or ineffective media.

The answer to the second question — why there’s a widespread perception that government spending has surged, when it hasn’t — is that there has been a disinformation campaign from the right, based on the usual combination of fact-free assertions and cooked numbers. And this campaign has been effective in part because the Obama administration hasn’t offered an effective reply.

Actually, the administration has had a messaging problem on economic policy ever since its first months in office, when it went for a stimulus plan that many of us warned from the beginning was inadequate given the size of the economy’s troubles. You can argue that Mr. Obama got all he could — that a larger plan wouldn’t have made it through Congress (which is questionable), and that an inadequate stimulus was much better than none at all (which it was). But that’s not an argument the administration ever made. Instead, it has insisted throughout that its original plan was just right, a position that has become increasingly awkward as the recovery stalls.

And a side consequence of this awkward positioning is that officials can’t easily offer the obvious rebuttal to claims that big spending failed to fix the economy — namely, that thanks to the inadequate scale of the Recovery Act, big spending never happened in the first place.

But if they won’t say it, I will: if job-creating government spending has failed to bring down unemployment in the Obama era, it’s not because it doesn’t work; it’s because it wasn’t tried.

Written by Seth Anderson

October 11th, 2010 at 8:00 am

Lou Dobbs Is a Hypocrite

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Lou Dobbs, a hypocrite? Somehow I am less than surprised.

No Alien is Illegal

On September 29 we witnessed the tearful press conference of Nicky Diaz, the former housekeeper for California gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman. Diaz had been in Whitman’s employ for nine years, cleaning her opulent house and fetching her kids from school while Whitman rose to become Forbes’s top woman in business. It was only after Whitman decided to run for public office, launching a campaign that has at times been vehemently anti-immigrant, that she “discovered” that Diaz was undocumented and fired her.

Now Lou Dobbs, the former CNN host who made his name with nightly rants against “illegal aliens” and their “illegal employers,” joins Whitman’s ranks. It turns out that Dobbs has employed at least five undocumented workers in recent years through his landscaping and horse stable contractors. Like Whitman, who may have received a Social Security no-match letter and knew Diaz was unable to travel outside the country, Dobbs and his champion horse-riding daughter, Hillary, must have been in deep denial. The landscaping and horse grooming trades depend heavily on undocumented workers. One immigrant who tended the gardens at a Dobbs estate said the landscaping contractor who employed him never pushed for a “good Social Security number.” Dobbs told his gardener to call him “Luis.” Whitman described Diaz as “a friend of our family.” Yet there appears to have been a tacit understanding in these friendly relationships: some things would not be discussed.

With the investigative report in this issue by Isabel Macdonald, we are not out merely to play a game of gotcha. Of course Whitman and Dobbs are hypocrites: they have called publicly for tougher enforcement of immigration laws, claiming it is necessary to protect American workers and their wages, while privately refusing fair pay and humane treatment to their own immigrant workers, who were too afraid of getting caught in the enforcement net to stand up for their rights. Instead they were left working extra hours off the clock (Whitman’s maid) or earning poverty wages (Dobbs’s gardeners). But the more important revelation here is that undocumented workers are so thoroughly woven into the fabric of our economy that even two professional immigrant-bashers found it difficult to avoid relying on their labor.

On any given day, we’ve all probably eaten fruit harvested by undocumented workers or meat they butchered. These workers also make possible the lifestyles enjoyed by wealthy Americans like Dobbs and Whitman, with their estates and grounds and stables. How these millions of workers could be extracted from their jobs and deported without causing massive disruption not only to their lives but to the entire economy defies the imagination. Yet this is what Dobbs demands with his call for ever tougher enforcement.

(click to continue reading Make It Legal | The Nation.)

Dobbs may be a jerk, but his actions betray his true feelings about immigration.

Isabel Macdonald’s piece is well worth a read if you have a moment.

Oh, there is a Democracy Now interview with Ms. Macdonald here. I haven’t seen this yet, but I will. Apparently Dobbs proved himself a buffoon on air.

Written by Seth Anderson

October 8th, 2010 at 8:21 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

Structural Unemployment is a Structure of Excuses

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Paul Krugman is skeptical about the oft-repeated claim that the current high unemployment rate is because the entire economy needs to be reconfigured and workers retrained:

The other Herzog

So all the evidence contradicts the claim that we’re mainly suffering from structural unemployment. Why, then, has this claim become so popular?

Part of the answer is that this is what always happens during periods of high unemployment — in part because pundits and analysts believe that declaring the problem deeply rooted, with no easy answers, makes them sound serious.

I’ve been looking at what self-proclaimed experts were saying about unemployment during the Great Depression; it was almost identical to what Very Serious People are saying now. Unemployment cannot be brought down rapidly, declared one 1935 analysis, because the work force is “unadaptable and untrained. It cannot respond to the opportunities which industry may offer.” A few years later, a large defense buildup finally provided a fiscal stimulus adequate to the economy’s needs — and suddenly industry was eager to employ those “unadaptable and untrained” workers.

But now, as then, powerful forces are ideologically opposed to the whole idea of government action on a sufficient scale to jump-start the economy. And that, fundamentally, is why claims that we face huge structural problems have been proliferating: they offer a reason to do nothing about the mass unemployment that is crippling our economy and our society.

So what you need to know is that there is no evidence whatsoever to back these claims. We aren’t suffering from a shortage of needed skills; we’re suffering from a lack of policy resolve. As I said, structural unemployment isn’t a real problem, it’s an excuse — a reason not to act on America’s problems at a time when action is desperately needed.

(click to continue reading Paul Krugman- Structure of Excuses – NYTimes.com.)

Worth reading the whole article if you have a moment

Written by Seth Anderson

September 28th, 2010 at 6:22 pm

Most Wealthy OK with Tax Increases

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For all the gnashing of teeth about restoring taxes to what they were before Bush temporarily lowered them, turns out most of those in the upper brackets actually wouldn’t mind the increase. Unfortunately, the one-third is louder than the two-third majority…

Lloyds Bank Ltd Law Courts Branch

As Congress and President Obama fight over the Bush tax cuts, a small number of left-leaning rich people have come out in support of paying higher taxes. The most famous are the members of the Responsible Wealth Project, who say they pay too little in taxes and want to address inequality.

They may be an eccentric minority, or (in the view of conservatives) a lunatic fringe. But a Quinnipiac University poll this year showed nearly two-thirds of those with household incomes of more than $250,000 a year support raising their own taxes to reduce the federal deficit.

(click to continue reading ‘Tax Me More’ Says Wealthy Entrepreneur – The Wealth Report – WSJ.)

Garrett Gruener recently wrote:

For nearly the last decade, I’ve paid income taxes at the lowest rates of my professional career. Before that, I paid at higher rates. And if you want the simple, honest truth, from my perspective as an entrepreneur, the fluctuation didn’t affect what I did with my money. None of my investments has ever been motivated by the rate at which I would have to pay personal income tax.

As history demonstrates, modest changes in the tax rate for wealthy taxpayers don’t make much of a difference if the goal is to build new companies, drive technological development and stimulate new industries.

(click to continue reading The Bush tax cuts: an entrepreneur’s perspective – latimes.com.)

and a little historical perspective:

When inequality gets too far out of balance, as it did over the course of the last decade, the wealthy end up saving too much while members of the middle class can’t afford to spend much unless they borrow excessively. Eventually, the economy stalls for lack of demand, and we see the kind of deflationary spiral we find ourselves in now. I believe it is no coincidence that the two highest peaks in American income inequality came in 1929 and 2008, and that the following years were marked by low economic activity and significant unemployment.

What American businesspeople know, and have known since Henry Ford insisted that his employees be able to afford to buy the cars they made, is that a thriving economy doesn’t just need investors; it needs people who can buy the goods and services businesses create. For the overall economy to do well, everyday Americans have to do well.

Now that the Bush tax cuts are about to expire, Republicans are again arguing that taxes should remain low for the wealthy. The idea is that this will spur people like me to put more capital to work and start more ventures, which will create new jobs, power the economy and ultimately produce more tax revenues. It’s a beguiling theory, but it’s one that hasn’t worked before and won’t work now.

Instead, Congress should let the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans and use the additional tax revenues that are generated to invest in infrastructure and research. “Invest” is the right word. Putting money into infrastructure — such as roads, bridges, broadband, the smart grid and public transit — as well as carefully chosen research initiatives provides a foundation for future growth. As important, it puts funds in the hands of those who will spend them, generating demand that will pull us out of our economic crisis and toward a new cycle of growth.

Job growth, especially of the small business and micro business size is not predicated on personal tax rates. If you are an entrepreneur and you have a good idea for a start-up, you aren’t going to wait for favorable tax rates, or be discouraged by unfavorable tax rates.

And Mr. Gruener’s larger point is exactly correct: the government should be investing in infrastructure (fiber optics, efficient energy, transportation), not hoarding pennies.1

Footnotes:
  1. Especially not pennies, remember? []

Written by Seth Anderson

September 21st, 2010 at 9:31 am

Blackwater, Monsanto and Black Ops

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Monsanto hiring Blackwater? Why am I not surprised that two companies as consistently evil as Monsanto and Blackwater1 have worked together?

Purple Hayes

Over the past several years, entities closely linked to the private security firm Blackwater have provided intelligence, training and security services to US and foreign governments as well as several multinational corporations, including Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and banking giants Deutsche Bank and Barclays, according to documents obtained by The Nation. Blackwater’s work for corporations and government agencies was contracted using two companies owned by Blackwater’s owner and founder, Erik Prince: Total Intelligence Solutions and the Terrorism Research Center (TRC). Prince is listed as the chairman of both companies in internal company documents, which show how the web of companies functions as a highly coordinated operation. Officials from Total Intelligence, TRC and Blackwater (which now calls itself Xe Services) did not respond to numerous requests for comment for this article.

One of the most incendiary details in the documents is that Blackwater, through Total Intelligence, sought to become the “intel arm” of Monsanto, offering to provide operatives to infiltrate activist groups organizing against the multinational biotech firm.

Governmental recipients of intelligence services and counterterrorism training from Prince’s companies include the Kingdom of Jordan, the Canadian military and the Netherlands police, as well as several US military bases, including Fort Bragg, home of the elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), and Fort Huachuca, where military interrogators are trained, according to the documents. In addition, Blackwater worked through the companies for the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the US European Command.

(click to continue reading Blackwater’s Black Ops | The Nation, Jeremy Scahill.)

Traffic Lights Turn green tonight

and Monsanto bobs and weaves:

Through Total Intelligence and the Terrorism Research Center, Blackwater also did business with a range of multinational corporations. According to internal Total Intelligence communications, biotech giant Monsanto—the world’s largest supplier of genetically modified seeds—hired the firm in 2008–09. The relationship between the two companies appears to have been solidified in January 2008 when Total Intelligence chair Cofer Black traveled to Zurich to meet with Kevin Wilson, Monsanto’s security manager for global issues.

After the meeting in Zurich, Black sent an e-mail to other Blackwater executives, including to Prince and Prado at their Blackwater e-mail addresses. Black wrote that Wilson “understands that we can span collection from internet, to reach out, to boots on the ground on legit basis protecting the Monsanto [brand] name…. Ahead of the curve info and insight/heads up is what he is looking for.” Black added that Total Intelligence “would develop into acting as intel arm of Monsanto.” Black also noted that Monsanto was concerned about animal rights activists and that they discussed how Blackwater “could have our person(s) actually join [activist] group(s) legally.” Black wrote that initial payments to Total Intelligence would be paid out of Monsanto’s “generous protection budget” but would eventually become a line item in the company’s annual budget. He estimated the potential payments to Total Intelligence at between $100,000 and $500,000. According to documents, Monsanto paid Total Intelligence $127,000 in 2008 and $105,000 in 2009.

Reached by telephone and asked about the meeting with Black in Zurich, Monsanto’s Wilson initially said, “I’m not going to discuss it with you.” In a subsequent e-mail to The Nation, Wilson confirmed he met Black in Zurich and that Monsanto hired Total Intelligence in 2008 and worked with the company until early 2010. He denied that he and Black discussed infiltrating animal rights groups, stating “there was no such discussion.” He claimed that Total Intelligence only provided Monsanto “with reports about the activities of groups or individuals that could pose a risk to company personnel or operations around the world which were developed by monitoring local media reports and other publicly available information. The subject matter ranged from information regarding terrorist incidents in Asia or kidnappings in Central America to scanning the content of activist blogs and websites.” Wilson asserted that Black told him Total Intelligence was “a completely separate entity from Blackwater.”

 

Read the entire article yourself and make up your own mind…

 

Footnotes:
  1. now known as Xe []

Written by Seth Anderson

September 18th, 2010 at 6:48 am

Ernest Withers, Civil Rights Photographer an FBI Informer

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Trust no-one. Especially when the FBI has your organization on its radar. On Sunday, the Memphis newspaper The Commercial Appeal published an explosive exposé on renowned Civil RIghts photojournalist, Ernest C. Withers.

art-gop-fascism-poster.jpg

At the top of the stairs he saw the blood, a large pool of it, splashed across the balcony like a grisly, abstract painting. Instinctively, Ernest Withers raised his camera. This wasn’t just a murder. This was history.

 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood here a few hours earlier chatting with aides when a sniper squeezed off a shot from a hunting rifle.

Now, as night set over Memphis, Withers was on the story.

Slipping past a police barricade, the enterprising Beale Street newsman made his way to room 306 at the Lorraine Motel — King’s room — and walked in. Ralph Abernathy and the others hardly blinked. After all, this was Ernest C. Withers. He’d marched with King, and sat in on some of the movement’s sensitive strategy meetings.

A veteran freelancer for America’s black press, Withers was known as “the original civil rights photographer,” an insider who’d covered it all, from the Emmett Till murder that jump-started the movement in 1955 to the Little Rock school crisis, the integration of Ole Miss and, now, the 1968 sanitation strike that brought King to Memphis and his death.

(click to continue reading Photographer Ernest Withers doubled as FBI informant to spy on civil rights movement » The Commercial Appeal.)

 

According to the article, Withers was instrumental in the FBI’s questionable war1 against every organization that challenged the status quo: the Black Panthers, religious groups, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, you name it. The program2 was called COINTELPRO, and it was worse, and more pervasive than you think. The links in the quoted section below go to scans of primary documents, hosted at the moment at The Commercial Appeal, so you can read them in their malicious banality yourself.

Much of his undercover work helped the FBI break up the Invaders, a Black Panther-styled militant group that became popular in disaffected black Memphis in the late 1960s and was feared by city leaders.

 

Yet, Withers focused on mainstream Memphians as well.

Personal and professional details of Church of God in Christ Bishop G.E. Patterson (then a pastor with a popular radio show), real estate agent O.W. Pickett, politician O. Z. Evers and others plumped FBI files as the bureau ran a secret war on militancy.

When community leader Jerry Fanion took cigarettes to jailed Invaders, agents took note. Agents wrote reports when Catholic Father Charles Mahoney befriended an Invader, when car dealer John T. Fisher offered jobs to militants, when Rev. James Lawson planned a trip to Czechoslovakia and when a schoolteacher loaned his car to a suspected radical.

Each report has a common thread — Withers.

As a so-called racial informant — one who monitored race-related politics and “hate” organizations — Withers fed agents a steady flow of information.

Records indicate he snapped and handed over photos of St. Patrick Catholic Church priests who supported the city’s striking sanitation workers; he monitored political candidates, jotted down auto tag numbers for agents, and once turned over a picture of an employee of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission said to be “one who will give aid and comfort to the black power groups.” In an interview this year, that worker said she came within a hearing of losing her job.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Chicago Division

 

From the New York Times in follow up:

On Sunday, The Commercial Appeal in Memphis published the results of a two-year investigation that showed [Ernest C.] Withers, who died in 2007 at age 85, had collaborated closely with two F.B.I. agents in the 1960s to keep tabs on the civil rights movement. It was an astonishing revelation about a former police officer nicknamed the Original Civil Rights Photographer, whose previous claim to fame had been the trust he engendered among high-ranking civil rights leaders, including Dr. King.

 

“It is an amazing betrayal,” said Athan Theoharis, a historian at Marquette University who has written books about the F.B.I. “It really speaks to the degree that the F.B.I. was able to engage individuals within the civil rights movement. This man was so well trusted.”

From at least 1968 to 1970, Mr. Withers, who was black, provided photographs, biographical information and scheduling details to two F.B.I. agents in the bureau’s Memphis domestic surveillance program, Howell Lowe and William H. Lawrence, according to numerous reports summarizing their meetings. The reports were obtained by the newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act and posted on its Web site.

A clerical error appears to have allowed for Mr. Withers’s identity to be divulged: In most cases in the reports, references to Mr. Withers and his informer number, ME 338-R, have been blacked out. But in several locations, the F.B.I. appears to have forgotten to hide them.

(click to continue reading Civil Rights Photographer Unmasked as Informer – NYTimes.com.)

 

Presumedly, a diligent researcher researcher could now go through redacted FBI documents, and find everywhere else that Withers code name was used

A clerical error appears to have allowed for Mr. Withers’s identity to be divulged: In most cases in the reports, references to Mr. Withers and his informer number, ME 338-R, have been blacked out. But in several locations, the F.B.I. appears to have forgotten to hide them.

Wonder if there the FBI is conducting an updated version of COINTELPRO to investigate/infiltrate the Tea Party zealots? Probably not, for most of the history of the FBI, they have only been concerned with liberal dissent. Conservatives get a pass, even if they blow up buildings or kill innocents. A liberal group providing cigarettes to an incarcerated protester? That’s grounds for expanding the file.

 

Footnotes:
  1. the fact of the war is not in dispute, only its motive for existing in a supposedly free society []
  2. We’ve blogged about COINTELPRO many times []

Written by Seth Anderson

September 15th, 2010 at 8:01 am

Kochtopus

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We’ve mentioned The Koch brothers a few times previously. They obviously have too much money, and anything related to their machinations should be noted and publicly discussed.

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With his brother Charles, who is seventy-four, David Koch owns virtually all of Koch Industries, a conglomerate, headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, whose annual revenues are estimated to be a hundred billion dollars. The company has grown spectacularly since their father, Fred, died, in 1967, and the brothers took charge. The Kochs operate oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota, and control some four thousand miles of pipeline. Koch Industries owns Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia-Pacific lumber, Stainmaster carpet, and Lycra, among other products. Forbes ranks it as the second-largest private company in the country, after Cargill, and its consistent profitability has made David and Charles Koch—who, years ago, bought out two other brothers—among the richest men in America. Their combined fortune of thirty-five billion dollars is exceeded only by those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a “kingpin of climate science denial.” The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups. Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.

(click to continue reading The billionaire Koch brothers’ war against Obama : The New Yorker.)

Long Cycle of Redemption

And even though we mocked this factoid previously, it bears repeating

Oddly enough, the fiercely capitalist Koch family owes part of its fortune to Joseph Stalin. Fred Koch was the son of a Dutch printer who settled in Texas and ran a weekly newspaper. Fred attended M.I.T., where he earned a degree in chemical engineering. In 1927, he invented a more efficient process for converting oil into gasoline, but, according to family lore, America’s major oil companies regarded him as a threat and shut him out of the industry. Unable to succeed at home, Koch found work in the Soviet Union. In the nineteen-thirties, his company trained Bolshevik engineers and helped Stalin’s regime set up fifteen modern oil refineries. Over time, however, Stalin brutally purged several of Koch’s Soviet colleagues. Koch was deeply affected by the experience, and regretted his collaboration. He returned to the U.S. In the headquarters of his company, Rock Island Oil & Refining, in Wichita, he kept photographs aimed at proving that some of those Soviet refineries had been destroyed in the Second World War. Gus diZerega, a former friend of Charles Koch, recalled, “As the Soviets became a stronger military power, Fred felt a certain amount of guilt at having helped build them up. I think it bothered him a lot.”

In 1958, Fred Koch became one of the original members of the John Birch Society, the arch-conservative group known, in part, for a highly skeptical view of governance and for spreading fears of a Communist takeover. Members considered President Dwight D. Eisenhower to be a Communist agent. In a self-published broadside, Koch claimed that “the Communists have infiltrated both the Democrat and Republican Parties.” He wrote admiringly of Benito Mussolini’s suppression of Communists in Italy, and disparagingly of the American civil-rights movement. “The colored man looms large in the Communist plan to take over America,” he warned. Welfare was a secret plot to attract rural blacks to cities, where they would foment “a vicious race war.” In a 1963 speech that prefigures the Tea Party’s talk of a secret socialist plot, Koch predicted that Communists would “infiltrate the highest offices of government in the U.S. until the President is a Communist, unknown to the rest of us.”

and one more factoid I couldn’t let pass in this excellent albeit long, and infuriating article:

During the 2000 election campaign, Koch Industries spent some nine hundred thousand dollars to support the candidacies of George W. Bush and other Republicans. During the Bush years, Koch Industries and other fossil-fuel companies enjoyed remarkable prosperity. The 2005 energy bill, which Hillary Clinton dubbed the Dick Cheney Lobbyist Energy Bill, offered enormous subsidies and tax breaks for energy companies. The Kochs have cast themselves as deficit hawks, but, according to a study by Media Matters, their companies have benefitted from nearly a hundred million dollars in government contracts since 2000.

Written by Seth Anderson

August 23rd, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , ,

How Fox Betrayed Petraeus

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Frank Rich has a good overview of the laughably transparent manufactured outrage the Rethuglicans are spewing over the creation of an Islamic prayer center in lower Manhattan. A few choice paragraphs:

Trio of musicians

These patriots have never attacked the routine Muslim worship services at another site of the 9/11 attacks, the Pentagon. Their sudden concern for ground zero is suspect to those of us who actually live in New York. All but 12 Republicans in the House voted against health benefits for 9/11 responders just last month. Though many of these ground-zero watchdogs partied at the 2004 G.O.P. convention in New York exploiting 9/11, none of them protested that a fellow Republican, the former New York governor George Pataki, so bollixed up the management of the World Trade Center site that nine years on it still lacks any finished buildings, let alone a permanent memorial.

The Fox patron saint Sarah Palin calls Park51 a “stab in the heart” of Americans who “still have that lingering pain from 9/11.” But her only previous engagement with the 9/11 site was when she used it as a political backdrop for taking her first questions from reporters nearly a month after being named to the G.O.P. ticket. (She was so eager to grab her ground zero photo op that she defied John McCain’s just-announced “suspension” of their campaign.) Her disingenuous piety has been topped only by Bernie Kerik, who smuggled a Twitter message out of prison to register his rage at the ground zero desecration. As my colleague Clyde Haberman reminded us, such was Kerik’s previous reverence for the burial ground of 9/11 that he appropriated an apartment overlooking the site (and designated for recovery workers) for an extramarital affair.

At the Islamophobia command center, Murdoch’s News Corporation, the hypocrisy is, if anything, thicker. A recent Wall Street Journal editorial darkly cited unspecified “reports” that Park51 has “money coming from Saudi charities or Gulf princes that also fund Wahabi madrassas.” As Jon Stewart observed, this brand of innuendo could also be applied to News Corp., whose second largest shareholder after the Murdoch family is a member of the Saudi royal family. Perhaps last week’s revelation that News Corp. has poured $1 million into G.O.P. campaign coffers was a fiendishly clever smokescreen to deflect anyone from following the far greater sum of Saudi money (a $3 billion stake) that has flowed into Murdoch enterprises, or the News Corp. money (at least $70 million) recently invested in a Saudi media company.

…After 9/11, President Bush praised Islam as a religion of peace and asked for tolerance for Muslims not necessarily because he was a humanitarian or knew much about Islam but because national security demanded it. An America at war with Islam plays right into Al Qaeda’s recruitment spiel. This month’s incessant and indiscriminate orgy of Muslim-bashing is a national security disaster for that reason — Osama bin Laden’s “next video script has just written itself,” as the former F.B.I. terrorist interrogator Ali Soufan put it — but not just for that reason. America’s Muslim partners, those our troops are fighting and dying for, are collateral damage. If the cleric behind Park51 — a man who has participated in events with Condoleezza Rice and Karen Hughes, for heaven’s sake — is labeled a closet terrorist sympathizer and a Nazi by some of the loudest and most powerful conservative voices in America, which Muslims are not?

(click to continue reading Frank Rich – How Fox Betrayed Petraeus – NYTimes.com.)

The GOP and their ally, the Christian Taliban, will not stop until America overturns the Constitution and Bill of Rights America was founded on, and the GOP has the right to crucify the non-believers. Why don’t they leave and start their own country somewhere far far away since they hate the US so much?

And as Frank Rich explains, kind of hard to “win hearts and minds” in Iraq and Afghanistan when the GOP wants to strip Muslims of religious freedoms here.

Poor General Petraeus. Over the last week he has been ubiquitous in the major newspapersand on television as he pursues a publicity tour to pitch the war he’s inherited. But have you heard any buzz about what he had to say? Any debate? Any anything? No one was listening and no one cared. Everyone was too busy yelling about the mosque.

It’s poignant, really. Even as America’s most venerable soldier returned from the front to valiantly assume the role of Willy Loman, the product he was selling was being discredited and discontinued by his own self-proclaimed allies at home.

 

Written by Seth Anderson

August 22nd, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Gale Norton Loves Her Some Sex, Meth and Oil

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Gale Norton, former Bush Pioneer,1 has no regrets about the shambles she left behind in her wake, before she joined Royal Dutch Shell.

I like to eat paste

Gale Norton, former President George W. Bush’s first Secretary of the Interior, ran the department during the time when its Minerals Management Service was guilty of some of its worst excesses—including holding cocaine and meth-fueled sex and oil parties. But that didn’t stop Norton from taking to Capitol Hill Tuesday to defend the “hardworking and professional men and women of the Minerals Management Service.”

Norton was one of two Bush-era Interior secretaries who testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Tuesday morning, the first time representatives from the previous administration have been put on the hot-seat about the regulatory miscues that may have led to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Current Secretary Ken Salazar joined Norton (who served in the role from January 2001 to March 2006) and Dirk Kempthorne (June 2006 to January 2009) before the panel.

In her opening statement, Norton accused critics of the Interior Department of vilifying the Minerals Management Service (now renamed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement). “There has been a great deal of media attention to the ethics of MMS. It pains me to see the vilification of MMS and its employees. I want to speak in defense of the vast majority of hardworking and professional men and women of the Minerals Management Service,” said Norton in her prepared opening statement.

Now, it was under Norton’s watch that many of the porn, meth, and oil parties took place at the MMS’ Lake Charles, La. office. Oh, and the sex, oil, and cocaine parties at the Lakewood, Colorado office. And Norton, who went to work for Shell Oil shortly after leaving office, has been the subject of a Department of Justice criminal investigation into whether she illegally used her position at DOI to benefit the company that would hire her soon thereafter

(click to continue reading Bush Official on Sex, Meth and Oil: What’s the Big Deal? | Mother Jones.)

Jerkstore

Footnotes:
  1. well, probably, too lazy to look her up []

Written by Seth Anderson

July 21st, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Shirley Sherrod blasts Fox News as racist

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Shirley Sherrod, another victim of the viciously evil Rethuglican Party.

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Shirley Sherrod, the former Agriculture Department Georgia Director of Rural Development, says she is a victim. A victim of poor reporting and, as she contends, clear bias and racist coverage from both Andrew Breitbart and Fox News.

“When you look at their reporting, this is just another way of seeing that they are (racist),” Sherrod told me about Fox in a lengthy interview Tuesday night. “But I have seen that before now. I saw their reporting as biased during the Bush Administration and the Clinton Administration.”

Sherrod was forced to resign on Monday after a portion of a taped speech she gave last March was posted at Breitbart’s Biggovernment.com.

In the edited tape, she spoke about how she had not initially helped a white farmer as much as she could have in 1986 when he was going to lose his farm. In the posting, Breitbart made it appear as though the story had occurred during her time as a federal official and not 24 years ago when she worked for a non-profit organization.

Breitbart also did not include the entire context of the speech, in which she later explained that she learned from the situation and ended up helping the farmer, Roger Spooner and his wife. Both Spooners spoke out several times Tuesday to support Sherrod and voice that they would have lost their farm if not for her help.

By the end of the day Monday, she was forced to resign.

Sherrod, 62, said her first reaction was shock that, after a career working for civil rights and as the daughter of a father murdered by racists, she would be seen in such a terrible light.

“To have people say that I was such a racist was unbelievable,” she said of the fallout from the video and Fox coverage. “My whole life, if you look into what I have done, my father was murdered in 1965. If you look at all of us, we all hurt with that and we got involved into the movement and channeled our effort into good, instead of hating.

“I am getting hate calls and e-mails at this point. I got one call last night at my house at 12:30 a.m. that said ‘you lost your job, good for you’ and ‘bitch’ There are people out there who will believe that I am a racist person, even though the story is getting out there.”

(click to continue reading Sherrod: I’m a Victim of Breitbart, Fox ‘Racism’ | Media Matters for America.)

Ms. Sherrod was fired as soon as Breitbart opened his mouth, lied. Of course, Breitbart is still invited on network television to spew his garbage as often as he can think of something to spew. You’d think that such a repeated prevaricator wouldn’t be entitled to a national platform, but as the phrase goes, What Liberal Media?

No Dogs

and Greg Sargent adds from the Department of No Duh

Now this is going to drive the right bananas.

Check out this nugget in an interview that Shirley Sherrod did with Joe Strupp, in which she comes right out and claims Fox News is using her as a “pawn” in a racist plot to undo the gains African Americans have made:

She said Fox showed no professionalism in continuing to bother her for an interview, but failing to correct their coverage.

“I think they should but they won’t. They intended exactly what they did. “They were looking for the result they got yesterday,” she said of Fox. “I am just a pawn. I was just here. They are after a bigger thing, they would love to take us back to where we were many years ago. Back to where black people were looking down, not looking white folks in the face, not being able to compete for a job out there and not be a whole person.”

(click to continue reading The Plum Line – Shirley Sherrod blasts Fox News as racist.)

Written by Seth Anderson

July 21st, 2010 at 11:29 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , ,