Posted by: quiscus | January 19, 2011

January 19, 2011

1.  “WikiLeaks More Embarrassing than Damaging, Officials Admit

The comments further damage the credibility of official lamentations about the horrors of WikiLeaks revealing truth to the American public, after Pentagon officials also privately conceded that no one had actually been killed by WikiLeaks, even as they were publicly accusing the organization of having “blood on its hands.”

So far the sum total of the releases has been public shaming of a number of officials and forcing the State Department to relocate some of their envoys because of inappropriate comments they made. The crimes detailed in the leaks have so far gone entirely unpunished.”

2.  “Identifying Barbarians

Here’s a question: Why don’t the dead of our foreign wars register on us, particularly the civilians killed in numbers that, if attributed to our enemies or past imperial armies, would be seen as the acts of barbarians?

I can imagine at least three factors involved:


Tribalism: Yes, we consider them the tribal ones, but we have our own tribal qualities, including a deep-seated feeling that what’s close at hand (us) is more valuable than what’s far away (them). The valorizing of your own group and the devaluing of those outside it undoubtedly couldn’t be more human. Who doesn’t know, for instance, that when it comes to media coverage, one blond American child kidnapped and murdered is worth 500 Indonesians drowned on a ferry?


Racism/The Superiority Factor: This subject is no longer raised in connection with American wars, and yet it’s obviously of importance. If 16 Americans had been killed and 13 wounded in six mistaken-targeting incidents even in distant Afghanistan, we would be outraged. There would be news coverage, congressional hearings, who knows what. If there had been the same number of dead Canadians or Germans, there would still have been an outcry. But Afghans? Dark-skinned peoples from an alien culture in the backlands of the planet? No way. Our condolences every now and then are the best we have on tap.

The American Way of War: Once upon a time, we Americans responded to air war, especially against civilian populations, as barbaric and, shocked by its effects in Guernica, Shanghai, London, and elsewhere, denounced it. That, of course, was before air war became such an integral part of the American way of war. In recent years, American military spokespeople have regularly boasted of the increasingly “surgical” and “precise” nature of air power. The most impressively surgical thing about air war, however, is the way it has been excised from the category of barbarism in our American world. The suicide bomber or car bomber is a monster, a barbarian. Drones, planes, helicopters? No such thing, despite the stream of innocents they kill.

No wonder when we look in the mirror, we don’t see the grinning face of a maniac; sometimes we see no face at all, quite literally in the case of the Pakistani tribal borderlands where hundreds have died (always “militants” or “suspected militants”) thanks to pilotless drones and video-game-style war.”

3.  What a terrible, vile human being he is.

Top Ten Horrible Things done to Us by Outgoing Sen. Joe Lieberman

4.  “Beyond the Swindle of the Corporate University: Higher Education in the Service of Democracy

Thinking is not the intellectual reproduction of what already exists anyway. Open thinking points beyond itself.  -Theodor W. Adorno

This is particularly disturbing given the unapologetic turn that higher education has taken in its willingness to mimic corporate culture and ingratiate itself to the national security state.(7) Universities now face a growing set of challenges arising from budget cuts, diminishing quality, the downsizing of faculty, the militarization of research and the revamping of the curriculum to fit the interests of the market. In the United States, many of the problems in higher education can be linked to low funding, the domination of universities by market mechanisms, the rise of for-profit colleges, the intrusion of the national security state and the lack of faculty self-governance, all of which not only contradict the culture and democratic value of higher education, but also makes a mockery of the very meaning and mission of the university as a place both to think and to provide the formative culture and agents that make a democracy possible. Universities and colleges have been largely abandoned as democratic public spheres dedicated to providing a public service, expanding upon humankind’s great intellectual and cultural achievements and educating future generations to be able to confront the challenges of a global democracy. As the humanities and liberal arts are downsized, privatized and commodified, higher education finds itself caught in the paradox of claiming to invest in the future of young people, while offering them few intellectual, civic and moral supports.

If the commercialization, commodification and militarization of the university continues unabated, higher education will become yet another one of a number of institutions incapable of fostering critical inquiry, public debate, human acts of justice and common deliberation. Such democratic public spheres are especially important to defend at a time when any space that produces “critical thinkers capable of putting existing institutions into question” is under siege by powerful economic and political interests.(8)

Higher education has a responsibility not only to search for the truth regardless of where it may lead, but also to educate students to make authority and power politically and morally accountable. Though questions regarding whether the university should serve strictly public rather than private interests no longer carry the weight of forceful criticism as they did in the past, such questions are still crucial in addressing the purpose of higher education and what it might mean to imagine the university’s full participation in public life as the protector and promoter of democratic values.”

5.  “Obama officials caught deceiving about WikiLeaks

Whenever the U.S. Government wants to demonize a person or group in order to justify attacks on them, it follows the same playbook:  it manufactures falsehoods about them, baselessly warns that they pose Grave Dangers and are severely harming our National Security, peppers all that with personality smears to render the targeted individuals repellent on a personal level, and feeds it all to the establishment American media, which then dutifully amplifies and mindlessly disseminates it all.  That, of course, was the precise scheme that so easily led the U.S. into attacking Iraq; it’s what continues to ensure support for the whole litany of War on Terror abuses and the bonanza of power and profit which accompanies them; and it’s long been obvious that this is the primary means for generating contempt for WikiLeaks to enable its prosecution and ultimate destruction (an outcome the Pentagon has been plotting since at least 2008).

The case against WikiLeaks is absolutely this decade’s version of the Saddam/WMD campaign.  It’s complete with frivolous invocations of Terrorism, grave public warnings about National Security negated by concealed information, endlessly repeated falsehoods, a competition among political and media elites to advocate the harshest measures possible, a cowardly Congress that (with a few noble exceptions) acquiesces to it all on a bipartisan basis and is eager to enable it, and a media that not only fails to subject these fictions to critical scrutiny, but does the opposite:  it takes the lead in propagating them.  One might express bewilderment that most American journalists never learn their lesson about placing their blind faith in government claims, but that assumes — falsely — that their objective is to report truthfully.”

6.  “The Media in America: Selling Views, Calling it News

there are five reasons that the mainstream media is worthless. (1) Self-Censorship by journalists who are afraid to do what journalists were put on this green earth to do. “There’s the intense pressure to maintain access to insider sources. . . . There’s the fear of being labeled partisan if one’s bullshit-calling isn’t meted out in precisely equal increments along the political spectrum.” (2) Censorship by higher-ups. “If journalists do want to speak out about an issue, they also are subject to tremendous pressure by their editors or producers to kill the story.” (3) To drum support for war. “Why has the American press consistently served the elites in disseminating their false justifications for war? One of the reasons is because the large media companies are owned by those who support the militarist agenda or even directly profit from war and terror (for example, NBC . . . was owned by General Electric, one of the largest defense contractors in the world — which directly profits from war, terrorism and chaos).” (4) Access. “For $25,000 to $250,000, The Washington Post . . . offered lobbyists and association executives off-the-record, nonconfrontational access to ‘those powerful few’ Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and — at first — even the paper’s own reporters and editors.” And (5) Censorship by the Government. “the government has exerted tremendous pressure on the media to report things a certain way. Indeed, at times the government has thrown media owners and reporters in jail if they’ve been too critical.” These reasons are true to some extent, but the ultimate reason is merely the need to grow the bottom line, to make money which is, after all, the reason the media exists in America.

The consequence of all of this is that Americans have become mentally isolated. The world beyond America’s borders is an amorphous, unknown land. As Zbigniew Brzezinski has recently said, “most Americans are close to total ignorance about the world. They are ignorant.” What people don’t realize is how much of this ignorance is the result of the American “free” press’ need to slant its reporting. Brzezinski finds this “unhealthy,” and he is right, since America’s “foreign policy has to be endorsed by the people if it is to be pursued.” And this ignorance makes it easy for the government to convince the people that some disastrous policy is appropriate.

America’s journalists are not “newshounds.” Although I suspect that each and every one of them will consider this an insult, they are nothing more than salesclerks, hocking the products their employers want to sell. The pretty faces—well at least not ugly—that now function as most news anchors are no different than the pretty models used to sell other products. The American “free” press is comprised of nothing more than a number of retail outlets which sell stories slanted to please their target audiences. As such, they exist merely to sell snake oil.  “


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