Monday, October 19, 2009

What Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri Do All Day, or Why I Cannot Talk About Politics With My Father

I have finally come to understand why I cannot talk about politics, terrorism or international relations with my father, not that it matters much, except as a glimpse of a much larger phenomenon.

It's not just my father. I can't talk about politics or terrorism or world affairs with anyone who has lived his or her entire life under the great umbrella of American propaganda.

They have insulated themselves under an enormous web of lies, and hidden themselves away from actual knowledge of their nation and its role in the world, both of which they see dimly, if at all: the world as a dark, dangerous, mysterious place, and their nation as the best of all nations -- nay, the best of all possible nations.

They have been content to collect the scraps tossed their way by the American War Machine, although they would never call it that. Nor would they ever consider themselves in any way complicit in America's endless war on the rest of the world, a war they never even acknowledge.

It's a war waged on multiple planes, of which the military, being the bloodiest, is easily the most visible. And it didn't start last week, or last year, or even eight years ago.

It's been going on all their lives -- or since they were little kids. For an ever-increasing percentage of America's population, it's always been there.

Like the land, the sea and the sky, it's the backdrop against which their lives take place.

Only a fool would question the sea and sky.

... or the notion that the American War Machine should be what it is, and is what it should be.

Except that it's not true. None of it is true. And even worse -- they know it's not true.

As long as every little lie stays in place, the umbrella stands, so to speak: the big lies remain sacred, so to speak. But once you start to pull and tug, and separate one lie from another, and expose them to the light of knowledge and reason ... well, that's where it gets intolerable.

And I guess I just love to pull and tug.

I came to this moderately interesting conclusion in the hospital room where I've been spending most of my weekends lately, sitting there with my father and reading the newspaper he read before I arrived.

He's so far from where I grew up that I have no connection with any of the local stories: I read them as if they were field reports from places I may never hear of again, much less visit.

One week there was a story about a guy who took some construction equipment and started blazing a trail through a state park. One week there was a story about a new McDonald's opening in one of the suburbs. This weekend there was a story about a schoolteacher who was sitting alone in her classroom doing paperwork when a buck burst through the window.

You just never know what you'll find in the local news, but all the stories share a common feature: they're verifiable. I could go see the damage to the park. I could eat at the new fast food restaurant. And I could visit the school, admire the new window, and meet the teacher who hid under her desk.

I haven't actually done any of these things, and it's not likely that I ever would. But I could. You could. Anyone could. And the same is true of virtually all the local news: you can't predict what you'll find, but you can certainly check it out.

On the other hand, with world news, and often with national politics, it's just the opposite. What there is to read -- what my father reads every day, what he's been reading for his entire adult life -- is utterly predictable, and completely unverifiable. And therefore, he doesn't have any reason not to believe it -- unless I start talking.

I've just had dental surgery and I wasn't doing much talking this weekend. But that's another story -- and one I'll spare you.

I've read a lot of predictable, unverifiable, manure over the years, but I have never seen it more concentrated and hilarious than in Sebastian Rotella's most recent piece in the Los Angeles Times.

Entitled "Setbacks weaken Al Qaeda's ability to mount attacks, terrorism officials say", it had me laughing so hard that I've preserved it for posterity at my "other blog".

I happened to read Sebastian Rotella's newest masterpiece, not because it was in the paper in my dad's room, but because it set off my Google News Alert with its mention of Rashid Rauf. As long-time readers will remember, I wrote extensively about Rashid Rauf and the so-called Liquid Bombers, beginning in August of 2006 when they were arrested, and continuing until I became unable to blog much (or at all). But even when I haven't been writing, I've still been reading, and collecting.

Over the past three years I have preserved more than 330 articles mentioning Rashid Rauf, and it has been fascinating (in an entirely predictable way) to watch his legend develop. (And you can read the word "legend" in either of two ways: it can mean either "a fable" or "an intelligence agent's cover story".)

In 2006, Rashid Rauf was merely a "key figure" in the so-called Liquid Bombing plot -- possibly a messenger of some kind. Then he was the al Qaeda connection. Then he was the bomb-making expert. Then he was the mastermind. Then he was an al Qaeda commander.

The latter was an interesting step in the growing legend. Not everyone gets to be an al Qaeda commander.

I first read that Rashid Rauf was an al Qaeda commander from Bill Roggio, who writes the aptly named "Long War Journal". Upon reading that Rashid Rauf was an al Qaeda commander, I immediately felt a sense of inadequacy -- having read everything I could find about Rashid Rauf, how could I not have known he was an al Qaeda commander?

Then I got a bit indignant: Why should Bill Roggio know that Rashid Rauf is an al Qaeda commander when I don't know it myself? Later I simmered down a bit and became less emotional and more pragmatic. The question became: How does Bill Roggio know Rashid Rauf is an al Qaeda commander?

Much to my astonishment, Long War Journal takes comments from unknown visitors. So I left Bill Roggio a comment, saying: "How do you know Rashid Rauf is an al Qaeda commander?"

To my further astonishment, my comment appeared immediately. So I bookmarked the page and returned a day later, hoping for an explanation from Bill Roggio as to where and how he had learned that Rashid Rauf was an al Qaeda commander. Instead of such an explanation, I found -- to no astonishment at all -- that my comment had been deleted. "Aha!" I thought, "That's how we know Rashid Rauf is an al Qaeda commander." What a thing to have learned!

We also learned quite a bit about Bill Roggio and his "Long War Journal", none of which could have been news. (Long War Journal? Why do you think it's called that?)

Then Rashid Rauf was also named -- as always, by an unnamed source -- as the al Qaeda contact for the dozen Pakistani students arrested in the UK in April of 2009 under so-called "Operation Pathway". No criminal charges were filed against any of the students, who were released from police custody but nonetheless held pending "deportation hearings" which still haven't started -- and most of the students have now left the UK "voluntarily".

Shortly after the Operation Pathway arrests, Rashid Rauf's legend began to grow again. Soon he was was al Qaeda's Commander for European Operations. Then he was a facilitator for the London bombings of 7/7/2005.

How much more is there? I've been wondering: How long it will take before he was behind 9/11? Or the 1993 WTC bombing? Oklahoma City? Beirut? Who really killed JFK, anyway? Was it Rashid Rauf? Or to put it another way: How do we know it wasn't?

I may have been kidding about that last part but the rest is serious, and Rashid Rauf's legend continues to grow backwards. The most recent additions to the legend have proceeded despite (or because of) the death (or not) of Rashid Rauf in a drone-launched missile attack in Pakistan in November of 2008.

Sebastian Rotella's LAT piece hints -- for the first time of which I am aware -- at a connection between Rashid Rauf and a failed attempt to bomb London in 2004. This is a year earlier than the previous publicly hinted connection: the backward legend-building is only three years short of 9/11 now, and it won't be long ...

It's a sick laugh, and one I can't share with my father, but laughs are scarce in these days of bogus terror everywhere, and unspoken dangers everywhere else. And the people who make me laugh have an impossible job.

The task -- for somebody like Bill Roggio or Sebastian Rotella -- is to make the threat of terrorism appear to be diminishing and increasing at the same time. It has to be serious enough to justify spending hundreds of billions every year, and throwing your civil rights down the drain at the same time, and the results of such an enormous sacrifice must be tangible. And yet, despite the tangible success, the threat must never go away, or even be significantly diminished, because then the hundreds of billions of dollars per year would have to stop -- or at least stop growing. And we can't have that.

You might start clamoring for the return of your civil rights. We can't have that, either.

For all these reasons -- not to mention the oil -- we simply can't have an end to the War on Terror (by whatever name the president wants us to call it these days), and that means no president can ever declare it won and no president can ever declare it un-winnable.

Victory, while always getting closer, has to remain as far away as ever.

Very few writers manage it well, and Sebastian Rotella is a master of the art. But he exceeds even himself in his most recent piece. You have to read the whole thing to get the full sick belly laugh from it, but a few fragments may entice you to read more (at the LAT or at my home away from home).

Rotella leads with this give-and-take combination:
As Al Qaeda is weakened by the loss of leaders, fighters, funds and ideological appeal, the extremist network's ability to attack targets in the United States and Western Europe has diminished, anti-terrorism officials say.

Nonetheless, Al Qaeda and allied groups based primarily in Pakistan remain a threat, particularly because of an increasing ability to attract recruits from Central Asia and Turkey to offset the decline in the number of militants from the Arab world and the West.
Rotella even uses the words "diminished" and "increasing" in his opening paragraphs. The man is a wizard!

And he follows with another combination:
Al Qaeda's relative strength these days is of crucial importance in the complex debate in Washington over future U.S. troop levels and tactics in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Although factions within the Obama administration differ on how best to deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan, all agree that the paramount priority is defeating Al Qaeda. Unlike the Afghan Taliban, the terrorist network Al Qaeda remains committed to a holy war against the West with a goal of matching or surpassing its devastating attacks in 2001.
Matching or surpassing whose devastating attacks in 2001? There's the rub, isn't it?

All chroniclers of the Terror War, from hacks like Bill Roggio to masters like Sebastian Rotella, must write as if 9/11 had been fully and impartially investigated and that the conclusions of said investigation had been accepted as final by all thinking people. The fact that only non-thinking people believe any of the 9/11 manure is routinely glossed over, by wizard and hack alike.

Rotella is not only a wizard himself but he also has some wizardly sources:
"Some pretty experienced individuals have been taken out of the equation," a senior British anti-terrorism official said in a recent interview.

"There is fear, insecurity and paranoia about individuals arriving from outside, worries about spies and infiltration," said the official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive topic. "There is a sense that it has become a less romantic experience. Which is important because of the impact on Al Qaeda the brand, the myth, the idea of the glorious jihadist."
"Taken out of the equation" is British math-talk for "killed along with hundreds of civilians in a series of drone attacks".

But "Al Qaeda the brand"?? And "the myth"?? This senior British anti-terrorism official has one foot in the grave and the other on the truth, does he not? Outrageous!!

But it gets better! Enter the president:
President Obama cited the debilitated condition of the terrorist network last week during a visit with U.S. counter-terrorism officials.

"Because of our efforts, Al Qaeda and its allies have not only lost operational capacity, they've lost legitimacy and credibility," he said.
I almost stopped laughing long enough to ask myself: How could this fiction lose "legitimacy and credibility"? Is Obama pulling our leg, too?

Next in line for Rotella: an "ex"-CIA man working for the NYPD (whom Rotella calls a "scholar") virtually confirms the long-simmering notion that the entire al Qaeda legend is built on entrapment:
The number of failed plots in the West, whether directed or inspired by Al Qaeda, also shows that the quality of operatives has declined, scholar Marc Sageman testified at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week.

"Counter-terrorism is working," said Sageman, a former CIA officer and New York Police Department expert. "Terrorist organizations can no longer cherry-pick the best candidates as they did in the 1990s. There is no Al Qaeda recruitment program: Al Qaeda and its allies are totally dependent on self-selected volunteers."
Self-selected volunteers, indeed. Knuckleheads of the world unite!

I won't make you wait any longer. Here's the bit you've been waiting for, and once again it's from the unnamed senior British official:
In several recent cases, Western trainees in Pakistan allegedly had contact with Mustafa Abu Yazid, also known as Said Sheik, a longtime Egyptian financial boss. Abu Yazid acts as the day-to-day chief of the network while Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, spend their time eluding capture, said the British official.
It's a thing of beauty, is it not?
Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, spend their time eluding capture.
As I was saying, it's a sick laugh. But it's a laugh all the same.

The pity is that my father (who reads three newspapers a day and has done so for the past 40 years) and millions of other mainstream media Americans believe every word of it. It doesn't matter to them if Osama bin Laden is obviously dead, or Ayman al-Zawahri (whose name is always misspelled as "Zawahiri" in the Western press) is obviously an agent of Israeli propaganda -- just the same as it doesn't matter whether Rashid Rauf is alive or dead: if he's dead, his death is a victory for the forces of good (the US military, of course) and if he's alive, then he's a threat that must be eliminated by the forces of good (ditto, ditto).

It's no wonder we can't catch bin Laden or al-Zawarhi.

And only a fool would question the sea and sky.

So I rubbed my jaw and tried to smile. Dental surgery is such a bitch!

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dear Troops ...

Tonight I drove past a "Christian" church with sign saying this:
So I did. And here it is:
Dear Troops,

Thou Shalt Not Kill.

Please always remember this Commandment, and go find a job which does not require you to violate it.

Thank you very much.


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Truth Is Fiction: Peace Prize Fits Obama Like A Velvet Glove

War Is Peace in Orwell's 1984, and the same is true here and now.

In addition, Truth Is Fiction, as demonstrated in Barack Obama's selection as Nobel Peace Prize winner, and as elucidated in the New York Times, which says: "Surprise Nobel for Obama Stirs Praise and Doubts"
“The question we have to ask is who has done the most in the previous year to enhance peace in the world,” the Nobel committee chairman, Thorbjorn Jagland, said in Oslo after the announcement. “And who has done more than Barack Obama?”
Clearly this was one of those unaccountable moments when the list of possible answers was so long that the list itself seemed to disappear. But that's not the first time this has happened to the Nobel committee.

This is the same "Peace Prize", we may remember, that was given to Henry Kissinger, who at the time, as Richard Nixon's Secretary of State and National Security Adviser, was directing a massive American bombing campaign against Southeast Asia, part of a "war effort" that killed at least two million people and led directly to the deaths of at least two million more, not to mention damage to the survivors and their countries. Southeast Asia was only one of Kissinger's killing fields. And Kissinger is only one of the war criminals who have won this "Peace Prize".

With his mythical "withdrawal" from the war crimes in Iraq, his aggressive escalation of the war crimes in Afghanistan, his instigation of more war crimes in Pakistan, and his continuation of the war crimes in Somalia, Barack Obama has clearly "done the most in the previous year to enhance peace in the world" -- certainly much more than anyone on a list so long it seems to disappear.

Similarly, the list of Obama's efforts in support of the atrocities begun under the George W. Bush administration is a long one. And it must have disappeared as well, since nothing of it is ever mentioned in mainstream news reports.

By going to court to keep evidence of torture secret, for example, Barack Obama has inscribed his own name on the list of American war crime enablers -- a list so long no one can find it anywhere. And this list dates back much further than the Bush/Cheney years, back to a history that seems too awful to be countenanced, most of which has apparently evaporated.

But it's not just about Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia. The list of countries not currently occupied but still under threat of American force is a long one, and some of the names on it are certainly victims of American interference: Iran, for example, Venezuela, Honduras, Russia, China... The list goes on and on but -- curiously -- it also seems to be invisible whenever the official historians are around.

War Is Peace. Truth Is Fiction. And the fabric of reality is threadbare. Before it vanishes entirely, let us make a few hasty notes:

As the tale of WMD in Iraq clearly demonstrates, the USA is currently engaged in a state-sponsored program of mass murder for fun and profit. One might say the USA is a state-sponsored program of mass murder for fun and profit. Enormous fun for the rubes. Enormous profit for those who pull the strings. Enormous pain and suffering, death and destruction for the rest -- in numbers so large they can't even be seen.

To become a "leader" of the USA, one must excel at the game of politics. Politics in general is the pursuit of power -- normally above all else, inevitably to the exclusion of all else. And politics in the USA is primarily -- or entirely -- the pursuit of power over a state-sponsored program of mass murder for fun and profit.

As the USA is still nominally a democracy, American politics necessarily involves doing one thing while saying another -- constantly, eternally, as a matter of course. And, for structural coherency if nothing else, the pinnacle of this murderous and deceptive power structure must house the mother of all murderous lies. Thus, a Peace Prize for a War Criminal is not only warranted and predictable, but altogether fitting and proper. It's amazing that American presidents don't get Nobel Peace Prizes every year.

None of this depends on Barack Obama personally, or any aspect of his background, or any member or members of his staff. The same could be said of any President in your lifetime who wasn't assassinated in office -- and anyone else who has risen to the top of the system. Indeed, the same could be said of the system itself. And the system is -- and was designed primarily to be -- self-perpetuating.

We appear to be headed for more of the same unless and until we can change the system. And we appear to have no way to change it.

To wit: What are our resources? What are our obstacles? Who are our friends? Who are our enemies?

Speaking of enemies -- enemies of peace, enemies of truth, enemies of humanity -- it is quite clear, is it not, that the Nobel committee is one of them. And so is the New York Times. And so is the president of the United States.

But then, how much of this is news?

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Happy Patriot Day? Not Quite: The Saddest 9/11 Anniversary Of All

Here we are again, another September 11th. For me it's more painful than any previous anniversary of the "terrorist attacks" of 2001.

I've been trying to write a major essay about it, but it's not coming together. Oh well. Instead I will confine my comments to a few words and give you an opportunity to say what you wish, if you wish...

I think this is the most painful 9/11 since 2001 because we now know, more certainly than ever before, that the official story of what happened that day, and how it happened, is false in almost EVERY DETAIL.

We also now have -- for the first 9/11 anniversary since the "attacks", a Democratic president and a Democratic congress.

And YET we STILL don't have a SINGLE advocate for real 9/11 truth ANYWHERE near the corridors of power.

There used to be one, until just a few days ago, but he got run out for (among other things) having signed, five years ago, a letter requesting an impartial investigation of the crimes of 9/11 and their coverup. Apparently Obama's staff made a hasty decision and approved a man with a touch of truth in his past.

Guided by his Chief of Staff, a foul-mouthed, quick-tempered Zionist who stands against both electoral integrity and 9/11 truth, Obama has been trying not to allow such "mistakes". But occasionally they do happen, and as we have seen so clearly, they need to be corrected as soon as they are detected.

If we had a real opposition, a viable political process, open discourse, access to information, rule of law, a government whose authority derived from the consent of the governed: if we had any these things that supposedly make America great ...

If we had a major newspaper, a television network, a wire service, a national newsmagazine -- any major media source at all, that was willing to do an investigation, or even report on the investigative work of others, or even to do a series on the obvious and brazen way in which Bush and many others evaded their responsibility to defend the country and their concommitant responsibility to investigate thoroughly and openly the events of the day: if we had any or all of these things ...

The obvious (though horrible) truths about 9/11 would be much more common knowledge than they are already.

The perpetrators and their enablers would no longer be able to hide behind their obvious lies.

And the new administration, rather than running one token "Truther" out of town on a rail, would be FULL of people demanding Truth and Justice.

But it isn't. Far from it. We are as far from that as you could possibly imagine, and still going in the opposite direction.

I find this sadder than almost anything else that has happened in the past seven years and 364 days.

But then again, it's not a sad day for everybody.

It's a day of celebration, a day of victory, for some people, such as ... let's just say ... Jerome Hauer:

One segment of [this frequently unavailable] video [starting at 2:30] documents the following exchange, from the morning of September 11, 2001:
Dan Rather: Based on what you know, and I recognize we’re dealing with so few facts, is it possible that just a plane crash could have collapsed these buildings, or would it have required the, sort of, prior positioning of other explosives in the, uh, in the buildings? I mean, what do you think?

Jerome Hauer: No, I, uh, my sense is just the velocity of the plane and the fact that you have a plane filled with fuel hitting that building, uh, that burned, uh, the velocity of that plane, uh, certainly, uh, uh, had an impact on the structure itself, and then the fact that it burned and you had that intense heat, uh, probably weakened the structure as well, uh, and I think it, uh, was, uh, simply the, uh, the planes hitting the buildings, and, and causing the collapse.
Jerome Hauer is certainly a remarkable guest, isn't he? On the very morning of the event, he had the whole thing figured out.

The collapse was simply due to the planes hitting the buildings, just the velocity of the plane and of course the fact that it was filled with fuel, and the fact that it burned and of course you had that intense heat which must have weakened the structure ... It's incredible, of course. It's also half of the official story!

But let's get back to the attack itself. Who did it? Who could have done it? If you were watching CBS that morning, you would have heard this:
Dan Rather: What perspective can you give us? I mean, there have been these repeated reports that, well, yes, Osama Bin Laden, but some think he’s been over-emphasized as, as responsible for these kinds of events. I know many intelligence, uh, people at very high levels who say, listen, you can’t have these kinds of attacks without having some state, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, somebody involved. Put that into perspective for us.

Jerome Hauer: Yeah, well I’m not sure I agree that, umm, this is necessarily state-sponsored. Umm, it, as I mentioned earlier, certainly has, umm, the, uh, fingerprints of somebody like Bin Laden.
And that, of course, is the other half of the official story.

How did Dan Rather happen to have a guest with him on the morning of 9/11 who knew the entire official story before it became public knowledge?


The twin disintegrations of the twin towers certainly looked like explosives-driven demolitions to many reporters who covered them live -- but Jerome Hauer assured Dan Rather and his viewers that it was just caused by the intense heat that weakened the structure!

The attack of 9/11 was of such scope and ferocity that it was virtually unimaginable -- except to the people who planned it -- just a day before it happened. But when it did happen, Jerome Hauer was able to contradict the intelligence experts and claim it bore the fingerprints of somebody like Bin Laden!

Jerome Hauer knew the entire official story before it became public knowledge.

Jerome Hauer helped the official story become public knowledge!
Is that how the deal goes down? Do Jerome Hauer and his buddies win, and do we all lose?

That's how it looks to me, but if you have a different opinion you are certainly welcome to share it.

As a matter of fact, you are welcome to share your opinion even if you agree with me!

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Brushes With Death And (Wild) Life

Medical emergencies (large and small) in my "real life" family are conspiring with my ongoing personal maladies to create vast and nearly impenetrable barriers between me and my various dormant blogs.

I apologize once again to my (relatively few but extremely devoted) readers for my repeated long absences.

My inability to blog (at all, let alone properly) is doubly (or triply) unfortunate in view of events (large and small) about which I would write reams of utter nonsense if only I had more time.

If the planets line up properly (or improperly, depending on your point of view), I may be able to write something worth reading about some of these events, sometime in the unspecified future.

But for the moment, I can only give you what I've got.

My father almost died since we last spoke. He had major surgery a month ago and his recovery has been fraught with complications. And last week we almost lost him.

Fortunately for us, he was moved from a small community hospital to a major medical center, in what became an ambulance race against the Grim Reaper -- and the ambulance won.

So he got into good hands, and just in time, and therefore he is still alive, although he remains in intensive care, in a room very similar to the one shown here. We are fortunate that he has good health insurance, as this is scary enough already.

My dad and I have exchanged heated words once or thrice over the years, and we still have very serious areas of disagreement, some of which I have written about in the past.

And those things still matter to me, but not at this level. He's a good man and we're not ready to say goodbye to him. Yet his condition remains critical and his care remains intensive. So everybody is on tenterhooks, and everything is suddenly tentative.

Which is to say: more tentative than it already was, with 73 simultaneous global disasters imminent, most (if not all) of which remain "over the event horizon" for most (if not all) of the people around me -- in my "real life", that is.

It sometimes seems the only sane people I can think of are the ones I "know" in the virtual world -- in my "unreal life", so to speak.

How fitting for 8th Century Amerika, slip-sliding into the New Dark Ages with a "cultural" view of "reality" so screwed up that only in the virtual world does political discourse maintain any semblance of contact with the truly real.

My father's brush with death was punctuated for me (and my wife and kids) by an episode involving our cat, an orange tabby very similar to the one shown here.

One afternoon a few days ago, he curled up on the couch in my home office and went to sleep. Late that night he was still there, and I wanted to sit down.

I tried to shoo him away but he didn't move. So I reached down to help him get going, and I found out why he wasn't moving. He was all done moving -- all done forever.

Breaking the news to the kids the next morning wasn't a lot of fun. The rest of the day wasn't any easier. We buried the cat under a tree in our back yard. I said a few words. The kids cried and screamed a bit, after which they felt somewhat better. When they lose their only grandfather, the news will be even tougher to break -- and to receive.

We're gonna miss that little cat. And we're gonna miss the old man, too. His passing is not exactly imminent, but he's in rough shape, and even if he does recover and regain a good deal of his former health, he's not about to last forever.

Nobody lasts forever, as far as I know, although it does seem that professional psychopaths and state-sponsored war criminals live several decades longer than normal humans. How old is Kissinger, 185? Maybe that's their secret: they don't stress out over guilt pangs.

When I go to see my dad in the hospital, I have a choice between a long fast drive on the interstates and a couple of slower, more direct routes that run through little towns and villages. Normally I choose the shortest slow route, although I could drive many miles farther and pay tolls all along the way in order to arrive five minutes sooner.

Last week I was doing the slow drive and I came to a crossroads where the light was green, but it had recently been red and the intersection was full of cars. I didn't quite have to stop before everyone in front of me got going, but I had to slow way down.

And as I was creeping along at 2 MPH, a golden eagle drifted across the road in front of me. It was enormous and gorgeous and very similar to the one shown here.

It was just coasting along at my eye level, and at one point its body was almost directly above my front bumper.

The wings were spread but not stretched; one was almost touching the truck in front of me, and the other came within an inch of my windshield. If not for the glass, I could have reached out and touched a wing.

The big bird was heading for a stand of tall trees on my right, and just drifting along. There was a small, slow-moving gap in the traffic, and for some reason that was appealing. I don't understand why: one flap of the wings and the eagle could have been well above the traffic. But that didn't happen. Instead, it just snuck across between me and the truck.

I've never been that close to a bird that big, and -- like any sudden encounter with big wildlife -- it was a jolt from another dimension. Not that I didn't need one.

One of the most common fallacies which infect the current "real-life" political discourse is the notion that always and everywhere there are only two choices. You're either with Bush (i.e. Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, Condoleezza, Gates, Obama, Biden, Hillary, Gates again...), or you're with the "terrrrisss". That's been around for a while. Either you stifle all criticism of Israel no matter what, or you're an anti-Semite. That's been around for a while, too. These idiocies persist, and multiply. Nowadays, either you can have your social security, or you can have "health care reform", but not both. And there is no third option.

That's the basic problem with any two-party system, anywhere, anytime: there is no third option. And that's the starting point for American politics. Throw in centuries of corruption and decades of rampant militarism and now you have a thoroughly corrupt, heavily armed, extremely powerful state in which the two options available are more or less identical, and there is no third option.

In my "real life" I do software design and often I need to answer questions of the form "What are my options for implementing blah blah blah?"

An overwhelming percentage of the time, I come back with a large number of options. There are almost always five or six or eight different ways to do blah blah blah. Rare indeed is the blah blah blah that can only be done in one or two different ways.

This is not to say that software design -- a virtual occupation which relies on truth and logic and pays my real bills in my real life -- is anything like functioning in "the real world" -- where nearly every bit of news and political commentary is likely false, and truth and logic must be abandoned on a daily basis.

On the other hand, very often -- in the virtual world as well as the real one -- there comes a fork in the road which offers more than two options.

In this case, I'd much rather die the way my cat died, than live the way my father is living.

But if I had my choice, I'd be heading for the tall trees with a golden eagle.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lookout, Obama! The Peace Train Goes Sailing Around Martha's Vineyard

Martha's Vineuard is abuzz over a presidential visit for which locals are even sporting caps featuring an image of the presidential pooch.

But according to The Times of London, the presidential vacation comes at a time when Obama is also catching "a cold wave of unrest".
Three of the top five titles on the New York Times nonfiction hard-back bestseller list are currently anti-Obama screeds ...
and of course they are all attacking Obama from the right:
Currently topping the bestseller list is Culture of Corruption, the latest right-wing outpouring from Michelle Malkin, a popular conservative columnist who recently declared of her book: “What I have done is to help shatter completely the myths of hope and change in the new politics in Washington by scouring every inch of this administration, and showing how in a very short span of six months they have betrayed every principle and every promise that they have made.”
That's from Michelle Malkin? Am I the only one who thinks that's funny?
Also selling well is Dick Morris’s new book, Catastrophe, which is summarised as: “Stopping President Obama before he transforms America into a socialist state and destroys the health care system.” Third on the list is Mark Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny, yet another conservative manifesto taking aim at “Barack Nobama”.
Out of the discussion, as always, are much more reality-based criticisms coming from the left, which in my cold opinion are far fewer in number than they ought to be.

I do not expect the corporate media news to mention anti-war protests in conjunction with the presidential family's vacation -- or in any other fashion, for that matter. Nonetheless:

Cindy Sheehan is inviting other proponents of peace to join her for a sail!

It's to be a "shipboard peace summit" and if you read anything about it at all, it'll probably be at some low-traffic blog or another.

Excerpts from Cindy Sheehan:
"I am calling in the Peace Movement to encircle our country with our united demand for an immediate return of all U.S. forces around the globe. Bring every one of our troops home NOW! We need them in our families and towns. We need our troops back to help us fix our broken country. Our ships of state must make their voyage home, with our countrymen out of harm's way."
NOW! Imagine that!!
"This is our time to finally draw an end to America's wars. We must abide by the saying of ancient scriptures: Let peace and peace and peace be everywhere. I declare this to be our new national defense policy."
If only our national defense policy could be so declared.

Want to join Cindy Sheehan aboard a sailing ship of peace?
Sheehan will co-captain daily excursions ... aboard the grand sailing vessel dubbed the SS Camp Casey ... [and invites] peace movement leaders, international news 'anchors' and pro-peace members of the public to sail around Martha's Vineyard [with her] as she holds this seaside peace summit. ...

For information, contact:
Laurie Dobson

or Bruce Marshall
The full details are here.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Drowning In A Giant Cesspool I: Consultation

Hi. Can I help you?

I hope so, Doc! I really do.

What seems to be the problem?

I suffer from a recurring ... sensation ... that I'm drowning ...

That's not uncommon.

... in a giant cesspool!

Well, that is uncommon. Why do you say "a giant cesspool"?

It's so dark, and so foul. I can't see anything. I struggle just to keep my face above the surface. I breathe through my mouth because the smell is so horrible. And every now and then I bump into something that's floating, and I want to grab it, and hold onto it ... but ...

But what?

... but I know I shouldn't ... because it's probably ... well, why do you think I said "cesspool"?

I see ... You say this is a recurring sensation?


How often does it come on? When did it start?

It started in November of '63. One day I was an innocent little kid and the sun was shining; the next day the President was dead, everything was dark, and I was up to my neck in slime. It got worse in the summer of '68, and it's never really gone away -- and never got any better, either. But in the past eight years or so, it's been getting a lot worse, and even more frequent, and now it's a constant feature of my life ... I fight it every night.

So, this dream...

Oh no! It's not a dream! It happens when I'm awake.

When you're awake?


What triggers it?

Reading the paper. Watching TV. Listening to the radio. Surfing the net. Talking to idiots who think they're geniuses, and fools who think they know everything. There are other triggers, but these are the main ones.

And how does it happen? Is it always the same? Or is it always different?

Oh no. It's different every time.

Can you give me an example?

Are you kidding? I could give you a thousand.

Let's start with one, shall we?

OK. Let's start at the bottom of the tank. Look: If I lose it for a second -- if I slip under the surface -- my feet get into muck like this:
Why You Should Love Your Carbon Footprint

By: Paul A. Ibbetson (Right Truth Exclusive)

America, with all its imperfections, is still truly the land of opportunity. This has been the unique component that has brought people from around the world, in every way imaginable, and even some ways not. This opportunity to succeed and, yes, to also fail, is a product brought about by individual freedom that has been unique to America since our founding fathers placed their lives on the line to create a better future for themselves and their families....
You see what I mean? This isn't floating. This is not something I would want to hang onto. This is the sort of poison I am trying to get away from!

How do you know it's poison?

First of all, look at the name of the site. Right Truth. It's a contradiction in terms, flashing in neon, right out in the open for all to see. What does that tell you?

What am I supposed to see in it?

"Truth" is not "Right" or "Left"; those are political labels. Principles of "right" or "left", or the use of any other simplistic labels, get in the way of the truth more often than not -- as ideology always does! -- as ideology is intended to do!!

So when I see a site that's openly marked in such a political way, claiming to tell me the truth, I'm more than suspicious. It's as if they don't even have enough guile to pretend to be neutral observers.

And such is the case here. Paul Ibbetson starts with a mass of lies and then builds on them. And what do you think he builds? More lies!

Ibbetson is opposed to Obama's Cap and Trade bill, which I do not support either, but I see no reason to support my position by telling lies -- such as the claim, advanced by Ibbetson, that Obama's deeply flawed policy is
a symptom of the liberal environmental psychosis, of which capitalism and the free market (and the prosperity both bring), are seen as dangerous and destructive. It is through this derangement that CO2, a naturally occurring substance - crucial for life on this planet, can be seen as a poison and we are all told to hate our "carbon footprint."
It is true that CO2 is a naturally occurring substance, but like every naturally occurring substance, there are limits to how much can naturally occur and still leave the planet in a condition to support life -- any life, not to mention complex social systems such as we "advanced" and "prosperous" "free-market" humans have evolved.

Oxygen is naturally occurring, but if we had too much oxygen in the atmosphere, the next spark would ignite us all.

Water is naturally occurring as well, but if the oceans were a mile deeper ... well, you get the idea, don't you?

The larger point is: environmental destruction is real. It's not a liberal derangement. It's happening -- here in a big way, elsewhere in much bigger ways. The rich export their garbage. And even though our economy is in a spin, we are still the rich of the world. We consume the bulk of the resources. We generate the bulk of the pollution. Our prosperity comes at great cost to the planet, and to the other people with whom we allegedly share it. Everybody else in the world knows this. And to deny it ... is ... so typically American!

But then denying reality is typically American. According to Ibbetson, America is "unique" in offering personal freedom, plus the chance to succeed or fail! What could be more stupid? Do they not have personal freedom in any other country in the world? Can foreigners not succeed? Or fail?

To hear Paul Ibbetson tell it, such opportunities are uniquely American, and therefore foreign success stories must be fiction. Forget Ferrari, Mercedes, Toblerone, Abba; they just don't exist for the bottom-feeders who call themselves "Right" and call what they're selling "Truth". If it weren't so poisonous, it would almost be funny.

Well, it may be incorrect, but why do you say it's poisonous?

Because these introductory lies are used as building blocks for the next layer of lies, and they form a foundation for an edifice of fiction that goes on forever ... with nary a glimpse of reality to be found.

Here's another example, from the same website. "Breaking Big Government", by R.J. Godlewski, contains astonishing admissions of ignorance and hatred, such as:
... we are constantly drilled on the perceived injustices that we supposedly unleashed upon the planet.... We would rather be suckered into believing that our nation has done the world great harm instead of understanding that that [sic] world had [sic] suffered us into nearly every war that we fought.
These lies are multi-faceted, multi-layered and multi-purposed.

We are in no sense "constantly drilled". What America has done to the rest of the world is the best-kept secret of all -- never allowed in American schools, from elementary to university; never allowed onto TV news; only mentioned on the most truth-telling of blogs! -- but the whole sorry saga is well-known to those who have bothered to look for it, and, of course, to those upon whom the damage has been inflicted.

The "perceived injustices" that we "supposedly unleashed" include countless millions of innocent people dead; tens of millions of other innocent people displaced; scores of democratic governments overthrown; dozens of other countries thrown into states of violent chaos that have lasted a generation or longer -- sometimes much longer. Add in chemical, biological and nuclear pollution that runs in the hundreds of thousands of tons, and we're just getting started.

Furthermore, nobody wants to believe that our nation has done the world great harm. Liberals and conservatives both deny it outright, albeit in different ways. Most of us can't even be "suckered into" contemplating the truth for a moment, let alone embracing it long enough to begin to understand it.

As I read him, Godlewski was trying to type "the world has suffered us into nearly every war that we have fought", which makes syntactic sense, even though it does little else -- at least on first sight. On the other hand, it may reveal more than Godlewski intended, for surely the world has "suffered" mightily because of nearly every war we have fought.

As for the world having "suffered us into" those wars, one might struggle a bit with the semantics, but as Merriam-Webster makes clear, "suffer" is indeed the correct word, in more than one sense.
1 a : to submit to or be forced to endure
1 b : to feel keenly : labor under
2 : undergo, experience
3 : to put up with especially as inevitable or unavoidable
4 : to allow especially by reason of indifference
It is no doubt true that the world has "submitted" and been "forced to endure" damage it has "felt keenly"; and that it has been "undergoing" and "experiencing" great pain, which to this point has indeed been "inevitable" and "unavoidable", at least as far as the victims have been concerned.

But to claim that the world has "allowed" America to attack and destroy one defenseless country after another for the past 60 or 100 years by reason of "indifference" is as misleading as any lie you'll ever read.

Clearly the international scene is dominated by the often unspoken but occasionally explicit threat: Who wants to be the next Iraq?

Nevertheless, the stack of lies gows ever deeper, and Godlewski even says this:
Since 2006, our Congress and Presidency have exceeded that which caused the colonists to fight back against King George III; the United States to fight back against Nazi Germany; and America to fight back against Soviet Russia. Yet, we remain silent and submissive. We allow the traitor-ship of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and, most recently, Barack Obama and Joe Biden, to quickly dismantle the very foundations of our liberties and rights while we attentively “listen” for explanation of these transgressions. There is no excuse for treachery, no justification for thievery.
I agree with some of his sentiments, but it's obvious that the problem did not begin in 2006 -- when the Democrats "took control" of the Congress -- and that the list of treacherous thieves is not confined to -- and doesn't even begin with -- Peolsi, Reid, Obama and Biden.

It was the Bush administration -- "Conservative" "Republicans" of the "Right" -- who neglected their national security responsibilities enough to allow terrorists to strike us (or worse!) and then used the resulting "crisis" to implement a regime featuring indefinite detention without charge or trial (but with enhanced torture), warrantless surveillance on an unprecedented scale, unprovoked wars against two (or three) (or four!) different countries, and on and on and on ... not that it was all Bush's fault. Most of this has been brewing since Bush I, if not Reagan, if not Truman, if not Wilson, if not Teddy Roosevelt. And all the while they told us that only they -- and not the Democrats -- could be trusted to provide national security. These clowns who had failed us, or traitors who had sold us down the river, made this ridiculous claim, and the media broadcast it far and wide, day and night. None of these problems started with Obama, or in 2006. But of course such a wide historical perspective is not "Right" or "Truth", and so Godlewski is not selling it.

He's selling this, instead:
We permitted the indiscretions of Bill Clinton and the inconsistencies of George W. Bush to open the doorway to transnationalism and the breakdown of the Republic when it is “Big Government” that deserves our wrath.
Could any analysis ever be more shallow? If only all we had to worry about were Clinton's "indiscretions". And what are we to make of Godlewski's claim about Bush's "inconsistencies"? When has a president ever "stayed" such a brain-damaged (or criminally corrupt) "course" so steadfastly?

As for "the doorway to transnationalism", that's something the US "business community" has been trying, not to open but to obliterate, for more than a hundred years. Having bashed it down is an "achievement" both parties can be "proud" of.

Piling on is a foul in football, but in "Right" "Truth" "journalism", piling on is a proven tactic, and so Godlewski throws in one more lie to close the paragraph, saying that it's "Big Government" that "deserves our wrath" when in fact the problem with our government is not its size but its orientation. If the government were large and powerful and working on our behalf, that would be another story -- a very different story indeed.

Perhaps it's asking too much of Godlewski to tell us some truth. By his own admission, he's spent his adult life immersed in the mother of all giant cesspools:
While Mr. Obama was basking in the glow of his liberal professors, I was actively serving my nation in order to keep the Red Menace off Main Street. While he was practicing law, I was defending America. Later, when Mr. Obama left college he went on to become a “community organizer”. When I left the Navy I went on to organize efforts to defeat global terrorism.
Perhaps it's asking too much of Godlewski to understand that there was never any "Red Menace" to Main Street; on the contrary there were many years when the lion's share of the "membership" dues collected by the Communist Party of America came from FBI agents who had been assigned to infiltrate the Party.

Perhaps it's asking too much of Godlewski to understand that he has spent many years "defending America" against a "threat" that never existed at all, except insofar as it was fomented by the Pentagon and her Mossad friends, and exaggerated by politicians and media moguls.

And given all that, perhaps it's not very surprising that a man who has been immersed in toxic waste for his entire life could write:
I begin every day with a simple prayer that God drops a large asteroid upon our planet for I cannot bear seeing a future without my beloved United States of America at its helm.
But I can't help starting every day with a similar prayer -- that God drops bolts of lightning on J. R. Godlewski and every other ignoramus who "thinks" the way he does, and who spreads manure so vile that it sinks to the bottom of the cesspool immediately!

Perhaps you're over-reacting?

Perhaps you didn't understand me! But that's ok, because we're just getting started.

We may just be getting started, but unfortunately our time is up. We can schedule another session, if you like.

Sure. What does it cost? Oh, never mind. Just send my bill to the White House!

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Obama's Pakistan Campaign: Brilliant President Plus Smart Bombs Equal Humanitarian Success

I note with proud amazement a new article from Dubai's Gulfnews dot com, describing the ongoing campaign of bombing attacks by unmanned planes against Pakistan (which the American government and media will not usually talk about -- officially -- but which are widely understood to be undertaken by the CIA at the direction of the president).

Unofficial government sources have been weighing in lately, all unequivocally in favor of continuing the attacks. For instance, a July 14 editorial in the Wall Street Journal says that
Far from being "beyond the pale," drones have made war-fighting more humane.
This point of view may seem a bit strange, given that the "success" claimed on behalf of the drones has been rather spotty. In fact, according to Pakistani government sources, as of April 8 of this year, US attacks on Pakistan had killed 14 al Q'aeda terrorists and 687 civilians.

The success ratio -- with alleged terrorists accounting for nearly one-fiftieth of the people killed -- may have been slightly over-estimated in this government report, since one of the "high-value targets" allegedly killed in these attacks (and included among the 14) is Rashid Rauf, the alleged leader of (or at least an alleged key figure in) the supposedly dangerous transatlantic-airline liquid-bombing plot (which I have discussed at great length in the past: for a technical overview of the plot, see "Ludicrouser And Ludicrouser: The Alleged Liquid Bombing Plot, Revisited Again"; for an explanation of what this means, see "Inadequate Deception: The Impossible Plots Of The Terror War").

Rashid Rauf was reportedly killed in a drone attack in November of 2008, but his body has never been produced and his family's plea for the return of his remains was ignored by the Pakistani government; Rauf's family and his attorney say he may be dead, but they dispute the claim that he was killed then and in that manner.

You don't have to be a lunatic moonbat conspiracy theorist or a Pakistani terrorist-sympathizer to claim that Rashid Rauf probably wasn't killed in a drone attack. Long War Journal proprietor Bill Roggio, who usually gets inside information before the marginally-less-complicit-but-still-criminal mainstream press, declared back in April that Rashid Rauf is still alive and dangerous and plotting against us all.

If that's true, then the numbers would be more like: 13 terrorist leaders dead, and 688 innocent people. And that's giving the official statistician the benefit of every doubt. As Bill Roggio wrote just a few days ago,
Reports of senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in Pakistan have been highly unreliable. In the past, al Qaeda leaders Ayman al Zawahiri, Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, Abu Obaidullah Al Masri, Adam Gadahn, Ibn Amin, and Rashid Rauf have been reported killed in strikes, but these men later resurfaced. Similarly, Sa'ad bin Laden was recently reported killed, but he is now thought to be alive. And Abu Khabab al Masri was reported dead several times before he actually was killed in a July 2008 strike.
Given all the billions we spend on intelligence gathering, and all the billions we spend on developing smart weapons, you might think we should be doing a better job of killing terrorists and sparing innocents. But that's a shallow criticism, because after a shaky start we did start doing a better job, as you can see when I break the statistics down chronologically.

According to the report from Pakistan which I mentioned above,
Two strikes carried out in 2006 had killed 98 civilians while three attacks conducted in 2007 had slain 66 Pakistanis
for a total of 164 civilian deaths -- and no terrorists were among the dead in either 2006 or 2007!

By contrast, according to the same report,
385 people lost their lives in 2008 and 152 people were slain in the first 99 days of 2009 (between January 1 and April 8)
for a total of 537 innocent civilians killed, along with the "14 wanted al-Qaeda operatives".

It may not seem like much, but considering the opening phase of this campaign, these reports reveal a double-dose of success. The total of "wanted al-Qaeda operatives" allegedly killed has ballooned from 0 in 2006-7 all the way to 14 in 2008-9, and at the same time the number of innocents killed per terrorist has dropped from 164:0 (an infinite ratio) to only 537:14 (about 38:1) -- provided of course that Rashid Rauf and all the other terrorists described as dead are actually dead, and were actually terrorists.

Some people may have felt these improvements were good enough, but clearly Barack Obama was not among them. As we know, anything is possible for can-do Americans, and as the newest report from Dubai indicates, we have enhanced our performance significantly since the Pakistani report was compiled in April.

Here's the most amazing part: According to Gulfnews, the number of Pakistani civilians killed since the beginning of 2008 is now only 480! That's down by 57 since the total was 537 in April!

So think about this: In the last four months, we have continued bombing Pakistan, killing (or at least claiming to have killed) more and more "high-value targets", such as Osama bin Laden's son Sa'ad (who in addition to probably surviving the attack in which he was "killed", may not have had anything to do with terrorism at all, other than being sired by an undercover CIA operative), and Baitullah Mehsud (who in addition to probably surviving the attack in which he was "killed", has likely been the CIA's most powerful weapon in South Asia since Osama bin Laden died in 2001).

We have been able to do all this without killing any additional civilians, and -- even more amazingly -- we have managed to revive 57 innocent people who were dead back in April but who are not dead anymore!

This is the sort of "humanitarian intervention" we were always hoping for but could never achieve -- not under Republican scoundrels such as Bush, Bush and Reagan; not under Democratic scoundrels such as Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

Of all the presidents in the history of our great nation, only Obama The Wonderful has managed to turn America's awesome firepower into a healing force.

Clearly, none of this would be possible without Obama's brilliance. He's the first President we've ever had who has been smart enough to use our wonderful smart bombs to their maximum humanitarian potential.

Similarly, none of it would be possible without our fantastic remote-controlled planes and the computerized bombs they carry. The Wall Street Journal was right! Drones have made war-fighting more humane!

What? You doubt me? Oh, please!! You'd have to be awfully naive to think we could raise scores of people from the dead with conventional weapons!

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Anti-Semitism In Action: UK Lowers Terror Threat Level; Guardian Reports On The Change

Is anti-Semitism on the rise? You bet it is, and for good reason. It's well-funded.

Consider, for example, the following piece from Alan Travis, home affairs editor of The Guardian, which appeared on July 20, 2009. The headline reads: "Britain downgrades al-Qaida terror attack alert level". The sub-heading says "Officials reduce assessment of threat from 'severe' to 'substantial', its lowest level since 9/11", and the text of the article reads:
The official assessment of the threat level of an al-Qaida terrorist attack on Britain has been lowered from "severe" – where an attack is deemed highly likely – to "substantial", where an attack is considered a strong possibility.

The decision to lower the official threat level follows a new assessment by MI5 and the joint terrorism analysis centre, based on intelligence gathered in Britain and abroad on how close terrorist groups may be to staging an attack.

The designation of a "substantial" threat level is the lowest since 9/11. It confirms that the swine flu pandemic is now a bigger threat to the life of the nation than terrorism.

The home secretary, Alan Johnson, acknowledged that fact on Sunday, when he told the BBC's Andrew Marr programme that swine flu came "above terrorism as a threat to this country". He said the long-term preparations had involved the whole "Cobra machinery", a reference to the Cabinet's emergency committe [sic] that handles major disasters.

The decision reportedly follows an official assessment of Operation Pathway, one of MI5's biggest counterterrorism campaigns, which led to the arrest of 11 Pakistani men in April. All those arrested were released without charge, and no explosives or weapons were found.

The system of threat levels is made up of five stages. At "critical", an attack is expected imminently. At "severe", an attack is regarded as highly likely. At "substantial", an attack is a strong possibility. At "moderate" an attack is possible but not likely. And at "low", an attack is deemed unlikely.

The home secretary said in a statement: "We still face a real and serious threat from terrorists and the public will notice little difference in the security measures that are in place, and I urge the public to remain vigilant. The police and security services are continuing in their thorough efforts to discover, track and disrupt terrorist activity."
Did you catch the anti-Semitism in this piece? Don't feel badly if you didn't; it's very subtle and it takes an expert to detect it. Fortunately, such an expert happened to be available -- eventually. But first, a number of Guardian readers made comments reflecting the obvious absurdity of the situation, such as this from nega9000:
Hang on a minute, weren't we being told just last month that a, quote, 'spectacular' attack was being planned?

Oh, I get it, whoever's our equivalent of Jack Bauer averted said attack in the nick of time, killed all the terrorists and is, as we speak, copping off with the foxy but feisty young agent who was there for no discernable reason other than to offer expository dialogue.

Phew. Was getting worried there for a minute.
and this from metalvendetta:
Let me get this straight, they arrested eleven Pakistanis and couldn't find anything to link them to terrorism, so now the threat is reduced? Could it be that they just arrested the wrong people? Or is this decision based on intelligence - the same kind of intelligence that led them to believe that those eleven innocent men were terrorists in the first place?
Haywire asks:
Does this mean i now have to stop rifling through my neighbours' bins looking for empty 'chemicals' containers which may well have been used for making bombs, as was suggested by a recent publicity awareness campaign? If so, what the hell am i now going to do with my Sundays? Go to church??!!
nimn2003 asks:
Does this mean we no longer need ID Cards and the Database? Thank the Lord for that!
and ChrisWoods answers:
No we still need ID Cards and database because although there is more chance of dying by eating peanuts, the risk of death by terrorism is still too great and we need total surveillance of you all the time and also need to know all your private details, phone conversations & email just to make sure you will be ok in the future.
Do you see it yet? Nobody has mentioned Israel, and nobody has said anything about any Jew or Jews in particular, nor has anyone said anything about Jews in general. But still, for those with the correct viewpoint, there's anti-Semitism dripping from every word.

Eventually -- belatedly but better late than never -- comes along GnosticMind, with a comment to set them all straight:
I am shocked at the inhrently anti semitic slant displayed in the entire article , not to mention in the tone of the public responses-- Only in the Guardian is such blatant anti semitism, and anti israel rhetoric allowed, and even considered manifestly praiseworthy.
The very next comment was from butteredballs, who wrote
@ GnosticMind

please explain yourself
but GnosticMind was busy elsewhere, apparently. And the comments on this article are now closed, so GnosticMind could not come back and explain, even if she wanted to. Not -- as I see it -- that she would want to.

You see? It's so ineffable, you could never explain it.

It's inherent. It's blatant. But it can't be put into words -- at least not by GnosticMind, or any of her cohorts... and not by anybody else who just happens to be working for the Israeli government.

According to an article published July 5th in Calcalist, a Hebrew-language paper based in Tel Aviv,
Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. The Foreign Ministry’s department for the explanation of Israeli policy* is running the project, and it will be an integral part of it.
We're reading an English translation prepared by George Malent for Occupation Magazine, courtesy of MuzzleWatch.

In a footnote, Malent explains the asterisk: for "the Foreign Ministry’s department for the explanation of Israeli policy" you can read "the Ministry of Propaganda".

The piece continues:
“To all intents and purposes the Internet is a theatre in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we must be active in that theatre, otherwise we will lose,” Elan Shturman, deputy director of the policy-explanation department in the Foreign Ministry, and who is directly responsible for setting up the project, says in an interview with Calcalist. “Our policy-explanation achievements on the Internet today are impressive in comparison to the resources that have been invested so far, but the other side is also investing resources on the Internet. There is an endless array of pro-Palestinian websites, with huge budgets, rich with information and video clips that everyone can download and post on their websites. They are flooding the Internet with content from the Hamas news agency. It is a well-oiled machine. Our objective is to penetrate into the world in which these discussions are taking place, where reports and videos are published – the blogs, the social networks, the news websites of all sizes. We will introduce a pro-Israeli voice into those places.
Yes, of course! That's exactly what's missing today, among the endless array of pro-Palestinian websites: a pro-Israeli voice!!
Will the responders who are hired for this also present themselves as “ordinary net-surfers”?

“Of course,” says Shturman. “Our people will not say: ‘Hello, I am from the policy-explanation department of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and I want to tell you the following.’ Nor will they necessarily identify themselves as Israelis. They will speak as net-surfers and as citizens, and will write responses that will look personal but will be based on a prepared list of messages that the Foreign Ministry developed.”
What will they be required to do? Shturman continues:
Their missions will be defined along the lines of the government policies that they will be required to defend on the Internet.
and here -- finally! -- is the explanation of the anti-Semitism in The Guardian.

The Israeli government wants you to be frightened of the militant Islamofascist suicide bomber jihadis and jihadi-wannabes who are everywhere and who are always plotting against you. The Israeli government wants you to be afraid of them, even if they don't exist, not because it's good for you to be afraid of things that don't exist, but because it's good for the Israeli government.

From the correct -- Israeli -- point of view, it's bad enough that Britain has downgraded the threat level. That's a blatant betrayal by a close ally, and it's inherently made worse by the Guardian's having the nerve to report on the government's downgrade. But worse still are the comments, making fun of the British government for taking so seriously -- or pretending to take seriously -- a threat which -- dare I say it? -- has been vastly overblown, if it existed at all.

But how can employees of the Israeli government say this? They can't, unless they are very highly placed, with chutzpah in professional abundance and a swarm of faux-journalists running interference for them.

Ordinary Israeli government employees can merely mouth the party line, as supplied by the Foreign Ministry's department of policy-explanation: the official propagandists cannot say "You must believe this lie even though it's bad for you, because it's good for us."

That would be just a touch too transparent.

Instead we get nonsense like this:
I am shocked at the inhrently anti semitic slant displayed in the entire article, not to mention in the tone of the public responses -- Only in the Guardian is such blatant anti semitism, and anti israel rhetoric allowed, and even considered manifestly praiseworthy.
which -- let's be honest -- is not transparent at all!

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Moonwalking To Oblivion Without A Billionaire Sponsor: What's A Blogger To Do?

The early death of Michael Jackson has triggered some powerful memories, very few of which have anything to do with Jackson or his sudden demise. Nonetheless, let me take you back 25 years...

In the summer of 1984, Michael Jackson was on his "Victory Tour", moonwalking his way through cuts from "Thriller" in his first public performances after he "set his hair on fire for Pepsi" in late January of that year.

I had spent the early months of '84 trying to piece together the remnants of a jazzy-punky rock band which had finally gelled after months of preparation, played a fantastic set on New Year's Eve, and then imploded -- in my own living room, on the same weekend when Michael's hair was burning.

In our case, the fragments which were not mortally wounded in the implosion eventually reunited, wrote some new material, and played in public together again just a few times before a second implosion. And one of those performances fell on a hot and humid Saturday night almost exactly 25 years ago, a night when Michael Jackson was in town.

Were we crazy to play opposite such a huge concert? Not at all. None of the people who went to see Michael Jackson could be bothered with us, and none of the people who came to see us could be bothered with moonwalking or "Thriller" or any of the other very popular, totally inane artefacts of the little dude who somehow became "The King of Pop".

Forgive me if a bit of disrespect is showing. I will not for a moment deny that Michael Jackson was a fantastic singer, especially as a youngster, or that we would have been very lucky to have such a talented vocalist in our band.

On the other hand, I remain convinced that we made a good move by scheduling a gig when his fans were elsewhere. Our music was direct and honest, often too raw but never too polished, not commercially marketed or even amenable to such treatment. Michael could not have said this of his material, in 1984 or at any stage of his long and very successful career.

We once wrote a song that (among other things) made fun of him. But he never mentioned us. So there's another point of asymmetry.

On the Monday morning after our simultaneous concerts, while I was returning the PA gear we'd rented from a local music store, I heard this on the radio: Scalpers had been getting more for a pair of tickets to see Michael Jackson than it cost us to stage our entire show.

He drew about a hundred thousand fans. We might have drawn a hundred. And we didn't even play well that night. I remember being disappointed about that.

But on the other hand, the people who came to see us that night, the people who came to hear us, the people who came with their eyes and ears open ... they got something they couldn't have found on the Victory Tour, or anywhere else, for that matter. Some of them still talk about that show -- in complimentary terms! It wouldn't have mattered whether we played well or not. What we were doing -- what we were trying to do -- appealed to a few people, maybe one in a thousand, maybe less. But it touched them in a much deeper way than the "King of Pop" -- or anything "pop" -- could have done.

There's a lesson in all this, or a moral to the story, and I'm still not sure what it is, but I wouldn't be surprised if it helps to explain why my blog readership never seems to grow, no matter how much or how well I write; neither does it seem to shrink, no matter how rarely I post and no matter what I choose to write about.

What you get here is direct and honest, often too raw but never too polished, not commercially marketed or even amenable to such treatment. It's no wonder so few people are interested. But you can't get it -- or anything similar -- anywhere else.

Maybe it's no big deal, but I got thinking of all this when I heard of Jackson's death, and it all came back to me again when I read this piece from Scholars and Rogues, and even more especially when I considered an earlier, related piece there which deals with a pointed political question: Why don't progressive billionaires fund progressive bloggers (in much the same way that conservative billionaires fund conservative bloggers)?

I would argue that such funding is neither to be expected nor to be welcomed. I would argue that there's no such thing as a progressive billionaire, although there are a few billionaires who might pretend to be leaders and/or funders of a "progressive" opposition.

The earlier S&R post -- "Devil, meet Deep Blue Sea: how much should progressives spend reaching out to progressives?" -- quotes Jane Hamsher of FiredogLake, Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos, and John Aravosis of AmericaBlog, all of whom are upset that major Democratic organizations are asking for (and receiving) their support, but aren't supporting them in any tangible way, not even by advertising on their sites.

It may be pointed out that those who obtain support for free have no incentive to pay for it.

Much more importantly, in my view, the sites in question share a common approach to all the most important issues: they bury them if they can't ignore them altogether. This tendency is unfortunately prevalent at all high-traffic "progressive" websites, including the one where I used to volunteer my services.

Markos Moulitsas, the founder and chief director of censorship at DailyKos, was trained by the CIA and makes no bones about the fact that posters who entertain conspiracy theories regarding 9/11 are not welcome at his site.

The other sites mentioned above are a bit less pointed and a touch more subtle but they are nevertheless written by and for people who are not much interested in certain very inconvenient facts: facts about 9/11 in particular; facts about bogus terrorism in general; facts about how the entire "global war on terror" (or whatever Obama wants us to call it this week) is based on a fictional view of history and our role in it; facts about how the Democrats have been complicit in selling both the fictional history and the endless, limitless war it entails.

Would I want to see these sites better funded? Would I want to see them drawing even larger audiences? Would I want their reporting even more constrained by vague doubts about what the billionaire sponsor might think? Dare I even hint of the possibility of explicit instructions from such a sponsor? Or, conversely, can anyone imagine a billionaire-sponsored website without an explicit list of instructions?

An alliance between faux-progressive billionaires and faux-progressive bloggers would be a powerful way to destroy any hope of a meaningful political opposition arising in 21st-century America. But then again, there's no need to destroy things that don't exist.

And that's why it won't happen. There's no need for it. And it wouldn't matter anyway, because 99% of all Americans surveyed have already said ... that given the choice ... they'd prefer moonwalking!

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