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This is what America Looks Like

This is what America Looks Like

Here’s a video that gives a pretty good idea of how America is currently viewed in much of the world. It may have an unfamiliar flavor to an American audience, but it’s worth watching the whole song. The imagery is striking.


(Thanks to JR)

Don’t miss an American video response.

Question for Mitt Romney

Question for Mitt Romney

What is Mitt Romney’s position on torture?

Romney, Torture and Teens
In right-wing Republican circles, abusive authoritarianism without due process is endemic – and profitable. By Maia Szalavitz

When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he’d support doubling the size of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, he was trying to show voters that he’d be tough on terror. Two of his top fundraisers, however, have long supported using coercive tactics that have been likened to torture for troubled teenagers.

As the newspaper The Hill noted recently, 133 plaintiffs filed a civil suit against Romney’s Utah finance co-chair, Robert Lichfield, and his various business entities involved in residential treatment programs for adolescents. The umbrella group for his organization is the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS, sometimes known as WWASP). Lichfield is its founder and is on its board of directors.

The suit alleges that teens were locked in outdoor dog cages, exercised to exhaustion, deprived of food and sleep, exposed to extreme temperatures without adequate clothing or water, severely beaten, emotionally brutalized, and sexually abused and humiliated. Some were even made to eat their own vomit.

But the link to teen abuse goes far higher up in the Romney campaign. Romney’s national finance co-chair is a longtime friend of the Bush family named Mel Sembler. Sembler was campaign finance chair for the Republican party during the first election of George W. Bush, and a major fundraiser for his father.

Sembler currently heads the Scooter Libby Defense Fund, in addition to his work for Romney, and has worked tirelessly to keep the Vice President’s former Chief of Staff out of prison, even after his conviction on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

Like Lichfield, Sembler also founded a nationwide network of treatment programs for troubled youth. Known as Straight, Inc., from 1976 to 1993 it variously operated nine programs in seven states. At all of Straight’s facilities, state investigators and/or civil lawsuits documented scores of abuses, including teens being bound, beaten, deprived of food and sleep for days, restrained by fellow youth for hours, sexually humiliated, abused and spat upon.

According to the L.A. Times, California investigators found that at Straight teens were “subjected to unusual punishment, infliction of pain, humiliation, intimidation, ridicule, coercion, threats, mental abuse… and interference with daily living functions such as eating, sleeping and toileting.”…

However, to this day there are at least eight programs operating that use Straight’s methods, often in former Straight buildings operated by former Straight staff. They include Alberta Adolescent Recovery Center (Canada), Pathway Family Center (Michigan, Indiana, Ohio), Growing Together (Florida), Possibilities Unlimited (Kentucky), SAFE (Florida), and Phoenix Institute for Adolescents (Georgia).

Sembler has never admitted to the problems with Straight’s methods. In fact, when he recently served as ambassador to Italy, he listed it among his accomplishments on his official State Department profile. Although all of the programs with the Straight name are closed, the nonprofit Straight Foundation that funded them still exists, though under a different name. It’s now called the Drug Free America Foundation, and it lobbies for drug testing and in support of tougher policies in the war on drugs.

One of the plaintiffs in the current case against WWASPS, 21-year-old Chelsea Filer, spoke to me when I was researching a TV segment on the industry. She told me that she was forced to walk for miles on a track in scorching desert heat with a 35-pound sandbag on her back. “You were not allowed to scratch your face, move your fingers, lick your lips, move your eyes from the ground,” she said. When she asked for a chapstick, “They put a piece of wood in my mouth and I had to hold it there for two weeks. I was bleeding on my tongue.” …

WWASPS has been linked with facilities Academy at Ivy Ridge (New York), Carolina Springs Academy (South Carolina), Cross Creek Programs (Utah), Darrington Academy (Georgia), Horizon Academy (Nevada), Majestic Ranch Academy (Utah), MidWest Academy (Iowa), Respect Camp (Mississippi), Royal Gorge Academy (Colorado), Spring Creek Lodge (Montana), and Tranquility Bay (Jamaica).

Although it has settled several lawsuits out of court, the organization has never publicly admitted wrongdoing. However, the U.S. State Department spurred Samoa to investigate its Paradise Cove program in 1998 after receiving “credible allegations of physical abuse,” including “beatings, isolation, food and water deprivation, choke-holds, kicking, punching, bondage, spraying with chemical agents, forced medication, verbal abuse and threats of further physical abuse.” Paradise Cove closed shortly thereafter. That same year, the Czech Republic forced the closure of WWASP-linked Morava Academy following employees’ allegations that teens were being abused. …

Police in Mexico have shut down three WWASP-linked facilities: Sunrise Beach (1996), Casa By The Sea (2004) and High Impact (where police videotaped the teens chained in dog cages). …

In 2005, New York’s Eliot Spitzer forced WWASP to return over $1 million to the parents of Academy at Ivy Ridge students, because the school had fraudulently claimed to provide legitimate New York high school diplomas. He fined Ivy Ridge $250,000 plus $2000 in court costs. A civil suit has been filed for educational fraud in New York as well, by a different law firm. …

The Romney campaign is aware of the WWASP suits, and should be familiar with the Straight suits. If not, it’s worth asking: does Romney support these types of tactics for at-risk youth? Or does he take the line the organizations founded by his fundraisers take—that these dozens of lawsuits are merely from bad kids who make up lies?”

Maia Szalavitz is the author of Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids (Riverhead).

Thanks to Carol F. in Amherst, MA for calling my attention to this article.

Ousting Blackwater is a Win-Win

Ousting Blackwater is a Win-Win

Here is the original version of the editorial that ran on Op-Ed News. They had an exclusive for at least 48 hours on the pithier version – and it ran five days ago.

Note the current status of the situation:

1. There is now a video that shows that Blackwater USA guards opened fire against civilians without provocation.
2. Blackwater is denying charges of arms smuggling.
3. Blackwater is back up and running in Iraq.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Finally, the government in Iraq has made a brilliant move. Because of this latest incident of civilian killings, they’ve “canceled Blackwater’s license” and demanded that all Blackwater employees leave Iraq. This is long overdue.

It’s true that the wording doesn’t work. Blackwater doesn’t appear to need a license from the Iraqi government to protect American officials. But if Blackwater still has immunity from crimes, and is free from prosecution in Iraq or here, then I really don’t see why the Iraqis cannot make a good case for their right to expel them from the country.

I don’t think any little phone call from Condi is going to change their minds.

Nothing should make them back down on this, no matter how they are pressured to do so. We have no case for supporting Blackwater’s presence. It would be just a silly show of power to insist.

Yes, the US is heavily dependent on heavily armed private contractors. Some claim that
private personnel on the US government payroll outnumber official US troops. At the same time, our government has granted them a special status with no formal accountability or oversight from Congress or anyone else. They have total immunity from Iraqi criminal prosecution (a provision that was only expected to last for a couple of months). It’s past time we changed that anyway.

“There’s no visibility on these contractors,” says Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. “Meaning no clue how much money we’re spending. They are carrying out mission-sensitive activities with virtually no oversight whatsoever.”

No American security contractor has been prosecuted in the United States or Iraq, although there have been many incidents where such security contractors have shot and killed Iraqi civilians.

The incident reports were a whitewash, and nobody did anything about it,” he said, adding that there have been a few cases where Blackwater and other companies have fired workers for killing civilians, but those same workers were back in Iraq with another company in a few months.

It is widely known, both here and in Iraq, that the Sunni Fallujah massacre (note: new link added 9-23) was revenge for the killing of four Blackwater employees in March 2004. The death toll from that attack was severe – some claim there were as many as 100,000 casualties.

Given that, it must have been a slap in the face for Iraq to hear U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker praise Blackwater in his testimony to Congress last week.

Iraqis hate Blackwater, not just because of Fallujah, but because Blackwater is clearly immune – and irresponsible – and uncontrollable. Blackwater employees seem to be able to get away with whatever they feel like doing. They are a terrible face for America. Even other security companies dislike Blackwater.

“They are untouchable. They’ve shot up other private security contractors, Iraqi military, police and civilians,” said one security contractor, who declined to give his name because of the sensitivity of the issue.

One contractor described an incident three weeks ago in which a four-vehicle Blackwater convoy pushed through a crowded Baghdad street and pointed a gun at his team, even though they waved an American flag — an indicator used by security contractors to identify themselves to one another.

There have been several fatal shootings involving Blackwater since late last year. On Christmas Eve, a Blackwater employee walking in the Green Zone stopped by an Iraqi checkpoint and, after an argument, fatally shot an Iraqi guard for Vice President Adel Abdul Mehdi, said an Iraqi official and a U.S. diplomat.

If I were an Iraqi, I wouldn’t care for Blackwater – at all. As an American, I don’t care for any of the private security forces, but Blackwater has become the iconic example for me of the results of “privatization” – lack of accountability or oversight or transparency, criminality/immunity, rampant corruption and war profiteering.

Of course, the US government backs the private forces in their shadow war – Blackwater more than any other company – but Iraq has the right to expel people from their own country. They can’t expel the military forces, but why can’t they kick out Blackwater?

This would give the federal government in Iraq a big boost. It might bring people together in Iraq if they felt that they do have a say in what happens in their own country – and I think ethics is on their side.

From the American side, this would refocus resentment on a single company rather than on the entire American presence. And it would show that we – sometimes – might mean what we say about our motives there. It would be a wise move all around to support Blackwater’s exit.

Jawad al-Bolani, the interior minister, said: “This is such a big crime that we can’t stay silent. Anyone who wants to have good relations with Iraq has to respect Iraqis.”
He told al-Arabiya television that foreign contractors “must respect Iraqi laws and the right of Iraqis to independence on their land. These cases have happened more than once and we can’t keep silent in the face of them”.

It’s about time that Iraq challenged the US over this blanket immunity deal – especially since Americans have done nothing about it.

Iraq’s national security advisor, Mowaffak Rubaie, said the Iraqi government should use the incident to look into overhauling private security guards’ immunity from Iraqi courts, which was granted by Coalition Provisional Authority administrator L. Paul Bremer III in 2003 and later extended ahead of Iraq’s return to sovereignty.

From 2004:

Order 17 gives all foreign personnel in the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority immunity from “local criminal, civil and administrative jurisdiction and from any form of arrest or detention other than by persons acting on behalf of their parent states.” U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer is expected to extend Order 17 as one of his last acts before shutting down the occupation next week, U.S. officials said. The order is expected to last an additional six or seven months, until the first national elections are held.

Any decent strategist could tell you that ousting Blackwater from Iraq is a win-win situation for both America and Iraq. The cost is small – Blackwater only has about a thousand people there now, and they are all over the rest of the world anyway. It wouldn’t even cut into their profit margin. Bush says he wants to see the government pull together – well, here’s a good start. It could end up being a real turning point, a gift to the Administration.

Are they too self-absorbed and arrogant to understand that?

Blackwater was founded in 1997 by Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL and son of a wealthy Michigan auto-parts supplier. The company, headquartered in Moyock, N.C., on a 7,000-acre compound, has deeply rooted political connections in Washington.

It counts former top CIA and Defense Department officials, including Cofer Black, former director of the CIA’s counterterrorism center, and Joseph Schmitz, former Pentagon inspector general, among its executives. Blackwater’s legal team once included Fred Fielding, now White House counsel, and now includes Kenneth Starr, the special prosecutor who investigated the Monica Lewinsky and Whitewater scandals during the Clinton administration.

Erik Prince is also an extreme right-wing fundamentalist “Christian” mega-millionaire.

Maybe this administration is just too deep into the inherent corruption of the whole situation to be able to do the smart thing for everyone. Well, what will happen if they don’t? Think it through. The US can’t get away with another Fallujah now.

There is yet another solution. Is anyone at Blackwater smart enough to know when to move out? Here’s a hint: Now.

Recommended Viewing and Reading:

Jeremy Scahill describes the rise of Blackwater USA, the world’s most powerful mercenary army.


No End in Sight

No End in Sight

No End in Sight, looks like it deserved the special jury documentary prize it received at Sundance. I’m looking forward to seeing the film, if it shows in Atlanta.

Here’s the trailer (or see it on the home page of the movie site)

From the director:

“But I had no idea how incompetently the occupation was being planned, and with what degree of ideological rigidity and arrogance and callousness and stupidity,” he said. “I just had no idea.”

NPR summary:

Charles Ferguson made his fortune as a software developer, then made an unlikely move to filmmaking. His documentary on the Iraq war, No End In Sight, tracks the process in Washington that led to the current situation in Iraq, and it breaks some new ground: Key decision-makers talk for the first time about the war and its aftermath.

Ferguson, a Silicon Valley millionaire, overcame some major obstacles to tell the story. He hired his own 20-man security team with four pickups mounted with machine guns and drove down to Baghdad from Kurdistan, filming in high definition.

… He does so with a quick summary of 2006 news reports about chaos and death on the ground in Iraq, then goes back to the origins of America’s Iraq policy in the 1980s. Interviewing figures from inside a number of different administrations, most of whom talk about escalating miscalculations, he paints a portrait of unprofessionalism, incompetence, and devastating errors in judgment. His most damning witnesses served on the Bush team, including former Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage.

See clips from NOW interviews.

(Tip ‘o the hat to Worldwide Sawdust)

Morford Does it Better, Much Better

Morford Does it Better, Much Better

I read Mark Morford‘s column every week. I have it emailed, and I’ve added the feed to my Bloglines.

So it’s not surprising to me to me at all that he has written the sort of article on the Presidential Directive (my version) that I would have liked to have been able to write.

Bush Declares Self ‘Mega Decider’
New documents ensure Dubya will rule America, should calamity strike. Free balloons!

A snippet (but go read the whole thing):

Such secret plans are one of the most adorable, comic-booky aspects of dumb, ultrasecretive administrations. After all, do many ‘Merkins not love to swoon and polish their NRA memberships as they imagine all those White House suits suddenly turning into patriotic superheroes at the first sign of a meteor strike or an attack by an alien super race or maybe just if Iraq gets a bit too uppity and starts bootlegging illegal DVDs of “The Office”? You bet they do.

And then boom, the nation goes into lockdown and it’s a strict military state and Lynn Cheney starts enjoying sweaty night visions of Dick lumbering purposefully through the White House halls deciding who to nuke next as Dubya quivers in the corner and the flying monkeys prepare the escape pod. Just like in that Will Smith movie! Neat!

Let us now be serious for a moment. Let us hold back the sarcasm and step back and breathe a sigh of relief because I’m sure Dubya’s changes to NSPD 51 mean a whole lotta nothing. I’m sure it’s just another standard — albeit a bit weird — governmental procedural, boring and forgettable and just one of thousands of such indecipherable, hazily unconstitutional legal quirkballs in the Pentagon’s creaky file cabinets, and Dubya’s recent changes are just an honest tweak to what really amounts to a rather ridiculous, fantastical document in the first place. Yes, surely it’s just a bunch of silly leftist paranoia to think that something dark and nasty could result from such a move.

After all, Shrub only has a year and a half left in office. Plus, his power has been severely truncated by the Dems. Why would he care to try for such a thuggish, cagey power grab now? What would be the point? Except, you know, to savagely tilt the next election and to further the new ‘n’ brutal neocon agenda of perpetual war and as a desperate, last-gasp move to prove he actually has the cojones to do something so appalling, so perfectly megalomaniacal, it’s sure to rescue his rotten legacy from history’s compost pile? I mean, besides that.

Presidential Directives

Presidential Directives

I was rereading a bit about Emerson and self-reliance earlier. It affected me, as it always does. Before I wade into current political statements of opinion on the recent Presidential Directives (I’ve seen blog headlines), I’ve decided to treat it like I would treat any document I wanted to interpret. What follows is my initial set of impressions and thoughts. This will change, it always does. It might be interesting to do part 2 sometime later, when these thoughts bounce against those of others and I have to rethink things.

This is for my friend Mary, who asked me to blog on this (thank you, but look what you’ve done!).

HSPD-20 / NSPD-51 (National Security Presidential Directive 51 and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 20) is a presidential directive (not a law) that was issued by the White House on May 9. As you might have guessed from the numbers, there have been other directives. I’m not sure why this one is so special, or causing such a buzz.

The first time I read it, it really did fill me with alarm. I thought – “Oh, good lord, now all they have to do is drop a bomb here at home, and BOOM – no more elections.” But I’m not so sure that I completely understand its significance. Maybe they all read like that. After all, think of the topic of discussion. In a disaster, we do want some plans in place!

HSPD-20 is a presidential proclamation that declares how the White House plans to deal with a “Catastrophic Emergency” – “any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions.”

Yeah, that makes me nervous already. It’s the “regardless of location” that bothers me – a lot. Think about possible locations…

Ok, what KIND of plan, and what has changed?

There is the creation of the position of an executive branch “National Continuity Coordinator” who will be in charge of coordinating plans to ensure just the continuity of Federal Government structures and the implementation of Federal continuity policies – it’s about policy coordination for contingency plans?

This is a bit ambiguous. I think you could defend the interpretation that it declares the executive branch itself to be the “National Continuity Coordinator” over “executive departments and agencies” – what unspecified power for executive “guidance” is it claiming over local, state, and private organizations to ensure continuity for national security (as well for emergency response and recovery)? These are very different things. This is perhaps an extension of the powers of commander-in-chief (it’s only supposed to cover the army and navy).

The most ominous part of the document somehow is the revocation of Presidential Decision Directive 67, “Enduring Constitutional Government and Continuity of Government Operations.” What is being revoked? Why it is all being revoked? Why not just amend, or supersede?

It appears that the text of PDD67 has never been released to the public. This is going to be a pain.
but it’s unclear what Bush would see as needing to be revoked.

— OK, back. PDD67 was issued by Clinton in October 1998 – it directs all levels of government to plan for full minimum operations in any potential national security situation. Uniform policies were created for developing and implementing plans to ensure the continuation of essential operations during any man-mad, natural, technological, or national security emergency. So it’s about how to plan the plans? Sheesh.

Each federal agency was assigned specific functions based on their capabilities and authority, and each had to publish a contingency plan (“continuity of operations plan”- COOP), maintain the budget to support it, and ensure readiness with training, testing and evaluation (including computer simulations, war games, hazmat training, rehearsals, and the like). This built on and amended previous plans and directives, such as PDD-62 (Clinton, May 22, 1998), which established an integrated program to counter terrorist threats and to manage the consequences of attacks on the US. PPD-63 and the EPA’s Critical Infrastructures Protection Plan made each department and agency maintain plans to protect their own infrastructure (including their “cyber-based systems). In case of catastrophic disaster, the EPA is responsible for protecting the water and air supply against “corruption” (Don’t you feel safe now, knowing that the EPA has it under control? I’m starting to see why it’s so important for cronies to be in these positions… steady, steady – no ranting…).

So, to reword, plans were developed to identify possible requirements for a “Plan B” of chain of command and emergency functions and things like that in the event that the status quo was seriously disrupted. There were different roles for different agencies and departments (some or all of which may still apply?). So now it looks like they have to show metrics for successful performance? Is that new? I’m not sure. The EPA and the Department of Defense will probably still train state and local emergency responders, and so on.

We’re familiar with FEMA. Most of the resources of the National Preparedness Directorate of the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] used to be spent on ensuring the continuation of civilian government in the event of a nuclear war, through what are known as these Enduring Constitutional Government programs.

They called it “coordinating consequence management activities.” Lovely.

I’m thinking sci-fi scenario – the underground bunkers, maybe even the secret blast-off to a satellite – but maybe that’s become a dated chain of thought (or maybe I’ve read too much science fiction).

“Like, dude, what do we do with all these people dying of radiation poisoning? How many towns do we have to quarantine to prevent the epidemic? Where should I put all these bones?”

“Never mind that, get the President and the Speaker and those lobbyists into the capsule.”

Keep laughing. The George W. Bush Administration was the first president ever to put the Continuity of Operations plan into action – right after September 11, 2201. They pulled a rotating staff of 75-150 senior officials and other government workers from every Cabinet department and other parts of the executive branch into two secure bunkers on the East Coast (a government-in-waiting that Congress didn’t even know about, nice).

Still, even if we don’t like to think about it, we do need to have executable contingency plans so that everyone wouldn’t be running around, not knowing what to do, or thinking that they should all sit and wait for the Rapture, or go hysterically violent, or something like that.

So what’s new? Under the previous arrangement (as far as I can glean), there is no ultimate coordinator or boss or czar or whatever. The Head of each Federal agency/department was responsible for ensuring continuity of functions, essential resources, facilities and records, and the delegation of authority for emergency operating capabilities (within applicable laws – and probably without, too).

This directive would take away some authority in planning, and probably impose a new uniform standard of some sort? Would it take away authority or action at the time of disaster too? I can’t tell.

Each branch of government is responsible for its own plans. This would add a functionary to coordinate with the other two branches for “interoperability.”

Would this Coordination be arbitrated by a higher authority? What grievance procedure could there be in this? What happens if the head of one of the federal agencies or departments disagrees with this “coordinator”? Then what? Who has the final word? What about oversight?

This Coordinator person has to come up with a plan for all this within 90 days. Right. So it’s already written, and the person is already chosen? Wolfowitz needs a job, for example? Shouldn’t this be a position that needs to be confirmed? Oh oh… he couldn’t be thinking Gonzales…Rumsfeld… Rove? No, no, couldn’t be. Back to the text.

The White House could be building on its previous successes in expanding the executive role (hence the concern) – in which case state and local governments, territories, other properties (Guantanamo?), and interestingly enough, also private corporations – would be his (and Cheney’s and ?) to command in case of a national emergency. That would be really, really bad – I’m guessing that’s the cause of all the buzz and noise, if people read it that way.

The other interpretation might be that he is trying to do what he’s done in other places, like Homeland Security, which is to centralize power and information. In this case, the executive branch would be (or have?) the ultimate “coordinator”, like a wedding planner. Think the right will steal that metaphor?

Still, even then, the language of “coordinating” might be a screen for more of a “dictating” role. Have you actually dealt with someone whose title was “coordinator”? So you know what I mean. Anyway, the document says it’s not a directive role…and there’s lots of repetitions of “constitutional.” Maybe he’s trying to respond to criticisms about how this government has failed to respond effectively to catastrophes.

There are two different time-frames being discussed – one is the coordination effort for planning, and the other is what kinds of authority would be activated in case the plans went into effect.

If it means that all these agencies and authorities and private interests have to answer to the White House or its representative during an actual disaster, that seems like a very bad idea. I’m not sure if that’s what it means or not, and I don’t think I’d be able to tell without having access to more of the document, which is classified. So I don’t know.

Are there any other “eyes” in the legislative branch who would know what we’re actually talking about here?

You don’t want to be waiting for authorizations at a time like that, and suppose communications systems are disrupted? And “systems are down”?

Decentralized and adaptive power structures are much more effective. There is some concern about communication networks in the document, and a science and technology officer is responsible for ensuring those systems. I guess it all depends on the kind of disaster…

One thing we should have learned from Global Terrorism (and Global Corporations – I wonder who learned from who?) is that “cells” and “units” with multiply-redundant lines of communication and feedback are more adaptive and effective than “headquarters.” Interpenetration is more effective than top-down management. Instead of using methods of intelligence-gathering integration, we blunder in without even knowing a language or culture and whip up hornets nests. We were better when we had some classy spies, and practiced protective camouflage. We’ve forgotten our roots as Revolutionaries. We’re the new “red coats” – sticking out a mile. But back to the matter at hand, already in progress…

There are those who are saying that this is a setup for Bush to become an actual, old-fashioned dictator. No – it’s a bit more subtle. The Enduring Constitutional Government (ECG) refers to all three branches – but the difference it that they would be “coordinated by the President.” I would need to hear more details about what the coordination and implementation would look like in order to start screaming “Dictator.” Bush would like to be a Dictator, I’m sure, but he’s not.

Most of the document that has been released is more about structures and planning than about actual implementation. Read one way, it’s almost a will, since it also provides for the succession to the Presidency. “Heads of executive departments and agencies shall ensure that appropriate support is available to the Vice President and others involved as necessary to be prepared at all times to implement those provisions.” Hmmm.

There will be a new threat alert/readiness system – the President will get to issue the COGCON level focused on threats to the National Capital Region.

Continuity of Government Readiness Conditions. COGCON? Are they kidding? It sounds like an inside joke. Cogswell Cogs, cog in the works, brick in the wall, conference, conjob, conning the cogs, the con about continuity of government. Anyway, that level issued (through the super-secret underground lair communication device?) will signal all the agencies and departments of the executive branch to comply with assigned requirements under the program.

“Bible college never prepared me for THIS – are you SURE that’s the required action for this department?” “Yeah, honey, now just stand over there…”

All details of the COGCON program are classified.

This directive and the information contained herein shall be protected from unauthorized disclosure, provided that, except for Annex A, the Annexes attached to this directive are classified and shall be accorded appropriate handling, consistent with applicable Executive Orders. – George W. Bush

The directive does not have the same weight as, say, the Patriot Act or the Military Commissions Act. There may be aspects of it that are even more dangerous, that go further than “total information awareness” and the other kinds of surveillance on American citizens that this administration seems to crave.

Hermeneutics/deconstruction – deconstruction/hermeneutics.

Nope. Can’t get a fix. I can read it as intending to protect and defend the American people and the Constitution. And I can read it as a very scary document that we’ll think should have given us warning about the destruction of America as we know it. And I can believe it could even, in some sick way, be both.

We could say – “thank goodness we had this.” We could say – “they were planning it all along.” We could say – “he just wanted to one-up Clinton, and somebody wanted a new job.”

I have serious reservations, but I don’t think I have enough information to credibly argue about this document. For all I can tell, they’re just trying to reduce the paperwork.

One thing that I can tell you is that I am happy that I don’t write government documents for a living. I suspect that there are many things that we don’t know about – across the board – at the federal level of government.

After all this, I’ll have to stew some more. Sigh.

Well, at least I’ve got the initial bits that struck me.

Comments are welcome.

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