Thursday, August 31, 2006

With Friends Like These...

Anybody see this story in the MSM? "UN denounces Israel cluster bombs" Here's an excerpt (the speaker is Jan Egeland, UN humanitarian chief):

"What's shocking and completely immoral is: 90% of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict, when we knew there would be a resolution," he said.

The UN ceasefire resolution which ended the month-long conflict between Israel and Hezbollah was agreed by the Security Council on Friday, 11 August, and came into effect on Monday, 14 August.

Mr Egeland added: "Cluster bombs have affected large areas - lots of homes, lots of farmland. They will be with us for many months, possibly years.

"Every day, people are maimed, wounded and killed by these weapons. It shouldn't have happened."

I thought not. In fact, I checked MSNBC, CNN, ABC, and CBS, and couldn't find a mention of it on their front pages. BBC, as you can see, carried it at the top of their page on Wednesday.

And so I ask, why are Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the United Nations all siding with the terrorists? Why do they hate America and its friends? Why are they appeasing the forces of Islamo-fascism and terror? And how have the agents of terror infiltrated the BBC? (see yesterday's post). Is it time for an Ann Coulter precision bombing of both The Paper of Record at Times Square and our prime ally's number one broadcasting service?

We report...The Decider...decides.


Good news from the world of business: Texas Tea pays, if you're at the top of the org chart. Yep, you read it right: $32M a year for oil company execs, in the year that brought you $70 a barrell and $4 a gallon.

Good thing we're not shutting down our golf courses to build houses for people here. Well, if you made $32M a year, you'd have to spend it on somethin'.

Nope, that wasn't in the MSM, either. So what the hell is news to these people? Well, how about the critical issue of GM's "Survivor" sponsorship(MSNBC)? Or the identity of the blogosphere's "secret senator"(CNN)? Maybe Mayor Rocky vs. the VFW in Utah rates the front page for you (ABC)? Or perhaps the burning question that you want answered in your headlines is, are bagged salads safe (MSNBC)?

All of the above were pulled right off the front pages of their respective MSM websites, amid prime time. I mean, c'mon, you couldn't make this shit up.


Finally tonight, a little self-promotion. Last week, I applied on Daily Rev's behalf to join BlogAds, the liberal advertising network that brings in revenue for the likes of onegoodmove, Daily Kos, and many much smaller blogs. We have hosting costs to pay here, and I do invest money into software and such that is used to make the blog a little better; and I'm afraid the donation link in the sidebar is treated like a wet fart in church on a hot Sunday. So I thought, all right, we've got the traffic (their minimum is 2,500 page views per week, and DR averages around 12,000 per month); and most folks say our work is okay—why not raise some cash and a little consciousness at the same time?

We were denied, in part because our traffic, though it meets the requirement, hasn't been meeting it long enough (they said make it last another month or two like this and it would be fine). But the real reason was couched in these terms:

We don't do mixed left-right sites. Your partner may be a bitter Republican, but until he changes his affiliation, there is no gurantee (sic) that your site will represent a "liberal" perspective...if your partner calls himself a liberal, I see no barrier to adding you.

Now that's a direct quote from a fellow whose blog I link to in my Blogroll. Several points arise to me from all this:

1. The guy clearly didn't read Daily Rev. If he had, he'd recognize that Terry (my Republican partner) is plenty more than "a bitter Republican"; and he'd appreciate the tenor and direction of our work, along with the fact that two fellows viewing the same problems from different angles can share ideas and build a consensus (remember that? it's called "democracy").
2. If the left is going to indulge in the same cult of affiliation as we've grown to recognize as the neocon right's signature, then guess what—they're playing in Karl Rove's home ballpark, and they're going to lose again, and for the same reasons. How many elections has the left-wing candidate lost over the past six years by a margin of less than 3 percent? What if the left had brought in all those "disaffected Republicans"—welcomed them in, made them a part of their dialogue on the nation and its future? Might those narrow defeats have turned out differently for the left—Diebold notwithstanding?
3. Finally (and this is the self-promotion part, I guess), what a wonderful feeling it is to be part of a little body to which labels do not stick! I teach that we have to learn how to get off the iron bar of bipolarity, and I mean it, and even try to live by it. The safest way to avoid extremes is to live entirely off the narrow line of ideology on which they reside. I feel that it's possible; I've written books and many articles and blog posts about it.

Mind you, I'm not thrilled to see an opportunity for revenue go by the boards; but I am grateful that Daily Rev doesn't fit in anyone's pigeonhole. We have a Republican who, this past Monday, wrote, "stop the madness—vote Democrat!" And he meant it. We have a registered Democrat who is openly critical of his party and many of its purported leaders. In short, we don't fall in line behind an agenda or an image: after all, how could you see clearly from the back of a line?

Instead, we seek leaders and messages that embody reason, sense, energy, and moral strength. We claw the surface and try to find what's buried beneath the spin, the advertising, and the imagery of platform-making and parochial agendas. We strive to be a deceit-seeking missile of inquiry upon the bodies of fundamentalism, power, display, and falsehood. We think that if enough people become involved in the freethinking activity of independence, then just maybe over the course of the next two years there will be a gradual but unmistakable transformation in the citizenry and the government of this once-free, once-democratic nation, and we will be returned to the place where it all began, where it was young, vibrant, and preponderantly truthful. We will, with some effort and a lot of tough questions, come back to the moment we are in, and once again be a Republic.

If you agree, then perhaps you can write to Mr. Bowers and respectfully ask him to explain what he means by "affiliation", and whether he really thinks liberals are going to make any headway in this culture at this moment in history by maintaining a closed, insular society. I would also ask him, "how many more elections must be lost before we rediscover the meaning of 'the conversation of democracy'?"

We will close with some thoughts on that very point, from Mr. Al Gore, who will be speaking here in New York City today.

Democracy as a system for self-governance is facing more serious challenges now than it has faced for a long time. Democracy is a conversation, and the most important role of the media is to facilitate that conversation of democracy. Now the conversation is more controlled, it is more centralized...The only thing that matters in American politics now is having enough money to put 30-second commercials on the air often enough to convince the voters to elect you or re-elect you... The person who has the most money to run the most ads usually wins.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Cut and Rum (and Geek Wednesday)

Ladies and gentlemen, before we get to Geek Wednesday, a grim treat for you all, from a correspondent we haven't heard from in a few weeks. Here's Shady Acres Mike:

Rummy, Cheney and Bush Cut and Run on Logic

These guys are so very desperate! They are entirely transparent to a majority of the American public now:

Rumsfeld: Terrorists Manipulating Media

The Associated Press
Tuesday, August 29, 2006; 2:29 AM

FALLON NAVAL AIR STATION, Nev. -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Monday he is deeply troubled by the success of terrorist groups in "manipulating the media" to influence Westerners.

"That's the thing that keeps me up at night," he said during a question-and-answer session with about 200 naval aviators and other Navy personnel at this flight training base for Navy and Marine pilots.

"What bothers me the most is how clever the enemy is," he continued, launching an extensive broadside at Islamic extremist groups which he said are trying to undermine Western support for the war on terror.

"They are actively manipulating the media in this country" by, for example, falsely blaming U.S. troops for civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.

"They can lie with impunity," he said, while U.S. troops are held to a high standard of conduct.

Later, at a Reno, Nev., convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Rumsfeld made similar points.

I agree with Rumsfeld on one thing; he is right that we are not waging a war on Islam and that there appears to be some press in the mid-east that promotes that point of view. We are, however, waging war for oil and geopolitics and providing ammunition for those can make a strong argument to their religious fanatic following that we are waging a war on Islam.

As for throwing in the towel, how is trying to find a peaceful resolution to the mess that Rummy and the Bush administration caused called quitting? Quitting, in my book, is not trying. In this case, quitting is not trying a new strategy. The Iraqi troops are not going to bring order and stability, they are part of the problem. They are actively engaged in a religious and tribal civil war that we directly caused. Why have Bush and Rummy quit trying to provide peace and stability to the region? Why have they cut and run on sensibility and strong diplomacy? Wasn't it reason, containment, strong alliances, and strong diplomacy that kept the evil communist empire in the form of the old Soviet Union at bay and then allowed it to destroy itself from its own corruption? Its time to split this country in three so they stop killing each other wholesale, so that stability can be brought to the region, and so that we can pursue a sane policy of containment of Iran.

On the manipulation thing: It is sooooo desperate and weak - it smacks of Spiro Agnew type bullshit after the Tet offensive. It has a secondary meaning as well: the main stream press and the Democrats (or any any one, for that matter) support Hezbollah and the terrorists whenever they criticize any policy, tactic, or reveal any truth that in any way that lies in the way of the actions or policies of the Bush administration in regard to Iraq.

The whole Rummy stance that the wool has been pulled over the main stream media's eye by our enemies is just more smoke. It's just more distraction from what is happening in Iraq. They just make this stuff up. Has the American public forgotten that the wool was pulled over our eyes in the lead up to the invasion to Iraq by Rummy and the Bush administration? Not most of us.

Rumsfeld said Tuesday the world faces "a new type of fascism'' and likened critics of the Bush administration's war strategy to those who tried to appease the Nazis in the 1930s. In unusually explicit terms, Rumsfeld portrayed the administration's critics as suffering from "moral or intellectual confusion'' about what threatens the nation's security.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., a former Army officer and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in an interview Tuesday that "no one has misread history more than'' Rumsfeld. "It's a political rant to cover up his incompetence,'' said Reed, a longtime critic of Rumsfeld's handling of the war.

I think that the quotes above prove that Rummy and the Bush administration are trying, once again, to infer that any one who disagrees with the Bush administration in regard to Iraq is outright unpatriotic at worst and, indeed, a sadly misguided person whose opinions, in the end, are the same as being a terrorist sympathizer at the very least. They have been doing it for years and it is the main theme regarding the Iraq war on Fox, and with Rush, Coulter, Ingraham, Hannity, Beck, Carlson, Scareboro - all the hate mongers and fear spreaders.

Rummy should be fired. His credibility is entirely shot. He has been wrong on every major aspect in regard to Iraq and the pursuit of Bin Laden. His analogy of using pre-WWII appeasement to the situation with Iran today holds absolutely no water. Where are we surrendering to state terrorism and real threats? In Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, that's where. If there has been any appeasement it has been from Bush. Iraq was for oil and geopolitics, it has nothing directly to do with the "war on terror." Iran is not Germany prior to WWII. They and their Islamo-fascist fringe group friends do not have the capacity to wage world war. The Germans, Japanese, and Italians did. Any major Western power could crush Iran. No one is giving up the Sudetenland, parts of Austria or Czechoslovakia, or Alsace to the so called Islamo-fascists, except perhaps Bush giving them Iraq, now that I think of it. Rummy's logic is just completely screwy. Here we have Iran being the main winner of the war in Iraq and people who criticize this are morally and intellectually confused? Methinks the confusion lies elsewhere.

Given the above, better yet, lets keep Rummy and Rove for now. The American public has come around and now sees through all the bullshit. The Republicans are going to lose the House with this rhetoric. Rove is a one trick pony: fear and hatred. Many Republicans are beginning to put some distance between themselves and Bush. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, shame on all of us.

—Shady Acres Mike


Geek Wednesday

Hey you goofy people, it's me, Night the Cat. The other day, I was lying around on the CRT, thinking about technology, and a thought came to mind, as they will occasionally do. Have you ever had to swallow, for just a moment, a kind of aesthetic cringe on first looking at a new Google beta? Let's face it, some of their UI design ranges from nondescript to plug-ugly as a Doberman in heat. But Bast be praised, that stuff sure does work. Here, take a look at Google Spreadsheet's front end (just click any image for an enlarged view):

Now, compare that with this lovely looking Excel 2007 screenshot:

Well, MS wins the beauty pageant, but when it comes to function, Google's beta always gets the catnip. Why? Because it works. MS Office 2007, on the other hand, is the cute package with the bomb inside. My human has documented all that before, so I won't go on. But just heed the warning: when you're dealing with tech, a baby blue front end may be the very thing you want to avoid.

Here's another example: the toolbar (which Google bought a few months back) above; the MS Word 2007 toolbar below. But I'm writing this in writely, and it's such an elegant, reliable, and convenient word processor that I've got my human seriously thinking about uninstalling MS Office. We're not quite there yet, of course: G-Spreadsheets will have to develop a little more; someone will have to come up with a Windows-based presentation software that rivals Powerpoint (if you have a Mac, you've already got a winner there—Keynote is the best slideshow maker on the market, hands down); and database geeks will have a rough time wandering from Access. But for pure functionality, Gmail with Google Calendar has it all over Outlook, and Writely is an amazingly efficient WP program.

And speaking of Keynote, what kind of cuddling could Google and Apple be contemplating? Google CEO Eric Schmidt has joined Apple's Board of Directors . That ought to rattle Uncle Bill's halo a little...

Maybe it's got something to do with the parade of fawning reviews that are being written for the new Mac Pro desktop. Looks like it would make a pretty comfortable little crash-pit for the kitty. Not only is this some seriously cool hardware (that now runs Windows); it also compares favorably with Dell when you get down to the kitty-gritty. And that Apple box isn't something you'd want to hide in the closet with the litter pan.

But let's leave the big dogs out there in the yard, Google and Apple teaming up to whale on that poor philanthopist from Redmond. We've got news about yet another alternative in the operating system universe.

Ubuntu, the New Age Linux for tree-huggers like my human, has had a little trouble lately, after they (apparently for the first time ever) dropped a lame upgrade of their OS onto users, and then had to send them back to the command line for another go. But as peace-loving and unassuming as it may be, Ubuntu is a solid contender in the OS wars. We installed it onto our Wintel machine here at Daily Rev and liked how it went and what we saw. Very briefly, we created a partition for Ubuntu, using what may be the best software Norton's ever made, Partition Magic. If you're as uncomfortable with geekery as my guy is, but you need to partition a drive, Partition Magic is your stuff—get it. Next, we let Ubuntu install itself, after advising it to use the G: drive we'd made with Magic, while leaving the C: drive (Windows) alone. Ubuntu complied effortlessly, and within an hour had installed itself and delivered this fine-looking front end.

Next week on GW, we'll have a look around Linux and see what it can—and can't—do. Meanwhile, be cool—and remember, scratch behind the ears and keep the litter pan clean.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Pre-emption of Peace

While Mr. Karr hits makeup for his grand tour of the morning shows, the obligatory book tour, and perhaps an advertising deal with Moet, there is other news besides his exoneration (I can't wait to see the headline of the Post tomorrow: "DNA Talks, Creep Walks") and the anniversary of Katrina.

The carnage in Iraq continues apace, for both the American army and the native population. The daily toll of death and suffering is here. The cause of it all is still here; and Terry McKenna is back to discuss the corrupt ideology that still goes under the name of policy.

Pre-emptive (or preventive) war* is not new, but started during the cold war with war plans for a “first strike” against the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons facilities (presumably, they had the same war plans against us). Fortunately neither side took action, still a nuclear first strike remained part of our war plans throughout the cold war - see this article from PBS.

Outside of the nuclear arena, the US relied on pre-emption by subversion. Direct subversion occurred in places like Iran and Guatemala – in other areas, we armed and trained elements within the local military – most notably in Latin America. For information about the infamous School of the Americas (a training ground for right wing oppression), look here and here.

The legacy of pre-emption is clear: we are better off for having avoided nuclear pre-emption against the Soviet Union. And we are worse off for our numerous pre-emptions in the third world.

Still, the dream of pre-emption lives on. In the last presidential election, John Kerry tried to articulate his concerns about unilateralism and pre-emption but the right wing sound byte machine smothered him. The right wing counter argument is:

a) that we always have the right to defend ourselves; and
b) do we really want to leave the defense of the US up to the international community? (Read: those sissies at the UN? Or the hated French).

Of course, the real world is never so simple as the imaginary world of test cases. We never know the consequences of history until we act. And once we act, we can’t take anything back.

If history could speak to us, it would suggest endless caution.

—T. McKenna


* Some writers make a distinction – that pre-emptive war concerns an immediate threat (like the threat posed to Israel before the 1967 war); while preventive war deals with a remote threat – such as that posed by Iraq in 2003. This article makes no distinction between the two.


Site Note: For those of you who pay attention to the rotating quotes in the banner above, we're adding a wrinkle to it. The quote has no citation: it's up to you to guess who the speaker or writer is/was, and give any other information you might have on the selection. This week's is a doozy, and the answer will appear Friday. Post your guesses into the Comments.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Monday with McKenna: "Stop the Madness"

Related Links for today's Monday with McKenna:

"Cut and Run? You Bet" (Gen. William E. Odom, Foreign Policy Magazine)

"Where Bush's Arrogance Has Taken Us" (Jim Hightower, Alternet)

"7 Realities on the Fallacy of Iraq" (

"Clinton Got a Blowjob" (song by Eric Schwartz)

And now, here's Terry:

I’m getting a bit worried: the mid term elections are coming, and I don’t see the Democrats doing enough to win.

Yes, I know the polls show that if the election were held today, the Dems might win one or even both houses of Congress – but the elections are NOT being held today, so I’m worried that the Republican message (that the Democrats can’t protect us) will win out.

Just look at the slogan “cut and run” – it manages to appear in nearly every interview with a Republican – no matter the question or thrust of the interview. And the Democrats are afraid to say – yes, we want to cut and run! For the alternative is to send more and more young Americans off to slaughter – and for what?

Oddly, this reminds me of 1968. In 1968, most Americans felt that the war was going nowhere and that we were being lied to by our government, yet America elected a paranoid war monger (Nixon) who made the war even worse until he killed enough Asians to declare “peace with honor.”

On the face of it, it should be easy for Democrats to tell Americans that the Iraq war looks like meaningless slaughter – that our continued presence may only make things worse. And George Bush is making it even easier: in a news conference this past week he continued to tell us that if we fail in Iraq, the terrorists will “follow us here.” Clearly nonsense.

But the Republican sound byte machine seems to be working – even in the best of the mainstream press, Democrats are continually asked to defend themselves.

And by the way, I’ll grant that if the US armed forces can make a difference for the safety of Iraqis, then perhaps we should stay – but when Generals Abizaid and Pace appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee on August 3rd, their expressions did not suggest confidence in their mission.

So… Democrats need anti war counter measures.

They should start by attacking not just the Iraq war, but the notion that we can go it alone in the world. Thus they must attack both unilateralism and pre-emptive war. These sounded great in theory – but in practice they just don’t work.

And our refusal to engage both our allies AND our real enemies has set us back, perhaps by a decade. For example, after the fiasco in Lebanon we can see now that it would have been better if we were already speaking to Iran and Syria – but we weren’t; and better had we maintained a close relationship with France (who we desperately need now) but we didn’t – we insulted them.

Then they need to articulate the fact that the world is not ours to solve – not to manage, police or bully.

After that, the Democrats need talking points and a slogan. The specialists can draft talking points, but here’s my suggestion for a slogan:


—T. McKenna

...tomorrow, Terry is back with insights on the fallacy of pre-emptive war.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

DR Exclusive: An Interview with Pluto

We are very honored to have with us today at Daily Rev the planet Pluto. As those of us watching the news are aware, Pluto has apparently been relegated to "dwarf" status, in favor of a larger object known as UB313, or Xena. This news has ice-rocked the world, pushing aside such stories as the wars in Iraq and Lebanon, the genocide in Darfur, Iran's nuclear doings, and JonBenet's alleged killer's choice of in-flight beverage. Pluto, welcome to Daily Revolution.

PLUTO: Thank you, though I have to say I'm here at what you might call a dwarf-blog by default, having been denied an audience with my favorites, Ann Coulter and Matt Drudge.

DR: Well, we're glad you're here anyway. Now, how would you respond to those who prefer to categorize you as a "dwarf planet"?

P: My agent is currently in negotiations with Michael Eisner and Steve Jobs. Since I have been named after a Disney dog, there is momentum behind a movement to make me the eighth dwarf. That would leave 8 planets, 8 dwarves, and 8 directions, as we approach the time of the Apocalypse, whose number is 888.

DR: Excuse me, but I thought that number is 666.

P: Just wait a couple of years, you'll see what the right number is for that. You won't even have time to elect your new Liberal President, John McCain.

DR: Wait a second, McCain's no liberal—maybe you've been in the outer limits of the Solar System a little too long...

P: Just wait...when you, Al "Qaeda" Gore, and all the Hezbollah-loving left-wing maniacs have been ported to Kuiper Belt object UB-404, otherwise known as Planet Gitmo, McCain will be on the far left of the political spectrum.

DR: Could you comment on the remarks made by astronomers who have said that "Pluto is not worth being called a planet"?

P: They are not worth being called astronomers.

DR: But they are, and they say you're too small and slow to merit the designation...

P: I'll still be old, small, and slow when they're all dead, rotted, and forgotten.

DR: But these astronomers are simply trying to establish a standard based on size, so that we can all agree on what a planet is; and you are smaller than Xena, even accounting for the fact that she cut off her right tit to more easily make war...

P: If size is what defined a man, we'd have a lot fewer men and an entire galaxy of six-inches-when-stiff dwarf-pricks. Jeff "8-inch" Gannon would be White House Press Secretary. I'm still over 1,400 miles in diameter, even when I'm not floating my gases.

DR: How are you dealing with all the media attention—being up there on the front page with a dead kid dressed like a prostitute, or Captain Kangaroo dressed like a diplomat?

P: John Bolton and I have a lot in common...we are both icy, distant from the light, and inhospitable to life. Same goes for me and that poor child—we have both distracted your media from every discussion of substance in your pitiful world, we are small, and we are making the fortunes of people we will never know. Incidentally, I agree with your New York Post on this whole issue of the suspected killer: a public execution followed by a fair trial is indeed the correct, furthest-from-the-sun approach.

DR: Why, then, didn't you appear at the astronomer's conference in Prague to state your own case?

P: That would be beneath my dignity as a planet of stature, to beg these lame astro-nerds for recognition. I am not a courtly fool like that asshole, Uranus, allowed to keep my planetary status on the basis of gutter humor. I am not a glitzy showoff with rings like Saturn, or a level orange giant whose substance is made mostly of gas, like Jupiter. I am not a dwarf—I am a free planet! You want gas—here, have a taste of my vapor, it's better than Limbaugh' am I BIG enough for you?

DR: (choking) I think...that's all. Thank, you, Pluto.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Friday Reflection: A Teaching From Maria

Before we go to today's Friday Reflection, I have a little venting to do. It'll be brief, I promise.

When I stopped off at Joe's Deli after work today, the mood was subdued. Joe reported that a 29 year old kid from the neighborhood had been killed last week in Iraq. Got shot by a sniper, a little south of Baghdad. The Army had just sent his body home, and he was to be buried Friday.

Right behind me, the TV was droning away. As Joe told me about the young man, I made out the sound of a CNN Special Report, which went on for as long as I was there—at least 20 minutes.

Was it about the situation in Iraq? About the Lebanese war? Or the genocide in Darfur, the starvation in Niger, or an update on the diplomatic crisis with Iranian nukes?

No. It was about the planet Pluto, and whether or not it rates as a planet. Mind you, this was somewhere between 6:00 and 7:00 PM, prime news time.

Then I came upstairs and switched on the Mac, and saw the headline story on MSNBC. Pluto.

The mass media have lost my last ounce of respect. They are blind, senseless, cloying, superficial, vain, self-promoting, servile dogs. Whatever fetches a buck and a Neilsen rating, while avoiding offense or discomfort at any cost (including, and especially, truth) is worth airing over the events that matter most.

So I do here call on anyone who cares about the Earth and the next generation (and the one after that) to demand that the mass media start showing some vision, some responsibility, some sense of the urgency of the times we are living and dying in. Let these morons know that you're onto their studied ignorance of what matters in this world. Click the graphic above for FAIR's Media Contact Listing page. If you're at all geeky, you can easily make up an email distribution list containing all the worst offenders against truth. Spam the bastards: write them all and blast them through and through.

If you'd like some help in articulating the importance of this moment, you can use the text from my Earth Day post; or you can offer the words of Andrew Harvey, below. If you have kids, do it for them; if you don't, do it for all the innocents who are being murdered, ethnically cleansed, starved, tortured, or oppressed around the world. Pluto, I am sure, can take care of itself.

...a Great Death is unfolding at the same time as a Great Birth; they are emerging simultaneously because they are interdependent. Here are the seven aspects of the Great Death:

1. Population explosion. Demographers believe the current population is expected to triple to 9 billion by 2050—3 billion more people than the planet can support.
2. The growth of fundamentalism. Rather than coming together and relinquishing their claims of exclusivity, the world's religions are retreating into violent separatism.
3. Nuclear proliferation. the unprecedented spread of weapons of mass destruction is a great (and growing) threat to life on the planet.
4. Ecological devastation. One hundred-twenty species disappear into extinction every day, our seas are polluted, the Amazon is on fire, Antarctica is melting, and on.
5. Our technological worldview. we have turned the Earth into a great cement garden. Being disconnected from the natural world impoverishes our spirit and imagination.
6. Corporate media. Instead of being informed about the true dimension of the crisis and our role in it, we are subject to an avalanche of celebrity trivia, half-baked news, "reality shows", pornography, and violence.
7. The "Coca-Coma" puts us in a state of anxiety, depression, and fear, keeping us addicted to our destructive, consumerist way of life. While we chase after what keeps us hectically busy but never fulfills us, we have no time and no peace, the essential ingredients of a spiritual life, and the key to discovering our divine identity.

(from Spirituality and Health Magazine, Sept/Oct, 2006).


Friday Reflection: Maria's Lesson to Us

Perhaps you have been taught, from childhood onward, to get along; to play nice with others; to assimilate yourself to your surroundings and subject yourself to your superiors. Working in corporate America, I see this psychological dynamic at work every day, and feel its pressure within myself as well.

So I have made a point, particularly in light of the dangers that the coming generation will face, to teach my child to disdain hierarchies; to validate her anger so that it doesn't degrade through suppression into a "war-feeling" (rage); and to express herself very clearly and firmly, wherever she feels wronged or unjustly treated. Again, most kids are rigorously taught to "just get along;" but I find that the biggest brats are the ones who have been the most violently subjected to this kind of an imperative. And they tend to grow up to become "diplomats" like John Bolten. Kids that are encouraged to express anger rather than contain it tend to be amazingly civilized and socially adept.

The following was written by my 12 year old daughter in a heated moment, after I had given her some disappointing news. Our planned Labor Day getaway, which would include a visit to The Chatham Fair, along with a couple rounds of golf, would have to be cancelled. I found out I have to work that weekend, to test a big deployment of a major system that management had decided urgently needed to be in production by (get this) 9/11 (believe me, folks, I couldn't make this shit up!). After writing it, she was almost instantly back to her joyful, playful self, assuring me today that we could easily live without going to the Fair, and get our golf in another weekend. I present her work exactly as she wrote it, by herself and on her own computer (and in the color that she chose for this message). It's addressed to my bosses at work.

☹ I am very mad ☹

By subjecting my poppy to working you meen people have made many others give up things just to satisfy yourself the list below is just a couple of thing me and my family have bin made to give up ☹

You have made my poppy give up his hard earnded resting weakends and he has to miss the chatum fair and golfing and seeing his brothers and sister and seeing his friends new house and wife and bringing his cat with him. ☹

You have made my cat night give up getting outdoors and felling fresh air and happiness and finally feeling nice since she just got 8 teeth pulled and you are depriving her of these privligaes. ☹

You have made my mother give up having a nice vacation by heself witch she was saposed to take wile I was with my poppy and you have stoped her from that and you have made her have to bring me☹

You have stoped me from seeing my auntie and my uncles witch I haven’t seen in over a year and ou have stoped me from going to the chatum fair which I haven’t gone to in over 3 years and you have stoped me from going golfing which I haven’t done in 1 year and you have stoped me from having the joy of the outdoors ad bringing my cat with me and I am very disappointed with you and I would go on with things but my hands hurt☹

So I hope that you are satisfied in what you have done you mean people I hope you have to work as long and hard as every one else and I am the the only one who has a family deprived of a nice holide so I hope you are happy ☹

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Been Spun So Long It Looks Like Up To Me

Alterman today, on the similarities and differences between Israel's war and America's:

The same thing happened in Israel as in the US, by the way, which is that the nation’s leaders were faced with a political problem and they used war to try to solve it. The war made everything about the problem far worse.

The rest of it is short but well worth reading (click the link above). The man has a gift for compressing truth without distorting it.

HRW gives the numbers and the uncomfortable details. AI also has a report, with video. To my mind, the time is way past when we could afford to whitewash such atrocities. This is not a Republican or a Democratic problem, because the whitewashing has been done from every point on the linear iron bar of political affiliation. The point now is that it's a critically human problem, and must be addressed forthrightly by real humans. The trouble only comes in finding such animals among the leaders of the so-called civilized world. So we've got to take care of that problem, too, even as we call the predators currently in power to account.

And if you'd like some perspective on the Iraq War, you can't do better than the timeline published by Mother Jones this month. For $10 a year, you can't find a better bargain on quality journalism. Subscribe now. Meanwhile, the timeline I mentioned will be online later this month, and I'll pick it up and present it here. But really, subscribe to this wonderfully written and deeply researched magazine ASAP.

Finally, it's another day to thank god for Jon Stewart. Click the graphic and watch.

And now we bring you a rare mid-week offering from my co-blogger, Mr. Terry McKenna:

Last week the president signed a bill to shore up traditional pensions. Embedded in his comments is a stern a warning to Industry that it must keep its promises to workers; see if you can locate that warning.

THE PRESIDENT: Americans who spend a lifetime working hard should be confident that their pensions will be there when they retire. …

Some businesses are not putting away the cash they need to fund the pensions they promised to their workers. These companies get into financial trouble and go bankrupt, their under funded pension plans can leave some retirees with checks much smaller than the ones they were promised. …

The Pension Protection Act of 2006 will help shore up our pension insurance system in several key ways. It requires companies who under fund their pension plans to pay additional premiums. …

The message from this administration, from those of us up here today, is this: You should keep the promises you make to your workers. If you offer a private pension plan to your employees, you have a duty to set aside enough money now so your workers will get what they've been promised when they retire.

How ironic!

What about social security?

The president should be increasing taxes on large corporations, closing loopholes, demanding full enforcement – and rolling back the estate tax dodge. And only after that, he should propose some prudent changes to social security benefits – for example: 1) apply the social security tax (for the old age and pension benefits) to wages above the current maximum of $94,200; 2) reduce benefits for early retirees; 3) use sound actuarial analysis to determine how much of a benefit reduction is needed to sustain the system through 2046 – including a fair payback for Social Security funds borrowed by the treasury for current expenses.

The president does not want to hold the government to the same standard as he wishes to hold industry.

But no one noticed!

—T. McKenna

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Let's Be Frank (and Geek Wednesday)

Jon Stewart reveals the Iraqi "gratitude bunker" (click the graphic and watch).

Some would say you're a jerk, honey: I lack cable TV, but I get a five minute dose of CNN's early evening fare at the deli next door, where I stop after work. Tonight, that lady anchor at the Lou Dobbs program was introducing the story of the Venezuelan oil deal with China. She gravely announced that "some say this relationship is the same as that between Soviet Russia and Fidel Castro's Cuba."

Now, how could I respond to that politely? And would you believe it, CNN is one of the CATV networks deemed "liberal" by the neocon chorus in the MSM. If you don't believe me, you can check my source: Alterman's book.

What's scary is how quickly the woman swung that remark into our consciousness. I turned around to the other people in the store and asked, "did anyone notice what that woman just said about Chavez?" Nobody had picked it up...consciously, anyway.

This is why, whenever the opportunity arises, I like to try and advocate on behalf of responsible journalists (they're out there, if you look for them). So our new campaign is on behalf of Mr. Thomas Frank, author of What's the Matter With Kansas?, and currently a "guest columnist" at the New York Times.

Well, I've read three of four of his pieces for the NYT, and I'm ready to see him go from guest to permanent. Get rid of Friedman, Brooks, or Tierney—I don't care which. But they need to make this man Frank a regular part of their stable. Check out this quote from a recent column:

K Street’s money keeps wages low and prescription drug costs high; K Street’s “superlawyers” fight to make our retirement insecure; K Street’s deregulation gurus turn our electric utilities into the plaything of Wall Street. What K Street wants from government is often the opposite of what the public wants. And yet what K Street wants, far too frequently it gets — if not by the good offices of Bob Ney, then by the timely disappearance of the now useless Bob Ney.

The title of his column today speaks for itself: G.O.P. Corruption? Bring In the Conservatives. It's about the dangers of voter apathy and citizen despair in the wake of corruption scandals like the Abramoff affair, with compelling historical proof.

So let's start a letter writing campaign to get Mr. Frank an offer from the NYT to become a full-time columnist. Here's the contact info you'll need to write to the Times:

The New York Times
229 W. 43rd St., New York, NY 10036
Phone: 212-556-1234
Fax: 212-556-3690
D.C. Bureau phone: 202-862-0300

Letters to the Editor (for publication):
Write to the news editors:

If you go the email route, here's some sample text that you can copy and paste into your message:

This is a vote to have the Times make Thomas Frank a regular columnist in its op-ed stable. If you'd like to save money, get rid of the icy, snide, and usually wrong Friedman; or that living, writing cure for insomnia, David Brooks; or the ditzy and superficial Tierney (but don't you DARE touch Krugman, Herbert, or Rich). In just four columns, Mr. Frank has shown a clear perception of K Street decrepitude and neocon corruption, all in a context that is fact-based and positive in terms of the takeaway message for the reader. He deserves to be more than a "guest." Hire him now.

Geek Wednesday

Doh! Vista keeps XP's pimples intact: Yes friends, in technology, the only constant is change...except when it comes to bugs, flaws, and security vulnerabilities. For those, you can rely on Microsoft, generation after generation. But you can have Vista at a discount, bugs and all, if you take advantage of their holiday (oops, sorry Mr. O'Reilly—I meant Christmas) offer. As long as you a month or more for them to finish fixing it.

But we do believe in equal time for the bashing of corporate tech giants, even if we happen to be writing on their efficient computers equipped with their outstanding operating system. For not only has Apple discovered some minor problems with overworked employees at its Asian iPod factories, it has also locked out independent labor investigators. So how do we know that Apple's on the up, saying it's found some small trouble and has already fixed it, and no, they don't need anyone else to check it out?

We don't. C'mon Steve, don't act like the Bushies, saying that you're squeaky clean and expecting the press to parrot the claim. Let some people who can really authenticate your ethics do the job. I promise: you do that, and I'll buy another Mac. Deal, Steve?

But just in case you can't or won't deliver, I'm putting Ubuntu back on my Intel machine. And if this Nike/child labor/secretive bullshit keeps up, this Mac is my last; and I won't leave you alone here, either.

And since we're busy mashing Apple, we might as well toss this in, the story of some of Steve's herd who did the unthinkable—got their hands on developer's copies of Leopard and dared to talk about it.

I've worked in corporate America for upwards of 20 years, and I know that this is all run of the mill. When you work for a corporation, you're owned like a cow or a dog. Everything you say, do, and think is watched and recorded. There are no such things as employees anymore (if there ever were); we are all property. It's true where I work; it's true at Apple; and apparently at AOL too. The brand goes on your ass as your nose is pushed to the grindstone.

In fact, the only place where you're allowed to totally screw up and still keep your job is in the government (or the media, provided you pipe the former's tune correctly); and in that case, you've got an unlimited pass. The rest of us live with our daily dose of fear and the occasional pink slip.

But there is, I feel, a way free of it all...get this book and read the third chapter.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

MSM Update: Gossip Central Strains Its Psyche

It's news time, gang. What's big media got for us today?

Well, as of Monday evening, the big story at the Times was the Yankees' sweep of the Red Sox (my city's mercenary millionaires are better than your city's).

In various other outlets, the Ramsey case was still the hot item (shouldn't this be in section C29 or something, between the police blotter and the classifieds?).

CBS was bravely reporting that Bush thinks the Iraq war is a strain on America's psyche (and this guy would know, being a bit of a psycho himself).

USA Today has a poll that claims an upsurge in approval ratings for Bush & Co., over the 40% bar. Heckuva job, Dubya—you might just make it to midfield by the time your term's up.

So once again, the American MSM is being its sweet, superficial self. Let's look across the pond and see what's up at BBC, where a quaint old thing called journalism is still actively practiced (ah, there's Old Europe for you).

As you'd expect, their lead story was the terror indictments in England, along with the Iranian refusal to halt its nuclear programs, the train wrecks in Egypt and Spain, and the rescue of a group of diplomats in Congo (yes, a front page story from Africa, and they followed it up this morning with this). Also on the front page at BBC, I found this (I made up the headline):

Take your rice (not Condi) and shove it: Japan is saying no to America's GM rice, and the EU is mulling a suspension of imports. Try and find this story anywhere in the MSM over here. But the revealing part of this story is to be found in the Bushies' Agri cabinet chief's riposte to the Japanese action:

In a statement, US agriculture secretary Mike Johanns said: "There are no human health, food safety, or environmental concerns associated with this (genetically engineered) rice."

As with all other Bush administration claims, no evidence was offered to support the statement; and as with our government's occupation of foreign lands, no account was taken of one simple fact: they don't want our garbage, no matter how good or benign your Rovespeaker says it is.

Next comes a science story that you would have a tough time finding in our media (let alone finding someone who could explain what it means).

Solid evidence for the existence of dark matter: This is much bigger news than the story reported in the American MSM last week about the naming of planets. What this tells us is that an entity that has long been nothing more than a hypothetical construct used to explain certain features of Einstein's theories of relativity and some aspects of quantum astrophysics may now be considered empirically supported.

But scientists like to establish truth through the testing and expansion process of repetition (this is in contrast to the way repetition is used by politicians and ideologues, as a way of enforcing popular belief in lies). So the findings of the Chandra Observatory scientists will have to be reviewed and reprised by others before it is established that dark matter is indeed a fundamental ingredient of the cosmos.

Scientists can also be very frustrating to gossip hounds such as we have in the American mass political media. How dare they retreat from self-promotion and vain display, these genius geeks? Yet once again (still at BBC), we read that mathematician Grigori Perelma has spurned an important prize for his solution to one of the more vexing technical problems in his field. How this guy dares imagine that he'll ever accomplish anything without being on Good Morning America is totally beyond me.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Monday with McKenna: Lies, Damned Lies, and Spintistics

Yesterday, I turned on the television for a minute, to check on the news. I had forgotten that it was Sunday morning; but within three seconds, I was reminded. An cacophony of noise hit me in the face; five or six people in a studio, yelling all at once so that you couldn't make out a single word.

I don't know which of the Sunday morning pundit shoutfests I had stumbled upon, and I didn't linger to find out. I turned the set off and read Frank Rich's column in the Times. Mr. Rich was describing how the punditocracy was heard declaring, in the wake of the Ned Lamont victory in Connecticut, that the Democratic Party had been overtaken by shrill leftists of the Blogosphere.

I will leave it to the discerning reader to form an independent judgment about the blogosphere in general; but here we offer today's post as an example of what Bill Moyers calls "the conversation of democracy." Today's topic is, once again, the war in Iraq. My partner Terry McKenna (who has also provided today's art) leads off, and I'll offer a response following his presentation.


Time again to look at the war on terror. In the current Atlantic Monthly, James Fallows urges the US to declare victory and then move on to more effective strategies to prevent future attacks.

In a similar vein, in this week’s New Yorker, Hendrik Hertzberg wrote the following:

But the war in Iraq is wholly irrelevant to the means chosen by the London terrorists, and the means that thwarted them—dogged police work, lawful surveillance, international cooperation—are precisely those which have been gratuitously starved or stymied on account of the material, political, and human resources that have been, and continue to be, wasted in Iraq.

Even that relentless war hawk, Tom Friedman (NY Times) has thrown in the towel. In his August 4 column he wrote:

It is now obvious that we are not midwifing democracy in Iraq. We are baby-sitting a civil war...The longer we maintain a unilateral failing strategy in Iraq, the harder it will be to build such a coalition, and the stronger the enemies of freedom will become.

So when will George Bush come to the conclusion that every day we fight in Iraq, we make it harder and harder to do the necessary job of lessening the threat of terrorism?

Sadly, it doesn’t look like he’s ready for change. In an address last week to the State Department (quoted on the White House’s website ) the president pronounced the usual litany of freedom, democracy and terrorism:

...we've launched a forward strategy of freedom in the broader Middle East. And that strategy has helped bring hope to millions and fostered the birth of young democracies from Baghdad to Beirut. Forces of terror see the changes that are taking place in their midst. … (They) are striking back with all of the destructive power that they can muster. It's no coincidence that two nations that are building free societies in the heart of the Middle East, Lebanon and Iraq, are also the scenes of the most violent terrorist activity.

Pure spin. Whatever is going in the Lebanon now is regional. Yes, Hezbollah has strong alliances with Iran and Syria, and yes, they attacked the US marines (in Lebanon in 1982). Yes, they also were responsible for the hijacking of flight 847 in 1985 – but this was a classic hijacking made to secure a prisoner release. Hezbollah remains an organization of Lebanese Shiites dedicated to purpose of pushing back against Israel – and (in their dreams) destroying it*. However appalling, it’s a conflict between two parties, neither of them the US. The mess in Iraq is another regional matter. We went in, destroyed their existing order, and now we watch helplessly as various actors attempt to gain power. Neither Lebanon nor Iraq directly impact our internal security; they don’t even relate much to each other.

The consensus (discussed by Mr. Fallows) is that the effective portions of the “war on terror” have been completed. Our attacks on Al-Qaeda training bases ended their program of paramilitary training. Aggressive worldwide surveillance makes it nearly impossible for leaders to communicate – they are essentially on the run and hiding. And restrictions on moving money through normal channels have limited Al-Qaeda’s ability to fund terrorist activity.

What next?

I’ll leave it to all of you to read the Atlantic Monthly article. Instead of repeating his message, let me start with a little history lesson by referring to what is known as “The Great Game.” Starting in the early 19th century, Great Britain and Russia used spies, alliances and overt military action in a futile attempt to contain each other’s power in Central Asia. The end result was a stalemate, and a colonial legacy that is strongly felt to this day.

After WW2, a form of the great game resumed with the US taking over for Great Britain – and the USSR replacing Russia. A half century of international meddling resulted in another stalemate, but with the game now over, the residue is not pretty. In Asia**, we have nations like Iran that are yet to recover from our influence (Syria and Egypt are equally flawed creations of Soviet-inspired socialism – now mixed with crony capitalism). Africa is at best a mess, many nations are ruled by strong men dictators, many others are failed states mired in the violence of civil war (the warring parties often leftovers from militias originally armed by either the USSR or the US). In Latin America, some level of prosperity is finally coming, but as in Africa, armed militias, drug armies and corrupt governments remain.

So, what to do?

The consensus is that we need to regain the moral high ground. That events like the war in Iraq (and the recent eruption in Lebanon) remind the so called “Arab street” why they hate the west, and reinvigorate Al-Qaeda, a movement that is otherwise becoming more and more irrelevant.

Last lesson, again re. the cold war. Over the years, I have met a number of Poles who fled their homes during communism. They were much less ideological than left-leaning Americans who, even as late as the early 1980’s, viewed the Eastern block with dreamy idealism. What I remember most was that the Poles wanted access to goods like ice cream, stereos and phonograph records (this was pre-CD). Maybe if we lower the tension in the Middle East (and this could take years) we’ll get to a point where we discover the Arab equivalent of ice cream and stereos – then we can try to help them produce it.

—T. McKenna


As usual, my Republican blogging partner and I agree far more than otherwise. However, I would take issue with the Fallows recommendation that the American government simply declare victory and remove the troops. Obviously, I'm all for bringing the troops home—the sooner the better. It's the "declare victory" part that I can't stomach.

No matter the situation—whether it's a football game, a political contest, or a global war—you cannot be disingenuous about the outcome, especially if you have lost. This entire Bush administration has been defined by its recurrent compulsion to paper over the most grievous and destructive errors, and call them victories. Most recently, Joe Lieberman has shown us the result of a failure to admit defeat: he is creating polarization in a state where the great majority are Democrats, and an even greater majority oppose this war in Iraq. In other words, he is stirring up the flames of division in the very place where there should be none.

If we are, as a people, going to continue to swallow the lies and misrepresentations of reality fed to us by the Bush/Lierberman faction, then we will be led inevitably to see these tragic mistakes of tyranny repeated by future governments. We are far past the point of being able to afford such folly on the part of our leaders.

Tens of thousands of innocents have been murdered; 2,600 of our nation's young people have been returned to us in boxes, while another 19,000 suffer from the most hideous of physical and psychological traumas. We owe all these dead and wounded nothing less than the most clarion honesty we can muster. We must, as a people, be unflinchingly clear—both for the sake of the victims of our government's atrocities, and for the benefit of future generations. Our government and its policies have failed us; our media have failed us in their lapdog regurgitation of the talking points of tyrants; our elected officials have failed us in their sucking at the tit of K Street while a nation trapped in a war based on lies desperately needed their attention and leadership. The Iraq war was and is, by any objective measure, a complete and abysmal failure. This is the recognition we owe those who have died and been ruined by this failure of leadership. We owe them our candor and our resolution that this river of blood in our nation's psyche be enduringly cleansed.

The question arises, why would we resist such honesty, when the facts so clearly support it? Well, pride is part, though not all, of the answer to that. I have already written about the personal and social costs of pride (and its alternatives), so I will not go there again, except to submit that this is not a time to worry about the inury that may be done to anyone's self-image, whether he be President, Defense Secretary, or honored media pundit. In fact, the more damage we do to such images, the better off we'll all be, and the greater will be the chances for growth and healing in the next generation.

What I do want to address is the perception that the kind of candor that I am recommending will deliver the imputation that "our troops have died in vain." This is a familiar right-wing argument to support the continuation of this massive failure in Iraq, and it is also used as a quick-and-dirty silencer for any and all dissent.

Let me suggest that to ask whether our troops have died in vain is to pose an incomplete question. I think a more appropriate question would be, "did they live in vain?" The overwhelming answer to that question is a resounding NO. If you would like proof of that, go to Crawford and talk to Cindy Sheehan or any of the parents gathered there. The essential part of finding truth is knowing where to find it; and I can think of no better source for truth in this context than these grieving parents. They will not merely tell you the truth; they will show it to you.

So we owe it to them, as well, that we be forthright and rigorously honest about the failure of our government's miserable expedition of tyranny in Iraq. Until we make honesty the cornerstone of our policy, we will witness continued failures, and a seemingly unending stream of the tears of mourning. But as soon as we drop pride—both as individuals and as a nation—and as soon as we demand candor of our leaders, we will have done the greatest honor to the sacrifice that the dead and wounded from this war have made; for we will have ensured that from their blood has arisen the firm resolution of a free people for a regenerative and transformative future, defined and led by clarity.



*Re. Hezbollah: their stated aim of destroying Israel is purportedly non-genocidal. Their stated wish is for Jews to be allowed to live in a Muslim Palestine as a protected minority.

**Radical Islam got a push during the war between the Mujahidin and the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. We armed and trained the Mujahidin, and helped the Saudis create the network of Madrassas that eventually led to the creation of Al-Qaeda and the blowback of September 11.


Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Beyond
by Pankaj Mishra

Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game And the Race for Empire in Central Asia
by Karl Ernest Meyer, Shareen Blair Brysac, Shareen Blair Brysac

Read this article to remind yourself how the US, in its last act of the cold war, armed and trained the Mujahidin (including securing Saudi funding for the Madrassas in Pakistan that radicalized its young men).

Last: this brief note highlighting Haroun Fazul

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Evidence for the Insanity Defense

Click the graphic, watch the video—it's only 24 seconds long, but will tell you more than you might learn from a 300 page book or a year's worth of blogs. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the leader of the free world, sunk to such a depth of psychosis as would warrant an immediate committment order from the most "liberal" of psychiatrists. Technical terms for what we are seeing demonstrated here include word salad, derealization, perseveration, and flight of ideas. They are all found in persons afflicted with any of a range of psychotic diseases.

We now have a medical as well as a whole array of legal reasons to demand that this President be impeached, and that he and his cronies be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. They can always plead innocent-by-reason-of-insanity. And I wouldn't argue with that defense, as long as it puts them where they belong—out of Washington and into a competent psychiatric facility.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Friday Reflection: Stilling Impulse

This week, we've spent time examining the work of Eric Alterman. What Dr. A. is to political media, Thomas Moore is to western psycho-spirituality.

Moore has been a notable influence, for me and lots of other folks. His bestselling Care of the Soul series of books did more than any other art produced in the past generation to awaken Americans to the so-called New Age spirituality (I prefer the term "quantum sense"), and its healing potential. His last book, Dark Nights of the Soul, was written in the wake of 9/11 and has plenty of Moore's signature common-sense, lucid wisdom about it.

He now does a monthly column for Spirituality and Health Magazine, and it's worth the price of a subscription all by itself. I'll have more about the mag in a future post, but for today, here's an excerpt from Moore's essay for the September issue; it speaks to much of what we've written about here over the recent weeks of global war.

The ancient Greeks honored a god, an archetypal force, if you will, that they called Ares. The Romans used the more familiar name Mars. In their psalm of praise to this deep necessity they begged the "restrain that shrill voice in my heart that provokes me to enter the chilling din of battle." They called on the god of warfare to still the urge to fight.

There is a mysterious and perverse tendency in human beings to be gross and literal in responding to any impulse. You need substance in your life, so you pile up possessions. You want to absorb the life around you, so you eat too much. You need some Dionysian joy, and you drink too much alcohol.

It's the same with violence and warfare. We have many subtle adversaries to deal with in the course of our lives: ignorance, prejudice, jealousy, ambition, arrogance. To come out of these battles with our souls intact takes courage, boldness, perseverance, and skill—the virtues of Mars... confused about where the real battle takes place and what it means to win and lose. America has fought too many wars and still believes that the killing of children and their mothers and brothers is justified and even virtuous when there is an enemy to annihilate....

We think that it is weakness to avoid the actuality of bloodshed, that patriotism means having a human enemy other than ourselves. Currently, America seems to be picking fights, wanting blood, finding glory in having an enemy with a foreign face. But all of this literalism, this acting-out of what should be spiritual struggle over narcissistic passions, shows how far we have to go before we truly discover the meaning of spirituality...

Are we going to indulge our biases and the innocence we believe we have earned by our victimization? Or can we see past these blind emotions to a wiser course? Can we refine our thick prejudices and discover the art of war that applies to our souls?

This is not the time to be weak and pacifist. But a gun or a bomb is always a fetish, a substitute for spiritual force, a sign of our weakness. This is the time to be strong in spirit and refuse to be enticed into literal battles in which the loser wins and the winner loses. It's time to be visionary, thoughtful, and truly virtuous.

To preview and purchase any of Thomas Moore's outstanding work, look here. If you're in upstate New York this weekend, you can see Moore at The Omega Institute.


And if you're here in NYC this weekend, how about a trip to the Met to see the Susan Sontag exhibit?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Alterman, Part Three, and Some Other Book

In a healthy nation with an informed electorate and a truly representative political system, a fellow like our author of the week, Eric Alterman, could find himself in Congress or standing behind the podium now occupied by Tony Snow of FOX News.

What, you think I'm nuts? I think he'd make a terrific press secretary, because he's a teacher of journalism: he'd challenge these dweebs in the White House press corps exactly as Stephen Colbert challenged them—with irony, sagacity, and wit. Here's a sampling of the latter, from What Liberal Media:

Part of the credit for Bush's low expectations belonged to Ronald Reagan, the topic of many a dewey-eyed tribute during the Republican primary season...The rose-colored nostalgia for a president who could not recognize his own son at his high school graduation set a bar for Bush that would have been difficult for him to miss if he had been genuinely retarded. Bush could not help but perform up to this minimum level of competence. (p. 155).

Now if that doesn't make you want to run out and buy this book, I don't know what will.

But the best thing about Alterman as a press secretary would be how he could teach the drones how to ask real questions again, and not loosen their teeth around the pant leg of Power until they had answers that were substantive and meaningful. In the "W's World" chapter, Alterman lists a bunch of questions that he wanted answers to (that we all want answers to still), which he publicly asked Dubya in September, 2002, in a column he wrote for The Nation. These are just a few of them:

• Why did the Bush national security team ignore the Al Qaeda briefing it received from President Clinton's national security adviser, Sandy Berger, in the fall of 2000?
• Why did the president ignore the August 2001 intelligence briefing warning him of the likelihood of an Al Qaeda hijacking?...
• Why didn't the National Security Agency have foreign language expertise to translate the words "Tomorrow is zero hour," spoken by Al Qaeda operatives and picked up in real time on September 10, 2001?
• Speaking of Ground Zero, does anyone know if it's safe to breathe the air down there?
• How did Bush decide on war with Iraq without consulting the uniformed military, the intelligence agencies, the United Nations, NATO...? (pp. 216-217).

Imagine if we had people in that room asking questions like that? Imagine if 8-inch Gannon was out in the margins where he belongs—on a geocities website made in Netscape Composer 4—and Helen Thomas was in the front of the room again, in the company of colleagues eager to "afflict the comfortable," as the saying goes, with razor-edge questions? For that to happen, we need someone like an Eric Alterman in that position that has been held with such an abhorrent weakness by the likes of Ari, Scotty, and Tony. Keep this in mind as you're reviewing your choices for 2008.


From bestseller to worstseller:

My latest book, Life Lessons in a Time of War has an amazon ranking of "none." That means, zero copies sold. Does it deserve that ranking? Well...we excerpt, you decide:

We live in a world where fools are adored, and arrogance rewarded. We live in a time when real work is paid with scorn, as if it were a disgrace, and when the sham of busyness is given credit, and often stock options. Ours has become a nation so obsessed with image that the once living substance inside has rotted into a stinking lump of darkness.

Every morning, on the subway, I see people reading God, in black or tawny red books with gilt lettering on their dark covers. I wonder, "is god there—in those books?" Surely it is there, somewhere, though not in the language.

I look for god in the same places where the great scientists have, though without even a shadow of their insight and ability. I look between the lines, in the atoms comprising those pages, in the quantum space that patiently carries the images. But god can't control whether those images are the pictures of a delusion. Only you can.

Is God in His heaven, talking over a golden phone to a squint-eyed, vapid white man in Washington or Crawford who can't string two sentences of decent English together at a time? Is He magically engorging the cranial vasculature of an old white minister of state in Israel, as punishment for having divided a desert filled with bullets and fables? Is He silently plotting the murder of a socialist leader in South America, for the greater glory of Himself and His appointed television spokesmen? Is He intelligently designing a world where cruise missiles decapitate children, and white phosphorous melts the skin of widows?

The real god that you breathe in and exhale in every moment, that dances through your bloodstream and even your bowels—this god is in your flesh—you are it and it is you. This god is the subatomic ocean that sparkles in the lips of lovers or the eyes of children. It is always at rest, and never stops moving; and will never be trapped in the slimey snares of fundamentalism. So let the dead rot—fundamentalism is shit for the compost heap.

Have you ever wondered why tyrants are never assassinated? How can you kill what is already dead? Every tyrant kills the god within himself, until only a shell, an empty image, remains. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and all their ilk, are hollow husks whose rot will feed the tree of history, and thereby nourish the next generation, and fertilize the coming transformation.


Erratum: Someone—maybe Professor Alterman himself—was good enough to remind me that in yesterday's post, I misidentified the home of Alterman's "Think Again" column. It is, of course, published at the Center for American Progress; though Dr. A. also publishes a regular column on the media at The Nation.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Alterman Redux (and Geek Wednesday)

Now that I've done my level best to present a reasonably objective review of Alterman's What Liberal Media, I'd like to share some impressions I've collected on his work, in the context of what's going on right now in the world at large, through its reflection in the American mass media.

Alterman is, in essence, a Socratean gadfly on his profession. This is one reason why he's so often misrepresented, defamed, or ignored by his colleagues. On occasion, like any human being, he allows this treatment to incite a combative reaction; something he gracefully admits to in WLM. In the chapter titled "W's World," Alterman presents a graphic cross-section of the American media under the flagrantly patriotic mania that followed the tragedies of 9/11/01. He tells the story of how the nationalistic furor was carried so far within the media that they began to retrospectively trash Clinton, as if that would further prove their allegiance to America and its reigning neocon administration. As it is today, truth did not matter anywhere near as much as the slavish allegiance. Alterman traces one particular lie about a Ken Lay sleepover at the Clinton White House from the Drudge Report through the American mass media and then into newspapers and other media all around the world. He concludes:

Ken Lay never did sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom while Bill Clinton was president...All any reporter had to go on was the Drudge Report, whose unreliability had at that point been well established. And yet this trashing of the previous Democratic president was somehow carried out by the "liberal media" that was allegedly trying to subvert the nation on behalf of its own left-wing agenda. I have to admit that at times, it is enough to drive a genuine liberal to distraction. (p. 212).

It's a great piece of writing, both for its candor and its prosody (one thing that Alterman does not get enough credit for is the quality of his prose, which is crafted to a precision that is rarely encountered in any literature, let alone political lit). This is a professional journalist writing, and so his anger is, to my mind, not only tolerable, but encouraging. Let me explain this point a little.

I have written elsewhere that anger spoken clearly and articulately will never degenerate into warlike rage (this, by the way, is one area where I respectfully part company with the Buddhists and other prominent "New Age" teachers). WLM is a tome written in anger, and I offer that observation as the utmost compliment. What Alterman exposes, time and again, is not simply a conservative bias in the media, but again, a flagrant departure from the ethics of his profession, journalism. The discourse in the modern American media has degraded to something this side of, or even lower than, The National Enquirer. Alterman presents quote after quote, example after painful example, of this trend in the media—most notably in his history of the 2000 election, where he shows how the media's coverage of that contest eventually degenerated into a massive daily gossip column written by writers as diverse as Tucker Carlson and Maureen Dowd. To this end, Alterman cites a Princeton study of media reporting on the election,

...which examined the content and quality of 430 stories from major news publications, programs, and Web sites during the 2000 election campaign...[It] found that few of the 430..."explored the candidates' past records in office with more than a passing reference." Ditto the coverage of the October debates..; 70 percent of stories...focused on either the candidates' television performances or their strategies...coverage was cast not in the context of the issues themselves, but strictly in terms of how they "played" as political theater. (p. 154).

As Alterman concludes, "this issueless coverage coincided perfectly with the strategy of the Bush campaign." The problem with such a Weekly World News approach to journalism is that it becomes habitual. Need proof? Look over the MSM's coverage of the events of the past week: the inattention paid to the numerous historical contradictions of Rumsfeld's claims about his previous statements on Iraq; the admission in the New York Times that the NSA warrantless wiretapping story could have been published the year before the NYT editors finally squeezed it out (in other words, they repressed it under duress from the Bushies); the CNN anchorman who imputed that Ned Lamont is "the al Qaeda candidate"; or the FOX News recommendation that airports have "Muslim-only lines" (go right on through, Mr. McVeigh, we've got to unwrap some turbans).

As Professor Alterman says, "if indeed a liberal media conspiracy exists in the culture, it is playing one very strange game."


Geek Wednesday

Goodness Gracious, Great Balls a'Fire: We Mac-o-philes have an expression: "buy a Dell, you go to Hell." But we never meant it to be taken literally.

Now, to be fair, there have been numerous problems with Apple's portables overheating (a Powerbook owner friend of mine claims he can iron his pants with his), and the Li-ion barbecue remains a problem without a solution. Indeed, Peter Pollack indicates that there may be a systemic issue with Li-ion batts that will necessitate a global change in laptop tech. Meanwhile, unless you'd like to press your shirts while checking your email, I'd suggest keeping your plastic in your wallet or making your next PC splurge on a small, elegant desktop machine that know, fans.

And speaking of irrational tech obsessions, has anyone else seen the commercial for the new Nokia phone? "It's a reflection of you...what you think, what you feel, who you are..."


Sometimes I feel the same way about tech gear and its advertising as Alterman feels about the political media.

Gandhi's Reminder

Yesterday was India's Independence Day. I celebrated by taking my cat to the vet. It was Gandhi, I believe, who said you can judge the quality of a nation by how it treats its animals.

This is not an idle observation; in fact, it contains a depth of understanding that few in our culture might appreciate. Gandhi was saying that a healthy society treats all life, including human life, according to natural standards of dignity and respect. When those standards are violated in our treatment of animals (or, for that matter, children, women, minorities); then those principles will also inevitably be vitiated in our treatment of humans as well, usually starting with the children.

In other words, you can't have it one way or the other, as many would like to have you believe. You can't just say we must "love our own kind" to the exclusion of others who might happen to have two extra legs or a tail.

Respect for life encompasses all life; it honors Nature without discrimination. If you don't have animals in your life already, simply make a point of silently or outwardly showing respect and love toward the critters you encounter in your daily life. You'll be amazed at how easily you can live without the artificial boundaries of prejudice against another manifestation of being.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Exposing the Information Low-way: A Review of Eric Alterman's What Liberal Media?

Prefatory Note: Normally, the closest approach I ever have to a conflict-of-interest moment is the familiar impulse to go to the bar instead of sitting here to write each night for a blog that gets barely 5,000 visitors in a good month. But as I prepare to set before you this review of Eric Alterman's amazingly lucid book, What Liberal Media: The Truth About Bias and the News, I realize that two facts must be brought to the impartial reader's attention. I have admired the work of the author I am about to review for some time; and he has also been kind enough to publish a few of my notes to the "Correspondence Corner" of his weblog, Altercation at (each time, with a link here to Daily Rev). It is, at the very worst, a borderline conflict-of-interest situation (I haven't gotten a dime out of it, mind you), but it deserves to be noted before we begin.


"One of the country's most significant problems is the stupidity of our political discourse." That's Eric Alterman writing yesterday in his MSNBC weblog, Altercation (see link above). If you imagine that a review of a four-year old book might not be very topical to what's happening in today's world, well, as Professor Alterman might ask you to do in his column in The Nation, think again.

Witness, for example, this complaint penned by Arianna Huffington over at her blog on Monday:

I mean, you had your own headline anchorman, Chuck Roberts, describe Lamont as the al Qaeda candidate. This is an equally deceitful, fraudulent, fabricated statement. There should be zero tolerance for all those deceits, whether in images or words.

Ms. Huffington was pointing out to CNN that one of their anchormen parroted an insidious implication from Dick Cheney, conflating the anti-war sentiments of Lamont voters in Connecticut with an endorsement of terrorists, yet without naming Cheney or any other source. But as Alterman reveals to us in some 300 pages of text and over 40 pages of footnotes, this is the way the American mass media have become accustomed to operate. This is the main premise of What Liberal Media. If this book had merely been written to demonstrate that there is no such thing as a dominant liberal current in the mainstream media, then the book would amount to nothing more than an argument for a tautology, and it would deserve to be quickly forgotten.

But that is not what this book is about. Not at all. Maybe it starts from that point, but by the end of the Introduction (or certainly the first chapter), we are in different and much deeper waters entirely. For Alterman is able to convincingly demonstrate that the American media are not merely a-liberal, not merely contra-liberal, but contra-journalistic. Alterman shows, in often chillingly disturbing detail, that the American media have, by and large, forgotten how to do their job. In fact, he shows that they have forgotten what their job is in the first place.

So before we get into the guts of this controversial book (which before a rational audience arouses no controversy whatsoever), let's start off with some calm, straightforward facts about What Liberal Media? (hereafter WLM), which no person of reason or sanity could remotely dispute:

• The book is detailed, admirably organized, and true to its purpose, which is to dispel firmly assumptions about the health and character of our so-called free press.
• The book is deeply researched and fact-checked to a degree of near flawlessness; it contains over 40 pages of footnotes.
• The book is written by a professional journalist and academic who has a depth of experience and knowledge of his field that should inspire at least a grudging respect, no matter your taste for his political frame of reference. In other words, he cannot be written off blithely as an outsider or a hack.
• The book is, at a minimum, adroitly written; its arguments balanced and well presented; its conclusions supported by data and evidence.

Now that's as much as any conservative book critic (if you'll pardon the expression) would allow. Now, let's dig up the real goods on WLM. We can begin with an overview, to which we'll add some details as the week progresses. The reasons for this approach are simple: (a) it's an important book which deserves this level of scrutiny (as opposed to, say, your average Ann Coulter best-selling rant); and (b) as we demonstrated above, a casual dip into the daily news reveals that Alterman's book is speaking to this very moment in time (if you have any further doubts about that, just check the Media Matters news feed in my sidebar at right).

1. Introduction: Bias, Slander, and Bullshit William Kristol, Ann Coulter, and Bernard Goldberg (respectively) are pushed under the microscope by way of orientation to the approach and methodology to be followed in this book.
2. You're Only As Liberal As the Man Who Owns You This chapter introduces a theme of journalism driven and distorted by commercial interests, which is to be more fully explored in Chapter 8.
3. The Punditocracy One (or, as I would call it, "What Liberal TV?"). This chapter examines TV pundit shows, starting out with the one deemed to be the most "liberal" of them all, This Week with George Stephanopoulos. If you'd like to see how topical Alterman's discussion here is, just check out the story from this weekend's interview of Homeland Sec dick Mike Chertoff, by two of these "liberal" pundits, Stephanopoulos and David Gregory, and how a lot of dirt over the timing of the recent British terror arrests had been swept under the carpet.
4. The Punditocracy Two (or, "What Liberal Print Media?"). A detailed review of the work of the "dean of American journalism," Mr. Centrist himself, David Broder of the Washington Post; followed by a laparascopic analysis of the decline of The New Republic. Once again, the point is not simply to disprove the presence of a liberal strain in the mass media, but to illustrate that the tilt is quite in the opposite direction, even among those labeled (or self-styled) as "centrists."
5. The Punditocracy Three (or, "What Liberal Radio / What Liberal Internet?"). The best and most thorough undressing of Rush Limbaugh (pardon the scary metaphor) that I've ever read; followed up by a fascinating history of the Drudge Report.
6. The Punditocracy Four (or, "What Liberal Thinktanks?"). This may be the most instructive chapter in the book, because it goes into a realm that, for most of us, is thoroughly unfamiliar. Where do those opinions, stats, talking points, and wonkish analyses come from? Alterman carves the path from Brookings to AEI for us, revealing a predominant right-wing stream of "expertise" that has arisen from the essentially objective historical roots of thinktankism. This chapter also contains a detailed exposure of the fraud typified in Herrnstein and Murray's racist and anti-scientific tome, The Bell Curve—in fact, the best I've read since Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man, which, by the way, is the finest book I've read on science and its enemies.
7. What Social Bias? Distortion, careless reporting, and fact-free journalism are found to abound even amid such "liberal" stalwarts as The New York Times and The Washington Post—this time, with the focus on issues of race, gender, and social violence.
8. What Economic Bias? The globalization issue is brought forward as yet another example of single-minded slavishness amid those same "liberal" media stalwarts. Then comes an eerie section featuring quotes from a panoply of media economic experts, all of whom joined an adoring chorus before the altar of Enron—before the walls came tumbling down, of course.
9. The Clinton Administration How getting your dick sucked becomes an impeachable offense, both to Congress and especially the mass media.
10. The 2000 Election Painful to review again, but necessary. Alterman presents data and facts amid a novel-esque series of blunders, schemes, and coincidences that led to the rise of a tyrannical and illegitimate regime in America. A compelling read, and along with the following chapter, worth the price of the book all by itself.
11. Florida The media's complicity in the Bush subterfuge that culminated in the stealing of power is detailed here, as a continuation of the agonizing story laid out in the previous chapter. Though even Alterman can't resist jabbing at Nader for the 2000 result (he did it again today, by the way), the real criminal in the skullduggery in the Sunshine State was the mass media, in its every popular portal. This is illustrated with detailed references, facts, and quotes.
12. W's World The symbiosis that developed between the White House and the media, particularly in the wake of 9/11, is dissected in all its uncomfortable detail.
13. The (Really) Conservative Media Finally, the truth about the dominance of neocon ideology in the press, television, radio, and the Internet, is laid bare, with the help of some disturbing economic statistics about the corporate stranglehold on the press.
14. Conclusion: An Honorable Profession A very ironic title for the closing chapter of a book that has completed the case for the opposite conclusion. But this little chapter is more a call to action than an affirmation of any honor adhering to modern journalism.
Afterword: "Operation Iraqi Freedom" An clear-sighted essay on the difficulties of war journalism, the distortions built into the culture of embeddedment, and the commercial compulsions that often override journalistic ethics, under the worst possible times and circumstances.

Over the course of the rest of this week, we'll spend more time with Alterman's book and his truly scientific perspective on the MSM. I am hoping that by the weekend we may have some ideas on what we as individuals can do to correct the wrongs that Alterman reveals, and that you'd have bought a copy of this invaluable treatise of citizenship by then.