· President Bush initially opposed creating the Commission, and only relented (over a year after it was requested) under political pressure from both Democrats and Republicans alike.

· Bush first appointed Henry Kissinger- a career international criminal from Nixon’s “secret end to the war in Viet Nam” years (there are outstanding warrants for him in Europe) and prevaricator- to head the Commission. Immediately Kissinger was forced to resign because of obvious income-related conflicts of interest.

· Bush delayed giving the commission access to Presidential Daily Briefs, only eventually allowing the Commission to take a guarded look at some of those documents and a select few White House-‘approved’ notes, again, only after extended political pressure from both parties. This time, after over two years had passed, they finally released a version of a pre-September 11 (August 6, 2001 to be precise) PDB titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” as credible as Bush’s Air National Guard records were once they finally (and mysteriously illegibly) appeared.

· Bush refused giving the Commission a much needed and repeatedly requested extension to finish its work after White House delays made its original deadline impossible to meet. Then within weeks he just as arbitrarily agreed to one.

· Bush refused to allow National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to testify publicly or under oath, again giving in only after political pressure forced him to reverse his position.

· Bush has insisted on limiting his own time with the Commission to be as brief as possible, attempting to arrange a meeting only one hour long with just two of the commissioners and NOT UNDER OATH. Bush has now agreed to meet with the whole Commission, but only if Vice President Cheney accompanies him, and still NOT UNDER OATH. This makes his testimony absolutely useless as he’s the most disingenuous, deceiving, dishonest, dissembling president in American history (see Iraqi WMD’s and al-Qaeda connections, UN international agreements, World Trade agreements, the World Court, EPA report edits and forgeries, administration suppressed, distorted, and ignored intelligence, Medicare, his past personal insider stock trading, military record, etc. (for a fuller, more exacting, source-referenced account of this see ‘The Lies of George W. Bush’-David Corn, editor of ‘The Nation’ and ‘Fox News Channel’ contributor, Michael Moore.com, or any of his recent books and publications, Fairness & Accuracy in Media, Bushwatch.com, or the archives of any daily press from the New York Times to the Washington Post, or weeklies like Time and Newsweek)).

· Bush has handed over only 25 percent of the 11,000 pages of documents requested that reveal former President Clinton’s administration’s emphasis on fighting the very terrorists that were responsible for 9/11. Under repeated pressure the White House has relented and agreed to release the remainder of the declassified files into their possession (like Iraq’s UN WMD report) when they’re done with them.


Buffalo Author Publishes Provocative
and Prophetic Book on National
and Local Politics



Buffalo, New York. April 26, 2004. Buffalo attorney and writer, James Ostrowski, will hold a press conference Saturday May 1st at 6:30 p.m., outside the Larkin House at 65 Lincoln Parkway, to discuss the publication of his controversial new book, Political Class Dismissed: Essays Against Politics, Including “What’s Wrong With Buffalo. Following the press conference there will be a reception (invite only) at the historic Larkin House. The reception (7:00 to 10:00 p.m.) will be open to reporters. Books will be provided at the press conference.

James Ostrowski is the author of over eighty published articles, including a 1989 Cato Institute report, “Thinking About Drug Legalization,” that, according to Google, is currently the most popular article on “drug legalization” in the world.

From the cover: “Political Class Dismissed is an unrelenting assault on America’s (and Buffalo’s) political class: the people who have seized political power and used it to advance their own private interests—domestic and foreign—at our expense.”

Political Class Dismissed contains fifty essays which range widely over the current issues of the day, including the decline of Buffalo, the bloated federal budget, the 9/11 attacks and the mess in Iraq. The essays on 9/11 and Iraq are virtually prophetic and presage the two current topics in the news: the cause of 9/11 and the debacle in Iraq.

9/11

“Your government failed you.” Richard Clarke said. James Ostrowski said this first and specified many more reasons than Clarke has. In response to Clarke, Karen Hughes, the President’s spokesperson, said, “Nothing could have been done to prevent 9/11.” While this is utterly false, there’s the important question, as raised by Political Class Dismissed: “The really interesting question for Ms. Rice and the entire U.S. foreign policy establishment is: If these attacks were not foreseeable and not preventable, why─when our nation has not been invaded since Lincoln invaded Virginia in 1861─were you people out and about before September 11th, in a dangerous world, kicking sleeping dogs and using beehives as punching bags?”

As early as November, 2001, Ostrowski warned:

The failures of our foreign policy interventions have not, as one might have expected, been the cause for serious re-evaluation in the corridors of power. Quite the contrary. Our power elites are stirring the pot for massive and unprecedented and dangerous foreign adventures. (Note: all underlined emphasis has been added.)

IRAQ WAR

On the Iraq War, quickly turning into another Vietnam, here’s what Ostrowski had to say before the war began:

The combined impact of all the prior “good wars” that “we won” utterly failed to bring peace and harmony to the world. Quite the contrary. Excuse me for thinking that the invasion and occupation of Iraq will likewise fail.

More force is always the answer. (What’s the question?) So the U.S. will go to war again over Iraq (maybe). It’s because Saddam has weapons of mass destruction and may want to use them. That’s the official reason. The actual reasons are oil, Israel and imperialism.

After the war began, Ostrowski wrote:

That the same government that daily deprives me of the freedom I was born with, is going to liberate the Iraqis is a sickening lie. And, being mindlessly trumpeted by the media, it’s a scary lie as well. . . .

Roughly speaking, Iraq has three large groups, each located in a discrete area. The Kurds are in the north, the Shiites in the south, and the Sunnis in the middle. The Shiites appear to be the most populous group. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that there is no strong tradition of limited government in Iraq. Thus, any democracy will be of the relatively unrestrained variety. Whichever group is in charge will impose its will on the others. The prospects for peace are dim. . . .

The Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis should each form their own separate republics and allow people in their domains the right to leave or stay and live in freedom. If each of these would-be republics paid me a one million dollar consulting fee (Swiss Federal Bank, Account No. 983570957187) for this advice and followed it, that would be an infinitesimal fraction of the money and lives that will be wasted trying to force these disparate groups to live together. . . .

So the warmongers who got us into a big mess, and whose egos and power lust will not allow us to get out of it, now resort to their old ploy—one that Goering described— that last refuge of a scoundrel: challenging the patriotism of the opponents of war to blind the people into continuing to support an unnecessary war that is killing Americans and stirring up anti-American sentiment in the Middle East.


JUDICIAL SELECTION

On another current story in the news—the selection of judges, Jim Ostrowski anticipated this issue by 27 years. The corrupt process by which New York selects its state trial judges has been in the news of late and is now the subject of a lawsuit filed in the federal court in Brooklyn, a lawsuit in which Ostrowski may testify. In Political Class Dismissed, Ostrowski describes his own efforts to reform the system—in 1977!

“At these conventions, the party hacks are told for whom to vote, and they do so, often mispronouncing the unfamiliar names of the candidates written on a slip given to them at the meeting. A recent series in the Buffalo News made public what had previously been an open secret: state judgeships usually go to those who contribute the most money to the local party chairman. So it is that state trial judges are selected in New York. It’s enough to give you butterflies in your stomach.”

What separates this book from other attacks on over-politicized state courts is that the author, a veteran of twenty years of litigation, does not spare the vaunted federal courts. In discussing a case where he was falsely charged with contempt of court by a politically-powerful law firm, Ostrowski writes:

“Violating the ancient rule that no one should be the judge of his own cause, [a federal judge] killed the deposition that, I believe, would have established grounds to prove him a liar and have him removed from the bench. That, ladies and gentlemen, is an example of how our vaunted federal courts “work.” What it came down to was raw power; might makes right; their army was bigger than mine.

“The notion that [federal] judges who were themselves politicians, who are recommended by politicians (the party chairmen) to please their contributors, appointed by a politician (the President), and confirmed by still more politicians (the Senators), are or can be apolitical is one of the grand myths of American government. It is nonsense.”

“In addition to overt corruption, there is a more sinister and largely invisible form of corruption that only close observers of the courts can discern. Judges in a democracy tend to be political animals. It matters not whether they are elected or appointed. The notion that appointed judges are apolitical is a fantasy entertained mainly by naïve and self-appointed “court reformers.” In truth, the politics involved in appointing judges is usually more covert and insidious than that involved in electing judges. The public rarely learns about why judges were appointed. Who pulled what strings? Who owed what to whom? Who will owe what to whom in the future? Even politically astute lawyers often do not know the answers to these questions.”

CHURNING LEGAL FEES

Ostrowski exposes a little-known scam whereby local politicians funnel huge sums of money to big law firms to defend them in lawsuits that could easily have been settled. Multiple firms are hired; cases drag on for years, earning the firms hundreds of thousands of dollars:

In days of yore, lawyers were critical to the fight for liberty, justice and individual rights. Twenty-four signers of the Declaration of Independence were lawyers. Now, many lawyers, who could otherwise use their savvy to expose and battle the corrupt machine, have been bought off with large retainers.

MARTHA STEWART

Political Class Dismissed features two trenchant articles on the persecution of Martha Stewart.

As I wrote last August on Mises.org, Martha Stewart was not guilty of insider trading; she was “guilty” of outsider trading, which is perfectly legal. Nevertheless, she was investigated by people who are virtually immune from suit. They investigate, prosecute and ruin lives because they can get away with it. Martha did commit a serious crime during the investigation. She refused to be intimidated; she refused to grovel; she refused to take a plea. The feds can’t stand it when anyone stands up to them. It’s an attitude they copped after the Confederates kicked them out of Charleston harbor in 1861.

On December 1st, 2003, Ostrowski wrote:

Martha Stewart goes on trial in January for allegedly lying about committing the imaginary crime of outsider trading. All that stands between her and oblivion is a jury of twelve citizens drawn from the liberal-Democratic Southern District of New York. This is an opportune time to review the role of juries in protecting us from tyranny.

. . . Second, juries are now packed with people who make a living from government work [Note: the lead juror worked for the feds] or depend on the government for much or all of their income. Expect such jurors to instinctively identify with the prosecution. . .

. . . Servile juries generally convict those charged with violating the numerous imaginary crime laws, the enforcement of which underlays the welfare/warfare state. Instead of restraining state power; they often endorse it. Can we now add juries to the list of mechanisms to limit the power of the state that have been perverted into rationalizations for ever-increasing tyranny?

Martha Stewart. Good luck in January. You will need it.

INCOMPETENCE OF THE FBI

Timing is everything. Everyone now blames the FBI for failing to follow up on leads that could have prevented 9/11. Who slammed the FBI 27 days before 9/11?:

“The FBI is a case study in how government agencies, programs and powers expand regardless of poor performance.” “The History of the FBI”, from Political Class Dismissed. (originally published August 15, 2001)


THE DECLINE OF BUFFALO

The heart of the book is a never-before published, 25,000-word essay explaining the decline of Buffalo over the last forty years. For the first time ever in print, the cause of the decline is explained: a corrupt, self-serving, ever-expanding political class and their numerous greedy allies and special interests.

The machine has destroyed Buffalo with the efficiency of a modern air force. The machine’s policies and programs have left the inner city and industrial areas looking like a war zone with abandoned and decaying housing and factories. At night, some neighborhoods become war zones, thanks to young men who in earlier years would have found work in the factories. They ply different trades now.

ON GEICO COMING TO BUFFALO

The Geico story perfectly illustrates how the corporate state operates. A huge insurance company gets special favors from big government so that it can get even bigger. The politicians smile for the cameras; their tangible rewards will come later and you won’t hear much about them.

If you are a big insurance company, the corporate state sure beats the vagaries of free market competition. It’s easier to pick up a phone, dial the governor and get $102 million than it is to go out in the marketplace and convince ten million New York drivers that you have the cheapest and best policies.

The politicians get to run these complex deals through their patronage apparatus—connected lawyers, real estate firms, development bureaucrats—all of whom make an enormous amount of money figuring out how the wired fat cats can avoid paying the taxes and complying with the regulations the rest of us are stuck with. The recipients of the patronage then kick-back campaign contributions to the politicians, do free legal work, and form the backbone of their campaign organizations at re-election time.


ANTI-WAR THEME

There is a timely and consistent antiwar theme throughout Political Class Dismissed.

From watching American boys die on television every night, I came to abhor war, “the health of the state.” My father had also spoken out against the Vietnam War in a speech in 1970 before my brother Mike’s high school graduating class. It was the commencement address at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, from which he had graduated early in 1943 to enlist in the Army and fight crack German troops in pitched battles in the Vosges Mountains. I would come to hate war in all its permutations: Cold War, hot war, Civil War, drug war, poverty war. “War” is the term politicians slap onto all their harebrained schemes to improve the world by use of massive aggressive force. War is a bore, but the bored always want more.

There is much, much more: Chomsky dissected; the Clintons sent up; FDR debunked; the corporate state explained; Lincoln revealed; Thoreau venerated; Bowling for Columbine reviewed; Pataki and Andrew Cuomo skewered; all with some of the liveliest prose by a Buffalo writer since Mark Twain left town for Elmira in 1871.

About the book, Ostrowski, whose boyhood hero was Thomas Jefferson, said, “I’d like to think that these essays approximate what Jefferson might say had he been around to witness the rise of the monstrous modern state with its corrupt political machines, ceaseless centralization of power and perpetual wars.”

###



About the Author

James Ostrowski is a trial and appellate lawyer and libertarian writer from Buffalo, New York. He graduated from St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute in 1975 and obtained a degree in philosophy from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1980. He graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 1983. In law school, he was writing assistant to Dean David G. Trager, now a federal judge in the Eastern District of New York. He was a member of the Moot Court Honor Society and the International Law Moot Court Team.
He served as vice-chairman of the law reform committee of the New York County Lawyers Association (1986-88) and wrote two widely quoted reports critical of the law enforcement approach to the drug problem. New York Newsday described his report on drug-related AIDS as “superb.” He was chair of the human rights committee of the Erie County Bar Association (1997-1999). He has written a number of scholarly articles on the law on subjects ranging from drug policy to the commerce clause of the Constitution. He has written several bar association reports and given continuing legal education lectures on habeas corpus, lawsuits against government officials and jury nullification.
His articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Buffalo News, Cleveland Plain Dealer and Legislative Gazette. His policy studies have been published by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, and the Cato Institute in Washington, D. C. His articles have been used as course materials at numerous colleges and universities including Brown, Rutgers and Stanford.
Presently he is an Adjunct Scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and a columnist for two of the largest political websites in the world, Mises.org and LewRockwell.com. His personal website, JimOstrowski.com, is one of the fastest-growing sites on the Web.
He and his wife Amy live in North Buffalo with their two children.





Selected Articles by the Author

"Thinking about Drug Legalization," Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 121 (May 25, 1989).
"Was the Union Army's Invasion of the Confederate States a Lawful Act?" in Secession, State & Liberty, David Gordon, ed., (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1998).

“Answering the Critics of Drug Legalization”, in Krauss, Melvyn B. and Edward P. Lazear, ed. Searching for Alternatives: Drug Control Policy in the United States. (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1991).

“The Rise and Fall of Jury Nullification,” 15 Journal of Libertarian Studies 89 (Spring 2001).

“The Moral and Practical Case for Drug Legalization,” 18 Hofstra L. Rev. 607 (1990).

Well, Kill Bill Vol. 2 is now playing and you can discover for yourself why The Bride went bonkers after Bill, her former boss and lover, ordered the hit on her wedding party. Was it just the old green-eyed monster? As entertainment, the film’s got that great Tarantino pizzazz: a superb look, jazzy editing, perfect music, and some mystery to keep you alert. Uma Thurman is still otherworldly as The Bride and David Carradine finally gets to act as Bill, as opposed to being the mythic figure of the first part. The problem is that Carradine and Tarantino still think he’s in the television series Kung Fu, so we have that mystical serenity prattle that worked well on that program. And you have every right to laugh when Bill starts playing his bamboo flute. Daryl Hannah is a blonde with vengeance in her eye. Yes, you read that right, eye. A patch covers the other one, and don’t think for a moment that Tarantino doesn’t toy with that character trait. Michael Madsen continues his typecast career as a goonish bouncer. There’s a shade less violence in this second part, and it does tie up things from volume one. But, and this is a big but, it would have been much, much better as a single, solid Tarantino adventure.

Hollywood keeps rolling out the Marvel comic book characters. Now we’ve got The Punisher. If you feel like seeing this absurd mess, I will tell you that the Punisher is human, filled with anger and hate, and has no super powers. The movie is one of those revenge epics that seem concocted from ideas written on tissue paper. The Punisher is an FBI agent who has to even the score with a mob boss embarrassingly played by John Travolta, of all people. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos plays a character called “The Mouse,” and I’ll leave it at that. The film’s violence would make Mel Gibson shiver.

Frank Castle, the “punisher” of the title, is played by Thomas Jane who has about as much reason for being an action hero as I do. Oh wait, I would be better because I know the rules for action movies. Never let the bad guy know how smart you are. Never say more than a few words. Never let them see your hidden gun. Or knife. Or baseball bat. As an actor, Jane is about as intelligent as a rock and not very believable as a guy eager to crack the heads of the people who murdered his family. Also in the cast is some bozo wrestler, Kevin Nash, another guy who can’t act. The movie gets silly a lot. There’s one scene where Nash is fist-fighting and the movie crosscuts his action with neighboring tenants discussing how cooking can also be considered a dance routine. Honest, it’s that stupid. Mayhem galore and a total waste of time. The film is the directorial debut of Jonathan Hensleigh, who’ll only learn how to direct by watching the original version of The Punisher, which was released in 1989 and stars Dolph Lundgren. And it’s really saying something to note that Lundgren and his movie are light years better than the new edition.

The United States Of Leland is a risky enterprise, and I admire it because there are people involved willing to take the chance that audiences can handle something a little bit different and a little bit quirky. Screenwriter-director Matthew Ryan Hoge has crafted a movie that challenges preconceived notions about what makes a character sympathetic and where characters should travel in the arc of a story. Soft-spoken teenager Leland Fitzgerald (a superb Ryan Gosling) commits a senseless murder that shocks his community, affecting both his victim’s family and his own in awful ways. When asked why he killed an autistic boy, he replies: “because of the sadness.” Sent to a juvenile detention facility for his crime, Leland comes in contact with a prison teacher and an aspiring writer, Pearl Madison (a very good Don Cheadle). As Pearl delves into the mystery of Leland’s cruel act, he also sees the chance for a career-making book because the boy’s father is a world-renowned author, well-played by Kevin Spacey. Lena Olin is also excellent as Leland’s mother. The movie examines how each family, Leland’s and the victim’s, reacts differently to the crime. It explores motive, responsibility (parental and societal), and how some people are willing to use others for their own personal gain. The emotion-charged film has some frayed edges, but there’s a certain appeal in its resistance to tidying everything up into one neat package.

The Whole Ten Yards is the sequel to 2000’s The Whole Nine Yards, which was a breezy mob comedy that succeeded because the primary cast, Bruce Willis, Matthew Perry, Rosanna Arquette, Natasha Henstridge, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Amanda Peet had a brightness and sparkle that worked well. Now they’ve added a yard and created a movie that feels like it was bought at a dollar store. Once again, Willis is the mob boss, although this time he has a softer side. Peet, an actress I thoroughly enjoy, is Willis’ wry attractive wife. Perry, an actor of not much depth, is the neurotic who needs his help after his own wife has been kidnapped by some goofball Hungarian mobster, played to annoying heights by the grotesquely overrated Kevin Pollack, who was also a pain to watch in the first movie. Gangster stereotypes abound and attempted jokes fly high and crash to the floor like bricks in a tornado. Perry spends most of the movie falling over furniture. Hopefully, when his face hit the ground he saw his future and realized it isn’t very promising if he keeps making junk like this.

On April 12, there were under 100 protestors at Bidwell Park, Buffalo on April 12 at the emergency demonstration in response to US attacks on Fallujah. Sure, the response was positive, lots of honking horns and waving. But we all know it’s genocide over there; and Bush on April 13 gives the green light to crush Fallujah. Probably new types of weapons will be tried out.

What’s that got to do with 9-11? Good question.

It’s our view that the chief vulnerability of the White House-controlled juggernaut is 9-11.

This view was reified after attending the International Inquiry into 9-11 (San Francisco, March 26-28).

At his April 13 2004 press conference, George Bush again linked Iraq with 9-11: “…the lesson of September the 11th is, when this nation sees a threat, a gathering threat, we’ve got to deal with it. We can no longer hope that oceans protect us from harm. Every threat we must take seriously. Saddam Hussein was a threat…”

And again, from Bush: “…it didn’t take me long to put us on a war footing. And we’ve been on a war footing ever since. The lessons of 9-11 that I – one lesson was, we must deal with gathering threats. And that’s part of the reason I dealt with Iraq the way I did.”

They attacked us first is the mantra. Bush can spin on deliriously pathological, as long as he and his handlers can keep that first lie going: they attacked us first, Osama, al-Qaida…

They attacked us first. “We’re at war. Iraq is a part of the war on terror. It is not the war on terror; it is a theater in the war on terror. And it’s essential that we win this battle in the war on terror. By winning this battle, it will make other victories more certain in the war against the terrorist.” (Bush, April 13, 2004)

The whole ball of obfuscation and lies is predicated on sustaining the big one: they attacked us first.

No kid wants to believe their father is a criminal, observes Eric Hufschmid, trying to find an analogy to explain the nation’s denial about 9-11. Hufschmid, one of the San Francisco 9-11 speakers and author of Painful Deceptions/Painful Illusions (video and book) characterizes the USA as the “Un-informed Sheeple of America.” Another analogy: sheep are controlled by dogs; people are controlled by criticism. People accept being lied to so as not to be isolated from the crowd. Exposure of the egregious crime of 9-11 offers the potential to break the control, maybe.

Ellen Mariani, wife of 9-11 victim, with her attorney, former Pennsylvania deputy attorney general, Phil Berg (www.911forthetruth.com), both Inquiry speakers, outlined their civil RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) action against President Bush and other high level members of his administration: based upon the administration’s prior knowledge of 9-11; knowingly failing to act, prevent or warn of 9-11; and the ongoing obstruction of justice by covering up the truth of 9-11. RICO, notes Berg, “…was created to prosecute the mob. Our position is that there is a mob in the White House and we have to do something about it.”

Mike Ruppert, former LAPD narcotics investigator, whistleblower, and 9-11 Inquiry keynote speaker outlined his strategy regarding exposing and bringing the perps to justice: “…you take the statements made by the suspect, you prove them to be lies—and that becomes admissible in court and then any John Q. Citizen on the street can understand that. We have to secure the general public’s understanding that the US government lied. First.”

Bruce Gagnon who heads the Portland Maine-based Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space (12th annual conference April 23-25, 2004), was also a key speaker at the 9-11 conference. Gagnon outlined depths to which German Nazis penetrated the CIA, NASA and the weapons and space programs. See Operation Paperclip (www.space4peace.org)

Gagnon noted how easily presidential candidate Gore went down, without a fight, even though he’d clearly been cheated of the presidency, indicating his loyalty to the system rather than any obligation to the US or its people.

Texas author Jim Marrs (Inside Job) suggested that Bush in the White House was necessary if the 9-11 and post-9-11 scenario was the same (and Marrs thinks it would have been). The conservatives would have put up a bigger fuss against expansionism and “foreign entanglements.” Better to have their guy. It’s confused them. Also, says the Texan, they’re hornswoggled by religion in the Bible Belt, sanctioning “some of the most unchristian things I’ve ever seen.”

Nafeez M. Ahmed, from London, is the author of The War On Freedom (How and Why America was Attacked Sept. 11, 2001) published in 2002. In his San Francisco talk, Ahmed discussed the findings of his recent book, Behind the War on Terror. Ahmed’s work is featured prominently, along with Michel Chossudovsky’s (a keynote speaker in the upcoming Toronto inquiry) in the very important wrap-up book, The New Pearl Harbor (Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11) by David Ray Griffin (prof. of philosophy of religion, Claremont School of Theology).

Those following critically the 9-11 story will recognize many of the other speakers in San Francisco (Barrie Zwicker, Webster Tarpley, Ralph Schoenman, Daniel Hopsicker, Gray Brechin et al). To most, though, these people who challenge the official story are off the radar. Their speeches and/or interviews are posted on www.snowshoefilms.com
For further information on the May 25-30, 2004 Inquiry (phase two), see www.911inquiry.org and www.globalresearch.ca

Roy & Karen Harvey / snowshoefilms.com

Mr. Bush simply ignored the questions asked and went on babbling willy-nilly what ever seemed to pop into his head. He struggled mightily to parrot out what he has been parroting all along. Mr. Bush claimed that these latest attacks are the work of the ubiquitous “thugs and terrorists” that seem to dot the Iraq landscape, popping up to cause trouble and annoy the administration. He seemed to be whistling past a US foreign policy graveyard, one rapidly filling with dead US soldiers.

At one point he was asked if he had made any mistakes. He couldn’t remember, but fortunately here at the Alt, we do. The biggest mistake being the firing of the standing Iraqi army, along with thousands of Baath party bureaucrats, both of whom could have maintained security and stability. Any imperial power past or present knows that you must “buy the loyalty of those you have overthrown”. It’s good business. During the American occupation of Germany, the US government retained thousands of ex-Nazi types to run the country.

Iraqi proconsul L. Paul Bremer gets the blame for unleashing last week’s uprising by closing down a then little known newspaper with a circulation of 10,000 and arresting its editor. The papers crime was one of “spreading anti-American views.” Freedom of the press must not be one of Mr. Bremer’s articles in the new Iraq constitution. As the American occupation troops have learned, the editor of that paper was none other than the now infamous rebel cleric Moqtada al Sadr.

This event seems to have triggered the release of his militia, and the genie is now out of the bottle, and will not be denied. US troops are now surrounding the town of Najaf, where the bandit of Baghdad has fled, to bring him out dead or alive. Presumably, al-Sadr is holed up in his office near a mosque in this most holy of Shia cities, surrounded by hundreds if not thousands of his fanatic followers.

Iraqis will now see a Christian army- laying siege to Muslim ground zero in what must be, to their long memories, another Crusade. It will be up to young American Infantrymen to make the assault and drag him out. Assuming his rabid rabble allow that to happen. The end result of the ultimatum could be a house- to- house blood bath.

House-to-house urban warfare was exactly what the pentagon feared might occur in the assault on Baghdad last year. Last week it happened in Fallujah, thirty miles west. US Marines, looking for the killers of four American contractors, had to result to close in air support and tanks as they moved into the hostile city. The result was about 600 dead Fallujahans, most of them women and children. A local soccer stadium has come a graveyard.

The result of Bremer’s bungling has been to force the Iraqis to choose nationalism over tribal and religious schism. Sunnis and Shia have put heir differences aside, at least for the moment, and unleashed jihad against the Americans. The enemy of my enemy scenario seems to be at work here. Holy war may be too strong a word, but I don’t think so. The fighting inside Iraq has been much worse than the average American has been led to believe, to wit:

The second of two helicopters was shot down Tuesday morning, just east of the besieged city of Fallujah. It was a Special Operations MH-53 Pave Low, which first gained fame as the “Jolly Green Giant” in Viet Nam (there’s that war again). This very large single rotor chopper was used on harrowing missions sometimes into North Viet Nam to rescue downed American pilots. The Pave Low crash site, 12 miles east of the city, was secured, but he military won’t give disposition of the crew, only to say they are alive. The may have been captured. The site and security team were mortared, but the marines managed to burn the ship in place before they were themselves extracted. The first helicopter, an Apache, was shot down on Sunday morning, reportedly by a surface to air missile.

American supply lines and convoys are coming under constant, serious attack. This last weekend, US troops fought “pitched battles” to keep the north-south and east-west lines of communication into Baghdad running. The associated press reported that a convoy of flatbed trucks hauling M-113 armored personnel carriers was overrun and burned, twenty miles south of the capitol. The supply lines from Baghdad into Fallujah have been attacked repeatedly, fuel tankers burned, both military and civilian contractors killed or kidnapped or both. Us troops are hard pressed to protect them all. It has come to light that they don’t. Fuel and ammunition have military escort. But food and water shipments may not. Kellogg Brown & Root have about 700 trucks moving stuff around the country. They have to hire their own guards. As we have noted, there are about 20,000 so-called private military contractors in Iraq, mostly providing security to whoever wants to pay the 1,000 a week fee. These mercenaries (if you will) are paid for by the pentagon but not accountable to anyone in the congress. It has been reported that as many 80 PMC’s have been killed in the last week. These deaths do not have to be reported as “official” deaths.

As the convoy attacks continue, the commander of US forces in the Middle East, Lt. General John Abizad, has asked the pentagon for an additional 10,000 troops. Mars alone knows where the DoD will get them. Troop rotations of those soldiers inside Iraq have been frozen yet again, most notably the first Armored Division. The area commander wants to increase troop strength to about 135,000.

Kidnappings have indeed escalated. The latest AP figures are 22 still held, while 35 have been released. Most foreign governments are telling their civilians to get out. Russia is sending planes for their 500 folks still in country. France has ordered their people out tout suite.

At least 680 American soldiers have been killed so far, with thousands wounded. This number is suspect, and could be much higher. As we noted in the last issue of Alt, the pentagon has been reluctant to be forthright with casualty returns.

A recent article in The New York Times described how New York City Schools’ Chancellor Joel Klein is surrounding himself with young MBA/investment banking types who are charged with “reforming” New York City’s schools. These new twenty-something’s in red suspenders seem very much like the boy wonders we heard so much about in the late nineties. Interestingly, one thirty-one year old on Mr. Klein’s staff, Matthew Onek, is also the son of Mr. Klein’s law partner. In other words, no experience necessary.

According to the article, “To some, the new educrats - working in everything from curriculum to strategic planning - are a long-overdue influx of extraordinary managerial talent from outside the school system. To others, they represent an insult to veteran school officials, a devastating loss of institutional memory and a corporate-style takeover of the public school system.”

To those who still remember the “greed is good” battle cry, the message should be clear. The battle is on and no prisoners will be taken. In the case of the City of Buffalo, the barbarians may already be inside the gates. Charter Schools: The Shiny New SPV’s? While the “special purpose vehicles” or SPV’s formerly were phantom companies with names like “Raptor” and “Chewco”, in the “new economy” pedagogic parlance they’re simply referred to as “charter schools.”

The off-balance sheet “phantom menace” for the Buffalo Board of Education is the charter school movement. Charter Schools are designed to bankrupt the system and bust the teachers’ unions.

Even though the charter school movement in the City of Buffalo is rooted in racial issues, the ability to terminate contracts with teachers’ unions across the board is akin to a gold rush. Authentic, community-based charter schools set up in good faith may soon find themselves cut loose as their corporate sponsors build a cartel and if the union busting and empire building works in Buffalo, who’s to say it won’t work in Williamsville or Kenmore?

The Analysts Can’t Be Wrong

One doesn’t need an overpriced study to realize that Buffalo’s Public Schools are in trouble, but the Buffalo Board of Education commissioned a study anyway and found out that the answer to the crisis in funding for public education lies in dividing the meager resources allotted to public schools with charter school rivals.

Last year, an entity called the Education Innovation Consortium published a report at the behest of the Board of Ed. That recommended a radical experiment in education. It called for the school district to start sponsoring charter schools. Not surprisingly, Alt has found that the group is an offshoot of the Center for Educational Innovation, a not for profit operating in New York City that promotes charter schools.

Charter school advocates usually target teachers’ unions as the gravest problem facing education today, and while most would agree that the traditional school year is still geared more towards the needs of nineteenth century agrarian society, the argument that the teachers’ unions are the ones at fault for this and many other problems in education has high credence in the charter school movement.

The belief that teachers’ salaries are too high also seems to be a central theme. In other words the union has done too good a job on behalf of its members, and is about to become a victim of that success. Interestingly, the six figure salaries of board members of the Education Innovation Consortium, and other right wing think tanks devoted to privatizing public education, aren’t an issue. The obscene level of executive compensation packages in corporate America hasn’t changed in the aftermath of the new economy bubble. If anything, it’s gotten worse. The spiritual leader of this movement, Jack Welch, fattened his calf by intoning “shareholder value” as his mantra. That meant firing tens of thousands of workers or “drowning the kittens” in new economy-speak. As the vitality continues to be drained from the America economy at a rapid pace, it should be clear that any industry still retaining a strong union work force in the United States has a big target on it with “Neutron Jack” and his followers.

Curbing “Cadillac Health Care Packages”

The disparity between teacher compensation and the income received by many parents struggling in low wage service economy jobs, creates a natural class rift that is being exploited ingeniously by wealthy “reformers.”

Part of teacher compensation includes an endangered species in American society called health care coverage. Why do teachers deserve generous health care benefits when the rest of American society has been left at the mercy of a privatized and increasingly class-driven health care industry? The answer seems to be that they don’t and if we privatize public education, everyone will be on a level playing field. Right-wingers have been able to control this debate. Why, indeed, do teachers deserve a privilege like health care? That is the focus, instead of asking the question of why so many Americans are without coverage in the wealthiest nation on earth.

MBA Buzzwords: Create Your Own Reality!

The lingo of charter schools is peppered with new economy buzzwords. The website of the Buffalo Board of Education uses terms and phrases like “creative innovation”, and the imperative of “greater economies and efficiencies.” The Board’s website also talk about how Buffalo will be a “district that will compete vigorously with other districts.” Then there is the notion that Buffalo Public Schools are like lords of the manor when compared with their colleagues in the suburbs. They need to be, “...brought into line with similar benefits of comparable employees.” The poor funding of City schools doesn’t call for statewide reform, but for a more competitive business model.

The way to accomplish this sort of MBA mission statement appears simple. While repeatedly demanding greater accountability from its teachers, the Board of Education appears to be removing its own liabilities from sight through the “special purpose vehicle” of charter schools.

However, if “performance evaluations” are to be believed, then charter schools have not demonstrated that they represent an academic improvement over public schools. Historically, Charter schools have “outperformed” public schools when they’ve been allowed to “skim” students. In other words when a new charter is able to take the best students from failing public schools, they do better than those public schools. By bringing in enough new charters to bankrupt the entire system, teacher salaries will decrease, while leaving a big slice of pie for the creative entrepreneurial types who saw this “business opportunity” and ran with it. Once this end is accomplished it’s hard to see how the new under-funded charters will be any different than their under-funded public school predecessors.

The Illusion of Choice

The addition of school choice has given parents some options of removing their children from poor schools, it has done so at the price of increased transportation costs for those students who must now be provided with free bussing to the school of their choice. So while the School Board has stated that it will be “attempting to reduce the expense to the school system of high cost items in our bargaining agreements which benefit only small groups of employees,” transportation costs for the district will actually be going up.

“School Choice” as promoted by the district may also have the unintended consequence of weakening and even forcing the closure of poorly performing schools, which are more often than not located in poor neighborhoods. Such a result would be in direct opposition to the goal of a return to strong neighborhood schools advocated by many conservatives.

School Choice does not allow attendance in wealthy suburban school districts, but parents who have embraced new economy ethics still enroll their children in these schools under false pretenses. We call these parents criminals. School board members who take on the teachers’ unions by withholding millions of dollars in back pay, as in the case of former Buffalo Board of Ed. President Paul Buchanan, get to be called Judge. The message is clear for school board candidates who would choose to support a hostile takeover of the public school system: your reward won’t come from feeling good about making a difference in students lives, it will come in the form of an immediate and highly tangible financial and political payoff.

Free Market Free-For-All: If You’re Thinking, You Should Be Writing

The unabashedly pro-market approach embraced by the School Board comes in the aftermath of the market collapse created by that very same way of thinking. Unlike Enron executives, parents and students may not be able to walk away unscathed. If anything, the position of school board members is similar to that faced by devastated third world government officials requesting assistance from the International Monetary Fund. Federal and State officials are insisting on free market solutions for problems that have more to do with a lack of transparency, corrupt funding formulas, and chronic poverty than with whether or not teachers are entitled to middle class salaries and free health care.

In the face of this hostile takeover, many teachers, particularly those in suburban school districts are remarkably complacent. Americans have been slow to embrace the concept of lifelong learning especially when it comes to scholarly pursuits. How many teachers wielding absolute authority in their classrooms have held their students to strict writing deadlines while failing to put pen to paper themselves? How many teachers, saddled with enormous debt from pursuing the advanced degrees necessary to meet rising standards view a well paid teaching position as the logical and just conclusion to their own academic inquiries? Many teachers and students take it on faith that if they study hard follow the rules they can earn a comfortable living as an educator. That is no longer the case. Earning a living wage is NOT a birthright. Though most people still regard education as a sacred institution in this country, in terms of the “new economy” mindset it is just another industry waiting to be “right-sized.”

George Bush ran on a campaign promise to become “the education president.” What have you teachers and students out there learned so far? As an old teacher from Texas once told me, “If you’re thinking, you should be writing.”

One parent who attended the meeting told alt that, “The big thing is that the principal submitted an application to talk about it. They won’t even know if they (School 54 administration) have permission to talk about setting up a charter school until mid-April.”

Although the parent said that the meeting with the principal was somewhat reassuring, he also said, “Communications on the charter school between the principal, teachers and parents was nil before this, but this was just to get the conversation going. teachers and parents were upset that she didn’t say anything. When it comes down to decision making that’s when she needs to really talk to us about this.”

“A couple of parents of special education kids were really upset because of the history of special education kids in charter schools,” this person went on to say, “Most of us think the school is good the way it is, and we don’t want to change it.”

In a letter to parents, Principal Elizabeth Martina said that the she had submitted “a preliminary concept proposal to develop a conversion charter school.”

“As you know the fiscal outlook for our school district, has been very challenging since the tragedies of 9-11,” the letter stated. “This next year the district is facing a budget gap of 45 million dollars. The board is looking for a means to bring fiscal stability to the school district. We are looking to bring stability to our enrollment and staffing as well. We have had to cut and rearrange classrooms every year for the past three years. As more families leave our school for charters and for other school settings because of these uncertainties, we have had to make additional cuts.”

Our Translation: Republican lawmakers have seized upon 9-11 to bust teachers’ unions. The writing has been on the wall for a while. Rather than hold out and make a final stand, we need to surrender to political pressure in order to survive.

Some parents in attendance were able to draw a connection between the policies of the Bush administration and Buffalo’s Fiscal Stability Authority, as well. A few people mentioned union busting, which was, of course, denied.

One of the more idealistic teachers actually said that it was not about the union but making a difference in the city schools. Under the conversion law all employee contracts would be honored until their expiration and at that point all contracts would have to be renegotiated.

This strategy amounts to a classic two-tiered system, whereby teachers currently under union contract can continue to enjoy the salary and benefits that were won in hard fought battles while exposing their younger colleagues coming into the system to the vagaries of the free market.

Older unionized workers in Western New York and around the country continue to allow themselves to be forced into a no-win situation whereby their only way out is to pull the ladder up behind them.

Given the intensity of the attack in The Buffalo News, which is supported by parent company Berkshire Hathaway’s banking interest, M&T Bank, parents and teachers, like the community at large, have been squeezed hard.

While Buffalo schools have been a dismal failure due in large part to under-funding, the charter school movement appears poised to institutionalize that poverty. Nothing but a strong showing in the school board election on May 4 by grass roots candidates will be able keep the boa constrictor from swallowing its prey.

In Buffalo’s tough economic times, the school district has a hard job of just obtaining funding for general subjects like math and science, let alone making sure students pass their exams. Art Partners provides teachers, supplies and an interdisciplinary agenda so students can learn about social studies for example, while constructing a Mayan pyramid as an art project.

Art Partners conglomerates as a fieldwork program involving faculty and students from Buffalo State College. Andrus also works at Buffalo State as a member of the Art Education department. Each semester a group of students, around 15, enrolls in her course, Art for Children with Special Needs, bringing the program to two designated Buffalo school sites. The special needs students not only include those with disabilities but also those considered at risk due to social, economic, environmental and other life circumstances negatively affecting their ability to succeed in school and society.

Andrus saw a need for the program back in 1994 when reflecting on her mostly white, middle-class students.

“We were on our way to producing another culturally incompetent teaching force,” Andrus said. “They have had little experience with at risk children. There is fear, misconception and stereotypes.”

The professor also studied the situation for black men in America and how they fell so fast to being at-risk children.

“Research says black male kids lose their love for school at grade three,” Andrus said. “Their falling through the cracks, and we need prevention. Every day there is racism, and it takes a toll on the psyche. When your life in your own eyes holds little value, it becomes easy to take someone else’s (life).”

Projects for the children have included themes in understanding the self, social activism and world culture.

Andrus takes pride in the fact of the program allowing children to learn to be consumers of art and possibly even makers in the future. She shows them there is more out there that they can be and do and feel.

“We can’t do anything major (to raise self-esteem), but we can use art to help,” Andrus said. “We give them a different identity. They need to feel empowerment and confidence to withstand the temptations of society they need a strong sense of self.”

And the children have been quite receptive. Even the tough kids who are a little older still can be helped. At School 57—a challenge at times for Andrus—one of the toughest boys found a way to express himself through art.

“George was like the ‘gang leader’,” Andrus said. “The student teachers thought he wasn’t enjoying Art Partners or getting through to him. At our last session with these fourth and fifth graders George started crying because he knew we were going to be leaving. I just told the kids (student teachers) you can’t quit early and always have faith.”

But Andrus has been busy. Her biggest concern is keeping the program going and expanding. She does most of the work and grant writing on her own time. All of the supplies and projects are kept at her home. The program takes a lot of time and effort as it is a real teaching course including lesson plans and project assessment. Fortunately Art Partner has received funding from the Center for Development of Human Services and Erie County Legislator Crystal Peoples and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery offers exhibit space in its education wing, but Andrus is always looking for more donations and help. But even with her busy schedule, Andrus realizes the impact she is having on her students and community for generations to come.

“It gives my students a look at an alternative view to art education and helping the community,” she said. “We need to spread the word around the country.”

For more information, exhibit pictures and course examples check out www.artpartnersprogram.com.

Yes, it does seem that everyone’s into box office grosses this season. As Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic bondage movie has been raking in the dough, Hollywood has managed to release some other efforts, although the buzz about The Passion…is still non-stop. Highest grossing religious movie, most money for an R-rated movie on a weekend, etc. Blah, blah, blah. And now the conspiracy-minded, such as the simplistic, bullying windbag Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, are worried that the film won’t be considered for the Oscars because it’s about Jesus and the ruling studio Jews will never let it win best picture. I gotta tell you, these nutcases never cease to amaze me. Plenty of movies about religion and Jesus and events from the Bible have received Oscar nominations and some have won the coveted gold trophy.

Gibson’s exercise in re-writing the Bible won’t win because it’s a cheesy gore-fest. And cheesy gore-fests do not win best picture Oscars. Hollywood likes their best picture winners to uplift in some way, and The Passion… is about as uplifting as burnt rubber. Oh sure, it may have moved some people - heck, a lot of people, to tears, but that doesn’t count as the reaction needed to score awards. Sheep will always follow other sheep, especially if they’re lied to the way religious Americans were lied to by Gibson and his publicity flacks about “somebody” not wanting them to see his motion picture. As much as I thought the movie was a distortion of religion and an exercise in sadomasochistic banality, I will grant Gibson one achievement, his behavior in promoting the film is as craven an act as anything Jesus ever preached against.

Meanwhile, movie reviewers have to move on, and I know you’re eager to read about Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Jersey Girl, The Ladykillers, Monsieur Ibrahim, The Secret Window, and Taking Lives, I wish had had better things to report. Here are a half a dozen new features and not one of them manages to coalesce into a fully satisfying film. There are bits and pieces of pleasure in these offerings, and occasionally there’s genius, but overall, each movie falters, maybe right out of the gate, maybe at the finish line. There aren’t a lot of science fiction comedies out there, and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind goes for laughter, but never quite achieves nirvana. The movie isn’t as good as it thinks it is. You watch it admiring its daring, even smiling a lot, but the overall reaction is one of disappointment. Director Michael Gondry and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich) are too fond of tricks; there are too many reversals in this tall tale of lovers who have their minds erased to forget about each other. Kate Winslet is feisty as all get out as the female half of the odd duo. Jim Carrey is the male who decides not to go to work one day, an act that alters his life forever. Carrey tries too hard to be sober-minded, as if he’s aware he’s in a comedy, but doesn’t want to be comic. He flattens the movie a bit. Winslet is so hippie-dippie that you can’t erase her from your mind. Tom Wilkinson is the man behind a method that will erase what you want from your brain. Kirsten Dunst has the stereotypical secretary role and Elijah Wood and Mark Ruffalo are technicians who perform the “operation,” which has something to do with sonic waves of some kind. It’s a nifty cast alright, but deep inside this whirlwind of a movie are Kaufman and Gondry trying too hard to be quirky. Director Kevin Smith used to make iconoclastic films. Clerks and Chasing Amy are his two best. Now he’s delivered Jersey Girl, and it’s a romantic comedy mish-mash that would embarrass even Doris Day. The idea for the effort came from Smith’s own experiences as a father. I’ve got news for him, who cares. I’m sick and tired of filmmakers who think that just because they’ve experienced the miracle of birth, everyone else has to share in the bounty or watch a movie based on the giddy utterances of their annoying offspring. I’ve got even more news for Smith. As an unimpressed Alexis Carrington snidely said on Dynasty to someone who was jawing about having a baby, “even worms procreate.” Anyway, Ben Affleck, desperately trying to underplay, is a successful Manhattan entrepreneur who moves in with his grizzled old father (the edgy George Carlin of all people) after his wife dies. The wife is the estimable Jennifer Lopez, and I’m sure I don’t have to rehash all the Ben and Jen baloney. Lopez was a good actress, until she decided she was a Diva. Sorry, Jen, you ain’t no Diva. Not as long as Faye Dunaway’s still alive. The movie is about Affleck’s widowed character coping with raising his cutesy-poo daughter who spouts sentimental schlock the likes of which no living child has ever spoken. The little girl is played by Raquel Castro, who’s so saccharine that she makes Shirley Temple seem mordant. This is drivel moviemaking at its zenith. Affleck has tossed aside any pretense of being able to act. But imagine someone worse. Liv Tyler is in the film, and she’s so badly in need of acting lessons that you cringe for those emoting with her, even Affleck.

We certainly should be grateful for the work of the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan. Fargo, The Big Lebowski, Barton Fink, and The Hudsucker Proxy are works to relish and watch more than once. And, I really enjoyed the sneaky humor of O Brother, Where Art Thou? So, it pains me to report that with their latest, The Ladykillers, the two have overreached. Something possessed the pair to remake the classic British Ealing Studios comedy of the same name from 1955 and to turn a gentle, graceful, charming, intelligent, and very funny English movie into a charmless, plodding, unfunny American mess. Where the former had Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers, the Coen’s effort has Tom Hanks and Marlon Wayans, and the twain doesn’t meet. The setting has been switched to the southern U.S.A. The plots are similar. The head of a gang of thieves rents a room in a house owned by an elderly woman. He’s going to commit a robbery. He brings in his henchmen. The old lady turns everything upside down. In the British film, the woman was curious and blithely unaware that her every act and word were disruptive. In the remake, the old lady is a busybody pain-in-the-neck, who’s prone to anger and physical violence. The Coens have also altered the landscape by making their woman black. But instead of making this switch work, they’ve created jokes that rely on race, and they just aren’t funny. Hanks has a good time with his southern gentleman persona, but Wayans is an untalented ham whose character is a tasteless abomination.

Monsieur Ibrahim stars Omar Sharif as an elderly Muslim man who befriends a neglected Jewish boy in Paris in the 1960s. Sharif won the Cesar (the French equivalent of the Academy Award) for best actor for his role, and he deserves it. His performance is wonderful and he keeps you interested in the story even as it bogs down in philosophical meandering. Screenwriter-director Francois Dupeyron does succeed in avoiding treacle; he never sugarcoats the differences between the boy and the man. The mentor-student relationship isn’t smarmy or played for anything other than its sincere and honest openness.

The Secret Window did prove something I’ve always thought about novelist Stephen King. He’s a one-note guy. The movie is based on a King work about a writer who can’t come up with anything new to say. He’s blocked. His marriage is bad, and he’s got a stalker. Sound familiar. The movie succeeds for a while because Johnny Depp is very good as the writer. But soon, ennui takes over as the road we’re on seems too well-traveled. Nothing original breaks through. Taking Lives is so boring that you wonder if some sort of chemical agent didn’t drift over the set making everyone drowsy. It’s a sub-standard serial killer movie in which the cast reads their dialogue s-l-o-w-l-y and c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y. Only a quirky Ethan Hawke manages to have fun. Angelina Jolie is around to lead the chase, but halfway through, you just don’t care.

The children at the school learn to solve conflicts through peace. When a student has a problem with another student they go to the "Peace Table" to express themselves through words. The school year ends every year with a Peace Celebration. Upon graduation from the school, the children receive an Ambassador of Peace button.

As a spring fundraiser, we are selling Peace T-shirts and Sweatshirts. Please let me know if you or anyone you know would be interested. T-shirts are $10 and Sweatshirts are $18 (sizes youth S-L and adult S-XXL). You can reach me by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at my home phone at 823-1166. The school is located at 75 Hickory St., Buffalo, NY 14204. Ph. 842-6213 Fax (716) 842-1454. website: http://home.catholicweb.com/SSCBMS/

The school contact is Jim Serafin. All orders for the Spring fundraiser must be placed by May 5. The shirt is sand colored. The graphic contains small handsprints shaped into a Peace Dove with the word Peace in the center. The school's name is listed below the peace dove.

Peace!
Sincerely,
Amy Rodriguez
The Bush administration has gone so far as to limit the amount of time the Disabled American Veterans folks can counsel wounded soldiers. The visits are few and those permitted closely supervised. The President has not attended one funeral of an American soldier killed in action. Not one.

If the wounding and maiming of Americans in Iraq is given little attention in the media, deaths get scant more attention. The reason being that the Pentagon and White House wish to protect the privacy of the families. This is both nonsense and offensive on the part of the Bush White House. This decision (probably made by Karl Rove and company) is designed to glean the maximum political advantage. Pictures of flag- draped American coffins will not help shore up G.I. George’s shaky poll numbers; therefore they won’t be allowed.

Unfortunately for the thousands of mostly green US troops now heading for Iraq, Insurgent activity is escalating in violence and skill. More Americans will be killed and maimed before this madness is finished, if it ever will be.

Outright full scale civil has not quite broken out yet in Iraq, but what is happening within the Sunni triangle and across the rest of the country will do as a prelude.. As we go to press, rocket attacks on both civilian and coalition targets are increasing. Drive by shootings, ambushes, and running gun- fights erupt in dozens of incidents each day. It’s difficult to keep track of the details. The murders of coalition employee civilians are commonplace and the ill trained and worse equipped Iraqi police can do little but write a report after cleaning up the mess.

The only Iraqis venturing out after the curfew are those intent on mayhem. The numerous explosions are now hardly noticed by the general population, unless it happens to blow them personally to bits.

And the spin goes on. As the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, the Bush administration continues to spit out the same line; we tossed out the tyrant, the world is safer, the terrorists are on the run, if you’re not with me you are against me, someday WMD’s might be found, American democracy will spread its self-righteous wings across the middles east and the world will be made safe for mom, apple pie and the girl I left behind. That is, if she can be distracted long enough from shopping the local Mall to pay any attention. Since the beginning of hostilities a year ago, almost 700 Iraqis have been killed by suicide bombers, far more than those in Palestine. The car bomb seems to be the weapon of choice. Much like the Kamikaze of WWII fame, it’s spectacular, cheap, and very lethal when used properly. Suicide’s driving cars seem the most popular variation on a theme against Iraqi soft targets. But Car bombs don’t work well against American GI’s. Anything approaching an American checkpoint that seems the least bit hostile will be shot to pieces. When innocent Iraqis are caught in the cross fire, the locals accuse the Americans of cold- blooded murder. Nothing could be farther from the truth. They don’t understand that the average GI now realizes that he isn’t fighting for freedom, but for Halliburton. He/she is simply using the Bush doctrine of preemptive war to save his own skin. He sees an imminent threat to himself and his friends in the approach of an automobile hurtling at his roadblock, and acts accordingly: with massive, overwhelming firepower instantly delivered at the call of a handset. I’m surprised that entire sections of Downtown Baghdad haven’t been carpet bombed to bits by b-52’s unloading 2000 pound bombs called in by nervous privates.

Collecting the American spent brass and other shell casings will no doubt produce the first crop of Iraqi millionaire entrepreneurs.

We have all seen the images of shot up cars and trucks. But I can tell you that I would have fired the first shots. I myself would call in the air strike. Don’t kid you soon to be downsized self. So would you. Conflict resolution has no place in a firefight.

I plan to continue to write from the other side of the prison doors. I will write a column from “the dark side” for Alt Press. I hope to share with Alt Press readers an idea of what happens after the judge pronounces sentence and after the defendant has disappeared into the prison system. Thanks to mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses, many defendants truly seem to have disappeared into the prison system forever. And the world continues to go on without them, almost as if they have ceased to exist. It seems very much like the world created in George Orwell’s 1984, in which victims of the Thought Police disappear into an abyss. At their workplaces, their names are removed from the walls and the cubicles in which they work are removed, leaving no trace that these people had ever existed.

This past week, I went to Washington, D.C., to talk to staff people in congressional offices about another kind of disappearance, the disappearance and murders of thousands of people in Latin America at the hands of graduates of the School of the Americas, now renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. I went to encourage the staff aides to talk to members of the House of Representatives about co-sponsoring HR 1258, which calls for the closure of SOA/WHINSEC and the investigation of the teaching practices offered at that school by an independent truth and reconciliation commission. I asked for the U.S. government to be accountable for its actions. I asked for an investigation of the source of the torture training manuals, which the Pentagon admitted were circulated at the School of the Americas.

In addition to sharing the facts about a school that, so far, has gotten away with teaching torture, assassination, and the overthrow of legally elected governments with impunity, I also shared my personal story. I told the staff members about my experiences in Guatemala and about how the violent behavior of SOA graduates has affected me personally. I told the staff members about my arrest at Fort Benning and about the fact that I would soon be headed to federal prison. The staff members, even those in staunchly conservative, pro-SOA-WHINSEC offices, including that of David Dreier of California, listened intently and showed concern as I told my story. I did not expect that David Dreier, whose office is just steps away from that of Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, to support HR 1258. And he did not. But I would encourage you, the readers, to call your House representatives and ask them to consider co-sponsoring that legislation if they have not done so already. If, in the case of Rep. Louise Slaughter and Rep. Jack Quinn, they are co-sponsors, please remember to call them and thank them for their support of closing and investigating a school that many call a “terrorist training camp” run and operated right here in the United States. Please also call the offices of Senators Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer and ask them to sponsor a companion bill in the U.S. Senate. The fact that the congressional staffers listened so intently when I told my personal story, backed up with facts and statistics, makes my upcoming sojourn into the federal prison system worthwhile. The action that I took at Fort Benning, Georgia, which the government termed “illegal,” and I termed “expressing my constitutional rights,” was effective. It served to remind me that ordinary citizens can make an impact on the way that their government is run. The price for speaking out can be high. But I can live with being sent to prison for expressing myself. The price for not speaking out can be much higher: the loss of the civil rights that we hold so dear in this country. That price is too high for me.

And I intend to continue to speak out from behind the prison walls.

(to be continued)