Thursday, June 30, 2011

Baleful quote of the day

'A democracy survives when its citizens have access to trustworthy and impartial sources of information, when it can discern lies from truth, when civic discourse is grounded in verifiable fact. And with the decimation of reporting these sources of information are disappearing. The increasing fusion of news and entertainment, the rise of a class of celebrity journalists on television who define reporting by their access to the famous and the powerful, the retreat by many readers into the ideological ghettos of the Internet and the ruthless drive by corporations to destroy the traditional news business are leaving us deaf, dumb and blind. The relentless assault on the “liberal press” by right-wing propaganda outlets such as Fox News or by the Christian right is in fact an assault on a system of information grounded in verifiable fact. And once this bedrock of civil discourse is eradicated, people will be free, as many already are, to believe whatever they want to believe, to pick and choose what facts or opinions suit their world and what do not. In this new world lies will become true.' - Chris Hedges, "Lies Become Truths"

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Did Washington D.C. eat Barack Obama's soul?

Circumstances have conspired to keep me from returning to regular blogging, which has prevented me from covering the continuing habit of President Obama to do things that Senator and candidate Obama was previously opposed to. Hopefully, anyone reading this blog is already following Glenn Greenwald's blog, as he has been covering this topic already.

But if you have not been following along, this article - via Greenwald's twitter feed - perfectly epitomizes the pattern of betrayal that has become the Obama presidency.

In Barack Obama's rise to national prominence, when he criticized the Bush Administration for its false claims about WMDs in Iraq, its torture of detainees, and its illegal program of spying on American citizens without warrants, he owed a particular debt of gratitude to a New York Times national security reporter. In a series of scoops as impressive as any amassed during the War on Terrorism, James Risen reported in 2004 that the CIA failed to tell President Bush about relatives of Iraqi scientists who swore that the country had abandoned its weapons program; the same year, he was first to reveal that the CIA was waterboarding detainees in Iraq; and in 2005, he broke the Pulitzer Prize winning story about the secret NSA spying program.

These scoops so embarrassed and angered the Bush Administration that some of its senior members wanted Risen to end up in jail. They never managed to make that happen. But President Obama might. He once found obvious value in Risen's investigative journalism. Its work that would've been impossible to produce without confidential sources and an ability to credibly promise that he'd never reveal their identities. But no matter. The Obama Administration is now demanding that Risen reveal his source for a 2006 scoop about CIA missteps in Iran. If he refuses to cooperate, which is his plan, he faces the possibility of jail time.
This is the sort of thing that makes me hope that Mr. Obama becomes a one term president. Yes, the Republican presidential candidates are worse; but if we continue to elect persons who feel at liberty to break campaign vows, to grant immunity to criminals while persecuting the journalists who exposed the malfeasance, how can we expect so see any different result?

[President Obama] might not be in the White House today if the Bush Administration would've succeeded in keeping all its secrets: the torture, the detainee deaths, the abuses at Abu Ghraib, the spying on Americans, the faulty pre-war intelligence in Iraq, and all the rest. One would expect Obama of all people to see the value in Risen's reporting - the real ways in which he has helped to preserve civil liberties, American freedom, and accountability in government - and to weigh that against the national security implications of reporting in 2006 on a bungled CIA effort that happened way back in the year 2000.

Instead, a president who once championed whistle-blowers has adopted Cheney's view, and as Glenn Greenwald puts it, "the Obama administration appears on the verge of fulfilling Dick Cheney's nefarious wish beyond what even Cheney could achieve." All this while failing to prosecute the much more serious Bush era illegal acts that Risen has uncovered in his reporting.
The sad reality is that the institution of the presidency is now set in such a manner that it seems to guarantee that we will have presidents who behave as presidents should not behave.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A couple more Kindle sales to consider

In addition to the fantastic deal you can still take advantage of regarding Daniel Goldhagen's latest book, Mark Vuletic - who apparently can read at the same pace as Johhny 5 from Short Circuit - has spotted several other bargain priced Kindle books:

Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party by Max Blumenthal for $1.79

The Language Instinct: How The Mind Creates Language by Steven Pinker for $2.99

In Republican Gomorrah, Blumenthal examines the history of the Christian right, how it captured the Republican party, and the personality defects of some of its leading figures. Before I read the book, I was sold on it by Frank Schaeffer's review, so I'll simply let that link do my talking for me.

I have not read The Language Instinct, but I have read several other of Pinker's works, including The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature; his works are always deeply engaging, lucid, and richly humanistic - I consider Pinker one of the best science popularizers around.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Quote of the day

"It requires little effort to condemn the Nazis. Moral outrage comes cheaply. It is more difficult, and surely more valuable, to address those features of the human condition that precipitated the tragedy." - David Livingstone Smith, Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave and Exterminate Others

Monday, June 20, 2011

The persecuted rich

Today, I have twice been reminded of the vast suffering of the wealthy in America, victims of the communist forces that have seized control of the United States (at least that's what I've learned from AM radio and Fox News).

First, I turned on the tv and saw Jenna Bush Hager reduced to working as a reporter for NBC's Today show. Obviously, being the daughter of a president, the granddaughter of a president, and the great-granddaughter of a senator qualifies Hager for a job as a correspondent with a news program, especially over those who are educated and trained as journalists and have years of experience in the news business, but it is a terrible shame seeing her and other such American royalty forced to such base labor.

Secondly, I read this article at the Washington Post (h/t Jim Lippard), in which I see that the communists who run everything are now whining about how their employers salaries go up and up and up while theirs declines.

Even Lenin would blush at the terrible persecution that America's beleaguered corporate class suffers.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

American press corps saves the Republic

As anyone who has turned on a tv, the internet, radio, or read a newspaper over the last several weeks knows, the United States of America has been in a state of crisis, with our democracy hanging in the balance.

But thanks to the American news media, those civic minded journalist avatars of liberty and freedom, our long dark national nightmare has come to an end. That is correct, worry no more, America: Rep. Anthony Weiner has resigned after having accidentally publically sent a lewd photograph of himself in boxer briefs to one of his twitter followers and then having it become national news that he has had cyber-sex relations with women who are not his wife.

Democracy is saved.

America may be a country which lets war criminals responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of human beings, torture, and the illegal mass surveillance of its citizens go freely about their business; where the President can wage illegal wars in which bombs, missiles, and bullets end human lives, but we will not tolerate an elected official doing something in his personal life that may be of interest to TMZ or the National Enquirer.

Anti-American extremist Glenn Greenwald had written of Weiner:

Can one even imagine how much different -- and better -- our political culture would be if our establishment media devoted even a fraction of the critical scrutiny and adversarial energy it devoted to the Weiner matter to things that actually matter? But that won't happen, because the people who comprise that press corps, with rare exception, are both incapable of focusing on things that matter and uninterested in doing so. Talking about shirtless pictures and expressing outrage about private sexual behavior -- like some angry, chattering soap opera fan furious that one of their best-known characters cheated -- is about the limit of their abilities and their function. And doing so is so easy, so fun, so self-justifying, and so exciting in that evasively tingly sort of way.
Like what Greenwald? Like the context of why Anthony Weiner was being hounded by conservative bloggers for months leading up to their uncovering and disclosing his twitter cyber relations, that being his calls for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from healthcare decisions because of conflicts of interest.

Or maybe the allegation from a former CIA official that the Bush 43 White House requested that he dig up damaging information on Iraq war critic Juan Cole by illegally spying on him and Cole's response that "It is sad that a politics of personal destruction was the response by the Bush White House to an attempt of a citizen to reason in public about a matter of great public interest."

Or how about the FCC commissioner approving the merger of NBC and Comcast then leaping into a job with Comcast as a lobbyist?

Our watchdog press will not be distracted by such trivialities.

The most heartwarming aspect of this Weiner scandal has been watching the media rehabilitation of pathological liar Andrew Breitbart (who once tried to get climate scientist James Hansen killed by the government) as a credible source of "news."

As we all know, lewd conduct in one's personal life is far more grave a concern, far mor indicative of the democratic spirit in a nation, than how casually it tolerates members of its pundit class advocating political murder.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Quote of the day

"There are many ways to improve the current welfare program ... Considering welfare recipients lazy, government money-hoarding second-class citizens is not one of them." - Michael De Dora

Monday, June 13, 2011

But don't blame Beck for inspiring violence ...

From Glenn Beck's show today:



Did you catch that? That was Glenn Beck, after a few minutes of conspiracy-mongering, pointing to photographs of President Obama and Cass Sunstein as reasons to own a gun.

From Democracy Now (Oct. 12, 2010)

JOHN HAMILTON: I think this is one of the most important points, that, no, Glenn Beck doesn’t advocate explicitly for violence, but in Byron Williams’s mind, Glenn Beck gives you every ounce of evidence that you could possibly need.

BYRON WILLIAMS: You know, I’ll tell you. Beck is going to deny everything about violent approach, deny everything about conspiracies, but he’ll give you every reason to believe in it. He is protecting himself, and you can’t blame him for that. So, I understand what he’s doing.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Byron Williams, recorded by you in the Santa Rita Jail. Go on with what he’s saying.

JOHN HAMILTON: I think Dana Milbank of the Washington Post put it best. He has a compendium of Glenn Beck quotes. Here is some of the rhetoric that you’ll hear on Glenn Beck’s radio program or see on his TV show: “The war is just beginning," "Shoot me in the head if they try to change our government," "You have to be prepared to take rocks to the head," "The other side is attacking," "There is a coup going on," "Grab a torch," "Drive a stake through the heart of the bloodsuckers," "They are taking you to a place to be slaughtered.” I mean, these are quotes, and I could go on. I mean, there’s any number of these from Glenn Beck.

So, I think we have to ask ourselves, if this is the level of discourse on the Glenn Beck program, and if the statements about, for example, George Soros, you know, starting the Tides Foundation thirty-five years ago, which wasn’t the case, or that he’s laundering money through “his” Tides Foundation, when he’s given less than five percent of the funds, of the foundation’s total funding, those two things in tandem beg the question, does Glenn Beck bear culpability for the actions of his audience?
Legal or ultimate culpability, no. An ethical and intellectual culpability, a culpability of personal responsibility for normalizing and encouraging paranoid hate, very much so.

Byron Williams was arrested and accused of plotting to kill ACLU workers and Tides Foundation employees.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Justice as unspeak

One of the posts that I had hoped to write but have not been able to get to is a response to the death of Bin Laden, with one of the key points being how disturbing I find it that Bin Laden's killing has been described - and is accepted - as justice. The reasoning being similar to that which I expressed before when the same was said about the death of al-Zarqawi (a killing which appears to me to be more legitimate than Bin Laden's, whom I believe could have been apprehended):

In the video you will notice that President Bush says that Al-Zarqawi has been brought to justice. He has not been brought to justice, he was killed. This may have been, and for all I know, most probably was the only way to stop the horrors being committed by al-Zarqawi, but killing him has nothing to do with justice. Bringing him to justice would have meant having him stand trial for his crimes against humanity, holding him accountable before a court of law. That is the concept of justice that the civilized world has adopted. The other is punitive and vengeful - the Biblical conception of justice - and we know that for much of time that the Biblical conception of justice dominated Western society, society was not just, but unjust.
I am pleased to see that I need not bother writing that portion of such a future post, because Steven Poole, author of Unspeak, has already addressed it and come to much the same conclusion.

Responding to President Obama's claim that "justice" had been done by Bin Laden's death, Poole writes

It is worth pausing to admire Obama’s masterful rhetorical conflation here of two different conceptions of justice. One sense of “justice”, of course, has to do with courts, legal process, fair trials, and the rest. This has to be the sense invoked in Obama’s reference to the desire to bring Bin Laden to justice. In this spatial metaphor, justice is a place: implicitly, a courtroom, or at least a cell with the promise of process. (Or even, in extremis, Guantánamo Bay, still not closed, where indefinite “detention” or imprisonment is Unspeakily palliated with the expectation of some kind of tribunal.) To bring someone to justice is to put them in a place where they will be answerable for their alleged crimes. To be answerable in this sense, it helps to be alive.

But it is quite another sense of “justice” — meaning a fair result, regardless of the means by which it was achieved — that is functioning in Obama’s next use of the word: the quasi-legal judgment that justice was done. On what sorts of occasion do we actually say that justice was done? Not, I suppose, at the conclusion of a trial (when it might be claimed, instead, that justice was served); rather, after some other event, away from any courtroom, that we perceive as rightful punishment (or reward) for the sins (or virtues) of the individual under consideration. (Compare poetic justice.) The claim that justice was done appeals, then, to a kind of Old Testament or Wild West notion of just deserts. What, after all, happened between the desire to bring Bin Laden to justice and the claim that justice was done? Well, Bin Laden was killed. He was not, after all, brought to justice. Instead, justice (in its familiar guise as American bombs and bullets) was brought to him.

In case you were wondering

You may have noticed that I'm still far behind on my posting. As renovation continues on my home, I currently have my computer and all but about five of my books in storage. On top of that, last month I was busy taking a course for work that required reading a textbook over a three week period on top of homework, training, testing and such. I've been busy.

I'll get back on schedule eventually ...

Thursday, June 02, 2011

A fantastic book deal

I just noticed that Daniel J. Goldhagen's Worse than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the ongoing Assault on Humanity - a book I previously spotlighted - is only $2.60 for the Kindle edition. For a book that has 672 pages, that is practically a steal.