Friday, August 24, 2007


Most people assume that if you are a leftist, or a progressive, or just a plain old liberal you must be anti-gun. Well, I'm not...anti-gun that is. I'm not sure we need everyone armed with automatic weapons, but some guns, in my mind, are not a bad idea. I used to say "When guns are outlawed, only cops will have guns." The truth is cops and criminals and right wing nuts will have guns, the rest of America will be sitting behind locked doors hoping no knocks come in the night.

The liberal left and the pacifist left make light of the slogan "guns don't kill people, people do." Well, duh, it's true. I mean you might say some people with guns kill people. At least in this country. Anyway, come on folks, how do you propose to grab all the guns already out there anyway. Any government that can pull that off is a government that scares the hell out of yours truly.

Polls make it pretty clear that ordinary Americans are not the ones clamoring for strict gun control. It comes from those layers of society which include academics, Hollywood stars, Washington insiders and multibillion-dollar media conglomerates. I don't belong to any of those groups.

And does anyone doubt that rich people will always be able to buy guns (or hire armed security)--regardless of the law. Laws, in general, don't really apply to the rich.

Then there is the unfortunate fact (for gun control advocates of the liberal persuasion) that compelling historical evidence shows racism underlies gun control laws in this country. On March 4, 1998, the Third District Court of Appeals in California overturned crucial sections of the State of California's ban on so-called assault weapons.Although the Court rules against the ban on the basis of the vague language of the law, the Court also pointed out:

"Early gun control laws were directed at oppressed peoples, such as slaves and freedmen, and the politically powerless, such as immigrants and religious minorities.... California followed this pattern shortly after statehood by criminalizing the gift or sale of any gun to 'any Indian.'... Such laws presume the proscribed class is likely to engage in crime..."

I won't put you to sleep with any more about the the old days. Look it up if you want. But even in more recent times the truth is out there. Old Ronald Reagan, for example, pushed gun control laws when he was governor of the late great state of California because he was afraid of some uppity Negroes roaming his state capital who called themselves the Black Panthers. They carried firearms. Ron, no liberal by the way, was having none of that. The federal Gun Control Act of 1968 followed on the heels of the rioting that broke out after the death of Martin Luther King (I know shot with a rifle). But which do you think scared the establishment that passed the bill more, one man shooting Dr. King or armed blacks battling authorities in cities across the land.

But enough of that.

Let's think for a minute about those days just after Hurricane Katrina hit (hell, take a look see at New Orleans today). Would you have wanted to be an unarmed citizen or an armed one? I mean really.

One little article from I don't know where that I ran across stated:

“Waters were receding across this flood-beaten city today as police officers began confiscating weapons, including legally registered firearms, from civilians in preparation for a mass forced evacuation of the residents still living here,” reports the New York Times. “No civilians in New Orleans will be allowed to carry pistols, shotguns or other firearms, said P. Edwin Compass III, the superintendent of police. ‘Only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons,’ he said.”

Of course, the trashing of the Second Amendment is restricted to poor people. Rich people will be allowed to hire armed guards. Nixing the Second Amendment “apparently does not apply to hundreds of security guards hired by businesses and some wealthy individuals to protect property. The guards, employees of private security companies like Blackwater, openly carry M-16’s and other assault rifles. Mr. Compass said that he was aware of the private guards, but that the police had no plans to make them give up their weapons.”

And guns surprisingly are in some ways about equality. A gun can help a little old lady defend herself against some hulk of a man. Women and children are now the major targets of predators in our society. Government is not protecting them very well. Many women who work in cities know this and take courses in self-defense. A gun may be the only realistic self-defense against the sort of criminals and wackos who place no value on your life...or mine (and I'm a man).

None of this is to say that I have problems with things like background checks (No one has to have a gun today, they can wait a bit), curtailing automatic weapons (which no one really needs) and the like. No one should have a gun who has not been trained. No, I don't have any trouble with those kinds of laws and regulations.

So come on dudes and dudettes of the left, let's cast off our image as the people who just don't get it. Let's admit you don't have to be a right wing nut job or even a hunter to believe that outlawing guns is a big mistake.

Not only is that the right thing to do, it'll win us some friends as well who will realize that even a crazy left wing pinko commie can have some common sense.

The following is from Pro-Gun Progressive Web Site.

About Pro-Gun Progressive

Pro-gun progressives? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms? How can you be
a liberal and support the Second Amendment? Aren’t guns for crazy rednecks,
gang bangers, one-world fearing militia members, and violent people?

Hardly! The purpose of this site is straightforward: to end of the myth of
the liberal gun-hater, as well as other myths about gun ownership. The
Democratic Party and the progressive movement, no doubt, bear the brunt of
the blame for the current state of affairs for gun owners in the United
States. Someone somewhere needs to start motivating Dems and liberals to
collectively gut-check and recognize that the default, knee-jerk anti-gun
stance is both a political loser and a morally bankrupt position. My
motivation is to create a resource for progressives, liberals, Democrats,
moderates, and others who share a few core responses to the discussion on
firearms in America today.

1) There are those who are largely single issue voters on the gun
rights issue who do not like voting Republican for a variety of reasons, but
find themselves swinging right for fear of gun rights being retracted by
Democrats on the wrong side of the issue. Now is the time for those people
to have a resource to discuss this dilemma. Many moderate voters frankly
have little affinity for the regressive positions today’s Neocon-dominated
GOP takes on social issues, but have no choice but to pick the lesser of two
evils and vote for the Republicans because they (rightly so) think the Dems
are not to be trusted with something as important as the natural right to

2) Some Progressives do not feel that anything inherent in their
liberalism precludes self-defense. Social liberalism is fundamentally about
bearing an open mind and recognizing that what works for one person might
not work for another, and thus every American needs to be free to make
choices about their personal behavior. Few choices are as intimate, as
personal, and as vital as choosing to protect oneself and loved ones from
violent attack. A truly free and liberal society lets citizens make these
sorts of choices for themselves and encourages citizens to participate in
their own defense. Progressives are on the right side of so many important
social issues in this regard-the freedom to choose one’s mate, the freedom
to chose one’s religion, the freedom to chose and express one’s political
beliefs, the freedom to make choices about reproductive health-and should be
on the right side of this issue as well.

This website is dedicated to providing the pro-gun progressive with a
resource for answering those tough, nagging questions we get from our other
progressive friends who question why we would want to own guns. It is
dedicated to combating the myth that Democrats and liberals are permanently
and forever on the wrong side of this issue. It is dedicated to helping
them find the strength to admit the missteps of the past, and develop the
intestinal fortitude to deny the reactionary right-wing the sole dominance
on this crucial issue-and if there is one issue where the wingnuts are
kicking our teeth in, it is that they are doing a good job convincing
average citizens that they are more concerned with their safety and
security. Most progressives and liberals know this to be, in point of
fact, quite far from the truth; however, collectively being on the wrong
side of the gun issue is the number one thing we do to help the GOP keep
winning votes with that spurious argument. Time for that to stop. Time for
the pro-gun progressives to make their voices heard. Time for people to
recognize that the protection of one’s home and one’s life is not only a
concern to radical right wing Republicans. Time for us to recognize that
the right to self-defense is an inherent right that all human beings should


Eighty years ago yesterday two anarchists by the name of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed. That execution has never been forgotten by many millions around the world.

On the 75th anniversary of the execution Juliet Ucelli of Italian Americans for a Multicultural Society made the following short speech:

Today, Italian Americans are integrated into U.S. society as White Americans. But that wasn’t so in the early years of this century. People of Southern Italian background were considered non-White well into the 1920s. We were called aliens, wops--meaning "without papers," just like today’s undocumented immigrants are called aliens. Nicola Sacco and Bartomoleo Vanzetti were derided as "dirty dagoes, reds" and "anarchistic bastards" (by their trial judge, Webster Thayer of Massachusetts). Anarchists were considered terrorists. Sound familiar?

When they were arrested and put on trial for murder, Sacco and Vanzetti got support from radical and genuinely democratic people of all nationalities and walks of life. Italian Americans who were poor, working class, new immigrants, much of the lower middle class, particularly identified with their suffering and stigmatization. My mother remembers her uncle saying, "Those men were murdered because they were Italian." [The well known poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay, wrote her famous poem "Justice Denied in Massachusetts" to commemorate the deaths of the labor organizers. She had marched with Edmund Wilson, Mary McCarthy and other progressive and well informed intellectuals in defense of the two men, but many turned a deaf ear on their plight.]

Sacco and Vanzetti themselves knew why they were being targeted. In Bartolomeo Vanzetti’s immigrant dialect he said these words:

"I would not wish to a dog or to a snake what I have had to suffer for things that I am not guilty of. But my conviction is that I have suffered for things that I am guilty of. I am suffering because I am a radical and indeed I am a radical; I have suffered because I was an Italian, and indeed I am an Italian; I have suffered more for my family and my beloved than for myself; but I am so convinced to be right that if you could execute me two times, and if I could be reborn two other times, I would live again to do what I have done already."

Today, Sacco and Vanzette are long-dead and it's safe to feel sympathy for them. And, many Italian Americans look back with nostalgia, from a comfortable position of white privilege, at this era when we actually were an oppressed national minority subject to persecution. But when Sacco and Vanzetti were facing execution and needing support, lots of Italian Americans--the establishment, some professionals, the wealthy--would have nothing to do with them. They didn‚t want to be associated with those radicals and 'terrorists'.

So I pose this challenge: If you won’t stand up now for the Arabs, Muslims and South Asians who are being held without any Constitutional rights for supposed association with terrorists, you wouldn‚t have stood up for Sacco and Vanzetti either. If you won’t stand up for Mumia Abu Jamal, the former Black Panther, journalist and exposer of the crimes of the Philadelphia Police Department who was railroaded and faces the death penalty for supposedly killing a Philadelphia police officer, you wouldn’t have stood up for Sacco and Vanzetti either.

And if you won’t stand up against Bush’s endless war on whatever country is not bowing down to the dictates of the U.S. elite, you wouldn’t have stood up for Sacco and Vanzetti either.

Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti understood well that most wars are called for by the rich to protect their wealth, their oil wells, their sources of profit. We shouldn’t forget what they knew.

Long live the memory of Sacco and Vanzetti!
Free the detainees!
Free Mumia Abu Jamal!
Abolish the death penalty!
No to Bush’s war!

What appears below obviously came from Democracy Now.

Sacco and Vanzetti: 80 Years After Their Execution, A Look At The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind

Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed eighty years ago on August 23, 1927, in Boston, Massachusetts. Sacco and Vanzetti were Italian-American anarchists who were arrested and accused of murder at the height of the post-Bolshevik Revolution Red Scare and debates over immigration quotas.

After a highly controversial trial in 1920 they were sentenced to death by a judge who called them "anarchistic bastards."

Their execution is infamous around the world and came to symbolize the intolerance of the American establishment towards immigrants and radical dissenters. Protests against their execution rocked every major city across the world in the days leading up to their execution.

"Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind" is a detailed new book that explores the lives and ideas of these two men and the enduring relevance of their trial. Bruce Watson is the author of this definitive new history of Sacco and Vanzetti. We spoke to Bruce yesterday from Boston, where Sacco and Vanzetti were executed 80 years ago.

Bruce Watson, author of "Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind."


AMY GOODMAN: Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed eighty years ago today in Boston, Massachusetts. Sacco and Vanzetti were Italian-American anarchists who were arrested and accused of murder at the height of the post-Bolshevik Revolution Red Scare and debates over immigration quotas.

After a notoriously prejudiced trial in 1920, they were sentenced to death by a judge who called them "anarchistic bastards." Their execution is infamous around the world and came to symbolize the intolerance and injustice of the American establishment towards immigrants and radical dissenters. Protests against their execution rocked every major city around the world in the days leading up to their execution.

Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind is a new book that explores the lives and ideas of these two men and the enduring relevance of their trial. Bruce Watson is author of the new book. I spoke to him yesterday from Boston, where Sacco and Vanzetti were executed eighty years ago, and asked him to talk about the context of the United States in 1920.

BRUCE WATSON: It was a very jittery time. It was supposed to be a time of peace, but, in fact, 1919 was a year of tumultuous strikes. There had just been a plague flu epidemic that had just ended. Of course, 100,000 soldiers, American soldiers, had died. And it was a very tumultuous year, as I say.

And that year, in April of that year, someone, a group of anarchists, mailed a bunch of -- thirty bombs to the leading capitalist of the day, to John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, several others, anyone who had suppressed anarchists. And only one of the bombs went off. It blew off the hands of a maid who opened it. So the bombs were -- about six weeks later, the same group decided to deliver those bombs in person. And so, at midnight on June 2, 1919, eight bombs in eight cities went off all up and down the East Coast, in churches, in homes. In fact, one man blew himself up on the steps of the attorney general’s home, the attorney general of the United States, right across the street from where FDR was living at the time.

Well, this set in motion a huge crackdown that later became known as the Palmer Raids. And hundreds of radicals were rounded up and deported. And right after that, as that was waning, Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested. It was right on the edge of that hysteria. And they were tried a year later, when some of that was still going on.

AMY GOODMAN: Bruce, can you explain who the targets were of this series and the first bombings?

BRUCE WATSON: It was anyone who had suppressed anarchists. If you look at a list of the thirty targets, they ranged from senators or former senators to, as I mentioned, Morgan and Rockefeller; Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who was later baseball commissioner, but at that time he was a federal judge, and he had presided over a trial that set a lot of IWW Wobblies to jail; other local judges who had ruled against anarchists. So the targets were specifically anarchist.

I should mention that the bombs that went off at midnight were all -- they were found at the site of each bombing a little pink flier that was signed “the Anarchist Fighters.” And there was a long manifesto that said, “You have jailed us, you have beaten us, you have robbed us. Now you must know that vengeance is coming.”

And I should also not neglect to mention that Sacco and Vanzetti were members of that group. And the people who had perpetrated that, including the man who blew himself up on the steps of the attorney general's home, were very close friends of Sacco and Vanzetti. They had fled the draft a couple years ago, going to Mexico. Down in Mexico, there -- something went on there with their suffering, and they decided they were ready for vengeance. Now, no one knows to this day what Sacco and Vanzetti did during that bombing, whether they watched it, said nothing, participated, but they were part of that group.

AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Bruce Watson, author of Sacco and Vanzetti. So explain the story of who Sacco and Vanzetti were.

BRUCE WATSON: Sacco and Vanzetti each came to America independently in 1908, basically to work, for the reason that so many other Italian immigrants came over. Vanzetti had an extra reason: his mother had just died, and he said, “I had to put the seas between me and my grief.” So he came over. Sacco came over. And they did not have any contact with each other. They didn’t know each other until a few weeks before the draft in 1917.

They met at an anarchist meeting. They took the same train down to Mexico, and then they came back independently. And then they were in the same anarchist circle in East Boston that met every Sunday through 1919 and then eventually into 1920. And they happened to be together on the night of their arrest. And then, of course, their names are forever linked now.

AMY GOODMAN: Where did they come from? Tell the story of where they were born, how they came to the United States, and how they became political.

BRUCE WATSON: OK, I actually went to Italy. I take any excuse I can to go to Italy. But I went back to Italy to Sacco -- they were from very different parts of Italy. Sacco was from a little town called Torremaggiore in southern Italy, on the tip of -- near the heel of the boot. And Vanzetti was from a very prosperous northern town near Turin.

And so, as I say, they came over for slightly different reasons, but their politicization was somewhat similar. Sacco came over as a real innocent, naive man. He was only seventeen when he came -- fifteen, I think, when he came over. But as -- and Vanzetti was a little older. Vanzetti had already started to read different political theories. And both of them, however, began to labor in the American system that was very unfair to Italians at the time. They were on the very bottom of the ladder. They were doing the most menial jobs -- Vanzetti, in particular. He worked as a dishwasher in a totally slimy kitchen at a very rich restaurant. He worked loading bricks and building dams and just the absolute most menial labor, spent a lot of time homeless living on the street. Sacco had a little bit better life. He worked as a shoe trimmer. He took a course and learned -- an apprenticeship and learned to be an apprentice shoe trimmer in the Boston area, where there are a lot of shoe factories, and he actually made pretty good money. But Vanzetti was not in that situation at all.

Both men came to anarchism in around 1912 or ’13. And anarchism was a creed at that time, widespread among Italian immigrants. You have to remember these are people who came over and had an American dream. They felt that this was going to be the land of plenty, and they saw quite the opposite. They were discriminated against. They were beaten down. They were denied jobs. Cops often arrested them. And they were drawn to this creed of Italian anarchism. Italian anarchists in those days would tour the country to speak to Italian immigrants, and they would sing. Some of them would sing songs, and they accompanied themselves on the mandolin. They were dodging police. They cut a very romantic figure that appealed to Sacco and Vanzetti and many other immigrants.

Anarchism is basically the belief that someday humanity will come to the point where they won't need a government. Italians, of course, had had nothing but an oppressive government, as far as they could remember, and they couldn't imagine a government of the people, by the people, for the people that would actually work for the people. All they knew was a government that oppressed and hounded and spied on people, etc. So they hoped, they dreamed that someday there would be no government, no need for a government.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, they come to the United States, and how did they end up both in Massachusetts?

BRUCE WATSON: They sort of -- Sacco landed in Massachusetts. He landed with his brother in Boston -- they didn't even go through Ellis Island -- and began to work in a local Italian community there. There were many Italian enclaves, and they -- so he stayed in Boston the whole time.

Vanzetti came through Ellis Island and worked in New York for awhile, as I say, as a dishwasher and other things. He came up to New England with a friend looking for a job. He worked around in farms and other factories and eventually settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts, because he could get a job there at a rope factory. He worked loading heavy cords of rope on a loading dock. And he just stuck around, because he -- Vanzetti worked -- got to know an Italian immigrant family, came to know and love their children very much. He was like a second father to them.

AMY GOODMAN: So the night that they were arrested, explain where they were going, how they ended up in the same train, how they knew each other, how Sacco and Vanzetti knew each other.

BRUCE WATSON: Well, they knew each other from the Italian anarchist circle that they had been involved in, and that circle was pretty strongly linked. By now, we know, they were the ones who had done those midnight bombings. And after the Palmer Raids, one of the -- the police, of course, were hot on the trail of whoever might have done this, and they traced the flier -- they actually traced through -- by looking at the font on the flier, they traced it to a printing shop in Brooklyn, and they arrested two men and held them without bail or anything in the fourteenth floor in New York, on the fourteenth floor of a federal building. These are good friends of Sacco and Vanzetti. And the whole anarchist circle was very worried about them and what was going to go on. There was rumors that they were being tortured. And one of the men actually threw himself out the window and was found dead on the sidewalk a couple weeks after the Braintree crime.

Vanzetti went down to Brooklyn, down to New York to find out anything he could. And he came back about May 1, 1920, with the word that another raid was imminent. This is according to his testimony in the trial. And they all felt that there was going to be another Palmer raid, another raid rounding up anarchists. And they -- according to their testimony, they were out on the night of May 5. They had gotten a car, a friend with a car. They armed themselves, and they went out to gather radical literature and hide it. And so, they went to pick up the car. It had been in the shop. And the police had traced this car. They thought this was the getaway car. They had a reason to believe it was involved in a previous crime and this was the getaway car. And so, they had set a trap. They said, “If somebody comes to this car, you call us.” So these four men -- Sacco, Vanzetti and two other Italians in their circle -- came and got the car -- or they tried to get the car. And the woman who was the mechanic’s wife called the cops. It was a very dramatic situation.

Sacco and Vanzetti and the others, maybe they knew that the phone call was made, maybe they don’t. People still debate it. But all of the sudden, they said, “We’re not going to get the car tonight. Never mind, we don't need it.” Sacco and Vanzetti were walking back through the darkness. They got on a streetcar. Police got word of that. They pulled a police wagon up in front of the car, boarded the car. Sacco and Vanzetti were alone at the back of the streetcar. “You’re under arrest.” They said, “Why?” “Suspicious characters.”

They took them in for questioning. As I said, they did not tell them what they were arrested for. They began to ask them questions about anarchism, about communism. And the men lied and lied and lied. Only the following day, after their mug shots had been taken -- rather sinister-looking mug shots, I should add, that were spread across the newspapers all over Massachusetts -- only the next day did they learn they were being arrested for murder.

AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Bruce Watson, author of Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind. So talk, then, about the trial, about the evidence, about what happened to Sacco and Vanzetti.

BRUCE WATSON: The trial took place a full year later, because it took them a long -- took their defense lawyer a long time. He was tracking down a man in Italy, or a consulate clerk who had gone back to Italy. Sacco's alibi was always that on the day of the crimes he had been in the North End in Boston, the Italian section, trying to get his passport. And he said, “I talked to a clerk. Maybe you can find him.” And so, the clerk turned -- they dug up the clerk, and they found him, and he said, “Yeah, I remember that guy.” So Sacco's defense lawyer was desperately trying to get this man to come to America to testify. But the man was sick, and he couldn't come. During these -- so there was a delay of a year.

Finally, on Memorial Day, or the day after Memorial Day in 1920, the trial began in a fully armed courtroom in a little town that was not at all used to having anarchists in their town. Anarchists, remember, were the terrorists of their time. So they had assassinated -- an anarchist had assassinated President McKinley, some other world leaders. There had been bombings attributed to anarchists. And so, the whole little town of Dedham was terrified of the fact that these anarchists were in their town. And so, out of the -- from the jail two blocks away come marching these two guys, completely surrounded by police. They march up the steps and into this cage, and the trial begins.

And seated at the trial is -- seated at the bench is a man named Judge Webster Thayer, an absolute devout hater of anarchists. He’s a super patriot. He has sworn -- he said many times he's desperately afraid of the anarchist doctrine, of the Red Scare, the Red Doctrine. He's sworn that he's going to do anything he can to stop anarchism from taking over.

He begins -- they begin to probe the jury, and it takes them three days. They have to grill something like 675 people who were willing to possibly risk their lives, because they expect retaliation for -- if there's a guilty verdict. So they finally get the jury seated, and then the trial begins.

The prosecution wages an absolutely textbook perfect case. If you want to study a good prosecution, study that prosecution. They bring out the bloody shirts of the guards at first, and everybody gasps. They bring out several witnesses who swear that Sacco -- they identify Sacco, especially, at the scene. They bring out -- by the way, they took the jurors on a whole tour. They put them in cars and took them to the scene of the crime, took them to several places that have to do with the trial. And then they keep this coming with the defense -- with ballistics evidence. They have four bullets they pulled from the guard. They’ve tested -- test-fired the bullets. They had to get Sacco's permission to do this. Sacco said, “Go ahead. I have nothing to hide.” They test-fired the bullets, four bullets pulled from one of the deceased guards. And they say, interestingly enough, one of these four bullets has been linked to Sacco's gun. We have proof that one of them came through Sacco's gun. Now, later people will ask, “Wait a second. Four bullets pulled out of the guard. A witness says they think they see one guy pumping these bullets in. Only one of them is tied to the gun? How could that be?” But nobody ever asked these questions at the time. They go on with -- two ballistics experts identify the bullets. They identify Sacco’s gun. They say Vanzetti's gun is the same gun that has been stolen from the guard. Nobody ever saw anybody lift the gun from the guard, but this goes on through.

And so, finally the defense comes in, and unfortunately Sacco and Vanzetti had a rather scattered lawyer. He was a former IWW lawyer, and his name was Fred Moore. And he was brilliant at publicity, but he was very wobbly in court. In addition, his politics were well known to Judge Thayer. And Moore had, quote-unquote, “long hair” at the time. He looked a little bit like James Cagney. He had a disturbing habit of taking off his coat, sometimes his shoes, in court. Judge Thayer was just shocked by this “longhaired arnachist,” he called him, from California. Judge Thayer called them “arnachists.” He said -- out of the trial, he said to press, “No longhaired anarchist from California is going to run my court. I’ll show him.” And so, this case -- every time Moore speaks up in court, Judge Thayer snaps at him, overrules his objections.

Moore waged a very staggered and disjointed defense. He called witness after witness after witness, some hundred witnesses, all of whom swearing Sacco and Vanzetti were not the man. They saw Vanzetti in Plymouth that day. They saw Sacco in the North End. But by then, the jury seemed to have pretty much made up his mind.

Then, finally, a key thing happened toward the end of the trial, when they called first Vanzetti and then Sacco. There was a reason they had to do this. They had to explain: why were they out on that dark night, armed to the teeth? What were they hiding? What were they trying to do? They looked pretty suspicious. The judge had decided they weren’t supposed to tell. He said, “We're not going to allow politics in this court. We’re not trying them for anarchism.” But it was actually the defense that said, “We have to bring this in. We have to explain. They were anarchists. They were afraid.” And so, they actually brought up their politics.

And then the prosecutor jumped with both feet, and he began grilling Sacco. “Do you swear that you love this country? You didn't love this country when you ran away and refused to defend it in Mexico, did you? The only thing you like about this county is that you can make money. Isn’t that the truth?” And he grilled Vanzetti about his politics. And this just blew the case wide open. Finally, this was a little bit too much for the jury to take, and they returned within five hours. They returned a guilty verdict.

AMY GOODMAN: Bruce Watson, author of Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind. When we come back from break, we go to part two of the interview. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: We return to the interview with Bruce Watson, author of Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind. I asked Bruce if the outcome of Sacco and Vanzetti's trial would have been different if their lawyers had used another strategy?

BRUCE WATSON: In 1924, Fred Moore finally left the case. He had done a great job of publicity. He had also done a very good job digging up doubts about the case. He dug up a lot of dirt, you could only call it, on several of the prosecution witnesses, the identifying witnesses. One turned out to be a -- pretty much a pathological liar. He went to her hometown in Maine and said, “Everyone said, ‘You can't trust anything that woman said.’” Another was basically a conman, a bigamist, who hated Italians. And there was all sorts of other things he dug up. But by 1924, no one trusted him anymore.

In steps a man who I think was the true hero of this whole book, my whole story. He was a corporate lawyer, William Thompson. He was a Boston Brahman, Harvard Law School graduate, taught at Harvard. He had no reason to take this case. He did not have to take it. He did not agree with Sacco or Vanzetti's politics. But he thought sincerely they had not gotten a fair trial. And he took the case -- I’m sure he lost many clients. He fought it beautifully. He was very eloquent. He argued the case before the supreme judicial court. He defended them brilliantly. They felt if they had had him as their initial lawyer, it would have been very different. They felt that they would not have been convicted.

AMY GOODMAN: But the appeal didn't work.

BRUCE WATSON: Well, by 1924 and ’25, Massachusetts was digging in its heels. The criticisms were starting to come from around the world. People were starting to look at these doubts that Fred Moore had dug up. An interesting thing that happened in 1927 was that Felix Frankfurter, the future Supreme Court justice, who was a Harvard Law professor at that time, wrote an article for Atlantic Monthly on the case, calling attention to all of these doubts, the bullet and the -- there was a cap that was supposed to fit Sacco that really didn't fit Sacco. And there was a confession in 1925, a death row inmate said, “I was there. I was in the car. Sacco and Vanzetti didn't do this job.” And they investigated and found some much more likely suspects. And Frankfurter called attention to all of this.

But as the criticism came in from all over the world, Massachusetts, a very proud -- I dare say pompous -- and provincial state at that time, very different than it is now, they began to dig in their heels. They were not going to accept the idea that a bunch of, as they saw it, radicals around the world could tell the Massachusetts courts what to do. And so, the supreme judicial court, when it finally went to their level, they looked at all the evidence, and they simply repeated everything that Judge Thayer had said. They repeated everything that he had said about the cap and the bullets and the guns without even mentioning the doubts.

And eventually it became so absurd that when the defense finally got around to filing a motion based on judicial bias, saying this man is biased. Judge Thayer, he called our clients “anarchistic bastards.” Don’t you think that suggests some bias? The supreme judicial court said, “OK, we're going to hear that motion. We’ll appoint a judge to hear on judicial bias.” And the judge that they appointed to rule on Thayer’s bias was Judge Thayer. And so, you had this absurdity of Judge Thayer sitting in court saying, “Prejudice? There was never any prejudice. I was not prejudice.” And that went on through.

So all of William Thompson's eloquence, all of his forceful arguments really were -- he was just fighting uphill. And when he finally resigned from the case, when he finally was -- they had appointed a judicial -- the governor had appointed a three-man commission with the president of Harvard, the president of MIT, to hear the case, and they finally ruled -- basically repeated the same things against Sacco and Vanzetti, William Thompson resigned. He said, “The case is remitted to the judgment of mankind.”

AMY GOODMAN: Bruce Watson, what new information did you find in investigating this, well, more-than-eighty-year-old case? It’s been eighty years since the execution.

BRUCE WATSON: Well, there were many things that I found that had -- they were not necessarily -- they were out there waiting for people to dig up. But the literature of this case and the documentation is so vast that, I have to say, nobody can do more than dig into this part or that of it. So I can't blame previous authors for not finding this.

But a couple curious things that I found. First of all, I found a curious thing about the woman who had -- that woman I mentioned earlier who had identified Sacco at the scene of the crime. She fainted during the middle of the court. As testimony -- it was very hot in the courtroom, and as she was on the stand for several hours, finally one day she just fainted dead away. Well, I discovered that when Fred Moore, their lawyer, went up to Maine to talk to her son, he just played a hunch. He said, “Have you ever known your mother to faint?” And this nineteen-year-old kid said, “Oh, my mother faints all the time, whenever anything comes up. And as anything gets harsh, she faints dead away. And then she gets up, and she talks to you about whatever you were just talking about.” So I’m sitting here reading this type of thing.

And then there was -- in 1923, Sacco, who was a very nervous, jittery type, was sent to Bridgewater State Mental Hospital, and he was found to be suffering delusions, they called them, of paranoia. Of course, he had pretty good reasons for being paranoid. But I found the transcript of the entire hearing, three weeks of private hearings, and sat and read the transcripts. And it showed that Judge Thayer thought that Sacco was faking it. Judge Thayer thought he was just trying to -- “Will he escape?” And he asked, “When he goes to Bridgewater, if he goes to Bridgewater, will there be bars on the cage? Will there be a guard around his door all the time?” And William Thompson said, “I’d like to thank the judge for making sure this half-starved man will not escape.”

And then in 1924, an even more suspicious thing came up, when someone switched the barrel on Sacco's gun. Now, this was the gun that was linked to the bullet, allegedly linked to bullet three, one bullet. They had called in -- the defense had called in a new ballistics expert, one of the top -- supposedly one of the top ballistics experts in America, written up in Scientific America, etc. And he wanted to test -- he wanted to test-fire a hundred bullets through the gun. And he discovered, as he went and got the gun one day at the courtroom -- he looked at it and said, “This barrel looks like it's been cleaned, and it's a little wider than the last time I checked it.” And he wasn't quite sure. The gun had been taken apart many times. But he wasn’t quite sure it had been switched. He didn’t go that far, but he said it looked like it had been a -- it was a very different barrel. And then the prosecution checked it out, and they said that someone has switched the bullets on this gun.

A couple weeks later, they called a hearing. Well, no one had ever discovered this, but there was a transcript of that hearing. And I discovered the entire hearing, which opened up whole new ideas of who might have switched the gun. And there was a moment, a key moment, when Fred Moore, the defense attorney, is approaching the key prosecution ballistics expert, and he's been told that this man knows almost nothing about ballistics and he's actually reading statistics from a book in his lap. And this is what he's been told. And Moore goes up, and he says, “Aren't you actually -- can you tell me -- please measure this bullet for me right now.” And the man looks at it, and he reads out these measurements. And Moore says, “Aren't you actually reading these from a book that you have in your lap? And didn’t you do that during the trial?” And the man is all flustered, and he says, “No,” and he reads out these statistics. But it was fascinating really to read this transcript. And so, that was something else I discovered. And many more things.

AMY GOODMAN: Describe the climate and the day that it all took place.

BRUCE WATSON: Well, the execution was originally set for July 10, when they were first sentenced, but then Governor Fuller appointed this three-man commission headed by the president of Harvard. They began to look into it. They couldn't start until their academic year was over, so he postponed it to August 10. When August 10 came, by then Governor Fuller, the entire nation and the world were awaiting the decision a week earlier on August 3. The governor made his decision right around midnight. And it was announced, “OK, the Lowell Commission thinks they're guilty. I’m going to go ahead with them. They're going to die on August 10.”

On August 10, the mood in Boston couldn't have been more tense, because there had already been some bombings -- subway bombings in New York. There had been bombings in Philadelphia and elsewhere. Anarchists were protesting this. They just couldn't take this lying down. And so there was a tense mood all over Boston and really all across America. There were armed guards at every building, every federal building in America by then, and every subway station in Boston and New York. And as midnight approached, it was thought this would be the time. But -- and so, again, there was just all this in the defense committee office in the North End, people were pacing and wondering, are they going to go through with it.

Finally at 11:34 p.m., the governor said, “We have an appeal pending.” They raced a taxi with the word that they were going to postpone it, raced it to Charlestown Prison. Sacco and Vanzetti already had had their heads shaved. They were ready to go to the chair. They called it off. You can imagine what they must have felt the next morning when they awoke. But they only gave them twelve days reprieve.

And in the meantime, there were more bombings, when a juror's home was bombed. And by that time, by the night of August 22, eighty years ago, there was a sense, really, in Boston of the inevitable. The city was wrung out. The tension had just exhausted everybody. There had been a knifing. There had been people -- a man in Denver had killed himself over the tension of the case. There was the world -- there were protests going on all around the world. And there was sort of the sense by then, they're going to go through with it now. There's almost nothing could be done.

There were last-minute appeals to Supreme Court judges. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said, “This is a state matter. I can't intervene.” He thought they didn’t quite get a fair deal, but he refused to overrule it. And so, it went ahead just after midnight on this night. First Sacco and then Vanzetti were led to the chair and given 2,000 volts and carried out.

AMY GOODMAN: Sacco's wife had pleaded with the governor on her knees?

BRUCE WATSON: Sacco’s wife had pleaded with the governor, and she was with Vanzetti's sister. Vanzetti never married and didn’t have a family, but his sister came all the way from Italy in the last weeks. The press charted her progress. She marched in Paris with a group. She came up to the port city of Le Havre and came over. The press noted everywhere. She landed in New York. She met a crowd there. She came to Boston. In tears, she met her brother in the jail, and they hadn't seen each other since 1908. And she finally on that night, the 22nd, she and Rosina Sacco, Sacco's wife, went to the governor on bended knee and pleaded with him. And he basically repeated phrases from his decision, said, “I can’t. I sympathize with your sorrow, but the Lowell Commission has found the men guilty.” And he ignored their pleas, and the execution went on.

AMY GOODMAN: And the response around the world?

BRUCE WATSON: Shock, sorrow, disbelief, a sense -- Katherine Anne Porter, the author, described being outside the jail, and she said, “Life felt grimy and full of shame and full of disgrace.” And one man who heard her said, “What do you mean? There's no such thing as disgrace anymore.”

And around the world, there were protests, there were riots. The people threw -- uprooted lampposts in Paris, threw them through plate-glass windows. They attacked embassies. The Moulin Rouge was damaged. In Geneva, people took it out on American targets. They targeted stores selling Lucky Strike cigarettes and theaters showing Douglas Fairbanks films. There were strikes all over South America, shut down transportation. The American flag was burned on the steps of the American embassy in Johannesburg. The riots went on. Three people were killed in riots in Germany. The riots went on for a few days, and then finally they stopped.

And Sacco and Vanzetti -- the funeral in Boston attracted 200,000 people that marched through the streets of Boston to the cemetery where they were cremated.

AMY GOODMAN: Bruce Watson, he's the author of Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind.

I want to end with an excerpt of a feature-length documentary by the same title, Sacco and Vanzetti, directed by Peter Miller, released by First Run Features. This clip explores how Sacco and Vanzetti were politicized, why they became anarchists. It features commentary from opera composer Anton Coppola and historians Nunzio Pernicone and Howard Zinn. It also includes John Turturro as the voice of Bartolomeo Vanzetti, reading from his prison writings.

HOWARD ZINN: Most anarchists have a kind of philosophy about what society should be like. And Sacco and Vanzetti subscribed to this philosophy.

AMY GOODMAN: We're going to go back to that excerpt of Sacco and Vanzetti. And if you want a copy of today's show, you can go to our website at You can also see the transcript of today's broadcast. Let's go back to Sacco and Vanzetti.

ANTON COPPOLA: When I came to America, and I saw that people were not living in America, but under America, he meant the bowels of the earth in the subterranean channels of the social strata. He was translating from the Italian. He was saying, “Non in America, ma sotto America.” He sounds very dramatic in Italian, of course. He expresses it in Italian, but if you translate it, it says “not in America, but under America.”

NUNZIO PERNICONE: He looks upon American society, basically American capitalist society, and says a society that allows this kind of exploitation and poverty should not be able to exist. Sacco came to the conclusion, as did Vanzetti, that the state, per se, whether it's a capitalist state or a communist state, is the enemy of freedom and liberty. Consequently, of all the isms available -- socialism, syndicalism -- anarchism was the ideology which to Sacco and Vanzetti, as well, was the purest, the one which promised the greatest hope of human emancipation.

Vanzetti had no personal life, he had no wife, he had no girlfriend. And, in a sense, he embraces anarchism as if it is, you know, a new focal point, a love interest in his life. He embraces it with a passion and dedication that is truly romantic.

BARTOLOMEO VANZETTI: [read by John Turturro] “I champion the weak, the poor, the oppressed, the simple and the persecuted. I maintain that whosoever benefits or hurts a man benefits or hurts the whole species. I sought my liberty and the liberty of all, my happiness and the happiness of all. I wanted a roof for every family, bread for every mouth, education for every heart, light for every intellect. I am convinced that human history has not yet begun, that we find ourselves in the last period of the prehistoric. I see with the eyes of my soul how the sky is diffused with the rays of the new millennium.” – Bartolomeo Vanzetti.

AMY GOODMAN: That was an excerpt of Sacco and Vanzetti, directed by Peter Miller, released by First Run Features.


At four AM today Law and Order Police in Zimbabwe began going door-to-door arresting members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA). According to the blog Stroppyblog Rosemary Siziba, Margaret Ndlovu, Idah Ndebele and Maria Moyo are confirmed to have been taken.

At 4:45 am they arrived at the gate of Magodonga Mahlangu, broke her gate padlock and proceeded to try to break down the front and back doors. They did not succeed and left taking 'snowy' the dog with them. They were heard insulting both Mahlangu and Williams who are both leaders.

In Masvingo, Police also searched the homes of two members late last night and upon finding nothing promised to return to arrest the members who were not at home. Police officers said they are looking for information about the 'Sheroes Congress'.

WOZA and MOZA conducted their annual assembly in rural Matabeleland this past weekend and it is assumed that these arrests and searches are an attempt to obtain information about the congress resolutions.

Just two weeks ago sixteen WOZA activists were arrested while playing a game of netball. The 16, who include some men, were arrested in the southern city of Masvingo. They were released a few days later but were reportedly beaten while in custody.

WOZA, the acronym of Women of Zimbabwe Arise, is an Ndebele word meaning ‘Come forward’. Now with a countrywide membership of over 35,000 women and men, WOZA was formed in 2003 as a women’s civic movement to:

Provide women, from all walks of life, with a united voice to speak out on issues affecting their day-to-day lives.

Empower female leadership that will lead community involvement in pressing for solutions to the current crisis.

Encourage women to stand up for their rights and freedoms.

Lobby and advocate on those issues affecting women and their families.

The group is one of the few that have stood up to the regime there on a consistent basis.

The following is from SW Radio Africa (London).

Woza Activists Arrested During Door to Door Raids in Bulawayo

Police in Bulawayo reportedly abducted six women and a baby from the organization, Women of Zimbabwe Arise during early morning raids. WOZA coordinator Jenni Williams said the group received an alert around four in the morning from the children of the arrested women, saying police officers were going door-to-door arresting the activists.

Police are also accused of trying to break into the home of WOZA leader Magodonga Mahlangu. They failed to get in and arrest her, but she has reported that since the incident her dog is now missing. In the past police have been brutal in their treatment of animals belonging to perceived opponents of the government. A witness reported that police attacked the barking dog with a hoe.

Those arrested include Rosemary Siziba and her one-year-old baby, Margaret Ndlovu, Idah Ndebele and Maria Moyo. Williams said as usual lawyers were not able to access them, as the police denied holding the activists.

The group says homes belonging to two WOZA members were also searched in Masvingo on Thursday night. WOZA believes the authorities are paranoid after the pressure group held a successful annual congress this past weekend. It is assumed that these arrests and searches are an attempt to obtain information about the congress resolutions.

A statement said: "They were taken to the bush around Khami Ruins some 40 km outside Bulawayo and told this was the last time they would be seen alive. It transpires there were three teams of police officers. Officers Mthunzi, Musarira, MaNdlovu and Tshuma were identified by members. Three of the women testified that they were taken onto the mountaintop overlooking the river and told to tell the truth or be thrown in. The 'truth' required was the whereabouts of Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu. They were questioned about WOZA programmes and especially the 2006 and 2007 Sheroes Congress."

The group said the members were released in the afternoon unharmed but traumatised and in shock.

Williams told us that plans to roll out a series of non-violent activities are now underway, in preparation for the forthcoming elections.

The WOZA co-ordinator was part of a group of civic leaders who met with South African officials to discuss the way forward last week in Pretoria. She said she was worried at the choice of expression by the South African officials. She said: "Words used by Minister Mufamadi over and over again in the meeting were that they (SA) want an election whose results cannot be contested."

But Williams said: "Surely it would be better to have a proper constitutional process that would safeguard democracy in Zimbabwe and only then will you have an election. Why should you try to stop the contestation of an election? Rather do a process that results in a free and fair democratic process."

South Africa is mediating talks between ZANU PF and the two MDCs. Civil society have criticised this process saying free and fair elections could only come about with the full consultation of all stakeholders and a people driven constitution.


Here is the follow up on that agent provocateur story out of Canada that I did on Wednesday. The cops confessed...

The following is from CJAD (Canada).

Public security minister asks Quebec police to explain undercover operation

Quebec's public security minister is leaving it up to provincial police to explain why three of its agents posed as protesters at this week's North American Leaders' summit in Montebello, Que.

A spokeswoman for Public Security Minister Jacques Dupuis says the minister won't comment on the actions of the officers because he doesn't get involved in police operations.

But the official, who asked not to be named, said today that Quebec provincial police have been asked to provide an explanation.

Quebec provincial police will hold a news conference today at 3:30 p.m. ET at its downtown Montreal headquarters.

After originally denying it, the force has admitted the trio were involved in the protest after a video clip of the them showed up on the popular website,

But the provincial police are denying they were attempting to provoke protesters into violence and say the three officers were planted in the crowd to locate any protesters who were not peacefully demonstrating.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


The West has been booming for years. Lots of people moving in, new development projects everywhere and no end in sight. Nevada has led the nation in growth for the past 19 years. Idaho ranked third for the 2004-2005 Census. And St. George, Utah, was the top in the nation for population gains between 2000 and 2005.Nevada officials said they weren't surprised with their top ranking because all they do is deal with growth.

That sort of news sounds good to lots of people in other places, but if you're someone who has grown up in the wide open spaces or the beautiful Rocky Mountains the news is actually somewhat dismal. What you have probably always loved about your region is being destroyed before your eyes and your government seems happy about it.

In Montana, a huge state where nobody used to live, residents are looking around aghast as wealthy folks from who knows where are buying up huge chunks of land for their own private use.

Now this is a tough one for Westerners who have always been big on the rights of private property. Suddenly they are finding out what was one of their cherished ideals is screwing them.

In a guest column printed on the site New West, Sen. Jon Tester of Montana writes:

"I, like many others, have a problem with folks from other places buying up agricultural land, fencing it off and locking it up forever. That land is available only to an exclusive club of elite and blocked to the workaday Montanan who pays his dues to the state and understands the western value of sharing the landscape with fellow Montanans. What used to be traditional hunting and fishing grounds for generations are fast becoming off limits for ordinary Montanans looking to put some meat and fish on the table.

Out-of-state developers are buying up large ranches across our state with plans to subdivide them and sell lots as “trophy properties.” I can see why wealthy folks are intrigued by the idea of buying pieces of rural Montana for vacation getaways. I have to admit, the glossy pamphlets advertising those properties are nice.

But ordinary Montanans don’t live in fancy log homes and properties showcased in glossy pamphlets. They work hard, build their communities, and put their kids through school hoping they can stay here to enjoy what is so special about Montana."

Westerners who have long prided themselves with their love of the outdoors are also surprisingly finding themselves allied with those they used to consider enemies - wacky environmentalists. For example, the Bureau of Land Management not tot long ago approved opening up the vast Roan Plateau in western Colorado to natural gas drilling. The decision delighted the energy industry. It wasn't received with such delight by environmentalist. Suddenly the opposition presented by the environmentalists was supported by outfitters and wildlife advocates, hunters, fishermen (and fisherwomen) and a number of local communities that wanted to see the flattop mountain preserved.

Even the lack of water doesn't deter developers. In fact, local communities are having to take action on this very issue. In Arizona, for example, where water already has to often be trucked in state lawmakers took the unusual action, for them, and voted—overwhelmingly—to let desert counties and cities put in place new restrictions on rural development linked to water supplies.

“It’s time to address growth in the rural areas,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Marsha Arzberger, D, told the Associated Press. It’s hardly a Democratic bill, though. The state House voted 50-1 in favor of it. The Senate backed it by a 26-2 vote. Yup, Republicans voting for governmental controls.

But governmental controls have always been the last thing Westerners wanted.

In Anaconda, Montana, a town of less then 10,000 plans for a new subdivision have run into lots of protest. “If you folks approve this subdivision as they have it, you’re going to open the door … and Georgetown Lake will look like Lake Tahoe does right now with green water, high nitrates and very few fish,” landowner Mickey Sanders told the Granite County planning board.

Mickey was seconded by a neighbor. “You cannot have density this high at Georgetown Lake,” Earl Sager said. “California, maybe. Some other state, maybe. But not in Montana.”

These people like their space.

They don't like the government telling them what to do.

They are at war with themselves.

Finally, back to Colorado support of a move to ban the drilling atop the Roan Plateau in northwest part of the state, as noted earlier, is moving beyond a handful of environmentalists.

The Rocky Mountain News reported this comment recently. "The Roan is so important for its above-ground hunting and angling resources," said Brian O'Donnell of the group Trout Unlimited. "Keeping it intact is the best option for sportsmen who appreciate the unique fishing and the trophy-hunting opportunities available atop the Roan."

Janine Fitzgerald, a local ranch owner (not a left wing crazy) spoke for many out west. Her comments were about the Roan controversy but they really go far beyond. She said simply, "The more of the land we destroy, the more we won't have for ourselves when there's no oil and gas left. It's all connected..."

What's a westerner to do these days?

The following is from Headwaters News.

Western growth and its discontent
New book lays out strategies to direct growth,
and save the special qualities of the region

ByTom Kenworthy

Readers of William R. Travis’ New Geographies of the American West, may have to adopt a new definition of optimist: someone who can do a detailed study of growth and development in the American West and not descend into utter despair.

Ten years ago, Travis edited the useful and humorous Atlas of the New West (where else can you find a map showing western cowboy poetry festivals?). Now, the University of Colorado geographer has undertaken a more serious look at change in the fastest growing region in the United States.

As anyone who has lived in the West for even a short time knows, it’s not a comforting picture:

• The 11 western states (including the coast) grew by 20 percent in the 1990’s, and five of them—Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and Idaho—are the fastest growing states in the nation.

• What we often describe as a region of boom and bust pretty much always has boomed and shows no sign of busting anytime soon. Our population grew even during the downturn of the 1980’s and, Travis writes, “the region’s population and economic growth are poised to outpace the nation’s for decades to come.”

• Neither the West’s vast tracts of public that can’t be developed nor its arid climate are going to stop the growth trend. The West’s population will double in the next 40-50 years.

• This rapid, and largely uncontrolled development, Travis writes, is “transforming the West’s emblematic landscapes: its mountain fronts, its great swaths of rangeland, and its desert canyons. At risk is wildlife habitat, biodiversity, nurturing human communities, and the sense of place that comes from the West’s terrain, climate and history…[T]he West is at risk of losing the qualities that make it unique.”

That coarse scale view of western development is a familiar one. But Travis goes far deeper with his analysis of what he calls the West’s “development geographies” – metro areas, exurbs, resort zones and gentrified range – and the forces that are driving growth in each.

The “ultimate enablers” of western development, Travis writes, “are the counties and municipalities, which promote growth as the equivalent of community well-being….” And those enablers are largely unconstrained because of “weak, fractured, and uncoordinated” land use regulation in the region.

How, then to get control of this monster that is devouring the very qualities that make the West such a special place to live?

Travis proposes four strategies:

• Expand land use planning beyond single communities to the regional and landscape level, using multi-jurisdiction organizations such as councils of governments. The Puget Sound Council of Governments is a good model, Travis says.

• Develop land use codes “suited to landscapes and tension zones in the West” that include preservation of natural spaces, wildlife migration routes and stream corridors.

• Bolster public participation in land use planning and encourage more advocacy on its behalf. Travis sees hope in the work of regional smart planning groups like the Sonoran Institute and conservation organizations built around specific landscapes such as the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

• Make better use of the new tools that are available such as GIS mapping and sophisticated community planning models.

There is, Travis concludes, “still time to alter the settlement trajectory of the West,” but not much.


Tom Kenworthy, who formerly covered the West as a reporter for The Washington Post and USA Today, is a senior fellow at Western Progress, a regional policy institute.


Police agent provocateurs have been outed by YouTube at yesterday's protest in Montebello, Quebec. The video shows a national union president confronted and assaulted by masked men who would appear to be black bloc type anarchists. One of the men, in a ball cap with the word "Spike" on it, is shown hanging onto the bandanna over his face and forcefully shoving the labor leader as he attempted to keep order.

The Harper Index blog reports:

Stuart Trew, of the Council of Canadians, saw the video and spoke with people who were there. "You'll hear them [the real "black flag anarchist" protesters from Quebec] screaming 'Policier, policier!' [police]. Eventually Coles looks the guy in the eyes and says 'You're a police officer'."

As Trew said, "They slip behind and start nudging the police line, you can't see if they're saying anything because of their bandannas, the police let them through eventually and take them down to the ground, and appear to arrest them." Trew points out that two agitators had matching bandannas and that there was "a substantial size difference, and what looks likes an age difference" from other anarchist protesters, but admits it is almost impossible to prove they were police officers.

The protest legal aid committee, however, received no report from authorities of their arrests, lending further credence to allegations the two were not genuine protesters. "Yes, these were definitely agent provocateurs, cops, and legal folks have no record of these supposed arrests," said Peoples Global Action (PGA) spokesperson John Hollingsworth at the Indie Media Centre.

There were other reports of provocateurs on the scene. Dan Sawyer, a member of PGA, told "Our group did 'out' about three undercovers in the Black Bloc and pushed them back into the police line, and then they walked off."

"The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union believes that the security force at Montebello were ordered to infiltrate our peaceful assembly and to provoke incidents," Dave Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union told CBC reporters. "I think the evidence that we've shown you today reinforces the view." Coles was the union leader assaulted by the men.

Coles showed photographs of the masked men's and police officers' boots taken during the handcuffing, in which they appear to have identical tread patterns on their soles.

"Do they have any connection to the Quebec police force or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or are they part of some other security force that was at Montebello?" he asked, adding that he wants to know how the Prime Minister's Office was involved in security during the protests.

A retired Ottawa police officer who was formerly in charge of overseeing demonstrations for the force told the CBC he questions who the masked men really are, after viewing the video.

"Were they legitimate protesters? I don’t think so," said Doug Kirkland.

"Well, if they weren't police, I think they might well have been working in the best interests of police."

He added that if the situation was as it appeared, he did not approve of the tactic. "It's pretty close to baiting," he said.

The protest at the summit of Bush and Harper than many believe is selling Canada down the drain drew over one thousand demonstrators. That may not seem like many, but roadblocks minimized public access from the main highway into the village of Montebello. In addition, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)denied protest organizers the use of public buildings have erected massive barricades to keep protesters as far away as possible.

The following comes from CTV.

Union leader claims cops posed as protesters

Members of the Quebec police force went undercover as protesters to try and provoke peaceful demonstrators at the recent Montebello summit, alleges a union leader.

A video posted on YouTube from Monday's protests in Montebello, Que. shows Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) President Dave Coles in a confrontation with three masked men who appear to be protesters.

"I accused them of being police, and every time I yelled at them that they were police, you could tell by their facial expressions that they were really troubled," Coles told CTV Newsnet Wednesday.

He added that the men "weren't young kids off the streets, they were there to deliberately cause trouble, to give the police a chance to try and get rid of these young kids that were exercising their right to protest peacefully."

In the video, Coles and other protesters tell the men to take off their masks.

One of the three men is holding a rock and Coles tells him to move because their line is meant for peaceful protesters.

"These three guys are cops, everybody!" Coles can be heard shouting to the crowd as he tries to pull down their bandanas.

The three men then push their way into the police line and appear to be arrested, then taken away.

In the video, Coles claims the men were sent as provocateurs to give the police an excuse to move in on demonstrators.

"I looked him in his eye and said 'You're a cop aren't you?' and his eyes just glazed right up," Coles tells a crowd in the video.

In the press release, Coles said he plans to do whatever it takes to bring the matter to justice.

"We have proof that the three individuals who were 'arrested' after being exposed as 'agents provocateurs' were, in fact, members of the Quebec police force," Coles said in a statement Wednesday.

Photographs taken by another protester show the three men lying on the ground with the soles of their boots adorned by yellow octagons. A police officer kneeling beside the men appears to have the same imprint on his boot.

The imprint appears to be the Vibram boots logo. But earlier reports suggested it was a yellow triangle signifying Canadian Standards Association-approved footwear.

Police have confirmed that only four protesters, not the men in the video, were arrested during the summit.

"But we see very clearly in that video three (other) men being arrested . . . How do (police) account for these three people being taken in, being arrested? Where did they go?" veteran protester Jaggi Singh asked The Canadian Press Tuesday.

"I have no hesitation in saying they were police agents... and they were caught red-handed."

The RCMP and the Surete du Quebec have refused to comment on the video or whether they use such tactics.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, U.S. President George Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon, wrapped up the summit Tuesday.

Many activists were protesting what they perceived a lack of transparency surrounding the North American Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) process.

The two-year-old framework is being used to pursue greater trade and security integration between the three countries.

While a group of top business executives got the chance to make a presentation to the three leaders on Tuesday, no such invitation was extended to environmental or social activists.

Critics claim the SPP is a 'super-NAFTA' that will result in stolen jobs and an erosion of freedoms.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Right now a lot of Canadians are concerned that they are in the process of losing control of the Arctic parts of their country including the northwest passages.

They may have a bunch more to worry about than just that.

My dad was born in Canada. During the depression he snuck across the border to find work somewhere. He ended as a citizen after he became U.S. solider during World War II. My family would make journeys back often to see our Canadian relatives. I often like to say that I could flee back to my ancestral homeland because I'm just a first generation American as a result of my dad's illegal immigration.

Pretty soon there may not be any real Canada to which to flee.

Say what?

As Bush set down yesterday in Canada protesters were out in force. Up to 2,000 demonstrators -- guarded by a sizable police presence -- got a head start on the North American leaders' Security and Prosperity Partnership summit attended by U.S. President George W. Bush, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Among the protesters concern is their fear that their Prime Minister is giving away the store, so to speak.

Said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May. "Mr. Harper . . . has no business giving away the sovereignty of Canada in these negotiations." She cited no-fly lists as one example of an "Orwellian" chill forming over North America.

She should be looking far beyond no fly lists.

Other protesters see a threat to Canada's sovereignty over its natural resources and environmental values which, they argue, are being bargained away under the guise of public safety and eliminating red tape.

They've got that right.

As for my dad, if he were alive today, he'd mourn the USization of his homeland.

The following is from GlobalResearch (Canada).

Canada's Sovereignty in Jeopardy: the Militarization of North America

Canadian jurisdiction over its Northern territories was redefined, following an April 2002 military agreement between Ottawa and Washington. This agreement allows for the deployment of US troops anywhere in Canada, as well as the stationing of US warships in Canada's territorial waters.

Following the creation of US Northern Command in April 2002, Washington announced unilaterally that NORTHCOM's territorial jurisdiction (land, sea, air) extended from the Caribbean basin to the Canadian arctic territories.

"The new command was given responsibility for the continental United States, Canada, Mexico, portions of the Caribbean and the contiguous waters in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans up to 500 miles off the North American coastline. NorthCom's mandate is to "provide a necessary focus for [continental] aerospace, land and sea defenses, and critical support for [the] nation’s civil authorities in times of national need."

(Canada-US Relations - Defense Partnership – July 2003, Canadian American Strategic Review (CASR),

NORTHCOM's stated mandate was to "provide a necessary focus for [continental] aerospace, land and sea defenses, and critical support for [the] nation’s [US] civil authorities in times of national need."

(Canada-US Relations - Defense Partnership – July 2003, Canadian American Strategic Review (CASR),

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld boasted that "the NORTHCOM – with all of North America as its geographic command – 'is part of the greatest transformation of the Unified Command Plan [UCP] since its inception in 1947.'" (Ibid)

Canada and US Northern Command

In December 2002, following the refusal of (former) Prime Minister Jean Chrétien to join US Northern Command (NORTHCOM), an interim bi-national military authority entitled the Binational Planning Group (BPG) was established.

Canadian membership in NORTHCOM would have implied the integration of Canada's military command structures with those of the US. That option had been temporarily deferred by the Chrétien government, through the creation of the Binational Planning Group (BPG).

The BPG's formal mandate in 2002 was to extend the jurisdiction of the US-Canada North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) to cover sea, land and "civil forces",

"to improve current Canada–United States arrangements to defend against primarily maritime threats to the continent and respond to land-based attacks, should they occur."

Although never acknowledged in official documents, the BPG was in fact established to prepare for the merger of NORAD and NORTHCOM, thereby creating de facto conditions for Canada to join US Northern Command.

The "Group" described as an "independent" military authority was integrated from the outset in December 2002 into the command structures of NORAD and NORTHCOM, both operating out the same headquarters at the Paterson Air Force base in Colorado. In practice, the "Group" functioned under the jurisdiction of US Northern Command, which is controlled by the US Department of Defense.

In December 2004, in the context of President Bush's visit to Ottawa, it was agreed that the mandate of the BPG would be extended to May 2006. It was understood that this extension was intended to set the stage for Canada's membership in NORTHCOM.

In March 2006, two months before the end of its mandate, the BPG published a task force document on North American security issues:

"'A continental approach' to defense and security could facilitate binational maritime domain awareness and a combined response to potential threats, 'which transcends Canadian and U.S. borders, domains, defense and security departments and agencies,' (quoted in Homeland Defense watch, 20 July 2006)

The BPG task force report called for the establishment of a "maritime mission" for NORAD including a maritime warning system. The report acted as a blueprint for the renegotiation of NORAD, which was implemented immediately following the release of the report.

On April 28, 2006, an agreement negotiated behind closed doors was signed between the US and Canada.

The renewed NORAD agreement was signed in Ottawa by the US ambassador and the Canadian Minister of Defense Gordon O'Connor, without prior debate in the Canadian Parliament. The House of Commons was allowed to rubberstamp a fait accompli, an agreement which had already been signed by the two governments.

"'A continental approach to defense and security could facilitate binational maritime domain awareness and a combined response to potential threats, "which transcends Canadian and U.S. borders, domains, defense and security departments and agencies,' the report says." (Homeland Defense Watch, May 8, 2006)

While NORAD still exists in name, its organizational structure coincides with that of NORTHCOM. Following the April 28, 2006 agreement, in practical terms, NORAD has been merged into USNORTHCOM.

NORTHCOM Commander Gen. Gene Renuart, USAF happens to be Commander of NORAD, Maj. Gen. Paul J. Sullivan who is NORTHCOM Chief of Staff, is Chief of Staff of NORAD.

With a exception of a token Canadian General, who occupies the position of Deputy Commander of NORAD, the leadership of NORAD coincides with that of NORTHCOM. (See photo gallery below).

These two military authorities are identical in structure, they occupy the same facilities at the Peterson Air Force base in Colorado.

There was no official announcement of the renewed NORAD agreement, which hands over control of Canada's territorial waters to the US, nor was there media coverage of this far-reaching decision.

The Deployment of US Troops on Canadian Soil

At the outset of US Northern Command in April 2002, Canada accepted the right of the US to deploy US troops on Canadian soil.

"U.S. troops could be deployed to Canada and Canadian troops could cross the border into the United States if the continent was attacked by terrorists who do not respect borders, according to an agreement announced by U.S. and Canadian officials." (Edmunton Sun, 11 September 2002)

With the creation of the BPG in December 2002, a binational "Civil Assistance Plan" was established. The latter described the precise "conditions for deploying U.S. troops in Canada, or vice versa, in the aftermath of a terrorist attack or natural disaster." (quoted in Inside the Army, 5 September 2005).

Canadian Sovereignty

In August 2006, the US State Department confirmed that a new NORAD Agreement had entered into force, while emphasizing that "the maritime domain awareness component was of 'indefinite duration,' albeit subject to periodic review." (US Federal News, 1 August 2006). In March 2007, the US Senate Armed Services Committee confirmed that the NORAD Agreement had been formally renewed, to include a maritime warning system. In Canada, in contrast, there has been a deafening silence.

In Canada, the renewed NORAD agreement went virtually unnoticed. There was no official pronouncement by the Canadian government of Stephen Harper. There was no analysis or commentary of its significance and implications for Canadian territorial sovereignty. The agreement was barely reported by the Canadian media.

Operating under a "North American" emblem (i.e. a North American Command), the US military would have jurisdiction over Canadian territory from coast to coast; extending from the St Laurence Valley to the Queen Elizabeth archipelago in the Canadian Arctic. The agreement would allow for the establishment of "North American" military bases on Canadian territory. From an economic standpoint, it would also integrate the Canadian North, with its vast resources in energy and raw materials, with Alaska.

Ottawa's Military Facility in Resolute Bay

Ottawa's July 2007 decision to establish a military facility in Resolute Bay in the Northwest Passage was not intended to reassert "Canadian sovereignty. In fact quite the opposite. It was established in consultation with Washington. A deep-water port at Nanisivik, on the northern tip of Baffin Island is also envisaged.

The US administration is firmly behind the Canadian government's decision. The latter does not "reassert Canadian sovereignty". Quite the opposite. It is a means to eventually establish US territorial control over Canada's entire Arctic region including its waterways. This territory would eventually fall under the jurisdiction of US Northern Command (NORTHCOM).

The Security and Prosperity Partnership Agreement (SPP)

The Security and Prosperity Partnership Agreement (SPP) signed between the US, Canada and Mexico contemplates the formation of a North American Union (NAU), a territorial dominion, extending from the Caribbean to the Canadian arctic territories.

The SPP is closely related to the Binational Planning Group initiative. An Independent Task Force sponsored by The Council on Foreign Relations calls for the transformation of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) into a "multiservice Defense Command". The CFR document entitled "North American Community" drafted on behalf of the SPP endorses the BPG March 2006 recommendations:

"As recommended in a report of the Canadian-U.S. Joint Planning Group [BPG], NORAD should evolve into a multiservice Defense Command that would expand the principle of Canadian-U.S. joint command to land and naval as well as air forces engaged in defending the approaches to North America. In addition, Canada and the United States should reinforce other bilateral defense institutions, including the Permanent Joint Board on Defense and Joint Planning Group, and invite Mexico to send observers.

(North American Community, Task Force documented sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) together with the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and the Consejo Mexicano de Asuntos Internacionales)

The accession of Canada to this Multiservice Defense Command, as recommended by the CFR, has already been established, signed and sealed, approved by the Canadian Parliament in May 2006, in the context of the renewal of the NORAD agreement.

In all likelihood, the formal merging of "the renewed NORAD" and US NORTHCOM will be on the agenda at the August Security and Prosperity Partnership Agreement (SPP) Summit meeting of President Bush, Prime Minister Harper and President Calderon at Montebello, Quebec. This decision would lead to the formation of a US-Canada NORTHCOM, with a new name, but with substantially the same NORTHCOM rhetorical mandate of "defending the Northern American Homeland" against terrorist attacks. The military of both the US and Canada would also be called to play an increasing role in civilian law enforcement activities.

The real objective underlying the SPP is to militarize civilian institutions and repeal democratic government.

"Integration" or the "Annexation" of Canada?

Canada is contiguous to "the center of the empire". Territorial control over Canada is part of the US geopolitical and military agenda. It is worth recalling in this regard, that throughout history, the "conquering nation" has expanded on its immediate borders, acquiring control over contiguous territories.

Military integration is intimately related to the ongoing process of integration in the spheres of trade, finance and investment. Needless to say, a large part of the Canadian economy is already in the hands of US corporate interests. In turn, the interests of big business in Canada tend to coincide with those of the US.

Canada is already a de facto economic protectorate of the USA. NAFTA has not only opened up new avenues for US corporate expansion, it has laid the groundwork under the existing North American umbrella for the post 9/11 integration of military command structures, public security, intelligence and law enforcement.

No doubt, Canada's entry into US Northern Command will be presented to public opinion as part of Canada-US "cooperation", as something which is "in the national interest", which "will create jobs for Canadians", and "will make Canada more secure".

Ultimately what is at stake is that beneath the rhetoric, Canada will cease to function as a Nation:

-Its borders will be controlled by US officials and confidential information on Canadians will be shared with Homeland Security.

-US troops and Special Forces will be able to enter Canada as a result of a binational arrangement.

-Canadian citizens can be arrested by US officials, acting on behalf of their Canadian counterparts and vice versa.

But there is something perhaps even more fundamental in defining and understanding where Canada and Canadians stand as nation.

By endorsing a Canada-US "integration" in the spheres of defense, homeland security, police and intelligence, Canada not remains a full fledged member of George W. Bush's "Coalition of the Willing", it will directly participate, through integrated military command structures, in the US war agenda in Central Asia and the Middle East, including the massacre of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, the torture of POWs, the establishment of concentration camps, etc.

Canada would no longer have an independent foreign policy. Under an integrated North American Command, a North American national security doctrine would be formulated. Canada would be obliged to embrace Washington's pre-emptive military doctrine, its bogus "war on terrorism which is used as a pretext for waging war in the Middle East. .

The Canadian judicial system would be affected. Moreover, binational integration in the areas of Homeland security, immigration, policing of the US-Canada border, not to mention the anti-terrorist legislation, would imply pari passu acceptance of the US sponsored police State, its racist policies, its "ethnic profiling" directed against Muslims, the arbitrary arrest of anti-war activists.


SICKO told who ever didn't already know that the US healthcare system sucks.

Well,let me tell you something those living on reservations within the US borders only wish they had it so good.

For example, there could have been the story in SICKO of Avis Littlewind, a 14-year-old who lay curled in the fetal position for 90 days before killing herself because no treatment center existed to help her.

Or take the case of Josef Catches, 25, and Samantha Garnette, 20. Real Americans. They waited about two hours for a routine checkup for their 2-month-old son, Mason Catches, one recent morning at the Pine Ridge IHS medical center. After finally being called into a patient room, they were sent back out to wait again when another infant needed to be weighed on the hospital’s scale, Garnette said.

“It would be nice to have more scales,” she said, as Catches cuddled little Mason on his shoulder. “And more clinics.”

Yeah, wouldn't it ever.

Of course, like other Americans, the very first Americans get shafted for one thing because they are poor. Half the Top 20 Poorest Counties in America are included in Indian reservations.

And like African-Americans Indians get screwed because they are not white.

And unlike all other Americans Indians get the worst of care because they are INDIANS.

Back in 2002 at hearings held by Cheyenne River Sioux tribal officials tribal members detailed misdiagnosis, misconduct, failures by physicians to examine charts, the dispensing of medications deadly to those suffering from particular health conditions, pharmacy personnel dispensing the wrong prescriptions to tribal members and tribal members being given bags of Motrin and Robitussin to pacify them as a substitute for treatment. Some said they were given the over-the-counter medicines even if they did not need them.

Others complained of physicians refusing to see them when immediate
care was needed in life-threatening circumstances. Some said tribal members
sat waiting for hours before anyone would respond. Often the response was to
simply send them home. In some cases, just a few hours later they would have
to return for emergency care.

One tribal member told of a woman suffering from a brain tumor who
was denied contract care due to a lack of funds.

"The IHS hospital said, 'We're sorry Nina, we don't have the funds.
Come back next fall, and maybe we will have the money,'" she said. "Looks
like they are just letting all the elderly go."

Now the conservatives will tell you this is because healthcare for Indians is socialized medicine.

You and I know better.

The introduction to the 2004 report on healthcare for Native Americans put together by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and entitled Broken Promises stated:

If you’re a young Lakota woman with a big heart, an even bigger smile, but an immune system compromised to its brink by lupus—you know who the enemy is. If you’re a tribal chairman receiving a phone call in the middle of the night that another one of your tribal members has taken their own life—you know who the enemy is. If you are a teacher, attempting to prepare tomorrow’s leaders but knowing full well that a number of your students aren't capable of concentrating on school work because of alcohol related family problems—you know who the enemy is.

It ain't socialized medicine.

Chapter Two of that same report rather gives this answer:

• Racial and ethnic bias and discrimination.
• Patient health behaviors.
• Environmental factors.
• Delivery of health care in a culturally sensitive and appropriate manner.
• Language.
• Poverty.
• Education.

No mention of socialized medicine. Every one one of the above factors can be explained by the fact that these folks were talking about are not white, they are poor, and most importantly they are Indians.

The report states that the Indian Healhcare Service (INS) is woefully underfunded, the simple result of Native Americans falling low on lawmakers’ priority lists. IHS spends about $2,100 per patient annually, while Medicare, the federal health plan for American’s senior citizens, pays almost $8,000 per patient, according to the government’s own statistics. Medicaid, the state-federal coverage for the poor, spends nearly $4,500 per patient.

Is that the fault of socialized medicine or something more insidious.

It is more the result of the fact that those in power simply don't consider Indians to be real Americans. They're an other.

In hearings last year to reauthorize the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, Bush Administration officials stated that the Act is a race-based measure. The purpose behind those statements were not apparent to the media and congressional staffers.

They should have been. The Administration doesn't want to live up to all the treaties the US signed that agreed to provide decent healtcare to Indians.

By the way, the Administration also removed language from the bill providing federal health care services for urban Indians.

So what was bad, should only get worse, if the Prez has his way.

Bush, the cowboy, never met an Indian he had any use for.

The Pine Ridge Native American Reservation in South Dakota is as big as the state of Connecticut.

Life expectancy on the Pine Ridge Reservation is 48 years old for men and 52 for women. This is far from the 77.5 years of age life expectancy average found in the United States as a whole. According to current USDA Rural Development documents, the Lakota have the lowest life expectancy of any group in America. The infant mortality rate is the highest on this continent and is about 300% higher than the U.S. national average. The rate of diabetes on the Reservation is reported to be 800% higher than the U.S. national average. As a result of the high rate of diabetes on the Reservation, diabetic-related blindness, amputations, and kidney failure are common. The tuberculosis rate on the Pine Ridge Reservation is approximately 800% higher than the U.S. national average. Cervical cancer is 500% higher than the U.S. national average.

And yet these are the very first regular Americans to inhabit the place Bush calls home.

Just today we learn from Indian Country Today that a federal judge has said he would allow an emergency room on the Yankton Sioux Reservation to close.

''Dennis Rucker, Yankton Sioux tribal council member said someone is going to die as a result. Probably many someones, I'd say.

''When there is no available help they will go to the community hospital in Wagner; are they ready to take over? I don't think so. How are we going to pay them?" Rucker asked?

Again from Indian Country Today, ''We gave a large portion of our land away, and our way of life, that we would receive these benefits. Somehow they neglect their federal obligations to us. All this talk to the senators and Herseth [Sandlin]; they seem to neglect that there is a treaty obligation the federal government made to my people,'' Rucker said.

Rucker said that the IHS has allocated $2.2 million to build housing for doctors and nursing staff.

''They can build new quarters for new doctors, but yet they can't send down that $2 million to fund the emergency room? Where's the reasoning in that,'' Rucker said.

That's not the fault of socialized medicine. That's the fault of this country's leaders who simply can't be concerned with the lives of ordinary people living in an extraordinary place, we label reservations.

The following is from Native Times.

Crisis of Indian Health Care the Focus of Public Hearing in Montana
By- Shelley Bluejay Pierce 8/20/2007

Senator Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota) who chairs the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, journeyed to the Crow reservation in Montana on Wednesday for a hearing which focused on the crisis of health care in Indian country. An elite panel of experts joined lawmakers in the public meeting that offered the tribal communities a chance to voice their grievances prior to a renewed effort to reauthorize the Indian Health Improvement Act that has not been renewed since 1999.
The hearing prepares the way for the Senate Finance Committee, which is addressing the act. The Indian Affairs Committee, which has primary jurisdiction over the bill, has given approval to it. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), whose committee has partial jurisdiction over portions of the bill, stated that he would schedule a committee session to act on the bill September 12, 2007.

Indian Health Service, (IHS) is a program that provides health care to the tribes. In Treaties with the United States, provisions for health services to the Tribes became a federal trust responsibility. Despite these agreements made more than a century ago, current health care conditions on the reservations are described as being at “third world levels.”

Senator Dorgan has stated in earlier press that he “would not allow another Congress to come and go without acting to improve it. The Indian Affairs Committee approved similar legislation in the previous Congress, but the full Senate never considered it.”

According to IHS estimates, Indian patients receive $2,158 per person a year in health care services compared to the average of $5,921 for the general population in the United States. Senator Dorgan stated in testimony to Congress earlier this year, that even federal prisoners have more spent on them each year, at $3,900 per person.

For more than a decade, the reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act has lain at lawmaker’s feet but Congress has taken no action. The act expired in 2000 and attempts to reauthorize it have been met with opposition by many Republican members of Congress.

Panel member, Dr. Charles North, Chief Medical Officer (Acting), for Indian Health Service told the attendees that while the mortality rates for Native Americans have improved in recent decades, death and disease rates still exceed that of the general population. Rates of diabetes are 200 percent higher, alcoholism rates are 550 percent higher and suicide rates 57 percent higher than those found in non-Native populations.

Witnesses testified at the hearing of their account of poor healthcare given which included examples of cancer victims received diagnosis long after they might have survived had they received earlier treatment; year long or longer waiting lists for needed surgeries; and trauma victims turned back from tribal clinics not equipped to handle critical cases.

Crow Tribal Chairman Carl Venne voiced his thoughts during the hearing and encouraged IHS employees and tribal leaders to call for more funding. He reveled to the attendees that the Pryor Mountain wild horses receive more annual funding than the Crow-Northern Cheyenne Hospital.

Testimonies at the hearing included information regarding the 1.9 million patients dependent upon the federal Indian Health Service, one comment was heard frequently. “Don't get sick after June 1.” This comment is referring to the fact that once the yearly funding is depleted, usually during the last quarter of the fiscal year, there is no available funding for health needs in the Native communities.

Other testimonies included patients needing specialized care for arthritis, heart conditions, complications from diabetes and other more involved health issues remain on long waiting lists and are left untreated unless they are in danger of losing life or limb. Basic care is available at local reservation clinics and extreme trauma patients often receive immediate attention as they are referred to emergency rooms or evacuated to larger hospitals. However, those patients who need specialists necessary for their health care but are not considered life threatening go without treatment.

Jonathan Windy Boy, enrolled member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe, a state Representative in the Montana Legislature, and serving as Chairman on the Committee on Health Care for Montana/ Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council discussed these issues with Native American Times and recounted the disparity in care for the more remote reservations. Since his home reservation is in a remote area, he explained that members with health needs were made to travel hundreds of miles per week to receive treatment in larger cities equipped to deal with their health issues.

In his testimony he restated the critical need for Congress to fund the health care at 100 percent and not at 40 to 60 percent that they have in the past. According to reports, funding levels in remote communities fair even worse when it comes to the needed levels of funding.

Rep. Windy Boy told the hearing attendees, “The medical inflationary rate over the past ten years has averaged 11 percent. The average increase for the Indian Health Service (IHS) health services accounts over this same period has been only 4 percent. This means that IHS/Tribal/Urban Indian (I/T/U) health programs are forced to absorb the mandatory costs of inflation, population growth, and pay cost increases by cutting health care services.”

Windy Boy further detailed the disparity in funding by explaining, “In Fiscal Year 1984, the IHS health services account received $777 million. In FY 1993, the budget totaled $1.5 billion. Still, thirteen years later, in FY 2006 the budget for health services was $2.7 billion, when, to keep pace with inflation and population growth, this figure should be more than $7.2 billion. This short fall has compounded year after year resulting in a chronically under-funded health system that cannot meet the needs of its people.”

Another of the panel speakers spoke with Native American Times prior to the hearing. Stacy Bohlen, Executive Director of the National Indian Health Board spoke of the critical need for orthopedic surgeons to address the critical needs of patients requiring such things as hip replacement surgeries. She stated that a patient from the general population in the U.S. will wait two to three months for an orthopedic procedure while Indians in Montana are waiting six years. During this time the patients are using large doses of narcotic painkillers that in the end may lead to substance abuse problems. Bohlen further explained that many of the joint treatments, if performed earlier, would not need the drastic repairs required when the conditions are left without proper and immediate care.

Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana) held a telephone press conference immediately before the public hearing began at Crow Agency. His opening remarks highlighted that Senator Dorgan was coming in from Washington D.C. to chair the hearing and highlighted the need to address critically important health care issues in Indian country.

“Improving health care on reservations is critically important to improving all conditions in Indian country. It seems that every time Indian leaders submit a budget for what they truly need to provide basic services, the government says there is just not enough money. This issue is not about money, it’s about priorities. If we can spend $3 billion each week in Iraq, then we can surely develop health care systems that live up to our trust responsibilities in Indian country,” stated Senator Tester.

“All the information we say and hear today will become part of the official record of the Indian Affairs Committee. This information won’t just be stored away in a library in some basement. Sen. Dorgan and I will be taking this information back with us to the Indian Affairs Committee and we will continue to work to change policy to improve Indian health care.”