Friday, October 8, 2010

Two Much

"Two Much." Not really. Or maybe it was.

In 1996, a movie entitled "Two Much" was released. And it did not do well at the box office. I've seen it in the cheapo DVD bins, two bucks or less previewed.

I never picked it up.

How come?

Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas met and fell in love on this film. Which bombed. So it was probably going to be an embarrassment like Sean Penn and Madonna's "Shanghai Suprise" (or whatever that bad movie was called).

The film's not perfect. But it's not a wreck.

The weakest part is Antonio's character. It makes no sense at all.

He keeps it lively and adds a ton of energy that covers for the fact that the writers didn't do their job.

Didn't do their job?

In Two Much, Antonio beds a hot woman. She's immediately in love with him. And talking marriage. He wants out. Even though she's hot and he's got bill collectors threatening to kick him out of his office or do this or that. He needs money. She's hot. She loves him. What's the problem?

If you say, "Well you need to be in love . . ." My bad, I forgot to tell you his character's always on the make.

And that's probably why he stays around. He gets to drive her cars, sponge off this or that but he's planning to dump her. Then he meets her sister. He's in love. That makes no sense. Even less sense is made when he invents a character to . . .

To what? To bed her? No. He does that. But he's in love with her before he invents his other personality -- Bart, Art's twin brother.

So he's dating one sister as Art and the other as Bart and in what world does this seem remotely possible?

Did I mention that the sisters are close? That they both live in the same mansion?

It makes no sense. It is the worst script ever.

I watched it on Netflix because I really like Melanie Griffith. I think she's one of the really underrated actresses working today. She can be funny and she can be touching. So even with a bad comedy, I felt she'd give me a few good moments.

And she does. She works that magic until the very end when suddenly she's running off with a guy (not Antonio) who doesn't deserve her. She's the rich woman Antonio meets first.

Daryl Hannah is the other sister, the one he falls for. She's good but not given enough to do. I don't mean she has only a little screen time. I mean she doesn't have any real moments. She does a good job but the script really neglects her. And while you might buy that Melanie Griffith might not catch on that Art and Bart were the same guy in scene after scene (because Melanie has played a few dumb blonds), Daryl's supposed to be smart and intelligent. And she loathes Art when she meets him. So she already knows Art before 'Bart' shows up.

It makes no sense.

But Melanie has so many wonderful moments in the first two-thirds of the movie she really does carry the film. When it moves to set Antonio and Daryl up, the film loses most of its magic. Again, that's not due to Antonio or Daryl but resulting from a really bad script.

Along with Melanie, the other person who really shines is Joan Cusack.

If you like Joan (I do), you want to see this film just for her. She plays Art's assistant and she's hilarious throughout but her best scene is when Melanie stops by the gallery. That's just great. She and Melanie should have had a few more scenes together.

In fact, a better ending that would still allow Antonio and Daryl to get together would have been for Melanie to look at Joan and say, "You know what, you're gorgeous." They kiss and the credits roll. I think the audience would have bought it just because Melanie and Joan do such a great job and are so loveable in this film.

I've been thinking about the film since I watched it a lot and I think Antonio's undermined by the script in so many ways. When he's moving or doing slapstick, he's much more comfortable than when he's being given some dull line to say. (There's a scene where he wants to be with Daryl so he drugs Melanie. It's an ugly scene but the two of them pull it off and that's largely, on his part, due to the non-verbal stuff he's doing in the film.)

So in the end, I do give it thumbs up. As a whole it never works but Melanie and Joan are amazing and Antonio and Daryl almost manage to rescue their poorly written roles.

Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, October 8, 2010. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, Nouri announces who he says will be president of Iraq, the prime minister position is still up for grabs (though Nouri acts as if it's his), Baghdad learns to utilize phantom stockers in grocery stores, Cindy Sheehan explores the US government attack on peace activists, and more.
Administrations love to and live to demonize those who don't agree. For the Bully Boy Bush administration, one of their biggest targets was former US Ambassador Joe Wilson who had been sent, in 2002, on a fact-finding mission to Niger to determine whether there was any evidence supporting rumors (from Iraq's thug community then in exile but soon to be ruling and ruining Iraq) that Saddam Hussein had attempted to acquire yellow cake uranium (as opposed to Betty Crocker's yellow cake mix) from Niger. Wilson investigated and found nothing to back up the baseless claim. He reported those facts back and was debriefed. It should have ben the end of it. But as much as administrations love to demonize, they also love to lie. So January 28, 2003, Bully Boy Bush gave his Constitutionally-mandated State of the Union speech and declared, "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Wilson thought at first that Bush was speaking of another African country but, when he found out it was Niger, he began speaking to reporters (including New York Times' columnist Nicholas Kristof) on background. And he wrote a column for the New York Times which they published July 6, 2003 entitled "What I Didn't Find in Africa."
The White House reaction was swift. They began shopping around to reporters that Joe Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, worked for the CIA. They weren't lying. She was a CIA agent and they blew her cover and all the overseas operations she'd worked on. Robert Novak was the first reporter to run with it. (Matt Cooper and Judith Miller were among those who also had the story shopped to them.) Plame's cover was blown, the cover of everyone she'd worked with was blown. And you might want to remember that Robert Gates never fretted over that. (A reference to his high drama over WikiLeaks.) What Novak did wasn't a crime. What the White House did was. (And Bully Boy Bush can thank his own father for that. Jake Tapper covered this in 2003, George H.W. Bush's Intelligence Identity Protection Act.) Naomi Watts plays Valerie Plame and Sean Penn plays Joe Wilson in the film Fair Game which was screened Wednesday at the MoMA in New York.
The New York Daily News quotes Wilson stating at the screening, "I just came back from Baghdad. And it's a mess. And I would really like to see us talk about why the f--- we're in there. We have 50,000 kids there. What are they doing?" Joe Wilson is -- yet again -- correct. We do need to be asking that question. Instead, we're silent or else repeating the lie that the Iraq War ended. WRAL reports that yesterday came the news Fort Bragg would be deploying troops to Iraq. John Ramsey (Fayetteville Observer) reports over 750 members of the 18th Airborne Corps will deploy in January. News 14 Carolina (link has text and video) adds that this will be the third eployment for the XVIII Airbone Corps. WTVD (link has text and video) notes of the new phase christened "Operation Iraq Freedom," "The new name reflects a change in mission but the danger remains the same."
Yesterday we quoted from a soldier's e-mail that Thomas E. Ricks posted. I hadn't read the post itself (and the quote was read to me over the phone) but we should note that Ricks writes in his post (before the quote) that the Army itself is saying that combat has not ended. There's an interesting comment by Jim Gourley on the post and we're going to excerpt a section of it:
I don't think Obama's statement declaring the end of the war was any less transparent to the initiated than Bush's was. Though the similarity in their specific verbiage of "combat actions" is eerie, I didn't see any articles in the major news sources making remarks to that effect. The greater public should have picked up on the sound of those words coming from Obama's lips like a fire bell in the night, though.
We paid a heavy strategic and operational toll for assuring ourselves things were all wrapped up in 2003. We risk paying a societal toll today.
Others discuss the way media coverage has fallen off regarding Iraq since Obama's proclamation and the footage of units rolling out of the country. That's just the symptom on the surface. The real malady lies beneath, and it's deeply disturbing to me.
By its own admissions, today's network news media chases the audience. Their news content and presentation format is specifically designed to ensure ratings. We can draw an unsettling conclusion from that nature-- the truth about combat activities in Iraq isn't getting covered in the media because the American public doesn't want to hear about it anymore. Perhaps, as Tom notes, the emperor doesn't have any clothes in this case, but the people are more than ready to see the resplendent attire he's put on, and so they do. It seems we only have the capacity to fight one "real" war at a time. If we're going to focus on Afghanistan, then Iraq must become the "forgotten one."
A media critique/dialogue is taking place in the comment thread (absent Keller or "Keller") and one poster (Cow Cookie) is insisting that the media is calling out the White House spin of combat being over. No, it's really not. AP called it out. Some individual journalists for print publications have called it out . . . in interviews they've given (including interviews to NPR -- and also during the international roundtable on The Diane Rehm Show). But it's not called out by most outlets and not repeatedly called out.
Like Bush's 9/11 and Iraq linkage, the spin and the lie is repeated. Barack repeats it himself. Just last week, we were calling out his claim that he has ended the Iraq War. I don't believe anyone's called him out for that lie in the MSM. The publication was Rolling Stone, where Barack insisted, "When I was campaigning, I was very specific. I said, 'We are going to end the war in Iraq, that was a mistake,' and I have done that." That interview was covered by every major news outlet but not one of them covered his lie on Iraq. The Iraq War didn't end. 7 US soldiers have died since he gave that stupid August 31st speech.
More examples? Earlier this week ("It's all a joke to Jamie Elizabeth Stiehm"), we were calling out the idiot at US News & World Reports who 'shared' that the Iraq War was over. Now we could do those entries every day because every day some idiot is penning a column or report claiming the Iraq War is over. We did that entry because a woman e-mailed the public account very upset by Steihm's b.s. (The woman's brother died in the Iraq War and this war that's 'over'? The woman's cousin is serving in the Iraq War right now.)
These false claims are repeated over and over. We usually note most stories on the wounded service members. We ignored the crap the Tennessean served up this week. A two-parter. Do you know how Brandon Gee and Chris Echergaray opened their little story? Here's what two idiots can serve up if they try really hard to whore: "The Iraq war is officially over, but it continues in the heart of Patricia Shaw, who lost her only son."
This is exactly like the 9-11 and Iraq lie. The media would periodically express puzzlement that so many Americans believed this lie -- that the media spat back out over and over. The media was scared -- as a whole -- to correct Bush and they just quoted him. It's the same thing with Barack. And he's giving speeches as these fundraisers right now claiming he's ended the Iraq War. But find the outlets which are correcting him. You can't pick up a paper, turn on a cable chair, without getting a 'report' on Barack's latest fundraiser. But they never find the time to call out the claim. Though some of them are quoting him directly and repeating it.
Though the illegal war has obviously not created a functioning government -- or the desire for one -- it has created the largest refugee crisis in the world. "UNHCR does not consider the security situation in Iraq adequate to facilitate or promote returns. We nonetheless continue to assist refugees who voluntarily express their wish to return, in close coordination with the Iraqi authorities," declared UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming today in Geneva. Flemming noted that a survey of Iraqi refugees had been taken in Syria -- utilizing over 2,000 respondents -- and the majority are not talking return to Iraq. She noted, "A similar survey on the Iraq-Jordan border among some 364 families (representing approximately 1450 individuals) found that none were returning to Iraq permanently." SwissInfo interviews Happy Talker and Low Information Official Walter Kerns of the United Nations. Before your visit, you called on the Iraqi authorities to end the displacement of people within the country. What specifically is the problem?
W.K.: It was not so much the displacement. After people were forced to flee the violence between religious communities in 2006, the government failed to organise any sort of assembly points – no camps, no collective accommodation. That means that many poorer people squatted on land or in buildings that are publicly-owned. At least there they were slightly protected, but a moratorium on evicting them has been lifted. I appealed for these people not to be thrown out onto the street – that would only make the humanitarian and social problems worse. Instead, let them remain where they are until the government has come up with a solid plan for finding solutions – whether it's allowing them to return or to settle where they are. Did your appeal work?
W.K.: It didn't fall on totally deaf ears. I had a very long discussion with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who was very open to the idea that the relevant ministries should work out a strategy for dealing with these displaced people, including the allocation of land on which they could build houses. From that point of view, I think it was good. There was no assurance that another moratorium on evictions would be announced, but the suggestion wasn't rejected. We'll see.
Walter -- and the outlet -- seem unaware that 50,000 US troops remain in Iraq and that Europe is forcibly evicting Iraqi refugees. Or maybe that's an example of something not falling "on totally deaf ears"?
Yesterday's snapshot noted accusations about the US military coming out of Iraq:
Press TV reports today that the central government or 'government' out of Baghdad is complaining about the American military "moving around the city without being escorted by Iraqi forces, while using Iraqi army uniforms and vehicles as a disguise." Nouri al-Maliki's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh is quoted stating, "We Iraqi people cannot accept the presence of foreign troops on our land soldiers, it is crushing the national feeling and that is why we have been happy that the troops are leaving and the balance of the troops is going to diminish next summer."
Last night, Press TV interviewed US journalist Wayne Madsen about the charges and he stated, "The fact that Americans are found to be wearing Iraqi uniforms in Iraqi military vehicles looks like it's a complete, blatant switch tactic where it was announced with much fanfare that the US was ending its combat mission in Iraq, and now we find US troops still engaged in combat missions in Iraqi uniforms." And, as the US government and the Iranian government vie for most influential in Iraq, you better believe Press TV is going to run with this story. Meanwhile, today on Morning Edition (NPR), Peter Kenyon offers an analysis of several factors at play in Iraq including Kurdish MP Mahmoud Othman who states, "They tried very hard -- they had Jesh al-Mahdi, but Jesh al-Mahdi didn't behave well, they were not as clever as Hezbollah. But now still they have such a possibility -- that's exactly what they are aiming at. Iran is aiming at making the Sadrists a sort of Hezbollah in Iraq." As Kenyon's report notes, the political stalemate continues.
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's seven months and one day and counting.
Last Friday, Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc was announcing their support for Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister and some wrongly thought it meant end of stalemate. It didn't even mean end of discussion. As the editorial board of the Japan Times observes, "That move could break the deadlock, but it does not mean that a deal is imminent. Considerable horse-trading is still required to form a government. Ultimately, however, there needs to be power-sharing with Mr. Maliki's chief rival, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Failure to do so could result in another outbreak of sectarian violence." This morning,
Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) reports, "In Mr. Allawi's first interview since the Maliki-Sadr tie-up, the former prime minister said he had agreed to restart power-sharing talks with Mr. Maliki that were broken off last month -- but only if all top posts, including who serves as prime minister, are on the table for discussion." Alsumaria TV reports that tribal Sheik Sabah Al Shumari is calling for all parties to speed up the process.
Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) quotes Nouri al-Maliki stating today that Allawi will not be president, "Take it from me in full confidence -- the Kurds will not forgo the position of president and the president will be Jalal Talabani." Earlier, Namo Abdulla (Rudaw) quoted International Crisis Group's Joost Hiltermann stating, "This may be an issue that is non-negotiable, as long as we're talking about a government made up the State of Law, of Nuri Maliki, and the Kurds and the Sadrists and some other smaller groups." Arraf also notes that Nouri is stating -- oooh!!!! -- that he might -- finally? -- be able to form a coalition next week. At Foreign Policy, Kori Schake offers an analysis which includes:
Which is where the Obama administration's inattention to Iraq, accelerated drawdown of U.S. troops, and appointment of Christopher Hill -- an ambassador without expertise on Iraq -- comes in. These factors combined to reduce U.S. influence at this crucial juncture of Iraq's democratization. U.S. military leaders backed up the administration for far too long, claiming the drawdown would have no effect on Iraq's political landscape. The spike in violence and the withering of political compromise in Iraq these seven months are the result of our declining engagement and the Iraqis' declining confidence in us.

Into this void has now stepped Moqtada al-Sadr, dilettante son of a revered Shi'ia cleric and leader of sustained insurgent activity against U.S. forces. Since the surge pulled the rug out from under his legitimacy through violence approach, he has been in Iran burnishing his religious credentials, garnering support from the Iranian government, and mobilizing his political forces.
Kori Schake is a reserach fellow with the right-wing Hoover Institution. Pay close attention to that critique because it is going to be the Republican critique on Iraq. We noted this in real time back before Hill was confirmed. (For example, see April 5, 2009's "And the war drags on . . .") We noted that the Republicans were lodging their objections on the record and doing so because they couldn't blame the military, that's not what they do. They needed a civilian to blame. And Barack Obama was too stupid to grasp that you don't hand your opponents Chris Hill. Hill was the utlimate stooge, completely unqualified. And the narrative will be that Bush 'won' the Iraq War (false) and Barack screwed it up by appointing Chris Hill (true on the second point). Back then, Republicans in Congress were bragging about how it was setting them up for 2010. Events in Iraq and their own perceived luck in the midterms mean they're now prepping it for the 2012 election. Appointing Chris Hill was a stupid, stupid thing to do. Barack never should have nominated and the Committee shouldn't have passed his nomination onto the full floor. He was completely unqualified, he broke his first promise (on how quickly he'd depart once confirmed) before he even made it to Baghdad, and his 'low energy levels' (people should have read those personnel files) ensured that Iraq -- not a success by any means when he arrived -- would only further unravel. Why is their stalemate? In part because Chris Hill was the US Ambassador to Iraq.
Turning to safety. For this paragraph, dropping back to yesterday's snapshot: A con artist offers you what sounds like a really good deal but there's a qualifier to it, usually something along the lines of, "there's a limited window of time" as they attempt to hurry you into making a risky move. Remember that as you read Leila Fadel's report (Washington Post) about US officials such as the Commerce Dept's Francisco Sanchez leading an Iraq tour and telling business execs, "If you want to really play a role here, you have to be here now." As Fadel points out, "Iraq is ranked fifth from the bottom on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index - tied with Sudan and ahead of only Burma, Afghanistan and Somalia. Iraq's ranking has dropped drastically since 2003." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) quotes Sanchez insisting, "I'm not trying to sugar-coat this but what I am trying to say is, the Iraqi government is sorting through some of these challenges as the physical security increasingly improves. You can't wait for everything to be perfect." Serena Chaudhry (Reuters) notes, "Companies on the mission included Boeing, Bell Helicopter Textron, ICON Global Architectural Engineering and Wamar International." One wonders Sanchez will promise to attend any and all funerals? Probably not. He'll pitch to get American business into Iraq but he'll be busy if and when the funerals roll around. Like most con artists, he'll have moved on to his next mark.
There's our context. There's the US government insisting that US companies need to get started in Iraq because it's good business and safe, and it's safe, and it's safe. (Nod to Bob Hope in My Favorite Brunette.) Today Yasmine Mousa (New York Times' At War) reports on a new Baghdad super market (multi-story supermarket) which is doing big business. There are a few . . . what Sanchez might call 'bugs' to be worked out:
Food and loading trucks are nowhere to be seen, yet the aisles are stocked with kitchen utensils, brands of shower gels and clothing.
"Because of the security situation we have to work like thieves; right before dusk or soon after dawn we hastily carry our merchandise into the store in batches, in saloon cars," said Fareed Sadoun Salih, an employee.
Mr. Rifai added: "We cannot rely on remote suppliers. We purchase from nearby vendors."
Business is good, but the staff members maintain a low profile because their biggest fear is "getting kidnapped." Such is life for anyone with money in Iraq.
And that's the environment that the US Commerce Dept is attempting to send business into. Meanwhile Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses were discovered in Baghdad (one shot dead, the other "with signs of torture"). Reuters adds 1 police officer was shot dead in Baghdad "by a sniper" and there was an attack on a river in Basra in which seven security guards were left wounded. The boats were by a prison and, inside the prison, a riot reportedly broke out.
Friday, September 24th FBI raids took place on at least seven homes of peace activists -- the FBI admits to raiding seven homes -- and the FBI raided the offices of Anti-War Committee. Just as that news was breaking, the National Lawyers Guild issued a new report, Heidi Boghosian's [PDF format warning] "The Policing of Political Speech: Constraints on Mass Dissent in the US." Heidi co-hosts WBAI's Law and Disorder Radio (9:00 a.m. EST Mondays -- also plays on other stations around the country throughout the week) with fellow attorneys Michael Ratner and Michael Smith and Monday the program explores the raids with guest Jim Fennerty. You can stream the broadcast at Law and Disorder Radio online and, for the next 85 or so days only, at the WBAI archives. Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan interviewed activist Jess Sundan for Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox last Sunday.
Jess Sundan: On Friday, September 24th, I awoke to the sound of pounding at my door around seven in the morning. By the time I got downstairs, there were six or seven federal agents already in my house.
Cindy Sheehan: How many?

Jess Sundan: Six or seven.
Cindy Sheehan: [Laughing] Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you said 57. Six or seven, that's bad enough.
Jess Sundan: [Laughing] No, I don't think they would have fit if it was that many. But my daughter and my partner were already awake and they showed us the search warrant which allowed them to take - to search and seize my house -- seize things in my house -- including -- I don't know how many boxes they carried out filled with papers and books, CDs, checkbooks, computers, cell phones, my passport, photographs. They spent about four hours here going through everything in our house. And when they left, they not only left a bit of a mess but they left a subpoena for myself and my partner for a grand jury in Chicago.
Cindy Sheehan: And what makes you so dangerous or subversive to national security that they would do that to you?
Jess Sundan: Well I'm an anti-war activist and myself and all the other people who received subpoenas or had their homes raided that day are people that I've worked with for several years on different anti-war campaigns. We also have in common, all of us have a real perspective of international solidarity. Many of us have traveled to other countries and in our anti-war work tried to give voice to those most affected by US policies abroad. So in their search warrant they were specifically looking for evidence that we had given material support to foreign terrorist organizations -- including naming someone from Palestine and someone from Columbia. Most of our subpoenas and search warrants were roughly the same. And they named the Antiwar Committee and we also had our offices searched --
Cindy Sheehan: Of Minneapolis, right?
Jess Sundan: Yeah, that's right. So I think, their real concern is that we've been very effective . And secondly, that we've -- in the anti-war movement -- done good work to break the information blockade, making sure that real stories and pictures come back home to the United States from places where the US is militarily involved.
And we'll note this from the show when Cindy's asked about the legal issues in terms of the grand jury and appearing before it.
Jess Sundan: Well the main things is the grand jury which all of us are very concerned about. A grand jury meets in secret. If you appear before a grand jury, you can't have an attorney with you. There's no one to object if you're mistreated. And if you don't testify, there's a risk of jail time and so we're very concerned. It's a very undemocratic court., you know. Except it's not really a court. None of us have been charged with any crime. A purpose of the grand jury is to investigate possible crimes and see if they can generate enough evidence to make a case against someone. We haven't been told who is the target of the grand jury -- like who they think may have committed a crime or what crimes may have been committed but obviously there whole search warrant was around this material support to foreign terrorist organizations. Any of us that were served on any of these subpoenas, and also some people were named on a search warrant at the Antiwar Committee office in addition to those of us that got subpoenas -- any of us realize that at any time there could be indictments brought against us. We don't know, we don't really know what our legal standing is. So we're working with our attorneys. I know that I myself intend to plead the Fifth [Amendment] which means that I will not testify.
Stephanie Weiner and Joe Ioskaber's home was among the ones raided. Wednesday, Andy Grim (Chicago Tribune) reported that they say "they will refuse to answer questions before a grand jury". Democracy Now! featured the news in headlines and showed Stephanie Weiner stating:
We believe we have been targeted because of what we believe, what we say, who we know. The grand jury process is an intent to violate the inalienable rights under the Constitution and international law to freedom of political speech, association and the right to advocate for change. Those with grand jury dates for October 5th and those whose subpoenas are pending have declared that we intend to exercise our right not to participate in this fishing expedition.
The statement was from a press conference Tuesday. Fight Back! News reports Pastor Dan Dale spoke at the conference noting an interfaith statement people were signing on to: "We are people of faigh and conscience who condemn the recent FBI raids in Chicago as a violation of the constitional rights of the people organizations raided. They are a dangerous step to further criminalize dissent. The FBI raids chisel away and byprass fundamental constitutional rights by hauling activists before grand juries under the guise of national security."
Grand juries were discussed on Law and Disorder Radio this week:
Michael Ratner: Yeah. Jim Fennerty, what people in Chicago are you personally representing and what's their political story? Why do you think they're targets?
Jim Fennerty: Well this is the thing. I was just at the US Attorneys office. I had another case in federal court this morning and the US attorney afterwards -- turns out it's the same attorney on these cases -- and he wanted to talk to me. Basically, so far he has not told me anybody who is actually a target, so we're concerned what that means. Now I've been lied to before when I went down to Florida in the Sami al-Arian case with somebody else who was involved with that. And they said, they couldn't tell me, they couldn't tell me. I get down there, we take the Fifth Amendment and they say, "We're not offering your guy immunity, go home." And then I, you know, a month or two later, he gets an indictment. Under their manual, tecnically, they're not supposed to send out a subpeona in a grand jury for a target unless they get higher authority to do that.
Michael Ratner: Heidi and I were talking about that.
Heidi Boghosian: So let's just explain for our listeners about grand juries a bit. When you talk about a target, you mean an individual who is under suspicion for violating the law.
Jim Fennerty: That is correct.
Heidi Boghosian: But what's happening now is that individuals are being given subpeonas in what we call a fishing expedition to try to get information about other people?
Jim Fennerty: That's what it sounds like now but I -- like I said, that's what they told me but it's happened before where somebody told me something and it didn't actually work out true but that's what I've been told today. Basically, a grand jury in its inception historically, you know, hundreds of years ago, was supposed to be citiznes coming together and determining if charges should be filed criminally against somebody. But what it's become, it's become almost, to me, almost like a rubber stamp for the government because basically what happens is the government, US attorneys, can be inside the grand jury. There's usually around 23 people who are called, citizens, to be at the grand jury and what happens is that the US attorney can be inside, they can ask you questions, you can refuse to answer those questions, but your side never gets told to these 23 people. In other words, your lawyer can't come in there and argue for you and give your side of it. That's why it's, like I said, it's pretty much a rubber stamp for what the prosecutors want and people should be very, very concerned about going there because what you say could be twisted around and you've just got to be very vigilant about what you do. You know, most cases, people can say they don't want to testify at the grand jury, they're going to exercise their Fifth Amendment rights against incrimination. What they could do at a grand jury, they could offer you immunity which is use immunity, it's not total immunity, but what that means is they offer you immunity and then you refuse to testify, you can be taken to a judge, they'll read the question to the judge and then they'll ask you the answer to that question. If you continue to refuse to answer that question, then a judge can hold you in civil contempt and you could be incarcerated for the remaining time of the grand jury.
Heidi Boghosian: And that can be a long time.
Jim Fennerty: Well that can be depending how long the grand jury is sits. But your lawyer can go back periodically and say, "Look it, Judge, this person's been there for three months or whatever and they're not going to testify. They're still not going to testify. So it makes no sense to keep continuing to lock them up." And hopefully you'll get a sympathetic judge for that.
Heidi Boghosian: Because it is -- it is lawful to hold someone in civil contempt, to incarcerate them as a method of coercion --
Jim Fennerty: Correct.
Heidi Boghosian: -- but not as punishment --
Jim Fennerty: Correct.
Heidi Boghosian: -- and that's why we try to argue that it's not doing any good.
And we'll again note this section from the broadcast because activists are being targeted.
Michael S. Smith: Heidi, when the FBI knocks, what do you do?
Heidi Boghosian: It is crucial that if anyone listening to this show is contacted by the FBI or if your friends or family members are, that you do not talk to them. You just say, "I would like to consult with my lawyer. May I have your business card? My lawyer will get back to you." Never say anything because anything you say, no matter how seemingly mundane -- answering a question: Do you live here?, Is your name such and such? -- can be used against you in further grand jury proceedings.
Michael S. Smith: Well they can go after you saying that you lied to them. Don't talk to them. Call your lawyer. Call our hotline. Get out a pencil. Heidi, give them the hotline.
Heidi Boghosian: If you're visited by the FBI, you can call the NLG's Hotline. It's 888-NLG-ECOL. Or 888-654-3265.
Michael S. Smith: Heidi, please repeat the hotline.
Heidi Boghosian: The hotline is 888-NLG-ECOL. And how you can remember that is that originally we started this as a hotline for environmental and animal rights activists so it was for ecology. It was Eco Law but we shortened it.
And on Heidi Boghosian's [PDF format warning] "The Policing of Political Speech: Constraints on Mass Dissent in the US," two people e-mailed about getting it in book form. It is available online for free. Some people don't want to read a screen. Some people have problems with PDF files. Some people use public computers -- such as at a library -- where they have limited time to be on them. For those reasons and more (including maybe you want a book to give as a gift), please note that the report is available in booklet form. For all NLG publications, click here. Click on the title you want and they will give you info -- usually it's an e-mail address. It's below five dollars a copy but I don't know the exact price, sorry -- and the cost is strictly for postage and handling.
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Peter Baker (New York Times), Joan Biskupic (USA Today), Michael Duffy (Time) and David Wessel (Wall St. Journal) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "The Risks and Rewards of Party Purity." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Karen Czarnecki, Avis Jones-DeWeever, Nicole Kurokawa and Irene Natividad on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And this week's To The Contrary online is extra is on cyber bullying. Need To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcast airs Fridays on most PBS stations: "A report on the jobs situation profiles an unemployed baby-boomer couple and two Millenials; and details a federally funded, temporary jobs program. Included: ex-labor secretary Robert Reich and Sara Horowitz (Freelancers Union) provide perspective." Turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

The Speed Traders
Steve Kroft gets a rare look inside the secretive world "high-frequency trading," a controversial technique the SEC is scrutinizing in which computers can make thousands of stock trades in less than a second.

A collection of his memoirs, mostly from the 27 years he spent in prison, reveal the innermost thoughts of the international civil rights giant Nelson Mandela, whose movement brought down the apartheid regime of South Africa. Bob Simon reports.

CNN's Anderson Cooper profiles the chart-topping rapper from Detroit who overcame addiction to reclaim the winning style that made him the biggest selling artist of the past decade.

60 Minutes, Sunday, Oct. 10, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

To get a more complete understanding of our current crisis, we need to look at the history of events that led up to it. We need to peer deeply into the inner workings of the Global Banking Intelligence Complex. Without acknowledging and exposing the covert forces that are aligned against us, we will not be able to effectively overcome them.
In the past I have shied away from going too deeply into the details of the intelligence world out of fear of being written off and dismissed as a conspiracy theorist. If I hadn't spent the majority of the past 20 years investigating global financial intelligence operations, I certainly wouldn't believe half of this myself. Given the severity of our current crisis and the imminent devastating implications, I now realize that I must go deeper into covert activities than I publicly ever have. The information I am about to report is very well-sourced and documented, and needs to be covered before we can proceed to exposing present operations.

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