Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Covert War Against Lucky Dube?

" ... leading music producer and top executive of entertainment conglomerate Urban Bew says it could have been a hit because nothing was stolen from him. 'They shot him at close range to make sure he did not survive,' he said. ... "

Unlucky Dube, but the biggest loser is Africa
TO MILLIONS OF AFRICANS, THE COLD-blooded murder of reggae superstar Lucky Dube has silenced their voice of hope. But it is to South Africans that the death of one of their most consistent peace messengers was most devastating. Dube used his music to preach inter-racial harmony and consciousness.

South Africa is yet to heal from the wounds of years of racial segregation. It faces the harsh reality of being what analysts describe as a country with one of the most obvious social inequities in the world.

Unlike celebrities in other spheres of show business, musicians tend to relate more closely with the impoverished masses who constitute their largest constituency for shows and record sales. Musicians' visibility, however, makes them easy targets in areas where crime is perceived as the way of life.

But debate is still raging in South Africa as to whether Dube's murder was a hijacking gone badly wrong or a hit. Speaking exclusively to The EastAfrican, Abe Sibiya, a leading music producer and top executive of entertainment conglomerate Urban Bew says it could have been a hit because nothing was stolen from him.

"They shot him at close range to make sure he did not survive," he said.

"Police are investigating his close circle of friends and those he has dealt with recently. South Africa is in a state of shock and embarrassed about this. It is absolutely horrendous," he added.

This danger was noted in a condolence message by Senegalese superstar Youssou N'Dour who pointed out that this was not the first time a musician was killed in South Africa.

"For me, the question about insecurity, especially in South Africa, is that it targets people's messengers," he said.

In a country that was deeply divided by apartheid, Dube used his music to mend the huge divide between whites and blacks, the poor and the rich preaching human consciousness with a message of peace for all.

He once told a shocked reporter that not all the black people were his brothers and not all the whites his enemies to underline his ideology that kinship was about a shared concern for humanity.

The insecurity faced by musicians is not unique to South Africa however. It is equally bad even in the West. But Dube's death, tragic at it is, raises fresh concerns about celebrity deaths and numerous conspiracy theories that surface whenever a big name musician is killed.

In America, the murders of musicians John Lennon in the early 1980's and Tupac Shakur in the 1990's continue to fuel speculation on probable motives and feed conspiracy theories; ... in the case of Lennon there are claims of a probable CIA involvement to silence one of the most active anti-war campaigners in the world.

Since the 1980's, cases of celebrity deaths have also been attributed to turf wars as cartels squared it off for control of music business in their zones. But instances of celebrities dying in everyday urban crimes are rare because stars such as Dube have bodyguards or are well liked and, therefore, perceived to be immune to the violence around them.

Last week police in South Africa named a special investigations team to investigate the murder. One of the disturbing questions is whether the assailants knew their victim. If they did, was there another motive to the killing?

Dube was shot dead in the Johannesburg suburb of Rosettenville after he dropped his teenage son at a relative's home. He attempted to drive off with gunshot wounds but was too weak to control the car crashing into a tree and died.

THE KILLING OF DUBE - rated among the top reggae artistes in the world - has drawn attention to the high crime rate in South Africa with an estimated 20,000 homicides per year.

In a statement, President Thabo Mbeki mourned the singer, saying, "It's indeed very, very sad that this happens to an outstanding South African, an outstanding musician who is world renown. We shall continue to act together as a people to confront this terrible scourge of crime which has taken the lives of too many people and does every day."

Angry politicians are calling for renewed efforts to curb the homicide rate and some have called for the return of the death penalty as a last ditch effort to fight violent crime in that country.

In Kenya, Orange Democratic Movement-Kenya's presidential aspirant Kalonzo Musyoka in a paid up newspaper advertisement mourned the passing of Dube who he described as a great inspiration to the youth.

But Dube was not the only high profile musician to die at the hands of gunmen in South Africa. In 2004, singer Ben Shabalala who had retired from the world-renowned South African accappela group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, to spend more time with his family was shot dead as he dropped off his children to school.

In Kenya, upcoming rapper Krupt was shot dead in a botched robbery in a public service vehicle in Nanyuki following a heated exchange with the robbers.

Ironically, Dube, just like his reggae idol Peter Tosh, died at 43. Tosh, undeniably the South African's biggest inspiration, was shot dead on September 11, 1987.

As a reggae star, Dube is reputably Africa's greatest artiste, selling millions of records internationally, winning major music awards and played to packed venues at major festivals. His album, Victim, reportedly sold a million copies. He won the best selling African Artiste award at the 1996 World Music Awards festival held in Monaco. He has recorded 20 albums since 1981, his last being Respect, which was released last year.

In East Africa, Dube drew an estimated 80,000-strong crowd at the Nakivubo stadium in Uganda setting a record for concert attendance in the country. Dube was scheduled to tour Uganda for fifth time in April 2008

He visited Kenya twice, the last time being at the Guinness Sunbeat reggae festival at Jamhuri Park where he shared the top billing with Jamaican reggae star Maxi Priest on what was reputably the biggest reggae festival ever held in the country. His high energy performance made him an easy favourite and drew thousands to the event held in the outskirts of Nairobi.

His songs, Rasta never die and Together as one have been favourites in the East Africa region where his music has had a huge market for over a decade.

With the high profile murder attracting international coverage, Dube's death has drawn similar passionate coverage as that of Matoub Lounes, the Algerian Berber musician who was killed in 1998 in a murder that was blamed on the government. He was shot 75 times, but there was no eye witness to identity the assailants.

Lounes was a vocal critic of the Algerian authorities' mistreatment of the Berbers. His murder sparked riots in major Algerian cities causing deaths of several fans as they battled riot police sent to squash the violence.

In the 1980s, the late Lwambo Lwanzo Makiadi narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in Paris where he was on tour. His security foiled an attempt on his life in a plot allegedly hatched by Congolese exiles.

But while Dube's murder may be explained as a simple act of urban crime those of Lennon and Tupac are still the subject of debate and speculation.

A THEORY BY MAE BRUSSELL - an American researcher in assassinations and conspiracies - sees a political motive in the slaying of Lennon. Brussell suggests a CIA hand in the death.

The original story was that Lennon was killed by Mark Daniel Chapman described as an obsessive fan who suffered mental disorder. However, Brussell has theorised that Chapman may have been a dummy in the killing, and that Lennon may have been killed to stop him from leading protests against American aggression. The researcher finds a parallel with JFK assassination where claims of a second assassin have been flouted although no proof has been presented.

Says Brussell, "The murder of Lennon is the tragic finale to an entire era, the reminder that once an artiste becomes as popular and as political as he was, his enemies will be waiting to make sure his message is never heard again."

If Brussell was to be believed even the deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Reeves, Elvis Presley and many others blamed on drug abuse were premeditated. She claims that though the artistes were known drug users, it is possible somebody laced their drugs with lethal chemical leading to fatal consequences. ...

But obviously Shakur did not attract much sympathy from his music industry colleagues who generally blamed him for the violence that rocked the hip hop music scene. However, the murder of another musician Notorious B.I.G rallied the industry to look into the situation and largely helped deal with the violence.

Murders are routinely reported in Johannesburg, but the killing of high profile artistes often forces authorities to take a closer look at the horrifying statistics sweeping through the country. But the interest is often shortlived.

For the music business, the issue of a possible conspiracy is bound to be the profound and many may want to establish if the murder was planned or if the reggae star just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Organised criminal gangs controlling businesses in South Africa is not new but it may be interesting to see the clues that emerge from the ongoing investigations. It is a worrying trend in a country where protectionist gangs ran night clubs and other areas of the lucrative business.

Unless this investigation comes up with concrete results, Dube's death will be just another statistic. And Africa's music scene will be the poorer.
Alleged Dube Killers Remain in Custody
October 30 2007 at 11:16PM

The four men accused of the murder of reggae star Lucky Dube had their case postponed in the Johannesburg magistrate's court on Tuesday.

Magistrate PJ Du Plessis postponed the case until November 30 for further investigation.

Sifiso Mlanga and Julius Gxowa - both from Mozambique - and Thabo Mafoping and Mbofi Mabe face charges of murder, attempted hijacking and the possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition.

Dube was shot dead in a botched hijacking in Rosettenville, Johannesburg, while dropping off his teenage son and daughter at a relative's house.

'How can the government allow such a thing to happen?'
The men's first court appearance took place earlier this month in a courtroom packed with supporters of Dube.

On Tuesday, the four men appeared briefly in the dock.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's Phones are Tapped

By Patrick J. O'Donoghue
October 28, 2007

All the Venezuelan President's phone lines are tapped and for sale News Editor Patrick J. O'Donoghue writes: In his weekly column editor/publisher, Miguel Salazar claims that phone and electronic recordings have been on the rise over the last couple of months.

Salazar highlights but witholds some of the people involved in the espionage and cites as examples the state security organs, one of which offers its services to a powerful business man belonging to the new boli-bourgeoisie.

A group of business persons contract lawyer firms as intermediaries in obtaining phone conversations.

One of the objectives, apart from eavesdropping on journalists is to control and detect all the phone links of PDVSA marketing, the Finance Ministry and those who managing stock exchange and financial market info.

Another center is inside the exchange administration committee (Cadivi).

The MIJ is heavily infiltrated, Salazar contends, but worse still is the revelation that presidential phone lines have been intervened, allowing the listeners to check all the President's movements.

Top on the tap list is the President's foreign policy and especially, the editor insists, recent negotiations with Colombia regarding the Castilletes maritime border dispute and the humanitarian agreement.

Taped messages are for sale to foreign intelligence agencies.

The government will find it hard to tackle the leaks, the editor concludes, because the intelligence agencies are themselves infiltrated.

Salazar accuses unscrupulous business persons identified with the government as leading the collection and sale business, not the opposition.

In his main commentary, Salazar adds that he disagrees with modifications in Art. 337 regarding states of exception, which has already been passed by parliament, calling it a "contraband" piece of legislation that nobody seems to know who actually introduced it as one of the added 25 new modifications.

All his life, Salazar muses, he has been fighting for the right to due process and freedom of information and warns that he will not vote for the referendum, if it means accepting such right-wing contraband.

Patrick J. O'Donoghue

AT&T Invents Programming Language for Mass Surveillance

By Ryan Singel
Wired, October 29, 2007

From the company that brought you the C programming language comes Hancock, a C variant developed by AT&T researchers to mine gigabytes of the company's telephone and internet records for surveillance purposes.

An AT&T research paper published in 2001 and unearthed today by Andrew Appel at Freedom to Tinker shows how the phone company uses Hancock-coded software to crunch through tens of millions of long distance phone records a night to draw up what AT&T calls "communities of interest" -- i.e., calling circles that show who is talking to whom.

The system was built in the late 1990s to develop marketing leads, and as a security tool to see if new customers called the same numbers as previously cut-off fraudsters -- something the paper refers to as "guilt by association."
But it's of interest to THREAT LEVEL because of recent revelations that the FBI has been requesting "communities of interest" records from phone companies under the USA PATRIOT Act without a warrant. Where the bureau got the idea that phone companies collect such data has, until now, been a mystery.

According to a letter from Verizon to a congressional committee earlier this month, the FBI has been asking Verizon for "community of interest" records on some of its customers out to two generations -- i.e., not just the people that communicated with an FBI target, but also those who talked to people who talked to an FBI target. Verizon, though, doesn't create those records and couldn't comply. Now it appears that AT&T invented the concept and the technology. It even owns a patent on some of its data mining methods, issued to two of Hancock's creators in 2002.

Programs written in Hancock work by analyzing data as it flows into a data warehouse. That differentiates the language from traditional data-mining applications which tend to look for patterns in static databases. A 2004 paper published in ACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems shows how Hancock code can sift calling card records, long distance calls, IP addresses and internet traffic dumps, and even track the physical movements of mobile phone customers as their signal moves from cell site to cell site.

With Hancock, "analysts could store sufficiently precise information to enable new applications previously thought to be infeasible," the program authors wrote. AT&T uses Hancock code to sift 9 GB of telephone traffic data a night, according to the paper.

The good news for budding data miners is that Hancock's source code and binaries (now up to version 2.0) are available free to noncommercial users from an AT&T Research website.

The instruction manual (.pdf) is also free, and old-timers will appreciate its spare Kernighan & Ritchie style. The manual even includes a few sample programs in the style of K&R's Hello World, but coded specifically to handle data collected by AT&T's phone and internet switches. This one reads in a dump of internet headers, computes what IP addresses were visited, makes a record and prints them out, in less than 40 lines of code.

Another sample program included in the manual shows how a Hancock program could create historical maps of a person's travels by recording nightly what cell phone towers a person's phone had used or pinged throughout a day.

AT&T is currently defending itself in federal court from allegations that it installed, on behalf of the NSA, secret internet spying rooms in its domestic internet switching facilities. AT&T and Verizon are also accused of giving the NSA access to billions of Americans' phone records, in order to data-mine them to spot suspected terrorists, and presumably to identify targets for warrantless wiretapping.

GOP's Richard Curtis Embroiled in Gay Sex Extortion Scandal

State Legislator Gave Paper False Account Of Gay Sex Incident

By Joe Strupp
Editor & Publisher, October 31, 2007

NEW YORK A state legislator who denied to The Columbian of Vancouver, Wash., on Monday that he had gay sex with someone he met at a pornography store admitted to police a day later that it had occurred, the Columbian reported.

State Rep. Richard Curtis, a Republican, “admitted to having sex with a man he met at an adult video store in Spokane last week, according to a police report released Tuesday afternoon,” the paper reported. “The police report offers a damning and far different version of events from the brief account Curtis gave to The Columbian Monday, one that seems likely to threaten Curtis’ political future.”

The paper added that the police report “is filled with graphic details of an encounter that began at a porn store…and concluded miles away in Curtis’ room at the city’s poshest hotel.” The paper posted the report on its Web site, with an editor’s note that warns: “some content may be offensive to some readers.”

The police report states that Curtis allegedly wore women’s clothing, red stockings and “a black sequined lingerie top before engaging in a sex act at the store. He continued to wear them throughout the night under his clothing,” the paper reported.

The paper reported that Curtis is accused of engaging in the sex act with Cody M. Castagna, a 26-year-old waiter from the Spokane area who “allegedly tried to blackmail Curtis for $1,000 and threatened to reveal his ‘gay lifestyle’ to the lawmaker’s wife if he did not pay.”

“During a brief phone interview with Columbian Editor Lou Brancaccio Monday afternoon, Curtis said he did not have sex with the man and is not gay,” the paper stated, adding that “he initially told police that he did not have sex with the man but later recanted, according to the police report. He also told police that he thought he might have been given some type of drug because his memory of the evening was hazy.”

The Columbian on Monday posted a story related to its conversation with Curtis that began, “State Rep. Richard Curtis…caught up in a statewide media frenzy over an ongoing extortion investigation in Spokane, said Monday that he is not gay.”

It later quoted Curtis as saying, “I committed no crime. I did not solicit sex. I was trying to help somebody out."
Washington State GOP Rep. Curtis Exposed by Sordid Police Report

Problems deepened yesterday for Washington State GOP Rep. Richard Curtis, the target of an alleged extortion plot by a male prostitute in Spokane.

On Monday afternoon, Curtis told the press, "I committed no crime. I did not solicit sex. I was trying to help somebody out. I am not gay. I have not had sex with a guy. It's been a rough week. Look, the rest of this will all come out. I can't say anything more until I have talked to my attorney. I have never been in this situation before."

Curtis reportedly met 26-year-old Cody Castagna, a waiter from Spokane at an adult video store, where two gay porn films were purchased, and traveled to the Davenport Towers Hotel where the two had sex, according to details in a police search warrant.

According to The Columbian, "The police report contains an account of how Curtis allegedly donned women’s clothing, red stockings and a black sequined lingerie top before engaging in a sex act at the store. He continued to wear them throughout the night under his clothing." Those details do not appear to be in the search warrant, however.

Once the two men finished having sex, Curtis told police he fell asleep.

Castagna, who has spent two months in jail as an adult on a forgery charge, allegedly took Curtis' wallet from the room at that point and later demanded $200 for it, threatening to tell Curtis' wife that he was gay. Curtis brought $200 to the hotel desk in an envelope for Castagna. Curtis didn't receive the wallet at that time, but got a phone call later demanding another $800. According to the police report, Spokane officer Madsen was present when he received the call, and listened in.

Castagna claims that Curtis agreed to pay him $1000 for sex (a claim Curtis denies) and that because Curtis only had $200 at the time, Castagna took Curtis' wallet as collateral for the balance.

Said Castagna at a press conference Tuesday: "I feel that, honestly, I’m being wrongly accused and that (Curtis) is using his power to take it off of him and put it on me. He has completely changed what actually happened and turned it around for his favor."

(VIDEO below, after the jump)

Castagna also told KXLY4 Executive Producer Melissa Luck in an email exchange: "Well I will say this Richard offered me money to engage in sexual acts I wasn’t into. [M]y stupid ass agreed and since he was tired he gave me his wallet as collateral until he woke up and could get me the money and I got the feeing he was screwing me and he was not only that he turned the whole thing around in his favor to save his butt and is screwing up my [w]hole life."

Castagna's lawyer added: "He didn’t make any threats against this guy (Curtis). This is an extremely a low-level situation that’s being blown out of proportion by somebody who is trying to save themselves."

Curtis contacted Spokane police and then began to worry that details of the incident would expose him.

Spokane Police Detective Tim Madsen wrote in the report: "Curtis told me he was just trying to put the cap back on the tube. “I told Curtis that the suspect may victimize other people in the future, and Curtis acknowledged that part of his job was to protect people in the state of Washington. …

Curtis said he wished he would have just paid the additional money to the suspect because he didn’t wish the case to be prosecuted. If the incident became public, it could cost him his marriage and career."

Curtis then apparently called a fellow Republican, Sgt. Roy Rhine of the Washington State Patrol, a move which backfired, as the WSP, according to The Columbian, referred the case back to the local police.

Police also have physical evidence: "As part of their investigation, Spokane police have seized video recordings from the hotel and the sex shop, computerized records of when Curtis’ hotel room door was opened and closed, and hotel records purportedly showing the rental of gay porn movies by someone in Curtis’ room."

No charges have been filed yet in the case.

Of course this is the real kicker to the story. The Spokesman Review reported yesterday: "Elected to the state House of Representatives in 2004, Curtis has voted like a fiscal and social conservative. This spring, he voted against domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian couples. Last year, he opposed a gay rights bill that banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."

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Washington State GOP Rep. in Alleged Male Hustler Extortion Plot [tr]

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Orange County, CA Sheriff Under Fire for Bribes

Newport businessman aided sheriff's conspiracy, court says
By Michael Miller

Corona del Mar businessman Donald Haidl provided thousands of dollars in illegal payments to Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona in exchange for an assistant sheriff job and special treatment for his family and friends, according to an indictment unsealed today.

The indictment of Carona, filed in October 2005 in United States District Court, alleges that Haidl repeatedly made payments to Carona that the sheriff failed to declare, made additional payments to a woman identified as Carona’s mistress, and rewarded Carona for his support by placing him on a previously nonexistent board of directors for a company owned by Haidl’s uncle. The court also unsealed a document showing that Haidl pleaded guilty in March to filing a fraudulent tax return and could face up to three years in federal prison.

Haidl, who was not indicted along with Carona due to his plea agreement, admitted to concealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in his 2002 income tax return and using the money to pay legal fees for his son. In the agreement, he admitted making illegal payments to Carona and former Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo, who has entered a plea agreement of his own.

Haidl is scheduled to be sentenced in United States District Court on June 23, 2008.

“Nobody is above the law, including public officials,” Debra D. King, a special agent in charge of IRS criminal investigations in Los Angeles, said in a statement after the court records were unsealed. “Crimes committed by these figures violate the public trust.

Further, the indictment announced today helps to assure the public that their officials cannot use their office for their own financial enrichment or personal political gain.”

The grand jury charged that Carona, who has been Orange County’s sheriff since 1999, awarded Haidl an assistant sheriff job that he lacked the qualifications for, gave Haidl’s family and friends positions as reserve deputies and helped Haidl’s son get preferential treatment in connection with a 2003 drug offense — a favor that the indictment refers to as a “Get out of Jail Free card.”

The defendants in the case are Carona, his wife Deborah, and Debra Victoria Hoffman, an attorney whom the grand jury calls Carona’s longtime mistress.

According to the indictment, Haidl not only provided the sheriff with money and other contributions, but also repeatedly gave funds to Hoffman at Carona’s request. In 1998, Haidl reportedly gave $110,000 to Hoffman’s law firm and later, along with Carona and Jaramillo, diverted legal cases to the firm to help pay off the loan.

Kissinger's Machiavellian Path

" ... The minutes of a secret 1975 U.S. National Security Council meeting attended by President Ford, reveal Henry Kissinger grumbling, 'It is an act of insanity and national humiliation to have a law prohibiting the President from ordering assassination.' ... ”

Kissinger: Defender of Israeli hegemony
By Gul Jammas Hussain
Tehran Times

Machiavelli must be turning in his grave with envy to see Henry Alfred Kissinger practicing diplomacy and journalism. Had he been alive, he would have seen how the famous octogenarian American is following him in both letter and spirit.

From 1969 on, he has influenced American policy in a way that Machiavelli could only have dreamed of for his Prince. With his advice, he has striven to make this world unlivable for the poorest nations, and has supported despotic regimes across the globe. His words and deeds worked wonders in Chile, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, East Timor Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay -- and the list goes on.

The minutes of a secret 1975 U.S. National Security Council meeting attended by President Ford, reveal Henry Kissinger grumbling, “It is an act of insanity and national humiliation to have a law prohibiting the President from ordering assassination.” -- Lost Crusader: The Secret Wars of CIA Director William Colby, by John Prados.

The time was September 11, 1973. The country was Chile. The event was the bloody overthrow of a democratic government. And the criminals were Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon, the CIA and their man, Chilean Dictator Augusto Pinochet. Thousands of Chilean progressives and democrats were tortured and imprisoned. Pinochet’s regime ruled for decades with the United States’ backing, thanks to Kissinger and his successors

From 1972 to 1975, the Iraqi Kurds were recruited and encouraged by Kissinger to take up arms against Saddam Hussein, later betrayed, abandoned, and left to be gassed and exterminated by heinous dictator on their hillsides.

But Kissinger’s most notorious crime was the secret bombing of Cambodia and Laos during the Vietnam War. He inflicted terror, misery and mass death on these nations. Millions perished in Cambodia and Laos. An estimated 3 million Vietnamese died in the war, and 58,209 U.S. soldiers perished. Vietnamese continue to be affected by poisonous defoliants used by American forces during the war, and by the explosions of bombs and shells buried since the fighting.

He has been the architect of human misery, has sanctioned the destruction of civilian populations, ordered the assassination of “inconvenient” politicians, and approved of the kidnapping and disappearance of soldiers, journalists and clerics.

What an insult to human intelligence that he continues to give his opinion on global affairs and writes columns for The Washington Post, rather than being taken to the gallows, or at the very least put behind bars.

Among the scores of present and former diplomats maligning Islam, no one can match Henry A. Kissinger -- the 56th Secretary of State of the United States from 1973 to 1977, and National Security adviser from 1969 to 1975 -- for duplicity and the twisting of facts. He is a writer par-excellence and inimitable in telling untruths.

In his one piece for The Washington Post, A Nuclear Test for Diplomacy, he redefined the standards of jaundiced political writing. In his nonsensical comparison between Islamic Republic of Iran and North Korea, and discussing the dangers of nuclear proliferation in the Far and Middle-East, made with the most sensible phrasing, he never once mentioned Israel.

Even a novice of global affairs knows which regime poses the biggest nuclear danger in the Middle East -- the Zionist regime.

Setting that aside for a moment, it must be said that there is a world of difference between North Korea and Islamic Republic.

North Korea is a state that not only possesses nuclear weapons, but also has highly developed delivery system. Iran, on the other hand, is simply asking for peaceful nuclear energy and the right accorded it under Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium up to a purity of 3.5 percent level, which is not even weapons-grade.

The CIA admits that North Korea’s Taepo-dong missile can strike North America with a nuclear warhead. It has nukes and missiles. In October 2002, North Korea revealed its nuclear arsenal and kicked out UN inspectors, and Kim Jong-il invited George W. Bush to attack them if he can.

Israel, by the way, has 200 to 500 thermonuclear weapons and a sophisticated delivery system. Many of Israel’s nuclear warheads are targeted on neighboring countries, including new, nuclear-armed, U.S.-supplied Tomahawk cruise missiles on its Dolphin-class submarines in the Indian Ocean. And the Zionist regime also possesses chemical and biological weapons in abundance. Israel’s U.S.-supplied F-16s are specially designed for chemical and biological payloads.

The Zionist regime provides the real impetus for the development of weapons of mass destruction and constitutes an acute threat to peace and stability in the World, is a serious impediment to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and is a potential nuclear flashpoint.

America, Israel and Kissinger all know it very well. So, where is the real rub? Where is the threat?

Actually, what Kissinger tries to camouflage is the fact that if Islamic Republic persists in mastering uranium enrichment cycle, it may encourage Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to defy the United States and develop nuclear technology as well. When and if these nations have nuclear technology, Israel’s hegemony would come to an end. This is not at all a threat to the world, as averred by Kissinger, but a clear and obvious threat to Israel’s hegemony in the region.

This is the real nightmare for the United States and for its colonial outpost, Israel. This not about proliferation; it’s about the Zionist regime and the potential dangers it may face in future.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Arson Conspiracy in California?

"At a news conference Thursday, federal and local investigators said they recovered evidence from a hollow where the Silverado Canyon wildfire started. They said they were confident the flames had been deliberately started with a form of 'liquid fuel.' ... " - "Arson evidence whips up anger," Chicago Tribune, October 28, 2007

One arson suspect won't have much to say, though, because the cops zipped him up for good:

California Police Shoot Dead Suspected Arsonist

Fred Attewill
October 25, 2007
Guardian Unlimited,,2198866,00.html

Police have shot dead a man suspected of starting a fire in southern California amid growing concern that arsonists are responsible for some of the wildfires burning across the state.

The victim, a 27-year-old man from Arizona, had been spotted in scrubland near San Bernardino university campus on Tuesday evening. The area is on high alert after hundreds of homes were destroyed in the nearby mountains.

Armed university police tried to detain the man but he climbed into his car and drove off. He was chased up a track towards the foothills, where he was cornered. He was shot and killed when he reversed into a police car, authorities said. ...

Investigators believe at least two wildfires, including one in Orange county near Los Angeles, were started by arsonists. The FBI is investigating the blaze.

Three hours after the San Bernardino shooting, in the city of Hesperia, a man seen squatting by the roadside was arrested. Local police said the man, John Alfred Rund, 48, had just started a fire.,,2198866,00.html
From the Cannonfire site:

Well, it's official: The recent fires in Southern California were caused by arson. I just heard Governor Schwarzenegger on the radio vowing to unleash hell on the evildoers.

Two men have been arrested on suspicion of arson, although no-one seems to think that they caused any major fires. One of the suspects is John A. Rund of Hesperia, a desert community near the San Bernardino mountains. In a previous post, I point out that this same fellow has been known to guide hikers through the areas devastated by the 2003 fires.

Tonight, an enigmatic -- and anonymous -- posting on Craigslist has come to my attention:

FBI just announced they arrested John Alfred Rund, 48, for arson in just one of the fires in Los Angeles. Rund is a known member of the National Socialist Movement and the Minutemen, both known terrorist organizations. The FBI also announced they are looking for multiple arsonist suspects in what is being called the largest terrorist plot to hit California to date.

Now, an unsigned Craigslist post is no-one's idea of a reliable news source. At least one fact is provably wrong: The FBI did not arrest Rund; he is being held by local cops in San Bernardino County. And I have never heard of a terrorist organization called "The National Socialist Movement."

Can anyone find another source for this "Minutemen" rumor? Right now, the allegation seems very unlikely. What motive would that group have to commit arson?

On the other hand, one must recall this earlier story about the strange individuals who were spying on various northern California fire stations.

That account does seem to hint at the work of a larger organization -- although, once again, the question of motive baffles. Why would arsonists videotape fire stations? ...
Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Who was Spying on California Fire Stations Last Month?

As I write, flames have charred much of my state. I haven't been directly affected, but people I know have been forced to evacuate. A friend's sister may have lost her home.

Fire officials now seem confident that the Orange County fire was an act of arson; other blazes may have a similar origin. The National Terror Alert Response Center cautiously discusses the possibility that the arsonists were terrorists.

One month ago, California Fire News published a fascinating story about suspicious activity around fire stations in Northern California:
During the last week of July, fire officials in the Bay Area city of Campbell reported that two men had been seen videotaping routine activities at a fire station.

The men were reportedly in their 20s or early 30s, and one was using a sophisticated news media-style camera.

When firefighters attempted to talk with the men, they reportedly jumped into a waiting car and sped off.

The incident prompted the Sacramento Regional Terrorism Threat Assessment Center to send out a request for Northern California fire stations to watch for similar incidents, and report them immediately.

The day the request went out, Sept. 6, a second, similar incident was reported at a fire station in Yuba City.

According to officials, a fire captain encountered two men parked outside the city’s main fire station. One of the men got out and allegedly began taking pictures of the fire station’s administration building. When the captain approached the men, to tell them they were in a no-parking zone, the photographer jumped in the vehicle and the men left.

The man who took the photos was described as being between 30 and 40 years of age.

On Sept. 12, Fresno Fire Department officials spotted two men in a vehicle allegedly observing activities at a fire training center. When questioned, the driver reportedly said they were just checking things out, then left immediately.

Two days later, on Sept. 14, personnel from the Sacramento Metro Fire Department noticed two men taking photos of a fire station. A third man sat in the back of a car, and appeared to be drawing or taking notes. When fire officials walked toward them, the two taking pictures jumped in the vehicle and sped away.

The men allegedly took pictures in front of the station, and in the rear. They ranged in age from late teens to about 60, officials recalled.

Did similar incidents occur in the southern part of the state? What useful info could an organized team of arsonists possibly gain from stake-outs of this sort? Why haven't the major media fastened onto this story?

I would note that the above paragraphs do not describe the suspicious men as being of Middle Eastern appearance.

Of course, I do not wish to engage in sensationalism. But we should not be afraid to discuss all possibilities.
Suspicious Activity At California Fire Stations

September 20, 2007

During the last week of July, fire officials in the Bay Area city of Campbell reported that two men had been seen videotaping routine activities at a fire station.

The men were reportedly in their 20s or early 30s, and one was using a sophisticated news media-style camera.

When firefighters attempted to talk with the men, they reportedly jumped into a waiting car and sped off.

The incident prompted the Sacramento Regional Terrorism Threat Assessment Center to send out a request for Northern California fire stations to watch for similar incidents, and report them immediately.

The day the request went out, Sept. 6, a second, similar incident was reported at a fire station in Yuba City.

According to officials, a fire captain encountered two men parked outside the city’s main fire station. One of the men got out and allegedly began taking pictures of the fire station’s administration building. When the captain approached the men, to tell them they were in a no-parking zone, the photographer jumped in the vehicle and the men left.

The man who took the photos was described as being between 30 and 40 years of age.

On Sept. 12, Fresno Fire Department officials spotted two men in a vehicle allegedly observing activities at a fire training center. When questioned, the driver reportedly said they were just checking things out, then left immediately.

Two days later, on Sept. 14, personnel from the Sacramento Metro Fire Department noticed two men taking photos of a fire station. A third man sat in the back of a car, and appeared to be drawing or taking notes. When fire officials walked toward them, the two taking pictures jumped in the vehicle and sped away.

The men allegedly took pictures in front of the station, and in the rear. They ranged in age from late teens to about 60, officials recalled.

Tim Johnstone, a commander with the threat assessment center in Sacramento, said all of the incidents are being investigated, but there is no indication they might be related.

“We aren’t considering this a specific threat at this time; we’re just asking our public safety partners to be on the watch for suspicious activity,” he said.

He said the threat assessment center was formed to act as a collection point for homeland security intelligence, and disseminate it appropriately.

Jay Alan, deputy director of communication for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security, said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is concerned about security agencies sharing information, and has made it a top priority.

Local officials said no suspicious incidents involving videotaping or photos have been reported at fire stations.

Fire department personnel are being asked to take note of vehicle descriptions, descriptions of suspicious subjects, and complete license plate numbers. Citizens who witness suspicious activity, near fire stations or elsewhere, should do the same, and report it to their local law enforcement agency.

Citizens should not attempt to contact suspicious individuals.

Two Firefighters Accused of Arson
New York Times
October 29, 2007

Two off-duty New York City firefighters were arrested last night on charges of spreading and igniting flammable fluid outside a Manhattan firehouse early Saturday, Fire Department officials said.

A firefighter inside the firehouse, in the Clinton neighborhood, noticed smoke seeping in from the main garage door and alerted colleagues, and they quickly extinguished the blaze, the officials said. No one was injured and the door appeared to be operable last night, though much of its exterior was blackened.

The two suspects, Michael Izzo, 30, of Staten Island and Richard Capece, 31, of Brooklyn, who were stationed at other fire companies, surrendered yesterday. They were charged with arson, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief, all felonies. The motive was unclear, law enforcement officials said.

Firefighter Izzo is a six-year veteran of the department assigned to Engine 242 in Brooklyn, and Firefighter Capece is a five-year veteran currently assigned to Engine 1 in Manhattan.

The fire was set at 2:15 a.m. at the firehouse of Engine Company 34 and Ladder Company 21 at 440 West 38th Street, the department said. The episode was taped by a surveillance camera, the officials said.

Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta called the crime "an outrageous, depraved act" and said that if convicted, the suspects would be terminated. For now, the two men are suspended from duty without pay.

The Uniformed Firefighters Association, the union that represents firefighters, did not immediately return a call seeking comment last night.

Promotion on Hold for FEMA Fake News Conference Organizer/His Background is in Public Relations

John "Pat" Philbin, the FEMA official who oversaw a fake news conference last week, will not be taking a job today as the chief spokesman for National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell, the Associated Press says.

The wire service quotes an intelligence official who says the agency is reevaluating Philbin's record in light of the high-profile incident, which featured government employees posing as reporters during a hastily arranged briefing on the agency's response to the southern California wildfires.

Original Headline: "New job put off for man behind FEMA's fake news conference"
Philbin's background is largely in public relations, where fake news is standard procedure. From the FEMA web site:

John P. "Pat" Philbin was promoted as the Director, Office of External Affairs for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in March 2007. ...

Prior to joining FEMA, Pat worked for Anteon/General Dynamics Information Technology as a Technical Director where served as a consultant in strategic communication to the Department of Defense's Business Transformation Agency directing and assisting in communication efforts to Capitol Hill, the Government Accountability Office, and the general public.

Pat also served as the Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Communications for a private security firm.

Pat served for more than 21 years in the Coast Guard, retiring as Chief of Public Affairs in 2004. Other notable staff assignments include serving as the Deputy Chief of the Coast Guard's Strategic Analysis Staff, Press Assistant to the Commandant and Chief of Coast Guard Media Relations. Operational assignments include more than seven years of shipboard experience, including command of two Coast Guard cutters.

Pat holds a Doctorate in Communication from the University of Maryland, a Master of Science in Public Relations from Syracuse University, and a Bachelor of Science in Government from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. He also holds an Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) and is a member of the Public Relations Society of America.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The New Media Alliance - a PR Firm for Fascist Republican Groups

By Alex Constantine

If there was a Most Offensive Right-Wing Propaganda Award, New Media Alliance would win it hands down. The NMA gave us "Haditha Massacre: Media and Terrorist Hoax?" (, which ranks with Holocaust denial for its duplicity, and this bit of tripe, also by Sher Zieve, a staff writer for the NMA:


Iran Poised to Take Over Iraq
By Sher Zieve, New Media Alliance, Sep 01, 07

"As Democrats prepare their refutations of the yet to be presented General Petraeus report on Iraq, Iran’s President Ahmadinejad is already planning his takeover of that country. In the past, Ahmadinejad has encouraged the American people to place Democrat politicians in power. Tragically, for the 2006 midterm elections, Ahmadinejad’s strategy appears to have worked and he is, again, counting on US Democrat leaders to pull the United States out of Iraq - in opposition to all recent reports from both Democrats and Republicans that the surge is working. This will allow him to seize the country. ... "
Wikipedia on the New Media Alliance

The New Media Alliance (NMA) describes itself as "a foundation of Heritage New Media Partners, Inc. established to promote and defend traditional social, political and economic principles nationally." While the NMA describes itself as a 501(c)(3) non-profit group, Heritage New Media Partners is a public relations firm specialising in online advocacy for conservative groups. On its website Heritage New Media describes NMA as "a conservative issue advocacy and information group established to promote and defend traditional social, political and economic principles nationally."


On its website the NMA states that is "currently funded by contributions made by its parent company, Heritage New Media Partners, Inc. and by the gracious gifting of the Alliance members and sponsors who share this renewed vision for America and wish to support us in the ongoing fight for American freedom."

Who the Alliance members and sponsors are is unspecified.
New Media Alliance Founder Gary Schneider

Gary Schneider is president and founder of, "a Conservative policy advocacy group" and the public relations company Heritage New Media Partners. He is the Administrator of The Reality Forums.

Schneider is also listed as the co-ordinator for the North Eastern region of Reality Check On Campus, a PR support service for conservative student groups.

A biographical note states that Schneider received his degree in Government and Russian Studies at Norwich University's Military College of Vermont and later worked in New York as a financial researcher for "for various on-line and print publications used by Wall Street investors." The note states that he has subsequently done financial research for Thomson Financial and Reuters.

"His articles have recently appeared in Americas Voices,,,, The Patriotist,, American Daily and EnterStageRight," the note states.
NMA's Jim Kouri Denounces "Leftists" for Opposing Illegal NSA Wiretaps

Activist Judge Turning Over Top Secret NSA Files to Leftists
by Jim Kouri, CPP

[Biographical note: Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he's a staff writer for the New Media Alliance ( He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others.]

On Thursday, a federal judge decided that Americans' safety and security takes a back-seat to a left-wing groups' right to view and promulgate top secret National Security Agency documents relating to the terrorism surveillance program. In this case, one of the left-wing groups has direct ties to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who was forced to step down from his perch on the Senate Intelligence Committee in 1987 over allegations he leaked classified information to news reporters.

Just one lawyer wearing black robes has usurped the authority of the Commander-in-Chief to wage war as he believes it should be waged. As a result of this decision, the US Justice Department is ordered to respond within 20 days to requests by a civil liberties group for documents about President George W. Bush's NSA surveillance program.

The ruling is being heralded by the news media as "a victory for the Electronic Privacy Information Center," which sued the Justice Department under the Freedom of Information Act in seeking the release of classified documents. In other words, an unelected lawyer is using the FIOA to divulge the information gathered during a war to a left-wing group of lawyers, college professors and antiwar activists who will make they documents public. By public, I mean releasing classified information to everyone including terrorists, insurgents, international gangsters and other assorted misfits. ...
A Newsvine user busted a powerful stealth campaign with just a few clicks, and a simple question. "Why does Newsvine allow political organizations to seed 'astroturf' content?"

He'd discovered a pattern to the way a story's URL had been suggested to the bloggers at Newsvine. The same user had suggested over 470 URLs, each one pointing only to articles on the exact same site.

And more investigation revealed the site could be tied to a powerful PR firm. "It turns out that it is a member of The New Media Alliance…a foundation established by Heritage New Media Partners, Inc., a public relations company," the user argued.

It turns out the URLs were all coming from Frank Salvato, the managing editor of the very web publication being promoted. According to his biography, Salvato is also a commentator who's appeared on radio and TV, including Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor.

Salvato disputes any publicity arrangement with the PR firm. "The fact is that I, alone, made an honest mistake in not thoroughly reading the 'Code of Conduct' at Newsvine before using the venue," Salvato told us. "[O]n a regular basis we rarely received more than a twenty-seven count in traffic from the Newsvine venue…testimony to the notion that we certainly weren't doing it for the traffic."

After making his discovery, the Newsvine user blew the whistle, writing an article for Newsvine. His exposé quickly reached the front page of and became one of the site's most-active stories, receiving over 75 votes. ("Excellent catch," wrote one user. "We definitely cannot allow Newsvine to be used as an advertising base for websites, regardless of their positions…")

Within 90 minutes, his article received a response from Calvin Tang, the site's co-founder and chief operating officer. "Thank you for notifying us of this blatant disregard for the Code of Honor, rule #3," he wrote in the article's comments, reporting that the user has been off the main site and "back into the Greenhouse, pending his acceptance of our request to him that he abide by Newsvine's rules."

Ironically, the user discovering the shenanigans had the user name "Partisan Hack." But he's deadly serious about the site's user community. "If we are to have real citizens' journalism, we need to have some confidence that content being seeded and written in Newsvine has some level of independence and it not being put here at the behest of organizations or causes who want to use Newsvine as 'astroturf' — content that is meant to appear to be coming from the grass roots that is in fact sponsored for political or commercial goals."

Answering coments, Partisan Hack acknowledged a role for groups challenging the conventional wisdom "If they can challenge it openly - not through proxy agents masquerading as individuals," and "in ways that does not leverage their economic power to the disadvantage of a community's citizens."

It's not the first time this has happened. Earlier this month another user discovered a Monsanto publicist on the site promoting a blog lobbying for genetically modified food. ""These groups are free to promote any view they choose but what does it say about their ethics that plants are mixed among users to promote a business agenda? What does it say about the Monsanto strategy that free sites like ours and Yahoo! Answers have professional spin masters supplying corporate PR as opposed to paying to advertise?"

But there's another obvious take-away message. Any community site has an ad hoc legion of watchdogs on patrol — the site's own network of dedicated users. Newsvine reports over 1,000,000 users a month, and was recently acquired by MSNBC. ("[I]t's telling that this is the first acquisition of's 11-year history," the Motley Fool reported.)

Any stealth publicity effort will face resistance from a site's passionate user base, at least judging by the fate of Salvato's original article. It's been replaced by a single 9-word sentence.

"This article has been removed by the Newsvine community."
The New Media Alliance - A Fascist Propaganda Clearinghouse

It is a Section 501(c)(3) organization, a non-profit organization. As stated in The New Media Alliance Web site they manage efforts to provide exposure for sponsored political views:

"Through the managed efforts of our writers and media partners we promote awareness and educate all Americans to the impact of government, educational and traditional media policies and agendas, that have become increasingly repressive and partisan. Our mission is, therefore, to help sustain America’s most basic and cherished freedoms by aggressively empowering conservative thought and perspective."

In other words, the PR from this organization is designed to seed "spin" into the news cycle. How does this relate to The New Media Journal? The New Media Alliance site provides additional information:

"Through our parent company, Heritage New Media Partners, Inc., the NMA is actively engaged with various conservative organizations, think tanks and activist groups which seek talented writers and researchers to perform research or to become involved in media campaigns by writing articles, commentary or news pieces.

The NMA's pool of participating writers are eligible to receive writing or research assignments for such work and will be provided with grant money to do so.

"If you are a writer and would like to be included in the NMA writers pool to receive such assignments, please let us know and you will be contacted for follow-up information."

It appears as if writers working for The New Media Alliance receive "grants" that enable them to write materials for channels such as The New Media Journal - sponsored content, or PR. The New Media Journal does not pay these people directly, so it will have the appearance of "citizen journalism". Instead, it's likely with this network of alliances that "grant" money for these authors is funneled to them indirectly via The New Media Alliance. This enables The New Media Journal to claim that it is only providing an outlet for its contributors, as stated in their site:

"Opinions expressed by contributing writers are expressly their own and may or may not represent the opinions of The New Media Journal, its editorial staff or its publisher. Reprint inquiries should be directed to the author of the article."

It's bad enough that Newsvine is apparently being used regularly as an advertising vehicle for sponsored PR content, but worse yet that it's being done apparently to further political purposes. If we are to have real citizens' journalism, we need to have some confidence that content being seeded and written in Newsvine has some level of independence and it not being put here at the behest of organizations or causes who want to use Newsvine as "astroturf" - content that is meant to appear to be coming from the grass roots that is in fact sponsored for political or commercial goals. ...

I am concerned that there are any number of "astroturf" fronts on Newsvine, but this is the first time that I have seen what appears to be an "astroturf" publishing organization using Newsvine as a publicity outlet on such a broad scale.

Neo-Connecting the Dots to Iran

By Jeff Huber
Pen and Sword

The "Neo-connecting the Dots to Iran" series in its entirety…
October 07, 2007

Part I

If we've learned one thing about the Bush administration, it's that if at first they don't succeed with a stunt, they'll pull, pull and pull it again until they get away with it. Thus it is that even as Senators Jon Kyl (R-Arizona) and Joe Lieberman (?-Connecticut) attempted to sneak a declaration of war against Iran into the defense spending bill, the military's propaganda machine in Iraq was spoon feeding the press more "evidence" that Iran is helping Iraqi militants attack U.S. troops.

We've seen this sort of thing before.

Have I Got a Used Bomb for You!

On the Senate floor Tuesday, Jim Webb (D-Virginia) called the Kyl-Lieberman proposal "Dick Cheney's fondest pipe dream." (As journalists like Seymour Hersh, Larisa Alexandrovna and Gareth Porter have been telling us, Cheney has been pressing behind the scenes for war with Iran for some time.)

While Lieberman and Kyl were trying to help Cheney realize his dream in Washington, Major General Kevin Bergner, the chief of public affairs in Iraq, invited members of the press to the latest in a series of Iran bashing dog-and-pony shows in Baghdad's Green Zone. Bergner and his staff let reporters see two roadside bombs disguised as rocks that, according to Andrew E. Kramer of the New York Times, "General Bergner said were likely of Iranian provenance."

Likely of Iranian provenance? Likely? What kind of half-seated accusation was that for a U.S. Army general to level at the Iranians while Congress debates declaring war on them? (Perhaps more importantly: Why do media outlets like the New York Times continue to play echo chamberlain for this kind of irresponsible inflammatory rhetoric?)

The rock bombs were part of a display General Bergner had prepared for the reporters that showcased what "the military says is Iranian support for the insurgency." An "American military explosives expert" was "made available" to reporters. This is like a car dealer making one of his own mechanics "available" to inspect the used Ford he's trying to sell you.

The explosives expert said that the rock bombs "were consistent with other munitions of this type suspected of having been smuggled from Iran." The reporters also got to see two mortar shells that the arms expert said "were positively identified as Iranian-made, based on the markings and the design of the tail fins."

And you're sure to be shocked, shocked to learn that the arms expert only spoke with reporters "on the condition that his name not be revealed."

This press briefing in Baghdad was a continuation of a pattern that began to gel sometime around January 2007--also the time that we learned of the Iraq "surge" strategy.

Sound Familiar?

Claims about Iran's intentions to build nuclear weapons had failed to take sufficient traction and the propaganda vector shifted to accusing Iran of arming and training Iraqi militants. Then U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, who was also a charter member of the neoconservative think tank Project for the New American Century, promised to offer "proof" of "Iranian meddling" in Iraq.

On February 11, Joshua Partlow of the Washington Post was among the members of the press corps invited to a classified briefing that was "the first time during the Bush administration that officials had sought to make a public intelligence case against Iran." Reporters met with anonymous "Senior U.S. military officials" and an unnamed military explosives expert "who would normally not speak to the news media." They were treated to a "display" of "mortar shells, rocket-propelled grenades and a powerful cylindrical bomb, capable of blasting through an armored Humvee." The unnamed officials "said weapons were smuggled into the country by the Quds Force, an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that U.S. officials believe is under the control of Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei." The officials also alleged that the "highest levels" of the Iranian government had directed use of weapons that were killing U.S. troops in Iraq.

By the next day, the "proof of Iranian meddling" had been received with a "healthy dose of skepticism." Even General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted there was no evidence he knew of to support the claim that Iran's government was involved in aiding Iraqi militants.

In normal times, such negative results would have caused the administration to drop its disinformation effort and try a new stratagem. But these are not normal times, and this is not a normal administration.

Part II

The long promised "proof" that the Iranian government was contributing to attacks on American soldiers in Iraq presented to reporters in Baghdad on February 11, 2007 was greeted with skepticism--if not downright derision--in the United States and elsewhere. The nearly universal rejection of their claims, however, did not deter the administration from continuing to pursue this line of information operations.

The headline of a July 2nd New York Times story by former Judith Miller cohort Michael R. Gordon read: "U.S. Ties Iran to Deadly Iraq Attack." The article was a masterpiece of Rovewellian doublespeak.

It extensively quoted then Brigadier General Kevin J. Bergner, who only weeks earlier had taken over the job as Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Effects in Iraq from Major General William Caldwell IV. (Caldwell has since been promoted to Lieutenant General, and Bergner recently advanced to Major General, so this public affairs gig in Iraq appears to be good for one's career these days.) In fact, the piece didn't directly quote anyone except Bergner.

Gordon wrote that unnamed "American military officials" had "long asserted" that the Quds force, "an elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, has trained and equipped Shiite militants in Iraq." "The Americans" had also, according to Gordon, "cited exclusive intelligence" that Iran has supplied Shiite militants with shaped explosive charges capable of penetrating armored vehicles and "American officials" had alleged that "Iran has been in a proxy war against American forces for years."

The crux of the article was the claim, attributed to Bergner, that "Iranian operatives helped plan a January raid in Karbala in which five American soldiers were killed." American and Iraqi officials apparently determined at the time that Iranians were involved because the raid "appeared to be meticulously planned," so it naturally stood to reason that Iraqis militants couldn't have pulled it off by themselves. But the ubiquitous officials "stopped short of making a case that the Quds Force may have been directly involved in planning the attack" until the occasion of Bergner's press brief on July 2nd.

(It's worth noting at this point that nothing in Gordon's article indicates that any of the officials he or Bergner referred to were at the briefing, or any other members of the press for that matter. In fact, from the way Gordon wrote the piece, it sounds like nobody was in the room except Gordon and Bergner. We can tell from the transcript of the briefing that other reporters and members of Bergner's staff were in attendance, but they may as well not have been. Bergner and Gordon completely dominated the event.)

The most damning evidence of Iranian complicity in American deaths that Gordon related came in the form of information gleaned from captured Shiite militants. From these prisoners, officials learned that "Iran’s Quds Force provided detailed information on the activities of American soldiers in Karbala" and that Iran "has been using Lebanese Hezbollah as a 'proxy' or 'surrogate' in training and equipping Shiite militants in Iraq." "Hezbollah leadership" instructed two of the prisoners "to go to Iran and help the Quds Force train Shiite Iraqi militants." Intelligence gained from the prisoners also indicated that "groups of up to 60 Iraqi militants were brought to Iran for military instruction at three camps near Tehran and trained in using road-side bombs, mortars, rockets, kidnapping operations and in how to operate as a sniper."

This all sounds compelling until we stop to notice a few things. First is that although Gordon names the captured militants and gives details of their backgrounds, we never heard of them before and nothing about their backgrounds supports the veracity of the information they supposedly coughed up to interrogators. (Moreover, filling a story with interesting but irrelevant details is a standard liar's trick.) Secondly, all this information was relayed to Gordon through Bergner. At the time officials were gaining intelligence from these prisoners, Bergner was back in Washington writing pro-war propaganda for the White House, so the "evidence" Gordon echoed in the New York Times was fourth hand hearsay at the very best. Finally and most importantly, prisoners of this war have been known to tell their interrogators exactly what they want to hear for in exchange for as little as a Twixt bar or a copy of Martha Stewart Living magazine.

As if all this rhetorical manipulation weren't already enough, the article ended with one of the most exquisite pieces of bull feather merchandising I have seen pulled by a Bush camp reporter and general team to date:
“Our intelligence reveals that the senior leadership in Iran is aware of this activity,” [Bergner] said. When he was asked if Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could be unaware of the activity, General Bergner said, “that would be hard to imagine.”

Gee, it would be hard to imagine that prehistoric humans could have made those funny patterns in the desert; therefore ancient astronauts must have done it. And oh by the way, the official transcript of the briefing reveals that the Bergner "was asked" the question by Michael R. Gordon. I guess Gordon wouldn't agree to be referenced unless he promised himself anonymity--due to the sensitivity of the subject, of course.

You'd think this briefing would have been greeted with the same scorn the February briefing received, but no. On July 11th, Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) introduced an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would "require a report on support provided by the government of Iran for attacks against coalition forces, American forces, in Iraq." Lieberman wanted to "bring forth a strong unified statement by the Senate of the United States that we have noted the evidence presented by our military about the involvement of the Iranian forces in the training and equipping of Iraqi terrorists," and it was his hope that, "this amendment will offer an opportunity for us to come together to accept the evidence our military has given us of Iran's involvement in the murder of hundreds of American soldiers."

What "evidence our military has given us" was he referring to? The "forensic evidence" that "senior military officials" had produced at the February press brief and the "new" and "stunning" details Brigadier General Kevin Bergner had provided the week before.

So in July, on the basis of forensic evidence that amounted to the say-so of a single unnamed weapons expert, intelligence gained from prisoners under interrogation, the unconfirmed assertions of anonymous officials and "stunning details" presented by a professional propaganda operative, Joe Lieberman asked the Senate for a "strong unified statement" that would "say to the Iranians that this must stop."

He was desensitizing his audience in preparation for the stunt he was about to pull in September.

Part III

"Lieberman was acting as a stalking horse for Cheney's proposal, softening up public opinion for later war propaganda."

-- Gareth Porter, August 16, 2007, writing on Senator Lieberman's vocal support of Dick Cheney's agenda to attack Iran.

The clause in the proposed Kyl-Lieberman amendment to the 2008 military appropriations bill stating "that it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran" was the next best thing to a formal declaration of war. Fortunately, that paragraph was stricken from the version of the bill that finally passed the Senate. Unfortunately, it had already served its purpose.

As Gareth Porter suggests, Lieberman's main purpose in the scheme to ferment war with Iran is to act as a desensitizer, and in that role, he has followed two lines of operation. First is to desensitize the public (including the Congress and the media) to the fuzzy nature of the evidence used to argue that the Iranian government is supporting Iraqi militants, which Lieberman largely does by packaging hearsay testimonials from military officials as hard evidence. (In case you haven't noticed lately, whenever a Bush camp general speaks out about the war, you can't count how many politicians' lips are moving.) Lieberman's second rhetorical vector focuses on introducing increasingly bellicose rhetoric to support direct military action, as exampled by the stealth declaration of war in the originally proposed Kyl-Lieberman amendment.

In the first case, Lieberman's methods appear to have been highly effective. Even Bob Schieffer of Face the Nation, normally skeptical of baseless administration claims, seems to have taken the hook on the allegations that Iran is arming the insurgents in Iraq, even though Schieffer himself offers nothing more tangible to support those charges than Lieberman has.

As to the second issue: A preemptive declaration of war is unlikely to sit well with the public these days, but acts of self-defense, well now; those are horse feathers of a different color. As Seymour Hersh points out in the current issue of The New Yorker, "the President and his senior advisers have concluded that their campaign to convince the American public that Iran poses an imminent nuclear threat has failed." Seeing that their original plan to sell a military confrontation with the "emerging geopolitical winner of the war in Iraq" was going over like a lead zeppelin, the administration adopted a new stratagem, one expressed by Mr. Bush in August when he told an American Legion audience, "The attacks on our bases and our troops by Iranian-supplied munitions have increased… The Iranian regime must halt these actions. And, until it does, I will take actions necessary to protect our troops."

Once the rationalization for war becomes defending the troops, the lid to Pandora's box blows clear off its hinges.

The Inherent Right to "Bring 'Em On"

The "inherent right of self-defense" is the backbone of the Standing Rules of Engagement for U.S. Forces. The concept states that a commander has not only the authority but the obligation to "use all necessary means available and to take all appropriate actions to defend that commander's unit and other U.S. forces in the vicinity from a hostile act or demonstration of hostile intent." This kind of responsibility normally falls to "on-scene commanders," but ultimate responsibility for "national self-defense" falls to the commander in chief. National self-defense involves "defense of the United States, U.S. forces, and, in certain circumstances, U.S. nationals and their property, and/or U.S. commercial assets." One way to exercise national self-defense is by "declaring a foreign force or terrorist(s) hostile," which the commander in chief is authorized to do. Once Mr. Bush declares someone or something hostile, "individual U.S. units do not need to observe a hostile act or determine hostile intent before engaging that force or terrorist(s)."

Based on the Standing ROE and the Bush administration's assertions about Iran's role in committing hostile acts against American troops, we should have turned Tehran into the world's largest solar panel, like, yesterday man! There is, of course, a slight problem in this line of reasoning. The ROE exist under the authority of the NCA, which is the National Command Authority, which is, basically, Mr. Bush. If Mr. Bush authorizes a strike on Iran based on authority he has given himself, someone in his political opposition might just call him on it. The odds of a Democrat in Congress growing that much spine are slim to none, but you never know.

So it's a good thing the Bush team has a couple of fallback positions. The War Powers Resolution passed by Congress in 1973 gives a president standing authority to "introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities" in case of a "national emergency" created by an attack on "the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces" (italics added).

Mr. Bush not only has authority from Congress to defend our troops, but Article 51 of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter states that: "Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense."

Legally, Mr. Bush has his happy highness covered seven ways from Sunday. And since he only recognizes one "Higher Authority," he can bomb-bomb-bomb Iran until Barb-Barb-Barbara Bush tells him to knock it off.

Part IV

Jim Webb (D-Virginia) has introduced a measure in the Senate that would deny funding for military action against Iran without congressional approval. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-New York) supports the bill, and according to Elana Schor of The Hill, "Anti-war activists have hailed the Webb plan for restraining President Bush’s ability to act unilaterally against Iran."

I too applaud Webb for trying to keep the Bush administration in its box, but even if the measure becomes law, I doubt it will do much good. Funding for everything has to be approved by Congress, so making a separate law that says the legislature has to agree to fund an Iran attack is little more than a symbolic redundancy.

They Don't Need No Stinking Appropriations

Bush has managed to get whatever funding he wants for his woebegone wars under the "support the troops" rubric, and there's no reason to believe that stratagem won't continue to work like a champ. Symbolic gestures made by the Democratically controlled Congress may pay dividends come election time in 2008, but so far, gestures have had as much effect on Mr. Bush as water has on a duck's back. And there's no reason to believe anyone can stay Mr. Bush's hand though legal arguments; in that regard, he has his ducks lined up from here to the horizon.

The administration claims Mr. Bush has a wide range of authorities because of "unitary" and "plenary" powers given to him in the Constitution. That the Constitution says nothing about these alleged powers hasn't kept Mr. Bush from doing exactly what he wants to (or doing exactly what Dick Cheney wants him to do.)

The War Powers Resolution that Congress passed in 1973 allows a president to introduce U.S. armed forces into hostilities in case of a national emergency created by an attack on said U.S. armed forces, which is what the administration accuses Iran of having done.

We have been living under a national state of emergency since Mr. Bush first declared one on September 14, 2001.

The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that Congress passed days after the 9/11 attacks gave Mr. Bush specific statutory authority to use "all necessary and appropriate force" to prevent "any future acts of international terrorism against the United States" by "nations, organizations or persons." That goes a long way in explaining why the administration is eager to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization.

The foundation of the "Standing Rules of Engagement for U.S. Forces" is the inherent right of self-defense, which gives commanders the authority and obligation to use all necessary means in practicing the self-defense of their units and other U.S. forces. National self-defense calls for the defense of U.S. forces and may be exercised by declaring a "foreign force or terrorist(s)" hostile. As commander in chief, Mr. Bush is empowered to make such hostile designations and may delegate that authority to lower echelons of command.

In case you're wondering how this rules of engagement business sits with the international laws of armed conflict, the United Nations Charter recognizes the inherent right of self-defense.

In all, Mr. Bush has all the legal cards in the deck stacked in his favor should he decide to attack Iran. That presupposes, of course, that the main assumption--that Iran is actively contributing to attacks on American forces in Iraq--is valid. But then again, the Bush administration has led us into misadventures on the basis of faulty assumptions before.

Echo Chamber of Horrors

As journalist and historian Gareth Porter wrote in a September 27th piece for AlterNet, "The administration has not come forward with a single piece of concrete evidence to support the claim that the Iranian government has been involved in the training, arming or advising of Iraqi Shiite militias."

Incredibly, the Bush team has managed to create a compelling narrative about Iran's collusion with Iraqi militants out of gossamer weight evidence that consists of:

a) Allegedly captured documents and computer database files that haven't been verified by any reliable independent source.

b) Intelligence gained from interrogations of captured militants. Officials have not produced transcripts of the prisoner interviews or described what kinds of interrogation methods were used. (Keep in mind too that prisoners have been known to tell interrogators anything they want to hear for as little as a pack of Camels and a roll of toilet paper.)

c) Photographs in a PowerPoint presentation that mortar rounds supposedly made in Iraq. For all anyone really knows, those pictures could have come from an Army Field Manual.

d) The say so of an anonymous "military weapons expert" that the weapons shown and described to reporters in Baghdad came from Iran.

e) Testimony by seemingly thousands of politicians, generals, officials, experts, think tankers, pundits, journalists, talking heads, fakers, fumblers, mumblers, bumblers, gypsies, tramps and thieves who reference things a) through d) and each other over and over and over and over and over and over and over again until you have to believe that the Iranians are killing our boys because that's what everyone says!

Part V

As parts I through IV of "Neo-connecting the Dots to Iran" discussed, Congress can't really stop Mr. Bush from attacking Iran if that's what he really wants to do, and before any legal action against Bush reaches the Supreme Court, what's left of humanity may be living in mine shafts. The major media have proven wholly incapable of acting as a power balancing fourth estate. Can it really be that the only institution that can keep America from committing yet another devastating misapplication of military force is the military itself?

According to historian and journalist Gareth Porter, Admiral William Fallon, head of United States Central Command, has "privately vowed that there would be no war against Iran on his watch, implying that he would quit rather than accept such a policy." I'm willing to accept that Fallon would quit rather than carry out orders he considers contrary to the interests of the United States, but I'm not sure that would influence Mr. Bush's decision making. What's more, I'm no happier with the idea that we need an admiral like Fallon to keep us out of a stupid war with Iran than I am with a general like David Petraeus keeping us in a stupid war in Iraq, but that's the sort of thing that happens when your nation gets overtaken by militarism.

Wild Purple Yonder

These days, virtually all U.S. combat operations are "purple," a term used to denote joint force endeavors among the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and (sometimes) the Coast Guard. The realities of our current wars, however, dictate that any action against Iran will be more blue (Navy and Air Force) than red (Army and Marine Corps), and Pentagon politics suggest that it will be more light blue than navy blue.

As Seymour Hersh points out in a recent in a recent article in the The New Yorker, "What had been presented primarily as a counter-proliferation mission has been reconceived as counterterrorism," and now, "the emphasis is on 'surgical' strikes on Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities in Tehran and elsewhere, which, the Administration claims, have been the source of attacks on Americans in Iraq."

This "surgical strike" talk is just the sort of thing the U.S. Air Force loves to hear, especially at a time when the land-centric nature of America's wars has pushed the junior service even further into the realm of irrelevance. Surgical strike is the kind of combat the Air Force does best, and that it is best at. The Air Force has worked a long, long time to get so good at surgical strike.

Back in the bad old days, Colonel Hogan and the gang flew thousands and thousands of missions to hit one lousy factory. Half of them got shot down and spent the rest of the war pursuing comical misadventures in Stalags throughout Germany. Today, the Air Force can whack that factory with a single stealthy bomber (the Navy can do it a lot cheaper and more safely with cruise missiles launched from ships that never steam in harm's way, but the Air Force doesn't like to talk about that too much). The bottom line, though, is that the Air Force can whack a lot of stuff with very few (though devilishly expensive) airplanes at a combat loss risk that's zeroing in on zero. B-2 pilots can kiss their spouses goodbye in the morning, fly from Missouri to wherever business takes them that day, and be home that night in time to tuck the kids in.

And boy, when it comes to air superiority, the U.S. owns the skies. The only way an American pilot can get killed in combat is by accident, almost. Nobody can shoot down one of our fighter pilots unless it's one of our other fighter pilots, and that could only happen if the other fighter pilot made a mistake. So far, the only mistake remotely like that our fighter pilots have made was when two of them shot down two of our own helicopters, and you can't really count that, can you? I mean, c'mon. Helicopters. Fighters. Different animals, you know?

One of our F-16 pilots got himself shot down by anti-aircraft artillery over Bosnia, but his plane wasn't stealthy, so that doesn't really count either. The F-117 that got shot down a couple years later over Kosovo was stealthy, but that was old stealth, not the new stealth like the kind we have in the B-2, so take that one right off the list too.

What are the odds of a B-2 getting shot down in a combat mission over Iran? Wafer thin. I'm not saying it could never happen. I mean, there was that one instance where a B-2 went down in a training mission over Nevada, but that was in the movie Broken Arrow, so that one definitely doesn't count.

But, yeah, accidents can happen. Things break. Weather gets bad. Pilots make mistakes. Bad guys get lucky. I'd sure hate to see us lose a B-2 bomber over Iran. The Air Force would have to bar them from flying combat missions, and then what good would they be? And we'd be deluged with non-stop footage of the little boy in his flight suit jammies, clinging to his bedtime book, waiting for Daddy to come home from the war and read him a story. There's also a pretty good chance we might have to watch Daddy get dragged naked through the streets of Tehran, because his Iranian captors might not be nearly so jolly as Colonel Klink and Sergeant Schultz were.

That sort of possibility doesn't phase the Air Force, though. We'll bomb that bridge when we come to it, that's their motto. The problem is that when it comes time to bomb the bridge, they may not hit it, or it may turn out to be the wrong bridge, or we might find out in retrospect that bombing bridges wasn't what we really needed to do after all.

Here's something to keep in mind about the promise of "surgical strikes" on Iran and the people making that promise. The 9/11 attacks were, in essence, fourth generation warfare air raids. America's vaunted air power, as exemplified by the United States Air Force, did not defend us from them not did it deter them.

So don't expect that a handful of flyboys and girls can make things all better with Iran in the course of a business day.

Part VI

Part VI wraps up the "Neo-connecting the Dots to Iran" series with a sneak preview of Armageddon and beyond.

On October 7th, America's top military commander in Iraq accused Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, Iran's ambassador to Baghdad, of having been a member of the Quds Force, an elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard. As the Jerusalem Post noted, General David Petraeus made the charge "without citing any specific intelligence."

Petraeus also told journalists that Iran is "responsible for providing the weapons, the training, the funding and in some cases the direction for operations that have indeed killed US soldiers." Petraeus apparently provided little to back that statement up as well. When you get right down to it, the "evidence" of Iranian "meddling" in Iraq boils down to captured documents and databases we haven't seen, confessions obtained under interrogation that we haven't heard, testimony from a U.S. military weapons expert we haven't met, and a handful of photographs of weapons allegedly made in Iran that for all we know could have been taken in Joe Lieberman's basement.

Is it any wonder Colin Powell hasn't volunteered to come back on duty and present all this "proof" to the United Nations?

He Said, She Said, It Said

All the back and forth nonsense between Iran and America boils down to a "did not/did so" contest. U.S. President George W. Bush says the Iranians want nuclear weapons. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says they don't. Dubya and his boys say the Iranians are fomenting violence in Iraq. Ahmi and his guys say they aren't. Who are we to believe?

Ahmadinejad says a lot of stupid things in public, but he's a piker in that department compared to Bush. Unlike Bush, as far as we can tell, Ahmadinejad hasn't lied to us yet. I know, he said there are no homosexuals in Iran, but that's probably true because he or Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei probably had them all killed.

And it's funny how General Petraeus can blithely accuse Iran of supplying arms to Iraqi militants on the basis of fuzzy evidence when the U.S. Government Accountability Office has provided substantial proof that arms were supplied to bad Iraqi actors in 2004 and 2005 by General Petraeus himself.

But what the heck, Bush isn't going to go to war with his "main man" Dave Petraeus for helping screw things up in Iraq, so Iran is the next best scapegoat, right?

Where's Major Kong?

A strike on Iran, however "surgical" it might be, could produce a broad range of possible branches and sequels. At one extreme, the earth's surface becomes uninhabitable when action in the Persian Gulf escalates into global thermonuclear war. China and Russia compete with the United States for allies and subterranean living space in a post-apocalyptic "battle for hearts and mines."

At the other end of the spectrum, the Iran attack leads Osama bin Laden to unilaterally declare a fatwah on Islamo-fascism. A Zogby poll reveals that everyone, including the Iranians, feels grateful to the U.S. for taking military action that prevented further bloodshed and suffering. In a show of concession to the human rights concerns of America's ruling Christian right, Iran stops killing its homosexuals but still doesn't allow them to get married.

Neither of these scenarios is likely, but one realistic end game to a U.S. war with Iran has already been played out. In the summer of 2002, the Pentagon sponsored a global war game named Millennium Challenge (MC02), an exercise that tested U.S. force capabilities in a hypothetical conflict with Iran. Afterwards, the Red Force (Iranian) commander, retired Marine Lieutenant General Paul van Riper complained that the game "was almost entirely scripted to ensure a Blue 'win.'" Practicing unconventional, fourth generation style warfare--the kind of warfare Iran would likely conduct against us--van Riper managed to put the entire U.S. fleet on the bottom of the Persian Gulf. The game masters called time out and resurrected the fleet, and van Riper resigned from the game in disgust.

Unfortunately, if Iran manages to sink our fleet in a real war, they're not likely to quit or help us float our ships back to the surface. I don't think Iran can actually sink a significant number of capital ships of the U.S. Navy, but it can do an embarrassing amount of damage to them. A torpedo in the side of an amphibious ship loaded with Marines or an anti-ship cruise missile slammed into the flight deck of an aircraft carrier would be a devastating psychological strategic defeat for U.S. forces--and we've already had enough of that sort of thing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But whatever does or doesn't happen with Iran, American neoconservatives will declare "mission accomplished" and start figuring out what kind of war they want to start next. If recent events are any indication, the neocons will have Israel perform a trial run against a country like Lebanon or Syria before they try anything with American troops again.

And any future military action in the Middle East will no doubt stay consistent with the Bush administration's proliferation policies. America will continue to threaten signatories to the United Nations Non-Proliferation Treaty like Iran and Syria who pursue nuclear energy programs as allowed by the treaty as an "inalienable right" while we back countries like Israel and India that have nuclear weapons but aren't part of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

If you're asking yourself whether this is the kind of thing they teach in university political science programs the answer, lamentably, is yeah, it pretty much is. Keep in mind that in 2009, our present Secretary of State wants to return and teach international relations at Stanford University, and Stanford might just take her back.