Archive for October, 2010

When Dirt is Dug Up, Muddy the Waters

By Thomas Wark

Julian Assange is what he is because the American media are not what they should be.

Rather than cleaning up their own act, however, American journalists have become willing accomplices in the establishment’s predictable response to Assange’s WikiLeaks revelations.  They are attacking his character.

CNN arranged an interview with Assange ostensibly to talk about the content of the thousands of secret documents WikiLeaks acquired and made public about the Iraq war. But the questioning prompted Assange to ask, “Do you want to talk about deaths of 104,000 people or my personal life?”  When the personal questions persisted, he walked out of the interview.  This act, declared Howard Kurtz, the media’s foremost apologist from his pulpits at the Washington Post and CNN, proved that Assange is “delusional.”

Indeed, “delusional” seems to be the adjective of choice in the orchestrated attacks on Assange.  John Burns, a darling of the Pentagon, gave it a workout in his hatchet job on Assange that the New York Times felt compelled to give equal prominence with its report on the actual content of the leaked documents.  This is what the media today call “balance.”

I worked with the Times’s late Tad Szulc  when he obtained a series of secret documents revealing illegal arms shipments by the U.S. government to countries to which such shipments were banned by law.  The newspaper did not feel compelled at that time to publish side-by-side with Tad’s disclosures an innuendo-packed account of his sex life or his racetrack associates.

Gene Roberts, editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, hailed his multiple Pulitzer Prize winning reporters, Don Barlett and Jim Steele, as “document reporters.”  Their work was never accompanied, with equal prominence, by sidebars quoting unnamed sources about shady allegations of Barlett’s personal life in Akron or Steele’s college romances.

I don’t know if Assange was set up by his enemies for the rape allegations against him that are still under investigation in Sweden, but I do know that such tactics are almost as old as the sex act itself. More than half a century ago an upstart coach in another state snatched three prized football recruits from Ohio, where the imperious Woodrow Wilson Hayes was the supreme dictator of the Ohio State University football program.  Not only that, but the upstart coach, with all three of his Ohio recruits playing prime roles, upset a heavily favored Ohio State team.  The very next year, three of the upstart’s best players were suspended on charges of rape and sexual assault brought by two young women.  Only later was it revealed — by a “document reporter” — that the women who filed the charges had themselves been accused of prostitution in, of all places, Columbus, OH, home of the Buckeyes.

The last really big release of war documents the government didn’t want  us to see was the Pentagon Papers, given to my friend and colleague Neil Sheehan by the whistle-blower, Dan Ellsberg.  Neil made the Nixon enemies list; Nixon sent the plumbers after Ellsberg, raiding his psychiatrists’ office to dig up dirt.  Ellsberg offered the documents to Sheehan not because of Neil’s exemplary personal life, but because he had demonstrated the highest integrity in his reporting from Vietnam. Would that, say, Burns had demonstrated such independence from the generals’ handouts in his reporting on Iraq.

I know of no law that requires a digger after important  documents to be a candidate for canonization.  In fact, one of the first, best “document reporters” I ever worked with would have had great difficulty trying to defend his personal life in light of the conventional mores of those times.  But his documents were real and their disclosure put some criminals in jail.

The important side issue about Julian Assange isn’t who went to bed with him, under what circumstances, or whether he’s a pleasant  fellow to work with.  The main issue is the content of the documents he makes public; the important side issue is why in the hell the media aren’t digging them up themselves.

These things are documents, not delusions.

Read more blogs by Thomas Wark at www.bordellopianist.blogspot.com

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Who has no access to what???

Posted Sept. 23 by Thomas Wark

Why must there always be bad news with the good?

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal headlined the good news: we’re getting rid of Larry Summers, co-architect of the great recession and of the recovery efforts that rewarded rich and incompetent CEOs while failing to provide jobs for millions of unemployed working men and women.

Tucked within the article was the bad news: unnamed sources have told the Journal that Dr. Kidglove is going to appoint a CEO — yes, a corporate CEO! — to replace Summers.  Such an appointment, the article said, would assuage concerns that corporations don’t have access to the White House.  The article gave no source of the “concerns” other than the author’s own fantasies, or his Murdoch editor’s, or the minds of the two remaining corporate CEOs who have not yet been given the opportunity to write economic or social legislation for the entire country.  Like the Journal’s sources, the two CEOs asked not to be named because of the embarrassment of not having set foot in the White House except for social occasions in more than two years.

Like snowballs, gobs of bovine excrement roll downhill.  By today, the media consensus is that the administration must assuage “concerns” about corporate access to the White House by appointing a CEO to succeed Summers.

As Art Buchwald used to say, you couldn’t make this stuff up.

No corporate access?

Who in the hell crammed into the Oval office to accept Dr. Kidglove’s sellout of the public option in the health care bill?  If those weren’t the top people from pharmaceutical manufacturing corporations, then Labron James isn’t in Heat.

Who the hell wrote the loopholes in the health care act that the insurers have already begun using to raise rates to intolerable levels, refuse coverage to children with prior illnesses and put unrealistically low limits on lifetime coverage for major health problems?  It wasn’t any of the now 50 million Americans with no health care plans.  It wasn’t any of the young cancer victims I know through my work in cancer survivors’ organizations.  It wasn’t Dennis Kucinich.  It was insurance c–o-r-p-o-r-a-t-i-o-n-s.

Who the hell fueled the bizarre thought process that persuaded the Gang of Five on the Supreme Court to give corporations a license for unlimited spending to buy candidates for every elected office in the land?  Mother Theresa?

Who the hell bamboozled the Oval Office into botching the BP oil spill!  Who the hell bulldozed Dr. Kidglove into backing away from a really tough climate and energy bill?  Hint: look up the richest billionaires in the energy industry.  They run c-o-r-p-o-r-a-t-i-o-n-s.

Who the hell do you think has intimidated Dr. Kidglove to endorse the mindless but oh, so profitable policy of endless war?  It couldn’t possibly have been the defense industry c-o-r-p-o-r-a-t-i-o-n-s and the Pentagon, also known as the military-industrial complex, could it? Nah.  Had to be Islam.

Once upon a time a president with gonads fired a big-ego general who defied him, reminding Dugout Doug that the Constitution made the president the commander-in-chief.  Today, Gen. Petraeus defies Dr. Kidglove and says he’ll keep troops in Afghanistan as long as he damned well pleases.  No contrary word has been heard fro you-know-who.

He is, after all, Corporate Amnerica’s general.  Ain’t no power on earth stronger than that.

Read more by Thomas Wark at www.bordellopianist.blogspot.com

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Life in the Undergrowth


By Gordon Solberg

Laura and I have been fans of the BBC nature documentaries ever since we watched the “Planet Earth” series a couple of years ago.  The BBC is spending big bucks sending film crews across the planet, evidently with the philosophy of documenting pre-dieoff Nature before it dies off.  The BBC film artists use the latest high-tech techniques, such as aerial photography with motion-canceling hardware to prevent vibration, or time-lapse photography to reveal slow-moving animal and plant behavior.  The camera people are famous for sitting in an uncomfortable blind for a month until they get that shot of the rare snow leopard or whatever.  The BBC has definitely taken the art of nature photography to the next level.

The “Life in the Undergrowth” series — narrated by everybody’s favorite dotty old uncle, David Attenborough — utilizes colonoscopy-type hardware to penetrate the mysteries of insect life underground.  Inserting miniature cameras with fiber-optic cables into the insects’ burrows, they have uncovered some astounding aspects of insect behavior, and I have the sense that there’s an infinite amount yet to be discovered.  I’m impressed by the naturalists who have patiently watched these insects long enough, and consistently enough, to figure out what they’re really doing.

What the naturalists have discovered is a miniature world of amazing complexity and elegance.  I can’t help feeling that there’s some kind of INTENT behind it all, that mere chance can’t explain how all this came to be.  Many times while watching the series I would blurt out, “How’d they come up with THAT behavior?” or “Who invented THAT?”

Here’s a favorite example:  There’s a type of blister beetle that lives in the desert.  When the babies hatch out of their eggs and leave the nest, there’s nothing for them to eat.  What are they supposed to do?  Well, hundreds of them climb together to the top of a plant stalk and form a tight cluster.  Then they emit the smell of a female bumblebee.  At first glance, the cluster of blister beetles looks and smells like a female bee.  A male bumblebee bumbles along, finds the ball of tiny blister beetles, and attempts to mate with it.  Hah, fooled you!  Many of the blister beetles manage to climb onto the male bee as he attempts to mate.  When he finally finds a real female bee to mate with, the blister beetles climb onto her, and are transported to her nest, which is full of pollen and bumblebee larvae.  Snug in their new home, the baby blister beetles eat all the pollen, and then the bee larvae as well.  Finally, fully grown, they emerge onto the surface yet again, to mate with each other and perpetuate their species.

When you consider that there must be thousands of examples of insect behavior every bit as  cunning as that, it gives one pause.  Clearly, human consciousness has a narrow, survival-focused orientation, and has trouble comprehending anything other than the most superficial aspects of the animal world (or the rest of reality, for that matter).  Oftentimes throughout the various BBC documentaries I’ve watched, the narrator reveals an anthropomorphism that is irrelevant and doesn’t actually exist except within his own imagination.  For example, predators aren’t the “enemies” of the prey.  There’s no “desperate search for survival” going on.  The natural world exists within a serenity (no matter how violent it may seem) that most humans have simply lost touch with.  Actually, we humans should drop all concepts including “serenity” and realize that there is an amazing elegance to it-all that should perhaps inspire us to shut up and let the awe take over.  A little awe never hurt anybody.

Part of the human problem is that our senses, and therefore our understanding, are more limited than we realize.  We are mere apes with a brain mutation, and are overwhelmed by the noise of our out-of-control mentalizing.  Traditionally, humans have postulated a God “out there” who waves his magic wand and makes it all happen.  More recently, some humans, whom we call scientists, have postulated the theory of evolution, which is true enough as a mechanism, but comes up short in the “how could this possibly be” department.

The situation seems clear enough:  Our human senses, and our physical instruments, are simply incapable of perceiving the vast majority of existence.  We are nearly blind and don’t know it.  We have fought our way to the top of the food chain and there’s nothing left to stop us.  We lay waste to whatever we touch.  We consider ourselves to be outside of Nature, superior to Nature.  Such delusions cannot stand, not in the long run, as the imminent destruction of the biosphere is about to reveal.  Some of us realize what is happening, in our vague human way, yet our understanding remains locked within the intellect, and our behavior doesn’t change.  I don’t see any solution to our predicament, and I don’t think anybody else does, either.

In the meantime, these BBC documentaries will allow future generations, if any, to witness the natural world as it once was.  This is such an amazing world of interlocking elegance, it’s a pity we’re so busy destroying it.  But there I go, anthropomorphising again.

Gordon Solberg’s new, improved New Earth Times blog has a new address: http://newearthtimes2.blogspot.com .  He also has a southwestern-oriented blog, Dry Country News:  http://realdrycountrynews.blogspot.com .

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