The Need for Transparency

Two years ago, when I began the website americanspring2011.com, I was inspired in part by the events that were unfolding around us. Internationally, the Arab Spring had begun in Tunisia and had spread to Egypt. The driving forces behind both of these national movements were the same. Both were under authoritarian rule and in both cases, the cost of staple goods had risen and unemployment was high.

Nationally, protests over neoliberal economic policies promoted by Wisconsin’s governor had filled Madison’s state house. The aftermath of the financial meltdown of 2008 was rampant in our country. Fraudulent foreclosures were sending families out onto the streets. Wall Street and the banks that run it enjoyed huge financial windfalls, free money, given them by the Federal Reserve under the false pretense that it would ”calm the markets” and bring some ”comfort” to investors. Meanwhile, unemployment domestically was in the double digits and wages continued to drop. Food prices, gas prices were all on the climb. Wall Street and multinational corporations absorbed more and more market share as smaller businesses, in all sectors, were culled from the landscape to make room for the new Wal-Mart, the new Dierberg’s, the new DHS Fusion center or private prison. The power of corporations, and their ties to our government, were transforming our country into a corporate totalitarian state.

Locally, a manufactured crisis, created by FERC, was creating the calls for less government regulation of our Lake of the Ozark shoreline. This political version of smoke-and-mirrors was created when FERC, made up of Presidential appointees from private corporations (most of whom were appointed during the Bush administration), declared that over a thousand lake area structures would have to be removed, as they were built on ”project” land, despite private citizens’ having paid taxes on the ”project” land for years. This led to citizens rallying against ”government overreach” and chants of deregulation. Meanwhile, Ameren UE waited patiently for the sliding elevation scale to stop, as it finally did, at 662′. Litigation between Ameren UE and lake area owners is currently pending regarding Ameren’s ownership claim. The privatization of the Lake of the Ozarks shoreline is here and we are seeing that agenda unfold in our own county courthouse. Agenda 600 and Planning and Zoning in Camden County is directly at the heart of that campaign.

Since I began the blog and submitting to the Lake Sun, I have taken more than a fair share of shots at former LACC President and current Second District Camden County Commissioner Cliff Luber. I was skeptical, of his pro-corporate stances and his invocation of religion with regards to politics. My fears were that we would have someone in office who would break out a corporate stamp with one hand while raising a Bible in the other. I was afraid that we would see Washington and Jefferson City replicated at the local level. I didn’t want another Commissioner in the mold of Kris Franken, who would seek to use political office for both personal and professional gain. Our county cannot afford another elected official ready and willing to grease the wheels of the Ameren machine.

I am happy to say I was wrong about Cliff Luber.

Since taking office, he has been consistent in his fight for more transparency at the courthouse. He has been skeptical of both the practices and policies that have been on display during his short time in office. He has sought answers to important questions. He brought forth information regarding Planning and Zoning mapping that Kris Franken and Don Hathaway sought to conceal. He has encouraged the use of email accounts to make Planning and Zoning board members available to the public they serve. He has worked to bring a resolution to the situation surrounding Macks Creek Community Park. He has confirmed a stance against the creation of EEZ’s in our community and displayed a common sense approach toward bringing business to Camden County, unwilling to sell out the public he represents in order to spur private investment. He sees the challenges faced by the Sunrise Beach Fire Protection District when their slice of the tax pie is given over to subsidize private profits.

Cliff has released information to the public that identifies corruption that goes beyond our county government and city governments here at the Lake of the Ozarks. His short time in office has brought much truth to countermand Kris Franken’s perpetual spin cycle.

For example, in an article from the Lake Sun in late 2011, it was reported that Kris Franken awarded a contract for software to Timothy Otten. The software was for a payroll system and a purchasing system. According to two local newspapers, Franken received only one bid and did not locally advertise the bidding process. The contract was awarded to Timothy Otten for HCPS, the only bid considered by the Commission. The software cost the county sixty thousand dollars. It was paid for in part by Rowland Todd, County Clerk and Sheriff Dwight Franklin.

Otten was friendly with the campaigns of Franken for County Commissioner, Aaron Koeppen for Judge and Diane Franklin for State Representative during the election season of 2010. From a Facebook post on the page ‘Kris Franken for Presiding Commissioner’ dated Oct. 24, 2010, Franken brags about these relationships:

“I have put together a trivia team for the Big Brother Big Sisters trivia contest this afternoon, Sunday, October 24. It is at the Elks Lodge in Osage Beach across from J. Bruners. The team consists of myself, Aaron Koeppen (R judge candidiate), Diane Franklin (R 155th Rep Candidate), Tim Otten, and John Beckett (School Board Member). Come out and cheer us on!”

The fact that Franken skirted the rules in order to award this contract to a friend has never been in doubt. Franken, in his own words, had made the sole determination that the software was “not an ‘off the shelf’ product and normal bidding requirements were not applicable”. He went on to say: “It is a custom product that is specific to our needs in Camden County and requires ‘professional services’ to complete.”

These ‘professional services’ and software programs have not been successful. As Commissioner Luber has confirmed, the county had to terminate the contract, refusing to make the final payment of approximately $7,000. The software programs have not been implemented and have been a complete waste of tax payer resources. They have been ineffective and have been jettisoned. The county IT department is attempting to build their own database to manage accounting systems.

This was characterized as a ”refund” from HCPS, who stated that the scope of the project had changed internally and county employees had gotten involved in modifications that weren’t originally contracted. This public relations statement was endorsed by Franken, who had championed the $53,000 kickback to his friend and was not eager to discuss the scheme that put county money in his buddy’s pocket for no return. Franken instead perpetuated a cover up (at least his second while in office) and parroted a line in order to hide his unethical behavior. This act is not the exception during Kris Franken’s time in public office. It has become the rule.

Kris Franken has stalked our courthouse halls long enough to develop a profile. He has left a road map of his treachery behind while in office. The man who brandishes a firearm in our courthouse is the same man who brags about having ‘files’ on people throughout Camden county, presumably to use against them in the event they uncover his lies and bring sunshine to his dealings while in office. This is the same man who has given himself sole discretion in keeping audio of Commission meetings. He is the man who recently discussed a million dollar offer, secured through the county, to subsidize private profits for those stakeholders of the Community Bridge Corporation and various other local interests who stand to gain from a restructuring of the black tops on the west side of the bridge.

Kris Franken is a man with something to hide.

The time has come for the citizens of Camden County to create their own file. The Franken File, if you like. It is past time we start connecting the dots regarding Article 600 and Planning and Zoning. It is high time we took a good long look at those in charge of these decisions at the county level. As Ameren continues to encroach on the rights of property owners at the Lake, it is urgent that we begin to have open, honest discussions about what is being done in our names. It is time to have a few answers about who our elected officials are really working for.

Recently, on the national and international stages, the issue of government transparency is at the fore. Edward Snowden has brought public attention to the massive surveillance state we live in. His revelations have brought light to programs like PRISM and the immense scope of data mining on US citizens. Before him, Bradley Manning illuminated US war crimes in Iraq and exposed the level of collusion between our government and corporations through his release of declassified State Department cables. Before that, NSA whistleblowers Thomas Drake and William Binney informed us of the architecture of oppression being built around us. They put the data mining facility Stellar Wind and Operation Trailblazer in the public arena, despite great personal and professional risk. Barrett Brown, a journalist who was reporting on private intelligence corporations like HBGary, has been arrested by the FBI, in part for opening research into the nature and scope of the US surveillance state. Jeremy Hammonds, whose hack of Stratfor emails uncovered plots ranging from insider trading to the targeting of American protesters for corporate giants such as Coca-Cola and Dow Chemical, has spent months in jail without trial.

Cliff Luber has helped bring that transparency to our local level. As we see on the national stage, sunlight on secret policies and deals is necessary to maintain a free and open democracy. For bringing that accountability home, I owe Cliff a debt of gratitude. For my assumptions about him, I owe an apology. What we have in common is more important than that which divides us. Those principles of honor, trustworthiness and morality must be preserved in government. Truth is not subjective. Without it, we are at the mercy of people like Franken and Obama, who would seek to drive their agendas forward in secrecy and silence.

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Shock and Awe: Domestic Terrorism and Boston

Yesterday in Boston, our nation collectively held its breath.  We whispered quiet prayers for victims and their families.  Shortly after news of the tragedy unfolded, we regained our equilibrium and immediately, had suspicions.  Perhaps being jaded is an inevitable byproduct of being an American.  We have, after all, watched the assassinations of JFK, MLK and RFK and witnessed as their platforms of peace and equality dissolved into so much alphabet soup.  We have seen NAFTA promoted as a gateway to a prosperous America while it whittled away and hollowed out our nation’s industrial core.  We have seen the elections of 2000 and 2004, with vast disparities between exit poll data and final vote tallies.  We have seen the events of 9/11 and the police state it has created around us.  We have been led into a senseless wars of aggression, based on lies and unfounded allegations.  We have watched as our media has been cowed into silence, serving no more benefit to society than tabloids.  We have watched the Nobel Peace Prize be awarded to a man who began a program of targeted killings and signature assassinations, of indefinite detention and continued the use of torture, by our personnel and through our proxies. We have seen the creation of a surveillance state, enacted by threats of terrorism.  This year, the European Union received the Nobel Peace Prize, while enacting austerity measures that have included the outright theft of deposits from Cypriot banks.  We have grown accustomed to the propaganda that masquerades as news.

Maybe then, it is understandable why the events of Monday are viewed through the mirrored shades of skepticism.

Immediately after the events in Boston, literally before the smoke had cleared, CNN was chomping at the bit to invoke ”terrorism”.   They termed it an “attack”, despite having no evidence to do so, as though they were following a prewritten script to its predetermined conclusion.  The parade of pundits seemed determined to offer a list of motivations for such an attack.  They repeatedly mentioned ‘patriots’ and ‘patriot day’ as a potential motive, also tax day.  They painted a picture quickly, acting without hard facts, speaking with authority.  The assertions made by the media were validated by others, equally enthusiastic about the opportunity to use a ”terror attack” against a shocked citizenry.

Local 15, an NBC affiliate serving Mobile, Alabama, spoke the a cross country coach for the University of Mobile, participated in the marathon.  According to Ali Stevenson, “They kept making announcements to the participants do not worry, it’s just a training exercise.” Stevenson saw police spotters on roofs and bomb sniffing dogs at both the start and finish of the race.  Stevenson, who has participated in numerous marathons world-wide said he had never seen the level of security that was present in Boston. “Evidently, I don’t believe they were just having a training exercise,” Stevenson said. “I think they must have had some sort of threat or suspicion called in.”

Approximately an hour after the explosions, VP Biden used the word ”bombing” while delivering a statement on Boston.  This opened the flood gates and through them came a suffocating wave of assumptions and conjecture.  Propaganda, to call these broadcasts by their rightful name.

The fear and loathing of American media is at an all-time high.  The mantra ”if it bleeds, it leads” is heard in newsrooms across the country.  Blood, death and mayhem…it sells papers and that satisfies the profit margin.  When able to invoke images of a ”terror attack” on US soil, the registers hum with increased advertising dollars and circulation.  Cable news coverage of Boston was no disappointment to the boards of directors at Time-Warner, Disney or News Corporation.  For them, it is the beginning of high cotton.

In addition to the glut of talking heads on these networks and their subsidiaries, we were treated to a quote from MA Representative Keating, who called the explosions a sophisticated, organized attack.  Keating sit on a DHS oversight committee.  He reinforced the assumption of motive, by mentioning both ‘patriot day’ and tax day as perhaps leading to the timing of the attack.

Cable news was off and running.  Squeezed between pictures of chaos, bloodied spectators and explosions, the seeds of acceptance were sown.  Fusion Centers, DHS intelligence hubs, were mentioned as playing a crucial role in tracing suspects.  Law enforcement, as a result of DHS centralization, were ordered to ‘phase one mobilization’.  All available officers, deputies, etc were called in.  Flights were suspended in Boston.  A no fly order was given for the area of the blasts, preventing any media aerial coverage.  Through the use of language and bias, cable media endorsed the widespread debut of the US Police State.

For months, independent media, progressive and libertarian bloggers, writers and reporters have been discussing the rise of a Gestapo-like, militarized police force.  They have brought us reports on Operation Flex, a sting operation that led to FBI entrapment in the Muslim community.  We have seen the case of the Cleveland Five, arrested in a similar FBI operation for plotting to bomb a bridge.  These five men have been described as ‘anarchists’, a government code for domestic terrorism.  Their case, upon close examination, clearly shows FBI agents feeding the men drugs while leading, aiding and abetting them in concocting a plot to blow up a bridge in the name of Occupy Cleveland.

We have seen the arrest of the NATO 3 in Chicago, after FBI agents ingratiated himself with the group.  In that particular case, FBI infiltrators attempted to convince the young men to commit an act of terror at the Chicago NATO summit.  After failing, the agents then planted materials in the apartment of the men and called in a raid.  This is ”worse than a case of entrapment”.  These young men, arrested on May 16, 2012, are still in jail fighting 11 felony counts.

 

Recently, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky stood and conducted an old-fashioned filibuster against the nomination of CIA Director John Brennan.  Brennan, the architect of the drone program and signature strikes in addition to having knowledge of the torture of detainees overseas, was asked questions about drones, as was Obama.  These questions centered around the use of domestic drones and assassination programs conducted in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.  The White House did not clearly answer questions surrounding the murder of three American citizens without due process.  They did not say unequivocably, that drones wouldn’t be used on American soil.

The Obama administration has sought to extend and make permanent the Authorization of the Use of Military Force.  He means to make it permanent as the ‘war on terror’, against a tactic, not a specific enemy promises to be.  The creation of a permanent state of war, a war without borders and bounds, will allow the President to conduct military operations on American soil against American citizens.

The NDAA has allowed for the indefinite detention of American citizens, without due process.  It will allow for those who dissent from the government and would rise up against government overreach to be arrested.  It allows for them to be held, without ever hearing charges against them, without ever seeing a judge.  It allows for Americans to be detained as those who are held in GITMO bay.  There, many detainees are staging a hunger strike against being held without charge.  Many of the individuals who are being held and tortured there see death as the preferable alternative to never-ending incarceration without having been found guilty of anything.  In fact, many held at GITMO are farmers and civilians who were snatched up in the beginning days of our ‘war on terror’.

As this article is being written, three more potential ricin envelopes have been discovered in the Senate offices..  This follows the discovery of a ricin letter addressed to Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker.  Mentioned in the media account of events in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, was his recent vote to allow debate to begin on a gun control bill.  While Wicker is a conservative and NRA member, he was quoted as saying  “I cast this vote at the request of the National Rifle Association, of which I am a member.”  He also added that he is a 100 percent supporter of the Second Amendment and his voting record proves that.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) was quoted as saying his office was ”quarantined” and his staff was being evacuated.  An anonymous staff member in the Hart building described a man with a backpack running into offices and dropping envelopes. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) said in a statement his office also received one of the packages. Capitol Police are controlling access to the buildings.

Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan) said his regional office in Saginaw, MI received a “suspicious-looking letter”.  It was turned over to authorities, who are now investigating.

Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said that the police suspect a person who “writes a lot of letters to members.” This comment after a law enforcement briefing.

President Obama also received a parcel that tested positive initially for ricin.  This package was found at an off-site processing facility and results are expected in 24-48 hrs.

If this pattern seems familiar, if it reminds, of similar letters with mysterious powders after a violent attack, it should.  This is the same methodology employed in the days after 9/11.  Senate offices were closed as a result of anthrax fears.  We are watching a re-run, it would appear.

In the days after Sept. 11, the Patriot Act was rushed through.  As was the Authorization for the Use of Military Force.  We heard government lies and a conspiring media lead the cheers for war.  This resulted in the invasion of a previously sovereign country.  It was the use of ”shock and awe” against an unwilling population in order to stun them into having less will to resist.  It is the same thing we are seeing now, in the wake of a new ”terror attack”.  Shock the population, scare them, in order to pass things you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to.  In order to push agendas on an unsuspecting public jumping at media created shadows and ”domestic terror” boogeymen.

It is no accident that legislation like CISPA is in Congress right now.  Neither is it a coincidence that Common Core resistance has picked up momentum as citizens begin to educate one another on this government/corporate collusion that will fundamentally work to destroy public education as we know it.  It isn’t an accident that there is an increasing militarization of our local police forces.  It is not random that the president is set to join the GOP in cutting social safety nets and enacting measures of American Austerity.

Wednesday, the IMF released a report that said we are on the brink of a world-wide economic crisis.  Apple shares dropped today on signs of missed revenue and lagging sales.  The stock market continues to climb as our Fed has made $85 billion dollars a month available to big banks.  This has allowed corporations to merge and expand on our tax dollars, sending the market into the stratosphere, while having no effect on the people whose money is being given away.  The rich continue to get rich, the poor continue to pay the tab.

The events in Boston, regardless of who was responsible (a suspect has been taken into custody as I am writing this), set the stage for tightening the noose around us while singing praises to those who would tie it to a tree.  The media cannot heap enough praise on DHS and the rise of our police and surveillance state.  They will say it has led to a quick capture, minimizing the potential for other acts of terror.  They will create a characature out of whomever is responsible.  Based on the rudimentary components of the bombs, pressure cookers, ball bearings and nails, and with the narrative already set in place through government and media, almost certainly it will be someone matching the description of a ”domestic terrorist”.  Almost certainly, the person will sound like many of us, who are tired of a government that no longer serves them.

It is no accident that, while these events unfold around us, we are seeing land grabs at the local level.   It is no accident that we are seeing sales taxes being introduced in favor of cutting the taxes for the wealthy.  It is no accident that Ameren now has effective control over our shore line.  It is no accident that EEZ’s and Article 600 has been considered by our county officials.

It is no coincidence that Lake Ozark has passed an ordinance that violates free speech and the ability to protest at official meetings.  Those who would commit crimes against us would rather not have to hear our opposition.

The Boston Marathon blasts will lead to an escalation of police state tactics.  This is an inevitable conclusion, one drawn from all-too recent experience.  It is not an accident that it comes now, as we are putting down our party banners and focusing on those who would truly do us harm.

Those of us who see the truth, who see the working parts of a mechanism of corruption, will not be silent in the wake of Boston.  Instead, we will realize that it is that much more urgent to work together against a government that no longer serves us.  We realize the time to stand is now and we will do so, shoulder to shoulder.

Common Ground

I have not been shy in my criticisms of the LACC.

I have publicly asked, many times, what happened to the group of Camden County citizens who first stood on our courthouse lawn with signs protesting the Wall Street bailout?  I have questioned the marriage of politics and religion, as espoused in the core philosophy of the group.  I have spoke loudly against the corporate benefactors that have usurped the grassroots movement known as the ‘Tea Party’ and used it for their own political ends.  I have spoken against the neoliberal economic policies they endorse.  I have chastised the neoconservative stances of constant war, occupation and murder in the name of resources.  I have asked, more than once, for us to put down our party flags and instead focus on the reality that is being crafted around us.  Now, as forces begin to align against ‘we the people’, our common ground is becoming more and more evident.  The need for unity is greater than ever.

There are many things I agree with the LACC on.  I agree our teachers shouldn’t have to subsidize our district, through higher premiums paid as a result of equipment purchases, new facilities and good-ol’-boy cronyism.  I agree Common Core is not in our school districts best interest, although my reasons for that may differ.  I agree that our local media serves their advertisers and those who control the reins of power in our county and our state.  I agree that our gun rights shouldn’t be infringed upon.  I agree that Article 600 and EEZ’s are detrimental to our community.  Not only are these a violation of our rights, they speak to a much larger picture that is unfolding around us.

If one were to read what I have written since starting my web site http://www.americanspring2011.com, you would find that these are points that I have repeatedly addressed.  While I haven’t always gotten it right, I have tried to speak to the root causes of the dangers facing us.  Whether it is a march toward the privatization of schools, public services and resources or the advance of the police and surveillance state that has risen in the wake of 9/11, I have attempted to use US history as a guide to understanding where we are headed.  I am sorry to say, I have been right more often than not.

When the LACC put their weight behind the fight against FERC overreach, I pointed out that those in control of FERC were appointees from private industry and most were selected by Bush.  When Vicky Hartzler and Diane Franklin endorsed the ‘Leave Our Lakes Alone’ legislation last year, I pointed out that this would pit Lake homeowners against Ameren, leading to the inevitable privatization of our shores.

When Stacy Shore and Nancy Stewart took the lead against the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Unified Land Use Codes, I recognized the threat to property owners.  Vague language, arbitrary inspections and outlandish fines leave the door open to property seizure. This is a neoliberal economic policy, designed to take from the poor in order to benefit a very few.

When Kris Franken and his unelected Planning and Zoning Commission pushed through the unchanged version of Article 600, like Cliff Luber, I see an ‘agenda’.

When I see the unveiling of an EEZ board in Camdenton, I recognize the larger threat to small communities like Macks Creek and Climax Springs.  When I see HumVees being added to the arsenal of our small town law enforcement and the escalation of aggression by the Camden County Sheriff Department, I see the tools they will use to enforce such unpopular policies.  I see a criminal enterprise in its fledgling stages.

When I see the Lake Sun stepping out against Lake Watchdogs, I see the desire of the media and the powers that be to silence uncomfortable truths.  When I read yesterday’s ‘Our View’ editorial, an anonymous attempt to discredit those who speak out against these crimes against us, I see a newspaper whose corporate ownership is on the verge of bankruptcy and an editor who has to satisfy a bottom line.  Speaking out against those who would oppose EEZ’s and tax abatements and breaks for corporations satisfies advertisers.  It does not serve the subscribers.

While we will not agree on everything, know this:  We have common problems. We have a common cause.

We stand on common ground.

We do not have a political problem.  We have a systemic one.

Corruption, at every level of government, is rotting the core of our country.  Politicians lie to our faces in order to gain support and votes.  They then take office and seek to do the will of those who write checks.

As we sit here, American austerity, known as ‘sequestration’, is targeting the poorest among us.  War has been declared against ‘we the people’, whether it is through the elimination of the WIC program, the underfunding of schools or Article 600, make no mistake: we are the targets.

While we may not agree on everything, American Spring will stand side by side with those who would say ‘no more’.  One hundred voices are louder than one.

I thank the LACC and Lake Watchdogs for their bringing illumination to the issues of EEZ’s and the Unified Land Use Code.  I will support them in any way I can on those issues we agree on.  Our future, and that of our children, depends on our ability to put aside our differences and fight for what is right.

The time to stand is now.

The Paywall Argument

Recently, the Lake Sun Leader went to a paywall web site.  This paywall has a limit of ‘free’ views (15) and encourages those who wish to view the paper’s site regularly to pay a subscription fee of $10.99 per month.  This allows for full use of their web site and the daily print version of the paper delivered to your home.  While there are many arguments against such a paywall, it was an inevitable transition, one we should have expected.  It was likely made above the head of Editor Joyce Miller and was a decision based on profitability.  There are other underlying factors, to be sure, but Gatehouse Media’s decision to utilize paywalls as a source of revenue has the undeniable ring of the bottom line.  Gatehouse faces a balloon payment in 2013 that looms over the corporation like Damocles’ sword.  The company’s balance sheet shows it’s assets to be valued at less than half the amount of the balloon payout.  Gatehouse Media is working short-term, attempting to solve an immediate business problem.  One way to do that is to implement a paywall for access to the digital version of the Lake Sun Leader.

The staff of the Lake Sun are simply doing their jobs by installing it.

Corporate media, such as Gatehouse, have to satisfy Wall Street and the debts they owe them.  The paywall works to the corporation’s benefit in ways that go beyond the bottom line.  As our Congress continues to take vacations on their march toward the neo-liberal economic goal of deregulating corporations, restriction of information becomes necessary.  In a democracy, in order to push through an agenda of this type, you MUST have control of the media.  The agenda of deregulating corporations is contrary to the good of the citizens of the country.  Destroying social safety nets, enacting legislation that requires we purchase health insurance or else, allowing Wall Street and Big Banks to raid our treasury unpunished, waging endless war via remote-controlled drones in far off lands, without debate, to benefit the military industrial complex and corporate resource, allowing for the silent creep of the police state and its surveillance networks; all of these require the silence of the media.  If these stories were reported in a concise way in the media, the public would see a clearer picture of the sins being committed in their names. We would see the grand illusion exposed, the sickening corruption of our democratic process by corporate lobbyists and interests.  We would have the information, the facts, to act against those who would continue their daily crime sprees.  We would see the Wall Street control of our government end.  We would see the corporate control of policy end.  We would see a return to peace as we would understand that we are the world’s leading exporter of terror.  We would understand the corporation unleashed is bad for us, as it will continue to drive down wages as we ‘must compete in the global market’.  We would see that England and the European Union are enforcing austerity right now, the will of Wall Street and their neo-liberal conspirators, against the will of the people.  We would see the pictures of police shooting into crowds of protesters in Spain, as they resist the decisions of government ‘leaders’, who are acting much like our own ‘representatives’.  We would know Greeks have had back-breaking taxes assessed on them through their electric bills, even in winter months.  We would see that the world is being pushed toward forced austerity at the end of a gun.  If we had information like that, ‘We The People’ would stand up as one and raise our voices, demanding the crime spree ends.  We would rise like a divine chorus, shouting that justice be done.

But that doesn’t serve the bottom line.  That doesn’t serve the corporate interest.  Therefore, information must be restricted, dispersed, glossed over, hidden.  If the public were well-informed, the corporate agenda would not be allowed to continue.  We would not let them destroy our children’s future.

Our Lake Sun staff was recently honored by the Missouri Press Association.  They were honored five times for their work.  Content Manager Eric Dundon received two awards for his design work, yet he might be the first to tell you that his artistic license was limited.  It was limited by Gatehouse’s decision earlier this year to centralize its operations.  Creativity, in corporate, cookie cutter media, is stifled in the name of ‘streamlining’ the processes to become more profitable.  It takes less work to have similar layouts for groups of papers.  That Mr. Dundon’s work was so well received is a high honor for him.  Perhaps his will be the vision for one of the cookie patterns.

We are lucky that we have a staff this well decorated.  Their awards are well-earned.  While I might not agree with all of their viewpoints or editorial decisions, I will give credit where credit is due.

It is a shame that we are being deprived the ability to view our paper without paying a monthly subscription fee.  It is a shame that their work it isn’t a part of the public record with access for anyone interested, instead of being restricted to those who can afford it.  It isn’t fair to us.  It isn’t fair to them.  The goal of any paper is circulation.  The unfortunate reality of the paywall restriction is that it won’t generate any raises for those who work at our papers.  Any increase in subscription dollars will go to the bottom line, not in their pockets.  They will be forced to make arguments about the value of their intellectual properties being worth something in cyberspace.  They will make them with straight faces.

The staff of the Lake Sun is just doing their job.

American Spring is going to do its job as well.

New email followers of http://www.americanspring2011.com will receive a free passport to information.  We will help anyone interested in being informed.  Simply go to http://www.americanspring2011.com and sign up to follow the blog.  You will receive updates to each new post straight to your email, twitter or phone.  You don’t have to agree with what you read there.  Just know that I’m happy you’re reading it.  It is a collection of articles and information from around the world and around the block.  It is free of corporate bias.  I have yet to receive a check from George Soros, contrary to popular assumption.  I am flattered, although I am not a ‘branch’ of Occupy Wall Street,  I sympathize with them.  I am a man who understands that when liberties are threatened, when our way of life is being undermined all around us in the name of a very select few, it is time to speak up.  It is time to tell the truth.  It is time for us all to have the information we need to make informed decisions based on our values and our children’s future.

It is time for us to stand.

We shouldn’t be deprived of the quality of our local newspaper because it will satisfy Gatehouse’s bottom line.  We should be able to support the Lake Sun’s staff’s work with our interest.

Truth shouldn’t come with a price tag.

Choking Out the Opponent

In a sudden and shocking move, the Lake Sun Leader has changed its online site.  No longer is the news available for free online.  Now, full access to Lake Sun content will cost you $10.99 a month.  You can still comment freely on articles specifically chosen by the Lake Sun’s editorial staff and content manager, as they will choose what appears on their Facebook page, thus open to the public.  Only those pieces they choose.

The timing of such a move is curious, to say the least.  At a time when the Lake Sun’s own comment sections were alive with debate concerning local issues and matters of politics and current affairs, it makes the move to a pay-for-content site.  This restricts access for many Camden County readers, many of whom are having difficult enough times making ends meet than to be asked to pay for information.  Being an informed citizen, an informed voter, is at the heart of a democracy.  It is our protection against corruption and the forces that would collude to keep us in the dark.  Our local, rural media is the key to unlocking our view of the world.  It is supposed to be based on truth, honor and dignity.

Our local paper is intended to inspire debate and discussion.  Not division.  Not exclusivity.  The Lake Sun, with both their track record and under the cover of the bottom line, has made a move to restricting access and comment.  With their history, it is not surprising.  It serves as a book end to their history of distorting facts, misleading the public and publishing propaganda in support of the lunatic fringe views of the hard right.  It fits a pattern of recent, overt behavior that can only be called disturbing.

Last fall, I began submitting letters to the editor of the paper.  One of them, titled ‘Hartzler’s Folly’, was printed in the Lake Sun.  It had to do with the arrest of a Missourian in her office for deciding to wait for a meeting with the Congresswoman.  The Lake Sun ran a response from the office of Rep. Hartzler and a few letters critical of me and my submissions.  They chose not to print my reply to Vigilant Vicky’s office, although it was sent within 24 hrs of her rebuttal seeing print.

I realized what we were up against at that point.  It wouldn’t be about promoting views, no matter how well researched, how well written. Keith Broekemeier had the same experience, as his critical letters stopped seeing print as the August election drew near.  He was frustrated.

He wasn’t alone.

I began working exclusively on the internet.  I wrote about the Lake Sun and their parent company, Gatehouse Media.  I wrote about the run to privatize Missouri’s education system.  I wrote about the police state that has been formed around us, with the help of a silent media.  I wrote about Anaheim.  I wrote about a girl in St. Louis who was tazed in a shopping mall.  I wrote about Cliff Luber, the Ayatollah.  I wrote about Vigilant Vicky Hartzler.

I wrote about the Lake Sun’s unscrupulous behavior.

First reported here, on American Spring, the Lake Sun Leader was caught manufacturing support for then GOP Presidential candidate Rick Santorum in the lead up to a caucus process that was contentious, to put it mildly.  They were caught misstating the amount of supporters at the fringe candidate’s rally, held in Osage Beach.

They lied.

They left a trail in black and white.

When writing an online piece about Cliff Luber, when his candidacy for Camden County Commissioner was announced, I went through the Lake Sun opinion archives.  I was in search of a letter the Ayatollah had written, in which he was calling for pastors to preach politics from the pulpit.  I initially couldn’t find it.  It had been removed from the archive.  After making a bit of a ruckus, the letter re-appeared.  I even thanked the paper for making it available in another installment of a series I did about religious extremism and the media’s role in perpetrating it in Missouri.

They removed the letter.

It was damaging to the Ayatollah.

While being critical of Vigilant Vicky Hartzler and her voting record, I experienced strange glitches on my phone that have led me to believe it is being monitored.  I wrote about this here, and sent it for publication to the Lake Sun.  I was told that it needed to be ‘toned down’ to run in the paper.  That’s puzzling, as it was a discussion about the Big Brother systems of government.  I would have thought freedom lovin’ folks would have an interest to hear about that kind of theft of our liberties.  I was wrong, apparently.

They wouldn’t print the letter.

It needed to be ‘toned down’.

I was frustrated.

I wrote more.

The Lake Sun then ran the first of three articles promoting the idea of a ‘conspiracy theory’ of an anonymous ‘smear campaign’ against the Ayatollah.  The theory was based on the reader’s ability to suspend disbelief.  To take the Lake Sun’s version of events, we should imagine that the ‘smear campaign’ was mere invention.  It was ‘Chicago-style politics’.

It was a police report.

Instead of reporting fact, the staff of the Lake Sun indulged in writing a bit of tawdry, sad fiction.  They focused on casting Cliff Luber as a victim, instead of reporting the facts associated with the claims of ‘anonymous smear campaigns’.  They then wrote a self-congratulating piece, applauding themselves and the virtuous Ayatollah on his glorious triumph.  They followed that up later in the week, attempting to add an exclamation point to the end of their tale, with questions of ‘Who Done It?’.  After all, the bigger the lie….

It was propaganda.

It was creative fiction, designed to confuse the existence and significance of a police report with Luber’s threats contained in its pages. I called for the Editor of the Lake Sun Leader, Joyce Miller (joyce.miller@lakenewsonline.com) and reporter @Spreeness to resign.  I said they were dangerous and engaged in deceit.

I did not expect that letter to see print.  It didn’t even receive a reply calling for me to ‘tone it down’.

I decided to try again.  “The Party Is Over”, which did run in the Lake Sun,  was an appeal to all thinking men and women in the reach of the paper to understand that they are united against us.  The politicians work for whomever writes the checks, not the rest of us. Those who write the checks intend to increase their profit margins and to hell with the rest of us. Both the RNC and DNC showed that democracy and its processes and procedures are meaningless to the corporate state.  They both shrugged off the will of the people in servitude of another master entirely.

It is common ground for all of us.

Then, the Todd Akin piece ran.  The LACC piece ran.

This is thanks, in no small part, to a clamor on the comment boards on the Lake Sun’s web site.  The pressure generated by the simple act of commentary on our local media, frightens them.  They understand they are holding someone else’s bag, pushing the propaganda of the lunatic fringe.

Dissent will not be tolerated.  It will be silenced through any means necessary.

While the Lake Sun was transitioning their site this afternoon, an email made its way to my inbox.  This email was regarding apparent censorship of certain comments on their articles.  The people who were attempting to post were supporters of the Ayatollah’s competition.  The Lake Sun dismissed the questions as being a ‘technical issue’, but when one considers their history, can that really be trusted?

The comments in question were from a political opponent of Luber’s, Don Barrett. After repeated inquiries, Mr. Barrett was ‘assured’ by Joyce Miller that it was only a glitch associated with the creation of the new pay for content site.

It would appear that the Lake Sun is instead making a rush to attempt to shut off commentary that doesn’t fit their narrative and restrict access to content at the editor’s discretion.  Given Joyce’s predisposition, as documented in the pages of her paper, do we dare allow her to decide what is available for mass consumption?

The Lake Sun is attempting to silence dissent.  They intend for the voice of rape, murder and hatred to win his seat.  They intend to nip any sort of opposing opinions from their pages.

Their intent is obvious.

They will further shrink our scope of knowledge and awareness until only the lunatic fringe are interested.  They will reduce our conversations to those of passion, not those of logic.  These changes and obvious examples of malpractice illustrate clearly whose side the Lake Sun is on.  It sides with the lunatic fringe.

Dissent will not be tolerated.

It will be choked out.

Ironically, a gentleman made the comment, in jest, that we should ‘occupy the lsl’ on the Lake Sun’s site, over the weekend, just before the change.  It seems they have given us no choice.

Comments like that are EXACTLY what they are afraid of.

Who’s up for an occupation?

The Aftermath

Like most of you, I remember everything about Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001.  From the first report of a plane hitting the World Trade Center to Congress singing on the steps of the Capitol.  I remember tracking down friends and loved ones, three of whom were in the air, on flights, when the attacks occurred.  I remember being in shock as I traveled down I-435 in Kansas City.  The interstate was almost empty.  The skies were.

I remember that day clearly, like those who saw Kennedy’s assassination remember where they were, what they were doing.  In many ways, the events in November 1963 and September 2011 have much in common, as both can be pointed to as examples of coups in the shell of American democracy.  It is with that in mind, that we turn and look back at the eleven years since the attacks of 9/11.  The facts bear out that, in the aftermath, a horrific agenda has been unleashed.  The evidence is in the laws that have been passed against the people of this country.  The proof is in the smoking rubble of Iraq.  The truth lies in the mountain passes of Afghanistan and on the blood stained streets of Yemen.  It is all around us, even though the propagandists attempt to keep it hidden with reality TV and news reports of celebrity missteps.

In the days since, America and her citizens have been hijacked.

From the Patriot Act to NDAA, the bars of a totalitarian regime have been constructed.  From Trapwire to Stellar Wind, the eyes of the Gestapo have access to our movements and electronic ‘footprints’.  From above, drones will patrol us, ready to hone in on signs of dissent.  Due to the steady, unchallenged power grab by the Executive Branch of our government in the wake of that Tuesday eleven years ago, they might fire on us.  A totalitarian regime has been created under our noses in the years since September 11, 2011.  The shock of the attacks was used as an anesthetic, dulling our resistance, while a fascist empire has been unleashed, first on Afghanistan, then Iraq, now in Yemen.  Soon, it will be enforced here, as the facade of political choice falls away.

They didn’t construct our prison without malice.  They built it with intent.  That intent is clear.

The facts are clear and not open to debate.  They have been recounted many times.  They are reinforced everyday in headlines scattered around the world.  They are written in blood and repeated in the mournful cries of children.  What has been done in the aftermath, both here and around the world, is tragic.  It is criminal.  It is barbaric.  It straight out of Revelation.

Monday’s headlines alone bear that out in a simple game of association.

The New York Times ran a report today that talked about a Chinese company called Foxconn.  Some of you may know Foxconn, as last year, they had a wave of suicides by workers who couldn’t escape the ‘militarylike atmosphere’ in their factories.  It would appear that now, child labor is being forced on children in school.  For those who don’t know, Foxconn is the primary producer of components for Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Apple.

Apple, whose iPhone5 is to hit the market soon, is expected to boost the GDP of the United States by anywhere from .25% to half a percent.  They plan to sell 8 million of them in the 4th quarter, at $600 per iPhone.  Apple, who last week was shown to be keeping unique device/owner ID’s and passing along your travel habits and who knows what else to…..well, that’s hard to say.  They don’t have to tell us.  Apple, who last week has shown the capability for remote camera deactivation.  Apple, a huge player in the Military Industrial Complex, is a founding member of the Surveillance State.  They have given willing governments, like China, the ability to keep such pesky stories like Foxconn labor conditions, quiet.  Unseen and unheard.

In contrast, Trapwire is all seeing.  It was originally sold to China, where it was refined and improved upon.  Our Department of Homeland Security, created immediately after the attacks in Sept. ’01, has begun using it here in the United States.  They have also enacted a ‘See Something, Say Something’ campaign that encourages spying on your neighbor.

They are promoting domestic drone use in Congress, for surveillance purposes.  They killed 29 people in 8 days with these same drones, in use around the world, flown from places like Whiteman AFB in Missouri.  Today, protestors with Trifecta Resista, were in Federal Court in that state’s capitol, as they were charged with crimes for attempting to deliver an indictment for murder.

The murder of a union leader in Bangladesh shows the machine of refined fascism among the sewing machines that churn out Tommy Hilfiger, American Eagle and Gap clothes.  Workers looked to him for help and leadership.  Others were looking as well.  His phone was monitored.  Police harassed him.  He was abducted and beaten.  He was threatened.

He disappeared.

He was found tortured and murdered.  He was found with broken bones.  He was found with a hole drilled into the back of his knee.

In Chicago, 29,000 teachers have taken to the streets to oppose corporate education reforms.  They are fighting for smaller class sizes.  They are fighting against rote testing.  They are fighting to save our children.

And their phones, at least those who use Apple, are most definitely being monitored.

Education is under attack.  It has been undermined by policy decisions designed to create failure, thus opening the door to the privatization of education.  Private academies, like those in China.

Ironically, the Representative from my own district is pushing legislation that will allow for child labor.  Vigilant Vicky Hartzler, from the tree of religious extremism, would ask that you pray.  Take it on faith, instead of taking a close look at her bill, being passed off as a ‘pro-family farm’ bill.  At the same time, she has voted for legislation that will imprison us at the government’s discretion, a government owned by corporations.  She endorses drone use for domestic spying.  She voted to extend the Patriot Act.  She voted to make protest a felony.

My local paper ran a story about her being given a commendation from a minority group of elderly voters, RetireSafe.  The commendation was called the “Standing Up For America’s Seniors” Award.  This group awarded Bob Gibbs of Ohio the same.  And Ann Marie Buerkle. And Jeff Denham.  And Dan Lungren. They lobbied for Medicare Part D, which raised drug prices on seniors, have made this a regular practice, in order to manufacture support for candidates who will vote according to Big Pharma companies wishes.

In the UK, the elderly are suffering in areas represented by the ‘liberal’ party.  They are feeling the draconian cuts that are being made to their social programs across the board.  From forcing disabled people to work for their benefits to the dismantling of the National Health Service, the UK is undergoing a rapid, radical transformation.  The will of the people is being ignored, igniting talks of widespread public and private sector strikes.

This growing unrest in the UK is fueled (no pun intended) by record gas prices and fears of inflation.

Sound familiar?

Today, the ninth person died in Gitmo.  That’s more than those who have ever faced charges or a trial, of which there have been six. Today, the US handed over control of a prison to Afghanistan, although we are still ‘handling’ (torturing, if you prefer) prisoners.  Today, because our children do not know better, six in ten of them believe torture is acceptable.

Today, they know nothing of the kids in China, of the horrors of forced labor in a police state where Big Brother watches every move and Big Corporations rule the world.

It is our job to insure they never do.

What has risen from the ashes of 9/11 is demonic, it is psychotic.  It is the simple, brutal reality of the bottom line.  It is them and it is us.  There is no factor for human decency or kindness, no variable to be added for mercy.  There is only profit margin and collateral damage.

We are surrounded by the aftermath of that day.

It’s time to wake up and look around.