Justice Integrity Project
Connecticut's tradition of vigorous civic institutions remains intact as a force for reform, as I saw during my lecture tour there last week.
This is good news for the rest of the country. Given the decline of the nation's watchdog institutions located in the capital, remedial action can only come "bottom up" from grassroots. Grassroots volunteerism is different from the phony "grasstop" organizations that special interests in Washington create whereby pseudo-populist groups manipulate public opinion.
My Connecticut trip June 18-20 was to discuss Presidential Puppetry, the first book about the Obama administration's second term. The strong civic institutions I saw and their reaction revealed positive signs amid discouraging news about national officials and the mainstream media.
In a message similar to my own these days, the prominent investigative editor Charles Lewis, for example, told a National Press Club audience June 24 in Washington, DC that "lying" by government officials has become standard operating procedure.
Lewis was announcing his memoir 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America's Integrity at the 25th anniversary of the Center for Public Integrity. In 1989, he founded the pioneering (and now Pulitzer-winning) non-partisan, non-profit group in a spare room of his house after he resigned in frustration from hidden corporate pressures he had experienced as a producer for the top-rated CBS News show "60 Minutes."
Asked about the "commonalities" he has observed since then as a reporter and journalism professor, Lewis, shown at left, responded, "Not to be glib, but the commonalities are that if you were listening to government officials they were usually lying, or at least being non-responsive and kicking the problem down the road."
My column today compares his expert observations over his three decades with what I observed in Connecticut, where I began my reporting career in 1970 with 14 years at the Hartford Courant, the state's largest newspaper.
I started by observing the annual awards luncheon of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information (CCFOI) and hearing how civic volunteers are fighting secrecy in government. I wanted to hear especially the award presentation for columnist Andy Thibault, a fierce fighter against injustice who also kindly volunteered to arrange my lectures.
Next, I participated in the process by lectures and interviews that drew from Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters. The subtitle reflects its focus on what the mainstream media has missed about power brokers and such Republican officials as the Romney and Bush families, not just Democrats.
From these experiences, I share recommended measures for reform, as well as traps for the unwary. Some of these obstacles arise from masters of political intrigue who undertake despicable deeds with impunity because they can be confident that few are exposing their corruption in ways noticed by the public.
The work of the freedom of information council, CCFOI, is a great place to start our discussion.
Council Chairman James Herbert Smith, a longtime editor at the Courant and several other Connecticut newspapers, is shown at right presenting to Thibault the group's annual award to a journalist whose work best fostered open government during the previous year.
Revolutionary-era Gov. Oliver Wolcott and open government advocate Andy Thibault are two Connecticut patriots who inspired me as I prepared for a series of hard-hitting lectures this week in the state where I began my reporting career.
Wolcott was a Yale College graduate, judge and militia commander who lived from 1726 to 1797. He signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and became the state's congressional representative and governor. Curiously, his father had been the British crown's governor of Connecticut during colonial times.
So, it took commitment and courage for the younger Wolcott to lead fledgling revolutionaries, who were guaranteed neither success, popularity -- nor their lives and family welfare.
Fast forward to the present. Thibault is an enormously talented, fearless, and civic-minded journalist and author. The Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, honored him June 18 with its annual "open government" award for his recent work, which builds on a lifetime of achievement.
His work includes syndicated newspaper columns, collected on his blog site Cool Justice and in his 2002 book Law and Justice In Everyday Life. These help fill a gap in downsized newspaper coverage of the nuts-and-bolts of community life. In an oft-uncaring world, he exposes injustice afflicting ordinary citizens in the courts, police departments and regulatory bodies.
One example has been his relentless search on behalf of a Westchester, NY family for a long-missing member, a businessman who journeyed to New Orleans decades ago. From such efforts overlapping our work here, I got better acquainted with his passion for justice after a gap of several decades from our first encounter, when I covered courts for the Hartford Courant.
Five months ago, he reviewed my book Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters in three Connecticut newspapers with an uncompromising appraisal under the bold headline, Road map to master manipulators.
Then he volunteered to use his considerable contacts in Connecticut to line up speaking engagements for me to discuss the book's findings.
The first was an invitation-only gathering at the prestigious Hartford Club June 18 in the state capital's downtown. Then at 7 p.m. on June 19, I spoke at the Oliver Wolcott Library in rural Litchfield.
Thibault lives in this historic community, which was also Wolcott's base for his many civic leadership posts.
But it is more than the Litchfield connection that paired Wolcott and Thibault in my mind. My lecture theme in Hartford was, "Protecting Connecticut’s Civic Culture from the National Surveillance State." The topic in Litchfield was a more general call for reform of disgraceful Washington-based activities hurting the nation.
A front page story in the Washington Post June 14 reported GOP insider support for Mitt Romney as a 2016 presidential contender.
Political writer Philip Rucker's story was headlined, At elite donor summit featuring 2016 GOP hopefuls, a longing for Romney to run again. The paper's print edition used as its headline, GOP summit on new ideas has one old one: Romney.
We have repeatedly predicted here that Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney will lead the GOP's presidential ticket in 2016 because the two represent the dynastic powers that run the country for more than the most likely potential rivals, who tend to be politicians without serious coalitions of a billionaires of long-standing teamwork committed to their success.
A ticket led by Bush with Romney as vice president is also a strong possibility. That would unite the strands of the Bush Wall Street-oil-CIA-New England-Texas-Florida power axis with the Mormon Church, the nation's fastest growing religion and a major financial powerhouse. Bush consiglieri Karl Rove, reared partly in Texas and Utah, is well-positioned to unite the factions and help orchestrate the kind of vote-counting and other campaign tactics that can create a winner.
Compared to that kind of team, the rest of a likely GOP field, including the high-profile New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, will be exposed as a junior varsity when the games begin. A cartoon below predicts that moment by portraying the fall of the Humpty Dumpty.
Political insiders also understand that no GOP presidential ticket has been successful since 1972 without a Bush on it. The second spot might seem a come-down for Romney after two tries at the top spot.
But the White House has been a dream of some leaders of the Mormon Church ever since the Prophet Joseph Smith was assassinated during his presidential campaign in 1844. And even four-term New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller (shown below) was willing to accept a vice presidency from 1974 to 1977 despite being a high-status heir of John D. Rockefeller, the richest person in American history, inflation-adjusted.
For public dissemination, conventional wisdom has been that Republicans are searching for fresh faces. But conventional wisdom is often wrong in such matters. Whether by intention or inadvertence, leading political pundits often fail to inform their audiences about the insider intrigues.
For a fresh view, my book Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters devotes multiple chapters to the Bush and Romney families, along with their power centers. This was only in part a look backward. More important, it is today's world and could be tomorrow's.
Rucker's story helped illustrate that theme with its report on an "Ideas Summit" that Romney hosted in Park City, Utah. The Post reported the event was billed as "a passing of the torch to the Republican Party's would-be saviors."
Last week, Donald Trump gave a well-received speech to a sellout crowd at the National Press Club. But then he had to endure seemingly unfair coverage, especially from the club's in-house report.
The problem? The National Press Club news account in part denounced him as advocating a proven falsehood when he questioned facts surrounding President Obama's birthplace.
The club's news account included the author's opinion that Trump's views were "discredited." The report failed to include Trump's explanation. Separately, the Washington Post mocked Trump by cherry picking his comments to show that he is arrogant, while virtually ignoring his speech topic.
The billionaire entrepreneur can fend for himself, as he was only too glad to boast in his speech about his other battles.
What's relevant here is that his treatment illustrates how biased news can afflict even an honored guest. The Justice Integrity Project has repeatedly examined unfair news coverage as enabling other kinds of social problems.
Here is a brief account:
Trump, chairman and president of the Trump Organization, spoke May 27. His topic was "Building the Trump Brand," with a heavy focus on his successful bid to the federal government for rights to renovate the historic Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue into a major hotel. Ivanka Trump, executive vice president for development at the Trump Organization and Trump’s daughter, wielding major authority over the project. She attended also.
Donald Trump's other accomplishments that he discussed both in his talk and in Q&A included his creation of the hit television series “The Apprentice” and “Celebrity Apprentice.” Other successes have included several best-selling books, including The Art of the Deal and How to Think Like a Billionaire.
This event was rather different than our normal legal fare at the Justice Integrity Project. My reason to attend was to invite former "Apprentice" star Omarosa Manigault, whom I had hired at the Wireless Communications Association as a summer intern. She had been a highly recommended doctoral student at Howard University before she began reality TV in 2004.
Two hundred friends and admirers of the late civic activist and historical researcher John P. Judge fostered his legacy during a memorial service May 31 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
Former Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D), a next door neighbor and close friend, described Judge as an extraordinary truth-seeker in the spirit of the ancient Diogenes. Kucinich continued, "What better place for it than Washington, DC -- the capital of smoke and mirrors?"
Kucinich, 67, was a longtime member of the House until 2013 who said he often benefited from Judge's insights about why American democracy and the economy have deteriorated in recent decades. Kucinich said he intends to keep hundreds of emails from Judge on current and historic events. "One day, they'll be put to good use."
Other eloquent tributes followed. Judge died April 15 at age 66 following a stroke two months previously.
Speakers portrayed, sometimes using music or photos, how the Washington-reared only son of two doting Department of Defense employees embarked on a lifelong quest to explore the nation's "hidden history." The search began during his days as a student at University of Dayton beginning in 1965, just as the Vietnam War was ratcheting up.
Judge's late mother had been a Pentagon specialist in planning to fulfill the nation's personnel needs via the draft. One of Judge's disclosures was that his mother, Mary Cooley Judge, was instructed just three days after Kennedy assassination to revise upward the Pentagon's personnel needs for the Vietnam War-era draft under incoming President Lyndon Johnson.
In a 1992 speech at American University cable cast on C-SPAN's "JFK: Cinema as History," Judge recalled, "They [the Joint Chiefs of Staff] told her on Nov. 25, 1963 that the war in Vietnam would last for 10 years and that 57,000 Americans would die, and to figure that in."
Judge's major effort of recent years was leading the Coalition on Political Assassinations (COPA), which showcased serious alternatives to official accounts of the JFK assassination and such other notable deaths during the 1960s as those of Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Judge presided at COPA's 20th annual conference last November in Dallas, which I attended for three days along with 300 other researchers. The focus was on the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination. The program's title was "50 Years is Enough! Free the Files, Find the Truth."
President Obama announced May 28 a major update of his foreign policy. But the mainstream media, as usual, failed to report context that would make the implications understandable to the general public.
In the president's commencement remarks at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he urged creation of a new $5 billion "Counter-terrorism Partnership Fund."
The money would go to unspecified purposes, which the president suggested might include rebels fighting Syria's government. That formulation underscores the open-ended nature of the slush fund because even the administration has not maintained that Syria's government, or "regime," poses a terrorism threat to the United States. Covert CIA and U.S. special forces have long secretly helped overthrow the current government, according to independent sources.
Seeking to strike a balance with a war-weary public, Obama also urged restraint in new commitments. That prompted the Washington Post editorial board and other hawks to protest that restraint would foster terrorism and undermine human rights.
Almost entirely missing from such mainstream analysis was a reminder that the U.S. Constitution requires that congress declare war. That requirement has been undermined through the years, including by gray areas of blanket congressional approvals (including in advance for actions), treaty obligations and United Nations-style consensus actions. But the constitution itself, the nation's fundamental law, has not been amended.
Besides the legitimacy of such war-making, mainstream media self-censorship represses two other elements required for informed debate of foreign policy: power relationships and secret funding.
- Hidden relationships. The media have persistently hidden parts of President Obama's biography, as well as spy agency ties of many other prominent decision-makers. Obama's first job after college in 1983 was with the CIA front company Business International Corp. The New York Times reported the company's background in 1977, quoting a co-founder as saying it had been a front company. This was in the wake of the Church Committee investigation of the CIA and its hidden operatives in the media. My in-depth look at the Obama-Dunham family background assembles evidence the future president and his family were worker bees in intelligence and related cover posts in business and non-profits. Obama's later work as a community organizer in the mid-1980s in Chicago fostered misleading perceptions of his political orientation, especially following reports of his involvement with radicals. But like most at the highest ranks of the political stage, he is playing a role, as I show in my book Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters. Obama is one of many examples of controlled opposition in government. Voters receive little information on this background even regarding Obama, a two-term president.
- Secret Funding. The national security state organizing the nation's civic agenda around "Homeland Defense" and related defense contracting is deeply interwoven with the country's supposedly independent thought leadership, including the Washington Post, other major media, businesses, universities and other non-profit groups. One of many examples is Amazon.com's $600 million contract last fall to handle cloud computing for the CIA. Amazon.com founder Jeffrey Bezos, an attendee at last year's Bilderberg Group annual meeting, bought the Post last year for $250 million. The Bezos joint control of the Post and Amazon.com (and the possibility of additional such government and corporate contracts for Amazon.com) are an obvious, ongoing conflict of interest. More generally, secret government funding and other hidden relationships often help sustain ostensibly non-government organizations (NGOs), private businesses and other entities, such as universities. The money is laundered by pass-throughs difficult to detect with specifics on short notice for news deadlines, but well-known by Washington insiders as standard procedure.
In sum, voters lack the means readily to learn certain kinds of vital information about current affairs. This is no accident. Many major United States institutions were modeled on counterparts in the United Kingdom devised more than a century ago to expand the British empire by fostering secret relationships among the elite. In the United States, financiers have created similar organizations that work together in ways ignored by the most prestigious public affairs commentators.
One illustration is the attendee list of this year's Bilderberg Group, which began its annual deliberations May 29 in Denmark. Organizers, bowing to public pressure, announced 120 attendees who are enrolled at the super-secret conference first organized in 1954 by the Rockefeller and Rothschild families, initially at the Bilderberg Hotel in a rural town in the Netherlands.
This year's public list includes the Western world's titans and enforcement agents who consent to be so identified. Usually some do not. As for their goals, no insiders, including the media billionaires attending, are likely to report on discussions.