Friday, February 29, 2008

I Had the Privilege of Seeing The Band of Gypsys at Woodstock.....Thank You Buddy.

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February 28, 2008

Buddy Miles, Hendrix Drummer, Dies

Buddy Miles, the drummer in Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys and a hitmaker under his own name with the song “Them Changes,” died on at his home in Austin, Tex. He was 60.

Mr. Miles suffered from congestive heart failure, his publicist, Duane Lee, said, according to Reuters. Mr. Lee said he did not know the official cause of death.

Mr. Miles played with a brisk, assertive, deeply funky attack that made him an apt partner for Hendrix. With his luxuriant Afro and his American-flag shirts, he was a prime mover in the psychedelic blues-rock of the late 1960’s, not only with Hendrix but also as a founder, drummer and occasional lead singer for the Electric Flag. During the 1980’s, he was widely heard as the lead voice of the California Raisins in television commercials

George Allen Miles Jr., whose aunt nicknamed him after the big-band drummer Buddy Rich, was born in Omaha and began playing drums as a child. He was 12 years old when he joined his father’s jazz group, the Bebops. As a teenager he also worked with soul and rhythm-and-blues acts, among them the Ink Spots, the Delfonics and Wilson Pickett. By 1967, he had moved to Chicago, where he was a founding member of the Electric Flag.

That band included a horn section and played blues, soul and rock; it made its debut at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and released its first album in 1968. But the Electric Flag was short-lived. Mr. Miles formed the Buddy Miles Express, and its first album, “Electric Church,” was produced by Hendrix, whom he had met when both were sidemen on the rhythm-and-blues circuit. Mr. Miles appeared on two songs on the Hendrix album “Electric Ladyland.” When Hendrix disbanded the Jimi Hendrix Experience and replaced his trio’s British musicians with African-Americans, Mr. Miles joined him in the Band of Gypsys along with Billy Cox on bass.

On the last night of the 1960s, a New Year’s Eve show, they recorded “Band of Gypsys,” an album that included “Them Changes.” Mr. Miles also worked in the studio with Hendrix, and appears on “Cry of Love,” released after Hendrix died in 1970.

He re-recorded “Them Changes” with his own band, and it became a hit and a blues-rock staple; Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood performed it on Monday at Madison Square Garden. Through the 1970s, Mr. Miles made albums with his own bands. He also made a live album with Carlos Santana in 1972, and sang on the 1987 Santana album “Freedom.” During his career he appeared on more than 70 albums and worked with musicians including Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Barry White and George Clinton.

He was imprisoned on drug-related convictions during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, but when he emerged, advertising recharged his career. He sang the lead vocal for the California Raisins, whose Claymation commercials were so popular that they led to a string of albums by the fictional group. Two of them, “California Raisins” and “Meet the Raisins,” shipped a million copies. Mr. Miles also produced and performed commercials for Cadillac and Harley Davidson.

He and Mr. Cox recorded a live album, “The Band of Gypsys Return,” in 2004. Mr. Miles continued to perform even after suffering a stroke in 2005. Survivors include his partner, Sherrilae Chambers.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I Highly Recomend This Retreat ............

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Friday, February 22, 2008

....and More Internet Censorship......

Google Censors a Site That Exposes United Nations Corruption
By Liliana Segura, AlterNet

Anyone on the U.N. corruption beat in the past couple years has likely come across Inner City Press, a no-frills United Nations-focused news site that happens to be "the most effective and important media organization for U.N. whistleblowers," according to Bea Edwards of the Government Accountability Project (GAP). Since December 2005, Inner City Press has run stories spotlighting wrongdoing and malfeasance within the United Nations Development Program, from Turkey to West Africa to North Korea.

Inner City Press has filled an important niche: "Current whistleblower protections at the U.N. are grossly inadequate," according to GAP. With would-be whistleblowers vulnerable to retaliation, the news site has "reported the arcane tactics of silencing the free speech of employees of conscience in the U.N. system."

Now, it looks like Inner City Press itself is the subject of retaliation -- and not, at first glance, by the U.N. Instead, the site has been buried by the very search engine that has driven traffic to it for more than two years: Google News.

Earlier this month, editor-in-chief Matthew Lee received an ominous message on behalf of Google:

"We periodically review news sources, particularly following user complaints, to ensure Google News offers a high quality experience for our users … When we reviewed your site we've found that we can no longer include it in Google News."

Are "user complaints" coming from the U.N.?

Surprise: FOX News is on the trail:

In November 2007, during a press conference in which Google announced its partnership with the UNDP to achieve anti-poverty goals, Lee earned a less-than-friendly response when he asked why the Internet company hadn't signed a global human-rights and anti-censorship compact -- elements in the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals…

It was this incident, Lee said, that put him in the crosshairs. Lee said he felt certain that the Internet company and the international agency had now joined forces to make his work less accessible to the public.

"I've been covering … U.N. stories, three to four a day, for two years, and for the last two years there's been no problem at all," Lee said. "Then that Friday, I received the e-mail. There's something a little skeezy here. I think that Google got involved with the U.N. on these Millennium goals and thought, this is the United Nations, if they tell you some small Web site is a thorn in their side and there's a credible reason you could remove them from your news service, you do it."

Sound conspiratorial? A bit. And yet …

"Google's reference to 'user complaints' is disturbing," says Bea Edwards. "We can't help wondering who is complaining about Inner City Press. Considering their continuing coverage of U.N. whistleblower issues, it's not too difficult to venture a guess."

Read the GAP press release here.

Liliana Segura is an AlterNet staff writer and editor of the Rights & Liberties section.

© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Good Old Days of Free Speech on the Internet.....

Wikileaks Under Attack: California Court Wipes Out of Existence

Mon Feb 18, 2008 at 06:20:15 AM PST

One of the most important web sites in recent months has been Wikileaks has upset the Chinese government enough that they are attempting to censor it, as is the Thai military junta. Wikileaks is now under attack from a censorship effort by a California court.

Created by several brave journalists committed to transparency, Wikieaks has published important leaked documents, such as the Rules of Engagement for Iraq [see my The Secret Rules of Engagement in Iraq], the 2003and 2004 Guantanamo Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures, and evidence of major bank fraud in Kenya [see also here] that apparently affected the Kenyan elections.

As of Friday, February 15, those going to have gotten Server not found messages. Today I received a message explaining that a California court has granted an injunction written and requested by lawyers for the Cayman Island's Bank Julius Baer. It seems that the bank is trying to keep the public from accessing documents that may reveal shady dealings. Wikileaks was only given a couple of hours notice "by email" and was not even represented at the hearing where a U.S. judge took such a drastic step attempting to totally shut down an important information outlet. The result was this totally unprecedented attempt to totally wipe out the existence of Wikileaks:

"Dynadot shall immediately clear and remove all DNS hosting records for the domain name and prevent the domain name from resolving to the website or any other website or server other than a blank park page, until further order of this Court."

There have, of course, been previous attempts by the U.S. Government and others to block publication of particular documents, most famously in 1971 when the Nixon administration attempted to stop publication by the New York Times of excerpts from the Pentagon Papers, leaked by Daniel Ellsberg. But trying to close down an entire site in this way is truly unprecedented. Not even the Nixon administration, when they sought to block publication of the Pentagon Papers, considered closing down the New York Times in response.

If this injunction stands, it will set an incredible precedent for all of us who use the web to unveil misbehavior by the rich and powerful. Fortunately, Wikileaks is fighting this unconstitutional attack on press freedom, aided by six pro bono attorneys in San Francisco. While Wikileaks has so far not issued any particular call for support, all who value freedom should stand ready to offer whatever support they need.

Meanwhile, Wikileaks still exists. Its founders, knowing that governments and institutions will go to extreme lengths to censor the truth, have created an extensive network of cover names from which one can access their materials or continue leaking the secrets of governments and the corrupt rich and powerful. Thus, everything is available at, among other names. Let the leaks continue!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Another War Being Lost and Wasting Money.....

Drug War Traps Increasing Numbers of Women
By Silja J.A. Talvi, In These Times

Oklahoman Tina Thomas has been caught up in the American war on drugs.

In many respects, she fits the common profile of a woman doing time for a drug-related offense. Her crimes have ranged from possession to check forgery and theft, including an arrest for trying to steal a $64 comforter from Wal-Mart. Eventually sentenced to a two-year state prison term, Thomas admits that she committed her crimes to feed the “800-pound gorilla on my back that I just hadn’t been able to shake.”

Thomas is part of an alarming statistical trend and a modern-day American phenomenon. For starters, she is one of half a million people (roughly one-fourth of the total prison population) locked up on drug-related charges. Thomas is also an inmate in a state that locks up women at one of the highest per capita rates -- 129 per 100,000 residents, a figure that is right behind Texas, the federal system and California. Oklahoma’s imprisonment of women rose a stunning 1,237 percent from 1997 to 2004.

Drug addiction is what led Thomas down the river to prison, she admits freely. What’s a bit more unusual about her is that she holds a medical doctorate from the University of Illinois, and was a practicing neurologist and professor at a teaching hospital. She stood out in her field to such a degree that her colleagues felt uncomfortable around here, particularly after she disclosed she was a lesbian. What Thomas didn’t disclose, however, was an early childhood marred by incest, the lingering pain from which she used cocaine as an escape. Unfortunately, her cocaine use took a painful turn into a full-blown crack addiction.

Thomas and other women have had the misfortune of being sucked into what the federal government calls the “war on drugs.” We have our own “drug czar,” who sits atop the massive Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). President Nixon started this war in 1969, and President Reagan kicked it into high gear. It’s been a full-throttle battle since, even through the Clinton years.

By 1980, the number of drug-related arrests stood at 581,000. Just 10 years later, that number had nearly doubled to 1,090,000.

In 2005, the FBI reported that law enforcement officers made more arrests for drug-abuse violations (1.8 million) than for any other offense.

One of the most surprising facts about these figures, as far as police are concerned, is the drug of choice: marijuana. Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug, which means that it is one of the most dangerous drugs imaginable.

Cocaine, on the other hand, a leading cause of overdose deaths, is classified as a Schedule II. So is PCP. Go figure.

In 2005, nearly 43 percent of all drug arrests were for cannabis possession (37.7 percent) or “sales and manufacture” (4.3 percent). That’s millions of arrests and billions of dollars -- and amounts to a lot of misery and money down the drain.

In 2008, the ONDCP drug-war budget will reach a record $12.9 billion, with $8 billion of this funding being funneled into law enforcement. Bear in mind that these are only the official numbers. Many criminal justice experts point out that the figure doesn’t incorporate the costs of incarcerating people sentenced for drug offenses. The real expenditure, including the costs of imprisonment, comes close to $22 billion, according to an analysis by the drug policy newsletter, Drug War Chronicle.

We’re not getting much of a bang for these big bucks. Unintentional drug overdoses have become the second-most common form of accidental death after car crashes. While the government increases funding for antidrug missions in Colombia and Afghanistan by tens of millions every year, federal allocations to the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention and the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment are being cut by $32 million in 2008.

A 2006 Government Accountability Office report revealed that our $1.4 billion antidrug media blitz wasn’t working, either. And it wasn’t the first organization to note this. In 2003, the White House Office of Management and Budget disclosed that it found these ads lacking in any demonstrable success.

What’s worse, the people who need help aren’t getting it. In the rest of the Western world, assistance with drug and alcohol problems is widely accessible. They predominantly view heavy drug use or full-blown addiction as public health issues, not behavioral issues subject to prosecution (except in cases involving other criminal activity).

In the United States, however, rehabilitation and counseling are difficult to access without money. The waiting lists for free or subsidized rehabilitation programs can run from a few months to a couple of years -- even in progressive cities like San Francisco or Seattle.

Most American women, as well as men, have used some form of intoxicant (legal or illegal) during their lives, and half of all women ages 15 to 54 admit to having used illegal drugs specifically.

An estimated 22 million Americans are currently dependent on alcohol, drugs or both, although the real number is likely to be much higher, particularly as the figure does not take into account the 71.5 million people age 12 and up who use tobacco -- many of whom are likely addicted to nicotine.

Anyone who has ever smoked cigarettes habitually can relate to what even heroin and other hard-drug users have told me on several occasions -- that nicotine is the most addictive drug they have ever taken, and the hardest substance to quit. (Small wonder that the tobacco ban in many prisons has started a fierce black market, where a single cigarette can cost between $5 and $10.)

Regardless of whether they are caught, more than 9 million women each year use illicit drugs, and another 3.7 million use prescription drugs without medical authorization.

One such woman, Danielle Pascu, 29, got hooked on prescription drugs after the birth of her daughter. At first she was grateful for the prescribed Vicodin that got her though the lingering pain from a caesarean section and untreated postpartum depression.

But it didn’t take Pascu long to develop a full-blown habit, where she was eventually falsifying her prescriptions in order to get more. Pascu had no criminal record, had never used drugs before and was generally unaware of the risks involved. These days, Pascu is serving nearly three years in the sun-baked and dilapidated Arizona State Prison Complex in Perryville.

At this point, drug violations and property offenses account for a majority (59 percent) of females in state prison. By comparison, men in both of these offense categories add up to just 39.5 percent. Meanwhile, in federal prison, women and men convicted of drug offenses constitute nearly 60 percent of inmates.

Tina Thomas knows that she has a quadruple strike to overcome. She’s a black female with a former cocaine addiction, in a state that prefers to lock people up for substance abuse and that will deprive her of public assistance when she gets out. She now faces a lifetime ban on federal benefits, including contracts, licenses and grants.

As a drug offender, Thomas won’t be able to get Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) if she should ever need it. Food assistance, higher-education funding and even income tax deductions for pursuing a college degree are all yanked away from most felony drug offenders.

Yet nearly every other category of ex-offender -- including sex offenders, murderers, arsonists and perpetrators of domestic violence -- is eligible for these benefits. And, as if all this isn’t bad enough, Thomas will find that even getting a job will be difficult, because she must report herself as an ex-felon.

I’m often asked whether African Americans might just be using drugs more than any other group of people. My response is always met with disbelief until I prove it with the government’s own health statistics: African Americans constitute only 15 percent of drug users nationwide.

FBI data, at first glance, appears to show Euro-Americans bearing the brunt of drug-related arrests. Numerically speaking, they do, in that they are still the majority of the U.S. population. But a closer look reveals something else: African Americans are arrested at three times the rate of their demographic representation.

Marc Mauer, executive director of the Washington D.C.-based Sentencing Project, asks the very pertinent question of whether police are arresting crack and cocaine users in general, or specifically going into communities of color and lower-income neighborhoods, where some people are using drugs and engaging in the street trade.

“Conducting drug arrests in minority neighborhoods does have advantages for law enforcement,” writes Mauer in his 2006 book, Race to Incarcerate. “First, it is far easier to make arrests in such areas, since drug dealing is more likely to take place in open-air drug markets. In contrast, drug dealing is suburban neighborhoods almost invariably takes place behind closed doors and is therefore not readily identifiable to passing police.”

This is a crucial point. Many substance users are men and women with professional careers. People with middle- to upper-class incomes tend to use their drugs behind doors in nice houses, in well-to-do neighborhoods. They slip under the drug war radar, just as college students do.

A quarter of full-time undergraduate students meet the criteria for substance abuse or dependence, something the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse calls “wasting the best and brightest.”

Yet none of this is anything that the Office of National Drug Control Policy cares to have mentioned, much less examine. It’s just another one of those inconvenient truths.

Silja J.A. Talvi is an investigative journalist and the author of Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the U.S. Prison System (Seal Press: 2007). Her work has already appeared in many book anthologies, including It's So You (Seal Press, 2007), Prison Nation (Routledge: 2005), Prison Profiteers (The New Press: 2008), and Body Outlaws (Seal Press: 2004). She is a senior editor at In These Times.

© 2008 In These Times All rights reserved.
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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sounding More Like the Old Soviet Union.........

Exclusive! The FBI Deputizes Business

Published on The Progressive (

Today, more than 23,000 representatives of private industry are working quietly with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. The members of this rapidly growing group, called InfraGard, receive secret warnings of terrorist threats before the public does—and, at least on one occasion, before elected officials. In return, they provide information to the government, which alarms the ACLU. But there may be more to it than that. One business executive, who showed me his InfraGard card, told me they have permission to “shoot to kill” in the event of martial law. InfraGard is “a child of the FBI,” says Michael Hershman, the chairman of the advisory board of the InfraGard National Members Alliance and CEO of the Fairfax Group, an international consulting firm.

InfraGard started in Cleveland back in 1996, when the private sector there cooperated with the FBI to investigate cyber threats.

“Then the FBI cloned it,” says Phyllis Schneck, chairman of the board of directors of the InfraGard National Members Alliance, and the prime mover behind the growth of InfraGard over the last several years.

InfraGard itself is still an FBI operation, with FBI agents in each state overseeing the local InfraGard chapters. (There are now eighty-six of them.) The alliance is a nonprofit organization of private sector InfraGard members.

“We are the owners, operators, and experts of our critical infrastructure, from the CEO of a large company in agriculture or high finance to the guy who turns the valve at the water utility,” says Schneck, who by day is the vice president of research integration at Secure Computing.

“At its most basic level, InfraGard is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the private sector,” the InfraGard website states. “InfraGard chapters are geographically linked with FBI Field Office territories.”

In November 2001, InfraGard had around 1,700 members. As of late January, InfraGard had 23,682 members, according to its website,, which adds that “350 of our nation’s Fortune 500 have a representative in InfraGard.”

To join, each person must be sponsored by “an existing InfraGard member, chapter, or partner organization.” The FBI then vets the applicant. On the application form, prospective members are asked which aspect of the critical infrastructure their organization deals with. These include: agriculture, banking and finance, the chemical industry, defense, energy, food, information and telecommunications, law enforcement, public health, and transportation.

FBI Director Robert Mueller addressed an InfraGard convention on August 9, 2005. At that time, the group had less than half as many members as it does today. “To date, there are more than 11,000 members of InfraGard,” he said. “From our perspective that amounts to 11,000 contacts . . . and 11,000 partners in our mission to protect America.” He added a little later, “Those of you in the private sector are the first line of defense.”

He urged InfraGard members to contact the FBI if they “note suspicious activity or an unusual event.” And he said they could sic the FBI on “disgruntled employees who will use knowledge gained on the job against their employers.”

In an interview with InfraGard after the conference, which is featured prominently on the InfraGard members’ website, Mueller says: “It’s a great program.”

The ACLU is not so sanguine.

“There is evidence that InfraGard may be closer to a corporate TIPS program, turning private-sector corporations—some of which may be in a position to observe the activities of millions of individual customers—into surrogate eyes and ears for the FBI,” the ACLU warned in its August 2004 report The Surveillance-Industrial Complex: How the American Government Is Conscripting Businesses and Individuals in the Construction of a Surveillance Society.

InfraGard is not readily accessible to the general public. Its communications with the FBI and Homeland Security are beyond the reach of the Freedom of Information Act under the “trade secrets” exemption, its website says. And any conversation with the public or the media is supposed to be carefully rehearsed.

“The interests of InfraGard must be protected whenever presented to non-InfraGard members,” the website states. “During interviews with members of the press, controlling the image of InfraGard being presented can be difficult. Proper preparation for the interview will minimize the risk of embarrassment. . . . The InfraGard leadership and the local FBI representative should review the submitted questions, agree on the predilection of the answers, and identify the appropriate interviewee. . . . Tailor answers to the expected audience. . . . Questions concerning sensitive information should be avoided.”

One of the advantages of InfraGard, according to its leading members, is that the FBI gives them a heads-up on a secure portal about any threatening information related to infrastructure disruption or terrorism.

The InfraGard website advertises this. In its list of benefits of joining InfraGard, it states: “Gain access to an FBI secure communication network complete with VPN encrypted website, webmail, listservs, message boards, and much more.”

InfraGard members receive “almost daily updates” on threats “emanating from both domestic sources and overseas,” Hershman says.

“We get very easy access to secure information that only goes to InfraGard members,” Schneck says. “People are happy to be in the know.”

On November 1, 2001, the FBI had information about a potential threat to the bridges of California. The alert went out to the InfraGard membership. Enron was notified, and so, too, was Barry Davis, who worked for Morgan Stanley. He notified his brother Gray, the governor of California.

“He said his brother talked to him before the FBI,” recalls Steve Maviglio, who was Davis’s press secretary at the time. “And the governor got a lot of grief for releasing the information. In his defense, he said, ‘I was on the phone with my brother, who is an investment banker. And if he knows, why shouldn’t the public know?’ ”

Maviglio still sounds perturbed about this: “You’d think an elected official would be the first to know, not the last.”

In return for being in the know, InfraGard members cooperate with the FBI and Homeland Security. “InfraGard members have contributed to about 100 FBI cases,” Schneck says. “What InfraGard brings you is reach into the regional and local communities. We are a 22,000-member vetted body of subject-matter experts that reaches across seventeen matrixes. All the different stovepipes can connect with InfraGard.”

Schneck is proud of the relationships the InfraGard Members Alliance has built with the FBI. “If you had to call 1-800-FBI, you probably wouldn’t bother,” she says. “But if you knew Joe from a local meeting you had with him over a donut, you might call them. Either to give or to get. We want everyone to have a little black book.”

This black book may come in handy in times of an emergency. “On the back of each membership card,” Schneck says, “we have all the numbers you’d need: for Homeland Security, for the FBI, for the cyber center. And by calling up as an InfraGard member, you will be listened to.” She also says that members would have an easier time obtaining a “special telecommunications card that will enable your call to go through when others will not.”

This special status concerns the ACLU.

“The FBI should not be creating a privileged class of Americans who get special treatment,” says Jay Stanley, public education director of the ACLU’s technology and liberty program. “There’s no ‘business class’ in law enforcement. If there’s information the FBI can share with 22,000 corporate bigwigs, why don’t they just share it with the public? That’s who their real ‘special relationship’ is supposed to be with. Secrecy is not a party favor to be given out to friends. . . . This bears a disturbing resemblance to the FBI’s handing out ‘goodies’ to corporations in return for folding them into its domestic surveillance machinery.”

When the government raises its alert levels, InfraGard is in the loop. For instance, in a press release on February 7, 2003, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General announced that the national alert level was being raised from yellow to orange. They then listed “additional steps” that agencies were taking to “increase their protective measures.” One of those steps was to “provide alert information to InfraGard program.”

“They’re very much looped into our readiness capability,” says Amy Kudwa, spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security. “We provide speakers, as well as do joint presentations [with the FBI]. We also train alongside them, and they have participated in readiness exercises.”

On May 9, 2007, George Bush issued National Security Presidential Directive 51 entitled “National Continuity Policy.” In it, he instructed the Secretary of Homeland Security to coordinate with “private sector owners and operators of critical infrastructure, as appropriate, in order to provide for the delivery of essential services during an emergency.”

Asked if the InfraGard National Members Alliance was involved with these plans, Schneck said it was “not directly participating at this point.” Hershman, chairman of the group’s advisory board, however, said that it was.

InfraGard members, sometimes hundreds at a time, have been used in “national emergency preparation drills,” Schneck acknowledges.

“In case something happens, everybody is ready,” says Norm Arendt, the head of the Madison, Wisconsin, chapter of InfraGard, and the safety director for the consulting firm Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc. “There’s been lots of discussions about what happens under an emergency.”

One business owner in the United States tells me that InfraGard members are being advised on how to prepare for a martial law situation—and what their role might be. He showed me his InfraGard card, with his name and e-mail address on the front, along with the InfraGard logo and its slogan, “Partnership for Protection.” On the back of the card were the emergency numbers that Schneck mentioned.

This business owner says he attended a small InfraGard meeting where agents of the FBI and Homeland Security discussed in astonishing detail what InfraGard members may be called upon to do.

“The meeting started off innocuously enough, with the speakers talking about corporate espionage,” he says. “From there, it just progressed. All of a sudden we were knee deep in what was expected of us when martial law is declared. We were expected to share all our resources, but in return we’d be given specific benefits.” These included, he says, the ability to travel in restricted areas and to get people out.
But that’s not all.

“Then they said when—not if—martial law is declared, it was our responsibility to protect our portion of the infrastructure, and if we had to use deadly force to protect it, we couldn’t be prosecuted,” he says.

I was able to confirm that the meeting took place where he said it had, and that the FBI and Homeland Security did make presentations there. One InfraGard member who attended that meeting denies that the subject of lethal force came up. But the whistleblower is 100 percent certain of it. “I have nothing to gain by telling you this, and everything to lose,” he adds. “I’m so nervous about this, and I’m not someone who gets nervous.”

Though Schneck says that FBI and Homeland Security agents do make presentations to InfraGard, she denies that InfraGard members would have any civil patrol or law enforcement functions. “I have never heard of InfraGard members being told to use lethal force anywhere,” Schneck says.

The FBI adamantly denies it, also. “That’s ridiculous,” says Catherine Milhoan, an FBI spokesperson. “If you want to quote a businessperson saying that, knock yourself out. If that’s what you want to print, fine.”

But one other InfraGard member corroborated the whistleblower’s account, and another would not deny it.

Christine Moerke is a business continuity consultant for Alliant Energy in Madison, Wisconsin. She says she’s an InfraGard member, and she confirms that she has attended InfraGard meetings that went into the details about what kind of civil patrol function—including engaging in lethal force—that InfraGard members may be called upon to perform.

“There have been discussions like that, that I’ve heard of and participated in,” she says.

Curt Haugen is CEO of S’Curo Group, a company that does “strategic planning, business continuity planning and disaster recovery, physical and IT security, policy development, internal control, personnel selection, and travel safety,” according to its website. Haugen tells me he is a former FBI agent and that he has been an InfraGard member for many years. He is a huge booster. “It’s the only true organization where there is the public-private partnership,” he says. “It’s all who knows who. You know a face, you trust a face. That’s what makes it work.”

He says InfraGard “absolutely” does emergency preparedness exercises. When I ask about discussions the FBI and Homeland Security have had with InfraGard members about their use of lethal force, he says: “That much I cannot comment on. But as a private citizen, you have the right to use force if you feel threatened.”

“We were assured that if we were forced to kill someone to protect our infrastructure, there would be no repercussions,” the whistleblower says. “It gave me goose bumps. It chilled me to the bone.”

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine and the author of "You Have No Rights: Stories of America in an Age of Repression." This article, "The FBI Deputizes Business," is the cover story of the March issue of The Progressive.


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Saturday, February 09, 2008

When Will It Ever End????

Cartoone from Isaiah at The Common Ills

Will Clinton and Obama Continue Bush's High-Priced Militarism?

Curb your enthusiasm. Even if your favored candidate did well on Super Tuesday, ask yourself if he or she will seriously challenge the bloated military budget that President Bush has proposed for 2009. If not, military spending will rise to a level exceeding any other year since the end of World War II, and there will be precious little left over to improve education and medical research, fight poverty, protect the environment or do anything else a decent person might care about.

You cannot spend well over $700 billion on "national security," running what the White House predicts will be more than $400 billion in annual deficits for the next two years, and yet find the money to improve the quality of life on the home front.

The conventional wisdom espoused by the mass media is that Bush's budget is a lame-duck DOA contrivance, but that assumption is wrong. The 9/11 attacks have been shamefully exploited by the military-industrial complex with bipartisan support to ramp up military expenditures beyond Cold War levels. This irrational spending spree, which accounts for more than half of all federal discretionary spending, is not likely to end with Bush's departure.

Which one of the likely winners from either party would lead the battle to cut the military budget, and where would the winner find support in Congress? Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have treated the military budget as sacrosanct with their Senate votes and their campaign rhetoric. Clinton is particularly clear on the record as favoring spending more, not less, on the military.

John McCain, who previously distinguished himself as a deficit hawk and was almost in a class by himself in taking on the rapacious defense contractors, has thrown in the towel with his inane support for staying in Iraq till "victory," even if it should take a century. It is simply illogical to call for fiscal restraint while committing to an open-ended war in Iraq that has already cost upward of $700 billion.

Bush's request for $515.4 billion for the Defense Department doesn't even include the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which accounted for nearly $200 billion over the last budget year and which will cost at least $140 billion in 2009. Add to those numbers $17.1 billion for the Department of Energy's weapons program and over $40 billion for the Department of Homeland Security and other national security initiatives spread throughout the federal government, and you'll see that my $700-billion figure underestimates the hemorrhaging.

McCain knows, and has frequently stated as a Senate watchdog, that much of the military spending is wastefully superfluous for combating terrorists who lack any but the most rudimentary weapons. Bush totally betrayed his campaign 2000 promise to reshape the post-Cold War U.S. military when he seized upon the 9/11 attack as an opportunity to reverse the "peace dividend" that his father had begun to return to taxpayers. Instead, Bush II ushered in the most profligate underwriting of weapons systems that are grotesquely irrelevant for combating terrorism.

The U.S. already spends more than the rest of the world combined on its military, without a sophisticated enemy in sight. The Bush budget cuts not a single weapons system, including the most expensive ones, those designed to combat a Soviet military that no longer exists. Those sophisticated weapons have nothing to do with combating terrorism and everything to do with jobs and profits that motivate both Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

It is not known whether Osama bin Laden even possesses a rowboat in his naval arsenal, but that won't stop Joe Lieberman from pushing, as is his habit, for an increase in the defense budget to double the funding for the $3.4-billion submarines built in his home state of Connecticut. Nor does the collapse of the old Soviet Union -- and with it the need for enormously expensive stealth aircraft to evade radar systems the Soviets never built -- dissuade congressional supporters of those planes from pushing for more, not less, than Bush is requesting. Nor does wasting an additional $8.9 billion on ICBM missile defense have anything to do with stopping terrorists from smuggling a suitcase nuke into this country.

The centerpiece of the Bush legacy is a "war on terror" based on a vast disconnect between military expenditures and actual national security requirements that the presidential candidates all fully understand. The question is whether the voters and media will force them to face that contradiction or whether we're in for more of the same -- no matter how much the candidates go on about change.

Robert Scheer is the co-author of The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq. See more of Robert Scheer at TruthDig.

© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Wake Up and Be VERY Concerned..........

“The Myth of a Maverick”: Matt Welch on GOP Frontrunner John McCain

Ahead of Super Tuesday, Senator John McCain is leading Republican polls, a significant comeback for a campaign that appeared expired just six months ago. We speak to Reason Magazine editor Matt Welch, author of McCain: The Myth of a Maverick.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to John McCain. Voters head to the polls in twenty-four states tomorrow in what’s being dubbed “Super Duper Tuesday,” the biggest one-day White House nominating contest in history. Hillary Clinton is locked in a dead heat with Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination. On the Republican side, Senator John McCain is ahead in nationwide polls and is considered to be the GOP frontrunner. His lead marks a significant comeback for a campaign that appeared expired just six months ago.

Matt Welch is editor-in-chief of the libertarian Reason magazine. He’s a former editor at the Los Angeles Times. He has written extensively on John McCain and the author of a new book called McCain: the Myth of a Maverick. He joins us now from Washington, D.C. Welcome, Matt.

MATT WELCH: Thanks much for having me, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Well, why don’t we just go back to the beginning with John McCain? He comes out of military royalty, as they say. Give us a background on John McCain’s family.

MATT WELCH: John McCain—his grandfather and father were the second-ever father-son four-star admirals in the US Navy. One of the interesting things that I found out in the course of researching my book was that the first-ever father-son admirals in the US Navy were my own great-great-grandfather and his son, strangely enough, and they both commanded people named John Sidney McCain. He comes not only on his father’s side, obviously, from this military background, but I believe his grandmother’s side, as well. In one of his many books that he has written, he talks about how, if anything, his grandmother’s side was more martial and war-making than even on his father’s side. He’s basically participated—some McCains have participated in every military conflict in United States history, except for maybe the first Gulf War. And right now, he has two sons who are in the military, including one who’s deployed in Iraq, if I have my story straight these days.

AMY GOODMAN: In addition to being in Vietnam, his father was also—was part of the invasion of the Dominican Republic, is that right, in 1965?

MATT WELCH: He led the invasion of the Dominican Republic. His grandfather—the McCains historically had been in the Army. There was Wild Bill McCain, who was, you know, chasing Mexican bandits along the border. But then his grandfather went into the Navy right as Teddy Roosevelt was building it from, you know, a couple of tugboats into the Great White Fleet and was expanding it greatly and using it as a forward thrust of American power under the influence of Alfred Thayer Mahan, his book of the role of sea power in world history. And it became a sort of a model based on British colonialism of how a navy can guarantee the world—you know, make the world safe for democracy and bring fruits upon the empire who takes it out there.

So his grandfather was—you know, he was fighting the Philippine insurrection at the turn of the century, which was a fairly controversial conflict, and then fought in World War II with distinction. And then his father was actually the commander of all US forces in Vietnam for a couple of years there, including when John McCain, himself, was a prisoner of war.

John McCain, being the third generation here with a lot of expectations on him, rebelled against those expectations. He finished near the bottom of his class, 894th out of 899 at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. And he was a real sort of maverick in the kind of Top Gun way, always getting into trouble, sneaking off to drink beer and smoke cigarettes and date strippers, and had a pretty colorful kind of straining-at-the-leash type of life, because he knew he didn’t really have a choice but to fulfill his sort of family’s destiny.

And he became a flyboy in the Navy and was involved in one of the worst—and in fact, I think the worst—Navy sort of tragedy after World War II, which was the Forrestal fire in Vietnam, which killed 130-plus men. He tumbled off the nose of his airplane as it was sort of exploding on the deck of this aircraft carrier in Vietnam. And then on his—I believe his fifth mission was flying over Vietnam on a—Hanoi on a bombing run and was shot out of the sky and, of course, became a prisoner of war for five-and-a-half years, where he, you know, withstood torture with great bravery and distinction. He eventually cracked, like most prisoners of war do under the duress, and taped some statements, you know, disparaging his country and apologizing for his crimes, but stuck it out and then came back to the US in ’73 and became the Navy liaison to the Senate and eventually started his political career in 1982.

AMY GOODMAN: And that political career, he started in Congress?

MATT WELCH: He started in Congress. He humorously—he had divorced his first wife, married a young woman named Cindy—Cindy McCain now, Cindy Hensley. Her father was—owned the exclusive beer distributorship for Budweiser in Maricopa County in Arizona, and so was—had a lot of money. And he was shopping around basically for a congressional seat. On the day that Congressman John Rhodes announced that he was resigning—or actually even before he announced, but on the day that he decided that he was resigning from his seat, John told Cindy, you know, buy a house in the district. So he kind of moved to Arizona with the explicit idea that he would immediately run for Congress and then use that as a springboard to run for the Senate seat when Barry Goldwater retired in 1986.

And what’s very little sort of understood—one of many things that’s little understood about John McCain is that from the beginning he was spending crazy amounts of money. You know, he’s this champion of campaign finance, but he wildly outspent his opponents in Arizona time and time again, especially at the beginning of his career, with his father-in-law’s money, with money from Charles Keating and money from other people, and built up this political career and ended up going to the Senate and becoming the maverick we all know and love.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting, Matt Welch, looking at the talk show programs yesterday, one of the commentators is Torie Clarke, Victoria Clarke, former Pentagon spokesperson. She was on George Stephanopoulos’s show yesterday on ABC talking about McCain, but they didn’t identify her as a former press secretary for John McCain—is that right?—in his early years.

MATT WELCH: Yeah. You know, I think that’s pretty standard fare, regrettably, in Beltway talk shows. Everyone has long and tangled relationships with everybody else, and people just don’t really feel like revealing it one way or the other.

But, you know, getting back to his military history, this is something, again, that is not very well understood. Not only were his parents—father and grandfather in the military, but his father used to go around giving these lectures about how, you know, the naval gap between the US and the Soviet Union was threatening democracy, how we—his nickname was Mr. Sea Power. You know, he would recite British colonialist poetry around the dinner table. They were constantly talking about the necessity for just a huge US navy to guarantee the world’s security. That is the background that John McCain was just marinating in from the time he was a child. And for much of that period, whenever his father or grandfather was not out at sea, they were living on Capitol Hill, usually in some Washington, D.C. capacity. So he was sitting around the breakfast table with senators and congressmen from the time he was a kid. There’s this big notion that he’s a man of the people, which is actually the name of a biography of him, when in fact, down the line, he’s been very much an elitist his entire life, for both good and for ill. He has just been surrounded by, you know, top historians, top senators and congressmen and top military brass.

But this tradition that he comes from is incredibly interventionist and expansionist. It’s really interesting that in the primaries so far, if you look at the exit polls, among people who voted in the GOP primaries who consider themselves antiwar, anti-the-Iraq-war, and among voters who consider themselves angry at George Bush—and that’s a quote—and among independents, McCain is beating his opponents by two-to-one. If you actually look at people who describe themselves as just Republicans, McCain has not yet won a single primary. So he is basically winning the GOP primaries on the back of the antiwar vote, when in fact he would be the most explicitly interventionist president since Teddy Roosevelt, and he certainly makes George Bush look gun-shy by comparison.

AMY GOODMAN: And when it comes to the future in Iraq, talk about his comments about being there for a hundred years.

MATT WELCH: Well, this is what’s interesting about it—well, first of all, he was asked—he has been asked several times, you know, how long are we going to be there, how long do you foresee troops. And he just says, “Hey, look, how long have we been in Korea? No one complains about that, so we can be there for fifty, a hundred years. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that there’s no casualties. But, you know, if there’s no casualties, then the US people will support it.” He doesn’t understand the question of why is it that it might be bad that the US troops would be on foreign soil in a semi-hostile area for a hundred years. He just doesn’t understand the question, which I think is even more revealing than the answer itself. There is no downside, from his point of view, of the US basically being the world’s policeman.

I asked him once at a press conference that he was giving about defense spending, I said, “Hey, look, you know, we’re spending right now 50 percent of the world’s total defense budget. What do you think about that share? You know, should our share be increasing, of the world’s defense budget, or decreasing or whatever?” He says, Oh, yeah, it needs to increase a lot; we’ve got a lot of trouble in Iran, in Korea and blah, blah, blah, blah. He does not recognize a downside, a sense of game theory in which, you know, you’re the biggest kid on the block and you control everything and take responsibility globally for everything, and so, you know, that it might build up resentments among people who feel like they don’t have responsibility for their own affairs. He just does not see that or understand that, and I think that is kind of frightening, frankly.

And when he talked about strategy, you know, he was asked especially over and over during the period of time when the surge was less popular, let’s say, than it was today, or more controversial than it is today, you know, what happens if it fails? What’s your plan B? And he just said, “My friends, the consequences of failure are too horrible to comprehend.” He actually doesn’t elucidate any kind of strategy that’s interesting. His strategy for the last ten, twelve, fifteen years has been, we need more boots on the ground, period. During the run-up to Kosovo, which he was a huge supporter of at a time when Republicans were much less eager to be interventionist, he was—while supporting it, he was disparaging Bill Clinton by saying, “Look, if we don’t have, you know, tons of boots on the ground over there, we are going to, you know, suffer catastrophe; it’s going to be terrible.” His predictions turned out to be completely wrong on Kosovo, but that’s his prescription at all times: just more boots on the ground, you know, more sacrifice of American blood and treasure. And if you actually ask for specific details on, you know, how is this strategy going to work, how is it not going to work, he doesn’t really have anything to say. He is very fond of saying, you know, the most important thing is victory, period, which is sort of a tautology, not very sophisticated as a strategy. And yet, he is portrayed as this sort of wise eminence on all things military, when in fact all he says is use more power, period.

AMY GOODMAN: Matt Welch, can you talk about how John McCain went from one of the Keating Five—and you can briefly explain that scandal—almost took him down out of politics, to becoming really one of the leaders of campaign finance reform?

MATT WELCH: Sure, it’s directly connected. Keating Five scandal was sort of a complicated business in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Charles Keating was the head of Lincoln Savings and Loan and various other savings and loans. He’s based in Arizona. He also had big operations in Ohio and California. He was the first big benefactor of John McCain’s political career in Arizona, for his congressional campaigns and for his Senate campaigns. Charles Keating and Lincoln Savings and Loan were under investigation from federal banking regulators for a couple of years, and he was starting to get a little bit concerned about that. And so, he asked all of the senators that he had been giving a lot of money to to just find out what was going on, to ask the regulators and the investigators what’s the status. Maybe you can—maybe you can ease up a little bit. So there were five senators: John McCain, Dennis DeConcini, John Glenn, Alan Cranston, and there’s always a fifth who I can’t remember off the top of my head [Donald Riegle, Jr.]. And these five senators went and they met first with investigators and then, I think, a second time with regulators to basically inquire what was going on. Immediately, those regulators reported back to their bosses and said, hey, this feels like kind of an undue pressure; I don’t like it. And so, there was a big investigation, an ethics investigation in the Senate, and all senators received some kind of at least censure or slap on the wrist.

McCain was the only Republican on that of those five and long felt that he was made the scapegoat so that it could be sort of a bipartisan thing. Other senators received much sort of worse opprobrium from their colleagues, Alan Cranston particularly. So, at that time—McCain has described this as the lowest point in his life, I mean, lower than being tortured for five years in Vietnam, because people called his honor into question. He’s very haunted by this sense of honor, mostly from his father. He believes that his father never told a lie and was this incredibly honorable man. One of the reasons why people sort of have a natural affinity towards McCain is that they can sense his being haunted by honor and trying to live up to a high standard.

Anyway, so he comes out of this thing, and he’s being disparaged all over the airwaves, and he’s actually being challenged, really, for the first time in Arizona in a primary campaign and in a regular campaign. And so, he develops this great strategy, which is, all right, I’m just going to answer all the questions from journalists until they run out of questions, basically. And so, he held a press conference, lasted for hours, and developed a strategy overnight that whenever a reporter wants access, he or she will get full access forever. And what he found, which a lot of people find when they do things like this, is that, lo and behold, they were being kind of friendly towards him.

So fast-forward: what does John McCain do? He immediately says, OK, obviously the problem here is money is corrupting politics, which is a very sort of interesting reaction. Most people have spun it very positively of saying, you know, he recognized his mistake, he felt chagrined, he looked to try to fix the process. I think, you know, equally valid is an interpretation of, you know, do as I say, not as I did, which is something that he’s done in all other kinds of sectors. For instance, he has been trying to outlaw all betting on college sports forever. And yet, if you go to his campaign website, you can bet on the Final Four and the brackets for the NCAAs, and he’s an inveterate sports watcher and gambler himself. So he’s always—

AMY GOODMAN: Matt Welch, we have to break, but we’ll come back. We’re talking to Matt Welch. He’s the editor-in-chief of the libertarian magazine Reason, a former editor at the Los Angeles Times, and he’s a biographer of John McCain, wrote the book McCain: The Myth of a Maverick. We’ll be back with him, and after that, with Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN We’re talking about the front runner for the Republican nomination and he is John McCain. Our guest is Matt Welch, editor in chief of the libertarian magazine Reason. He’s joining us from Washington D.C. He was a former editor at the Los Angeles Times. John McCain, who says he would be fine if the US military stayed in iraq for 100 years, responding to a question at a town hall meeting in Derry, New Hampshire on January third.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: President Bush is talking about our staying in Iraq for 50 years–

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: –Maybe 100.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Is that what he said?

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: –We have been in South Korea, we have been in Japan for 60 years, we have been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That would be fine with me, as long as Americans– as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. That’s fine with me, I hope that would be fine with you, if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where Al Qaeda is training and equipping and recruiting and motivating people every single day.

AMY GOODMAN That is John McCain in New Hampshire. I want to go to one of the clips where he speaks out against torture. He himself, a P.O.W. in Vietnam. This was John McCain speaking several years ago, November 2005.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Torture does not work. The Israeli Supreme Court in 1999 said that the Israelis could not torture or practice cruel or inhumane treatment on the people they take prisoner. The israeli defense officials who I have discussed this with say that it doesn’t work, and they use psychological techniques. And so– One, it does not work. Two, is so damaging to us in an image fashion. And three, the next conflict we are in, the government will use that same rationale to inflict serious injury to Americans who may become captive.

AMY GOODMAN: Matt Welch you wrote the biography of John McCain, “McCain: The Myth of a Maverick,” talk about his position on torture.

MATT WELCH: It’s one of the things about McCain that I personally find most endearing or most hopeful in imagining him being the next president. Although, you know, I cannot believe we are at a period in our country where we are surprised that there’s someone running for president who is against torture? I don’t really know how that happened. But anyways, McCain was tortured and so were all of his comrades in Vietnam. And as anyone who has seen torture upfront can testify, they will make to say things that are not true-–so you can get rid of the pain. It’s kind of a no-brainer.

He has, several times in his career, because of his military background, his country first party second, background, and also because, you know, he has always been kind of the class clown and pop off, he is willing to bluntly speak his mind. It’s one of the reasons why Americans find him endearing. On torture, he is very happy to tell his Republican colleagues to go fly a kite.

That said, his bill last year trying to eliminate torture ended up eliminating habeas corpus sort of by accident on the back end. And so, you know, as often happens, with McCain in particular, he had a great idea, his “heart was in the right place.” And the legislative result of that was not necessarily something that worked out to the nation’s benefit. But yes, he has been a great and eloquent defender of the heretofore American notion that our standards of keeping—taking care of our prisoners of war will be better or at least at the highest of universal standards. For that, he should be commended or just recognized that he does not want to build two guantanamos.


MATT WELCH: –He wants to close Guantanamo and some other things. Yes?

AMY GOODMAN: Why do entitle your book The Myth of a Maverick?

MATT WELCH: Because, basically my book is an attempt to sketch out-–it is an ideological portrait. It is an attempt to figure out, what does this guy believe about the nature of government? How did he come about those beliefs? How will that look like in the presidency, in the white house?

Before you get to any of that, you have to peel back all of these incredible layers of mythology that have happened– been erected around him by a largely adoring press. He is probably the most adored Republican by the media of the last 25 years, if not 30 or 40. It is astonishing how much he is liked. He has been given endorsements in something like 90% of the top newspapers in the country that have endorsed Republicans in the primaries.

So, I mean, just the idea that he is a big man of the people, totally mythological. He is very much an elitist in stead. The idea that he is some kind of a preternatural straight talker, this is not true. If you look at all at his record and including his daily comportment on the campaign trail, just last week, he was basically sliming Mitt Romney, who you know, has plenty of reasons to be slimed, as being some sort of cut and run anti-surge candidate. Anyone who looked into that realized that is a pretty scurrilous charge.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about his relationship with the president– with George Bush?

MATT WELCH: It’s an interesting and tortured one, you know? McCain was– not only was he running against Bush, but he was running against Bush very much as an insurgent in 2000. The Republican establishment had coalesced around Bush, and McCain and his backers– largely who are neoconservatives and surrounded the Weekly Standard Magazine, in particular, Bill Kristol and David Brooks. They were speaking a language of Teddy Roosevelt and third parties, this is an insurgency and maybe the Republican party will get blown up in the process. It was a very kind of high wire and thrilling act, and one reason why a lot of people glommed onto it. They saw that he was standing up and having daily “sister soldier” moments with the right. He was calling Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson agents of intolerance and these kind of things. So he ran this sort of very insurgent campaign, playing star wars music, you know? And George Bush was Darth Vader and McCain was Luke Skywalker. And then Bush croaked him in South Carolina in a pretty vicious campaign. I don’t know if it was any more vicious than your standard vicious campaign– but then McCain went and sulked basically for a year and a half.

There was a lot of talk, we forget about it now, but there was a lot of talk in 2001 especially of– is McCain going to defect and go to the Democratic Party? He got very interested in campaign finance, which is largely a democratic initiative. He became much more interested in global warming and regulatory issues, which are more traditionally democratic. And you know there were plenty of articles about both him and the Weekly Standard people and neoconservatives in general in late 2001, before September 11th, saying “Hey look, you know, they’re basically going to be democrats this time next year.” Well, September 11th changed all that.

The basic McCain strategy– you know in 1999 McCain advocated this policy of rogue-state rollback which is basically preemptive war three and a half years before Bush ever thought of it.

AMY GOODMAN: He threatened North Korea with extinction.

MATT WELCH: He threatened North Korea with extinction, and he elucidated this doctrine by which– wherever there is an authoritarian dictator, we support the insurgents. And, if we support the insurgent and the dictator cracks down, then we have to defend the insurgents with US force. And any time we make a threat and someone calls our bluff, we also have to use US force. It is incredibly interventionist militaristic approach towards foreign policy that he has had all along. That’s the reason why neoconservatives have flocked to his cause and championed it over the years.

So, after September 11th, Bush started to embrace those ideas. That kind of policy structure grafted onto Bush and so it was natural that McCain and Bush would become closer over that time. And then– starting around 2004 and 2005, when McCain started eyeing the presidency in 2008, he began this long, slow suck-up to the right, particularly social conservatives, and also to Bush because he wanted to be the sort of front runner of the Republican establishment.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what happened around this period when, well, John McCain started singing.

MATT WELCH: –You know–

AMY GOODMAN: We’ll go to the song.

MATT WELCH: –Are you playing the song now?


SEN. JOHN McCAIN: You know that old Beach Boys song “Bomb Iran?” [laughter] "Bomb, bomb, bomb– anyway. [laughter]

AMY GOODMAN: What about that, Matt Welch?

MATT WELCH: That was I believe last February or March or something like that, mid January. Look, this is his idea of humor. He does have a kind of blunt and ribald occasionally awful sense of humor. But it speaks also to his policy ideas.

Whenever he talks about Vladimir Putin, who is no friend of mine certainly, but when he talks about him on the campaign trail, he says, “I look into his eyes and I see three letters—K.G.B.” He is constantly rattling sabers in the general direction of everybody. Of China, Russia, certainly of North Korea. At any given time, he considers this or that dictator or authoritarian or kind of mean guy to be the transcendent issue that we must focus on this very moment. It is the only sort of lever or– the only sort of grade that he knows to approach the world’s problems, which is “identify evil everywhere and get in evil’s face”.

AMY GOODMAN: Matt Welch, we just have 60 seconds. I want to know what brought him back from the edge of extinction. Just a few months ago, he fired his staff, had no money, to being the front runner. Do you expect him to win Super Tuesday?

MATT WELCH I do expect him to win Super Tuesday because the G.O.P. is coalescing around a front runner which is what they usually do. He came back because everybody else made such terrible choices. Rudy Giuliani made a terrible choice to run a late-state strategy, Mitt Romney made an, I think, interesting choice of trying to impersonate a social conservative, which left a real social conservative room to kneecap him in Iowa, which is what Mike Huckabee did. Fred Thompson never really ran an energetic campaign. And suddenly, McCain was able to focus on a retail politics state like New Hampshire and rely on all the free media he always gets by nature of who he is and basically survive without having to spend a lot of money, while the rest of his opponents did not attack him at all, they just treated him as a hero who was going to lose. One by one, they all knocked each other out and he ended up surviving.

AMY GOODMAN: Matt Welch, I want to thank you for being with us. Editor-in-chief of the libertarian magazine Reason. He is the author of the book McCain: The Myth of a Maverick.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Time to Shift or Get Off the Pot........

Swami Beyondananda’s
2008 State of the Universe Address

Swami Predicts Heart Times Ahead

Every year at this time, I am asked to make predictions, and each time I politely refuse because I don’t want to jeopardize my nonprophet status. But this year is different. With 2012 just one quantum leap year away, we humans might finally be ready for a quantum leap of our own. The message is coming in loud and clear. Time to shift or get off the pot.

In order to upshift our karma into surpassing gear, however, we must shift our awareness downward from the static of the head to the ecstatic of the heart. If we are to have an awakening instead of a wake, I predict heart times ahead.

Disheartenment in the Heartland

Heartenment, after all, is just the thing to counteract the disheartenment in the heartland. Take the economy -- please! After years of untreated Deficit Inattention Disorder, the U.S. dollar is now worth less than a dollar of Monopoly money. As the most recent Greenspan report tells us, the average American family barely has enough green to span the average month. Meanwhile, trickle down economics has proved true to its name, leaving a growing class of pee-ons at the bottom.

Then there’s electile dysfunction. Instead of transparency around how votes are cast and counted, we have an apparent trance. The secret ballot has been taken to the next level, and now voting machines with secret software count the votes in secret. This is called “faith-based” vote counting. Hey, some of those new “smart” voting machines are so smart, that they don’t even need voters! This makes perfect sense because government of, by and for the people has now been efficiently transformed to government of, by and for the very, very few people. Talk about minority representation. We are now governed by a smaller minority than ever in our history!

Even when we do manage to get an election, the body politic still suffers from impotence. As we learned after the 2006 election, just because we vote for someone doesn’t mean they are going to vote for us. Instead of canceling the Iraqi Horror Picture Show, the Democratic misleadership has gone along with the same basic neocon con, only with a cosmetic makeover – sort of a wolfawitz in sheepawitz’s clothing.

Though the upwising continues, irony deficiency and truth decay still plague the body politic. Instead of forums that shine light on political issues, the media has encouraged againstums where incendiary phrases spark heated arguments. So, while red tribe Republicans and blue tribe Democrats argue whether it’s wronger to kill the born or the unborn, the born keep dying while the not-yet-born are stuck with the bill. No wonder our moral compass has gone south.

As if global warring isn’t enough to worry about, now there’s global warming. It would be sad indeed to have come this far, only to see the headline: “Human Race Ends In a Dead Heat.”

No wonder so many people are scared shiftless. The good news is, this is the State of the Universe Address and I am happy to report that the state of the Universe is copasetic – ever changing, same as always. This is particularly heartening when we realize that that universal state is also our own.

Universe Knows Best

When it comes to universal wisdom, you can’t beat the Universe. First of all, the Universe is everywhere all at once. Talk about being on top of things. Even as it keeps expanding, the Universe has it together -- which means, as part of the universe, a part of us has it all together too. We are inextricably connected to the Universe. It is inescapable. Without the Universe, we’d be nowhere.

Here is more amazing news. We are all descended from the same Big Bang! When the Big Bang went boom, all of the Universe’s parts departed from one particle. And that includes us. So, we might as well proclaim it proudly. “The Big Bang is my pop. Well, I’ll be a son of a gun!”

The Big Bang is everybody’s pop, which means we are all related. If we are indeed a fractal chip off the old block, Universe-wise ... then somewhere we must be as wise as the Universe. For millennia, spiritual teachers have told us to look inside for this universal wisdom. It turns out, they were right. The real spiritual pilgrimage is actually a journey of about twenty-four inches, roughly the distance from the head to the heart.

The Heart of the Matter is the Matter of the Heart

Yes, everyone is equipped to attune to universal wisdom because everyone has been given a heart. And yet, the heart seems to be the last gift we open. The most underdeveloped resource on the planet is the treasure inside our own treasured chest! Given all the craziness in the world, maybe if we invested in expanding our hearts, we’d have less need to shrink our heads.

And less of a need to be so all-consumed by consumerism. We have learned to spend so much energy pursuing happiness that we never stop to think what would happen if we actually caught it -- or rather, if it caught us. With all this hot pursuit, we have left real happiness in the dust. It is sad indeed that we end up jealous that someone else’s happiness might be bigger than our own. Freud called this “happiness envy.”

As the saying goes, money can’t buy happiness, although it can buy anti-depressants. But if you are seeking more out of life than not being depressed, the key to happiness is to grow your own. Every one of us should be asking, “What good am I?” What good can I add to the greater goodness? Maybe if we had greater goodness, we’d need fewer goods. As human beings, our biggest asset is love, so now is the time to get up off our big fat assets, and practice supply-side spirituality. Because we aren’t here to earn God’s love, we are here to spend it. We are here to re-grow the Garden from the grassroots up, and have a heaven of a time doing it!

Heartland Security

Now while the solution is simple, no one said it was going to be easy. Just as the human potential movement has made great gains over the past 25 years, the inhuman potential movement has more than kept up. Everywhere I go, the little David’s I meet all ask the same question: How can we get Goliath to go lieth down? I have good news and I have other news, and they are both the same: It’s up to us. We must lead ourselves out of the bewilderness. Yes, we’ve been politically abused, so the first step is to disabuse ourselves. We must start overseeing instead of overlooking.

By overlooking what we should have been overseeing, we have become enablers for the lowest common dominator. Whether it’s called globalization or gobble-ization, it’s the same old mining operation -- that’s mine, that’s mine, that’s mine. Because we’ve allowed ourselves to imagine that someday that “mine” will be ours, we have agreed to a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with our government. We promise not to ask them what they are doing, and they promise not to tell us. That way, we can pretend to believe we are invading a country to keep the peace, when we are really there to keep the pieces.

Meanwhile, back at home, they’ve given last rites to the Bill of Rights, and newspeak has become the new spoken language of the mainstream media. Now before we just shrug and say, “Orwell, what can we do about it?” we need to see the only way to overgrow Big Brother is with bigger brotherhood -- and even bigger sisterhood. Time to heal our spiritual dyslexia, and realize our natural state is sacred, not scared. The scared masculine and the scared feminine have given us the dysfunctional dance of abusers and enablers. Now we must empower the sacred masculine and sacred feminine to come together and conceive what has been inconceivable – the truly evolved human.

We need to amplify the love and light to counterbalance the darkness and fear, and that is why we need a nongovernmental Department of Heartland Security to secure the heartland and let the powers in power know in no uncertain terms, “Bigger brotherhood is watching you.”

To do that, we must migrate en masse --regardless of political or spiritual affiliation -- to the land of the heart. Instead of squabbling over the differences that separate us, we must cohere around the heart-core values we share in common. That is the only way we can trade our insecurity for inner security. No matter where we stand on climate change, one thing is clear. Global heartwarming is bound to change the political climate for the better.

Whatever the problems, we have the wherewithal to address them. Now all we need is the aware-with-all. Whether you call yourself a creationist or an evolutionist, or take the simplest approach of all to the Great Unknown -- not knowing -- one thing is undeniable: We are all one with the same One. The story of separation, survival of the fittest, and lowest common dominator --that is the old story.

Only we have the power to close the book on the old story once and for all, by declaring: And they all lived happily ever after.

And happily ever after begins now.

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Bhaerman. All rights reserved. To find our Swami’s schedule and get a free catalogue, call toll free (800) SWAMI-BE or visit him online at

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Please Forgive Me, 'Cause I Usually Don't Know What the Heck I'm doing.....

Food for thought
Amma says...(from Amrita eNews)

Children when we forgive and forget the faults of others, God will forgive and forget ours.

Spiritual people trust the universal strength that lies behind their abilities and intelligence.

The same kind of candy is wrapped in different-colored wrappers. Similarly, it is the same consciousness that dwells in everything.

When we say the world is 'unreal', what we are referring to is that it is constantly changing. If we depend too much on such things, we will experience sorrow. It is the same with our own body. It is constantly changing. We must therefore give everything a proper place and importance. Considering the body to be real and devoting our entire life to it will make us very unhappy.

There are two types of education. One type of education will enable you to find a suitable job; the other shows you how to live a life of peace and happiness. That is spirituality. It is the knowledge of the mind.

Amma often says that we must always have the attitude of a beginner. You may ask, "If I always remain a beginner, won't that mean that I'll never make any progress?" Not at all.
Having the attitude of a beginner means that you retain the total openness, attentiveness and receptivity of a beginner. This is the only way to truly imbibe wisdom and knowledge.

We are not isolated islands. Our lives are interconnected like the links of a chain. Whether we are aware of it or not, our every action has an effect on others.