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Threats to civil liberties continue to grow in U.S.A.

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  • Threats to civil liberties continue to grow in U.S.A.

    Albuquerque VA Medical Center clinical nurse specialist Laura Berg wrote a letter to the editor last September criticizing the Bush administration's mishandling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Here is the full text of her letter to the Alibi, a weekly newspaper:

    I am furious with the tragically misplaced priorities and criminal negligence of this government. The Katrina tragedy in the U.S. shows that the emperor has no clothes! Bush and his team partied and delayed while millions of people were displaced, hundreds of thousands were abandoned to a living hell. Thousands more died of drowning, dehydration, hunger and exposure; most bodies remain unburied and rotting in attics and floodwater. Is this America the beautiful?

    The risk of hurricane disaster was clearly predicted, yet funds for repair work for the Gulf States barrier islands and levee system were unconscionably diverted to the Iraq War. Money and manpower and ethics have been diverted to fight a war based on absolute lies!

    As a VA nurse working with returning OIF vets, I know the public has no sense of the additional devastating human and financial costs of post-traumatic stress disorder; now we will have hundreds of thousands of our civilian citizens with PTSD as well as far too many young soldiers, maimed physically or psychologically "or both "spreading their pain, anger and isolation through family and communities for generations. And most of this natural disaster and war tragedy has been preventable ... how very, very sad!

    In the meantime, our war-fueled federal deficit mushrooms "and whither this debt now, as we care for the displaced and destroyed?

    Bush, Cheney, Chertoff, Brown and Rice should be tried for criminal negligence. This country needs to get out of Iraq now and return to our original vision and priorities of caring for land and people and resources rather than killing for oil.

    Katrina itself was the size of New Mexico. Denials of global warming are ludicrous and patently irrational at this point. We can anticipate more wild, destructive weather to occur as a response stress of the planet. We need to wake up and get real here, and act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit. Otherwise, many more of us will be facing living hell in these times."

    Berg's "mistake" was identifying herself as a VA Nurse, and what happened next demonstrates exactly why I never talk about my employer on this site. First her work computer was siezed. When she protested and demanded an explanation, Human Resources chief Mel Hooker admitted that her work computer was not used to write the letter to the editor.

    Instead of apologizing for overreacting, however, Hooker accused Berg of sedition, saying "The Agency is bound by law to investigate and pursue any act which potentially represents sedition. In your letter . . . you declared yourself 'as a VA nurse' and publicly declared the Government which employs you to have 'tragically misplaced priorities and criminal negligence' and advocated, 'act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit.'"

    The chilling message is clear: if you work for the government, you can't publically criticize the government.....

    New Mexico VA nurse had her work computer siezed and was told she was being investigated for sedition because she criticized the Bush Administration

    Dwight Scarbrough's idea of political dissent is one that rubs some people the wrong way. He likes to blame his compulsion for peaceful troublemaking on his birthday: October 2, the same as Ghandi. However, a few of Scarbrough's techniques are all his own--especially when it comes to his truck.

    For instance, when the Iraq War was looking imminent, not long after September 11, Dwight attached a garbage bag to the back of his truck bed. He splattered the bag and the truck with ketchup and added a sign reading, "This veteran knows that our children are worth more than a $6.95 body bag." When he drove down the freeway, the bag would inflate and appear occupied.

    "That one was a little in-your-face and on-the-edge," Scarbrough recalls. "It got a lot of response."

    Scarbrough wasn't always so anti-military. During the waning years of the Cold War, he even served five years on a nuclear submarine for the U.S. Navy. But now, instead of trying to stop the spread of "red" states like China and the USSR, Dwight lives in a red state--Idaho. He's the founder and head of Boise's local branch of Veterans for Peace, he leads seminars exposing military recruitment practices in schools, and he--and his truck--are fixtures at nearly every Democratic, antiwar or pro-peace event in town.

    While no longer smeared with ketchup, his ride is still hard to ignore. On the back, he tapes weekly updates of the number of U.S. soldiers killed and wounded in Iraq. Beneath that, on a large, white (and also taped-on) placard: "Support our returning troops and their families when they need help: Give them this number: GI RIGHTS HOTLINE: 1-800-394-9544." On both doors, in bold capital letters: "DEATH IN IRAQ IS NOT A CAREER OPPORTUNITY FOR YOUNG AMERICANS." Taking up nearly half of the back window: "Veterans for Peace Chapter 117, Idaho." On the driver's side wheel well, also in all caps: "PERHAPS GOD BLESSES EVERY NATION, NOT JUST THE USA." And interspersed between them all, he places a variety of purchased bumper stickers and magnetic ribbons reading, among other sentiments, "Support our Troops: Bring them Home Now," "Support Diversity" and "Honor Vets, Wage Peace."

    Scarbrough gets his share of negative attention--including plenty of people "flying the bald eagle," as he likes to call it--but he savors such attention. He likes to call his truck a "sociological experiment on wheels," and whether you like the message of that experiment or not, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that Scarbrough is the type of extreme voice that the First Amendment--that one about free speech--is intended to protect.

    Or at least it seemed that way until last Tuesday.

    On February 7, Scarbrough went to his job like any other day. He is a scientist with a federal agency in Boise--one that is part of the executive branch, ironically--and he parked in his usual spot, just outside of the federal Natural Resource Center on Vinnell Way in Boise, kitty corner to a Wal-Mart, a Lowe's Home Improvement Center and a 21-screen Edwards cineplex. Made up of two large, square brick buildings, the complex houses a variety of federal offices including the Social Security Administration, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, among others. But despite the fact that most of the employees in the complex can, at least officially, consider George W. Bush their boss, Scarbrough has taken remarkably little grief for his strident anti-Bush views and props. Even those who don't agree with his message usually tolerate it.

    Once, last year, some conservative-minded ladies objected about the "BU****" sticker in Scarbrough's passenger-side window. Scarbrough and his supervisor reviewed all the federal rules concerning bumper stickers on employee vehicles, and discovered that nothing he had displayed could be considered illegal. But for once, Scarbrough simply removed the sticker. Indeed, his current lineup is quite sparse by his standards, he says.

    But on this day, apparently it was still too much.

    Around 2:15 p.m., Scarbrough says, he answered his office phone and found himself talking to a man who identified himself as Officer R. of the Department of Homeland Security. (I'm withholding the officer's name; you know, what with Plamegate and all.) Scarbrough was told that he was in violation of the Code of Federal Regulations, the set of rules that govern all executive departments and agencies, and that he was in danger of being cited unless he came out to the parking lot or let the officer come up to his office. Scarbrough chose the first option, and took along a co-worker--also a veteran--and, being an experienced peace activist, a tape recorder. Downstairs, they found two armed officers with "Homeland Security" insignia patches on their shoulders, waiting for them in large white SUVs. Scarbrough informed the officers that he would record their conversation, and what follows is the transcript of that recording......

    Red State, meet Police State

    Poor Americans, what a sinister, controlling regime they are living under, eh?

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