Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Federal reserve


Journalists, their lying sources, and the anthrax investigation

Glenn Greenwald drawing

The death of government scientist Bruce Ivins has generated far more questions about the anthrax attacks than it has answered. I want to return to the role the establishment media played in obfuscating the anthrax investigation for so long and, at times, aiding in what was clearly the deliberate deceit on the part of Government sources. This is yet another case where the establishment media possesses -- yet steadfastly conceals -- some of the most critical facts about what the Government has done, and insists on protecting the wrongdoers. Obtaining these answers from these media outlets is as important as obtaining them from the Government. Writing about ABC's dissemination of the false Iraq/anthrax story, The New Republic's Dayo Olopade wrote yesterday: "Pressure on ABC to out their sources should be swift and sustained."

The Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum argued yesterday that despite the need for journalists to use confidential sources, "the profession -- and the rest of us -- [are] better off if sources know that they run the risk of being unmasked if their mendacity is egregious enough to become newsworthy in its own right." Drum added: "I'd say that part of [Ross'] re-reporting ought to include a full explanation of exactly who was peddling the bentonite lie in the first place, and why they were doing it." Nonetheless, Drum said: "In practice, most journalists refuse to identify their sources under any circumstances at all, even when it's clear that those sources deliberately lied to them."

Drum is right that it is unusual for journalists to out their "sources" even when they are exploiting the confidentiality pledge to disseminate lies to the public, but such outing is by no means unprecedented. Last year, when I first wrote about ABC's broadcasting of this false Saddam/anthrax story, I spoke with numerous experts in "journalistic ethics," such as they are, and all of them -- journalists, Journalism Professors, and media critics alike -- agreed that while the obligation of source confidentiality is close to absolute, it does not extend to a source who deliberately exploits confidentiality to disseminate lies to the public. Under those circumstances, it's axiomatic in journalistic ethics that a reporter is not only permitted, but required, to disclose the identity of the source who purposely used the reporter to spread lies.



"No one is more dangerous than one who imagines himself pure in heart; for his purity. by definition is unassailable"
- James Baldwin (1924 - 1987) Notes of a native son, 1955

"It is part of the moral tragedy with which we are dealing that words like "democracy," "freedom," "rights," and "justice," which have so often inspired heroism and have led men to give their lives for things which make life worthwhile, can also become a trap, the means of destroying the very things men desire to uphold."
- Sir Norman Angell (1874 - 1967)

"When faced with a choice between confronting an unpleasant reality and defending a set of comforting and socially accepted beliefs, most people choose the later course".
- W. Lance Bennett.

I am your father


McCain, Anthrax & the Afghan Blunder

Independent Investigative Journalism Since 1995

By Robert Parry

The scene of John McCain – during the anthrax attacks in October 2001 – opining to David Letterman that Iraq might be responsible underscores McCain's central role in what may go down as one of the biggest strategic blunders in U.S. military history, the premature pivot from Afghanistan to Iraq.

Not only has it been clear for many years that McCain's speculation about Iraq's role in the anthrax attacks was reckless – made even more apparent by the FBI now pinning the crime on dead U.S. bio-defense scientist Bruce Ivins – but McCain also told Letterman in that Oct. 18, 2001, interview that "the second phase is Iraq."

In other words, barely a month after the 9/11 attacks and while the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan was still underway, McCain was already eying a war against Iraq.

McCain opened his appearance with the joke, "What is Osama bin Laden going to be for Halloween?" and then gave the punch line: "Dead."

However, bin Laden managed to survive that Halloween – and apparently six others – in part because President George W. Bush didn't commit enough U.S. ground forces to the battle of Tora Bora, allowing bin Laden and other key al-Qaeda leaders to escape.

Then, instead of staying focused on the challenge in Afghanistan and finishing the hunt for bin Laden, Bush heeded the advice of McCain and other neocons and shifted the attention of the CIA and the U.S. military toward Iraq.

Though federal investigators cast aside McCain's suspicion of an Iraqi link to the anthrax attacks, McCain continued to pin other false charges on Saddam Hussein's government, including allegations about illicit WMD and supposed operational ties to al-Qaeda.

For instance, on Feb. 2, 2002, McCain addressed the Munich Conference on Security Policy, giving a speech with the ambitious title, "From Crisis to Opportunity: American Internationalism and the New Atlantic Order."

In it, McCain laid out the full neoconservative case for turning U.S. attention quickly toward Iraq.

 "The next front is apparent, and we should not shirk from acknowledging it," McCain said. "A terrorist resides in Baghdad, with the resources of an entire state at his disposal, flush with cash from illicit oil revenues and proud of a decade-long record of defying the international community's demands that he come clean on his programs to develop weapons of mass destruction.

"A day of reckoning is approaching."


Hollow Time

 Uri Avnery's Column 

EHUD OLMERT'S resignation speech reached us on our way back from a demonstration.

We were protesting the death of Ahmad Moussa, aged 10, who was murdered during a demonstration against the Separation Fence at Na'ilin village - the fence that robs the village of most of its land in order to give it to the nearby settlement. A soldier aimed and shot the child with live ammunition at close range.

The protesters stood under the windows of the Minister of Defense's apartment in the luxurious Akirov Towers in Tel-Aviv and shouted: "Ehud Barak, Minister of Defense / How many children have you murdered so far?"

A short while later, Olmert spoke about his strenuous efforts to achieve peace, and promised to continue them until his last day in office.

The two events - the demonstration and the speech - are bound together. Together they provide an accurate picture of the era: peace speeches in the air and atrocities on the ground.

I AM not about to join the choir of retrospective heroes, who are now falling upon Olmert's political corpse and tearing it to pieces.

Not an attractive sight. I have seen this happen several times in my life, and every time it disgusts me.

This phenomenon is not particular to Israel. It can be found in the history and literature of many times and places: "The Rise and Fall of…"

It's an old story. People grovel in the dust at the feet of their hero. The ambitious and avaricious prance around him. Court-poets and court-jesters sing his praises, and their modern successors - the media people - extol his virtues. And then, one day, he falls from his pedestal and they trample all over him without mercy and without shame.

This is the mob that idolized Moshe Dayan after the Six-day War, and then smashed his statue into pieces after the Yom-Kippur war.


8 Random Anti-Hacks For Living

Photo courtesy of neon.love

by Clay Collins of Project Liberation and The Growing Life.

Please keep in mind some of these "anti-hacks" may not be practicable for you. These aren't "one size fits all" solutions.

1. Embrace Your Inner Dilettante, be Flaky, and Denounce the Cult of Permanence. After college graduation, we're allowed a couple years of experimental wiggle room. And when those years are oven we're supposed to semi-permanently stay put. We're supposed to stop vagabonding through life. We're supposed to sit down and shut up.

In this day and age, staying put in one's situation (i.e. one's career, job, company, city, town, etc.) is how you become an expert, advance in your field, and win the respect of your peers and family. We're fed the myth that staying put affords us dream jobs. And we want this permanence as well: we want tenure, we want seniority, we want bedrocks and sure things.

But radical and rapid-fire growth often happens when you have freedom to try new things. Rapid-fire growth doesn't require traveling across the country, starting a new business, or flooding your senses on a daily basis, but it often requires a high level of latitude. Radical growth often requires the ability to rapidly change directions, change contexts, and change situations. Rapidfire growth often requires a dilettante-esque mobility. And if you exercise this mobility enough, other may very well perceive you as someone who hasn't "found himself."

The problem is that post-higher-education life just isn't configured to encourage growth; it's configured to reward stagnation. We're rewarded for stagnating, for unnecessarily sticking with things.

2. Stop Hiding Behind the Comfort of Stepping Stones. So many of us live "stepping stone lives." We spend the majority of our waking hours working for goals that are merely stepping stones to other goals. For example:

  • We do well in high school so we can get into a good college.
  • We do well in college so we can get hired by a good company (or get into a good graduate school).
  • We do well at our jobs so we can get even better jobs and make more money.
  • We join committees to pad our resumes or impress our bosses.

(Question: what would your life be like if you cut out all the stepping stones?)

We are uncomfortable going after what we want in ways that aren't culturally or institutionally approved. But we would all do well to live courageously by directly going after what we want.

(I realize that not everyone has the luxury of avoiding stepping stones. If your dream requires a medical degree, for example, you'll need to suck it up and stay on those stones).

3. Pursue Self-Development over Productivity. Productivity often poses as self-development, but self-development and productivity can be two very different things. What is best for us as individuals can be bad for our on-the-job productivity.

4. Get to "Mind Like Water" the Original Way (i.e. Mindfulness). There is a myth among many productivity evangelists that productivity – or a productivity system – can lead to the meditative state likened to "mind like water.

"In karate there is an image that's used to define the position of perfect readiness: "mind like water." Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is, totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input; then it returns to calm. It doesn't overreact or underreact.

"[I]f you get seriously far out of that state–and start to feel out of control, stressed out, unfocused, bored, and stuck–do you have the ability to get yourself back into it? That's where the methodology of [my productivity system] will have the greatest impact on your life, by showing you how to get back to "mind like water," with all your resources and faculties functioning at a maximum level. " - David Allen

The mind like water myth is the myth is that any productivity system can be the starting point for having "all your resources and faculties functioning at maximum level." The myth is that a water-tight task-handling methodology, an elaborate folder system, a clockwork method for handling your inbox, a label-maker, and a set of routines come first.

The "mind like water myth" is that that productivity — or a productivity system — is the path, and that mind like water is the destination. Bruce lee once said that "all fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability" and that "the possession of anything begins in the mind." I believe Bruce is right: possession of a "mind like water" begins in the mind. It's not productivity first, mind like water second. It's the other way around.

So what's the truest, most direct, and surest path to mind like water? I believe it is mindfulness gained through meditation (or whatever other internal and inward means we take to get there).

Believing that "mind like water" results from a productivity systems that obsessively organizes our external reality only perpetuates the rat race.


Regrets: I Have a Few

 Richard Belzer by Richard Belzer

"I'm going to strip the bark off that little bastard and make Willie Horton his running mate!" So said Lee Atwater about Governor Michael Dukakis during the 1988 presidential campaign. Atwater, was Bush Sr.'s manager, and is legendary among the loathsome bottom-feeders of right-wing attack politics. On his deathbed, however, Atwater expressed deep remorse for his vile ways and was particularly ashamed and most deeply regretful over his treatment of Governor Dukakis. One hopes, most likely in vain, that this epiphany of regret would be an object lesson to others. But, alas there are those who have completely ignored any lessons to be gleamed from Atwater's dying wishes. Their worship stops short of the final chapter of their hero's sorry saga.

Head goon at Fox Fake News, Roger Ailes, and fugitive slime king Karl Rove are the heirs to this spiritually bankrupt intellectually fraudulent style of political discourse. It is depressingly clear that the corporate media has been co-opted, polluted, and all too willingly become the dance partner of these soulless ghouls.

Soon, I hope, this despicable demonization of presidential candidate Mr. Barack Obama will, like a giant filthy finger down the throat of America, force us all (particularly the so-called mainstream media) to once and for all regurgitate these sulfurous impurities in our once sacred body politic.



Three Cures for Ailing Newspapers

Ted Rall by Ted Rall

PORTLAND--"I feel I'm being catapulted into another world, a world I don't really understand," Denis Finley told the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. Finley, editor of the Virginian-Pilot, isn't the only newspaper executive who can't come up with a plan for the future. "Only 5 percent of [newspaper editors and publishers]," finds Pew's latest analysis of the nation's 1217 daily newspapers, "said they were very confident of their ability to predict what their newsrooms would look like five years from now."

Newspapers are in trouble. More people read them than ever, but most of them read them online, for free. Unfortunately online advertising rates are too low to make up for declining print circulation. A reader of The New York Times' print edition generates about 170 times as much revenue as someone who surfs NYTimes.com. (This is because print readers spend 47 minutes with the paper. Online browsers visit the paper's website a mere seven minutes--some of which they might not even be sitting in front of their computers.)

Newspaper executives don't know what to do. Papers are closing foreign bureaus and laying off thousands of reporters. No matter how many employees they fire, however, they can't slash or burn their way to profitability--there just isn't enough budget to cut in a future where income has dropped to 1/170th.

"Newspapers," writes San Jose State University business professor Joel West, "face two structural problems and have been unable to fix either one." One is the Web in general, which offers advertisers more, finely targeted access to readers. The other is news on the Web, which is free on sites like Google and Yahoo (which compile AP and other wire service stories), as well as the newspaper websites themselves.


Yes Conservatives, Inflating Tires Beats Coastal Drilling

The latest conservative lie -- regarding Sen. Barack Obama and fuel efficiency -- actually has a great amount of truth to it.

On Thursday, conservative radio host Sean Hannity claimed Obama said, "All you need to do is inflate your tires. That's all you need to do. If every American would join in this effort, of inflating one's tires, then it's all going to be fine. And we can still import 70% of our oil from Saudi Arabia. Just keep those tires inflated."

Conservatives -- lovers of childish mockery over substantive ideas -- later today are apparently planning to distribute tire gauges at an Obama energy event.

And earlier today on MSNBC's Morning Joe, conservative hack economist (who does not hold an economics degree) Larry Kudlow, a very loud advocate of coastal drilling, said of Obama's comments about tires, "That's not really much of a policy."

No, it's not. That was Obama's point.

Obama's actual comment last week was:

...we could save all the oil they're talking about getting off drilling, if everybody was just inflating their tires, and getting regular tune-ups. You could actually save just as much.

He was decidedly not saying "all you need to do" is inflate your ties, or "my entire energy policy" is inflating your tires.

(Obama has a much larger energy plan centered on investment in renewable energy and fuel efficiency technology. Similarly, it would not be fair to say Sen. John McCain's "entire" energy policy is coastal drilling, when he is also advocating loosening regulations on nuclear power and a contest to promote battery technology.)

Obama was observing that coastal drilling would save us so little oil and so little money even twenty years from now, that you can actually save more money immediately by doing "simple things" such as keeping your tires properly inflated.

Where did he get that crazy idea? From George Bush's Energy Department and Environmental Protection Agency. (hat tip: Get Energy Smart! Now!)


Sunny Forecast For Fuel Cells

Novel electrode materials bring large-scale use of solar power closer to reality

by Steve Ritter

BY MOST SCIENTISTS' estimations, the only way to meet future global energy demand in an environmentally friendly way is by tapping into the sun's energy. Two research groups now report significant breakthroughs in electrode materials that may speed up the widespread use of fuel cells, which could be essential to a solar-powered future.

Cobalt phosphate electrode material deposited on a conducting glass electrode (bottom) efficiently splits water in an electrolysis cell set up in Nocera's MIT lab (top).

MIT's Daniel G. Nocera and Matthew W. Kanan devised a novel cobalt phosphate catalyst that forms in situ on the surface of an indium tin oxide electrode (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1162018). The catalyst is made from inexpensive cobalt salts and potassium phosphate buffer at neutral pH. The researchers demonstrate that even when using relatively small amounts of electricity, it can easily split water on one side of an electrolysis cell at room temperature to form oxygen. Hydrogen ions released in the process are transported by phosphate to the other side of the cell, where they are reduced to H2 at a different electrode.

Splitting water is a key step in realizing a large-scale method to collect energy from the sun using photovoltaic cells and storing it in the form of oxygen and hydrogen that can be later used to power fuel cells. The new cobalt-based electrocatalyst is a vast departure from expensive platinum-based systems that require strongly basic or acidic conditions, operate at high temperature, and may never be economically viable on an industrial scale. It sets up plain water "as a fuel for the future," Nocera says, "to be obtained under environmentally benign and low-cost conditions."

"Efficiently converting solar energy to hydrogen fuel by water splitting is a grand challenge, which could provide a fuel that is produced and used without harm to the environment," says materials scientist Ray H. Baughman of the University of Texas, Dallas. "The pioneering work of the MIT team on developing improved catalysts might be a key part of this energy solution."


KKK founder statue finds its way into another race

 The Hill

A statue of Ku Klux Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest has made its way into a second congressional campaign this year, with Rep. Steve Cohen's (D-Tenn.) primary challenger injecting even more race into an already racially charged contest.
Democrat Nikki Tinker has launched a television ad spotlighting Cohen's vote against renaming a Memphis park that is named for the Confederate general. It is narrated by former Shelby County Commissioner Walter Bailey, and it juxtaposes a picture of Cohen with a statue of Forrest.

Both Bailey and Tinker are black. Cohen, who is white, is trying to hold on to a district that is 60 percent black.
Cohen said he wanted to avoid the racially divisive process of renaming the park, and he pointed out that city leaders never acted on the recommendation.
"It's just a desperation effort that's hard to fathom — that somebody would suggest that, particularly a Jewish person, was in any way involved with the Ku Klux Klan," Cohen told The Hill. "The Klan didn't exactly have Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana services and invite us over for them."



President's Job Is to Pardon

By David Swanson

In the evolving neocon scheme of unconstitutional US governance, the job of running the country may belong to the office of the Vice President, while the primary duty of the president (other than following orders and acting like he's in charge) may be to pardon the Vice President and all of his henchmen for their crimes.

We have survived (just barely) seven and a half years of life under a government that has eliminated the legislative and judicial branches, installed a certified moron in the oval office, and placed dictatorial power in a new fourth (or first) branch of government located wherever Dick Cheney casts his shadow. The Republican candidate to succeed George W. Bush is a bumbling idiot and senile to boot, clearly incapable of remembering what he had for breakfast, much less running a global empire. (And he lost any right to take pride in his torture victimhood when he began supporting the torture of others.) If he chooses a new Dick Cheney as his running mate, we will know that his role is puppet-in-chief and primary pardoner.

Now, I know what you're thinking: why can't Congress pardon each vice president and gang by legalizing their crimes, as done in the FISA modernization act or the military commissions act? Well, of course, it can - in the cases of crimes it finds out about. But Congress can't be counted on to pardon crimes that are successfully kept secret, which however might be discovered while the criminals remain alive. And laws can always be undone by new laws or court rulings, while presidential pardons cannot be.

Alright, fine, but why couldn't a president just pardon himself? Well, first of all, you don't want the president to be in charge of the national crime syndicate for a number of reasons. First of all, he has to be chosen through something resembling an open election - a process well suited to selecting a Bush or a McCain, but not a Cheney or Lieberman. The Vice Presidential candidate need not be chosen through any primary elections, and can remain a footnote in the general election. Second, the Vice President's office holds greater claim to a privilege of secrecy, by virtue of constituting its own separate and unregulated branch of government. Third, while the Constitution does not explicitly ban self-pardoning, no president has yet attempted it, and any sane Constitutional scholar would denounce it as patently outside the law.


China Fuels Repression in Darfur

NAF Header
China Fuels Repression in Darfur
Shameful History of Arming Sudan Mars Beijing's Reputation on Eve of Olympics
New York, NY-China has been the most egregious violator of the global arms embargo on the Sudan, providing everything from guns and ammunition to arms manufacturing facilities, according to a new issue brief released by the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation. Since 2004, the vast majority of Sudan's small arms and light weapons have come from China, and many of them have found their way into the hands of the notorious Janjaweed militias in Darfur. The issue brief will be released on August 6, 2008.
"China's domestic policies have come under much-deserved scrutiny in the run-up to the Olympics," notes William D. Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Initiative and the author of the new report. "But we shouldn't forget that the Chinese government's most egregious act has been its role as an enabler of mass murder in Darfur.  Without Chinese support, the ability of the Sudanese government and its allies to kill, maim, and intimidate the people of Darfur would be greatly diminished."

The arming of Sudan is just the most damning example of a Chinese policy that has resulted in major weapons exports to repressive regimes in Zimbabwe and Myanmar, as well as sales of missile technology to Iran and Pakistan. While noting that China controls only 2% of the global arms market, Hartung asserts that "China's impact is measured less by the value of its sales than by the character of its clients. It is the supplier of last resort for dictators and human rights abusers."

In answering the question of why China engages in weapons trafficking to the Sudan, the report notes that China is essentially "bartering arms and political support for access to Sudan's oil resources." Hartung argues that any policy designed to stop Chinese weapons sales to Sudan must address Beijing's economic interests there. In the short-term this could mean imposing economic costs by conditioning increases in trade and investment on China's willingness to stop arming the Sudan. In the longer-term, Hartung suggests a policy of energy cooperation between Washington and Beijing that could help "disentangle both nations from dependence on oil-rich tyrannies."

To arrange an interview, or for more information, contact William D. Hartung at 212-431-5808, ext. 201, or e-mail hartung@newamerica.net; Mr. Hartung is based in New York City.

Additional resources:
1. William D. Hartung's bio
2. Arms and Security Initiative Overview

The New America Foundation is a nonprofit public policy institute whose purpose is to bring exceptionally promising new voices and new ideas to the fore of American public discourse. Relying upon a venture capital approach, the Foundation invests in outstanding individuals and policy solutions that transcend the conventional political spectrum. Headquartered in Washington D.C., New America also has offices in California. 


Traffic: Criterion Collection

Director: Jacques Tati

Cast: Jacques Tati, Maria Kimberly, Marcel Fraval, Honore Bostel, Fran├žois Maisongross

(1971) Rated: N/A

US DVD release date: 15 July 2008 (Criteron)

by Kate Williams

In the vast marketplace that comprises world cinema, comedy is not an easily exportable product.  Action flicks, superheroes, cartoons and horror films are more often relied on to deliver the goods and draw international audiences into their local cinemas.  Outside specific sub-genres (like broad, physical-based comedy or romantic comedy), the humor of many comedic films seems to quickly and easily get lost in translation.  The commercial and financial success of many of today's top Hollywood's comedic stars—Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, Owen Wilson, and Vince Vaughn—seems limited to the shores of the United States, as their films routinely earn significantly less (on average) abroad than they do at home. 

Comedic film stars, historically speaking, who have enjoyed success and a truly international acclaim—brought about from their skilled artistry as performers and their unique ability to brand an indelible presence or character into the heart of popular culture—are a very select (i.e., ridiculously and shamefully small) group.  If pressed to name such stars, many cinemagoers would undoubtedly recite the usual suspects: Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Peter Sellers. 

One name that rightfully belongs on that short list of international comedy heavyweights is Jacques Tati, the acclaimed French filmmaker, writer and star.  Outside of Europe his name may not be as widely known and his work not as commercially familiar to general movie-going audiences, but the strength of Tati's talent and his lasting artistic contributions to world cinema are indisputable.