Monday, December 31, 2007
“If they come, we are ready. We will fight them on the streets, from the rooftops, from house to house. We will never surrender”
Saddam Hussein, August 2002.
The quote above is taken from a speech made to the Iraqi people before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and just under a year before Saddam left “his people” and was discovered in a ditch.
People today tend to know very little about Saddam Hussein as a man and know him only as “the undisputed master of Iraq”, a vicious and heartless dictator.
The man who was going to be one of the most powerful Arab leaders of modern times came from an impoverished village on the banks of the Tigris River on the outskirts of Tikrit. Saddam Hussein was born to a town Whore (and Clairvoyant) Subha Tulfa, and his father Hussein Al-Majid whose fate remains unknown, and has been described in many references as “just one of Saddam’s mothers Clients”.He was orphaned before he reached his teen years and was sent to live with relatives. Saddam lived in a village known as “Al- Ouja” which directly translates as “the turning” and was simply a collection of mud huts on the banks where Tigris River made a sharp turning. The people there lived in conditions of abject poverty. The relatives Saddam was sent to live with was his Uncles family (Subha’s brother).
Khairallah Tulfa, Saddams uncle, was an Arab Nationalist and was the closest thing Saddam had to a father. He was an unapologetic supporter of Adolf Hitler and Nazi ethos. Khairallah raised Saddam with a deep hatred for the Iraqi royal family, all of the foreign bankers (the British) and strict “xenophobic” ideals. Saddam in later life described his uncle to many in an idealistic “Hero” image. One doesn’t need a profound knowledge of Psychology to know the effects of such an upbringing on a child. Like Hitler and Stalin, the two tyrants of the 20th century, both of whom overcame their less than auspicious upbringings to take absolute control of their respective nations, Saddam was to rise above the disadvantages of his childhood and become “the Undisputed leader of Iraq”.
As with any other dictator, Saddam had a fearless appearance and cast a nature fear amongst his people. I have never supported Saddam Hussein, and by starting my editorial with information on his childhood I don’t aim to justify his actions nor defend them. I like plenty of other Iraqi’s lived to see the reality of a totalitarian dictatorial ruling, and will never support such a thing. However, plenty of people have asked me the same question over and over again, that being:
“Regardless of the legality of the invasion of Iraq by America, would you prefer Iraq under an Evil Saddam or Iraq as it is today?”
My answer is always the same: Iraq under Saddam.
I find the question itself to be a very foolish question actually. No person in their right mind would choose a dictator over freedom, however at the same time no person would choose instability over stability.
When Saddam ruled, it might have been a dictatorship and he may have carried out atrocities, but the overall status in the country was a secure status.
I don’t choose a dictator, but I choose that status of the country under the dictator, as opposed to the status of the country today under the alleged democratic ruling.
Under Saddam’s ruling order was kept, and you could walk in the streets of Iraq and feel safe. Today you can’t walk the streets of Iraq and feel safe, today there is no such thing as “safety” in Iraq. Today rebels rule the streets of Iraq and religion has been taken to unseen levels.
Boys have been brainwashed by foolish uneducated old men who have extremist views of religion, and these boys go on to be the suicide bombers killing plenty of innocents in the name of a God. The country has become divided by religious sects, creating a weak unstable society with no promise for a united and stable future.
None living in a “civilised” country can contemplate the status of Iraq, but I assure you it is no where near as good as the state as it was before the 2003 invasion, and definitely not better than it was then.
What exists in Iraq today is far from the intended democracy, and the people that were meant to be “liberated” are far from that. People seem to forget that a Democracy is formed “by the people” and that any form of a revolution has to be carried out by the people themselves and not by external interference.
On the day that Saddam was captured, when I and my family were made aware of the circumstances of the capture and where he was found, the happiness that was immediately felt amongst us all, as I can imagine was felt amongst the majority of Iraqi’s was indescribable.
To see a man who once ruled with such confidence, who was the cause of everyone’s fear, pulled out of a ditch like the rat he is, is something no Iraqi could have contemplated during his leadership. The transformation of his appearance was shocking, a man who once looked in perfect health and strength, looked no better than a street tramp.
On the day of his execution, the final words that were spoken between Saddam and his executioners are said to be:
[Saddam] God is Great. Palestine is Arab
[Voices] May God's blessings be upon Muhammad and his household.
[Voices] And may God hasten their appearance and curse their enemies.
[Voices] Muqtada [Al-Sadr]...Muqtada...Muqtada.
[Saddam] Muqtuda? (laughs) Are you men? Is this the bravery of Arabs?
[Voice] Long live Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr.
[Voice] To hell.
[Saddam] The hell that is Iraq?
[Voice] You have destroyed us, killed all of us, our nation is ruined.
[Saddam] I helped you survive. Iraq is nothing without me!
[Voice] Please do not. The man is being executed. Please no, I beg you to stop.
[Saddam] There is no God but Allah and I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God. There is no God but Allah and I testify that Muhammad...
Much as Saddam was evil and much as he was a fool, his final words are only words of truth. The leaders of Iraq are far from men and what has become of the Arabs who started civilization, is atrocious. What remains of Iraq is in effect hell.
So I write this editorial today 1 year after the execution of the man who treated Iraqi’s much like Hitler treated the Jews, who was the cause millions of deaths, who was backed by America and rose with their support, and who was later brought to his fall by America.
I write it not in his memory, but in the memory of a country that was and a country that will never again be.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Left Turn Issue #18
Title: “Cementing Israeli Apartheid: The Role of World Bank”
Author: Jamal Juma’
Al-Jazeerah, March 9, 2005
Title: “US Free Trade Agreements Split Arab Opinion”
Author: Linda Heard
Community Evaluator: April Hurley, MD
Student Researchers: Bailey Malone and Lisa Dobias
Despite the 2004 International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision that called for tearing down the Wall and compensating affected communities, construction of the Wall has accelerated. The route of the barrier runs deep into Palestinian territory, aiding the annexation of Israeli settlements and the breaking of Palestinian territorial continuity. The World Bank’s vision of “economic development,” however, evades any discussion of the Wall’s illegality.
The World Bank has meanwhile outlined the framework for a Palestinian Middle East Free Trade Area (MEFTA) policy in their most recent report on Palestine published in December of 2004, “Stagnation or Revival: Israeli Disengagement and Palestinian Economic Prospects.”
Central to World Bank proposals are the construction of massive industrial zones to be financed by the World Bank and other donors and controlled by the Israeli Occupation. Built on Palestinian land around the Wall, these industrial zones are envisaged as forming the basis of export-orientated economic development. Palestinians imprisoned by the Wall and dispossessed of land can be put to work for low wages.
The post-Wall MEFTA vision includes complete control over Palestinian movement. The report proposes high-tech military gates and checkpoints along the Wall, through which Palestinians and exports can be conveniently transported and controlled. A supplemental “transfer system” of walled roads and tunnels will allow Palestinian workers to be funneled to their jobs, while being simultaneously denied access to their land. Sweatshops will be one of very few possibilities of earning a living for Palestinians confined to disparate ghettos throughout the West Bank. The World Bank states:
“In an improved operating environment, Palestinian entrepreneurs and foreign investors will look for well-serviced industrial land and supporting infrastructure. They will also seek a regulatory regime with a minimum of ‘red tape’ and with clear procedures for conducting business. Industrial Estates (IEs), particularly those on the border between Palestinian and Israeli territory, can fulfill this need and thereby play an important role in supporting export based growth.”
Jamal Juma’ notes that the “red tape” which the World Bank refers to can be presumed to mean trade unions, a minimum wage, good working conditions, environmental protection, and other workers’ rights that will be more flexible than the ones in the “developed” world. The World Bank explicitly states that current wages of Palestinians are too high for the region and “compromise the international competitiveness” even though wages are only a quarter of the average in Israel. Juma’ warns that on top of a military occupation and forced expulsion, Palestinians are to be subjects of an economic colonialism.
These industrial zones will clearly benefit Israel abroad where goods “Made in Palestine” have more favorable trade conditions in international markets. IPS reporter Emad Mekay, in February 2005, revealed the World Bank’s plan to partially fund Palestinian MEFTA infrastructure with loans to Palestine. Israel is not eligible for World Bank lending because of its high per capita income, but Palestine is. Mekay quotes Terry Walz of the Washington-based Council for the National Interest, a group that monitors U.S. and international policy towards Israel and the Palestinians: “I must admit that making the Palestinians pay for the modernization of these checkpoints is an embarrassment, since they had nothing to do with the erection of the separation wall to begin with and in fact have protested it. I think the whole issue is extremely murky.”1
Mekay goes on to note that this is the first time the World Bank appears ready to get actively involved in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. Former World Bank president James Wolfensohn rejected this possibility last year. Neo-conservative Paul Wolfowitz was, however, confirmed as president of the World Bank on June 1, 2005.
In breach of the ICJ ruling, the U.S. has already contributed $50 million to construct gates along the Wall to “help serve the needs of Palestinians.”
Linda Heard reports for Al-Jazeerah that the U.S. is currently pushing for bilateral Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with various Arab states, including members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), as part of a vision for a larger Middle East Free Trade Agreement. President Bush hopes the MEFTA will encompass some twenty regional countries, including Israel, and be fully consolidated by 2013.
Many in the region are suspicious of the divisive trend of bilateral agreements with the U.S. and worry that the GCC will end up with small, fragmented satellite economies without any leverage against world giants. Prince Saud Al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, stated, “It is alarming to see some members of the GCC enter into separate agreements with international powers . . . They diminish the collective bargaining power and weaken not only the solidarity of the GCC as a whole, but also each of its members.”
1. Emad Mekay, “World Bank and U.S.: Palestinians Should Pay for Israeli Checkpoints,” IPS, February 25, 2005.
UPDATE BY JAMAL JUMA’
“ Cementing Israeli Apartheid: The Role of the World Bank” was written last summer as part of Stop the Wall’s campaign efforts to widen attention of those horrified by the construction of the 700 km long wall around Palestinian cities and villages. It aimed to expose the vicious mechanism of control, exploitation, and dispossession devised by the Occupation, but moreover the activities of the international community in safeguarding the Wall and making Palestinian ghettos sustainable.
It opens a chapter in a story that no one wants to hear: the globalization of apartheid in the Occupation of Palestine. Zionism has its own racist interest in ghettoizing 4 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and securing the judaization of Jerusalem. It ensures a Jewish demographic majority and ethnic supremacy over as much of Palestine as possible, working against all UN resolutions and the recent ICJ ruling on the Wall.
Within this project it finds allies in the international community keen to exploit cheap Palestinian labor locked behind Walls and gates. The degree to which Zionism and the international community—headed by the World Bank—work together with the aim of controlling every aspect of Palestinian life has become increasingly evident since the Left Turn article.
The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) role is reduced to the administrators of the Bantustans. The Palestinian people resoundingly said no to Bantustans at the ballot boxes last January.
While the Bank’s initial responsibility was to devise economic policies for the sustainability of a Palestinian Bantu-State, the institution is now facilitating efforts to ensure that Palestinians cannot interfere in the plans of the Occupation and the international community. The World Bank is gearing up to take over the payrolls of various Palestinian institutions, should the PA not comply with Zionist and global interests.
While global IFIs meticulously plan the financial and material survival and political control of the ghettos, Ehud Olmert offers the slogan of “Final Borders” to describe the project. In legitimizing the Wall, annexing Jerusalem, increasing the number of settlers, and denying the mere existence of the refugees, Olmert finds a willing accomplice in the Bank and its policy makers in Washington, who look to cash in on the Bantu-State.
The Palestinian people will never accept the plan, so it is hoped that they will be starved into it. But we will not kneel down. After dozens of massacres, killings, arrests, and almost sixty years of life in the Diaspora, surrender is too high a price to pay. We are not asking for outside institutions to provide us with bread, but to comply with their duties under international law and support our struggle for justice and liberation.
None of the horrific realities of life in Palestine are apparent in the headlines and doublespeak of mass media and international diplomacy, where our ghettoization is called “state-building.” International complicity with Israeli apartheid is dressed up as “humanitarian aid.” Palestinians are supposed to be grateful for gates in the Wall so they can be funneled between ghettos.
Just like Olmert’s schemes with the White House, the media shuns and neglects the rights and voices of Palestinians. Neither the daily killing of our people, nor the destruction of our homes, the dispossession of our farmers, or the sufferings of 6 million refugees make headlines. The consumers of mainstream media outlets are left to discuss the diatribe of “peace” and “borders,” disputed between the protagonists of our oppression, while the racism, ethnic cleansing, and ghettoization continue.
Global Research.ca, August 5, 2005
Title: “Halliburton Secretly Doing Business With Key Member of Iran’s Nuclear Team”
Author: Jason Leopold
Faculty Evaluator: Catherine Nelson
Student Researchers: Kristine Medeiros and Pla Herr
According to journalist Jason Leopold, sources at former Cheney company Halliburton allege that, as recently as January of 2005, Halliburton sold key components for a nuclear reactor to an Iranian oil development company. Leopold says his Halliburton sources have intimate knowledge of the business dealings of both Halliburton and Oriental Oil Kish, one of Iran’s largest private oil companies.
Additionally, throughout 2004 and 2005, Halliburton worked closely with Cyrus Nasseri, the vice chairman of the board of directors of Iran-based Oriental Oil Kish, to develop oil projects in Iran. Nasseri is also a key member of Iran’s nuclear development team. Nasseri was interrogated by Iranian authorities in late July 2005 for allegedly providing Halliburton with Iran’s nuclear secrets. Iranian government officials charged Nasseri with accepting as much as $1 million in bribes from Halliburton for this information.
Oriental Oil Kish dealings with Halliburton first became public knowledge in January 2005 when the company announced that it had subcontracted parts of the South Pars gas-drilling project to Halliburton Products and Services, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Halliburton that is registered to the Cayman Islands. Following the announcement, Halliburton claimed that the South Pars gas field project in Tehran would be its last project in Iran. According to a BBC report, Halliburton, which took thirty to forty million dollars from its Iranian operations in 2003, “was winding down its work due to a poor business environment.”
However, Halliburton has a long history of doing business in Iran, starting as early as 1995, while Vice President Cheney was chief executive of the company. Leopold quotes a February 2001 report published in the Wall Street Journal, “Halliburton Products and Services Ltd., works behind an unmarked door on the ninth floor of a new north Tehran tower block. A brochure declares that the company was registered in 1975 in the Cayman Islands, is based in the Persian Gulf sheikdom of Dubai and is “non-American.” But like the sign over the receptionist’s head, the brochure bears the company’s name and red emblem, and offers services from Halliburton units around the world.” Moreover mail sent to the company’s offices in Tehran and the Cayman Islands is forwarded directly to its Dallas headquarters.
In an attempt to curtail Halliburton and other U.S. companies from engaging in business dealings with rogue nations such as Libya, Iran, and Syria, an amendment was approved in the Senate on July 26, 2005. The amendment, sponsored by Senator Susan Collins R-Maine, would penalize companies that continue to skirt U.S. law by setting up offshore subsidiaries as a way to legally conduct and avoid U.S. sanctions under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).
A letter, drafted by trade groups representing corporate executives, vehemently objected to the amendment, saying it would lead to further hatred and perhaps incite terrorist attacks on the U.S. and “greatly strain relations with the United States primary trading partners.” The letter warned that, “Foreign governments view U.S. efforts to dictate their foreign and commercial policy as violations of sovereignty often leading them to adopt retaliatory measures more at odds with U.S. goals.”
Collins supports the legislation, stating, “It prevents U.S. corporations from creating a shell company somewhere else in order to do business with rogue, terror-sponsoring nations such as Syria and Iran. The bottom line is that if a U.S. company is evading sanctions to do business with one of these countries, they are helping to prop up countries that support terrorism—most often aimed against America.
UPDATE BY JASON LEOPOLD
During a trip to the Middle East in March 1996, Vice President Dick Cheney told a group of mostly U.S. businessmen that Congress should ease sanctions in Iran and Libya to foster better relationships, a statement that, in hindsight, is completely hypocritical considering the Bush administration’s foreign policy.
“Let me make a generalized statement about a trend I see in the U.S. Congress that I find disturbing, that applies not only with respect to the Iranian situation but a number of others as well,” Cheney said. “I think we Americans sometimes make mistakes . . . There seems to be an assumption that somehow we know what’s best for everybody else and that we are going to use our economic clout to get everybody else to live the way we would like.”
Cheney was the chief executive of Halliburton Corporation at the time he uttered those words. It was Cheney who directed Halliburton toward aggressive business dealings with Iran—in violation of U.S. law—in the mid-1990s, which continued through 2005 and is the reason Iran has the capability to enrich weapons-grade uranium.
It was Halliburton’s secret sale of centrifuges to Iran that helped get the uranium enrichment program off the ground, according to a three-year investigation that includes interviews conducted with more than a dozen current and former Halliburton employees.
If the U.S. ends up engaged in a war with Iran in the future, Cheney and Halliburton will bear the brunt of the blame.
But this shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who has been following Halliburton’s business activities over the past decade. The company has a long, documented history of violating U.S. sanctions and conducting business with so-called rogue nations.
No, what’s disturbing about these facts is how little attention it has received from the mainstream media. But the public record speaks for itself, as do the thousands of pages of documents obtained by various federal agencies that show how Halliburton’s business dealings in Iran helped fund terrorist activities there—including the country’s nuclear enrichment program.
When I asked Wendy Hall, a spokeswoman for Halliburton, a couple of years ago if Halliburton would stop doing business with Iran because of concerns that the company helped fund terrorism she said, “No.” “We believe that decisions as to the nature of such governments and their actions are better made by governmental authorities and international entities such as the United Nations as opposed to individual persons or companies,” Hall said. “Putting politics aside, we and our affiliates operate in countries to the extent it is legally permissible, where our customers are active as they expect us to provide oilfield services support to their international operations. “We do not always agree with policies or actions of governments in every place that we do business and make no excuses for their behaviors. Due to the long-term nature of our business and the inevitability of political and social change, it is neither prudent nor appropriate for our company to establish our own country-by-country foreign policy.”
Halliburton first started doing business in Iran as early as 1995, while Vice President Cheney was chief executive of the company and in possible violation of U.S. sanctions.
An executive order signed by former President Bill Clinton in March 1995 prohibits “new investments (in Iran) by U.S. persons, including commitment of funds or other assets.” It also bars U.S. companies from performing services “that would benefit the Iranian oil industry” and provide Iran with the financial means to engage in terrorist activity.
When Bush and Cheney came into office in 2001, their administration decided it would not punish foreign oil and gas companies that invest in those countries. The sanctions imposed on countries like Iran and Libya before Bush became president were blasted by Cheney, who gave frequent speeches on the need for U.S. companies to compete with their foreign competitors, despite claims that those countries may have ties to terrorism.
Friday, December 21, 2007
By Sharon Weinberger
Facing a growing backlash over its operations in Iraq, the private security firm Blackwater is formulating a new business pitch — to expand into U.N.-style peacekeeping and humanitarian aid.
The company is buying a fleet of aircraft and ground vehicles, including its own airship, hoping to win contracts to secure failed states before the U.N. arrives.
“We can give what we call one-stop shopping, turnkey solutions,” says John Wrenn, who heads Global Stability Initiatives at the newly re-branded Blackwater Worldwide.
Linked to several violent incidents in Iraq, including the Sept. 16 shootings in Baghdad that sparked an international media furor and congressional hearings, the company over the past few months has attempted a public relations overhaul, modifying its name, revamping its logo, and engaging in a massive PR counter-assault to defend against its “cowboy” image.
Blackwater is one of dozens of private companies providing security services in Iraq and other war zones. It is part of a growing military outsourcing industry that exploded during the Iraq conflict and is only likely to get bigger. Proponents believe private security companies, or PSCs, are the future of military operations — and peacekeeping.
As Blackwater fights to keep its State Department security contracts in Iraq, the company is expanding into areas where its competitors have not. Blackwater recently purchased the McArthur, a naval vessel intended for disaster response and training, but that can also be used as a “mothership” for launching peacekeeping operations.
Blackwater now produces the Grizzly, a bomb-resistant vehicle that sports a unique diamond-shaped hull. In addition to a fleet of fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, Blackwater has also moved into unmanned airships, building the Polar 400, a dirigible that would fly between 5,000 and 15,000 feet, and is designed to monitor border areas or track terrorists. The airship could provide surveillance, or eventually, transport into war-ravaged areas.
All this new technology is part of a broader company expansion. Blackwater argues that it can provide a “transition force” to take over security for failed states after military operations are finished.
Blackwater believes it could, in addition to providing security, also deliver aid and oversee disaster relief. This is work now done primarily by non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, and humanitarian groups. Blackwater executives have suggested sending a private peacekeeping force into Darfur, for instance.
“They would be the guys that go in and provide security, taking the handover from the military, and create the safe zones and start to provide the services, until the U.N. takes over,” Wrenn says.
That’s where the technology comes in. The Grizzly vehicle can ferry peacekeepers, or in an ambulance version, could be used to transport NGO workers and patients. And the airship could provide surveillance, or be used to ferry supplies for disaster relief.
“The beauty of an airship is you don’t need big runways and airports,” Wrenn says. “You can use them to deliver supplies where airplanes can’t go.”
Doug Brooks, president of International Peace Operations Association, which represents private security contractors (though not Blackwater, which pulled out of the group in October), says in many parts of the world, “private companies are in fact holding peace operations together.”
The industry, in Brooks’ view, is in part a natural consequence of the West’s unwillingness to commit its military forces to troubled regions, leading to what he calls “Westernless peacekeeping.” Globally, such contracting is a $20 billion industry, and growing, he contends.
Critics, however, note that the Blackwater name is a huge obstacle to its plans for expanded peacekeeping. Erik Prince, a billionaire and former Navy SEAL, founded Blackwater as a training company a decade ago, but its rapid growth, particularly into private security detail work in Iraq, has landed the company in the middle of a debate over “mercenaries,” a term that Blackwater and similar companies detest. The Blackwater controversy now includes an alleged conflict of interest between the State Department’s recently resigned inspector general and his brother, a one-time Blackwater board member; questions about the tax status of its contractors; and an ongoing fight over a West Coast training facility.
Peter W. Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a leading expert on private contractors, says Blackwater’s recent PR campaign may not be enough to fix the company’s image. “You can change your logo, you can have a public relations blitz. It’s nice but it’s not going to change this,” Singer says. “These long-term attitudes are sinking in.”
While Blackwater’s push to diversify is understandable — given the potential liability of its personal security work — its move into manufacturing is unusual for a services company.
Robert Young Pelton, the author of Licensed to Kill, a book on PSCs, calls many of Blackwater’s technologies “wacky,” comparable to something cooked up in the Batcave.
“They tend to be strange versions of existing products,” he says. “The blimp is not technology; it’s just a hot-air balloon, the oldest technology in aviation. What (Prince) has done is come up with homemade, kludged ideas. The government may or may not buy them.”
Though he is skeptical of Blackwater’s prospects as a global peacekeeping force, Pelton says that Prince’s vision is noble, even if it lends itself to black comedy. He compares Erik Prince to the Dark Prince of comics. “Batman lives his life as a mild-mannered billionaire, and then at night goes out and saves the world,” says Pelton. “It’s all right to have a big idea, but the big idea has never been tested, and if you play it forward and send Backwater to Darfur, imagine the various permutations of disaster if his current activities are employed over there.”
If Pelton thinks Prince is Batman, Wrenn has his own version of how Blackwater should be viewed.
“It’s like Bonanza,” says Wrenn. “The Cartwright family were cowboys, but wearing white hats. They were the good guys, the people you want your neighbors to be. Yeah, they carry guns, but it’s the nature of the business.”
Friday, December 14, 2007
Over the last five decades, television has resolutely pursued woman as the ideal, self-perpetuating consumer unit. It has hunted her down, cornered her and force fed a poison that once inside the system, gradually calcifies the creative third eye, sealing it over and instead pinning back the eyelids for uncut trash TV carpet-bombing. In the resultant state of psychic anxiety and emotional dissatisfaction, the consumer impulse is at its strongest. However, it is the increased state of suggestibility that the television induces (using methods outlined in the previous article) that we will look at here.
TV scheduling is dominated by programming that debases and trivializes women. The system uses soap operas, dramas, movies, pop videos, docusoaps and comedies to construct a deliberately ambiguous moral, ethical and intellectual framework. Even factual programmes can be filmed and edited to put forward a very specific message, regardless of their seemingly pragmatic content. But it is undoubtedly fiction that has the deepest influence over the unconscious mind. If Desperate Housewives/Ugly Betty portray the amusing side of sleeping around, it becomes manifest. If Coronation Street/Eastenders depict credit card debt as part and parcel of modern life, it becomes manifest. If Lost/24 portray aggression and treachery as an inherent aspect of humankind, it becomes manifest. Although viewers may claim to see through the superficial proclamations and fantasy narratives of these shows, the truth is that the subconscious mind does not differentiate between fantasy and reality. Once the unconscious gateway swings open, the ideas and suggestions of these grim TV hallucinations hardwire themselves into the brain’s neural net for all time. Everything is stored forever. Subsequent reflection, decisions and deeds may therefore be based on a cynically contrived fantasy, as a pose to one's own personal reality.
Thumb through the listings, and here in the UK at least, it’s all cooking, reality tv, house renovation, celebrity gossip, singing and dancing contests, nannies, cleaning, melodramas, shopping, family experiments and partner swapping, public humiliation of contestants in aggressive arenas, pop music, trivia. I’m sure it’s similar in America, Canada, Western Europe and elsewhere. Of course, there’s sport, cop shows and action movies for the average male out there, but they’re just crumbs from the table. And besides, it’s pretty easy to placate a man with a six pack of Corona and a Steven Seagal movie. It works for me. For women, it has to be more sophisticated.
The system seeks out the most vulnerable women first. The lower/working class who have minimal resources, rudimentary education and are not required to critically analyze anything in their day-to-day activities. And even financial limitations need not prevent regular recreational expenditure in the 21st century. Within this demographic, the compulsion to seek distraction and avoidance can be heavily exploited. An escape route is unveiled that leads the viewer away from the primitive sludge of their soul crushing, spoon-fed existence and into a secret garden of glamour, celebrity and excitement. Programming on this level can be easily detected. For those higher up the social strata, better educated and with a certain amount of expendable income, the television programming is shrewdly designed to appeal to their most ignoble instincts: fear, envy, lust and self-loathing. Basic con tricks about ageing, beauty, romance and materialism. Things that undermine feminine creativity and the very identity of womanhood itself. Within the inevitable anxiety that this creates, the system implants the powerful (but erroneous) perception of social Darwinism; a survival of the fittest mindset which dismantles the intelligence, charm and dignity of women. The Feminist movement (entirely fuelled, funded and directed by the Rockefeller family) applauds this, believing it to represent a certain equanimity in the masculine-feminine dynamic.
The desired effects on the viewers, from the smartest to the dumbest, from the most content to the most despondent, are all fairly similar: emotional frailty, social seclusion, material craving and intellectual stupefaction. Each felt at varying levels and at different concentrations, depending on the social trends and factors operating at the time. In Summer for example, the intensity is always ramped up. Natural solar cycles, political events, wars and social movements are all reflected, counterbalanced, amplified or muted within the closely controlled programming. The attention to detail is staggering.
Look around and you will see that many of the women in your life are getting routinely indoctrinated by the television; and to a much greater degree than the average male. It’s happening everywhere I look. Any man I talk to reports a similar experience.
The controllers understand that by disconnecting the potent natural energies of womanhood and family, they can (a) tax and sell to a larger portion of the population, (b) disassemble the ethical structures of the collective female psyche, and (c) destroy quality relationships between men and women. Images of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four spring to mind. In the novel, “The Party” imposes antisexualism on its members, since sexual attachments might diminish exclusive loyalty to the Party. In part III of the book, O'Brien tells Winston that their neurologists are working on removing the orgasm from humans - Orwell supposed that the sufficient mental energy for prolonged worship requires the repression of a vital instinct, such as the sex instinct. This possibly alludes to the restrictions on sexuality imposed by authorities (civil, political, religious or otherwise, such as in the German National Socialism), be it consciously or by selective pressures on doctrine.
In a world where television encourages women to deny their femininity and act like men, we see the continued erosion of the family unit, petty power struggles, astonishing selfishness and deep identity crises. Perhaps worst of all, there is a dark amnesia obscuring the centuries of warm, happy, loving relationships between men and women. So what’s the solution? How do you limit the influence of the TV? Simple… pull the fucking plug.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
It is clear that truth and justice are driving principals of our lives, but what about kindness? I was recently on the X Prize Advisory Committee to design a prize in health. I shared my view that 'kindness' is likely the most important facet of health and happiness to a highly distinguished group of health scientists. Later, I heard from one of those scientists told me that my opinion sounded "really odd."
I've studied genetics and human behavior for over 20 years. At one time I thought genetics held all the answers to make the world a better place by enabling us to 'fix' our genetic mutations and reduce disease and suffering. Now I see that genetics is extremely important, but for another reason: Genetics may be the best tool to provide a rationale for including kindness as a guiding principle to govern our day-to-day behaviors as well as government and institutes in general. Clearly, the thesis that we are 'all created equal' is evident in our genomes; we differ so minutely from one another. If we recognize fully that we are truly a single human family, taking it to the extreme, one could view the whole human species as a single human 'organism' based on our shared DNA. Through our shared genomes, we can see that to reduce suffering, to remove harm toward any of our members, is equivalent to removing harm toward ourselves.
When this dependent nature is brought into our global consciousness, kindness among members of our global family will be selected over behaviors that harm another. When kindness is a guiding principal, hurting another - whether human, animal, or the earth, will not be easy. When kindness is taught as equal to truth and justice, in our school systems, our homes, and when it perpetuates our social and governmental systems, the world will likely be a kinder place.
What is kindness, the quality of being kind? "Kind" according to Webster's means:
1. A fundamental nature or quality,
2) loving qualities or a helpful nature
Humankind, our species, has the capacity to see kindness as a fundamental quality that we chose to nourish, that we chose to make as the quality that defines us.
We can chose to act according to its principles, even if we do not 'feel' loving at times. We have reason by which to overcome our emotions, we can use reason guided by the principles of kindness, to act, make decisions, and treat one another, ourselves, and the planet.
Kindness can be a guiding principal if we all realize that we each have the capacity for good and evil. We each have the capacity to make poor choices, to harm another, to allow that harm to escalate into evil. Most of us catch it when very small and correct it or adjust it to move along a different route. Kindness can guide us when we recognize our shared capacity for both good and evil, and we chose accordingly. My colleague calls this 'compassionate decision-making', decision-making governed by the principal of kindness, acting to help others, to alleviate suffering.
What would the world be like if it were one where kindness was its guiding principle? War would not be an answer to anything, period. We would protect the planet, animals on it, and each other at all costs. Genocide would not happen. Competition would be part of 'game-playing', where the rules of the game are to keep everyone in and keep the game going, 'winners and losers' would be more like as in a checkers match, for fun.
If kindness were a guiding principle, we would likely be a happier nation. Science reveals that compassion (toward self and others) is a key tool for happiness. Compassion is strengthened when individuals recognize their similarities, learn to connect with their own kindness or loving qualities, and learn how to be present, regardless of the intensity of a situation (good or bad). Perhaps shifting our attention to the role of Kindness in our everyday actions and elevating it to a guiding principal in our lives and work, is a start to bringing it to positions of leadership.
So kindness is an antidote to pain and suffering, and needs our increased attention. I think the best X Prize we could design would be one to increase kindness. A competition, a game, where everyone wins.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Why American Troops Can't Go Home
By Michael Schwartz
Every week or so, the Department of Defense conducts a video-conference press briefing for reporters in Washington, featuring an on-the-ground officer in Iraq. On November 15th, that briefing was with Col. Jeffrey Bannister, commander of the Second Brigade of the Second Infantry Division. He was chosen because of his unit's successful application of surge tactics in three mainly Shia districts in eastern Baghdad. He had, among other things, set up several outposts in these districts offering a 24-hour American military presence; he had also made generous use of transportable concrete walls meant to separate and partition neighborhoods, and had established numerous checkpoints to prevent unauthorized entry or exit from these communities.http://www.tomdispatch.com/
Monday, November 26, 2007
So it begins. After years of obfuscation and denial on the length of the U.S.'s stay in Iraq, the White House and the Maliki government have released a joint declaration of "principles" for "friendship and cooperation." Apparently President Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed the declaration during a morning teleconference.
Naturally, the declaration is euphemistic, and doesn't refer explicitly to any U.S. military presence.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Saturday, November 24, 2007; 2:19 PM
Consumer and corporate use of the Internet could overload the current capacity and lead to brown-outs in two years unless backbone providers invest billions of dollars in new infrastructure, according to a study released last week.
A flood of new video and other Web content could overwhelm the Internet by 2010 unless backbone providers invest up to $137 billion in new capacity, more than double what service providers plan to invest, according to thestudy, by Nemertes Research Group, an independent analysis firm. In North America alone, backbone investments of $42 billion to $55 billion will be needed in the next three to five years to keep up with demand, Nemertes said.
The study is the first to "apply Moore's Law (or something very like it) to the pace of application innovation on the 'Net," the study says. "Our findings indicate that although core fiber and switching/routing resources will scale nicely to support virtually any conceivable user demand, Internet access infrastructure, specifically in North America, will likely cease to be adequate for supporting demand within the next three to five years."
The study confirms long-time concerns of the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), an advocacy group focused on upgrading U.S. broadband networks, said Bruce Mehlman, co-chairman of the group. The group, with members including AT&T, Level 3 Communications, Corning, Americans for Tax Reform and the American Council of the Blind, has been warning people of the coming "exaflood" of video and other Web content that could clog its pipes.
The study gives "good, hard, unique data" on the IIA concerns about network capacity, Mehlman said. The Nemertes study suggests demand for Web applications such as streaming and interactive video, peer-to-peer file transfers and music downloads will accelerate, creating a demand for more capacity. Close to three-quarters of U.S. Internet users watched an average of 158 minutes of video in May and viewed more than 8.3 billion video streams, according to research from comScore, an analysis group.
Internet users will create 161 exabytes of new data this year, and this exaflood is a positive development for Internet users and businesses, IIA says. An exabyte is 1 quintillion bytes or about 1.1 billion gigabytes. One exabyte is the equivalent of about 50,000 years of DVD quality video.
Carriers and policy makers need to be aware of this demand, Mehlman added.
"Video has unleased an explosion of Internet content," Mehlman said. "We think the exaflood is generally not well understood, and its investment implications not well defined."
The responsibility for keeping up with this growing demand lies with backbone providers and national policy makers, added Mehlman, also executive director of the Technology CEO Council, a trade group, and a former assistant secretary of technology policy in the U.S. Department of Commerce.
"It takes a digital village," he said. "Certainly, infrastructure providers have plenty to do. You've seen billions in investment, and you're seeing ongoing billions more."
U.S. lawmakers can also help in several ways, he said. For example, the U.S. Congress could require that home contractors who receive government assistance for building affordable housing include broadband connections in their houses, he said. Congress could also provide tax credits to help broadband providers add more capacity, he said.
Consumers also pay high taxes for telecommunication services, averaging about 13 percent on some telecom services, similar to the tax rate on tobacco and alcohol, Mehlman said. One tax on telecom service has remained in place since the 1898 Spanish-American War, when few U.S. residents had telephones, he noted.
"We think it's a mistake to treat telecom like a luxury and tax it like a sin," he said.
The Senlis Council claimed that the insurgents controlled "vast swathes of unchallenged territory" and were gaining "more and more political legitimacy in the minds of the Afghan people".
It said that the Nato force in the country needed to be doubled to 80,000 front-line soldiers who should be allowed to pursue militants into Pakistan.
The 110-page report said that its "exclusive" research found the Taliban controlled 54 per cent of Afghanistan.
It calculated that Nato countries should contribute 2.3 soldiers per £500 million of their GDP to provide 71,000 soldiers, with 9,000 additional troops coming from Muslim nations.
If the plan were adopted, Britain would need to send 4,500 troops, significantly fewer than are deployed now.
British and American military leaders say the mission in Afghanistan has been hamstrung by Nato members refusing to send reinforcements or placing "caveats" on their duties when there.
There is no sign, despite pressure from the US and Britain, of any move within Nato to send reinforcements to Afghanistan.
The report said: "It is a sad indictment of the current state of Afghanistan that the question now appears to be not if the Taliban will return to Kabul, but when this will happen and in what form.
The oft-stated aim of reaching the city in 2008 appears more viable than ever and it is incumbent upon the international community to implement a new strategic paradigm for Afghanistan before time runs out".
The Ministry of Defence dismissed the report, saying its conclusion that the Taliban would take Kabul was not credible. "The Taliban does not pose a credible threat to the democratic Afghan government," a spokesman said.
The report coincides with a study from Oxfam for the House of Commons international development committee, which gives warning that the security situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating.
Oxfam said that Afghans faced "severe hardship comparable with sub-Saharan Africa" and that aid was not getting to the most needy.
The Senlis Council, a Brussels-based think tank that conducts research into drugs, military intervention and development policies in Afghanistan, earlier this month advocated the growth of opium poppies in the country for use as morphine abroad.
It said the project would weaken the Taliban by offering an option for farmers and starving the organisation of funding.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Hillary's Corporate Cronies
Despite pledging to stop corporate lobbyists and playing herself off as the defender of the common man, Hillary's contributors speak for themselves. Several internet sites can be found that disclose public donations, and Hillary's is a laundry list of corporate bankers and media barons. Sure, Hillary's got her fair share of rock stars and movie celebs supporting her, but she's also got major money coming in from different business sectors. There's nothing illegal about it, but it highlights just how fused our two-party system has become, and just which wheels are being greased behind the scenes. Hillary Clinton publicly espouses populist messages and promises to repeal corporate welfare and subsidies, yet is being bankrolled by the very corporations that she pledges to fight. As the old saying goes, 'Money talks'...
Just a few of her corporate sponsors.
Jack Abernethy, CEO of FOX TV
Chris Albrecht, HBO chairman
Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder
Lloyd Blankenfein, Goldman Sachs chairman
Warren Buffett, Berkshire-Hathaway, billionaire
Ron Burkle, Supermarket magnate
August Busch III, Anheuser-Busch chairman
John Catsimatidis, Supermarket mogul
Peter Chernin, News corps. COO
Donny Deutsch, Adverstising exec
Barry Diller, media mogul
Tom Freston, former Viacom president
Brad Grey, Paramount pictures chairman
Vernon Jordan, Washington power broker
Jeff Kindler, Pfizer CEO
Norman Lear, TV producer
John Mack, Morgan Stanley chairman
Rupert Murdoch, News corps. chairman
Ronald Perelman, billionaire investor
Sumner Redstone, Viacom chairman
Brian Roberts, Comcast chairman
Hilary Rosen, lobbyist, former RIAA CEO
Haim Saban, media mogul
Ivan Seidenberg, Verizon chairman
Terry Semel, former Yahoo CEO
Ben Silverman, NBC chairman
Sy Sternberg, NY Life insurance chairman
Howard Stringer, Sony CEO
Richard Thalheimer, Sharper image chairman
Sandy Weill, Citigroup chairman
Robert Wright, former NBC chairman
So we have Peter Chernin, Barry Diller, and Rupert Murdoch, all big wigs at the 'right wing' FOX news corps, all donating and publicly supporting Hillary Clinton. And of course it even came out in the mainstream news that back in May Rupert Murdoch held a fundraiser for Hillary's campaign.
Mrs. Clinton has brought in $304,000 in PAC money from the business sector, which makes up for a total of 56% of the total PAC money she has netted. She has also received over $500,000 from lobbyists, $935,000 from banks, $269,000 from pharmaceuticals, $4.7 million from securities, and $2.2 million from the TV and movie industry.
Millionaires and billionaires from all sectors: business and marketing, real estate, media and television, movie studios, pharmaceutical cos, energy, all donating to candidates... even the ones like Hillary Clinton who offer to stop corporate welfare and turn back the influence of lobbyists in Washington. The picture is clear. The power elite in Washington are simply a group of incestuous cronies and demagogues, and have only one interest in mind: self interest. The business and corporate sectors know that the economy is tanking, and are doing everything in their power to maintain success during the consolidation period. And there's one candidate they know who will not expose their operations, and who will continue the status quo of the great raping of our land, and that candidate is Hillary Clinton.
More complete list of Hillary's donations can be found here.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
Wireless Routers: The Truth About Superfast Draft-N
New wireless routers promise big speed and coverage improvements. But our lab tests show that the new products have big drawbacks.
Story by Becky Waring; Testing by Elliott Kirschling
Instead of products based on a final standard--which should appear by early 2008 and will be Wi-Fi Alliance-certified for interoperability--what we have now is a flood of "draft" 802.11n products based on a preliminary and incomplete version of the standard. These products might be--but are not guaranteed to be--firmware upgradable to the final spec.
We wouldn't complain if the products worked as advertised. But in our tests, four draft-n router and PC Card lines--Belkin's N1, Buffalo's AirStation Nfiniti, Linksys's Wireless-N, and Netgear's RangeMax Next--were generally outperformed by two older product lines (Netgear's RangeMax 240 and Asus's 240 Wireless MIMO) based on nonstandard technology from Airgo Networks.
We also found that routers based on different draft-n chips (the Belkin uses Atheros chips, while the other three are based on Broadcom chips) do not interoperate at high speed. Buying products from the same vendor doesn't always ensure that all of them will use the same draft-n chips, either: At least one company, Netgear, is selling similarly named routers and PC Cards that are based on different draft-n chips, and you can determine which chip a product uses only by checking its model number and/or the chip logo on its packaging (see "Draft-N Product Look-Alikes").
Finally, we found that at long range especially (in our tests, about 60 feet, from a router in a suburban home office to a notebook located in the backyard), the draft-n products were generally erratic in coverage and performance--particularly the Atheros-based Belkin line. (Atheros attributes the irregular performance results to its implementation of technology that is designed to prevent interference with neighboring Wi-Fi networks.)
On the other hand, the two older product lines, both based on Airgo's True MIMO Gen3 chips, have a couple of significant drawbacks: They will never be upgradable to the final 802.11n standard, and will interoperate with 802.11n (draft or final) products only at poky 802.11g (54-mbps theoretical maximum) speeds.
Vendors are aggressively addressing draft-n performance problems, bugs, and compatibility issues with frequent firmware updates (even as we tested, we were receiving updates to shipping devices). In fact, we revisited one draft-n product--D-Link's shipping Atheros-based RangeBooster N 650 line--after the deadline for our print issue had passed, to see if updates improved performance. (We dropped the product from the main review in print because it could not complete our tests.) But we'd rather vendors didn't use paying customers to do their alpha and beta testing. You shouldn't have to install multiple firmware updates to see promised performance on a brand-new product.
Faced with a choice between work-in-progress draft-n products on one hand and products that perform better but use proprietary technology that can never be upgraded to 802.11n on the other, we chose not to name a PC World Best Buy.
We did, however, assign each product our usual PC World Rating based on our lab tests of performance and other key features (see our separate chart). We particularly looked for QoS (quality of service) and UPnP (Universal Plug and Play), two technologies essential to running the coming wireless video and entertainment applications that are among the main reasons to buy a high-speed router.
- See our Wireless Routers chart
Features to Look For
QoS helps ensure smooth streaming media and VoIP calls by prioritizing multimedia packets on the network. All but the Netgear lines had this feature when we tested, and Netgear planned to add it via firmware updates. (Note that QoS support must be present in both your router and your adapters to work.)
UPnP enables automatic peer-to-peer connectivity of networked computers, hard drives, game consoles, streaming-media players, and even kitchen appliances, so that they can recognize one another and share data intelligently. We were pleased to see that all the tested routers had this capability.
Note, however, that in calculating the PCW Ratings we did not give draft-n products extra points for upgradability potential, since without vendor guarantees the value is uncertain at best.
Indeed, our bottom-line advice is to hold out for certified 802.11n products (turn to "What's Ahead for 802.11n" for more on the standard's progress), unless you just can't wait to get the added bandwidth for entertainment applications and large file transfers.
Wait If You Can
Remember that unless you upgrade all your adapters to match, you won't see the true benefits of any of these high-speed network technologies; this requirement adds nearly $100 per device to your investment in potentially nonstandard equipment. Just upgrading one adapter doesn't work well, since using older 802.11b/g devices at the same time can seriously affect router performance.
Also, older adapters are unlikely to support WPA2 encryption, which is needed to get the maximum out of draft-n. Finally, consider that for now new adapters are primarily for notebooks--only a few vendors also offer desktop cards, and most consumer electronics vendors are expected to hold off on products with fast Wi-Fi support until 802.11n is ratified.
If you must have added range now, consider the Netgear RangeMax 240, which earned the top rating in this group for its combination of performance, design, and features. If you're willing to take a performance hit in order to gamble on upgradability to the eventual standard, look at Netgear's draft-n-compliant RangeMax Next line, the only one in our tests that could approach the range of the Airgo-based products.
Though the Belkin N1 Wireless and Linksys Wireless-N routers had top-rated features, design, and usability, they faltered in performance. The Buffalo AirStation Nfiniti line performed similarly to the Belkin and Linksys products, but It suffered some serious flaws, such as a lack of strong WPA2 encryption--a must-have for this class of router.
Another option--if you are on a strict budget and are primarily concerned with improved range (as opposed to top speed)--is to invest in even older and cheaper Airgo-based gear, such as Belkin's Wireless G-Plus MIMO router. This unit's range is nearly as good, and its price is much lower.
By Walter Pincus
Monday, November 12, 2007; A19
While wrestling with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon is preparing weapons to fight the next battle from space, according to information in the 621-page, House-Senate conference report on the fiscal 2008 defense appropriations bill.
The $459 billion bill, which awaits President Bush's signature, provides $100 million for a new "prompt global strike" program that could deliver a conventional, precision-guided warhead anywhere in the world within two hours. It takes funds away from development of a conventional warhead for the Navy's submarine-launched Trident Intercontinental Ballistic Missile and from an Air Force plan for the Common Aero Vehicle.
The new program, dubbed Falcon, for "Force Application and Launch from CONUS," centers on a small-launch-vehicle concept of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The agency describes Falcon as a "a reusable Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle (HCV) capable of delivering 12,000 pounds of payload at a distance of 9,000 nautical miles from [the continental United States] in less than two hours."
Hypersonic speed is far greater than the speed of sound. The reusable vehicle being contemplated would "provide the country with significant capability to conduct responsive missions with quick turn-around sortie rates while providing aircraft-like operability and mission-recall capability," according to DARPA.
The vehicle would be launched into space on a rocket, fly on its own to a target, deliver its payload and return to Earth. In the short term, a small launch rocket is being developed as part of Falcon. It eventually would be able to boost the hypersonic vehicle into space. But in the interim, it will be used to launch small satellites within 48 hours' notice at a cost of less than $5 million a shot.
Conferees added $100 million above the Bush administration's request for nearly $200 million to accelerate "space situational awareness." That is code for protecting U.S. satellites in space and being able to attack the enemy's satellites.
"Enhancing these capabilities is critical, particularly following the Chinese anti-satellite-weapons demonstration last January," the conferees wrote in their report. They were referring to a Jan. 11 incident in which a Chinese guided missile destroyed an aging weather satellite in orbit.
"Counterspace systems" that would warn of impending threats to U.S. satellites, destroy or defend against attackers, and interrupt enemy satellites are in the Bush budget for $53 million. Conferees gave them another $10 million.
One research project of $7 million in that category is directed at "offensive counterspace," described in the Pentagon's presentation to Congress as designing "the means to disrupt, deny, degrade or destroy an adversary's space systems, or the information they provide."
Another $18 million would go for research into a second-generation counter-satellite-communications system; it would explore and develop capabilities "to provide disruption of satellite communications signals in response to U.S. Strategic Command requirements," according to the Pentagon congressional presentation. The first-generation system is already operational, and an upgrade of those capabilities is in production.
The conferees want to increase funds for the Rapid Identification Detection and Reporting System, which already had $28 million in the Bush budget. This system is designed to provide "attack detection, threat identification and characterization, and support rapid mission impact assessments on U.S. space systems."
Its first-generation system is scheduled for initial operation at the end of next year, while the new funds will allow continuation of research on a second generation, which began this year.
Part of the funding will also go toward work on integrating this system, which detects enemy threats to U.S. satellites, with the offensive counterspace and counter-satellite-communications programs. Eventually, they would be linked with U.S. command-and-control systems "in support of space control and the counterspace mission areas," according to the Pentagon's presentation to Congress.
Integration of these developing counterspace missions with a current command-and-control system is expected by the middle of 2008, according to documents provided to Congress.
National security and intelligence reporter Walter Pincus pores over the speeches, reports, transcripts and other documents that flood Washington and every week uncovers the fine print that rarely makes headlines -- but should. If you have any items that fit the bill, please send them firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Are There Ghosts Haunting The White House?
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Oct. 31) -- Tales of White House ghosts have been around for almost as long as the White House itself.
The ghost of a British soldier from the War of 1812 is said to walk the grounds at night. Another ghoulish tale has a long-deceased White House usher still turning off lights in the building while a former White House doorman is reported to still be on the job.
The spirit of Abigail Adams, the wife of America's second president John Adams, has been spotted hanging laundry in the East Wing of the White House.
And for all the people who have stayed in the Lincoln Bedroom of late, there is one who would not. Britain's Winston Churchill refused to sleep there after sighting President Abraham Lincoln's ghost lurking about.
White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry says he is a believer. "There are, from time to time, reports that the White House is haunted ... from time to time, mysterious appearances of figures from history," McCurry said. "I believe."
McCurry couldn't say if either of the Clintons have had any midnight encounters of the supernatural kind. "There have been serious people who have serious tales to tell about these encounters. Now, I haven't heard the president or the first lady tell any of these tales, but there are people who seriously believe that there is a haunting quality to the White House," he said.
President Harry Truman may have, because he said the place was haunted "sure as shooting."
At the least, first lady Hillary Clinton called the place creepy at times. "There is something about the house at night that you just feel like you are summoning up the spirits of all the people who have lived there and worked there and walked through the halls there," Mrs. Clinton said last year on The Rosie O'Donnell Show.
"It's neat. It can be a little creepy. You know, they think there's a ghost there," she continued.
CNN's Eileen O'Connor contributed to this report.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Sharon's government is coming under increasing pressure to revive the stalled peace process. Even its soldiers have started criticising the occupation.
"We want Israeli society to wake up and know what's happening there," states former commander Yehuda Shaul. Like most young Israelis, Yehuda served in the army. But his experiences there left him angry and traumatised. Now, he's organised an exhibit of photographs and videos taken by soldiers in the Occupied territories. The aim is to force Israelis to recognise what's actually happening there and how it's damaging many soldiers. "This exhibition is about Israeli soldiers and how they come home after serving in Hebron," explains exhibition contributor Yonathon Boumfeld. "It's like they have a scratch in the brain." The most contentious part of the exhibit is a series of video testimonies from soldiers that include description of war crimes they committed. The soldiers face possible prison sentences for going public with their stories. But they refuse to be put off. More and more conscripts are coming forward with testimonies illustrating how they've been traumatised by their experiences. As exhibition organiser Avihai Sharon explains "We're not trying to ruin the army. We're trying to build the army back to what it's supposed to be."
A searing interview with Avichai Sharon and Noam Chayut, both veterans of the Israeli Defense Forces and members of Breaking the Silence. Sharon and Chayut served during the second intifada, an on-going bloodbath that has claimed the lives of over three thousand Palestinians and nine-hundred-fifty Israelis. After thorough introspection, these young men have chosen to speak out about their experiences as self-described "brutal occupiers of a disputed land." Producer: Sat Gwin
Alternate Focus is available on the Dish Network, Free Speech TV, Channel 9415, Saturdays at 8:00pm EST and on cable stations near you. Check www.alternatefocus.org for details.
|Dr. Mercola's Comments:|
|Regular newsletter readers know that I am no fan of television, but I am obviously in the minority here in the United States. The average American watches nearly FIVE HOURS of TV a day. This is more than the amount of time I spend in front of a TV in a month, and more than 90 percent of my TV time is spent watching health videos I need to review.|
Imagine what you could do if you cut out TV and suddenly had five extra hours in your day to do something productive, good for yourself (exercise!), creative... or maybe simply to relax!
Beyond the time it takes up, though, is the very real impact it has on your brain. As the video alludes, TV is one of the most powerful brainwashing devices there is.
Every year between the food industry and drug companies well over $50 billion is spent on marketing messages to U.S. consumers to influence their food and medication choices. The majority (75 percent) of commercial network television time is paid for by the 100 largest corporations in North America. Some of these companies even have budgets in the billions, and not surprisingly these budgets have the power to influence TV producers to create television that suits their agendas.
And, frequently, these agendas are not aligned with your best interests.
If you do choose to watch TV, even the network news, you must constantly ask yourself who is trying to “sell” you something. But be warned, these corporations are spending large amounts of money to seduce you, so even the most conscious person may not be immune to the messages.
TV itself is not intrinsically evil, and there clearly are many great shows out there, but the KEY is to NEVER watch the commercials. So if you have a TiVO or only watch DVDs you will radically reduce the media’s influence over you. I have been doing this for the last 15 years, and it is one of the reasons why I have been able to get so much done.
I simply do not waste time in front of the TV. As I said earlier, I probably watch less than five hours of non-commercial TV or DVDs per MONTH; typically an hour once a week provides enough passive entertainment for me.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
US plays down decision to honour Dalai Lama
Washington, (PTI): In the face of Chinese opposition, the US has played down its decision to honour the Dalai Lama, saying it regards the Tibetan leader only as "spiritual leader" of his people.
The Nobel laureate, who China regards as a "separatist", will be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the US Congress' highest civilian honour, at Capitol Hill next Wednesday.
President George W Bush, who is scheduled to attend the award ceremony with his wife, will personally meet the Dalai Lama at the White House a day before the event.
A spokesperson for the Chinese government had earlier said Beijing was resolutely opposed to the awarding of the Medal to the Tibetan leader.
China is opposed to any country or person using the Dalai Lama issue to interfere in its internal affairs, Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Liu Jianchao, said.
However, State Department Deputy spokesman, Tom Casey, said Friday that the US regards the Dalai Lama as a "spiritual leader of his people and someone who has inspired many individuals."
"As far as I know, there is nothing about the decision by the Congress to award this medal to him that changes that basic view," he said while admitting that China had raised the "issue" with Washington "from time to time.""But again, I think what our response generally is that we regard the Dalai Lama as a very important and significant spiritual leader and that is how we treat his visits here to the United States," Casey said.
This week, I watched the same piece of information reported on commercial TV and PBS. At 6:30, NBC's Brian Williams went into shocked-and-breathless mode to announce that American life expectancy had hit a whopping 77.9 years. Then at 7:00, I heard Jim Lehrer calmly announce the same fact and put it in context. While this is the highest life expectancy the US has yet achieved, it falls behind 40 other nations. The context changes everything. If you were watching Brian Williams, you'd be popping the champagne corks. If you were watching Jim Lehrer, you'd be contemplating moving to Costa Rica--one of several third world countries with longer life expectancies than the US.
The Brian Williams sound bite--which sounded like a press release from the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell's 1984--would be like Agence France-Presse touting the French economy's 1% growth rate. France's economy has indeed been growing steadily since World War II, but the central issue is why France's growth is so much slower than peer countries like Ireland, Sweden, and the United States. At least in France, for all its problems, they debate the real issues. Here, for lack of information and context, we don't.
Why not? There are a few theories:
1) People love fake news. No, I'm not talking about The Daily Show; I'm talking about FOX. Many Americans want to hear good news, and that's what FOX gives them. Tune in to FOX, and you'll hear, for example, that we're winning in Iraq. And as the older commercial networks try to compete with FOX, which has better ratings, many have slipped into an if-you-can't-beat-'em-join-'em strategy where they try to give people just as much fake news.
2) Self-interested corporate media. This one's a tad conspiratorial for my taste, but here's how it goes. The commercial networks are run by giant corporations which have never been more profitable. They need to keep people feeling either satisfied or powerless so nothing really changes. GE owns NBC. It pays Brian Williams's paycheck. It's also in the healthcare business. I know because I use their dental plan. So if word got out that the US had third world levels of life expectancy while spending far more than even its fellow wealthy countries on healthcare, people might dump the corporate healthcare system that GE's profiting off of (those profit margins are a big reason we pay more than everyone else). So GE's news division's job isn't to keep people informed, but to keep people happy--to "manufacture consent," as Noam Chomsky puts it.
I'm more sympathetic to theory #1 than #2, but I'd love to hear what readers think. And one caveat: pundits love to say it's either A or B--just watch The McLaughlin Group--when, in fact, it can be both. For example, are we in Iraq because of the oil or because of naïve neo-con theories about freedom or because the evangelicals think they're bringing on Armageddon and the Second Coming? I'd say all three. For Cheney, it's about oil; for Bush, it's about Jesus; and for Wolfowitz, it's about neo-conservative ideology. They don't all have to agree on the reasons, they only have to agree on a policy.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Friday, October 05, 2007
Democrats and Republicans have the same agenda since they mostly all belong to the Council on Foreign Relations. They get together and say to one another, " I'll be good cop this week, and you'll be bad cop. " This is exactly why nothing ever gets done except the Council on Foreign Relations agenda.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
September 27, 2007 (LPAC)--More residue floating up after the shockwave of the financial collapse.
Hedge funds are about to be hit with several billion dollars in withdrawals because of the huge hedge fund losses in August. These losses will be magnified through hedge-fund derivatives, for which the investors themselves have often borrowed 80% of the money put up.
Fund-linked derivatives will finish their quarterly reviews by the end of next week, the Financial Times reports. Because the investments are leveraged with borrowed money, the rules the investment banks have created for them require automatic withdrawals if there are losses. Big withdrawals could create crises at funds which are invested in illiquid assets, and lead to further selling pressure on hedge funds.
Aren't we glad the universe is lawful