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Monday, February 28th

Bob Herbert: Its Called Torture

It's Called Torture

Published: February 28, 2005

s a nation, does the United States have a conscience? Or is anything and everything O.K. in post-9/11 America? If torture and the denial of due process are O.K., why not murder? When the government can just make people vanish - which it can, and which it does - where is the line that we, as a nation, dare not cross?When I interviewed Maher Arar in Ottawa last week, it seemed clear that however thoughtful his comments, I was talking with the frightened, shaky successor of a once robust and fully functioning human being. Torture does that to a person. It's an unspeakable crime, an affront to one's humanity that can rob you of a portion of your being as surely as acid can destroy your flesh.

Mr. Arar, a Canadian citizen with a wife and two young children, had his life flipped upside down in the fall of 2002 when John Ashcroft's Justice Department, acting at least in part on bad information supplied by the Canadian government, decided it would be a good idea to abduct Mr. Arar and ship him off to Syria, an outlaw nation that the Justice Department honchos well knew was addicted to torture.

Mr. Arar was not charged with anything, and yet he was deprived not only of his liberty, but of all legal and human rights. He was handed over in shackles to the Syrian government and, to no one's surprise, promptly brutalized. A year later he emerged, and still no charges were lodged against him. His torturers said they were unable to elicit any link between Mr. Arar and terrorism. He was sent back to Canada to face the torment of a life in ruins.

Mr. Arar's is the case we know about. How many other individuals have disappeared at the hands of the Bush administration? How many have been sent, like the victims of a lynch mob, to overseas torture centers? How many people are being held in the C.I.A.'s highly secret offshore prisons? Who are they and how are they being treated? Have any been wrongly accused? If so, what recourse do they have?

President Bush spent much of last week lecturing other nations about freedom, democracy and the rule of law. It was a breathtaking display of chutzpah. He seemed to me like a judge who starves his children and then sits on the bench to hear child abuse cases. In Brussels Mr. Bush said he planned to remind Russian President Vladimir Putin that democracies are based on, among other things, "the rule of law and the respect for human rights and human dignity."

Someone should tell that to Maher Arar and his family.

Mr. Arar was the victim of an American policy that is known as extraordinary rendition. That's a euphemism. What it means is that the United States seizes individuals, presumably terror suspects, and sends them off without even a nod in the direction of due process to countries known to practice torture.

A Massachusetts congressman, Edward Markey, has taken the eminently sensible step of introducing legislation that would ban this utterly reprehensible practice. In a speech on the floor of the House, Mr. Markey, a Democrat, said: "Torture is morally repugnant whether we do it or whether we ask another country to do it for us. It is morally wrong whether it is captured on film or whether it goes on behind closed doors unannounced to the American people."

Unfortunately, the outlook for this legislation is not good. I asked Pete Jeffries, the communications director for House Speaker Dennis Hastert, if the speaker supported Mr. Markey's bill. After checking with the policy experts in his office, Mr. Jeffries called back and said: "The speaker does not support the Markey proposal. He believes that suspected terrorists should be sent back to their home countries."

Surprised, I asked why suspected terrorists should be sent anywhere. Why shouldn't they be held by the United States and prosecuted?

"Because," said Mr. Jeffries, "U.S. taxpayers should not necessarily be on the hook for their judicial and incarceration costs."

It was, perhaps, the most preposterous response to any question I've ever asked as a journalist. It was not by any means an accurate reflection of Bush administration policy. All it indicated was that the speaker's office does not understand this issue, and has not even bothered to take it seriously.

More important, it means that torture by proxy, close kin to contract murder, remains all right. Congressman Markey's bill is going nowhere. Extraordinary rendition lives.


HL on 02.28.05 @ 11:06 AM PST [link] [2 Comments]

Friday, February 25th

Account of trial from Critical Mass (8-27-05) arrestee James Nova:

Last week, both of my criminal cases (five charges
total) were
consolidated into one, upon the advice of National
Lawyer's Guild president
Martin Stolar.
His concern was that I could
incriminate myself on the
witness stand -- which we are protected against by the
Fifth Amendment
(a/k/a "taking the Fifth") if the question of my
participation in other
Critical Mass rides came up.
We had to get permission
from the attorney
handling my August case to consent to the
consolidation and to turn
over the files to my new attorney for the October
case. The trial date
set for for the August case would now be for both.

After viewing all of the relevant videotapes collected
by the NLG
(which took two days) and the police video that has
been submitted as
evidence (including the high-tech infra-red digital
zoom helicoper video) I
only appear on police tapes after having been
arrested, never during any
of the rides and never on bicycle.
The only photo of
me with my
bicycle was provided by me, snagged off of Indymedia.
An audio CD made by
the police surfaced recently and my attorney requested
a copy of it from
the DA. The audio has the police saying well in
advance of the
gathering at St. Marks that they expected to make
about 500 arrests (though no
violations had even been committed!).
Also, the
October cop video
clearly showed the police waving riders through red
lights and diverting
riders from the printed route that they had
distributed at Union Square.
I was able to identify a lot of people on the videos
that hopefully
they can use in their trials.

Two days prior to the start of the trial, the Asst. DA
called my atty.
and said they were dropping the Oct. 29 (Halloween)
Critical Mass case
(involving 3 charges) altogether. Things were looking
up for the first

On the trial date (Thurs. Feb. 17 -- over 5 1/2 months
since the first
arrest and 4 prior court appearances) we first met in
JP2 (5th floor of
100 Centre St.). Again, the DA offered the ACD
(Adjournment in
Contemplation of Dismissal) which we again refused.
The trial was then moved
to Part 37, room 1600, judge Herbert J. Adlerberg
presiding. (Judge
Adlerberg is a retired state supreme court justice).
He has been handing
down decisions on RNC-related cases both directions.

The young, greased-back ADA had a TV/VCR brought in,
as well a
large-scale map of the St. Mark's Church area. While
the videotape was being
cued up, the bailiff was grumbling loudly about what a
ridiculous waste
of time all this was: "What's the point? What kind
of statement is
being made? Tomorrow it will all be forgotten! It's
stupid. We should
be trying murderers. Just take an ACD and be done
with it."

When the judge entered and called the court to order,
the clerk read
out the case and stated that "on August 27, 2004 the
defendent committed
the CRIMES of ..." The judge corrected him that I was
charged with
citations, not crimes.

After the attorneys gave their opening statements, the
"People's" first
witness was called to stand, lower Manhattan 9th
Precinct Commanding
Officer Captain James McCarthy, a/k/a the "white
shirt" who gave the
order to start making arrests at St. Marks on A27, and
whom I had the bad
luck of standing immediately in front of on that day.
McCarthy was
sworn in, hand on bible, a (unconstitutional)
situation which I was hoping
to personally avoid
. Through my attorney, I asked
that if had to take
the witness stand I wanted a secular oath with no

Capt. McArthy, after boasting of his 2000+ arrests,
then detailed how
he and other police precincts received special crowd
control training in
the weeks leading up to the RNC (Republican National
included watching videotapes from the '99 WTO "battle
in Seattle" and
reviewing intelligence which indicated that St. Marks
Church was going
to be a focal point for unrest. He then characterized
Critical Mass as
an "organization which engages in civil disobedience
to promote
environmental issues" and is "opposed to cars." This
characterization would be
repeated constantly throughout the trial by the ADA
and the police,

despite the fact that CM is a spontaneous, unorganized
event, attended by
many different groups, but mostly just unaffiliated
individuals with no
agenda other than bicyclist safety and solidarity.
It is a safe assumption that it was Times Up! that
they were actually
referring to. In his testimony, McArthy repeatedly
confused locations,
times, and the date in question, provided
contradictory statements
about who and what was blocking traffic, whether the
sidewalks were clear,
whether people were on bikes or not, and drew no
distinction between
bicyclists, spectators, neighborhood residents, or
people just
passing through. They were all "protestors" and it
was clear from this
point on that what was really on trial was protest
He said
that the "sea of protestors" were waving their bikes
over their heads,
chanting, though he could not recall any chants. We
then watched an
interminable videotape that switched between color and
black and white, had
stretches of just pavement or people's feet, and was
poorer in quality
than most of the amateur videos submitted to NLG.
only appeared
briefly at the end of the video, already in cuffs.
McArthy said he could
not forget me because I was standing in the middle of
the street, waving
my bike high over my head, and wearing very
distinctive green tennis
shoes, and that I refused to leave the street, even
after repeated orders
to do so -- all four of which were complete
He said that
only people refusing to disperse were arrested,
another lie. He also
said that he had seen me at countless other protests
over the years -- I
was a regular (perhaps true, but I doubt that he had
ever seen me, only
recently having been transferred from the 5th precinct
in Chinatown,
where I have never protested). In cross-examination,
he admitted that he
took no notes of that evening.
He denied that prior
to the RNC that
police actually facilitated CM and acted surprised
that it had been going
on for over nine years -- he said it was only for the
last two.

The next witness was my arresting officer, Sgt. Gary
Florencio, of the
Manhattan North Task Force, a/k/a the "riot squad."
He said that until
the RNC he had never heard of Critical Mass and had
never made any
arrests for protesting.
To date, I have the honor of
being his only
"protest-related" arrest. He also discussed his
RNC-specific training, which
included modifications to the "lines & wedges"
tactics, which seemed to
be a description of penning people in. Florencio also
remembered me
quite well, not because of my shoes -- which he
correctly identified as
black -- but because of my bullet hole-ridden
camouflage shirt
emblazoned with "Army - be all you can be: DEAD"
Officer Florencio then
proceeded to completely contradict Capt. McArthy's
testimony, stating that a
truck was blocking traffic, not bicyclists, and that
people and traffic
could proceed, even with the crowds. His testimony
was not too bad,
except when he characterized the event as "the riot."

He said that he
was standing within a few feet of McArthy when McArthy
ordered him to
arrest me, yet he never once saw me on my 35-pound
bicycle, and that I was
simply standing off to the side, holding my bike, and
that perhaps only
1 or 2 dispersal orders had gone out, as opposed to
the 10 or more
McArthy claimed.

Anti-war slogans were a major issue throughout the
trial, as the ADA
even read out the litany of them from stickers on my
bicycle: "End the
Occupation Now", "Bush Lies- Who Dies?."
Oddly, he
skipped the most
obvious one, which appeared in all six large, lurid
color photos of my bike
- "Don't Be A Sheep," which has festooned the back of
my bicycle seat
for twenty years.
Once I took the witness stand
(secular oath
successfully administered) the ADA then began throwing
ludicrous accusations
against me, including participating in some action in
Tomkins Square Park.

When he tried to allege that Critical Mass is an
organization and that
I am a member, he said "isn't it true that they
contact you to let you
know when and where these rides are going to take
place?" I responded
"No, Critical Mass is not an organization. It is a
tradition for the
last ten years that takes place on the last Friday of
every month -- all
around the world!"
He then said "isn't it true that
you don't have a
very high opinion of the cops?" -- which the judge
quickly shot down as
immaterial. He again drew the judge's wrath when he
asked me "and you
think that you are right in these opinions of yours,
don't you?
"Overuled! Stick to the facts!" In fact, the judge
repeatedly lost
patience with the ADA, accusing him of repeating
himself, of needless
time-wasting, and constantly asking questions not
germaine to the discon
citation, once shouting at the ADA,
"Give me a
break!". When the ADA asked
if I had a permit on me that day to allow me to
participate in the ride,
the judge interrupted with "Are you saying that a
person needs a permit
to ride a bicycle with other people?"
stammeringly answered
"M-m-maybe." The judge said "That's ridiculous.
Overruled. Move on!"
So much for parading!

When I was cross-examined by my attorney, I was able
to refute several
accusations when I noted that I have a compressed disk
in my back which
prevents me from lifting any heavy objects over my
head and that I have
never owned a pair of green shoes (I called my wife
over the lunch
break to confirm, even though the evidential photo
clearly showed that I
had black shoes on at the time of my arrest).

Like the opening statements, the closing remarks were
not spectacular
on either side, but merely restated that the evidence
did or did not
prove the charges and that the police were either
reliable or unreliable
witnesses. When my attorney tried to bring up
constituional violations
the judge shot her down that these arrests have
already been shown to
be constitutional (!?). On parading without a permit,

the judge
acquitted me and said that there was no evidence of
any parade or that I was
part of any kind of organized event.
On the
disorderly conduct charge,
for failure to disperse, he ruled quilty. I was a bit
taken aback, as
my attorney was, because no credible evidence was
given showing me
doing anything at all, only that I was present at some
My only
thoughts are that his rulings were more punishments to
the attorneys,
neither of whom gave very stellar performances. When
the judge ruled that I
would receive time served & no community service, the
ADA protested.

Edlerberg said "he was held at Pier 57 for 16 days (he
meant hours, but
who's to argue) -- I think that's enough!" and on
community service "I
think what he does for a living (pedatric cancer res.)
is public
service enough, don't you.!", the ADA timidly
responded, "I understand, your
honor, but that doesn't excuse disorderly conduct."
The judge ignored
him and got up from the bench, bored and fed up, and
left the room. I
was also given no fine.

On the way out of the courtroom, one of the court cops
whispered to me
"Keep on riding!" I have no idea if he was being
serious or mocking
me. I apologized to the witness -- another A27
arrestee whose case was
on this week -- for having to waste his time coming
down and then not
getting called to the stand. My attorney apologized
to me for being
inexperienced, but I told her that I don't think
anything we could have
done differently would have made any difference -- it
seemed the judge had
his mind made up from the beginning: against applying
the parading
issue to Critical Mass but also refusing to view the
event as police

Although I would have liked to have a total win, all
in all, it was as
mild a conviction as possible, with the judge even
coming to my defense
several times.

The only remaining thing to do was to go out to the
Kingsland avenue
warehouse in Queens to pick up the bike the next day.
I had to call my
attorney to contact the DA, because the case was still
listed as being
open, therefore they would not grant a release. The
fact that the bike
was still being held was outrageous, since it was
seized on the
Halloween ride and that arrest had already been thrown
But because the
cases were consolidated, they decided to hold on to
for as long as
possible. After obtaining the DA's release form (no
fee -- some have had to
pay $10 for it) I took that and the pink property
claim form out to the
warehouse -- a good hike on foot from the nearest
subway stop, where
they made me stand out in the bitter cold wind for 20
minutes while they
looked for the bike. Then my witness also showed up
to claim his bike.
After inspecting them carefully, he noted that his
cable locks were
missing and the chain was messed up. Mine looked OK,
except for a lot of
the stickers having been removed. However, when I got
it back to
Manhattan I noted that the bottom was missing from my
side basket.

Was it worth the fight, or should I have taken the ACD
and avoided the
hassle? Since I was arrested twice in 60 days -- and
did my best, I
thought, to avoid arrest -- the six month grace period
covered by the ACD
would have been to no benefit. I no longer have any
confidence that I
can do anything in public without some chance of
arrest, therefore an
ACD is not really a viable option for me.


(Personal statement that I was not given the
opportunity to make):

"My arrest and subsequent detention at Pier 57 --
along with the other
1800 peace and environmental activists arrested during
the RNC and
subsequent Critical Masses -- was for partisan
political reasons only and a
blatant violation of the First Amendment.

But, it is my hope that now Critical Mass will be
allowed to continue
-- as it has around the nation and the world, and for
nearly nine years
in New York, as a safe and legally-sanctioned event --
the purpose of
which is to help improve the quality of life for the
citizens of New
York. And may our efforts contribute to New York City
once again becoming
a beacon to the world for freedom and democracy."

- James Nova

HL on 02.25.05 @ 12:08 PM PST [link] [2 Comments]

Wednesday, February 23rd

Company's Work in Iraq Profited Bush's Uncle

music: William H.T. 'Bucky' Bush earned $450,000 on stock options with defense contractor ESSI.

By Walter F. Roche Jr., Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON The Iraq war helped bring record earnings to St. Louis-based defense contractor Engineered Support Systems Inc., and new financial data show that the firm's war-related profits have trickled down to a familiar family name Bush.

William H.T. "Bucky" Bush, uncle of the president and youngest brother of former President George H.W. Bush, cashed in ESSI stock options last month with a net value of nearly half a million dollars.

Uncle Bucky," as he is known to the president, is on the board of the company, which supplies armor and other materials to U.S. troops. The company's stock prices have soared to record heights since before the invasion, benefiting in part from contracts to rapidly refit fleets of military vehicles with extra armor.

William Bush exercised options on 8,438 shares of company stock Jan. 18, according to reports filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He acknowledged in an interview that the transaction was worth about $450,000.

In an earnings report issued Tuesday, the firm disclosed that net earnings for the first quarter ending Jan. 31 reached a record $20.6 million, while quarterly revenue hit $233.5 million, up 20% from a year ago. As a result, the company boosted its projected annual revenue to between $990 million and $1 billion.

William Bush, 66, a onetime St. Louis bank executive and head of an investment firm, joined the board in 2000, eight months before his nephew won the White House.

The president's uncle said in an interview that he never used his family connections to help the company win contracts.

"I don't make any calls to the 202 area code," he said, referring to the long-distance dialing code for Washington.

He also said he sought legal advice before accepting appointment to the ESSI board to be certain there would be no problems.

Dan Kreher, vice president of industrial relations for ESSI, said Bush was one of several people added to the company board about five years ago, and that he was selected because he had "a long history of involvement in the local business community. We've known him for a long time."

"Having a Bush doesn't hurt," said Kreher, who acknowledged that the company was routinely engaged in Washington lobbying efforts. But, he said, Democrats, including a party fundraiser, also serve on the panel.

"It certainly doesn't hurt to have people who know who to talk to," Kreher said, adding that the president's uncle played no role in winning the firm's government contracts.

Some of the firm's Defense Department work has included no-bid, sole-source contracts, including a $48.8-million deal to refurbish military trailers.

Other Iraq-related contracts won by the firm include an $18-million pact awarded early last year under which a Maryland-based subsidiary was picked to provide communications support services to the Coalition Provisional Authority.

In March 2003, in announcing the U.S. Army's purchase of $19-million worth of its protective shelters for chemical and biological weapons, then-ESSI Chairman and Chief Executive Michael Shanahan stated: "The potential threat of our troops facing a chemical or biological attack during the current conflict in Iraq remains very real."

Other company contracts have raised questions.

Last week, Defense Department officials disclosed that ESSI contracts issued in 2002 with a cumulative value of $158 million had been referred to the Pentagon inspector general's office for investigation. The contracts were supervised by a former Defense official who was sentenced to prison for improperly aiding another contractor, Boeing Co.

Pentagon Acting Undersecretary Michael Wynne said he had referred the contracts "that appear to have anomalies in them." Wynne and his aides would not elaborate on those anomalies. Other contracts referred for review included pacts with Accenture (formerly called Andersen Consulting), Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

In a briefing with stock analysts Tuesday, Gerald A. Potthoff, ESSI president, played down the significance of the probe, stating that the company contracts were under review simply because they were awarded on a sole-source basis.

He said he was confident it would "have no effect" on the company and that the probe was focused on the actions of government officials, not ESSI.

"We will cooperate fully," he added.

The ESSI contracts now being reviewed by the inspector general came in a series of awards by the U.S. Air Force for a piece of equipment known as a Tunner.

Named after a former Air Force major general, the Tunner is in wide use by the Air Force to swiftly load and unload large military transport aircraft. It can handle 60,000 pounds of cargo at a time.

The Tunner has also proven a valuable workhorse for ESSI, accounting for the bulk of a $35.1-million or 20% boost in its revenues in ESSI's heavy military division in 2002.

Shortly before the disclosure of the investigation, the Air Force announced that it had awarded the ESSI subsidiary another $9-million contract under the Tunner program.

The company describes itself as "a diversified supplier of high-tech, integrated military electronics, support equipment and logistics services for all branches of America's armed forces and certain foreign militaries."

Company officials acknowledge the war is an economic boon to the firm.

In its quarterly earnings report a year ago, then-Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Gerald L. Daniels said: "The increasing likelihood for a prolonged military involvement in Southwest Asia by U.S. forces well into 2006 has created a fertile environment for the type of support products and services that we offer."

Other ESSI products that have seen use in the current conflicts include radar and detection services, field medical stations and field electric generator units.

The company's record growth has come from increased orders coupled with an aggressive buyout strategy. William Bush's company, Bush-O'Donnell, was paid $125,000 to serve as a consultant in ESSI's buyout of a military contractor three years ago.

With about 3,500 employees, some stationed in Iraq, ESSI's North America operations stretch from Nova Scotia to Florida. Most recently the company announced its purchase of Spacelink International LLC, a Virginia military contractor, for $150.5 million.

SEC filings also cite major contracts with the military in Saudi Arabia and China.

While some of ESSI's military contracts have been awarded through a competitive bidding process, others have not. Many of its contracts are "indefinite date-indefinite quantity" contracts, under which the size of the contracts depends on the need of the agency.

The company preference for sole-source contracts was evident early this year, with the $37.6-million purchase of Prospective Computer Analysts Inc., an electronic test equipment and engineering services firm. ESSI officials made special note that the Garden City, N.Y., firm had "a lot of sole-source contracts."

William Bush was named to the board of ESSI in 2000, eight months before his nephew was elected president of the United States.

In an interview Tuesday, the uncle said he decided to cash in the options because they would soon expire.

"The deadline was coming up, and we put in a bid on a house in Florida," William Bush said. He said he declared in advance to the company president his intentions to exercise those options.

Asked whether he was troubled by the fact that the company had earned significant revenue from the military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, the president's uncle said he would "prefer there was no business in Iraq. Unfortunately, we live in a troubled world."

He called ESSI an excellent company, and said exercising the options was "certainly not" to express any dissatisfaction with its performance.

"I'm very proud of it. They've done a wonderful job," William Bush said.

According to SEC filings, the St. Louis business executive still has options on 45,000 more shares of the company stock. He said the options he cashed in were granted when he first joined the company board.

Bush, who also sits on the company's audit committee, is paid a little less than $40,000 a year for his board and committee duties, including an annual stockholders meeting scheduled for next week. He and other board member accrue additional stock options annually.

Bush exercised the expiring options shortly after a series of announcements that the company had won additional orders totaling about $77 million to supply kits to re-armor and refurbish military equipment being used by U.S. forces in Iraq. The company has 35 employees stationed in Iraq to install the protective gear.

The company estimates the refurbishing work in Iraq ultimately could bring revenues of $200 million or more.

News of the armoring and refurbishment contracts boosted ESSI's stock to a record $60.39 per share earlier this year. The stock closed Tuesday at $54.34.

In the conference call with analysts Tuesday, ESSI's Potthoff expressed optimism that the Bush administration's proposed $82-billion supplemental defense budget submitted last week could mean substantial additional opportunities for the company in Iraq and elsewhere.

"Personally, I could not be more happy about our company's prospects," Potthoff told stock analysts.

HL on 02.23.05 @ 04:05 PM PST [link] [1 Comment]

Sunday, February 20th

Author Hunter S. Thompson Kills Himself

music: Home on The Range, Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane
mood: Shocked

Heres a better story which is now running in the L.A. Times.

'Gonzo' Journalist Thompson Kills Self
Counterculture writer who chronicled the Nixon years dies of a gunshot wound at 67.

By David Kelly, Times Staff Writer

DENVER Hunter S. Thompson, the counterculture literary figure who rode with the Hells Angels, famously chronicled the Nixon-McGovern presidential race and coined the term "gonzo journalism," committed suicide Sunday night at his secluded home outside Aspen, Colo., his son said. Thompson was 67.

"Hunter Thompson took his life with a gunshot to the head at his fortified compound in Woody Creek," Juan Thompson said in a statement. "Hunter prized his privacy and we ask his friends and admirers to respect that privacy as well as that of his family."

Pitkin County sheriff's officials confirmed Sunday that Thompson died of a gunshot wound, saying they received a call from his home about 6 p.m.

Friends and neighbors said late Sunday that they were shocked by Thompson's suicide, but knew he had his demons.

"We don't know anything about the circumstances surrounding his death, but he was a volatile person," said Troy Hooper, associate editor of the Aspen Daily News and a longtime friend of the writer. "I was at his house last week and there was nothing in his behavior that was different. He was no more distraught than usual; he was often either up or down."

Hooper said Thompson had been in pain from back surgery and an artificial hip. And he had broken his leg on a recent trip to Hawaii.

"He said he was executing a hairpin turn at the minibar when he broke it," said Hooper, who said he was acting as the family's spokesman. "Hunter was one of the literary giants of the 20th century. We are all just shocked."

Thompson, whose works included "Hell's Angels," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72," which chronicled the race between Richard Nixon and George McGovern, was a well-known firearms aficionado who took frequent target practice in his backyard. In 2000, he slightly wounded an assistant while trying to shoot a bear on his property.

Woody Creek, a small town about eight miles northwest of Aspen, is home to a number of celebrities including the TV actor Don Johnson and John Oates of the singing duo Hall and Oates. Thompson spent much of his time socializing at the Woody Creek Tavern.

"We're letting it rest for tonight," said a woman who answered the phone Sunday at the tavern, where Thompson ate lunch most days.

Buddy Ortega, 62, a real estate broker and ski instructor, met Thompson in the 1960s at a party. The pair socialized over the years, and Ortega supported Thompson's quixotic run for sheriff though he figured it was a longshot when he saw campaign posters with pictures of hallucinogenic peyote buds.

In recent years, Ortega said, the hard-living journalist had become more reclusive, hanging out at the home he called his "compound" and taking advantage of open space to fire his automatic weapons.

But Ortega hadn't seen anything out of the ordinary recently. He said he last saw Thompson two days ago at Woody Creek's post office, and everything seemed fine.

"We all have demons," Ortega said. "Who knows, man? You sit down, have a few cocktails or maybe nothing maybe you have a cup of green tea and maybe nothing seems right. He was a little more complex than most of us, so maybe some of those demons surfaced and he didn't like what he saw."

Hunter Stockton Thompson was born July 18, 1937, in Louisville, Ky. His father, Jack, was an insurance agent.

In 1963, he married Sandra Dawn, the mother of his son Juan.

He served two years in the Air Force in Florida, where he was a newspaper sports editor. He was the Caribbean correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune in 1959, and worked as a South American correspondent for the New York-based National Observer from 1961 to 1963.

But he earned his outsized reputation for his work in Rolling Stone magazine.

Thompson was the flip side of American novelist Tom Wolfe. Both established themselves as brand names in the literary journalism movement that sought to capture the strife and youthful boldness of the 1960s. Thompson was the wild man who embraced the chaos, while Wolfe was often portrayed as the buttoned-down neutral observer.

Thompson called what he did "gonzo journalism," differentiating it from mainstream reporting by aggressively injecting himself into the story and giving up any pretense of objectivity.

Thompson's style of journalism well-armed, well-drugged and wildly iconoclastic made him a counterculture figure of rare longevity.

"I hate to advocate weird chemicals, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone but they've always worked for me," Thompson said.

His irascible and volatile persona seemed to outsize the books and essays he wrote. Twice his life was brought to the screen once by Bill Murray in 1980's "Where the Buffalo Roam," and again in the 1998 Terry Gilliam film "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," in which Johnny Depp took his turn as Thompson. Both actors remained friends with Thompson.

Thompson also triumphed on the comics page ensuring that the most maverick journalist of his generation could get a spot in the mainstream newspapers that would never dare print his profanity-laced essays. The character of "Uncle" Duke in the "Doonesbury" strip has for decades been a thinly disguised and always mercenary caricature of Thompson.

William McKeen, a University of Florida professor who wrote the 1991 critical biography "Hunter S. Thompson," kept in touch with the journalist.

"He had clearly been amid a great renaissance in recent years where the public had rediscovered his value and their interest in him," McKeen said Sunday night. "The news is stunning."

HL on 02.20.05 @ 10:05 PM PST [link] [3 Comments]

Sex, Lies, and Jeff Gannon

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HL on 02.20.05 @ 05:20 PM PST [link] [2 Comments]