Saturday, December 22, 2007


A couple of stories I've noticed the past couple of days that are related...

First, a story about a study which shows that airline security is more about control than safety:

Airport security lines can annoy passengers, but there is no evidence that they make flying any safer, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday.
A team at the Harvard School of Public Health could not find any studies showing whether the time-consuming process of X-raying carry-on luggage prevents hijackings or attacks.
They also found no evidence to suggest that making passengers take off their shoes and confiscating small items prevented any incidents.

Since there's no evidence that such "security" measures increase safety, then I'm sure such practices will be discontinued, right? Fat chance of that. It's like Alex Jones often says--the point was never to keep us "safe," the point is to inure us to being searched, to get us used to being subjected to pointless, petty invasions of our privay and submitting to authority for no good reason.

This is how a police state is created--slowly, gradually, almost imperceptibly, until the police feel they no longer need the subtlety. And the police state feels no need to justify itself, as the article points out:

"The U.S. Transportation Security Administration told research teams requesting information their need for quick new security measures trumped the usefulness of evaluating them, Eleni Linos, Elizabeth Linos, and Graham Colditz reported in the British Medical Journal."

Basically, the police state says, our "security measures" are effective because we say so. Even if they obviously aren't effective.

So we'll just scan everyone's face!

And that leads us right into the FBI's gigantic new biometric database!

"The FBI is embarking on a $1 billion effort to build the world's largest computer database of peoples' physical characteristics, a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad."

My, how safe we'll be when we can all be tracked to the four corners of the earth!

Think that such a system would only be used on "terrorists?" Think again:

"But the FBI is planning a "rap-back" service, under which employers could ask the FBI to keep employees' fingerprints in the database, subject to state privacy laws, so that if that employees are ever arrested or charged with a crime, the employers would be notified."

Why might one be arrested? For participating in an antiwar demonstration, maybe? Why should one's employer be notified of that? Why should the government be telling employers such things? Would an employer be notified if one were charged with the crime of speeding or running a stop sign? What is the employer supposed to do with such information, anyway? Penalize an employee? What the hell is going on here?

Think the FBI won't abuse this database? Anybody remember the national security letter debacle? Let's refresh our memory:

"An internal FBI audit has found that the bureau potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years, far more than was documented in a Justice Department report in March that ignited bipartisan congressional criticism."

Speaking of abuse of power--J. Edgar Hoover's mass arrest proposal!

Speaking of the FBI and abuse of power, how's about this from ol' Queen Hoover:

A newly declassified document shows that J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had a plan to suspend habeas corpus and imprison some 12,000 Americans he suspected of disloyalty.

Though this Hoover letter is from 1950, it sounds awfully familiar:

"For a long period of time the FBI has been accumulating the names, identities and activities of individuals found to be potentially dangerous to the internal security through investigation. These names have been compiled in an index which index has been kept up to date. The names in this index are the ones that have been furnished to the Department of Justice and will be attached to the master warrant referred to above. This master warrant will, therefore, serve as legal authority for the FBI to cause the apprehension and detention of the individuals maintained in this index."

No-Fly List, anyone? Hoover only had 12,000 "potentially dangerous" people on his list? What, was he soft on terror or something? The no-fly list has at least 20,000 people on it.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Here's an incredible story from ABC News:

A leader of the CIA team that captured the first major al Qaeda figure, Abu Zubaydah, says subjecting him to waterboarding was torture but necessary.

In the first public comment by any CIA officer involved in handling high-value al Qaeda targets, John Kiriakou, now retired, said the technique broke Zubaydah in less than 35 seconds.

"The next day, he told his interrogator that Allah had visited him in his cell during the night and told him to cooperate," said Kiriakou in an interview to be broadcast tonight on ABC News' "World News With Charles Gibson" and "Nightline."

"From that day on, he answered every question," Kiriakou said. "The threat information he provided disrupted a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks."

That last sentence is the one the Bush administration wants us to focus on. Supposedly because Zubaydah "answered every question," terror attacks were averted. Predictably, Kiriakou does not offer even one specific instance of a terror attack being thwarted because Zubaydah was tortured.

If one reads the ABC transcript, one sees that Brian Ross tries to get Kiriakou to give specifics about what terror attacks may have been thwarted. For example:

And in terms of the actual planned future attacks?
Yeah, we disrupted a lot of them.
And he knew about them?
He knew about some. But like I say, it was time-sensitive information. So that-- that wound down over time.
And the ones that he knew about, were they on US soil? Were they in Pakistan?
You know, I was out of it by then. I had moved onto a new job. And I-- I don't recall. To the best of my recollection, no, they weren't on US soil. They were overseas. (pp. 19-20)

So Kiriakou claims ignorance about specific terror attacks because by then he'd moved on to other missions. But, as far as he can recall, the attacks that were supposedly stopped by torturing Zubaydah weren't even on U.S. soil--they were overseas!. Isn't that interesting? So Kiriakou wants to assure us that torture works and that the United States is safer because we torture people who tell us about terror attacks...that aren't on U.S. soil!

Kiriakou then reveals that all the gradually intensifying torture techniques were specifically authorized by the higher-ups in the CIA; the interrogators sought and received approval from CIA headquarters to take it up a notch. Oh, but they weren't worried about killing Zubaydah because there was always a doctor in the room. And you know that doctors are taught to "first, do no harm..."

"Al Qaeda is not like a World War Two German POW"

Kiriakou then tells Ross that he feels torture was necessary, and that he didn't have weeks or months to play chess with Zubaydah like captured Germans in WWII. He says that "al Qaeda is not like a World War Two German POW. It's a different world."

I would agree with that assessment. For example, Germany had actually invaded and conquered several countries. They methodically killed 6 million Jews with the assistance of IBM (the Nazis were also financed in part by several Americans, including George W. Bush's grandfather). Al Qaeda has done nothing of the sort. At their worst, al Qaeda killed a few thousand Americans on one day--if you believe the official story, which most Americans do not.

So yeah, I can see why we have to torture a much weaker enemy that has no army, hasn't conquered a single country, hasn't killed anywhere near 6 million Jews, etc.

Really an amazing interview...So much I don't have time or energy to go into it all, but Kiriakou goes on to say that once Zubaydah was broken, they'd go bounce info off of him for him to confirm or refute. And I'm sure Zubaydah always told them the truth and provided "actionable intelligence." That's how they found Osama bin Laden and captured...him...

Oh wait, Osama still hasn't been captured, has he...Ohhh riiiight...bin Laden hasn't been captured yet because torture is so necessary and so effective...Give me a break.

Ross opens part 2 of the transcript with a question about whether or not Zubaydah knew the whereabouts of bin Laden, and guess what, Zubaydah hadn't seen ol' Osama in months. How very convenient--he knew all about terror attacks on foreign soil but had no clue where to find or who to talk to about where to find Bush's favorite bogeyman.

Other random observations from the first part of the transcript

Tenet had a trauma surgeon sent to Pakistan specifically for the purpose of treating Zubaydah who had been shot three times during his capture. So basically we revived a guy (Kiriakou says in the ABC transcript that Zubaydah "almost died") so we could torture him to a point just before death. We almost killed him once when capturing him and then again after we used taxpayer money to make sure he didn't die from gunshot wounds.

In the ABC transcript, Kiriakou tells Brian Ross that when Zubaydah awoke from his coma (resulting from the first time we tried to kill him), Kiriakou said "We have plans for you." I wonder if what Kiriakou really said was "Ve haf vays to make you talk," but he didn't want to tell Ross or the American public that.

Kiriakou expresses surprise that Zubaydah is actually a very friendly person who spoke very good English and even wrote poetry and debated the merits of his religion. You know, a normal person.

Ross asks Kiriakou if Zubaydah talked about 9/11 and Kiriakou says he did. Interestingly, Kiriakou never indicates that Zubaydah took credit for 9/11. Apparently Zubaydah only said that 9/11 was "necessary," according to the ABC transcript.

A letter titled "Mississippi flag represents hate" appeared in my local paper yesterday.

Most posters to the forum thought that the symbols in the flag were/are essentially meaningless and that the flag doesn't stand for hate. I of course submitted that it does. I even wrote a song about it that appeared on my band Buffalo Nickel's first album "Up On Blocks" back in 2002. The song is called "Take Down The Rebel Flag" and here's a sampling of the lyrics:

"The Southern Cross sure looks great to some southern natives
Like a swastika makes a Nazi feel alive
Some of us just can't relate to a flapping symbol of endless hate
Hey, the Civil War ended in 1865
Take down the rebel flag
Burn it instead of crosses
Let's cut our losses
And take down the rebel flag"

Causes of Secession

Anyway, the conversation on the forum got me to doing some research, and I ran across a document called "A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union." I graduated with a Bachelor's degree in history from the University of Southern Mississippi and took a course in Mississippi history from one of the foremost scholars on the subject, John Gonzales (R.I.P.). But I don't think I'd ever read that document before.

This document so easily puts to rest the faux-sophisticate argument that the southern states didn't really fight the war over slavery, but instead fought it over some high-minded, esoteric, principles about economics and state's rights. Actually, that's kind of true, but slavery was at the heart of the matter, at least where Mississippi was concerned, and they said so very plainly in their "declaration of independence" from the Union. Here's an excerpt:

"Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun.

These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin."

Argument over. The Civil War was about slavery.

My Forum Posts About This Topic

Count me as one who thinks symbols matter and thinks the Mississippi flag is a disgrace. I'm white, my ancestors fought for the Confederacy, etc.--and I find the Confederate flag portion of the state flag both embarrassing and purposely provocative and divisive.

There are plenty of other symbols representative of Mississippi's heritage that are inclusive and positive. We could have a book, a guitar, a microphone or all three to symbolize this state's immortal contributions to literature and music. Or just have a white flag with a single blue eighth note to symbolize the fact that blues, country, and rock 'n' roll all came from here.

Why is it such a tribute to Mississippi's heritage that the state withdrew from the union less than 50 years after joining it in order to defend the institution of slavery? Don't believe that Mississippi's motive in secession had everything to do with continuing slavery? Ever read Mississippi's "Causes For Secession" document? If not, here's an excerpt:

"Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun.

These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin."

Brilliant, inspiring stuff, huh--"a blow at slavery is a blow at...civilization"? Does that sound like something we should be "celebrating" almost 150 years after the defeat of the movement that produced this kind of evil thinking? To me, it doesn't. Oh, and just because all races may have been slaves at one time or another or in one place or another doesn't mean that arguing for the preservation of slavery and/or actually preserving slavery isn't evil.

Would that make a good present-day slogan for Mississippi--"a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization"--you know, something harmless like that? What's the big deal? It's just "our heritage." Heritage is harmless and should be celebrated and promoted without qualification, right?

Give me a break--take down the rebel flag!

In response to this post--"I would suggest he and others on here look up the old "Black Laws" enacted by many Northern states before the Civil War. The library has many books on this and of course, you can find anyting now on the internet. Maybe he should accept history for what it is, learn from it and move on. It's amazing........the northern "free states" hated blacks as well. Who knew?"--I wrote the following:

No one is denying that prejudice against blacks existed and still exists everywhere in the U.S., even in the north. However, the point being made in this thread is that Mississippi, as of 2003, is the only state that incorporates the Confederate flag into its state flag.

Given that fact, is it merely coincidental that we are also the only state that:

-has the lowest percentage of people who've completed high school (including equivalency)

-has the lowest median household income

-has the lowest median family income

-is the state with the highest percentage of children below the poverty level (Washington D.C. has a higher percentage but isn't a state--but seems to be considered a state for the purposes of the census...even so...)

-has the highest percentage of people 65 and over below the poverty level

And so on. Our glorious yet benign heritage at work!!! Let us celebrate it with great fervor, shall we?

And the last one...

I merely suggested that the flag and the sorry state of affairs in MS may be related...

The chain of causation if the two things were related might go like this:

-Slavery exists in MS
-Slavery in MS threatened
-MS leaves union to maintain slavery
-MS is on the losing side
-MS forced to free slaves
-MS resents this
-MS determined to keep former slaves and their descendants down
-MS largely succeeds in that effort with overt Jim Crow policies; Confederate flag incorporated into state flag, symbolizing success of Jim Crow
-Policies of oppression create a large underclass
-Underclass creates burden on state economy
-MS forced to stop keeping down former slaves and their descendants
-Underclass persists and grows through covert, subtle, neo-Jim Crow means; state given opportunity to change symbol--rejects change
-MS continues to rank at or near bottom of lists of most good things, at or near top of lists of most bad things

The state flag is not the cause of the state's societal ills, obviously. But the mentality that keeps the Confederate flag on the state flag IS the cause of the state's societal ills. That's my argument.

That very interesting question was asked today on the forum of my local paper. I posted the following answer...

1) It goes against what Bush wants, i.e., some sort of conflict with Iran. If the recent NIE had said that there was "high confidence" that Iran was working on nuclear weapons, it would have been seen as merely being what Bush wanted to hear. Since the NIE said the opposite of what Bush wanted to hear, it seems more trustworthy.

2) Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, under which it is allowed to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Since Iran in fact ratified the treaty before the U.S. did, it seems likely that Iran is in fact developing nuclear energy only for peaceful purposes.

3) Iran is aware that the U.S. military is sitting right across the border in Iraq (and special ops-type troops have been reported to be in Iran) and Afghanistan--the U.S. already has Iran boxed in to the east and the west. They know that if they were found to be developing nuclear weapons, they'd have a real problem on their hands.

4) Iran has been enduring IAEA inspections and made good-faith efforts to be transparent, even letting the IAEA visit their heavy-water reactor at Arak in July of this year.

5) The U.S. intelligence community knows it's under scrutiny and has every incentive to get it right with regard to Iran.

And so on. That's why the Iran intel seems trustworthy. Also, I should point out that before we invaded Iraq, we had a very intrusive inspection regime being imposed on that country under the threat of war. The inspectors on the ground before the war never found any WMD and said so before our invasion. And that's why the Iran NIE is trustworthy.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


On January 13, 2006, Bush said the following about Iran:

"Countries such as ours have a great obligation to step up, working together to send a message to the Iranians that their behavior, trying to clandestinely develop a nuclear weapon, or using the guise of a civilian nuclear program to attain a nuclear weapon, is unacceptable."

The latest NIE on Iran now tells us that Iran suspended the pursuit of nuclear weapons in 2003, the same year that Iran approached the U.S. about opening a dialogue, which the Bush administration rebuffed.

Oh, but the Bushies will protest that at the beginning of 2006, Bush was merely acting on info in the 2005 Iran NIE, which suggested with "high confidence" that Iran was "determined to develop nuclear weapons." So Bush wasn't really lying, Bushies will say, because he was being told that Iran had a rabid desire to get nuclear weapons.

There are several problems with this line of thinking. One, Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, unlike our good buddies Israel and India--both of which do in fact have nuclear weapons. In fact, Iran has been a signatory to the NNPT for as long as the U.S. has, since July 1, 1968. Iran ratified the treaty a month sooner than the U.S. did. So technically, Iran agreed to the NNPT before the U.S.

As fellow signatories and earlier ratifiers of the NNPT, Iran is entitled to production of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Ever since being elected president of Iran, Ahmadinejad has maintained that Iran's nuclear program was for peaceful purposes:

"Iran's peaceful technology is the outcome of the scientific achievements of Iran's youth. We need the peaceful nuclear technology for energy, medical and agricultural purposes and our scientific progress. We will continue this," the ultraconservative Ahmadinejad said."

The above quote is from August 2005, several months before Bush openly declared Iran to be pursuing a nuclear weapon.

So here we have at least two major indications that Iran doesn't want a nuclear weapon, but Bush chooses to be a bully.

"A Long History In Fabricating Evidence"

Ahmadinejad also pointed out that the United States has "a long history in fabricating evidence." He was correct about that even before the release of this new Iran NIE, but the new NIE just proves his point that much more. The 2005 Iran NIE was basically an attempt to give the neocons what they wanted--the 2005 NIE, as noted above, declared with "high confidence" that Iran was "determined to develop nuclear weapons"--and what the neocons wanted was an excuse to attack Iran. The 2005 NIE also tried to downplay the Iranian "threat," pointing out that it would be at least a decade or so before Iran was able to develop nukes. But the 2005 NIE was, at its heart, another twisted chapter in our "long history in fabricating evidence."

So, Ahmadinejad told the truth about Iran's nuclear program. And Bush lied about it. Unfortunately, that state of affairs is no more remarkable than the sun coming up every day.

False-flag operation likely?

But the neocons still want their war with Iran. Now that the "threat" of Iranian nukes has been obliterated, how will they try to sell us on war with Iran? I'm guessing a staged terror attack of some sort, or maybe a video that will purport to show Iranians attacking U.S. troops in Iraq. Something like that. Of course, it will all be fabricated evidence, because as we've just seen, that's what we do. That's how we roll.

Of course, there's still the matter of the EFPs that Iran is supposedly supplying to Iraqi insurgents. The neocons could try to beat that dead horse some more. Or maybe try to blow up one of the American ships in the aircraft carrier groups we have in the Persian Gulf and blame it on the Iranians.

Whatever they decide to do, don't count the neocons out just because they've been proven dead wrong. Remember, they think they create reality and all we get to do is study it "judiciously" and try to keep up with them.

And there's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the we have to keep our eyes on those bastard neocons...