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HUSTLER PUBLISHER LARRY FLYNT’S STATEMENT: SPEAKING THE UNSPEAKABLE

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Larry Flynt

Larry Flynt

Approaching the end of the first decade of the 21st century, we stand at a dark precipice that begs the question: Revolution or slavery? Yet we hesitate to even state this out loud for fear of being whisked off to a secret detention camp built by Halliburton. And therein lies the proof of our desperate situation. Before George W. Bush destroyed habeas corpus, we would not have been reluctant to speak up. Now we cringe. The politicians—Democrats and Republicans alike—have taken away your right to speak. The big corporations have taken away your right to make a fair wage. Together they have taken away your right to privacy. Those who are depending on a new administration to save us should not forget the lessons of history: Rulers must be pushed and prodded at best, deposed at worst. If our new President and Congress do not act dramatically and soon to reverse past trends, the American people will have to force them to do so. It’s that or slavery.

Larry Flynt
Publisher


Rick Perry

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Rick Perry

Rick Perry

To describe Texas Governor Rick Perry as snarky, scheming and slimy is being nice. Totally lacking in morals or even a sense of shame, this well-connected Republican will do virtually anything (no matter how repugnant) to curry favor with Big Business— and to line his own bank account.

Perry’s latest bit of insanity? Trying to force all 11- and 12-year-old girls in the Lone Star State to be inoculated with the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil. Now don’t get us wrong: Preventing strains of the virus that causes genital warts and can manifest into deadly cervical cancer is commendable. But was the true motivation behind Perry’s executive order to safeguard his young constituents? Fat chance. It was to suck Merck & Co.’s big corporate dick.

Merck, the vaccine’s manufacturer, always seems to be popping up somewhere, whether snuggling up to the GOP (case in point) or using public relations firms to cover up its alleged complicity in the deaths of thousands of Americans. (Merck’s arthritis drug Vioxx was recalled in 2004 after being linked to numerous fatal heart attacks.) Its big Texas push for Gardasil seems likely to precipitate yet another major pharmaceutical scandal.

How can we be so sure that Democrat turned- Republican Perry is in Merck’s pocket? Let’s count the ways: One of the governor’s former chiefs of staff worked for the company and was allegedly paid $250,000 just to lobby Gardasil to the Texas legislature. The motherin- law of Perry’s current chief of staff has also been pinned to Merck’s HPV lobbying network.

But we’re not finished: The three-injection vaccine comes with a bountiful $120-per-shot price tag, which isn’t covered by most health insurance providers, possibly because Gardasil ran into problems in the testing phase that went conveniently underreported. In fact, doubts have since abounded regarding the vaccine’s actual effectiveness, not to mention its potential long-term side effects. Adding insult to injury, Perry is opposed to universal healthcare coverage, which, theoretically, could cover the cost. Hey, Slick Rick, answer us this: Are you asking Texans to pay your corporate cronies $360 per child so Merck can experiment on them?

Although the Texas legislature threw a speed bump in front of his executive order, Perry still insists that mandating the Merck vaccine “makes good economic sense.” Yeah, you know what really made economic sense to Perry? Merck donated thousands of dollars to his 2006 reelection campaign. Anybody want to bet that Perry doesn’t go to work for the pharmaceutical giant after he retires from politics?

Even Perry’s conservative Christian following is pissed about his actions. While opposing abortion rights and stem-cell research, the governor is championing a vaccine for a sexually transmitted disease. Yep, as God-fearing Christians see it, this supposedly religious man—just to stay cozy with Merck—is giving kids permission to have sex before marriage. You know things are shady when a politician advocates an STD vaccine and supports the teaching of abstinence in public schools.

It took the Texas legislature months to be persuaded that Perry’s drug mandate was in violation of parents’ civil liberties; i.e., the right to teach their little girls abstinence over protection. No mention was made about a parent’s right to protect his or her child from a greedy corporation bent on using kids as test subjects to turn a profit. Perry’s zeal makes us wonder if he ordered his twentysomething daughter Sydney to be vaccinated with Gardasil. It wouldn’t surprise us to discover he allowed his own child to be an unwitting guinea pig. Then again, it wouldn’t surprise us if he allowed only other parents’ kids to be shot up with the possibly hazardous drug.

Still don’t think Perry is an Asshole? This clenched anus was a staunch defender of Texas’s infamous—and now blessedly defunct— antisodomy law, which he called “appropriate.” Perry tangled with the American Civil Liberties Union over barring homosexuals and their children from the Boy Scouts of America. He rammed through the construction of 11 coalburning power plants, a relatively inefficient energy source that catastrophically pollutes the atmosphere. He also vetoed a bill that would have prevented mentally retarded criminals from being executed in Texas.

Governor Rick Perry doesn’t give a shit about Texans or anybody else. He cares only about his reelection and future retirement fund. Weasel? Scheming liar? Corrupt hypocrite? Sounds like his predecessor, George W. Bush. And we all know how well that worked out.


OVERDOSE OF JUSTICE?

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Scores of San Diego State University students are rounded up in a sweeping drug bust. 

During finals week of the spring semester, 95 San Diego State University students— and 30 others—were arrested on assorted drug-related charges in a series of raids conducted by federal and local lawenforcement agencies. The roundup culminated a year-long undercover sting operation targeting dealers and buyers at SDSU, particularly members of several fraternities.

At the residences of students and non- SDSU-affiliated individuals, investigators confiscated up to $100,000 worth of cocaine, marijuana, Ecstasy, psylocibin mushrooms, illicit prescription drugs and other substances. They also seized $60,000 in cash and various weapons, including a shotgun and three semiautomatic pistols.

According to the District Attorney’s Office of San Diego County, 54 SDSU students were arrested by Drug Enforcement Administration agents, who suspected a direct connection to the originally targeted traffickers. The remaining 41 were arrested by campus police officers for minor offenses uncovered between January and May 2008. Officials said these suspects were not necessarily connected to the drug ring, but were arrested in accordance with the university’s zero-tolerance drug policy.

The D.A.’s office also noted that one student apprehended in the raids—Omar Castaneda- Arce, 36—is a documented gang member with suspected ties to Mexican drug cartels. Officials also said that the suspect had served three years in prison for a previous drug offense. Searching Castaneda-Arce’s home, investigators reportedly discovered a kilogram of cocaine.

Campus police and the DEA initiated the undercover investigation, dubbed Operation Sudden Fall, in response to an SDSU coed’s death by cocaine overdose in May 2007. When a San Diego Mesa College student succumbed to oxycodone and alcohol poisoning at an SDSU fraternity in February 2008, authorities were prompted to step up their efforts.

“This investigation spotlights two tragedies,” said the DEA’s Special Agent in Charge, Ralph W. Partridge. “The tragic drug overdose deaths of two college students and, secondly, the shattered futures of those students who choose to engage in the illicit sale and usage of myriad controlled substances.”

During Operation Sudden Fall, DEA agents posing as students made more than 130 separate drug transactions with members of SDSU fraternities, and several members of Theta Chi and Phi Kappa Psi were among those arrested. Officials said that in some fraternities, nearly all of the members were aware that drug sales were being conducted within their own frat houses.

Two days after the raids, SDSU suspended six fraternities—Theta Chi, Phi Kappa Psi, Lambda Chi Alpha, Phi Kappa Theta, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Sigma Alpha Mu—pending further investigation.

On the day of the bust, SDSU President Stephen L. Weber announced: “Certainly today’s arrests underscore the scope of the challenges universities face as we fight this major societal problem.We are determined to remove people from our community who have placed our students at risk and to see that they are turned over to the criminal justice system.”

Although Weber publicly hailed the arrests as a victory for San Diego State University, others have called the investigation unnecessary and ultimately ineffective. Following Operation Sudden Fall’s highly publicized conclusion, some campus groups have raised concerns over its impact on university life.

At a rally prompted by the raids, members of Students for Sensible Drug Policy—a national awareness organization committed to reducing the harms caused by drug abuse and drug policies— criticized the undercover operation. Randy Hencken, president of the organization’s SDSU chapter, believes the bust will likely have little effect on student drug use in the long run.

“We’ve seen those big piles of drugs and money on our TV screens before, over and over again, for the past three decades, and the availability of drugs has not changed,” Hencken proclaimed. “So long as students have the desire to use illegal drugs, and so long as the prohibition of drugs sustains a lucrative black market, drug stings will do little more than create openings for others to step in and supply these drugs.”

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Reza Farazmand is a University of California, San Diego junior majoring in political science and is news editor of the school’s student-run newspaper, The Guardian.

Attention college reporters: If you have an idea for a story involving your school—streaking, stripping, partying, pranks,protests, political or censorship issues—contact us at Features@LFP.com.


“THE D.C. MADAM WAS MURDERED!”

Monday, December 22nd, 2008
The Canal Street Madam - Jeanette Maier

The Canal Street Madam - Jeanette Maier

Jeanette Maier, best known as “The Canal Street Madam,” reveals a criminal pattern behind the death of Deborah Jeane Palfrey.

On the morning of May 1, 2008, “D.C. Madam” Deborah Jeane Palfrey was found hanged in a storage shed near her mother’s home in Tarpon Springs, Florida. Local police wasted no time in ruling the death a suicide. But people familiar with the high-end escort service operator’s history and others who knew Palfrey personally suspected the authorities were guilty of a rush to judgment.

The 52-year-old Palfrey had been convicted on April 15 of racketeering and money laundering charges for running a prostitution ring that catered to the Washington, D.C., elite. Throughout her trial in U.S. District Court, Palfrey maintained that her company—Pamela Martin & Associates—provided escort services that were entirely legal.

HUSTLER Publisher Larry Flynt had steadfastly supported Palfrey in her efforts to exonerate herself and expose the hypocrites who had used her services. Based on phone records released by Palfrey, Flynt exposed Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter from Louisiana in July 2007 as a client of the D.C. Madam. Other names eventually linked to phone numbers in Palfrey’s records included former senior State Department official Randall Tobias and highranking military strategist Harlan Ullman. Prior to her death, Palfrey implied that she had information on several other prominent Beltway figures.

D.C. Madam - Deborah Jeane Palfrey

D.C. Madam - Deborah Jeane Palfrey

Palfrey’s sudden demise immediately generated widespread suspicion of foul play. In an interview after her body was discovered, Flynt told FoxNews.com, “I think the media should be very cautious in treating this as a suicide.” Also expressing suspicion, Fox talk-show host Geraldo Rivera called for Florida Governor Charlie Crist to order a full investigation.

D.C. private investigator Dan Moldea, who knew Palfrey and had worked with Larry Flynt to obtain her information, took the opposite view, claiming she told him she’d sooner commit suicide than go to jail. However, in a recorded interview with radio host Alex Jones shortly before her death, Palfrey declared, “No, I am not planning to commit suicide.”

Speaking with HUSTLER in 2007, Jeanette Maier—the former madam of the Canal Street Brothel in New Orleans—confirmed that D.C. Madam client David Vitter had also frequented her establishment in his pre- Washington years. Now, in the wake of the Eliot Spitzer scandal and the suspicious death of Palfrey, Maier is speaking out about the threats facing women who know too much.

HUSTLER: What was your first thought when you heard about the death of Deborah Jeane Palfrey?

JEANETTE MAIER: She was murdered! There are several reasons: She was looking at 55 years [in prison], but she would only get four to six. She was also working out a deal with someone to write a book. The owner of the condo she lived in said she was leaving with a box of papers. Where did those papers go? She also said to him, “I think people are following me.” That’s why she was going to her mother’s house. Why would a woman go to her mother’s house so her mother could find her dead? She would have hung herself in her condo if she were going to commit suicide that way.

Palfrey allegedly said she would kill herself before going back to jail.

A lot of people facing time will say stuff like that. I’ve said it, but I would never commit suicide. I did time in jail. It was a vacation. Palfrey was looking at only four to six years. There was no reason for that woman to kill herself. She had too much to gain by not doing so. The last interview she gave was on The Alex Jones Show. She’s on tape saying, “I’m not planning to commit suicide. I plan on defending myself vigorously.” She specifically said that there was a vendetta out on her and that she would likely be “suicided.”

Do you think Palfrey was murdered because of information she had, or do you think it was a revenge killing?

I think there was something she was hiding that was bigger than information she had already released. The people in the current establishment have got a lot to hide, and this lady knew a lot about them. There are rumors that Dick Cheney’s name could have been on that list, [although Palfrey admitted that she didn’t know for a fact that he was a client].

What about other cases similar to this one?

Brandy Britton, who worked for Palfrey and who saw many politicians, was also murdered right before her trial. Hung. She had everything ahead of her. She was young, bright, never talked about suicide; then she’s found hanging. [Britton allegedly was an escort for Randall Tobias.]

There’s also the case of Sylvia Landry, a Baton Rouge madam. In 1992 she opened up a business, and in ’94 she [allegedly] sent black flowers [to her clients] in the state capital because they were going to give her jail time and weren’t helping her. She escaped a federal prison only to be caught again, supposedly. Then she’s found hung in her cell [in Texas]. Why would she do that when she had money to gain by writing about these freaks? They need to reopen the Landry case.

Why has there been a pattern of hangings as opposed to other methods?

If the police go in with forensics, everything has to be perfect. [In staged gunshot suicides] the victims have to have powder on their hands and perfect aim. There’s too much that would point to murder. So the best thing to do is hang them. Then they can just say, “Oh, well, she hung herself because she was depressed.” But women don’t [usually] hang themselves; that’s a fact. First of all, we don’t know anything about tying nooses, and we like to leave a beautiful corpse.

I once had a contract on my life. The man that was supposed to carry it out actually came to me and told me I was supposed to be killed, hung. But because he knew me, he wasn’t going to do that. Hookers all know that’s how they kill. I know what to expect when they come for me. I have a big knife, just waiting. I’m ready; and believe me, you will find DNA.

What about a Louisiana connection in the Palfrey case? U.S. Senator David Vitter was named and shamed by her information.

I wouldn’t put it past anybody right now. Other than [politics in] Washington, D.C., Louisiana politics are probably the most rotten. They think of us not as ladies, but a bunch of hookers. Just another whore is dead, you know? We are mothers, sisters, daughters and grandmothers. Society has to see us differently, and they have to see the system as corrupt.

I’ve slept with people that shoot drugs and sleep with hookers on the taxpayer’s money. I know because I got a lot of your tax dollars! I asked one city politician as he was sticking a needle in his arm, “When are you guys going to fix the streets?” He looked at his arm, he looked at me and said, “These are the streets.”

If you are found hanged, how will we know it wasn’t suicide?

I would not kill myself that way. I would never hang myself. You got times when your bills are piling up, and you think, I can’t handle all the crap that’s on my shoulders right now. But you make it through and hope for the future. I’m working on a possible sitcom and a couple of book deals. Why would I kill myself knowing that there’s a possibility of me coming into a lot of money? I’ve got a whole future ahead of me, just as Deborah had, just as Landry had. We have no reason to kill ourselves.

What do you recommend to women who know too much, such as Palfrey did, and whose lives may therefore be in danger?

Don’t run, don’t hide and don’t keep quiet. Let everybody know. I said on the radio: If I am found dead, it was them. Make sure you give all your information to somebody you trust. Tell them who you think may be after you. And leave a code for your family. Let people know that if you leave a suicide note, there’s going to be a special mark on that paper, a doodle or something, that means you were forced to sign it. Don’t be afraid to continue living. Show your face, be on TV. They’re going to come after you, so get as much information out there as you can. Make them more afraid of you than you are of them.


“MAVERICK” WITHOUT MORALS

Monday, December 1st, 2008

by Robert Scheer

JOHN MCCAIN PIMPS HIMSELF OUT FOR THE CHANCE AT WAGING WAR EVERLASTING.

Whatever you believe John McCain was once upon a time, in 2008 he is a dangerous phony who will say anything in his desperation to be elected President. Neutered and pressed, the “maverick” long touted as a man of uncommon integrity and courage is now suitable for framing as a compliant pawn of corporate lobbyists, neocon warmongers, the ultrarich and the religious far right.

It is well known that McCain would be happy if the U.S policed Iraq for 100 years and has long said we should greatly increase the number of troops posted there. Less known is that this supposed “realist” wants to continue his predecessors’ systematic shifting of the burden for such foreign adventures onto an overly compliant middle class, even in the midst of what is looking like a historic downturn in the U.S. economy.

According to the Tax Policy Center—a nonpartisan, Washington, D.C.-based research group—McCain’s tax proposals would mean the nation’s richest 0.1% of taxpayers, which includes the Arizona senator and his wife, will pay $269,364 less in annual federal taxes, on average. Compare this to the proposals of alleged “elitist” Barack Obama, who would have the same income bracket pay threequarters of a million more each year, according to the center’s analysis of his proposals.

That’s a difference of a cool mil kicked into the national coffers each year by those earning over $2.9 million a year. It would take a lot of the rest of us schmoes digging much deeper on Tax Day to make up that kind of bread! Perhaps old straight-shooter McCain can own up to just how he plans to make up such an ugly shortfall?

To be sure, even in the heyday of the “Straight Talk Express,” he was never able to live up to the label. Check out his painful waffling on abortion during the 2000 campaign, if you can bear to see a grown man squirm. First he said he was for banning the medical practice except in cases of incest, rape or saving the mother’s life, but contradicted this by saying he was opposed to actually repealing Roe v.Wade because of the danger of illegal abortions. Further muddying the waters was McCain’s admission that if his own minor-aged daughter became pregnant, it would be a challenging “family decision” as to whether she would carry the fetus to term.

For some reason, such blatant incoherence has long been played by the national media as the tough talk of a tell-it-like-it-is politician. McCain, however, has never been a true iconoclast as much as a senator who was sometimes capable of taking his job as the taxpayers’ representative seriously. While the bar for that is set quite low on Capitol Hill, it still should be appreciated when an official has the dogged nature to expose hyper-costly chicanery.

In probably his finest moment as a senator, for example, McCain ran to ground the Boeing fuel tanker scandal, which led to the conviction and/or resignation of several top Air Force and Boeing officials, as well as a corporate fine of $615 million.

However, it has become clear since his Presidential ambitions came to dominate his political life that McCain is willing to junk his moral positions in order to maintain his status and image with the Republican Party’s loony and corrupt fringes. Combined with his advancing age, impulsive nature and abiding faith in war as a solution to humanity’s problems, it is obvious he would make a dreadful President.

That is particularly true in McCain’s positions on the reckless expansion of the American empire, beginning with—but certainly not ending at—the ambition to colonize Iraq. So intent is he on waving the flag of mindless militarism that he will even betray his own experiences and undermine the Constitutional safeguards against torture.

Consider that in a 1974 paper for the National War College on his prisoner-of-war ordeal, McCain wrote of “prisoners being ordered to sit, kneel or stand for long periods of time deprived of rest or sleep” as “torture.” For decades, citing moral and practical reasons, he maintained that the U.S. must not stoop to the same level in our treatment of prisoners of war.

Yet now, appallingly, in order to seem tougher than his Democratic rival, McCain has the shamelessness to praise Chief Justice John Roberts for his dissent from the Supreme Court’s 5-4 vote to extend habeas corpus protection to Guantanamo prisoners, who have suffered the same and worse. In other words, the New McCain does not believe judicial due process is a human right to be universally honored. “These are people who are not citizens,” he said, dismissing the pleading of the tortured.

Well, neither was McCain a citizen of North Vietnam when he was shot down while bombing that country.Wouldn’t it have been a good thing if his captors had been restrained by an independent judiciary? And, anyway, isn’t the U.S. supposed to be the ethical alternative to ends-justify-the-means regimes like the one we were fighting way back when?

Obama, who strongly supported the High Court’s 5-4 majority decision, clearly believes it must be. In turn, we must make sure it is his administration that is in a position to appoint a new generation of justices who actually believe in the spirit of the Constitution.

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Before serving 30 years as a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, Robert Scheer spent the late 1960s as Vietnam correspondent, managing editor and editor in chief of Ramparts magazine. Now editor of TruthDig.com, Scheer has written such hard-hitting books as Thinking Tuna Fish ; Playing President: My Close Encounters With Nixon, Carter, Bush I, Reagan and Clinton—And How They Did Not Prepare Me for George W. Bush ; and his latest, The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America.


WINTER SOLDIERS – THE TRUTH ABOUT IRAQ

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

In a fight for peace and honor, the Winter Soldier veterans show their heroism by speaking out.  

Jason Moon suffers from persistent insomnia as he wrestles with memories of his time in Iraq. “While on our initial convoy into Iraq in early June 2003,” the former National Guard and Army Reserve member recalls, “we were given a direct order that if any children or civilians got in front of the vehicles in our convoy, we were not to stop, we were not to slow down, we were to keep driving. In the event an insurgent attacked us from behind human shields, we were supposed to count. If there were 30 or less civilians, we were allowed to fire into the area. If there were over 30, we were supposed to take fire and send it up the chain of command. These were the rules of engagement. I don’t know about you, but if you are getting shot at from a crowd of people, how fast are you going to count, and how accurately?”

Moon is taking part in Winter Soldier, the Iraq Veterans Against the War’s effort to collect firsthand testimony about the human consequences of failed U.S. policy in the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. The campaign takes its name from 1971’s Winter Soldier testimony by combat veterans, notably John Kerry, which played a part in turning public opinion against the Vietnam War.

Left to right: Iraq War veterans Jose Vasquez, Hart Viges, Cliff Hicks, Steve Casey and Steven Mortillo.

Left to right: Iraq War veterans Jose Vasquez, Hart Viges, Cliff Hicks, Steve Casey and Steven Mortillo.

“We’ve heard from the politicians, from the generals, from the media— now it’s our turn,” says Kelly Dougherty, executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War, who served in Iraq in 2003 as a military police officer. “It’s not going to be easy to hear what we have to say. It’s not going to be easy for us to tell it. But we believe that the only way this war is going to end is if the American people truly understand what we have done in their name.”

When I was reporting from Iraq for eight months on and off between November 2003 and February 2005, Iraqis told me of atrocities U.S. soldiers were committing. Now the accounts from soldiers themselves confirm an awful picture.

“An Iraqi was once selling soda out of a motorcycle to soldiers in a waiting convoy,” Moon says. “In the sidecar was his seven-to-eight-year-old child. When the man refused to go away, the MP on patrol put him to the ground with a gun to his head and started stripping his vehicle and searching it. They then took the child, picked it up into the air and threw it full force onto the ground. I didn’t see the child get up.”

Moon says soldiers devised cruel tricks to play on Iraqi kids. “Whenever we arrived in an area, we did so along with support vehicles with the radios, tractor trailers, bulldozers and graders,” he recalls. “So we would park those in a circle with yellow police tape around. Iraqis had to stand outside that tape as we stood inside the tape, armed and ready. That was our little base of operations. Soldiers would place a $20 bill in the sand with a little bit showing and walk over to the other side of the vehicles and wait for a kid to charge under the tape to try to get the bill, which was equal to an average monthly salary there. If some kid was stupid enough to take the bait, they would chase him, trying to hit him with the end of their bayonet or the butt of their rifle.” Moon says his section sergeant would rally the troops every day in the motor pool with, “I hope I get to kill me a hajji today. [Hajji is a term for a Muslim who has undertaken a pilgrimage to Mecca, and has become a slang term used by U.S. soldiers.] I hope I get to shoot somebody today.”

Moon tells me of a soldier in his tent who used to boast of swerving intentionally to hit the kids that rushed to pick the food tossed by patrol members and to run over the food so the kids couldn’t get it. “It was a game,” Moon adds. “When the soldier who had thrown the food asked him why he had done it, he said, ‘Yeah, I want to hit one of them. I want to kill one of those kids.’”

Moon brought back a video that shows his sergeant declaring, “The difference between an insurgent and an Iraqi civilian is whether they are dead or alive.” Moon explains the thinking: “If you kill a civilian, he becomes an insurgent because you retroactively make that person a threat.”

Following a long family tradition, Cliff Hicks joined the military at 17 in 2002 because “we had been attacked, so it seemed like the right time.” He served in Iraq from October 2003 to August 2004. He admits that he and other soldiers with him have been physically abusive toward Iraqi civilians. “Hell, yeah, that happened,” he says. “That was extremely common. My platoon leader, a lieutenant, broke the arm of an old man because he was being difficult.”

Hicks also describes how he himself beat up an Iraqi detainee. “One night on a foot patrol in Baghdad, we found a 30-year-old Iraqi who we were told had an attitude,” he recounts. “He acted like he wanted to fight with us, so we all jumped on him and beat the shit out of him. I zip-stripped him with plastic handcuffs behind his back, dragged him to a pole and tied him to it, guarding him while the rest of my platoon ran into his house to raid it.

“He was yelling and screaming and talking to the crowd. I’m 18 years old and alone, guarding this guy in downtown Baghdad late at night. He’s talking to this massive crowd behind me. I couldn’t get him to shut up…so I just beat the shit out of him. The whole time it freaked me out: He’s a prisoner, totally defenseless. You’re not supposed to beat up prisoners, but for all I knew, this guy was telling his friends to kill me.”

Living under daily threat took a psychological toll. “Insane driving was even more common than beating people’s asses,” Hicks continues. “Ninety-nine percent of the time you drive around in Iraq, and 99 percent of the way you get killed in Iraq is driving your vehicle into something that blows up. So you’re driving, scared to death, pissed off, you have a vehicle commander who’s looking at a map, yelling at a radio, being an asshole and criticizing everything you do. He’s freaked out because he doesn’t want you to do anything stupid, and you don’t want to do anything stupid. Our tanks weigh 70 tons, our Humvees six tons, and we drove as fast as we possibly could.”

The temptation to misuse their powerful vehicles sometimes got the better of the soldiers. “[Iraqis] have these stands where they sell kebabs, motor oil, gas and stuff, and one time we just got off the road and plowed through a whole row of these things,” Hicks adds. “We would just cruise through [and] make everybody run away. We would run over empty cars. I remember one time I saw a really shiny Mercedes. I asked my tank commander, ‘Sir, can I crush that car?’ He didn’t say yes, but he said, ‘I didn’t see anything.’ So I ran over the car.”

The language barrier has also contributed to the abuse, Hicks believes. “We didn’t have interpreters half the time when I was there,” he says. “We couldn’t communicate. They are not doing what you need them to do, so you freak out and beat the crap out of people all the time over there. It happened so much, it’s not even worthy of note. People are just constantly getting their asses kicked over there for no reason.”

What’s going on in Iraq seems to reflect what psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton calls “atrocity-producing situations.” He first used this term in his 1986 book The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. In 2004, Dr. Lifton wrote an article for The Nation, applying his insights to the Iraq War and occupation. “Atrocityproducing situations,” he wrote, occur when a power structure sets up an environment where “ordinary people, men or women no better or worse than you or I, can regularly commit atrocities.… This kind of atrocity-producing situation…surely occurs to some degrees in all wars, including World War II, our last ‘good war.’ But a counterinsurgency war in a hostile setting,especially when driven by profound ideological distortions, is particularly prone to sustained atrocity—all the more so when it becomes an occupation.”


BLOWING OFF STEAM AU NATUREL

Friday, November 14th, 2008

As coed Robin Carol recounts, no one bothers with clothes during Tufts University’s most off-the-wall ritual.

At staid and prestigious Tufts University, even the purest, most innocent freshman has heard of the Naked Quad Run. The origins of this unique event, recently renamed the Nighttime Quad Reception (NQR) by the Boston area school’s administrators, have become clouded over the years.

One prevailing story is that the Naked Quad Run began as a protest after men and women were allowed to share a dormitory. But Sergeant Robert McCarthy of the campus police department disagrees. “It started a long time before West Hall even thought of becoming coed,” maintains McCarthy, who has worked at Tufts for 35 years.

Seth Ammerman (Class of ’76) dates the Naked Quad Run as far back as 1973. “Streaking had been going on for a number of years around the country,” he recalls, “but with individuals or small groups. This was the first one at Tufts with hundreds of people—and coed, which was great.”

Ammerman believes that students took part en masse in the nude dash primarily as an entertaining outlet to relieve stress and “to tweak authority.” The Tufts alumnus recollects, “Some people said that they were protesting for peace or against war or changes at the university. That was picked up by the media, but really, it was just to do something fun.”

McCarthy remembers streaking episodes in the ’70s, but says that the Naked Quad Run in its current form as a release from exam nerves began later. “In 1980, [students] made a thing about the ‘Loud Hour’ [during a traditionally mandated 23-hour quiet period], to make as much noise as you can,” the police sergeant recalls. “Come ten o’clock, people were opening windows and putting speakers out. Noise travels on top of that hill, and we got complaints all over [the neighboring towns of] Medford and Somerville.”

To contain the symphonic deluge, the administration encouraged students to run around the campus’s quad instead. One particular group had a unique interpretation of these instructions. “Fifteen or 20 guys from West Hall came out naked, ran once, went back in the dorm, and that was it,” McCarthy says. “Then every year it was the same thing.”

When West Hall became coed in 1987, the event grew in popularity. “The quad was packed with people, and ten o’clock comes,” McCarthy continues. “At first there were probably 50 guys running. Then here comes 25 or 30 girls, and everyone starts cheering. It got bigger every year.”

Unfortunately, bigger didn’t always mean better. The Naked Quad Run’s existence was jeopardized in 2002 after several students were hospitalized for alcohol poisoning and assorted injuries. University President Lawrence Bacow sent out a stern e-mail stating that “the combination…of alcohol with a mad dash through an icy, hilly campus at night cannot continue.”
However, support for the unabashed spree prompted various university organizations to examine how it could continue more safely. Police involvement and the sanctioned Nighttime Quad Reception have proven to be successful.

“A lot of people got involved, like the Senate and the Dean’s Office to make it a controlled event, and it’s gotten better,” Sergeant McCarthy points out.
Ammerman cites the presence of intoxicating beverages as the biggest change to the event over the years, but one current student understands the need to imbibe. “People drink alcohol to feel comfortable in situations where they feel awkward,” sophomore Ben Strauss asserts. “That is a problem, but I don’t think that’s any worse for the Naked Quad Run. It’s funny because I was sober last year for NQR, and I had a very fun experience anyway.”

A new chapter in NQR lore coincided with the ability to post pictures or videos on the Internet. “[In the 1970s] there weren’t people around staring,” Ammerman says. “Everyone who came out was involved. These days, with cell phones and everything, you’ve got to be more wary.”

“I get worried as years pass,” senior Katie Winter reflects. “With YouTube and Facebook, something may show up years after the fact. I make sure to run where there are lots of people running around too.”
Even with these technological drawbacks, NQR probably won’t be vanishing any time soon. “It’s evolved over the years,” McCarthy declares. “I don’t think it’s going to [disappear]. It’s hard to stop it, and if it’s going to happen anyhow, we try to do it as safely as possible.”

Looking back, Ammerman admits that during his college years he wouldn’t have expected NQR to endure as a Tufts tradition. “I thought maybe it would come and go like many fads do,” he observes, “but I think the moral of the story is that college kids like to run around naked.”

Sophomore Robin Carol has been writing for the Tufts Daily since she was a freshman. The international relations major remained completely dressed during her coverage of the Naked Quad Run.

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Attention college reporters: If you have an idea for a story involving your school—streaking, stripping, partying, pranks, protests, political or censorship issues—contact us at Features@LFP.com.


ALABAMA FASCISTS

Monday, November 10th, 2008

For most Americans, the very concept of political prisoners is remote and exotic, a practice that is associated with Third World dictatorships but is foreign to the American tradition. The idea that a prominent politician, a former state governor no less, could be tried on charges that many observers consider to be trumped up, convicted in a trial that involved numerous questionable procedures and then hauled off to prison in shackles immediately upon sentencing would be almost unbelievable.

But there is such a politician: Democrat Don Siegelman, Alabama’s governor from 1999 to 2003. Starting just a few weeks after taking office, Siegelman was targeted by an investigation launched by his political opponents and escalated from the state to the federal level by Bush Administration appointees in 2001.

Siegelman was ultimately charged with 32 counts of bribery and other crimes in 2005, just as he began to attempt a political comeback. He was convicted the following year on seven of those charges. Last summer, Siegelman was sentenced to seven years in prison and immediately whisked off to a series of out-of-state jails, not even being allowed to remain free on bond while his appeal was underway.

Shortly before the sentencing, however, suspicions expressed by Alabama observers that there was something “fishy” about the case—as Scott Horton of Harper’s Magazine would later put it—began to reach the national stage. What initially appeared to be merely a whiff of possible political corruption became something stronger, with allegations that Karl Rove and the Bush Justice Department had been operating behind the scenes. And yet, despite these suspicions and the attempts of a few journalists to bring them to greater notice, Siegelman’s case remains virtually unknown to most of America.

This investigation illuminates an incestuous pool of corruption in Alabama, with government officials, lobbyists, attorneys and even judges behaving in ways that breach the public trust.

Don Siegelman, Political Prisoner: Governor Don Siegelman was a popular Democratic politician in a largely Republican state and was the only person to ever hold all of its highest posts. He served as attorney general, secretary of state, lieutenant governor and finally governor.

On Election Day in November 2002, when the polls had closed and the votes were being counted, it seemed increasingly apparent that Governor Siegelman had been victorious in his reelection bid against Republican challenger Bob Riley. But then, just as in the infamous Florida election of 2000, something strange happened during the tallying of the votes.

As CNN reported at the time, there appeared to be conflicting figures for one particular Alabama county. “The confusion stems from two sets of numbers reported by one heavily Republican district,” the network stated.

“Figures originally reported by Baldwin County showed Siegelman got about 19,000 votes there, making him the state’s winner by about two-tenths of 1%,” CNN’s reporter added. “But hours after polls closed, Baldwin County officials said the first number was wrong, and Siegelman had received just less than 13,000. Those figures would make Riley the statewide winner by about 3,000 votes.”

During a news conference at the time, Siegelman announced, “Sometime after midnight, after the poll-watchers were sent home, a small group there decided to recount the votes a third time. No watchers legally entitled to be present were notified, and then a different total was established.”

The following morning Alabama saw a new governor declaring victory in the election. But the story didn’t end there. It was only the beginning of a scenario that would turn the politics of dirty tricks into something far more sinister.

Riley’s electoral victory rested on a razor-thin margin of 3,120 votes. According to official reports, Baldwin County conducted a recount sometime in the middle of the night on November 6, when the only county officers and election supervisors present were Republicans. It was during this second recount that the shift in votes from Siegelman to Riley appeared. Although various computer “glitches” and technical anomalies occurred across the state, it is widely acknowledged that the Baldwin County recount is what decisively delivered needed votes to the Riley camp.

State and county Democrats quickly requested another Baldwin County recount with Democratic observers present, as well as a state-wide recount. But before the Baldwin County Democratic Party canvassing board could act, Alabama’s Republican Attorney General William Pryor Jr. had the ballots sealed.

Unless Siegelman filed an election contest in the courts, Pryor said, county canvassing boards throughout the state did not have the authority “to break the seals on ballots and machines under section 17-9-31” of the Alabama Constitution.

But at the same time, other more embarrassing questions involving the Riley camp and GOP officials appeared to have fallen off the radar.

Embarrassing Questions: This investigation shows that as early as 1998, when Siegelman was first elected governor, Alabama corporate interests already saw him as a looming threat. These interests were aligned with GOP operatives who would emerge again during the 2002 election cycle. One of those was William “Bill” Canary, who worked behind the scenes long before he became a Bob Riley campaign adviser in 2002. In 1994, Canary—whose focus at the time was on defeating Democratic judges in Alabama—brought in outside help in the form of yet another GOP operative by the name of Karl Rove.

At that time, Rove had been active in Republican political campaigns for more than 15 years and had recently been hired as an adviser to George W. Bush’s campaign for governor of Texas. A wider public would learn of Rove only six years later, when he was tapped as Bush’s White House deputy chief of staff after the 2000 election. Rove’s name would then appear in almost every scandal involving the Bush White House, the most infamous of which involved revealing the name of a covert CIA officer as political retribution for her husband’s refusal to endorse bogus intelligence leading up to the Iraq War.

Rove and Canary managed Attorney General William Pryor Jr.’s 1998 reelection campaign. It was Pryor who would later seal the Baldwin County ballots in the 2002 governor’s race, ensuring the victory of a candidate who had been advised by his own former campaign manager, Bill Canary. All three men—Rove, Canary and Pryor—are also known to have a close political and social relationship. In addition, then-Lieutenant Governor Siegelman appears to have made an enemy of Pryor as early as 1997, when he criticized Pryor’s close relationship with the tobacco industry.

After Pryor was reelected as Alabama attorney general in 1998, he almost immediately began the investigation into Siegelman, which would eventually lead to the Democrat’s conviction and imprisonment nearly a decade later.

Pryor’s history and relationship with Canary and Rove should have been reason enough for the Alabama attorney general to recuse himself from the November 2002 election controversy. But Pryor refused. The following April he was nominated by George W. Bush to serve as a federal judge on the Eleventh Circuit Court. He was eventually installed by a recess appointment, overriding the objections of Senate Democrats.

It would take a Riley campaign attorney, longtime Alabama Republican Dana Jill Simpson, to finally blow the whistle on her party’s governor. In a 2007 affidavit and sworn testimony, Simpson stated unequivocally that dirty tricks had sealed her boss’s victory in the 2002 election, and she named Karl Rove and the U.S. Department of Justice as conspirators in the case.

Simpson had worked for the Riley campaign in 2002 as an opposition researcher, digging up dirt on then-Governor Siegelman. According to Simpson’s affidavit, Siegelman was pressured to concede the 2002 election because the Riley camp threatened to make public a set of photographs of a Siegelman supporter planting Riley campaign signs at a Ku Klux Klan rally. Simpson also stated that Canary had indicated that “Karl”—by which she had no doubt he meant Karl Rove—had taken a personal interest in the matter.

Simpson had been communicating with Siegelman’s attorneys before releasing her affidavit, and during that period her house was burned down and her car was run off the road.

Expanding on her original allegations, Simpson testified on September 14, 2007, before lawyers for the House Judiciary Committee and dropped a bombshell revelation. In this additional testimony, Simpson described a conference call among Bill Canary, Governor Riley’s son Rob and other Riley campaign aides, which she said took place on November 18, 2002, the same day Don Siegelman conceded the election. Simpson alleged that Canary had said that “Rove had spoken with the Department of Justice” about “pursuing” Siegelman and had also advised Riley’s staff “not to worry about Don Siegelman” because “his girls would take care of” the governor.

The “girls” allegedly referenced by Bill Canary were his wife, Leura Canary, who was appointed by George W. Bush in 2001 as U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, and Alice Martin, another 2001 Bush appointee as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. Simpson added that she was told by Rob Riley that Judge Mark Fuller was deliberately chosen when the Siegelman case was prosecuted in 2005 and that Fuller would “hang” Siegelman.

The Canary “Girls,” the Judge and the Jury: Siegelman case-watchers have alleged that the Canary “girls” would be instrumental in “taking care” of the governor by fixing the facts around his indictment. Yet it remains unclear what charges, if any, Siegelman was actually guilty of because the process had become so politicized and the case so aggressively partisan.

Leura Canary had begun working on Siegelman’s case almost as soon as she took office in 2001, when she federalized Attorney General Pryor’s ongoing state probe. It was that investigation that finally culminated in Siegelman’s prosecution on corruption charges in 2005-06, just as he was again running for governor.

In 2002, after having spent more than six months investigating Governor Siegelman, Leura Canary was forced to recuse herself—or at least give the appearance of doing so—over her husband’s connections to the Riley campaign. However, some believed that she in fact continued to guide the case behind the scenes.

In 2004, charges of Medicaid bid-rigging were brought against Siegelman by the second of Bill Canary’s “girls,” U.S. Attorney Alice Martin. These charges were eventually thrown out by a visibly exasperated Alabama judge.

After Siegelman indicated his intention to seek reelection in 2005, Canary’s original investigation resurfaced. Canary had never stopped pushing the investigation along, even against the advice of her professional staff. In October 2005, Don Siegelman was once again indicted by a federal grand jury in Canary’s district on 32 counts of bribery, conspiracy and mail fraud.

The Siegelman case was assigned to Judge Mark Fuller, a former district attorney whom George W. Bush had nominated for a federal judgeship in August 2002. Fuller was accused by his Siegelman-appointed successor in the district attorney’s office of falsifying payroll records with intent to defraud the Alabama retirement system, leading him to back Riley during that year’s election. This episode raises serious questions about Fuller’s refusal to recuse himself and helps explain Rob Riley’s alleged statement to Jill Simpson that Fuller would “hang” Siegelman.

Siegelman was accused of accepting a $500,000 donation from HealthSouth founder Richard M. Scrushy in exchange for an appointment to the Alabama hospital regulatory board. That donation went to pay off a debt incurred by a nonprofit foundation set up by Siegelman and others to promote an education lottery in a state referendum. However, Siegelman’s attorney argued that his client did not control the foundation incurring the debt, nor did he take money from or profit from the foundation.

The case dragged on until June 2006, shortly after Siegelman was defeated in a Democratic primary. A few weeks later he was acquitted of 25 of the 32 counts against him, but he was ultimately convicted of the others after the jury had deadlocked twice and been sent back to deliberate by Judge Fuller. During the trial itself there were many irregularities, including strong indications of jury-tampering involving two jurors.

When it finally came time for sentencing, Judge Fuller imposed a term of seven years, four months and would not allow Siegelman to remain free while his case was under appeal. Within hours, Siegelman had been transported to a federal penitentiary in Atlanta.

In the days immediately following Siegelman’s imprisonment, another set of strange occurrences further underscored the serious ethical and legal questions surrounding this case. First, his lawyer’s office was broken into, although the intruders took nothing of value and only appeared to have been looking for files. Then, ten days later, Siegelman was sent on an extended odyssey to prisons in Michigan, New York, Oklahoma and finally Louisiana, during which time his attorneys were led to believe that he had been moved to Texas.

It was this final series of moves that brought this case to public notice and raised the ire of 44 former state attorneys general, who penned a letter to Congress asking that the case be investigated.
Editor’s Note: As this issue went to press, U.S. Attorney Alice Martin ordered the arrest of Alabama state legislator Sue Schmitz, 63, who was ultimately hauled out of her shower by FBI agents, handcuffed and jailed on fraud charges. Schmitz, a critic of Governor Bill Riley, is a Democrat.

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Larisa Alexandrovna is managing editor of investigative news for The Raw Story and regularly reports on intelligence and national security stories. Muriel Kane is Raw Story’s research director. For more on the Don Siegelman case, see RawStory.com


CAN YOU ESCAPE FROM DEBT PRISON?

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

by Danny Schechter

Three out of five Americans are in debt.

Ever since I finished my documentary on the subject, In Debt We Trust, I keep encountering what are called “topper stories.” This is when someone listens to you, or sees the film, and responds with the phrase “If you think that’s bad, let me tell you about my brother, my son, my grandfather, etc.” Everyone in America has a debt story because we are all living, one way or another, on credit.

But the biggest topper story has come not from the masses, or the media, but from that holiest of American institutions, one that supposedly can do no wrong: the market. That’s right. The wise men of American finance, are—as I write—in a state of high panic because the housing bubble burst. Their “sub-prime” loans—offered to borrowers who didn’t qualify for the best, or “prime,” interest rates—fueled our economy and funded a crazed wave of acquisitions, mergers and buyouts. Now these loans have been shown not to be worth the paper they’re printed on. As a result, millions of American families face losing their homes—the greatest wave of foreclosures since the Great Depression.

British journalist William Bowles explains: “Ostensibly, the problem was caused by what are termed loans in the ‘sub-prime market.’” To you and me these are bad loans made to people, primarily for mortgages, which the rise in interest rates have made too expensive for the unfortunate house “owners” to pay back. These loans were made by commercial banks that are now saddled with losses totaling billions of dollars.

“So what’s going on here?” Bowles asks. “We’re told that left to itself, the ‘market evens things out,’ supply and demand, and all that garbage. So why are governments intervening? Aside from anything else, if governments don’t intervene, the entire order would collapse.”

In part this was the bubble that In Debt We Trust warns about. But when you are in a company raking in the dough from what proved to be fraudulent, even criminal practices, who has time for warnings or realistic assessments? One banker at Goldman Sachs, the go-go Wall Street firm, acknowledged that the banks should have known. Right.

Economist Max Wolff of the New School writes: “That is the heady road we traveled. It felt great to insiders speeding down the yield superhighway. That was until the sub-prime tire blew out. Forced to stop and unable to reinflate the tire with the usual hot air, folks began to look under the hood. That is where we are now. Peek under the hood and you see a lot of shiny, borrowed chrome, a debt-fueled engine and a lot of rot!”

This problem of “debt and rot” is huge, and its consequences are uncertain. Many of us are in so deep that it is hard to imagine ever getting out.

Loans ’R’ Us

Americans live on borrowed money. Our country owes nearly $10 trillion. Another $7 trillion is tied up in mortgages. And then there are credit cards. When we’re not being bombarded with solicitations at home, we are charging up a storm of debt at rates of interest once considered usurious. Along with that come the inescapable late fees that run into billions. And our national savings rate is below zero. The last time that happened was during the Depression.

In a September 2006 report the Government Accountability Office warned that the situation is getting worse, much worse. No one listened to them either.

Check this out: “Over the past 25 years, the prevalence and use of credit cards in the United States has grown dramatically,” the GAO noted. “Between 1980 and 2005 the amount that U.S. consumers charged to their cards grew from an estimated $69 billion per year to more than $1.8 trillion, according to one firm that analyzes the card industry.”

The increased use of credit cards has contributed to an expansion in household debt, which grew from $59 billion in 1980 to roughly $830 billion by the end of 2005.

Okay, I hear you saying, “Stop already with the numbers. I can barely understand my own financial plight, so how can I wrap my brain around so many zeroes?”

If you resonate with that sentiment, you are not alone. With its small print and convoluted legalistic language, reading a credit card agreement is virtually impossible. More importantly, the credit card companies can unilaterally change the terms of the deal EVEN AFTER YOU SIGN IT. Sometimes, when you are late on one account, all of your other cards’ interest rates go up through a nifty little arrangement called “universal default.” That’s because we are all wired together. The supercomputers at the credit-score bureaus have more information on us than the CIA.

Our government knows this too. That GAO report also explained: “As credit card use and debt have grown, representatives of consumer groups and issuers [the entity, such as a bank, that issues the card] have questioned the extent to which consumers understand their credit card terms and conditions, including issuers’ practices that—even if permitted under applicable terms and conditions—could increase consumers’ costs of using credit cards. These practices include the application of fees or relatively high penalty interest rates if cardholders pay late or exceed credit limits.”

These rules guarantee that the credit card business is superprofitable. The companies get away with this by using high-powered lobbyists to deregulate the industry and through political donations that ensure the election of politicians who will do their bidding. Taken together, these practices—and there are many more even shadier ones—are set up to transfer money from your pocket to their vaults.

In other words, the biggest bank robbery in America is now being carried out by the banks themselves and the financial sector with the complicity of Congress, politicians and a compliant media that likes to cover stories on identity fraud of individuals but not of grand thefts by institutions.

As a filmmaker and investigative journalist, I know that the popular way to tell this story is by profiling victims. We have all seen those tear-jerking stories that make “good TV.” Many people don’t want to appear on these reports because they make them look stupid—as if getting in over your head is always your fault. ABC’s John Stossel did a whole 20/20 show blaming debtors for their predicament.

Of course, it’s often impossible to live in America without credit and credit cards. Debt is our viable currency. Sometimes getting behind or overspending is the borrower’s fault. In a country fueled by consumption, everyone wants the latest of everything. And that costs money. When you don’t have it, charge it. How simple: They lend you the money up front to buy what you want—until the bills come due.

As a result, we have become a nation of scammers—scammers in suits on the lending side and scammers at home, as borrowers scramble for the best deals, moving money onto zero-percent cards or looking for cheap mortgages that often quickly become unaffordable.

I wanted my film to go beyond the obvious stories of pain and distress as it looked into what is behind all of this, to analyze the special interests that have restructured our economy over the years from one based on production—with the factory as its icon—into a consumption-based system with the shopping mall as its epicenter.

As I pursued that approach, I learned about a process called “financialization,” which means rule by financial institutions, leading to the growth of a credit-and-loan complex every bit as powerful as the better-known military-industrial complex. In short, Americans’ astronomical indebtedness didn’t just happen. It was planned and organized with dynamics that are not very well understood by the public at large. It reflects the growing power of the private sector, the increasing power of corporations and the market system as Wall Street became far mightier than Main Street in this age of acquisitions, mergers and Big Business consolidation.

Consider various aspects of the debt trap: students leaving college $40,000 in debt; sleazy practices by credit companies; passage of a new bankruptcy “reform” bill that makes it hard for individuals to get a second chance but does not limit business reorganizations; the steady rise in interest costs; the spread of predatory practices so that low-income people, including many military personnel, become dependent on payday lenders, tax refund joints and rent-to-own stores. Those who can least afford it end up paying more for everything while living on the edge as the inequality grows and the middle class shrinks.

Is it any surprise that this story is not being told by our media? The credit card companies alone spend over $2 billion in marketing and advertising. No wonder documentaries like mine have a hard time being seen. The entertainment business is itself dependent on loans, and even big film festivals—like New York City’s Tribeca—are totally dependent on American Express.

We need to educate the public about the deeper forces at work and the need for structural changes in our economy, urgent political reforms and new consumer protections. We need to stop restating problems and start exploring solutions, including debt relief.

In the new social conflict between lenders and creditors, financial institutions function as well-organized collection machines while individual borrowers are forced to react as individuals. Many are browbeaten with lectures about “personal responsibility” by corporations that only pay lip service to any form of social responsibility while compensating their own executives with obscenely high salaries and bonuses.

Robert Manning, author of Credit Card Nation, explains: “If ten percent of American credit cardholders withheld their monthly payments, it would bring the financial services industry to a standstill. … At a larger issue, what we have to do is to get people involved at the state level, get their state attorneys general involved, aggressively filing class action lawsuits and then putting pressure on key legislators to say, ‘This is unacceptable that they’re not representing and balancing the issues of commerce with consumers. The balance is tilted dramatically against the average American.’”

To find out more about what you can do, visit StopTheSqueeze.org. The fight for debt relief won’t be easy, but unless we try, we’re going to end up like modern serfs paying bills that never go away. The housing bubble has already burst; the credit bubble may be next.

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News Dissector Danny Schechter wrote, produced and directed In Debt We Trust  (InDebtWeTrust.com). He is also the editor of MediaChannel.org and executive producer of the independent film company Globalvision. Schechter can be contacted at Dissector@MediaChannel.org.


WHAT THE FUCK IS ANN COULTER?!

Monday, October 27th, 2008
Ann Coulter

Ann Coulter

Ted Newsom looks at our “favorite” neocon from a medical vantage point. 

Okay, motormouth pinup girl for the forces of evil? Sure. Braying, soulless ice queen? Yes, yes. Devious toady for the repressive Right? Yeah, we can agree on that too. But is this lanky creature a woman? A man? A transvestite, a transsexual, an odd variation thereof, or is the high-profile blonde what old-time carnival barkers called freaks like Zip the Pinhead: “Whatzis”?

Many opponents place the commentator’s sexuality at the mutant end of the spectrum. Before we toss these insults into the wastebasket, remember that sexual definition is a bell curve, with extreme male and female examples on either end…and a lot of combinations in between. The dictionary defines hermaphrodite as a being—animal or human—with the genitalia of both genders.

Putting aside for a moment whether or not Ann Coulter can be classified as a “human being,” many observers wonder if her chromosomes are arranged in the right order. That would make her more guy than girl—intersexed, to be precise, the new catchall term for unfortunates with scrambled sex genes.

Another strange hormone malfunction is Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS). To put it simply, people with this screwed-up chromosome combination look like women, but on their basic, chemical level are men, with the XY chromosome rather than XX, like 100% of women. Let’s go through the medical diagnosis and see if Ann Coulter looks like a good candidate.

AIS sufferers typically have a female appearance and genitalia. They are usually, notes a medical report on the condition, “larger in all body measurements, although with a tendency to a slim body.” Another report cites “slight masculinization of the skeleton, with proportionally longer legs and arms, and larger hands and feet than the average XX woman.”

Standing around six feet tall, Coulter is as skinny as Karen Carpenter after an Auschwitz vacation, with spidery hands that could spread across five octaves of a piano. It sounds like we’re on a roll.

One study reported that AIS women were often found “in occupations that pay high salaries for attractive female appearance such as modeling, acting or prostitution.” Looks like another hit: Coulter whores out to the tune of $25,000 per appearance to vomit her chunky-style invective.

Although AIS women have a vagina, they’re missing ovaries, a cervix and a uterus; the standard female innards just aren’t there. Instead of ovaries, the AIS person has undescended or partly descended testicles. Translation: They literally have balls.

Of course, it’s not as if the lack of a womb makes a woman useless. The “drawbacks” of AIS sometimes turn out to be benefits. California ob/gyn Vikki Huffnagel studied the history of the condition, stating, “In the old West, women with AIS were reportedly popular among the ranks of prostitutes. … They were tall, lean…and couldn’t get pregnant.” So, because of the hormone imbalance, AIS victims were as barren as burros, but well suited for screwing dusty saddle tramps upstairs in a frontier saloon.

Coulter gives various conflicting birth dates, but she’s definitely fortyish, has never been married and has never had children. This is looking solid.

Then there’s that pesky Adam’s apple. Okay, any emaciated wretch has sharp corners in places most women have curves, and  it could be that the frog-sized lump in Coulter’s throat might well disappear if the annoying neocon actually ate more than twice a week without throwing it all up.

In any event, the presence of an Adam’s apple on a woman is usually a clue to what lies below. If you’ve ever been bar-crawling, had too many drinks and reached down to get an unwanted surprise, you know what I mean. There is another, more radical school of thought: Ann Coulter may indeed have a cock.

The rare photos of the blabbermouth in slacks often reveal a suspicious bulge, and it ain’t your mother’s cameltoe.

A true hermaphrodite has a penis and a vagina, although neither tend to be fully developed. In adults, the vestigial dick might pass for a really engorged clit if you don’t look too closely. But intersexuals usually have their life-role decided by the doctors who get a gander at their 50/50 genitalia. A quick surgical procedure and presto! Denise becomes Dennis for the rest of his/her life, or Charlie becomes Charlene.

The problem is that sexuality is not determined by plumbing, but by hormones. It’s hormones that cause individuals to feel and think like men, or like women or something in between. That men and women think differently is a biochemical fact. For example, the male hormone testosterone is linked with aggressive behavior. Even if a well-meaning surgeon goes along with Mom and Dad’s decision to snip the extra mini-dick off an intersexed baby, and even if the parents raise the “girl” with pink chiffon, Barbie dolls and cookie-baking, the child’s chemistry will inevitably scream, “Hey, folks, I’m a boy!”

All this can lead to gender identity confusion: You don’t know what you are, so you’re pissed at the world. Quoting colleagues of his, George A. Reekers, Ph.D. (a professor of neuropsychiatry and behavioral science at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine and an expert on sex behavior patterns) describes a gender-puzzled child as “belligerent…uncontrolled and simultaneously lacking gentle and socially sensitive behaviors.” He also uses the term hypermasculine—a cartoon version of being male. Sounds a lot like our grown-up Annie.

Sure, Dr. Reekers is a Christian academic with right-wing tendencies, but that doesn’t make him a quack. He’s authored nine books and more than 120 articles on sexually confused kids. The doctor from Coulter’s own ideological camp further explains, “In pathological cases…[these] children deviate from the normal pattern of exploring masculine and feminine behaviors and develop an inflexible, compulsive, persistent and rigidly stereotyped pattern.” Inflexible? Compulsive and persistent? Rigidly stereotyped? Annie? Hello? Are you listening?

Another study of intersexed women focused on a predisposition to sexual dysfunction—the inability to have good sex because of their “shorter-than-average vaginas, an inability to respond to androgens, and anxieties or concerns about their condition, which could impact on self-esteem, body image, sensuality and sexual function.” To put it bluntly, intersexed women—prone to “difficulty with vaginal penetration, [sexual] infrequency and non-communication”—simply can’t handle getting laid.

If it’s true that Ann Coulter is an intersexual, it would almost be sad. The solution to the right-winger’s self-loathing anger is a good fuck, and she just can’t get it.


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