Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Humor..........LOL

Halloween is on the way...

Bob Hill and his new wife Betty were vacationing in Europe... as it happens, near Transylvania. They were driving in a rental car along a rather deserted highway. It was late and raining very hard. Bob could barely see the road in front of the car. Suddenly the car skids out of control! Bob attempts to control the car, but to no avail! The car swerves and smashes into a tree.

Moments later, Bob shakes his head to clear the fog. Dazed, he looks over at the passenger seat and sees his wife unconscious, with her head bleeding! Despite the rain and unfamiliar countryside, Bob knows he has to get her medical assistance.
Bob carefully picks his wife up and begins trudging down the road. After a short while, he sees a light. He heads towards the light, which is coming from a large, old house. He approaches the door and knocks.
A minute passes. A small, hunched man opens the door. Bob immediately blurts, "Hello, my name is Bob Hill, and this is my wife Betty. We've been in a terrible accident, and my wife has been seriously hurt. Can I please use your phone?"

"I'm sorry," replied the hunchback, "but we don't have a phone. My master is a doctor; come in and I will get him!"
Bob brings his wife in.

An older man comes down the stairs. "I'm afraid my assistant may have misled you. I am not a medical doctor; I am a scientist. However, it is many miles to the nearest clinic, and I have had a basic medical training. I will see what I can do. Igor, bring them down to the laboratory."

With that, Igor picks up Betty and carries her downstairs, with Bob following closely. Igor places Betty on a table in the lab. Bob collapses from exhaustion and his own injuries, so Igor places Bob on an adjoining table.

After a brief examination, Igor's master looks worried. "Things are serious, Igor. Prepare a transfusion." Igor and his master work feverishly, but to no avail. Bob and Betty Hill are no more.

The Hills' deaths upset Igor's master greatly. Wearily, he climbs the steps to his conservatory, which houses his grand piano. For it is here that he has always found solace. He begins to play, and a stirring, almost haunting melody fills the house.

Meanwhile, Igor is still in the lab tidying up. His eyes catch movement, and he notices the fingers on Betty's hand twitch, keeping time to the haunting piano music. Stunned, he watches as Bob's arm begins to rise, marking the beat! He is further amazed as Betty and Bob both sit up straight!

Unable to contain himself, he dashes up the stairs to the conservatory.

He bursts in and shouts to his master:

"Master, Master! ..... The Hills are alive with the sound of music!"

(I am soooooo sorry...... But you really should've seen that one coming)

What did you's free from a demented old friend on the Internet.

Scariest Pumpkin Ever‏

When it comes to spooky, bats and ghosts are kids' stuff. Maybe they're good for a goosebump or two, but what'll really wake you up screaming in the night is...

Being turned down for a pre-existing condition? Terrifying.

Being told your insurance company won't pay for treatment you need? Horrifying.

A 300 percent increase in premiums in just a decade? Spine-tingling.

This Halloween, we at Working America didn't mess around when it came to scary pumpkins. Our trick-or-treaters are going to come face to face with real fear when they see these pumpkins staring out from our porches.

If you haven't already, join thousands of people across the country and demand that big insurance companies stop denying our care and stop using our premiums to lobby against health insurance reform.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

October 24: & October 25:

October 25:

1881 : Pablo Picasso born

Pablo Picasso, one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century, is born in Malaga, Spain.

Picasso's father was a professor of drawing, and he bred his son for a career in academic art. Picasso had his first exhibit at age 13 and later quit art school so he could experiment full-time with modern art styles. He went to Paris for the first time in 1900, and in 1901 was given an exhibition at a gallery on Paris' rue Lafitte, a street known for its prestigious art galleries. The precocious 19-year-old Spaniard was at the time a relative unknown outside Barcelona, but he had already produced hundreds of paintings. Winning favorable reviews, he stayed in Paris for the rest of the year and later returned to the city to settle permanently.

The work of Picasso, which comprises more than 50,000 paintings, drawings, engravings, sculptures, and ceramics produced over 80 years, is described in a series of overlapping periods. His first notable period--the "blue period"--began shortly after his first Paris exhibit. In works such as The Old Guitarist (1903), Picasso painted in blue tones to evoke the melancholy world of the poor. The blue period was followed by the "rose period," in which he often depicted circus scenes, and then by Picasso's early work in sculpture. In 1907, Picasso painted the groundbreaking work Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, which, with its fragmented and distorted representation of the human form, broke from previous European art. Les Demoiselles d'Avignon demonstrated the influence on Picasso of both African mask art and Paul Cezanne and is seen as a forerunner of the Cubist movement, founded by Picasso and the French painter Georges Braque in 1909.

In Cubism, which is divided into two phases, analytical and synthetic, Picasso and Braque established the modern principle that artwork need not represent reality to have artistic value. Major Cubist works by Picasso included his costumes and sets for Sergey Diaghilev's Ballets Russes (1917) and The Three Musicians (1921). Picasso and Braque's Cubist experiments also resulted in the invention of several new artistic techniques, including collage.

After Cubism, Picasso explored classical and Mediterranean themes, and images of violence and anguish increasingly appeared in his work. In 1937, this trend culminated in the masterpiece Guernica, a monumental work that evoked the horror and suffering endured by the Basque town of Guernica when it was destroyed by German war planes during the Spanish Civil War. Picasso remained in Paris during the Nazi occupation but was fervently opposed to fascism and after the war joined the French Communist Party.

Picasso's work after World War II is less studied than his earlier creations, but he continued to work feverishly and enjoyed commercial and critical success. He produced fantastical works, experimented with ceramics, and painted variations on the works of other masters in the history of art. Known for his intense gaze and domineering personality, he had a series of intense and overlapping love affairs in his lifetime. He continued to produce art with undiminished force until his death in 1973 at the age of 91.


General Interest
1881 : Pablo Picasso born
1415 : Battle of Agincourt
1854 : Charge of the Light Brigade
1929 : Cabinet member guilty in Teapot Dome scandal

American Revolution
1774 : Congress petitions English king to address grievances

October 24:

1901 : First barrel ride down Niagara Falls

On this day in 1901, a 63-year-old schoolteacher named Annie Edson Taylor becomes the first person to take the plunge over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

After her husband died in the Civil War, the New York-born Taylor moved all over the U. S. before settling in Bay City, Michigan, around 1898. In July 1901, while reading an article about the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, she learned of the growing popularity of two enormous waterfalls located on the border of upstate New York and Canada. Strapped for cash and seeking fame, Taylor came up with the perfect attention-getting stunt: She would go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

Taylor was not the first person to attempt the plunge over the famous falls. In October 1829, Sam Patch, known as the Yankee Leaper, survived jumping down the 175-foot Horseshoe Falls of the Niagara River, on the Canadian side of the border. More than 70 years later, Taylor chose to take the ride on her birthday, October 24. (She claimed she was in her 40s, but genealogical records later showed she was 63.) With the help of two assistants, Taylor strapped herself into a leather harness inside an old wooden pickle barrel five feet high and three feet in diameter. With cushions lining the barrel to break her fall, Taylor was towed by a small boat into the middle of the fast-flowing Niagara River and cut loose.

Knocked violently from side to side by the rapids and then propelled over the edge of Horseshoe Falls, Taylor reached the shore alive, if a bit battered, around 20 minutes after her journey began. After a brief flurry of photo-ops and speaking engagements, Taylor's fame cooled, and she was unable to make the fortune for which she had hoped. She did, however, inspire a number of copy-cat daredevils. Between 1901 and 1995, 15 people went over the falls; 10 of them survived. Among those who died were Jesse Sharp, who took the plunge in a kayak in 1990, and Robert Overcracker, who used a jet ski in 1995. No matter the method, going over Niagara Falls is illegal, and survivors face charges and stiff fines on either side of the border.

General Interest
1901 : First barrel ride down Niagara Falls
1648 : Thirty Years War ends
1945 : U.N. formally established
1969 : Burton buys Liz a diamond
2003 : The Concorde makes its final flight

American Revolution
1775 : British naval fleet attacks Norfolk, Virginia

JFK assassination-CIA-and the question about George Joannides‏

Dick McManus

Comment: Oh, and all day last Saturday we are presented with some BS about the JFK assassination on the Discovery Channel. Now, think about this. Why would the Discovery Channel or the History Channel, (aka propaganda-plus) REPEATEDLY try to sell the American people their crap-o-la to prove Oswald was the lone assassin? Yes, crap-o-la. Anyone with a IQ about a fruit fly, can read the truth about Kennedy's assassination.
Well, you have seen this MO during the AWOL Bush years. That is, repeat repeat repeat the LIES, and soon the American people will fall for their crap-o-la.
Oct 21, 2009 Later, in the 1970s when the House Select Committee on Assassinations investigated the Kennedy assassination, the CIA called Joannides back from retirement to serve as a liaison between the CIA and the House committee. Ostensibly his job was to facilitate CIA cooperation with the House investigation.
But there was one big problem in all this. No one but Joannides and the CIA knew about Joannides’ prior relationship with the DRE. Not the Warren Commission. Not the House Committee. For some reason known only to the CIA and Joannides, the information was kept secret from the people whose task was to conduct a full and complete investigation into the Kennedy assassination.
Even worse, the CIA had the audacity to select as liaison the person who was the subject of the secret, raising the obvious question: Was Joannides called back from retirement to serve as a barrier rather than a facilitator? Or as the Times put it, “That concealment has fueled suspicion that Mr. Joannides’s real assignment was to limit what the House Committee could learn about C.I.A. activities.”
Discovering Joannides’ role in the documents released in the late 1990s, a relentless journalist named Jefferson Morley, who used to work at the Washington Post, requested the CIA to produce all its files on Joannides, a request the CIA steadfastly refused to grant.
George Joannides??
The handgun Sirhan used only had the capacity to fire eight shots.
...witnesses claim that Sirhan was in front of Kennedy. According to a March 27, 2008 ABC report by Pierre Thomas, Joling claims, “It can be established conclusively that Sirhan did not shoot Senator Kennedy. And in fact not only did he not do it, he could not have done it.”

Los Angeles Coroner Thomas Noguchi conducted the official autopsy on the body of Robert Francis Kennedy on the morning of June 6, 1968. Noguchi stated that the shot that killed RFK “had entered through the mastoid bone, an inch behind the right ear and had traveled upward to sever the branches of the superior cerebral artery.”

At a conference in Connecticut forensic scientists met to discuss their independent findings. The conference presenters argued that Sirhan Sirhan could not have fired the fatal shot that killed Kennedy. Dr. Robert Joling has studied the Kennedy assassination for nearly 40 years, he concluded that the fatal shot came from behind Kennedy, while Sirhan was four to six feet in front of the senator and never got close enough to shoot him from behind.

Philip Van Praag analyzed the Pruszynski recording (a Canadian journalist’s tape recording) and determined that 13 shots were fired while Kennedy was killed, although Sirhan’s gun only held eight bullets. This suggests that a second shooter was involved in the assassination.

Other questions regarding the assassination of Robert Kennedy have recently been voiced in a new BBC documentary by Shane O’Sullivan, which supports the conclusion that the CIA planned and executed the killing of Robert Kennedy. The result of a three year long investigation includes photographic evidence that puts three senior CIA operatives at the scene of the murder. These three operatives have been positively identified as David Morales, Gordon Campbell and George Joannides.

The LAPD claimed no bullets were found lodged in the “bullet holes”, and yet the doorframes in which some of the bullets had lodged were burned and two expended bullets, dug out of the wood, were found in the front seat of Sirhan’s car. Then inexplicably, the LAPD destroyed their records of the tests that had been done on the “bullet holes” in the doorframe.

Michael Ruppert, former Los Angeles Police detective, author, journalist and editor of From the Wilderness, has conducted his own investigation of the RFK assassination, using inside contacts deep within the LAPD. His investigation definitively proves that the assassination was a CIA operation, and he names Thane Eugene Cesar, a private security guard just hired out of Lockheed, as the triggerman.
Lillian Castellano and her friend, Floyd Nelson. They had discovered signs of extra bullets in the hotel pantry - more than Sirhan could have shot - and had taken photographs the next day. FBI Agent William Bailey inspected the scene within hours of the shooting and discovered bullet holes in the doorjamb behind us. That doorjamb was removed and destroyed by the Police soon after, among other evidence.

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Reining In Wall Street's Greed‏


by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Alex Seitz-Wald, and Zaid Jilani

October 23, 2009


Reining In Wall Street's Greed

In "a sharp departure from the hands-off approach that has dominated regulations for decades," the Obama administration announced new restrictions on executive compensation for financial firms this week. On Wednesday, Special Master on Compensation Kenneth Feinberg said he will order seven companies that received government bailout funds to cut cash salaries by about 90 percent compared with last year. Separately, the Federal Reserve announced its own plan yesterday to review compensation in the banking industry as a whole, with a particular focus on the 28 largest and most complex companies. The announcements could not have come at a better time. Despite the deep financial crisis and the reliance on taxpayer dollars, compensation at financial firms is on pace to be higher than ever. The Wall Street Journal reports that Wall Street firms are "on pace to pay their employees about $140 billion this year," a record amount. Financial firms and their supporters say they need the hefty payment packages to attract the best people, but as Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) noted, if they have "produced so much money for themselves and they're such geniuses, where have they led this country?" Conservatives lawmakers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have come to Wall Street's defense, decrying the government's intervention. "I have a visceral reaction against so much government involvement in free enterprise," said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R- TN). Wall Street's compensation methods encouraged people to take on excessive risks that put their companies -- and thus the entire economy -- in jeopardy. Moreover, as President Obama said yesterday, "it does offend our values when executives of big financial firms, firms that are struggling, pay themselves huge bonuses even as they continue to rely on taxpayer assistance to stay afloat." But while the moves were welcome announcements, Congress needs "to continue moving forward on financial reform that will help prevent the crisis we saw last fall from happening again."

COMPENSATION FAILURE: In addition to addressing the populist outrage over taxpayer-funded bonuses and benefits, curbing executive compensation is essential to the health of our economy. Wall Street compensation levels played a direct role in causing the financial crisis. As Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke explained yesterday, "Compensation practices at some banking organizations have led to misaligned incentives and excessive risk-taking, contributing to bank losses and financial instability." Compensation practices like guaranteed bonuses, which lock-in multi-million dollar bonuses regardless of how the company performs, encourage executives to take huge risks while removing any accountability in case their gambles fail. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote,"They did what their incentive structures were designed to do: focusing on short-term profits and encouraging excessive risk-taking." Wall Street said it would change, but just a year after the depth of the financial crisis, some firms are returning to their old habits. Some banks -- even those ostensibly owned by the federal government -- have again begun offering guaranteed bonuses, while salaries and fringe benefits, like private jet rides, are on the rise. The giant miscalculations that led to the financial crisis prove that, despite what some conservatives say, Wall Street cannot be counted on to regulate itself. Executive compensation needs to be reigned in and restructured so executives are held accountable for taking risk, especially for those companies which are alive today only because of government help.

BUZZ CUT: The cuts announced by Feinberg will affect the 25 most highly paid executives at Citigroup, Bank of America, AIG, General Motors, Chrysler, and the financing arms of the two automakers. All seven firms received billions of dollars from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), giving Treasury the authority to regulate them. The department will also "curtail many corporate perks, including the use of corporate jets for personal travel, chauffeured drivers and country club fee reimbursement." The companies were required to submit compensation requests to Feinberg, and he said he found them "almost without exception to have been not in the public interest. They were both too high and the wrong mix of stock and cash." Feinberg's plan will "change the form of the pay to align the personal interests of the executives with the longer-term financial health of the companies. For instance, the cash portion of the executives' salaries will be slashed on average by 90 percent, and the rest will be replaced by stock that cannot be sold for years." The Fed, meanwhile, will create a two-tier system of supervising pay, in an effort to better tie rewards to long term performance. The 28 largest and most complex firms, such as JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley, will have to present their compensation plans to the Fed, which will then evaluate them to ensure they "properly balance goals of short-term growth and long-term stability." For the other hundreds of banks in the country, the Fed will conduct "regular, risk-focused" reviews of compensation structures in an effort to prevent banks from encouraging "excessive risk-taking beyond the organization's ability to effectively identify and manage risk."

REAL REFORM: The announcements are a welcome step to prevent another financial crisis, but as The New York Times noted, the Fed's principles "are less strict than plans suggested by some European leaders and some members of Congress." The plans are also devoid of specifics, and have no teeth behind them. So long as the banks make an attempt to conform with the principles above, it seems like the Fed will be willing to give them a pass, which is why Obama is pushing for major financial reform that goes beyond compensation. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote a letter to Feinberg endorsing the Treasury's action yesterday, but he underscored that he also wants Feinberg to force the seven TARP companies to "significantly revamp their corporate governance across the board." Schumer has been pushing for the adoption of a Shareholder Bill of Rights, which would give shareholders more say over how executives manage corporations, allowing them to better regulate compensation and excessive risk-taking. Other proposals like "say on pay," which allows shareholders to voice opposition to compensation structures, have worked well abroad. As Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner points out, "[say on pay] has already become the norm for several of our major trading partners." In two of those countries -- Great Britain and Australia -- CEO pay "grew 2.4 percent and 25.3 percent, respectively, from 2002 through 2006, while pay in the United States soared 59.9 percent in the same period."

Bill Moyers: How Can the U.S. Be an Empire and a Democracy at the Same Time?

By Bill Moyers, Bill Moyers Journal. Posted October 20, 2009.

An interview with Mark Danner, whose new book, Stripping Bare the Body, explores the strange notion of a democratic empire and the wars it wages.

In Special Coverage

An Atheist's Review of the Book of Genesis Illustrated by a Legendary Comics Artist
Greta Christina

Corporate Accountability and WorkPlace:
After the Billionaires Plundered Alabama Town, Troops Were Called in ... Illegally
Mark Ames

President Obama And Gov. Paterson Get Love For Recent Drug Policy Reforms
Tony Newman

McKibben Versus Hedges' Clash of Worldviews: How Do We Solve the Environmental Crisis?
Chris Hedges, Bill McKibben

Health and Wellness:
Rape Is a Pre-Existing Condition? The Heartlessness of the Health Insurance Industry Exposed
Danielle Ivory

A Death in Texas Casts Cold Light on America's Privatized Immigration Prisons
Tom Barry

Media and Technology:
8 Reasons Fox Is Not a News Organization
Adele Stan

Movie Mix:
Barack Obama Must See Michael Moore's New Movie (and So Must You)!
Arianna Huffington

Rachel Maddow Mocks the Idea of Bush as a Motivational Speaker

Reproductive Justice and Gender:
A National Treasure -- The Memoirs of Gay Rights Pioneer Martin Duberman
Doug Ireland

Rights and Liberties:
Obama Is Keeping Bush's Worst "War on Terror" Policies Firmly In Place
Julian Sanchez

Sex and Relationships:
How I Realized I'm Bisexual
Rabbit White

Take Action:
G-20 Meetings: Nothing Much Happened in the Suites, and There Was Too Much Punch in the Streets
Laura Flanders

Southeast Water Scarcity Blamed on Overpopulation

Will Anyone Actually Vote in Afghanistan's Much Anticipated Run-Off Election?
Hafizullah Gardesh

More stories by Bill Moyers

The following is a transcript from Bill Moyers' interview with journalist Mark Danner on his new book, Stripping Bare the Body, broadcast on PBS's Bill Moyers Journal.

Bill Moyers: President Obama has been holding one meeting after another trying to decide whether to escalate the war in Afghanistan. He would do well to hold off another discussion until he has sent everyone home for the weekend to read this new book with the provocative title, Stripping Bare the Body, and a cover that holds the eye like a magnet.

The subject is politics, violence, and war, and running through it is an old truth often forgot: you start a war knowing what you are fighting, but in the end you find yourself fighting for things you had never thought of.

In the meantime, you make decisions that inflict on people in far-off places suffering you never imagined.

That's but one stark truth you will find in these pages. The wars we fight, and the violence that feeds them, reveal like nothing else the hidden structures of power in Washington: the personal rivalries, the in-fighting and deal-making, the ambitions that decide our policies and often our fate. Stripping Bare the Body, you will discover, is a moral history of American power over the past quarter century.

Its author is Mark Danner, who throughout those 25 years reported from more mean places in the world than any journalist I know -- Iraq, the Balkans, Haiti, and Washington, among them. Despite more than one close brush with death, he keeps going back. He writes for some of our leading magazines and has produced a series of acclaimed books, winning awards left and right as well as receiving the MacArthur Fellowship. All the while Mark Danner has been teaching journalism and foreign affairs at both the University of California, Berkeley, and Bard College in upstate New York. He's been at this table before, and it's good to welcome you back. ... First, the title. Very provocative. Where did it come from?

Mark Danner: Well, it comes from a former Haitian president, who survived in office for about four months before being overthrown in a coup d'etat, and he said he told me and said in speeches subsequently that political violence is like Stripping Bare the Body, the better to place the stethoscope and hear what's going on beneath the skin. He meant that times of revolution, coup d'etat, war, any kind of social violence going on tends to form anyone moment of nudity, as he put it. In which you can actually see the forces at work within the society stripped bare.

It's like one of those models in biology class, where you see the body, you see all the organs beneath it, and suddenly you see who's oppressing whom, who has the money, who has the power, how that power is exerted. And that that is the time to seize a society and look at it, to X-ray it, try to understand what exactly is going on in its intimate recesses.

Moyers: That's what one finds in the book, that when you do these moments of nudity or nakedness reveal power structures that you don't see without that violence.

Danner: Exactly. Exactly. Whether it's in the Balkans or Haiti or certainly Iraq the struggle between the Shia and the Sunni, for example, which was complex, multifarious, sectarian, and intrasectarian. Haiti itself struggles over poverty and power. Places a place where we thought a democracy could take root immediately after the Duvalier dictatorship.

But where any democratic vote in which everyone you know, one man, one person has one vote was deeply threatening to the power structure that had existed there for 200 years. Same thing in the Balkans. You know, complex social interaction, complex ethnic makeup which, as so often the case with when it comes to American power, the assumptions of our leaders are that we can apply discrete specific power in a given spot and alter the social landscape. And solve political problems. And in all of these places, I mean, Haiti's a very good example. 7 million people. Very poor country that the United States has occupied twice in the last century. And was essentially unable to change things. Given all its great power, you know, a country of 300 million, the most powerful military power in the world, and trying to alter the dynamics of a country of 7 million. And we failed miserably. Not least because when you apply American power, and certainly when you send American troops, you start the forces of nationalism in reaction. And we've seen that in every place Americans have intervened, including Afghanistan.

Moyers: But in Iraq, some things have changed, have they not? I mean Saddam Hussein is gone.

Danner: There's no question Saddam Hussein is gone. There now is a Shia government in power, which represents the majority of the people of Iraq.

Danner: Saddam, of course, was a Sunni. And he represented a minority in power. Now, it's a Shia power, sympathetic to Iran. It's unclear whether this invasion at the end of the day really helped American interests at all. We do know that it left 100 thousand or more Iraqis dead. It destroyed politically the Bush administration. And it left the American public and I think this is very significant, skeptical indeed about further U.S. military deployments. And this is what Obama has been left with, when he has to try to cope with Afghanistan. A public exhausted and skeptical.

I call this in the book the Athenian problem. Which is how do you have--

Moyers: Athenian meaning Athens of Greece, right?

Danner: Exactly. How do you have a democratic empire, how do you have an imperial foreign policy built on a democracy polity. It's like some sort of strange mythical beast that's part lion, part dragon. You know at the bottom is a democracy, and then it's an imperial power around the world.

Danner: And the problem is that the things demanded by an empire, which is staying power, ruthlessness, the ability and the willingness to use its power around the world, it's something that democracies tend to be quite skeptical about. And this is a political factor that looms obviously very large in his calculations.

Moyers: When you strip bare the body politic of our own country, after all of these years of war--Vietnam, two wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans, of other places--what do you hear with that stethoscope you apply to us?

Danner: I think that the United States we're now living still in the backwash of the War on Terror. We're living still in what I've called Bush's state of exception. Which is to say a state of soft martial law, a state of emergency, state of siege that was imposed after 9/11. Whereby warrantless surveillance was allowed without the supervision of the courts.

Whereby widespread detention was allowed. Not only of illegal aliens but American citizens. And whereby especially torture. Extreme interrogation techniques as some call them was developed, allowed, and legally certified within the Department of Justice. And all of these things represent the legal shadow and the political shadow of the "war on terror."

Which Obama--a phrase that Obama no longer uses, but that indeed has changed the country I think quite dramatically. And this is something else he has tried to cope with. How do you perhaps change some of these decisions made by the Bush Administration without leaving yourself politically vulnerable in the case of another attack? And we see this struggle going on when the former Vice President, Dick Cheney, comes out advocating not only torture but condemning the Obama administration for renouncing its use. We see the political stakes here, which is that if indeed President Obama is seen to leave the country vulnerable in the wake of another attack on American soil especially he will be politically destroyed.

Moyers: You say that the decisions being discussed, and about to be made in Afghanistan right now have very little to do with the war in Afghanistan and more to do with the politics in America. Explain that.

Danner: I think the political background here is extremely important. We have a new president, who made his case on foreign policy during the campaign on his opposition to the war in Iraq. And that opposition, to quote his speech in Springfield in 2002, was built on the perception that he is not against all wars, just dumb wars. So in this construction, the smart-- the dumb war was Iraq. The smart war, the right war was Afghanistan. Afghanistan allowed his dovishness on Iraq. So he has come into office having vowed to prosecute that war and fight it, because it was in American interest.

And now he has found, especially in the wake of the failed elections in Afghanistan, that he is getting into he's taking on a hornet's nest, putting his hand into a hornet's nest in a way I think he didn't anticipate.

Moyers: You make the point that we're more likely to be the target of attack because Obama is trying to win over the hearts and minds of the Muslim world.

Danner: I think that's true. I think that he is a political threat. And I think you have to look at the character of this war. You know, we're accustomed to calling it the "war on terror," even though Obama's no longer using the word. But it isn't a war where you try to seize territory. It's not a war where you're going to kill every jihadist. It's a war about politics. Think of a target. What you want to do in this war is prevent people from moving toward the center. That is, you want the people getting the money to not become more active supports. You want the more active supporters to not become active jihadists, to actually go into the fight. So, you're trying to do something political. You want to stop young Muslims from supporting this movement and taking part of it. That's the only way that this war will eventually be "won," quote unquote. And for the-- you know, when you look at it in these terms, George W. Bush was an enormous gift to the jihadists. An enormous gift.

Moyers: Why?

Danner: Because he embodied the caricature of the United States that Osama Bin Laden had put forth. An imperial power using its power blunderingly around the world, suppressing Muslims, repressing Muslim countries, occupying Saudi Arabia. You know, think of that image of Lindy England the young military woman standing in her fatigues, smiling at the camera, holding a leash. A leash that goes down to the neck of a naked Muslim man lying on the ground, grimacing in pain.

Osama Bin Laden, if he had hired the most expensive advertising agency on Madison Avenue, could not have embodied more brilliantly his ideology, which is that the United States is suppressing, humiliating, shaming, undermining the Muslim world, and especially Muslim men.

Obama, on the other hand, stands for-- you know, he has an African name, he's black, he has a Muslim middle name, he speaks about inclusion. I mean, look at his Cairo speech. Ideologically, he's an enormous threat to Osama Bin Laden. Because he does the opposite of what Americans are supposed to do.

Moyers: As you speak, I think of something that Obama said during one of the debates last year. I believe it was early in January, just as the campaign for the nomination was starting. And he said, and I'm paraphrasing, I'm running for President because I want to change the mindset from waging war to peace. Now, was that naive?

Danner: I don't think it was naive. And I think he has begun to do that. I think one of the aspects, you know, one of the reasons behind the Nobel Prize, for example, was a recognition that the rest of the world is so grateful he's in place. And that he is speaking eloquently about a world of inclusion, of cooperation, and not of unilateralism.

Because the Bush administration was really the nightmare that the world had always feared, which is an America unbounded by anything but its own power. Unbounded by international law, judicial processes, anything. And Obama has changed that impression of the United States, which is extremely important.

And ideologically, it's important when it comes to the "war on terror," when it comes to, you know, with relations with Europe. European countries, European leaders can cooperate more easily with the United States when the American President is popular among their publics.

It stands to reason. These are democratic countries. So, this has had real consequences. The question is: can he make institutional changes? Can he go to the next step? Can he represent inclusion when it comes to multilateral institutions? Can he expand our security council?

Moyers: NATO, U.N.

Danner: Exactly.

Moyers: IMF, World Bank.

Danner: G-20, for example, which where he has indeed taken, you know, what was formally the Group of Eight countries industrialized countries, which made the big decisions on economic, world economic decisions, they met together. He now has shifted that decision-making power -- to be fair, carrying on a change that was going on under Bush -- to the Group of 20, which actually does include Brazil. It does include India. We have a much broader spreading of decision-making power that I think is extremely important. And that indicates a way to put these beautiful words of Obama into real action.

Moyers: So, for a moment, I mean, you've got a marvelous chapter here on the imagination, as it applies to politics and war. Use your own imagination for the moment, and try to get in the mindset of that group of nice Norwegians, peace-loving people, who are giving their shiny prize for peace to a man who's only been in office nine months. Who has no real accomplishments to his credit yet. And that's understandable, only nine months. What were they -- what message were they sending? Why did they do it?

Danner: I think they're thinking his eloquence, the vision he sets forth is so beautiful, and its beauty now is especially striking because of the darkness that it follows. And the great risk is that those aspirations will remain only aspirations. And we must do what we can do to ensure that they're not only set forth, but in some way, that they're embodied by true action. And our way of doing that is to confer this honor on him.

I think they perhaps didn't anticipate that it might have a controversial reaction within the United States. But I do think it's a clear expression of this enormous crevasse between the way he is viewed domestically in the United States and the way he's viewed internationally.

Moyers: That beautiful vision you talk about, which they seem to be acknowledging, encouraging, and supporting, how does that balance off against the realities of what he faces in Afghanistan?

Danner: Oh, I think I would not like to be in President Obama's position in making choices on Afghanistan. I think he's in a terrible place, where this war is already deeply unpopular among the American public, and deeply unpopular within his own political party.

If he expands it dramatically, as his general, his hand-picked general has suggested he should by sending 40 thousand or more new troops, fresh troops, he will lose much of his Democratic support at home, and be reliant on Republican support. If, on the other hand, he rejects this recommendation, the Republicans will attack him, and it will be part of the bill of particulars that will be cited against him in the event of another attack, along with the renunciation of torture.

Moyers: I began the show with the reminder that, as you say in here, that we go to war for one thing, and usually wind up fighting for different things we could not have anticipated. What's our aim now in Afghanistan? What are our basic interests there and what are we fighting for?

Danner: Well, part of what we're seeing now is the sorting out on the part of the administration and particularly I think in the mind of the President. In answer to precisely that question, what are our interests?

We've been told that our interests are to prevent the regathering of Al Qaeda and Afghanistan as a jihadist base of operations, from which more attacks like 9/11 can be launched. But the fact is that these people have a very light footprint. The idea that you can simply keep them out of a place by occupying it with, in effect, a handful of troops, I think is quite mistaken. There are other places they can go. Somalia, Sudan, various other countries.

So, I think, you know, what happens very frequently, our goals change during a war. The one goal which, George Kennan I quote saying in the book. The reason that we go in is often forgotten, and suddenly the goals become something like maintaining our dignity. Keeping up our international authority. Preventing a loss and the damage such a loss will do to our international profile. In other words, they all become I think what rhetoricians call heuristic. They're about the mission itself, not achieving anything else.

Moyers: So, are our troops there dying for primarily political reasons? For prestige, which the diplomats say is essential to maintaining our position in the world?

Danner: I think that's a very large part of it. I think the other irony here, and I think it's important to say this. One is the goals of 9/11 itself, of that attack was to draw the United States into Afghanistan to fight a counterinsurgency as the Soviets had done before them. And like the Soviets, to destroy the remaining superpower. That was actually what they were thinking.

It's one of the reasons why a major northern alliance leader was assassinated, was blown up a couple of days before 9/11. The anticipation was this would draw the United States in, and the United States would be defeated on Afghan soil.

The fascinating thing is that the Pentagon, of course, at the time in 2001 avoided this. They didn't want a major ground involvement. They used air bombardment and Afghan allies on the ground. They've been much criticized for this. But, in fact, they were trying to avoid what is exactly happening right now, which is a major land involvement, which will become, in David Halberstam's famous words, a quagmire.

Moyers: Well, you say our boys, our soldiers there are bait.

Danner: They are indeed. I mean, it's fascinating when you look at what the procedures are. You have at the moment anyway a lot of quite small bases. You know, where you have 20, 40 soldiers. And they go out each day on patrol. It's very difficult territory. Very often, these bases are at the bottom of valleys.

They go out on patrol, essentially trying to elicit or encourage what soldiers call contact, engagement. That is, people shooting at them. It's the only way they can find the Taliban. So, they use themselves as bait. And then, hope to be able to respond. And they have an enemy who, you know, it's their territory. They can blend into the population.

Moyers: Taliban.

Danner: Yes. And they're extremely experienced. It's a thankless, thankless job, I think for the soldiers.

Moyers: You don't answer it in Stripping Bare the Body, but you leave me perplexed with the unresolved question of what accounts for this boundless capacity for evil that expresses itself all over the world and from deep in human nature. You have any thoughts about that?

Danner: I wish I could -- you know, there's this sense, and I say this in the book, that the wonderful voluptuous thing about reporting, the great voluptuous pleasure of it, is that you will look at a place from afar and it will seem-- will think you understand it. You will look at Iraq and you'll say, "My God, look at what's going on. I understand it. Well, I can say to you this and this and this?"

And as you get closer, as you set foot on the ground, as you talk to people, tens of people, you know, scores of people, as you travel around, as you see what's going on the ground, bit by bit, your certainty is stripped away, and you know less and less. Until you reach a moment, a couple weeks in, usually in my case, where you've been bombarded with sense impressions.

You've been bombarded with opinions. You've been bombarded with descriptions. And you suddenly think, I know nothing. I know nothing about this place. And that is a wonderful place to reach because you've achieved a kind of tabula rasa. You know, now I can try to understand it on my own terms. It's a wonderful thing about reporting, but unfortunately, it's not necessarily very good at understanding the ultimate ontological questions that you push-- that you just put to me.

What is evil? What is-- where does the evil come from that lies behind someone like Saddam Hussein, or Radovan Karadzic, or General Claude Raymond in Haiti. As I say, I've tended to find these people-- I mean, Saddam, I've never met or interviewed-- but these other people to be rather disappointing. Their political goals were mundane. What they had working for them was opportunism, was very often cleverness and was ruthlessness.

Moyers: So evil becomes a tool.

Danner: I think it-- I think it does. It's a tool and it's an advertisement.

Moyers: An advertise--

Danner: It's a means of persuasion. If you can-- you know, in the Balkan Wars, the ruthlessness of the Serbs allowed them to kill only 100,000 people rather than 500,000 people. They were able, through their own use of rape and mass murder, they were able to send five times that many people fleeing Serb territory. So they used it, in essence to cleanse the land.

Ethnic cleansing, as we called it, quite inaccurately, because the ethnic groups were actually the same. But I wish I could find for you, you know, the ontological source of evil. But I think the more reporting I do, the more I see violence used in an instrumental way. And also, I should say, our own tendency, when we use violence, because the United States does use it extensively-- to ignore what we think of as the hygienic use of force.

You know, the Iraq war, in the first couple of weeks-- the so-called combat stage, as the George W. Bush administration called it-- the best estimate made by the Associated Press of civilian casualties, civilian deaths, which is certainly an understatement, It's a hospital count so it's only people who were brought to hospital morgues, was 3400 people. Now this is in two weeks.

This is more than the number in the United States who died in 9/11. And of course, Iraq is a tenth or an eleventh the size of the United States. So the equivalent, on the US side, would be 35,000 people died, civilians, in that war. They were never on camera. You never saw those bodies. You saw very few bodies. It was as if the American army simply marched up the road to Baghdad. And in fact-- you know, the military before the war, estimated collateral damage at 10,000, 15,000, something like that.

And you know, when you make a decision like that and say 10,000 to 15,000, or 7000, or whatever the number was, will probably be killed as a result of this intervention, people who have no-- you know, are not military and so on-- that it strikes me as an extremely serious thing. It's not like trying to kill civilians in a terrorist attack, needless to say. It's not, because that's your intention. But it's not entirely different. I mean, you are setting out, and knowingly, on an operation that's going to kill large numbers of civilians. And we tend not to look at it, and then we tend to forget it.

Moyers: As we--

Danner: --American amnesia.

Moyers: As we speak, Congress is about to pass a law forbidding the Pentagon from releasing any more of the photographs of American troops torturing--

Danner: Yes.

Moyers: --Muslims. What does that say?

Danner: Well, I think it's-- I think it's a mistaken decision. I think President Obama and the new administration should have gotten this stuff off, out of the way immediately. I think these photographs should have simply been released. And--

Moyers: Is torture the purest expression of evil that you've seen?

Danner: I think if you're looking for a pure expression of evil, torture is pretty-- is a pretty good candidate.

Moyers: Why?

Danner: Well, because you are taking-- I mean, it's also the most illiberal policy, the sort of most diametrically opposed to what we are as a polity. A liberal state has as its heart the notion that government is limited. That there is an area of privacy of our daily lives in which governmental power, state power, cannot intervene.

And torture takes over someone's nervous system. Torture takes over what they feel. Torture takes over and penetrates into their mind and into their body. It's not only illegal, it's immoral. And it's against-- it's against the heart of what the American political tradition stands for, which is an enlightenment tradition. And in which the abolition of torture, by the way, in the 18th and 17th century, was extremely important. So it's going back into darkness, I think, in a very dramatic way.

Moyers: Last question, and an unfair question. You write stories and report. You don't make policy. But what would you do about Afghanistan at this point, if you were the President?

Danner: I think that the first point to be made is there is no "solution" in Afghanistan. Solution I put in quotes. We live in an op-ed culture, which is to say, you always need to have a solution. The last third of that op-ed piece needs to say, "Do this, this, this and this." There is no this, this, this, and this, that will make Afghanistan right.

I think the first thing we need to do is be clear about our interests there, which I think are very, very limited. I think we need to be clear about the fact that our presence on the ground is going far toward undermining the very raison d'etre for our presence, which is to say, we do not want to encourage future terrorist attacks on this country. We don't want to allow large scale jihadist organizing, if we can prevent it. But our presence in Afghanistan is a major rallying cry for those groups precisely. I would gradually disengage from Afghanistan.

But I think the war is going badly there. And frankly, it's going badly here. And I'm glad the Obama administration, I think the President himself, has, in the wake of the Afghan elections-- because that really was the turning point, the realization that the partner on the ground there was corrupt and illegitimate. And in the wake of those elections-- all of the early perceptions about the war that Obama had set out on are being reconsidered.

And I think sometimes we should admire that in a president. Which is to say, it seems to me he's thinking, "You know what? My original ideas about this place, things I said in the campaign and so on should not bind me and keep me from making the right decision." And I'm encouraged by that. I'm encouraged by his willingness to reconsider and actually look at the facts on the ground. I don't know what decision he'll come to. As I say, there's no right decision here, as in so many other instances.

Moyers: This is a remarkable book of reportage and writing, Stripping Bare the Body: Politics, Violence and War. And Mark, I appreciate your being with me to talk about it.

Danner: Thank you, I've enjoyed it.

Moyers: President Obama was in Texas today with the first George Bush urging Americans to volunteer for more community service, a good thing to do.

Barack Obama actually began his political career as a community organizer on the south side of Chicago. Since his run for the presidency, special attention has been paid to this unglamorous and tough line of work.

Community organizers go toe-to-toe with the powers that be, and so they are often feared and ridiculed by those who believe America should be run from the top down. Remember last year's Republican National Convention?

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See more stories tagged with: democracy, empire, bill moyers, mark danner, stripping bare the body

Bill Moyers is the host of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS.

Flights of Fashion:

Gioia Diliberto

Gioia Diliberto

Posted: October 23, 2009 08:08 AM

Flights of Fashion: How Amelia Earhart Became America's First Celebrity Designer (PHOTOS)

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Editor's note: In honor of today's release of Fox Searchlight's "Amelia," we're re-publishing this post. It originally ran on July 20th.

Unlike aviators lost in the sky, fashions always come back. Among the styles recently returned from the dead are micro minis, skinny belts, jumpsuits, platform shoes -- and, now, the Amelia Earhart look.

It's been revived by Jean Paul Gaultier for the fall Hermes ready-to-wear collection soon arriving in stores, and it features shirts with narrow ties, trousers, leather pencil skirts and bomber jackets. At the Hermes show in Paris last March, models wore aviator hats and goggles with the clothes, as the roar of prop-plane engines set up beyond the catwalk filled the air. "I was inspired by a woman, I forgot her name, an American pilot with very short, wavy hair who was wearing an aviator jacket, which I love, and a little scarf that was so Hermes," Gaultier told the Associated Press.

He probably would be surprised to know that old what's her name wasn't just a style icon; she also had her own fashion label. In fact, Amelia Earhart was America's first celebrity designer, and the story of her short-lived Amelia Earhart line is the story of the start of fashion mass marketing.

Earhart was an unlikely style star. When she burst onto the world stage in 1928, following her first transatlantic flight (never mind that she was only riding in the plane with two male pilots, she still was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic), Earhart was derided in the press for her gawky, disheveled appearance. Skinny, freckled, short-haired and boyish looking, she bore a strong resemblance to Charles Lindbergh, and "Lindy in drag" was one of the nicer sobriquets given her. She showed no feminine interest in clothes. While flying, she favored old, high-laced shoes, well-worn trousers, an ancient leather coat with deep pockets, a soft leather helmet and goggles. On land, she wore pretty much the same thing, without the headgear.

This was not the look of an American female idol, and Earhart's manager and husband, publisher George Charles Putnam, vowed to glam her up. Earhart was pretty, with a lovely smile, bright blue eyes, wavy blonde hair and a model's tall, willowy figure (marred somewhat by thick lower legs, one reason she didn't like wearing dresses). With the help of a make-up artist, hair stylist and a new wardrobe of well tailored clothes, she morphed into a paragon of androgynous chic -- just like Katherine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich, two other trouser-wearing, gender-bending beauties who also happened to appear on screen as aviators.

After Earhart's solo flight across the Atlantic in May 20-21, 1931, a feat not coincidentally performed on the fourth anniversary of Lindbergh's historic flight, Earhart and Putnam searched for ways to raise money for the aviatrix's next venture while promoting her image as a national heroine.

They focused on fashion. At the time, American designers labored in obscurity in the backrooms of Seventh Avenue, "like the kitchen help," as Bill Blass once noted. While Paris designers were world famous celebrities -- the names of Chanel, Lanvin, Schiaparelli, Patou, and Paquin, heralded from the pages of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar and the women's pages of the nation's newspapers -- labels on even the highest-end American fashion contained only the names of the manufacturers.

Earhart and her husband convinced the U.S. Rubber Company that her name would sell, and Amelia Earhart Fashion, underwritten by the tire enterprise, debuted in 1934. The clothes were offered in special Amelia Earhart shops in a single department store per city (in New York, Macy's and in Chicago, Marshall Field's). The label, sewn into each garment, featured the aviatrix's signature in black with a thin red line streaking through it to a little red plane soaring in the right corner.

In interviews with the press, Earhart said her goal was to bring the beauty she'd found in aviation closer to all women at prices that didn't reach "new altitudes." In the air, she had a touch of recklessness -- it was part of her charm, a sign of her rebellion against a world that wouldn't allow women to be adventurous, and it probably contributed to her presumed death in July, 1937 (she disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean while attempting a circum-navigational flight of the globe). Her clothes, however, were utterly safe and conventional -- basically copies of mainstream sportswear, with some gimmicky, aviation-themed trimmings.

Many of the fashions -- a windbreaker and a leather trench coat, for example -- mimicked Earhart's flying clothes and were made in washable, practical fabrics like Grenfell cotton, a staple of English hunting wear. Other styles included tweed suits and coats in neutral tones and deep pocketed raincoats in "parachute" silk with buttons shaped like propellers. Earhart told one newspaper that she nearly always incorporated in the styles "something characteristic of aviation, a parachute cord or tie or belt, a ball-bearing belt buckle, wing bolts and nuts for buttons."

Reporters made much of the fact that Amelia owned a sewing machine and had made her own clothes as a girl. She suggested colors and fabrics for her fashion line, but it's unlikely she did any actual designing.

Despite a blizzard of publicity, Earhart fashion failed to catch on with the public, and the line disappeared from America's stores even before the aviatrix vanished. One piece of her own clothing, however, turned up a few weeks later. It was a long white and brown scarf that a man named Wilbur Rothar offered to Earhart's husband as proof of her survival. Rothar claimed that Earhart had been captured by a boat running arms near New Guinea, and he demanded $2,000 from Putnam for his wife's return. As it turned out, Rothar was a New York janitor who years earlier, while in a crowd cheering Earhart's arrival from a routine landing at Long Island's Roosevelt Field, had caught the silk garment as the wind blew it from around her neck.

After Rothar's arrest, Putnam reclaimed the scarf, a symbol of Amelia Earhart's glamorously daring spirit -- the spirit Gaultier no doubt tried to capture in this fall's aviatrix inspired clothes.

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