Saturday, May 01, 2004

No, Bush Doesn't Treat Prisoners in the U.S. Like Those in Iraq -- He Treats Them Worse 

There he was on the TV screen, again, shucking and jiving, with that smirk on his face. President George W. Bush acted as if he was appalled by the news of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners of war. "Their treatment does not reflect the nature of the American people," said President George W. Bush Friday. "That's not the way we do things in America. I didn't like it one bit." We don't do things like that in America."

"We don't do things like that in America." Yeah, right. As Texas governor, born-again President George W. Bush executed more prisoners than any other governor in U.S. history, hundreds of them including a woman who had repented and found Jesus. Supporters of the death penalty can say that it was all legal and that they had it coming.

But what's harder to explain is the torture that Missouri inmates endured while they were incarcerated in Texas during Bush's tenure as governor.

The torture was exposed after a video tape surfaced in 1997 showing naked prisoners being kicked and beaten as they crawled on the floor at the Brazoria Detention Center in Brazoria, Texas. Four hundred and fifteen Missouri inmates were sent to the Texas facility to allieviate over crowding at Missouri correctional facilities.

Here's an excerpt from an American Civil Liberties Union press release:

ACLU of Missouri Condemns Prisoner Treatment

Tuesday, August 19, 1997

ST. LOUIS -- The American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri today condemned the Missouri Department of Corrections for failing to act sooner in response to reports that Missouri prisoners being housed in a Texas jail facility were subjected to repeated abuse by prison guards.

After obtaining a 1996 video tape of the abuse, which included guards forcing dozens of prisoners to crawl naked along prison floors while guards kicked and beat them, zapped their backsides and genitals with stun guns, and had guard dogs bite prisoners, the corrections department announced Friday that Missouri was canceling its $6 million contract with the Brazoria Detention Center in Brazoria Texas, which was housing 415 Missouri inmates as part of Missouri’s cell-leasing program in Texas.

Friday, April 30, 2004

1932: MacAurthur's Proudest Hour 

I first learned this story from my father. In 1932, World War I vets squatted in Washington in an effort to have Congress release war bonuses to help them endure the Great Depression. They didn't get their bonuses. Instead, President Herbert Hoover ordered the Army to attack its own veterans. The attack was led by Gen. Douglas MacAurthur. Other high-ranking military officers involved in leading the charge against the veterans, their wives and children included Dwight Eisenhower and George Patton.

From the People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn:

"... The anger of the veteran of the First World War, now without work, his family hungry, led to the march of the Bonus Army to Washington in the spring and summer of 1932. War veterans, holding government bonus certificates which were due years in the future, demanded that Congress pay on them now, when the money was desperately needed. And so they began to move to Washington from all over the country, with wives and children or alone. They came in broken down old autos, stealing rides on feight trains or hitchhiking. The were miners from West Virginia, sheet metal workers from Columbus, Georgia, and unemployed Polish veterans from Chicago. One family -- husband, wife and three-year-old boy -- spent three months on feight trains coming from Califoria. Chief Running Wolf, a jobless Mescalero Indian from New Mexico, showed up in full Indian dress, with bow and arrow.

More than 20,000 came. Most camped across the Potomac River from the Capitol on Anacostia Flats where as John Dos Passos wrote, "the men are sleeping in little lean-tos built out of old newspapers, cardboard boxes, packing crates, bits of tin or taraper roofing, every kind of cockeyed makeshift shelter from the rain scraped together out of the city dump." The bill to pay off the bonus passed the House, but was defeated by the Senate, and some veterans, discouraged left. Most stayed -- some encamped in government buildings near the Capitol, the rest on Anacostia Flats, and President Hoover ordered the army to evict them.

Four troops of cavalry, four companies of infantry, a machine gun squadron and six tanks assmembled near the White House. General Douglas MacAurthur was in charge of the operation, Major Dwight Eisenhower his aide. George S. Patton was on of the officers. MacAurthur led his troops down Pennsylvania Avenue, used tear gas to clear veterans out of the old buildings, and set the buildings on fire. Then the army moved ac ross the bridge to Anacostia. Thousands of veterans, wives, children began to run as the tear gas spread. The soldiers set fire to some of the huts, and soon the whole encampment was ablaze. When it was all over, two veterans had been shot to death, an eleven-week-old baby had died, and eight-year-old boy was partially blinded by gas, two police had fractured skulls , and a thousand veterans were injured by gas.

A Picture's Worth a 1,000 Words 

Photographs of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners of war by American and British forces are being published by the London press, including the Daily Mirror, which has obtained images of British troops urinating on their captives. [see the photos]

Bad Juju: Announcing the June 30 Turnover Spells Doom in Arab Eyes  

The U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority's stated goal of granting Iraqi sovereignty on June 30 breaks a traditional Arab custom, according to a traveler's guidebook to the Middle East.

In The Travelers' Guide to Middle Eastern and North African Customs & Manners, Elizabeth Devine and Nancy L. Braganti note that Arabs believe that annoucing a date for any contract before it is finalized will jinx the agreement before it ever takes effect.

This idea is rooted in thousands of years of Arab culture. Western paperback guidebooks tell of it. Who are the stupid idiots at the Defense and State Departments who dreamed up this arbitrary date? How can I pull a book off my bookshelf and randomly discover this important concept in Arab thinking, when the policy wonks in Washington and Baghdad didn't even consider it?

According to the authors: "Arabs think it is bad luck to talk too much about the future. They consider it unlucky to announce anything (e.g., an agreement or a contract) before it is truly final.

Traveler's Tips for the Middle East 

from the Traveler's Guide to Middle Eastern and Northe African Customs & Manners by Elizabeth Devine and Nancy L. Braganti, St. Martin's Press, 1991, (with my annotations):

* Don't glance at your watch while you're talking with someone. It's insulting and considered a rejection of the person you're with.

* Be sure that you don't phrase questions in an aggressive manner. Arabs won't respond well.

* Expect to hear many euphemisms when Arabs talk about misfortune, illness or death. They believe that discussing the matter makes the situation worse. Therefore, they will refer to someone who is seriously ill as being "a bit tired."

*Never point the sole of your shoes or feet at an Arab, since this action signifies contempt.

* Don't light your cigarette from the bowl of a water pipe while the pipe is being smoked.

* Be aware that use of the right hand for eating has become ingrained in Arabs because when people lived in the desert, thre was little water to wash the left hand -- the hand used for cleaning oneself after using the tiolet.

* Be advised that it is very important to learn to read Arabic numerals. (Aren't Western numbers based on the Arabic system?)

* Remember that upper-class Arabs never do manual work of any kind in front of others, because such work is considered beneath their status. (some customs are the same, East or West)

* Never point your finger at anyone. (As in, Uncle Sam Wants You!)

* Realize that in some countries, in hotels people listen in on phone conversations as a matter of routine. Don't discuss anything in a phone conversation that you would not want overheard. (Just like the U.S. now under the Patriot Act.)

* Remember that Arabs consider dogs unclean and never have them as pets in their homes. If you have a pet with you in the Arab world, never allow it near visitors (or it may end up as the main entre).

* Prepare to make several trips to accomplish your goal. It takes an average of three visits to accomplish anything.

* The general approach to business is it's all from the top (some customs are the same, East or West)

* Since all decisions are made by one person, try to identify that person. It will not necessarily be the person who does the most talking at a meeting. One American businessman says his trick is to find the man with the most expensive watch.

* Many Arabs are very knowledgeable about and interested in the sports of other countries. They have also seen many of the nighttime soap operas, such as Dallas and Dynasty and are interested in those shows and their stars. (When in doubt, talk about Sammy Sosa or Fear Factor)

* Keep your planned departure date to yourself. If your Arab counterparts know that you plan to leave on a certain date, they'll make their decision at the last minute, and you probably won't get the price that you want.

* Be especially alert to avoid camels when driving at night. They are probably the major hazard of night driving, since you can't see them because they're the same color as the landscape. They also have the right of way -- camels came before cars.

* Never drive in the Sahara in the summer. The heat is intolerable.

* The belief that God has direct control over everything that happens tends to make Muslims -- especially older, more traditional ones -- fatalistic. A word you'll hear constantly is "Insha' allah," meaning "God willing."

* Keep in mind that, since giving alms to the poor is an important part of Islam, begging is an Islamic institution.

* Arabs think it is bad luck to talk too much about the future. They consider it unlucky to announce anything (e.g., an agreement or a contract) before it is truly final (like the June 30th deadline in Iraq).

Saddam Double Takes Command of Fullujah Force 

Jasim Mohamed Saleh, the former Iraqi general who is being paid by the U.S. Marines to restore order in Fullujah, is a dead ringer for deposed strongman Saddam Hussein.

What's in a Name? 

Reuters news service spells the Iraqi city Fulluja; the Associated Press spells it Fullujah.

A Caveat from Strunk and White 

"Muddiness is not merely a disturber of prose, it is also a destroyer of life, or hope: death on the highway caused by a badly worded road sign, heartbreak among lovers caused by a misplaced phrase in a well-intentioned letter, anguish of a traveler to be met at a railroad station and not being met because of a slipshod telegram." -- William Strunk and E.B. White, The Elements of Style

Kudos to Posties Michael Shaw and Doug Moore  

You gotta wonder about the news judgement of the editors at St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Today's front page of the Metro section is dominsted with a photograph of a book fair goer in bib overalls dashing to buy used LPs. The same edition of the newsp aper buries a story on an Eastside developer's fraudulent activities on page 6B with the obituaries.

Reporter Michael Shaw of the Post details the dodgy background of Philip H. Cohn, a developer who has been indicted by the feds on 20 charges r anging from money laundering to environmental violations.

Shaw, who was aided by reporter Doug Moore, reveals that Cohn claimed to live in an office in East St. Louis and voted in Illinois elections even though he lived across the river in Missouri in a posh townhouse in St. Louis' Central West End. Cohn's partner Nathan Parienti also claimed the office, at 501 St. Louis Avenue in East St. Louis, as a residence.

The Shaw and Moore's reporting is excellent, as is the writing. The story's lede is a real gem:

"Around the corner from the decrepit Collinsville Avenue business district of East St. Louis -- where the once majestic Majestic theater sits shuttered and the remaining businesses lean towarrd check cashing and wig shops -- sits an unlikely home f or a successful real estate developer. ..."

Shaw's story should have been featured on page A1 not B6. Shaw and Moore had to dig up voting records and land records to put this piece together. This is the kind of news that St. Louis readers are rarely p rovided. Instead of getting the credit the story deserves, editors buried it on the back page with the obituaries. Evidently, no good deed goes unpunished at the Post.

Catch 22 

The late Joseph Heller, author of the anti-war novel Catch 22, would be hard pressed to imagine a more ironic situation. After weeks of constant fire fights and a U.S. bombing campaign, which was suppoed to rout the insurgents in the Iraqi city of Fullajah, the U.S. has announced plans to arm and pay the same thugs it has been battling.

According to the Associated Press:

"A new Iraqi military force being propoesed to tame Fullajah's guerrills could bear a striking resemblence to the guerrillas themselves.

A band of about 1,000 Iraqis would be led by one of Saddam Hussein's generals, and its U.S.-funded payroll might include some of the same gunmen who have been fighting U.S. Marines. ..."

Say Cheese 

Sixty Minutes II this week aired photographs of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by their American captors. In one photgraph two members of the U.S. military, a man and woman, stand in a smiling embrace behind a pile naked Iraqi bodies.

Upstaging Irving R. Levine and Urinating on a Sacred Monument 

Leaking an Old Story
It's worth noting that Irving R. Levine is still on the air. Levine, a veteran TV newsman, still does an occasional commentary on the PBS's Nightly Business Report. Last night, the statesman-like Levine commented that a slight increase in inflation and interest rates might be a good thing because it would help retirees who are dependent on IRAs for income.

In 1973, Levine did a news spot in Washington, D.C., using the Department of Agriculture as a backdrop. He word about an inch of pancake make up on his pale face. Levine looked like the walking dead even back then. My friend Dave Ashley and I decided to sneak into the picture by crossing behind Levine as the camera rolled. Alas, the camerman quit taping and Levine had to start all over.

On the same afternoon, we toured the Washington Monument. To avoid the line at the elevator, we walked up the steps. About half way up, our earlier beer consumption caught up with us. We urinated in the stairwell and then joked about taking a leak in a national monument being our personal anti-war protest. Hey, it was the 70s, you had to be there. Homeland Security would probably jail us indefinately for such a brazen act now.

Bowl Me Over 

Gossip maven Deb Peterson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports today that Joe Edward's Pin-Up Bowl in the East Loop has been named one the nation's top hot spots by snooty Conde Naste's Traveler magazine.

Framing LBJ: My Brief Broadcasting Career 

In January 1973, my college roommates and I loaded up a Volkswagon bug with a bulky cargo of video recording equipment and headed from Baltimore to Washington, D.C.

We made the 30 mile journey to the nation's capital to cover a historic event, the funeral of former President Lyndon Baines Johnson. The school we attended, Antioch College, had a pioneering program in community broadcasting. Our cutting edge technology, which was on loan from the college, included a 30-pound battery pack and a black and white Sony camera.

After we arrived at the U.S. Capitol, we toted the equipment inside and started doing spot interviews in the halls of Congress. Then we retreated outside to await the funeral procession. Decked out in Vietnam-era army field jackets, with our long hair in waving in the January wind, we began taping the scene from beyond the barricades that had been set up.

Eventually, our antics drew the attention of the powers-that-be and a high-ranking military officer with all kinds of ribbons and medals on his chest came over to question us. The offical funeral directors obviously didn't know what to do with us. Under different circumstances, they would have probably just had a view helmeted goons come over and mace us. But on this solemn occasion discretion ruled over valor. The officer issued us press passes and seated us in the press gallery.

This was heady stuff. We found ourselves seated with the Washington press corps. Things like this happened in the 1970s. Conventions were brokens, barriers torn down. Within a year, Nixon would be ousted and Gerald Ford would be appointed president. Somehow Nelson Rockefeller would be named vice-president. All we had to do was show up with a camera and step outside the barriers and we were accepted into the fold of the Fourth Estate.

It was a bitterly cold day on Capitol Hill. As we waited in the temporary stands with photographers for the New York Times, Washington Post and network TV crews, we reveled in our elevated status. And then we waited some more. The glory of the moment offset by our numbing fingertips.

When the pall bearers finally came out carrying LBJ's flag-draped coffin, the power winders on the Nikons that surrounded us started firing like machine guns. Behind us a CBS cameraman zoomed in on the procession. Our camera crew went into action, too. But when we turned our Sony camera on, we found that our battery pack was frozen. So we just pretended to document the event with our new-found colleagues.

I don't have a video tape to show, but LBJ's funeral remains framed in my mind. †

Bush as the Anti-Christ 

At the root of the Bush Bund's misguided foreign policy endeavors in the Middle East is an unwavering belief that God is on our side. Bush he engaged the United States in a holy war. In this regard, his position is no less intransigent than the Islamic fundamentalists. †

The Randsom of Big Chief 

The decision by the U.S. Marines to withdraw from Fullajah reminds me of the O. Henry short story, The Randsom of Big Chief. Like the kidnappers in the story the Marines appear to have bitten off more than they can chew. In the O. Henry tale, the captor, an unruly child, drives his kidnappers to neogotate his return by paying parents to take him back. In Fullajah, the Marines have chosen to pay a general in Saddam Huessein's army to quell civil unrest.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Marines Hand Over Fullujah to Saddam's Henchmen 

In a strategic military move, the U.S. Marines have announced plans to pay Saddam Hussein loyalists to take the mess in Fullujah off their hands. Two out of three, military strategists on tonight's PBS News Hour applauded this as a brilliant move.

What's in a Name? 

In past postings, Media Mayhem has misspelled KTRS radio personality Wendy Wiese's name. The proper spelling is W-I-E-S-E.

Sinclair Broadcast Group Censors Recognition of U.S. War Casualties 

At some point, I plannedto satirize the PBS's News Hour's habit of silently broadcasting the names and photographs of those who have died in Iraq. I was going to say that because of the increased violence the News Hour was being replaced with an hour-long, silent broadcast of the war casualties.

I didn't realize that the acknowledgement of the dead -- in and of itself -- was an anti-war statement. But Sinclair Broadcast Group has shown me the error of my ways.

In a press release disseminated today, Sinclair, owner of Channel 30 and seven other ABC affiliates across the country, announced that it was banning Friday's broadcast of Nightline. St. Louisans will be denied the ability to view the program because Sinclair feels that host Ted Koppel's intention t o read the names of the more than 500 American casualties from the Iraq war is A political statement meant to undermine support for the war. [read Sinclair's press release and ABC's response]

Channel 30 Bans Nightline Broadcast 

Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns 8 ABC affiliates including Channel 30 in St. Louis, is censoring Friday's Nightline because the program plans to read the names of the all the members of the armed services who have died in the line of duty while serving in Iraq. Sinclair claims that reciting the names of the dead on the air is a political ploy meant to undermine support for the war. [read more]

"President Cheney" 

On tonight's Donnybrook program, panelist Wendy Wiese referred to the U.S. vice-president as "President Dick Cheney."

Negroponte: A Veteran of America's Dirty Wars 

The U.S. Senate is holding hearing on the nomination of John D. Negroponte to be the U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

Here's a partial bio on Negroponte's past diplomatic service:

Career diplomat John Negroponte has been
nominated by President Bush to be U.S.
Ambassador to Iraq. He would head the
largest U.S. embassy after what is now
admitted to be "limited sovereignty" is
turned over to Iraq on June 30.
Negroponte's record make s him uniquely
unqualified for this important posting.

Negroponte was political officer at the U.S.
Embassy in Vietnam from 1964-1968, the
height of the war, and during a period of
ex trajudicial executions and gross human
rights abuses, including massacres by the
infamous "Tiger Force" of the Army's
101st Airborne Division.

Negroponte was ambassador to Honduras
fr om 1981-1985 during which he oversaw a
ten-fold increase in staff and an embassy
that housed one of the largest CIA
deployments in all of Latin America. He
lied to Congress about his knowledge of the
infamous Battalion 316 death squad, and
managed illegal aid to the Contras fighting
the Nicaraguan government in direct
contravention of Congress' ban.

Negroponte was ambassador to M exico
1989-1993 where he shepherded the North
America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
to its conclusion. NAFTA has caused one
million Mexican farmers to lose their land
and livelihoods and undermined labor and
environmental protections in Mexico, the
U.S., and Canada. ›˝

The Brussels Tribunal 

Readers of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Riverfront Times probably never heard of the Brussels Tribunal. World views that run counter to the Bush administration's foreign policy rarely are reported by the St. Louis media.

I wouldn't have known about the tribunal had I not stumbled across the frequency from which Radio Netherlands was broadcasting late last night.

Yesterday, as I previously reported, I received a hard copy of a weekly newspaper from Springfield, Ill. The issue included a story about a leaked Coalition Provisional Authority assessment indicating that the situation in Iraq could erupt into a civil war. As far as I know, the story has not been reported by the mainstream media in the U.S.

The shortwave radio broadcast I discovered last night added to my growing sense that the news is being censored here.

The Brussels Tribunal, which was held earlier this month in the Beligium capital, had no power to impose a binding ruling. Nevertheless, the testimony by international foreign policy experts concluded that the U.S. had violated international law in invading Iraq, which resulted in the death of 10,000 Iraqi citizens.

The first such public tribunal was organized by British writer Bertrand Russell in 1 9 67 to oppose U.S. atrocities in the Vietnam War.

The conclusions of the 2004 tribunal are cited below:

Consistent with the tradition of the 1967 Russell Tribunal on the Vietnam War and the work of the People's permanent tribunal and other similar tribunals such as the one held in Brussels in 1991, the Brussells Tribunal met on 14-17 April 2004. This Tribunal is the opening session of the World Tribunal on Iraq, a series of hearings scheduled to conclude in Istanbul in 2005.

The Brussels Tribunal focused on the programs and policies proposed by "The Project for the New American Century" (PNAC), a predominantly neo-conservative "think-tank" that has advocated global US hegemony, primarily through the threat or use of military power.

The objecti v e of the Tribunal, working as a commission of inquiry, was to establish whether there was a link between PNAC's proposals and the foreign and military strategy of the current US government, and the subsequent invasion and occupation of Iraq. The Commission also examined the impact of policies and programs advocated by PNAC on the stability and security of international relations.

To establish its findings and shape its report the Commission heard testimony from specialists on international affairs and witnesses knowledgeable about the current conditions in Iraq. The Commission also relied on PNAC's reports and official US government documents, as well as written analyses (1).

 The Commission came to the following conclusions:

 1.. The PNAC program con sists of three main components:   1.. to establish US hegemony in the new century, relying primarily on military and technological superiority; 2.. to prevent the emergence   of any competing global or regional powers by imposing what is sometimes t ermed a "Pax Americana"; 3.. to exercise pre-emptive action against all perceived threats to American "interests" and security.

  2.. A significant number of signatories to PNAC's 1997 founding  Statement of Principles" became senior members of the curr en t US  administration, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. The adoption of those principles by this administration is evidenced by official White House documents such as "The National Security Strategy" of September 2002. These principles have been put into action through the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

  3.. According to a clear majority of States and a large consensus of legal experts, the invasion of Iraq constitutes an act of aggression, a breach of one of the most funda mental norms of the international legal order. This demonstrates that the implementation of policies emanating from PNAC and endorsed by the current administration runs counter to the principles of the UN Charter and undermines the United Nations itself, which bears the primary responsibility for the maintenance of  international peace and security.

  4.. The invasion of Iraq has resulted in more than 10.000 civilian  deaths. With each passing day of occupation, the number of victims grows, as do the gross violations of humanitarian law and human rights,  such as arbitrary detention, ill-treatment and deprivation in regard to basic needs. The situation of the Iraqi people has clearly deteriorated  and the promises of democracy and freedom have prove d to be illusory.  The constant use of the words "democracy", "freedom" and "human rights"  in such a context amounts to a complete perversion of those terms.

  5.. Far from bringing stability and peace in Iraq and the region, the invasion and occupati on have created instability and chaos. Moreover, the deliberate destruction of Iraq has effectively promoted the Israeli government's policies of further unlawful expansion and de facto annexation of territories as well as further annihilation of the r ights of the Palestinian people. The Tribunal noted that PNAC itself called explicitly in 2002 for the US administration to align itself with the views of the Israeli government. These developments increase hostility between the peoples of the region and the W est, contrary to the proclaimed objectives of making the world a safer place.

  6.. There is evidence of a consistent US strategy, as envisioned by the  PNAC report entitled "Rebuilding America's Defences", to establish  global domination by mi lita ry me ans. Contrary to claims that this  domination would be a "benevolent hegemony", it is more likely to lead to a state of permanent war. PNAC policies are based on brutal unilateralism and disregard for legality. As such, the ideas of PNAC  const itut e an i ntellectual crime. The war in Iraq is only one element of a global agenda which is linked with logics of the dominant economic system, inspired by neo-conservative ideology and supported by religious fundamentalism.

  7.. Due to the growing resistance encountered by the occupying powers in Iraq and other unanticipated difficulties, the United States and United  Kingdom have made cynical requests for the involvement of the United  Nations in Iraq, thereby pre-empting the sovereign rights of the Iraqi  people to determine their future. The United Nations should avoid complicity with -- let alone legitimize in any way -- the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. Any such action would further discredit  this world body. The UN should restore its leg itimacy through ensuring the complete withdrawal of all occupying forces and assisting the Iraqi  people in recovering their full sovereignty. Any involvement of the European Union or of NATO to help the occupying powers should be  refused.

  8.. Finally, the Tribunal calls upon the peoples of the world to demand  that their governments    

 ·    deny military, political, financial or any other support to the occupying powers; and

·    oppose the illegal implementation by occupation forces or their surrogates of any plans for the wholesale privatization of the Iraqi economy.

The Tribunal also expresses its solidarity with the Iraqi people and its support for their attempts at recovering their full sovereignty. [read more]

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

The Pinnacle of Deceit 

Pinnacle Entertainment, the gambling company bidding for a license in Lemay, Mo., has a dodgy regulatory record, including a $2.2 million fine from the Indiana Gaming Commission for supplying as many as a dozen prostitutes for casino patrons in late 2001.

Despite local opposition to the proposed casino, the company has the backing of a majority of the St. Louis County Council and the St. Louis County Economic Development Authority. The proposed casino also has the support of the influential Carpenter's Union in St. Louis.

Pinnacle has wooed the Missouri Gaming Commission by promising to build a casino on the St. Louis riverfront in addition to the Lemay site.

So far the St. Louis media has failed to report on the Pinnacle's checkered past.

The Indiana Gaming Commission levied the multi-million-dollar fine, after the management of Pinnacle's Belterra Casino on the Ohio River was caught supplying prostitutes to golfers who were staying at the casino's hotel in 2002. The case surfaced in 2002, when two female employees of the casino filed a sexual harrassment suit, claiming the casino management had ordered them to lure weathly Saudi Arabian gamblers, known as whales, to the casino with sexual suggestions.

Casino Watch, an anti-gambling group, has posted several excerpts from press accounts, which detail the scandal in Indiana:

IN-The last thing the state needs is more gambling. A case in point: the commission's heavy fine last week
against the former chairman of a company that operates a boat on the Ohio River. Former Belterra Resort and Casino Chairman R.D. Hubbard was fined $740,000 over allegations that the casino brought in more than a half-dozen prostitutes from California to entertain 48 wealthy male guests during a weekend golf outing las t summer. According to a lawsuit by two former female employees of the casino, which triggered the state investigation, the escorts fondled the male guests and allowed themselves to be fondled. The women who filed the suit said they were ordered to kiss a nd pat male gamblers and lure rich Arab men to the gambling facility.
"Dockside must be watched closely"/ No author given/6.25.02/Indianapolis Star

INDIANAPOLIS, IN -- An Ohio River casino must pay a $2.26 million fine and close for more than two days ov er allegations it entertained guests with prostitutes and money for gambling during a golf outing last year. According to commission documents, eight or more women, referred to several times as "hook ers," were flown to the casino on a jet leased by Pinna cle to entertain guests at a golf outing in late June 2001. The guests, who were chosen by Pinnacle officials, attended the tournament by invitation. They and the women also attended parties on two nights in the Celebrity Room, an area adjacent to a conce rt arena.
"Casino fined $2.26 million over allegations of prostitution"/ Mike Smith/7.30.02/Las Vegas SUN

IN-State Police also are investigating an allegation that an off-duty trooper attended a Belterra Casino party in June 2001 at which Pinnacle Enter tainment, the casino's operator, supplied prostitutes for high-rollers.
Belterra was fined $2.26 million by the Indiana Gaming Commission, the largest such sanction in state gaming history.
"Bill Seeks Police Force For Casinos"/Kristina Buchthal/3.10.03/I ndianapolis Star

IN-Pinnacle Entertainment, which owns two riverboat casinos in Louisiana and has a license for a third, is under investigation following a lawsuit that accuses the company of arranging for prostitutes to entertain
wealthy gamblers at a casino in Indiana. The plaintiffs reasonably believed the escorts were prostitutes, the suit said. Jack Strohm, Belterra's director of security, referred to the women as hookers, according to the suit. The escorts, one of whom removed her top, fondled the male guests and allowed the male guests to fondle them while in the casino's Cele brity Room, the suit states. Strohm also told Perry to pick up rich Arab men and bring them to the casino, according to the suit.
"Casino owner accused of prostitution"/ Associated Press/4.13.02/The Advocate/

IN -- Pinnacle Entert ainment was fined $2.26 million by the Indiana Gaming Commission for supplying
prostitutes and gambling money to attendees at a golf outing sponsored by its Belterra Casino Resort, in
Vevay, Ind.
"Casino Gets $2.26M Fine In Girls-A nd-Golf Scandal"/ Beth Piskora/8.6.02/New York Post/

VEVAY, Ind. -- The lawsuit filed by Gwen Perry and Logananne Sabline of Madison claims Perry was
demoted and Sabline was fired after they made sexual harassment comp laints. In its response to the suit, the
company also denied Perry and Sabline's claims that Belterra security director Jack Strohm had urged them to use sex to entice more gambling.
"Casino denies that it supplied prostitutes"/ Associated Press/6.20.02/L as Vegas SUN/

IN - The Indiana Gaming Commission imposed its largest fine, $2.26 million, against Belterra Casino today as part of a settlement following an investigation that the casino brought in hookers to entertain gamblers. Two former casino workers filed a sexual harassment lawsuit claiming that eight to 12 prostitutes were brought in from California and Louisville to entertain 48 wealthy male guests who had participated in a golf tournament at Belterra. Belterra officials has denied the allegation.
"Casino fined in prostitution investigation"/ Rob Schnieder/7.29.02/Indianapolis Star

EAST CHICAGO, IL - Belterra Casino is not expected to lose its license though the state Gaming Commission confirmed Monday the company founder brought prostitutes to a golf outing last June. From June 26-29, 2001, Hubbard brought in prostitutes on his private plane from California for the Hubbard Golf Invitational at Belterra in southern Vevay, Gaming Commission Executive Director Jack Thar said. The women entertained wealthy clients who were gambling at the casinos.
"Belterra Casino will keep license despite sex outing"/ Steve Walsh/5.14.02/Post-Tribune

VEVAY, Ind. - Belterra Casino and Resort could face more than $1 million in fines and possible probation
after complaints that the Ohio River casino arranged for prostitutes to entertain wealthy gamblers. Jack Thar, commission executive director, said that a company official brought prostitutes from California on his private plane for a golf outing in June at Vevay, about 35 miles southwest of Cincinnati. The employees said in their suit that they were told by the casino's security chief to "use sex" to entice men into the casino. "Belterra will pay, but license will stay"/ AP & Howard Wilkinson/5.15.02/The Cincinnati Enquirer

FLORENCE, Ind. - Belterra Casino will pay millions in fines and be forced to cl ose for 2 1/2 days in October to comply with a state commission disciplinary measure issued Monday. In its toughest sanction since Indiana gambling opened in 1995, the Indiana Gaming Commission fined the casino $2.6 million following allegations that it provided prostitutes to golf patrons last summer. "Belerra fined $2.6M, must close for 2 1/2 days"/Tom O'Neill/7.30.02/The Cincinnati Enquirer

VEVAY, Ind. — Indian a State Police are investigating the presence of an off-duty trooper at a Belterra casino party during which a lawsuit claims the casino supplied prostitutes for high rollers. The sexual harassment lawsuit says eight to 12 prostitutes were brought from Ca lifornia and Louisville to entertain 48 wealthy male guests who had participated in a golf tournament at Belterra. The casino has denied that it arranged for any prostitutes and said representatives of the state gambling commission were at the party in Be lterra's Celebrity Room.
"Gambling boats can stay docked"/Eric Solvig/6.24.02/The Cincinnati Enquirer

IN-Our position: The state is paying a price for its addiction to gambling revenues. "The management, the board of directors of Belterra, is not the type of corporate citizens we want in Indiana," said Gettelfinger, an Indiana Gaming Commission board member. Pinnacle also faces a federal lawsuit filed by two former female employees who say company executives ordered them to ma ke sexual overtures toward Arab businessmen at horse shows in Kentucky in hopes of enticing them to the casino.
"Not the way to do business in Indiana"/ Op-ed No author given/7.31.02/Indianapolis Star=

News Flash from the Onion 

Bush To Iraqi Militants: 'Please Stop Bringing It On'

WASHINGTON, DC—In an internationally televised statement Monday, President Bush modified a July 2003 challenge to Iraqi militants attacking U.S. forces. "Terrorists, Saddam loyalists, and anti-American insurgents: Please stop bringing it on now," Bush said at a Monday press conference. "Nine months and 500 U.S. casualties ago, I may
have invited y'all to bring it on, but as of today, I formally rescind that statement. I would officially like for you to step back." The president added that the "it" Iraqis should stop bringing includes gunfire, bombings, grenade attacks, and suicide missions of all types..

Report From the Rear: Journalism Ethics an Oxymorn? 

Writing in the St. Louis Journalism Review,Mike Martin, the host of The Science Guy on KFRU in Columbia, Mo., reports on a recent study by Mizzou J-School researchers on changes in journalistic ethics. [read more]-

The New Pentagon Papers 

A leaked Coalition Provisional Authority Memo Warns of Possible Civil War in Iraq

The expose arrived the old-fashioned way, via the U.S. Postal Service. When I opened the envelope, I found the latest issue of Illinois Times, the alternative newspaper of Springfield, Ill.

My unsolicited, complimentary issue included a story by Jason Vest, who was commissioned to write the story by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. The anonymous sender must have known that St. Louisans were being denied local access to an important news story. Readers of the Riverfront Times, St. Louis' alternative weekly certainly weren't provided this information. The RFT, which is owned by New Times Inc. of Phoenix, rarely mentions the war in Iraq. It could have published the same story because it too is a member of AAN. But it didn't. Whereas, St. Louis Post-Dispatch coverage more often than not gives a view of the war through the lens of the Bush propaganda machine.

Both big city publications were scooped, in this case, by a newspaper with a fraction of the circulation that serves a relatively conservative Midwestern readership.

The story by Vest is based on a leaked memo from an analyst working for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which is another way of saying the U.S.-led occupation forces in Iraq. The analyst wrote the memo to a superior in March, shortly before the latest round of fierce Iraqi resistance broke out.

Vest writes that the memo is "gloomy in most ... respects, portraying a country mired in dysfunction and corruption, overseen by a CPA that "handles an issue like six-year-olds playing soccer. ..."

The memo, says Vest, singles out the Iraqi Governoring Counsel as being particularly corrupt. Members of the counsel were selected because they represent the most powerful militias in the country. The memo accuses four members of the governoring of taking kickbacks.

Other revelations in the leaked memo include the following:

* Iraqi police are m a king a killing selling U.S.-supplied small arms on the black market.

* Members of the professional class in the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish communities are all arming themselves in anticipation of a civil war.

* Corruption within the Iraqi Governorin g Council is the fault of the U.S. occupying force, which is backing corrupt warlords.

* U.S.-led occupying forces are doing a worse job at securing Iraqi borders than Saddam Hussein's rag-tag army.

* The Penatgon is managing the war from Washington, prohibiting analysts from accessing the situation from Iraq.

* CPA leader L. Paul Bremer has centralized the Iraqi power structure in Baghdad, leaving the rest of the country to fend for itself.

* Restoration of power has been delayed due to plans by Bechtel, a U.S. contractor, to rebuild the entire system rather than repair it.

* Russian, French and German electrical parts , which could have restored the power grid, have been banned from Iraq because of sanctions imposed by the U.S. against those countries that did not support the invasion. [read the AAN story]>

Lying Liars  

"I was provided with additional input that was radically different from the truth. I assisted in furthering that version." --Colonel Oliver North, from his Iran-Contra testimony.

Whenever Condi Rice or Cheney or Rummy or Wolfowitz open their mouths, they talk in a form of techno-babble rooted in lies.

"Our robust collateral performance has illustrated a pronounced potentiality for stratetic and/or tactical improvements on the ground and in real time from the fungibility of deployable forces comparable to the coalition's multi-lateral approach to the challenges of insurgent intransigence in the near term expectations of the practicality of diverse scenarios hitherto unexploited due to demand principles under current conditions contingent upon realizations of cost/benefit analysis among implemented conditional authorities, as is the norm." -- Defense Secretary Donald "Rummy" Rumsfeld, speaking on the current situation in Iraq

Dead Lunch Shooters 

One of my postings yesterday referred to now-defunct lunch shooter jobs at the Anheuser-Busch brewery. As I explained, lunch shooters took lunch orders for other brewery workers. Nobody knows how the term originated exactly. The term "shoot me a beer" was also used by beer bottlers. "Shoot" in brewery parlance is synonomous with retrieve.

A story by veteran St. Louis Post-Dispatch court reporter William C. Lhotka reminded me of the grizzly end of two former Bevo plant lunch shooters.

Lahotka reported that prosecutors and defense attorney are haggling over the interpretation of a state law relating to the insanity defense.

The murder case involves the death of 73-year-old Mary Denoyer. Denoyer was killed by her daughter's boyfriend on July 1, 2002.

Denoyer used to shoot lunch for workers at the MRB at the Anheuser-Busch brewery here. MRB stands for Material Receiving Building. This the place where the empty bottles arrive. Beer bottlers on double-wide fork trucks take the pallets of glass out of the trailers spotted at doors along the loading dock and put them on a conveyor belt that leads to a machine called a "depalletizer." The depalletizer automatically unstacks the pallet and sends the individual cases down another conveyor, where they are eventually filled with beer.

My memory of Denoyer is of an inveterate poker player and chain smoker. I also recall her telling me that she traced her family geneology back to French colonial days in St. Louis, when they owned a narrow strip of land that ran from the Mississippi westward. This is the way that land is still surveyed in the French Canadian province of Quebec. I noticed that when I flew into Montreal and Quebec City last summer.

The mention of Denoyer's death also reminded me of a more recent murder of another A-B lunch shooter, Steve Strickland. Strickland died last year, after being hacked to death by a machete-wielding man in Hannibal, Mo. who was going out with the daughter of Strickland's girlfriend.

In general, the brewery is a rather violent place. During the 20 years I worked there, I knew many people who died violently. Other brewery workers I was acquainted with were themselves killers. Some of us called it the Big House. It was a prison, but it paid well.

Hell No, I Won't Forget: Robert W. Duffy Killed My Only Post Feature 

Another Burned Bridge

Besides Betty Cuniberti's misguided column, former St. Louis Post-Dispatch arts and entertainment editor Robert W. Duffy has a story on the front page of the Everyday section today, too.

Here's my one and only Bob Duffy story: In 1990 or thereabouts, I wrote a feature story about the Calvin Opera House in Washington, Mo. The Calvin, a turn-of-the century theater, provided a great venue for bluegrass and folk musicians. The owner, Gary Synder, and his wife operated the theater out of love for the music. They promoted local music and also brought in big name performers such as Jerry Jeff Walker and Arlo Guthrie.

I pitched the idea of doing a story on the Calvin to Duffy and he bought it. Scott Dine of the Post-Dispatch took the snaps. I polished the story till it glistened and then turned it over to Duffy. Back in those days, the copy was still submitted the old-fashioned way -- on paper.

I considered the Calvin story my big break. I was sky hig h. But then I crashed and burned all because of one phone call. I guess you could say I was too ambitious.

Duffy killed my story because I called him up at home (his phone number was in the book) on a Sunday afternoon. I had called because the previous n ight I had attended a solo concert at the Calivn by John McKuen, one of the founders of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. McKuen gave a virtuso performance. I was so impressed I dashed out a review of the story. Since I already had garnered Duffy's attention wi th my feature-writing ability, I thought he might be interested in publishing my review and this could possibly lead to a regular free-lance gig with the Post. I had no idea of how the newspaper delegated its editorial responsibilities. I assumed Duffy oversaw the music reviews. I was wrong.

Calling him at home on a Sunday afternoon had broken some kind of taboo. Duffy lashed out at me and hung up the phone abruptly. I was crestfallen.

Duffy's actions could have destroyed any young writer's future. But I didn't let him destroy mine. Instead, I sold my story Riverfront Times. The arts editor at the RFT was Cliff Froehlich. Froehlich nutured writers instead of discouraging them. As fate would have it, Cliff is now the arts and entertainment editor at the Post.

My timing has always been off.

Post Columnist Displays Incredible Naivete 

"I'm no expert on international volunteer relief efforts." -- Betty Cuniberti

A column by St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Betty Cuniberti, which appeared in today's Everyday section, paints a flattering picture of Wings of Hope, a St. Louis-based charity.

Wings donates small aircraft to Third World nations, ostenibly for humanitarian efforts. Cuniberti's column features an analogy in which the head of Wings is quizzed by the Ecuadoran president. The president was suspicious of the purpose behind Wing's charitable work, Cuniberti reports.

Cuniberti slants the story in such a way as to make it appear that the Ecuadoran concerns were unfounded, just another example of the stereotypic misperceptions that developing countries have towards the good old U.S. of A.

Buried deep in the Cuniberti's column she mentions that American oil companies are trying to gain control of Ecuadoran oil fields. What she she doesn't mention is the fact that Ecuador's neighbor Colombia is embroiling in a civil war that is spilling across the border. She doesn't mention that Colombia is also the third largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. Nor does she refer to the fact that U.S. "contract workers" are aiding the Colombian military in its war against the rebels.

In 1992, former Houston Post reporter Pete Brewton wrote a book about the first Bush administration entitled The Mafia, CIA & George Bush: The Untold Story of America's Greatest Financial Debacle. Brewton's expose delves into the origins of the savings and loan scandal of the late 1980s, which cost American taxpayers billions of dollars.

Brewton also writes about Wings of Hope, but in a decidedly different context than Cuniberti's account. The investigative reporter links the St. Louis-based group to another charity organization -- Mercy Flight -- which supplied medical aid to the Contras in Honduras in the 1980s. At the time, the Bush administration was secretly funding a covert war against the Sandinista government of Nicaragua. The illegal funding was one element of what came to be known as the Iran-Contra affair.

As Brewton tells it, Jim Bath, a self-professed CIA operative and business crony of George W. Bush, started an airline company with Wings of Hope director Johnson M. "Jack" Taylor, founder of St. Louis-based Executive Leasing.

Taylor was one of the private, anti-communists donors that the Bush administration relied upon to keep its covert war against the Sandinistas marching forward.

"Several months after Bath and Taylor started Jim Bath and Associates (their airline company), Bath got a huge break," writes Brewton. "He was named as a trustee for Sheikh Salem bin Laden of Saudi Arabia, a member of the family that owns the largest construction company in the Middle East. Bath's job was to handle all of bin Laden's North American investments and operations."

Bin Laden, who died in an airplane crash in 1988, was the half brother of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Saudi Arabians provided funding for the Bush administration's covert war against the Sandinistas. Bath's other Saudi clients included Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz, former CEO of BCCI, the Pakistani-founded bank used to launder dirty money by the CIA, the Mafia and terrorist organizations.

I can't imagine why the Edcuadoran president would doubt Wings of Hope's charitable purposes, can you?

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Pinnacle Pimped in Indiana 

Pinnacle Entertainment, the Vegas gambling outfit that has the inside track for a casino in Lemay, was fined millions two years ago by Indiana Gaming Commission for flying in a dozen whores from California to satisfy golfers attending a convention at Pinn acle's casino on the Ohio River. The fine was the largest in state history. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch failed to report any of this in its coverage of the issue so far. Uncovering the company's regulatory violation didn't take any investigative skills. All that is required to find out about Pinnacle's checkered history is a simple Google search using the keywords "Pinnacle Entertainment" and "prostitution."*

"Shooting Lunch" 

Lunch shooters are among the many jobs that have disappeared from the Anheuser-Busch brewery in St. Louis. If they chose, beer bottlers at the Bevo plant could order lunch from a fellow worker who walked around the warehouse or the various canning and bot tling floors. Shooting lunch was one of the plum jobs, but I did have drawbacks. The lunch shooter had to make sure he or she got the order straight. They had to make change. If the order got mixed up, they often times had to go back up to cafeteria in th e lobby and reorder.

Although it was against official company policy, lunch shooters would sometimes order food from Southside restaurants and then drive over and pick it up. Hodak's on Gravois was a favorite spot. Amighetti's sandwiches became so popular that the bakery/sandwich shop on the Hill opened up an outlet for a while in the company cafeteria.

Depending on your job, some brewery workers were able to leave the premises on their own and eat a leisurely lunch, while still on the clock. Of course, if they were caught they could be subject to displinary actions or maybe even fired. The pipefitters skipped out more often than other union workers at the plant for one simple reason -- they could get away with it. Being in a trade union, the fitters weren't tied to the monotonous assembly line jobs that many of the Teamsters had to do at the brewery.

Beyond the freedom of being in the trades, the fitters wielded power because of their reputation. Their ranks were traditionally filled by criminals and ex-cons, who made the baddest Teamsters look like choir boys in comparison. If a unit went down and a pipefitter was needed to fix the problem, you could always count on them to take their their good old sweet time. Sometimes it would take them an hour just to arrive on the scene. The assembly line workers didn't mind the delay because it gave them some ass time, a respite from the drudgery.

On September 11, 1981, Charles "Johnny" Michaels, the grandson of James Michaels, and fellow A-B pipefitter Dennis Day were wounded in a shotgun ambush at the Edge Restaurant, a popular hangout for organized crime figures in St. Louis. The restaurant is located near Chouteau and Jefferson Avenues in a industrial area. Michaels was "shooting" his own lunch the day when he wa s gunned down. The ambush was part of a gangland war that tore apart St. Louis in the early 1980s.

I don't think the newspaper accounts ever mentioned that Michaels was supposed to be at work when he was shot. But everybody down at the brewery knew about it. And Michaels was certainly never reprimanded for leaving brewery premises during work hours. I guess that would have been considered "adding insult to gunshot wounds." When I left the brewery in 1998, Michaels was still working there. You could always spot him because he was the guy who walked with a limp.

A Pawn in the Game: Minuteman Richard Lauchli 

Recently released information on the Kennedy assassination shows that the late Richard A. Lauchli of Collinsville, Ill., one of the leaders of the Minutemen, purchased dynamite for anti-Castro Cubans training near New Orleans, months before the assassina tion of President John F. Kennedy. Lauchli bought the explosives in St. Louis for $642.09 from the American Cyanamid Co. on Pattison Avenue. Another Minuteman, private investigator Guy Bannister, was linked to Lauchli in 1968 by an investigation conducte d by the late James Garrison, then the New Orleans district attorney. Bannister, a former Chicago FBI agent, shared the same building with the Lee Harvey Oswald’s Fair Play for Cuba Committee.

Among those suspected of Cuban terrorist activities at that time was Jose Basulto, the current leader of Brothers to the Rescue. Basulto’s latest organization caused an international crisis, recently, after two of its aircraft were shot down by Cuban jets.

In a previously unpublished op-ed page article Peter D ale Scott discusses the historical context behind the recent incident. Scott is a retired professor of English at the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of Deep Politics and the Death of JFK.



By Peter Dale Scott

Both Cuba and the United States should be careful not to over react to the provocative flights of former CIA Cuban Jose Basulto Leon into Cuban air space.

Basulto has had a lifetime of aggravating U.S.-Cuban relations, dating back to his participation in the ill-fated Bay of Pigs Operation. In August 1962 Jose Basulto Leon helped organize a raid on a deluxe Cuban hotel by members of the Cuban exile group DRE, or Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil. (In their book, The Fish Is Red, Warren Hinckle and William Turner wrote that "the raid had been carefully planned and approved" by the CIA.) Basulto personally opened fire at the civilians he could see from offshore; it was in despite of his terrorist intent ions that no one was killed.

At least two members of this Basulto's crew (Carlos "Batea" Hernandez and John Koch Gene) were arrested a year later in Louisiana, when theFBI raided an illegal DRE dynamite cache on Lake Pontchartrain. The dynamite was coll ected there for the purpose of bombing Cuba. The FBI heard that a Basulto had also been present at the DRE arms cache, but Jose Basulto denied that he had been present.

Both in 1962 and in 1963, the DRE's real objective was not Havana, their military tar get, but the political target of Washington. The FBI raided the Lake Pontchartrain cache in order to implement President Kennedy's directive, put in place after the Cuban Missile Crisis of late 1962, that Cuban exiles were to mount no further offensive operations against Cuba from the continental United States. Although the DRE had an offshore base in the Dominican Republic, the DRE chose to make home-made bombs in Louisiana, as part of their publicly declared defiance of Kennedy's policies of moderation. They knew that Republicans were preparing to challenge Kennedy in 1964 for his failure to act more aggressively against Cuba, and they hoped to induce such aggressiveness by their own terrorist provocations.

Kennedy, although he had his own hawkish side, showed considerable courage in his last year, by ignoring the clamor for more vigorous U.S. intervention against Castro. President Clinton would be well advised to do the same. His policies should further his own goals, not chose of a disgruntled minor ity whose objectives have never changed over three decades.

More and more Cuban-Americans today have been working to improve conditions and human rights in Cuba. Basulto and his friends continue by their strategy of tension to seek the opposite: to provoke Castro to defend himself, and hence make himself more unpopular, by cracking down with the repressive mechanisms of a police-state. This was the true purpose of Basulto's leafleting raid against Havana in January, just as it was the purpose of a 1959 leafleting raid against Havana by Frank Sturgis, later the organizer of the Lake Pontchartrain anti-Castro base.

It is true that Basulto today proclaims himself a non-violent Gandhian, no longer willing to use a cannon to strafe a hotel. But his objective remains the same: to provoke violence. Apparently he has realized that Washington today is less likely than in 1962 to back the objectives of a self-declared terrorist.

One of the ironies of this situation is that the closest allies of Basulto and his fellow-hawks in Miami are the hawks inside Cuba: those who most fear the thaw that has been developing recently in U.S.-Cuban relations. Another irony is manifest in the new embargo package agreed to by Clinton and Congress, in the wake of this unnecessa ry tragedy. The new embargo package is ostensibly designed to isolate Cuba. But it will inevitably isolate the United States even further from its closest neighbors, Canada and Mexico, the countries which will (because they do not respect the existing emb argo) most suffer from the new proposals.

Against the categorical disagreement of the Cubans, U.S. officials have claimed that the two planes accompanying Basulto's were shot down while over international waters. One has to be wary of this claim. The U.S. Government also claimed that the U.S. destroyer Maddox was on "a routine patrol in international waters," when attacked by North Vietnam in the first Tonkin Gulf Incident of 1964. A Congressional investigation subsequently revealed that the maddox had f requently violated the North Vietnamese twelve mile limit. There were similar U.S. claims in response to the North Korean capture in 1968 of the spy ship Pueblo; and these too dissolved when examined more closely.

Like the Basulto mission, the Tonkin Gul f and pueblo episodes occurred in election years. All three episodes appear to have been exploited, if not provoked, by frustrated hawks on the U.S. side, to elicit escalations from a President facing re-election.

Neither government can take pride in its responsibility for this tragedy that is also a fiasco. Cuba had other options that to shoot the unarmed planes down. But, just as the U.S. expects Castro to prevent
his planes from leafleting Miami, so the U.S. should have grounded, and still should ground, a private air force whose clear objective is to provoke a military reaction.

Restraint by both government is still possible, against Basulto's announced future provocations. There will always be crazies, but it is the job of leaders to contain them.

Monday, April 26, 2004

St. Louis' Finest: Louis Ira Shoulders 

from A Grave for Bobby by former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter James Deakin:

" ... In the late 1930s or early 1940s, rumors began to circulate about Shoulders. They came into the open in 1943, when the police board and a grand jury investigated the slot-machine racket in St. Louis. The inquiry centered on the Lucas Avenue police district, just north of the downtown area. Eight of the districts nine sergeants were demoted, and some of the higher ranks, including Shoulders were censured. ...

"... Shoulders had operated two whorehouses on Chestnut Street when he was a sergeant. ...

"Other informants told the FBI that Shoulders associated with various gangsters in St. Louis, New York, Cleveland and elsewhere. ...

" ... [The informant stated th at he never had any specific working arrangement with Shoulders, but that on numerous occasions between 1941 and 1948 he handed out money to Shoulders in various amounts ranging from $50 to $200 at a time. he stated that Shoulders never asked him for mone y but it was generally understood that if a person operated in the Elventh District it was necessary to pay off Shoulders or serve [sic] the consequences by being molested by the police. ..."

Union Made Guns and Knives 

The Union Industry trade show, finishing off a three-day run at America's Center today, includes a display of union-made guns now being used by the armed forces in Iraq, including Colt's M-4 rifle that doubles as a grenade launcher. Show goers can also sign up to win knives, including a dagger with a sheath signed by Motor City Madman Ted Nugent. -

Be All You Can Be 

Remember when the government only used the National Guard as strike breakers and to quell civil disturbances. Bring in the hayseeds to shoot a few industrial workers. Those were the days.

Get Real: Kerry Bashers Are Morons 

Without a doubt, George W. Bush has done damage to the United States during his tenure as the chief executive. The U.S. is mired in a foreign war, thousands of people have died, millions of jobs have disappeared. Taxes have been cut for the rich. The deficit has sky rocketed. And, of course, nobody should forget that he stole the 2000 presidential election in the first place, with the help of the Supreme Court.

So what I don't understand is why these idiots, who claim to be leftists, are trashing Democratic challenger John Kerry. Ditch the idealism and be pragmatic, you idiots.

Post Acts as Public Relations Department for Plastic Company 

Today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the plastic plant owned by Formosa Plastic Corp. in Illiopolis, Ill. will rebuild the facility. The much of the plant, which makes PCV piping, was damaged in an explosion late Friday night.

For all you fledgling reporters out there who have been brainwashed in Journalism/PR school, this is not a business story. The fact that the Tiawanese owners of the plant intend to rebuild is the news.

I didn't see the Sunday edition, but so far as I can tell the Post-Dispatch has failed to report the PVCs, or poly vinyl chlorides, are one of the most prevalent ways that dixoins enter the environments. Environmental groups and some nations, including Sweden, have called for a ban on PVCs because of the dangers they pose to human health.

The groups most in danger from being exposed to dioxins are women, children and unborn fetuses. Dioxins are hormone disrutptors. They negatively effect the human endrocrine and reproductive systems. Dioxins are also a known human carcinogen.

So we have $15-billion foreign company spewing lethal chemicals into the air and potentially effecting thousands of nearby residents. And the Post's response is to tell us that the company plans to rebuild the plant.

Given this pathetic coverage, Formosa Plastics is not the only company that is being negligent.

Secret Court Is Now in Session 

So I was down at the muni court at 1430 Olive, hanging out with scofflaws. The offenders all showed respect for the court. We all waited patiently, staring at summonses and traffic tickets, while the judge retired to her chambers and talked about things behind closed doors with the lawyer in the checked sports coat. When she came back out the baliff ordered everybody to rise, which they did. And then a weird thing happened. The judged ordered everybody to leave the courtroom and stand in the hall. The baliff even locked the door so nobody could enter. Apparently two cases on the docket warranted the star chamber edict. The first had to do with a man charged with public urination. The other was the case involving school board member Rochelle Moore, who is charged with peace disturbance for dumping water on an employee of the school board. Moore's case was continued. What's more of a threat: Pouring water on somebody or a courtroom that's closed to the public?

From the Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau 

Chapter I
Subject of the First Book

"Man was born free, and everywhere he is in chains. Many a one believes himself master of others, and yest he is a greater slave than they. How has this change come about? I do not know. What can render it legitimate? I believe that I can settle this question.

"If you considered only force and the results that proceed from it, I should say that so long as a people is compelled to obey and does obey, it does well; but that, so soon as it can shake off the yoke and oes shake it off, it does better; for, if men recover their freedom by virtue of the same right by which it was taken away, either they are justified in resuming it, or there was no justification for depriving them of it. But the social order is a sacred right which serves as a foundation for all others. This right, however, does not come from nature. It is therefore based on conventions. The question is to know what these conventions are. Before coming to that, I must establish what I have just laid down. ..."


"... Nearly all the children nowadays were horrible. What was the worst of all was that by means of such organizations as the Spies they were systematically turned into ungovernable little savages, and yet this produced in them no tendency whatever to rebel against the discipline of the Party. On the contrary, they adored the Party and everything connected to it. The songs, the processions, the banners, the hiking, the drilling, with dummy rifles, the yelling of slogans, the worship of Big Brother 00 it was ll a sort of glorious game to them. All their ferocity was turned outwards, against the enemies of the State, against foreigners, traitors, saboteurs, thought-criminals. It was almost normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their own children. And with good reason, for hardly a week passed in which the Times did not carry a paragraph describing how some eavesdropping little sneak -- "child hero" was the phrase generally used -- had overheard some compromising remark and denounced his parents to the Thought Police. ..."

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