Finally, a solution to the Great Crotch-Bomber Mystery
Walter Pincus delivers the other side of the story. He tells us why the Obama administration made such an enormous effort to spy on AP in order to track a leaker.
Previously, it had been established the AP had gotten wind of a plot to bomb an airliner on the anniversary of Bin Laden's death. At the government's request, the news organization kept mum about the story until given the go-ahead to publish.
Now we have the key details. Turns out that this bomb plot was actually a sting operation, of sorts. The target was AQAP -- Al Qaida on the Arab Peninsula, the Yemeni terror group:
One goal was to get AQAP’s operational head, Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso. That happened one day before the AP story appeared.
A second goal was to find and possibly kill AQAP bombmaker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, whose first underwear device almost killed Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s anti-terrorism chief. Soon after, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab used such a device in a failed Christmas Day bombing attempt as his Northwest Airlines flight was landing in Detroit.
Hitting targets in the United States is one of AQAP’s goals. In association with Saudi intelligence, the CIA inserted a Saudi who convinced AQAP that he wanted to be a suicide bomber. Eventually he was outfitted with Asiri’s newest device, which he was to use on a U.S. aircraft. After the device was delivered to U.S. officials, someone or several people leaked the information to the AP.
White House press secretary Jim Carney had announced that there were no Al Qaida plots to observe the anniversary. AP considered this statement a lie, although technically, there was truth in it.
This was a CIA ruse, not a terrorist-initiated plot.
Marcy Wheeler derides the suggestion that the Saudi double agent could have returned to AQAP and resumed his spying chores. The key words in Pincus' story: "After the device was delivered to U.S. officials..." If the bomb plot was foiled -- if the bomb was safely in US hands -- then how (Marcy asks) could the Saudi spook get back into Al Qaida's good graces?
As I pondered that poser, mulling over all the potential scenarios, a lightbulb flashed overhead.
Pincus, are you thinking what I'm thinking...?
Probably not. And even if the idea that just now occurred to me has also occurred to him, no reporter in his august position would allow himself voice such a novel theory in public. Of course, we bloggers are snarling dogs who snap all tethers. Giving voice to novel theories is what we do. My little brainstorm can be summed up in a single sentence:
What if "crotch-bomber" Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab was also a double agent?
What if his arrest, trial and conviction were all ruses? What if he now has a new life under a new name?
That scenario explains many of the lingering oddities that have always surrounded the underwear bombing incident of Christmas, 2009. We've discussed these mysteries in a series of previous posts: See here and here and here.
Think back, my friends, to the final days of 2009 and the early days of 2010. Think back to the story that had everyone in the world filled with angst and speculation. Suddenly, we can see everything about that incident in a brand new light...
1. Why did a mystery videographer document the entire flight? Why didn't this cameraman show his (no doubt quite dramatic) footage to the media? Why didn't the FBI try to track him down? It makes no sense to suggest that the videographer was a fellow terrorist, because if the explosion had gone off as planned, the footage would have been destroyed along with the aircraft.
Maybe...maybe the videographer worked for the CIA or a friendly agency. Maybe Captain Video knew that the bomb would never go off.
2. Who was the well-dressed accomplice who helped Mutallab board the flight? Reliable witnesses Kurt and Lori Haskell said that the accomplice helped the crotch-bomber board the flight without a passport.
Maybe...maybe the Well-Dressed Man was one of Mutallab's handlers.
3. Why the multiple stories about passports? As noted above, Mutallab needed help to board the flight because he did not have a passport; reliable witnesses are very clear on this point. But when writers commented on that oddity, a passport suddenly showed up. We never got a clear explanation as to how a man could both have and not have a passport.
Maybe...maybe that passport was a last-minute part of Mutallab's "legend."
4. Why did the Nigerians help Mutallab move in and out of that country? If I recall correctly, this aspect of the story was reported only in African newspapers.
Maybe...maybe the CIA recruited the help of the Nigerian authorities.
5. How did Mutallab escape the "no fly" list? His father, a prominent Nigerian banker, had warned the American embassy that his son had turned into a radical extremist capable of violence. Fox News was told that the CIA had tracked Mutallab for months beforehand. The UK had barred the young extremist from entering the country.
Maybe...maybe the father knew that his son was an Al Qaida infiltrator. Maybe the embassy warning was designed to establish cover. And maybe the no-fly list was massaged to allow a double-agent to board.
6. Why didn't the PETN crotch bomb go off after it was set on fire? I never could understand why American officials took such a shoulder-shrugging "no worries" attitude toward the actual mechanism allegedly placed inside that young man's goody bag. As you may recall, a parade of experts assured us that such a device was always hopeless and harmless: "PETN? Bah. Nothing to worry about. I eat PETN for breakfast. Hell, I've been known to slather it on toast..."
Maybe...maybe there was no bomb. Maybe no PETN was ever aboard that aircraft. Maybe this whole exercise in theater was designed to leave AQAP with the impression that Mutallab had honestly tried, and failed, to carry out a suicide mission.
7. Why did Mutallab have a beatific, tranced-out look on his face after lighting his crotch on fire? You'd think that even the most fervent jihadi would have some sort of reaction. No matter how zealous a young fanatic might be, fire and testicles simply don't mix.
Maybe...maybe the whole thing was a magic trick, a bit of theater. How difficult would it be to rig up fire-resistant underwear, covered with flammable material?
8. How did Mutallab get the money for his travels? Although his father is well-off, we have been told that he and dad did not always get along. The father has multiple wives, and young Farouk, as the family called him, was born to one of the less-favored wives. More importantly, Dad had ratted out his own son to the Americans months earlier.
Maybe...maybe we should always remember that a mysterious source of funding is the first indicator of spookiness.
9. Why did witnesses placed Mutallab at his father's retirement party in Lagos just a few days before the flight? The father told journalists that he hadn't seen his son for months.
Maybe...maybe father and son had one last get-together before young Mutallab went off on his assignment. Maybe they both knew that the young man would then have a new life under a new identity.
If Mutallab was a penetration agent, he no doubt relayed tons of useful information about a shadowy group hiding in the lawless regions of Yemen. Now that the second undie-bomber has been revealed as an agent, whoever is now running AQAP (presuming that the organization still exists) must be asking the same questions I have asked about Mutallab.
Are you about to tell me that my theory is too far-fetched, too James Bond-y to have any credibility? Re-read what Walter Pincus has to say about the Saudi who got into the good graces of AQAP. That scenario also reads like something out of a spy novel.
Added note: I sent Marcy Wheeler a message directing her attention to this post. My final words: "This is your cue to make me look like an idiot by telling me where my theory goes wrong."
Rising to that challenge, she reminded me that Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab appealed his conviction. Well. That tidbit certainly calls my theory into question, although perhaps a kind reader can effect a rescue. Oddly enough, Farouk asked none other than Kurt Haskell to function as his witness.
He said he and his wife were on the flight returning from an African safari. While sitting at the airport, he said he saw Abdulmutallab being escorted through security by a man in a tan suit who spoke perfect English.
The airline gate worker initially refused to let Abdulmutallab to board until the man in the tan suit intervened.
He said passengers were kept on the plane after it landed in Detroit without any concern about the explosives on the plane. He said passengers were taken into the terminal without anyone checking their bags or for possible accomplices.
It soon became obvious that the FBI wasn’t concerned about anything he had to say, including the man in the tan suit.
He said Abdulmutallab was allowed to board the plane without a passport and going through security. He said he’s disappointed that the U.S. government allowed Abdulmutallab to get onto the plane.
“Regardless of how media and government try to shape this case, I am convinced that Umar was given an intentionally defective bomb by a U.S. agent... to stage a false terrorist attack to be used to implement various government policies. It really saddens me that the government won’t admit its role in the event. Because of this case, I will never trust anything the government says, ever.”
Then, Haskell turned to Abdulmutallab.
“Umar, you are not a Muslim martyr. You are merely a government patsy.”
Intentionally given a defective bomb? Okay. I guess that's possible. But how? And who?
By the way: Most of the earlier news stories used the spelling "Abdul Mutallab," or just "Mutallab," which I have retained. The more recent stories invariably spell the name "Abdulmutallab." Arabic names are notoriously difficult to render in English. Also, although Haskell called him "Umar," I distinctly recall a news story in an African periodical which said that the family always referred to him as "Farouk."
There's the aspect that Nigerian intelligence had been outsourced to Israel, the Nigerian father being a participant in that process.
posted by brendan : 9:39 PM
Ali Mohammed is another character who seems to have gone astray in the justice system. While enlisted in the US Army he gave weapons training to members of the Blind Sheikh's al Qaeda cell. He trained al Qaeda in Afghanistan too, and he did scouting work on the African embassy bombings. In connection with those bombings he was arrested, and Patrick Fitzgerald (who knew of Ali because Fitzgerald had been in a prosecutor in the Blind Sheikh case) was assigned to negotiate a plea deal. As far as I know, Ali was never sentenced and his whereabouts today are a mystery.
And I can't help wondering about Tim McVeigh. I mean, how do we know he's actually dead?
posted by Anonymous : 10:26 PM
Pincus, the "CIA's house reporter"? Pincus who started the attack of Gary Webb? Pincus who wrote an article about the CIA sending him around europe?
Back on May 5, we looked at some disturbing comments made by former FBI counterterrorism agent Tom Clemente regarding the Boston bombing investigation. In essence, Clemente said that it would be possible to retrieve a stored phone conversation involving one of the bombers:
"...Welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not."
Does this mean what it seems to mean -- that the NSA records and stores all of our telephone conversations? The comments here give some insight into the matter, especially these words from someone calling himself "Dilbert"...
...I know Tim personally and I believe he knows exactly what he's talking about. He shared these same views with me roughly 10-12 years ago. This is likely an extension of the old Echelon program. I doubt they're storing audio; more likely using voice-recognition and dumping this all to text. Sure, they could be doing the old keyword flags but I doubt that (too much noise). I expect it's all dumped into massive databases for after-the-fact investigation.
For more on the capabilities, just do a search on "echelon semantic forests"
On the other hand, a comment from one "Alex" points out the technical barriers -- the need for high compression, the ability to store everything, and the simple fact that "speech to text sucks."
A certain BT adds:
It is in the National Security State's best interests to imply that it can do more than what it actually admits doing even if it can't really do what it wants to imply, and I wouldn't put it past certain TLA's to feed deliberate misinformation to a former employee in order to make sure it gets into the press.
You must come to your own conclusions about the credibility of this offering, from someone calling himself Stratego:
I don't know if the NSA is monitoring every phone call. I know how they work and find it difficult to believe that they are monitoring everything. It's the US Government after all. However, I certainly know for a FACT that they are illegally monitoring US person's calls, and dragging in loads of US citizen and US person data, public and private.
NSA has had tons of problems over the last few years simply with data center power. They can't get enough power from the local utilities, hence Bluffdale, UT and a temporary Austin, TX location.
How much would it cost to store all of the audio from all of those calls? Perhaps less than you think...
I'll assume that speech-to-text is not good enough, or that we want to keep the audio around for some other reason.
Assume the NSA is using something like Codec2 at 1400 bits/sec ( 175 bytes/sec). That's 10.25 KB/min/person.
Extrapolating this to the entire country (310 million people), we get about 3 terabytes per minute, or about one large hard drive.
Amazon S3 glacier storage is about $0.01/GB/month, so storing one month of recordings would round up to $31/month. At 500 minutes of talking for each person (average) per month, that gives us $15,500/month ($186,000/year) to record the entire country.
Wow. You'd expect the cost of such a project to be in the millions.
And, of course, NSA's internal costs to store data are far less than Amazon's inflated retail cloud storage costs, even counting the redundancy you'd need to make the retrieval process "hadoopable".
You would certainly want to store audio rather than text - with sufficient fidelity to permit analysis of background sounds (particularly voices).
posted by Propertius : 3:29 PM
Interesting. But not an original idea. Bill Gates made this very point in reference to what he predicted (back in the 1990s) would become ubiquitous video surveillance in public places. The cost of storage is just so trivial that it's not a factor in determining what to record and what to keep. And, again, this was the 1990s.
A bit of back of the envelope orders of magnitude calculation, from another commenter in your cited source:
"Regarding data requirements: GSM-encoded voice mail, Asterisk's documentation informs me, takes approximately 500 megabytes per 2,000 hours. I did a quick back-of-envelope on how many disk drives would be required to record 100 million people's phone calls for a year, and we're talking about around 14 million disk drives, or about the output of a nuclear power plant just to power them, nevermind the air conditioning, the servers built around them, and so on and so forth. Not happening.
As far as voice transcription, the NSA doesn't have any better technology than the private sector nowadays, and someone already mentioned how pathetic Siri etc. are. I don't doubt that they *try* to do machine transcriptions and stash them back, including the phoneme-based compression mentioned above, but that's a Hard Job, and I doubt they're any better than Siri.
Now, *digital text* communications... I presume that email and SMS and IM are all being logged and stored somewhere. They are compact and easily stored. Same deal with "PIN Register" data (who called whom when). But voice? That's a Hard Job, and it would surprise me if anything other than "flagged" calls are being recorded continuously."
However, the Homeland Security Agency claims that whatever they're holding is purged after a 5 year period.
See page 11, at http://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/privacy/PIAs/privacy_pia_ops_NOC%20MMC%20Update_April2013.pdf
"The NOC MMC retains information for no more than five years to provide situational awareness and establish a common operating picture. This five-year retention schedule is based on the operational needs of the Department."
posted by Anonymous : 5:06 PM
Actually, assuming that this data accumulated at a linear rate over the first year, the cost for a year of storage would be $1,080,000.
At $.01/GB/month and estimating a data growth rate of 5% annually, you could store all U.S. telephonic conversations for 10 years for a total cost of under $130,000,000 and never have to throw anything away.
How little money is this to our criminal elite? Well, it's about 1/3000th of the budget for Lockheed Martin's "troubled" F-35 fighter jet.
posted by mr kite : 5:48 PM
Did you hear about the nation's premiere antiwar site, www.antiwar.com suing the FBI over surveillance? Check it out. Just announced.
The post below discusses the scandal of government eavesdropping on AP, which had gotten wind of a terror plot that may have been a sting operation. Now we learn that the Justice Department also snooped on -- God help us -- a Fox News reporter named James Rosen. In this instance, the Justice Department was investigating leaks related to a report on North Korea in 2009.
They got hold of Rosen's telephone records, they scooped up his emails, and they scrutinized his interactions with a State Department official accused of leaking the report.
Let's zoom out for a wider picture. The information on North Korea came from a CIA source. Some reports coming out of the Benghazi pseudo-scandal have led me to believe that sources within the intelligence community feed scoops to Fox and its friends. In fact, even before Benghazi, I suspected that the right had established its own spy network within spy-dom.
Right now I'm arguing with Obots @ lawyers gunz & munny.
They claim the FBI agent MUST go after Rosen cuz that investigation thing makes them use a broad brush, but they're not treating him like a criminal.
They are terrified they might shame Obama.
posted by Anonymous : 1:56 PM
The information on North Korea came from a CIA source. Some reports coming out of the Benghazi pseudo-scandal have led me to believe that sources within the intelligence community feed scoops to Fox and its friends.
I don't see how you're getting this from the Kim-Rosen story. Rosen's source was a State Department nuclear proliferation expert, Stephen J. Kim, who, according to the New York Times met with Rosen because he wasked to do so by an as-yet-unnamed State Department press officer (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/18/us/politics/18leak.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0).
This smells like a setup to me, and not from the CIA.
has any one explained why was the ambass. in a CIA post in the first place? he wasn't in an scheduled assignment. He went without his security details. I know all dipolmats are basically spies but what he was doing there at that time may shed some light on the admin or at least the state dep. behavior.
posted by Anonymous : 7:38 PM
Just in passing. More on the Sibel Edmonds claim that the US was actively backing al Qaeda between 1997-2001.
Apologies for the irregular posting; my life has been a tad hectic. Frankly, I have felt hesitant to discuss the alleged "Obama scandals," since the two issues that conservatives seem so desperate to talk about -- Benghazi and the alleged IRS targeting of Tea Party groups -- are obviously bunkie-doodoo. (Please forgive the use of technical terminology.)
Yet I'm also disinclined to leap to Obama's defense. Why? Because I still don't like the guy -- for other reasons. Drones are a genuine scandal, yet both the right-wing and mainstream media infrastructures would prefer to keep this issue under-discussed.
Fortunately, all the hype about the two great pseudo-scandals has not had any impact on Obama's poll numbers. In fact, Republican insistence on beating dead horses may have made Obama more popular.
Something similar occurred when Clinton's grand jury testimony in the Monica Lewinsky probe was aired: Although everyone presumed that Clinton's approval numbers would plummet, he actually gained public sympathy. And yes, that testimony included the famous "meaning of is" remark, which seemed reasonable in context.
In case you missed it, a few days ago, Brad Friedman published the internet's best take-down of the IG report on the IRS affair.
Again: Context is all. In context, it seems quite reasonable to use "Tea Party" and similar trigger words to determine whether a political pressure group is masquerading as a tax-exempt social welfare organization. To see what I mean by "context," simply glance at the chart to your left, which proves that the keywords "Tea Party, ""Patriots" and "9/12" figured in only one-third of cases under review. Since polls indicate that these groups appeal to roughly one-third of the electorate, I see nothing wrong with this distribution.
No right-wing group has actually lost its tax-exempt status, although many ought to. In fact, under Obama, the only organization to get into truly serious trouble with Mr. Taxman was, perhaps predictably, a left-wing association in Maine.
The only real scandal here is that the Tea Partiers are being allowed to cheat on their taxes. Must we continue to pretend that these are non-partisan "social welfare" groups?
The Benghazi "controversy" comes down to one word: Horseshit. That's all it ever was.
Once more into the breach dear friends...
All evidence indicates that that video incited a spontaneous demonstration in the city of Benghazi, as occurred elsewhere in the Muslim world. (It now seems likely that that video was created by pro-Romney forces as a provocation designed to incite precisely the sort of havoc it wreaked. We've discussed this scenario in previous posts.) Militants opportunistically used this larger protest as cover for an attack on the consulate -- like red fish swimming in a school of gray fish.
When tasked to untangle so confusing a series of events in so remote a locale, American intelligence needed a few days to figure out who did what and for which reason. One must appreciate the difficulty of gathering information in this case. Electronic eavesdropping can't have offered much help. The protesters probably did not include many people who wanted to step forward and give after-action interviews to the CIA.
One faction of the intelligence community initially believed that the consulate attack occurred when the local protesters got out of control. I presume that this idea came from an on-the-ground source in Libya. But from the beginning, other observers felt that the weaponry used to destroy the consulate was too sophisticated to be the work of an enraged mob of ordinary townsfolk.
And now here we are, months later. The right still keeps trying to transform a temporary period of conflicting intel into a Watergate-style cover-up. What nonsense!
The only good thing to come out of the whole affair is the revelation that ABC News has a "Fox-y" mole among its personnel. For more on that, see here.
Alas, the AP scandal is anything but nonsensical. The extremely important interview with AP President Gary Pruitt (embedded above) clarifies both the facts and their significance.
The origin point for this scandal involves an AP story that the United States had foiled a plot by Al Qaeda sympathizers to mark the anniversary of Bin Laden's death by blowing up an airliner. The AP learned of this story but kept mum at the request of the administration.
At the same time, the White House was telling the press that there was no evidence of a terror plot to coincide with that date. That statement, it seems, was false.
Why the lie? Marcy Wheeler, as always, offers some ideas. What if the AP learned of an "Al Qaeda plot" that was -- at least to some degree -- born in the USA?
And conflicting claims about threats must be what the AP told the White House was newsworthy, because — even though it played a fairly minor part of the original AP story — it is what John Brennan emphasized when explaining why he had to have a conference call that would lead to Richard Clarke figuring out the plot was actually a sting.
I said there was never a threat to the American public as we had said so publicly, because we had inside control of the plot and the device was never a threat to the American public.
I — I — what I’m saying is that we were explaining to the American public why that IED was not in fact a threat at the time that it was in the control of individuals. When — when we say positive control, inside control, that means that we (inaudible) that operation either environmentally or any number of ways. It did not in any way reveal any type of classified information. And I told those individuals and there are, you know, transcripts that are available of that conversation, “I cannot talk to you about the operational details of this whatsoever.”
I’m still not entirely [sure] why this was so sensitive to the White House. As I’ve noted, there were several possible ways for Brennan to explain the discrepancy away that wouldn’t have outed their insider.
Provisionally, it looks to me as though we are dealing with the international version of those semi-ersatz FBI terror "stings" which exist purely to make the FBI look effective. I would go so far as to suggest that the Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab underwear bomber case may have been one such episode. Many of the mysteries surrounding that incident remain largely unexplained.
The so-called 'scandals' are losing air. I read that McConnell and even Ryan have backed off the huge Watergate comparisons to Benghazi. Of course, Rand Paul is still hoisting the flag that all 3 scandals are evidence of something on the order of treason. Or something. The Benghazi attacks resulted in the the loss of life, four Americans including Chris Stevens who by all accounts was a distinguished and effective diplomat. But the investigations haven't revealed anything beyond how dangerous these assignments can be in unstable regions in the world.
Propublica has a good article on the IRS dysfunction, how pulling funds from government agencies can have unintended [or intentional] consequences in how those agencies run. It's a good strategy when you want to prove that government is inherently ineffective--let's drown it in a bathtub. And those 501(4) c's, the social welfare designation where donors are not revealed and taxes deferred? Eighty-five % of those applications are conservative organizations. Funny that.
The AP story is a tangled mess. But I read that Marcy Wheeler piece and if accurate then Holder was lying through his teeth that this incident was 'serious, very serious' and American lives were at risk. From what I've read, the WH was planning to announce the foiled attempt the next day, beat the drum. They wanted to spin it and AP stole their thunder. Holder should be replaced and there is a rumor that Deval Patrick might be the choice. Btw, the outrage over leaks is a Republican favorite and several congress critters have admitted that the WH was simply following their lead. Because we must do what the GOP demands.
Gitmo, drones and endless war is the scandal that no one wants to address. In addition to continued corporate and financial sector fraud and malfeasance. But those? Hardly a paragraph written, nary a shocked Republican legislator or investigation to be seen. Wonder why?
I have no love for Obama but the Republicans are running on empty grudge fumes.
posted by Anonymous : 9:48 AM
Yes, Joseph. Obama gets the shitty end of the stick on a regular basis from conservatives, but he is not innocent. His feckless, timid style of governance has an electro-magnetism.
When an athlete protects his weak side, it frequently results in injury to something else. An overconcern about getting hurt generally means you're gonna get hurt.
The painting has no value as a painting. The hair is terrible. She looks like she's wearing a helmet, and there's no shade on the shadow side. The eyes are flat, two-dimensional; they don't look like spheres resting in a socket. Where are the highlights? The skin seems chalky, lacking in vitality.
Remember when you mom told you "Don't criticize unless you can do better yourself?" Well, I can. I could paint better than that before I took art classes. I'm not saying that I'm particularly gifted; I'm saying that Currin isn't. The best that can be said for him is that he's more professional than George W. Bush, although Dubya is catching up quick.
Why did a bad painting fetch such a high price? Frankly, this work is a gimmick -- a one-liner, a laugh-inducer. Some well-heeled fool paid nearly two million bucks for the novelty value, not for the talent on display.
The art world could not be more foppish, decadent and disgusting. The garbage values which rule that world impoverish all of us. Imagine how lush and gorgeous our world would be if our society rewarded painters who can paint. We could be living in a new Renaissance if we encouraged young artists to develop skills instead of gimmicks. As matters stand, neither our art schools nor our critical infrastructure place any value on talent, dexterity, brushwork, composition, color theory or anything else that used to matter to painters.
Nowadays, painting is discussed purely in terms of rhetoric. Insultingly, art history professors talk about how to "read" a painting.
This shit's gotta stop. Let me repeat:
ART IS NOT ABOUT IDEAS. ART IS NOT WHAT BUT HOW.
If you talk about painting in terms of subject matter, you advertise your idiocy. A Cezanne still life is not more or less valuable because he painted grapes instead of radishes. An atheist can still find Michelangelo's tondo of the Holy Family breathtaking.
If you have an idea to express, do not paint, do not draw, do not sculpt. Do what I do every day: Write an essay.
Ideas are for literature.
ART = SKILL.
Nothing else. Skill is not part of art; skill is art. I put that equal sign in there for a reason.
If you are about to interject: "Well, I agree that skill should be part of the equation, but..." NO. FUCK YOU. I know where you're going, and I refuse to follow. You are the enemy. You must be destroyed.
In order to establish the new Renaissance of which I speak, we must chop down the tree of decadent values. It's not enough to reduce that tree to a stump; we need to uproot it completely.
In other words, I have no problem if a nude picture of Bea Arthur fetches nearly two million dollars -- but the painting must be done superbly.
By the way: If you are the kind of dolt who presumes that I'm dredging up ancient arguments about the value of non-representational art, read my words again. And again and again, until the truth of the matter sinks into your teensy little brain-ette.
That picture of Bea Arthur is representational. I myself enjoy doing abstracts, and I learned a great deal about color theory from an excellent abstract artist. I wish abstracts would regain their former popularity, since those works resist discussion in literary terms.
Unfortunately, most people -- even most art critics -- have no idea as to what constitutes a good abstract. Or a good painting of any sort.
A fine rant. For some reason I'm reminded of Thomas Hart Benton's rant when he left NYC for Missouri.
posted by Anonymous : 6:25 PM
So, Jackson Pollock..?
posted by Anonymous : 7:49 PM
The tree must be removed entirely, including the roots, Ben.
That said, I like Pollock. I think what he did took skill. His was the opposite of "idea" art. His paintings existed as paintings. They didn't require literary explanations, as the alleged artworks of Hirst and Koons do.
Duchamp's "Readymades" are NOT art. This whole idea that "Anything can be art" must GO.
Yes, I really AM going for the roots!
Incidentally, my late semi-stepfather claimed that he roomed with Pollock, back before fame set in. He also roomed with Brando.
Your semi-stepfather must have tolerated huge egos, Joseph.
BTW; my son is finishing a book on his version of 'Casino' and his main character's name is a Russian Mafioso whose name is Joseph (Yoseph).
He didn't get that from me, it's a coinky-dink.
posted by Anonymous : 8:15 PM
Andy Warhol is significant not as an artist, but as an important signpost of the triumph of media marketing over content.
There are clear signs that late Anglo-American capitalism is entering a decadent stage: the glorification of violence, the rise of primitive religion, the slow collapse of civic institutions, and increasing control of society by a small aristocracy. This mirrors not only the slow collapse of the Roman empire, but the Spanish and Dutch empires as well.
The decadence of fine art is reflects the larger state of society: the exclusion of genuine talent in favor of politically connected grifters, and the excesses of the aristocracy. There is plenty of talent bubbling up underneath, but it's not going to be allowed entry into the art world of New York and London.
posted by ColoradoGuy : 8:51 PM
Ben, I wish I had inspired that name! A Russian mafioso, eh...?
My semi-stepfather had an ego like you wouldn't believe. He used to go all over the world with Buddy Rich. Buddy liked his company because my semi-stepfather made Buddy seem, by comparison, like a really nice guy.
I may have given a clue as to his identity just now.
I'd seen a couple of Pollocks and been inclined to think they were no more high-concept thought-experiments; that somebody had joked that his dropcloth was more interesting than his paintings, and Pollock decided to give the notion a whirl, and when you'd seen one of his splatterpieces you'd seen them all.
Then I went to see an all Pollock show, and when I saw a whole room full of his works and they were all different I saw that he had invented a new language.
posted by Anonymous : 9:28 AM
I still think the Barnett Newman painting selling for 43.8 million is more egregious but it is a much better painting in my book. This crap doesn't really matter to me much though because as a consumer I've been priced out of legitimate art for a long, long time.
That said, a discerning person with a significant bank account could amass a really neat collection of well done art from a wide range of genre's and periods. Unfortunately, every time some rich yahoo buys a worthless painting for an exorbitant sum it drives up the prices that much more.
Last week my wife and I went to the local art fair which has morphed into the local Chinese and Mexican made garden junk fair but that is another story altogether. We went and looked at the art from the local schools and found that the junior high and the high school kids were much better than the college kids. Why? It looked like the college kids were being taught "content" rather than technique. I do think that content does matter some if you have the prerequisite skill to pull it off. Teaching content without first teaching skill seems to be malpractice. A great painting of flowers, buildings, whatever can be quite exquisite and interesting if they display skill, talent and craftsmanship while a "statement" painting usually is just crap and crap is most definitely uninteresting.
posted by Gregoryp : 9:41 AM
I think a lot of the abstractionists got heir start with more traditional art which seemed to satisfy critics who like to see they could pay their dues by showing artistic ability.
Picasso had some early work that was more traditional,as did Pollock.
Have you seen Hans Burkhardt's work? Prolific producer. I interviewed him for a college newspaper a million years ago, Joseph. Hell of a nice guy. He gave me three LE lino-cuts just because he could.
posted by Anonymous : 11:44 AM
The boundary between 'what' (and I understand that you are not talking about representative and abstract) and 'how' isn't always clear. Where would you draw it in relation to work based on optical illusions or skilfully conceived patterns that don't require much skill to execute? I don't know whether you would call any of Akiyoshi Kitaoka's efforts 'art', but their conception certainly involves a lot of skill without them being 'idea' or 'concept' crap of the kind done by those terrible cynical advertising phonies Hirst and Emin. Is it what Kitaoka does, or how he does it, that takes the skill? Bit of an academic question, really. Some of Bridget Riley's works required little skill to paint - she sometimes used household emulsion - but they weren't 'idea' crap either.
That said, commenting on the fuzziness of the boundary isn't intended to refute the huge importance of the distinction.
posted by b : 12:36 PM
"I'm not saying that I'm particularly gifted; I'm saying that Currin isn't." --Joseph
I remember a guy in one of my poetry classes in college, who always made his poems look like an object that the poem was focused on. A poem about driving had the words arranged to look like a road, for instance....incredibly annoying to read. The poems themselves were total crap, but I guess he was taking the class as a required elective or something. Anyway, he taught me the lesson you present here.......novelty is not art, unless it is carried out with skill (I realize poetry is a literary art......but as my poetry professor for that very class used to stress, poetry is painting with words.....skill is very much crucial in writing good poetry that doesn't sound like a Hallmark greeting card).
posted by Gus : 12:02 PM
Can I guess who your semi-stepfather was? I am about 90% sure that I have it.
posted by Anonymous : 1:40 PM
Rob, my private email address is at the top of the page. Left-hand side. In the olde-tyme scroll.
Sorry for the light posting, folks. I've been busy attending to various issues, both work-related and personal. I had planned to write a big juicy piece about the AP scandal, but have had no time. I urge you to read the work of Marcy Wheeler -- for example, here and here.
Let's look at some other tales floating around.
Bulworth Obama: Is it true? Has Barack Obama privately expressed the desire to "go Bulworth" -- that is, to emulate the politician in the 1999 Warren Beatty film who jolts himself out of a suicidal funk by telling the public what he really feels?
"Probably every president says that from time to time,'' said David Axelrod, another longtime adviser who has heard Mr. Obama's movie-inspired aspiration. ''It's probably cathartic just to say it. But the reality is that while you want to be truthful, you want to be straightforward, you also want to be practical about whatever you're saying."
Actually, Bulworth was, on one level, about a white politician who reinvents himself as a black man -- it's the only film I've ever seen in which a white actor gets away with calling himself a "nigga." Obama's whole act, heretofore, has been a classic Reverse Bulworth. Which means that he has privately expressed the desire to be a black man playing a white man playing a black man.
Republicans have waited five years for the moment to put the screws to Obama — and they have one-third of all congressional committees on the case now. Establishment Democrats, never big fans of this president to begin with, are starting to speak out. And reporters are tripping over themselves to condemn lies, bullying and shadiness in the Obama administration.
Really? if powerful Democrats weren’t “big fans” of Obama, why did they work their asses off to hand him the nomination in 2008 when they could just as easily have chosen Hillary Clinton?
I'd take it further. If President Reverse-Bulworth has alienated the Insiders, then he must finally have done something against their interests.
But what might that "something" be?
Obama has refused to go to war in Iran -- so, like, there's that. They tried to "curveball" Obama into a Syrian war based on the chemical weapons canard, and he resisted. So, like, there's that too.
About those Syrian weapons... RT has a piece worth looking at. Forgive a long quote, but for most of you, what follows will come under the heading of I did not know that:
Thus far we can point to three concerted attempts in 2013 by the US and its NATO allies to fabricate a case for chemical weapons in Syria. The first was a plan allegedly hatched by the British with the help of Qatar, through the use of a safe proxy to provide‘deniability’ – in this case, a UK defense contractor named Britam. The plan was simple and would have gone unnoticed if not for the inconvenience of it being prematurely exposed in the “Britam Leaks” from an anonymous hack back in January. The plan was to take old Gadaffi era chemical weapons stocks from Libya, transfer them out via Benghazi, and then plant them in Syria in order to blame the Assad government and thus open to door for western military intervention. The leaked emails also indicated clearly that Qatar would be paying a substantive sum for the operation to be coordinated through Britam. The UK's Daily Mail had initially run the Britam Leaks story, but then suddenly pulled in down from their website within 24 hours of the story running.
The second attempt to make a chemical weapons charge stick in Syria came in March, following reports of a deadly chlorine attack in the northern region of Aleppo, with both sides claiming the other was responsible. With Washington openly touting its agenda of regime change and the Obama ‘Red Line’ promising intervention in Syria if either side was found to use chemical weapons, the obvious motive would fall on in the rebel opposition camp. The Aleppo case that was quickly knocked down by a number of alternative media outlets including 21st Century Wire, who outlined a detailed and compelling case to illustrate how manufactured chlorine munitions were not used in Aleppo by the Syria government forces, but rather, makeshift chlorine 'dirty bombs' were assembled and likely detonated by a Saudi-linked Islamic rebel confab originating out of Iraq, who coincidentally, had a track record of exploding the same devices before in Iraq.
The third attempt was led by British scientists who claimed they had found evidence of chemical weapons that were used in Syria in relation to two incidents in the Damascus area around March 19th. Critics rightly pointed out the inherent problems with their case, including the obvious chain of custody issue that meant the ‘evidence’ brought from Syria to a British lab could easily have been contaminated, or even fabricated in order to come to a conclusion which the British government wanted in order to get a green light for military intervention.
The UN’s own investigation into chemical weapons claims, led by Carla Del Ponte, has concluded that that witness and victim testimonies clearly show that Western and Gulf-backed Syrian rebels used chemical weapons such as the nerve gas sarin. This is at odds with US Secretary of State John Kerry who claims to having seen himself “strong evidence” that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons. Turkey has also entered the fray this week, themselves claiming to have seen evidence of Assad’s use of chemical weapons.
The writer goes on to point out that it makes no sense for Assad to use prohibited weapons in such a militarily useless fashion, while the rebels have every motive to draw America into their war.
Can Holder survive? He lost Bill Press, who has tweeted the following:
For people who say that Holder was "just doing his job," he didn't "do his job" by going after Cheney or Bush. He left THAT alone!
What "breach of national security" are we talking about re the AP story? It's BS and Holder should be fired.
Meanwhile, you can rely on David Ignatius to get everything all wrong.
The crippling problem in Washington these days isn’t any organized conspiracy against conservatives, journalists or anyone else. Rather, it’s a federal establishment that’s increasingly paralyzed because of poor management and political second-guessing.
What should frighten the public is not the federal government’s monstrous power but its impotence.
No, there really has been a conspiracy against anyone who tries to reveal the unsavory things that our government has been getting up to. Just ask Julian Assange. Just ask Bradley Manning.
I don't see any conspiracy against conservatism, although I know that right-wingers love to pretend to otherwise. As I said earlier, conservatives (both in and out of Congress) have ruthlessly pressured the IRS to revoke the tax-exempt status of Media Matters.
Those commies at the IRS: Right-wing political columnist Tim Carney argues that the IRS is a hotbed of sleft-wing activism. His proof: IRS Deputy Commissioner Mark Ernst used to be the CEO of H.R. Block, which is, apparently, a hotbed of liberal hippie-dom.
Killed by the web: Another writer on the Emptywheel site, Rayne, has a marvelous riposte to an absurd-but-popular interview with alleged visionary Jaron Lanier. Lanier argues that "the Web kills jobs, wealth -- even democracy."
Not everything the guy says is absurd...
Democracy is destabilized if there isn’t a broad distribution of wealth.
Damn right. But then he tells us...
And then the other thing is that if you like market capitalism, if you’re an Ayn Rand person, you have to admit that markets can only function if there are customers and customers can only come if there’s a middle hump. So you have to have a broad distribution of wealth.
No. Lots of Ayn Rand persons do not admit this. They have, in fact, devoted their lives to the defeat of this proposition.
Here's Rayne's response:
It wasn’t the rise of digitization that killed the middle class. It was the insufficiency of protests among U.S. brain power, including publicly-funded academics, failing to advocate for labor and home-grown innovation; their ignorance about the nature of blue collar jobs and the creative output they help realize compounded the problem.
Now academics can finally see the threat to their careers. They couldn’t give a rat’s butt when blue collar workers at dirty, dangerous jobs were threatened. They’re worried now, though, when the jobs of white collar folks supporting cultural creatives like themselves are threatened.
And genuinely outrageous, despite the valiant attempts of this Josh Marshall contributor to justify the spookery.
Your best guide to this scandal is, of course, Marcy Wheeler. She takes on the task of trying to determine just which sources the DOJ hoped to track.
If so, it means the government grabbed phone records for Adam Goldman, Matt Apuzzo, Kimberly Dozier, Eileen Sullivan, and Alan Fram for three weeks after (and five weeks before) the UndieBomb 2.0 story Goldman and Apuzzo by-lined.
That would mean they’d get the sources for this Kimberly Dozier story published May 21 which starts,
White House counterterror chief John Brennan has seized the lead in guiding the debate on which terror leaders will be targeted for drone attacks or raids, establishing a new procedure to vet both military and CIA targets.
The move concentrates power over the use of lethal U.S. force outside war zones at the White House.
The process, which is about a month old, means Brennan’s staff consults the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies as to who should go on the list, making a previous military-run review process in place since 2009 less relevant, according to two current and three former U.S. officials aware of the evolution in how the government targets terrorists.
Within 10 days of the time Dozier published that story, John Brennan had rolled out an enormous propaganda campaign — based on descriptions of the drone targeting process that Brennan’s power grab had replaced, not the new drone targeting process — that suckered almost everyone commenting on drones that drone targeting retained its previous, more deliberative, targeting process, the one Brennan had just changed.
And that propaganda campaign, in turn, hid another apparent detail: that UndieBomb 2.0, a Saudi sting had actually occurred earlier in April, and that UndieBomb 2.0 preceded and perhaps justified the signature strikes done at the behest of the Yemenis (or more likely the Saudis).
I don't think this story will stay confined to the AP. In the comments section, Marcy writes:
I just was re-reading the Washington Post story bylined by Sudarsan Raghavan, Peter Finn and Greg Miller from May 09, 2012 (http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-05-09/world/35456649_1_underwear-bomb-bomb-plot-al-qaeda).
Yes, and it sure has a lot of details about the UndieBomb 2.0 operation that one would presume were highly classified being revealed by both current and former US intelligence officials.
Maybe the letters to the other news organizations are in the mail?
Will this important story get the play it deserves? Hard to say. The hard rightists do not much care for what they call the "lamestream" press, conservatives did not complain when Dubya gifted us with the surveillance state, and nobody can pretend that Romney would have had run a less snoopy government. So I doubt that Issa will demand hearings on the AP scandal, because there would be no partisan advantage in doing so.
On the other hand, the press has every motive to publicize this story with neon headlines, and to insist that the guilty are punished. It's a matter of self-protection.
If someone confirms Marcy's suspicion that Holder also went after the Washington Post -- well. Expect Hell.
"Expect Hell." Let's rephrase that in a more realistic manner: expect that American journalists will continue to act like cheap prostitutes who are afraid of being beaten or humiliated in public or having what few privileges they have left taken away from them.
posted by cracker : 12:40 PM
And just who released the info that the press had there phone records spyed on? The press had to be told so they would know enmass to toe the line. One can not be intimidated unless you are told what the punishment will be! So I expect the obsequious press to pretend outrage and then put their well worn knee pads on and proceed as before! What good is information of this nature if you don't tell them you have it? All the better to intimidate with!
Been going on for ages. All part of the "War on Truth" that the last two administrations have been prosecuting so efficiently.
What is interesting is that the "coalition of the complicit" seems to be breaking down. After all, there was plenty of unconstitutional stuff for the Repugs to complain about and oppose if they cared. They didnt. I guess the gloves are off cos Barky is now a lame duck. The campaign for next presider in chief has already started.
I hope and I pray, that John Brennan burns in hell for his sins. But it would be nice if he was prosecuted in this life as well.
posted by Anonymous : 6:33 AM
Benghazi and the IRS thing are, in my view, overblown political theatricals.
Right, because at Benghazi people were actually killed while the President hit the snooze alarm so he'd be fresh for his Vegas fundraising. That's obviously nowhere near as important as Holder requesting the phone records of the DC Stenographic Society. I think it's all bad, Joseph.
The Internal Revenue Service’s special scrutiny of small-government groups applying for tax-exempt status went beyond keyword hunts for organizations with “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their names, to a more overtly ideological search for applicants seeking to “make America a better place to live” or “criticize how the country is being run,” according to part of a draft audit by the inspector general that has been given to Capitol Hill.
The head of the division on tax-exempt organizations, Lois Lerner, was briefed on the effort in June 2011, seemingly contradicting her assertion on Friday that she learned of the effort from news reports. But the audit shows that she seemed to work hard to rein in the focus on conservatives and change it to a look at any political advocacy group of any stripe.
Although conservatives may have some valid reasons for their howls of outrage, I cannot muster much sympathy. For me, the issue comes down to one word: Hypocrisy.
Back in the Reagan/Bush I era, not a single conservative complained when the Christic Institute had its 501(c)3 status revoked after the group filed a lawsuit against various CIA operatives. The IRS claimed that the suit was politically motivated, and that the Institute was a partisan group. Yet the Institute's representatives had never endorsed a political party, and always spoke with what I considered genuine disdain for both Democratic and Republican leaders. From what I could gather, that organization attracted the kind of silly-billy idealists who like to talk-talk-talk about the need to form a new party, the same way mice like to talk-talk-talk about the need to bell the cat.
(There was this one fellow associated with the Christic Institute -- Mark Something-Or-Other -- who spent much of 1992 spreading dark tales about Bill Clinton's alleged involvement with cocaine smuggling. Remember those rumors? They all started with Mark. It seems pretty obvious now that he was an operative using Christic as cover, although that scenario wasn't so obvious at the time.)
By contrast, the various Tea Party organizations are Republicans-only clubs. Anyone who claims otherwise is a fool. At this point, I don't think that tactically-minded Democrats should wish such groups ill, since the teabaggers have, in their zeal, begun to do genuine harm to the GOP brand.
Why would Obama sic the IRS on the tea partiers? He ought to be making secret donations.
In this context, one should also discuss the question of when a church becomes taxable. To the best of my knowledge, no conservatives ever complained when the IRS threatened to revoke the tax-exempt status of any religious organizations that criticized the Iraq misadventure. (See, for example, this case from 2005.) Yet everyone knows that many fundamentalist churches cling to their tax-free status even though they are little more than GOP propaganda outlets. This history is enlightening:
Also in 1993, the IRS investigated a small church in Binghamton, New York (the home church of radical anti-abortion activist Randall Terry, by the way). Pastor Daniel Little had been so outraged over the candidacy of then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton that he and his congregation took out a full-page ad that ran in USA Today and The Washington Times. With the headline “Christian Beware,” it accused Clinton of supporting “policies that are in rebellion to God’s Laws,” along with other vituperative attacks on the Democratic party and liberals generally.
It ended with the question, “How then can we vote for Bill Clinton?” just before it solicited “tax-deductible donations” to help fund even more such advertisements (and it did result in hundreds of contributions from all across the nation). This was perhaps one of the most blatant abuses of a church’s tax-exempt status that the IRS had ever seen, and it’s no wonder that it attracted quite a lot of attention, both positive and negative.
Eventually, in 1995, the IRS revoked the church’s tax-exempt status — but the church sued the IRS to get it back, with the help of Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice. Both a Washington, D.C. district judge and Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. ruled in favor of the IRS, however, dealing a symbolic blow both to the church and to Pat Robertson.
Symbolic? Absolutely. If the church does not intervene in any future political campaigns, it can continue claiming 501(c)(3) status and receive all of the attending benefits. Even the letter in which the original status was revoked did not, according to the IRS, “convert bona fide donations into income taxable to the Church.” The church can even reapply for official tax-exempt status.
Given the rich history of Republicans using various dodges to protect the tax-exempt status of their propaganda outlets, I cannot become too upset at any IRS officer who wanted to look into the issue. The keywords "Tea Party" and "patriot" might well provide a clue to possible abuse of the system. From the NYT:
The I.R.S. has been under pressure from Democrats and campaign finance watchdogs for some time to crack down on abuse of the 501(c)4 tax exemption, which is supposed to go to organizations primarily promoting “social welfare” but which is routinely granted to overt political advocacy groups with little or no social welfare work.
One thing's for sure: Conservatives might now enjoy more widespread sympathy if they had protested when the shoe was on the other foot.
I know this "Mark" person from personal experience. I was working for a non-profit and I took part in a focus group about the 2008 elections. I made a remark about the right wing media and how they were always attacking the Clintons with out right lies and conjecture. A reporter printed my remark and where I worked. The next day, "Mark" called my office and asked me about all the reporters who had called me about my quote. I told him that no reporter called me and that the comment was not made during working hours. He forced me to tell my superiors about the comment which fortunately they ignored. I googled this guy and it seems he was involved with a Christian fundamentalist church group in Virginia and that he had been very vocal in his comments during the time of Clintons' impeachment. Years later, I learned that it was none of his business who I talked to after hours and that if he wanted to report me and my activities it should have gone through the organization itself and its' board of directors. This was a very scary time for me as I thought he had the ability to get me fired. It is still amazing to me how this particular segment of our society was so powerful or at least had so much sway over our lives during that time.
posted by Anonymous : 7:11 PM
Are you serious? The IRS twenty years ago denies one group using vastly different standards before major legislation was passed regarding campaign finance on groups that are debatable, and you suggest that there is moral equivalency here? Tell me you aren't serious- I don't read your blog often so I don't know if that post was a satire or real. aconservativeteacher.com
Con Teach, are YOU for real? My point was that if you didn't stand up for the principle then, don't expect me to return the favor now. The hell of it is, no teabag group has actually had their tax exempt status revoked. The Christic Institute did.
And guess what? They're also going after Media Matters' tax exempt status in a huge way. I know what you're about to say: "But they haven't lost that status yet." True, but it is also the case (if I may repeat myself) that no tea party group has lost its tax exempt status either. And the harassment of MM looks to be a lot more strenuous, because Congressional Republicans are pressuring the IRS. Imagine the outcry if Democrats in congress pressured the IRS to go after Viguerie's group.
And if you think about it -- OF COURSE the IRS should double check to see if an openly anti-tax group is playing by the rules. It seems logical that a group defined by its resentment of the IRS might want to deceive the IRS. For the same reason, your local constabulary would probably want to keep an eye on a club calling itself "Heroin Distribution Society" or "Cop Killers Anonymous."
Anon 7:11: Fascinating stuff. Are you sure we have the right Mark? You can write to me privately. Or just give me the first letter of his last name. I confess that I'm ticked off at myself for taking him seriously back in 1992 -- actually, it was probably late, late 1991. But...we learn.
I can't remember his last name but it may have started with a "D". I was so worried for my job and the organization I worked for that I was happy when the whole thing blew over. I do remember in googling Mark that he was high up in the MA Republican party as some sort of offical. When Clinton went on vacation to Marthas' Vineyard immediately after he admitted to his involement with Monica Lewinsky, this "Mark" made the remark that that was the only zip code that would take him. If it is the same "Mark" who was spreading stories about the Clintons in the early 90s and my situation happened in 2008, despite the passage of time, a leopard does not change their spots...especially those with CDS.
As to the link you sent me...I remember it well. I lived in that area all my life until a year ago. How can one wrote you privately?
posted by Anonymous : 1:35 PM
Post script to my comments; I remembered the last name but "Mark" s last name began with the initial I gave you but the first name was spelled differently. When I originally googled him, I had the correct spelling but over the course of time forgot it. What shocks me is that this man now works for the same organization I did. He must be keeping his political views private as we were and continue to be considered non-partisian. Sorry about that Joseph, he sounded much like the person who scared the hell out of me.
posted by Anonymous : 2:51 PM
Ah. Different Marks -- same markings, as it were. The Mark of whom I grew suspicious now works for the University of Arkansas.
My email addy is embedded in the parchment scroll in the top left-hand corner. If I made it more obvious, I would receive an abundance of communications from Nigeria.
So... Joseph, you aparently fall into the camp of Clinton-scandal "debunkers," eh?
And as far as your'e concerned little ol' Mena Airport was clean as the proverbial hound's tooth?
And the Rose Law Firm never had any dealings with the arming of Iraq?
And Jackson Stevens was just as admirable/progressive a sugar daddy as George Soros?
And it was Vince Foster's superhuman strength than gave him the ability drag himself to the park long after he acrobatically shot himself?
And on, and on, and on.
Come on, big boy! Sober up! Every administration, those with good and as well as horrid economic policies, has had its share of malfeasance, corruption, and even murder.
The fact that the Mossad (via various proxies knowing and unknowng) used Bill and Hilary's dirty laundry to run pincer move after pincer move against them doesn't make that old 90's laundry any brighter, whiter, or sanitary.
Did or did not physicist Stephen Hawking respect the boycott of Israel? According to a report in The Guardian, such was indeed his reason for bowing out of a planned visit. Soon after that piece appeared, we were inundated with news stories stating that the Guardian got it all wrong, and that Hawking cancelled his trip due to health reasons.
Quite under-reported was the later confirmation that Hawking really does support the boycott.
This story is told, in a very biased way (but with all relevant citations and details), on this right-wing site.
“I have received a number of emails from Palestinian academics. They are unanimous that I should respect the boycott. In view of this, I must withdraw from the conference. Had I attended I would have stated my opinion that the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster.”
So now we have to ask why AP and other mainstream media outlets did so much to publicize the bogus "health reasons" story. Fake news doesn't make itself, you know.
The above-cited right-wing site, Legal Insurrection, now counts Hawking among the "bad guys." I see nothing wrong with either his statement or his actions. But I do have a problem with the bizarre views expressed by LI:
The boycott, which singles out only Israel, attracts open and de facto anti-Semites and those in the leftist-Islamist coalition who seek Israel’s destruction.
"The leftist-Islamist coalition"? What leftist-Islamist coalition? How come I've never met a single left-wing "Islamist" during the past forty-or-so years I've been following politics? I've met left-wingers who dislike all forms of religious belief; none of them wanted to buddy up with either jihadists or the Sieg Heil crowd.
For my part, I've consistently stated that I find all forms of fundamentalism -- Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Hindu -- equally vile. I might even go so far as to categorize "evangelical atheism" as just another form of fundamentalist zealotry. All isms are prisons.
Is the term "Islamist" now defined so broadly as to include everyone who believes, as I do, that Israeli treatment of the Palestinians mirrors the horrors that American Indians suffered at the hands of whites?
It is pure fantasy to suggest that the left marches in (goose-)step with "open and de facto anti-Semites." On the other hand, there has long been much overlap between the American right wing and old-school anti-Jewish bigotry. For example, lots of people still read and cite the paranoid works of Nesta Webster or Eustace Mullens, and the fans of those two authors can hardly be called liberals. I could fill up a very long post on that theme, if tasked to do so.
Then again, the exercise would probably be pointless. Now matter how well you argue, you can't prove that the sky is blue to someone who insists that the sky is some other color.
Not only does it take the war to the enemy, and portray any focus on the crimes of the Zionist entity as necessarily racist (sic! - and to focus on anything, you have to single it out), but it helps maintain and whip up the already feverish crypto-racial insanity in the 'home' market. Grip those fasces tight!
posted by b : 4:56 PM
I takes only A Brief Time for the MSN to make up History. If one does not agree with what the Israeli Government is doing to the Palestinians then one is by default anti-Semitic, or, now, a member of the non-existent leftist-Islamist coalition.
posted by DanInAlabama : 6:16 PM
George Galloway's party, Respect - The Unity Coalition, was founded by merging various tiny groups of old-school hard-line leftists, mainly Stalinists, and equally tiny and absurd groups of Islamists. That is the only leftist-islamist coalition I've ever encountered.
Of course, they were brought together by hatred of Tony Blair and quickly became the George Galloway party. The only other elected types in their party were some Muslims in Tower Hamlets, but they left to rejoin the Labour party over a schism in the Unity Coalition.
The health reasons angle came out of the CYA statement put out by his university, as they sought to head off any controversy. Since that was indeed their official response, there was nothing wrong with AP or others citing it, although it was wrong as it turned out.
As an historical matter, the left in this country has had ample Jewish participation and leadership roles. However, it may be fairly accurate to think of a Noam Chomsky or a Howard Zinn and others like them as critics of Israel, specifically concerning their Palestinian policies.
That does not make them Arabists or in general sympathetic to Arab causes, except as the Arab peoples are, as most indigenous peoples are, subject to the quisling dictators answering to the West.
posted by Anonymous : 11:48 AM
how support for semites(Pals) may be antisemitic? Well aplaing antisemntic twist zionism try to hide it's face in logical abuse, widening logica falacy. The antismantic applicants may think they mastered they trickery.
(This blog occasionally publishes non-political posts on the weekends.)
Baltimore buses always attract a colorful clientele, but few passengers have made an impression similar to that left by The Old Guy In the Trilby Hat. Call him "Mr. TOGITH."
This man stood out for several reasons. He wore a trilby hat similar to the one Sean Connery wore in that Indiana Jones movie. (Did you know that that both the trilby and the fedora were named after two leading female characters in popular plays?) TOGITH also sported a natty dark brown overcoat of an unusual cut -- and a scraggly beard. A beard much like my own.
Which brings us to the two most noteworthy aspects of this gentleman:
1. He looked like me. Or rather, he looked the way I might look twenty or thirty years from now.
2. He kept staring at me, as if in recognition.
He left his seat, stood near me, looked right at me, and starting talking. At least, he moved his lips: No sounds came out.
His gesticulations, combined with the worried expression on his face, suggested that he was attempting to issue some sort of warning. As you might imagine, this bizarre scene caused me no small amount of discomfort, and I was grateful when the old man finally stepped off the bus. Even as he walked out the back door, he stared at me while screaming silently.
Well. That was odd.
As it happens, I was on the bus that day because I had to meet someone downtown. Being quite early for this appointment, I decided to kill some time by popping into a thrift store. For all of my caterwauling about Bawlmer, this wretched city has one supreme virtue: The thrift stores are excellent. They practically give away fine men's furnishings. Having become quite spoiled, I now buy only Brooks Brothers, Kenneth Cole and Jos. A. Bank. At two or three dollars an item, why settle?
Deep inside the confines of this particular store, I made a remarkable discovery. No, I'm not talking about the tweed coat or the Navy blazer. I'm talking about...the trilby hat.
The exact same hat worn by Mr. TOGITH. There it was. On sale for $1.99.
In a sudden moment of samsara, the truth of the matter flashed into my consciousness. That old man on the bus -- Mr. TOGITH -- was Future Me. The eldritch time travel device which sent him back to 2013 could only transmit his image. (That, is my image.) Although the visual aspect came through with vivid realism, the audio remained trapped in the future.
In the year 2040-something, a group of scientists will look into their plexiglass Time Cubicle, and they'll see...nothing. The old man they sent back in time will have disappeared. The cubicle will be empty. But they'll hear the voice of Mr. TOGITH (a.k.a., my future self) as he cries out desperately:
"For God's sake, don't go to that store! The fate of the world depends on it! You'll doom us all! You have no idea what you're dealing with. You'll unleash dark forces that you cannot begin to comprehend. Whatever you do -- DON'T BUY THE HAT! DON'T BUY THE HAT!"
Younger readers may not recall Efrain Rios Montt, the mass-murdering dictator of Guatemala. But I sure do. Even though he's now 87 years old, a court has convicted Rios Montt of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Americans must never allow this man's tyranny to disappear from memory. To a great extent, his crimes are our crimes.
A CIA-backed coup brought Rios Montt to power in 1983. President Ronald Reagan supported him right down the line, sending him huge amounts of military aid even though Rios Montt's mass-murdering ways were infamous throughout the world.
Prosecutors say Rios Montt turned a blind eye as soldiers used rape, torture and arson to try to rid Guatemala of leftist rebels during his 1982-1983 rule, the most violent period of a 1960-1996 civil war in which as many as 250,000 people died.
He was tried over the killings of at least 1,771 members of the Maya Ixil indigenous group, just a fraction of the number who died during his rule.
Back in the 1980s, Rios Montt received tons of favorable coverage (and money) from American televangelists Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart and Jerry Falwell, because the Guatemalan dictator was a Pentacostal Protestant who loved to caterwaul about how much he loved Jesus, even as his soldiers raped and slaughtered indiscriminately. I suspect, but cannot prove, that American intelligence used these fundamentalist churches as "cover" for sending funds to the Guatemalan regime.
Rios Montt belonged to a California-based ministry called Verbo, or the Church of the Word, a subsidiary of a larger organization called Gospel Outreach. Over the years, many a spook-watcher has suggested that this missionary group his provided cover for a Certain Interesting Agency. (See, for example, this website.) In many ways, the Agency made a tactical error when it allowed this man to lead a coup in a traditionally Catholic country, because his fervent Protestant evangelism alienated most Guatemalans. Even members of the conservative elite who might otherwise have supported the right came to despise Rios Montt.
From William Blum's indispensable Killing Hope:
On the first of July, Rios Montt announced a state of siege. It was to last more than eight months. In his first six months in power, 2,600 Indians and peasants were massacred, while during his 17-month reign, more than 400 villages were brutally wiped off the map... In December 1982, Ronald Reagan, also a Christian, went to see for himself. After meeting with Rios Montt, Reagan, referring to the allegations of extensive human-rights abuses, declared that the Guatemalan leader was receiving "a bad deal."
One of the recent Reagan hagiographies bears the title When Character Was King. Let us pause for a moment to savor the irony.
But human rights groups, which did not support the lifting of the embargo, along with some members of Congress told a different story: one of kidnappings, refugees and massacres by government forces.
This for example, came from Robert Goldman from Americas Watch Committee.
"Rios Montt is a dictator who came in with all these promises, and yet, what did he do?" Goldman says. "He abolished all press freedom. There's less press freedom now in Guatemala than there has been for the last 30 years. No political parties are allowed. No union activity. Search and seizure without warrants are conducted. A three-man military tribunal can sentence anybody to anything, including death."
Here's a chilling thought: Much of that description now applies to our own country. Unions have been largely crushed. The feds need no warrant to scoop up your emails and cell phone calls. Most of the press will soon be owned by Murdoch and the Kochs. Anyone declared an "enemy combatant" can be blasted to atoms by a killer drone, without trial.
The Covert Action Information Bulletin reported in 1987 that the State of Israel, Guatemala's principle backer between 1977 and 1986, not only sponsored espionage and torture of Guatemalans, but employed members of Gospel Outreach’s Verbo Church to assist their agents.
"Israel also installed computer surveillance equipment in Guatemala and, under the pretext of providing agricultural assistance, helped devise Rios Montt's 'beans and bullets strategic hamlets, modeled after the CIA's Operation Phoenix. . . [ed. note: ‘beans and bullets’ refers to Rios Montt’s policy, ‘If you are with us, we’ll feed you; if not we’ll kill you.’]
[Richard Paradise of Gospel Outreach] says he works under the auspices of the World Zionist Organization as a liaison with U.S. evangelicals, with the assigned role of working against anti-Semitism within the U.S. . . According to a special report entitled 'Sectas y Religiosidad en American Latina' published in October 1984 by the Chile-based Instituto Latinoamericano de Estudios Transnacionales, during Rios Montt's rule, members of Gospel Outreach's Verbo church took jobs in espionage and torture and accompanied Israeli and Argentinean experts during interrogation sessions." 33.
Israel’s role was confirmed by a member of Israel’s Knesset according to CIABASE files on Death Squads: “Guatemala, 1981-89. Israeli Knesset member General Peled said in Central America Israel is 'dirty work' contractor for U.S. Helped Guatemala regime when Congress blocked Reagan administration. Israeli firm Tadiran (then partly U.S.-owned) supplied Guatemalan military with computerized intelligence system to track potential subversives. Those on computer list had an excellent chance of being ‘disappeared.’”
Guatemalan Ex-Dictator Found Guilty of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity Saturday, 11 May 2013 09:15By Tim Johnson, McClatchy Newspapers | Report
posted by Anonymous : 12:39 PM
'Ex-Mossad' like Mike Harari (former head of station for Mossad in SA) helped the local drug lords with security, from the Columbian coke cartels to the money-laundering and transportation way-station of Panama's Manuel Noreiga. Mike H. was even briefly detained during Operation Just Cause (just because we can), before being allowed to slip out of custody and safely out of country.
I assume they were handsomely paid, and perhaps got gross points on what was moved under their watch, whether as 'ex' anything or likely not.
H.R. 1406, The Working Families Flexibility Act, passed the House yesterday. In case you don't know, this is the bill designed to end the eight-hour workday and the forty-hour work week. From Truthout:
We have a jobs emergency and Republicans are trying to get rid of one of the laws that causes employers to hire more people. Go figure. When employers require workers to work more than eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week, they have to pay more than the regular wage for that extra time. This is a strong incentive to hire more people instead.
And when they don't hire more people, they pay a premium, which means regular people have more money to spend. Either way, it helps the economy. And of course, it really, really helps those workers.
Last year, USA Today took a look at overtime pay and found that productivity was rising, but as a result of squeezing workers for more hours. But employers were calling these workers "managers" to get out of paying overtime - and to get out of hiring more people.
Fortunately, Obama has said that he will veto the bill.
Yes, I remain infuriated with Obama -- over other issues. Yes, I remain grateful that Mitt Romney did not win the presidency.
Being thankful we have Obama instead of Romney is like feeling lucky for having brain cancer instead of pancreatic cancer. I mean, at least there's a sliver of a chance the brain cancer won't kill you.
"..., Obama has said that he will veto the bill." He has also said he would shut down Guantanamo, end torture, and wind down the narcotics operations in Afghanistan that are euphemistically referred to as "the war on terror." He will do exactly what his corporate owners tell him to do; no more and no less.
posted by cracker : 2:01 PM
House Congresscritters who voted for this should get put on motel-cleaning duty for as long as it take them to understand how the common people live.
And I too worry that Obama, who has said many good things, will continue to say one thing and do another.
posted by Anonymous : 4:54 PM
As a 33 year victim of "comp time" I can tell you I never got one hour of comp time actually off since we could only take it when the bosses said there was no work to do. In addition, we had only two times per year when we could take vacation time-- August and January. And you don't like unions?
This is so typical. The Repugs are pretending this is a sudden burst of concern for working people, particularly working Moms. But take a look at the history [hattip to The Gavel]:
Working Families Flexibility Act of 1996 [H.R. 2391] – Rejected by Congress
Working Families Flexibility Act of 1997 [H.R. 1] – Rejected by Congress
Family Time Flexibility Act of 2003 [H.R. 1113] – Rejected by Congress
Working Families Flexibility Act
The Republicans are transparent in their deviousness. This is all about rolling back labor rights, nothing to do with family flexibility.
PS: I share the concern about POTUS's 'promises.'
posted by Anonymous : 6:51 PM
Back in 2008 Sen. Obama said he was going to filibuster the Telecom Immunity Bill. He knew what was at stake there. When he voted for it, he lost my vote forever.
posted by Anonymous : 8:55 PM
Perhaps we could go the UK route where 25% of all new employment contracts are 'zero hours' which means that you work only when your employer needs you, 2 hours here, 4 hours there. Great for the corporate bottom line but manifestly inadequate and nasty if you are trying to pay your rent. These contracts have been growing at 50% per year so they look to be the future.
So when you are employed on one of these contracts, do you report on safety issues at work? Discrimination against a colleague because she has to care for a sick family member? Of course not. Otherwise you find your roster cut down very quickly to zero hours. And since you have not technically been dismissed you have no unfair dismissal claim.
It's a thinly veiled method of turning all employees into independent contractors with the employer getting all the benefits and the employee all the liabilities. How do you obtain work elsewhere, even part-time, if you have to be on call for your 'zero hours' employer?
The other scams are 'unpaid internships' (where they sack you when your trial period is up) and 'crowdsourcing' (online working for peanuts).
So many ways to screw the workers. So little time.