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The circus is in town: The United States of Absurdity, Circa 2015

By John Grant

 

"Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning."

How We Teach Violence to Children

By David Soleil

As thoughtful, caring parents, we would never want to teach our kids that violence is the answer to any or every problem.  We want our children to learn to get along with others, share, be kind, say "excuse me," and try their best at an empathetic, "I'm sorry."

I thought I was attuned to the violence that surrounds us in American culture.  However, a trip to our local department store with my kids yesterday was shocking.  We stepped into the toy aisles.  Here is a quick rundown of the toys and action figures, in order...

  • Batman
  • Power Rangers
  • Star Wars
  • Elite Force - modern Army/military toys
  • Professional Wrestling

Next aisle:

  • More Power Rangers
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Spider-Man
  • Super Hero Smashers
  • Marvel Comics Characters - Hulk, Avengers, Captain America, etc.
  • Transformers

End cap:

  • Horror Series - Michael Meyers action figure from Halloween movies and Eric Draven from the Crow
  • Game of Thrones
  • Magic
  • HALO

Next Aisle:

  • Super Hero Adventures - these are tiny cute versions of Spider-Man, Batman, Wonder Woman and Hulk for younger kids.

Notice a pattern here?  Every toy, without exception, uses violence and weapons to cause pain and/or death as their solution to problems.  Then, with the Horror Series, we are supposed to play Serial Killer? Seriously?

What message does this send our children?  Violence is heroic.  Violence is the solution to all problems.  Violence is a super power.  

We are aghast and outraged when we see ISIS beheading a person on the nightly news, yet our children play out the same gruesome scenarios with the toys we get them for their birthday, the movies we take them to see, the comic books we buy for them, the shows they watch on TV, and the video games we buy for them.  

What is a solution for this?  Do I want a Selma action figure series at Target?  Perhaps a Gandhi bobble-head?  (Yes, that one exists...)  

While that would be nice, the solution that I seek is to empower parents to take a stand for your values.  Take a stand for peace-making.  Take a stand for selfless service to others, out of compassion and empathy.  Your children are looking to you to define how to interact with the world.  Talk with them about your values, especially at Target, and especially in the toy aisle.  How do you solve problems?  Connect it to your faith or your belief system.  What does it mean to you to be a Christian?  A Muslim?  A Unitarian Universalist?  A Humanitarian?  Who are the super heroes in your life and why?        

Suddenly, those plastic "super heroes" and weapons seem pretty silly and your family's connections, values and relationships have grown much deeper.  Stand strong.  Put peace into their hands.  Leave the violence on the shelf.  

David Soleil, syndicated by PeaceVoice,  is the former Chair of the Leadership Education group for the International Leadership Association, a founder and staff member at the K-12 Sudbury School of Atlanta.

Jon Stewart Blew Last Chance to Ask Obama a Question

Jon Stewart interviewed President Obama for the last time and told jokes instead of asking questions.

If Stewart retires, where will we find someone willing to let Obama spew nonsense at such length unchallenged?

I discussed Obama's interview on RT on Wednesday, and someone asked me to post the Youtube, but RT has to do that, not me. So here's the gist of what I think.

Stewart said to Obama: you've tried bombing and overthrowing leaders and arming rebels and ... what's that new thing ... oh yeah, diplomacy.

Everybody laughed.

Obama talked up the Iran deal.

Stewart should have asked Obama a question, such as, "If you prefer diplomacy in this case, why not in many other cases where you seem to prefer war?" He could have followed up by asking about each war.

Yall Are Talking About War Wrong

Former head of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Lt. General Michael Flynn has joined the ranks of the many recently retired officials openly admitting that what the U.S. military does generates dangers rather than reducing them. (Flynn didn't explicitly apply this to every recent war and tactic, but did apply it to drone wars, proxy wars, the invasion of Iraq, the occupation of Iraq, and the new war on ISIS, which seems to cover most of the actions the Pentagon engages in. Other recently retired officials have said the same of every other recent U.S. war.)

Once you've admitted that the means of mass killing is not justified by some higher end, once you've called the wars "strategic mistakes," once you've accepted that the wars don't work on their own terms, well then there's no way left to claim that they are excusable in moral terms. Mass killing for some greater good is a tough argument to make, but possible. Mass killing for no damn good reason is totally indefensible and the equivalent of what we call it when it's done by a non-government: mass murder.

But if war is mass murder, then virtually everything that people from Donald Trump to Glenn Greenwald say about war is not quite right.

Here's Trump regarding John McCain: "He's not a war hero. He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured." This is not just wrong because of your view of the good, bad, or indifference of being captured (or what you think McCain did while captured), but because there is no such thing as a war hero. That is the unavoidable consequence of recognizing war as mass murder. You cannot participate in mass murder and be a hero. You can be incredibly brave, loyal, self-sacrificing, and all kinds of other things, but not a hero, which requires that you be brave for a noble cause, that you serve as a model for others.

Not only did John McCain participate in a war that killed some 4 million Vietnamese men, women, and children for no damn good reason, but he has been among the leading advocates for numerous additional wars ever since, resulting in the additional deaths of millions of men, women, and children for, yet again, no damn good reason -- as part of wars that have mostly been defeats and always been failures even on their own terms. This senator, who sings "bomb, bomb Iran!" accuses Trump of firing up "the crazies." Kettle, meet pot.

Let's turn to what a couple of our best commentators are saying about the recent shooting in Chattanooga, Tenn.: Dave Lindorff and Glenn Greenwald. First Lindorff:

"If it turns out that Abdulazeez was in any way linked to ISIS, then his action in attacking U.S. military personnel in the U.S. and killing them has to be seen not as terrorism but as a legitimate retributive act of war. . . . Abdulazeez, if he was a combatant, deserves credit really, at least for following the rules of war. He appears to have focused his killing remarkably well on actual military personnel. There were no civilian casualties in his attacks, no children killed or even wounded. Compare that to the U.S. record."

Now Greenwald:

"Under the law of war, one cannot, for instance, legally hunt down soldiers while they're sleeping in their homes, or playing with their children, or buying groceries at a supermarket. Their mere status as 'soldiers' does not mean it is legally permissible to target and kill them wherever they are found. It is only permissible to do so on the battlefield, when they are engaged in combat. That argument has a solid footing in both law and morality. But it is extremely difficult to understand how anyone who supports the military actions of the U.S. and their allies under the 'War on Terror' rubric can possibly advance that view with a straight face."

These comments are off because there is no such thing as a "legitimate retributive act of war," or an act of mass murder for which someone "deserves credit," or a "solid" legal or moral "footing" for the permissibility of killing "on the battlefield." Lindorff thinks a high standard is to target only soldiers. Greenwald thinks targeting only soldiers while they are engaged in war is a higher standard. (One could make an argument that the soldiers in Chattanooga were in fact engaged in war.) Both are right to point out U.S. hypocrisy regardless. But mass murder is neither moral nor legal.

The Kellogg-Briand Pact bans all war. The U.N. Charter bans war with narrow exceptions, none of which is retribution, and none of which is any war that takes place on a "battlefield" or in which only those engaged in fighting are fought. A legal war or component of a war, under the U.N. Charter, must be either defensive or U.N.-authorized. One could fantasize a United Nations without its Western bias accepting an ISIS attack in the United States as somehow defensive against a U.S. attack in what used to be Iraq or Syria, but it wouldn't get you around the Kellogg-Briand Pact or the basic moral problem of mass murder and of the ineffectiveness of war as a defense.

Lindorff might also consider what "in any way linked to ISIS" means for the U.S. side of the war, in terms of whom the United States claims the right to target, from those guilty of "material support" for trying to promote nonviolence in Iraq, to those guilty of assisting FBI agents pretending to be part of ISIS, to members of groups with ties to ISIS -- which includes groups that the U.S. government itself arms and trains.

Lindorff ends his article discussing actions like the Chattanooga shooting in these terms: "As long as we diminish them by calling them acts of terrorism, nobody's going to demand a halt to the War on Terror. And that 'war' is the real act of terrorism, when you come right down to it." One might exactly as well say: that "act of terrorism" is the real war, when you come right down to it, or: that governmental mass-murder is the real non-governmental mass-murder.

When you come right down to it, we have too much vocabulary for our own good: war, terrorism, collateral damage, hate crime, surgical strike, shooting spree, capital punishment, mass murder, kinetic overseas contingency operation, targeted assassination -- these are all ways of distinguishing types of unjustifiable killing that aren't actually morally distinguishable from each other.

It's not terrorism if it's retaliation: Chattanooga Shooting, If Linked to ISIS, is a Legitimate Act of War

By Dave Lindorff

 

I'm not a fan of war or of killing of any kind, but the labeling of the deadly attack by Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez on two US military sites in Chattanooga, Tennessee as an act of terror is absurd.

A tale of sexism, racism and corporate pressure”: Ellen Pao’s Resignation from Reddit

By Alfredo Lopez


The Internet -- always ablaze with controversy -- is a wildfire these days with revelations about more pernicious government spying, deals between governments and corporate "hacker companies", and Ellen Pao's resignation as head of Reddit.

Recognition Of PeaceWorkers

By Mort Malkin
 
An article in a recent issue of the Wayne Independent announced that the Museum at Bethel Woods was offering free admission to all military veterans. Veterans receive benefit from other organizations as well, chief among them the Veterans’ Administration Clinics and Hospitals. 
 
But, why should peace veterans not be offered similar acknowledgement and benefits? Peace Workers may well be performing even greater service to the nation. You may fairly ask, “How would one achieve Peace Worker status?” Certainly Nobel Peace Laureates have already received recognition, but there are many more organizations that can validate such standing. Here are a few in our area: Wayne Peace, the Peace Academy at Liberty, Sullivan Peace and Justice, and one of the Society of Friends Meeting Houses. A selection of others in other communities include: the Dayton Peace Museum, the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center, the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, WILPF, World Beyond War, Another Mother for Peace, Code Pink, Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Granny Peace Brigade, and War Resisters League. The US Armed Forces will certify select individuals as Conscientious Objectors. 
 
Peace work is actually more demanding than war. War requires that you just pull a trigger or press a button — boom. Peace needs patience, persistence, courage, creativity, and diplomacy. Frank B  Kellogg, a Republican from Minnesota and co-author of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, said, “I know of no greater work for humanity than in the cause of peace, which can only be achieved by the earnest efforts of nations and people.”
 
Now, all the businesses and organizations that want to offer some benefit to  veteran Peace Workers please form a line.

We’re #1...in the heroin business!: US Lost in Afghanistan, But Did Make Afghanistan World’s Top Heroin Exporter

By Jack Balkwill


...The US government pretends to care about eradicating opium production in Afghanistan, while production soars to record levels.  Can this be an accident? 

The largest marketplace for illegal drugs continues to be the United States, despite a decades-long so-called "war on drugs."  Can this be an accident? 

Killing Crabs and Arabs

I lead a sheltered life. Apart from visiting Afghanistan once during a war, the closest I come to danger is in sports, and the closest I come to violence is in emailed death threats from war fanatics -- and even those pretty much dried up when the president became a Democrat.

When rats moved into the garage, I trapped them one-by-one and let them go in the woods, even as people claimed the same rats were finding their way back over and over again, like local troops getting guns and training from the U.S. Army over and over again so they could "stand up" and attack each other someday.

I've been arrested for using the First Amendment numerous times but never had anyone try to use the Second Amendment on me. I'm mostly a vegetarian, considering becoming a vegan.

My weakness is seafood. But I don't have it all the time. If I ever eat crabs, I buy them already cooked, already red instead of blue, already still instead of moving, already a product like a sausage patty or a granola bar only different.

Recently I found myself at a friend's house on the bay dropping cages into the water and pulling them out full of crabs. One should accept hospitality. They throw back the females. They throw back the babies. The crabs are plentiful, local, organic, non-processed. If I eat them from a store I'd be a hypocrite not to eat them from the bay.

But these crabs were blue, not red; rapidly moving, not still. We dumped them into a pot and poked them back into it as they tried to crawl out, noisily scraping their claws on the metal. Their intentions were quite clear, and we knowingly frustrated those intentions as we slammed the lid on the pot and set it on the stove for 45 minutes. Forty-five minutes. Long enough for an enhanced interrogation.

And then I ate the crabs.

But the crabs kept crawling around in my head. Surely there are greater evils than hypocrisy, my thoughts said to me.

Peace activist friend Paul Chappell spoke recently to a large group. If you spent the day playing with and getting to know a five-year-old girl, he said, could you take a baseball bat and kill her with it? People shuddered.

Of course you couldn't, he said. But what if you did it from 10 feet away with a gun, with her head turned, with her blindfolded, as part of a firing squad, or from 100 feet, without getting to know her, or from an airplane high above, or with the remote control for a drone, or by ordering someone to order someone to order someone else to do it, and with an understanding that the girl was part of a subhuman race out to destroy the good people of the world?

When Barack Obama reads through his list of men, women, and children on a Tuesday and picks which ones to have killed, he knows he won't be doing the killing. When he killed a 16-year-old boy from Colorado named Abdulrahman and his six cousins and friends who were too close to him at the time, was it Obama's choice or did he pass the buck? Was it John Brennan's choice? Let's suppose that one of them was presented with the argument for bestowing the royal thumbs-down.

Were they shown a photograph? Was a portrait of evil painted? Abdulrahman's father had said seditious things. Perhaps Abdulrahman had once cheated on a biology test. Maybe he hadn't meant to, but he had seen an answer and then not spoken up -- no saint, he.

Had a recording been played of Abdulrahman's voice? Could his killer, could his ultimate killer whose policy trickled down to the pushing of the button on the videogame that beheaded, burned-to-death, lynched, and drew and quartered him all at once -- could that person imagine what his voice would have been like had he been in an oversized metal pot trying to crawl out?

Seven young friends trying to scrape their way out of a pot of steaming water, as Gulliver pokes them back. Their words are articulate, followed by inarticulate screams. Could Obama cook them? And if he couldn't cook them, how can he conscionably murder them with missiles, along with dozens and hundreds and thousands of others killed with all kinds of weaponry at his order and through his proxies and through the recipients of his weaponry given and sold to other air-conditioned killers?

If forced to do the killing in person, which president or secretary or chairman or senator or congress member would do it? And would we want them to take a stand against hypocrisy out of loyalty to their former self, the distance killer? Or would we want them to awake to the evil of their ways and cease and desist forthwith?

The distancing of killing doesn't just make it easier. It also hides important considerations behind gleaming temptations. The crabs are dying. You know it. I know it. We all know that we all know it. The oysters are dying. The crabs are dying. The ecosystem is dying. And the fact that they taste good, combined with some vague fatalism about overpopulation and six-of-one-half-a-dozen-bits-of-bullshit doesn't change what the right thing to do must be.

I am going to eat no more crabs.

The wars are self-defeating, creating enemies, murdering innocents, destroying the environment, eroding civil liberties, savaging self-government, draining resources, mashing away all semblance of morality. And the rush of tasty power that comes from ordering deaths on a check list like a take-out menu doesn't change any of that.

There has to be a last time we tolerate war.

Is this taking democracy too far?: The Greek People Have Said ‘No!’ to Austerity and Economic Blackmail

By Dave Lindorff


Something huge has happened in Greece, though you wouldn’t know it if you rely on the US corporate media for your information.


Talk Nation Radio: Andre Vltchek on Exposing Lies of the Empire

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-andre-vltchek-on-exposing-lies-of-the-empire

Andre Vltchek is a writer, reporter, playwright, photographer, and filmmaker. He has reported from around the world. His latest book, which he discusses, is Exposing Lies of the Empire. His website is http://andrevltchek.weebly.com

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or  LetsTryDemocracy.

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We don’t do body counts: Have Millions of Deaths from America's 'War on Terror' been Concealed?

By Jack Balkwill

 

How many days has it been
Since I was born?
How many days
'Til I die?

Do I know any ways
I can make you laugh?
Or do I only know how
To make you cry?

― Leon Russell, Stranger in a Strange Land
 

Would Jeffrey Sterling Be in Prison If He Were White?

By Norman Solomon

Last week CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling went to prison. If he were white, he probably wouldn’t be there.

Sterling was one of the CIA’s few African-American case officers, and he became the first to file a racial discrimination lawsuit against the agency. That happened shortly before the CIA fired him in late 2001. The official in Langley who did the firing face-to-face was John Brennan, now the CIA’s director and a close adviser to President Obama.

Five months ago, in court, prosecutors kept claiming that Sterling’s pursuit of the racial-bias lawsuit showed a key “motive” for providing classified information to journalist James Risen. The government’s case at the highly problematic trial was built entirely on circumstantial evidence. Lacking anything more, the prosecution hammered on ostensible motives, telling the jury that Sterling’s “anger,” “bitterness” and “selfishness” had caused him to reveal CIA secrets.

Dog whistlers run for cover: Lone Wolf Racist Terror Backfires

By John Grant


“Our ancestors were literally fighting to keep human beings as slaves and to continue the unimaginable acts that occur when someone is held against their will. I am not proud of this heritage.”

Corrupted Coverage: US News Media Still Can’t Get It Right on Race

By Linn Washington, Jr.

 

Does the intense news coverage examining the tragic massacre inside a historic black church in Charleston, S.C. and coverage exposing the travesty of the white woman who claims she’s actually black mean the mainstream media has finally ‘got it right’ regarding reporting on race and racism?

British Trash Magna Carta in Bowing to U.S. Diktat on Assange

Friday Marks Julian Assange's 3rd Year Cooped Up in Ecuadorian Embassy

A Reminder From Sunshine Press With Comment By Ray

19 June 2015 marks three years since Mr. Assange, an Australian citizen, entered the embassy of Ecuador in London. He was granted political asylum under the 1951 Refugee Convention due the ongoing espionage case against him in the United States. Mr. Assange risks extradition to the US from both the UK and Sweden.

Mr. Assange has been detained--without charge--in prison, under house arrest and in the embassy for nearly five years. He has not seen the sun in three years as the embassy has no outdoor area. ...

Both the UK and Sweden refuse to provide legal or diplomatic assurances not to extradite Mr. Assange to the US (in violation of their obligations under the Refugee Convention), ...

The Bravery of Vince Bugliosi

Vincent Bugliosi, generally noted as the prosecutor of Charles Manson and author of Helter Skelter, is dead.

Vince had a remarkable skill as a prosecutor and a public speaker. He could be very persuasive. He could set aside everything but the most critical piece of information and then hammer at that piece like a sculptor. In doing so he could reach a wide audience in a persuasive manner without unnecessarily putting anyone off.

Bugliosi fit the profile of a whistleblower. He had long been part of the establishment. He prosecuted criminals. He wrote best-selling books defending insider opinion, claiming Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, O.J. Simpson was guilty, etc. He believed that before George W. Bush no president had ever lied about a war. He believed the U.S. government generally meant well. He considered agnosticism wiser than atheism, because who knows, there could be a god, how can you prove there isn't? He considered revenge an enlightened emotion. In other words, Bugliosi was a reluctant radical.

He had written a condemnation of the Supreme Court's selection of George W. Bush for the White House. How was he to know that speaking further truth about that same individual would meet a brick wall of bipartisan contempt? He didn't know. He was used to being on television when he published a new book. He was used to glowing reviews, or at least reviews, in major newspapers. But most major newspapers didn't mention Bugliosi's book on prosecuting Bush for the war on Iraq until Bugliosi died this week. The New York Times had run an article on the lack of coverage, but not provided any coverage.

Bugliosi was shut out by corporate power when he suggested prosecuting a president for launching a war (and laid out a powerful legal argument for doing so). It was, in his view, a very mainstream American argument against a brand new horror never seen on the face of the earth before. He said not a word about the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who had been murdered; it wasn't part of his legal case on which he focused like a laser. He argued for the prosecution of Bush for the murder of U.S. troops sent to Iraq and killed there. Bugliosi explained:

"A robber, for instance, was convicted of first degree murder under the felony-murder rule where, as he was leaving the store in which he had robbed the owner, he told the owner not to say a word or he'd be harmed, and fired into the ceiling to scare the owner. The shot, after two or three ricochets, pierced the head of the owner, killing him. In fact, the felony-murder rule applies even where the defendant is not the killer! There have been cases where the proprietor of the store fired at a robber, missed him and hit and killed a customer. And the robber was convicted of first degree murder of the customer."

Legally, it's unusual. Morally, it's grotesque. Effectively, it would have ended U.S. wars, prevented the creation of ISIS, left Honduras and Ukraine with their elected governments, kept new bases out of the Philippines, Japan, Guam, Australia, and two dozen African Nations, allowed Libya to live, allowed recovery to begin in Afghanistan, prevented the drone wars that President Obama created in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, and the subsequent Saudi destruction of Yemen, halted shipments of U.S. weapons to Israel, Egypt, and countless Clinton-donor nations, quite possibly spared Gaza two serious attacks, and conceivably have created the momentum to prosecute torture and other lesser crimes rather than continuing the charade of re-banning it over and over.

But none of that was to be. Bugliosi was abandoned by the Democrats who didn't want Bush prosecuted. Bugliosi was forsaken by the corporate media that didn't want war questioned. Bugliosi was ostracized by his own people: prosecutors. He asked for one prosecutor in any place in the U.S. from which a U.S. troop had been sent to Iraq to die. He volunteered to assist that prosecutor for free. Not a single one could be found willing to even try.

The case for ‘courageous restraint’: The Killer Elite, at Home and Abroad

By John Grant


We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.

                                                      - George Orwell


A View From the Other 96%

Exposing Lies of Empire by Andre Vltchek is an 800-page tour of the world between 2012 and 2015 without a Western tour guide. It ought to make you spitting-mad furious, then grateful for the enlightenment, and then ready to get to work.

The 4% of us humans who have grown up in the United States are taught that our government means well and does good. As we begin to grasp that this isn't always so, we're duly admonished that all governments do evil -- as if we were being simplistic and self-centered to blame Washington for too much.

But take this tour of the world with out nationless friend Andre. We see U.S. medical troops operating on Haitian civilians in the most unsafe conditions, while proper facilities nearby sit unused; these troops are practicing for battlefield surgeries. We see millions slaughtered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at U.S. instigation and with U.S. support. We see U.S. militarism inflicting immeasurable suffering in Somalia. We witness the U.S. training and arming in Turkey of troops from around the Middle East to be sent into Syria to attempt to overthrow another government. We follow the horrors that U.S.-driven militarism, capitalism, and racism have brought to Indonesia, as well as Colombia, the Philippines, and locations around the globe. We investigate the ongoing state of disaster in Iraq and Libya, even the everlasting crisis created by the long-forgotten U.S. war on Panama, and for that matter the ongoing injustice of the century-old German genocide in today's Namibia. We meet the people of occupied Okinawa, and the people of the rest of Asia who view theirs as an evil island hosting threatening U.S. troops. We examine the crushing of popular movements in Egypt, the corruption of four "anchor nations" in four U.S.-created regions of Africa, and the imposition of violent coups in Central America and Ukraine.

It approves the spy program and makes it permanent: USA Freedom Act is Anything But

By Alfredo Lopez


To get to the point: there is nothing -- nothing at all -- in any recent law or legislative action that will in any way weaken the police state structure our government has put into place for rapid deployment. You are not any more free than you were last week and, no matter what the Congress has done with the expired provisions of the Patriot Act or the newly developed and Orwellian-named "USA Freedom Act", you are not going to be any more free next week.

Here come the terrorists!: Help! The USA PATRIOT ACT has expired!

By Dave Lindorff

 

Omigod! We're all gonna die!

Three provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act were allowed to expire on June 1 thanks to a Senate disagreement over how to "fix" them (and thanks to Sen. Rand Paul's outspoken opposition to renewal), and now we’re vulnerable to terrorism!

That at least is what President Obama and other fear mongers in Washington are saying.

Revealed: Energy Transfer Partners’ 'Pipeline-for-Prostitute' Landman

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

By Steve Horn and David Goodner

A DeSmog investigation has uncovered the identity of a land agent and the contract company he works with that allegedly offered to buy an Iowa farmer the services of two teenage sex workers in exchange for access to his land to build the controversial proposed Dakota Access pipeline, owned by Energy Transfer Partners.

Is Al Jazeera Trying to Be CNN or Fox?

Some weeks back I got a call from Al Jazeera wanting me to be on a show, but insisting that I couldn't do it from a local studio via satellite or from my computer via Skype. No, I would have to fly to New York and back, and they would pay for the flight and pay a "per diem" as well (they didn't specify how much). I was not eager to take a whole day out of my life to fly to New York and back, but they sold me on it. This, they told me, would be the premier edition of a new Sunday morning news program to compete with the existing ones. And it would include different perspectives.

"This week, we are producing a debate on whether or not the 'American empire is on decline', and I would love to have you on the show to share your thoughts on the issue on this very exciting debate," wrote a woman who turned out to be one of many producers, in an initial email. We exchanged emails and spoke by phone. I provided brief responses on several subtopics. I even wrote and published a column on the topic and sent it to them. Various Al Jazeera staff got in on the email thread. I also spoke by phone with executive producer Robert Lilly.

At the studio in New York, I found out just before the taping who I would be debating. She had apparently known about me as her debate opponent for some time. Her name was Tara Maller and she worked at the Aspen Institute with General Stanley McChrystal. She and some of the producers sitting in the waiting room seemed to compete with each other in dropping the names of horribly blood-soaked and ridiculously over-wealthy people they knew. It reminded me of waiting to go on Fox News more than, say, theRealNews.com.

The debate turned out to be something like 15 minutes. Host Imran Garda veered away from the declining empire topic to focus on the question of war. I found that shift welcome. I was delighted to explain my views on war in general and various specific wars, to the extent that one can do so in a few teeny sound bytes. Garda seemed surprised, however, that someone could actually oppose all wars. There may have been a memo he missed on that. Maller, for her part, did fine, but told me afterwards that I talked faster than she did, and remarked to one of the gaggle of producers how absurd it was for her to have played the role of war supporter. Of course, her views were her own and I would have welcomed it had she chosen to oppose war, but she was clearly more comfortable debating someone to her right who wanted more war than she did.

I thought the taping went well, such as it was. There were no glaring problems, and all sorts of executives and bigwigs shook our hands and thanked us. I thanked one of them for airing (I thought that the show would in fact be airing) something that the other networks would never air, and the look I got back disturbed me. I wondered whether they actually found that idea unpleasant. I flew back home on their dime. I started telling people that Al Jazeera was going to air something different from the norm of Sunday political TV.

I heard little from the Al Jazeera folks for some weeks. They'd been eager to know when I'd be back in New York, but when I told them they didn't seem so interested anymore. I asked them about paying my "per diem" and they weaseled out of it with a claim that they would only pay for food and cabs with receipts. I'd given them a receipt for a cab when their car hadn't shown up at La Guardia. They'd never hinted that I needed to get receipts for food or that that was what they meant by "per diem." In the same email that included that weaseling, the out-of-the-loop producer who'd first contacted me said "I hope you got to watch the premier this past Sunday!"

That was odd. Nobody had told me it was going to be on or that they'd seen it. What good was this show if nobody saw it? I asked where the clip was online and got no response. Some days later I found a website for the show. Here it is: http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/third-rail.html The show is called The Third Rail, but it's not exactly electrifying. It's the same old, same old, with Judith Miller and Alan Dershowitz and such types. The guests fit with the attitude I picked up on in the studio of wanting to be CNN. These videos don't make for something worth announcing to the world as new and different from the usual gang of corporate hacks regurgitating talking points. The show I taped is not there.

I emailed the original producer who had been my main contact and CC'd a colleague she had been CCing. "I see you now have the show here http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/third-rail.html with no sign of any debate that might question war," I emailed. "On the contrary Judith Miller's smiling face front and center. What's up? I took an entire day out of my life to debate a war-proponent in teeny little sound bites and then you killed it? Your plan is to compete with Meet the Depressed and such shows by imitating them?"

The CC'd colleague, Senior Interview Producer Katy Ramirez Karp, wrote back saying let's talk tomorrow.

"Sure," I replied. "Why did you kill a program supposedly aimed at being different and including an anti-war point of view in order to air the same old slop from Alan Dershowitz and Judith Miller and all your typical Meet The Depressed style warmongering hacks? Was the other guest happy or upset to have the show killed? Did you tell her? Were you planning on telling me? Do you intend to ape the lousy existing shows but just have fewer viewers, or are you hoping to create something different?"

Wait sixty seconds.

The phone rang. It was Katy. "If you have something to say . . . !" She quickly accused me of "badgering" and "threatening." Whom was I threatening with what, how, and when? I asked her four or five times before she said "I'm not accusing you of threatening. I'm objecting to your tone." (Picture someone screaming "I'm objecting to your screaming!"). Ignoring her tone, I asked her why they had killed the program and if they had intended to tell me. Her response: "It was a practice run, my dear. We thought we might use part of it." She went on to say something about how they fully planned to include points of view from "your kind of advocates and causes." You got the sense she was holding something at arm's length with her nose pinched.

When I pointed out that I never would have come to New York for a practice run and had, needless to say, never been fed that line prior to this moment, she said she would have to speak with her colleagues about that. She ranted for a while about how she was a professional, and when I tried to say something she hung up.

Now, I don't seriously think they flew people in for a practice run and lied to them about it. I think quite obviously they decided after filming the program, for whatever reason, that they preferred to air the stuff you'll see on their website.

Was my performance or Muller's unsatisfactory in some sort of technical way? I doubt it. I was just like I was in the clips of me they'd seen before inviting me on.

Did I say the wrong things about Syria or the weapons industry or something else in particular? I doubt it.

My best guess is they didn't want to be the show that premiers by doing something as laughable as opposing mass murder -- you can't touch such a third rail when you've already got the name Third Rail! But of course I'm just guessing. They won't tell me. They would rather claim that they lied to me for weeks and couldn't find anyone in the entire city of New York who could sit in for a "practice run."

War Speaks Every Language But Never Knows What to Say to Frogs

Alice Walker explains this line, "Though war speaks every language it never knows what to say to frogs" in the opening of her beautiful book, Why War Is Never a Good Idea, illustrated by Stefano Vitale, thus:

War speaks every language she says, because every nation has war. But of course this isn't true. Many nations that make war on others do not have war at home, not in remotely the way the nations have it where wars are fought. Anyone in the United States knows that a global war aggressor suffers, but also knows that the wars are not here, and that the difference is one of night and day. Many nations also do not make war, nearby or far off. Some nations, Costa Rica, Iceland, and lots of little nations, have no military, no war plans, no investment in future wars, and no wars. And this is why it matters that War Is Never a Good Idea, because good ideas exist as available alternatives.

The frogs, Walker explains very accurately as being among the respresentatives in her book of the creatures who play no role in creating war, have no understanding of war, and suffer from war, directly from its violence, and indirectly from its impact on climate change and the natural environment.

Walker's personification of war as a being that knows and thinks and does things for its own purposes is also, strictly speaking, perfectly accurate, as well as powerfully provocative. Just as a "selfish gene" can be understood as aiming for the well-being of the gene rather than the organism, war does not benefit its participants, its victims, its observers, or for the most part its creators, supporters, cheerleaders, or tolerators. War does not generate happiness, prosperity, fulfillment, wisdom, beauty, or sustainability. War generates more war. In the absence of war it would be quite easy to persuade enough people to nip in the bud any notion of creating it. In the presence of war, the willful delusion that war is inevitable is quite pervasive.

"Though war is old, it has not become wise. It will not hesitate to destroy things that do not belong to it, things very much older than itself."

There is wisdom in that line. Not only have various nations set war aside for decades or centuries, and in some cases brought it back again, but most human cultures for most of human existence never knew war at all. It is newer than most every adaptation of human evolution, and we are unable to adapt to it, and should we do so it would destroy us.

"Here war is munching on a village. Its missiles taking chunks, big bites out of it. War's leftover gunk seeps like saliva into the ground. It is finding its way into the village well."

Stop drinking the water.

Finally! Some climate crisis honesty: Forget About a 2 Future; It Will be 4˚-6˚C Degrees, and Soon

By Dave Lindorff

 

            A tectonic shift is occurring suddenly in the debate over climate change.

 

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