Thursday, October 30, 2014

Is this what Sharyl Attkisson was talking about?

A few days ago, we discussed the strange case of Sharyl Attkisson, who seems to have functioned as a sort of right-wing "mole" in CBS News. She was fired, in part, because she pushed a silly story about Benghazi. She made the news lately, at least the right-wing news, with her claim in a book that an unnamed spook friend of hers found a super-duper extra-special keylogger on her laptop.
Attkisson says the source, who’s “connected to government three-letter agencies,” told her the computer was hacked into by “a sophisticated entity that used commercial, nonattributable spyware that’s proprietary to a government agency: either the CIA, FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency or the National Security Agency.”

The breach was accomplished through an “otherwise innocuous e-mail” that Attkisson says she got in February 2012, then twice “redone” and “refreshed” through a satellite hookup and a Wi-Fi connection at a Ritz-Carlton hotel.
I was befuddled by this phrase: "commercial, nonattributable spyware that’s proprietary to a government agency." It's a little hard to see how something can be both commercial and gummint at the same time.

To be frank, I was dismissive of Attkisson when this story first came to my attention. I am suspicious of pretty much every "journalist" who pals around with spooks.

But maybe there's something going on here.

Look at this story in The Intercept: It's about a spyware program developed in Annapolis, MD and sold to thuggish governments throughout the world. The MD firm is called Hacking Team -- and the owners are Italian, believe it or not.

Run your eyeballs over the following, and tell me if some of the details seem familiar...
The manuals describe Hacking Team’s software for government technicians and analysts, showing how it can activate cameras, exfiltrate emails, record Skype calls, log typing, and collect passwords on targeted devices. They also catalog a range of pre-bottled techniques for infecting those devices using wifi networks, USB sticks, streaming video, and email attachments to deliver viral installers. With a few clicks of a mouse, even a lightly trained technician can build a software agent that can infect and monitor a device, then upload captured data at unobtrusive times using a stealthy network of proxy servers, all without leaving a trace. That, at least, is what Hacking Team’s manuals claim as the company tries to distinguish its offerings in the global marketplace for government hacking software.
Doesn't that description sound exactly like what Sharryl says she found on her system? Of course, the presence of Hacking Team's pride-n-joy does not necessarily mean that Obama called for a cyber-hit, although everyone on the right will so presume.

The Italian connection: Here's a cute detail which may reveal much: Hacking Team "has even taken an investment from a firm headed by America’s former ambassador to Italy."

There are really only two possibilities here.

First, we may be talking about Bush crony Mel Sembler, about whom I've written much due to his controversial association with Straight. Sembler (ambassador to Italy from 2001 to 2005) now runs a real estate development company called The Sembler Company.

The other suspect is Ronald P. Spogli (ambassador from 2005 to 2009), who runs a private equity investment firm called Freeman, Spogli & Co.

Sembler's two predecessors as Italian ambassador are now dead. Spogli was succeeded by David Thorne, who doesn't own a company. Thus, practically speaking, we have only Sembler and Spogli as possibilities.

I would love to write more posts about Sembler, a close associate of Mitt Romney and a very strange player in the world of parapolitics. However, it seems likelier that the investment came from Spogli's private equity firm than from Sembler's real estate firm. Spogli's company was associated with former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, who was an interesting character in his own right.

More on Hacking Team. 
Hacking Team offers the assurance that its users are all government institutions. Spyware is perfectly legal in law enforcement or intelligence investigations “if used with the proper legal authorization in whatever jurisdiction they’re in,” according to Nate Cardozo, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Hacking Team’s “customer policy” also claims that it will not sell to countries listed on international “blacklists” or that it believes “facilitate gross human rights abuses.” The company won’t disclose what it means by blacklists, how its review process works, or which, if any, customers have been dumped. Hacking Team’s spokesman refused to provide details beyond what is on the company’s website.
The software can be installed physically, via a USB stick, if the authorities have direct access to the computer (imagine a police stop or an airport search.)

Or, the infection can happen remotely. It could take the familiar form of a phishing attack or email scam – as a group of Moroccan reporters found out in 2012. A document promising them a secret scoop (it was titled “scandale,” in French) turned out to be a decoy for Hacking Team software. An Emirati blogger fell victim to the same trick. The implant can also be melded with legitimate, useful software that the victim is prompted to download.
This next bit should give you the chills...
As The Intercept has previously reported, Hacking Team also installs its bugs via “network injectors” – physical devices housed with internet service providers, that allow them to intercept ordinary web traffic, like streaming video, and replace it with infectious code.
Supposedly, YouTube has "hardened" its system to protect against such intrusions. Supposedly.

This is all very frightening to think about, isn't it? Happy Halloween...
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Chickenshitgate

I'd like to offer a quick update of the preceding post, in which I suggested that Jeffrey Goldberg's source for the Netanyahu-as-chickenshit remark was John Kerry. You may recall that the Israelis were caught spying on Kerry, whose peace proposal was mercilessly beaten down. It's easy to understand why Kerry might feel bitter.

Since no-one else seems to think that Kerry was the source, let's look at other possibilities.

Hugh Hewitt, in an interview, says:
Noah Pollak says he'll put a $1000 on Jeffrey Goldberg's chickenshit source being the very chickenshit Ben Rhodes. We don't know, but that makes sense. That's whole Goldberg talks to, he talks to deputy National Security Advisors and the president.
Pollak (a big proponent of the right's Benghazi insanity) is one of our top pro-Israel propagandists. He has criticized Ben Rhodes in the past -- and this antipathy must be kept in mind as we weigh the merits of his identification of Rhodes as the source.

Hewitt said the words quoted above while interviewing Jake Tapper, who responded thus:
And I talk to Ben Rhodes all the time, and I’ve never heard him say anything like that. So I have no idea if that’s accurate when you hypothesize and speculate that it’s him.
Rhodes is an important White House staffer -- the deputy national security adviser for strategic communication. Rhodes has said (speaking on another topic): "My main job, which has always been my job, is to be the person who represents the president’s view on these issues."

If Rhodes sees his job as representing the President's views, then it's hard to picture him as Goldberg's source -- unless, of course, we make two presumptions: 1. The President really does view Netanyahu as "chickenshit" and 2. The President wants everyone in the world to know how he feels.

Presumption 1 seems likely. Presumption 2, however, is a lot more difficult to swallow. I simply cannot believe that Obama wanted anything like Chickenshitgate to erupt. Not now, for God's sake. This brouhaha is not going to help the Democrats in the election.

On the other hand...

The time has come to ask: What's the deal with this Rhodes fellow? He is surprisingly mysterious.

This fascinating 2013 piece on Rhodes (written by Russ Baker in response to an NYT profile) includes all sorts of useful information:
We don’t really learn much about Rhodes’s either, beyond the fact that he is quietly pushing for more US intervention in Syria, on the heels of a successful push to convince a supposedly reticent Obama to bomb the heck out of Libya, purportedly for human rights reasons. Some now know better—that removing Qaddafi had precious little to do with helping innocent people and a lot to do with oil companies, banks and intelligence agencies.

What’s especially strange about the article is that, for those of us who continue to wonder how a virtual cipher rose so quickly from the Illinois legislature to become the most powerful person in the world, we end up wondering the same thing about an aspiring novelist from New York City who fairly catapults to enormous influence in shaping policy regarding some of the most complex and sensitive matters facing this country.

Somehow, beyond noting that “In many ways, Mr. Rhodes is an improbable choice for a job at the heart of the national security apparatus,” the Times is not sufficiently curious about any of this to probe further.
Rhodes is a very young guy, yet from the moment he hit the age of consent, all sorts of doors started to swing wide open for him -- the kinds of doors that never open for the scurvy likes of you and me.
Though the Times never underlines this, the careful reader comes to realize that Rhodes’s guiding philosophy is as hard to discern as the precise reasons that he has the president’s ear. In 1997, he briefly worked on the re-election campaign of New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican. Shortly after 9/11, the aspiring novelist suddenly decided to do his part for society, moving in 2002 from Queens to Washington, and quickly found himself “helping draft the 9/11 Commission report as well as the Iraq Study Group report.”

The Times, of course, does not think it is worth pointing out how strange this is. It is almost as if all 24-year-olds with no apparent credentials of any kind go directly to explaining the most massively controversial and complex set of circumstances to the American people.

We are never even told what kind of education Rhodes got, or where, or whether he has ever been anything beyond an aspiring novelist. There’s no indication of what he did on Giuliani’s campaign (he would only have been about 19 or 20 at the time) or whether his preference for the mayor who presided over the 9/11 response had anything to do with his going to Washington, or miraculously being hired by Democrat Lee Hamilton to explain 9/11 to the public.
A side note. During the Iran-contra hearings, Hamilton's performance was so lame that I started to wonder if the CIA had something on him. A source confirmed this suspicion, but did not tell me what that "something" was. Can my readers help me out here?

Getting back to the mysterious Mr. Rhodes...
From these improbable beginnings, Rhodes is suddenly a speechwriter on Obama’s presidential campaign. How did he come to Obama’s attention? The article doesn’t say. However, it does note that the Iraq Study group report on which Rhodes worked “was a template for the anti-Iraq war positions taken by Barack Obama” as a senator and candidate.

Yet, without explaining how that report made Obama an Iraq dove, or what Rhodes himself believed, we learn that Rhodes is now essentially the opposite—a hawk pushing Obama to intervene abroad.
Hm. If Rhodes is Goldberg's source, then perhaps he's not the Obama loyalist he pretends to be. Perhaps he is imitating Janus. And perhaps Obama ought to imitate Saint Patrick and make sure that his lawn remains free of pests, particularly pests of the serpentine variety. If you catch my drift.

But here's where the matter becomes very mysterious. The White House, normally very hard-assed when it comes to leakers and such, will not conduct an investigation to determine the identity of Goldberg's source. Why no investigation? Probably became Obama already knows the answer.

Meanwhile, John Kerry is now apologizing up a storm to the Israelis.

How can we put all of these facts together into a coherent narrative? At this writing, I can see only two competing scenarios:

1. The lack of an investigation indicates that the source is someone considered untouchable.

2. The lack of an investigation indicates that the source said what he said at Obama's behest.

Although the second possibility is quite popular, I don't consider it very likely. As noted above, the "chickenshit" remark can do the Democratic party no good at this juncture.

Although some pro-Israel pundits on the right make a big show of despising Rhodes, this public display of antipathy may be misleading or deceptive. Rhodes' stance on Syria -- not to mention his freakishly fast rise to power -- makes me want to find out more about the guy.
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Janus was the god of Peace, not some trigger-happy rent boy.
 
Nothing lost, congress will roll over for the murders of the middle east called israel. Hell they'll probably send some Amerikan taxpayer cash so their feeling aren't hurt.
 
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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Chickenshit: Obama v. Israel?

Is this real? Or is it some sort of trick? According to The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, a senior Administration official has refered to Bibi Netanyahu as a "chickenshit."
The relationship between these two administrations— dual guarantors of the putatively “unbreakable” bond between the U.S. and Israel—is now the worst it's ever been, and it stands to get significantly worse after the November midterm elections. By next year, the Obama administration may actually withdraw diplomatic cover for Israel at the United Nations, but even before that, both sides are expecting a showdown over Iran, should an agreement be reached about the future of its nuclear program.

The fault for this breakdown in relations can be assigned in good part to the junior partner in the relationship, Netanyahu, and in particular, to the behavior of his cabinet. Netanyahu has told several people I’ve spoken to in recent days that he has “written off” the Obama administration, and plans to speak directly to Congress and to the American people should an Iran nuclear deal be reached. For their part, Obama administration officials express, in the words of one official, a “red-hot anger” at Netanyahu for pursuing settlement policies on the West Bank, and building policies in Jerusalem, that they believe have fatally undermined Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace process.
Was this article written on the same Planet Earth that you and I inhabit? There's nothing here about the 2008 and 2014 attacks on Gaza, two events which would have caused Hitler himself to mutter "Duuuuuude...!" (Or whatever the German equivalent of Duuuuuude might be.) But Gaza, it seems, was no biggie. No, the thing that has this administration hot-n-bothered is the fact that John Kerry has been undermined.

Does that make sense to you?

Actually, I suspect that Kerry himself is the senior official quoted anonymously here. It does make sense that the dissing of John Kerry would have John Kerry all hot-n-bothered.

Let's take a closer look at that "chickenshit" business:
“The good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars,” the official said, expanding the definition of what a chickenshit Israeli prime minister looks like.
"Scared to launch wars"? Someone should run that remark past the people in Gaza. Then again, I suppose it is chickenshit to inflict mass-murder on the helpless. I also suppose that mass-murder of the helpless doesn't really qualify as war.

Nevertheless, I would argue that, in the Bibi-Barack partnership, Obama is the one who deserves the "chickenshit" label.

Not only was Obama too chickenshit to complain about the massacres in Gaza, he was also too chickenshit to complain (in public) about the relocation of innocent Bedouins, who have been forced our of their ancient homes and made to live in a graveyard. He's too chickenshit to condemn the outrageously racist laws which keep spilling out of Bibi's government. Chickenshit Obama would never dare to offer a public critique of the increasingly fascist nature of Israeli society, about the toleration for genocidal language, about the frequent calls for ethnic cleansing. And Obama has proven what an obedient chickenshit he is by persecuting an Arab woman who made her home in the United States after years of Israeli mistreatment.

Most important of all: Obama is far too chickenshit to squawk about Israel's aid to ISIS and the Nusra Front. In fact, our chickenshit of a president compliantly helped create a rebellion against Assad, who never did any harm to U.S. interests. Why would Obama do such thing? For more than one reason -- but in large measure, the American power structure doesn't like Assad because Israel doesn't like him. Only the most chickenshit of presidents would let Israel direct America's foreign policy.

Let's take a closer look at another bit: Bibi says that he plans to speak directly to the American people. How? How does he intend to do this? Do you think he will appear on American television? Radio? Op-eds? Podcasts? Will he start a blog designed to reach American audiences?

Of course not. He'll do none of these things. "Speak directly to the American people" is a transparently-coded reference to Bibi's ability to exercise control over his American media assets. When you think about it, there is no other way to interpret the phrase.

Unfortunately for Netanyahu, fewer and fewer Americans trust the mainstream media, which is itself not a monolith. Sure, Fox News will say whatever Israel wants it to say, but Fox News speaks only to the minority of Americans who remain trapped in Wingnutland. And the power of Christian Zionism is waning.

That said, I think that Israel will emerge as a major issue in the upcoming presidential election. The debate will go like this:

Question: "Candidate X and Candidate Y -- when Israel says 'Do this,' how will you respond?"

Candidate X: "I will say 'Yes sir.'"

Candidate Y: "I will say 'Yes Master.'"

The "Yes sir" candidate will be castigated as an anti-Semite.

Added note:  For an alternate view on the Obama administration's attitude toward Israel, take a look at Leon Panetta's book, with which I spent about half-an-hour the other day. Throughout the text, the former CIA Director is disgustingly deferential toward the Israelis. He also crows about the great success of the Iron Dome defense system. We have reason to suspect that Panetta is lying about that.

Added added note: Just now, I heard NPR try to cover this story without use of the word "chickenshit." Hilarious!
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Comments:
Glenn Greenwald posted a piece this weekend comparing US responses to the deaths of children in Israel and Israeli-controlled territories, depending on who did the killing.


 
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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"Hail Hydra!" and other spy games...

Has the second leaker been found? For quite a while, observers have speculated that Ed Snowden was not the only NSA whistleblower. Some of the material that has been made public seems to have come from another source. The FBI is now indicating that they know who this person is...
The FBI recently executed a search of the suspect's home, and federal prosecutors in Northern Virginia have opened up a criminal investigation into the matter, the sources said.
The locus of attention seems to be this new story by Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux. I hope that the controversy over the source doesn't drown out the important message conveyed by this article...
Nearly half of the people on the U.S. government’s widely shared database of terrorist suspects are not connected to any known terrorist group, according to classified government documents obtained by The Intercept.

Of the 680,000 people caught up in the government’s Terrorist Screening Database—a watchlist of “known or suspected terrorists” that is shared with local law enforcement agencies, private contractors, and foreign governments—more than 40 percent are described by the government as having “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” That category—280,000 people—dwarfs the number of watchlisted people suspected of ties to al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah combined.

The documents, obtained from a source in the intelligence community, also reveal that the Obama Administration has presided over an unprecedented expansion of the terrorist screening system. Since taking office, Obama has boosted the number of people on the no fly list more than ten-fold, to an all-time high of 47,000—surpassing the number of people barred from flying under George W. Bush.

“If everything is terrorism, then nothing is terrorism,” says David Gomez, a former senior FBI special agent.
Great line, that: “If everything is terrorism, then nothing is terrorism.” But those weren't the words that sparked a morning meeting at the Hoover Building. No, what got the Feds' attention were these words: "...obtained from a source in the intelligence community."
The CIA uses a previously unknown program, code-named Hydra, to secretly access databases maintained by foreign countries and extract data to add to the watchlists.
Seriously? Hydra? Less than a year ago, the second Captain America movie posited that the CIA -- or SHIELD, as it is known in the Marvel Universe -- had been hopeless corrupted by Hydra. Is life imitating pop art?

At any rate, the new source -- the one who has revealed the existence of Hydra -- is referenced in a new documentary about Snowden by Laura Poitras. There's a scene in which Glen Greenwald tells Ed Snowden that someone new has stepped forward, and that this person was inspired by Snowden's example to blow the whistle.

I hope this guy has made his escape already. But I don't think he has.

And on the other side of the aisle, we have...

Sharyl Attkisson. She's the former CBS News reporter who says that she was fired because she delved too deeply into Obama administration wrongdoings. I'm a little loathe to get on board with Attkisson's claims, since she played into the right's "Benghazi" scenarios without bothering to mention the real Benghazi scandal -- the CIA's funneling of Libyan arms to the Syrian rebels.

Now the right-wing darling claims that Obama administration spooks put a super-powerful keylogger on her laptop.
In her new memoir, Sharyl Attkisson says a source who arranged to have her laptop checked for spyware in 2013 was “shocked” and “flabbergasted” at what the analysis revealed.
Attkisson says the source, who’s “connected to government three-letter agencies,” told her the computer was hacked into by “a sophisticated entity that used commercial, nonattributable spyware that’s proprietary to a government agency: either the CIA, FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency or the National Security Agency.”

The breach was accomplished through an “otherwise innocuous e-mail” that Attkisson says she got in February 2012, then twice “redone” and “refreshed” through a satellite hookup and a Wi-Fi connection at a Ritz-Carlton hotel.

The spyware included programs that Attkisson says monitored her every keystroke and gave the snoops access to all her e-mails and the passwords to her financial accounts...
Wait a freakin' minute here. This entire story revolves around the credibility of this unnamed source, whom Attkisson calls Number One. If we can't have this source's name, then at least give us some idea as to how he knows what he knows (presuming that we're dealing with a "he").

How was he able to determine that this malware was government malware? What program did he use to find the keylogger? I mean, did he simply use Norton or AVG? Or did he use a special gummint keylogger-finder?

The evil things attributed this alleged piece of malware are typical of any keylogger. You don't need to be with the NSA to make a thing like this happen.

Perhaps some kind reader can help me parse this statement: "commercial, nonattributable spyware that’s proprietary to a government agency..." Isn't there a contradiction here? How can an app be "commerical" and "proprietary to a government agency" at the same time? If it really is commercial, then anyone can purchase the thing.

I must confess that this allegation is genuinely interesting...
But the most shocking finding, she says, was the discovery of three classified documents that Number One told her were “buried deep in your operating system. In a place that, unless you’re a some kind of computer whiz specialist, you wouldn’t even know exists.”

“They probably planted them to be able to accuse you of having classified documents if they ever needed to do that at some point,” Number One added.
I've long suspected that potentially incriminating material (kiddie porn, classified docs, whatever) may lurk on nearly everyone's system, just as there are trace amounts of cocaine in most examples of folding money. In my fear-fantasy, really bad shit is placed on your system (and my system) by free apps like Zone Alarm or by pirated versions of apps like Photoshop. The contraband jpgs would give the feds grounds to incarcerate you and to destroy your reputation, should you ever do anything to piss off the Powers That Be.

I'm not saying that this "fear fantasy" is real; I'm saying that it is technically possible.

The WP covers the Attkisson story here and adds a few details...
So CBS News hires an independent computer analyst whom Attkisson identifies as “Jerry Patel,” also a pseudonym. He finds a massive amount of suspicious activity in the computer, including the removal of all kinds of log messages. The author describes the scene as “Patel” does his work: “Now he’s breathing heavily. It alarms me because it alarms him and he’s not easily alarmed. His voice becomes more formal and he launches into what sounds like a speech for posterity. ‘In my professional opinion, someone has accessed this box … I see evidence that shows a deliberate and skilled attempt to clean the log files of activity.’” Intrusions of this caliber, concludes “Patel,” are “far beyond the the abilities of even the best nongovernment hackers.”

In summing up, Attkisson writes, “Everything Patel has found serves to confirm my January source and analysis. Patel tells me that only a few entities possess these skills. One of them is the U.S. government. I already know this from Number One. But now CBS knows it, too. And it will all be in his final report.”
"Far beyond the the abilities of even the best nongovernment hackers"...? I'd like to hear from actual hackers on this score. I'm not a malware expert, but I don't think that the things described here exceed the capabilities of trojans and keyloggers that have been described in the open literature.

I mean, "removal of all kinds of log messages" -- how difficult is that, really? This commercial keylogger has a feature which allows one to remove all logs permanently, at the touch of a button. You don't need to be the freakin' NSA to engineer stuff like that.

I don't trust Attkisson, I don't trust the people she works with these days, and I wouldn't discount the possibility of a false flag attack masterminded by the folks at HBGary, or by some similar outfit. Keep in mind the example of Lara Logan.

By the way: I see no reason why we can't know the real identity of "Patel."

There's something funny about this story...
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Intrusions of this caliber, concludes “Patel,” are “far beyond the the abilities of even the best nongovernment hackers.”

That's the line that jumped out to me, too. My first thought was....are they nuts? Are they trying to piss off Anonymous who may retaliate by planting child porn in various high places?

Interesting topic, tho....I hope you get some responses to your queries to readers.
 
Yeah, there is nothing described here which is beyond the abilities of any decent hacker, government or otherwise. As you say, Trojans, keyloggers, virus, can all be made to erase their own tracks rather easily. It doesn't require any special abilities or skills.
 
Called Hydra PROMIS in my day.

Bog-standard keylogger. The feds can see what's on your screen through the wall with their TROJAN systems, any idiot with Ophcrack can get your password for Windows if they get access to your computer (by burglarising your house, perhaps) and then your online passwords from the unencrypted file on your hardrive where your browser stores passwords.

 
Stephen, I don't think anyone broke into Sharyl's house. Too great a risk, too small a prize, and too many alternative ways to get the data.

Note the underlying message: Sharyl, a Koch mole in CBS-land, JUST HAPPENED to have a pal who is a spook. Once again, I'm reminded of Lara Logan, another right-wing mole in CBS-land, who JUST HAPPENS to be married to a high-level intelligence officer who specializes in psyops.

See the pattern?
 
Oh...and both Lara and Sharyl were trying to get CBS to run Benghazi stories that fostered the wacky right-wing narrative.
 
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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Gary Webb, redux: The press controllers

This post first appeared a few days ago. Alas, it stood at the top of this blog for only a few hours -- the attack on Canada's Parliament took place, and that story naturally diverted everyone's attention. I've decided to re-post. PLEASE read this one -- it's a story that encapsulates everything wrong with today's American media.

Most of you have heard about Gary Webb. Back in the 1990s, this excellent journalist penned an important series about contra/CIA involvement in the dope trade. In response to his revelations, the purchased piglets of the mainstream media slammed Webb the way they had earlier slammed Jim Garrison and Richard Sprague. (In more recent times, Glenn Greenwald has received a softer variant of The Big Smear.)

The attack on Webb was savage. Pitiless. Hideous. And spectacular. It had the barbaric majesty of an Aztec sacrifice.

I briefly corresponded with Gary Webb about a year before he committed suicide. By then, of course, he had already committed professional suicide. My expressions of support may have added to his depression, since they probably seemed like premature bereavement cards. My basic message: I admire what you tried to do, Mr. Webb. But they screwed you with obscene ferocity, and right now, I can't think of any way to make things better.

Those may not have been comforting words, but what else was there to say?

The Washington Post is still publishing lies about Gary Webb in order to undermine the new Webb biopic Kill the Messenger. The film stars Jeremy Renner, who was the main force in getting this film off the ground. (Hawkeye is suddenly my favorite Avenger.)

The WP piece is written by one Jeff Leen. If you want some background on this guy, visit Narco News, which has all the dirty details:
Why are we telling you about this Jeff Leen character? You’ve probably never heard of him or read any his work or, if you did, found it important or memorable, not even during his 17 years at the Washington Post. You might be able to name other Post writers and columnists, including people who’ve been there far less time than Leen. But for good reason, you’ve never heard of this guy.
Leen apparently burst a spleen when he saw “Kill the Messenger” on the silver screen. There was the late Gary Webb. Although he never made the “millions” Leen said back in 1997 that he aspired to win through journalism, Webb is suddenly occupying the heroic space in Hollywood’s star pantheon that Leen told us in 1997 was his dream to fill. And so Leen took his butthurt grievance to the Washington Post editorial pages last Friday.
This piece offers much more. A terrific read.

You should also take a look at Robert Parry's response to the WP's variegated deceits.
Leen insists that there is a journalism dictum that “an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof.” But Leen must know that it is not true. Many extraordinary claims, such as assertions in 2002-03 that Iraq was hiding arsenals of WMDs, were published as flat-fact without “extraordinary proof” or any real evidence at all, including by Leen’s colleagues at the Washington Post.

A different rule actually governs American journalism – that journalists need “extraordinary proof” if a story puts the U.S. government or an “ally” in a negative light but pretty much anything goes when criticizing an “enemy.”

If, for instance, the Post wanted to accuse the Syrian government of killing civilians with Sarin gas or blame Russian-backed rebels for the shoot-down of a civilian airliner over Ukraine, any scraps of proof – no matter how dubious – would be good enough (as was the actual case in 2013 and 2014, respectively).

However, if new evidence undercut those suspicions and shifted the blame to people on “the U.S. side” – say, the Syrian rebels and the Ukrainian government – then the standards of proof suddenly skyrocket beyond reach. So what you get is not “responsible” journalism – as Leen tries to suggest – but hypocrisy and propaganda. One set of rules for the goose and another set for the gander.
Actually, the situation is even worse than that. I recall an NYT opinion piece published in the late 1980s which scoffed at the paranoid fools who thought that the CIA had tried to kill Fidel Castro -- a story which the New York Times had itself broken in the 1970s. Insert standard Orwell reference here.

The best, most detailed, most hard-hitting piece on Webb you are likely to read is by Jim DiEugenio. If you have time to read only one study of the Webb affair, Jim's article is a must. I had hoped to publish Jim's words on this very blog, but I need the permission of his publisher to do so, and Bob Parry is hard to reach. These excerpts will have to suffice:
Although the initial assaults on Webb’s series were mounted by the right-wing news media, including the Washington Times, the MSM soon prepared its own withering counterattack against Webb. It began on Oct. 4, 1996, with a front-page story, with sidebars, in the Washington Post. The lead article was written by Walter Pincus and Roberto Suro, entitled “The CIA and Crack: Evidence is Lacking of Alleged Plot.”

A relentless offensive followed designed to crush the populist uprising in its infancy. In short order, the New York Times joined in. Then came the Los Angeles Times with the most deliberate and vicious attack. Editor Shelby Coffey commissioned the equivalent of a journalistic SWAT team. No less than 17 reporters prepared a three-day series that was actually longer than Webb’s original “Dark Alliance” series. Internally, it was known as the “Get Gary Webb Team.” (LA Weekly, 9/29/14)

As the team worked, its common chorus was: “We’re going to take away this guy’s Pulitzer.” The hit team was headed by Doyle McManus and Leo Wolinsky. (A few months later, Coffey promoted Wolinsky to assistant managing editor.)
I recall that barrage very well. Representatives of the LAT hit team appeared in every public gathering that would have them, and their obvious lies generated palpable hostility from audiences. Whenever KPFK broadcast a "forum" featuring their voices, I came that close to tossing my radio out of my second-floor window.
But was there more to all this than just a vendetta against a reporter from a smaller northern California newspaper unearthing a huge scandal on the Los Angeles Times’ home turf? While professional jealousy clearly played a role in the cruelty inflicted on Webb, the intensity of the counterattack also reflected the symbiotic relationship between the U.S. national security apparatus and Washington-based national security reporters who are dependent on official background briefings to receive pre-approved information that news organizations need, especially during foreign crises when access to on-the-ground events is limited.
This next section is important.

Seriously. I implore you to read these words with care, and to keep the message in your memory. I'll return to this theme in a few upcoming posts, including one on the heroic and embattled Syrian Girl.

(In the following excerpt, all emphases were added by me.)
A recently released CIA document on how the counterattack against Webb was promoted is revealing in this regard. Entitled “Managing a Nightmare: CIA Public Affairs and the Drug Conspiracy Story,” the six-page internal report. described the CIA’s damage control in the wake of the publication of Webb’s story.

The report showed how the spy agency’s PR team exploited relationships with mainstream journalists who then essentially did the CIA’s work for it, mounting a devastating counterattack against Webb that marginalized him and painted the Contra-cocaine trafficking story as some baseless conspiracy theory.

Crucial to that success, the report credits “a ground base of already productive relations with journalists and an effective response by the Director of Central Intelligence’s Public Affairs Staff [that] helped prevent this story from becoming an unmitigated disaster.”

The Agency convinced friendly journalists to characterize Webb’s series as presenting “no real news, in that similar charges were made in the 1980’s and were investigated by the Congress and were found to be without substance.” That, of course, was a lie. In fact, Kerry’s investigation confirmed many of the Contra-cocaine allegations first reported by Parry and Barger for the Associated Press.

According to the CIA’s “Managing a Nightmare” report, journalists were advised to read Webb’s series critically and the CIA considered the initial attack by the Washington Post the key moment in blunting Webb’s story. The CIA distributed the negative stories to other members of the press.

From there, other papers refused to pick up Webb’s articles, but they often carried the articles attacking him. The CIA’s report noted that the tide of the public relations battle had fully turned by October and soon became a rout. Even the American Journalism Review, which – like similar publications – is supposed to stand up for honest journalists under fire, instead joined the all-out charge against Webb.

The Agency crowed how easy it was to work with journalists to first blunt and then turn around this negative national security story.
Are they going to go after Jeremy Renner the same way they went after Gary Webb? If they do, let's turn the attacks to our advantage. Jot down names. Anyone who targets Hawkeye goes on the list of scribblers who keep questionable "Company."

Bottom line: I've never before seen American journalism in such wretched health. Citizens who want to know what's going on in the world are given only these three options:

1. Mainstream journalism. Largely corrupt. Too many professional newsfolk have established "productive relations" with the CIA and other arms of the government.

2. Fox News and environs. Worse than corrupt. The far-right media infrastructure exists to send gullible, resentful proles into ecstatic trances of rage-gasm.

3. The conspiracy entertainment complex. (That useful term was coined by the proprietor of Rigorous Intuition.) The Clown-King of this surreal realm is, of course, Alex Jones. We're talking about an infuriating gaggle of high-decibel screwballs and bleary-eyed Illuminati-spotters who think that they're the hippest of the hip, even though they unwittingly serve as faithful functionaries of the American intelligence establishment. The conspiracy entertainment complex exists to bring discredit to anyone who questions the worldview presented by the mainstream media and the Fox Newsers.

If you look beyond those three categories, you can still find a few real writers -- seekers of truth who possess courage, insight and professional standards. These brave few have a patron saint: Gary Webb.
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->
https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/09/25/managing-nightmare-cia-media-destruction-gary-webb/

->
 
I much prefer this take: http://ohtarzie.wordpress.com/2014/10/18/remembering-gary-webb/ to anything on firstlook. All said, Deveraux's piece is somewhat more ambiguous than CIA's report, so..
 
I also was in contact with Gary Webb by email for a few months before his death which I always found suspicious. How does someone commit suicide by shooting himself in the head twice? He was moving at the time and was excited about going to his daughter's wedding. Strange that he would be planning such things if death was in his mind. I also know he was working on a story about the child prostitution rings run out of the highest levels of government, like the White House during Reagan. I warned him that everyone who touches that story dies under mysterious circumstances and a few weeks later he was dead. Not sure if they were connected but the timing was certainly odd. Webb was a good man and I am sorry he is gone. But in today's world, there are certain topics even I don't write about in the Warmonger Report.
 
iwarmonger: If you do some googling, you'll see that it is actually not unheard of for a suicide victim to shoot himself in the head twice. In Webb's case, I'm told that the first shot went through the cheek.

One of my exes had a friend, a lady, who was on the phone "sharing" the moment of her husband's death by suicide. Horrifying to think about. (He was a businessman who had screwed up a big sale. Patio furniture,. believe it or not.) Now, in that case, there was only one shot...but he screamed a long, long, LONG time. You'd be surprised how long people can live with such a wound. And it's understandable to think that the wounded person's one thought would be to end the pain.

Then there was a sound like a running faucet.

Just in case you want to know what to expect, if you should ever receive a phone call like that.
 
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Saturday, October 25, 2014

They may say what I may not



Reuvin Rivlin, the President of Israel:
The time has come to admit that Israel is a sick society, with an illness that demands treatment, President Reuven Rivlin said at the opening session on Sunday of a conference on From Hatred of the Stranger to Acceptance of the Other.
With regard to Jews he said: “I’m not asking if they’ve forgotten how to be Jews, but if they’ve forgotten how to be decent human beings. Have they forgotten how to converse?” In Rivlin’s eyes, the academy has a vital task to reduce violence in Israeli society by encouraging dialogue and the study of different cultures and languages with the aim of promoting mutual understanding, so that there can be civilized meetings between the sectors of society.

He urged the academy to take on this challenge and to eradicate the violence that threatens to scar Israel’s image.
Schlomo Sand, Israeli historian:
Now, having painfully become aware that I have undergone an adherence to Israel, been assimilated by law into a fictitious ethnos of persecutors and their supporters, and have appeared in the world as one of the exclusive club of the elect and their acolytes, I wish to resign and cease considering myself a Jew.

Although the state of Israel is not disposed to transform my official nationality from “Jew” to “Israeli”, I dare to hope that kindly philosemites, committed Zionists and exalted anti-Zionists, all of them so often nourished on essentialist conceptions, will respect my desire and cease to catalogue me as a Jew. As a matter of fact, what they think matters little to me, and still less what the remaining antisemitic idiots think. In the light of the historic tragedies of the 20th century, I am determined no longer to be a small minority in an exclusive club that others have neither the possibility nor the qualifications to join.
I am aware of living in one of the most racist societies in the western world. Racism is present to some degree everywhere, but in Israel it exists deep within the spirit of the laws. It is taught in schools and colleges, spread in the media, and above all and most dreadful, in Israel the racists do not know what they are doing and, because of this, feel in no way obliged to apologise. This absence of a need for self-justification has made Israel a particularly prized reference point for many movements of the far right throughout the world, movements whose past history of antisemitism is only too well known.
That last remark goes to the new "pro-Israel" strain of neo-fascism, as exemplified by the hideous Anders Brevik. Many would like to think that Brevik was a strange, isolated case. Not so.

Max Blumenthal, author of Goliath (from the video embedded above):
With Benjamin Netanyahu at the helm, pushed by the right, by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who favored the transfer of 250,000 Palestinian citizens from Israel, who favored mass ethnic cleansing. What I found inside Israel/Palestine -- aside from this incredible group of dissidents, aside from these brave Palestinian farmers on the west bank who went out every Friday to protest the occupation, without arms, who were taken off to military prisons at night, put on trial and disappeared for months -- what I found was an entire society, a Jewish Israeli society, where the majority of people were determined to finish the job, were weary of the occupation and wanted a society without Palestinians. That's why they had elected Netanyahu, that's why they were supporting Lieberman, and that's why, every week in the Knesset, there was a new racist or anti-democratic law.

It's why the Israeli Supreme Court authorized the citizenship and entry law, which prevents Palestinians from inside Israel from marrying or reuniting with family members in the West Bank. Menawhile I, an American Jew, solely on the basis of my J-positive blood, could immigrate to Israel tomorrow and marry anyone I wanted, whether a settler in the west bank or someone from inside Israel proper. That was clear apartheid to me.

I saw the Prawer Plan unfold -- a plan, out in the open, which was a blueprint for the forced removal of 80,000 indigenous Bedouin who were citizens of the state of Israel. And I visited the village of Al-Arakeeb, an unrecognized Bedouin village. Spent the night there, and in the morning, watched the village wiped off the map.
While young American Jews are turning against the occupation in droves and developing critical attitudes on the state of Israel, young Jews in Israel are turning more right-wing than ever. And so every year, the Israeli Democracy Institute, which conducts the most comprehensive and authoritative poll of Jewish Israeli attitudes, showed a majority of young Jewish Israelis declaring a refusal to sit in a classroom with an Arab citizen of Israel. Refusing to live next door to an Arab. A majority of Israelis supporting the use of violent force in order to remove non-Jewish African refugees from Israeli society. A plurality of Israelis declaring support for internment camps for Arabs during wartime in Israel. Poll after poll showing rising racist attitudes and militaristic attitudes -- a product of an education system which is cultivating young minds to be good soldiers, not good citizens, and ultimately, the effect of growing up, tragically, in the only active settler/colonial state in the world.

The post-Oslo generation of Israelis is more right-wing than ever, and their attitudes grow more right-wing each year.
I never thought I'd see the day when I'd be called an anti-Semite for printing the thoughts of the President of Israel along with the observations of two historians of Israel. But I will be. Bet on it.

Whenever I write about Israel, I usually receive anonymous messages hurling puerile insults (which hardly qualify as hasbara). I don't publish these remarks, although perhaps I should. The comments are so outrageous, stupid and hate-filled, publication would serve only to make Israelis look bad. You know what I'm talking about: Unimaginative Nazi-Nazi-Nazi accusations. It's all utterly predictable stuff, scribbled out by bored young people who don't actually read my posts and who don't seem to take their own messages seriously.

It is well-known that the government of Israel pays for these petty acts of online harassment, usually with scholarships. As readers know, I'm all in favor of education, and am thus happy to do my part to make academia more affordable.

Perhaps the kids who write these silly messages will attend Tel Aviv University and take a class taught by someone like Schlomo Sand.

(To my "special someone": Please let me know how many angry letters you must send in to this blog in order to get your scholarship. I presume that you have been given a quota. Question: Do the messages have to be published, or are unpublished insults sufficient to please your sponsors? Even though my preference on most days is to write about other topics, I would be happy to publish posts like this one on a more frequent basis, if doing so would help you make your quota. BTW: What's your major?)
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Comments:
Keep your spirits up Joseph. There are many here who applaud and value your work immensely. We particularly don't want to see a repeat of your unhappy departure some time ago that followed a series of abusive comments. Don't give the haters and the ranters one single minute. Delete.Delete.Delete. And keep up your wonderful work.

Cheers.
 
Thanks! But instead of Deleting, I'm thinking of charging. If a troll wants his comment to appear, unexpurgated, slip something into the PayPal account. Suggested donation: Fifty bucks. For fifty bucks anyone can call me the worst names imaginable.

If a troll wants to have a full-blown essay appear, of any length up to (say) 4000 words, I think a fair price would be $500. Or do you think I should charge more?

For $2000, I will write the essay myself. I'll tell the world what a horrible, awful Nazi that Joseph Cannon is. Did you know that he's the secret child of Martin Bormann? It's true!

I'm being very fair to the Israeli government with this proposed arrangement. I mean, paying ME directly has to be cheaper than paying some kid's way through school, especially when those kids come up with unimaginative by-the-numbers tripe that never gets published.

Don't pay THEM to insult me. Pay ME to insult me. I can do the job cheaper and better.
 
Oh, sweet Jesus. Essays like this are the reason why your column is my home page.*

* (Not a paid comment but arrangements can be made.)
 
thanks for this post joseph. don't let the bastards get you down.. you do good work and it drives them crazy! james
 
Yea, let them post. They portray themselves accurately.
 
Keep up the excellent work Joseph. I've pretty much given up trying point this stuff out to my otherwise sensible Jewish-American friends. They are all quite liberal, every one of them. Yet they seem to set all those values aside when it comes to Israel. The endless refrain of "Israel has a right to defend itself", and "Israel is surrounded by neighbors that want to eradicate it", etc., etc., is their typical defense. Their support is, apparently, completely unconditional.......even when they would be howling injustice is ANY other nation on earth did the exact same things under the exact same circumstances. It's quite strange and disturbing, so I just stay out of those "discussions" (ever since a couple good friends suggested I might have latent anti-semitic tendencies I wasn't consciously aware of and that was why I criticized the Israeli government......because, you know, you can't criticize the government without criticizing all Jews, apparently....even though that's not how they state it). Don't let the bastards get you down!
 
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A date with Democracy

If you're like me, you probably receive lots (and lots and LOTS) of fundraising emails from the Democratic Party and allied groups. Each of these emails has a headline designed to entice the reader to read the message.

I've noticed something strange about those headlines. If you slightly re-arrange the order, they form a kind of narrative poem. The story they tell is not political. Rather, it's...

Well, to be frank, it's a story that reminds me of a time when I was younger. And single.

(Each line below is an actual headline, copied and pasted from actual Democratic fundraising emails.)

* * *

Please, Joseph
will you?
Joseph, I'm urging you
I need you
URGENT
begging...BEGGING
pleading...PLEADING
Today We Stand For Love
Start Up and Go!
!!!!!!!
ASTRONOMICAL
PUMMELED
WE'RE GOING CRAZY HERE, Joseph
we are still grinding away
you're amazing
this is it Joseph
FINALLY (it happened!)
S-T-U-N-N-I-N-G!!!
Boehner SCREAMING (look)
done
disappointed
Boehner's MELTDOWN
we. fell. short.
everything we had...it wasn't enough
Boehner's devastating defeat
Hopes Dashed
I'm pleading (again)
YOU WON'T BELIEVE THIS!!
we weren't expecting this
STUNNING Comeback
MIRACLE (!!!)
get this HUGE surprise
A seat we CAN win
This could be the end
..not in a good place...
SCREAM
painful
terrifying
even more of a shock
Boehner's GIANT mistake
Whoa!
☺ double-dose of great news!
BEST...EVER...
Keep 'em coming
WOW
I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E
just keep on coming
Commitment
Joseph, we've tried everything
the final one
BEST...EVER...
We've got nothing left
Boehner DEFEATED
Boehner OUT
SAD BOEHNER
disappointed joseph
feeling of regret
kiss any hope goodbye
It's over. It's done. Go home.

* * *

To be honest, I can't claim that my dates really went like that. But that is how they ended.

(You know what's really frightening? Some of those emails were signed "Robert Reich.")
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Comments:
Beautiful. You should carve this on soapstone and lay it down in a cave somewhere as a riddle for future archaeologists.
 
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Friday, October 24, 2014

News round-up: Election non-fraud, Syria, academia, Hong Kong and more...

The Arizona ballot-stuffing scam: I wrote about this incident a couple of days ago. Turns out that our friend A.J. LaFaro left out an important part of the story: The alleged "ballot stuffer" was delivering absentee ballots collected legally. In other words, he issued propaganda which conveyed the impression that a perfectly legit activity was Filth Incarnate.

A real piece of work, LaFaro is. Keep an eye on this guy. He wants attention and he will get it. I suspect that he won't quit until he has infuriated the entire nation.

Leslie Gelb: He's CFR, he supported the Iraq war, and he's Establishment All The Way -- but on Syria, he's 100% right.

Incidentally, he also happens to be 100% in agreement with the brutishly bloviating Alex Jones, with the brilliantly beautiful Syrian Girl, and with the bewilderingly bizarre Joseph Cannon. Who'd a thunk it...?
In the short term the only way to check ISIS, as the self-declared caliphate is widely known, is for the United States to work with Bashar Assad’s Syria, and with Iran. It is a tricky and perilous path, but there are no realistic alternatives.

In short, here’s why: First, air power alone can’t stop, let alone, defeat ISIS. Even those who now demand an escalation of the overly restrained U.S. air campaign don’t argue that it is a solution. Second, neither Iraq nor American-backed Syrian rebels can field viable ground forces, at least for some time. Just look at their performance to date and see if the U.S. can afford to pretend otherwise.
Sing it, Brother Gelb! I certainly feel like less of an oddball when a mainstream Serious Thinker says the same things I've been saying all along.

It's time for us to stop interfering in Syrian affairs. Yes, Bashar Assad is a dictator, and all dictators are bad news -- but American imperial overreach is even worse news. We cannot hope to understand the history of the Middle East when most of us barely understand our own history. Let's face it: Our track record in that part of the world is pretty miserable.

Occupy Hong Kong: I haven't yet talked about the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong. This site compares the way the HK authorities have treated their protestors with the way US authorities have treated the American Occupy movement.
One of the most striking differences between Occupy Hong Kong and Occupy Wall Street is the temperance of the police if you will or the lack of slashed, destroyed tents. In Hong Kong, the protestors are being taken seriously and their possessions (private property) is not being seized and destroyed as the Zucotti Park or other OWS patrons were.

During Occupy Wall Street protests, the U.S. government refused to meet with protestors or to acknowledge their grievances with government – conversely the Chinese government wishes to talk to the protestors. Also, the U.S. media seems to side with the protestors, the hypocritical opposite of the news media with the Occupy Wall Street protestors.

The Hong Kong protestors do not contend with NSA Mossad Prism in their homes, cellphones and laptops.

At the 2011 Occupy Camps, two men were fatally shot at Occupy Oakland and Occupy Burlington, respectively. A third man survived being shot in the head with a tear gas round by Oakland Police. The Police in Hong Kong are so far much less brutal than the U.S.A. paramilitary police were as they busted up the 2011 Occupy camps in America. Hypocritically, the U.S. is calling for “a swift investigation into Hong Kong Police Brutality”.
Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, and I think I want to be sick.

Academia is a racket: A long time ago, I mentioned my drawing teacher Nancy Ohanian, the finest pen-and-ink draftsperson I've ever met (and I've met quite a few). Check out this portrait of Alexander Haig! Back when I was in her classes -- we're talking the late Carter years -- she was (aside from being a superb artist and teacher) an adorably sweet religious person in a blue cashmere sweater who didn't really know much about politics, even though she illustrated the Opinion pages of the Los Angeles.

Well, I got in touch with her a couple of weeks ago, and guess what? Nowadays, she's roughly a zillion times hipper than I am when it comes to politics. (And she's welcome to take over this blog when I finally decide to stop annoying the world with my presence.) She directs our attention to this interview with Noam Chomsky on the corruption of American academia. This is a subject she knows very well, since the university has been her professional habitat for a number of years.

Here are some excerpts. I've added a few paragraph breaks to increase readability...
If you have to control people, you have to have an administrative force that does it. So in US industry even more than elsewhere, there’s layer after layer of management—a kind of economic waste, but useful for control and domination. And the same is true in universities. In the past 30 or 40 years, there’s been a very sharp increase in the proportion of administrators to faculty and students; faculty and students levels have stayed fairly level relative to one another, but the proportion of administrators have gone way up.
But using cheap labor—and vulnerable labor—is a business practice that goes as far back as you can trace private enterprise, and unions emerged in response. In the universities, cheap, vulnerable labor means adjuncts and graduate students. Graduate students are even more vulnerable, for obvious reasons. The idea is to transfer instruction to precarious workers, which improves discipline and control but also enables the transfer of funds to other purposes apart from education. The costs, of course, are borne by the students and by the people who are being drawn into these vulnerable occupations.
If you go back to the early 1970s when a lot of this began, there was a lot of concern pretty much across the political spectrum over the activism of the 1960s; it’s commonly called “the time of troubles.” It was a “time of troubles” because the country was getting civilized, and that’s dangerous. People were becoming politically engaged and were trying to gain rights for groups that are called “special interests,” like women, working people, farmers, the young, the old, and so on.

That led to a serious backlash, which was pretty overt. At the liberal end of the spectrum, there’s a book called The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission, Michel Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington, Joji Watanuki (New York University Press, 1975), produced by the Trilateral Commission, an organization of liberal internationalists. The Carter administration was drawn almost entirely from their ranks. They were concerned with what they called “the crisis of democracy,” namely that there’s too much democracy.

In the 1960s there were pressures from the population, these “special interests,” to try to gain rights within the political arena, and that put too much pressure on the state—you can’t do that.

There was one special interest that they left out, namely the corporate sector, because its interests are the “national interest”; the corporate sector is supposed to control the state, so we don’t talk about them.

But the “special interests” were causing problems and they said “we have to have more moderation in democracy,” the public has to go back to being passive and apathetic. And they were particularly concerned with schools and universities, which they said were not properly doing their job of “indoctrinating the young.” You can see from student activism (the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, the feminist movement, the environmental movements) that the young are just not being indoctrinated properly.

Well how do you indoctrinate the young? There are a number of ways.

One way is to burden them with hopelessly heavy tuition debt. Debt is a trap, especially student debt, which is enormous, far larger than credit card debt. It’s a trap for the rest of your life because the laws are designed so that you can’t get out of it. If a business, say, gets in too much debt it can declare bankruptcy, but individuals can almost never be relieved of student debt through bankruptcy. They can even garnish social security if you default.

That’s a disciplinary technique. I don’t say that it was consciously introduced for the purpose, but it certainly has that effect.

And it’s hard to argue that there’s any economic basis for it. Just take a look around the world: higher education is mostly free. In the countries with the highest education standards, let’s say Finland, which is at the top all the time, higher education is free. And in a rich, successful capitalist country like Germany, it’s free. In Mexico, a poor country, which has pretty decent education standards, considering the economic difficulties they face, it’s free.

In fact, look at the United States: if you go back to the 1940s and 50s, higher education was pretty close to free. The GI Bill gave free education to vast numbers of people who would never have been able to go to college. It was very good for them and it was very good for the economy and the society; it was part of the reason for the high economic growth rate. Even in private colleges, education was pretty close to free.

Take me: I went to college in 1945 at an Ivy League university, University of Pennsylvania, and tuition was $100. That would be maybe $800 in today’s dollars. And it was very easy to get a scholarship, so you could live at home, work, and go to school and it didn’t cost you anything.

Now it’s outrageous. I have grandchildren in college, who have to pay for their tuition and work and it’s almost impossible. For the students that is a disciplinary technique.
There's much, much more. Even if you're not a Chomsky fan, I strongly urge you to give this one a read.

By the way: I was shocked to discover the cost of community colleges here in Maryland. How can working people afford these outrageous per-unit fees? Back in California, community colleges have begun to get pricey, but  my home state's schools remain dirt cheap compared to their east coast counterparts.

And let's not even talk about what they're teaching the kids in today's art schools...! Here in Batimore, MICA is supposed to be one of the most prestigious schools in the country, but the kids who go there have given me the impression that their "classes" are really more like therapy sessions. No-one cares about the fundamentals. They don't even know who Jacques Maroger was -- and he taught there!

Bottom line: Academia is a racket. Modern art is a racket. Art schools therefore give you two rackets in one.

And finally: You know what's starting to bug me? The phrase "wreak havoc." Isn't there something else we can wreak other than havoc? Why is it that the verb "to wreak" never affixes itself to any other noun? Is it possible to wreak order? (My ex often tried to do just that, but I defied her at every turn.)
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Isn't there something else we can wreak other than havoc?

Of course there is. One can "wreak vengeance", for example. It may, in fact, mean "to avenge" all by itself.
 
Sounds right, Prop. Can "wreak" be an intransitive verb? On many occasions, I've been told that I wreak.

I see now that they meant it as a compliment.
 
"In the short term the only way to check ISIS, as the self-declared caliphate is widely known, is for the United States to work with Bashar Assad’s Syria, and with Iran. It is a tricky and perilous path, but there are no realistic alternatives".

Oh, my. I sense some kind of very high dimensional strategic multi layered diversionary conceptual kabuki going on in that sentence there.
 
Great post, Joe, but I'd point out that that the protesters in Hong Kong were attacked with state-developed malware designed to capture key strokes, passwords, etc. The malware was found to have been coming from popular protest-centric websites, so it makes sense to point out that while our overlords do indeed spy on our every communication, so too do the Chinese overlords.
 
Joseph, we went to the local "art fair" put on by the JC every year. I think every exhibitor had less skill than me when it comes to drawing. However, they were tackling some mighty impressive topics. Dovetails with your idea about art criticism being oriented to literature rather than actual skill and execution. I think it is kind of sad, really what they are being taught. Frankly, if I want to tell a story I will write a short story, novella or even a full fledged novel as I am quite capable. Literature is its own separate art form and sometimes I just want to draw a flower and paint the darned thing to the absolute best of my ability.
 
Yes, Joseph, "wreak" can be intransitive and even reflexive (although both uses are "archaic" according to the OED). When used in that way, it means "to avenge" or "to seek vengeance".
 
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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Is it the oil?

The Ghawar oil field in Saudi Arabia is the world's largest. If Ghawar were to vanish tomorrow, civilization would totter -- and, perhaps, topple. In 1975, experts said that the field contained 60 million barrels of recoverable oil. To date, 65 billion barrels have been pumped out. The Saudis don't like to talk about how much is left.

In 2012, Citigroup issued a report which stated that Ghawar could run dry as early as 2030. That's why Saudi Arabia is investing in solar energy and nuclear power.

The 2012 report reflects a series of earlier pessimistic assessments. Right after these forecasts started to emerge, Saudi Arabia and its allies initiated furious efforts to topple Syria, a Shi'ite government with close ties to Iran. In recent months, the proxy war against Syria morphed into a proxy war against Iraq, another Shi'ite government with ties to Iran.

Both Iraq and Syria happen to have very large Sunni populations.

ISIS and the Nusra Front were funded by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Sunni powers. The goal is to carve out a Sunni superstate, funded by oil and poised to strike Iran.

Why did the Saudis fund ISIS? Most people find motive in the traditional antagonism between Sunni and Shi'ite. But those two factions have been in conflict for centuries. Why has an ancient quarrel suddenly become grounds for a massive regional war?

Syria doesn't have a tremendous amount of oil, although the country may possess reserves that we mere mortals do not know about. Right now, ISIS controls perhaps 11 oil fields, and they are selling the product for cut-rate prices -- as low as $25 a barrel. ISIS-brand oil may be one small reason why you are paying less at the pump. The larger reason: The Saudis have gone on a price-slashing binge, which seems to be a rather desperate -- and temporary -- strategic maneuver.

I think that the rulers of Saudi Arabia want a Sunni superstate to emerge out of Syria and Iraq. The Saudis probably think that they can control this new regional power. I'm not sure that they can, but I'm pretty sure they think they can.

In other words, the Saudis needed more territory -- more resources -- so they hired ISIS to function as their proxy army. A Saudi/IS superstate would be well-poised to take on Iran.

Too often, this blog (like many other blogs) has focused on Israel, which has its own reasons for seeking regime change in Syria. Although Israel is a key player in this game, it is not the only player.
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From the linked article;

P Escobar "... oil is less than 20 percent of Iran’s revenues, so it’s not essential for them. Gas is much more important."

Qatar has massive gas holdings which they want to deliver to the European market by a pipeline through Saudi Arabia. Assad is supporting Russia by holding out for an Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline. Don't forget that Qatar is Saudi Arabia's partner in funding ISIS.

http://orientalreview.org/2013/03/30/qatars-great-power-games/
 
i'm with cbarr.. the reason they want to get rid of assad is so there can be an alternative supply of gas/oil from qatar thru syria to the european market.. much of the geopolitics in this area is about the petrodollar, but if you can screw russia, or saudi arabia or whoever else in the process - i am sure they don't care.. james
 
I agree with the other commenters: it's about the (proposed) pipeline
 
Some people think the Saudis are doing this at the behest of the United States in order to take down Russia's economy. But as Pepe Escobar points out, low petroleum prices will tank the U.S. fracking boom (which is a ponzi scheme anyway). If this lasts it will bankrupt the deep water drilling industry too. Looks like the Suadi's are in this for themselves.
 
If this move of cut rate Saudi petroleum goes on long enough it could have the effect of a Wahhabi suicide bomb upon western civilization. This cheap oil will undermine developing alternative and renewable energy sources, causing them to fold, and forcing developers to seek employment elsewhere. Extreme petroleum extraction methods such as fracking, and deep water drilling would suffer the same fate as the world habituates to cheap Saudi oil.

This is puzzling when one considers the possibilities and rumors of depleting Saudi petroleum reservoirs. So we may enter into the future of post peak oil by eliminating our infrastructure and knowledge base for alternate energy and alternate petroleum technologies. In effect, entering a serious future struggle for civilizational survival with both hands tied behind our backs, totally unprepared for the new energy reality. If one wanted to return to medieval times, this is a good start.
 
Article summarizing the recent oil glut and Saudi-Syrian connections. Cites the Sept 11 meeting between John Kerry and King Abdullah.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40089.htm

This is still confusing since it is hard to believe that the US would intentionally cut the legs out from under its own domestic oil industry.
 
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The shooter -- and his father

The Parliament Hill shooter in Canada has been identified as a Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. There's a discrepancy regarding this man's name. Reuters:
Some U.S. government sources said the shooter was born Michael Joseph Hall but changed his name to Zehaf-Bibeau.
However, we read in The Globe and Mail that...
Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau was born in 1982 and was the son of Bulgasem Zehaf, a Quebec businessman who appears to have fought in 2011 in Libya, and Susan Bibeau, the deputy chairperson of a division of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board. The two were divorced in 1999.
So he was born Zehaf-Bibeau. Where did the name "Michael Joseph Hall" come from?

There seems to be little or no trace of this young man on the internet, as either Hall or Zehaf-Bibeau.

At some point, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau traveled to British Columbia for as-yet unknown reasons, where he got into trouble with the law. (He seems to have had fairly minor problems with the police throughout his life.) In BC, he was charged with a robbery but pled guilty to a lesser offense and served only one day.

It also appears that MZB spent time in Libya, of all places...
Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau grew up in Eastern Canada, including Ottawa and Montreal, and had spent time in Libya before moving to Western Canada to become a miner and labourer, according to friend Dave Bathurst.
His father, Belgasem Zahef, also went to Libya in 2011, around the time of Gaddafy's fall. Fascinatingly, the father was quoted by the conservative Washington Times, in a story about the Libyan civil war published on August 20, 2011.
Zawiyah is the site of a key oil terminal that supplies the Libyan capital. Residents and rebels said the oil flow was shut off late last week.

Rebels succeeded in clearing the city of pro-Gadhafi snipers, some of whom had been holed up in a hospital in the southeastern part of the city. Most of the snipers were believed to be black African mercenaries loyal to the regime.

“There is a disaster in Zawiyah. All the buildings have been damaged; residents have been killed in their homes,” said Belgasem Zahef, a Zawiyah native who recently returned to his home in Montreal after spending over a month in detention. He was arrested in Zawiyah where he had gone to fight alongside the rebels.

Mr. Zahaf said the main prison in the city was overflowing with inmates who were forced to live in sub-human conditions and routinely tortured by their captors.
“In Tripoli people are scared because of NATO bombings,” said Mr. Zahef, who has been urging his family to leave the city. People are fleeing by using back lanes and farm roads, he added.
In sum: It would appear that the elder Zahef was raised in Libya, had family in Tripoli, moved to Montreal and married an immigration officer, whom he divorced in 1999. (There is a significant Libyan expat community in Canada.) This story refers to Zehaf as a businessman who ran a Montreal establishment called Café Tripoli. In 2011, Zehaf returned to Libya to take part in the civil war.

Did he take his son with him? This story (posted just a few minutes ago) indicates that MZB did indeed take part in the rebellion against Gaddafy. (Oddly, the same account repeats the "Michael Joseph Hall" claim.)

The robbery in British Columbia took place on December 16, 2011. The chronology allows for the possibility that MZB was in Libya earlier that year. (Gaddafy was killed in October.)

The above-cited Globe and Mail story claims that, during his stay in British Columbia, MZB showed signs of a psychological breakdown, perhaps related to his experiences in Libya.
He said his friend frequently talked about the presence of Shaytan in the world – an Arabic term for devils and demons. “I think he must have been mentally ill.”

Mr. Bathurst last saw Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau praying in a Vancouver-area mosque six weeks ago. He spoke of wanting to go to the Middle East soon.
Apparently, his passport was seized. It seems fair to speculate as to whether his inability to travel led to his subsequent act of violence.

Added note: More than one witness described the shooter as "overweight." The images of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau available online do not depict a man with a notable weight problem.

Added note 2: An alleged ISIS-linked Twitter account displayed a picture of MZB firing a rifle and dressed in a fashion similar to that reportedly worn by the Parliament Hill shooter. The word "convenient" comes to mind: The image appeared just as MZB's name first appeared in news reports. The Twitter account was suspended an hour later.
Military Studies told Heavy.com that the same Twitter account was followed by Martin Couture-Rouleau. On October 20, Rouleau killed a Canadian soldier by hitting him with his car.
Added note 3: The release of the name was strange. Look carefully...
CBS News quoted U.S. officials when reported Bibeau’s name. CNN and other outlets reported earlier that Canadian officials had shared the name with the FBI. According to the New York Times, the U.S. government has no record of Bibeau’s behavior.
So the NYT has access to all government files? Good to know! Actually, the NYT story at the other end of that link does not say what Heavy says it says.

It's certainly interesting that the Canadians shared the info with the Bureau, who told it to CBS, who told the world. You'd think that the Canadian government would be allowed to make a decision of that sort.

Added Note 4: What that above-linked NYT story does say is noteworthy:
On Twitter, followers of the Islamic State praised the attack — and warned of more to follow.

In an audio message last month, the Islamic State’s spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, exhorted sympathizers to carry out revenge killings and included Canadians on the list of target nationalities.
Time to point out the obvious: From a practical and tactical point of view, ISIS has no reason to commit or to encourage such acts. ISIS-inspired violence in the US or Canada can have but one result: Granting Obama the political maneuvering room necessary to send American combat troops to Iraq and Syria. So why did al-Adnani make that statement? Why would he want ISIS to face American ground forces? Sure, ISIS is crazy -- but are they really that crazy?

Adnani's real name is Taha Subhi Falaha; he's from Syria. His September statement was quite drole:
“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way, however it may be,” he said.

“Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him.”
Here's the bit that everyone seems to be ignoring:
However, it has not been verified yet if the recording is genuinely from the terrorist group.
I wonder why he chose the name "Adnani"? Was he hanging out with you-know-who in Monaco?
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Comments:
Well, it seems the droll (note c.s.) message to "run them over with cars" was heeded in at least one case.

I don't know, Joseph....the descriptions seem to indicate one shooter, with a dark jacket, white scarf and long hair. The "overweight" part could have been an illusion from the jacket?

I do wonder about the gun. Was that "double barrel shotgun" capable of "sustained" gunfire? That portrait of the killer was convenient indeed.

 
UK telegraph says he is a Roman Catholic Libyan French Canadian convert.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/canada/11183993/Ottawa-gunman-told-fellow-Muslim-convert-the-devil-is-chasing-me.html

Many of these cases are done by converts.

Next question to ask the guy, are you Opus Dei, Muslim Brotherhood or a Nazi? Gladio?

What's the game? Breaking the balls off of the American Empire for the benefit of the world's Royals & Elites by seducing USA back into the Middle East with another Great Lie. Gotta break them balls off the American Empire before it's gets outta control ya know. And stomp that American/French Democracy shit out of people so elites can MAKE 'MO MONEY. DESTABILIZE THE AVERAGE JOE YO! KEEP THE HEIFERS HUNGRY... and therefore under control.

Who wants that to occur? I suspect MANY are in collusion in this Grand Ol American Ball Busting.



 
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Ottawa shootings: ONE guy...?

Let's quickly run through what we know about the Parliament Hill shootings in Canada: One gunman has been killed, but there are substantive reports of multiple shooters in multiple locations.

The Globe and Mail has released video capturing the sound of gunfire within Parliament itself, as police close in on...someone. We hear what appears to be one large burst -- a shotgun? -- followed by what seems to be reports from multiple handguns. The latter seem to be sounds of policemen returning fire.

The only reported victim was a soldier standing guard at the National War Memorial.

What I fear is the recurrence of a pattern we've seen rather too often here in the states: Initial reports always speak of multiple shooters, while the final story pins everything on just one guy. The map above (gratefully stolen from the National Post) shows the geography. I find it impossible to believe that one many could do so much over so wide an area.

Obviously, security must be very heavy in and around that building. How could a shooter at the Memorial get inside?

(We have vague reports of gunfire in still other locations.)

If the Toyota is indeed the killer's vehicle, then why did he head southwest to the memorial before going northeast to Parliament? And why would he enter the building from the northeast corner?

The Rideau Center is a shopping mall. There are conflicting reports as to whether shots were actually fired. The following comes from the National Post...
One suspect was described as “5’9-5’10, overweight and wearing a dark jacket, with a white scarf around his face,” by Stuart Barnable, a Liberal staffer who said he witnessed the events from East Block.

A Dutch tourist said he heard at least four shot and say the assailant running towards Parliament Hill, carrying a large rifle.

A Toyota Corolla, with no plates on it, was left outside of Parliament Hill. Multiple witnesses said they saw a gunman get out of it and attack the soldier. Bomb locating robots have been deployed by police near the car.

Witness Scott Walsh told the Canadian Press he was working near the East Block when he saw a man with long, black hair, his face covered with a white scarf and wearing a black jacket.

“He had a double-barrelled shotgun, he was about five feet from me, and he ran right beside us, ran past the woman with the stroller and child,” he said.

Walsh said the gunman then hijacked a dark car at gunpoint and started driving towards the Peace Tower.
The BBC has reported that crowds ran screaming from the Rideau center. If the map shown above is accurate, the incident at the Rideau center took place at 12 pm. I find it hard to believe that the shopping center would be anything other than empty roughly two hours after the attack at the War Memorial.

The New York Times has published a tweet indicating that more than one gunman was involved. Security personnel have told Parliament staffers that there were three gunmen.

No reports have discussed motive. However...
The incident comes just two days after two Canadian soldiers were run over — and one of them killed — in Quebec by a man with jihadist sympathies.
An "iffy" website printed a comment which said that the dead shooter was a French Canadian convert to Islam. This report was attributed to the BBC. However, I have not found confirmation on the BBC's website.

From NBC News:
Soucy, from the Ottawa police, told MSNBC that witness descriptions of the shooter or shooters had ranged “from wearing a scarf around their head to dressed in all black, so we’re looking at everyone.”

The motive for the attack was not clear, but it came days after Canada raised its domestic terrorism threat level. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have said that they are watching at least 90 known ISIS sympathizers.
The RCMP Twitter feed has sounded some notes that seem almost deliberately calculated to induce paranoia. There may be legitimate reasons for asking the public not to post photos or videos of the incident, but at face value, this request looks like an attempt to control information.

Interestingly, we have reports that shots were fired after the events depicted in the video referenced above:
Conservative member of parliament Stephen Taylor tweeted that the suspect had been shot and killed just after 10:30 a.m. Though just after 20 minutes later, Rosemary Barton of CBC reported that further shots had been fired.
There are also reports that another security guard was shot inside the building.

At this time, it is difficult to get a clear idea of the timing. Taylor, above, tweeted that a suspect was killed at 10:30 a.m.; however, another MP, Gerry Byrne, tweeted:
At 9:55am I was in a meeting on the 5th floor of centre block in the Leader's office when I heard shots fired. RCMP response was immediate.
So when was the video taken, exactly? The camera should have placed a time stamp on the footage.

Weirdly enough, there have been power outages in Ottawa which, we are told, have no relationship to the shooting incident. 
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Comments:
Hello Joe. I've walked around the area in question before and from reading a random collection of statements I'm quite convinced there was only one shooter. However, there may be an accomplice who drove with the shooter to the memorial (as per witnesses). He was said to be unarmed and headed south away from parliament. If i were to guess he may have been there to document the heinous crime and may be responsible for the much discussed mystery photo. Just my theory.
 
As I've written about many, many times, eyewitness testimony is just awful. 90% of what you hear is NOT what happened and this appears to be yet another case of that. This is the same thing with the Mike Brown case which is falling apart as numerous eyewitness accounts do not jibe with the evidence now, something I was vilified for suggesting months back. It would appear that in this case, the lone gunman theory may be the best, perhaps copycatting the attack from Monday from yet another Muslim nutbag. The shots fired from the shopping plaza is said to be nothing and I see little reason t doubt this. It is funny to see Canadian news no better than our own when it comes to getting accurate info out to the public.
 
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Re-killing the messenger

Most of you have heard about Gary Webb. Back in the 1990s, this excellent journalist penned an important series about contra/CIA involvement in the dope trade. In response to his revelations, the purchased piglets of the mainstream media slammed Webb the way they had earlier slammed Jim Garrison and Richard Sprague. (In more recent times, Glenn Greenwald has received a softer variant of The Big Smear.)

The attack on Webb was savage. Pitiless. Hideous. And spectacular. It had the barbaric majesty of an Aztec sacrifice.

I briefly corresponded with Gary Webb about a year before he committed suicide. By then, of course, he had already committed professional suicide. My expressions of support may have added to his depression, since they probably seemed like premature bereavement cards. My basic message: I admire what you tried to do, Mr. Webb. But they screwed you with obscene ferocity, and right now, I can't think of any way to make things better.

Those may not have been comforting words, but what else was there to say?

The Washington Post is still publishing lies about Gary Webb in order to undermine the new Webb biopic Kill the Messenger. The film stars Jeremy Renner, who was the main force in getting this film off the ground. (Hawkeye is suddenly my favorite Avenger.)

The WP piece is written by one Jeff Leen. If you want some background on this guy, visit Narco News, which has all the dirty details:
Why are we telling you about this Jeff Leen character? You’ve probably never heard of him or read any his work or, if you did, found it important or memorable, not even during his 17 years at the Washington Post. You might be able to name other Post writers and columnists, including people who’ve been there far less time than Leen. But for good reason, you’ve never heard of this guy.
Leen apparently burst a spleen when he saw “Kill the Messenger” on the silver screen. There was the late Gary Webb. Although he never made the “millions” Leen said back in 1997 that he aspired to win through journalism, Webb is suddenly occupying the heroic space in Hollywood’s star pantheon that Leen told us in 1997 was his dream to fill. And so Leen took his butthurt grievance to the Washington Post editorial pages last Friday.
This piece offers much more. A terrific read.

You should also take a look at Robert Parry's response to the WP's variegated deceits.
Leen insists that there is a journalism dictum that “an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof.” But Leen must know that it is not true. Many extraordinary claims, such as assertions in 2002-03 that Iraq was hiding arsenals of WMDs, were published as flat-fact without “extraordinary proof” or any real evidence at all, including by Leen’s colleagues at the Washington Post.

A different rule actually governs American journalism – that journalists need “extraordinary proof” if a story puts the U.S. government or an “ally” in a negative light but pretty much anything goes when criticizing an “enemy.”

If, for instance, the Post wanted to accuse the Syrian government of killing civilians with Sarin gas or blame Russian-backed rebels for the shoot-down of a civilian airliner over Ukraine, any scraps of proof – no matter how dubious – would be good enough (as was the actual case in 2013 and 2014, respectively).

However, if new evidence undercut those suspicions and shifted the blame to people on “the U.S. side” – say, the Syrian rebels and the Ukrainian government – then the standards of proof suddenly skyrocket beyond reach. So what you get is not “responsible” journalism – as Leen tries to suggest – but hypocrisy and propaganda. One set of rules for the goose and another set for the gander.
Actually, the situation is even worse than that. I recall an NYT opinion piece published in the late 1980s which scoffed at the paranoid fools who thought that the CIA had tried to kill Fidel Castro -- a story which the New York Times had itself broken in the 1970s. Insert standard Orwell reference here.

The best, most detailed, most hard-hitting piece on Webb you are likely to read is by Jim DiEugenio. If you have time to read only one study of the Webb affair, Jim's article is a must. I had hoped to publish Jim's words on this very blog, but I need the permission of his publisher to do so, and Bob Parry is hard to reach. These excerpts will have to suffice:
Although the initial assaults on Webb’s series were mounted by the right-wing news media, including the Washington Times, the MSM soon prepared its own withering counterattack against Webb. It began on Oct. 4, 1996, with a front-page story, with sidebars, in the Washington Post. The lead article was written by Walter Pincus and Roberto Suro, entitled “The CIA and Crack: Evidence is Lacking of Alleged Plot.”

A relentless offensive followed designed to crush the populist uprising in its infancy. In short order, the New York Times joined in. Then came the Los Angeles Times with the most deliberate and vicious attack. Editor Shelby Coffey commissioned the equivalent of a journalistic SWAT team. No less than 17 reporters prepared a three-day series that was actually longer than Webb’s original “Dark Alliance” series. Internally, it was known as the “Get Gary Webb Team.” (LA Weekly, 9/29/14)

As the team worked, its common chorus was: “We’re going to take away this guy’s Pulitzer.” The hit team was headed by Doyle McManus and Leo Wolinsky. (A few months later, Coffey promoted Wolinsky to assistant managing editor.)
I recall that barrage very well. Representatives of the LAT hit team appeared in every public gathering that would have them, and their obvious lies generated palpable hostility from audiences. Whenever KPFK broadcast a "forum" featuring their voices, I came that close to tossing my radio out of my second-floor window.
But was there more to all this than just a vendetta against a reporter from a smaller northern California newspaper unearthing a huge scandal on the Los Angeles Times’ home turf? While professional jealousy clearly played a role in the cruelty inflicted on Webb, the intensity of the counterattack also reflected the symbiotic relationship between the U.S. national security apparatus and Washington-based national security reporters who are dependent on official background briefings to receive pre-approved information that news organizations need, especially during foreign crises when access to on-the-ground events is limited.
This next section is important.

Seriously. I implore you to read these words with care, and to keep the message in your memory. I'll return to this theme in a few upcoming posts, including one on the heroic and embattled Syrian Girl.

(In the following excerpt, all emphases were added by me.)
A recently released CIA document on how the counterattack against Webb was promoted is revealing in this regard. Entitled “Managing a Nightmare: CIA Public Affairs and the Drug Conspiracy Story,” the six-page internal report. described the CIA’s damage control in the wake of the publication of Webb’s story.

The report showed how the spy agency’s PR team exploited relationships with mainstream journalists who then essentially did the CIA’s work for it, mounting a devastating counterattack against Webb that marginalized him and painted the Contra-cocaine trafficking story as some baseless conspiracy theory.

Crucial to that success, the report credits “a ground base of already productive relations with journalists and an effective response by the Director of Central Intelligence’s Public Affairs Staff [that] helped prevent this story from becoming an unmitigated disaster.”

The Agency convinced friendly journalists to characterize Webb’s series as presenting “no real news, in that similar charges were made in the 1980’s and were investigated by the Congress and were found to be without substance.” That, of course, was a lie. In fact, Kerry’s investigation confirmed many of the Contra-cocaine allegations first reported by Parry and Barger for the Associated Press.

According to the CIA’s “Managing a Nightmare” report, journalists were advised to read Webb’s series critically and the CIA considered the initial attack by the Washington Post the key moment in blunting Webb’s story. The CIA distributed the negative stories to other members of the press.

From there, other papers refused to pick up Webb’s articles, but they often carried the articles attacking him. The CIA’s report noted that the tide of the public relations battle had fully turned by October and soon became a rout. Even the American Journalism Review, which – like similar publications – is supposed to stand up for honest journalists under fire, instead joined the all-out charge against Webb.

The Agency crowed how easy it was to work with journalists to first blunt and then turn around this negative national security story.
Are they going to go after Jeremy Renner the same way they went after Gary Webb? If they do, let's turn the attacks to our advantage. Jot down names. Anyone who targets Hawkeye goes on the list of scribblers who keep questionable "Company."

Bottom line: I've never before seen American journalism in such wretched health. Citizens who want to know what's going on in the world are given only these three options:

1. Mainstream journalism. Largely corrupt. Too many professional newsfolk have established "productive relations" with the CIA and other arms of the government.

2. Fox News and environs. Worse than corrupt. The far-right media infrastructure exists to send gullible, resentful proles into ecstatic trances of rage-gasm.

3. The conspiracy entertainment complex. (That useful term was coined by the proprietor of Rigorous Intuition.) The Clown-King of this surreal realm is, of course, Alex Jones. We're talking about an infuriating gaggle of high-decibel screwballs and bleary-eyed Illuminati-spotters who think that they're the hippest of the hip, even though they unwittingly serve as faithful functionaries of the American intelligence establishment. The conspiracy entertainment complex exists to bring discredit to anyone who questions the worldview presented by the mainstream media and the Fox Newsers.

If you look beyond those three categories, you can still find a few real writers -- seekers of truth who possess courage, insight and professional standards. These brave few have a patron saint: Gary Webb.
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Comments:
Joe--As a full-time film critic and part-time spook hunter, I genuinely liked and admired "Kill the Messenger"; but as I told Jim DiEugenio in a recent email, I was shocked that it was written by Peter Landesman--the director of the recent JFK-assassination movie "Parkland." That stillborn 2013 flick was adapted from Vincent Bugliosi's lone-nut opus "Reclaiming Hisatory." Landesman has called Bugliosi's piece of shit "a mastetrpiece"; yet neither he nor producer Tom Hanks (a good-if-misguided guy), seem to have read anything else about the JFK case. (Nor do they acknowledge that Bugliosi's book was gently shepherded by the Agency's David Atlee Phillips and ghost-written by the disreputible Fred Haines and Dale Myers. Bugliosi never even visited Dallas to interview surviving witnesses!)

As far as I know, the Agency has never tried to recruit or seduce me, because I'm a small fry. But I do beleive that its surrogates have whispered in the ears of my publisher, and thus my editors. Some topics are just too hot to handle.

So I wonder about Landesman. He himself was on the receiving end of the Webb treatment when he wrote a sensational story about sex-trafficking for the New York Times Magazine called "The Girls Next Door." Other media outlets questioned his sourcing, and Landesman resigned from the Grey Lady.

There's a strange phenomenon wherein mainstream reporters move forward and backward fromn too-hot truths. Consider George Lardner at the Washington Post, who pre-emptively attacked Oliver Stone's "JFK:--yet subsequently reported on a British acoustics study that confirmed the HCSA's conclusion that there was a Grassy Knoll shooter.

Waddya think--is telling some of the truth, some of the time, a minor-key component of the Mighty Wurlitzer?
 
OIC

/me rendering
 
It's at least gratifying to see that the comment's on the Washington Post piece are unanimously condemning Leen for his sucking up to the powers that be and continuing to smear Webb, probably because of how Webb embarrassed him and showed what flunky he was for the powers that be in their debate years ago. Leen was obviously an establishment man from the get go (fame and fortune, rather than pursuit of the truth, were his goals as a "journalist"). Webb was a REAL journalist, and he paid for it with his life (while still alive, which led to his suicide).
 
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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

An obvious fake

File this one under "Who do they think they are kidding?"...

A man wearing a Citizens for a Better Arizona t-shirt brazenly stuffed a ballot box with hundreds of ballots in that state, in full view of a video camera. Although Citizens for a Better Arizona identifies itself as non-partisan, their website encourages actions against anti-gay laws, and they spearheaded an effort to recall the outlandish Sheriff Joe Arpaio. (As we shall see, America's most (in)famous sheriff plays an important role in this story.)

BuzzPo (a right-wing site) identifies the ballot-stuffer as a "Democrat." I feel quite certain that he was no such thing.

The ballot stuffer engaged in a memorable bit of dialogue with one A.J. LaFaro, the Maricopa County Republican Party Chairman (and Arpaio crony), who just happened to be in that particular precinct at that very moment.
Guy: “Stop watching me. You’re annoying me.”

LaFaro: “One of your ballots isn’t sealed.”

Guy: “It’s none of your business. What’s your name?”

LaFaro: “I’m the chairman of the Maricopa County Republican Party. What’s yours?”

Guy: “Go f*** yourself. I don’t have to tell you who I am.”
"One of your ballots isn't sealed"...!

As if someone committing a crime would wear an identifying t-shirt!

Are we really supposed to believe that a ballot stuffer would bring in a box of ballots, and do his dirty work openly? Are we supposed to believe that he did all of this under the gaze of a party chairman, who identified himself as such, yet did nothing to stop the stuffing?

Even a small child should be able to see that this incident was nothing more than an unconvincing exercise in theater.

If you have any talent at all for reading between the lines, you can figure out what really happened from scanning the coverage in the ultra-conservative Arizona Daily Independent:
A.J. LaFaro, Chairman of the Maricopa County Republican Committee testified at the 2013 hearings before the Arizona State Legislature regarding election reforms that eventually became HB-2305. At the time of its passage, opponents claimed the law would suppress the vote and disenfranchise the mostly Hispanic community.

In February 2014, the Arizona legislature, caving to pressure from special interest groups, repealed the law.

Fast forward to August of 2014, and it appears as if the fears of those who initially supported the legislation were real, not the delusions of right-wing kooks.
Tell me, dear reader: Does Mr. LaFaro suddenly seem very suspicious to you? Have you formulated a hypothesis as to who might have masterminded this patently obvious frame-up job?

(By the way, the Arizona Daily Independent website is quite unusual. Even though I called it up on four different browsers, I was not able to select and copy text. A temporary technical problem, perhaps? The quotation above had to be typed in by hand, just as we used to do in the pre-internet days.)

Quite the character, our A.J. is. A little research reveals that Mr. LaFaro is a Tea party sympathizer known for his outrageous antics. In a story published last year, The New Times pegs "wild man" LaFaro as a close associate of the nationally notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio (who is, among many other things, America's most prominent birther).
In it, LaFaro does his best to fire up the Teabagger faithful by telling all and sundry that our aged autocrat Sheriff Joe Arpaio is under siege and requires the assistance of a toothless brigade of Yosemite Sam-lookalikes: You know, to dog the "domestic terrorists," now out pounding pavement in hopes of scoring the needed signatures to recall his sorry ass.
If you have the sheriff on your side, all sorts of opportunities become available to you. You need not fear arrest.

I hope that Sheriff Joe announces that he will move heaven and earth to identify the ballot box stuffer. The hunt for this miscreant will no doubt be as fruitful as O.J.'s search for "the real killer."
So the pro-Joe goobers are holding a meetin' come Saturday to figure out how to organize a "`shadow army' of `shadow warriors'" willing to "stand toe-to-toe" with the "paid progressive socialists...collecting petition signatures."

And you know what this means: Ornery, white geriatrics, Glocks strapped to their pear-shaped hips, ready to do battle with unarmed signature gatherers.
"Paid progressive socialists" was LaFaro-speak for -- you guessed it! -- Citizens for a Better Arizona. They are the people who headed the recall effort against Arpaio. LaFaro despises that group. Yet we are supposed to believe that LaFaro did nothing as he watched a guy wearing a Citizens for a Better Arizona t-shirt commit a crime.

Ironically, LaFaro came to state-wide prominence when he launched a petition drive against the openly gay mayor of Tempe.

Here's a tongue-in-cheek New Times "endorsement" of LaFaro and his political associates:
He calls the slate "Team LaFaro." Wags call it the "Crazy Town" ticket.

That's because LaFaro has an impressive record of moon-howlin' antics and reactionary statements stretching back more than a decade.

Hell, I could write oodles about the guy. He has the potential to be a great villain.
You should read the rest of the article; it's a lot of fun. But if you prefer to read an assessment from a more "old school" publication, consider this story published in the venerable Arizona Republic:
He called Gov. Jan Brewer a “Judas” for betraying Republican principles.

He likened GOP senators’ support of Medicaid expansion to Pearl Harbor’s “day of infamy.”

He said state GOP leaders were lucky there weren’t gallows in the town square.

All the barbs came from A.J. LaFaro, the improbable head of the Maricopa County Republican Party. All the barbs were about fellow Republicans, though LaFaro would insist the targets of his ire had abandoned the true principles of their party.
LaFaro allies himself with right-wing conspiracy buffs. As you know, plot-spotters of that sort are forever caterwauling about "false flag" attacks. Is it possible that, after hearing so much "false flag" talk, a lightbulb went off over LaFaro's head?

The planners of this frame should have known better than to include that t-shirt. Way too obvious. Even James O'Keefe (who was never Mr. Subtlety) would have known better. As Matt Murdoch said of another frame-up in a famous issue of Daredevil: "It was a nice piece of work, Kingpin. You shouldn't have signed it."
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Comments:
Thank you! I've seen this bullshit story posted all over the internet this morning. Thanks for doing your research and writing this great article.
 
99% of the charges conservatives level against progressives are essentially just them projecting their own crimes onto the opposition.

If they wanted to have a serious conversation about voter fraud then they need look no further than the 2000, 2002, and 2004 elections. Their side didn't "win" a single one of those contests at the ballot box; they "won" them behind the scenes where the votes were counted, or mis-counted, as it were.

We could look into the GOP-specific IT company that used to be run out of Knoxville, TN where Ohio re-routed its votes for tabulation; the same company that conveniently "lost" all of the Bush administration's emails. Of course, it would be easier to look into that company if its owner, Michael Connell, hadn't died in an unexplained small plane crash just days before he was due to be deposed.

We could look into the activities of Nathan Sproul & Associates in the run-ups to the aforementioned elections and ask why he was padding the GOP's voter roles with so many names of people who thought they'd registered as Democrats. Of course, it's harder to tell a lot of votes have been shifted in certain races when the pre-election voter rolls show fraudulent increases in GOP voters.

To talk about these crimes as things that the progressive side of the aisle takes part in is to play into the right's feeble games. They're stealing elections, gerrymandering districts, enacting poll taxes, and all the while accusing the Democrats of the same.

When one side is compelled to play by the rules while the other flaunts the rules with impunity you end up with a tilted playing field, which is what we've got now. I'm not sure how to right this ship outside of something drastic like a general strike, but something's got to give.
 
Is it normal for people to be filmed when they're voting? And what's a party man even doing in the room where people cast their ballots, let alone approaching a voter who's on his way to cast? Strange country!
 
b: "Strange country" should be "strange COUNTY." I've never heard of such things occurring anywhere else.

Your points only underscore the bogus nature of this staged incident. I can't believe that anyone would be dumb enough to fall for this charade, but apparently many people are just that stupid.
 
It's not a fake video. It's just routine surveillance tape that AJ LaFaro requested. But it's also not fraud: the man in the video is returning early ballots in accordance with Arizona law. Wonkette did a piece explaining the whole sorry pile of rightwing lies about this video
 
What this guy is doing is PERFECTLY LEGAL in Arizona. That's why nobody stopped him.

"After they have securely sealed the voted ballot inside the early ballot return envelope, voters may voluntarily give their voted early ballot to a person of their choice for delivery to the Recorder or a polling place. The designated person shall not tamper with the envelope or the ballot and shall not deliberately fail to deliver the ballot to the Recorder or a polling place within the voter’s county of residence."

http://www.azsos.gov/election/Electronic_Voting_System/manual.pdf
pg 59
 
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