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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


Molly Ivins 1944-2007

Molly Ivins dead at 62

A USTIN, Texas - Best-selling author and columnist Molly Ivins, the sharp-witted liberal who skewered the political establishment and referred to President Bush as “Shrub,” died Wednesday after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 62.

David Pasztor, managing editor of the Texas Observer, confirmed her death.

The writer, who made a living poking fun at Texas politicians, whether they were in her home base of Austin or the White House, revealed in early 2006 that she was being treated for breast cancer for the third time.
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More than 400 newspapers subscribed to her nationally syndicated column, which combined strong liberal views and populist-toned humor. Ivins’ illness did not seem to hurt her ability to deliver biting one-liners.

“I’m sorry to say (cancer) can kill you, but it doesn’t make you a better person,” she said in an interview with the San Antonio Express-News in September, the same month cancer claimed her friend former Gov. Ann Richards.

To Ivins, "liberal" was no insult. "Even I felt sorry for Richard Nixon when he left; there's nothing you can do about being born liberal — fish gotta swim and hearts gotta bleed," she wrote in a column included in her 1998 collection, "You Got to Dance With Them What Brung You."

Some people are simply missed more than others, It's a shame she won't see Bush and Cheney collapse, but she warned us and we didn't listen.

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City of fear

Hoax Devices Part Of Cartoon Ad Campaign
(WBZ) BOSTON The suspicious devices which forced bomb units to scramble across Boston today were actually magnetic lights that are part of a marketing campaign for a television cartoon.

The reports forced the temporary shutdowns of Interstate 93 out of the city, a key inbound roadway, a bridge between Boston and Cambridge, and a portion of the Charles River but were quickly determined not to be explosive.

"It's a hoax -- and it's not funny," Gov. Deval Patrick said.

All of the devices are magnetic lights which resemble a character on the show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force", on Turner Broadcasting's Cartoon Network.

WBZ has obtained a statement from Turner Broadcasting:

"The "packages" in question are magnetic lights that pose no danger. They are part of an outdoor marketing campaign in 10 cities in support of Adult Swim's animated television show Aqua Teen Hunger Force. They have been in place for two to three weeks in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Austin, San Francisco and Philadelphia. Parent company Turner Broadcasting is in contact with local and federal enforcement on the exact locations of the billboards. We regret that they mistakenly thought to pose any danger."

The fucking cops thought they were IED's.

Does Boston look like Baghdad to you?

The ONLY reason 24 and Sleeper Cell are on TV is because there is little real threat of terrorism.

The people they have caught are basically mental defectives unable to do more than rent a car. Their groups are easily penetrated, they are rounded up and then when they talk they sound like losers.

Terrorism is possible, but lets remember, the attacks came from outside the US, outside US muslim communities.

Vigilence is fine, but at some point, we have to get past raw, naked fear.

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Dear Sen Biden

This is how long their weiners are

Biden Unbound: Lays Into
Clinton, Obama, Edwards

Loquacious Senator, Democratic Candidate on Hillary: ‘Four of 10 Is the Max You Can Get?’ Edwards ‘Doesn’t Know What He’s Talking About’

Mr. Biden is equally skeptical—albeit in a slightly more backhanded way—about Mr. Obama. “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” he said. “I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

Dear Sen Biden.

Sen. Obama is the "first mainstream African-American who is articulate"?

I would expect a gradute of Columbia and Harvard Law who was a former law professor to be articulate. His race should have nothing to do with that.

Would you say that John Lewis is inarticulate? Or Keith Ellison?

Senator, anyone running for office is by definition articulate. Unless you can't see past skin color..

Are Albert Wynn and Maxine Waters dirty and dull?

Senator, the fact that you rely on stereotypes, not once but on several occasions, should render you unfit to be President.

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Ignorance in action

Many of these folks need this place

Parties mocking blacks spark outrage

By BRUCE SMITH, Associated Press Writer 22 minutes ago

CHARLESTON, S.C. - White students at Tarleton State University in Texas hold a party in which they dress in gang gear and drink malt liquor from paper bags. A white Clemson University student attends a bash in black face over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. A fraternity at Johns Hopkins University invites partygoers to wear "bling bling" grills, or shiny metal caps on their teeth.

From Connecticut to Colorado, "gangsta" theme parties thrown by whites are drawing the ire of college officials and heated complaints from black and white students who say the antics conjure the worst racial stereotypes.

At the same time, some black academics say they aren't surprised, given the popularity of rap music among inner-city blacks and well-to-do suburban whites alike.

The white students, they say, were mimicking the kind of outlaw posturing that blacks themselves engage in in rap videos. They suggest the white students ended up crossing the same line that says it is OK for blacks to call each other "nigger," but not all right for whites to do it.

Whites often don't realize their actions are offensive because they are imitating behavior celebrated in music and seen on television, said Venise Berry, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Iowa who has researched rap music and popular culture.

"The segment of rap music that is glamorized and popularized by the media is gangsta rap," said Berry, who is black. "It has become an image that is normalized in our society. That to me explains clearly why they don't see it as wrong."

Some of these people are straight up racists.

Some simply know nothing about how black people live, like a certain US Senator


Makin' Cue

Barbecue done in rare form

By David Zucchino, Times Staff Writer
January 31, 2007

Blackwood Station, N.C. — THE moon was high over the loblolly pines when Keith Allen arrived for work at 2 a.m. He built a fire of hickory logs, and a plume of rich blue smoke creased the black night sky.

When the fire had produced glowing red coals, Allen shoveled them into a pit below two dozen hog shoulders on a metal rack. For the next nine hours, he shoveled more coals, stoked the fire, and turned the shoulders as they cooked a ruddy, smoky brown.

Long after first light, he was still at it. With a cleaver in one hand and a knife in the other, he chopped the pork with a rhythmic whump, whump, whump. Then he plunged two gloved hands into the steaming meat to mix in a homemade sauce of vinegar, salt and red pepper.

And that, for purists, is the long, hard, wearying way of making genuine pit-cooked Eastern North Carolina chopped barbecue.

Not many people do it this way anymore. Most of the state's barbecue restaurants have switched to gas or electric cooking, which is cheaper, faster and cleaner. Most now chop North Carolina's signature meal with electric grinders and season it with bottled sauce.

Allen, a tall, silver-haired, second-generation barbecue cook, insists that barbecue that isn't cooked in a pit over hickory coals and chopped and flavored by hand isn't really Carolina barbecue. He devotes most of his waking hours to that ideal.

My cousin lives in Eastern North Carolina. Her sister's husband, who's an Air Force officer, is from Texas. His whole family came to celebrate my cousin's 50th Birthday.
His aunt is eating in her hotel and sees this bottle on the table. She sprinkles it on her biscuit and is surprised to find she has just dumped vinegar sauce on it. She thought it was honey.

Eastern North Carolina barbecue is chopped meat. Just chopped meat. Maybe a sandwich.

I was disappointed. I thought barbecue was brisket, ribs, chicken. Not chopped meat with vinegar.

I'm sorry, but give me some Texas sausage or Kansas City ribs any day.

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Music Break-CCR

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Music Break-The Animals

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Forget the blame

Iran May Have Trained Attackers That Killed 5 American Soldiers, U.S. and Iraqis Say

Published: January 31, 2007

BAGHDAD, Jan. 30 — Investigators say they believe that attackers who used American-style uniforms and weapons to infiltrate a secure compound and kill five American soldiers in Karbala on Jan. 20 may have been trained and financed by Iranian agents, according to American and Iraqi officials knowledgeable about the inquiry.

The officials said the sophistication of the attack astonished investigators, who doubt that Iraqis could have carried it out on their own — one reason a connection to Iran is being closely examined. Officials cautioned that no firm conclusions had been drawn and did not reveal any direct evidence of a connection.

A senior Iraqi official said the attackers had carried forged American identity cards and American-style M-4 rifles and had thrown stun grenades of a kind used only by American forces here.

Tying Iran to the deadly attack could be helpful to the Bush administration, which has been engaged in an escalating war of words with Iran.

One American soldier was killed during the initial attack and four more were abducted and killed shortly afterward as the police pursued the sport utility vehicles used in the attack.

The attack was focused on a meeting at a joint security station, where American and Iraqi forces mesh their efforts in the new security plan.

An Iraqi knowledgeable about the investigation said four suspects had been detained and questioned. Based on those interviews, investigators have concluded that as they fled Karbala with the abducted Americans, the attackers used advanced devices to monitor police communications and avoid the roads where the police were searching.

The suspects have also told investigators that “a religious group in Najaf” was involved in the operation, the Iraqi said, in a clear reference to the Mahdi Army, the militia controlled by the breakaway Shiite cleric, Moktada al-Sadr. If that information holds up, it would dovetail with assertions by several Iraqi officials that Iran is financing and training a small number of splinter groups from the Mahdi Army to carry out special operations and assassinations.

“I hear that there are a number of commando and assassination squads that are disconnected and controlled directly by Iran,” the senior Iraqi official said, citing information directly from the prime minister’s office. “They have supplied JAM and others with significant weaponry and training,” he said using shorthand for the group, from its name in Arabic, Jaish al Mahdi.

Fuck this. If the Iranians did this, they are prepared to go after us if they have to. That was some slick bit of tradecraft, and if they can do that, we have more problems than assessing blame

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When the crazies strike

Missteps by Iraqi Forces in Battle Raise Questions

Published: January 30, 2007

BAGHDAD, Jan. 29 —Iraqi forces were surprised and nearly overwhelmed by the ferocity of an obscure renegade militia in a weekend battle near the holy city of Najaf and needed far more help from American forces than previously disclosed, American and Iraqi officials said Monday.

They said American ground troops — and not just air support as reported Sunday — were mobilized to help the Iraqi soldiers, who appeared to have dangerously underestimated the strength of the militia, which calls itself the Soldiers of Heaven and had amassed hundreds of heavily armed fighters.

Iraqi government officials said the group apparently was preparing to storm Najaf, a holy city dear to Shiite Islam, occupy the sacred Imam Ali mosque and assassinate the religious hierarchy there, including the revered leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, during a Shiite holiday when many pilgrims visit.

“This group had more capabilities than the government,” said Abdul Hussein Abtan, the deputy governor of Najaf Province, at a news conference.

Only a month ago, in an elaborate handover ceremony, the American command transferred security authority over Najaf to the Iraqis. The Americans said at the time that they would remain available to assist the Iraqis in the event of a crisis.

The Iraqis and Americans eventually prevailed in the battle. But the Iraqi security forces’ miscalculations about the group’s strength and intentions raised troubling questions about their ability to recognize and deal with a threat.

The battle also brought into focus the reality that some of the power struggles in Iraq are among Shiites, not just between Shiites and Sunnis. The Soldiers of Heaven is considered to be at least partly or wholly run by Shiites.

Among the troubling questions raised is how hundreds of armed men were able to set up such an elaborate encampment, which Iraqi officials said included tunnels, trenches and a series of blockades, only 10 miles northeast of Najaf. After the fight was over, Iraqi officials said they discovered at least two antiaircraft weapons as well as 40 heavy machine guns.

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1/31 Libby trial

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Playing with murder

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Bring him the head of Jamil Hussein (revisited)

Bob Owens
The Confederate Wankee

Dear Mr. Owens,

Huzzah, brother, huzzah! Very soon, you will likely be the first member of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders who can proudly claim responsibility for the torture and execution of a real live Iraqi. All you need to do is press the publish button on the post you're writing to out Jamil Hussein's true identity. He's as good as dead the moment you identify him as a source for an American wire service.

The French-loving scum of the francosphere will no longer dare call you a cowardly, sadistic lunatic with a God complex and a sonderkommando's morality. Instead, they'll cower before your God-like authority to act as a one-man judge, jury, torturer, and executioner, fearing to commit any act that might bring down your murderous wrath.

And you will enjoy their fear. You will savor it, just as you will savor every second between the time you pull the publishing trigger and Hussein's headless, mutilated body is discovered on an anonymous street corner in Baghdad.

Because that's the kind of man you are.

Heterosexually yours,

Gen. JC Christian, patriot

Elsewhere: More about Hussein.

A helmet tip to Sadly, No!


If this man's name is released and he is killed, you might as well have shot him. Imagine masked men bursting into your home, dragging you out, taking you to a basement, torturing you with a power drill and then shot you and dumped you in the street like garbage.

Iraq is hell on earth for the people who live there. You live in a nice home, and yet, to prove the ridiculous idea that the AP is lying. How would you know? You've never been a reporter. You would have no clue.

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The end of Cheney

Tapped has this up

FINAL SACRIFICE. For all the talk in the '90s about how Bill Clinton epitomized the self-absorption of the Baby Boomers, the current White House occupant has magnified Clinton's failures by several orders of magnitude. All must be sacrificed to George W. Bush's whim, his need to be right, his desire to find now the affirmation and self-regard that so painfully eluded him before his 40th birthday.

All of which is preview to this prediction: Dick Cheney will be sacrificed. The Libby trial currently underway is certainly part of his whacking (to use Eugene Robinson's Sopranos metaphor from today's Washington Post column). But the story seems to me larger than trooping various White House officials into court to narrow the culprits in the Plame leak episode to Cheney and his close confederates.

Cheney is the final sacrifice -- the last layer between Bush and the disapproving public, the skeptical media, and the angry Democrats. In one sense, having him there has always provided Bush a human (and humanizing-by-contrast) buffer against the hordes who oppose him and his policies. To sacrifice Cheney is therefore to have sunk to but one level above the very bottom, the core of the presidency itself. When Cheney goes on television, as he did last week with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, proclaiming the Iraq war a success, he demonstrates that he is either (a) unhinged from reality; or (b) playing a willing role in his own, inevitable discrediting and marginalization.

Under either scenario, his neck is moving slowly but inevitably toward the noose. Somebody, after all, has to pay for the complete collapse of the Republican majority and the conservative agenda. And since Bush himself has never paid the price of his own failures in life, it is Cheney who will pay for them next.

--Tom Schaller

Even without the Libby trial, and I csn't imagine him keeping his job if he testifies, Cheney is a very sick man He has fallen asleep in public. Part of his dogmatic nature is due to his ill health. He is on at least 10 different drugs for his heart and related illnesses.

It is a shock he has lasted this long.

However, if Cheney goes, Bush will be soon to follow. He has been his buffer.

If Cheney is eased out, be sure that health will be the cover.

I think when people start investigating, the conspiracy to hide Cheney's health problems will stun them.

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Your daily Libby trial update

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You don't matter

Feed me, wingnut welfare

Black Conservative Talking Heads: 'Why They Fail'
by niteskolar
Mon Jan 29, 2007 at 02:55:17 PM PST

African American conservatives have and continue to be ineffective in reaching the African American electorate for a number of reasons. Foremost, they can be found extoling ideas within the conservative canon concerning personal responsibility, a color blind society and equal opportunity with no regard for the actual realities of the landscape.

Some Black Conservative Talking Heads (BCTHs) such as Armstrong Williams, Larry Elder or Ward Connerly speak with such disdain about a certain segment of the African American populace or the entire African American populace without reference to themselves, without identifying with being African American or doing so tangentially such that the African American electorate defensively, after consideration and even instinctively disregard their positions and dialogue.

Black Conservative Talking Heads (BCTHs) sound like any other conservative. That being said, the African American electorate is heterogeneous and unique which renders the conservative ideology with regard to the African American community, the Pick Yourself Up By Your Bootstraps AddressTM wholly ineffectual and unproductive. When Tucker Carlson disingenuously argues that the Black Caucus is racist for not allowing the inclusion of a white member, he is mimicking the conservative radio talking heads and others employed to continue racist, zenophobic, treasonous, Nancy Pelosi is the antichrist dialogue that is the present staple propping President Uniter at 30%. When BCTHs come along with the same mimicry, it is no wonder that they are not regarded by the African American electorate.

When BCTHs address the ills of the African American community, they do so without addressing relevant causative factors as well as failing to propose solutions that factor in these extant, critical points. We refer to this as the Cosby Rant. It is intrinsic to the African American community as a whole that discussion of some of our poor, underperforming schools in our neighborhoods in terms of giving vouchers so that a few escape these schools instead of addressing the schools inadequacies is not supportive of the community. Any African American can see that affirmative action sometimes benefits affluent African Americans and that financial factors may need to be a new consideration. It is disingenuous to suggest that Black folk won't have a sense of pride because they went to school by affirmative action unless you give that student a 4.0 and not make him go to any classes.

BCTHs reality blindness and refusal to address the particular ills of the African American community furthers the cause of the progressive community by pushing the African American community away from them and toward us. Any conservative that cannot understand the advantage that my high school best friend, Murray, whose grandfather attended Vanderbilt while my Big Daddy didn't finish sixth grade, whose father attended Vanderbilt and got help from his Dad to get a small business loan when my father went to the Air Force to go to college while Murray went to Vanderbilt as a legacy and was employed by a fraternity brother of his father upon exiting college while I exited and sought employment(not to say that I am doing bad, I love who and where I am) does not want to see reality and will remain hopelessly lost. Many BCTHs fall in that category.

Ultimately BCTHs will continue to fail to bring the African American electorate to the Republican Party. The appeal for most of the minute African American conservative electorate is a religious one, values issues of abortion and gay rights. As more and more clergy and religious organizations and national bodies address the message of Jesus Christ and the conservative disregard of the poor of which Jesus championed as well as the selfish, politically motivated and tunnel visioned co-opting of religion by the Right, the "values" appeal will continue to wane in this electorate.

The Democratic Party needs to enlist vibrant, young and savvy African Americans to represent the party and its ideals to bring a new wave of voters to the 2008 election. We need individuals that can "take it to the streets", speak the vernacular and inform the African American youth, underrepresented and disadvantaged that the ideals of the party are the ideals of their families and the communities. We need to communicate that although they may feel a certain powerlessness insofar as a failed or poor educational opportunity (theirs, the system's or both), their failure to recognize their responsibility and poor choices already made and the lack of jobs and opportunities in the immediate and surrounding community, that if they want to begin to make a small difference toward their lives and their futures, register to vote and here is the registration form right here. The Democratic Party shoud employ a street brigade similar to the advance teams used to promote the release of rap albums or concert tours. The youth I engage are eager to skeptically ask a barrage of questions and listen; those who aren't felons and can register to vote are often surprised the process is so simple.

In the near future, the African American scholarly and engaged leadership, brothers like Michael Eric Dyson and Cornel West will have to engage the community on a wide scale as to the co-opting of African American megachurches by the Republican Party by those that receive faith based initiatives, misrepresent the realities of our community and or fail to address the unattended problems. This is not to say that those African American church clergy/leaders are disingenuous solely because they are Republican, receive faith based initiatives or champion the conservative ideal. Simply, there are those who have been co-opted just as there was Republicans asking parishioners to identify fellow church members and turn in church rolls to Republican party workers.

Finally, many refer to BCTHs as Uncle Toms or sellouts, that they have betrayed their community for power, career or financial advancement. I do not engage in such rhetoric finding it counterproductive and leading to the sidetracking of the conversation. Suffice it to say that if you are a member of the African American community and you are not addressing the causation of the ills of my community, then you do not represent my community. Leaders represent the community. They are informed, they walk among us and they reflect the anguish, the helplessness and the hope, the problems and the multitude of possibilities and solutions.

We need plain and honest discussion about Black folk. A caller to the C-Span morning show Washington Journal said "Blacks won't vote for Barack Obama." This wasn't the first time I had heard the idea that some African Americans have a self hate and distrust still embedded from a previous era. These are the conversations that must occur in earnest as we move toward casting the most important vote of my lifetime, the 2008 presidential race (congressional as well). A sneeze in the wrong direction and we will have engaged with Iran as the deluded continue to swill the kool-aid as their king, Vice President Cheney declares in interview after interview the fantasy of our herculean progress and sidesteps what he finds to be minutiae, the Iraq civil war a teensy bit of sectarian violence in the capital.

Every vote counts and it is the duty of African American Democrats to put to rest the idea of the neglect of the African American electorate by the Democratic National Party. In comparison with the neglect by the Republican Party of African Americans, the poor, middle America and everybody else except their corporate amours, we are talking pebbles to planets. The BCTHs are doing their part to insult the community, pitch the same BootstrapTM rhetoric, getting paid to champion the administration a la Armstrong Williams and sit up front at the Republican National Convention. If they keep this up and we do our part, the Democratic nominee may get 100% of the African American electorate votes cast and that electorate may swell in numbers as well.

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You're a fucking idiot

This could happen to you, John

John Ridley

It's a Hate Crime, So Where Are Jesse and Al?

It was a fairly horrific scene. Long Beach, California: On a public street, in the dark of night on Halloween, a gang of about thirty youths beat three girls ages nineteen and twenty one. One of the girls was battered so severely she will require ongoing surgery to repair multiple fractures around her face and to reposition one of her eyes.

That there were taunts alluding to the girls' race and gender made the beating fall under the special circumstances of a crime motivated by hate.

The perpetrators were caught. The cops ID'ed nine of them as worthy of prosecution. Kids all. Thirteen to seventeen years of age when the crime was committed.

This past Friday eight of the nine were convicted, their sentences yet to be determined.

This story, beyond being sad for both the savagery of the crime and the youth of the offenders, also has a certain "through the looking glass" quality. In this hate crime the perps were black and the victims were white.

The far right soldiers of the Retro Guard will have you believe that the liberal concept of "hate crime" means that when people of color are the perpetrators the law overlooks the very concept of racial motivation.

Clearly that is not the case.

But the fact that blacks have been convicted for violence against whites is no cause in particular for documentation and certainly not celebration of this crime. Violence, and especially violence motivated by hatred of race or gender or religion or sexual orientation or merely the fact that the vic is "different" is deplorable.

Equally deplorable are those who pretend to stand for equality but who hypocritically allow such an injustice to pass without taking a stand against it.

So in the aftermath of this whole mess there is one thing that stands out to me: the conspicuous absence from the scene of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. How is it that these two men, these two supposed champions of racial justice who went into a fit of histrionics when Michael Richards went on his "nigger" rant, were nowhere to be found when actual racial hatred manifest itself.

The simple fact is, and this is no revelation but rather confirmation of what has been painfully obvious going on decades, neither Jesse nor Al are truly committed to any ideal higher than raising their own profile. To a degree, as with any public advocate, that's to be expected. It is a profile that gives one a platform from which to advance an agenda.

I wish this asshole would talk to the Bell family. Yeah, raising his profile by calling the NYPD murderers.

Where has John Ridley been on the Bell case? Has he had anything to say about the shooting of three unarmed men? Of course not. Because he wants to pretend that Sharpton is somehow off-limits and we can just rely on people like him who stand for nothing and no one.

Did the victims parents ask for Sharpton to come? Well, that's how he gets involved in these cases, they call him, not the other way around, They didn't. I would like Mr. Ridley explain to the police brutality victims how Sharpton is capitalizing on their names. When no one else would speak up for them, he did. But I guess that's too frightening for men like Ridley.

He wants quiet people, who say and do little, and make everyone happy. Then he can gin up an incident like an NYPD union official and ask where's Al?

Did it make you feel good to get all those pats on the head from the Huffington Post readers? Wish they could rub your head?

Let me explain something, John, and you need to understand this. If the police shoot you in the street like a dog, those HuffPo readers won't be there. All your pleasing commentary will be forgotten with "maybe he did something". But if one of your cousins call Sharpton, he'll show up and ask why the cops shot you.

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The back door

The Army Erosion - Reliance on IRR and The Back Door Draft
by n00161 [Subscribe]
Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 06:09:39 AM PST

I have written many times about the erosion of the United States Army's capability to wage large scale war. Our equipment is in shambles (one major reason why it is taking so long to get a mere 21,000 soldiers deployed) and our end strength is a wreck. While everyone parses statements to support one side of this argument or the other, I tend to look at the actions. And the actions show a Country's military in desperate need of help.

One of these actions is the back door draft of the Individual Ready Reserve. The purpose of this post is to educate people to the wide expanse of this program; basically taking untrained civilians who after years of being out of the military, are being forced back in and being "retrained" for new jobs.

I know about this. I was one. I have been writing at the Command T.O.C. about this for years and now it is time to come in the open.

The Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) is where they put people awaiting their 8 year obligation to finish. For officers, you remain in the IRR indefinately unless you proactively resign your commission, regardless of any obligation you may have due to school, West Point etc. Once people leave the military and go into the IRR, they conduct no training or any sort of military operational work and are kind of a "just in case" force sitting around. The talk always had been, "They won't call the IRR back unless it is World War III".

In Desert Storm up to 20,000 were called back for very limited duty and almost all of it was special skills to backfill active duty soldiers going to war. For example, an active Army doctor from Ft. Campbell deployed to the war zone, an IRR doctor was put in his place in Ft. Campbell to continue taking care of families etc.

However, George Bush and his cronies changed all that when in the summer of 2004, they recalled about 5,400 IRR soldiers to not backfill active army but to actually deploy to the war zone for a period of 1 year and to train for 1/2 a year for a total recall time of 545 days. This was ridiculous. Many recalled had been out of the Army for over 10 years and a lot were over 40 years old. Many had financial obligations and family obligations which had been built but the Army did not care. They had 30 days to report. An article in the USA Today about how the IRR Recall put Lives in Disarray explains how poorly this recall was carried out. This blog reports on a 43 year old mother who had been out for over 20 years being recalled.

This operation started an uproar in the media and it was discussed on many talk shows. It is when I started the Command T.O.C. blog which has become the meeting place for IRR soldiers. This has become such a big part of how the Army is manning itself that Ft. Benning actually has a location and web site for IRR and Retired Recall Center (BTW, Recall means involuntary).

The noise died down pretty fast when the Bush administration took a page out of its pre-war playbook: It lied to the American people. It told them that the IRR call ups were under review and that people who did not have more than 1 year to go before their end of obligation data was met, would be discharged. Ah, but they continued to call them up and it was up to you, the IRR person, to fight it.

In August of 2006, the Marines learned from the Army and they recalled over 3,000 marines out of the IRR for COMBAT duty (Imagine, a marine who may have been out for 1 or 2 years being called back for combat duty).

Now, I am getting emails from IRR soldiers who were recalled and retrained very fast to be be civil affairs officers and sent to the front. These soldiers have less than 6 months training as civil affairs officers and they are the ones who are actually in the units training Iraqis! Don't think these are "highly trained" soldiers. They are, in fact, newly trained fodder. Here is an excerpt of a letter I received from one of them:

I and about 6 others are Infantry officers, but we're the minority. Apparently the Civil Affairs branch had used up all it's resources and didn't have anyone to send to Iraq for the 06-07 and the 07-08 rotations. Lucky us, we were the first ones in the chute. The training at Bragg was a joke to say the least, and criminally negligent in most respects. Not to mention that none of us cared to do anything with CA.

Unfortunately, now, some of them are dying. They are dying because they have no business being there, they are untrained and the Army is sending them in to be fodder. Here is a story of CPT Freeman who was an Armor officer, recalled, quickly retrained to CA, goes to Iraq and is killed. We know he was an IRR recall because we have access to his army records even though the report says he was an active reservist.

A very sad story of Michael Mundell, 47 years old and had been out of the Army for over 12 years was killed. He was another Armor officer who was quickly reclassed in a "shake and bake" training to a CA officer. Killed. The full story is here.

So, you now see that the military is continuing its Back Door Draft with a vengenance. Publicly they say it is because of the "unique skills" we have in the IRR but as I have proven, many are being reclassed into skills they are untrained for. And, in the end, good men and women are dying.

Once they run out of these soldiers, which will be very soon, they will come after your sons and daughters in a full draft. It is only a matter of time unless you do something to stop it.


Excuse me

Smoke rises from Haifa Street in Baghdad.

In Iraq
U.S.-Iraqi troops clash with gunmen on Baghdad's Haifa Street

Up to 30 militants killed
By Bassem Mroue

11:14 a.m. January 24, 2007

BAGHDAD, Iraq – U.S. and Iraqi troops clashed with gunmen firing heavy weapons from concrete high-rises in a Sunni insurgent stronghold north of the heavily fortified Green Zone on Wednesday. Iraqi's defense ministry said as many as 30 militants were killed and 27 captured.

Apache attack helicopters buzzed past the tall buildings and radio towers, with several Humvees on the tree-lined street below. Gunfire rang in the background as shells fell, according to AP Television News footage.

Black smoke rose from the area, on the west bank of the Tigris River about one mile north of the Green Zone, site of the U.S. and British embassies as well as the Iraqi government headquarters. The clashes were the second major fighting to break out in the area in less than a month.

There were conflicting numbers of insurgents reported killed and captured in the fighting, which began before dawn. Iraq's Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari told The Associated Press 30 insurgents were killed and 27 were arrested, including four Egyptians and a Sudanese man.

The U.S. military said seven suspected insurgents were detained and rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank rounds and 155 mm artillery rounds were seized. The American statement did not mention deaths.
So why hasn't a major battle outside the Green Zone not be daily news?

We can't control Haifa Street and no one wants to discuss this

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A Question

The boys at Sadly No! are having a problem.

Some people think this is not a destroyed building.

Some people are morons.

What do you think?

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A man down

Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images, for The New York Times

American and Iraqi soldiers on Haifa Street in
Baghdad. There, a sergeant was shot last week,
and one bullet changed everything.

‘Man Down’: When One Bullet Alters Everything

Published: January 29, 2007

BAGHDAD, Jan. 28 — Staff Sgt. Hector Leija scanned the kitchen, searching for illegal weapons. One wall away, in an apartment next door, a scared Shiite family huddled around a space heater, cradling an infant.

After Staff Sgt. Hector Leija was shot in the kitchen of a Baghdad apartment last Wednesday, Pfc. Aaron Barnum retrieved the sergeant’s helmet.

It was after 9 a.m. on Wednesday, on Haifa Street in central Baghdad, and the crack-crack of machine-gun fire had been rattling since dawn. More than a thousand American and Iraqi troops had come to this warren of high rises and hovels to disrupt the growing nest of Sunni and Shiite fighters battling for control of the area.

The joint military effort has been billed as the first step toward an Iraqi takeover of security. But this morning, in the two dark, third-floor apartments on Haifa Street, that promise seemed distant. What was close, and painfully real, was the cost of an escalating street fight that had trapped American soldiers and Iraqi bystanders between warring sects.

And as with so many days here, a bullet changed everything.

It started at 9:15 a.m.

“Help!” came the shout. “Man down.”

“Sergeant Leija got hit in the head,” yelled Specialist Evan Woollis, 25, his voice carrying into the apartment with the Iraqi family. The soldiers from the sergeant’s platoon, part of the Third Stryker Brigade Combat Team, rushed from one apartment to the other.

In the narrow kitchen, a single bullet hole could be seen in a tinted glass window facing north.

The platoon’s leader, Sgt. First Class Marc Biletski, ordered his men to get down, away from every window, and to pull Sergeant Leija out of the kitchen and into the living room.

“O.K., everybody, let’s relax,” Sergeant Biletski said. But he was shaking from his shoulder to his hand.

Relaxing was just not possible. Fifteen feet of floor and a three-inch-high metal doorjamb stood between where Sergeant Leija fell and the living room, out of the line of fire. Gunshots popped in bursts, their source obscured by echoes off the concrete buildings.

“Don’t freak out on me, Doc,” Sergeant Biletski shouted to the platoon medic, Pfc. Aaron Barnum, who was frantically yanking at Sergeant Leija’s flak jacket to take the weight off his chest. “Don’t freak out.”

Two minutes later, three soldiers rushed to help, dragging the sergeant from the kitchen. A medevac team then rushed in and carried him to a Stryker armored vehicle outside, around 9:20. He moaned as they carried him down the stairs on a stretcher.

The men of the platoon remained in the living room, frozen in shock. They had a problem. Sergeant Leija’s helmet, flak jacket, gear and weapon, along with that of at least one other soldier, were still in the exposed area of the kitchen. They needed to be recovered. But how?

“We don’t know if there’s friendlies in that building,” said Sgt. Richard Coleman, referring to the concrete complex a few feet away from where Sergeant Leija had been shot. Sergeant Biletski, 39, decided to wait. He called for another unit to search and clear the building next door.

The additional unit needed time, and got lost. The men sat still. Sergeant B, as his soldiers called him, was near the wall farthest from the kitchen, out of sight from the room’s wide, shaded window. Sergeant Woollis, Private Barnum, Sergeant Coleman and Specialist Terry Wilson sat around him.

Together, alone, trapped in a dark room with the blood of their comrade on the floor, they tried to piece together what had happened. Maybe the sniper saw Sergeant Leija’s silhouette in the window and fired. Or maybe the shot was accidental, they said, fired from below by Iraqi Army soldiers who had been moving between the buildings.

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How to march

Mahablog posted this up a while back and it makes a lot of good points and unlike me, she marched during the Vietnam War.

April 12, 2006

Protesting 101

Filed under: liberalism and progressivism, American History — maha @ 2:56 pm

Long-time Mahablog readers probably have noticed I am ambivalent about protest marches and demonstrations. Even though I take part in them now and then, on the whole I don’t think they have much of an effect.

Ah-HAH, you say. The immigration marches just showed you. So why isn’t the antiwar movement marching all the time?

Good question.

Sometimes it ain’t what you do, but the way that you do it, that matters. Some demonstrations have changed the world. But in my long and jaded experience some demonstrating is a waste of time. Some demonstrating is even counterproductive. What makes effective protest? I’ve been thinking about that since the big antiwar march in Washington last September (when I suggested some rules of etiquette for protesting). I started thinking about it more after Coretta Scott King died, and I saw photos like this in the newspapers:

What’s striking about that photo? Notice the suits. Yeah, everybody dressed more formally back in the day. But it brings me to –

Rule #1. Be serious.

The great civil rights marches of the 1950s and 1960s should be studied and emulated as closely as possible. People in those marches looked as if they were assembled for a serious purpose. They wore serious clothes. They marched both joyously and solemnly. They were a picture of dignity itself. If they chanted or carried signs, the chants or signs didn’t contain language you couldn’t repeat to your grandmother.

The antiwar protests I’ve attended in New York City, by contrast, were often more like moving carnivals than protests. Costumes, banners, and behavior on display were often juvenile and raunchy. Lots of people seemed to be there to get attention, and the message they conveyed was LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT HOW CLEVER I AM, not NO IRAQ WAR. Really. Some street theater is effective — I am fond of Billionaires for Bush — but most of the time street theater is juvenile and tiresome and reminds me of bad summer camp skits. Except raunchier.

Which takes me to –

Rule #2. Be unified of purpose.

One of my ongoing gripes about antiwar marches is the way some groups try to tack their own agenda, which many others in the demonstration may not share, onto marches. International A.N.S.W.E.R. is a repeat offender in this category. Most of the marchers last September were in Washington for the sole purpose of protesting the war. But ANSWER hijacked CSPAN’s attention and put on a display so moonbatty it made The Daily Show; see also Steve Gilliard.

Message control is essential. During the Vietnam era, I witnessed many an antiwar protest get hijacked by a few assholes who waved North Vietnamese flags and spouted anti-American messages, which is not exactly the way to win hearts and minds –

Rule #3 — Good protesting is good PR.

I know they’re called “protests,” but your central purpose is to win support for your cause. You want people looking on to be favorably impressed. You want them to think, wow, I like these people. They’re not crazy. They’re not scary. I think I will take them seriously (see Rule #1). That means you should try not to be visibly angry, because angry people are scary. Anger is not good PR. Grossing people out is not good PR. Yelling at people that they’re stupid for not listening to you is not good PR. Screaming the F word at television camera crews is not good PR.

Rule #4 — Size matters.

Size of crowds, that is. Remember that one of your purposes is to show off how many people came together for the cause. But most people will only see your protest in photographs and news videos. More people saw photographs of this civil rights demonstration in August 1963 than saw it in person –

The number of people who marched for immigration reform over the past few days was wonderfully impressive. It’s the biggest reason the marches got news coverage. The overhead shots were wonderful. On the other hand, last September I wrote of the Washington march –

The plan was to rally at the Ellipse next to the White House and then march from there. Only a small part of the crowd actually went to the Ellipse, however. Most seem to have just showed up and either stayed in groups scattered all over Capitol Hill, or else they just did impromptu unofficial marches as a warmup to the Big March. … It would have been nice to get everyone together for a mass photo, but that didn’t happen. Too bad. It would have been impressive.

As I waited on the Ellipse I could see vast numbers of people a block or two away. The Pink Ladies had a big contingent and were busily showing off how pink they were — LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT HOW CLEVER I AM — but they seemed to evaporate once the official march started. (Re-read Rules #1 and #2.)

Anyway, as a result, there were no photos or videos to document for the world how big the crowd really was. You had to be there.

A sub-rule — IMO, an occasional REALLY BIG demonstration that gets a lot of media attention is way better than a steady drizzle of little demonstrations that become just so much background noise..

Rule #5 — Be sure your opposition is uglier/more hateful/snottier than you are.

In the 1950s and 1960s white television viewers were shocked and ashamed to see the civil rights marchers — who were behaving nicely and wearing suits, remember — jeered at by hateful racists. And when those redneck Southern sheriffs turned fire hoses and attack dogs on the marchers, it pretty much doomed Jim Crow to the dustbin of history. I think Cindy Sheehan’s encampment in Crawford last August, although a relatively small group, was such a success because of the contrast between Sheehan and the Snot-in-Chief cruising by in his motorcade without so much as a how d’you do. Truly, if Bush had invited the Sheehan crew over for lemonade and a handshake, the show would’ve been over. But he didn’t.

This takes us back to rules #1 and #2. You don’t win support by being assholes. You win support by showing the world that your opponents are assholes.

Rule #6 — Demonstrations are not enough.

It’s essential to be able to work with people in positions of power to advance your agenda. And if there aren’t enough people in power to advance your agenda, then get some. Frankly, I think some lefties are caught up in the romance of being oppressed and powerless, and can’t see beyond that.

Remember, speaking truth to power is just the first step. The goal is to get power for yourself.

Any more rules you can think of?

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Myth and reality

Recently people have commented that they'd like to see a general strike or a new anti-war movement, and frankly that amused me.

Because if you want to talk about living in the past, a fictional past, that's a good way to start.

Let's state the obvious: the anti-war movement failed. Badly.

It alienated the middle class, it failed to gain any congressional victories and anti-war legislators were defeated (Al Gore,Sr, Ralph Yarborough)while US troops were in Vietnam. It also led to two Nixon elections.

While many may feel some misty colored memories for the antiwar movement, it's mostly nostalgia. People say "we stopped the war" and I nearly have to laugh out loud. They didn't stop shit.

So how did the Vietnam War end?

The US Army stopped working.

By 1971, the US Army was rife with drug abuse, racial tension, and an inability to function in combat. Soldiers took to monkey wrenching the system. People want to give credit to a GI movement, but there is no evidence that other than writing newspapers and reflecting low morale, that it did anything to end the war.

The reality is that the soldiers opted for passive resistance, sometimes violent resistance. They wouldn't patrol, they would cover for people living off post, they would alter forms. In some cases, you had combat refusals or combat avoidance.

Even fragging has been overblown. Most of the violent assaults were committed by rear eschalon troops in disputes over drugs or race.

In 1970 this is the number of stockade rebellions in the US Army



* Fort Carson - Sick-call.

January 28

* Great Lakes Naval Training Center - On-base riot.

March 2

* Mannheim Brig - Stockade rebellion.

March 13

* Mannheim Brig - Stockade rebellion.


* Stanford University - ROTC building damaged by fire.
* Fort Polk - Stockade rebellion.

April 9

* Berkeley - Anti-ROTC demonstration turns into riot.

April 15

* Fort Carson - Sick call.
* Fort Dix SPD - Sick call.
* Fort Lewis - Messhall boycott.
* Fort McLellan - Messhall boycott.
* Fort McClellan - Sick call.

May 20

* Camp Humphries, South Korea - Attempted fragging. An American guard and three South Koreans were injured, helicopter badly damaged.

May 26

* USS Richard B. Anderson - Sabotage.

May 30

* Ponchon, South Korea - On-base riot.


* Mannheim - On-base riot
* MCRD San Diego - On-base riot.
* Oakland - Attempted fragging.

July 4

* Iwakuni MCAS - Stockade rebellion.

July 24

* Camp Pendelton - Armory broken into, 9 M-16s, grenade launcher and .45 pistol stolen.

July 25

* Camp McCoy - Western Electric transformer and the central telephone exchange bombed.

July 26

* Fort Hood - Stockade rebellion.

July 27

* Fort Scott - Outdoor model of a Niki Ajax Missile destroyed in an explosion.
* Mannheim Stockade - Stockade rebellion.
* North Beach - Bomb thrown at North Beach MP Station.

July 27

* Fort Dix - Stockade rebellion.

July 30

* Fort Carson - On-base riot.

August 6

* Fort Monmouth - Sabotage.

August 12

* Camp Pendelton SPD - On-base riot.

August 12 - 13

* Fort Ord - Stockade rebellion.

August 17

* Camp Pendelton Brig - Stockade rebellion.

August 20

* Berlin - Black GIs riot.

September 12

* Chanute AFB - On-base riot.

September 16

* Chanute AFB - Messhall boycott.

September 26

* Fort Carson - Stockade rebellion.


* Alameda NAS - On-base strike.
* Fort Benning - Stockade rebellion.
* USS Deeley - Sabotage.

October 27

* USS Ingram - Sabotage.

November 10

* Iwakuni MCAS - On-base riot.


* Kadena AFB - On-base riot.

December 20

* Fort Hood - Stockade rebellion.

By 1973, the US Army was barely able to function, with indiscipline in the ranks and open racial violence.

People want to claim this was some "movement" of GI resistance, but that's a bit much. There was no overarching goal, no political philosophy. And a lot of the underpinnings of the violence was racially motivated. Some people didn't belong in the Army, some just hated it.

The Army stopped working and that ensured it would leave Vietnam.

When people, especially those who live overseas, call for dramatic action like a general strike, they aren't aware of America 2007. America is a land of crushing debt and underpaid workers. Most families live paycheck to paycheck. To lose a job is to lose health care and risk homelessness.

When people protested in 1968, jobs were easy to get and keep. That isn't the case today.

But I'm going to argue something else: the current antiwar movement has been a raging success.


First, 70 percent of the public wants the war to end.

Second, recruiting has been crippled.

Third, there is now an antiwar majority in Congress. War opponents are given a full hearing in public. Unlike Nixon, Bush is reeling in the polls over the war. The "silent majority" is against Bush, as are most of the editorial pages.

This domination of the antiwar position allows people to ignore protests and limit their fallout. The damage ANSWER does is limited because they can't define the antiwar movement.

The power of this movement isn't in the streets, it's in blocking recruiters, it's in electing politicians. It does things, quietly, differently, but far more successfully than those wishing for a return of the 1960's.

George Bush doesn't care about protests, hell, he doesn't care about Congress. You want to end this war, you need politicians, not protests.

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The dark side of the NFL

Those hits add up

Long After His Retirement, Morris Still Making Claims
Ex-Dolphin Fighting for Benefits That He Believes Are Due

By Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 28, 2007; Page E01

PRINCETON, Fla. He always found comfort in the lonely fight.

Eugene "Mercury" Morris, a star running back for the 1972 Miami Dolphins, has a favorite movie: "To Kill a Mockingbird." He has watched it countless times, ever engrossed by the fix that was in for Tom Robinson, an African American man accused of raping a white woman in an early-20th century Alabama town. In the heavy, hopeless air of that courtroom, Tom Robinson sits by himself facing a system too big to beat with only his lawyer, Atticus Finch, at his side.

"The guy was on trial where he simply could not win," Morris said.

At night, in a two-story house half an hour south of Miami, Mercury Morris sits at his kitchen table and sees himself as a real-life Tom Robinson fighting all alone. He is 60 years old, and football has left him with a spine that had to be fused together with pieces of a dead man's bone. Several doctors have told him the injury has destroyed important nerves and this gives him, on occasion, debilitating headaches that drive him to the bedroom in the middle of the day, where he must pull down the blinds and pile towels across his face

He also said that the National Football League, or more specifically, its retirement plan, will not acknowledge that the headaches are a result of the injury and thus is denying him benefits he believes are his. He will not accept this explanation. And for the last 20 years, he has waged a one-man war against the plan.

"Which is just the way I like it," he said.

This is an issue gaining momentum among the league's retired players, especially those hitting middle age as old injuries turn into more debilitating problems and who feel the retirement plan is not helping them with mounting medical bills. And at this Miami Super Bowl, it seems to be a topic the league would rather go away.

Late last year, an appeals court awarded the estate of former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster more than $1.5 million in disability pay from the plan. It was the first successful challenge of the plan's rules and it has given hope to many of the players who feel left out.

Which was all Morris needed.

Because there also is this about Mercury Morris, who is second in NFL history among running backs with an average of 5.14 yards per carry: He is obsessive. The kitchen table is strewn with legal documents obtained by Freedom of Information requests; they spill over to the counter and up to the sink. He has read them so many times he can quote from them precisely without even looking.

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A new movement

(AFP/Nicholas Kamm)

Student Protesters, Fighting Image of Apathy, Call for a Cohesive Movement
Student Activists Call for Peace, a Cohesive Movement at U.S. Colleges

By Megan Greenwell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 28, 2007; Page A08

As the bulk of war protesters chanted "this is what democracy looks like" on the Mall yesterday, a few hundred gathered separately on the south edge of the Mall.

Members of the College Democrats of America mingled with the more radical Students for a Democratic Society and the Communist Youth Movement. Many held signs proclaiming themselves "another future leader against the war." Some danced. Some clapped. Others passed around a joint. Disparate in their affiliations, they were united in their chants: "College, not combat."

Since the war began nearly four years ago, many Vietnam-era antiwar activists have publicly lamented what they see as apathy among today's college students. They wonder whether the absence of a draft and a culture of pop music and reality television have distracted young people from civic responsibilities.

But among the hundreds of students on the Mall yesterday, dozens of whom drove all night to get to Washington for the protest, the prevailing sentiment was that their generation had been unfairly maligned and that the antiwar movement is growing stronger every day.

"I do think we're misrepresented as being lazy, ignorant and unaware of current events," said Sarah Searle, 19, a sophomore at the University of Virginia. "There's no huge movement going on like during Vietnam, but that doesn't mean we're apathetic."

The students at yesterday's protest noted that their efforts have not had the iconic touchstones of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when shootings at Kent State and the student takeover at Columbia University stirred U.S. consciousness. Still, there are signs, they said, of a building resistance to the war in Iraq and other U.S. foreign policy initiatives.

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I knew this would happen

Erik S. Lesser for The New York Times

Memorabilia at the Beech Island, S.C., estate of
James Brown, who died at 73 on Christmas Day in Atlanta.

Gone but Hardly Forgotten, an Idol Isn’t Buried Yet, Either

Published: January 28, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga., Jan. 24 — More than a month after the death of the legendary soul singer James Brown, his body still has not been laid to rest, a circumstance that has dismayed his friends and bewildered residents here in the town that has honored him as a native son.

The grave of Mr. Brown’s third wife, in Augusta, suggests he wished to be buried there. Others want him to be laid to rest in South Carolina.

“He wrote a song about this,” said Charles A. Reid Jr., a funeral director and a lifelong friend who is holding Mr. Brown’s body while his survivors and the trustees of his estate squabble over control. “ ‘Papa Don’t Take No Mess.’ That’s what he’d be hollering now.”

The six children Mr. Brown acknowledged in his will want his body placed in a mausoleum on his 60-acre property just across the South Carolina state line near the Savannah River, an estate they hope will become a museum and memorial park akin to Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley in Memphis, which has long been a lucrative tourist attraction. But the children are in a financial dispute with the trustees of the Brown estate, and it is possible Mr. Brown will not be laid to rest until it is settled.

In recent weeks, Mr. Brown’s body, sealed in a gleaming golden coffin, has been kept in a temperature-controlled room at his Beech Island, S.C., home. Since late December, when Mr. Brown was given a star-studded send-off complete with costume changes between memorial services in three cities, his final wishes have been the subject of at least two lawsuits. Still, a spokeswoman for the six children insisted that logistics were causing the wait.

“It’s only been a month since he died,” said the spokeswoman, Debra Opri, a Beverly Hills lawyer. “They’re trying to get engineers out to the site, they’re getting a mausoleum done. The property may have to be rezoned. That kind of thing.”

It is not clear, however, that Mr. Brown’s children will control what happens to the 60-acre property, where they have said they would like his tomb to be placed.

In a will read to survivors on Jan. 11, Mr. Brown left the bulk of his assets, including the Beech Island property and the copyrights to his extensive music catalog, in the care of three of his business managers, who are trustees of his estate.

The six children were left to divide Mr. Brown’s personal effects, a bequest of significantly less value. Those children and eight of Mr. Brown’s grandchildren filed a lawsuit last week in Aiken, S.C., to remove the three trustees, citing mismanagement of their father’s finances and conflicts of interest.

A letter included in the court filings against the trustees suggests that all three men, Alfred A. Bradley, Albert H. Dallas and David G. Cannon, stand to profit from the sale of Mr. Brown’s music catalog, a deal that is already being negotiated.

Complicated life, complicated death

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All fall apart

VACATED Sunni areas in the Baghdad
neighborhood of Mansour began emptying
out six months ago. Many businesses have
closed down on this once-bustling shopping street.

It Has Unraveled So Quickly

Published: January 28, 2007

A PAINFUL measure of just how much Iraq has changed in the four years since I started coming here is contained in my cellphone. Many numbers in the address book are for Iraqis who have either fled the country or been killed. One of the first Sunni politicians: gunned down. A Shiite baker: missing. A Sunni family: moved to Syria.

I first came to Iraq in April 2003, at the end of the looting several weeks after the American invasion. In all, I have spent 22 months here, time enough for the place, its people and their ever-evolving tragedy to fix itself firmly in my heart.

Now, as I am leaving Iraq, a new American plan is unfolding in the capital. It feels as if we have come back to the beginning. Boots are on the ground again. Boxy Humvees move in the streets. Baghdad fell in 2003 and we are still trying to pick it back up. But Iraq is a different country now.

The moderates are mostly gone. My phone includes at least a dozen entries for middle-class families who have given up and moved away. They were supposed to build democracy here. Instead they work odd jobs in Syria and Jordan. Even the moderate political leaders have left. I have three numbers for Adnan Pachachi, the distinguished Iraqi statesman; none have Iraqi country codes.

Neighborhoods I used to visit a year ago with my armed guards and my black abaya are off limits. Most were Sunni and had been merely dangerous. Now they are dead. A neighborhood that used to be Baghdad’s Upper East Side has the dilapidated, broken feel of a city just hit by a hurricane.

The Iraqi government and the political process, which seemed to have great promise a year ago, have soured. Deeply damaged from years of abuse under Saddam Hussein, the Shiites who run the government have themselves turned into abusers.

Never having covered a civil war before, I learned about it together with my Iraqi friends. It is a bit like watching a slow-motion train wreck. Broken bodies fly past. Faces freeze in one’s memory in the moments before impact. Passengers grab handles and doorframes that simply tear off or uselessly collapse.

I learned how much violence changes people, and how trust is chipped away, leaving society a thin layer of moth-eaten fabric that tears easily. It has unraveled so quickly. A year ago, my interviews were peppered with phrases like “Iraqis are all brothers.” The subjects would get angry when you asked their sect. Now some of them introduce themselves that way.

I met Raad Jassim, a 38-year-old Shiite refugee, in a largely empty house, recently owned by Sunnis, where he now lives in western Baghdad. He moved there in the fall, after Sunni militants killed his brother and his nephew and confiscated his large chicken farm north of Baghdad. He had lived with Sunnis his whole life, but after what happened, a hatred spread through him like a disease.

“The word Sunni, it hurts me,” he said, sitting on the floor in a bare room, his 7-year-old boy on his lap. “All that I have lost came from this word. I try to avoid mixing with them.”

“A volcano of revenge” has built up inside him, he said. “I want to rip them up with my teeth.”

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We are the majority

Tens of thousands march against Iraq war

By CALVIN WOODWARD and LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press Writers 1 hour, 14 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - Convinced this is their moment, tens of thousands marched Saturday in an anti-war demonstration linking military families, ordinary people and an icon of the Vietnam protest movement in a spirited call to get out of

Celebrities, a half-dozen lawmakers and protesters from distant states rallied in the capital under a sunny sky, seizing an opportunity to press their cause with a Congress restive on the war and a country that has turned against the conflict.

Marching with them was Jane Fonda, in what she said was her first anti-war demonstration in 34 years.

"Silence is no longer an option," Fonda said to cheers from the stage on the National Mall. The actress once derided as "Hanoi Jane" by conservatives for her stance on Vietnam said she had held back from activism so as not to be a distraction for the Iraq anti-war movement, but needed to speak out now.

The rally on the Mall unfolded peacefully, although about 300 protesters tried to rush the Capitol, running up the grassy lawn to the front of the building. Police on motorcycles tried to stop them, scuffling with some and barricading entrances.

Protesters chanted "Our Congress" as their numbers grew and police faced off against them. Demonstrators later joined the masses marching from the Mall, around Capitol Hill and back.

United for Peace and Justice, a coalition group sponsoring the protest, had hoped 100,000 would come. Police, who no longer give official estimates, said privately the crowd was smaller than that.

As I was watching this, unimpressed with the t-shirts and silly slogans which seem par for the course, when I saw Jane Fonda, I shook my head. I thought "is this a person you really want to make a point with?"

Then I said, "fuck it. We're the majority, we're the ones in the right. Let them bring Jane Fonda on, because she's with 70 percent of the American people and only the freaks support Bush and his warmongering"

We need to act like Bush is the one outside the mainstream, supporting this insane war of his. Sean Penn, Jane Fonda and Susan Sarandon are standing with the American people

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Not looking for the hot shot, Ari?


It turns out Ari Fleischer will be the next witness, once court resumes Monday. (Damn, just missed him!) The defense team wants to note—for the jury's benefit—that Fleische r demanded immunity before he would agree to testify, because this might cast Fleischer's testimony in a different light.

And here Fitzgerald makes a nice little chess move: Fine, he says, we can acknowledge that Fleischer sought immunity. As long as we explain why. Turns out Fleischer saw a story in the Washington Post suggesting that anyone who revealed Valerie Plame's identity might be subject to the death penalty. And he freaked.

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The illegal sublet

Marko Georgiev for The New York Times

Bill Golodner, whose work includes checking
whether people are illegally subletting rent-regulated
apartments, at work in Queens.

Illegal Sublets Put Private Eyes on the Case
Published: January 27, 2007

The house was one of those stucco numbers that grow in the suburbs like crab grass. The woman in question was a cagey brunette suspected of chiseling her landlord. She had a rent-regulated apartment in Manhattan that she seemed to be subletting illegally for twice what she was paying, while sleeping in the stucco house just outside the city.

Bill Golodner idled his sport utility vehicle beside the curb a few doors down. He clipped a surveillance camera to the steering wheel and brought the house into focus. He ran a rough paw over his shaved head, switched on a camera concealed behind the third buttonhole of his dress shirt, then slipped out into the chill morning, heading for the front door.

Philip Marlowe, if he were around, might be doing rent-fraud cases, too.

These are busy times for private investigators in the real estate racket in New York City. Market-rate rents are in the exosphere. Denizens of the city’s 1.1 million rent-regulated apartments have dug in, and landlords are shelling out serious money in search of grounds to dislodge rent-law violators and get a chance to push up rents when an apartment turns over to a new tenant.

At the confluence of those crosswinds, a private eye can flourish. Investigators like Mr. Golodner sweep up whatever incriminating evidence can be used by building owners and their lawyers to show scofflaw tenants the wisdom of, say, relocation.

Mr. Golodner and his partner, Bruce Frankel, both former New York City police detectives, say their firm has handled close to 500 real estate cases in the past year. They mine public records, plumb the depths of the World Wide Web, plant hidden cameras — trawling for proof of illegal subletting, income-limit violations and the improper use of apartments for businesses, even prostitution and drug dealing.

“Everybody thinks landlords are bad and we can steal from them,” said Mr. Frankel, a helicopter door gunner in Vietnam who later worked in the garment center and can still spot a tailor-made suit by the sleeve buttons alone. “We live in a life of double standards. We have all these great people who go to work, donate to charities, talk about how the war is horrible — but everybody still thinks it’s O.K. to have the Robin Hood mentality.”

Take the tenant who seemed to be allowing her Manhattan apartment to be used for illicit business. The owner of the building answered an ad for what Mr. Frankel and Mr. Golodner call a massage. Unexpectedly, he found himself in a building he owned. When Mr. Frankel and Mr. Golodner investigated, they say the found the tenant of record was paying $800 a month but living in Westchester County, while collecting $2,700 a month from the woman in the apartment selling her services.

When I covered real estate, I ran into this. I was astonished at the cleverness of apartment thieves

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Time to start watching the Libby trial

It's been a long, long time since we've mentioned the Libby trial, but you need to start reading FDL every day because the shit is about to blow.

Will Rove Testify?
The president's political guru—and counselor Dan Bartlett—have been subpoenaed by Scooter Libby's lawyers. What it means for the most-watched trial in Washington—and who's next on the witness stand.

A Web exclusive
By Michael Isikoff
Updated: 1 hour, 49 minutes ago

Jan. 26, 2007 - White House anxiety is mounting over the prospect that top officials—including deputy chief of staff Karl Rove and counselor Dan Bartlett-may be forced to provide potentially awkward testimony in the perjury and obstruction trial of Lewis (Scooter) Libby.

Both Rove and Bartlett have already received trial subpoenas from Libby’s defense lawyers, according to lawyers close to the case who asked not to be identified talking about sensitive matters. While that is no guarantee they will be called, the odds increased this week after Libby’s lawyer, Ted Wells, laid out a defense resting on the idea that his client, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, had been made a “scapegoat” to protect Rove. Cheney is expected to provide the most crucial testimony to back up Wells’s assertion, one of the lawyers close to the case said. The vice president personally penned an October 2003 note in which he wrote, “Not going to protect one staffer and sacrifice the other.” The note, read aloud in court by Wells, implied that Libby was the one being sacrificed in an effort to clear Rove of any role in leaking the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, wife of Iraq war critic Joe Wilson. “Wow, for all the talk about this being a White House that prides itself on loyalty and discipline, you’re not seeing much of it,” the lawyer said
Don't look for any pardon.

Libby's lawyers have been screwing up from day one and now they are in a position where they have to save their client.

In the first few days of testimony, Cheney is deeply implicated in trying to ruin Joe Wilson and Libby's claim of a bad memory is a joke.

A lot of people have wanted a single blow against Bush, but that isn't going to happen. It's going to be small blows. I think Rove wasn't indicted so this scenario would play itself out. Rove cooperated enough so he avoided winding up in the dock, but what is he going to say about Cheney?

Cheney is expected to be a witness. That, my friends, should be fun.

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That plan isn't looking too good

'If they pay we kill them anyway' - the kidnapper's story

In the second of two remarkable dispatches from behind Baghdad's front lines, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad meets the commander of a Shia death squad

Saturday January 27, 2007
The Guardian

Fadhel is a slim, well-muscled 26-year-old Mahdi Army commander with a thin goatee beard and smoothed down hair that looks like a flat cap. One day last month he described how he and his men seized a group of three Sunni men suspected of killing his fellow Shia. "I followed the group for weeks and then one of them crossed the bridge to Karrada [a Shia district]. We first informed a nearby Iraqi army checkpoint that we were arresting terrorists then we attacked them and put them in the boots of the cars. We only have six to seven minutes when we grab someone - we have to act quickly, if he resists we shoot him."

In this case, he said, the men were taken to Sadr City, the Shia slum to the north-east of Baghdad, where they were interrogated by a "committee" which ordered their execution. "We ask the families of the terrorists for ransom money," said Fadhel. "And after they pay the ransom we kill them anyway."

Kidnapping in Baghdad these days is as much about economics as retribution or sectarian hatred. Another Shia man close to the Mahdi Army told me: "They kidnap 10 Sunnis, they get ransom on five, and kill them all, in each big kidnap operation they make at least $50 000, it's the best business in Baghdad."

One day as we chatted in a small squatters' community to the east of Baghdad, Fadhel showed me his badge - a square laminated card that identified him as a "Amer Faseel" or "platoon commander" in charge of a unit of around 35 fighters. He is particularly valuable to the Shia militia because he grew up in a predominantly Sunni area south of Baghdad and still has an ID card registered in the Sunni town of Yossufiya. "I can speak in their accent, so I can come and go to Sunni areas without anyone knowing that I am a Shia."

It was these qualifications plus his military experience - he was a corporal in the Iraqi military police - that earned Fadhel the role of commanding a "strike unit". His main job is kidnapping Sunnis allegedly involved in attacking Shia areas. It is men like Fadhel, responsible for the scores of bodies dumped on Baghdad's streets daily, whom the US troops pouring into Baghdad will have to bring under control if they are to have any hope of quelling the city's civil war.

Fadhel is also called Sayed, a title given to men who descend from the Prophet Muhammad. Over glasses of hot sweet tea, he told me how his family of farmers, originally from the Shia stronghold of Najaf, had resettled in the 70s in the heart of the Sunni area south of Baghdad where he went to school with Sunni and Shia kids.

A year after Baghdad fell, his family had to move again; the area had become a hub for Sunni extremists who started evicting Shia families a year earlier than their comrades in Baghdad. After a neighbouring Shia farmer was killed they packed up and moved to Baghdad: "We had 15 donums of the best land, I was born there and worked there all my life. They told us you Shia are not from here, go away."

Fadhel and his family found themselves in the squatters' compound in east Baghdad. He and his brother joined the Mahdi Army and fought against the Americans in Sadr City and Karbala. Now he lives in a small rented flat in Dora, once a mixed Sunni area but now one of the main battle fronts in this sectarian war. To gather intelligence, he set out to make Sunni friends: "I live with them, pray like them, I even insult the imams and the Mahdi Army."

Fadhel and other Mahdi Army commanders describe an intimate relationship with Iraqi security services, especially the commandos of the Iraqi interior ministry. He says the Mahdi Army often uses these official forces in conducting its own operations against Sunni "terrorists".

"We have specific units that we work with where members of the Mahdi Army are in command. We conduct operations together. We can't ask any army unit to come with us, we just ask the units that are under the control of our men.

"The police are all under our control, we ask them to help or inform them that shooting will take place in a street and it involves the Mahdi Army, and that's it."

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Sorry, but we need your mom

Two Year Old Boy Loses Father In War; Mother Scheduled To Return To Active Duty

Army specialist Katie Lavely is certainly no anti war activist. She has proudly served several months in Iraq.

She's due to return to active service soon, but she doesn’t want to go. It has nothing to do with politics, but everything to do with her little boy, two year old Devic.

Devic just lost his father, also a soldier serving in Iraq. Lavely does not want to risk her son losing BOTH his parents.

Her ex-husband was Sergeant Victor Langarica. He died Saturday when insurgents shot down his helicopter near Baghdad.

Lavely knows when she signed up; she made a commitment, but tell that to a two year old boy.

Lavely says, “I'm expecting them to understand and leave me here with my son, but the military is the military. So, whatever they say goes.”

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A freelance union?

Labor Union, Redefined, for Freelance Workers

Published: January 27, 2007

Herding freelancers is a bit like herding cats. Both are notoriously independent.

Nonetheless, Sara Horowitz has figured out a way to bring together tens of thousands of freelancers — Web designers, video editors, writers, dancers and graphic artists — into a thriving organization.

Ms. Horowitz has founded the Freelancers Union, offering members lower-cost health coverage and other benefits that many freelancers often have a hard time getting.

A former labor lawyer, Ms. Horowitz intends to form a forceful advocacy group for freelancers and independent contractors, the most mobile members of an increasingly mobile work force. In addition, she is trying to adapt unions to a world far different from yesteryear, when workers often remained with one employer for two or three decades.

“This really is about a new unionism,” she said, “and what it means is to bring people together to solve their problems.”

Having signed up 40,000 freelancers from the New York area, she is now planting her group’s flag across the nation, hoping to herd far more of the nation’s 20 million freelancers and independent contractors into her union.

“These workers are the backbone for so many industries vital to our nation’s economy — I.T., financial services, the arts, advertising and publishing,” she said. “Yet these same workers are not afforded simple job protections or a social safety net.”

By creating a new type of union for nontraditional workers, Ms. Horowitz hopes to help revive the labor movement. Its membership has slipped to just 7.4 percent of the private-sector work force, down from one-third in 1960.

Unlike traditional unions, the Freelancers Union has no intention of bargaining with employers. Still, Ms. Horowitz says her group’s main goal is identical to that of all unions — providing mutual aid, in this case health benefits, to their members.

“More and more people are not going to get their benefits from an employer,” Ms. Horowitz said. “Our ultimate goal is to update the New Deal. It is to create a new safety net that’s connected to the individual as they move from job to job.”

Jennifer Lebin joined the Freelancers Union while living in Manhattan after seeing one of its subway ads that say, “Welcome to Middle-Class Poverty.” Ms. Lebin, a political consultant, bought the group’s health coverage and paid $20 to attend a union-sponsored seminar offering tax advice to consultants and independent contractors.

Ms. Lebin, who has moved to Chicago, expressed disappointment that she could no longer use the union’s health plan — doctors in Illinois are not part of the network. “If there is a way that the Freelancers Union could offer the same benefits to members outside the New York area, I’d sign up in a heartbeat,” she said.

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