Progressive Calendar 07.28.09
From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)
Date: Tue, 28 Jul 2009 05:23:42 -0700 (PDT)
             P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   07.28.09

1. NWN4P vigil          7.28 4:45pm
2. Single payer/Marty   7.28 5:30pm
3. RNC court watch      7.28 6pm
4. Single payer potluck 7.28 6:30pm
5. Salon/Abbey book     7.28 6:30pm
6. Blogging A-Z         7.28 7pm

7. Garbage/koff!/burner 7.29 11am
8. Media organizing     7.29 12noon
9. MAC public meeting   7.29 7pm
10. TrainHoodVolunteers 7.29 7pm

11. Mark Drolette - Fed up? Fed out!  [analysis/humor]
12. William Polk  - Obama report card: the list of negatives keeps growing

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From: Carole Rydberg <carydberg [at] comcast.net>
Subject: NWN4P vigil 7.28 4:45pm

NWN4P vigil every Tuesday.
Corner of Winnetka and 42nd Avenues in New Hope. 4:45 to 5:45 PM.
All welcome; bring your own or use our signs.


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From: LORI BUSCH <irolbusch0 [at] yahoo.com>
Subject: Single payer/Marty 7.28 5:30pm

DFL Senate District 45 hosts a Meet and Greet at Thistles Restaurant at
4168 West Broadway in Robbinsdale on Tuesday, July 28 starting at 5:30.
It will be some socializing with other DFLrs and then Joel Clemmer and
Senator John Marty, chief author of the MN Single payer plan - The
Minnesota Health Plan will be there to discuss what is currently happening
at the national and state level on health care legislation.
All are welcome.


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From: Do'ii <syncopatingrhythmsabyss [at] gmail.com>
Subject: RNC court watch 7.28 6pm

RNC Court Watchers are in need of participants to help with organizing
court information, documentation and etc.  RNC Court Watchers Meetings are
every Tuesday, 6 P.M. at Caffeto's. Below is announcement for our
meetings.

Preemptive raids, over 800 people arrested, police brutality on the
streets and torture in Ramsey County Jail. Police have indiscriminately
used rubber bullets, concussion grenades, tasers and chemical irritants to
disperse crowds and incapacitate peaceful, nonviolent protesters. The
RNC-8 and others are facing felonies and years in jail. We must fight this
intimidation, harassment and abuse!

Join the RNC Court Solidarity Meeting this coming Tuesday at Caffetto's to
find out how you can make a difference in the lives of many innocent
people.

Caffetto's Coffeehouse and Gallery (612)872-0911 708 W 22nd Street,
Minneapolis, MN 55405
Every Tuesday @ 6:00 P.M to 7:00 P.M
participate and help organize RNC court solidarity.
For more information, please contact: rnccourtwatch [at] gmail.com
THE PEOPLE UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED!


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From: Joel Albers <joel [at] uhcan-mn.org>
Subject: Single payer potluck 7.28 6:30pm

Next mtg to finalize actions:
Tues, July 28, at joels house, 6:30PM cookout, 7:30PM sharp, mtg to
finalize actions. (3500 35th ave s, longfellow,Mpls, 55406, take Lake to
35th ave, or Hiawatha to 35th Street etc). Bring stuff for the grill.


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From: patty <pattypax [at] earthlink.net>
Subject: Salon/Abbey book 7.28 6:30pm

Our first discussion of our first book of The Little Book of the Odd Month
Club is this Tuesday, July 28.  The book is Desert Solitaire by Edward
Abbey.  Even if you haven't read the book , come and listen to the
discussion of one of the best books i have ever read. Thanks, patty

Pax Salons ( http://justcomm.org/pax-salon )
are held (unless otherwise noted in advance):
Tuesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 pm.
Mad Hatter's Tea House,
943 W 7th, St Paul, MN

Salons are free but donations encouraged for program and treats.
Call 651-227-3228 or 651-227-2511 for information.


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From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at] mtn.org>
Subject: Blogging A-Z 7.28 7pm

A Discussion with Joe Bodell: "Blogger Extraordinaire"
Tuesday, July 28, 7:00 p.m. Minnetonka Civic Center, Shady Oak Room,
14600 Minnetonka Boulevard, Minnetonka.

Joe Bodell, moderator of the Minnesota Progressive Project Blog
(www.mnprogressiveproject.com) and a long time progressive blogger, will
discuss "Blogging from A to Z." The agenda will include: 1. What blogging
is all about. Who, What, What, Why and Where. 2. Social and media
significance of Blogging today. 3. How to effectively and efficiently
participate as a consumer and as a contributor. 4. How we can use blogging
to advance progressive causes. 5. How does blogging fit into the larger
arena of social networking. 6. Joe's other thoughts. Endorsed by: the WAMM
Media Committee.


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From: Andy Driscoll <andy [at] driscollgroup.com>
Subject: Henn garbage burner 7.29 11am

TruthToTell - 7/29: HERC - HENNEPIN COUNTY'S GARBAGE BURNER: Burn
More, Pollute More?
KFAI - 90.3FM-Minneapolis/106.7FM Saint Paul and STREAMING at
<http://www.KFAI.org>

Even as the new Twins Stadium takes final shape, pumping away almost next
door are the stacks of the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center, affectionately
or dismissively called the Hennepin Garbage Burner, which describes this
facility in less euphemistic terms. This facility's MPCA permit expired in
2003. That permit allowed Covanta - the private operating firm hired by
Hennepin County - to send 2.2 million pounds of pollutants per year into
the city's air. According to all documents, among the deadly compounds
contaminating our breathing apparatus are 2,200 pounds of lead - the same
lead we've been stripping off home and school walls for its effect on
brain development in children, among other ills. Another? Mercury -
already acknowledged as a fish killer and cancer creator in humans: 360
pounds per year. One source suggests that operators "admit" to have pushed
over 1 million pounds of mercury in one year.

Now comes Covanta (and the Hennepin County Board) applying to the city for
a conditional use permit (CUP) to increase that output by 21% - or 212
tons of garbage PER DAY more than the 1,000 tons currently permitted. Each
of the interested parties to this volatile issue are convinced of their
position - Covanta's being that their emissions are well below the
maximums allowed, disputed by some officials and several citizen
advocates.

On Friday (June 23), Covanta surprised the City Council's Zoning Committee
(and everyone else) when, at the 11th hour, the company asked for a
postponement of a public hearing on their appeal of the city's Planning
Commission denying the CUP. The hearing promised to be a lively one and
many citizen activists and advocates had taken time off to appear in
opposition to granting the appeal. Instead, Covanta will take its case to
a state administrative agency - the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) - to
get a ruling on whether a state environmental assessment worksheet (EAW)
is required of them to bump up their emissions. Some observers are
concerned that state approval of the project (if that is what it's called)
will provide data to strengthen the appeal. This could take weeks even
months - perhaps a year - to resolve.

TTT had scheduled a discussion of the issues in the heat of this
controversy, thinking that Covanta would appeal an adverse ruling by
the Zoning Committee to the full Council on the July 31st. The issue
isn't going away and Covanta and the county will comeback after state
rulings to revive their appeal. So, TTT will present a conversation on
the substantive and procedural issues confronting all sides in this
conflict.  TTT's ANDY DRISCOLL (with a possible co-host who's covered
this issue from its inception) will query environmental advocates and
citizens and, with luck, a Covanta and/or Hennepin County official to
present their positions.
GUESTS:
 JUSTIN EIBENHOLZL - Environmental Program Coordinator for SECIA
(Southeast Como Improvement Assn.)
 JOHN SIGMOND - Business Manager for Covanta Hennepin Energy
Resource, Co, LLP (or a representative of Covanta or Hennepin County)
 DARRELL GERBER - Clean Water Action
 INVITED: State Reps. Frank Hornstein or Karen Clark; A
representative of  Minneapolis Neighbors for Clean Air
 OTHERS TBD (a City Councilmember?)
AND YOU! CALL 612-341-0980  CAN'T GET US OVER THE AIR? STREAM TTT
LIVE and LATER

[The people profiting from the burner have long yachts, but they need them
to be even longer. For that, they need to burn more. So our air gets
fouler and some of us sicken and die early - who are citizens to stand in
the way of the longer length of the long yachters? We need to get it
through our low-class heads that they are few and infinitely precious; we
are many and worth less than three puddles of spit. -ed]


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From: joan [at] metrostability.org
Subject: Media organizing 7.29 12noon

Do-It-Yourself Media Organizer Roundtable
Noon - 1:30 pm
Wednesday, July 29
Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, Minneapolis

Has the mainstream media passed by your issue and organizing campaign?
There is a solution: do it yourself! Do-it-yourself media can be a central
part of your organizing campaign. Come discuss how you can integrate
homegrown media strategies into your campaign with other organizers from
our region.

Our presenters will discuss what tools and resources are available to
organizers for getting their messages and stories told to a broader
audience. Come join us to discuss alternatives to mainstream media and how
you can elevate your campaign with media strategies that you can do
yourself.

Presenters:
 Mary Turck, editor of the Twin Cities Daily Planet. Mary will bring her
perspective on citizen journalism.
 Bill Toth, communications intern at Headwaters Foundation for Justice.
Bill will discuss his work leading workshops for Headwaters Foundation
grantees on Web 2.0.

Organizer Roundtables are free but registration is required. Register at
https://www.thedatabank.com/dpg/322/personalopt1.asp?formid=event&c=2115984
Light snacks will be provided. Please bring your lunch!

Joan Vanhala Coalition Organizer Alliance for Metropolitan Stability
joan [at] metrostability.org


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From: Ron Holch <rrholch [at] q.com>
Subject: MAC public meeting 7.29 7pm

Metropolitan Airports Commission Meeting
The MAC will be holding a meeting for the cities and public on;
Wednesday July 29th at 7 p.m. at the Schwan Center in Blaine

The Schwan Center is located at 1700 105th Ave NE; Blaine, MN 55449 - in
the heart of Blaine's National Sports Center. You can access the Schwan
Center on 105th Avenue NE either from the west coming from Central Avenue
NE or from the east on 105th Avenue NE coming off Radisson Road NE.

This is an important meeting especially if you were unable to attend the
last MAC Public meeting in June at the Blaine City Hall.

ALSO; Because the MAC has again scheduled their meeting on the same date
as our meeting We will not have the CCNM meeting on July 29 and will
reschedule our meeting for an August date to be determined. -Ron Holch


--------10 of 12--------

From: Charles - Mpls <chasmn [at] hotmail.com>
Subject: Train hood volunteers 7.29 7pm

7-16-09 Forward from Jessica Hayssen
Below is information on a FREE volunteer training for neighborhood
residents. I attended the training a few years ago and found it
indispensable for grassroots organizing. If you have questions about the
training, feel free to call Jay Clark at 612 625-2513.

In-Depth Training For Neighborhood Volunteers

The Minnesota Center for Neighborhood Organizing is offering in-depth
training for neighborhood volunteers.

The training gives participants the opportunity to get individual direct
hands-on help for specific neighborhood projects. Do you need to get more
people involved in your organization? Raise funds for a project? Clean up
a problem property or close down a drug house? Organize a well-run and
energized neighborhood meeting? Do outreach to immigrants in your
community? You can get help for your project at this training.

This in-depth training is designed to help volunteers learn organizing
fundamentals and apply them effectively to their community groups. The
training combines comprehensive coverage of organizing basics, trainings
individually tailored to the individual needs of each volunteer and group,
long-term follow-through, and group support from fellow neighborhood
volunteers.

The training will take place once a week on Wednesdays for two hours for
five weeks. The first topic will be RECRUITING VOLUNTEERS. Other topics
will be chosen by the participants and can include such areas as:
*Leadership development *Issues identification *Grassroots and foundation
fundraising *Organizing under-represented groups *Running effective
meetings *Research *Media and communication

These trainings will be given primarily through questions,
problems-solving, and direct experience. The first meeting will be on:

Wednesday, July 29, 7:00 P.M. North Community YMCA 1711 W. Broadway,
Minneapolis Bus Info 612-373-3333 or
http://www.metrotransit.org/tripPlanner/Default.aspx Directions: Take I-94
westbound. 1.7 miles past the Lowry tunnel, exit at Broadway. Turn left
onto Washington, then turn left again onto Broadway. Go west 1.0 miles.
The YMCA is at the southwest corner of the intersection of Broadway and
Knox.

If you are interested in participating, or have questions, call Jay Clark
at 625-2513. TRAINING IS FREE.

Minnesota Center For Neighborhood Organizing 330 Humphrey Center, 301 19th
Ave. S., Minneapolis, Mn., 55455 Phone: 612-625-2513 Fax: 612-626-0273
E-Mail Jay Clark clark037 [at] umn.edu CURA Home page:
http://www.cura.umn.edu/index.html


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Fed up? Fed out!           [analysis/humor]
by Mark Drolette
July 25th, 2009
Dissident Voice

Today, I'm going to explain the Federal Reserve System. Hey, where ya
goin'?

First: It's not really federal. Nor are there reserves. (Not many,
anyway.) It is a system, however. (Well, a scam, actually, but those
behind the 1913 Federal Reserve Act that birthed the Fed bypassed that
identifier, for some reason.)

And, prey (that's you), who backed the act?

Oh, just everyday folks with names like Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan and
Rothschild who, a century ago, joined forces to saddle the U.S. with a
central bank that, naturally, they'd control, in turn giving them control
over the country's money supply.

Alas! If only our nation's framers had been smart enough to anticipate a
ploy like this and thus guard against it in the Constitution.

Um, turns out they were. Fresh off the colonies' disastrous experiences
with non-stop printing presses churning out worthless currency both before
and during the revolution, the founding fathers made sure to
constitutionally preclude both Congress and the states from issuing "bills
of credit". In other words, paper money. Silver and/or gold-backed coinage
was to be the name of the game.

Creating the Fed, which comprises twelve private banks spread regionally
throughout the U.S., was an end run around that, with the sleight-of-hand
working this way: Congress authorizes interest-bearing IOUs (bonds and
notes) to be sold to the Fed, which in turn gives Congress oodles of paper
money created from thin air and backed by nothing, an amazing alchemical
process authorized by, well, Congress.

Though a dozen banks are involved in the con, er, system, the head bank is
and always has been the Fed's New York branch. (Isn't it a remarkable
coincidence it was mainly the obscenely wealthy Big Apple banking
interests that pushed the Fed's creation in the first place?)

It's obvious what's in it for the bankers, but how about Congress? Well,
our "representatives" get money whenever they want for whatever they want.
This comes in handy for buying votes back home, uh, I mean, for serving
their constituents, like agribusiness, Big Pharma, weapons manufacturers,
etc. Oh, and also those in the banking industry who, if they screw up the
economy by being greedy little pigheads, can be duly punished by being
given trillions more faux dough scot-free by, who else?, Congress.

Let's hope this never happens.

Interest off bonds isn't the only perk for the Fed (or bankers in
general). But don't even get me started on fractional-reserve banking.
Otherwise I'd have to tell you how a few folks with a soft spot for things
like usury will get a charter, start a bank, take deposits and then start
loaning "money" at a nine-to-one ratio based on the total of those
deposits (now redefined as "reserves," ninety percent of which are dubbed
"excess" and thus, abracadabra, available for lending). That's right:
they're now loaning dollars that don't exist. A few strokes on the ol'
keyboard and, voila, instant money!

It gets better. Once those loans are repaid and come back to the bank as
deposits in other accounts, then that money is used as the basis to issue
more nine-to-one loans. And so on. Can you say "pyramid scheme," boys and
girls? This is why what bankers fear most are bank runs, when lots of
customers at one time are audacious enough to actually demand their
account balances in cash, money that is nowhere to be found because the
vast majority of it exists only in electronic ledgers. This is the very
moment the magic of making money from nothing disappears - shazam! - and
the locks and chains on bank doors materialize - sa-lam! - overnight.

Of course, those who created the Fed devised an ingenious way to guard
against runs. It's called the "lender of last resort". Know who that is?
It's you!

This brainstorm was one of the main reasons for establishing the Fed in
the first place. The rich and powerful bankers, tired of pesky competition
from other banks and the distasteful specter of having to pay for good
avarice gone bad, decided it would be much better to institutionalize an
ironclad way to protect their profits. It took a few years and some
political chicanery, but with a complicit president and a duped Congress
(oh why does this sound so familiar?), they finally hit the jackpot by
legislatively securing the mechanism by which they could place the
taxpayer squarely on the hook, I'm sorry, more strongly underpin the
economy.

Aren't you thrilled to know you're the one lending fabulously wealthy
individuals even more money to tank the economy and put you out of a job?
Just asking.

But how, exactly, during these times when things are a little tight and
you're considering the pragmatism of fattening up Fido, do you lend any
money at all, let alone trillions? Why, through the insidious tax called
inflation, of course. See, once the government, hand-in-hand with the Fed,
goes nuts and sells bonds by the trainloads thereby resulting in untold
un-backed dollars being pumped into the economy, inflation kicks in and
the less those dollars are worth. If this is not apparent now, perhaps it
will come to mind the next time you hook the oxen up to your cash-laden
trailer to go buy a loaf of bread.

So, if the dollar has nothing to support it (and it doesn't), just what
keeps this fiat money afloat? Two things: a) our unshakeable, bedrock
confidence in it (uh-huh) and b) because we have to. "Legal tender" laws
ensure, under threat of imprisonment, that we'll use dollars whether we
like it or not.

When the government does something like this (puts money into circulation
without backing), it's called "monetary policy". If we do it, it's called
"counterfeiting".

OK, that's enough misery for now. Who needs more gloom and doom anyway,
especially these dire days? There is one possible silver lining, however,
to the disaster that is our current economy: If enough pain manifests,
perhaps a clamor will arise to throw the Fed and its worthless, debt-based
system out on its money-changing ear, thereby precipitating a return to
real money, backed by gold and silver, as codified by this country's
founders. A long shot, true, but stranger things have happened. For
instance, who ever thought the Bush administration would actually leave
the White House? (Now if we could just get Dick Cheney to go back to his
home planet.)

Mark Drolette is a writer who lives in Costa Rica. He can be reached at:
markdrolette [at] gmail.com.


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The List of Negatives Keeps Growing
Report Card on Obama From a New Frontiersman
By WILLIAM POLK
CounterPunch
July 24-26, 2009

Probably like most of you, I am engaged in a daily attempt to make up my
mind about President Obama. I was an early supporter.

And as a former Washington "player," I am aware how difficult is his
position. I began to worry when he failed to grasp what I have seen to be
the early window of opportunity for a new administration - the first
three months - when the government is relatively fluid. As the months
have flown by, I have seen that there are many positive things, mainly in
his eloquent addresses on world problems, notably his speech at the
University of Cairo on world pluralism, but also quite a few negative
things. With sadness and alarm I find that my list of the negatives keeps
on growing.

Among them are the following:

(1) The commitment to the war in "Af-Pak" which (I believe) will cost
America upwards of $6 trillion but perhaps only a few hundred casualties
since we are relying increasingly on drone bombing. Just the money costs
could derail almost everything Obama's supporters hoped and thought his
administration would do. That amount of money is roughly half the total
yearly income (the GNP) of America. Of course, it will cost Afghanistan
far more.

Less dramatic perhaps but more crucial will be the further breakdown of
Afghan society, leaving behind when we ultimately get out, an even more
demoralized, fractured society and will probably lead to a coup d'etat in
Pakistan, further enhancing the danger of war between the South Asian
countries. The nominal leaders of Afghanistan (Hamid Karzai) and Pakistan
(Asif Ali Zardari), whom we practically appointed and with whom we have
chosen to work, are hated by their people and are human monuments to the
potential of government corruption. (Drugs, traffic in American arms even
to insurgents, shakedowns of citizens, sale of public offices, outright
stealing, kidnap for ransom...the list is long and as an old hand, it
certainly reminds me of South Vietnam.) We now have a window of
opportunity to get out of this looming disaster, but it seems that the
President is determined to "stay the course." Fundamental to my worry is
that I do not hear anyone around the President or he himself saying things
that indicate that they know anything about Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir
or India, much less "Pashtunistan", aka The Northwest Frontier. Ignorance
is rarely a very rewarding guide.

(Parenthetically, I have recently read the British "how to do it" manual
on "Tribal fighting on the Northwest Frontier" by General Sir Andrew
Skeen. Skeen spent his life fighting the Pathans. He warned British
soldiers back in the 1920s that the Pathans were "the finest individual
fighters in the east, really formidable enemies, to despise whom means
sure trouble." My copy is the only one I could find on the internet. It
survived in a British officers' mess library. I doubt that Messrs
Petraeus, McChrystal et al have ever heard of it. It makes more sense than
Petraeus's Counterinsurgency Field Manual.)

(2) the choice of personnel is (to me) baffling:

In the military he has chosen to keep on Bush's Secretary of Defense (who
signed if not wrote the latest version of the neoconservative-inspired US
National Defense Doctrine calling for, among other things, the "right" of
first striking almost anyone we choose if we don't like them), General
David Petraeus, whom I regard as a con man for breathing life into the
Vietnam counterinsurgency program (which has never worked anywhere in the
world in the last two centuries when tried by the British, the Russians,
the French, the Germans or us), and General Stanley McChrystal, who makes
statements that sound terrifyingly like the SS. His main claim to fame
appears to have come out of running the prison system in Afghanistan
where, apparently, some of the worst cases of torture happened. These men,
allegedly, have told Obama that he could win the war in Afghanistan "on
the cheap." So when his then principal military adviser gave a more sober
assessment - nearly half a million men - Obama fired him and listened to
Petraeus' siren song. Again, as an old hand, I cannot help remembering
Vietnam, where we went from 1,700 to half a million soldiers and still
lost.

The Pentagon budget is not only enormous but contains a number of
potential scandals. Our overseas bases now cost us over $100 billion
yearly. Since the DOD sops up over half of the disposable resources of the
government, Obama must get control of it. His task will be difficult
because the DOD and what President Eisenhower called the "military
industrial complex" have cleverly portioned out the work and procurement
on the program to virtually every congressional district. Congress will
opt for the program even if it bankrupts America. Congress will be Obama's
enemy if he tries any reforms. Even to try, he will need able advisers and
staff. He should certainly know better than to appoint the foxes to guard
the henhouse.

In the State Department's activities, the most attractive person is
Senator George Mitchell, but he does not seem to have any significant
power. I hope I am wrong, but he reminds me of my dear friend Governor
Chester Bowles after JFK fired him and used him only for window dressing.
The others have their own agendas. To be generous, one has to say that
Hillary has not yet shown enough to judge, but some of her statements
would be hard to worsen. I assume that she has begun to run for the
presidency in 2012. She reminds me of the wise saying that when a
president assembles his cabinet, he has all his enemies in one room. Dick
Holbrooke has a bully's approach to diplomacy in one of the touchiest
spots in the world. His browbeating, hectoring, shouting "Balkan" tactics
are ill-suited to Central Asia. In the White House, I think it would be
hard to find a worse choice than the new Special Assistant to the
President, Dennis Ross. Three examples of his skill: a) in the early
negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, when he was
supposedly the honest broker, he took a more disruptive position than even
the Israelis, apparently shocking even them; b) in the build-up to the
Iranian elections he sponsored and organized a program to "electronically
invade" Iran with destabilizing messages trying, more subtly to be sure
than the 1953 CIA-MI6 coup, to "regime change" it.

Whatever else could be said about the "Iran-Syria OperationsGroup", it
played right into the hands of Ahmadinejad and the rightwing of the ulama
and the military, giving them a proof text for American interferencein the
elections and thus may have backfired, since no issue in Iranian politics
is as sensitive as the fear of foreign espionage; (c) just before his
appointment to be the chief honcho on all the Middle East, Ross published
a book whose message was essentially 'let's try a bit of di-plomacy for a
short time. Of course it won't work, but it will justify our attacking.'
That is, his approach to peace-seeking is consistent and negative. Since
he is now Obama's point man, we are in for deeper trouble.

The Vice President, as you know, just reversed the final position of the
Bush administration, where Bush told the Israelis that America would not
approve an attack on Iran: Joe Biden essentially authorized it, saying
what they decided to do was their business, not ours. But those of you who
have read my occasional essays could tick off the list of potential
disasters for America and the Western world such an attack would bring on.
It is patently absurd to suggest that an Israeli attack (made with our
weapons and implicit approval) is not our business; indeed, regardless of
our weapons and our approval, the long-term consequences for our economy,
our position in the world, and our exposure to terrorism would be almost
impossible to exaggerate.

On the CIA I confess I am not a big admirer. It has taken on 3 tasks:
gathering information, evaluating it and performing dirty tricks. It is
usually agreed that over 80 per cent, perhaps more like 95 per cent, of
the information it accumulates comes from sources that you and I can
access if we have the time, energy and interest. Most of the rest comes
from technology (intercepts and code breaking which appear to be valuable
for counter-terrorism but, at least in my experience, are of near zero
value in 'strategy'; on satellite and overflight imagery much the same can
be said.) The second task, evaluation or "appreciation" is very difficult
at best, but the record, at least during the Bush administration, is
pretty poor. It was far better done then and during the Vietnam war in the
tiny Bureau of Intelligence and Research of the State Department. The
third task often leads to disasters and violates all that America should
stand for. There are scores of examples to back up this statement, but one
that has now come back to haunt us is the 1953 coup d'etat that destroyed
an elected and popular Iranian government that, had it survived, might
have avoided the 1979 Iranian revolution and relieved us of our current
worries there. We should get out of the business of espionage, kidnap,
torture and murder. Period. The current leadership of the CIA does not
seem to have addressed these issues, and President Obama has gone out of
his way to grant a sort of blanket pardon in advance lest anyone fear that
what he did was illegal or, more accurately, knowing that it was illegal,
might be called to court.

Back to the President: From my experience with life at the "brink," during
the Cuban Missile Crisis, I think that the President's initiative on
cutting back nuclear weapons is perhaps the best thing he has done so far.
True, it is a very modest step, leaving thousands of "devices" in place on
both the Russian and American sides, only urging Israel, which has
hundreds of bombs, to join the NPT, actually encouraging India to forge
ahead with its nuclear program and so probably moving inexorably toward at
least doubling the number of nuclear-weapon-armed countries rather than
(as I have strenuously advocated) moving from Russo-American cutbacks to
nuclear free areas and ultimately toward worldwide abolition of nuclear
weapons. But, at least it is a step in the right direction.

That's for foreign affairs.

There are, of course, for President Obama as for all previous presidents,
myriads of issues, but one that I believe will haunt him for his own term
and beyond is moral and constitutional: What are we doing - and what will
we be seen to be doing - to the vast but unknown number of prisoners
- terrorists, freedom fighters, accidents - we are holding indefinitely,
without charges, without recourse to the courts or that fundamental right
in our heritage from the struggle against tyranny, habeas corpus. What we
are doing at Guantanamo, Bagram and an unknown number of other "secret"
prisons is, as the courts have rightly, if belatedly and guardedly, held,
a violation of our legal system. We don't need the courts to tell us that
it certainly a violation of our moral code. Obama began by urging
transparency on this sordid issue, but he backed off. His Justice
Department is now appealing a US District Court order that the Supreme
Court decision on habeas corpus rights for Guantanamo also applied to a
set of prisoners at Bagram who apparently arrived there by rendition or
who, at least, are non Afghans. Of course, the most sordid issue is the
evidence of sodomy, rape and torture captured in the photograph collection
that Obama first wanted to release and then changed his mind. Those who
profess to know say that what these pictures show is truly horrible. Some
have compared them to the vivid record the Nazis kept of their sadism.
Even pragmatically, since they are known - indeed known worldwide - it
is questionable to say the least that hiding them will protect our
reputation. For what little it is worth, my opinion is that making a clean
breast of the evil and making an apology - as we have repeatedly urged
other countries to do in comparable cases - would be or could be the
beginning of the resurrection of America.

I am waiting for the Obama we elected to show up. I hope this drama does
not follow Samuel Beckett's script.

William Polk served as the Middle East expert on the State Department's
Policy Planning Staff during the Kennedy administration. He is the author
of Violent Politics: a History of Insurgency and Terrorism from the
American Revolution to Iraq.


-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

   - David Shove             shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu
   rhymes with clove         Progressive Calendar
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