Over the past several years, people who care about what is happening in the world and who feel compelled to tell the truth about it have had a tremendous realization: we have the means of production to make media.This realization has spurred a media revolution in which the traditional model of passively consuming the news through a corporate filter has given way to a new model of active citizenship and aggressive truth-telling.
With at least 60 million blogs in existence, according to Technorati.com, there are a lot of voices vying for our attention. Though citizen journalists and alternative media-makers often struggle to find distribution and reach a substantial audience, their presence has dramatically and positively altered the media-political complex during this era of columnists bribed by administration officials, news stories created and prepackaged by federal government agencies, increasingly concentrated ownership over the media, nationalism, profit-seeking, risk-averse careerism, and censorship.
It is a clear sign of the democratization of the media when the Internet, once the headquarters of only the political fringe, provides such a strong progressive community that the â€œNet-Rootsâ€ can influence an election on any scale. For a long time, it was only the independent and alternative media that questioned the policies of this government, while the mainstream media became either dormant or complicit. Add a comment
Keep in mind, I've run Tomdispatch.com for only a few years, but I've been a book editor in mainstream publishing for over 30 years. Sometime last spring, I was on the phone with former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega talking about books she might someday write, when she suddenly said to me, "You know what I'd like to do?" When I asked what, she replied, "What I've done all my life."
"What's that," I wondered innocently enough.
"I'd like to draft an indictment of President Bush and his senior aides, and present the case for prewar intelligence fraud to a grand jury, just as if it were an actual case of mine, using the evidence we already have in the public record. That's the book I'd like to do."
With those three decades of publishing experience, I never doubted that this was an idea whose time should come -- and now it has. De la Vega has drawn up that indictment -- a "hypothetical" one, she hastens to add -- convened that grand jury, and held seven days of testimony. Yes, it's a grand jury directly out of her fertile brain and the federal agents who testify are fictional, but all the facts are true. She understands the case against the Bush administration down to the last detail; and she's produced, to my mind, the book of the post-election, investigative season: United States v. George W. Bush et al.
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As described in media reports of the day, the alleged "liquid bombing" plot which was allegedly foiled during the second week of August was to have been a synchronized attack
in which terrorists would make bombs out of harmless liquids aboard
moving airplanes and blow those planes out of the sky more or less
simultaneously, causing "mass murder on an unimaginable scale".
As described in a few blog posts and one British report, but not in any major US media, the alleged plot relied on many factors which were seen by some skeptics as considerably unlikely.
A recent article by Jason Bennetto in The Independent claims that because of the clumsy way in which the alleged plot was broken up, beginning with the arrest of Rashid Rauf in Pakistan, many of the alleged plotters disappeared before they could be arrested. Most of the reaction in the left blogosphere has restricted itself to either simply mirroring the article, or else using it to criticize Bush over his foolishness and perhaps pointing to the timing of the arrests in context of political events in the USA at the time.
But if these "terrorists" -- this so-called second wave -- are still at large, then it makes sense both to ask how viable the plan was at the time, and to re-examine its viability now, in light of recent changes to airport security.
There can be no doubt that the failed American invasion of Iraq has been a terrible thing. Because of this American failure, the Iraqi people have suffered horrific trauma and destruction, and thereâ€™s no indication that their ordeal will end anytime soon. For America, too, this botched invasion has proved most costly: in blood, in treasure, and in national reputation. The order of the world has been rent, the global stage dominated by violence initiated by its leading nation in an act interpreted by most of the worldâ€™s peopleâ€™s as an unjustified act of aggression.
Looking at these developments from the standpoint of the year 2000, it would appear to be an unmitigated catastrophe.
Yet, from another perspective â€“a valid and important perspectiveâ€”this ongoing disaster in Iraq is good news. Itâ€™s good news only in terms of the alternative. That is, in terms of the alternative if one takes as givens the Bushitesâ€™ being in power in the United States and, especially, their decision to invade Iraq.
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Since every British tabloid has linked the dissident Litvinenko with Politkovskaya, letâ€™s link on...
As it happens, both Litvinenko and Politkovskaya were virtually unknown in Russia. You wonâ€™t find a copy of their â€™sensationalâ€™ books anywhere here - nor in the Russian language, that anyone can read.
Their combined threat to the Kremlin didnâ€™t add up to the square root of squilch.
All this will come as a shock to Daily Telegraph readers, but there isnâ€™t really a lot of call for â€˜fierce critics of Putinâ€™ these days. Putin has a popularity rating of 79% at the last count.
Given Tony Blairâ€™s 22% at the last council elections, one might well ask which countryâ€™s citizens are being forced to live under an unpopular regime.
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This piece was written for Truthout.org.
I. Echoes From the Past and Future
The images look familiar, even comforting in a way, steeped in the heroic black-and-white tints of classic movies and World War II newsreels. Unshaven, wisecracking G.I.s slogging gamely through urb an combat. Tanks crawling over broken walls, past burned-out buildings. Quick cut to the skies: lumbering bombers releasing their payloads over sprawling cities, while fighters dart in and out around them and black clouds of ack-ack explode with sudden menace. A brief sweep of the enemy dead, frozen in their final agonies across a churned-up field. Then a long line of refugees, plodding along the edge of a highway while American troop trucks, jeeps, and half-tracks roar past them in the opposite direction.
But there's something slightly wrong, something askew in the pictures. The shop signs in that ruined city â€“ they're all in English. The road signs in that shot of the highway are in Spanish. And those refugees aren't white German burghers or French villagers; they'reâ€¦brown, like Mexicans, maybe. And look, the fighters swooping in to strafe our bombers â€“ they've got maple leafs painted on their fuselages. And there, amongst the enemy dead, a corpse still clutching his battalion's flag: a Union Jack.
This is the kind of cognitive dissonance evoked by a new screenplay from renowned director Alex Cox: "Our War Against Canada." The British-born Cox â€“ long resident in the United States â€“ is planning a three-part, 90-minute documentary on the all-too-true story of serious American plans to wage war against Canada, Mexico and Great Britain in the years before World War II. These detailed schemes are filled with "echoes from the future," in Pasternak's apt phrase: eerie prefigurements and deep-rooted patterns that have been played out â€“ in reality, not just on paper â€“ over and over down through the decades, and now confront us once again, most starkly and horribly, in Iraq. Add a comment
Ecuador's Supreme Electoral Tribunal is still counting the votes in the November 26 presidential runoff election but the results seem clear - with one-half of them tallied so far they show: the peoples' candidate, Rafael Correa, 68% and the bible-toting billionaire banana tycoon oligarch who's also the richest man in the country, Alvaro Noboa, - 32% - results consistent with two exit polls and an unofficial citizens election watchdog group, but without the completion of the suspended vote count in the Guayas province that's a Noboa stronghold that when done should raise his percent of the total but nowhere near enough to close the current electoral gap against him.
The people have spoken, and the Washington-directed election-riggers failed for the second time this month to arrange for their man to steal what the people of Ecuador voted en masse to deny them - the same way it turned out on November 7 when Nicaraguans reelected Daniel Ortega despite strong opposition to his candidacy from Washington. Again the people won, and it's a good omen for Hugo Chavez six days before Venezuelans vote on Sunday hoping to prove what the latest independent polls show - that he should win reelection impressively and get to serve another six year term as the country's president.
Ecuadorans voted for populist economist and self-styled "humanist, leftist Christian" candidate Rafael Correa who promised big changes in another Latin American country ruled up to now by and for the interests of capital and against the public welfare. Washington's choice was Alvaro Noboa who as of last night hadn't yet conceded but may have by now as Correa's lead is too great for him to overcome, barring any yet to be uncovered mass vote fraud undiscovered so far but that can't be ruled out.
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My wife and I moved into a new apartment earlier this year. Just a few blocks from our old place, it's been a major quality of life improvement in almost every possible way. One unexpected adjustment, however, was closet space. This moderately sized one-bedroom apartment has only two narrow closets. (You couldn't fit a scandalous skeleton in them if you tried.) Keeping in mind that the building is more than 78 years old, how might we explain this egregious "oversight"?
a) The architects were idiots
b) The architects callously cut corners
c) Americans had far less "stuff" in 1928
d) All of the above
Accepting as a given that all humans are idiots that callously cut corners, the can't-miss answer is, of course, D. However, in this particular case, I believe C is far more accurate. In fact, I'll bet the original tenants here considered themselves mighty lucky to even have two closets. They may have believed that whatever didn't fit inside was superfluous. Imagine that: A two-closet existence.
Long before shopping became hard-wired into human biology, Voltaire said,
"When it's a question of money, everybody is of the same religion."Add a comment
[Remarks to the first in a series of â€œLast Sundayâ€ community gatherings in Austin, TX, November 26, 2006.]
We billed Last Sunday as a place for people to come together to explore the intersections of the political, artistic, and spiritual. The idea came out of conversations among friends: Eliza Gilkyson, a singer/songwriter with interests in politics and spirituality; Jim Rigby, a minister who has a knack for stirring up trouble, theologically and politically; and me, a professor involved in a variety of political groups.
There are lots of organizations and movements taking up issues that we care about. Last Sunday was designed not to compete with those, but to create a different kind of space, where people could bring all aspects of themselves for conversation and connection. The name plays off the â€œFirst Thursdayâ€ tradition on South Congress Avenue, with perhaps an invocation of the Last Supper for some, though I want to be clear that none of us has any messianic inclinations.
We hope people will not only listen to what comes from the stage, but connect with friends and allies in the hall. We hope that existing progressive projects will be strengthened and that new ideas will emerge from those conversations.
So, thereâ€™s no hidden agenda tonight. Weâ€™re not recruiting or selling anything. Like so many, weâ€™re just hungry for that conversation, that connection, that sense of community.
Okay, but what is Last Sunday really about?
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â€œPeople do not forget. They do not forget the death of their fellows, they do not forget torture and mutilation, they do not forget injustice, they do not forget oppression, they do not forget the terrorism of mighty powers. They not only donâ€™t forget; they also strike back.â€
Harold Pinter, Nobel Laureate
The central tenet of American foreign policy hasnâ€™t changed since the early 1980s when Secretary of State Henry Kissinger summarized our involvement in the Iraq-Iraq War saying, â€œI hope they kill each other.â€ Kissingerâ€™s dictum reveals the basic racial and religious odium which animates the current policy and has become the organizing principle for maintaining the global empire.
Now that the Muslim world has been systematically ravaged from the southern-most part Gaza to the northern tip of Afghanistan, we can see that the application of the Kissinger Doctrine is an effective method for decimating societies where coveted resources are located.
By all accounts, itâ€™s been a huge success.
The policy seems to be working best in Iraq, where provocative counterinsurgency operations have incited a massive sectarian war. The conflict produces an ever-increasing number of civilian casualties many of whom have been killed by other Iraqis. No doubt Kissinger is gratified that his theory is working out so splendidly.
The western media portrays the disaster in Iraq as the natural upshot of years of repression under the former dictator, Saddam Hussein. But, Saddam had nothing to do with the violence which is ripping Baghdad apart. Thatâ€™s just a way of pacifying the American public so they can go on their Christmas buying-spree without pangs of remorse. In fact Saddam is no different than Americaâ€™s other tyrant-friends in Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. He simply stood in the way of Big Oilâ€™s dream of direct control of Iraqâ€™s resources and created a likely rival for â€œgood friendâ€ Israel.
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Last week, I had one of those clarifying moments when the enormity of the American fiasco stirred my livers and lights again. I was riding in a car at sundown between St. Cloud and Minneapolis on I-94 through a fifty-mile-plus corridor of bargain shopping infrastructure on each side of the highway. The largest automobile dealerships I have ever seen lay across the edge of the prairie like so many UFO landing strips, with eerie forests of sodium-vapor lamps shining down on the inventory. The brightly colored signs of the national chain fried food parlors vied for supremacy of the horizon with the big box logos. The opposite lane was a blinding river of light as the cars plied north from the Twin Cities to these distant suburbs in the pre-Thanksgiving rush hour.
All that tragic stuff deployed out on the prairie was but the visible part of the storm now being perfected for us. On the radio, Iraq was coming completely apart and with it the illusion of America being able to control a larger set of global events -- with dire implications for all glowing plastic crap along the interstates, and the real-live people behind the headlights in those rivers of cars.
The main fresh impression I had amidst all this is how over it is. The glowing smear of auto-oriented commerce along I-94 (visible from space, no doubt) had the look of being finished twenty minutes ago. Beyond the glowing logos lay the brand new residential subdivisions full of houses that now may never be sold, put up by a home-building industry in such awful trouble that it may soon cease to exist. If suburbia was the Great Work of the American ethos, then our work is done. We perfected it, we completed it, and, like a brand new car five minutes after delivery, it has already lost much of its value. Add a comment
Women, kids, old, sick most at risk in Iraq, says Reuters. To which we say: Ho-hum. Old news. We've killed hundreds of thousands of these weaklings already, been killing them for years, with sanctions, bombs, snipers, chaos, deprivation, whatever. Who cares? You know what's really important? If Jim Baker can "seal his legacy in the realm of statesmen" by spraying enough perfume on the shitheap that Junior Bush has made of Iraq so that the high and mighty of the American Establishment can slither out of the mire without smelling too bad.
That's what it's all about, baby, that's the kind of thing that counts. How a lifelong, bloodstained bagman can become a "second Disraeli." How Hillary and Obama can nuance their positions to squeeze maximum political mileage out of the American-made mass slaughter in Iraq. How many he-man poses John McCain can strike on his knees as he grovels to the slavering extremists he thinks will make him president.
That's where the focus of our political discourse will be from here on
out. (With frequent side dishes of stern condemnation of the worthless
Iraqis for "failing" us, of course.) This time next year â€“ when U.S.
forces have either high-tailed it "over the horizon" into Kuwait or
else are hunkered down in the (supposedly) permanent bases from which
the Bush-Cheney faction have always intended to plunder the spoils of
the hydra-headed war they've engendered â€“ the chattering classes that
control the public debate will still be chewing the clot-smeared rags
of the Beltway power game.
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