Saturday, August 30, 2008

Police State America

[The image above, of course, is of the Pentagon Protest in 1969... or was it 1967? One loses track...]

Here is a very recent example of many examples of The American Police State in action.

Police break down doors in night-time raid on anarchist meeting

From: The Twin Cities Daily Planet

And so it goes.

According to the story, the Ramsay County Sherrif's Department and the St. Paul Police Department "executed a search warrant" -- ie: broke into a Downtown St. Paul building rented by the RNC Welcoming Committee, an anarchist group -- around 9:45pm last night, with guns drawn, detained fifty or more people who were inside the building at the time for questioning, throwing them on the floor, handcuffing them, demanding they identify themselves, photographed them and released them. Then they cleared the building of all non-police personnel, confiscated literature and other materials, and had the building boarded up.

It is assumed the search warrant -- which claimed there were Molotov cocktails and other items in the building intended for violence at a demonstration planned on Monday to protest the RNC Convention -- was issued pursuant to a tip by a police informant and/or other infiltrator into the group. Whether any such materiel has been found has not been revealed, but we can confident that if any was found, it was planted by the police or one of their informants. Unfortunately, police departments throughout the country have a wretched reputation for just such planting of evidence, and to assume they would not do so in this case is a stretch.

Which is not to say that our anarchist friends weren't up to some mischief. They have an unfortunate reputation as well, although in many cases -- for example, the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999 which became the trigger for many of the intense police repression actions since then -- the violence and acting out attributed to anarchists is claimed (by witnesses as well as some of the anarchists) to be the work of provocateurs who were assumed to be working for or part of the police forces themselves.

Alert individuals have noted that this action in St. Paul, coming just before the Republican National Convention (if it happens, hurricanes permitting) was intended to intimidate and coerce potential protesters in the city. It has been estimated that as many as fifty thousand people will show up to protest the Republicans and their bloody misrule these many years, and for reasons that will be left up to history, the Authorities have an overriding interest in stopping or interfering with any sort of "leftist" or "anarchist" protest movement in this country at all. They simply cannot abide such things, as we saw in Denver when a relatively small group of protesters was gassed and peppersprayed and arrested en masse by newly uniformed and militarized police forces needing something to do since the massive protests predicted failed to materialize.

This sort of suppression of (leftish) free speech and assembly rights has been going on in this country routinely for a decade, and sporadically well before that. There is and has been almost no interest by the Authorities in suppressing wingnuttery and right wing protest demonstrations. A curiosity, to say the least.

The police have fired on numerous demonstrations, using "non-lethal" weapons, "bean bags," rubber bullets, wooden dowels fired from guns, pepper spray, and various gasses, and they have bludgeoned, run down, assaulted and mass arrested tens of thousands of demonstrators and bystanders alike. They have close links with the military and have routinely spied upon and infiltrated anti-war and anti-corporatist gatherings and protest events, spied upon and infiltrated church groups and social organizations for the elderly, often lying about it even when it is obvious what they have been doing.

Raids such as the one in St. Paul last night are not uncommon, and though there was immidiate contact with lawyers (NLG), according to the story, and there have been many successful past suits of police departments and city, county and state authorities which sponsor these sorts of actions, resulting in millions and millions of dollars in awards to plaintiffs for police violations of civil rights, yet the raids and violations continue without let up. If anything they intensify.

One wonders why the People don't rise up. Well, this is one reason why. They have been intimidated.

A question, however, is why are Americans so easily intimidated by police tactics such as this while peoples in democracies all over the world are not?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

e.g.: The Media Narrative

Our major mass media functions as a propaganda organ as surely as Pravda and Tass once did in the Former Soviet Union. Their main propaganda tool is the Narratives, into which all political and social issues, and all candidates are first divided and then fit.

Jodi Kantor writes such a Narrative piece for the New York Times. In my local paper it was headlined: "Self-Discipline fuels Obama's image as aloof"

You know it is a Narrative piece because of the phrase "Obama's image as aloof." This "issue" does not arise from the People, not from Obama supporters, and not from Obama's critics. The "issue" of Obama's "aloofness" is entirely the media's Narrative about Obama, some of which is derived from Republican talking points, but most of which is adopted throughout the mass media coverage of Obama from a synthesis of pundit observations and reporters' reactions and gossip.

Thus: McCain is the Mavericky Man of the People, a Garrulous and Funny Old Man, Always Available to the Media Covering His Campaign on the Straight Talk Express. They like him.

Obama, on the other hand, is Distant, Aloof, and Presumptuous, Obsessed With Stagecraft and Message Discipline, Ascetic, Messianic, Arrogant and Uppity. Not only does he not know his Place, he's gotten so far Above Himself, ordinary people have no idea Who He Is.

To quote from Kantor:

In the way Mr. Obama has trained himself for competition, he can sometimes seem as much athlete as politician. Even before he entered public life, he began honing not only his political skills, but also his mental and emotional ones. He developed a self-discipline so complete, friends and aides say, that he has established dominion over not only what he does but also how he feels. He does not easily exult, despair or anger: to do so would be an indulgence, a distraction from his goals. Instead, they say, he separates himself from the moment and assesses.

“He doesn’t inhale,” said David Axelrod, his chief strategist.

Indeed. Here we have the Narrative that includes a possible allusion to Celebrity -- by referring to his training as much as an athlete as a politician. Refering to his self-discipline as so "complete ... that he has established dominion over not only what he does but also how he feels" feeds the Narrative of Obama's Messianism. He's an Ascetic because he shows no emotion, for that would be an indulgence and a distraction. He separates himself from the moment. And assesses, as if from On High.

He doesn't inhale? ?? Wuhhh??? (And this from Axelrod, who should know better...)

Or this:

There is little about him that feels spontaneous or unpolished, and even after two books, thousands of campaign events and countless hours on television, many Americans say they do not feel they know him. The accusations of elusiveness puzzle those closest to the candidate. Far more than most politicians, they say, he is the same in public as he is in private.

And somehow this is meant as a Bad Thing. Who are these many Americans who say they don't feel they "know" him? Well, if they exist at all, they are being fed their ignorance by a media that insists nobody really knows this uppity, alien, exotic. Nobody. Nobody can. He is too foreign.

Or here:

Last month, while visiting Jerusalem, Mr. Obama crammed a note in the Western Wall that was promptly fished out and posted on the Internet. The message was elegantly phrased, as if Mr. Obama, a Christian, had anticipated that his private words to the Almighty would soon be on public display.

Crammed, did he? As if in Disrespect for Where He Was? Ah. Of course. He is a, [spit], Christian, [spit], and his words, while "elegantly phrased", obviously were meant for public display. There is no sponteneity here, no private worship of the Lord as Scripture commands. But no. Obama is incapable. Too Full of Himself.

Kantor goes on:

Because he betrays little hint of struggle, Mr. Obama can seem far removed from the troubles of some voters. Older working-class whites may be uncomfortable with his race — he is the son of a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya — and his age. But they may also find it hard to identify with him, even though he tries to assure them that they have much in common, mentioning that his mother relied on food stamps at times and that he worked as a community organizer in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. His command of crowds of 75,000, his unfailing eloquence and his comparing himself to Joshua and Lincoln can belie his point.

The point being? That his humble beginnings and his present Celebrity are too diametrically opposite one another. Joe Sixpack cannot relate? A black man who is unfailingly eloquent simply cannot have much in common with the white working class, whereas a bumbletongue like Bush (though born to the Purple) obviously is in his element on the factory floor? What is this crap?

She goes on:

Nearly a decade ago, Mr. Obama joined luminaries like George Stephanopoulos and Ralph Reed for regular seminars, organized by Robert Putnam, a professor at Harvard and the author of “Bowling Alone,” about the deterioration of American community ties. As a young state senator from Illinois, Mr. Obama was one of the less prominent members of the group. But soon everyone was referring to him as “the governor” — a friendly smack, said Mr. Putnam, at Mr. Obama’s precocity and drive.

From an early age, Mr. Obama was taught by his mother to think grandly about his potential to help others. Once he reached adulthood, admiring teachers and mentors reinforced the message, steadily directing his sights higher and higher. As a law student, he mused about wanting to be mayor of Chicago; as a law professor, he talked about running for governor of Illinois; not long after that, he was running for president.

Ah! So he gets it from his mother! I knew it! "Think grandly!" His sights always higher and higher. Wanting this, wanting that, wanting something else. Is there no end to this man's desires?

She's not done:

Both allies and critics sometimes concluded that Mr. Obama was too gifted, or in too much of a hurry, for the tasks that consumed others.

Too gifted, too good, too much of a hurry. Whereas the Former POW and plane crasher McCain is Old and Seasoned, eh? Awaiting his Turn like he should. Like Obama should, but he can't wait. Not him.

Kantor again:

The McCain campaign has seized on this pattern, mocking its opponent as a self-consumed star, even suggesting that he has a messianic complex.

Mr. Obama has heard the accusations before. Long before the presidential race, some around him seemed to resent his ability to galvanize a following. “Bluebooking is not important for celebrities,” fellow students joked about him in the law review parody, referring to the tedious process of checking citations.

As for the messiah accusation, Michael Madigan, the speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives and a Democrat, once publicly called Mr. Obama the same thing.

You see! You see! They all say it!

Kantor continues:

If there is one quality that those closest to Mr. Obama marvel at, it is his emotional control. This is partly a matter of temperament, they say, partly an effort by Mr. Obama to step away from his own feelings so he can make dispassionate judgments. “He doesn’t allow himself the luxury of any distraction,” said Valerie Jarrett, a close adviser. “He is able to use his disciplined mind to not get caught up in the emotional swirl.”

As opposed to the towering temper of McCain (and some others we could name.) So we are supposed to infer than a disciplined character like that of Obama's is somehow inferior to the indifference and temper of someone like McCain? How things have been turned inside out.

But wait, there's more.


While he speeds along rope lines, Mr. Obama sometimes connects better one on one. In spare moments, he will surprise supporters — a doorman who scraped together a small contribution, an elderly woman he had heard enjoyed his memoir — with an out-of-the blue phone call. Waiting backstage to speak to 20,000 people in Seattle in February, Mr. Obama grew so absorbed in talking to a retired Michigan couple that he had to be reminded not to miss his entrance cue.

Once in a very long while, Mr. Obama will relax his guard completely. Two years ago at a party celebrating the publication of his second book, “The Audacity of Hope,” the new senator rose to say a few words, recalled Ms. Jarrett. As he talked about what his new job in Washington had cost his wife and two daughters, tears began to course down his face, leaving him unable to continue.

Michelle Obama rescued him with a kiss, and after a moment, everyone started to applaud.

But. But. But. She's just spent endless inches of column space describing his lack of emotion, discipline, aloofness, uppityness, and here -- at the very end of her story -- she belies all of it with a simple anecdote that shows the Candidate is not only human, but very much connected with his family, his supporters and the public, fully able to show emotion, deeply moved by his own good fortune.

In other words, practically everything she's written up to this point has flowed from the Narrative of Obama, not from the man, and when she gets to the point where she actually has to question the Narrative, she can't do it. Instead, she presents anecdotes that contradict the Narrative... without comment.

Kantor in summation:

Mr. Obama is often called a perpetual outsider — racially, geographically, politically. But his story is more complicated than that. “He’s been an outsider at Columbia and Harvard,” said Matthew McGuire, a friend. “He was an outsider but within the ultimate insider clubs.”

Within those and other powerful institutions, Mr. Obama has always appointed himself critic. After being elected the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, Mr. Obama gave a speech to black students and alumni that was rousing, some recall it nearly two decades later. “Don’t let Harvard change you,” went the refrain. As a community organizer, he led Chicago residents to challenge the local authorities. In the Illinois Senate, Mr. Obama was not only a reformer who pushed for tighter campaign finance rules, but also an everyday skeptic who often pointed out hilarities and hypocrisies to colleagues.

Despite the speed of his rise, Mr. Obama often talks of politics as a closed system, one stacked against outsiders who lack powerful patrons or fat donor bases.

These sorts of criticisms have become the cornerstone of his political identity. Changing government, making it more responsive to citizens’ needs, has been the promise of every campaign he has ever run. Today, despite the millions of people and dollars devoted to his election, Mr. Obama insists, improbably enough, that he is still the same advocate for the poor he was 20 years ago on the streets of Chicago.

“All the time, he says, let’s keep in mind that this is not about Barack Obama,” said Ms. Jarrett, an adviser. “He still sees himself as the community organizer.”

But after he accepts his party’s nomination on Thursday night, it will be hard to call Mr. Obama anything but the establishment. As head of his party, he will preside over everything he says he objects to about politics: the artifice, the influence of special interests, the partisanship. If he wins the presidency, there will be no more rungs on the ladder for Mr. Obama to climb, only re-election. The system he says is broken will become his.

Even those closest to him are not quite sure how he would make the transformation.

“That’s uncomfortable,” said Mr. Axelrod, about the prospect of Mr. Obama’s becoming the ultimate insider. “You need to accept that role to a degree if you’re the nominee or the president.”

And yet, Mr. Axelrod said, “I don’t think that’s a role he wants to play. His idea is that you should always be challenging the institution.”

And there you have it: the ultimate Outsider, becoming the head of the very institution he believes he should be challenging.

How drôle.

Perhaps it's the start of a New Narrative....

[Note: My August Hiatus is slowly ending, but posting may still be light for several weeks.]

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Nightmare over the Caucasus

Just read this over at FDL, a post taken from the Guardian article by Ian Traynor.

The basics are simple: Georgian troops and artillery attacked the South Ossetian capital, killing many and routing most of the civilian population. Russian troops responded, driving the Georgian forces back. The Georgian government in the person of its president, hollered to the heavens that Georgia was under attack. The United States government, and the Republican candidate for president of the United States, condemned Russia and urged a ceasefire and withdrawal. Eventually there was a ceasefire, but no withdrawal yet as Russian forces continue their occupation of key locations inside Georgia, and there is nothing the Georgians -- or the United States -- can do about it.

If anything, the United States has been humiliated by this little war, in a way that will have lasting repercussions.

Our Media has been incapable of reporting what is going on or the context of what is going on, because they are completely bound to a Narrative, a Narrative that appears to have been produced out of whole cloth in the right wing think tanks and was rolled out complete by all the Heritage Foundation talking heads sent out to do PR for Little Georgia.

Except this neo-con Narrative about Little Innocent Georgia being trounced by the Big Bad Bear Russia is viral and global. It is the Narrative of practically all "news" -- at least in English -- where ever it comes from.

Consequently, not only do Americans have little or no useful knowledge about what has been and is going on, world citizens have almost as little. Russia is the Bear, the resurgent Soviet Union, or the reanimated Russian Empire. Putin is the New Hitler. It is 1938 all over again. "Remember the Sudetenland!"


One might wonder why the constant neo-con focus on the New Hitler, 1938, Chamberlain, appeasement, and the Sudetenland. Why does this continue to move them so? It's got to the point where everything that happens is seen thought that prism, even though fewer and fewer alive today remember the events of 1938, and it was the conservatives of 1938 who were so anxious to "appease" Hitler. Some were actually in league with the Nazis. Conservatives.

Those who were most upset by this constant appeasement were the Communists. Ah. There we will find the neo-con motor. The neo-cons ARE the "subversives" we were warned about in the '50's.

Meanwhile, the Georgian Mistake, as it will come to be known, has destroyed Georgia as a functioning national independent entity, has enhanced the power of Russia, has put Putin into the first rank of international leaders, has humiliated George W. Bush and Condi Rice, has made mock of the very idea of borders, has helped revive imperial pretensions and Great Powers shenanigans -- quite apart from those of the United States -- and has pretty much check-mated any move in any direction the United States might choose to make, now or in the near future.

Cheney and his puppet are confined to quarters for the duration.

And McCain? Soon enough, he'll just appear silly.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Shock Doctrine

[Note: I'm still on a restricted blogging schedule. Currently in New Mexico where internet service is spotty at best. Besides it's summertime! Enjoy while you can!]

Naomi Klein is deservedly well-known for her exegesis of The Shock Doctrine as it has been used by [Milton] Friedmanites and various and sundry neo-cons and their fellow travelers to dismantle the Republic and destroy the Constitution while financially profiting from their perfidy.

True enough. And we see it in full cry with the current DRILL!!! DRILL!!!! DRILL!!!!!™ hysteria.

However, the shock doctrine works both ways. Like the flag and like religion, it's not the sole property of the spittle flecked wingnuts.

Seems to me there's an opportunity for our side to use it as well.

Just saying.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


For months we've been inundated with propaganda from the Oil Companies and their worker bees in Congress and the White House that we've got to DRILL, DRILL, DRILL!!!!™ endlessly everywhere NOW, NOW, NOW!!!™ or WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!™ and so on and so forth, to the point where hardly anyone can sort through it anymore.

Since "we" -- as in We, the People -- have nothing to do with it at all, except as passive consumers, it's startling to hear all the clarion calls for what "WE" have to do, NOW, NOW, NOW!!!™.


Yeah. Well.

As many have figured out, this is all -- absolutely all -- hysterical hype on behalf of endless expansion of Oil Company power and profits at the expense of the American People and ultimately the people of the Whole Wide World. Not to say there isn't already plenty of power and profit accruing to the Oil Companies as it is. They want more. Effectively, they want it all, and they are trying to get it by stampeding a panicked public into giving them what they want and then some.

They may get away with it.

There is very little and very ineffective push back, much as was the case with the Enron rape of California and the West over that phony Electricity Crisis in 2000/2001 that continues to lead to unending bullshit.

First things first, this hysteria has nothing to do with "us" except for what we can be fleeced of. You can know that by all the panic that is being induced without any clarity of purpose, and with all sorts of ridiculous claims about what and how much "we" are going to "save" by giving the Oil Companies whatever they want. NOW, NOW, NOW!!!!™

Well, no. "We" are not going to "save" anything. We are going to pay through the nose, whatever happens.

What do the Oil Companies really want? They want unlimited control over all known and suspected oil and natural gas reserves in the country and on the outer continental shelf. They will say that what they want is to DRILL!!!™ for oil in these places, but that isn't what really want. And we know that because they already have huge tracts of leased lands and underwater that they aren't drilling on, nor do they have any intention of drilling on them in the near future.

They want to control all known and suspected oil and natural gas reserves without restriction. Now why do you suppose they'd want that? Hmmm?

Surprisingly enough, if you control the supply, you control the price, and under the circumstances, you can create artificial shortages -- like for example the artificial shortage of electricity in California back in the day -- which will have the salubrious effect of driving up prices even more than they already are. Give the Oil Companies what they want, and expect to pay $10 or even $15 at the pump for gas whenever they want to charge that. Sweet.

We've already seen their tactics with regard to refineries. Domestic oil refining capacity is kept low enough to squeeze the market at any given time, and sometimes, it is deliberately reduced -- by "maintenance" outages and other factors -- to raise gasoline prices. We constantly hear about all the refineries "we" have not built in all these years, but the "we" is the Oil Companies, not the American People, and the reason is simple: fewer refineries=restricted supplies=higher prices. If, on the other hand, "we" had anything to do with refinery issues (apart from relatively modest environmental issues), "we" would have nationalized the Oil Companies long ago, and "we" probably would have shifted to alternative fuels. The price of gas might still be high, but it wouldn't make that much difference, because alternatives, particularly electricity, and conservation would have made the need for gasoline that much less.

But "we" are not in charge here. The Oil Companies are.

One of the most startling revelations came through Digby's post about Obama's apparent capitulation on "drilling." As was made clear earlier, "drilling" has nothing to do with the demands being made by the Oil Companies, it is all about control of natural resources. Until yesterday, Obama seemed clear, too, that "drilling" wasn't the answer. But now, apparently, he's changed his mind and believes it might be part of the answer. So he is willing to consider "drilling" in the outer continental shelf as "part of a package," yadda, yadda.

Of course, what he should say -- and won't say -- is that the Oil Companies are welcome to drill on the leases they already hold, and when they do so, and produce oil from their drilling, which they then provide and keep in the domestic market instead of selling abroad the way they do with Alaskan oil (most of which is sold to Japan), then maybe, the American People would be willing to talk about additional leases and drilling, but not until then.

Once it's put that way, what's going on is obvious.

But he won't do that.

So Newt will take charge of this issue because of Democratic and Obaman passivity.

"Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less."

This sort of thing should have been deconstructed a long time ago, but no. The majority of people -- and that includes most Democrats, and all Democratic Leaders -- are in shock over the price of oil and the shock shows. They have some half-formed ideas about what to do, but have so far been unable or unwilling to forcefully (and coherently) present an alternative to the Republican Oil Company mantra summed up in Newty's little lie.

"The need for higher production and lower prices."

In fact, gasoline prices have been declining in recent weeks along with the futures price for oil. Reason? They say it is primarily due to reduced domestic demand for oil and gasoline, a reduced demand caused by higher prices. Newt tries to make the connection between higher production and lower prices, but fails to acknowledge that reduced demand is the real reason prices are declining, and further, he doesn't acknowledge that domestic production can be increased by the Oil Companies if they would drill on leases they already hold. But they don't do it. Why not?

"Don't want any baloney..."

Indeed. Yet the whole DRILL, DRILL, DRILL!!!!™ mantra has been driven on nothing but Baloney. It's a lie from start to finish.

"Brazil has found two large oil fields in the Atlantic Ocean; you know that the Brazilians are now independent from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Russia..."

"Brazil" in this case is the state owned oil company -- that is the socialized, nationalized oil company, not a Good Private Oil Company -- Petrobras, which should be enough to cause Newt to have his aneurysm right there. Brazil is not "independent" of foreign oil, however, because neither of the new oceanic oil fields has been tapped, in part due to lack of equipment. The same lack of equipment dogs the American Quest for Oil Independence. But there is no such American Quest, in fact, because any increase in domestic oil production goes on the world market. One would expect that Brazilian oil finds would also go into the world market, if they are ever brought into production at all.

"If??!!!" Indeed, if. The high price of oil has been a spur to development of alternatives as well as reduced domestic consumption. Reduced demand is no spur to increased production. Ergo, all these exotic oil fields may never be tapped.

Newt simply lies, straight out. It's not "illegal" to look for oil, and he knows it. But a lie always serves his interests, always serves the interests of the Oil Companies, and always serves the interests of the Republican Party. So he lies.

Will The American People fall for it again? Well, if Obama and his people are willing to "consider drilling", and there is no effective counter to the Republican propaganda machine, The American People won't have much choice.