Friday, December 29, 2006


Suzanne Goldenberg reports in the Guardian that government and agribusiness in the US are preparing a special pot luck for Americans. Consumables made from cloned animals will be filtering into the national diet.
"The FDA plans to hold public consultations until April. But cloned meat and milk could be on dinner tables by the end of 2007, without most Americans even noticing. Mr Sundlof said the FDA was unlikely to require labels telling consumers they were eating the products of clones."

"The high cost of raising clones makes it unlikely that any will be introduced directly into the food supply, except the occasional dairy cow past the age of producing milk. The number of cloned cows, pigs and goats in the US is believed to be in the low hundreds."

"But even with the FDA's all-clear, there remains considerable unease about the use of clones in agriculture. A poll by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology this year found 64% of Americans uncomfortable with the idea of eating food from clones."
It would hardly whet the appetite of the average citizen to learn that cloned animals are often born arthritic and come into the world "with more deformities and other complications" than standard livestock.

Does that just make your mouth water, or what?

What if they gave a barbecue and nobody came? But you see, that's where the genius of not telling anyone what's inside a package comes in. Who wants to think about eating an arthritic pig that may have been born with two heads or an extra set of hooves? Not me. Most likely it was a marketing expert who pointed out the bright side of those discomfort statistics among Americans. Turn that percentage around and it means that 36% of Americans don't give a damn if they eat food from clones or not.

Can't you just imagine the sales pitch? Eating normal meat is no different than identifying with a brand; and the 64% who might be uncomfortable with the idea of clone flesh,--what of them? Nature and natural are quaint concepts and reproduction is overrated. Just dish up the stew and resist any compulsion to tell the poor maroon what he's just swallowed. A replica can be delicious, after all.

It's the kind of farce you've grown accustomed to in commercials. The smiling host finally tells his beaming dinner guest, "You've been eating clone all along."

Monday, December 25, 2006



by Sheenagh Pugh

Sometimes things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man; decide they care
enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen; may it happen for you.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Well, the "Decider" has decided on his "New Iraq Policy." Our President once again has heard the voice of the People. He has gone to the mountain and counseled with the "wise men." And the decision is (drum roll!): NO DECISION!

That's right, you heard it right here. He has spoken with One Voice. And that voice is dead silent!

Well, it's understandable. After all, Congress is adjourned, Christmas is around the corner. Everybody's just too dad-burn busy to worry about all that carnage, blood being spilt in the streets of Iraq. Really, there's just so much to do to get ready! Gifts to buy, beeves to slaughter, mountains of food to prepare, so much abundance to accumulate before Santa arrives. Has the President even had a chance to decorate his tree in Crawford? I doubt it. Just think of the hours he's put in worrying over his New Iraq Policy! I can't even imagine the nights he's spent walking the floor of the West Wing without a lick of sleep. It's too much to expect of our leader at this festive time of the year. Well, at least His Honor's children won't be special delivered to the Crawford ranchette in body bags over the holidays.

So, he thought it best to wait till the new year before making any big decisions. That's reasonable, isn't it? It's called being "prudent." After all, anybody can get into a war. That decision, as almost any of our Congressmen can tell you, requires only a minimum of thought and debate. Actually, the less thought and debate, the better. No messy "Study Groups" required for that! But getting out of the war--now, that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish. We just might require more than one measly "Study Group" to figure this out. I mean, we have to look at the "reality on the ground," don't we? Remember that? Remember "the reality on the ground?" Well, I don't know about you, but I have fond memories of "the reality on the ground."

There's just all kinds of complexities involved, here. Layers of issues and. . .and bodies, and buckets of blood, and. . .torture, and rape and pillage, and what have you. And, by the way, what kind of a send-off can we expect from the Iraqi people once our troops are on their way out of town? Hm? Has anyone given any thought to that? Will it be a cheerful send-off? Will the grateful newly democratized citizens stand and wave and cheer along the parade route? Will they throw flowers and garlands at our victorious army as it passes in review? Will their women dish out kisses to our boys as those saucy French girls once did when we liberated France? Will it be a good photo-op for the embedded press?

And here's a question. How do you calculate the proper ratio of blood spilt to the price of gas at the pump? And who makes that decision, for crying out loud? Do we just leave it up to the CEO of Exxon-Mobil to figure out? How much is he making, anyway? What's his name? Rex. Rex Tillerson. Let's see. Well, ol' Rex is up for a 2.8 million dollar bonus for 2006. And he's getting a 17% pay hike for 2007--that will raise him to 1.75 million bucks. Hm. I'm just not sure he's the right one to decide this issue. You think self-interest might be a problem, here? I just don't know.

Well, maybe we let the Decider handle that one, too. Gee, that's a lot of decisions we've handed him lately, isn't it? Frankly, I'm a little concerned for his well-being. How many things can one guy decide on before he finally crumbles under the weight of all those decisions? Decisions like whose phones to tap and whose emails to read. Oh, but he's already made that one kind of easy, hasn't he? Just tap and read them all. Yeah, way ahead of us, there. But what about who to lock up and who to torture? Oh, that's right, he made that one easy, too. Just arrest and torture anybody that looks out of place. Habeas Corpus is finito, so that's not a problem. But what about all those decisions about which laws to obey and which ones to break? That's a lot a lot of balls to juggle, isn't it? Well, no, I guess not. He just decides in the moment, doesn't he? And nobody objects anyway, so. . . .

But still, pulling out of a war, that's a lot more complicated, I believe. I'm thinking we might need two or three Study Groups to handle this problem. Or maybe a dozen or so. And surely, we oughta get the Think Tanks involved. Let's face it, it could take years to arrive at the proper decision on Iraq.

What do we do? Stay? Or go home? It's just so complicated.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


"Operating invisibly under the radar of media and public scrutiny, lobby groups and foreign agents have become the 'epicenter' of our government, where former statesmen and 'dime a dozen generals' cash in on their connections and peddle their enormous influence to the highest bidders turned clients. These groups' activities shape our nation's policies and determine the direction of its taxpayer driven wealth, while to them the interests of the majority are considered irrelevant, and the security of the nation is perceived as inconsequential."
The National Security Whistleblowers Association has recently published an article by Sibel Edmonds, entitled The Highjacking of a Nation, Part I and Part II, in which Edmonds asks Americans to consider exactly which factions or people are really governing them.

Edmonds first came to the US in 1988 from Turkey, as a student. She had intended to get an education here and return home; but she later married an American and opted to settle in this country and become a citizen. She spoke Turkish, and picked up Farsi, after spending some time as a girl in Iran, and was also fluent in Azerbaijani, a language her father spoke. And she had also mastered English, and has since that time, developed a remarkable talent as a writer in this language.

The academic achievements of Sibel Edmonds are considerable. From George Washington University she holds a BA in in Criminal Justice and Psychology, and from George Mason University, a MA in Public Policy and International Commerce.

In the Fall of 2001, after 9/11, she started to work in a sensitive intelligence department, for the FBI. The Agency desperately needed the highest quality of Turkish translation; and Edmonds was placed in a department which was monitoring subjects who were under suspicion in ongoing international criminal investigations.

Because of Edmonds' brilliance as a linguist, she was placed in the higher rank of a two-tier system that the FBI used for translations. The translation level below hers was meant for screening wiretaps and other monitored communication. If the screener found something of interest to the investigation, it would go to the higher ranked translator, for more detailed inspection. But Sibel Edmonds became aware that the FBI security was being breached, and that her assigned "screener" (a woman of Turkish extraction) was systematically obstructing evidence of wrongdoing on behalf of a person under investigation, and was not passing the intercepts up to Edmonds.

There had been an unnerving incident which triggered her suspicions. Jan Dickerson, the screener in question, and her husband, a Naval officer, had approached Edmonds and her husband socially. They suggested that the Edmonds couple join up with an organization to which the Dickersons belonged. Sibel Edmonds was paralyzed with anxiety at that moment, when she realized that she would ultimately be offered advantages of money, travel, and other opportunities, in exchange for becoming an intelligence asset for that "semi-legit organization".

In 2002, roughly a year after she hired on with the FBI, Sibel Edmonds was terminated, manhandled, and physically thrown out of the building where she worked. She had blown the whistle inside the Agency, and reported a breach of security which compromised the FBI, and exposed it to penetration by the very outfits and people it was investigating. The State Department was worried that the ensuing incident would adversely affect our diplomatic relations with a certain friendly country. John Ashcroft would eventually declare that everything about the Sibel Edmonds case was a state secret. When Edmonds took her concerns to Congress and testified behind closed doors, the blanket of secrecy was extended by Ashcroft, to cover information which was revealed in the hearings. Congress itself was gagged by a "retroactive classification" of Edmonds' testimony.
"I won't go into the details and history of my own case, where the government invoked the state secrets privilege to gag my case and the congress to 'protect certain sensitive diplomatic relations.' The country, the foreign influence, in this case was the Republic of Turkey. The U.S. government did so despite the far reaching consequences of burying the facts involved, and disregarded the interests and security of the nation; all to protect a quasi ally engaged in numerous illegitimate activities within the global terrorist networks, nuclear black-market and narcotics activities; an ally who happens to be another compulsive and loyal buyer of the Military Industrial Complex; an ally who happens to be another savvy player in recruiting top U.S. players as its foreign agents and spending millions of dollars per year to the lobbying groups headed by many 'formers.' Turkey's agent list includes generals such as Joseph Ralston and Brent Scowcroft, former statesmen such as William Cohen and Marc Grossman, and of course famous ex-congressmen such as Bob Livingston and Stephen Solarz."
What factions and interests actually govern America? It would seem that Sibel Edmonds' most startling conclusion, is that the US Military Industrial Complex has become a de facto foreign agent, because of the principle of "mutual benefit". President Eisenhower once warned us about the encroachment of the MIC into government. There is the profit-making of K-Street lobbyists representing foreign countries, added to the gains gotten by the US Weapons Industry, which are passed along to an elite, made up of former statesmen and the "dime a dozen generals". International criminal organizations that hide behind expensive business suits and government-funded corporate fronts have been facilitating this process. We are held hostage in a way by black-market crime; and at the same time the business interests that thrive on this trade in "friendly countries" see to it that their governments purchase US weapons systems.
"We know that Al Queda and Taliban's main source of funding is the illegal sale of narcotics. Based on all the reports, facts, and expert statements, we know that Turkey is a major, if not the top, player in the transportation, processing, and distribution of all the narcotics derived from the Afghan poppies, and as a result, it is the major contributing country to Al Queda. Yet, to date, more than five years into our over exhaustive 'war on terror propaganda', have we heard any mentioning of, any tough message to, any sanction against, or any threat that was issued or targeted at Turkey?"

"For years and years, information and evidence being collected by the counterintelligence operations of certain U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies has been prevented from being transferred to criminal and narcotics divisions, and from being shared with the Drug Enforcement Agency and others with prosecutorial power. Those with direct knowledge have been prevented from making this information available and public by various gag orders and invocation of State Secrets Privilege. Why?"

"When it comes to criminal and shady global networks most people envision either Mafiosi like entities who keep to themselves and are separated from society, or, street level gangster-like criminals. Contrary to these expectations, the top tier Turkish criminal networks consist mainly of respectable looking businessmen, some of whom are among the top international businessmen, diplomats, politicians, and scholarly individuals. Their U.S. counterparts are equally respected and recognizable; some of whom are high-level appointed bureaucrats within the State Department and the Pentagon; some are elected officials, and others consist of the combination of the two who have now set up their own companies and lobbying groups."

Friday, December 08, 2006


Methinks the "Iraq Study Group" is doing some real close "study" on this here Iraq situation. Methinks they're going to study quitting this war a whole lot longer and harder than was ever devoted to getting it started in the first place. Ain't it funny--NOW they're worried about the consequences!

But five'll get you ten, what they're really "studyin'" is: "How can we figure out a way to STAY as long as possible before Iraq and maybe the entire Middle East implodes?" Don't forget--there's still the little problem we went over there for in the first place. No, not to get the weapons of mass destruction--there weren't any--nor to get Saddam, whom we never cared a fig about, and certainly not to miraculously transform the country into a shining Jeffersonian democracy, where all the warring factions suddenly fall swooning into each others' arms and go all ga-ga for each other. No, I'm referring to the actual and true problem--getting "our oil" out from under their sand.

As long as we remain committed to a gasaholic way of life, keeping our heads buried where the sun doesn't shine over the issue of global warming, then methinks we never will leave Iraq. Sure, we may start drawing down some of our troops--that ought to placate our easily placated Democrats for awhile; and Lord knows, we may need to redeploy some of those troops when we start our next war (with Iran). But, rest assured, the bases--those multi-billion dollar mammoth fortress islands in the midst of the country--will stay, to keep a close watch on our interests.

Perhaps, just to keep up appearances, we'll stage a mock election, not unlike the one we staged right here at home in 2004, using the same rigged Diebold machines; and we'll install someone who will turn out to be quite sympathetic with our American corporations, like WalMart, McDonald's and especially Exxon-Mobil. Among the warring tribes, the ones that agree to go along with this program will get along just fine; the ones that don't--well, we'll just kill them off.

In short, everyone will get what they want. The big boys, the oil companies, and their bagmen (the lobbyists), and members of Congress who work for them, will keep right on making regular trips to the bank. And the arms makers and dealers will continue to fill their already engorged coffers with bootle--the blueprints for a whole new line of nukes is already on the table. And the American people will get to have the illusion that the war is "over," even though what's really on the agenda is perpetual war with more make-believe enemies, and with the ever-increasing number of real ones we've generated from the present war. Hell, perhaps even the Christian evangelicals will be happy again.

Well, nobody loves delusions and make-believe better than Americans.

Friday, November 24, 2006


Just when you think we've gone about as far into the heart of darkness as we can go, somebody manages to find an even darker place. That somebody is General William Caldwell, the chief spokesperson in Iraq. Speaking in Baghdad recently, he compared the ongoing war there to a work of art. He said: “Every great work of art goes through messy phases while it is in transition. A lump of clay can become a sculpture. Blobs of paint become paintings which inspire."

Hm. I'm trying to imagine the response to that bizarre statement by the likes of Vincent Van Gogh, or Claude Monet or Pablo Picasso. I actually know quite a few artists. I'm fairly certain none of them have ever killed anyone in order to complete a painting or a sculpture. I don't recall them dropping bombs on cities or burning people alive with white phosphorous. I never heard of them going into private homes and killing all the family members, while in the act of putting the finishing touches on a canvas or a portrait in clay.

I never knew them to torture anyone, or to leave thousands of unspent cluster bombs lying around in Lebanon or Iraq, waiting to be stepped on by a soldier or a civilian, or most likely picked up by a small child, then watching that child lose an arm or seeing her face blown off.

When we reach the point where we are comparing the "messiness" of war to the creating of works of art, surely we have descended into the depths of the unholy and the monstrous. But if bodies are lumps of clay and paint is blood then I suppose what we are doing in Iraq and what Israel recently orchestrated in Lebanon might constitute a macabre renaissance of "art."

Perhaps we should get busy and build some nice museums to house our rarefied new "works." But we already have them, don't we? They're called "mortuaries."

Here's how the British journalist Robert Fisk described the mortuary in Hilla, Iraq, after the American massacre there in 2003. He called it “a butcher's shop of chopped-up corpses.” The victims were farmers, women and children. We killed around 61, and left more than 450 seriously injured.

Film footage at Hilla the next day, the first shot by Western news agencies of what was then happening on the Iraqi front lines, showed babies cut in half, scattered limbs, kids with deep cuts in their faces caused by American shellfire and cluster bombs. In fact, most of the casualties were children. Remember, the majority of Iraq's 24-million people are children.

I wonder how these wounded would feel about being described as potential works of art.

And what about the four to six-thousand Iraqi civilians killed during the November, 2004 U.S. assault on Fallujah? How many Americans even remember Fallujah, let alone care what happened there? Or how about the twenty civilians recently gunned down in Haditha by U.S. Marines? Haditha is now touted as Iraq's "My Lai", even though there are "My Lais" happening in Iraq every day, most of which go unreported in the Western press. Yes, it would appear that we are rather messy artists.

If only we could talk to the young Iraqi girl, Abeer Hamza, fourteen-years-old, citizen of Mahmoudiya, raped, murdered and set on fire in her home by five U.S. Marines. If we could talk to her five-year-old sister, Hadeel, or her mother, Fakhriya, or her father, Qassim, but alas, they, too, were shot dead by those marines.

But if we could talk to them and all the other casualties, the wounded mothers, fathers, children, the dead buried in the rubble of Baghdad and Fallujah, I wonder if it would ease their minds at all to know that they and their families were part of some grand "work in progress" of our American "artists of war"?

And what about our own wounded and dead soldiers, returning day after day to the arms of their mothers and fathers after being thrown into harm's way by the lies of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and Powell, the architects of war?

Perhaps it would comfort them to know that it was all for the sake of art.

--Published in The Lone Star Iconoclast.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

lawrence ferlinghetti HISTORY OF THE AIRPLANE

And the Wright brothers said they thought they had invented
something that could make peace on earth when their wonderful
flying machine took off at Kitty Hawk into the kingdom of birds
but the parliament of birds was freaked out by this man-made bird
and fled to heaven

And then the famous Spirit of Saint Louis took off eastward and
flew across the Big Pond with Lindy at the controls in his leather
helmet and goggles hoping to sight the doves of peace but he did not
even though he circled Versailles

And then the famous Flying Clipper took off in the opposite
direction and flew across the terrific Pacific but the pacific doves
were frighted by this strange amphibious bird and hid in the orient sky

And then the famous Flying Fortress took off bristling with guns
and testosterone to make the world safe for peace and capitalism
but the birds of peace were nowhere to be found before or after Hiroshima

And so then clever men built bigger and faster flying machines and
these great man-made birds with jet plumage flew higher than any
real birds and seemed about to fly into the sun and melt their wings
and like Icarus crash to earth

And the Wright brothers were long forgotten in the high-flying
bombers that now began to visit their blessings on various Third
Worlds all the while claiming they were searching for doves of

And they kept flying and flying until they flew right into the 21st
century and then one fine day a Third World struck back and
stormed the great planes and flew them straight into the beating
heart of Skyscraper America where there were no aviaries and no
parliaments of doves and in a blinding flash America became a part
of the scorched earth of the world

And a wind of ashes blows across the land
And for one long moment in eternity
There is chaos and despair

And buried loves and voices
Cries and whispers
Fill the air

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Look, don't get me wrong. I'm as happy as a pig in shit. It was so pretty to watch Bush fire Donald Rumsfeld the morning after the election, even if he did go right out and replace him with yet another rat. But it was downright refreshing to see him stand there minus the jutting jaw, the swagger, the smirking laugh. Nice to finally see him eat a little crow, to watch his lips draw up, almost as if he'd been forced to wolf down a handful of maggots, like a contestant on Fear Factor.

But the fact is the Dems were handed a gift they did not particularly earn. For the most part, they either sat on their hands and watched or actively assisted and supported Bush in achieving everything he's wanted, from the war in Iraq to the Patriot Act, to warrantless wiretapping, to torture, to throwing out the rule of habeas corpus, even right up to the brink of an invasion of Iran.

They have provided little or no resistance to outright violations of the law, the Geneva Conventions, and the Constitution itself. There are "My Lais" happening in Iraq every day, and we have yet to hear so much as a complaint from them about that, other than to say we should withdraw our troops at some future point. But for the most part, these Dems that we're all crowing about looked the other way while Bush and every member of his team were lying day after day to get us into this war.

For at least six years, the picture that emerges of the Democratic Party has been that of the three monkeys with hands covering their eyes, ears and mouths. Especially their mouths, for even if they were in the minority and therefore powerless to do very much, they certainly could have been speaking out at every opportunity against the excrutiating and wanton excesses of this president, when so often, all we heard out of them was a stark and ghastly silence.

So, at the risk of sounding like a killjoy, there simply has been far too little in the Democrat's behavior up to now that ought to incline us to bet on them to move the country in a real progressive direction. Merely because there are suddenly more of them on the scene doesn't mean their collective spine has grown more vertebrae, or that they are any less apt to be bought off than those that were bought before.

In this euphoric moment, let's remember: Nixon was shown the door for far less crimes than those of Bush and Cheney. Yet, our "feisty" new Democrats have already declared impeachment "off the table." Perhaps a fairly good hint of what lies in store.

I suggest we will have to push these feisty fellows like an old car with a bad starter. Yes, it's nice to be able to clap ourselves on the back and rejoice in this new day. But make no mistake--our real work has just begun.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


American voters have elected a Democratic majority in Congress; and with the help of political activists, bloggers and investigative journalists, progressive organizations, democratic candidates and their staffs, volunteers and donors, this majority has made a moment of renewed promise and accountability possible. Unchecked presidential and executive power has been repudiated by this election. And the republicans' cynical use of bigotry has backfired this time.

We celebrate this political change. We honor those who have spoken out, those who have taken risks, those who have given so much of themselves, who have overshadowed the rest of us, with their sacrifices and moral intensity. We give thanks to them all today.

Americans now have some real expectation that the political extremism of the past 6 years can be addressed. Democrats believe it is time to find a way for our beleaguered soldiers to return home from Iraq. It is time for the Occupation of Iraq to end. From now on, Americans will insist that our domestic tranquility must rest on our tradition of liberties and political checks and balances.

We can again recognize what we most admire in our country. It feels as if we have a new lease on life in this election. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people, still beckons to us. On such a day we can still imagine the illuminating dreams of our country's founders.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


The imperial project is something that most Americans have not taken time to think about; they don't see the nation through that kind of lens. The moral issue of spilling blood to acquire oil--that is to say--the question of empire, has been covered up, under this republican administration. However, Americans have figured out that Iraq is a quagmire; and only Senator McCain (a republican) has endorsed the crackpot idea of sending more US troops into "the valley of death".

No good, present or prospective, can be had by voting republican. If there are places on the ballot where democrats are not enrolled, it is better to vote Green or Libertarian. At this crucial point in our political history, voting republican will push us farther along-- with the party's corporate handshake-- toward fascism.

At this point Americans must vote for the Democrats, to have any hope of bringing US troops home and ending the Occupation of Iraq. I am also reminded that due process of law, habeas corpus, standards of civil rights and basic human rights, are under assault by a republican administration and its rubber-stamping republican Congress.

This is not a political decision to screw around with. I hope to God that the majority of my fellow Americans vote for democrats today. Every day we spend living under this dark, republican cloud, is a day that brings us closer to living in a police state. For instance, there are now proposed "clearance documents" to be issued by Homeland Security, which would present an impassable barrier to some American citizens seeking to re-enter their country, and likewise would block others who might hope to leave. Politically motivated restrictions on travel are in the works.

A perpetual, one-party state, will be the end of our Republic; and those pundits who argue that there is no difference between the major political parties, do not take into account profound cultural struggles which are in play, and only focus on the over-reaching power of our corporations.

Political culture matters. This is the difference between a legitimate electoral process and computer gaming, between free speech and sedition, between closed borders and open ones, between viable legal protections and tyranny.

Please safeguard the liberties we grew up with. Vote for Democrats.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Well, I received a response to my letter below which I wrote to the Smithfield, NC Mayor and City Council members, asking for their response to the CIA torture flights that have been leaving from the Smithfield airport. One lone city council member, Thomas Bell, responded to my inquiry.

And I sent him a reply to his response. Here is his email to me and my email reply. I think we call this "internet activism."
From: Thomas Bell, Smithfield City Council member.
Dear Mr. Harper:

Thank you for your note.

Do you have any evidence to support the allegation that there are laws being broken by Aero Contractors?


* * *

Dear Mr. Bell,

I appreciate your response, the only one I've received from anyone in the Smithfield city government.

The internet is lit up with stories datelined, "Smithfield, NC." According to the Smithfield Herald, twelve members of the North Carolina House of Representatives (none from Johnston Country*) claim that Aero Contractors, under the direction of the CIA, "has flown persons detained in various countries and the U.S., to other countries," where the suspects were "held incommunicado and tortured, using methods that would have been illegal in the U.S."

In an interview on Sept 6, Bush acknowledged the existence of the program.

Trevor Paglen, an expert in clandestine military installations and A.C. Thompson, an award-winning journalist for S.F. Weekly, have spent months tracking CIA flights and the businesses behind them, and have written about it in their book, Torture Taxi: On the Trail Of The CIA's Rendition Flights. They cite Smithfield specifically and nearby Kinston, as two of the towns that host CIA planes and pilots.

According to Paglen and Thompson, plane spotters have been able to connect the dots of planes departing from airfields at certain times in the U.S. to their arrivals at Guantanimo and other CIA sites, and to some of the victims of torture who were on those flights.

On May 31st, the story was covered in detail in The New York Times, by Scott Shane, Stephen Grey and Margot Williams.

According to their story, Aero Contractors is, in fact, a major domestic hub of the Central Intelligence Agency's secret air service. The company was founded in 1979 by a legendary CIA officer and chief pilot for Air America, the agency's Vietnam-era air company, and it appears to be controlled by the agency, according to former employees."

Of course, the CIA has declined to comment on any of these stories. But records filed with the Federal Aviation Administration provide a detailed, if incomplete, portrait of the CIA's aviation wing. The NY Times says the fleet includes a WWII era DC-3 and a sleek Gulfstream V executive jet, as well as "workhorse Hercules transport planes and Spanish-built aircraft that can drop into tight airstrips. The flagship is the Boeing Business Jet, based on the 737 model, which Aero flies from Kinston, N.C., because the runway at Johnston County is too short for it."

"But the facility that turns up most often in records of the 26 planes is little Johnston County Airport, which mainly serves private pilots and a few local corporations."

You ask if I have any direct evidence that the allegation is true, and, of course, you know that I do not. But if it "looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck. . . ."

Given the overwhelming circumstantial evidence that you can read yourself in greater detail than I have room to document in an email, the question is whether you have any real curiosity or interest in getting at the truth? And should you find the truth to substantiate the allegation, what would be your next move?

Best regards, and, Happy Halloween!

Grayson Harper

*Smithfield is in Johnston County.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


How does it go? “Land of the free, home of the brave.”

It's no secret by now that the CIA has been flying people out of nice little American towns like Smithfield, North Carolina, to be tortured in other countries.

Here's an email I just sent to the Mayor of Smithfield, with copies to the City Manager, Townhall, and City Council members. And a copy to the Smithfield Herald, as well. They have been staying on the story from the beginning.
To: Mr. Norman Johnson, Mayor of Smithfield, North Carolina.

Dear Mr. Johnson,

It occurs to me that perhaps the Mayor of Smithfield might have something to say about torture flights originating from his local airport, care of Smithfield-based Aero Contractors. So far, however, I've seen nothing in the Smithfield Herald or other newspapers to indicate any moral concern whatsoever by you, the City Manager, or other city leaders—the pillars of the community. And I find your silence troubling.

If I were someone who lived in Smithfield or was considering moving there, I think I would certainly want to know if the leaders of my town would have the courage to speak out against Aero and against the whole notion of removing people from this country for the purpose of being tortured, which, frankly, strikes me as un-American.

There's an old expression you may have heard of: “Silence is the voice of complicity.”

Grayson Harper.

Monday, October 09, 2006


The humiliation of the American system is a new phenomenon. The Congress itself now consorts in the decay of democracy. It lurches from one deconstruction of rights to the next, the latest of which is the Military Commissions Act. The Senate in late September captured the cowardice of a social order that seems to shamble, in fits and starts, toward fascism.

The point to be taken is that the lawmakers play down the President's renewed requests for more power. And each time people's rights are abused, or any constitutional protection is weakened, the signal comes down from the President in praise of the enabling law. He takes care to remind everyone that after all, it is he who protects them.

The Act can easily separate people we may know from the protections of due process, and leave them helpless, disappeared, and even subject to torture. Jack M. Balkin, a constitutional law professor, warns us that innocent friends and neighbors, who happen to be non-citizens, can be swept up in such a dragnet.
"The Military Commissions Act allows the government to seize these people off the streets and detain them because they are non-citizens, and, by accusing them of being unlawful enemy combatants, throw them into a parallel system where neither habeas corpus nor the Bill of Rights apply. It takes even resident aliens who have lived in the country for years out of the criminal justice system and into the world of military prisons and CIA interrogations"...

"The MCA allows the government to make mistakes-- very grievous mistakes-- in detention and interrogation that will severely harm these people [whom] it may never have to account for. A system of laws that can do this-- even if its primary victims are not citizens-- is inconsistent with the principles of a democratic republic."

Garrison Keillor's
article in The Salt Lake Tribune reminded me of a book review I had found in October's issue of Harper's Magazine. Nicholas Fraser's Toujours Vichy...a reckoning with disgrace, which analyzed the recently recovered work, Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky. The Vichy government of France, set up under Marshal Petain on the grave of the Third Republic, was a model of collaboration when part of France was under the Nazi Occupation.

The home truth that Keillor conveys is the decay of American democracy into something base and corrupt.
"It's good that Barry Goldwater is dead because this would have killed him. Go back to the Senate of 1964 - Goldwater, Dirksen, Russell, [Eugene] McCarthy, Javits, Morse, Fulbright - and you won't find more than 10 votes for it"...

"None of the men and women who voted for this bill has any right to speak in public about the rule of law anymore, or to take a high moral view of the Third Reich, or to wax poetic about the American Idea"...

"Three Republican senators made a show of opposing the bill and, after they'd collected all the praise they could get, they quickly folded"...

"I got some insight week before last into who supports torture when I went down to Dallas to speak at Highland Park Methodist Church. It was spooky. I walked in, was met by two burly security men with walkie-talkies, and within 10 minutes was told by three people that this was the Bushes' church and that it would be better if I didn't talk about politics. I was there on a book tour for Homegrown Democrat, but they thought it better if I didn't mention it. So I tried to make light of it: I told the audience, "I don't need to talk politics. I have no need even to be interested in politics - I'm a citizen, I have plenty of money and my grandsons are at least 12 years away from being eligible for military service." And the audience applauded! Those were their sentiments exactly. We've got ours, and who cares?"
Fear itself is the breeding ground of fear, and is a required condition for the authoritarian will to succeed. Such a condition exists in certain cruel marriages, where husbands dominate their wives with severe physical abuse. This kind of submission can be milked on demand in an occupied country, by its oppressor, where the "husband" has convinced his victim that there are terrors outside their arrangement which are far worse than the next beating.

In the eyes of both French and German authorities, Irene Nemirovsky remained Jewish, even though she and her husband had tried to anticipate danger and avoid it, by converting to Catholicism in 1939. Nemirovsky attained some small celebrity as the author of two early novels; and after the fall of France she lived in a small town in central France with her daughters, where she was befriended by a publisher, who helped her to earn a living as a writer, in spite of the fascist restrictions against Jews publishing anything.
"A Jew and an alien of Russian descent, Nemirovsky knew she would not survive the war, yet she continued to fill her notebooks. On July 13, 1942, she was sent by gendarmes to a camp at Pithiviers, after which she was deported to Auschwitz. She died there a month after having arrived. [Her] notebooks were taken into hiding with the author's daughters and kept unexamined for many years. Finally, they were transcribed and published three years ago, and Suite Francaise became a bestseller in France, winning a posthumous, much deserved literary prize."
I've been made aware lately that there is a criminal mindset in the high offices of our government that is drawing Washington's civilian and military institutions ever deeper into criminality. Each increment of this moral descent draws attention to the Vichy kind of fear. The courage it would take to step outside the sinister consensus is practically impossible for republicans; and there are too many democrats who rally around the President's corrupt, unchecked authority. If Americans can debate the expediency of torture, who knows where the bottom of this depravity lies.
"Many of [Nemirovsky's] jottings, included at the end of Suite Francaise, consist of plot summaries of the books yet to be written, books that she knew she would likely never complete. She also writes in a brutally candid vein about fallen France. "My God! what is this country doing to me?" she cries. "Since it is rejecting me, let us consider it coldly, let us watch as it loses its honor and its life."

"The French were tired of the Republic as if she were an old wife. For them, the dictatorship was a brief affair, adultery. But they intended to cheat on their wife, not kill her. Now they realize she's dead, their Republic, their freedom. They're mourning her.

For years, everything done in France within a certain social class has had one motive: fear. This social class caused the war, the defeat and the current peace. The Frenchmen of this caste hate no one; they feel neither jealousy nor disappointed ambition, nor any real desire for revenge. They're scared.

Who will harm them the least (not in the future, not in the abstract, but right now and in the form of kicks in the arse or slaps in the face)? The Germans? The English? The Russians? The Germans won but the beating has been forgotten and the Germans can protect them."

(ibid) (my emphasis)

Thursday, October 05, 2006


“Ultimately, the buck stops here.” So said Speaker Hastert in a news conference outside his district office today. He was referring, of course, to the diddling of teenaged boys by his pal, Representative Foley, of Florida, and how he--Hastert--is now "handling the situation." Meanwhile, Kirk Fordham, Foley's former chief of staff, says he tipped off Hastert's chief aides three years ago about Foley's behavior with pages.

So the question is, what exactly did the buck do once it got dropped off at Hastert's office three years ago? Well, it certainly stopped, all right. In fact, it sounds like it flat out died. But did he actually "handle it"?--that's what I want to know. Or did he just use that buck for toilet paper?

Now, Hastert's new tactic is—what else? --BLAME THE DEMOCRATS! Well, why not? They're not doing anything, just sitting there minding their own business (whatever that is). Might as well use them for something! Hell, it's worked before. They're so broken and cowed, they probably won't even notice they're being blamed again, much less put up a defense. Actually, I'm surprised Hastert even noticed them.

Meanwhile, desperate to get our focus off this rancid domestic mess, Rice has flown off to Iraq on a little surprise junket, to try to get those squabbling Iraqi leaders to quit squabbling. “We need to stop all this killing--it's getting out of hand,” she tells them. “You need to shake hands and try to work together.” Jeez, that's an unusual approach. Wonder why she didn't try that in Israel?

And by the way, how is it a “surprise” visit when everybody in the world knows about it? And if a black Republican lady with a gap between her teeth and an oil tanker named after her can sneak up on our army, what does that say about how good our generals are? I heard her plane had to circle the Baghdad airport for thirty-five minutes because of a threat from rockets and mortar-fire in the airport area. Somebody must have got wind that she was coming.

Anyway, that Rove sure has his finger on the pulse of the American public. He knows we would lots rather have our focus drawn away from squabbling rabid Repugs and put right back on squabbling rabid Shiites and Sunnis in Baghdad. Yep, the quicker they can get our minds back on the war, the better off those good ol' boys will be. For if there's anything they know for sure, it's that Americans are far more comfortable with the wholesale slaughter of human beings than with congressmen diddling young boys.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


The following are the Democrats who voted for the military commissions bill, which throws out habeas corpus for detainees, which allows the President to torture them (using his own definition of torture), and immunizes him and all the perpetrators of torture against criminal prosecution. The bill is already infamous across the world. And here are the twelve Demos who have sold out along with their fellow Repubs:

Tom Carper, Delaware
Tim Johnson, South Dakota
Mary Landrieu, Louisiana
Frank Lautenberg, New Jersey
Robert Menendez, New Jersey
Bill Nelson, Florida
Ben Nelson, Nebraska
Mark Pryor, Arkansas
Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia
Ken Salazar, Colorado
Debbie Stabenow, Michigan
Joseph Lieberman, Connecticut

Every single Democratic senator voted with the rest to approve spending another 70 billion dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afganistan.

So far Congress has approved spending just over a trillion dollars on the two wars.

The war in Iraq is costing 2 billion per week.

Congress also approved giving the Israeli military 500 million dollars. That's in addition to our usual military donation to Israel of 2 billion a year.
Meditate for a moment on the number of people who could be fed and housed around the world.
Meditate on how every man, woman and child in this country could have decent health care for nothing, or next to nothing.
Meditate on how we could send our children to college for a fraction of what we're paying now.
Meditate on the numbers of homeless who could be helped.
Meditate on how New Orleans could be rebuilt.
Meditate on how we could use the money to realign all our energy consumption to stop global warming.
But instead of spending the money on life, we choose to spend it on death.

Friday, September 29, 2006


So, you're worried about bin Laden? Al Qaeda? Scared of them are you? Lying awake nights wondering when they're going to strike next? Listen, compared to Exxon or WalMart or Halliburton, Al Qaeda's a third-rate crime syndicate. Strictly small time. Osama's a penny- ante war lord hold up in a cave. I'd stack the gang of thugs Dick Cheney's gathered around him in the West Wing against bin Laden's tin-pot band of zealots any day. Yes sir, my money's on Shotgun Dick.

The ones who pose the greatest threat to our security and our freedom are not in Afghanistan. By no means are they in Baghdad or Haditha. Our real enemies are right here among us. They're in the White House. They're occupying the seats of Congress. Right now, they're brokering deals to strip us of our most fundamental rights. They're fixing up the law so they can spy on us at will. We're no longer safe in our homes from unreasonable search and seizure. People can be detained indefinitely without due process. They can be tortured. Now, our Congress has colluded with the President to throw out the rule of habeas corpus, the right of the accused to have his day in court, to confront his accusers. This is the very heart and soul of our democracy, the centerpiece of jurisprudence of free countries going back to the Magna Carta.

All bin Laden could do was knock down a couple of our buildings. But no doubt, he is watching events unfold here with keen interest, and perhaps no small amount of amazement, as we do to ourselves what he could only dream of doing; for not even he nor his band of criminals could have accomplished in under eight years the toppling of our Constitution and our Bill of Rights.

Nope. We did that ourselves.

Monday, September 25, 2006


Yes, the lunatics are in charge of the madhouse. Now, it seems, they, along with our Congress, are going to legitimatize the trashing of the rule of law, by basically rewriting the Geneva Conventions and throwing out Habeas Corpus. It is a new day for America; from this point, none will be safe. No doubt, the sheep in Congress, backed by a sheepish Press, will give Bush his war in Iran, which will be a slaughterhouse, on top of the existing one in Iraq. Thus have we dispensed entirely with facts, with reality, in favor of delusions.

Unfortunately, "the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves. . ." that we have allowed this to happen, that we have handed them the reins of power, either by simply not voting or by looking the other way while our representatives sold themselves to the highest bidder. Anyone who truly cares about this crumbling democracy should be in the streets. But I predict that speaking out against this government will become more and more problematic. One day we will look around, and the price will be too high.

Senate Majority Leader Frist was interviewed yesterday by Stephanopoulos and wouldn't answer a single question about torture. Wouldn't even respond to whether or not he thought waterboarding was wrong. What manner of perversion has crept into our country, how much poison have we allowed to leak into our wells, that a Congressman in America would refuse to answer such fundamental questions of principle and morality? Who are these people?

Perhaps a small clue can be found in this:
When one studies the archetypal personalities and their behaviour with the help of the dreams, fantasies, and delusions of patients, one is profoundly impressed by their manifold and unmistakable connections with mythological ideas completely unknown to the layman. They form a species of singular beings whom one would like to endow with ego-consciousness; indeed, they almost seem capable of it. And yet this idea is not borne out by the facts. There is nothing in their behaviour to suggest that they have an ego-consciousness as we know it. They show, on the contrary, all the marks of fragmentary personalities. They are masklike, wraithlike, without problems, lacking self-reflection, with no conflicts, no doubts, no sufferings; like gods, perhaps, who have no philosophy, such as the Brahma-gods of the Samyutta-nikaya, whose erroneous views needed correction by the Buddha. Unlike other contents, they always remain strangers in the world of consciousness, unwelcome intruders saturating the atmosphere with uncanny forebodings or even with the fear of madness.
--from The Archetypes and the Collective Consciousness, by Carl G. Jung.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Everywhere I go, I see people with their hands up to their ears. Their mouths moving. Everywhere. In the grocery, in the bookstore, driving their cars, walking or jogging. They all seem to be talking into their hands.

And there's others, increasing numbers, with shiny gagets stuck in their ears. Sometimes as they walk along or drive in their cars, they talk to the gadget. And sometimes not. But the gadget is always there, on standby, in case they want to talk to it.

Someday soon, a new thing will come along to replace the gadget in the hand and the one in the ear. The new thing will make the old things seem clunky and out of date, like windup phones. People will laugh to think how they once carried those old things hooked on their belts like oversized jackknives, or that they ever attached those other things to their ears and walked around looking like Martians. The new thing will be smaller and more cunning, about the size of a flea. And it will be surgically implanted in your head, about a quarter-inch from your eardrum.

Never again will you have to carry something in your hand or wear it on your ear. The flea will be on standby 24/7. And how will you answer it if it rings? Just by giving a slight tug on your earlobe. The way Carol Burnett used to do on her TV show back in the sixties. Remember—how she used to come out and talk to the audience, and she'd pull on her earlobe? It was her little trademark. It meant "I love you." Now it will become everyone's trademark. In the future, when you see someone pulling on their earlobe, it won't mean, "I love you." It will just mean they're answering their phone.

How much will it cost? Well, for the phone itself—around ten dollars. To have it implanted, about two grand. Then, forty or fifty bucks a month for the service. Will it be worth it? Of course it will be worth it! It's always worth it! Imagine something that goes with you everywhere, that you can never forget to take with you, anymore than you could forget your fingers or your toes. Can you take your old model swimming? Can you bathe with it? Certainly not. With the flea, you can swim, bathe, sky dive, wrestle, have sex, do whatever you want. Because the flea is safe in your head, like a thought or a dream. And being so near the eardrum means that the voices and sounds that come through it will not be much louder than a whisper. Or about like someone praying at the back of a church.

Surely, you won't want to be one of those people still walking around with that thing attached to your belt or that other thing still stuck in your ear, while everyone else has evolved and moved on to the flea! Imagine how embarrassed you'd be in a room full of people quietly pulling on their earlobes, and just talking away, free, free, of all encumbrances, when suddenly, your old outdated model starts ringing, ringing, ringing!

Oh, there's one other thing I should mention. There will be something else that will come with your new phone in your head. Just a little something extra for no extra charge. Every flea will come equipped with a little program. A kind of mantra will speak inside your head, barely perceptible, like the whisper of the sea inside a conch. It will sound during the times when your phone's not in use, repeating over and over, all day and all night, waking and sleeping.

Just a word, or maybe two, a different mantra for every day in the week. So, on the first day, perhaps, your mantra will be these simple words, whispered over and over: "Coca Cola, Coca Cola, Coca Cola, Coca Cola. . . .' All day, all night, "Coca Cola, Coca Cola. . . ." If somebody calls, or if you call out, the mantra will stop. But as soon as the call ends, "Coca Cola, Coca Cola, Coca Cola."

At midnight, it will change, and in the morning, you'll wake up hearing this: "Exxon-Mobil, Exxon-Mobil, Exxon-Mobil. . . ." And the day after that, it will be "WalMart, WalMart, WalMart. . . ."

And the ones who plant the phones in our heads will be thinking about this: They will estimate that each mantra could be repeated up to fifty times per minute, or 3,000 times an hour, or 72,000 times in a day. That even if you subtract two hours of talk time, when the mantra is interrupted, that would still leave as many as sixty-six thousand repetitions over a 24-hour period. That if you multiplied that by the number of people with flea phones planted in their heads, the repetitions would be in the trillions, far surpassing anything ever conceived of by the soap sellers on TV.

So, as we continue to invade countries, as more and more human beings in foreign lands are smart bombed and cluster bombed and burned alive by white phosphorous, as they are raped and pillaged and massacred and driven from their homes, for their lands, for their oil, the voice in your head will drone on, repeating and repeating: "Halliburton, Halliburton, Halliburton, Halliburton. . . ."

Monday, September 11, 2006


The 9/11 wreckage of the Twin Towers, New York's dark yesterday, has now been aired as a made-for-television drama, a frenetic patchwork, partly composed of reality, replete with certain pivotal moments which were invented, to enhance the illusion that we can micro-manage history.

Three months to the day after September 11, J. Hoberman wrote in the Village Voice,
"For everyone who saw the events on TV, movies offered the only possible analogy--blockbusters are what bring us together, all at once, around the world. The moving image and synchronized sound are how information is transmitted"...

"On September 11, the dream became reality. But what did that mean? As the German social critic Siegfried Kracauer was the first to argue, "the films of a nation reflect its mentality." Analyzing the popular movies of the Weimar Republic in the light of the Nazi rise to power, Kracauer wrote that "Germany carried out what had been anticipated by her cinema from its very beginning. It was all as it had been on the screen."
Here we are five years later.

Disney spent $40 million of its own money for a network propaganda event on ABC affiliates-- airing it without commercial interruption--undeterred by a shitstorm of protest. I suspect that not only is Disney beholden to the backers of this partisan project; but that the project itself is intended as a vehicle for the Republican campaign message of this election season.

Forty-five percent of Americans, by a recent poll, believe that there are dark corners of the 9/11 catastrophe which have not yet been brought to light. President Bush and his sponsors are still trying to manage the world "after 9/11" and have mucked it up at every step along the way.

There was too much political intrigue in ABC TV's promotion of The Path to 9/11. The suspicions of Disney's bias were raised at the outset, when advanced, and as yet unedited versions of the drama, went straight to right-wing conservative blogs and pundits. This political faction alone, was afforded a preview of this product. Requests for advanced copies from the other side, from America's progressives and interested democratic pundits, were met with evasion.

Even members of former President Clinton's administration had difficulty finding out if they had been misquoted, or if their performance in office had been distorted in the film. The distorted perspective of the film glossed over negligent acts of the Bush team in the run-up to the al-Qaeda attack on the Trade Center, while devoting disproportionate attention to Clinton's years in office. It was the Bush people who showed so much disdain toward the idea of a terrorist threat, at the moment when the outgoing administration was making a concerted attempt to pass on the warning.

ABC's parent company, Disney, had also negotiated a deal with Scholastic, a company that provides children's educational materials for use in school. Scholastic backed out of the deal, when it got wind of the controversy coming from across the political spectrum. It was sinister that a factually flawed and biased film might be presented, as history, to impressionable children.

This has been a strange and unsettling anniversary of our mournful day of September 11. And The Path To 9/11 was interrupted in the middle of the concluding episode, by President Bush's live address to the nation. Our most divisive president counsels national unity. Iraq is better off, since we have driven it into civil war and possible partition. Saddam Hussein played no part in the Trade Center attack; but still he had to be removed, though thousands have been killed, and more thousands will be killed.

The President's brilliant observation is that we are at war; the blockbuster to end all blockbusters. That we will never exhaust the number of enemies that our leadership creates, is the original premise of the War on Terror. We've seen this movie before,...maybe it starred Bruce Willis.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


(The continuing Saga of a homeless man and his dog)
by Jack Rafter

Today's Episode: "A Letter From The Past"

This morning I woke up in my tent in the woods thinking about scrambled eggs, a stack of pancakes with melted butter, maple syrup and thick slab bacon. So I took Vincent and headed down to the freight yards to look for something I might give Johnny Blair in exchange for breakfast. Johnny runs the Bizzy Bee Cafe over on Mort Street. Bartering is our little arrangement.

You see, Johnny's kind of an artist. He not only cooks, but he builds shadowboxes in his spare time. He uses nice woods, like poplar and cherry, to make the small square pigeon holes, into which he puts little found treasures. Each shadowbox has a theme, so the objects he puts in are related to each other in some way.


Well, we were walking along the edge of the woods on a little rise overlooking the yard, when Vincent stopped in his tracks and gave out a strange crying bark. I didn't see what he was looking at at first, but then, as I crept forward a few feet, I saw the object of his concern lying in the tall weeds—a dead body. I recognized him, too: a homeless guy named Steve. He'd been staying in the woods for a couple of weeks. Came in on a freight from somewhere out in the east. I think he was headed for Tucson or Yuma. He'd been sick the last few days. He drank too much and I doubt he ate enough to compensate. Probably didn't get enough water, either. I had a feeling he died of heat stroke.

He wasn't in his right mind. He would converse with people who weren't there, although I found that he would talk to me, if I could get his attention. He laughed quite a bit, a kind of manic laughter, as if he thought everything in his tragic life was funny. And maybe it was. He told me he was a veteran, but he couldn't remember which war he fought in. “I guess it doesn't matter which one,” he said, and he laughed and laughed, as if the joke were on him. Then, he said something kind of odd. He said, “I fought in all of them. I fought in all the wars.” The words of a crazy man, of course. But he wasn't laughing, now. In fact, he looked pretty sad lying there. He wasn't that old, maybe fifty or so. His ratty blue suit looked like it came from Goodwill. He was on his back, his head turned to the side, eyes open, so I guess the last things he saw were the trains going by in the yard, perhaps headed somewhere he would have much preferred to be than where he ended up.

One thing caught my eye--his hands, resting on his stomach, small, childlike, caked with grime. They were perfectly relaxed, as if he'd seen death coming and made no effort to fend it off.

Vincent circled around him, whimpering a little, crept up to him, smelled him, then backed off again and sat down, looking. I squatted beside Steve and went through his pockets. Luckily, he hadn't been dead too long or I couldn't have done it. Right off, I discovered he died rich—had a fiver on him and some loose change, a key to something, I don't know what. He carried no wallet, no identification. In one coat pocket, he had a collection of perfectly smooth, brightly colored little stones he might have found in a creek or riverbed somewhere. I thought about Johnny Blair's shadowboxes, so I took a few of the stones and put the rest back. I didn't think he'd mind—they amounted to a good handful. Johnny would appreciate the story.


Then, from the inside coat pocket, the one over his breast, I retrieved a folded piece of paper. It was old, almost falling apart. Carefully, I opened it up and glanced at it. It was a letter—handwritten—signed “Millie” at the bottom, a wife or a girlfriend, I supposed. No envelope, so I had no idea where it came from or where it was mailed to. I looked around. I didn't want to sit there, exposed to the trains and everything, so I backed up a few feet in the the woods and read the letter. It was dated January—something; the year was smudged out. Parts of it were smudged or almost faded out, but I took my time and managed to piece it together.

When I finished, I thought it should stay with Steve. But I really wanted a copy of it, so I borrowed it, went back to my tent in the woods, found a pencil and paper, and copied it. As I wrote, I started thinking about how somebody would come along and haul Steve down to the morgue. They might do an autopsy. They would probably take his clothes, his handful of colored stones, and the letter, throw them away, then bury him in a pauper's grave. So I decided maybe I should bury him myself. I went and found a couple of guys, one named Charles, the other one calling himself Smitty, both living in the woods, to help me with him. They were sitting in their camps hot and bored, more than willing to go look at a dead body, and maybe even help me bury him.

But we got there too late. Through the trees, as we approached, we saw the Union Pacific men--four of them--standing around in their bright yellow hardhats. One was on a walkie-talkie. We could hear him telling someone what they'd found lying in the weeds by the yard. I knew an ambulance would be along any minute to haul him off somewhere.

Smitty wiped his mouth, then said, “Well, I don't want nothin' to do with no railroad people.” “Me neither,” said Charles. They turned and walked off.

I stood there, debating for a minute. The men were down on the roadbed a little below where Steve lay. I wondered which one of them found him, and how he was able to see him from down there. Maybe he just caught a glimpse of the pasty white of Steve's face. Or maybe it was the blue of his coat sifting through the sunburnt grass. Of course, an engineer could have spotted him from up in the cab, or a switchman, hanging from the side of a boxcar.


I decided to risk it and came out of the woods and showed myself. They didn't notice me at first. Then, the guy with the walkie-talkie looked up and saw me. He was older than the other three, streaks of gray at his temples. He wore a tie and carried a clipboard. Already there were sweat stains on his clean, white shirt, even though it wasn't yet ten o'clock. I was a little surprised when he nodded and spoke to me. “Howdy,” he said. I said, “Hi” and came on up to where Steve lay. He looked the same as before, still lying on his back, staring vacantly at the yards, but with all the people hovering around him now, he seemed even more lost and out of place. And these strangers were about to decide where he should go next.

“You know anything about this fella?” said the white shirted man. The name tape on his hardhat said, “Grimes.”

“I know his name was Steve,” I replied. “I don't know his last name. I found him this morning.”

“You found him?”

“Yeah, I did.”

“How come you didn't report it?” said one of the others, much younger than Grimes.

“Who says I didn't?” I replied.

Grimes took a handkerchief from his back pocket, dabbed his brow. “Well, we didn't find any i.d. on him, so we don't even know for sure his name was Steve.”

“He told me that was his name. He's been around here for a couple of weeks. He also had this letter on him.” I held the folded letter up.

Grimes, looking squint-eyed at the letter, said, “Can I see that?”

“On one condition,” I said.

“What's that?”

“Promise me you'll make sure it gets buried with him. It's from his wife. You read it, you'll see his name was Steve. Her name was Millie.”

“Was there an envelope with that? Was there an address for Millie?”

“No,” I said. “No address for him, none for her. Just their names, that's all. He was a veteran. You'll see, it's in the letter. He deserves a decent burial somewhere, and this letter should be buried with him. It's all he had in the world. Promise me you'll do it.”

Grimes sighed deeply and said he would see to it. I handed him the letter. He opened it up. The other men moved in a little. Grimes frowned and bit his lower lip as he looked at it. Then, abruptly, he held it out to me. He spoke quietly, “You want to read it?”

“Okay,” I said. I raised the letter and started to read. Grimes removed his hardhat. The others did the same. This is what I read:
January. . .

My Darling Steve,

We had some rain last night and it was bitter cold. But this morning was bright and beautiful, and even though the air was still nippy, I got out and walked a little. And I thought about the last time you were here on leave, back in the summer. I went down to the sandbar below the house where we spent our last night together, and I remembered how warm it was, and how the moon was starting to come full and shown down on the sand and the water. You said it made the river look like diamonds. Remember?

I still have the shirt—that old army t-shirt—you wore that night. I haven't washed it. I put it up to my face last night to smell you and some sand fell out of it. I started laughing, and then, I was crying. I felt so stupid. But I didn't care.

My darling husband, I love you so. I love you more than life. I dream so often of you and me holding hands down on the sandbar in the moonlight. Isn't it funny? It's such a vivid dream. I want you to come home and put on that t-shirt and make love to me! I will never wash that shirt until you return, safe and sound.

Come back to me, my dearest dearest love. Let no harm come to you is my prayer every morning and night to the angels of mercy. Never forget how much I love you and what you mean to me.

Yours, forever,
We stood around and waited till the ambulance showed up. Grimes called one of the railroad doctors out to officially pronounce the death so no autopsy would need to be done. When the doctor asked for a name to write on the form, the railroad man leaned forward and quietly replied, “Steve Grimes.”

After they left, Grimes assured me that Steve would get a proper burial. He said he intended to take up a collection from the railroad worker's union and buy Steve a plot in a nice cemetery and provide him with a headstone. And he would seal the letter in an envelope and put it back in Steve's coat.


By the time I got to Johnny's cafe, the lunch crowd had come and gone. Johnny fired up the grill, cooked up half-a-dozen eggs, pancakes and bacon, then sat down and had breakfast with me. And as we ate, I told him about finding Steve, and about Millie's letter, and what Grimes had done, and then I dropped the smooth colored stones on the table by his plate. Johnny didn't say much, mostly just looked and listened. He started to read my copy of the letter to himself, but like the good trainman, he handed it back to me and said, “Why don't you read it, Jack?

After I finished, he just shook his head. “Lord, Lord,” he said. “How strange life is, huh, Jack? How strange.”

“Yeah, it is,” I nodded. “Sure is.”

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Maria Hampton, writing in the Sept/Oct 2006 issue of Adbusters, comments on a new invasive frontier of television. People are fleeing into whole new worlds of solitude within their I-pods, a kind of self-prescribed refuge from TV's inescapable advertising. Clear Channel, the radio playground for the right-wing in the US, is now pioneering one-second ads--not quite brief enough to be subliminal--but sufficient to enter the arc of consciousness and quickly disappear. These ads are all over you, before you can escape, or even decide to escape.

These psychological gambits are increasingly being used to embed consumerist and manipulative structures into the human mind; and there are now indications that the minds being targeted are at ever more formative stages of development. One of the possible cultural repercussions that Hampton raises, as a red flag, is the rising trend of American doctors treating "psychosis" in children as young as eight years, with anti-psychotic drugs that were previously reserved for adults.

New frontiers of Pavlovian conditioning include the "ultimate electronic babysitter", invented by the Nestle company, which is scheduled for marketing this fall. As Hampton describes it: "a videogame that doles out candy". She quotes a marketing expert, James Belcher, as saying , "Games give a more intimate [brand] relationship and every time you play them, the candy's there”.

The battle for the mind is beginning long before the child has imprinted language, before parenting is thoroughly underway, and well before the literate process and critical thinking are introduced. Believe it or not, there is now such a thing as BabyFirstTV.

One of the sinister developments Hampton describes is this new baby TV. "Flouting warnings by pediatricians and psychiatrists, corporations are cashing in on TV programs targeted specifically for infants and toddlers"..."Childcare experts such as Dmitri A. Christakis from the University of Washington, however, caution that television for infants "rewires the brain" during a period of irreversible development."

So how long will it be before there's Uterine TV?--and tiny adjustable visors for the developing fetus? Perhaps it's possible to go back further for baby's first brainwashing. Surely the voice of consumer compulsion must have another antecedent, in those deep-frozen cryogenic vats that hold human embryos.

Friday, August 18, 2006


"There are no hereditary kings in America and no powers not created in the Constitution."
--U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, writing in her 43-page decision yesterday, ruling that the Bush Administration's warrantless wiretapping surveillance program violates freedom of speech, protections against unreasonable searches, and a Constitutional check on the power of the President.

At this moment, there is legislation pending in Congress, which Arlen Specter has spearheaded, and which probably would have passed (with the help of spineless Democrats), that would remove many of the limits to the President's ability to do things the Constitution prohibits. In other words, the Congress of the United States is attempting to rewrite the laws of the land in order to make it okay for the President to break the laws of the land. Judge Taylor's ruling, at least for the time being, would render that legislation dead on arrival.

Three cheers for the ACLU! The only people who seem ready to fight tooth and claw for this crumbling democracy.

The Bushites are, of course, planning to appeal the case to the Federal Court of Appeals, and if they fail there, it could go on to the Supreme Court.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


My friend, Ben, just received a little gift from Kathleen Rumpf. Ms. Rumpf is a member of the Catholic Worker's Movement. For the last couple of weeks, she's been sitting outside Carswell's Women's Prison protesting the corruption and cruelty which she experienced first-hand while in the custody of the hospital there. A peace activist all her life, she's been arrested more than a hundred times. Her latest arrest was for protesting at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Ben and I drove out there and talked to her. It was over a hundred degrees that day, as it had been just about every day she was there. At night, she slept on a mattress thrown on the ground. A picture of the Virgin Mary decorated a lone tree providing the only shade to her little encampment. She had nothing, but she seemed to be about the happiest person alive.

While we were there, she handed Ben a 4 x 6-inch card. Ben stood there looking at it, smiling. Then, he handed it to me. On the face of the card was a reproduction of an icon painting of Father Philip Berrigan, who died in 2002. Does anyone remember him, I wonder? He was a Josephite priest, and one of our country's most revered peace activists. He and his brother, Daniel, a Jesuit priest, kicked up a lot of trouble during the Vietnam era. Daniel's still alive and kicking.

Ms. Rumpf said she has patterned her life after Philip's example. She and the Berrigans, and others, like Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr., are reminders that being religious can mean something altogether different from the right-wing Christian view that somehow God is on our side in Iraq and it's perfectly okay to bomb people into submission to our way of life.

At the same time, it can also mean far more than just sitting around making a lot of "spiritual" talk with like-minded people, yet never venturing beyond the cozy comfort of church walls, to do something as unsafe as standing with others to protest war or poverty or other injustices.

Philip Berrigan fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Later, he became involved in the Civil Rights Movement. He marched for desegregation, took part in sit-ins and bus boycotts. He and his brother, Daniel, and the famed theologian, Thomas Merton, founded an interfaith coalition against the Vietnam War.

On October 27, 1967, the "Baltimore Four," consisting of Philip, the artist Tom Lewis, and poet, teacher and writer, David Eberhardt and United Church of Christ missionary and pastor, the Rev. James L. Mengel, poured blood (including Berrigan's) on selective service records in the Baltimore Customs House.

Waiting for police to arrest them, they passed out Bibles. Berrigan said:
"This sacrificial and constructive act is meant to protest the pitiful waste of American and Vietnamese blood in Indochina."
He was sentenced to 6 years in prison, the first American priest to be arrested for an act of civil disobedience.

In 1969, following his release on bail, Phil Berrigan repeated the protest in a somewhat modified form. Using homemade napalm, nine activists, who later became known as the "Catonsville Nine," walked into the Catonsville, Maryland draft board and burned 378 draft files. On that day, Berrigan said:
"We confront the Catholic Church, other Christian bodies, and the synagogues of America with their silence and cowardice in the face of our country's crimes. We are convinced that the religious bureaucracy in this country is racist, is an accomplice in this war, and is hostile to the poor."
At their trial, the "Catonsville Nine" offered no formal defense, other than to make statements to explain themselves and their actions. Philip's brother, Daniel, read this statement from his Catonsville meditations:
"Our apologies, dear friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of papers instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house. We could not, so help us God, do otherwise."

On the reverse side of the card Kathleen Rumpf gave to Ben is this prayer--the final writing of Philip Berrigan.
"The following occur to me as worthwhile subjects of prayer:
*that we disarm our hearts and our society
*that the Holy Spirit subvert, stalemate, and expose preparation for the invasion of Iraq
*that God intervene in the ecological crisis as Lord of Creation, because we refuse to change our
abuse of the earth
*that Americans begin to understand and resist the three-pronged aims for the Bush Administration: the trashing of civil liberties, perpetual war, and world domination
*that the swindle of "foreknowledge" by the Bushites of 9/11 be fully disclosed
*that the "crime" of 57 years of nuclearism, and its consequent wasting of our lives, and planet be revealed
*that Americans grasp that war is our #1 business; that we are a violent, killer people, and that we know virtually little of the nonviolence of Jesus and the Gospel
*that the scourges of abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty be ended
*that the U.S. withdraw all economic and military aid to Israel
*that the global war against children be lifted
*that the rich West contribute medication and food to the global victims of HIV-AIDS
*that each of us become people of fidelity, nonviolence, and justice


Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Is there anything we can do to stop the madness of war? Or are we on the road to our own destruction? I feel I have to do something, even if it is to write a pathetic letter to someone who either will never lay eyes on it, or if he happens to glance at it, will, in all liklihood, shrug and go on with his program of death.

I have watched mortified as our own architects of war--Bush, Condoleeza Rice, John Bolton, and practically the entire U.S. Congress, continually discouraged a ceasefire and cheered on the complete destruction of Lebanon by Israel, which has featured the targeting of civilians, over a third of whom are children under the age of thirteen.

It seems once the lizard mind contracts into itself, there's not much room left for human concerns, only the worship of weapons and war; no time, no place for idle thoughts, of families driven from their homes by the thousands, of children lying in the rubble of this disease.

So, I begin to write letters. What for? Who knows? Perhaps simply to assuage my own impotence.
June 29, 2006

Ehud Olmert
Prime Minister

Dear Mr. Olmert,

Sir, I am heartsick at the war in your homeland. I write to you with no political agenda, other than the belief in my heart that wars will never cease until we begin to change our innermost feelings and minds about war—until it becomes unacceptable.

I am an artist in America. I don't care about your politics or theirs. I care about people. Human lives. Women, children, uncles, cousins, grandmothers. It is beyond me why we are so intent on destroying each other. Are we not better than this, Mr. Olmert? When children get into fisticuffs on the playground, what is the first thing we do as adults? Do we tell them to “just keep fighting” till one kid is the winner and the other left maimed or dead? No. We pull them apart, do we not? We separate them, make them sit down and talk. Yet, we are incapable of doing this thing for ourselves! What a lesson for our children!

Mr. Olmert, I know you are tired of talking. I know you feel it is pointless. Please, my friend, allow me to suggest that it is anything but pointless. Let me, in fact, suggest that even if it seems to lead nowhere, it is still a success. Why? Because at the end of it, everyone is still alive! Still looking each other in the eye, still able to shake hands, perhaps to forgive, to find some core of hope and humanity in the other. Still able to go home to our wives and children. And still able to come back the next day, to sit down, hold hands around the table and pray together for peace. And then. . .talk some more!

And because the alternative. . .well, we all know what that is, don't we?—bombing and killing—only leads to more death, to the end of all hope, and nothing ever resolved. Only more innocent children lying in the rubble of our adult lunacy, pettiness, and closed hearts.

This is what I know, Mr. Olmert. I know that we are none of us perfect. I know we are all broken. And so often I think, if only we could see this, maybe it would be easier to come together to heal our brokenness, in respect of our mutual humanity. We cannot fight for peace by fighting. I'm certain this is what we would tell our children. What do we tell ourselves?

I close with a prayer—a fervent prayer. . .for you, for your people, for theirs, for us. . .everywhere. Everywhere. God. Give. . .Us. . .Peace!

In friendship,

Grayson Harper.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


We are no longer a country of laws. We have slipped the loop on what we are and what we supposedly believe in. Every day brings some new debasement. Yesterday, it was the news that the feds are moving to fire half the lawyers at the IRS who do auditing on the super-rich. That way Bush can get around the law, since he doesn't have the support in Congress to repeal the estate tax. Anything to serve the rich and spit on the rest of us.

Yes, we have quit the rule of law. The CEOs of Exxon, WalMart and Coca-Cola are our congressmen, now, and we operate by their rules--the law of the jungle. Meanwhile, Bush and Cheney have unleashed the queen and king bees of anarchy--Condoleeza Rice and John Bolton--to fan the flames in Israel and Lebanon, hoping, I suppose, to bring on a war with Iran and Syria. And it will probably come to pass. Then, when our military is stretched to the limit, I look for North Korea to take the opportune moment to launch an attack on the U.S. And voila! World War III.

But as far as I'm concerned, when our soldiers burst into that house in Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad, and raped a fourteen year old girl, then turned their AK-47s on her, her mother, father and five-year-old sister, that was the last straw, the death blow for us as a country. Abeer Hamza, this child that blundered into the path of our barbarous war, the mistake of so many children. . .she is our fatal wound, from which we will not recover. She is the culmination of all our wrongdoing clear back to the massacre of Native American civilians at Wounded Knee. I see no coming back from this. No cure. I lost my last hope at that moment. From here on, whatever happens happens. I don't say we deserve it, but we sure as hell have it coming.

And be assured--it is the collective WE. Because we brought this on ourselves. Years of collective sleepwalking through elections, collective compromising on our candidates and our values. We--collectively--laid down and let this happen. We collectively handed this country over to these feckless thugs. And now--the crowning glory--our Congress is completely bought and sold out on Israel. They voted like a gleeful mob for that war, made even more gleeful--if that's possible--by the grinning face of Hillary Clinton, our own Democratic harpee for the use of white phosphorous and cluster bombs on innocent civilians.

As the mindless minions give cheer and wave their flags, we can no more than watch the ship go down.

I close with a prayer, a fervent prayer, which contains not a seed of hope, but only an ocean of sorrow and pity for us all, and for our world:
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners
now and at the hour of our death.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


With the death of a beautiful Lebanese child the world comes to an end. Oh, it's understood that there is war going on elsewhere; but yesterday the US House of Representatives stood up, drowning out eight dissenting votes, and declared with a great hoorah that Israel's war of collective punishment, its war of callous retribution can continue to kill Lebanese children.

The world is ended utterly for loved ones who see the loss with their own eyes. US-made weapons from the workshops of Boeing and Lockeed-Martin are the instruments of choice that cover the skies of Sidon, Tyre, and Beirut. And yet, the call for a ceasefire from many nations and from UN Secretary Kofi Annan is being opposed by President Bush and Prime Minister Blair. And because the bloodletting is promiscuous now, the sequence of events leading to this tragedy can be obscured, in order to allow the Olmert government of Israel a free hand.

This outbreak of war is a rising flow of violence, after the abduction of an Israeli soldier from his guard post just outside of Gaza. This came about after Israeli leader Sharon suffered a stroke and was permanently incapacitated. The trigger-happy Olmert, his successor, went to work with a major armed incursion into densely populated Gaza. Severe destruction of infrastructure interrupted water, sewage, electricity, and the hostility continued during Olmert's operation. But despite the draconian measures, there was no progress toward release of the captured soldier.

In an interview a week ago, Noam Chomsky pinpoints where this latest trouble started, which he describes as the determination of Israel and the United States "to punish the people of Palestine for voting the wrong way in a free election." Chomsky also provides an essential piece of the backstory:
"...the punishment has been severe"..."it's partly in Gaza, and sort of hidden in a way, but even more extreme in the West Bank, where Olmert announced his annexation program, what's euphemistically called "convergence" and described here often as "withdrawal," but in fact it's a formalization of the program of annexing the valuable lands, most of the resources, including water, of the West Bank and cantonizing the rest and imprisoning it, since he also announced that Israel would take over the Jordan Valley."
Chomsky goes on to say that the Israelis have abducted Palestinians, civilians too, and have not released information in some instances, regarding the prisoners' names or fates.

Hezbollah's ambush on Israeli territory, and its capture of two more Israeli soldiers, just opposite the Lebanese border, was a provocation. It was foolhardy because the hysterical over-reaction of the Olmert government in Gaza was more than likely to be repeated against Lebanon. One may at least suspect that Hezbollah anticipated the outcome. And altruism, the motive of solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza, doesn't really stack up against Hezbollah's treason against their own country. Hezbollah has representatives in Lebanon's Parliament; and yet, its own militia drew Lebanon into war, a war which Parliament as a whole would never have desired or approved.

International law forbids collective punishment in war. That didn't stop Olmert. He looked at the border attack by Hezbollah militia, not as a terrorist attack, not as the act of outlaws, but rather decided that the State of Lebanon had made war on Israel.

Professor Juan Cole has posted an eloquent letter from a Lebanese woman named Rasha, who is living in Beirut. In part of it, an Israeli reporter, a woman, conducts an interview with Rasha by e-mail. The reporter says that the Israeli leadership believes that if they target Hezbollah it will convince the local population to turn against Hezbollah.
RASHA: "It is pure folly, but even if it were true it is a terrible strategy, an imploded Lebanon is a nightmare to all, not only the Lebanese but to everyone. Does Israel want an Iraq at its doorstep? There seems to be consensus now in Israel over the military campaign. It is because Israelis are not yet pressing their leadership and military with smart questions. Do you actually believe it would be possible to eliminate the Shi'i sect from Lebanon, and that it would go down easy in the region? If the Americans are advising you, duck for cover or move. Need I list their record of wisdom and foresight recently? Vietnam, Central America, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq? If you need to listen to imperialists, find less idiotic ones, at least who have a sense of history.
America's elected leaders are not informed by the tragedies of their own country. History is casually deconstructed and repackaged. They have already forgotten events like the Little Bighorn, the Massacre at Wounded Knee, Mai Lai, and Haditha.

It's like Rasha said in her interview,
"But this is the stage of your destiny that you have reached: you build walls around yourselves"..."and you chase barefoot, toothless, illiterate, hungry people with a state of the art military arsenal. And you insist that you are victims, and you insist that you are on the right side of history. All this bullshit will catch up with you."

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


In a report published recently, the Lovenstein Institute of Scranton, detailed its findings of a four-month study of the intelligence quotient of President George W. Bush. Since 1973, the Lovenstein Institute has published its research to the educational community on each new president, which includes the famous "IQ" report among others.

There have been twelve presidents over the past 50 years, from F.D. Roosevelt to G.W. Bush, who were rated based on scholarly achievements: 1. Writings that they produced without aid of staff and 2. Their ability to speak with clarity, and several other psychological factors, which were then scored using the Swanson/Crain system of intelligence ranking.

The study determined the following IQs of each president as accurate to within five percentage points. In order by presidential term:
Franklin Delano Roosevelt [D] 142,
Harry S Truman [D] 132,
Dwight David Eisenhower [R] 122
John Fitzgerald Kennedy [D] 174,
Lyndon Baines Johnson [D] 126,
Richard Milhous Nixon [R] 155,
Gerald R. Ford [R] 121,
James Earle Carter [D] 175,
Ronald Wilson Reagan [R] 105
George Herbert Walker Bush [R] 98,
William Jefferson Clinton [D] 182,
George Walker Bush [R] 91

In order of IQ rating:

182. . William Jefferson Clinton [D]
175. . James Earle Carter [D]
174. . John Fitzgerald Kennedy [D]
155. . Richard Milhous Nixon [R]
147. Roosevelt [D]
132. Harry S Truman [D]
126. . Lyndon Baines Johnson [D]
122. . Dwight David Eisenhower [R]
121. . Gerald R. Ford [R]
105. . Ronald Wilson Reagan [R]
98. . George Herbert Walker Bush [R]
91. . George Walker Bush [R]

The six Republican presidents of the past 50 years had an average IQ of 115.5, with President Nixon having the highest at 155. President George W. Bush rated the lowest of all the Republicans with an IQ of 91. The six Democratic presidents of the past 50 years had an average IQ of 156, with President Clinton having the highest IQ, at 182. President Lyndon B. Johnson was rated the lowest of all the Democrats with an IQ of 126. No president other than Carter [D] has released his actual IQ (176). Among comments made concerning the specific testing of President G.W. Bush, his low ratings are due to his apparently difficult command of the English language in public statements, his limited use of vocabulary [6,500 words for Bush versus an average of 11,000 words for other presidents], his lack of scholarly achievements other than a basic MBA, and an absence of any body of work which could be studied on an intellectual basis.

The complete report documents the methods and procedures used to arrive at these ratings, including depth of sentence structure and voice stress confidence analysis.

"All the Presidents prior to George W. Bush had a least one book under their belt, and most had written several white papers during their education or early careers. Not so with President Bush," Dr. Lovenstein said. "He has no published works or writings, which made it more difficult to arrive at an assessment. We relied more heavily on transcripts of his unscripted public speaking."

The Lovenstein Institute of Scranton, think tank includes high caliber historians, psychiatrists, sociologists, scientists in human behavior, and psychologists. Among their ranks are Dr. Werner R. Lovenstein, world-renowned sociologist, and Professor Patricia F.Dilliams, a world-respected psychiatrist.

UPDATE:CORRECTION: It turns out that The Lovenstein Institute doesn't exist and its report is an internet hoax which has been floating out there for a couple of years. A reader sends us a link that details the origin of this hoax. The joke's on me.

However, authoritative sources still insist that George W. Bush is stupid.

copeland morris ENTWINED SONNET

Her shaded eyes, her necklace black velvet, onyx. Anguish she spoke; and he carried on, obsessed As only a young man could. An odd harm...