Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Musical Innerlube: Moby - 'Disco Lies'

The Oscar for Denial

'And the winner is – The American People'

"...Rosenbaum incorrectly accuses The Reader of claiming that most Germans were ignorant of the The Holocaust.  The film's underlying assumption is far more damning: everybody knew, but nobody acted on that knowledge.  Of course, as Samantha Power recounts in her Pulitzer-Prize winning study of genocide, A Problem From Hell, the United States was also well aware of Hitler's extermination of European Jewry before and during World War Two and also chose to do nothing.

Power's book is a shocking indictment of American neutrality in the face of evil, during the Holocaust and other systematic programs of genocide all around the world - in Turkey, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Iraq and elsewhere - over the past hundred years.  "The key question" writes Power, after presenting hundreds of pages of documented evidence, "... is: Why does the United States stand so idly by?  The most common response is, 'We didn't know.' This is not true."

"Because the savagery of genocide so defies our everyday experience, many of us failed to wrap our minds around it," Power's says.  "Bystanders were thus able to retreat to the 'twilight between knowing and not knowing.'"  It was easier not to probe for certainty because uncertainty did not demand action.  Power concludes that America failed to act against genocide not because the country lacked knowledge or influence but because it did not have the will to act.  U.S. officials "were not prepared to invest the military, financial, diplomatic, or domestic political capital needed to stop it."

Now the United States faces a new moral crisis, the subversion of our own legal and moral values by high officials of our own government.  We are, in this moment. as awash in complicity and willful denial as the principled middle-class denizens of the Third Reich.  We are the Good Germans of the new millennium in Bush America because we knew about the illegal kidnappings and tortures, the self-serving legalisms that subverted the Geneva accords and papered over Constitutional lapses, the lies that led us into conquest and occupation.  Starting well before the invasion of Iraq - which millions around the globe protested in unprecedented numbers before it occurred - we knew the "weapons of mass destruction" and Saddam's connections to al-Qaeda were bullshit excuses.  But many millions of us tried to pretend that we really weren't sure.

In his Sunday column entitled: "What We Don't Know Will Hurt Us," Frank Rich remarked upon this "American reluctance to absorb, let alone prepare for, bad news.  We are plugged into more information sources than anyone could have imagined even 15 years ago... Yet we are constantly shocked, shocked by the foreseeable."  Or as Bob Dylan put it, in the context of race relations a generation ago, "How many times must a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn't see?"

We know, deep inside us we know, as the Germans who kept their heads down and tried to lead 'normal' lives as genocide exploded all around them, in their name, by their own government, knew, that our government has committed terrible atrocities at home and abroad.  If we do nothing to bring these crimes to light and their perpetrators to justice, then we are as guilty and worthy of moral condemnation as the war generation of silent Germans whom Ron Rosenbaum rightly abhors..."

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GI resistance alive and well in Chicago

A war resisters panel in Chicago highlighted troops who refused to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. With a new administration taking office in Washington, and an era of profound economic crisis on the horizon, the U.S. military apparatus is undergoing a strategic makeover. With a new administration taking office in Washington, and an era of profound economic crisis on the horizon, the U.S. military apparatus is undergoing a strategic makeover. In many respects, conditions "on the ground" have remained essentially the same: violence rages on in Iraq (Obama and his commanders disagree about whether to extend the fighting for another sixteen or twenty-three months); air strikes continue to kill Pakistani civilians (though now at a much higher rate); Palestinians and Israelis continue to suffer under U.S.-funded occupation; corporate war profiteers continue to receive high-level government appointments ; the U.S. military budget pushes along on its path of annual expansion. And yet at the same time the elite managers of the military-industrial complex are engineering a shift in both their marketing image and their operational focus. Blackwater Worldwide has changed its name to Xe; military recruitment figures have increased as the economy declines; weapons programs are being advertised as instruments of "job creation"; torture and secret imprisonment have been symbolically expunged from the national conscience; Marine commanders are proposing a full-scale transfer of forces from Iraq to Afghanistan.

This last item is particularly relevant, as President Obama has ordered an immediate fifty percent increase of U.S. troops in Afghanistan (from 36,000 to 53,500), with thousands more expected to deploy by early summer. In the face of sustained public opposition to the Iraq war, the military establishment has found it necessary to direct its ambitions elsewhere – and with Robert Gates staying on as Defense Secretary, the "surge" gimmick that sold so well in the context of Iraq is now being used to promote a similar strategy in the historically unconquerable terrain of Afghanistan. Evidently, the hope of the new administration is that a fresh White House image, renewed international support, and the appearance of a connection to the 9/11 attacks will turn Afghanistan into a preferred venue for its highly profitable "global war on terror."

For many rank-and-file GIs, however, this image of the war in Afghanistan as a "good war" is not at all convincing. Extreme climate, austere geography, and vague military strategies combine to make the country into a hellish environment for day-to-day ground operations. Moreover, those familiar with life in the region are doubtful that a U.S.-led "troop surge" will contribute substantially to the well-being of the Afghan people.

But in the eyes of some enlistees, the problems with the war in Afghanistan extend far beyond the agonies of wartime experience, or doubts about the underlying geopolitical strategy.

A groundbreaking event in Chicago this week featured a panel of six military veterans, all of whom have spoken out not only against the war in Iraq, or even against the war in Afghanistan, but against the "global war on terror" as a whole. The panel was organized by the Chicago chapter of Iraq Veterans against the War (IVAW), and its participants set a bold and courageous tone for GI resistance in the age of Obama-imperialism.

One of the veterans, Tyler Zabel, could face deployment to Afghanistan at any moment. A member of the Illinois Army National Guard who enlisted at the age of seventeen, Tyler has already survived a horrifying ordeal at the hands of the military bureaucracy. After completing basic training at Fort Benning, GA, Tyler returned to Chicago and began the application process to become a Conscientious Objector. Having joined the military in order to serve the people of his country, he was appalled by the rampant bloodlust and blind conformity he witnessed during his time at Fort Benning. After meeting a young woman in Chicago who had experienced war first-hand during her childhood in El Salvador, his perspective was deepened and he became a committed pacifist.

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The mystery of the Star Tiger

Macmillian found that the crew had vast aeronautical experience and were well-versed with the London to Kingston route. It concluded that the airline "did not sufficiently ensure that significant changes in the weather ahead of an aircraft would be known to it."

But they couldn't determine if weather was what brought the plane down. Nor did they believe radio or mechanical failure, fuel exhaustion, or meteorological hazards caused the Star Tiger to disappear.

"In closing this report," wrote Lord Macmillian, "it may truly be said that no more baffling problem has ever been presented for investigation. In the complete absence of any reliable evidence as to either the nature or the cause of the disaster to Star Tiger, the court has not been able to do more than suggest possibilities, none of which reaches the level of probability. A breakdown may occur in either separately or in both in conjunction. Or some external cause may overwhelm both man and machine. What happened in this case will never be known."

The possibility of sabotage was raised by BSAA with the suggestion that Sir Arthur Coningham was the intended target.

However, the inquiry did not probe claims that a known war resister was spotted near the Star Tiger shortly before takeoff. In 1992, Coningham biographer Vincent Orange revealled that British prime minister Clement Atlee had dismissed any calls for a new investigation, despite being pressured by BSAA. The company's director, Donald Bennett, a former air commodore, insist that nefarious forces plotted to bring down the plane but Atlee was willing to turn a blind eye to these claims.

Bennett again raised the spectre of foul play when, almost one year later, on Jan. 17, 1949, another Tudor IV, the Star Ariel, disappeared between Bermuda and Jamaica under unexplained circumstances.

The Star Tiger's fate remains speculative, but the vanishing gave rise to the Bermuda Triangle legend. While there are some who believe there was a plot to kill Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham, many others embrace the paranormal aspects of the case.

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Information warfare spotlight

From Info Wars: Pentagon Could Learn From Obama, Israel by Noah Shachtman

On a second pass, I'd probably be more nuanced, covering what the Pentagon might learn from "the two most significant information operations of recent memory. I'm speaking, of course, about Israel's war against Hamas – and Barack Obama's war against Hillary Clinton and John McCain."

But this was my first take. Have a read, after the jump.

- I'm not going to presume to tell you how to do your jobs. Instead, I figured I'd share some general principles about how information tends to spread online. Then I'll look at the two most significant information campaigns of recent memory. I'm speaking, of course, about Israel's war against Hamas – and Barack Obama's war against Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

- I'll skip the part where I tell you that just about the whole world is connected these days. Bottom line: When everybody's connected, word spreads fast.

- How long did it take for that rumor to spread that al Qaeda has caught the bubonic plague? Or the zinger about the terror group using gay rape as an initiation rite? (By the way: Whoever in this room came up with that one – kudos to you, sir.)

- Rule # 2: With that many people connected, keeping control of information is just about impossible. Especially when you combine new media's connectivity with old media's resources to investigate. How long did it take for one sentence from Senator Feinstein's testimony about U.S. drones on Pakistani soil to become worldwide news? 24 hours? How long did it take to find Google Earth images, confirming that sentence? Another 48?

From The Mystical Realm of Human Terrain and COIN: Who Is in Charge? by John Stanton

Human Terrain System employees have been given a stay of execution. On 16 February, HTS management sent the following to HTS team members. "Mr. Robert Reuss TRADOC Deputy G-2 has approved an extension on making a decision to transition until 2 March. The previous deadline of 18 Feb 09 is no longer in effect. This allows all teams more time to better coordinate the transition decision with their families, enables the project to better answer your questions and still allows us to complete program total transition by 31 May. We will send out a thorough update on all questions no later than the end of the week after we have conferred with TRADOC Staff from the G1, Personnel Administration, contracting, legal and security this week."

According to sources, the "transition" underway in the US Army's/TRADOC Human Terrain System has little to to do with the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq and everything to do with the good-old-boy network. That network, claim sources, is trying one last time to salvage the current version of the HTS program and, in so doing, rescue the reputations and salaries of program manager Steve Fondacaro, deputy program manager Steve Rotkoff, and senior social scientist Dr. Montgomery McFate-Sapone.

But something else seems afoot here. That the US Army would go to wits end on behalf of troublesome $200 million program gives rise to some interesting speculation. It seems plausible that flag rank and/or high ranking civilian officials have staked their reputations on HTS and human terrain geospatial analysis as the new thought of choice underpinning non-kinetic warfare. And that, in turn, makes it seem likely that—in spite of report after report of HTS internal corruption, ineptitude and abuse—-the life of the HTS program has become a political struggle somewhere in Washington, DC, that likely pits US Army General and Dr. David Petraeus and his Think Tank Mafia (Dr. McFate-Sapone; Dr. Mike Meese—advisor; Dr. David Kilcullen—advisor; Dr. John Nagl—advisor; Dr. Fred Kagan—the latter from the American Enterprise Institute and father of the "surge") and more traditional elements in the US Army who know BS when they hear and see it.

[ ... ]

The military/civilian management chain of command above HTS program manager Fondacaro has one noteworthy quality: its unpredictability. That the Army continues to tolerate this programmatic state of affairs can only be due to either complete incompetence in program oversight or, as seems more likely the case, someone further up the chain of command is pushing to keep the effort alive—no matter what the cost. There is a concerted effort within government/business these days to understand and attempt to quantify the Human Terrain for an assortment of strategic and tactical objectives: soft power/non-kinetic power, COIN, Unconventional Warfare, Information Warfare (the media as battleground), etc.. From a business perspective, this is little more than marketing/sales: attempting to quantify consumer/market behavior either as individual or collective.

General Gordon Sullivan, USA (Ret.), now head of AUSA, once said that in the end, the military—particularly the US Army—is about nuts and bolts, blocking and tackling. The new wave of leadership ought to keep that in mind as they pile higher and deeper in Ph D's and lose themselves in network centric warfare.

From The New Ethic of Public Diplomacy by Joshua S. Fouts

From my perspective, it's neither strictly national security nor strictly PR. Strong national security and solid public relations depend upon good relations between cultures. Public diplomacy in its most successful form is authentic communication of our culture with other cultures. This will require an unprecedented level of nuance and open-mindedness to be successful in the post-Bush era, and it gets to the heart of the battle over what public diplomacy is: Is it messaging or dialogue? A conversation or propaganda? "Governments will increasingly be judged by their actions" and not by their self-descriptions, writes British diplomat Carne Ross for Europe's World.

In wartime it is easy to over-emphasize the importance of information warfare in countering extremist messages. But just as reconstruction is a critical part of post-war planning, so too should the quality of narratives be contemplated from a long-term perspective.

Information warfare is funded at levels radically disproportionate to funding for public diplomacy, as Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Kristin Lord points out in the Christian Science Monitor (October 29, 2008). According to Lord, the "Department of Defense will pay private contractors $300 million over three years to produce news and entertainment programs for the Iraqi public." That figure is "equivalent to roughly one-eighth of the State Department's entire public diplomacy budget for the entire world."

If public diplomacy is to include information warfare, then we must also supplement it with something fresh to ensure that we are communicating with the world in an authentic way—in a way that the world will at least listen and, at best, trust.

Greece: Attack on Muslim journalist decried

SEEMO/IPI Concerned about Physical Attack on Journalist Abdulhalim Dede during Live Broadcast

25 February 2009

The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from South East Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), is deeply concerned about the physical attack on journalist Abdulhalim Dede on 19 February while he was on-air during the morning programme, Kalimera Ellada, broadcast by the Athens, Greece-based Antenna TV.

According to SEEMO's sources, the Turkish Ziraat Bank had invited, among others, Dimitris Stamatis, Secretary General of the Region of East Macedonia and Thrace, to attend the opening of its first branch in Komotini, Thrace, Greece. Stamatis declined because the letter of invitation was written in English and Turkish, but not in Greek, and because the city of Komotini was referred to by its Turkish name only. Abdulhalim Dede, publisher and director of the newspaper Trakyanin Sesi and owner of the radio station ISIK FM in Komotini, was invited by the hosts of Kalimera Ellada to express his opinion live from Kamotini on Antenna TV. During the interview, an unknown man approached Dede, shouted at him using obscene language, and physically attacked him. The main studio in Athens immediately terminated the live broadcasting.

Dede, who was hospitalised for several days, is known for his promotion of the rights of the Turkish-speaking population in Thrace, Greece, and has been the target of various attacks over the years. In 2006, he received the SEEMO Human Rights Award.

SEEMO strongly condemns all physical attacks on journalists, which have no place in a democratic society. Attacks like these must be prevented from occurring in the future, said Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General. SEEMO notes with concern this increasing trend of assaults against journalists in the entire region. It calls on the authorities to demonstrate their commitment to the protection of journalists, and press freedom in general, by taking active steps to counter these disturbing developments.

India moves to protect traditional medicines

As reported by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development:

The Indian government has effectively licensed 200,000 local treatments as 'public property', making the local remedies free for everyone to use, but not to be branded for sale.
This initiative follows the startling discovery by scientists in Delhi of the extent of “bio-prospecting” of natural remedies by foreign companies. The UK's Guardian newspaper reports that an investigation of government records revealed that 5,000 patents had been issued, at a cost of at least US$ 150 million for “medical plants and traditional systems.”
“More than 2,000 of these belong to the Indian systems of medicine,” claims Vinod Kumar Gupta, head of the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library. The discovery raised the question of why multinational companies are spending millions of dollars to patent treatments that they claimed were ineffective, Gupta said.
“The problem with traditional medicines is that, yes it is known about within, say, sometimes a very small community,” legal expert Patricia Loughlan explained in an interview with Australia's ABC News.
“So big pharma can go into, say, India…and engage in what is sometimes called 'bio-prospecting' or 'bio-piracy',” she said.
“They get this traditional knowledge and they patent it themselves and then start making monopoly profits from this patent for something that in effect they didn't invent. They got the knowledge from someone who invented it say 500 years ago.”
In Brussels alone there have been 285 patents for medicinal plants well known in Indian medical systems, principally ayurveda, unani and siddha, the investigation revealed. Ayuyrveda is a traditional medical treatment. Unani is believed to have come to India from ancient Greece, whilst siddha is one of the oldest medical systems originating from the southern India. In this regard, Gupta is requesting that the Belgian government lift these patents, as they have already shown the authorities the medicinal uses of these systems were known in India.
Indian researchers have spent the last eight years meticulously translating ancient Indian texts and compiling the information into a database that details the 200,000 treatments. The resulting Traditional Knowledge Digital Library will now be used by the European Patent Office to check against 'bio-prospectors' — parties interested in mining biological or genetic resources for scientific research or commercial development.
In the past India, has fought lengthy and costly legal battles to have patents revoked. Officials say that, in a legal battle that lasted almost 10 years, the Indian government spent in excess of US$ 5 million to have patents lifted from medicines created from turmeric and neem, an Indian tree. In this case, India succeeded “because [it] proved these were part of traditional Indian knowledge. There was no innovation and therefore no patent should be granted,” Gupta said.
Another major concern of the Indian government is the billion dollar industry of yoga, an ancient Indian practice that has recently gained a large following, particularly in the US. In India, though, yoga is considered a traditional medicine and as such the Indian government has asked the US to register yoga as a 'well-known mark'.
“We want no one to appropriate the yoga brand for themselves,” Gupta said. “There are 1,500 asanas [yogic poses] and exercises given in our ancient texts. We are transcribing these so they too cannot be appropriated by anyone. We have had instances where people have patented a yoga technique by describing a certain temperature. This is simply wrong.”
India presents an unusual case given its seven national medical systems, of which modern medicine is but one. According to newspaper reports, traditional medicine is used by approximately four-fifths of India's population, and there are 430,000 ayurvedic medical practitioners registered by the Indian government. Ayush, the department responsible for India's traditional medicine industry, has a budget of 10 billion rupees (US$ 260 million).
This initiative by the Indian government to combat bio-piracy stems from the belief that the developing world's rich biodiversity could be the source of a vast array of new drugs and crops. Gupta argues that while it “costs the West US$ 15 billion and 15 years to produce a blockbuster drug…traditional medicine could herald a new age of cheap drugs,” particularly “if you can take a natural remedy and isolate the active ingredient then you just need to drug trials and marketing.”
Gupta is positive that the move toward developing cheap drugs that are based on traditional knowledge has already begun. Indian researches have begun collaborating with a US pharmaceutical company to make a drug that fights psoriasis, which will be tested in clinical trials this year. According to Gupta, if the drug is successful it will reduce the cost of treatment to US$ 50. “This is a lot less than the US$ 10,000 current medicine costs.”
Legal expert Loughlan is convinced that the Indian scheme will serve its intended purpose.
“Yes, it will work,” she said in the ABC interview. “It is not in any way defying the patent system…It is using what is in the patent system itself and that is what it is so clever and why it will work,” she said.
Traditional Knowledge at the WTO
The move to protect traditional medicines in India mirrors a push that New Delhi, supported by countries such as Brazil, Cuba, Kenya, the EU, Pakistan and Switzerland, has made at the WTO in recent years. Specifically, the countries have demanded that the protection of biodiversity and associated traditional knowledge be integrated into the WTO's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS Agreement.
Support for such a move grew last summer, when more than one hundred WTO Members, including the EU, Brazil, China and several African countries, indicated their support for amending the TRIPS Agreement to include language ensuring the protection of traditional knowledge. Moreover, these countries insisted that a TRIPS amendment to check bio-piracy should be included in the overall Doha Round package at the WTO, instead of being relegated to the sidelines of global trade talks. .
But the TRIPS amendment proposal had its opponents as well. The US, Japan, Singapore, Korea, New Zealand, Canada, Australia and Argentina, among others, argued that more technical discussions and empirical evidence were needed before moving forward with negotiations on an amendment.
Ultimately, there was no progress in addressing this issue in view of the deadlock in world trade talks at the end of July last year.
ICTSD reporting; “India moves to protect traditional medicines from foreign patents,” THE GUARDIAN, 22 February 2009; “Indian government moves to protect its culture,” ABC (Australia), 23 February 2009.

And a decade-old note of historical interest:

Reiki Trademark Attempt Rejected in the U.S.

In the past several issues of the Reiki News and on this web site, we have been following the attempt by Phyllis Furumoto to trademark the Reiki names including Usui Shiki Ryoho and Usui System.

On December 17, 1997 the trademark office rejected her applications based on the fact that her proposed marks do not function as a trademark because they do not identify or distinguish her goods from those of others, nor do they indicate their source.

All those who sent in protest letters to the trademark office are to be congratulated as this helped in part to bring about this outcome. However, the issue is not closed yet as she has until June 17 to file a response to this action. Therefore, it is important that you continue to send protest letters to the trademark office. It is possible that Phyllis will claim that she has the right to trademark the Reiki names based on the idea that she is the Grandmaster of Reiki and therefore the heir to the Reiki names.

Our research indicates this claim to be false. It is important when sending your protest letters that you include factual proof including supporting documentation that your claims are true.

Send protest letters to: U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Patent and Trademark Office, Asst. Commissioner for Trademarks, 2900 Crystal Drive, Arlington, Va. 22202-3513 Use these serial numbers to identify the trademark applications being protested: Usui System #75-29069 by Furumoto Inc., and Usui Shiki Ryoho #75290071 by Furumoto Inc. and Usui Shiki Ryoho #75-344256 by Phyllis Lei Furumoto and Usui System #75-34257 by Phyllis Lei Furumoto.

Prosecutor claims Iran/Contra whistleblower is a "danger" to society

Bill Conroy reports in the Narcosphere:

Iran/Contra whistleblower Celerino “Cele” Castillo III was scheduled to report to prison on March 5, but the power of justice has intervened on his behalf.

A federal judge in San Antonio, at a hearing held late last week, ruled that Castillo's report date to prison should be extended until July 20. The judge, W. Royal Furgeson Jr., issued his ruling over the objections of a federal prosecutor, who argued that Castillo should be sent to prison because he was a “danger to the community.”

The hearing was called by the judge to consider a motion to allow Castillo to remain free on bail through his appeal. The motion was filed by Castillo's current attorney, public defender Judy Fulmer Madewell.

“One of the government's arguments [made by the U.S. prosecutor, Mark T. Roomberg] as to why my client is a danger to the community is that he put an outrageous and erratic posting on his Web site,” Fulmer Madewell told the judge at the Feb. 19 hearing in federal court in San Antonio. “That story was actually written by someone else … so it was not an outrageous post by the defendant.”

In fact, Narco News originally published that story (U.S. government finally exacts revenge on Iran/Contra whistleblower Cele Castillo). The article raises serious questions about whether Castillo's prosecution was politically motivated.

Castillo was convicted late last year on federal charges of dealing firearms without a license in a case marked by numerous irregularities and peculiar coincidences that raise the specter of a frame-up.

For example, Castillo was being represented by a lawyer who was in the process of having his bar license suspended for misappropriating his clients' funds. In fact, that attorney, Robert “Eddie” De La Garza, was aware on Oct. 17, 2008, (five days before Castillo's sentencing date on Oct. 22) that his Texas law license was being suspended effective Nov. 1, 2008.

On top of that, this same lawyer's son was facing serious gun charges in another federal court in Texas at the same time he was representing Castillo.

[ ... ]

Political Payback?

Johnny Sutton, a former assistant district attorney in Harris County, Texas, hitched his star to the Bush political machine in 1995, when he was named the Criminal Justice Policy Director for then-Governor Bush. He served in that post until 2000, when Bush was elected president. In the wake of Bush's victory, Sutton was named associate deputy attorney general at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., and also served as a policy coordinator for the Bush-Cheney presidential transition team.

In late October of 2001, Sutton was appointed by Bush to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas in San Antonio. The U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment a month later.

Former President George W. Bush has described Sutton publicly as a a dear friend of mine from Texas.”

Castillo caused headaches in the 1980s for George W. Bush's father, then vice president of the U.S. under Ronald Reagan, and for a number of Reagan administration officials who later went on to serve in George W. Bush's administration. That fact can't be ignored given the Bush administration's history, as marked by various scandals, of assuring payback for its political enemies.

Castillo, a decorated Vietnam veteran who has no prior criminal record, on Oct. 22, 2008, was sentenced by Judge Furgeson to 37 months in a federal prison. On the advice of his attorney at that time (De La Garza), Castillo agreed on Oct. 1 to plead out to charges that he sold guns without a license after the original charges against him — making illegal gun purchases — were dropped after eight months because the prosecution had to concede they were bogus.

However, the prosecution threatened to re-indict Castillo on multiple other serious charges if he did not agree to cop a plea on the new charges. Castillo, with no money to take his case all the way to trial and already worn down from enduring months of fighting the bogus illegal gun-purchase charges, agreed to take the plea deal after De La Garza assured him that he would keep his DEA and veteran benefits so he could support his family. Castillo says De La Garza also told him that he likely would get probation given his background of service to the country.

Neither promise panned out.

[ ... ]

Castillo made it clear to Judge Furgeson during testimony at his Oct. 1, 2008, court hearing, however, that he had reason to be concerned about the course of justice in his case because he believed there was a bull's-eye painted on his back due to his role as a whistleblower in the Iran/Contra scandal.

From the transcript of that Oct. 1 hearing:

One of the major problems I had with the government was that I got involved or initiated the Iran/Contra investigation back at that time in El Salvador, in Guatemala, with Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North and I started reporting the incidents of drug trafficking and arms smuggling by several branches of our government. …

The Iran/Contra scandal, which played out during Reagan's second term as president, involved efforts to illegally raise funds for the Nicaraguan Contra's counter-insurgency against the government of Nicaragua via the sale of arms to Iran. The scandal also involved, as Castillo revealed in his whistleblowing at the time, funds raised from U.S.-sanctioned narcotics trafficking. Investigative journalist Gary Webb further bolstered Castillo's claims of the U.S. government's involvement in narco-trafficking in his now-famous Dark Alliance series published in 1996 by the San Jose Mercury News.

Castillo, while a DEA agent in Central America in the 1980s, during the Reagan/Bush administration, uncovered evidence that the CIA and the White House National Security Council, through San Antonio, Texas, native and national counter-terrorism coordinator Lt. Col. Oliver North and other CIA assets, were carrying out illegal operations at two hangers at Ilopango Airport in El Salvador. Those airport hangars, Castillo contends, served as weapons and narcotics transshipment centers for funding and arming the U.S.-backed Contras.

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'There will be blood' - Harvard economic historian Niall Ferguson predicts prolonged financial hardship, even civil war, before the ‘Great Recession' ends

Heather Scoffield reports in the Globe and Mail:

Heather Scoffield: Did the Clinton visit improve the China-U.S. relationship?

Niall Ferguson: It looks like it....The line is very clear from China. They've consistently made their position clear. They want the status quo. They do not want this thing to break down. They were kind of appalled when Geithner said the 'm' word. And they took full advantage of Hillary Clinton's visit to smooth ruffled feathers and restate their commitment. It's a very good bilateral relation. That bilateral will is important here. The Chinese believe in Chimerica maybe even more than Americans do.

“They have nowhere else to go. They have no other strategy that they can adopt in time to cushion the blow. Their exports are contracting at a terrifying speed. They want at all costs to avoid any kind of big shift in policy. They want to keep, as far as possible, the U.S. importing Chinese goods. They want to keep currencies stable. They are still buying dollars … At least officially, Chimerica is intact. But I stress 'officially' because there's considerable public disquiet.”

“This is a crisis of globalizaiton that is destroying global trade. This poses the biggest challenge that the Chinese administration has faced since they embarked on reforms 30 years ago.

Heather Scoffield: Will globalization survive this crisis?

Niall Ferguson: It's a question that's well worth asking. Because when you look at the way trade has collapsed in the world in the last quarter of 2008 – countries like Taiwan saw their exports fall 45 per cent – that is a depression-style contraction, and we're in quite early stages of the game at this point. This is before the shock has really played out politically. Before protectionist slogans have really established themselves in the public debate. Buy America is the beginning of something I think we'll see a lot more of. So I think there's a real danger that globalization could unravel.

Part of the point I've been making for years is that it's a fragile system. It broke down once before. The last time we globalized the world economy this way, pre-1914, it only took a war to cause the whole thing to come crashing down. Now we're showing that we can do it without a war. You can cause globalization to disintegrate just by inflating a housing bubble, bursting it, and watching the financial chain reaction unfold.”

Heather Scoffield: Is a violent resolution to this crisis inevitable?

Niall Ferguson: “There will be blood, in the sense that a crisis of this magnitude is bound to increase political as well as economic [conflict]. It is bound to destabilize some countries. It will cause civil wars to break out, that have been dormant. It will topple governments that were moderate and bring in governments that are extreme. These things are pretty predictable. The question is whether the general destabilization, the return of, if you like, political risk, ultimately leads to something really big in the realm of geopolitics. That seems a less certain outcome. We've already talked about why China and the United States are in an embrace they don't dare end. If Russia is looking for trouble the way Mr. Putin seems to be, I still have some doubt as to whether it can really make this trouble, because of the weakness of the Russian economy. It's hard to imagine Russia invading Ukraine without weakening its economic plight. They're desperately trying to prevent the ruble from falling off a cliff. They're spending all their reserves to prop it up. It's hardly going to help if they do another Georgia.”

“I was more struck Putin's bluster than his potential to bite, when he spoke at Davos. But he made a really good point, which I keep coming back to. In his speech, he said crises like this will encourage governments to engage in foreign policy aggression. I don't think he was talking about himself, but he might have been. It's true, one of the things historically that we see, and also when we go back to 30s, but also to the depressions 1870s and 19980s, weak regimes will often resort to a more aggressive foreign policy, to try to bolster their position. It's legitimacy that you can gain without economic disparity – playing the nationalist card. I wouldn't be surprised to see some of that in the year ahead.

It's just that I don't see it producing anything comparable with 1914 or 1939. It's kind of hard to envisage a world war. Even when most pessimistic, I struggle to see how that would work, because the U.S., for all its difficulties in the financial world, is so overwhelmingly dominant in the military world.”

Heather Scoffield: You speak about the crisis being in its early days, but most policy makers and the International Monetary Fund are predicting a quick end to it. Where do you differ with them?

Niall Ferguson: “I do think they're wrong. I think the IMF has been consistently wrong in its projections year after year. Most projections are wrong, because they're based on models that don't really correspond to the real world. If anything good comes of crisis, I hope it will be to discredit these ridiculous models that people rely on, and a return to something more like a historical understanding about the way the world works.”

“I mean most of these models, including, I'm told, the one that policy makers here use, don't really have enough data to be illuminating … You're going to end up assuming that this recession is going to end up like other recessions, and the other recessions didn't last that long, so this one won't last so long. But of course this isn't a recession. This is something really quite different in character from anything we've experienced in the postwar era. That's why these projections give positive numbers for 2010. That's the default setting. And it just seems to me ostrich-like, to bury one's head in the sand and assume this has to end this year because, well, that's what recessions do.

“It's obvious, surely we know by now, that this is something quite different. It's a crisis of excessive debt, the deleveraging process has barely begun, the U.S. consumers are not going to suddenly bounce back and hit the shopping malls just because they get a tax cut. The savings rate is going to continue to rise. These processes have tremendous momentum that quite clearly differentiates them from anything that we've seen, including the early 80s, including 73, 74, 75. Those big crises, the ones that we have lived through, were bad. But seems certain to be deeper, and more protracted.”

Heather Scoffield: Forecasters say they can adjust their projections as things change, but households, companies and governments are basing their decisions today on what the experts tell them to expect in the future. So how should decisions be made if the forecasts are wrong?

Niall Ferguson: “One possibility is that they don't believe these numbers either. They feel that it's good for morale. The truth about the crisis is that it is in large measure psychological. We're not dealing here with mathematics. We're not dealing here with human beings as calculating machines. We're dealing with real people whose emotions influence their individual decisions, and the swing from greed to fear is a very spectacular thing when it happens on this scale.

“One possibility is that policy makers are lying in order to encourage people and prevent depression from become a self-fulfilling psychological conditions. That's why it's called a depression … Maybe they don't really believe this, but they're saying it in order to cheer people up, and if they're sufficiently consistent, perhaps people will start to believe it, and then it will magically happen.”

“The other way of looking at that is to say every time a politician uses a word like 'catastrophe' or 'depression' to pressurize legislators into passing a stimulus package, for example, the signal goes out to the public that this is bad. And it gets worse. That's one of the interesting things that both President Bush and President Obama have done. Bush used that wonderful phrase, “this sucker's going down.” Obama talks about catastrophe at the critical moment when he wanted Congress to pass the package. It reminds me of a wonderful headline that the Onion had last year, in about October. The headline was, Bush calls for panic. I love it because it completely called the situation. There he was calling for panic ... to make people come out of denial. I've been talking a while about this being the Great Repression. It took ages, ages, for people to realize this thing had fallen apart.

“August, 2007, was when this crisis began. And if you were really watching the markets carefully, April is when it began, when the various hedge funds started to hemorrhage. The stock markets carried on until October of that year. And in many ways, consumer behaviour in the U.S. did not change until the third quarter of 2008. So there was a massive denial problem. It was like Wile E. Coyote running off a cliff, and they'd run off a cliff and they didn't look down so they didn't start falling. As soon as people realized it was bad, the behaviour switched. Now, people have to try to unscare them before this thing becomes a self-perpetuating downward spiral. I think that's why you have to say 'growth will return in 2010' with your fingers crossed behind your back.”

~ more... ~


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