Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Show down in Crawford, Texas: When the Truth Triumphed

W. Leon Smith was a believer. When he started his newspaper The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford in 2000 he believed that George Bush would be an asset to the community and the country.

Time and events have changed that.

When Bush was inaugurated in 2001, America had a budget surplus. But by September of 2004, Americans faced the worst budget deficit in history, were mired in war, seeing its sons and daughters returned home maimed or in coffins, and facing a rapidly deteriorating economy.

With his co-editors, Smith sat down again to go over the issues. The paper always made endorsements. Their editorial policy was not focused on partisan politics but on simply doing the right thing. Ignoring party loyalty, . Smith declared that what really matter was character and keeping faith with those who elected them.

The three editors at The Iconoclast objectively considered the issues; they assessed George Bush and John Kerry as if they were prospective employees, acting for all Americans. They counted up the time George Bush spent on vacation, more time off than any other president in history.

They looked over the toll taken by the War in Iraq . Then they turned their attention to the emerging patterns of corruption that revealed an agenda having nothing to do with serving the American people. Billions were disappearing into the maw of such corporations as Halliburton through contracts that never went out to bid.

George Bush ' s popularity had waned in other parts of the country, but in Texas his approval rating still stood at over 80%. Smith knew the risks. He was cautioned that publishing an endorsement of John Kerry in 2004 could cost him his business.

On September 29, 2004 , the Iconoclast endorsed John Kerry with a half-page editorial that became the talk of the nation and the world. The passionately worded editorial was downloaded and reprinted millions of times over the next months.

Over and over again the Iconoclast ' s servers crashed because of the volume. The three phones in the Iconoclast ' s offices were not still for weeks. At first, most callers were angry, abusive, obscene with whoever answered the phone. Then, a change started to take place. The number of calls continued to keep the phones busy around the clock but the reason for the calls changed. People from Texas and across the country and then the world began to express their gratitude. The Iconoclast had spoken for them, outlining their concerns and issues succinctly and objectively, they said.

At first it had been difficult for the Iconoclast employees to endure. Employees were harassed and threatened as was Smith. Reporters were prevented from just doing their jobs. A campaign was mounted to boycott the paper, threatening advertisers with boycott of their businesses if they continued to advertise in The Iconoclast.

A group in Clifton , where the Iconoclast headquarters are located, began to call for Smith ' s removal as Mayor of the small town. A delegation of local people came en mass to the offices of the Iconoclast to tell Smith they intended to “run him out of town.”

Smith held his ground truth, and at no time did he choose to rescind the editorial.

Courage comes with the Smith heritage. The Smith family and Texas have a long history.

Erastus “Deaf” Smith, Leon Smith ' s great-great-great-great uncle, first came as to Texas from Mississippi Territory in 1817, having been born in New York and later living in North Carolina . Deaf had lost his hearing from a childhood disease. In 1822 he was married and living near San Antonio .

During the course of the Texas War of Independence Erastus Smith would earn the deep respect and gratitude of Stephen Austin and Sam Houston. His work as a spy for the Texans would provide the information that won Texas ' s independence.

Wounded in battle, he returned to duty in time for the crucial battle for independence, where he played a key role. It would be Deaf Smith who discovered the fate of those at the Alamo and who escorted Susanna W. and Angelina E. Dickinson, now widows, to safety. It was to Smith the phrase, “Remember the Alamo ,” would be ascribed.

On April 21, 1836 , Smith, under orders from Sam Houston, destroyed Vince ' s Bridge to prevent the retreat of the Mexican army. Smith always accomplished his mission. He died November 30, 1837 .

On September 29, 2004 , his great-great-great-great nephew also took action, born from a sense of honor and loyalty to the preservation of America’s true values and to Texas . As Mayor of Clifton, Texas he had done his duty to his community. Now he would do his duty to his fellow Americans.

The Editorial, as it came to be known, set the issues that would be raised during the Presidential debate then pending. That editorial began by pointing out that few Americans would have voted for Bush if they had realized he would:

  • Empty the Social Security trust fund by $507 billion to help offset fiscal irresponsibility and at the same time slash Social Security benefits.

  • Cut Medicare by 17 percent and reduce veterans’ benefits and military pay.

  • Eliminate overtime pay for millions of Americans and raise oil prices by 50 percent.

  • Give tax cuts to businesses that sent American jobs overseas, and, in fact, by policy encourage their departure.

  • Give away billions of tax dollars in government contracts without competitive bids.

  • Involve this country in a deadly and highly questionable war, and

  • Take a budget surplus and turn it into the worst deficit in the history of the United States , creating a debt in just four years that will take generations to repay.

These were elements of a hidden agenda that surfaced only after he took office.”

The Editorial was reasoned, deeply researched and well documented. It had needed to be said; no one else had said it. Despite that or because of it Smith became the focus of media attention himself. Everyone from MSNBC to college newspapers throughout the country wanted an interview and many came to Clifton to get it.

Leon found himself working around the clock, even giving interviews at 4 in the morning. Work on the paper backed up but always, finally, went out. Smith found himself hammered; every statement made in the Editorial scrutinized and questioned in exhausting detail. But he knew that he needed to be available. To do otherwise could be deemed as backing away from the truth.

On November 3rd, 2004 the Iconoclast ran a story on overcharging by Halliburton.

On November 17th, the paper reported voting irregularities.

On December 1st it reported the Congressional investigation of voting irregularities.

On December 12 the report of the offer off $100,000 from Jimmy Walters for proof that the World Trade Center had collapsed as reported by the governmental investigation was on the front page.

January 5, 2005 Rep. Conyers Asking Senators To Object To Certification Of Election

February 9, 2005 Unexpected Illness, Medical Bills Cause Half Of All Bankruptcies

March 2, 2005 Lessons of My Lai :Army Whistleblower Urges Public To Do The Right Thing

March 9, 2005 Underwater Noise Pollution Will Dolphins And Whales Go The Way Of The Dinosaur? - The Velvet Revolution: Divestiture For Democracy 87 Citizen Groups Launch Nationwide Campaign To End Secrecy In U.S. Voting Machine Companies

March 23, 2005 Texas House Proposes Tax Cuts For The Wealthy With School Finance Plan

In the next months the readership of the Iconoclast would change. Few now subscribed from the local area, but the on-line edition was read across the country and internationally. As corporately owned media within the United States was stifled and issues that were public knowledge in Europe and elsewhere globally, Americans could find the truth reliably on the pages of the Iconoclast.

The Iconoclast became the newspaper for Americans who want the truth and for those in other countries who wanted a real American paper. Print copies began to be mailed out around the world.

The migration of Depleted Uranium came to the attention of Americans through the Iconoclast as did other issues that otherwise would have remained unknown to the general public.

While The Iconoclast had become a major source for the truth, this work carried out by a staff of three incredibly brave and intrepid people, Mr. Smith still felt as if major stories were slipping through his fingers because of the lack of staff, money and time.

Smith had also begun to receive e-mails and phone calls from people deep within the Bush Administration and in multinational corporations who had information they knew should be available to the public. They knew he could be trusted because of his unwavering bravery. Stretching his resources to the limit, Smith worked around the clock to make as many of these stories available as possible while still ensuring that the documenting research would be available to protect the paper ' s continued existence.

Over and over again it would be an article in the Iconoclast that would awaken Americans to issues that did not appear in the mainstream media. But Smith faced the frustration of limited resources. Not all of these invaluable leads could be followed up. Whistleblowers were equally stalwart, and unwilling to go elsewhere; they knew Smith was to be trusted and many were putting their lives and livelihoods on the line.

America was experiencing another division; this one not on the ideological divide but based on Internet access and whether the Internet was used as the most reliable source of news. Americans were confused by the best way to get their news. In the blogosphere the state of affairs was clarifying. For the rest of the country it remained opaque. Attempts to limit Internet access were stepped up by the administration. At the same time, activist organizations, such as Velvet Revolution, Code Pink, and After Downing Street and a host of others began to step up organizing against the war and in opposition to the Bush Administration but no one could penetrate into the mainstream.

Then, in August of 2005 Cindy Sheehan went to Crawford , Texas to confront George Bush. Camp Casey sprang into being; the media arrived ready to shoot at their usual Bush clearing his boring brush story, but events would prove them wrong.

The Iconoclast had covered a Sheehan story recently, but now Smith and one of his fellow editors decided to follow the events in detail, through cell phones providing hour-by-hour or even minute-by-minute coverage of the drama playing out at Camp Casey and at the Crawford Peace House.

The action was reported on the Iconoclast pages online. As major mainstream media saw the Iconoclast following the action they ramped up their own coverage. Finally, the mainstream had competition, limited but on point.

Then, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and Americans received a closer look at the stunning lack of compassion of the Bush White House. The stories flowed out, directly through readership then through the blogging community.

The activist world had come to depend on the Iconoclast as someplace they could go for the truth and the Iconoclast intensified its mission to meet that demand.

In the following months the use of cell cameras and links to video and audio would flesh out the approach the Iconoclast had pioneered while the choke hold of corporate ownership continued its drive to cut activists off from the mainstream. The case of a student at UCLA, battered by campus police, would gain visibility through observers using their personal devices. In Iraq the use of camera cell phones was banned.

The race for the hearts and minds of Americans had become grim, the outcome depending on factors not yet in evidence. As the number of issues and activists increased so did the crying need to break through to America . Would it happen in time? The jury is still out.

Friday, February 16, 2007

A Tour of the Bush Library: BushLand

With a budget of half a billion dollars and little need to provide space for the perusal of documents the Bush Center has decided on a novel approach to ensure that the work of the Bush Junior Presidency takes its well-earned place in history while also guaranteeing that the public understands the President as a man and policy innovator. Also on the agenda; just a little bit of profit to offset those hefty salaries paid out to Karl Rove and other long time loyalists.

The facility, in partnership with Disney, will provide a walk and drive through environment that links together the high octane points of the Bush years, connecting these to how significant moments then provided the content for policies that make the Bush – Cheney Administration different from any other in American history.

Visitors will queue up for the tours in groups of not more than ten, to keep it personal. As they wait, the group will hear the historic words of the past president as he used a bull horn to address the media and onlookers at Ground Zero in New York. Then the doors, that are designed to look like the Twin Towers as they settle into a pile of dust, will open to reveal a long corridor and the visitor will be greeted by an android that looks exactly like George W. Bush dressed as he was when he landed his Air Force jet and announced the “mission accomplished” moment. The dying sound of the jet engine will fill the background.

The group will follow the President into the corridor, which will light up as the group advances. On both sides they will see jail cells that light up, revealing scenes now familiar to us through the Abu Ghraib photos. These will illustrate the deep trauma experienced by guards doing their duty to their President and their Country as they perform essential pre-interrogation routines. Sound effects are reported to be very realistic and exciting.

The Bush simulation will then wave and shake hands passing the group on to another figure that history will always associate with the Bush Presidency, Lynndie England. Here, the presentation grows more serious as Lynndie explains why Bush was driven to propose essential softening up routines as a means of ensuring that the suspected terrorists who were incarcerated at Abu Ghraib Prison and elsewhere provided information needed to save American lives.

As we now know, Lynndie, was actually a deep agent who was pardoned by Bush in the final moments of his presidency along with himself and his entire administration and some members of his family. The high volume Xerox machine used for this purpose sits in the small museum near the information desk along with other significant items, for instance, a small wooden box that Karl Rove hid in and around the Oval Office occasionally on which is carved, “Weapon of Mass Destruction.” Plans to substitute similar boxes for the traditional Easter Eggs for that Hunt were scotched by Laura Bush but are available in the gift shop at the end of the tour.

Visitors will be able to step across puddles of blood and see how the most ordinary of implements can be adapted to this purpose. This presentation is followed up with the handing out of CDs and DVDs wherein Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld explain the grave necessity that renewed the use of torture as a weapon essential for fighting terror. More such interesting and educational items can be purchased in the Library – Policy Center Store.

Visitors will then understand that this was necessary for the survival of America.

As the group proceeds down the corridor, now riding in golf carts that have been refitted from the Dallas Country Club, the group exchanges Lynndie for another android guide, Jeff Gannon. This portion of the tour will take our visitors to a news conference taking place in the media room of the White House. There, visitors will see another simulation of Gannon asking the hard questions that won him the respect of the President and drew him into a confidential relationship with the most powerful man in the world, George Bush.

This portion of the tour ends at the door of the Lincoln Bedroom, where the wall opens up and visitors find themselves in a room watching the high points from the movie DC 911, the movie produced by Lionel Chetwin in 2003 to show Americans the real story of how George Bush spent his time from the moment he came out of the slight fog in the school room in Florida, where he confronted subjects too esoteric for ordinary people to consider, until he addressed the American people. At some point in the future, perhaps five generations from now, the documents relating to this will be available.

Visitors will then sit through a presentation on American events by a real child who learned that history in a public school in Texas that ensure that no Child was Left Behind. The presentation will take the visitor through a recitation of how the Bush Walker family saved the United States by ensuring free trade with China during the Opium Wars, did behind the scenes work during the Nazi Regime in Germany, and then with the Soviet Union as they ensured that Americans would have a continuing supply of petroleum. Then, they will hear the story of how Bush Senior worked to make sure that America was not destroyed by women and environmentalists and helped Ronald Reagan end the Cold War. As proof, they will see Bush Senior and Junior hammering out pieces of the Berlin Wall. These can also be purchased in the Store. Visitors will then understand why and how a faltering Bush Senior handed off this heroic duty to his oldest, beloved, son, George Junior.

The seated visitors now exit the theatre, guided by the android of Karl Rove who leads them into the Bush vision of the future. Here they see a shiny super highway that knits together the whole of North America. The super highway, as wide as two football fields, is a hub of activity and commerce that allows for free and open access to American's heartland. The stream of vehicles are no longer using petroleum. Instead, they are using ethanol which is available at only $3.00 a gallon, far less than Americans paid for gasoline in 2008. They see happy people from all across the world working hard at jobs that used to be held by Americans who now have new opportunities for leisure and different job opportunities. They see smiling police and cameras on every corner, reminding them that now they are secured and the lovely rolling hills of the Dallas Country Club come alive as George Bush drives his own gold golf cart across the verdant scene and waves happily.

As they exit the theater they enter the gift shop that sells Bush Golf Clubs with the Presidential Seal, pens, photos of the Greatest President, simulated exact reproductions of Barbara Bush's two strand pearl neckless and other memorabilia. Also included are DVDs and CDs that teach eager tourists how to train their dogs to intimidate suspected terrorists and special implements to be used only when following the instructions included. They see an American flag that has the names of various corporations printed on the stripes. They can buy one of those, too.

Tickets are only $200.00. Call the White House to pre-order today.

This is your opportunity to imagine. Imagine a world where the policies of George Bush receive the respect they deserve.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

SMU Petitions: A referendum on the Bush Presidency?

Signatures Supporting Bush Library

February 2 - 98
February 6 - 9:30am EST 107 10:49am EST 107 11:09am EST 107

Signatures Opposing Bush Library

February 2 - 9,965
February 6 - 9:30am EST 10,185 10:49am EST 10,198 11:09am EST 10,201

If the debate on whether or not the Bush Library and Policy Center will be housed at Southern Methodist University in Dallas were a sports event the outcome would already have been decided. Last night the number of signatures on the petition opposing the Library stood at 10,101; this morning it is 10,124, most of whom identify their denomination as Methodist and include their church. The on line petition supporting the inclusion of the Library and Policy Center on the SMU campus stood last night at 107. This morning it is 106, the last two entries had been removed and one more added.

Last night the last two entries were from Dr. Susanne Johnson, the faculty member from the Perkins School of Theology on Campus who cosigned the letter that resulted in the demand from the faculty that the project be subject to a referendum by the same faculty. The two letters were written on the issues that have appeared elsewhere in the media of late. They included,among others, the unwillingness of Bush to meet with the Bishops of the Methodist Church for the last six years and the use of torture, a practice that violates the tenets and values of Methodism, according to those same Bishops.

The petitions are different in every imaginable way. The url for the petition opposed is titled, “Protect SMU.” The petition supporting the Bush Project is titled, “Protect SMU From The "Leftist Bush-Hate Kooks Opposing The Bush Presidential Library Being @ SMU!” thus setting the tone for those signing.

The use of vilifying rhetoric is mostly absent on the Protect SMU petition; vitriol is a standard practice on the other. Since it is well known to political activists that NeoCons routinely employ a cadre of mostly young men to surf the web and plant disinformation the similarity in wording and grammatical errors is understandable. They are fed their scripts through the network of political operatives that includes John Fund, Matt Drudge, and David Horowitz.

The Protect SMU Petition focuses on the same issues; the violation of the tenets of Methodism by the Bush Presidency. The other ignores the issues raised, points to the potential for profit, and chooses to characterize those in opposition as, 'effete snobs,” “a few looney lefti-wing creeps ,” and “left wing, radical socialists.” Phrases are slavishly reused.

No one on the Pro Bush Project Petition addressed the concerns of those opposing the Bush Project or commented on Bush's continued unwillingness to meet with the Bishops of his own church or expressed an opinion on the use of torture by Americans.

The issues raised on the petition supporting the Bush Project go to the potential of the facility to generate income for the area and its utility as a research facility. In the majority of cases the signers ignore the issues, instead demanding unquestioning loyalty either to US policy or to Bush, either personally or as president. Far fewer identity themselves by a church affiliation.

The benefit of the Bush Project for Dallas as a tourist destination is doubtful. Crawford Texas opened shops featuring novelties and collectibles in the belief tourism would bring in bucks but their income from these has fallen off significantly as the Bush Presidency used up the good will it stole from the tragedy of September 11th. According to the Office of the Controller of Texas. There is an upward swing in sales when Cindy Sheehan or other protesters are there, though it is not clear that it is pro-Bush memorabilia that is driving that blip on the local economy.

Since Bush has signed an executive order allowing him and his heirs to block access to documents in virtual perpetuity the usefulness of the Project for research is probably nil. Already funded to the tune of a half a billion dollars, mostly by the Bush core constituency of oil companies and other multinationals who are profiting mightily in Iraq, the Policy Center is expected to justify and promote the policies that Bush has himself followed. Would that mean that techniques in torture would become a subject for research as a useful and approved 'policy tool?' One can imagine the kind of research carried out in the back behind the sound proofed doors. But we are lead to that conclusion and to contemplating the idea that how to lie more effectively and manufacture the needed justifications would also be included. Perhaps that is to be Karl Rove's job as he retires to a prosperous old age?

Presumably, SMU will be offered an endowed Chair dedicated to the work of Leo Strauss.

The problem is, perhaps, trying to view the Bush Library and Policy Center through the lens of what we have always understood as acceptable. By refusing to be governed by SMU and by massive funding, this facility will be different than any presidential library ever built. Bush is planning to take the power of the presidency with him when he leaves office.

When something is so monumentally outrageous we try to find a way to look at it that makes it comprehensible. It is like America has been invaded by blood sucking aliens dressed with the smiling faces of ordinary humanity but it is not polite to mention it.

Ordinary people continue to sign petitions.

While most of those signing the Protect SMU Petition are still Methodists as of now, both Doctors Susanne Johnson and Andrew Weaver, the Methodist Minister from Brooklyn, a graduate of SMU, are well aware that the petition may well become a national referendum on the Bush Presidency. When asked, each admitted that possibility. Dr. Johnson said that the possibility that the dialog would extend beyond the boundaries of the University and of Methodism had recently occurred to her as she saw the media interest increase. She said she and Dr. Maclvaney, the other faculty member who signed the original letter, have been interviewed by a steady stream of media from various parts of the country and overseas.

Dr. Weaver commented that while it had not been his intention to elicit a broader dialog he hoped that the petition and the questions it raised could focus Americans on a consideration of morals, values, and a renewal of faith. Faith, and courage are values much needed by Americans today.

A group on the SMU Campus is also collecting signatures in support of the Bush Project. That group, SMU Young Conservatives of Texas, has been active on the Dallas campus of the University since 2002. Members participated in the Affirmative Action Cookie Sale in 2003, where members sold cookies with different prices listed for men and women and for Black, White and Native American individuals, the order of cost being $1.00 per cookie for white men, $.75 for white women, $.50 for Hispanics of both genders, and $.25 for Blacks of both genders. The event was closed down by the administration as disruptive of peace after the sale of $1.50 worth of cookies. Evidently, none of those offended thought of having a friendly Hispanic buy the supply of cookies at that lowest price and setting up a table to resell these for more money. Developing a sense of humor as we act locally would be a good idea.

There was no report on who had baked the cookies, but I would bet it was a white woman who then had to pay to eat them. Since I am a member of the National Federation of Republican Women I know how it all works.

The NeoCons have done an artful job of positioning themselves and creating icons that attracted young people into the Republican Party who came with far different motivations than was once the case. The idealists who read and believed the words of Barry Goldwater are few now. Goldwater wrote in his book, Conscience of a Conservative,

Throughout history, government has proved to be the chief instrument for thwarting man’s liberty. Government represents power in the hands of some men to control and regulate the lives of other men. And power, as Lord Acton said, corrupts men. “Absolute power,” he added, “corrupts absolutely.”

Those same activists, once committed to seeing the Republican Party deliver on the promises of small government, local control, individual rights for all, and simple kindness were displaced by a new breed; young men and women who idolize Anne Coulter because she has glamorized political deception and become wealthy so doing. The young people who flock to see such as Coulter seek icons that say, “wealth and power are the only justifications you need.”

Today, America is confronted with a State far more dangerous to us and confiscatory on every level than any imagined by our founders. Today, we see a State that is the property, not of Americans, but of the same corporations who will build the Bush Library.

Southern Methodist University is about to be consumed because it is convenient for Bush to claim membership as a Methodist and he will be able to have a lavish home near his buddies. To that end he is more than willing to sacrifice all the unearned money he can lay hands on. In this we are witnessing the plans he and his buddies have for America. We will not be able to say we were not warned.

Get off the Grids, Organize Locally, Build Coalition.