November 17, 2003

Signs of the Times on the Local News

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Here in Charlotte, the local news tells us there is an increase in "house invasions." Police say it is "partly because of the economy," but urges people to "document their belongings" if they want them returned. More signs of the Bush era, the neocon dystopia. When money and power is so tightly concentrated and large numbers of people are desperate, crime goes up. Inevitably. It's all part of this glorious world the Bush policies are creating for us. The signs of deterioration are everywhere.
  • Meanwhile, the international news tells us that the American military in Iraq raided a relatively affluent suburb in Iraq as part of Bush's new get-tough policy of trying to counter the violence in Iraq with more violence. They turned many homes into shambles and earned the contempt of more Iraqis. They say they found some guns, too. Apparently the Second Amendment is not part of the "democracy" the neocons are forcing on Iraq with heavy artillery. It's the Sharon-style of dealing with violence by creating more bitterness and more justification for retaliation. It's a recipe for endless strife.
  • And the news also tells us that economic conditions are so bad that retailers have pushed their Christmas promotions earlier than ever before to try to get "consumers" (that's us) to spend more money. So now Santa has come to local stores on November 15, a record. This is how far we have fallen. Now our only hope is Santa Claus. It's going to be a grim January.
  • The networks' fall season of programs are doing so terribly it has become openly discussed that the season sucks and one of the networks, CBS I think, actually put out a press release saying that "our programming doesn't suck." But it does. The network entertainment fantasy is becoming increasingly unsatisfying for people who's lives are being affected more and more by the dissolution of the Bush era and can no longer sit stupefied in front of a TV watching mindless diversion. A Yankelovich report shows that an increasing number of people say they want to "watch less TV". It's a new world. The corporate world is crumbling before our eyes.
  • In trade negotiations with the U.S., Brazil is angry because the U.S. will not remove farm subsidies. Bush says he won't do it until they do it in Europe. So Brazil is going to take some things off the table that the U.S. cares about, like intellectual property. The WTO structure is falling apart. The corporate (Bush) world is failing in its attempt to rule the world. It's all coming to pieces.

    November 18, 2003

    Wish You Weren't Here

  • When Bush visits Britain, it's with the highest security concerns ever. Arab News.
  • "American excitement gives way to anxiety and foreboding", says The Guardian.
  • The mayor of London calls Bush "greatest threat to life on planet". Furthermore, according to The Independent, "Mr Livingstone, who is holding a 'peace party' for anti-war groups in City Hall tomorrow, added: 'I don't formally recognise George Bush because he was not officially elected. So we are organising an alternative reception for everybody who is not George Bush.'"
  • Deluded Bush says the United States would wage war again, and alone if necessary, to ensure the long-term safety of the world. See Wired.
  • People like Limbaugh should go to jail, said Limbaugh. Fairness and Accuracy in Media

    MEDIA REFLECTIONS

    November 19, 2003

  • Kennedy Week -- Tuesday night the History Channel played some of The Men Who Killed Kennedy, an amazing film series documenting a great deal of evidence and analysis about the Kennedy assassination 40 years ago this week. It's good to see a film of that quality surface on a mass market network like the History Channel. It's important for that history to be understood. The absurd lone assassin story was a lame distraction. There are certainly many things that remain unknown about that crime. But those who cling to the lone assassin theory just haven't looked into it. There is a rich body of history surrounding the event, the product of the combined work of many researchers. The broad strokes of that history are consistent and widely known and supported by many cross-referenced facts. It is important to know what happened at that turning point in American history to understand the present catastrophe.

  • Bush may be losing the military voters. See IV Press Online

  • Chomsky's Wall -- The New York Times magazine recently ran an interview of Noam Chomsky. For an actual interview of Chomsky to appear in a mainstream medium like the New York Times is in itself extremely rare, if not unheard of. The Times will discuss Chomsky's books on linguistics, but it is rare that the times publish Chomsky's political views. He would never appear giving his views about the latest event on CNN, for example, instead of their own "military expert". An interview that does make it into the New York Times is not likely to cut deeply into Chomsky's radical political views, and this one certainly lives up to those expectations. This interview is short and practically devoid of controversial politics. It talks about Chomsky the guy, asks about the personal side, and he does oblige, briefly. But in spite of its Sunday morning brunch bite-sized People-magazine approach to Chomsky, it is a snapshot that manages to provide a window into Chomksy's thinking.

    The interviewer asks him if he ever doubts his own ideas. Chomsky argues that in linguistics he "keeps changing" what he said, and says, "Any person who is intellectually alive changes his ideas. If anyone at a university is teaching the same thing they were teaching five years ago, either the field is dead, or they haven't been thinking."

    But, the interviewer counters, "you haven't changed your political views one iota since the '60s. For instance you remained a vocal critic of Israel."

    Chomsky said he objected to the founding of a Jewish state, which he thought was not a proper concept, any more than a Christian or Muslim state.

    The interviewer says: "Your father was a respected Hebraic scholar, and sometimes you sound like a self-hating Jew."

    This oft-repeated absurdity Chomsky destroys succinctly: "It's a shame that critics of Israeli policies are seen as either anti-Semites or self-hating Jews. It's grotesque. If an Italian criticized Italian policies, would he be seen as a self-hating Italian?"

    Then the interviewer asks, "Have you ever been psychoanalyzed?" With this question she uncovers an interesting part of Chomsky, a sort of wall. He does not answer the question directly. He doesn't say yes he has or no he hasn't. He says, "I do not think pyschoanalysis has a scientific basis. If we can't explain why a cockroach decides to turn left, how can we explain why a human being decides to do something?"

    Here the interviewer stumbles upon the wall in Chomsky. The question was "Have you been psychoanalyzed?" not "Do you believe psychoanalysis has a scientific basis?" It's quite possible that one could say it does not have a scientific basis and still say, 'Yes, I have been psychoanalyzed." One could even say, "I really enjoyed it," or "It improved my state of mind," or "It stopped me from committing suicide," even though it had "no scientific basis." It could still work as therapy without any scientific basis. The value of therapy is not "to explain why a cockroach decides to turn left," but to make people feel better. But to Chomsky, the scientific basis is the only question that is relevant. It apparently doesn't occur to him that there is another answer to the question.

    Chomsky refuses to trod in certain areas. He refuses to get sidetracked with the human side of the political issues he concerns himself with. This is, no doubt, one of the reasons he is so effective in what he does. He can move very far down a line of thinking without getting sidetracked. In one of my two interviews with him, when I was a much younger and more naive man than today, I had been shocked when he had told me that Carter had launched an initiative to send weapons to Indonesia to be used to slaughter Timorese who lived on land the Indonesia regime wanted to annex. In my shock and confusion, I blurted out, "Why would he do something like that? What would be his motivation?" Chomsky dismissed the whole idea saying "These are not interesting questions." There are always ways for people to justify to themselves whatever heinous acts they may choose to commit, he said. The point he was after, was that it happened. He didn't care to get caught up in understanding why Carter, who appeared to be a moral and compassionate man, would do such a thing. Chomsky is essentially right in where he places importance in that question, but to some, the human side, the motivations behind the action are still interesting questions.

    Chomsky refuses to entertain the notion that there was a conspiracy behind the murder of John F. Kennedy. It's not that he holds to the official view of the assassination, he just maintains that it doesn't matter who killed him. Since Kennedy said a few months before he was killed that he was going to begin to pull U.S. soldiers out of Vietnam, many have reasoned that his obstruction to the Vietnam War was at least one of the reasons he was killed. After his death, the Johnson administration drastically escalated the war.

    Chomsky says there is nothing in the record to indicate that Kennedy would have pulled out of Vietnam without a victory, even though he did say it on camera. Chomsky doesn't put stock in that. That could have been typical political propaganda, PR.

    It's no more important who killed Kennedy than who killed anyone else, Chomsky says. It doesn't matter. He was part of the same agenda that motivated his predecessors and his followers as president. It's the way the institution runs, Chomsky says. The individuals who rise to power in that system will not do anything to really change it.

    But there is evidence that Kennedy really was moving in a different direction than his predecessors, than even his own earlier actions. He was changing. His tyrannical father, who had rather liked the Nazis, and who had been such a major driving force in JFK's political career, had had a stroke, and was losing his power and influence on his sons. There is a great deal of evidence that Jack and Bobby Kennedy were changing to more moderate views after their father was debilitated.

    Chomsky also refuses to deal with allegations that the 911 attacks were -- at least in some part -- an inside job. He says, "Governments around the world, such as Russia and China, have used 911 to justify powers. I think that's true here. Because they exploit it doesn't mean they had something to do with it."

    Again, true enough. But that logic doesn't establish that there was no complicity from within the government. It just means that there wasn't necessarily any. You can't conclude they had a hand in doing it just because they exploited it. Fair enough. But not far enough.

    Chomsky is one of many who believe that getting into "conspiracies" only blunts and diffuses your argument, makes it easy for others to categorize and dismiss you, and that catching this one or that one in a bad deed doesn't matter because it's the way the institution operates that counts. Any president is going to do essentially the same thing in support of the system of which he is a product, according to this logic. This argument has a relative validity, certainly not an absolute one. It certainly does make a difference whether a John Kennedy or a Lyndon Johnson, or a Nixon, or a Reagan or a Bush is president. Maybe not as big a difference as Chomsky would like to see by affecting institution-wide change. But in the gap between Bush and Gore, for example, a lot of people have died who would not have died if Gore were president. I remember saying that before the election and mainstream people at that time thought it was over dramatizing to say that the difference would be a difference of life and death for many people. Now it is hard to imagine anyone seriously trying to refute the statement.

    Though I point out what I see as limitations in Chomsky's thinking, or areas where I disagree with him, I still believe that Chomsky is one of America's great resources. Chomsky provides a reference point through which people can begin to get an idea how skewed the view is that they have been given by the mass media. Americans are so used to lies they barely know which way is up. But Chomsky gives an alternative viewpoint, a point of reference, from which one can begin to construct an authentic alternate mental universe. It's possible that he gets through to more people by staying away from conspiracy theories. That would be a good thing. And behold, there's Noam Chomsky interviewed in the New York Times!

    NOTES FOR TODAY

    November 20, 2003

  • "The Strange Death of the Woman Who Filed a Rape Lawsuit Against Bush" by Jackson Thoreau
  • British protestors sing "Yankee Poodle Tony".
  • Letters to Bush. Here's one from a 12-year-old: "Dear George, I would just like to say how much I hate you. You have done nothing positive in your whole time as president. You are the reason for the poverty in the Middle East. You have no idea what you are doing. You're killing loads of people, and that is not excluding your own nation too. There are still lots of very poor people in America, and they are getting poorer. You keep making excuses about Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, but all you were in Iraq for was the oil. Saddam had been there for 30 years, so why is it only now you decided to act? You keep talking about September 11 when all you do is bomb other countries and give Israel lots of money. It is a very bad idea that you have come over here. I don't want to grow up in a country which is so influenced by you and your policies. Mickey (12) See "While we have your attention, Mr President... " in the Guardian
  • History is on the side of insurgents. See LA Times
  • A message to the soldiers in Iraq from retired soldier Stan Goff: "In 1970, I was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, then based in northern Binh Dinh Province in what was then the Republic of Vietnam. When I went there, I had my head full of s**t: s**t from the news media, s**t from movies, s**t about what it supposedly mean to be a man, and s**t from a lot of my know-nothing neighbors who would tell you plenty about Vietnam even though they'd never been there, or to war at all." Truthout.
  • "'In some cases, the measured use of force is all that protects us from a chaotic world ruled by force,' Bush told academics gathered at Whitehall Palace." Bush's words sound pretty good, when he talks democracy, freedom, open societies, etc. But it's just lies. It has nothing to do with his actions. He himself is more responsible than anyone for bringing on "a chaotic world ruled by force" than anyone else. One of the Brits protesting Bush said, "Everything about (Bush) is just deeply depressing. Bush stole the presidency, Blair lied to the people, Bush led us down the path of war. They are not listening to the public." See MSNBC.
  • US puts import limits on Chinese bras. Forbes.

    November 21, 2003

  • Dennis Kucinich, Ohio congressman and presidential candidate, is one politician with the guts to stand for principle. On his website he posted the Diebold internal memos that show that the company knew its voting machines are not reliable and can be manipulated.
  • Message from Baghdad -- GirlBlog
  • The Destruction of Iraqi Homes Is Within the "Rules of War," Spokesman Says -- Taking its lead from the Israeli army, which has shown the effectiveness of its formula for eternal war, the U.S. Army has taken to bulldozing homes of Iraqis who are family members of "suspects." See Mercury News -- Knight Ridder
  • Neocon warmonger Richard Perle admitted to a British audience that the invasion of Iraq was illegal. He said, "international law ... would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone", but this, he said, would have been morally unacceptable. "I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing." The Guardian.
  • For those who imagined Bush's talk about the attacks on Americans in Iraq being carried out by "Saddam loyalists", see CBS News. "I am fighting for my country not Saddam Hussein to get rid of the infidels. Very few people are fighting for him. They gave up on him at the end of the war," said one of the fighters for the resistance.
  • AntiBush demonstrations in London from the alternative media view. See Indymedia.org.uk
  • The new U.S. crackdown in Iraq is called "Operation Iron Hammer", a phrase the Nazis also used. Washington Post
  • It's back! The futures market that enables participants to bet on the likelihood of terror attacks and other calamities was withdrawn as a Pentagon initiative, but has resurfaced in the private sector. The Guardian.
  • Dollar falls to record lows. BBC
  • Up to 150,000 protest Bush in London. Telegraph. The Mirror said 200,000. See Pictures.
  • An LA Times poll found that 42% believe Bush deserves a second terms, 46% believe he doesn't.

    SUNDAY REPORTS AND READINGS

    November 23, 2003

    Max Cleland, the former Georgia Senator and wounded Vietnam vet who was pushed out of office by a smear campaign questioning his patriotism and Diebold Republican election machines, is getting tough on Bush. Cleland was one of the sponsors of the bill that created the independent 911 commission, is angry that the White House is still stonewalling the commission. "this independent commission should be independent and should not be making deals with anybody," Cleland said. "I start from there. It's been painfully obvious the administration not only fought the creation of the commission but that their objective was the war in Iraq, and one of the notions that was built on was there was a direct connection between al Qaida and 9/11 and Saddam Hussein. There was not. So therefore they didn't want the 9/11 commission to get going. What you have is the fear from the White House that the commission would uncover pretty quickly the fact that one of four legs that the war stood on was nonexistent."
  • Here comes Patriot II! When we should be repealing the Stalinist Patriot I. Hold on there just a minute! OneWorld.net
  • Let's review for a minute: After the 9-11, Bush announced that the attack had been done by Al Qaida, and insisted there be no investigation into the catastrophe but lobbied Congress to give him power to attack Afghanistan where Al Qaida was hiding out, not Saudi Arabia, where the alleged attackers came from and where most of their money came from. He said he was going to get Osama bin Laden dead or alive, but then lost interest and said it was no longer a priority. Instead it was time to attack Iraq, as he and his neoconservative gang had been planning to do for a decade or more. Now he has squandered the support of the international community that existed after 9-11, and while he turned his back on Al Qaida in order to launch an unjustified attack on Iraq, he has turned the world against the U.S. and Al Qaida is much strengthened by the new wave of hatred of Americans. SunSpot.net
  • "JFK: We still wonder what might have been" by William C. Kashatus. "Kennedy's death remains an emotionally charged mystery for millions of Americans who lost their idealism, and perhaps their faith in government itself, on that sunny autumn day in Dallas in 1963." History News Service.
  • Hurray! A very important precedent. According to Wired, "California will become the first state requiring all electronic voting machines produce a voter-verifiable paper receipt."
  • Computer World reports, "A host of computer scientists and activists today joined forces to form the National Committee on Voting Integrity (NCVI) and threw down the gauntlet to U.S. presidential candidates, inviting them to take a position on the issue of electronic voting... The letter being sent by the NCVI today to candidates states, in part, 'We are writing to you regarding the integrity of the voting machines in the United States. It is our view that some of the technologies that have been adopted to tabulate votes, both before and after the 2000 Presidential election, pose a significant risk to the integrity of the democratic process in the United States. We write to you specifically to ask your views on this matter. What steps do you believe should be taken to ensure the integrity of voting?' The group will post responses on its Web site, www.votingintegrity.org."
  • Resistance to the Patriot Act is growing in the American heartland, says MSNBC
  • Noam Chomsky made it onto the Charley Rose show.
  • "Bomb Before You Buy"Guardian. "Entirely absent from this debate are the Iraqi people, who might - who knows? - want to hold on to a few of their assets. Iraq will be owed massive reparations after the bombing stops, but in the absence of any kind of democratic process, what is being planned is not reparations, reconstruction or rehabilitation. It is robbery: mass theft disguised as charity; privatisation without representation."

    MEDIA REFLECTIONS

    November 24, 2003

  • The increased brutality of the U.S. offensive in Iraq has not had the desired result of suppressing resistance. Instead it is creating a situation in which it is clear that the exploding rage cannot be contained. Sunday the 23rd was a day of savagery, with Iraqi teenagers dragging two Americans from a wrecked car and pummeling them with concrete blocks, another U.S. soldier killed by a bomb and a U.S.-allied police chief killed. Associated Press. U.S. officials are holding to the line that the occupation is going well. "If you look at the accomplishments of the coalition since March of this year, it has been enormous," said Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  • The Queen was plenty pissed when she saw how the Bush brigade trashed her garden. Sunday Mirror.
  • "JFK, 9-11, and the REAL America: Tying It All Together" by Jon Phalen, posted on NYC Indymedia, is a gift of clear-headed, unpretentious, courageous common sense, grounded in heart and not in greed, as we are accustomed to with most of our cultural messages. It breaks things downs to basics, which is an appropriate response to a situation in which an extreme faction has seized power and is breaking our whole nation down to its very basis. Phalen says, "Hijackers? What makes you think you actually KNOW what happened on those planes? All four were obliterated, along with everyone on board, remember? No crime scene, no direct evidence, no recognizable remains, no witnesses whatsoever -- it's a blank canvas. How convenient for any party intent on launching a new era of global imperialism, and willing to spin this tragedy into a viable excuse. Indeed, all of the attack's consequences are far better explained by this agenda than by Bin Laden's purported death wish. Those presuming to examine this matter, i.e. ALL OF US, need to recognize that such trickery is a timeless specialty of governments." This is a powerful piece, packs a lot for the time it takes to read. It indicates a change of tone and perspective that is appropriate at this juncture in history. One more tidbit from Phalen: "Mind you, this is not to say that remote circumvention is definitely what happened. On its face, this scenario is wildly improbable. Speaking of improbable, what about four airliners being taken over simultaneously and used as missiles? Since this actually happened, we have no choice but to consider fantastic scenarios, and since the official scenario is itself an unsubstantiated "conspiracy theory," competing scenarios should also receive serious attention. Our reluctance to question official doctrine on this matter is a symptom of the societal role most of us have been bred and trained for: to be ever-faithful hounds, tails thumping the floor as we contentedly slorp the hand of class authority. Such credulity also becomes inevitable when the alternative is so unbearable: if someone in Bush's position is capable of lying to us about something as huge, as gut-wrenchingly horrible as 9-11, then everything we believe about this country -- about the nature of civilization itself -- might just be childish nonsense... Most people simply don't have the guts to go there."
  • In an interview for Cigar Aficionado magazine, General Tommy Franks said an attack on the U.S. using a weapon of mass destruction that inflicted heavy casualties would probably cause the Constitution to be scrapped in favor of a military form of government. This is one of those things that make most Americans shiver in fear, but makes the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Ashcroft-Rove-Bush types say, "Wow, what a good idea!" Hold on to your head. In the last analysis, RW Emerson said, only thing that is sacred is the integrity of your own mind. Or, as Sly Stone sang, "Don't you know that you are free? Well, at least in your mind, if you want to be. Stand!" See Rense.
  • Maureen Dowd makes an eloquent comment on the administration founded and maintained on fear. NYTimes. "Before the president even knows his opponent, his first political ad is blanketing Iowa today. "It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known," Mr. Bush says, in a State of the Union clip. Well, that's a comforting message from our commander in chief. Do we really need his cold, clammy hand on our spine at a time when we're already rattled by fresh terror threats at home and abroad?"
  • Forty percent think Bush should be impeached over his lie about weapons of mass destruction, according to retropoll.org.
  • Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) sent a letter to the Chairman and the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee requesting that the Committee hold a hearing to investigate abuses of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by Diebold Inc., one of the nation's largest electronic voting machine manufacturers. See Kucinish's Web site
  • Italian billionaire media mogul and president Berlusconi said, "Mussolini never killed anyone." The Guardian.
  • Things You Have To Believe to be a Republican: rgj.com

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