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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Monday, 22 December 2003

Topic: The Media

Follow-Up: Smelling a rat early... Lord Black and his pearl

Last month I posted an item on Conrad Black, the ex-Canadian press baron, now Lord Black, the publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Jerusalem Post and the Daily Telegraph (UK). The business about his diverting thirty-four million dollars of corporate funds (Hollinger is the holding company) to himself and his friends for their own amusement had just hit the wires and Conrad had stepped down. The empire is up for sale.

See this: When good Canadians go bad....,
Thursday, 20 November 2003

The item elaborates on a Daniel Gross item I had found in Slate that tied in Henry Kissinger and Richard Perle and others to the corporation.

Well, Lord Black testified to the Securities and Exchange Commission this week and the story has jumped from the web to the "real" press. That would be The New York Times in this case.

See Citizen Conrad's Friends
Paul Krugman, The New York Times, December 23, 2003

Yeah, Krugman is going to do a movie thing and invoke Citizen Kane. Well, that may be appropriate.
... it's a mistake to think of Lord Black, whatever his personal fate, as a throwback to a bygone era. He probably represents the wave of the future.

These days, everything old is new again. Income is once again concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite, and money rules politics to an extent not seen since the Gilded Age. The Iraq war bears an eerie resemblance to the Spanish-American war. (There was never any evidence linking Spain to the Maine's demise.) And Citizen Kane is back, in the form of an incestuous media-political complex.

But the Black affair isn't just about bad corporate governance. It goes without saying that Lord Black, like Rupert Murdoch, has used his media empire to promote a conservative political agenda. The Telegraph, in particular, has a habit of "finding" documents of unproven authenticity that just happen to support neoconservative rationales for war. We're now learning that Lord Black also used his control of Hollinger to reward friends, including journalists, who share his political views.
Ah, the evil neoconservatives again.

You'd think Bush and his team was working to control the press by giving favors to these sorts of folks. That would make you think that the Federal Communications Commission was run by, say, the son of the current Secretary of State. Well, Michael Powell, the Chairman of the FCC, is, in fact, the son of Bush's Secretary of State, Colin Powell. But that's a coincidence. And Fox News may be the most blatantly pro-Administration of all the news sources, but that the FCC approved their purchase of DirecTV a few days ago, allowing Fox and its parent company, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, to elbow out as much of the more skeptical competition as it can, is also coincidence. The FCC is just making the news to which we have access more "fair and balanced."

Bush won the election. He and his guys get to set the rules. That's the way it works.

Richard Perle, a key member of the administration's Defense Policy Board - in fact chairman of that board until he was forced to step down over a conflict of interest thing - is another case. Another one of Lord Black's guys. Long ago he ran the Jerusalem Post and now advises Bush and speaks for our county on matters of why we do what we do. You might recall his speech in London last month where he said the US knew quite well it acted illegally in invading Iraq, and didn't care that much. This upset the Brits no end. Charming fellow.

He was making three hundred grand a year from Black and Hollinger, and a Hollinger consulting firm called Trireme. Boeing paid Trireme twenty million to lobby for them. Perle wrote a Wall Street Journal opinion piece - as a key member of the Defense Policy Board going on record - arguing that lease deal on the air-to-air tanker planes was just a wonderful idea. Perle didn't mention he was being paid by Boeing. Oops. Coincidence. Well, it seems no one could cover up the fact that it would be many billions of dollars cheaper to buy the damned airplanes than to lease them. The deal fell through. The chairman of Boeing and a few senior Boeing officials resigned. Oh well.

Perle is still around. Still a key Bush guy.

Anyway, Krugman touches on all that, but adds something that made me smile.
... The real surprise, though, is that two prominent journalists, William Buckley and George Will, were also regular paid advisors to Hollinger. Now, I thought there were rules here. First, if you're a full-time journalist, you shouldn't be in that kind of relationship. Second, whoever you are, if you write a favorable article about someone with whom you have a personal or financial connection -- like Mr. Perle's piece on the tanker deal or Mr. Will's March column praising Lord Black's wisdom -- you disclose that connection. But I guess the old rules no longer apply.

That, surely, is the moral of this story. Lord Black may have destroyed himself by being a bit too brazen. But his more powerful rival Rupert Murdoch just goes from strength to strength, even though top positions in his media empire have a tendency to go to his sons, and the News Corporation has done far more than Hollinger to blur the line between news and propaganda.
Paul, Paul, Paul.... Wake up!

You are dealing with people who do NOT believe there is a difference between news and propaganda. It's either your news or their news - your propaganda or theirs.

And, Paul, stop using references to old movies no young folks know at all. Citizen Kane just doesn't cut it. The Maine? The Spanish-American War? No, no. When you think of Lord Black and board of advisors - Richard Perle, Henry Kissinger and the others - think of the Harry Potter books - think of Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters. And think of the Defense Policy Board - Perle and Wolfowitz and that crew - as the Ministry of Magic, the place run by Cornelius Fudge. That works better.

It does, really. The names fit better.

Posted by Alan at 23:57 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Iraq

Was Thomas Jefferson that cynical? Chomsky takes a few swings at Wolfowitz

On the lefty site AlterNet Noam Chomsky takes a dim view of US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

See Dictators R Us
Noam Chomsky, AlterNet. December 22, 2003 (first published in The Toronto Star)

Yes, Noam Chomsky is a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). And he's a political writer, activist and critic - a key voice from the left. His new book is Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance - obviously not one of the volumes on cognition, language acquisition and the epistemology of grammar. Paul Wolfowitz is the administration's chief political theorist. Most of what we do in the world he has thought up, or at least explained as quite reasonable.

So what's Chomsky's beef?
... the Bush administration's original reason for going to war in Iraq was to save the world from a tyrant developing weapons of mass destruction and cultivating links to terror. Nobody believes that now, not even Bush's speechwriters.

The new reason is that we invaded Iraq to establish a democracy there and, in fact, to democratize the whole Middle East.

Sometimes, the repetition of this democracy-building posture reaches the level of rapturous acclaim.

Last month, for example, David Ignatius, the Washington Post commentator, described the invasion of Iraq as "the most idealistic war in modern times" -fought solely to bring democracy to Iraq and the region. Ignatius was particularly impressed with Paul Wolfowitz, "the Bush administration's idealist in chief," whom he described as a genuine intellectual who "bleeds for (the Arab world's) oppression and dreams of liberating it."

Maybe that helps explain Wolfowitz's career - like his strong support for Suharto in Indonesia, one of the last century's worst mass murderers and aggressors, when Wolfowitz was ambassador to that country under Ronald Reagan.

As the State Department official responsible for Asian affairs under Reagan, Wolfowitz oversaw support for the murderous dictators Chun of South Korea and Marcos of the Philippines.

All this is irrelevant because of the convenient doctrine of change of course.

So, yes, Wolfowitz's heart bleeds for the victims of oppression - and if the record shows the opposite, it's just that boring old stuff that we want to forget about.
Well, that was then. This is now. But it is odd.

Give Paul the benefit of the doubt?

Noam says no.
One might recall another recent illustration of Wolfowitz's love of democracy. The Turkish parliament, heeding its population's near-unanimous opposition to war in Iraq, refused to let U.S. forces deploy fully from Turkey. This caused absolute fury in Washington.

Wolfowitz denounced the Turkish military for failing to intervene to overturn the decision. Turkey was listening to its people, not taking orders from Crawford, Texas, or Washington, D.C.

The most recent chapter is Wolfowitz's "Determination and Findings" on bidding for lavish reconstruction contracts in Iraq. Excluded are countries where the government dared to take the same position as the vast majority of the population.

Wolfowitz's alleged grounds are "security interests," which are non-existent, though the visceral hatred of democracy is hard to miss - along with the fact that Halliburton and Bechtel corporations will be free to "compete" with the vibrant democracy of Uzbekistan and the Solomon Islands, but not with leading industrial societies.
Harsh words.

The whole thing is worth a read.

What it comes down to is fancy idealistic words being used to mask a competitive struggle for domination and exploitation. Noam calls Paul a liar, or deluded. And sees him as the man who behind the duping of the country to make Bush and his friends rich - the usual left rant.

Except Noam gives events and dates - and asks us to think about them. Not many people will. No time. Other concerns.

His conclusion?
Throughout history, even the harshest and most shameful measures are regularly accompanied by professions of noble intent - and rhetoric about bestowing freedom and independence.

An honest look would only generalize Thomas Jefferson's observation on the world situation of his day: "We believe no more in Bonaparte's fighting merely for the liberties of the seas than in Great Britain's fighting for the liberties of mankind. The object is the same, to draw to themselves the power, the wealth and the resources of other nations."
I suppose Jefferson said that - I'll try to find where. Was Jefferson that cynical?

And why won't Chomsky buy the administration's line on all this? Patriotic idealists do. Really. Cynics don't, and call themselves realists, like Jefferson.

Posted by Alan at 19:25 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: The Media

Real Magazines, Off-Beat Stories

You might want to skim the cover story of this week's U.S. News Report.
The Yale Men
: They all attended the same school, but Lieberman, Dean, Kerry, and the president traveled disparate paths in a turbulent decade
Dan Gilgoff, Cover Story 12/29/03

The four guys who went Yale?

George W. Bush ('68) resented all his classmates who "felt so intellectually superior and so righteous." And I guess he never got over it. You can sense he's still seething about it.

Two years ahead of him was Kerry ('66). He taught his parrot French and Italian words. Heck, had George and John been in the same graduating class, and thus likely to know each other, that parrot would have been dead. It would have shuffled off its mortal coil. One does think of the Monty Python possibilities.

Howard Dean ('71) called snooty classmates "fatuous butts." He was a bit blunt back then too. He's a bit more circumspect now, but only a bit.

Joe Lieberman ('64) was chairman of the Yale Daily News and traveled to Mississippi to help register black voters. He was earnest back then, as he is now.

Newsweek puts Jon Stewart on the cover, the guy from The Daily Show.
Who's Next 2004: Red, White & Funny: : The new year will bring a host of intriguing faces front and center. Politicians. Actors. Tycoons. Educators. And one fake news anchor, bravely battling pomposity and misinformation. Jon Stewart prepares for Campaign 2004
Marc Peyser, Dec. 29/Jan. 5 issue

Not many comedy shows would dare do five minutes on the intricacies of Medicare or a relentlessly cheeky piece on President George W. Bush's Thanksgiving trip to Iraq ("A small group of handpicked journalists accompanied the president on his top-secret mission to tell the entire world about his top-secrecy"). His cut-the-crap humor hits the target so consistently - you've gotta love a show that calls its segments on Iraq "Mess O'Potamia" - he's starting to be taken seriously as a political force. The Democratic National Committee announced this month that it plans to invite Stewart & Co. to cover its convention, amazing since "The Daily Show" is actually a fake news program.

... But you know what's really funny about Stewart? The more seriously the world takes him, the more he makes off like he's the Dennis Kucinich of television - amusing, short and not that important. So what if John Edwards announced his presidential candidacy on the show? "No one took it seriously," says Stewart. "After he said, 'I'm announcing that I'm running for president,' I said, 'I have to warn you we are a fake show, so you might have to do this again somewhere'." What about studies that claim young people get a huge portion of their news from late-night comedy? "I just don't think it's possible," he says. "We're on Channel 45 - in New York! Literally on the remote-control journey you could absorb more news than you would get from our show." So that's it, then. All you politicians lining up for face time with Stewart are wasting your breath. "Our politics are fueled by the comedy. We're not a power base in any way. Our show is so reactionary, it's hard to imagine us stimulating the debate," Stewart says. "Maybe I shouldn't be saying this. I'm literally saying, 'Why are you in my office talking to me? I'm nobody'."
Really? Even Ric in Paris watches the show there. And this is, after all, a cover story.

The other weekly magazines cover the usual - the war, the economy, the poltical stuff. Of course these two publications above cover "real news" too. But at the end of the year they cut loose a little.

Posted by Alan at 18:25 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 22 December 2003 18:12 PST home

Monday in Hollywood is shopping day...

Items will be posted later today. Now it's time for Christmas shopping.

And the parent magazine is back on line! A new issue was published late yesterday.

Use the link in the left panel.

Posted by Alan at 10:06 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 22 December 2003 10:09 PST home

Sunday, 21 December 2003

Topic: Bush

More information...

Wednesday, 10 December 2003 I posted this:
What? The apocalypse scares you? Really? What's your problem?
where I discussed an essay by Robert Jay Lifton
American Apocalypse
The Nation, Posted December 4, 2003, from the December 22 issue, and actually a short peek at his new book.)

DVMD of (see left panel) heard Lifton on the radio and has his new book on the way. She links to Lifton's biography. It's awesome.

Here `tis....

Robert Jay Lifton is Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at the Graduate School University Center and Director of The Center on Violence and Human Survival at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at The City University of New York. He had previously held the Foundations' Fund Research Professorship of Psychiatry at Yale University for more than two decades. He has been particularly interest in the relationship between individual psychology and historical change, and in problems surrounding the extreme historical situations of our era. He has taken an active part in the formation of the new field of psychohistory.

Dr. Lifton was born in New York City in 1926, attended Cornell University, and received his medical degree from New York Medical College in 1948. Her interned at the Jewish Hospital of Brooklyn in 1948-49, and had his psychiatric residence training at the Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, New York in 1949-51. He was an Air Force psychiatrist serving in the United States, Japan, and Korea from 1951-53. He was Research Associate in Psychiatry at Harvard from 1956-61, where he was affiliated with the Center for East Asian Studies; and prior to that was a Member of the Faculty of the Washington School of Psychiatry.

From mid-1995, he has been conducting psychological research on the problem of apocalyptic violence, focusing on Aum Shinrikyo, the extremist Japanese cult which released poison gas in Tokyo subways. His book, Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and the New Global Terrorism was published by Metropolitan Books in October, 1999.

His writings on Nazi Doctors (on their killing the name of healing) and the problem of genocide; nuclear weapons and their impact on death symbolism; Hiroshima survivors; Chinese thought reform and the Chinese Cultural Revolution; psychological trends in contemporary men and women; and on the Vietnam War experience and Vietnam veterans, have appeared in a variety of professional and popular journals. He has developed a general psychological perspective around the paradigm of death and the continuity of life and a stress upon symbolization and "formative process," and on the malleability of the contemporary self.

Recent books include Hiroshima in America: Fifty Years of Denial, (Putnam and Avon Books, 1995) (with Greg Mitchell) which explores the impact of Hiroshima on our own country; and The Protean Self; Human Resilience in an Age of Fragmentation, (Basic Books, 1993) which describes the contemporary "protean" self and its expressions of fluidity and change as its possible relationship to species consciousness and a "species self" (related importantly to one's connection to humankind).

Other books include:

The Genocidal Mentality: Nazi Holocaust and Nuclear Threat, (with Eric Markusen), (Basic Books, 1990).

The Future of Immortality; and Other Essays for a Nuclear Age (Basic Books, 1987).

The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide (Basic Books, 1986), winner of the 1987 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for history; the 1987 National Jewish Book Award for Holocaust.

Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima (Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1991 [1968]), which received the National Book Award in the Sciences, and the Van Wyck Brooks Award for non-fiction, in 1969 The Broken Connection (which received the Martin Luther King Award in England), Harvard University Press, 1984.

Indefensible Weapons: The Political and Psychological Case Against Nuclearism (with Richard Falk), Basic Books, 1991, [1982].

Last Aid: Medical Dimension of Nuclear War (edited with E. Chivian, S. Chivian, and J.E. Mack), Redding, CT: Freeman Press, 1982.

Home From the War: Vietnam Veterans--Neither Victims Nor Executioners, (which was nominated for the National Book Award) Beacon Press, 1992 (with new Preface and Epilogue on the Gulf War [1983, 1968].

The Life of the Self: Toward a New Psychology, Basic Books, 1983 [1976]; Six Lives/Six Deaths; Portraits from Modern Japan (with Shuichi Kato and Michael Reich), Yale University Press, 1979.

Explorations in Psychohistory; The Wellfleet Papers (with Eric Olson), eds., Simon & Schuster, Touchstone Books, 1975.

Living and Dying (with Eric Olson), Praeger, 1974; History and Human Survival: Essays on the Young and the Old, Survivors and the Dead, War and Peace, and on Contemporary Psychohistory, Random House, 1968.

Boundaries: Psychological Man in Revolution, Touchstone, 1976 [1970].

Revolutionary Immortality: Mao Tse-tung and the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Norton Library, 1976 [1986].

Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of "Brainwashing" in China, University of North Carolina Press, 1989 [1961].

Edited The Woman in America, Beacon paperback 1966 [1965]; America and the Asian Revolutions, Transaction Books, 1970; and Crimes of War (with Richard A. Falk and Gabriel Kolko) Vintage, 1971.

He's not George Bush, but perhaps one should take him seriously.

Posted by Alan at 20:07 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

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