But first . . .

$$$

PPD closed last night at $51.60. Intrinsic value of the VPXAE calls we bought for $11.80 in March: $26.60. Thanks, Glenn.

Not too late to buy American Express (AXP) as a strong core holding.

GOOGLE EARTH

Brian Clark: ‘This is incredible. I realize that this can’t be real time for public safety reasons. It actually appears to be images that are over a year old, based on industrial buildings that have been built near my home – they are still trees in these satellite images. Still, it’s way cool!’

MIGHT YOU BE NEXT?

You gotta read the transcript . . . but first, just to get in the mood, skim this:

Who’s Watching the Watch List?
By John Graham
Posted July 7, 2005 on the AlterNet

My name is on a list of real and suspected enemies of the state and I can’t find out what I’m accused of or why, let alone defend myself.

Heading for Oakland from Seattle to see my grandkids last week, the Alaska Airlines check-in machine refused to give me a boarding pass. Directed to the ticket counter, I gave the agent my driver’s license and watched her punch keys at her computer.

Frowning, she told me that my name was on the national terrorist No Fly Watch List and that I had to be specially cleared to board a plane. Any plane. Then she disappeared with my license for 10 minutes, returning with a boarding pass and a written notice from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) confirming that my name was on a list of persons “who posed, or were suspected of posing, a threat to civil aviation or national security.”

No one could tell me more than that. The computer was certain.

Back home in Seattle, I called the TSA’s 800 number, where I rode a merry-go-round of pleasant recorded voices until I gave up. Turning to the TSA web site, I downloaded a Passenger Identity Verification form that would assist the TSA in “assessing” my situation if I sent it in with a package of certified documents attesting to who I was.

I collected all this stuff and sent it in. Another 20 minutes on the phone to the TSA uncovered no live human being at all, let alone one who would tell me what I’d presumably done to get on The List. Searching my mind for possible reasons, I’ve been more and more puzzled. I used to work on national security issues for the State Department and I know how dangerous our country’s opponents can be. To the dismay of many of my more progressive friends, I’ve given the feds the benefit of the doubt on homeland security. I tend to dismiss conspiracy theories as nonsense and I take my shoes off for the airport screeners with a smile.

I’m embarrassed that it took my own ox being gored for me to see the threat posed by the Administration’s current restricting of civil liberties. I’m being accused of a serious – even treasonous – criminal intent by a faceless bureaucracy, with no opportunity (that I can find) to refute any errors or false charges. My ability to earn a living is threatened; I speak on civic action and leadership all over the world, including recently at the US Air Force Academy. Plane travel is key to my livelihood.

According to a recent MSNBC piece, thousands of Americans are having similar experiences. And this is not Chile under Pinochet. It’s America. My country and yours.

With no real information to go on, I’m left to guess why this is happening to me. The easiest and most comforting guess is that it’s all a mistake (a possibility the TSA form, to its credit, allows). But how? I’m a 63-year-old guy with an Anglo-Saxon name. I once held a Top Secret Umbra clearance (don’t ask what it is but it meant the FBI vetted me up the whazoo for months). And since I left the government in 1980, my life has been an open book. It shouldn’t be hard for the government to figure out that I’m not a menace to my country.

If they do think that, I can’t see how. Since 1983 I’ve helped lead the Giraffe Heroes Project, a nonprofit that moves people to stick their necks out for the common good. In the tradition of Gandhi, King and Mandela, that can include challenging public policies people think are unjust. In 1990, the Project’s founder and I were honored as “Points of Light” by the first President Bush for our work in fostering the health of this democracy. I’ve just written a book about activating citizens to get to work on whatever problems they care about, instead of sitting around complaining.

I’m also engaged in international peacemaking, working with an organization with a distinguished 60-year record of success in places ranging from post-war Europe to Africa. Peacemakers must talk to all sides, so over the years I’ve met with Cambodians, Sudanese, Palestinians, Israelis and many others. You can’t convince people to move toward peaceful solutions unless you understand who they are.

As I said, I’m not into conspiracy theories. But I can’t ignore this administration’s efforts to purge and punish dissenters and opponents. Look, for example, at current efforts to cleanse PBS and NPR of “anti-administration” news. But I’m not Bill Moyers and the Giraffe Heroes Project is not PBS. We’re a small operation working quietly to promote real citizenship.

Whether it’s a mistake or somebody with the power to hassle me really thinks I am a threat, the stark absence of due process is unsettling. The worst of it is that being put on a list of America’s enemies seems to be permanent. The TSA form states:

The TSA clearance process will not remove a name from the Watch Lists. Instead this process distinguishes passengers from persons who are in fact on the Watch Lists by placing their names and identifying information in a cleared portion of the Lists.

Which may or may not, the form continues, reduce the airport hassles.

Huh? My name is on a list of real and suspected enemies of the state and I can’t find out what I’m accused of or why, let alone defend myself. And I’m guilty, says my government, not just until proven innocent or a victim of mistaken identity – but forever.

Sure, 9/11 changed a lot. Tougher internal security measures (like thorough screenings at airports and boundary crossings) are a dismal necessity. But, in protecting ourselves, we can’t allow our leaders to continue to create a climate of fear and mistrust, to destroy our civil liberties and, in so doing, to change who we are as a nation. What a victory that would be for our enemies, and what a betrayal of real patriots and so many in the wider world who still remember this country as a source of inspiration and hope.

I don’t think it’s like Germany in 1936 – but, look at Germany in 1930. Primed by National Socialist propaganda to stay fearful and angry, Germans in droves refused to see the right’s extreme views and actions as a threat to their liberties.

And don’t forget that frog. You know that frog. Dropped into a pot of boiling water, he jumps out to safety. But put him into a pot of cold water over a steady flame, he won’t realize the danger until it’s too late to jump.

So how hot does the water have to get? When the feds can rifle through your library reading list? When they can intimidate journalists? When a government agency can keep you off airplanes without giving you a reason? When there’s not even a pretense of due process? We’re not talking about prisoners at Guantanamo; this is you and me. Well, after last week, it sure as hell is me and it could be you, next.

Oh, yes — Washington State just refused to renew my driver’s license online, a privilege given others. I had to wait in line at the DMV before a computer decided I could drive home. This conspiracy theory debunker smells a connection to the Watch List.

I’m mobilizing everything I’ve got to challenge the government on this issue, in a country that I love and have served. Whatever your politics, it’s your fight too. Yes, there needs to be a list of the bad guys, coordinated among the security agencies with a need-to-know. But we must demand that the government make public its criteria for putting people on this list – and those reasons can’t include constitutionally protected dissent from government policies.

The feds can’t be allowed to throw names on the list without first doing simple checks for mistaken identity. And no one’s name should be added to the list, or kept on it, without a formal, open explanation of charges and the opportunity to challenge and disprove them. This assault on civil liberties must not stand – not for me, not for anybody.

John Graham is the author of Stick Your Neck Out: A Street-smart Guide to Creating Change in Your Community and Beyond (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2005). He is also president of the Giraffe Heroes Project and a former US diplomat.

And now . . .

QUESTIONS FOR THE PRESS SECRETARY

Here’s the transcript. Either the press secretary lied to the press about Karl Rove or else Karl Rove lied to the press secretary. Yesterday, though, ‘mum’ was clearly the word:

Q: Does the president stand by his pledge to fire anyone involved in a leak of the name of a CIA operative?

MCCLELLAN: I appreciate your question. I think your question is being asked related to some reports that are in reference to an ongoing criminal investigation. The criminal investigation that you reference is something that continues at this point.

And as I’ve previously stated, while that investigation is ongoing, the White House is not going to comment on it.

The president directed the White House to cooperate fully with the investigation. And as part of cooperating fully with the investigation, we made a decision that we weren’t going to comment on it while it is ongoing.

Q: I actually wasn’t talking about any investigation. But in June of 2004, the president said that he would fire anybody who was involved in this leak to the press about information. I just wanted to know: Is that still his position?

MCCLELLAN: Yes, but this question is coming up in the context of this ongoing investigation, and that’s why I said that our policy continues to be that we’re not going to get into commenting on an ongoing criminal investigation from this podium.

The prosecutors overseeing the investigation had expressed a preference to us that one way to help the investigation is not to be commenting on it from this podium….

Q: Scott, if I could point out: Contradictory to that statement, on September 29th of 2003, while the investigation was ongoing, you clearly commented on it. You were the first one to have said that if anybody from the White House was involved, they would be fired. And then, on June 10th of 2004, at Sea Island Plantation, in the midst of this investigation, when the president made his comments that, yes, he would fire anybody from the White House who was involved. So why have you commented on this during the process of the investigation in the past, but now you’ve suddenly drawn a curtain around it under the statement of, ‘We’re not going to comment on an ongoing investigation’?

MCCLELLAN: Again, John, I appreciate the question. I know you want to get to the bottom of this. No one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the president of the United States. And I think the way to be most helpful is to not get into commenting on it while it is an ongoing investigation. And that’s something that the people overseeing the investigation have expressed a preference that we follow.

And that’s why we’re continuing to follow that approach and that policy. Now, I remember very well what was previously said. And, at some point, I will be glad to talk about it, but not until after the investigation is complete.

Q: So could I just ask: When did you change your mind to say that it was OK to comment during the course of an investigation before, but now it’s not?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I think maybe you missed what I was saying in reference to Terry’s question at the beginning. There came a point, when the investigation got under way, when those overseeing the investigation asked that it would be – or said that it would be their preference that we not get into discussing it while it is ongoing.

I think that’s the way to be most helpful to help them advance the investigation and get to the bottom of it.

Q: Scott, can I ask you this: Did Karl Rove commit a crime?

MCCLELLAN: Again, David, this is a question relating to a ongoing investigation, and you have my response related to the investigation. And I don’t think you should read anything into it other than: We’re going to continue not to comment on it while it’s ongoing.

Q: Do you stand by your statement from the fall of 2003, when you were asked specifically about Karl and Elliot Abrams and Scooter Libby, and you said, “I’ve gone to each of those gentlemen, and they have told me they are not involved in this”?

MCCLELLAN: And if you will recall, I said that, as part of helping the investigators move forward on the investigation, we’re not going to get into commenting on it. That was something I stated back near that time as well.

Q: Scott, this is ridiculous. The notion that you’re going to stand before us, after having commented with that level of detail, and tell people watching this that somehow you’ve decided not to talk. You’ve got a public record out there. Do you stand by your remarks from that podium or not?

MCCLELLAN: I’m well aware, like you, of what was previously said. And I will be glad to talk about it at the appropriate time. The appropriate time is when the investigation…

Q: (inaudible) when it’s appropriate and when it’s inappropriate?

MCCLELLAN: If you’ll let me finish.

Q: No, you’re not finishing. You’re not saying anything. You stood at that podium and said that Karl Rove was not involved. And now we find out that he spoke about Joseph Wilson’s wife. So don’t you owe the American public a fuller explanation. Was he involved or was he not? Because contrary to what you told the American people, he did indeed talk about his wife, didn’t he?

MCCLELLAN: There will be a time to talk about this, but now is not the time to talk about it.

Q: Do you think people will accept that, what you’re saying today?

MCCLELLAN: Again, I’ve responded to the question.

Q: You’re in a bad spot here, Scott… because after the investigation began — after the criminal investigation was under way — you said, October 10th, 2003, “I spoke with those individuals, Rove, Abrams and Libby. As I pointed out, those individuals assured me they were not involved in this,” from that podium. That’s after the criminal investigation began.

Now that Rove has essentially been caught red-handed peddling this information, all of a sudden you have respect for the sanctity of the criminal investigation?

MCCLELLAN: No, that’s not a correct characterization. And I think you are well aware of that…..

And we want to be helpful so that they can get to the bottom of this. Because no one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the president of the United States.

I am well aware of what was said previously. I remember well what was said previously. And at some point I look forward to talking about it. But until the investigation is complete, I’m just not going to do that.

Q: So you’re now saying that after you cleared Rove and the others from that podium, then the prosecutors asked you not to speak anymore and since then you haven’t.

MCCLELLAN: Again, you’re continuing to ask questions relating to an ongoing criminal investigation and I’m just not going to respond to them.

Q: When did they ask you to stop commenting on it, Scott? Can you pin down a date?

MCCLELLAN: Back in that time period.

Q: Well, then the president commented on it nine months later. So was he not following the White House plan?

MCCLELLAN: I appreciate your questions. You can keep asking them, but you have my response.

Q: Well, we are going to keep asking them. When did the president learn that Karl Rove had had a conversation with a news reporter about the involvement of Joseph Wilson’s wife in the decision to send him to Africa?

MCCLELLAN: I’ve responded to the questions.

Q: When did the president learn that Karl Rove had been

MCCLELLAN: I’ve responded to your questions.

Q: After the investigation is completed, will you then be consistent with your word and the president’s word that anybody who was involved will be let go?

MCCLELLAN: Again, after the investigation is complete, I will be glad to talk about it at that point.

Q: Can you walk us through why, given the fact that Rove’s lawyer has spoken publicly about this, it is inconsistent with the investigation, that it compromises the investigation to talk about the involvement of Karl Rove, the deputy chief of staff, here?

MCCLELLAN: Well, those overseeing the investigation expressed a preference to us that we not get into commenting on the investigation while it’s ongoing. And that was what they requested of the White House. And so I think in order to be helpful to that investigation, we are following their direction.

Q: Does the president continue to have confidence in Mr. Rove?

MCCLELLAN: Again, these are all questions coming up in the context of an ongoing criminal investigation. And you’ve heard my response on this.

Q: So you’re not going to respond as to whether or not the president has confidence in his deputy chief of staff?

MCCLELLAN: You’re asking this question in the context of an ongoing investigation, and I would not read anything into it other then I’m simply going to comment on an ongoing investigation.

Q: Has there been any change, or is there a plan for Mr. Rove’s portfolio to be altered in any way?

MCCLELLAN: Again, you have my response to these questions….

***

Q: There’s a difference between commenting publicly on an action and taking action in response to it. Newsweek put out a story, an e-mail saying that Karl Rove passed national security information on to a reporter that outed a CIA officer. Now, are you saying that the president is not taking any action in response to that? Because I presume that the prosecutor did not ask you not to take action and that if he did you still would not necessarily abide by that; that the president is free to respond to news reports, regardless of whether there’s an investigation or not.

So are you saying that he’s not going to do anything about this until the investigation is fully over and done with?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I think the president has previously spoken to this.

This continues to be an ongoing criminal investigation. No one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the president of the United States. And we’re just not going to have more to say on it until that investigation is complete.

***

Q: When the leak investigation is completed, does the president believe it might be important for his credibility, the credibility of the White House, to release all the information voluntarily that was submitted as part of the investigation, so the American public could see what transpired inside the White House at the time?

MCCLELLAN: This is an investigation being overseen by a special prosecutor. And I think those are questions best directed to the special prosecutor.

Q: Have you or the White House considered whether that would be optimal to release as much information and make it as open…

MCCLELLAN: It’s the same type of question. You’re asking me to comment on an ongoing investigation and I’m not going to do that.

Q: I’d like you to talk about the communications strategies just a little bit there.

MCCLELLAN: Understood. The president directed the White House to cooperate fully with the investigation, and that’s what he expects people in the White House to do.

Q: And he would like to do that when it is concluded, cooperate fully with…

MCCLELLAN: Again, I’ve already responded.

Q: Scott, who in the investigation made this request of the White House not to comment further about the investigation? Was it Mr. Fitzgerald? Did he make a request of you specifically?

MCCLELLAN: You can direct those questions to the special prosecutors. I think probably more than one individual who’s involved in overseeing the investigation had expressed a preference that we not get into commenting on the investigation while it’s ongoing.

Shades of Watergate.

 

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