The Watch

The Watch is concerned about the increasing pressure towards feudalism in the United States from corporations, social regressives, warmongers, and the media. We also are concerned with future history concerning our current times, as non-truths which are “widely reported” become the basis for completely false narratives.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

In Which Godwin's Law is Invoked

Nancy Pelosi is Making Sense Watch

What if Nancy Pelosi is right? We all know that Pelosi's arguments about "not having enough votes" to stop war funding is bogus. What she is implicitly saying is that she doesn't think it would be good for Congressional Democrats to stop war funding. Is she right? Most of the people here assume that if Congressional Democrats stopped war funding, the public would respond very positively, with approval ratings, money, etc.

But one thing that has proven true over and over again is that the Democrats cannot outsmart or stand up to the GOP's Outrage Machine. Anything fed into the Outrage Machine is used as a cudgel to exact ritual humiliation of the Democrats. They even have to apologize for speaking the truth! (See Durbin on the American Gulag, Stark on the President's amusement, etc.)

In order for ending war funding to be a good thing for congressional Democrats, they would have to do two things: cut the funds, and also outsmart the GOP's Outrage Machine. Since Nancy knows they could never pull off the second part, she knows that blocking war funding would be a bad thing for congressional Democrats. Thus she doesn't something which would be bad for herself.

See, it all makes sense. /sarcasm

Closing America Society Watch

Naomi Wolf has another interview about her book The End of America. Much of the content is similar to the talk I posted before, but it if you missed that, don’t miss this one. This is probably the most important subject for political action currently, the systematic closing of our society.

The GOP Fainting Couch Watch

Digby posts this essay entitled The Art of the Hissy Fit, which describes how the Democratic Party is controlled through Ritual Humiliation.

I first noticed the right's successful use of phony sanctimony and faux outrage back in the 90's when well-known conservative players like Gingrich and Livingston pretended to be offended at the president's extramarital affair and were repeatedly and tiresomely "upset" about fund-raising practices they all practiced themselves. The idea of these powerful and corrupt adulterers being personally upset by White House coffees and naughty sexual behavior was laughable.

But they did it, oh how they did it, and it often succeeded in changing the dialogue and tittilating the media into a frenzy of breathless tabloid coverage.

In fact, they became so good at the tactic that they now rely on it as their first choice to control the political dialogue when it becomes uncomfortable and put the Democrats on the defensive whenever they are winning the day. Perhaps the best example during the Bush years would be the completely cynical and over-the-top reaction to Senator Paul Wellstone's memorial rally in 2002 in the last couple of weeks leading up to the election.

On to Iran Watch

Flynt Leverett, who is in a position to know, tells us about the march to war with Iran, and how the US threw out many overtures for better relations with Iran six years ago.

The Wit and Wisdom of Dumbya Watch

One of the great things about having all of the government’s records behind walls of secrecy is that Bush can just lie about anything at all. A couple of days ago he made the false claim that we can either have torture or terrorist deaths. But, typical of Dim Son, he couldn’t even get his threats right:

In this new war, the enemy conspires in secret -- and often the only source of information on what the terrorists are planning is the terrorists themselves. So we established a program at the Central Intelligence Agency to question key terrorist leaders and operatives captured in the war on terror. This program has produced critical intelligence that has helped us stop a number of attacks -- including a plot to strike the U.S. Marine camp in Djibouti, a planned attack on the U.S. consulate in Karachi, a plot to hijack a passenger plane and fly it into Library Tower in Los Angeles, California, or a plot to fly passenger planes into Heathrow Airport and buildings into downtown London.

Despite the record of success, and despite the fact that our professionals use lawful techniques, the CIA program has come under renewed criticism in recent weeks. Those who oppose this vital tool in the war on terror need to answer a simple question: Which of the attacks I have just described would they prefer we had not stopped? Without this program, our intelligence community believes that al Qaeda and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland. This CIA program has saved lives -- it is vital to the security of the American people.

Flying “passenger planes into Heathrow Airport”? That would sound scary, if hundreds of planes didn’t do that every day. Flying “buildings into downtown London”? Again, that would scare me if buildings could fly. Smarter figureheads, please.

Devil’s Dictionary Watch

H. L. Mencken, Baltimore Sun (26 July 1920):

When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost... All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.' The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

Roy Zimmerman Watch

Mr. Zimmerman and his guitar will entertain you with his songs “Dick Cheney”, “Defenders of Marriage”, “The War on Terror”, and “Chickenhawk”. Wonderful stuff, served up by an exquisite musician. As a bonus, enjoy “Ted Haggard is Completely Heterosexual” which features the lyric “swallow the syllogism”.

Crystal Ball Watch

Here is Gore Vidal, in an interview from July 2002, gazing into the future:

Q: And yet Americans seem quite susceptible to a sort of jingoistic "enemy-of-the-month club" coming out of Washington. You say millions of Americans hate the federal government. But something like 75 percent of Americans say they support George W. Bush, especially on the issue of the war.

A: I hope you don't believe those figures. Don't you know how the polls are rigged? It's simple. After 9/11 the country was really shocked and terrified. (Bush) does a little war dance and talks about evil axis and all the countries he's going to go after. And how long it is all going to take, he says with a happy smile, because it means billions and trillions for the Pentagon and for his oil friends. And it means curtailing our liberties, so this is all very thrilling for him. He's right out there reacting, bombing Afghanistan. Well, he might as well have been bombing Denmark. Denmark had nothing to do with 9/11. And neither did Afghanistan, at least the Afghanis didn't.

So the question is still asked, are you standing tall with the president? Are you standing with him as he defends us?

Eventually, they will figure it out.

Q: They being who? The American people?

A: Yeah, the American people. They are asked these quick questions. Do you approve of him? Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh yeah, he blew up all those funny-sounding cities over there.

That doesn't mean they like him. Mark my words. He will leave office the most unpopular president in history. The junta has done too much wreckage.

They were suspiciously very ready with the Patriot Act as soon as we were hit. Ready to lift habeas corpus, due process, the attorney-client privilege. They were ready. Which means they have already got their police state. Just take a plane anywhere today and you are in the hands of an arbitrary police state.

Q: Don't you want to have that kind of protection when you fly?

A: It's one thing to be careful, and we certainly want airplanes to be careful against terrorist attacks. But this is joy for them, for the federal government. Now they've got everybody, because everybody flies.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Scary Iran, just in time for Halloween

Phantom Menace Watch

So Bush and Cheney are doing a lot of saber-rattling right now, and it is clear that they want to start a war with Iran. The arguments are all depressingly familiar to people who paid attention during the run up to war with Iraq. In both cases, we have a lie repeated so many times that it becomes “truthy”: for Iraq, that Saddam had beyond-conventional weapons, for Iran that they are busy killing American servicemen in Iraq. They have produced zero evidence for this yet it is repeated over and over by their minions in the press. (Even if it were true, who could blame Iran? After all, we overthrew their democratically elected leader Mossadegh in 1953 and installed a brutal dictator, and then, throughout Reagan’s term, supplied Saddam with weapons to kill them with during the Iran-Iraq war.) And in both cases, we have an existential threat pounded into us: either Iraq or Iran is going to blow us up!

Now this news:

George W. Bush on Tuesday said a missile defence system was urgently needed to protect the US and Europe from Iran, warning that Tehran could have the capability to strike the US and Europe with ballistic missiles within eight years.

Never mind the mind-blowing wastefulness, stupidity, and complete ineffectiveness of “missile defence systems”. I have news for Bush: there are thousands of nuclear weapons that pose much greater dangers for the US that exist TODAY, which we are doing nothing constructive about. Nukes are in the hands of Pakistan, China, Russia, India, North Korea, and Israel. All of which I’m much more concerned with than Iranian nukes in the future. Absolutely nothing is being done about Russia’s nuclear materials and warheads as far as I can tell, and the danger of them being sold off in Russia’s new wild west economy is much greater than any problem from Iran, you idiot. Russia has 16,000 total nuclear warheads, nearly 6,000 of which are still active and probably pointed at us. Nukes in Iranian hands are no more, and quite possibly much less, threatening to us than those in Pakistan. And certainly nukes “within eight years” are not something to get your panties in a twist over.

Here’s the kicker: An invasion of Iran will make our relations with Russia and China much worse, as Russia and China both depend on Iranian oil and have interests there. So, an attack on Iran is, on the face of it, simply suicidal for the US. China will destroy our economy by ceasing to buy our debt, if it comes to it, and that will be the end of the US, both economically and as a world power. Keep up the saber-rattling, you jackasses.

Every Sperm is Sacred Watch

Like every good Bush appointee, Susan Orr does not believe in what she has been put in charge of. In this case, family planning programs in the Department of Health and Human Services.

In a 2000 Weekly Standard article, Orr railed against requiring health insurance plans to cover contraceptives. “It’s not about choice,” said Orr. “It’s not about health care. It’s about making everyone collaborators with the culture of death.”

That’s the spirit! The war against sex for pleasure continues unabated. More thrilling quotes at the link.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat Watch

By now, we know the familiar pattern: The Bush/Cheney complex is caught doing something completely illegal, from wiretapping without warrants to torturing prisoners to holding citizens without access to a lawyer. They deny it at first, then admit it and claim it is only for our own good. The Democrats express “concern”. They begin to issue subpoenas which are ignored to investigate. Russ Feingold proposes legislation that would reiterate that their current activity is really, really illegal. A huge legislative fight develops, with Republicans warning of dire, deadly consequences unless the administration can break the law with impunity. Some compromise bill is reached and sent to the President, who signs it with his fingers crossed and files a signing statement saying he intends to ignore it. The lawbreaking continues while new scandals come to light, and nothing ever changes . . .

Shock Redux Watch

In Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine, she picks out one pattern in recent history that has been repeated many times, and seems sure to happen in this country as well. In Poland, in South Africa, in Argentina, in Bolivia . . . in every country where a corrupt, totalitarian government is replaced by a people-powered movement that promises and hopes to actually use the power of government to help its citizens, the new government finds that it cannot. The stories are incredibly depressing. In each case, the corrupt government runs up large debts, often with a large proportion of the amount it’s spending concurrently ending up in Swiss bank accounts. Then, the people rise up and take back their countries. But the IMF and the World Bank won’t let them out of the debts incurred by their predecessors, and won’t give them any aid until they accept a raft of conditions that amount to corporatism run wild: a free market economy with no safety nets for workers, no investment in the people of the country. If the newly formed governments try to spend any money to help their people, by providing them healthcare or welfare or social security or wage guarantees or protective tariffs for local businesses, the markets devalue their currency and send their economies into freefall. In each of these countries, the reformers are forced to give in and open their countries up to pillage by multinational corporations, which buy up their resources, exploit their workers, and generally make life miserable.

Now we have our own totalitarian government which is running up huge debt. If we, the people, ever manage to take control of our government again, will we be able to preserve our protections for workers, or our social security? Not likely.

Third Rail Watch

John Edwards has just touched one of American politics' unmentionable third rails. Like Howard Dean before him, who promised to do something about the corrosive effects of media consolidation, Edwards just signaled that his campaign cannot possibly succeed. He announced that he would fight against wasteful, runaway spending at the Pentagon. And in the middle of the War on Terra, too. Doesn't he know that we have to make the World Safe For Freedom by ridding it of IslamoCommuFascism?

Conservative Idiots Watch

This week’s bumper crop.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Our Closing Society

Creating a Closed Society Watch

Naomi Wolf’s book The End of America is interesting not because it claims that America is already a fascist state. That kind of hyperbole always draws out (probably deserved) ridicule. Rather, what she claims is that there are ten clear steps that a society takes when the people in charge are trying to make it a closed, totalitarian society, that they are remarkably similar in all such societies, whether left-wing or right-wing, and that the process is easy to spot. Here are the steps she highlights which the United States has already taken: Invoking a terrifying internal and external enemy, creating a gulag, developing a paramilitary group of thugs, setting up an internal surveillance system, harassing citizens’ groups, controlling the press, targeting key individuals, and equating dissent with treason. The other two steps are engaging in arbitrary detention and release, which I don’t think has happened yet except to non-citizens and Jose Padilla, and suspending the rule of law. Though of course they have suspended the rule of law for themselves already, this step won’t be fully implemented until the next big terror attack/natural disaster/plague, so it’s only a matter of time.

Recently, Ms. Wolf gave an address at the University of Washington. This is a 48-minute speech, including why she wrote the book, details about the historical aspects of the ten steps and how they apply to today’s America, and her recommendation on what we need to do to stop it. Her research indicates that it will not be enough to legislate against Cheney and Bush. They must be impeached, tried, and put behind bars. If you have a few minutes, please watch this presentation. It is chilling and extremely important.

Let’s Invade Iran! Watch

Josh Marshall is one of the best investigative journalists working today, and though he originally supported the invasion of Iraq (having been led down that path by Kenneth Pollack’s tragically flawed book Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq, among other arguments), he has since more than made up for that error by committing real journalism. He continues his very important weblog, Talking Points Memo, and has gathered a muckraking staff of investigators who write at TPM Muckraker. He has also taken to creating small video news and analysis broadcasts, under the name TPM Media, which are some of the smartest and most informative out there. Josh has been out front on a number of stories which manage to evade the presstitutes, and was instrumental in bringing to light and sustaining the story of the firing of the US attorneys in swing states.

Last week, Josh and his team took at look at Rudy Giuliani’s foreign policy advisors, all four of whom want the US to invade Iran post haste. So, if Giuliani gets elected (and he seems to be the designated successor right now), the question won’t be whether we attack Iran, but how many hours we should wait. Truly frightening.

Shift and Puzzle Watch

If you’ve ever read the C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, you may have noticed how much Bush and Cheney (or perhaps Rove) resemble the pair Puzzle the Donkey and Shift the Ape in the seventh book, The Last Battle. In that book, the power-hungry ape dresses an ignorant (but good-hearted – here the analogy breaks down) donkey in the heroic/godlike skin of a lion and passes him off as the leonine deity Aslan. As Puzzle mouths the words of Shift’s speeches to the frightened animals of Narnia, they create an authoritarian state where the ape lives corruptly off of the animals’ sacrifice and labor, betrays the animals to a foreign power, and creates a world-ending war. Lewis’ allegory had to do with both the notion of the antichrist and the rise of the totalitarian axis powers. The book was written over fifty years ago.

Playing with Impeachment Watch

Noticing how the media just about wet themselves with the thought of Bush’s Evildoer’s Deck of Cards, some enterprising souls have created Impeach Bush cards, detailing over 52 reasons why Bush should be impeached. Send a pack to Nancy Pelosi today!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Military Industrial Surveillance Complex

I’ve Got Good News and Bad News Watch

First, some good news for a change. A group of rich Bush critics are considering funding a group of investigative journalists to actually perform, you know, real journalism in this country. Imagine that! They are expected to be able to draw from a huge pool of incredibly talented, out-of-work investigative people who have all lost their jobs (or lost interest in their jobs) in the Outrage or Titillation world of new media. You get just one guess as to whether the right wing bloviators (including George Will, Fred Barnes, Bill O’Reilly, Brit Hume, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Pat Buchanan, Neil Cavuto, Mort Kondracke, Charles Krauthammer, Tim Russert, Tucker Carlson, Steve Doocy, Ann Coulter, Michael Medved – the list seems endless, and those are just the assholes!) will consider this new nonprofit group, named Pro Publica, part of the “liberal media”.

Clearly, Pro Publica is a great idea, and one which is way past due. One absolutely clear sign that it is a fantastically good sign is that Rush Limbaugh has already hyperventilated his fat heart into a frenzy thinking about investigative journalists who can’t be bought off or intimidated. His rather unique tack was to decry their “arrogance” for daring to criticize powerful people, as if they were any better than them. And then, he tried to intimidate them himself:

And we said, "You know what? We're going to find out where your kids go to school. We're going to find out who you knocked up in high school. We're going to find out what drugs you used. We're going to find out where you go to drink and do -- we're gonna find out how you paid for your house. We're going to do -- and we're going to do exact . . . But nobody does that to these people. Nobody does it to them. And that would be so much fun. But I'd need to be wearing body armor every day. Oh, no question, these people are playing for keeps.

Nothing seems to scare the Bloated One like the thought of journalists who aren’t tamed, gelded, and in “the club”. Let’s hope there are plenty of them in the future.

The bad news, reported this week by the ACLU, is that the Department of Defense has been abusing the powers granted to it by the PATRIOT act (which of course it and the Justice Department swore up and down that they would never do when Bushco wanted to get the Patriot Act renewed) to spy on American citizens without warrants and with intimidation of those they got the information from in hundreds, thousands, and probably hundreds of thousands of occasions. So, not only is the NSA spying on us. Not only is the Justice Department spying on us. But the Pentagon is spying on us. And we know how ethical they are. Keith Olbermann and legal scholar Jonathan Turley discuss this latest government invasion into our lives.

Something Banal This Way Comes Watch

Everyone loves to quote “the medium is the message” from communications theorist Marshall McLuhan. McLuhan meant that when human intercommunication occurred largely through the printed word, and when the barrier to entry to publishing your own work was relatively low, the conversation was more interactive and ideas were allowed to compete based on their merits. In contrast, television, for which the barriers to entry are huge and controlled by just a few powerful interests, is a one-way medium. The message of print is “let’s all engage in an exchange of ideas”, whereas the message of television is “sit there and shut up and we’ll tell you what to think”. Gore explores these differences in some detail in The Assault on Reason, and also offers his hope that the internet, with a low barrier to entry, can bring back a vigorous, merit- and idea-based public conversation. It certainly does seem to be the case that before the printing press, political and religious orthodoxy were strictly enforced, followed by the wild heterodoxy of the salons and the broadsheets of the enlightenment, followed by increasingly enforced orthodoxy as radio and television grew to dominance. The increased influence of atheism and progressive politics these days do seem to owe some thanks to the net. Let’s hope that influence grows.

One of my favorite authors when I was a teenager was Ray Bradbury, and I’ll never forget the two very sharp criticisms he made of television in his stories. Rather than just rail against the medium for making us stupid (and obedient), he demonstrated its corrosive power, first in the political observations of the wife of his protagonist in Fahrenheit 451 (the implied sexism of the scene is somewhat mitigated by making the heroine in the story extraordinarily erudite):

Mildred sat a moment and then, seeing that Montag was still in the doorway, clapped her hands. “Lets talk politics, to please Guy!”
“Sounds fine”, said Mrs. Bowles. “I voted last election, same as everyone, and I laid it on the line for President Noble. I think he’s one of the nicest looking men ever became president.”
“Oh, but the man they ran against him!”
“He wasn’t much, was he? Kind of small and homely and he didn’t shave too close or comb his hair very well.”
“What possessed the ‘Outs’ to run him? You just don’t go running a little short man like that against a tall man. Besides – he mumbled. Half the time I couldn’t hear a word he said. And the words I did hear I didn’t understand!”
“Fat, too, and didn’t dress to hide it. No wonder the landslide was for Winston Noble. Even their names helped. Compare Winston Noble to Hubert Hoag for ten seconds and can almost figure the results.”
“Damn it!” cried Montag. “What do you know about Hoag and Noble!”
“Why, they were right in that parlor wall, not six months ago. One was always picking his nose; it drove me wild.”
“Well, Mr. Montag,” said Mrs. Phelps, “do you want us to vote for a man like that?”

and also in his chilling short short story, the Pedestrian, about a man who pays the price for preferring a walk to the television.

The Case for Impeachment Watch

David Swanson, an anti-war and pro-impeachment activist, is behind some of the most important websites in chronicling the abuses of the maladministration and in opposing them, including,, and One of the best speeches I’ve ever seen regarding the subject of impeachment was delivered by Swanson with heart, reason, and passion. If you only watch one speech detailing the reasons Bush and Cheney need to be impeached this year, make it this one.

Reverse Robin Hood

Alan “The Con” Greenspan Watch

You may remember when I discussed Alan Greenspan, and how he had raised payroll taxes on working class people in the 80's to save Social Security, and then came back a few years ago to try to scaremonger us all into giving up our Social Security and stampede trillions of dollars into Wall Streets funds. It seems that Tom Tomorrow, in the attachment, also remembers that. It should be remembered, but rarely is mentioned in polite discussion between corporate members of the television chatterati, that Greenspan is a Randroid, a disciple who sat at the feet of that wellspring of charisma and human kindness, Ayn Rand. (You can bask in Ms. Rand’s creepy brand of charisma here, if you choose. See what everyone is talking about!) Having read several of Rand’s books in the last twenty years, it is still hard to understand what is so seemingly attractive her philosophy for so many people. It seems to break down into 1) if you’ve ever needed help with anything in your life, you are a piece of crap and deserve to die, and 2) what is good for me is Good. It’s hard to think of a more stunted, inhumane “philosophy”, and the fact that someone who was so taken by her writing that he actually modified his life to learn more from her was given an extremely powerful post in which to effect the nation’s monetary policies is horrifying beyond words. The fact that the media never seemed to pick up on the fact that this might be a bad thing is stunning. More about Andrea Mitchell’s husband below.

Outrage Machine Watch

The media consists primarily of an “outrage machine”, which responds to right-wing hyperventilation, and a titillation machine, which feeds America’s celebrity jones until the next right-wing outrage comes along. Things which are, in the context of the big picture, not really that big a deal are fed into the outrage machine, and they become generally regarded as true and outrageous. And often, things which are truly dangerous and horrible are not fed into the outrage machine, and therefore, vanish without a ripple into the world of things-which-are-true-but-which-no-one-knows-about-because-they-were-never-discussed-on-the-TeeVee.

Several pairs of events illustrate this effect. Clinton carrying on and lying about a rather mild and sad affair? Outrage Galore! Outrageous Maximus! The End of America! Chimpy knowingly lying about requiring warrants but actually illegally listening in to the phone calls and emails of his political opponents? Crickets. Gore (falsely) accused of taking too much credit for uncovering Love Canal? His Sanity is called into Question! Dozens of members of the Bush administration flouting congressional subpoenas investigating their criminal activities? Yawn . . . slow news day. Wealthy Democratic contributors sleeping over in the WhiteHouse? Outrage is an understatement. America establishing a gulag system and routinely torturing even our own citizens? Nothing to see here, move along.

That’s how the game is played, and in a way it is easy to see how our top Democratic officeholders have just about given up the game. They can’t generate any outrage of their own – none that makes it to the general public, anyway, and if they try the GOP will just drum up false outrage based on lies if they have to. And being outraged is so tiring . . . Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have now stated so many times and so firmly that they will not, now or in the future, consider impeaching Cheneyco and Bushco, that it’s clear that this misadministration has their complete consent to do whatever they freaking feel like. And that is a true outrage.

BlackWater: Hearts and Minds Watch

One rather surprising development in this war is the extensive use of mercenaries. Like torture, this just seems a priori like a bad idea all around. Their loyalty, training, and behavior are not nearly as reliable as US servicemen, and with questionable accountability and rampant corruption, they are as bad a set of representatives for America to the country we have conquered and are pillaging as any I can think of. Recently, several developments concerning the firm BlackWater (though there are many others) have brought this problem to light. It was reported in one particular incident that BlackWater mercenaries drew guns on US servicemen, disarmed them and forced them to lie down. Jeremy Scahill has done extensive research on BlackWater and their CEO Erik Prince. And another report details why BlackWater mercenaries are such an evil presence in Iraq. But don’t worry! Our Commander-in-Chief is fully aware of the issues and knows just how mercenaries fit into our plan! Asked an intelligent question about whether Iraqi or American or indeed any law at all governed the actions of mercenaries in Iraq, His Dimness replied, “Huh? Garsh, I don’t know anything about that. Next question?”. So, clearly, there is nothing to worry about here.

While we are on the subject of hearts and minds, here is a cheerful report about “baiting” Iraqis with equipment, and then shooting them when they pick the equipment up. That kind of quick, judge-jury-executioner-type justice is sure to make the Iraqi people love us for centuries to come!

More Shock Watch

Another thesis in Naomi Klein’s book “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”, is that there are parallels between dismantling a person’s mind, which the CIA discovered how to do by funding a Montreal psychologist’s research into electroshock, sensory deprivation, and psychoactive drugs in the 60’s and which was used with CIA supervision throughout Latin America for decades, and the dismantling of a society’s self-protection. In both cases, the dignity and self-preservation of the subject are attacked and removed, followed by leaving them open to abuse by their captors. And this kind of torture is used hand in hand with authoritarian suppression in societies that are being laid waste to by rapacious capitalism. The goal is to remove or terrorize union organizers, social progressives, and activists, so that the exploitation is not hampered by the completely irrelevant will of the nation’s population.

America was given, and miserably failed, a test of its own strength of self-protection in the case of Jose Padilla. He was accused in the press of crimes he never ended up being charged with, held for years without access to his family or to a lawyer, and subjected to having his mind destroyed by the techniques of the CIA. After reading the first chapter of the Shock Doctrine, and then seeing pictures of Padilla in sensory-deprivation gear as he was moved around and reading descriptions of his torture, it was clear that his treatment was meant to test the waters of our tolerance for having these procedures used on our fellow citizens. But the torture of Jose Padilla was never fed into the corporate Outrage Machine, and so has passed into our history largely unnoted.

You can watch Naomi Klein debate Mr. Greenspan and also see her discussion of the Shock Doctrine on BookTV.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Shock Doctrine

American Renewal and Restoration Watch

Now that President-in-exile Gore has won an Emmy, an Oscar (or rather his producers did), and the Nobel Peace Prize, and has yet to definitively disavow that he is running for the nomination, the question still remains: is he running or isn’t he? He has said that he didn’t see the need to run in such a long pre-election campaign, but he needs to get his name on some ballots between now and when the primaries start happening, and some of those deadlines are coming up in the next couple of weeks. So maybe he isn’t really running. On the other hand, there are these three brief videos, posted just yesterday, on Gore’s website. They are obviously position statements, to restore the fourth amendment, to pull out of Iraq, and for single payer universal health care. Why would he post them if he were not running? And note how he continues to campaign directly to the citizenry, doing an end run around the press corpse. Nicely done, Mr. President.

9/11 Changed Everything Watch

If the claims of Joe Nacchio, who is the former CEO of Qwest, the only large telecom business which apparently did not go right along with the administration’s warrantless eavesdropping scheme, are true, then not only did this administration begin illegally spying on the population (including Democratic politicians, political activists, and journalists) almost immediately upon arriving in office, at least seven months before September 11th, but that spying program failed to stop both the 9/11 attacks and the anthrax attacks. So, this story takes away both of the bogus justifications for such gross lawbreaking: that it could help stop terrorist attacks, and that it was necessary after 9/11.

Two Naomis Watch

Two brilliant women who both happen to be named Naomi have excellent, important books out right now. The first is Naomi Wolf, whose book The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, was foreshadowed by this article in which she described the ten warning signs of an authoritarian takeover of a government. Her message is urgent and timely. You can watch Ms. Wolf discuss her book with Stephen Colbert, and while you are at it, see Colbert’s Daily Show feature “So, You’re Living in a Police State”. Wolf wrote a short piece recently describing some of her experiences on her book tour, and her call to action against authoritarian government trends.

The second Naomi is Naomi Klein, who has written what I think is probably the most important book in the last 40 years. It is called the Shock Doctrine, and I’m about 2/3 of the way through it right now. Her thesis is that there is a group of people who really do believe that the world would be a better place (for them) if people were valued only as much as they created profit for corporations. These people have been instrumental in the multinational corporation pillage of countries starting with Chile’s Pinochet government. These people, disciples of Milton Friedman’s University of Chicago school of economics, always favor completely unfettered capitalism over democracy. And they are in charge of the IMF, the WTO, and other organizations that use debt as a club to force democracies to privatize their assests and destroy worker protections and social programs. The first part of the book is a recent history, starting in the mid 1960s, of the reforms in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Poland, South Africa, Russia, Indonesia, and the meltdown of the Asian markets in Thailand, Malaysia, and South Korea in the last decade. Everywhere these ubercapitalists go, they spread economic destruction, death, misery, and repression of the people, coupled with authoritarian strongmen. After reading the first part of the book, seeing the same pattern emerging again and again, you begin to realize that what is going on in Iraq is just part of the same pattern. In fact, it becomes inevitable after knowing the histories of these other countries. Iraq has been opened up, not for democracy, but for capitalism, and the worst kind of corrupt, horrible, Hobbesian capitalism at that. An extremely erudite, crystallizing book. You can read Jane Smiley’s review of the book, or see Klein discussing her ideas in a brief, or a longer, format. If you read only one book this year, you should read more books! Actually, read this one if you get a chance. Here’s an excellent article on the “neoliberal” school of Friedmanite economists, as well.

Top Ten Idiots Watch

Check out this week’s Top Ten list at Democratic Underground.

#5 Blackwater

In Idiots 309 I noted that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Naturally) had been out and about defending the mercenaries of Blackwater after they allegedly massacred 17 Iraqi civilians. Issa argued that an attack on Blackwater is essentially an attack on General Bringing Sexy Back Petraeus, and obviously we can't have that.

I wonder how Issa feels about Blackwater after this news was reported last week?
The colonel was furious. "Can you believe it? They actually drew their weapons on U.S. soldiers." He was describing a 2006 car accident, in which an SUV full of Blackwater operatives had crashed into a U.S. Army Humvee on a street in Baghdad's Green Zone. The colonel, who was involved in a follow-up investigation and spoke on the condition he not be named, said the Blackwater guards disarmed the U.S. Army soldiers and made them lie on the ground at gunpoint until they could disentangle the SUV.

No, wait, don't tell me... wondering whether mercenaries should go around disarming U.S. soldiers and making them lie on the ground at gunpoint is an attack on General Petraeus.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Just don't call it torture

Sometimes you have to almost feel sorry for the evil hacks who have sold their souls to be a part of this monstrous regime. Last week, an article in the New York Times revealed that Bush had re-authorized torturing prisoners.

After the Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the Geneva Conventions applied to prisoners who belonged to Al Qaeda, President Bush for the first time acknowledged the C.I.A.’s secret jails and ordered their inmates moved to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The C.I.A. halted its use of waterboarding, or pouring water over a bound prisoner’s cloth-covered face to induce fear of suffocation.

But in July, after a monthlong debate inside the administration, President Bush signed a new executive order authorizing the use of what the administration calls “enhanced” interrogation techniques — the details remain secret — and officials say the C.I.A. again is holding prisoners in “black sites” overseas. The executive order was reviewed and approved by Mr. Bradbury and the Office of Legal Counsel.

This has produced, as you might imagine, some delightfully depressing interviews, with Bush and some of his lower-level toadies having to answer questions about what constitutes torture and whether “we” do it in some of the best Newspeak ever. Their message can best be summed up as: “The United States doesn’t torture (this is repeated over and over so that the mouth-breathers know to repeat it). What the U.S. does do is enhanced interrogation techniques, but only until our victims guests cooperate. And they’ve given us really useful information! And we can’t possibly talk about this”.

Among your choices of embarrassing, Porky Pig-like, stammering interviews of Bush administration officials trying to explain how they are only torturing people for our good, just like a Daddy keeping us safe at night, is this one with Bush:

There's been a lot of talk in the newspapers and on TV about a program that I put in motion to detain and question terrorists and extremists. I have put this program in place for a reason, and that is to better protect the American people. And when we find somebody who may have information regarding an -- a potential attack on America, you bet we're going to detain them, and you bet we're going to question them -- because the American people expect us to find out information -- actionable intelligence so we can help protect them. That's our job.

Secondly, this government does not torture people. You know, we stick to U.S. law and our international obligations.

Thirdly, there are highly trained professionals questioning these extremists and terrorists. In other words, we got professionals who are trained in this kind of work to get information that will protect the American people. And by the way, we have gotten information from these high-value detainees that have helped protect you.

And finally, the techniques that we use have been fully disclosed to appropriate members of the United States Congress. The American people expect their government to take action to protect them from further attack. And that's exactly what this government is doing, and that's exactly what we'll continue to do.

Also, here’s Fran Townsend, a Whitehouse Homeland Security Advisor, trying to “explain” the policy on CNN (her segment starts at about the 5 minute mark):

TOWNSEND: Now, Wolf, obviously I'm not going to talk about each individual and specific technique that we used. The director of Central Intelligence has talked to members of both Intelligence Committees in the House and the Senate. He -- what he did was he understood this was not just a legal question, but there was a policy issue and there's a political willingness question.Frankly, Wolf, if Americans are killed because we fail to do the hard things, the American people would have the absolute right to ask us why.

BLITZER: Well, let me -- let me rephrase the question. Without confirming that you are actually doing those things, but those things, as described in the "New York Times" today, if someone were doing those things, would that be torture?

TOWNSEND: Wolf, we adhere to the -- to the law. And the president has made clear his expectation that we will do that. No one has ever suggested that, say, Miranda or the Army field manual went to the limits that were legally permissible. The constitution does that, which is why we seek legal opinions from the office of legal counsel.But we don't talk about the specific techniques...

Finally, two performances by Dana Perino, being questioned more and more pointedly by the whitehouse press corpse, as they try to follow the illogic of the administration’s position.

Q Dana, I went back and read the 2004 memo --
MS. PERINO: Did you get through the whole thing?
Q -- or tried to get through it. I was looking for a definition of "torture," because we know that in 2002 you defined it a certain way, and then the 2004 memo was intended to redefine it, or to, I believe, broaden the definition of "torture." And I wasn't sure if I came up with the definition. I saw language that said, "specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering." Is that the definition from --
MS. PERINO: I don't have the document with me, so let me decline on that. But what I will tell you is that -- you might not have gotten to the parts -- the footnotes of that document, in which it says that it's their legal conclusion that in the analysis in looking at the earlier memo that their legal justification that the -- that it would have been the same, that there wasn't anything going on between 2002 and 2004 that they would have considered to be outside of the bounds of U.S. law. That's one part of it. As to the -- I would just have to refer you to the Department of Justice. It's a very complicated legal matter.

All righty then!

What has become plainly obvious from all of this hemming and hawing is that 1) the United States does torture, 2) we don’t do it to get information 3) we do do it to intimidate people by letting it be known that it can be done to them (e.g. Jose Padilla) 4) our methods are illegal and the administration knows they are illegal and 5) they are doing everything in their power to keep them under wraps.

America. Smell the Freedom.

Truth in Military Advertising

An ad which shows what a military recruiting commercial might look like if they included a list of disclaimers at the end, like pharmaceutical advertising. One possible problem is "rational thought".

Irony poisoning

Please read the following quote from the Decider-in-Chief, and try not to overload your circuits:

"I don't want you reading my personal stuff," he admitted, adding: "There has got to be a certain sense of privacy. You know, you're entitled to how I make decisions. And you're entitled to ask questions, which I answer. I don't think you're entitled to be able to read my mail between my daughters and me." (emphasis mine)

Hypocrisy much? But then, Republicans are the masters of inflicting on others what they themselves avoid. Remember, It's OK If You Are a Republican (IOKIYAR). You can watch the Chimpster work himself into a lather and make this incredibly, mind-blowingly un-self-ware statement about his email privacy here.