Archive for June 2004
A report in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer tells the story of a Nepalese man who was thrown into prison under the PATRIOT Act for accidentally videotaping the building in NYC where the FBI has its HQ.
NEW YORK — It took no more than a week for James P. Wynne, a veteran FBI investigator, to confirm the harmless truth that only now, more than two years later, he is ready to talk about. The small foreign man he helped arrest for videotaping outside a tall office building in Queens on Oct. 25, 2001, was no terrorist.Yet Purna Raj Bajracharya was swallowed up in the government’s new maximum-security system of secret detention and secret hearings for three months, and his only friend was Wynne, the same FBI agent who had helped decide to put him there.
Bajracharya, 47, was a Buddhist from Nepal planning to return there after five years of odd jobs at places such as a Queens pizzeria and a Manhattan flower shop. He was videotaping New York street scenes to take back to his wife and sons in Katmandu. And he had no clue that the tall building in his viewfinder happened to include an office of the FBI.
When Wynne filed his FBI report a few days later, the Nepalese man, who spoke almost no English, had been placed in solitary confinement at a federal detention center in Brooklyn just for videotaping.
The article gives a pretty good picture of how Ashcroft’s JD is using–or mis-using–its new powers and how ‘byzantine’ the system has become. And what do they use to excuse this malfeasance? You guessed it:
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said that although he was unfamiliar with the case, the system of secrecy that Bajracharya encountered is lawful and necessary. “The idea that someone who has violated our immigration laws may be of interest on a national security level as well is an unfortunate reality, post- 9/11,” he said.
Bajracharya was jailed for three months ‘in a 6-by-9-foot cell kept lighted 24 hours a day.’ Welcome to neo-America, Baj.
The Republican Congress is going to let the ban on assault weapons expire. Mark Morford on getting Bush out from under another promise:
Isn’t that great? To hell with logic and to hell with your kids’ safety and to hell with even trying to prevent moron gangbangers and terrorist wanna-bes and imbecilic white supremacists from easily getting their hands on a nice AK-47 that can mow down a schoolyard full of tots in 10 seconds flat. Instead: Down with liberal scum who would take away our God-given right to bear nasty ultraviolent weaponry that no one anywhere can justify the existence of. Go, NRA!What, too sarcastic? Well, hold onto your sides, because it gets even funnier. Even little gun-lovin’ Bushie himself declared during the 2000 campaign that he actually supported an extension of the ban (pretty hard, even for Shrub, to defend Uzis in the wake of Columbine and 101 California, et al.), a law that outlaws 19 types of insidiously lethal weaponry, the very guns most highly prized by jittery meth-lab owners and killing-spree advocates and homophobic militia members deep in the Montana woods. Oh, and also by upstanding, white-bread NRA members. Oh my yes. They need assault weapons. Must have them. Or so they claim.
But Bush, he is just so happy. He won’t have to see that bill at all. He won’t have to sign a thing before the election and risk annoying the Bible-quotin’ gun lovers of America. The NRA lobby will kill it before he even has to try to pronounce the phrase “high school gun rampage.” Oh man is he ever relieved.
Because to the NRA, the rule is absolute: No gun law is a good gun law, and any ban of any kind is a slippery slope (always, always a slippery slope) until the government stomps in and takes away all your rights to do anything fun at all, and so screw the painfully obvious, skull-crushingly sad fact that allowing assault weapons back into the culture is the equivalent of allowing, say, convicted rapists loose in a sorority house.
How much do terrorists and murderers owe the Pubs? Let us count the ways….
In a snarky NYT piece that avoids sliding into snide mockery by the hair on its chinny-chin-chin, reporter Bill Werde notes that Disney, which refused to distribute F 9/11 for fear Jeb Bush would misuse the power of his office as the Gov of Florida to extract revenge by scotching their plans for Disneyworld, is distributing a documentary after all.
The film is called America’s Heart and Soul and was desxcribed in the NYT (I won’t call it a review because it wasn’t) as ‘an effort to showcase not just the beauty of the land, but the very soul of the United States — its people.’ The writer doesn’t say how well it did with its effort but that may perhaps be judged by the fact that the only way Disney can get people to watch it is to pay them.
In Sacramento the conservative group Move America Forward, whose Web site criticizes “Fahrenheit 9/11,” organized an advance screening of the Disney documentary “America’s Heart and Soul,” due in theaters on July 2. That film, directed by Louis Schwartzberg, celebrates ordinary Americans and, Disney says, their extraordinary stories. “Disney brought the movie, rented the theater and even paid for the popcorn,” Howard Kaloogian, the chairman of Move America Forward, said.
Dennis Rice, Disney Head of PR, told Werde that the company had done likewise ‘close to 100 times’, including screenings for the Sierra Club and the AARP.
Sounds like you got a real winner there, Denny. Send a limo for me and remember–I like lots of butter on my popcorn. Let’s not be frugal. After all, it’s on The Mouse.
Trust the conservatives to answer the specific charges Moore makes with a mindless ‘patriotic’ film that runs up the flag and salutes it while ignoring them. I want to see the head-to-head numbers on this one.
Mark Fiore: The Corporation at War (and he doesn’t even mention Dick Cheney)
Nick at Net Politik (another brand-new blog–May 16) writes in comments to ‘Censoring Blogs’ (he’s the one I got the letter from) of a paper by James F Moore of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School on the ‘second superpower’. At least in part, Moore thinks it’s us.
As the United States government becomes more belligerent in using its power in the world, many people are longing for a “second superpower” that can keep the US in check. Indeed, many people desire a superpower that speaks for the interests of planetary society, for long-term well-being, and that encourages broad participation in the democratic process. Where can the world find such a second superpower? No nation or group of nations seems able to play this role, although the European Union sometimes seeks to, working in concert with a variety of institutions in the field of international law, including the United Nations. But even the common might of the European nations is barely a match for the current power of the United States.There is an emerging second superpower, but it is not a nation. Instead, it is a new form of international player, constituted by the “will of the people” in a global social movement. The beautiful but deeply agitated face of this second superpower is the worldwide peace campaign, but the body of the movement is made up of millions of people concerned with a broad agenda that includes social development, environmentalism, health, and human rights. This movement has a surprisingly agile and muscular body of citizen activists who identify their interests with world society as a whole—and who recognize that at a fundamental level we are all one. These are people who are attempting to take into account the needs and dreams of all 6.3 billion people in the world—and not just the members of one or another nation. Consider the members of Amnesty International who write letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience, and the millions of Americans who are participating in email actions against the war in Iraq. Or the physicians who contribute their time to Doctors Without Borders/ Medecins Sans Frontieres.
It’s a good point and it’s also one of the reasons I think we have to fight for the freedom of the internet: this is our major tool for communication, organization, and cohesion. It crosses all borders, ties people together who have no other connection, and makes it possible for the people of the world to talk past their govts. The inherent power of that capacity has to be terrifying to govts everywhere–it may be the biggest single threat to their power that they’ve ever faced. It is almost inevitable that they will try to control it to their own advantage when that threat becomes more than a mere annoyance.
And that’s why the actions of the South Korean and Chinese govts are so dangerous–they are leading the way in putting into the hands of the powerful the capability of crippling if not destroying the only weapon we have–and a powerful one it is, too. It is the planetary voice of the people, nothing less, and it must be guarded and protected as the precious resource it is. We have not even begun to see what this thing can do; the possibilities are endless–international coalitions, international co-ordinated movements, international online meetings, preparations, and discussion.
This is the voice we’ve never had before in history, the tool we’ve never had that will allow us to come together. We can’t risk losing it.
It turns out the White House responded angrily to being asked difficult questions. Democracynow.org has reported that the White House has filed a complaint with the Irish Embassy. Curiously, the questions Bush were asked were scripted; the journalist, Carole Coleman, submitted them to the White House three days in advance. It has also been reported (see links at Lies.com) that the White House has “retaliated” by canceling a schedule interview with Laura Bush that Coleman had been given permission to conduct. Apparently, this order fits in with the “pre-emptive” strategy of the Bush Administration.Intimidating journalists in this manner is, as I illustrated in a recent post (“Clinton’s revealing interview”), something for which the Bush Administration can cite the Clinton Administration as a precedent. Bush takes the tendency to new depths of incivility, as he stubbornly pounds out abstract, delusional talking points that bear no substantive information of any kind.
There’s more. Have a ball. And check out the pictures while you’re there.
Pulled from Comments:
Review of Fahrenheit 9/11 by KrytonMy wife and I and our 13 year old niece went to see it Sunday afternoon.
I knew much of what was in this movie, but not all. I didn’t realize, for instance, that only one member of Congress has a child serving today. But seeing it all pulled together made for an unforgettable experience. I thought Moore could’ve added even more, but the film as it is lasts 2 1/2 hours. He couldn’t possibly put in everything
We’ve all seen the replays of 9-11 a thousand times. That’s what makes Moore’s extraordinarily respectful treatment of it all the more powerful. I could hear people literally choking back tears during that scene.
It’s a stunning documentary. My niece and wife both cried several times. Even I must admit to tears.
As a general rule, I thought that the movie was at its most scathing when it showed us raw footage: Bush sitting in the classroom (yes, it really was that long; Bush telling a roomful of billionaires, “Some call you the elite. I call you my base;” the Republican Stepford Wife attacking the mother of a dead soldier.
Bush and Jeb together, smirking aboard a plane. Bush smirking to a reporter that he’ll win Florida. “Count on it,” he smirks. “Write it down,” he smirks. His cousin John at FOXNEWS declaring him the Florida winner. The other networks retract their earlier call for Gore and go along with FOX. Bush with Kathryn Harris, his Florida campaign manager who just happened to also work for Jeb, who also just happened to be the person in charge of Florida’s vote.
Bush’s Arbusto/Harken ties to Saudis. Bush’s black-lined National Guard records. Bush practicing facial expressions before a televised speech; Bush sitting in that 9-11 classroom, eyes darting this way and that, searching vainly for brain matter. (I’d hoped Moore would’ve included the t.v. image of Bush’s vacuous terrified face the evening of 9-11 when he returned to Washington).
Bush grinning with Saudis. Cheney grinning with Saudis. Bush 40 grinning with Saudies. James Baker grinning with Saudis. Rumsfeld grinning with Saudis. Repeat. Repeat. Prince Bandar perched on the edge of a sofa with Bush 40. Ashcroft singing his soaring eagle song. (Anyone remember that eagles are carnivorous predators?)
Huge bombs bursting over Iraq, lighting up the night sky like the end of the world; Iraqi women and children screaming and crying, terrified. American GIs with limbs blown off. Bush smirking “Bring ‘em on.” Bush smirking. Bush smirking. Bush smirking.
A Flint MI woman who in earlier years as a counsellor encouraged young people to join the military as a way to escape Flint’s poverty, is devastated when her own son is killed in Iraq. She sits on a sofa with her husband and large family around her, reading the last letter she received from her son. Her voice breaks. She reads on. Her voice breaks again and again. She can barely finish the letter. She finally does. She’s completely emptied. She sits silent, washed in grief, tapping the letter against its envelope, expressing extreme anguish by wordlessly hitting paper with paper…
Take kleenex with you. And vote Bush and his demonic crew out of office in November.
I was listening to Randi yesterday and people were calling in from all over the country (AA is on 14 stations now and has a large internet audience) about their experiences. I haven’t heard stories like that since Star Wars–lines around the block in small towns; theaters adding one or two showings and, in the multiplexes, putting it on a couple more screens; one guy, I can’t remember where he said he was from but it was a Red State, said he figured that, in his highly conservative area, he might be the only one at the showing but when he got there, the multiplex had put F9/11 on 8 screens and every single showing was sold out; another one said he saw it first with a university crowd, sort of leftish, and when he decided he wanted to see it again, he ended up in a conservative area (the only place he could find a ticket, apparently) and even there it was on 4 screens and the houses were packed; one woman heard what was going on and showed up 3 hoiurs early to get her tickets–she got the last two…for the day.
That last woman said, ‘There’s a hunger in this country for somebody to tell the truth about what’s been happening the past three years.’ From the sound of it, they’re not hungry, they’re starving.
Not that there hasn’t been criticism. charlie at BiteSoundBite has reservations after reading Juan Cole’s review.
My argument is that the Iraq connection to 9/11 is specious and that connections of the same type can be made between al Quaeda and governments of the region whom we call friends and do not invade. I thought that Moore was doing the same thing, but now I don’t think he was. I still enjoyed the movie, and would reccomend it. But read Juan Cole’s remarks first, go in with a cool head.
Cole took Moore to task for his ‘illogic’ and ‘Saudi-bashing’.
The Saudi bashing in the Moore film makes no sense. It is true that some of the hijackers were Saudis, but that is only because Bin Laden hand-picked some Saudi muscle at the last minute to help the brains of the operation, who were Egyptians, Lebanese, Yemenis, etc. Bin Laden did that deliberately, in hopes of souring US/Saudi relations so that he could the better overthrow the Saudi government.The implication one often hears from Democrats that the US should have invaded Saudi Arabia and Pakistan after the Afghan war rather than Iraq is just another kind of warmongering and illogical. There is no evidence that either the Saudi or the Pakistani government was complicit in 9/11.
I respect Cole a great deal, but he’s being very legalistic here. There’s no hard evidence that the Saudi govt or Musharraff personally were involved in or supported specifically the AQ action against the US, but there’s plenty of evidence that Saudi businessmen with close ties to the Royal Family (which is the govt) and even certain members of that family have been giving tacit financial support to fundamentalist Islamic terrorist groups like AQ, Hamas and Hezbollah for years all during the time they were promising to do something just like this. The israeli govt has been protesting that support for more than a decade, and for more than a decade the Saudis have been denying it.
Pakistan has a military govt, and while Musharraf himself hasn’t been proven to have terrorist ties, certain of his high-ranking military officers, especially those in charge of the areas around the Afghanistan border, have been up to their necks protecting and supporting the Taliban and the AQ since the early 90’s. During the Afghan War, Israeli intelligence–and most of the other intelkligence services, including our own–were reasonably certain that bin Laden was hiding out in the mountains across the border in Pakistan, shielded by the Pakistani military; some of them think that’s where he is now, most of the time.
The relationship between the Saudi Royals, the Pakistani military, and AQ is way too complicated to go into here (part of the Saudi support is pure baksheesh, for example); suffice it to say that the connections are undeniable and decades long, and during all that time powerful elements of both entities have been supporting terrorist groups promising to do something just like the 9/11 massacre. If they weren’t directly involved in the planning and execution of 9/11, they certainly were parties to everything that led up to it. Like Moore, I think that makes them as guilty as if they flew those planes themselves. Cole is splitting hairs here, and while he’s technically accurate, it’s a distinction that’s hardly worth making to anybody except a lawyer.
As for Cole’s contention that the Saudis were picked ‘at the last minute’, I’d like to know where he’s getting this. All the information I’ve seen says that those cells were smuggled into the US over the course of two years; a year before the attacks took place, the pilots were getting flight training. Here. The pilots were mostly Saudi. Two years is not ‘the last minute’.
Some of Cole’s other comments seem uncharacteristically simplistic, as well.
The story Moore tells about the Turkmenistan gas pipeline project through Afghanistan and Pakistan also makes no sense. First, why would it be bad for the Turkmenistanis to be able to export their natural gas? What is wicked about all that? It is true that some forces wanted the pipeline so badly that they even were willing to deal with the Taliban, but this was before Bin Laden started serious operations against the US from Afghan soil, beginning in 1998 with the East Africa embassy bombings.
If Cole thinks dickering with the Taliban over the pipeline stopped in ’98, he’s misinformed. It went on through intermediaries in Turkmenistan right up until the Afghan War. Again, Cole seems unaccountably willing to accept the narrow notion that working through other people makes you innocent. I don’t. It doesn’t.
I still cannot understand why the pipeline is evil. Afghanistans would collect $2 bn. a year on tolls, and the Turkmen would be lifted out of poverty, and Pakistan and India might have a new reason to cooperate rather than fighting. I personally wish it could be built immediately.
This is startlingly naive. The pipeline is evil because the Turkmen would NOT be lifted out of poverty; they’d never see a nickel of the money. They’d be rooted out of their homes as they were in Burma and forcibly moved out of the way of the pipe to new villages where they’d be resented for taking up some of the village’s increasingly scarce resources–land, food, water–while individuals in the Turkmen govt got richer and richer.
That is the way it works and has worked for decades: Burma, Brazil, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Venezuela, Uzbekistan, the list winds ever on. Mr Cole has taken the view of investors that the pipeline will be of value; Mr Moore has taken the people’s view that the pipeline will be of value…to investors. Perhaps Mr Cole should look at the history of Halliburton/KBR’s pipeline in Burma and show us some evidence that it lifted the Burmese ‘out of poverty’. If he can do that, I may take him more seriously.