Saturday, June 05, 2004

Danforth's Career Launched by Bootheel Inquiry  

As the first Republican statewide office holder in Missouri since the Reconstruction era, Missouri Attorney General John Danforth made a name for himself by investigating corruption in the solidly Democratic Missouri Bootheel.

The Bootheel, a five-county area, is the southeastern-most region of the state. The cotton-growing area gets draws its name from how its borders are defined on a map. Poverty is endemic to the Bootheel, as is graft. Well into the 1960s, Carthursville, the largest town in the mainly rural region, served as a capital of vice. Prostitution, illegal gambling and bootlegging flourished under corrupt local, county and state law enforcement authorities.

Over the next few days, Media Mayhem will delve into a young John Danforth's investigation of Bootheel corruption. At some point, I'll try to add some context, but for now we'll start by jumping feet first into the muck. The following news story detailing Danforth's case against the late Clyde Orton, Pemiscot County sheriff, first appeared in the pages of the Pemiscott Journal, June 16, 1970:

Sheriff Orton says ... "Incredible"

"I will fight Mr. Danforth's political vendetta against me with the last ounce of my energy," said Pemiscott County Sheriff Clyde Orton in response to more charges leveled against him by Attorney General John Danforth last Thursday.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that motions allegeing an attempt to contract murder and to perpetrate vote fraud with payoffs in liquor and cash have been filed for addition to the state's ouster suit again st Pemiscot County Sheriff Clyde Orton.

"In a desperate attempt to further delay trial of the political suit against me, Mr. Danforth now makes the incredible charge that I, `Let a contract to murder Buddy Cook (Cook is a former Carthursville resident) and have been taking bribes or pay-offs from liquor and gambling interests. This suit and these new charges are the most malicious charges ever made by any public offiical in the state of Missouri. Inf the Attorney General has one shred of evidence to support anyu of these charges, I challenge him to immediately initiate criminal felony charges against me and not simply pursue a civil ouster suit," said Sheriff Orton.

Orton said "not knowing what additional ridiculous charges may be made against me, I want to here and now deny that I am a communist or a member of the Viet Cong, since Mr. Danforth may dream up these charges next. My father served in World War I in foreign countries, I servied in World War II in foreign countries, and my two sons have served their time in Viet Nam. The Ortons are honest red-blooded Americans, and I will fight Mr. Danforth's political vendetta against with the last ounce of my energy.

Pemiscot County Prosecutor Arthur "Art" Stephensen said, "I would think if they had such evidence against Sheriff Orton, it would have been presented to my office.

"If the Missouri attorney general's office has evidence that the sheriff conspired to have a man slain, the matter should be heard immediately," Stephensen continued.

Danforth's motion to amend the ouster suit will be considered Wednesday by Special Commissioner Ray Weightman, who is handling the case for the Missouri Supreme Court. The trial is set for Jun 17 in Carurthersville.

Stephensen told the Pemiscot Journal that Attorney General Danforth's office had never conferred with him in any way in the action taken against Sheriff Orton.

"As far as I know, they have never conferred with any Pemiscot County official," the county official continued.

The prosecutor told the Associated Press, "But they haven't mistreated me, they say hello."

Conflict of Interest: Danforth Insider Trading Alleged 

It appears that the following information has been removed from the Mother Jones website. I downloaded and printed a hard copy of it on Apirl 18, 2000

Sen. John Danforth (R-Mo)

On October 29, 1993, Sen. Danforth purchased between 100,000 and 200,000 dollars worth of stock in Bell Atlantic. This is the day after the Senate started their hearing on the anti-trust implications of the proposed BellAtlantic/TCI merger.

Two weeks earlier, on October 15, 1993, the national media ran a number of stories aobut Congress' growing concerns over the proposed Bell Atlantic/TCI merger. The Washing†on Post quoted Sen. Metzenbaum as saying he was considering legislation that would block the Bell Atlantic/TCI deal. Metzenbaum said, "They're going to be in a position to drive out other companies in the market and that's bad for consumers." Sen. Danforth, on the th other hand, was quoted as saying that telephone companies should be able to enter the cable television business.

On June , 14, 1993, Sen. Danforth purchased between 2,000 and 30,000 dollars worth of stock in Raytheon (i.e. Patriot Missiles).

On the same day, June 14, the House introduced H.R. 2401: Defense Department Authorization Act for FY94, which became Public Law 103-160.

During the period Feb. 18, 1993 through April 13, 1993, Sen. Danforth purchased between 160,000 and 450,000 dollars worth of stock in Tenneco. Tenneco owns Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., which manufactures submarines and nuclear aircraft carriers, overhauls and repairs naval vessels, refuels nuclear-powered ships, and provides navigation equipment for naval vessels.

During these months, defense contractors were running scared over President Clinton's proposed defense budget cuts. In Congress, defense hawks like Danforth were busy with damage control. On the industry side, Tenneco and General Dynamics started a major fight over who would get additional Seawolf Attack Submarine contracts.

Between 38-44 percent of Sen. Danforth's Tenneco purchases were made from March 26 to April 13, 1993. It was during this period of time that Congress was debating and negotiating the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act of 1993. This bill contained appropriations for the Defense Department.

During the the period Jan. 15, 1993 through August 25, 1993, Sen. Danforth purchased between 37,000 and 205,000 dollars worth in Texaco. During these months, particularly in the beginning of the year, Congress was wrestling with President Clinton's proposed BTU energy tax. Of course, firms like Texaco would be opposed to any such energy tax.

On April 2, 1993, Sen. Danforth introduced S. 769, Aviation Fuel Tax Increase Prohibtion Act. Interestingly, but not surprising, Texaco manufactures aviation fuel.

Between 71 to 89 percent of Sen. Danforth's Texaco purchases were made after he introduced S. 769.

During the period Jan. 15, 1993 through Feb. 2, 1993, Sen. Danforth purchased 4,000 and 60,000 worth of stock in Philip Morris.

Sen. Danforth sold between 30,000 and 100,000 dollars of Philip Morris on April 2, 1993. On the same day, Frank Lautenberg of New Jeresy added himself as a co-sponsor to S. 513, the Tobacco Consumption Reduction and Health Improvement Act. This bill sought to impose additional excise taxes on tobacco products.

PAC Notes: Sen. Danforth has received PAC contributions from Tenneco, $7,000; Philip Morris, $1,000; Bell Atlantic, $2,000.

Notes: Sen. Danforth was #4 on the Senate Finance Committee; #3 on the Senate Intelligence Committee; and #2 on the Senate National Ocean Policy Study Subcommittee.

On Dec. 11. 1991, Sen. Danforth purchased between 100,000 and 250,000 worth of stock in Sun Microsystems. According to the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Sun Microsytems provides battlefield computer technology and semi-conductors used in missile and radar systems. Sun also developed the 3-D computer imaging system used by pilots during the Gulf War.

One day later, Dec. 12, 1991, President George H.W. Bush signed P.L. 229: a supplemental appropriations bill for military procurement for Opeation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In 20 days, the value of Sen. Danforth's stock appreciated 15 percent.

Animal Husbandry: Purina Will Make Your Horse Laugh 

If in public life, the farm is often a good place to have come from, in social life, it is always a good place to own and to visit. Both small-city and big-city upper classes now quite typically own and visit their "places in the country." In part this, which even in the Middle West began as far back as the 1890s, is a way by which the merely rich attempt to anchor themselvers in what is old and esteemed, of proving with cash and loving card and sometimes with inconvenience, their reverence for the past. -- C. Wright Mills the Power Elite

For former Sen. John Danforth to keep a rural residence is not so unusual. Former Sen. Danforth, who has been nominated to the post of U.N. ambassador by President George W. Bush, resides or resided in Newburg, Mo., a small Ozark town, according to 1993 profile (see below). Perhaps Danforth is returning to his roots. The patriarch of the family William H. Danforth was born in the "backlands of Missouri," according to Ferdinand Lundberg, author of the The Rich and the Super-Rich.

William H. Danforth moved to St. Louis in 1884 at fourteen years of age. He graduated from Washington University. (The former senator's brother, also William, is the now the retired chancellor of that institution.)

A decade later, at the age of 24, the elder Danforth borrowed $4,000 from his father and went into the horse-feed business. Four thousand dollars in the 19th Century was a lot of money. Plus, he attended college. So it's safe to assume that the Danforth clan was well endowed before William H. went into horse-feed business.

The company was originally called the Robinson-Danforth Commission Company, which sold Purina feed.

Lundberg wrote: "A natural salesman, Danforth traveled through the Middle West selling Purina Horse Feed in a folksy way (`Purina will make your horse laugh,' one of thousands of bucolic Danforth slogans.)"

Danforth took out an unsecured loan for $25,000 to add other animal feeds to the line of products he hawked. The risk paid off. Later, to take advantage of a national health-food trend, he diversified the company further by making cereals for human consumption.

The name Ralston was attached to the Purina name in the early 20th Century. Dr. Ralston, a kindred pitchman, had established health food clubs across the country. Danforth bought the good doctor's name and slapped it cereal boxes. The promotional trick worked and sales boomed.

Danforth admired industrial tycoons such as Rockefeller, Carnegie and Astor. As the story goes, he once followed Standard Oil founder and Florida developer Henry Flagler around a Florida golf course, taking notes on how to succed in business.

Danforth, unlike many of his role models, never engaged in shady practices, was never involved in scandal and never charged with criminal violations. Instead, he was a staunch Christian, a Congregationalist Sunday School Superintendent, who believed that it was his mission to go forth and make millions. In 1927, he set up the Danforth Foundation.

But within a few years, the Great Depression arrived and wiped out much of his holdings. He ceded control of the company to his son Donald Danforth, a Princeton graduate, who steered the family fortunes upward and onward into the mid 20th Century.

Lundberg culled these details from a book by Gordon M Philpott entitled, Daring Venture: The Life Story of William H. Danforth, which was published in 1960 by Random House. William H. Danforth died five years earlier. Philpott was an associate of the late animal feed mogul and obviously gave a positive slant to the biography of his friend.


Country Gentleman: Danforth Lived in Newburg, Mo. in 1993 

I just dredged up this artifact from my harddrive. It's a capsule bio of John Danforth, who was nominated yesterday by President George W. Bush to be U.N. ambassador. It shows that Danforth lived in Newburg, Mo. in 1993. Newburg is a burg, a hilly little Ozark town south of Rolla off Interstate 44. The town's small business district is in a narrow hollow where a railroad line is located.

8:15 am



Elected 1976, 3rd term.
Has announced that he will not seek re-
election in 1994

Ranking member, Subcommittee on International



PREVIOUS: 1969-77: Missouri Attorney General
Episcopal Minister

EDUCATION: A.B., Princeton University, 1958
B.D., Yale University, 1963
B.D., LL.B., Yale University, 1963

PERSONAL Born in St. Louis, Missouri
Currently resides in Newburg, Missouri

Transmitted: 94-08-10 09:05:22 EDT

Ali Babba and the 40 Thieves: Happy Days Are Here Again! 

The spin is on: Since the naming of an interim Iraqi government earlier this week, the U.S. news media has made every attempt possible to cast the situation in Iraq in a better light.

Pundits equate the insider, back-room dealings of the Iraqi Governoring Council in the formation of a new interim government as a sign of a fledgling democracy at work.


On the surface, The Iraqi leadership may be showing signs of bucking U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority, but they were all named to the their positions by the occupying U.S. force. Many of the chosen Iraqis are exiles who haven't lived in the country for decades. They control their own militias. They're essentially plunderers and warlords dressed in business suits or traditional garb. Some such as Ahmad Chalabi are known to have been on the U.S. payroll.

But in one sense the Iraqi power elite are very much modeling themselves after the U.S. system. They're corrupt. The interim foreign finance minister has already been charged with raiding the country's coffers of $22 million -- before the government was even formed. He is a crony of Chalabi, who was convicted in Jordan of ripping off $70 million from the Petra Bank, a financial institution he headed.

Broadcast Media in U.S. Played Down U.N. Human Rights Ruling 

In news broadcasts last night, PBS and CBC both downplayed the negative aspects of a U.N. report released yesterday which advocates charging those responsible for torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq with "war crimes."

In a fact-finding report, Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights Bertrand Ramcharan blasted "willful killing, torture [and] inhuman treatment" of Iraqi detainees in Abu Gharib, reported Reuters.

[read more]

Friday, June 04, 2004

Taliban Must Go So Poppies Can Grow 

Let's face it, the Taliban Were Unreliable Drug Traffickers

Six months before the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, the Guardian of London published the following story, which indicates that the Taliban regime, however repressive, cut back on poppy production that dominates the nation's economy. Opium is made from poppies. The Taliban didn't do this to please Allah. Instead, the story says that the Taliban anticipated cutting an aid package deal with the U.N. in return for curtailing poppy production. The Guardian article also intimates that the Taliban may have been trying to manipulate the price of the their country's most precious commodity just like OPEC does with oil. Such a move would have also drastically increased the price of heroin in Europe and the U.S.

What role did poppy production play in the U.S. invasion, if any? What about the warlords now being paid off by the the CIA? Are they involved in drug trafficking? And Pakistan, which has long been involved in the processing and transport of the illegal drug, -- is the Pakistani secrect service involved in drug trafficking? Have you read a single story about any of this in the last year, two years, three years? Whatya bet that poppy production is at an all-time high now that the U.S. freed Afghanistan?

June 17, 2001
A deadly trade: Bare poppy fields sow fatal harvest
by Peter Beaumont Foreign Affairs Editor

It is harvest time in the Helmand Valley. The farmers of Afghanistan should now be picking the pale pink opium poppies for processing. But the impoverished field workers - who have no other source of income in a country racked by years of war and now devastated by drought - are idle.

Fields that, according to the United Nations, last year provided
three-quarters of the world's supply of heroin have not been planted this year on the orders of the Taliban, the Islamic fundamentalists who control 95 per cent of the country. The result is that Afghanistan, which last year produced 3,200 tonnes of opium, will probably produce barely 200 tonnes this year. Experts in the drug trade describe the decision not to plant the fields for this year's harvest as an 'historic event', unparalleled in the illegal narcotics business. They also believe the Taliban's unilateral decision, far from being a cause for celebration, may have set the scene for the next disaster in the troubled international 'war on drugs'.

Already, say monitors of the UN Drugs Control Programme, prices for raw opium inside Afghanistan have risen at the farm gate from pounds 25 to pounds 250 a kilo. Similar inflation is seen in neighbouring countries in Central Asia. They warn that in the longer term the Taliban's decision will make the planting of the opium poppy more attractive to farmers in other areas.

Although the UN and other agencies have evidence that the Taliban have strategic stockpiles of the drug - believed to be between 200 and 300 tonnes, including 150 tonnes on the border with Tajikistan - intelligence officers with Britain's Customs and Excise are convinced the production of opiates in Afghanistan has been substantially curtailed.

'We do believe that the supply has been reduced this year,' said a spokesman for Customs last week. 'But it is too early to say what impact that will have on prices and supply.'

The immediate impact of the Taliban's moratorium was underlined last week by the head of the UN Drugs Control Programme, Pino Arlacchi, who believed it was impossible for other producers of opium - such as Burma, Colombia, Iran and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia - to make up the deficit in the illegal trade in opiate-based narcotics.

He predicted that opium and heroin prices internationally would rise by up to seven times, after having fallen sharply for a decade.

What is worrying analysts is how long the Taliban will continue to prohibit the growing of poppies, faced with international indifference to its gesture.

'The reduction is probably the most dramatic event in the history of illegal drug markets, not only in scale but also in the fact that it was done domestically, without international assistance,' said Frederick Starr, of the Central Asia Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Washington.

Starr believes the banning of opium production by the Taliban has been catastrophically mishandled by the UN and the international community.

'For years UN delegations have been wandering through Kabul telling the Taliban that cultivating opium was bad and that they should stop it. They talked to the Taliban about aid packages of up to pounds 180 million if they would do it, but no agreement was ever signed. By the UN's own estimation the Taliban were making no more than pounds 18m from taxing the trade that at most was worth pounds 107m. But the Taliban felt there was a deal in the air and they were expecting a quid pro quo for stopping opium production.

'What has happened instead is that since their declaration there has been no aid. Worse than that, new sanctions were introduced against them in December. What we can expect to happen next is for the other countries in the region to quickly take up the slack in opium production. And if the Taliban are not getting anything in return, they are not going to sit by while others corner the trade.'

The net result - according to Starr and other analysts - may be an increase in global opium production.

'There has been an absolute deficit of leadership on this, particularly from Europe, the main consumer, and the UN.

'The issue is simple. The international community has got to persuade the Taliban that it is supporting them in this effort. That requires setting minimum standards for recognising the Taliban and for giving aid to the people of Afghanistan. The real cynics say this is just about getting the price of opium up by turning off the supply in the short term. Personally I don't buy that.

'The Taliban are doing this because they have been led to believe they will be rewarded if they stop the production of opium. Instead, since their declaration last year that they would stop the planting the reverse has happened.'

Dr Jonathan Cave, an expert in the economics of the drugs trade who works with both the Rand Corporation, the US think-tank, and Warwick University, believes Europe may suffer unpleasant consequences from its failure to plan for an expected shortfall in heroin supply.

One predicted result is an increased demand for cocaine from hundreds of thousands of non-injecting heroin users who graduated from cocaine. Another, said Cave, is an upsurge in violent crime among suppliers and processors competing for smaller supplies of a more valuable resource.

'You can be sure the criminals are responding to the new situation in the market, but no one among the white hats is even responding.'

This was reiterated by Arlacchi. 'Even if in the long term this reduction of supply is a major success,' he told the New York Times last week, 'it will be sustainable only with a parallel reduction in the demand in the industrial countries.'

How Al-Qiada and the Taliban Got Guns, with the Help of a Texas Democrat 

The ousted Taliban leadership in Afghanistan are the direct descendents of the mujahedeen, including a young Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden traveled to Afghanistan to participate in the jihad against the Soviet Union's occupation of that Islamic nation. He then went on to form his terrorist network al-Qaida to oppose U.S. intervention in the Middle East.

In the 1980s, the CIA supported the mujahedeen, the precursors of the Taliban, in their covert war against he Soviets. The Reagan-Bush administrations secretly spent billions on the war. With that kind of money being tossed about, the world's arms dealers profitted handsomely, including an obscure congressman named Charles White from Texas.

"The secret U.S. arming of various mujahedeen factions fighting in Afghanistan against Soviet invaders began in 1979, according to writer Lora Lumpe. "Before it ended in 1991, the CIA had shipped via Pakistan, some 400,000 AK-47 assault rifles; an undisclosed quanity of Stinger portable anti-aircraft missle launchers and missles; vast quanities of Italian-made anti-personnel mines; 40-50 Swiss-designed anti-aircraft guns; Egyptian mortars; Blowpipe surface-to-air missles from Britain; 1000,000 Indian rifles; and from Turkey, 60,000 archaic rifles, 8,000 light machine guns, and more than 100,000,000 rounds of ammunition, according to Chris Smith, author of Light Weapons and Ethnic Conflict in South Asia.

Those arms no doubt represented a small fraction of the weaponry that flooded Afghanistan in the Reagan era.

One of the arms dealers who profitted from all this gunrunning was
a close friend of Democratic Rep. Charles "Good Time Charlie" Wilson, a congressional supporter of the mujahedeen.

As Ricard Whittle and George Kuempel of the Dallas Morning News reported in 1997, Wilson cut a colorful figure in Washington during the 1980s.

Wilson's arms-dealing buddy was former Texas lawmaker Joe Christie of Austin. Federal authorites suspected the two of making $4 million in an arms related kickback scheme, according to the Morning News.

After leaving Congress in 1996, Wilson remained in Washington as a lobbyist for the Pakistani government under a contract that paid him $320,000 a year.

The federal interest in Christie and Wilson's alleged arms dealing came to light in a Swiss lawsuit, "when Switzerland's highest court rejected an attempt by a Texas businessman to block U.S. investigators from examining his Swiss bank records.

The Swiss lawsuit alluded to the U.S. Justice Department investigating whether Wilson and Christie were paid $3.5 million to $4 million in "commissions" for getting Congress to buy 20 mm anti-aircraft guns made by "Firm X Ltd." for the mujahedeen.

X Ltd. was a division of Oerlikon-Buhrle Holding AG, a conglomerate in Zurich. The Swiss court said the acts being investigated by the Justice Department could constitute bribery.

Wilson had a checkered career as a congressman, according the news story. He was investigated for drunken driving and leaving the
scene of an accident, involvement in the House bank scandal, and cocaine use, of which Wilson was cleared.

The Morning News reported that in 1995 that the Federal Election Commission fined Wilson's campaign committee
$90,000 for violations, including failure to properly report
borrowing $26,500 from his election money.

During his days as a gung-ho supporter of the mujahedeen, Wilson
wore Afghan garb and sneaked into the combat zone. He decorated his office with photos of the Afghan rebels and their weapons. He even named his cat "Khyber," after the pass that leads from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

Wilson traveled to Pakistan frequently, where the government was funneling guns to the mujahedeen for the CIA. "Goodtime Charlie," as he was known among friends, usually took along his paramour, a former Miss World USA; a member of the pandering press; and some of his Texas running buddies.

Many stories have documented the role Wilson played in coaxing Congress to earmark $40 million for the CIA to give Swiss-made Oerlikon 20-mm anti-aircraft guns to the Afghan rebels in 1983.

Wilson lobbied for the Oerlikon sales in closed door congressional committee meetings so fervently that his colleauges were stunned by his ardor for the Oerlikon gun.

"In a 1992 memoir of the Afghan war, "The Bear Trap," former Pakistani Brigadier General Mohammed Yousaf complained the Afghan rebels often were given inappropriate weapons," according to the Morning News.

"I have strong suspicions at least one weapon system was forced on us because a U.S. congressman had a lot to gain if the weapons sale went ahead," Yousaf wrote.

Yousaf specifically cited the Oerlikon, saying the gun wasn't suited for the guerrilla warfare in Afghanistan because it weighed "1,200 pounds, required at least 20 mules to haul it around Afghanistan's mountains and fired shells that cost $50 each at a rate of 1,000 rounds a minute."

5 American Soldiers Killed in Sadr City, 5 Wounded 

Five American soldiers were killed and five wounded today in Sadr City, a poor neighborhood of Baghdad named after the late father of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

The attackers are suspected of being members of the Mehdi Army, a militia that backs al-Sadr.

Appearing on the PBS News Hour tonight, New York Times columnist David Brooks and Boston Globe columnist Tom Oliphant dismissed the deaths, saying that the progress of the interim Iraqi government outweighed the continuing violence. Oliphant qualified his opinion by saying that discontent in Iraq and the U.S. could cause potential future problems for the governments of both nations.

Most likely the five dead Americans' mugshots will soon appear at the end of the PBS New Hour. The news broadcast regularly broadcasts images of dead American GIs as a tribute at the end of its nightly program.

[read more]

A Poster Worth Memorizing 

I never could stand those posters from the 70s that had that lame quote about "You do your thing and I'll do mine, blah, blah, blah." I prefer this one instead:

They first came for the communists and I didn't speak up because I was not a communist.

Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me -- and by tht time no one was left to speak up.

Pastor Martin Niemoeller
(Nazi victim)

Another Art Attack: North Beach Gallery Owner Punched and Spat On  

First, they trashed Lori Haigh's art gallery in North Beach, San Francisco's legendary beat neighborhood. Then somebody spit on her. Finally, she was punched in the face, leaving her with a concussion and a broken nose.

Now she's weighing whether or not to close up shop. The reason for Haigh's grief -- a painting.

On May 16, Haigh exhibited a picture at her Capobianco Gallery by North Beach art Guy Colwell. The work depicts three hooded men undergoing electro-shock torture by U.S. soldiers.

Her troubles started a couple days later and they've continued.

Supports are trying to convince Haigh to keep her Powell Street gallery open, but she still uncertain whether she will

"I enjoyed listening to people's different opinions on what they saw," said Haigh, a mother of two. "That was part of the joy of having a gallery."

[read more]

Free Speech Denied: Student Charged with Felony for Wearing Sack Over His Head 

On May 26, Joe Previtera, a 20-year-old Boston College student, was arrested and charged with two felony counts and a misdemeanor for a brief protest in front of a military recruitment center in Boston.

Imitating the now-infamous image of the tortured prisoner at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Previtera wore a black shawl with a sack over his head. He stood on a milk carton near the front entrance of the federal facility with cords in hands.

Previtera has been charged with peace disturbance, a misdemeanor. He is also charged with making a false bomb threat and using a hoax device, both felony counts.

Nobody called in a bomb threat and Previtera didn't threaten anybody.

"I did this hoping that the image of an abused Iraqi prisoner might make people think twice about joining the military, both for their own safety and because of the abuses they might be asked to commit," said Previtera. "Is it reasonable that I face greater punishment for my free speech than do the soldiers who actually committ abuses? Well, this is post-911 America, isn't it?"

[View the pictures]

[read more]

Press Release from Critical Art Ensemble 


June 2, 2004

Contact: Beatriz da Costa, mailto:media@caedefensefund.org

Feds STILL unable to distinguish art from bioterrorism
Grand jury to convene June 15


Three artists have been served subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury that will consider bioterrorism charges against a university professor whose art involves the use of simple biology equipment.

The subpoenas are the latest installment in a bizarre investigation in which members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force have mistaken an art project for a biological weapons laboratory (see end for background). While most observers have assumed that the Task Force would realize the absurd error of its initial investigation of Steve Kurtz, the subpoenas indicate that the feds have instead chosen to press their "case" against the baffled professor.

Two of the subpoenaed artists--Beatriz da Costa and Steve Barnes--are, like Kurtz, members of the internationally-acclaimed Critical Art Ensemble (CAE), an artists' collective that produces artwork to educate the public about the politics of biotechnology. They were served the subpoenas by federal agents who tailed them to an art show at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. The third artist, Paul Vanouse, is, like Kurtz, an art professor at the University at Buffalo. He has worked with CAE in the past.

The artists involved are at a loss to explain the increasingly bizarre case. "I have no idea why they're continuing (to investigate)," said Beatriz da Costa, one of those subpoenaed. "It was shocking that this investigation was ever launched. That it is continuing is positively frightening, and shows how vulnerable the PATRIOT Act has made freedom of speech in this country." Da Costa is an art professor at the University of California at Irvine.

According to the subpoenas, the FBI is seeking charges under Section 175 of the US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, which has been expanded by the USA PATRIOT Act. As expanded, this law prohibits the possession of "any biological agent, toxin, or delivery system" without the justification of "prophylactic, protective, bona fide research, or other peaceful purpose." (See
federal code for the 1989 law and Expanded Patriot Act.

Even under the expanded powers of the USA PATRIOT Act, it is difficult to understand how anyone could view CAE's art as anything other than a "peaceful purpose." The equipment seized by the FBI consisted mainly of CAE's most recent project, a mobile DNA extraction laboratory to test store-bought food for possible contamination by genetically modified grains and organisms; such equipment can be found in any university's basic biology lab and even in many high schools (see "Lab Tour" for more details). The grand jury in the case is scheduled to convene June 15 in Buffalo, New York. Here, the jury will decide whether or not to indict Steve Kurtz on the charges brought by the FBI. A protest is being planned at 9 a.m. on June 15 outside the courthouse at 138 Delaware Ave. in Buffalo.


Financial donations: The CAE Defense Fund has so far received over 200 donations in amounts ranging from $5 to $400. This is a wonderful outpouring of sympathy, but a drop in the bucket compared to the potential costs of the case. To make a donation, please visit CAE Defense Fund

Letters of support: Letters and petitions of support from biologists, artists, and others, especially those in positions of responsibility at prominent institutions or companies, could be very useful. SeeCEA Defense Fund for a sample letter of support.

Legal offers and letters of support: If you are a lawyer, offers of pro bono support or offers to write amicus briefs would be very helpful.


Early morning of May 11, Steve Kurtz awoke to find his wife dead of a cardiac arrest. Kurtz called 911. The police arrived and, after stumbling across test tubes and petri dishes Kurtz was using in a current artwork, called in the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Soon agents from the Task Force and FBI detained Kurtz, cordoned off the entire block around his house, and later impounded Kurtz's computers, manuscripts, books, equipment, and even his wife's body for further analysis. The Buffalo Health Department condemned the house as a health risk.

Only after the Commissioner of Public Health for New York State had tested samples from the home and announced there was no public safety threat was Kurtz able to return home and recover his wife's body. Yet the FBI would not release the impounded materials, which included artwork for an upcoming exhibition at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

While most observers assumed the Task Force would realize that its
initial investigation of Steve Kurtz was a terrible mistake, the subpoenas indicate that the feds have instead chosen to press their "case" against Kurtz and possibly others.

Click highlighted text receive updated information on the case and donate to the CAE Defense Fund.

Click on highlighted text for more information on the Critical Art Ensemble.

To join a list about the case, please click here.

Articles and television stories about the case: Applied Autonomy

Washington Post
uffalo News

On advice of counsel, Steve Kurtz is unable to answer questions
regarding his case.

Please direct questions or comments to mailto: media@caedefensefund.org.

Slammed: Telephone Hell 

"In this day and age anything is possible," said the spokeswoman for the Federal Commuinication Commission.

She wasn't talking about the wonders of 21st Century telecommunications, she was referring to "slamming."

I've been slammed for the second time in as many months. I found out about the latest instance this morning, when my phone line went suddenly dead. Slamming is when a competing telephone company changes a user's service without his or her knowledge.

In each case, I've been able to catch the "slam" in its nascent stage and keep my connection with SBC, formerly Southwestern Bell.

When the FCC deregulated the phone companies way back when, it was done with much hoopla. The competition within the market place would improve service and lower rates, said industry flacks. In some respects, that's what happened. In other ways, however, it's caused a never ending nightmare for consumers.

Slamming it seems has a built in Catch-22. Unless you wait for the bill to arrive from your new, unrequested phone service provider it's impossible to find out what company committed a federal crime. The violator's privacy is protected by federal law.

When a consumer wants to reestablish his phone service, however, he is required to divulge lots of personal information, including if they own their home or rent, if they live with somebody, their occupation and, of course, their Social Security number.

After listening to a series of pre-recorded messages and prompts, a caller may finally talk to a real person, if he or she has enough time and patience. Once consumers reach this point, they will usually be put on hold and transferred once or twice, all the while listening to pre-recorded pitches for options that they don't have because their phone service has already been switched to a mystery provider.

Today, I finally talked to Lindsey, who was quite pleasant. She re-established my service and then asked, again, whether, I wanted a litany of other available services: DSL, call waiting, call forwarding, long distance. ... Then I was switched to a verification service somewhere in the Third World. The name of this outfit, Human Touch Verification, sounds like a massage parlor. Another pleasant female voice on the other line asked me a series of more questions. And that was that. This time it only took an hour on my cell phone to get my wired service restored. The last time it took about two hours, and added mucho bucks to my cell phone bill, which another story.

It's impossible for me to determine who interrupted my phone service. More than likely it was a competitor of SBC. MCC World Com doesn't have the best reputation. Or it could have been an individual. All a prankster would need is my Social Security number, which used to be on my driver's license. Or it could be SCB itself -- trying to get me to upgrade my service.

To prevent this hassle in the future, Lindsey suggested I call the FCC to file a complaint. As Lindsey explained it, SBC is not authorized to reveal who slammed me. So I called FEC, where I listened to more pre-recorded messages for about five or ten minutes and punched the phone buttons like a good chimpaneze.

That's when I was told that "anything is possible in this day and age." The FCC woman added that I could file a formal complaint by mail or online, but it wouldn't do any good if I didn't know who slammed me in the first place. We laughed. I thanked her for holding my hand for a minute and said goodbye.

Objectivity Doesn't Exist -- In the Real World 

To assume that newspaper reporters aren't restricted in their reporting by their corporate employers is naive, to the say the least.

When is the last time you saw a critical piece in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Boeing or Engineered Support Systems Inc.? These companaies suck billions of dollars from the U.S. Treasury -- that's you Bubba, you pay the taxes. Any conservative who had lick of sense would be up in arms about this overt thievery. That's what the American Revolution was all about. But the neanderthals on the right are so confused that they buy into the flag-waving salesmanship of the defense industry contractors and their supporters in govervement -- who don't really give a shit whether the grunts over in Iraq are getting their asses shot off for no good reason on earth. In fact, they don't even care if a leatherneck has enough water in the desert - unless, of course, they can sell it to the Marine Corps at inflated prices. Ask Gen. Anthony Zinni. This kind of rip off has been going on since at least the Civil War in this country, when Olin sold bullets that backfired to the Union Army. The word "defense" is itself a euphemsim used to cover up the greed that permeates the entire system.

Robert Parry on Paycheck Journalism 

Robert Parry and Brian Barger of the Associated Press broke the Iran-Contra scandal wide open with their ballsy reporting in the 1980s.

And their careers suffered because of it.

After reading Parry and Barger's accounts of the secret gun and drug running operations of the Reagan-Bush White House, it inspired me to go back to college and take nine hours in journalism classes, which remains the extent of my formal training. Of course, using these guys as role models hasn't exactly furthered the financial success of my career, either.

In his linked critique of "paycheck journalism," Parry delves into the reasons why most reporters don't report what they know is really going on behind the scenes at the White House or Congress or the Pentagon. The biggest culprits on these beats are reporters for the New York Times and Washington Post. But Parry's reasoning applies to local reporting,too.

In a nutshell, reporters learn very early in their careers that it is not in their self-interest to rock the status quo. Their editors don't have to come right out and tell them to lay off Sen. Lackey or the Boondoggle Corp.

On rare occasions when a reporter does stick his neck out, he usually gets it whacked off in short order. Perhaps the most publicized victim in recent memory is Gary Webb. In the 1990s, the San Jose Mercury News reporter revealed ties between the rise of the crack cocaine epidemic in East LA to the Reagan-Bush- era Contra resupply effort in Nicaragua. As a result, the New York Times and Washington Post both smeared Webb's reputation and reporting. Webb was fired. It doesn't matter that 99 percent of his reporting was later proven to be accurate. The last I heard, he was working PR for some California state agency.

Locally, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has sent correspondents to the Iraq. In fact, a story appeared on the use of private contractors by the military right before four of them were killed in Fullujah in April. Media Mayhem lauded the story. Nevetheless, looking back at it, the story was spun in such a way that it didn't appear too critical of the U.S. policies. The reporter likely knows much more about the use of mercenaries in Iraq than he's was willing to say -- because he wants to keep his job. If I'm wrong, I hope somebody at the Post-Dispatch will respond and set the record straight. Better yet how about a follow-up on how these mercenaries aren't subject to international or military law? Fat chance.

As for the Riverfront Times, it's hardly worth wasting the keystrokes. New Times Inc., the owner of the RFT, must be having a secret affair with Halliburton.

Parry says it best:

"... For a variety of reasons – including fear – major U.S. news outlets have given a conservative slant to the news, systematically, for much of the past quarter century. Mainstream journalists simply are afraid to go against how conservatives want the news presented. Otherwise, they risk getting denounced as "liberal" or even "anti-American" and seeing their careers suffer.

Working journalists recognize that there is far less pressure from the left, certainly nothing that would endanger their careers. Plus, they know that many of their senior editors and corporate executives personally favor Republican positions, especially in international affairs.

So, out of self-interest and self-protection, journalists tilt their reporting to the right, all the better to pay their mortgages, put their kids through school, and get invited to some nifty Washington parties. ..."

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Second CIA Official Resigns 

The BBC reports that CIA deputy director of operations James Pavitt has announced his resignation from the agency. The 31-year veteran of CIA is the second high-ranking official to quit the CIA within the last 24 hours. Director George Tenet announced his resignation earlier Thursday.

Pavitt's job as director of operations involves handling spies. He has been criticized lately for the lack of reliable covert agents in Iraq.

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Thursday, June 03, 2004

Studying War: The Rolla School of Bullets 

The University of Missouri at Rolla used to be called the Rolla School of Mines. That's because it's curriculum favors engineering students. Being near the Missouri lead belt, the university has concentrated much of its research on mining issues. The school's athletic teams are named the "Miners." There's even a lead mine under the campus, which was used academic purposes.

Research dedicated to the munitions industry is a logical extension of the school's focus -- because bullets, God bless them, are made of lead.

So metalurgy is studied at UM Rolla, big time. And one of the practical applications of metalurgy, and the subject of much research at Rolla, is the production of ammunition. As reported by Media Mayhem earlier this week, the university is part of the National Small Arms Technology Consortium.

Bullets are even a bigger ticket item nowadays on the Pentagon shopping list. With wars waging in two countries and smaller proxy counter-revolutions in many more, the U.S. military-industrial complex is finding itself short of ammo. Small arms research and development programs are scrambling to keep up with the demands of a growth industry.

Now is the time for all good gunmen to come to the aid of their country.

One of Rolla's ties to the small arms industry is through Gerald W. Bersett, a 1965 grad who set up a scholarship program at the school. Bersett has a long distinguished career in the gun industry. He has acted as the chairman of the of the gun industry's lobby in the past and served as an executive at Olin Winchester for 30 years before assuming the leadership of Sturm Ruger, a prominent handgun manufacturer, in 1995. When I wrote about him a few years ago, he was the head of Blount’s Federal Cartridge Co., an ammunition manufacturer.

In that position Bersett was paid $325,000 a year, according to Security and Exchange Commission filings. His contract allowed for an annual bonus equal to his yearly income, if he exceeded performance goals.

Federal Cartridge’s Gold Metal .308 caliber ammunition loaded with Sierra 168-grain hollow-point boat-tail bullets is favored by snipers throughout the world, according to a story that appeared in the Arizona Republic.

Acting CIA Director's Nickname Is "Merlin" 

John E. McLaughlin, the man named interim director of Central Intelligence, is a magician who goes by the nickname "Merlin inside the agency, according to the Associated Press. In the wake of CIA director George Tenet today, McLaughlin, 61, is filling in until a new director is named next month.

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2,000 Pages Missing from the Taguba Report 

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, including Republican Sen. John McCain, are becoming increasingly frustrated by continued stonewalling at the Pentagon.

Last week, Senate investigators discovered that as many as 2,000 pages of Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba's report on abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were missing. The missing pages represent one third of the Taguba report. The Defense Department failed to turn over the full report before the committee hearings on the issue last month.

Interviewed by NPR today, McCain said he and his colleagues are losing patience because of lack of cooperation by the Pentagon in turning over missing pages. NPR reported that the missing pages include appraisals on detainment policies provided to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The full report is sometimes confused with that document's executive summary, which is 51 pages. The complete Taguba report, including the missing pages, is more than 6,000 pages long.

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Plame: A Democratic CIA Contributor to Gore Campaign 

Should covert CIA analysts make financial contributions to partisan political campaigns. Valerie Plame did.

Plame is the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who last year revealed that there was no credible evidence that Saddam Hussein tried to get uranium form the African nation of Niger as President George W. Bush claimed in his State of the Union address.

As a result, Wilson believes that his wife was targeted for "outing" by the Bush White House, specifically dirty trickster Karl Rove, a crony of Attorney General John Ashcroft. In July 2003, Plame was reported to work for the CIA in a column by Robert Novak.

Ashcroft recused himself form the Justice Department inquiry into the matter in December, naming U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald special prosecutor.

Months later, the president has announced that he has conferred with a private attorney about the criminal case.

In 1999, Plame and Wilson both contributed to the Democratic primary candidacy of then-Vice-President Al Gore.

On March 23, 1999, Wilson donated $2,000 to the Gore campaign. His wife followed up, giving $1,000 to Gore's bid on April 22, 1999.

At that time, Plame, who used her married name on Federal Election Commission filing, listed her job as "analyst" for "Brewster-Jennings & Associates.

Wilson and Plame live at 4612 Charleston Terrace in Washington, D.
C., according to the FEC filing.

To see the FEC document click on the "Link" below.

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The Price of Oil: Plame Worked for "Brewster Jennings," a CIA Front Company 

The following posting was previously reported by Media Mayhem on Decebmer 28, 2003.

This story has been building since last summer, developing more every couple months. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is playing catch up now and has to make the decision whether it wants to dedicate suffcient manpower, ... that this story deserves. A reporter has to first get his or her feet wet to start understanding whose swimming on the surface and whose scuba diving. Not to mention those who may already have taken a deep six. Today's story is the first step. Wouldn't it be a kick to see the Post lead the pack for a change?

The leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's name has been cast as an effort to discredit her husband Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador who has alleged that Bush lied about Iraq seeking uranium from the African nation of Niger in his State of the Union address last January. Bush used the lie to convince Congress and the American people that it was necessary to go to war to stop Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program. Other accounts say the White House leaked the name to intimidate Wilson for publicly criticizing Bush and the administration. The motivation of those who were behind the link is not a minor point.

Beyond the question of motivation, however, is what was Plame up to herself. What were her duties at the CIA? What kind of knowledge about U.S. foreign policy and covert actions does she possess? The press acts like this is somehow off limits, a matter of national security, which it cannot breach out of duty to God and country. NPR radio may still refuse to use her name in its reports, but the public already knows who she is. People inside the Beltway, including members of the press corps, obviously know more about this story than they are choosing to reveal. At this point, hiding the facts any further does nothing but cast more doubt on both the government and media.

Interestingly, the Washington Post reported on Oct. 3 that Plame listed her employer as Brewster Jennings & Associates on a Federal Election Commission form she filed in 1999. "The firm did exist, at least on paper," wrote Walter Pincus, the Washington Post's reporter who specializes in intelligence.

It's worth noting that Pincus never met a spy he wouldn't fawn over. So if he knows anything more about Brewster Jennings, he's not going to report it because he doesn't want to burn his sources.

The Boston Globe found the address of Plame's business in Boston and duly reported it. Other than that not much is known about Brewster Jennings. More than likely it was or is a CIA front company.

The CIA is sometimes known for its spooky humor. Brewster Jennings was one of the founders of Socony -- Standard Oil Co. of New York -- now Mobil Oil. My guess is that the rift between the CIA's Plame and the Bush Bund has more to do with oil than uranium.

Jenning's namesake, who runs Westwind Investment Corp. in Durango, Col., laughs off any connection to the current scandal to his great grandfather. Maybe some enterprising reporter, with time to kill, should check out Westwind. In 1993, there was another company using the same name out of Singapore.

Bush Hightails It to Europe  

Leaving a mess in Washington, President George W. Bush is heading to Europe, where he's even less popular.

Although Bush's Eurpopean trip has been penciled in for some time, it is not at all unusual for presidents to take a trip abroad when things are heating up at home.

Before leaving, Bush announced the resignation of longtime CIA Director George Tenet. The circumstances of the annoucement wre reported as "almost bizarre" by the New York Times.

Yesterday, CBS News broke the news that Bush had conferred with a private attorney about the special prosecutor's investigation into who leaked the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame to the press.

Plame is the wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson, the diplomat who challenged Bush's claim that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had attempted to buy uranium from an African nation to help build nuclear weapons. Bush made the claim in his 2003 State of the Union Address.

After Wilson exposed this to be a false accusation, somebody linke to the White House leaked Plame's CIA affiliation to political columnist Robert Novak, who reported it on July 14 last year. Wilson blames White political strategist Karl Rove for the leak.

Publicly exposing a covert agent is a federal felony. Wilson claims his wife was targeted because of he revealed Bush's assertions about the Iraqi nuclear program were false.

A Justice Department probe into the leak was launched in October. Attorney General John Ashcroft, a close friend of Rove's, recused himself from the case in December and named U.S Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of Chicago as special prosecutor.

Fitzgerald has been quietly interviewed dozens of administration officals. He also subpoened Tim Russert of NBC's Meet the press and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine. Two Washington Post reporters were also asked to voluntarily cooperate with the probe.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan confirmed that the attorney to whom the president spoke was Jim Sharp, a former U.S. attorney in Washington now in private practice.

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The Cult of the New Eve and Other Performance Art Disasters 

Steve Kurtz, the University of Buffalo art professor now under investigation for bio-terrorism, sat on the
research council
of a group called the World-Information.org, last year. The organization is headquartered in Amsterdam.

In conjunction with the World-Information.org, Kurtz's American art collective, The Critical Art Ensemble, participated in exhibits in Belgrade, Serbia last year.

The international connection to Kurtz and his fellow artists, along with the subject of their art, may very well have caused the FBI to over react. Kurtz came under investigation after his wife died last month at their home in Buffalo. Emergency workers called to his home, became concerned about the laboratory equipment they observed in the residence. They called the FBI. Kurtz explained that the equipment was used in his art work, but the bureau decided to search the house for biological weapons.

Kurtz and the CEA specialize in art that analyzes the rapidly developing field of bio-genetic engineering. They are not only critical of the profit motives of this high-tech field, they are also concerned about the way that it is being described in religious terms. To draw attention to this aspect, they created their own fake religion -- the Cult of the New Eve.

As of today, some of Kurtz's online art is still available of the web.

The CAE's biotech page is empty now. Apparently the satiric art has either been deemed a national security threat by Homeland Security or Kurtz is fed up with a performance piece that has gone out of control. In trying to track this story it has become increasingly more difficult to distinguish Kurtz's art from the reality of living in the paranoia of post 9-11 America.

Given the current context, Kurtz's art further blurs the lines between news, information and disinformation. To that extent, he may have achieved one of his goals, but at a terrible cost -- if you can believe anything you read nowadays.

Academics from around the world are listed along with Kurtz as members of the World-Information.org's research council. The WIO's board of advisors is made up of distinguished experts in communications, including Robert McChesney of the University of Illinois and Ben Bagdikian of the University of California at Berkeley. The organization is also supported by UNESCO.

But WIO's web site doesn't appear to have been updated since last year.

Last spring, the CAE exhibited three of its performance/installation art works at two museums in Belgrade in coordination with WIO. Other WIO sponsored groups have included Adbusters from the United States and a British group called the Cultural Terror Agency.

A mission statement at the WIO website describes the organization as "a trans-national cultural intelligence provider, (involved in) collaborative effort of arts, science technology. It is a practical example for a technological and contextual environment for cultural production and independent platform of critical media."

All of which sounds like pretty standard grant-writing goobledegook. But in the last paragraph of the mission statement the organization starts sounding a bit over the edge, referring to the "digital revolution, ... biotechnology, biometrics and the fusion of 'flesh and machine.'"

CAE exhibited the New Cult of Eve, Molecular Invasion and Bio-Tech Projects at the Museum of Vojuodina Novi Sad and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade from March until May last year.

Check out some of the above links, while they're still active. They may be gone soon. Or maybe some better advise might be to just go outside and take a walk.

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Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Fortunate Sons: The Key Word In Selective Service Commission is "Selective"  

Both houses of Congress are set to take up legislation reauthorizing the draft early next year -- after the presidential election.

Conscripting young Americans into the military hasn't been done since the Vietnam war era 30 years ago.

The mostly-mothballed Selective Service Commission, which is responsible for organizing and carrying out the forced induction of citizens into the armed forced, received $28 million in additional funding this year to ready itself. If passed next spring, the first draftee could be called up as soon as June 2005.

Although the Congress may say otherwise, if the draft is reimplemented, the burden of mandatory service will likely fall on the poor and lower-middle-class Americans. You can bet on it.

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Steve Kurtz's Crime: Questioning Authority 

In their wake, the FBI hazmat teams from Quantico left a mess at artist Steve Kurtz's house. The trash included pizza boxes, empty Gatorade bottles, gas mask filters, gloves and biohazard suits.

The Buffalo arts community hauled the discarded objects away, presumable for the purpose of creating a future art installation.

After first posting Kurtz's sad story on Media Mayhem this afternoon, I began to think it might have all been a prank. Kurtz is, after all, known for tweaking the collective mind of the establishment. If it was a prank the Washington Post (registration required) was fooled by it, too.

But it wasn't a joke. When the University of Buffalo art professor woke up one day in early May he found his wife dead of a heart attack. In shock, he called 911. By the time emergency responders arrived, it was too late to save her life. But they did become wary of the laboratory equipment in the Kurtz household.

In recent years, Kurtz's art has criticized bio-genetic engineering of food. The lab equipment that the FBI found in his house was part of Kurtz's socially-conscious art work. His work has been exhibited at noted museums in Chicago and New York. He told the police that he was an artist. But the local authorities didn't buy it.

They called the FBI, which flew a biological terrorism unit in from Quantico to investigate. Kurtz was grilled for two days in a hotel room. His friends and neighbors were interrorgated. His house was quarantined. The entire block where he lives in Buffalo was cordoned off. The FBI found nothing, but the bureau is still trying to pin something on Kurtz. It stands to reason in this day and age that a man with a house full of petri dishes and a DNA testing machine must be guilty of something.

After all, he was a member of the Critical Art Ensemble, which described itself as a "collective." And said collective published subversive books with titles such as "Digital Resistance" Explorations in Tactical Media and Electronic Civil Disobedience and Other Unpopular Ideas.

Maybe Kurtz was guilty of laughing at the corporate and governmental manipulation of the way people think, the way they view the world. But it's not funny anymore for Steve Kurtz.

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Where Have All the Bullets Gone? DOD Hires Israel Military Industries 

By coincidence or perhaps fate (for those so inclined) I blogged two references about Israel Military Industries (IMI) in the last week.

The first reference came in a humorous story on the U.S. exporting snowmobiles to Antigua, which I wrote for the Riverfront Times more than a decade ago. Here's is that excerpt:

More recently, Antigua has been used as a base to smuggle arms to the Medellin cocaine cartel in Colombia. The arms transfers, which were revealed in 1989, were the work of a group of retired Israeli military officers in Miami associated with Israeli Military Industries (IMI), a company subsidized by the Israeli government. Israel, of course, receives billions in military aid from the United States. One of the IMI rifles that passed through Antigua was used in the 1989 assassination of Colombian presidential candidate. ...

The second reference came a few days ago when I cited a New York Times piece that indicated that the U.S. military was running short on ammunition. To make up for the shortage, the Pentagon contracted -- you guessed it -- Israel Military Industries.

Let me see if my little brain can figure this one out: IMI, a munitions maker, is owned by the Israeli government. The U.S. government gives the Israeli government more than a $1 billion a year in foreign aid, much of which is dedicated to military arms.
So is it possible that the U.S. is subsidizing at least a portion of IMI's operations on the front end and turning around and buying back the end product?

If that's true, that's true I own a five-sided building in Arlington, Va. that I wanna sell you real cheap.

I'll ruminate on the Israeli-Colombian-cocaine-cartel connection later.

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Let Them Eat White Bread and Mercury-Laced Tuna 

When you're poor, you learn the value of a dollar. And, of course, everyone knows its not worth much these days. You can't even ride the bus for a buck anymore.

But real bargains can still be found at the ubiquitious "dollar stores," which have proliferated throughout the country. They're regularly found next to the check-cashing storefronts, where you can hock your car or first born son for 500 percent interest compounded weekly.

Two cans of tuna sell for a buck at these discount stores, which in no way have the same cache of the dime stores of old.

On the contrary, dollar stores are where the dredges of society such as myself shop till we drop. A box of saltines goes for 50 cents. Ditto spaghetti. Cornflakes, a dollar.

It's a rather bland diet, but you're guaranteed not starve to death. In fact, a dollar store diet will probably put a few inches on the waistline given time.

And I got plenty of time.

I can remember when Dubya's father was running for president back in the 88 or 92. Somebody asked him how much a gallon of milk cost. He didn't know. When he went into a supermarket on a campaign stop, he was dazed and confused by the scanners at the check out counter. He hadn't been in a grocery store lately.

A gallon of milk costs at Schnuck's now cost more than $3.00. That's why I pick up the healthy no-fat variety at Aldi's for $2.29. A half gallon of Aldi's orange juice, the concentrated stuff, runs $1.24. And if you want to escape the toxic consequences of eating white bread, whole wheat sells for just a $1.29 a loaf.

Now every man, woman and child is responsible for his or her own destiny in this great land of ours. I'm sure it's in the Bible somewhere, too. But I got a wonder why I paid all those income taxes for nearly a quarter of century. Because I'm not seeing a dime of help from the federal or state governments now that I'm chronically unemployed.

The U.S. can run up the federal debt to the tune of $4.5 billion a month for the Iraq war, however. If followed that example, I would have already filed for bankruptcy.

So what's the president's plan, if he's re-elected? According to an Office of Management and Budget memo leaked to the Washington Post, last week, Bush plans to cut more federal programs, including Homeland Security, to make up for his tax cuts to the rich.

In a New York Times op-ed piece that appeared yesterday, yesterday, Paul Krugman summarized the situation this way:

"Last week The Washington Post got hold of an Office of Management and Budget memo that directed federal agencies to prepare for post-election cuts in programs that George Bush has been touting on the campaign trail. These include nutrition for women, infants and children; Head Start; and homeland security. The numbers match those on a computer printout leaked earlier this year — one that administration officials claimed did not reflect policy.

Beyond the routine mendacity, the case of the leaked memo points us to a larger truth: whatever they may say in public, administration officials know that sustaining Mr. Bush's tax cuts will require large cuts in popular government programs. And for the vast majority of Americans, the losses from these cuts will outweigh any gains from lower taxes. ..."

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Life Imitating Art: U of Buffalo Prof Deemed Bio Terrorist by FBI  

On May 11, Steve Kurtz, a professor of art at the University of Buffalo, woke up and found his wife dead of a heart attack. This would have been tragic enough. But Kurtz's woes were just beginning.

After he called 911, police and paramedics arrives on the scene and became suspcicious of the laboratory equipment in Kurtz's house. Kurtz's art aims a critical eye at the wonders of modern science such as biological and genetic engineering. But the emergency workers didn't see the subtle irony of the professor's work. Instead of asking him where his next opening would be, they called the FBI.

The FBI responded by bringing in hazmat teams and cordoning off the entire block. Agents confiscated Kurtz's computer, art supplies, manuscripts and -- his wife's body.

The FBI is continuing to investigate and Kurtz anticipates being indicted by a federal grand jury on biological weapons charges under the Patriot Act sometime later this month.

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Buying the "Coalition of the Willing" 

The bribe money doesn't show up on the federal budget or as part of the bulging federal deficit because it's designated as "supplemental appropriations."

But billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars are, nevertheless being used to arm nations throughout the world in an effort to win their support for the Bush administration's foreign policies, including the war in Iraq.

The White House claims there are 46 nation states that are part of the so-called "coalition of the willing."

Last year, Congress approved a supplemental spending package loaded with military aid to many of these countries, including, of course, $1 billion to the governments of Turkey and Israel. Arms, Aid and the War on Iraq, an article that appears on the Federation of American Scientists web site, spells out the Bush administration's "Guns for the World" program.

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Preemptive Strike By DOJ: Small Arms Researchers Exempt from Anti-Trust Suits 

Citing an obscure federal law, the Justice Department last week took the first step toward exempting a consortium of small arms manufacturers and researchers from anti-suit suits, Media Mayhem has learned

A loophole in the National Cooperative Research Production Act of 1993 is being used by the National Small Arms Technology Corsortium to thwart potential litigation aimed at recovering damages alleged from the result of the group's work.

The consortium is comprised of leading education and business interests that specialize in small arms production, research and development. The University of Missouri-Rolla, a publicly-supported institution is one of the consortium members that is seeking exemption under the law.

The consortium is working with the U.S. Army National Small Arms Center under the asupices of the Defense Department.

The request for the exemption was filed on May 27 by Dorothy B. Fountain, Deputy Director of Operations for the Justice Department's Anti-trust Division. The Federal Trade Commission was also informed.

"The notifications were filed for the purpose of invoking the Act's provisions limiting the recovery of antitrust plaintiffs to actual damages under specified circumstances," according to the Justice Department official notice.

This is a list of the consortium members who are seeking ananti-trust exemption for their work on small arms research:

AAI Corporation, Hunt Valley, MD; Accent on Creativity, Newton, NJ; Alliant Techsystems, Inc., Plymouth, MN; ALTARUM, Ann Arbor, MI; AMBRICK, USA, Poland, OH; American Ordnance LLC, Pittsburg, KS; American Systems Corporation, Dumfries, VA; Applied Ordnance Technology, Inc., Dover, NJ; ARMALITE, Geneseo, IL,; ATI, North Charleston, SC; Barrett Firearms, Murfreesboro, TN; Batelle Memorial Institute, Columbus, OH; Batelle Memorial Institute, Lake Hiawatha, NJ; Batelle Memorial Institute, Aberdeen, MD; Beretta USA, Accokeek, MD; BES Systems, Inc., New York, NY; Blackwater Target Systems, Noyock, NC; Brashear LP, Pittsburg, PA; Computer Aided Engineering Associates, Inc., Flanders, NJ; CAPO Inc., Grand Junction, CO; Cape Aerospace, Cape Coral, FL; Colt Defense LLC, West Hartford, Connecticut; ELCAN Optical Technologies, Midland, Ontario, CANADA; Engineering and Management Executives, Inc., Alexandria, VA; FN Herstal S.A., Herstal, BELGIUM; FN Herstal USA, Inc., McLean, VT; FN Manufacturing, Columbia, SC; General
Dynamics Armament and Technical Products, Burlington, VT; GLOCK, Inc., Solvay, NY; Hekler and Koch, Inc., Sterling, VA; Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, Idaho Falls, ID; KamanDayron, Orlando, FL; Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM; Mechanical Solutions, Inc., Parsippany, NJ; MER Corporation, Tucson, AZ; Meprolight, Inc., Washignton, DC; Metal Storm LTD, Arlington, VA; New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ; O.F. Mossberg, North Haven, CT; Pacific Scientific, Inc., San Carlos, CA; Polymer Technologies, Inc., Clifton, NJ; Remington Arms Company, Inc., Lonoke, AR; Saint Marks Powder, General Dynamics Tactical Systems, Dover, NJ; Sandia
National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM; SIGARMS, Rockville, MD; Smith and Wesson, Springfield, MA; S.H. Smith Associates, Hoboken, NJ; Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, NJ; Tanner Research,
Pasadena, CA; Universal Chemical, Stuart, FL; University of Florida, Shalimar, FL; University of Missouri at Rolla, Rolla, Missouri; Western Design, Irvine, CA; and Wise Web Connection, Dover, NJ.

[read more]

Alien Nation: FBI Raids Area 51 Buff's House Trailer 

A May 26Securityfocus.com report details the FBI raid on 58-year-old Chuck Clark's house trailer in Rachel, Nevada last June. The reason for the raid? Clark, the author of an Area 51 guide book, had dug up a government sensor on public land in the desert the previous week. The sensors are used to monitor the movements of people on the unpaved roads near the top secret Nellis Air Force Base at Groom Lake, aka Area 51.

The feebies carted away Clark's computer and scratchy phonograph records.

[read more]

Far Out: Area 51 Draws Presidential Attention -- One Week After 9-11 

Federal Register: October 4, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 193)
Presidential Documents
Page 50805-50807

Presidential Determination No. 2001-27 of September 18, 2001

Classified Information Concerning the Air Force's
Operating Location Near Groom Lake, Nevada Memorandum for the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency [and] the Secretary of the Air Force.

I find that it is in the paramount interest of the United States to exempt the United States Air Force's operating location near Groom Lake, Nevada, the subject of litigation in Kasza v. Browner (D. Nev. CV-S-94-795- PMP) and Frost v. Perry (D. Nev. CV-S-94-714-PMP), from any applicable requirement for the disclosure to unauthorized persons of classified information concerning that operating location. Therefore, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 6961(a), I hereby exempt the Air Force's operating location near Groom Lake, Nevada, from any Federal, State, interstate, or local provision respecting control and abatement of solid waste or
hazardous waste disposal that would require the disclosure of classified information concerning the operating location to any unauthorized person. This exemption shall be effective for the full one-year statutory period.

Nothing herein is intended to: (a) imply that in the absence of such a Presidential exemption, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) or any other provision of law permits or requires disclosure of classified information to unauthorized persons; or (b) limit the applicability or enforcement of any
requirement of law applicable to the Air Force's operating location near Groom Lake, Nevada, except those provisions, if any, that would require the disclosure of classified information.

The Secretary of the Air Force is authorized and directed to publish this determination in the Federal Register.

[signed:] George W. Bush
Washington, September 18, 2001.

The Secret of Area 51  

Bush Exempted It from EPA Regs in 2003

No, this isn't a prank. Area 51 -- the legendary secret base in the Nevada desert where UFOs are routinely spotted -- was exempted from any local, state or federal environmental regulation by President George W. Bush last year.

Memorandum for the Administrator of the Environmental Protection
Presidential Determination No. 2003-39
The Secretary of the Air Force

SUBJECT: Classified Information Concerning the Air Force's

Operating Location Near Groom Lake, Nevada

I find that it is in the paramount interest of the United States to exempt the United States Air Force's operating location near Groom Lake, Nevada, the subject of litigation in Kasza v. Browner (D. Nev. CV-S-94-795-PMP) and Frost v. Perry (D. Nev. CV-S-94-714-PMP), from any applicable requirement for the disclosure to unauthorized persons of classified information concerning that operating location. Therefore, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 6961(a), I hereby exempt the Air Force's operating location near Groom Lake, Nevada, from any Federal, State, interstate or local provision respecting control and abatement of solid waste or hazardous waste disposal that would require the disclosure of classified information concerning the operating location to any unauthorized person. This exemption shall be effective for the full one-year statutory period.

Nothing herein is intended to: (a) imply that in the absence of such a Presidential exemption, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) or any other provision of law permits or requires disclosure of classified information to unauthorized persons; or (b) limit the applicability or enforcement of any requirement of law applicable to the Air Force's operating location near Groom Lake, Nevada, except those provisions, if any, that would require the disclosure of classified information.

The Secretary of the Air Force is authorized and directed to publish this determination in the Federal Register.


# # #

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Chalabi Crony Looted $22 Million From IGC, Says Aussie Weekly 

Citing American news accounts, the Australian Green Left Weekly reports that a close associate of Ahmad Chalabi has been charged with stealing $22 million from the now-defunct Iraqi Governoring Council.

Chalabi, who headed the council's economic and finance committee, appointed Sahah Nouri to oversee "anti-corruption" responsibilities within the interim body's finance ministry.

Nouri has been charged with 17 counts of theft of government property and abuse of power.

U.S. forces raided Chalabi's home in Baghdad and his Iraqi National Congress headquarters on May 21. Until recently, Chalabi's political organization had received hundreds of thousands of dollars a month from the U.S. Defense Department.

[read more]

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Abuse Inquiry Broadens 

The Washington Post reports today that the Army is looking into 91 cases of alleged abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan, far more than previously acknowledged.

[read more]

Bush Lies Reach Unprecedented Proportions 

A survey by the Washington Post shows that the vast majority of Bush attack ads are false:

"... Scholars and political strategists say the ferocious Bush assault on Kerry this spring has been extraordinary, both for the volume of attacks and for the liberties the president and his campaign have taken with the facts. Though stretching the truth is hardly new in a political campaign, they say the volume of negative charges is unprecedented -- both in speeches and in advertising.

Three-quarters of the ads aired by Bush's campaign have been attacks on Kerry. Bush so far has aired 49,050 negative ads in the top 100 markets, or 75 percent of his advertising. Kerry has run 13,336 negative ads -- or 27 percent of his total. The figures were compiled by The Washington Post using data from the Campaign Media Analysis Group of the top 100 U.S. markets. Both campaigns said the figures are accurate. ..."

[read more]

Extra! Oil Industry Profits From Lax Bush Administration Regulation 

David Pace of the Associated Press reports on how the Bush administration is turning a blind eye to violations of federal law concerning the leasing of millions of acres of public land to oil companies. In return, the oil tycoons are stuffing the GOP coffers.

"...Companies and individuals that dominate federal oil and gas leasing have been major financial supporters of Bush and the Republican Party. Since the 1999, the top 25 owners of federal oil and gas leases have directed 86 percent of their $8.2 million in political donations to the GOP.

Individuals and companies affiliated with the Yates family of Artesia, N.M., which is by far the biggest lease holder, have given $276,926 to GOP parties and candidates since 1999, and just $11,400 to Democrats.

Three sons of Martin Yates Jr., one of New Mexico's oil pioneers, created Yates Petroleum and a number of other companies involved in the oil leases. A fourth son, Harvey E. Yates, also holds leases through his own oil company.

Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites) visited Artesia in March to raise money for a GOP congressional candidate backed by the Yates brothers. A month earlier, he was in Albuquerque for a presidential campaign fund-raiser that took in more than $200,000...."

[read more]

Touche': Marshall Parries Brooks 

Why does Josh Marshall bother to critique the sophistry of New York Times columnist David Brooks? Probably the same reason I do -- it's easy.

Today, the author of the acclaimed Talking Points Memo took aim at Brook's rationale for the Bush tax cut. Apparently Brooks makes the case that Bush had to do it because of the state of the economy in early 2001, when the prez took office.

Marshall shows Brook's premise to be a bald-face lie, dredging up a speech that Gov. Bush gave in 1999 -- which called for tax cuts.

Brooks might as well be a Bush administration spokesman. You can depend on him to lie.

[read more]

Slushed Up: Bush Campaign Fined $90,000 for Hiding 2000 Florida "Recount Fund" 

The Bush-Cheney campaign hid a $13-million "recount fund" from federal election officials, which was used to support efforts to win the contested Florida presidential ballot in 2000, Media Mayhem has learned.

On April 20, the Federal Election Commission quietly fined the Bush-Cheney campaign $90,000 for failing to report receipts and disbursements from the fund, which was originally set up as a "media" account for the campaign.

Bush-Cheney IRS filings in 2002 and 2003 show that the recount fund collected as much as $11 million and may have disbursed as much as $13 million, according to the FEC. The campaign was also cited for failing to itemize its expenditures.

The results of the Florida presidential election were a matter of great contention after the election and was finally decided in George W. Bush's favor by a split vote of the U.S. Supreme Court.

[read more]

Censored by CNN? Larry Flynt Source of Bush Abortion Story During 2000 Race 

Four years ago, porno king Larry Flynt alleged that George W. Bush arranged for a paramour to have an illegal abortion in 1971, according to a pro-Democratic web site.

Flynt's allegation was made in an interview by Robert Novak on CNN's Crossfire news program during the 2000 presidential campaign.

The televsion network refused to air the allegations, according to the web report.

In 1971, George W. Bush impregnated Robin Lowman and arranged for her to have an abortion at a Houston-area hospital. Abortion was illegal in the United States prior to the Sumpreme Court decision in 1972.

Lowman now goes by her married name Robin Garner. Her husband is reported to be Jerry Lee Garner, a FBI agent.

Bush cronies who are said be aware of the abortion include Robert Carl Chandler and Jim Bath.

At the time that he made the allegation, Flynt claimed that he had proof. After the Monica Lewinsky scandal rocked the Clinton White House in the late 1990s, Flynt hired private investigators who uncovered extra-maritial affairs by prominent Republicans, including former House Spekaer Newt Gingrich and Rep. Bob Barr.

[read more]

Blogosphere Buzz: Bush Paid for Illegal Abortion in 1971 

According to this unsubstantiated blog posting, President George W. Bush impregnated a woman in Houston in 1971 and, she had an illegal abortion.

[read more]

When Time Catches Up, You Know the Tide Has Turned 

Somebody at the Pentagon leaked an email to Time magazine showing that Vice President Dick Cheney approved a multi-billion-dollar, no bid contract to Halliburton just before the U.S. invaded Iraq last year.

[read more]

New and Improved Media Mayhem Is Pleased to Serve You 

A special welcome to surfers at wustl.edu and newtimes.com! Media Mayhem now has a site search available courtesy of Google. My tests searches show hits on all of the names I tried, but Google doesn't provide 100 percent of the references on this blog. The spiders haven't hunted down some of the most recent references. Nevertheless, it's not a bad tool. Just use a last name. Try it out:

Alvin Malnik
Charlie Dooley
Jesse Stoneking
Frank Fertitta Jr.
Michael Lazaroff
Mark Molasky
John Ashcroft
Pete Vasel
Floyd Warmann
Julia Von Wellen
Dorothy Ann Pyron
Judith Miller
Earl(e) Harbinson
Jimmie Michaels
Harold Koplar
Morris Shenker
Duncan Baumann
Anthony "Tony" Giordano
Eugene "Gene" Slay
Lawrence Callanan
Art Berne
Nando Bartolotta
Russell Byers
John Paul Spica
Norman "Norm" Journey
Richard O'Hara
Andrew Leonard
Michael "Mike" Lacey
Andy Van de Voorde
Station casino
Robert Romanik
Anthony Sansone
Francis Slay
Wendy Weise
Charles Brennan
Bill "Malibu" McClellan
Ray Hartmann
Safir Ahmed
Roland Klose
Dennis Sonnenschein
Thomas Venezia
Amiel Cueto ... and many, many more ...

Goldman Sachs Leads List of Usual Suspects 

Executives for Goldman Sachs lead the pack in individual political contributions, according to Opensecrets.org.

To qualify, the individual donors had to contribute a minimum of $50,000 during one of the recent election cycles.

Other frontrunners included Time-Warner and Credit Suisse.

The pack is rounded out by Disney, Microsoft, Phillip Morris and Arch Daniel Midland

[read more]

The Station's Coverup 

Since January, Media Mayhem has published 19 postings related to the Station's Casino/Michael Lazaroff scandal. [click here to read more]

Six of the entries were published in the first week of February. To access those postings, click on the appropriate archive link in the sidebar.

[read more]

Ashcroft Accepted Contribution from Mobbed Up Casino Owner 

Frank Fertitta Jr., the founder of Station Casino in Las Vegas, contributed $1,000 to the re-election campaign of Sen. John Ashcroft on March 25, 2000, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Fertitta is a top GOP donor. He is also an associate of organized crime, according to federal court records.

Fertitta's name is mentioned in FBI wiretaps as being involved in skimming operations in Las Vegas in the 1970s for the Kansas City Mafia and other Midwestern crime families.

Fertitta's involvement in the skimming became a matter of record during a series of federal mob trials in Kansas City in the early 1980s, which led to the convictions of Mafia bosses in Kansas City, Milwaukee, Chicago and Cleveland. The FBI investigation that resulted in the original indictments was called "Operation Strawman."

Following a corruption scandal, Station's Casino was kicked out of Missouri in September 2000 by the Missouri Gaming Commission, which was appointed by the late Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan. The following month Carnahan, died in a small airplane crash in Jefferson County, Mo., while campaigning against Ashcroft for his U.S. senate seat.

During the campaign, the Missouri Republican Party took issue with contributions that Carnahan had received from gambling lobbyist Michael Lazaroff, a lawyer who pleaded guilty to federal charges involving his illegal actions on behalf of Station's and other gambling interests in Missouri.

During hearings on the matter in the summer of 2000 in Jefferson City, Lazaroff was under the protection of Gov. Carnahan's personal security team, who were officers of the Missouri Highway Patrol. Lazaroff testified that he feared for his life.

For more on Media Mayhem's coverage of the "Michael Lazaroff" scandal and "Operation Strawman" do a Google or Blogpulse.com search using those terms and/or "Frank Fertitta Jr."

[read more]

Iraqi Interim President Named Amid Chaos 

The Iraqi Governing Council, rejecting the U.S. choice for interim president, selected Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer.

U.S. administrator of Iraq L. Paul Bremer preferred Adnan Pachachi. Pachachi turned downed the job because of lack of support.

The council approved Ayad Allawi as prime minister last week. Allawi has already named members of his cabinet.

After naming al-Yawer president, the the Iraqi Governing Council immediately disbanded.

At the same time, a car bomb destroyed the Kurdish political headquarters at the entrance of the Green Zone, where the American headquarters is located. At least 25 people were killed in the explosion, according to Reuters.

[read more]

Cheney No. 1 War Profiteer 

In the days leading up to the invasion of Iraq, Vice President Dick Cheney was in the decision-making loop regarding the awarding of a multi-billion-dollar, no-bid contract to Halliburton, the company he headed before assuming public office.

Evidence of Cheney's participation in the decision comes in the form of an e-mail from Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith, who had been given the job of lining up Halliburton by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, a Cheney crony.

Time magazine broke the story this week.

[read more]

Happiness Is Saddam's Gun 

Time magazine reports that President George W. Bush keeps Saddam Hussein's revolver on display in his study next to the Oval Office in the White House. The study is the same room where former President Bill Clinton had his tete-a-tetes with intern Monica Lewinsky.

[read more]

Death Certificates of Iraqi Prisoners Show Many Were Murdered 

USA Today reports more than a third of the prisoners who died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan were shot, strangled or beaten.

[read more]

Highway Robbery -- Iraq Style 

The Army is investigating more than two dozen cases of alleged robberies by U.S. forces in Iraq, according to news service accounts.

The Americans are accused of stealing money, jewelry and other property from Iraqi civilians during patrols and house-to-house searches.

Army investigators are also examining six reports of troops kicking, beating or firing their weapons indiscriminately among civilians.

Monday, May 31, 2004

Ashcroft Bag Man, Ex-Cop Pete Vasel Both Worked for Mobbed Up Molaksy Clan  

The Ashcroft Files

The origins of John Ashcroft’s rise to power have never been clearly told. Like most politicians of his generation, he shares the distinct advantage of entering the political scene in the last century. Past events and relationships, many of which were never thoroughly reported at the time, are further shrouded by the gap between the days of hard copy and the advent of the electronic information age. Ashcroft’s long political career spans the gulf between these eras. The details that have fallen into the breach provide the current attorney general with a means to avoid the scrutiny that should be directed at those who hold the highest of public offices.

Some aspects of the news trade haven’t changed that much over the years. Ashcroft’s early resume still reads the same as it did in the early 1970s, when he first entered state politics. Even in the old days, newspaper accounts, written by chain-smoking reporters on Royal typewriters and transferred by printers' devils to hot type, focused on a one-dimensional image of the man. Deadline pressure and a reliance on press releases are partly to blame, as is the misconception that reporters are objective in ways in which they present the news. Much of Ashcroft’s image was first sculpted by the now-defunct St. Louis Globe-Democrat, a Republican newspaper that employed Pat Buchanan as an editorial writer.

Based on the Globe’s creative writing style, a myth developed over the years, and Ashcroft has been stereotyped ever since as the hymn-singing, preacher’s son from Southwest Missouri; an evangelical Christian beyond reproach. In this respect, he plays the poor cousin of retired Republican U.S. Senator John Danforth, an ordained Episcopal priest. In a sense, these two GOP pols represent the prototypes for Republican virtue. They are righteous guardians of "good government," steadfast in their belief in God and country. In comparison, Democrats have been cast as amoral dealmakers, who -- by their v ry nature -- are subject to corruption.

The idea that any politician is above the influence of special interests because of his or her religious faith is a convenient and effective canard, of course. After he lost his senate re-election to the widow of Gov. Mel Carnahan, Ashcroft was reborn, again. The conventional reason given for his nomination to the post of U.S. attorney general in the Bush administration has been that he is a strong opponent of abortion. Again, social conservative issues have been trotted out to dismiss complex political decisions. Still widely ignored are Ashcroft’s Machiavellian skills, which were honed decades ago.

Though the paper trail has grown cold, a vestige of Ashcroft’s less-than-divine origins can be traced to his mucky gubernatorial candidacy of 1984, when Frederick Steinbach acted as his campaign finance director.

It remains uncertain where Ashcroft and Steinbach first crossed paths, but following the money is less difficult. In 1984, when then-Missouri Attorney General Ashcroft ran for governor, Steinbach raised nearly $3 million for his gubernatorial bid, with more than half the total coming in the last weeks of a hard-fought race against Democratic Lt. Gov. Kenneth J. Rothman. In those critical days before the election, Ashcroft unleashed a series of TV attack ads against Rothman that led to his defeat. In the end, the Ashcroft campaign had out spent its rival by $1 million.

The victory catapulted Ashcroft to a new stage in his political career. He won re-election to the governorship in 1988 and in 1992 moved on to the U.S. Senate, following the same path as his mentor, Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond.

Steinbach’s political fortunes started out on a high note, too, but ultimately he did not fair so well. When the sprawling, 26-square-mile community of Chesterfield incorporated in 1988, the St. Louis County Council named him interim mayor. The appointment received the bles sings of then-County Executive Gene McNary.

Later that year, Steinbach ran for a full mayoral term in the newly created suburban municipality, and Ashcroft endorsed his candidacy, lauding him with accolades. But within months of winning election, in June 1989, a St. Louis County grand jury, led by then-Prosecuting Attorney George "Buzz Westfall, indicted Steinbach for sexually abusing his secretary. Steinbach pleaded no contest to the charge, which was reduced to a misdemeanor by the court. Unde r attack from critics, including St. Louis Sun columnist Karen Koman, he resigned in January 1990.

Throughout his work for Ashcroft and his subsequent tenure as Chesterfield mayor, Steinbach’s business career never received much attention. A 1984 St. Louis Business Journal story referred to Steinbach as the president of Display Information Systems Co., a St. Louis firm that monitors the sales of magazines in retail outlets. In 1988, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch identified him as the president of Steinbach Enterprises. Steinbach’s own campaign material featured a litany of his philanthropic endeavors and mentioned that he received a MBA from Mizzou. In addition, Steinbach was listed as a member of many public boards, including the Missouri State Bank, the financial institution that handles fiscal transactions for the state government. But the same flyer gave no details about his professional career, referring to the candidate only as a "successful businessman."

Steinbach, the successful businessman and Mizzou alum, held his first fundraiser for Ashcroft in November 1982, when he sold 100 tickets to a University of Missouri basketball game for $100 each. The money continued to roll in during the course of the campaign. Between Sept, 6, 1984 and the election in November, Steinbach raised $1.6 million for Ashcroft. At the time, the amount spent by Ashcroft represented the most expensive political campaign in Missouri history. By any measure, the St. Louis fund raiser had contributed greatly to Ashcroft’s success. Without the largesse collected by Steinbach, Ashcroft might very well have slunk back to Springfield and returned to teaching law at Southwest Missouri State College.

But after Steinbach’s indiscretions made headlines in 1989, his efforts on behalf of the then-governor were forgotten. There was no compelling reason to delve any further into the Ashcroft’s former campaign finance director’s background. Steinbach had fallen from grace. The sex charge had effectively cut the ties between the two. Ashcroft, the righteous singer of hymns, could not be blamed for distancing himself from the tragic sins of one of his chief supporters.

But cleansing himself of Steinbach’s stain had another unseen advantage for the governor. The separation ended the possibility of Ashcroft being tied to his finance director’s past. Missouri Secretary of State reports show that Steinbach previously worked for corporations controlled by Mark Molasky. In the 1970s, Molasky and his father, Allan H. Molasky, controlled a St. Louis-based magazine distribution empire with a long record of questionable business activities.

Nowadays, the late Mark Molasky is remembered, if at all, for being at the center of an other sex scandal. In June 1981, Molasky was arrested on charges of sexually molesting a three-year-old boy. The high-profile case stemmed from his part in videotaping his third wife having oral sex with an infant. Molasky received a 32-year sentence. He was later acquitted of plotting the assassination of Westfall, who had prosecuted him before being elected St. Louis County Executive. Molasky allegedly committed suicide in 1990 by overdosing on a prescription painkiller, while serving time at the Missouri Penitentiary in Jefferson City.

Less known about are the machinations surrounding the Molaskys’ far-flung business enterprises, which included multi-state and international distribution of paperback books and periodicals, including adult magazines. Steinbach, Ashcroft’s 1984 campaign finance director, was a vice president of two Molasky distribution corporations, according to 1979 Missouri incorporation records. His name appears on the 1979 registration reports for both SLF News Distributors and River City Inc. Steinbach is also identified as being one of the shareholders in another Molasky company, Gulf News Inc., according to a civil disposition given by Mark Molasky in November 1976. Besides Steinbach, Molasky named Pete Vasel, a former St. Louis County Police detective, as being connected to Gulf News. Other names appearing on corporate records are S. Leslie Flegel, Mark Molasky’s uncle (on his mother’s side), and F. Terrell Eckert Jr.

After Mark Molasky’s arrest in 1981, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporters Roy Malone, Claudia MacLachian and Dennis Hannon set about unraveling the confusing web of the Molasky-controlled companies. But Steinbach isn’t mentioned in the accounts. He does, however, show up as a fundrasier for Ashcroft the following year -- 1982. Two years later, in 1984, the St. Louis Business Journal, reported that Steinbach was president of Display Information Systems Co., a company with close ties to Flegel, Molaksy’s uncle.

Around the time that Steinbach worked for the Molasky syndicate, the United States and Canadian governments took a special interest in the St. Louis family’s business activities. In 1975, the U.S. District court in New Orleans fined Molasky Enterprises, Ltd., Mark Molasky and Allan H. Molasky a total of $150,000 for attempting to monopolize magazine and paperback book distribution along the Gulf Coast, from Brownsville, Texas to Florida. The indictment charged the Molaskys with using coercive tactic to buy out competitors from January 1971 to September 1972. The federal judge suspended a one-year prison sentence on Mark Molasky, but not before he spent more than three weeks in jail at Elgin Air Force Base in Florida. The Molaskys used similar coersion between 1969 and 1972 in the Canadian province of Ontario, which resulted in the enactment of the so-called "Molasky Law," restricting future foreign ownership of wholesale distributorships.

At its zenith, Molasky’s distribution empire covered more than a dozen states. After the empire began to fall into disarray, Mark Molasky continued to lead a playboy lifestyle, which included a lavish mansion in Creve Coeur, luxury cars and fast women. By the time of his arrest in 1981, his assets were so well-protected from creditors that he couldn’t raise bail. Those offering to help spring him included his father’s cousin, Irwin Molasky, a Las Vegas developer, who anted up a $110,000 unsecured loan.

In 1951, Irwin Molasky moved to Las Vegas from Ohio, where his father had be en a newspaper distributor. A few years later, he teamed up with Merv Adelson to form Paradise Development Co. In 1956, Irwin Molasky and Adelson joined forces with Allard Roen and Moe Dalitz of the Desert Inn casino to build the Sunrise Hospital in Vegas, with a $1 million loan from the Teamsters, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The partnership continued, with the union’s Central States, Southeast and Southwest Pension Fund providing $100 million to finance future developments, including a string of Vegas casinos and the Rancho La Costa resort outside San Diego. Two of the foursome had criminal records: Roen pleaded guilty to stock fraud in 1962 and Dalitz, the most notorious partner, had a rap sheet that stretched back to the Prohibition Era, when he was a major bootlegger in Cleveland. In 1975, when Penthouse magazine published an expose alleging that La Costa was established and frequented by mobsters, Irwin Molasky and Adelson sued the magazine for libel. A jury cleared Penthouse of libel in 1982, but the case wasn’t over yet. According to former Houston Post reporter Pete Brewton, the judge who set aside the verdict had connections to some of the witnesses. Eventually, the case was settled out of court. Penthouse didn’t pay a dime in damages, but retracted the inference that Adelson and Irwin Molasky had ever been members of organized crime.

In 1992, the Las Vegas Organized Crime Strike Force named Irwin Molasky as a member of a sports betting ring. Given immunity, he testified that in 1982 -- the year after he generously loaned Mark Molasky $110,000 for bail -- he lost $350,000 betting on football.

Gambling appears to be a Molasky family trait. As the story goes, Willie Molasky, Mark’s grandfather, won the exclusive rights to distribute the Racing Form in St. Louis and New Orleans from racing news czar Moe Annenberg in a poker game. Along with his partners Clarence "Gully" Owen and Paul "Bev" Brown, Willie Molasky operated the Pioneer News Service in downtown St. Louis from 1931 until 1946. Pioneer purchased the racing odds and track results nationwide from an Annenberg company in Chicago and then resold them to bookies throughout the St. Louis area. During its heyday, Pioneer had two state senators on the payroll and paid off judges and the police. Its influence extended all the way to the governor’s mansion in Jefferson City. Moreover, Willie Molasky was one of the largest shareholders in Western Union, the wire service that transferred the racing results. In 1940, the IRS convicted Willie Molasky of income tax evasion. He served a year in prison. President Harry Truman later pardoned him. After Owen and Brown died in the late 1940s, Willie Molasky continued to operate Pioneer, which by then had been taken over by the Capone Outfit of Chicago. Local mob boss Frank "Buster" Wortman represented the Outfit’s interests in St. Louis. But when Willie Molasky testified before the Senate Crime Committee in 1950, accompanied by attorney Morris Shenker, he denied any affiliation with organized

In May 1958, St. Louis police raided the Pierce News Co. at 2206 Locust St. and seized 21 publications alleged to be obscene material. The next month Willie Molasky and his two sons, Jerome and Allan, were arrested and charged with the possession and circulation of obscene materials. Willie and Jerome Molasky died within six months of each other in 1965, leaving Allan Molasky reluctantly in charge of the family business. By 1969, Mark Molasky had joined Pierce News as financial vice president and started making the business decisions.

Hundreds of miles away, in Springfield, Ashcroft was poised to begin his career, too. The next year he would be appointed state auditor.

The future was wide open.

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