Friday, May 22, 2009

Liars at the CIA?

Likely the most credible part of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) story about her briefings by the CIA is the claim that they misled her. Why does everyone seem to find this so hard to believe? I have always thought that deception and misdirection were at the very core of the CIA's mission.

Was it not the CIA that provided the fabricated yellow cake uranium trail from Niger to Saddam? Was it not their faulty intelligence, distorted at the direction of Dick Cheney, that falsely created the case for the Iraq War? Has it not been abundantly clear over the past seven or so years that the truth was being concealed from the American people?

There seems to be concrete evidence of their efforts to mislead both the Congress and the people and cover their trail (and tails) with misleading memos. Former Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), known for his overly detailed personal notebooks, has refuted that he was briefed on at least three of the four occasions that the CIA claimed. Records of another briefing indicate the presence of a Congressional aide who had already left the job. There is already a court case involving the destruction of videotapes of torture. Obstruction of justice is hardly a character reference to inoculate the agency against charges of lying.

The CIA is indignant about accusations of lying? Are we really supposed to pull the wool over our own eyes and act as if this is beyond their moral boundaries? If you are not already aware of the following incidents and the CIA's part in them, please research the following (please note that a general search involving "CIA" and any of the terms below should give you enough to sort through for hours):

1. The murders of the duly elected South American leaders, Salvadore Allende and Jacobo Arbenz.

2. The murder of Che Guevarra.

3. The Bay of Pigs

4. Cocaine smuggling (please refer to Gerald Hossenfuss, check spelling, in search).

5. LSD experiments on unsuspecting members of the public.

6. Initial funding of Osama bin Laden (he was their boy when he was fighting the Soviets).

7. Manuel Noriega, drug smuggling and political repression.

8. Vietnam: drug smuggling to assassinations.

9. Iran-Contra.

10. "False Flag" Operations.

These were just ten examples off the top of my head on a Friday afternoon. If you get through all of this and you still have any delusions about the moral character of the CIA please do not open any emails asking you for your help in claiming money that is being held in another country.

The mission of the CIA seems centered around deceiving the public and operating in secret. Spies are people who must be willing to do egregious things. Believing that they would not lie is naive or self-deluded. Continue your own research into this matter, look for more of the damage left in their wake. Just whatever you do, don't look into Dallas '63.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Gas Selling for Ten Dollars a Gallon

Gas selling for $10 a gallon is what we need. I'm serious. It seems that the only thing that gets us concerned about wasting energy and slowly boiling the planet is when the price of gasoline gets uncomfortably high. When gasoline hit over $4,50 a gallon last summer, talk of a green revolution was everywhere. Despite an administration that was deeply in the pockets of Big Oil and had no interest in environmental concerns, public debate turned towards electric cars, solar, wind and hydro power. Now that gas is about half the price of last summer, there seems to be a lessening of focus on the need to go green. This, despite an administration that is demonstrably more open to alternative energy.

If the only thing that truly gets our attention is high fuel costs, then let them skyrocket. The crisis facing us is too dire to continue to dither. The whole notion that shifting to green energy will cost slightly more is completely off point (and debatable). The issue is not whether we can afford to shift from a petroleum based economy, the issue is that we cannot afford to continue to exist under the yolk of the transnational petrochemical companies.

The growing industrialization of China and India clearly defines the magnitude of the problem. China has surpassed the U.S. as the largest emitter of CO2, and both nations, due to sheer population numbers, are on a path to add exponentially to the problem. The U.S. remains the largest offender, by far, on a per capita basis.

Rather than seeking low prices for petroleum as a means to drive the economy, the exact opposite should occur. There needs to be a floor price, below which the price is not allowed to drop, established for gasoline and other petroleum products. All revenue above costs should immediately be funneled into the development of alternative energy. By establishing a floor price consumption is discouraged and alternatives are encouraged. Yes, this costs more. Pay now or pay much, much more later.

Oil is over! Accept this fact. It is not in our interest that oil be cheap. It is only to our demise. We must immediately begin to wean ourselves before the rude awakening of withdrawal occurs as we reach the end of the supply. At that point, $10 will be a bargain.

For an excellent treatise on the future of oil, please refer to the book "Hibbert's Peak," for which the full reference can be found at the bottom of this page in the "Oil is Over," resources.

I visit many of the themes above in my last novel, The Dirt People, on Blue Throat Press (follow link on this page).

The More Things Change

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Withholding information (in this case photos) from the American people, ramping up an already failed war (in this case Afghanistan), re-instituting military tribunals (this time with more rights granted, we are assured), and a continued bailout (this time with strings), is starting to make me wonder why Obama is trying to be Bush-Lite on some of the more pressing issues confronting us.

Seeking voluntary assurances from insurance and pharmaceutical companies to hold down health care costs, advocating that we move on from the torture debate, and seemingly forgetting the green agenda (say it together: infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure) seems part of a plan to appear moderate and bring everyone together.

Is Obama starting to lose touch inside the bubble? Has he been conned that being a consensus builder means watering everything down and avoiding all controversial stands?

Many people on the left, myself included, championed Obama. Not because we thought that he was going to do everything we wanted (realistically, the left was just happy that someone even slightly liberal might get elected) but we at least expected him to be a change from Bush.

Look at the issue of health care to see how little change there actually may be. Single payer, forget socialized medicine, is already off the table. Why? So the rich bastards who have screwed us over can continue to get rich. They want to make concessions so that the system will continue as is. Get serious. The only way to really control costs is socialized medicine. Put the doctors on salary and take over the whole system. Only insurance companies and those brainwashed by their propaganda believe that the private system works.

We on the left are realistic. We know that socialized medicine is not going to happen. But why should we settle that single payer is off the table? How about worrying about the people of the nation instead of the rich and the corporations? You see, we are being reasonable and trying to accept compromise. Obama himself is an example of that. But if we're only going to be ignored the left has nothing to gain from siding with the Democrats.

Having said all of the above, Obama is a million miles ahead of Bush on most issues. However, he needs to remember that watering everything down until its all the same is not what those who elected him want or expect. Maybe Obama is the most astute politician of all time and his actions are all part of a larger, slower change agenda. But its starting to seem that the more things change, ... .

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Going Medieval: Watching Too Much Pulp Fiction

In my previous post I attempted to explain why Dick Cheney is out on his "Justification of Torture Tour". Primarily, he is attempting to shape the debate so he can avoid going to prison for war crimes. At least his motivation, covering his own behind, is understandable. Treasonous, but understandable.

What is more difficult to pin down is why so many other people are going out of their way to justify torture. In some ways, the focus on waterboarding has made many people forget that other actions also occurred. We now know that methods such as sleep deprivation, chaining to ceilings and walls, banging heads against walls, intimidation with dogs, enforced and prolonged isolation were among the methods used in addition to waterboarding (please see ACLU website to read the torture memos in their original).

It is too easy to say that torturers and defenders thereof are sadistic. They may be, but that is not the total sum of the answer. As Stanley Milgram discovered in his classic studies on obedience, most individuals will carry out rather cruel and inhumane acts with a minimum of prodding (Milgram, 1963, 1974). However, this research demonstrates what people will do in an unexpected situation. What is shocking to me is that people are actually advocating torture after having time for reflection.

Psychologically, torturers are acting out feelings of inferiority and fear. The desire to dominate and totally control others is internally generated by feelings of fear and anxiety that results from feelings of being out of control. By subjecting the detainees to torture those who authorized, carried out and support torture are demonstrating their absolute fear of these individuals.

For more evidence of the sheer terror in which those attempting to justify torture live, witness their reaction to bringing prisoners from Gitmo to the U.S. mainland and placing them in the federal or military prison system. Hysteria surrounds this issue with politician after politician denouncing such moves. There is no rationale for this position. In a nation with over two million people incarcerated, locking people up is one of the things we do exceedingly well. If we can keep serial killers like Charles Manson and the rest of the criminal element incarcerated, then certainly we can keep religious fanatics contained. We already have Ramsi Yousef and Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman in confinement and I don't believe I have heard any concern about their incarceration endangering the country.

Torture is similar to the rage expressed by abusive parents who delude themselves that the only way to control the child is to beat them. In a similar vein, many of those defending torture engage in the self deluded notion that the only way to get the information they seek is through the means they have chosen.

Let us not leave revenge out of the equation. Just as in the movie Pulp Fiction when the character of Marcellus Wallace announces he is going to "go Medieval," on someone out of revenge, there is a tendency to support those who fight back against extreme abuse. Of course, Marcellus was a thug whose desire for control again points to feelings of inferiority.

The parallel does not end there. Just as Marcellus was emasculated by being sodomized in the backroom of the gun store, so were the members of the Bush (mis)Administration. Reeling helplessly as the nation was attacked, they sought to restore their own emasculation. Failing to protect the nation, despite their claims about what has happened since, the attacks of 9/11 rendered the nation psychologically impotent.

Torture, renditions, and contrived wars since have only served to fan the flames of the very problems that led to 9/11. Like a gangster noir film, the good guys and the bad guys seem pretty much the same.

Life is not a movie. Being guided in our actions by Pulp Fiction and 24, is insane. That's why Quentin Tarantino is not Secretary of Defense. Too bad Donald Rumsfeld, with his classic narcissistic facade, could not have become a film director.

Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral study of obedience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67: 371-378.

Milgram, S. (1974). Obedience to authority; an experimental view. Harper Collins.

Cheney: The New Grand Inquisitor

The Werewolf of Wyoming, Dick Cheney, is howling again. After hiding in an undisclosed location for eight years, cloaked in secrecy to the degree that his house was blurred on Google Earth and even the attendees of his energy policy meetings are still classified, he has emerged from the shadows. The man who was not seen and who did not talk is suddenly everywhere. Classified memos must be released, he now claims, for the good of the country.

Appearing on Face the Nation, Cheney not only advocated torture, he went further in contending that any other course would "sacrifice" American lives. Bush, and all the others from his (mis)administration, must be cringing as Cheney admits to crimes against humanity. Cheney's argument, that these acts are not criminal because a lawyer told them so, is patently ridiculous. Clearly, the only reason to even seek such legal memos is to provide cover down the road when the actions are revealed.

There is a method to his seeming madness. What Cheney is attempting to do is reframe the prosecution of torture into a seeming policy debate. He would prefer that this be viewed simply as a disagreement rather than a sanctioning of crimes against humanity.

Cheney uses two lines of reasoning to justify torture. First he argues that it provides information and second that those being tortured are evil. The first argument, that of information, is not only debatable, it is also historically ignorant. Torture has been used historically as a means to make people lie, not to tell the truth. The victims of the Inquisition, the accused in the witch trials, U.S. soldiers in Vietnam who were used for propaganda purpose, all were tortured to make them confess to something they did not do and/or believe. Even thinking that torture provides reliable information is to deny its purpose and its genuine intent, which is to inflict harm.

The idea that those being tortured are bad people and somehow deserve it, is philosophically void. Rationalization to the nth degree, this is the justification of every torturer throughout history, that the tortured somehow deserve it.

I have mockingly referred to Cheney as the Werewolf of Wyoming in a number of past columns. I now see that I was being too kind to Cheney and insulting to werewolves. Cheney is a cold blooded torturer who has no moral compass. He is attempting the "Big Lie." Just keep saying over and over that you're right and that there was no other choice. Classic brainwashing, say it over and over and eventually they'll all believe it.

Like the Grand Inquisitor before him, it is clear that Cheney does not believe in the very ideals he claims to support and defend. He is now willing to undermine the nation in order to thwart efforts that could hold him accountable.

Friday, May 8, 2009

What Did Pelosi ( and Others) Know?

It was reported in the Washington Post that leaked CIA memos confirm Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was informed about the practice of torture being used against detainees. Pelosi, in an interview in February with Rachel Maddow stated that she was only informed that these techniques had been authorized and that she had no knowledge of their use. Curiously she also stated that anything she had been told was covered by national security laws that prevented her from disclosing the details of her briefing.

Pelosi's protestations do not appear to stand up to scrutiny. Why would she have thought that she would be informed that certain methods had been authorized if there were no plans to use them? That now appears to be nothing more than a transparent attempt to cover her own behind. Now it seems abundantly clear that she was informed of the actual torture plans.

More ridiculous is her assertion that national security laws prevented her from disclosing the information to the public. Is it really her assertion that she was obligated to keep anything disclosed to her secret? If she had been told that there was a plan to engage in genocide would she have kept that secret? If she had been told that there was a plan to bomb an American city so that the flames of war could be further whipped, would she have kept that secret?

The answer to the above questions is certainly "No." As a member of Congress her duty is to the nation, not to keeping secret the violation of international agreements that ultimately caused harm to the nation through damaging its' reputation. Her duty to the nation was to inform the citizenry of the great crimes being committed in our name, even if that resulted in her being imprisoned for her actions. Yes, it was her duty, and that of the others who were briefed, to inform the nation as to the violation of our laws. In point of fact, it was only Pelosi and the other three members so briefed, who could have prevented this.

What prevented her from disclosing this information was her fear that the disclosure would be used against her politically. She, and other members of Congress, went along with torture because it was politically expedient. Like many politicians, Pelosi was afraid to challenge anything the Bush (mis)Adminiatration did for fear that they would be accused of being in league with al-Qaeda. It was just this lack of political courage that enabled the most egregious crimes For that, she bears culpability for these actions.

Pelosi has been one of the people standing in the way of investigations into the dirty little secrets of the last administration. Now we know why she seems to be holding up a thorough accounting of the acts of the Bush (mis)Administration. She is afraid her own complicity will be revealed.

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzalez, Yoo, Bybee, the list goes on. To it we can now add the names of Pelosi (and Rockefeller and on and on). All those who were complicit in these actions, in both parties, must be held accountable. They placed their political careers before the nation and its ideals. At the time at which it mattered most that they fulfill their Constitutional duties, they bowed to pressure and acted primarily in the interests of their own political careers.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Obama Thwarts Pirates

With the announcement today that he intends to close loopholes in the tax code that have allowed large corporations to shelter their earnings in off-shore accounts, President Obama has signaled a new direction against international pirates.

These modern buccaneers, transnational corporations that seek to evade the laws and the tax codes of various nations in order to further their bottom lines, are just as surely pirates as those skulking off the coast of Somalia. They steal from everyone through evading taxes. It was predicted that closing these loopholes would generate over $200 billion in the next ten years.

Willing accomplices to this theft can be found in the various tax havens around the world. From secret Swiss accounts to phony corporate headquarters (NBC reported that 18,000 corporations have "headquarters" in the same building in the Cayman Islands). The truly shameful accomplices are the U.S. politicians who allowed such shelters to exist for so long. Sen. Dick Durbin statement that the Congress was "bought and sold" by the banks seems almost obvious. Who are these corporations that have been stealing from the collective good? Follow the money.

The real question: Why has it taken until now for a politician to step forward and challenge this institutionalized theft?

Friday, May 1, 2009

May Day: Let the Voice of the People be Heard

"Let the voice of the people be heard." These were the last words of Albert Parsons, hanged for his alleged part in the Haymarket Rebellion. Parsons never finished the rest of his speech.

The Haymarket Rebellion, which began on May 1, 1886, was just one part of a coordinated effort for worker's rights. The events at Haymarket Square in Chicago came to symbolize the actions of that time. The trials of Parsons and his co-defendants drew international attention to the events. A few years later, in 1889 with the founding of the second Marxist International Congress, May Day was established as a day of action by the proletariat. The idea was that the workers of the world would engage in protests and confrontations to force better working conditions.

Such talk today is slandered as communism. For today we live in a capitalists' paradise. No rights for the worker, downward wage pressure created by outsourcing, declining union membership (you remember unions, "the people who brought you the weekend") are all symptomatic of the anemic state of the worker. While May Day is mostly celebrated in countries outside the U.S. as a type of workers' holiday most Americans have no idea that there is any significance to the day and certainly are unaware of its origins in this country.

The invisible hand of the market will take care of you only in the sense that it will crush you. Every raise in the wage of the worker, every increase in benefits or health care is seen as a theft from the bottom line. To those who control the purse, workers are just so much raw materials. Hence the term, "human resources."

Today on this May Day, let us honor the memory of those who have fought for all of us. For every worker who ever threw a wooden shoe into the machinery of oppression, this day is for you. Get out the monkey wrenches, put on the gas masks, pick up a rock and remember Haymarket. Let the voice of the people be heard!

This column was originally published on May 1, 2008. Since that time we've had bailouts for banks but calls for union concessions. Unemployment is at its highest levels in decades but off shore tax havens are commonplace for the transnational corporations that are downsizing and outsourcing their labor. The grist is still being churned by the mill.

British Petroleum Gulf Oil Spill Costs

  • 11 workers killed in initial blast
  • Damage to Ocean Ecosystem
  • 35,000 to 60.000 Barrels of Oil Per Day. That's somewhere between 1,500,000 to 2,500,000 gallons a day or 150 to 300 million gallons already spilled into the ocean as of July 27th by that estimate.
  • Gulf Fisheries Industry
  • Gulf Tourism (ongoing costs)
  • Long Term Health Effects to Humans and Wildlife (to be determined)

Worst Oil Spills

  • Kuwait 1991 - 520 million gallons: Gulf War I
  • Gulf of Mexico 2010 - 206 million gallons: BP Oil
  • Mexico, Bay of Campiche 1979 - 140 million gallons: Pemex Oil
  • Trinidad & Tobago 1979 - 90 million gallons: Greek Oil Tanker Atlantic Empress
  • Russia 1983 - 84 million gallons: Leaky Pipeline collapsed into Kolva River
  • Iran 1983 - 80 million gallons: Tanker collided with Oil Platform
  • South Africa 1983 -79 million gallons:Tanker Castillo de Bellver sank
  • France 1978 - 69 million Gallons: Amoco Cadiz ran aground and broke in half.
  • Angola Coastal Waters (700 miles at sea) 1991 - 51-81 million gallons: ABT Summer exploded at sea.
  • Italy 1991 - 45 million gallons: M/T Haven Oil Tanker exploded.
  • Source: Mother Nature Network. The 13 largest oil spills in history. by Laura Moss. Friday July 16, 2010.

Nuclear Accidents (Under Construction)

  • 1957 Windscale, UK
  • 1961 Idaho Falls, Idaho, US
  • 1979 Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, US
  • 1984 Athens, Alabama, US
  • 1985 Athens, Alabama, US
  • 1986 Plymouth, Masachusetts, US
  • 1986 Chernobyl, Ukraine, USSR
  • 1996 Waterford, Connecticut, US
  • 1989 Griefwald, Germany
  • 1999 Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan
  • 2002 Oak Harbor, Ohio, US
  • 2004 Fukui Prefecture, Japan
  • Source: Benjamin Sovacool

Mining Disasters (Under Construction)

  • China 1942 - 1549 deaths
  • France 1906 - 1100 deaths
  • Japan 1963 - 447 deaths
  • Wales 1913 - 438 deaths
  • South Africa 1960 - 437 deaths
  • Source: Epic Disasters Website
  • Note: Do not look at the dates herein and conclue that mining disasters are a things of the past. Every year thousands of miners die worldwide in largely unreported accidents.

OIL IS OVER! - Resources

  • Hibbert's Peak - "The" source that explains why Oil is Over.
  • Tragedy of the Commons -Garrett Hardin
  • The Land Ethic - Aldo Leopold
  • Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight - Thom Hartmann
  • Eco-Defense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching


  • The Dirt People - Ray Bawarchi (yes, that's me)
  • The Razor's Edge - Somerset Maugham
  • Demian - Herman Hesse
  • Black Elk Speaks - Black Elk (as told to R. Neimur)
  • The Quiet Don - Mikhail Sholokov
  • Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
  • Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
  • 1984 - George Orwell
  • Delicious Laughter - Jallahudin Rumi
  • The Sybil - Par Lagerksvitz
  • The Fixer - Bernard Malamud
  • Spirits Rebellious - Khalil Gibran
  • The Quiet American - Graham Greene
  • Midaq Alley - Nagib Mafouz
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Farenheit 451- Ray Bradbury
  • We - Yevgeny Zamyatin


  • John Coltrane - St. John the Divine
  • Patti Smith
  • The Clash - the only band that matters
  • Billy Bragg
  • Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band
  • Art Blakey
  • Death - pre-punk visionaries from Detroit
  • PJ Harvey - Polly Jean, Polly Jean
  • Woody Guthrie
  • Michael Franti (Spearhead)
  • Public Enemy
  • Ray Charles - the Genius
  • Bob Dylan
  • Velvet Underground
  • Flaming Lips
  • John Doe & X
  • The Beatles

opiate of the masses

  • God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh. - Voltaire
  • I do not feel obliged to believe that the same god who has endowed us with sense, reason and inellect has intended us to forgo their use. - Galileo Galilei
  • The ink of a scholar is worth far more than the blood of a martyr.- Mohammad
  • If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. - Sheldon Kopp
  • No one will be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. - Louisa Mae Alcott
  • When it is a question of money, everyone is of the same religion.- Voltaire
  • If God were alive today, he'd be an athiest. - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The god I worship is not short of cash, Mister. - Bono
  • Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine. My sins they only belong to me. - Patti Smith
  • God sure baked a lot of fruitcake baby, when Adam met the Eden lady. - Joe Strummer