Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I love Doonsbury

Boss: "Stephen, you're behind deadline! What the hell?"
Me: "Um ... 9/11?"
Boss: "Oh. Okay. I ... I understand. I'm sorry. I'll ... leave you to it then."

This makes me sad

What should be on the news is actually in one of the only socially conscious sitcoms. How very sad for us as a nation ...

Click here. And sit down.

Anatomy of an Appraisal Protest

By Stephen Webster
Investigative Reporter

On May 22, Jeff Low received notice that his homestead exemption, the only protection a taxpayer has against large increases in value, had been removed from part of his property. As of May 31, he has not received a notice of appraisal, unlike every other home owner in the county. However, website records show that his value went up 29 percent in one year; from $214,320 to $272,167 – an increase of $57,847. And just like the last five years, he is filing a protest.

Last year, Jeff staged a campaign for a seat on the DCAD’s Board of Directors. He tirelessly wrote letters to legislators, made appearances before the Commissioners Court, and spoke in front of school boards and city councils in an effort to obtain the votes from the taxing entities necessary to oversee the district’s Chief Appraiser, Joe Rogers.

Initially, he had a shot. Since the board is not publicly elected he had to lobby officials, and earned the early support of the Commissioners Court. Or so he thought. When it came down to the wire, the court cut him out of the race, adjusting their votes just so, eliminating him from the running by less than 10 votes. This time, he says, he’s the subject of direct harassment; a charge the appraisal district vehemently denies.

Walking into the district’s offices, a friendly woman named Swany Agular asked if she could be of any assistance. Low requested to see an appraiser, and asked if she could find out if the district had sent out his appraisal letter yet. She placed a phone call to her supervisor, then came back saying it had been sent that morning. Low was given a number and told to wait an hour.

The office was full of taxpayers seeking to protest their new appraisal. They had set up a series of waiting rooms through the halls. This reporter counted five uniformed police officers meandering around the entrance, public access computers and hearing rooms. After an hour and a half Low’s number was up, and he made his way into the office of appraiser Deborah Rasmussen.

“How can I help you today?” she asked.

“Well, you can maybe explain why I haven’t gotten my appraisal notice yet, and why my homestead cap has been removed when the [appraisal review board] made your office apply it to my full property last year.”

She sighed again and adjusted her glasses, pecking away at her keyboard. “You didn’t get a notice of value?”

“Nope,” said Jeff.

“Hm. Let me see … Okay,” she said. “It looks like your notice actually … Oh, it has not gone out yet. That’s weird.”

“Yeah. Especially because the girl in the front told me it went out today,” snapped Low.

“Oh, um, I don’t know about that. Maybe she misspoke,” said Rasmussen. “So, you want to homestead the whole property?”

“It was homesteaded. Last year,” said Jeff. “Every year for the last five years you guys have played with my exemption and this is the first time I’ve ever gotten notice of it before the protest deadline.”

“Oh. Oh yes. I see,” she said. “Uh, I removed your homestead.”

“Can you tell me why?” asked Jeff.

“Yes. Ah … Because the law requires that you maintain it and landscape it as a yard,” she replied.

“It’s mowed. I keep it up nicely,” said Jeff. Just hours earlier Low had taken this reporter to his home to pick up some related paperwork. His assessment of the lawn is indeed true.

“I drove past it earlier today, Mr. Low. It wasn’t mowed,” said Rasmussen. “I’m very familiar with your lawn. I drove by your house on my way back from lunch.”

“Well, I’ll go home and take a picture, just to prove you wrong,” said Jeff.

“Actually, that is all up to the appraiser,” she said. “And, um, it’s not really maintained as home, ah, yard. And the building on it is a commercial class building. So that would not be something that we would allow under a homestead either.”

However, Low does not own a business, nor is there any commercial activity on his property at all. Rasmussen was referring to his metal storage shed, which Low has fought with the district about for years. In 1997 he owned a cabinet shop, housed in this particular structure. But he closed it not even a year later, and has since used it as a garage and personal storage shed.

“Look, we’re obviously not getting anywhere with this,” said Jeff. “Could I just speak with your supervisor?”

Rasmussen frowned. “Okay. Please come out front with me.”

Walking back to the front of the building, she stopped near the public access area, queering the district’s network in an effort to print some of Jeff’s property data. “Just a minute. I’ll be right back. I’m going to get someone to help you,” she said. She returned about 20 minutes later holding an appraisal card.

“Mr. Low, [Chief and Deputy Chief Appraisers] Mr. Rogers and Mr. Durham are out to lunch. They will be back any moment,” she claimed. “They left at 2 p.m., and it is three now, so they’ll be here soon. I’ll go and find another appraiser in the mean time. Maybe someone else could assist you.” Rasmussen never returned, and nobody else came to assist Low. Shortly after she departed, the district’s network stopped functioning altogether, much to the ire of the taxpayers spending most of their work day researching their properties in the public access area.

At 3:43 p.m., Rogers and Durham finally arrived. “Mr. Low, I understand you want to see me,” said Rogers.

“Yep, that’s right. Hey Steve,” said Jeff, motioning for me to join him.

“Oh, uh. No. No, I don’t need him,” said Rogers, eyeing this reporter warily.

“Too bad,” said Jeff with a grin.

They walked into a large office and sat on opposite sides of a round table. Rogers, a short, wide, excitable-looking fellow, crossed his arms over his belly and narrowed his eyes at Jeff.

“I’ve come today because I didn’t receive a notice of value,” began Low.

“Oh, you didn’t?” asked Rogers. “Well, we mailed ‘em all.”

“The girl in the front said that it was mailed today,” said Low.

“Not to my knowledge,” replied Rogers. “We mailed personal property notices today. No real estate. You didn’t have any personal property.”

“I didn’t think so,” said Low. “I asked for my notice earlier so I could get a date that I need to file my protest by. Well, Ms. Rasmussen disappeared a while ago and she ain’t come back. She said she would get someone to help me and she just vanished.”

“Well, I’ll look into that for you,” said Rogers. “What else is bothering you?”

“Well,” said Low, “I also lost my homestead again.”

“I told you last year,” said Rogers. “I don’t think you deserve a homestead cap on that building of yours. It shouldn’t have been done last year. I made that statement from the very beginning that the ARB made a mistake when they gave you a homestead on that commercial building. … We can raise property more than 10 percent if we want to. We’ll raise it to whatever we think market value is.”

“Maybe you ought to try doing that to some of the local politicians,” said Low.

“We do it to everybody, sir,” retorted Rogers. “We treat everybody the same way.”

“I don’t think so,” said Low. “I’ve pulled records for countless …” Rogers cut him off.

“Its all in your mind. We don’t single anybody out or anything like what you think. You’re just mad at the world and you don’t know what to do with yourself. … We appraise the same way Dallas does.”

“I would like to know how the average politician and the average employee of this district rec …”

Rogers cut him off again. “They don’t. They don’t. That’s all in your mind. You’re wrong and I can’t explain it to you. I tried last year to explain it to you but you didn’t believe a word I said. But you’re wrong. Just wrong. That’s a fact.”

“Has your property, in the last five years, gone up 155-200 percent?” asked Low.

“Nope,” said Rogers. “Mine was at market value, and it went up according to the market. It’s gone up, but it hasn’t gone up that much. Ninety-nine percent of the people probably haven’t gone up that much, but if they weren’t at market then they did. I’m sure there’s some that have gone up more than that ‘cause they weren’t at market. With mass appraisal, it is easy to miss something. It is easy to leave something out. Then, when you find it, you correct it. You know that,” he concluded, leveling his index finger at Jeff.

“Look, Mr. Rogers,” said Low. “Ms. Rasmussen said the reason my homestead was removed was because my grass wasn’t mowed.” Rogers cocked his head back and grinned. “Ms. Rasmussen doesn’t know,” he said.

“She told me she is very familiar with my property,” claimed Low.

“Ms. Rasmussen doesn’t even appraise agricultural property. She is a residential appraiser,” said Rogers, failing to note that Low has no agriculture on his land, nor was that the issue at hand. “If she said that, she misspoke,” said Rogers. “She doesn’t appraise agricultural property. She looks at houses. I think you need to look at yourself for once,” said Rogers.

“The problem is, I’m being singled out,” said Low, to which Rogers quickly replied, “No you’re not. You are not being singled out. Didn’t you say last year your property was worth more than $300,000? You did, didn’t you? You said that to the Commissioners Court.”

Jeff looked confused, shaking his head. “I never said anything like that!”

Rogers chuckled. “Yes, you did.”

“No I didn’t,” said Low.





They went on like this for about two minutes. It should be noted that The News Connection has Low’s appearances before the commissioners on audio, and at no point did he claim his property was worth over $300,000.

You know,” said Low, “I presented a lot of stuff to you last year, and I …”

“No you didn’t,” said Rogers, cutting him off again. “The stuff you presented wasn’t even worth looking at. There was nothing wrong with those properties.”

“You mean to tell me that one of my neighbors is at $8,000 an acre and I’m up over $63,000?”

“There was nothing wrong,” said Rogers. “Nothing at all. It’s all in your mind, Mr. Low. You’re just mad at the world.”

Finally, Low gave up. “There is no point talking to you, Joe! I hope you don’t treat everyone like this!”

“Well, I’m done talking to you too,” said Rogers. “Just get out of my office, right now.”

This reporter stuck a hand up. “May I ask a question? I mean, I just came to observe, but I’m curious about one thing.”

Rogers paused, looked down and sighed. “What’s that?”

I referenced an article published by TNC on Dec. 16, 2005, revealing the two chiefs at the district had accrued nearly $26,000 of illegal paid vacation time; time the Department of Labor and the district’s own policies and procedures handbook claimed they are not eligible for.

“What ever happened to all that compensatory time you and Mr. Durham racked up?” I kept a straight face.

Rogers, clearly annoyed by this question, swatted at the air with his right hand, keeping his left hand crossed over his belly. “Bah. That was from the 1980’s, and, uh, I also sent you a copy of the manual that said you could get that time …”

I cut him off. “Actually, it said you couldn’t.”

“Oh no it didn’t! said Rogers, his face growing increasingly red. “It said you could!”

“I spoke with the Texas Auditor’s Office, and the Department of Labor,” I replied. “You are not allowed that time.”

“Well, you read what ever you want to read. I’ve read all your articles. You just say what you want to say and do what you want to do and you make things look however you want ‘em to look. So it was done. I’m through with it! Out! Let’s go!”

I stood and took two steps toward the door, eyeing Jeff as he stood in the hallway laughing to himself. “I’m really sorry, Mr. Rogers. I didn’t mean to …”

“Yeah, you are sorry,” he said. “You’re real sorry, you …”

“Well, I don’t mean I’m sorry,” I said. “I mean, I did not intend to agitate you so much …”

Rogers’ eyes widened and he took four large steps toward me, grasping his door by its side. His breathing had become much more rapid; his face, a darkening shade of pink.

“Get out. Get out now before I have a police man take you out! Go!”

“Um, okay,” I said. “I didn’t know I was causing any trouble.”

“Yes. Yes you are,” he said, slamming the door behind us.

Tax appraisal protest season is upon the taxpayers of Denton County, and our lawmakers are missing.

“Thanks a lot, Governor Perry,” said Low as he left the district’s office. “A tax cut without reform is meaningless. They cut taxes on the surface, and then just raise the values up before it even goes into effect. Hell of a lot of help it is to me. Meaningless. Simply meaningless. I hope people don’t fall for it.”

The tax appraisal protest season is upon Denton County homeowners, and their lawmakers are missing. To share your story of unfair, illogical, or otherwise illegal appraisal, contact Bob Weir, TNC’s Executive Editor at

Oh no ...

Terrible news this morning from the Associated Press ...
2 Iraqi women killed by coalition troops

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Two Iraqi women were shot to death north of Baghdad after coalition forces fired on a vehicle that failed to stop at an observation post, the U.S. military said Wednesday. Iraqi police and relatives said one of the women was about to give birth.

A car entered a clearly marked prohibited area near coalition troops at an observation post but failed to stop despite repeated visual and auditory warnings, the U.S. military said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press.

"Shots were fired to disable the vehicle," the statement said. "Coalition forces later received reports from Iraqi police that two women had died from gunshot wounds ... and one of the females may have been pregnant."

The statement said the incident was being investigated.

More here.

I say again: U.S. out of Iraq. Now.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Shadows of My Lai

The Webster Retort
By Stephen Webster
Investigative Reporter
June 2, 2006
For The News Connection, The Lone Star Iconoclast

Shadows of My Lai

We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgment of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song
-- The Who
, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

Welcome to Iraq
Photo by Chris Floyd

March 16, 1968; North Vietnam. Charlie Company’s 11th Brigade was ordered into Son My village, divided up into four areas by U.S. military intelligence: My Lai 1, 2, 3 and 4. The civilians would be away from their homes by 7 a.m. at the latest. Everyone remaining was Viet Cong or a sympathizer, or so they said. The men of Charlie Company’s 11th were to destroy the entire village with extreme prejudice.

Unfortunately, the Viet Cong was not there. U.S. soldiers so mentally fractured by their time in the war had to either kill innocent civilians or face years of court-martial. Most of the men went ballistic, blindly slaughtering en masse. Various accounts put the total number of dead between 347 and 504. The victims were old men, women, children and babies. The gruesome details of the attack are spine-chilling. An American gunship saved a small group when it landed between the last remaining encampment of Vietnamese civilians and U.S. soldiers. The pilot, Hugh Thompson, Jr., later known as “The Hero of My Lai,” claimed that he would open fire on American soldiers if they did not halt their attack. It was three years before the truth came out.

The cover-up of this terrible bloodletting – a war crime, by all definitions – was swift and absolute. Colonel Oran Henderson took up the investigation and concluded 22 innocents died that day; unavoidable deaths in what was otherwise a successful attack that snuffed out the lives of over 120 “insurgents.” But that is not what happened. In response to written reports from soldiers who refused to take part in the massacre, Colon Powell, then a Major in the Army, whitewashed it, claiming that relations between Vietnamese civilians and American soldiers were “excellent.”

It took a journalist, Investigative Reporter Seymour Hersh, now with The New Yorker Magazine, to break the painful truth. Within days it was all over the national media. By the time the military trials had finished, America’s heart had changed. It was the single most important turning point of the Vietnam War, jarring those who simply did not want to know the truth into opening their eyes to the ugly, brutal reality of America’s blood-soaked foreign policy.

On November 19, 2005, Marine Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas of El Paso, Texas, died just outside of Haditha, Iraq after an improvised explosive device detonated near his convoy. He was just 20 years old. His unit, many of whom were on their third or fourth tours in Iraq, simply snapped. They went on a rampage through the small Sunni Muslim city of Haditha, killing over 25 civilians that we know of. Old men, women, children, even babies were murdered in cold blood. The only witness to this was a nine year old girl.

In a video captured by a local student, the girl looks like any other innocent child. She is wearing a pink shirt with a smiling bunny rabbit adorning the front. But the expression on her face is simply haunting. She tells the cameraman how her grandmother died, on her knees in prayer, shot in the back of the head. Then, she says, soldiers went into her grandfather’s room and shot him as he lay in bed. They stepped out and hurled a grenade into the room. Then they killed her brother. Then her baby sister. They lined them up in a row, execution-style, and shot them one by one. The children were wearing pajamas. Their blood and tears stain the walls and floor, caught on a tape that will rock your sheltered, Conservative-Christian reality.

Now the mainstream U.S. media is paying attention, thanks to the efforts of Congressman John Murtha, a former Marine and well-known Democratic war hawk. Once a trusted advisor to Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan and Bush Sr., he is persona non grata with Dubya’s administration, having called for a withdraw from Iraq last year.

We can only wish the Haditha massacre were an isolated incident. The reality is far more terrible.

This past April I spoke with Geoff Reymillard, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He recounted a story of how a mother, father and their two children, both under the age of five, were killed at a roadside checkpoint in Baghdad. The report went up the chain of command, and a meeting was called. That night, a crowd of soldiers gathered to listen to their superiors address the matter. “If those [expletive] Hajis would just learn how to drive,” said one Colonel, “that [expletive] wouldn’t happen.”

“What we are seeing here is an Iraqi no longer being a human,” said Reymillard. “They become this Haji, just like they became Gooks in Vietnam, they have become Haji’s to our soldiers. Their deaths are not reported at all. They are all just chalked up to being insurgents. That is what happens over and over again. All the Iraqis being killed just ‘become’ insurgents. I just … I don’t know how you can be in favor of that at all.”

This time, we were lucky. Haditha was but a shadow of My Lai. This is the consequence of waging an unprovoked war with a currency of lies. Putting young men fresh out of high school into the middle of a civil war is no strategy for victory; it is a recipe for massacre. The Bush Administration has run out of white paint. Wake up and smell the truth.

U.S. out of Iraq. Now.

Stephen Webster is an Investigative Reporter with North-Texas weekly The News Connection, a Staff Writer with Peace Journalism Magazine and George W. Bush's hometown paper The Lone Star Iconoclast, a former contributor to The Dallas Morning News' Science & Technology section and the former Editor-in-Chief of Binary Culture.

Mushroom Kingdon, June 2, 2006

My publisher has asked me to start writing a video game column. I've decided to call it Mushroom Kingdom. The first of what will be a weekly read follows ...

Mushroom Kingdom
By Stephen Webster
Complete Nerd
June 2, 2006
For: The News Connection, Binary Culture

Wii will see …

First of all, no, we are not on psychedelic drugs. This column’s title, Mushroom Kingdom, is derivative of a land which many remember fondly. Most members of the under-35 generation(s) will hearken back to sitting in front of a television in the early 80’s, nodding their heads to electronic beeps and boops, jumping on Goombas’ heads in an effort to save a kidnapped princess. Of course, I’m talking about that cultural flashpoint; an iconographic mainstay of my own childhood: Super Mario, who lived in the Mushroom Kingdom and conquered an entire decade of this, the “lost” generation.

Ah, the memories.

Perhaps it is ironic that such a title was chosen for this new column, for our first subject Nintendo’s latest and greatest, coming soon to a living room near you. Unlike mainstream competitors Sony and Microsoft, who are prepared to saturate the market with expensive, high-powered, “media center” machines, Nintendo seems to have sidestepped this battle all-together. If Bill Gates is a four-star technology general, then Nintendo’s genius game creator Shigeru Miyamoto is a pied-piper savant, happily skipping right out of town square and taking the strategist’s soldiers with him.

I am talking about the Nintendo Wii (pronounced “We”), the most unusual game machine the world has yet to see. No rhyme intended. Last month the gaming world converged on the Los Angeles Convention Center for the Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3), the largest showcase of coming-soon software known to man. Nintendo came out of this week-long electronics marathon sitting pretty, boasting five-hour lines around their booth and more playable games than Sony and Microsoft. The appeal of this new machine is unique, and its execution, thus far, has been flawless.

For starters, the Wii will appeal to current gamers and reach out to those who write off the pastime as pointless or too complicated. The key here is simplicity. When the company’s press conference opened, famed Mario creator Miyamoto stood stage-right, holding a television-style, single-hand remote. Behind him, a massive screen depicting an orchestra comprised of simple, cartoonish characters. He raised his hands to signal the start of the melody, and then proceeded to conduct a Nintendo-themed symphony with simple flicks of his wrist, as though he were holding a conductor’s baton.

The audience was in awe of what was otherwise a simple technology demonstration.

Other games showcased were Wii Sports, where up to four players can join in on a game of golf, baseball, tennis or air-sports. Participants hold the motion-sensitive controller like they would any sporting accessory. Swing the bat to hit the ball. Pull off a backhand stroke to volley back across the net. Smack a drive with a digital nine-iron, just like you would on the green. In air-sports, players pilot a variety of flying craft by holding the controller like a paper airplane. It is so simple, your grandmother could do it; yet fun enough that even your uber-gamer nephew will get in on the action.

The company also plans to have their latest Legend of Zelda title, Twilight Princess, available at system launch. It too will have Wii functionality. Imagine swinging the Hero of Time’s sword as though you were holding it; or firing off an arrow, only to hear it (via the controller’s internal speaker) fly from your hand, right into the television screen. Nintendo also showed off a new Mario game, called Super Mario Galaxy, a new Super Smash Brothers game with online multiplayer, a new Metroid title and a handful of other old franchises renewed for Wii. Third-party developers were also on-board in droves, as the company has made it their goal to reduce development costs for their new system to just one-third of what Xbox 360 or PS3 development costs.

It may have a funny name, but where would modern America be without Google or Ikea? Wii may yet take over the world. The new PlayStation set to debut in November at $599, giving Nintendo a shot at a huge victory this Christmas. The company has pledged to launch their system at or below $249. It plays GameCube games and works with the old controllers, runs DVDs, and even has a free online service for multiplayer, and sports a new content delivery method called “Virtual Console,” which allows players to download and play any of Nintendo’s games from the last 20 years.

I’m just not sure how it will feel asking my mother to put the controller down so I can take my video games home. Wii will see.

Stephen Webster is an Investigative Reporter with North-Texas weekly The News Connection, a Staff Writer with Peace Journalism Magazine and George W. Bush's hometown paper The Lone Star Iconoclast, a former contributor to The Dallas Morning News' Science & Technology section and the former Editor-in-Chief of Binary Culture.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Buegess and DeLay, BFF!!!

Taken from the website of Congressman Michael C. Burgess on May 29, 2006 at 1:00 p.m. Check it out.

Don't they make the cutest couple?

Burgess and DeLay, BFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11111111111111!!!!11!

But seriously, I think it is funny that he has a photo of this criminal. Other items of interest in his photo gallery ...

Burgess with Jack Abramoff's BFF! BFF2X!!!!!!11!1!!!!1111

A picture of Iran's flag superimposed on a missle.

Also, a picture of him with Donald "Totrure the Brown Ones" Rumsfield.

A picture of a press conference held by "Republicans Fighting for Veterans" (by cutting the VA budget and voting against their health insurance).

DRUGS NOW! DRUGS NOW! (Seriously. That's what the banner says.)

More of Burgess and BFF DeLay.

Stem cell research? Never! A POX ON THEE!

Kicking people off Medicare is fun!

Burgess and Exxon BFF 3X!!!!!11111111!!!11!!!1

Can you count the number of people currently under investigation in this photo?

More snobbery at the Exxon station. WE LOVE BIG OIL!

The infamous color codes. Be afraid, America!

A reminder of why you should not vote for Burgess.

Yay Big Oil! Thanks for all the money!

At some point, you've got to wonder who put this website together. I hope he keeps all this stuff up through the election season. There is more fodder to fight against him on his own site than there is on his opponent's page!

That is all too funny.

Bush the propagandist

Ever wonder why some people simply refuse to believe what has become ALL TOO OBVIOUS to 2/3rds of America? We know Bush is one of the most daring liars of our age, but some people are so blinded and so brainwashed that even the most bald-faced, completely transparent lies are met with applause and glee. And anyone who points to the emperor and claims he wears no clothes is simply "Un-American" in their book.

Do you know why this is? The Independent has the story ...
Bush 'planted fake news stories on American TV'
By Andrew Buncombe in Washington
29 May 2006

Federal authorities are actively investigating dozens of American television stations for broadcasting items produced by the Bush administration and major corporations, and passing them off as normal news. Some of the fake news segments talked up success in the war in Iraq, or promoted the companies' products.

Investigators from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are seeking information about stations across the country after a report produced by a campaign group detailed the extraordinary extent of the use of such items.

The report, by the non-profit group Centre for Media and Democracy, found that over a 10-month period at least 77 television stations were making use of the faux news broadcasts, known as Video News Releases (VNRs). Not one told viewers who had produced the items.

"We know we only had partial access to these VNRs and yet we found 77 stations using them," said Diana Farsetta, one of the group's researchers. "I would say it's pretty extraordinary. The picture we found was much worse than we expected going into the investigation in terms of just how widely these get played and how frequently these pre-packaged segments are put on the air."

More here ...

Of course, any reasonably intelligent American knows that domestic propaganda is illegal. I'm wondering if this will ever come before our courts. I'm sure there is some sort of legal loophole they'll try to invoke. But the sins of the Bush Crime Family will eventually catch up with them. And this is just one of all too many.

You can fool some people some of the time. But you can't fool all the people all of the time.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Joking around

A joke I just got in my email. Props to the Flower Mound Democrats for this one, though I don't know who wrote it.

George Bush goes to a primary school to talk to the kids to get a little PR.

After his talk he offers question time. One little boy puts up his hand and George asks him his name.

"Stanley," responds the little boy.

"And what is your question, Stanley?"

"I have 3 questions. First, why did the USA invade Iraq without the support of the UN? Second, why are you President when Al Gore got more votes? And third, whatever happened to Osama Bin Laden?"

Just then, the bell rings for recess. George Bush informs the kiddies that they will continue after recess.

When they resume George says, "OK, where were we? Oh, that's right: question time. Who has a question?"

A little girl puts up her hand. George points her out and asks her name.

"Stephanie," she responds.

"And what is your question, Stephanie?"

"Actually, I have 5 questions. First, why did the USA invade Iraq without the support of the UN? Second, why are you President when Al Gore got more votes? Third, whatever happened to Osama Bin Laden? Fourth, why did the recess bell go off 20 minutes early? And fifth, what happened to Stanley?"

Conspiracy Theory Rock

This is priceless.Click here for Episode One of Conspiracy Theory Rock!
(.MOV format -- From

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Net Neutrality strikes a minor victory

This is good, but only the beginning.
From Raw Story ...
House Judiciary Committee backs Net Neutrality effort

A bipartisan bill brought to the House Judiciary Committee that sought to derail a proposed 'two-tier' Internet plan in which telecommunications companies would charge Internet sites fees to ensure their site was delivered faster than other sites passed the House Judiciary Committee today by a 20-13 vote, RAW STORY has learned.

"This is an amazing turnaround, from a bipartisan stance against net neutrality, to a bipartisan stance for net neutrality," Matt Stoller, who led part of the blogger coalition against the telecommunications plan. "The battle isn't over, but enjoy this victory."

[SNIP ...] The VoteFall:

Democrats Conyers - yes Berman - yes Boucher - yes Nadler - yes Scott - yes Watt - not voting Lofgren - yes Jackson-Lee - yes Waters - yes Meehan - not voting Delahunt - present Wexler - yes Weiner - yes Schiff - yes Sanchez, Linda - yes Van Hollen - yes Wasserman Schultz - yes

Republicans Sensenbrenner - yes Hyde - didn't vote Coble - no Smith - no Gallegly - no Goodlate - yes Chabot - no Lungren - yes Jenkins - yes Cannon - yes Bachus - no Inglis - yes Hostetler - no Green - no Keller - no Flake - not voting Pence - not voting Forbes - no King - no Feeney - no Frank - no Gohmert - not voting

More here.

Speaker Hastert under investigation?

ABC News claims that Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert is currently under investigation in a bribery probe involving a Jack Abramoff client. And to think, they'd just gotten rid of Tom DeLay.

Poor, poor Republicans. From the ABC Blog, The Blotter ...
Federal officials say the Congressional bribery investigation now includes Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, based on information from convicted lobbyists who are now cooperating with the government.

Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with other tribes.

The other tribes were represented by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff who reportedly has provided details of his dealings with Hastert as part of his plea agreement with the government.

The letter was written shortly after a fund-raiser for Hastert at a restaurant owned by Abramoff. Abramoff and his clients contributed more than $26,000 at the time.
Hastert and the Justice Department are stonewalling.

We'll see where this goes, but it is an unexpected turn of events.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Unspoken Injustice; breaking the silence, cycle of abuse

Unspoken Injustice; breaking the silence, cycle of abuse
By Stephen Webster
Investigative Reporter

Part Two in a series

(Click here for part one)

<-- Larry Dale Floyd

On July 29, 2005, Larry Dale Floyd, a former Denton County constable and resident of The Colony, was arrested in Canon City, Colorado. He is accused of attempting to seduce an eight year-old girl. His solicitous attempts via telephone and the Internet were rooted out by an undercover Freemont County police officer and Floyd was promptly arrested. While serving time in the Freemont detention center, he allegedly told cellmates William Johnson and Justin Lopez stories of repeat offenses, dating all the way back to his military service during the Vietnam War.

Floyd told Johnson of how he would visit prostitutes overseas and buy their entire families. He recounted how he would chain young girls to polls and act out his perverse fantasies before finally killing them. He made inappropriate comments about Lopez' three children when they came to visit him in prison. Both of Floyd's cellmates came forward offering testimony against this former Denton County officer of the law, claiming they did not want to see him have any contact with a child again.

When Floyd was arrested, he claimed that he was on an "undercover sting operation," that somehow nobody in local law enforcement knew of. He told cellmate Johnson of his plans to travel the country in an RV, stopping at as many nudist colonies as he could. He is also accused of multiple accounts of possession of child pornography. A Lake Dallas bartender claims Floyd showed her photo albums of children bound and gagged, either unclothed or dressed in lingerie. He told her stories of how he would get their parents involved in all-night "parties." He is currently awaiting trial in the Freemont County Detention Center on a $100,000 bail.

Positions of power
"That is one of the problems with these predators," said Christopher Largen, founder of Denton County child safety activist group Building Block. "They tend to gravitate toward positions of power, be it in government, law enforcement, our schools, our churches - just look at the recent scandals - and other institutions that involve lots of interaction with children. They rarely fit the stereotype of the slobbering creep in a trench coat, wandering the park late at night."

One example of this behavior is the case of Frank Figueroa. On October 25, 2005, Figueroa, a Department of Homeland Security official, was arrested in The Mall at Millenia in Orlando, Florida. He pleaded no contest to charges of exposing himself to a 16 year old girl. The excruciating twist: Figueroa was the head of DHS' "Operation Predator," a subdivision of I.C.E. (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) that conducts internet stings on sex predators. Today, he is still a DHS employee. According to MSNBC reports, DHS simply took away his gun and banned him from accessing government databases.

Another example of this is the case of Brian J. Doyle, the 55 year-old Deputy Press Secretary for DHS. On April 4, 2006, Doyle was arrested after having sexually explicit conversations over the internet with a detective posing as a 14 year old girl. Doyle is charged with seven counts of using a computer to seduce a child and 16 counts of transmission of harmful material to a minor.

Pattern of victimization
"When I was an actor at [business' name withheld], there was a guy who was serially assaulting kids backstage," continued Largen. "He assaulted me right before I had to go on stage in The King and I, during the overture, when the lights were down. I went onstage to sing, 'I Whistle a Happy Tune' and skipped around. So I learned from a very early age that 'the show must go on.' You give people what they expect. I told the stage manager and the director what happened after the show, but they did absolutely nothing. He continued to work at the theatre with dozens of kids who were in the summer musicals that year. Within a year, I was suicidal. I was only 11 years old."

"I found myself up at two in the morning, crying, walking around my living room with a knife," said Largen. "My parents found me like this, and I told them what had happened. They asked me why I hadn't told them sooner so they could have done something. Well, at 11 years old I didn't know anything about the statutes of limitations, or even what those were. I trusted my parents to react, and they didn't. They dissociated from it as much as I had at the time."

"Then, when I was 13, I was assaulted by a guy who graduated from the same private middle school/high school I attended in St. Louis,” said Largen. “He was the son of one of the city's most wealthy men, and still hung around the school. He was pretty well known and well liked. This guy spent about a year cultivating a sort of big brother relationship with me. He never tried anything during that time, but he would make comments sometimes about sex that a 13 year old shouldn't hear, but otherwise he was always nice to me."

"He befriended my family,” continued Largen. “One day he asked my mom if he could take me on a road trip down to Branson to help his grandmother move. At that point, he started drinking with me. I thought it was cool, you know? Drinking with the old dude. I'm just 13, and I really didn't know any better. I had never been told of the dangers. We get back to his apartment after helping his grandmother and he broke out some pills. He said they would make me 'fly real high.' Well, turns out he gave me Chloral Hydrate, Phenobarbital and Valium. He told me the names of the pills, but I didn't know that taking them with alcohol could have injured or killed me. When I woke up, he was assaulting me and I completely disassociated. I went to another place and repressed it for years. And my fear and silence let him do it to others, I'm sure. They are skilled at what they do. Predators are fixated, and nine out of ten will become repeat offenders."

Christopher Largen's experiences are what lead him to found Building Block, a Denton County activist group that helps survivors of childhood sexual assault break their silence and confront their inner demons. "Breaking the silence about your victimization is step one. There can be no healing unless you do that," claimed Largen. "I should know."

The News Connection encourages members of the community to speak out against this unspoken injustice. To tell your story, or promote your ideas as to what we as a society should do about this horrific and escalating problem, write to For more information about Building Block, visit

Additional reading:

Yes, I'm mad about gas prices

Every time I hit the road, I am just burned up when I pass a gas station. This $3.00 a gallon nonsense has to stop. And considering the windfall profits companies like Exxon Mobile are making, one would think that our Congress would do something to help out the average joe. But alas, they seem to live in a different world.

Some days, I can hardly make it back from work because I'm running on frickin' empty. Its sad.

Well, today one of my favorite news aggregators, The Raw Story, posted an article about oil and gas company lobbyists, and who gets the lion's share of their dollars. Check it out ...
Republicans, incumbents receive large majority of oil lobby cash

Republican incumbents are far more likely than their colleagues in Congress to receive oil company money, RAW STORY has found.

Eighty four percent of the $8.6 million oil and gas companies have contributed to the 2006 elections has gone to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

According to data compiled by the Center, the top 20 recipients of oil money in Congress are all Republicans.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX,) tops the list with $159,611 in oil company contributions this cycle. Rick Santorum (R-PA), whose campaign coffers made waves on the blogosphere yesterday, comes in at number 2, trailing Hutchison by nearly $40,000. At the bottom of the top 20 list is Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who pulled in just $48,500 from the industry.

The rest of the story is here.

Full money-trail rundown is here.

Make you wonder what Senator Hutchison is thinking, doesn't it?

Smoking pot ... is good for you?

Hold your fury for a minute. I'll explain that headline. Endure some quotes, just briefly.
"I tried marijuana once. I did not inhale."
-- William J. Clinton

"Yes. In Vietnam."
-- John Kerry when asked if he had ever smoked marijuana.

"I think hard drugs are disgusting. But I must say, marijuana is pretty lightweight."
-- Linda McCartney

"I think people need to be educated to the fact that marijuana is not a drug. Marijuana is an herb and a flower. God put it here. If He put it here and He wants it to grow, what gives the government the right to say that God is wrong?"
-- Willie Nelson

"Even if one takes every reefer madness allegation of the prohibitionists at face value, marijuana prohibition has done far more harm to far more people than marijuana ever could."
-- William F. Buckley, Jr

"Marijuana is the finest anti-nausea medication known to science, and our leaders have lied about this consistently. [Arresting people for] medical marijuana is the most hideous example of government interference in the private lives of individuals. It's an outrage within an outrage within an outrage."
-- Peter McWilliams

"I now have absolute proof that smoking even one marijuana cigarette is equal in brain damage to being on Bikini Island during an H-bomb blast."
-- Ronald Reagan
And now, the news ...
Marijuana does not raise lung cancer risk
From FOX News, May 24, 2006

People who smoke marijuana do not appear to be at increased risk for developing lung cancer, new research suggests.

While a clear increase in cancer risk was seen among cigarette smokers in the study, no such association was seen for regular cannabis users.

Even very heavy, long-term marijuana users who had smoked more than 22,000 joints over a lifetime seemed to have no greater risk than infrequent marijuana users or nonusers.

The findings surprised the study’s researchers, who expected to see an increase in cancer among people who smoked marijuana regularly in their youth.

“We know that there are as many or more carcinogens and co-carcinogens in marijuana smoke as in cigarettes,” researcher Donald Tashkin, MD, of UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine tells WebMD. “But we did not find any evidence for an increase in cancer risk for even heavy marijuana smoking.” Carcinogens are substances that cause cancer.

[SNIP ...]

The heaviest marijuana users in the study had smoked more than 22,000 joints, while moderately heavy smokers had smoked between 11,000 and 22,000 joints.

While two-pack-a-day or more cigarette smokers were found to have a 20-fold increase in lung cancer risk, no elevation in risk was seen for even the very heaviest marijuana smokers.

The more tobacco a person smoked, the greater their risk of developing lung cancer and other cancers of the head and neck. But people who smoked more marijuana were not at increased risk compared with people who smoked less and people who didn’t smoke at all.

[SNIP ...]

[E]xperts say it might have something to do with tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is a chemical found in marijuana smoke.

Cellular studies and even some studies in animal models suggest that THC has antitumor properties, either by encouraging the death of genetically damaged cells that can become cancerous or by restricting the development of the blood supply that feeds tumors, Tashkin tells WebMD.

In a review of the research published last fall, University of Colorado molecular biologist Robert Melamede, PhD, concluded that the THC in cannabis seems to lessen the tumor-promoting properties of marijuana smoke.

The nicotine in tobacco has been shown to inhibit the destruction of cancer-causing cells, Melamede tells WebMD. THC does not appear to do this and may even do the opposite.

More here.

I stress caution. Don't go and buy a bag of dope, alright? Don't break the law. Seriously. DO NOT BREAK THE LAW.

But between you and I, this news is amazing. I can't see any reason why we shouldn't make this a Schedule Two substance and open up additional research in the U.S. And give it to those who need it, not those who just want to have fun on the weekends. Our dying patients are crying out for our compassion. It is the only reasonable thing to do. Legalize Medical Marijuana. And stop jailing kids for small posession already. Please? Make it a lesser crime. Prohibition does more harm than pot its self. It is time to be a little more reasonable when it comes to our drug policy.

That's all I've got to say about that.

Inventor of the Internet warns U.S. about tactics

You know about the debate over Net Neutrality, right? (Click the link for a brief education.)

Today, the inventor of the Internet, Tim Berners-Lee, has come forward cautioning the U.S. over its push to topple Net Neutrality.

From The BBC ...
Web inventor warns of 'dark' net

Tim Berners-Lee
Tim Berners-Lee was knighted in the UK for his invention
The web should remain neutral and resist attempts to fragment it into different services, web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee has said.

Recent attempts in the US to try to charge for different levels of online access web were not "part of the internet model," he said in Edinburgh.

He warned that if the US decided to go ahead with a two-tier internet, the network would enter "a dark period".

Sir Tim was speaking at the start of a conference on the future of the web.

"What's very important from my point of view is that there is one web," he said.

"Anyone that tries to chop it into two will find that their piece looks very boring."

An equal net

The British scientist developed the web in 1989 as an academic tool to allow scientists to share data. Since then it has exploded into every area of life.

However, as it has grown, there have been increasingly diverse opinions on how it should evolve.

The World Wide Web Consortium, of which Sir Tim is the director, believes in an open model.

This is based on the concept of network neutrality, where everyone has the same level of access to the web and that all data moving around the web is treated equally.

This view is backed by companies like Microsoft and Google, who have called for legislation to be introduced to guarantee net neutrality.

The first steps towards this were taken last week when members of the US House of Representatives introduced a net neutrality bill.

More here.

Now that you know, you should sign the Save the Internet petition. While you're there, tell your Federal Representatives what you expect. We must not allow the telecoms to dominate the people's lines of communication.

It is an affront to our very democracy, and they know it.

U.K. cops attack protesters, steal signs

Looks like we're not alone in this boat.

As though the savage attacks on protesters in Miami in 2003 and in New York City in 2004 were not enough ... Now the trend has spread to the U.K. Great.

Republicans upset about raid on Democrat's home?

So, they can fiercely guard their constitutional rights, but not ours? This is sickening.

From The Associated Press ...
Hastert demands FBI return documents

WASHINGTON - House Speaker [Republican] Dennis Hastert demanded Wednesday that the FBI surrender documents it seized and remove agents involved in the weekend raid of Rep. William Jefferson's office, under what lawmakers of both parties said were unconstitutional circumstances.

"We think those materials ought to be returned," Hastert said, adding that the FBI agents involved "ought to be frozen out of that (case) just for the sake of the constitutional aspects of it."

The Saturday night search of Jefferson's office on Capitol Hill brought Democrats and Republicans together in rare election-year accord, with both parties protesting agency conduct they said violated the Constitution's separation of powers doctrine.

Democrats, meanwhile, sought to get Jefferson to resign his seat on the House's most prestigious panel.

"In the interest of upholding the high ethical standard of the House Democratic Caucus, I am writing to request your immediate resignation from the Ways and Means Committee," wrote House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi in the one-sentence correspondence.

More here.

Don't you think this is all a little too ironic?


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Republicans upset over Congressional bust

Now isn't this an unusual turn of events.

A Congressional Democrat gets busted for taking $100,000 from FBI narcs, and hardcore Republicans in the media start screaming and shouting about how corruption isn't a partisan issue (and they're right, for once).

Then, House and Senate Republican leadership gets all uptight about the Justice Department enforcing the laws against the Congress. You'd think they would be laughing about this, crowing all the way to Hannity & Colmes. Nope.

From this morning's Washington Post ...

Republican leaders, who previously sought to focus attention on the Jefferson case as a counterpoint to their party's own ethical scandals, said they are disturbed by the raid. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said that he is "very concerned" about the incident and that Senate and House counsels will review it.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) expressed alarm at the raid. "The actions of the Justice Department in seeking and executing this warrant raise important Constitutional issues that go well beyond the specifics of this case," he said in a lengthy statement released last night.

"Insofar as I am aware, since the founding of our Republic 219 years ago, the Justice Department has never found it necessary to do what it did Saturday night, crossing this Separation of Powers line, in order to successfully prosecute corruption by Members of Congress," he said. "Nothing I have learned in the last 48 hours leads me to believe that there was any necessity to change the precedent established over those 219 years."

Even House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi [D-CA] seemed nervous.
"[M]embers of Congress must obey the law and cooperate fully with any criminal investigation," [she said]. [But] "Justice Department investigations must be conducted in accordance with Constitutional protections and historical precedent."
Yet Hastert and Frist, along with all the House and Senate Republicans tug the line on the destruction of OUR freedoms. OUR liberties. OUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS. Of course I'm talking about spying. And what did the Justice Department do with the crook if not spy on him, then raid his office to make the bust?

A little further on in the article, we find these passages ...

Legal experts were divided on the legality and propriety of the FBI's raid, but many said that it could raise serious evidentiary problems for prosecutors at trial. In scores of cases of alleged congressional wrongdoing, federal prosecutors and FBI agents have most commonly sought to issue subpoenas for documents rather than conducting an impromptu raid on congressional property, experts said.

At issue is the "speech or debate" clause of the Constitution -- language intended to shield lawmakers from intimidation by the executive branch. Historically, courts have interpreted the clause broadly, legal experts said.


And what about the Patriot Act provision granting powers of the Judiciary to the Executive in the form of "National Security Letters"? If I'm not mistaken (and I'm not), the NSL's are little more than an Executive Branch warrant, usurped from our courts. Only the target of the letter is not informed. They take your information. They tap your computer. They listen to your phone calls and archive them in the world's largest database. And SCREW the Fourth Amendment.

Yet they bitch and moan when the heat is on them?

HACK-OCRACY! Damn the incumbents.

Then again, what if this were all Bush's doing? What if the Justice Department (headed by Alberto "Torture Memos" Gonzales) was acting on behalf of the Executive in an attempt to create an aura of corruption around Democrats to score points leading up to the midterms? Well, Rep., Jefferson took the money and joked about how they'll never find out. Dumbass. He only proves what I've been saying for all too long: Corruption is not a partisan issue.

Abramoff, on the other hand, is. He's a Republican. And he corrupted other Republicans. But that is beside the point.

I'll be the first to admit, I am not familliar with the law cited by TWP, so there very well could be some constitutional concerns. But I promise you, their little quibbles are nothing compared to the loss of liberty we, the people, face today. The solution, just as it was with Nixon's spying programs, is impeachment.

The constitution is in serious jepardy. What are you going to do about it?

"Containment" not "Victory"

They're circling the waggons now. Just like I predicted in a column from November of last year. I cited this quote by Bush as Texas Governor ...

"Victory means an exit stragety, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is," said Bush referring to American troop deployment in Bosnia on Clinton's orders.

And today, MSNBC repots the White House has given up hope for "Victory" in Iraq. But according to Bush's definition, getting out means victory. Of course, he sort of swept that under the rug, "flip-flopping" as he so frequently does.

From MSNBC ...
May 22, 2006 - An old word is gaining new currency in Washington: containment. You may be hearing a lot more of it as the Bush administration hunkers down for its final two years. Containment of Iraq’s low-level civil war, which shows every sign of persisting for years despite the new government inaugurated this week. Containment of Iran’s nuclear power, which may lead to a missile defense system in Europe. Containment of the Islamism revived by Hamas and Hizbullah, by the Sunni suicide bombers in Iraq, as well as by the “Shiite Crescent”—as Jordan’s King Abdullah once called it—running from Iran through Southern Iraq and into the Gulf.
And to answer that pressing question, NO, they haven't gotten smart about their blood-drenched policies. They're just putting on a different face to appease the New American Demographic.

Nah-nah-na-na, nah-nah-na-na, hey-hey-hey ... Good-byeeee.

Midterm elections are only six months away!

Re-investigate 9/11!

Looks like the 9/11 Truth movement is growing much faster than I thought! The majority now believes we need a NEW INVESTIGATION. Hell yes we do. Check this out ...

Zogby poll on 9/11 ...
1) Iraq - do Americans think the Bush administration exploited 9/11 to attack Iraq? (44% do, 44% don't); 2) Cover up - did the government and its 9/11 Commission conceal or refuse to investigate evidence that contradicts their official story? (only 48% said no); 3) the collapse of WTC 7, which was not even mentioned by the 9/11 Commission and has seldom been reported in the media---had respondents been aware of this collapse and, if so, did they think it should be investigated (only 52% had known about it, but over 70% of this group believe it should have been investigated); 4) new investigation of official complicity - do respondents think we need one? (only 48% said no); and 5) mass media - how do people rate its performance, including its coverage of alternative 9/11 theories, unanswered questions and inquiry issues? (43% rate it positively, 55% negatively).
From 9/ ...
Poll results indicate 42% believe there has indeed been a cover up (with 10% unsure) and 45% think "Congress or an International Tribunal should re-investigate the attacks, including whether any US government officials consciously allowed or helped facilitate their success" (with 8% unsure). The poll of American residents was conducted from Friday, May 12 through Tuesday, May 16, 2004. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of +/- 2.9.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Paul Craig Roberts is a Hero

This guy is a True Patriot. Read what he has to say ...
The Administration That Won't Stop Lying
By Paul Craig Roberts

[SNIP ...]

The war has already cost 20,000 American casualties (dead and wounded) and hundreds of billions of dollars, which have had to be borrowed from foreigners, and is projected to have a total cost in excess of one trillion dollars.

This is a horrendous commitment. What is its purpose?

We have never been told. Everything the Bush Regime has said has been a lie. There were no weapons of mass destruction, and this was known prior to the orchestrated invasion. As the leaked top-secret British Cabinet memo, "the Downing Street memo," makes completely clear, the Bush regime falsified the intelligence to justify its invasion of Iraq.

There was no Iraqi connection to al Qaeda, a sworn enemy of the secular Hussein regime.

The most recent excuse – building democracy – is also a lie. It is perfectly clear that what the Bush Regime has done is to bring the three Iraqi factions to the brink of civil war, while constructing a massive US fortification in the guise of an embassy and permanent military bases.

The Republican Party has been reduced to one principle – its own power. It protects the Bush Regime from accountability and covers up its lies and misdeeds. Under the myths and lies that enshroud 9/11, the Democrats have collapsed as an opposition party.

More here.

And for you Partisans who scream Democrat or Republican at every turn, Paul Craig Roberts was President Reagan's Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. A lifelong Republican.

Talk about damaging.

Get 'em, Paul!

NYC Fireman: "There's a bomb in the building"

Watch this. And Hold Your Breath.

More and more of this footage keeps coming out on the web. The Truth just keeps stacking up against the conspiracy theory that fires resulting from the airliner crashes caused the WTC towers to collapse.

DAMN THOSE ILLEGAL ... executives?


Jeremy Pikser is a rock & roll Demi-God.

We've got to get these Illegal Executives out of our country! NO AMNESTY!

Read it. Now.

Drinking from a Blackwater trough

The Webster Retort
By Stephen Webster
Investigative Reporter
Publication date: May 26, 2006
For: The News Connection, The Lone Star Iconoclast

Drinking from a Blackwater trough

Image from Common Dreams by photographer David Adame, taken as police attacked a group of peaceful protesters in Miami on November 20, 2003.

When corporate power and state interests converge -- when the private sector discovers a way to vote its self access to the people's treasury and usurp its military power -- democracy breaks down. Benito Mussolini, the fascist dictator of Italy during World War II, knew this type of governance well. He once said that the first stage of fascism would be better known as corporatism: a perfect merger of corporate and state power.

Ted Koppel, in a recent New York Times editorial, called for the formation of a number of private, corporate armies. Formerly a power only held by the state, and the public if you count militias, is now being undertaken by our corporations to be used to further their own interests.

"Just as the all-volunteer military relieved the government of much of the political pressure that had accompanied the draft, so a rent-a-force, harnessing the privilege of every putative warrior to hire himself out for more than he could ever make in the direct service of Uncle Sam, might relieve us of an array of current political pressures," says Koppel.

"So, what about the inevitable next step a defensive military force paid for directly by the corporations that would most benefit from its protection?" he continues. "If, for example, an insurrection in Nigeria threatens that nation's ability to export oil (and it does), why not have Chevron or Exxon Mobil underwrite the dispatch of a battalion or two of mercenaries?"

He arrives at a frightening conclusion: "The United States may not be about to subcontract out the actual fighting in the war on terrorism, but the growing role of security companies on behalf of a wide range of corporate interests is a harbinger of things to come."

Immediately, one private army-for-hire in particular comes to mind: The Blackwater Group.

Formed in 1997 by an ex-Navy S.E.A.L., The Blackwater Group began as a training center for our nation's SWAT police forces, then moved up the rope a notch or two when it started dealing high-tech weaponry to police, and training them how to use it. One example of this is the ultrasonic weaponry employed by the New York Police Department during the 2004 Republican National Convention protest. These weapons are also used in Iraq to disperse crowds. They are known as "less lethal," and have developed a reputation for shattering eardrums. But there is so much more than just that.

Blackwater scored with all the right people when they sent forces into New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Unbound by that pesky Posse Comitatus law (which Bush argued against), Blackwater imposed a strange brew of corporate-style law enforcement and state-sponsored pseudo-martial law, placing their mercs in front of homes owned by the rich, and sending teams into the projects to confiscate weapons and “keep the peace.” Some say most of the reports of gunfire can be tracked back to these guys, but all the chatter is little more than hearsay. (Purely speculative: wouldn’t it make sense if it was just a practice-run for a larger operation, and the government’s lack of intervention afterward was intentional; perhaps allowing or encouraging this type of corporate criminality? After all, there are still thousands missing after the storm. We may never know.)

Since then they've been getting no-bid contract after no-bid contract providing support and security for corporate interests in Iraq and Afghanistan. Present-day Blackwater maintains a ‘for hire to the highest bidder’ mantra. They are conflict-neutral. They are American Hessians.

Now, a major figure in the media has come out in support of this. What types of rules govern a military beyond the oversight of our oversight-phobic government? And what will become of our military when the hardened, four-tours in Iraq, career soldiers realize that their fortunes will not be made in service to their country? What could happen to our police and National Guard if this mentality really gains momentum?

Perhaps Koppel is right when he says this is "a harbinger of things to come." Imagine, a decade from now, America having disbanded the National Guard and police. Corporations bid on city, state and federal law enforcement contracts, and neighborhoods are split into sections, each controlled by one group or another. It would be the perfect merger of state and corporate interests. And it makes a sort of twisted, economic sense. Hey, smoke some pot and you’ll answer to the Phillip-Morris peacekeepers. Jaywalk and you'll be picked up by some GMC mercs. And God forbid you try to evade the public security cameras on every street corner. Fujifilm's eye in the sky (another RNC 2004 protest holdover) will make sure Motorola’s boys in black swoop down on you in no time. And we’ll all get wonderful tax cuts! Hooray!

I'm just hypothesizing. No Need to Panic, right? But considering the revolutionary changes we've seen over the last decade -- let alone the last five years -- I think it is important to be one step ahead of the fascists. Well, perhaps fascism is too strong a word for this stage in the game. But I find it hard to dismiss subversive evil as a ‘prank’ of Beelzebub.

Should major disaster strike again, as it surely will, you can count on hearing more and more about The Blackwater Group. And not much of it will be good. Keep an open mind here, my friends and readers. We're looking at a double-edged sword. But in my small amount of life experience, the wielder of such a weapon always ends up injured.

Stephen Webster is an Investigative Reporter with The News Connection, Staff Writer 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

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