Wednesday, December 28, 2005

We all live in a Freakbat Mutant submarine

The Webster Retort, Dec. 30, 2005

“We bake a little cake with Duncan Hines
and never wear the vest they call the Calvin Kleins
Cause Calvin Klein's no friend of mine
Don't want nobody's name on my behind
Lee on my legs, sneakers on my feet
D by my side and Jay with the beat”

-- Run D.M.C., “Rock Box”

Writer’s block. I had it bad. For three days I went from being my own worst critic to fearing those invisible boundaries that every liberal-thinking columnist surely feels in this capricious state of Texicanica. I had a topic and two basic points plotted on the weekly writer’s map, but no path to traverse between them. The problem took up residence in my mind like some damn burrowing parasite, dredging my brain and rendering any form of creativity a hopeless endeavor.

As I was driving home Tuesday night, it came to me. Over the Christmas holiday, I had been gifted “Distortion,” the new album by Reverend Run, a.k.a. Run D.M.C. Sitting at a stop light, I began to pay particular notice to the lyrics. A close friend of mine was in the car with me at the time. She also seemed to be paying mind to Run’s Words.

“You know, I should get this album for my father,” she said. “He generally likes anything related to rap, so long as it doesn’t make any political statements or have any vulgar or sexist language.” I looked at her a little confused. After all, most popular rappers make a living off controversial statements, either political or simply adverse to society’s average norms. I’m not a connoisseur of any genre, but there are several artists and groups that I can think of right away which do not fall into this category, though they never break the top 50 charts. “Basically,” she continued, “he doesn’t like listening to a black man with an opinion.”

Suddenly, my writer’s block shattered into pieces. It all became clear oh so quickly. “Do you remember the day Run D.M.C.’s Jam Master Jay died?” I asked. “I remember that day. It was several years ago, and I was working for Borders Books & Music as a Bookseller at the time …”

“And some woman walked up to you …” she began. I cut her off. “Okay, so I’ll spare you the retelling. Either way, you’ve cured my block,” I told her.

So, where was I? Right. The day Jam Master Jay died, I was working the closing shift at Borders. I was subbing in the music section for one of my coworker’s lunch breaks. Like any good book store, there was music playing. That night, it just so happened to be Run D.M.C.’s first album, and for good reason if I do say so myself. It was also chess night in the café.

So, as Run rhymed away about Converse sneakers, tightey whitey underwear and bubblegum, I nodded my head to Jay’s then-revolutionary rhythms. His legacy had come to an end, and listening to that CD that night was one of the few pleasures a Bookseller may get in the dead-end world of retail.

A short, lumpy, light-skinned woman with a curly, gray focaccia loaf where her hair should have been approached the music counter and whistled for my attention. I grinned that fake grin that every register-biscuit knows so well. “How may I help you?” I asked. She did not look happy.

“I want you to turn that music off, right now!” she said, emphatically waiving a copy of Southern Living above her head, pointing it toward the small speaker on the ceiling. As she thrust her right hand upward, large folds of flesh wobbled like so many spoonfuls of jell-o; her face, contorted as though a small black-hole had ripped a gap in the space-time continuum just below the tip of her unusually large nose.

“I do not want my son hearing that filth!” she insisted. “He’s only 15, and we always come here for chess night. He’s just a few feet away from that … that …” I held my hands up in surrender. When groveling earns your less-than living wage, there is no sense in reasoning with the cretins. You could end up getting lynched, mugged, robbed and spit on. And there are bad things that can happen, too. I pressed stop and she seemed satisfied.

I could not figure out what it was about Run D.M.C. that so grated her cheese. The least offensive rapper in the history of rap agitates this woman to the point where she calls his music “filth” and pleads for its dismissal on behalf of her 15 year old son? She was offended because it was the voice of a man with a different color of skin, or so I thought. But this hypothesis needed a control and outcome, which I aimed to establish.

I crouched below the counter and flipped through a book of albums, looking for the perfect white artist. The Ramones … no. Aerosmith … no. Ah. Ah-ha! The Sex Pistols.

“You four years on
You still look the same
I think about time
You changed your brain
You're just a pile of shit
You're coming to this
Ya poor litlle faggot
You're sealed with a kiss
Kiss me”

-- The Sex Pistols, “New York

A few people actually raised an eyebrow when this song came on, but not the subject of my experiment. She had her nose buried in the same issue of Southern Living she’d so eagerly waived in my face. My imagination began to drift to an alternate world where, upon hearing the words in the Pistols’ “Anarchy in The U.K.,” the poor lad spontaneously combusts upon hearing the word “antichrist;” his head explodes into a thousand gooey pieces after seeing the Brit-punks hip-thrusting into their guitars and downing Kentucky Whiskey like ginger beer.

My experiment had brought the truth to light. The woman was a quiet racist; the very kind I hope to annoy to this day. Take it from an Irish Muckraker - bringing whitey down a peg or two can be fun on occasion. But Penn. State scientists, whose experiments are much more creditable than my own, have a new take on race, and I find the irony to be absolutely delicious.

According to a Dec. 16, 2005 article in The Washington Post, the intrepid team of scientists discovered the reason some people have light skin. A gene called “slc24a5,” which represents just one letter out of a 3.1 billion character genetic sequence, apparently mutated between 20,000 and 50,000 years ago, giving rise to the first light-skinned person. The researchers were conducting gene replacement therapy on a Zebra Fish when they found a mutation that caused some fish to have a lighter pigment than others.

Comparing this to a genome databank that catalogs four of the world’s most predominant racial groups, they discovered the same gene in the exact state in people with darker pigment. In fact, they found the gene present in an identical state in a wide array of mammalian life. The only brand of human which possesses an alternate form of s1c24a5 is white. The underlying message: white people are Freakbat Genetic Mutants. I love it.

Gripe and moan as you will, this proves beyond any reaches of prejudice and hatred that we are all, more or less, the same. There is no master race. However, it would be foolish to say that because we know this, anybody can get a cab in New York. We are the same, but society remains unequal.

I think this is the case because so many people concentrate on race as a defining factor. Many older people I have known will first assert color when describing a non-white person. Some even mention it with a whisper, which never fails to make me laugh. So much emphasis is placed on race, especially by those of similar tincture to myself, that I cannot help but deposit a sly smile knowing that if there ever was a Master Race, it was the First Race; the only race. The Black Race, from which whites mutated and separated.

Take it down a peg or two, whitey. A little more pride in humanity; a little less screeching about that Freakbat Mutation. We’re all just people after all, and this submarine is getting a little stuffy.


Stephen Webster is an Investigative Reporter and Syndicated Columnist with The News Connection, a Staff Columnist with George W. Bush’s hometown weekly The Lone Star Iconoclast, and a former Contributor to The Dallas Morning News’ Science & Technology section. For more of Webster’s musings, visit

Monday, December 26, 2005

Your faithful Muckraker is in D! Magazine!

Hello everybody. Its been a wonderful Christmas, hasn't it? Well, it was for me anyway. My lovely Alison gave me a fancy digital recorder (so expect to see podcasts on this blog soon) and a nice new watch, among other things. My generous family fattened my checking account, which is always nice. I got to drink cider and have an intellectually stimulating conversation with an American Lit. PhD holder who graduated from S.M.U. and went on to teach English as a professor ...

Oh, and I'm in the January issue of the prestigious D! Magazine. Here's the article. Here's an excerpt ...

THUMBS DOWN: At press time, the Morning News has written zilch about the scam at the Denton Central Appraisal District. Thanks to a Denton County weekly, the News Connection, and its 15-part series, the public now knows of, among other things, the zero-dollar land value of a county official’s home; a Lewisville city councilman’s conflict of interest; and certified appraisal records that were altered after the Connection began its investigation, a practice that’s illegal.

The small write-up is a resounding success for me, as I have been the driving force behind this investigation into our appraisal district. My editor, Bob Weir, started the ball rolling with the first two articles, then passed it off to me. Seventeen reports later, we're coming to a close, and I'm sporting a new official title: "Investigative Reporter." So, good things all around, no?

D! Magazine previously mentioned me, by name, on their FrontBurner blog in an addition titled "Shenanigans at the Denton Appraisal District." Wick Allison, the publisher, personally posted the story. My favorite part goes a little something like this ...

"A little community newspaper called The News Connection up in Highland Village has uncovered what seems to be a pattern of favoritism and possible corruption in the Denton Central Appraisal District, which apparently is run like an old boys' club for aspiring Republican politicos. The latest revelation by reporter Stephen Webster is juicy."

I think I'll pick up a subscription to D!. You should too. And while you are at it, pick up a subscription to The News Connection. Its juicy.

Newsweek Speaketh!

Newsweek columnist Eleanor Clift chimes in with her take on the biggest political lies of 2005 in this web-exclusive commentary.

Some of my favorite passages ...

The revelation that President Bush authorized spying on American citizens without warrants is a late entry to the year’s “Biggest Lies” list. Bush says he bypassed the law because of the need for speed. He may believe that, but the facts say otherwise.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 established a special FISA secret court designed to act expeditiously. The executive branch can tap anybody’s phone and not even get a warrant until 72 hours after the fact. The FISA court isn’t picky; it’s only turned down five requests out of 19,000 in its quarter-century existence. Bush publicly and proudly says he will continue to break the law. The Washington Post reported that one FISA court judge has resigned in apparent protest, and the others are asking why we have a secret court when it is ignored.

Bush’s explanation is riddled with lies. He says our enemies are watching and threatens The New York Times, which broke the spying story, with legal action. It takes a vivid imagination to believe that Osama bin Laden and his buddies are keeping up with the niceties of FISA courts and would otherwise have no idea their phones might be tapped. Bush says he talks to Congress all the time and that there was plenty of congressional oversight. Not true. The Gang of Eight (leaders of both parties in the House and Senate, plus the chair and ranking members of the Intelligence Committees) were forbidden to take notes or discuss what they were told with colleagues or staff. Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s hand-written letter to Cheney expressed uneasiness about the program. Rockefeller couldn’t have its legality evaluated by staff. He couldn’t even have the letter typed because of the secrecy. That hardly qualifies as congressional oversight.

The cavalier attitude toward the checks and balance of a democratic society is a pattern with this administration. Bush and Cheney regard Congress and the judiciary as obstacles, not as equal branches of government. The polls show that a majority of Americans no longer trust this team, which is why Bush and Cheney are hitting back hard at their critics. If they lose this round over spying, the spillover effect will be devastating for their war policy and on any domestic agenda they hope to salvage. We have no mechanism to deal with a president who has lost the trust and confidence of the American people and has three years remaining in office. Impeachment is a nonissue; it’s not going to happen with Republicans in control of the House and Senate.

In memory of The Good Doctor

I arrived to work this morning at 10-till 8:00 a.m. One of the first websites I visit every time I open my browser is The Huffington Post. I am especially impressed with this outlet because of their all-star lineup of columnists, such as Larry David and John Cusack, to name two of the better-knowns. Plus, they cull a lot of news off wire services and put it in one place, which is nice.

This morning, Cusack has a column detailing some of his findings at Hunter S. Thompson's memorial service in Woody Creek, Col. A few excerpts ...

Books, notes, numbers, pills, bullets, totems and talismans everywhere. Outside his wife offered liquid acid to people in the driveway. In the kitchen where he took his life, a huge American flag overlooked his suicide. He was looking right at it.
[S]cribbled with customary flair on a half ripped paper thumbtacked above his desk:
the floor is slick
and greasy
And dangerous…
Get down on all fours to proceed
-- Doc
Here is just one of the good doctor’s final ruminations on our American experience. He sent it to me on a t-shirt a few months ago:

'Politics is the art of controlling your environment.' That is one of the key things I learned in these years, and I learned it the hard way. Anybody who thinks that 'it doesn't matter who's President' has never been Drafted and sent off to fight and die in a vicious, stupid War on the other side of the World -- or been beaten and gassed by Police for trespassing on public property -- or been hounded by the IRS for purely political reasons -- or locked up in the Cook County Jail with a broken nose and no phone access and twelve perverts wanting to stomp your ass in the shower. That is when it matters who is President or Governor or Police Chief. That is when you will wish you had voted.


In memory of the Good Doctor. Mahalo.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Oh, so that's why.

I know why Bush nominated Alito to the Supreme Court! It's so obvious now!

Alito Said Attorney General Immune From Wiretap Suits (From Bloogberg News)

Quote of note:

"[The Attorney General should] be immune from being sued on claims of ordering illegal wiretaps."

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Impeach: Live Vote on MSNBC

Right now, is holding a live vote that you should weigh in on. Here's a screen grab ...

What are you waiting for? VOTE!


I posted this around 11:30, Dec. 22, 2005. The numbers have changed a bit since then. I'm updating at 2:24 p.m. and there have been 91,948 responses so far. "Yes - Impeach" has 85% at the moment.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Conservative Scholars: Warrant-less Spying an "Impeachable Offense"

I love National Public Radio. I've always said that Diane Rehm, as old as she is, has the most wonderful radio voice. It shakes and strains from time to time, but she speaks clearly, maintains her objectivity, and always presents an interesting and informative show. On her Dec. 19, 2005 show, she hosted Conservative scholars Bruce Fein and Norm Ornstein to ask their opinions on what is now being called "Snoopgate."

Their answers were particularly interesting. But first, a little background on these two gents ...

Bruce Fein: Constitutional Scholar, former Deputy Attorney General for Ronald Reagen.
Norm Ornstein: scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, works with Lynne Cheney.

Alright, credentials scanned and approved. Now, what did they have to say?

"Is spying on the American people as impeachable an offense as lying about having sex with an intern?"

Fein: "I think the answer requires at least in part considering what the occupant of the presidency says in the aftermath of wrongdoing or rectification. On its face, if President Bush is totally unapologetic and says I continue to maintain that as a war-time President I can do anything I want – I don’t need to consult any other branches – that is an impeachable offense. It’s more dangerous than Clinton’s lying under oath because it jeopardizes our democratic dispensation and civil liberties for the ages. It would set a precedent that … would lie around like a loaded gun, able to be used indefinitely for any future occupant."

Ornstein: "I think if we’re going to be intellectually honest here, this really is the kind of thing that Alexander Hamilton was referring to when impeachment was discussed."

Listen to the entire show here.

American Gestapo: The price of laziness

More interesting talk today coming from the rapidly-expanding black hole that is Bush's domestic spying program. I read a story in the Dec. 20, 2005 edition of The Washington Post that laid out an argument given by Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, former director of the NSA and current Deputy Director of National Intelligence. The article, found here, says ...

Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who was NSA director when the surveillance began and now serves as Bush's deputy director of national intelligence, said the secret- court process was intended for long-term surveillance of agents of an enemy power, not the current hunt for elusive terrorist cells.

"The whole key here is agility," he said at a White House briefing before Bush's news conference. According to Hayden, most warrantless surveillance conducted under Bush's authorization lasts just days or weeks, and requires only the approval of a shift supervisor. Hayden said getting retroactive court approval is inefficient because it "involves marshaling arguments" and "looping paperwork around."

This means that the Deputy Director of National Intelligence was too lazy to write down the NSA's reasons for snooping on Americans. He was too busy to be bothered by this "rule of law" crap. He did not want to have all that messy "paperwork." Indeed, "marshaling arguments" seems to be stretching it. Why should anyone with autocratic power have to do something as silly as that?

Attorney General Gonzales, aka the "highest legal authority," according to Condi Rice, offers some conflicting wit and wisdom a little later in the article ...

"This is not a backdoor approach," Gonzales said at the White House. "We believe Congress has authorized this kind of surveillance." He acknowledged that the administration discussed introducing legislation explicitly permitting such domestic spying but decided against it because it "would be difficult, if not impossible" to pass.

If you have a teaspoon of sense and logic in your head, you can clearly see the contradiction in these statements. First, Gonzales says Congress already authorized the warrant-less spying. Then he says Bush did not want to ask for it directly because "it would be difficult, if not impossible" to pass. If Congress already gave a thumbs up, why would Bush skirt the issue and not ask directly? Why would Gonzales acknowledge resistance to potential legislation if he thought Congress had already approved it?

I know why.

The Attorney General is lying. The Deputy Director of Intelligence was too lazy to mess with "paperwork." Neither of them deserve the power they hold. I wonder which one will become the scapegoat in this case. I'm sure the spin sometime late next week will come back to bite them, ala George Tennent and the faulty CIA intel.

Maybe Hayden will get the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I can see it now. "I'm free ... from having to do all this paperwork!"

Dualing words

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX): "None of your civil liberties matter much after you're dead."

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI): "Give me liberty or give me death."

Which do you prefer?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Letter of Hatred

Today I received this letter from a reader of The News Connection. The letter has not been edited or censored in anyway and is presented exactly how it was delivered.

"For Stephen Webster:

When my cousin can be shot in the back and in the neck and her boyfriend

shot and beat to death with the handle of the gun when he raised his
head to
ask if she was alright. When the family can be put through three trials
be sure he had murderer had his rights. When people can cut up other
beings and eat them.....when a man can rape and torture little boys and
them under his house......when a man can lose count after he has raped,
tortured and killed at least 38 women..........etc. etc. etc. When I

cannot let my little granddaughter play in my front yard because I am
she will be raped and tortured or buried alive.................well, I'd
you got mixed up somewhere, Stephen. No children or anyone to love I
imagine. Frankly, I would rather see these mistreated people you refer
at the point of a needle than perhaps get out one day to do more harm.
Also, I would like for my money to go somewhere other than keeping those

folks in a cozy bed with three meals a day. They obviously are very
and need to go on ...... wherever horrible people like that go. thank
good Lord in Heaven that we have killed all of the child offenders that
can. Please plasteer pictures of those precious little children on your

wall and study their sweet faces every night and think of how they
and then dream about how you want to protect these people. You are so

immature. I wish I could live long enough to see you grow up, but I am
afraid I don't have that many years left. One day you will look back at

this article and wonder where your brain was.

You know, I have understood that there are places where women are
stoned to
death, where tongues are cut out, hands and fingers and legs cut off.
you heard of those countries?

Grow up, Stephen and go back to school......if you can find one that is
as liberal as you are.

Jean Legg"

Allow me to quote two sentences ...

"thank our good Lord in Heaven that we have killed all of the child offenders that

we can. Please plasteer pictures of those precious little children on your wall and study their sweet faces every night and think of how they suffered and then dream about how you want to protect these people."

Sounds like a true Christian to me.

Sheesh. So we disagree. No need to be so vindictive, Mr. Legg. Oh, and you may want to hit that "spell check" button. Until you issue a correction, I'm going to go home so I can figure out how to "plasteer" pictures of dead children to my wall. Then I'll spend a a few days in deep meditation, concentrating on the "sweet faces" of child offenders you so gleefully wish to see killed by the state.

Am I just crazy, or is this person sick?

Letter of Dissent

Today I sent two letters via fax and email: one to Texas Senator Hutchison and one letter to Texas Senator Cornyn. Here is the text of my letter to Hutchison ...

December 20, 2005

From: Stephen Webster
Investigative Reporter
Syndicated Columnist
2340 FM 407, Suite 102
Highland Village, Texas 75077

Senator Hutchison,

I understand that Senator Cornyn quoted former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick’s July 14, 1994 testimony today (Dec. 20, 2005) in defense of Bush's authorization of domestic spying by the NSA. I assume he used those words because he is in favor of the president overruling our constitution's fourth amendment.

I do not know where you personally stand on this new development. I write to you in hopes that your loyalty to this great nation is not trumped by your loyalty to the Republican party.

Here's the Achilles heel of Cornyn's argument: Gorelick said “the President has inherent authority to conduct warrant-less physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes.” Fine. However, at the time she gave that testimony, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court did not cover physical searches. The same year, Gorelick argued that physical searches were not covered by the FISA - she acknowledged the facts. In 1995, the Clinton administration backed an amendment to the law that put physical searches under the jurisdiction of FISA.

Neither Gorelick nor Clinton ever argued that the president could ignore FISA law. What Bush has done - ignoring the fourth amendment and bypassing FISA - is a clear-cut felony. Clinton never did that. I repeat - CLINTON NEVER DID THAT. It is the difference between breaking the law and following it to the letter.

Bush has repeatedly and knowingly violated US Code Title 50, § 1809. The penalty is “not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than five years, or both.”

The president himself confirmed that he knew warrants were required for these sorts of searches in April of 2004, a full three years after he authorized illegal spying. There is video of this, found online here:

Do not let loyalty to the GOP trump your commitment to the constitution. Please do not make transparent excuses for one who has shown so little regard for our laws. This is going to come crashing down on the president's head in the form of ANOTHER special prosecutor.

When Democrats take power this time next year, it'll be a long, hard slog for you through the impeachment battle that is now all but certain. I am sure you remember when this happened to Nixon. The difference is, he lied about the spying and Bush admitted it with a smile. As though to ask, "What are you going to do about it?"

The president is not exempt from our laws. He runs this country, but no man's actions are of greater value than our constitution. I make no excuses for a corrupt police officer who plants drugs on a citizen and makes a false arrest, only to be found out and arrested himself. Why would your peer in the Senate make excuses for a politician who knowingly violates laws that carry similar penalties?

What Bush has done makes him a felon. I would hope Senator Cornyn is not angling to become an accessory. There are no excuses for criminality. Instead, I hope you will support a movement to have this investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

I pray your loyalty to the Republican party does not trump your loyalty to the United States.

A brief reminder ...

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

-Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

Thank you,

Stephen Webster
Investigative Reporter
Syndicated Columnist

Let the Spin Begin!

I did not know this, but I have found these claims to be true. The GOP spin machine went into high-gear over the weekend, and now we have all sorts of invented reasons why Bush can trump the constitution ... or at least go around it. Here's a good debunking.

The Echelon Myth

Prominent right-wing bloggers – including Michelle Malkin, the Corner, Wizbang and Free Republic — are pushing the argument that President Bush’s warrantless domestic spying program isn’t news because the Clinton administration did the same thing.

The right-wing outlet NewsMax sums up the basic argument:

During the 1990’s under President Clinton, the National Security Agency monitored millions of private phone calls placed by U.S. citizens and citizens of other countries under a super secret program code-named Echelon…all of it done without a court order, let alone a catalyst like the 9/11 attacks.

That’s flatly false. The Clinton administration program, code-named Echelon, complied with FISA. Before any conversations of U.S. persons were targeted, a FISA warrant was obtained. CIA director George Tenet testified to this before Congress on 4/12/00:

I’m here today to discuss specific issues about and allegations regarding Signals Intelligence activities and the so-called Echelon Program of the National Security Agency…

There is a rigorous regime of checks and balances which we, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the FBI scrupulously adhere to whenever conversations of U.S. persons are involved, whether directly or indirectly. We do not collect against U.S. persons unless they are agents of a foreign power as that term is defined in the law. We do not target their conversations for collection in the United States unless a FISA warrant has been obtained from the FISA court by the Justice Department.

Meanwhile, the position of the Bush administration is that they can bypass the FISA court and every other court, even when they are monitoring the communications of U.S. persons. It is the difference between following the law and breaking it.

Gonzales the "highest legal authority"?

Last night on CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stuck up for Bush and his authorization of warrant-less wiretaps and searches administered to American citizens. Here’s the quote …

The President spoke to this earlier and the Attorney General, who is, after all, the highest legal authority in the country, has spoken to this.”

Anything about that statement strike you as odd? Is the Attorney General really the “highest legal authority in the country”? I could’ve sworn we had something called the Supreme Court …

But then again, “we are living in a different world after 9/11,” as Dick Cheney has said so many times. Up has become down; right has become wrong. And Bush’s appointee actually is the highest legal authority. At least, he will be after they take the power by force.

Is it just me, or are these people trying really, really hard to usurp as much power as possible?

Hooray for the Times; Shame on the Times

Since the New York Times broke the spying story, there have been a number of smaller revelations that I’d like to write about. The first is the muffled announcement that the Tines sat on this story for over a year. That means, they knew about this before the 2004 election, and held it to play politics. On Dec. 6, 2005, President Bush summoned publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller to the White House and asked them to withhold the story.

The day it finally made it to print, the Senate was scheduled to vote on a reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act. Senators were waiving copies of the Times above their heads, decrying the unconstitutional actions of the Bush administration. They are right to do so. But what does that say of the Times?

This government stands upon three pillars. The barrier between government and the public is the press. We are the watchdogs that hold officials to the law, and make them accountable to the public. A free press is commonly accepted to be one of the most important aspects of a democracy. The media is, in a sense, the fourth pillar.

But the Times is really flexing its muscle on this one. To hold a story of such importance for so long is almost traitorous! Where is the loyalty to the readers? What about their obligation to inform the public of the truth in a time of national debate? The story was ready before the 2004 election. I see no justification for such a delay.

The Times has both done a great service and a great disservice to the people of this country. They got the story, but fell victim to the temptations of power at the cost of public trust. That is no situation for any newspaper to put its self in.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Who needs a constitution anyway?

The Webster Retort, Dec. 23, 2005

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

- Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

On Friday, Dec. 16, 2005, The New York Times broke the story about President Bush authorizing the NSA to spy on American citizens without a warrant. It is one thing to tap the lines of foreign dignitaries, or international callers, but these were our people. The full list of targets has not come out yet, and it likely never will. Until Congress holds an investigation, all we know is that the individuals being spied upon are American Citizens. This is contrary to our constitution. Such actions are a clear infraction of the law, and the crime carries significant penalties laid out in US Code Title 50, § 1809.

Say what you will of the politics of the day or even the former president Bill Clinton. All the spin in the world cannot muddy the water enough on this issue. The fact is, President Bush clearly violated the aforementioned law. What he authorized, over three dozen times, were felonies. He knowingly and specifically violated Section (a), Article (2) of US Code which states the activity prohibited as “disclos[ing] or us[ing] information obtained under color of law by electronic surveillance, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through electronic surveillance not authorized by statute.” I.E.: Get a Warrant.

The penalty for this crime is, according to the law, “not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than five years, or both.”

“I don’t know of any legal basis to go around that,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. “Even in a time of war, you have to follow the process, because that’s what a democracy is all about: a process.”

When Nixon did it, he lied about it. It was one of many reasons he was chased from office. Bush’s response has been different. To his, um, credit, he did not lie. He admitted to multiple felonies and promised he would continue acting illegally. As I recall, he swore to protect and uphold the constitution of these United States. This includes all amendments to the document.

In the late 70’s, Congress went as far as writing legislation called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which established a court that gives out search warrants like candy to expedite the intelligence gathering process. The court can even rubber-stamp documents after the search or wiretap has been administered. But that does not matter to Bush. Court oversight, the law, the very foundation of our nation, does not matter to Bush.

Wake Up! This is not making the country safer! The 9/11 Commission recently gave the administration’s efforts to beef up national security an abysmal grade; “More F’s than A’s,” said one member of the bi-partisan panel. “God help us if we are attacked again,” said another. Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) has pledged his support of any drafted articles of impeachment, and I stand with him. The law is clear. The process of obtaining a warrant for a wiretap is simple, but it is a required process nonetheless. When the leader of a country acknowledges yet refuses to obey the laws, he becomes a dictator. We must not let that happen here.

A crime has been committed. The law must be followed. It is time to appoint a Special Prosecutor. Tell your Congressman. Tell your Senators. No president is above the law. Not even this favorite son.

These days, the works of George Orwell seem more and more pertinent. But one need not look to our great novelists for wisdom in this matter. An American history textbook should suffice. Look into the early chapters. You may find one quote by Benjamin Franklin that stands out:

They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same.


Stephen Webster is an Investigative Reporter and Syndicated Columnist with The News Connection, a Staff Columnist with George W. Bush’s hometown weekly The Lone Star Iconoclast, and a former Contributor to The Dallas Morning News’ Science & Technology section. For more of Webster’s musings, visit

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

It is time to end 'Hypodermic Justice'

**The Webster Retort, Dec. 16, 2005**

By Stephen Webster

On Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2005, a notorious figure faced the ultimate punishment dealt by our criminal justice system. Tookie Williams, the infamous founder of the Crips and convicted murderer of four, was put to death in California just after midnight, as so many other death row inmates have passed from this world. To be certain, the crimes our courts judge these men and women to be guilty of are odious and foul, many beyond the imagination of rational, law abiding citizens like you and I. The tales of violence and death are enough to chill the soul and rattle the conscious. Nevertheless, I believe the practice of capital punishment is simply stacking body upon body; a pointless endeavor that fails to achieve the intended purpose of deterrence. The Execution of a Killer only creates more Intolerance, Guilt and Death.

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis R. Powell, Jr. once wrote, “[W]e are the only Western democracy that still has capital punishment. In my view, it should be abolished. Let me add just this: It does not deter murders. It serves no purpose.” Say what you will about the arduous death of Tookie Williams; I admit to knowing little of his case and the debate surrounding him in general. However, I feel that if he was indeed guilty of four cold-blooded murders, he deserves to feel the brunt of our system of justice. I do not presume to argue his innocence. But it is with regard to a penalty of life in prison without parole that I insist his death Was Not Just. Neither were the deaths of any of those convicted of crimes so heinous. Why? The capital punishment system is broken, costly and applied unfairly. Especially in Texas.

Justice Powell was right in declaring the death penalty to be ineffective. Many would point to the theory that the threat of death is a solid deterrent to criminals contemplating their next spree. But the exact opposite is actually the case. States without the death penalty have nearly half the number of murders than states with capital punishment.

Every Western Democracy has abolished the death penalty. The U.S.A. is the only country operating under this system of government in our entire hemisphere that continues to kill it’s condemned. Moreover, a study conducted by The Dallas Morning News in 1992 concluded that a death sentence costs taxpayers more through the appeals process than a sentence of life without parole. According to the DMN, an average of $2.3 million is spent appealing capital trials, whereas a single inmate can live out his or her days in a maximum security prison for about $750,000.

By God, as though living life behind bars in a place like an American Prison is not Cruel and Unusual enough, Texas prisons make sure to keep the Conveyer Belt of Death well greased. It saddens me to know the offense of the state is simple garnishment to the offense of a savage. There is no benefit, only more death. It is difficult for an objective observer to weigh murder against murder and judge the net gain. Such actions cheapen the perceived value of human life and bring society down to the level of those we would claim to detest.

I find one of the most offensive aspects of capital punishment to be the fact that 90 percent of prisoners sentenced to death row could not afford a lawyer. The figure is especially alarming considering the stories we hear about state-appointed attorneys. The most recent horror that comes to mind is the case of Calvin Burdine, whose lawyer, Joe Frank Cannon, fell asleep on numerous occasions during a Capital Murder trail.

Since 1990, the United States has executed numerous convicts for crimes committed when they were under the age of 18. Such state-sanctioned acts fly in the face of every international human rights treaty our nation has supported and fought for over the last 30 years. Only four other countries in the world have participated in the execution of children: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iran. The sum total of child criminals off’d by these non-Western countries does not come to a number greater than our own tally. The United States government kills more of its prisoners than any other nation, second only to the Communist government of China. And the spread between us is not so wide.

It is not an easy thing to disregard the ferocity and sheer evil of those who would commit such crimes that would spurn civilized men to have this debate. It is assumed that the family and friends of any murder victim deserve to see justice served in a cold, efficient manor. But in my opinion, two wrongs can never make a right. Justice, I believe, is best served on cold cement, behind unfeeling bars, pinned down by a judicial order of life, without parole. They should be allowed no soft, warm escape to nothingness by the tip of a hypodermic needle. Not so long as their bodies still draw breath should such merciless killers be allowed a glimpse at anything outside the walls of their cage.

The death of one man cannot account or atone for the death of another. This, I truly believe. It is time for the practice of ‘Hypodermic Justice’ to end.

Stephen Webster is an Investigative Reporter and Syndicated Columnist with The News Connection, a Staff Columnist with George W. Bush’s hometown weekly The Lone Star Iconoclast, and a former Contributor to The Dallas Morning News’ Science & Technology section. For more of Webster’s musings, visit

Friday, December 09, 2005

The tortured war

From the New York Times (link) ...

"[Bush Administration] officials said the captive, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, provided his most specific and elaborate accounts about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda only after he was secretly handed over to Egypt by the United States in January 2002, in a process known as rendition.

The new disclosure provides the first public evidence that bad intelligence on Iraq may have resulted partly from the administration's heavy reliance on third countries to carry out interrogations of Qaeda members and others detained as part of American counterterrorism efforts. The Bush administration used Mr. Libi's accounts as the basis for its prewar claims, now discredited, that ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda included training in explosives and chemical weapons."

So, what do we have here? It was the policy of this administration to torture those it considers 'enemy combatants.' In the lead-up to the Iraq war, this Al Qaeda "officer" gave "specific and elaborate accounts about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda." He was being tortured in Egypt.

John McCain, my most favoritist Republican, has said many times that under torture, you will say anything to make it stop. The administration knew these claims were obtained via "coercion," (I.E. - waterboarding, gay pyramids, et. al.) but never told us! What kind of sick freaks start a war based on the agonized throes of one under intense physical duress?

Is this the kind of government you want? Keep it in mind come November, 2006. For once, this independent will be voting straight Democrat - at least on the Federal level. I will make every effort to contact the candidates I plan on supporting to let them know my reasons for offering my support. Bush must go. Impeach. Impeach. Impeach.

Worst. Administration. Ever.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Welcome to the State of Dystopia

I came across this on Think Progress ( ...

Fox News guest says ABC News is “Killing American Soldiers”

Former Army intelligence officer Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, in his recent book, “New Glory: Expanding America’s Global Supremacy,” Peters argues that the media should act as “combatants” in wartime:

"The media can no longer sustain their pretenses of being aloof, objective observers dispassionately recording events. The media are combatants." [New Glory: Expanding America’s Global Supremacy, Page 49]

Peters repeated this on Fox News on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2005. When asked about a recent ABC report that the CIA moved detainees out of secret prisons in Europe prior to Secretary of State Rice’s visit, he said:

When ABC or any other outlet gives away our national secrets, or verifies them, and underscores them by repeating what others have said, and seems to verify for the world — look, they are putting Americans at risk. They’re putting our allies at risk, as you observed. And they’re putting our programs at risk. … But worst of all, Bill, it’s killing American soldiers. [The O’Reilly Factor, 12/6/05]

Bill O’Reilly agreed with Peters’ new definition of the media:

"I would not have reported what ABC News reported. I would not have done it. I — as you know — didn’t put Abu Ghraib pictures on this broadcast, the only television journalist not to do so. I do feel that the press has a responsibility to help the government in the war on terror." [The O’Reilly Factor, 12/6/05]

Is this real? Am I living in the official State of Dystopia? What happened to a Free Press being essential to any democracy? And WHY DOES THIS BOOK HAVE AN AMERICAN FLAG DRAPED OVER THE ENTIRE GLOBE? I think this is the True Intent of the Neo-Cons. Global Domination. This sickens my soul. I am an American. I Will NOT TOLLERATE THIS!

And what does it say of our government which engages in secret, immoral, illegal practices to begin with? The writer makes no effort to deny Uncle Sam is doing these things ... Instead the media is blamed for telling the truth to the best of their ability? Would it be wrong to say that the government is endangering Americans and our soldiers by doing these horrible things? You decide. The new front on the "War on Terror" is at home, and it is being waged against the press - the last of those who would speak truth to power, even if it is meek and infrequent.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

What "War on Christmas"?


This article was written as the latest edition of my column, The Webster Retort. The Dec. 9, 2005 edition of The News Connection does not have this article. Space for copy in the paper was limited this week, so it was passed over. However, upon further review of the article, my editor said he was going to cut portions of it for the Dec. 16th edition. I greatly appreciate the notice of censorship, and his reasons are as sound as any other reason for intrusive edits. It is his right as Executive Editor of The News Connection, and I have great respect for him and his authority on the matter.

However, I really did not want to see the limbs hacked off what I consider to be my art. I've opted to write an entirely new column for next week. That is why this article is not hosted on The News Connection's servers. And, if requested, the link to this OP-ED on will be removed. I'll justify the link's existence for the sake of continuity. I do, after all, write a weekly column. In the mean time, please enjoy this disowned truth-out on my favorite holiday, Christmas.


Every time I hear the argument that Liberals are “Stealing Christmas,” I cannot help but shake my head. I am an Independent Liberal, and I love Christmas! I celebrate it every year, without fail. I’m a white male, and I was raised in a charismatic Christian home. The real story of Christmas is, on the other hand, not very well known. Indeed, many are willfully ignorant to how this holiday came to be.

Consider the Christmas Tree. The use of a tree to symbolize the spirit of the season is a Pagan tradition. Some argue the tree is actually a phallic symbol, as it was considered to be by the Romans during the December 17-25 tradition of Saturnalia, a week long celebration of lawlessness and sexual indulgence which culminated in the sacrifice of an innocent human. Knowing this, the Puritans outlawed the celebration of Christmas and none of the Founding Fathers participated.

Or take the popular tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. Druids used mistletoe to poison their human sacrifices. The Christian tradition of kissing under the mistletoe is a combination of the sexual license granted to Romans during Saturnalia and the murderous Druidic cult.

Some of the most obscene practices of Saturnalia were intentionally revived by the Catholic Church in 1466 by Pope Paul II for the amusement of Romans. Guards would gather those of Jewish descent, stuff them with food and wine, and force them to run drunk and naked through the streets.

Christmas Caroling is also a tradition taken from Saturnalia. Lucian, a Greek historian and poet, wrote that everyone would drink wine and roam from house to house singing songs in the nude. He also mentions the practice of eating human-shaped biscuits – I.E., ginger bread men.

As for Santa Clause, novelist Washington Irving (remember Sleepy Hollow?) wrote a parody of Druidic Dutch culture entitled Knickerbocker History. He referenced a fat man with a beard as a joke, using the Dutch name “Santa Clause.” Years later, Dr. Clement Moore, a seminary professor, read Knickerbocker and published a poem based on Clause – “T’was the night before Christmas, and all through the town …” A further innovation to the Clause figure was made by Bavarian illustrator Thomas Nast in 1862. He drew cartoon images of Clause as a joke for the newspaper Harper’s Weekly.

In 1932, the image of Santa was cemented by the Coca-Cola Corporation, which hired Swedish artist Haddon Sundblom. The face and figure were based on Sundblom’s friend Lou Prentice. The red coat was one of Coke’s stipulations. In all truth, the popular character is nothing more than the worship of a Corporate Golden Calf at brazen alters of commercialization.

Many orthodox Christians believe that Christ was not born in the winter. The principal argument behind this is found in the New Testament, specifically Luke 2:8 which, in part, reads, “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." In Palestine, cattle are only kept outdoors for eight months of the year, specifically March – October. If shepherds kept watch over their flock “abiding in the field,” it is obvious Christ was not born in December, or anytime during the winter months.

Summarily, there is no “War on Christmas.” If there ever was, it was the church absorbing the traditions of other beliefs into an all-encompassing bonanza under the mistaken guise of seasonal holiness. Today, O’Reilly is trying to play the role of Pope Paul II, whipping the masses into an Anti-Semitic Frenzy that results in the belittlement of Jews and people of other faiths. It is, in part, the need of the Right-Wing press (really just Faux News and Radio Republican) to manufacture a new debate that takes heat off their favorite politicians at a time when so many of the GOP’s Federal Elite are under indictment or investigation.

I could go on and on and on about the torrid history of this year-end tradition, but there is not enough room in fifty newspapers to cover it all. Christmas is a day of no more or less significance than whatever you wish to imbue it. So celebrate Christ’s birth! Or celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, or any other special observance you wish. The argument is pure semantics. It is pointless to boycott any retailer, but if you really want to, be my guest. It’s a free country, and you only do yourself harm through undue stress. Nobody wants to take “Christ out of Christmas,” okay? Why not get informed about the real controversies of the day?

As George W. Bush’s most recent “Holiday Card” closes, “Have a Happy Holiday Season.”

Stephen Webster is an Investigative Reporter and Syndicated Columnist with North Texas weekly, The News Connection, a Staff Writer with George W. Bush’s hometown weekly, The Lone Star Iconoclast, and a former Science & Technology Contributor with The Dallas Morning News.

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