Friday, June 10, 2005

Sure there’s Censorship of the News in America

By Grace Reid

This morning Sheila, a Corkwoman, asked me why my eyes looked so tired and my face so strained. I explained that I had been staying up all night writing articles about a story that broke in the UK on the 20th of March, but still hadn’t been reported in the US news by the first week in June. “Sure, there’s censorship of the news in America, isn’t there?” she said. “I mean, everybody knows that there are stories about the war in Iraq that you can’t print in America.” This came as the biggest news of the day to me, that censorship of the news is a state policy. “Can’t you get in trouble with the US government for writing stories like this? Will the FBI be paying us a call?” I told her that I was not too concerned, as the stories came from the BBC and that is about as establishment as you get. All I have been doing, I told her, is finding the news from here and delivering it over there.

Having been out of the country for more than a decade, how could I have known that censorship had become a state policy? How could I have known that the government had shackled and gagged the fourth estate? But I learned fast during the Newsweek Debacle. How did that one go again? Newsweek reported the truth, as had the International Committee of the Red Cross, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty before them. A massive amount of FBI emails released through the FOIA by the ACLU last December told the same story. Yet the US government stepped in and demanded that Newsweek retract, and blamed the press for the ensuing violence for having reported the truth. The Qu’ran was desecrated, but one was not to report it.

The hardest thing to do is to find the truth. And it’s the only worthwhile thing to pursue. During the 2003 State of the Union Address I heard the President of the United States boast that he had summarily executed 3,000 Afghani prisoners. “And let’s put it this way, they will no longer be a problem to us or to our allies.” Then later we learned of the “Convoy of Death.” And how hundreds of these prisoners died in transit in airless containers, and that these containers were shot full of holes, “for the ventilation.” And some of the personnel doing the shooting were American soldiers. And some of the witnesses to these atrocities of war were American soldiers.

Among all the other lies I have heard, that one about allies sticks in my craw as well. I suspect the United States has no allies. A few bought friends. A very few. Looks right now like only one. And all the documents that have been leaked, every single one of them points like a neon arrow back to Washington, back to Crawford. Do you make your friends break the law with you?

There has been a media blackout of the story of the illegal war in Iraq. The truth is coming out against the strongest, and at times, the most peculiar resistance. Now we’ve got minutes, memos transcripts, briefings, and notes. We have briefcases full of doctored “Intelligence that was fixed around the policy” of an illegal war of aggression. A large portion of the informed public has adopted the attitude that this is “old news.” This is, they seem to imply business as usual. Lying to Congress is business as usual. Manipulating the press, manipulating the circumstances to create the conditions for war that was, apparently predetermined in 2001. Manipulating the weapons inspectors, manipulating the Security Council, manipulating the intelligence, manipulating the people. With a rhetoric of God, faith, freedom and democracy for all.

OK, all you “old news” people, would you tell me who is paying for it? Who foot the bill for all the paychecks of all the phony intel, of all the illegal bombings, of all the depleted uranium weapons? Who paid the salaries of the torturers, and the ones who devised the torture policy? Who paid for the illegal CIA ghost flights to secret torture prisons? Who paid the bill to doctor vote tallying software? Who paid for the illegal war that has cost as much as 4 billion US dollars a month? Who is paying the salaries of these thugs? Who is paying for Condoleezza Rice’s SS man’s boots?

And now we’re told to “stay the course”? Now, we accept that the war is illegal, was illegal, but we have to “stay the course?” in a war that is unwinnable. Another war that is unwinnable. Who paid for all this? How can you explain that there are more than 1,600 Americans killed in action of a war that is criminal, except that the one who created and promoted it to the exclusion of all consideration for International Law, that he himself is a criminal. What is the rule in the Military Code of Justice that says you have to obey your commanding officer if that officer is a criminal, and the order violates all known military, international and humanitarian law?

The second most explosive piece of information to come out of the Downing Street Minutes case came from an “unnamed former senior US official” who is quoted as saying the account of the senior British Intelligence officer’s visit to Washington is “an absolutely accurate description of what transpired.” Now there is someone in Washington who is telling the truth. Maybe this will be the beginning of a trend. How long can you carry poisonous lies? It’s enough to make one seriously ill. Or angry enough to tell the truth. To report the truth. That would be a good trend. Then maybe my friend Sheila in Cork will not continue to hold the opinion that censorship is the way the press is operated in America


By William Fisher

The summer of 1965 found the United States in turmoil.

President Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, who had taken office in 1963 following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, was already stepping up troop deployments to Vietnam, and an embryonic anti-war movement was beginning to gain the traction that would ultimately cause Johnson to decline to run for reelection in 1968.

Elsewhere in the nation, however, millions of Americans were not yet focused on Vietnam. Their struggle – begun soon after the Civil War in the 1860s – continued to be to secure equality and justice for African Americans.

The effects of the historic 1954 Supreme Court decision barring school segregation, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act outlawing racial discrimination in restaurants, hotels and other public facilities, had yet to be fully felt. And a key factor in the fight for racial equality had yet to be addressed.

Throughout the southern states and in many in the north, African Americans were effectively denied the right to vote. The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, adopted almost a century earlier, guaranteed every (male) citizen the right to vote. But the amendment was being routinely circumvented by state-imposed poll taxes, literacy tests, gerrymandering and ‘grandfathering’ – allowing the vote only to persons who had voted earlier, whether or not they were literate, and thus excluding black citizens.

African Americans also risked harassment, intimidation, economic reprisals, and physical violence when they tried to register or vote. As a result, very few African Americans were registered voters, and have virtually no political power, either locally or nationally.

In the sleepy town of Selma, Alabama, the right to vote had led to frequent and often bloody demonstrations. There were angry confrontations between civil rights supporters and the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups, usually supported by the police.

Black citizens there were outraged by the killing of a demonstrator by a state trooper in nearby Marion, Alabama, and scheduled a march from Selma to
Montgomery, the state capital, to appeal directly to Governor George C. Wallace to stop police brutality and call attention to their struggle for suffrage.
But when the marchers reached the city line, they found a posse of state troopers waiting for them. As the demonstrators crossed the bridge leading out of Selma, they were ordered to disperse, but the troopers did not wait for their warning to be heeded.

They immediately attacked the crowd of people who had bowed their heads in prayer. Using tear gas and batons, the troopers chased the demonstrators to a black housing project, where they continued to beat the demonstrators as well as residents of the project who had not been at the march.

One of the organizers of the Selma-Montgomery march was John Lewis, who had been a voting rights registration organizer, and one of the young men beaten on the Selma Bridge that Sunday. He currently serves as a U.S. Congressman for the State of Georgia.

The day came to be known as “Bloody Sunday”. Numerous marches were organized in response, and Rev. Martin Luther King led a second march to the Selma Bridge the following Tuesday, during which one protestor was killed.

But it was the death of a white man that gave President Johnson the political juice to call for an end to the violence. On the evening of Bloody Sunday, a group of Selma whites killed a northern white minister who had joined the demonstrations.

In contrast to the killing of a black man, Jimmy Lee Jackson, a few weeks earlier, Reverend James Reeb's death led to a national outcry. The combination of public revulsion to the violence and Johnson's political skills stimulated Congress to act.

As a result of Bloody Sunday, Johnson gave a passionate speech to congress demanding suffrage for black citizens. Congress passed the Voting Rights Act “to enforce the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution” the same year. The act was signed into law on August 6, 1965, 95 years after the 15th Amendment was ratified. It outlawed discriminatory voting practices including poll taxes and literacy tests as prerequisites to voting.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 had an almost immediate impact by greatly increasing the number of southern blacks able to register to vote. According to a report of the Bureau of the Census from 1982, in 1960 there were 22,000 African-Americans registered to vote in Mississippi, but in 1966 the number had risen to 175,000. Alabama went from 66,000 African-American registered voters in 1960 to 250,000 in 1966. South Carolina's African-American registered voters went from 58,000 to 191,000 in the same period.

By the end of 1965, a quarter of a million new black voters had been registered, one-third by Federal examiners. By the end of 1966, only 4 out of the 13 southern states had fewer than 50 percent of African Americans registered to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was readopted and strengthened in 1970, 1975, and 1982.

The Voting Rights Act was the most significant statutory change in the relationship between the Federal and state governments in the area of
voting since the Reconstruction period following the Civil War. So it was not surprising that it was immediately challenged in the courts. Between 1965 and 1969, the Supreme Court issued several key decisions upholding its constitutionality.

But injustices against African Americans have not gone away. The U.S. Senate is currently considering a resolution apologizing for the epidemic of lynching that terrorized black Americans up to the mid-20th century, but Congress has never passed an anti-lynching law, though it is clear it had the necessary votes.

And it has resisted attempts to expand hate crimes statutes. Civil rights commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson wrote recently, “The Congressional inaction on an expanded hate crimes law reinforces the public perception that terrorism comes only in the form of Al-Qaeda attacks, and presumes that sexually and racially motivated violence are isolated acts committed by a handful of quacks and unreconstructed bigots, and that state authorities vigorously report and prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes. This is a myth.”


Tyrant Be Thy Name, Senator

By Jason Miller

Thankfully, it appears that Bush’s reign will end in just three years, unless he succeeds in shredding the Constitution and becoming America’s first true dictator. Fortunately for the Oligarchy which rules America behind the veil of our severely weakened republic, they have a leader waiting in the wings with more cunning and ruthlessness than "W". Sam Brownback is yearning for his shot at the Oval Office. Living in Kansas, I know the futility of attempting to reason with Senator Sam Brownback. As his constituent, I have corresponded with him on a wide range of issues. His canned responses reflect his close alignment with the Religious Right and the Neocon plutocrats who have a stranglehold on power in America.

Yes, Brownback has set his sights on the White House. On 4/16/05 he officially kicked off his presidential bid by speaking to 150 members of the New Hampshire Cornerstone Research group. He regaled them with discourse on his beliefs concerning the definition of life, marriage, and the church and state relationship. Cornerstone represents Brownback's "base". To get a sense of the nature of his anti-gay, anti-choice base, consider the position of Karen Testerman, the executive director of Cornerstone Policy Research.

In 2003, Testerman told the Associated Press that “gays and lesbians” were comparable to “shoplifters and drug addicts”. In the same year, she told the Concord Monitor of her support for "abstinence only" education. She elaborated by stating that "holding hands is the first step", and "you're not even supposed to do that if you can avoid it."

Portrait of a radical

As one examines various facets of Sam Brownback, one formulates a profile of an individual who is dangerously radical. As I write this article, he is pandering to the Religious Right, his extremist base. Brownback is threatening to filibuster the Senate bill that would relax restrictions on federal funding of stem cell research. This legislation would enable the US to begin catching up with nations like South Korea. Yes, you read that correctly. America's cutting edge scientific community has fallen behind South Korea in a critical area of medical research.

According to the Kansas City Star, as he discussed the stem cell bill, Brownback alluded to the Democrats’ use of the filibuster on judicial nominations as he said, "I've learned how to delay and stop things." This bill he is so eager to “delay and stop” has already passed the House. It would give researchers access to more than 400,000 frozen embryos that fertility clinics will discard anyway. Federal funding for research on these embryos holds very strong promise for developing therapies and cures for diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Rather than enhancing the human capacity to cure serious illness, Brownback would rather see the embryos thrown out like garbage. If Brownback is successful with his filibuster, while he gains political traction with the pro-life crowd, 400,000 embryos will be wasted and real human beings will continue to suffer needlessly.

Despite support of the bill from fellow Republicans Arlen Specter and Orrin Hatch, who has long been ardently pro-life, Brownback believes the research is "wrong" and used this twisted analogy in a quote to the Kansas City Star:

Why not use death row inmates in some sort of positive way? They are going to be killed. Why not take their body parts, their heart and lungs and eyes, and yet as I say that, doesn't that sound ghoulish? Human life is sacred."

In a further display of his distorted worldview, Brownback had this to say about American voters aged 18 to 25:

"They were born", he said, "when abortion rates were highest, so many of them feel they're the survivors of a holocaust: one in four of their compatriots are not here.''

The cognitive disconnect in that analogy is astounding. Yet at the same time, one can marvel at the propagandistic genius of mobilizing his minions amongst the “pro-life” faithful by equating the “crime of abortion” with the systematic murder of six million innocents.

Need more evidence of his fanaticism?

You remain skeptical that Brownback is closely aligned with the Religious Right, and is a dangerous extremist? Reflect on Brownback crediting Pat Robertson for his election to the Senate in 1996. Contemplate Robertson's recent endorsement of Brownback as a presidential candidate for 2008 on ABC's This Week. This means that one of Brownback’s most prominent supporters for his nascent presidential bid is a pivotal leader of the Religious Right movement. To affirm his radical mindset, Robertson once said:

“I am bound by the laws of the United States and all 50 states...(but) I am not bound by any case or any court to which I myself am not a party....I don’t think the Congress of the United States is subservient to the courts...They can ignore a Supreme Court ruling if they so choose...”

Still not convinced? Contemplate Brownback's membership in Opus Dei. While they are a Catholic organization, Opus Dei promotes many of the socially conservative values of the Protestant Religious Right. There is also speculation that this highly secretive cult has links to fascist corporations. Opus Dei has a history of supporting fascists. Members of this sect were involved with Franco’s government in Spain. Although Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, was canonized by the Catholic Church, he was a controversial figure. His biographers have characterized him as devious and manipulative. Escriva created Opus Dei on principles of secrecy, power, and an emphasis on finding holiness in one’s work. Opus Dei and Sam Brownback are not the elixirs America’s ruptured ailing needs to nurse it back to health.

Apparently Brownback has an affinity for surreptitious religious organizations. He maintains a residence in Washington DC in a house owned by C Street Center, a sister organization to a loose coalition of Christian government and business leaders known as the Fellowship. The Fellowship is so secretive that many of its members deny its existence. What is known about Brownback's affiliation with this group is that he pays a heavily subsidized rent of $600.00 per month to live in the Fellowship's house, and that he holds weekly religious meetings with the other five Congressmen who share his quarters. Despite its innocuous appearance, there are dark motives beneath the surface of the Fellowship, sometimes known as the Family. Founder Abraham Vereide's held many fascist viewpoints, and infected many of our nation's leaders with his ideologies as the Fellowship grew in popularity over the years.

Here is an excerpt from an Alternet article ( about the Family:

In 1935, Abraham Vereide starts it. By the 1940s he has about a third of Congress attending a weekly prayer meeting. In the mid-50s, he gets Eisenhower's support.

[According to a 2002 Los Angeles Times article, during the 1950's Vereide played a major role in the U.S. government's anti-communist activities: "Pentagon officials secretly met at the group's Washington Fellowship House in 1955 to plan a worldwide anti-communism propaganda campaign endorsed by the CIA, documents from the Fellowship archives and the Eisenhower Presidential Library show. Then known as International Christian Leadership, the group financed a film called 'Militant Liberty' that was used by the Pentagon abroad." Showing Faith in Discretion, Lisa Getter, The Los Angeles Times, Sep 27, 2002]

I highly recommend reading the complete article on Alternet, and Jeff Sharlet's Harper's Magazine article at Senator Brownback has aligned himself with a very unsavory organization.

How can we restore something that was never lost?

Perhaps most telling is Senator Brownback's ardent support of the Constitutional Restoration Act of 2004 (which failed) and now its revival in 2005. Were this to become law, the effects on the tattered republic in America would be devastating. This bill represents a culmination of the plan Pat Robertson began outlining on the 700 Club in 1985. Robertson’s vision is for Christian conservatives to secure control of the government. One of his principle strategies to ascend to power is to curtail the powers of the judiciary. In light of the true agenda behind it, a more appropriate name for this legislation would be the Constitutional Reconstruction Act.

At ( Urgent Prayer Alert high-lights some key components of this frightening piece of legislation:

This CRA (S. 2082 & H.R. 3799) could end 40+ years of religious judicial tyranny (see

Empowered by Article 3, section 2 of the Constitution this Act will remove from federal court jurisdiction all matters pertaining to the acknowledgement of God, neutralizing the radical agenda to expunge God from American public life.

CRA’s teeth are a provision for the impeachment of judges who overstep their bounds.
CRA reminds the federal courts their jurisdiction is constitutionally limited as is Congress’ jurisdiction. Neither has authority to govern religious expression. The Founders were careful to leave such matters entirely to the states and to the people.
CRA affirms the right of government officials to "acknowledge God as the source of law, liberty and government." It prohibits federal judges from using foreign laws and judgments as the basis for rulings.

His record speaks for itself

Evaluations of Sam Brownback’s voting record in the Senate provide tangible evidence that he is unfit to succeed Bush as a president who would restore a semblance of social justice and civil liberties to America. NARAL, a pro-choice group, rated him at 0%, which of course translates to 100% pro-life voting. The ACLU gave him an abysmal 20% rating on concerning civil liberties. His 27% rating from the NEA indicates that he usually votes against public education. Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants gave Brownback a 25% rating, meaning he rarely votes for criminal rehabilitation. Brownback is ardently pro-military, as evidenced by his 0% rating by SANE. The AFL-CIO gave him an "F" (0%) for his lack of support for labor unions. ALPHA took exception to his consistent disregard for public health and gave him a 0%. The League of Conservation Voters expressed their disenchantment with Brownback's lack of support for the environment by giving him another "F".

Who gave Brownback their seal of approval? For his faithful devotion to business and “family values” (as defined by the Religious Right) both the US Chamber of Commerce and the Christian Coalition gave him 100% ratings. Brownback embodies the social conservative movement’s cruel Social Darwinism. In his priority system the success of corporations and abstract “family values” supersede the spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being of flesh and blood human beings.

Selective compassion

Despite his professed deep concern for the plight of the genocide victims in Darfur, Sudan, Brownback has virtually ignored people experiencing similar fates in other nations. It is no coincidence that Brownback focuses his concern on the Sudanese genocide. In Darfur, Muslims are killing Christians. Non-Christians who suffer are apparently not worthy of the Senator’s attention. Like Bush, Brownback believes in the false construct of the "good Christians" versus the "evil Muslims". Obviously, his compassion is reserved for "true believers".

Where is Brownback’s holy devotion to acts of compassion when in comes to homosexuals in America? Gays are the one minority in America who receive no federal protection of their civil rights, and he aims to keep things that way. He has vigorously supported a federal ban on gay marriage and has voted against including sexual orientation to the federal definition of hate crimes. While voting against legislation that would help protect gays from battery or murder, Brownback expressed grave concerns ( about Terry Schiavo and others like her. Brownback’s concern for human life is both inconsistent and selective.

Wolf in sheep’s clothing

Low key and laid back, Sam Brownback likes to portray himself as a down to earth, small town “family values” man who can relate to the "average American". While he does hail from the tiny hamlet of Parker, Kansas, he can hardly relate to the plight of the average American. He is married to Mary Stauffer, an heiress to a fortune built on a Topeka-based media fortune. His membership in Opus Dei, a secretive, elitist organization with fewer than 90,000 members further distances him from relating to the "average American".

Mr. Brownback exhibited anti-Semitic tendencies and a propensity to use dirty politics in his 1996 campaign for the Senate. In What's the Matter with Kansas, Thomas Frank wrote:

"Consider the enlightened Sam Brownback. He may be against slavery--and what a bold stand that is 140 years after the Civil War!--but when faced with a tough challenge in 1996 from Democrat Jill Docking of Wichita, his campaign inundated the state with TV commercials that sought to tarnish her by pointing out that she was raised in the now-hated state of Massachusetts and that before she was married her name wasn't Docking at all (the Dockings are now a famous Kansas family) but Sadowsky. Get it? As though to drive this point home, voters across the state received mysterious phone calls in the week before the Election Day reminding them that 'Docking is a Jew.'"

After defeating his opponent by attacking her state of origin and religious affiliation, Brownback has proceeded to implement his perverse, extreme, and hypocritical agenda through the course of his tenure as US Senator. In 2004, to maintain his position in the Senate, he even accepted $17,000.00 from corporations and individuals profiting from the porn industry (per Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington). He took this money despite having called pornography "the crack cocaine of sexual addiction" and having called pornographers’ products “damaging to our culture, our families, and our nation."

Sam Brownback already wields too much power for a man with such radical views. Within the Senate he serves on the Committee on Appropriations, the Committee on the Judiciary, the Joint Economic Committee, and is chairman of both the Helsinki Commission and the Constitution subcommittee. As his constituent, I feel appalled that he represents me in Washington.

As the latest opinion polls show, Americans are slowly awakening to the damage rendered by the Bush administration. More Americans are realizing their perceived walk in the park is actually a slow and steady march toward tyranny and theocracy. While many of the changes they have instituted are still abstract to many Americans (i.e. the Patriot Act), the Plutocrats, Oligarchs, and Theocrats are on the verge of extinguishing our republic. They have already installed the mechanisms to forge a fascist state. Historically, fascism has included the use of propaganda and censorship, strong nationalism, fusion of religion and state, and corporatism. As a Senator, Sam Brownback has worked diligently to implement each of these components in some fashion. Beware, America. If the right to vote in America still exists in 2008, a Brownback victory could signal a comeback for the Brown Shirts.