Thursday, July 16, 2009


A useful skill to develop is to be able to spot the propaganda pieces that counterfit themselves as 'news' articles. Sometimes, its ridiculously easy. Just look for the pieces in major media outlets that would probably get an F in a freshman journalism class. In that regard, I call your attention to Supreme leader Khamenei diminished in Iranians' eyes by Borzou Daragahi in the LA Times.

The lead on the article is this.
For two decades he was considered to be above the petty political squabbles, a cautious elder contemplating questions of faith and Islam while guiding his nation into the future.

But Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose title of supreme leader makes him Iran's ultimate authority, has gotten his hands dirty. His decision in recent weeks to so stridently support the nation's controversial president after a disputed election has dramatically changed his image among his people, setting in motion an unpredictable series of events that could fundamentally change the Islamic Republic.

Note that there are no sources for this information. This is just the 'reporter' talking expressing his own opinions. But, we do gets some supporting quotes in the next paragraph.
"Public respect for him has been significantly damaged," said one analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Opposing him is no longer the same as opposing God."

So, in the opening three paragraphs you get two of the strong signs of a pure propaganda piece. The 'reporter' expressing his own opinions instead of reporting on what the rest of the world is doing. Then you get 'anonymous' sources. Anytime you see anonymous sources, you have to ask why. In this case, its an 'anonymous' analyst. Why? Are analysts around the world being assassinated for analyzing?

Or is it just because it would discredit the story if you knew who said that. For instance, if you read "analysts working in the CIA's 'color revolution' section" as the attribution to the quote. Or maybe, "my cousin Vinnie says" wouldn't go over very strongly with the reader. So it gets changed to an anonymous analyst. When you see this as a reader, you should just make up the biased or worthless 'analyst' that you can think of and picture that quote coming from them. That's about how credible it is.

But then we get in the last paragraphs of the opening section an even better 'source'.

The venerated Khamenei has even become the target of public jokes and criticism.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "commits crimes, and the leader supports him," was a popular slogan during the riots of June 20, the day after Khamenei delivered a blistering Friday sermon in which he said that the election a week earlier had been won by Ahmadinejad.

At July 9 demonstrations, protesters mocked the ayatollah's son, Mojtaba, who many believe hopes to succeed his father.

Wow! Protesters have mocked this person. That's a 'source' for a article in a major media outlet like the LA Times? I wonder what other major stories and people they could report on with standards like that?

Ok, so in the whole opening section of this article, you get 1) the reporters opinion, 2) some anonymous 'analyst', and 3) what the protesters said in a protest as the sources of information about the assertion in the headline.

The rest of the article highlights a fourth sign of propaganda. It does have attributed quotes, but they all come from one side. You see 'reformist cleric' and 'reformist journalist' a lot in the rest of the piece.

And they wonder why newspapers are going broke? Who on earth would be dumb enough to pay money to buy this junk?

Of course, the interesting question to ask is 'why was this article ever printed?' Surely no competent editor looked at this as a submission and felt it was such wonderful journalism that it had to go out to the world. Any new writer who turned in such a piece would seem to be deserving of scorn and abuse from an experienced editor. So, why is the LA Times running this piece?

And by the way, I went and looked at the LA Times website. I was wondering if they clearly marked this as a 'op-ed' piece from a person on one side of the conflict. Nope. Its under the section 'World News'. The author appears to be a staff member of the LA Times. He has four separate pieces on this day alone. From one, it appears that he's their writer stationed in Beirut to cover the region. Thus, the question seems to change to why does a struggling paper like the LA Times hire an incompetent propagandist who churns out one-sided pieces to cover a key region of the world? One thing you can tell is that its apparently not their goal to provide their customers with factual and unbiased information about this region. And they wonder why they are going broke?

So, I pretty much now know to ignore pretty much anything that appears in the LA Times about this key region of the world. Well, I knew that already.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Star Wars Insanity

How US Missile Defense Plans Sabotaged Nuclear Disarmament Talks With Russia by Alice Slater via

If you watch American politics long enough, you eventually get to see both parties take both sides of any issue. For example, old fogeys like me remember how once the Democrats opposed the 'star war's idea of a missile defense shield.

Had Obama been willing to forego the illusory US missile shield (which is incapable of offering any protection against incoming missiles, since those missiles could easily be accompanied by a barrage of indistinguishable decoys rendering the missile defenses useless) Russia might well have agreed to larger reductions in their mutual arsenals which together now total about 25,000 warheads with only about 1,000 more in the possession of all seven other nuclear powers—UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. If the US and Russia agree to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear bombs to 1,000 or less, they would then have the moral authority required to bring all the nuclear weapons states to the negotiating table to eliminate nuclear weapons.

Lets be clear. This is a boondoggle that pumps billions into the 'defense' industries, while providing no real protection to any American. First off, its only useful against ICBMs that fly way up high into space and come back down. Nice in a 1960's JFK 'missile gap' sort of world. But completely useless against more modern weapons like the ground hugging cruise missiles that the US has been launching against the rest of the world for at least 20 years now. And also useless against submarine launched missiles and any sort of bomber attack.

Second, it doesn't really work against ICBMs. The US military has been rigging the tests by simplifying them for years, and the thing still barely works, sometimes, in the rigged tests. The big problem is that any such system can be overwhelmed by numbers. Russia today still has so many missiles we couldn't possibly defend against them all. And, there is the easy solution to be implemented to build cheap decoy warheads which would be used to flood such a system with targets to the point where it couldn't possibly stop them all.

And those last three words are important, "stop them all". Do we really want a 'defense' system where handfuls of doomed survivors can look up from the rubble of our nuked cities and say 'well, we stopped half the warheads coming towards us'. Not much good when your opposition launched a redundant four warheads at every target.

Nope, this whole thing has been one vast boondoggle to pump billions of dollars to the defense contractors building the thing. And now, Obama, just like Bush before him, has turned away a real possibility of negotiating down the numbers of suicide bombs that the US and Russia both aim at each other. And he's done so because he's unwilling to stop giving billions of dollars that we can't afford these days to contractors who are building a system that will never work.

And this is better than Republican rule exactly how?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Practically On the Table

Practically On the Table by Ralph Nader

Mr. Nader ends a good article on how the Democrats are shafting us on 'health care reform' with this ...

Face it, America. You are a corporate-controlled country with the symbols of democracy in the constitution and statutes just that—symbols of what the founding fathers believed or hoped would be reality.

Even when the global corporate giants come to Washington dripping with crime, greed, speculation and cover-ups, and demand gigantic bailouts on the backs of taxpayers and their children, neither the Republicans nor the now majority Democrats are willing to face them down.

The best of America started with our forebears who faced down those who told them “it’s not going to happen,” or “it’s not practical” to abolish slavery, give women the right to vote, elevate the conditions of workers and farmers, provide social security and medicare, make the air and water less polluted and so on. These pioneers, with grit and persistence, told their members of Congress and Presidents—“It is going to happen.”

To paraphrase the words of a great man, the late Reverend William Sloan Coffin, it is as if those legendary stalwarts from our past, knowing how much more there is to achieve a practical, just society, are calling out to us, the people today, and saying “get it done, get it done!”

Lying, deceitful politicians, who promise to represent and serve the people just to get elected, but who then serve only the rich and powerful once in office ... these are not new to America. What seems to be new to America is the lazy acceptance that their corrupt world is all that we can be.

Obama’s Rollback Strategy: Honduras, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan (and the Boomerang Effect)

Obama’s Rollback Strategy: Honduras, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan (and the Boomerang Effect) by Prof. James Petras on Global Research.

An excellent article that deserves to be read in its entirety.

The recent events in Honduras and Iran, which pit democratically elected regimes against pro-US military and civilian actors intent on overthrowing them can best be understood as part of a larger White House strategy designed to rollback the gains achieved by opposition government and movements during the Bush years.

In a manner reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s New Cold War policies, Obama has vastly increased the military budget, increased the number of combat troops, targeted new regions for military intervention and backed military coups in regions traditionally controlled by the US .

[skip a bit]
Obama’s rollback strategy is evident from his very first pronouncements, promising to reassert US dominance (‘leadership’) in the Middle East, his projection of massive military power in Afghanistan and military expansion in Pakistan and the destabilization of regimes through deep intervention by proxies as in Iran and Honduras.

Obama’s pursuit of the rollback strategy operates a multi-track policy of overt military intervention, covert ‘civil society’ operations and soft-sell, seemingly benign diplomatic rhetoric, which relies heavily on mass media propaganda.

OK, I'm a pretty consistent critic of President Obama. This isn't anything personal as I've never met the man. But, I've long had this feeling that Obama consisted of a weak and phony progressive cover over top of someone who would follow the same policies demanded by those with power. Now, as we near the 200 day mark of the Obama Presidency, isn't this becoming very apparent?

We have a Hoover-esque economic strategy that involves pumping trillions of dollars into the Wall Street firms that financed Obama's campaign. This is doing little or nothing to reverse the economic downturn that is clobbering most American citizens these days. But it has rescued the balance sheets of the Wall Street firms and created a phony stock market rally that is going in the opposite direction from real economic activity. Which means of course that it can't last for long.

We have a foreign policy that Reagan would seem to admire. We've expanded our war in Afghanistan, doubling the number of troops there. We've escalated that same war across the border into Pakistan, with both 'drone' strikes and a proxy military war there. We've attempted a coup \ 'color revolution' in Iran, and continue to threaten military attacks on Iran. Now we've orchestrated a coup in Honduras.

And here's a key point. Personally, I've been overjoyed watching watching the people of Central and South America elect populist leaders that actually seem to try to represent their citizens instead of making government just a tool to further enrich wealthy elites. Yet, the Obama administration has clearly always regarded these elections as 'set-backs' that need to be overturned and reversed. Obama's echoing of right-wing lies and rhetoric about President Chavez is a key sign of this attitude.

Of course, its no surprise that an Obama administration would oppose other Presidents who put the interests of their citizens ahead of the interests of wealthy elites. Clearly Obama is an opponent of such views. After all, his Hoover-esque economic policies and his Reagan-esque foreign policies are a clear declaration of his own dedication to serve the wealthy elites over the interests of ordinary American citizens.

If you doubt this, just watch what comes out of the 'health care reform' process in this Democratic government. Will it be a single-payer health care system that provides care to all at lower costs to the nation? Or will it be something else that protects and expands insurance, HMO, and pharmaceutical company profits? Wanna place a small bet who Obama and the Democrats are going to represent and serve?

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Obama Justice System

The Obama Justice System by Glenn Greenwald on

...even for those detainees to whom the Obama administration deigns to give a real trial in a real court, the President has the power to continue to imprison them indefinitely even if they are acquitted at their trial. About this assertion of "presidential post-acquittal detention power" -- an Orwellian term (and a Kafka-esque concept) that should send shivers down the spine of anyone who cares at all about the most basic liberties -- Ackerman wrote, with some understatement, that it "moved the Obama administration into new territory from a civil liberties perspective." Law professor Jonathan Turley was more blunt: "The Obama Administration continues its retention and expansion of abusive Bush policies — now clearly Obama policies on indefinite detention."

Wow, so if the King says you're guilty, then you're guilty. No matter what some useless jury says.

This has been a long and steady fight for nearly a thousand years now. Dates all the way back the Magna Carta, when the rebellious English peasants tried to put some limit on the power of the king to just throw anyone they wanted into prison. They insisted then that anyone had the right to a trial by a jury of citizens. This is the first and most fundamental right that exists in a western democracy. If the king can throw anyone in prison at any time for as long as they want, then it can't be a free society and a democracy.

Think about that the next time they tell you that they are doing this to 'protect your freedoms.'

Of course, its always some 'other' who's thrown in jail. But then again, they always come for somebody else first. The key question to ask is this ... "If we allow our government to have this power, who else will they use it on in the future?" These things always seem to grow and get worse.

And of course, the really big question is this. How long will the people on the left continue to support Obama as he continues one awful Bush policy after another? The 2010 elections are coming up. Right now is the time to be organizing the grassroots campaigns that we need to challenge for congressional seats. The best way to send a strong message of 'Stop This!' to the Democrats is to be seen to be organizing those campaigns right now.

Meanwhile, another view of Democratic justice here in Colorado. Colorado is a medical marijuana state. This means that if a doctor certifies that you are a patient that has conditions that may benefit from marijuana, such as nausea or severe pain, then you can register with the state. You can also designate a care-giver who is allowed to grow marijuana for you.

This was set in the Colorado Constitution when an amendment was passed in 2000. Now the State Board of Health is trying to change the rules to make this much harder on people trying to use marijuana for health issues. They want to pass changes in the law saying a 'care-giver' can only serve five patients. And that they also have to come over and cook or clean.

Huh? Not exactly sure what a cleaning lady and someone who knows how to grow good pot have in common? Sounds like at best they are playing with semantics about the word 'care-giver'. The bottom line is that they seem to be intent on messing with people who use marijuana for medical conditions.

I'm waiting for the companion bill that says that Walgreens can only serve five patients per pharmacist, and that the people who make Viagra have to come over and clean up my house.

Keep in mind, this is an issue that was voted on by the citizens of Colorado and passed in a statewide election. Keep in mind also that currently the Governor of Colorado is a Democrat (Bill Ritter), and the Democrats control both houses of the state legislature. Thus, there's no doubt that this is a Democratic policy.

We keep being told that we are fighting for 'democracy'. But, shouldn't 'democracy' mean that when the voters in a state express their support for a policy, that the state officials should respect and implement that policy. Instead, it appears that the officials of the government elected and paid for by the citizens are opposing the policy the citizens have said they want implemented.

When the government refuses to act on the expressed wishes of the people, its not a 'democracy'. Just like it isn't 'freedom' when the President can hold anyone in prison even after they are acquitted by a jury.

Gawd, gotta love those Democrats. And this is better than the Republicans exactly how?

Sensible Colorado: Working for an Effective Drug Policy

PS ... if anyone in Colorado sees this, come to the State Board of Health hearing on July 20th at 8:30am in Denver at ...Turnhalle Room, Tivoli Student Union, Conference Room 250, Auraria Campus, 900 Auraria Parkway, Denver, CO 80204.