The frequency of posting I’ve maintained will continue into 2015, but it does come at a cost. I haven’t written a poem in forever, and the cycle of songs I was working on dried up.
But today, two days before Christmas, I am happy to share a poem that came to me this morning, triggered by reading this article at Counterpunch about Cuba.
So here it is!
COSBY GOES TO CUBA
he looked into the pudding pop
saw royalties, saw clout
to soften up her homeland
the foreplay of his snout
can breathe, and did, and will
as we inhaled him in
when Dr. Huxtable broke out
from the blackness of his skin
in Cuba now the Spanish Fly
is pouring down her throat
the embassy is coming
and capital will gloat
now Bill can be dismantled
and piece by piece removed
his usefulness is over
an embargo past its due
a new day here is dawning
old flames eventually burn out
to soften up her homeland
drip drops of drugging doubt
so cars will come to Cuba
and the revolution is dead
and Bill Cosby’s America
lies unconscious on the bed
I do my best around family to abstain from overt political diatribes (with limited success), but when my dad mocked North Korea’s request for a joint investigation into the Sony hack at dinner last night, I decided he needed a little more information about what the Sony hack has actually exposed.
For most people, when the laughing subsides, this issue is thought of as a free speech issue. Conservative blogger Douglas Ernst, for example, casts this as a make-it-or-break-it moment for free speech in America:
The Founding Fathers knew that the right to free speech was important, which is why it is covered in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as part of the Bill of Rights. Today, Dec. 17, 2014, is the day that U.S. capitulation clowns at Sony gave a dictator veto power over the free speech rights of its American artists and sent a message to thug regimes that if they have enough tech savvy, then they can make studio executives cower in fear.
The fallacious assumption here is that “The Interview” is a product of American artistry. It’s not. The reality is this movie is actually a piece of propaganda that involved the State Department and the Rand Corporation. From the link:
The Daily Beast reported yesterday on leaked emails from the Sony hack which show that the United States government was involved at high levels with the content development of The Interview, especially its controversial ending depicting the assassination of North Korean ruler Kim Jong-Un. As the report’s headline states, “Sony Emails Say State Department Blessed Kim Jong-Un Assassination in ‘The Interview.’” The emails also reveal that a RAND corporation senior defense analyst who consulted on the film went beyond “blessing” and outright influenced the end of the film, encouraging the CEO of Sony Entertainment to leave the assassination scene as it was (in spite of misgivings at Sony) for the sake of encouraging North Koreans to actually assassinate Kim Jong-Un and depose his regime when the movie eventually leaks into that country. According to the Sony CEO, a senior US State Department official emphatically and personally seconded that advice and reasoning in a separate correspondence. The emails also reveal that the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human-rights issues also consulted with Sony on the film.
While a tiny nation state possibly being involved in scuppering a movie premiere by hacking and threatening a Hollywood studio by proxy may be more novel and sensational than yet another psyop by the US Regime Change Machine, the latter is far more important. The United States, as part of its “Asian Pivot,” made an explicit push for assassination and regime change in yet another foreign country under the cover of art and commerce, and the North Korean regime and its ally China are both now 100% aware of it. That has huge implications for politics in the region, for US relations with those countries, for the character and integrity of American art and media, and for the mischievous, generally havoc-wreaking way our government is secretly using our tax dollars.
The reality of how this “film” was produced undermines the free speech argument conservatives like Ernst are peddling. We aren’t talking about art, here, we are talking about propaganda with real world impacts. Here’s more from the conservative nitwit who thinks he knows what he’s talking about:
Anyone who cares about free speech should be downright terrified that companies operating in the U.S. would run for the hills the moment a nebulous hacking group threatens Americans with violence. The fact that it was even under consideration to torpedo the film is an indicator that America’s cultural rotgut has grown to gargantuan proportions. We have been hollowed out from the inside, and Sony’s reaction to being hacked by the “Guardians of Peace” has exposed that sad reality for everyone to see.
No, what has been exposed here is a pathetic scheme by state and corporate actors to use a film as a sort of Trojan horse to propagate regime change in North Korea.
The free speech red herring was examined on Democracy Now yesterday. Here’s a bit from the transcript of the segment featuring Christine Hong’s perspective:
With regard to this film, one thing that I’d say is that the lines between truth and fiction are extraordinarily thin. I mean, the plot of this film, which very few people have seen, was actually screened in rough-cut form at the State Department. And the content of this film is supposedly—you know, it’s about the CIA using Hollywood entertainment and a talk-show host sort of vehicle as a kind of cover to assassinate the leader of North Korea. What’s interesting about this film is, on the one hand, it’s framed in the United States, in U.S. media, as a kind of free speech issue, but this is really a red herring. You know, what’s interesting to me about this is the fact that if you actually look at what the Sony executives did, they consulted very closely with the State Department, which actually gave the executives a green light with regard to the death scene. And they also consulted with a RAND North Korea watcher, a man named Bruce Bennett, who basically has espoused in thesis that the way to bring down the North Korean government is to assassinate the leadership. And he actually stated, in consulting with Sony about this film, that this film, in terms of the South Korean market, as well as its infiltration by defector balloon-dropping organizations into North Korea, could possibly get the wheels of a kind of regime change plot into motion. So, in this instance, fiction and reality have a sort of mirroring relationship to each other.
This isn’t a free speech issue. This is another example of America weaponizing whatever it can to move forward its agenda of global dominance.
The execution of two NYPD officers—an unjustifiable act that I do not condone—is being obscenely exploited to attack Mayor De Blasio and discredit the millions of people who have (and will continue) peacefully protesting police brutality. Two days ago when this cop slaying was unfolding, I put up this post about the response of Pat Lynch and the police union he heads, declaring the NYPD a ‘wartime’ police department. Wasting no time taking advantage to escalate tensions, Lynch confirmed that cops turned their backs on the Mayor as he approached the press conference.
But will the NYPD take any responsibility for escalating tensions? In pro-cop rallies, supporters AND officers were seen wearing I CAN BREATHE t-shirts. Cops are apparently also peddling other merchandise, mocking the last moments of Eric Garner. Disgusting. I understand why Jayceon Taylor, aka The Game, would tweet what he did. From the link:
When NYPD cops and their supporters are so callous and heartless as to wear shirts with the saying, “I can breathe” emblazoned upon them to a pro-police rally, while other cops go so far as to sell “breathe easy don’t break the law” t-shirts that mock the death of Eric Garner, as we reported on earlier this week, should anyone be surprised that The Game or the public at large are extremely disgusted by these actions and let it be known?
The message cops are sending, by wearing/selling those shirts, is one that they are above the law, and that their lives are in some way more valuable than the lives of the people they kill.
People who blame the protesters and the Mayor of NYC for incitement should also take a look at the disgusting editing trick of a Baltimore Fox affiliate. The trick was to cut away from a chant before it was complete. Go to the link for the video evidence. To see, in words, the change, the edited clip turned this:
We can’t stop!
We won’t stop!
’til killer cops are in cell blocks!
We can’t stop!
We won’t stop!
So kill a cop!
Tensions are so high right now that another incident on either side of the growing divide could blow the lid off. Too bad the NYPD is escalating those tensions, because they are the ones with the lethal authority to kill with impunity.
The winter solstice this year coincides with a new moon, making the longest night of the year also one of the darkest. Seems like a good time to take a trip down memory lane to the weeks after 9/11, specifically the Anthrax attacks that occurred in the aftermath of 3 buildings being totally demolished from 2 airplane strikes. Here’s wikipedia with some surface-level context:
The 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States, also known as Amerithrax from its Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) case name, occurred over the course of several weeks beginning on Tuesday, September 18, 2001, one week after the September 11 attacks. Letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to several news media offices and two Democratic U.S. Senators, killing five people and infecting 17 others. According to the FBI, the ensuing investigation became “one of the largest and most complex in the history of law enforcement”.
A major focus in the early years of the investigation was a bio-weapons expert named Steven Hatfill, who was eventually exonerated. Another suspect, Bruce Edwards Ivins, became a focus of investigation around April 4, 2005. Ivins was a scientist who worked at the government’s biodefense labs at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland. On April 11, 2007, Ivins was put under periodic surveillance and an FBI document stated that “Bruce Edwards Ivins is an extremely sensitive suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks.” On July 29, 2008, Ivins died from an overdose of acetaminophen.
On August 6, 2008, despite having no direct evidence of his involvement, federal prosecutors declared Ivins to be the sole culprit of the crime. Two days later, Senator Charles Grassley and Rep. Rush Holt called for hearings into the DOJ and FBI’s handling of the investigation. On February 19, 2010, the FBI formally closed its investigation.
A review of the scientific methods used in the investigation at the National Academy of Sciences, published in February 2011, cast doubt on the U.S. government’s conclusion that Ivins was the perpetrator. The review report said that, although the type of anthrax used in the letters was correctly identified as the Ames strain of the bacterium, there was insufficient scientific evidence for the FBI’s assertion that it originated from Ivins’ laboratory.
A few days ago ABC reported on another report that came to a similar conclusion that the FBI’s Anthrax investigation was flawed. This is the same FBI now claiming North Korea was responsible for the Sony hack. From the link:
The FBI used flawed scientific methods to investigate the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people and sickened 17 others, federal auditors said Friday in a report sure to fuel skepticism over the FBI’s conclusion that Army biodefense researcher Bruce Ivins was the sole perpetrator.
The 77-page report from the Government Accountability Office says the FBI’s research, including novel microbial forensic tests, did not provide a full understanding of how bacteria change in their natural environment and in a laboratory. This failure to grasp the reason for genetic mutations that were used to differentiate between samples of anthrax bacteria was a “key scientific gap” in the investigation, the report says.
The GAO also found a lack of rigorous controls over sampling procedures and a failure to cite the degree of uncertainty in measurement tools used to identify genetic markers.
“Although the complexity and novelty of the scientific methods at the time of the FBI’s investigation made it challenging for the FBI to adequately address all these problems, the agency could have improved its approach,” the report said.
The GAO didn’t take a position whether Ivins, who worked at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, made and mailed the anthrax-filled envelopes.
For Americans who can’t fathom domestic involvement in the attacks that radically altered the trajectory of our country, the Anthrax attacks offer a fascinating window into the final push to get the Patriot Act passed and to ensure the media understood the consequences of not falling into line.
7 years ago a Bush insider, Francis Boyle, weighed in on the Anthrax attacks. Here is a bit from his wikipedia resume:
Francis Anthony Boyle (born 1950) is a professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Boyle received a A.B. (1971) in Political Science from the University of Chicago, then a J.D. degree magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, and A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in Political Science from Harvard University. He also practiced tax and international tax with Bingham, Dana & Gould.
And here is a lengthy excerpt from an article by Steve Watson for more context:
Is it possible that the anthrax attacks were launched from within our own government? A former Bush 1 advisor thinks it is.
Francis A. Boyle, an international law expert who worked under the first Bush Administration as a bioweapons advisor in the 1980s, has said that he is convinced the October 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people were perpetrated and covered up by criminal elements of the U.S. government. The motive: to foment a police state by killing off and intimidating opposition to post-9/11 legislation such as the USA PATRIOT Act and the later Military Commissions Act…
And that is exactly what has happened. Here’s more:
“Senators Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) were holding it up because they realized what this would lead to. The first draft of the PATRIOT Act would have suspended the writ of habeas corpus [which protects citizens from unlawful imprisonment and guarantees due process of law]. Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, come these anthrax attacks.”
“At the time I myself did not know precisely what was going on, either with respect to September 11 or the anthrax attacks, but then the New York Times revealed the technology behind the letter to Senator Daschle. [The anthrax used was] a trillion spores per gram, [refined with] special electro-static treatment. This is superweapons-grade anthrax that even the United States government, in its openly proclaimed programs, had never developed before. So it was obvious to me that this was from a U.S. government lab. There is nowhere else you could have gotten that.”
Boyle’s assessment was based on his years of expertise regarding America’s bioweapons programs. He was responsible for drafting the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989 that was passed unanimously by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush.
After realizing that the anthrax attacks looked like a domestic job, Boyle called a high-level official in the FBI who deals with terrorism and counterterrorism, Marion “Spike” Bowman. Boyle and Bowman had met at a terrorism conference at the University of Michigan Law School. Boyle told Bowman that the only people who would have the capability to carry out the attacks were individuals working on U.S. government anthrax programs with access to a high-level biosafety lab. Boyle gave Bowman a full list of names of scientists, contractors and labs conducting anthrax work for the U.S. government and military.
Bowman then informed Boyle that the FBI was working with Fort Detrick on the matter. Boyle expressed his view that Fort Detrick could be the main problem. As widely reported in 2002 publications, notably the New Scientist, the anthrax strain used in the attacks was officially assessed as “military grade.”
“Soon after I informed Bowman of this information, the FBI authorized the destruction of the Ames cultural anthrax database,” the professor said. The Ames strain turned out to be the same strain as the spores used in the attacks.
The alleged destruction of the anthrax culture collection at Ames, Iowa, from which the Fort Detrick lab got its pathogens, was blatant destruction of evidence. It meant that there was no way of finding out which strain was sent to whom to develop the larger breed of anthrax used in the attacks. The trail of genetic evidence would have led directly back to a secret government biowarfare program.
This FBI agent, “Spike” Bowman, is an important name for those who aren’t satisfied with the government account of what transpired on 9/11. Why? Because he’s the guy who kept the laptop computer of Zacarias Moussaoui from being examined. From the link:
Mike Maltbie and Rita Flack of the Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) forward a request for a warrant to search Zacarias Moussaoui’s belongings (see August 21, 2001) to National Security Law Unit chief Spike Bowman. The request was submitted by the Minneapolis field office (see August 22-28, 2001), which has been trying to obtain a warrant for some time. Earlier in the day, Maltbie edited the request, removing information connecting Moussaoui to al-Qaeda through a rebel group in Chechnya (see August 28, 2001). RFU chief Dave Frasca was to attend the meeting, but is called away at the last minute. According to Bowman, who is already very familiar with the facts in this case, Maltbie is adamant that there is not enough evidence to issue the warrant. Bowman agrees, saying that the evidence fails to implicate Moussaoui as an agent of a foreign power. The FBI thus abandons the effort to obtain a FISA warrant and begins planning his deportation (see (August 30-September 10, 2001)). [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 164-6, 168 pdf file; US Department of Justice, 3/1/2006 pdf file]
I sympathize with those who don’t want to look too closely into this stuff. I actually appreciate these two comments from Turner in a previous post about Fascism:
Count me among the many who can’t process the thought that elites were behind 9/11.
Actually, I’m not much of a seeker. Most of the time I’m willing to settle for appearances. They’re damning enough.
Unfortunately I disagree, appearances aren’t damning enough, they are masterfully controlled, making it so much easier to ignore, minimize, rationalize, attack, ridicule, dismiss and deny the connections that implicate foreknowledge and complicity of domestic actors in the greatest terror show ever sold.
It’s almost 2015. Babies born after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 are now teenagers. Psychic shock fades over time. That said, now that programs of torture are out in the open and mostly accepted by the American people, maybe another 9/11 won’t be necessary. Just little jolts as reminders to remain compliant while they play the global chessboard for the spoils.
Before executing two police officers while they sat in their car, 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley allegedly
murdered shot his girlfriend (she is expected to survive—earlier reports had her dead), then telegraphed his intentions via Instagram:
A gunman who announced online that he was planning to shoot two “pigs” in retaliation for the police chokehold death of Eric Garner ambushed two officers in a patrol car and shot them to death in broad daylight Saturday before running to a subway station and killing himself, authorities said.
The suspect, 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, wrote on an Instagram account: “I’m putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours, let’s take 2 of theirs,” officials said. He used the hashtags Shootthepolice RIPErivGardner (sic) RIPMikeBrown.
I’ve been following these events as they’ve unfolded on Twitter and it’s been surreal.
The NYPD is essentially going off the rails now by declaring itself a ‘wartime’ police department. Pat Lynch, head of the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association (PBA), has explicitly blamed Mayor De Blasio for race incitement and protestors for having the audacity to declare that black lives matter. Things are about to get really ugly.
FROM NYC PBA: Starting IMMEDIATELY- At least two units are to respond to EVERY call, no matter the condition or severity, no matter what type of job is pending, or what the opinion of the patrol supervisor happens to be. IN ADDITION: Absolutely NO enforcement action in the form of arrests and or summonses is to be taken unless absolutely necessary and an individual MUST be placed under arrest. These are precautions that were taken in the 1970’s when Police Officers were ambushed and executed on a regular basis. The mayors hands are literally dripping with our blood because of his words actions and policies and we have, for the first time in a number of years, become a “wartime” police department. We will act accordingly. FORWARD MESSAGE IN ITS ENTIRETY TO ANY AND ALL MOS
This is bad, really bad. Especially when taken with the additional context of an article from two days ago, reporting on secretly recorded comments from Pat Lynch:
Mayor Bill de Blasio acts more like the leader of “a f- -king revolution” than a city, police union president Pat Lynch said at a recent delegate meeting.
“He is not running the City of New York. He thinks he’s running a f- -king revolution,” said Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, during the private gathering in Queens last Friday.
Lynch, who was secretly recorded, also all but ordered a rule-book slowdown, according to the seven-minute tape obtained by Capital New York.
“If we won’t get support when we do our jobs . . . then we’re going to do it the way they want it,” Lynch said. “Let me be perfectly clear: We will use extreme discretion in every encounter.”
Lynch, when referring to de Blasio, encouraged members to be wary of what he called “enemies.” “Our friends, we’re courteous to them. Our enemies, extreme discretion,” he said. “The rules are made by them to hurt you. Well, now we’ll use those rules to protect us.”
Merry Christmas, New Yorkers. The war is now right outside your door.
Looking for a book for that geopolitical enthusiast in your family? Look no further than Pepe Escobar’s compilation, titled Empire of Chaos: The Roving Eye Collection. From the link:
The essential features of the empire of chaos, “where a plutocracy progressively projects its own internal disintegration upon the whole world,” are “a progressive drift towards not conventional war but above all economic war – manifestations of Liquid War.” The purpose of that chaos is “to prevent an economic integration of Eurasia that would leave the U.S. a non-hegemon, or worse still, an outsider.”
The book covers the era from early 2009 up to late 2014. The central idea being the empire of chaos and its range of activities to thwart the Eurasian integration by way of pipelines (Pipelinestan), road, rail, and cyberlinks from China through various routes to western Europe, the “New Silk Road.” Along the way it touches on what are considered by the western mainstream media to be separate topics, perhaps united by an underlying violence, but nothing of a unified geopolitical attempt at preventing the loss of western (Washington) hegemony.
It is a wonderful read, occasionally repetitive due to the nature of it being a series of compiled distinct articles into a whole, sometimes humorous – generally rather dark – accounting of modern history or current events. It is sometimes whimsical when writing about a particular cultural aspect of his sojourns or when critiquing another author or activist. If history could be written/read this way, there would be far more historians in academic circles – this is not the history of the dominant media, but that of an educated roving eye capable of putting ideas and actions together into a coherent, somewhat scary whole.
The long-anticipated rise of China passed a statistical mark that Forbes was quick to dismiss as not mattering a darn:
There’s much worrywarting over the new figures from the IMF telling us the fact that China is now the world’s number one economy in terms of size. The truth is though that, other than for collectors of statistical trivia, this really isn’t important. Perhaps on a par with wondering how Lady Gaga is going to dress next but no more than that. Because the whole idea of “an economy” as defined by the borders of a nation state is pretty arbitrary anyway and further, it matters a great deal more how many people that economy is spread over than it does the size of it. Luxembourg’s economy is considerably smaller than that of India but with 400,000 people not 1.4 billion who is living better?
I like how Forbes parses out their perspective with a Lady Gaga reference. That’s how much this doesn’t matter, right? But there’s more to the not mattering that Forbes wants its readers to understand, and that’s the per capita breakdown:
There’s simply so many people in that area of land that, barring any truly stupid set of economic policies (here’s lookin’ at you, Marxism) the place is simply going to be one of the larger, if not the largest, component of the global economy. Think of it this way: why shouldn’t 18% of the people on the planet have 18% of the economy of the planet?
So apart from the obviousness of this there’s also that other thing that we might want to consider: its importance. And it’s not important. For what determines how well people live (and yes, aiding people in living well is pretty much the point of this whole having an economy thing) is economic output per capita. That total economy divided by the number of people who get to consume the output. Here the US is well ahead (north of $50,000 a year in the US, only just over $5,000 a year in China and yes, that is after adjusting for price differences) and China would need another three generations of breakneck growth to close that gap.
There are other realities beyond the continuing abysmal living standards for the majority of the Chinese population, and that’s the sheer scale of the infrastructure being developed, and for a look at that reality we can go to Pepe Escobar’s latest piece, titled Go West, Young Han. From the link:
November 18, 2014: it’s a day that should live forever in history. On that day, in the city of Yiwu in China’s Zhejiang province, 300 kilometers south of Shanghai, the first train carrying 82 containers of export goods weighing more than 1,000 tons left a massive warehouse complex heading for Madrid. It arrived on December 9th.
Welcome to the new trans-Eurasia choo-choo train. At over 13,000 kilometers, it will regularly traverse the longest freight train route in the world, 40% farther than the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway. Its cargo will cross China from East to West, then Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, France, and finally Spain.
You may not have the faintest idea where Yiwu is, but businessmen plying their trades across Eurasia, especially from the Arab world, are already hooked on the city “where amazing happens!” We’re talking about the largest wholesale center for small-sized consumer goods — from clothes to toys — possibly anywhere on Earth.
The Yiwu-Madrid route across Eurasia represents the beginning of a set of game-changing developments. It will be an efficient logistics channel of incredible length. It will represent geopolitics with a human touch, knitting together small traders and huge markets across a vast landmass. It’s already a graphic example of Eurasian integration on the go. And most of all, it’s the first building block on China’s “New Silk Road,” conceivably the project of the new century and undoubtedly the greatest trade story in the world for the next decade.
Escobar calls this new silk road the project of the new century, which seems legit from where I sit, December 20th, 2014. 14 years ago the Neocons were day dreaming of their Project for a New American Century. The goals of that little project outlined a decade and a half ago went something like this:
* Reposition permanently based forces to Southern Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East;
* Modernize U.S. forces, including enhancing our fighter aircraft, submarine and surface fleet capabilities;
* Develop and deploy a global missile defense system, and develop a strategic dominance of space;
* Control the “International Commons” of cyberspace;
* Increase defense spending to a minimum of 3.8 percent of gross domestic product, up from the 3 percent currently spent.
A Japanese company with some offices in California was hacked. Several terrabytes of data were copied off its internal networks and some of it was put on file sharing sites. One of the items copied was a film produced in Canada that depicts as comedy the terror act of killing of a current head of state. The U.S. State Department applauded that movie scene. But there were tons of other data like social security numbers, payroll data, and internal emails stolen all of which that might have been the real target of the hackers.
The tools to hack the company are well known and in the public domain. The company, Sony, had lousy internal network security and had been hacked before. The hackers probably had some inside knowledge. They used servers in Bolivia, China and South Korea to infiltrate. There is zero public evidence in the known that the hack was state sponsored.
But the U.S. is claiming that the event is a “national security matter”. Who’s national security? Japan’s? Canada’s? Why? A private Japanese entertainment(!) company left the doors open and had some equipment vandalized and some of its private property stolen. Why, again, is that of U.S. “national interest”? Why would the U.S. even consider some “proportional response”?
As Americans idiotically whine about being deprived of a stupid movie, time would be better spent reading up on Stuxnet:
In 2011, the US government rolled out its “International Strategy for Cyberspace,” which reminded us that “interconnected networks link nations more closely, so an attack on one nation’s networks may have impact far beyond its borders.” An in-depth report today from the New York Times confirms the truth of that statement as it finally lays bare the history and development of the Stuxnet virus—and how it accidentally escaped from the Iranian nuclear facility that was its target.
The article is adapted from journalist David Sanger’s forthcoming book, Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power, and it confirms that both the US and Israeli governments developed and deployed Stuxnet. The goal of the worm was to break Iranian nuclear centrifuge equipment by issuing specific commands to the industrial control hardware responsible for their spin rate. By doing so, both governments hoped to set back the Iranian research program—and the US hoped to keep Israel from launching a pre-emptive military attack.
The code was only supposed to work within Iran’s Natanz refining facility, which was air-gapped from outside networks and thus difficult to penetrate. But computers and memory cards could be carried between the public Internet and the private Natanz network, and a preliminary bit of “beacon” code was used to map out all the network connections within the plant and report them back to the NSA.
That program, first authorized by George W. Bush, worked well enough to provide a digital map of Natanz and its industrial control hardware. Soon, US national labs were testing different bits of the plan to sabotage Natanz (apparently without knowing what the work was for) using similar centrifuges that had come from Libya’s Qadaffi regime. When the coders found the right sets of commands to literally shake the centrifuges apart, they knew that Stuxnet could work.
Empire of Chaos indeed.
It’s not surprising that Americans have a difficult time understanding geopolitics today. One of the big contributing factors to our perpetual misunderstanding of global dynamics is this: the lies of the past continue to inform the present.
So as the ruble collapses and the U.S. relationship with Cuba thaws, it might be helpful to go back a half century in order to reassess the good war and the bad guy America vanquished.
In an article titled Fascism and War: Elite Tools to Crush and Kill Dissent two underlying tensions beneath WWI and WWII are examined. From the link:
Both WWI and WWII had two dimensions: the vertical dimension, namely the rivalry between empires, and the horizontal one, class warfare, Pauwels explains.
These wars were actually the best way for the western elite to cope with the ever growing revolutionary and democratic movements fueled by dire economic conditions and which threatened the established order.
In Nietzsche’s view for example, Pauwels says “war was the solution against revolution, since in a war, there are no discussions, like there is in a democracy. In a war, the minority, the elite, decides and the majority, the proletarians, obey.”
For members of the elite like Malthus, “the system could not be the cause of poverty since they were profiting from it. The cause of poverty was the poor: there were too many of them. Therefore the solution to poverty and threatening revolutionary movements was simply to eliminate poor people and what better solution than war to kill poor people?”
After WWI though, “revolution was no longer a simple idea but rather something concrete: the Soviet Union.” That’s when fascism came to the rescue. “Fascism was the instrument used by the elite to further the objectives of 1914, namely put an end to revolutions and communism.”
The problem with American thinking is we identify with our empire, not our class status. That is not true for the class that runs our empire. Because of this misidentification, Americans simply can’t process certain scenarios, like the possibility of American elites colluding in the terrorist attack of 9/11, or the possibility of the US-backed Ukrainian regime being responsible for the MH17 shoot-down (which would explain the unprecedented secrecy surrounding the investigation).
Here’s more from the first link:
According to popular belief Western leaders were defending democracy, engaged in a war against Germany to save humanity from fascism and the US involvement in the war led to the downfall of Hitler’s war machine. Nothing is further from the truth. “Hitler was supported by other European countries and the US because they wanted him to destroy the USSR, the cradle of the revolution.” The exact opposite occurred: it was the USSR that defeated Nazi Germany, losing over 20 million souls in the battle.
The Good War is the psychological lynch pin holding the American psyche together. It prevents the kind of corrosion that would exist if exposed to our ruling class’s penchant for using fascism to keep the peasants in line. Americans are therefore effectively insulated from the reality that what we were told we were fighting half a century ago is what we have actually become today: a hyper-nationalist imperial force of consumers providing our ruling elite with a foundation from which to attack the 21st century version of the USSR.
The concept of the big lie comes from that infamous historical character who, when mentioned, creates immediate mental hysteria, collapsing dialogue and freezing critical thinking. From wikipedia:
A big lie (German: Große Lüge) is a propaganda technique. The expression was coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his 1925 book Mein Kampf, about the use of a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”
Thus concludes today’s brief history lesson.
“Long live justice. Es lebe die Gerechtigkeit”
– Diren’s father Celal
At approximately 1:15pm today, the jury found Markus Kaarma guilty of deliberate homicide in the murder of Diren Dede.
Open thread for discussion. Keep it clean.
CIA Torture was “contrary to who we are”
– Barack Obama
Well, it was just a matter of time till the pollsters revealed that yes, it is who we are. And this is how the rest of the world sees us.
In a WaPo-ABC News poll out today, it appears that the subversion of American morality has been completed:
A majority of Americans believe that the harsh interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were justified, even as about half the public says the treatment amounted to torture, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
By an almost 2-1 margin, or 59-to-31 percent, those interviewed support the CIA’s brutal methods, with the vast majority of supporters saying they produced valuable intelligence.
In general, 58 percent say the torture of suspected terrorists can be justified “often” or “sometimes.”
This is a sad day for America, and those Americans who disapproved of our military “strategy.” Our chickens will inevitably come home to roost, as any nation of torturers will eventually pay the price for its evil. Today I am not proud to call myself an “American.”
Below is today’s edition of Democracy Now. At 5:27 you can watch Elizabeth Warren utter one of the most forceful statements against a specific entity—Citibank—I have ever seen. Set aside that well-justified cynicism for just a moment so you may enjoy the pure catharsis of Warren delivering this direct hit:
“There’s a lot of talk lately about how the Dodd-Frank Act isn’t perfect, there’s a lot of talk coming from Citigroup about how the Dodd-Frank Act isn’t perfect. So let me say this to anyone who is listening at Citi: I agree with you. Dodd-Frank isn’t perfect. It should have broken you into pieces.”
Watch it below. I’ve found Warren’s tone enhances appreciation of her words.
Contrast Elizabeth Warren with Obama’s language, which you can watch at 6:47 in the clip:
This by definition was a compromise bill. This is what’s produced when we have the divided government that the American people voted for.
Obama sounds a little miffed that his party got roundly trounced last month. So I guess it’s your fault, American (Democrat) voters, that you will once again be responsible for providing public welfare when those Wall Street gambling addicts (who should have been thrown in jail the first go-around with their fraudulent derivative schemes) blow up markets one more time, because they can.
Man, things might get so bad that even conservatives will be forced to acknowledge their ideology appears incoherent when free market consequences can be suspended for big banks.
Things are really simmering beneath the surface right now. For those who don’t choose ignorance, America’s true nature is being exposed on a number of fronts; evidence of injustice is piling up faster than the mechanisms of social control can spin away.
Not even Darth Cheney invoking the terrorist death star of 9/11, on Meet the Press, has any real influence anymore, save fodder for snark and parody on social media.
Is there enough loosening to warrant another shock from the master class? I think it depends on how uppity the peasants get. We shall see.
Congratulations to everyone who made the new Poverello Center a reality.
There is an underlying thread of entitlement that connects two seemingly unconnected situations: the brazenly outrageous Citigroup rider and the Markus Kaarma homicide case where a German exchange student was gunned down while garage-hopping for alcohol.
Citigroup apparently feels entitled to write, then sneak, a rider essentially putting the public back on the hook for their derivative schemes. From the first link:
The Citi-drafted legislation will benefit five of the largest banks in the country—Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo. These financial institutions control more than 90 percent of the $700 trillion derivatives market. If this measure becomes law, these banks will be able to use FDIC-insured money to bet on nearly anything they want. And if there’s another economic downturn, they can count on a taxpayer bailout of their derivatives trading business.
So what will happen in the following hours as a government shutdown looms? It will take Democrats siding with Republicans to allow this obscenity to become law. Elizabeth Warren is getting some good headlines being loud over this right now, and all those hopeless Hillary supporters should take note that Citigroup is HC’s biggest donor.
This is a big, post-political-meltdown decision for Congressional Democrats. Who counts more, donors or voters?
For Citigroup, it’s clear their entitlement includes an assumption that laws are designed to serve their interests, public be damned. I think a similar assumption helped to create the conditions that resulted in the death of Diren Dede.
First I’d like to point out that this trial is bringing up a question JC posed in a post back in May: Why isn’t Janelle Pflager being charged as an accomplice? That question is again relevant as neighbor testimony paints a disturbing picture of Janelle’s behavior, both before and after the shooting:
Several of Kaarma’s neighbors also took the stand Tuesday morning, testifying that Janelle Pflager used the term “bait” or “baiting” in conversations describing how she and Kaarma were going to catch the burglars who were entering their garage.
On April 18, Pflager approached Robin Rosenquist, who lives across the street from the couple. Pflager told Rosenquist they had just been robbed and they were unsatisfied with the police response.
“She was upset and indignant because the officer told them to keep their doors locked and garage doors closed, and they weren’t going to do that,” Rosenquist said.
Pflager told Rosenquist her partner was “was pissed because his favorite pipe was stolen.”
Pflager also said she called the cellphone and confronted the burglars, yelling at them to bring the belongings back, she said.
“Do you really think someone would come back again, knowing how upset they are?” Rosenquist allegedly replied.
“Oh yeah, he’s coming back because we are going to bait him,” Pflager allegedly said.
Janelle received some pretty common sense advice from law enforcement, but it wasn’t enough for this unhinged vigilante. Personally, when I had objects stolen from my vehicle outside my home, I realized it was because leaving the car unlocked at night created an opportunity for theft. Instead of calling the police and wasting their time on a crime of opportunity I was in part responsible for, I decided I should probably just make sure to lock my car at night.
The expectation that the law is there to serve their interests seems to have created a sense of profound disappointment when that expectation was deflated by the reality that petty theft just isn’t going to be a high priority for law enforcement, especially when the crime is one of opportunity. Here’s more neighbor testimony:
Neighbors’ testimony continued into the afternoon with Terry Klise and several others taking the stand.
Klise said that Pflager called him at 1 a.m. April 18 after her garage was burglarized. Pflager believed Klise’s car had also been burglarized.
A Missoula police officer was taking the initial report when Klise approached. Pflager decided to call the iPhone that had been stolen from their garage. When the burglars picked up, Klise said Pflager’s conversation was “jaw-dropping.”
“She quickly went into a tirade,” he said. “She was calling them (expletive) and calling them (expletive) and screaming at them. I remember looking at the officer and asking if this was out of line.”
She then allegedly told them, “If you continue to return to our garage, you could be killed,” he explained.
He said the officer raised his eyebrows, but didn’t admonish Pflager for her language or behavior.
“I became incredibly uncomfortable and asked if I could leave,” he said.
On the morning of the shooting, Klise said he awoke after a neighbor texted him, but police officers asked him to stay in his home as they worked on the scene.
The following morning, he and his wife Suzanne sent a text message to Pflager asking how she was doing. Pflager invited her neighbors over, but soon their sympathetic attitude toward Pflager shifted to disbelief.
“You don’t have to worry about the burglaries anymore because he’s dead,” she allegedly told the couple.
“Her demeanor was just matter of fact,” Klise told the court. “She was very cold and almost the attitude of well, we’ve got him. We don’t have to worry about this anymore.”
She gave the couple a tour of the parts of the house that were damaged by the pellets, he said. As the couple went through the kitchen and the laundry room, she asked if they would like to see the garage – now stained with Dede’s blood.
“We told her we were not interested and we wanted out of there at that time,” he said.
Just the fact there is a trial happening at all is an indication that Markus Kaarma has the means to pay a decent lawyer. And they live in a nice, 6 bedroom house up Grant Creek, which was brought up by one of the neighbors on the stand. I tried finding the tweet, because it’s not in the articles, but it was something to the effect that some neighbors speculated how this couple was living large, so to speak.
Because Janelle Pflager wasn’t charged, I wonder if the defense is trying to leverage her premeditated involvement in setting the fatal trap as a way to generate enough doubt for her husband. If it works, and the Castle Doctrine mentality is expanded to include this kind of “home defense”, then those who can afford good lawyers should feel even more unconstrained in defense of their personal property, like bongs, from the dangerous teenage garage-hoppers committing misdemeanor crimes in search of booze.
Take note, Citigroup. If they come for your stuff, shoot at will.
A few posts back Steve Kelley offered a link to this Global Research article about the Bank of International Settlements. A few posts before that I had mentioned the BIS when Turner asked this:
This may strike some as a naïve request for information, but I’m making it anyway.
I’d like those who claim there are puppeteers running our elections, our economy, everything else, to come up with a few names. I’m aware of billionaires and organizations like the Koch bros, ALEC, and Adelman — and a few on the left, too.
But is there a hard-to-identify cadre of puppeteers? Are they conspiring closely or are they a loose group? Or are they in competition for the job of chief puppeteer? Do they have agents manipulating both political parties? If so, down to what level — state, county, municipal?
Who are the manipulators in this state? Whom do they report to?
I’m not saying that the puppeteers don’t exist. I just want to know who these people are who’re working on the ground to make (in some people’s opinions) voting irrelevant.
Back to the Global Research article:
In Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time (1966), Dr. Carroll Quigley revealed the key role played in global finance by the BIS behind the scenes. Dr. Quigley was Professor of History at Georgetown University, where he was President Bill Clinton’s mentor. He was also an insider, groomed by the powerful clique he called “the international bankers.” His credibility is heightened by the fact that he actually espoused their goals. He wrote:
“I know of the operations of this network because I have studied it for twenty years and was permitted for two years, in the early 1960′s, to examine its papers and secret records. I have no aversion to it or to most of its aims and have, for much of my life, been close to it and to many of its instruments. . . . [I]n general my chief difference of opinion is that it wishes to remain unknown, and I believe its role in history is significant enough to be known.”
Quigley wrote of this international banking network:
“[T]he powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences. The apex of the system was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the world’s central banks which were themselves private corporations.”
The key to their success, said Quigley, was that the international bankers would control and manipulate the money system of a nation while letting it appear to be controlled by the government. The statement echoed one made in the eighteenth century by the patriarch of what would become the most powerful banking dynasty in the world. Mayer Amschel Bauer Rothschild famously said in 1791:
“Allow me to issue and control a nation’s currency, and I care not who makes its laws.”
Mayer’s five sons were sent to the major capitals of Europe – London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin and Naples – with the mission of establishing a banking system that would be outside government control. The economic and political systems of nations would be controlled not by citizens but by bankers, for the benefit of bankers. Eventually, a privately-owned “central bank” was established in nearly every country; and this central banking system has now gained control over the economies of the world. Central banks have the authority to print money in their respective countries, and it is from these banks that governments must borrow money to pay their debts and fund their operations. The result is a global economy in which not only industry but government itself runs on “credit” (or debt) created by a banking monopoly headed by a network of private central banks; and at the top of this network is the BIS, the “central bank of central banks” in Basel.
I’m bringing this up because a recent piece at Zerohedge caught my attention, titled Even The BIS Is Shocked At How Broken Markets Have Become. In that article banker-speak is quoted and commented on. I’ll excerpt this part:
But it’s best to leave it to the BIS itself, where this time Claudio Borio picks up the torch left by Jaime Caruana. What is notable is that none other than the BIS slams the infamous, and now legendary intervention by James “QE4″ Bullard to assure the S&P’s levitation continues without a hitch!
To my mind, these events underline the fragility – dare I say growing fragility? – hidden beneath the markets’ buoyancy. Small pieces of news can generate outsize effects. This, in turn, can amplify mood swings. And it would be imprudent to ignore that markets did not fully stabilise by themselves. Once again, on the heels of the turbulence, major central banks made soothing statements, suggesting that they might delay normalisation in light of evolving macroeconomic conditions. Recent events, if anything, have highlighted once more the degree to which markets are relying on central banks: the markets’ buoyancy hinges on central banks’ every word and deed.
Wait, so the central banks’ central bank is openly chastising one of its own now and for what: for stabilizing the market and preserving the unstable euphoria that the BIS has been warning about for so long?
Does this mean that the BIS is now openly calling for a crash? Perhaps, what is clear is that even the BIS, or the “good cop” (if only for the middle-class, certainly bad cop for the 0.01%-ers) is now shocked by just how broken the markets have become as summarized in the following line:
The highly abnormal is becoming uncomfortably normal. Central banks and markets have been pushing benchmark sovereign yields to extraordinary lows – unimaginable just a few years back. Three-year government bond yields are well below zero in Germany, around zero in Japan and below 1 per cent in the United States. Moreover, estimates of term premia are pointing south again, with some evolving firmly in negative territory. And as all this is happening, global growth – in inflation-adjusted terms – is close to historical averages. There is something vaguely troubling when the unthinkable becomes routine.
So yes, thank you for confirming – years after most who still follow the farce that is the “market” with an open mind – just how absolutely broken it is thanks to central bankers.
Saying international bankers run the world may sound like an easy, conspiratorial scapegoat. It may also be true.
I was testing my gag-reflex by watching Morning Joe this morning and they didn’t disappoint. The topic was the torture report, which will be released later this morning. Screamer Howard Dean was on, getting excoriated by one of Joe’s sidekicks, the blond-haired one (not Mika) who prays to God that America will do whatever it takes to stop the next 3,000 people from being blown up by al-Qaeda. Oddly there was no discussion about why branches of al-Qaeda are now working with U.S. mercenaries in Syria.
It amazes me that anyone can still assume America is the moral center of the universe. I think it was Joe, or maybe the blond, who lauded American torturers for having a doctor in the room. It was helpfully pointed out that ISIS doesn’t have a doctor present before they behead their victims. Great insight!
U.S. embassies are on high alert today in anticipation of the release of this report. I bet the CIA is hoping there is some kind of attack somewhere, and may be so inclined to have some of their terrorist pals do something to validate their concerns.
While idiot Joe bumbled on about how only 3 people were water-boarded, the story of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program tells a different story involving 54 countries. You can see the map here with the participating countries colored appropriately in red. From the link:
After Sept. 11, 2001, the CIA launched a program of “extraordinary rendition” to handle terrorism suspects. The agency’s problem, as it saw it, was that it wanted to detain and interrogate foreign suspects without bringing them to the United States or charging them with any crimes. Their solution was to secretly move a suspect to another country. Sometimes that meant a secret CIA prison in places such as Thailand or Romania, where the CIA would interrogate him. Sometimes it meant handing him over to a sympathetic government, some of them quite nasty, to conduct its own “interrogation.”
The CIA’s extraordinary rendition program is over, but its scope is still shrouded in some mystery. A just-out report, released by the Open Society Foundation, sheds new light on its shocking scale. According to the report, 54 foreign governments somehow collaborated in the program. Some of those governments are brutal dictatorships, and a few are outright U.S. adversaries.
Their participation took several forms. Some, such as Poland and Lithuania, allowed the CIA to run secret prisons in their countries. Many Middle Eastern, Central Asian and European countries handed over detainees to the CIA, some of whom those countries captured on the agency’s behalf. Other states, particularly in the Middle East, interrogated detainees on the CIA’s behalf, such as Jordan, which accepted several Pakistanis. Several, such as Greece and Spain, allowed flights associated with the CIA program to use their airports.
The report being released today, extensive as it is, probably won’t include any accounts of the torture committed by other countries on behalf of the monstrous, murderous CIA. Just good ‘ol American torture will be described in detail.
It’s good this report is finally coming out, but I doubt it will have much impact. Americans seem to have already accepted that atrocities were carried out in their name, and as long as boogeymen are invoked, no deeper epiphanies will be broadly experienced by our sleepwalking populace of complacent enablers.
Such is the state of America.
Oh Montana Democrats, you are too easily played. Going apoplectic over the GOP dress code is a great way to deplete the outrage reserves before the session even starts. Surprisingly there is a comment from the link worth reposting here from Dallas Reese:
This “dress policy” is misdirection and the Ultra-Conservatives are good at misdirection, if nothing else. They know how D’s will overreact and rely on the D’s hew and cry while they secretly, quietly, try to accomplish other goals. It’s a trick they use all the time, and rather effectively, since we continue to fall for it.
The issue of our focus, as Rob points out, is the potential removal of the press office from a convenient location within the Capital Building. And the challenges to open meetings laws. And continued gutting of environmental laws, more tax cuts for the un-needy and corresponding, budget cuts to education, social services, etc, etc.
If we present every peccadillo as a crisis, the truly critical gets washed out in the noise. And to win back the Legislature, we’re going to need moderate and independent voters and many of them are thinking “what’s the big deal about this dress code nonsense”. Every little injustice like this need to be pointed out but overplaying our hand (something else the right-wingers depend on) won’t convince the independent voter to give us a chance. And won’t get public opinion on our side for the truly critical during the Legislative Session.
While this local controversy provides great fodder for Twitter, it certainly does distract from other more serious items of business being undertaken before the end of the year, like legislating via riders—something our disingenuous Democrat Senator said he wouldn’t do if elected back in 2006. From Ochenski:
Some may well recall U.S. Sen. Jon Tester’s first campaign, in which he challenged then-incumbent Sen. Conrad Burns. One of the things about Burns’ record that Tester attacked – and promised not to do – was use “riders” on unrelated bills to pass legislation. No doubt this was a reflection on Tester’s time in the Montana Senate, where such riders are, for all the right reasons, prohibited.
But of course that was before Mr. Tester went to Washington. Since he’s been there, however, Tester’s tune has definitely changed. He used a rider on an unrelated bill to exempt wolves from Endangered Species Act protections – a first in the 37 year history of the act and a horrible precedent that will undoubtedly be followed whenever an endangered species gets in the way of commerce.
Likewise, Tester has desperately tried to stick his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act on unrelated bills without success, and admitted to reporters last week that he “pushed hard for the bill but it made people nervous because it would change how land was managed.” Indeed, the measure contains an unprecedented congressional mandate to set logging levels on Montana’s national forests. Tester’s terrible policy precedent has already been followed in a Draconian House-passed bill that would permanently set aside enormous chunks of national forest for logging as its highest and best purpose.
Tester and U.S. Sen.-elect Steve Daines have now tacked on several public lands measures to the totally unrelated Defense Authorization Act, which passed the House late last week. This week the Senate will take up the measure and, most likely, won’t strip the riders off the bill.
The NDAA is itself a terrible piece of legislation, but why talk about that when there are necklines to discuss?
Internationally, an American is dead after a botched rescue attempt in Yemen. Once again our pathetic media fails to achieve the quality of reporting found at blogs like Moon of Alabama. On December 6th, b reported on the reckless U.S. rescue attempt that killed not only an American (the only kind of people who count in our state media) but also a South African who was about to be freed the following day. Today b has another post on the topic, and it raises some serious questions:
A second foreign hostage, Pierre Korkie, was killed in the recent rescue attempt. Eight Yemeni civilians were also killed. Korkie was supposed to be freed the very same day due to a ransom payment. There have long been negotiations between the hostage takers and the charity Gift of the Givers that employed Korkie. The U.S. now claims it was unaware of negotiations for his imminent release. That does not sound plausible to me. The NSA is certainly listening to every call in Yemen that might be of interest.
For the full context, go to the link and read the whole post. There is clearly something else going on here, and I think b’s perspective is closer to the impetus for this “rescue” than anything you’d find in our complicit corporate media. Here is a bit more from the conclusion of b’s post:
It is not plausible with all the national and international communication going on between the charity, the parents of the hostage, the mediators and the hostage takers that the U.S. was unaware of all this.
In November it hit the mediators with a drone when they were going to meet the hostage takers. This time it hit the hostages right when the mediators were taking off to meet them. At least ten innocent people were killed with this last raid.
The U.S. has some explaining to do. How did it detect the hostage takers if not by following the mediators communications? Why did it decide to do those two raids on November 25 and December 6 when there was, at least at the first date, no imminent threat to the civilian hostages lives? What was the real purpose and target of these military attacks?
There are still rumors that AQAP nabbed a U.S. “trainer” during a raid on Al Anad airbase in November. Was that captured U.S. soldier the real target of the failed raids? Or what about the Marine Travis Barton AQAP claims to have captured during Saturday’s raid?
I know it’s a lot more fun to talk about GOP cavemen and how they want their lady folks to be modestly dressed, but some of us would like to keep the focus on the issues that have more serious implications for the future.
I don’t mean this as an attack on those individuals who chose journalism as a profession, but more as a plea to the yet-to-be-compromised youngsters moving through the institutionalized bowels of their higher education. The fourth estate is fucked, and if you want to make a living reporting the news, you will inevitably be employed to shit on its remnants.
On The Death of the Fourth Estate, Billy O’Connor opens with this:
“Even if your mother says she loves you, check it out,” my professor preached. “Believe nothing you hear or read without verification.”
When I earned my journalism degree from the University of Florida, Mike Foley chiseled those two sentences in my brain.
Non-journalists are also beginning to question print and broadcast news. According to a recent Gallup survey, only 40 percent of Americans believe what they read in newspapers.
The scattered remnants of the fourth estate now flitter across the digital landscape, disembodied bits of data that must be sought out, often to confirm one’s bias. That Gallup poll putting belief in print at about 40 percent signals a growing cynicism over the accuracy of the old-guard media form of information dissemination. And for good reason.
In a more desperate plea, John Pilger opens his piece about War by Media and the Triumph of Propaganda with a clutch of rapid-fire questions:
Why has so much journalism succumbed to propaganda? Why are censorship and distortion standard practice? Why is the BBC so often a mouthpiece of rapacious power? Why do the New York Times and the Washington Post deceive their readers?
Why are young journalists not taught to understand media agendas and to challenge the high claims and low purpose of fake objectivity? And why are they not taught that the essence of so much of what’s called the mainstream media is not information, but power?
These are urgent questions. The world is facing the prospect of major war, perhaps nuclear war – with the United States clearly determined to isolate and provoke Russia and eventually China. This truth is being turned upside down and inside out by journalists, including those who promoted the lies that led to the bloodbath in Iraq in 2003.
Americans should never forget or forgive the role of the New York Times in selling the Iraq war by peddling Bush regime lies. Journalist students should spit on the ground at the mention of the Grey Lady. The mainstream media has grown too monstrous to not revile in the harshest of terms. Millions of people have been slaughtered as a direct result.
Here’s more from Pilger about the current state of the MSM:
The times we live in are so dangerous and so distorted in public perception that propaganda is no longer, as Edward Bernays called it, an “invisible government”. It is the government. It rules directly without fear of contradiction and its principal aim is the conquest of us: our sense of the world, our ability to separate truth from lies.
The information age is actually a media age. We have war by media; censorship by media; demonology by media; retribution by media; diversion by media – a surreal assembly line of obedient clichés and false assumptions.
Add to the rubble the Rolling Stone for allowing its UVA rape piece by Sabrina Erdely to hit print without, apparently, enough pre-print scrutiny. From A Note to Our Readers:
Last month, Rolling Stone published a story titled “A Rape on Campus” by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, which described a brutal gang rape of a woman named Jackie at a University of Virginia fraternity house; the university’s failure to respond to this alleged assault – and the school’s troubling history of indifference to many other instances of alleged sexual assaults. The story generated worldwide headlines and much soul-searching at UVA. University president Teresa Sullivan promised a full investigation and also to examine the way the school responds to sexual assault allegations.
Because of the sensitive nature of Jackie’s story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her. In the months Erdely spent reporting the story, Jackie neither said nor did anything that made Erdely, or Rolling Stone’s editors and fact-checkers, question Jackie’s credibility. Her friends and rape activists on campus strongly supported Jackie’s account. She had spoken of the assault in campus forums. We reached out to both the local branch and the national leadership of the fraternity where Jackie said she was attacked. They responded that they couldn’t confirm or deny her story but had concerns about the evidence.
In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story.
Honoring her request or not doing your fucking job? Misplaced trust or abandoning journalistic standards?
The media environment journalism students enter after their higher education (probably loaded with debt) is a landscape of compromised principles that directly correlate with the career ladder and the paycheck. The more you make, the more prominent you become, the less you should be trusted.
This lesson comes free of charge. You are welcome.
I wrote yesterday about direct actions blooming on multiple fronts. People are mobilizing, and that’s a good thing.
As that is happening the imperial lust of U.S. hegemony is faltering significantly, which will make the last two years of the Obama regime very dangerous.
Talking Turkey, Michael Whitney explores the seemingly dumbfounded non-reaction by the Obama regime on the news Monday of Putin’s surprising gas deal with Turkey:
How can this happen? How can Putin waltz into Ankara, scribble his name on a few sheets of paper, and abscond with a key US ally right under Washington’s nose? Isn’t there anyone at the White House who’s smart enough to anticipate a scenario like this or have they all been replaced with warmongering ding-dongs like Susan Rice and Samantha Powers?
The Obama administration has been doing everything in its power to control the flow of gas from east to west and to undermine Russian-EU economic integration. Now it looks like the nimble Putin has found a way to avoid the economic sanctions, (Turkey rejected sanctions on Russia) avoid US coercion and blackmail (which was used on Bulgaria, Hungary, and Serbia), and avoid Washington’s endless belligerence and hostility, and achieve his objectives at the same time. But– then again– isn’t that what you’d expect from a level-headed martial arts pro like Putin?
“I won’t beat you,” says Bad Vlad. “I’ll let you to beat yourself.”
And, so he has. Just ask the befuddled Obama who has yet to prevail in any of his encounters with Putin.
But why the silence? Why hasn’t the White House issued a statement about the big Russian-Turkey gas deal that everyone’s talking about?
I’ll tell you why. It’s because they don’t know what the hell just hit them, that’s why. They were completely blindsided by the announcement and can’t quite figure out what it means for the issues that are on the very top of their foreign policy agenda, like the pivot to Asia, or the wars in Syria and Ukraine, or the much-ballyhooed gas pipeline from Qatar to the EU, that was supposed to transit– you guessed it– Turkey. Is that plan still in the works or has the Putin-Erdogan alliance put the kibosh on that gem too? Let’s face it, Putin has really knocked it out of the park this time. Team Obama is clearly out of its league and has no idea of what’s going on. If Turkey turns eastward and joins the growing Russian bloc, US policymakers are going to have to scrap the better part of their strategic plans for the coming century and go back to Square 1. What a headache.
Other headaches Obama is expected to sell to Americans are the still murky trade deals like the TPP. Ben Beachy, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, looks at revived fast-tracking and lists a bunch of materials linking these kinds of trade deals with increased economic inequality. From the link:
Obama acknowledged yesterday that TPP proponents will have a tough time arguing that this time is different — that reviving Fast Track authority in attempt to push through Congress another more-of-the-same trade pact would not fuel further inequality growth. Fast Track was the Nixon-created maneuver that allowed the executive branch to railroad through Congress controversial, inequality-spurring pacts like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) by negotiating and signing the pacts before Congress got an expedited, no-amendments, limited-debate vote. A study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research finds that were the TPP to be Fast Tracked through Congress, all but the wealthiest among us would lose more to inequality increases than we would gain in cheaper goods, spelling a pay cut for 90 percent of U.S. workers.
Recognizing the unpopularity of Fast Track and the TPP, Obama told the business executives: “There are folks in my own party and in my own constituency that have legitimate complaints about some of the trend lines of inequality, but are barking up the wrong tree when it comes to opposing TPP, and I’m going to have to make that argument.”
It’s tough work dismantling American sovereignty and losing allies to an emerging Russia. Obama only has two years left to create a teflon legacy capable of covering the disaster his presidency has been.
You know the house of cards is about to collapse when it takes Henry Kissinger to acknowledge what us lowly bloggers have been writing about for months and months.
Steve W. gets the h/t for bringing my attention to a Salon piece by Patrick Smith titled New York Times propagandists exposed: Finally, the truth about Ukraine and Putin emerges. While I agree with the author that gloating is unseemly, the amount of crap heaped on those of us who have pointed to the evidence of what is now being officially acknowledged makes a brief indulgence understandable.
Those who bought in to the demonize Putin campaign were duped.
The MSM acknowledgment that NATO provoked the Ukraine crisis is twofold: Henry Kissinger, interviewed by Der Spiegel; Katrina vanden Huevel, an op-ed at the Washington Post.
If you want to hear their take, go to the link. I’ve already covered it here.
I will quote the part where Smith acknowledges the critical importance of those few who persevered in reporting what was actually happening in Ukraine:
I can anticipate with ease a thoughtful reader or two writing in the comment thread, “But we knew all this already. What’s the point?” We have known all this since the beginning, indeed, thanks to perspicacious writers such as Robert Parry and Steve Weissman. Parry, like your columnist, is a refugee from the mainstream who could take no more; Weissman, whose credentials go back to the Free Speech Movement, seems fed up with the whole nine and exiled himself to France.
Something I have wanted to say for months is now right: Thank you, colleagues. Keep on keeping on.
Also to be noted in this vein is Stephen Cohen, the distinguished Princeton Russianist, whose essay in the Nation last February gave superb and still useful perspective, a must-read if you propose to take Ukraine seriously and get beyond the propaganda. (Vanden Heuvel rightly noted him, too, wrongly omitting that she and Cohen are spouses. A report to the Ethics Police has been filed anonymously.)
These people’s reporting and analyses require no imprimatur from the mainstream press. Who could care? This is not the point. The points as I read them are two.
One, there is no shred of doubt in my mind that the work of the above-mentioned and a few others like them has been instrumental in forcing the truth of the Ukraine crisis to the surface. Miss this not. In a polity wherein the policy cliques have zero accountability to any constituency — unbelievable simply to type that phrase — getting accurate accounts and responsibly explanatory copy out — and then reading it, equally — is essential. Future historians will join me in expressing gratitude.
Two, we have indirect admissions of failure. It is highly significant that Foreign Affairs and the Washington Post, both bastions of the orthodoxy, are now willing to publish what amount to capitulations. It would be naive to think this does not reflect a turning of opinion among prominent members of the policy cliques.
I had thought for months as the crisis dragged on, this degree of disinformation cannot possibly hold. From the Nuland tape onward, too much of the underwear was visible as the trousers fell down, so to say. And now we have State and the media clerks with their pants bunched up at their ankles.
The lingering effect of the propaganda probably won’t dissipate anytime soon, but this shift is significant, for the reasons stated above. Interesting how some anonymous Montana blogger can credibly claim that a small virtual audience got more accurate information here than at the New York Times.
What’s next, accurately reporting the real dynamics of the petrol price war and pipeline politics?
November 30th marked the 15th anniversary of the direct actions that shutdown the WTO meetings in Seattle. It’s encouraging to see direct action once again blooming on multiple fronts. Last night it was the shutdown of city streets and highways over another non-indictment of a dead black man. Before that black Friday protests at Walmarts. Dreamers have brought effective pressure for immigration reform and port workers have stopped Israeli cargo at the docks.
To repeat a phrase from the quotation, the disinformation cannot possibly hold.
And it’s not.
The Times of Israel has done critics of the Israeli apartheid state another favor. The first favor was allowing Yochanan Gordon’s piece “When Genocide is Permissible” see the light of day. Sure, it was quickly removed, but if you’re interested in exploring the ugly depths of the racism that permeates Zionism, you can read it at Mondoweiss. If you can’t handle the whole thing, just read his concluding question:
I will conclude with a question for all the humanitarians out there. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clearly stated at the outset of this incursion that his objective is to restore a sustainable quiet for the citizens of Israel. We have already established that it is the responsibility of every government to ensure the safety and security of its people. If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?
I actually appreciate this explicit grappling with permissible genocide because it states clearly what many Zionists and their American counterparts privately agree with, but have to use crafty rhetoric and euphemisms to dance around stating outright. Bravo Yochanan Gordon!
That favor was gifted to us last August. December’s gift is a helpful guide to the 9 (racist) similarities between Palestinians and Black People in Ferguson. This piece was also removed, so here’s Electronic Intifada providing the online capture of this gem.
EI also takes a look at the Palestinian/Ferguson comparison Palestinian activists started making early on, when the unrest in Missouri first erupted:
Zionist organizations are rattled by the growing displays of solidarity between people in Ferguson, Missouri, and Palestine, but until Wilkes’ outburst they generally focused on slamming the Ferguson-Palestine connection as inaccurate and offensive.
This has been the preferred strategy of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the anti-Palestinian advocacy group that operates under the guise of fighting anti-Semitism and bigotry.
Soon after the Ferguson uprising began, the ADL accused Palestinian rights activists who demonstrated solidarity with Ferguson and Michael Brown of “trying to rouse support for an anti-Israel agenda by attracting like-minded activists.”
The group went so far as to compile lists tracking events and protests promoting unity between Ferguson and Palestine.
Not long after that, the ADL accused the Students for Justice in Palestine national conference of hosting panels that “conflate social justice with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” citing as an example a panel titled ”From Ferguson to Palestine: Resisting State Violence and Racism.”
After a grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson in a purposely defective process, Reggie Bush, running back for the Detroit Lions American football team, posted to Instagram a photo of a Palestinian man holding a sign that says, “The Palestinian people know what mean to be shot while unarmed because of your ethnicity #Ferguson #Justice.”
Damn, another uppity football player. No wonder the ADL is worried.
So what are the similarities you ask? Here’s more from EI:
Wilkes’ piece is as remarkable as it is vile in its appeal to anti-Palestinian and white American racism.
On African Americans and Palestinians, Wilkes writes, “Anger defines them, and anger keeps both mired in failure. Rather than make better choices they prefer to ride the ‘victim’ train to nowhere.”
He continues, “Both wish to undermine the state’s moral authority by provoking violent reactions, then portraying themselves as victims of oppression.”
Mocking Black American leaders as “con artists” and “race-hustlers in a ‘business’ fueled by anger,” Wilkes decries supposedly irrational Black and Palestinian anger as a product of inferior cultures that teach hate.
“Black problems in America,” he argues, “derive from the breakdown of family and unhealthy aspects of black culture.”
These are some of the most pernicious and cliché tropes long employed by liberal and right-wing racists to blame and pathologize people of color as being responsible for their own oppression and disadvantage.
“In both places, the innocent pay the price” for the supposed Black and Palestinian lust for violence, Wilkes claims. “The businesses destroyed in Ferguson belong to hard-working citizens who had nothing to do with the incident in which a policeman shot a robbery suspect in self-defense,” he says, justifying Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson’s August killing of Black youth Michael Brown.
But, Wilkes allows, “The Palestinians are, tragically, far more bloodthirsty.”
Wilkes ends his screed by praising the Israeli army and Missouri police for exercising restraint: “Authorities in both places have their hands tied by their high standards of human rights and reverence for the rule of law.” Of course this last point makes sense given that St. Louis-area police departments have received training from the Israeli security apparatus in recent years.
Tonight in America another grand jury issued another non-indictment on another police officer who killed another black man.
And so it goes.
One of the motivating factors that keeps me writing is how poorly the perspective I gravitate toward is represented by the official organs of the corporate state’s message machine. I’ll use the common pejorative to describe that perspective: conspiracy theorist.
My perspective is an amalgamation of a variety of sources. I’ve highlighted the blog Moon of Alabama a number of times because time continues proving bernhard’s perspective is worth taking into consideration. On more than a few occasions b has beat those official organs “reporting” the news. In this post b is extra salty toward the fact, now being reported by AP, that U.S. mercenaries are working with Al-Qaeda.
The following quote is from this piece b posted on September 15th:
There are serious active preparations for a new attack on Damascus. Anti-government forces, including the Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, have been trained and equipped in Jordan and are now moving into their starting position in Quneitra governate in south-west Syria.
The rather empty Quneitra area makes little sense to conquer except to be used as a launching pad for an attack from the south towards Damascus. The distance to the capital is only some 40 miles (60km). While two Syrian army divisions are stationed between Quneitra governate and Damascus coordinated air attacks against them could open and secure a route from Quneitra governate into the capital. Recent truce agreements between the U.S. supported Syrian Revolutionary Front and ISIS in the area south of Damascus may have been concluded with these attack plans in mind.
And here is the excerpt b highlights from the AP article:
Syrian rebels backed by the United States are making their biggest gains yet south of the capital Damascus, capturing a string of towns from government forces and aiming to carve out a swath of territory leading to the doorstep of President Bashar Assad’s seat of power.
The rebel forces are believed to include fighters who graduated from a nearly 2-year-old CIA training program based in Syria’s southern neighbor Jordan.
Notably, in the south, the rebels are working together with fighters from al-Qaida’s Syria branch, whose battle-hardened militants have helped them gain the momentum against government forces. The cooperation points to the difficulty in American efforts to build up “moderate” factions while isolating militants.
As a German, it’s obviously difficult for b to understand how this isn’t a bigger story in America. A blogger can credibly discuss something as seemingly scandalous as a branch of Al-Qaeda working with U.S. mercenaries and ten weeks later it oozes out the AP spigot and gets little traction? Yep. Here is more from b’s post:
The people accused of bringing down the world trade center on 9/11 are openly working with U.S. (proxy) forces. And what does AP make of this? The cooperation points to the difficulty in American efforts to build up “moderate” factions while isolating militants. (b’s emphasis)
Ah – no. This is no difficulty in the effort. It is a huge scandal. The U.S. could simply tell its mercenaries (many of whom I believe are disguised al-Nusra followers) to stop cooperating with al-Nusra. It has all the leverage over these guys than one can possibly have. It provides them with money, weapons and ammunition. Their families are cared for in Jordan and anyone wounded during fighting will be taken to a hospital in Jordan or Israel. If the U.S. did not want these guys to partner with al-Nusra it would not provide for them.
I find it quite astonishing that there is not any critical reporting in the Main Stream Media about this quite direct U.S. cooperation with al-Qaeda. It is nearly certain that this cooperation with al-Qaeda will, in two, five or ten years, come back to bite the U.S. in its ass. It will hurt U.S. people.
But that by now seems to be not a bug but a feature. The “fear business” James Risen talks about is now driving billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars per year into a few private hands. Another 9/11 like event every few years will keep that business going. Letting al-Nusra get experience with U.S. tactics and weapons can only help to further that.
But that’s just another “conspiracy theory” featured on MoA.
The frustration is palpable for good reason. After the terrorist attack on 9/11 al-Qaeda was the embodiment of evil America had to launch preemptive wars of choice to vanquish, wars we are still fighting, wars Obama will be escalating next year. I understand why non-Americans would have a hard time understanding why U.S. collaboration with al-Qaeda isn’t a bigger deal.
The James Risen link in b’s post in reference to the “fear business” goes to an Intercept piece by Glenn Greenwald. On December 15th, 2013, I wrote a post titled Is Glenn Greenwald Cashing In? I went looking for that post after reading Pando Daily’s latest report on how a billionaire’s adversarial journalism start-up now stands in the shadow of that billionaire’s nasty business practices:
For months, Pando has been reporting on signs of trouble at First Look Media, the quarter billion dollar journalism outfit founded by Omidyar in 2013. Then, in October, after months of denials by First Look staffers, all hell finally broke loose at the startup with high profile resignations, layoffs and confirmation of widespread mismanagement and newsroom interference by Omidyar and his lieutenants.
But while everyone was focused on First Look’s October implosion, Omidyar was facing a far more serious threat to his image as technology’s most “civic minded” billionaire. In August, attorneys for classified site Craigslist filed their latest complaint in a years-long legal fight in which Craigslist claims Omidyar and other eBay executives plotted to steal trade secrets in order to launch their own rival classifieds sites.
The ongoing civil suit outlines fourteen separate allegations against the company including accusing eBay, Omidyar and senior eBay executive Josh Silverman of committing fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, and a host of other violations.
For those who have appreciated Greenwald’s adversarial journalism, the implications of this start-up blowup may be hard to accept. For me, it’s a vindication of remaining suspicious of any big moneyed media operation.
The state media of other countries doesn’t just illicit suspicion, but outright dismissal from most reasonable Americans. One of the strongest reactions I’ve received centered on questioning the shoot-down of flight MH17. For that I was labeled an anti-American with black bile in my heart.
Hopefully this RT propaganda piece is just made up stuff with no bearing on reality:
The country that owned the shot down MH17 jet, which was carrying a number of Malaysian citizens and was flown by a Malaysian crew, has been excluded from the criminal investigation due to its political neutrality, the nation’s media reported.
Malaysia has been left out of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which has been tasked with learning more about the details of the tragedy which took place over Ukraine in July. This is despite the Dutch prime minister stating the importance of Malaysia’s cooperation during a visit to the country this month. The JIT includes the Netherlands, Belgium, Ukraine, and Australia.
While it may provide short-term comfort to exclude perspectives that challenge the tidy narratives packaged for general consumption by our corporate media, the long-term consequences are dire, as succinctly articulated in Michael Whitney’s latest article titled Defending Dollar Imperialism:
The Obama team managed to persuade our good buddies the Saudis to flood the market with oil, drive down prices, and put the Russian economy into a nosedive. At the same time, the US has intensified its economic sanctions, done everything in its power to sabotage Gazprom’s South Stream pipeline (that would bypass Ukraine and deliver natural gas to Europe via a southern route), and cajole the Ukrainian parliament into auctioning off 49 percent of the leasing rights and underground storage facilities to privately-owned foreign corporations.
How do you like that? So the US has launched a full-blown economic war against Russia that’s been completely omitted in the western media. Are you surprised?
Washington is determined to block further Russo-EU economic integration in order to collapse the Russian economy and put foreign capital in control of regional energy distribution. It’s all about the pivot. The big money guys figure the US has to pivot to Asia to be a player in the next century. All of these unprovoked attacks on Moscow are based on that one lunatic strategy.
Accurately describing the lunacy is easily relegated to the conspiratorial trash-bin. Too bad that won’t stop the blowback.
In yesterday’s post, JC pulls back the lens on Ferguson to examine the implications of an unchecked police state. Excerpted in that post is a piece by John Whitehead, writing for the Rutherford Institute. I finally got a chance to read the whole article and one of the things that jumped out was the massive expenditure of resources to catch the cop killer in Pennsylvania:
Just a few weeks after the Ferguson showdown, law enforcement agencies took part in an $11 million manhunt in Pennsylvania for alleged cop killer Eric Frein. Without batting an eye, the news media switched from outraged “shock” over the military arsenal employed by police in Ferguson to respectful “awe” of the 48-day operation that cost taxpayers $1.4 million per week in order to carry out a round-the-clock dragnet search of an area with a 5-mile-radius.
The Frein operation brought together 1,000 officers from local, state and federal law enforcement, as well as SWAT teams and cutting edge military equipment (high-powered rifles, body armor, infrared sensors, armored trucks, helicopters and unmanned, silent surveillance blimps)—some of the very same weapons and tactics employed in Ferguson and, a year earlier, in Boston in the wake of the marathon bombing.
The manhunt was a well-timed, perfectly choreographed exercise in why Americans should welcome the police state: for our safety, of course, and to save the lives of police officers.
Opposed to any attempt to demilitarize America’s police forces, the Dept. of Homeland Security has been chanting this safety mantra in testimony before Congress: Remember 9/11. Remember Boston. Remember how unsafe the world was before police were equipped with automatic weapons, heavily armored trucks, night-vision goggles, and aircraft donated by the DHS.
Contrary to DHS rhetoric, however, militarized police—twitchy over perceived dangers, hyped up on their authority, and protected by their agencies, the legislatures and the courts—have actually made communities less safe at a time when violent crime is at an all-time low and lumberjacks, fishermen, airline pilots, roofers, construction workers, trash collectors, electricians and truck drivers all have a higher risk of on-the-job fatalities than police officers.
In the comments JC reminded our readers of what a militarized police response looks like in Missoula. If you didn’t watch it, you should:
It was the summer of 2000, the month I actually moved to Missoula with my fiancé. I remember wondering why there was such a heavy police presence in a college mountain town. Sure, the Hells Angels were visiting, but did that really warrant out-of-state police officers patrolling Missoula streets?
It seems to me, looking back, that the show of force by the Missoula Police Department antagonized enough people into demonstrating. If you watch the video, you will see what abuses of police authority look like.
And if you go to 18:33 in the video you will hear Pete Lawrence, Missoula’s Chief of police at the time, say something that should be disturbing to any citizen. In describing the decision to let crowds disperse Saturday night after the bars closed, Chief Lawrence states that “we backed off, pulled our troops out of the Front Street area…” (my emphasis)
Remember, this is 2000, a full year before the 9/11 attacks provided the perfect excuse to greatly expand the police state.
Getting back to Ferguson, JC was quick to point out the perversion of the grand jury process in this case. Chris Lehmann, writing for Al Jazeera America, also takes a crack at this angle in an article titled A deafening liberal silence on Ferguson. From the link:
It speaks volumes about the anorexic state of liberal moral reasoning in today’s America that it has met the failure of a grand jury to indict Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson for the Aug. 9 killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown with little more than a procedural shrug. All appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, the system has worked, liberals intone.
This should not come as any great surprise. Liberalism, in its current technocratic guise, doesn’t possess any strong moral vocabulary for describing — let alone condemning — procedural abuses, for the simple reason that its most ardent apostles don’t imagine them occurring. Hence our first African-American president — a classic managerial liberal whose bona fides were minted in the academy’s most hallowed cathedral of neoliberalism, the University of Chicago Law School — greeted the outrage of Wilson’s non-indictment with the bland assurance that our impersonal institutions of justice were all in fundamental working order.
“First and foremost, we are a nation built on the rule of law,” President Barack Obama said in his address to the nation following the Nov. 24 grand jury decision. Never mind that the legal proceedings in question had forestalled the most basic protections that safeguard such rule — the opportunity to mount a public inquiry into a police officer’s grave trespass against a private citizen. Instead it produced something of a parody of due process, via a highly irregular grand-jury proceeding relying mainly on the contradictory and implausible testimony of the would-be defendant.
Nevertheless, the president pressed on with his alternate-universe version of events. “We need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make,” he announced — even though no one protesting was challenging the panel’s formal authority, any more than abolitionists or civil-rights activists had denied that the Supreme Court’s rulings in Dred Scott v. Sanford or Plessy v. Ferguson were the law of the land. What was in question, rather, was the actions of the grand jury, after its members had been prodded by St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch, a notoriously cop-friendly DA, to contort the basic purpose of a grand-jury hearing out of all recognition. Grand juries are not empowered to settle the momentous question of guilt or innocence, or finer-grained matters of motive, opportunity and state of mind. They’re only charged with establishing probably cause for a trial to proceed — to indict, rather than to exonerate or convict, a prospective criminal defendant.
This was the howling, first-order procedural abuse that permitted all the other, kindred trespasses of this inquiry to disfigure the routine operations of the legal system in the killing of Michael Brown. Since they’re formal path-clearing inquiries, grand juries typically don’t hear the testimony of more than a handful of witnesses. McCulloch, by contrast, called 60 witnesses, who testified for more than 70 hours. Wilson alone testified without cross-examination for four hours — an unheard-of span of time for a prospective defendant, even in a police murder inquiry. Likewise, grand-jury proceedings in any criminal case rarely go beyond a day or two — but McCulloch kept this body empaneled for more than 100 days.
The article goes on and is worth reading in full.
So where do we go from here? Considering there are differing opinions on what the core issues even are, that’s a difficult question to begin answering. Is institutional racism the main problem or is it the police state? Is reforming the system possible, and if so, by what means? Direct action? The ballot box?
Personally, I swing back and forth. I participate in the daily grind within the system, trying to make positive impacts wherever possible. And I have seen that there are possibilities. I know there are good members of law enforcement who do protect and serve our community. Change is slow and tedious, but it is possible.
But then there’s my cynical side, fueled by how politics distorts and destroys the potential for change.
Money in politics is one of those core issues that, if not addressed, will ensure the debilitating status quo is maintained. On that front, it was incredibly disappointing to read about Governor Bullock’s intention to chair the DGA:
Gov. Steve Bullock this week acknowledged his interest in serving in the top post at the Democratic Governors Association.
Politico reported Wednesday that Bullock, who in December 2013 was chosen to chair the group’s major donor program, is poised to succeed Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin in the organization’s top spot.
“Gov. Bullock is a Democratic governor who knows how to balance a budget, keep money in the bank for a rainy day and prioritize public schools,” Bullock’s spokesman, Dave Parker, said in a statement. “Folks have noticed what Gov. Bullock is doing out here and some of his colleagues have encouraged him to consider running. He’s doing that.”
The group convenes in Los Angeles on Dec. 8-9 for its annual meeting and holiday party, at which Bullock is expected to be picked as the next DGA chair.
If elected, Bullock would head an organization that primarily exists to elect Democratic governors, and does so by raising millions of dollars from corporate donors.
The DGA is a 527 tax-exempt political organization that can solicit corporate contributions in any amount.
In 2012, the DGA raised more than $50 million, much of that coming from unions, drug makers, insurance companies, energy companies and other corporate sources. That year, the DGA gave over $2.8 million to Montana Jobs, Education and Technology PAC, a political action committee that worked to get Bullock elected.
If Bullock is picked to be the next DGA chair, that will mean both our Governor and one of our Senators (Tester) will be dedicating a significant amount of their time in public office fundraising. Somehow I don’t think the interests of Montanans will be a top priority as Governor Bullock and Senator Tester involve themselves in corporate panhandling.
I guess that means it’s up to us. Unfortunately that notion reinforces my cynicism.
“Ferguson matters because it provides us with a foretaste of what is to come. It is the shot across the bow, so to speak, a warning that this is how we will all be treated if we do not tread cautiously in challenging the police state, and it won’t matter whether we’re black or white, rich or poor, Republican or Democrat. In the eyes of the corporate state, we are all the enemy.
This is the lesson of Ferguson.”
–John Whitehead, The Rutherford Institute
As usual, the discussion of the police killing of a young man has devolved into a morass of race relationships and retributions opening up old wounds, and feeding deep-seated feelings all the way around. So much of this is predictable, and the protests, riots, and counter-attacks all create pablum for a media more interested in controversy and sound bites for the 24 hour news cycle, than in examining what is happening to our country.
I’ve commented elsewhere on what I thought the grand jury process was all about. Ferguson was a perversion of what grand juries are, and how they should be used. If the prosecutor only wanted somebody to share the responsibility of his decision to not bring charges, he could have just impanelled a coroner’s jury to conclude the officer acted in self-defense. Or he could have just called a press conference and said he didn’t have the evidence to support a prosecution and left it at that.
In any case, what the prosecutor has done is to influence the public’s perception of what a grand jury is all about, allowing it to further be used as a shadowy substitute for real justice. Real justice being to allow for a cross examination of other witnesses, and the introduction of other evidence. The prosecutor used the grand jury in a way that bolstered his decision to not prosecute the police officer – he was a de facto defense attorney for the defendant. There are few that understand the grand jury system that would agree with his tactics.
On to today’s topic. This reading from John Whitehead, “We Are the Enemy: Is This the Lesson of Ferguson?” puts aside the notion that the importance of what happened at Ferguson is just another incident in a long litany of racial oppressions and its inevitable blowback:
However, the greater question—whether anything will really change to rein in militarized police, police shootings, lack of accountability and oversight, and a military industrial complex with a vested interest in turning America into a war zone—remains unanswered.
Yes, we are the enemy… since those first towers fell on 9/11, the American people have been treated like enemy combatants, to be spied on, tracked, scanned, frisked, searched, subjected to all manner of intrusions, intimidated, invaded, raided, manhandled, censored, silenced, shot at, locked up, and denied due process.
I chose Whitehead as a way to try and move the Ferguson discussion in a more productive direction. He is a respected, and somewhat conservative civil libertarian with a long record of not playing politics or the race card. I hope folks will read the whole article and think about the greater ramifications of what has happened to our nation, and how the “powers-that-be” continue to profit when the dialogue descends into an unproductive racial diatribe.
I’ll leave folks with one more excerpt, and leave this as an open thread on the greater meaning of the Ferguson debacle. Let’s try and not let this discussion divert into the usual left-right, dem-rep racial garbage that just avoids the real issue: how our country has devolved into one where the police are becoming less and less distinguishable from the military or the national guard, and all our civil liberties are trampled. If we cannot, then we are just reinforcing Whitehead’s message.
Ferguson provided us with an opportunity to engage in a much-needed national dialogue over how police are trained, what authority they are given, what weaponry they are provided, and how they treat those whom they are entrusted with protecting.
Caught up in our personal politics, prejudices and class warfare, we have failed to answer that call. In so doing, we have played right into the hands of all those corporations who profit from turning America into a battlefield by selling the government mine-resistant vehicles, assault rifles, grenade launchers, and drones.
As long as we remain steeped in ignorance, there will be no reform.
As long as we remain divided by our irrational fear of each other, there will be no overhaul in the nation’s law enforcement system or institution of an oversight process whereby communities can ensure that local police departments are acting in accordance with their wishes and values.
And as long as we remain distracted by misguided loyalties to military operatives who are paid to play the part of the government’s henchmen, there will be no saving us when the events of Ferguson unfold in our own backyards.
When all is said and done, it doesn’t matter whose “side” you’re on as far as what transpired in Ferguson, whether you believe that Michael Brown was a victim or that Darren Wilson was justified in shooting first and asking questions later.
What matters is that we not allow politics and deep-rooted prejudices of any sort to divert our efforts to restore some level of safety, sanity and constitutional balance to the role that police officers play in our communities. If we fail to do so, we will have done a disservice to ourselves and every man, woman and child in this country who have become casualties of the American police state.
Evil smelling trolls stink-up the Flathead Beacon’s comment section. That is a lovely title to this post from James Conner, lamenting that the Beacon hasn’t abolished anonymous racists from making their racist opinions known.
Featured is a screenshot of a comment from AndrewInterrupted: Those white guilty idiots in that Whitefish council meeting should take a bus ride to Ferguson for a little research.
Below this comment, this picture:
Censoring this comment does what exactly? Make obvious racists disappear? No, it just cleans up the aesthetics for someone like Conner who doesn’t want to think too much about the conditions black people deal with every day in places like Ferguson.
The “Evil Troll” post was put up November 21st. Three days later, this is the title of the post: Ferguson grand jury does not indict cop, lawlessness begins. Here is the opening paragraph:
Protests, some violent, began after the grand jury investigating the death of Michael Brown decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for murder or any other crime. Brown’s parents asked that protests be kept peaceful. So did Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama. Their words had little or no effect. The rampage began and is still on as of the time of this post.
Ah yes, the rampage of angry, vengeful black folks begins. It’s too bad they don’t act like those good negroes, Obama and Holder. Here’s more:
A good many of the protesters who are breaking windows, setting fires, tipping over police cars, and menacing reporters, tonight may say, indeed may even believe, they’re seeking justice. But they’re not. They’re seeking revenge. They want Darren Wilson punished regardless of whether he actually broke the law. They’re taking advantage of the situation to express outrage over grievances accumulated over years, placing their faith not in law or government but in hammers and torches and destruction. And some, I suspect, don’t much care whether anyone is injured or killed.
Whoops, sorry about the picture. It’s not of angry black people destroying their own community like a bunch of animals. It’s a picture from the pumpkin riots, where privileged young white people were just out having a little fun. From the link:
It’s easy to make jokes about what has already come to be known as the Great Pumpkin Riot of 2014. Events in Keene, New Hampshire this past weekend read like an Onion article: The annual Pumpkin Festival in the sleepy college town ended with riot cops and tear gas as students and young people flipped cars and started fires in the street. Pumpkin-spiced madness! Smashing Pumpkins!
But there’s good reason to take the riot seriously.
This was not a riot over pumpkins, of course. It was a riot over nothing, young people gathered in small town streets en masse and inebriated, then buoyed into further riotousness by overzealous SWAT policing. Mask Magazine rightly contextualizes the incident in the canon of nihilistic “party riots,” à la the Bellingham, Washington student riots last year, which featured a young woman twerking on a cop car. But just because these riots weren’t necessarily about anything — not pumpkins, not sporting events, and certainly not police shootings — is not evidence they’re devoid of content or meaning.
The playful levity with which the media, if not the local police, are treating the riot seems as much to do with who was behind the destruction as it does with the seasonal theme. It was white youth who pulled down street signs and flipped over cars, and as a result they were described as “rowdy” and “boisterous.” In Ferguson, where property damage and confrontations with cops were no more extreme, the rioters were deemed “violent” and “criminal.” Black riots, it seems, get read as somewhat more threatening.
The difference was adeptly highlighted by Twitter comments about how the platitudes typically applied to black communities following a riot seemed absurd when applied to the Keene riot. “Why are they tearing up their own community,” quipped one Twitter user. “Where are the leaders in the white community? They need to speak out #pumpkinfest,” wrote another.
These were pointed riffs on the charges leveled at black communities in the wake of protests turned riotous. They highlight how blacks are forced to account, as a whole, for unruly behavior in a way that is never demanded of whites as a community. Black behavior is scrutinized and vilified. When white youth behave the same way — even without the significant imprimatur of protesting the police killing an unarmed teen — the response is so different it is risible.
There is a sense of relief from some people that the righteous hopes of those who still see a need to fight for civil rights were placed on an un-perfect victim. Mostly it’s from conservative people, but James Conner has shown how even those who would prefer to expunge nasty, racist comments from online news stories are eager to use the grand jury’s decision not to indict as proof Michael Brown deserved to die.
I may be a critic of the police state mentality that keeps creeping into our domestic psyche, and wonder why small towns need armored vehicles with .50 caliber guns, but that doesn’t mean I think law enforcement is not a needed component of our social organization.
While most people get to take a break from their routine, police and other first responders are on the clock, responding to the messiness that can ensue when people are in forced proximity to family and intoxicants. For that, I am thankful.
But talk is cheap. Missoula’s population and infrastructure continue to grow, which means more people to police. As demands on local law enforcement increase, Missoulians need to be aware that we get the services we pay for. If we want well-trained officers with the skills to de-escalate situations and therefore be effective protectors of the peace, then we need to pay for it.
Instead of allocating more resources to law enforcement, Missoula wants to pay tens of millions of dollars for soft ball fields with no plan for how to pay for long-term maintenance. And while any voter had the ability to vote for the Parks and Trails Bond that passed earlier this month, it’s property owners that will be forking out the loot.
This recent letter to the editor makes the case for why the passing the Bond was a mistake:
It stinks that the Parks and Trails bond passed, not because money for parks and trails is bad, and not because money for softball and soccer fields is bad. It stinks because of how it was done and what it will do.
The rider (see dirty, underhanded congressional trick) titled Parks and Trails should have been a separate bond called the Fort Missoula Complex Bond. The audacity to call it something that many people would vote for without researching is backdoor political maneuvering that has no place in Missoula. Those responsible and the organizations involved should be embarrassed.
It stinks that every registered voter got to vote for it but only homeowners have to pay for it. That shouldn’t be legal. The folks that use those fields should have bake sales and car washes to pay for their hobbies; that’s what honest, hard-working people do. They don’t slap a fake label on to get someone else to pay for it.
What are we paying for: the renovation of a beautiful, natural feeling park; removal of four functional softball fields to be replaced by five, addition of ugly, costly concrete and cinderblock structures, re-arrangement of other fields, addition of a turf field, and a bunch of lights. I guess we trust the price to be good (though it’s an outdated bid) and the plan well-thought out and fiscally smart (even though it doesn’t include maintenance/operating costs). It certainly isn’t apparent when you walk the existing complex and see the design posted. The fields are also only usable only six months a year.
Parks and Trails was a deceiving $34 million bond to build a high maintenance complex for a portion of the community that will lure more tourists to a city with growing crime, traffic and housing epidemics.
Missoula gentrifies downtown then expects law enforcement to follow around alcoholics and ticket them for panhandling so that shoppers aren’t put off by the visibility of addiction, poverty and mental illness. We fill the jails then the jail gets sued when people die from alcohol withdrawal. Some businesses sell single cans of gut-rotting malt liquor then complain when police can’t make the resulting public intoxication disappear.
It’s easy to point fingers when police abuse their authority. We see disturbing instances all across the nation, increasingly caught on camera, of police doing terrible things, with too often lethal results. Unfortunately the need for policing isn’t just going to go away tomorrow. The hard work is moving beyond the blame game and working collaboratively to improve the conditions on the ground.
To all the amazing people doing this work without recognition, thank you.
Chuck Schumer just threw his entire party under the bus by claiming Democrats blew it by focusing on health care reform. Why, Chuck? Because it wasn’t the single-payer fix that could have actually addressed the problem? No, that’s not Chucky’s reasoning. Instead, the third-ranking Democratic Senator points out those uninsured people only represent around 5% of registered voters, so why do anything to help them? From the link:
“After passing the stimulus, Democrats should have continued to propose middle-class-oriented programs and built on the partial success of the stimulus, but unfortunately Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them,” Schumer said. “We took their mandate and put all of our focus on the wrong problem—health care reform.”
The third-ranking Senate Democrat noted that just about 5 percent of registered voters in the United States lacked health insurance before the implementation of the law, arguing that to focus on a problem affecting such “a small percentage of the electoral made no political sense.”
What a nice sentiment coming from a powerful Democrat the day before Thanksgiving.
There is something comforting for those of us who benefit from our white privilege in pointing out obvious racism, like the Whitefish “anti-racist” battle Cowgirl covered a few days ago. What I thought a bit curious was the first comment, from James Conner, who argues for a more tolerant approach to white supremacy:
Richard Spencer’s views are reprehensible. He’s also a law abiding resident of Whitefish. Trying to run him out of town because he holds unpopular beliefs is an act of intolerance, not love.
The situation is approaching a point where some will think it wise to erect on the city limits a sign saying “Welcome to Whitefish — but only if you’re a liberal.”
Before getting to Conner’s views on Ferguson, I’d like readers to give some thought to what constitutes a law abiding person of any municipality. To achieve this status, does that mean one never jaywalks? How about running a red light, or speeding? There are a lot of laws on the books. At some point, even the most diligent citizen will find himself/herself in non-compliance of some law.
I bring up petty offenses because the chain of events that led to Michael Brown being shot dead in the street by officer Wilson was a petty offense. Whether or not Wilson addressed the two black youth walking in the street in a civil, professional manner is still contested. But James Conner is satisfied with the decision by the jury, comprised of 9 white people and 3 black people, as evidenced by this post, titled Ferguson: so far, no injuries or deaths, just vandalism:
President Obama called for calm. So did Attorney General Holder. The people protesting the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson paid the President and his chief law enforcement and civil rights officer no heed. They took to the streets with their matchbooks and hatchets, breaking windows, setting fires, not just in Ferguson, MO, but around the country. So far, no one has been injured or killed, but that luck probably won’t hold.
There was always the possibility that the facts of the shooting in Ferguson would support the policeman’s version of the events. That seems to be the case. Reports in the New York Times and elsewhere suggest that Brown, a powerful young man who stood 6-foot-four and weighed almost 300 pounds, had just robbed a convenience store, roughing up the clerk, then swaggered down the middle of the street, where, confronted by Wilson and told to move to the side of the road, he slugged Wilson through the police car’s open window. Wilson, fearing great injury to himself, shot Brown in the hand. A few tens of seconds later, Brown, apparently amok, charged Wilson, who shot Brown dead.
I doubt the fact that Brown was black and Wilson white had anything to do with how the incident went down; that Brown said to himself, “I’m gonna punch-out that honky pig,” or that Wilson said to himself, “Gonna kill me a nigger; self-defense.” Brown’s color didn’t matter. He was a huge person, belligerent and enraged, who stupidly provoked a life and death confrontation with a man with a gun. No one should be surprised at the outcome.
Now I don’t think James Conner is an obvious racist, but this three paragraph reaction to the rage being expressed over the non-indictment of Wilson reeks of white privilege and perpetuates a willful, ignorant denial of the racial aspects of this shooting.
Conner is echoing the depiction of Brown by Officer Wilson, who described feeling like a 5 year old holding on to Hulk Hogan when he grabbed Brown’s arm. James Conner describes “a powerful young man who stood 6-foot-four and weighed almost 300 pounds” because it’s that mortal fear of Brown’s physical presence, combined with the allegation (disputed) that Brown “charged, apparently amok”, that ultimately convinced the jury not to indict.
Not mentioned by Conner is that the other party in this fatal altercation, Officer Wilson, is also 6-foot-four, and was inside a sturdy police car with his gun when whatever physical altercation initially took place.
I can’t for the life of me understand how Conner can say he doubts the fact that Brown was black and Wilson was white had anything to do with how the incident went down. Wilson’s own words literally demonizes Brown, bestowing super-human strength on this 18 year old to bulk up after being shot to charge like some crazed animal.
These are Wilson’s own words:
“He looked up at me and had the most aggressive face,” Wilson testified. “The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked.”
James Conner is usually capable of reasoned analysis, but his response to what’s happening in Ferguson and across the nation is truly reprehensible.
Bob McCulloch, the prosecutor who chose to give his disastrous press conference Monday night, provided a perfect example of exactly what not to do if one doesn’t want to exacerbate an already volatile, racially charged situation. Maybe there would have been property damage anyway, but McCulloch’s prosecutorial defense of Wilson, and his calling into question certain witness accounts of what happened, guaranteed it.
Racism isn’t just the obvious white supremacist stuff. It’s also the privilege of a white guy in Montana saying Michael Brown being black had nothing to do with how this incident went down.