Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Whither ACORN?By Bill Fletcher, Jr.BlackCommentator.com
Sometimes an organization is faced with a crisis of such proportionsthat it calls into question its integrity and relationship with thepublic. In the corporate world, one can think of the airline ValuJetwhich, after the disastrous crash into the Everglades of one of itsplanes, so lost the confidence of the public that it had to shut down;remake itself; and brand itself with a new name: AirTran.It is important to separate the attacks on ACORN which it is receivingfrom the political Right from the actual content of the organization’sproblems. Let’s face it: any progressive organization, particularlyone as significant as ACORN, must assume that it will be attacked bythe political Right. In fact, the Right is very clear about that. So,the fact of an attack from the Right should come as no surprise.Something is very wrong in ACORN and, unfortunately, the leadership ofthe organization does not seem to recognize the depth of the problem.The alleged embezzlement of nearly one million dollars by Dale Rathke,the brother of ACORN founder and long-time chief organizer, WadeRathke, sent shockwaves throughout the progressive movement andfoundation community. It was not simply the fact of the alleged theft,but the reported manner in which this had been covered up such thatmuch of the leadership, not to mention the membership, apparently hadno knowledge of the circumstances. The matter was handled much like afamily embarrassment rather than as a legal and ethical challenge.Now we are made witness to one of the most bizarre circumstances I canremember. Right-wingers, with a clear objective of discrediting ACORNlargely due to its voter registration work among people of color,undertook a mission to display ACORN’s alleged corruption to theworld. It does not matter, to a great degree, that in many places thatthese right-wingers showed up that they were thrown out. What mattersis that they captured on camera ACORN employees allegedly offering toassist undercover personnel in the establishment of a BROTHEL!!!Unless those ACORN employees were plants within ACORN, there is anobvious question: what could those employees possibly have beenthinking about? What level of training and supervision, not to mentionethics, were they guided by such that they would think that this waspermissible? On top of all of this, what sort of basic common sensedid they lack that they would not GUESS that this might have been aset up?The response from the ACORN leadership to this latest incident hasbeen to terminate the employees and insist that this isunrepresentative of the work of ACORN. While I know that this is notrepresentative of the work of ACORN, such an answer is insufficient atbest. Leaving aside other allegations targeted at ACORN, the questionis what is going on in the leadership such that such actions canunfold?>From the outside it appears that at least two things are operatingwithin ACORN. The first is arrogance within a part of the leadership.That fact that a clique within the leadership would attempt to shroudan alleged theft and treat it as if it were a personal matter displaysa significant level of lack of accountability. The extent of thealleged embezzlement was such that criminal prosecution should havebeen entertained immediately. Yet this clique kept this silent and didnot discuss the ramifications for the entire organization.The second thing that appears to be operating is that the organizationis not operating, at least in a functional manner. In other words,there is a systemic lack of accountability and training. On the onehand, in the face of the right-wing provocation, some citiesimmediately recognized that something was up, but, for reasonsunknown, this was not communicated to the entire organization. Worse,that some employees when actually confronted with an illegal businessproposition did not have the proper awareness of the consequences ofgiving advice on an illegal matter shows, at a minimum, poor judgment.The subsequent attacks on ACORN by the Right, therefore, have beenentirely predictable. ACORN has opened itself up and invited the enemyin. Yet they now wish for all liberals and progressives to rallyaround them in their defense yet their leadership only offers ananemic explanation of the depths of this crisis.Should ACORN dissolve? Absolutely not. ACORN has been an essentialpart of the progressive movement for nearly forty years. That said,neither should progressives act as if the extent of the crisis inACORN can be ignored. Certainly the attacks on ACORN by the Right areboth politically and racially motivated. But that does not mean thatACORN can afford to act as if nothing is new under the Sun. In manyother countries, in the face of such scandals the entire leadershipwould resign without a moment’s second thought. Yet here, in the faceof repeated, humiliating mistakes, the leadership seems to think thatrelatively minor changes can remedy the extent of the problem.What can ACORN do?1. Bring in a crisis management team to take over the day-to-dayoperations of ACORN: The current managing leadership should be eithersuspended or given other duties while a new management team is broughtinto ACORN to assess the extent of the organization’s problems andINTRODUCE changes in the day-to-day operations of the organization.This should include an evaluation of current staff and supervisors,financial accountability, ethics and other aspects of organization. Anew organization operating system needs to be put into place to ensurestaff accountability, including in the hiring process. Such a teamwould be on temporary assignment to ACORN to assist in the rebuildingof the organization.2. Leadership retreat: One part of the work of the crisis managementteam should be the organizing of a leadership retreat of the currentnational leadership plus any additional key leaders from chaptersaround the country. Such a retreat should aim at evaluating the natureof the current crisis in the organization; what has worked; what hasfailed; and new strategic directions. New leadership elections shouldbe organized.3. An apology to the friends, supporters and members of ACORN: To behonest, I do not want to hear anything more about how the Right isattacking ACORN. What I do want to hear is how sorry and self-criticalthe ACORN leadership is about the current state of affairs and howthey, in fact, let down the members, supporters and friends of theorganization.I know what the objectives of the Right are: they want to eliminateany and all evidence of a progressive movement in the USA. What we donot have to do is make their job any easier.BlackCommentator.com Executive Editor, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a SeniorScholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate pastpresident of TransAfrica Forum and co-author of, Solidarity Divided:The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice(University of California Press), which examines the crisis oforganized labor in the USA. Click here to contact Mr. Fletcher.http://www.blackcommentator.com/343/343_aw_wither_acorn.html
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
As Raimondo points out as well the US has known for ages about this facility. They could have outed Iran at any time. Yet it was Iran itself that informed the IAEA and is apparently willing to allow inspectors to visit the facility.
- Antiwar.com Original - http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2009/09/27/september-surprise-2/ -
Posted By Justin Raimondo
What did the U.S. government know about the "secret" Iranian nuclear research facility at Qom and when did it know it? That’s the question that isn’t on everyone’s lips, as the chatter about Iranian "intransigence" on nuclear issues reaches a crescendo in the run-up to Oct. 1, the date negotiations with Tehran are scheduled to start. Practically no one wants to ask let alone answer this question, because it torpedoes the American narrative that is being carefully constructed by the Obama administration and its media fan club, which runs something like this: the Iranians have been actively deceiving us all along and simply can’t be trusted – the only solution, therefore, is to initiate a series of escalating sanctions, up to and including military action.
The Obama-worshippers in the punditocracy are telling us that this is an example of the Dear Leader’s genius: unlike George W. Bush and the neocons, whose crude unilateralism and unmitigated arrogance was a turnoff to our allies and a boon to our enemies, Obama wisely held back and waited until he had the Iranians just where he wanted them, and then, as one of the more unhinged Obama maniacs put it, "Ka-pow!"
"And so you see the Obama mojo again. Look at the moves of the last month. He scraps the missile defense in Eastern Europe, pleasing Russia, and moves the focus of defense to the Mediterranean, pleasing Israel.
"He pwns [sic] Ahmadinejad at the UN by being the first president of the U.S. to preside over the resolution to enforce nuclear non-proliferation.
"He corrals the rhetorical support of the developing world, isolating Tehran still further. He hangs back a little and allows Brown and Sarkozy to do the heavy hitting on NoKo and Iran this past week, again revealing that the desire to curtail Ahmadinejad’s nukes is not only an American project.
"And then, this morning… kapow!"
This tale of heroic cunning and diplomatic derring-do is largely a product of Sullivan’s hero-worshipping imagination – the same tendency to idolatry that moved him to praise George W. Bush as little short of the second coming of Winston Churchill back in the day. It is, however, based on even less substance this time around, for it turns out that the U.S. has known about this "secret" facility for years, as CNN reports:
"The United States was aware of Iran’s unfinished uranium enrichment site for several years, senior U.S. officials told CNN on Friday. U.S. officials have known about the facility since President George W. Bush’s administration, according to the officials who declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the negotiations."
Yes, the Bushies knew about it, too, and said nothing – but why not? After all, George W. was not exactly known as an apologist for the Iranian regime, and he was no less eager than his successor to tag Tehran as a serial deceiver. The CIA knew about it when they issued that now inconvenient National Intelligence Estimate [.pdf] averring that Iran had abandoned all efforts to militarize its nuclear research in 2003. Were they trying to protect the Iranians, too? And, of course, Obama knew all about it – and decided to make use of it, in spite of the fact that (a) the Qom facility is not operational and (b) there is no evidence it is being used to create a nuclear weapon.
We are told the Iranians only recently discovered that we knew about Qom, which is why they chose to reveal its existence in a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – but, really, since the Iranians had a direct line to our most closely guarded secrets, via Ahmed Chalabi, in the days of the Bush administration, it’s hard to make that case with absolute assurance. In any case, they did admit the existence of the Qom facility and have now invited in the inspectors – and all of Obama’s stern admonitions to the Iranians to "come clean" cannot obfuscate Tehran’s transparency in this matter.
In his UN oration, Obama declared “Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow," a manifestly untrue statement that nonetheless went largely unchallenged. Because "all nations" apparently doesn’t include the state of Israel, which has as many as 200 nuclear weapons and is no doubt developing more.
Obama hailed efforts to strengthen the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and singled out Iran and North Korea as two examples of nations that "choose to ignore international standards" and "put the pursuit of nuclear weapons ahead of regional stability and the security and opportunity of their own people." These two miscreants, he intoned, "must be held accountable."
There is one other miscreant, however, that is never to be held accountable, either by the president of the United States or by anyone who works in "mainstream" journalism, on pain of being charged with a hate crime. Israel’s nukes are common knowledge. Yet the Jewish state not only refuses to acknowledge its possession of weapons of mass destruction, it also disdains efforts by the international community to monitor their development and placement.
Israel has always steadfastly refused to join the NPT, and when the possibility that they could be pressured to do so was raised as the Obamaites were flocking to Washington to take power, the idea was quickly shot down. That a U.S. government official had even mentioned Israel in relation to its well-known possession of nukes was denounced by the Israelis and their American amen corner as a "violation" of a supposedly 40-year agreement between the U.S. and Israel that Washington would not only give the Israelis a pass, but would refrain from even referring to the existence of Israel’s nuclear arsenal.
Which means: quite apart from evidence – or the absence of it – that the Iranians are actively trying to acquire nuclear weapons, we aren’t allowed to even talk about why they would possibly want them.
Israel has been threatening Iran with military action for quite some time, and, armed as the former is with a formidable nuclear arsenal, the Iranians would be foolish not to take the Israelis seriously. However, the biggest weapon in the Israeli quiver isn’t nukes, it’s their "special relationship" with the U.S., and the Iranians know it.
The devastation and occupation of Iraq had barely begun when Ariel Sharon publicly stated that America’s next target must be Iran, and the U.S. has dutifully taken up this charge, in spite of Obama’s guff about engaging in "dialogue" with Tehran. That’s just window-dressing for the liberals who supported him on account of his antiwar credentials.
And so it begins: phase two of the American project for the transformation of the Middle East into an environment that guarantees "security" for Israel as she represses her Palestinian helots [.pdf], expands her borders willy-nilly, and defies the standards and benchmarks that all civilized nations are expected to adhere to.
Change? You’ve got to be kidding! What we’re getting from this administration in the foreign policy department is an uncanny repetition of the same folly engaged in by the Bush administration, complete with "weapons of mass destruction" and the hosannas of the Establishment pundits as they march in lockstep to war. The only difference is that many of these very same pundits were singing a far different tune when it was Republicans doing the warmongering.
We are told by the pro-Obama foreign policy analysts that the president’s efforts to negotiate with Tehran have put the military option "on the back burner." Really? What’s on the front burner is a proposal – guaranteed to sail through the U.S. Congress – to impose draconian sanctions on Iran, including petroleum products. What this would amount to is a blockade of Iranian ports, i.e., an act of war.
Iran has the right to the production of peaceful nuclear power under the terms of the NPT, a treaty the Israelis refuse to sign. Why are they being held "accountable," and not the Israelis? Everybody in the Middle East knows the answer to this question – as they do in Washington, although the rules of political correctness won’t permit them to utter it.
This whole campaign against Iran for supposedly harboring a desire to nuke Israel is absurd from beginning to end. A nuclear attack on Israel would not only annihilate the Israelis, but also the Palestinians – which one has to assume the Iranians have no desire to do. It would also invite massive retaliation from the U.S. and universal condemnation. The myth that Israel is going to be the site of a second Holocaust if we don’t stop the Iranians first is one that is being energetically pushed by Israel and her American lobby – and it is a very crude and easily refutable lie. Which doesn’t mean they won’t try to pull it off. After all, the idea that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks, although absurd on its face, was relentlessly repeated by the Bushies during the run-up to the Iraq war, and there’s no reason, at this point, to suspect that the new guys in charge are above such tactics.
Indeed, we are fast learning that they aren’t – that’s what the Qom kerfuffle shows us, and we ought to be prepared for more, and much worse, in the coming months. The Obamaites are going into the October talks guns blazing, and you can be sure that, although this process of baiting Iran is going to go on for many months, if not years, this first phase will be relatively short-lived: the War Party is hoping for an Iranian walkout, and I suspect they’ll get their wish.
This is a typical New York Times piece that often reflects quite well what the administration is thinking. The idea that the Afghan war might come to define in part Obama's tenure is a bit ingenuous since during the campaign Obama stressed that he would make the Afghan war a priority and was going to devote more resources to it. His Afghan policy has been Bush on steroids making his anti-war supporters look foolish! Now he faces a large majority of Democrats who do not support further troop deployment in Afghanistan and a majority of Republicans who do. But overall US citizens no longer support the war period!
Within the administration Obama is clearly having second thoughts and Biden represents an alternative to a surge while Clinton and Holbrooke, the guy who thought the Afghan election was hunky dory, represent the continuing hawkish stance which until now was the trademark of Obama himself!
By Peter Baker and Elisabether Bumiller
Afghanistan Troop Request Splits Advisers to Obama
September 26, 2009
WASHINGTON — As President Obama weighs sending more troops to Afghanistan, one of the most consequential decisions of his presidency, he has discovered that the military is not monolithic in support of the plan and that some of the civilian advisers he respects most have deep reservations.
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s troop request, which was submitted to the Pentagon on Friday, has reignited a longstanding debate within the military about the virtues of the counterinsurgency strategy popularized by Gen. David H. Petraeus in Iraq and now embraced by General McChrystal, the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan.
General McChrystal is expected to ask for as many as 40,000 additional troops for the eight-year-old war, a number that has generated concern among top officers like Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff, who worry about the capacity to provide more soldiers at a time of stress on the force, officials said.
The competing advice and concerns fuel a pivotal struggle to shape the president’s thinking about a war that he inherited but may come to define his tenure. Among the most important outside voices has been that of former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, a retired four-star Army general, who visited Mr. Obama in the Oval Office this month and expressed skepticism that more troops would guarantee success. According to people briefed on the discussion, Mr. Powell reminded the president of his longstanding view that military missions should be clearly defined.
Mr. Powell is one of the three people outside the administration, along with Senator John F. Kerry and Senator Jack Reed, considered by White House aides to be most influential in this current debate. All have expressed varying degrees of doubt about the wisdom of sending more forces to Afghanistan.
Mr. Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has warned of repeating the mistakes of Vietnam, where he served, and has floated the idea of a more limited counterterrorist mission. Mr. Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island and an Army veteran, has not ruled out supporting more troops but said “the burden of proof” was on commanders to justify it.
In the West Wing, beyond Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has advocated an alternative strategy to the troop buildup, other presidential advisers sound dubious about more troops, including Rahm Emanuel, the chief of staff, and Gen. James L. Jones, the national security adviser, according to people who have spoken with them. At the same time, Mr. Obama is also hearing from more hawkish figures, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Richard Holbrooke, the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
General McChrystal’s troop request, which has not been made public, was given to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, by the general in a meeting in Germany on Friday. Admiral Mullen arrived back in Washington on Friday night with one paper copy for himself and one for Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.
Mr. Gates has not endorsed General McChrystal’s request yet, viewing the situation as “complicated,” said one person who has spoken with him. But Mr. Gates, who will be an influential voice in Mr. Obama’s decision, has also left open the door for more troops and warned of the consequences of failure in Afghanistan.
Although Mr. Obama has called Afghanistan a war of necessity, he has left members of both parties uncertain about the degree of his commitment to a large and sustained military presence. Even some advisers said they thought Mr. Obama’s support for the war as a senator and presidential candidate was at least partly a way of contrasting it with what he saw as a reckless war in Iraq.
His decision to send 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan early this year, which will bring the number of American troops there to 68,000 this fall, was made hurriedly within weeks of coming into office to stanch the tactical erosion on the ground and provide security during Afghan elections.
But with those elections now marred by fraud allegations, the latest troop request is forcing Mr. Obama to decide whether he wants to fully engage in Afghanistan for the rest of his term or make a drastic change of course. Some advisers said the varying views reflected the complicated nature of a debate. The troop request follows the strategy unveiled by Mr. Obama in March to focus more on protecting the Afghan population, building infrastructure and improving governance, rather than just hunting the Taliban. On Friday, a United Nations report said that from January to August, 1,500 civilians were killed, about two-thirds of them by militants.
Admiral Mullen has endorsed the idea of more troops and will be at the table representing the military. General McChrystal and ambassadors from the region will get a chance to participate in meetings with the president through a secure video hookup.
Other officers, who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and say they admire General McChrystal nonetheless, have privately expressed doubt that additional troops will make a difference. Others question the broader impact of such a buildup on the overall armed forces.
“If a request for more forces comes to the Army, we’ll have to assess what that will do in terms of stress on the force,” said an Army official, who asked not to be identified because General McChrystal’s troop request had not been made public.
General Casey, whose institutional role as Army chief is to protect his force, has a goal to increase by 2012 a soldier’s time at home, to two years at home for every year served, from the current one year for every year of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Advisers who have Mr. Obama’s ear have raised other questions. Mr. Powell spoke with Mr. Obama about a variety of topics, but his remarks on Afghanistan resonated in the White House. “The question the president has to answer is, ‘What will more troops do?’ ” Mr. Powell told reporters before a speech in California last week. “You have to not just add troops. You need a clear definition of your mission and then you can determine whether you need more troops or other resources.”
In an interview, Senator Kerry, who met with Admiral Mullen last week, said that he had not made up his mind about the troop buildup, but that in Vietnam, “the underlying assumptions were flawed, and the number of troops weren’t going to make a difference.”
Senator Reed, who met with Mr. Biden, was more measured, but said the president needed to look at the capacity of Afghan forces and the prospects of reconciliation with moderate Taliban members. “You want to make sure you have the best operational plan to carry out the strategy,” he said.
© The New York Times 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Honduran Coup Regime Mocks UN Security Council with Embassy Attacks
Posted by Al Giordano - September 25, 2009 at 3:23 pm
By Al Giordano
After today’s emergency session of the United Nations Security Council in New York, US Ambassador Susan Rice emerged to read a warning to the Honduras coup regime:
"We condemn acts of intimidation against the Brazilian embassy and call upon the de facto government of Honduras to cease harassing the Brazilian embassy.”
The wording is unequivocal. After investigating the claims (and the de facto regime’s denials) of constant technological and chemical attacks on the diplomatic seat in Tegucigalpa, and illegal impediment of ingress and egress to and from the embassy, where legitimate President Manuel Zelaya and at least 85 aides, supporters and some members of the news media are sheltered, the UN Security Council has concluded that said harassment i
s real and it is ongoing.
If the coup regime believed that its use of chemical and sonic devices would render its attacks less visible, it has already lost that gamble.
Article 31 of The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963 is titled “Inviolability of the consular premises,” and states:
“Consular premises shall be inviolable to the extent provided in this article… The authorities of the receiving State shall not enter that part of the consular premises which is used exclusively for the purpose of the work of the consular post except with the consent of the head of the consular post or of his designee or of the head of the diplomatic mission of the sending State… the receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the consular premises against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the consular post or impairment of its dignity… The consular premises, their furnishings, the property of the consular post and its means of transport shall be immune from any form of requisition for purposes of national defence or public utility.”
Article 33 states: “The consular archives and documents shall be inviolable at all times and wherever they may be.”
Article 34, titled “Freedom of movement,” states: “the receiving State shall ensure freedom of movement and travel in its territory to all members of the consular post."
Article 35, titled “Freedom of communication,” states:
“The receiving State shall permit and protect freedom of communication on the part of the consular post for all official purposes. In communicating with the Government, the diplomatic missions and other consular posts, wherever situated, of the sending State, the consular post may employ all appropriate means, including diplomatic or consular couriers, diplomatic or consular bags and messages in code or cipher… The official correspondence of the consular post shall be inviolable. Official correspondence means all correspondence relating to the consular post and its functions… The consular bag shall be neither opened nor detained.”
In light of those international laws, the device you see in the photograph up top, deployed by Honduran coup regime security forces at the gates of the Brazilian Embassy, offers a smoking gun of proof that the regime is violating the Vienna Convention.
Narco News and its team of technical engineers and counter-surveillance consultants has identified the apparatus as the LRAD-X Remote Long Range Acoustic Device, manufactured by the American Technologies Corporation.
The instrument is an offensive weapon, used on US Navy warships and by other nations, which can emit sounds that, “Through the use of powerful voice commands and deterrent tones, large safety zones can be created while determining the intent and influencing the behavior of an intruder.”
The LRAD-X machine can shoot sounds of up to 151 decibels. According to the US National
Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders sounds less loud than those it produces can cause Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL): “Sources of noise that can cause NIHL include motorcycles, firecrackers, and small firearms, all emitting sounds from 120 to 150 decibels. Long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter the time period before NIHL can occur.”
The front of the device looks like this:
And this is the back of the device:
In other words, the LRAD-X is the source of the high-pitched and pain-inducing sounds that have been fired both at those inside the Brazilian Embassy and turned around when anti-coup demonstrators have tried to come close to it. As such, it interferes with the Vienna protected inviolability of the Embassy and its free communications.
Under international law, this violation already serves as sufficient justification for intervention by UN Peacekeeping Forces of the multinational kind that the country of Brazil has led in Haiti.
But that’s not all: Narco News has received the following photos of a C-guard LP Cellular telephone jamming device designed for low power indoor use. The black out range can be set to cover an area of 5 to 80 meters. The device was found inside the premises of the Brazilian embassy yesterday. Here it is, front:
(On Monday a large multitude of people, including journalists, including some from pro-coup news agencies, were able to enter the Brazilian Embassy to welcome or interview President Zelaya. It is possible that the cell phone jamming device was placed inside the premises then.)
Sold by Netline under the product category of "Counter Terror Electronic Warfare," the device, the company boasts, "C-Guard LP cellphone jammers block all required cellular network standards simultaneously: GSM, CDMA, TDMA, UMTS (3G), Nextel, 2.4 GHz and more."
The deployment of a cell phone jamming device is in direct violation of the Vienna Convention articles above protecting the inviolability of embassy and consular communications. What’s more, sources inside the embassy that are in constant direct contact with Narco News testify that prior to locating and removing the device, cell phones of the President, his aides and others in the building were impeded by much interference.
Additionally, around noon today, President Zelaya called a press conference inside the embassy, during which a medical doctor testified that two of the people staying inside the embassy displayed symptoms of bleeding from the nose or the stomach, and that a larger number of them displayed symptoms of nausea, throat and sinus irritation and related problems that can be caused by neuro-toxic gases used in chemical warfare that are also prohibited by international treaties.
Zelaya said, calmly and deliberatively, that upon awaking at 7:30 a.m., he had felt an unfamiliar irritation, “first in the mouth, next in the throat, and later a small pain in the stomach. I drank water and milk. And I came out to find others feeling sick. Since then we’ve been trying to figure out where it is coming from.”
Understanding the dramatic nature of this kind of warfare and its capacity to generate panic, fear and anger, Zelaya urged members of the anti-coup civil resistance, “Please, do not attack the police. Maintain yourselves at a respectable distance. Don’t come near enough to be beaten. Protest your grievances peacefully.”
Displaying the cell phone jamming device, President Zelaya said, “This apparatus is installed to interfere and practically act against all telephones inside the Embassy. We practically have a sonic intervention that could also be affecting the health and nerves of people inside."
“They have also aimed frequencies of high intensity against the Embassy. This is also to affect our psychological state. Other machines are installed in the neighboring houses, where the owners have been kicked out and the military has occupied them.”
Hortensia “Pichu” Zelaya, also inside the embassy, sent out this photograph, below, taken earlier today of a device, partly covered by a green plastic bag, that security forces erected from one of the neighboring properties in clear view and air stream of the Brazilian embassy. “As soon as we discovered it,” she wrote, “they immediately took it down.”
Father Andrés Tamayo, also inside the embassy, told reporters at the press conference that he witnessed that device first hand. It is not yet known what exactly it is, or why it was accompanied by a plastic bag, or whether some kind of substance or chemical agent or gas was inside the bag and aimed at the Brazilian embassy.
These evidences and the eye-witness testimonies, including that of the doctor and the priest, demonstrate convincingly that while the Honduran coup regime issues emphatic denials of such attacks on the sovereign embassy of Brazil, it is clearly engaging in them nonetheless. The UN Security Council should not need any high tech apparatus of its own to be able to see and hear what is really going on at ground level, and respond accordingly to the coup regime's mockery of it.
Update 5:08 p.m. Tegucigalpa (7:08 p.m. ET): The coup regime held a "cadena nacional" (mandatory broadcast on all radio, TV and cable channels) this afternoon to deny having engaged in any chemical warfare and to say it would allow the international Red Cross and Dr. Andres Pavon, a human rights leader, into the embassy to check the health of those inside. A group of doctors, including Pavon, just emerged from the examinations and reported the following:
That the symptoms were definitely caused by some kind of "contaminant." Upon review of the photos of the unidentified device in the final photograph above, Pavon concludes that it is a humidifier and that the plastic bag contained some kind of liquid to put where water usually goes, and that it was the likely cause of the contamination of the embassy. It was not concluded whether the contaminant weapon was chemical or biological.
The doctors also confirmed, for Radio Globo, that UN officials had entered the Embassy with them to participate in the investigation.
The coup regime has just called a military curfew for most of the country's population from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. tonight.
5:32 p.m.: We've just confirmed independently from a source inside the building that UN officials have entered the Brazilian embassy.
Retiring Marine general calls Guantanamo prison bad move
By Jeanette Steele
Since the 1960s, the base has served as a logistics point for the Navy's Atlantic Fleet. It also supports anti-drug operations in the Caribbean.
Joint Task Force 160 was activated in December 2001, and Camp X-Ray was prepared as a temporary location for detainees, who started arriving the next month.
More than 520 prisoners have been released to other countries; about 220 remain.
CAMP PENDLETON — Saying the United States lost the moral high ground, the outgoing Marine general who built and ran the Guantanamo Bay military prison in early 2002 said he quickly concluded that it was the wrong path and that the cells he constructed should be emptied.
Retiring Maj. Gen. Michael Lehnert, now commander of seven Marine bases on the West Coast, also said bringing the remaining prisoners to Camp Pendleton — something the White House has discussed — is a bad idea because it could threaten the base's main job of training Marines.
Lehnert will step down next week after heading the Marine Corps Installations West command since 2005. He has guided a massive construction campaign at the bases he oversees from an office at Camp Pendleton.
In early 2002, then-Brig. Gen. Lehnert was commander of Joint Task Force 160, the unit given the job of quickly building prison cells at the U.S. base in Cuba for “enemy combatants” captured in Afghanistan. It was meant to be a short-lived job, and Lehnert left after 100 days.
“I came to the conclusion very soon that this probably wasn't the right way to go,” Lehnert, 58, said during a media round table yesterday. “Probably before I left Guantanamo, I was of the opinion it needed to go away as soon as possible.”
Lehnert said the United States has a moral obligation to treat the prisoners humanely. He added that he wasn't in charge of interrogations, which were handled by a different task force. That delineation of duties caused “creative tension” in the officer ranks, Lehnert said.
Human-rights organizations have criticized the U.S. government for holding people at Guantanamo without trial, sometimes for years, and for not following established standards of treatment for prisoners of war
Sunday, September 27, 2009
U.S. drone crashes into Iraq political party office
Saturday, September 26, 2009 10:01 AM
MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - An unmanned U.S. reconnaissance drone crashed in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul early on Saturday, hitting the offices of one of Iraq's biggest political parties, the U.S. military said.
No injuries were reported, and there was no indication the aircraft was shot down, said Major Derrick Cheng, a military spokesman in northern Iraq.
Cheng said it was a coincidence that the drone struck the local offices of the Iraqi Islamic Party, Iraq's biggest Sunni Arab political group, the military said.
The U.S. military frequently deploys drones in Iraq as part of measures to counter roadside bombs. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Who dreads conclusions of the “mission for truth” in Georgia?
Before Heidi Tagliavini's commission report on the reasons of the conflict in Caucasus last August is made public Hansjörg Haber, head of the European Union Monitoring Mission (see photo) made a very serious statement remarking that the mission has to reckon with Russia's recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
"I believe we'll have to live with this state of things as Russian presence is a vital factor there", - Haber told journalists in Brussels. According to him in this situation the mission is tasked to work out confidence building mechanisms between the conflicting parties and make the life of civilians easier.
Haber's statement is indirect acknowledgement of the conclusions made by the EU commission that has already been nicknamed "the mission for truth".
EU military observers reinforced their presence in Georgian districts adjacent to Abkhazia and South Ossetia. According to Haber it was necessary in view of the coming publication of the report on the origins of last year's war in Caucasus. Heidi Tagliavini, head of the independent expert commission must promulgate the conclusions next week.
"We will reinforce our patrols ahead of the publication of the report and maintain maximum visibility", - Haber said at a briefing in Brussels. - These are ordinary prophylactic measures in view of the coming promulgation of the investigation results".
Georgia reasonably fears that the report publication will lead to a new turn of instability in the country. The content of the report is kept secret so far. Nonetheless, main conclusions of the investigation have already leaked through to the European media. On Monday Der Spiegel magazine (Germany) with reference to the EU diplomats wrote that the report authors put most of the blame for the start of hostilities in South Ossetia on August 8 2008 on the Georgian leadership and personally on Mikheil Saakashvili - it was he who sanctioned the offensive of the Georgian troops on Tskhinval. But Russia is not innocent either: it is held responsible for "disproportionate reaction" while South Ossetian military units are held liable for shooting onto Georgian villages within the conflict area. The commission came to these conclusions as early as in August - at least then a EU official that took part in the report preparation revealed the document's main conclusions to above mentioned Spiegel.
Georgian authorities were nervous about the Spiegel article. Chairman of parliamentary committee on restoration of Georgia's territorial integrity Shota Malashkhia stated he didn't trust Spiegel's report on Tbilisi's guilt for last year's conflict.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
If Acorn Goes Down, So Might The Military-Industrial Complex?
Here's a shout-out to Ryan Grim who first noted the delicious irony when the House of Representatives last week rammed through a motion to defund Acorn, whose roughly 1,200 chapters serve as advocates for poorer communities. That was the culminating moment after a weeklong orgy of cable hysterics after a couple of undercover conservative activists began posting a series of embarrassing tapes showing Acorn field office reps offering advice how to evade the law. With Republicans smelling blood and Democrats cowering under their seats, the House passed the proposal with broad bipartisan support to strip government funding for the organization. But as Grim noted, the wording in the legislation was so broad that the provision also applies to "any organization that has been charged with breaking federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws, campaign finance laws or filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency. It also applies to any of the employees, contractors or other folks affiliated with a group charged with any of those things." That covers a lot of territory. Turns out the bill was drafted so as to target groups which may have had run-ins similar to those chronicled in the recordings. But let's recall that several big contractors have had run-ins with the law where their employees were charged with fraud. Here's the Federal Contractor Misconduct Database which lists the names of contractors who have histories of misconduct. It's a veritable Who's Who of Corporate America. As the Project On Government Oversight points out, "Lockheed Martin, which has 11 government contract fraud instances, or Northrop Grumman with 9 contract fraud instances including this $325 million False Claims Act settlement from earlier this year." By contrast, Acorn is said to have received a total of $53 million in federal funds since 1994. Bad behavior doesn't excuse other bad behavior but there was no shortage of schadenfreude as the news spread. Liberal bloggers, who had watched with horror as Acorn was turned into Enemy No. 1 by conservative television and talk show hosts, lost no time pointing out the potential contradictions and, well, yes, hypocrisy. On Pacific Views, one blogger pointed out that the courts could reference the list to vet companies in deciding whether it's legal to award them government funds. What's more, the blog noted, if this law only applies to Acorn, it's going to have an impossible time standing up in court. The reason? "Because it would otherwise be a bill of attainder which is explicitly barred by the Constitution." If this plays out as liberal critics of the House vote believe, then the anti-Acorn bill might have the inadvertent effect of forcing the U.S. government to sever ties with most of the big contractors it's worked with for decades. My guess is that the phone lines to Washington are going to be quite busy over the next several days.
Friday, September 25, 2009
PRESS RELEASESeptember, 23 2009
Two Days After Honduran President Returns to Capital, Amnesty International Reports Rise in Police Beatings, Mass Arbitrary Arrests, Closing of Media Outlets, Harassment of Activists Since Coup
Human Rights Organization Cites "Alarming" Incidents, Including Police Tear Gas Attack Monday on Rights Organization in Capital
(New York) -- Amnesty International reported today that police beatings, mass arrests of demonstrators and intimidation of human rights groups have risen sharply in Honduras since the June coup d'etat, including the firing of tear gas at the building of a prominent rights group on Monday with 100 men, women and children inside.
Two days after President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales returned to Honduras following a June coup, Amnesty International warned that fundamental rights and the rule of law in the Central American nation are in grave jeopardy.
According to reports received by Amnesty International on Monday morning, about 15 police officers fired tear gas canisters at the building of the prominent human rights organization COFADEH. Around 100 people, including women and children, were inside the office at the time. Many had come to denounce police abuses during the break up of a demonstration earlier outside the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, where ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has taken refuge.
“The situation in Honduras can only be described as alarming,” said Susan Lee, Americas director at Amnesty International. “The attacks against human rights defenders, suspension of news outlets, beating of demonstrators by the police and ever increasing reports of mass arrests indicate that human rights and the rule of law in Honduras are at grave risk.”
“The only way forward is for the de facto authorities to stop the policy of repression and violence and instead respect the rights of freedom of expression and association,” said Lee. “We also urge the international community to urgently seek a solution, before Honduras sinks even deeper into a human rights crisis.”
Following the break up by police of a mass demonstration outside the Brazilian Embassy yesterday, numerous demonstrators were reported to have been beaten by police and some several hundred detained across the city. Reports also indicated similar scenes of human rights violations across the country.
Amnesty International received information that dozens of protestors were taken to unauthorized detention sites across the capital last night. Although most of those detained have been released, mass arbitrary arrests may make those detained vulnerable to human rights abuses such as ill-treatment, torture or enforced disappearance.
Amnesty International has documented the limits which have been imposed on freedom of expression since the coup d’état, including the closure of media outlets, the confiscation of equipment and physical abuse of journalists and camerapersons covering events. Radio Globo and TV channel 36 yesterday suffered power stoppages or constant interruptions to their transmissions which prevented them from broadcasting.
Background Information Concerns about human rights in Honduras have intensified since the democratically elected President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales was forced from power on June 28 and expelled from the country by a military-backed group of politicians led by Roberto Micheletti, former leader of the National Congress. There has been widespread unrest in the country since the coup d’etat with frequent clashes between the police, military and civilian protestors. At least two people have died after being shot during protests.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Watch Matt Taibbi break down his report on the sad state of health care reform in his blog, Taibblog.
Let's start with the obvious: America has not only the worst but the dumbest health care system in the developed world. It's become a black leprosy eating away at the American experiment — a bureaucracy so insipid and mean and illogical that even our darkest criminal minds wouldn't be equal to dreaming it up on purpose.
The system doesn't work for anyone. It cheats patients and leaves them to die, denies insurance to 47 million Americans, forces hospitals to spend billions haggling over claims, and systematically bleeds and harasses doctors with the specter of catastrophic litigation. Even as a mechanism for delivering bonuses to insurance-company fat cats, it's a miserable failure: Greedy insurance bosses who spent a generation denying preventive care to patients now see their profits sapped by millions of customers who enter the system only when they're sick with incurably expensive illnesses.
The cost of all of this to society, in illness and death and lost productivity and a soaring federal deficit and plain old anxiety and anger, is incalculable — and that's the good news. The bad news is our failed health care system won't get fixed, because it exists entirely within the confines of yet another failed system: the political entity known as the United States of America.
Just as we have a medical system that is not really designed to care for the sick, we have a government that is not equipped to fix actual crises. What our government is good at is something else entirely: effecting the appearance of action, while leaving the actual reform behind in a diabolical labyrinth of ingenious legislative maneuvers.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Sarkozy proposes the joie de vivre index
By John Lichfield in Paris
The official measure of political success should be "revolutionised" to include happiness and well-being as well as growth, President Nicolas Sarkozy suggested today.
The French president said that he would lead a "fight" – starting at the G20 summit at Pittsburgh next week – to remove the "cult of figures" and the "cult of the market" from international definitions of progress and achievement. Related articlesMinister vetoes Elton's adoption plan David Prosser: France offers us all a new perspective
Instead of material growth alone, he said, GDP (gross domestic product) should be expanded to include measures of genuine well-being, such as "leisure time" or the "quality of public service". France would start compiling such figures immediately, he said, and would battle to change the statistical systems used by all international organisations.
President Sarkozy was speaking at the Sorbonne University in Paris after formally accepting a report which he commissioned 20 months ago from a team of left-leaning or unorthodox economists, led by Joseph Stiglitz from the US, Amartya Sen from India and Jean-Paul Fitoussi from France. The report calls for a global "statistical system which goes beyond commercial activity to measure personal well-being."
Mr Sarkozy’s enthusiasm for a softer, less commercial currency of political and economic success may seem out of character. That depends which President Sarkozy you are talking about.
On one hand, there is the Nicolas Sarkozy who was elected in 2007 on a promise that France would "work harder and earn more". The same President Sarkozy recently pushed through legislation to encourage more French shops to open on Sundays. On the other hand, there is the President Sarkozy who announced early last year – before the global financial crisis – that the western world should develop a new "politics of civilisation", based on happiness and conservation, rather than riches and growth.
Since the near collapse of the world banking system a year ago, Mr Sarkozy has been arguing the need to "re-found" capitalism on greener and more "moral" lines. "For years, the official figures have boasted of more and more economic growth," he said yesterday. "It now appears that this growth, by placing the future of the planet in danger, destroys more than it creates? All over the world, people are convinced that we are lying to them, that the figures are false, or worse, faked. Nothing could be more damaging to democracy."
The President was rather vague, however, when it came to describing how a new system of GDH - gross domestic happiness - would work. He suggested that the new figures should include some way of measuring the benefits of leisure time, the quality of public services and also "personal services provided within a family circle". France, the country of the 35-hour week and good but expensive state health care, would score much higher in such an index than, say, Britain or the United States.
President Sarkozy is also planning to pick a more specific fight with other G20 leaders next week. His office let it be known yesterday that he would walk out – repeating his threat at the London G8 summit earlier this year – unless world leaders endorsed his plans for curbs on bankers’ bonuses.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Secret talks aim to heal Afghanistan's political splits
September 19, 2009
Afghan politicians, power-brokers and diplomats are playing a game of intrigue that could broker a compromise to bury the divisive legacy of last month's disputed presidential election.
Western missions in Kabul say the country's destiny will be decided by a recount of hundreds of thousands of suspect votes that could overturn the lead of Hamid Karzai, the incumbent president.
Behind closed doors, however, opposition leaders and foreign envoys are in talks that could boost the influence of technocrats and trim presidential powers.
Yet the participants will have to juggle such an array of ethnic, regional and political factors that any unity government might be less capable of confronting a Taliban insurgency than its predecessor.
"Just imagine that you're taking birds from different species and forcing them to live together in a cage," says Waheed Mojda, a political analyst.
"They are only staying in the cage because they fear the cat - the Taliban."
The west's worry is that disputed polls will trigger a prolonged power struggle while Barack Obama, the US president, is battling to convince Congress to back a counter-insurgency strategy aimed at winning Afghan support.
Evidence of fraud has prompted a UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission to order a partial recount that could invalidate an existing tally that gives Mr Karzai outright victory over Abdullah Abdullah, his main rival.
Yet a second-round run-off might not be feasible before winter snows melt, raising the risk of a vacuum that could be exploited by insurgents.
There is a chance a second round might be held sooner than expected. An official at the Independent Election Commission said staff had been told to ensure they had supplies in case of a run-off. Mr Abdullah and Mr Karzai have both said they believe the complaints process must take its course.
Mr Abdullah, who served Mr Karzai as foreign minister before they fell out, said on Thursday he would not join a coalition. "My point right from the beginning was not to get a post in the government, but rather to bring change ," he said.
The impasse has encouraged manoeuvring by other presidential hopefuls. Sarwar Ahmedzai, who has a strong following in parts of the Pashtun south, says he made a proposal to UN and US diplomats under which Mr Karzai would remain president but create new posts to allow technocrats to oversee security, economic and foreign policy.
Any compromise would need to balance competing ethnic interests in the face of growing alienation in the Pashtun areas, the main theatre of the Taliban insurgency, and discontent among northern minorities who back Mr Abdullah.
Appeasing northern sentiment will also be complex. Analysts say figures such as Ata Mohammed Nur, governor of Balkh province, might wield even more influence than Mr Abdullah, whose friends in Iran and Russia will want a say.
But for Afghans who braved Taliban threats to vote the spectacle of flawed elections giving way to a messy compromise might undermine support for democracy. "We have to have a fair outcome," says Mohammed Qasim Akhgar, editor of Hashte-e-Sobh, a daily newspaper. "Otherwise we'll have to to hold a funeral to bid farewell to democracy."
Additional reporting by Fazel Reshad
Monday, September 21, 2009
Glenn Beck is a great muckraker and loves to delve into the background of people he targets. It is only just then that there should be material dug up on Beck's own background and on the people who influenced him. This article exposes Beck's connections with a right wing oddball name Cleon Skousen. This is from Salon.
Meet the man who changed Glenn Beck's life
By Alexander Zaitchik
Sep. 16, 2009
On Saturday, I spent the afternoon with America's new breed of angry conservative. Up to 75,000 protesters had gathered in Washington on Sept. 12, the day after the eighth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, sporting the now familiar tea-bagger accoutrements of "Don't Tread on Me" T-shirts, Revolutionary War outfits and Obama-the-Joker placards. The male-skewing, nearly all-white throng had come to denounce the president and what they believe is his communist-fascist agenda.
Even if the turnout wasn't the 2 million that some conservatives tried, briefly, to claim, it was still enough to fill the streets near the Capitol. It was also ample testament to the strength of a certain strain of right-wing populist rage and the talking head who has harnessed it. The masses were summoned by Glenn Beck, Fox News host and organizer of the 912 Project, the civic initiative he pulled together six months ago to restore America to the sense of purpose and unity it had felt the day after the towers fell.
In reality, however, the so-called 912ers were summoned to D.C. by the man who changed Beck's life, and that helps explain why the movement is not the nonpartisan lovefest that Beck first sold on air with his trademark tears. Beck has created a massive meet-up for the disaffected, paranoid Palin-ite "death panel" wing of the GOP, those ideologues most susceptible to conspiracy theories and prone to latch on to eccentric distortions of fact in the name of opposing "socialism." In that, they are true disciples of the late W. Cleon Skousen, Beck's favorite writer and the author of the bible of the 9/12 movement, "The 5,000 Year Leap." A once-famous anti-communist "historian," Skousen was too extreme even for the conservative activists of the Goldwater era, but Glenn Beck has now rescued him from the remainder pile of history, and introduced him to a receptive new audience.
Anyone who has followed Beck will recognize the book's title. Beck has been furiously promoting "The 5,000 Year Leap" for the past year, a push that peaked in March when he launched the 912 Project. That month, a new edition of "The 5,000 Year Leap," complete with a laudatory new foreword by none other than Glenn Beck, came out of nowhere to hit No. 1 on Amazon. It remained in the top 15 all summer, holding the No. 1 spot in the government category for months. The book tops Beck's 912 Project "required reading" list, and is routinely sold at 912 Project meetings where guest speakers often use it as their primary source material. At one 912 meet-up I attended in Florida, copies were stacked high on a table against the back wall, available for the 912 nice price of $15. "Don't bother trying to get it at the library," one 912er told me. "The wait list is 40 deep."
What has Beck been pushing on his legions? "Leap," first published in 1981, is a heavily illustrated and factually challenged attempt to explain American history through an unspoken lens of Mormon theology. As such, it is an early entry in the ongoing attempt by the religious right to rewrite history. Fundamentalists want to define the United States as a Christian nation rather than a secular republic, and recasting the Founding Fathers as devout Christians guided by the Bible rather than deists inspired by the French and English philosophers. "Leap" argues that the U.S. Constitution is a godly document above all else, based on natural law, and owes more to the Old and New Testaments than to the secular and radical spirit of the Enlightenment. It lists 28 fundamental beliefs -- based on the sayings and writings of Moses, Jesus, Cicero, John Locke, Montesquieu and Adam Smith -- that Skousen says have resulted in more God-directed progress than was achieved in the previous 5,000 years of every other civilization combined. The book reads exactly like what it was until Glenn Beck dragged it out of Mormon obscurity: a textbook full of aggressively selective quotations intended for conservative religious schools like Utah's George Wythe University, where it has been part of the core freshman curriculum for decades (and where Beck spoke at this year's annual fundraiser).
But more interesting than the contents of "The 5,000 Year Leap," and more revealing for what it says about 912ers and the Glenn Beck Nation, is the book's author. W. Cleon Skousen was not a historian so much as a player in the history of the American far right; less a scholar of the republic than a threat to it. At least, that was the judgment of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, which maintained a file on Skousen for years that eventually totaled some 2,000 pages. Before he died in 2006 at the age of 92, Skousen's own Mormon church publicly distanced itself from the foundation that Skousen founded and that has published previous editions of "The 5,000 Year Leap."
As Beck knows, to focus solely on "The 5,000 Year Leap" is to sell the author short. When he died in 2006 at the age of 92, Skousen had authored more than a dozen books and pamphlets on the Red Menace, New World Order conspiracy, Christian child rearing, and Mormon end-times prophecy. It is a body of work that does much to explain Glenn Beck's bizarre conspiratorial mash-up of recent months, which decries a new darkness at noon and finds strange symbols carefully coded in the retired lobby art of Rockefeller Center. It also suggests that the modern base of the Republican Party is headed to a very strange place.
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Willard Cleon Skousen was born in 1913 to American parents in a small Mormon frontier town in Alberta, Canada. When he was 10 his family moved to California, where he remained until he shipped off to England and Ireland for Mormon missionary work. In 1935, after graduating from a California junior college, the 23-year-old Skousen moved to Washington, where he worked briefly for a New Deal farm agency. He then began a 15-year career with the FBI, also earning a law degree from George Washington University in 1940. His posts at the FBI were largely administrative and clerical in nature, first in Washington and later in Kansas.
After retiring from the FBI in 1951, Skousen joined the faculty of Brigham Young University, the Latter-day Saints university in Utah. He then enjoyed a tumultuous four years as chief of police in Salt Lake City. During his tenure he gained a reputation for cutting crime and ruthlessly enforcing Mormon morals. But Skousen was too earnest by half. The city's ultraconservative mayor, J. Bracken Lee, fired him in 1960 for excessive zeal in raiding private clubs where the Mormon elite enjoyed their cards. "Skousen conducted his office as Chief of Police in exactly the same manner in which the Communists operate their government," Lee wrote to a friend explaining his firing of Skousen. "The man is a master of half-truths. In at least three instances I have proven him to be a liar. He is a very dangerous man [and] one of the greatest spenders of public funds of anyone who ever served in any capacity in Salt Lake City government."
During his stint as police chief, Skousen began laying the groundwork for his future career as a professional anti-communist. He published a bestselling expose-slash-history called "The Naked Communist." In the late '50s, America's far right began to bubble with organizations peddling stories about the true state of the Red Menace. Groups like the Church League of America and the John Birch Society organized to channel, feed and satisfy Cold War paranoia. Members of these groups were the original postwar "domestic right-wing extremist threat." Then as now, they were very much on the government's radar.
After his firing from the police force, Skousen became a star on the profitable far-right speakers circuit. He worked for both the Bircher-operated American Opinion Speakers Bureau and Fred Schwarz's Christian Anti-Communism Crusade. The two groups competed in describing ever more terrifying threats posed by America's enemies, foreign and domestic. As the scenarios became more and more outlandish, the feds grew concerned. In an internal memo, the FBI described Skousen's friend and employer Fred Schwarz as "an opportunist," the likes of which "are largely responsible for misinforming people and stirring them up emotionally ... Schwartz [sic] and others like him can only do the country and the anticommunist work of the Bureau harm."
How did Skousen become an expert on communism? He claimed, as his apologists still do, that his years with the FBI exposed him to inside information. He also boasted that he worked closely with J. Edgar Hoover. But both claims are open to question. Skousen's work at the Bureau was largely administrative, according to Ernie Lazar, an independent researcher of the far right who has examined Skousen's nearly 2,000-page FBI file. "Skousen never worked in [the domestic intelligence division] and he never had significant exposure to data concerning communist matters," says Lazar.
Skousen also trumpeted the insight he says he gained researching "The Naked Communist." But this research was as shaky as his résumé. Among the theories Skousen charged a healthy fee to discuss was the alleged treason of FDR advisor Harry Hopkins. According to Skousen, Hopkins gave the Soviets "50 suitcases" worth of info on the Manhattan Project, along with nearly half of the nation's supply of enriched uranium. This he told thousands of audiences across the country, sometimes giving five speeches a day.
When Skousen's books started popping up in the nation's high-school classrooms, panicked school board officials wrote the FBI asking if Skousen was reliable. The Bureau's answer was an exasperated and resounding "no." One 1962 FBI memo notes, "During the past year or so, Skousen has affiliated himself with the extreme right-wing 'professional communists' who are promoting their own anticommunism for obvious financial purposes." Skousen's "The Naked Communist," said the Bureau official, is "another example of why a sound, scholarly textbook on communism is urgently and badly needed."
Two years on the circuit made Skousen a nationally known figure. Aligned with the Birchers and Schwarz, he also founded his own Utah-based far-right organization, the All-American Society. Here's how Time magazine described the outfit in a December 1961 feature on what it called the "rightwing ultras":
The All-American Society, founded in Salt Lake City, has as its guiding light one of the busiest speakers in the rightist movement: W. Cleon Skousen, a balding, bespectacled onetime FBI man who hit the anti-Communist circuit in earnest in 1960 after being fired from his job as Salt Lake City's police chief ("He operated the police department like a Gestapo," says Salt Lake City's conservative Mayor J. Bracken Lee). Skousen freely quotes the Bible, constantly plugs his book, The Naked Communist, [and] presses for a full congressional investigation of the State Department.
By 1963, Skousen's extremism was costing him. No conservative organization with any mainstream credibility wanted anything to do with him. Members of the ultraconservative American Security Council kicked him out because they felt he had "gone off the deep end." One ASC member who shared this opinion was William C. Mott, the judge advocate general of the U.S. Navy. Mott found Skousen "money mad ... totally unqualified and interested solely in furthering his own personal ends."
When Skousen aligned himself with Robert Welch's charge that Dwight Eisenhower was a "dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy," the last of Skousen's dwindling corporate clients dumped him. The National Association of Manufacturers released a statement condemning the Birchers and distancing itself from "any individual or party" that subscribed to their views. Skousen, author of a pamphlet titled "The Communist Attack on the John Birch Society," was the nation's most prominent Birch defender.
Skousen laid low for much of the '60s. But he reemerged at the end of the decade peddling a new and improved conspiracy that merged left with right: the global capitalist mega-plot of the "dynastic rich." Families like the Rockefellers and the Rothschilds, Skousen now believed, used left forces -- from Ho Chi Minh to the American civil rights movement -- to serve their own power.
In 1969, a 1,300-page book started appearing in faculty mailboxes at Brigham Young, where Skousen was back teaching part-time. The book, written by a Georgetown University historian named Carroll Quigley, was called "Tragedy and Hope." Inside each copy, Skousen inserted handwritten notes urging his colleagues to read the book and embrace its truth. "Tragedy and Hope," Skousen believed, exposed the details of what would come to be known as the New World Order (NWO). Quigley's book so moved Skousen that in 1970 he self-published a breathless 144-page review essay called "The Naked Capitalist." Nearly 40 years later, it remains a foundational document of America's NWO conspiracy and survivalist scene (which includes Skousen's nephew Joel).
In "The Naked Communist," Skousen had argued that the communists wanted power for their own reasons. In "The Naked Capitalist," Skousen argued that those reasons were really the reasons of the dynastic rich, who used front groups to do their dirty work and hide their tracks. The purpose of liberal internationalist groups such as the Council on Foreign Relations, argued Skousen, was to push "U.S. foreign policy toward the establishment of a world-wide collectivist society." Skousen claimed the Anglo-American banking establishment had a long history of such activity going back to the Bolshevik Revolution. He substantiated this claim by citing the work of a former Czarist army officer named Arsene de Goulevitch. Among Goulevitch's own sources is Boris Brasol, a pro-Nazi Russian émigré who provided Henry Ford with the first English translation of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion."
"The Naked Capitalist" does not seem like a text that would be part of the required reading list on any reputable college campus, but some BYU professors taught it out of allegiance to Skousen. Terrified, the editors of Dialogue: The Journal of Mormon Thought invited "Tragedy and Hope" author Carroll Quigley to comment on Skousen's interpretation of his work. They also asked a highly respected BYU history professor named Louis C. Midgley to review Skousen's latest pamphlet. Their judgment was not kind. In the Autumn/Winter 1971 issue of Dialogue, the two men accused Skousen of "inventing fantastic ideas and making inferences that go far beyond the bounds of honest commentary." Skousen not only saw things that weren't in Quigley's book, they declared, he also missed what actually was there -- namely, a critique of ultra-far-right conspiracists like Willard Cleon Skousen.
"Skousen's personal position," wrote a dismayed Quigley, "seems to me perilously close to the 'exclusive uniformity' which I see in Nazism and in the Radical Right in this country. In fact, his position has echoes of the original Nazi 25-point plan."
Skousen was unbowed. In 1971, he founded the Freeman Institute, a research organization devoted to the study of the super-conspiracy directed by the Rockefellers and the Rothschilds. (The institute later changed its name to the National Center for Constitutional Studies, which has offices in Malta, Idaho, and continues to publish Skousen's books, including Glenn Beck's favorite work of history, "The 5,000 Year Leap.")
By the end of the 1970s, the death of Skousen's biggest allies within the Mormon church hierarchy cleared the way for an official disavowal of his work. In 1979, LDS church president Spencer W. Kimball issued an order to every Mormon clergyman in the U.S. stating "no announcements should be made in Church meetings of Freemen Institute lectures or events that are not under the sponsorship of the Church. [This] is to make certain that neither Church facilities nor Church meetings are used to advertise such events and to avoid any implication that the Church endorses what is said during such lectures."
Skousen may have been too extreme for the Quorum of the Twelve in Salt Lake City, but he soon found rehabilitation on the intellectual margins of Reagan's Washington. In 1980, Skousen was appointed to the newly founded Council for National Policy, a think tank that brought together leading religious conservatives and served as the unofficial brain trust of the new administration. At the Council, Skousen distinguished himself by becoming an early proponent of privatizing Social Security. He also formed relationships with other evangelical church leaders and aligned the LDS church with an increasingly religious GOP.
"Skousen worked to change Mormonism from a new and unique American-born faith into an evangelical form of fundamentalist Christianity," says Rob Lauer, a leader of the Reform Mormonism movement. "By arguing that biblical principles were the basis of the U.S. government, he was among those most responsible for the LDS church becoming part of the religious right political establishment over the past 25 years."
In 1981, Skousen published "The 5,000 Year Leap," the book for which, thanks to Beck, he is now best known. But it wasn't that Skousen book that made the biggest headline in the 1980s. Toward the end of Reagan's second term, Skousen became the center of a minor controversy when state legislators in California approved the official use of another of his books, the 1982 history text "The Making of America." Besides bursting with factual errors, Skousen's book characterized African-American children as "pickaninnies" and described American slave owners as the "worst victims" of the slavery system. Quoting the historian Fred Albert Shannon, "The Making of America" explained that "[slave] gangs in transit were usually a cheerful lot, though the presence of a number of the more vicious type sometimes made it necessary for them all to go in chains."
Skousen spent the 1990s in semi-retirement. He spoke occasionally around the country and welcomed visiting politicians to his Salt Lake City home on Berkeley Street. His death in January 2006 was little noticed outside Mormon circles. If LDS members debated his legacy, it was in mostly hushed tones. But by then, he was already poised for a posthumous revival.
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Glenn Beck's first public reference to anything Skousen seems to have occurred in 2003. In his memoir-cum-manifesto, "The Real America," was a chapter titled "The Enemy Within." It consisted of a list titled "Communist Goals of 1963." The list was originally published in Skousen's 1958 book "The Naked Communist," and was submitted to the Congressional Record by Florida Rep. Albert Herlong Jr., whom Beck identifies as the author. Beck asked readers of "The Real America" to ponder Skousen's list, then "check off" those goals already achieved by America's new enemies within. Replacing communists in Beck's view: "liberals, special-interest groups, [and] the ACLU."
It would be another few years before Beck really started boosting for Skousen's books. Apparently, around about 2007, a friend of Beck's sent him "The 5,000 Year Leap." In the column linked here, Canadian newspaper columnist Nigel Hannaford says the friend was a Toronto lawyer. Paul Skousen, Skousen's son, endorsed the outlines of the tale to Salon by e-mail, without giving dates: "As I understand it, Glenn Beck was given a copy of FYL by a friend in Canada. When Beck read it, suddenly the effusive and disembodied principles of freedom that he had been trying to dig up and put together all came together and he could make sense of them. He was so excited about the clarity it brought that he began mentioning it on his show."
Whatever the circumstances, Beck really began touting Skousen in the latter half of 2007. The first brief mention of Skousen in the online archives of Beck's radio show is Sept. 24, 2007. Less than two months later, Beck interviewed conservative pundit David Horowitz on his radio program. He asked him, "Have you ever read any Skousen? Have you read -- do you remember 'The Naked Communist'? I went back and reread that, it was printed in the 1950s. I reread that recently. You look at all the things the communists wanted to accomplish. It's all been done." Horowitz agreed.
The very next week, Bill Bennett appeared on Beck's radio program and received the same question. "Are you familiar with Skousen?" asked Beck. When Bennett replied yes, Beck gushed. "He's fantastic," he said. "I went back and I read 'The Naked Communist' and at the end of that Skousen predicted [that] someday soon you won't be able to find the truth in schools or in libraries or anywhere else because it won't be in print anymore. So you must collect those books. It's an idea I read from Cleon Skousen from his book in the 1950s, 'The Naked Communist,' and where he talked about someday the history of this country's going to be lost because it's going to be hijacked by intellectuals and communists and everything else. And I think we're there."
Beck continued to mention the book during 2008, but his Skousen obsession really kicked in as the 912 concept began to take shape. Even before Obama's inauguration, Beck had a game plan for a movement with Skousen at the center. On his Dec. 18, 2008, radio show, one month before Obama took office, Beck introduced his audience to the idea of a "September twelfth person."
"The first thing you could do," he said, "is get 'The 5,000 Year Leap.' Over my book or anything else, get 'The 5,000 Year Leap.' You can probably find it in the book section of GlennBeck.com, but read that. It is the principle. Please, No. 1 thing: Inform yourself about who we are and what the other systems are all about. 'The 5,000 Year Leap' is the first part of that. Because it will help you understand American free enterprise … Make that dedication of becoming a Sept. 12 person and I will help you do it next year."
By then, the Skousen family was ready to respond to the Beck-inspired demand. "We as a family," Paul Skousen told Salon, "were preparing to publish another edition, so I contacted his office with the request that Glenn write a foreword. He was gracious and kind and did just that. That is the version we're now publishing.
According to James Pratt of PowerThink Publishing, publishers of the new 30th anniversary edition of "Leap," which has the Beck foreword, it was intended to replace the version that the Beck show was already touting via links on its Web site. Pratt claimed in an e-mail to Salon that the previous version was not authorized by the family. "It was presumed by Mr. Beck and staff that copyright authority was in effect with that edition, and as an author I must say, I had also assumed the same thing ... I was more than a little surprised this was going on, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of copies."
PowerThink secured the agreement of the Skousen family to create the current edition of "The 5,000 Year Leap," which was first published on March 1, 2009. Pratt says that a federal lawsuit "is in process, to secure the copyright authority in an 'authoritative' way" to stop anyone but PowerThink from publishing the book.
In March, with the new book available, Beck invited Skousen's nephew Mark onto his Fox show, where the two men discussed splitting up the United States. (Mark would later say that between commercials, Beck told him that a friend had sent him "Leap" and that the book "changed his life.") A week later, Beck issued his famously maudlin announcement introducing the 912 Project. The teary-eyed performance was accompanied by a clarion call for all 912ers to buy " Leap." "I beg you to read this book filled with words of wisdom which I can only describe as divinely inspired," wrote Beck in his introduction to a recent edition. The result has been a publishing earthquake: More than 250,000 copies have been sold in the first half of 2009. James Pratt, the book's publisher, says Beck "has done more to bring the work of Dr. Skousen to light than any other individual in America today."
"The 5,000 Year Leap" is not the only Skousen title to find new life on the 912 circuit. The president of the National Center for Constitutional Studies, Dr. Earl Taylor Jr., is currently touring the country offering daylong seminars to 912 chapters based on Skousen's "Making of America." For $25, participants will receive a bagged lunch and stories about America's religious Founders and their happy slaves. An ad for Taylor's "Making of America" seminar, currently featured on the Web site of the Tampa 912 Project, claims that Skousen's book is "considered a great masterpiece to Constitutional students [and is] the 'granddaddy' of all books on the United States Constitution."
Like so much declaimed by W. Cleon Skousen and his 21st century acolyte Glenn Beck, this last statement is fantasy. But it is also a profitable and popular one. In coming to terms with a movement that has an ever more tenuous relationship with accepted fact, we relearn that perennial lesson grasped even by J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. Fantasies can have serious consequences.
-- By Alexander Zaitchik
Sunday, September 20, 2009
While the remarks in this article about people being reluctant to express support for others than Ahmadinejad no doubt have some degree of validity, it seems clear that many supporters of the opposition are quite willing to go to much greater risk than just answering a survey in order to make their opinions known! They have demonstrated when demonstrations have been banned. Notice how the article relates every possible way that the poll could be skewed!
This poll along with polls before the election also by foreign pollsters show that Ahmadinejad probably did win even though there was some manipulation and fraud on the part of his supporters.
New Poll Finds Strong Domestic Support for Iran Regime
Posted By Jim Lobe
Despite persistent mass demonstrations protesting June’s disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a new survey of Iranian public opinion released here Saturday suggests majority domestic support for both him and the country’s basic governing institutions.
Four out of five of the 1,003 Iranian respondents interviewed in the survey released by WorldPublicOpinion.org (WPO), a project of the highly respected Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) of the University of Maryland, said they considered Ahmadinejad to be the legitimate president of Iran.
Sixty-two percent of respondents said they had "a lot of confidence" in the declared election results, which gave Ahmadinejad 62.6 percent of the vote within hours of the polls’ closing Jun. 12 and which were swiftly endorsed by the Islamic Republic’s Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Three of four respondents said Khamenei had reacted correctly in his endorsement.
Opposition candidates and their supporters contested the official results, setting off mass protests centered in Tehran. At least 30 people were reported killed and thousands more arrested by the regime’s paramilitary and security forces in the days and weeks that followed in what most analysts consider the most serious domestic challenge to the Islamic Republic in its 30-year history.
The new poll, which was conducted Aug. 27-Sep. 10 by native Farsi speakers who interviewed respondents by telephone from outside Iran, also found that 63 percent of respondents favor restoring diplomatic relations with the United States; 18 percent said they "strongly" favor renewing ties; 43 percent said they favored it "somewhat."
Twenty percent said they "strongly favored" engaging in "full, unconditional negotiations" between Tehran and Washington, while 40 percent said they favored such talks "somewhat."
While a majority still backs such talks, however, the latest results showed some flagging of enthusiasm. As recently as four months ago, another survey group, Terror Free Tomorrow (TFT), found that 40 percent of respondents "strongly favored" such talks, and 20 percent "somewhat."
The new survey also found widespread skepticism about U.S. intentions. Three out of four respondents said the U.S. "definitely" (57 percent) or "probably" (18 percent) wanted to "impose American culture on Muslim society". Similar percentages said Washington’s goals included "maintain(ing) control over the oil resources of the Middle East" and "weaken(ing) and divid(ing) the Islamic world."
While Barack Obama found significantly more favor among respondents than his predecessor, George W. Bush, did in a similar poll conducted by WPO 18 months ago, nearly six in 10 told interviewers they had "no confidence at all" in the new U.S. president "to do the right thing regarding world affairs."
And despite widely hailed efforts by Obama to reassure Muslims worldwide about U.S. intentions – notably in speeches in Istanbul and Cairo and in a special Nowruz greeting for Iranians – a similar percentage of respondents said they believed that he "does not respect Islam."
"While the majority of Iranian people are ready to do business with Obama, they show little trust in him," said Steven Kull, WPO’s director.
The new survey – the first since the Jun. 12 elections by a major U.S. polling organization– comes at a critical moment both within Iran, where renewed protests involving tens of thousands of opposition supporters broke out during the annual Qods (Jerusalem) Day demonstrations in Tehran Friday – and in relations between Tehran and the major western powers, including the United States.
The WPO survey, however, casts serious doubt on the latter assumption, in particular. In addition to the broad acceptance of Ahmadinejad as the "legitimate president", the poll found a relatively high degree of confidence in the country’s main governing institutions.
Nearly three out of four respondents, for example, expressed either "a lot" (38 percent) or "some confidence" (34 percent) in the Ministry of Interior, which ran the election; 85 percent expressed either "a lot" (64 percent) or "some" (21 percent) confidence" in Ahmadinejad himself; and 83 percent expressed "a lot" (52 percent) or "some" (31 percent) confidence in the police. Six in 10 said they were comfortable with the extent of Khamenei’s power.
And about eight in ten respondents said they were either "very" or "somewhat satisfied" with the process by which the authorities are elected" in Iran – an increase of 22 percent over another WPO survey taken in February 2008. Two-thirds of respondents said they considered the June election to be "completely free and fair."
Some Iran specialists here suggested that the high approval and confidence in the government and the elections expressed in the survey could be explained by fear of retaliation, particularly in light of the regime’s harsh crackdown against the opposition throughout the summer.
"If I were in Iran and someone called me to ask those direct questions, I would be leery of answering them honestly or directly," said Farideh Farhi, an Iran scholar at the University of Hawaii. "I have to ask whether fear may have been a factor in the results."
Indeed, as noted by PIPA’s director, Stephen Kull, the refusal of one out of four respondents to say whom they voted for in the election was an "extremely high number" and "…suggests that people have some discomfort with this topic". Given that discomfort, he said, "the findings on voting preference are not a solid basis for estimating the actual vote."
Fifty-five percent of respondents said they voted for Ahmadinejad; 14 percent said they voted for former Prime Minister Mir Hussein Mousavi; and a total of four percent said they voted for the two other candidates, Mohsen Rezaei and Mehdi Karroubi.
Asked for whom they would vote if the election were repeated, 49 percent of respondents chose Ahmadinejad; eight percent, Mousavi; and three percent, Rezaei and Karroubi. Thirteen percent said they would not vote, while 26 percent said they didn’t know (seven percent) or refused to answer (19 percent).
Gary Sick, an Iran expert at Columbia, agreed that fear could have played a role in the survey results but suggested that the ability of the regime to control information consumed by the general public – as opposed to elite sectors where strong divisions have clearly emerged since the election – "is greater than we given them credit for."
"A lot of the (survey) results look like they could have been scripted by the regime," he told IPS. "You can read it one of two ways: either people are afraid to say things that could get them into trouble, or it could simply be that’s what they’re told day in and day out through public media, and that’s where they get most of their information."
While about 69 percent of respondents said they lived in urban areas, only one in five said they accessed the Internet at least once a week or followed radio and satellite broadcasts of BBC or Voice of America.
Sick also suggested that the poll’s use of telephone landlines may have resulted in an under-representation of the more "plugged in, younger generation" that relies much more heavily on cellphones.
Read more by Jim Lobe
•Obama Confronts Democratic Skepticism About Afghanistan – September 15th, 2009
•US Tightens Screws on Honduras – July 28th, 2009
•Obama Wins Big Victory on Defense – July 22nd, 2009
•New, Old Weapons Systems Never Die – July 17th, 2009
•Clinton Seeks ‘Multi-Partner World,’ Warns Iran on Time – July 15th, 2009
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