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December 23, 2009Quiet Coup -- This is one of the most terrifying things I recall ever reading. While we've been busy doing our Christmas shopping, the Supreme Court made a ruling that has deep implications in the long history of freedom versus tyranny. According to Chris Floyd at Uruknet: "After hearing passionate arguments from the Obama Administration, the Supreme Court acquiesced to the president's fervent request and, in a one-line ruling, let stand a lower court decision that declared torture an ordinary, expected consequence of military detention, while introducing a shocking new precedent for all future courts to follow: anyone who is arbitrarily declared a "suspected enemy combatant" by the president or his designated minions is no longer a "person." They will simply cease to exist as a legal entity. They will have no inherent rights, no human rights, no legal standing whatsoever -- save whatever modicum of process the government arbitrarily deigns to grant them from time to time, with its ever-shifting tribunals and show trials." The sun is at its lowest point.
December 2, 2009Not by a Bang, but a Whimper -- This piece by Chris Hedges on opednews.com is right on and coldly powerful. "Will Tiger Woods finally talk to the police? Who will replace Oprah? (Not that Oprah can ever be replaced, of course.) And will Michaele and Tareq Salahi, the couple who crashed President Barack Obama's first state dinner, command the hundreds of thousands of dollars they want for an exclusive television interview? Can Levi Johnston, father of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's grandson, get his wish to be a contestant on 'Dancing With the Stars'? The chatter that passes for news, the gossip that is peddled by the windbags on the airwaves, the noise that drowns out rational discourse, and the timidity and cowardice of what is left of the newspaper industry reflect our flight into collective insanity."
November 4, 2009Victory for Democracy -- Some very good news from Honduras. It looks like the president is going to be restored to office. As reported by Truthout, "A US-brokered, Agreement for National Reconciliation and the Strengthening of Democracy in Honduras was signed between President Manual Zelaya Rosales and coup regime leader Roberto Micheletti. Among many sectors, the deal is being hailed as a triumph for democracy in Honduras." The situation is still precarious, but at least the democratic majority pushed off the coup. And the US brokered the deal, so that's a good thing.
October 20, 2009Why does Obama want to cover crimes of the Bush administration? Truthout
October 12, 2009
The Bubble from Abroad
By David Cogswell
That's what moving about, this traveling is; it's this inexorable glimpse of existence as it is during those few lucid hours, so exceptional in the span of human time, when you are leaving the customs of the last country behind and the customs of the next one have not yet got their hold on you.
Louis Ferdinand Celine
Travel pushes you toward a pan-cultural reality, a view that is not entirely encapsulated in a single national culture. Because of travel I'm never completely immersed in the American bubble. But it's only by getting out of the bubble that one can really see it. We are like a fish, which has no concept of water because water is the total medium of its life. It has never encountered not-water, so it has no idea of it. The corporate state has gained such ubiquitous control over the media in America and has so effectively co-opted it for its own purposes as a propaganda machine, that many Americans have no idea how powerful the corporate state's influence it is over their own vision of reality.
When you are outside of the bubble, its influence over you begins to loosen its hold and you begin to see the world a little more the way non-Americans see it. After being in Italy for a week, I boarded a plane from Florence to Munich and I picked up the International Herald Tribune, ("The Global Edition of the New York Times") and was smacked in the face with the blatant bias of corporate America in the top left story on the front page. It was headlined "Europe Still Sputtering as Crisis Cools in U.S." by Nelson D. Schwartz and Matthew Saltmarsh. The subhead says "Fears of 'Eurosclerosis' return as hopes for fundamental change fade." The same story appears in the New York Times as "Crisis Leaves Europe in Slow Lane"
Though this is a front page story, it's not a news story. It's a polemic, a harsh slap in the face to Europe for hesitating in its rush to follow America into free market fundamentalism. The free market fundamentalists, by the way, are not really for free markets and competition. They are for corporate controlled markets, corporate controlled governments, corporate controlled everything. They want no government intervention in anything they do. They are the corporatists.
The story poses "fundamental change" as a desirable thing versus "Eurosclerosis" as a deadly disease. But what is this change the authors are referring to? Europe, it says, "finally seemed prepared to tackle longstanding economic challenges like rigid labor markets, runaway government spending and a rapidly aging population." But now, "Leaders who once spoke optimistically of fundamental changes aimed at enhancing productivity have turned to more prosaic tasks of protecting jobs and avoiding painful political choices."
These "fundamental changes" are changes toward free market fundamentalism for the advantages of corporations over people. The authors portray the U.S. as happily "shaking off" the recession while Europe "sputters." But what is this productivity they talk about. Let's look at this language. To the layman, "productivity" sounds good. We work hard, we're efficient, we produce a lot. "Americans are the most productive workers in the world," the senators say. But "productivity" here is a technical term. It's economist's jargon for the amount of income produced for the corporation versus the cost of labor. High productivity means cheap labor. If you work for the company, your salary is seen as a cost, a negative on the balance sheet. This conversation is from the standpoint of the owners, the shareholders.
When used in a lay context, such as in the news, it becomes a kind of code. You can talk about productivity in a way that sounds good, and for the corporation it is. But unless you're a shareholder, more productivity means less money for you. This is the kind of thing that causes people to vote against their own best interests.
The article refers to "job protection" as "prosaic," as in "commonplace or dull; matter-of-fact or unimaginative." To these writers, job protection is an old, outdated value, like human rights, or the Geneva Conventions, which Bush's attorney general Alberto Gonzales called "quaint." Meanwhile, America is portrayed as doing much better, shaking off the recession, and, of course still avoiding any encumbering regulations that might prevent Wall Street speculators from driving the system to the brink of collapse again, and then picking the pocket of the public to bail them out again. No worries in the U.S. about anything so "prosaic" as job protection. Thousands are losing their jobs, their homes, but no matter. We are shaking off the recession, Wall Street is humming and all is well, except for people who have to work for a living. A year after the crash when the American people were told they would have to bail out the big banks and then a new regulatory structure could be put in place to reel in the speculators, the new regulations remain only promises.
For those who have little, it will be taken away. This is free market fundamentalism. This is the change they seek. This is what "old Europe", as Donald Rumsfeld called it, is dragging its feet on. This is the New World Order. Government of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations. And just what does the IHT mean when it refers to "tough political choices" about an "aging population"? What does the corporate state plan to do about all those people?
It's not really that Old Europe is any more old-fashioned than the U.S., it's just that there is only so far down you can push the people before you meet resistance. In the U.S. power is more consolidated, and so is communications, which makes the propaganda system more effective because all the corporate news channels speak with a unified voice. They all speak the language of the corporate New World Order. In Europe there is more diversity based on the fact that there are many nations with their own languages, and their own traditions going back centuries. And governments that still exhibit some concern for their people.
The article says that Europe is being left behind by the US and China, which will in effect become the G2, according to C. Fred Bergsten, director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, leaving Europe behind. Now get this: Bergsten is quoted as saying: "Ideally, it would be the G-3, but Europe doesn't speak with a single voice and they can't coordinate and function the same way the U.S. and China can," Mr. Bergsten said. It says explicitly that while Europe is diverse, the U.S. is like China in that it can speak with one voice.
The free market fundamentalists often speak with praise about China, which is called a communist country but is really an authoritarian capitalist state, the ideal model for the corporatists. As Mussolini said, fascism might be called corporatism because it is the merger of corporate and state power. The corporatists oppose actual free markets and they oppose democracy, because it tends to inhibit their profit making efforts.
Over and over again you will see that the neoconservatives prefer China, an authoritarian state, to Europe, a confederation of democratic states, because it is more in tune with the corporate world order. Corporations have no national allegiances. They are multinational. Their only allegiance is to profit and to the maintenance of a world system which promotes profit, and a democratic system is not the right fit for them. That's why they are tearing down democratic structures and replacing them with authoritarian ones, such as the Patriot Act, indefinite detention without trial and so on.
The article portrays the US and China as leaving Europe in the dust because its countries are concerned with matters such as job protection. From the free market ideological point of view, the function of government is to serve business, the corporations, and that means keeping unions down, labor costs low, and keeping people out of the way of profit. It's easy to recover economically if all you are concerned with is Wall Street and the profitability of corporations. And when they fail, you just take the money from the public to prop them up again. That's so-called free market ideology.
The Times' embrace of this ideology, its blatant trumpeting of these values in a front page article is why I shed no tears when I hear of the Times' declining fortunes. The Times should take responsibility for its own troubles and not just cry that it is the rise of the Internet that has crippled its ability to function. No one had any advantage over the Times in making use of the Internet. It had the brand, the tradition, the reputation, the momentum. It should have led the way in the Internet. It was not the technology that killed the Times it was because it did not do its job.
When the Bush administration was leading the charge toward war with false claims, the Times should have been the first to investigate and question those allegations. Instead they put their reporter Judith Miller on the front lines of leading the cheers for war, using bogus information from Ahmad Chalabi, the crook and conman that the administration was setting up to be their source of false information to justify their attack on Iraq. (See the Times own telling of what went wrong here.)
In comparison with the Judith Miller fiasco, the Jayson Blair scandal was minor, though he got away with inventing all kinds of stories out of nothing, because there were relatively few consequences.
But the lead-up to the war in Iraq was one of the most important moments in recent history, when the country lingered on the edge of war. The public was reluctant, as always to go to war, but had been effectively scared shitless by the Bushies. And instead of exposing the false information for what it was, the Times became a major contributor to the effort by transmitting false information and putting its stamp of approval on it without really verifying it. Now nearly seven years later we are still tangled up in that war, still being drained of blood and money over it, out national morale still undermined.
The only way the Internet hurt the Times is that it put alternative sources of information within the reach of everyman. And since the Times had abdicated its role of reporting, betrayed its readers and put its credibility on the line in favor of those false claims, people turned to other sources that were doing the real reporting. And the Times became an accessory to mass murder. It relegated itself to being a secondary news source.
September 26, 2009Horror Undercover -- In her story "9/11: Moving from Conspiracy Theory to Developing Story", Nancy Kotting writes very lucidly about the incapacity of many people to contemplate facts that lead to the possibility of complicity of highly ranked Americans in 9/11. "In order to conquer evil," she writes, "we must have the courage to fathom it." This is not, unfortunately a new problem. The establishment media in America has still not gotten off its high horse to come down and face the true horror and depravity of the Kennedy assassinations half a century ago. But this crime is even more massive and outrageous than that one. Can the cover endure? If it does, then we can expect the next one to be even greater and more outrageous.
September 23, 2009The Big Heist -- Former NY Times reporter Chris Hedges in "Globalization Goes Bankrupt" writes "The draconian security measures put in place to silence dissent in Pittsburgh are disproportionate to any actual security concern. They are a response not to a real threat, but to the fear gripping the established centers of power. The power elite grasps, even if we do not, the massive fraud and theft being undertaken to save a criminal class on Wall Street and international speculators of the kinds who were executed in other periods of human history. They know the awful cost this plundering of state treasuries will impose on workers, who will become a permanent underclass. And they also know that once this is clear to the rest of us, rebellion will no longer be a foreign concept." truthdig.com
September 17, 2009No Theories Necessary -- "Why Propaganda Trumps Truth" by Paul Craig Roberts in Foreign Policy Journal is one of the more fascinating things I have read lately. The Rovian Republicans are always quick to smear anything that questions or opposes them in any way, but Roberts is not so easy to tar. He was assistant secretary of the treasury under Reagan. And those who write off conservatives as looney might consider his academic record. His alma maters include the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Virginia, the University of California, Berkeley, and Oxford University. He was a senior research fellow at Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University. He served in the congressional staff in the House and Senate before he was appointed by Reagan. Far from being a lunatic he is one of the more lucid minds one is likely to encounter. He's author or co-author of several books, including Marx's Theory of Exchange, Alienation, and Crisis and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy and The Capitalist Revolution in Latin America.
It takes a lot of space to drop a few hints about the weight of this man's word, but it's worth it because he is challenging one of America's biggest, fattest sacred cows, the 9/11 conspiracy theory, the official explanation of the U.S. government. You know, the one in which no one is held accountable, except the mythic, ever-elusive Osama Bin Laden, former CIA asset.
In tackling the question why so many people don't want to even hear the facts about 9/11, Roberts explains that Hitler himself very lucidly explained the theory of the Big Lie in the book he wrote while in jail for his goofy Beer Hall Putsch (before the big industrialists realized he had talent worth investing in). Hitler knew exactly what he was doing and wrote the book on it for others to follow. In Mein Kampf he explained that the masses would much more easily fall for an outrageous lie than a small one. With cool, amoral analysis he explained how one could manipulate the masses merely by having the audacity to lie on a scale that few could ever imagine. Merely having no moral restraint gives you an advantage over more "simple" people who do. Hitler wrote, "In the simplicity of their minds, people more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have such impudence. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and continue to think that there may be some other explanation." All you really need to win, according to this theory, is to be a psychopath with no conscience. It's very simple.
In the midst of the 9/11 catastrophe, virtually everyone was gripped with fear by the spectacular destruction and mass murder. And very quickly at that moment, while still in a state of terror people were given an explanation, which suddenly materialized within hours of an event that was supposedly a complete surprise. Once this narrative emerged, it was deemed to be complete and beyond question. Questioning was considered unpatriotic, even traitorous. "You're either with us, or with the terrorists," Bush said. And, "Let's not tolerate outrageous conspiracy theories." Arie Fleischer said, "Watch what you say." In the raging of the moment the official explanation became welded to the feelings of horror and helplessness. The incident created a fear of such intensity that it dug deep into the psychological wellsprings of most Americans. And there it implanted a belief system.
Like a boxer who rises from the canvas before the count of 10 but is still dazed, Americans were rushed into war before they could gather their wits. By the time the emotions began to clear and a more grounded perspective could be recovered, there was already so much invested in the wars, it was difficult for people to change course psychologically. There is too much invested in it. It would be hard to go back at that point and say: we were wrong. It's certainly more comforting to say, "Let's move on," than to dig into that horror story and maybe find something even more terrigying than what we already know.
That could have something to do with why a baffling number of Americans still believe Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11, even though it has long been acknowledged even by Bush himself that Saddam had no connection to the attacks at all. Among those who know it was not Saddam Hussein who launched the attacks, most still fall back on rest of the original story, and it is still maintained by the government and the establishment media. Now at the eighth anniversary of 9/11, there are marked shifts in the terrain regarding the beliefs about what took place there. The wish to find more definitive answers, to be able to assign guilt and responsibility and see some accountability, to resolve conflicts between the explanation and the facts of the case seems to be reaching a critical mass. As with any murder, the victim's families long for a sense of closure. And beyond them, large numbers of people around the world are not satisfied with the official explanation and want to know more. In a Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll more than a third of Americans said they believed that either elements of the government let it happen, or had a hand in making it happen.
Even though mainstream thought leaders have set up the meme that the "truthers" are the conspiracy theory freaks on the left equivalent to the the "birthers" on the right, (whose cause is to prove that Obama was not born in the U.S.) the group of people who want to see a more thorough and independent investigation of 9/11 is growing in size and it is not comprised only of lunatics. Many high-level people in our society now stand on the side of those who want a new investigation. Wanting a thorough, independent investigation is a serious issue all to itself. It does not require a belief that it was "an inside job" or anything other particular explanation. It just means wanting to find the truth, to separate false stories from real ones. This is the minimum due the families of those who died in the attacks as well as those who have died in the wars or are dying from lung disease from Ground Zero on 9/11.
It's very strange lately to see these questions increasingly surfacing in popular culture, so much so that the mainstream media has to deal with the issue, and try to find another stance toward it than just heaping hostility and ridicule on anyone who questions. This appears to be quite challenging. A writer of the quality of Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone, who writes brilliantly about mainstream politics, is overcome with loathing when he has to address the subject of the 9/11 Truth movement. When it comes to someone questioning the 9/11 official story, no amount of venom that he can summon seems to be enough. The normally poised observer is suddenly almost beside himself with disdain and contempt. It was quite striking when he was recently involved in a written debate about 9/11 with David Ray Griffin, who has written a number of books about the inconsistencies of the official story. He seems furious that he even has to address the subject.
This furiousness is telling. There's been a subtle role reversal as confidence in the official explanation of events has eroded. Now that the desire for a thorough, independent investigation not controlled by the Bush administration is no longer a fringe position, is moving into the mainstream and perhaps on the verge of achieving some sort of critical mass, it is the defenders of the official conspiracy theory who are starting to seem like the hysterical ones in their desperate attempts to stem the tide of disbelief.
The debate between Taibbi and Griffin (see Alternet) is a fascinating example of role reversal between the opposing camps of conspiracy theorists. Taibbi has said that "9/11 conspiracy theorists" are "idiots" because "9/11 conspiracy is so shamefully stupid." Something, however, persuaded him to go up against David Ray Griffin, a theologian, a scholar who has turned his scholarship for the last several years to exposing what is wrong with the 9/11 Commission Report. Taibbi has never seriously looked into it because he considers it stupid and not worth looking at. Right or wrong, he was very poorly equipped to go up against Griffin in a debate. Griffin is verbose, but he comes off as calm, polite, encylcopedically knowledgeable about 9/11 and well-versed in debating its points. Taibbi's name calling was not much of a match for him.
Normally genteel and polite people drop their manners when it comes to 9/11. Ariana Huffington, writing in support of Van Jones, the Obama official who resigned under fire for signing a petition calling for an investigation, wrote that she "detest[s] 9/11 Truthers." She not only disagrees with their calls for an investigation, apparently, she detests them. Not Jones himself, however. He was just "wrong to allow himself to be associated with them."
I don't want to list newsclips here, but every day there are breaks on this story. A petition calling for a referendum on whether or not to have an independent investigation of 9/11 was finally accepted in New York after much resistance from local officials. They had been saying thousands of the signatures are not valid, but the argument was finally overwhelmed by the rising numbers of signatures. Voices from around the world are calling for an investigation. Yesterday a report of two Swiss scientists from the University of Zurich added their names to the list of questioners of what they call "the official Bush version" of the attacks. (MWC News). Professor Ganser said, "Three thousand humans were sacrificed for strategic interests. The more we explore, the more we doubt the Bush version. It is conceivable that the Bush government was responsible. Bush has lied so much already! And we already know that the US government planned an operation in 1962 that was approved by the Pentagon that would have sacrificed innocent US citizens for the government's own interests ... We only ask questions."
Of course 3,000 was only the beginning, there have been thousands of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, which were justified by 9/11, and tens of thousands of casualties, and uncounted numbers of Iraqi and Afghan deaths. Questions indeed.
One does not have to be a "truther" or a "conspiracy theorist" or really to have any theory at all to object to the way the Bush administration tried to squelch an investigation from the beginning. It was only after literally years of very loud objections by family members of victims of 9/11 that the administration finally relented to allow an investigation at all, but only one with very little money, very little time, and a Bush administration ally in control of every item that went into the report. That alone is enough to call for a real investigation. There is no need for theories.
September 14, 2009Taibbi vs Griffin on 9/11 This is very interesting, a dialogue between Matt Taibbi, a writer for Rolling Stone, and David Ray Griffin, an author of several books on the inconsistencies in the offical account of 9/11. Alternet.org
September 10, 2009The text of Obama's Speech on healthcare
July 10, 2009
December 4, 2009Now It Belongs to Him -- Afghanistan really became Obama's war when he served most of his first year without taking any action. But now that he has ordered an escalation, it really is his. He has made a historically grave decision that will bear heavily on the remainder of his presidency and the future of the country. I was disappointed, not at all surprised.
Leading with the big story about 9/11, how 19 Arab terrorists... blah blah blah was not a good start. It set my teeth on edge immediately. That incident, the infamous 9/11, has been so badly abused. The people have been so badly abused on account of that horrific experience that goes by only numbers -- Clang! Clang! Clang! The mythical monolithic unstoppable force has arrived!: -- Nine One One: The Tale of the 19 Terrorists. When I hear those echoes of the Bush administration I immediately recoil. I want to listen with an open mind. After all, there are nukes in Pakistan and that is serious business. But when he starts with all that bullshit about 9/11 I feel supremely not with it, and not open minded.
Obama is not an ignoramus like Bush, who it seemed had no clue about the legal or logical implications of anything his administration did. But Obama is a constitutional scholar, a very intelligent man. So he understands in principle that the government should not be allowed to use 9/11 as a pretext for war if it is not willing to submit a coherent explanation for what actually took place that day. In order to do that, it would have to initiate a real, independent and thorough investigation that really does answer the essential questions and assign accountability through a legally sound process.
So putting aside whether that little vendetta has been satisfied against the assumed terrorists, what really is the purpose of this war in Afghanistan? What is the reason for this military conflict that has been going on eight years with no apparent change, from the point of view of the American people, except that the country is going broke from buying $400 gallons of gas in the corruption bonanza in the Middle East?
So skip the 9/11 crap and let's talk frankly about why we are conducting a war on the other side of the world. Is it for oil and the fact that our country could be held for ransom by anyone who controls that region? Is it because Pakistan has a nuclear weapon (which is almost like saying no one or any one has a nuclear weapon, it's just floating around in the Middle East like a basketball above the heads of a crowd of players grabbing for it.) These stories may not be as thrilling as the 9/11 myth, but at least with them I have some idea what we are talking about. Then I could see that there might be some security issue that is really worthy of drastic action, and that it's not just a massive concentration of capitalistic corruption and organized crime.
But when you preach those old lines that are so devoid of meaning after eight years of warfare, then I can't put a lot of credence into what you say. To me it's a case that wasn't made. But I have to admit I drifted off after a while.
November 5, 2009Bloomberg Buys New York -- It's amazing that Bloomberg, the incumbent billionaire who spent about $100 million to get elected, many times more than his unknown, unspectacular opponent, barely squeaked by with a victory. It's reassuring that it was not possible for that overkill spending to get him more of a victory than that. Bloomberg has been a breath of fresh air after the ersatz storm trooper Giuliani. But changing the law to give him a third term is creepy. Giuliani wanted to do it and was stopped. And there will be other Giulianis in the future who could be dangerous if allowed to take a third term. It's also disturbing that someone can be allowed to outspend a political rival by so much. Bloomberg spent more than any political candidate in history (LA Times), perhaps 16 times what his opponent spent (Huffington Post). He had the power of the incumbency, brand recognition, control over the government, and he still only chalked up a 5 percent margin. Given that he spent tens of millions more than his opponent and only won 557,059 votes to his opponent's 478,521 (Observer), is it possible to say that he did not buy the election, that his outspending his rival by many times was not what gave him that small edge?
October 27, 2009The Times Calls Cover-Up -- This actually surprises me a little. The New York Times published an editorial that says, "The Obama administration has clung for so long to the Bush administration's expansive claims of national security and executive power that it is in danger of turning President George W. Bush's cover-up of abuses committed in the name of fighting terrorism into President Barack Obama's cover-up. We have had recent reminders of this dismaying retreat from Mr. Obama's passionate campaign promises to make a break with Mr. Bush's abuses of power, a shift that denies justice to the victims of wayward government policies and shields officials from accountability."
October 16, 2009Mass Murder for Money -- I have sometimes wondered how these official kinds of things cost so much money. I wondered about Ken Starr spending $50 million to investigate Bill Clinton. Really, what the hell do you spend that kind of money on? A report at rawstory.com sheds a spot of light on that question that might well illuminate the whole thing. According to the article, the Pentagon has reported that it pays $400 a gallon for gasoline in Afghanistan. No need to ask why the US government can't get a good price on gasoline in the Middle East. Four hundred dollars for every single gallon they put in one of those dusty trucks to drive around doing nothing worth doing, nothing but creating a pretense for siphoning off millions of taxpayer dollars into the hands of corrupt contractors. I don't care what Bush said or what Obama said, anyone looking at $400 gallons of gas has to admit that those wars are nothing but massive free for alls for organized crime. Call it what you will, call the criminals statesmen, it does not change the reality. War in the modern world, the multi-year wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are just the most extreme and wretched branch of the giant spoils system that is corporatist government in America today.
October 5, 2009Tweeters Will Be Prosecuted -- This is extremely creepy. There was quite a commotion when protestors were suppressed in Iran after the election. In the U.S. not only are demonstrations are not allowed apparently, but tweeting about where the cops are is also deemed criminal. According to WCBS TV, "A self-described New York City anarchist has been accused of tweeting the location of police officers to protesters trying to evade them during the Group of 20 economic summit in Pittsburgh, Pa. Pennsylvania State Police arrested Elliot Madison alleging he used Twitter to direct the movement of protesters and inform them about law enforcement actions at last month's summit. The New York Post reported the arrest in Saturday editions. Court papers filed by Madison's attorney say FBI agents executed a search warrant at the 41-year-old's Queens home on Thursday. They seized computers, political writings and anarchist literature. Madison faces charges including hindering prosecution."
September 25, 2009A Fine Mess -- "When 9/11 Commission Chief Counsel, John Farmer, released his book, The Ground Truth, debunking his own 9/11 commission report and was supported by Chairman Thomas Kean and commission member Senator Bob Kerrey with no dissent, the cover story of 9/11 died," says Salem-News. Now what? Where to from here? As Salem-News puts it with maddening succintness: "We no longer have an official answer to questions about 9/11." More background in a previous story by the same writer4, Gordon Duff: "comments The 9/11 Commission Rejects own Report as Based on Government Lies". Is it true that knowledge is power? Or is power sometimes so strong that it can destroy all knowledge?
September 20, 2009No Progress -- No regulation of Wall Street one year after the collapse. No meaningful healthcare reform because, says the Guardian's Mark Weisbrot, "The Rich Still Run the US."
September 15, 2009Staring Death in the Face -- There's a an article on bradblog.com about retired 27-year-veteran CIA Ray McGovern saying that Obama may fear the CIA. Of course to anyone fully immersed in the American mainstream media consciousness, such statements draw a blank because they refer to a world utterly at odds with what they imagine to be the real America. To me it seems like a reasonable statement, not a particularly radical view. In fact, in a relative sense it would be hard to refute it. Any politician must respect the power of the military and of course a spy agency well practiced at committing murder and keeping it a secret. In Khrushchev's memoirs he said that Robert Kennedy discussed the need to appease the military to avoid the possibility of a military coup. The military is the strong arm. There is always a chance of it getting out of control. Yes children, even in America.
On the Mike Malloy radio show, which Brad of Bradblog was hosting, McGovern mentioned a new book by James W. Douglass called JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters. It delves into the history of the Kennedy assassination and the well-known connections between the crime and the agency. Kennedy got pissed at Dulles over his misrepresentation of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and fired him, saying he would tear up the CIA and throw the pieces to the wind. But not until after the next election, scheduled to take place a year after he was killed. When Kennedy was dead and Johnson was president, he appointed a commission to carry on an inquiry into the death (as opposed to a criminal investigation), and Allen Dulles turned up on the commission. Any president since that time has got to have the image of Kennedy getting his head blown off on a Dallas street clearly embedded in his mind. This is only reality. If you push against power, you get pushed back. Obama is no fool, he's read history. He knows about Lincoln, Martin Luther King and so many other political figures who have been killed. He's a brave man to even place himself in the position he is in. He is also a pragmatist. He does want to establish a legacy and I don't think he wants to be murdered just yet.
So when people complain that he is not upsetting the apple cart of the military and the CIA and not really standing up strong to corporate America, one must consider that aspect of the situation. He is a pretty middle-of-the-road guy anyway. He wants to play the game of being president within the rules as it is now being played. Maybe, maybe if he is very successful within those margins narrowly proscribed by the reigning power structure, he may be able to effect some meaningful change, maybe not. But it makes sense to keep in mind what he is up against.
That is not to say that I advocate just sitting and swallowing it all. Not at all. To me, the most remarkable thing about Obama, though he is an extraordinary individual, is still the movement of the people that put him where he is, in spite of all the election-neutralizing muscle of the Right Wing. The power of the people to overthrow the established clique and put in someone who was slightly outside of the old guard was the most impressive thing about 2008, more impressive than Obama himself. Because he responded to the urgent calls of the people for change, he rode a wave to power.
That grassroots movement is still the force I have most faith in in terms of effecting meaningful change in America. That is the force that can and must move and change corporate America, to dethrone the corporate power structure of the country and revive democracy.
Even though I think there is some basis to the arguments that Obama is a tool of the corporate elite -- who isn't to some degree? -- it does not make me despise him or think he lacks all integrity. If he really tried to carry out a much more radical agenda, he probably would not last very long. In a sense that is all beside the point. It is up to the majority of the people who want a government that serves people not corporations to push this country in a good direction. We can do this.
September 11, 2009Calm Down -- Asked "Would you sign the 9/11 petition (that sunk Van Jones' political career) again, Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law and practice at Princeton University, said, "I would re-sign the 9/11 statement calling for investigation and clarification with respect to the series of questions that have never been satisfactorily answered. To call for an investigation along these lines does not make one 'a 9/11 truther' or an endorser of a conspiracy theory. The deliberate blurring of the boundary between questioning the persuasiveness of the official version of 9/11 and the endorsement of an alternative theory of the events that implicates high officials in the Bush presidency seems designed to prevent further inquiry. Citizens in a democratic society deserve to know the truth, and to seek the truth in matters of such fundamental national importance should be treated as an expression of patriotic duty rather than the reverse." Salon.
September 5, 2009The Fuss Over Filesharing -- Though the Recording Industry Association of America finally stopped suing people for sharing music files last October, there is still quite a bit of hysteria over it (Georgetown Independent) and it seems the record companies are still fighting a battle framed in thinking from the last century. They are still so shook up that their projections of massive growth of profits did not pan out. CDs were so cheap to make, they figured they could keep the price high, pocket the extra profits and everything else would just roll along as before, with them making ever increasing amounts of money. Then came MP3s, the technology and the world continued to evolve (what a surprise!) and consumers found their own ways to enjoy music, veering out of the paths created for them by corporate America. The big music industry monoliths have never recovered from this and keep trying to push evolution back to the mid '80s or so. Meanwhile life outside goes on all around them. Corporate bean counters never seem to be able to put themselves outside of their equations to see that life goes its own way and music has its own life, which the corporate world cannot control. Still, all this hysteria is focused on file sharing.
A Harvard Business School study in 2004 showed that file sharing did as much to promote music sales as it did to reduce them. (See also Harvard University Gazette, Washington Post or CNET News.) But the big recording corporations can't shake the feeling that someone is taking something from them and the fuss continues, big corporations flailing futilely against the evolution of technology and culture, but with no effect on the final outcome. (see current news stories on file sharing)
People downloading MP3 files to play a song for themselves is of course a different thing than a crime syndicate making copies of pirated music in order to sell them. The record industry lawsuits seemed to focus on ordinary people sharing files. In the case of downloading for personal use the principle of diminishing returns applies. It is virtually impossible to listen to thousands of files. It takes a few minutes to listen to each one once. So some guy downloads a large number of files and they sit on his hard drive. What is it?
Back in the '70s and '80s people could and did make cassette recordings of any recording on vinyl, cassette or CD they could get their hands on or anything that played over the airwaves. The copies were not as perfect as the copies made with digital recordings. But the standard of high fidelity reproduction at the time was much higher, so the quality of the reproduced sound was often much better than what people listen to with MP3s or CDs today. The fact is, as avant garde composer John Cage pointed out half a century ago, the emphasis has shifted from ownership to use. Who cares about owning anything? All I care about is what I can listen to right now. I have access to more music right now at this moment than I could listen to in years of sitting. I have hundreds of LPs and a turntable, hundreds of cassettes, hundreds of CDs, hundreds of MP3s. I can turn on the radio and in the New York metropolitan area choose from many stations. I can put on Internet radio and tune into an infinite range of music. My cable TV network has Music Choice with maybe another hundred channels of music w/o commercials in a great variety of genres.
When people download a file, they probably want to listen to it at that moment. They may not listen to it again for a long time, or maybe never. If their hard drive or their iPod crash, it is gone. Their "ownership" is moot. Listening to music is not about owning it. It's more like popping a nickel into a juke box and listening to something right now. The music on my iPod Nano would take a week to listen to straight through. I put it on shuffle and listen to a few minutes of it when I have time. It may take a very long time for a particular song to come up. And there are so many other sources of music available to me at any given time.
And yet, people will still buy a CD when it is presented to them in an appealing package, with interesting notes, photos. When you walk up to a Starbucks counter and spend $4 on a cup of coffee, why not pop for a few more bucks and buy the new Creedence CD. You can load it on your iPod, or pop it in a player, or lose it along with the disposable coffee cup and not care. It was an impulse purchase. It satisfied a momentary need and that's the end of it.
It's hard to say how well anyone fully comprehends the world of digital technology that we are now hurtling through. The potentials of the new technologies are far beyond what we now realize. It reminds me of the moment when Edison wired New York City for electricity in order to put up electric lights. He wasn't thinking of electric razors and can openers or phonographs or laptops, and yet those potentials were all there. Marshall McLuhan created conceptual tools for understanding how the media we create in turn transform us profoundly, but it only hints at where it is all going. Meanwhile, the corporate world continues to flail around in its attempts to hold everything together in a constellation that passed 30 years ago. They look so pathetic doing so.
For more on the battle over file sharing, see this article on Putumayo from 2006: "Breathing Life Back into the Record Industry"
In the 21st Century, being naive to the workings of corporate media can get you killed.
Chomsky For Beginners written by David Cogswell, illustrated by Paul Gordon, published by For Beginners LLC, is a documentary comicbook about Noam Chomsky the man, the linguist and the political voice, but more than anything, it is a guide to media propaganda, how the corporate-owned mass media are designed not to inform you but to manipulate you for the benefit of the owners.
Interviews with Noam Chomsky
See also Existentialism For Beginners.
Post Script, Fortunate Son: The Making of an American President by J.H. Hatfield, second paperback edition, published by Soft Skull Press, 2001 For more on the late J.H. Hatfield, who wrote the controversial Bush biography Fortunate Son: The Making of an American President, see below The following piece was written for the French and Spanish translations of J.H. Hatfield's Fortunate Son: The Making of an American President, published by Editions Timeli in Geneva, Switzerland. (See www.timeli.ch.) More Book Credits:
See also Existentialism For Beginners.
Post Script, Fortunate Son: The Making of an American President by J.H. Hatfield, second paperback edition, published by Soft Skull Press, 2001
For more on the late J.H. Hatfield, who wrote the controversial Bush biography Fortunate Son: The Making of an American President, see below
The following piece was written for the French and Spanish translations of J.H. Hatfield's Fortunate Son: The Making of an American President, published by Editions Timeli in Geneva, Switzerland. (See www.timeli.ch.)
More Book Credits:
See review at Playstation.
Now available at Amazon.com
December 4, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009Afghanistan Plans on Pause -- Hats off to Obama for rejecting the military's plans for Afghanistan. Some will say it's just a show, or that it's ineffectual. We shall see. On Rachel Maddow last night she discussed with someone the parallel's between this and JFK. How JFK went ahead and sent ground troops to Vietnam at the urging of military leaders, then decided the policy was not working and issued orders to start withdrawing them. He had been burned by the CIA in the Bay of Pigs fiasco and left holding the bag for a mess. He started to take charge and exercise his legitimate authority over the military, which Eisenhower had warned in his farewell address was inclined to get out of control. The guests on Rachel Maddow's show drew this parallel and said that President Johnson had gone ahead with the military's plans for Vietnam and the result was a disaster. What remained unspoken was the fact that JFK got his head blown off a few months after issuing the order to start withdrawing troops. Given the underlying tension between the Pentagon and Obama, as reported by Seymour Hersch, one should not underestimate the seriousness of the military and its determination to not let elected officials stand in the way of its plans. There are very ominous overtones to these developments.
October 25, 2009Target Obama -- Seymour Hersch said in a speech that the military is "in a war against the White House -- and they feel they have Obama boxed in. ... They think he's weak and the wrong color. Yes, there's racism in the Pentagon. We may not like to think that, but it's true and we all know it." See Huffington Post. And if he does not comply with their wishes, heaven help him. The top brass leaked information that the commanding officer in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, says the war would be lost without an additional 40,000 American troops, putting Obama in a no-win situation, according to Hersh. "If he gives them the extra troops they're asking for, he loses politically," Hersh said. "And if he doesn't give them the troops, he also loses politically."
October 21, 2009Vituperative George -- At the event where George Bush Senior and Obama had a public love-up, George Senior let his guard down and let slip the true rancor of his personality, unveiling the depth of his contempt toward everything he perceives as his enemy. Someone asked about what he thought of the talk radio and cable news scene, and the bad examples he referred to were Rachel Maddow and Keith Olberman. "There's a couple of sick puppies!" he growled. See the video at huffingtonpost.com. Only 20 percent identify themselves as Republicans.
October 14, 2009Why Are We in Afghanistan? Obama's national security adviser, former Marine General James Jones, sized up the threat of Al Qaida in Afghanistan like this: "The al-Qaida presence is very diminished. The maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country, no bases, no ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies." Why, then, are we fighting a war there? What was the reason again? See Robert Scheer at Truthout, "A War of Absurdity".
October 4, 2009The Big Lie -- In case you are still in doubt about it, the war on terror is a fraud.
September 24, 2009India's Moon Mission -- India's lunar mission discovered water on the moon, a very major discovery and fundamental to whether or not human beings could spend any time there. Why didn't NASA, in all its dramatic trips to the moon, ever report any such thing? It seems like one of the first questions a scientific mission would attempt to ascertain. timesonline.
September 18, 2009Returning Personhood to People -- The new justice, Sonia Sotomayor, has challenged the foundation of modern corporate law. Corporate personhood was created by the courts, not by legislation, and Sotomayor suggests that may have been an error. Wow! Nice first round! (Wall Street Journal) This is especially interesting in light of an article by Thom Hartmann in which he says that discovered a flaw in the legal foundation of corporate personhood, which circumvents the arguments over its theoretical or moral legitimacy. (see Richard Behan) Corporate personhood was supposed to have been established by Santa Clara County v. the Southern Pacific Railroad. But Hartmann says it is not stated anywhere in the law itself, but only in the "headnote", the summary at the beginning of the law. The headnote has no legal power. So it may be not even be technically legitimate. The statement was "The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment . . . which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Thenceforth the Fourteenth Amendment was said to apply to corporations. Then political donations became protected as "free speech" and the corporations had effected a coup, undermining democracy and taking power over the country. The takeover has progressed. These nonhuman "persons" now control the media, and therefore the public mind. They control our healthcare system and thereby exercise power over life and death. Corporations took personhood for themselves and took away human rights from human beings. Time to reverse the swing of that pendulum.
September 14, 2009Five Billion a Month on War -- That's where the money goes. Stopping it would be where the money comes from. oregonlive.com
September 1, 2009Strange to find myself in agreement with George Will, but in this case I am: "Time to Get Out of Afghanistan" Washington Post. Enough already. Let's bring our people and our money back home and take care of our own country.
Pacifica Radio provides coverage of the ongoing wars and the anti-war movement from the people's point of view instead of the corporate media spin. You can get it on WBAI 99.5 FM in the New York area, or online at wbai.org. See pacifica.org for information about other Pacifica stations, KPKT, KPFA, KPFK and WPFW. Also check Democracy Now, the best news program around.. Make Noise! Be an Active Citizen! (c)Copyright Any copyrighted material is posted under the Fair Use Act: Click here for a "Portrait of the Author and Friend." I'm sure you can tell which is which.
Pacifica Radio provides coverage of the ongoing wars and the anti-war movement from the people's point of view instead of the corporate media spin. You can get it on WBAI 99.5 FM in the New York area, or online at wbai.org. See pacifica.org for information about other Pacifica stations, KPKT, KPFA, KPFK and WPFW. Also check Democracy Now, the best news program around..
Make Noise! Be an Active Citizen!
(c)Copyright Any copyrighted material is posted under the Fair Use Act:
Any copyrighted material is posted under the Fair Use Act:
Click here for a "Portrait of the Author and Friend." I'm sure you can tell which is which.