The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C., August 1, 2011: “After the sound and fury over the lunatic massacre of young Norwegians by a bonr-again Christian right wing lunatic, there are being
quiet questions asked here about his background and possiblel connections with the intelligence operations of other countries. The man is obviously as crazy as a loon but he is very pro Israel and was actually visiting in that country. Given the Machaivellian activities of the Israeli Mossad, it is thought, though not proven, that he came to the attention of that agency and someone not only assisted him with well-laundered money but directed him to tell people, both in print if he was killed in his nasty business and in person if he were captured, that he was intimately connected with, and a member of, various pro-Nazi groups in England and Sweden. The tired cries of ‘Nazi! Nazi!’ are a recurring theme in Israeli propaganda but it has been quickly disproven that the killer had even the slightest connection with any of these groups. Perhaps he thought he had. In any case, nearly a hundred children were murdered and the story will move further away from the front page and, like the rapidly vanishing tales of criminal behavior on the part of Murdoch and his top people, slid to the back pages before finally vanishing into contrived oblivion.”
The Likud Connection
Europe’s Right-Wing Populists Find Allies in Israel
July 29, 2011
by Charles Hawley
Anders Breivik’s 1,500-page manifesto is nothing if not thorough. Pages and pages of text outline in excruciating detail the ideological underpinnings of his worldview — one which led him to kill 76 people in two terrible attacks in Norway last week.
It is a document which has led many to question Breivik’s sanity. But it has also, due to its myriad citations and significant borrowing from several anti-immigration, Islamophobic blogs, highlighted the deeply entwined network of right-wing populist groups and parties across Europe — from the Front National in France to Vlaams Belang in Belgium to the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ).
But recently it has become clear that Europe’s populist parties aren’t merely content to establish a network on the Continent. They are also looking further east. And have begun establishing tight relations with several conservative politicians in Israel — first and foremost with Ayoob Kara, a parliamentarian with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party who is also deputy minister for development of the Negev and Galilee districts.
The reason for the growing focus on Israel is not difficult to divine. “On the one hand,” Strache told SPIEGEL ONLINE in a recent interview, “we are seeing great revolutions taking place in the Middle East. But one can’t be totally sure that other interests aren’t behind them and that, in the end, we might see Islamist theocracies surrounding Israel and in Europe’s backyard.”
In other words, in the battle against what right-wing populists see as the creeping Islamization of Europe, Israel is on the front line.
‘More Sensitive to the Dangers’
Many in Israel see it the same way. Eliezer Cohen, known in Israel by his nickname “Cheetah,” says that leftist parties in both Europe and Israel have lost their way. Cohen, a decorated Israeli air force colonel now in retirement, is a former member of the Knesset with Yisrael Beiteinu, the hardline nationalist party led by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman that currently governs together in a coalition with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.
“Right-wing politicians in Europe are more sensitive to the dangers facing Israel,” Cohen, who gave a keynote address during Dutch right-wing leader Geert Wilders’ visit to Berlin last October, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “They are talking the exact same language as Likud and others on the Israeli right. I’m too old for bullshitting — we hope the right wing wins out in Europe.”
Kara sounds no different. “I am looking for ways to lessen the Islamic influence in the world,” Kara told the Israeli daily Maariv in June. “I believe that is the true Nazism in this world. I am the partner of everyone who believes in the existence of this war.”
At first glance, the European populists’ relationship with Israel would hardly appear to be a marriage built on love. Many see the FPÖ as being just one tiny step away from classic neo-Nazi groups and the same holds true for their partners throughout Europe. While such parties insist that they are not anti-Semitic — Strache claims that he takes a close look at populist parties’ stances toward Israel and Jews before he enters into partnerships with them — it is not difficult to find indications of extreme, anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic vitriol from within the populist party membership rolls.
Andreas Mölzer, for example, a member of the European Parliament for the FPÖ who has recently changed his tune to defend Strache’s approaches to Israel, edits a weekly called Zur Zeit which is replete with attacks on Israel. Following its incursion into the Gaza Strip in late 2008, the paper accused Israel of acting in “the Talmudic spirit of annihilation” and that it was trying to “finally annihilate the open-air concentration camp of the Gaza Strip in the spirit of the Old Testament.”
Indeed, when it comes to the FPÖ, observers of the party say the embrace of Israel, however far to the right it is taking place, is an insincere effort to establish foreign policy credibility. “The strategy is clearly that of normalizing itself, of becoming socially acceptable,” Heribert Schiedel, an expert on the FPÖ with the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance, a foundation which monitors right-wing extremism, wrote in an e-mail. “We presume that anti-Semitism remains a fundamental part of the party’s ideology.”
Many in Israel would tend to agree. And Kara was blasted in the Israeli press for a recent meeting in Berlin he held with Patrick Brinkmann, a German right-wing populist. “Deputy Minister Meets Neo-Nazi Millionaire,” read a headline in the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth earlier this month, noting that Brinkmann, while now insistent that he is not anti-Semitic, once had close ties with the right-wing extremist National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD). Following a visit to Vienna in December to meet with Strache, Vienna Jewish community leader Ariel Muzicant published an open letter in which he demanded that Netanyahu fire Kara.
The primary focus of the FPÖ’s political message, however, is — like that of populist parties from the True Finns in Finland to the Lega Nord in Italy — one of extreme skepticism of Muslim immigration. The groups are opposed to the construction of minarets, convinced that Europe’s future is threatened by high Muslim birth rates and certain that the Christian West must defend itself from Islam.
“For decades, politicians in Europe have ignored demographic developments and we are now in a situation where we have to warn that we are experiencing the Islamification of Europe,” Strache says. “We don’t want to become an Islamic society.”
Geert Wilders, who hit the headlines in 2008 with his virulently anti-Muslim film “Fitna” in 2008, pioneered the European populist-Israeli connection that same year. He has been back to visit Israel several times since.
Part 2: Allied with the Settlers
Broader relations began in earnest late last year. Strache, together with Vlaams Belang party boss Filip Dewinter, Kent Ekeroth from the Swedish Democrats and René Stadtkewitz , who founded a German Islam-critical party called “Freedom” last October, traveled to Israel in December. The visit was quickly reciprocated with a trip by Kara and others to Vienna at the very end of December. Other exchanges, including Kara’s visit with Brinkmann in July, have followed.
The partners that the European right-wing has sought out in Israel are, perhaps not surprisingly, well to the right of center. Kara himself, a member of the minority Druze religious community who enjoys close ties with Netanyahu, opposed the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and is a loyal supporter of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Gershon Mesika, a settler leader in the West Bank, received the populist delegation in December. Hillel Weiss and David Ha’ivri, both proponents of “neo-Zionism,” a movement which holds the belief that it is impossible to live in peace with Arabs, traveled to Germany last April for a conference hosted by the small, German right-wing populist movement Pro-NRW.
Their hope is that a pan-European platform will begin to emerge that values Israel as an important bastion in resisting the advancing tide of Islam. And they think, with the populist right making electoral gains across Europe in recent years, the smart bet is on Strache and Co.
‘Europeans Cannot Sleep’
“The reasonable right parties have their roots at home. The Germans in Germany, the Swedes in Sweden and so on,” says David Lasar, a member of the Vienna city government for the FPÖ. “I think that Israel is also a country that says this is our homeland and we can’t open the borders and let everyone in as happened in Europe. That is a reason that Israel today has more trust in the right-wing parties in Europe than in the left-wing parties.”
Lasar himself is Jewish and is one of the key players in ongoing efforts to tighten relations between Israel and the Europeans. And his view on Israel is one which would seem to be at odds with his party’s past positions on the Middle East. Whereas Lasar is skeptical of peace negotiations which would require Israel to give up East Jerusalem or to withdraw from the settlements, the FPÖ has traditionally been allied with Arab leaders such as Moammar Gadhafi and remained skeptical of America’s hard-line position on Iran.
That, though, Strache made clear, is changing. “There are areas where we Europeans cannot sleep, where we can’t remain silent,” says Strache. “Israel is in danger of being destroyed. Were that to happen, it would also result in Europe losing its foundation for existence.”
8 Reasons Young Americans Don’t Fight Back: How the US Crushed Youth Resistance
The ruling elite has created social institutions that have subdued young Americans and broken their spirit of resistance.
Traditionally, young people have energized democratic movements. So it is a major coup for the ruling elite to have created societal institutions that have subdued young Americans and broken their spirit of resistance to domination.
Young Americans—even more so than older Americans—appear to have acquiesced to the idea that the corporatocracy can completely screw them and that they are helpless to do anything about it. A 2010 Gallup poll asked Americans “Do you think the Social Security system will be able to pay you a benefit when you retire?” Among 18- to 34-years-olds, 76 percent of them said no. Yet despite their lack of confidence in the availability of Social Security for them, few have demanded it be shored up by more fairly payroll-taxing the wealthy; most appear resigned to having more money deducted from their paychecks for Social Security, even though they don’t believe it will be around to benefit them.
How exactly has American society subdued young Americans?
1. Student-Loan Debt. Large debt—and the fear it creates—is a pacifying force. There was no tuition at the City University of New York when I attended one of its colleges in the 1970s, a time when tuition at many U.S. public universities was so affordable that it was easy to get a B.A. and even a graduate degree without accruing any student-loan debt. While those days are gone in the United States, public universities continue to be free in the Arab world and are either free or with very low fees in many countries throughout the world. The millions of young Iranians who risked getting shot to protest their disputed 2009 presidential election, the millions of young Egyptians who risked their lives earlier this year to eliminate Mubarak, and the millions of young Americans who demonstrated against the Vietnam War all had in common the absence of pacifying huge student-loan debt.
Today in the United States, two-thirds of graduating seniors at four-year colleges have student-loan debt, including over 62 percent of public university graduates. While average undergraduate debt is close to $25,000, I increasingly talk to college graduates with closer to $100,000 in student-loan debt. During the time in one’s life when it should be easiest to resist authority because one does not yet have family responsibilities, many young people worry about the cost of bucking authority, losing their job, and being unable to pay an ever-increasing debt. In a vicious cycle, student debt has a subduing effect on activism, and political passivity makes it more likely that students will accept such debt as a natural part of life.
2. Psychopathologizing and Medicating Noncompliance. In 1955, Erich Fromm, the then widely respected anti-authoritarian leftist psychoanalyst, wrote, “Today the function of psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis threatens to become the tool in the manipulation of man.” Fromm died in 1980, the same year that an increasingly authoritarian America elected Ronald Reagan president, and an increasingly authoritarian American Psychiatric Association added to their diagnostic bible (then the DSM-III) disruptive mental disorders for children and teenagers such as the increasingly popular “oppositional defiant disorder” (ODD). The official symptoms of ODD include “often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules,” “often argues with adults,” and “often deliberately does things to annoy other people.”
Many of America’s greatest activists including Saul Alinsky (1909–1972), the legendary organizer and author of Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals, would today certainly be diagnosed with ODD and other disruptive disorders. Recalling his childhood, Alinsky said, “I never thought of walking on the grass until I saw a sign saying ‘Keep off the grass.’ Then I would stomp all over it.” Heavily tranquilizing antipsychotic drugs (e.g. Zyprexa and Risperdal) are now the highest grossing class of medication in the United States ($16 billion in 2010); a major reason for this, according to theJournal of the American Medical Association in 2010, is that many children receiving antipsychotic drugs have nonpsychotic diagnoses such as ODD or some other disruptive disorder (this especially true of Medicaid-covered pediatric patients).
3. Schools That Educate for Compliance and Not for Democracy. Upon accepting the New York City Teacher of the Year Award on January 31, 1990, John Taylor Gatto upset many in attendance by stating: “The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions.” A generation ago, the problem of compulsory schooling as a vehicle for an authoritarian society was widely discussed, but as this problem has gotten worse, it is seldom discussed.
The nature of most classrooms, regardless of the subject matter, socializes students to be passive and directed by others, to follow orders, to take seriously the rewards and punishments of authorities, to pretend to care about things they don’t care about, and that they are impotent to affect their situation. A teacher can lecture about democracy, but schools are essentially undemocratic places, and so democracy is not what is instilled in students. Jonathan Kozol in The Night Is Dark and I Am Far from Home focused on how school breaks us from courageous actions. Kozol explains how our schools teach us a kind of “inert concern” in which “caring”—in and of itself and without risking the consequences of actual action—is considered “ethical.” School teaches us that we are “moral and mature” if we politely assert our concerns, but the essence of school—its demand for compliance—teaches us not to act in a friction-causing manner.
4. “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.” The corporatocracy has figured out a way to make our already authoritarian schools even more authoritarian. Democrat-Republican bipartisanship has resulted in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, NAFTA, the PATRIOT Act, the War on Drugs, the Wall Street bailout, and educational policies such as “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.” These policies are essentially standardized-testing tyranny that creates fear, which is antithetical to education for a democratic society. Fear forces students and teachers to constantly focus on the demands of test creators; it crushes curiosity, critical thinking, questioning authority, and challenging and resisting illegitimate authority. In a more democratic and less authoritarian society, one would evaluate the effectiveness of a teacher not by corporatocracy-sanctioned standardized tests but by asking students, parents, and a community if a teacher is inspiring students to be more curious, to read more, to learn independently, to enjoy thinking critically, to question authorities, and to challenge illegitimate authorities.
5. Shaming Young People Who Take Education—But Not Their Schooling—Seriously. In a 2006 survey in the United States, it was found that 40 percent of children between first and third grade read every day, but by fourth grade, that rate declined to 29 percent. Despite the anti-educational impact of standard schools, children and their parents are increasingly propagandized to believe that disliking school means disliking learning. That was not always the case in the United States. Mark Twain famously said, “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.” Toward the end of Twain’s life in 1900, only 6 percent of Americans graduated high school. Today, approximately 85 percent of Americans graduate high school, but this is good enough for Barack Obama who told us in 2009, “And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country.”
The more schooling Americans get, however, the more politically ignorant they are of America’s ongoing class war, and the more incapable they are of challenging the ruling class. In the 1880s and 1890s, American farmers with little or no schooling created a Populist movement that organized America’slargest-scale working people’s cooperative, formed a People’s Party that received 8 percent of the vote in 1892 presidential election, designed a “subtreasury” plan (that had it been implemented would have allowed easier credit for farmers and broke the power of large banks) and sent 40,000 lecturers across America to articulate it, and evidenced all kinds of sophisticated political ideas, strategies and tactics absent today from America’s well-schooled population. Today, Americans who lack college degrees are increasingly shamed as “losers”; however, Gore Vidal and George Carlin, two of America’s most astute and articulate critics of the corporatocracy, never went to college, and Carlin dropped out of school in the ninth grade.
6. The Normalization of Surveillance. The fear of being surveilled makes a population easier to control. While the National Security Agency (NSA) has received publicity for monitoring American citizen’s email and phone conversations, and while employer surveillance has become increasingly common in the United States, young Americans have become increasingly acquiescent to corporatocracy surveillance because, beginning at a young age, surveillance is routine in their lives. Parents routinely check Web sites for their kid’s latest test grades and completed assignments, and just like employers, are monitoring their children’s computers and Facebook pages. Some parents use the GPS in their children’s cell phones to track their whereabouts, and other parents have video cameras in their homes. Increasingly, I talk with young people who lack the confidence that they can even pull off a party when their parents are out of town, and so how much confidence are they going to have about pulling off a democratic movement below the radar of authorities?
7. Television. In 2009, the Nielsen Company reported that TV viewing in the United States is at an all-time high if one includes the following “three screens”: a television set, a laptop/personal computer, and a cell phone. American children average eight hours a day on TV, video games, movies, the Internet, cell phones, iPods, and other technologies (not including school-related use). Many progressives are concerned about the concentrated control of content by the corporate media, but the mere act of watching TV—regardless of the programming—is the primary pacifying agent (private-enterprise prisons have recognized that providing inmates with cable television can be a more economical method to keep them quiet and subdued than it would be to hire more guards).
Television is a dream come true for an authoritarian society: those with the most money own most of what people see; fear-based television programming makes people more afraid and distrustful of one another, which is good for the ruling elite who depend on a “divide and conquer” strategy; TV isolates people so they are not joining together to create resistance to authorities; and regardless of the programming, TV viewers’ brainwaves slow down, transforming them closer to a hypnotic state that makes it difficult to think critically. While playing a video games is not as zombifying as passively viewing TV, such games have become for many boys and young men their only experience of potency, and this “virtual potency” is certainly no threat to the ruling elite.
8. Fundamentalist Religion and Fundamentalist Consumerism. American culture offers young Americans the “choices” of fundamentalist religion and fundamentalist consumerism. All varieties of fundamentalism narrow one’s focus and inhibit critical thinking. While some progressives are fond of callingfundamentalist religion the “opiate of the masses,” they too often neglect the pacifying nature of America’s other major fundamentalism. Fundamentalist consumerism pacifies young Americans in a variety of ways. Fundamentalist consumerism destroys self-reliance, creating people who feel completely dependent on others and who are thus more likely to turn over decision-making power to authorities, the precise mind-set that the ruling elite loves to see. A fundamentalist consumer culture legitimizes advertising, propaganda, and all kinds of manipulations, including lies; and when a society gives legitimacy to lies and manipulativeness, it destroys the capacity of people to trust one another and form democratic movements. Fundamentalist consumerism also promotes self-absorption, which makes it difficult for the solidarity necessary for democratic movements.
These are not the only aspects of our culture that are subduing young Americans and crushing their resistance to domination. The food-industrial complex has helped create an epidemic of childhood obesity, depression, and passivity. The prison-industrial complex keeps young anti-authoritarians “in line” (now by the fear that they may come before judges such as the two Pennsylvania ones who took $2.6 million from private-industry prisons to ensure that juveniles were incarcerated). As Ralph Waldo Emerson observed: “All our things are right and wrong together. The wave of evil washes all our institutions alike.”
Bruce E. Levine is a clinical psychologist. His Web site is www.brucelevine.net.
Hope: The Care and Feeding Of
July 31, 2011
by Rebecca Solnit
Recently, Nelson Mandela turned 93, and his nation celebrated noisily, even attempting to break the world record for the most people simultaneously singing “Happy Birthday.” This was the man who, on trial by the South African government in 1964, stood a good chance of being sentenced to be hanged by the neck until dead. Given life in prison instead, he was supposed to be silenced. Story over.
You know the rest, though it wasn’t inevitable that he’d be released and become the president of a post-apartheid South Africa. Admittedly, it’s a country with myriad flaws and still suffers from economic apartheid, but who wouldn’t agree that it’s changed? Activism changed it; more activism could change it further.
Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch, who’d amassed a vast media empire, banked billions of dollars, and been listed by Forbes as the world’s 13th most powerful person, must have thought he had it made these past few decades. Now, his empire is crumbling and his crimes and corrosive influence (which were never exactly secret) are being examined by everyone. You never know what’ll happen next.
About 1,600 years ago, Boethius put it this way in The Consolations of Philosophy, written while he, like Mandela, was in prison for treason: “As thus she turns her wheel of chance with haughty hand, and presses on, fortune now tramples fiercely on a fearsome king, and now deceives no less a conquered man by raising from the ground his humbled face.”
Still, that wheel didn’t just turn. It took some good journalism — thank you, reporters of the Guardian! — to bring Murdoch to his knees. Just as it took some dedicated activism to break Mandela out of prison and overcome the apartheid era.
Everything changes. Sometimes you have to change it yourself.
Unpredictability is grounds for hope, though please don’t mistake hope for optimism. Optimism and pessimism are siblings in their certainty. They believe they know what will happen next, with one slight difference: optimists expect everything to turn out nicely without any effort being expended toward that goal. Pessimists assume that we’re doomed and there’s nothing to do about it except try to infect everyone else with despair while there’s still time.
Hope, on the other hand, is based on uncertainty, on the much more realistic premise that we don’t know what will happen next. The next thing up might be as terrible as a giant tsunami smashing 100 miles of coastal communities or as marvelous as a new species of butterfly being discovered (as happened recently in Northern Ireland). When it comes to the worst we face, nature itself has resilience, surprises, and unpredictabilities. But the real territory for hope isn’t nature; it’s the possibilities we possess for acting, changing, mattering — including when it comes to nature.
Burger King CEO Apologizes to Farmworkers
Not all hopes are created equal, and sometimes their failure is the good news. The mass murderer who rampaged through Norway last week hoped to change that country forever. Sophisticated when it came to plotting a massacre and building a bomb, he was naïve when it came to political cause and effect. He attacked the ruling Labor Party in its office headquarters and its youth summer camp. The consequences will almost certainly be the opposite of what he hoped for.
His bloodbath is unlikely to aid the advance of an anti-immigrant, anti-Islamic right-wing agenda. It will expose what is vicious about the far right in Europe and elsewhere, bring more careful scrutiny to extremists at that end of the spectrum, and likely help discredit politicians who pander to them.
If we’re lucky, it might even have some repercussions in the United States, where demonizing immigrants and encouraging violence are common right-wing tactics (discredited a little in January when Tucson Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot and Sarah Palin was rebuked for the map on her Facebook page with crosshairs over Giffords’ district).
History’s pendulum tendencies always need to be factored in, and such assassins for the far right, like Timothy McVeigh before them, may do for that ideology what the Symbionese Liberation Army and Baader-Meinhof did for the left four decades ago. Think of a wheel of fortune.
Russell Pearce, the powerful Arizona state senator who created and promoted AB 1070, the 2010 state law punishing all brown-skinned immigrants (and people who resemble them), is up for recall on the November ballot. He will have to fight to be reelected in the special recall election (though a court challenge to the petitions has been mounted).
At a Tea Party event in May, Pearce dismissed the efforts that have now put his career on the line this way: “People know who these folks are, they’ve tried it before, they’re simply open-border anarchists who have no respect for the law. We’ll deal with it.”
Oh, and about that Tea Party which the media was romancing with stories inflating its scale and significance not so long ago: its national convention got cancelled for lack of attendance. Meanwhile, Palin’s documentary “The Undefeated” has been… well, defeated at the box office, big time.
The wheel of fortune spins, and sometimes it even comes up our way. Sometimes we win. Look at the people who led that recall drive on Pearce. At one point, it seemed beyond unlikely. “Russell Pearce Recall Drive Supporters Face Uphill Battle,” said a typical headline in the unsympathetic Arizona Republic. They persevered anyway. Which is why they won their special election. They turned the damn wheel themselves.
Hope is not about guarantees and certainties. You don’t know you’ll win, but you don’t know you’ll lose either, so why not try?
No one is more remarkable in this light than the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a nearly two-decades-old organization of mostly immigrant and undocumented farmworkers in a particularly bleak part of Florida. They pick tomatoes at a rate of 32 pounds for 50 cents, meaning they have to pick more than two tons in a workday to walk out with the equivalent of a minimum wage. (Most U.S. farmworkers make less than $1,000 per month, and thanks to a New Deal compromise three-quarters of a century old, they are not guaranteed a minimum wage, overtime pay, or the right to organize and bargain collectively.)
This tiny group of profoundly marginalized people decided to fight the biggest food corporations on earth — and they won. Ten years ago they started a campaign for “fair food,” pressuring the major buyers of those tomatoes to pay more. Within four years, with the help of college-student organizers and brilliant strategy, they got Taco Bell to meet all their demands, and by 2007 McDonald’s had fallen in line.
Florida growers managed to stop a penny-a-pound increase in payment, but Burger King (whose CEO personally apologized to them) and Whole Foods got on board, and in 2010 food corporations Aramark and Sodexo signed on as well. They’re taking on Trader Joe’s this summer, and given their track record…
Watch them. Or join them.
The News You Don’t Get
Speaking of the little-known Coalition of Immokalee Workers, you’re not likely to get a good picture of the state of the world right now from the mainstream media (which is why alternative media like TomDispatch.com matter so much). Mainstream outlets don’t cover a lot of what we might consider the good news and they don’t necessarily shed much light on the bad news, even when they notice it.
The Casey Anthony trial got infinitely more coverage in Florida than that state’s refusal to accept $50 million from the federal government to prevent child abuse. Sometimes it seems that the more you read and watch the MSM, the less you know. They don’t add up the details to give you the big picture, and they often do a remarkably good job of distracting you from the issues that matter and the real machinations of power.
They are Goliath, not David, and their reporting on David’s victories (and Goliath’s failures and weaknesses) will never be particularly satisfactory. They are definitely not interested in popular power, except when it’s a color revolution far away.
And don’t forget to factor in media attention deficit disorder, whereby a terrible story will just sort of peter out because something hotter comes along. The reporters go home, and the readers are left hanging. In Japan this spring, news of the nuclear power plant crisis eclipsed news of the hundreds of thousands of displaced people, and there just haven’t been many updates. Heard anything about the BP spill in the Gulf lately? It’s not over either. The biggest fire in New Mexico’s history — more than 160 square miles — has slipped from national coverage amid other weather disasters, and yet it’s still burning as I write.
The left-wing media is guilty of this too. You probably don’t even remember the last time you heard about East Timor. The mainstream media never spent inordinate amounts of time or space on it, but it was a big story on the left throughout the 1990s.
East Timor was then a war-ravaged, colonized corner of the Indonesian empire and it was in the news because of the way the Indonesian government had invaded and brutalized it from 1975 to 1999. Since its liberation in 2002, however, hardly anyone says anything about the democratic republic of East Timor. There are evidently other things that require our attention so much more.
When it stopped being one of the world’s most appalling tragedies, it fell off the media map. It got better, but few noticed. You can think of journalists and political analysts as doctors who treat the sick and not the well, but who forget that sickness is not therefore and inevitably the ubiquitous human condition.
You have to learn to tell the story yourself. For example, some weeks ago, the New York Times led the global media with a story suggesting that the sexual-assault-on-a-maid-in-a-New-York-hotel case against (now former) International Monetary Fund (IMF) director Dominique Strauss-Kahn was likely to be dropped. Actually, that turned out to be an overstatement. It hasn’t been, and there are as yet no indications that it will be.
If you accepted the Times interpretation, however, the prosecution, and maybe feminism and justice were already defeated. Tell the story a different way, however, and you might react differently as well: a man with, apparently, a long track record of barbaric behavior was outed and lost his (colossal) power as a result.
After all, Strauss-Kahn resigned from the IMF. And recently another alleged victim of his sexual violence stepped forward saying, “I want to be heard because perhaps, finally, there’s a chance I will be listened to.” She was not alone. Thanks to what happened in New York, sexual politics in France changed, with assault and harassment charges suddenly on the rise now that women think they might have a chance of being listened to.
In the meantime, the dubious doings of the IMF, an organization that assaults whole nations economically, were further exposed. Think of the IMF as the global version of an inner-city lending or furniture-selling racket that lures in the desperate — people who need a small loan, poor countries that need a bailout — and bleeds them for years, bending them to its will.
Nor has it been a good year for the men who are accustomed to ruling the world, whether via a global string of tabloids, the IMF, or by holding dictatorial power in any of a string of Arab states. They are being held accountable in ways they clearly never anticipated. You can add the former and present tyrants of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and a few other countries to the list of men whom the wheel of fortune has knocked down or rocked lately, and you know that the rulers of countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are scared.
And here’s a hopeful story that didn’t get a lot of play: rebellious Egyptians prevented their interim government from taking an IMF loan. Years earlier, Argentina had freed itself from the IMF and its imposition of economic measures that favor international corporations (while immiserating ordinary citizens), thanks to loans from oil-rich Venezuela. Freedom from the IMF, the World Bank, and the United States is, in fact, part of the remarkable achievement of Latin America in the past decade — and part of what you probably haven’t read much about.
It’s nice that the Arab Spring continues to get attention into the summer of its discontent, but hardly anyone adds up the amazing developments in South America over the past dozen years: a very successful revolution in slo-mo in which even Peru elected a progressive this summer. And yet the elected officials — including Brazil’s first woman president, a former left-wing insurgent, political prisoner, and torture victim — are just the tip of the iceberg. Indigenous resurgences, growing popular environmental and human rights movements, reborn civil societies, and a new language of political possibility matter more.
Climate of Resistance
You probably also haven’t heard much, if anything, about the sixty-one First Nations — as Canadians call them; we’d call them sovereign tribes — that have signed on to oppose building a tar-sands pipeline across western Canada. And speaking of climate change, you might not know that environmental activists in the U.S. have prevented more than 100 coal-fired power plants from being built here, a signal victory when it comes to keeping more greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere, and so a signal victory for the climate movement.
If you were just reading your local newspaper or watching the TV news, you also might not know that a potentially massive action to protest the possibility of President Obama approving a new tar-sands pipeline that would stretch from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico is taking place in Washington this August. Nor might you realize that antinuclear activists have been successful in preventing any new nuclear power plants from being completed in this country since the 1970s — by raising public awareness and safety standards high enough to make them unprofitable. Of course, they would always have been unprofitable if the private profiteers who build them had to pay for insurance and radioactive waste disposal (costs that you, dear taxpayer, are expected to pick up for them).
Mostly the news on climate change, when attention is paid, focuses on the fact that it’s here in terrifying form: heat waves, gigantic forest fires, torrential floods, record tornadoes, massive droughts, the increasingly usual faces of the apocalypse. By the way, 223 heat records were just broken in the summer heat wave that has gripped North America, and that number is still rising.
What’s ignored is that we could do something about it, that people are doing something about it. Australia, for instance, just passed a stiff carbon tax, and while some climate activists don’t consider that a particularly constructive way to go, it is a case of a large nation trying to take a serious step to address a truly threatening problem.
More importantly, a host of small and not-so-small nongovernmental organizations across the world are doing a host of things about it. Speaking of surprises, recently Mayor Bloomberg of New York gave $50 million to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, about the biggest and most unexpected contribution to the climate-change campaign in this country.
Another World Is Here
It’s hard for me not to get distracted by victories that matter. There are not nearly enough of them and they’re not on the scale I… well, hope for, but they are evidence of what’s possible. Sometimes they’re tiny. There was a traffic accident the other day in my hometown, and the local newspaper said that the doctor who was killed was married with children. A day or two later, a bigger feature made it clear that the deceased man had left behind a husband as well as two children, and I was pleased to see that, amid a private tragedy, what was once extraordinary is now ordinary. Victory sometimes seems so quotidian that you have to look twice to notice it. And if you’re not careful, you’ll forget what heroic toil over so many decades transformed the world, making the impossible become ordinary.
Think of hope as something that requires care and feeding. You feed it by finding news sources that give you information about alternative movements, overseas developments, and new possibilities. You feed it by choosing companions who are neither apolitical nor defeatist. (Good place to find them: the climate movement.) Or you feed it by feeding your friends who do feel defeated or as if nothing they could do might matter. You feed it with a surly insurrectionary attitude: if you’re tempted to feel powerless and passive, remember that the bogeyman we call “they” wants you to feel that way. And then don’t.
Certainly, you feed hope by being aware of the big picture that the news doesn’t give you. For example, look at the past dozen years when it comes to putting a halt to or undermining free-trade agreements and organizations, and educating the public about how the innocuous-sounding term “free trade” means sabotaging local, regional, or even national control over labor, environmental, health, and economic conditions. Free-trade agreements free up corporations from regulations and laws, so that nothing impedes their profits.
Successes against “free trade” are, by now, pervasive and generally too subtle for many people to notice. In 1999, five years after the Clinton administration brought us the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), to oppose corporate globalization was to be considered, at best, on the radical fringe and at worst (in the words of super-rich New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman), part of a “Noah’s ark of flat-earth advocates, protectionist trade unions, and yuppies looking for their 1960s fix.” By 2008, however, free-trade agreements were so unpopular that Hillary Clinton felt obliged to lie during her presidential race, claiming she had always been against NAFTA.
In those same 1990s, the World Trade Organization was gearing up to run the world for the sake of the corporations — before, that is, it hit the first round of a buzz saw of protest in Seattle in 1999. By 2003, it was clearly an organization in trouble and never became the powerhouse it was planned to be.
The Free Trade Area of the Americas that was supposed to put the whole hemisphere in corporate harness was stillborn, thanks to the amazing anti-corporate-globalization and anti-Washington-consensus mentalities existing in many Latin American nations (and governments as well). And in these years, the IMF and the World Bank became far more widely known, feared, and loathed, thanks to activists on the streets and in the media who made their exploitative natures visible.
In 2011, we live in a different world. The corporations still have way too much power and influence. But activists have undermined the institutions by which they sought to increase that power and the facts about their unholy penetration into policymaking have become a lot clearer and more widely known. That is at least a good foundation which sets us up to get to work on the big fight between profit and humanity (in part via revolts against corporate personhood — the endowing of corporations with citizens’ rights — across the country).
I don’t love the old anti-globalization movement slogan “another world is possible,” simply because that world has always been here — in acts of altruism, generosity, and democracy; in organizations, movements, and communities that embody the best of what humanity has to offer; in what’s still so valuable in older ways of being that are not yet lost; in the methods and the lives of groups ranging from small farmers to indigenous hunters and gatherers. We just need to be better at seeing what is already magnificent and heroic, nearby and far away, and know that alternatives are already here waiting, like so many invitations, to be taken up.
That’s certainly a foundation that hope can build on, but don’t think that’s hope. Hope lies in the future. Look at what’s already here. If 61 native nations oppose a tar-sands pipeline, it’s because they’ve survived the last 519 years of Euro-invasive attempts to eliminate their rights, their identities, and sometimes their lives. They’re still here. So are the Immokalee workers. And the feminists. And the climate-change activists. And Nelson Mandela. So are you. Do something hopeful about it, just for the hell of it. There’s no reason not to.
Rebecca Solnit’s most recent hopes were realized: she got through an entire essay without using the words “Obama” or “military.” On the hope beat for TomDispatch since 2003, her first round turned into the book Hope in the Dark. Right now she’s hoping to get arrested in D.C. with 350.org over that tar-sands pipeline and hoping you’ll join her.
US Judge Orders Nixon’s Secret Watergate Testimony Released Despite Obama Opposition
Thirty-six years after Richard Nixon testified to the Watergate grand jury, a federal judge yesterday ordered the first public release of the transcript about the break-in that drove him from the presidency.
July 30, 2011
by Nedra Pickler
The 297-page transcript will not be available immediately but will be held until the government decides whether to appeal. In the American legal system, a grand jury is seated to determine whether a law has been violated and whether sufficient evidence exists to warrant prosecution.
The Obama administration opposed the transcript’s release, chiefly to protect the privacy of people discussed during the former president’s testimony who are still alive.
Nevertheless, US District Judge Royce Lamberth agreed with historians who sued for release that the historical significance outweighs arguments for secrecy, because the investigations are long over and Nixon has been dead 17 years.
Nixon was interviewed privately near his California home for 11 hours over two days in June 1975, 10 months after he became the first US president to resign the office. Two grand jurors were flown in and the transcript was read to the rest of the panel sitting back in Washington. It was the first time a former US president had testified before a grand jury. Later, Bill Clinton became the first sitting president to do so during the Monica Lewinsky investigation.
At the time of his testimony, Nixon could not be prosecuted for conduct related to Watergate because he had been pardoned by President Gerald Ford. Ten days after Nixon’s testimony, the third Watergate grand jury was dismissed without handing up indictments.
The historians say the testimony could help resolve continuing debate over Nixon’s knowledge of the break-in at Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington and his role in the cover-up that protected the conspirators for a time.
“Nixon knew when you testified before a grand jury you exposed yourself to perjury, so I’m betting he told the truth,” said University of Wisconsin Professor Stanley Kutler, who filed the lawsuit along with four historians’ organizations. Kutler, author of “Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes,” previously successfully sued to force the release of audio recordings Nixon secretly made in the Oval Office. “Now, what did he tell the truth about? I don’t know.”
Newspapers reported at the time of Nixon testimony that he was questioned about an 18 1/2-minute gap in tape recordings from the president’s Oval Office, changes made to White House transcripts of the recordings, his administration’s use of the Internal Revenue Service, the government’s tax collectors, to harass his political enemies and a $100,000 (£60,000) campaign contribution from billionaire Howard Hughes. The details of what the president said have never leaked out.
Several Watergate figures filed declarations in support of the petition, including Nixon’s White House counsel John Dean, who served prison time for his role in the scandal. Dean wrote that Nixon’s testimony covers topics that the president only vaguely discussed in his memoirs and his revelations to the grand jury would help stop “those wanting to twist and distort history.”
In rejecting the Obama administration’s arguments for privacy, Lamberth pointed out that most of the surviving Watergate figures have either written about it, given interviews that already are public or spoken under oath in testimony about their involvement. “The court is confident that disclosure will greatly benefit the public and its understanding of Watergate without compromising the tradition and objectives of grand jury secrecy,” Lamberth wrote.
Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said yesterday that government attorneys were reviewing the ruling.
Other courts have on occasion ordered the release of grand jury records because of their historical impact, including those investigating espionage allegations against Alger Hiss and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
© 2011 Associated Press
Greece debt crisis: The ‘we won’t pay’ anti-austerity revolt
With Greece in financial meltdown and the country rocked by protests we offer a beginner’s guide to the crisis
July 31, 2011
by Angelique Chrisafis in Thessaloniki
Among the chic bars along Thessaloniki’s historic waterfront, one restaurant stands out. “We want our money!” reads a banner dangling from the terrace of an American-themed diner and grill. Inside, 12 staff have changed the locks, are serving cans of supermarket beer to supporters and taking it in turns to sleep nights on the restaurant floor in protest at months of unpaid wages and the restaurant’s sudden closure. This is the new symbol of Greece‘s spiralling debt crisis: a waiters’ squat.
Margarita Koutalaki, 37, a softly spoken waitress, divorced with an 11-year-old daughter, worked here part-time for eight years, earning about €6.50 (£5.70) an hour. Now she is taking turns to sleep on an inflatable mattress in an upstairs room, guarding the squat, while her parents babysit her child.
“I’m owed about €3,000 in unpaid wages,” she says, warning her plight is shared by legions of workers all over Greece who are waiting for months for outstanding pay from struggling business owners. “At first we were told we’d be paid the following month, then the pay stopped completely and we were told by phone that the restaurant was closing. We’re still working, we’re keeping the place going, providing food and drinks to our supporters. We’ve got more clients than before. This protest is all we can do. It comes naturally.”
The waiters serve cheap drinks and cut-price dinners to a new clientele of leftists and protesters from the four-month-old “indignants” movement, who would previously never have set foot in this bastion of imperialism, the Greek franchise of US giant Applebee’s. A banner in English tempts tourists with cheap souvlaki and meatballs “in support of the workers”.
It is one month since Greece was paralysed by a general strike over harsh austerity measures, with mass street demonstrations and running battles between police and protesters in Syntagma Square, Athens.
Greeks are more distrustful than ever of their political class and its ability to lead them out of the crippling financial crisis. Polls show growing contempt for all parties and the discredited political system. Unemployment is at a record high of 16% – far higher for young people. Those lucky enough to still have a job have suffered dramatic salary cuts and tax increases.
Doctors and nurses recently staged walkouts over hospital cuts. Taxi drivers have hobbled Greece with strikes in the past two weeks, protesting at government plans to open up the industry. Their tactics included blocking ports and opening the Acropolis ticket office to let tourists in free.
Crucially, Greece’s long-running “civil disobedience” movement, where ordinary citizens refuse to pay for anything from road tolls and bus tickets to extra doctors’ charges, has not fizzled out in the summer holidays. The “We Won’t Pay” offensive is championed as the purest form of “people’s power”. Organisers warn it could gain renewed force in September as the government launches a new round of financial restraint.
On the main Athens-Thessaloniki road, as drivers file back into Thessaloniki from a Sunday at the beach, a crowd of civilians in fluorescent orange safety bibs stand guard at the barriers to the main road toll into Greece’s second city. Their jackets are emblazoned with “Total Disobedience”. They push aside the red-and-white barriers and wave drivers through without paying the €2.80 toll. Banners read: “We won’t pay”, and “We won’t give money to foreign bankers”. Drivers gratefully drive through, some giving the thumbs up.
“We’ll see a resurgence of civil disobedience in the autumn,” says Nikos Noulas, a civil engineer from Thessaloniki, in a city centre cafe as he rolls out a series of posters championing the refusal to pay.
Living a 40-minute drive from the city centre, he commutes by motorbike for what scarce work remains, but avoids paying for bus tickets or tolls. He also stages supermarket ambushes, handing shoppers big protest stickers to place on any goods they consider ludicrously expensive. Milk is a favourite. Noulas and his group fill trolleys with goods and ask the manager for a 30% discount. When refused, they abandon the full trolleys at the till.
He acknowledges that a recent police clampdown has made things harder: “If a police officer is watching, there’s little choice but to pay a road toll.” But he says breaking the law by not paying small tolls or bus fares is far less serious than corrupt politicians and cartels which, he claims, ran Greece for decades with impunity. “This has taught us that the Greek people can resist. It has ignited public sentiment,” he says.
The road-toll protest movement began more than two years ago outside Athens to counter what is seen as an extortionate and corrupt road toll system, with drivers expected to pay for stretches of road that have yet to be built. Some residents face paying more than €1,500 a year in tolls to get around their own neighbourhoods.
By the start of this year, the movement was flourishing and included refusals to pay for Athens metro tickets, with protesters covering ticket machines with plastic bags, as well as a long-running bus fare boycott in Thessaloniki after price rises by state-subsidised private firms. Others refuse to pay their TV licences.
Leftwing parties became involved, boosting the campaign’s visibility. By March, more than half of the Greek population supported the “We Won’t Pay” notion. The government heaped criticism on what it deemed an irresponsible “freeloader” mentality, warning that the non-payers would bring the country into disrepute and were starving the state of vital revenue from transport services. New laws were brought in on ticket evasion and police cracked down.
George Bakagiannis, an IT manager from the Athens area, has avoided paying road tolls for two years, simply stepping out of his car and pushing open the barrier at toll booths. His group stages toll-booth ambushes for two to three hours several times a week, waving drivers through without charge.
He has branched out into demonstrations against the €5 fee for doctors’ consultations. He says: “We go to the hospital and close the cashier’s room, telling people, ‘Don’t pay, we’re here.’ This isn’t our crisis, it’s the government’s crisis. They steal our money; they’re stealing our lives. Now they want us to believe even our savings aren’t safe in the bank. This movement will grow in this autumn because things are so bad now that people genuinely don’t have the money to pay.”
The social commentator and writer, Nikos Dimou, says: “It’s the beginning of a divorce between the Greeks and their politicians. That’s what all these movements have in common: they are all about a loathing and abhorring of the political class.”
In Thessaloniki, Greece’s second city, feelings run high. The “indignants” had their tents forcibly cleared from Athens’ Syntagma Square this weekend, but Thessaloniki’s ancient waterfront fortification, the White Tower, is still surrounded by protest tents and draped in banners reading “For sale” and “Not for sale.”
Northern Greece has been badly hit by the crisis. Businesses began closing long before the full force of the financial meltdown. So many people are too poor to regularly use their cars and so many businesses have ground to a halt that Thessaloniki’s municipality has claimed a vast improvement in the air quality of the notoriously congested city. On 10 September, when the Greek prime minister George Papandreou appears at Thessaloniki’s famous international fair to unveil his new economic measures, he will be met by demonstrations.
Thessaloniki protesters are using flash-mobbing, where crowds turn up unexpectedly to picket banks and public buildings. The latest target was the German consulate, where dozens of demonstrators chanted and spray-painted the pavement, demanding the European Union did more for Greece as plainclothes police looked on.
At the demo on 20 July, Barbara, 30, a Greek language teacher, who did not want to give her surname, said she was serving coffee in a bar for €30 per nine-hour shift on the black economy. She lives with her father, a pensioner, and mother, a shop owner who is deeply in debt.
“No one is hiring, I can’t find teaching work or private lessons. There’s no hope for a decent life. Half the people I know are unemployed; the other half are on the edge of it. Anyone who can afford to go abroad is leaving,” she says.
At the White Tower, Antonis Gazakis, a language and history teacher, says he is struck by how novices are now joining the protests, from myriad political standpoints, left to right, many with no links to parties or any history of protest. All were throwing themselves into debating how to change what they see as a corrupt political and parliamentary system. “Political history is being made in Greece,” he says. “That’s why I’m staying around this summer. The last time people went out into a square demanding constitutional change like this was 1909. This is a golden opportunity, a paradigm shift. Greece has woken up.”
Project PM Leaks Dirt on Romas/COIN Classified Intelligence Mass Surveillance
According to a Project PM announcement, here are some of the ‘classified intelligence’ details about Romas/COIN (Odyssey) with capabilities to monitor and automatically analyze millions of conversations, and then secretly store a wide range of personal data. It appears as if even Apple, Google, and Disney’s Pixar were trying to be brought aboard to help out in this mass surveillance apparatus.
NetworkworldBy Ms. Smith on Wed, 06/22/11 – 10:44am.
If you are not sitting, please do so. Although I don’t advocate drinking, you might also pour a double-shot of whiskey to prepare yourself for distinctly unpleasant news about immensely sophisticated mass surveillance called Romas/COIN, or soon to be replaced by a similar program known as Odyssey. The nature and extent of the “counter intelligence” operation can be glimpsed in part by closely inspecting hundreds of e-mails among the 70,000 that were stolen in February from the contracting firm HBGary Federal.
After searching through HBGary e-mails for keywords and reading until I wanted to puke or scream, I decided to go ahead and run with Project PM’s announcement. Barrett Brown of Project PM will publish these findings in full on Project PM Wiki later, but this is part of that release. According to Project PM:
For at least two years, the U.S. has been conducting a secretive and immensely sophisticated campaign of mass surveillance and data mining against the Arab world, allowing the intelligence community to monitor the habits, conversations, and activity of millions of individuals at once. And with an upgrade (Odyssey) scheduled for later this year, the top contender to win the federal contract and thus take over the program is a team of about a dozen companies which were brought together in large part by Aaron Barr – the same disgraced CEO who resigned from his own firm earlier this year after he was discovered to have planned a full-scale information war against political activists at the behest of corporate clients. The new revelation provides for a disturbing picture, particularly when viewed in a wider context. Unprecedented surveillance capabilities are being produced by an industry that works in secret on applications that are nonetheless funded by the American public – and which in some cases are used against that very same public. Their products are developed on demand for an intelligence community that is not subject to Congressional oversight and which has been repeatedly shown to have misused its existing powers in ways that violate U.S. law as well as American ideals.
Although military contractor Northrop Grumman had long held the contract for Romas/COIN, enter HBGary Federal CEO Aaron Barr in an email to Al Pisani, an executive at the much larger federal contractor TASC, with a plan related to COIN. “I met with [Mantech CEO] Bob Frisbie the other day to catch up. He is looking to expand a capability in IO [information operations] related to the COIN re-compete but more for DoD.”
The layout and story is extremely long, and you’ll need to read over the announcement at Project PM when it’s published there. Project PM determined from the dozens of clues and references in leaked emails the unbelievable mass spying nature of Romas/COIN:
- Mobile phone software and applications constitute a major component of the program.
- There’s discussion of bringing in a “gaming developer,” apparently at the behest of Barr, who mentions that the team could make good use of “a social gaming company maybe like zynga, gameloft, etc.” Lovegrove elsewhere notes: “I know a couple of small gaming companies at MIT that might fit the bill.”
- Apple and Google were active team partners, and AT&T may have been as well. The latter is known to have provided the NSA free reign over customer communications (and was in turn protected by a bill granting them retroactive immunity from lawsuits). Google itself is the only company to have received a “Hostile to Privacy” rating from Privacy International. Apple is currently being investigated by Congress after the iPhone was revealed to compile user location data in a way that differs from other mobile phones; the company has claimed this to have been a “bug.”
- The program makes use of several providers of “linguistic services.” At one point, the team discusses hiring a military-trained Arabic linguist. Elsewhere, Barr writes: “I feel confident I can get you a ringer for Farsi if they are still interested in Farsi (we need to find that out). These linguists are not only going to be developing new content but also meeting with folks, so they have to have native or near native proficiency and have to have the cultural relevance as well.”
- Alterion and SocialEyez are listed as “businesses to contact.” The former specializes in “social media monitoring tools.” The latter uses “sophisticated natural language processing methodology” in order to “process tens of millions of multi-lingual conversations daily” while also employing “researchers and media analysts on the ground;” its website also notes that “Millions of people around the globe are now networked as never before – exchanging information and ideas, forming opinions, and speaking their minds about everything from politics to products.”
- At one point, TASC exec Chris Clair asks Aaron and others, “Can we name COIN Saif? Saif is the sword an Arab executioner uses when they decapitate criminals. I can think of a few cool brands for this.”
- A diagram attached to one of Barr’s e-mails to the group depicts Magpii as interacting in some unspecified manner with “Foreign Mobile” and “Foreign Web.” Magpii is a project of Barr’s own creation which stands for “Magnify Personal Identifying Information,” involves social networking, and is designed for the purpose of storing personal information on users. Although details are difficult to determine from references in Barr’s e-mails, he discusses the project almost exclusively with members of military intelligence to which he was pitching the idea.
- There are sporadic references such things as “semantic analysis,” “Latent Semantic Indexing,” “specialized linguistics,” and OPS, a programming language designed for solving problems using expert systems.
- Barr asks the team’s partner at Apple, Andy Kemp (whose signature lists him as being from the company’s Homeland Defense/National Programs division), to provide him “a contact at Pixar/Disney.”
Altogether, then, a successful bid for the relevant contract was seen to require the combined capabilities of perhaps a dozen firms – capabilities whereby millions of conversations can be monitored and automatically analyzed, whereby a wide range of personal data can be obtained and stored in secret, and whereby some unknown degree of information can be released to a given population through a variety of means and without any hint that the actual source is U.S. military intelligence. All this is merely in addition to whichever additional capabilities are not evident from the limited description available, with the program as a whole presumably being operated in conjunction with other surveillance and propaganda assets controlled by the U.S. and its partners.
Here’s the team players:
- TASC (PMO, creative services)
- HB Gary (Strategy, planning, PMO)
- Akamai (infrastructure)
- Archimedes Global (Specialized linguistics, strategy, planning)
- Acclaim Technical Services (specialized linguistics)
- Mission Essential Personnel (linguistic services)
- Cipher (strategy, planning operations)
- PointAbout (rapid mobile application development, list of strategic partners)
- Google (strategy, mobile application and platform development – long list of strategic partners)
- Apple (mobile and desktop platform, application assistance -long list of strategic partners)
- We are trying to schedule an interview with AT&T plus some other small app developers.
Two days after a briefing requirement meeting, the servers of HBGary and HBGary Federal were hacked by a small team of Anonymous operatives in retaliation for Barr’s boasts to Financial Times that he had identified the movement’s “leadership;” 70,000 e-mails were thereafter released onto the Internet. Barr resigned a few weeks later.
Also according to Project PM, along with clues as to the nature of COIN and its scheduled replacement, a close study of the HBGary e-mails also provide reasons to be concerned with the fact that such things are being developed and deployed in the way that they are. In addition to being the driving force behind the COIN recompete, Barr was also at the center of a series of conspiracies by which his own company and two others hired out their collective capabilities for use by corporations that sought to destroy their political enemies by clandestine and dishonest means, some of which appear to be illegal. None of the companies involved have been investigated; a proposed Congressional inquiry was denied by the committee chair, noting that it was the Justice Department’s decision as to whether to investigate, even though it was the Justice Department itself that made the initial introductions. Those in the intelligence contracting industry who believe themselves above the law are entirely correct.
That such firms will continue to target the public with advanced information warfare capabilities on behalf of major corporations is by itself an extraordinary danger to mankind as a whole, particularly insomuch as that such capabilities are becoming more effective while remaining largely unknown outside of the intelligence industry. But a far greater danger is posed by the practice of arming small and unaccountable groups of state and military personnel with a set of tools by which to achieve better and better “situational awareness” on entire populations while also being able to manipulate the information flow in such a way as to deceive those same populations. The idea that such power can be wielded without being misused is contradicted by even a brief review of history.
History also demonstrates that the state will claim such powers as a necessity in fighting some considerable threat; the U.S. has defended its recent expansion of powers by claiming they will only be deployed to fight terrorism and will never be used against American civilians. This is cold comfort for those in the Arab world who are aware of the long history of U.S. material support for regimes they find convenient, including those of Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak, and the House of Saud. Nor should Americans be comforted by such promises from a government that has no way of ensuring that they will be kept; it was just a few months ago that a U.S. general in Afghanistan ordered a military intelligence unit to use pysops on visiting senators in an effort to secure increased funding for the war, an illegal act; only a few days prior, CENTCOM spokesmen were confidently telling the public that such other psychological capabilities as persona management would never be used on Americans as that would be illegal. The fact is that such laws have been routinely broken by the military and intelligence community, who are now been joined in this practice by segments of the federal contracting industry.
It is inevitable, then, that such capabilities as form the backbone of Romas/COIN and its replacement Odyssey will be deployed against a growing segment of the world’s population. The powerful institutions that wield them will grow all the more powerful as they are provided better and better methods by which to monitor, deceive, and manipulate. The informed electorate upon which liberty depends will be increasingly misinformed. No tactical advantage conferred by the use of these programs can outweigh the damage that will be done to mankind in the process of creating them.
The complete Project PM announcement about Romas/COIN has been published: http://wiki.echelon2.org:8090/wiki/Romas/COIN
Conversations with the Crow
When the CIA discovered that their former Deputy Director of Clandestine Affairs, Robert T. Crowley, had been talking with author Gregory Douglas, they became fearful (because of what Crowley knew) and outraged (because they knew Douglas would publish eventually) and made many efforts to silence Crowley, mostly by having dozens of FBI agents call or visit him at his Washington home and try to convince him to stop talking to Douglas, whom they considered to be an evil, loose cannon.
Crowley did not listen to them (no one else ever does, either) and Douglas made through shorthand notes of each and every one of their many conversation. TBR News published most of these (some of the really vile ones were left out of the book but will be included on this site as a later addendum ) and the entire collection was later produced as an Ebook.
Now, we reliably learn, various Washington alphabet agencies are trying to find a way to block the circulation of this highly negative, entertaining and dangerous work, so to show our solidarity with our beloved leaders and protectors, and our sincere appreciation for their corrupt and coercive actions, we are going to reprint the entire work, chapter by chapter. (The complete book can be obtained by going to:
Here is the ninty-first chapter
Conversation No. 91
Date: Monday, July 21, 1997
Commenced: 8:15 AM CST
Concluded: 8:50 AM CST
RTC: I decided to let the phone ring for awhile, Gregory. I’m glad I got you. You appear to have won some money from me.
RTC: Oh yes, I thought you might like to know that your friend James Atwood is dead.
GD: Ah! Start the week with good news, Robert. How did this totally unexpected thing happen? Shot to death in a Savannah mall by a drug crazed dwarf? Dead elephant fell out of a passing cargo plane and landed on him while he was walking his dog?
RTC: (Laughter) No, nothing so noticeable. One of our people took James out for Sunday brunch and he had a sudden embolism and fell face down into his salad.
GD: An embolism? Into the salad? (Laughter) My, my, such a tragic but somehow expected death. An autopsy?
RTC: I doubt it. He was getting old. Sixty seven by my information. I’ll send you a check.
GD: I will honor it. Will they bury him in Arlington with full military honors?
RTC: Probably not.
GD: Well, at least he didn’t shoot himself in the back of the head and fall off his boat.
RTC: Yes. The Paisley syndrome. Well, they both had mouth problems.
GD: And just think, if I hadn’t filled Critchfield in about James that time, Jimmy might still be operating down there; spreading joy wherever he went.
RTC: Do I know her?
GD: Know who?
GD: (Laughter) Oh yes, that must be Joy Kobinski. We call her the Mattress Queen. Do you know what Jimmy said when Joy had a runny nose?
RTC: Please tell me, Gregory.
GD: Why, she was full.
RTC: (Laughter) My God, have you no compassion?
GD: Very little. I save it for my dogs, Robert. Why waste compassion on those who do not deserve it? Jimmy tried to use me and to rip me off once. Perhaps he even planned a salad drop for me, who knows? And don’t pity the dead, Robert, they are at peace. You know, in retrospect, I can comfort myself by considering the number of people I have brought peace to.
RTC: I share your sentiments.
GD: That’s why we talk to each other, Robert. Wonderful shared memories of those departed for a better land. Still, unless their silence is beneficial to me, I prefer to keep them alive so I can poke them up once in awhile. Small pleasures to contemplate when one is depressed.
RTC: Have you always been so brutal, Gregory? Subtle and creative but brutal I must say.
GD: No, not always. Why would you believe it, Robert, when I was young, I was loving and kind.
RTC: When you were three?
GD: No, up until high school. I was essentially a private person, disliked by most of the teachers and some of the student body because I always said what I thought,, but only if asked. And I knew a good deal about people; their sins of commission and omission. People are afraid of this sort of thing so I was generally avoided. So when a very attractive and intelligent girl in one of my classes became very friendly with me, I was, to be sure, very pleasantly surprised. No, my hormones were not raging, Robert, and it was what I believed was a very warm and friendly relationship. In fact, this began to occupy my thoughts more and more and each time I talked with her, I became more and more interested and, I might add, very happy.
RTC: These things happen.
GD: Oh, they do but not very often to me, I assure you. So, I began to explore the means to widen the relationship outside of school. She had what we would call very correct parents but that did not bother me because my own family was the same way. Then, as the Christmas season was approaching, I thought in my innocence we might go to San Francisco and attend a performance of Handel’s ‘Messiah.’ I love the work and in fact, when my grandfather died, I inherited an autograph copy of the conductor’s text for this back when King George II attended a London performance and stood for the ‘Hallelujah chorus.’ When the King stood, so also did the entire house and that’s why today everyone stands. Well, so much for that. Anyway, I prepared my scenario and got up the nerve to ask her. A couple of days later, I came to school late after a dentist’s appointment and when I was walking down the empty halls to my classroom, I ran into her so I very politely chatted with her for a few minutes and then invited her. She looked right at me, over my shoulder and then walked towards me and past me away down the hall. At first, I thought she had seen someone but when I turned, there was no one.
RTC: What was the reason for that? Did you ask her?
GD: No, I watched her walk away and then just stood there. I was so stunned that I told the school nurse I had just had a tooth extraction and was having some pain so she sent me home. There was no one there so I just went to my apartment and sat in the armchair for a long time. I wondered what it was that I had said to cause her to just walk away. I went over my very short conversation a dozen times…a hundred times is more like it…but could find nothing.
RTC: I assume from this that you were of an unsettled mind.
GD: Yes, very. And no, I did not call her or try to visit her. She did what she did and there was no point in bothering with it any further. This was on a Friday and Monday, I went to school early and had my class changed so I didn’t have to see her any more. I did see her from time to time in the halls but we never made eye contact at all. Devastation, Robert, total devastation but I would not chase after anyone, believe me. Anyway, about six months or later, give or take, I was talking with a girl and she mentioned that everyone knew I was very friendly with this girl but didn’t appear to be around her anymore. Before I could concoct some story, she told me that my friend was a member of a very aggressive young Christian group that met every week at the school and that this girl was what my communicant told me was a ‘seeker.’ That is, she was chosen by the group to single out what were essentially social misfits, befriend them and bring them into the group. Once they did this, the mark would be passed off to another handler. And, she added, they were not permitted to get too close to their victims and had to break off contact if the relationship heated up. I personally don’t think going to see a sacred oratorio at Christmas is particularly intimate but who knows what evil lurks in the minds of women? I later came to the conclusion that the evil lay in their pants. Robert, I was polite with her but got away as fast as I could because I got very, very angry. I was nothing but some poor sucker to be lured into some Jesus freak group and I was so mad I started to shake.
RTC: Well, I don’t blame you.
GD: Yes, well, I walked around the football field for about an hour until I calmed down. Then, of course, I did remember her little comments about her circle of worthy friends and so on. And I noticed that she was now walking and talking with some other social misfit and learned that she had a very serious boyfriend in the Jesus group. This did not go over too well with me, Robert, not at all. So I decided to teach all of them a lesson in manners.
RTC: Not with a gun I assume.
GD: No. If you kill a person, they are immune from ongoing payback. I thought about it for some time and then I made up a letter from her to a fictional Miguel Ramirez. As I created him, Miguel was an illegal who worked in the local animal shelter, euthanizing unwanted cats. He got tired of giving them fatal shots because they would fight and scratch him so he took them by the tails and slammed them into the wall of his work area. Sometimes, Miguel had to slam them several times….
GD: No, cats. And no one who worked there wanted to go into the room so the walls were a smeared mess. Anyway, this girl was enamored, very enamored, of Miguel and her letter to him was full of grossly explicit discussions of their sexual writhings amidst the cat remains. Oh yes, very graphic indeed. So I had her letterhead copied in a San Francisco print shop, envelopes too, and wrote, or rather typed this grossly pornographic and sadistic letter out. I took one of the envelopes with her name printed on the back flap, just like the original, and wrote my name is pencil on the front. Into the mail and when it came, erased my address and typed in Miguel’s at the local Humane Society. So, I put the terrible letter into the envelope and later, I was sitting next to a school gossip in the library and slipped it into her bulging notebook. You thought I was going to say something else, didn’t you, Robert? And then I waited, and waited. About a week later, she found it and proclaimed its contents throughout the land and unto all the inhabitants thereof. Oh, my God, what an uproar! We didn’t have the Xerox then but we did have Thermofax and within a week, that evil missive was all over the school and the town. My gossip mongering sister had two copies and someone in my mother’s bridge club had give her a copy. Of course I got a ragging for having the bad taste to associate with such a vile monster but I took my ass chewing peacefully.
RTC: And the result?
GD: Well, her Christian parents were horrified but not at her. No, they believed she did not write it and they found out there was no Miguel at the cat killing emporium but no one would listen to them and the letter was copied and recopied for months afterwards. My former friend? Her family sent her off to a Christian academy in southern California. It’s location was supposed to be a secret but a friend who worked after school filing in the principal’s office found out where her school transcripts had been forwarded so I sent them copies of the Miguel screed along with a fictional letter from an outraged local parent, warning them of the foul beast they had taken unto themselves. I understand that she left the place a month later and I never heard about her again. Of course her truly Christian real boyfriend had dumped her very quickly, the image of her nude writhings amid the decaying cats must have sickened him. But then I dealt with the religious freaks. They had a student office in the school and I broke into it one night and planted a number of bad things around. First off, I had bought a box of rubbers from a friend, filled the ends with liquid starch and draped and threw them all over the little room. There was a picture of an Aryan Jesus on the wall and I tossed one on top of the frame. And several large uncooked and shelled prawns under the couch and I scattered a few truly awful porn pictures here and there. The shrimp started to rot and I dropped a note in the school snitch box about the wild sex orgies going on right under the nose of Jesus. The smell got very bad very quickly and when the assistant principal and a janitor went into the room, one of them threw up. Of course the group was at once banned from the campus and many students expressed outrage and the Miguel letter was dragged into the situation as a typical example of these sick people.
RTC: My oh my, Gregory. You really must have been angry to do all that.
GD: Oh, very angry, Robert, very, but also eventually very satisfied.
RTC: You know, what she did may have seemed to be terrible to you but that is standard recruitment procedure with most intelligence agencies. We do the same thing. Pick out targets, befriend them and when we have gained their friendship and confidence, pass them along to their new handlers. I can understand why this upset you but she was obviously doing what she thought was right.
GD: Well, she might have thought it was right but I certainly didn’t, did I?
RTC: No, you obviously did not. You wreaked absolute havoc, Gregory and took no prisoners.
GD: I do not ask for quarter, Robert and I never give it. And I recognize that all societies must have a moral core or they collapse. The Christians have their examples and the Muslims and other have theirs. All well and good. Frederick the Great said once that all men in his kingdom were free to find Heaven in their own way. And I agree, but by God, I will not tolerate any religious group stepping outside their church, mosque or synagogue and taking their particular nonsense out aggressively to the public. The Muslims and the Jews don’t do this but the lunatic Christians are a worst pest than an invasion of mice. First of all, from a purely historical point of view, I personally doubt if Jesus ever existed. Jesus was a very common name in Roman Judea. I do not accept the nonsense about the manger, the wise men, the star or other myths and legends. There is no contemporary mention of Jesus or his gang anywhere other than a patently forged reference in Flavius Josephus. The Gospels are full of misinformation and were written long after the event and then rewritten to suit various current political themes. No, if Jesus did exist, Jesus was an Essene. Most theological scholars agree with this by the way. But I go a little further. There exists a considerable body of information on the Essenes of the period. They were put out of business after this, by the way. No, the Essenes, were an all male agricultural community who practiced a communistic way of life and hated women. In short, like the Spartans or Zulus, they were a homosexual community.
RTC: Not nice, Gregory.
GD: I can easily prove this. Oh yes, let the little children come unto me but only the boys. Anyway, I want nothing to do with such Easter Bunny- type myths and legends and as long as these people keep to themselves, all well and good but of course they think they have the only game in town and act accordingly. In earlier times, I would have been burnt at the stake. Say, do you know what St. Dismas the Thief said to Jesus while both of them were up on their crosses?
RTC: I’m afraid to ask you, Gregory.
GD: Dismas said, ‘Say, Jesus, I can see your house from up here.’
RTC: (Laughter) Well, assuming you are right….
GD: And I am….
RTC: Well, I rather pity this poor girl who was only trying to get you to share her joy in Jesus.
GD: Well, she was sharing her pudenda with Miguel the Cat Basher as well.
RTC: (Laughter) Perhaps she went into other work after you finished with her. By the way, did anyone ever suspect you?
GD: No. I never said a word to anyone. I just sat back and savored my revenge. Revenge is a tasty dish, Robert, but always far better if eaten cold.
(Concluded at 8:50 AM CST)
James Jesus Angleton: Once head of the CIA’s Counterintelligence division, later fired because of his obsessive and illegal behavior, tapping the phones of many important government officials in search of elusive Soviet spies. A good friend of Robert Crowley and a co-conspirator with him in the assassination of President Kennedy
James P. Atwood: (April 16, 1930-April 20, 1997) A CIA employee, located in Berlin, Atwood had a most interesting career. He worked for any other intelligence agency, domestic or foreign, that would pay him, was involved in selling surplus Russian atomic artillery shells to the Pakistan government and was also most successful in the manufacturing of counterfeit German dress daggers. Too talkative, Atwood eventually had a sudden, and fatal, “seizure” while lunching with CIA associates.
William Corson: A Marine Corps Colonel and President Carter’s representative to the CIA. A friend of Crowley and Kimmel, Corson was an intelligent man whose main failing was a frantic desire to be seen as an important person. This led to his making fictional or highly exaggerated claims.
John Costello: A British historian who was popular with revisionist circles. Died of AIDS on a trans-Atlantic flight to the United States.
James Critchfield: Former U.S. Army Colonel who worked for the CIA and organizaed the Cehlen Org. at Pullach, Germany. This organization was filled to the Plimsoll line with former Gestapo and SD personnel, many of whom were wanted for various purported crimes. He hired Heinrich Müller in 1948 and went on to represent the CIA in the Persian Gulf.
Robert T. Crowley: Once the deputy director of Clandestine Operations and head of the group that interacted with corporate America. A former West Point football player who was one of the founders of the original CIA. Crowley was involved at a very high level with many of the machinations of the CIA.
Gregory Douglas: A retired newspaperman, onetime friend of Heinrich Müller and latterly, of Robert Crowley. Inherited stacks of files from the former (along with many interesting works of art acquired during the war and even more papers from Robert Crowley.) Lives comfortably in a nice house overlooking the Mediterranean.
Reinhard Gehlen: A retired German general who had once been in charge of the intelligence for the German high command on Russian military activities. Fired by Hitler for incompetence, he was therefore naturally hired by first, the U.S. Army and then, as his level of incompetence rose, with the CIA. His Nazi-stuffed organizaion eventually became the current German Bundes Nachrichten Dienst.
Thomas K. Kimmel, Jr: A grandson of Admiral Husband Kimmel, Naval commander at Pearl Harbor who was scapegoated after the Japanese attack. Kimmel was a senior FBI official who knew both Gregory Douglas and Robert Crowley and made a number of attempts to discourage Crowley from talking with Douglas. He was singularly unsuccessful. Kimmel subsequently retired, lives in Florida, and works for the CIA as an “advisor.”
Willi Krichbaum: A Senior Colonel (Oberführer) in the SS, head of the wartime Secret Field Police of the German Army and Heinrich Müller’s standing deputy in the Gestapo. After the war, Krichbaum went to work for the Critchfield organization and was their chief recruiter and hired many of his former SS friends. Krichbaum put Critchfield in touch with Müller in 1948.
Heinrich Müller: A former military pilot in the Bavarian Army in WWI, Müller became a political police officer in Munich and was later made the head of the Secret State Police or Gestapo. After the war, Müller escaped to Switzerland where he worked for Swiss intelligence as a specialist on Communist espionage and was hired by James Critchfield, head of the Gehlen Organization, in 1948. Müller subsequently was moved to Washington where he worked for the CIA until he retired.
Joseph Trento: A writer on intelligence subjects, Trento and his wife “assisted” both Crowley and Corson in writing a book on the Russian KGB. Trento believed that he would inherit all of Crowley’s extensive files but after Crowley’s death, he discovered that the files had been gutted and the most important, and sensitive, ones given to Gregory Douglas. Trento was not happy about this. Neither were his employers.
Frank Wisner: A Founding Father of the CIA who promised much to the Hungarians and then failed them. First, a raging lunatic who was removed from Langley, screaming, in a strait jacket and later, blowing off the top of his head with a shotgun.
Robert Wolfe: A retired librarian from the National Archives who worked closely with the CIA on covering up embarrassing historical material in the files of the Archives. A strong supporter of holocaust writers specializing in creative writing. Although he prefers to be called ‘Dr,’ in reality he has no PhD.