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Making Silk Purses Out of Swine Flu

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 When I was in my twenties, I rented a small house previously occupied by a pig farmer. Fortunately, the only vestige of the former tenant (aside a thick layer of grease about the kitchen) was a subscription to a hog farming magazine, which dutifully arrived every month. I read the things with a mix of engrossment and horror, learning all sorts of curious facts about pig farming. For instance, I never knew before then that — despite the best efforts of pig farmers — a certain percentage of pigs are sent to slaughter with hypodermic needles still imbedded in their flesh, accidentally broken off during the various vaccinations and treatments to which pigs are subjected during their incarceration. From this group, a certain percentage of this needled meat (having slipped under the radar of the metal detectors used in packing plants for this very purpose) arrives at the grocery store, where the meat is then attractively packaged for sale — needle fragments intact. In this same vein, needle sticks were (and still are) one of the most common on-the-job accidents among workers at hog farms, where the same hypodermic needle is repeatedly used on animal after animal. These accidents not only put workers at risk for accidental injection of medications, but also to infection by an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria. I never quite saw pork in the same light after reading those magazines. All of this is to say that I’m no newbie to the annals of pig farming.   

DEU VOGELGRIPPE TAMIFLUSo I was unsurprised to learn this week that the World Health Organization — bowing to concerns by pig farmers who are suffering lagging sales due to public fears over eating pig meat — decided on a name change for our most recent pandemic threat:     

Rather than calling this swine flu … we’re going to stick with the technical, scientific name, ‘H1N1 Influenza A,'” said WHO spokesman Dick Thompson.     

Good idea. Simply rename the thing and hope the euphemism will stick. This way, people can feel warm and fuzzy again about eating pigs. This way — even as this latest strain of swine flu threatens to be that much-touted pandemic the officials keep warning will eventually decimate the better part of the human population on this planet — at least the profits of factory farming industries (such as Smithfield, implicated in the Mexico outbreak), won’t suffer too much.

Pssst…. I have an even better idea. Why not just call the virus SIV, as the pig farming industry has been doing for years? Or would calling it something close to HIV just open a whole new can of worms?

What the WHO hopes will get lost in the translation between swine flu and H1N1 Influenza A is the fact that this virus is, indeed, 2-parts pig. It’s such an efficient cocktail of animal DNA, really, that one can’t help but wonder why nature didn’t think of this recipe eons ago: 1-part domestic pig, 1-part Eurasian pig, 1-part chicken and 1-part human DNA. Fact is, no matter how much the WHO shakes, stirs and spins this cocktail, they can’t pretty up the truth that swine flu — just like its sister virus, avian flu — is inextricably linked to factory farming

Or can they? Oddly, the topic of factory farming is almost entirely absent from the evening news and the 24-7 round-robin pageantry of media coverage on this virus, and is utterly nil in the CDC’s dialogue, as they serve their role of public relations liason between the U.S. government and its citizens on matters of public health. They do assure us, tho, how very ordinary this business is of viruses jumping from one species to another. Still, no mention of factory farms (also called CAFOs, or ‘confined animal feeding operations’).  No mention of the curious fact that yet another brand spanking new virus strain has emerged on the scene already immune to two anti-viral medications, amantadine and rimantadine. No questions about how this may have occurred.

The pig farms of my childhood — back in the day when my elementary school class was reading Charlotte’s Web — averaged 53 pigs per farm, with the pigs running freely in open pens, living more or less normal pig lives until the day of slaughter. Today, the average number is 1,000 pigs per farm, described by one writer as “a transition from old-fashioned pig pens to vast excremental hells, containing tens of thousands of animals with weakened immune systems suffocating in heat and manure while exchanging pathogens at blinding velocity with their fellow inmates.”

This can be said of any factory farm operation, whether the commodity is chickens, turkey, fish, cows or pigs.  Animals are warehoused in huge sheds, stacked like cordwood in cages so small that many are forced to spend their entire lives standing up, while others are crammed together in one cage, packed so tightly that they are forced to stand one on top of the other — the result of either method being a population of filthy, stressed animals plagued with disease and deformity, ever-teetering on the brink of death. To this end, farmers utilize a vast aresenal of chemicals, pesticides, hormones, vaccines and drugs, with factory farmed animals consuming 70% of the antibiotics in this country. This enables farmers to house animals in the most crowded, inhumane, feces-ridden, disease-inducing conditions imaginable, while keeping mortality at bay. While costly, these remedies translate to higher profits than the humane animal husbandry practices of yore.  

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Aside from the stomach-wrenching inhumanity that causes most people, upon viewing the reality of these farms, to either become vegetarians or plunge their heads into the sand, there are myriad problems arising from these farms that cannot be wished away, no matter hard we try to ignore them. Choose your poison: 

  • The drugs, hormones, vaccines and pesticides that have been passed from factory-farmed animals into the human food chain over the past several decades have been directly linked to serious human health issues, ranging from immune disorders, to early puberty, to the emergence of drug-resistant diseases, such as MRSA (also known as the flesh-eating disease), which causes 18,000 deaths in the U.S. every years — more deaths, even, than AIDS. 
  • The demand for the cheapest, most profitable feed for these animal populations has resulted in the practice of feeding animal wastes to animals, with the menu of any chicken, turkey, cow or pig (or household dog and cat, for that matter) likely to include a mix of feces, blood, feathers, fur, brains, bone, etc. from any or all of the above. While this feeding practice has been directly tied to the introduction of certain diseases (such as, say, mad cow disease, which rarely goes by its techical, scientific name ‘bovine spongiform encephalopathy’) into the food chain, the practice has yet to be discontinued in the U.S., which is why meat imports from the U.S., like China, have been banned in many countries. 
  • Massive tons of animal waste — from feces, to urine to blood — are routinely, but illegally dumped into the lands and waterways surrounding these farms, resulting in dead zones that extend for miles — not only decimating native flora, fauna and fish, but sickening and killing human beings, as well. For reasons about to be disclosed, our government turns a blind eye to these crimes.
  • The agriculture lobby industry is as powerful as the banking industry lobbyists on Capitol Hill. So powerful, in fact, that when our lawmakers are considering laws to protect the U.S. consumer, they defer to the judgment and ‘science’ provided by lobbyists, who are the most generous contributors to their personal and campaign coffers. Within this system, the CDC, the USDA and the FDA have followed accordingly, evolving to little more than government-funded public relations firms, their role being to polish the images of these industries and provide damage control, as needed, to allay the public’s fears. 

With regard to swine flu, the topic of factory farming is especially pertinent — not only because this virus arrived on the scene already resistant to two anti-viral medications (amantadine and rimantadine), but because it arrived right as a bill was introduced into Congress that implicates the indiscriminate use of antimicrobials by factory farmers in the emergence of drug-resistant human diseases.

Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and in the House by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) — Congress’ only microbiologist — the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (called H.R. 1549 and S.619, in case you want to weigh in on this issue) intends to phase out the non-therapeutic use of medically important antibiotics on farm animals. Designed to protect human beings, not animals, per se, this bill would nonetheless have the incidental effect of forcing factory farmers to adopt more humane methods of animal husbandry which, by extension, translates to a cut in the profit margin. This promises to be a contentious issue, not only among factory farmers, but among the American public.   

 

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Because, make no mistake, such a bill would force changes upon the American consumer. No more 99-cent fast food sandwiches, layered in a 1-pound medley of sliced pig, cow, turkey and cheese. The cost of the meat in monster burgers would certainly rise, compelling the average American to eat fewer pounds of animal flesh per day.

With so much fodder for conflict, it’s hard to imagine why the mainstream media has sidestepped covering this new bill, seemingly oblivious to its importance in the current dialogue on swine flu. It’s not like they don’t know pig farms exist. I’ve seen several pig farms on the news, all of them peopled with gaggles of happy pigs being doted over by concerned farmers. Here’s one I pulled up off google, designed to allay fears over eating pork, which is a far sight from the reality of these farms: 

Equally absent in the media dialogue are the glaring inconsistencies in the CDC’s public relations blitz around swine flu. For instance:

  • While I understand that fully-cooked meat is essentially sterilized of flu germs, how can the CDC tell us that it”s safe for people to handle raw pork (which is, like any factory-farmed meat, routinely contaminated with bodily secretions from every conceivable part of a pig), considering that, according to the pork industry, swine flu is spread to humans “not just by inhalation of aerosolized virus, but also by eye and nose contact with droplets of respiratory secretions” which is why the industry urges its workers to avoid “hand to face contact,” and to change their clothes and wash-up before going home from work?
  • And what does the CDC mean when it reassures us that “… the current flu cases have been transmitted from person to person, that the swine flu strain is not from the U.S. swine herd and that U.S. pork is safe to eat.” Does that mean that this swine flu strain is from a non-U.S. herd? And does it mean that non-U.S. pork is unsafe to eat? And if this is the case, how’s a consumer to know whether their pork came from the U.S. or China or elsewhere?
  • Does the location of the disease epicenter (Smithfield pig farm in Mexico) have anything to do with the CDC”s advice that it’s safe for Mexicans to travel to the U.S. (e.g. “the cow’s already out of the barn”) while U.S. citizens are advised to exercise caution, traveling to Mexico only by necessity?

Such questions are left to those of us still puzzling over the origin of this latest pandemic threat. One thing is for sure. The answers won’t be found on the evening news, nor in the officious missives of the CDC, USDA, FDA or even in the halls of Congress, well-intentioned as some of its members may be in pushing for the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act — a bill that doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of being passed, so long as the agriculture lobbyists are still writing the laws that regulate their industry. 

But I digress. According to statements by WHO yesterday, while scientists don’t know exactly how H1N1 Influenza A jumped from pigs to humans, they insist that it’s being spread from human to human, NOT  from contact with infected pigs. Got that through your head? “There is no evidence of infection in pigs, nor of humans acquiring infection directly from pigs,” insists WHO (even as this utterly contradicts the news — both  old and new — from the pig farming industry). Further, the WHO warns, “Killing pigs will not help to guard against public or animal health risks, ” and is “inappropriate.” 

Agreed.

But changing the way factory farmers do business is appropriate. Because no matter how strongly the WHO, the CDC and the USDA insist — along with the various other government agencies and entities working in coalition with the pork lobbyists — the fact remains that the agricultural industry has long been putting the human population on this planet at risk for a full-blown pandemic capable of wiping out a huge swath of the human race. That, in itself, is scary enough.

But scarier, still, are those governent entities that are so far off the media’s radar screen, that they’re relegated to the minions of conspiracy theorists. Here reside the darker truths about diseases, such as swine flu — which, itself,  has seen over 60 years of research and development into its use as a biowarfare weapon and has even seen successful trial runs in this capacity, such as the 1971 swine flu outbreak in Cuba, as reported in a January 1977 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Necessity being the mother of invention, there is at least a silver lining to this swine flu scare. A silk purse, if you will. Turns out, the pharmaceutical industry — another of Capitol Hill’s more lucrative lobbyists — will turn a handsome profit on the sale of the anti-viral drug, Tamiflu and on any future vaccines, regardless of whether the pandemic pans out. But that’s a a different story, much as it, too, emanates from swine.   

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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For more reading:

Pew Commission Report on Industrial Farm Animal Production: FINAL REPORT: Putting Food on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in the U.S. (Executive Summary pdf)  (full report pdf)

Pew Charitable Trusts: Human Health & Animal Farming: Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria in Animals

Rolling Stone: Pork’s Dirty Secret 

Huffington Post: Swine Flu Outbreak – Nature Biting Back at Industrial Animal Production?

PETA article and video: Undercover Investigation Reveals Hormel Supplier’s Abuse of Mother Pigs and Piglets[warning: graphic images]

Biosurveillance: Swine Flu in Mexico: Timeline of Events

Global Research: Flying Pigs, Tamiflu and Factory Farms

Global Research: (2005 article) Who Owns the Rights on Tamiflu: Rumsfeld To Profit From Bird Flu Hoax

tamiflu-stockpiles

The pig industry’s efforts to defend itself in the wake of the swine flu outbreak:  

Swine Flu: Wrong Name

Industry Stresses Pork is Safe

CDC, USDA Emphasize Pork and Hogs are Safe [Considering the careful PR campaign being devoted to pork safety, I find it curous that there is no explanation in this article to what they mean by “safe handling” of pork meat in the context of pork safety during a swine flu epidemic.] 

 

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McCain, Palin, Media & Co. — The Death Knell of Democracy? Not If You Can Help It

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It’s hard to believe that in the greatest democracy in the world, we need legislation to prevent the government from writing and paying for the news. — Sen. John Kerry

It’s pretty pathetic that the Republican Party’s only campaign strategy is to make a mockery of democracy and the entire polical process by parading out caricatures like Sarah Palin and Joe the so-called-Plumber to slander their opponent with racism, xenophobia, McCarthism and a slew of outrageous lies. It’s also pretty pathetic that the Republican Party’s only real hope of winning this election is to systematically steal the votes from Democrats. It’s even more pathetic that our media aid and abet them by turning a blind eye. 

If you’re not outraged by the pathetic state of the U.S. media, you’re either a Republican or you never, ever, ever read, watch or listen to one iota of corporate-generated “news.” I’m not here to justify this statement. Either you get it, or you don’t. I’m here talk about what’s wrong and how we might hope to fix it. 

In this vein, I saw a glimmer of hope when I read on Huffington Post a piece titled, “Is America Still a Beacon for Press Freedom? ” Herein was mentioned the Reporters without Borders’ recently released “Press Freedom Index” for 2008, which is essentially a report card for 173 countries around the world. Iceland rated the highest, at #1, while the U.S. ranked at a disgraceful #36. Intrigued, I researched Reporters without Borders (hoping it’d be a worthy forum to protest the state of our media) but found instead that, despite their seemingly noble agenda, Reporters without Borders is, in fact, on the payroll of the U.S. State Department. According to SourceWatch, its budget is primarily funded by the Orwellian-named “National Endowment for Democracy,” which operates under the auspices of the CIA.

It is no coincidence, then, that Reporters without Borders’ ranking system coincides more closely with Washington’s black list, which explains the low ratings of Cuba & Venezuela that oddly bear no correlation to this organization’s stated criteria for ranking countries. (for more on this, see links at end of post).

One would naturally wonder, then, why Reporters without Borders gave the U.S. the somewhat unfavorable rating of #36? If you look closely, you’ll see that the U.S rating is actually much lower, but this truth has been cleverly disguised. If you look at the actual report, (available here at Wikipedia), you’ll see that the U.S. and Israel, alone, enjoy the priviledge of having two separate ratings: ‘national territory’ and ‘extra-territorial’. Look more closely, and you’ll see that the U.S. is actually ranked #36 (national territory) and #119 (extra-territorial), which not only waters-down the U.S.’s actual ranking on freedom of the press, but effectively exonerates the U.S. for violations committed in territories it occupies.

In Other Words, It’s Just Another Big Lie

Frustrated to scratch the surface of yet one more democratic cause, only to find a corrupt agenda, I researched other media watchdog organizations which claim to work toward the cause of fairness in the media and freedom of the press. Over and over, I found (with two notable exceptions) only a preponderance of navel-gazing. For instance, what is the value of an ‘analysis’ that divides news coverage into negative vs. neutral vs. positive reporting, when the same criteria used to evaluate the McCain-Palin ticket’s lies (categorized as ‘negative’) are used to evaluate the Obama-Biden ticket’s response (also categorized as ‘negative’) to said lies? It’s apples and oranges, folks: one is lies, one is truth. Since when is truth categorized as a negative? Ever since our media lost their bearings: ever since our media became deregulated and consolidated.  (see links below for more on this).

It’s funny, in an un-funny sort of way, that McCain & Palin spend so much time frothing at the mouth over socialism/communism, considering that — over the past 8 years — our media have fallen under the control of the government/corporate conglomerates (two heads, same monster), to the extent that our national media are essentially state-controlled, just a stone’s throw from the sort of media traditionally enjoyed by socialist/communist regimes. 

Democracy or Not: Your Choice 

It’s with some hope that I offer two worthy exceptions to the above-mentioned navel gazers: Free Press (see links, below) and FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting). If we hope to restore the integrity of our media, these organizations are deserving of our time, attention and money. I’m particularly impressed with FAIR, which, first of all, takes no corporate funding, government grants or advertising of any kind. Secondly, they have a firm understanding of what’s wrong with the media and what needs to be done. Here is their stated perspective:

Independent, aggressive and critical media are essential to an informed democracy. But mainstream media are increasingly cozy with the economic and political powers they should be watchdogging. Mergers in the news industry have accelerated, further limiting the spectrum of viewpoints that have access to mass media. With U.S. media outlets overwhelmingly owned by for-profit conglomerates and supported by corporate advertisers, independent journalism is compromised.

Ultimately, FAIR believes that structural reform is needed to break up the dominant media conglomerates, establish independent public broadcasting, and promote strong, non-profit alternative sources of information.

Third, they have a powerful network of activist tools that encourage the public to become critically engaged with media. See something unfair in the media? A particular instance of media inaccuracy or bias? Their toolkit includes everything from tips for detecting bias in the media, to resources for contacting media outlets and journalists to demand more responsible reporting. Their activism gets results. They’ve forced rewrites of stories, propelled undercovered stories from the sidelines to the mainstream and succeeded in getting different perspectives into the news.

All the Kings Horses and All the Kings Men

Should our country survive this election (meaning, should Barack Obama be rightfully elected, despite the media’s 24-7 infomercial coverage of the McCain-Palin-Joe-the-so-called-Plumber ticket, and despite the epidemic of  voter fraud being committed by the Republican Party, aided and abettted by the media’s deplorable indifference toward their criminal engagement in these practices) then I would urge all Americans of good conscience to cast your energies toward restoring the integrity of our media.

Yes, I realize that there are myriad pressing issues in need of our attention — in between wars, a disintegrating planet, recessions, depressions, and attacking voter fraud. But until we have a truthful voice in the media, all other efforts toward restoring our democracy and healing the myriad wounds inflicted over the past 8 years will be rendered impotent. To repeat what has already been said: Independent, aggressive and critical media are essential to an informed democracy. And we’ve not seen hide nor hair of that for at least 8 years. And if we don’t do something about this — beginning now — you can be sure that, 4 years from now, there will be enough swiftboats, Joe the Plumbers, McCarthyism, evangelicals and vitriolic Sarah Palins to incite those rabidly ignorant mobs to finally put democracy out if its misery, once and for all. 

The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses. — Malcolm X

 

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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For more reading (this is not a comprehensive list, just a starter):

Global Research: The Deceit of Reporters Without Borders

Counterpunch: Reporters Without Borders Unmasked

ZNet: The Reporters Without Borders Fraud

Links to Media Watchers & Activists (a mixed bag)

For background on MEDIA DEREGULATION/CONSOLIDATION:

New York Times (Oct. 2007) Plan Would Ease Limits on Media Owners

 Op-Ed News: Robert McChesney’s The Political Economy of Media – Part I

Op-Ed News: Robert McChesney’s The Political Economy of Media – Part II

FreePress: Media Consolidation (while this site is guilty of navel-gazing, they also have the right idea)

FreePress: Who Owns the Media? (The Big Six)

Salon: Justice: Propaganda is A-OK

canarypapers: The White house Propaganda Machine: When the Truth Just Won’t Do

It’s October, and I’m surprised. Should I also be scared?

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Let’s see….  

1. Our economy — that venerable house of cards — is collapsing, and the architects show no signs that they intend to do anything but stack more cards into the rafters (to hell with the foundation, to hell with the people below).

2. The news media essentially serve as a 24-7 infomercial for McCain-Palin, and yet Obama is still ahead — by double digits, according to some polls —  which means that people aren’t lining up anymore to buy the Bush-Cheney line of bullshit.

3. And, lastly, according to a Sept. 30 article in Army Times, George Bush has officially done the utterly unprecedented: He ordered a brigade of troops to to begin patrolling U.S soil, beginning on Oct. 1st, as part of the new NorthCom force. Bush dispatched the brigade in case our country needs help with “civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE attack.”

Should I be scared? I am.

But it’s a safe bet that — since this post isn’t about Sarah Palin — no one will read it, which means that, on the topic of fearful things, I can plant my tin foil hat firmly on my head and talk without fear of reprimand.

According to the Army Times article, the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team goes by the incredibly adorable name, “Sea Smurf” — which is the phonetically-correct moniker for it’s official name: CCMRF (the CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force). Their mission is slated to last for a year, during which time we can all take comfort in the words of Sea Smurf commander, Col Roger Clouter: “We’re going in to help American citizens on American soil, to save lives, provide critical life support, help clear debris, restore normalcy and support whatever local agencies need us to do, so it’s kind of a different role.”

Different, indeed. The brigade is equipped to use “the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded,” which includes, “equipment to stand up a hasty road block; spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling traffic; shields and batons; and, beanbag bullets.”

If the idea of soldiers patrolling your neighborhood with shields, batons and rubber bullets makes you nervous, take comfort in this: The Army Times article did issue a correction in early October, regarding the use of their non-lethal package. Accordingly, “A non-lethal crowd control package fielded to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, described in the original version of this story, is intended for use on deployments to the war zone, not in the U.S., as previously stated.”

Rubber bullets aside, one strategic problem with the Sea Smurf’s NorthCom mission is that, according to an April 2008 GAO report, Northcom has not bothered to involve local and state officials and governments — much less the National Guard — in their emergency preparedness planning and coordination efforts. In other words, NorthCom appears set to go it alone, leaving legislators, governors, mayors, the National Guard and the media,  to — I don’t know — step in line? 

The unprecedented pre-emptive deployment of NorthCom military troops onto U.S. soil was paved in October 2006 when Bush signed the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007.  A few lawmakers, such as Sen. Patrick Leahy, protested — as did governors across the country, who saw blazing red flags in the bills provisions. The governors banded together and repeatedly petitioned leaders on Capitol Hill with letters of protest, which were met, one by one, with silence. One such letter, signed by every member of the National Governors Association, read, in part:

This provision was drafted without consultation or input from governors, and represents an unprecedented shift in authority from governors . . .to the federal government….. We urge you to drop provisions that would usurp governors’ authority over the National Guard during emergencies from the conference agreement on the National Defense Authorization Act

So much for democracy. The bill passed like a hot knife through butter.

The roles of traditional emergency preparedness team workers seem to have been usurped by Air Force engineer and medical units, the Marine Corps Chemical, Biological Initial Reaction Force, a Navy weather team and members of the Defense Logistics Agency and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. Whatever that means.

On this topic, the bi-partisan group of legislators that released the aforementioned April 2008 GAO report had a few things to say:   

I remain convinced that almost seven years after 9/11, the U.S. Northern Command, as presently structured, serves no real purpose and is a waste of taxpayers’ money. The only hope to transform this sham command into a viable asset for the American people would require major changes.  — Gene Taylor, D-Mississippi 

The United States Northern Command is supposed to be out in front in the Pentagon’s efforts to support civil authorities in emergencies. It should be planning and identifying possible equipment shortfalls. Above all, it should be working closely with state and local communities. Instead, the command is doing very little of this core activity. — Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont

Clearly, a bias against playing a supporting role to civilian authorities has resulted in large gaps in NORTHCOM’s ability to fulfill its stated mission. The fact is, governors and their National Guard are and will continue to be our nation’s first domestic military responders. And until they and NORTHCOM can work together more seamlessly, NORTHCOM’s ability to be of assistance in homeland response will continue to face significant challenges. — Chris Shays, R-Connecticut

NORTHCOM’s duty is to provide military support to States and the Department of Homeland Security, but it hasn’t fully figured out this emergency support mission. Any crack in our emergency preparedness capability today will become a gaping hole in our catastrophic response tomorrow. — Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi

Instead of working with the governors, the National Guard Bureau and the State Adjutants General, Northern Command has held the country’s historic first military responders at arm’s length. Northern Command needs to accept its supporting role or get out of the way. — Tom Davis, R-Virginia
 

It is a curiosity. I mean, For more than 100 years – since the end of the Civil War – deployment of the U.S. military inside the U.S. has been prohibited under The Posse Comitatus Act (the only exceptions being that the National Guard and Coast Guard are exempted, and use of the military on an emergency ad hoc basis is permitted, such as what happened after Hurricane Katrina). Unless I missed something, a major hurricane has not hit the mainland in recent days, nor has a spate of riots broken out  in our major cities. And there’s no imminent threat of an impending chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high explosive. Is there?  

Not that there’s a damned thing we can do about it. But I’m just saying….

Of course, it’s my prerogative to speculate on such things. After all, I am part of the tin-foil hat brigade, and have been since falling prey to tertiary Lyme Disease in 2002. Ever since, I’ve been on the vanguard with those who have long-believed in such unspeakable things as a Wall Street catastrophe, not to mention bizarre theories about bio-warfare pandemics, a second (and maybe a third) stolen election, 9-11 as a false flag operation, the Patriot Act, Dick Cheney’s oil imperialism agenda, the ascent of mercenary armies, martial law, internment camps, government-controlled media, geophysical warfare and so on — complete with all the legislative frills and scary, terrorist-bullying jargon necessary to making these newworldorder-ish things alternately possible, invisible, overt, covert and, ultimately, unstoppable.

 

Granted, a single brigade of Sea Smurfs dispatched to the blood red soils of Georgia, USA hardly seems like an overwhelming threat. But it is unprecedented, and it is also, um, un-American. So it’s only natural that I’d jump on board, in full-tin regalia, fully unsurprised — yet as surprised as the next person — by the house of cards, the McCain-Palin infomercials and the Sea Smurf Brigade. Only, unlike the steadfast tin soldier, I don’t feel so brave. And my heart’s not doing so well, either.    

 

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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Army Times: (Sept. 30, 2008)  Brigade Homeland Tour Starts October 1st

Salon.com: (Sept. 24, 2008) Why is a U.S. Army Brigade Being Assigned to the “Homeland”?

Patrick Leahy: (April 16, 2008) GAO: NORTHCOM Failing in Civil Support Mission

CQ.com: (Dec. 1, 2006)  Fine Print in Defense Bill Opens Door to Martial Law

Global Research: (October 9, 2008) FEMA Sources Confirm Coming Martial Law

The Progressive: (October 7, 2008)  Leahy Concerned About NorthCom’s New Army Unit

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Having created the conditions that produced history’s biggest bubble, America’s political leaders appear unable to grasp the magnitude of the dangers the country now faces. Mired in their rancorous culture wars and squabbling among themselves, they seem oblivious to the fact that American global leadership is fast ebbing away. A new world is coming into being almost unnoticed, where America is only one of several great powers, facing an uncertain future it can no longer shape. — From Asia Times  (October 10, 2008)  Wall Street: A New Iraq War

The terrorist tactics of Sarah Palin & John McCain — It’s time to tell the media: “Enough is Enough!”

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John McCain vowed to take the gloves off during last night’s debate. To the disappointment of some, he didn’t. What seems to have escaped the media radar is that the McCain campaign had already taken the gloves off 4 days earlier. It is the nature of chickenshit men to only attack their opponents from behind. Hatred flourishes in dark places. Brought into the light of a public forum, the shamefulness of their acts becomes glaring. Even John McCain, in his most desperate hours, couldn’t bring himself to stoop to the level of his running mate, who has shown that she has no shame.    

 

The difference between Sarah Palin and William Ayers

There are those who think it is sometimes justified to commit violence for a cause. You could run the full gamut — from the Battle of Lexington to the war in Afghanistan, from militant anti-abortion protesters to militant anti-war protesters, from the suffragette movement to the civil rights movement (although, in that latter set, it bears mention that the violence was committed primarily by angry men and angry whites, respectively, against women and black protesters), and from Carrie Nation to William Ayers. I abhor violence. It is not my intention here to promote, excuse or argue the worthiness of any violent act over another, no matter how noble some may view the cause.    

Our history is equally pocked with instances of individuals and groups committing or urging violence out of a sheer hatred — born from ignorance and fear of other individuals and groups — which is not a noble cause by any standard, but is a sickness: from slavery to the Trail of Tears, from the KKK to neo-Nazis, from Charles Manson to Timothy McVeigh. The McCain campaign belongs in this group.  

To the extent that, at times in our history, this sickness has erupted into violence, we carry a collective wound that is continually re-injured, never quite healing. A source of shame for some, and a source of unresolved rage for others, this wound is part of our national consciousness. In some, it exists right beneath the surface, like an inflamed boil, ever on the verge of bursting into a poisonous flow of pus. In hard times, the rage and hatred are more easily provoked, requiring only a slight pricking of the surface to start the flow. Sarah Palin– on behalf of the McCain campaign — has taken a surgical needle to this wound, urging — nick by nick, code-word by code-word — the poison to the surface. 

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

The media are taking their cues from the American public on this. In the absence of our protests, they will likely continue airing, without counterpoint, the hateful, race-baiting, violence-inciting stump speeches of Sarah Palin and the McCain campaign. It is odd that, only during a presidential campaign, would such vitriol be broadcast, daylong, into our living rooms — as if the implications of Sarah Palin’s speeches were as benign as a rant on taxes, health care or energy independence.  At no other time would a public figure be allowed a national forum to incite violence. 

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I urge all people of good conscience to write the media. Send an outpouring of protest against the unchallenged airing of this dangerous vitriol. You need write no more than a sentence. Less is more. Just remember to be courteous, respectful and succinct (admittedly not my forte). Below is a list of media contacts, from the Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) site. If you’re at a loss for words, feel free to borrow some of mine, below, changing them as you see fit.

The recent tone and language of the McCain campaign is inciting a threatening atmosphere of hatred that I fear could erupt into violence. While I would never propose abridging free speech, there is a fine line between the free exercise of speech and the inciting of violence. In reporting on hate groups, such as the KKK  and neo-Nazi groups, I would not expect the media to air their hateful vitriol without a strong counterpoint. While there are many shades of gray between the two, I believe the line between free speech and violence-inciting words has been crossed, when the stump-speeches of a public figure incite the audience to jeer, “Kill him!” and “Terrorist!” and “Treason!” and (to an African American member of the media) “Sit down, boy.” Our country is in a time of crisis, with old and new angers simmering beneath the surface. I fear that, in the near future, the media will be reporting on the repercussions of these destructive speeches. I implore you to, please, exercise responsibility in the reporting of these hateful speeches.

MEDIA CONTACTS:

ABC News
77 W. 66 St., New York, NY 10023
Phone: 212-456-7777

General e-mail: netaudr@abc.com
Nightline: nightline@abcnews.com
20/20: 2020@abc.com

FAIR
112 W. 27th St.
New York, NY 10001
fair@fair.org

 

 CBS News
524 W. 57 St., New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212-975-4321
Fax: 212-975-1893

Email forms for all CBS news programs
CBS Evening News: evening@cbsnews.com
The Early Show: earlyshow@cbs.com
60 Minutes II: 60minutes@cbsnews.com
48 Hours: 48hours@cbsnews.com
Face The Nation: ftn@cbsnews.com

CNBC
900 Sylvan Avenue, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632
Phone: (201) 735-2622
Fax: (201) 583-5453
Email: info@cnbc.com

CNN
One CNN Center, Box 105366, Atlanta, GA 30303-5366
Phone: 404-827-1500
Fax: 404-827-1784
Email forms for all CNN news programs

 Fox News Channel
1211 Ave. of the Americas, New York, NY 10036
Phone: (212) 301-3000
Fax: (212) 301-4229
comments@foxnews.comList of Email addresses for all Fox News Channel programs
Special Report with Brit Hume: Special@foxnews.com
FOX Report with Shepard Smith: Foxreport@foxnews.com
The O’Reilly Factor: Oreilly@foxnews.com
Hannity & Colmes: Hannity@foxnews.com, Colmes@foxnews.com
On the Record with Greta: Ontherecord@foxnews.com

 MSNBC/NBC
30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112
Phone: (212) 664-4444
Fax: (212) 664-4426
List of Email addressesfor all MSNBC/NBC news programs
Dateline NBC: dateline@nbc.com
Hardball with Chris Matthews: hardball@msnbc.com
MSNBCReports with Joe Scarborough: joe@msnbc.com
NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams: nightly@nbc.com
NBC News Today: today@nbc.com

 PBS
2100 Crystal Drive, Arlington VA 22202
Phone: 703-739-5000
Fax: 703-739-8458

The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer: newshour@pbs.org


National Radio Programs 

National Public Radio
635 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20001-3753
Phone: 202-513-3232
Fax: 202-513-3329E-mail: Jeffrey A. Dvorkin, Ombudsman ombudsman@npr.org
List of Email addresses for all NPR news programs

The Rush Limbaugh Show
1270 Avenue of the Americas, NY 10020
Phone (on air): 800-282-2882
Fax: 212-445-3963
E-mail: ElRushbo@eibnet.com

Sean Hannity Show
Phone (on air): 800-941-7326
Sean Hannity: 212-613-3800
James Grisham, Producer: 212-613-3807E-mail: Phil Boyce, Program Director phil.boyce@citcomm.com


National Newspapers

The Los Angeles Times
202 West First Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: 800-528-4637 or 213-237-5000
Fax: 213-237-4712

L.A. Times Contact Information by Department
Letters to the Editor: letters@latimes.com
Readers’ Representative: readers.rep@latimes.com
The New York Times
620 8th Ave., New York, NY 10018
Phone: 212-556-1234
D.C. Bureau phone: 202-862-0300
Fax: 212-556-3690

Letters to the Editor (for publication): letters@nytimes.com
Write to the news editors: news-tips@nytimes.com
Corrections: senioreditor@nytimes.com
New York Times Contact Information by Department
How to Contact New York Times Reporters and Editors

USA Today
7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, VA 22108
Phone: 703-854-3400
Fax: 703-854-2078 

Letters to the Editor: editor@usatoday.com
Give feedback to USA Today

The Wall Street Journal
200 Liberty St., New York, NY 10281
Phone: 212-416-2000
Fax: 212-416-2658

Letters to the Editor: wsj.ltrs@wsj.com
Comment on News Articles: wsjcontact@dowjones.com
The Washington Post
1150 15th St., NW, Washington, DC 20071
Phone: 202-334-6000
Fax: 202-334-5269

Letters to the Editor: letters@washpost.com
Ombudsman: ombudsman@washpost.com
Contact Washington Post Writers and Editors


Magazines

Newsweek
251 W 57th Street, New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212-445-4000
Fax: 212-445-5068

Letters to the Editor: letters@newsweek.com

Time
Time & Life Bldg., Rockefeller Center, 1271 6th Ave., New York, NY 10020
Phone: 212-522-1212
Fax: 212-522-0003

Letters to the Editor letters@time.com
U.S. News & World Report
1050 Thomas Jefferson St., Washington, DC 20007
Phone: 202-955-2000
Fax: 202-955-2049

Letters to the Editor letters@usnews.com


News Services / Wires

Associated Press
450 West 33rd St., New York, NY 10001
Phone: 212-621-1500
Fax: 212-621-7523

General Questions and Comments: info@ap.org
Partial Contact Information for the Associated Press by Department and Bureau

Reuters
Three Times Square, New York, NY 10036
Telephone: 646-223-4000Reuters Editorial Feedback

United Press International
1133 19th Street, NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20036
Telephone: 202-898-8000
FAX: 202-898-8048Comments and Tips: tips@upi.com

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There must be a special place in hell for a politician who can’t even steal a quote off a Starbucks cup without lying

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Strange ironies occur every time Sarah Palin repeats a famous quote. In last Thursday’s debate, it was Ronald Reagan’s exceptionalism…shining-city-upon-a-hill quote, a vision Sarah evoked in an attempt to ride on the ghost-coattails of Reagan’s legacy. No, the irony wasn’t in the conjuring of the Christian-Right’s code word for infusing Christianity into American government. The irony was hearing a candidate who — despite drawing repeated blanks just a few days earlier when asked such gotcha questions as, “What do you read?” –suddenly owned the miraculous wherewithal to let roll off her tongue this 6-syllable word drawn from some obscure 17th century school of political thought: exceptionalism. Sure, she pronounced it with perfect poise, the same way she did with all of her lines. I used to know a man whose parrot could say, “shit.” Of course, the bird had no idea what it was saying, but it said it anyway, come rain or come shine.  

Yesterday’s irony was Madeleine Albright’s famous quote that reads, in full: I think there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women. No, the irony was not  Sarah’s, um, accidental “misquote” of Albright’squote (replacing the word “help” with “support,” which altered the meaning slightly, to give the impression that Abright was casting an indictment on women who don’t vote for other women).

No, the irony arose from the context in which Madeleine Albright originally made this statement. Specifically, Albright made this statement in the wake of her efforts to to have rape declared as a ‘weapon of war’,at which time she made her now-famous statement. See, Madeleine Albright was saying there must be a special place in hell for women who wouldn’t help these particular victims of rape. I shouldn’t have to point out why this is such a strange irony for a woman like Sarah Palin but, to be clear, I will.

The treatment of rape vicims is not a topic Sarah should be evoking at this time, as former Mayor of a unique Alaskan city that charged rape victims up to $1200 for rape kits used in emergency room exams used to prosecute their attackers. While this controversial law did not originate with Mayor Palin, she certainly endorsed it time every time she approved a city budget that relied on the revenue from these rape kits. And, for the record, John McCain’s voting record jibes with Wasilla’s policy. 

Yeah, yeah. Sarah predicted yesterday that the evil liberal elitist media filters would do something horrible today with her Starbucks quote. What she has yet to *get* is that, when the media is critical of her, it isn’t that they are being critical of women or of Republicans or even of Sarah Palin, per se. It’s the lies, you see. It’s the lies and the ineptitude that emerge every time Sarah Palin speaks. 

p.s. Earth to Sarah: Back when you were in, like, 6th grade, Madeleine Albright received her doctorate from one of those elitist East Coast universities and has since worked in Washington politics. Does that make her, like, um, too experienced?

FULL TEXT VERSION: McCain’s Talking Points on Suspending the Campaign (the accidental email)

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UPDATE: 9/26/08: As predicted, team McCain’s Suspend-O-Rama was nothing but a hoax — a stage backdrop for McCain to say magnanimous things like, “I’ve got to do what I think is right for the country… and if that hurts me politically, I’ll gladly take the hit,” while manufacturing fires to be heroically put out. McCain’s mode is, after all, management by crisis. We saw this in action, yesterday, as McCain brought to the table his maverick gift for bipartisan negotiation, whereby he took an ordinary disagreement and turned it into a full-scale war, with both sides withdrawing completely from talks. But that’s another story. Regarding the McCain campaign’s Suspend-O-Rama, we’ll start crossing out the lies (with links provided for verification) in his talking points, below, as they become apparent and as our energy for such bullshit becomes available.   

Management by Crisis, the Maverick Way

Here, recorded for posterity, is a copy of the McCain campaign’s infamous “talking points” memo that was intended for his campaign staff, but was accidentally emailed, en masse, to the media. Because the text is small, we’ve retyped it verbatim, below. We figure it’s only a matter of time before McCain contradicts himself on one or all of the talking points, so it may come in handy, having a copy for reference.

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TALKING POINTS: SUSPENDING THE CAMPAIGN

Topline Messaging:

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Some talking points McCain could have heeded, if only he’d been paying attention (as Obama has been doing for the past week), to what his colleagues have working on, in McCain’s absentia, up on Capitol Hill for the past 7 days.  

The superior doctor prevents sickness. The mediocre doctor attends to impending sickness. The inferior doctor treats sickness. — Old Chinese proverb 

Drunk on Power: In Sarah Palin’s world it doesn’t matter what you know, but who you know

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Much as we’re sick to death of Palin, after seeing her face on the news 24/7, to the exclusion of sorely-needed substantive election coverage (and, here, we would assert that most Americans know more about Palin’s ex-brother-in-law than they know about Joe Biden) we nonetheless feel it necessary to mention the media’s latest abrogation of duty.

 

Namely, the media are spending a preponderance of time covering McCain-Palin: their speeches, their smear ads, the latest squallorous details of Palin’s white-trash life, complete with Hollywood Squares-style panels of talking heads who do little more than try to out-yell campaign slogans into our living rooms. Barely a question is posed, however, regarding Palin & Co.’s decision to thumb their noses at the law. And godforbid that the media would dare accuse Sarah Palin of a flagrant disregard for the laws of her state and her country, as she and her husband, et al, stonewall the State of Alaska’s ethics investigation into the possible abuse of executive power by the Palin Administration — an impeachable offense, by the way. The very existence of our country is swirling about the toilet drain, and the media’s talking heads are arguing about Palin’s ex-brother in law (did he drink that beer? did he threaten his ex-father in law? did he taser his son?) even as those questions have already been investigated, answered and accounted for.  

It’s bad enough, the media bellying-up to team McCain’s demand to show the proper “deference” to her oily highness (e.g. not asking her questions, not questioning her credentials, not questioning the steady stream of outrageous lies she’s spewing all across the country) but must they also give a full pass to team McCain’s attempt to coerce the legal system toward a similar “deference”? 

Who ever heard of a vice-presidential candidate defying a subpoena — thumbing his or her nose at a court order? And who ever heard of the American voting public being so indifferent about a candidate’s attempt to outright commit such a blatant travesty of justice? Indeed, the McCain lawyers are powerful. But, time was, the American public would have ridden a candidate like Sarah Palin out of town on a rail. What’s going on here? What the hell has happened to America? Hopefully, the integrity of the State of Alaska’s ethics investigation into Sarah Palin’s behavior will continue, unmolested, despite the overwhelming pressure and power of the McCain legal team to silence it. But, just in case, it’d be a good idea for citizens of good conscience to keep applying pressure. Here, in the interest of perspective and context, are a few videos.

Sarah Palin’s stance on the investigation before her anointment to the VP ticket

After.

The most likely explanation for Sarah Palin’s change of heart, regarding “full cooperation” and having “nothing to hide” with this investigation, is that she realized, much to her horror, that — with the national media focused on her every move — she would not be able to handle this the same way she’s handled other scandals in her state: by buying, bullying and intimidating witnesses into covering her ass.  

 

Earth to Sarah: You’re the media’s darling. You can do no wrong.