Friday, May 29, 2009

Education = Indoctrination

The cowardice of academia

By: Gabriel Matthew Schivone

Issue date: 3/31/09 Section: Opinions

Over 60 years ago, George Orwell wrote that "cowardice" is the "worst enemy" an intellectual must face, owing to the "sinister fact" that censorship in a free society is "largely voluntary" - especially when it comes to criticizing the accepted positions of one's own society or government. It is particularly in this respect, he writes, that "Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban."

Speaking of the U.S. today, the world society that enjoys perhaps the freest amount of political liberties and an abundance of unique privileges and opportunities - especially in academia - such considerations should be front and center to any responsible and concerned citizen.

Enter Lois E. Beckett, a senior at Harvard University, who wrote some engaging investigative essays for the Harvard Crimson last March exploring these issues. The question that concerned her: What was the role of American intellectuals during the build-up for the invasion of Iraq in 2003?

Seeking testimony from numerous Harvard economists, policy experts and others, she finds that in one respect many intellectuals, in fact, opposed the war on moral or pragmatic grounds, though for personal reasons reserved their objections to the privacy of their own thoughts. The cases of reticence and self-censorship fell into three notable, overlapping categories: those who opposed the war but did not say anything for fear of appearing unpatriotic, those who refrained from speaking or acting out because they thought such efforts would be fruitless in altering the direction of the impending war, and those individuals who simply were unaware that many others shared their privately dissenting views - and therefore mirrored each other's publicly acquiescent behavior.

This shameful sort of intellectual cowardice displayed by the Harvard elites - based on largely fabricated, self-inflicted fears of disloyalty, job insecurity, etc. - is all-too-familiar among the highly professionalized social herds of faculty and grad students in particular. The UA's best and brightest are certainly no exception to this pathetic norm. Similar polls would likely reveal similar cowards among UA academics with respect to war-resistance.

Yet despite the luxury of hindsight, conscientious people - let alone intellectuals - often weigh unsettling questions not only in what they don't do, but also from what they may do very well without question in service of a war that will likely have disastrous effects on the world.

Stating the obvious, Harvard Middle East scholar Sara Roy writes that "in the tradition of intellectual humanism, knowledge should improve humanity on a universal level." The purpose of scholarship, therefore, "is to inform" and "implement public policy based on the knowledge provided."

She laments, however, that this purpose is, alas, "rarely achieved." "More often than not power politics produces the 'scholarship' it needs to legitimize itself."

As we all know, unnatural constructs such as war yield significant funding and numerous jobs for the many scholars willing to sell themselves to the highest bidder, and to employ their intellectual and creative talents for state and corporate service, often at the expense of world peoples, including our own. Hence, physicists can develop and improve the atomic bomb, engineers can work on weapons design, social scientists can work on refining methods of interrogation and counterinsurgency, and business executives can work on keeping the world turning around the dollar and the gun. But destructive human tendencies such as war and domination are exactly that - they're tendencies. They're not encoded in our nature. When we decide that these things are not what we want as a people or as individuals, we can abandon them.

As dissident intellectual Noam Chomsky reminds us, individuals induced to work on destructive weapons or domination systems can refuse. They can encourage peers to refuse and organize themselves in this refusal as well. And they can help to bring forth alternatives and enrich countercultural currents against war and terrorism that are leading our country and the world to probable destruction.

Writing during the Vietnam War, Chomsky, in his 1969 essay "The Responsibility of Intellectuals," highlighted the work of esteemed journalist Dwight Macdonald, who, writing shortly after WWII, spoke of the "responsibility of peoples" over questions of war guilt for atrocities committed by all sides during the war, particularly our own Allied Forces.

Chomsky concludes: "Macdonald quotes an interview with a death-camp paymaster who bursts into tears when told that the Russians would hang him. 'Why should they? What have I done' he asked. . The question 'What have I done?' is one that we may well ask ourselves, as we read, each day, of fresh atrocities in Vietnam - as we create, or mouth, or tolerate the deceptions that will be used to justify the next defense of freedom."

Chomsky's words are painfully relevant today, as they have been in every act of American aggression since Vietnam - well over one hundred - every single one of them travestied as a "defense of freedom." The question "what are you doing" finds its relevance clearer today, its urgency more acute. Though, at a point, questions and speculation are irrelevant, even indulgent - particularly in light of the uniquely abundant privileges of political liberty, facilities, resources, technical training and intellectual leisure of academia. At such a point, serious answers and dedicated action are the honorable instruments of change.

- Gabriel Matthew Schivone is a junior majoring in art, literature, and media studies. He can be reached at

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bollywood Ghandi Chomsky

IIM don sees economic philosophy in Bollywood flicks


New Delhi, May 27 (IANS) Now playing at a theatre near you: lessons in economic philosophy. A professor with the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA) has found two Bollywood hits to be much more than song-and-dance entertainment.

Tejas A. Desai, an assistant professor who has done his PhD in biostatistics from the University of North Carolina, has analysed Mani Ratnam.s .Guru. (2007) and Madhur Bhandarkar.s .Corporate. (2006) in detail in an IIMA working paper.

The two films are .explicitly about the world of business and the people who inhabit it., he writes in the paper.

Why did he focus on these two films? .When they were released, I was a faculty member at IIMA, which some consider to be India.s best management school. When I saw (these) films, it did not take me long to see their relevance to management pedagogy,. Desai told IANS in an e-mail interview.

.Guru. is .not only a history lesson about the political and economic environment in India during the first 40 years after India.s independence, but is also a celebration of Adam Smith.s philosophy and, in general, capitalism and the entrepreneurial spirit. At the same time, it brings to the fore the possibly misguided economic policies adopted by India during the first few decades after independence..

..Corporate., on the other hand, complements .Guru., in the sense that it highlights the consequences borne by powerless individuals when corporations have profit as their sole aim and are willing to achieve them by hook or by crook. . .Corporate. provides a case for Keynesian economics,. Desai notes in the paper.

Bhandarkar.s film also explores the role of gender and family in economics, as also the role and importance of ethics in economics. It also highlights the limitations of rationality and rational behaviour and challenges assumptions of classical economics, he says.

The working paper examines the .main thesis. of .Guru., believed to be loosely based on the life of the legendary industrialist Dhirubhai Ambani, in detail with illustrations from India.s post-independence history.

In his brief critique of first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.s .Soviet-style central planning., Desai quotes Mahatma Gandhi: .I look upon an increase in the power of the state with the greatest fear because, although while apparently doing good by minimizing exploitation, it does the greatest harm to mankind by destroying individuality which lies at the root of all progress..

On the role of ethics in business to analyse .Corporate., he again turns to Gandhi: .All the talk about ethics boils down to the Gandhian idea that an end is justified if and only if the right means are used to achieve it. This is a simple but powerful idea on which Gandhi.s entire life was based. Furthermore, this idea is applicable to all areas of human affairs including business..

Desai also refers to the work of American linguist and critic Noam Chomsky: .While this scenario in .Corporate. is fictional, it has parallels in reality, as is argued by Noam Chomsky in his book .Profit over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order. (1999)..

He reminds that as an example of neoliberalism, Chomsky cites the case of India.

Are there any more Hindi films worth a similar study?

.While there have been a few Bollywood films . for example, .Kalyug. (1981), and .Kalyug. (2005) . which take the world of business as their context, I can recall only .Corporate. and .Guru. as two Bollywood films with both an explicit as well as an implicit connection to economic philosophy,. Desai replied.

(Ashish Mehta can be contacted at


On the 40-year anniversary of the publishing of his classic American Power & the New Mandarins, Noam Chomsky comes to the historic Riverside Church in Harlem, New York City, to address a wide range of issues from the global economic crisis; U.S. military intervention in the Middle East and South Asia; left electoral and social movement upsurges in places like El Salvador, Bolivia and Venezuela; and the election of Barack Obama.

Chomsky, whom The New York Times Book Review has called .arguably the most important intellectual alive,. is the author of over 100 books including, in the last few years, What We Say Goes: Conversations on U.S. Power in a Changing World, and Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy and Hegemony or Survival.

The event is scheduled for Friday, June 12 at 7 p.m.

This is a special Benefit for the Brecht Forum, please contribute what you can afford. Admission is priced on a sliding scale: $20/$30/$50/410+

The event is sponsored by: The Brecht Forum, The Education Ministry of The Riverside Church, Mission and Social Justice Commission of The Riverside Church, Theatre of the Oppressed at The Riverside Church, and The Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory (TOPLAB).

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Cambodia CIA crimes

CAMBODIA: Khmer Rouge Trials May Expose US, China

Analysis by Marwaan Macan-Markar

PHNOM PENH, Mar 30 (IPS) - Limits placed on a United Nations-backed war crimes tribunal in prosecuting surviving leaders of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime may not prevent revelations about international actors linked to Cambodia's dark period.

It ranges from the period of Khmer Rouge history that the court will consider, a geographic limit to account for only atrocities committed by Cambodian nationals, and who among the surviving Khmer Rouge leadership can be hauled before the tribunal of foreign and local jurists.

Already, Noam Chomsky, linguist and trenchant critic of Washington.s foreign policy has fired a salvo ahead the opening session of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), as the tribunal is formally known.

On Monday, Kaing Khek Eav, or .Duch,. took the stand at the ECCC to mark the beginning of the tribunal, which comes 30 years after the extremist Maoist group was driven out of power by Vietnamese troops.

Duch was the chief jailor of Tuol Sleng, a former high school in the Cambodian capital, which became the largest detention and torture centre of the Khmer Rouge.

Between 12,380 to 14,000 men, women and children were tortured and then killed under Duch.s watch. Many victims were accused of having links with the U.S. spy agency, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Only 11 people survived.

In all, the Khmer Rouge was responsible for the deaths of 1.7 million people, nearly a quarter of the country.s population at that time, as they sought, between April 1975 and June 1979, to create an agrarian utopia.

But, as Chomsky asserts in the .Phnom Penh Post., an English-language daily, the Khmer Rouge.s brutality against fellow Cambodia citizens did not emerge out of a political vacuum.

Chomsky points a finger at leading figures of the U.S. political establishment like Henry Kissinger, a member of the late president Richard Nixon.s administration, who should also be held accountable for creating the conditions that paved the way for the rise the Khmer Rouge.

..It (the trial) shouldn.t be limited to the Cambodians,.. says Chomsky in an interview that appeared on the weekend. ..An international trial that doesn.t take into account Henry Kissinger or other authors of the American bombings and the support of the KR (Khmer Rouge) after they were kicked out of the country, that.s just a farce...

..The records say that the US wanted to .use anything that flies against anything that moves. (during the bombing of Cambodia), which led to five times the bombing that was reported before, greater that all bombings in all theatres of World War Two, which helped create the Khmer Rouge,.. he asserted.

Washington began flying sorties over Cambodia in the mid-1960s to crush parts of the country being used by North Vietnamese troops. These bombing raids using B-52 planes were kept a secret from the U.S. public for years.

During the Nixon years, from 1969 to 1973, an estimated 500,000 bombs were dropped, resulting in the deaths of close to 600,000 Cambodian men, women and children.

But the relatives of these victims will not have their day in tribunals such as the ECCC.

It stems from the limit of ..territorial jurisdiction.. and ..temporal jurisdiction.. written into the language of the laws to establish the special tribunal.

Washington, in fact, had a role in a placing such limits on how far across geography and time the war crimes tribunal could reach when a law to deal with the genocide in Cambodia was being shaped in the early 1990s.

..It is the policy of the United States to support efforts to bring to justice members of the Khmer Rouge for their crimes against humanity committed in Cambodia between April 17, 1975 and January 7, 1979,.. Washington declared at the time as it threw its weight behind the effort to investigate a grisly period of Cambodia.s past.

China, however, may have more to worry, given its direct role in assisting the Khmer Rouge during the period the ECCC is examining. Beijing reportedly pumped in a billion U.S. dollars to help the Khmer Rouge, in addition to providing other material and diplomatic support.

The Asian giant wanted to draw Cambodia into its orbit to counter the growing influence of its communist adversary, the Soviet Union, and its Vietnamese ally.

The current Cambodian government of Prime Minister Hun Sen, in fact, has grown nervous about the prospect of Beijing.s role during the Khmer Rouge genocide surfacing during the trial. After all, China has emerged as a dominant economic player, investing nearly 1.5 billion US dollars in 2007.

..The government would like to keep China.s name out of the trial. It does not want to upset the good relations between the two countries,.. a highly-placed Cambodian official told IPS on condition of anonymity. ..What happened then was Cold War politics. But we have moved on; we have mended fences...

Hun Sen, himself, hopes to benefit from an initial decision by the ECCC to prosecute Duch and four other surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge. Such a limit will ensure that he and other senior members of his government who held roles of commanders or ranked as officials in the Khmer Rouge regime will not have to account for their role in the genocide.

..Many more people need to face the court to really deliver justice to the millions of victims of these horrific crimes,.. says Brittis Edman, Cambodia researcher for the rights watchdog Amnesty International. ..The Extraordinary Chambers must urgently expand its prosecution strategy to investigate and prosecute more cases before it is too late...


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Torture Memos

The Torture Memos
Noam Chomsky, May 24, 2009

(earlier version published on Tom Dispatch, May 21, 2009)
The torture memos released by the White House elicited shock, indignation, and surprise. The shock and indignation are understandable -- particularly the testimony in the Senate Armed Services Committee report on Cheney-Rumsfeld desperation to find links between Iraq and al-Qaeda, links that were later concocted as justification for the invasion, facts irrelevant. Former Army psychiatrist Maj. Charles Burney testified that "a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq. The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish this link ... there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results"; that is, torture. The McClatchy press reported that a former senior intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue added that "The Bush administration applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime ... [Cheney and Rumsfeld] demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration... 'There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high-value ones we had, and when people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people to push harder'."1

These were the most significant revelations, barely reported.

While such testimony about the viciousness and deceit of the administration should indeed be shocking, the surprise at the general picture revealed is nonetheless surprising. A narrow reason is that even without inquiry, it was reasonable to suppose that Guantanamo was a torture chamber. Why else send prisoners where they would be beyond the reach of the law -- incidentally, a place that Washington is using in violation of a treaty that was forced on Cuba at the point of a gun? Security reasons are alleged, but they are hard to take seriously. The same expectations held for secret prisons and rendition, and were fulfilled

A broader reason is that torture has been routine practice from the early days of the conquest of the national territory, and then beyond, as the imperial ventures of the "infant empire" -- as George Washington called the new Republic -- extended to the Philippines, Haiti, and elsewhere. Furthermore, torture was the least of the many crimes of aggression, terror, subversion and economic strangulation that have darkened US history, much as in the case of other great powers. Accordingly, it is surprising to see the reactions even by some of the most eloquent and forthright critics of Bush malfeasance: for example, that we used to be "a nation of moral ideals" and never before Bush "have our leaders so utterly betrayed everything our nation stands for" (Paul Krugman). To say the least, that common view reflects a rather slanted version of history.

Occasionally the conflict between "what we stand for" and "what we do" has been forthrightly addressed. One distinguished scholar who undertook the task is Hans Morgenthau, a founder of realist international relations theory. In a classic study written in the glow of Camelot, Morgenthau developed the standard view that the US has a "transcendent purpose": establishing peace and freedom at home and indeed everywhere, since "the arena within which the United States must defend and promote its purpose has become world-wide." But as a scrupulous scholar, he recognized that the historical record is radically inconsistent with the "transcendent purpose" of America.

We should not, however, be misled by that discrepancy, Morgenthau advises: in his words, we should not "confound the abuse of reality with reality itself." Reality is the unachieved "national purpose" revealed by "the evidence of history as our minds reflect it." What actually happened is merely the "abuse of reality." To confound abuse of reality with reality is akin to "the error of atheism, which denies the validity of religion on similar grounds." An apt comparison.

The release of the torture memos led others to recognize the problem. In the New York Times, columnist Roger Cohen reviewed a book by British journalist Geoffrey Hodgson, who concludes that the US is "just one great, but imperfect, country among others." Cohen agrees that the evidence supports Hodgson's judgment, but regards it as fundamentally mistaken. The reason is Hodgson's failure to understand that "America was born as an idea, and so it has to carry that idea forward." The American idea is revealed by America's birth as a "city on a hill," an "inspirational notion" that resides "deep in the American psyche"; and by "the distinctive spirit of American individualism and enterprise" demonstrated in the Western expansion. Hodgson's error is that he is keeping to "the distortions of the American idea in recent decades," the "abuse of reality" in recent years.

Let us then turn to "reality itself": the "idea" of America from its earliest days.

The inspirational phrase "city on a hill" was coined by John Winthrop in 1630, borrowing from the Gospels, and outlining the glorious future of a new nation "ordained by God." One year earlier his Massachusetts Bay Colony established its Great Seal. It depicts an Indian with a scroll coming out of his mouth. On it are the words "Come over and help us." The British colonists were thus benevolent humanists, responding to the pleas of the miserable natives to be rescued from their bitter pagan fate.

The Great Seal is a graphic representation of "the idea of America," from its birth. It should be exhumed from the depths of the psyche and displayed on the walls of every classroom. It should certainly appear in the background of all of the Kim il-Sung-style worship of the savage murderer and torturer Ronald Reagan, who blissfully described himself as the leader of a "shining city on the hill" while orchestrating some of the more ghastly crimes of his years in office, leaving a hideous legacy.

This early proclamation of "humanitarian intervention," to use the currently fashionable phrase, turned out to be very much like its successors, facts that were not obscure to the agents. The first Secretary of War, General Henry Knox, described "the utter extirpation of all the Indians in most populous parts of the Union" by means "more destructive to the Indian natives than the conduct of the conquerors of Mexico and Peru." Long after his own significant contributions to the process were past, John Quincy Adams deplored the fate of "that hapless race of native Americans, which we are exterminating with such merciless and perfidious cruelty ... among the heinous sins of this nation, for which I believe God will one day bring [it] to judgement." The merciless and perfidious cruelty continued until "the West was won." Instead of God's judgment, the heinous sins bring only praise for the fulfillment of the American "idea."2

There was, to be sure, a more convenient and conventional version, expressed for example by Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, who mused that "the wisdom of Providence" caused the natives to disappear like "the withered leaves of autumn" even though the colonists had "constantly respected" them.3

The conquest and settling of the West indeed showed individualism and enterprise. Settler-colonialist enterprises, the cruelest form of imperialism, commonly do. The outcome was hailed by the respected and influential Senator Henry Cabot Lodge in 1898. Calling for intervention in Cuba, Lodge lauded our record "of conquest, colonization, and territorial expansion unequalled by any people in the 19th century," and urged that it is "not to be curbed now," as the Cubans too are pleading with us to come over and help them.4 Their plea was answered. The US sent troops, thereby preventing Cuba's liberation from Spain and turning it into a virtual colony, as it remained until 1959.

The "American idea" is illustrated further by the remarkable campaign, initiated virtually at once, to restore Cuba to its proper place: economic warfare with the clearly articulated aim of punishing the population so that they would overthrow the disobedient government; invasion; the dedication of the Kennedy brothers to bring "the terrors of the earth" to Cuba (the phrase of historian Arthur Schlesinger, in his biography of Robert Kennedy, who took the task as one of his highest priorities); and other crimes continuing to the present, in defiance of virtually unanimous world opinion.

There are to be sure critics, who hold that our efforts to bring democracy to Cuba have failed, so we should turn to other ways to "come over and help them." How do these critics know that the goal was to bring democracy? There is evidence: so our leaders proclaim. There is also counter-evidence: the declassified internal record, but that can be dismissed as just "the abuse of history."

American imperialism is often traced to the takeover of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii in 1898. But that is to succumb to what historian of imperialism Bernard Porter calls "the salt water fallacy," the idea that conquest only becomes imperialism when it crosses salt water. Thus if the Mississippi had resembled the Irish Sea, Western expansion would have been imperialism. From Washington to Lodge, those engaged in the enterprise had a clearer grasp.

After the success of humanitarian intervention in Cuba in 1898, the next step in the mission assigned by Providence was to confer "the blessings of liberty and civilization upon all the rescued peoples" of the Philippines (in the words of the platform of Lodge's Republican party) -- at least those who survived the murderous onslaught and the large-scale torture and other atrocities that accompanied it. These fortunate souls were left to the mercies of the US-established Philippine constabulary within a newly devised model of colonial domination, relying on security forces trained and equipped for sophisticated modes of surveillance, intimidation, and violence.5 Similar models were adopted in many other areas where the US imposed brutal National Guards and other client forces, with consequences that should be well-known.

In the past sixty years, victims worldwide have also endured the CIA's "torture paradigm," developed at a cost reaching $1 billion annually, according to historian Alfred McCoy, who shows that the methods surfaced with little change in Abu Ghraib. There is no hyperbole when Jennifer Harbury entitles her penetrating study of the U.S. torture record Truth, Torture, and the American Way. It is highly misleading, to say the least, when investigators of the Bush gang's descent into the sewer lament that "in waging the war against terrorism, America had lost its way."6

Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld et al. did introduce important innovations. Ordinarily, torture is farmed out to subsidiaries, not carried out by Americans directly in their government-established torture chambers. Alain Nairn, who has carried out some of the most revealing and courageous investigations of torture, points out that "What the Obama [ban on torture] ostensibly knocks off is that small percentage of torture now done by Americans while retaining the overwhelming bulk of the system's torture, which is done by foreigners under US patronage. Obama could stop backing foreign forces that torture, but he has chosen not to do so." Obama did not shut down the practice of torture, Nairn observes, but "merely repositioned it," restoring it to the norm, a matter of indifference to the victims. Since Vietnam, "the US has mainly seen its torture done for it by proxy -- paying, arming, training and guiding foreigners doing it, but usually being careful to keep Americans at least one discreet step removed." Obama's ban "doesn't even prohibit direct torture by Americans outside environments of 'armed conflict,' which is where much torture happens anyway since many repressive regimes aren't in armed conflict ... his is a return to the status quo ante, the torture regime of Ford through Clinton, which, year by year, often produced more US-backed strapped-down agony than was produced during the Bush/Cheney years."7

Sometimes engagement in torture is more indirect. In a 1980 study, Latin Americanist Lars Schoultz found that US aid "has tended to flow disproportionately to Latin American governments which torture their citizens,... to the hemisphere's relatively egregious violators of fundamental human rights." That includes military aid, is independent of need, and runs through the Carter years. Broader studies by Edward Herman found the same correlation, and also suggested an explanation. Not surprisingly, US aid tends to correlate with a favorable climate for business operations, and this is commonly improved by murder of labor and peasant organizers and human rights activists, and other such actions, yielding a secondary correlation between aid and egregious violation of human rights.8

These studies precede the Reagan years, when the topic was not worth studying because the correlations were so clear. And the tendencies continue to the present.

Small wonder that the President advises us to look forward, not backward -- a convenient doctrine for those who hold the clubs. Those who are beaten by them tend to see the world differently, much to our annoyance.

An argument can be made that implementation of the CIA's "torture paradigm" does not violate the 1984 Torture Convention, at least as Washington interprets it. Alfred McCoy points out that the highly sophisticated CIA paradigm, based on the "KGB's most devastating torture technique," keeps primarily to mental torture, not crude physical torture, which is considered less effective in turning people into pliant vegetables. McCoy writes that the Reagan administration carefully revised the international Torture Convention "with four detailed diplomatic 'reservations' focused on just one word in the convention's 26-printed pages," the word "mental." These intricately-constructed diplomatic reservations re-defined torture, as interpreted by the United States, to exclude sensory deprivation and self-inflicted painÑthe very techniques the CIA had refined at such great cost." When Clinton sent the UN Convention to Congress for ratification in 1994, he included the Reagan reservations. The President and Congress therefore exempted the core of the CIA torture paradigm from the US interpretation of the Torture Convention; and those reservations, McCoy observes, were "reproduced verbatim in domestic legislation enacted to give legal force to the UN Convention." That is the "political land mine" that "detonated with such phenomenal force" in the Abu Ghraib scandal and in the shameful Military Commissions act that was passed with bipartisan support in 2006. Accordingly, after the first exposure of Washington's resort to torture, constitutional law professor Sanford Levinson observed that it could perhaps be justified in terms of the "interrogator-friendly" definition of torture adopted by Reagan and Clinton in their revision of international human rights law.9

Bush, of course, went beyond his predecessors in authorizing prima facie violations of international law, and several of his extremist innovations were struck down by the Courts. While Obama, like Bush, eloquently affirms our unwavering commitment to international law, he seems intent on substantially reinstating the extremist Bush measures. In the important case of Boumediene v. Bush in June 2008, the Supreme Court rejected as unconstitutional the Bush administration claim that prisoners in Guantanamo are not entitled to the right of habeas corpus. Glenn Greenwald reviews the aftermath. Seeking to "preserve the power to abduct people from around the world" and imprison them without due process, the Bush administration decided to ship them to Bagram, treating "the Boumediene ruling, grounded in our most basic constitutional guarantees, as though it was some sort of a silly game -- fly your abducted prisoners to Guantanamo and they have constitutional rights, but fly them instead to Bagram and you can disappear them forever with no judicial process." Obama adopted the Bush position, "filing a brief in federal court that, in two sentences, declared that it embraced the most extremist Bush theory on this issue," arguing that prisoners flown to Bagram from anywhere in the world -- in the case in question, Yemenis and Tunisians captured in Thailand and the UAE -- "can be imprisoned indefinitely with no rights of any kind -- as long as they are kept in Bagram rather than Guantanamo."

In March, a Bush-appointed federal judge "rejected the Bush/Obama position and held that the rationale of Boumediene applies every bit as much to Bagram as it does to Guantanamo." The Obama administration announced that it would appeal the ruling, thus placing Obama's Department of Justice "squarely to the Right of an extremely conservative, pro-executive-power, Bush 43-appointed judge on issues of executive power and due-process-less detentions," in radical violation of Obama's campaign promises and earlier stands.10

The case of Rasul v Rumsfeld appears to be following a similar trajectory. The plaintiffs charged that Rumsfeld and other high officials were responsible for their torture in Guantanamo, where they were sent after they were captured by Uzbeki warlord Rashid Dostum. Dostum is a notorious thug who was then a leader of the Northern Alliance, the Afghan faction supported by Russia, Iran, India, Turkey, and the Central Asian states, joined by the US as it attacked Afghanistan in October 2001. Dostum then turned him over to US custody, allegedly for bounty money. The plaintiffs claimed that they had traveled to Afghanistan to offer humanitarian relief. The Bush administration sought to have the case dismissed. Obama's Department of Justice filed a brief supporting the Bush position that government officials are not liable for torture and other violations of due process in this case, because the Courts had not yet clearly established the rights that prisoners enjoy.11

It is also reported that Obama intends to revive military commissions, one of the more severe violations of the rule of law during the Bush years. There is a reason. "Officials who work on the Guant.namo issue say administration lawyers have become concerned that they would face significant obstacles to trying some terrorism suspects in federal courts. Judges might make it difficult to prosecute detainees who were subjected to brutal treatment or for prosecutors to use hearsay evidence gathered by intelligence agencies."12 A serious flaw in the criminal justice system, it appears.

There is much debate about whether torture has been effective in eliciting information -- the assumption being, apparently, that if it is effective then it may be justified. By the same argument, when Nicaragua captured US pilot Eugene Hasenfuss in 1986 after shooting down his plane delivering aid to Reagan's contra forces, they should not have tried him, found him guilty, and then sent him back to the US, as they did. Rather, they should have applied the CIA torture paradigm to try to extract information about other terrorist atrocities being planned and implemented in Washington, no small matter for a tiny and poor country under terrorist attack by the global superpower. And Nicaragua should certainly have done the same if they had been able to capture the chief terrorism coordinator, John Negroponte, then Ambassador in Honduras, later appointed counterterrorism Czar, without eliciting a murmur. Cuba should have done the same if they had been able to lay hands on the Kennedy brothers. There is no need to bring up what victims should have done to Kissinger, Reagan, and other leading terrorist commanders, whose exploits leave al-Qaeda far in the distance, and who doubtless had ample information that could have prevented further "ticking bombs."

Such considerations, which abound, never seem to arise in public discussion. Accordingly, we know at once how to evaluate the pleas about valuable information.

There is, to be sure, a response: our terrorism, even if surely terrorism, is benign, deriving as it does from the city on the hill. Perhaps the most eloquent exposition of this thesis was presented by New Republic editor Michael Kinsley, a respected spokesman of "the left." America's Watch (Human Rights Watch) had protested State Department confirmation of official orders to Washington's terrorist forces to attack "soft targets" -- undefended civilian targets -- and to avoid the Nicaraguan army, as they could do thanks to CIA control of Nicaraguan airspace and the sophisticated communications systems provided to the contras. In response, Kinsley explained that US terrorist attacks on civilian targets are justified if they satisfy pragmatic criteria: a "sensible policy [should] meet the test of cost-benefit analysis," an analysis of "the amount of blood and misery that will be poured in, and the likelihood that democracy will emerge at the other end"13 -- "democracy" as US elites determine. His thoughts elicited no comment, to my knowledge, apparently deemed acceptable. It would seem to follow, then, that US leaders and their agents are not culpable for conducting such sensible policies in good faith, even if their judgment might sometimes be flawed.

Perhaps culpability would be greater, by prevailing moral standards, if it were discovered that Bush administration torture cost American lives. That is, in fact, the conclusion drawn by US Major Matthew Alexander [pseudonym], one of the most seasoned interrogators in Iraq, who elicited "the information that led to the US military being able to locate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al-Qa'ida in Iraq," correspondent Patrick Cockburn reports. Alexander expresses only contempt for the harsh interrogation methods: "The use of torture by the US," he believes, not only elicits no useful information but "has proved so counter-productive that it may have led to the death of as many US soldiers as civilians killed in 9/11." From hundreds of interrogations, Alexander discovered that foreign fighters came to Iraq in reaction to the abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, and that they and their domestic allies turned to suicide bombing and other terrorist acts for the same reason.14

There is also mounting evidence that Cheney-Rumsfeld torture created terrorists. One carefully studied case is that of Abdallah al-Ajmi, who was locked up in Guantanamo on the charge of "engaging in two or three fire fights with the Northern Alliance." He ended up in Afghanistan after having failed to reach Chechnya to fight against the Russian invasion. After four years of brutal treatment in Guantanamo, he was returned to Kuwait. He later found his way to Iraq, and in March 2008 drove a bomb-laden truck into an Iraqi military compound, killing himself and 13 soldiers -- "the single most heinous act of violence committed by a former Guantanamo detainee," the Washington Post reports, the direct result of his abusive imprisonment, his Washington lawyer concludes.15

All much as a reasonable person would expect.

Another standard pretext for torture is the context: the "war on terror" that Bush declared after 9/11, a "crime against humanity" carried out with "wickedness and awesome cruelty," as Robert Fisk reported. That crime rendered traditional international law "quaint" and "obsolete," Bush was advised by his legal counsel Alberto Gonzales, later appointed Attorney-General. The doctrine has been widely reiterated in one or another form in commentary and analysis.

The 9/11 attack was doubtless unique, in many respects. One is where the guns were pointing: typically it is in the opposite direction. In fact that was the first attack of any consequence on the national territory since the British burned down Washington in 1814. Another unique feature is the scale of terror by a non-state actor. But horrifying as it was, it could have been worse. Suppose that the perpetrators had bombed the White House, killed the president and established a vicious military dictatorship that killed 50-100,000 people and tortured 700,000, set up a huge international terror center that carried out assassinations and helped impose comparable military dictatorships elsewhere, and implemented economic doctrines that destroyed the economy so radically that the state had to virtually take it over a few years later. That would have been a lot worse than 9/11 2001. And it happened, in what Latin Americans often call "the first 9/11," in 1973. The numbers have been changed to per capita equivalents, a realistic way of measuring crimes. Responsibility traces straight back to Washington. Accordingly, the -- quite appropriate -- analogy is out of consciousness, while the facts are consigned to the "abuse of reality" that the call history.

It should also be recalled that Bush did not declare the "war on terror"; he re-declared it. Twenty years earlier, the Reagan administration came into office declaring that a centerpiece of its foreign policy would be a war on terror, "the plague of the modern age" and "a return to barbarism in our time," to sample the fevered rhetoric of the day. That war on terror has also been deleted from historical consciousness, because the outcome cannot readily be incorporated into the canon: hundreds of thousands slaughtered in the ruined countries of Central America and many more elsewhere. Among them an estimated 1.5 million in the terrorist wars sponsored in neighboring countries by Reagan's favored ally apartheid South Africa, which had to defend itself from Nelson Mandela's African National Congress, one of the more world's "more notorious terrorist groups," Washington determined in 1988. In fairness, it should be added that 20 years later Congress voted to remove the ANC from the list of terrorist organizations, so that Mandela is now at last able to enter the US without obtaining a waiver from the government.16

The reigning doctrine is sometimes called "American exceptionalism." It is nothing of the sort. It is probably close to universal among imperial powers. France was hailing its "civilizing mission" while the French Minister of War called for "exterminating the indigenous population" of Algeria. Britain's nobility was a "novelty in the world," John Stuart Mill declared, while urging that this angelic power delay no longer in completing its liberation of India. This classic essay on humanitarian intervention was written shortly after the public revelation of Britain's horrifying atrocities in suppressing the 1857 Indian rebellion. The conquest of the rest of India was in large part an effort to gain a monopoly of opium for Britain's huge narcotrafficking enterprise, by far the largest in world history, designed primarily to compel China to accept Britain's manufactured goods.

Similarly, there is no reason to doubt the sincerity of Japanese militarists who were bringing an "earthly paradise" to China under benign Japanese tutelage, as they carried out the rape of Nanking. History is replete with similar glorious episodes.

As long as such "exceptionalist" theses remain firmly implanted, the occasional revelations of the "abuse of history" can backfire, serving to efface terrible crimes. The My Lai massacre was a mere footnote to the vastly greater atrocities of the post-Tet pacification programs, ignored while indignation focused on this single crime. Watergate was doubtless criminal, but the furor over it displaced incomparably worse crimes at home and abroad -- the FBI-organized assassination of black organizer Fred Hampton as part of the infamous COINTELPRO repression, or the bombing of Cambodia, to mention two egregious examples. Torture is hideous enough; the invasion of Iraq is a far worse crime. Quite commonly, selective atrocities have this function.

Historical amnesia is a dangerous phenomenon, not only because it undermines moral and intellectual integrity, but also because it lays the groundwork for crimes that lie ahead.

1 Jonathan Landay, "Abusive tactics used to seek Iraq-al Qaida link," McClatchy news, April 21. Gordon Trowbridge, "Levin: Iraq link goal of torture," Detroit News, April 22, 2009.

2 Reginald Horsman, Expansion and American Indian Policy (Michigan State, 1967); William Earl Weeks, John Quincy Adams and American Global Empire (Kentucky, 1992).

3 On the record of Providentialist justifications for the most shocking crimes, and its more general role in forging "the American idea," see Nicholas Guyatt, Providence and the Invention of the United States, 1607-1876 (Cambridge 2007).

4 Cited by Lars Schoultz, That Infernal Little Cuban Republic (North Carolina, 2009).

5 Ibid. Alfred McCoy, Policing America's Empire (Wisconsin, 2009).

6 McCoy, A Question of Torture (Metropolitan, 2006). Also McCoy, "The U.S. Has a History of Using Torture," Harbury (Beacon, 2005). Jane Mayer, "The Battle for a Country's Soul," NY Review, Aug. 14, 2008. 7 News and Comment, Jan. 24, 2009,

8 Schoultz, Comparative Politics, Jan. 1981. Herman, in Chomsky and Herman, Political Economy of Human Rights I, ch. 2.1.1 (South End, 1979); Herman, Real Terror Network, 1 (South End, 1982), 26ff.

9 McCoy, "US has a history." Levinson, "Torture in Iraq & the Rule of Law in America," Daedalus, Summer 2004.

10 Greenwald, "Obama and habeas corpus -- then and now,"

11 Daphne Eviatar, "Obama Justice Department Urges Dismissal of Another Torture Case," Washington Independent, March 12, 2009,

12 William Glaberson, "U.S. May Revive Guantanamo Military Courts," NYT, May 1, 2009;

13 Kinsley, Wall Street Journal, March 26, 1987.

14 Cockburn, "Torture? It probably killed more Americans than 9/11," Independent, 6 April, 2009.

15 Anonymous (Rajiv Chandrasekaran), "From Captive to Suicide Bomber," WP, Feb. 22, 2009.

16 Joseba Zulaika and William Douglass, Terror and Taboo (Routledge, 1996). Jesse Holland, AP, May 9, 2009. NYT.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Must Read - Modern Media Story

In their classic 1988 book Manufacturing Consent, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky demonstrated how corporate media select topics, place emphasis, set boundaries, ask questions and shape content in accordance with broad capitalist imperatives. It.s a largely unconscious process driven by conformist human beings, and infinitely more effective than the heavy-handed methods of past communist regimes.

During the 20th century, ballooning marketing budgets played a crucial role in the marginalization, and ultimate extinction of influential labor-based/progressive media. Today.s mass media subservience to elite power structures is an inevitable consequence of the pursuit of profit. Advertising revenues continue to flow to any given publication, radio or TV station on the condition that its reporting and general content supports a business-friendly status quo.

News/ad-consuming audiences are literally a product for sale, though we more closely resemble victimized bystanders. Above all, the oppressed and impoverished of the world are done a grave disservice as a consequence of writers being selected for a proven disposition to respect traditional authority and elite power. Capitalist society in this context represents a filtering system in which the most powerful are overwhelmingly the least radical. Needless to say, the hierarchy of journalism is no different.


Venezuela.s socialist national project is well underway and making ever more significant strides, in spite of an entrenched, privileged minority in opposition, relentlessly spurred on by the corporate media and its vociferous attacks. As the anti-capitalist character of the Chavez government revealed itself, it became starkly clear that democratic opinion was not being reflected in the established private media. Influential newspapers dropped their pretenses of varying .liberal. tendencies, and increasingly appeared to be acting from an agreed playbook.

The single most popular TV station (RCTV) has already been relegated from the free airwaves to satellite-only broadcasting, ostensibly for having materially assisted a US-led coup in April 2002, but principally to minimise the effect of a daily programming schedule rife with machismo, the objectification of women, consumerism, violence and general idiocy. That decision not to renew RCTV.s license, which expired in 2007, was entirely down to government prerogative. Other options exist in Venezuela: revoking an active license can be done under certain circumstances, broadcasters can be suspended, and the national government reserves the right to expropriate any privately-held enterprise.

Alongside its general entertainment, RCTV featured regular streams of distorted news reports reflecting badly on the Chavez government. This continues to be the raison d.être of Globovision, a 24-hour channel dedicated almost entirely to news and political opinion. In contrast to competitors such as Televen and Venevision, who sensed the winds of change and made boardroom decisions to enforce some degree of impartiality, Globovision persists in its role as the shrill, irrational, almost comical incarnation of opposition hatred and hysteria. This was presumably also a boardroom decision, albeit an infinitely less responsible one.

It appears that Globovision has no genuine interest in self-preservation, let alone in providing any kind of platform for the majority opinion in Venezuelan society. Overseen by a director who works at the highest level with opposition politicians and imperial agents, .Globo. will continue to dress itself up as the last bastion of free speech in the face of hurtling communist totalitarianism. Presumably, they hope their siege mentality and inevitable fate will immortalize the brand and spark mass revolt. This is quite simply a capitalist institution in the throws of pathological extremes, revelling in its status as the leader of a twisted niche market.

Globovision.s free-to-air license will come up for renewal by the sitting government in 2015, though unlike in the case of RCTV, Chavez has all but assured the nation he will not wait patiently for that moment. Presidential bravado aside, three official charges of impropriety await the channel: early reporting of exit polls in two states in 2007, fear-mongering reports in the immediate aftermath of a recent tremor, and a prime-time guest permitted to opine that Chavez is headed for a popular lynching, Mussolini-style. If any of these charges stick, Globo will find itself banned from the airwaves for 72 hours (with another offense within the subsequent five years sufficient to revoke a license). If guilty of two or more, its license might be immediately revoked.


If Globovision.s free-to-air license comes to a premature end, one might end up wondering if it was worth the time, effort and controversy. After all, satellite TV is a staple presence in the vast majority of middle/upper-class homes, let alone in a surprisingly large number of hillside .barrio. residences. The channel would continue in precisely its present form, being viewed by more or less the same audience. Notwithstanding these facts, opposition propaganda is already repeating the same idiocies as graced the RCTV affair: Globo is in danger of .closure. for political reasons by an autocratic government permanently threatened by freedom of expression.

Capitalist media can never be relied upon to report in the public.s best interest, without routine omissions of facts or relevant context. The profit motive can only coincidentally coincide with human interest, and usually directly contradicts it. A truly socialist society must be served entirely by grassroots-based organs, connected in local and regional networks, and firmly under the democratic control of workers and society at large. The eventual demise of Globovision, RCTV, Televen, Venevision and all privately-held media is a necessary condition for the establishment and maintenance of true democracy. The only debate in truly revolutionary circles is how, and at what pace to make the transition.

It isn.t that Globo represents a thorn in the side of a government eager to maintain an electoral majority . one would be a fool to bet against Chavez being re-elected in 2012 with over 60% of the vote. Rather, responsible citizens should consider the extent to which Globo is psychologically damaging a sizeable proportion of Venezuela.s population with day-and-night doomsday reporting (whether related to seismic tremors, the exchange of Venezuelan oil for Cuban doctors, crime stories or the economy). Any significant ingestion of Globovision.s perceptions and analyses should invoke increased anxiety and stress as an absolute minimum.

The government has rightly designated Globo the head of domestic .media terrorism.: a political party masquerading as a selfless provider of news and opinion. Guests are typically frequent regulars, trained in the art of repeating platitudes with authority and professionalism, but unable to provide in-depth analysis and often visibly on the verge of exasperation. Phone-in callers attempting to defend the government are treated as ignorant practical jokers, while coverage of Chavez is brief and sporadic, shamelessly avoiding inconvenient truths at any cost.

Those who claim Venezuela.s greatly-expanded state media is far more deserving of the .political party. accusation should recognise that most revolutionaries here are not in favor of comprehensive and uncritical pro-government media controlled by the government itself. Nevertheless, with 80% of all privately-owned domestic media (not to mention the foreign press!) using their airtime and columns to denigrate government personnel and actions, there is no other medium-term option than to take advantage of state privileges and resources, responding to attacks and promoting revolutionary achievements in what has been termed the guerra mediatica (media war).

A common view is that Globovision and RCTV, or particularly the exposure they grant to opposition figures, actually play a positive role in mobilizing the revolutionary base. Therefore it should be of strategic benefit to wage a war of attrition, progressively weakening certain media where justified, but permitting them to continue as viable commercial entities for some time into the future. This avoids major controversy . something of a priority with elections of some kind every year . while upholding some semblance of justice. Which other country would permit TV stations that barely stop short of calling for rebellion and assassination of the democratically-elected president?

Satellite-only transmission would imply a reduced likelihood of undecided/apolitical voters stumbling across and persisting with Globovision, but quite possibly only to a marginal degree. However, the immediate threat of less viewers would be accompanied by a corresponding fall in advertising revenues, and presumably a disproportionate reduction in the value of the company. It all adds up to a potent initial sanction, as RCTV shareholders are likely to be discovering to their discontent.

However, this revolution must be awake to the dangerous possibility that later stages of this .media war. might tend towards a slippery slope of curbing legitimate free speech. For those who understand that for-profit media is anything but free, priorities should be clear: the focus should always be on managing the downfall of corporate media institutions, while tackling the difficult process of strengthening and empowering popular media. Anything else, and particularly the unchecked dominance of state-controlled media, must inevitably lead towards an uniform, suffocating, unsavory future.

Globovisón: The Loose Cannon of Venezuelan Media

May 22nd 2009, by Carlos Ruiz - VenCentral

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Israel Classroom Spies - Media terror - global warming

Deputy Minister of Information & Communication (Minty), Mauricio Rodriguez has been the target of serious opposition flak for quoting Noam Chomsky. Speaking on a State channel VTV talk show, the Minister make a simple quote from Chomsky that in the USA any media owner involved in a coup d'etat against the US government would be taken to trial and executed. In the case of Europe, Chomsky states, they would have been tried and sent to prison for life. Continuing his analysis, Chomsky says one cannot imagine the New York Times or CBS channel supporting a military coup that defeated the US government, even for one day. Chomsky made the comments in reference to the role of Venezuela's media during the April 11, 2002 coup. After Minister Rodriguez completed the interview, opposition 24-hour news channel, Globovision geared into action twisting the story into convenient black bag tactics. Globovision senior TV presenter, Leopoldo Castillo suggested publicly that Rodriguez had said that opposition media owners and journalists should be executed and that since he's a top official, he must be following President Chavez' orders. Las Ultimas Noticias journalist, Blanca Gonzalez has added more fuel to the claim by repeating the spin that media bosses and journalists should be executed as though they were Rodriguez' own words and not those of Noel Chomsky. Government channels have been showing shots of the actual interview as evidence of devilment and manipulation by Globovision spin doctors, hell bent on making the world believe that media owners are in danger of their lives.

President Chavez has signed around 13 agreements with Argentina during a weekend visit to that country. Chavez says both countries were able to open an alternative road to that of the neoliberal model that almost ruined both countries. The meeting is part of a three-monthly agreement to come together to review important agreements and integration measures. Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez has given her full support to Venezuela's entry into the Southern Cone Economic Zone (Mercosur). Chavez insists on the need to create a new "international financial architecture" and not to wait for the North to make the changes, suggesting the importance of activating as soon as possible the Bank of the South and the South American financial fund made up of 10% of each country's international reserves to help countries with difficulties. Chavez has proposed a meeting of Latin American Presidents in Caracas on June 24 to launch the Bank of the South calling on those attending to come with check-books.

Israel lobby descends on UC- Santa Barbara
by CDAF ( CDAF.UCSB [at] )
Monday May 18th, 2009 11:06 AM

Investigation of sociology professor is frontline in nationwide campaign to silence criticism against Israel on college campuses.

May 18, 2009

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- Noam Chomsky is no newcomer to harassment by pro-Israel organizations.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) once compiled a 150-page dossier on the famous author and linguistics professor, apparently to find information it could use against him, Chomsky said in an interview in late April.

An ADL insider sent Chomsky the file, which included conversations, correspondence and other materials. Chomsky said it read like an FBI file.

.It.s hard to nail this stuff down in a court of law, but it.s clear they essentially have spies in classrooms who take notes and send them to the ADL and other organizations,. Chomsky said. .The groups then compile dossiers they can use to condemn, attack or remove faculty members. like J. Edgar Hoover.s files. It.s kind of gutter stuff..

Such covert tactics have yet to emerge publicly at the University of California at Santa Barbara. But the effort to discredit and censor criticism of Israeli policies has taken a potentially ominous turn.

The ADL and the Israel advocacy group .Stand With Us. are leading an aggressive, direct campaign to pressure UCSB administrators and faculty to investigate and discipline sociology professor William I. Robinson for having introduced materials critical of Israel in a course on global affairs.

The materials included a photo essay that Robinson forwarded to students from the Internet juxtaposing images of Israeli abuse against Palestinians with Nazi abuses during the holocaust. Two students took offense at the images and withdrew from the course, prompting the ADL to pressure the university to pursue charges of .anti-Semitism. against Robinson.

The pressure campaign includes face-to-face meetings with university officials and faculty, use of Internet-based media to influence public opinion, and a formidable letter-writing effort that relies particularly on UCSB donors, some of whom have threatened to withdraw their support for the university.

Some meetings -- such as an hour-long encounter between ADL National Director Abraham Foxman and UCSB officials and faculty -- may have seriously violated university policies. The Foxman meeting generated concern that pressure by the Israel lobby may have influenced the Academic Senate in its decision to open a formal investigation against Robinson.

Other meetings are only now coming to light.

Aaron Ettenberg, a UCSB psychology professor and member of the Academic Senate.s Charges Advisory Committee, has confirmed that he met with Rabbi Arthur Gross-Schaefer prior to the committee.s recommendation to investigate Robinson.

Gross-Schaefer is interim director of the local chapter of Hillel, an organization that works with Jewish communities on college campuses. Hillel met with the two students who withdrew from Robinson.s class before those students filed their grievances against Robinson.

Both Gross-Schaefer and Ettenberg told Anthony Fenton -- a reporter based in Vancouver who writes for the .Asia Times Online. and .The Dominion. of Canada -- that they had met and discussed the Robinson case.

.I really didn.t discuss that with him very much,. Gross-Schaefer told Fenton in a telephone interview. .We see each other socially, it wasn.t any meeting or anything in particular.It wasn.t.set up to discuss that at all actually..

Ettenberg told Fenton he is .just friends. with Gross Schaefer.

.I can.t say anything at this point,. he said. .I didn.t have a meeting with him formally to discuss any of these kinds of things..

Whether formal or not, that they met and discussed the Robinson case may constitute a serious breach of Academic Senate procedures for dealing with student complaints.

In a public statement on May 4, Robert Potter -- professor emeritus of the Department of Theater and Dance and former chair of the Academic Senate Committee on Privilege and Tenure -- expressed deep concern about the .campaign of accusations. against Robinson.

.This orchestrated attempt by outside agencies to pressure the university into disciplining a faculty member over the content of a course is an entirely improper attack on academic freedom,. Potter said. .The campus community should express concern over this very troubling sequence of events..

Members of the California Scholars for Academic Freedom, which includes nearly 140 academics at 20 institutions, say the campaign at UCSB reflects a major escalation by the Israel lobby to silence criticism at universities in California and elsewhere.

Mark Levine, a Jewish professor of Middle Eastern Studies at UC-Irvine, said pro-Israel groups have, in effect, created a .large machine. to attack Israel critics on college campuses.

.That.s why this case is so important,. Levine said. .These are powerful, organized groups in the Jewish community who use fear and intimidation to try to make sure Israel doesn.t get criticized. They go after anyone, even more so when the critics are Jews, because they fear that if we can criticize them, then everyone can..

Sondra Hale, a UCLA professor and founder and coordinator of the California Scholars, said the Robinson case stands out because the Israel lobby.s pressure tactics have been so public.

.A lot of incidents at other campuses have been more subtle types of pressure, but this case is very straightforward,. Hale said. .The evidence is right there. It.s very clear cut..

For detailed information about the Robinson case, visit the Committee to Defend Academic Freedom Web site at

For media inquiries, call Alba Peña-Leon at (626) 665-9212

Last year, NASA climatologist Jim Hansen explained that atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) needed to be reduced from 385 parts per million (ppm) "if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted." Scientists have identified 350 ppm as the safe upper limit of CO2 in the earth's atmosphere, a number Bill McKibben, Noam Chomsky, Terry Tempest Williams and others have seized on in their support for the environmental activist organization

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Philadelphia Corporate Whore Media

The publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer is defending having John Yoo, the father of the torture memos, on the payroll. It's quite some defense: "What I liked about John Yoo is he's a Philadelphian," Brian Tierney told the New York Times
"He went to Episcopal Academy, where I went to school. He's a very, very bright guy.."
Having gone to the same school apparently means that it's okay that in a hearing in 2008 Yoo demurred when asked if it it was okay to bury a detainee in the ground alive, and claimed their was no treaty and no law that outlawed the torturing of a detainee's children: Asked -- If the president deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can stop him?

Yoo said there was "No treaty" and that "it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that.."

Publisher Tierney claims the hiring of Yoo is all about airing contrasting views in a paper generally thought of as "knee jerk" liberal. What next -- a pro-slavery voice -- to add a little contrast to all that knee jerk human rights stuff? In fact, the Philadelphia Inquirer already has a long line-up of conservative columnists, including Michael Smerconish and Rick Santorum. If the paper really wanted to diversify -- how about Noam Chomsky? Guess what? he was born in Philly!

How about showing Chomsky some brotherly love, Mr. Tierney? Chomsky has the added advantage of being able to recognize a criminal act when he sees one.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Secret Club - Who are the current members?

My Alibi? They Wouldn't Answer Answer Man

(By John Kelly -- The Washington Post)
The facade of the Alibi Club at 1806 I St. NW. It is, apparently, a very exclusive, highly secret club. But who knows for sure?
The facade of the Alibi Club at 1806 I St. NW. It is, apparently, a very exclusive, highly secret club. But who knows for sure? (By Amy Argetsinger -- The Washington Post)
By John Kelly
Sunday, May 10, 2009

I was wondering if you have any information on the building at 1806 I St. NW. It is obviously a pre-Civil War building and the only remaining such structure on the block. It has a small plaque on the front that says "Alibi Club." It has (old) curtains in the windows, and I have never seen anyone entering or leaving. It is just a very strange anomaly in an area of new office buildings and obviously taxes continue to be paid on it and, I assume, a minimum amount of maintenance. Any ideas?

-- Mike Duffy, Rockville

Answer Man paid a visit to the Alibi Club on Friday. He walked up the metal steps and, finding the outer door open, ascended to a small vestibule and confronted a locked green door. What, he wondered, was behind the green door?

Answer Man buzzed the intercom, introduced himself and said: "I wondered if I could talk to someone about the Alibi Club."

"Sorry, no," came the answer.

If Answer Man was any kind of investigator he would have disguised himself as a deliveryman or a meter reader and bluffed his way inside. Alas, he is bound by the ethical code of the reporter, and so he made more legal enquiries. That meant talking to the neighbors and reading through the clips.

"If you wait outside you can see people you've seen on TV," said George Ramakis, proprietor of City Watchmaker next door.


George has seen them entering the Alibi Club: congressmen, senators, Secret Service agents, too, accompanying the occasional presidential visitor. A pretty high-powered crowd for what looks like a flophouse.

What is the Alibi Club, anyway? Well, it's a club. Whether it is a gentlemen-only club Answer Man cannot say. It certainly was founded as such, in 1884, by seven disaffected members of the Metropolitan Club.

The building has always looked shabby from the outside. In 1896, The Post reported that members preferred it that way: "There is enough to interest one inside."

Before discussing what is inside, Answer Man will discuss who is inside. The Alibi Club has the reputation of being one of the most secretive clubs in town (although Answer Man thinks a truly secretive club would be one no one had ever heard of). Membership is apparently limited to exactly 50, a new member being admitted upon the death of an old one.

These deaths occasion a rare mention of the Alibi Club in the newspaper. Obituaries note membership. These obituaries tend not to be of deliverymen or meter readers, but of law firm partners, ambassadors, heads of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Federal Reserve Board chairmen, that sort of thing.

George H.W. Bush is reportedly a member, as was his father. CIA directors Allen W. Dulles and Richard Helms were members, as was Smithsonian secretary S. Dillon Ripley. Alan Greenspan had lunch there on his 75th birthday.

"The only qualification for membership is that a man be well known to all of the members," Adm. Jerauld Wright told a Post reporter in 1975. "A new member must be approved by all of the existing members."

Wright -- former commander of the Atlantic fleet, head of NATO and ambassador to Taiwan -- said he had never thought of the club as "a gathering place for prominent or influential people."

In 1992, The Post's Sarah Booth Conroy took a rare tour of the mid-19th-century building, which in 1994 was put on the National Register of Historic Places. She described what sounded like a clubhouse for overgrown boys, encrusted with objects that might be considered tacky if they hadn't been donated by, say, a Supreme Court justice. The first-floor dining room resembles a 16th-century tavern, with dark wood paneling, heavy beams and a massive table set with pewter plates. One room is decorated with Japanese scrolls. Another has walls covered in portraits of members.

Of course it may all have been recently redecorated in Ikea modern, but Answer Man somehow doubts it.

Many questions remain: Are there any female members? Is President Obama a member? Is there a secret underground tunnel connecting the Alibi Club to the White House, the Supreme Court and the U.S. Capitol? Can Answer Man join?

Unless things have changed, the club is only open on Fridays, except when a member books it for a private event. If you're not doing anything this Friday at lunchtime, hang around outside and see who goes in. It's the Washington version of L.A.'s Viper Room.

Have a question about the Washington area?
A former CIA analyst, Francine Mathews is an expert authority on international intrigue. The Alibi Club is a gripping work of historical fiction that’s rife with murder and debauchery

"Convivial men the world over find pleasure and recreation in association with others like minded," wrote the founders of the Alibi Club, in their 1884 charter establishing a gentlemen's club "to relieve the mind of what some call the monotony of domestic life and the routine and toil of business."

The National Register of Historic Places describes the club's function differently: "providing its members with an alibi when their whereabouts was questioned by wives and family."

Such a refuge, in an unassuming West End townhouse that had no phone line in its early decades and then no listed number, has been sought by dozens of the most powerful figures in political and military history for 116 years. By club tradition, the doorkeeper has always provided an alibi for any member being delivered a telegram or courier's message.

The club was founded by seven members of the older, larger Metropolitan Club, defecting in search of a more private setting. The founding president, Marcellus Bailey, was the son of Gamaliel Bailey, publisher of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," originally a serial in the family's weekly abolitionist newspaper, The National Era.

Early members included Col. Archibald Hopkins, who served under Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox; Maj. Gist Blair, whose townhouse across the street from the White House is now the nation's official guest house for state visitors; and Larz Anderson, the diplomat whose mansion houses the Society of the Cincinnati, an even more exclusive club where members must prove descent from a veteran of the American Revolution.

The club's membership rolls are a "who's who" of Washington in the late 19th century and the 20th.

Philanthropists and patrons of the arts hanging out at 18th and I streets included George E. Corcoran, whose family founded the Corcoran Gallery, and Walter Bruce Howe, founder of the National Symphony Orchestra.

Alibi Club lawyers have included Supreme Court justices Stanley Reed and Potter Stewart.

The club also has had cabinet members and top White House aides, including Dulles brothers Allen (CIA director) and John Foster (secretary of state); Eisenhower Secretary of State Christian A. Herter; Robert Lovett, who chaired the task force that created the CIA; and Nobel Peace Prize winner George C. Marshall, who headed the State Department and then the Defense Department under Truman.

Generals and admirals in the club included some of the biggest names of the Cold War: Army Gen. Maxwell Taylor, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for Kennedy; Adm. Jerauld Wright, commander of NATO naval forces and U.S. ambassador to China; and Alfred M. Grunther, supreme allied commander in Europe.

Earlier members among the military brass included Col. Henry Latrobe Roosevelt, later assistant secretary of the Navy under his distant cousin Franklin.

House Speaker Nicholas Longworth of Ohio was a member, as were Sens. Frederick Hale of Maine, John Kean of New Jersey, Blair Lee of Maryland, J.W. Wadsworth Sr. of New York, and Prescott Bush of Connecticut, the father and grandfather of presidents.

The secretive club is open to guests under certain conditions. Visitors have included King Leopold and Prince Albert of Belgium, Prince Henry of Prussia, an Italian duke and a Chinese ambassador.

Despite the caliber of its patrons, the clubhouse remains an outwardly plain townhouse whose architect isn't even mentioned in the building's National Register files.

The Alibi Club has made few alterations to its property, whose facade and interior (except for a collection of Japanese scrolls and a long oval table surrounded by fine Windsor chairs) would be familiar to the original occupants of the centennial-era townhouse.

Over the decades, the once-residential West End has become primarily an office district, with the headquarters of the World Bank, Pan American Organization, Bureau of National Affairs and, until last year, Pepco.

The residential population is mostly George Washington University students.

Most of the surviving 19th century homes in the West End are, like 1806 I St., occupied by nonprofits or clubs -- indeed, the Alibi's ancestor, the Metropolitan Club, moved to a house at 17th and H streets NW in 1880.

Mike Livingston is a Washington-based freelance writer.

Alibi Club
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

U.S. National Register of Historic Places

Location: 1806 Eye St., NW., Washington, District of Columbia
Added to NRHP: October 21, 1994
NRHP Reference#: 94001221

The Alibi Club is a private club in Washington, D.C. that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its members comprise the elite of Washington, including presidents, senators, Supreme Court justices, congressmen, ambassadors and military officials, as well as prominent private citizens.

The Alibi Club is located in a rowhouse a few blocks from the White House among larger commercial buildings. The Italianate house was built in 1869 and was occupied by the Alibi club in 1886, two years after the club's founding as an offshoot of the Metropolitan Club. The house is notable as a well-preserved example of residential architecture in an otherwise commercial district, but its chief significance is its association with the Club.

Alibi Club

The club was established as a social club for mutual improvement among members of Washington society. It included Washington residents as well as out-of-town members. Its name was derived from the club practice of providing an alibi when the whereabouts of a member was questioned by the member's family. Membership is limited to fifty, with new members admitted on the death of a previous member, with the unanimous consent of the membership. Membership is not revealed to outsiders, and the first public notice of membership is frequently in a member's obituary.


The brick three story house stands directly on the street with no yard. It was originally rectangular in plan, but an extension was built in 1889 that runs to the alley in the rear. The house is entered through a narrow side entrance hall, 4 feet (1.2 m) wide, which widens as it goes back to accommodate a stairway. A front parlor connects to a back parlor through a wide opening. A vestibule connects the original front to the rear extension, which contains a dining room. The dining room features a fireplace whose mantel is inscribed "Alibi", and has space for a table with at least thirty chairs. A kitchen is directly above on the second floor. Other rooms on the second floor include a front parlor decorated with caricatures of members, followed by the Japanese Scroll Room, decorated with scrolls in display cases. A passage links to the kitchen using elements from the S.S. Alibi. The third floor contains three rooms used for storage. The basement contains service areas and storage, possibly with remnants of the original kitchen in the front and a storage area to the rear.

The club is furnished with donated mementos that cover nearly every available section of wall.


Some of the Alibi Club's most prominent members have included: President George H.W. Bush, his father, Senator Prescott Bush, Supreme Court Justices Potter Stewart and Stanley F. Reed, Allen Dulles and John Foster Dulles, Speaker of the House Nicholas Longworth and General George C. Marshall.
This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.

* Theodore Achilles
* Chandler Anderson
* Larz Anderson
* Truxtun Beale
* Gist Blair
* Robert Woods Bliss
* Frederick N. Brooke
* David K.E. Bruce
* George H.W. Bush
* Prescott Bush
* George E. Corcoran
* Thomas Gardiner Corcoran
* Dwight Davis
* Allen Dulles
* John Foster Dulles
* James Dunn
* Walter Edge
* George A. Garrett
* Charles C. Glover III
* Gordon Gray
* Cary Grayson
* Joseph Grew
* Alfred Gruenther
* Frederick Hale
* George Hamilton, Jr.
* Nelson Hartson
* Christian A. Herter
* William Hibbs
* Archibald Hopkins
* Walter Bruce Howe
* David C. Karrick
* Samuel Kaufman
* John Kean
* Emory S. Land
* Nicholas Longworth
* Robert Lovett
* George C. Marshall
* Benjamin Mosby McKelway
* John Lord O'Brian
* Thomas Nelson Page
* Stanley F. Reed
* Henry Roosevelt
* Jules Henri de Sibour
* Potter Stewart
* Maxwell Taylor
* J.W. Wadsworth
* John F. Wilkins
* Clarence R. Wilson
* Blanton Winship
* Jerauld Wright
* William Wright

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posted by u2r2h at 10:09 PM 1 comments

Friday, May 1, 2009

US military makes US foreign policy

US military makes US foreign policy

The $400 Million Pakistan Fund: Who.s Counting?

* By Nathan Hodge Email Author
* May 1, 2009 |
* 1:40 pm |
* Categories: Af/Pak, Money Money Money, Perils of Pakistan

pakistan-buner1Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is asking Congress for a $400 million pot of money for Pakistan. In testimony yesterday before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Gates said the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund, which would be controlled by Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, is a .unique authority. that would help the U.S. military provide targeted aid to Pakistan.s military, including weapons, equipment and counterinsurgency training.

Set aside for a moment the dire circumstances in Pakistan that drive this request. This enormous pool of money . the first installment in a $3 billion, five-year plan . accelerates a pattern in U.S. foreign policy: turning to the military to solve problems that have traditionally been handled by civilian agencies.

The Pentagon.s expanding oversight of foreign military assistance programs, once the primary responsibility of the Department of State, is a relatively new phenomenon. The Department of Defense has justified this shift as part of a strategy to provide rapid response to emerging crises; but in parallel, it has pushed to make .Section 1206. authority . which give funds to the Pentagon to build the military capacity of partner nations . permanent.

Pakistan has been the primary laboratory for this expansion. According to a recent Congressional Research Service report, Islamabad has recieved the largest chunk of Section 1206 funds . $92.9 million . since Fiscal Year 2006.

This kind of funding is supposed to pay for emergency military assistance to countries vulnerable to terrorism and insurgency: Pakistan, for instance, has enhanced its air-assault capability with 1206 funds. But as Spencer Ackerman noted already, the Pentagon and the Obama administration will still have some serious questions to answer about how Pakistan accounts for the new funds it receives.

A few years back, Dana Priest published an entire book about the rise of the military as the primary instrument of U.S. foreign policy. Regional combatant commanders (then known as .CinCs.) had enormous resources at their disposal, eclipsing ambassadors in power and influence. The shift took place with almost no public debate, Priest observed. .Long before September 11,. she wrote, .the U.S. government had grown increasingly dependent on its military to carry out its foreign affairs. The shift was incremental, little noticed, de facto. It did not even qualify as an .approach.. The military simply filled a vacuum left by an indecisive White House, an atrophied State Department, and a distracted Congress..

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posted by u2r2h at 2:48 PM 0 comments