Saturday, May 16, 2009
1. Ignore the headline as it is entirely worthless.
2. Be a critical reader - in this case, treat first two paragraphs with lots of skepticism (using whatever tools are at your disposal, including those Internet Toob Thingies).
3. Look for the hidden piece of information that contradicts the whole article - think of it as a text version of "Where's Waldo?".
Note that these tips can then be applied to other corporate media propagandists.
A United States pilot from the Vietnam War praising napalm, from Derrick Jensen’s Songs of the Dead.
We sure are pleased with those backroom boys at Dow. The original product wasn’t so hot–if the gooks were quick they could scrape it off. So the boys started adding polystyrene–now it stuck like shit to a blanket. But then if the gooks jumped under water it stopped burning, so they started adding Willie Peter so’s to make it burn better. It’ll burn under water now. And just one drop is enough, it’ll keep burning right down to the bone so they die anyway from phosphorus poisoning.
...It was his (John Brown's) peculiar doctrine that a man has a perfect right to interfere by force with the slaveholder, in order to rescue the slave. I agree with him. They who are continually shocked by slavery have some right to be shocked by the violent death of the slaveholder, but no others. Such will be more shocked by his life than by his death. I shall not be forward to think him mistaken in his method who quickest succeeds to liberate the slave.Artwork by Josh MacPhee (h/t Kick Him, Honey).
Notes in the margin: I have had friends dating back to my high school years who lived under Pol Pot's regime and who were lucky to escape with their lives. The stories they tell are, to say the least, harrowing.
Also, it's worth mentioning that Pol Pot's regime had plenty of US backing, as I've mentioned before:
...the US government found plenty to love about Pol Pot, in particular the Khmer Rouge's anti-Vietnamese chauvinism, making the the US and Cambodia allies of sorts after the US military finally withdrew its troops from the region. In fact the US government would continue to support Pol Pot even after he was deposed, refusing to recognize the new Cambodian government that overthrew the Khmer Rouge, and denouncing the Vietnamese-backed overthrow as "illegal."  Some of your tax dollars went to provide aid to Khmer Rouge camped at the Thai border during the late 1970s and early 1980s.It would also be helpful to remember that not only was Pol Pot's regime a convenient US ally against Vietnam, but had the US done much of anything tangible to confront the Khmer Rouge's genocide, the US would have had to confront its own genocidal actions in Cambodia just a few years prior to the Pol Pot regime:
...US involvement in subverting Cambodia's government paved the way for Pol Pot to sieze power. Not surprisingly, that omission means that the viewer is not made away of the nature of US intervention in Cambodia. US efforts to depose Prince Sihanouk go back to the mid-1950s, finally succeeding by 1970 when Sihanouk was overthrown in a coup. By the time of the 1970 coup, the Cambodians had already suffered through the Nixon regime's decision to carpet bomb the Cambodian countryside that had started the previous year.  By the time Sihanouk had been deposed, the Cambodian social and economic infrastructure was in ruins...Suggested readings:
Blum, W. (2005). Rogue State (3rd Ed.). Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press.
Chomsky, N. (1987). Cambodia. The Chomsky Reader (pp. 289-297). New York: Pantheon Books.
Genocide Watch (2006). Genocides, Politicides and Other Mass Murders Since 1945.
City officials had warned they would not tolerate marches or rallies supporting the rights of gays and lesbians. Activists had targeted Moscow, which was holding the finals of the Eurovision song contest on Saturday, to press their claims that Russia officially sanctions homophobia.This happened just days after the first Russian same-sex couple to request a marriage permit. As corny is this might sound, I'm a firm believer that love does not discriminate. Of course the US is still a long way from doing right by our own same-sex couples. As of now, we have perhaps a small but growing patchwork of states that have recently recognized same-sex marriages as legal, but at the same time are dealing with our own nationalists and religious extremists who simply cannot get over their hang-ups and who insist that their hang-ups be imposed upon everyone else.
One year ago tomorrow—May 16, 2008—former CIA analyst and current security consultant Larry Johnson put up this blog post at his site “No Quarter.”
I now have it from two sources
that there is video dynamite–Michelle Obama railing against “whitey” at Jeremiah Wright’s church. Republicans may have a lousy record when it comes to the economy and the management of the war in Iraq, but they are hell on wheels when it comes to opposition research. Someone took the chance and started reviewing the recordings from services at Jeremiah Wright’s United Church of Christ. Holy smoke!! I am told there is a clip that is being held for the fall to drop at the appropriate time. The last thing Barack and Michelle need is a new clip that raises further questions about her judgment and temperament.
Johnson posted a video of a then-current Tennessee Republican ad attacking Michelle Obama, then continued his argument.
When the ugly video tapes about Jeremiah Wright’s racist ravings first broke Barack Obama told us he could no more disown Jeremiah Wright than his own Grandmother. Well, we all know how that turned out. So will Barack stand by Michelle when the tape emerges of her verbally attacking “whitey?” Republicans, who are otherwise gloomy about prospects in November, recognize that this recording will create real problems for Barack and give them a shot at the White House. It is their October surprise.
Does Barack have an obligation to tell the Democrats, super delegates in particular, about this tape? Did Barack and his campaign do their basic homework and identify this tape as a potential problem? And, more importantly, do they have a copy? Probably better to deal with this issue before the convention rather than wait for October. What do you think?
The post drew more than 600 comments and kicked off three heated weeks of blog-driven rumormongering which I recapped at the time for The American Prospect. One year later, no such tape has ever surfaced.
As the "whitey tape" myth reached its crescendo, I commented a bit about the stupidity of the rumor at my own blog, and periodically did some mythbusting over at Johnson's blog (perhaps one of those occasions where simply telling the truth counted as trolling). A year has passed, and Johnson and his goons have yet to cough up the fecking tape. My bottom line remains the same: reliance on secondary and tertiary sources for making sensationalist claims is just plain stupid. Whatever credibility Johnson had up until that point was gone the moment he not only started the rumor, but when he refused to retract the claim once it was obvious that there was no "there" there.
Of course that particular rumor was little more than side show entertainment, and I'm sure at several points over that particular period in time I mentioned that there was plenty to object to with regard to Obama (or any of the other Dem and Repub candidates who had been blessed with our plutocrats' holy water) without resorting to idiotic smear campaigns. Suffice it to say, for the majority of the mouth-breathers who seemed to hang out at NQ, the temptation to engage in barely concealed or rather blatant racism and willful ignorance was palpable. Nor was I all that surprised when the bulk of that goon squad quickly latched on to Sarah Palin as their savior. At one point I might have remarked at how US political discourse had been reduced to a battle of personality cults, vapid sound bites, and smearmongering. Simultaneously, the US republic has been reduced to rather unsavory choices between semi-competent managers of empire and fanatical right-wing extremists (of course there's always the choice of just boycotting elections, and holding general strikes on election day, but thus far such suggestions seem in vain). Please spare me, of course, any discussion of which option would have been "better" or "worse" as I'm likely to simply retort that either would have been bad for much of the world's population - as in all likelihood the wars, torture, and predatory economic policies would have remained largely intact (and as of this writing, such has thus far come to pass).
Friday, May 15, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Raimondo also offers up a wish list of offenses to be investigated.
By all means, let us have a "truth commission," as Speaker Pelosi has advocated, with one difference: it ought not to be mandated or controlled in any way by Congress — since we don’t know how many members, or which ones, are implicated in these crimes.Instead, let an independent commission made up of professional researchers and investigators in this field, along with competent academics, hold public sessions at which the testimony of witnesses can be heard. And as long as we’re in an investigative mood, there’s plenty in the legacy of the Bush years that cries out for a vigorous probe.
“. . . this experiment, this magnificent experiment in democracy is just being shredded to pieces by these right-wing Christians, the Ashcroft branch of Republicanism. (They're) just shredding the rest of the Bill of Rights which hadn't been shredded already.”
-- George Carlin, interview in Idaho Statesman, Jan. 24, 2004
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
President Obama defended his decision to fight the release of photos showing detainee abuse Wednesday afternoon, saying it would only put American troops in harms way and create a backlash against Americans.
"The most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger," the president said before departing on his trip to Arizona. "Moreover, I fear the publication of these photos may only have a chilling effect on future investigations of detainee abuse."
The move is a complete 180. In a letter from the Justice Department to a federal judge on April 23, the Obama administration announced that the Pentagon would turn over 44 photographs showing detainee abuse of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq during the Bush administration.
The photographs are part of a 2003 Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU for all information relating to the treatment of detainees -- the same battle that led to President Obama's decision to release memos from the Bush Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel providing legal justifications for brutal interrogation methods, many of which the International Committee of the Red Cross calls torture.
Whatever lame rationalizations used by the Pope of Hope, the bottom line remains the same: this White House regime, just like the previous one, does not want the public to hold those at the highest echelons of power responsible for what just about any rational person would call torture, and which was (and I'll wager is still) done in violation of international law.
More change you can believe in.
Just a thought: although I'm not quite yet ready to change my mind about the safety of airline flights, it does strike me that airlines are playing with fire, and have been for quite some time. Credit the demand by this generation's Social Darwinists, the neoliberals, that wages for workers (but not executives) go down, unions get destroyed, and so on and you end up with scenarios where someone who is supposed to transport me safely at altitudes of 30,000 feet is potentially earning less than half my salary, is moonlighting, and hence is very stressed out (try paying the bills on $16K for a year - even if you're single and live like a monk or nun, it can be damned near impossible) and too tired to concentrate. As morbid as this may sound, I'm at a point where next air flight I'll tell my wife that if something were to happen like my plane crashes, don't blame the pilot - blame the system.
From the Washington Post today:Manassas-based Colgan Air today struggled to defend itself as details emerged about the low pay of its pilots, their long commutes and the need of some to hold second jobs to make ends meet.
Colgan faced a number of questions from the National Transportation Safety Board about its pilots in the second day of public hearings that cover the crash of Continental Connections Flight 3047 that killed 50 people near Buffalo on Feb. 12 this year. The NTSB is in its second day of public hearings into the crash, which was the deadliest U.S. transportation accident in seven years.
Under questioning from the board, Mary Finnigan, Colgan's vice president for administration, reported that Rebecca Shaw, co-pilot of the crash plane, drew an annual salary of $16,200 a year. The board also said that Shaw once held a second job in a coffee shop while working as a pilot for the airline in Norfolk, Va.
From the Michael Moore book Stupid White Men:"Believe it," [the American Eagle pilot] assured me. "One of our pilots last month went down to the welfare office and applied for food stamps. No kidding. With four kids, at his level of pay as a pilot, he was legally eligible for assistance. The front office at American found out about this and sent out a memo that said no pilot was to apply for food stamps or welfare—even if they were eligible for it!"...
First-year rookies in many cases were living below the poverty level. I don't know about you, but I want the people taking me with them to defy nature's most powerful force—gravity—to be happy, content, confident and well paid...
I do not want the minds of the pilots or the attendants to be occupied with how they're going to get the heat and lights turned back on once they get home tonight ...
Be nice to people on welfare—they may be flying you to Buffalo.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Here are the US rankings out of the 30 OECD countries (1 is best; 30 is worst -- worst as in Somalia-like). The names of the countries even more Somalian than the US appear in parens.
Infant Deaths: 28 out of 30 (Mexico, Turkey).
Life Expectancy: 24 out of 30 (Mexico, Turkey, Hungary, Poland, Czech & Slovak Republics).
Health Expenditures: 1 out of 30.
Poverty Rates: 28 out of 30 (Mexico, Turkey).
Child Poverty: 27 out of 30 (Mexico, Turkey, Poland).
Income Inequality: 27 out of 30 (Mexico, Turkey, Portugal).
Obesity: 30 out of 30.
Incarceration: 30 out of 30.
Work Hours (ranked in ascending order): 30 out of 30.
Height (women): 25 out of 30 (Mexico, Turkey, Korea, Portugal, Japan).
Height (men): 24 out of 30 (Italy, Spain, Mexico, Portugal, Korea, Japan).
OECD countries: Turkey, Mexico, Poland, USA, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Greece, Luxemburg, Australia, Netherlands, Slovakia, Korea, Czech Republic, UK, Belgium, Switzerland, Hungary, Iceland, France, Austria, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark.
Of course, as Bernard mentions, those darned French folks sleep more, are taller (this will come to haunt us before too long in Olympic basketball competitions), work fewer hours, and are still skinnier on average than US residents. It couldn't possibly have anything to do the combination of high stress, those overly long work hours, and poor diet endemic to the US.
Seriously, note the disconnect between health expenditures (where we really are #1) and measures of quality of life such as infant mortality rate, life expectancy. Get the feeling that our "privatize or perish" approach to practically all social concerns should be renamed "privatize and perish"?
Thank goodness we don't live in a third-world plutocracy. Oh wait - never mind...
On this day in American history in 1894, 3000 employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company went on strike in Illinois in response to a 30% wage cut.
Wages were cut because demand for the company's train cars declined due to the [1894?] economic panic.
The workers, most of which belonged to the American Railway Union, effectively stopped traffic west of Chicago in their strike.
The strike was eventually broken up by President Grover Cleveland, who sent 12,000 Army troops in stating that their strike effected delivery of the mail and presented a threat to public safety.
During this Pullman Strike, 13 strikers were killed in the ensuing violence.
Monday, May 11, 2009
In my junior year in high school, perhaps as much out of boredom with regard to the rest of what passed for "education" as anything else, I signed up for a psychology class. At the time, my impression of psychology and psychologists was that they were the folks who psychoanalyzed people (I would be quickly disabused of that misconception). What grabbed my attention was the unit on social psychology, when our class was exposed to the research of Stanley Milgram. As I'm sure anyone who has taken a general psychology class in high school or college will know, Milgram's infamous obedience experiments were inspired by the Nazi genocide. Between a film on Milgram's research (I seem to recall seeing the dramatization that starred William Shatner) and the assigned reading I had an "aha" moment. The basic gist of Milgram's work amounted to this: people engage in destructive obedience not because of some personality disorder or defect but because of a confluence of very powerful social stimuli. I began to realize that there was something analogous between not only Milgram's findings and something about the Nazi genocide, but also the genocide perpetrated by Pol Pot's regime in Cambodia. Like the test subjects in the Milgram experiments, the perpetrators of genocide at the behest of the likes of Hitler and Pol Pot were not psychopathic monsters, but rather were strikingly average people who simply ended up committing monstrous acts.
One of those factors that I keep coming back to again and again is the concept of banality of evil - namely that evil behaviors often result from a failure of the perpetrators to reflectively, critically think about what is being expected of them. That seemed to be the crux of the infamous "Nuremberg defense" (i.e., "I was just following orders;" "I had no choice but to continue"): a form of Sartrean bad faith in which those who thoughtlessly engage in genocidal acts objectify themselves as if driven strictly by the forces around them much like puppets; when in truth had they critically thought about the situation they in which they had been thrown there was the possibility of refusal (a possibility acted upon by others thrown in similar situations). I've also over the years realized that the potential to commit genocide requires not merely a the victims as "Other" but as less than Other (e.g., vermin, fauna) - a form of deception required not only at the individual level but on a cultural level as well. Of course that the denial that makes up the final phase of genocide requires such deception should go without saying.
The theory and research required to make those inferences would of course come later in life. Had it not been for the combination of the influences of family, some friends who'd just escaped some horrifying situations, and in introduction to the work of Milgram in my teenage years, the mere thought of studying genocide would have never occurred to me. There is a debt to these influences that I will never adequately pay. I'll continue to do my best to honor those influences to the fullest, however.
---Ted Joans from the poem "Jazz Is My Religion"