Saturday, June 30, 2007
According to the Washington Post, "The recent decline in home prices and the meltdown in the market for subprime mortgages are the first signs that the air is coming out of the credit bubble. Already, those factors have shaved half a percentage point off the economic growth rate. And you can be sure that there will be a much larger impact on jobs and incomes from a broad decline in stock and bond prices, a sharp tightening of credit and the turmoil that both of those will create in the murky derivatives markets."
Geez Louise! There goes the neighborhood! And Pennsylvania Avenue used to be such an upscale place to live. Don't you just hate it when someone moves onto your block, lets his home go to seed and brings all the other property values down? To say nothing of having to start to lock all your doors at night before your stuff gets stolen and start watching out for your kids. Now kids can't run free through the neighborhood any more. And it used to be such a family-oriented place. Now you gotta spend all your time worrying that the neighbors down the street might be selling them drugs, recruiting them into gangs or Lord knows what else.
According to Robert Cook's recent article in Global Research, it's those raunchy slumlords at 1600 Pennsylvania who are deliberately bringing property values down. "Among those poised to profit from the crash [in housing and stock prices] is the Carlyle Group, the equity fund that includes the Bush family and other high-profile investors with insider government connections. A January 2007 memorandum to company managers from founding partner William E. Conway, Jr., recently appeared which stated that, when the current 'liquidity environment -- i.e., cheap credit -- ends, 'the buying opportunity will be a once in a lifetime chance.'"
Good grief! These bums aren't just some down-at-the-heels trailer trash who are too lazy to mow the front lawn and give the White House a fresh coat of paint. These guys are sleazy wheelers-dealers who are DELIBERATELY bringing the neighborhood down! That's outrageous. There goes my equity.
As the Washington Post cheerily informs us, "Without the billions of dollars flowing each year to financiers and corporate executives, there will be less money to trickle down to car salesmen, yacht makers, real estate agents, third-home builders and busboys at luxury resorts. Falling stock prices will cause companies to reduce their hiring and capital spending while governments will be forced to raise taxes or reduce services, as revenue from capital gains taxes declines." Sheesh, guys. There goes the neighborhood.
Maybe we should try to sell now and get out while prices are still relatively high? According to TruthOut real estate expert Dean Baker, however, that is no longer a viable option either. "The latest data on housing sales showed that the inventory of unsold homes climbed to 4.4 million in May, yet another record." Guess we'll just have to do what our neighbors at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue have done -- rent out back rooms to illegal tenants from Halliburton and/or sell out to K Street. Sigh.
Monday, June 25, 2007
The latest development at my housing co-op, which is on the verge of bankruptcy, is that our former "Pirate Capt'n" has just gotten approval from all the other pirates on our Board to allow her to totally re-paint and re-carpet her unit while the rest of us don't get diddly.
Note 2: This here swashbuckling pirate tale is NOT based on reality. It is NOT based on the true story of how Savo Island's current Board of Directors is contemplating evicting my daughter from her unit, allegedly in order to obtain my daughter's unit for themselves. Any resemblance between the two tales is purely co-incidental.
Is the Board trying to evict my daughter for good reason or do they have ulterior motives? Well. That's another story altogether. We will need Captain Jack Sparrow to deal with that one! Right now it's time to spin the infamous tale of --
The Pirates of Savo Island!
Ahoy, mates! At Savo Island cooperative homes, there is treasure to be had! Each of these subsidized units is worth its weight in gold! And everyone on the Pirates' Court appears to be after the bootie.
I myself live in a prime three-bedroom unit and you can bet a whole bottle of rum that the Pirates of Savo Island would love to get their hands on it -- but they can't. Why? Because I have a chest full of Dirty Linen buried away and it's got all these pirates' secrets written all over it in blood!
However, my daughter, the innocent young wench Ashley who has not yet learned how to defend herself from these scourges of the seven seas, has a two-bedroom unit here and the pirates who sit on the dread Pirates' Court think that she is an unprotected vessel and are currently sailing after her with cannons ablaze!
"Avast pirates! Heave to!" Don't you just love to talk like a pirate! "Leave this young maiden alone or you WILL be cut adrift!" The pirates are meeting this Thursday to seal my daughter's fate and try to hand her the dreaded Black Spot but guess what? Here is a message in a bottle for said Pirates' Court: "Don't mess with me and don't mess with my daughter." Yar!
There are 11 people sitting on the Pirates' Court. However, all but three of them must of needs recluse themselves from the court due to conflicts of interest -- they want the bootie! -- or else because they have committed the very same skulduggery they are accusing my daughter of. And they have gotten clean away with it. THEY have not had to face any Pirates' Courts. So far. Arggh.
So. Here's the Dirty Linen that I have on this motley crew:
The Capt'n: He had his girlfriend living with him illegally for at least two years that I know about. Plus, several years ago, said girlfriend was supposed to have moved into the unit currently occupied by the fair Ashley but the girlfriend pulled a bait-and-switch, moved her own daughter in instead and continued to live with the Capt'n. Blimey!
THEN the girlfriend's daughter allegedly had an abusive boyfriend who beat her up regularly, making a whole ocean full of noise -- but nobody tried to evict her. Why? Because she was in cahoots with the Capt'n? Yeah.
The Swabbie: She was the person who originally lived in Ashley's unit for over ten years, was an alcoholic and drug addict and fought with her live-in boyfriend (who probably also wasn't on the lease) constantly, noisily and violently. The police arrived at that unit at least once a month for years and years. But said Swabbie was never evicted.
The Snitch: She was originally moved into HER unit by a former Capt'n, illegally and without even the permission of the Pirates' Court. And yon Snitch has had at least two illegal long-term residents living in her fo'castle -- that I am aware of. Also she has moved into four different units on Savo Island, charging the co-op for their new paint jobs and new rugs. The Snitch also had a violent and loud husband who has threatened neighbors violently and loudly. He is now in the brig. Yet the Snitch was never evicted.
The Snitch's first mate: She lives underdecks from the fair Ashley and complains about my daughter's noise yet she herself had a family of four living with her illegally for almost a year plus she never complained about noise when the Capt'n's relative was living above her. She only complains when the Snitch gives her orders. "Aye aye, Sir!"
The Capt'n's first officer: He also was moved in illegally by a former Capt'n, lives in the unit next to my daughter and has two roommates who are LEGENDARY for their ability to make noise. "All they ever do," I was told," is fight and [make up], fight and [make up]." Sounds like pirate behavior to me. But are they facing eviction? Heck no.
The Capt'n's First Mate: Allegedly, she has had someone living with her illegally for over 12 years. But is she facing eviction? Not her and not her salty dog either.
The Former Capt'n: Arrgh. This here Capt'n has violated Savo's bylaws so many times she is literally a legend on the Bounding Main. Her violations allegedly include forcing an illegal lateral transfer for herself and leaving her daughter behind in the old unit, using her maintenance crew as errand boys, falsifying information regarding the amount of residents in her unit, stalling off the annual elections illegally for three years and costing Savo Island an uncountable treasure in gold coins due to mismanagement -- just to list a few of this surly Capt'ns maneuvers to give the USS HUD the slip and make off with the treasure.
The Former Capt'n's First Mate: She moved her daughter into a two-bedroom unit illegally without asking permission from the Pirate's Court. Then, without the Pirates' Court's permission, she then moved said daughter into a three-bedroom unit. Pirates stealing from pirates? Go her!
The Former Capt'n's Second Mate: She has a vested interest in serving on Pirates Court. She wants young Ashley's unit for HER own daughter. Allegedly. There be sharks in the waters off the coast of Savo Island. Beware!
The Boson: Arrgh! These pirates don't even get along with their fellow pirates! The Snitch has a restraining order against the Boson and the Boson tried to get a restraining order against the Snitch. Plus apparently the Boson moved two of her daughters -- what's with all these pirates having daughters! -- illegally into units and the police were called to her unit at least once a month for YEARS. One time her unit was even surrounded by a SWAT team! Plus she used to grow pot in her back yard and her daughter tried to jump off the roof at one time but nobody tried to evict her. Blimey!
The Boson's Mate: She also has allegedly had illegal residents living with her plus she has lived illegally in a three-bedroom unit for years but whenever she is asked to downsize according to HUD regulations, she always bursts into tears and thus avoids being moved. VERY un-pirate-like behavior if you ask me.
What a motley crew!
So. Mates. Will my daughter be forced to walk the plank by these scurvey denizens of the skull and crossbones? Or will Davey Jones rise up from his Locker and save her from being hurled into the briny deep? Hoist the Jolly Roger! Set your sails. The Pirates of Savo Island are in for a fight! And be aware! Don't ever try to cross swords with me or my family or you WILL be cut adrift.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
When I was in Afghanistan a year ago, I kept hearing odd rumors about something called "the new Guantanamo".
"They are building a huge new prison facility here," I was told again and again.
"Where? Where are they building it?" I asked.
"Here in Afghanistan, right outside of Kabul. The Justice Sector Support Program of the US State Department is building it."
"It's going to replace Gitmo. They are going to close down Guantanamo and move all of the prisoners here."
"Close down Guantanamo? That can't be true. That will never happen," I always replied. "Bush would never close down Guantanamo." Would he?
Apparently he would.
According to a recent CNN report, "The Bush administration is nearing a decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and move the terror suspects there to military prisons elsewhere, The Associated Press has learned." So. It sounds like the deal is on. Apparently Bush has gone ahead and hired his real estate ladies to go and check out prices on houses in the highly popular Pul-i-Charkhi suburb of Kabul.
According to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, "UNODC is overseeing a major new project at Pul-i-Charkhi.... Next door the Americans are renovating a block to house suspected terrorists, including Afghans who have been held at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay." Pul-i-Charkhi is one of the most notorious prisons in the world, its only major competitor in the notorious-prison contest being an up-and-coming suburb of Baghdad called Abu Ghraib. Go George!
Location is everything.
PS: If anyone wants to publish my book, please let me know before July 13. It has a whole chapter on Afghanistan containing everything you would ever want to know about funky old Kabul under the American occupation. Everybody will want a copy of this book! It should be a best-seller. My current working title for this masterpiece is "Lost in Baghdad: A Fun Guide to Touring George Bush's Crime Scenes in the Middle East".
After mid-July, I'm going to be working on an AIDS project and will no longer have time to write about GWB's crime scenes in the Middle East. But that's okay. I'm tired of writing about Bush's crime scenes in the Middle East. They are so obvious and varied that even a middle-school child could write about them. Let Ms. Olson's sixth grade class take over this job. Why should I continue to pound sand down a rat hole? I gots better things to do.
Everyone knows what Bush's crimes in the Middle East are but no one is doing anything about them. Americans just sit here and watch this terrible train-wreck happening yet nobody here is calling an ambulance or trying to stop it from happening again. So why should I bother? Why should I keep reporting and reporting on this disaster that will eventually drag all of America down with it -- when nobody in America seems to even have enough wisdom or energy or common sense to even try to GET UP OFF THE FREAKING TRACKS.
PPS: There are only a few more days left for me to be available to re-embed in Iraq before my work with the AIDS program begins -- but I'm still not getting any response from my impassioned pleas to CentCom Baghdad, the State Department or the DoD to let me embed. WHY aren't they letting me embed? It doesn't make sense. I have excellent credentials. And I'm an American patriot. Heck, they even let Oliver freaking NORTH embed and he's the person who single-handedly caused the freaking Iran-Contra arms trade scandal. Oliver North gets to trade with the freaking ENEMY and still gets embedded yet I'M the one getting blackballed? That makes no sense.
Just because I asked John McCain a freaking question at a freaking press conference in Baghdad I'm not being allowed to re-embed? That's un-American! All I did was ask McCain a question that every other reporter in America dying to ask but apparently doesn't have the nerve. "After the disaster caused by bombing Iraq, are they still planning to go ahead and bomb Iran too?" And they are blackballing me for that? Huh? Should I have sold arms to America's enemies instead? Apparently that would have gotten me back in.
If I have to do things that are not in America's best interest -- including giving Bush and his corrupt friends a free pass -- in order to get embedded in Iraq these days, please count me out.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Good grief! I've only been on my new high-fiber diet for the last two months and already I've lost almost 12 pounds! I weigh less now than I did in high school. My pants sag like I was some juvenile delinquent. The top of my underwear shows.
This diet seems to be awfully effective. But maybe it's not the diet that is causing me to lose weight. Maybe I'm losing weight because I've got cancer -- or AIDS. Maybe I'm losing weight because there is something secretly rotting away inside of me? But how would I know?
"Snap out of it, Jane. There's nothing wrong with you except that you play too much solitaire." Whew. "You went on a diet. The diet worked. You lost weight. Get over it. And go buy some new freaking jeans."
But what if I DID have cancer or AIDS? How would I know? What would I do? What would it be like to die? What would the world be like without me?
I can't imagine what it would be like to have cancer or AIDS and watch your body betray you and start to secretly rot away...apparently just like the way that our planet itself is now starting to betray us and also secretly starting to rot away.
I just talked on the phone with Ellen Thomas, the editor of Nuc News, and it was a very sobering conversation. "More and more nuclear waste is being created daily," she said. "And nuclear waste doesn't ever go away -- not in our lifetime, not in a millennium, not in a billion years." Once nuclear waste gets into your system, like those mutant cancer cells or HIV, it's here to stay.
Our planet is being flooded with radioactive waste. And like what happens inside a human body with cancer or AIDS, we simply don't realize that it's there until it's too late. With an undisclosed [but really large] number of barrels of this stuff being churned out each day by the nuclear power plants and tons of it being distributed to the winds from depleted uranium used irresponsibly for warfare, it's like our whole planet has cancer. It's like our whole planet has AIDS.
What can we do? How can we cure our sick planet? We can't. Too late for that. This stuff doesn't EVER go away. But we can learn to limit it, deal with it, live with it and possibly survive. And if we stop ALL nuclear waste production TODAY -- and yes this includes giving up nuclear power, nuclear bombs and depleted uranium weapons -- then the planet just might go into remission. "But this has to happen now," says Thomas. "Right now."
For years, Thomas and her husband William Thomas have been advocating for Proposition 1, a bill in the House of Representatives that will ban all nuclear weapons worldwide. This bill should be made top priority by lawmakers. Period. The danger to America from nuclear waste is far greater than any danger posed by terrorists or the war on Iraq. Congress now spends hundreds of billions on these minor dangers and ignores this HUGE one? That's crazy. That's like treating an AIDS patient for pimples.
If the insane and irresponsible production of vast quatities of nucular waste contines unchecked, our planet is doomed. I wonder what it will be like, living on a dying planet? Will we die too? Yeah duh. And will the last one of us left living here please turn out the lights when we leave? And what will the universe be like without us?
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Sometimes turning the other cheek just doesn't make it any more. Sometimes you just want revenge! I'm sorry, but I'm only human. I guess I'm not Saint Jane after all. But after enduring TWENTY long years of being harassed and intimidated by an alliance of Savo Island Board members solely out for their own self-interest at the expense of our co-op, I've had it up to here!
For 20 long years I have sat and listened to this alliance call me names, call me a liar, lie to me, physically and mentally intimidate me, say nasty things about my children, play the holier-than-thou card, try to evict me, order me to resign from the Board and even threaten me with jail. I've had it. I want revenge!
"What has finally sent Jane over the top," you might ask. I'll tell you! It was the actions of one former Board president who used to be my best friend until I found out that she took all the things that I had told her in confidence back to the Alliance. What kind of stuff? Evidence that I had that alliance members were breaking the co-op's bylaws, that's what. Humph.
Then this person, apparently to show off to the alliance where her loyalties were at, called my foster care agency and lied to them so that I wouldn't be eligible to have foster children any more. Thankfully, her scheme didn't work and the agency believed me. But I knew it was her because of the type of lies she had told the agency. Then she physically threatened me, shoved me and intimidated me to the point where I had to file a police report. Then she sued me and "forgot" to serve me -- because the charges were bogus -- and I only found out about the court date at the last moment. I could deal with all that. But when she started telling lies about my daughter and going after her with obvious vicious intent, my patience ran out. Don't mess with me, sure, but DON'T MESS WITH MY FAMILY.
This person complained to the management company that my daughter was making noise -- on a night when my daughter hadn't even BEEN in the apartment. And for three Board meetings in a row, this person has slandered my daughter in a public meeting. Why? To evict my daughter so that her own relatives can move into the unit? Probably. But, more than likely, to get at me.
But what hurts most about this person's totally hostile and vicious actions is that last week, I had offered this person a truce. "This thing between us could escalate and escalate. For instance, I have witnesses of you abusing your children and I could pursue that. But I don't want to do that. Let's just take a deep breath, de-escalate and stand down before there is a Pyrrhic victory and we both lose. You back off of my daughter and I'll back off of you." She agreed.
"Oh, Jane," answered this person, "you know how much I love you and I'd do anything for your daughter. She's like a daughter to me. Thank you so much for proposing this truce!" And all this time this person was lying to my face. And at the very next Board meeting, there she was, screaming about how my daughter was making all this noise. Not true! My daughter is not stupid. Once she had been made aware of this person's attacks on her, my daughter has been quiet as a mouse. For instance, I was over to her apartment the other day and we were playing "Go Fish" and I won and gave a big cheer. My daughter immediately hushed me and told me to keep my voice down.
I've seen this person in action before when she wants a unit that someone else has. For instance, when she wanted to move to another same-sized unit, she laid a paper trail against her neighbor -- just like she is now doing to my daughter -- claiming her neighbor's behavior as a reason for her to move; then she hounded the Board until they approved the transfer. And then when she wanted to up-size to a four-bedroom unit that was occupied by somebody else, she continuously hounded the Board to downsize a disabled person on her deathbed so that this person could get the unit, claiming that she had a disability herself. Well. The poor woman died and this person moved into the unit and her disability magically disappeared and now she can climb up and down stairs like a mountain goat.Bottom line? I am really tired of being treated like dirt by alliance Board members while they happily commit every violation they can think of, secure in the knowledge that they have all the power and will never get called to account. They have unregistered people living with them, live in under-utilized units, violate the bylaws with impunity, move their relatives into the units illegally, harass anyone who stands in their way including the 12 or 13 management companies they have fired, denigrate HUD, block our re-hab, manipulate the Board elections, block the rent increases we so desperately need because it affects them, cause us to be on the edge of bankruptcy, waste our money and intimidate any members who attempt to stand in their way.
Heck yes, I want revenge! Got any ideas?
PS: The one good thing that this alliance has done for me over the years is to give me the awareness to be able to understand what is going on in the White House these days -- and to help me develop my writing skills. I do owe them for that.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Birds fly south for the winter. That's what they do. Why? Because, in the winter, it's freaking COLD in the north.
Mexicans stream across America's southern borders. Why? Because NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) and globalized corporate interests have sabotaged their economy and made their country pretty much unbearable for the average working stiff there.
Iraqis, Afghans and Palestinians are flooding into Europe. Why? Because Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld and their past and present cohorts Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert have totally screwed up the entire Middle East. According to the London Telegraph, "Palestinian infighting, almost daily Israeli air strikes, and a steadily worsening economic situation triggered by an international aid boycott has made life unbearable for many Palestinians. Those who can are leaving."
According to a recent report from the Iraq Slogger, "Scores of Iraqi men, women and children gathered on the pavement of Baghdad's central Salihiyah area waiting for the big grey bus to take them to neighbouring Syria and help them flee their country's violence. 'Staying in Iraq is like committing suicide,' said Hala Numan Jabre, a 41-year-old mother of three girls as she threw her six coloured bags onto the bus. 'There is no safe life in Iraq, it's like a jungle. There are no public services, there is no rule of law, and everywhere there is killing and kidnapping. That is why we've decided to take our daughters away until things get better, God willing,' Hala, a teacher of English, said."
What to do? Well, we don't have to worry about the birds flying south any more because with global warming, more and more of them are staying home.
And if you want to stop the illegal migration of aliens up from Mexico, just give THEM a reason to stay home too. And listen up, EU. If you don't want to be completely overrun with illegal aliens either, don't even bother with increased border patrols. We've already tried that here in America. They don't work. However, there is a much less expensive and much more effective solution to hand -- just get Bush and Cheney the hell out of the Middle East so that the people who live there and like it there can stay there without fear of getting blown up! End of problem.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Remember back in the 1980s when those Wall Street dudes in slick new suits whom we politely called "corporate raiders" would look around for companies with the fattest pension plans and the most assets and say to themselves, "Hummm. We got a hot one here. This goose is ripe for the plucking!" And what happened next? The company that was currently in their cross-hairs would go on the chopping block and be gutted and royally screwed. Back in the day, this act of legal highway robbery was called a "hostile takeover."
According to howstuffworks.com, "In a corporate raid, a company purchases another through a hostile takeover (often with an leveraged buy-out) because their assets are worth more than the value of the company. As soon as the new owners complete the acquisition, they close the company and sell off all the assets."
If you remember your old-school history, what happened then was that corporate raiders gutted company after company in America and life was good. For them. Not for us. But then one day one of those corporate raiders was analyzing which company to loot next when it suddenly occurred to him. "What is the largest company of them all? What company has the biggest pension plan we can sack? Which company has the most money, is the most profitable, has the largest physical plant and the most rolling stock?"
Hint: It wasn't General Motors. It wasn't General Electric. And it wasn't General Foods.
Oh, rats. You've already guessed the answer. That's no fun. Yes, the correct answer is "America".
"Some analysts feel that hostile takeovers have an overall harmful effect on the economy, in part because they often fail. When one company takes over another, management may not understand the technology, the business model or the working environment of the new company. The debt created by takeovers can slow growth, and consolidation often results in layoffs." Sound familiar? If not, just go ask your mailman. Or someone in your National Guard. Or perhaps someone who used to live in New Orleans....
And this is the story of what happened to the corporate raiders of the 1980s. They just learned to think bigger. America was there for the sacking. The raiders moved in. Can you blame them? Why think in terms of looting companies for mere millions or billions when there are trillions to be had! "I know! Let's call it privatization!"' And they did.
America was a plump goose that was ripe for the plucking. So we were plucked. And now our goose is cooked.
PS: Just exactly how did these unscrupulous corporate raiders achieve the hostile takeover of America? It was easy. They just got control of the stockholders' votes. How'd they do that? By manipulating unwary stockholders' proxies in both 2000 and 2004. In 2000, they manipulated the stocks by using the "Supreme Court" option. And in 2004, the "Diebold Option" turned the trick. A takeover doesn't get more hostile than that!
PPS: "When one company takes over another, management may not understand the technology...." When America's corporate raiders took over the Oval Office, they neither understood nor cared about the technology of democracy and smooth-running government. They were only interested in profits. And what turns a profit the fastest? War, of course.
If you look carefully at the wars on Afghanistan, Palestine, Darfur, Somalia and Iraq through the rose-colored glasses of these guys, then you'll stop seeing a hopeless bloody quagmire and start seeing nothing but PROFITS. Heck, from the point of view of the corporate raiders who now run America's Boardroom for their own personal gain, even Vietnam was a great victory!
Always remember, America, that the whole purpose of the war on Iraq is to make money for Halliburton. That's all. That's it. Seen from this angle, this "war" -- that most Americans mistakenly preceive as a failed military operation and a bottomless money pit -- begins to make perfect sense.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Now I've gots a new view on life -- "Expect the best!" That's the new me. Do we have the most corrupt group of people in the history of the United States camping out in our White House? Does a man whose campaign contributions come from "Vulture Fund" beneficiaries and war profiteers sit in our Oval Office, gleefully wringing his blood-covered hands? Not to worry. Americans aren't dummies. Sooner or later they throw crooks in jail. "Expect the best!"
The State Department is keeping me from embedding as a progressive journalist in Iraq. Heck, this might be a good thing. Who needs to go over there anyway? It's hot and dusty and if I want to watch pathological killers blowing everything up, I can do that at the local cine-plex for only five dollars (I get the senior discount). "Expect the best!"
I live in a housing co-op that's run by a bunch of self-interested schmucks whose only goal in life appears to be to see how many of their relatives they can move in illegally. And because I'm a whistle-blower, they keep doing nasty things to me and it looks like it's only gonna get worse. "Expect the best, Jane." Yeah, right. But what if the schmucks and me meet over tea and they offer to give up their greedy ways and we patch things up? Hey, it could happen.
I gotta start imagining that good things can come my way and not just catastrophes. We can stop global warming. We can stop war. America CAN have better education and healthcare. People CAN get along. "Expect the best!"
So. Where does the sushi and chocolate come in? Good things are also happening to one of my daughters. After graduating from high school, she floundered around a lot -- many young people do. But now she's got her own apartment and a new job! I'm so proud of her. I gotta admit that I had expected the worst -- but now look at her! Hurray! And, even better, my daughter now works with food. "If you come over, I'll give you a free sample," she said last night. What can be better than that?
It turns out that my daughter works in a delightful little secluded indoor alleyway in North Berkeley's "Gourmet Ghetto" -- three doors down from Chez Panisse, only not that expensive. Let me take you on a tour.
Located at 1611 Shattuck Avenue, its entrance is innocuous. If you didn't know it was there, you might miss it. "OMG, look!" I exclaimed. "Kirala has a carry-out place!" The best sushi bar in Berkeley has just gone on-commando. Sushi-to-go! And bento boxes too. And udon.
Then there's "Soop," a specialty food bar featuring soups made right on the premises and served with a chunk of warm buttered corn bread. "Our soups are completely organic," the counter person told me, "except for the onions. We can't seem to get enough organic onions." Good to know.
Next comes Picoso, a small kitchen alcove that sells Mexican food with hand-made salsa. "And they make their own guacamole," my daughter whispered in awe.
Then there's a gelato counter named Ciao Bella that offers a whole rainbow of gelato flavors. I tried a scoop of their chocolate jalapeno and my friend Abhi tried their pistachio. Delicious. And the young lady behind the counter was very cheerful and helpful and funny. I left a whole quarter in her tip jar -- I was that impressed.
And way in the rear of this delightful food-court wannabe is a tiny little cubby that sells the best chocolate in the world. "Ours actually IS free-trade chocolate," said the proud proprietor of Alegio. "Would you like to try some of this dark chocolate imported from a co-op farm off the coast of West Africa?" Would I!
"Expect the best."
The whole alleyway smelled totally wonderful. Rich aromas battered my senses. Hey. Forget about blogging my poor fingers to the bone and substitute teaching at juvenile hall for a living. I wanna work HERE.
After you mix and match your meal from the menus of the various shops, you can carry it up some stairs in the back, to a small outdoor garden with picnic tables and a waterfall. At one table, I found a family of five happily eating their dinner. "We come here often," said the dad. "For perhaps $15 you can get a healthy gourmet meal and dessert plus a magical place to eat it in."
Oops, I almost forgot. Up above the waterfall is an old-fashioned Chinese tea shop called the Imperial Tea Court, modeled after the kind that Chinese poets used to frequent back in the day. they sell freshly-made noodles and every kind of tea. "And be sure to say that the noodles are hand-made," my daughter informed me.
"Expect the best."
The people who run these shops are mostly small-business owners, taking a chance on the American economy because they love to make and sell food -- and chocolate. I hope their efforts succeed.
My son and his significant other are expecting a baby on January 1 -- so 2008 looks like it's going to be a good year too. And I turn 65 in two weeks. You know what that means -- cheaper transportation rates, senior benefits and Medicare! Plus maybe we'll finally get a president in the White House who actually cares about America and not just about pulling off the biggest heist in the history of the planet.
Things are going to be okay. "Expect the best!"
PS: I really don't eat all that much chocolate any more. Since I started my new high-fiber diet, I've noticed that my legendary craving for sugar has gone way, way down. But unfortunately there's no fiber in chocolate. But maybe they could start making chocolate-covered salad? Chocolate-covered roast beef? Chocolate-covered All-Bran!
Saturday, June 16, 2007
How embarrassing this must be to America's military right now. Here they are, the greatest armed force in the history of time -- reduced to the status of George W. Bush's flying monkeys. From what I have read and after what I have witnessed in Iraq, it seems clear to me that our armed forces -- including the CIA and State Department -- appear to be under the spell of GWB's every undisciplined whim and temper tantrum. And Bush wasn't even elected!
Can you imagine falling that low? To be reduced from the heady heights of being "Officers and Gentlemen" in the finest military ever assembled; then pulled down to the lowly status of being some tin-pot evil-witch wannabe's errand boys and flunkies? Eeuuww.
And when we Americans finally come to our senses and find the courage to pour water on the Wicked Witch of the White House, I bet you anything that those flying monkeys in the Pentagon are gonna thank us bigtime. "You've saved us! You've saved us!"
Get a clue, flying monkeys. Freaking save your selves. Just click your army-boots together three times and say, "There's no place like home. There's no place like home." And then go back to Kansas where you are truly wanted and needed -- and get the hell out of Iraq.
PS: I ain't no cowardly lion! Not me. I'm the dread "Grandmother Blogger". The American military may be cowering off in some corner in fear of the Wicked Witch of the White House's every confused whim, but not me. The pen is mightier than the sword! "Assume attack mode, Jane! Sue the bastards."
PPS: Here's my proposed lawsuit. If I can just get the ACLU or the Lawyers Guild or John Grisham or somebody awesomely legal to take it on, then hopefully it will act like a bucket of cold water on Dubya's evil dreams.
Stillwater v. State Department & Department of Defense: My proposed legal action against the State Department and the Department of Defense regarding their systematic attack on freedom of the press
I’m seriously considering suing the State Department and the Department of Defense for failure to provide me access to news information in Iraq via journalistic embeds and violating my First Amendment rights to freedom of the press in order to cover for and protect George W. Bush. To this end, I have scheduled meetings with several attorneys, including a representative of the ACLU, in hopes that they will review and accept my case. Enclosed please find a sample Complaint for Damages that I have written on this subject.
I’m totally tired of begging DoD and State for an embed in Iraq and being repeatedly refused, allegedly on bureaucratic grounds -- but in actuality my lack of permission to embed appears to be due to my efforts to expose the negligence and corruption of Bush, Cheney, Rice, etc.
It’s time for the Department of Defense and the State Department to start acting in the best interests of America and stop protecting the special interests of Bush and his corrupt friends who are profiting from the sacrificial blood of America’s troops.
Here is my proposed complaint:
Stillwater v. U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of State
Complaint for Damages:
From June of 2006 through present, journalist Jane Stillwater has actively pursued being granted an embed as a journalist in Iraq from representatives of the U.S. Department of Defense. Her request was repeateded denied, turned down, deflected and/or stonewalled. She was lied to, distracted, intimidated and denigrated during this process, apparently by CentCom Baghdad’s Combined Press Information Center (CPIC) but allegedly under the instructions of the defendants U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of State (Department of Defense And State Department), allegedly because of her progressive reporting on the corruption and ineptitude of the current occupants of America’s White House.
II. The Plaintiff
Stillwater is a 64-year-old journalist residing in Berkeley, CA. She has written articles published by OpEd News, the American Conservative Union, the Baltimore Chronicle, the Berkeley Daily Planet, the Black Commentator, Digg.com, Global Research, Netscape.com, Aljazeerah.info, Novekeo, the Oakland Tribune, Counterpunch, the Online Journal and the Lone Star Iconoclast, Time Magazine. She has also appeared on BBC radio, NPR radio, Fox News, ABC News, CBS News and NBC News and has been the subject of articles in many media outlets including the Associated Press, the Times of London, the Oakland Tribune, the Daily Californian and the Iraq Slogger.
III. The Incidents
The alleged pattern of stonewalling, distraction, intimidation and denial of Stillwater’s embed requests is documented in Exhibit 1, a timeline describing Stillwater’s numerous efforts to secure several types of embeds, including an embed within the Baghdad Green Zone, embeds in Iraq outside of Baghdad’s Green Zone and embeds elsewhere in the Department of Defense’s Middle Eastern theatre of operations.
The true names and identity of persons involved in this compilation of communications between Stillwater and others have not been used in order to protect them from possible reprisals from defendants Department of State and the Department of Defense.
Exhibit 1: Timeline of Stillwater’s embed requests:
July 6, 2006: I filed my original embed application with CPIC Baghdad.
July 8, 2006: I was informed by CPIC that OpEd News (with an internet circulation of 800,000) was not a viable news service, that I was considered to be a blogger and that "bloggers" were not allowed to embed. "Unfortunately, Jane, the policy about bloggers still stands. Unless you can get accreditation from a news service or other form of news media (newspaper, magazine, wire service, etc.), this embed is not going to happen," CPIC wrote.
July 9, 2006: The editor of OpEd News explained carefully to CPIC that OpEd News was indeed a genuine news service. The editor of the Berkeley Daily Planet also wrote a letter to CPIC stating that I would be representing the Planet, a genuine print newspaper with a circulation of 50,000 readers.
July 10, 2006: I got an e-mail from CPIC: "I’ll be honest with you, Jane. Multi-National Corps-Iraq (the major ground component command that owns the vast majority of combatants in theater) is not interested in embedding you."
July 20, 2006: I then contacted Senator Barbara Boxer, and a member of her staff wrote CPIC the following e-mail on my behalf: "Ms. Stillwater contacted our office regarding a concern that she is not being allowed to be a journalist in Iraq because she wrote for a progressive news service. Please look into her concerns at your earliest convenience and keep me informed of any updates."
July 21, 2006: CPIC replied to Senator Boxer that, "After reviewing Ms. Stillwater’s request for an embed, I denied Multi-National Force-Iraq credentialing and support based upon her work being opinion-based, rather than factual reporting, and that she is not backed by an organization that can be held responsible for her journalistic standards or, more importantly, her welfare in case of emergency. This does not stop Ms. Stillwater from entering Iraq commercially and providing for herself, but it does prevent her from being embedded with troops, using MNF-I facilities and covering MNF-I activities."
January 20, 2007: I again wrote to CPIC, once again requesting an embed:
Since my last request to you in July of 2006, I have had at least 25 articles published in various publications and, as you have stated, my articles are indeed opinion-based but they are also fact-based as well -- in the grand old journalistic tradition of the Washington Post, the New York Times, etc. I deeply regret to be placed in a position to have to say this to you but, while I admit that I do tend to give homilies and homey examples in order to help my readers to better understand complex political situations, I do not lie.
In addition, several media organizations have offered to sponsor me in your program and to take responsibility for my views -- as well as to act on my behalf in case of emergencies. Please reconsider your decision. I promise upon embedding in Iraq to tell "The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth". Plus with my access to over one million readers, embedding me will greatly be of help to our troops in Iraq.
I am enclosing a list of media outlets that have published my written efforts so that you can have an idea regarding the scope of my work. I am also enclosing URLs for articles I have written on India and Afghanistan. Please reconsider my application. I can be ready to leave at your earliest convenience. Thank you for reconsidering my request and I look forward to meeting you in Baghdad soon.
List of publications I have written for:
American Conservative Union Foundation
Berkeley Daily Planet
January 23, 2007: I contacted Congresswoman Barbara Lee in order to enlist her support in my efforts to embed.
January 25, 2007: My weekly column in the Black Commentator appeared, entitled Why I am not in Iraq:
I should be in Iraq. I should be in Baghdad. I should be sending back eye-popping stories to The Black Commentator about how our money is being misused, mismanaged, misspent and morally misdirected to kill women and children whose only crimes are to be born in an oil-rich country and to not be born the same color as George W. Bush.
Bush had no business invading Iraq. Now he has killed 665,000 (and still counting) Iraqis and 3,020 (and still counting) U.S. soldiers in cold blood. If he can kill them without any conscience, what's to keep him from killing us next?
Yes, I've been sidetracked from observing the occupation and reporting back to you exactly what is going on over there. And who has sidetracked me? Who is keeping me from reporting to you from Iraq? Let me tell you. It is extremely difficult to get to Iraq as a reporter unless you are officially sanctioned and "embedded" by the U.S. military. Knowing this, I dutifully applied through the proper channels for embedding media personnel in Iraq and wrote to the U.S. Army CentCom in Baghdad. "I want to go over there so that I can tell our readers exactly what is going on in Iraq," I said.
"Sorry," they wrote back. "We don't embed bloggers." So. The Black Commentator doesn't count as real journalism? Nor does Counterpunch, OpEd News, CLG News, Aljazeerah.info, the Online Journal or TruthOut? It's only when the New York Times lies through its teeth to America that it's real? Yeah, sure you're sorry. Me too.
Then I wrote to Senator Barbara Boxer to see if she could help me to embed. But it's been four or five months now and I haven't heard back. "Senator, I need your help," I wrote. "They are not letting me into Iraq. Apparently you do not get allowed over there unless you promise to write what they want you to write -- about how well the illegal occupation, killing, torture, bombing, napalming, hanging, embezzling, etc. is going and how Bush has to Stay the Course as long as there is one drop of oil left in Iraq...." And you know that I can't make that promise.
But I will promise this: I will do every single thing humanly possible to stop this insane and bloody "war" on the people of Iraq. And on Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine, Darfur, Somalia and anywhere else where there is power or land or oil that the Bush murderers covet.
Martin Luther King Jr. risked his life to stop the war on Vietnam. We must follow his example. Why? Because our future is at stake here. We cannot afford to be sidetracked again.
PS: "In the future...they can do it to us." What am I talking about! They already have. Perhaps I should just go embed in New Orleans...or South Central.
March 7, 2007: I broadened my search for an embed in order to give CPIC more flexibility in finding one for me: "Regarding my recent embed request, yes, I would also be interested in the Army Corps of Engineers."
March 12, 2007: My embed seems to be actually happening, according to CPIC: "I've just sent a follow up on your approval."
March 13, 2007: The Lone Star Iconoclast also sponsors me, thus removing all obstacles to my embed that CPIC has asked for so far:
Multi-National Force-Iraq, ATTN: Combined Press Information Center
To Whom It May Concern;
The Iconoclast hereby provides accreditation for Jane Stillwater, who represents a bona fide media organization. The Iconoclast is a weekly newspaper published since the year 2000.
Journalist Jane Stillwater works for this organization as a freelance journalist/photojournalist. The Iconoclast accepts responsibility for the actions and journalistic standards of Jane Stillwater to include all stories and opinions produced for other media or public outlets and web log entries while embedded with the U.S. Military under Multi-National Forces Iraq during the period of March - April 2007 in Iraq, to cover human interest stories and to be embedded according to whichever units are available during this time.
The Iconoclast acknowledges and understands that the United States Government is not responsible nor is liable for the actions of Jane Stillwater resulting in death, injury or declared missing while embedded with the U.S. Military in a hostile combat environment. Jane Stillwater assumes full responsibility through The Iconoclast in providing her own medical and life insurance coverage while in a hostile combat environment. The Iconoclast hereby accepts responsibility in assisting or providing notification of next of kin and any necessary arrangements that will facilitate the general welfare of Jane Stillwater.
//Signed// W. Leon Smith
March 18, 2007: Getting a bit desperate for final embed approval, I once again wrote my congresswoman and my senator. "Here is an update on my efforts to try to embed in Iraq, hopefully leaving on March 29, 2007. When I talked with MNFI Baghdad this morning, they said that they were still reviewing my application. With only ten days to go before I am scheduled to leave for Iraq, this doesn't give me much wiggle room to book my flight, etc. so I was wondering if you could give me a little help."
March 19, 2007: I received an encouraging e-mail from CPIC which stated, "Jane, my apologies for the delay..."
March 23, 2007: I tried to broaden my embed options again by offering to embed in Kuwait at a troop training and staging airbase. I received a reply from Kuwait that it was too early to embed there before I went to Iraq but that it was very possible to get an embed in Kuwait on my way back:
Maam, I guess that I understood the date you were talking about. At this time March 29th is way too early to know if you can embed in Kuwait . We have to have your paperwork first and then create a decision memo. This can take a couple of days and then it has to be approved by the command here. Are you still planning on transiting to Iraq? I was wondering how long you were going to be in Iraq because maybe we can work something out when you come back. I am sorry about the misunderstanding and did not realize that you were talking so soon, I figured you would go to Baghdad and then come back through and cover Kuwait. I apologize for the misunderstanding but like I said this process to embed here in Kuwait takes a bit and 6 days from now is not nearly enough time to get the command to sign off on this.
March 23, 2007: Joe Graifoli, a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle, contacted me, stated that the Chronicle wanted to do a story on me. Joe then offered to help me get embedded, and his efforts seemed to produce results -- he was told that everything looked good and so, based on what they had told Joe, I booked a flight to Kuwait.
March 25, 2007: I learned from a reporter who was already in Iraq that all I had been told about bloggers not being allowed to embed just wasn’t true. "Jane, you’ve been lied to. The Army has let a blogger live at Camp Liberty near Baghdad. His name is Michael Yon. He is only a blogger and he has been embedded for over one year. They give him an office and everything."
March 29, 2007: The San Francisco Chronicle ran a front-page story on my efforts to embed. "As Stillwater waited for her plane at the airport Wednesday, the Army was still trying to find a unit in which to embed her. ‘Oh, yeah, her application looks fine,’ said...a media embedding coordinator for Iraq. ‘We're just trying to find a unit anywhere that will take her. There's a lot of people out there now.’" However, that day I left for Iraq, still not certain of having an embed -- not just within CPIC and the Green Zone but with an actual unit -- even after almost a whole year of trying to obtain one.
March 30 -- April 17, 2007: Upon arriving in Kuwait, I was flown to Baghdad and housed in CPIC. Things were looking great! I was going to get stories and be embedded outside the Green Zone and everything! And then I went to John McCain’s press conference and asked him a hard question about Bush’s plans to invade Iran. And the next day I also asked a hard question at General Caldwell’s press conference regarding troop pull-outs. And after that, although CPIC started talking constantly about searching for an embed outside the Green Zone for me, no embed ever appeared. Other reporters came and went but I just continued to wait and haunt the CPIC offices, asking them several times a day if they would please find me an embed.
NPR had also arranged to take me into the Red Zone as did CNN. But right after the McCain conference, even those invitations suddenly dried up.
Finally I started looking for my own embeds and scored one with the Iraq Army. But then it too suddenly melted away. I also contacted CPIC supervisor Lt. Col. Garver and General Petraeus’ office, etc. and was assured that my not getting an embed was unusual but that they would find me one. But none ever materialized. And whenever a reporter went out on an embed outside the Green Zone, I’d talk with CPIC about letting me go along. Their answer was always negative, citing the short notice of my requests. Finally someone told me that it was not CPIC’s fault that I wasn’t getting any embeds and that CPIC was merely following orders. The U.S. embassy itself was blocking my embeds. And other reporters told me that they had been warned off of talking to me as well.
And when I finally returned to the Kuwait airbase, guess what? My embed there had also magically disappeared.
Despite all these limitations placed on me, all the articles that I did manage to write from Iraq and Kuwait were featured in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Lone Star Iconoclast, the Berkeley Daily Planet and OpEd News as well as numerous other media outlets. Associated Press, the BBC and the Times of London ran articles about me.
April 17, 2007: I returned home to Berkeley and was interviewed on television by ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox News.
May 1, 2007: I e-mailed CPIC that, "Someone just offered to sponsor another trip to Iraq for me so I am asking you to try to get the embed process going so that I could embed in one of the JSSs in Baghdad." Then I called CPIC to verify but was informed by phone that it was too late to get an embed for May so I changed my embed request date to June 16.
May 5, 2007: I wrote CPIC, "Sorry that my May embed request came too late to be shopped around but attached please find my embed request for June 16, 2007 to July 7, 2007. I am requesting to embed in a Baghdad JSS and/or the Baghdad Red Zone. And I would also like to embed with [a unit] in Anbar province as well if there is time. I have talked with the [unit commander] and he has okayed the embed. Thanks again for all of your help."
CPIC then informed me that there were no embeds available for me after June 16 because I had requested my embed "too early".
May 6, 2007: I sent the following e-mail to CPIC: "Regarding my request for an embed in June, please let [your embed coordinator] know that not only has [one Anbar unit] offered to embed me but [another Anbar unit] has offered to embed me as well.... I am also still interested in a JSS embed in Baghdad. Thanks again."
May 14, 2007: I wrote the Anbar unit commander again, requesting he write to CPIC regarding my June embed.
May 16, 2007: I again e-mailed CPIC, once again asking for an embed.
May 22, 2007: I gave up on CPIC and tried embedding with the Navy, writing their public affairs officer in Bahrain that, "I haven't embedded with the Navy before -- have only been embedded with the Army through CPIC. I write for a variety of media outlets including OpEd News, the Lone Star Iconoclast, the Berkeley Daily Planet and the San Francisco Chronicle. I am enclosing a copy of my embed application FYI and will also cc this e-mail to CPIC. Thanks in advance for any help you can give me.
May 25, 2007: The Navy sounded really helpful. "Jane, please complete the attached embark form and return to me as a .doc attachment (meaning please don't embed it in an email). I can offer you a carrier embark for sometime after 16 Jun as per your note below. If you can spend up to 4 days here I can also get you aboard some of the smaller combatant ships which are conducting maritime operations in the Gulf. From Kuwait, you'll have to catch either mil air or com air into Bahrain -- embarks to our ships originate out of Bahrain."
May 29, 2007: Suddenly the Navy started citing regulations regarding various hurdles to embedding me -- ones that are certainly on the books but are apparently ignored with regards to many reporters -- especially conservative bloggers: "Jane, There are some issues with theatre clearance for Kuwait and Qatar, the transit hubs for mil air. ARCENT in Kuwait does not do theatre clearance for transiting media -- only media that's embedding with them. So, in order for you to transit to Bahrain via Kuwait, CPIC needs to do a theatre clearance for you."
The Navy PAO in Bahrain went on to state, "Media is only allowed to remain on Kuwait for 48 hours in transit, so unless you have a guaranteed flight to Bahrain or a theatre clearance from CENTCOM, ARCENT Kuwait will be unable to bring you [here] for billeting if you're delayed. Please also ensure theatre clearance covers your entire visit to the region." These rules, as far as I can tell by talking with other reporters, are not often enforced.
May 30, 2007: I wrote to the Navy that I did have orders to fly on military aircraft. Immediate CPIC sent me the following e-mail, apparently panicked that I had orders that would let me back into Iraq: "Hello Jane, I have been in contact with [the Navy PAO] about your interest in embedding with a carrier group off the coast of Kuwait. I just want to clarify a couple of things before you move forward with your request with the Navy --The CPIC Badge is only good for media wanting to report on Coalition forces in Iraq and not off the waters of Kuwait. [the Navy PAO] also said that you had military orders dated 31 August 2007 for travel using Mil Air. Could you please tell me who issued you these orders? Our office issued you travel orders in April but they are only good for travel between Iraq and Kuwait. We also don't provide travel orders with such long expiration dates since they are primarily used for traveling around in Iraq, and travel between Iraq and Kuwait."
May 30, 2007: Still searching for an embed, I wrote to [the second Anbar unit commander] again and cc-ed my e-mail to CPIC: "I am looking for an embed in Iraq some time between June 14, 2007 and July 4, 2007. Please let me know if you have any available slots for during that time. Thank you very much." I have now started cc-ing everything to CPIC just to see how fast they can manage to kill my embed requests.
June 1, 2007: CPIC then e-mails me that there are no embeds in all of Baghdad during my requested time-frame. In all of Baghdad there are no embeds during the last part of June? CNN, ABC and Fox can’t get embeds either? They are not allowing press into Baghdad any more? Or is it only me? Age discrimination? Sex discrimination? It can't because of my reporting, described by one reporter this way: "Jane’s unpretentious, no-bull style of writing really stands out. Other (mostly right-wing) bloggers have gone to Iraq and Afghanistan, but few have written anything worth reading."
With regard to my travel orders, I informed CPIC that they are contained in a Memorandum for Record dated 30 MAR 07 and state that "...this travel is authorized within or outside the United States during the period of the conflict. This memorandum expires on 31 August 2007" in accordance with DoD 4515.13R, Chapter 9, JFTR VOL.I, Appendix E, Part I, Paragraph E.8 and AM.C124101V14 dated 1 April 2003, paragraph 21.9."
I also made another request for an embed. "Please see what you can do to get me an embed with a unit under CPIC's jurisdiction as well during the time frame that I will be in that theatre – approximately June 14 to July 4.... Thank you in advance for any help you can give me in settling this matter in the best interest of all parties concerned."
June 7, 2007: I received an affirmative reply from Anbar province: "We'll see what happens. I put a package together and set it up to my immediate boss, the Regimental Combat Team commander. He’s good to go with you coming so I sent his endorsement to higher headquarters to let them know that you are good with us. The endorsement needs to go up several more levels before I get a definitive thumbs-up. I'll keep you posted."
June 15, 2007: I got an e-mail from Anbar advising me that I should "tell CPIC that [a Regimental Combat Team] in western al anbar will accept your embed," but that they weren’t hopeful that it would happen. As of this date, I have no embeds lined up, no possibility of being embedded and only a long list of e-mails indicating how, when and where my embed requests have all been stone-walled despite my having jumped through every kind of hoop that the Department of Defense has asked me to jump through.
Stillwater is allegedly being systematically denied press access opportunities within the U.S. Department of Defense’s embed program that are routinely granted to other reporters and journalists in her same position and which are covered by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution with regard to freedom of the press:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Plaintiff alleges that defendants U.S. Department of Defense and State Department’s negligence, harassment, discrimination, bias, favoritism and malicious prosecution of herself are in violation of the First Amendment with regards to the embed process as currently exercised by defendants Department of Defense and the State Department with regards to Stillwater in comparison to defendants’ treatment of other journalists. In addition, defendants’ selective treatment of Stillwater is allegedly in violation of U.S. civil law on the grounds that First Amendment protection of freedom of the press needs be applied to journalists reporting from a war zone (as long as military personnel are not endangered by said journalists’ actions) as well as being applied to journalists within United States civil jurisdiction.
In the words of Department of Defense spokesman Lt. Col. Larry Cox, the embed program itself is designed to allow journalists to "make judgments for themselves":
The whole concept was not to put limits on the embed experiences, but simply to provide the opportunity, and let the embedded press experience whatever there is to experience. Torie Clarke, the Pentagon spokesperson, used the words: "Embedding the press would provide journalists the opportunity to see the good the bad and the ugly." That was the assumption from the very beginning, from the conceptual stages to the detailed planning. It became a principle value in Department of Defense's program. That could be considered either good or bad. Part of the journalistic endeavor is for the journalists to make that judgment themselves, and we expected they would, one way or another.
By obstructing Stillwater, an accredited journalist, access to the embedding process and thus denying her to be in a position to make her own judgments and come to her own conclusions, defendant Department of Defense, with the aid of defendant State Department, is thus violating their own stated goals as well as those of the First Amendment.
In the matter of JB Pictures, Inc. v. Department of Defense and Donald B. Rice, Secretary of the Air Force, it was ruled that JB Pictures’ rights to freedom of the press were not being denied when they were not allowed to view soldiers’ remains – thus indicating by default that First Amendment rights were applicable to the Department of Defense except under extreme circumstances.
In the matter of Associated Press v. Department of Defense, the Associated Press sued the Department of Defense under the federal Freedom of Information Act to compel disclosure of George W. Bush’s full record of service in the Texas National Guard. The court ordered the Department of Defense to provide the documents. This case is a clear example of the Department of Defense acting in the best interests of George W. Bush rather than the best interests of America’s citizens. This ruling should be applied to Stillwater’s case as well because since 2000, Stillwater’s journalistic endeavors have centered upon her efforts to uncover evidence that corruption and gross self-interest govern the formation of the majority of Bush’s foreign and domestic policies. By denying Stillwater access to report on one of Bush’s greatest policy failures, the Department of Defense is allegedly again supporting Bush’s interests over the best interests of American citizens.
V. Pain and Suffering
As a result of not being allowed to embed and re-embed in Iraq, Stillwater was forced to spend almost a year trying to rectify this situation, devoting many hours of her time in pursuit of an embed.
"I e-mailed people, made phone calls, wrote letters," stated Stillwater, "dealt with congressional representatives, read information published on the subject, talked with fellow reporters, read up on case law, scheduled, un-scheduled and re-scheduled flights to Kuwait and tried to rally support for my embed with groups and organizations across the entire United States. I went on radio and television, corresponded with officers in the field in Iraq, corresponded with CPIC, corresponded with...you name it, I tried it. And all in vain. It was – and is – very frustrating. And it was especially frustrating because there was nothing exactly I could put my finger on that was causing this rejection. Most of my refusals were of the iron-fist-in-the-velvet-glove variety, especially when I was in the Green Zone. Nobody ever said, ‘Jane, go home, you are wasting your time, you are never going to get embedded in the Red Zone.’ They couldn’t have said that because it would have been clearly discriminatory so instead they just kept stonewalling me and giving me the run-around."
Stillwater’s frustration and mental anguish as a result of being stonewalled and allegedly covertly blackballed from embedding in Iraq and returning to Iraq have caused her great pain and suffering. The actions of the State Department and the Department of Defense have also cast a shadow on her reputation as a journalist. "Being told that I was not fact-based really hurt," stated Stillwater. "It was as if they had accused me of lying – as if I had done something really detrimental to my country such as lying about weapons of mass destruction or lying about Iraq being involved with Al Qaeda before 2003."
Stillwater was also upset that her credence as a patriotic American was being denigrated. "My journalism is greatly influenced by my love for America," stated Stillwater. "And to see that patriotism being repeatedly challenged by the State Department as they apparently try to protect George W. Bush at the cost of the American military and American troops has really been hard for me, a lone female journalist up against the entire Bush war machine. Sometimes I even fear for my safety."
WHEREFORE, due to negligence, harassment, discrimination, bias, favoritism and malicious prosecution suffered by Stillwater as a result of the defendants State Department and Department of Defense’s actions, Stillwater is seeking the following relief:
1. That arrangements be made immediately by defendants to transport Stillwater via the fastest means available – either by commercial air or by military air to an embed in Anbar province, commencing no later than June 22, 2007 and at defendents’ expense;
2. An immediate embed in Anbar province;
3. Immediate access to all Department of Defense media embed facilities;
4. $17,280 in payment to Stillwater for damages due to pain and suffering, damages to her professional reputation and for punitive damages.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
I am delighted to be here today. During the course of my 15 minutes of fame upon returning from being an embedded reporter in Iraq, I have been asked to speak by NBC, ABC, NPR, CBS, the BBC and even Fox News. That was no big deal. But when the BABA asked me to speak? I was really excited and pleased. Thank you for having me here today.
Once you have been to Iraq, you see that country very differently. You not only sympathize with the poor Iraqi schmucks over there who are being shot at by US troops, various militias, 12 different kinds of terrorists, both Sunni and Shia resistance fighters, wannabe mafia dons, opportunistic looters, cold-hearted kidnappers, Al Qaeda and Islamic extremists but you also come to sympathize with and really identify with the American soldiers as well. And when I just missed getting blown up when a suicide bomber blew up the Parliament cafeteria and I was there at the hospital when the injured Parliametarians started pouring in, I came to hate war as well.
I would also like to talk for a moment about the fundamental disintegration of the rule of law in Iraq -- and if I do, then maybe you might be able to get some MCLE credits from this talk after all. In 2003, George W. Bush unleashed Shock and Awe on the country of Iraq and, in my opinion, this was the equivalent for the poor Iraqis to the carnage recently done to Virginia Tech by a gun-crazed shooter. But then Bush did something equally bad or even worse. As far as I can tell, after his bloody assault on Iraq, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Paul Bremmer then systematically went about dismantling all established systems of rule of law over there, including the court system, the public safety system, the legal system and the military. And without its structure to enforce rule of law, the country basically fell apart at the seams.
There's a moral here. The American justice system may be the brunt of a lot of bad lawyer jokes, but it is also the glue that holds this country together as well. Allegedly.
If there is one thing I've learned from working with lawyers -- it's always to end every statement with "allegedly".
Another thing I have learned from working in law offices is how many times that you guys get hit up for free advice. So I'm gonna force myself to be forbearing here and not ask you for any today either. I'm NOT going to say, "After my experience in trying to get embedded in Iraq and being repeatedly turned down for no valid reason, should I sue the Department of Defense for discrimination? Or not?"
And I'm definitely not going to lay out my case about how they -- allegedly -- continuously kept me from receiving an embed even though I was sponsored by Senator Boxer, Congresswoman Lee and four different news services including the San Francisco Chronicle. Or how it took me almost a full year to finally get permission to embed. Or how even after being given basic permission to get credentialed, I was repeatedly denied an actual embed.
And you will not hear it from me that even after I got over there, I was not allowed out of the Green Zone while other reporters freely came and went. And neither will you have to listen to me complain about how I have been seeking permission for over a month to return to Iraq for another embed over there and have even had actual units request me and they are STILL not letting me back into the country. Allegedly. I'll protect you guys from all that. And I won't even demand that you all take my case up to the Supreme Court!
But I will, however, take the witness stand here and answer any questions you might have regarding my Iraq experience -- and if any of you want to cross-examine me, go ahead. Then you can be the judge of whether or not our troops should leave Iraq. But after my own experiences there, I say that we should.
And we should also put Bush and Cheney on trial for war profiteering -- and genocide.
For the last seven years, I've watched in horror as Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, etc. have dragged America down to a whole new moral low. I can't stand it any more! First this gang of thugs stole the 2000 election. Then they paraded GWB around after 9-11 just like he was a hero and not the one who had made all the so-called mistakes that "allowed it to happen". Then there was Katrina and Abu Ghraib and Osama bin Forgotten and the lies leading up to the slaughter in Iraq and Rumsfeld's systematic murder of the Rule of Law in that country.
I could go on and on. There's the Jeff Gannon scandal, the Enron ties, Jack Abramoff, and the attack on Valerie Plame. And the systematic use of our tax dollars as their own personal piggy bank -- giving tax breaks to the rich, tax money to Halliburton, tax havens to off-shore companies who benefit from America but don't have to pay their dues, our taxes being sequestered in Bush's Swiss bank accounts, tax money from Social Security disappearing, tax-generated welfare for corporations....
What else? Moral decay! Let's not forget moral decay. And failed foreign policy -- the whole Middle East is in flames thanks to these Soprano-wannabe mafia dons whose extortion racket kills hundreds of thousands of women and children indiscriminately. It's the St. Valentine's Day Massacre writ large.
Guess what, America. If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. And in the last seven years, America has become just another flea-bitten, sorry-arsed [female dog]. That's just pathetic. By not putting a flea collar on these mutts in the White House, we Americans have allowed our whole country to become infested. Health hazard! This is not what I want for my country. No no no. I want to be able to look UP to the people who guide our country -- not be forced to sink to their level and go around scratching myself all the time.
We always come to resemble the type of people that we associate with. Sorry-arsed flea-bitten corrupt mafia dons? Is that who I want to resemble? Not on your life! I want to see true statesmen [and women] running my country and setting the tone for myself and for America -- not just a bunch of moral-less mongrels with no ideals whose answer to every problem comes from the barrel of a gun or from seeing just how LOW they can go and still get away with it.
I'm sorry but I just can't stand to watch the Bush-Cheney-Rove trainwreck any more. What if I too get corrupted by their example -- and start to lie, steal, extort, murder and torture too? "Hey! I get to do that! My president does it and nobody minds. Why can't I do it too!"
Please! Someone! Set me an example. Set an example to America. Set an example to the world. Put those crooks in jail. J-A-I-L. Now. Do it now before I get corrupted too. I've already lied to someone once today. And the next thing you know I might begin thinking about stealing some little kid's lunch money. Help!
If nothing else, let's do what Bobby Kennedy did with the old-school mafia dons -- send them up the river for tax evasion. Then I won't be tempted to sink to their level. And you won't be either.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
"Very often children and teens will not talk about their abuse," states the National Center for Victims of Crime. "They will protect their abuser, making excuses for their injuries." Sometimes, in desperation, a severely-abused child will cling tightly to the very parent that is abusing him. Why is that?
Maybe the child has misplaced bonding issues.
Maybe it is because his or her abusers are the only parents the child knows and are familiar territory to him or her -- a severely abused kid is not exactly your first-choice candidate for being ready, willing and able to bounce out into an unknown world all alone.
Maybe it is because the child is so badly traumatized that it no longer knows what is good for him.
What exactly causes an abused child to identify with his or her abuser? It's a mystery -- one of many mysteries regarding how the human psyche behaves. Why do abused wives stay with their husbands? Why do people go insane or kill or torture or gamble away their life savings? Why even do people fall in love? You got me there. I've never been able to figure out how people think.
If a severely-abused child was thinking rationally -- and not like a severely-abused child -- then they would get the heck out of the abusive situation. Duh. But abused children rarely do think rationally. Remember that child in Florida who had cracked ribs and burn marks on his back? And yet still loved his abusive parent even though two of his other siblings were already dead from abuse? Remember that 1979 Gothic classic, Flowers in the Attic? Where the kids were all locked in the attic and slowly poisoned and starved? And how they thought their mother was so beautiful and glamorous and loved them so much while all this time she was slipping the kids arsenic in their donuts? This book sold four million copies!
Has America's military finally gone the way of Flowers in the Attic? Do your research -- I'm not very good at research but, heck, you gots Google, do it yourself! -- and you will discover that since Bush and Cheney stole the 2000 election -- you think they didn't? Dream on! -- America's armed forces have been systematically depleted and stretched. How much more abuse can our troops take before they stop identifying with their abuser? Apparently a lot.
According to the New York Times, "The Army has been kept on short rations of troops and equipment for years by a Pentagon more intent on stockpiling futuristic weapons than fighting today’s wars. Now it is pushing up against the limits of hard arithmetic. Senior generals are warning that the Bush administration may have to break its word and again use National Guard units to plug the gap, but no one in Washington is paying serious attention. That was clear last week when Congress recklessly decided to funnel extra money to the Air Force’s irrelevant F-22 stealth fighter."
This sounds like "child" abuse to me!
Another case in point: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, USMC has just been fired! Why? Allegedly because he wouldn't support Bush and Cheney's hare-brained scheme to invade Iran because it would put his troops in harms way for no reason involving the safely of our nation? We may never know. But then again, we're not dumb. If something has feathers, swims and quacks, might it be a duck?
If your neighbor's kid screams in the night, bleeds from the mouth and nose, somehow manages to break bones regularly and is covered with bruises, burns and scars, do you have a right to suspect child abuse?
If the American military is stretched to the point where a tour of duty is 15 months long -- a British tour of duty is only six months -- and spends its life-blood fighting brush fires in Iraq caused by failed policies pouring down on it from the White House like they were flowers in the attic and soldiers are treated like cannon fodder and Bush/Cheney spend billions of dollars on Star War systems that nobody in Iraq wants or needs and reporters -- yes, such as myself -- who listen to the troops and support their best interests are systematically banned from Iraq by Bush's enforcers in the State Department and generals turn into yes-men for fear of their jobs and war profiteers are encouraged to do whatever they can to steal our troops' lunch money -- and use our soldiers like an abusive parent uses its kids to collect monthly welfare checks -- has the American military even noticed that any of this is WRONG? Apparently not.
And don't even get me started on slashed veterans' benefits, the widow's mite and exposure to depleted uranium! According to an article in Countercurrents regarding the effects of DU on our troops, "Although blocked by the skin, alpha radiation can be inhaled, ingested, and absorbed into the blood stream through scratches and wounds. It is highly dangerous internally. In addition to being physically radioactive it is also chemically toxic. This explains the "double whammy" effect. Soldiers who are exposed can become immediately ill from the toxicity, recover, and then suffer severe additional symptoms from the radioactivity years or decades later." And Bush is allowing this to happen? Yep. Hey, that's child abuse! I mean troop abuse.
Almost anyone in America would willingly stand up to protect an abused child -- yet will anyone in America stand up to protect our abused military? Apparently not.
PS: Apparently SOMEBODY has finally has found the guts to stand up for America's soldiers! And who would that be? Paris Hilton! In a statement issued from her jail cell recently, Hilton stated, "I would hope going forward that the public and the media will focus on more important things, like the men and women serving our country in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places around the world." Yea for Paris!
Saturday, June 09, 2007
Here I've been wracking my brains for the last two or three years trying to come up with a way to end the war on Iraq. Hummm. Perhaps we could try making the Iraqis too happy to fight by giving them back their oil money and encouraging them to build a bunch of malls and buy plasma TVs that will beam news stories into their living rooms constantly telling them just how wonderful it is to be able to live in the United States of Iraq?
Or we could simply bring all our troops home right now -- sure, there'd be a bloodbath over there but there's already a blood bath over there now so no one would hardly even notice that our troops have left -- except of course for the mothers, spouses and children of said troops who will no longer have their sons, daughters, spouses and parents coming home in a box.
Or we could just send all the Muslims in Iraq off on Hajj and let the Saudis deal with the problem.
And then there's my current favorite solution to the war on Iraq -- to get rid of all those top-heavy generals in the Pentagon whose cushy desk jobs all depend on this "war". According to http://iraqslogger.com/ columnist Soldier Mom, "[If] you don't want soldiers to die, you just put in a policy -- a soldier dies, a general gets fired." Works for me. If we put that policy in place, then all those generals in the Pentagon with all those cushy desk jobs would have to think twice before agreeing to sell their souls to the devil in order to keep sucking up those paychecks.
"But, Jane. Do you honestly think that those cushy Pentagon generals actually DO make decisions just based on job security?" Duh yeah. As most people in the American military already know -- and my own experiences with higher-ups in the State Department and DoD while trying to get re-embedded in Iraq sadly bear this out as well -- if you want to say anything truthful about what is going on over in Iraq, you gotta "cover your arse" and/or be in a position to "retire" first. And even then you're gonna catch a whole bunch of flack.
According to an article in OpEd News, "George W. Bush, in effect, just fired the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, USMC. This is unprecedented, as it is the first time the JCS Chair has not been reappointed. ....Pace has been the most visible symbol of the push-back within the military against the Long War." So it looks like another general who dared to speak out against Bush's failed Iraq policies has just been fired. Let's just hope he has unemployment insurance.
But while I was busy cogitating on various ideas on how to end our Bush-induced nightmare in Iraq, I got an e-mail from my friend Joe Thomspon from Tennessee. Our Joe has been around since the Great Depression and has -- literally -- seen it all. He wrote, "Jane, what everyone seems to miss is, that this war is not meant to be won by anyone or anything. It's just a bottomless money pit for all the insiders involved. Have you noticed that every time the Congress tries to cut the funding, the violence increases. Then when they get their money the violence decreases until the next appropriations comes up for renewal and then all hell breaks loose again."
Good grief. Joe could be right! And if he is, do you know what this means? It means that we are gonna be stuck with the War on Iraq forever! Why? Because the whole freaking operation is being run by PIRATES! Johnny Depp and Keith Richards, step aside. It looks like America has just been boarded and sacked by the baddest pirates to ever sail the Arabian Sea or the Strait of Hormoz. Does Cap'n Cheney and his neo-con crew really have the World's End in their sights? "Avast, mateys! Set the sails!" Har har har.
I just finished watching that new TV reality show called "Pirate Master" and was totally surprised not to see Bush and Cheney in their crew. Imagine how the show's ratings would skyrocket if that had happened -- especially when they cut Cheney adrift and handed Bush the Black Spot!
And I bet you anything that this Endless War excuse for sacking and looting is the real reason why cut-throat Cap'n Dick and his loyal parrot Dubya are plotting their next pirate expedition -- to Iran. Ya gotta give them credit for pursuing their pirate trade with no quarter. The Iraq expedition wasn't enough. Now they're out to ransack for even more gold doubloons.
"Yar, listen up, ye motley swabs!" If, according to the Pirate Code, the ship's cap'n always gets to keep half of the loot and his crew gets to keep a bunch of it too, then let's do the math. If Cap'n Dick and his scurvy crew of war profiteers can score even MORE loot after their Iran expedition, the American people will have spent almost a trillion dollars on war since Bush and Cheney started steering OUR ship of state -- and the sum of the treasure that these two pirates and their mates will have buried in the Cayman Islands since they first commandeered the 2000 election could be worth as much as three-fourths of a trillion dollars. That's a lot of bootie!
Don't you just hate it when you've been robbed by pirates?
So. What can we do to save our sinking ship? Let's hold a Pirates' Court! Let's toss Cap'n Dick and his mangy parrot in the brig right now -- before they can set sail on the Iran expedition and also before they can force what is left of America's highly-trained and professional pre-2001 military to walk the plank.
PS: My daughter Ashley just gave me the 411 on the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie. "It's as good as the first one but better than the second one." Whew. I liked the first one okay but hated the second one. Too many squids! "And the Voodoo Queen is in this one too. I love the Voodoo Queen!"
"What Voodoo Queen?"
"Don't you remember? She was in the second one, right near the end." Oh. That explains that. I got bored and left halfway through POTC 2. Rats. I love voodoo queens. And I also love "Talk Like a Pirate" day, the Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean ride, all forms of swashbuckling and of course Johnny Depp. I just don't like corporate pirates who are looting the U.S. Treasury, having blood on their hands from all that raping and pillaging, sending our brave troops to Davey Jones' locker and turning our planet into a dead man's chest.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Note: I may not have gotten these quotes exactly word for word but they are pretty much correct. I was writing as fast as I could! Also, I can't really get too mad at these folks. After all, they did teach me how to fight back against injustice -- thus preparing me for my future struggles against the many injustices perpetrated by George W. Bush!
You don't even want to know what went on at the Savo Island Board meeting last night. It sunk to its lowest point ever. Imagine the Jerry Springer show and throw in a hint of the National Enquirer and you pretty much got the picture.
The meeting started off peacefully enough even though the Board composition consisted mainly of five Alliance members and me. We interviewed a possible new management company to replace our current management company, one of 12 others who have been fired or quit. This company made a very professional presentation. Then we started talking about our maintenance staff. "Our current maintenance staff has already quit and moved on to other jobs," I stated.
"Jane. Please. They did not quit!" stated one Alliance member. Okay, semantics. They did quit working on weekdays but still come in to help on the weekends. The member then talked on and on and on about this and that. And then I started to say something too. I even raised my hand first. Honest! "Jane. Please. I am talking!" Oh. Excuse me.
Then I told the Board that, "a friend visiting me from Georgia Tech took one look at our siding and said, 'This is a major fire hazard.'"
"Jane, why do you always have to be so negative!" came the reply.
Then the Board alliance launched into a discussion regarding how horrible our current site manager was (and that's not negative talk?), how the tenant that this manager wants to move into a vacant unit -- vacant since approximately October 2006, losing the co-op approximately $1,000 a month in rent -- is not qualified. And how does the Alliance know that? Because one of their friends has apparently been pawing through the new tenant's documentation and trying to maneuver the new tenant's position further down on the waiting list.
But why would she want to do that?
Then the truth came out. "My daughter is on the waiting list," said one Board member. "What about her?" Oh. Relatives. Again. She apparently wants that unit for her daughter.
Then the friend of the Alliance told what I thought was an outright lie about our current site manager. And I politely called her on it. And that's when the meeting went all Jerry Springer. "You are a liar," one Alliance member started screaming at me. "You need to resign from this Board."
Then the Friend started bad-mouthing my daughter. "My grandmother is afraid to live in her unit because she's afraid of your daughter," she screams at me.
"That's not true," I screamed back. "Your grandmother lives with you because you have had a family of four of your relatives living in her unit for approximately the last year!" Don't scream at me. I gots a voice too -- and I know how to use it.
Then Jerry smiled happily as the Friend screamed back that I had better not mess with her or she would call the police on my daughter. "No wonder your daughter doesn't speak to you. You are a liar. You are vicious. And you are old." Wow. That last one was below the belt. That last one really hurt.
The Alliance's bottom line? "Jane, you need to resign." What? And miss all this free entertainment? That's way not going to happen.
And my bottom line? "You have run this co-op for the last 20 years and just look at it. It's a shambles and a debt-ridden mess." It used to be a nice place. Now Savo Island can't pay its bills and can't fill the units with anyone who isn't a relative and can't get its re-hab going and can't keep any management company and can't even run a civilized board meeting without Jerry Springer's help.
I am desperately asking the residents of Savo Island, the California Secretary of State in charge of issuing non-profit licenses and HUD to please step in here. 20 years of having myself and my family threatened and belittled because I am whistle-blower is more than enough. I want to just peacefully live in my own home and not see my co-op degenerate into National Enquirer material before my very eyes. Is that too much to ask? Apparently yes.