* The Next Big Thing, "The Cost of Freedom": http://costoffreedombook.blogspot.com
"Cost of Freedom is a beautiful, accessible, and meaningful history of recent American anti-war movements that should be on the coffee table of every American home." - Thom Hartmann, Air America Radio
* Oglala Remembered:
* FBI Proposes Building Network of Informants
* How To Judge Sheep:
Is This Heaven?
by Mike Palecek
No, no. It's not.
Hey, c'mere, c'mere.
Shhh. I have to whisper. I am here amid the market lambs and the Myers Family, shhhh.
I wish you could see me, but I'm incognito.
I have managed to slip inside the infrastructure of the Culver County Fair.
The sun is shining bright. It is hot. It is very early, but the little bleachers in the sheep judging arena are already packed hip to butt to brisket.
I am the understudy judge ... my public persona.
Actually, I am here under the not-quite-official auspices of the United States Department of Homeland Security, although I understand that if I am captured they will deny any knowledge of me whatsoever. I'm used to that, my parents said the same thing.
I get to wear this green vest with a big button with a photo of a sheep, and there are about a hundred other badges on this vest. I'm wondering if it might have belonged to an insane girl scout at one time.
And I've got a straw hat that kind of hangs in my eyes, black-rimmed glasses, yellow judging shorts. The real deal.
I'll be here all week.
My goal is to get over to the Iowa Sweet Corn Dipped in Butter And Then Chocolate booth and back here without loosing my spot.
Baaa! Oops. That just came out.
For some reason, I'm finding out I have a certain affinity with sheep.
But I am not taking my eye off the target, not for a moment.
I have my eyes on the prize. There isn't anything or anybody in this arena that will escape my extreme scrutiny.
Go about your day. I got this.
I actually think the guy in the brand new coveralls in the third row from the bottom would fry up real well. And his wife has good muscling and a nice rump.
They both have good thickness through the leg, with natural thickness as well over the top, definition is apparent, with good straightness of lines.
Baaa! Sorry, ma'am, undercover.
Hey, while there is a break here I want to tell you about something. I recently received an email from the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee and it got me remembering.
Something about sheep and human beings and how to tell the difference.
It's about terrorists and whatever, too, at least I think it is.
When I was a reporter I interviewed Leonard Peltier in Leavenworth Prison and then I talked to Nick O'Hara, the head of the Minneapolis FBI division. O'Hara had been involved in the Peltier case for years.
I wanted to know the truth about the thing, because I think it's important.
And I went out to talk to some people at the Jumping Bull Compound at Oglala and visited the graves of Anna Mae and Joe Stuntz and the memorial at Wounded Knee, and I read the book by Peter Matthiessen.
I still think it's important. I just haven't thought about it for awhile.
Maybe it's the sheep, the Myers Family.
I wrote to the FBI and asked them to put me in touch with the families of the dead FBI agents.
An agent from Minneapolis, Coleen Rowley, sent me a letter which included a response from Coler's widow.
I wrote my story and said that I was not sure who was lying, but surely someone was.
Awhile later I ran for Congress. By then I had decided who was lying.
I sent a letter to O'Hara to tell him.
He wrote me back.
It's here, below.
This is a strange place to start thinking about dead men and their lonely families and a man who has been in prison for thirty years, here amid the sheep and the kids and the proud moms and dads, looking for terrorists.
Who is the terrorist? Is it me, or is it you?
Is it Leonard Peltier, or Nick O'Hara?
And if we know the truth, what are we doing here?
Who are we to judge sheep?
Reporting from America, former award-winning reporter now undercover sheep judge ... in Culver County Iowa ... back to you, Jason.
Letter to Nick O'Hara:
Dec. 1, 2000
I was working in the early '90s as a journalist in Minnesota. If you recall, I came to your Minneapolis office to discuss the Leonard Peltier case.
I had also been to Leavenworth to meet with Mr. Peltier. In my research I also spoke to Don Dealing in the Rochester FBI office and spoke to Mr. Brewer, one of the former "goons" on the Pine Ridge reservation. And later I was able to obtain a statement from Mr. Coler's widow.
This was around the time of Peltier's appeal in St. Paul federal court. I went to all this work because I think that getting to the truth in the Peltier case is integral to finding out who we are as Americans. Just as someone might research their family history in order to determine who they are. I think many see this case as basic information that is needed for us to know who we are as a people.
At the time I could not decide who was not telling me the truth.
Since then, I have come to the determination that you were not telling the truth.
I think you lied to me about the ballistics evidence we discussed in your office. And I offer to you a recent article in the Toronto Globe & Mail which details how Myrtle Poor Bear was coerced and tortured in order to give false testimony to convict Peltier.
I think I understand why any FBI agent would feel strongly about this case. You want someone to pay. But to murder Anna Mae Aquash and to instigate the reign of terror on the Pine Ridge reservation prior to the incident at Oglala is wrong.
I feel we [U.S. via FBI] used the goon method on the reservation for whatever reason, just as we used the goon method with the death squads in El Salvador in the 1980s.
I do not respect the office of the FBI.
I know there are men and women who serve time in those offices for good cause, and are respectable. But to think that we have a secret police in this country that will kill and lie and coverup in order to get the outcome it wants makes us little better than the Soviet Union.
There is little I can do about this. As a journalist I will continue to seek the truth.
I ran for Congress this past election and lost by a wide margin, though I received 67,000 votes.
You can be certain that if I am ever elected I will not go into office with anything but a dim view of the FBI.
Thank you for your time.
Reply from Nick O'Hara:
This letter doesn't sound like the young man I met many years ago in Mpls. But it does sound like the young protester who hid in the Omaha church to make a statement.
I'm sorry you have reverted to your old self as I believed the young man in Mpls. had promise.
To see covers, more information: www.mikepalecek.com
Killing George Bush: I like KGB because it tells the forgotten story of prisoners and conspiracy theorists and people slaughtered by Bush Sr. in Panama and women and children in jail visiting rooms and other stuff.
"Well-written and imaginative."
- Danny Schechter, one of the first CNN producers
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Publish America (December 2001)
Joe Coffee's Revolution: I like Joe Coffee because it tells the truth about the Democratic Party and about farmer revolutionaries and farm kitchen tables.
"Palecek's greatest talent lies in his ability to depict the ordinariness of life. After a few chapters of Palecek's tender attention to the characters' small lives, readers will feel the same itch for revolution that the characters give into."
- Meta Hogan, Voice Of Olympia [Olympia, WA]
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Badger Books LLC (April 2003)
Twins: I like Twins because it talks about a prison burning and about the Twin Cities, which I love, and about robbing Twin Cities banks to give the money to the poor on Hennepin Ave.
*Review by Michael Wilt, Nimble Spirit Review: http://www.nimblespirit.com/html/twins_review.html
Paperback: 332 pages
Publisher: Badger Books LLC (October 2003)
The Last Liberal Outlaw: I like Outlaw because it talks about a reporter in a small town doing what a reporter in a small town should do, pay attention to the commas and oppose the construction of the prison near town.
"Palecek is at his best when writing about small-town America ... We haven't had a writer like this since Kurt Vonnegut was at his peak."
- Chuck Gregory, All Books and Records, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: New Leaf Books (September 15, 2004)
The Truth: I like The Truth because it was written in the run-up to the current war and was written in a rage against pre-war stupidity in Iowa. I tried to stop the war with this book. I tried to expose the lies, stuff a dish towel in Tom Brokaw's mouth to keep him from lying.
"As a professional writer and editor I want to strongly second all the positive comments for this book. In addition to its fine message, its layout and Mike's real deftness with plotting make it a great reading experience, like few books I know."
- Phil Hey, Professor of English & Writing, Briar Cliff University, Sioux City, Iowa
Publisher: New Hampshire Writers Collective
Looking For Bigfoot: I like Bigfoot because I think there is a Bigfoot and I think Bush did 9/11 and I think the CIA killed the Kennedy's, and I like baseball, a lot.
Publisher: Howling Dog Pr (November 30, 2005)
"Mike Palecek poses powerful questions. He has constructed a masterpiece in this novel. It deserves to be read. It's exhilarating and terrifying. It's realer than real."
- January Magazine
Terror Nation: I like Terror Nation because I think it would be cool to be a small town sports reporter who was put into the local mental institution for writing anti-Bush letters to the editor. And a dream of mine would be to cover Iowa sports or coach baseball and have that be good enough.
"If you haven't heard of Mike Palecek, you should have."
- Karris Golden, Waterloo-Cedar Falls [IA] Courier
"Palecek is ... a natural - or highly practiced - writer. With his rolling rhythms, everything he writes, even Charlie Johnson's brutal confinement, goes down easy."
- Russ Wellen
Paperback: 496 pages
Publisher: Mainstay Press (April 4, 2006)
The American Dream: I like The American Dream because it's like punching America in the nose, it's like punching George W. Bush in the nose and Karl Rove in the nose. And I think those two pussies need to be punched in the nose. And it punches those ministers with American flags and dead children on their altar, and it punches my neighbor right square in the kisser for mowing his lawn and worrying about his damn lawn while we are killing children in Iraq.
Publisher: CWG Press
"Palecek is fearless, skewering religious extremism, political right wing fundamentalism, gung-ho patriotism and the use of fear to play upon the innocent...and ignorant. And it works. I finished the book in one night...but it's been in my brain ever since, like a song that won't go away...haunting."
- Marie Jones