Lao Tzu

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Technical Glitches and Other Realities of Everyday Life

I refer to my last post, that of this morning, the one that asks why my post was blocked as "inappropriate" at the Thom Hartmann web site.  As it turns out, it wasn't a glitch.  It wasn't censorship, either.  It was the word pornographic. They've decided, because the word contains the modifier, porn, it will not be allowed—somebody might be trying to post a link to a pornography site.  So now, with my edit that has the word as xxography, my post was allowed.  Huh?  Brilliant, guys.

Well, I'm glad it wasn't a technical glitch.  I've had enough of those lately.  For example, one day last week I got in my car, put on my seat belt, turned on the engine, locked myself in and started to back down the driveway, when holy-hell of hells, a clattering arose like I've never in my life ever heard before, and it wasn't raindeer on my roof, though it could have been.  Immediately my mind went to the fascist who lives next door—what the hell did he put in my gas tank?  The guy is just the type, with his American Flag and the cigarette butts he and his biker friend toss all over my driveway... 

So, my embarrassment —no, grudging paranoia— in tow, I drove clattering away down to Pep Boys.  It didn't take the mechanic long to figure it out—the door lock on the driver's side is corroded, or something, but somehow that affects each and every lock on each and every door (4), which means that unless the lock device is in exactly the middle position, the damn thing goes bonkers, like a hail of gravel on my roof.  The mechanic showed me how to make it stop and didn't suggest a repair; so, fine with me—I'll just drive around unlocked.  At least it will be quiet.

Not so fast.  On Friday I went over to the Vons Shopping center to drop of my Netflix mailer.  I parked. I got out of the car without my purse —it was only a drop off, for heaven's sake— and, not thinking, locked the car with my remote key thingy.  All well and good.  Problem was, when I returned and tried to open the car door with my remote key thingy, as is my habit, the door wouldn't open!  The lock wouldn't respond!  There I was in my habituated mind-set at a loss as to what to do—no money, no purse, oh no!  So I'm standing there looking like a complete dunderhead, after trying this and that, popping the trunk (the seats were locked in position there too), when a man who was parked behind me sitting in his driver's seat, and who apparently had been watching my entire, idiot performance, calmly rolled down his window and said, "You might just try your key in the lock..." 

Duh. Of course, that was the correct answer, and so I was able to open the car door and drive off to visit at my son's place, but only after sheepishly thanking the nice man for his gallant rescue.

Not so fast. After arriving safe, sound and quiet at my son's place, I made the same bloody mistake—locked the car with the damn key thingy. But this time the thing started clattering again.  But wait!  I knew what to do, right?—open the door with my key! 

Not so fast. That was when the key wouldn't go in, and that was when the alarm honk kicked in.  Great. There I was standing in my son's Rancho Penasquitos, quiet, well manicured neighborhood with a honking car —the loudest honk you've ever heard.  Well, I don't know what I did, but, after many a panicked attempt, it finally stopped.  As I gathered up my stuff and my withering self-esteem, I walked down the sidewalk toward my son's house—just as one of his neighbors was backing out her driveway, giving me a look, like, "Go away, insane woman with your late-model heap..."

My temperamental car lock, where the mechanism has to be in just the right spot,  reminds me of one of Stephanie Miller's favorite mini-jokes: What is sex like with an optometrist?  "Is that better now, or worse now; better now, or worse now..."


"Inappropriate" at Thom Hartmann's Web Site—Was it a mere glitch or censorship?

 This morning I went to my Lady Gaga post at Thom Hartmann's web site to post a comment in response to recent comments there from Natural Lefty, Dhavid, and Nimblecivet.  I don't know if the web site was going crazy, or what, but it would not allow my comment. I tried three times, to no avail. Can anybody tell me what is "inappropriate" about my comment, below?

What Dhavid says about Grace Slick — “her plain and simple attire has no particular meaning. An anti-gaga. Any time, any age authenticity and genuineness can find expression” — complements Nimblecivet’s “genuine feminism (liberation of women) rests upon dismantling heirarchical ('masculine') culture, and the attendant implications relevant to fostering a more healthy, life-affirming attitude.”   Whew. Such simpatico sounds!  I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming...  men who actually love women!  And all this while I’d slipped on Dhavid’s banana peel and was ker-plopped, for having thought I’d asked questions, but had not, apparently, asked anything that might deserve a response, especially since I am female... (wink-wink  - - I know, one can’t be expected to answer everything)  but I digress...

For fleeting moment I wondered if Nimblecivet might be pulling a hoax like the one my son told me about last night— “Sokal's hoax.”  Perhaps you know of it?  If not, this physics professor at New York University, Alan Sokal, submitted an article to an academic journal as an experiment to see “if such a journal would ‘publish an article.... liberally salted with... nonsense if it (a) sounded good and (b) flattered the editors' ideological preconceptions.’”  The article was entitled, Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity, and they did publish it, nonsense and all.

Then too, for yet another instant, I suspected you might be Natural Lefty’s alter persona, given the mudskipper in your pic. Ah well, my head was messed, but only fleetingly. And I must always remind myself—who the hell knows who we’re talking to online? One never knows.

NL, Lady Caca! I did laugh. Very good. My 4 1/2 year-old grandson would like that too. His favorite word, still, is poo-poo, so “Lady Caca” would delight him as well. Poo-poo has been his favorite word since age 2, so I don’t know if he is progressing normally or not. It’s poo-poo butt, poo-poo head, poo-poo spinach...  ad infinitum.

As for Jewel, I used to be attached to her album Pieces of You back during a time when I was infatuated with infatuation, you might say (we used to call it being in love with love, but that wasn’t it). Her song, Who Will Save Your Soul, if I remember correctly, was quite a conscious song. Is she still writing those, or has she caved by now?  As it is, truth be told, I tend to prefer the folksy set, such as Patty Griffin, Eliza Gilkyson, (Her “Man of God,” about Bush is great!), Lucinda Williams, Mary Gauthier, etc. Anyway, I posted a link to a current female Brit writing and performing conscious rock—guess you didn’t notice?

It is a good thing to remember what a healthy, ethical, non-industrial, non-commodity, authentic  female rock artist looks like.  And I do not think comparing Lady Gaga and Grace Slick makes a moralistic distinction, as in the whore-madonna thingy, which is of the patriarchal mind-set. If that were the case, we’d be comparing Lady Gaga and the Lennon Sisters. Instead, it’s very much a conversation we can have as progressives, where it is possible to consider just how willing we are to ignore a corporate industry’s degradation, exploitation, humiliation, and trashing of female artists, that is, women, for the sake of profit. It is important to notice, at least, that it is happening, increasingly, and to be reminded of what wholesome used to look like, wholesome in the sense of having integrity and being whole, that is, not being split off from oneself. I wouldn’t pretend to know all the reasons for the corruption, but I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to assume that the increasing prevalence, increasing intensification and widespread influence of misogynography (my word for misogynistic pornography) in the culture has spread to the music industry. It’s a continuum, from one to the other and back again. I’m hoping it’s merely part of the last gasp of capitalist patriarchy, which has just about gone as far as it can without our noticing how ugly we have become.

I see the pro-pornography, pro-commercial rock set among “liberals” as being of a libertarian mind set. They see such as “free-speech,” “free market” issues, regardless of the “unfortunate” sexism. Then there are those who are against such for moralistic reasons; they are the right-wingers. What is often ignored is that there’s another approach, which we appear to have here—the progressive approach to the subject. This is a mind that supports fairness, equality, and justice, while it abhors exploitation, human degradation, cruelty and profit-making at the expense of human dignity and health.

What the pro-pornography men don’t realize is that misogyny is equally damaging to men. A whole, wide world of human experience and pleasure could be had, but they’re stuck in a narrow realm of macho bravado and self-denial, imagining themselves to be free. Also, that notion, where the hyper-sexualization and degradation of women is offered up as women’s “sexual liberation,” if only women would agree, needs to be debunked and revealed for what it is— a false promise, a seduction of men against their own best interest. Their masculinity doesn’t require it; only an industry bent on exploiting their fears requires it.

—end of comment

So, what was so "inappropriate?"

Thursday, February 17, 2011

LADY GAGA: Our Unwitting Zeitgeist Incarnate

by Zenzoë

To her fans, Lady Gaga is the rocker supreme, a performance artist, philosopher, fashion genius, smart marketer, a spectacle of sexual liberation and human triumph over the odds. She is the ultimate “material girl,” with no apologies. To celebrate her is to celebrate fame as the highest of high values we hold so dear...but wait—what does Lady Gaga herself have to say?

Lady Gaga:  "Live your eyeliner, breathe your lipstick, and kill for each other.”

“This is the Manifesto of Little Monster: There is something heroic about the way my fans operate their cameras. So precisely, so intricately and so proudly. Like Kings writing the history of their people, is their prolific nature that both creates and procures what will later be perceived as the kingdom. So the real truth about Lady Gaga fans, my little monsters, lies in this sentiment: They are the Kings. They are the Queens. They write the history of the kingdom and I am something of a devoted Jester. It is in the theory of perception that we have established our bond, or the lie I should say, for which we kill. We are nothing without our image. Without our projection. Without the spiritual hologram of who we perceive ourselves to be or rather to become, in the future.”

Huh?  Am I missing something, or are these pronouncements as breathtakingly, mindlessly incoherent to you as they are to me?  “It is in the theory of perception that we have established our bond, or the lie I should say, for which we kill.”  What is this— regardless of the admitted lie, the bond between Gaga and her fans, it must be defended with violence: “...for which we kill?”  Excuse me, but is this philosophy?  Seems more like insanity to me, or maybe just sheer blathering.

One thing we know—fame, celebrity, stardom, power, to be worshiped by a faceless multitude as addicted to fame and celebrity as she is—these are her ultimate values.

“...The fame fame
I can see myself in the movies with my
picture in the city lights
Photograph my mind and whatever else you'd
like to shoot you decide
All we care about is, pornographic girls on film
and body plastic
Give me something, I wanna see television and
hot blonds in odd positions

Doin' it for the

Until this post, if you were to google “is fame a healthy value,” nothing would have come up. This is America, after all, where fame  is IT, everything. Who would question such a value?

We also know Gaga was always a talented singer and musician, starting from the age of four. Once into her teens, she knew what she wanted from life. But it wasn’t until she completely changed her image, her brand, from an obscure, dark-haired, Italian-American girl with a big, Roman nose, to a blatant, damaged-blond, trashed-babe with a more petite, ethno-neutral, American nose, wearing any silly, grotesque, crapped up, slutish thing S&M enough to capture the celebrity-intoxicated soul of America—it wasn’t until then that she made it big.

That’s when she became a commodity, a marketable object, a “smart marketer.”

So what?  What’s a gifted girl rocker to do, if she wants to get noticed?  Well, maybe it’s more than just smart marketing; maybe something hidden informs such marketing decisions: Underneath the pseudo female-liberation, “hot babe” images of popular culture, lies the sad, sexist truth— female degradation and self-humiliation is the highest standard by which the misogynistic culture, a profit-oriented culture, judges female rockers.  Thus, in the male-dominated music industry she was going to have to conform—she had to adapt her image to the overall zeitgeist, which just happens to be sexist and hostile to true female liberation, female empowerment, female dignity and respect.  It wasn’t that Lady Gaga’s passion for fame was a triumph inspired by her having been a misfit in her teens, as the lie she tells her fans goes (her parents were wealthy; she was popular); it’s that she, as herself, was a misfit in the industry.  That meant, given her lust for fame, she had do anything and everything to fit in, even if it meant killing her original self.  She is not the misfit, making the abnormal normal, identifying with all outsider teens and their angst; she was, and is, the ultimate insider, now Queen of Conformity, Queen of Kitsch.

“She’s a really great manipulator,” said a close former friend. “It’s a long process to become a rock star, and she’s willing to crush anyone in her path to do it. She has zero ethics whatsoever. None.”

To her “Monsters,” however, Lady Gaga is salvation, solace, and friend to the friendless. She is worshipped. What she tells her fans speaks to an intimate connection, compassion and love: “When you are lonely, I will be lonely too...” That she manipulates her fans in this way is not manipulation at all; it is pure sincerity. She plays her fans like fools, and it doesn’t matter. If “we are nothing without our image,” then we are something with it.  The delusions of connection, love, greatness, power, soulful intimacy, all become better than everyday, ordinary reality, where we must be content with our real selves and our simple, ordinary lives.

Lady Gaga’s fans have been suckered into her realm, by the magic and spectacle of celebrity, where just wishing makes their bond with her a reality. "I used to walk down the street like I was a fucking star... I want people to walk around delusional about how great they can be - and then to fight so hard for it every day that the lie becomes the truth."

Chris Hedges, Death of the Liberal Class: “The belief that we can make things happen through positive thoughts, by visualizing, by wanting them, by tapping into our inner strength, or by understanding that we are truly exceptional, is peddled to us by all aspects of the culture, from Oprah to the Christian Right. It is magical thinking...This magical thinking, this idea that human and personal progress is somehow inevitable, leads to political passivity.  It permits societies to transfer their emotional allegiance to the absurd—whether embodied in professional sports or in celebrity culture—and ignore real problems. It exacerbates despair. It keeps us in a state of mass-self-delusion. Once we are drawn into this form of magical thinking, the purpose, structure and goals of the corporate state are not questioned. To question, to engage in criticism of the corporate collective, is to be seen as obstructive and negative. ...This magical thinking,...holds out the promise of an impossible, unachievable happiness. It has turned whole nations, such as the United States, into self-consuming machines of death.”

Is it an accident Gaga’s performances have a tinge of violence about them?  I don’t think so. After all, she was born of a militant, death culture. And the misogynistic violence of violent pornography is not a problem for her either, apparently; it’s a mandate: “All we care about is, pornographic girls on film and body plastic; Give me something, I wanna see television and hot blondes in odd positions”  This is what passes for “liberation.”

She is a “performance artist,” though, isn’t she?  I say, No.  She may be a performer, but she is no artist, except in the narrow meaning of the corporate music industry.  A true artist is an iconoclast, not the icon itself needing to be destroyed.  An artist goes ahead and draws a mustache on the Mona Lisa, as the French painter Marcel Duchamp did.  Lady Gaga only copies, by inference and eager intentionality, a culture twisted by greed, violence, lust for fame, profit, competition, destruction, death, and the degradation of woman. She does not draw a mustache on the face of her culture, she celebrates it. What she performs is kitsch, not art, satisfying the wildest dreams of a culture that wants women humiliated and aching for attention from a world that hates them. Oddly, therefore, she is a better Zeitgeist incarnate than even Andy Warhol was; she is the embodiment of everything shallow, calculating, bent on a ruthless success and war against sanity that is this culture—except she doesn’t get it. She doesn’t care. After all, she is busy changing “the world, one sequin at a time.”

Chris Hedges: "He [Michael Jackson] became a commodity, a product, one to be sold, used and manipulated... He was infected by the moral nihilism and personal disintegration that is at the core of our corporate culture. He was a reflection of us in the extreme.

The cult of self, which Jackson embodied, dominates our culture...This cult has within it the classic traits of psychopaths; superficial charm, grandiosity and self-importance; a need for constant stimulation, a penchant for lying, deception, and manipulation, and the incapacity for remorse or guilt."

I don’t despise Lady Gaga—Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta—the person. Of course, I don’t like that she wants to role-model to young girls, that her “personal style is a commentary on what it means to be a lady,” that being a “lady” means humiliating oneself; that she and others to follow her may brainwash generations of young girls to delude themselves, to value fame above all; but, it is possible she is not as powerful as she thinks. What I despise is the zeitgeist itself, how everything real, everything honest, tender, gentle, peaceful, sane, wise and non-exploitive is turned on its head and rendered powerless in our culture. What I despise is what we’ve become, this sick, pathetic thing that Gaga unwittingly reflects back so accurately to us.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sanford Russell

Ups and Downs...

I’m no technical climber but I do enjoy a mountain hike now and then. My ascents have always been relatively mild and safe, never anything technical.
When I was very young, idling with nothing better to do than wait around for a boat to Germany, some of us killed time fooling around with pole climbing. Our "instructor" was a daredevil bike rider and fearless mountaineer who had not too long before broken his leg in three places from a fall of only six feet (when his spikes pulled out of a rotten pole). The lesson I took from that story is that going up isn't the problem, it's getting down safely that's the challenge.
I've known two people who froze going up a slope. You may know Kissing Camels, the gorgeous red sandstone formation in Colorado Spring’s Garden of the Gods. Nowadays you can't go up without ropes (and a permit) but the first few years that I was there climbing was unrestricted. Kent, Lloyd, Nikki and I thought to spend an afternoon going up, which was OK until Lloyd or someone thought it would be fun to take along a young lady flatlander. She got as far as the chimney and refused - couldn't - go up or down. I was already down with Nikki before I learned that the others had to bring her down bodily.
Another time in Boulder some roommates agreed to take a totally inexperienced Harvard grad on a technical climb up the Flatirons (tall and steep, humungous uplifted rock formations) using ropes and pitons. Now, I'm told that the Flatirons isn't exactly an easy climb even for the experienced. The poor fellow froze midway and had to be brought down. Nobody wanted to talk much about it afterwards but I doubt that it was a very easy descent.
Thunderstorms on a mountain aren't trivial, in my opinion. Once while coming down Long's Peak a fierce thunderstorm broke over us that several times sent Elmo's fire along our backpacks. Beautiful it was but one experience of that sort does it for me. Some of the "kids" I knew in Boulder, Colorado, used to wait for thunderstorms, rush up the mountain and wave metal poles and rods around hoping they'd light up. That wasn't my idea of fun, although I'm sure it was exciting.
In spite of what I’ve just said I still enjoy going up and down, for me it’s all the fun. I’ve never lingered on top. You can't truly see a mountain from on top - they're lots prettier from a distance. Now, if you want to see valleys and gentle slopes that’s a different story.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mubarak's Egypt Had Nothing on Us

During the afternoon of the day Mubarak stepped down, I was driving to an appointment and listening to NPR, an interview of a supposed expert on Egypt.  Just that morning, I had watched Al Jazeera English and Democracy Now!’s coverage of the celebrations in Tahrir Square and the various interviews they had on the same subject, where I learned from Lisa Hajjar, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, on Democracy Now!, that Omar Suleiman was/is “...the CIA’s Man in Cairo and Egypt’s Torturer-in-Chief,” that he had, in fact, tortured a person himself.

Imagine my disgust, therefore, when, listening to NPR that afternoon, I was told Suleiman was not the bad guy his “critics” said he was. Instead, it went something like this, from another NPR story:

“Suleiman brings to these discussions a long history of involvement in delicate Middle East negotiations. He has been Mubarak's principal representative in discussions with the Israelis and the Palestinians, and he has mediated between the rival Fatah and Hamas factions of the Palestinian leadership. He also has close contacts with Saudi and Iraqi leaders, and he has met often with top U.S. military and political officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Army Gen. David Petraeus, formerly the head of the U.S. military's Central Command.

"Omar Suleiman is careful, calculating, shrewd, obviously extremely intelligent," said David Mack, who served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs in the administration of George H.W. Bush. "That comes across when you speak to him."

Suleiman's leadership in crafting a way out of Egypt's dangerous political stalemate is characteristic of his experience, Cohen says.

"He's a strategic thinker," he said. "He is trying to design a strategy that would allow the changes in Egypt to take place peacefully without further bloodshed and would not split the army and the people. They know that if there is a split between the army and the people that would damage the whole structure of the legitimacy of the Egyptian state." 

Notice the difference? Nothing about torture. This is what is known as lies by omission, and that is NPR’s journalistic ethic these days—no ethical or moral compunction to tell the whole truth at all. Don’t expect the truth about Egypt’s “Torturer in Chief;” you’re going to be protected from all those pesky little details.

This is, in part, an aspect of what Chris Hedges is talking about, when he refers to the “death of the liberal class.” This is why ordinary Democrats, those who only read the New York Times, or listen to “liberal” NPR —mainstream media— will never rise up in anger against the status quo as did the Egyptians—because the status quo looks so rosy to them, compliments of a mainstream media that is designed to keep them ignorant of reality. Try to tell them about Dish Network’s Free Speech TV, or Link TV, or Democracy Now!, and you’ll get, “Well, those are biased,” as if lies by omission are not reflective of bias.

Really, oppressions against the people by clumsy dictatorships, such as that of Mubarak’s Egypt, can’t compare for effectiveness to America’s more advanced, sophisticated means of oppression. Keep the people fat and happy, and you can do anything you like.

This is the reason it will be a long, long wait, before Americans will rise up in a passionate defense of democratic freedoms—they’ve got their perky local TV personalities, their Oprah, their magical, optimistic will power, and no news station will ever disabuse them of their delusions of living in a democracy. Even conservative "news" stations such as Fox will fail to criticize, for example, the Obama Administration for torturing detainees. But even they, as much as they wish to destroy Obama, must be silent on torture.  Call him a "socialist," but torture?  Sh-h-h-h...


Friday, February 11, 2011

Egypt: A Moment of Supreme Joy

Let's hope this joy lasts. In the meantime, I weep for happiness for the Egyptian people.


The Empire's Bagman
 by Vijay Prashad

From inside the bowels of Washington's power elite, Frank Wisner emerges, briefcase in hand. He has met the President, but he is not his envoy. He represents the United States, but is not the Ambassador. What is in his briefcase is his experience: it includes his long career as bagman of Empire, and as bucket-boy for Capital. Pulling himself away from the Georgetown cocktail parties and the Langley Power-point briefings, Wisner finds his way to the Heliopolis cocktail parties and to the hushed conferences in Kasr al-Ittihadiya. Mubarak (age 82) greets Wisner (age 72), as these elders confer on the way forward for a country whose majority is under thirty.

Obama came to Cairo in 2009, and said, "America does not presume to know what is best for everyone." Those words should have been cast in gold and placed in the portico of the White House. Instead, they drift like wisps in the wind, occasionally cited for propaganda purposes, but in a time of crisis, hidden behind the clouds of imperial interests (or those of Tel Aviv). America presumes to know, and presumes to have a say equivalent to those of the millions who have thronged Egypt's squares, streets and television sets (one forgets about the protests of the latter, too tired to get to the square, nursing sick children or adults, a bit fearful, but no less given over to anger at the regime).

The Republicans have their own ghouls, people like James Baker, who are plucked out for tasks that require the greatest delicacy. They are like diplomatic hit-men, who are not sown up by too much belief in the values of democracy and freedom, but to the imperatives of "stability" and Empire. The Democratic bench is lighter now, as the immense bulk of Richard Holbrooke has departed for other diplomatic assignments. He had been given charge of Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he found little traction. The Taliban could not be cowered, and nor would the Pakistani military. Holbrooke had much easier times in the Balkans, where, according to
Diana Johnstone, he instigated the conflict by refusing the road of peace. Wisner comes out of the same nest as Holbrooke. He is the Democrat's version of James Baker, but without the pretend gravity of the Texan.

Wisner has a long lineage in the CIA family. His father, Frank Sr., helped overthrow Arbenz of Guatemala (1954) and Mossadeq of Iran (1953), before he was undone in mysterious circumstances in 1965. Frank Jr. is well known around Langley, with a career in the Defense and State Departments along with ambassadorial service in Egypt, the Philippines, and then India. In each of these places Wisner insinuated himself into the social and military branches of the power elite. He became their spokesperson. Wisner and Mubarak became close friends when he was in country (1986-1991), and many credit this friendship (and military aid) with Egypt's support of the US in the 1991 Gulf War. Not once did the US provide a criticism of Egypt's human rights record. As Human Rights Watch put it, the George H. W. Bush regime "refrained from any public expression of concern about human rights violations in Egypt." Instead, military aid increased, and the torture system continued. The moral turpitude (bad guys, aka the Muslim Brotherhood and democracy advocates need to be tortured) and the torture apparatus set up the system for the regime followed by Bush's son, George W. after 911, with the extraordinary rendition programs to these very Egyptian prisons. Wisner might be considered the architect of the framework for this policy.

Wisner remained loyal to Mubarak. In 2005, he celebrated the Egyptian (s)election (Mubarak "won" with 88.6% of the vote). It was a "historic day" he said, and went further, "There were no instances of repression; there wasn't heavy police presence on the streets. The atmosphere was not one of police intimidation." This is quite the opposite of what came out from election observers, human rights organizations and bloggers such as Karee Suleiman and Hossam el-Hamalawy. The Democratic and Republican ghouls came together in the James Baker Institute's working group on the Middle East. Wisner joined the Baker Institute's head Edward Djerejian and others to produce a report in 2003 that offers us a tasty statement, "Achieving security and stability in the Middle East will be made more difficult by the fact that short-term necessities will seem to contradict long-term goals." If the long-term goal is Democracy, then that is all very well because it has to be sacrificed to the short-term, namely support for the kind of Pharonic State embodied by Mubarak. Nothing more is on offer. No wonder that a "Washington Middle East hand" told The Cable, "[Wisner's] the exact wrong person to send. He is an apologist for Mubarak." But this is a wrong view. Wisner is just the exact person to send to protect the short-term, and so only-term, interests of Washington. The long-term has been set aside.

I first wrote about Wisner in 1997 when he joined the board of directors of Enron Corporation. Where Wisner had been, to Manila and New Delhi, Enron followed. As one of his staffers said, "if anybody asked the CIA to help promote US business in India, it was probably Frank." Without the CIA and the muscle of the US government, it is unlikely that the Subic Bay power station deal or the Dabhol deal would have gone to Enron. Here Wisner followed James Baker, who was hired by Enron to help it gain access to the Shuaiba power plant in Kuwait. Nor is he different from Holbrooke, who was in the upper circle of Credit Suisse First Boston, Lehman Brothers, Perseus and the American International Group. They used the full power of the US state to push the private interests of their firms, and then made money for themselves. This is the close nexus of Capital and Empire, and Wisner is the hinge between them.

One wonders at the tenor of the official cables coming from Cairo to Washington. Ambassador Margaret Scobey, a career official, has been once more sidelined. The first time was over rendition. She is known to have opposed the tenor of it, and had spoken on behalf of Ayman Nour and others. This time Obama did an end run around her, sending Wisner. Scobey went to visit El-Baradei. Similar treatment was meted out to Ambassador Anne Patterson in Islamabad. Her brief was narrowed by Holbrooke's appointment. What must these women in senior places think, that when a crisis erupts, they are set-aside for the men of Washington?

Wisner urged Mubarak to concede. It is not enough. More is being asked for. Today, Mubarak's supporters have come out with bats in hand, ready for a fight. This has probably also been sanctioned in that private meeting. It is what one expects of Empire's bagman.

Vijay Prashad is the George and Martha Kellner Chair of South Asian History and Director of International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, CT His most recent book, The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World, won the Muzaffar Ahmad Book Prize for 2009. The Swedish and French editions are just out.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Breaking News: 9-11 Truth Revealed

Wink-Wink News Service

Wikileaks recording exposes Bush-Cheney lie in 9-11 cover-up

LONDON: Calling it a case of “capital murder,” the WikiLeaks web site today released a secret taped conversation between George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney, exposing Bush Administration complicity in the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

In damning contrast to the official 9-11 Commission Report, the recordings are the first hard evidence of the truth about 9-11.

Nearly three weeks after 9-11, in barely audible tones during the previously undisclosed conversations between Bush and Cheney, the two agreed, "we have a lot of stuff to manage here..." But Bush appeared to have trouble taking the matter seriously when he joked that "...heh, heh, heh, like I’m goin’ to walk out on the White House lawn and make an announcement that we did it and haw haw haw—gotcha!” 

Cheney didn’t seem amused and responded, “Listen, George, even if you did, nobody would believe it. The point is we’re going to have to keep this thing under wraps, regardless, and I mean it. No joking around, okay?”

Bush then got serious.  "Hey man, who can prove any different?"  Their opponents, he said, those in the administration who could not be trusted with the truth "could never argue that, you know, we killed all those people just so we could bomb Iraq and remove Saddam...we could throw cold water on the idea, no problem. I mean, like I’ve said, the bigger the crime, the easier it is to put water on it.  All I’d have to say is, ‘The same folks that are bombing innocent people in Iraq were the ones who attacked us in America on September the 11th,’" and they’ll figure I’m just being loopy, as usual, and...”

Cheney finished the sentence for him: " ...a complete moron. Right."

"Sure, Dickey Boy, whatever you say...just remind me not to mention my brother Marvin, or his company, or how they was handling the security at the World Trade Center. That might raise a few prickerly questions, eh? Heh, heh."

Cheney told Bush he would gather everyone involved, "get our story straight, pull out what we want, and get rid of the rest of it." The discussion was elliptical, but they appeared inclined to preserve, in Cheney’s words, "the national security" in terms of “essential fluids” and the “bodily integrity of the U.S.” toward a “future of economic and energy supremacy.”

Bush complained, "That’s all very well and good, but y’know, I’m the one who has to do interviews with bitches like Katie Couric. So now I’m gonna have to tell her that one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror.  We’ve put me in an awful position, big time.  Hell, I’ve got a recurable nightmare already, where Helen Thomas is in my face with her eyes a-bulge, asking me ‘where’s your conscience, Georgie-boy?’  And I’m wakin’ up in a sweat, sobbin’, ‘Get off me, Helen, you’re killin’ me—stop, stop, stop—this is torture!...and Laura is lookin’ at me like, ‘who’s Helen,’ and I say, ‘I'm the commander -- see, I don't need to explain anything,’ because I’m still not quite awake. I’m tellin’ you, it’s terrorizing my life, Dick, what we’ve done. I think I might have that PDSD, y’know— ‘Post Dramatic Stress Disorder’ thingy.”

President Obama today dismissed the issue, first accusing the website of threatening America's national security with the revelations, then saying, with an indulgent smile, “Clearly, this conspiracy theory refuses to die; even so, as I continue to remind the American people, we must not become mired in the past—looking forward, not back, is our best policy.”

CIA Director Leon Panetta said the agency's Office of Security will "fully investigate" and “most likely prosecute those involved in WikiLeaks’ revelations.”  "In some cases, CIA sources and methods have been compromised, harming our mission...I mean..." he said, catching himself, “...this leak is a violation of the secrecy powers of the United States government and poses a threat to national security.”

Swedish prosecutors said the country would now issue an international warrant for the arrest of Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, on multiple charges of serial murder and torture of babies and little dogs.

<wink wink by Zenzoë>

Friday, February 4, 2011

Civility or Civil-Speak and the Downside of Kumbaya

The first several definitions of the word civil in my Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary refer to the more public connotations of the word: “1. of, pertaining to, or consisting of citizens...civil liberty,” and so forth. It isn’t until the 7th definition that we come to the word’s more private connotation: “7. adhering to norms of polite, social intercourse; not deficient in common courtesy.”

In a live forum discussion, Rabbi Harold Kushner made light of circumcision by saying, “The only long-term effect that it seems to have on people is to increase their chances of winning a Nobel prize.” The comment elicited laughter from the audience, but Christopher Hitchens (may he be well, and I forgive him his Iraq opinion), unamused, responded with, “I can’t find the compulsory mutilation of the genitals of children a subject for humor in that way, or flippancy in that way...”

He continued: “...That a person as humane as yourself can sit here and think of that as a fit subject for humor shows what I mean—religion makes normally moral people say and do disgusting and wicked things, and you just proved my point. Shame on you for saying what you’ve just said! Shame on you...My god!

This typifies “Hitch’s” habit of telling his truth to anybody who happens to be sitting next to him and spouting idiocy, a truth he offers as directly as he pleases, according to the passion of his beautiful intellect. (which failed him on Iraq, I’m sorry to say.) Those on the pitiable receiving end of such are now known to have been “Hitch-slapped,” a fate I’m glad I will never meet, since I am highly unlikely to ever find myself in a debate with the man. Regardless, one question for me today is whether we should conclude, given his “rude” response to the Rabbi, Hitch is not a “civil” person? When we witness a Hitch-slap, are we witnessing incivility, or, in the sense of the first meanings of the word civil, are we witnessing a person exercising his public rights of speech, that is to say, civil-speak?

I believe he engages in civil-speak, and I also believe his ability to say it freely contributes to the healthy, democratic spirit of our society, to say nothing of our endless amusement. We desperately need those refreshing moments provided by indomitable citizens willing to tell it exactly how it is, in exactly a succinct, bare and articulate manner.

I ask you—is it correct to say that polite discourse, civility, is in the better interest of the character of our public sphere than is civil-speak? Of course, no one can argue that it is not in the best interest of individuals within the private spheres of family, work, or neighborhoods, to exercise civility. We do, and we must. Can’t we, though, argue for civil-speak within the public sphere? What kind of namby-pamby, colorless, boring and, yes, oppressed public realm would we see, were we forced to temper all our opinions so as to avoid offending thin-skinned sensibilities, especially of those who wish to protect their chosen politician from insults, that is, criticism, like petty dictators do?

Every time there’s a horrific event, the culture seems to find a convenient scapegoat, one useful as a means toward avoidance of looking at root causes. Thus, for example, when a Loughner attempts to assassinate a U.S. Representative, the righties focus on the “lone, crazed assassin” explanation, while the lefties focus on “incivility”— “it’s all that hate speech spouted by Glen Beck and the like.” The right refuses to look at gun control regulation; the left bemoans the absence of kumbaya and fails to mention joblessness, lack of a mental health safety net, poverty, the ridiculous cost of higher education, the pressures of a cold, competitive society with a rapidly diminishing middle class. Soon, not only is hate speech condemned, but any animated, colorful, direct and truthful verbal discourse is discouraged as being contrary to the value of civility. Ultimately, it is not only civil liberty that has to go, though—the language itself must degenerate toward the bland: “Don’t be negative—look forward, not backward; if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” and the Christopher Hitchens of the world are despised for not making feel-good with the language. 1984 is long past. Welcome to 2011—our happy-dappy days are here again.