Tuesday, February 28, 2006


February 28, 1982

On February 28, 1982, the J. Paul Getty Museum becomes the most richly endowed
museum on earth when it receives a $1.2 billion bequest left to it by the late
J. Paul Getty. The American oil billionaire died in 1976, but legal wrangling
over his fortune by his children and ex-wives kept his will in probate until
1982. During those six years, what was a originally a $700 million bequest to
the museum nearly doubled. By 2000, the endowment was worth $5 billion--even
after the trust spent nearly $1 billion in the 1990s on the construction of a
massive museum and arts education complex in Los Angeles.Jean Paul Getty, born
in Minneapolis in 1892, built his fortune through the accumulation of oil
companies. He began collecting artworks in the 1930s, preferring Renaissance and
Baroque paintings and French furniture, and displaying them in his ranch house
in Malibu, California. In 1954, he formally opened the J. Paul Getty Museum,
which occupied a specially built wing of his Malibu home. Later, his collection
outgrew the ranch, so Getty built a new museum in Malibu. The new Getty Museum
was modeled after Villa dei Papiri, a Roman villa uncovered in the town of
Herculaneum, which was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. It
was completed in 1974, but Getty, who lived mostly in England after World War
II, died before he could return to Malibu to see it in person. His coffin was
sent back to California, and he was buried near his museum on a bluff
overlooking the Pacific Ocean.In leaving a third of his fortune to the J. Paul
Getty Museum, his only stipulation was that the fortune be used "for the
diffusion of artistic and general knowledge." This gave the museum extraordinary
freedom--an unusual legacy from a man who in his life had sought absolute
control over his affairs. The laws governing trusts, however, indicate that the
museum must spend 4.25 percent of its endowment three out of every four years in
order to retain its tax-exempt status. In the first year after its endowment,
that figure equaled $54 million; today the amount the museum must spend three
out of four years is more than $200 million. The J. Paul Getty Museum's greatest
challenge, therefore, is finding enough art and culture to buy--but not too much
that other museums accuse the Getty of hoarding the world's masterpieces.The
museum spent a good chunk of its endowment in the construction of the Getty
Center, a six-building complex set on a hilltop in the Brentwood section of Los
Angeles. The $1 billion complex opened in December 1997. Fourteen years in the
making, the Getty Center includes a large museum, a research institute and
library, an art conservation institute, a digital information institute, an arts
education institute, a museum management school, and a grant program center. The
buildings were designed in a modernist style by American architect Richard

Octavia Butler and the reading wars

Posted by Rachel Neumann at 3:30 PM on February 27, 2006.

Are you reading every single letter of each of these words or just the first and last?

Somehow, amid my general despair about Iraq and my general elation about the fact that finally no one in my family is currently ill, I've gotten sidetracked by this whole continuing debate about how we learn to read. Some people thought this debate was over and, like many things, ended in the conclusion that a mixture of everything is best. Not so. Others still apparently consider teaching "whole language" reading tantamount to child abuse at worst and racism at best. Did you know that "phonics" was associated with Republicans, capitalists, and strict teachers while "whole language" was left for us feel-gooders and Democrats who actually believe you should read to children. Perhaps South Dakota, continuing its lovely push into the dark ages, will next ban pointing out whole words to children and reading to them.

My daughter just turned three. She can "read" six words: sun, moon, cat, dog, Luna, eat, and egg. By read, I mean she recognizes these words; she's memorized that the one with a dog-like tale at the end is "dog," the one with two moon-circles in the middle is "moon." This is how I learned hwo to read at age two and I don't think it's warped me too much, except that I spent too much of my childhood (and arguably too much of my adulthood) reading. But it's not phonics, and it's not how most kids learn to read these days. At preschool, my daughter learns to recognize sounds and spell things out phonetically. She's got the idea, but not the syntax; she wants to know what does "B" start with, butterfly or elephant?

At the Exploratorium, a hands-on science center in San Francisco, they have a new exhibit on how people read. Apparently, most of us, even those who were taught strict phonics, just read the first and last letter of a word, and the order of the letters in the middle don't really matter much.

Most people, without pausing, can read Mark Twain's aphorism:

I dno't gvie a dman for a man taht can olny sepll a wrod one way.

Everyone I know who as child was read to and had books in the house learned to read. Those I know that didn't, have struggled with it all their lives, however they were taught in school. If there was ever an unnecessary debate, this is it. Do it all. Throw the book--letters, words, and pictures-- at a kid, make it a book about something they care about, and I bet they'll be reading.

I write this inspired in part by Octavia Butler, who died on Friday of a head wound. The author of Kindred, Bloodchild, and Wild Seed was one of those writers who you inhald. She was also a brilliant inspiration, a tall African-Amerian woman who never worried about convention, never stopped asking questions, and always let her imagination run fully. She's one of the women I hope my daughter will read one day; once she expands her six-word reading vocabulary.

Rachel Neumann is Rights & Liberties Editor at AlterNet.

The Unsolved Mystery of the Oklahoma City Bombing

By Andrew Gumbel, Truthdig. Posted February 28, 2006.

Thanks to the efforts of a handful of dogged investigators, the FBI's own paperwork is beginning to seriously contradict the official version of the attack. And more is being revealed all the time.


Long before the Iraq war, long before 9/11, the U.S. government had already mastered the art of fluffing its intelligence on a looming threat, botching the response and then working furiously to cover its mistakes.

The 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building -- at the time the worst peacetime atrocity committed on U.S. soil, with 168 dead and hundreds more injured -- has been largely overshadowed by the destruction of the World Trade Center and all that has followed. But the storyline is nevertheless unnervingly familiar.

Like the failure to prevent 9/11, this is a case of the federal government first failing to recognize or act on crucial warning signs and then claiming there were no warning signs at all. It's about coming up with a plausible cover story and sticking to it, no matter what. In contrast to the most glaring failures of the Bush administration, though, the government's bluff on Oklahoma City has gone largely uncalled. Timothy McVeigh, the alleged mastermind, was sentenced to death and executed, while Terry Nichols, supposedly his only accomplice, is serving a life sentence. And that, for most people, has been the end of the story. Only the dogged persistence of a handful of amateur investigators, academics, journalists and lawyers has revealed more uncomfortable truths about the bombing and who might have committed it. Thanks to a flurry of Freedom of Information and other lawsuits, the FBI's own paperwork is beginning to seriously contradict the official version of what happened. And more is being revealed all the time.

We now know, from court records and official documents, that at least two undercover operatives were gathering information on Timothy McVeigh and a group of like-minded white supremacists in the early spring of 1995, one of whom gave her government handlers specific information about a plan to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

We know that, after the bombing, the government expended considerable energy trying to track down a John Doe 2 and other possible accomplices of McVeigh and Terry Nichols -- the "others unknown" cited in the federal indictment -- before abruptly changing tack nine months later and insisting that McVeigh was the lone mastermind behind the attack and, eventually, that no one else other than Nichols had been involved.

And we know that, as the lone-bomber theory has come under increasingly skeptical scrutiny in recent years, the FBI and other federal agencies have expended considerable energy blocking access to their investigative paper trail. When one of the government informants from the spring of 1995 went public about her role, she found herself prosecuted -- unsuccessfully -- for allegedly harboring her own bomb plots; she has since gone to ground, too afraid to say more. At least one key government official, the state medical examiner in Oklahoma City, has indicated he was not given key information he needed to do his job. And one of the senior FBI agents involved in the early stages of the bombing probe now believes that enough new evidence has come to the surface from the files of his own agency to warrant a new federal grand jury investigation.

Perhaps most unnerving is the trail of dead bodies that has turned up over the past decade under less than transparent circumstances. A neo-Nazi bank robber called Richard Guthrie, one of the leading John Doe 2 candidates -- though never publicly identified as such -- was found hanging in a prison cell in July 1996. Kenney Trentadue, a man who looked very much like Guthrie, right down to a snake-motif tattoo on one arm, and appears to have been mistaken for him when he was picked up on a parole violation on the Mexican border in the summer of 1995, wound up bloodied and traumatized from head to toe in his cell at a federal detention facility in Oklahoma City. The feds claimed he hanged himself. An inmate who later came forward and claimed he witnessed Trentadue being beaten to death by his interrogators was himself found hanging in a federal prison cell in 2000.

The person who has done most of the recent work in unmasking the mysteries of Oklahoma City is Kenney Trentadue's brother Jesse, a Salt Lake City lawyer who has not only fought to have his brother's death recognized as murder, not suicide, but is also suing the FBI to release a trove of documents that might shed light on the links among McVeigh, Guthrie and a group of Guthrie's associates widely suspected -- at least outside the confines of the Justice Department -- of being McVeigh's bombing accomplices.

Jesse Trentadue has been all over the federal government like a bad case of lice ever since the authorities at the Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City unsuccessfully tried to arrange for Kenney's battered body to be cremated before the family had had a chance to look at it or even learn what kind of injuries he had sustained. He not only insisted on the family taking receipt of the body, he has also raised question after question about the government's credibility. Jesse has gotten a prison guard to admit under oath that he lied when he testified about seeing Kenney hanging by a bedsheet, gotten the authorities to admit they never told the medical examiner's office that someone else's blood was found in Kenney's cell, and cast compelling doubt on the suicide note Kenney supposedly scrawled in pencil on his cell wall saying he had lost his mind.

Over the years, as the Kenney Trentadue case has become increasingly intertwined with the Oklahoma City bombing case, Jesse Trentadue has won some key allies in both the federal prison bureaucracy and law enforcement. Just over a year ago, a former FBI agent gave him two heavily redacted agency teletypes connecting some of the dots between Richard Guthrie and McVeigh. Trentadue took the documents to federal court to demand unredacted versions, along with any other documents that might shed light on the Guthrie-McVeigh connection [legal briefing]. The legal process is grinding on, but Trentadue has already obtained one key ruling in his favor from U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball and squeezed more than 100 pages of (even more heavily) redacted documents out of the FBI.

Even in redacted form, these documents prove for the first time that FBI investigators were pursuing links between the Oklahoma City bombing and a series of 22 bank robberies carried out across the Midwest in 1993-1995 by a neo-Nazi group calling itself the Aryan Republican Army. Guthrie was a member of the ARA. So too were two members of a skinhead band from Philadelphia, Scott Stedeford and Kevin McCarthy, as well as an old friend of Guthrie's, Pete Langan, the brains behind the gang who also, curiously, happened to be a closet transvestite with a penchant for shaving his pubic hair and painting his toenails pink.

All were tried and convicted on robbery charges only. But it's now clear the feds thought they were involved in a whole lot more.

The first teletype, from January 1996, puts BOMBROB, the FBI's code word for the bank robbery investigation, under the general heading OKBOMB, its name for the bombing investigation. The second teletype, from August 1996, spells out what the ARA was suspected of planning with the tens of thousands of dollars it stole from the banks. In the subject line, the ARA members' names are grouped along with the topic "Domestic Security/Terrorism." The "threatened harm," it says, included political assassination, genocide and bombings. Guthrie and another member of the gang are reported to have admitted giving someone -- the name is blacked out -- part of the bank robbery loot.

It is already widely suspected that the financing for the Oklahoma City bomb came from the ARA, and indeed that McVeigh was an occasional participant in the bank robberies. McVeigh once told his sister Jennifer that money he passed on to her had come from a bank heist. Does this document show that the FBI had evidence cementing the link between the ARA and McVeigh?

For a certain answer to that, we will have to wait a little longer. Judge Kimball has seen unredacted versions of all the released FBI teletypes, and is expected to rule imminently on whether to make them public. He has indicated fairly strongly that he will, having ruled last May that "the public's interest in knowing the information [in the teletypes] outweighs the interest of the [named] individuals in keeping such information confidential."

His ruling could, if it goes in Trentadue's favor, finally blow the cover of the government's version of the Oklahoma City bombing. The McVeigh-as-lone-mastermind theory was certainly useful in securing a conviction and death sentence against McVeigh -- something that was far from a foregone conclusion at the time of his trial. But that does not mean the government necessarily believes that it is the whole truth; the involvement of McVeigh and Nichols may, rather, have been all that the feds were in a position to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

Several things about the lone-mastermind theory have never mind sense. The official version does not explain how McVeigh and Nichols could have successfully built the huge fertilizer bomb on their own without any explosives training. (Guthrie, by contrast, had received weapons instruction when he was training, unsuccessfully, to be a Navy SEAL.) It stretches credulity by suggesting that McVeigh drove the fully primed bomb more than 300 miles from Kansas to Oklahoma City -- something that ordnance experts say would have carried a high probability of premature detonation. (An alternative theory holds that McVeigh and his accomplices assembled the bomb in Oklahoma City on the morning of the attack.) It cannot explain how every single eyewitness who saw McVeigh as he made his final preparations for the attack saw him with someone else (and not Terry Nichols, either). And it does not account for the financing of the operation: McVeigh was jobless and broke from 1992 on, and yet he spent months shortly before the bombing frantically crisscrossing the country, staying in motels and making several sizable purchases. He paid cash for everything.

If McVeigh did have accomplices, then one place he might have found them was a white supremacist religious compound in rural Oklahoma called Elohim City. The feds were deeply suspicious of Elohim City, seeing it in the early spring of 1995 as potentially another Waco. Its residents included the notorious White Aryan Resistance leader Dennis Mahon, a shady German called Andreas Strassmeir and an occasional ARA member called Michael Brescia. Its visitors included other ARA members and McVeigh, going under the pseudonym Tim Tuttle.

It later emerged that Mahon's girlfriend, Carol Howe, was an informant for the ATF, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. She was the one who heard plans being hatched -- by Mahon and Strassmeir -- to blow up a government building, accompanied Elohim City residents on one of three reconnaissance trips to Oklahoma City, and reported seeing McVeigh on the premises. We also know, from evidence that emerged during the pretrial discovery process, that McVeigh called Elohim City two weeks before the bombing and asked to speak to Strassmeir.

The January 1996 FBI teletype made public by Jesse Trentadue adds two intriguing details to this. One is that McVeigh, when he made his phone call, "was believed to have been attempting to recruit a second conspirator to assist in the OKBOMB attack." And the other is that there was a second informant at Elohim City, working on behalf of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Alabama-based civil rights organization whose lead lawyer, Morris Dees, has been the scourge of racists and neo-Nazis from one end of the country to the other.

The teletype says the Southern Poverty Law Center informant was at Elohim City two days before the bombing when someone -- the name is redacted -- put in a phone call to the compound. If true, this is an incendiary revelation, because it suggests that the center knew far more about the Oklahoma City bombing than it let on in its immediate aftermath. In an e-mail he wrote to Jesse Trentadue in January 2005, Mark Potok, who edits the center's Intelligence Report, flatly denied that the SPLC had an informant, "or anyone else," at Elohim City. Two years earlier, however, Morris Dees, when asked at a meeting at Southeastern Oklahoma State University whether his organization had had any inside source at Elohim City, made no such denial. Rather, he dodged the question, acknowledging that his organization worked closely with the FBI and other federal agencies but omitting any precise details.

"We did notify the FBI and Janet Reno six months before the Oklahoma bombing that we had strong information that there was going to be a serious domestic terrorism strike," Dees added. "Within minutes after it [the Murrah Building bombing] hit the news … we called the criminal division of the FBI and said 'quit looking at Muslim businessmen who visit Oklahoma, you got to be looking at people involved in this Patriot movement.' "

We still have no clear idea of who knew what about the bombing, when they learned it, what attempts, if any, were made to prevent the calamity and why any such efforts failed. What we do know, however, is that the government had a lot more information than it was willing to admit publicly -- or even to turn over to the defense teams in the various bombing trials that have taken place since 1997.

One trove of hitherto unseen FBI documents cropped up on the eve of Timothy McVeigh's execution in 2001, delaying his death at the federal death row facility in Terre Haute, Ind., by almost a month. More were leaked to John Solomon, a Washington-based Associated Press reporter, in 2004 -- including a Secret Service file containing the extraordinary revelation that government agents had access to security videotapes of the Murrah Building in which "the suspects" (more than one) are seen exiting the Ryder truck containing the bomb three minutes before the explosion.

When Terry Nichols was retried on state murder charges in Oklahoma that same year -- in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt by prosecutors to get him sentenced to death -- the defense team tried to use the Solomon documents as exculpatory evidence for their client on the basis that the more others were involved, the less significant Nichols' own role would appear to have been. They also made a passionate case that Nichols had been denied a fair trial because the FBI and other agencies had improperly concealed relevant evidence.

The judge in the Oklahoma case, Steven Taylor, refused to grant them satisfaction on that front, saying he simply did not believe the official documents stating that the government had access to security video footage of the Murrah Building. As for any link to the ARA bank robbery gang, he called it a "dry hole." "There is absolutely no evidence of any overt act by the bank robbers in bombing the Murrah Building," Judge Taylor insisted, "nothing at all to link the bank robbers to the crime that is being tried before this court."

That, though, was before Jesse Trentadue came forward with his own stash of official documents. Trentadue is an undeniably colorful character, filling his legal briefs with trenchant statements about the federal government's iniquities and writing taunting e-mails to Robert Mueller, the FBI director, and others whenever he feels he has won a little victory over them. Last May, when Judge Kimball issued a ruling ordering the FBI to produce every document Trentadue had requested, the subject line of his e-mail to Mueller read: OH MY GOSH DARN BIGGEST FRIGGIN' HECK!!! "After you read [the judge's] order," he wrote, "you are going to need a case of Preparation H!"

If Trentadue is unorthodox in his approach, he is nevertheless effective. In 2001, he secured $1.1 million in damages from the Justice Department for the emotional distress his family suffered over his brother's suspicious death. That judgment has since been upheld on appeal, although the amount is still being litigated. Over the past year, his assault on the FBI has been equally dogged. When he first made a request for a copy of the January 1996 teletype, the FBI told him it did not exist. When he followed up that request with his own redacted copy of the teletype, along with a declaration from a former FBI special agent giving very specific information on where it was likely to be filed based on information on the teletype itself, the FBI said it had conducted a computer search for the terms Trentadue had requested and come up empty. Such a search, the FBI contended, was all that was required of the agency under the Freedom of Information Act.

Judge Kimball vigorously disagreed. "The court finds that the FBI's search was not reasonably calculated to discovery [sic] the requested documents," he wrote in his order last May. The FBI then announced it had 340 relevant documents in its possession and promised to release them all as ordered. When push came to shove, however, the number of documents it actually produced near the end of July was just 25; all were so heavily redacted that in places whole paragraphs were whited out and no significant new information could be gleaned from any of them. "The 340 number," the FBI explained, "… included numerous multiple matches that actually identified the same document." Oddly, the batch of 25 documents itself contained multiple versions of the same files; once the duplicates and draft versions were removed, the number of new documents numbered just 17.

Once again, Judge Kimball was unimpressed and ordered the FBI to give him unredacted copies of everything to examine in camera so he could decide for himself whether there was any valid reason to keep the redacted parts secret. At first the FBI resisted vigorously, going so far as to announce the day after Kimball's new order that it had reopened the Oklahoma City bombing investigation and that it was therefore no longer obliged to respond to any related FOIA request. In the end, though, the FBI produced the documents as ordered, and Kimball conducted his examination of them behind closed doors last November. His decision on their publication is still pending.

The full lessons from all this remain to be learned, in part because we are very far from getting to the bottom of the mystery. But it's clear that the intelligence failures and institutional coverups we have seen in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and the Iraq war are part of a historical pattern. The FBI, in common with other federal agencies, is interested in defending its own bureaucratic interests first and establishing the truth only a distant second. It is prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to avoid having to admit mistakes, even if that means allowing people suspected of posing a significant threat to public safety to go free. Dennis Mahon, who is banned from travel to Britain and other countries because of his political activities, has never been seriously troubled by the Oklahoma City bomb investigators. Andreas Strassmeir was allowed to leave the United States and return to Germany in early 1996 even though it was clear at the time that he had had contact with McVeigh immediately before the bombing and might, at the very least, have made an important witness. Several of the ARA bank robbers, meanwhile, have completed their sentences and are now free.

Even if the FBI has valid reasons for thinking that a broader prosecution of McVeigh's accomplices could not stand up in court -- because the evidence is lacking, or because the case might have to be built on the testimony of neo-Nazis and convicted bank robbers -- there is no excuse not to be more forthcoming about what the agency knows, and never mind whose pride gets hurt in the process. America deserves to be told everything possible about the Oklahoma City bombing, just as it deserves to be told everything about 9/11. That includes the full factual record of the crime itself, the conduct of the investigation, the leads that could not be solidified and, yes, the false trails and the screw-ups. In an ideal world, Congress or the FBI itself would be the guarantor of full disclosure. As it is, we have to rely on dogged individuals like Jesse Trentadue to squeeze the information out drop by drop.


Another installment of quotes gleaned from the net. It never fails to amaze me at the number of quotes that are scattered around. Let these make you think of the people who uttered them and wonder about the context that they were originally used.............ENJOY..............PEACE...............Scott

If you dream alone, it's just a dream. If you dream together, it's
reality. - Brazilian folk song

"Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster."
-- William T. Sherman

The pricks are on the outside - the late Rep. Mo Udall explaining how a
cactus differs from a caucus

Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their
reputation and social standing, never can bring about reform. Those who
are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the
world's estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow
their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates,
and bear the consequences. -- Susan B. Anthony,

"Jingoism, racism, fear, religious fundamentalism: these are the ways of
appealing to people if you're trying to organize a mass base of support for
policies that are really intended to crush them."--Noam Chomsky

"Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't." - Margret Thatcher

"We must all hang together, or assuredly, we shall all hang separately." - Benjamin Franklin

When I was growing up, drunkenness was not regarded as a social
disgrace. To get enough to eat was regarded as an achievement; to get
drunk was a victory - Brendan Behan

As the state is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence
to which it owes its very existence. -Mohandas K. Gandhi

"Just because you don't take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you."
Pericles, 430 BC

Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines - Steven

If there's one thing that George Bush has done that we should never
forget, it's that for us and for our children, he has shattered the myth
of white supremacy once and for all - Rep.Charles Rangel

"If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure." - Dan Quayle

"One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by one of your inferiors." - Plato

Charm is a way of getting the answer yes without asking a clear question. - Albert Camus

All laws not based on wisdom are a danger to the state - Inscription in
stone on the appellate court building of the state of New York

As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are
used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate a city by
destroying it. Words are to confuse, so that at election time people
will solemnly vote against their own interests. -Gore Vidal

I'm gonna cut the soles off my shoes,
sit in a tree, and learn to play the flute.
-- Firesign Theatre

"I've always wanted to be somebody, but I see now I should have been more specific." - Lily Tomlin

"I either want less corruption, or more chance to participate in it." - Ashleigh Brilliant

Interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art - Susan Sontag

Huge March Planned for Eve of Katrina Evictions

By David Swanson
t r u t h o u t | Press Release

Sunday 26 February 2006

A march had been planned for February 28th, the eve of the scheduled March 1st evictions of Hurricane Katrina victims. FEMA moved the evictions to March 15th, so activists have moved the march to March 14th. A press conference on Capitol Hill will be followed by a march through Washington, DC, past FEMA, past the Department of Homeland Security, and to the White House, where a permit has been obtained to rally in Lafayette Square Park until midnight. If Bush does not meet the marchers' demands, however, many plan not to leave.

The demands are for a serious housing plan for those already evicted and those still in hotels, and an end to evictions. Another way of putting it is that the marchers will be demanding that the federal government cease violating the law by working to exclude people from a city on the basis of race and class.

Last night, Reverend Lennox Yearwood, whom many saw on television being tossed out of a Congressional hearing for questioning Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and who has received death threats for his activism, convened an organizing meeting and formed committees to put together as large a march as possible.

Yearwood recounted for those present the history of FEMA's broken promises and shifting deadlines, the December 1st deadline, the December 14th deadline, etc., up through the latest moved deadline. But Yearwood also spoke of the suicides of those with nowhere left to go, the 80 percent increase in alcohol sales in affected neighborhoods, the absolute hopelessness of people whom this country has abandoned. "We're not asking for another moved deadline," Yearwood said, "but for a moratorium on evictions and anything that looks like an eviction until they have a plan for housing."

Joel Segal, Vice Chair of the advisory board of Progressive Democrats of America, spoke as well. "FEMA is telling the media they have a housing plan," he said. "FEMA is lying." There are 13,000 trailers sitting in Arkansas waiting to go to New Orleans, he said. There are 12,000 people evicted with no where to go. If they get a trailer, Segal said, it has no electricity.

The Gulf Coast Renewal Campaign released this statement:

Yesterday FEMA announced a two-week extension for all hotel/motel residents in Louisiana and Mississippi, which enables them to remain in their rooms until March 15, 2006. Once again, we witness the impact that a coalition of conscience and a unified commitment to action for Katrina survivors can have on the otherwise unfettered execution of the Bush Administration's authority. For this reason, we are postponing our press conference, march and vigil until March 14, 2006.

However, the Gulf Coast Renewal Campaign is not demanding that FEMA move deadlines, but that FEMA move Katrina survivors into viable and affordable transitional and long-term housing. We demand that FEMA move the displaced into trailers so that they can work to rebuild their own homes. We protest the psychological cruelty of this agency in constantly holding the peril of homelessness over the heads of our brothers and sisters. We object to FEMA holding survivors in limbo, perpetually uncertain about what should be guaranteed for these victims of government neglect and ineptitude. Sending people long distances from their communities, to live in temporary shelters or trailers where they cannot keep their jobs is unacceptable. Offering limited rental assistance to a selective group, which cannot pay for real apartments in a city where price gouging has sent rents sky-high, is unacceptable.

We are postponing our rally in Lafayette Park and press conference accordingly until March 14th, but we are not postponing our call for justice: NO EVICTIONS UNTIL REAL TRANSITIONAL AND PERMANENT HOUSING IS AVAILABLE FOR ALL TO RETURN HOME! TRAILERS IN NEW ORLEANS NOW! PASS HR 4197!

Over the next two weeks, we will continue to build our campaign on the ground and in Congress to pass "The Hurricane Reclamation, Recovery, Reconstruction and Relief Act" for comprehensive assistance to enable all Katrina survivors to return and rebuild their communities.

Please join us on March 14th for this historic press conference, march and vigil in front of the house where George Bush serenely sleeps while thousands face the prospect of their families having no shelter.

Press Conference: 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. (Press Conference: Rayburn House Office Building - Room #2237)

Mardi Gras Style March for Justice: 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. (March will start from Capitol South Metro Stop at 2:00 p.m. to the White House)

Rally and Protest at the White House: 3:00 p.m. - 11:59 p.m. (Rally and Protest at the White House - Lafayette Park)

David Swanson is creator of MeetWithCindy.org, co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition, a writer and activist, and the Washington Director of Democrats.com. He is a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, and serves on the Executive Council of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, TNG-CWA. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including Press Secretary for Dennis Kucinich's 2004 presidential campaign, Media Coordinator for the International Labor Communications Association, and three years as Communications Coordinator for ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Swanson obtained a Master's degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia in 1997. His website is www.davidswanson.org.

Go to Original

FEMA Hearing Wraps Up in NO
By Susan Finch

Saturday 25 February 2006

Witness says aid ended in Chicago.

Five days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans on Aug. 29, the government flew housekeeper Dorothy Craft and her boyfriend to Chicago, but since then it hasn't provided them a nickel's worth of help to get by, Craft told a federal judge in New Orleans Friday.

Craft was one of the last plaintiff witnesses to take the stand in U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval's two-day hearing on a lawsuit that claims the Federal Emergency Management Agency has bungled its mission of helping disaster victims, in the process leaving thousands of them on the brink of being homeless.

Duval has not ruled on the case, which seeks to force FEMA to make changes in the way it is providing housing aid and temporary living expenses - including continuing to pay evacuees' hotel bills while they await more permanent quarters - to those displaced by the storm.

Duval spent much of Friday afternoon listening to acting deputy director of FEMA's disaster recovery division, Donna Dannels, defend the agency. It was ill-equipped, she admitted, to grapple with the worst natural disaster in U.S. history and had to gear up fast, often with outside hired help, to handle what grew to more than 1.2 million applications for emergency needs and housing assistance.

On the stand earlier, Craft said Chicago's human resources agency found her and her husband, whom she married Sept. 16, a $530-a-month apartment on the city's drug-infested South Side. Meanwhile, she added, because FEMA still hasn't processed her application for rental assistance, the couple has been paying their landlord only $200 a month - money her husband makes as a security guard - until the government help comes in.

Craft put in her application in Chicago on Sept. 7 and called frequently to inquire about its status, only to be told it was "pending," she testified.

While she has waited, she said, she's heard twice from FEMA, once in November when a FEMA worker, thinking Craft was still in town, called about sending someone out to inspect the evacuee's home. Craft faxed the worker her new address. In a call from FEMA last week, Craft was told she was being sent a check, but the money hasn't arrived, she said.

Craft said she rejected FEMA's offer to put her up in a trailer in Alabama after learning they'd "have to be responsible to pay the bills."

Now, she said, FEMA has informed her she has until March 10 to take a one-way flight to New Orleans at the agency's expense. She's reluctant to return: "Why would I want to fly back to New Orleans when I ain't got any place to go?"

Under questioning by Department of Justice attorney Scott Simpson, Dannels tried to explain the causes of delays and glitches about which evacuees have complained.

Many of those problems cropped up, she said, because FEMA's systems weren't designed to deal with such a crushing load of applications. "It created a great deal of the 'pending' category," Dannels testified. FEMA has plans to install a new software system, she said, but it won't be ready by the next hurricane season.

Duval has asked for post-trial briefs from attorneys on both sides of the case. He has not indicated when he will issue his ruling.

Border Security or Boondoggle?

By Tyche Hendricks
The San Francisco Chronicle

Sunday 26 February 2006

A plan for 700 miles of Mexican border wall heads for Senate - its future is not assured.

A proposal to build a double set of steel walls with floodlights, surveillance cameras and motion detectors along one-third of the U.S.-Mexican border heads to the Senate next month after winning overwhelming support in the House.

The wall would be intended to prevent illegal immigrants and potential terrorists from hiking across the southern border into the United States. It would run along five segments of the 1,952-mile border that now experience the most illegal crossings.

The plan already has roiled diplomatic relations with Mexico. Leaders in American border communities are saying it will damage local economies and the environment. And immigration experts say that - at a cost of at least $2.2 billion - the 700-mile wall would be an expensive boondoggle.

The December House vote of 260-159 is the strongest endorsement yet for building a wall, which Rep. Duncan Hunter, a San Diego County Republican, has been pushing for two decades as a tactic against illegal immigration. Support for the wall was even stronger than for the bill it was attached to - a larger plan to curb terrorism and illegal immigration sponsored by Wisconsin Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner that passed 239 to 182.

"It is a tangible demonstration of the seriousness of the United States in not permitting illegal migration into the country," said Jack Martin, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C., that favors tighter immigration controls.

Hunter estimates that building two rigid, steel-mesh barriers with a paved road between will cost $2.2 billion, though the price tag could be almost twice that, based on the actual cost of a similar but much shorter fence now under construction in San Diego.

Hunter spokesman Joe Kasper said the money would be well spent.

"The fence in itself is a force multiplier," Kasper said. "It allows Border Patrol agents to refocus their attention to other areas because it won't require as many Border Patrol agents to monitor a location as it would without a fence."

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in an e-mail interview that she opposes the Sensenbrenner bill, though she supports a similar fence now being built along 14 miles of the border in San Diego County.

"Fencing in combination with other things, is useful," she said. "One of the things I believe is you have to enforce our nation's borders."

Residents Fear Impacts

The fence plan is likely to change significantly in the Senate when it takes up immigration reform, border security, employment verification and guest worker proposals in March. Two versions of immigration reform have been introduced in the Senate, but a third, released Friday by Sen. Arlen Specter, was the first to mention a fence, calling for a study of building a "physical barrier system" along the U.S. borders with both Mexico and Canada.

Leaders in many border cities already have vehemently objected to a fence. The city of Calexico in Imperial County passed a resolution in early January opposing it.

"We should be in the construction of bridges of good relationships with Mexico," said Calexico Mayor Alex Perrone, whose city has mutual aid agreements with the police and fire departments in neighboring Mexicali, just over the border in Baja California. Calexico's retail economy depends on Mexican shoppers, he added. "If we don't have Mexico, we don't have Calexico."

Mike Allen, director of the McAllen (Texas) Economic Development Corp., said leaders from along the Rio Grande agreed at a recent gathering: "Every single mayor from Brownsville to El Paso is against it.

"We want people to support our immigration laws because we live here," said Allen, who lives a half-mile from the border. "But this will be a tremendous waste of money, and it will not stop (illegal) immigration. People will just go around it."

Among those hurt most by illegal immigration are members of the Tohono O'odham Indian tribe, whose desert land stretches along 70 miles of the Arizona-Mexico border. But tribal leaders don't want their land to be fenced, as proposed under the Sensenbrenner bill, because that would prevent Indian people and wildlife from crossing the border as they are accustomed to. "We need the Border Patrol, but we have to balance that with respecting the sovereignty of our nation, our land and our people," tribal Chairwoman Vivian Juan-Saunders said in an interview last year. "It's a sensitive balancing act."

Outside Douglas, Ariz., ranchers Warner and Wendy Glenn have seen the number of illegal immigrants crossing their land skyrocket over the past decade. The Glenns rely on the Border Patrol but enforcement doesn't stop the influx; it just shifts where migrants cross, Wendy Glenn said.

A "monster fence" would block migration paths for deer, javelina, coyotes and mountain lions, and damage the sensitive desert ecosystem; accompanying new patrol roads could even create easier routes for smugglers, she said.

"It will only open up more access for drugs and illegals, with more traffic and more damage," Glenn said. "Washington policymakers have no clue what is happening out here on the ground."

Barrier Takes Many Forms

Fencing of some kind already exists along 106 miles of the border, mostly near cities, including San Diego, El Paso and Nogales, Ariz. Most of it consists of welded panels of corrugated steel recycled from portable landing strips the Army used in Vietnam.

Elsewhere, the international line varies from a few strands of barbed wire tacked to wooden fence posts to a winding river where egrets and roseate spoonbills forage.

A fence could be a valuable tool for the Border Patrol, said spokesman Sal Zamora, but building it will be easier said than done.

"Though in theory it might sound like a viable option, in practice it might not be," he said. "I don't know that environmental impact assessments or feasibility studies have been done."

Zamora also said manpower and technology - night-vision cameras, motion detectors, helicopters and unmanned aerial drones - are as important as fencing in cutting off illegal border crossings.

Even as fencing and patrols increased steadily over the past dozen years, the number of people arrested trying to cross illegally fluctuated. Illegal crossings may be more reflective of the international economy than border patrol efforts, according to immigration experts.

San Diego's 14-mile double fence has been in the works since 1996. But construction of the 15-foot-high, rigid, steel-mesh barrier, which is the model for the proposed fence, has been stalled by environmental concerns even though Congress gave the Department of Homeland Security authority to disregard environmental and other laws in an effort to speed fence construction.

Roughly $39 million has been spent on the project so far, according to Hunter's office, and Homeland Security plans to spend $35 million more.

If that $74 million is enough to finish the job (Border Patrol officials say the cost could keep rising) and the price is multiplied over the proposed 700 miles, the new fence could run $3.7 billion. Even that estimate doesn't take into account the expense of purchasing or condemning many miles of privately owned land abutting the border or of potential legal challenges.

Other Avenues to Entry

Illegal border crossings and drug smuggling have dropped in urban areas over the past dozen years, a sign that fortifying walls there and reinforcing them with cameras, buried motion detectors and a doubling of Border Patrol personnel may have worked.

Typical migration routes have shifted to more remote and treacherous regions, however, and border-crossing deaths have increased eight-fold over the past decade to 473 last year. Migrants increasingly hire smugglers, at $1,500 a pop, to help them make the three-day hike through parched and rocky terrain.

The number of unauthorized immigrants to the United States remained more or less steady from 1996 to 2005, according to demographer Jeff Passel of the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington, D.C. He said 700,000 to 750,000 people enter the country illegally each year, helping raise the total to a record 11 million in 2005.

As many as one-third of those 11 million people did not walk across the border illegally, instead entering the country on tourist, student or work visas and simply staying after the visas expired, Passel estimated.

These visa "overstays" are from China, the Philippines, India, South America, Canada, Ireland and many other countries, said Passel, whose estimates are used by the Department of Homeland Security. Passel emphasized that more than 99 percent of the 25 million to 30 million legal foreign visitors to the United States each year follow the law in general and obey the terms of their visas.

All 19 of the Sept. 11 hijackers entered the country on legitimate visas and only six had violated them by overstaying, enrolling in school when they entered as tourists, or failing to enroll when they entered as students.

Effectiveness Is Debatable

Building a wall won't address overstays, and it may not even slow foot traffic across the border, many analysts said.

"People will seek other ways to come into the country," said Maria Echaveste, an immigration expert at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank in Washington, D.C. "I suspect more use of water, more use of fraudulent documents, more use of criminal smuggling.

"So long as there are jobs and there is a demand for labor and we are not serious about cracking down on employers who hire undocumented workers, people will seek to come in," Echaveste said.

Deborah Meyers, an expert on Mexican immigration at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., said a crackdown at the border without new legal avenues for immigrants to come and work in this country is doomed to fail.

"We cannot nor should we barricade ourselves off from everything. It's completely unrealistic," Meyers said. "With the money we spend on a fence, we could be reducing the backlogs in processing for legitimate applicants, we could be putting in a system for verification of work authorization, we could be helping Mexico create jobs so people wouldn't have to leave."

The $2.2 billion Hunter estimates the fence would cost could fund almost 2,500 new Border Patrol agents for five years, a 22 percent increase in the force. Or it could increase 15-fold the U.S. Agency for International Development's spending on economic development in Mexico over the next five years.

After the Sensenbrenner bill passed in mid-December, Mexican President Vicente Fox condemned the fence as "shameful" and dispatched his foreign minister to Washington to raise concerns with senior State Department officials.

"It has become very emotional in Mexico," said Allen, the Texas economic development official. Fence backers "say it's not akin to the Berlin Wall," he said.

"But it is," Allen said. "Mexico is our second-largest trading partner, and we're building a wall to keep them out."

Wall Is the First Step

Hunter, the wall's key backer, is not worried about the impact on this country's relationship with Mexico, his aide said.

"Homeland security cannot be put on hold for diplomatic concerns," Kasper said. "We don't need permission from any other nation as to how best to protect our communities."

Al Garza, executive director for the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a self-appointed militia group that has been patrolling the border and drawing public attention to the issue of illegal immigration, said before the Senate considers guest worker programs or any other immigration reform, it must beef up border enforcement as a matter of national security.

"The first thing is to secure the border, the rest will take care of itself," Garza said.

Don't Punish the Palestinians

By Jimmy Carter
The Washington Post

Monday 20 February 2006

As the results of the recent Palestinian elections are implemented, it's important to understand how the transition process works and also how important to it are actions by Israel and the United States.

Although Hamas won 74 of the 132 parliamentary seats, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas retains the right to propose and veto legislation, with 88 votes required to override his veto. With nine of its elected members remaining in prison, Hamas has only 65 votes, plus whatever third-party support it can attract. Abbas also has the power to select and remove the prime minister, to issue decrees with the force of law when parliament is not in session, and to declare a state of emergency. As commander in chief, he also retains ultimate influence over the National Security Force and Palestinian intelligence.

After the first session of the new legislature, which was Saturday, the members will elect a speaker, two deputies and a secretary. These legislative officials are not permitted to hold any position in the executive branch, so top Hamas leaders may choose to concentrate their influence in the parliament and propose moderates or technocrats for prime minister and cabinet posts. Three weeks are allotted for the prime minister to form the cabinet, and a majority vote of the parliament is required for final approval.

The role of the prime minister was greatly strengthened while Abbas and Ahmed Qureia served in that position under Yasser Arafat, and Abbas has announced that he will not choose a prime minister who does not recognize Israel or adhere to the basic principles of the "road map." This could result in a stalemated process, but my conversations with representatives of both sides indicate that they wish to avoid such an imbroglio. The spokesman for Hamas claimed, "We want a peaceful unity government." If this is a truthful statement, it needs to be given a chance.

During this time of fluidity in the formation of the new government, it is important that Israel and the United States play positive roles. Any tacit or formal collusion between the two powers to disrupt the process by punishing the Palestinian people could be counterproductive and have devastating consequences.

Unfortunately, these steps are already underway and are well known throughout the Palestinian territories and the world. Israel moved yesterday to withhold funds (about $50 million per month) that the Palestinians earn from customs and tax revenue. Perhaps a greater aggravation by the Israelis is their decision to hinder movement of elected Hamas Palestinian Legislative Council members through any of more than a hundred Israeli checkpoints around and throughout the Palestinian territories. This will present significant obstacles to a government's functioning effectively. Abbas informed me after the election that the Palestinian Authority was $900 million in debt and that he would be unable to meet payrolls during February. Knowing that Hamas would inherit a bankrupt government, U.S. officials have announced that all funding for the new government will be withheld, including what is needed to pay salaries for schoolteachers, nurses, social workers, police and maintenance personnel. So far they have not agreed to bypass the Hamas-led government and let humanitarian funds be channeled to Palestinians through United Nations agencies responsible for refugees, health and other human services.

This common commitment to eviscerate the government of elected Hamas officials by punishing private citizens may accomplish this narrow purpose, but the likely results will be to alienate the already oppressed and innocent Palestinians, to incite violence, and to increase the domestic influence and international esteem of Hamas. It will certainly not be an inducement to Hamas or other militants to moderate their policies.

The election of Hamas candidates cannot adversely affect genuine peace talks, since such talks have been nonexistent for over five years. A negotiated agreement is the only path to a permanent two-state solution, providing peace for Israel and justice for the Palestinians. In fact, if Israel is willing to include the Palestinians in the process, Abbas can still play this unique negotiating role as the unchallenged leader of the PLO (not the government that includes Hamas).

It was under this umbrella and not the Palestinian Authority that Arafat negotiated with Israeli leaders to conclude the Oslo peace agreement. Abbas has sought peace talks with Israel since his election a year ago, and there is nothing to prevent direct talks with him, even if Hamas does not soon take the ultimately inevitable steps of renouncing violence and recognizing Israel's right to exist.

It would not violate any political principles to at least give the Palestinians their own money; let humanitarian assistance continue through UN and private agencies; encourage Russia, Egypt and other nations to exert maximum influence on Hamas to moderate its negative policies; and support President Abbas in his efforts to ease tension, avoid violence and explore steps toward a lasting peace.


Former president Carter led a team from the Carter Center and the National Democratic Institute that observed last month's Palestinian elections.

Monday, February 27, 2006


February 26, 1935

On February 26, 1935, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler signs a secret decree authorizing
the founding of the Reich Luftwaffe as a third German military service to join
the Reich army and navy. In the same decree, Hitler appointed Hermann Goering, a
German air hero from World War I and high-ranking Nazi, as commander in chief of
the new German air force.The Versailles Treaty that ended World War I prohibited
military aviation in Germany, but a German civilian airline--Lufthansa--was
founded in 1926 and provided flight training for the men who would later become
Luftwaffe pilots. After coming to power in 1933, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler began
to secretly develop a state-of-the-art military air force and appointed Goering
as German air minister. (During World War I, Goering commanded the celebrated
air squadron in which the great German ace Manfred von Richthofen--"The Red
Baron"--served.) In February 1935, Hitler formally organized the Luftwaffe as a
major step in his program of German rearmament.The Luftwaffe was to be
uncamouflaged step-by-step so as not to alarm foreign governments, and the size
and composition of Luftwaffe units were to remain secret as before. However, in
March 1935, Britain announced it was strengthening its Royal Air Force (RAF),
and Hitler, not to be outdone, revealed his Luftwaffe, which was rapidly growing
into a formidable air force.As German rearmament moved forward at an alarming
rate, Britain and France protested but failed to keep up with German war
production. The German air fleet grew dramatically, and the new German
fighter--the Me-109--was far more sophisticated than its counterparts in
Britain, France, or Russia. The Me-109 was bloodied during the Spanish Civil
War; Luftwaffe pilots received combat training as they tried out new aerial
attack formations on Spanish towns such as Guernica, which suffered more than
1,000 killed during a brutal bombing by the Luftwaffe in April 1937.The
Luftwaffe was configured to serve as a crucial part of the German blitzkrieg, or
"lightning war"--the deadly military strategy developed by General Heinz
Guderian. As German panzer divisions burst deep into enemy territory, lethal
Luftwaffe dive-bombers would decimate the enemy's supply and communication lines
and cause panic. By the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, the
Luftwaffe had an operational force of 1,000 fighters and 1,050 bombers.First
Poland and then Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium, and France fell to the
blitzkrieg. After the surrender of France, Germany turned the Luftwaffe against
Britain, hoping to destroy the RAF in preparation for a proposed German landing.
However, in the epic air battle known as the Battle of Britain, the outnumbered
RAF fliers successfully resisted the Luftwaffe, relying on radar technology,
their new, highly maneuverable Spitfire aircraft, bravery, and luck. For every
British plane shot down, two German warplanes were destroyed. In the face of
British resistance, Hitler changed strategy in the Battle of Britain, abandoning
his invasion plans and attempting to bomb London into submission. However, in
this campaign, the Luftwaffe was hampered by its lack of strategic, long-range
bombers, and in early 1941 the Battle of Britain ended in failure.Britain had
handed the Luftwaffe its first defeat. Later that year, Hitler ordered an
invasion of the USSR, which after initial triumphs turned into an unqualified
disaster. As Hitler stubbornly fought to overcome Russia's bitter resistance,
the depleted Luftwaffe steadily lost air superiority over Europe in the face of
increasing British and American air attacks. By the time of the D-Day invasion
of Normandy in June 1944, the Luftwaffe air fleet was a skeleton of its former


PAUL HARRIS, OBSERVER, UK - A shocking 37 million Americans live in
poverty. That is 12.7 per cent of the population - the highest
percentage in the developed world. They are found from the hills of
Kentucky to Detroit's streets, from the Deep South of Louisiana to the
heartland of Oklahoma. Each year since 2001 their number has grown.

Under President George W Bush an extra 5.4 million have slipped below
the poverty line. Yet they are not a story of the unemployed or the
destitute. Most have jobs. Many have two. Amos Lumpkins has work and his
children go to school. But the economy, stripped of worker benefits like
healthcare, is having trouble providing good wages.

Even families with two working parents are often one slice of bad luck -
a medical bill or factory closure - away from disaster. The minimum wage
of $5.15 an hour has not risen since 1997 and, adjusted for inflation,
is at its lowest since 1956. The gap between the haves and the have-nots
looms wider than ever. Faced with rising poverty rates, Bush's
trillion-dollar federal budget recently raised massive amounts of
defense spending for the war in Iraq and slashed billions from welfare
programs. . .

- The United States has 269 billionaires, the highest number in the

- Almost a quarter of all black Americans live below the poverty line;
22 per cent of Hispanics fall below it. But for whites the figure is
just 8.6 per cent.

- There are 46 million Americans without health insurance.

- There are 82,000 homeless people in Los Angeles alone.

- In 2004 the poorest community in America was Pine Ridge Indian
reservation. Unemployment is over 80 per cent, 69 per cent of people
live in poverty and male life expectancy is 57 years. In the Western
hemisphere only Haiti has a lower number.



[Sadly absent from this revolt has been liberal Democrats]

JOHN M. BRODER, NY TIMES - In a rare display of unanimity that cuts
across partisan and geographic lines, lawmakers in virtually every
statehouse across the country are advancing bills and constitutional
amendments to limit use of the government's power of eminent domain to
seize private property for economic development purposes. The measures
are in direct response to the United States Supreme Court's 5-to-4
decision last June in a landmark property rights case from Connecticut,
upholding the authority of the City of New London to condemn homes in an
aging neighborhood to make way for a private development of offices,
condominiums and a hotel. It was a decision that one justice, who had
written for the majority, later all but apologized for.

The reaction from the states was swift and heated. Within weeks of the
court's decision, Texas, Alabama and Delaware passed bills by
overwhelming bipartisan margins limiting the right of local governments
to seize property and turn it over to private developers. Since then,
lawmakers in three dozen other states have proposed similar restrictions
and more are on the way, according to experts who track the issue.

The National League of Cities, which supports the use of eminent domain
as what it calls a necessary tool of urban development, has identified
the issue as the most critical facing local governments this year. The
league has called upon mayors and other local officials to lobby
Congress and state legislators to try to stop the avalanche of bills to
limit the power of government to take private property for presumed
public good. . .

Seldom has a Supreme Court decision sparked such an immediate
legislative reaction, and one that scrambles the usual partisan lines.
Condemnation of the ruling came from black lawmakers representing
distressed urban districts, from suburbanites and from Western
property-rights absolutists who rarely see eye to eye on anything.
Lawmakers from Maine to California have introduced dozens of bills in
reaction to the ruling, most of them saying that government should never
seize private homes or businesses solely to benefit a private developer,
no matter what compensation is paid.



RICHARD B. SCHMITT, LOS ANGELES TIMES - For Americans troubled by the
prospect of federal agents eavesdropping on their phone conversations or
combing through their Internet records, there is good news: A
little-known board exists in the White House whose purpose is to ensure
that privacy and civil liberties are protected in the fight against
terrorism. Someday, it might actually meet.

Initially proposed by the bipartisan commission that investigated the
attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight
Board was created by the intelligence overhaul that President Bush
signed into law in December 2004. More than a year later, it exists only
on paper.

Foot-dragging, debate over its budget and powers, and concern over the
qualifications of some of its members - one was treasurer of Bush's
first campaign for Texas governor - has kept the board from doing a
single day of work.



Sam Smith is the Editor of the Progressive Review (news@prorev.com)................................PEACE..........................Scott

Sam Smith

THE jailing of Holocaust denier David Irving in Austria is a reminder of
how easy it is to imitate evil even as one excoriates it. The law that
convicted Irving is of the sort the Nazis would have invoked, albeit for
far different purposes, and was a routine offense in Orwell's 1984.

Many fail to see this irony because they are engaged in the greatest
Holocaust denial of all: a refusal to look seriously at why there was a
Holocaust in the first place. To blame it all on anti-Semitism is as
dangerously ahistorical as to deny its existence. Yes, Jews were the
victims, but why did an ancient and widespread prejudice produce such an
extreme result in this case?

We avoid this question because it takes us places we don't want to go.
Like the role of modern bureaucracy and technology in the magnification
of evil. Like the commingling of corporate and state interests in a way
the world had never seen before. Like the failure of Germany's liberal
elite to stand effectively against wrong eerily echoed today in the
failure of America's liberal elite to do likewise.

Some of the most important lessons of the Holocaust are simply missed.
Among these, as Richard Rubenstein has pointed out, is that it could
only have been carried out by “an advanced political community with a
highly trained, tightly disciplined police and civil service

In The Cunning of History, Rubenstein also finds uncomfortable parallels
between the Nazis and their opponents. For example, a Hungarian Jewish
emissary meets with Lord Moyne, the British High Commissioner in Egypt
in 1944 and suggests that the Nazis might be willing to save one million
Hungarian Jews in return for military supplies. Lord Moyne’s reply:
“What shall I do with those million Jews? Where shall I put them?”
Writes Rubenstein: "The British government was by no means adverse to
the ‘final solution’ as long as the Germans did most of the work. " For
both countries, it had become a bureaucratic problem, one that
Rubenstein suggests we understand “as the expression of some of the most
profound tendencies of Western civilization in the 20th century.”

How many school children are taught that, worldwide, wars in the past
century killed over 100 million people? In World War I alone, the death
toll was around ten million. Much of this, including the Holocaust, was
driven by a culture of modernity that so changed the power of
institutions over the individual that the latter would become what Erich
Fromm called homo mechanicus, “attracted to all that is mechanical and
inclined against all that is alive.” Becoming, in fact, a part of the
machinery -- willing to kill or to die just to keep it running.

Thus, with Auschwitz–like efficiency, over 6,000 people perished every
day during World War I for 1,500 days. Rubenstein recounts that on the
first day of the Battle of the Somme, the British lost 60,000 men and
half of the officers assigned to them. But the bureaucratic internal
logic of the war did not falter at all; over the next six months, more
than a million British, French and German soldiers would lose their
lives. The total British advance: six miles. No one in that war was a
person anymore. The seeds of the Holocaust can thus be found in the
trenches of World War I. Individuals had became no better than the
bullets that killed them, just part of the expendable arsenal of the

But we don't talk about this do we? We don't teach our children about
it, do we?

The problem with using the outcome rather than the origins of the
Holocaust as our metaphor and our message is that we are totally
unprepared for those practices, laws, and arguments that can produce
similar outcomes. We study the death chambers when we should be
learning about the birth places.


SAM SMITH - In trying to figure out why Washington takes such a
different view towards the security of business class and the security
of cargo containers it occurred to me that most policy makers don't
travel by container ship.

The possible application of this seminal observation covers considerable
territory. For example, after the TWA 800 crash, it was unclear what had
caused it. Logical explanations included a missile attack, A misaimed US
test missile, mechanical failure, or a bomb on board. Without waiting
for the answer, the Clinton administration swiftly installed a number of
security procedures that implicitly assumed the final possibility. To
this day, there is little interest in the considerable danger of missile
attacks on domestic planes and absolute denial on the part of the
government in the case of TWA 800. Further, virtually no attention has
been given to the failure of the aircraft in question to be refitted in
accordance with official recommendations. It is assumed by journalists
and policy makers alike that the overwhelmingly logical source of danger
is one of those funny looking passengers standing in line with them.

A similar indifference to the variety of ways that danger might enter
the country is found at ground level. There was virtually no media
attention given the fact the Chinese had taken over several ports of the
Panama Canal. Or that a company owned by the Chinese Army runs the key
port of Long Beach, California. After all, the Chinese are trading
partners, not terrorists.

It wasn't until it was revealed that a corporation of the United Arab
Emirates was about to take over some of our largest and oldest ports
that the indifference towards the dispensation of American maritime
manna was interrupted. It is still not clear whether if the Chinese
Army, rather than the terrorist-hugging UAE, had taken over New York's
waterfront there would have been any problem, but there certainly is

In the end, several factors probably drove the Bush regime towards this
nutty decision. The first was the absence of American bidders for the
port deal. This in itself is a telling reminder of how far downhill the
country has gone. Second, the Bushists were probably trapped in their
mode of 'globalization is good' rather than 'terrorism is bad.' After
all, spin spins the spinners as well as the spun. Finally, however,
people who run things and write things in Washington these days just
don't know much about mundane, declasse matters such as ports and
longshoremen. They proved this already with New Orleans. You can't
expect people who think up things like the Long War to also know how to
recover from a hurricane, build a skyscraper that won't collapse, or
unload a vessel safely.

Older imperialists were a bit different. As the BBC notes of the British
empire: "Overseas commerce was conducted within the mercantilist
framework of the Navigation Acts, which stipulated that all commodity
trade should take place in British ships, manned by British seamen,
trading between British ports and those within the empire."

Perhaps Dubai will want to buy Ronald Reagan airport and the Chinese
Army will take over JFK. Then, finally, the business class that runs
this land will understand what the fuss is all about.

US Reclassifies Many Documents in Secret Review

By Scott Shane
The New York Times

Tuesday 21 February 2006

Washington - In a seven-year-old secret program at the National Archives, intelligence agencies have been removing from public access thousands of historical documents that were available for years, including some already published by the State Department and others photocopied years ago by private historians.

The restoration of classified status to more than 55,000 previously declassified pages began in 1999, when the Central Intelligence Agency and five other agencies objected to what they saw as a hasty release of sensitive information after a 1995 declassification order signed by President Bill Clinton. It accelerated after the Bush administration took office and especially after the 2001 terrorist attacks, according to archives records.

But because the reclassification program is itself shrouded in secrecy - governed by a still-classified memorandum that prohibits the National Archives even from saying which agencies are involved - it continued virtually without outside notice until December. That was when an intelligence historian, Matthew M. Aid, noticed that dozens of documents he had copied years ago had been withdrawn from the archives' open shelves.

Mr. Aid was struck by what seemed to him the innocuous contents of the documents - mostly decades-old State Department reports from the Korean War and the early cold war. He found that eight reclassified documents had been previously published in the State Department's history series, "Foreign Relations of the United States."

"The stuff they pulled should never have been removed," he said. "Some of it is mundane, and some of it is outright ridiculous."

After Mr. Aid and other historians complained, the archives' Information Security Oversight Office, which oversees government classification, began an audit of the reclassification program, said J. William Leonard, director of the office.

Mr. Leonard said he ordered the audit after reviewing 16 withdrawn documents and concluding that none should be secret.

"If those sample records were removed because somebody thought they were classified, I'm shocked and disappointed," Mr. Leonard said in an interview. "It just boggles the mind."

If Mr. Leonard finds that documents are being wrongly reclassified, his office could not unilaterally release them. But as the chief adviser to the White House on classification, he could urge a reversal or a revision of the reclassification program.

A group of historians, including representatives of the National Coalition for History and the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations, wrote to Mr. Leonard on Friday to express concern about the reclassification program, which they believe has blocked access to some material at the presidential libraries as well as at the archives.

Among the 50 withdrawn documents that Mr. Aid found in his own files is a 1948 memorandum on a C.I.A. scheme to float balloons over countries behind the Iron Curtain and drop propaganda leaflets. It was reclassified in 2001 even though it had been published by the State Department in 1996.

Another historian, William Burr, found a dozen documents he had copied years ago whose reclassification he considers "silly," including a 1962 telegram from George F. Kennan, then ambassador to Yugoslavia, containing an English translation of a Belgrade newspaper article on China's nuclear weapons program.

Under existing guidelines, government documents are supposed to be declassified after 25 years unless there is particular reason to keep them secret. While some of the choices made by the security reviewers at the archives are baffling, others seem guided by an old bureaucratic reflex: to cover up embarrassments, even if they occurred a half-century ago.

One reclassified document in Mr. Aid's files, for instance, gives the C.I.A.'s assessment on Oct. 12, 1950, that Chinese intervention in the Korean War was "not probable in 1950." Just two weeks later, on Oct. 27, some 300,000 Chinese troops crossed into Korea.

Mr. Aid said he believed that because of the reclassification program, some of the contents of his 22 file cabinets might technically place him in violation of the Espionage Act, a circumstance that could be shared by scores of other historians. But no effort has been made to retrieve copies of reclassified documents, and it is not clear how they all could even be located.

"It doesn't make sense to create a category of documents that are classified but that everyone already has," said Meredith Fuchs, general counsel of the National Security Archive, a research group at George Washington University. "These documents were on open shelves for years."

The group plans to post Mr. Aid's reclassified documents and his account of the secret program on its Web site, www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv, on Tuesday.

The program's critics do not question the notion that wrongly declassified material should be withdrawn. Mr. Aid said he had been dismayed to see "scary" documents in open files at the National Archives, including detailed instructions on the use of high explosives.

But the historians say the program is removing material that can do no conceivable harm to national security. They say it is part of a marked trend toward greater secrecy under the Bush administration, which has increased the pace of classifying documents, slowed declassification and discouraged the release of some material under the Freedom of Information Act.

Experts on government secrecy believe the C.I.A. and other spy agencies, not the White House, are the driving force behind the reclassification program.

"I think it's driven by the individual agencies, which have bureaucratic sensitivities to protect," said Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, editor of the online weekly Secrecy News. "But it was clearly encouraged by the administration's overall embrace of secrecy."

National Archives officials said the program had revoked access to 9,500 documents, more than 8,000 of them since President Bush took office. About 30 reviewers - employees and contractors of the intelligence and defense agencies - are at work each weekday at the archives complex in College Park, Md., the officials said.

Archives officials could not provide a cost for the program but said it was certainly in the millions of dollars, including more than $1 million to build and equip a secure room where the reviewers work.

Michael J. Kurtz, assistant archivist for record services, said the National Archives sought to expand public access to documents whenever possible but had no power over the reclassifications. "The decisions agencies make are those agencies' decisions," Mr. Kurtz said.

Though the National Archives are not allowed to reveal which agencies are involved in the reclassification, one archivist said on condition of anonymity that the C.I.A. and the Defense Intelligence Agency were major participants.

A spokesman for the C.I.A., Paul Gimigliano, said that the agency had released 26 million pages of documents to the National Archives since 1998 and that it was "committed to the highest quality process" for deciding what should be secret.

"Though the process typically works well, there will always be the anomaly, given the tremendous amount of material and multiple players involved," Mr. Gimigliano said.

A spokesman for the Defense Intelligence Agency said he was unable to comment on whether his agency was involved in the program.

Anna K. Nelson, a foreign policy historian at American University, said she and other researchers had been puzzled in recent years by the number of documents pulled from the archives with little explanation.

"I think this is a travesty," said Dr. Nelson, who said she believed that some reclassified material was in her files. "I think the public is being deprived of what history is really about: facts."

The document removals have not been reported to the Information Security Oversight Office, as the law has required for formal reclassifications since 2003.

The explanation, said Mr. Leonard, the head of the office, is a bureaucratic quirk. The intelligence agencies take the position that the reclassified documents were never properly declassified, even though they were reviewed, stamped "declassified," freely given to researchers and even published, he said.

Thus, the agencies argue, the documents remain classified - and pulling them from public access is not really reclassification.

Mr. Leonard said he believed that while that logic might seem strained, the agencies were technically correct. But he said the complaints about the secret program, which prompted his decision to conduct an audit, showed that the government's system for deciding what should be secret is deeply flawed.

"This is not a very efficient way of doing business," Mr. Leonard said. "There's got to be a better way."

Not One Penny More for War

Not One Penny More for War! National Call-In Day Tuesday Feb. 28
Call the Capitol Hill Switchboard on Tuesday Feb. 28th at 202-224-3121 and ask to speak to your Representative (or one of your Senators). Give them this basic message in your own words: "I strongly oppose the war in Iraq. I want all our troops brought home safely, without delay. I urge Representative X to vote against the President's $72.4 billion 'emergency' supplemental request for the war." More Info:

The Republicans who run Congress will include small amounts of money for all sorts of good things in the supplemental or group of supplementals to be voted on. This will provide your Representative all sorts of noble excuses for voting for a lot more money for war. Tell them this position will only be credible if they cosponsor Rep. Jim McGovern's bill, which simply ends funding for the war:

To see how your Representative has voted on the war, download the UFPJ Congressional Scorecard (in Excel spreadsheet format) by clicking here:


Buy The Book That Will Impeach Bush

This urgent book by the Center for Constitutional Rights presents four Articles of Impeachment: warrantless surveillance, lying to Congress about Iraq, torturing prisoners, and subverting the Separation of Powers. Buy a copy and send one to your Representative - $9.95 can change America!


Stop Evictions of Katrina Victims

On March 15, FEMA plans to evict thousands of victims of Hurricane Katrina. Thousands have already been evicted. Trailers sit unused and unshipped to New Orleans. Our federal government is engaged in a campaign to exclude poor and black people from the new version of the city it allowed to be destroyed. On March 14, tens of thousands of Americans will skip work and march from the U.S. Capitol to the White House, and we will not leave until Bush announces a plan for housing and orders an end to evictions.
Press Conference: 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m., Rayburn House Office Building - Room #2237
Mardi Gras Style March for Justice: 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m., will start from Capitol South Metro Stop at 2:00 p.m. to the White House
Rally & Protest at the White House: 3:00 p.m. - 11:59 p.m., Lafayette Square Park




Five Grandmas in Pink Aprons Let Bush and Cheney Have It!
Watch the Raging Grannies in this video from February 15, 2006, in Santa Cruz.


27 Congress Members for Upholding Rule of Law: NOT ENOUGH
Twenty-seven support an investigation into impeachment. That is not enough. What about yours? When Richard Nixon abused power, Congress held a serious, bi-partisan investigation that resulted in articles of impeachment. Strong evidence suggests that George Bush and Dick Cheney launched an illegal war and lied to Congress, spied on Americans without court approval, leaked classified information, produced phony news reports, imprisoned without charge and tortured, targeted civilians and used illegal weapons. Ask your Congress Member to cosponsor House Resolution 635 for an investigation.

Email Congress:

Learn more:

Register to join in local protests:

Read the whole protest plan:

Organize your congressional district:



Sign up for these, find others, and create your own at

See Also: UFPJ's 3rd Anniversary of the War Calendar of Events

See Also: PDA Events

Panel Discussion
Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst, author of “Sham Dunk: Cooking Intelligence for the President” Chapter 18 of Neo-CONNED! Again
Stephen J. Sneigoski, PhD, author of “Neoconservatives, Israel, and 9/11: The Origins of the U.S. War on Iraq” Chapter 6 of Neo-CONNED! Again
J. Forrest Sharpe, editor of Neo-CONNED! and Neo-CONNED! Again
March 2, 2006, 6-8 p.m.
Barnes and Noble, 555 – 12th St. NW, Washington, DC 20001 (Metro Center)

Is There a Case for Impeachment?
March 2, 8 p.m.
A public forum featuring Lewis H. Lapham, Rep. John Conyers, Michael Ratner, Elizabeth Holtzman, and John Dean, moderated by Sam Seder.
Town Hall, 123 W 43rd St, New York, NY

See Flyer

A Day of Events in San Diego
Friday, March 3
Lunch at Catfish Club, featuring: David Swanson, Ann Wright;
UCSD Anti-War Rally, www.truthout.org ;
6:30 p.m. panel discussion, featuring: Cindy Sheehan, Ann Wright, David Swanson, John Amato.

Friday, March 3rd 6:30 - 9:00 pm
Creating a Nuclear Weapons Free Middle East
St. Stephen's Church (16th and Newton St. NW, Washington DC)
Washington Peace Center, the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Committee and the DC Anti-War Network

4th Annual Party for Progressives!
Activist San Diego presents:
We say NO to War! We Support Peace & Justice for All!
Special Guest: CINDY SHEEHAN
Sat March 4, 8 -11pm
Balboa Park Club Ballroom, San Diego, CA
Dancing to award winning dance band LIQUID BLUE
To purchase tickets: 619-528-8383 or www.ActivistSanDiego.org

Scott Ritter and Gore Vidal in LA
U.S. Tour of Duty's Real Intelligence Project, Los Angeles City Beat, and Progressive Talk AM 1150 present an emergency public discussion about Iraq, Iran and America's constitutional crisis with Former UN Weapons Inspector SCOTT RITTER and GORE VIDAL
March 4, 4 - 5:30 p.m.
Immanuel Presbyterian Church
3300 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles
Doors open 3 p.m.

Women Say No to War
March 5 - 9
Events in NY and DC




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