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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 05/15/2011 - 05/22/2011
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And, yes, I DO take it personally

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Political pornography

bill moyers...
There’s an interesting study out from the University of Michigan about how people don’t want to listen to the facts. Even if they know a fact is authentic, if they know it’s true, but if it offends their—or insults or undermines their belief system, they don’t want to, they don’t accept it; they reject it. That’s one reason, the explanation for the solid support the right-wing and conservative media have. Unless there’s an alternative to Fox News, to Rush Limbaugh—unless there are guys like you [Robert Scheer], Thom Hartmann and Amy Goodman out there, continuing to press the evidence to the contrary, continuing to do forensic journalism, deeply researched journalism—really we’re going to live in that smog of propaganda, sentimentality and frankly, pornography, which has—political pornography has transformed our discourse into an ugly and grotesque version of what should be a good conversation of democracy.

there's a lot of folks that i run across who fall in to the "don't want to listen to the facts" category... i have to say, however, that there's always somebody who surprises me...

this 28 year-old aussie private security company guy who has been helping out at the place i live in kabul is one of those... he only has a high school degree (level of education, as i learned long ago, is FAR from an indicator of intelligence) but his level of intellectual curiosity is remarkable... he knows more about what's going on in the world than a lot of much older, much more highly educated people and, what's more, he has a knack for putting the pieces together, an even rarer ability... it always gives me hope to unexpectedly find somebody like that...

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thursday photoblogging - Istalif, Afghanistan

i had a wonderful experience on wednesday... i went with a small group to the village of istalif, approximately an hour drive northwest of kabul... i have been dying - no pun intended - to get out to the afghan countryside ever since i first came here in march 2008 but due to the repressive security restrictions, i hadn't been able to pull it off - until now...

to say that it was beautiful is an understatement... tall trees both deciduous and evergreen, pomegranate bushes, a valley with a rushing river, all surrounded by the incredibly tall and rugged hindu kush mountains, with a fresh breeze untainted by the heavy pollution of kabul made it an afghanistan experience i won't soon forget...

here's a bit about istalif...

Istālif (Persian: استالف) is a village about 18 miles northwest of Kabul, Afghanistan, situated at 34.8403°N 69.1000°E at 1693 m altitude.[1] It is the center of Istalif District, Kabul Province, Afghanistan. The village was destroyed during the long-lasting wars around Kabul. There are a few repaired or newly constructed buildings. The village needs a lot of work to be done to return its previous state. Istalif is famous for its handmade glazed potteries. Its name might derive from Greek staphile 'bunch of grapes' or Parachi estuf 'cow-parsnip'.

istalif is located on the edge of the shomali plain...
Shomali Plain is a plateau north of Kabul. It is approximately 30 km wide, and 80 km long. The region was an enormous battleground for almost all of the 23 years of continuous war in Afghanistan. During the Taliban dictatorship, fighting was relatively sparse. But the plateau was maintained as a fighting frontier by Ahmed Shah Massud – one of the last resisters of the regime. The valley – fertile and rich with water – was once Kabul's garden: fruit and vegetables were cultivated here, and Kabul's residents picnicked here on weekends.

Today, the Shomali Plain is a desert. The destruction on this former battleground is almost absolute. There isn't a single house or a single tree – hardly a bush was spared: anything which might have served as a cover was removed.

Over a length of about 60 km, a 10 meter wide strip runs uninterrupted to the left and right side of the road – its stones, which are painted red, indicate a minefield. Here, if you step out of your car, you only have to stoop down to collect bullet casings, metal fragments, or – sometimes – a well-preserved dud.

The landscape is furrowed with trenches, tank-wrecks, cars full of bullet-holes, and shipping containers torn apart by a hand grenade, their sides now bulging outward.

here's a few of my photos from the trip...

The Istalif Valley

Abandoned and rusting tank, Istalif

Pomegranate bush, Istalif

Ceramics shop, Istalif

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

DSK resigns from IMF... Good guy...? Creep...? No matter... An erect penis is STILL a tool of power and domination... [UPDATE]

Strauss-Kahn Resigns From I.M.F. in Wake of His Arrest

Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned Wednesday as head of the International Monetary Fund after explosive accusations that he had sexually attacked a housekeeper in a Midtown Manhattan hotel room.

i've read a number of things about the whole dsk soap opera, everything from "he totally deserves whatever he's got coming" to this from paul craig roberts...
The Amerikan Police State Strides Forward

The International Monetary Fund’s director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was arrested last Sunday in New York City on the allegation of an immigrant hotel maid that he attempted to rape her in his hotel room. A New York judge has denied Strauss-Kahn bail on the grounds that he might flee to France.

President Bill Clinton survived his sexual escapades, because he was a servant to the system, not a threat. But Strauss-Kahn, like former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, was a threat to the system, and, like Eliot Spitzer, Strauss-Kahn has been deleted from the power ranks.

Strauss-Kahn was the first IMF director in my lifetime, if memory serves, who disavowed the traditional IMF policy of imposing on the poor and ordinary people the cost of bailing out Wall Street and the Western banks. Strauss-Kahn said that regulation had to be reimposed on the greed-driven, fraud-prone financial sector, which, unregulated, destroyed the lives of ordinary people. Strauss-Kahn listened to Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz, one of a handful of economists who has a social conscience.

Perhaps the most dangerous black mark in Strauss-Kahn’s book is that he was far ahead of America’s French puppet, President Sarkozy, in the upcoming French elections. Strauss-Kahn simply had to be eliminated.

It is possible that Strauss-Kahn eliminated himself and saved Washington the trouble. However, as a well-traveled person who has often stayed in New York hotels and in hotels in cities around the world, I have never experienced a maid entering unannounced into my room, much less when I was in the shower.

In the spun story, Strauss-Kahn is portrayed as so deprived of sex that he attempted to rape a hotel maid. Anyone who ever served on the staff of a powerful public figure knows that this is unlikely. On a senator’s staff on which I served, there were two aides whose job was to make certain that no woman, with the exception of his wife, was ever alone with the senator. This was done to protect the senator both from female power groupies, who lust after celebrities and powerful men, and from women sent by a rival on missions to compromise an opponent. A powerful man such as Strauss-Kahn would not have been starved for women, and as a multi-millionaire he could certainly afford to make his own discreet arrangements.

ok, believe what you want...

could dsk have been the champion of the poor and downtrodden that roberts claims...? hey, i suppose it's possible... could dsk have rubbed our super-rich elite handlers the wrong way because of that view...? sure... but here's where the story comes apart... if dsk was any kind of stand-up guy, he wouldn't have fallen for the "honey trap" and neither, goddamit, would eliot spitzer... if those guys were all that smart, all that committed to doing good and all that focused on what's right, they certainly would have to be smart enough not to fall for such obvious crap...

here's what i think... whether or not dsk's heart was in the right place, i think he was still totally enamored of his own position, his power, his money and his status in the global elite... so enamored, in fact, that he believed he could take what he wanted when he wanted it without suffering any consequences...

what's most interesting to me at this particular point in history is that the cycle for dealing with one's karma is becoming shorter and shorter -- and THAT'S a VERY good thing...!


i stumbled across what i think is a very astute article describing exactly the dynamic of unfettered, unaccountable power that i was pointing out above...

a couple of short excerpts...

Where there is shocking news, there must be a conspiracy theory. So it is that the arrest of IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn for sexual assault has spawned its own spate of wild speculation.


As it turns out, Dominique Strauss-Kahn may not like women very much. He appears instead to be a classic megalomaniac who thinks all women should be at his disposal. Power breeds hubris, both in men and women (See: Indira Gandhi, Jayalalithaa et al). But in a number of men, this arrogance becomes a form of sexual entitlement. Perhaps those simian analogies are indeed apt. Much like an alpha gorilla or chimp, DSK feels he should be allowed to readily take any female who catches his fancy, be it a fellow politician or the daughter of a family friend or a hotel maid.

Power also breeds a sense of immunity. Why did he do it? Because he could. If he got away with attacking a privileged member of the French elite, then why not a semi-literate African immigrant?

yep... that's pretty much the way i see it too...

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Glenn continues to lament the lack of accountability of our ruling elites and the National Security State

no excerpts... just go read it...

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Chomsky: the one foreign policy option that's never mentioned - a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East

yes, it's over an hour and a half long and, yes, some of it you may have heard before, but, as with everything that comes out of the fertile and ever-articulate mind of noam chomsky, it's well worth the listening and viewing...

the wonderful thing about chomsky is that he never, ever, presumes to talk down to anyone... listening to him speak is like having the most interesting conversation imaginable with one of the most cogent minds on the planet...

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Cornel West on Obama: I was completely wrong

chris hedges quoting obama campaign worker and princeton university professor cornel west on west's serious disillusionment and 180-degree u-turn after obama was elected...
“When you look at a society you look at it through the lens of the least of these, the weak and the vulnerable; you are committed to loving them first, not exclusively, but first, and therefore giving them priority,” says West, the Class of 1943 University Professor of African American Studies and Religion at Princeton University. “And even at this moment, when the empire is in deep decline, the culture is in deep decay, the political system is broken, where nearly everyone is up for sale, you say all I have is the subversive memory of those who came before, personal integrity, trying to live a decent life, and a willingness to live and die for the love of folk who are catching hell. This means civil disobedience, going to jail, supporting progressive forums of social unrest if they in fact awaken the conscience, whatever conscience is left, of the nation. And that’s where I find myself now.”

“I have to take some responsibility,” he admits of his support for Obama as we sit in his book-lined office. “I could have been reading into it more than was there."

"I was thinking maybe he has at least some progressive populist instincts that could become more manifest after the cautious policies of being a senator and working with [Sen. Joe] Lieberman as his mentor,” he says. “But it became very clear when I looked at the neoliberal economic team. The first announcement of Summers and Geithner I went ballistic. I said, ‘Oh, my God, I have really been misled at a very deep level.’ And the same is true for Dennis Ross and the other neo-imperial elites. I said, ‘I have been thoroughly misled, all this populist language is just a facade. I was under the impression that he might bring in the voices of brother Joseph Stiglitz and brother Paul Krugman. I figured, OK, given the structure of constraints of the capitalist democratic procedure that’s probably the best he could do. But at least he would have some voices concerned about working people, dealing with issues of jobs and downsizing and banks, some semblance of democratic accountability for Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats who are just running amuck. I was completely wrong.”

and, if the above isn't a sad enough indictment, here's what west says obama COULD be doing but has chosen not to...
“Can you imagine if Barack Obama had taken office and deliberately educated and taught the American people about the nature of the financial catastrophe and what greed was really taking place?” West asks. “If he had told us what kind of mechanisms of accountability needed to be in place, if he had focused on homeowners rather than investment banks for bailouts and engaged in massive job creation he could have nipped in the bud the right-wing populism of the tea party folk. The tea party folk are right when they say the government is corrupt. It is corrupt. Big business and banks have taken over government and corrupted it in deep ways.

“We have got to attempt to tell the truth, and that truth is painful,” he says.

like west, i thought i was voting for a man who would do what, in west's dream, obama would be doing right now... but no... the nightmare of untrammeled greed, led by those whose only imperatives are money and power and gaining more of same through the endless pursuit of endless war and corporate thievery, continues unabated...

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Is the nation’s expanding secret intelligence bureaucracy beyond meaningful accountability?

i think the answer to that question is a resounding "yes"... it not only is beyond accountability but it has been for a good many years... now, however, we're moving to a new level of reprisal for any and all attempts to force transparency... it's a policy designed to screw the lid on ever tighter and to demonstrate to any and all that you, too, can be severely punished for any attempt to shine light on our shadow government...

from the new yorker...

On June 13th, a fifty-four-year-old former government employee named Thomas Drake is scheduled to appear in a courtroom in Baltimore, where he will face some of the gravest charges that can be brought against an American citizen. A former senior executive at the National Security Agency, the government’s electronic-espionage service, he is accused, in essence, of being an enemy of the state. According to a ten-count indictment delivered against him in April, 2010, Drake violated the Espionage Act—the 1917 statute that was used to convict Aldrich Ames, the C.I.A. officer who, in the eighties and nineties, sold U.S. intelligence to the K.G.B., enabling the Kremlin to assassinate informants. In 2007, the indictment says, Drake willfully retained top-secret defense documents that he had sworn an oath to protect, sneaking them out of the intelligence agency’s headquarters, at Fort Meade, Maryland, and taking them home, for the purpose of “unauthorized disclosure.” The aim of this scheme, the indictment says, was to leak government secrets to an unnamed newspaper reporter, who is identifiable as Siobhan Gorman, of the Baltimore Sun. Gorman wrote a prize-winning series of articles for the Sun about financial waste, bureaucratic dysfunction, and dubious legal practices in N.S.A. counterterrorism programs. Drake is also charged with obstructing justice and lying to federal law-enforcement agents. If he is convicted on all counts, he could receive a prison term of thirty-five years.


When President Barack Obama took office, in 2009, he championed the cause of government transparency, and spoke admiringly of whistle-blowers, whom he described as “often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government.” But the Obama Administration has pursued leak prosecutions with a surprising relentlessness. Including the Drake case, it has been using the Espionage Act to press criminal charges in five alleged instances of national-security leaks—more such prosecutions than have occurred in all previous Administrations combined. The Drake case is one of two that Obama’s Justice Department has carried over from the Bush years.

Gabriel Schoenfeld, a conservative political scientist at the Hudson Institute, who, in his book “Necessary Secrets” (2009), argues for more stringent protection of classified information, says, “Ironically, Obama has presided over the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our history—even more so than Nixon.”


Steven Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, says of the Drake case, “The government wants this to be about unlawfully retained information. The defense, meanwhile, is painting a picture of a public-interested whistle-blower who struggled to bring attention to what he saw as multibillion-dollar mismanagement.” Because Drake is not a spy, Aftergood says, the case will “test whether intelligence officers can be convicted of violating the Espionage Act even if their intent is pure.” He believes that the trial may also test whether the nation’s expanding secret intelligence bureaucracy is beyond meaningful accountability.

another case in point - bradley manning...

watch your step, fellow citizens...

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Glenn comments on the latest instance of children being killed needlessly in Afghanistan

glenn commenting on an nyt story about the second time in three days that a child has been killed in afghanistan by nato forces...
It's the perfect self-perpetuating cycle: (1) They hate us and want to attack us because we're over there; therefore, (2) we have to stay and proliferate ourselves because they hate us and want to attack us; (3) our staying and proliferating ourselves makes them hate us and want to attack us more; therefore, (4) we can never leave, because of how much they hate us and want to attack us. The beauty of this War on Terror -- and, as the last two weeks have demonstrated, War is the bipartisan consensus for what we are and should be doing to address Terrorism -- is that it forever sustains its own ostensible cause.

sitting here in kabul, it's particularly painful to me when i hear of any child - but especially an afghan child - having his or her life senselessly ended in the murderous reign of terror and violence we call war... i was just having my breakfast and talking with our cook in the kitchen, asking about his family... he has four children, a son, 15, another son, 11, and two daughters, 5 and 3... he is clearly devoted to them and i can't imagine one of them being taken away as "collateral damage"...

sadly, it isn't just the war machine that is killing kids... the violence spills over into the rest of society as well... our other cook was telling me just yesterday morning how thieves, desperate for money, are kidnapping children off the streets and holding them for outrageous ransoms which, if they don't get in the specified time, simply kill the child...

i can't imagine losing a child... i have three grown children and two young grandsons, all of whom i love dearly... losing one of them would be far worse than losing an arm or a leg, and my life would be irrevocably and permanently diminished... children are the light of our lives... losing even one of them is a tradegy beyond comprehension and yet that is a daily fact of life for afghans... it must stop and stop soon...

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