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By Dave Lindorff
Imagine for a moment what would happen if former President George W. Bush were to give an interview on television and declare that his invasion of Iraq, and the ensuing nine years of death and mayhem that resulted from that war, had been the wrong thing to do. Imagine if he were to say of that decision, “Mistakes were made.”
“In the end, after he has felt the full force of our justice system, what will be remembered are the good people who were impacted by this tragedy,” President Obama said this week in Aurora, Colo., after the shootings.
That’s probably not true.
By Dave Lindorff
ThisCantBeHappening! lost a valued friend Friday night with the death, from cancer, of Alexander Cockburn, 71. Alex and his comrade-in-arms Jeffrey St. Clair atCounterpunch magazine have helped our struggling little online left alternative newspaper mightily by running most of our articles on their site when other allegedly progressive news aggregator sites have rejected stories as being too radical, or in the case of Truthout, have simply barred us from their site.
"A consortium of 18 heavyweight investors is calling for Mr Murdoch to stand down as chairman in the interests of good corporate governance and be replaced by an independent figure who is seen to be acting in the best interests of shareholders." The Independent, July 20
The investors have filed a resolution to remove Murdoch from power at the October News Corp shareholders meeting. The resolution will accompany those already filed by large investors in the United States.
What upsets the 18? Murdoch and his family have too much control. That control serves the family well, but not the shareholders. Specifically, recent scandals have hurt News Corp performance.
Following recent revelations by the New York Times that all military-aged males in Waziristan are considered fair game by the CIA in its drone strikes, many US journalists have been reassessing how they report on deaths in the attacks.
So when CNN’s national security analyst Peter Bergen produced a graph claiming that no civilians have been killed in Pakistan this year by US drones, his views were bound to attract criticism. Conor Friedersdorf, a columnist at The Atlantic, accused CNN and Bergen of running ‘bogus data‘, for example.
Bergen is also a director of the New America Foundation, which for more than three years has run a database on CIA drone strikes in Pakistan and produces estimates of numbers killed. That data is the most frequent source of statistics for the US media, including CNN itself. So the accuracy of its material is important.
Yet there are credible reports of civilian deaths in Pakistan this year. And unlike the New America Foundation the Bureau actively tracks those claims.
By Dave Lindorff
Are weaponized drone aircraft more moral than the more traditional killing machines used in warfare? In an opinion published in Sunday’s New York Times, the paper’s national security reporter, Scott Shane, argues that they are.
By George Ikners
In a book written by Alex Carey and titled "Taking the Risk out of Democracy" there are many magnificent insights about just how the elites guard against anyone other than themselves controlling the system, socially, economically and politically. On the topic of war Carey says (at p 137) that "..modern wars require the support of everyone; and so wartime propaganda idealizes the humane, egalitarian, democratic character of the home society in a way that no elite or business interest has any intention of allowing actually to come about. In consequence, at the end of major wars there is a public temper that expects reforms in the direction of the democratic and egalitarian ideals for which people have been told they sacrificed and suffered."
In Washington, both chambers of Congress and multiple federal agencies are pushing for sweeping cybersecurity legislation that would allow more information sharing between corporations and the government. But privacy advocates say the country’s intelligence gathering agency, the National Security Administration, already has too much access to US citizens’ private data, and has abused its powers by engaging in widespread warrant-less domestic surveillance. On Capitol Hill, FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.
Below is Nader's list of books you should read to jolt your mind into action.
I'm going to skip number 8 because I wrote it, but I'd like to offer it to you at a discount.
These are suggested summer readings from Ralph Nader to activate the citizen’s mind:
- Corporations Are Not People by Jeffrey D. Clements, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, 2012. This book is for corporate accountability and the grossly uneven relationships between corporate personhood and real people. Clear, historically founded, compellingly invigorating and connected to a growing movement (see freespeechforpeople.org).
- The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned From Patagonia’s First 40 Years by Yvon Chouinard & Vincent Stanley, Patagonia Books, Ventura, California, 2012. You may be wearing the apparel of this outdoor clothing company, but you may not be aware of the remarkable pioneering practices and counter-intuitive wisdom of this successful company and its casual, underworking founder and outdoorsman, Yvon Chouinard.
- Government is Good by Douglas J. Amy, creator of governmentisgood.com, Dog Ear Publishing, Indianapolis, IN 2011. This professor of politics at Mount Holyoke College debunks the myths of corporatist-Republican propaganda, surfaces the realities of government’s services, explains the war on government and how to revitalize both democracy and government from its present distortions by self-seeking organized private power. Douglas Amy is the man Cong. Paul Ryan would never debate.
- Buying America Back by Alan Uke, Selectbooks, New York, 2012. Uke is a domestic manufacturer of Scuba diving and industrial lighting products and the architect of the federal Automobile Smog Index. The book’s dedication is “to the workers displaced, the factories closed, the small towns decimated and the opportunities denied to the people of America. It is also dedicated to all of us, the consumers, whose money has been harvested by those who work against us.” He has proposed to put a specific fight-back tool in our hands.
- We Can All Do Better by Bill Bradley, Vanguard Press, New York, 2012. The former U.S. Senator and basketball start delivers his wide-ranging thoughts on the book’s title. The book is short, clear and tells you where he stands. If presidential campaigns covered such subjects, the people would know where the candidates stand, instead of the blizzard of trivia, repetition and distortion to which they are exposed.
- Bad Brake: Ford Trucks Deadly When Parked, by Robert Zausner, Camino Books, Philadelphia, 2012. If you want to see the gripping persistent pursuit of the rights of people whose lives were devastated by a popular truck defective brake design by trial lawyers at their creative best, read this documented story. As Arthur Bryant, director of Public Justice, wrote: “The book shows how trial lawyers are our last line of defense against corporations maximizing profits over people’s safety and lives.”
- The Emergency State: America’s Pursuit of Absolute Security at All Costs by David C. Unger, Penguin Press, New York, 2012. The book’s title understates the depth of the author’s indictment of the national security state – built by both political parties – into a folly that has traded away “the country’s greatest strengths for a fleeting illusion of safety.” Unger does not leave his readers hanging. He provides them with ten proposals to reverse course.
- When the World Outlawed War by David Swanson, (self-published, 2011). The author of several books, political activist and civic leader, brings to contemporary memory the existence of the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 that outlawed war. Still on the books and signed by 54 countries, including the United States, the Treaty was the result of the leadership of assertive citizens in many countries and their governmental officials, including our Secretary of State Frank Kellogg, following the horrors of that preventable World War I. Our forebears’ vision should stimulate their descendants today into a reawakening for muscular institutions of peace.
- My Seventy Years in the Labor Movement by Harry Kelber, Labor Educator Press, New York, 2006. Now at age 98 and writing articles every week on his blog http://laboreducator.org, Harry Kelber has been championing working men and women for seventy-five years and holding slugglishy-led trade unions’ feet to the fire. With no one else stepping up, he is running for the presidency of the AFL-CIO on a detailed reform platform of greater activism. An inspirational, instructive auto-biography.
- Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated and Battling the Corporate Elite by Bruce E. Levine, Chelsea Green, 2011. Going beyond the how-to-become-active civic handbook, Levine, a clinical psychologist invites us to explore what he calls the “learned helplessness” that has “taken hold for a great many Americans…locked into an abuse syndrome in which revelations about their victimization by a corporate-government partnership produce increased anesthetization rather than constructive action.” The author, citing historian Lawrence Goodwy, then shows many ways toward “individual self-respect” and “collective self-confidence,” the “cultural building blocks of mass democratic politics.”
- Days of Destruction Days of Revolt by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco, Nation Books, New York, 2012. This brilliant combination of prose and graphic comics reports from the field on four of the poorest, most abandoned areas of the U.S. The plight of the Americans barely existing there reflects the power of the corporate supremacists and their indentured governments to exploit and deny.
Want to disturb your routine and enliven your vision for human possibilities, read through the above works. It will take you a lot less time than the authors spent delivering their minds to yours.
Wikileaks is releasing what it described as a massive trove of documents related to the conflict in Syria. Speaking at London’s Frontline Club, Wikileaks project analyst Sarah Harrison said the documents consist of more than two million emails from political figures, ministries and companies doing business with the Syrian government.
“The Syria files shine a light on the inner workings of the Syrian government and the economy but they also shine a light on how the West and Western companies say one thing and do another. The range of information extends from the intimate correspondence of the Baath party figures to financial transfers sent from Syrian ministries to other nations.”
What does Independence Day mean to you? The holiday can be a time to gather with family, friends and community. But it can also be an opportunity to reassess the direction of the country, the past struggles that secured rights and freedom, the challenges to power that rose up in the face of adversity, and the inequalities that still exist.
A coalition of open Internet advocates unveiled a “Declaration of Internet Freedom” this week, seeking to rally activists against censorship and privacy violations from both governments and corporations. The Declaration comes as a Manhattan Judge ordered Twitter to turn over months of personal data from an Occupy Wall Street protester, arrested during last fall's mass demonstration on the Brooklyn Bridge. Both Google and Twitter released reports this month showing the US government requested more private user data than any other country in the world, and the companies largely complied. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.
(Transcript; audio available here)
H/T LUV News
By Dave Lindorff
Let me preface this column by saying that I don’t think all conservatives and right-wingers are stupid. In fact I have some right-leaning friends of a libertarian bent who are really smart, and a lot of fun to argue with. They may have an unquestioning faith, bordering on religious zealotry, in the wonders of the “market,” but like Jesuit-trained Catholics defending the existence of God, debating that faith with them can be entertaining and even challenging.
Dennis Trainor, Jr., has produced a full-length movie of the Occupy movement, and he's done a hell of a great job.
The Occupy movement was created, as are all movements in the United States, in large part by the corporate media. They didn't understand it. They didn't want it. They didn't originate it or take part in it or develop its brilliants insights, effective techniques, or inspiring courage. They transmitted what to them was an indecipherable code that reached their viewers and readers with the obvious clarity of a crack on the head. They got huge assists from brutal cops and incompetent mayors. But it was the corporate media that took something in one city and made it big and made it national.
Then, as always, the corporate media turned hostile and lost interest and went away.
June 25, 2012
Asylum for Julian Assange
By Ray McGovern
(for Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence)
Editor Note: Decisions to speak out inside or outside one's chain of command -- let alone to be seen as a whistle-blower or leaker of information -- is fraught with ethical and legal questions and can never be undertaken lightly. But there are times when it must be considered. Official channels for whistle-blower protections have long proved illusory.
The Hunger Games vs. the Reality of War
by Captain Paul K. Chappell, U.S. Army (ret.)
Author’s Note: I wrote this because the first book in The Hunger Games series has become required reading in many schools. When students are required to read a book for a class they have a reasonable expectation of being educated, but The Hunger Games portrays serious subjects such as war, violence, and trauma in very unrealistic ways. I hope the following will encourage critical thinking, promote discussion, and help people better understand war. I dedicate this to the veterans whose psychological wounds are misunderstood because of unrealistic media depictions of war, violence, and trauma.
DEBUNKING THE MYTHS OF WAR
Imagine yourself sitting in a doctor’s office. Looking at you remorsefully, the doctor says you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and there is only a four percent chance you will be alive in two weeks. Even worse, he informs you that your death will be incredibly painful. The illness kills most people by violently rupturing one or more of their internal organs, causing them to bleed to death. As if the situation could not get any worse, he then says you must be quarantined in a government laboratory. You will be prevented from communicating with your friends and family members in any way as you lie on your deathbed. You will be forced to face death alone.
How do you think most people would react upon hearing this grim news? And how do you think most people would feel while lying on their deathbed alone, afraid, and on the verge of suffering an extremely painful death? Could you imagine some people having panic attacks, nervous breakdowns, and other severe psychological issues?
The scenario I just described is very similar to the situation twenty-four children must face in the science fiction series The Hunger Games written by Suzanne Collins. In the first book (and film) of the series, twenty-four children from the ages of twelve to eighteen are chosen to compete in a fight to the death called "the hunger games," where they must kill each other with bows and arrows, swords, knives, and other close-range weapons until one person is left standing. Most of the children are selected at random through a kind of lottery, while a few volunteer. Like the terminal illness scenario, each child has only a four percent chance of surviving (1), dying will be extremely painful, and they will be forbidden from seeing their friends and family members while facing death.
If twenty-four children from the ages of twelve to eighteen were told they had a terminal illness – giving them a ninety-six percent chance of dying an extremely painful death in the next two weeks – and then prevented from seeing their friends and family members, do you think many of the children would suffer from panic attacks, nervous breakdowns, and other severe psychological issues? If so, isn’t it odd that not a single child in the first book of The Hunger Games series has a mental meltdown when their situation is in fact worse (for reasons I will explain later) than the terminal illness scenario?
There is a common myth in our society that human beings are naturally violent. In my books I write about the abundant evidence that refutes this myth, and although I cannot offer all the evidence in this short essay, I will share a few examples later on. As a result of this myth, many believe if you simply tell people to kill each other, their natural violent urges will take over and they will massacre each other rather easily. We can see this myth in The Hunger Games, because most of the twenty-four children are given only three days of combat training (a few have been training throughout their lives, which I will discuss later), yet despite this extremely minimal training the children are able to function well in a situation that requires them to kill or be killed. But is a three-day session of combat training enough to prepare people for the trauma of war? During World War I, World War II, and the Korean War, American soldiers who were not children but grown men were given months of combat training (and in some cases years if they were in the regular army). Yet despite this, more American soldiers were pulled off the front lines due to psychological trauma than were killed during the wars.
Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman is a former West Point professor and Army Ranger who has written extensively about combat. He also trains military and law enforcement personnel throughout the country. Grossman’s in-depth research shows that the human mind, rather than the body, is actually the weakest link in war, because in combat our mind is more vulnerable to collapse than our body. Explaining how this can affect soldiers in war, Grossman tells us: "Richard Gabriel, in his excellent book, No More Heroes, tells us that in the great battles of World War I, World War II and Korea, there were more men pulled off the front lines because of psychiatric wounds than were killed in combat. There was a study written on this phenomenon in World War II entitled, ‘Lost Divisions,’ which concluded that American forces lost 504,000 men from psychiatric collapse. A number sufficient to man 50 combat divisions! ... Very few people know about this. While everyone knows about the valiant dead, most people, even professional warriors, do not know about the greater number of individuals who were quietly taken out of the front lines because they were psychiatric casualties. This is another aspect of combat that has been hidden from us, and it is something we must understand." (2)
Lieutenant Colonel Elspeth Ritchie, an army psychiatrist who is the director of the Army Surgeon General’s office for behavioral health, tells us: "In the first months of the Korean conflict, from June to September 1950, both the physical and psychological travails were overwhelming. Many of the soldiers were initially pulled from easy occupation duty in Japan, with inadequate uniforms (including winter clothes), arms, or training. The rate of psychological casualties was extraordinarily high, 250 per thousand per year." (3)
By John Grant
Vietnam, a story of virtually unmitigated disasters that we have inflicted on ourselves and even more on others.
-Bernard Brodie, 1973
Scoundrel Media Support for Obama
by Stephen Lendman
Months before November's election, New York Times editors made their choice: Obama in 2012. Expect an official endorsement to follow.
Gareth Porter, the Washington-based journalist, has won the prestigious Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism for 2012 for his investigation of US ‘killing strategy’ in Afghanistan, including the targeting of people through their mobile phones.
The judges said: ‘In a series of extraordinary articles, Gareth Porter has torn away the facades of the Obama administration and disclosed a military strategy that amounts to a war against civilians.’
The Martha Gellhorn Prize is given in honour of one of the 20th century’s greatest reporters and is awarded to a journalist ‘whose work has penetrated the established version of events and told an unpalatable truth that exposes establishment propaganda, or “official drivel”, as Martha Gellhorn called it’.
Previous winners include Robert Fisk of the Independent, Nick Davies of the Guardian, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, and the late Marie Colvin of the Sunday Times (special award).
The Florida Sun Sentinel has for many years been rather unique, as a corporate newspaper with a regular columnist who's actually good, and I don't mean just good for the context, but actually worth reading even if the masses of South Florida weren't reading along. Happily, they are.
Stephen L. Goldstein has just published a book, also worth reading, called Atlas Drugged (Ayn Rand Be Damned!) It's fiction, often hilarious fiction, aimed at debunking the notion that Ayn Randian "free-market" trickle-down crapitalism can coexist with basic human decency. "This is a work of fiction," says the back cover. "But any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely intentional. The names have been changed but, hopefully, not enough to protect the guilty."
In fact, while the book takes rightwingerism to an extreme, it blends in plenty of elements from reality. Imagine the most outlandish carrying of so-called conservatism to its logical conclusion, and abandoning New Orleans to a hurricane, or watching a fire department stand by while a house burns (because the owner didn't pay the proper fees) fits right in.
The opening scene is basically a CPAC conference set in a world in which normal had become one of today's CPAC conferences. The speeches of the fascists who populate this book ought to echo in the reader's head when he or she later hears the speeches of actual politicians, because the former are just slightly exaggerated versions of the latter.
The heroes of the book are part Occupy Wall Street, part Anonymous. People march by the millions. They organize and inspire. They shut down all the department stores owned by a particular plutocrat, simply by "shopping" en masse, without actually buying anything. But other tactics, from stunts involving animal dung (you have to read it) to hacking into the sound system at important events, rely on a small, secretive band of super-heroes -- too much so, I suspect. A real revolution is more likely to come through a combination that relies more heavily on popular action and less on the secret heroics of beings who fuse together Julian Assange with the Yes Men and MacGyver.
I also wish there weren't quite so much nationalism in what is after all a fantasy of an ideal future at war with a kleptocratic dystopia. But if you're going to go all in for the founders and the red-white-and-blue, it would have been better to remember the one thing the founders got most right that we have most forgotten: you don't give a single individual power. You can't solve tyranny through a presidential election, replacing a bad tyrant with a good one. You have to divide and check power, reducing the president to an impotent executive. In fact, one would hope that after a couple of centuries we would be able to at least fantasize about moving further toward direct democracy, and away from monarchy.
Be that as it may, it's not as if "Atlas Drugged" is going to move people in the direction of pinning their hopes on presidential candidates more than they already do (a physical impossibility). It is, however, going to deservedly and comically drag through the mud of its own making the disgustingly stupid idea that greed and selfishness are the smart way to be kind and generous. The result, I hope and expect, will be a greater ability to spot the absurdity of the political philosophy being satirized. If THIS is where free-market principles lead, if the catastrophe carved out by the job-creators in this book is what we're consciously attempting to arrive at, then we'd better reject as absolutely evil many of the assumptions and claims we encounter every day in the rhetoric and the policy coming from our politicians, including of course -- this being reality after all -- both of our leading candidates for president.
By Dave Lindorff
Reading, watching and listening to the mainstream media in America, it gets harder and harder to tell the difference between journalism and rank propaganda. Consider the coverage of the French parliamentary election currently underway.
Most Americans who read newspapers probably learned about this via the Associated Press report that went out on the weekend for Monday’s papers (AP is the de facto “foreign correspondent” for almost every newspaper in America now that all but a few papers have eliminated their foreign reporting staffs). It stated that recently elected Socialist President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party “stands positioned to take control of the lower house of parliament.”
In support of the ongoing policy of US drone strikes in Pakistan, US defence secretary Leon Panetta stated that "This [policy] is about our sovereignty as well". His comment came in response to claims by Pakistan that their sovereignty is at risk as a result of the drone attacks. Despite the wild suggestion that the sovereignty of the world's military superpower could be at risk from this tribal region of northern Pakistan, the BBC chose to highlight Panetta's claim, adding to the report the sub-headline (appearing midway through) '"Our Sovereignty"'.
The article, appearing on 6 June, following two weeks of heavy drone strikes on Pakistan, ran with the headline 'Pentagon chief Panetta defends Pakistan drone strikes'. It would be hard to imagine a similar headline from the BBC if another world power such as Russia or China were to undertake a policy of assassination in the territory of another country – particularly if the orders came from the top, from the President’s own ‘kill list’, as is the case with the drone strikes on Pakistan.
The BBC presents the arguments thus: ‘Pakistan says the drone attacks fuel anti-US sentiment and claim civilian casualties along with militants. The US insists the strikes are effective’. The report itself reads almost as a press-release for the Department of Defense, the ‘resentment’ of Pakistani society allowed only the briefest of acknowledgements.
Throughout BBC reporting on the US policy of drone warfare, the ‘effectiveness’ of the attacks is a primary consideration. Where arguments against the strikes are noted (acknowledging that the policy ‘is highly controversial’) the BBC presents as counter-argument the priority of those advocates of drone strikes; the capability for the US to ‘eliminate its enemies’, as Frank Gardner put it.
Some years ago, I watched a screening of a film about Daniel Ellsberg and the release of the Pentagon Papers. The film was shown in the U.S. Capitol, and Ellsberg was present, along with others, to discuss the movie and take questions afterwards.
I've just read Chris Hayes' new book "Twilight of the Elites," and am reminded of the question that progressive blogger and then-Congressman Alan Grayson staffer Matt Stoller asked Ellsberg.
What, Stoller wanted to know, should one do when (following the 2003 invasion of Iraq) one has come to the realization that the New York Times cannot be trusted?
The first thing I thought to myself upon hearing this was, of course, "Holy f---, why would anyone have ever trusted the New York Times?" In fact I had already asked a question about the distance we'd traveled from 1971, when the New York Times had worried about the potential shame of having failed to publish a story, to 2005 when the New York Times publicly explained that it had sat on a major story (about warrantless spying) out of fear of the shame of publishing it.
But the reality is that millions of people have trusted and do trust, in various ways and to various degrees, the New York Times and worse. Ellsberg's response to Stoller was that his was an extremely important question and one that he, Ellsberg, had never been asked before.
It's a question that Hayes asks in his book, which can be read well together with Chris Hedges' "Death of the Liberal Class." Hedges' book goes back further in U.S. history to chart the demise of liberal institutions from academia to media to labor. Hayes stays more current and also more conceptual, perhaps more thought-provoking.
Hayes charts a growing disillusionment with authorities of all variety: government, media, doctors, lawyers, bankers. We've learned that no group can be blindly trusted. "The cascade of elite failure," writes Hayes, "has discredited not only elites and our central institutions, but the very mental habits we use to form our beliefs about the world. At the same time, the Internet has produced an unprecedented amount of information to sort through and radically expanded the arduous task of figuring out just whom to trust." Hayes calls this "disorienting."
While I have benefitted from Hayes' brilliant analysis, I just can't bring myself to feel disoriented. I can, however, testify to the presence of this feeling in others. When I speak publicly, I'm often asked questions about how to avoid this disorientation. I spoke recently about the need to correct much of what the corporate media was saying about Iran, and a woman asked me how I could choose which sources of news reporting to trust. I replied that it is best to watch for verifiable specifics reported by multiple sources, to begin by questioning the unstated assumptions in a story, to study history so that facts don't appear in a vacuum, and to not blindly trust or reject any sources -- the same reporter or outlet or article could have valuable information mixed in with trash. Such critical media consumption may not be easy to do after a full day's work, I'll grant you. But it's not any harder to do than reading the New York Times and performing the mental gymnastics required to get what you've read to match up with the world you live in.
By John Grant
“No, Charlotte, I’m the jury now. I sentence you to death.”
The roar of the .45 shook the room. Charlotte staggered back a step.
“How c-could you?” she gasped.
“It was easy.”
- Mickey Spillane, I, The Jury