Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fake L.A. Times: Polygamists Pen TV Deal

This is Not the Los Angeles Times

Jewish Journal/July 30, 2008

The Los Angeles Times has already become a parody of itself, but in case you hadn’t gotten the joke, check out Roy Rivenburg’s new faux-news site, Fake L.A. Times.

The site reports that San Diego has been sold to ease the state budget woes, that the Times has fired the rest of the staff, though Steve Lopez remains amused with his own superior columnizing (he is good) and that Texas’ real-life Big Love Mormons have penned a deal with HBO, tentatively called “Sect and the City” Rivenburg also reports that social conservatives were right: Allowing gays to marry did indeed open the floodgates, and the courts since determined Paris Hilton and a dolphin could wed....

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Federal Media Protection Law Stalls in Senate

GOP blocks effort to have a vote - bill likely done for year
Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Hearst Newspapers

(07-31) 04:00 PDT Washington - --

The prospect of congressional approval of a federal "media shield" law this year dimmed Wednesday when Senate Republicans blocked legislation that would protect journalists from being forced to reveal confidential sources.

Supporters of the shield bill said it is possible - but unlikely - that the issue will be revived in September, after the Senate takes a planned monthlong recess starting this weekend. Otherwise, backers of the bill would be forced to begin again in January, when a new Congress convenes.

The shield bill was derailed in the Senate when Republican senators seeking a floor vote on a broad energy bill blocked efforts by Senate Democratic leaders to debate other measures, including the media shield proposal.

The Senate fell eight votes shy of the 60 necessary to limit debate - and thus thwart a Republican-led filibuster - on the media shield bill. Five Republicans, including bill sponsors Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Dick Lugar, R-Ind., broke party ranks and voted to begin debating the shield legislation.
"I would say the odds are Republicans killed media shield today," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who has used his chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee to advance the legislation.

Leahy pledged to "keep bringing it back as much as we can," but he acknowledged that the Senate's calendar in September could be very crowded with "all the other important things we have to do."

Specter said he will keep pressing for the media shield bill, but he predicted that the measure "won't be acted on by the balance of the Congress."

Despite opposition from the Bush administration, the media shield bill is relatively popular on Capitol Hill. The House overwhelmingly passed its version of the legislation by a vote of 398-21.

The similar Senate measure would shield reporters from being compelled to disclose their sources, except in limited cases, such as when the evidence would help prevent an act of terrorism or when there is "significant and articulable harm to the national security."

Major news media companies, media associations and 42 state attorneys generally back the legislation, calling it a vital protection for reporters who are increasingly being asked to open their notebooks and cameras for federal prosecutors.

Two Chronicle reporters narrowly averted jail time last year, after an attorney said he had been the source of leaked grand jury transcripts cited in a newspaper series on steroid use by Giants slugger Barry Bonds and other athletes.

The top Democrat in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, invoked the plight of the Chronicle reporters during a floor speech Wednesday and said their case is strong evidence of a pressing need for a federal media shield.

Although 49 states and the District of Columbia have laws protecting the relationship between journalists and their sources, Reid said it is "long past time for the federal government to follow suit" and reduce uncertainty about media rights.

"That uncertainty puts a tremendous burden on the media and reduces the likelihood that whistle-blowers will come forward with information," Reid said.

Specter said that a rash of subpoenas seeking information about journalists' sources have had a chilling effect on reporters.

"Reporters have been intimidated," Specter said.

Leahy said the legislation is crucial to ensuring that journalists have the protection they need to investigate alleged wrongdoing without fear that they risk jail time by protecting anonymous sources.

The measure generally agrees with Justice Department guidelines governing when media representatives can be subpoenaed for confidential source information. The bill would put federal judges - not Justice Department officials - in charge of determining on a case-by-case basis whether it was in the public interest to compel journalists to reveal their confidential sources.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Film Review - War Inc.: Strengths and weaknesses of the Hollywood left
By Joanne Laurier
12 July 2008

Directed by Joshua Seftel, screenplay by Mark Leyner, Jeremy Pikser and John Cusack

At its best, War, Inc. reaches the level of a biting—and courageous—political satire. The film, directed by Joshua Seftel and co-written, produced and starring John Cusack, one of Hollywood’s most vocal opponents of the Iraq war, is a dystopian work about the “first war to be 100 percent outsourced” to private enterprise.

When it stays on track as a lampoon of a war zone run by a Halliburton-type corporation headed by a Dick Cheney-like former vice president, the movie has many effective moments. However, its detours into the realms of romance and personal redemption are unconvincing, to say the least. Nonetheless, the film’s passionate stance against the war and the criminals who conduct it is genuine and carries weight.

Cusack plays Brand Hauser, a CIA hit man who knocks back shot glasses of hot sauce to dull his sense of feeling “like a refugee from the Island of Dr. Moreau. Some morally inverted, twisted character from a [French writer Louis-Ferdinand] Céline novel.” He is ordered by the chief of Tamerlane—a huge US defense contractor—and former vice president (played by Dan Ackroyd) to assassinate a Middle Eastern oil minister whose plans for a pipeline interfere with the occupation of the fictional Turaqistan by the giant transnational.

In fact, the US government proves to be a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tamerlane.

Inside the heavily-fortified Emerald City, the authorities organize a huge gala, the Brand USA Trade Show, as a front for the assassination. It is a spectacle that will feature Rockette amputees with technologically advanced prosthetic limbs, “incarcerate-anywhere-anytime” inflatable Port-O-Prisons and bomb-sniffing mechanical dogs.

Hauser’s right-hand woman and organizer is the hyper-efficient and cold-blooded Marsha Dillon, wonderfully played by Joan Cusack. Rock star Yonica Babyyeah (Hilary Duff) with her hit, “I Want to Blow You Up,” is to be the main attraction at the gala. (She is described by one of the film’s characters as “a sad little girl who’s been pimped out into a pathetic monstrosity of Western sexuality.”)

The catch-phrase of the occupation, “Democracy Light,” is driven home to the population via ubiquitous posters, advertising the supposed virtues of the occupiers—for example, friendship and trust. A Popeye’s Fried Chicken restaurant is the portal that gives access to the secret bunker of those who rule Turaqistan.

Tamerlane boasts that it has reduced reporter casualties to zero by the invention of its Combat-O-Rama theme park ride. The war experience is a virtual one achieved through embedding a journalist—with an implant. A left-wing reporter, Natalie Hegalhuzen (Marisa Tomei—some of the characters’ names bring Preston Sturges to mind), who refuses to be implanted, catches Hauser’s attention as the incorruptible Other to his hot-sauced cynicism. She wants the truth about what’s going on. However, leaving the Emerald City is tantamount to descending into the ninth circle of hell, as crazed American soldiers shoot everything in sight.

In response to arguments for withdrawing from Turaqistan, Hauser says: “Look, we’ve already kicked the s—- out of this place. What are we supposed to do? Turn our backs on all the entrepreneurial possibilities? Business is a uniquely human response to a moral and cosmic crisis. Whether it’s a tsunami or a sustained aerial bombardment, there’s the same urgent call for urban renewal.”

Flashbacks show Hauser confronting his CIA handler, Walken (Ben Kingsley), as the former attempted to break with the spy agency: “I like killing people as much as the next guy, but I signed up to kill the bad ones! Health clinics, trade unionists, journalists, agricultural coops, Catholic liberation theologians, impoverished Colombian coffee farmers, these are the barbarians that are brave opponents of civilization? We turned Central America into a f—-in’ graveyard! Whoever momentarily interrupts the accumulation of our wealth, we pulverize. I’m just not feeling good about that anymore, sir!”

Eventually love conquers Hauser and he turns against the occupation, exposing the identity of the Viceroy—the Tamerlane puppet—who controls the Emerald City in Big Brother style.

In interviews promoting his film, Cusack has been unsparing in his characterization of the Bush administration as a cabal of war criminals, aiming fire, as well, at its enablers in the mainstream media. In an interview with Raw Story, he comments that “what the Bush administration has done is criminal, should be treated as a crime, but the idea that people who call themselves journalists let these lies go on unchecked and endorsed them time and time again is [unpardonable] ... You know, Nuremberg [post-World War II trials of the Nazis leaders and their propagandists] said that an illegal invasion of a sovereign country in a war of aggression is a supreme war crime.”

Cusack also condemns the media for remaining silent about the fact that the “President of the United States [admitted] on television that he not only authorized torture but has made it a for-profit industry.”

The actor further explains his difficulty in obtaining a distributor for the film: “You have to understand the time it was made. I mean the statue [of Saddam Hussein] had just fallen. Bush was strutting around like a conquering hero and they were standing up on podiums saying ‘these people better watch what they say,’ cuing all these McCarthyism threats ... so there wasn’t anybody rushing to take on the neo-con agenda and how it is destroying this country and the whole corporatist war, this cancer devouring our society. I don’t think the financiers wanted to take the risk.”

Cusack’s anti-war sentiments and his honest opposition to attacks on democratic rights fuel the film’s anger and its most successful flights of satire. Nothing imagined here is too farfetched or beyond the capability of the American ruling elite.

However, there are too many elements in War, Inc. that mar the rhythm and quality of the comedy, including the introduction of various distracting and pointless sub-plots, such as the romance of Hauser and Natalie. Whether the filmmakers import these elements for marketing considerations or otherwise, they have the impact of toning down the portrayal of painful realities. They are the artistic means by which the film back-pedals and calls its own savage assessment into question. Without perhaps meaning to, the filmmakers signal to the audience: ‘We’re serious ... but we’re not entirely serious.’

There is also too much unnecessary mayhem, particularly in the scenes involving Hilary Duff and her character’s gangster bodyguards. Moreover, subtitling sequences with Arab characters who all speak an understandable English is distasteful. Hauser’s transition from killer to lover to hero is unbelievably rendered even as a development in an absurdist work.

One of the film’s principal themes, driven home in a number of ways, is that the US government and military have been taken over by big business. “I don’t think people really understand that corporations have privatized the war to the point where the war itself is the cost-plus business. They are hollowing out the very core of what it means to be a government. They’re using the State Department as an ATM,” Cusack told the Los Angeles Times.

The question arises: would a more directly government-run imperialist war, such as Vietnam, be an improvement? While War, Inc. is not arguing along these lines, at least not consciously, this is the logic. The door is left open for various interpretations, such as the one offered by the LA Times, which describes the film as merely making “the case against privatizing the military.”

To their credit, the filmmakers took on the task of satirizing present-day American capitalism, in all its militaristic debauchery.

Cusack has been a talented and engaging actor over the past 25 years, in a variety of genres and disparate films, such as Eight Men Out, The Grifters, Bullets Over Broadway, The Thin Red Line, Being John Malkovich, High Fidelity, America’s Sweethearts and more. He and his sister Joan, both of whom are probably undervalued in favor of more self-conscious and self-involved performers, are among the most appealing figures in the American film industry. Clearly, moreover, Cusack is outraged by and wants to alter the present situation.

Nonetheless, it doesn’t help anyone to paint pretty pictures. The Hollywood “left,” even its most conscientious elements, remains extremely limited in both its social thinking and its artistry. The years of immense wealth and vapid content have not left anyone unscathed. So many questions are only touched on, but not thought and worked through in their efforts. The gaping holes in the story in War, Inc., its frivolous or unconvincing aspects, are not directly linked to the political-ideological weaknesses, but they share a common characteristic: superficiality and a certain laziness in the face of compelling problems.

How Cusack has evolved, or whether he is moving leftward, is not clear, but for the moment his limitations are summed up in an attraction to a milieu in which the likes of anti-globalist Naomi Klein predominate. (“I saw a lot of Naomi Klein in Marisa Tomei’s character,” he says.) On numerous occasions, Cusack pays public tribute to Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. This and other writings of hers were influential in the development of the movie’s screenplay.

Klein is a professional promoter of the left-liberal view that the most egregious aspects of modern-day society can be curbed by turning back the clock to the era of national state intervention and regulation. For such people, the present brutal face of global capitalism is merely a policy choice of the establishment, or sections of it (“the neo-cons,” “disaster capitalists”), which can be replaced by a more humane program, within the existing system, if a sufficiently large protest movement arises.

Cusack is an artist, not a political figure or leader. His political outlook does, however, have consequences for his art, preventing him from coming to terms with social and psychological realities in a more compelling manner. Once War, Inc. makes its points about the outsourcing of war with all the attendant grotesqueries, it largely runs out of steam and a sloppy melodrama takes over.

For all of its foibles, the film does tap into the deep feelings of large numbers of people, furious about American corporations that ruthlessly throw their weight around all over the world, and the demise of the US Constitution and open advocacy of torture by the political elite. It also testifies to the failings of the left-liberal milieu, which despite certain misgivings and criticisms, always finds itself running with the political pack of wolves who abet those they so despise. The pack we refer to is the Democratic Party and its apologists and hangers-on.

In the end, War, Inc is a sometimes lacerating, but highly uneven, protest against the ever-expanding American war machine.


"Family Rights" Frame Disguises Right Wing Propaganda

Ariana Grebe on July 11, 2008

Last month's United Nations High Level Meeting on AIDS drew government officials and members of civil society from around the world to UN headquarters. During the meeting, individuals came together and caucused around particular issue areas, including the seemingly-innocuous concept of "family rights," at the Family Rights Caucus. But "family rights" is often a blind used to usher in a host of right wing biases.

This caucus was convened by the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), Family Watch International (FWI), National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH). Lynn Allred, Communications Director for Family Watch International, framed the purpose of the discussion in her opening statements: to uphold religious freedom and parental rights and to defend the beliefs that marriage can only exist between a man and a woman and that "the family is the foundational unit of society." After Allred's introduction, we knew what was in store: good old-fashioned right wing propaganda. ...

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Scott McClellan: White House Fed Fox News Talking Points

July 26, 2008 at 08:40:11
by steve young

Scott McClellan: White House Fed Fox News Talking Points. Right Wing Talk Show Hosts Who Were Invited To The White House

"There were (FOX) commentators and pundits who were useful to the White House." Former Bush White House Press Secretary, Scott McClellan, Hardball, 7/24/08

"I've been here from the beginning, and have never seen a White House 'talking points.' -- And I don't know anyone else who's seen one either. I asked senior management if they have ever seen a White House talking points. No one had." - Bill O'Reilly reacting to Dan Rather's accusation that FoxNews gets White House Talking Points. 12/06.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

DVD Review - Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism
July 29, 2008
List Price: $14.95

Review by Jeffrey Kauffman
July 26, 2008

The Movie:

I guess it should really be no surprise as we approach the 25th anniversary of the real 1984 that Orwellian "newspeak" has become the norm for at least some media outlets, and yet I was continually confronted with a major pit in my stomach as I watched this new, updated DVD release of the 2004 documentary Outfoxed, an admittedly left leaning expose of Rupert Murdoch's purported "news" organization. Fox News' conservative proclivities are certainly not a big secret, and weren't even back during the Kerry vs. Bush imbroglio, but seeing example after example of blatant factual inaccuracy, always in favor of the Republican and/or Bush agendas, to the detriment of anything "liberal" or "progressive," makes Fox's slogan "fair and balanced" about as meaningful as Orwell's "War is Peace."

Anyone even routinely tuning into any of the many popular conservative commentators (chief among them Rush Limbaugh, of course) will be aware that the alleged "liberal media bias" of major news networks is a recurring theme of their daily rants. Limbaugh routinely says that CNN stands for the Clinton News Network and has only recently adapted that to say the NBC is the National Barak Corporation. So the wags behind Fox News assert that their start-up was only an attempt to even the playing field. That thesis tends to fall apart on two counts--non-affiliated news review groups have routinely shown that the major broadcast news organizations show little if any bias, and, more importantly, Fox's penchant for (how to put this politely?) "skewing" facts to their preferred point of view has become legendary.

There's little doubt that those on the right will decry this piece as traipsing through the same muck it alleges Fox does, and there's similarly little doubt that a documentary funded by and Common Cause is wearing its political bent on its sleeve. But there's also no denying the factual examples so pointedly brought the bear on the documentary's major thesis that Fox is nothing more than a Republican Party operative, albeit one being broadcast around the world to three-quarters of the world's population. The documentary has several segments which start with actual Fox executive memos outlining the "talking points of the day," several culled from the Bush White House or Republican partisans, and then cuts to "report" after "report" echoing the message of the day in lockstep. There's a reason Limbaugh calls his acolytes ditto-heads.

The most interesting aspect to this re-release are the extras (listed below), which highlight Fox's continued bashing of liberals and progressive causes. Most disturbingly in this arena is the segment where Fox asserted for days that Obama was a Muslim who had attended a Madrasa as a child, two things which are demonstrably false. But as John Kerry learned with the Swift Boat attacks of 2004, it doesn't matter if something is true or not, if a lie is repeated enough times it seeps into the public subconscious and develops a life of its own independent of any veracity or verifiability.

While some might argue with the outright dogmatism of Outfoxed, all but the most ardent right-wing adherents will probably find a lot of this documentary routinely disturbing, some of it coming from first-hand accounts of former Fox employees, on air and behind the scenes. Watching blowhard Bill O'Reilly light into the son of a man killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks because the boy is anti-war is not only distasteful, it's downright infuriating. The supposed moral superiority of the conservative pundits who make up the bulk of Fox's staff is exposed again and again in this riveting piece, and it unfortunately is not a pretty sight.



Virtually all of this documentary is simply feeds from Fox itself, so the full frame image is simply of television broadcast quality. Interpolated interview segments boast perfectly fine color and contrast.


As with the image, the standard stereo soundtrack is fine, if unremarkable. Talking head commentary is always front and center and perfectly audible.


A wealth of extras make this re-release of most interest to people who either know of or have previously seen this piece. The bulk of the extras is the complete mini-form "Fox Attacks" series, which exposes various "victims", for want of a better word, of Fox's conservative agenda (as in the Obama episode mentioned above). There are also fascinating interviews with "Fox monitors," volunteers who watch Fox daily to document its inaccuracies. There's also a making of featurette which provides background, political and otherwise, into the genesis of this project.

Final Thoughts:

As disturbing as Outfoxed is, it really should be seen with anyone who believes they're getting the "truth" from a major news organization. Highly recommended.

US Military Helping Make Films 'More Realistic'
By Washington correspondent Kim Landers

Jul 24, 2008

The US military says it wants to help a new generation of filmmakers present what it calls a "more realistic" representation of America's men and women in uniform, in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

But critics say the US military is trying to censor films and that Hollywood studios are selling out. Many of the movies about Iraq have been controversial. The film Stop Loss deals with a veteran who refuses to go back for another tour of duty. It is no surprise movies like this have not won the approval of the US military.

But one man is trying to change that. Lieutenant Colonel Todd Breasseale was stationed in Iraq in 2006 and now this former artillery officer works in public affairs for the US Army. With posters from movies like Black Hawk Down and War of the Worlds on the walls of his Los Angeles office, Lieutenant Colonel Breasseale is embarking on a different mission - helping movie makers deliver what he calls a "more realistic" version of the US army.

"In fact, I'm looking at my desk right now and I have seven scripts on the desk that are yet to be cracked in to," he said. "Sometimes the scripts just want some technical advice - how would the chain of command work? How would a given army specific manoeuvre happen? And how could we best capture it on film?

"Sometimes they just want equipment, and sometimes they will send us a script that will literally have pages blank with just sort of notes that say "military dialogue", whereby they want me to sort of help them with generational specific dialogue.

"The US Army, just like the Australian forces, is a generational force and our vernacular changes as we evolve."

Lieutenant Colonel Breasseale denies that his script advice is really some sort of censorship, or some sort of attempt to spin the war.

"I would ask them to define what censorship is then. Because as our US Supreme Court has defined censorship, and as I understand it from legal definitions, censorship is where I as a government entity would go to someone who is expressing an artistic vision and saying 'not only are you not going to do this, but I'm going to tell you how to do it, and if you do it any way then I'm going to make sure that you don't work again'," he said.

"That to me is censorship.

"When I offer advice, or when my colleagues here offer advice, it's because we have been solicited to do so."

David Robb is the Los Angeles-based author of the book Operation Hollywood, which investigated the relationship between film makers and the Pentagon.

"The truth is they could hire former military people for that. Any former military, there are plenty of military, former military people in Hollywood who could tell them how things work," he said. "What filmmakers really want is the equipment, the stuff that would cost them a lot of money to try to rent or create with computer-generated imaging.

The producers want to save money and the military want to put positive portrayals of the military in front of the American people."

Not many of the latest batch of movies about Iraq or Afghanistan have been box office hits and Lieutenant Colonel Breasseale thinks he knows why.

"I think you're dealing with an increasingly sophisticated audience who knows what to look for," he said. "So when you have a movie that paints soldiers in this sort of massive, broad brushstroke where every soldier who returns from Iraq is a broken soldier, or every soldier who comes back has an extreme Post Traumatic Stress Disorder issue, or every soldier who goes over and then comes back is a hapless victim - the American public know better than that.

"I think the publics around the globe simply do not appreciate being preached to."

South African Media Fight Proposed Information Law
29 Jul 2008
By Wendell Roelf

CAPE TOWN, July 29 (Reuters) - South African media faces the threat of political censorship if new information laws are passed through parliament unchanged, media firms argued at public hearings on Tuesday.

The Protection of Information Bill put forward by the African National Congress-led government seeks to replace apartheid-era laws that also governed the protection of information.

It has been lambasted by media, civic organisations and opposition parties as draconian. Among other measures, the bill would make the unauthorised disclosure of information a crime and journalists could be prosecuted for espionage. Investigative reporters fear that would severely limit their ability to break stories.

"The present formulation of the bill ... has the result that there will be censorship of political expression," said Dario Milo, an attorney for Avusa Ltd, publisher of Business Day, the Sunday Times and other papers.

He said Avusa took exception to the bill's broad definition of concepts such as national interest, its unprecedented regulation of commercial information and disregard of the defence of public interest in publishing information. South African politicians have increasingly approached the courts to prevent the publication of details of deals that have drawn accusations of corruption. Until now, they have had limited success.

Milo agreed with the opposition Democratic Alliance member Dene Smuts that an unintended consequence of the bill was that it could cover up corrupt practices by its regulation of commercial information such tender bids.

The Mail and Guardian newspaper also argued against the bill.

"We can all agree that total openness is neither practical, nor desirable, while too much secrecy can undermine the very basis of our freedom," it said in a written submission.

"The question is how to strike the right balance. Regrettably, the bill does not set out the answer to this question in any coherent way, and the position it plumbs for on the spectrum of secrecy is neither reasonable nor justifiable." The draft bill must first go through the legislative process in parliament before being signed by the state president an coming into force. (Editing by Matthew Tostevin)

The Nazis and Early Radio Technology

[The text translates: "All Germany hears the Führer on the People's Receiver." The Nazis, eager to encourage radio listenership, developed an inexpensive radio receiver to make it possible for as many as possible to hear Nazi propaganda. Courtesy of Dr. Robert D. Brooks]

A History of Radio Program Collecting
by Professor Marvin R. Bensman, J.D., Ph.D.
University of Memphis
Department of Communication

In the 20th century it has been broadcasting that has most immediately documented our social and cultural history. Few researchers and scholars have made use of broadcast primary resources due to the lack of information on how to locate and the difficulty of obtaining broadcast material.

Radio program collecting starts with the ability to preserve sound. In 1877, Thomas Alva Edison invented the first Phonograph. It worked with a revolving cylinder, but did not produce very good sound. Edison obtains a patent in 1878.

In 1886, Emile Berliner applies for a patent on the first flat phonograph disc. That year Heinrich Hertz also demonstrates the existence of electro-magnetic radio waves. He links a spark gap, fed from a high voltage generator, to a sort of antenna. Similar antennas, at a distance, pick up something. Nobody knows quite what for some years to come.

The tape recorder is theorized in 1888 by Oberlin Smith as a piece of string dipped in glue and coated with iron filings. In 1893, Valdemar Poulsen, a Danish engineer, used wire to store magnetic impulses that could reproduce sound. In 1921, magnetic tape was first proposed. But it required further electronic development such as the 1924 Western Electric Corporation patent permitting electrical sound recording. In the same year, the loudspeaker supplanted the use of headphones....

In 1930, Germany's I.G. Farben industrial company created the first magnetic tape. When I.G. Farben was broken up after WW II for producing the gas used in the concentration camps, BASF - one of its pieces - continued to manufacture magnetic tape.

Major recording innovations were introduced in the second half of the 1940's. In 1943, both Optical Film and Wire Recorders were used to document the allied invasion of Europe at the Normandy beaches. When the war ended some people acquired home disc recorders. A small group of programs available today from the thirties and early forties were originally recorded on these recorders using 7" discs which ran for 5 minutes a side. The wire recorder was also introduced for home use in the forties. During the war years, the Armed Forces Radio Service preserved a great many programs for rebroadcast to troops overseas. The AFRS disc has a brightness and lack of distortion that is hard to find even among network disc copies. Major recording innovations were introduced in the beginning of the 1940's.

In 1943, both Optical Film and Wire Recorders were used to document the allied invasion of Europe at the Normandy beaches. Home tape machines such as the Brush Soundmirror using Scotch 100 paper tape supplied by the 3M Company were beginning to appear in the consumer market, but fell far short of professional requirements.

[John T. "Jack" Mullin in 1950 with two "portable" Model 200 Ampex tape machines used to record ABC's Bing Crosby Show for radio.]

In 1945, Armed Forces (US) Col. John T. Mullin was part of a Signal Corps team investigating the military applications of German electronic technology. He was told by a British officer about a tape-recorder at a Frankfort, Germany radio station being operated by the Armed Forces Radio Service that had exceptional musical quality. There Mullin found German technicians working for AFRS using Magnetophone audio tape recorder/players.

The technological improvements of a constant speed transport, plastic tape impregnated or coated with iron oxide and the employment of a very high frequency mixed with the audio signal to provide "bias" made these machines hi-fidelity.

The first two machines acquired were turned over to the Signal Corps and Col. Mullin disassembled two other machines and shipped them to his home in San Francisco. In 1946, Mullin rewired and reassembled the Magnetophone machines and went into a partnership with Bill Palmer for movie sound-track work, using those machines and the 50 reels of tape he had acquired.

In October of 1946, Mullin and his partner Palmer attended the annual convention of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers. He demonstrated the machine to the sound heads of MGM, 20th Century Fox and the chief engineer of Altec Lansing. Mr. Mullin was then invited to an Institute of Radio Engineers meeting in May of 1947 to demonstrate the German Magnetophone. It was there employees of Ampex saw and heard the tape recorder. Shortly thereafter Ampex began its own developmental project.

In 1947, the technical staff of the Bing Crosby Show on ABC arranged to have Mullin re-record original disk recordings of the Bing Crosby Show on ABC onto tape and then edit them. Crosby had been with NBC until 1944, doing the Kraft Music Hall live but did not like the regimen imposed by live shows.

Since NBC would not permit recorded programs Crosby took a year off and returned on the newly formed ABC network when his new sponsor, Philco, and ABC agreed to let him record on electrical transcriptions as long as his ratings did not fall below a certain mark. That process required cutting a record and re-recording (sometimes two or three generations) and quality of sound suffered. In July of 1947, after the initial demonstration of editing, John Mullin was invited to give a demonstration of his equipment for Bing Crosby's producers by taping live side-by-side with transcription equipment the first show for the 1947-48 season in August at the ABC-NBC studios in Hollywood.

Bing Crosby Enterprises then negotiated financing for Ampex for exclusive distribution rights and Mullin was employed to record the Crosby show on his original German equipment until the Ampex machines would become available. With the original German tape-recorder's and 50 rolls of BASF tape, Mullin's first recorded demonstration show of August 1947 was broadcast over ABC on October 1, 1947.

In April of 1948, Alexander Poniatov and his team of engineers at Ampex in Redwood City, CA, introduced the first commercial audio tape recorder based on the Magnetaphone as Ampex Model 200.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Robert Novak Has Brain Tumor

July 29, 2008

The columnist Robert Novak has a brain tumor and will stop writing and making television appearances, at least temporarily.

“On Sunday, July 27, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor,” Mr. Novak said in a statement on Monday. “I have been admitted to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where doctors will soon begin appropriate treatment. I will be suspending my journalistic work for an indefinite but, God willing, not too lengthy period.”

His office in Washington declined to give more information, but referred a reporter to statements made by his assistant, Kathleen Connolly, to The Chicago Sun-Times, the home newspaper of his column.

In an article on that newspaper’s Web site, Ms. Connolly said that Mr. Novak and his wife, Geraldine, flew to Massachusetts on Saturday to visit their daughter, near Cape Cod. On Sunday, she said, he was taken ill, but she did not elaborate. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital, and admitted to the intensive care ward.

Ms. Connolly added that Mr. Novak is alert and talking — he dictated the prepared statement, himself — and that he will undergo a biopsy at some time in the next few days to determine the kind of tumor he has.

Mr. Novak, 77, is one of the most prominent political journalists in the country, with a widely syndicated column he has written for 45 years, and regular appearances on television shows. His memoir, “Prince of Darkness,” was published last year.

He gained an added measure of notoriety in 2003, for being the first to publicly identify Valerie Plame as a C.I.A. operative, a leak that became the subject of a lengthy federal investigation. A small-government conservative on most issues, Mr. Novak has parted ways with Republican orthodoxy at times, including in questioning the justification for the Iraq war.

Last week, while driving in Washington, Mr. Novak struck a pedestrian, who was not seriously hurt, and said later that he had not been aware he had hit anyone. It is not clear whether the brain tumor contributed to that accident.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Obit: Charles Z. Wick

" ... His best-known production was the film Snow White and the Three Stooges (1961) which he described as "a very beautiful picture," though critical reception was less charitable. ..."

Former film producer who galvanised the United States Information Agency, but was accused of promoting Right-wing views

25 Jul 2008

Charles Z Wick, who died on July 20 aged 90, was a former Hollywood producer recruited by President Ronald Reagan to run the United States Information Agency, a government body established in the 1950s to promote American interests abroad and to foster cultural exchange and dialogue.

The USIA was a somewhat fusty backwater when Wick took over in 1981.

Over the next eight years, as funding more than doubled, he transformed it into a well-oiled and highly effective element of American Cold War strategy – or as he rechristened it, "public diplomacy".

Alive to the possibilities of new technology, he established WorldNet, the first live global satellite television network that enabled the administration to broadcast its views on unfolding world events – from the downing of a Korean airliner to the blockade of Libya and from the Soviet crackdown in Poland to the invasion of Grenada.

He launched Voice of America's Radio Marti service to provide "news, commentary and other information about events in Cuba and elsewhere to promote the cause of freedom in Cuba".

At the same time he replaced equipment that limited the coverage of the Voice of America radio network behind the Iron Curtain. He also established a programme to send young American musicians to perform in other countries.

Wick's abrasive manner and his aggressive approach to his job was sometimes criticised as heavy-handed and propagandistic. Old hands at the USIA resented what they saw as "politicisation" of the agency's role and the Left accused him of turning it into a right-wing propaganda machine.

In 1982, when Poland was under martial law, eyebrows were raised when Wick authorised a 90-minute television broadcast entitled Let Poland be Poland, which featured Frank Sinatra singing in Polish and Charlton Heston hymning the praises of Pope John Paul II. In 1984 there was anger when it was revealed that the USIA kept a list of 84 people who were barred from agency-sponsored speaking engagements overseas. These included the writers James Baldwin and Betty Friedan; the democratic senator Gary Hart; the television presenter Walter Cronkite; the consumer advocate Ralph Nader; and Coretta Scott King, widow of the civil rights leader Martin Luther King. Wick denied he had been involved in compiling the list, which he described as "un-American," though he was forced to admit that "political bias" might have been involved.

Wick defended his approach as a "war of ideas" to counter Soviet propaganda: "There are probably certain people who still don't like my style," he admitted. "I am a prolific writer of memos, a blizzard of Z-grams. Follow-up, shepherding, fleshing out.''

He was born Charles Zwick on October 12 1917 and took degrees in Music at the University of Michigan, followed by Law at Case Western Reserve University. He paid his way through university by working as a piano player and bandleader, winning the attention of Tommy Dorsey, who took him to California as a business and legal adviser. At around this time, Zwick changed his surname by deed poll, dropping the Z and adopting it as a middle initial.

After five years working in New York with the William Morris advertising agency, he went freelance, working as a personal agent for Peggy Lee, Benny Goodman and other entertainers. One of his clients, the actress Sarah Churchill, introduced him to her father, Winston Churchill, who retained him to handle the American sales of his History of the English-Speaking Peoples.

In the mid-1950s he returned to California where he went into business as the owner of a chain of nursing homes and as a producer of television series, including one of the earliest television detective series, Fabian of the Yard, shot in England.

His best-known production was the film Snow White and the Three Stooges (1961) which he described as "a very beautiful picture," though critical reception was less charitable.

He met Ronald Reagan in 1959 when they found themselves side by side running a hot dog stall at a fair at their children's school. They formed a close personal friendship which led to Wick's becoming an original member of the "kitchen cabinet" that financed Reagan's first run for the California governor's office in 1966. In 1980 Wick became involved in fund-raising for Reagan's presidential bid and, after his victory, chaired the inaugural committee and advised the new president on appointments.

Reagan, Wick observed, was "simplistic in a positive sense. He sees problems and situations very clearly. The measurements he uses are black and white, even if the problems aren't."

Wick is survived by his wife, Mary Jane, and by their three daughters and two sons.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

It wasn't the first time ... Savage Has History of Belittling Children with Autism

Host Dropped from Additional Radio Station
Media Matters
Jul 24, 2008

** For Audio & Transcript CLICK HERE **

Washington, DC - Media Matters for America today highlighted previous comments by nationally syndicated conservative talk radio host Michael Savage that show his controversial comments on autism last week were not his first. In a rebroadcast of The Savage Nation that aired on July 9, Savage acknowledged having previously called autism "a phony disease." The rebroadcast discredits not only Savage's claim that he had been "take[n] out of context" when he characterized autism as "[a] fraud, a racket" on July 16, but also his assertion that he was drawing a distinction between the "truly autistic" and those who have been misdiagnosed.

"This clearly exposes Michael Savage's hollow claim of having been misquoted for what it is -- a feeble attempt to shift blame," said J. Jioni Palmer, spokesman for Media Matters. "His pattern of disrespect and contempt for children with autism and their families is unmistakable. The respectable thing would be for Savage to fess up and apologize."

On the July 16 broadcast of his program, Savage said about autism: "In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out." In response to the extensive criticism Savage received, on his July 21 show, he recast those comments, claiming that he was "take[n] out of context," and falsely suggesting that in his July 16 comments he distinguished between "the truly autistic" and those he described on July 21 as "the misdiagnosed, the falsely diagnosed, and the outright fakers in the autism field." The comments he made that were rebroadcast on July 9 -- acknowledging that he called autism a "phony disease" -- further discredit his claim to distinguish between the "truly autistic" and those who have been misdiagnosed.

Earlier this week, it was reported that the insurance company AFLAC announced it will no longer sponsor Savage's program, while the seven-station SuperTalk Mississippi radio network announced it had dropped the program from its lineup. On the heels of those major developments, it was reported yesterday that WINA in Charlottesville, Virginia, also decided to drop Savage's program and today that DirectBuy will no longer sponsor Savage's radio show when its contact expires tomorrow.

Outraged by Savage's comments, today Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), co-chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Autism Caucus, said on the House floor, "If Mr. Savage wants to find someone looking like a moron he should simply look in the mirror."

Talk Radio Network, which syndicates The Savage Nation, claims that Savage is heard on more than 350 radio stations. The Savage Nation reaches at least 8.25 million listeners each week, according to Talkers Magazine, making it one of the most listened-to talk radio shows in the nation, behind only The Rush Limbaugh Show and The Sean Hannity Show.

For Audio & Transcript CLICK HERE

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Robert Novak's Hit and Run

Valerie Plame-Wilson slams Bob Novak for hitting pedestrian

Syndicated columnist Bob Novak publicly revealed Valerie Plame-Wilson's identity as a covert CIA agent in 2003, setting in motion an investigation that brought down I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, and seriously damaged the reputation of Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and White House political maestro Karl Rove for leaking her name to other journalists.

The Wilsons left Washington two years ago to live in Santa Fe, N.M., where, as Wonkette put it, "terrorists and Bob Novak will never find them." Now, from the desert, they are weighing in on Novak's latest brush with the law in the nation's capital -- an incident that happened Wednesday in which the 77-year-old syndicated columnist, driving a black Corvette, hit a pedestrian and kept on driving.

In a statement to ThinkProgress, the Wilsons equated Novak's disregard for pedestrians with a similar disdain for covert CIA officers.

Our sympathies go out to the victim of Novak’s action. Once again Novak has demonstrated his callous disregard for the rights of others, as well as his chronic inability to accept responsibility for his actions.

We have long argued that responsible adults should take Novak’s typewriter away. The time has arrived for them to also take away the keys to his Corvette.

Meanwhile, details are emerging on other aspects of the case.

The victim, 66-year-old Don Likinquist, may be in worse shape than earlier reported. Or not. WJLA-TV is quoting an unnamed source who said the man has casts on his neck and back and is awaiting a surgical team evaluation.

The lawyer who stopped Novak half a block away -- and who does not believe the columnist's claim that he had no idea he'd hit anyone -- turns out to be an Obama Democrat. David Bono, a partner at Harkins Cunningham, contributed $2,000 to the Obama campaign in May during the frenzied primary run against Hillary Rodham Clinton, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

As for Novak, he's not talking, but he told WJLA-TV yesterday that he feels "terrible," adding of the victim, "He's not dead, that's the main thing." ...

-- Johanna Neuman
The DCist

Novak Run-In a Serious Matter

... The cyclist who flagged Novak down about a block away from the incident claims that the man who was struck rolled off of Novak's windshield, calling into question the conservative commentator's claim that he didn't even know he had hit someone.

Beyond the possibility that Novak may have tried to flee the scene of a more serious accident than originally reported, we're a little miffed that he was only given a $50 ticket for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a walkway. That's the District's standard, but it starts seeming awfully low when you consider that many parking D.C. tickets start at $30 and that Arlington County charges up to 10 times the amount for the same offense. The D.C. Council has been debating raising the fines since late last year, but not much movement has been seen on that front.

So what will come of the Prince of Darkness and his pedestrian problem? Since Novak writes about pretty much anything -- including things that are classified -- maybe he can write a column about what happened.

Right-wing changes tactics; Obama isn't a closet Muslim, he's Hitler

July 24, 2008
World, U.S. Politics

You know that the whisper campaign about Obama's 'secret Muslim' heritage has jumped the shark when a left-wing establishment like the New Yorker is parodying it. So Obama's critics are switching up their messaging. The Democratic candidate isn't just a Muslim in a fancy suit, he's actually the second-coming of Adolf Hitler.

A few right-wing pundits have made the comparison (here and here). But with Barack visiting Germany the time for comparison is ripe.

Nixon speechwriter/game-show host/creationism booster Ben Stein pilloried the senator for wanting to accept his nomination at the Democratic convention at a stadium in front of a large crowd. Speaking on CNN's Glenn Beck:

TEIN: I want -- I'm glad you brought up this Denver thing. I don't like the idea of Senator Obama giving his acceptance speech in front of 75,000 wildly cheering people. That is not the way we do things in political parties in the United States of America. We have a contained number of people in an arena. Seventy-five-thousand people at an outdoor sports palace, well, that's something the Fuehrer would have done. And I think whoever is advising Senator Obama to do this is bringing up all kinds of very unfortunate images from the past.

It's easy to see how the comparison could be made. He talks good, he's giving a speech in Berlin. He's even handing out literature in German that looks an awful lot like Nazi propaganda points out right-wing blogger Melissa Clouthier. The similarities are mind boggling.

Nevemind that any number of U.S. political figures have made well-received speeches in Germany. Kennedy's 'Ich bin ein Berliner' speech comes to mind, he even speaks in German in that one, but no Hitler comparisons there. There's also Reagan's stirring 'tear down this wall' speech. But the right-wing won't be comparing Saint Ronnie to The Fuhrer anytime soon. ...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Appeals Court Upholds Conrad Black Conviction

By Editor & Publisher Staff
June 25, 2008

CHICAGO - Conrad Black lost his chance to get out of jail Wednesday as a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld his convictions in the looting of the parent of the Chicago Sun-Times.

The court also upheld the convictions of Black's three co-defendants, top executives of Hollinger International, now known as Sun-Times Media Group. Appellate Judge Richard A. Posner rejected a common argument of the defendants, that the jury that convicted them last summer was improperly given an "ostrich" instruction, allowing the jury to find a defendant guilty for actively trying to remain ignorant of criminal actions.

"If you receive a check in the mail for $1 million that you have no reason to think you're entitled to, you cannot just deposit it and when prosecuted for theft say you didn't know you weren't entitled to the money," Posner wrote.

Black and codefendants Peter Y. Atkinson, John "Jack" Boultbee, and Mark Kipnis were convicted of improperly pocketing phony "non-compete" fees in the sell-off of Hollinger's community papers. Black was also convicted of obstruction of justice for removing items from his office in defiance of a court order. He is serving a six-and-a-half prison sentence in Florida.

In a statement late Wednesday, Sun-Times Media Group President and CEO Cyrus F. Freidheim Jr. said the decision "allows the company to focus on its future."

"The company intends to proceed with its civil suits against the convicted defendants and others, and today's decision further supports the strength of the company's claims," added Gordon A. Paris, who chaired the board of directors special committee that alleged Black and others, including his long-time lieutenant, former Sun-Times Publisher F. David Radler, of running a "corporate kleptocracy" that looting hundreds of millions from the publishing company.

"While there are no assurances in any legal proceeding, we continue to be very confident that the company will prevail in its civil suits," he said.

Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney for Chicago whose office prosecuted Black and the others, hailed the appeals court ruling.

"The court found clear evidence that all four defendants engaged in a brazen, multimillion dollar corporate fraud scheme and deprived the public shareholders of Hollinger International of their right to the executives' honest services," he said in a statement.

In an article on the Sun-Times Web site Wednesday, staff reporter Mary Wisniewski quoted Black's defense attorney, Andrew Frey, as saying the decision was "very disappointing."

"We are carefully studying our options as to what we can do to get things straightened out," Frey told the Sun-Times.

Among the options is appealing to the entire appellate court, or taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The New York Times and APA Cover Up for “Confused” US Military Torturers

New York Times Covers Up for “Confused” US Military Torturers
By David Walsh

19 June 2008

On Monday the US Senate Armed Services Committee released documents revealing that preparations to systematically torture inmates at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba were set in motion by officials high up in Donald Rumsfeld’s Defense Department in July 2002, half a year after the internment camp commenced operations.

That month the office of Defense Department general counsel William Haynes inquired into a program aimed at training American military personnel to resist interrogation if captured, known as Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE). In response, Haynes was sent an extensive list of interrogation methods, ranging from facial slaps to waterboarding, “degradation” and “sensory deprivation.” It was a shopping list, in short, of techniques of physical and psychological torture. A number of these cruel methods were introduced into Guantánamo, and later, US-run prisons in Iraq.

Among the material released Monday are minutes of a meeting on “Counter Resistance Strategy” that took place October 2, 2002 at Guantánamo attended by 10 military and intelligence agency officials. Central to the 70-minute meeting was a discussion of “methods to overcome resistance” by detainees, which rapidly became an exchange of ideas about various methods of physical and psychological torture, their respective effectiveness and how to hide their usage from the International Red Cross and other prying eyes.

In an article published Tuesday, Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane of the New York Times, as the headline of their piece indicates, claim to find that the “Notes Show Confusion on Interrogation Methods.” In the course of their article, the authors make this remarkable assertion, “The minutes of the October 2002 meeting give an extraordinary glimpse of the confusion among government lawyers about both the legal limits and the effectiveness of interrogation methods.”

A reading of the meeting’s entire record suggests, on the contrary, that the officials involved were not the slightest bit “confused.” They fully intended to bend or break the rules on abuse and torture of detainees—that’s why the meeting had been convened; underscoring that fact, the participants were very concerned about avoiding detection and possible legal action.

Only a week earlier, a high-level delegation had paid a visit to Guantánamo, including Haynes; David Addington, counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney; CIA General Counsel John Rizzo; Michael Chertoff, current secretary of Homeland Security and then assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division at the Department of Justice, and others.

According to The Consortium Report web site, “In his new book, Torture Team, Philippe Sands writes that the Washington gang came down, in part, to learn how the military was treating a suspect named Mohammed al-Qahtani. ‘They wanted to know what we were doing to get to this guy,’ recalled [Major General Michael] Dunlavey. [Lieutenant Colonel Diane] Beaver said that the message was loud and clear: do ‘whatever needed to be done.’ In Sands’ words, ‘a green light from the very top—from the lawyers for Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the CIA.’” The Times article makes no mention of this.

Moreover, there is also a clear connection between the inquiry by Haynes a little over two months earlier and the October 2 meeting, because the latter begins with a presentation by a Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT), made up of psychologists who assist in military interrogations, consisting of a Major Burney and Major John Leso, on SERE psychological training.

A discussion ensues about “harsh techniques.” The BSCT report continues: “Psychological stressors are extremely effective (i.e., sleep deprivation, withholding food, isolation, loss of time).”

A “Colonel Cummings” intervenes: “We can’t do sleep deprivation.” Beaver, the top military lawyer at Guantánamo, responds, “Yes, we can—with approval.” Amnesty International classifies sleep deprivation for any prolonged period of time as a form of torture.

Beaver continues: “We may need to curb the harsher operations while ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] is around. It is better not to expose them to any controversial techniques.”

Dave Becker of the Defense Intelligence Agency comments: “We have had many reports from Bagram [air base in Afghanistan, notorious for violence and torture against prisoners] about sleep deprivation being used.”

Beaver: “True, but officially it is not happening. It is not being reported officially. The ICRC is a serious concern. They will be in and out, scrutinizing our operations, unless they are displeased and decided to protest and leave.”

CIA lawyer John Fredman, the guest of honor, speaks up. “The CIA is not held to the same rules as the military,” he argues. “In the past when the ICRC has made a big deal about certain detainees, the DOD [Department of Defense] has ‘moved’ them away from the attention of ICRC. Upon questioning from the ICRC about their whereabouts, the DOD’s response has repeatedly been that the detainee merited no status under the Geneva Convention.”

Fredman then launches into a deceitful, self-serving discussion of torture and the laws on torture. “Under the Torture Convention, torture has been prohibited by international law, but the language of the statutes is written vaguely. Severe mental and physical pain is prohibited. The mental part is explained as poorly as the physical. Severe physical pain is described as anything causing permanent damage to major organs or body parts. Mental torture is described as anything leading to permanent, profound damage to the senses or personality. It is basically subject to perception. If the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong.”

Fredman goes on: “Any of these techniques that lie on the harshest end of the spectrum must be performed by a highly trained individual. Medical personnel should be present to treat any possible accidents.... When the CIA has wanted to use more aggressive techniques in the past, the FBI has pulled their personnel from the theatre.”

Beaver comments, “We will need documentation to protect us.”

“Yes,” agrees Fredman, “if someone dies while aggressive techniques are being used, regardless of cause of death, the backlash of attention would be severely detrimental. Everything must be approved and documented.”

Becker intercedes, “LEA [law enforcement agency] personnel will not participate in harsh techniques.” Beaver rejects this, “There is no reason why LEA personnel cannot participate in these operations.”

Should the sessions be videotaped, the participants wonder out loud? Becker of the DIA says, “Videotapes are subject to too much scrutiny in court.” The CIA’s Fredman agrees: “The videotaping of even totally legal techniques will look ‘ugly.’”

He goes on, sophistically, to assert, “The Torture Convention prohibits torture and cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment. The US did not sign up on the second part, because of the 8th amendment [forbidding cruel and unusual punishment]....This gives us more license to use more controversial techniques.” The Times authors do not refer to this discussion of getting around international and US law.

The participants go on to talk about the “wet towel” technique, known more widely as “waterboarding.”

Fredman says, “If a well-trained individual is used to perform this technique it can feel like you’re drowning. The lymphatic system will react as if you’re suffocating, but your body will not cease to function.

It is very effective to identify phobias and use them (i.e., insects, snakes, claustrophobia). The level of resistance is directly related to a person’s experience.”

Major Burney comments, “Whether or not significant stress occurs lies in the eye of the beholder. The burden of proof is the big issue.” The Times makes no mention of the discussion of waterboarding and “phobias,” a conversation worthy of the Gestapo.

Beaver raises the subject of creating an “imminent threat of death.” Fredman replies, cold-bloodedly, “The threat of death is also subject to [legal] scrutiny, and should be handled on a case by case basis.”

We go into these details because the Times’ superficial article omits many of them and the authors rely on the fact that most of their readers will not have the opportunity to read the original document.

A memo written three weeks after the October 2 meeting, from the deputy commander of the Defense Department’s Criminal Investigation Task Force, Mark Fallon, reads: “This looks like the kinds of stuff Congressional hearings are made of.” Fallon notes that Beaver’s comments “give the appearance of impropriety” and that “Other comments ... seem to stretch beyond the bounds of legal propriety.”

Fallon goes on, “Talk of ‘wet towel treatment’ which results in the lymphatic gland reacting as if you are suffocating, would in my opinion, shock the conscience of any legal body...Someone needs to be considering how history will look back at this.”

A series of military lawyers, rendering their opinions in November 2002, concluded that a number of the measures proposed were prohibited by law. An Air Force lawyer suggests that “Some of these techniques could be construed as ‘torture.’” Another argues that the severest techniques may constitute “criminal conduct.”

Fallon’s chief legal adviser, Sam McCahon, writes: “Therefore, any conduct that would constitute cruel and unusual punishment would be prohibited by the Constitution and would be illegal.” The Defense Department ignored these opinions and introduced various methods of torture into the US-run facilities.

Taken as a whole, how does this process constitute “confusion” on the part of the officials present at the October 2 meeting, as the New York Times suggests? The Haynes-Rumsfeld-Cheney faction sought out and put in practice, quite consciously and “with malice aforethought,” barbaric techniques of torture, illegal under US and international law.
The Times, as it has throughout the so-called “global war on terror,” retreats before, apologizes and covers up for the most predatory, brutal elements in the American ruling elite.
From: "Torture After Dark"

... The APA has not taken the lead in helping psychologists confront these dangerous ethical situations. To the contrary, the APA has been insensitive to the use of psychological techniques in torture and to the role of psychologists in aiding that torture. This insensitivity itself has shocked many psychologists here and abroad.

In 2006, Time magazine released the interrogation log of Guantanamo detainee 063, Mohammed al-Qahtani. This log demonstrated that al-Qahtani had been systematically tortured for six weeks in late 2002 and 2003. The log also alleged that psychologist and APA member Maj. John Leso was present at least several times during these episodes. The APA said nothing about this alleged participation of an APA member in documented torture. It is at least 23 months since ethics complaints were filed against Dr. Leso and still the APA has remained silent.
John Leso - Academic Career

Leso attended Johns Hopkins University, where he was enrolled in the ROTC.[3] Upon complettion of his undergraduate degree Leso was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. Leso received his PhD in Psychology from SUNY, in Albany New York, in 1995.

Professional career

In 2003 Leso was a staff Psychologist at the Walter Reed Medical Center, in Maryland, one of the US military's largest medical facilities.

On August 24, 2005 a newsletter from the Albany University Psychology Department stated: "...and John Leso left Walter Reed and is now working in the U.S. Embassy in Austria."
Dr. Leso maintains a valid license in the State of New York until 2009, and has been a member in good standing of the American Psychological Association since 1996.
From: "How Psychologists Became the Pentagon's Bitches," by Dr. TRUDY BOND

Prisoner 063 was called "unclean" and "Mo"[for Mohammed]. . . Although continuously monitored, interrogators repeatedly strip-searched him as a "control measure." ... He was leashed (a detail omitted in the log but recorded by investigators) and made to "stay, come, and bark to elevate his social status up to a dog." He was told to bark like a happy dog at photographs of 9/11 victims and growl at pictures of terrorists . . . He was shown pictures of the attacks, and photographs of victims were affixed to his body.

... Such was the "counseling" at the behest of Major John Francis Leso, New York psychologist license number 013492, chair of the Behavioral Science Consultation Team at Gitmo in 2002, and identified in the log as being present at the interrogation. Leso is also an active member of the American Psychological Association (APA), which has gone to unusual lengths to deny his affiliation even as APA has weakened its ethical stand against torture.

Dr. Leso is pivotal in that his complicity in torture at Gitmo debunks each fabrication APA has proffered to justify psychologists' involvement in the torture of detainees. Most recent past-president of APA, Gerald Koocher attempted to justify psychologists' participation in torture by stating "many psychologists are behavioral scientists, and as such aren't Leso." But Dr. Leso is not a behavioral scientist. John was commissioned as a second lieutenant from the Johns Hopkins ROTC program as an undergraduate and was granted an educational delay to complete his doctorate in counseling psychology in 1995 at SUNY Albany (NY), far removed from any training as a behavioral scientist. Indeed, in June of 2002, a mere four years after receiving his license as a psychologist he was promoted to Chief of the Clinical Psychology Service at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. One would have assumed he was focused on caregiving and treatment of veterans in this position, though given the recent revelations regarding the quality of care at Walter Reed, perhaps Koocher was correct. Five months later, Dr. Leso was immersed in torturing. ...

The CIA's Animal Farm

LRB | Vol. 29 No. 13 dated 5 July 2007 | J. Hoberman

J. Hoberman

In the annals of American intelligence, the mid-1950s were the golden years: the CIA overthrew elected governments in Iran and Guatemala, conducted experiments with ESP and LSD (using its own operatives as unwitting guinea pigs), ran literary journals and produced the first general-release, feature-length animation ever made in the UK.

It was Howard Hunt who broke the story that the CIA funded Animal Farm, John Halas and Joy Batchelor’s 1954 version of George Orwell’s political allegory of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath, played out in a British farmyard. Cashing in on his Watergate notoriety, the rogue spook and sometime spy novelist took credit in Undercover: Memoirs of an American Secret Agent (1974) for initiating the project, shortly after Orwell’s death in 1950. The self-aggrandising Hunt may have exaggerated his own importance in the operation – possibly inventing the juicy detail that Orwell’s widow, Sonia, was wooed with the promise of meeting her favourite star, Clark Gable – but, as detailed by Daniel Leab in Orwell Subverted: The CIA and the Filming of ‘Animal Farm’ (Pennsylvania, $55), the operation was real.

Leab is a historian who has done extensive research into the production of Hollywood’s Cold War movies; the central figure in his account is Louis de Rochemont, the former newsreel cameraman who supervised Time magazine’s innovative monthly release The March of Time and, beginning in 1945 with The House on 92nd Street, produced a number of so-called ‘journalistic features’ for 20th Century Fox (which were praised by James Agee, among others, for their extensive use of location shooting). De Rochemont was also well connected to various government agencies. The House on 92nd Street dramatised the FBI’s role in arresting Nazi agents; its 1946 follow-up, 13 Rue Madeleine, celebrated the wartime exploits of the Office of Strategic Services, the CIA’s precursor, but a dispute between the studio and the OSS director, ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan, resulted in the organisation’s being disguised as an intelligence outfit called ‘0-77’.

De Rochemont subsequently became an independent producer affiliated with the Reader’s Digest. In 1951, while preparing a new FBI collaboration, Walk East on Beacon (adapted from an article by J. Edgar Hoover originally published in the Digest), he was recruited by the CIA’s blandly titled Office of Policy Co-Ordination to produce an animated Animal Farm. The CIA was already engaged in spreading the Orwellian gospel – as was the clandestine Information Research Department of the British Foreign Office. (Both agencies had been engaged in making translations and even comic-book versions of Animal Farm and 1984.) Nor were the CIA and the IRD the only interested parties: according to Leab, both the US Army and the producers of Woody Woodpecker cartoons also made inquiries as to the availability of Animal Farm’s film rights.

The trade press reported that de Rochemont financed Animal Farm with the frozen British box-office receipts from his racial ‘passing’ drama Lost Boundaries; in fact, Animal Farm was almost entirely underwritten by the CIA. De Rochemont hired Halas and Batchelor (they were less expensive and, given their experience making wartime propaganda cartoons, politically more reliable than American animators) in late 1951; well before that, his ‘investors’ had furnished him with detailed dissections of his team’s proposed treatment. Animal Farm was scheduled for completion in spring 1953, but the ambitious production, which made use of full cell animation, was delayed for more than a year, in part because of extensive discussion and continual revisions. Among other things, the investors pushed for a more aggressively ‘political’ voice-over narration and were concerned that Snowball (the pig who figures as Trotsky) would be perceived by audiences as too sympathetic.

Most problematic, however, was Orwell’s pessimistic ending, in which the pigs become indistinguishable from their human former masters. No matter how often the movie’s screenplay was altered, it always concluded with a successful farmyard uprising in which the oppressed animals overthrew the dictatorial pigs. The Animal Farm project had been initiated when Harry Truman was president; Dwight Eisenhower took office in January 1953, with John Foster Dulles as his secretary of state and Allen Dulles heading the CIA. Leab notes that Animal Farm’s mandated ending complemented the new Dulles policy, which – abandoning Truman’s aim of containing Communism – planned a ‘roll back’, at least in Eastern Europe. As one of the script’s many advisors put it, Animal Farm’s ending should be one where the animals ‘get mad, ask for help from the outside, which they get, and which results in their (the Russian people) with the help of the free nations overthrowing their oppressors’.

Animal Farm’s world premiere was held at the Paris Theatre in December 1954, then as now Manhattan’s poshest movie-house, and was followed by a gala reception at the United Nations. The movie received respectful reviews – as it did when it opened several months later in London – but performed poorly at the box office. (Its major precursor as a ‘serious’ animation, Disney’s 1943 collaboration with the aviator Alexander de Seversky, Victory through Air Power, was also a flop.) Halas and Batchelor did achieve a reasonable approximation of stretchy, rounded Disney-style character animation but, as the New York Times critic Bosley Crowther observed, ‘the shock of straight and raw political satire is made more grotesque in the medium of cartoon.’ This was a dark cuteness. While praising Animal Farm as ‘technically first-rate’, Crowther concluded his review by advising parents to not ‘make the mistake of thinking it is for little children, just because it is a cartoon.’

Actually, Animal Farm was ultimately seen mainly by schoolchildren – particularly in West Germany. Possibly the movie was perceived by this captive audience as an unaccountably dour and violent version of Walt Disney’s Dumbo. But, however the CIA’s fervent call for an anti-Soviet revolt (with ‘help from the outside’) was received by the world, it was rendered moot some eighteen months after Animal Farm’s European release by the much encouraged and subsequently abandoned Hungarian uprising.

Monday, July 21, 2008

N.M. Court Refuses Obscene Name Change

By DEBORAH BAKER – Jun 27, 2008

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico appeals court on Friday ruled against a Los Alamos man who wanted to change his name to a phrase containing a popular four-letter obscenity.

The man appealed after a state district judge in Bernalillo County refused his request to change his name to "F--- Censorship!"

Judge Nan Nash ruled that the proposed name change was "obscene, offensive and would not comport with common decency."

The man — whose current legal name is Variable — argued on appeal that it was improper government censorship to deny him the name change.

"We do not believe that the district court's action infringes on petitioner's right to free speech," a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals said in its ruling.

The man has the right to call himself whatever he wants, unless there's fraud or misrepresentation involved, the judges said.

But once he seeks court approval for a name change, the court has the authority to turn him down on several grounds, including if the name is offensive to common decency and good taste, the judges ruled.

That law was clarified in a 2004 case in the same court that apparently involved the same petitioner. In that case, an Albuquerque man whose name was Snaphappy Fishsuit Mokiligon got the go-ahead from the appeals court to change his name to Variable.

Saturday Review and the Nazis

Excerpt: England and the Aeroplane: An Essay on a Militant and Technological Nation, by David Edgerton

... The connections between fascist politics and aviation in the interwar years may be considered at the level of lesser personalities too. A.V. Roe was a prominent financial and moral supporter of Mosley. Lady Houston, the wealthy widow of a Liverpool shipowner and Tory MP was very well known as a pro-Italian fascist through her Saturday Review.

According to her biographer, Lady Houston had a dog called Benito ‘after Benito Mussolini, whom she admired mainly because he had dosed the Italian Socialists and Communists with castor-oil. In one of her letters to the Duce, she invited him to come over here and treat the English Reds and Pinks in the same fashion’.14 She did not at first like the Nazis but changed her mind in 1936. On 7 March 1936 the Saturday Review carried a picture of Hitler on the cover with the words: ‘Heil Hitler! No happier event could happen than a pact between Germany, France, Italy, England and Japan. This would ensure the Peace of the World. (Signed) Lucy Houston.’15 This was not untypical of the support Houston’s paper was to give Hitler until her death in early 1937. The Saturday Review was not a minor eccentric publication, it was one of the well-known weeklies of the interwar years. But in the aeronautical literature, and on television films, LadyHouston is still remembered as the generous benefactress of the famous 1931 Schneider Trophy Race. This was not her only benefaction: she offered to give almost £200,000 to the British Union
of Fascists and attempted to give equally large sums to the nation for
the air defence of London. ...

Talking Points on FOX and Friends confirmed (as if there was really any doubt)
July 21, 2008

TVNewser reported last week that FOX and Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade mistakenly hit "reply all" on an internal email, letting half of FOX News know he was dissatisfied with the amount of segments he was assigned. Also exposed was an outline of the program's structure (easily ascertained after watching for a while, I should add) that confirms the use of daily "talking points" and puts to rest Gretchen Carlson's lie that they don't get talking points.

Book Review: The Dark Side, by Jane Mayer

An inside look at how the Bush administration developed its policy on torture and how it clashed with deeply held American ideals.

By Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
July 15, 2008

The Dark Side
The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals

Jane Mayer
Doubleday: 392 pp., $27.50

"The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding."

Justice Louis Brandeis wrote those lines 80 years ago, but as Jane Mayer's brilliantly reported and deeply disturbing new book, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals, more than amply illustrates, they've never been more relevant.

In fact, if you intend to vote in November and read only one book between now and then, this should be it. By and large, Mayer does not add any strikingly new information to what attentive readers already will know about Bush/Cheney's adoption of torture as an instrument of American state power and of how the Central Intelligence Agency, its international accomplices and the U.S. military constructed what amounts to an American gulag to further that end. Mayer's singular accomplishment is to fuse the years of events that have brought us to this pass into a single compelling narrative and to use her own considerable reportorial powers to fill in important connective and contextual events.

For example, what Mayer makes abundantly clear is how much more perilous the domestic situation might have become had there not been the modest degree of push back the White House has received from Congress and other rather courageous members of the executive branch. Former Sen. Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), for example, tells Mayer how George W. Bush's then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales sought a last-minute congressional resolution that "would give President Bush the authority to round up American citizens as enemy combatants, potentially stripping them of their civil liberties."

As Daschle subsequently learned, the White House was relying on opinions from John Yoo and other authoritarian ideologues in the Office of Legal Counsel who secretly told the president and vice president that they enjoyed inherent powers to overturn any law restraining surveillance, searches and seizures within the United States. As one such memo said, "The government may be justified in taking measures which in less troubled conditions could be seen as infringements of individual liberties. We think that the Fourth Amendment should be no more relevant than it would be in cases of invasion or insurrection."

Mayer does a superb job of describing how the trauma of 9/11 all but unhinged Bush and Cheney and predisposed the chief executive to embrace the ready-made unitary executive theory of presidential power, which the vice president and his chief aide, David Addington, had come to Washington prepared to promote. In the opinion of the late historian Arthur Schlesinger, "the Bush administration's extralegal counterterrorism program presented the most dramatic, sustained and radical challenge to the rule of law in American history."

Such appraisals range across the ideological spectrum. Walter Dellinger, who served as Bill Clinton's solicitor general and now teaches constitutional law at Duke University, describes the Bush administration's arguments concerning inherent powers to supersede existing laws on domestic and foreign intelligence "insane." As he told Mayer, "I don't think anyone has ever taken the theory of presidential power and distorted it this way. Is it conservative? It's a particular brand of conservatism. It has nothing to do with respect for tradition. In it is the embodiment of power for the executive, it's like Mussolini in 1930."

Richard Shiffrin, a career government lawyer who oversaw the legality of National Security Agency surveillance activities for the Pentagon, initially was denied access to Yoo's legal memos on -- of all counts -- national security grounds. (The NSA is the most sensitive of all U.S. intelligence agencies.) As Mayer reports, Shiffrin understood why when he finally saw Yoo's now infamous memos. "A high school student could have done better," he said.

Jack Goldsmith, the deeply conservative lawyer and onetime academic colleague to Yoo, enjoyed a short tenure as head of the Office of Legal Counsel -- the president's private lawyer -- during which he overturned most of Yoo's work, to the disgust of Addington and Cheney. Subsequently forced to resign out of principle, Goldsmith wrote that the White House dealt with restrictions on its ability to conduct domestic spying "the way they dealt with other laws they didn't like: They blew through them in secret based on flimsy legal opinions that they guarded closely so no one could question the legal basis for the operations. . . . "

The consequences of all this have been documented in an array of newspaper and magazine reports, particularly in Dana Priest's Pulitzer Prize-winning reportage for the Washington Post. Still, Mayer does invaluable work locking these reports into a coherent narrative framework and sketching in vital connective details and insights. One of the things most striking in her account is the number of intelligence and law enforcement officials, particularly from the FBI, who opposed the adoption of torture as a matter of state policy, warning that what the White House was demanding violated both U.S. and international law: They simply refused to go along. For example, in her extremely well-reconstructed account of the handling of Abu Zubaydah, the first major al Qaeda figure to fall into U.S. hands, Mayer demonstrates how FBI interrogators initially secured his cooperation through conventional techniques, and then were forced to abandon the process to CIA questioners bent on using torture. The torment of Abu Zubaydah not only yielded no further useful information, but subsequently has been secretly deemed a war crime by the International Red Cross. In the case of another so-called "high-value detainee" -- Sheikh ibn al-Libi -- torture produced a torrent of false information used to buttress the case the White House made to Congress to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Meanwhile, that same secret Red Cross report concluded that the interrogation methods used on al Qaeda prisoners across the board by the CIA constituted war crimes that are prosecutable under a variety of international treaties and conventions. This came, according to Mayer, as a CIA analyst concluded that at least a third of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay -- many of whom have been tortured -- are innocent of any involvement in terrorism. Military authorities now believe that more than half of the men imprisoned in the Cuban outpost of what now constitutes an American gulag never committed a hostile act against the United States.

Mayer makes this point in one meticulously documented individual case after another -- a process that renders her eyebrow-raising subtitle, if anything, an exercise in understatement.

Given the vogue in both parties for faith-based initiatives, the evidence marshaled in The Dark Side makes it well worth considering a proposal in the forthcoming issue of the Jesuit magazine America. In the coming years, the influential intellectual journal writes, "Our country must still come to grips with our national acquiescence to the politics of fear . . . . Among the necessary steps will be restoration of freedom to innocent detainees, accompanied by public apology and some monetary restitution. . . . Furthermore, Congress needs to accept responsibility for its complicity with the executive in laws that denied suspects rightful appeal. A national truth commission should be instituted to establish political accountability for the decisions, policies and statutes that placed suspects outside the protection of the law. . . . A truth commission should not engage in a witch hunt, but make a serious effort to understand the subversion of the rule of law in the post-9/11 panic and to build a barrier of public opinion and professional responsibility to prevent similar failure in the future. If the nation does not make a collective effort to come to grips with the subversion of liberty in the name of security, we will leave ourselves and generations to come vulnerable to still greater violations and silent coups d'état."

Mayer's deeply troubling, but splendidly executed book, should be required reading for every nominee to such a commission.,0,5440732.story