The River

Thursday, March 30, 2006

More great writers

Curtis White is always worthwhile. I recommend his essay in the latest Harper's magazine: "The Spirit of Disobedience, An invitation to resistance." It's not online yet, so you'll have to buy it, sit in a bookstore or library and read it, or find your subscription copy, if you're interested.

White covers Christianity versus spirtualism, imagination and romanticism versus Enlightenment Reason, and Capitalism and the Free Market above all else. The play of ideas, the cultural blindspots.

It dovetails nicely with another work I've just started, "The Culture of Make Believe" by Derrick Jensen. Love this writer. From his website:

"We are members of the most destructive culture ever to exist. Our assault on the natural world, on indigenous and other cultures, on women, on children, on all of us through the possibility of nuclear suicide and other means--all these are unprecedented in their magnitude and ferocity."

So began my first book, Listening to the Land . Why do we act as we do? What are sane and effective responses to outrageously destructive behavior? What will it take for us to stop the horrors that characterize our way of being? My work and life revolve around these questions. Read on to explore with me.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Hitting the street as leviathan surfaces

I think Chris Floyd and Kurt Nimmo are two of today's most important writers, who also happen to be bloggers. They uncover the thinking and the strategies of the brutal, remorseless killers seeking to further a hideous New World Order -- and the suffering caused by their global ripoff. Every exposure to conventional media whitewashes the reality. Every visit to Floyd's Empire Burlesque and Nimmo's Another Day in the Empire bring it howling back into clarity.

Today in particular, Floyd has a report on the neocon's openly admitted plan for using death squads, as were used in El Salvador and elsewhere, to foment chaos and terrorize opposition in a "a global free-fire zone." Floyd's piece draws on the work of Seymour Hersh, another important writer.

Call me an old hippie (although born about 15 years too late), a certidude, or delusional, but I will be attending the Southern Regional March for Peace in Iraq/Justice at Home.

And yes, we shall overcome. Someday.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

DIY News

Fred Litwin, president, NorthernBlues Music:

I started NorthernBlues Music in July 2000. The catalyst to starting a blues label was the purchase of a Grit Laskin CD, over the internet in 1996, while stationed in Singapore for Intel Corporation. To make a long story short, I was quite taken by Grit's CD (clear vocals interesting lyrics), and I sent Grit an e-mail telling him how impressed I was. To my surprise, I got a response from Grit within two days, and that started an exchange.


Please welcome

UFO Breakfast Recipients

Informed Dissent

Chris Floyd's Empire Burlesque

A Tiny Revolution

Lenin's Tomb

For my friends on this list, sorry for the tardiness.

Friday, March 24, 2006


I read a little bit of "A Man Without a Country" by Kurt Vonnegut in a book store during lunch the other day. Some of the best stuff I've read in ages. Very refreshing. Thank you, Kurt.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Balanced media

I really like Anthony Lane's movie reviews in The New Yorker. Who can forget his Yoda parody to express his frustration with the last Star Wars film: break me a fucking give.

But David Denby is just clueless.

Identity Issues Prominent in 9/11 Commission Report
July 23, 2004
By Michael Pastore

After a 19-month investigation that included testimony from both the current and former President of the United States, the bipartisan Commission investigating the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, released its final report this week.

[They weren’t terrorists, they were neocon agents/patsies. Knowing that the “hidden hands” know that, and that they could give a shit about terrorists, i.e. their own kind, let’s read this report for what they feel the real threat is.]

Several of the findings and recommendations in the report, which numbers 567 pages in total, will be of specific interest to the identity industry. The report explains reinforces the myth of how the 19 hijackers entered the United States, moved around the country, opened bank accounts, obtained driver's licenses, and were able to board airplanes with weapons that may have included Mace, knives, and box cutters. Identity plays a major role in each of these activities.

[Your identity is bound to an industry. They like that and want to make it bigger.]

Immigration & Border Control

One of the first issues related to identity addressed in the report by the panel is the ease with which the terrorists patsies entered the country and moved about. The panel notes that in a larger context than the activities of these 19 individuals, there is a lesson to be learned about the way the United States handles immigration. According to the report, 500 million people annually cross U.S. borders, 330 million are non-citizens. About 500,00 (sic) enter illegally without inspection.

"In their travels, terrorists peace activists use evasive methods, such as altered and counterfeit passports and visas, specific travel methods and routes, liaisons with corrupt whistelblower government officials, human smuggling networks, supportive travel agencies, and immigration and identity fraud. These can sometimes be detected."

The panel believes that 15 of the 19 hijackers were potentially vulnerable to interception by border authorities. Analysis of travel documents and patterns could have helped uncover four. More effective use of information that existed in government databases could have found three. [translatoin: bumbling, innocent government just didn’t have enough surveillance powers]

"We also found that had the immigration system set a higher bar for determining whether individuals are who or what they claim to be asleep — and ensuring routine consequences for violations — it could potentially have excluded, removed, or come into further contact with several hijackers activists who did not appear to meet the terms for admitting short-term visitors."

Increasing the integrity of travel documents and improving their inspection surveillance and control could prevent another attack similar to the one of Sept. 11. It was, of course, [of course!] the terrorists' entry into the United States and travel around the country that facilitated the attacks. "For terrorists peace activists, travel documents are as important as weapons important for escape," the report said.

"Every stage of our border and immigration system should have as a part of its operations the detection of terrorist activist indicators on travel documents. Information systems able to authenticate travel documents and detect potential terrorist activist indicators should be used at consulates, at primary border inspection lines, in immigration services offices, and in intelligence and enforcement units. All frontline personnel should receive some training."

The panel wants to see tighter integration between what its calls the frontline border agencies and the rest of the government's anti-terrorism activist community. Terrorists peace activists interact with frontline border agencies when they apply for passports or visas. They visit airline ticket counters and rental car agencies. They sometimes attempt to change their immigration status once in the country. And they acquire additional IDs such as driver's licenses and IDs to gain entry to private facilities. According to the report, each of these instances is a possible opportunity to identify a terrorist activist and disrupt a plot consciousness of alternatives to sadism in support of "our way of life."

"Each of these checkpoints or portals is a screening — a chance to establish that people are who they say they are and are seeking access for their stated purpose, to intercept identifiable suspects, and to take effective action. By taking advantage of them all, we need not depend on any one point in the system to do the whole job. The challenge is to see the common problem across agencies and functions and develop a conceptual framework — an architecture — for an effective screening system."


Monday, March 20, 2006

Read all about it

If I start a new blog, I'm going to call it "Reality Trumps Bullshit."

That's not a bad description of what FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) tries to do. The group relentlessly dogs the media in an attempt to set the record straight, or to at least balance it. As we know, it's unbalanced corporate toadyism all the way down.

I suppose FAIR has a few more readers than I do, but their efforts don't seem to be penetrating many skulls.

Still, this is hot:

"The Final Word Is Hooray!"
Remembering the Iraq War's Pollyanna pundits

UPDATE: Idiots!

UPDATE II: Glenn Reynolds is actually proud of this:

April 11, 2003

Yeah, there has been a lot of pro-war gloating. And I guess that Dawn Olsen's cautionary advice about gloating is appropriate. So maybe we shouldn't rub in just how wrong, and morally corrupt the antiwar case was. Maybe we should rise above the temptation to point out that claims of a "quagmire" were wrong -- again! -- how efforts at moral equivalence were obscenely wrong -- again! -- how the antiwar folks are still, far too often, trying to move the goalposts rather than admit their error -- again -- and how an awful lot of the very same people who spoke lugubriously about "civilian casualties" now seem almost disappointed that there weren't more -- again -- and how many people who spoke darkly about the Arab Street and citizens rising up against American "liberators" were proven wrong -- again -- as the liberators were seen as just that by the people they were liberating. And I suppose we shouldn't stress so much that the antiwar folks were really just defending the interests of French oil companies and Russian arms-deal creditors. It's probably a bad idea to keep rubbing that point in over and over again.


He wants so badly to be on some winning team (YAY USA!) that he's STILL unrepentent about cheerleading for mass slaughter, torture, DU , collective punishment, and cold-blooded murder of women and children. Nor did he care, of course, about the genocide and destruction of Iraqi society deliberately perpetrated by the U.S. over the last 15 years.

And what's this about French oil companies and Russian arms-deal creditors? Simple-minded shit really does sell, doesn't it?

This is much worse than the cthuloid. J. Alva (or any other reader) what's your take? How do you explain the Instadumbass? Throw me a bone here.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Birthday present!

You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension - a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into the Gift Economy Zone.

UPDATE: By the way, I wouldn't recommend looking at this too long. While the colors are nice, it is, of course, unspeakably evil. J. Alva captured it for me and presented it to me to commemorate the end of my fourth year of bloggerhood and the beginning of my fifth.

This particular Cthuloid has highly advanced hypnotic powers. J. Alva says its the Cthuloid that spawned the phrase "war on terror" and directed its seeding throughout the land.

The UFO Breakfast Recipients blogger, being a foremost expert in the field, captured it quite by accident late one night when he wandered outside for a smoke. He has the fastest reflexes in the business, and of course he had a can of aerosol cheese product within easy reach.

He presented it to me for study. His gifts are always thoughtful and multi-layered but sometimes come with obligations tied to his vision of progress. He acted quite casual when he tossed it over. Like, "hey, check this out. You might be able to do something with this. Happy Birthday." I don't know where he gets his generosity of spirit and faith in his fellow man, 'cause I've never dealt with one of these things up close before, prefering to study their movements in the media.

Anyway, he neglected to warn me about its hypnotic power or its place in the overlord hierarchy. I don't know if he's absent-minded or fiendishly clever. Probably both. You know how these genius types are. I'm talking about J. Alva, not the cthuloid. The cthuloid is harmless. Anytime it gets uppity, I just show it my can of cheez-wiz. It's an odd gift, and a strange pet to have around, but my friends have always been out there.

Now for something completely different

J. Alva has a Cthulhoid-related public service announcement. He graciously credits Exploding Aardvark’s reporting on the Pentagon Cyborg Insect Plan as source material.

Exploding Aardvark picked up the musings of Chris Bray at Histori-Blogography, who notes that a Cthulhoid minion, Victor Davis Hanson (his linkage), has been sent out to attack Eugene Jarecki’s Why We Fight

But Bray doesn’t neglect more practical matters, recommending a blogger who recommends cutting back on whale and covers off-beat celebrity news such as the shooting of Jennifer Lopez.

Damn, how’d it get to be lunchtime?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Four years gone by

Today is my four-year blogging anniversay. Hard to believe, that’s what they always say, and it’s true. My daughters were only two and three months. They’ve changed. A lot. But they’re still Eleanor and Audrey.

Same here. Four years of blogging and six years of parenthood have changed me good, but I’m still, uh, Bruce. I wonder which has changed me more? Ah, but life doesn’t break down into neat boxes, as much as the business world insists it does. And how has that world, the business world, shaped me? What about the political? The religious? The pop cultural? The technological?

My blogging has been about exploring these questions through some kind of weird alchemy of personal confession, political ranting, and desperate creativity.

As I wrote on my former blog,

My basic premise was: former dreamer becomes corporate cog; some little writing ability; unapologetic rock-n-roll heart; devoted to family; anti-capitalist; drinker. My task was to write a blog about this character, who I saw as an everyman. More than anything, I wanted this blog to have a ring of truth. “Honest” words were bound to be compelling words, I thought.

This everyman wanted to know: Where does my identity reside? Who or what is claiming ownership here? Does it reside within me, with integrity? Or is it assigned, manipulated, managed? How have those aforementioned circumstances and forces shaped me? Have they had more leeway then they should? Have I spent half my life, if not more, just covering up?

Other’s may have taken to the worldwide web looking to prove their chops as a pundit or analyst, an expert with a weighty opinion or a glib observer with an excellent education and a take on everything. I just wanted use words to connect to something real, inside and out. “Real” is a big word around my house. “Is this real?” my four-year-old will ask, as did her older sister in earlier days. And it’s big with me. Can we get beyond the surface, the industrial profusion of things, replicas, endless simulacra, 57 channels and nothing on? I thought blogging might be a tool I could use, the form for the self expression that did just that, if only to prove it to myself. Musicians have the three-minute rock song and the occasional album-oriented anthem. I had a blog:

There are lines in pop songs that stay with me for a while, just pop into my head. They’re like soundtracks to whatever my I’m thinking about. “What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding” has been one, “we’re all sensitive people, with so much to give” has been another, more recent one (it’s from Let’s Get it On, by Marvin Gaye); and the one above.

I guess it’s illustrative of the influence that rock-n-roll, as I broadly define it, has had on me. It’s cliché to say that rock-n-roll saved your life, but it did mine, in a sense. And in today’s climate, the statement may even be laughable. Because rock and its rebellion has been so fully absorbed and exploited by the mainstream. You can still have it, it says, just buy a sporty Cadillac, or dress in Gap clothes. Consumerism. That’s your one choice now, disguised as a “liberating” smorgasbord of choices. Plus, our culture teaches us to suspect statements that are so plain and heartfelt. No, we are to carve out a superficial style (from the available lines), establish a hip cred, and laugh at everything else. Guard that territory with all due malice and cruelty. It’s all that matters. You’ve made it.

Rock, on the other hand, said “fuck that! That’s some grim shit. Let’s get together and celebrate our COMMON humanity.” So all the drawing of lines, all the institutions and structures of society that you were either in or out of (with us or against us), all that pressure to conform, could be loosened, cut down to size, danced upon. At least while the music played.

I started picking some chords. Heart on my sleeve stuff. When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose. If I could produce something worthwhile, perhaps I could begin to see my life that way, and therefore all life. Radical, I know, but if anything needed doing post Sept. 11, I figured it was some sort of revolution in consciousness. I thought we needed examples, bravery, guts. Besides, I was bored at work.

I went back yesterday and read my first few months of blogging. In my first post, I wondered if my “voice” would have appeal:

Well, here we go. A foray into publishing on the Net. If I may be so bold as to call this publishing. This seems way too easy for that term, but that is the revolutionary nature of this whole blogger thing, which I've been reading about for months (and, of course, reading many a wonderful blog). Okay. So, is this a "voice"? Yes, yes it is. Is it appealing? Guess that remains to be seen. So...from the the High Water inner sanctum to....hmmm...well, someone, surely, will trip over this thing, and read it. Welcome.

It did, at least to a few other malcontents. My early blogger-self feels like a stranger, though. Almost a better me, although that can’t be true, given the growth that blogging has engendered. I still remember Marek responding to an early post in which I wondered if I should quit, who’s reading this anyway, etc. Marek responded: once you let your voice out of the cage, you can never put it back.

Yet I wonder if blogging has been too easy. If perhaps there’s a cage called discipline that is as necessary as this body is for my consciousness. And if maybe I jettisoned my former professional discipline a bit prematurely in the rush of instant publishing. Point. Click. Yer done. It’s been a great drug, opening me up to wider vistas, but have the effects reversed and imploded?

It’s almost like lost innocence.

That’s why I created The World’s Oldest Curmudgeon. I needed a voice that could step outside the blog, look at things with the humor and empathy of a distant perspective. “Kid, it’s just a freaking blog. It’s a playground. Play, damnit.”

Mudge played so well that others sought to buy a little of his spark. So many, in fact, that he became wealthy, which of course he thought was the ultimate irony, seeing as how his whole shtick was to show how ridiculously easy it should be for anyone to do for themselves. World’s Oldest Punk never compromises; finally makes it.

Right Mudge?

“It’s simple, kid. DIY. What you want to know is why that’s so freaking hard to fully understand and act upon.”

See? I can always count on him.

“If you want to be free, be free. ‘Cause there’s a million ways to be, you know that there are.”

I know, I know. Harold and Maude. I’ve seen it Mudge. You were right, one of the best films ever.

“Be the ball, Danny."

Yes, and Caddyshack. Can I get back to reminiscing?

Speaking of curmudgeons, one of my early posts was an interview with Chris Locke, a huge advocate for “voice” and the person I credit for hooking me up to this little tool.

Back in the day before blogging, I got him to provide a quote for a marketing piece I was doing. I thought I might capitalize on the relationship with a freelance interview tied to his new book, Gonzo Marketing. I didn’t know what I was doing, but Chris had written this piece for EGR about working for IBM, I think, and being bored and just calling people, or people calling him, and just being himself, saying what he really thought, etc.

Fuckin A, I thought. I often thought that after reading those EGRs. So one afternoon at work, I picked up the phone and dialed. Chris answered and we were off. I recorded the whole thing. I couldn’t sell the article to my local free weekly, so I put the interview on my recently begun blog.

Once I got recognition for that, it was like a shot of heroin. Wooohoo, an audience. My blog became performance art, a stage for improv. Those were heady days. It changed me. I'm a better spouse, father, and citizen. Possibly a better worker, although the job I should be doing to support both myself and my ideals has yet to materialize.

But there's always possibility. If the ideological ferment of this corner of the Internet has taught me anything, it's taught me that.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Orwell was Wrong.

Bush says Iran is disrupting Iraq by aiding insurgents

By Seattle Times news services

WASHINGTON — President Bush Monday accused Iran of disrupting Iraq by giving insurgents deadly explosive devices.

In the first of a series of three speeches aimed at stemming public opposition to the war and bolstering his low approval ratings creating the impression that Iran must be attacked by shifting the “threat to freedom” from Iraq to Iran, Bush said that some of the most powerful "improvised explosive devices" (known as IEDs) in Iraq contained "components that came from Iran."

"Coalition forces have seized IEDs and components that were clearly produced in Iran," Bush said in an address at George Washington University. "Such actions — along with Iran's support for terrorism and its pursuit of nuclear weapons — are increasingly isolating Iran, and America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats."


Conflict will define Bush's role in history

By Susan Page, USA TODAY

Bush seems to be thinking about the history books, too. When conservative commentator Fred Barnes interviewed the president last summer for his book Rebel-in-Chief, Bush noted he had read three new books analyzing the first president's place in history. "He said, 'Even after 200 years, they're still reassessing George Washington,' " Barnes recalls. " 'What will they say about me?' "

In better moments, I think will be something like this:

"Generally, when dealing with this gang of thugs, it is better to dispense with psychological theorizing or even political analysis – however fascinating it might be – and strip the situation down to the crudest motivations and causes: greed, stupidity, aggression and fear."

-- Chris Floyd

But then, what are the long-term effects of this:

Karl Rove is telling us what the neocons have in mind—a generational conflict, a Thirty Years’ War, perpetual war for perpetual death merchant profit. Bush’s neocons, followers of the fascist Strauss and Schmitt ideology, fully intend to not only reshape the Middle East, but American society as well.

Rove Vows Forever War, Kurt Nimmo


On Monday, Bush delivered the first of several speeches to mark the war's three-year milestone and defend its progress. "I wish I could tell you that the violence is waning and that the road ahead will be smooth," he said in an address at George Washington University. "It will not." He asked for patience and vowed resolve.

USA Today Iraq Today. USA Tomorrow.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Proud parent moment

As in proud of myself. I'm working from home today. Earlier, my wife was off running errands, the kids were playing and I was in the office on a conference call. Just as the call was wrapping up, I hear wailing down the hall. I wrap up the call and hustle down there. It seems my six-year-old daughter has told my four-year-old daughter that her plastic giraffe is dead. Apparently, when she moved two pandas and an elephant into the giraffe's home it was fatal for the giraffe.

I'm huggin the younger one while I get the story. I get them to play separately, but not without considerable moans and groans from the older ones, including declarations of the utter boredom of her life. I go back to the office. A few minutes later, they both knock on the door. They have a request: Can we watch a video?

No, is my immediate answer. It's always my immediate answer. They get up to one hour of TV a day, less if I can help it. Only PBS and videos from the library. They brought a Barney video home (and before you say anything let me say that the whole "hate Barney" campaign is more a reflection of adult hatred of things they don't understand, in this case simple love and innocence, i.e. childhood, than it is a reflection of the show).

Of course, they whine. I say TV is not the answer to your frustration. This falls on deaf ears (but I know there's no such thing). Still, I do have to work and a video would keep them occupied. How to solve this, achieve desired ends and not compromise my principles?

I ask them to each draw a picture and/or write a story on why they like Barney. I don't want them to run to the TV without thinking about what they are doing. I don't like the passive nature of TV, I say. But I'll give in if they do this for me. They quite happily set about this task.

They thought, they drew upon their resources, and they created. They earned their docile entertainment. I guess.

My wife came home as they were finishing up their drawings, gave them lunch and took them to a children's museum. They never got a chance to watch the video. I said they could watch it this evening.

I'll have to see what I can come up with; if I'm lucky they'll forget about it.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Shut the door, the horse has escaped!

My favorite way to blow a hole in the ridiculous, yet seemingly hypnotic, phrase "war on terror" is to say "there is no war on terror." In doing so, I'm not reframing, which to me says, "if you must have a simplistic worldview, I think I can manage it better for you." Ugh.

No, my approach is more like: excuse me, is this your frame? Yeah? Could you stand back a little? Thanks. (performs act on frame not unlike a young Pete Townsend's treatment of his guitar).

What's this got to do with the price of lemons in Bulgaria? Jeffrey Feldman, who, since I've been quite the rude pundit lately let me say is no doubt a fine gentleman, thinks he has the answer to the whole "war on terrorism" frame. And BuzzFlash agrees.

The new, Democratic frame is "guard the gates." That's what Democrats do. So...they go along with illegal wars of agression and stripping civil rights, but, if they may be so bold as to pound you in the head with it, you may count on them to *guard the gates*.

I can just see Joe and Sally consumer now: hmmm, war on terrorism, end of evil in our time, now in extreme version. Wait, what's this, a new product. Hmm....guard the gates. What, and ignore evil? Just, like, have guards everywhere? I don't get it, they would just shoot them, right? I'll take the war on terrorism, kinda of a crappy product, but I do like the commercials. Stick with the tried and true, I always say. Better scoot, late for the gym....who's that lunatic over there smashing wood on the ground and insulting writers?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Fool who should be outside feels compelled to post

In the fictional post below, "Digby" is a stand-in for the Democratic Party in general, and "Bruce" is a stand-in for frustration with the media-pundit-two-party one-way broadcast that seems to be a world of its own without the awareness, or care, to realize it.

Just trying to bring out issues, such as:

“In its capacity to dehistoricize and depoliticize society, as well as in its aggressive attempts to destroy all of the public spheres necessary for the defense of a genuine democracy, neoliberalism reproduces the conditions for unleashing the most brutalizing forces of capitalism,” writes Henry A. Giroux. “Social Darwinism has been resurrected from the ashes of the 19th century sweatshops and can now be seen in full bloom in most reality TV programs and in the unfettered self-interests that now drives popular culture. As narcissism is replaced by unadulterated materialism, public concerns collapse into utterly private considerations and where public space does exist it is mainly used as a confessional for private woes, a cut throat game of winner take all, or a advertisement for consumerism.”



The fundamental difference between the left and what I'm going to call the leftesque, because I'm in a rotten mood, lies in their view of the political economy. The leftier among the leftesque think that the system is broken, corrupt, poorly designed, etc. . . that it needs to be fixed and that this can somehow be accomplished by electing people who will stick to that task. The left thinks it's working just the way it's supposed to and that party politics are a terrible waste of time. There's a simmering antipathy because they have a lot in common otherwise.

-- J Alva Scruggs

That's all. Just trying to get it out there. Nothin personal.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The real deal

I actually got Ray to get our a see some live music for a change. A blues pianist who I'd caught by accident at a BBQ joint one night when my family was out of town. One of those things where you're mostly there for the BBQ and the soulful atmosphere, and you're head pops up and you think: listen to that, that's the real deal.

So I see he's playin at this blues club in the suburbs, which I'd never been to but heard of. The verbiage on their Web site had real appeal:

Darwin's was born in March of 1999 with no apologies for a name that can only be controversial in unenlightened areas. The Stepford standard of bling and curb appeal are nonexistent as are games and T.V.s. As mediocrity left the building years ago. Worthy performances are expected to hold their own.

So I say, come on out Sweatman, we'll see some live music like we have semi-regularly through the last three decades. Well, folks, there are rewards to marching to your own drummer and not following the crowd, because they certainly weren't at Darwin's last Friday night. Yet it's only the ocassional packed show that delivers the kind of muscianship that was on display at the front of the room.

Anyway, the music, or my reference to the Young Caucasions skit on 70s era Saturday Nigh Live, or the general vibe of the place, or the periodic smoke breaks, or whatever it was, inspired a poem. Check it out.

Digby: Democratic hack

Who can write well, admittedly. But what good is it if you squander the talent trying to prop up a fighter whose perpetual role is to take a fall?

And how do they, the fighter and the eager pundit, get themselves into such a position? By agreeing to play the rigged game in the first place.

Here's Digby:

Life is full of choices. The American people chose to go into Iraq and give huge tax breaks to millionaires through the year 2016 and are willing to pay the price for those priorities.

Aren't they?

Whoa there, hoss. If you're going to talk about the American people's vote, you need to acknowledge that it was taken away during the last two presidential elections. Anything else is pretending, and that's exactly how the country has come to its sorry state, and exactly what the neocons are so good at exploiting.

And, speaking of which, how can Digby write this without feeling silly:

As the media themselves have told us ad nauseum, everything is narrative. If that's so then this port deal is emblematic of the larger story of Bush's incompetence in waging the war on terrorism --- the lack of awareness, the wasted money, the wrong strategy, the failed execution --- all of it. iraq showed the world that our intelligence is terrible...

There's a reason I put the reminder up at the right hand corner: There is no war on terrorism. Bush's whole policy IS terrorism. It is the very definition:

The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments

It's not "the wrong strategy." It is the hidden strategy. But if you are a Democractic hack, you take John Kerry's lead and blather (albeit eloquently) about "incompetence" and "failed execution."

And if I may rant a little further, Iraq didn't show the world that our intelligence is terrible. Surely Digby knows this. He must be aware of the White House Iraq Group, whose purpose was to sell a threat that the White House knew was non-existent. And millions of ordinary people around the world, even in this most psychologically controlled of countries, were also aware of it, and said so with mass demonstrations.

So forgive me if I find little substance over at Hullabaloo. It's all nicely presented, but it's about as real and meaningful as a reality TV show. You might find yourself rooting for the "good guy," but even if he wins, it's gonna have zero effect on your life and you'll eventually wonder why you wasted all that time and emotional investment in the outcome.

It would be refreshing, would it not, if for once one of the participants on a reality TV show would ridicule the whole demeaning sham? It would startle a few more people awake, at least. Provide a little hope, a sign of life.

I don’t mean to be too hard on Digby, but he’s certainly the one to do it. His page even features the famous ranter from the movie Network, Howard Beale, the anchor who couldn’t take the bullshit anymore.

First step, Digby, is to kill your TV. There is no war on terrorism. You don't have to go to the window and yell it, but do try to remember it.

But if you must pander to an audience, there’s a piece of advice in the Network script:

I watched your 6 o'clock news today; it's straight tabloid. You had a minute and a half of that lady riding a bike naked in Central Park; on the other hand, you had less than a minute of hard national and international news. It was all sex, scandal, brutal crime, sports, children with incurable diseases, and lost puppies. So, I don't think I'll listen to any protestations of high standards of journalism [or another “stupid MSM” post] when you're right down on the streets soliciting audiences like the rest of us. Look, all I'm saying is if you're going to hustle, at least do it right.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Last week, progressive radio host Amy Goodman talked with Alfred McCoy, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and author of the book "A Question of Torture: C.I.A. Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror." A long excerpt here, but an important one.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, as a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, you have not stopped looking at the C.I.A., and now you've written this new book. It's called A Question of Torture: C.I.A. Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror. Give us a history lesson.

ALFRED McCOY: Well, if you look at the most famous of photographs from Abu Ghraib, of the Iraqi standing on the box, arms extended with a hood over his head and the fake electrical wires from his arms, okay? In that photograph you can see the entire 50-year history of C.I.A. torture. It's very simple. He's hooded for sensory disorientation, and his arms are extended for self-inflicted pain. And those are the two very simple fundamental C.I.A. techniques, developed at enormous cost.

From 1950 to 1962, the C.I.A. ran a massive research project, a veritable Manhattan Project of the mind, spending over $1 billion a year to crack the code of human consciousness, from both mass persuasion and the use of coercion in individual interrogation. And what they discovered -- they tried LSD, they tried mescaline, they tried all kinds of drugs, they tried electroshock, truth serum, sodium pentathol. None of it worked. What worked was very simple behavioral findings, outsourced to our leading universities -- Harvard, Princeton, Yale and McGill -- and the first breakthrough came at McGill.


What they found time and time again is that electroshock didn't work, and sodium pentathol didn't work, LSD certainly didn't work. You scramble the brain. You got unreliable information. But what did work was the combination of these two rather boring, rather mundane behavioral techniques: sensory disorientation and self-inflicted pain.

And in 1963, the C.I.A. codified these results in the so-called KUBARK Counterintelligence Manual. If you just type the word “KUBARK” into Google, you will get the manual, an actual copy of it, on your computer screen, and you can read the techniques [Read the report. But if you do, read the footnotes, because that's where the behavioral research is. Now, this produced a distinctively American form of torture, the first real revolution in the cruel science of pain in centuries, psychological torture, and it's the one that's with us today, and it's proved to be a very resilient, quite adaptable, and an enormously destructive paradigm.

Let’s make one thing clear. Americans refer to this often times in common parlance as “torture light.” Psychological to torture, people who are involved in treatment tell us it’s far more destructive, does far more lasting damage to the human psyche than does physical torture. As Senator McCain said, himself, last year when he was debating his torture prohibition, faced with a choice between being beaten and psychologically tortured, I'd rather be beaten. Okay? It does far more lasting damage. It is far crueler than physical torture. This is something that we don't realize in this country.

Now, another thing we see is those photographs is the psychological techniques, but the initial research basically developed techniques for attacking universal human sensory receptors: sight, sound, heat, cold, sense of time. That's why all of the detainees describe being put in dark rooms, being subjected to strobe lights, loud music, okay? That’s sensory deprivation or sensory assault. Okay, that was sort of the phase one of the C.I.A. research. But the paradigm has proved to be quite adaptable.

Now, one of the things that Donald Rumsfeld did, right at the start of the war of terror, in late 2002, he appointed General Geoffrey Miller to be chief at Guantanamo, alright, because the previous commanders at Guantanamo were too soft on the detainees, and General Miller turned Guantanamo into a de facto behavioral research laboratory, a kind of torture research laboratory. And under General Miller at Guantanamo, they perfected the C.I.A. torture paradigm. They added two key techniques. They went beyond the universal sensory receptors of the original research. They added to it an attack on cultural sensitivity, particularly Arab male sensitivity to issues of gender and sexual identity.

And then they went further still. Under General Miller, they created these things called “Biscuit” teams, behavioral science consultation teams, and they actually had qualified military psychologists participating in the ongoing interrogation, and these psychologists would identify individual phobias, like fear of dark or attachment to mother, and by the time we're done, by 2003, under General Miller, Guantanamo had perfected the C.I.A. paradigm, and it had a three-fold total assault on the human psyche: sensory receptors, self-inflicted pain, cultural sensitivity, and individual fears and phobia.

AMY GOODMAN: And then they sent General Miller to, quote, "Gitmo-ize" Abu Ghraib. Professor McCoy, we’re going to break for a minute, and then we'll come back. Professor Alfred McCoy, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His latest book is called A Question of Torture: C.I.A. Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror.


AMY GOODMAN: We are talking to Alfred McCoy, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, author of a number of books. The Politics of Heroin: C.I.A. Complicity in the Global Drug Trade almost had him killed. Afterwards, the C.I.A. tried to have the book squelched, but ultimately it was published. Then A Question of Torture: C.I.A. Interrogation from the Cold War to the War On Terror is his latest book, and we're talking about the history of torture. Continue with what you were saying, talking about the Biscuit teams, the use of psychologists in Guantanamo, and then Geoffrey Miller, going from Guantanamo to, quote, “Gitmo-ize” Abu Ghraib.

ALFRED McCOY: In mid-2003, when the Iraqi resistance erupted, the United States found it had no intelligence assets; it had no way to contain the insurgency, and they -- the U.S. military was in a state of panic. And at that moment, they began sweeping across Iraq, rounding up thousands of Iraqi suspects, putting many of them in Abu Ghraib prison. At that point, in late August 2003, General Miller was sent from Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib, and he brought his techniques with him. He brought a CD, and he brought a manual of his techniques. He gave them to the M.P. officers, the Military Intelligence officers and to General Ricardo Sanchez, the U.S. Commander in Iraq.

In September of 2003, General Sanchez issued orders, detailed orders, for expanded interrogation techniques beyond those allowed in the U.S. Army Field Manual 3452, and if you look at those techniques, what he's ordering, in essence, is a combination of self-inflicted pain, stress positions and sensory disorientation, and if you look at the 1963 C.I.A. KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation Manual, you look at the 1983 C.I.A. Interrogation Training Manual that they used in Honduras for training Honduran officers in torture and interrogation, and then twenty years later, you look at General Sanchez's 2003 orders, there's a striking continuity across this forty-year span, in both the general principles, this total assault on the existential platforms of human identity and existence, okay? And the specific techniques, the way of achieving that, through the attack on these sensory receptors.

AMY GOODMAN: And Rumsfeld's comment, when asked if it was torture, when people were forced to stand hours on end, that he stands at his desk?

ALFRED McCOY: Right, he wrote that in one of his memos. When he was asked to review the Guantanamo techniques in late 2003 or early 2004, he scribbled that marginal note and said, you know, “I stand at my desk eight hours a day.” He has a designer standing desk. “How come we're limiting these techniques of the stress position to just four hours?” So, in other words, that was a clear signal from the Defense Secretary. Now, one of the problems beyond the details of these orders is torture is an extraordinarily dangerous thing. There's an absolute ban on torture for a very good reason. Torture taps into the deepest recesses, unexplored recesses of human consciousness, where creation and destruction coexist, where the infinite human capacity for kindness and infinite human capacity for cruelty coexist, and it has a powerful perverse appeal, and once it starts, both the perpetrators and the powerful who order them, let it spread, and it spreads out of control.

So, I think when the Bush administration gave those orders for, basically, techniques tantamount to torture at the start of the war on terror, I think it was probably their intention that these be limited to top al-Qaeda suspects, but within months, we were torturing hundreds of Afghanis at Bagram near Kabul, and a few months later in 2003, through these techniques, we were torturing literally thousands of Iraqis. And you can see in those photos, beyond the details of the techniques that we've described, you can see how that once it starts, it becomes this Dantesque hell, this kind of play palace of the darkest recesses of human consciousness. That’s why it’s necessary to maintain an absolute prohibition on torture. There is no such thing as a little bit of torture. The whole myth of scientific surgical torture, that torture advocates, academic advocates in this country came up with, that's impossible. That cannot operate. It will inevitably spread.

AMY GOODMAN: So when, Professor McCoy, you started seeing these images, the first photos that came out at Abu Ghraib, the pictures we showed of the, you know, hooded man, electrodes coming out of his fingers, standing on the box, your response?

ALFRED McCOY: Oh, I mean, the reason I wrote this book is when that photo came out in April 2004 on CBS news, at the Times, William Safire, for example, writing in the New York Times said this was the work of creeps. Later on, Defense Secretary Schlesinger said that this was just abuse by a few people on the night shift. There was another phrase: “Recycled hillbillies from Cumberland, Maryland.” In other words, this was the bad apple thesis. We could blame these bad apples. I looked at those photos, I didn't see individual abuse. What I saw was two textbook trademark C.I.A. psychological interrogation techniques: self-inflicted pain and sensory disorientation.

UPDATE: See also One Nation Under Psy-Ops for cogent thoughts on the above, and other matters.