Friday, February 28, 2014

Stalemate in Ukraine, As Everyone Stands Around Blinking; "Pierre" Helped Fund Coup

"They say" Russian troops are "occupying" key facilities in the Crimea, but there is no confirmation, as the troops on view have no identifying markings and they're not saying anything. I follow updates on the Beeb, not because they're even remotely "evenhanded," but because they are extensive.

Here's a portion of today's live updates:

  1. Welcome to our live page on the developing crisis in Crimea - Ukraine's only Russian-majority region and the home of Russia's Black Sea fleet.
    Men in Russian military uniforms are blockading a military airport in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol. Meanwhile, men in military uniform without national insignia are patrolling an airport in the Crimean capital Simferopol.
  2. Ukraine's newly appointed Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in a Facebook post that the Belbek international airport in Sevastopol is blocked by military units of the Russian navy, calling it a "military invasion and occupation.''
  3. The Interfax news agency reports that Russian servicemen wearing helmets and armoured body protection and backed by armoured personnel carriers, have taken up position on the perimeter of a military airport at Sevastopol. The agency quoted military sources in the region as saying that they had gone to Belbek military airport to stop "fighters" flying in.
  4. A spokesman for the airport in Simferopol has told the Interfax Ukraine news agency that it is operating normally despite the presence of the armed men filmed patrolling it.
  5. 07:53:
    Russian President Vladimir Putin has also ordered his government to continue talks with Ukraine on economic and trade relations and to consult foreign partners including the IMF and the G8 on financial aid, a statement on the Kremlin's website said. It also said Putin has ordered the government to consider a request from Crimea for humanitarian aid.
  6. 07:58:
    It is not the only crisis facing the new Ukranian government: its currency, the hryvnia, has slumped to an all-time low. The IMF has said it is ready to step in and will send a team in the coming days to assess the economic situation, but Ukraine's finance ministry has warned it needs help urgently - and 35 billion dollars over the next two years to avoid defaulting on its debt.

Seems everyone is standing around blinking and drinking tea and waiting for someone else to do something. Frau Merkel is strangely absent.

Meanwhile, Mark Ames over at Pando has uncovered the rather handsome funding the Omidyar Network has been providing the rebels in Kiev, hardly surprising when you think about it. Billionaires and oligarchs and plutocrats are gonna do what they do, and one of the things they do is synchronize governments all over the world to their bidding. As Ames notes, this is not a new phenomenon, as George Soros was deeply involved in the Color Revolutions of Eastern Europe.

Nevertheless, knowing this man is partially funding the Kiev uprising is kind of icky. Since, so far, the rebels have gotten away with it, and their sponsors are pumping their fists and issuing threats all over the place, one can only wonder which plutocrat - desired and funded rebellion/coup will be next. Venezuela is already in the crosshairs, but many others are in process.

The other thing is that Pierre's funding is combined with that of USAID (also very active in Venezuela) and so serves the combined interests of the US Government and the Billionaire's Boy's Club, and Pierre is also funding all sorts of NGOs active in the rebellion.

There will be blowback, but this is a new chapter in the overthrow of recalcitrant governments and the installation of more compliant ones.

But they still call it "democracy" so it's all good.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Ukrainian Thing on the Verge of Imploding?

Well, maybe that's what happens when the "West" decides to go all Fascist... again.


Unidentified armed men entered the Crimean parliament in the regional capital Simferopol by force on Thursday morning, and hoisted a Russian flag on the roof.
They were cheered by a handful of pro-Russian demonstrators who gathered round the building, despite a police cordon.

At the scene

A handful of pro-Russia demonstrators have pushed through the police cordon and are now outside the Crimean parliament.
They're cheering the occupation of the building by unidentified armed men, who entered this morning by force, hoisting a Russian flag from the roof. The protest leader proclaimed: "We've been waiting for this moment for 20 years. We want a united Russia."
This is the first big challenge for the new Ukrainian government. It has a delicate balancing act to perform in a region that straddles ethnic, political and linguistic divisions. Against the pro-Russian majority is a sizeable ethnic Ukrainian and Tatar minority who would firmly resist any attempt at secession.
But the demonstrators outside the parliament, waving Russian flags, say illegitimate protesters seized power in Kiev and that they fully intend to do the same here in Crimea.
"We've been waiting for this moment for 20 years," the protest leader said. "We want a united Russia."
The men are believed to be still in the building, although it is not clear if they have made any demands or statements.
They did put up a sign reading "Crimea is Russia" and threw a flash grenade in response to questions from a journalist, AP news agency reported.
Western leaders were quick to urge Moscow and Crimean activists not to escalate tensions further.

Few Americans today realize how fully Fascist and crypto-Fascist-ruled Europe was at the outbreak of WWII; the fight was between various flavors and factions of Fascism, not (at all) over whether "democracy" or "totalitarianism" would win.

Totalitarianism had already won.

And so it looks to be the case, perhaps, again...


More Beeb coverage...

  1. 11:12:
    Hello and welcome to the BBC's coverage of the political turmoil in Ukraine, as tensions rise over Russia's response to the crisis.
    Steve Rosenberg BBC News, Kiev
    tweets: On the floor of the Ukrainian parliament today, 73 portraits of people killed in #Kiev last week
    Image taken by BBC's Steve Rosenberg shows portraits of people killed in violence in Kiev
  3. 11:14:
    Ukraine's interim President, Olexander Turchynov, has warned Russia against any "military aggression" in Crimea. His warning comes after armed men seize two government buildings in the region. Crimea is located on a peninsula stretching out from the south of Ukraine between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. You can find out more by watching our brief history of Crimea here.
  4. 11:16:
    The Ukrainian foreign ministry has summoned Russia's charge d'affaires, Andrey Vorobyev, and handed him "notes concerning the latest events in Ukraine as well as movement of the Russian Black Sea Fleet units outside their bases" - Interfax-Ukraine. Mr Vorobyev is Russia's top representative in Ukraine after ambassador Mikhail Zurabov was recalled earlier.
  5. 11:21:
    An unnamed Nato chief says actions by an armed group in Crimea are "dangerous and irresponsible", Reuters is reporting.
  6. 11:24:
    Russian media is quoting official sources as saying Moscow has granted Viktor Yanukovych's request to ensure his personal safety.

Continues at the link above and here ("Report")

Monday, February 24, 2014

Victoria Nuland Explains All About The Ukrainian Situation to the Stakeholders: Chevron and Exxon Mobil

Back in December:

These people are insane.

Not All Revolutions Are Worthy of Our Support

The Maidan in Kiev, Jan 2014, before the explosion
And (so-called) progressives and leftists are fools to support the ones under way or recently manifested. Some of these uprisings and revolts are rightist, reactionary, counter-revolutionary, corporatist, globalist, and deeply contrary to the People's interests and well-being.

This sequence of reactionary, rightist, crypto-Fascist uprisings seemed to get going in Cairo last year when tens of thousands, and then reputedly millions, turned out in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in Egypt to denounce and demand the end of the elected Morsi regime. When Morsi refused an ultimatum from the military, the military removed him, by main force, and when Morsi supporters gathered in the squares of Egyptian cities to protest this clear violation of the democratic process, the military mounted snipers on rooftops to shoot into the crowds of protestors -- something that Morsi didn't do in the face of the protests against him and his rule.

When the snipers weren't able to adequately control the protests against the military coup in Egypt-- a "coup" by any other name, since the "world community" (ie: the United States government) refused to call it a coup -- the golpistas sent in the infantry and armored transport (otherwise known as tanks) and massacred hundreds and then thousands of Morsi supporters, massacred as many as it took to kill the protests against the coup, but the protests wouldn't die. Thousands, then tens of thousands of survivors of the massacres were arrested, disappeared, many were tortured, and still the protests would not die.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Propaganda on the Ukraine Thing is Going Hot And Heavy in Full Cry and Constant Loop

Richard Engel, on location, Kiev 02/23/2014 Revolution Complete

The Yanukovych regime's evacuation of Kiev has led to something akin to chest beating, fist pumping, and knuckle dragging on the part of the Establishment and its media handmaidens. I saw the spectacle of Richard Engel "live from Independence Square" in Kiev on Meet the Press this morning that was stomach churning and really rather chilling when you deconstruct it. Let's see if I can embed:

What Have I Been Saying?

This video interview with Mike Lofgren and Bill Moyers has been making the rounds for a few days now. It's a superficial examination of the Deep State which actually rules us and has been raising havoc around the world.

There are few details, of course, because it's all secret (shhh), but in fact Lofgren has been saying pretty much what he does here for years, and one might note that he touches on talking points and references the Tea Party for some unknown reason for "getting this one right."

In other words, dude is a player in the very Deep State he is so generously exposing.

Wouldn't be the first one.

Lofgren's essay is longer, but it's not much more detailed. Plowing well-furrowed ground, he is, but the fact is that for many people, all of this is still "news."

And his exposé ignores those parts of the Deep State that are practically in our laps, just as nearly every other hand-waver does.

They rarely want to say anything about the local police and FBI surveillance apparat and all the rest of it going on day in and day out.

At least he mentioned the symbiosis between Silicon Valley and the Surveillance State. Of course he exaggerated how much the Surveillance Valley (h/t Yasha Levine) wants to "distance itself" from its own behavior and its collaborative relationship with the Deep State from the beginning.

Further confirming that he's a player.

Note that both Greenwald and Snowden are now saying essentially what Naomi Wolf was excoriated for pointing out: Knowledge of the surveillance apparatus is sufficient to modify behavior. The more you know about it, the more you "voluntarily" curb your enthusiasm for stepping out of line. And Naomi asked whether that might be the reason for telling the World so much about the level of surveillance we're all under. Her basic question: Who benefits? And the answer is obvious: The police state benefits from the widespread knowledge that the Surveillance apparat is vast, growing, and could be spying on you!  Or as George Orwell is quoted by Greenwald:
Which thence he annotated: "Note: Key to 1984 wasn't that everybody was always being watched; the knowledge one could be is what imposed fear." (Dec 7, 2013 via Twitter; original image from Jon Schwartz (@tinyrevolution).

For saying what she said, Naomi Wolf  was trashed back in June. She hasn't had anything to say about Snowden, Greenwald, et al, since then. Now, of course, those who so eagerly trashed her have nothing to say about Greenwald and Snowden saying essentially the same thing.

And the questions she posed remain obscured and unanswered. See how that works?

Pando to Go All Gonzo and S*!t

One of the New Media ventures that have cropped up over the last couple of years is something called "Pando" -- dubbed "the site-of-record for Silicon Valley." It is primarily focused on tech-business news, a topic which has a somewhat limited appeal, but since acquisition of NSFW and its infamous stable of malcontents and dissidents, including Paul Carr, Mark Ames and Yasha Levine (the fate of War Nerd is yet to be determined), and the addition of David Sirota to its reportorial staff last year, Pando has vastly expanded its capabilities and its news content to encompass fierce and pointed media criticism (including New Media), corruption and deceit in ever higher places -- not just in Silicon Valley, and the power politics that is subsuming us all.

Within the last few days, Sarah Lacy and Paul Carr, the commercial and editorial heads of the enterprise, have announced a new and expanded mission for Pando, to encompass the World, I guess, and to do it Full Gonzo. Suckers!

Given what Pierre is up to over at his New Media start up, and given all the other rearrangements of the New Media firmament, if Pando expects to survive, let alone flourish, Going Gonzo is probably the way to do it. Sounds like Ames and Levine chattering away in the background.

But from a strategic standpoint, it makes perfect sense to continue to make as big a splash as possible, with as many OMG! investigative stories as possible, and to make them as hip and shit-kicking as possible, so as to distinguish Pando from the run of the mill New Media sites, some of which, like Pierre's baby, were born out of breath and barely moving.

What the public will gain from all of this media ferment, rearrangement and going Gonzo remains to be seen. Pando and many of the other New Media sites provide pretty decent coverage of particular topics of interest to their specific market/audience segment, though few of them are known for breaking new ground. They rely as much as Legacy Media on the same news wires, and consequently much of their content duplicates the same news that's found everywhere else in the media, sometimes with exactly the same stories.

The main difference between the Old and the New is the splash and the flash and the fact that the New Kids are on the internet more or less exclusively. I say more or less because the internet news sites are more and more integrated with radio and television news and opinion programs as well as more traditional print outlets. There is no real dividing line any more between the internet and ("") Legacy Media. They've long interacted, and now are homogenizing to the point that they are pretty much indistinguishable.

It's just that the traditional media formats are being de-capitalized and the upstarts are being over-capitalized -- on the premise that the Future of News is Online;  that's where the money is to be made in the future.

And there are, of course, The Billionaires, Our Own Private Oligarchs.

Pierre isn't the only one. Far from it. The fashion among the billionaires now is to purchase an already extant media enterprise and remake it into something more suited to Billionaires' tastes, or to create something from (almost) scratch that will appeal to the rubes almost as much as it appeals to the Overclass.

All the yabbering about "independent journalism" from staff is obvious bullshit. When all the media outlets become the private fiefs of particular billionaires, we will hear what they want us to hear, see what they want us to see, believe what they want us to believe. That's the game plan.

No longer will the Rabble be subjected to propaganda and lies that haven't been filtered through the billionaires' lens, and won't it be grand?

Pando has a lot of venture capital (though not even a fraction of the initial funding Pierre has dedicated to his New Media startup, nor is it close to the funding some other New Media ventures have raised), but the billionaires behind the scenes are kept well in the background, and they are said to have nothing to do with the content of the site.

Yet the fact is that one is not truly "independent" when one is dependent on the good graces of someone behind the scenes for one's sustenance and quite possibly one's prominence.

It's silly to claim, as FOX News does, that he who pays the piper doesn't call the tune. It's disingenuous. It's a lie. It's a pious fraud in some cases, an outright deception in others.

A way I've long looked at these matters is that "The Media is not your friend."

Media seeks to identify and exploit your vulnerabilities and fears to sell you something, whether it be products or propaganda. Media wants nothing less than control over your actions and beliefs. Your loyal attention is demanded and soon enough, it looks like it might be required.

In the old Soviet Union, the people were quite aware of the propaganda being fed to them by state media, and they were widely and openly contemptuous of it. They read and watched the official "news" -- but they also knew how to read and watch it in order to suss out the real story, if there was one. They also practiced informal person-to-person news dissemination (the famous "samizdat") that provided something much closer to the truth than could be found in the official media.

Americans are not used to thinking the way Soviets did about their media. In the United States and the West in general, it is an article of faith that there will be at least one major mass media outlet available "that you can trust." Building brand loyalty to that "one" media outlet is a full-time marketing job.

But that's how it's done. So long as enough people believe they are getting unbiased or at least accurate news from a mass media source they trust, all is good, and their loyalty to that outlet is assured.

It was recognized long ago, however, that if your trust is placed in any mass media outlet, your trust is misplaced, because they are all propagandizing, generally propagandizing the same things as their rivals, the only difference is they're doing it in a way that will develop your brand loyalty to them. In the process, they tell you lies.

Consequently, an alternative media developed as a companion to the mass media (sometimes actually owned by the same companies that owned the mass media) wherein it might sometimes be possible to find Gonzo investigative journalism that actually exposed what was really going on at a deeper level than even the most high profile award winning investigations in the mass media.  Nevertheless, it was necessary to remain skeptical of these alternative media stories, because even if they did get closer to the truth, they were still intended to support the agenda of building brand loyalty, though often enough there would be other agendas as well.

"Pando Goes Gonzo" is all well and good, but nevertheless, I wouldn't put any faith in it. It's a marketing tool, one that shouldn't be sneezed at because it often works, but the results may not be any more informative or useful than anything else that turns up in the New Media.

Be skeptical, be critical, be wary.

"The Media is Not Your Friend."

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Institutional Failure and the Rise of the Rebel

I've been pondering the situations in Ukraine, Venezuela, Thailand, Bosnia, and so many other places where neo-Fascist uprisings are underway with the full support, let it be said, of the EU and the US Government and its dozens of "democracy" NGOs, as well as the no doubt abundant collaboration of our amazing and ever-so-patriotic black ops and security apparats. Not to forget our ever-eager propaganda media spreading lies and half-truths in order to shape American opinion in favor of these neo-Fascist led crises.

Why is this happening now, I wonder, and why is it so easy to bamboozle the masses to accept this bullshit as the genuine rise of the People? Why is it so easy for the propaganda media to evade the whole issue of the violence inherent in all of these revolts and pretend they are all "peaceful" and "innocent" and that they are being brutally attacked by corrupt, tyrannical governments? Never mind that these governments were, by and large, elected and are not behaving tyrannically in any relative or rational sense at all.

I saw Zbigniew Brzezinski on Charlie Rose last night night before last [this post has been in the hopper for a while, and will continue being edited...] prattling like the bitter old man he is about the Ukrainian Thing and going off into fantasies of Russia as Putin "wants it to be." His imagination is obsessed with Russia and "containing the Soviet Union," for in Putin he sees a reincarnation of Stalin and  the reassembled and reestablished Soviet Union, something that the Free World must prevent or destroy at all costs. The Ukrainian Thing has nothing to do with Ukraine, in other words. It's all about preventing the rise of the New Stalin and his perfidious reestablishment of the Soviet Union and its Empire of yore.

The man is mad. The man is out of his frigging mind. He's old and he's bitter and his hatred for Russia and the Russian people knows no bounds. He won't rest until the Russian state is no longer even a remnant of its Imperial and Soviet extent. He won't rest until it is gone altogether, shattered into a thousand pieces, in ruins and destitute. He is our Cato the Elder, I guess, screaming out: "Russia delenda est!!!" every chance he gets.

The horrible thing is that our remnant governmental institutions and much of the corporate sector that owns them believes this shit even more fundamentally than Brzezinski himself does. He's almost mild and sane compared to them. This is one reason why we have been inundated with such relentless and bloodthirsty propaganda about the the troubles in Ukraine -- but have heard and read so little about the almost identical uprisings elsewhere.

It is yet another instance of institutional failure on a massive scale and yet another instance of how the vacuum is filled with madness, brutality -- and wherever possible, with rebellion.

The insane fantasy that Russia under Putin is somehow seeking to re-create and re-assemble the Soviet Union, and Putin himself is trying to become The New Stalin has been driving much of American foreign policy in the region for as long as Putin has been on the political scene in Russia. Anyone who's not the drunk but compliant Yeltsin, in other words, is seen as a threat to be contained and/or overthrown, the sooner the better. The Global Hegemon will not be content with anything less than submission, abject, full and willing.

Our government has never gotten beyond its fantasies of the Soviet Union, and many of our institutions are similarly locked in combat with something that truly never was -- the great and powerful monster they think it was and believe it still is.

And that's why Ukraine is being torn apart by the EU and US. Rent as fully asunder as, oh, say Yugoslavia was, or as the Soviet Union itself was under Yeltsin, back in the day. Our failed institutions, locked in the past, are still fighting the subversive and hot wars they dreamed about winning during the Cold War.

This can be nothing but insanity.

As insane as the behavior of these failed institutions is, it doesn't mean that the rebellions themselves entirely lack legitimacy. As I've said in other posts, people under oppression have a right and duty to rise up against their oppressors. That should be a given.

The question is, do these rebels represent the genuinely oppressed? And what, ultimately, do they want?

In Venezuela, the fact that the people rising up are not oppressed is starkly obvious. The rebels are almost entirely composed of los ricos or their wannabes. They are often blonde, well-dressed, well-coiffed, well-housed, and well-educated. They are the upper crust of Venezuelan society, and they want their power back. They resent being ruled by the Lower Orders, people they consider to be "salvajes"  and "animales" -- people only fit to be ruled, not to rule over los caballeros themselves. The very idea of it, ptui!

These class and race divisions giving rise to rebellion in Venezuela are very stark and obvious as they have been throughout the Bolivarian Revolutionary period under Chavez and Maduro, and as they have been throughout Venezuela's history since it was settled by German immigrants under Spanish rule. Of course they want their power back. They believe it is their right. Democracy? Piffle!

The anti-Bolivarian propaganda in this country has been strenuous and relentless since the establishment of the Bolivarian Revolution in the late '90s. When there was a coup against Chavez in 2002, American media, led by the New York Times, exploded with joy and rapture. Unfortunately for the celebrators, the coup only lasted a couple of days, and Chavez regained his presidential palace to continue on the path he'd set -- toward ever more democracy and social justice, something populations in Latin America had long yearned for, yearnings long thwarted by institutions established to prevent the rise of the People. Ever. Institutions that were enabled by the Spanish, by the governments that won their independence from Spain, and not much later by the United States government which took charge of the Hemisphere as its own private backyard empire.

The Bolivarian Revolution reversed the power structure of Venezuela, putting the long oppressed majority in charge and curtailing the power of los ricos to rule over them. A rather mild version of social and economic justice was instituted. The rich were not deprived of their wealth -- at least not entirely -- only their power over the state, power which was reserved to The People as a whole.

The uprisings of the rich against that state of affairs have been ongoing for close to two decades, and they have often turned bloody. The state, under Chavez and Maduro, has been remarkably tolerant of the mischief made by the rebels, essentially declaring an amnesty for the rebels time and again, in an apparent effort to include them in the Revolution. The burden the rebels are attempting to throw off does not appear to be that of genuine oppression, for it is difficult to find any significant effort to oppress the rich in Venezuela or to confiscate their wealth, or to silence their voices, or to interfere significantly with their ways of life. The burden the rich in Venezuela seek to throw off is a psychological one, the burden of their own sense of powerlessness -- though they are not truly powerless in the Bolivarian system at all, not any more so than anyone else is truly powerless.

One of the remarkable features of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela is the widespread use of direct democratic councils through which Venezuelans of all classes are empowered, and by which the country has been able to progress in the interests of all the people, not just a few.

And it is that very empowerment of the whole people as well as the extensive provision of basic housing, healthcare, education, and justice for all that the rebels seek to eliminate and destroy. When they talk about Maduro's "exit" they're talking about overthrowing the entire Bolivarian system and remaking Venezuela into a version of what it used to be, putting the closed sign on the institution of People's democracy and ending such frivolous nonsense as social and economic justice once and for all.
Now that the Ukrainian uprising has apparently succeeded in driving out Yanukovych and ending his rule (though it's not entirely certain), rebels in Caracas are no doubt encouraged. If they can only turn the military and police away from Maduro's government, they're home free, yes?

How might they do that?

Money talks, as we've been seeing in almost every corner of the globe, every aspect of life.

The rule of money, the failure of institutions, and the rise of rebels are all tied together. This year may well turn into one for the books.

[Events have intervened to cut short this post, though I'm sure it's quite long enough!]

The New Model Color Revolution

Ukraine's elected president has fled the capital and the government in Kiev, to the extent there is one, is in the hands of a parliament and rebels -- as well as, perhaps, the security services.

The New Model Color Revolution is on the march.

Whether this revolution will be consolidated or not remains to be seen, in part because it was apparently triggered and engineered by American and European economic and political interests in collaboration with a wide range of Ukrainian dissidents -- including neo-Fascist and Nazi groups.

Just yesterday, Polish and German representatives worked out an agreement with Yanukovych to restore the 2004 constitution and to hold new elections by December. In addition, all the armed groups were to turn in their weapons and stand down. A new Interior Minister would be selected. The police would not assault or harass protesters. Apparently, Putin told Yanukovych to agree. So he did.

And I wouldn't be surprised if immediately after this agreement was initialed, the new Interior Minister told Yanukovych that he could not count on the loyalty of the police or the troops, that for all intents and purposes, his rule was at an end.

Momentarily, the parliament voted to impeach Yanukovych, and he fled for the east, perhaps seeking Russian protection, but at this point, it's probably too late for that, as Yanukovych has shown himself to be, shall we say, somewhat inept in dealing with the uprising he's had in his midst for the last several months.

While this uprising has utilized some of the attributes of Gene Sharp's Color Revolutions as well as Occupy, the protests in Kiev have been very violent, with many hundreds injured over the last several months and dozens killed. Police have been routinely assaulted with firebombs and other weapons, and until the other day, they were unarmed and did not respond in kind.

However, it is my understanding that Putin was not happy with the weakness Yanukovych consistently showed in the face of the protests, and told him to man up and crack down. When he did so, it led to even more bloodshed, fires in the square and even more people protesting, which led to the "diplomatic" of the Poles and Germans at the presidential level, which essentially sealed Yanukovych's fate.

There are some indications that a civil war is possible, but with the military and police no longer loyal to Yanukovych, and with the parliament expressing its loyalty to the rebels, the likelihood of civil war is diminished. What happens from this point will depend, in large part, on how magnanimous the rebels are toward the ethnic Russian population.

Under German banking and Eurozone financial control, Ukraine will more than likely be subjected to Greek style austerity -- something Yanukovych was trying to avoid. The Greeks have risen up many times against the crippling, indeed killing, austerity being imposed on them by their German and Eurozone masters, but to no avail. Whether Ukrainians will be as ineffective in resisting the measures they will face as clients of the Germans and Eurozone financiers as the Greeks, Spanish, Portuguese, Italians and so many others have been remains to be seen. But I doubt they will be able to mount a serious defense.

The question of whether Russia will assert some sort of hegemony under the circumstances is still open. I doubt Russia will intervene more than symbolically. More likely in my view, Russia will attempt to strike a deal that enables a quasi independent Ukraine under German and Eurozone financial control, perhaps with a semi-autonomous Russian district.

If anyone in the region is politically skilled, it's Vladimir Putin. And it's clear Putin is disgusted with Yanukovych.

This New Model Color Revolution will no doubt be spreading, sooner rather than later, and there is little sign the results will be positive for the vast majority of humanity.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Good Explanation of Why the Focus on Snowden and the NSA Doesn't Tell Us Much About the National Surveillance/Security State

Tom Englehardt at The Nation.

Venezuela and Ukraine, Two Peas in the Pod

From Democracy Now!

On Ukraine with Stephen Cohen:

On Venezuela with George Ciccariello-Maher

Also, too, Venezuela with Mark Weisbrot from CCTV

Further Thoughts on the Boy's Club (and a Few Gurlz) Assembled Around The Philanthropic Billonaire

Practically anybody with a Wordpress or Blogspot site produces more content than Pierre Omidyar's flagship entry into the New Media Market.

"The Intercept," so far, has proved itself to be essentially a self-indulgent, self-congratulatory bust. Gawker and Politico, to name but two, easily run rings around them in terms of content, but so do hundreds of thousands of, well for lack of a better word, workaday blogs.

There still is (practically) no "there" there, and it seems that's the point of it. To assemble as large and as previously productive a team of journalists and commentators as possible, to bring along as many of their fans as possible, and to have them all sit around admiring the furnishings, smiling and laughing and telling one another how wonderful they are, recycling stories of past glories, and wondering when the party will start.

Well, it hasn't started yet, that's for sure.

And we must ask why, if "The Intercept" is supposed to be the start of something truly transformational and amazing, it is so very weak and enervated. Almost as if the life had been sucked out of it even before it emerged on the 'Zine scene a little less than two weeks ago.

Was that the point all along? To have a kind of empty vessel, where various media contrarians could be assembled and offered a permanent safe haven to say and do whatever they wanted and get paid for it at whatever the going rate was (or more), and where they could party hardy if they wanted, or just kick back and relax if that was more their inclination, but where they would not be required under any circumstances to do anything they didn't want to, where there would be no schedule, no demands, no production expectations, and no need to... perform?

Is this the transformative media Omidyar and others associated with him in this venture had in mind all along, and are they laughing now that they could so easily bamboozle those awaiting with such breathless anticipation the debut of this Grand New Media Thing?

Well, in a way, pretty much the same thing worked for Obama, didn't it? Gin up a huge body of fans, work them expertly, suggest -- but not really promise -- something new was on the horizon, tell them hope and change was nigh, hold their attention, but either provide nothing at all, or actually take more from the bamboozled than even the flim-flam artists of the Cheney Regime, and call it wonderful?

Is that the model for Omidyar's New Media?

Why not? It works so well in the political realm. Obama neither invented it nor does he do it all that well, though he's better at it than House Cheney has been (viz: Liz's political implosion). It's basic to post modern PR and marketing.

As an experiment, I went back through the archives, my own and at Salon, to explore perspectives on the Citizens United Thing during the hoo-hah over the Supreme Court's ruling overturning a century of campaign finance regulation and permitting unlimited expenditures of luscious cash by corporations in furtherance of 'Free Speech' as guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Recall, Greenwald was out front passionately defending the ruling, while dozens of legal minds took exception to his revanchist -- and in retrospect rather juvenile -- arguments in support of the Supreme Court majority opinion. He simply dismissed the weaker dissents out of hand and he ignored the more trenchant ones altogether, choosing to focus instead on the least informed  or least strenuously agued commentary against the Citizens United decision.

What is striking to me about it today, however, is not Greenwald's casual and dismissive attitude toward the dissent -- he never actually addressed Justice Stevens' well-argued and trenchant dissenting opinion at all -- it is rather his astonishing and surprisingly pre-figuring (again in retrospect) support for unlimited corporate political speech, no matter what the result, because "Teh Constitution."

No matter how cogently and succinctly it was pointed out to him that such a thing is NOT "teh Constitution," and how the SCOTUS majority twisted themselves into knots, and actually ruled on something that was not before them to get to the Citizens United decision, and no matter how often and well it was pointed out how truly malignant this thing was, akin in its own way to Plessy v Ferguson or even Dredd Scott, Greenwald dismissed or ignored the arguments, pressing ahead relentlessly with his ideological position that the Constitution and Bill of Rights required granting full corporate free speech rights and the elimination of campaign finance laws restricting those rights -- because (this is the truly juvenile part) the language of the First Amendment didn't specifically exclude corporate speech, aka: "money," from coverage under the First Amendment.

In other words, his self-declared absolutist and unwavering position was in support of the corporation no matter what the outcome, no matter what the arguments against it, no matter what the legal precedent had long been, and no matter how weak his arguments turned out to be. None of that mattered. What mattered was that corporations have unlimited and unfettered free speech rights based on their wealth and power, and that whatever resulted from their liberation from previous restrictions and legal restraints on them was... just too damn bad. Suck. It. Up.

Corporate rights are to be maximized and if the peasants don't like it, tough. It's constitutional!

Is it any wonder a billionaire might sit up and take notice?

Of course, I don't know that that's when Omidyar's gaze first landed on Greenwald, but it wouldn't surprise me if quite a few billionaires took an interest. The internal dynamic of Greenwald's posts on the matter of Citizens United is fairly obviously directed toward making a pitch for corporate/billionaire support of him and his endeavors. He cannot be dissuaded from his belief that corporate rights and interests are fully supported by the Constitution and that they cannot be restricted in any significant way by something as silly as "law."

This is obviously not a "lefty" position on these matters, and the fact that Greenwald was at the time considered by many to be a significant spokesman for "the left"  -- though he would routinely deny any such label -- his tireless (indeed, tiresome) advocacy on behalf of the Citizens United decision was a distinct outlier in "lefty" circles. His advocacy was strident, bizarre and it was unwavering. It was therefore sure to be noticed in the chambers and halls of money and power -- because it was so contrary to much professional legal opinion and to essentially the entire "leftist" political opinion. Greenwald was seriously out of step. And that can get one noticed.

I suspect he'd been "noticed" well before his strident and contrarian advocacy on behalf of Citizens United, however.

Those of us who noted his sudden appearance on the "progressive" blog scene and followed his meteoric rise from obscurity to "lefty spokesperson" seemingly out of nowhere were more than a little perplexed. It was obvious to many of us from the outset that he was no "lefty;" he was a highly verbose legal observer, one whose political inclinations, to the extent they could be characterized, were essentially reactionary and libertarian -- though he denied and decried such labels.

But then many of those who have been involved in the lefty blogosphere for any length of time recognized long ago that many of the prime movers and shakers in the field were almost all ex-Republicans with a strong libertarian/entrepreneurial bent who felt unwelcome in Republican political circles and who recast themselves as "progressives" -- they weren't really "leftists" in any case.  In that context, Greenwald not only fit right in, he was an almost instant celebrity -- because in addition to everything else, he was out and gay and living abroad with his Brazilian lover.

Wow! Perfect!

He was immediately adopted into the "lefty" blogosphere's A-List and heavily promoted therein. His use of sockpuppets and his frequent vicious attacks on all and sundry who didn't share his opinions or who questioned his perspectives, his honesty, and/or his sometimes reactionary legal and political statements and strategies were largely ignored by his more and more rabid internet supporters, including his backchannel ones.  Absolute submission and conformity of thought was one of the most striking aspects of Greenwald's more and more cult-like followers, many of whom, like he once did, seemed to utilize sockpuppets to bulk up the appearance of support and they were quite proud of it.

Once having secured his position in the "lefty" blogosphere, it seemed there was no mountain he could not climb. His career path seemed extraordinarily smooth as he generated an enormous amount of verbiage in his columns -- not to mention several best selling books denouncing the Bush administration's legal overreach, torture, a dysfunctional political system, the hypocrisy of others, and the routinely disparate "justice" system favoring the interests of the well-off.

He was picked up first by Salon media, then by the Guardian, where he used his ever louder megaphone to "inject" (his word) his contrarian, not infrequently reactionary, ideas and political points of view into liberal and lefty consciousness, and where he built a rabid following of internet fans, most of whom were of a similar libertarian and contrarian persuasion. Few of them showed any interest in or knowledge of actual leftist or even progressive politics, politics which Greenwald himself often denounced or declared irrelevant or an out and out failure.

He made his career denouncing the mainstream media (unless it provided him or those he favored an outlet, or otherwise conformed with his interests, in which case it was "doing its job" --  regardless of his denunciations), denouncing politicians and their hypocrisy, denouncing anyone who disagreed with him, denouncing.... well, you get the picture. He was instrumental in setting up numerous non-profits and political action committees, none of which actually accomplished much beyond raising lots of money. The financial and operational transparency of these outfits was close to opaque, so much so that he was given to lashing out at critics rather than providing the kind of transparency he demanded of others.

And then, once he had secured possession of the Snowden Trove of NSA documents, he (along with Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras and a stellar media staff) plighted his troth with Pierre Omidyar, the founder and chairman of eBay, whose companies are primary beneficiaries and users of NSA and other (inter)national surveillance state data and security.

And, to a not particularly surprising degree, very little -- some would say nothing -- has come from this union of strange bedfellows. So far, it is barren.

Greenwald maintains a presence on Twitter, but for the most part, his infamous Twitter wars with critics and media personalities have pretty much ceased. He has published very little for "The Intercept," though it is substantially more than Laura Poitras has, as she has published absolutely nothing on behalf of the New Media Transformational Enterprise. Jeremy has posted one piece that rehashes old news about cell-phone targeting of militants -- leading to the occasional "oopsie!" by drone pilots and night raiders in America's endless wars.

"The Intercept" itself (often without attribution) maintains an active Twitter and Facebook presence, generally referring to other media stories about "The Intercept" since "The Intercept's" own content is so very sparse. Self regard and congratulations on how awesome it all is, of course, is de rigueur. 

The few others who have posted at "The Intercept" have broken little new ground, but they have managed a good deal of self-regard and congratulation as well. Most of what is there is recycled from other news sources or opinion about what's appeared elsewhere. Gawker or Politico it ain't.

"The Intercept" would be dismissed as nonsense and piffle but for its claim of being "transformational." If that is so, and this is what the transformation of media looks like, then we can only assume we are looking at the extinction of the genre.

If this is the transformational End of media, it's going out with barely a whimper...

Ohhhhhhh! Katie Bar The Door!  Now Pierre has picked up Taibbi! (h/t Pathman in comments, or I wouldn't a noticed it at all) Taibbi!!!!!!™ My doG in Heaven! (*Heavy breathing, heavy breathing, heavy breathing... huff huff huff huff...*) /s

Speaking of The Archives, there was a time, going on a decade ago or so, when I really did consider Taibbi, Greenwald and Scahill to be just about the only major media players with (ahem) balls, and I really did look forward to their patented eviscerations of the PTB. Sy Hersh was fading -- apparently due to knowing too much when you got right down to it. These New Kids on the Block (so to speak) were taking up the cudgel. I cheered them, and I sincerely wish they were still on paths of righteousness.

But too many questions have been raised and left unanswered. The work product at "The Intercept" is weak, and it's still almost non-existent. Pierre's (companies') activities in collaboration with and on behalf of the (Inter)national Surveillance/Security State are incompatible with notions of free inquiry, free press, and free speech. It simply doesn't scan, any more than any billionaire's personal financing of media enterprise does. No matter what your "contract" says, you're not going to have what you think you have -- not if you're honest with yourself and your audience.

When it's boiled down, it's not so much that Pierre is buying up so many of the principal antagonists to at least some of the factions of Power, it's the dishonesty and opacity of this operation. It's the near-silencing of the voices bought by Omidyar.

Greenwald himself was called out directly by Alexa O'Brien for his lies about her contacts with him in regard to joining First Look and her questions about Omidyar and the PayPal 14. Scahill's "Dirty Wars" may get an Oscar, but it's been criticized for its focus on Scahill rather than the real stories of the Dirty Wars being conducted by the United States and its allies.

Poitras is absent from Pierre's stage, as is Segura and Wheeler. What? The Gurlz have nothing to say? Nothing to show? Isn't that something...

And now Taibbi has left Rolling Stone to set up his own little shop under Pierre's wing. Given what's gone on so far, we can be all but certain that he won't be saying much for attribution and publication for the next few months, and if "The Intercept" is the model for what's to come, he won't have much to say after his own operation (under Pierre's wing) is up and running, either, nor will those he cajoles and brings along with him.

Many observers speculated that the point of Pierre's operation was to consolidate, tame and partially silence as many of the loudest media voices speaking out against Power and Money as possible, and so far, that seems to be the case.

Which leads me to speculate that others, witnessing the spectacle, will arise and take up the cause.

But that remains to be seen...

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Authorities Detained and Questioned Over 60,000 Individuals at British Airports Under Terrorism Statutes

Just saying.

It's fine to focus attention on one individual who was detained and questioned by British authorities at Heathrow last year, but without a recognition of how often British officials use their detention and questioning authority at ports of entry and transit, what happens to an individual lacks context.

Of course, sometimes that lack of context is deliberate.

According to varying reports, between 60,000 and 70,000 people were detained and questioned at  British ports of entry and transit during the 2012/2013 period studied. Most of these incidents required less than an hour for resolution while some 40 or so required 6 hours or more to resolve. There were as nearly 700 detentions (one assumes longer than 9 hours, the length of time British authorities can hold someone without actually arresting them).

There has been extensive reporting regarding what's been characterised as the overuse of Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000 -- which has led to tens of thousands of travelers being detained and questioned under the Terrorism Act, even if there is no reasonable suspicion that they are terrorists.

Understanding how often and how broadly this statute is applied aids in understanding what needs to be done about it.

A "journalist exception" is probably not the answer.

[Potentially] Alarming Developments in Kiev, Bangkok, Caracas, Sarajevo. Cairo Set the Standard...

Morning Screen Grab from Kiev

Generally speaking, people have a right -- and duty -- to rise up in the face of tyranny and oppression. It's not easy, and it can be very risky for those who engage in it, but by and large, large scale social progress is made by means of protests and uprisings of the oppressed all over the world and in all eras.

Generally speaking, the progress that has been made through the means of protests and uprisings has been more or less liberating to those who have previously been oppressed, and that liberation has generally led to more liberation from tyranny and oppression. Thus, most uprisings of the sort we have witnessed for decades now, since the beginning of the fragmentation of the Soviet Union in the '80s, have led to more and more liberated societies and nations.

But the liberation from tyrannical regimes, be they Communist or otherwise, often comes at a huge price to the erstwhile liberated masses, a price that's paid in institutional failure, economic collapse, desperate living conditions, and destruction of social cohesion. The notion that what is lost is somehow "creative" -- thus the term, "creative destruction" so popular among the economic, social and political hit men (and women, I'm looking at you, Legarde) and mercenaries roaming the globe -- simply ignores or even celebrates the suffering left in the wake of so many Color Revolutions and the like over the years.

"Ukraine is burning" ran a breathless headline by one of my favorite authors over at dKos, jpmassar, one of the usually brightest and most keyed in to matters of uprising, revolt, and revolution they have over there. Well, I'd been watching the livestream from Kiev for a good portion of the day already, a livestream that I noted was labeled: Євромайдан -- революция,(ie: "Euromaidan -- Revolution"),  in the upper right corner, something most Americans might miss because they can't read the Cyrillic alphabet, and the corner label would just appear to be some gibberish in a foreign language. Probably (ick) Russian and therefore, given the way media and politics work in the world, slanted to favor the (ick) Russian point of view about (the foreign and unfamiliar) Ukraine.

Uh, no. In fact, the video feed was coming from a rather slick media operation run by the rebels who were burning their barricades in a spectacle in Independence Square in Kiev. As I watched the livestream, it was clear this wasn't just a slick media operation, the visuals were being consciously designed for maximum propaganda impact, not unlike Soviet filmmaking back in the day. It was really very well done, I have to say, but at the same time, it was highly deceptive and manipulative.

First of all, the images made it seem as if the city was on fire -- it's not -- and that the uprising was... general. It's not. These sorts of things don't generally involve a large percentage of the whole population, but they can involve a large proportion of a certain segment of that population (which is apparently what was going on in Cairo and Egypt too just prior to the al Sisi coup which overthrew the Morsi government and led to a brutal and bloody crack-down on Muslim Brotherhood resistance to the coup. But I'll get to that in due time...) The theory is that if a large enough segment of a single population sector or multiple sectors can be convinced to participate in demonstrations and protests and rebellion, then the Revolution is not only nigh, it has already come -- and quite likely whatever results from it will be something like victory for the rebels.

Revolution does not require and will hardly ever involve the whole population in any case. Most people will rationally choose to stay out of the way.

The images last night from Kiev also made it seem that there was some kind of "heroic" action taking place. Debris was being continually fed into the bonfires burning ("gloriously") in Maidan Square, luridly illuminating the scene. Police and firefighters were occasionally seen milling around the margins of what seemed to be a large -- but indistinct -- crowd. Now and then, there would be close ups of the fires and some silhouettes of the crowd passing back and forth in front of the blaze. From time to time, fireworks would be ignited and Molotov cocktails would fly through the air. There was no sound most of the time, but occasionally, there would be heard the pop-pop-pop of gunfire or fireworks, and from time to time, one could hear what sounded like many voices raised in song (was it the Ukrainian national anthem? It was.) Flags were flying, but what was on them was indistinguishable in the dark and the smoke. Some seemed tattered, battle worn, others more or less pristine.

The images from from at least three cameras, and probably more, were being intricately and expertly interwoven, so as to show close-ups, medium and long shots in turn, and at one point, a camera was focused on the silhouette of a young person climbing the outside of a building near the square. A lurid orange glow came from inside the building, and soon enough it would be apparent that the building was on fire. What was the silhouetted figure doing, though? I couldn't tell, and I didn't watch that scene long enough to find out, but in daytime views this morning, it appears he may have been heroically hanging a heroic Revolutionary banner on the outside of the burning trade union building -- or maybe he was just showing off, who knows? It made for some dramatic imagery, however.
Since the murderous rampages of Al Sisi's forces in Cairo in response to protests against the military coup there, I haven't been much inclined to watch the Global Revolution streams or closely follow the various uprisings that have been or are taking place, whether in Venezuela or Thailand, Ukraine or Bosnia  or much of anywhere else, because it seems to me that they are all rightist rebellions for the purpose of installing rightist regimes which will serve the interests of international finance. It's sickening.

This is not at all what the Occupy Movement was and is about, but every one of these uprisings is using Occupy tactics (along with a little ultra-violence) to gain and have its way. It has reached the point where even otherwise rightist supporters are wary and somewhat puzzled at what is going on.

It's fairly obvious to me. By utilizing the successful tactics of the Arab Spring and the later Occupy Movement to gain the attention and widespread sympathy of media and oppressed peoples around the world, factions of the oppressor class are seeking to mobilize media and world opinion on their behalf to undermine and overthrow governments which dare to take more interest in the people than in the oppressors.

This is obviously what's been going on in Caracas, so obvious it's breathtaking in its chutzpah. But in Thailand, Bosnia, and Turkey it's not been so obvious at all, as it seems the rebels have valid complaints and they are not trying to impose rightist rule -- and the oppression of the lower orders that goes with it -- at least not on the surface. Scratch a bit below the surface, however, and you will find many of the same dynamics, of a minority class based revolt, generally of the relatively well off, backed by a rising plutocratic class, trying to force ("inject") their interests into the popular consciousness enough to be able to overthrow the duly constituted and elected government and replace it with their own unelected one.

They use the tactics of Occupy, Arab Spring, and the Color Revolutions of Gene Sharp -- because they work, or they can work. But their intentions are to impose, to rule, to plunder, and to oppress.

Kiev is not actually burning, but it could erupt in flames at any time. The fires in the square last night were for show, and the show is one of a rightist, populist character, one we're seeing more and more of around the world.

And I have no doubt our metastasizing surveillance and security state apparat is deeply involved in every one of these uprisings. But will that story ever be told in the chest thumping, fist pumping, but largely content-free New Media ventures of Omidyar or any other billionaire? I doubt it.

Even the once iconoclastic Mark Ames and Yasha Levine now of Pando appear to be neutered and are mostly silent about the global rightist coups.

Yes, it's alarming.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Because I Can -- Elina Garanca, "Carmen", Seguidilla, Dress Rehearsal Latvian National Opera, 2009

La Diva Assoluta:

And of course, for those with time on their hands, there's the entire Metropolitan Opera version from 2010 (get it fast, it gets taken down from the YouTubes frequently...)

The Media Trap

It's long been a matter of some note how easily Americans -- people in general, but Americans in particular -- can be manipulated, persuaded, and stampeded by propaganda, and how the American mass media serve as high octane conduits for some of the most egregious propaganda campaigns.

The premise that "government" is responsible for nearly all propaganda campaigns is false. This idea derives from Nazi, Soviet and Chinese examples from the 20th century and has never been particularly germane to the United States. Of course there are American government propaganda campaigns, but they are always undertaken in close collaboration with corporate interests and particularly with American mass media outlets. The US government is essentially incapable of mounting a significant propaganda campaign on its own, for it lacks suitable conduits to get the word out. Any propaganda the Government wishes to "catapult" -- to coin a phrase -- must take place in concert with, and be aligned with, the interests of corporate mass media.

Much as it might like to, the Government cannot compel mass media to carry propaganda messages on Government's behalf against the will of the media enterprises. That Americans are immersed in propaganda is the direct result of mass media's delight in propagandizing on its own behalf and on behalf of Government interests that coincide with corporate ones.

On the other hand, corporate mass media is constantly engaged in essentially independent corporate propaganda. It is relentless. It's called "advertising," but there is much more to it than that. They aren't simply promoting and selling product; they are shaping beliefs, controlling behaviors, and directing actions.

I posted recently about some of the anti-communist propaganda and scaremongering I was immersed in when I was in elementary school, propaganda that made a huge impression on me -- even though I came to disbelieve and ridicule it while being continually exposed to it. This propaganda was a universal fact of life that could not be escaped in the 1950's, something that people who weren't exposed to it have a hard time understanding. It wasn't just anti-communist propaganda, it was also the constant scaremongering over The Bomb and our pretty much certain nuclear annihilation when the Soviets launched their inevitable attack.

As much as we look back and would like to believe that this was all a government propaganda campaign, it was not. It was just as surely a corporate campaign, as was the whole Cold War enterprise from start to finish. It wasn't just the military-industrial complex, it was the entire infrastructure of public-private command and control that had been built during WWII which continued -- and continued to grow -- relentlessly during the Cold War and afterwards.

The United States and its allies may have been victorious in WWII, but that victory was hardly a matter of the government alone pursuing military ends. It was just as much a matter of corporate self-interest. After the War, the government shrank while corporate strength grew. And the "enemy" was immediately transformed from the defeated Nazis and Imperial Japan to the victorious Soviets, soon thereafter joined by the Reds in China. This transformation of enemies was accomplished through propaganda.

The major mass media (all privately and mostly corporate controlled) conditioned the public to accept this state of affairs, even celebrate it as patriotic, righteous and good.

The revolt of the 1960's was triggered by recognition that what we had been conditioned to believe was... false. We had been sold a bill of goods about our own country and its conduct abroad, and it had to stop. The way to make it stop was to throw oneself onto the "machine" -- making it impossible for the machine to function.

Much as I maintain that a significant factor in the collapse of the Soviet Union was public disbelief in the propaganda they were fed, so I maintain that the revolt of the 1960's in this country was fed by a similar recognition and disbelief in American propaganda.

This idea has become clearer the deeper I plunge into Seth Rosenfeld's "Subversives." But in the back of my mind, I realize that Rosenfeld himself is a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, a significant part of "major mass media" on the West Coast, and he is weaving a media driven narrative of the events of the revolts of the 1960's, what led up to them and their aftermath. It's interesting, for example, that he "exposes" the propaganda and lies of the San Francisco Examiner during the period, but he has very little to say about the Chronicle's similar reporting during the era. The Examiner may have been somewhat more strident, but the Chronicle was no less negative about the student uprising at Berkeley and soon enough, merely less provocative. The two major regional newspapers were basically in agreement about the rebellions and those responsible, as were nearly all media outlets throughout California and soon enough throughout the country. Rosenfeld touches on this near-unanimity, but he focuses on the Examiner's stridency and lies rather than his own paper's fundamental agreement with them.

Once the rebellion was over, of course, it could be analyzed in a more dispassionate way -- and I really appreciate Rosenfeld's exhaustive examination of the events and players -- but it is still (to me, at any rate) a media construct and narrative, relying on reporting from the era, more recent interviews and media narrative driven interpretations of FBI and other documents Rosenfeld obtained over 30 years of FOIA requests.

The Media Trap is the reliance on major mass media almost exclusively to inform us. The mass media serves a function, to be sure, but it is not to inform us in any comprehensive and objective way. Its primary functions, as stated above, is to shape our beliefs, control our behavior, and direct our actions.

Reliance on news accounts and editorial positions that appear in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the many (surviving) regional newspapers for "objective" news is silly, but it's no worse than relying on media personalities who appear on television or radio, or more and more on the internet. These mass media outlets are propaganda organs. This is a truism, whether or not we agree with the propagandist's point of view and narrative about personalities and events.

Who holds the reins of this propaganda machine is often being contested, but the presumption that changing drivers (to mix a metaphor) will result in "better propaganda" --  or none at all  -- is absurd.

The propaganda machine exists for a particular purpose, and who is in charge of it or driving it doesn't change that mission and purpose.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Ginning Up a Fight With Benjamin Wittes and The Excuses For Lack of Publishing at "The Intercept"

This is just absurd. But it's also typical of the horrendously thin skins of those who are aligned with Greenwald, and their assumption that every parenthetical remark in every piece by one of their "enemies" insinuates something evil and is a smear.

(One thing about Greenwald's claque I noticed long ago was that neither they nor Greenwald actually knows what a real smear is, and so they use the hasbara tactic of claiming that practically everything their opponents or questioners ask, say or write is perforce a "smear," and thus unworthy of serious consideration. It's a neat propaganda trick, and it sometimes works. Ask the Israelis. When the "you're smearing me!" tactic doesn't work, just claim the opponent is "nuts.")

Marcy Wheeler is someone I've had a relatively high regard for, both for her independent blogging at and for her many efforts at FDL and elsewhere. She's extraordinarily bright, has a memory like no other, and has done some important and timely analysis of various matters of state in the news. She is generally able to suss out the real meanings of bureaucratic and legal ass covering gibberish, and her lengthy, detailed explorations of the various ways the Overclass subverts the nation are classics of their kind.

Nevertheless, she's taking to carrying the cudgel for Laura Poitras who, she claims, Wittes thinks "shouldn't be paid" for her journalism. This has to do with a current article in the NYT -- which I can't read because I've used up my monthly allotment of free articles and I don't want to become a subscriber. Aw. I find I can read the article so long as I arrive from a link on another site, in this case Emptywheel. So I'll read it anon.

[NOTE: Having now read the article, I mostly agree with Wittes' interpretation. There is no evidence that the NSA is conducting surveillance of privileged communications -- nor, unfortunately, is there evidence that they aren't --  but it appears that the Australians are doing so and they may be sharing that information with the NSA, though there is no direct evidence they are doing so, and if they are, there is no evidence of what they are doing with the information. In addition, this sharing, if it is going on, is not illegal, though it is certainly discomforting to lawyers and their clients. There is no indication in the story of what journalistic contribution Laura Poitras made, but there is no evidence she provided only the NSA documents and did not provide either notes or written copy to assist in the writing of the story. Since we don't know the extent of her contribution, I would not arbitrarily assume she only provided the NSA documents in exchange for a fee. I wouldn't call the story itself a "nothingburger," but it lacks important evidence and with that, the question of who is doing surveillance and what is being done with the data is an open question.]

At any rate, the story is rather amply described in Wittes' post, the post which has given rise to such ire on Wheeler's part.

Wheeler's sole objection (in the linked post), however, is Wittes' supposed insinuation that "journalists shouldn't be paid," together with his implied "smear" of Poitras suggesting that she (Laura Poitras) didn't provide anything to the story in the Times but certain documents she obtained from the Snowden Trove. In other words, she may have acted as a "source" not a "journalist."

For his part, Wittes denies he said or wrote any such thing. He said that instead he was concerned about the continued confusion over sources and reporters in this story.

From my perspective, that's not what he was saying or suggesting in his post either, but we may have to circle around to that topic another time.

He does point out, though, that the NYT story isn't about the NSA or illegality or the NSA spying on privileged communications between lawyers and clients. It's about the Australian equivalent of the NSA doing so, with an occasional consultation between the NSA field office in Canberra and its Australian counterpart. From the rather vague statements apparently in the documents Poitras provided to Risen, who apparently wrote the story with little or no journalistic input from Poitras beyond the provision of documents -- which I believe Wittes does imply, but being the lawyer he is, he doesn't state it directly.

The take away from the Wittes piece is that the Risen/Poitras story in the NYT does not say what many of the NSA's antagonists think it says. It does not say that the NSA is conducting this particular intelligence operation, but it does say that the NSA's Australian counterpart is. It doesn't say that the NSA is collecting privileged communications between lawyer and client (though I wouldn't be surprised if it were) and it doesn't say that any of this is illegal.

Focusing on Wittes' locution regarding Poitras getting paid or not, however, distracts entirely from those points, doesn't it? In fact, this is a typical tactic used by Greenwald and his confederates. If something appears in the media which just might raise some questions about interpretation (say) of an item which Greenwald or one of his cohorts has posted, a furious effort will get under way, led either by Greenwald himself or by one of his acolytes, to distract attention from the issues raised -- whether by smearing the writer or speaker, by calling them "nuts," by focusing on a minor word choice or error, or by bringing up entirely irrelevant points, or by launching relentless ad hominem and tu quoque attacks, or by using them in combination or all of them together, depends largely on the severity of the questions or points being raised by the opponent as well as the opponent's prominence.

This is guaranteed to happen to anyone who might be taken seriously; those who wouldn't be taken seriously anyway or who are not sufficiently prominent are ignored.

This particular incident, however, has the earmarks of being a false controversy, because it's obvious to me that Wittes deliberately inserted language into his post to initiate exactly the kind of hoo-hah eruption as has started. He knew that by suggesting that Poitras is "only a source" for this article, he would raise the ire of the Greenwald troopers. He must have known that this would distract from whatever point he's trying to make. Which leads me to believe he doesn't much care whether his point is made or not. He's just tweaking the troopers for sport.


Meanwhile, in a piece topped by a full face portrait of Pierre Omidyar, "Capital New York", an Albany political and media news outlet headed by Jim VandeHei (also head of Politico and formerly White House correspondent for the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal), interviews First Look Media's Executive Editor Eric Bates (formerly of Rolling Stone and former boss of both Matt Taibbi and the late Michael Hastings) regarding the more and more widely noted lack of content at "The Intercept," First Look's flagship magazine.

Bates is full of locutions and excuses, claiming that "The Intercept" postings will not be tied to a "hard timeline," and
"The timing of the reporting will be driven by the reporting itself. When they've got it nailed down and ready to go, they'll put out a story,” First Look’s Eric Bates told Capital on Tuesday. “I think it's by virtue of the nature of being in a philanthropic mode.”

If that isn't one of the more obtuse and opaque statements by anyone in the media since the WaPo's Deborah Howell, I don't know what is.

In one of the most astonishing statements from an Executive Editor I've ever seen -- and I've seen some doozies -- he seems to be saying that there is no new content at "The Intercept" because there is no news "nailed down and ready to go" that his reporters care to report. This of course is a complete contradiction to what Greenwald said to the Financial Times last week.

According to Bates, they are "in a philanthropic mode." Whatever that means. My take? The Movers and Shakers of Omidyar's startup new media node quite likely aren't being paid. They are the ones presently in "philanthropic" mode. Not their owner...

[Note: a couple of things I intended to write concerning the story about "The Intercept" in Capital New York got left out inadvertently.  In addition, when I tried to open the link to the story above, I got a 500 Internal Server Error. It took some doing to actually get back to the article, which could be due to any number of things...]

To continue:

The "philanthropy" that Bates appears to be referring to, however, is Omidyar's financial support of the enterprise, though it is not really clear, and why his financial support should actually be responsible for the minimal output at "The Intercept" is even more puzzling.

There is this surprising, indeed astonishing claim, for example:

 First Look Media debuts The Intercept in an interesting position: The need to release information obtained through Greenwald and fellow editors Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras' reporting, flowing from documents provided by Edward Snowden, is regarded as urgent enough to have required unshackling from the limitations and ensuing time constraints faced by Greenwald's former editors at The Guardian. At the same time, a massive media enterprise is envisioned that will take months and years to coalesce.
My emphasis. Was this the case with Gawker, with which Greenwald compares First Look in his FT interview last week? Was it the case with Politico or any of the numerous other online enterprises of people like VandeHei?  And what is being referenced here? The entirety of the First Look Media venture, or just "The Intercept?" As is the case of so many of the statements and so much of the reporting on the Omidyar effort, it's almost gibberish, and almost impossible to tell what is "really" being said.

Speaking of gibberish, Bates's quotes throughout the article are largely nonsense statements:

“We don't, at least initially, have to try to feed the beast at some frantic pace and that serves the journalism as well,” Bates said.
What is this "beast" of which he speaks, and is it too much to imagine at least one new post a day at "The Intercept?" Is that too "frantic" a pace? DoG knows, we wouldn't want to put anybody associated with it out after all...

"Part of the trick is you got so much material and this type of material doesn't necessarily readily reveal itself," Bates said. "So it really takes a lot of work to understand what is in there, so having this platform available will help answer that question. And getting that out there is really urgent."
Whu??? This statement truly is utter gibberish.  There's so much material, but it "doesn't reveal itself" and it takes a lot of work to understand it, so having a platform available will answer what question exactly? But there's no timeline or urgency to feed the beast, no timeline for publication of anything, so getting "that" out there is somehow "really urgent????" What the fuckity fuck? He's just babbling bullshit.

The rest of his statements are equally opaque and nonsensical.

"The Intercept" and its parent "First Look" will, apparently, not be tied down to any schedule, any timeline, nor any regular production, no matter what Greenwald says from Rio. This is, after all, "transformative media."  The fact that so little has been posted to date, and absolutely no "news"  has been posted that hasn't been extensively reported elsewhere in the past, is -- I guess -- the "transformation" of media that Omidyar and crew always intended. That there is no "there" there is the point. Eh? It is a platform for these enterprising journalists to... have a platform.

And thus, no "news" -- fit to print or otherwise.
Laura Poitras, as an example, has not, so far, written or posted anything for "The Intercept," but within the last couple of days, she has collaborated with James Risen at the NYT on a story hailed as "revelatory" of the perfidy of the NSA, based in part on Snowden docs no less , which is what "the platform" under Omidyar was/is touted to be for. But she's had nothing to say for it or about it since its existence was "leaked" last October.

If this is how Transformative Media is operated, we have been led down a very deep and dark rabbit hole indeed.

Propaganda and Scaremongering In the 1950's

Propaganda and scaremongering. This is the sort of thing that school kids were exposed to regularly during the 1950's and into the first half of the 1960's.

I remember seeing the following movie while assembled with the rest of my elementary school in the cafetorium. I must have been in the second or third grade. It scared me... and it made me laugh because houses in Southern California didn't have basements in which to take shelter when the bomb warnings came...

I remember seeing the one below, too, whether in school or in a theater, I can't be sure now, but the vision of the destructive power of the Bomb -- even when we were being told we could survive it, ha ha -- was a constant back-of-the-brain nightmare, and for many of us, it was a literal nightmare.

This is a photo (from the Goggle) of my elementary school cafetorium taken recently.

It hasn't changed a bit since I was a student there 100 years ago (well, from 1954 to 1959), except it was painted Institutional Green in my day. Notice something? That high bank of windows? Well, there's another bank of high windows on the opposite side of the building. Of course there were dark green canvas curtains to pull over the windows to darken the room when we were shown propaganda and survival movies and film strips, but none of us thought they would do much to keep the flying glass from cutting us to ribbons when the Bombs fell. We did believe the sturdy concrete walls would survive a blast, however, so there was that. The cafetorium, btw, was our "shelter" at school, unless we didn't have time after an alert to get to the cafetorium. In that case, we were supposed to shelter in our classrooms.

This is a picture of one of those classrooms:

Picture taken in the kindergarten of my elementary school by Allan Grant (not used) for a Life Magazine article on a family moving from Connecticut to Southern California for the sake of jobs and future..

Note the high windows? Not surprisingly, the other side of the room had windows, too, but these weren't up high. Instead, they went from the height of the cabinet you see on the left up to the ceiling. Note, also, in this room there are no desks under which to duck and cover (it was actually a double room with a folding door in the middle which could make it into two rooms if need be). The portion of the room not shown in the photo did have tables and chairs, though.

Regular classrooms, unlike the kindergarten, had desks of the rounded modern style, but getting under them was... well, a joke as they weren't really designed for... erm... blast protection.

Your Child Deserves the Best (blast protection? Not so much)
We did regular duck and cover drills, nevertheless, and what they'd do is have us push the desks against the side of the room with the lower windows and have us crouch against the side of the room with the high windows, covering our little necks with our hands. Much like the scene of children crouching in the hallway of the apartment house in the first video above or as the children below are doing in the hallway of Elysium Heights School in Los Angeles.

Duck and Cover Drill, Elysian Heights School, Los Angeles, CA, c. 1962

Of course there were no interior hallways in newer public schools in California; fresh air and sunshine was the fashion, and so there were no hallways at all; each grade level had its own separate building with up to four classrooms in each (it depended on the number of students in that grade). On the entrance side, there was a broad roof overhang that was like a porch, on the other side there was another roof overhang, but no "porch". There was a covered but not enclosed concrete walkway that connected all the buildings, as seen in the overhead shot below taken recently for the Google:

I don't know what those little buildings are at the ends of classroom wings. They weren't there when I went to school. Probably punishment cells for the children who annoy or defy the teachers or who bring contraband and forbidden things in their backpacks. Training them up for their inevitable prison stint, don'tchaknow.

Scaremongering was primarily of the Instant Incineration -- "but you can survive it!! if you Duck and Cover!!!" -- kind. This went on all through the 1950's and well into the 1960's. In high school, for example, one of our Bomb drills involved quick-marching the entire student body to "the bowl" -- the football stadium in the far corner of the campus -- where we were directed to assemble on the running track next to one of the seating areas and do the Duck and Cover routine. I only remember doing this one time though, because afterwards it was obvious to everyone, most especially the students, that this was one of the most absurd and ridiculous exercises the school district had ever ordered us to engage in. It took far too long to assemble the student body in the first place, longer still to quick march us to the far end of the campus (it was a large school) and it was obvious as sin that once assembled in "the bowl" we may as well kiss our asses goodbye as there was no protection from The Bomb at all, though the theory was that because "the bowl" was partially sunken into the ground, we would escape the blast wave. The problem, it was eventually realized, was that the distance between the rims of "the bowl" were so great, there wouldn't actually be any protection and we may as well be fully exposed to the impending blast.

This high school was located near one of the air force bases that was part of the SAC, the Strategic Air Command, and everyone knew in their bones that it was a prime target for nuclear annihilation. The school was no more than two or three miles from the main entrance of the base, so we knew full well that if the Bombs ever came, we would be vaporized or crispy critters in an instant. That realization leads to a kind of soul-deep resignation and apathy that's hard to describe, but which is very real. The honest assessment that most of us had was that "there is nothing we can do" if the base was targeted with hydrogen bombs. It would be... over... in a twinkling, and God help anyone who somehow survived. We knew this. It was not a matter of question or debate. We would not survive a nuclear attack. We were too close to a primary target.

My elementary school in Southern California, however, was thought to be far enough away from any likely target (primarily the Aerojet plant in Azusa, about eight miles as the crow flies) that "many" would survive... somehow.

We were also fed a steady diet of anti-Communist propaganda, mostly literature that warned us about Communists lurking in our midst or movies that told us blood curdling stories of the Communist tide overruning everything good and proper. Much of was focused on how "wonderful!" everything was for children in America compared to the gray and sooty -- and shoeless, always shoeless -- existence poor Ivan in Soviet Russia had to endure.

Two Samples of "Fight the Red Menace" Bubble Gum Cards 

In some ways, we believed this. In others we didn't. I lived in a new and integrated neighborhood, one of the few in California at the time that was not de facto segregated by race. Our neighbors may have been mostly Anglo, but there were many Latin/Hispanic families as well and more than a few blacks and Asians in the mix. Children thought nothing of it, of course, but parents sometimes let the prejudices they'd grown up with run away with their judgement, and there was occasional racial tension if not outright conflict.

The story of how "wonderful" everything was in the United States was the story of how "wonderful" everything was for white people. There were no people of color in this story, and there wouldn't be for many years to come, in any story of America, the Brave and Beautiful. While I lived in an integrated neighborhood and went to an integrated elementary school -- and thought nothing of it at all, because it seemed perfectly natural to me -- I was made aware that things weren't so "wonderful" for some people,  people of color, my neighbors and some of my friends. No, they had to endure discrimination, taunts, and not infrequent threats of violence from white people. It was wrong, absolutely wrong but that's what they endured. I also learned that for the most part, people of color were poorer and lived poorer than I did -- and when I was a child, I had no illusions about being well off, because we didn't live as if we were. We lived very modestly. But the children I knew in black and Hispanic families lived far more modestly than I did. As did some of the Anglo households.

The strictures and struggles of Poor Ivan in Soviet Russia that we were propagandized to believe were mirrored in the strictures and struggles of poor people and people of color all around us. The idea that somehow Ivan had it worse and that we should all celebrate our good fortune failed to resonate very strongly. It was obvious that we weren't all living in Capitalist Paradise. Not even close to all of us.

So even when I was very young, the anti-Communist propaganda we were immersed in didn't really resonate. I didn't know what conditions really were in the Soviet Union -- I would later learn of course that is both worse for some and much better for most than we were told -- but I knew from looking out my own two eyes that social and economic conditions in the United States were essentially nothing at all like we were told and were expected to believe. Nothing. At. All.

For example, none of us lived in houses with picket fences in front, and only a few of us were blond and blue eyed. In many households, even in the 1950's, both parents had to work because the father didn't make enough at the plant to make ends meet. Some households had only one parent in any case, and so for them there never was a well-coifed mother at home all the time to take care of the children. There were several ad hoc child-care providers -- that is to say, a woman down the street who would look after children whose parents were working -- but there was no organized day care of any kind.

Where we lived, by and large, people didn't have new cars, couldn't afford all the new appliances coming on the market, had few or no luxury items at home (many didn't even have televisions until the late '50s), didn't go on vacations to "the lake" and kids didn't go to camp in the summer,  some couldn't afford to belong to the Scouts or Campfire organizations -- and even if they could afford to belong, they might not be admitted because of some "defect" in their home-life or characters (such as being black or Hispanic for example.)

This was the reality we lived with. The anti-Communist propaganda campaigns seemed surreal under the circumstances, not so much because we disbelieved the myths about Communist Russia (we really didn't know one way or the other) but because it was so starkly obvious that the myths about America The Wonderful were... false.

Although I'm sure some of my neighbors were either Communists or Communit-sympathizers, as they were termed in the propaganda, they didn't seem to me to be any different than anyone else.

But one day, we found out my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Brossard, was targeted for alleged "subversive activities." He was a really good teacher -- which was apparently part of his problem, you see. The kids all liked him, and most parents thought he was great. But apparently someone reported him, for what I'm not entirely sure because there was nothing even vaguely "Communist" in his teaching. That didn't matter. He was a "suspect." And once "suspected," you might as well be dead. He was out of class on many days, and we had stupid and mean substitutes who we ignored or ridiculed to their faces. When he came back to class, he was... chastened, subdued. I began to think he didn't want to teach any more.

We never knew the details of the "investigation" into his "subversive activities," but whatever had happened had clearly hurt him deeply, and I don't doubt it had scared him witless. I moved out of that area in the middle of fifth grade, and I don't remember hearing about him after I moved (I may have and have forgotten). Just the idea that the anti-Communist witch hunt of the 1950's and '60s had come so close, though, was definitely disturbing.

It was one of many examples of the times, of the arbitrary imposition of authority, authority we were conditioned to accept, and yet when it happened to someone like Mr. Brossard, we knew it was wrong. Simply wrong.

The arbitrary imposition of authority would light the fire of the Civil Rights Movement and the Free Speech Movement and many other rebellions and movements through the rest of the century.

And now there's little doubt in many people's minds that the arbitrary imposition of authority as well as the general collapse of institutional integrity and the resurgence of propaganda and scaremongering is leading inevitably to another era of revolt and rebellion, the vanguard of which we've already seen in the Arab Spring and the subsequent global Occupy movement.

Speaking of which, while doing some research on Mario Savio, I came across this long and detailed article by Seth Rosenfeld published in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2004. It covers a lot of the same ground as his later book "Subversives" does, but it seems to do so more succinctly. I haven't finished reading the article -- it is quite long -- but from what I've read so far, I can recommend it highly for the insights it provided into Mario's sense of justice and doing what is right. The more I learn about him the higher my respect and regard for him. He was always a reluctant Movement celebrity, to be sure, and when he returned to relative obscurity, not that long after becoming such a huge figure in the student rebellion at UC Berkeley, what he gave to the rebels and the world may have been forgotten or overlooked -- as more radical and clownish figures like Jerry Rubin or Abbie Hoffman emerged, along with not a few more threatening figures. Mario was at the beginning of my rebellion -- I was 16 when the Free Speech Movement got under way at Berkeley -- and so he remains, for me, the central and original figure in the '60s revolt.