Saturday, April 28, 2007

Speech Suppression, Corporate Monopoly Style

The Postal Regulatory Commission is in the process of setting new periodicals mailing rates that threaten to put many small publications with limited resources out of business.

The new rates will impose a life-threatening strain on political publications of both the left and right, such as The Progressive, In These Times, and The National Review. These are the kinds of political advocacy magazines that target niche readerships and carry limited, inexpensive advertising.

At the same time, the new rates will favor mass-circulation, advertising-heavy magazines such as People and TV Guide.

The Postal Regulatory Commission is adopting the new rate plan at the behest of corporate giant Time-Warner, which is now engaged in a naked attempt to drive smaller competition out of the market and establish a monopoly on information in the U.S., as well as extending its overseas influence.

This was the most important story of the week of April 15-21, but it was buried by the electronic media's monotonic coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre.

End Run Around the First Amendment

A necessary periodicals postal rate hike has been coming for a long time. But earlier this year, the regulatory commission rejected a proposal from its own U.S. Postal Service which would have imposed an across-the-board rates raise of 11 percent plus change for everybody.

That plan was in keeping with the 215-year history of egalitarian postal rates in this country, envisioned by Madison and Jefferson as a means to promote democracy by encouraging the free flow of information and opinion, even unpopular information and opinion.

But the political appointees of the Bush regime now occupying the Postal Regulatory Commission chose instead to secretly adopt the scheme put forward by Time-Warner, according to University of Illinois professor Robert McChesney, quoted at the conservative website World Net Daily:

"Postal policy converted the free press clause in the First Amendment from an abstract principle into a living breathing reality for Americans. And it has served that role throughout our history.

"What the Post Office now proposes goes directly against 215 years of postal policy. Under the plan, smaller periodicals will be hit with a much larger increase than big magazines– as much as 30 percent. Some of the largest circulation magazines will face hikes of less than 10 percent."

What the Postal Regulatory Commission has done, McChesney goes on to explain, is to adopt a rate schedule, secretly, in the dead of night, with no congressional supervision or oversight, giving the best prices to the biggest publishers, allowing them to lock in their market position, eliminate all smaller competition, and cement their monopoly over the information sector.

The new rates will go into effect on July 15 of this year unless this juggernaut is stopped. And it needs to be.

Monopoly Capitalism in One Country, and the Suppression of Speech

The Time-Warner plan is a perfect example of speech suppression and thought control in a sophisticated and seemingly "free and open" society such as the United States. In April of this year, Noam Chomsky wrote of this sort of speech suppression and mind control: "In crude and brutal societies, the Party Line is publicly proclaimed and must be obeyed - or else. What you actually believe is your own business and of far less concern. In societies where the state has lost the capacity to control by force, the Party Line is simply presupposed; then, vigorous debate is encouraged within the limits imposed by unstated doctrinal orthodoxy. The cruder of the two systems leads, naturally enough, to disbelief; the sophisticated variant gives an impression of openness and freedom, and so far more effectively serves to instill the Party Line. It becomes beyond question, beyond thought itself, like the air we breathe."

It would be "crude and brutal" indeed to simply arrest the publishers and editors of left-wing and right-wing publications and throw them in jail. But the sophisticated technique of hitting them in the wallet, thus eliminating them from marketplace of ideas and leaving room for nothing but conventional thought, is the perfectly tailored technique of our friendly, eminently reasonable, back-slapping and smiling version of the thought police.

This isn't speech suppression, they'll tell you, it's just how the market works. And "the market," as we all know, is a non-ideological, perfectly objective force, which just coincidentally works to eliminate all but the most timid and conventional forms of speech and thought.

Why It's Not Going to Work

In 1520 the Vatican rounded up all the copies of Luther's "95 Theses" they could find and burned them in St. Peter's Square. They thought they had eliminated the heretical threat.

Too bad for them. The printing press had already been invented, and despite the Cardinals' best efforts, the new technology rendered their feeble attempt at old-fashioned speech and thought suppression impotent.

In a similar fashion, even if this disastrous postal rate change goes into effect in July and many smaller publications are put out of business, they won't stop publishing. Largely thanks to Time-Warner itself, the internet has already been invented, and all the publications that would suffer under this blatant instance of speech suppression by the corporate oligarchy and its bribed lackeys and sycophants in the regulatory agencies will simply continue publishing on the net, and deriving what advertising revenue they can from that source.

But there's no reason why it should go into effect. Visit today. Sign the letter and e-mail it to your congressperson, to the Postal Board of Governors, the Postal Regulatory Commission, and the Postmaster General. Make noise, raise hell, and don't take "no" for an answer.

It's your country. Take it back.

Old Bessie

George Tenet's book, "At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the C.I.A." will be released on April 30.

Previews of the book emphasize its revelatory chapters and its provision of further proof (as if we needed any) that the country was deliberately lied into war in 2003. David Ignatius of the Washington Post, who apparently got an advance copy, writes that "George Tenet has been doing a slow burn ever since he left the CIA. He's been angrier and angrier as he saw himself being essentially made the fall guy on WMD in Iraq. And he's gonna come back saying he and his agency, the CIA, were pushed, again and again, by Cheney and Cheney's people to give him the answers that they wanted. And he's got chapter and verse on that."

So, Tenet is pissed about having been a tool.

Nobody made him do it.

Isn't it wonderful that guys like him game the system, climb the ladder to the top of the bureaucracy, dutifully follow orders, do and say what they're told, and then grow consciences after they've retired?

I guess under the rule of a military dictatorship, that's the way it has to be. The decider decides the rules for the wise ones and the fools, and everybody follows orders.

But keep in mind, the U.S. as a military dictatorship didn't start with Bush. He's just the most flagrant and obvious one so far.

The Emperor Lyndon Johnson liked to tell stories. The reporters found him very amusing and entertaining. Here's a story old down-home Lyndon, one of our emperors from 40 years ago, told about the problems of working with the dictator's private army, a.k.a. the C.I.A.

"Let me tell you about these intelligence guys," Johnson said, in his best "just folks" down-home twang. "When I was growing up in Texas we had a cow named Bessie. I'd get her in the stanchion, seat myself and squeeze out a pail of fresh milk. One day I'd worked hard and gotten a full pail of milk, but I wasn't paying attention, and old Bessie swung her shit-smeared tail through that bucket of milk. Now, you know, that's what these intelligence guys do. You work hard and get a good program or policy going, and they swing a shit-smeared tail through it."

Johnson said a mouthful about the U.S. and its foreign policy in modern times with that humble parable. When our leaders regard the truth as the equivalent of shit, it shows how deeply in trouble we are. And we've been in deep trouble for a long time before Bush and Cheney took us over the precipice.

Fast forward to 2003, and Tenet trying to tell Bush and Cheney that the truth is, Saddam is weaponless and defenceless. They tell him to shut up and say what they tell him to say. It'll all be in the book.

And of course, they already knew Saddam was weaponless and defenceless. Cowards and fascist liars like them would never attack someone capable of defending himself.

Freedom from war, freedom from fear, freedom from the insanity of military-industrial imperialism, these are things I've never known in my long life, and never will. But future generations will know them, provided they still have an earth to live on.

(Lyndon Johnson quoted by Chalmers Johnson in his book "Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic," page 90.)

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Gypsy Fiddler's Song

(A song to be sung without teeth and played without a bow; a movie to be shot with eyes.)

Green leaves are on the trees, green as apples.
Millions of flowers are in the fields.
The dog days are fast approaching;
July is almost upon us.

The tyrant is in the people's palace;
He takes our sons and daughters
And sends them to the faraway desert,
There to leave pieces of themselves --
This one a leg,
This one an arm,
That one a hand and an eye.

Millions of green leaves are on the trees,
July is almost upon us.

Bush the tyrant is taking everything;
He has taken all the money.
He makes us work long overtimes for nothing,
Without even time for a cigarette
Or a slice of pizza.

July is almost upon us;
He has even taken the cool breezes.
In the end he will take even the light.

Millions of green leaves,
People are in the streets
Calling out the name of the criminal.
"Bush, you have ruined our country."

Where are the soldiers?
In front of the people's palace,
Threatening the people with guns and bayonets.
"We're your brothers and sisters," the people say,
"We're your parents, your grandparents,
"Your aunts and uncles -- join us."

The dog days are fast approaching;
July is almost upon us.
In July, the month of revolution, the people say
"The tyrant is finished."

"Come out you coward, and face your judgment."

Millions of green leaves are on the trees,
And in the field, a million flowers.

(Adapted from the Gypsy fiddler's song "Balada Conducatorolui" in "Latcho Drom.")

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


The new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll came out today, and the numbers show that as time goes by more and more Americans are siding with the Democrats and turning away from Bush.

The numbers are astounding. And revealing.

56 Percent now say they want to see a firm date for withdrawing American troops from Iraq. 37 Percent say they're still with Bush. The numbers of Americans who believe victory in Iraq isn't possible is about the same as the number who want a withdrawal date.

The war is probably the biggest cause of the very sour mood in the country, with only 22 percent of Americans saying that the country is on the right track.

While Bush still has his hard-core, never-say-die adherents and echoes who believe every word he says, their numbers continue to shrink. In my 62-year life I've never seen this kind of disaffection and alienation from an American administration.

The depth of anger was somewhat similar under Nixon, but somehow the dissatisfaction didn't go as deep because people tended to think the problem was Nixon, not a systemic dysfunction. I'm not old enough to remember Truman's big slide in the public's estimation. And people's attitude toward Johnson tended to be less intense than their dislike of Bush. Americans didn't start really hating the Vietnam War in large numbers until long after Johnson was gohnson.

Americans now hate the Iraq War and hate Bush, and that's not going to change.

I don't know what's going to happen. Nobody does. But it wouldn't surprise me at all if George W. Bush doesn't finish his second term. Things are beginning to really heat up in the Democratic Congress. I think they're planning to take this administration apart piece by piece.

If that's what they do, it will be fun to watch. My only problem with all this is that it looks like many of us, once again, have been lulled into thinking that things will really change significantly when the Democrats assume full power. I believe we're collectively going to be extremely disappointed.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Enemy

I visited the website belonging to an American soldier named Pat Dollard, who writes "Eventually, I learned the joys of killing" by way of introduction.

Scrolling down, I read a post by a Corporal Tyler Rock, partially titled "I Got a Message for That Douche Harry Reid." Rock tells us that "ramadi (sic) was once dubbed by everyone as the worst city in the world. but we have done such a great job here that all the families in the area have worked with us on driving out the insurgency and that we work directly with the IA and the IP’s. the city has been cleaned up so well that the IP’s do most of the patrols now and we go out with them to hand out candy and toys to the children."

I'm glad things are so peaceful in Ramadi.

Live blogging NPR...On a violent day in Iraq, House and Sentate negotiators have agreed on a withdrawal date, to be included in a bill President Bush has promised to veto, saying he will not accept a bill containing any "artificial timetable." He does not say whether he would accept a bill containing a natural or an organic timetable.

The timetable for withdrawal is non-binding. That means it's a suggestion, not a requirement. Bush will veto the bill anyway.

Nine members of the 82nd Airborne Division were killed yesterday in a car bomb attack on their base...

"I think the surge has failed," Rep. John Murtha said on CNN today. "I think there was no possibility that it was going to work."

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that in Ramadi yesterday, "Three suicide car bombers killed 20 people and wounded 35 others in the Iraqi insurgent stronghold of Ramadi..."

As the day wore on, Harry Reid and Dick Cheney traded insults over the airwaves. Cheney accused Reid and the Democrats of "defeatism." Reid replied, "I'm not going to get into a name-calling contest with somebody who has a nine percent approval rating."

Also today, the premier American Mideast expert, Juan Cole, wrote in the San Jose Mercury News that the anti-American Shi'ite leader Moktada al-Sadr "On Monday...pulled his six Cabinet ministers out of the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and on the same day sponsored a demonstration 20,000 strong against a major provincial government. The previous week, he had brought hundreds of thousands of Iraqis into the streets of An-Najaf and other cities to protest Maliki's refusal to demand the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

"Can the Maliki government survive the defection of a major Shiite faction?" Cole asks.

Al-Sadr is quickly becoming the most powerful person in Iraq, Cole concludes.

As the war grinds on month after month, news of it begins blur in the mind, like the images seen in a kaleidoscope. Bush, Harry Reid, Moktada al-Sadr, the magnetic "Support Our Troops" ribbons on the backs of Ford Explorers, homicidal uniformed expeditionary cheerleaders for the Party Line on Iraq, the surreal, bulldog face of Cheney, the binding resolutions, the late, Chomsky-reading, two-times martyred football hero Pat Tillman, the non-binding resolutions, the stunned governments, the paralyzed legislatures, all blend together in a macabre spiral, the suicidal tailspin and death rattle of a doomed empire, unable to act to save itself, and heading irretrievably toward the rocks.

Is it possible to identify and point out who, exactly, brought us to this place? We need to find out who the enemy is. As a dispossessed Oklahoma farmer groaned in Grapes of Wrath, "Who are we supposed to shoot?"

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Under the "V"

From the website of "Editor and Publisher": "The most powerful indictment of the news media for falling down in its duties in the run-up to the war in Iraq will appear next Wednesday, a 90-minute PBS broadcast called 'Buying the War,' which marks the return of 'Bill Moyers Journal.' E&P was sent a preview DVD and a draft transcript for the program this week."

A couple of commenters on the E&P preview of Moyers's documentary drew the conclusion that the media, especially the electronic media, simply wrote an erroneous "first draft" of history. Such baloney.

If the electronic media are owned by the same corporations that own the warmongers in the White House, should we be surprised that they got together to cook up a batch of lies?

The "press" wasn't writing a "first draft" of anything. Moyers's documentary proves that they were regurgitating the bullshit the regime was feeding them, and they knew exactly what they were doing.

The Moyers expose reveals that of the 414 Iraq stories that ran on NBC, CBS, and ABC news in the six-month runup to the war, nearly all originated in PR handouts from the White House, Pentagon, or State Department.

NBC is owned by General Electric, CBS by Westinghouse Corp., ABC by Disney, and the White House by all of the above. I don't know why anybody is surprised that our corporate masters got their story straight when they needed to light a fire under the public, ever composed mostly of wide-eyed innocents, so as to boil them up into a sustained paroxysm of war fever.

There were a few dissenters. The Knight-Ridder newspaper chain did some commendable, genuinely investigative reporting during late 2002 and early 2003 (and if an independent, free press still exists at all in this country, you'll find it only in the "dead tree" media and on the blogs). NBC fired Phil Donahue after he objected to the network's orders that he couldn't have antiwar people on his show by themselves, and that he was required to have "two conservatives for every liberal." But mostly the corporate media simply did what they were ordered to do.

Welcome to Oceania.

Addressing the topics of mind control in modern societies, Noam Chomsky recently wrote that "In crude and brutal societies," (such as the old Soviet Union or North Korea today) "the Party Line is publicly proclaimed and must be obeyed - or else. What you actually believe is your own business and of far less concern." But the United States is not a crude and brutal society, and theoretically we enjoy "freedom of speech" and a "free press." Theoretically, we do not experience governmental mind control.

But in fact, we do experience it. The runup to the Iraq War is a perfect example of it. Chomsky explains, "In societies where the state has lost the capacity to control by force, the Party Line is simply presupposed; then, vigorous debate is encouraged within the limits imposed by unstated doctrinal orthodoxy. The cruder of the two systems leads, naturally enough, to disbelief; the sophisticated variant gives an impression of openness and freedom, and so far more effectively serves to instill the Party Line. It becomes beyond question, beyond thought itself, like the air we breathe." (Emphasis is mine.)

And who defines this "unstated doctrinal orthodoxy" of which Chomsky speaks? Who "imposes" the limits of acceptable political thought in a "free" society? Who delivers our "Party Line" to us?

Brian Williams does. And Chris Matthews. And Charlie Gibson. And Katie Couric. This is not an idle, reckless, or outlandish accusation I'm making here. If you want proof of what I'm saying, of what Chomsky is saying, Watch the Moyers documentary on Wednesday night and you'll see just how Americans were force fed their Party Line on Iraq.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Toast of the Beltway

One of the things Alberto Gonzales took a lot of heat for at his Senate hearing yesterday was his willingness to function as Bush's water boy, rather than as an independent and self-sufficient prosecutor. I don't know why the senators felt that way. You don't get mad at a lump of ice for being cold.

If the Shrub were to appoint a truly independent and completely nonpartisan AG, he or she would have plenty to do at home, putting the administration under the anal-o-scope. Enough to keep him or her busy for the next year and 2/3 for sure.

As for yesterday's hearings, I didn't see any of them on the teevee, but I listened to analysis and an hour-long recap on NPR last night, and ended up almost feeling sorry for the little guy. I've sat through a lot of Senate hearings, including most of Watergate, and I've never seen anybody shot at from so many different sides or treated with such undisguised contempt. Ever.

You'd think Gonzales would bail on the job just to escape from the horrible situation he's in. With the grilling he got yesterday, he must have been sitting there shaking like a dog shitting peach pits.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

New Kid in Town

The Pulitzer Prize for national journalism this year went to a 31-year-old Boston Globe reporter, Charlie Savage, for his 2006 series of articles on presidential signing statements.

Savage's eight detailed articles investigate the extent, the comprehensive scope, and the constitutional meaning of these statements, and how the Bush administration has used them to attempt to erect a dictatorship on the ruins of what used to be a constitutionally-mandated system of checks and balances.

In an article entitled "Cheney Aide is Screening Legislation," Savage describes how "The office of Vice President Dick Cheney routinely reviews pieces of legislation before they reach the president's desk, searching for provisions that Cheney believes would infringe on presidential power..."

At the U.S. politics discussion board, a poster known as Stardove brought up Rep. Dennis Kucinich's intention, revealed in a letter to his House colleagues, to file articles of impeachment against Vice-President Cheney effective immediately.

Savage's Cheney article shows why a Cheney impeachment is neither desirable nor optional, but mandatory if the Constitution still has any meaning and if the government our founders bequeathed to us is still in effect. Cheney took an oath to "uphold, protect, and defend" the Constitution, but he has deliberately and systematically violated that oath by doing everything within his power to subvert and destroy the system of checks and balances the Constitution requires.

Savage describes how Cheney, and his chief of staff David Addington, spend their days poring over the Constitution, thinking up a thousand reasons why it doesn't say what it says, and plotting new ways to increase executive power and establish a military dictatorship so powerful that it can never again be challenged.

In perhaps the most far-reaching article in the series, entitled "Bush Challenges Hundreds of Laws", Savage quotes David Golove, a New York University law professor who has studied the Bush signing statements, and declares that "to the extent Bush is interpreting the Constitution in defiance of the Supreme Court's precedents, he threatens to 'overturn the existing structures of constitutional law.'"

Golove added later, "Bush has essentially said that 'We're the executive branch and we're going to carry this law out as we please, and if Congress wants to impeach us, go ahead and try it.'"

Cheney and Bush have thrown down the gauntlet. If Congress doesn't pick it up, we might as well carve the tombstone for our dear, departed republic.

Savage has done a thorough job of dissecting these high crimes, which are a matter of public record and are being committed out in the open, for the world to see.

I was glad to see the Pulitzer go to someone so young. Seymour Hersh turned 70 this year, and while he shows no signs of slowing down or retiring, I've been wondering where the new crop of young journalists who will fill the vacuum created by his eventual departure will come from. I'm sure this series of articles is just the beginning for Charlie Savage.

Thomas Jefferson wrote that "Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost." Thank God we still have press freedom in this country. As long as we do, and as long as reporters like Savage continue to appear, there's still hope.

It remains to be seen whether the Democratic Congress will now do what the law requires of them and move forward on the articles of impeachment against Cheney. Over the last 50 years the executive branch, especially when under control of Republicans, has usurped power in many areas the Constitution reserves to the legislature. It hasn't helped that Congress has repeatedly and spinelessly rolled over and handed this power to them. Getting it back won't be easy, but it's undebatably necessary if we're to have a chance of taking our country back.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Culture of Death

A culture of war is a culture of death.

This country spends more money on war than anyone else in the world, by a lot. Half our Fed taxes go to pay for either the war machine or its endless wars.

The United States has been conquered and defeated by war. We exist for only two reasons: to war and to consume.

The war machine is a heartless robot with ten thousand muzzles, that has turned on us and enslaved us. It wakes us up in the morning and says, "Feed me, or I'll kill you. Our economy would collapse overnight if we were not either at war or actively preparing for it.

It's terrible to think about what's happened to us.