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Undernews For July 28, 2008

Undernews For July 28, 2008

Washington's Most Unofficial Source
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Editor: Sam Smith

28 JULY 2008



LeVine is professor of modern Middle Eastern history, culture, and Islamic studies at the University of California, Irvine, and author of Heavy Metal Islam: Rock Religion and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam

Mark A. LeVine , History News Network - Senator Obama's strategy for prosecuting the War on Terror is based on questionable, and potentially flawed premises-one shared with his Republican opponent John McCain-which would likely impede the ability of either administration to achieve "victory" against Muslim extremism.

In his speech Senator Obama declared that "America can’t [win in Afghanistan] alone... The Afghan people need our troops and your troops; our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, to develop their economy, and to help them rebuild their nation. We have too much at stake to turn back now."

The linkage between al-Qa'eda and the Taliban has been made so often since 2001 that the terms have become almost interchangeable, as if they represent the same overall movement or phenomenon. Indeed, the Taliban regime that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 through 2001 harbored and supported Osama bin Laden and al-Qa'eda, enabling the attacks of September 11.

But their cooperation then (and now) does not mean they can be fought along similar lines. Obama's close association of the two groups, which mirrors Bush Administration policy, simplifies a far more complex reality, against which a strategy based primarily on force and violence will likely fail.

While sharing a similar ideology to a certain extent, personnel, al-Qa'eda and the Taliban are fundamentally distinct entities. Al-Qa'eda is a deterritorialized, stateless organization that claims universal jurisdiction to wage violent, terroristic jihad against whomever its leaders declare to be Islam's external and internal enemies.

However hazy al-Qa'eda's ideology (at least to the uninitiated), bin Laden's organization of al-Qa'eda was based on the advanced and well-defined principles of corporate management he studied as a student of economics and public administration, and afterwards working in his family's transnational construction empire. Even smarter was bin Laden's grasp of al-Qa'eda value as a brand in the era of globalization, one which could-and ultimately did-survive and even thrive as a decentralized coalition of various militant groups who shared little besides the jihadi component at the core of the group's "brand identity."

For its part, the Taliban is essentially a territorially rooted and "largely ethno-national phenomenon," as the International Crisis Group describes it. It emerged as a coherent force in the early to mid-1990s, with the support of the Pakistani security services, as a loosely aligned movement of Pashtun Afghans, many of whom had studied at religious schools-"madrasas"-in or sponsored by Pakistan, or had fought against the Soviets during the latter's occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s. . .

If the United States and its allies are to continue the war against the Taliban well into the next decade (or at least administration), It would behoove Senator Obama, and his Republican counterpart, to explain exactly who are the "Taliban" they plan to fight even more fiercely than before. Is there a hierarchical structure with a clear leadership and chain of command that can be identified and targeted? Is every religiously conservative Pashtun who is fighting against the US occupation a "taliban" and therefore a legitimate military target"? What about the far larger number of Afghans who merely support them; are they "enemy combatants"? Are the 78 Afghan civilians killed just during the month of July acceptable "collateral damage" in such a fight?

As important, does the United States and its allies have the right according to the UN Charter and international law to capture, detain and even kill Afghans merely because they are suspected of subscribing to political or religious beliefs that resemble those of the Taliban, or even have fought with them?. . .

It is equally hard to imagine how the military and civilian strategists planning the ongoing war can design appropriate policies for dealing with the roots causes of the continued popularity of the Taliban without being able to answer these fundamental questions accurately.


Jennifer Oldham, Los Angeles Times - Food pantry operators throughout the Los Angeles region report that demand for free groceries has surged to the highest level in recent memory this summer as the sagging economy has hit not only the poor, but also middle- and upper-class families. "This is probably the most people we've ever seen use emergency food assistance," said Darren Hoffman, communications director for the 35-year-old Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. "We're seeing people who were making $70,000 a year coming into a food bank for the first time. . . . They've used their retirement to pay their mortgage, and gone through their savings."

The organization, which distributes groceries to about 670,000 people each year through a network of more than 900 religious entities and nonprofits, watched demand increase by 80% this spring.

Steep job losses in the banking and entertainment industries, on top of the housing downturn, are reverberating particularly hard through the San Fernando Valley, leading to less work for janitors, waiters and others. The Valley has lost thousands of jobs in financial services, largely due to the failure last fall of Calabasas-based Countrywide Financial Corp. -- the nation's largest mortgage lender -- which laid off more than 20% of its workforce.


James Gordon Meek, NY Daily News - Vice President Cheney's invitation to address wounded combat veterans next month has been yanked because the group felt his security demands were Draconian and unreasonable. The veep had planned to speak to the Disabled American Veterans at 8:30 a.m. at its August convention in Las Vegas. His staff insisted the sick vets be sequestered for two hours before Cheney's arrival and couldn't leave until he'd finished talking, officials confirmed. "Word got back to us . . . that this would be a prerequisite," said the veterans executive director, David Gorman, who noted the meeting hall doesn't have any rest rooms. "We told them it just wasn't acceptable." When Cheney spoke to the group in 2004, his handlers imposed the same stringent security lockdown, upsetting members, officials said. . .

"It was a huge imposition on our delegates," added David Autry, another Disabled American Veterans official. Autry said vets would've had to get up "at Oh-dark-30 and try to get breakfast and showered and get their prosthetics on." Once inside, they "could not leave the meeting room, and the bathrooms are outside," he said.

Spokeswoman Megan Mitchell said the two-hour rule is "a recommendation, not a requirement," and "we always work to make sure the bathrooms are within the security perimeters."


One of the things the conventional media does extremely well is to normalize the disintegration of our culture. This article is a classic example. Through tone and language, the writer trivializes a major assault on democratic rights, buries objections to it, and makes it sound like just one more interesting thing about living in a city.

DeNeen L. Brown, Washington Post - Checkpoints stand as more than physical barriers against violence. They separate the wanted from the unwanted. They are gateposts meant to divide the good from the bad, to keep chaos away from calm. They are forbidding guardhouses with searing lights, dogs and people in uniforms. They create assurance in a society that wants certainty. Sometimes, they succeed. In the District's violence-torn Trinidad neighborhood, the latest checkpoints have provided nine sweet days of peace.. . .

Controversial as they are, checkpoints have tried to divide the good from the bad throughout history. They have been heralded for disrupting terrorism. Cursed for disrupting commerce. Praised as necessary filters of bad intentions. Condemned for human rights violations.

They hold within them the power to check death. Here, authority figures look for wires in your shirt or dress, a shaky hand, a nervous eye. A stutter.Incongruent behavior.

Even if you have nothing to hide, you ride up to a checkpoint slowly. Hands on the wheel, careful not to make any sudden movements, although your license and registration are there in your black evening bag on the back seat. You hold steady as the officer points that bright beam of light, blinding your eyes and obscuring his face.

From inside the car, the officer looks almost supernatural, a guardian at the gate. You sit still, careful to answer all questions, careful not to hesitate with words, careful to show good intentions.

Hoping only for passage to the other side, the side where the other good people abide.

"I was stopped on Montello and Owens Place," recalls Lowana Coles, 45, a federal worker who has lived in Trinidad for eight years. "I was driving through on my way home and they had the checkpoint up. I was summoned to pull over, so I pulled over. They explained what they were doing."

She showed the officer her license and proof of insurance. "I told him I was glad they were in the neighborhood and wished they could do it more often."

A small inconvenience for peace at night. "It saddens me to hear these people are being killed literally for nothing," she says. "I'm sure it will get much worse before it gets better. I want to run away, but where will I run to?"

Checkpoints date back at least to biblical times, with gates in walls built against aggressors. Some checkpoints were built of turf, some of earth, rock and stone, stretching for miles, later abandoned when the evil on the other side retreated. There were the walls of Jericho to protect the city from nomads. The Great Wall of China, built to withstand the power of the Huns. The wall of Antonius, an ancient Roman barrier built across Britain, intended as a defense against the people of the north. The Berlin Wall, constructed in 1961 to keep people in. Checkpoint Charlie become a symbol of the Cold War, symbolizing the separation of East from West. Depending on which side you were standing on, it was seen as a gateway to freedom, or a usurper of it. . .

In conflict zones, checkpoints have been dangerous places to guard -- and dangerous places to pass. Countless soldiers have been killed by seemingly innocent people. And seemingly hostile, but innocent, people have been killed by soldiers.. . .

The barriers bring with them questions of civil liberties, the right to move unencumbered.

The Partnership for Civil Justice sued the District of Columbia in June to challenge the constitutionality of checkpoints. "The District's military-style roadblock system was deployed, in part, to give the appearance that the government is addressing this deeply felt need," the class action complaint argues. "But it is neither constitutional, nor effective.". . .


Richard Prince's Journal-isms - Obama told the Unity audience, "I've also said that affirmative action is not going to be the long-term solution to the problems of race in America, because, frankly, if you've got 50 percent of African American or Latino kids dropping out of high school, it doesn't really matter what you do in terms of affirmative action. Those kids are not getting into college.

"And, you know, there have been times where I think affirmative action has been viewed as a shortcut to solving some of these broader, long-term structural problems.

"I also think that we have to think about affirmative action and craft it in such a way where some of our children who are advantaged aren't getting more favorable treatment than a poor white kid who's struggled more. That has to be taken into account."

The Swamp - Obama said minority children who come from wealthy homes should not be given greater consideration for college, for example, than "a poor white kid who has struggled more."

Progress Report - On ABC News's This Week, George Stephanopoulos asked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) about how "opponents of affirmative action" in his home state of Arizona are pushing a ballot initiative "that would do away" with the equal opportunity program. "Do you support that?" asked Stephanopoulos. "Yes, I do," replied McCain, adding that he had "not seen the details of some of these proposals," but that he's "always opposed quotas." Asked again specifically about "the one here in Arizona," McCain responded, "I support it, yes." McCain's support for the current anti-affirmative action initiative is a reversal of the stance he took in 1998 when Arizona previously considered a similar referendum. At the time, McCain said that "rather than engage in divisive ballot initiatives, we must have a dialogue and cooperation and mutual efforts together to provide every child in America to fulfill their expectations."

In his interview with Stephanopoulos, McCain justified his support for the Arizona initiative by saying, "I do not believe in quotas." But the effort to dismantle equal opportunity in Arizona has nothing to do with quotas, which were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court 30 years ago. The proposed amendment to the Arizona's constitution, which is being pushed by the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative, seeks to "prohibit preferential treatment or discrimination" by Arizona governmental entities "based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting." "The initiative is part of a nationwide attempt by Ward Connerly to have governmental affirmative action policies eliminated." Connerly's anti-affirmative action initiatives are set to capitalize on the "tensions of race, class, and ethnicity" stirred up by anti-immigrant efforts. Connerly, who successfully outlawed affirmative action in California, is also supporting initiatives in Colorado and Nebraska. On CNN's Late Edition yesterday, McCain declined to take a position on the Colorado initiative, saying, "I'm not familiar with the referendum." The language of Connerly's Colorado amendment is essentially the same as the Arizona amendment McCain endorsed on ABC.

As many news outlets have pointed out, McCain's embrace of Arizona's anti-affirmative action ballot initiative stands in opposition to his record on equal opportunity. Not only has McCain previously resisted state-level efforts to dismantle affirmative action, as he did in 1998, but he has also defended such programs on the federal level. In 1998, McCain worked with Democrats to defeat an amendment that would have ended a program that sought "to give 10 percent of all Federally financed highway contracts to companies owned by minorities and women." In 1999, while speaking at the Unity convention, McCain declared, "I'm in favor of affirmative action and I support it." He reiterated this support as recently as April 2008, telling reporters in Ohio, "all of us are for affirmative action to try to give assistance to those who need it, whether it be African-American or other groups of Americans that need it."

Sam Smith, Progressive Review, 1995 - Affirmative action has been ineffective in many ways. It has failed inner city residents. It has favored middle-class women over poorer ones. Its effects on minority participation on college campuses peaked some years ago. It has been abused and manipulated by unneedy members of minorities and by white business firms. And, like other aspects of liberal politics and race relations, it has been preempted by lawyers whose policies too often lead to the courthouse rather than to resolution. Affirmative action needs to be restudied and reframed by its friends before it is destroyed by its enemies. For starters, here are some ways its goals, rather than merely its chosen tactics, might be furthered:

-Tell people who's really taking their jobs: As with the anti-immigration hysteria, the attack on affirmative action is fed by real fears caused by job loss. In fact, neither minority hiring nor immigration is a major factor in this job loss. The real cause is white guys. The white guys who run multinational corporations that have taken jobs overseas. The white guys who came up with GATT and NAFTA. The white guys who are downsizing Fortunate 500 companies. The white guys who are automating. And the white economists who say that high unemployment is necessary for the health of the country and so you folks out there will just have to decide among yourselves who's going to suffer it.

Absent a politics that clearly identifies the real sources of economic pain -- the stateless corporation, automation, the corporatist policies of both parties, and the legal emigration of business rather than the illegal immigration of persons -- many will continue to place the blame on other victims rather than where it belongs. The Democratic Party -- even its liberal wing -- has been unwilling to do this. They would be criticizing too many of their contributors.

- Include affirmative action by zip-code, census tract, economic status or some other way that adds the factor of class to those of race and gender. Every really successful social program in this country has either been universal or strongly cross-cultural -- including needy whites. Failing to follow this basic rule of American politics has hurt affirmative action badly.

- Settle more cases by mediation. Affirmative action, like other ethnic and gender issues, begs for dispute resolution rather than litigation. Unfortunately, the rules have been drawn up by litigators and not by peacemakers.

- Give protection to those hurt by affirmative action. Part of the political problem of affirmative action has been the insensitivity of its supporters to the pain it has caused in specific instances. One way to mitigate this is to provide protection for an employee who loses out in order to make room for someone else. For example, imagine a white police sergeant who qualifies for lieutenant but is not chosen in the interest of better integration at headquarters. That sergeant should automatically go to the top of the list for the next hiring round. He has already done his part for affirmative action.

- Provide incentives rather than just regulations. For example, firms that lead the pack in improving their hiring practices or in overall diversity of employment could be given a federal seal they could use in advertising. Such an icon could have increasing value as minority markets expand.

- Provide wiggle room, especially for smaller businesses. A big problem for small businesses is that government regulations are too complex and unforgiving. What if we offered these smaller firms some leeway in how they help America become a better place? For example, what if, for such businesses, we lumped affirmative action, energy conservation and recycling together in such a way that a laggard in minority hiring could partially compensate by excelling in reduced energy use or vice versa? Such a program would be based on the principle that while we all have our faults, we all can do something right as well.

- Take on the discrimination we've been ducking: The two big areas are housing and transportation. We have failed to confront these forms of discrimination, preferring to deal only with their results -- often ineffectively -- through such means as school bussing and affirmative action. We would not need to rely so much on affirmative action if we finally faced these issues.

- Shorten the work-week and move towards full employment. Nothing would so ease the tensions surrounding affirmative action as jobs for everyone. As long as we fail at this, there are going to be too many people wanting too few jobs. Someone is going to lose. And be mad about it.


Yeas & Neas, DC Examiner - You’ll recall that D.C. Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey mentioned last year that she was mulling over a tell-all tome on her escort business and the government case that brought it down. But, following Palfrey’s suicide in May, the status of the madam’s memoirs is up in the air.

"She left me 150 pages," said former Palfrey attorney Blair Montgomery Sibley. "I am pulling that together with 2,700 e-mails that I have between Jeane and I to attempt a cogent narrative of the events that led up to her unfortunate demise.

"She also left me a substantial amount of recorded material that will supplement the written information," Sibley told Yeas & Nays. "We are still in the process of transcribing all of that.

Of course, many Washingtonians still wonder: Were there any famous clients of Palfrey whose names have yet to be leaked? "I cannot answer that question at this time," Sibley said. "There are reams of stuff nobody knows but me at this point in time."


BBC Senator Obama has been a big supporter of corn subsidies for American farmers to produce the plant-fuel ethanol. But a new report from his own green adviser warns of the many problems associated with the biofuel.

Daniel Kammen's paper says that a car will emit more greenhouse gases driving on corn ethanol processed with coal than it will using normal petrol. The University of California, Berkeley, professor says the boom in subsidized American corn production is driving up the cost of animal feed - and forcing soy production to Brazil where it creates still more greenhouse gases if it is planted on virgin land. . .

Senator Obama has previously been a strong supporter of President Bush's corn subsidies which put money into the pockets of his voters in Illinois - the second biggest corn state in America. He has also said in the past that the subsidies help with energy security and climate change. Recently, he has been shifting position somewhat but we may not know until after the election how much he has been listening to Professor Kammen.


The Schenectady Sunday Gazette interviews suburban sprawl critic James Kunstler

Q: Where do you see things going in terms of the housing market? Will America abandon the suburbs in favor of the cities?

A: A lot of people (Realtors, builders, bankers) are waiting for the "bottom" of the housing crash, with the idea that we’ll re-enter an up-cycle. I see it differently. There won’t be a resumption of "growth" as we’ve known it, certainly not in suburban residential and commercial real estate. The suburban project is over. We’re done with that. (I know people find this unbelievable.) The existing stuff will represent a huge liability for us for decades to come as it loses value and utility and falls apart.

However, I also believe our big cities will contract. They are simply not scaled to the energy realities of the future. The successful places, in my opinion, will be the smaller cities and towns that 1.) have walkable neighborhoods, 2.) have proximity to water for power, transport and drinking, and 3.) have a meaningful relationship with a productive agricultural hinterland. Some places you can forget about completely: Phoenix . . . Las Vegas . . . they’re toast. . .

Q: What’s the most "walkable" city in the Northeast? What about in this area?

A: There are plenty of them. New York City, of course, is an astounding place - though I believe it will face enormous liabilities of scale in the decades ahead - especially with skyscrapers - that will be a huge drag on its ability to survive. Boston remains pretty walkable, but also faces scale issues. Providence, R.I., is a hidden gem and closer to the scale of a city that might have a plausible future. Northampton, Mass., Concord, N.H., Portsmouth, N.H., Portland, Maine, Hudson, N.Y, and Montpelier, Vt., are agreeable places scaled to a lower energy future. Albany, Schenectady, and Troy are, for the moment, at their nadir of disinvestment. All of them share an advantageous relationship to a major inland waterway, with all that implies. . .

Q: Can America survive if everyone starts buying hybrids? Or do we need a more monumental shift?

A: In my opinion we are excessively preoccupied with how we’re going to keep all the cars running. We need to accept the fact that the "Happy Motoring" experience is drawing to a close for us. We have to make other arrangements for where we live and how we get around.

Unfortunately, our investments in motoring are so exorbitant that we are liable to exhaust and bankrupt our society in a futile effort to keep the motoring system going at all costs. I’d add that most of our alt-fuel ideas amount to dangerous fantasies - for instance the ethanol fiasco. We have to give our attention to many other vitally important projects besides propping up the car system.


Pat Elder, DC Activist Meeting with activists in May, Sherry Ulery, Chief of Teaching and Learning for DC Public Schools, acknowledged that the school system currently operates live firing ranges in half of the system’s public high schools. The firing ranges, which are affiliated with the Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps program uses CO2 - propelled pellet rifles.

The U.S. Army has defended the use of these weapons, insisting they are safe, under proper supervision. The issue of teaching automatic weaponry in the schools hasn’t managed to cause much of a fuss because it seems most teachers and administrators feel it’s better for the children to learn how to fire automatic weapons in school than it is for them to learn about them in the streets

San Diego Union Tribune A 14-year-old boy was severely wounded during a sleepover in Santee early yesterday when another boy shot him in the face with an air-powered pellet rifle. Anthony Martinez suffered paralysis on the left side of his body, but doctors expected him to survive, his mother said yesterday. They anticipate he will need physical therapy to regain full use of his body, she said. . . Anthony graduated from Chet Harritt School in Santee and is preparing for his freshman year at West Hills High School. His mother said he is enrolled in the school's ROTC program.

Mohave Daily News, CO - In a Monday meeting the Colorado River Union High School District adopted the proposed budget for 2008-09. . In other business, the board turned down a proposal by Mohave High School's Junior Air Force Junior ROTC to bring a marksmanship program to campus.

Capt. Mike Thompson described to the board the nature of the program and mentioned the Mohave High School cafeteria as a possible location for target practice. He said the program, which has been approved by 65 schools across the state, is a good recruiting tool.

Board members were not comfortable with the idea of bringing weapons on campus, even CO2-powered pellet rifles. They were also concerned about the potential for injuries during weekly practice in the cafeteria, and pointed out that an off-campus location might be a better alternative.

Central Committee of Conscientious Objectors - School boards across the country, from Richmond, CA to Roane County, WV, are saying no to the Junior Reserve Officers Training Program. They're finding JROTC too controversial, too likely to promote violence, too expensive, too controlled by Washington, too discriminatory, and too much at odds with the goal of creating critically-thinking students in gun-free schools. . .

Instead of an alternative to violence, JROTC brings guns into the schools. Often, JROTC teaches students to use them. Students in a JROTC unit in Long Beach formed a military-style gang and murdered one of their members. In Detroit, a student shot another student in the hall of the school on the orders of the student gang (and JROTC) leader. In Arizona, a camouflage-clad JROTC student murdered 9 Buddhist monks. In SF, CA, a student's eardrum was broken in a hazing ritual that had gone on, with JROTC instructors' knowledge, for years.

Ninety percent of all JROTC programs train students to fire rifles or pistols. All of them drill with guns and teach military history, customs, traditions, and beliefs. In JROTC, too many kids learn, from example, that violence is acceptable.

The Army JROTC text, LET 1(Leadership, Education, and Training), p. 87, states, "When troops react to command rather than thought, the result is more than just a good-looking ceremony or parade. Drill has been and will continue to be the backbone of military discipline." Almost all schools feel that one of their primary missions is to teach critical thinking. Yet JROTC promotes unquestioning, amoral obedience. The Navy JROTC text, Naval Science 1, p. 24, calls for "loyalty to those above us in the chain of command, whether or not we agree with them."

The Pentagon dictates JROTC curriculum, textbooks, and course content. JROTC instructors are often paid higher net salaries despite not having to meet District qualification standards. JROTC instructors aren't required to have college degrees. They are not credentialed in the academic subjects that JROTC claims to teach.

Fifty-four percent of JROTC participants nationwide are students of color. JROTC graduates are recruited directly into the lowest military ranks. The military targets low-income schools in the same way tobacco & alcohol companies target low-income communities. The results are equally deadly. Half the military's front-line troops are people of color.

The Army JROTC textbook LET 3, p. 185, trumpets, "Fortunately for the Army, the government policy of pushing the Indians farther west then wiping them out was carried out successfully." In addition to this celebration of brutal racism, women are almost invisible in JROTC textbooks. Veterans with disabilities and gay veterans are excluded from receiving the Pentagon authorization required to become a JROTC instructor. JROTC Discriminates

JROTC discriminates against students and instructors who are gay, lesbian or bisexual, people with disabilities and immigrants.

Sam Smith, Mission Creep, 1996 - Much of the military's intrusion [into civilian life] has been accomplished without public notice. For example, the Pentagon has greatly expanded JROTC programs. Last year, the American Friends Service Committee found retired military personnel teaching approximately 310,000 students, ages 14 and up, in about 2200 high schools (with another 700 on the docket). As the AFSC pointed out:

"Public schooling strives to promote respect for other cultures, critical thinking and basic academic skills in a safe environment. In contrast, JROTC introduces guns into the schools, promotes authoritarian values, uses rote learning methods, and consigns much student time to learning drill, military history and protocol, which have little relevance outside the military."

And what are these cadets being taught? Says the report:

"A comparison of the JROTC curriculum and two widely used civilian high school civics and history textbooks demonstrates that the JROTC curriculum falls well below accepted pedagogical standards. Units on citizenship and history are strikingly different from standard civil texts on these subjects.

"For example, . . . the JROTC text portrays citizenship as being primarily achieved through military service, provides only a short discussion of civil rights; and downplays the importance of civilian control of the military. . . .

"In comparison to the civilian history text, historical events in the JROTC curriculum are distorted . . History is described as a linear series of accomplishments by soldiers, while the progress engendered by regular citizens is marginalized. America's wars are treated as having been inevitable.

"While it claims to provide leadership training with broad relevance, in fact the JROTC curriculum defines leadership as respect for constituted authority and the chain of command, rather than as critical thinking and democratic consensus-building . . . Finally, the text encourages the reader to rely uncritically on the military as a source of self-esteem and guidance.

Further, at a time that schools are trying desperately to discourage violence, the JROTC is teaching students how to kill more effectively."

And just where did the idea come from for the expansion of military indoctrination in our high schools? From none other than that very media model of a major modern general: Colin Powell.

Following the LA uprising in 1992, writes Steven Stycos in the Providence Phoenix, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff "proposed a massive expansion of the program. Powell urged the new units be targeted to inner-city youth as an alternative to drug use and gang membership." In New England the number of students involved nearly tripled.

Was Powell seeking citizen officers to balance the academy-trained military? Absolutely not. The JROTC students are grunt-fodder. Besides, while referring to ROTC as "vital to democracy," Powell closed 62 college-based ROTC units during this same period. The inevitable result was that the proportion of academy-trained officers rose and the role of the citizen-officer diminished.


Here is what America's wars have cost in 2008 dollars along with the percent of GDP, as provided by the Congressional Research Service

-American Revolution: $1.8 billion; GDP figure not available

-War of 1812: $1.2 billion; 2.2 percent

-Civil War, Union: $45.2 billion; 11.3 percent

Civil War, Confederacy: $15.2 billion; GDP figure not available

World War I: $253 billion; 13.6 percent

World War II: $4.1 trillion; 35.8 percent

Korean War: $320 billion; 4.2 percent

Vietnam War: $686 billion; 2.3 percent

-Gulf War: $96 billion; 0.3 percent

Iraq war: $648 billion; 1 percent

Afghanstian/Global war on terror: $171 billion; 0.3 percent

Post 9/11 domestic security: $33 billion; 0.1 percent

Post 9/11 operations: $859 billion; 1.2 percent

Incidentally, you may not have heard about this because despite taxpayers spending nearly $100 million a year to support the Congressional Reseach Service, these reports are not easily available. As Open CRS reports noted:

"The Congressional Research Service [is] a "think tank" that provides reports to members of Congress on a variety of topics relevant to current political events. Yet, these reports are not made available to the public in a way that they can be easily obtained. CRS reports do not become public until a member of Congress releases the report. A number of libraries and non-profit organizations have sought to collect as many of the released reports as possible. Open CRS brings together these collections to search. Unfortunately, there is no systematic way to obtain all CRS reports. Because of this, not all reports appear on the Open CRS web site."



NY Times - The case of a freelance photographer in Iraq who was barred from covering the Marines after he posted photos on the Internet of several of them dead has underscored what some journalists say is a growing effort by the American military to control graphic images from the war.

Zoriah Miller, the photographer who took images of marines killed in a June 26 suicide attack and posted them on his Web site, was subsequently forbidden to work in Marine Corps-controlled areas of the country. Maj. Gen. John Kelly, the Marine commander in Iraq, is now seeking to have Mr. Miller barred from all United States military facilities throughout the world. Mr. Miller has since left Iraq.

If the conflict in Vietnam was notable for open access given to journalists - too much, many critics said, as the war played out nightly in bloody newscasts - the Iraq war may mark an opposite extreme: after five years and more than 4,000 American combat deaths, searches and interviews turned up fewer than a half-dozen graphic photographs of dead American soldiers. . .

Journalists say it is now harder, or harder than in the earlier years, to accompany troops in Iraq on combat missions. Even memorial services for killed soldiers, once routinely open, are increasingly off limits. Detainees were widely photographed in the early years of the war, but the Department of Defense, citing prisoners’ rights, has recently stopped that practice as well.

And while publishing photos of American dead is not barred under the "embed" rules in which journalists travel with military units, the Miller case underscores what is apparently one reality of the Iraq war: that doing so, even under the rules, can result in expulsion from covering the war with the military. . .

News organizations say that such restrictions are one factor in declining coverage of the war, along with the danger, the high cost to financially ailing media outlets and diminished interest among Americans in following the war. By a recent count, only half a dozen Western photographers were covering a war in which 150,000 American troops are engaged.



The Washington Post recently completed a long series on the unsolved Chandra Levy case with special attention on Ingmar Guandeque, a man serving a ten year sentence for attacking two women in DC's Rock Creek Park, where Levy died. Back in 2002 we noted a Roll Call story on Gaundeque, but our coverage also cited some other interesting possibilities.

Mike Wise, SF Chronicle, 2007 - Although he is no longer an FBI agent, Brad Garrett still visits the steep, wooded hillside in a Washington, D.C., park where the skeletal remains of Chandra Levy, a federal intern from Modesto, Calif., were found five years ago this week, a year after she disappeared.

No one has been charged in the killing of the 24-year-old, whose disappearance generated enormous publicity after authorities revealed that she had been having a relationship with her married hometown congressman, Gary Condit. The Democrat was defeated in 2002 by his former aide, Dennis Cardoza.

"The key to cold cases is being creative," Garrett, a private investigator and a consultant to ABC News, said in a phone interview. Until his mandatory retirement last year at the age of 58, Garrett was a high-profile agent who had solved some of the bureau's most intractable cases -- but not the Levy slaying.

"I go to Rock Creek Park sometimes, yeah, and go over the crime scene, over and over again," he said. "What have I missed? The whole atmospherics is very important. It's very frustrating that it's not resolved. It's troubling."

On May 1, 2001, Levy used her computer in her apartment in the Dupont Circle area of northwest Washington to look up the National Park Service headquarters in Rock Creek Park, about a mile distant. She had recently completed an internship at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and planned to return to Modesto, according to her mother, Susan Levy. Friends and family became alarmed when Levy was not heard from, and a search began. It wasn't until a year and three weeks later, on May 22, 2002, that her remains were found in the 1,700-acre park. . .

The Washington Metropolitan Police Department lists the death as one of 6,000 cold cases. Since the intern's disappearance, the case has been investigated by Detective Ralph Durant, a 37-year veteran of the department. In a phone interview, Durant said, "There are still persons of interest, yes, but we can't tell you who they are. We still get phone calls and e-mails.". . .

Initially, media attention focused on Condit, the Modesto lawmaker 30 years Levy's senior. Police have said repeatedly that they do not consider him a suspect. In the years since, Condit and his family have been embroiled in several lawsuits. He and his wife, Carolyn, sued American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer, claiming they had been defamed by the supermarket tabloid. The suits were settled. No terms were disclosed. Condit also settled a suit against Vanity Fair magazine columnist Dominick Dunne.

Roll Call May 2002 - D.C. Metropolitan Police Department officials investigating the death of Washington intern Chandra Levy have interviewed a man serving a 10-year prison sentence for attacking two women in Rock Creek Park last year. D.C. Metro Police investigators have "talked to" Ingmar Guandeque, who was arrested in July 2001 after attacking two females (one in May and one in July) who were jogging along the Broad Branch trail in Rock Creek Park . . A second official close to the Levy investigation said that while Guandeque was interviewed after Levy's disappearance last year, investigators are now taking a closer look at him since the intern's body was discovered. "Clearly there are some coincidences and links -- just because of the proximity of where he [committed his crimes]," said a source close to the investigation. . .

The first attack occurred in mid-May 2001, at 6:30 p.m., about two weeks after Levy disappeared. In that case, Guandeque came upon an unnamed female jogger, attacking her from behind while brandishing a knife. According to a press release issued Feb. 8 by the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, the victim reported that Guandeque grabbed her around the neck and pulled her to the ground, where her portable radio fell off. She also reported that Guandeque bit her when she tried to push him away. Guandeque fled the scene of the crime, leaving the radio beside his victim.

On July 1, 2001, he attacked another female jogger at approximately 7:30 p.m., running up behind her as she reached the crest of a hill and grabbing her from behind. The woman struggled, and when Guandeque loosened his grip on her she managed to get away and report the incident to the U.S. Park Police, who located Guandeque and arrested him.

Progressive Review, 2002 -
There remain several possibilities. For example, if, as some have alleged, there is a tie - either direct or coincidental - between this case and powerful individuals and their activities, there is a considerable probability that the case will never be solved or that a straw perpetrator will be charged with the crime. For example, some stories have suggested a connection with an S&M sex ring in which a number of well-known individuals are believed to have participated. As USA Today's Tom Sequeri put it delicately, there are "dark aspects of this story that we can't report yet." This is the sort of thing that Washington is highly skilled at covering up and in this case there may be more than adequate motive, especially since the DC police were badly embarrassed in 1997 by revelations of the practice of "fairy shaking," in which a cop followed a married man out of a gay sex club, got his license plate number, and later threatened to expose him unless he paid hush money . . . There also continue to be doubts about the handling of the last high profile DC murder, the Starbucks case in which the alleged perp confessed and then recanted. Added to the curiosities about the case was the fact that of all the 301 slayings that took place in DC in 1997, only these three killings attracted the attention not only of the FBI but of Attorney General Reno herself. Reno overruled her own US Attorney and called for the death penalty in the case.

The Weekly Globe reports charges by James Robinson - attorney for one of Gary Condit's ex-lovers - that Chandra Levy was killed on orders from two well known politicians - a governor and a former presidential candidate - who belonged to an alternative sex ring. Robinson alleges that "this story is bigger than Watergate" and that Levy was killed because she was ready to blow the whistle on the sex club. The Globe offers no evidence to support Robinson's claim.

Progressive Review, 2001 - One of the leads being investigated in the Chandra Levy case is that Levy was murdered by a professional hit man involved in the local gay S&M scene. Whether or not this proves to be the case, the mere possibility has created unusual problems on Capitol Hill and for the DC police. We hear that some big names on the Hill are extremely nervous at the moment - not because of the Levy mystery itself but because what such a solution might reveal. The MPD could also face possible blowback because of its involvement a few years back in a major gay blackmail scandal, perhaps involving some of the same players.

William Walker, Toronto Star: Washington police also revealed they are investigating the possibility 24-year-old Chandra Levy may have been slain by a professional killer skilled in the disposal of bodies . . . Levy's purse, wallet, personal identification and credit cards were all left in her apartment, along with a laptop computer and her packed bags prepared for a return trip home to attend her University of Southern California graduation ceremony. All that was missing from her apartment were her keys. Police found no signs of a struggle or forced entry and nothing was stolen. [Chief Charles] Ramsey confirmed that although Levy was last seen April 30, a search of her laptop computer revealed that she was on the Internet visiting travel Web sites the next day, on May 1, for about three hours up until 1 p.m. . . . [Levy family lawyer] Martin said his own investigation, conducted on behalf of the Levy family by two retired Washington homicide detectives, indicates the young woman went to meet someone she knew. "For some reason, Chandra appears to have been lured, called, or brought out of the apartment expecting to return,'' Martin said.

James Risen & Raymond Bonner, NY Times: Washington police investigating the disappearance of the government intern Chandra Ann Levy have found no evidence that would link her case to other recent missing-person cases involving young women in the capital, law enforcement officials said today. In particular, investigators for the Metropolitan Police Department have reviewed two cases involving women whose bodies were recovered in the Washington area, Joyce Chiang and Christine M. Mirzayan. Ms. Chiang, a 28-year-old lawyer at the Immigration and Naturalization Service, disappeared in January 1999, after last being seen in the Dupont Circle area, a few blocks from where Ms. Levy, 24, lived. Her body was discovered three months later on the Virginia side of the Potomac River, but the authorities were never able to determine the cause of death. Ms. Mirzayan, a 28-year-old intern at the National Research Council in Washington, disappeared on Aug. 1, 1998. Her body was found in a wooded area near Georgetown University the next day. Her head had been crushed. No one has been arrested in either case. There are some striking similarities between those cases and the Levy one. All three women were Californians in their 20's and had similar physical characteristics. Like Ms. Levy, Ms. Mirzayan was an intern, while Ms. Chiang lived in the same neighborhood as Ms. Levy.

Progressive Review - As we have noted, the Chandra Levy disappearance case may be far more complicated that it first appeared. For example, there are now possible ties to a local gay S&M group. The story is being kept under wraps by news media lawyers - Newsweek and the Village Voice have both spiked articles - but this much can be told: A former Republican congressman wrote a lurid account for Newsmax, allegedly based on knowledgeable sources, that claimed Levy to have been the victim of a gay prostitute who has since returned to his native country. Newsmax quickly removed the story, but it has been the subject of intense media investigation since.

The Levy case has also revived interest in another woman's disappearance two years ago, not far from Levy's apartment. The Starbucks mentioned below, incidentally, is in the same block and across the street from the Review's long-time former office. La Tomate serves as the Review's conference room. The site is also near one of the numerous locations where Vince Foster case witness Patrick Knowlton found himself under overt surveillance - a technique used by intelligence agencies for intimidation - in the aftermath of his visit to Ft. Marcy Park.

Sam Smith, Progressive Review, 2002: This morning, a speculation entered my head that refuses to depart. This may not, I suddenly realized, be a story about one woman's disappearance and one man's transgressions but about a number of women and a number of men. In other words, we may only be seeing the tip of the penis.

The possibility that the Levy case has exposed some form of group sex on Capitol Hill - whether involving call girls or faith-based voluntary activity - would go a long way towards explaining the strange way everyone seems to be acting. It might explain the desire of the DC police to keep the Modesto cops from pursuing their own investigation. It might explain the disappearance of not only Chandra Levy but the days it took the MPD to get around to checking out Gary Condit's pad, and Anne Marie Smith being interviewed for six hours by the FBI and the DC cops, with Smith saying that she told some them some things they didn't know.

It would not in any way conflict with the Capitol Hill and Washington tradition of commingling sex, politics, drugs, and even, more significantly, blackmail. The current issue of Adult Entertainment Monthly, for example, reports that "Archeologists digging just four blocks from Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., have unearthed the remains of a 19th-century bordello owned by Mary Ann Hall, a determined 20-something who built and managed the three-story brick building, yet was never busted by police even as dozens of other similar houses in the city were targeted."

Later, during Prohibition, the notorious "Man in the Green Hat" kept Capitol Hill offices supplied with the substances they prohibited elsewhere. And J. Edgar Hoover is believed to have blackmailed numerous members of Congress over their sexual proclivities much as mobster Meyer Lansky is said to have boasted that he had "fixed that son of a bitch" - i.e. Hoover- with photos of Hoover having sex with a close aide. Interestingly, while there is little evidence of the Italian mafia being active in DC, Lansky did have some operations here. Hoover may also have blackmailed Jack Kennedy, an easy target what with his affairs with a mob moll, a movie star with Mafia connections, and an east German spy.

In a revisionist version of the origins of the Watergate affair, not only were the burglars allegedly after evidence of a call girl ring working with the Democratic National Committee, but there were allegations of a similar Capitol Hill operations staffed by secretaries, office workers, and a White House secretary.

Then there was Rep. Barney Frank hiring a male prostitute in 1986 who later claimed he ran a sex ring out of Frank's Capitol Hill apartment.

As recently as last year, the ethically challenged Rep. Jim Traficant was trying to work the game the other way, claiming to be "to be investigating corruption in the U.S. Justice Department" and alleging that Janet Reno "is being controlled by a blackmailer who has a video of her cavorting with a call girl." What is interesting about this is not that the story is credible but that a member of Congress thought it might be.

One may, as liberals did under Clinton, take the view that all sex is good sex. This ignores, among other things, the blackmail factor. More importantly, it is probable that politicians are blackmailed not just by domestic opponents but by foreign lands. There are some reports that both the Russians and the Israelis knew about Monica Lewinsky before Americans did. Intelligence investigator Peter Dale Scott thinks that international blackmail and sex with politicians is "an ongoing, highly organized, and protected operation" that has "driven the major scandals of Washington since at least the beginning of the Cold War." Scott has also suggested that the mob and lobbyists use call girls for blackmail.

As is the case with stories such as those involving BCCI and the Mena drug operations, everyone involved has something to lose by public exposure of the real story of sex and power in Washington. Hence politics stops at the sex organ's edge and the system works together to get things back under control: Republicans, Democrats, and the law. Don't forget that the DC police department's ultimate employer is the U.S. Congress.

And so the endemic is reduced to an isolated incident and life moves on. Like I say, this is only an hypothesis, but it would not be surprising if a young intern on Capitol Hill were to enter a relationship for sex or love and find herself in the midst of something far deeper. Just something to keep in mind.



Interesting comments on matters covered in past issues of the Review

I appreciated your analysis in "Progressive Puzzle" of the challenging choices that progressive voters face. As the executive director of Voters for Peace ( www.VotersForPeace.US) I look at this same question through the prism of "The Peace Voters Puzzle," i.e. those who want to (really) end the Iraq war, no future wars of aggression and a reduced role of militarism in foreign policy.

Some friendly comments and amendments to your choices progressive voters have in the upcoming election:

Third Party/Independent Vote: This is certainly the way to most clearly vote for what you want. Nader and McKinney are not only progressives who oppose the Iraq war, threatening Iran, one-side pro-Israel policy, escalation in Afghanistan but they also want to challenge the military-industrial complex by cutting their budget. They are right on almost every issue progressives care about.

When it comes to the peace vote there are also two conservatives that peace voters can support as well. The Libertarian Party’s Bob Barr and the Constitution Party’s Chuck Baldwin. These candidates would be unacceptable to progressive peace voters, but there are conservative peace voters. And, having them on the ballot also reduces the so-called "spoiler effect" (a term I hate since I consider the electoral system to be spoiled).

Also, the freedom to vote for what you want is much greater than most people in the U.S. realize. There are only going to be 9 to 11 states in contention in the fall. So, voters in about 40 states are free to vote for what they want. Voters in these states who disagree with Obama are literally throwing their vote away if they vote for him. Not only will their vote have no impact on the result, but it will send a message of support to the Democratic Party when you want to send a message of opposition. I cannot see a legitimate rationale for progressives voting for Obama in non-battleground states.

In battleground states, this may be where the courageous "vote for what you want" voter has the most power. This is especially true if the voter lets the Democratic Party and the Obama campaign know what they are thinking and why they are not getting their vote. And, with the anti-war-conservatives on the ballot they can do so with little fear.

Apathy: I’m also tolerant of the non-voter. Polls of non-voters find that many don’t vote because they don’t see much difference between the two leading candidates. While there are differences, I can’t say they are too off in that perspective. The problem with non-voting is it sends no clear message. What do you want? With the third party and independent choices this year there are choices across the political spectrum. You can send a clear message of what you want. In our limited and manipulated democracy it is one of the few opportunities in a country that is "of, by and for the people" to say where you want the country to go.

The Uncertainty, One Minute and Dental Appointment Approaches: I combine these together because all of them are strengthened if the voter lets Obama know he is not happy with his views on militarism, partial Iraq withdrawal, escalation in Afghanistan and threatening Iran among other issues. Let Obama know what you want and make him earn your vote. This is true for the truly uncertain as well as those who plan to support him one minute in the voting both and those who are likely to vote for him in a painful dental appointment vote. This latter group in particular – why come out for him now? Let him know you have doubts, don’t like his expansion of militarism and expanding security state at home. Push him to work for your vote. The more who do this, the more he will listen and respond to the political wind.

Finally, you are right about organizing around issues and not individuals because the latter will disappoint. How many anti-war presidential candidates ended up expanding wars and militarism? I can’t think of any who didn’t, perhaps the worst case was LBJ who was the anti-war candidate against Goldwater whom he defined as a militaristic hawk. But, you can go back to Woodrow Wilson who opposed the U.S. getting into the European war when he ran, but then quickly got the U.S. into World War I. We should start organizing around issues now

Advocates for progressive change whether it be opposition to war, in favor of single payer health care or any other issue cannot take the election year off. Organizing does not stop and start well – it needs to be ongoing, consistent and building. So, let’s organize around issues now and use the candidates to further that purpose. No matter who is elected we will need an organized citizenry to respond to the well-organized pressure of the corporate powers that dominate government. - Kevin Zeese, Voters for Peace


The two fake opposition parties that monopolize U.S. elections have perfected their stranglehold on elections. Sadly, Sam falls right into the psychological trap they have set for U.S. voters. Consider elections as a multiplayer game, with voters as the players. A "win" would occur if the majority of voters elect a candidate they are satisfied with, that values their concerns over those of well-funded special interests. Polls reveal the majority of voters are dissatisfied with both of the two main candidates. In other words, the majority of game players have already "lost" the game even before the first vote is cast, because they will be unhappy even if their preferred candidate wins the election. The same goes for most nonvoting people in the apathy category, except they have already realized it is a rigged game that they will lose anyway, and simply choose not to play.

Yet there is a winning strategy to the game. Playing the game as dictated by the two main game pieces: voting Democrat or Republican ensures a loss. Not playing ensures a loss. That leaves one other strategy remaining to win: casting a vote for a game piece other than Democrat or Republican.

It is essential to analyze the dysfunctional nature of the monopoly stranglehold in such a manner, in order to discern a wining strategy. Otherwise, it is all too easy to get caught up in one of the emotionalized "hot button" issues (gay marriage, school prayer, intelligent design, flag burning, welfare queens, drugs, porn, abortion, teen sex, commie subversion, terrorist threats, etc., etc.) that never threaten Big Money's bottom line.

Although following such a winning strategy may not result in a win during this or any other election, it is the only strategy that stands a chance of winning from the start. Remember, by playing the game on the terms of the 2-party monopoly, most voters have already lost before the game begins.

The 2-party monopoly on elections is a more complex variant of the Prisoner's Dilemma. The main difference is that right now there exist more choices than Democrat or Republican, so there is no need to remain a prisoner of the 2 corporate-owned parties, unlike the Prisoner's Dilemma, in which only 2 possible courses of action may be taken. - 420


Obama is being cast as the Kennedy of the 21st century. Maybe an apt comparison? Chester Bowles, progressive champion of another era, was seduced by JFK to help win over support of the party's intellectual left in his bid for the 1960 nomination. With the nomination secure, Kennedy moved drastically to the right and marginalized the left from that point forward. Following the Bay of Pigs fiasco, then Undersecretary of State Bowles wrote in his private diary:

"The question which concerns me most about this new Administration is whether it lacks a genuine sense of conviction about what is right and wrong. I realize in posing the question I am raising an extremely serious point. Nevertheless I feel it must be faced. Anyone in public life who has strong convictions about the rights and wrongs of public morality, both domestic and international, has a great advantage in times of strain, since his instincts on what to do are clear and immediate. Lacking such a framework of moral conviction or sense of what is right and what is wrong, he is forced to lean almost entirely upon his mental processes; he adds up the pluses and minuses of any question and comes up with a conclusion. Under normal conditions, when he is not tired of frustrated, this pragmatic approach should successfully bring him out on the right side of the question. What worries me are the conclusions that such an individual may reach when he is tired, angry, frustrated, or emotionally affected. The Cuban fiasco demonstrates how far astray a man as brilliant and well intentioned as Kennedy can go who lacks a basic moral reference point."

Bowles was shortly thereafter forced to leave his position at State. Kennedy, in the meanwhile, began his escalations in a little known portion of Southeast Asia, Viet Nam. - Anon



Paul Bedard, US News & World Report - Sen. Barack Obama has not been a fan of private police like Blackwater in war zones, and some news outlets even reported that they were spurned for his trip last week to Afghanistan and Iraq. But Whispers confirms that Blackwater did handle the Democratic presidential candidate's security in Afghanistan and helped out in Iraq. What's more, Obama was overheard saying: "Blackwater is getting a bad rap." Since everything appeared to go swimmingly, maybe he will take firms like Blackwater out of his sights, the company's supporters hope.


Amos Maki, Memphis Commercial Appeal - Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin and the city of Memphis have filed a lawsuit to learn who operates a blog harshly critical of Godwin and his department. The lawsuit asks AOL to produce all information related to the identity of an e-mail address linked to MPD Enforcer 2.0 , a blog popular with police officers that has been extremely critical of police leadership at 201 Poplar. In what could be a landmark case of privacy and the 1st Amendment," the anonymous bloggers write on the site, "Godwin has illegally used his position and the City of Memphis as a ram to ruin the Constitution of the United States. Some members of the Enforcer 2.0 have contacted their attorneys and we are in the process of filing a lawsuit against Larry and the City of Memphis. What's wrong Larry? The truth hurt?" It wasn't clear if the lawsuit is aimed at shutting down the site or if it's part of an effort to stop leaks that might affect investigations.


Wall Street Journal
- In a new sign of increasing inequality in the U.S., the richest 1% of Americans in 2006 garnered the highest share of the nation's adjusted gross income for two decades, and possibly the highest since 1929, according to Internal Revenue Service data. Meanwhile, the average tax rate of the wealthiest 1% fell to its lowest level in at least 18 years. The group's share of the tax burden has risen, though not as quickly as its share of income. According to the figures, the richest 1% reported 22% of the nation's total adjusted gross income in 2006. . . . The 1988 level was 15.2.


Progress Report - Bill Moyers interviewed investigative journalist Jane Mayer and mentioned that in Mayer’s new book, she notes that FBI agents refused to participate in the CIA’s interrogation of terror suspects at Guantánamo Bay because they determined it to be "borderline torture." Moyers then asked, "Who were some of the other conservative heroes, as you call them, in your book?" Mayer remembered one top Justice Department lawyer and "very conservative member of this administration" who said that after participating in White House meetings authorizing torture, he believed that "lunatics had taken over the country." Mayer said two other top DOJ lawyers had to develop a system of speaking codes because they feared they were being wiretapped while others described an "atmosphere of intimidation," mainly from Vice President Dick Cheney. . . "They felt so endangered in some ways that, at one point, two of the top lawyers from the Justice Department developed this system of talking in codes to each other because they thought they might be being wiretapped…by their own government. They felt like they might


Washington Post - In a sign of shifting political winds seven years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the nation's police chiefs and the heads of its 57 biggest police departments objected this year to the Bush administration's focus on domestic security, saying it has come as the White House proposes slashing traditional police-assistance programs by $2.7 billion as part of its annual budget tussle with Congress.

A new suicide hotline for veterans has attracted more than 22,000 vets and prevented over 1,000 suicides.


Slashdot - Google's index of unique URLs has reached a milestone: one trillion. Google's blog provides some more information, noting, "The first Google index in 1998 already had 26 million pages, and by 2000 the Google index reached the one billion mark."

We checked out the new search engine Cuil, which is backed by a $33 million investment and searches 120 billion web pages. When we put in your editor's name a number of nice items came up, but accompanied by photos of three persons unknown to him.


NY Times A study paid for by the National Science Foundation has found that girls perform as well as boys on standardized math tests. Although boys in high school performed better than girls in math 20 years ago, the researchers found, that is no longer the case. The reason, they said, is simple: Girls used to take fewer advanced math courses than boys, but now they are taking just as many. "Now that enrollment in advanced math courses is equalized, we don’t see gender differences in test performance," said Marcia C. Linn of the University of California, Berkeley, a co-author of the study. . . The findings, reported in the July 25 issue of Science magazine, are based on math scores from seven million students in 10 states, tested in accordance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.


Tree Hugger - J. David Goodman writes in The New York Times about extreme bike commuting: "Once limited to dense urban environments, bike commuting has found a small but devoted following in the New York City suburbs. While there have been no formal studies of the trend, transportation experts and cycling advocates say the number of suburban bike commuters is growing. " It's not just young people, either; "Henry Minnerop, a partner in a Manhattan law firm and "70-plus" years old, said he drives each day - year round - to Englewood Cliffs, and then bikes about 12 miles into Midtown. "I park my bike in the garage I used to use when I drove in," he said before riding off. "There’s a gym in my office. I shower and come out looking like a lawyer." Some travel a very long way; One of the longest bike commutes belongs to Phil Riggio of Darien, Conn., who rides to and from his Midtown office three times a week. Mr. Riggio, a technology trader at Cantor Fitzgerald, began making the 40-mile, two-hour trip in March, shortly after his office moved to Manhattan from Darien. Taking the train left "no time to exercise," he said. "I just thought I’d combine the workout time and the commuting time."

Reuters - The number of miles driven on U.S. highways in May fell a record 3.7%, or 9.6 billion, from last year because of soaring fuel costs, the U.S. Transportation Department said . . . It was the biggest drop ever for any May, which usually sees increased traffic due to Memorial Day vacations and the beginning of summer. . . During the first five months of the year, highway travel was down 29.8 billion miles from a year ago.




Radar -. A five-year-old boy escaped his daycare center just outside of Dallas, Texas, earlier this week by saying he had to go to the bathroom. He then proceeded to sneak out through an unlocked fire exit, walk to a RaceTrac gas station to buy himself snacks and soda, and then stroll nearly a half-mile to the local Hooters, presumably to pick up a couple chicks and power a few hot wings.

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