Tuesday, March 29, 2011

You Ever Get the Feeling You've Been Here Before?

The flags those protesters are waving represent the Libyan Republic, which was the ruling entity before Gadaffi (or however you spell it) took over 42 years ago. It made me wonder: Where did all those former Libyan flags come from? Were they lying around somewhere in Libya for the last half-century? Then I remembered an article called "The Man Who Sold the War" that ran in Rolling Stone Magazine a few years ago. That article was about a guy named John Rendon, whose PR firm, The Rendon Group, helped market the first Gulf War.

From the article:

After Iraq withdrew from Kuwait, it was Rendon's responsibility to make the victory march look like the flag-waving liberation of France after World War II. "Did you ever stop to wonder," he later remarked, "how the people of Kuwait City, after being held hostage for seven long and painful months, were able to get hand-held American - and, for that matter, the flags of other coalition countries?" After a pause, he added, "Well, you now know the answer. That was one of my jobs then."

How indeed did those Kuwaitis get those flags? And how did the Libyans get theirs? Then as if on cue, Eman al-Obeidi manages to provide this war's humanitarian crisis to Western TeeVee audiences, just like good ol' Nayirah al-Sabah did back in 1990. Of course, we have since learned that Nayirah al-Sabah was the daughter of Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States, Saud bin Nasir al-Sabah, and that her testimony was written and arranged by the PR firm Hill & Knowlton. So then one wonders which PR firms are responsible for the flags and for al-Obeidi's performance.

UPDATE: Oddly enough, The New York Times spells it all out for us:

WASHINGTON — In 2009, top aides to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi called together 15 executives from global energy companies operating in Libya’s oil fields and issued an extraordinary demand: Shell out the money for his country’s $1.5 billion bill for its role in the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 and other terrorist attacks.

If the companies did not comply, the Libyan officials warned, there would be “serious consequences” for their oil leases, according to a State Department summary of the meeting.

And Russ Baker has a quiz:

Embattled Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi: Good or bad? How about GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Some Things Never Change (Redux)

I posted this six years ago (god, have I been blogging that long?) and it seems apropos yet again in light of our Libya misadventure:

Charles Bukowski is a writer known mainly for his short stories and novels about hookers, gambling, heavy drinking and weird, abusive relationships. Later in his writing career, he also took up poetry. Here is one of my favorites.
In addition to his fiction and poetry, Charles Bukowski is the author of one of the best political essays ever written. It was originally published in a volume entitled, Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions and General Tales of Ordinary Madness. That volume has since been split in two and published under the titles The Most Beautiful Woman in Town and Tales of Ordinary Madness, both published by City Lights. The essay below appears in the former. I hope City Lights won’t be too pissed that I reprinted it here. Pardon the lack of capital letters; that’s the way he wrote it.

"Dear Mr. Bukowski: Why don't you ever write about politics or world affairs?"
"Dear M.K.: What for? Like, what's new? --- everybody knows the bacon is burning."

our raving takes place quite quietly while we are staring down at the hairs of a rug --- wondering what the shit went wrong when they blew up the trolley full of jellybeans with the poster of Popeye the Sailor stuck on the side.
that's all that matters: the good dream gone, and when that's gone it's all gone. the rest is horseshit games for the Generals and money-makers, speaking of which --- I see where another U.S. bomber full of H-bombs fell out of the sky again --- THIS time into the sea while SUPPOSEDLY protecting my life. the State Dept. says the H-bombs were "unarmed," whatever that means. then we continue to read where one of the H-bombs (lost) had split open and was spreading radioactive shit everywhere while supposedly protecting me WHILE I hadn't even asked for protection. the difference between a Democracy and a Dictatorship is that in a Dictatorship you don't have to waste your time voting.
getting back to the H-bomb dropout --- a little while back the same thing happened off the coast of SPAIN. (we are everywhere, protecting me.) again the bombs get lost --- careless little toys. it took them 3 months --- if I remember properly --- to find and lift that last bomb out of there. It may have been 3 weeks but to the people in that coast town it must have seemed 3 years. that last bomb --- the god damned thing had gotten itself wedged on the edge of a sandhill far down in the sea. and everytime they tried to hook the thing, so tenderly, it would shake loose and roll a little further down the hill. meanwhile, all the poor people in that coast town were tossing in their beds at night wondering if they'd be blown to hell, courtesy of the Stars and Stripes. of course, the U.S. State Dept. issued a statement saying the H-bomb had no detonation fuse, but meanwhile the rich had left for other parts and the American sailors and townspeople looked very nervous. (after all, if the things couldn't blow up what were they flying them around for? might as well carry 2-ton salamis. fuse means "spark" or "trigger," and "spark" can come from anywhere, and "trigger" means "jolt" or any similar action that will set off the firing mechanism. NOW the terminology is "unarmed," which sounds safer but is the same thing.) anyhow, they hooked at the bomb but as the saying goes, the thing seemed to have a mind of its own. then a few undersea storms came about and our lovely little bomb rolled further and further down its hill.
the sea is very deep, much deeper than our leadership.
finally, special equipment was designed just to haul bomb-ass and the thing was pulled from the sea. Palomares. yes, that's where it happened: Palomares. and you know what they did next? the American Navy had a BAND CONCERT in the town park in celebration of finding the bomb - if the thing wasn't dangerous they were really cutting loose. yes, and the sailors played the music and everyone came together in one big sexual and spiritual release. whatever happened to the bomb they pulled out of the sea, I don't know, nobody (except the few) knows, and the band played on while 1,000 tons of radio- active Spanish topsoil was shipped to Aiken, S.C. in sealed containers. I'll be the rent is cheap in Aiken, S.C.
so now our bombs are swimming and sinking, chilled and "un-armed" about Iceland.
so what do you do when you've got the people's minds on something not so good? easy, you get their minds on something else. they can only think about one thing at a time. like, all right, headline of Jan. 23, 1968: B-52 CRASHES OFF GREENLAND WITH H-BOMBS; DANES IRKED. Danes irked? oh, mother!
anyhow, suddenly, Jan. 24, headline: NORTH KOREANS SEIZE U.S. NAVY SHIP.
oh boy, patriotism is back! why, those dirty bastards! I thought THAT war was over! ah ha, I see --- the REDS! Korean puppets!
it says under the A.P. wirephoto, something like this --- the U.S. intelligence ship Pueblo --- formerly an army cargo ship, now converted into one of the Navy's secret spy ships equipped with electric monitoring gear and oceanographic equipment was forced into Wonsan Harbor off the coast of North Korea. those dirty Red bastards, always fucking around!
but I DID notice that the lost H-bomb story got shoved into a small space: "Radiation Detected at B-52 Crash Site; Split Bomb hinted."
we are told that the president was awakened between 2 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. and told of the capture of the Pueblo. I presume he went back to sleep.

the U.S. says the Pueblo was in international waters; the Koreans say the ship was in territorial waters. one country is lying, one is not. then one wonders, what good is a spy ship in international waters? it's like wearing a raincoat on a sunny day. the closer you can get on in, the better your instruments pick up.
headline: Jan. 26, 1968: U.S. CALLS UP 14,700 AIR RESERVISTS. the lost H-bombs off Iceland have completely disappeared from print as if it had never happened.
Sen. John C. Stennis (D.-Miss.) said Mr. Johnson's decision (the call-up of Air Reserves) was "necessary and justified" and added, "I hope he will not hesitate to mobilize ground reserve components as well."
Senate minority leader, Richard B. Russell (D.-Ga.): "In the last analysis, this country must get the return of that ship and the men that were seized. After all, great wars have started from much less serious incidents than this."
House Speaker John W. McCormack (D.-Mass.): "The American people have to wake up to the realization that communism is still bent on world domination. there is too much apathy about it."
I think that if Adolph Hitler were around now he would pretty much enjoy the present scene. what's there to say about politics and world affairs? the Berlin Crisis, the Cuban crisis, spy planes, spy ships, Vietnam, Korea, lost H-bombs, riots in American cities, starvation in India, purge in Red China? are there good guys and bad guys? some that always lie, some that never lie? are there good governments and bad governments? no, there are only bad governments and worse governments. will there be a flash of light and heat that rips us apart one night while we are screwing or crapping or reading the comic strips or pasting blue-chip stamps into a book? instant death is nothing new, nor is mass instant death new. But we've improved the product; we've had these centuries of knowledge and culture and discovery to work with; the libraries are fat and crawling and overcrowded with books; great paintings sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars; medical science is transplanting the human heart; you can't tell a madman from a sane one upon the streets, and suddenly we find our lives, again, in the hands of the idiots. the bombs may never drop; the bombs might drop. eeney, meeney, miney, mo-
now if you'll forgive me, dear readers, I'll get back to the whores and the horses and the booze, while there's time. if these contain death, then, to me, it seems far less offensive to be responsible for your own death than the other kind which is brought to you fringed with phrases of Freedom and Democracy and Humanity and/or any of all that Bullshit.
first post, 12:30. first drink, now. and the whores will always be around. Clara, Penny, Alice, Jo- eeny, meeney, miney, mo.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Words of Wisdom from Bill Burr

"That's not a family photo. That's an environmental disaster and you framed it."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

TEPCO, Toshiba, Stone & Webster, and You

TEPCO, the utility company that operates the exploding Japanese nuclear reactors, has an 18 percent stake in the two new reactors President Obama has proposed for the South Texas Project. And as Greg Palast reports, both TEPCO and their US construction partner, Stone & Webster (now a division of The Shaw Group) have a history of falsifying safety reports. Not only that, but the reason The Shaw Group was able to acquire Stone & Webster so cheaply was due to a failed $147 million Indonesian kickback scheme that sank the company. And Toshiba has acquired the Westinghouse brand primarily for the purpose of promoting nuclear energy in the US, despite its now apparent incompetence in Japan. So, as usual, our nuclear power future is pock-marked with corruption and incompetence.

But wait! There's more!

In the latest shocking reversal from his campaign positions, President Obama is defending nuclear power's safety record in the wake of Japan's calamity. He has already asked Congress for $9 billion in loan guarantees for nuclear energy, and he is expected to seek an additional $56 billion in his inevitable second term.

So it appears the looming corporate feudal state will be augmented with dangerous, expensive nukes just for shits and giggles.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Right Wing Consists Entirely of Cheaters

From Thom Hartmann:

Beside screwing with EPA regulations – meddling in Wisconsin – and courting Supreme Court Justices - what else are the Koch brothers up to now? Try rewriting Wikipedia. ThinkProgress has uncovered evidence that the Koch’s employed a PR firm to act as a “sockpuppet” for them on websites.

A “sockpuppet” is Internet lingo to refer to someone who creates a fake online identity to hype up himself or herself or a company they work for on message boards or social networking sites. If a sockpuppet is found out – it usually leads to the person’s account being disabled. The Koch’s “sockpuppet” edited their several Wikipedia pages to remove any references to the Tea Party – hype up George Soros conspiracy theories – and delete any citations to progressive media outlets – essentially scrubbing the Internet of any potentially embarrassing or damning facts about the Kochs.

The Kochs have contracted with dozens of PR firms – they are BILLIONAIRES – to ensure their political agenda is kept under wraps. But thanks to some great reporting nowadays – these guys aren’t in the shadows anymore.

ThinkProgress fills us in on the details:

Last year, Koch Industries began employing New Media Strategies (NMS), an Internet PR firm that specializes in “word-of-mouth marketing” for major corporations including Coca-Cola, Burger King, AT&T, Dodge and Ford. It appears that, ever since the NMS contract was inked with Koch, an NMS employee began editing the Wikipedia page for “Charles Koch,” “David Koch,” “Political activities of the Koch family,” and “The Science of Success” (a book written by Charles). Under the moniker of “MBMAdmirer,” NMS employees edited Wikipedia articles to distance the Koch family from the Tea Party movement, to provide baseless comparisons between Koch and conspiracy theories surrounding George Soros, and to generally delete citations to liberal news outlets. After administrators flagged the MBMAdmirer account as a “sock puppet” — one of many fake accounts used to manipulate new media sites — a subsequent sock puppet investigation found that MBMAdmirer is connected to a number of dummy accounts and ones owned by NMS employees like Jeff Taylor.

But New Media Strategies isn't the only PR firm engaged in this type of deception. As George Monbiot reported in the Guardian, a PR firm called the Bivings Group specializes in "internet lobbying," which is corporate-speak for creating false consensus. And the Bivings Group wasn't content to post inaccurate Wikipedia entries; they actually sought to ruin the reputation of a scientist named Ignacio Chapela, whose research found fault with Monsanto's patented "Roundup Ready" crops. Of course, as we learned last month, thanks to the efforts of Anonymous, The Bivings Group isn't the only PR firm employed by Monsanto to game the system.

Back in 2001, the PBS programs FRONTLINE and NOVA teamed up to address the question of genetically modified crops in a segment entitled Harvest of Fear. Their extremely balanced approach included a 12-part questionnaire designed to offer valid "for" and "against" arguments regarding the use of genetically engineered crops. Readers were encouraged to view all 12 arguments -- six "for" and six "against" -- and then cast a final vote on where they stand. However, the site administrators for the questionnaire were forced to suspend the final vote and tallying options of the questionnaire because:

"In late May 2004, thanks in part to the vigilance of several outside readers who phoned in, we discovered that some person or persons had tampered with this feature's tally. Specifically, on May 16-17, 1,540,016 'Yes' votes and 33,641 'No' votes were cast via just four IP addresses. (Prior to May 16, a total of roughly 124,000 votes of any kind had been cast since the feature launched in April 2001.)

"Deeming the credibility of the tally to have been compromised, we made this page unavailable for several days while we decided how best to address this problem. In the end, we threw out these suspicious votes and recalculated the remaining response numbers and percentages. Then we did a more thorough scouring of votes from before May 2004.

"It appears that a lesser degree of multiple voting has been going on for some time, so we have decided to temporarily remove the final vote and tallying options from this feature until we can put a more secure system in place. The feature itself remains unchanged, and we encourage you to challenge your stance on GM foods by reading it. We apologize for any inconvenience, and we appreciate your readership."—The Editors

I wonder if it was The Bivings Group that was behind the fraudulent voting.

This type of online cheating has become legion. Remember last year's story about right-wingers "down voting" progressive stories on Digg.com? And who can forget this handy instructional video about how to become "digital activists."

Conservatives cannot prevail simply by stating and defending their position, so they have to cheat. It's their M.O. Sound ideologies aren't constructed with lies.

UPDATE: Please forgive the multiple fonts. Blogger's text editing is whack.

UPDATE II: The government is also getting in on the action. And if you listen to right-wing hate radio, chances are you're listening to actors.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Hypocrites to the Left of Me, Republicrats to the Right

This is awesome. Three years ago, Indiana Republicans enacted draconian voter identification legislation, and now, the Republican state elections chief has been indicted for voter fraud. Priceless.

In case you're wondering how draconian Indiana's voter ID law really is, check this out:

Retired Nuns Barred from Voting in Indiana
At least 10 retired nuns in South Bend, Indiana, were barred from voting in today's Indiana Democratic primary election because they lacked photo IDs required under a state law that the supreme court upheld last week.

What's more, the voter fraud these laws are supposedly attempting to combat is virtually non-existent, unless, of course, you count Republicans.

The true purpose of these voter ID laws -- which, by the way, are being enacted in around seven states -- is to disenfranchise elderly and poor voters, who traditionally vote Democratic.

Meanwhile, the outgoing (nominally Democratic) Chicago mayor and brother of incoming Obama chief of staff dutifully recites GOP talking points.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Another One Bites the Dust

Shit. I should've saved "Another One Bites the Dust" for this post. Is EVERY gay-bashing pseudo-christian preacher a closet perv?

Ant-Gay Pastor Grant Storms arrested for Masturbating at Playground full of children; Allegedly

The Rev. Grant Storms, the Christian fundamentalist known for his bullhorn protests of the Southern Decadence festival in the French Quarter, was arrested on a charge of masturbating at a Metairie park Friday afternoon. Storms, 53, of 2304 Green Acres Road in Metairie, was taken into custody at Lafreniere Park after two women reported seeing him masturbating in the driver's seat of his van, which was parked near the carousel and playground, a Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office report said.

The first woman told deputies she was taking her children to the playground and parked next to the van at about noon. As she was walking around her own vehicle, she noticed the van windows were down and the occupant was "looking at the playground area that contained children playing, with his zipper down...," the report said. The woman noted that he was masturbating and quickly ushered her children out of her car. She told a second woman, who walked to the van and also spotted the man masturbating, the report said. The second witness told deputies that the driver saw her and tried to conceal the zipper area of his pants with his hand...


"Investigators say two people claim they saw Storms masturbating in his van while watching children on the playground."

Will people ever abandon these hypocrites once and for all?

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

So Long, Sucker.

HBGary CEO Aaron Barr resigns amid ‘Anonymous’ scandal

The chief executive at data security firm HBGary Federal has resigned his job following a high-profile hack staged by online protest group "Anonymous."

Aaron Barr, the embattled CEO, made the disclosure yesterday speaking to ThreatPost, an online security blog. (Continue reading.)